11 January 2017

So this is 2017

As we march into the new year, I'm looking forward to Trump's inauguration with a mixture of fascination and fear. The rational part of my brain tells me that Trump just cannot be as bad as I imagine him to be. At the same time, the fearful part descends into some sort of morbid contemplation of Trump as a Hitlerian character from my nightmares. Only time will tell which of these will be the reality and probably it will be neither so I suspect that I will continue to be fascinated as the reality is revealed.

But one vignette is worthy or note and that was the confirmation hearings relating to Trump's nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions. I only watched 10 minutes of the broadcast and the questioning that I saw seemed to focus on Sen. Sessions relationship with various white supremacist organisations. The conduct of the questioning was quite surreal in that Sen. Sessions' response to the questions was, in simplistic terms, that he received so many awards from so many organisations that he simply couldn't keep track of them and the fact that he received the awards didn't mean that he either knew the organisation in question or agreed with its sentiments.

What I found most strange was that members of the committee then indulged in a bit of 'Good Ole Boy' back slapping about how they all have the same problem with awards and not a day or a minute goes by when they don't get another one.

In closing, I did read a comment attributed to Sen. Sessions, a long time opponent of relaxation of marijuana regulations. Sen. Sessions is reported to have said that he "didn't have a problem with the Klu Klux Klan until he found out that they smoked pot". Roll on the 22nd January.

18 December 2016

The ghosts of christmases past.......

The more that I read and listen to about the impact of Brexit, Trump and what people now refer to as 'populism', the more pessimistic I become and that pessimism was focussed by both hearing then reading David Remnick's piece in the New Yorker on the day of Trump's election. You can read the piece here: Presidential Election 2016: An American Tragedy - The New Yorker

Although it might be a little far fetched for me to hold Thatcher responsible for Trump's election, his election is, in my own view, a function of the process promoted by both Thatcher and Regan in the early 1980's. Whilst she may not have used these exact words, it was clear that Thatcher did not believe in 'society' but preferred to believe in the primacy of the individual and, in Trump, her vision is realised.

The American public (although a minority of them) have installed in the White House an individual who is committed to the pursuit of self-interest. It may be that, by some contortion of logic, that electorate somehow expect Trump to promote their self-interest rather than his but, in that, I suspect they will be disappointed.

And here, on this small island of ours, it would be worth considering what I might call it in the post-Brexit age. Certainly not Great Britain and, sadly, not the United Kingdom so maybe I will refer in future to the dUK as in disUnited Kingdom. So, here in the dUK, we now face separating from the EU after decades of whingeing and whining. I'm sure that many of the remaining members are glad to see the back of us but I'm also aware that our leaving may also undermine the integrity of the wider community and its fair to ask who might welcome a fragmenting EU.

Trump has stated quite clearly that his America comes first and, if it hasn't up till now then God help us when it does. But will Trump welcome the primacy of the individual European States?  I suspect he will because, without the EU, I wonder if Airbus would have existed and would Boeing face the competition it does today? The EU is a powerful economic agent and its fragmentation will probably be welcomed by America, as it will be welcomed by Trump's 'friend', Vladimir Putin but for rather different, more militaristic and strategic reasons. Putin will be happy to see a fragmented EU as it will inevitably make his life easier as he strives to re-assert the Russian Federation's lost power and influence.

And in this rich broth of conflicting interests we have our very own quisling, Nigel Farage. Here is a man who: detests europe yet takes its money; claims to be British but comes from immigrant heritage and adopts a french pronunciation of his surname. Does this amount to hypocrisy? I think that we should be told. But, setting aside these minor issues, Farage seems intent on riding Trump's coat-tails and, in so doing, he will be selling out the interests of the dUK. He will be playing directly into Trump's hands and, if my opinion mattered, I'd throw him into the Tower.

All in all, we face a tough 2017 and beyond. This government, and any other we are likely to see, will continue to cut services in order to fund tax-cuts for the rich, both private and corporate. They will engage in a race to the bottom in terms of wages and continue to undermine unions wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

I recently heard an interesting view of where the 'immigrant' fits into the developing sub-economy in the dUK. The suggestion was that the pursuit of corporate profit was being undertaken at the expense of wages and that, with profits rising and wages falling, the only people willing to step in an take these ever worse paid jobs are immigrants. Meanwhile we, like those involved with the Celtic Tiger, continue to sell our houses to each other at ever inflated 'values' and, in so doing, we maintain our confidence in the domestic economy. What will happen, I wonder, if that domestic economy takes a dive as Trump pursues his, or America's self-interest before ours.

7 December 2016

So will Trump 'drain the swamp' or will he jump across it?

When America voted for 'President Trump' they seemed to be voting for someone who they believed would burst the 'Washington bubble'. Today, I wonder if they think that their man will actually do that or have they actually put the fox in the chicken coop?

