Category Archives: Gimme a Break

Looking Backwards


On June 26, 2016 2:40:27 PM GMT+01:00, R wrote:


When people find out you’re an American, are they asking “what are you
When I was in Canada, one guy said “what are the American people
thinking.  A lot of the world looks to the US for leadership”….
Have you gotten any reaction????
Geez, if you say you’re American…. “what are you thinking with Trump”
If you say you’re British…. “What are you thinking with pulling out of
the EU”
Good time to be out of the country??…. “what were you thinking”

What was I thinking? What were they thinking?!?

To get a sense of just how quickly things are moving over here.  Since I left my London flat @ 6:45 this morning, 8 10 11 20 30 31 Labour MPs have resigned from the “shadow” cabinet, and at least 10 more from various leadership positions.  They’re resigning so fast I have to keep updating this post!  So far that’s about half the entire shadow cabinet.

Labour & Tories are both now in leadership struggles, as are the Greens. Lib Democrats have sworn to return to the EU, if elected (fat chance of that).


Meanwhile millions (Pawn included) have signed an online petition demanding a mulligan on Brexit.  That now seems to be getting a new portmanteau, CNN are using REGREXIT, but I think that should be ReBrexit, or maybe just Oops!  Seems not all signatories are legit, however, so an investigation is underway:

Despite Vatican City, a tiny city state, having a total population of just 800, over 39,000 residents of Vatican City appeared to have signed the petition.

Oh, and that petition they’re all signing?  It was actually started by a Brexiteer, who thought it would give Leave a hedge against a razor-thin Remain vote.

My favourite story to come out of this is Cornwall, which voted Leave by over 56%, yet then turned around to complain that the UK had damn well better make up for the large share of EU funding they now stand to lose out on.  Cut off your nose…

Region was on course to benefit from £2.5bn of funding between 2000 and 2020 but voted 56% in favour of leaving EU

This is largely in line with the Washington Post story which has stayed on their most circulated list all weekend long, “The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it.”

WaPo also has a similar thread about Tilbury:

Tilbury is one of England’s poorest places — and one of its most Euroskeptic. More than 72 percent of voters here and in surrounding Thurrock voted for Britain to leave the European Union in Thursday’s referendum. Few places voted more decisively.

But by Sunday, the initial excitement among some pro-Brexit voters had already started to disappear, making room for worries about what’s next for an increasingly divided Britain.

Some in this town of 12,000 have also begun to wonder whether they had been misled by politicians advocating to leave the E.U. amid a campaign marked by negativity on both sides.

“I was swayed by the rhetorics, but if I had thought this through, I would have voted to stay in. I would certainly do so now,” said Antony Kerin, 38, who was watching his daughter at a newly refurbished but empty playground.

But then again, Brexit may just never happen at all.  This meme was forward me by A:

The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.

The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?

Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?

Boris Johnson knew this yesterday, when he emerged subdued from his home and was even more subdued at the press conference. He has been out-maneouvered and check-mated.

If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over – Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession … broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished. Boris Johnson knows all of this. When he acts like the dumb blond it is just that: an act.

The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice.

When Boris Johnson said there was no need to trigger Article 50 straight away, what he really meant to say was “never”. When Michael Gove went on and on about “informal negotiations” … why? why not the formal ones straight away? … he also meant not triggering the formal departure. They both know what a formal demarche would mean: an irreversible step that neither of them is prepared to take.

Indeed. This seems to align with a point which R put forward in re: the Trump campaign:

He has been running this like an episode of the apprentice…..

This is what I see happening, Trump has talked to Reince Priebus, saying “I’m a winner and I don’t want to be associated with loosing causes.

“I can’t win the election in the fall, I don’t want to be seen as a “looser”, so I want out.”

That’s why he hasn’t been raising money for the fall election…

That’s why the Republican party is pushing this “Vote your conscience” idea with the delegates.

Trump won’t get the nod on the first ballot, he’ll clam it’s been stolen from him…

“I’ll sue…I’m going 3rd party…” bla bla bla

He’s going to try and fade away still being a “Winner”, who got things stolen from him in a rigged election.

