Golfing age tells you little about playing ability: Take on your old man at your peril

Golf is one of the few sporting activities where raw ability clearly diminishes with age. Running, football, swimming, gymnastics, you name it, all give the younger participants clear advantages over those who are older. While some skills in golf supposedly taper with age, e.g. putting, one’s ability to hit a ball far and accurately don’t slip so drastically. We see proof of that each year when great older professionals like Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player tee up with the current crop of top professionals. Even if ability tapered rapidly, golf handicaps mean that players of different abilities can always match themselves. But, it’s sweeter to play without handicapping and see how the ability and age mix filter out.

Professional golf acknowledges this slow tapering by having its Champions Tour, which is ‘a golf tour run by the PGA Tour, hosts a series of events annually in the United States and the UK, for golfers 50 years of age and older. While a senior PGA Championships had been going on since the late 1930s, the new tour got underway, formally, in 1980. Most of the tournaments are played over three rounds (54 holes), which is one round less than regular professional stroke play tournaments on the PGA Tour. Because of this and having smaller fields, there are generally no ‘cuts’ between any of the rounds. However, the five senior majors have a full 72 holes (four rounds). Other allowances have been made for age, e.g., in 2006, the Champions Tour Division Board of the PGA Tour organization voted to allow players the option to use golf carts during most events on the tour. The five major championships and certain other events, including pro-ams, are excluded.

Imagine, if the EPL, or NFL, or Major League Baseball or track and field had formal schedules for older players. Does it bear thinking about Shaq trying to dunk as a 50 year old, and landing heavily on MJ? Tennis has tried to keep retired player swinging hard with its PowerShares series (of 12-city one night tournaments over a two month period in the spring) for ‘legends’. But, that means old stagers like John McEnroe trying to cope with new retirees like James Blake and Andy Roddick. It’s not as one-sided as one might imagine, but still.

The joy of this is that seemingly dorky things like parent-child tournaments can take on good competitive interest, as when the Haas family (Dad, Jay, now in his 60s, and still very good, and son, current excellent pro, Bill, in his early 30s) team up.

As in many sports, young players get their start through playing with a parent. But, in golf, that contest may stay fresh for decades. Turning points in junior careers can come at many times, such as when the kid wins a hole, or a 9-hole match, or a full round, or breaks 100, 90, 80, 70, and takes the parent ‘to the cleaners’ in the process.

As I write, we see this inter-generational interplay at a high level. Jamaica’s team has two pairs of father-son representatives, from the Knibbs (over 50s) and Newnham (not yet there) fathers playing in different categories from their sons, who tee it up with the region’s premier amateur golfers.

William Knibbs may not be able to stay in front of his dad for a whole round
William Knibbs may not be able to show his dad his back for a whole round
Radcliffe Knibbs, ready and able to take on his son, any day, anywhere :-)
Radcliffe Knibbs, ready and able to take on his son, any day, anywhere 🙂

In our little world of the Caribbean, it will be interesting to see who has the family bragging rights at the end of play in the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships. Jamaica may win overall. But, where will the pairs of fathers and sons finish in their individual categories, and whose scores will be the better? Whose shots will be the highlights? Who may end up as an winner in his own right? Who will do better or worse than their father at the same age?

However that works out, one can only imagine the pride and joy in the households as the stories get told and retold. “Well done, son!” may seem like not much, even with a “I owe it to you, Dad,” to follow.

Not retiring, but ‘refired’: over-60s golfers excelling 

The Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships has two of five trophies competed for by players aged 50 and over. Seniors are over 50 and Super Seniors are over 60. On the latter team for Jamaica is the current president of the Jamaica Golf Association, Peter Chin, and with him plays Easton Williams  (aka ‘Tall Man’; he’s 6 feet 5 inches). Both are 61. Peter is representing for the first time and Easton is in his second year. Peter won the national trials with Easton second; positions were reversed in the national championship.image

I’ve never played with Peter but Tall Man and I play together often and pair up in many competitions. He’s a very steady and good player. Peter often has a smile and is witty. They’ve been practising at least once a week since selection was made over a month ago. I know the practice has been going well if I judge the steady scoring I have to deal with.

In last year’s tournament Tall Man and his partner came fourth. I think this year’s pairing looks good to win. Let’s see.

Day one began yesterday and I watched some of the play.  

