The search for truth in politics…

…life and art, with nods to Monty Python, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hannah Arendt. Also, what can the Vietnam War teach us about Brexit? Are there general symptoms of a bad government policy which we should be on the lookout for? Plus, Cambridge Analytica videos.

Lies Mar UK Election Results

With apologies to Boris boosters, there remains some question in my mind as to whether Johnson really has a ‘mandate from the people’ to do anything he pleases (as many in the media are claiming). To the extent that the election was marred by lies, he may lack an ethical mandate; and even some Tory voters would question his entitlement to autocratic carte blanche. Continue reading

UK Elections – Such a Sad Result! Part 1

UK elections wrap-up and commentary

Jumping right in, I feel especially bad for Jo Swinson, who impressed me greatly with her character and her hopefulness. Here’s her speech from last Friday:

Other voices I will be sad not to hear in the next parliament include:

Dominic Grieve (Conservative)
Chuka Umunna (Liberal Democrat)
Luciana Berger (Liberal Democrat)
Sarah Wollaston (Liberal Democrat)
Sam Gyimah (Liberal Democrat)
Anna Soubry (Independent Group)

These people were brave truth-tellers, and I’m sentimental about their loss. I would say that like Jo Swinson, they’re victims* of the Tory steamroller, which is fashioned from equal parts big money, big media, and big lies. (There’s a Peter Gabriel song in there somewhere.) What a travesty that Swinson was frozen out of the big ITV debate. Unlike Johnson, she wasn’t hiding in a fridge, but seeking to emerge from one. (*This is not to gloss over the weaknesses of some individual candidates/party manifestos.)

Voters also bear some responsibility for casting out MPs who showed surprising honesty and reasonableness in a time of politics gone mad. It’s true that voters were heavily propagandised, but they could have done more to listen to their better angels. Punishing MPs who had the courage to defect from the two main parties sends absolutely the wrong message for the future. Continue reading

The Speech That Got Boris Johnson Elected

Could a computer create the ultimate campaign speech?

Let’s face it: What diesel is to trucking, speeches are to… er, politics. Those tender words of love whispered in the voter’s ear are not unlike the lavish displays put on by the peacock during mating season. With election season gripping the UK (along with the odd cold front and blizzard), we set out to monitor the speechifying exploits of that most colourful of political birds, the blue-lipped bojo.

More than that, we wanted to give Cambridge Analytica a run for its money by designing the ultimate campaign speech with the aid of computer technology. Such a speech would hit all the ideological high points, while also delivering key psychological triggers that would send Tory voters flocking to the polls in support of the former mayor of London.

We rolled up our sleeves, maxed out the ram on our Commodore Amiga, put the kettle on, and engaged in a furious spate of uber geekdom, feeding hundreds of Boris Johnson speeches into the gaping maw of the fully armed Amiga. We then pushed the Cuisinart button (located just beneath the printer port), and waited for what seemed an inordinate period. Finally, after much coughing and spluttering, the computer churned out this. A bit raw, definitely NSFW, but a new landmark in CBJ (or Cyber Boris Johnson). Surely such a speech must, in the immortal words of Cambridge Analytica, create an impactful marketing experience. Continue reading

Ask Dr Johnson!

Readers send in their questions to Dr Boris Johnson, and he answers them in true Tory fashion.

Dear Dr Johnson,

My husband and I vacationed in Swaziland in the summer of 2018. We went for the glass, but stayed for the sorghum! Since then, I discovered I have a large, cauliflower-shaped rash on my left elbow. What is this rash, and do you know of a cure?

Matilda Heath-Mullins

Dear Matilda,

I’m sorry to hear of your ‘rash’ vacation exploits. If it truly is cauliflower-shaped, then perhaps some form of pesticide would avail you. What I always say is British cauliflowers are the best cauliflowers! But under EU regulations, our fantastic British cauliflowers are forbidden to be sold on U.S. Army bases or cooked in U.S. Army kitchens. So we need to get Brexit done, leave the EU, and forge ahead with an amazing new trade deal. Then I’m sure we will experience a veritable renaissance in British cauliflower-growing and consumption. Speaking of consumption, your unusual rash could be a symptom of the latter. I’d have that looked at if I were you.

