Category Archives: Politics

Lord Adonis Has His Say

From the Guardian newspaper this morning comes this story, with a term I’ve never heard before:

Philip Hammond is being urged to earmark £7bn for new transport links in the “brain belt” spanning Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes in next week’s budget, and persuade local authorities to build the first new towns in half a century.

Brain Belt, that sounds like something a neurosurgeon installs to knock back the intelligence of an overly smart fellow.  Donald Trump had one installed sometime in the mid-80s.

17 November — Commemorate The Velvet Revolution

In an ironically Big Brother-ish twist, this was the greeting I received from the local ISP when I tried to surf to the Washington Post this morning:

You have attempted to visit a foreign site!

Today, just one click, but before 1989 it was difficult to look beyond the border.
The arbitrary abandon of the Republic was punished freedom for up to five years. If you did not shoot a border guard right when you tried.

Freedom is not a matter of course.

That is why we November 17th commemorate Velvet’s anniversary Revolution, and we are glad that we can bring you free communication with the whole world in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Learn more about November 17

I want to continue freely

Yikes!  That last line contained a link to escape this freedom-loving portal page.

Okay then, commemorate I shall.  But first, some coffee!

Retro Decorative

Sometimes it’s not just the things we remember, memorialize, preserve.  Sometimes it’s how we choose to do so which has a larger meaning.  Berlin, it strikes me, would be perfectly happy to put the Wall firmly in the rearview mirror of history, but there is a tourist draw there, and that cannot be ignored.  There is also that tendency, so strong in the wartime and post-war generations to Never Forget.

Europeans, in general, have long memories, when they wish to, and short ones when it serves them.  Italy, until recently, flirted for several years with a strongman president, in Silvio Berlusconi, for example, even though there are still people living who remember Mussolini.  Germany, which for generations has lived a kind of collective, historic shame for the way it treated neighbors & citizens alike during WWII, but then just elected to parliament a far-right-wing party for the first time since then.

As I commented to a friend, just before leaving on this trip; The last time a far-right party sat in parliament, my family’s home was bombed.

So, went to get a transit pass today.  A day pass for transit is 7€ and a Berlin Welcome Card, a tourist-focused offering, is 19.20€ for 48 hours.  Since I leave at 11:05 Sunday, I opted for the latter, as it was noon by the time I left my flat, and 48 hours would be just the right time frame.  I would have needed three day passes (they expire at 3AM after purchase) for the same coverage.

Off to the BVG I went, in search of said pass.  It was a harrowing experience, fraught with language barriers, but I ultimately found an obsequious clerk who claimed I had “Perfect German” and sold me my pass.  Now why couldn’t those flustered, German-only speaking public servants before him have just been as fawning?  One is left to wonder.

I hopped the S-Bahn (above ground trains, as opposed to U-Bahn, which are subways) and headed up the right bank of the Spree to Museum Island, where, as one might have guessed, the museums are.  I traipsed around there for a while, before coming to the conclusion that I really didn’t feel like spending my day inside a museum (or five) so I wandered over to the nearest tram stop and headed to Alexanderplatz.  This is a bustling square with malls and open air shops; fairly touristy.  Strolled around there in the light rain a bit, then down into the U-Bahn to ride home.  It was a nice little jaunt into the city, and away from the bleak neighborhood within which I’ve been cloistered so far.

After some lunch, a change of shoes, and a little catch-up, it was back out into the bleak side of things for a bit.  I had decided to check out the East Side Gallery, which is the largest preserved stretch of Die Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall), at 1,316 metres long (just short of a mile).

To get there, I walked down Köpenicker Straße to the Watergate (a music venue) and then crossed the river.  Along Köpenicker Straße is a lot of bleak, a lot of angst and a lot of broken.  Here’s some images from that stroll.  First, however, a little out of sequence, is an eloquent rejoinder to the hopeful logo above:

In case you cannot make them out clearly, or don’t recognize the reference, those items along the right side of the image are 100€ notes.  The rush from national reunification to what is widely perceived as subjugation to the European Union — the loss of the Deutsch mark (a formerly unrivaled store of wealth); the partnership with, and economic support of poorer neighbors, like Spain & Italy; the surrender of sovereignty to a continental body — for many still bitter from years of Soviet rule, the Euro has come to represent all they hate about the powerlessness state in which they find themselves.

