Tom Arms’ World Review

Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur and the world’s richest man. He also has a gargantuan ego, mercurial personality and thinks big. Tesla was developed to create a carbon-free planet. Space X is designed to give humanity a Martian bolthole in case we fail on Earth. His takeover of Twitter is, in his words, the result of a “strong intuitive sense that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important for the future of civilisation.”

Musk is a free speech absolutist. He is opposed to Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump but would be likely to countenance suspension. This brings the mercurial Musk into conflict with most of the EU governments, Britain and India. They have either introduced or are planning legislation to force social media to police their sites to prevent hate speech, conspiracy theories and outright lies such as Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 presidential election.  How this will resolve itself will be watched very carefully by all the other social media players because, based on past performance, Musk is not the sort of person to quietly accept government interference.

With the French presidential elections and the war of Ukraine grabbing the headlines you might have missed an important election result in the Balkan state of Slovenia. It was billed as a “referendum on democracy” and democracy won. On one side of the political ring was incumbent Prime Minister Janez Jansa. He is a Trump-loving ally of Hungary’s right-wing populist leader Viktor Orban. According to Freedom House his latest two-year tenure (he had been elected PM twice before), has been marked by Slovenia suffering the sharpest decline in Democratic institutions and values of any country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Jansa repeatedly attacked the judiciary and the media whom he called “liars” and “presstitutes”.

Facing Jansa was 55-year-old former Fulbright scholar Robert Golob.  He is businessman who created the state-owned energy company GEN-1 and has limited political experience as a city councillor and former State Secretary at the Ministry of Economics. In January he created the Freedom Party to contest the April elections. The result was a resounding victory. The Freedom Party won 34.5 percent of the vote compared to 23.6 percent for Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party. The turnout was also encouraging. 71 percent of Slovenia’s 1.7m voters cast their ballots compared to 51 percent in elections two years ago. The increase in voter turnout has been attributed to Golob persuading young people to vote – a possible lesson for other politicians seeking to remove far right populists from elected office.

The voters of Northern Ireland are facing one of their most important elections in the history of the troubled province on 5 May. It is expected that the Irish Nationalist Party Sinn Fein, which for years was the political wing of the IRA, is expected to win control of Stormont, Northern Ireland’s National Assembly. In the last elections in the Republic of Ireland, Sinn Fein won the largest share of the popular vote. Thus, both the British province and the Republic seem to be moving inexorably towards a referendum and political union.

Or are they? Sinn Fein are pointedly refusing to talk about Irish unity. They need votes from disgruntled Protestants who normally vote en masse for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). So they avoid frightening them with talk of union by concentrating on the bread and butter issues of health, education and the cost of living crisis. Any reporters’ questions about taking up the First Minister’s job or Irish unity are politely brushed aside. “Political union,” said Deputy Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill, ”is an issue for the future. I want to deliver on the things that matter for the here and now.” The strategy is expected to work. If it does the future may very quickly become the here and now.

Guns have overtaken cars as the number one cause of traumatic deaths among American children. According to a 10-year survey led by New York’s Dr Joshua Klein, firearms overtook the automobile in 2017 and have been speeding ahead ever since. In 2018, for instance, there 83,000 more American children killed by guns then car crashes. And, according to Dr Klein’s study, the number of child deaths from guns is increasing at a steady rate of about 0.72 percent a year.

Of course, children are not the only ones to die as a result of an almost total absence of gun control in America. According to the latest figures from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 111 people a day are shot in the US. 42 are murder victims and 65 commit suicide. A total of 210 survive gunshot wounds. Last year 117, 345 Americans died as a result of being shot – or shooting themselves – with a gun.

The latest survey is published as the Supreme Court is pondering its latest judgement on gun control. This one involves a New York regulation restricting the carrying of concealed handguns. With conservatives holding a two-seat majority, it is possible that the court will rule against New York and in favour of the pro-gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association. The ruling will have a major impact on gun control cases now in the lower courts who tend to side with those in favour of gun control.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.

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13 Comments

  • Chris Moore 1st May '22 - 10:36am

    Good article, Tom.

    But your figures for child deaths in the US are wrong. “Only” 3000+ children were killed by firearms in recent years.

  • Brad Barrows 1st May '22 - 11:14am

    The second amendment contains the famous words “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” New York State wants to limit the right of the people of that state to carry concealed handguns. The Supreme Court has a clear majority of members who believe that the meaning of the words of the constitution, as they were understood at the time they were enacted, should continue to be upheld and applied until such time as they are amended by the process set out in the constitution itself. This is viewed as a ‘Conservative’ position, as opposed to the ‘Liberal’ position that current members of the Supreme Court should be free to effectively ‘update’ the constitution by making rulings on the meaning of the constitution that they believe are more in tune with what they believe is appropriate for society. I would therefore be shocked if the New York law was not struck down as unconstitutional as it clearly infringes on the right to bear arms. Gun control advocates need to accept that there is no judicial shortcut to amending the constitution and instead work to advance a popular amendment through the process set out in Article Five of the constitution – the last of the 27 successful amendments was ratified only 30 years ago, so it is a process that can be successful for a genuinely popular proposal.

  • Tom Seelye Arms 1st May '22 - 5:07pm

    @Brad: You have followed in the footsteps of America’s pro-gun lobby by quoting on the second half of the Second Amendment. The full text is: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The second half is dependent on the need for the first half of the amendment. At the time, the idea of a standing army was an anathema to most Americans. This opposition can be traced back to the reign of James II who was accused of cr

  • David Evans 1st May '22 - 5:11pm

    I normally agree wholeheartedly with Tom Arms’ exceptionally good articles, but on this occasion I think he may have mistyped.

