Sob at the hell of American life this Blackened Friday

TOMORROW is Black Friday.

It used to just infect the dead souls of Americans. Now the malice has spread to Irish zombies, reducing thousands to the intellectual capacity of an I’m A Celebrity contestant.

Losing reason to purchase some cut-price junk you don’t need is the shopping equivalent of eating a kangaroo’s gonads.

We gave them Heaney, Joyce and Yeats. They gave us cheese so inedible it doesn’t need a fridge, four Expendables movies and this horrible date in every calendar. It comes the day after Thanksgiving — the only American tradition we haven’t imported as it would require employers to give us an extra day off.

So-called due to traffic gridlock and hostile shoppers in the US, Black Friday has been around for decades but its dark grip has tightened in the past decade. Seven people have been killed and almost 100 others injured since 2015 in crowd chaos that has poor and tasteless Americans wrestling for cheap waffle irons and TVs.

Ironically Black Friday took hold here during the recession, when retailers were fighting for a slice of a tiny market. They competed heavily on price and promoted the rare occasions when consumers believed there was value to be had.

The main problem with Black Friday is that its chief promise may not even be true any longer.

A study by research firm Decide Inc shows the industry is using technology to turn the date into a marketing bonanza by carefully selecting items for deep discounts while pricing broader merchandise at levels that won’t kill profits.

The explosion in online shopping has given researchers a world of data to examine and it found the lowest prices often occur in March and almost never on Black Friday.

Retail solutions firm Boomerang Commerce examined last year’s Black Friday prices in the US. They concluded that retailers did not significantly discount the vast majority of popular products.

The constant retail push means that almost everything is always on sale and no-one ever pays the full price. Sales take place before and after Black Friday. In 2014, one study found the average discount for such marquee shopping days was only five per cent.

It is not illegal but it is exploitative of an impressionable shopping audience who are seeking rewards for their long year of hard work. We like to think ourselves as sophisticated Europeans, but we’re far closer to the American spirit than we’d like to think — rust belt, KFC and all.

Over €100million is spent by Irish shoppers on Black Friday and a further €30million on Cyber Monday, another made-up event to syringe the pension fund directly from your wallet.

In America, Black Friday stores started opening at 6am in the late 90s. By the noughties it crept back to 4am and then to midnight. Now Black Friday starts on Thursday afternoon.

It’s similar to how an Irish ritual used to see us beginning Christmas on December 8 but it is now a two-month ordeal.

Festive decorations are up so long that by December 25 every building looks like Chevy Chase’s wrecked house at the end of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Irish people shop every day, until late. By contrast, if you visit the continent on a Sunday, most shops are closed and people enjoy their day off in cafes, restaurants and strolling through the park.

Retail staff get a vital weekend day off too. There’s a lovely energy of relaxation and rest for the body and the mind. We lost that Sunday closed day vibe, because we felt it was imposed by the Church. What a shame we Irish follow the American example rather than that of our European neighbours.

Continental shoppers enjoy Christmas markets that sell local produce on grand city squares that generate spirit and atmosphere at the heart of old towns.

In Ireland, we flock to giant sheds on former swamps filled with Supermac’s and global brands. We buy crap marketed by American culture and manufactured by the Chinese. Our town centres are as empty as a crib manger.

This shopping experience is so devoid of identity, there’s no novelty to visiting America where a mall in Minnesota looks no different to one in Mullingar.

When the Government talks about supporting the economy and jobs, they really mean doing whatever big businesses want them to do. Take Fine Gael’s broken election promise to give workers an extra bank holiday.

They recently blocked Sinn Fein’s proposal of an Easter Rising Day, saying it would cost the economy €400million. It’s unclear whose backside this figure was plucked from. They didn’t add up conversely how much a day off might be worth to the hospitality sector as workers spend the extra holiday.

It is a shame that every Government decision like this is based on financial factors rather than the mental health of the nation or the boost to community spirit of providing a measly extra day’s holiday.

