Donald Trump didn't invent the Mexican Wave; but the wall he proposed for the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants has been reviled by his detractors in this country and elsewhere in Europe.
However, the UK Government is paying for a wall to be built outside Calais to deter would-be economic migrants from Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere from getting into Britain. And this weekend the people of Hungary are likely to vote against a European Union proposal to share out 160,000 refugees among its member states.
The wall is the nearest thing to a world-changing idea that Donald Trump can claim for himself. The rest, to rephrase the last line of Hamlet, is ridicule. Mostly.
Television news clips from America about Donald Trump, prospective Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, are almost wholly negative. He is an object of mockery on programmes like the News Quiz on BBC Radio 4. No self-respecting social satirist or commentator has a good word to say about him though there are plenty of others, such as sexist, racist and misoginystic.
It reminds me of the time when George W Bush was in the White House. Clever people on radio and television took to referring to him as "Gyeorge Wyuh", as though they knew him personally. The contempt had the opposite effect it was supposed to have on me: even after the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, which I supported, I was inclined to extend more sympathy to him than he merited.
I wish I could say the same about Mr Trump. While the chattering classes enjoy themselves depicting him as the great Satan - reminiscent of the sentiment that used to come out of the Islamic Republic of Iran about all things American - I ruefully reflect on the man I used to enjoy watching as the hiring and firing boss of American Apprentice and Celebrity American Apprentice. It was one of the few reality TV shows that I liked.
The BBC used to screen back numbers of the series, so that in 2010 I was watching shows that were three or four years old. That didn't matter to me: the pleasure was in the interaction of the contestants and Donald Trump's comments and judgements. In his mid to late sixties he was an object of fascination: the conspicuous ostentation - the Trump brand on everything, the helicopter, the jet, the sleek limos, the golden apartment in Trump Tower, the sharp suits and (especially) the immaculate ties of red, blue or gold, that hung perfectly below his chin like a Roman sword. Here was a man who seemed to be innately self-confident. My admiration had nothing to do with a desire to emulate him; I just felt he was a larger-than-life character who got things done. Of course, I suspended my disbelief.
That's why on the afternoon of November 17, 2009, I bought a copy of his book Think Like a Champion, sub-titled An Informal Education in Business and Life. Only an innately unself-confident person would buy a book with that on the cover. I underlined many passages in pencil as I read. Afterwards I appended, in pencil, a list of the 48 Laws of Power as compiled by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers, as well as the following by Steve Jobs:-
Don't waste time by living somebody else's life...Don't be trapped by dogma...Have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They already know what you want to become...Stay hungry...Stay foolish.
The chapters of Think Like a Champion are no longer than two to three pages and each chapter starts with a maxim. Plato, Pythagoras, Oscar Wilde, Pearl S Buck and Aristotle, are among those quoted. The chapter Have the Right Mindset For the Job, for example, starts with one from Henry Ford:-Don't find fault. Find a remedy. This is what Donald Trump says on page 67:-
I've also noticed how much time The Apprentice teams spend bickering and infighting, which is not only a waste of precious time, but annoying and sometimes even embarrassing. These people are highly qualified, and to see and hear them carrying on at length, many times over in inconsequential things, is a clear indication that they should heed Henry Ford's advice about finding a remedy instead of finding fault.
Mr Trump would have done well to have refreshed his memory before he started his campaign. A few quotes from Abraham Lincoln,, Carl Jung or even one Donald J Trump - 'Is it a blip, or is it a catastrophe' would have set a statesman-like tone. The TV debates with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic prospective Presidential candidate, could have done with one or two.
The clips that I saw on television in the UK made him look condescending, petty and disruptive. He looked puffy and heavy in his dark blue suit. Mrs Clinton, head to toe in her Santa suit - a motorway diner bottle of ketchup - seemed lighter on her feet. Overall, what I was shown was depressing - as I knew it probably would be - as was the thought of either of these two in the White House. I could imagine the late Allen Ginsberg declaring, in a state of irony and shock: America! Is that the best you can do?
Donald Trump should have stuck to building golf courses and apartments for the super-rich and to hosting American Apprentice. Blip or catastrophe, I'll miss those ties.
Saturday, 1 October 2016
Donald Trump didn't invent the Mexican Wave; but the wall he proposed for the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants has been reviled by his detractors in this country and elsewhere in Europe.
Friday, 15 July 2016
A friend of mine used to say that the only certainty in life was its uncertainty.
But now it seems all manner of things are being blamed for the uncertainty created by the Referendum vote to leave the European Union. Travel firms go bust – post-Brexit uncertainty is the reason given. The Governor of the Bank of England talks about cutting interest rates and then doesn’t do it – post-Brexit uncertainty is the reason given. Prime Minister Theresa May appoints Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary – post-Brexit uncertainty is…wait a minute, I’ll come on to that later.