Now, onto the bleak:

Heroin Kids

Heroin Kids

One sees these Heroin Kids print ads (above) all over Berlin, and given the opioid epidemic in the US, can be forgiven for thinking they’re part of a hip awareness campaign.  Nope, they’re just what they say, Ignorant Fashion.  Click the image to see more of this dreck.

Looks like a striking piece of chalk street art, but really an ad for a Windows app which encodes long functions or “macros” onto adjacent pairs of keys (hence “keySstroke”) such as <s> and <x>.  Much of the polished street art one sees around is actually advertising, it seems.

Above is the (recently) burned out shell of a squat.  The pavement out front was littered with charred remains of mattresses, chairs and the like, and an acrid, smoky smell hung in the air.

The following series of photos are all of SOBR’s It’s Time To Dance poster project (Facebook page here).  I stumbled across this, but others have been following this artist’s work for some time.  There’s a pretty good article on the subject here.

One striking element of this poster art is that by this time it’s coming loose, like the girl’s head right below.  These loose pieces flutter in the wind, animating the work, and giving it at once an air of impermanence, fragility and energy.

Above is a current squat, a campground really, which was active as I walked by.  The sounds of loud music, argument, discussion; the smells of cooking, car repairs (reeked of acetone) and more.  The slogan Solidarität Mit Linksunten translates as Solidarity With The Bottom Left, which sounds like some sort of softened anarchy to me.

 

Another piece of street art verging on advertisement.  This directing one to the artist’s web page, where books and more are on sale.

The Wall fell, as it were (actually was opened) on 9 November 1989.  The first construction on it was on 13 August 1961.  So in the greater scope of history, the wall has been gone almost as long (28 years and 2 days) as it stood (28 years, 2 months, 27 days).  It is still recent history, but it soon will just be history.

Update: Mon 5 Feb 2018: Today is the day that the wall has been down for as long as it was up.  Longer, by the time anyone reads this.  As the Washington Post reported:

On Monday, Berliners celebrated a once unthinkable occasion: The Berlin Wall has now been gone for longer than it stood. But on the same day, the city’s authorities confirmed the discovery of a previously unreported stretch of the wall in the district of Pankow in northern Berlin.

It had already been discovered by a man named Christian Bormann in 1999, but the now-37-year-old Berlin resident kept his discovery a secret for almost 20 years as German authorities kept erasing more and more remnants of the city’s division.

“Berlin wasn’t ready for this discovery when I came across it,” Bormann told The Washington Post.

Following are some photos of the East Side Gallery wall segments, but first a juxtaposition, viewed from the Schilling Bridge, looking north:

Just views from one side of the bridge and the other.

Here’s some wall shots.  Remember, most of this graffiti is not historic, but an “artistic” response, years later, to the wall and what it means (meant):

Please see more on Thierry Noir, below.

Oddly enough, as one approaches the end of this stretch of wall, and a luxury office/condo project underway, one finds this warning placed in a gap:

It translates as “Guarded at the hands of City Control.” Brrrrrrr

The following image shows a segment of the wall from an area I walked both on my way home from East Side Museum, but also just a few days ago.  I include it here for historical context, and due to who took the photo.  First the context.  As you can clearly see here, “The Wall” was in fact a “wall system.”  It most often is comprised of two walls, with a “no man’s land” or “death strip”, on the east side of the Wall, here follows the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal (filled in 1932).  This is the exact same area I ventured along in the first post of this trip.

This image of the Berlin Wall was taken in 1986 by Thierry Noir at Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

The maker of the above photograph, Thierry Noir, is also the artist who made the final wall painting shown above.

Looking Backwards

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

Nic,

When people find out you’re an American, are they asking “what are you
thinking?”.
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).

BREXIT-1024x626

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.

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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]

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.

D,
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.

20160624_144543

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.

Ciao!

Brexit and Breckage

What hath we wrought, indeed.

It is 8:26 in the morning, and David Cameron has just resigned.  That is not the first fallout from yesterday’s vote for the UK to leave the EU.

