Category Archives: Doonesbury

What is the Johnson strategy?

I always assume a political mind can see more than one jump ahead. OK: that assumption doesn’t always work, but I have hopes.

So we have a new enstoolee on the Downing Street pot. This is his guiding vision:

Our mission is to deliver Brexit on 31 October for the purpose of uniting and re-energising our great United Kingdom and making this country the greatest place on earth. When I say “the greatest place on earth”, I am conscious that some may accuse me of hyperbole, but it is useful to imagine the trajectory on which we could now be embarked. By 2050, it is more than possible that the United Kingdom will be the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe, at the centre of a new network of trade deals, which we have pioneered. With the road and rail investments that we are making and propose to make now and the investment in broadband and 5G, our country will boast the most affordable transport and technological connectivity on the planet. By unleashing the productive power of the whole United Kingdom—not just of London and the south-east, but of every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—we will have closed forever the productivity gap and seen to it that no town is left behind ever again and no community ever forgotten.

Our children and grandchildren will be living longer, happier and healthier lives. Our kingdom in 2050—thanks, by the way, to the initiative of the previous Prime Minister—will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet, brought about by carbon emissions, because we will have led the world in delivering that net-zero target. We will be the home of electric vehicles—cars and even planes—powered by British-made battery technology, which is being developed right here, right now. We will have the free ports to revitalise our coastal communities, a bio-science sector liberated from anti-genetic modification rules, blight resistant crops that will feed the world, and satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world. We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and dynamic business investments on the planet.

And so on. To infinity, and beyond.

All of which hinges on 31st October. By then the EU will have reneged on its so-far firm commitment to the ‘back-stop’. Or Johnson will have swallowed many words. Or the UK is whimpering outside the European Union.

I see many commentators assuming the ulterior motive is to blame EU obstinacy, and re-run the old “Who rules Britain?” Tory General Election strategy. Last time the firm answer (February 1974), was, “Well certainly not you, Mr Heath!”

However simple the formula, however much Cambridge Analytica testing, I do not see that standing for the month of a general election campaign. Anymore than I see a LibDem ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ slogan doing the same.

And yet …

The Tory Party (or its present ruling rump) has finagled itself into a total bind. We have to conclude the next campaign (electorally or whatever) is going to be a febrile affair.

Which is why the punchline of the latest Doonesbury strip (last weekend in the US, reprinted partly in today’s Guardian) is my awful warning:



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Filed under Britain, broken society, Doonesbury, Tories.

And we wonder about the phenomenon that is Trump?

As I understand:

  • Only 35% of American have passports.
  • Perhaps as few as 2-3% of Americans venture beyond their national boundaries in a year.
  • And, as Doonesbury reminds us (today from 1988):

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Filed under Doonesbury, United States, US Elections, US politics

Jon Stewart contrasts Tehran and Tea Party

Still running on the Doonesbury mud- line:

If it turns out that President Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent, hard-line, unreasonable totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not with Republicans, maybe he’s not the problem.

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 1st October 2013.

Yes: Malcolm knows you came across that before, but every day, in every way, it’s getting better and better.

Or, if you want that visually (courtesy of the Wapo/ABC Poll):


Cue Healey’s First Law of Holes (New Statesman, 8th November 1986):

When in one, stop digging.

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Filed under Doonesbury, Quotations, Republicanism, United States, US politics

Mark meets Jimmy …

There’s a very nice piece by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker on The Voter-Fraud Myth. Jillian Rayfield fisks it on

It is a major article. It won’t convince the neo-Cons, of course.

Then there’s Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

The greatest strike against the U.K. press is that, since the demise of the lamentably short-lived The Sunday Correspondent, we benighted Brits have to access the Sunday extended Doonesbury on-line.

Today’s exchange between Mark Slackmeyer and Jimmy Crow is a gem. It says enough of it to get to the caw! of the issue.

By the way: that (as right) is not the punch-line. Which is even more pointed.

