Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trump's Slash and Burn Strategy.

Faced with a mounting wave of allegations from women about sexually inappropriate behaviour Donald Trump has gone to the trenches to do the one thing he knows best to do; hit back! A characteristic of Trump through this campaign has been to fight criticism with fire and never actually answer the critics. He went after Megan Kelly, perhaps his first tirade which should have made us balk and think what is this man up to? When the father of fallen US soldier confronted Trump the result was an almost all night Twitter tirade against the fallen hero's father. More recently and after a better performance at the second US Presidential debate, Trump thought the most important thing for him to do was to defame a former Miss Universe on Twitter at 3 AM!

In the past four days the Trump campaign has announced the 'shackles are removed' and the result is that the tone and the tenor of the Trump camp and more his words have spiralled into a school boy tantrum. However, school boy tantrums usually start and end in the back yard or the school parking lot. Here we are talking of the GOP Presidential nominee who has blamed the Press, the System, the women who accused him as being 'horrible horrible liars'; almost as if his saying it makes it true. In a final coup degrace he has even gone after those within the GOP political set up who would have dared to have found his lewd remarks on tape as offensive.

This is the profile of a sore loser, but not a sore loser in the making, a sore loser in character and temperament which is ingrained into his personality. His vision of 'make America Great Again', while emotionally appealing lacks his own understanding that the die hard supporters who will ignore his sexual predatory personality or his offensive attacks on the under privileged, are not the only ones who will cast their vote on November 8th.   The electorate Mr Trump is much larger and much more silent than you can fathom at the moment and each of your tirades is alienating them from your cause.

Trump has already started talking of a rigged election and short of saying he will not accept any result other than him being the winner, he has worked up his fanatic (and perhaps gun toting) supporters to believe that his loss will not because he messed up but because the system was rigged against him. Side by side he has gone after the media and accused them of being a part of the fix against him. The result has been for the first time in a US election media attending Trump events have had to have police protection. Many weeks ago when Trump said at a rally, on hearing a heckler "Get him out of here I tell you I would punch him in the face", most of us thought he was being light hearted in and in a strange twisted way funny. Now the reality of his twisted mind seems to be coming to roost as it is clear that Trump has decided that if he is to go down he will make sure a great many other elements of the US political system and some good things about it will also go down with him.

Trumps new slash and burn strategy is aimed and taking down the independence of the media, calling esteemed newspapers as crooked, even when some of them have told him if he wishes he can sue them for their revelations about his predatory exploits. Trump is also taking down tolerance, family values (which the GOP always said was a cherished ideal of their party), openness to debate the issues and most of all he is working more like a dictator of a banana republic telling Hilary that she will go to jail, (not be tried by a court of law). One of the biggest casualty of the Trump anger machine is the Republican Party and many of its stalwarts must wonder what the party will look like in the months and years ahead.

Trumps myopia is such that he believes he is ahead in the polls, he believes everyone is lying, he believes that media is out to destroy him, he believes that only he has the solution and is somehow genetically more intelligent than anyone else and knows how to defeat the ISIS, fix America, and fix the world. All fine Mr Trump, but step back, think if you can through your Twitter temper, and see that all you had to do is stick to a script, stick to the issues, lay out your plans in more than just ideas, engage with the people you would not normally sit with, and just show us that to be President you need a sense of embracing differences more than just slashing and burning all those who oppose you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

US Presidential Elections: A sad view from the outside.

For decades the message from Washington to the developing world is to embrace democracy and to bring democratic norms and values to their own societies. There was never a doubt in my mind that eventually with education and social responsibility becoming more prevalent in the emerging world democratic norms would also follow. With it came a vision of the stalwarts of US politics, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and even those who did not occupy of the highest office, Al Gore, John Mccain, Robert Kennedy and many more. More recently Barrack Obama brought back a sense of statesmanship to the White House and then in sharp contrast the current US Presidential election has spiralled into a mud sling match which negates all that seemed so elegant about the electoral process.

Yes there was talk of JFK's escapades with women and the many other stories of US Presidents before. Perhaps we did not live in a world of intrusive media back then or perhaps the press never found their own teeth, but ever since the Gary Hart incident on the boat "Monkey business", the press found its power that it could derail any candidate for the highest office. It would seem that today Donald J Trump and his supporters will say precisely this that the press is out to get him.

However, from the outside, one cannot but notice that the quality of the political engagement that encompasses the current election highlights the depths to which the political squabbling has fallen to. There is also no doubt that both candidates are seriously faulted and the choice before the US electorate is who is more faulted? The question of character is at the forefront of this selection process and even though their character flaws are so wide apart it makes one wonder why could not the political process throw up better candidates. It would seem that both parties just vomited out the two worst candidates that they could think of.

While Hilary Clinton carries the burden of mistakes of her recent past, i.e the emails and the possibility that the established political powers engineered her nomination, the mudslinging would be reserved more for her husband the former President Bill Clinton. For Donald Trump his modus operandi to snatch the GOP nomination was based on a debased, offensive and an appeal to the defranchised white working class. While it may have worked at the primaries the challenge of creating an appeal at the national level based on race and divisive political slogan is much harder to achieve. Yet there was a prayer that he could well have preyed on the discontent within America and might even have pipped Hilary at the post. However, the unravelling of Trump has begun with his offensive comments, albeit from 11 years ago, about women and there seems a promise of more to surface, Trump clearly is committing political suicide.