When voting for Trump, as opposed to Clinton, the voters seemed to believe that they needed someone who was 'their' representative rather than a career politician. By extension, they also seemed to believe that Trump would make decisions in their favour rather than in favour of Washington and Washington lobbyists. But, whilst they seemed to want a businessman in the Presidency, they seem to have ignored that, being a dealmaker, Trump may well bring the perspective of a businessman to his decision making. Is Trump actually going to make decisions which favour the ordinary voter and which are damaging to business more generally.

Trump's latest comments about the cost of Boeing's new 'Airforce One' are a case in point. Yes, a budget, which could reach $4bn, is eye-watering for two airplanes but, when he is fully informed, will Trump cancel the project? Will Trump go up against the military-industrial complex which has a track record of going over-budget on most projects and which has powerful friends 'in the swamp' who are all members of the Republican Party.

It will be interesting to find out what Trump actually meant when he referred to 'draining the swamp' and it will be equally interesting to see how he enacts that promise and if the voters feel that he is still 'their man'.

1 December 2016

I was getting worried..........

Given that I will have a busy social diary over the festive season, I was really worried that I might not have the right shoes for stepping out. Then I saw this article and realised that my worries were over.

The article observes:
With the appeal of conspicuous consumption waning, Buscemi and like-minded brands are emphasizing the uniqueness of well-made products, and the value of providing an experience for today's luxury consumer.
"Buscemi is an incredibly smart combination of modern and traditional luxury," says Ana Andjelic, senior vice president and global strategy director at Havas LuxHub, a consulting firm specializing in the luxury sector.
"He provides ammunition for one's lifestyle and creates culture codes -- versus status symbols -- that express certain tastes. Luxury today is less about having money to buy something expensive, and more about having taste to know what to buy."

Aha, now I get it, conspicuous consumption is on the wane and proof is in this pair of $132,000 trainers. Aren't you relieved?

29 November 2016

An email to Eric Bristow

Mr Bristow,

I read with great disappointment your comments in relation to the abuse scandal which is coming to light in professional football. Speaking as someone who, as a boy, watched the rector of our school target the more vulnerable pupils, I am all too aware how damaging and long-lasting his actions were.

Given the comments that have been attributed to yourself, it is unsurprising that abused individuals would remain silent, about their experiences, in their adult lives. If your comments have been reported accurately, they make you complicit in the abuse in that your attitude decreases the chance of the abuse ever being publicised. 

I hope that you will reconsider your comments, possibly by apologising to the courageous individuals who have had the courage to speak out. You might also thank them for making the abuse public so that other youngsters might now be saved from the same experiences. 

Yours sincerely, 

Niall Connolly

17 November 2016

Another butt-plug

Its best to try and maintain some sort of perspective when considering current events and, certainly over the last couple of months, a sense of perspective has been something of a necessity. Brexit was a bit of a shock although the cavortings of the various interested parties has lent an air of farce to the proceedings. And now we have Trump in the White House which is following the Brexit template and providing plenty of entertainment, even if the idea itself is somewhat disturbing. Oddly, one common element between the two has been the presence of Homer Simpson, otherwise known as Nigel Farage, who seems to be determined to hitch his wagon, and that of his comrades, to Trump's unreality show. But, again, this is just an echo of the behaviour of Bliar's seeking a relationship with Dubya and maybe Farage will fulfil the same purpose. I can't think of a better candidate.

Lets hope that when the Republicans decide to do away with The Donald, Farage isn't at his side or he may become collateral damage. But there again.................

1 October 2016

A good man, gone too soon...........

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Michael Fraser-Hopewell. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Michael was a resident of Somerton and, in late 2009, became one of the leading lights in the opposition to an industrial development at Badger's Cross, on the outskirts of the town. It was during that period that I first met Michael and he struck me as someone with great spirit and determination.

In October of 2009, Somerton Town Council staged a mass resignation and Michael, with the commitment that was his hallmark, stepped up and sought election to the new Town Council. The election was held in early 2010 with Michael being elected to the new Town Council and subsequently being elected Chair.

Michael led the Town Council with clarity and he was clearly determined to set a raised standard with regard to the Council's behaviour and conduct. He also sought to make the Council's activities as transparent as possible.

Sadly, his election as Chair made him a lightning conductor for the animus borne both by those who resigned and by their associates. Thus, the next 30 months of Michael's life was, in part, taken up attempting to deal with attacks of a personal and professional nature and those attacks finally led to his stepping down from the Council in May of 2012.

Michael bore this trial with characteristic stoicism and, whilst his spirit was intact, the experience certainly took its toll on his health.

I met with Michael on a number of occasions since May 2012 and it was clear that he had put the experience of the Council behind him. He had more time to concentrate on the house and the garden and his craft skills were self-evident.

Michael was a thoroughly decent man who had a mischievous smile and a great sense of humour. He was committed to his family and I cannot begin to consider the sense of loss that must be experienced by them. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.