Yikes, pretty detailed scenario there. In general, people who try to predict what Trump might do are the only bigger fools than those who try to understand what he does.

See what I did there?  Drew a direct comparison between Trump and the whole tawdry Brexit affair?  I’m hardly the only one doing it.  Some have even suggested Trexit for the Trump effort.  Yetch!

But back to Article 50, that’s a few paragraphs in the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which defines the precise manner of leaving the union.  The first step is to invoke this article, “A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention” (emphasis mine), and when that happens is the real question.  Cameron won’t do it.  He’s stepping down.  BoJo has said he wants to take things slow and deliberate.  The EU wants it to happen now, and are even investigating whether they can trigger it.

But just to be sure, Brexiteers are starting to walk back their most audacious claims, like that huge savings for National Health.

Then there are those who propose that even it Article 50 is invoked, it could be blocked.  Nicola Sturgeon, Scotish First Minister is one such pol:

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that the Scottish parliament could block the passage of legislation necessary for the UK to leave the EU.

In an interview with the Sunday Politics Scotland, she said that “of course” she would consider asking the Scottish parliament to vote down the legislative consent motions required for the legislation.

In her fifth major political interview of the morning, Scotland’s first minister told the show’s host, Gordon Brewer: “If the Scottish parliament is judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland, then the option of saying we’re not going to vote for something that’s against Scotland’s interests, that’s got to be on the table. You’re not going to vote for something that is not in Scotland’s interests.”

Asked if she could imagine the fury of English people who voted for Brexit if Scotland tried to block the UK leaving the EU, she said: “I can, but it’s perhaps similar to the fury of many people in Scotland right now as we face the prospect of being taken out of the EU against their will. I didn’t create these situations. I’m trying to navigate the best way forward through them.”

So now Pawn finds himself in the Netherlands, which is actively considering Nexit, I kid you not.


As a matter of fact, until early 2015, there was a Eurosceptic party here named, ready for it? Article 50.  It hasn’t gone away, just merged with another party, For The Neatherlands.

Never a dull moment, as my British father used to say…

[Update: This post has been updated to reflect the current number of Labour shadow cabinet ministers who have stepped down]

convert this post to pdf.

The Mourning After

On 06/24/2016 03:13 PM, DB wrote:

You are really in the thick of it. Just reading a bit about it this a.m. Thanks for your blog posts. 

I’d love to hear your interpretation of what this means. Is it the most conservative faction that wanted independence. Is this about immigration as much as anything?

Anyway, enjoy. Looking forward to your next report.

Yes, quite thick things are here.  I’ve just come from the Book Arts Book Shop.  When I got there all the talk was of the collective hangover people feel today about this.  One gentleman had spent the entire past week campaigning for Remain, and said he hadn’t slept yet.  Tanya, the proprietress, complained, “I talked with my neighbours, I talked with my friends.  Everyone I know voted Remain, so what more could we have done?”

She then announced that it was her birthday, and she did intend to celebrate, despite the long faces all around.  I do believe I helped in that undertaking, buying a pile of books.  “I feel like shutting the store and going to celebrate right now!” she exclaimed.  “You say that every time I’m here,” I replied. “That’s because you spend so much.”

My thoughts on this are still resolving.  I think, for the short term, there will be much upheaval.  The financial markets are a mess, and a recession is widely anticipated.  Some have suggested the pound sterling may ultimately lose as much as 30 – 40% of its value, although the BofE seeks to ensure it will not.  The FTSE will doubtless continue to suffer, although at present is up for the week, mostly on the strong pre-Brexit trading volume.


Cameron’s resignation, pending until a vote can be organized — first within the Tory party, and then, perhaps, nationwide — sets up an epic power struggle.  Boris Johnson, former mayor of London, is widely expected to stand for PM, and just might win.  Meanwhile, in Labour, there is already a call for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, and challenges have been mounted.

This all in just the past few hours.

