Britain Delivers Another Surprising Vote, which shouldn’t really Surprise Anyone

Theresa May speaks at her first Prime Minister’s Questions system last year. She may not get another one. UK Parliament Photo

When a UK general election comes around, you can normally expect me to be blogging about it. British politics is, in certain ways, far more compelling than its American counterpart. The scale is smaller, but it feels so darn Shakespearean, I cannot help but be fascinated. However, when Prime Minister Theresa May (only the second female in British history to hold that position) called for an early election a few weeks back, I let the news pass me by for the most part.

There were three reasons for this. First, I have been dealing with illness for almost the entirely of this year that has rendered me only partially functional. Second, the constant stream of stories related to the Trump administration and the presidential election in France grabbed more of my attention, rightly or wrongly. Third, none of the party leaders in this British election inspire anything like confidence or even grudging admiration in me. I long for the bad old days of the Blair/Brown feud, coalition politics, and the like. Things were so much more fun back then, even if they were falling to pieces.

Nevertheless, this British election was important. Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union last year, there has been significant disagreement over how that process should take place. The party that leads the country going forward will have enormous influence over that transition, which is surely important not only for British citizens, but also Europeans in general. Second, the rise in terrorist actions in the UK is a major source of concern, and the country needs a government that will be effective in countering the hydra-like threat of ISIS and all its ilk. Third, there is the eternal question of whether the government should spend more on social programs, as favored by the liberal parties, or continue on with austerity. Continue reading

The Public Acceptance Factor and Politics

The first page of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk triggering Article 50 and her country’s exit from the EU.

About a month ago, my husband and I ditched our TV package with Time Warner Cable and changed to Playstation Vue. In the greater scheme of things, this was a thoroughly unimportant event. We are simply the latest Americans to determine that we will no longer pay obscene amounts of money for channels we don’t even like in the first place. However, this decision has come with some technical challenges.

We started out with a Roku box and an antenna. It was somewhat cumbersome having to switch inputs to get to the channel I wanted at any given time, but I adjusted. Then my husband bought something called a Kinivo, and this is where things really got complicated. In order to pause and record all of our channels, including those we were receiving over the air, and also be able to watch Blu-Rays, we now have three different inputs, five remotes, several different apps, and more boxes than we had when we began. As I sit here now and type these words, I am not entirely certain how I get the over-the-air channels to appear on our TV. I consider myself to be a halfway intelligent person, but I am at a loss.

I have warned my husband that he is hitting up against something known as the WAF: the Wife Acceptance Factor. He was the one who first introduced me to this term, which is used in a joking manner by computer nerds when they are trying to get their wife to agree to the purchase and/or implementation of some new technology. Apparently, the original line of thinking was that if you wanted the wife to like a gadget, you had to make it more aesthetically appealing (Because us silly women don’t care about what a thing actually does, I suppose…). These days, it seems to be more a matter of pushing things as far as you can before the wife throws up her hands and throws the device out of the house.

It remains to be seen whether I will commit such a violation of marital submission with the Kinivo box. It is not quite the bane of my existence, but things may well have been better before it arrived. However, all this thinking about the “Wife Acceptance Factor” has caused me to wonder if there isn’t such a thing as a “Public Acceptance Factor”, and if we have indeed been hitting up against it during the past year. Continue reading

The Traitors in my Family

Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London (Author photo)

Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London (Author photo)

In this week just after Guy Fawkes Day, when the entirety of the American populace stands ready to go at each other with torch and pitchfork, it seems appropriate that I should make known to you the traitors among my own family. Most infamous treasons have they committed, worthy of remembrance. But if you came here for gossip regarding my next of kin, you must stand in disappointment, for I speak not of the woman who bore me thirty years ago today but those through whom I was born many centuries ago.

In researching my family history, I have found not one, not two, not even three, but six undoubted scoundrels of the highest degree executed for treason against king and country. And yes, I do mean king and country, for though my more immediate relatives have spent these past four centuries upon the shores of America – a fact that in and of itself marks them as traitors in the eyes of the British – my more distant ancestors lived in western Europe, and the greatest majority of those in what is now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They did indeed live under the rule of kings and queens: in fact, some of them were kings and queens.

Amid this long history of ancestors, I will now make known to you those unfortunate souls who were cut down in the prime of life for their real or alleged treason against the state. Thank God they passed on their DNA before they passed from this world! I will note from the outset that these are only those who were “convicted” and executed, not all those suspected of or accused of treason, nor those killed in battle: that would be a much, much longer list. Continue reading

U.S. Politics Got You Down? Brits to the Rescue!

The leaders of Britain's major political parties (including a seventh not pictured) participated in a TV debate last month prior to the 2015 UK general election. Screenshot of ITV's coverage of the debate taken from YouTube channel of Sky News

The leaders of Britain’s major political parties (including a seventh not pictured) participated in a TV debate last month prior to the 2015 UK general election. Screenshot of ITV’s coverage of the debate taken from YouTube channel of Sky News

As I settle in for a year and a half of non-stop coverage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I find myself bracing for blistering attack ads, billions of dollars in campaign spending, partisanship capable of offending even the Montagues & Capulets, and the inevitability of a conclusion that is unlikely to satisfy me in any tangible way. It’s enough to make me want to avoid watching the news for the next 18 months, but why should that be?