   
Both began with great drives, but not before we’d seen older men with less sturdy frames hit the ball miles. The competition looked good and the experience was much deeper than on the Jamaica team. I watched a few holes before manning my volunteer post in the scoring tent. The start was patchy. I caught up with the pair as the turned to the back nine. A grinning Peter out up two fingers, meaning 2 over par. I next saw them on the back nine as they were midway through the last hole. “They’re one under!” team captain, Bobby Chin, told me. I ran to the green to see the end of the hole. Peter putted from a long distance and left a tap-in for par, which he made. Tall Man had a long birdie put that stopped half a ball short, but not because Peter didn’t will it up the hill yelling “Roll! Roll!”  

 Both pars made and a round of one under for a fourth place, trailing by one shot. They were pleased and had played a great back nine. We had a quick chat before they headed off to rest. They’d teed off just past 10 and ended near 3:30. That’s a long time by my standards but the competition slows things down.

A new term is getting used for seniors who retire, it’s ‘refirement’. Golf handicaps mean that age and ability and gender get equalized and anyone can play and know their relative positions despite scores that are quite different. But good players are clear to see. Jamaica is well set with this pair and the ‘youngsters’ also on the team. 

It’s early days but let’s hope my view holds true. First place looks very reachable.  

Age, an important number in golf 

It’s a common misperception that golf is a game for old people: it’s really a young person’s game.  The reality is that many people take up golf as a recreation when they are older and have ‘more time on their hands’. But, it’s often said that the best golf swing is that of a child. Nevertheless, data for 2012 show about 60 percent of golfers are over 50, and the average age of golfers in 46. Golf tends to be expensive, which may explain why more golfers are older, being people with steadier, higher incomes, averaging US 95,000 a year per household. Some UK data show the average age of golfers playing at least once a week had risen from 48 to 63, between 2009 and 2014.  That coincides with falling participation rates, especially of younger players. Again, cost comes much into play. So, golf has problems attracting younger players, and has become more a game played by older people. 

This week, Jamaica hosts the 59th edition of the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships, being played on July 28 through 31. It’s going to be at two excellent courses, Half Moon and Cinnamon Hill. Many of the participants from nine countries fit the age profile well, but a good crop of players are well under 30. Oddly, the categories favour the young, with the men’s ‘senior’ (over 50) and ‘super senior’ (over 60) only allowing two participants per country. 

While I know that the game needs to grow its younger players, I’m going to take the chance this week to look at an area where older people thrive, despite the odds being against them.

I’m not sure, ahead of the play, how the posts will appear, so prepare for some short and pithy pieces. 

Supporting alternative lifestyles for Jamaicans? 

We see them everywhere, often on television, taking up much of the screen space. Wherever you turn, they are in your face. The country has too many of them. They cluster together and make you wonder what’ll become of the country. Yesterday, I read that a batch will be shipping out of the island. Good for them!

We have too many world-class athletes to represent our country. Our world-class superiority in sprinting has been shown clearly over the past decade, though it was evident for decades long before. We now seem to have a consistent way of turning out world beaters and contenders. But, the top of the mountain can’t hold them all.

The U.S. has had a similar problem, for years, but many of its track greats don’t go on to make a future just running on a track. They ply their trade as speedsters running fast to catch balls, either egg-shaped ones or those white ones with red stitches. Even some Olympic and World Champions were tempted by that route. Think of Renaldo Nehemiah, hurdler, turned NFL player, then hurdler, again. But, often, they never compete seriously on the track. That makes sense, because pro athletes don’t make anything like the money available in sports like baseball of American football.

For Jamaicans, that sports switch is not a smart option, domestically, though we could try it overseas, if we had the entry requirements. But, there’s an alternative that doesn’t need a shift from the core skill: change country. Sure, we understand our sportsmen and women going to play for bigger clubs at higher levels, abroad. But, switching nationality? Our most famed athlete to follow this route is Merlene Ottey, who took her stunning sprinting talents to Slovenia, when it seemed clear Jamaica wasn’t going to pick her anymore but she felt she had more to give (which she did). She still runs internationally, over the age of 50. Recently, a Jamaican netballer got citizenship that would allow her to play for Australia. So, I was less surprised to read that three current sprint stars are headed off to represent another country, Bahrain.

