Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Crazy NFL

Any Given Sunday?

With the Chiefs poised to miss out on the play-offs this season (barring a miracle of monumental proportions) it's time to take stock.

Most people know that I am no real fan of soccer. Conversely, I'm a big NFL fan – mostly of the Chiefs, but I will religiously watch the play-offs no matter who's in and who's out.

My big gripe with soccer football is the basic unfairness of the game.

Good play often gets no reward and minor mistakes can be punished far more than is warranted. When it comes to officiating, things are even worse. One man, the referee, attempts to police a large field with 22 people trying to kick a ball (and sometimes each other). In some respects it is a minor miracle that the ref gets some things correct at all. Take Saturday's Derby v Norwich City game. I said at the time that the ref had a good game. Some of the decisions he made seemed wrong at first glance but, in replay he was absolutely correct. My only gripe was about the “non-decisions” - the ones where fouls that should have been given weren't – the free kicks wrongly awarded – that sort of stuff. So, when the game is so close and goals so ridiculously difficult to score every small error by the ref is multiplied and affects the game much more that it should. Soccer is just too haphazard for me. One team can clearly play better, create more scoring chances, defend well, run rings around the opposition and still lose because the ref makes a big mistake. Not good enough.

Wait a minute! Looking over the NFL results from last week, I was summarily hoisted on my own petard!

I always do the prediction game in the KC Star – for a bit of fun. Last week I thought I had a few bankers. Firstly I had the Eagles to beat the Redskins. Score: Eagles 24 – Redskins 27. I had the 49ers to whomp on the Chargers at home. Result: Chargers 38 – San Fran 35. Everyone had the Packers to slaughter the hapless Tampa Bay Bucks. Result: Pack 20 – Bucks 3 (GB should have won this easily whilst resting their starters). Lions 20 – Bears 14 – me and my gran should be able to beat the Bears. Detroit are supposed to be challenging for a Super Bowl berth. The NY Giants beat the St Louis Rams 37 – 27. The Panthers beat the Browns! And, on Monday night the Bungles beat the Broncos. Finally, the Raiders beat the Bills 26 – 24. (Even though the Old Enemy beat the Chiefs – which will probably cost the boys in red a play-off spot – they are without a doubt the worst team in the league!)

What's going on?

All my injunctions about “Any Given Sunday” seem to be happening at once. And it is just the very small things that are costing teams bit-time.

Take the Chiefs on Sunday. Some very tough calls by the officials (Charles fumble – a crazy spot short of the first down, an absolutely set-in-stone pass interference call in favour of Albert Wilson that the officials missed, missed and missed again, etc.) meant that the game was decided not by the players but by the officials.

Just what I gripe about regarding association football.

Maybe I need a rethink?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Home Thoughts From Abroad

USA -- all the way

To paraphrase Mark Twain ( ‘The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ ) or, perhaps more appropriately, Bill Bryson (My countrymen think I'm dead) I did manage to make it back to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave this last September/October only to discover that whilst I may have been missed - I was not entirely forgotten.

I made the first mistake before we even left Norwich. We had a very early American Airlines flight out of Heathrow. Taking the coach the day before was definitely the best option. When we arrived at Norwich Bus Station, we had to double park the car in order to unload the bags. In the rush I left my mobile phone plugged into the car phone charger. I first noticed this when the bus was heading down the A 11. Far too late to do anything about it.

Immediately I was flummoxed. I spent most of the bus ride to Heathrow realising how dependent we are on such communication devices. This would have astounded our not very distant ancestors. Consider - I am old enough to remember the first Television I ever saw. (1950 – Chicago – little Jewish kid on the block had one and let us come over to see it – a round six-inch screen in the most beautiful light-mahogany cabinet you have ever seen). I can remember when mobile (cell) phones were miraculously new and becoming available to general smucks such as I. I remember no email. No text messages. No voicemail. No answering machines. In short, no lots of stuff we take for granted today. Without my phone, (replete with all my contacts) I could not contact Steve or Pete to tell them I had no phone. To make matters worse I cheerfully remembered telling Juliet to leave her mobile at home – we would not be needing it!

I had to rely on Steve turning up at Heathrow at the general time we were supposed to be there. He did. I decided not to buy a new phone just for the trip – again chancing it that my sister would be at the other end when I got to Kansas City.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to dine with Steve and Lucy and catch up with grand-daughter Darcey the evening before our flight. In the midst of a convivial supper, I let it slip that I was not looking forward to the Chicago O'Hare airport portion of the journey. Not only did we have to change terminals (three to five travelling via a kind of overhead tram thing), clear immigration (two lots - one for me one for Juliet) and clear customs with heavy bags; we also had a limited amount of time to achieve this.

Lucy piped up, “Get a wheelchair.” I protested that we were old - but not that old. She explained that the airlines must give you a wheelchair if you ask for one. There is no inquest and no quibbling. They just do it. I explained that I wanted to wander around the airport after checking-in, and she assured me that this was not a problem. Just ask at the desk before boarding I did. It works. It's fantastic. Always ask for a wheelchair when travelling. Apparently many Middle Eastern ladies of youthful appearance demand wheelchairs at Heathrow to carry their shopping, and they get them with no hassle.

I don't sleep well before a flight. We were up at 04:30 and at the airport by 05:00 for a 07:30 flight. Lovely. I had just enough time to buy two books (I have to read on a plane – can't sleep). Off we went to Chicago with American Airlines.

Flying is boring. That's why they feed you. It gives you (and them) something to do for a medium-sized portion of the eight or nine hours you are cruising over the Atlantic. Question: when did they start allowing twin-engined aircraft fly the Atlantic? Apparently it was in 1990. Personally, I think the more engines the better – even though I am not a great fan of the Boeing 747.

Wheelchair at O'Hare turned up miraculously right outside the aircraft. Juliet was duly loaded and we were escorted through the labyrinth of getting to our connecting flight to KC. Absolute magic!

Best part of the trip was sitting quietly waiting for the flight to KC when an announcement asked for Juliet Kauffman to come to the desk. Did she needed a wheelchair in Kansas City? I cheerfully and gratefully said no. At MCI we can manage. An uneventful flight deposited us in KC and, fortunately, my nephew Chris did turn up to drive us to my sister's house in spite of me being incommunicado for stupidly leaving my phone in the car at Norwich Bus Station.