“A seismic moment for Britain.” “A crushing, crushing defeat for Britain and for Europe.”  That’s just two of the responses heard on the BBC.

“Shares in Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland have both fallen by 25%.” shouts the Guardian.  “…the FTSE 100 is now ‘only’ down 400 points, or 6.4%.”

Things started off on a good foot for Remain, with Gibralter coming in at midnight with 19,000 Remain and 822 Leave.  But then came the narrow lead in Newcastle on Tyne, at just 51/49%, much lower than expected; then Sunderland, with a significant triumph for Leave.  With turnout numbers of 65 – 75% across the board.

By 01:00, the pound was in free fall.  After having been bid up to $1.50/£, it quickly fell to $1.34.  This has stabilized slightly, but still hovers near that 30 year low.  Not even during the financial crisis in 2008 did it suffer so.  Gold, on the other hand, and the dollar, are bolstered.

The shit storm here has only just begun.  I worry for my friends. A, Australian by birth, not seeing a future for herself in a non-European UK, talks of returning down under.  El & Is, the brilliant women behind Artellite — parent company of Degree Art and Contemporary Collection — have built a thriving business due in no small part to the open borders and markets of the EU.  Will they be able to continue to exhibit across the continent as they have?  Fraught times ahead.

For myself?  I will mourn the loss my EU citizenship.  I am proud of my UK passport’s banner heading, European Union.  It feels good to be a citizen of these two large democratic blocs, the US & EU. I have not exercised EU citizenship much — visits to the Czech Republic and Netherlands not withstanding — but this Sunday, as I disembark from the ferry in Holland, I will once again exercise the freedom of movement so central to the EU dream.  My UK passport expires April 2017.  Will its replacement contain that EU banner? This is not yet known.  British PM Cameron is expected to invoke a clause to grant a 2 year period during which the ties between UK & EU are fully severed, and my renewal comes during that window.

Enough for now.  “A new day has dawned, in Britain,” the BBC news reader, who has been up all night, just intoned.  Indeed, and that way monsters lay.

My next stop on this European tour is Holland, widely considered to be the next most likely to vote for EU exit.  Sigh…

 

Baby is Brexity


While there are other reasons for the current visit, one is the incipient vote in the UK on exit from the European Union. There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, so let’s get parsing. And let’s just focus on that independent clause. It is early in the morning — about 2am — on 22 June, 2016. Tomorrow is election day for a single referendum, the wording of which is, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

First thing to note is that this refers to the United Kingdom, not Great Britain alone, and thus includes Northern Ireland. To remind our readers, Great Britain is the island itself, which contains England, Scotland and Wales. The UK is more completely written “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” So even the commonly used portmanteau Brexit (British Exit) is, itself, misleading.

An amusing, or tragic, result of this is that if the vote is Leave, then the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will become a 310 mile land border between the UK and the EU, a subject of much consternation amongst the populace on both sides of it (both border and vote).

So our two sides are Remain and Leave, so named due to the ballot choices presented, “Remain a member of the European Union” and “Leave the European Union.” For the record, Pawn comes down firmly on the side of Remain. However, in the interest of fair play and the free flow of information, he last night plopped down in front of the telly with A to watch The Great Debate on BBC|News. Pawn is a citizen by birth of the UK, by way of both his own birth on these shores, in outer London, and his father’s birth here. A is also a citizen by birth, by way of her father’s birth in Northern Ireland, but just as Pawn also enjoys US citizenship, she enjoys Australian. A complex little pot of nationalities were thus present before the LCD screen last night. She may vote as a current resident, I may not as I have not been registered to vote in the UK in the past 15 years (the cut-off term for this election).

While much has been made of Sadiq Khan facing off with Boris Johnson in The Great Debate — the current Mayor of London vs the immediate past Mayor of London; the first Muslim mayor of a European capital vs a WASP career politician of fluid stripes and naked personal ambition; the second generation immigrant product of a British comprehensive education vs. the white scion of the upper-middle class, product of public schools and Eton; Labour vs. Tory (although the Tory head, PM David Cameron, schoolmate of Johnson, is putative leader of Remain); the list goes on — there were actually three person sides in this debate, the other four all being women, and it was these others who really made it interesting.