Leaving on a jet plane

It may not matter that Shericka Williams may have to change her name to something more Arabic sounding, like Shakira, though Shericka may work. Andrew Fisher may have to get used to Alhamdi Al-Faisal; Kemarley Brown may become Khalil Brown. At first blush, people may not like the idea that our stars have flown the coop, but look at the options they had. World Champs and Olympic Champs are around the corner. These deals may seal it for a secure future for a good few years. Bahrain and Qatar have been notable for snatching up East African middle distance runners who couldn’t secure places, say, in the Kenyan or Ethiopian teams. Bahrain’s Olympic team in 2012 was made up mainly of naturalised athletes.

It all makes perfect sense for runners and throwers, especially if you’re essentially self-employed, but also if you’ve other skills that can’t find markets. Also, our local sponsors may do some sweet ‘brand ambassador’ deals for those right at the top, but not lower down. So, again, the haves have it. I don’t think that being up on a Bahrani billboard is so shabby. Add to that some lavish lifestyle shifts that may come with the switch. If the runners end up learning Arabic well, then, down the road, they’ll keep running to the bank in other ways. The other gain may be to open doors for others. Like those who went to a particular US college and did well, the pipeline for others to follow was opened wider. When the pipe comes with oil dollars, that sounds more interesting.

In athletics, moving around for money is less the norm than in other pro sports, but that too may change. We don’t read of high-priced transfer deals between clubs. That’s mainly because most events are based on the individual, and team is really most notable in international competition.

So far, too, track clubs at the top level haven’t branded themselves enough to see the need to bid for athletes. But, that may change, too. ‘Real Madrid Racers’, if they were formed, could well make a great bolt hole for some runners.  Keep watching this space.

Wha gwan Jamaica? Chitter-chatter versus Chachingching about Reggae Sumfest

Say what you like about economics and economists–and I’m sure you will–it and they have a way of approaching problems. Much of the analysis done in economics is based on direct data, mainly numbers. Such as the number of eggs laid by a coop full of chickens. We may tell you the total output (eggs laid), the average output (eggs laid per hen), the average cost (eggs per hen per dollar spent), and so on. So, we can tell you how business is going on. But, economists have ways of estimating things indirectly and getting an idea to how things are doing. So, our egg counter gets sick and the farmer hasn’t time to count himself. So, he decides to look at how much feed he’s buying, because he knows how much chickens eat on average, so more feed equals more eggs. Not perfect, but maybe good enough, depending on purpose. 

It’s not so simple in other fields and in other places. 

I had an exchange yesterday about whether interest in an upcoming event was less than in other years. I’ve no idea. But, I happen to know people who are heading to the event and as enthusiastic as they ever are. That’s direct evidence that may not be clear to all. The promoters know, too, how advance sales are going. But, Jamaica’s odd: people often leave buying tickets to the last minute, even when good discounts are available for early buyers. Those I know who arrange events often pull their hair out gauging demand for events because of this tendency. Planning in Jamaica can be a nightmare.

 Now, mainline media and social media commentary give us other indications of interest, but these are tainted. Motivation to comment may be driven by many things. Promoters can buy press or TV comments. Social media may get excited about acts scheduled, venue, little back stories (eg will Macka Diamond and Lady Saw kiss and make up?), and a host of things that can randomly affect people’s reactions.

Underlying conditions matter, too, especially how people’s finances stand. Right now, trying to gauge the economy is risky business. Confidence indicators may be at higher levels. Credit card purchases may be showing record levels. A recent Don Anderson poll shows mixed messages about concerns and confidence. The country records its first current account surplus in over a decade. But,  growth numbers remain anaemic and some are calling for a ‘growth czar’, whatever that is. 

Preferences also change and economists have a tough time when old relationships don’t hold anymore. Other things come to compete for attention. New participants have different interests to those whose interest is waning. In the case of northwest coast events, people may be reacting to the sharp upsurge of violence. Hard to know.

But on the specifics, the bottom line will be how the event goes. That may be better than expected or worse. Are people going to be affected by reports they read or hear? Or is interest grounded in other things? Clashes with birthdays? I know one friend who cancelled his trip for that reason.

Going to Sumfest isn’t on my agenda, but I will be in the vicinity. I’ll listen to the chatter and also see whose money is going into the tills. Until then, I’ll watch from afar. Whose fans talk more? Jennifer Hudson’s? Lady Saw’s? Konshens? Whose pockets are deeper? Either way, talk is cheap but money buys land.

