Forboding headlines from our Mother Country

I went to bed last night fairly certain that Britain would soon be out of the E.U., after a couple of hours of being buffeted back and forth by SkyNews — Newcastle says leave, Liverpool says stay, Edinburgh stay, Manchester stay, Birmingham leave — and watching the numbers creep, like a tide going out, from slightly in favor of remain to increasingly for leave.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for the barrage of dismal tidings when I first looked at my phone this morning:

Brexit 1


brexit 3

Brexit 2

And then, a bit later:


What a barrage. And as if that weren’t enough, in case we were still unsure this was bad news, we had Donald Trump assuring us that Brexit was “a great thing.”

I started imagining what the map of Britain would look like in the future. England and Wales and maybe, way off to the upper left, Northern Ireland…

I found myself almost immediately wondering how much worse it could get. We know Boris Johnson is poised to take Cameron’s place. But… what if the Tories lose control, and there’s an election that puts that leftist lunatic Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10?

25 thoughts on “Forboding headlines from our Mother Country

  1. Mark Stewart

    The problem here was that people wanted to believe they could again be a Great Britain alone; and that this would lead to a better quality of life (including nationalistic raging) for those who felt they just weren’t getting what they dreamed of – and they totally missed the the reality that what is most likely to happen is that everyone is going to be diminished as the future unfolds. And the less well off will simply become even less well off. And their tarnished nationalism bitter tea.

    I’m in shock, too. This impacts me quite significantly. And it does for many, many other Americans – many more than probably even realize how they will be impacted. We are not going to see financial ripples from this; we are going to see storm surges.

    Batten down the hatches!

    1. Jim Cross

      You may not have to worry about an “election that puts that leftist lunatic Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10” since a no confidence motion has been tabled against him.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, I meant to come back to that, because I saw this morning also that some senior Labour people have been maneuvering to get rid of him.

        Which would be good.

        Bring back Tony!

  2. David Carlton

    I followed the tally on FT’s live blog, which was pretty surreal. Needless to say, virtually everybody there was pro-Remain, and the shock was palpable. If you live in London, you’ve basically learned that England isn’t the country you thought you lived in (Of course, it also shows the degree to which the rest of England no longer considers London to be part of *their* country). It’s not unlike living in a place like Nashville and being reminded of how divergent it is from the rest of Tennessee–though London’s situation is far more extreme. It was striking to see how many people actually began bringing up the idea of London seceding from the UK and becoming an independent city-state. Over at Bloomberg this morning, Barry Ritholtz was declaring this to be the end of London as a world city; since it’s the economic engine of the UK, that’s a huge blow. Another interesting feature–all the reports now coming in about people who*had no idea* that there would be any economic consequences from a Leave vote. Yet another–Boris Johnson striking a downright somber pose as he realizes the consequences of his own behavior, and the degree to which he’s alienated Young Britain. Of course, it may work out much better than we fear–and there are those who think it could be a wake-up call to the leadership of the EU, which has really been pretty awful. But I think this may well make Scottish independence inevitable.

    It also has troubling implications for us in the US. The vote showed the same generational, education, and class abysses yawning there as here. It’s hardly surprising that Trump got so excited over this vote, even if he was oblivious to the views of the Scots he was actually visiting; the Leavers are the sort of people who are Trump voters.

    In the meantime, I wait to see what sort of hit my portfolio will take. Fortunately, I have a policy of never making short-term moves, unless it’s to pick up some bargains. But the spectacle of seeing self-styled “conservatives” cheering this sort of chaos on–well, it reminds me of what Varys said about Littlefinger: “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “It’s not unlike living in a place like Nashville and being reminded of how divergent it is from the rest of Tennessee…”

      I would have said that of Memphis. Nashville, it seems to me, has some concept of the rest of the state, what with hosting state government and all (at least, I got that impression on my visits there long ago, but since I was there to cover state government, it skews my perspective).

      But Memphis doesn’t seem to think of itself as part of Tennessee any more than Mississippi or Arkansas. All three states are just something “out there” to Memphians.

      When I learned that Boss Crump had influence over the whole state, I was taken aback — you mean, he cared about something beyond Shelby County?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Thinking about Nashville and its awareness of what lay out there in Tennessee…

        You ever hear of the Obion-Forked Deer Basin Authority? It may be the most esoteric government agency I ever dealt with.

        I had to cover it for awhile for The Jackson Sun in the late 70s, and when I was first assigned to it, I had to deal with the GREAT disgust of the director, because he was sick and tired of having to “train new reporters,” as he put it, to where they understood what his agency did.

