Jan 1, 2018

This thread has been created for open discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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62 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION – JANUARY 2018

  • The January open discussion thread is now open.

    Please do NOT add any further comments to earlier Open Discussion threads.

    Thank you, and a very Happy New Year to all visitors and commenters!

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  • We haven’t mastered the art of getting new threads on the front page yet, but we have just created a new thread here – – which you may be interested in.

    It links to The Guardian’s list of 100 non-fiction books of all time, but we would of course be interested to see your own recommendations too.

    We’d ask you to add any comments about that on the other thread rather than here, please. And in the meantime, we’ll see if we can find out how to make it a bit more visible.

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  • What an intriguing question! I wonder where you’re going with that? …

    I would imagine that a lot of believers would say that their soul is their identity (and vice versa).

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  • According to Buddhist teachings, there is continuity without identity – they avoid the word “soul” because any mention of a soul gives a hint of an “unchanging entity.” What there is (what we refer to as “me”) are continuously changing mental and physical phenomena. After death, these phenomena arise again in another physical body.

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  • The holidays always remind me the whole concept of eternal life after death has never been properly thought through. It was lovely to have the family all here this past week and now even lovelier to have them gone again.

    Remember when growing up your fondest wish was to get out of the house? And then have a family of your own? And then get your own children out of the house? Then comes Heaven and after trillions and trillions of years of renewed togetherness, you’re really just getting started.

    Life may be short but eternity is waaay too much of a good thing.

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  • Phil

    Didn’t get much from Metalhead on the Black Mirror series. Maybe the world in which the dogs were created and allowed was more scary. In an age when security dogs have to have a guard along and the broken glass in the concrete on top of walks banned, it didn’t feel right that these things would ever be allowed.

    My favourite so far is Be Right Back. It just kept giving and the end was unexpected and a kick in the guts. Fathers for Justice must have felt it more.

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  • Ollie,

    It pressed three buttons for me.

    The Boston Dynamics Dogs (targeted at the military) scare the shit out of me.

    Maxine Peak is tremendous. Her Hamlet was great, I only wish I had see her reading of Shelley about the Peterloo Massacre.

    I thought it visually superb.

    It is post apocolyptic so I entirely see the savage policing of the most trivial things as likely. And that trivial things become as valuable as lives.

    Be right back was awesome.

    Turks hacked the site before, shutting it down for a couple of days again with links to porn/escort sites.


    ….I got diamonds on mine.


    I intend a bigger post on this maybe at the weekend. One of my hero muslim scholars had the insight that if souls were things they must be just animating sparks of life. Our personality is so written into our body that it must die with us leaving a spirit simply like every other. It is a follow on to eternity and what it is to be human.

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  • I enjoyed Metalhead very much although it also scared me too much at times. Had to look away when the dog was almost on her. The scenery was bleak – as it was in Crocodile too. Very effective. I really wanted that woman to win, to live, to brutally pulverize that dog. In the end she accepted defeat and ended her life on her own terms. Respect.

    I thought, why on earth did they take the colossal risk of violent death, all just for a damn teddy bear?! What kind of risk/benefit analysis is this?!! But then, in that abysmal dystopia, all bleak and dead, all the kid wants is a warm comforting teddy bear. How can I blame her/them for going after it. Stupid in the face of it but oh so human. In the end, the warmth of human kindness and love is obliterated by cold, hard, unforgiving computerized techno-death.
    It’s the end of the world.

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  • Phil, #10

    I intend a bigger post on this maybe at the weekend. One of my hero
    muslim scholars had the insight that if souls were things they must be
    just animating sparks of life. Our personality is so written into our
    body that it must die with us leaving a spirit simply like every
    other. It is a follow on to eternity and what it is to be human.

    I have to say, personally I don’t think “soul” has any counterpart in the real world at all. Not as a specific entity. It is, so far as I can see, what religions have invented as the entity that survives death, given that our physical selves so patently do not.