    Checking your settings: social media comes to life

    One thing I’ve always feared about social media is anonymity: whatever reasons I hear that claim the need to be faceless, leave me unconvinced. But, check the pros and cons for yourself. Trolls, or snipers in the social media space, thrive on being faceless and nameless, and go silent once exposed, even by the hint that they may be known.  

     My personal view is that ‘conversations’ go better when you know with whom you interact; that need not mean you have to get touchy-feely with everyone who mixes words with you. But, knowing that, at least, your interaction is with a real person can be important. When you hide your identity it reflects a fear that your true voice cannot be heard. Sure, fear of retribution may be real, but speaking from behind the comfort of disguise dilutes the strength of arguments. The real you should present and defend. 

    That said, I try to establish some contact with people with whom I have discussions. Some, I already know, directly. Others, I know through other contacts. Others, I hope to know.

    For that reason, it was nice to meet one of our politicians whose opinions are always interesting and who battles for acceptance of ideas and policies that deal with some of our glaring issues. I took the opportunity to ask her if she liked being a politicians, by which I meant that it offered to do things that she hoped to do. She did, but had a regret that she’d not found her voice till she was in opposition. We spent a short while talking and joking, with more than 140 characters at a time. 

    You can often make good points with few letters and numbers but brevity can easily dampen a point.

    For that reason, it was good to meet one of Jamaica’s principal advocates and talk about a range of issues, including why we’d not descended into violent social upheaval, why the British hadn’t erased all traces of Spanish influence, and whether people would understand that garbage disposal and recycling is more than throeing things into gullies. On that latter point, it was helpful to hear about research into people’s perceptions and beliefs about what they needed to do, personally, to reduce the scourge of litter in Jamaica:

    • How far are people prepared to walk with trash? Only a few feet, it seems, on foot. In a taxi? Not at all. 
    • Why dump into gullies? Isn’t that why they’re there? 
    • Government should clean public spaces, and pushing household waste there makes sense.
    • Nature conquers all, and when rain clears the gullies, they’re clean. Job done! 

    Knowing your counterparts doesn’t mean you descend into mutual backslapping. But, it means you can disagree and not fear that you’ll descend into tussles that get resolved by being ‘ unliked’ or ‘blocked’. That relative safety is not trivial. 

    Are the inmates running the asylum? Being creative about water conservancy 

    People of my generation,especially those who grew up in Europe, had parents who lived through the Second World War. One feature of that period was the persistent shortages of many basics, either because production was diverted to ‘the war effort’, or were unavailable because of trade blockades. It was this situation that led many to learn to grow their own food, including on allotments in urban areas.  

     People were hardened by these experiences, and their children were constantly reminded with phrases like “During the war, your mother and I had to make one slice of bread last the whole week!” Life was tough and those who lived it loved to remind everyone of it. 

    But, we are not in a war against another country, but fighting the struggle that is the rampant failure of public policy. One of its stellar examples in Jamaica is our annual water ‘crisis’. 

    Forget about our being the land of wood and water. Drive around many areas and you’ll notice that river beds are bone dry. Those tales parents told of days bathing in the river and catching janga seem like fairy tales, when all you see are bare stones. Added to what nature has failed to provide, we have the inability of man to anticipate the problems that nature often poses to which his folly has added. Building new homes in areas without adequate water provisions is a good example. 

    Drought is common and often recurs, so plan for it. If your dictionary, however, does not have the P section, then you are up the proverbial creek without a -addle. (Stay with me.)

    Our Minister of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change, having been one of those presiding over absent public action to thwart the near-inevitable, has now sought to abrogate responsibility for water woes over to the people. It sounds democratic? Dream on! He’s suggested that, as the National Water Commission has imposed restrictions on water availability in the Corporate Area, citizens need to “be creative” about water conservation.  

     What does that mean? The minister got the ball rolling by suggesting putting a container under a dripping AC unit. What? You don’t have AC? Well, child, mi sorry fi you! You could hunt around nearby areas to see if any leaky units are not already shedding drips into other people’s pails. Hopefully, the trek won’t be too far, and may remind you of the good old days when grandma used to send you to the (now dry) river to fetch water before school. I’m not sure how much water the average leaky unit sheds, but it could give a cup of soursop leaf tea. Calm those nerves.

