America is beautiful – but sometimes hard to love
One of the more tedious refrains of the unthinking liberal left in Ireland is that America is somehow the source of all the world's evil. It's trite and it's trying but it's the kind of sentiment that guarantees you will never be out of step with the herd.
After all, it's so much easier to look at the world's madmen, despots and genocidaires and place the blame on the Great Satan for supporting them.
And if we can't blame the Great Satan for supporting them? Well, then it's obviously America's fault for annoying them. It's a remarkable piece of circular logic which seeks to place the Yanks as the root cause of all the bad ju-ju in the world. After all, the inconvenient truth is that the cause of Islamic extremism is ... Islamic extremism. It's an expansionist ideology that has been around for centuries.
But still, much better to blame those people who won't actually kill you for expressing a negative opinion about them, eh?
I'm quite happy to state America is the most incredible country we have ever seen – a place where the individual can thrive, if they work hard enough; a place founded on the finest Constitution, which is buttressed by the most beautiful political document ever written, the Bill of Rights.
In fact, you only need to look at the First Amendment and its promise that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble ... " to understand that this was a country founded on a set of principles far more noble and egalitarian than any we see elsewhere on the planet.
But, by God, it can be hard to love the place at times.
In fact, this is a week that will go down in memory as one that casts a shadow on this bright shiny city on a hill.
John Kerry's astonishing – and factually incorrect – use of the word 'apartheid' in relation to Israel this week will appal many and I suppose we should take his admission that "if I could rewind the tape, I would choose a different word" as some sort of apology.
Then there is their continued provocation of Russia and the flagrant reneging on their post Cold War promise not to engage in NATO's expansion onto Russia's borders.
Nobody on this side of the fence has any time for Putin and his thugs but yet again the Yanks are displaying a compete inability to see things from Russia's perspective – how would they react if Mexico suddenly started to allow Russian troops and warships congregate along the border and in the Gulf of Mexico?
The Americans may yet find that poking the Bear comes at a cost they're not willing to pay, but such is international geopolitics.
But the great stain, the blood-soaked blemish on their soul, from a national rather than international point of view, is surely the death penalty.
And yesterday's double execution in Oklahoma of two men – guilty of horrific crimes, of that there is no doubt – is yet another incremental step away from the noble ideal that America is meant to represent.
This is a country that likes to present the concept of 'American exceptionalism', which states that their country is different to others and better than all.
And, in theory, they are undoubtedly right.
But only tyrannies execute their own citizens when they're not at war.
The simple fact is that as long as America continues to execute its citizens, even the bad guys, it can take no moral high ground when lecturing countries such as China.
After all, the difference between China's execution rate and the one in America is of scale, not integrity.
And for those liberals who still lionise Bill Clinton?
Maybe they would do well to remember that, in the face of accusations that he was soft on crime, he took time out from his first presidential campaign trail to return to Arkansas to sign the death warrant for the mentally retarded Ricky Ray Rector.
This, lest we forget, was a man with the mental age of a child who, when asked why he had put aside the dessert from his last meal, replied: "I'm saving it for tomorrow."
And if that doesn't say everything we need to know about the abomination of capital punishment, I don't know what does.
Who wudda thunk it
It turns out that of all the most deadly creatures on the planet, the shark is, as every schoolboy knows, not very dangerous at all.
In fact, the awe-inspiring creature only kills a couple of people a year and it is their own fault – if you play in the water, you can't complain if you're bitten.
But I must admit that I was surprised to see that snails kill more people a year – 10,000 – than the shark. So I'm going to change my desire to go shark fishing – only for tag and release, natch – and instead take up snail catching.
Ah yes, one man, wearing suitable attire, drinking beer and pitting myself against the deadly, primal forces of the ... snail.
I tried it in the back garden last night and, frankly, crawling around the grass, saying "we're going to need a bigger jar" just isn't as much fun as open-water fishing, and the bloody neighbours called the cops.
Hemingway didn't have to put up with that nonsense, I can tell you.
I KNOW WHO MY MONEY'S ON...
Now Kardashian and Kanye, a couple so obviously thick that if you combined their intellect you'd still struggle to come up with a half-wit, have vowed to exact revenge.
So in the one corner, you have the woman who played the greatest action character in decades versus a bird whose superpower is having a giant arse. I know who my money's on.