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
Having announced our intention to formally remove ourselves from the European Union, I hope that in future a British government will take steps to cut the Gordian Knot that binds us to the United States.
The "special relationship" referred to by David Cameron in the House of Commons today appears to be extremely one-sided. The current US President feels free to lecture British people about the merits of remaining subject to the control of an unelected, unaccountable European Commission, warning us that in the event of us ending that control we would lose out on future trade agreements with the United States.
I hope we do. I am sure this country could do a lot better by cutting loose from protectionist America which ensures that every deal it does benefits its own people at the expense of everyone else. Britain has paid off the Lend-Lease debt imposed by the United States during World War 2. Since then we have spent mega billions buying into American nuclear missile systems that we are never likely to use and all for the benefit of American armaments manufacturers.
American bankers and market traders wrecked the economies of the West in 2007/8, making fortunes for themselves by dealing in mortgages that were virtually worthless, bequeathing us budgetry austerity ever since. Thanks guys. You sure know how to treat your allies.
And now we know that a former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, told former President George W Bush, a year before the invasion and occupation of Iraq, that he, Blair, was "with him all the way." And he was. In Iraq, then in Afghanistan. Six hundred and thirty-two British service personnel came back from those places in coffins. Hundreds more returned in wheelchairs.
Tony Blair evidently decided that Bush junior needed support in his attempt to live up to his father, George senior, and glorify his presidency with the laurels of military victory. I heard Blair apologists say today that in 2003 Iraq's President Saddam Hussein was a dangerous unknown quantity who, following 9/11, might supply Islamic terror groups with stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
Britain and the United States probably supplied Saddam with the technology between 1980-88 when, on their behalf, he sent his soldiers against the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was their regional ally. Al Qaeda was never active in Iraq when he was in power. That only happened two or three years after the American-led coalition invasion in 2003.
Go back a bit futher if you like to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the former USSR, the time-scale of which almost exactly parallels the Iraq-Iran War. If the United States had not poured millions of dollars as well as weapons of massive destruction into Afghanistan (via Pakistan) to equip and train the mujahidin, the whole bloody mess that followed, and which prevails today, might not have happened. One of the consequences of that particular insurgency was the formation of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda group of trans-national Islamic fighters.
In short the United States helped to create the state of the world that now exists between Afghanistan and Africa by meddling in matters of no long-term interest to Washington. My last American hero was not President J F Kennedy but General George Marshall without whose plan, backed by about 17 billion dollars, much of Western Europe would not have so rapidly recovered after World War 2.
There was no such long-sighted, well-funded, plans for either Afghanistan or Iraq. I wouldn't be surprised if George W Bush had never heard of George Marshall. Do US presidents, as a rule, understand that other countries of the world do not exist specifically for the purpose of supporting the economic/political/military interests of America?
I dare say I won't see Britain cut the tie with the Star Spangled banner in my lifetime. But then I thought that about the European Union.
Saturday, 18 June 2016
Amid the Diana-fication, almost the beatification, of murdered backbench Labour MP Jo Cox, it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that Thursday’s referendum is simply that: it is not a General Election.
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
While campaigners for Britain leaving the European Union squabble about facts and tactics the more astute among them might pick up on a point made today by journlaist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.
He told an ITV news journalist that both the campaigns for remaining in the EU and leaving it tended to accentuate the negative: staying in was better than taking the risk of leaving, staying in would do more harm than leaving. Parris wondered why the remain campaign was so lacking in uplift: if being a part of EU was worth the time, trouble and expense, surely it was worth shouting about.
A good point, I thought, especially as the June 23 referendum is likely to be decided by the more than 20 per cent of people questioned by pollsters who say they haven't made up their minds which direction the country should take.
Are the undecideds likely to be excited by the Prime Minister declaring in his most plausible head boy fashion that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off in a "reformed EU" than outside it, like poor old Norway for example. It's a pretty uninspiring message especially when repeated, more or less, by uninspiring Opposition MPs such as Labour's Yvette Cooper.
The bland leading the bland.
If, as David Cameron claims, Britain is safer inside the EU marquee rather than outside it, he should explain why since 1973 mainland Britain has been subject to at least 65 terrorist attacks, killing more than 380 people, maiming and wounding thousands and costing billions. These include the M62 coach bomb attacck in 1974 which killed 11, the Birmingham pub bombings the same year which accounted for another 19, the 1988 Panam bombing over Lockerbie which killed 270 and the London bombings in 2005 which killed 52 and injured more than 700. Add on the bombings and shootings over three decades in Northern Ireland from 1968 and the casualties and costs mushroom.