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Filed under democracy, Doonesbury, underclass, US Elections, US politics

Melissa Wheeler & co

Melissa is an occasional inhabitant of Doonesbury. Currently (now that BD and Toggle have been invalided out) she is the main focus of Trudeau’s Middle Eastern theatre of horrors and the absurd:

Trudeau hasn’t shirked the seamy side of the US Army. Melissa was a victim of “command rape” — sexual assault by an officer. Her side-kick, Roz, has been the centre of this week’s strip.

To celebrate the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Roz has been able to come out:

As long as Doonesbury persists, there will be a small voice of liberal reason in most US newspapers.

As long as small but significant steps (like the end of DADT) continue, the Obama administration is not wholly without credit … and hope.

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Filed under Doonesbury, leftist politics., US politics

True! D’Oh! Trudeau!

Sadly, readers in the benighted UK & NI are not able to get their Sunday doses of Doonesbury, except via the net.

So, especially for the benefit of Edwin Poots and such like fundies, here’s today’s offering:

On which uplifting, nay Rapturous note, Malcolm rejoiced in Howard Brenton’s warm-up to his piece, in yesterday’s Guardian, about Anne Boleyn and the theatre of reformation:

My father, who was a Methodist minister, once had a blazing row with a fundamentalist. This good soul – a butcher and fiery lay preacher always with a battered King James Bible tucked under his arm – argued that the miracles of Jesus really happened. Dad was what was then called a “modernist”: he believed that many of the Bible stories, Old and New Testament, were not literally true but “symbolic”; in unguarded moments he would hint that even the resurrection of Jesus did not necessarily happen, what mattered was that the gospel story illustrated a great mystical truth.

The butcher would have none of this. Everything in the Bible was true: the Red Sea literally parted, Lazarus rose from the dead, the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus ascend into heaven. The Bible is the word of God, end of argument. A realisation began to dawn on my father, and he said something like “but it is only a translation, from Hebrew and Greek”. The butcher exploded. Translation? No! He believed Jesus and the disciples actually spoke the words of the King James Bible. The language of biblical Palestine was Jacobean English.

At risk of being repetitive, Gary Trudeau has been this way before, in December 2005. In a way what he propounded then is directly relevant to the present Northern Ireland Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, one Alderman Edwin Poots MLA, eminent alumnus of Greenmount College of Agriculture, and proud Deputy Mayor of the city of Lisburn.

So here’s that pertinent flash-back:

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Filed under Britain, Doonesbury, DUP, education, health, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Religious division

Dissing the dirt

No UK paper, to Malcolm’s knowledge, carries the extended Sunday Doonesbury strip. To get his dose Malcolm has to go to Gary Trudeau’s web-site.

The up-side of that is the rolling ticker across the top of the page, the “mudline” of recent insults. These never fail to amaze for their bigotry (Glenn Beck, anyone connected to Fox News) or to amuse for their intensity.

One running at the moment is Matt Taibbi on Michelle Bachmann: completely batshit crazy … grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy…

Yummee, let’s have more of that!

To find the complete version of Taibbi’s rant refer to Rolling Stone. This is the bit from which Trudeau has extracted:

In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you’ve always got a puncher’s chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she’s living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she’s built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.

The whole piece is titled:

Michele Bachmann’s Holy War

The Tea Party contender may seem like a goofball, but be warned: Her presidential campaign is no laughing matter

Taibbi sets about demonstrating both contentions. First the ridiculous:

It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children’s show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing “launch” instead of “lunch” inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. “It’s your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!” she gushed. “You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard.” 

I said lunch, not launch! But don’t laugh. Don’t do it. And don’t look her in the eyes; don’t let her smile at you… You will want to laugh, but don’t, because the secret of Bachmann’s success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.

Then the scary:

Young Michele found Jesus at age 16, not long before she went away to Winona State University and met a doltish, like-minded believer named Marcus Bachmann. After finishing college, the two committed young Christians moved to Oklahoma, where Michele entered one of the most ridiculous learning institutions in the Western Hemisphere, a sort of highway rest area with legal accreditation called the O.W. Coburn School of Law; Michele was a member of its inaugural class in 1979.