Scotland have threatened secession, again, but will no doubt succeed this time.  SNP, the standard bearers of Scottish independence, control over 70% of the Scottish parliament, and Scots voted overwhelmingly for Remain.  They feel more tightly bound to Europe than England lately.

Wales, while not asking to leave the UK, have demanded assurances on funding levels.  They feel England forced through this referendum, and even though they voted Leave by roughly 60%, they are now complaining about the effects of that.

And this all in just the past few hours.

See what I mean?  The dust has hardly settled, and already ever sharper lines are being drawn.  France, Holland, Greece, Denmark and more are queuing up to Leave now, too.  If that happens, the entire experiment is as god as over.  Marine le Pen has already called for a French exit, Frexit I guess it will be called, or perhaps Fraisser, to introduce a new, French, portmanteau.  Last country out, please douse the lights!

Similar nationalistic parties are surging all across Europe, and if their main economic and security apparatus crumble and fall away, what is to stop another march towards war?  We already see borders being closed against each other; crude characterizations of the other in the press and campaigns.  Waning religious majorities in France and elsewhere are waking up from decades-long slumbers to discover that in fact a significant portion of their fellow countrymen worship differently than they do.  Intolerance on one side is met with intransigence on the other, and vice-versa.

Then along comes Donald Trump to rub salt in the wounds.  Thank you The Donald.  May you choke on haggis.

UK leaders are variously calling for immediate invocation of Article 50, or a more deliberate course, leaving such actions for the next PM, who, in any event, wouldn’t take office until October, earliest.  The EU, meanwhile, are impatient, like a jilted lover.

A senior EU leader has confirmed the bloc wants Britain out as soon as possible, warning that David Cameron’s decision to delay the start of Brexit negotiations until his successor is in place may not be fast enough.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, told the Guardian that EU lawyers were studying whether it was possible to speed up the triggering of article 50 – the untested procedure for leaving the European Union.

“Uncertainty is the opposite of what we need,” Schulz said, adding that it was difficult to accept that “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party”.

“I doubt it is only in the hands of the government of the United Kingdom,” he said. “We have to take note of this unilateral declaration that they want to wait until October, but that must not be the last word.”

Sounds like the UK may come home some day soon to find their clothes dumped on the curb.

Okay, this started out as a note to you, but it seems to have grown into my next blog post.  I haven’t even taken time to enjoy my new artist books yet!  I’ll be sure to share them when I return.


convert this post to pdf.

Non Tempus Fugit – London 2016 day 1

For the record; Pawn has flown across the Atlantic 5 times in the past 15 months on United Airlines. Fully 80% of those flights have been delayed by at least an hour, several for 2 or more, due to “Mechanical” problems. Last night’s flight 938 from Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow was one of these occasions, our 9:20PM departure stretching first to 10, then to 11. I arrived at my London flat in Hoxton at 15:30 rather than 13:00. Oh well.

Pawn occupied himself by Bedazzling his new Samsonite luggage with a likeness of Donald Trump. That should make it stand out on Baggage Reclaim conveyor!


On the bight side, TSA security at O’Hare was a breeze.

The flight was full, or darn close to it. A silent seat partner filled out the port side of row 25. She pressed herself into the window, and I had aisle. I do not believe she got up once during the flight. Upon our descent I expressed envy at her ability to sleep on the flight. “I took an Advil PM,” she replied. “I actually took it too early, turns out, not knowing we’d get delayed 2 hours!”

A few rows behind us was a chatty fellow, who regaled his seat mates, a pair of young lasses from Brighton, with an unending and unsolicited stream of chatter. He sounded like Darren, from Bewitched. The one with the nasally voice and a chin pointy enough to cut glass with. Turns out he looked like him, too.

At one point he went on for quite some time about a photograph he had on his phone, sent from his friend, from a photo shoot said friend had done with Matthew McConaughey, or Matt, to his friends, which apparently included our Darren simulacrum, to hear him tell it. As I listened (and believe me, I had no choice in the matter, none of us sardines did) it dawned on me that I was in the presence of a human lunar eclipse, for like a lunar eclipse is the moon viewed by means of the light of the sun reflected off of the earth and then, in turn, off of the moon itself. This man was basking in the fame of Matt, reflected off of his photographer friend, and finally off of Darren himself.