I happen to be a Swaziland trivia buff. Did you know that the King of Swaziland has 15 wives and 23 children? This hardly compares with the English aristocracy, but they are good people and they are trying.

Swaziland is, of course, a member of the Commonwealth and an area where we’ve already negotiated a fantastic post-Brexit free trade deal. They will be sending us goat meat, and we will be sending them videos of Downton Abbey. Cheers!

Boris Johnson
—– Continue reading

Boris Johnson: Too Clever By Half

Latest Brexit news. Johnson’s “three letters” strategy for weaseling out of the Benn Act and Letwin Amendment is sure to infuriate Remainers. But how will the Scottish court react, and will Johnson’s two-faced (or many-faced) behaviour gain him political advantage?

No question about it: At the populist level where Johnson currently hangs, this latest brush with unlawful behaviour is seen as a hearty f-ck you to Hilary Benn, Oliver Letwin, the Scottish Court of Session, and Remainers in general. But will the tactic succeed or backfire? Continue reading

Brexit: Further Discussion of Leavers’ Motives

Is the EU crackdown on tax havens another reason for Brexit? We also discuss the Tories’ love of statistics and economic theories, which can sometimes obscure the faces of real people and how they’re affected (Windrush). What about Guy Verhofstadt’s claim that some Brexiters want to turn the UK into a “Singapore at the North Sea”?

In a previous post, I suggested that we might expand on Zanny Minton Beddoes’ analysis of Brexit as a coalition between “red trousers” and “blue collars.” I posited the existence of a third and distinguishable group who funded Brexit, which I dubbed the “rich uncles.” Under that rubric, I listed financial speculators, anti-regulation corporate actors, and Russians or third parties representing Russian interests. Continue reading

Brexit, Strange Loops, Star Trek and the New Johnson Plan

Understanding where we are with Brexit, by examining where we’ve been. We also ask the question: How do you plant a flag somewhere between Wigan and Wonderland? What sort of creature is half unicorn, half lipstick-besmirched pig?

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan has been dubbed “two borders for four years.” Pardon me, but wasn’t that the basic setup for Rising Damp?

Of the many possible scenarios describing where Brexit is headed, in this post I’m concerned with one particular scenario which sports these features:

– The UK doesn’t leave the EU on October 31st.
– Boris Johnson or another government official is forced by the Benn Act to request an extension.
– The EU grants an extension of a couple of months.
– A general election ensues in the UK.
– The election returns either a hung Parliament, or a very slender, unconvincing Tory majority.

Some would call this the “back where we started” scenario, since it’s more or less where we stood after Theresa May called a snap election in 2017. But it’s also an example of a strange loop. The main feature of strange loops is that after traveling a considerable distance and expending a lot of energy, you find yourself (inexplicably) back where you started. I first read about strange loops in Doug Hofstadter’s book Gödel, Escher, Bach. One of several examples he cites is a Bach piece which modulates into different keys, seemingly getting farther and farther away from the starting point, but (surprisingly) arriving back at the “home” key by the final bar (though an octave higher). Such is the endlessly-rising canon from Bach’s Musical Offering. Continue reading

Brexit Analysis: Real World Effects of Proroguing Parliament

As Brexit aficionados would know, the UK’s Supreme Court is currently reviewing whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament is or is not legal. Johnson essentially sent the House of Commons on a five-week forced vacation during which time they cannot sit or hold committee meetings.

Of course, it’s perfectly obvious in the abstract that this means MPs cannot pass any legislation, or perform vital investigative and oversight functions, holding government ministers accountable for their policies, actions, and statements. Such oversight includes determining whether government are faithfully obeying and implementing laws which Parliament passed, or are relaying accurate information to the public on issues about which the public are rightfully concerned and have a need to know.