Retail is important for employment and the economy but it has a sinister element too. Tired and over-worked citizens are under constant bombardment to spend, every day, all year round. When churches began to close on Sundays and shops opened, we were replacing one unforgiving hand of dominance with another.

Black Friday has bright lights but a dark heart. Bah, humbug upon it, I say.

Donald ducking his own pledges

LITTLE by little, Donald Trump is dismantling all the crazy from his plans for the US Presidency.

Trump now says he won’t jail Hillary Clinton, believes in climate change and condemned white supremacists.

It really is starting to look more like Brexit by the day. The Leave the EU campaign promised that the UK health service — the NHS — would get back £350million a year committed to Europe.

But on the morning of the result, Nigel Farage denied making the claim, which was emblazoned on a campaign bus.

Trump is following a similar path, slowly backing down on issues that gave him a no-nonsense edge in the campaign.

His appalling treatment of Trump University students is laid bare by his settlement of the fraud case after the election.

He spun it as the need to work on his presidency. It is an admission of wrongdoing which he denied for months.

Another denial during the campaign was about ‘self-dealing’ in regard to his Trump Foundation charity. It was claimed he used charity funds to settle lawsuits connected to his other businesses.

This week he finally admitted self-dealing. Some journalists have described it as another term for “embezzlement”.

Expect the opening 100 days of his Presidency to be littered with similar backtracking. Most notably, the promise to ban Muslims and build the Mexico wall are next in line for the U-Trump-turn.

Rowing Government is stuck in the ice age

REPORTS of furious rows at Cabinet between Shane Ross and Enda Kenny show we have a Government that is utterly frozen.

No substantial new laws have passed through parliament in the last six months and no minister has tabled any new big policy initiatives.

Instead of a country being run, we have two egos fighting for oneupmanship on issues that matter little to ordinary people.

Transport Minister Ross is insisting on a free vote on a neutrality bill. He and the Taoiseach are at loggerheads over reform of how judges are appointed.

Neither of these matters are on the minds of working people looking at worsening hospital queues, a housing crisis and fears over Brexit and public pay demands. Ross is the intense focus of searing media criticism over his lack of a plan in Transport and his failure to fill vacancies on State boards. His past as a columnist in the Sunday Independent is mostly to blame for the backlash from rival media groups.

But he is accused of nothing that couldn’t equally be attributed to virtually any minister.

Almost no-one around the cabinet table has set out a decent plan in their departments, including the Taoiseach who is also Defence Minister.

Some ministers like Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney continually make public comments on matters that are not relevant to their portfolios.

The Government has entered the Ice Age. Fianna Fail hint at their invisible grip on power only when it suits them and the Independent Alliance seem happy to run down the clock until their ministerial pensions kick in after two years’ service.

That leaves the opposition looking like they have no salt to start a thaw.

Dobbo’s Dollop – The world according to me

FORMER newsreader Anne Doyle is the latest celebrity to turn down RTE’s Dancing with the Stars series.

It’s just as well, the sometimes frosty anchor wears so much Newbridge Silverware jewellry, watching her doing the fandango would sound like a truckload of trumpets crashing into a train.

The show will be presented by Amanda Byram. She’s the human equivalent of beige paint — you know you wanted something brighter but this will do the job until a better option comes along.

So far all we know is who is not appearing on next year’s show.

This includes the unknown cast of MasterChef and Margo O’Donnell. Never mind Daniel O’Donnell — they can’t even land his SISTER!

Who will be asked next? A first cousin of Foster or Allen? This means the very bottom of the celebrity barrel has been removed and producers are digging in the cold dark soil desperately seeking ‘stars’.

It is looking increasingly like Dancing with the Stars will be a contest between used-up Fair City actors and weather presenters.

Rumour has it they have even put in a request for the corpses of Hal Roach and Dinny from Glenroe to do the Dancing on Ice edition of the show.

It is going to be a long January watching the lifeless Byram struggling to cope with Angela Scanlon — the redhead nuisance who appears to be eternally giddy on Fanta and Centrum 55.