I've done the drive home before. You come out of the airport going generally east and run into Interstate 29/35 going south towards KC. Not now. You go straight ahead onto Interstate 425 which goes south towards Independence. Think of the I 425 as a bit like the M 25 – it provides a circle route around the KC metro area just as the M 25 does for London.

This very neatly illustrates an important point. At any given time somewhere in Missouri some road is being built/improved/widened. And why wouldn't you? Head down the highway and there is nothing on either side except brush/scrub land not much good for anything else. So, why not plaster it in concrete and drive on it? Good call. Damn good call!

The pace of change accelerates. Change breeds more change. In Independence, Missouri not much remains of the old city of my childhood. I wanted to visit the old stomping grounds, but I never quite made it. I was just too busy.

I was jet-lagged. I stayed up as late as I could before staggering to bed, but I still woke up early the next morning. I was still jet-lagged two days later. Finally I resurfaced and managed to contact old friends. I was greatly assisted in this by the loan of a mobile phone which my brother-in-law Mike had spare. (Many thanks). So, the phone disaster actually worked in my favour as I only had to pay for pay-as-you-go calls instead of the overseas rates I would have paid on the mobile I left behind.

(aside – when I got back I discovered that Pete had found my phone in the car, brought it into the house, put it down in the kitchen and forgot about it. The battery was flat as a lizard drinking, as the Aussies would say. I plugged it into the mains charger, but it stubbornly refused to charge. I took it to Norwich and they had to give it a “boost” charge to get it going. Moral: don't let your cell/mobile phone get completely out of charge!)

My jet-lag persisted. For a few days I felt decidedly under the weather. I was functioning but only at 80%. I did feel well enough to attend two baseball games at Kauffman Stadium and the Chiefs game at Arrowhead.

In the UK we get extensive coverage of the NFL. We have done for more than a few years now. We had three regular season games at Wembley Stadium this season and will have three more next year – including a Chiefs home game for which I will move heaven and earth to attend!

Baseball is another story. There is very little coverage other than, perhaps, World Series highlights. You have to pay an extra subscription to the broadcasters to enjoy regular season baseball. Even then it's a sort of “game of the week” type situation – not conducive to following the KC Royals. Therefore I was completely out of touch when I arrived in KC. Take me out to the ball game!

The first game I saw was a Royals loss. This is not surprising as I hadn't seen them win a game with me in the stadium since the 1970's. Most notable event was Juliet's new-found aversion to heights. We trudged up into the upper deck only to be informed that it was too much for her. I took her down to the mezzanine level and bought her two hot dogs (that cheered her up no end). A kindly steward asked if she could help and I explained the problem. She offered to try to find Juliet a seat in the lower deck. I decided to walk her around a bit first and we ran into my sister who decided to take Juliet shopping behind the right field bullpen. A result for Julie!

I finally saw a Royals win on my next trip to the ball park (I went with others and left Juliet at home!) To cut a long story short, they made the play-offs, had a remarkable run all the way to the World Series and lost the seventh and final game 3-2!

The weekend saw my 50th Anniversary High School Reunion. Go Bears!

On Friday we played golf at Drumm Farm Golf Club. I knew the course, for I had played there with Larry Dean the last time I was in Independence. Unfortunately, they have gone up-market. The rough was extensive and it was deep. I found it regularly. I even managed to hit one in the pond.

I played with Terry Galloway and his wife. One of the great things about the reunion was seeing how folks had changed in fifty years. Terry had not. Of course, in a class as large as ours (600+ kids) There were hundreds of people you did not know, even by sight. Terry was a star on the basketball team, so even though I did not have any classes with him I “knew” him. Disgustingly, he had not changed a bit. Just less hair. I'm sure he could still shoot hoops with the best of them. He and his wife were extremely competitive – with each other fortunately. They were content to watch me hack around the course in my usual style. I shot about my usual – 120-ish but everyone had a great time.

On Saturday morning we went back to the old school for a guided tour. How memory fades! We were warned that the building had undergone a complete make-over recently, but; nevertheless, as the outside looks just as it did in '64 perhaps we expected the same inside. Not so. At various points we were able to place old classrooms, old rest-rooms and old views. I particularly enjoyed the wall-mounted plaques “honouring” WCHS graduates who had achieved something notable throughout the years. Very impressive – though I was suspiciously absent.

After a nice box lunch we had the afternoon to rest up for the main event – the reunion dinner. Larry got himself double-booked. One of Connie's nephews was getting married in the late afternoon, so he went to the ceremony and then changed and picked us up. Imagine the scene - 150-odd old folks who don't really know each other, though they may have done 50 years ago, sitting down to dinner at tables for 12. Point One for the reunion committee, the names tags needed to be far larger. At our table, I recognised Peggy Townley, who was one of the reunion organisers, and also a fellow sufferer from Sophomore History class in 1962.

(This was a very interesting class. The teacher, I believe, was Mr Davidson. Point Two for the reunion committee, the reunion booklet should have included the names of the teachers and what happened to them. He must have been new to the job. Certainly, he didn't look very old. His methods were suspect to say the least. We went through the history text book chapter by chapter. We were supposed to read the chapter for homework and be prepared to answer questions in class. I've always liked History. I've always been a very fast reader. I had read the whole text book by about week two. I was bored. He would ask questions and then call on someone in the class to answer. In the beginning, I would put my hand up if I knew the answer – which was almost always. He would avoid calling on me. Then he couldn't resist the challenge. He'd call. I'd give the answer. Soon he more or less gave up. I upped the ante. I would only put up my hand when I wasn't 100% sure of the answer. He never called on me in this situation. When I knew the answer, I'd sit at the back with a puzzled and distraught look on my face. He couldn't resist. He'd call on me. I'd struggle, seemingly, and then give the correct answer. Poor man – he never figured it out.)

The dinner was a great success. A very nice meal and a chance to mingle. The highlight was the class reunion photo. I got on the back row and tried to get my head between the two ladies in front of me. I failed. You can see about 75% of my splendiferous visage.