While the EU in its various incarnations since 1973 cannot be blamed for the Provisional IRA or Al Qaeda, what has it done to justify David Cameron's assertion that membership has made us safer? Globally, of course, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning junta in Brussels has proved to be extremely dangerous. It encouraged the atomisation of former Yugoslavia following the end of Communism in Europe and the rage for independence that followed and had a hand in causing the bloodshed in western Ukraine by trespassing in Russia's sphere of influence. Latterly, the EU stands accused of making the refugee problem worse by offering blandishments to Turkey to act as a border guard for south-eastern Europe. On top of all this, of course, the EU's iron law of freedom of movement has led to a million or more economic migrants from Poland, Albania, Rumania, Spain and elsewhere coming to the UK.
You may say, so what? If you did I would reply that neither I nor anybody I know actually voted in any general election favour of any of this. It happened because decisions were made and taken elsewhere and simply adopted first by the Labour Government of 2004/5 and subsequently by the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition from 2010 to 2015.
Let's face it, the EU does not have an encouraging democratic track record. It has a history of ignoring national referendums when the result is not as expected. The people of the Netherlands, France and the Republic of Ireland were told to think again when they, respectively, voted against proposed EU treaties. Leave campaigners appear to have forgotten this in the heat of the debate about whether Britons - "who never, never shall be slaves", according to the national anthem - should remain or go. Come on chaps, look back in anger at the crap that's been going on since 1973: the wine lakes, the butter mountains (in support of French farmers), the fish thrown back in the sea (in support of a fisheries policy contrary to our interests), the dotty carbon capture policies costing us billions and making millions for India's Tata Steel. Next time you hear business leaders and experts advocating continued EU membership for the sake of the economy, look back at the farce of Britain's short-lived membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and what happened in September 1992. John Major's Government was forced to spend billions to maintain sterling's value on international markets in defence of this discredited system.
It's not as though the European empire has generated any interesting art, literature or music in the last 43 years - unlike the Roman Empire or Napoleon III's French Empire. The only bit of music associated with it that I can think of is the Ode to Joy finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. A rousing and glorious blast of triumph appropriated by a bunch of furtive federalists. Ludvig would not have been amused. So come on, all you remainers, let's see the expression of your joy. Show the doubters and the truculent Europhobes something other than the usual spurious arguments. At least the leavers have a plan, Richard North's 420-page FLEXCIT, contrary to all the chundering in the media. For those who haven't world enough and time there is a 48-page summation available for a fiver called The Market Solution. Added to thse two documents, there is a new edition of The Great Deception, the history of the European 'project' that Dr North wrote with Christopher Booker, a copy of which I recently bought. In short, the leavers, in the words of Sir Humphrey, have well and truly "nailed their trousers to the mast". Which means they can't climb down.
In 1975, on the occasion of the first referendum about Britain's membership of the European Economic Community - the "Common Market" as it was deliberately and misleadingly called - doubters were assured that joining Europe would make the country more prosperous, stronger, safer even. Forty years and 65 terrorist attacks later the wine lakes and butter mountains have been replaced by an Everest of debt and a schedule of Government borrowing that runs into billions every month. The money given back to Britain by the EU comes from us in the first place.
How different it all is from when I were a lad in Walthamstow, London E17, and Harold Wilson could be heard on the wireless worrying about Britain's "balance of payments", a matter of a few millions either in the black or the red. We thought the news was bad then. Little did we know.
Tuesday, 22 March 2016
The departure terminal at Brussels airport was made to look like parts of Syria after the two Islamic State bomb attacks yesterday. And I suppose that was part of the purpose, to show soft Europeans what it's like to be on the receiving end of an unexpected bomb.
What the bearded holy terrorists may not know or if they do, understand, is that us soft Europeans have been on the receiving end of bombs of all sorts. We have a tradition of being bombed that goes back to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the ill-fated Paris Commune that followed and two World Wars.
Seventy years ago in July, 1946, militant Zionist terrorists blew up part of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 90 British military personnel and others. In fact, post 1945 the British have been bombed and shot at all over the world, especially in Northern Ireland. Central London, Guildford, Birmingham and Manchester have all been visited by bombers. Provisional IRA, IS or Al Qaeda, the result is always the same: splintered lives and blood up the walls.
Much of what I wrote in this blog on November 14, 2015, after the Paris shootings, stands for what I think now. My only wish is that television news would show a little more judicious discrimination in what they broadcast. How does showing people running away from a bomb site help anyone but those organising these attacks? And why do the earnest and well-meaning insist on buying into the regularly offered explanation of poverty, deprivation and disenfranchisement, for the radicalisation of young Muslims?