    I do use the word from time to time (not often!), but only ever to denote “my innermost me”, “the essence of me” (or someone else). Stripped of its supernatural elements, I occasionally find it a useful term for that purpose. But I certainly don’t actually believe in such a thing, any more than I believe my gut can actually shed any light on anything at all, however many “gut feelings” I might get. It’s a metaphor, that’s all. I am entirely of your view: our personality is inextricably linked with our corporeality. It cannot exist, cannot survive, without it.

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  • Laurie,

    Glad you liked it. I got the impression she chose to offer herself to take pressure off others and her child. Returning was too dangerous?

    Maxine Peake. My son has just told me she stars on Mike Leigh’s new film, Peterloo. Perfect.


    Soul is a word I never have need of except to identify music. I think it was Ibn Rushd whose insight I am talking about. In effect he was saying that we cease to exist as individuals as we die, which is quite an anti religious sentiment. No carrot of 72 virgins if its not you.

    It was at a time, eleventh, twelfth century, when souls were being hyped up to be all encompassing things because corporeal resurrection was too conceptually problematic. I just wonder what modern religious folks imagine about their souls. Populist ideas are more like ghosts with all physical attributes preserved, and are the result of Victorian spiritualism.

    I’m not sure how but I think it is a way to get folk to consider more deeply the whole nonsense of an afterlife

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  • Phil

    I must have missed something in Metalhead because I thought the dogs were from before the apocolyptic era. I made the comment about the scary world before, that might have allowed the use of these things. The warehouse looked like it had been abandoned long before. I thought of land mines causing the same problem in the real world. At the moment, the dogs scared me no more than a tank or a drone, say.

    Visually it was great but read that they may have turned it into black and white to make the CGI look better but a post apocolyptic world looks more believable in monochrome.

    The teddy and child theme would not have worked as well if it was a man playing the main role. It would have been to macho, to gung-ho. The want to return to the simple things in life, like the love of a mother and childish comforts, was what I got from it and was the cleverest part for me. I thought that maybe a little colour right at the end, with the teddy would give a message of hope but, after thinking about it, I am glad they didn’t go that route as it would have been corny and put a full stop in place. This way, it leaves the way open for more thought. I suppose I did get something from it but not as much as Be Right Back. That made me, as a man, feel inadequate, at the sex scene with the robot, and helpless with the weekend father thing. I really wanted her to resist the urge to bring her husband back to life but by the end, the child had a father, albeit only on weekends and special occasions. He was as real as could be but do we really know the real people our parents are, as a child.

    I thought we might get some hacking after a poster (can’t remember his name) but his last comment was about how bad the site was on IPhone. Perhaps the way in?


    Don’t know if it’s the fault of the updates on Apple, but it has happened since the modifications here, when I go to type in a comment on my IPad, the text box disappears behind the keypad. I pull it up to see what I have written and it disappears again on hitting the first key. I am typing blind.

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  • As an over simplification, what the masses think they should aspire to trickles down from the rich and especially royalty. We feel we deserve what they have to make us worthy. A tomb if not a pyramid. The Egyptian men and women who took the title of gods and eternal life was maybe what the masses aspired too. Future religions would have to somehow promise the same for all and move the privilege to a single god who looked after these souls in “heaven”. After all, it has to make sense (lol)

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  • Ollie,

    re Metalhead.

    Fair enough.

    As I said the Boston Dynamics dogs always spooked me and setting them on Maxine Peake just wasn’t cricket.

    I also liked the super sparse plot. If there is a problem with the other stuff it’s that there is often too much explication. The condition of Art emerges as you prune stuff away without losing emotional heft. It reveals more about us as individuals, our pre-intellectual buttons.

    I’ll read about Egyptian souls after work.


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  • Phil

    Watched Men against Fire last night. Although the message was pretty clear early on, the line “you have to want it or your brain will reject it”, made the whole thing more interesting and all I could see were Trump supporters for a second or two.