Next day, Sunday, I went to the Chiefs game with Stoner (Juliet, convinced she had vertigo, forestalled) and saw them whip the Patriots big time. The first week was rounded off more than successfully.

One thing that puzzled me was the absence of “ethnic” faces in the crowd at both Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead. It was explained to me that the pricing of tickets for both baseball and football was now so up-market that poorer people were effectively excluded. I heard what they were saying, but I'm still not entirely convinced.

I was even more disgruntled to learn that some states are placing restrictions on voting and wondered if this tied in with what I was seeing? I checked out the Texas voting procedures. They do not present much problem to the citizen who is only relatively well off. If you have a photo driver's licence you are in. Ditto for passport. So, if the intention is to avoid voter fraud, then fine. But what about those who are so poor that they don't have access to any qualifying documents? It still smells a bit like Jim Crow. I believe the courts are looking at this as I write.

We look down the long lens of history and think we learn. Sometimes we do – sometimes we don't. Current events in Ferguson, Mo show how fragile a democracy can get. Is the lack of black faces in the crowd at Arrowhead some kind of cultural apartheid? Are the NFL and MLB consciously pricing blacks out of the market? I just don't know. I do know there were not many blacks at the games I attended. That's a fact.

Is the current apoplectic furore regarding President Obama's plans to use an Executive Order to allow millions of illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanic, to obtains residency rights but not voting rights a symptom or a cause? “President Obama is announcing his executive action on immigration, and some conservatives are raging with ... Right-wing claims aside, the President's immigration order won't give voting rights to unauthorized immigrants.” Whether this will prevent them from voting in practice remains to be seen.

Don't forget America is the home of voter fraud (and the hanging chad). We probably invented it. The colony of Rhode Island was founded by after a split from Massachusetts because of voting irregularities. America is the home of Boss Tweed (NY), Boss Pendergast (KC Mo) Mayor Richard Daley (Chicago) and Boss Butler of St Louis (The King of them all), who was occasionally known to call out to his men, in full hearing of the police at the voting station, “Are there any more repeaters out there that want to vote again.”

So, what is the President up to? Lame duck Presidents are always looking to protect what they see as their legacy. One way for Obama to do this is to make sure that Hispanic Americans know which side their bread is buttered on. He's probably just electioneering for the Democratic Party. All Presidents do things to favour their own party.

I wonder how many folks in KC know anything about the immigration issue here in the UK? I suspect not too many. The UK has its own “problem” with immigration. The UK even has their own political party on the subject – UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party). They are currently riding high (about 16%) in the polls and threatening to be a real force in the next general election, which will be in May 2015. Their main platform issue is withdrawal from the European Union.

One of the central tenets of the EU is the free movement of capital and labour. So by being a member, the UK has no control over who or how many people from other EU countries may come and live and work here. UKIP want to change this by withdrawing from the EU. The other three parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats all want to stay in – but change various aspects of the free movement of labour policy. The Conservatives are promising a renegotiation and a referendum afterwards – provided they win the next election. The anti-immigrant vote is on the march. Supporters of withdrawal say that current levels of immigration (about +260 000/year) are unsustainable. (This is a small, overcrowded Island already.)

The best analogy would be if the USA, Canada and Mexico formed some kind of Union where workers and capital could move freely between each. The EU is far more complicated as it involves countries as diverse as Germany and Spain or Greece and Latvia. By this comparison, Obama's initiative on immigration looks pretty tame.

Into the second week and it was definitely family time. Brother Jim and brother Mark drove in from Illinois for my nephew Mike's wedding. Before the festivities could commence we had to play golf in the Kauffman Championship match.

Off we went to Royal Meadows. I actually played my first game of golf here many, many years ago. It was called Stayton Meadows then. The golfing gods decreed that I missed the golf-talent gene when I inherited my left-handedness from the Old Man. That is a bit of a shame, cause he was quite a good left-handed golfer. Brother Jim got most of the family talent, but Brother Mark is pretty much in my mould. Nevertheless, with family pride at stake it was a hard-fought match. Nephew Mike Kauffman made up the foursome. He's young and fit and hits the ball, as my Uncle Ray used to say “out where the big dogs pee”, and occasionally in the correct direction. The most amazing part of the entertainment was a golfing tip I got from Jim. Whether or not it was the cause I managed my best score ever – exactly 100. As usual with golf, I can think of ten ways I could have shaved just one stroke off and broke the hundred barrier!

The wedding was wonderful. Mike married Bradee Risen – two good German families reunited after many generations. I enjoyed the whole thing – it was excellent. The venue was very good and I met lots of new folks.

The remainder of the time was spent visiting friends, shopping and going out to dinner.

I've now maxed-out my brain, so I will stop boring you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scottish Independence

Scotts Porridge Oates - or Scotts Humble Pie

I will be in the land of the round doorknob on 18 September – the day the Scots vote on independence from the UK. So, I better get my take in now.

First. This has been an almighty cock-up almost from its inception. It has to be said.

“The Edinburgh Agreement (full title: Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government on a referendum on independence for Scotland) is the agreement between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government, signed on 15 October 2012 at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on the terms for the Scottish independence referendum, 2014.[1]
Both governments agreed that the referendum should:
  • have a clear legal base
  • be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament
  • be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people
  • deliver a fair test and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect
The governments agreed to promote an Order in Council under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 to allow a single-question referendum on Scottish independence to be held before the end of 2014 so to put beyond doubt that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for the referendum.[2]
The agreement was signed by David Cameron, Prime Minister; Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland; Alex Salmond, First Minister; and Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister.
The legal status of the agreement is a matter of academic discussion.[3]
The last bit is the good bit. Mr Cameron's brain must have been on holiday that day to agree to such a plan. Or his advisers were out to lunch. By agreeing that only people living in Scotland could have a vote on a matter that affects the whole of the UK, Cameron ensured that the SNP were already half-way there to winning. What an idiot. No wonder he has spent the last week running around north of the border trying to cry his way to a No vote.
Second. The No campaign has been run by idiots – or failed politicians – or both. Only now when the chips are down have they tried to get their act together. Anyone with half a brain could have told them that just lecturing the Scots was not going to work. It's a bit late to start a hearts and minds campaign.
Third. Cameron should have played the monarch card. Had he threatened to resign if the Queen did not speak out (assuming she is a No supporter), he might have had the real trump card.
Fourth. He should have been more pragmatic. If it works, use it. Now we have Gordon Brown on-board. Late. Very late. Alistair Darling is a disaster.
Fifth. He should have agreed to debate Alex Salmond. Not in Edinburgh but in Parliament. Somewhere in Westminster Hall would do. With a packed audience. Alex could not have refused and he would have been murdered.