        Basically, they did a lot of “snagging and clearing” of tree branches and other debris from streams within two complicated river systems in West Tennessee — the Obion and Forked Deer rivers, each of which had multiple forks, if I recall correctly, and meandered all over the place.

        After all these years, I THINK the purpose was to prevent unwanted flooding of farm fields. They couldn’t have been clearing the streams to make them navigable, except maybe to canoes and johboats — they were pretty small streams. Anyway, I remember flooding having a lot to do with it. They worked in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and they were often at odds with environmentalists, who wanted to leave the stream to the beavers and nature in general.

        Anyway, one time I went to Nashville for a legislative committee hearing involving the OFDBA, and the director was deep into his presentation (I want to say it had something to do with his budget), and had been going on for some time, thinking the assembled lawmakers were with him and his explanations of all the esoterica, when the committee chairman interrupted him to ask a question:

        “Now, let me see if I have this straight: What y’all do is, you drain swamps in West Tennessee — am I right?”

        I know the director’s head wanted to explode.

        But when I thought about it later, that was pretty astute on the chairman’s part. He certainly understood what he was dealing with far better than some of those Brits who voted yesterday…

      2. David Carlton

        Nashville is a far different city than you remember, as it’s a far different city than when I moved here 33 years ago. It’s much bigger (actually about to overtake Memphis in population), and it’s economically far healthier than the rest of the state, much of which has been ravaged by deindustrialization and the attendant social problems. Your jaw would drop at the way the skyline is being transformed. More importantly, it’s far more cosmopolitan than just about any other place in Tennessee, with a large and diverse immigrant population; it’s fairly GLBT friendly, and a magnet for ambitious, educated young people. Just three blocks east of me is 12South, a street that gets written about in the NYT Style section. The music community has always been far more diverse and sophisticated than you’d gather from the face of country radio. The contrast with the rest of Tennessee, especially politically, is jarring. In fact, this is the case with a lot of southern cities; if you pay attention at all to NC, the cultural and economic divergence between Charlotte and the Triangle (and, in a different and startling way, Asheville) and the rest of the state is equally striking. Reading the analyses of the Brexit vote, I get the real sense of a “Two Britains” that in many ways is like the divergent “Souths” that I’ve seen develop over the course of my 68 years–the Saxon Mill village in which I grew up might as well be on the Moon as far as it relates to Belmont Blvd.

        And I find that really ominous, because the cosmopolitan elites among whom I live don’t seem to have any comprehension of the powder keg on which they’re sitting. I think that’s at the root of the panic I’m seeing in the wake of Brexit; all the people who Know What’s Best have suddenly discovered that people no longer believe them, because their stewardship has failed a lot of people. More ominously, I find a lot of the liberal elite, especially, in denial about its roots, which they attribute simply to racism and xenophobia–a convenient explanation that allows them to simultaneously look down their noses at the rednecks and pose as opponents of “white privilege” (as if someone in the provinces who thought they had a steady, secure job and had the rug yanked out from under them could be termed “privileged”). Not that racism and xenophobia had nothing to do with it–but fear of the stranger tends to be far greater in places where it combines with other, more tangible fears. The elites of the world (of which I’m one) have much to be concerned about, and they’re not handling it at all well.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Good thoughts. I especially like this bit:

          all the people who Know What’s Best have suddenly discovered that people no longer believe them, because their stewardship has failed a lot of people. More ominously, I find a lot of the liberal elite, especially, in denial about its roots, which they attribute simply to racism and xenophobia–a convenient explanation that allows them to simultaneously look down their noses at the rednecks and pose as opponents of “white privilege” (as if someone in the provinces who thought they had a steady, secure job and had the rug yanked out from under them could be termed “privileged”)

          Here’s my personal disconnect… As you say, you’re an “elite.” That made me think, “What am I?”

          What I am is a former elite (both in terms of income and position in the community) who still thinks like one. Populism gives me the fantods, even though I’m one of those who “thought they had a steady, secure job and had the rug yanked out from under them.”

          The reason that doesn’t make me an angry populist is that I understand the forces acting upon me. I also understand that no one is to blame — certainly not some “billionayuhs” somewhere on Wall Street.

          That doesn’t make my dislocation any less painful. In fact, it deprives me of the emotional outlet of resenting someone. I’d probably be happier if I could rant and rave and vote for a Trump or a Sanders and feel satisfaction from the act.

