Comment With... Barry Speker

Issue 65

Happy New Year to you all and may 2021 get us back to life as we want it to be - soon!

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States was memorable in many respects, including Donald Trump’s repudiation of many well established traditions. Most notably he did not attend the ceremony but left for Florida on Air Force One after making his farewell speech. He extended good luck wishes to the new administration and said ‘We will be back, in some form’. Shades of Freddie Kruger or Alien? Ascending the steps of the Presidential jet to the sound of Village People playing YMCA this was followed, as the plane took off, by Frank Sinatra’s My Way. No false news. Perhaps DT should have selected John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane? He did not eschew the presidential power from Article II section 2 of the Constitution to grant reprieves to criminals. This power was created by the founding fathers as a democratic check on the judicial system. (It does not entitle a President to protect himself from impeachment). Donald Trump granted 73 pardons (including Steve Bannon) and 70 commutations, the successful recipients including people convicted of fraud, tax evasion, corruption and weapons offences. Our own judicial system manages to exist without such a bizarre ‘check’. New First Lady Dr Jill Biden will no doubt cope with the omission of the customary invitation to tea in the White House with her predecessor – an occasion when Melania could have introduced her to the staff and explained the central heating controls. The inauguration was not as dull as the adverse descriptions of Biden suggested. His speech urged unity, an end to the uncivil war and a commitment to alliances – as well as overcoming the pandemic and the economic crisis. The razzmatazz was provided by Lady Gaga wearing a vast red bustle and a giant gold albatross and belting out The Star-Spangled Banner through a solid gold microphone. After the Pledge of Allegiance came Jennifer Lopez singing This Land is Your Land, the 1940 Woody Guthrie protest against inequalities and the Great Depression. Joe certainly has an eye, and an ear, for divas. The Government has been facing criticisms throughout the pandemic, some justified and some unfair. The successful vaccination programme has proceeded at a rate which few thought possible, with over four million people having received their first jab. Israel is the world leader in mass vaccination and in the position to produce early data on the effects of delaying the second dose. This suggests that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine could be as low as 33% after the single dose (rather than the Government’s 89% figure). Some urgent decision-making is needed to ‘follow the science’ in case there is unwise use of all the vaccine for first doses, when this may not give adequate protection. Vaccination may not be the beginning of the end of the pandemic but if it is to be even the end of the beginning, we must have confidence that vaccine is used to best effect. My history studies included Catherine the Great. Sky Atlantic’s series The Great tells a rather different story. It is billed as a comedydrama loosely based on the rise of Catherine and may not be a helpful supplement to A-level online learning – but, what the hell, the A levels have been cancelled. Slightly more realistic is series 2 of The Bay. Having binge-watched it all – spoiler alert, how can a small town solicitors’ practice in Morecambe Bay, be involved with murders, drug factories, dysfunctional families…? say no more, but well worth seeing. An even odder family appears in Finding Alice, particularly Nigel Havers as the clueless solicitor and Joanna Lumley as Patsy revisited. My February recommendation is The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson. It is a tribute by the American writer who has sold more than 300 million books. An enthusiastic fan of Lennon and the Beatles, Patterson lived in a block close to the Dakota Building in Manhattan where Lennon was shot in 1980. The book, extensively researched, goes right through the careers of the Beatles and their contemporaries. It also features the important musical role played by Phil Spector who coincidentally died on January 16 this year. There is also mention of Gerry Marsden who died on 3 January. A statue of him is planned to be erected in Liverpool overlooking the Ferry across the Mersey (that is of Marsden rather than Spector).

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