Originally a division of Oral Roberts University, this august academy, dedicated to the teaching of “the law from a biblical worldview,” has gone through no fewer than three names — including the Christian Broadcasting Network School of Law. Those familiar with the darker chapters in George W. Bush’s presidency might recognize the school’s current name, the Regent University School of Law. Yes, this was the tiny educational outhouse that, despite being the 136th-ranked law school in the country, where 60 percent of graduates flunked the bar, produced a flood of entrants into the Bush Justice Department.

Regent was unabashed in its desire that its graduates enter government and become “change agents” who would help bring the law more in line with “eternal principles of justice,” i.e., biblical morality. To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy.

This background is significant considering Bachmann’s leadership role in the Tea Party, a movement ostensibly founded on ideas of limited government. Bachmann says she believes in a limited state, but she was educated in an extremist Christian tradition that rejects the entire notion of a separate, secular legal authority and views earthly law as an instrument for interpreting biblical values. As a legislator, she not only worked to impose a ban on gay marriage, she also endorsed a report that proposed banning anyone who “espoused or supported Shariah law” from immigrating to the U.S. (Bachmann seems so unduly obsessed with Shariah law that, after listening to her frequent pronouncements on the subject, one begins to wonder if her crazed antipathy isn’t born of professional jealousy.)

It never ceases to amaze Malcolm that the United States, at one extreme capable of maintaining Harvard, Yale, Stanford — the finest schools on the planet, can also foster these madrassas, with the emphasis on the first syllable.  There’s even a hint of how Gove’s “Free School” notions are guaranteed to pan out for the UK:

Moving back to Minnesota, she and [her husband] Marcus settled in Stillwater, a town of 18,000 near St. Paul, where they raised their five children and took in 23 foster kids. Stillwater is a Midwestern version of a Currier & Ives set piece, complete with cozy homes, antique stores — and no black people. In short, the perfect launching pad for a political career built on Bachmann’s retro-Stepford image. Stillwater’s congressional district is the whitest district in Minnesota (95 percent) and one of the wealthiest in America (with a median income $16,000 above the national average).

… although she had volunteered for Jimmy Carter in her youth and had been an anti-abortion protester, she didn’t become a major player in Stillwater until she joined a group of fellow Christian activists to form New Heights, one of the first charter schools in America.

Anyone wanting to understand how President Bachmann might behave should pay close attention to what happened at New Heights. Because the school took government money, like other charter schools, it had to maintain a separation of church and state, and Bachmann was reportedly careful to keep God out of the initial outlines of the school’s curriculum. But before long, parents began to complain that Bachmann and her cronies were trying to bombard the students with Christian dogma — advocating the inclusion of something called the “12 Biblical Principles” into the curriculum, pushing the teaching of creationism and banning the showing of the Disney movie Aladdin because it promoted witchcraft.

If that seems too extreme for the Govian model in England, let us remember:

At least seven of the first 25 free schools given initial approval by the government have faith affiliations. These include a Sikh school in Birmingham, two Jewish schools and three with a Christian ethos.

The Haringey Jewish primary school, in north London, has plans to offer “partial immersion” in Hebrew with an additional teacher speaking that language in the classroom for parts of the school day.

Free schools must admit 50% of pupils “without reference to faith”. By contrast, existing voluntary-aided faith schools, which get state funding, can give priority to children of their own religion but cannot refuse others if they are under-subscribed. There is some unease over the prominent role of religion in the first wave of free schools, with critics saying it will lead to greater social segregation.

Quite how far these bigots can go stretches even Malcolm’s love of the surreal:

Bachmannites despise [the] I[nternational] B[accalaureate] because its “universal” curriculum refuses to recognize the superiority of Christianity to other religions. You and I might have thought William Butler Yeats, for example, was a great poet who died half a century before the Age of Aquarius, but EdWatch calls him a “New-Age Pantheism Guru” who was aggressively “undermining

What would they make of, say, William Blake?



Taibbi, for this piece and others, is definitely recommended.

So, to return to another parallel world where sanity has some role …

What’s Roland Burton Hedley III (as right) to tell us this Sunday?

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Filed under Doonesbury, education, human waste, Religious division, Republicanism, US politics, WB Yeats