    A few other ideas came to mind, and I do my civic duty of sharing them. 

    • Save water to The Cloud. 😏 That seems like the modern way with everything. I’m sure the minister who seemed to have no time for Jamaica’s social media busy bodies, “the articulate minority”, would trash this idea. 
    • Bathe with a friend: this is better if you each live in different areas for water lock-off, as you won’t need to go completely filthy every other day. Equity suggests that, if it’s sharing at your home, you get first dibs of the dribble. Good friends don’t let each other stay stinky. Guys, it’s a matter of discretion if you go to your neighbour’s house, and ask if she’d mind sharing with you, and if you and your matey are cool with that, keep singing 😇
    • Squeeze sweat from your clothes, as you suffer the prolonged heat wave. It may not give drinking water, but could offer a lifeline to house plants. 
    • Mop dew from lawns as the cooler nights roll in. Alternatively, roll in it, like puppies do, and wipe off, instead of sharing showers. 
    • Grab a few bucketfuls from your neighbour’s pool. That’s theft, but these are hard times, man. 
    • Drain water from every cistern except one, if you have multiple toilets. They hold gallons of water and we use too much to flush. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” my daughter chimed, last week. If you have to line up at home, take the time to speak to your family, instead of texting. Put up a schedule for use. Be creative!
    • Collect your tears from crying over the bills for nob-existent water supplies from NWC. I know some jumped for joy when they read the list of alternate day supplies and saw their area. At last, they were promised water, after actually not having any. Awkward! 

    Some sensible ideas do exist.

    If you live near a spring, digging to see if it runs under your yard may not be so crazy. It’s the school holidays, so keep the kids busy by getting them shovels and pick axes. No food till they hit water.  

    I remember making water as a Boy Scout on a ‘outward bound’ course. That was before bottled water became fashionable and cost a fortune. 

    I remember, during last year’s crisis, friends discussing diverting the waste water from washing machines to water their gardens. It wasn’t smile, not least because of incompetent workers, but it was forward-thinking. They now have gardens with more green than brown. 

    Putting a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up is an idea I see is actually listed in Texas, USA. 

    Whatever tickles your fancy, do something. Every drop saved helps. No drip is too little. 

      Branded Jamaica

      Many times a day I’m struck by a phenomenon that’s not unique but seems to have reached new heights in Jamaica–corporate branding. We’re all familiar with how professional sports have used athletes and their equipment as billboards. It’s a great form of advertising and in an age where visual cues are so important, it’s interesting that other countries don’t do what we do.

      I was especially struck today by a picture of two top executives wearing business suits with the company logo embroidered on them–not just the snazzy polo shirts, or the neat cotton shirts with the brand on the pocket or lapel or collar.  

      Branding haute couture with JPS top executives
      Grace Kennedy and their top executive, Don Wehby, often hit the eye with their branded clothes.  

      Grace Kennedy CEO, Don Wehby, in standard wear amongst orhers also branded
      I gladly admit to knowing nothing about why this is so strong in Jamaica. It goes even to public service agencies, like government ministries. So, it’s deep in our economic culture.

      I’m relying on some marketing friends in Jamaica to help me better understand this trend. Over to you!

        

      Living close to the edge

      Jamaica sits on the brink. You can add ‘of what’ almost without limit. That is because of what we refuse to do, rather than what we do. The economic brink has been our resting place for decades, but we’re stepping back from it, slowly.

      Here, just past the midpoint of the year, we look into the national mirror and see in other areas of our life, staring back at us, that monster child that is us.

      Let’s start with the water ‘crisis’. For decades, we’ve suffered from bad or no decisions to fix glaring problems. Leaks that waste half the supply. Delinquent customers who cripple financial survival of the company. Theft of water, sanctioned by officials and politicians and allowed to become part of the social fabric. Inadequate storage and distribution capacity and no planning for regular droughts.image
      So, again, we suffer the plaintive cries of communities who’ve had little or no piped water mingled with those who’ve had regular water but now suffer restricted flows.

      We’ve tolerated decades of ridiculous administration of public resources of which this is one case. In the process, public education has never been raised so that people understand how and why they should conserve or harvest rainwater.

      I know some in Jamaica who’ve had rainwater stored for years, but they’re rare. In the US, some municipalities have incentives to support water harvesting. We could and should have done that, as we ought with solar or other alternative energy. But, we’ve relied on nature and our faith to save us from bad human decisions.