          In a way, I sort of envy those who can do that. To return to our earlier discussion, I also envy partisans. I think they derive comfort from being members of such communities — in fact, I think that’s why they suppress their cognitive faculties in order to gloss over and accept the less attractive parts of the pre-fab sets of values they agree to embrace. The warmth of the community is enough to persuade them not to say, “Yes, but…”

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            One of the funny things about being a “former elite”…

            I’m still defined in other people’s minds as the former editorial page editor (although they generally just say, “the editor”) at what was then the state’s largest newspaper. To return to our Nashville theme, I’m like Robert Duvall in “Tender Mercies” when the woman comes up to him and asks whether he used to be Mac Sledge. “Yes ma’am,” he says with wry humor, “I guess I was.”

            This will likely shock some of you, but quite often when that happens, people spontaneously express their respect for me, for the things I’ve written and said and done.

            And I’m touched by that, and try to respond gratefully along the lines of “Yes ma’am, I guess I was.”

            But… and I think less of myself for having this thought… it’s happened enough now that when it does, I can’t quite stop myself from wishing there was a way to monetize their esteem…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m sort of embarrassed that I told that on myself. The part about people saying nice things to me, I mean. I might delete it later.

              In the meantime, here’s a clip that includes that exchange from “Tender Mercies.” It’s at the very end of the clip, at 2:47, when the woman asks, “Were you really Mac Sledge?”

          2. David Carlton

            Brad–You’re most definitely one of the elite. You’re an educated professional, who, even though you lack the megaphone you once had, still move among the movers and shakers and identify with their priorities. People still listen to you, and people like me consider you important enough to argue with.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Maybe I’m still “elite,” but like those noble houses of old that have the pedigree but not the cash.

              Like an ancestor of mine (at least, I THINK he’s my ancestor; some of the connections are confusing) who came to this country in 1670 as an indentured servant.

              His name was John Barton Wathen (the R was added about three generations later).

              His father was SIR John Barton Wathen, of Bristol. HIS father was Sir Charles Wathen.

              I don’t know what happened, after two generations of knighthoods, to cause John to have to bind himself out.

              In any case, he seems to have bounced back. His servitude ended after four years and he obtained property in Maryland — 50 acres was due to him. He left his son Ignatius 200 acres of tobacco land.

              But I find myself wondering what happened in Bristol…

              Anyway, as you might infer, I’ve been working on the family tree today…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      As for…

      “I have a policy of never making short-term moves, unless it’s to pick up some bargains…”

      Absolutely! This is no time for selling…

      Of course, I’m giving advice, and I’m the guy who bought McClatchy stock at $39, only to watch it drop to $0.39, shortly after it bought Knight Ridder.

      In my defense. I had had the money in Knight Ridder stock with E-Trade, and I had to do something with about $1,300 that was just sitting there, so I just turned it into McClatchy stock.

      If only I’d waited to buy when it was at 39 cents. Not long after, it was back up to 10 times that, but it never threatened to go anywhere near a hundred times that, where I bought…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Not to mention when I missed exercising my KR stock options when it hit $80, its all-time high, just a year or two before the company collapsed — at which point my years of options were worthless…

        Had I exercised them at the peak, it would have been worth six figures to me, I once calculated.

        Then, I could have saved that for when McClatchy went below a dollar, and invested the 100k, and watched that turn into a million.

        All I would have needed was perfect knowledge of the future…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve thought about how to use a time machine to get rich, making perfect moves such as that.

          I’ve thought about writing a science fiction story based in part on that.

          One thing I have trouble figuring out, though: How could I move cash back to the past and invest in Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, etc.? That would be tricky….

  3. Doug Ross

    BrexIt is the equivalent of Bernie and Trump mania here. A lot of people don’t like the direction the country is headed toward whether it’s income inequality, illegal immigrants taking jobs and not assimilating into American culture, allowing our infrastructure to fail while sending tax dollars overseas. We’re at a tipping point.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Not assimilating? Huh?

      Everyone assimilates here; legal or illegal. It’s the American way. We demand it, actually.

          1. Mark Stewart

            Non-assimilation means not buying into a country’s culture. Like ex-pats. Or many other forms of non-integration.

            Do you see any immigrants here, legal or illegal, who do not pursue the American Dream? Those who don’t are criminal types. So you could just as much say that of our criminal underclass as well.

            If it is too challenging for the first generation, the second always becomes fluent English speakers. Non-assimilation is when the second, or third, generation is still resistant to fluency and our culture.

            You should probably be more upset with the Amish.

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