I've heard that excuse trotted out for more than 30 years. The result, certainly in Bradford, has been renewed efforts to adapt mainstream society and culture to the needs and demands of minority groups, accompanied by the usual press release superlatives, 'vibrant', even 'vibrancy', 'diverse' and 'community', as though the various sectors of the people who live here identify with one religious or cultural tendency. In fact, just for the record, life here is a lot more sectarian, tribal, clannish, than that simplification allows.
Crying the poor mouth, as the Irish say, is the usual way of staking a claim to resources. Ordinary people, by whom I mean working class white trash who don't work in education, local government, the media or the Church of England, don't fall for that. The others do. Some of them.
The earnest and well-meaning assume that the deprived and disenfranchised carry out the shootings and bombings. They don't. It's the educated, sometimes university-educated righteous brothers, who seek to impose martyrdom on total strangers. It's not money and opportunities these people lack but humility.
Let's face it, yesterday was not a good day for the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron has several times declared that due to Britain's membership of the EU, British people are "safer" and, by inference, the peoples of the 27 other members states are safer too. Safer until the next surprise attack sends body bags and reporters to another European city.
Saturday, 20 February 2016
Whether or not Richard Nixon's special counsel Charles Colson had a cartoon on his wall with the legend: 'When you get 'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow', the fact is that remains a terrible piece of advice.
It guarantees that come the day you relax your grip of said appendages their owners will turn on you and kick your arse - out of power. Forever. Yet between now and Thursday, June 23, the day when the people of the UK have the opportunity to vote to leave the European Union - the biggest single confidence trick of the modern era - we can expect a great deal of ball-squeezing to persuade the credulous to stick with what they are used to rather than risk change.
A host of rich and prize-winning celebrities from entertainment and politics will get extensive air-time and print space to hammer home the vital importance of 'staying in Europe' for the sake of trade, security, defence and inclusivity. The United States, they will be told, is in favour of Britain staying in the EU. That strikes me as a pretty good reason for baling out of the leaky boat that constitutes the EU's ship of state.
The issue is not the continent of Europe but the artificial political construct currently known as the European Union but which in previous incarnations was the European Economic Community ansd the European Community. The name of this federal state seems to be different with every significant treaty change so that Joe Public is never sure what he belongs to or what it means, leaving the way open for old Europhile politicical grandees like Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine to talk down to them in tried and trusted cliches about Britain's position 'at the top table' of world affairs.
Nor is the issue a black and white conflict between 'Little Englander' nationalism and pan-europeanism. It is about whether the free peoples, or allegedly free peoples, of the United Kingdom want to go on being part of an unaccountable political organisation that arbitrarilly takes their money and tells them what they cannot do. I recognise that there are occasional readers of this blog who believe that membership of this organisation has enhanced the well-being of many people. In my opinion the EU, in its various forms, inadvertently started the war in Yugoslavia and damned nearly dragged us into military conflict with Russia by trying to sign up Western Ukraine as an associate EU member - the status that is being offered to David Cameron.
I think those BREXIT factions currently sniping at each other over who has and hasn't got the better exit plan have lost sight of what an amazing turn of events the forthcoming referendum represents.Three years ago, the likelihood of a Conservative Prime Minister, a professed supporter of EU membership, putting such a referendum into place was as remote as Leicester City topping the Premiership table. Armchair strategists felt confident in ridiculing anyone who looked forward to the day when that would happen. And when the unlikely looked highly likely they ridiculed the idea that the referendum might take place sooner rather than later, later being 2017.
The Prime Minister has put himself in this precarious position, partly to try to steal the thunder of the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage and partly to prevent he Conservative Party in Parliament from being torn asunder on the issue of EU membership as was the party of David Cameron's predecessor John Major. Will his gamble pay off, will this turn out to be for him a beneficial crisis? If you beome transfixed by the know-alls, then yes, probably he will win the day on June 23.
I think it entirely depends on whether the out campaigners have the humility to learn a lesson from the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. His unexpected victory was due entirely to popular support from the electorate at large, not the Parliamentary Labour Party, its fellow travellers and their cronies in the media. That's why the media has spent so much time subsequently undermining Mr Corbyn (ironically an advocate of EU membership), for he is there without their benediction.
The referendum will be influenced by Question Time, Any Questions, staged televised debates and the Today programme, just as it will be influenced by blogs; but it will be won by those who go out into the country and address public meetings. This is what Jeremy Corbyn did, and he won overwhelmingly. This referendum won't be won on fine-print details, as some purists would wish, but on blood and guts passion and conviction. David Cameron is adept at that. But Nigel Farage is better, and he has the advantage of knowing the EU from the inside.
Our balls have been in the hands of lying Europhiles since the last referendum in 1975, when they told us that memebership of the EEC was vital for Britain's economic future. They knew all along that the project was really about creating a federal political state. The time has come to kick their arses once and for all and get out into the sunnier uplands of the wider world.