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  • Trump’s mental health is coming under increasing scrutiny finally. I’ve been saying for 18 months he’s far more mentally ill than people realise but it’s taken a long time for that to enter the common appreciation. In December Dr Brandy Lee a Yale professor of psychiatry briefed mainly Dem members of congress on his mental health. Only one unnamed Repug attended. Many other mental health professionals are now chipping in despite the Goldwater rule. Twice now on camera Trump has had to use both hands to take a drink of water as though he’s having trouble co-ordinating his movements to hold a cup or bottle. Then there was the slurred speech thing. Plus his rambling replies to interview questions which jump from topic to topic, rarely about the actual question itself and usually fall back on him saying how great he is. He knows more about tax than any CPA and more about war than any general. He has good days and bad but that’s common with neurological problems. I personally think he has incipient dementia compounded by his narcissism and sociopathy but of course I’m no mental health professional. We shall see however in time no doubt.

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  • I agree, Arkrid (#18).

    If you ever see video clips of him from, say, 10 years ago, he’s like a different man. Still arrogant and loathsome, of course, but at least he can hold a thought … argue his point … stay on the topic … actually reply to the question he’s been asked and put his horrible case coherently.

    You don’t need to be a mental health professional to see the difference in him now, and to conclude that his brain simply isn’t working as it should be.

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  • The scary thing about Trump is this apparent impoverishment of his speech is a major part of his attraction. He talks like the guys down at the bar. No big words or complex arguments.

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  • Ollie.

    Men against Fire was possibly my favourite episode. Based on the fact that 75% of all shots fired in WWII were aimed not to harm/kill. Truly we are wired not to kill. US military training subsequently upped the demeaning of the enemy, with brutalising training and netted much higher kill rates and much higher PTSD and other mental problems in its vet’s.

    We must indeed recognise when hatred is manipulated into us. We may have a cautious attitude to unknown others but it takes manipulative others and ideology to galvanise hatred.

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  • Phil

    The scary thing about Trump is this apparent impoverishment of his
    speech is a major part of his attraction. He talks like the guys down
    at the bar. No big words or complex arguments.

    The scariest part is that is the actual depth of his character. He’s not acting. His short-sighted, one-dimensional approach to any subject is actually his appeal to his base. The best example would be his Wall.

    Seriously, how hard is it to scale a wall?

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  • I’m reading Fire and Fury. Only about a tenth of the way through, but I already suspect it’s not going to be a very effective addition to the Trump Impeachment Toolkit.

    Yes, it’s gossipy, yes, it’s salacious, yes, it reinforces everything we already know about Trump. But it’s anything but forensic. I can’t see it being much use in any kind of indictment. It’s so overtly sensationlist. There’s no emotional detachment. The efforts to crank up the reader’s outrage are too conspicuous. The writing is amateurish and clunky. I’d go so far as to say that, in too many places, the thinking is amateurish and clunky. The “Fire and Fury” of the title could be referring to the author himself, as well as Trump.

    The biggest take-homes so far are 1) that Trump really, really didn’t expect to win (didn’t even want to), but was hoping for a narrowish loss to Clinton that he could use as a publicity boost for what he actually wanted to do, which was to set up a Trump TV channel where he’d portray himself as having been robbed by Crooked Hillary: there does seem to be solid support for this interpretation; and 2) the extent to which Trump consults (or consulted – he falls in and out with people so quickly, it’s hard to keep up) both Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

    Other than that, my verdict so far (with apologies to You Know Who): “It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying … not very much that we didn’t know already. Meh.”

    It’s a page-turner, I suppose, and I’ll read on, though mostly in the hope of finding something more useful later on.

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  • Marco

    Yeah, I think Fire and Fury is little more than an insider’s look at what the rest of us already knew: Donald Trump is an opportunistic idiot. It’s no All The President’s Men that’s for sure.

    Still, I’m enjoying the hell out of Trump’s discomfort and impotent rage.