Sixth. He should have offered Devo Max either much earlier or not at all. Now he has the worst of both worlds. The Scots don't trust him to deliver and the English may well demand similar powers from central government.
Where do I stand? I think the Scots would be very foolish to vote Yes. A Yes vote may be the prelude to a fantastic new opportunity for the country, but it's very risky! I might also be the precursor to economic and political ruin. Cameron is right on one point – there is no going back. If it's a yes vote, then that's it.
(Except for the obvious point that the Act of Union was the result of a complete mishandling of the Scottish economy and with bankruptcy looming!)
My feeling is the No will win but it will be far closer than it ought to be.
Nightmare scenario: Yes wins but by only a few votes. Cameron refuses to accept the result and resigns. A new Tory Prime Minister disowns the Edinburgh agreement and demands a UK General Election to endorse his actions. UK votes for Tories believing they are voting for the Union and we get five more years of crap Tory rule.
(A bit like the Falklands War gave us Maggie Thatcher!)
In any event the prospects are not great!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Chiefs Prospects 2014

Hope makes a poor meal!

I've been waiting to see what week one would bring before I make my predictions for the Chiefs season. I might not have bothered. The news and the prospects are all bad and getting worse.

“On NBC's Football Night in America: this exchange between NBC's Dan Patrick, Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy.

Harrison: Kansas City, they're done. Their very first game.

Patrick: Done?

Harrison: Yes and I'm not exaggerating. You get your best player on defense, Derrick Johnson, he's out for the year. You play San Diego twice. Why are you looking at me like that?

Patrick: We just had one game!

Dungy: It's early to be done.

Harrison: You have to listen to what I'm saying. You have to play against Denver twice, San Diego twice. You had the entire season to prepare for the Tennessee Titans and you have to play outside the division, the NFC West. Stop looking away Dan. Are you convinced now?”

To top it all, the poll of Chiefs fans after week one comes out as 70% think the season is over. And, these are Chiefs fans, not some overpaid pundits!”


Remember before every season hope is on everyone's agenda. After a very good season last year with a play-off berth, surely the Chiefs would be better this year!

Sadly, no.

First the free agency when we lost too many good players and signed not enough. Then the draft when a team crying out for a genuine passing game drafted a line-backer first and no receivers at all. Finally the first game loss of Derrick Johnson and Mike Devito to probable season-ending injuries. Should I go on?

The blame game is about to start in earnest. We have the Broncos, Dolphins and Patriots in the next three weeks. After an 0-4 start questions are going to be asked.

Coaching? Fantastic last season when the Chiefs benefited from some excellent good fortune. Now is when Andy Reid has to earn his money.

Let's hear from the man himself:

OPENING STATEMENT: “As far as injuries go, Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito ruptured their Achilles tendon, and Jeff Allen has a bicep strain we’ll see how he is in the morning. That was a rough game. I thought the guys kept battling through the end, but I take responsibility on the offensive side of that. It was a terrible game I called, I didn’t put them in position to make plays, and I put the defense in a bind a number of times. Special teams we need to do a better job. If we have a fake punt we have to make sure we convert on those. We had a couple things there that we could have turned into points; we just have to do better.”

Are these season ending injuries for Johnson and DeVito? “I don’t know that, we are going to evaluate them overnight and see. They normally are, but we’ll see what happens.”

What’s the impact of not having Derrick Johnson? “You know my theory on that. He’s a great player, but I expect other players to step up and do the job. When given the opportunity we want that to happen.”

How did you feel like your new kicker did? “He did good (on) one of them and missed on the long one. His kickoffs were decent, so that was good.”

Jamaal Charles got three touches at the beginning and only eight after that, what was the reason? “They took away a lot of what we had designed for him. That was one of the reasons.”

Not to make excuses for not having Dwayne Bowe, we’ve known that for a long time, but it seemed like it was Donnie Avery or nothing down the field – 13 targets. “I didn’t do a very good job there. Could have used our short intermediate game better, probably could have run it more. Not a very good job on my part.”

Alex usually does a good job with the interceptions. I know you’ve been on him a little bit to be more aggressive down the field. Do you think that had a factor with what happened? “He was trying to make something happen and things didn’t work. Again, those are calls down there, opportunities for shots, and they had them covered. Again, I’ll take that responsibility.”

The call from the two, you were in that situation last year against them. Would you like to have that one back going into half time? “Any of the interceptions I’d like to have back. But yeah, I would. I’d like to have that one back.”

What are your impressions of Jake Locker and how he’s kind of progressed? “Ken’s (Whisenhunt) done a nice job with the team. They’ve got good talent there and they utilize it.”

Last year you guys built such momentum as the season went along, this is a tough way to start especially with the injuries. Are you worried about the mental state of your guys? What was the locker room like? “After a loss you’re down, I mean you’re not happy after a loss. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into it, I would expect them to be a bit down now and then start to rally themselves as we get together tomorrow.”

Not much to be positive about here, but at least he's honest. The preparation and coaching were very poor.

Could the Chiefs turn it around in the next month? Not likely.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Israel - Palestinian Conflict

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going strong since at least 1947. There are occasional lulls but no resolution. The problems seem too deep-seated and the respective positions too entrenched. Everyone deplores the deaths of innocent Palestinians and Israelis alike. Still the killing goes on and on. It is, in every sense of the word, a tragedy of human making and monumental proportions.

It is easy for us who are far from the conflict both in miles and in understanding to offer simple solutions and express surprise and disgust that the killing just seems to go on and on.

In Britain the populace seems more and more to be “on the side” of the Palestinians. This is an inevitable consequence of the overwhelming superiority in weaponry that the Israelis can bring to the conflict. Many hundreds of innocent Palestinians are lost for every Israeli. It's not surprising that the sympathies of the British people are with the underdogs.