This stream of prattle went on for hours!! It seemed it would never end. His wife and kids decided to skip London & Berlin, will be meeting him in Italy. He’s staying in Shoreditch, at Hotel M. I wouldn’t be surprised if he inscribed the room number for them, so subtle was his come-on.

The walking, talking, mashing lunar eclipse in row 28 just couldn’t stop.

Made a long, long, long travel day even longer.

Demens Fugit

convert this post to pdf.

Words from the River – Part 1

I stopped in to a liquor store in Eagan, MN yesterday, to pick up some Scotch.  My favorite swill, Clan McGreggor.  They had liters for $12.99 or 1.75 liter for $26.99.  Say What?!?  Bought a small bottle.

Worked at the client’s last night from 6:00 – 11:30.  Drove home in wet, sloppy, snow, but safely.  Had a couple of scotches while watching TV, until suddenly all the channels went away.  Called the front desk.  “Oh, it must be because of the storm.” said the gormless twit behind the desk.  Ha, Storm?!?  This is ef-ing Minnesota, and a little teeny snow storm knocks out their satellite feed??  No excuse if you ask me.

Drove down to Kansas City today.  Currently ensconced in the Holiday Inn at the Country Club Plaza, which if you know KC you know is a tony address.  The Nelson-Atkins is just a short walk away.

Speaking of arts museums, went to the Walker yesterday.  Had to pay the $12, as I left my MAM membership at home (grrr).  Great new building — much different than the last time I was there, maybe 20 years ago.  Had a huge exhibit on Cindy Sherman.  WOW!  Did you read the profile of Lena Dunham’s mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, in the New Yorker recently?  In it, they talked about her knocking around Metro Pictures and other “in” galleries in the 70s & 80s, and she talked about learning to make good looking prints, and what a change that made to her work.  Well, the same can be said for Sherman, a regular member of the Metro Pictures stable of artists.  Her “Hollywood Film Stills” project is amazing, and the later, larger, work is simply arresting.  So glad I got to see the show.

They also have a large installation called Midnight Party, which is a sprawling conglomeration of hundreds of works by over a hundred artsists, mostly pulled from their collection, and arranged brilliantly across several galleries on 3 floors.  Some rooms are given over to curio-cabinet style displays, like a natural history museum, but all art.  Quite good.

My only complaint was that the lighting, in general, was abysmal.  Very hard to appreciate some of the work for all the glare.

I just got home from a fabulous dinner at Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que, in KC, KS.  Here’s about 1/4 of the line of people waiting to order:

Queue at Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Que

Queue at Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Que

That line twists and turns all the way to the street door.  If it weren’t Valentine’s Day, I was told, the line would be out the door and down the block.  Thank God I was dining alone on V Day, I say!

Here’s my dinner.  I ordered a full rack with a side of coleslaw.  The grill man hollered out, “Special Creamy!!”  I almost blushed. 😉

Special Creamy

Special Creamy

That’s either mighty fine eatin’, or a piece of Christopher Dorner.  You be the judge!

This nice older couple came and sat next to me.  Had a nice little conversation with them until the woman explained, “I talk to two kinds of people in this world; those who have accepted Jesus Christ Our Lord into their lives and hearts, and those who are just about ready to.  Which type are you?”

“I’m the type who doesn’t believe in discussing religion with strangers over dinner.” I replied, and turned back to my food.  What I wanted to say was something witty, like “If we’re going to discuss deeply personal and private matters, let’s talk about masturbation habits, instead.  I’m sure it’ll be way more interesting!” 😉

Now back at the hotel, after trying to navigate dense, cryptic KC traffic and roadways without GPS.  I was currently busy trying not to run down the horse drawn carriages that look like Tiffany Pumpkins festooned with garish lighting, slowly ferrying their cargo through the self-same cryptic streets.  Thank god the other drivers were so busy gawking that they ignore my severe traffic transgressions.

convert this post to pdf.