    (And yes, a gold medal for Mexico would be funny as hell)

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  • Hi Vicki
    Yes, I did see that book club announcement. I watch PBS news starting with BBC segment at 5:30pm EST and then PBS news after that. I’m always happy to see any prompting aimed at the public to read good books. It seems somewhat interactive as it was explained that night.

    You going to read the first book?

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  • I’ve already started it, and am glad I did. I like that the suggestion is a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up. So far, it’s reminding me very much of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

    The downside is the shear numbers. I logged into Facebook this morning, and there were a bajillion posts scattered throughout my feed from the club. It would have been better to have them consolidated. It’s too overwhelming to have any meaningful conversations.

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  • Vicki

    a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up.

    This is a feature of book clubs that I definitely appreciate. I belonged to a fiction book club for years and I depended on the selections to keep me at least somewhat current on the fiction best sellers and some classics too. My go to choice is mostly nonfiction science and my favorite is narrative nonfiction which I could read nonstop for all eternity. I like to throw in a dystopia speculative fiction from time to time as these are amusing brain candy and don’t require any cognitive effort on my part. Atwood is the undisputed queen of speculative fiction and never bores me.

    I joined a science book discussion group a while back which served me well. Except for the few times on this site that an exceptional book has been presented for discussion, Better Angels for example, mostly I have no one to discuss science books with. My science book group has fizzled out, sadly.

    Pity about the overwhelming commenting situation on the book discussion site but on the bright side, glad to see such interest in reading and discussing the selection!

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  • Phil

    My list would start with William Manchester’s The Last Lion.

    A supreme tragedy that he died before he could complete the third and final(?) volume.

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  • A wonderful subject for him, Vicki. Such drama, such achievement. Profoundly important for us all.

    Pride of place in my mother’s collection of books was an extensive array of Churchill’s historical and autobiographical works. I used to love to dip in to them.

    From reading about him, Manchester very much seems the man for the job.

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  • Vicki #28
    Jan 6, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Yeah, I think Fire and Fury is little more than an insider’s look at what the rest of us already knew:
    Donald Trump is an opportunistic idiot.

    Fire and Fury: ‘Stable genius’ Trump hits back at book’s claims

    Isn’t a stable the housing for donkeys? – AND the early residence of fake messiahs?

    US President Donald Trump has rejected questions raised over his mental health. . .. . .

    describing himself as a “very stable genius” .. . in his latest infantile, name-calling, knee-jerk, tantrum! 🙂

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  • Seriously, How hard is it to scale a wall

    Well, just leave it to YouTube when you want to know how to do anything and everything! There are many videos giving explanations on the proper way to scale a wall! Who knew?

    A while ago, when Trump was on TV blabbering on about his stupid wall that would solve our immigration “problem” the reporter went on to take the opinions of some of our resident Mexican Americans on the situation. One middle aged Mexican woman said that if they build a ten foot wall then they’ll show up with eleven foot ladders, a twenty foot wall then twenty-one foot ladders. In the back ground a group of Mexicans laughing derisively.

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  • Olgun

    Don’t make fun of the four humours medical diagnosis system! Of course it wreaked havoc on the patients back then but I want it to be appreciated as a big step forward from the previous – God done it! At least they were trying! haha.

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  • Seems like God would just send an affliction your way if you had the bad judgement to aggravate him. Why would he bother with all of this body fluids tinkering this way and that. Just boom! Cancer! Take that you bad person! Or, stole a candy bar? Here’s an ingrown toenail for your trouble! All of that trying to adjust the offending bad humour with blood letting and sweating it out and purges of various kinds seems like a disruption of God’s plan. Good luck with that. He’ll probably throw a melanoma your way if you piss him off sufficiently. There’s some science in the name of God for you.

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  • Right Vicki!

    Gotta think BIG!

    There I go again with my micromanaging and then projecting it onto God. 🙁 my bad.

