Conflict update: April 18 2017


If you’re worried about the state of human rights around the world, I’ve got great news–this afternoon, America was on it:

The Trump administration is seeking to highlight its commitment to human rights around the world, and so its envoy to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, is presiding over what it calls the first “thematic debate” on human rights in the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon.

“Council members are encouraged to express their views on the nexus between human rights and international peace and security,” reads a memo circulated to the members this month. Rights abuses, the memo says, can often be the first signs of a full-on conflict erupting.

This was, of course, not the first time human rights have been discussed to no effect at the UN Security Council, but it probably is the council’s first “thematic debate,” whatever the fuck that means. Human rights groups were skeptical–for some reason, they seemed to think that a UN Security Council meeting on human rights, presided over by a country that bombs mosques, bombs apartment buildings, bombed civilians even on this very day, and allies with countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, wouldn’t amount to shit. Well, the joke’s on them, because as it turns out…they were, uh, pretty much right on the money.


Britain is having a new election in June! What fun! Yes, I know, they just had an election two years ago, and Prime Minister Theresa May has said multiple times that she wouldn’t call snap elections before Britain had exited the European Union, but since when are we dinging politicians for lying? If early polling is to be believed, we’re not doing it this time either. May has a major political opening staring her in the face–serious Brexit negotiations won’t start until later this year, and she and her Conservative Party have huge polling leads over Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party–and she’s going to take advantage of it to increase her parliamentary cushion for the Brexit process. This is a smart, calculated move–so calculated that her opposition might even want to make an issue out of how bloody cynical the whole thing is.

Technically, May does not have the power to call for early elections–prime ministers used to have virtually unlimited authority in that regard, but parliament voted to restrict it in 2010 in order to keep precisely this kind of purely political vote from being called. If just a third of the House of Commons rejects her plans, she’ll have to resort to legislative trickery by having her own party vote against her government in a vote of no confidence. But it’s probably not going to come to that, as both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they’ll vote to approve the early election. It’s not clear why they’re going along with this, but I suppose if either party really knew what it was doing then the Conservatives wouldn’t be on the verge of pummeling them both in a couple of months.

The actual risk for May is that, if British voters are really feeling buyer’s remorse over the Brexit referendum, they could opt to hand May a parliament that’s much less amenable to her plans for a so-called “hard Brexit” (apologies if there are any impressionable children reading this smut).  Continue reading

Emergency Brexit

bj simpsons alcohol

His work (?) done, would-be UK prime minister Boris Johnson is slinking out the back door instead of, as expected, campaigning to replace David Cameron:

The battle for the Conservative leadership was dramatically transformed today after Boris Johnson ruled himself out of the race.

It followed the shock declaration from Michael Gove that he would throw his hat in the ring because he didn’t believe his close friend was up to the job.

He said: “I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead. I have, therefore, decided to put my name forward for the leadership.”

Conservative MPs who turned up for what they thought would be Boris Johnson’s decision to stand for the Tory leadership at the St Ermine hotel near Scotland Yard are absolutely furious.

Johnson’s live announcement produced one of the greatest political theater tidbits I’ve ever seen, which generated the title of this very post:

It’s not that Johnson is shrinking from the spotlight voluntarily, it’s more that he just got kneecapped by his erstwhile pal Gove, the current Justice Secretary who is probably going to face a rockier road to the big job than Johnson would have (the early betting favorite now is actually Home Secretary Teresa May). To be fair to Gove, though, Johnson kind of kneecapped himself when he declared after the referendum, with a sort of deer-in-headlights air, that, if it were up to him, wink-wink nudge-nudge, he’d be in no particular hurry to follow up on the vote to leave the EU by actually, uh, taking steps to leave the EU. Though to be even fairer to everybody, Gove has said much the same thing, and at the same time there are some European lawyers wondering if the referendum, non-binding on UK lawmakers as it may have been, has actually already triggered the infamous Article 50, starting the UK’s 2 year clock to full-on Brexit.

Gove, who while lacking Johnson’s hilarious head of hair, would as PM undoubtedly be fodder for larfs (thought I’d throw in a little British for you there) in his own right:

was perhaps most famous before the “Leave” campaign for, back when he was Education Secretary, insisting that all schools in the UK could and should be performing at a level above the national average, showing that innumeracy among our political leaders is really an international crisis. My impression from the little I’ve read about him is that he’s thought to be smart but also conniving and even devious, and his maneuvering here isn’t going to do anything to change the latter perception. The important thing, as Gove opens his campaign to be the UK’s next PM, is that he thinks he’s “constitutionally incapable” of doing the job and “[doesn’t] have what it takes.” So…good luck with that.