Author Archives: Tom Arms

Observations of an Ex-Pat: Mind the gap

Mind the Gap. Three very familiar monosyllabic words for anyone who has travelled on the London Underground.

The taped announcement is a warning to beware of the potentially dangerous space between the railway carriages and the platform.

But it has a political meaning too. Any political novice will also tell you to mind the gap. Look for the space that isn’t being filled by the other parties and plug it—fast.

Well, at the moment there is a yawning chasm as the traditional parties race to head off  threats from the right and left, leaving a vacuum in the centre—the traditional winning ground.

But have the divisions that currently afflict Western societies become so acute that the centre ground is now politically unviable? We will find out—or at least be presented with a good indication— at the end of April and then again in May.

That is when the French elect their president. And it is looking increasingly as if the battle will be between the far right Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party and Emmanuel Macron’s  newly-formed En Marche  (English translation:Forward).

A few weeks ago the political landscape looked completely different. The two top contenders were Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon. Macron and the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon were also-rans.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Observations of an Ex-Pat: Trump’s Aim

What is Trump’s  Aim?

Alright he has answered the question. So has his press secretary Sean Spicer. It is the slogan on the baseball cap: To “make America great again.”

But for the life of me I can’t understand how he is going to achieve that aim, especially as America already is the world’s only superpower, produces the lion’s share of the world’s wealth and has one the world’s highest standards of living. How great can a country be?

Setting all that aside, how does  the slogan translate into policy? What is required in the Trump playbook to re-achieve American greatness?

After a roller-coaster three weeks we are getting an idea. Trump’s great America is a non-renewable energy-powered industrial monolith churning out yesteryear’s manufactured products behind a metaphorical and physical wall of bricks, steel and tariffs.

Trump’s great America is paranoid and xenophobic. It bans highly skilled, entrepreneurial and hard-working Muslim immigrants for fear that the Judaeo-Christian culture cannot compete against Islamic fifth columnists who worm their way into the “dishonest” media and government. Or worse still sneak into the country and attempt to violently overthrow the system.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Observations of an expat: I am a liberal

The Brexiteering Trump supporter narrowed his eyes, curled his upper lip, glared at me and sneeringly stuttered: “You..you..LIBERAL.

I removed the handkerchief from my pocket, wiped away what I believe was unintentional spit from just below my left eye, and gave him an infuriatingly rueful smile.

To many conservative-minded folk a liberal is a threat to their way of life. Liberal tolerance of other religions, genders and cultures forces conservatives into politically correct language which sticks in their throats. The liberal emphasis on equality threatens their supremacy and culture. And liberal generosity is seen as undermining livelihoods and threatening security.

The word liberal is derived from the Latin root liberalis which means noble, gracious and munificient; character traits which I would love to have. Liberalis is also the root for the word liberty which runs golden thread-like through modern western civilisation. “Give me liberty or give me death,” shouted Patrick Henry. The single word “liberty” was emblazoned on an early American revolutionary flag and it plays a key role in the Preamble to the US constitution.

Liberte is the first word in the catchy slogan of the French revolution, and in 19th century European liberalism was equated with parliamentary government and political reform based on equality.

Adam Smith regarded natural liberty as the highest form of human existence and liberal—or free—trade between nations was his ultimate aim. For the ancient Greeks a liberal arts education was the summit of learning and culture.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

That extra special relationship

The Anglo-American Special Relationship is becoming the EXTRA Special Relationship – and not for the right reasons.

The Special Relationship is based on a shared historic, legal, cultural, and philosophical root buttressed by military and political alliances, a shared outlook of the world and intelligence services which are joined at the hip and just about every other part of the political anatomy.

The Extra Special Relationship is based on a shared pariah status, siege mentality and Britain and America’s  common need for friends in an increasingly friendless world.  The Brexit vote has isolated the UK from its former partners in continental Europe. Trump’s style plus his anti-Islamic, anti-EU, anti-free trade, anti-Nato, anti-Chinese and pro-Russian and pro-Israeli rhetoric has done the same.

On top of that, Prime Minister Theresa May needs a big trade deal to show that Brexit can work to Britain’s advantage. Trump is offering a massive bribe—the trade deal.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 6 Comments

Observations of an expat: The hip-thigh bone theory of the world

It is time to explain my hip thigh bone theory of the world.

The theory is based on the 1920s African-American  spiritual “Dem bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.”

The ditty in turn was based on a Biblical passage in which a collection of dry bones reassemble themselves   before the astonished eyes of the prophet Ezekiel .

The foot-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual is a roof raiser in evangelical churches around the world. It is also a popular song in young children’s anatomy classes.

But to my mind, Its main value is as a perfect metaphor of how the  rapidly shrinking and interconnected world has become increasingly dependent on its constituent parts (or bones) working together.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: And so it begins…

And so it begins. Or at least it will on Friday January 20th when Donald Trump stands, on the steps of the US Capitol building, places his hand on The Bible and swears to protect and uphold the constitution of the United States.

The US presidential inauguration is a celebration of American democracy and the peaceful transition from one administration to the next. There are parades, marching bands, waving flags, an inaugural ball and a bevvy of Hollywood stars.

Not this time. Oh yes, all the above will occur as usual. But in addition a million-plus protesters are expected to descend on Washington DC to political disown the elected President of the United States. “Not our President” they will shout.

And all the indications are that the forthcoming inaugural weekend  is a mere curtain raiser for the global thrills and spills to come. If you enjoy life on the edge, than you are living on the right planet at the right time. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Tough for Trump

Donald Trump is in a no-win situation as regards  Russian hacking vs. American intelligence agencies vs Donald Trump.

Putin, as we all know by now, has been accused by all the American intelligence agencies (and several foreign ones) of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and leaking the contents to help Trump win the US presidency.

The Russian President has denied this as he has denied many other misdeeds. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he channel for the leaks, has backed him up. So has Donald Trump.

On the other side of the fence are, not surprisingly, a Democratic Party in search of a scapegoat to explain the inexplicable and America’s spy nerds.

Trump can’t really say that he agrees with the intelligence agencies. To do so would leave him branded as Putin’s poodle and undermine his mandate to govern. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 23rd Feb - 4:03am
    Lorenzo The difference is between a "deep" free trade area such as the EU and a shallow free trade area of the past. Given our...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 23rd Feb - 2:15am
    Mark The only reason we cannot have free trade without free movement is some bright spark, I think most definitely , certainly, surely, not, said...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 23rd Feb - 1:56am
    @ Paul I think you may have misunderstood me. I think Germany is the biggest problem in achieving reform, I didn’t mean that there should...
  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 23rd Feb - 1:38am
    I have a lot of respect for Kishwer but I think she has got this one badly wrong. To seriously engage with would take more...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd Feb - 1:35am
    Thanks, Peter Kemp - no, let nobody forget about Copeland. We have a truly outstanding candidate in Rebecca Hanson, head and shoulders above the rest....
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd Feb - 1:12am
    Good points, I think, above, from people who still support the party policy, as I do. I like John Hall's dissection of the Baroness's suggestion...