They were, for Remain, Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson, and Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress; for Leave, Labour MP Gisela Stuart and [Conservative party] energy minister Andrea Leadsom. There was much reminding voters of mum-hood and grand-mum-hood, some of which lead to laughs, and there was much clammouring for the mantle of patriotism (brought flinch from A). Gisela Stuart was quick to remind voters that she herself is an immigrant, when it served her ends to do so, and Boris was quick to remind us of the same (her, not him) when it suited his ends, which were not always the same.

Part of what makes this whole thing so blasted difficult for the public is that it’s all just so ill-defined for so many people. The term Brexit, for example, that portmanteau I referred to above, confuses people who might be forgiven to think this involves just Great Britain, and not Northern Ireland, with the difficulties that introduces (see border, etc.). Brexit owes it’s existence as a term to predecessor Grexit, itself a mashup of Greece and Exit, but that had nothing to do with the EU, referring rather to the possibility of Greece being forced out of the Eurozone, and its Euro currency, governed by the European Central Bank. The UK is part of none of those institutions, having its own central bank (BoE) and currency (pound sterling).

Into the void of public understanding of just who is leaving what pour ready vats of misinformation, carefully (or not) fashioned by the two sides, their backers (bankers, unions, business, Russia, USA, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, etc.) and the press. There are so many articles, mentions, debunkings, exposés, exploitations, etc. of this misinformation, it can be hard for even a determined voter to get at the truth.

Boris Johnson and friends, for example, were quick to raise the very real spectre of all of southern Europe — meaning Italy & Greece, but really meaning the commonly referred to PIIGS countries of Portugal, Italy, Ireland Greece and Spain — being forced into the worst depression and recessions since the Great Wars, even though, as with Grexit, that has to do with the Eurozone, of which the UK has no part. It may be an effective scare tactic to point to youth unemployment rates as high as 50% in those countries, which is true, but that has no real relevance to the matter at hand, unless one is stoking fears of mass migration, which, Surprise!, is exactly what they’re doing.

The cause and effect of mass migration is very much at play here, as are its bedfellows, xenophobia, racism, hatred. Witness, for example, the image recently introduced by Nigel Farage‘s United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP):


Those are refugees fleeing war in Syria, by the way, which by International law are protected peoples, but Farage will gleefully use them as a harbinger of huddled brown people flooding the shores of England. And mind you, he’s talking just to England here. Scotland is all too happy to welcome more.

The influx of foreigners which has many here upset are those economic migrants coming from other EU countries, those taking advantage of Freedom of Movement, a central tenet of the EU itself. One can walk into a pub anywhere in this country, so it would seem, and be waited on by a Pole, or other EU migrant. But for maximum effect, Farage focuses not on those other white-skinned people, but on our darker brothers and sisters from less savoury places (remind you of someone, Mr. Trump?).

To be fair, there is plenty execrable behaviour on the side of Remain, too. Cameron has proven himself all too willing in this campaign and others, to resort to blanket statements of untruth and conjecture masquerading as fact, to the extent one wonders just how he ever manages to actually win elections. In spite of his own best efforts, it would seem.

Well, enough of this. It is now past 03:00 and time for my time-shifted brain to go back to sleep. Tomorrow waits on the doorstep, the final day of the campaign, and then comes the vote itself.

I would be remiss, however, were I not to mention the assassination of the late Labour MP Jo Cox, of Yorkshire (yes, that Yorkshire, you Downton Abbey fans) who was shot and stabbed by a crazy man, shouting Britain First! (coincidentally the name of a nationalist, racist party) in Birstall near Leeds. She had come for a “constituent surgery” (think “town hall” meeting) to be held in a library, in her district of Batley and Spen, Yorkshire.


A passionate campaigner for human rights, refugee rights, prevention of war crimes and other humanitarian causes, Cox was also a firm believer in the European experiment, and campaigned strongly in defence of Remain. Her death shook the country in ways large and small, and lead at least one Leave supporting Labour MP to switch her vote. Macabre as it is, in response to her death the financial markets rallied, believing the public revulsion at a political assassination (the first in over 40 years) would bring people back to their senses, as it were.

