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Tag: White House

Trump Day

Friday, 20 January, 2017 2 Comments

The Trump transition ends this morning and the Trump presidency begins this afternoon. How will it go? No one knows because leadership is so often determined by what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called “Events, dear boy, events.” Still, even if the coming four years disappoint friend and foe alike, Americans should be grateful to Donald Trump for one thing: ending dynastic politics, at least until 2020.

If Hillary Clinton had won last November, four of the last five US presidents would have come from two families: Bush and Clinton. In early 2016, so many of the then “respected” pundits predicted that the White House race would come down to another Clinton v. Bush run off and cynical Europeans took great delight in claiming this regular swapping of the top job between two connected families exposed the rot at the heart of American democracy. They were right. The election of Donald Trump has put an end to that. We wish him well in the difficult days ahead.

The White House


Come all ye Bob

Tuesday, 10 February, 2015 0 Comments

“Come all ye loyal heroes and listen unto me / Don’t hire with any farmer till you know what your work will be.” So begins The Rocks of Bawn, a 19th-century Irish ballad about the exploitation of rural labour. Migrants from the British Isles took this song form, with its appeal to attention, across the Atlantic and it found an audience in the New World. When Bob Dylan was honoured as the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year last Friday night in Los Angeles, he recalled in his acceptance speech the role these songs played in his own musical development. Snippet:

“I sang a lot of ‘come all you’ songs. There’s plenty of them. There’s way too many to be counted. ‘Come along boys and listen to my tale / Tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm Trail.’ Or, ‘Come all ye good people, listen while I tell / the fate of Floyd Collins a lad we all know well / The fate of Floyd Collins, a lad we all know well.'”

If you sung all these ‘come all ye’ songs all the time, you’d be writing, ‘Come gather ’round people where ever you roam, admit that the waters around you have grown / Accept that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth saving / And you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone / The times they are a-changing.'”


A Drone’s Eye View Of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Wednesday, 28 January, 2015 0 Comments

Meandering from Cork to Donegal, the Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s longest coastal touring route. This beautiful drone footage of the trail is by the talented UAV/drone pilot and photographer Raymond Fogarty.

By the way, Raymond Fogarty made headlines last year when it emerged that drone photographers in Ireland needed licensing by the Irish Aviation Authority. And the regulation of these “unmanned aerial vehicles” is very much in the news this week after it emerged that an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had (drunkenly?) flown a drone onto the grounds of the White House. This has led President Obama to call for regulating unmanned aircraft: “There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” he said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

Meanwhile, take a look at Dronestagram, a website where drone photographers share and discuss their work. Love this shot of the sun setting over the town of Annecy in south-eastern France.

This just in: UAE plans new drones law following Dubai airspace alert


Germany’s chief Putin “understander”

Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 0 Comments

Moscow, 11 December 2013: “Meeting with Helmut Schmidt” is the title of Vladimir Putin’s press release and it’s filled with oleaginous praise: “It is a great pleasure and honour for me to meet with you in Moscow, for you are not only the patriarch of European politics but of global politics as well.”

Last week, the former German chancellor used the pages of Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper printed in Hamburg and of which he is a co-publisher, to pay back the compliments he had received in the Kremlin. “Helmut Schmidt hat Verständnis für Putins Krim-Politik” is how the abbreviated piece was titled in the online edition; “Putins Vorgehen ist verständlich” was the title in the print edition. Both were repulsive in their attempts to legitimize Russia’s aggression, and both were nauseating in their efforts to display “understanding” for Moscow’s thuggery. At one point in the print version, the vain, doddery, chain-smoking oracle says: “Until the beginning of the 1990s, the West had never doubted that Crimea and Ukraine — both — were part of Russia.” In fact, until the beginning of the 1990s, they were part of an entity called the Soviet Union.