      Take now the crime ‘epidemic’. For most of the last 50 years this country has suffered from a crippling rate of murders and violent crime.image

      What has become a national scourge has a deep root in politics. That facilitation let loose a beast that grew out of control and threatened to eat its maker. Jamaica has its own form of Jurassic Park or World.

      Police struggle to tame this beast with little real success. Whether we’re off the recent peak around 1600 killings a year or up or down from the previous year is less important than the culture we live in regarding killing. We’re not the USA with many feeling a right to bear arms. But we have many who see owning and using arms as their mealticket. In a country whose economy has failed serially to provide enough work for its citizens, crime has paid many handsomely or so we’re led to believe.

      Add to that a national preference for keeping things hidden from each other and you have a culture not well suited to fighting crime. Because of that, we find that it has to be done as an economic activity–people are not invested in civic goidwill but will seem civic if paid to be so. Desperation of a broader economic kind makes that equation even more toxic because many with criminal connections or knowledge can find another source of income. But only if they feel they will remain safe, because gangs and their gunmen are ruthless.

      But violent crime is one aspect. We see wrongdoing as normal in so much of life. We see getting away with it as normal. We see this large with the low levels of crime detection and conviction. Like GDP growth, it’s so low it undermines much else. 

      Taking things and money from others that does not belong to you is also a national sport: steal mangoes or phones or water or electricity. Get leniency when brought to court. Some magistrates are tough on mango stealers and easy of phone stealers, rapists, and human traffickers. Confuse the people! Ever see a centipede walk out of step? If you can’t figure out consistent punishment then criminals will impose consistent pressure of misdeeds. 

      That brings me to the new police commissioner. He’s well decorated academically in crime issues. But it’s not clear that he understands how his force can solve our crime problems. Criminals have become more sophisticated and arguably have been better funded than the police. The proceeds of organized crime have to be protected, so beating the police at all costs is a must. You can see that in the May 2010 confrontation in Tivoli Gardens. Who would take on the national security forces if they thought they’d win?

      I’ve not seen anything that convinces me that officials have any good handle on crime. 

      I’m one of those who thinks they have been content with what some have called ‘whack-a-mole’, moving crime out of some areas only to see it pop up elsewhere. It’s displacement of activity, not elimination. 

      How crime fighting has been in Jamaica?
       The police aren’t equipped to fight the crime levels now in Jamaica. Political decisions ensure that. When one goes back to the origin of much of the crime it’s hard not to be cynical. Political bodies gain more from crime than they lose. That’s what the crude cost-benefit analysis suggests. You don’t need to see or know all the underground links, the decisions support that argument. Spending more on ministers’ SUVs when police forces lack working vehicles leaves one conclusion. 
      Sticks and stones break bones and words don’t hurt? More plans to be unveiled. New initiatives to be shared? Spit won’t fill the cracks in the leaking water pipes. Hot air won’t make a gunman sweat. If that’s all on offer, let’s rock back and watch Gayle hit sixes. If today is your day for water, bathe when you get home. If not, hope for water tomorrow. If you parked your car and no one tried to extort money, then you’ve won.

      Lights! Action!

      Maybe, the best thing to do is turn the country into a single live reality show. I mean, Jamaica, people don’t make up this stuff.

      I had a week in the land of Barack, and it was enjoyable on so many levels.  

      Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC
       First, it rained almost every day, in July, just after a short heat wave. But, I took those mid-70s and low-80s temperatures happily in exchange for Jamaica at high-90s and low-100s. I played golf with a friend early in the week and was shocked as my clubs kept getting caught in lush, wet grass and mud flew up. Where’s the rock-hard ground and dust getting into my lungs. I loved it so much that I walked a municipal golf course in the pouring rain and sloshed and slipped through the woodland with my older daughter. 

      Rock Creek Park
       Then, the brief visit to the land where a dollar is worth a dollar,
      was over and within hours I was back into the land of Hades. I looked from the plane at the new highway being built and was impressed that soon north and south can be better connected. Construction like this is not simple or seamless or universally good. The land is now scarred and from the sky it is clear how much land has been cleared.  