However, at least one Supreme Court member, Baroness Hale, has expressed interest in seeing real world examples of what Parliament are being prevented from doing as a result of being prorogued. Hence this blog post, hastily written, but providing two major examples and one minor example. Continue reading

UK Politics Update #1

Latest skinny on the Boris Johnson administration, Change UK, Lib Dems, Labour, and a Rube Goldberg-like plan to stop a no-deal Brexit. Plus, we force-feed Jeremy Corbyn a nice kosher meal, that he shouldn’t be so skinny!

I don’t write much about American politics these days. It’s too depressing, with the mass shooting du jour egged on in part by racist comments from our president. He’s desperate to get re-elected by appealing solely to his base, which obviously includes white supremacists. That desperation is driven not just by political ambition and narcissism, but by the desire to stay out of the slammer. If Trump is not re-elected, there’s a fair chance he’ll be indicted for obstruction of justice. I feel as though I’ve done my part with numerous anti-Trump posts in the past. At this point, it’s like carrying coals to Newcastle.

I’m more interested in UK politics these days, maybe because it’s less predictable and can still make me laugh. There’s also the slow-motion train wreck aspect, which I’ve alluded to elsewhere. And if course, I love the Brits. Continue reading

Boris Johnson’s Tom Bombadil Problem

Beginning with a few Boris Johnson jokes, and morphing into a discussion of his candidacy for PM.

I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t leave political humour to the pros. But a rich target like Boris invites pros and amateurs alike to have a go, and from both sides of the pond: Continue reading

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker: Last Tango The Video

What if Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker were characters from a scandalous 1970s movie? What sorts of things might they say to each other as they exchange knowing glances? This parody answers that question… Later, we discuss Theresa May’s approach to Brexit, and whether there’s a scientific explanation for why Brexit seems to have caused the political process to break down.

Having advertised the video in a “coming attractions” post, I’m glad to have completed it. Maybe not everyone shares my “out” sense of humour or will take the film references, but once I got the idea and made some preliminary sketches, I had to see it through. Continue reading

European Parliament Elections – Free For All

A free ramble touching on elections, patriotism, true love, media cowardice, and referencing such diverse characters as Patrick McGoohan, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, James O’Brien, Nigel Farage, and Theresa May. Also reprising quotes on the problem of false balance.

“Free For All” was the title of an episode of The Prisoner which first aired in 1967. The title is sardonic because residents of The Village were not free. Elections weren’t free either, but they did descend into a free-for-all: Continue reading

Good Energy at the Change UK Presser on April 23

Discussing the breakdown of the two main UK political parties, and what recent local elections may tell us about Brexit. Also asking the trenchant question “How do you fight feelings with facts?”

I’m not saying I believe in politics to the nth degree. Often times, politics is where hope goes to die. It’s a rough business. So I continue to be amazed at the degree of hope (or hopefulness) expressed by the new Change UK party (affectionately known as the Tigs or Tiggers). I can only say that the sun continues to shine on them. Continue reading

Coming Attractions: Last Tango In Strasbourg

Like Bogart & Bacall or Tracy & Hepburn, Jean-Claude Juncker & Theresa May are better together. Now they explode across the screen as you’ve never seen them before!

(right-click to enlarge)

Two bored escapists find themselves thrown together in a room, as reality recedes around them, and only their fantasies are real. They meet, and part forever… only to begin the cycle again with renewed passion. The film’s raw portrayal of hard line negotiations resulted in varying degrees of censorship around the world. Now this newly restored version reveals the shocking relationship between two lost souls — as different as night and day, yet somehow drawn together — from every possible angle.

“A landmark in movie history” — The New Yorker

“One of the most important cinematic achievements” — Le Journal Du Dimanche

“This movie is more vile than Doctor Who, if such a thing were possible” — Mary Whitehouse

“We applaud the innovative use of dairy products” — Dairy Association of America

If there’s one movie you see this year, it must be Last Tango In Strasbourg.

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