    Ouch! Why is my tooth aching like that?! Uh-oh…


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  • LaurieB #38
    Jan 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    A while ago, when Trump was on TV blabbering on about his stupid wall that would solve our immigration “problem” the reporter went on to take the opinions of some of our resident Mexican Americans on the situation.

    You must remember to take into account Trump’s historical bronze age level of understanding of science and engineering.

    The ancient Chinese had walls and the Romans had walls -and they both ruled over huge empires! – So walls MUST confer emperor status! 🙂

    As far as actually keeping illegal immigrants out, Britain does not bother with walls, as we ONLY have moats of seawater between 20 miles and several hundred miles wide – but those still don’t work!
    The Italians and Greeks seem to find that the Mediterranean Sea isn’t wide enough either – and I think the Mexicans would really struggle with ladders long enough to get over those! 🙂

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  • Alan, doesn’t Mexico have modern flying machines such as “helicopters”?
    They could make a quick low hop across the border (wall) and jump back before the Feds could do anything.

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  • alf1200 #47
    Jan 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Alan, doesn’t Mexico have modern flying machines such as “helicopters”?

    The South American drug runners seem to have discovered aircraft AND boats, quite some time ago, but despite “The Opiate Crisis”, Trump’s pedestrian thinking persists!

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  • Marco #50
    Jan 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Trump’s lawyers have threatened Michael Wolff and his publisher with a libel suit.

    That could prove interesting if Trump was required to answer searching questions and produce evidence in court. – including evidence of things he desperately wants hidden!

    Unlike the sycophant circus, courts are very unlikely to accept “The mighty Trump says so, so that must be correct”!

    Trump’s record in court, is one of multiple appeals in attempts to wear down opponents, but having cases thrown out due to failure to produce any credible evidence!

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  • Yes! I can’t imagine Trump (or his lawyers, at least) really wanting this to come to court. I suspect the lawyers’ letter was just sent in the hope that bluff, bluster and bullying would do the trick. Good to see the responding lawyers are more than a match for such games.

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  • Marco #52
    Jan 10, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Yes! I can’t imagine Trump (or his lawyers, at least)
    really wanting this to come to court.
    I suspect the lawyers’ letter was just sent in the hope
    that bluff, bluster and bullying would do the trick.

    It could well be that it was just a ploy to have the likes of Dimbart and Faux, publish his allegations (in large print) that the exposures libellous and false!

    Rather like his demands for “investigations” into the activities of various people, (when the outcomes would be to exonerate them and expose his groundless posturing), – with him then posturing as “generously” withdrawing the allegations, or “forgiving” them for the imaginary transgressions, so as to preserve the false notions in the minds of Trump-base, and pretend there are unresolved suspect issues!

    It is a standard procedure of devious doubt-mongers, and debaters of pseudo-controversies!

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  • Last Xmas I sat and listened as my daughter and her husband threatened, bribed and threatened again my granddaughter who can be a bit of a handful.

    My granddaughter was born with ear problems and didn’t have a very good first two years. Discharge and pain meant she could not hear and I could see she got very frustrated by it. I can remember a lot of crying and looking for comfort from her mother and not wanting to know the rest of us. She has some catching up to do and her character doesn’t make it easy although she has another type of manipulative intelligence she uses to good results with her parents. Doesn’t work with me and she behaves quite differently when she is with us, her grandparents. Mum and dad walk in and she plays up.

    She is now five and, as I started to say, she was being threatened with presents from Santa or not. I could only take so much and stood up and said there is no Santa and that they should teach her to respect the hard work her parents put in to buy those presents. I said this in front of my granddaughter who looked a little confused whilst my daughter looked angry. They know my stance so not much was said but looks told the story. We got over that and upon reflection my daughter was happy with the situation that grandad is different and her daughter has to learn to get on with people who are.