Careless Courtship and the Fact Challenged

John P. Avlon has it right today:

…”Not intended to be a factual statement” is an instant dark classic, a triumph of cynicism, capturing the essence of Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe in Washington: when a politician accidentally tells the truth.
No wonder “people are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke,” as Will Rogers once said and Colbert increasingly embodies. But we can’t keep depending on comedians to be the voices of sanity.
And don’t be fooled. There are real costs to this careless courtship of the lowest common denominator. Without fact-based debates, politics can quickly give way to paranoia and hate. Our democracy gets degraded.
Americans deserve better, and we should demand better, especially from our elected representatives. Empowering ignorance for political gain is unacceptable.
Colbert vs. Kyl and spread of ‘misinformation’ | CNN

Hear ye to that! <emphasis mine>

convert this post to pdf.

Making Use Of Local Artisans

Interesting review in the Shepherd Express most recent issue.  Jeff Beutner reviews INdustri Café, which besides its twee spelling indulges in a surfeit of locally produced ingredients.  In this early paragraph Beutner describes some of the local favorites for the cannibals amongst us:

The menu at INdustri Café is interesting and thoughtful. In a nod to Milwaukee, there is a liverwurst sandwich and an appetizer of kabobs made with kielbasa and white cheddar cheese. The liverwurst and sausage are made from local artisans.
INdustri Café Highlights Local Ingredients

Pawn was fortunate enough to have visited INdustri on their opening night, along with buddy T, and thoroughly enjoyed the free appetizers.  One wonders how many artisans perished for that snack.

convert this post to pdf.

The Madoff/Kohn Doppleganger

Bernie Madoff (left) and Sonja Kohn (right)

Bernie Madoff (left) and Sonja Kohn (right)

Irving L. Picard, the trustee seeking redress for victims of the Madoff financial collapse has just filed suit seeking over $19 billion from Sonja Kohn, an Austrian banker he accuses of conspiring with Madoff in the whole house of cards.  Looking at their photos, Pawn posits that this is an understatement.  I believe they are, in fact, either fraternal twins or clones!

“In Sonja Kohn, Madoff found a criminal soul mate, whose greed and dishonest inventiveness equaled his own,” the trustee, Irving L. Picard, said.  Soul mate indeed!  Have they ever been seen in the same place at once?

“In Sonja Kohn, Madoff found a criminal soul mate, whose greed and dishonest inventiveness equaled his own,” the trustee, Irving L. Picard, said.
convert this post to pdf.

Literary Ambassadors

This from the Times today makes one proud of our Foreign Service.  An excerpt:

Cables about Kazakhstan’s high-living leaders are written in a satirical tone worthy of Borat, the fictional (and wild) Kazakh played in the movie by Sacha Baron Cohen.

One described Kazakhstan’s defense minister turning up drunk for a meeting with an American official, “slouching back in his chair and slurring all kinds of Russian participles.” He explained that he had just been at a cadet graduation reception, “toasting Kazakhstan’s newly-commissioned officers.”

The memo concluded: “Who was toasted more — the defense minister or the cadets — is a matter of pure speculation.”

From WikiLemons, Clinton Tries to Make Lemonade | The New York Times

Pawn compliments Secretary Of State Clinton on her so far masterful handling of the whole leak situation.

Far less palatable is the performance of Sen. Joseph “Useful Idiot” Lieberman, whose harassment of Internet and other businesses has led to the eviction of WikiLeaks from Amazon’s servers, PayPal’s payment processing, and a host of other services.  These firms seem suddenly to have decided that reporting from purloined documents is now against their terms of service, although they gladly provide the same services for their media partners, such as the Times, the Washington Post, and others, whose content they host, payment they process, or electronic editions are provided on their Kindles.

Shame of these big businesses of the Internet for revealing how unfree it really is.


convert this post to pdf.