We shall see, the final vote tally should be in Friday morning…

Make Europe Grate Again

On 06/01/2016, A Friend wrote:

Make America Grate Again
Trump Makes America Grate

And he’ll apparently be making Europe Grate Again, too.

As fans of the London skyline well know, the Brits are fond of naming their skyscrapers, with monikers such as The Gherkin and The Salt Cellar for two distinct smudges on the sky.

30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin)

The Shard, Southwark

Another recent entry is Leadenhall Building, otherwise known as the Cheese Grater:

Give it a fuzzy orange/pink doo, and we can call it Trump Tower Europe.

But enough of this urban history.  I am leaving in a couple of weeks for 15 days in Europe, starting 21 June in London.  This means I will be there when newly elected Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn debates his predecessor Boris Johnson on the Beeb that evening, on the topic of whether or not the United Kingdom should remain within a United Europe.

Sadiq Kahn & Boris Johnson

Sadiq Kahn & Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, so like Donald Trump in so many ways (but who once said, “The only reason I wouldn’t go to parts of New York is the very real risk of meeting Donald Trump” after Trump claimed that New York, London & Paris had areas so unsafe even the cops wouldn’t go there) is arguing the Leave side on the so-called Brexit issue.  Sadiq Kahn, the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital, and currently riding a crest of popularity, will argue the Stay side.

One might expect that PM David Cameron be tapped to stand for Stay, but he’s not as popular, and is especially ham fisted when it comes to persuading the public on his case.

Of course such a portentous topic has politicians coming out of the woodwork.  We have Labour stalwarts Blair (the war criminal) and Brown (who’s dudgeon has rarely been higher) on the side of Stay, and just recently we heard from the only living Tory ex-PM, John Major, who delivered this retort to claims by Johnson & team that they have only the UKs best interests at heart, in this case the National Health Service, which they’ve claimed could receive £100m/week in new funding on Brexit:

“The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python,” Major said on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

He added Johnson was a “court jester” but not a serious politician and said that the Conservatives Johnson had divided would not be loyal to him after leaving the EU.

Hmm, doesn’t that last graph sound familiar?

Meanwhile Bertie Ahern, former EU president and three-time Northern Ireland PM says get ready for some Trump-style walls:

We are not talking about freedom of movement between the Irish and the British. If the UK leave the EU we are talking about both EU citizens and non-EU nations still seeking a way into Britain. And the only land border between a post-Brexit Britain and the EU is on this island.

If you follow the logic of the likes of Boris [Johnson] on the issue of immigration I cannot see any other way they can fulfil their promise to control the numbers coming into the UK unless they set up border controls between the north and south on this island. That would be a catastrophe in terms of business and the movement of people every single day north and south on the island.

There are for example 200 unapproved rural roads linking the north and the south. Are the out camp seriously suggesting migrants won’t use these roads to get into Northern Ireland and then try to reach Britain?

So I will get to London on 21 June, the debate is that evening and the vote follows two days hence, on 23rd.  Teeth will grind and nails will be bitten, until results are announced the next day.  What else happens the next day?  Well The Donald, the only man in politics with more ridiculous hair than Boris Johnson, will swoop down on Scotland to occupy his newly reopened resort there in an attempt to further buttress his foreign policy chops.

So before I leave for Europe I need to find a good anti-Trump pin or two.  I’ve already had the experience of being there back in 2000, during that terrible time between when the people finished electing Al Gore and the Supreme Court decided otherwise, when I was constantly being asked how my countrymen could have been so stupid.

By the way, after this stint in London, it’s off to Amsterdam and then, before my return, Brussels, home of the EU government, which should be a really interesting place to be following Brexit/16, no matter which way the vote goes.

And no, despite Pawn’s British birth and citizenship, I cannot vote in this referendum, as I haven’t lived there for the requisite 6 months prior to the vote.

Well Put Mr. Ellsberg

From the Guardian today:

Edward Snowden: saving us from the United Stasi of America

Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us a chance to roll back what is tantamount to an ‘executive coup’ against the US constitution.

     –Daniel Ellsberg
This from the man who brought us the Pentagon Papers all those years ago.