Unfortunately, this posturing from a long way away is not likely to produce any reduction in either the government's support for Israel or its exasperation for the lack of progress towards a real peace agreement.

A short history lesson for those who may need it. Notwithstanding Richard I and Saladin, the first modern involvement in this part of the Middle East was the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917.

“His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

Following WWI Britain was effectively the government of Palestine under a mandate from the League of Nations.

After WWII the pressure to allow Jewish immigration into Palestine was almost insurmountable – owing in large part to the discovery of the Nazi death camps. Still Britain tried to keep an even-handed approach and keep both Jews and Palestinian Arabs on side. This tactic failed miserably.

"Between November 29th 1947 and June 1948, 214 British servicemen lost their lives, including the 28 killed when the Stern Gang blew up the Khantara to Haifa Express at Rehovoth on February 29th 1948."

Many other British forces died in trying to administer Palestine.

Finally the UN decided to act:

“The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a proposal developed by the United Nations, which recommended a partition with Economic Union of Mandatory Palestine to follow the termination of the British Mandate. On 29 November 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of the Plan as Resolution 181.

The resolution recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem. The Partition Plan, a four-part document attached to the resolution, provided for the termination of the Mandate, the progressive withdrawal of British armed forces and the delineation of boundaries between the two States and Jerusalem. Part I of the Plan stipulated that the Mandate would be terminated as soon as possible and the United Kingdom would withdraw no later than 1 August 1948. The new states would come into existence two months after the withdrawal, but no later than 1 October 1948. The Plan sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims of two competing movements: Arab nationalism in Palestine and Jewish nationalism, known as Zionism.[3][4] The Plan also called for Economic Union between the proposed states, and for the protection of religious and minority rights.

The Plan was accepted by the Jewish public, except for its fringes, and by the Jewish Agency despite its perceived limitations. With a few exceptions, the Arab leaders and governments rejected the plan of partition in the resolution and indicated an unwillingness to accept any form of territorial division. Their reason was that it violated the principles of national self-determination in the UN charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.

Immediately after adoption of the Resolution by the General Assembly, the civil war broke out. The partition plan was not implemented.

By now it should be clear that neither Israel of the Palestinian Arabs were all that interested in a peaceful solution to the problem. Neither are they to this day.

For Israel's part they believed that the Arab leadership at the time of independence was unable or unwilling to negotiate with the new Jewish state as the Palestinians were expecting the surrounding Arab nations to overwhelm Israel. So, when they left their homes for Syria, Egypt or Jordan they thought they would soon be back in triumph.

The Palestinian leadership, such as it existed, simply looked at the map and the promises of their Arab friends and saw no reason to come to any accommodation.

That's just about where we are today. Neither side neither trusts each other nor seeks a real peace. And the deaths continue to mount up.

There are interesting parallels with the conflict in Northern Ireland. Both problems go back many, many years – centuries really. Both have a religious element at the core. Both feature seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Both have many people on both sides who have a stored up hatred of the other side and a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for death and destruction. The list goes on.

Yet eventually a solution was found.

The controlling feature in each case seems to be the attitude of the American government.

When influential politicians in the US began to see that no progress could be made if they maintained (even tacitly) their support for the IRA, the writing was on the wall.

When influential politicians in the US begin to see that almost unqualified support for Israel will not bring about a resolution, some progress might be possible.

What would a real peace plan look like?

Israel would abandon parts of the West Bank to a new Palestinian state.

The Palestinians would recognise the state of Israel and stop war-like action against it.

Israel would abandon the siege of Gaza.

The Palestinians would abandon historic claims to land, and property lost after 1948.

This would be a good start.

Likely to happen? I fear not. More likely is more killing, grief and pain for the citizens of both side.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nine Thought to Ponder

Death is the number one killer in the world.

This is a classic example of stating the obvious. That's what makes it quite amusing! It is actually also quite philosophical. Everyone knows that what we all share is the fact that we will all not be here one day. Take retirement for example. People seem obsessed by building up a large pension pot so they can enjoy their retirement. Fine. Except they forget they are going to die. True they don't know when, but it will happen one day. Do you really need all that money? Spend it! That's my motto!

Life is sexually transmitted.

Mostly sex is funny, because we choose to think it is. Unfortunately, this statement is only half-right. Many creatures on our planet reproduce asexually. Check out - ( I love to tell the story of my career in sex education. It used to be part of what we called PSE (Personal, Social Education) and as such the form teachers would get lumbered doing it. One year I teamed up with the Science teacher to do a joint session with 25 fifteen year olds. I started by writing on the white board in very large letters SEX. Underneath in small letters I wrote reproduction. Then I pointed out that sex is what you think you are doing and reproduction is what you are actually doing. You are not having sex and a high old time: you are making babies. That's Mother Nature's plan and you are in it!

Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

This I have to agree with, for it points to many of the dilemmas of modern life. Even though deep down we all know that we won't be here forever, most people act as if they will. They build up massive pension pots – far beyond what they might reasonable need to sustain them in old age. The invest in private health care as an insurance policy. They ignore their elderly relatives despite getting closer to them age-wise every day. They do too little exercise, smoke and drink far too much and put off their exercise regime for as long as possible. We all die. Get over it!

Men have two emotions: hungry and horny, and they can't tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.

Possibly good advice but very, very simplistic. Of course, men have many emotions but sex (reproduction) is an important one. For example, as part of the Sex Ed (as above) I would use the Sun's Page Three girls for example/effect. I'd ask one of the lads if their favourite Page Three model was on the other side of a crocodile-infested river giving them the big come-on would they attempt to cross? After the usual bravado they would agree that they probably wouldn't jump in. Why? Self-preservation is number one on the list of priorities. Sex (reproduction) is number two.

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.

This one I like, for no other reason than it harks back to a simpler time when religion was the opiate of the people. Now it's Microsoft. Should parents be aware of what their children are doing on the net? Absolutely. Will children see violence and pornography on the net? Absolutely. (See above for the reasons)

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital,dying of nothing.

