Belfast Telegraph

If it's power you crave nothing trumps the mighty Greenback

By Lindy McDowell

According to a recent headline grabbing calculation from one of the major aid agencies, a mere 62 people are as wealthy as 50% of the rest of the world's population. By the look of it around half of these mega-rich have this week been vying for presidency of the United States.

In order to run for the position commonly referred to as Leader of the Free World you need two things. To have been born in the US. And to be able to attract big bucks. Very, very big bucks.

Even left-wing Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders was boasting to pre-Iowa caucuses this week that in one month, January, his campaign had roped in a record $20m. In one month. Most of this money reportedly came from small donations of around $27 a head.

But as a 'socialist' Mr Sanders (who is the Jeremy Corbyn of US politics, in dress sense anyway) must surely feel a little uneasy not so much about where the money is coming from. But what it is going on.

Those eye-watering sums raised by all contenders is being spent on publicity and promotion and other campaign costs and each time the presidential election comes around the total seems to spiral to ever more dizzying heights.

There's that old line about the difficulty facing a rich man wishing to enter the gates of heaven. No such door policy with Oval Office admission seemingly ...

With the right wad of notes a rich man (or woman) has a distinct advantage in accessing the White House. To take up a position which has ramifications for all the world.

In American politics, it's not so much that money talks. In American politics, without money you just don't have a voice.

And the loudest voice hitherto in the presidential race has undoubtedly been Donald Trump, billionaire and narcissist.

A man who has so much money he can afford to finance his own campaign - or at least a very sizeable part of it.

Would loudmouth Trump with his vile remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, a disabled reporter and a female TV presenter even have been in the running if he wasn't so very, very rich?

Tellingly, comically it's reported that during a recent visit to a church, the billionaire, who does not appear to be a regular Sunday attendee, chucked a handful of notes into what he thought was the offering plate. Actually it was the communion plate.

It is of course, also an undeniable vote-catcher in American politics to have God on your side. So everybody claims he is. Candidate Ben Carson even has a painting in his house of himself with Jesus which surely trumps Donald's outreach to the evangelical squad.

Watching from this side of the Atlantic the race has a certain entertainment value. As a taxi driver said to me the other day: "I can't stand the man but part of me would love to see Trump get in just to see what would happen."

The thing is what happens there affects us here, too. And gradually infects us ...

Money becomes increasingly important even in our local politics, although thus far no party can compete with mega-wealthy Sinn Fein who benefit from their own fund-raising spectaculars in America. Trump himself has even attended one.

Can't buy me love? Maybe.

But with financial clout you do have a massive advantage in the pursuit of political power.

This is nothing new, of course. But it is becoming ever more exclusive.

And if the current crop of candidates in the race for the White House is any reflection, ever more concerning.

Are we facing an insect apocalypse?

As the poet almost said, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a bzzzzzztt ...

We have been worried about great, big stuff like North Korean nuclear bombs. But now a tiny little insect, so light that as you swipe it aside you hardly feel the weight of the thing, is suddenly world Enemy Number One.

Infinitesimal hordes of mosquito have the potential to spread the frightening Zika virus around the globe bringing fear and misery to millions.

A warning that man's greatest enemy may not actually be - as hitherto assumed - his fellow man.

Time we got up to speed with signs

I have driven around Belfast city centre this week at the new, specified speed limit of 20 mph.

An observation - how in the name of God is a visitor to Belfast supposed to work out where it starts and where it stops? Yes, there are maps online.

But who seriously works out their route's speed limits beforehand? There are some big electronic signs dotted around town. But these don't exactly specify parameters. "Within city centre." Define city centre.

It needs better signposting, this scheme. And given the money they're going to be raking in from hard-pressed drivers, it's not as though they can't afford it.

Belfast Telegraph


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