Saturday 15 June 2019

The Most Transformative President

Donald Trump may be the most transformative American president ever! Look what he’s done to the GOP – once the bastion of free trade the party of Lincoln has effortlessly morphed into the party of tariffs.

As if that wasn’t enough, with a couple of waves of his tweety wand he’s converted the party of fiscal rectitude into a posse of hardcore deficit ballooners. 

But perhaps his greatest achievement is to defang the anti-Soviet, All-American party and unite it in a mutual admiration society with Mr. Putin’s Kremlin oligarchy.

That’s not to take away from his stunning political feat of converting blue Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan to red in the 2016 election; if he holds on to those gains in 2020, he will have done the near impossible - unite large swathes of the American working class with its union-hating bosses.

Only Abraham Lincoln comes close to Mr. Trump in the transformative stakes and it took him a four-year civil war to achieve limited emancipation.

Meanwhile President Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In” era is now little more than a vague memory. In these braying days it’s hard to remember that the first African-American president inherited a tanking economy and saved our economic system from collapse.

Lucky for us Donald Trump wasn’t elected in 2008, a time when a steady hand was sorely needed. In fact, every time he mentions Iran I check my fridge to make sure I have a six-pack of strong IPA to soothe my own nerves. 

Brinksmanship on tariffs is one thing, these Persians under Xerxes The Great were ruling the roost a thousand years before St. Brendan caught sight of the green hills of America. They won’t fold easily and are not people to be messed with.

But let’s get back to the Republicans. They must be wondering what hit them! Everyone and their granny knows that free trade ultimately trumps tariffs.

Sure, some industries suffer and workers need help in making a transition to other fields of employment; but on the plus side, imported goods become less expensive and working families can afford more. 

But whatever your views, trade wars are never a good thing – because like all conflict we have no idea where it will end. We do know, however, that the less wealthy will suffer most.

The blink-of-an-eye conversion from a deficit-fearing Republican Party to one that embraces massive debt is truly stunning. Though perhaps not for President Trump, the so called “King of Debt” – and in fairness he’s always managed to walk away relatively unscathed from his financial disasters, albeit with the help of bankruptcy.

And the man has a point – the country has dealt with ever-increasing debt since President George W. Bush frittered away a $200 billion surplus given him by President Clinton back in 2001. 

President Trump is also correct in stating that a growing economy can sustain more debt now than ever before. But only while interest rates stay low!

A rise of a couple of percent could balloon the deficit, and guess who’d end up paying for it – President Trump’s purported “base” in the form of slashed Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Still, these are all greenback matters easily settled with a timely lottery win or a lucky streak out at Belmont. What is going on with Russia? 

Our president is nothing if not an alpha-male! Yet, any time I’ve seen him with Vladimir Putin, he seems deferential, even cowed.

What’s wrong with that picture? This ex-KGB dude has been meddling in our elections. Can you imagine how Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Reagan would have handled such an affront?

It was a sad day for the US when John McCain departed this mortal coil. For it would appear that no other elected Republican will demand answers from their leader.

I have many friends among the president’s base, most of whom intend voting for him in 2020, basically because they don’t see any politician improving their lives, and at least Mr. Trump “speaks truth to power.”

But President Trump is the “power” now. He has transformed the Republican Party beyond recognition. The question is – how far has he transformed the country? 

I guess we’ll find out a year from November when the election results start pouring in.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Wexford - A Quare Auld Place!

Wexford was a “quare auld place” to grow up in and I doubt if any of it’s 12,000 or so inhabitants back then would have disagreed with me.

It perched precariously on the banks of the River Slaney where it thumbed its nose at the rest of the world.

I often wonder if its as quare an auld place nowadays, for though I return once a year it’s only for a night and I’m accompanied by a couple of busloads of friends and fans.

Probably not, for with television and the Internet you can now visit so many other worlds. Whereas back in my day, we had the “pictures,” the daily newspaper, and the county library for inspiration – the rest of the time you lived in your own imagination and that could be a quare auld place unto itself.

Auld, indeed, Wexford was, for Ptolemy charted it on his third century maps when it was known as Menapia. The Vikings thought it was a hell of a place for looting and called it Weissfjord, and Strongbow’s Normans took over the joint in 1169.

From my grandfather’s house on George’s Street where I grew up I could see Selskar Abbey, the Norman stronghold and church where King Henry II came to do penance for the whacking of Archbishop Thomas รก Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral.

One of our pet peeves was that the bould Henry did not declare Wexford a city – no, to our mortification, Waterford, Kilkenny and even Sligo were deemed cities while a metropolis the like of ours will always be a town, even though it’s a far quarer and older place.

Such is life and one must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without too much bellyaching.

One of Wexford’s great attractions was that, given its size and narrow streets, you ran into people on a regular basis. This could also be a trial, for if someone disliked you they could beat the head off you regularly too.

My guess is that I knew upwards of 1000 people while living there, not intimately, for there was little sex in Wexford back then, or so the priests and Christian Brothers reassured us. That was something that happened in faraway pagan places the like of Waterford, Kilkenny, and even Sligo.

But given that there was only one degree of separation in Wexford, if I was curious about someone, then I could ask one of my 1000 non-intimate friends for a report on this stranger and get a full account of their background, vices, who their family supported in Parnell versus the Bishops, and if any of the girls of that family had to flee to London after finding themselves in the family way, the Lord save us!

I mean who in God’s universe needed television or the Internet with so much information to be had without stepping beyond the walls of our quare auld town.

The Kardashians had nothing on some of Wexford’s characters. For once you had done something of note then you or your family would be elevated or more likely tainted forever. 

And God help you should you have some pronounced physical feature. Say for instance I had a set of big ears - then I, and all of my progeny until kingdom come might be called “The Jennet Kirwan.”

Luckily I had no such affliction so I escaped that bullet, but with bright red hair, I was called everything from Ginger to Carrot Top. I don’t have to worry much about that anymore although some people still call me “red” because of my political opinions.

Wexford still has characters but they are fast disappearing, including my dear friend, Pat Kehoe, once proprietor of the notorious rock & roll Imperial Bar. 

Pat bit the bullet recently but as he was being wheeled into Macken’s crematorium he had Black 47’s Funky Ceili blasting! It goes to show that you never know where your songs will end up.

Ah yes indeed, from the mighty King Henry II doing his fake confession in the cauld auld draughty Selskar Abbey to Rebel Pat Kehoe bidding a boisterous farewell to his hometown, there’s no denying that Wexford was, and always will be, a quare auld place, God save it!