This is point number one recycled. I did enjoy a programme on TV once about people who think that the way to live longer is to restrict their caloric intake. So, they try to live on about 500 calories a day. Reminds me of Crocodile Dundee. The bit about the goanna – you must remember - when Dundee is asked about eating one he says, wisely, that you can live on them, but who would what to? So, you may be able to live on 5 or 6 hundred calories a day, but who would want to?

Nature intended us to eat three times a day for a reason. We'll all die, so why starve yourself trying to postpone the inevitable? Silly buggers will probably get run over by a bus because they didn't have the energy to move fast enough to get out of the way! Serves them right.

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

This is a variation on one of my favourites, about which I have blogged before. Everyone talks about the weather, but no-one does anything about it. I was talking to a buddy in KC not long ago (whose mother is English and who lived here as a kid) and he was wondering why more English people don't kill themselves because of the weather? Takes stoicism to a new level.

In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.

I like the Colorado marijuana approach. Lots of happy people and lots of tax dollars to spend on the ones who don't choose to indulge. The 18th amendment proved that you cannot legislate morality – a lesson Americans periodically and conveniently seem to forget.

Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers. What you do today might burn your ass tomorrow.

I've read this one a few times and I'm still not 100% sure I get it. Could it be a Forest Gump antidote? It could be very philosophical? It could just be enigmatic.

I suspect it is trying to warn us about the human propensity for short-sightedness. Or overindulgence. Or just plain old stupidity.

...and as someone recently said to me, don't worry about old age; it doesn't last that long.

This is a good summation, for it reminds us that although we all share a common fate: we almost never see it coming. It could be today or tomorrow or many years hence.

I remember my Dad who said quite seriously when he was 90 years old, “I may not last another five years.”

I said, for crying out loud, you might not last another five minutes!”

Nuff said?

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Political Landscape

UKIP Rises

Lots has been made of the surge in support for UKIP in the European elections. Much eating of humble pie has been done by the various party leaders. Many promises of a new dawn have been made. What's it all add up to?

Well, it looks as if the main parties have had an Emperor's New Clothes moment. Having spend a lot of time ignoring UKIP in the past, they have woken up and promised to engage with the “lunatic fringe” - not my words but theirs (in the not too distant past).

It's beginning to look like a classic. The damn people just won't vote the way they are supposed to! I think it's called democracy, and it can be damn inconvenient as well as damn awkward.

The people have voted for UKIP, so even if the people are wrong (as Nick Clegg thinks) they cannot just be ignored. Or can they?

There is little doubt that Nigel Farage is good copy. On any slow news day he can certainly liven up the exchanges. Recently it was revealed that he has appeared on the BBC Question Time more times than any other politician in the last year. This is a classic case of there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Even though most folks really think that UKIP is a racist, homophobic, xenophobic mishmash of odd-balls they are still voting for them. Does this say more about UKIP, or more about the voters? I think it's the voters.

To read the media you might think that the UK is a very tolerant, cosmopolitan sort of place where Johnny Foreigner is made welcome and feels safe and welcomed. This is mostly the product of years of people peddling this clap-trap without really assessing the real attitudes at the ballot box. The unique British election system helps to make this a reality. The so-called coalition has set itself up to be mocked as out of touch and out of mind. They have to soldier on for the full five years (a period far too long anyway) simply because they said they would – come what may. Consequence? The voters are tired of them but cannot get an early election to either confirm them or get rid of them. Outcome? They flock to UKIP just to annoy the others.

Whoa! I can hear the multitude crying UKIP are not just a protest party!

Sorry I can't see it. Their only contribution to the next General Election is likely to be to secure a majority for Labour.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chiefs Draft 2014

Boom or Bust

Well, this has truly been interesting. I can't help thinking that the Chiefs have either got it spectacularly right or spectacularly wrong!

Before the draft almost all the pundits had the Tribe taking a wide receiver with the first pick. Many names were mentioned but any of them would have been a shoo-in. Trouble is the Chiefs were reading a different book!

This is the Chiefs 2014 draft class...

Round 1 (23) - Auburn LB Dee Ford
Round 2 (No pick)
Round 3 (87) - Rice CB Phillip Gaines
Round 4 (124) - Oregon RB De'Anthony Thomas
Round 5 (163) - Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Round 6 (193) - Tennessee G Zach Fulton
Round 6 (200) - McGill OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Round 7 (No pick)

“The Kansas City Chiefs top need entering the 2014 NFL Draft was receiver, according a series of polls we ran asking KC Chiefs fans the team's top needs. Exiting the 2014 NFL Draft, receiver remains one of the Chiefs biggest needs.

Let's examine the Chiefs current receiver situation, before the draft and after the draft.
What the Chiefs did (or didn't) do at receiver in the draft

Until they sign someone else, it looks like Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery will be the Chiefs top two receivers once again.

The Chiefs did not draft a true receiver, a position Chiefs fans thought they would be addressing not just in the draft, but high in the draft. Fourth round pick De'Anthony Thomas out of Oregon will play all over, including some at receiver.”

Why did everyone get it so wrong?

Some of the reasons may be above, but it is hard to believe that the Chiefs don't have a Plan B, somewhere? No-body can really think that there isn't a serious effort afoot to find someone who was un-drafted and can challenge for a spot on the roster.

Or, is free agency still an option?

Looking at the draft picks it's hard to get excited. A QB in Round Five? A RB in Four? A tackle from Canada in Six?

I hope they know what they are doing, but it's looking like a boom or bust draft to me. If it works out it could be very good, if not, it's plummet time!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Haunting Questions


How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they 'slept like a baby' when babies wake up like every two hours?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change?
They're going to see you naked anyway...

Why is 'bra' singular and 'panties' plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?
Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Why, Why, Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting dead?

Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four
billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people keep running over a thread a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up , examine it, then put it down to give the
vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?

MY FAVORITE.........
The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Stuck in Lissingdown

As the Thames overflows in a few counties, the Somerset levels return to the sea from whence they came, the politicians crap themselves and the Tory voters are the ones who are being inundated; I reiterate my plan to solve the crisis in an historical way.

Folks seem to have forgotten that England is a green and pleasant land for a very good reason – it rains and it rains a lot. We can speculate about global warming and climate change, but it is all a bit academic to the poor sods currently sand-bagging their sodden properties throughout the West Country, Wales and the Home Counties.

