‘Lead balloon.’ That graphic description of public failure apparently dates from the US in 1924, and ironically was itself such a poorly-received idiom that it didn’t appear in the American press again until 1947. A few decades later, and the phrase was so well known that a derivative of it inspired one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Today, 99 lead balloons fill our sky.
To illustrate the point I don’t even have to look at headlines about the US-China trade war – though I could pick any number of them showing how serious this is getting, and how global the impact is likely to be. My favourite today contains a quote from a US semiconductor maker who states “We’re too far into free trade that the world cannot have countries not trading.” Sorry mate, 1913 called and wants its ‘Great Illusion’ back; indeed, reports are that China’s surveillance camera-maker Hikvision is next in the US firing line. Standing with me not on the side of the (Norman) Angells is Eli Lake writing for Bloomberg, who argues “The tech cold war has begun. To which I can only say: It’s about time. If this ban is just a bit of brinkmanship designed to pry a better trade deal out of Beijing, however, then it’s a blunder. The national security implications raised by Huawei’s technology transcend any trade dispute.” And while US tech is in the headlines, so is US farming, where federal subsidies are set to rise sharply to offset trade-war pain.
I could choose from a series of stories in Turkey, where the authorities are both trying to prop up the currency and cutting rates at the same time(?), as well as about to clash with the US and NATO allies again over their preferred choice of anti-aircraft defence system in a major way.
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