Thursday, June 8, 2017

English News and the Twittering Twit

The big news from the United Kingdom as Curmie writes this is the election, which is currently predicted to result in a serious blow to the ruling Tory party: possibly, even probably, as of this writing, a hung parliament. Curmie is reminded of a line often attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Britons have, perhaps, had enough of the profound incompetence, moral bankruptcy and intellectual cowardice of Theresa May. She may be able to cobble together a coalition, perhaps even retain a majority, but her power play of calling an election (having pledged not to do so) to consolidate her party’s majority in Parliament has, like everything else she’s set her hand to, failed miserably. Even Fox News is calling the prospect of a plurality rather than a majority for the Conservatives a “Crippling political defeat.” A senior Tory official told The Telegraph (the most right-leaning of the legitimate British news sources), “This is bad, it's worse than bad. Her advisers should walk out of the door now never to return, regardless of the final result. They should be banished forever.”

Um… wow. What’s really significant about this is that any result short of the Tories maintaining a comfortable ruling margin would be an enormous surprise. Even a few days ago, when Curmie was in London, there was an aura of castles in the air to Labour-supporting friends’ hopes for a legitimate insurgency. It’s still unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn will be moving into #10 Downing Street anytime soon, but what was once a pipe dream is now, in theatre terminology, a playable objective. That’s still unlikely, but Curmie’s guess is that he’s about as likely to be the new Prime Minister as Theresa May is to retain the job. Best guess is that the Prime Minister in a few weeks’ time will be a Tory whose name isn’t Theresa May. We shall see.

Indeed, the longshot status of any meaningful Labour threat allowed the week’s news to be dominated by last weekend’s terrorist attack on and near London Bridge. Curmie wasn’t in the immediate area where the attacks occurred, but did cross London Bridge (by train) only nine days before the incident. A couple of things are striking about that affair. First: the casualty count. Eight people were killed, and dozens injured. That’s horrible, but imagine how much worse it would have been here, where the perpetrators could have bought about any weapon imaginable, including assault rifles and grenade launchers, providing only that their credit card went through.

Check out the guy on the right.  Dammit, he paid for that pint!
There were multiple tales of heroism, ranging from Roy Larner, the not-entirely-sober man who took on the three murderers bare-handed, screaming “Fuck you, I’m Millwall,” to the unnamed gentleman who may have been willing to evacuate a particular area but would be damned if he’d leave his pint behind, to Richard Angell, a witness to the events, who told the BBC, “If me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women, is what offends these people so much, then I’m going to do it more, not less. Because that’s what makes London so great….”

All told, Curmie has spent close about a year in the UK: most of it working on a Master’s degree in Birmingham, but probably a couple of months in London, which retains a special place in my heart. There is a spirit to London unduplicated by any other city I’ve ever visited. It is, after all, the place that withstood the Blitz, in which some 18,000 tons of high explosives were dropped on England (mostly, but not exclusively, on London) over an 8-month period. Over 40,000 English civilians were killed, and nearly ten times that many were rendered homeless. Did the Blitz have its desired effect of weakening English resolve? Uh, no. Quite the opposite, in fact. Britons pulled together as never before; “business as usual” was the ultimate act of defiance.

So when John Oliver ripped into the American media’s characterization of the UK as “reeling” or “under siege,” he was absolutely correct: “In no way is Britain under siege. Is it upset? Yes. Is it pissed off? Oh, you fucking bet it’s pissed off. But to say it’s under siege and its people are reeling is to imply that it’s somehow weak enough to be brought to its knees by three monumental arseholes.”

Speaking of arseholes, no description of the events in London would be complete without mention of our National Embarrassment, the Petulant Yam, whose tweetstorm served, once again, to prove to the world that the so-called “leader of the free world” is unfit to be the assistant manager at a small-town McDonald’s. Any normal person, let alone a presumed statesman in an international spotlight, would respond to the events on and around London Bridge first by offering condolences, support, and perhaps prayers. Not our Donny. First response: a self-serving, xenophobic, and tone-deaf tweet: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

Seven minutes later he sent an appropriate tweet, offering the support missing from the early missive. Miracles do happen.

Needless to say, the fit of statesmanship and, dare I say, sanity, didn’t last. First, it was picking a fight with London mayor Sadiq Khan because, well, because it was already 6:31 a.m., and our Imperial Brat hadn’t been a world-class assclown yet that day (last Sunday). Please note that what Mayor Khan had said was that Londoners should not be alarmed by the increased police presence (Side note: there was nothing but praise for London’s first responders from literally every person-on-the-street interviewee.). Naturally, DJT actively misinterpreted the mayor’s comments in a snotty tweet: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” There is, of course, some reason to doubt the authenticity of this particular tweet: it was spelled correctly, after all.

Twelve minutes later, Twitter Boy outdid even himself for stupidity, calling attention to the fact that the terrorists had a van and some knives rather than a gun. To a sane person, this would mean that it’s a good thing a trio of murderous yahoos didn’t have access to firearms. In what passes for a brain in our estimable President, however, it’s somehow an indictment of gun laws. Don’t work too hard trying to figure that one out, Dear Reader; it’ll only make you crazy.

Then more yelping about his wildly unconstitutional travel ban, more whining about Mayor Khan, and on and on about security and blahblahblah. Needless to say, Orange Grifter casually overlooked the cuts to police orchestrated by… wait for it… Theresa May. Indeed, last weekend’s attack may well have had a silver lining. Certainly no one Curmie ever wants to meet is happy about what happened, but it now appears inevitable that whoever the Prime Minister will be next month, it won’t be the totally inept Theresa May. If, in politics, the enemy of your enemy is your friend, then Trump and May are conjoined in their opposition to (or by, depending on your point of view) Sadiq Khan. In other words, Donald Trump does have a positive purpose: aligning himself with like-minded buffoons and thereby making them unelectable. And here you were thinking he’d be more use as a speed bump…

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