We are currently “enjoying” a very mild winter. We have hardly had a frost worth speaking about and the days are getting longer and longer. We may get through to the end of February without one freezing day!

What a difference a year makes. Last February we were wondering if winter would ever end and piling more logs on the fire.

The old adage that England doesn't have climate it only has weather has never seemed so true.

What do we do?

We could appoint a Minister for rain. Example: last time a Minister for drought was appointed it rained incessantly for weeks. Maybe the reverse would do?

We could demolish the Thames barrier and flood the capital. The sight of all the MP's, merchant bankers and assorted big wigs paddling up Whitehall might cheer up the masses no end.

We could find the drain plug for the country and pull it out.

I have a better idea – a little thinking outside the box is required.

For example – in Bordeaux it will be 16 degrees on Friday with a little light rain.

So, we let the Scots keep their little country (where it has been surprisingly dry this winter) and reconstitute the English empire in France.

Or being charitable to the surrender monkeys, we simply swap England for those desire parts of France which we still, in theory, own – namely the Empire of Henry V.

So, we get the good bits with room to build enough houses to house us all and they can make do with Slough (if it stays above water) and Goole. Works for me!

Yes, I know they will moan a lot but who cares. Everyone in England gets a free holiday in France to find a swap partner and then on a date specified in the treaty of Troyes we go there and they come here.


It can rain forever in the Thames valley and we will be high and dry in the Dordogne.
As the saying goes: It's cool in Goole, dry in Rye and in Lissingdown it's pissing down. We need to do something!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Chirstianity - no offence intended)

If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

I don't usually “do” jokes but this one is too good not to share!

Far away in the tropical waters of the Coral Sea two prawns were swimming around.

One called James and the other called Christian.

The prawns were constantly being harassed and threatened by sharks that inhabited the area.

Finally one day James said to Christian, 'I'm fed up with being a prawn; I wish I was a shark, and then I wouldn't have any worries about being eaten.'

A large mysterious cod appeared and said, 'Your wish is granted'.

Lo and behold, James turned into a shark.

Horrified, Christian immediately swam away, afraid of being eaten by his old mate.

Time passed (as it does) and James found life as a shark boring and lonely.  All his old mates simply swam away whenever he came close to them.

James began to realise that his new menacing appearance was the cause of his sad plight.

While swimming alone one day he saw the mysterious cod again and he thought perhaps the mysterious fish could change him back into a prawn.

He approached the cod and begged to be changed back, and, lo and behold, he found himself turned back into a prawn.

With tears of joy in his tiny little eyes, James swam back to his friends and bought them all a cocktail.
(The punch line does not involve a prawn cocktail - it's much worse).

Looking around the gathering at the reef he realised he couldn't see his old pal. 'Where's Christian?' he asked.

'He's at home, still distraught that his best friend changed sides to the enemy and became a shark', came the reply.

Eager to put things right again and end the mutual pain and torture, he set off to Christian's abode.

As he opened the coral gate, memories came flooding back.

He banged on the door and shouted, 'It's me, James, your old friend, come out and see me again.'

Christian replied, 'No way man, you'll eat me.

You're now a shark, the enemy, and I'll not be tricked into being your dinner.'

James cried back 'No, I'm not.

That was the old me. I've changed.'.........

(You're going to love this................................)






















'I've found Cod.

I'm a Prawn again Christian'

Friday, January 31, 2014


It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

Very late in life I have become a philosopher. It doesn't pay much, but it helps to pass the time.

So, what has brought me to this late, great career change?

I was musing (as you do in your dotage) about the arrogance of the human species. Particularly I was thinking about religion and disaster movies. An odd combination – as well you might think.

It seems that humans have an innate capacity for doom-mongering and pessimism. Given a modicum of encouragement, we will cheerfully forecast the end of civilization, the beginning of a new Ice Age, global warming destroying the planet (Soylent Green style!), shale gas fracking causing planetary cataclysms, etc. - and the et etceteras are manifold.

However diverse, these dooms, for which we are seemingly unable to escape, have one unifying feature. We do survive. There is always some remnant of homo sapiens who rebuild the planet and some sort of civilization. We endure. We go on. Our grand children’s grandchildren are born and live their lives. We assume that throughout the débâcle the human species goes on.

It occurred to me that this is not inevitable. There are disastrous scenarios where we do not survive.

For example, take our Sun – Old Sol. It's been cheerfully chugging along for billions of years providing us with all the energy needed for life on our planet to develop and be sustained. It does so with such predictable regularity we assume it's continued predictability is inevitable. It is not. Sometimes stars go “wrong”.

Although this is a remote possibility, it is still a real possibility.

From Wikipedia

“Although no supernova has been observed in the Milky Way since Kepler's Star of 1604 (SN 1604), supernova remnants indicate that on average the event occurs about three times every century in the Milky Way.[5] They play a significant role in enriching the interstellar medium with higher mass elements.[6] Furthermore, the expanding shock waves from supernova explosions can trigger the formation of new stars.”

A comfort, but not an absolute guarantee. Most likely we will have destroyed the planet long before the sun jumps in and does us the favour.

But there is a quantitative difference, other disasters are for the most part survivable. The sun going nova is not.

And here's where philosophy and religion come in. We are often reminded that we are just a speck ( and a very small one at that ) in the cosmos – an insignificant little planet orbiting a very ordinary star.

Except for the earth ending in a kind of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Vogon induced way ( read the book if you don't know what I'm taking about ), we will all die in the nova explosion and, more importantly, so will all evidence that we were ever even here. That's a sobering concept. Imagine some time-warping space traveller arriving in our vicinity some billions of years hence. All that's left is a cloud of dirty dust where our solar system used to be. Everything ever known about the earth and the creatures it once sustained is gone and cannot be reconstructed. It is, for all practical purposes, as if we were never here at all.

This is not science fiction – it's science fact. Nova do occur in the galaxy at a somewhat predictable rate. If we are “unlucky” enough to become such a statistic then it's just hard cheese. We can do nothing about it. Our only hope then is the Voyager 1 ( ) which may, with luck, be found in a distant galaxy in a distant time and cause some real consternation among whichever of God's creatures it ends up.