      I got to see it, too, at ground level as new work began on the stretch near Caymanas Pony Club, going back to the new start at Ferry. Blasting has been taking its toll and parts of Caymanas Golf Club has large potholes where rocks have fallen from the sky. 

      New road cutting near Caymanas
       Water woes are on the tips of tongues and the National Water Commission kept it there by announcing alternate supplies in the Corporate Area. Just one little glitch: a week has 7 days and the rotation leaves Mondays out. Will we get no water, or all get water? Easy to clarify, but in somewhat typical fashion left unclear. How fitting then that we had a sudden storm last night. Wet ground!

      But, nature acts with more clarity of purpose than does the Jamaican public sector. The water woes is an annual show. Yet, water harvesting is still being talked about, as if it’s an engineering problem as hard as digging through rocks to build the highway. Last week, I pondered what would happen if we put all our public services out to contract with CHEC, who are building the highway. I didn’t see much tolerance for the inactivity we’ve suffered.

      The other constant talking point has been crime, especially murders. I’ve written before about how underwhelmed I am by the poor analysis of this by the media. But, I also think the police have barely a clue what to do or are blocked from doing what’s needed. The past links between gangs and politicians were strong and I’m not convinced that they’ve just withered away. That’s one of those thoughts that helps make sense of why politicians drag their feet over corruption legislation and asset disclosure. Like with FIFA, unless you follow the money, you just get mesmerized watching the ball.

      But, what possessed the relatively new police commissioner to bite the media bait and grade his 10 month performance? What possessed him to take his two ounces of a herbal substance and claim that he’s been perfect, 10 out of 10? He noted that the full effects of his (wonderful) changes have yet to be seen. In that case, how about a bit of humility and some temerity. Look, even swaggering Bolt or Shelly-Ann, or those endlessly bumptious American athletes like Gatlin, or magicians like Messi or Federer, don’t go so far after they have witnessed a sharp worsening in performance. The data through June show murders are up nearly 20 percent, or 98 more, over the same period last year. I’m no maths whiz, but unless Commish Williams is looking at the graph upside down, this must go down as one of the craziest statements by a public official. 

      He iced his comments with a series of ‘new’ anti-gun initiatives that sound like old or existing ones. No one ever suffered from a good dose of duplication in Jamaican political life. Double your trouble, double your fun! Oh, he was good enough to point out that gun trafficking is not a crime in Jamaica. “Horace, make that a double rum!” 😳

      By his logic, we can look forward to total anhiliation of the population and thank our lucky stars that he oversaw this quick stairway to Heaven. But, it’s the logic of a public sector that translates persistent failures in their core mandates as rousing successes. You doubt me? Just look back. 

      NHT spend funds on entertainment assets that have nothing to do with housing and basically bail out a failing venture and we get waffle from their Board chairman and directors about how we have to look at how it’ll boost national development. Fast forward, and the new chairman of NHT, whose head has a brain, tells us that he would not have bought Outameni and now wants to sell or lease it

      Look at the soap opera that was the NSWMA and its management of the Riverton Dump. Look at their abject failure to address basic garbage collection. The former executive director claimed her hands were bound by lack of funding. Money can’t buy happiness and it isn’t needed to fix disorganization. When my yard has more rubbish in it after the garbage is collected than before, I know the basic understanding isn’t there.

      Look at the potential blockbuster medical drama that has been our dealing with potential outbreaks of viral diseases in 2014. The health minister thinks he’s done spiffing key well. After all, he used the lead time to prepare and educate the country about chikungunya, didn’t he? “Prepare? Can I call a friend? Can you use it in a sentence? Are there alternative pronunciations?” That the minister seemed to have no handle on how bad things were in his own constituency spoke volumes. Fast forward, and now another viral epidemic may be headed our way. What’s changed? The date? The minister said dont judge him by chikungunya. My the Williams logic, he’s headed for a stunning 11/10. 😱

      Jamaica, the land of would and should. 

      The transport ministry wants to sue motorists for damaging road furniture. I’ve just replaced my tyres for the fourth time in under two years, either because they burst after hitting potholes, or were ripped due to debris on the roads. As they say in England, “You’re pulling my plonker!” 

      There was a principle called no taxation without representation, for which the American colonists went to war with Britain to gain their independence. After Greece’s referendum last Sunday about bailout options, I wonder if a Jamaican government would dare put its record on any policy to a true referendum–rigged elections with garrison seats don’t get there.