America’s Inexplicable Failure to Stop Gun Violence

Flags of the Washington Monument in Washington DC, February 17, 2015
Flags of the Washington Monument in Washington DC, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

Nothing confounds foreigners more about America than its relationship with guns.

I’ve been writing about American politics for almost a decade now and even I don’t get it.

In that time, the problem has only got worse. The five worst shootings in American history occurred since 2007. 1,806 Americans have been killed with guns this year alone.

I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve read the studies. I’ve seen the figures. This much is clear: The widespread availability of guns makes the United States more vulnerable to gun violence.

This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say. But even on a day like this, after seventeen students and teachers were shot and killed at a high school in South Florida, it is. Read more

One Speech Doesn’t Change Trump

American president Donald Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 24, 2017
American president Donald Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 24, 2017 (Michael Vadon)

Are we going to keep doing this?

Every time Donald Trump does or says something conventional, he is declared a new man.

Until he gets back to disparaging “shithole countries” and violating republican norms. Read more

Republicans Are Playing with Fire by Disparaging the FBI

View of FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in Washington DC, March 10, 2010
View of FBI headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, in Washington DC, March 10, 2010 (F. Delventhal)

Having undermined Americans’ trust in the media, the courts, public education, science and Congress, Republicans are now turning on one of the few institutions that still command wide respect: the FBI.

In their desperation to save Donald Trump from scandal, Republicans are concocting wild conspiracy theories of FBI agents scheming to overturn the 2016 election.

This hysteria will not be without consequence. When partisans become convinced that the institutions of government have been taken over by the other side, they stop listening to them. When those institutions are law enforcement, the dangers are obvious. Read more

Renationalizing British Utilities and Rail Would Be a Mistake

A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013
A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013 (Renaud Chodkowski)

Rising energy rates and railway fares in the United Kingdom are lending credence to the argument that privatization was a mistake.

YouGov last year found majorities in favor of taking energy, water and railways back into state ownership.

Telecom is the exception. Only 30 percent believe it should be run by the government.

The reason may be that the benefits of telecom privatization have been obvious whereas those of other privatizations are harder to discern.

Compared to the 1970s, however, utilities and railways provide a far better service today. Read more

Reminder Not to Rely on American and British News About Europe

German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 8, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive at the G7 summit in Bavaria, June 8, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Remember when Germany faced its “biggest political crisis since the late 1940s,” as one BBC journalist put it?

Or when, according to National Review, Angela Merkel had been “marooned“?

Or CNN reported that the “Merkel myth” had “imploded“? Read more

Both Left- and Right-Wing Critics of the NHS Have a Point

A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010
A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010 (Lars Plougmann)

Crises in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) always provoke the same ideological debate: the right blames “socialized medicine”, the left calls for more money.

Neither side is completely wrong.

The Financial Times argues there are too many administrators and not enough frontline medical staff in English hospitals.

Repeated government reforms have spurred fragmentation and only added more layers of bureaucracy.

But “cuts” (really: restraint in the growth of health spending) haven’t helped, especially when the population is aging and requiring more services. Read more

A Third Way for Catalonia

View of Barcelona, Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalonia is split down the middle.

In regional elections on Thursday, parties that want to break away from Spain got 47 percent support against 44 percent for those that oppose independence. (The balance going to a party that refuses to take sides.)

These figures are line with the latest government survey, which found almost 49 percent of Catalans in favor of independence and 44 percent opposed.

Clearly neither side has a convincing mandate and with turnout at 82 percent — the highest in living memory — it’s also clear that more voting, whether in the form of a referendum or another election, will not break the deadlock.

There is another way out. Read more