Training their telescopes on the star pointed out in the diagram plastered on the side of the spacecraft, they might just make out a small nebula and puzzle about who ( or what ) might have made the odd craft they have discovered. ( I suspect our own reaction would be the same should an alien Voyager 1 turn up tomorrow! )

Using the newly acquired Philosopher’s Stone I earlier alluded to religion now becomes far more than the opiate of the people – it becomes imperative for remaining sane.

Leaving aside the objections of The God Delusion and the Voyager spacecraft,
( ) we now need a Supreme Being in order simply to have a little confidence in our existence at all.

This may not scare you – but I confess to looking at things in a slightly different way.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

As Good As It Gets - Open Range

 New Perspectives?

Two American phenomena particularly puzzle the British. Gazing across the Atlantic divide, American's twin obsessions - Obamacare and gun control - seem very hard to understand. Though we may be two peoples divided by a common language, language alone is not sufficient to explain this perplexing and, in many respects, inexplicable conundrum.

Might I suggest that everyone focus on two excellent movies (films for the Brits): Open Range, directed by and starring Kevin Costner; and As Good As It Gets, for which Jack Nicholson won the third of his Best Actor Oscars. If you are not familiar with the work – check out ( and Open Range ( – which many consider to be Kevin Costner's best work.

If you haven't seen both films – I suggest you do: they will give you a neat perspective on guns and docs.

In AGAIG, the crunch scene in my view, comes when Dr Martin Bettes (Harold Ramis) is discovered by Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) – a waitress who Melvin Udall (Nicholson) relies upon to feed his obsessive-compulsive disorder - at her home in Brooklyn and she assumes that a major medical emergency is under-way concerning her perpetually-ill son, Spencer (Jesse James) aged about 10. Why else would a Doctor be at her house?

At the dining table with Dr Bettes and her mother, Carol produces a mountain of medical bills concerning Spencer and explains that he has not been well since he was six-months old. Dr Bettes asks if he has had allergy tests. She replies no – she asked but the “bastard HMO's” said they were not necessary and anyway her medical plan didn't cover them.

Dr Bettes is not upset as he comments that “bastard HMO's” is the technical term for the overworked, hard-pressed junior doctors that commonly treat people in ER.

The Doctor gets a blood sample and his nurse turns up, after commenting she had real trouble finding the house in Brooklyn (same same for Bettes who couldn't find it either). Hey we are talking Brooklyn here not the Moon!

Anyway, he sends the nurse off with the blood and explains that he has to do a lot of tests, but Spencer will soon begin to feel better.

The real humour in the scene comes when Carol asks who she should ring to get the test results and Bettes produces his card (with his home phone number on it) and tells her to ring him. Both Carol and her Mother are flabbergasted that they have a Doctor's home number and offer to become his sex slaves in return.

Carol is quite rightly concerned about the costs involved and is told that they will be considerable, but that Mr Udall (Nicholson) wants to be billed.

The scene has a happy ending as Carol's Mother convinces her that despite her reservations about letting Udall, a seriously crazy man according to Carol, into their lives they must not refuse his help, no matter what.

Although this is just a small part of the film, it is echoed in the predicament of Udall's gay neighbour, Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear) who after being beaten and mugged in his own apartment is forced to move out as he cannot afford the sky-rocketing medical bills.

So, why chose AGAIG to turn the spotlight on Obamacare?

Precisely because it is so unreservedly “upper middle-class”. It gives counterpoint to the idea that Obamacare is just for the poor. It should resonate with any parent who is trying to get affordable healthcare for their family and cannot. The moral here is plain but understated in the film. Good healthcare is only for the rich. If you are a waitress from Brooklyn or a gay artist who has fallen on hard times, tough.

Open Range concerns the other enduring myth - that guns are integral to and inseparable from modern American life. It's the Old West, or at least it's the Old West that Hollywood has so ingrained in our psyche that it has become the Old West that I and millions of Americans believe now to be real.

Costner (Charlie Waite - is the quintessential Western loner, a man scarred by the Civil War who only wishes to be left alone to herd cattle on the open range until his friends are killed or injured by the power-hungry local land owner and cattleman, Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon). He finds love in the person of the local Doctor's sister, Sue Barlow (Annette Benning) and despite his new-found purpose in life sets out with Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) to “set things right”.

The shoot-out which pits Boss and Charlie against Baxter's hired gunman and other assorted henchmen is really the OK Corral revisited. Despite over-whelming odds, Charlie's skill in killing (acquired at great cost to his mental health during the Civil War) enables the good guys to kill all the bad guys and Charlie to redeem himself by marrying Sue. An obligatory ride off into the sunset completes the action.

So, what do we learn?

Europeans have real problems understanding just how effectively the myth of the Old West still endures in America. Getting to grips with guns is not a matter of violating the Constitution - it's even worse – it's the small matter of violating John Wayne. In most States it's still the Wild West where carrying a firearm openly is quite legal if not almost obligatory. In an increasing large number of States carrying a concealed weapon is legal. Why?

Americans believe that carrying firearms prevents crime. Or, more precisely, it deters crime and enables the citizen to protect himself from harm. More importantly it gives the citizen a real stake in his democracy. After all, nothing focus the attention of the citizen more that shooting a bad guy before he shoots you.

In the news today: “EVERYTHING about Curtis Reeves suggested he was a responsible gun owner. A 71-year-old retired police captain and a doting grandfather who once taught gun safety training courses, Reeves had dutifully obtained a Florida state permit allowing him to carry a concealed weapon.
Reeves’s arrest last week on a murder charge, after he pulled out his gun and shot a man who had thrown popcorn at him in a Florida cinema, has added a grim new twist to the American debate about gun control.
Not since Wyatt Earp strapped on a six-shooter and strode off to the OK Corral has American enthusiasm for carrying guns in public become such a contentious issue.
An extraordinary nationwide surge in applications for so-called concealed carry permits has pushed the issue of hidden weapons — and the kind of people who want to carry them to the fore.”

It's essentially the Wild West and until the Hollywood image is overtaken by reality it's unlikely that even tragedies like the above will enable legislation to protect Americans from someone carrying a gun will have any chance of being enacted.
Hollywood has a lot to answer for.