While a lame apology has come out from Trump he has negated the effect of that with attacks on Bill Clinton and then calling his comments about women as harmless locker room banter, which clearly shows he has no remorse for his behaviour. This will move the debate more towards his character rather than away from it to the issues of the economy and the future of America. For Hilary Clinton and her camp the best would be to avoid commenting on the character controversy letting Trump dig his own grave with his Twitter shovel. Sadly the temptation will remain in Hilary's comment to add a few shovels of dirt onto the Trump political grave and this is where the election process will and is getting derailed into a vicious mudsling.

The broader impact of this is that the Republican party has been totally uprooted from its roots, causing a civil war within from which, the staunch political conservatives will have to wonder how long it will take to repair. Most GOP political figures will be distancing themselves from Trump thus creating a unique precedent that a nominee of a leading party has lost the support of the main political figures of his own party. Sensible voices within the GOP seem resigned to admit that they may not win the White House and must try and ensure that the Congress remains in their hands. This is where the schism between Trump and the party will become wider.

For Hilary the saga of her emails will dog her perhaps beyond this election and each week new leaks will at best distract her and at worst cause her to go on the defensive. It would not be incorrect to stop and think that perhaps Bernie Sanders would have had an easier ride to the White House and most certainly a difficult target for Trump to lash out at. Yet as we see the election from the outside we can only feel sad that a democratic tradition which we all upheld is becoming a reality show with smell of scandal on both sides that can only upset the more sane minds.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

IMG World of Adventures. A Review

Just over ten years back I was involved with both Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari as the plans for the City of Arabia took shape and the various components we detailed out. The plans were ambitious and in line with the mood of the city of Dubai. The downturn in the real estate market washed out many of projects and in a sense separated the boys from the men. I will admit within my own mind I often looked at this wonderful project and thought if it would see the light of the day. For me the interest remained attuned to the theme park elements because that was where I felt the footfall would be drawn. I often believed and said without the draw of a mall the theme park would struggle to survive in a market where no one had ventured to the scale and scope that the two brothers envisaged.

Over the weekend I went in to the newly opened IMG World of Adventures to spend a whole day, and the visit was not planned with the owners or anyone. This I believe would give me the independence to see for myself. First and upfront I will admit I was wrong to believe that a theme park without a mall would struggle. Arriving at 11.30 AM i was pleasantly surprised by the number of people venturing into this world of adventure. As I walked around, experiencing the offerings the rides and talking to the visitors I had to eat humble pie each moment, and at each ride and came to the realisation that the two brothers have done it. Well done Ilyas and Mustafa and your team.

I think I need to elaborate on my views. First of all my guess was that the theme park probably had over 15,000 visitors on the day I was there, and it was not a Friday. Lets start with some details:

The large building is deceptive in terms of how much is inside it. The arrival area is large, well laid out and could easily accommodate the largest possible rush with ease. The entry is subdued and some may argue some screens with a teaser for what to expect would have been nice. Personally I think it worked fine as the surprise that awaited one was not exposed too early.

The offering is amazing in all respects. While when I was involved with the project we had thought of only a dinosaur theme park, which would have been adequate attached to a mall; both the brothers have gone a step further and involved the remit of offering to include the Marvel Adventures and the Cartoon Network offering, thereby adding to the Dinosaur experience with a board coverage of the customer base. Experts may argue that it is too much under one roof? Well that might well be the case if this was in the US or Europe, but here two things make it work wonderfully. In the first place the zoning of the offering is well thought out and not crowded and secondly the rich content makes sure that each age group is well catered for.

I tried out four or five of the dozen and half main rides and I must say the experience was excellent across the board. Yes some rides had a longer wait time and when I see the brothers next time I would suggest that they put some sort of screen at each ride to let visitors know the expected wait time per ride as they arrive at the ride, this will help the flow of the people better. The staff were very good and helpful and efficient in all respects. There was emphasis on safety and most of the staff were good at explaining what to expect on each experience.

The F&B outlets were excellent, we had lunch and dinner there, and found the service to be excellent and the food to be great value for money and good quality. What was also refreshing was that one is spoiled for choice when it came to the food offering, from Arabic, to Chinese, to Indian, to Italian to International and even the quick fast food kiosks were all well manned and a delightful experience.

On reflection and given my age, I would say one day is not enough to savour the experience to its entirety and would strongly recommend that a two day or three day pass be considered. The one ticket for all rides and experiences concept is remarkable and very good value for money and offered the visitors the ease that is essential for a good experience. The fast track option is a valuable offering and I would certainly consider it next time.

I would strongly recommend this on a MUST VISIT list and also consider it for repeat visits. My guess is that IMG World of Adventures will have a major impact on the market place not only in Dubai but the region as a whole. In time the marketing exposure will add to the footfall, which I can believe on a busy day would be over 25,000 per day, however at no time did I have a feeling of being crowded as the planning and lay out of the theme park, all of which is indoors, is such that you are not pushing and shoving with people.

As a final note I want to thank Ilyas and Mustafa and their team for a fabulous job to really create something that the market so desperately needed. Well done you both have done it and full appreciation to your commitment to make it happen.