The Plastic Hippo

July 16, 2017

Tears of a clown

Only a complete fool would dare to suggest that extracting the fifth largest economy on the planet from the largest single market on Earth would be a simple undertaking and such a daunting task would probably freeze the blood of even the most skilful of negotiators. To similarly imply that the still just about United Kingdom remaining within the European Union can be achieved without endless rancour, hostility and the potential for civil unrest is as credible as a sexed-up dodgy dossier as a justification for war. Given that the set of negotiations to remove the UK from the EU are perhaps the most significant and consequential of dialogues since the Second World War, Her Majesty`s government seem intent on making a complete and utter hash of the whole thing.

We need only to consider those entrusted with the process of negotiation. David Davis is to competence what Liam Fox is to honesty and Boris Johnson possesses all the tact and diplomacy of a hormonal Gloucestershire Old Spot boar. It is almost as if Her Majesty`s government, as usual saying one thing and meaning another, wants the negotiations to trail on out towards infinity and then fail and then start the process all over again. Buying time is as high on the agenda as buying parliamentary votes in the desperate hope of clinging to power. (more…)

July 10, 2017

Ich bein ein Hamburger

Filed under: History,Politics,World — theplastichippo @ 2:47 am
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Not Colonel Sanders

Perhaps the most enduring and delightfully amusing myths generated by the cold war, is the continued belief that a President of the United States stood before a crowd in West Berlin and described himself as a jam-filled doughnut.

Few cold war orators could work a crowd like John F Kennedy even when the crowd spoke a different language and his assertion in 1963 that he, along with other free men would be proud to call themselves citizens of Berlin went down a storm with the German-speaking audience. Only non-German translators raised an eyebrow at the reference to deep-fried confectionary by completely missing the point that people in Berlin call jam-filled doughnuts Pfannkuchen and people in, for example, Hamburg call Pfannkuchen “Berliners”. Imagine JFK announcing to a New York crowd; “I am a weekly news and comment magazine celebrating the cultural richness of New York City”. (more…)

June 3, 2017

Air sick


As the English language continues to gloriously expand and evolve, it has yet to create an adequate word or phrase to capture the true essence of what it means to be a spectator of political campaigning.

The German “schadenfreude” or the related “joie mauvaise” from the French describing an evil joy might explain taking pleasure at the misfortunes of others but does not quite capture the feeling of toe-curling discomfiture watching politicians dig holes armed with only sound bites and spurious facts and figures. Even the Spanish “verguenza ajena” which relates to the sublime if guilty delight of seeing total strangers making fools of themselves during episodes of vicarious embarrassment cannot fully encompass the feeling of wanting to look away even though continuing to look through fingers thrown across disbelieving eyes. The invented “freudenschade”, which cleverly flips the German original to mean expressing sorrow at the success or good fortune of other people, does not cut the linguistic mustard. The advantage of a snap election means that the inevitable gaffs, faux pas, howling examples of hysterical hypocrisy and moments of undiluted unmitigated madness are condensed into a few, brief weeks of something that has no satisfactory descriptor known within the English language. (more…)

May 26, 2017

Which side are you on?

Via India Express and Reuters

I have to admit that until Monday evening, I had never heard of Ariana Grande and even now, more than 72 hours later, I remain completely unfamiliar with her work but recognise that her talent and status make her important as an icon and role model for adolescent girls and various other sections of society we are happy to place in pigeon holes. Sadly, for all her riches, fame and adulation, Ariana Grande will be remembered for giving a concert in Manchester that ended with the murders of children who only wanted to see their idol perform.

Each barbaric atrocity that takes the lives of innocents brings out the very best and the darkest worst of human nature. Again and again the emergency services rush towards horrific catastrophe without a thought of danger for themselves and overcome the human instinct to run away from harm. Instead, they provided rescue, care and comfort to total strangers. (more…)

May 7, 2017

Stockton-on-Tees syndrome

Patty Hearst

After being forcibly abducted, illegally deprived of liberty, brutalised and threatened with violence and death, it is beyond belief that a hostage would regard a hostage-taker with anything other than complete contempt and utter loathing.

However, since the 1970s, the kidnapping of a wealthy heiress and a six day armed siege at the Kreditbanken in Norrmalmstorg Square in the centre of the Swedish capital allowed psychologists to invent a brand new syndrome to describe how hostages bond with their captors as a strategy for survival and what happens when poor little girls begin to get their kicks by holding up banks with a machine gun. Sadly, like most monthly flavours in questionable psychology, this syndrome rapidly became tasteless when it was used to explain away domestic violence and child abuse in a world where blaming the victims for the crimes committed against them is somehow fashionable as well as being profoundly unfathomable.

It is far too simplistic to dismiss local authority and mayoral elections as meaningless or irrelevant or to point to woefully low turnouts. Crowing about victories in Manchester, Liverpool or the West Midlands when the turnouts are between 26 and 29 per cent is, however, not an indication of the imminent coronation of Theresa May. What is astonishing is that of the 21 per cent who voted in Tees Valley, the majority of people in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Redcar formerly known for its steel works before being abandoned by a Conservative government voted for a Conservative metropolitan mayor. In the east end of Glasgow and across the industrial belt of the Scottish central lowlands, Conservative councillors were elected. (more…)

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