    When Tom says

    “Tesla was developed to create a carbon-free planet. Space X is designed to give humanity a Martian bolthole in case we fail on Earth.”

    I think he probably meant

    “Tesla was developed to create a carbon-free planet. Space X is designed to use that saved carbon so extremely rich people can waste it taking a jaunt to the edge of space.”

  • Tom Seelye Arms 1st May '22 - 5:29pm

    I am having difficulty with my computer, so I will pick up more or less where I left off–
    This opposition can be traced back to the reign of James II who was accused of creating a standing army as part of a plot to re-establish the Catholic church. In fact, reference was made to this in the 1689 Bill of Rights with a clause that mirrors the Second Amendment except that people were encouraged to own weapons for protection against “Catholic tyranny”.
    The American Founding Fathers did not anticipate or want the creation of a standing army. They initially envisaged a defensive system based on a citizens’ militia which would be raised by the individual states. On top of that, individual homesteads were under constant threat of attack from native Americans. Thus it was important that people were armed in 18th century America.

  • Tom Seelye Arms 1st May '22 - 5:32pm

    Today the National Rifle Association and other supporters of the Second Amendment have returned to the tyranny argument of 17th century England. But this time it is fear of the tyranny of their own government. Presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz has written: “The Second Amendment isn’t just for protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It’s a constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home,our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny– for the protection of liberty.
    To my mind this argument is both a condemnation and contradiction of America’s political structures. Why should Americans need protection from a government which they elected?
    I will finally add, that the issue of gun control and its British roots is discussed at length in chapter ten of my book America Made in Britain.
    art three of my reply to Brad:

  • Brad Barrows 1st May '22 - 6:30pm

    @Tom Seelye Arms
    Yes, I deliberately quoted the second half of the sentence and made that clear in my quote by starting the quote with “…
    While the Heller judgement in 2008 was closely decided, I still believe that the way to seek to change judgements is not through politicising the court and campaigning to get justices appointed who hold certain political positions but though using the amendment process set out in Article Five.

  • Tom Seelye Arms 2nd May '22 - 10:46am

    @ Brad– I agree with you, and so do the Founding Fathers who thought they had structured the court so that it was above purely political debate. Once again, read my book, America Made in Britain (excuse the blatant plug).

  • Peter Hirst 2nd May '22 - 11:23am

    Free speech is important though not absolute. Children for instance rely on truth to compile their view of the world. Where the truth is verifiable it should take preference to free speech on social media platforms.

  • The truth can be elusive concept in a complicated world where world leaders like Putin and Trump make there own truth or alternative facts to suit their agendas and deride any damaging facts as fake news or media bias. As Mark Twain quipped “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
    The founding fathers of the American constitution seemed to have an appreciation that there were few certainties in life – “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” —Benjamin Franklin.
    I find myself aligning with Elon Musk on the importance of free speech. There is no free speech in Russia or Ukraine today. Ukraine may say this is down to the exigencies of war and an occupation of their country since 2014. Certainly, other democracies have restricted free speech in wartime, but the arrest and harassment of pro-russian journalists, activists and opposition politicians as collaborators looks like unwarranted repression nontheless.
    Democracy cannot function without a free press. There will always be an element of bias or spin in the media, but I am reminded of a story about Churchill where it was said he skipped the headlines in the papers. He went straight to the opinion pages. His reasoning – the news was just a jumble of reported facts. What he wanted to read was contextual interpretations of what the news meant to help him form his own views.

  • nvelope2003 3rd May '22 - 4:31pm

    Re Ukraine. What happened to pro German journalists, activists and politicians in Britain during World War II.? They were banned, imprisoned and hanged in some cases. Ukraine is fighting for its existence as a sovereign state.What are they supposed to do to those who are sabotaging their struggle against a merciless enemy?

  • nvelope2003,

    this article gives a brief summary of the treatment of Germans in the UK during WW2 Germans in Britain. It was not our finest hour. As H. G. Wells pointed out, a large number of the Germans interned had a long record of being involved in the struggle against fascism in Germany and Italy.
    In America, there were far too many folk of German ancestry to consider internment, but Japanese-Americans living along the Pacific coast were put into camps after Pearl Harbour.
    Ukraine has a large number of ethnic-Russians living within its borders and will need to avoid Russophobic actions to maintain unity in its struggle with the Putin regime.
    I think Ukraine has already won the information war on the International stage. The UK still had a free press in wartime albeit subject to censorship. It is not necessary to ban news organisations outright or engage in overt coercion to still have the ability to manufacture consent for war aims.

  • nvelope2003 4th May '22 - 4:49pm

    Joe Bourke: I did not say it was our finest hour. It did not need a World War to get some British people to object to the presence of foreigners in Britain and they are still at it. Sadly many people here seem to think we are an especially virtuous people who behave better than anyone else when that is by no means true. We behaved like most colonial powers although we did play a good part in ending the slave trade. The Russian leadership is following in the footsteps of previous rulers in seeking to acquire the territory and assets (grain, oil, gas etc) of its neighbours by pretending they are run by Nazis, Fascists, Muslim extremists etc and most of the Russian people are happy to go along with that because they think it will bring them a better standard of living than they would achieve by hard work. Perhaps their apparent failures to date might make them reconsider but I am not holding my breath. I expect a further increase in terror and wanton destruction to enrich themselves at the expense of another nation or nations.

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