What a few days the world seems to be experiencing ! At a time of year when news is usually in short supply there has been a swathe of events around the world rocking the boat.
Today, I'll have a thought or two on Trumpy's levy of high import duties on Turkish steel and aluminium (or should I call it 'aluuuuminum' for anyone from the far side of the pond ?). The effect upon the Turkish lira has been instant and dramatic and pretty damaging to ordinary folk in Turkey. As a blunt tool, Trumpy can wield enormous global power with a simple decision to implement acts like this. Whether this is part of his classic tough-guy act which then softens when the target agrees to American demands or whether it is a genuine manoeuvre to give a boost to the Pennsylvanian coal belt and the rusting steel mills there remains to be seen. It is, however, a damaging action that hurts the common man in the target zone and we should ask ourselves whether we wish to tolerate a US that behaves in this way to achieve what it wants (at the expense of others). Unfortunately, the non-superpowers are not individually strong enough - or bold enough - to act against the US. Indeed, many of the West's allies might well just roll over and turn a blind eye. And Turkey itself is not a perfect place, socially, politically or economically, and it can readily be argued that, a bruising punch now might forestall the need for something more serious later on. I fear, however, that the US's nemesis, Russia, will be there to offer solace and a helping hand to bolster their own strategic sphere of influence. Trumpy is playing a dangerous game on this one.
More apparent terrorist acts in London today. Luckily, apart from some minor civilian injuries, nobody seems to have suffered too much and the culprit is already behind bars and facing much interrogation. Thinking of the wider problem, the very fact that we have to consciously defend our institutions from terror attacks is a hugely sad reflection on the state of world affairs. That there are sizeable and funded organisations out there that have the sole aim of physically damaging the West tells us all that the dialogue over differences of belief, opinion, values and culture have failed on a global scale. Perhaps it is naive to imagine that all the worlds disparate ethnicities, religions and cultures can live together harmoniously, for history has, to date, shown us that this is a continuation of a centuries old suspicion, hatred, and envy based antagonism. That's not consoling though, is it ? It still exists, and it is no more being contained now than it was in any previous era in recorded history. The tragedy is in the fact that we will become inured to it over time and accept it as normal. By then, of course, we will have relinquished all sense of achieving harmonious relations with our different thinking neighbours.
British retailers seem to be between a rock and an hard place these days as the competition from online providers ramps up and the costs of maintaining a High Street presence rocket. House of Fraser might have got a temporary reprieve with the Mike Ashley buy out but Homebase continues to crumble whilst many other retailers - including the almost 'national treasure' status, M & S, also tightens its belt as revenues tumble. Philip Hammond proposes taxes on online providers to 'level the playing field' but one suspects he sees this as a very convenient way to add a bit more dosh into the Exchequers coffers rather than as some magnanimous philanthropic gesture to the High Street. So, the question to be posed is 'What sort of village or town centre do we wish to see in the future ?' Do we, for example, wish to see nothing but rows of estate agents, betting shops, accountants, solicitors, opticians and e-cigarette vendors or do we aspire to maintaining a broad mix of product availability in varying retail sizes, competing with each other but not cutting each others throats ? I'd like to think we'd opt for the latter - but the cynic in me suspects we might end up with the former. What happens then when terrorism develops an even greater cyber hacking capability ?
I see a certain cricket personality has been acquitted of affray. I suppose we must grant that the jury heard evidence that supported this acquittal but I'm a firm believer in the concept of 'smoke and fire' and the suspicion that celebrity status has played a part in the verdict reached. I use the word 'celebrity' in very loose terms here but we are a culture obsessed with it in whichever form it comes, embracing a whole raft of individuals who ordinarily would never reach the public eye. I only hope our legal system stands above such influence - but like many other things in our society, we have seen a collapse of standards and a noticeable growth in hypocrisy by those institutions that deign to be held in respect. Some proper leadership by our government would be a good place to re-kindle public faith, but, alas, I fear we have no such government capable of such a worthy task.
No further comment today on the Corbyn and Johnson saga's - but keep an eye on this space....