    Just before Xmas this year, I picked up my granddaughter from school and we were on our way to have something to eat. Quite unexpectedly from the back came a little voice, “dede, can I ask you a question”? I was shocked at first because this was the first time she had talked to me as if I were on the same planet as her and to ask a question about being allowed to ask a question had my senses at full alert. Usually she did as her first thoughts wanted her to do. After my initial joy and shock at this first contact I said of course. “Well” she said, “the school took us to a church today and the… in charge of the church (?)…. said that someone died and came back to life. What do you think about that”? I remembered the Xmas before with the Santa files and took a gulp and asked her what she thought instead. To my joy, she said it sounded silly. I said I think so too and she went back to her thinking mode. When my daughter called from work to see how we were doing, I found a quite spot to tell her what happened worried that I had really overstepped the mark. No problem dad she said. I had won over all three of them.

    I don’t know if my granddaughter had ever listened in on any conversations about religion but she had made up her mind at the age of five that if it sounds ridiculous then it probably is. Life is funny at times and just as you think you’ve worked it out little people give you some great surprises.

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  • I see that the Trump (non-)administration, having created aggravation and division against immigrants, has shifted its position towards aggravated division and conflict with foreign countries, and having created aggravated divisions with Democrats over the destruction of regulatory mechanisms, has stupidly included its partisan incompetence into the budget in an attempt to force it through regardless, – resulting in the failure to set a budget and the progressive shut-down of services in the USA!
    . . . .A set of blundering dolts, who cannot or will not, reach amicable agreements with anyone, and who will blame anyone but themselves for their failures!

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  • Alan #57

    Weird, isn’t it? It’s almost as if running the world’s largest economy and governing a country of 323 million people required some kind of expertise or something …

    Let’s just hope the US electorate has learned that lesson by the time of the next election.

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  • I see the ‘Kippers of Trump’s favourite UK political party, have taken a break from angry Europhobic brexiteering, and have got back to their regular infighting with their own leaders and each other!

    (March 2017 – Ukip leader Paul Nuttall DEFIANT as he rejects calls for him to resign)

    UKIP leader Henry Bolton hit by multiple resignations

    **UKIP leader Henry Bolton is facing a wave of resignations from key positions as pressure mounts on him to quit.

    The local government, education, trade and immigration spokesmen have all resigned, along with the deputy leader and assistant deputy leader.

    It comes after the national executive committee backed a vote of no confidence in him.

    Mr Bolton has faced repeated calls to quit over offensive texts sent by his ex-girlfriend.

    He has said he plans to carry on as leader, saying another leadership contest would be divisive and a costly distraction.

    Nigel Farage: UKIP’s long-serving leader announced his resignation on 4 July 2016, saying his “political ambition has been achieved” by the Brexit vote

    Diane James: Lasted less than three weeks after being elected in September 2016

    Nigel Farage: Returned as interim leader in October 2016

    Paul Nuttall: Elected on 28 November 2016, but quit the following June after UKIP’s general election collapse

    Henry Bolton: Elected on 29 September. Is facing resignations and a vote of no confidence

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  • Marco #58
    Jan 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm
    Weird, isn’t it? It’s almost as if running the world’s largest economy and governing a country of 323 million people required some kind of expertise or something …

    Yep! That tried, tested, and failed formula of brute-force and stupidity, does not seem to cut it!

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  • Alan4discussion #59
    Jan 22, 2018 at 9:29 am

    I see the ‘Kippers of Trump’s favourite UK political party,
    have taken a break from angry Europhobic brexiteering,
    and have got back to their regular infighting with their own leaders and each other!

    Further to #59:-

    Yep! Those angry ultra-right Trumpoids, after advocating Breiteer world-wide super-deal-agreements outside of Europe, are even sick of their own factional in-fighting! (Parallels with the Trump cabinet?) – and cannot even agree to work harmoniously among themselves!

    All 17 UKIP councillors in Thurrock – including an MEP – have resigned from the party and formed a new group.

    Thurrock Independents has been created by the councillors who said they “have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics”.

    The group, which includes MEP [Member of the European Parliament] Tim Aker, is now the official opposition to the Conservative majority at Thurrock.

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