After all, elections used to be fun, or so I thought. I would take to them much as Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock Holmes reacts to news of a gruesome murder with a gleeful, “The game is on!” Political elections are, after all, both the highest and lowest form of competitive sport. If only it were possible to cut down on all the TV commercials, reign in campaign spending, and force leading politicians to debate with many points of view rather than just one other! If only there was a way to enjoy watching all those glorious campaign gaffes and still know that none of my tax dollars would be negatively affected by the incompetence of said politicians!

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a way, but not in America. Instead, we need to go to a far older country – a kingdom, in fact. Yes, I’m talking about the United Kingdom, where the official campaign period is less than two months long, TV advertising is subject to strict regulations, and voters have some legitimate third (or fourth, or fifth) parties to choose from. Politics here plays out like Shakespearean drama about a mile from the location where Shakespearean drama was first performed. Continue reading

Scotland’s Referendum in Perspective

If I type the word “Scotland”, what pops into your mind? Kilted men playing bagpipes? “They may take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!”? A blurry image of something claimed to be the Loch Ness monster? Beautiful hills covered in thistles? A Scottie dog? Epic tales of Rob Roy? A style of golf that involves howling winds, bunkers capable of swallowing a man, and grass that can hide a ball from even the eyes of an eagle? Sean Connery or Andy Murray? The lovable accent for which Scots are famous? Shortbread cookies?

All of these things form part of the public image of Scotland, but if you look up the word “Scotland” on Wikipedia, this is the first sentence you will read (as of this writing): “Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.”

This is actually a good sentence with which to begin the article, as it addresses some of the primary questions I receive regarding Scotland. “Is Scotland a country?” “Is Scotland part of Britain?” “Are Scottish people British?” “What all makes up the United Kingdom?” Continue reading

Religious Freedom in the Era of Gay Marriage


Culture Clash

Religious freedom in the United States is in peril, or so I have been led to believe. Over the past few weeks, we have seen three flash points in the so-called “culture wars”, events that have caused conservative Christians and/or just plain conservatives to once again sound the alarm about the growing persecution they face in this country.

First, there was the short-lived controversy surrounding the non-profit international aid group World Vision, a favorite charity of many evangelical Christians (and others), who in turn for paying about a dollar a day receive a picture of a child in an impoverished country and the feeling that they are making a positive difference in the world. (I should stress that I am not anti-World Vision and have been participating in their child sponsorship program for about a decade.)

Within a day of World Vision announcing that, due to the beliefs of several Christian denominations with which they work, they were not going to discriminate against Christians working for their organization who were married to same-sex partners, the evangelical Christian world was in a frenzy, with some people cancelling their donations to the organization. Continue reading

The Queen of England’s Budget Crisis

The oh-so-shiny Imperial Crown of India, part of Queen's Elizabeth's Crown Jewels. Flickr photo by Pietro & Silvia.

The oh-so-shiny Imperial Crown of India, part of Queen’s Elizabeth’s Crown Jewels. Flickr photo by Pietro & Silvia.

I woke up this morning to what can only be described as a sign of the apocalypse: The Queen of England is out of money!  How can this be?!

Yes, in case you missed it, the British House of Commons’ public accounts committee has just released a report in which it states that the Queen’s reserve fund has dwindled from £35 million in 2001 to a measly £1 million today.  While many UK government departments have been making sweeping cuts as part of the coalition government’s austerity drive over the last few years, Her Majesty’s household has only managed to trim its expenses by 5%. Continue reading

Socialism Under the Microscope: Part One – The Socialists Among Us

Flickr Socialist Party November 2011

Current French President Francois Hollande at a Socialist Party rally back in 2011. Flickr photo by the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: the President is a socialist.

While some of us may wish to avoid talking about it, facts are facts.  The President’s policy positions, his background, and most of all his own affirmative statements prove beyond a doubt that the land which once fought so hard for liberty is now being governed by a socialist.  Sacré bleu! Continue reading

Let’s Give Neville Chamberlain a Break

Arthur-Neville-Chamberlain, US National Archive

Photo of British PM Neville Chamberlain from the US National Archive

In the year of our Lord 1938,

A man named Neville caught a bad break.

He sought to bring us peace for our time,

But as it turned out, he was blind –

Blind to evil that grew by the day,

To the Führer who feared not to betray.

We remember him for all he failed to be,

For his optimism and naïvety.

The peace he brought was none too long.

The gathering storm was just too strong.

He sought a madman to appease,

And avoid war by saying “please”.

No courage did this man possess,

Of duty and honor he knew less;

For no war would have come to be,

Dear reader, were it not for he! Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to War


Official UK government photo of the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street

Today, President Obama announced that he will seek authorization from Congress for a military strike in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, an act apparently committed by the Assad regime.  “This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security,” Obama said in his speech.  “In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”

The President stressed that the scope of these strikes would be limited.  “This would not be an open-ended intervention.  We would not put boots on the ground.  Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.  But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.” Continue reading