Schmidt-Carter Helmut Schmidt was German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 so their paths often crossed. Carter’s White House Diary portrays the Hamburg-born politician as an unpredictable whinger, constantly lecturing the Americans on global economics, and then disappearing when Washington needed his help. According to Carter’s notes, Schmidt “acted like a paranoid child” who believed that if life were fair, he would have been president of the United States instead of the man from Plains, Georgia. And in an observation that’s relevant to today’s debate, Carter noted on 5 January 1979: “I was impressed and concerned by the attitude of Helmut toward appeasing the Soviets.”

In 1980, Jimmy Carter lost the presidential election to Ronald Reagan. The upside for the Democrat was that he would no longer have to deal with the German leader. In his diary, he noted that he was “glad to deliver Schmidt… to Reagan.”


JFK and 007

Thursday, 21 November, 2013 0 Comments

In March 1960, Ian Fleming had dinner with John F. Kennedy at the White House. In his book, The Life of Ian Fleming, John Pearson notes: “During the dinner the talk largely concerned itself with the more arcane aspects of American politics and Fleming was attentive but subdued. But with coffee and the entrance of Castro into the conversation he intervened in his most engaging style. Cuba was already high on the headache list of Washington politicians, and another of those what’s to-be-done conversations got underway. Fleming laughed ironically and began to develop the theme that the United States was making altogether too much fuss about Castro — they were building him into a world figure, inflating him instead of deflating him. It would be perfectly simple to apply one or two ideas which would take all the steam out of the Cuban.” Kennedy asked him what would James Bond do about Fidel Castro. Fleming replied, “Ridicule, chiefly.”

In March 1961, Hugh Sidey wrote an article in Life Magazine on JFK’s top ten favourite books designed to show that the president was both well-read and in touch with popular taste. The only work of popular fiction on the list was From Russia With Love. Up until then, Bond had not sold well in the US, but by the end of 1961 Ian Fleming had become the largest-selling thriller writer in America.

“The great trains are going out all over Europe, one by one, but still, three times a week, the Orient Express thunders superbly over the 1,400 miles of glittering steel track between Istanbul and Paris. Under the arc-lights, the long-chassied German locomotive panted quietly with the laboured breath of a dragon dying of asthma. Each heavy breath seemed certain to be the last. Then came another.” Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love


Niall Fergsuon responds to the liberal blogosphere

Wednesday, 22 August, 2012

Historian Niall Ferguson did the unthinkable at the weekend. He challenged those ideologically loyal to the Obama White House in a Newsweek cover story titled, “Hit the road Barack: Why we need a new president “. The firestorm that followed scorched all in its path. Did Ferguson run for cover? Far from it, he came […]

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Bob Dylan receives Medal of Freedom at White House

Wednesday, 30 May, 2012

His country now has honoured him as highly as it can, and rightly so. Next up on the Never Ending Tour, after the White House, is the Hop Farm Music Festival in England at the end of June. Citation: “One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album […]

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The Economist speculates and hedges

Friday, 13 January, 2012

Mitt Romney CEO “Mr Romney has something that the president and his Republican rivals sorely lack: business experience. For 25 years he made himself and the management consultancies BCG and Bain a lot of money by making companies more efficient which, yes, sometimes means firing people, but also drives economic growth. So far, Mr Romney has done a poor job of defending himself against attacks which are really aimed at the creative destruction which is the essence of capitalism itself. He says he created a net 100,000 jobs during his time at Bain. That figure is impossible to prove, but he could do more to argue that the benefits outweigh the costs. His task has not been helped by disgraceful attacks from fellow-Republicans on corporate restructuring.”

The question mark is a most useful device when the fog of electoral war covers the field and “America’s next CEO?” is typical of the kind of speculative hedge that employs it when fence sitting seems to be the best option. Punctuation aside, The Economist seems to be warming to the leading Republican candidate for the White House: “Mr Romney seems sure-footed. It is hard to think of a single misstep in this campaign. He may be wooden, but no scandal has ever attached to him. His family life is impeccably monogamous and progenitive. Those who have worked closely with him tend to admire him. On both the economic and the foreign-policy sides, he has already put together impressive and above all sensibly moderate teams.”