That’s the sound of the Cheney gang-May 12, 2021

Followers of US politics should be well aware that a massive fight is going on in the Republican Party in Congress. Simply put, its congressional caucus chair, 3rd in the hierarchy, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyoming) has stood staunchly on the side that is fighting against the ‘big lie’ perpetrated by former president Trump, while significant parts of the leadership, namely, House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy (California), have shifted their positions from criticising Trump to vagueness and now to clear support for his ‘position’. The likely outcome of that is that Cheney will find herself voted out of her position this week. But, she’s not going down without a fight and without being on the right side of history. Her speech on the House floor last night made that absolutely clear-“We must speak the truth.”

A win for the Citizens-May 11, 2021

This week sees a flurry of English Premier League football activity ahead of the FA Cup final, in part due to fans demonstrating at Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford last week and forcing the postponement of the key match with Liverpool. So, Man U have to play 3 matches in 5 days! They won on Sunday, but were pinned back well by Leicester today, which helped the Foxes sit more comfortably in 3rd spot and likely set for UEFA Champions League (UCL) and kept Man U in 2nd. They will play Liverpool on Thursday.

But, the outcome of the result last night meant that Manchester City can claim the title, which they faltered on last Saturday in a bizarre home loss to Chelsea, who scored their winner in the dying moments, and after City had squandered a penalty kick with the now-infamous Aguero missed panenka.

So, City win their 5th title since 2011/12. Kudos! It’s a great win in a bizarre COVID-ravaged, fan-free season, where form has been illusive for many great teams. Yet, City trailed badly in the early weeks then went on a 15 match win tear to seal the title lead by March. They’ve also been supreme in all contests. They have the Carabao Cup sealed, and have the UCL final to come…versus Chelsea (who have the FA Cup final this weekend, versus Leicester, having beaten City in the semifinal).

Just when English football citizens want club owners to show more respect and give them more attention, ‘The Citizens’ win the league!

So, Kudos! They set a few records along the way. Pep Guardiolo has no peers as a manager.

Jamaica’s education crisis-May 10, 2021

Reverend Ronald Thwaites is a former education minister and his take on where the parlous state of Jamaican education is strikes many of the right chords in a badly tuned song. Education has failed Jamaica for most of its independence and that failure is shown throughout all aspects of a society that is highly under-education, highly unproductive, poorly paid but largely paid near its real ‘worth’.

The year and more of sporadic education for most children isn’t going to be recovered quickly and looks likely to be a permanent loss.

Jamaica’s education system has many things wrong with it, from its vision, through its methods, through the nature of inputs (children from too many homes where parents cannot help prepare and support them in education, including ensuring they are well-fed and well-rested; teachers too focused on matters other than best teaching practices).

I have no magic wand, and I am not a good example of how children can succeed in a highly dysfunctional system. But, all the talk about the importance of our human capital is hot air when one sees what passes for school life for many Jamaican children. The output is often not ‘fit for purpose’ at more than some basic levels–only 40% graduate high school with any qualification. You can’t make a progressive society and economy with such bad material.

No panic over a panenka-May 9, 2021

Many people have short memories, so when Sergio Kun Aguero tried and failed miserably to score a penalty with a ‘panenka’ style kick, on Saturday, against Chelsea, it was just another in a long line of such failed attempts:

Like anything other than the norm, when it’s tried and failed the world is up in arms second guessing. If he’d scored with the same kick, he’d be a genius.

Credit to Aguero, though, for using social media to issue an apology, which I don’t think is needed, but maybe makes him feel good about his last season at Manchester City and wanting to leave the fans with the best impression of him:

Aguero’s is not the worst panenka miss by a long shot; it’s just the most recent. It looks bad, in hindsight, as a 2-0 lead would likely have meant game over for Man. City, instead of their losing 2-1, with a lucky winner in the dying seconds, and delaying City’s being crowned league champions:

Much earlier in the season, Lookman (Fulham) had set the low mark for futility and also game significance with his “little dink” in the 90+7″ minute that could have earned Fulham a precious point. As it was, he’s rebounded and put in some stellar performances since.

Central bank digital currencies-May 8, 2021

I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. But, as a former central banker, I ought to take note of plans by central banks to introduce digital currencies, not least because they would have the distinct advantage over cryptocurrencies of being regarded as legal tender. So, I better start reading up on them as some of my favourite central banks are amongst the over 85% of such institutions that start to dip their toes into the water.

Soldiering on-May 7, 2021

I don’t live in an area of Jamaica that is under either a state of emergency (SOE) or in a zone of special operations (ZOSO), where the presence of soldiers is a commonplace, sadly. I see vehicles carrying soldiers, often, on the highways, and occasionally, I see them alongside police patrols as I drive around the country. But, oddly, I see them most often on the golf course. What? The Jamaica Defence Force often use the areas around Caymanas Golf and Country Club for training exercises. It happens to now abut some areas that are in SOE.

However, as I went out for my regular walk and practice around dawn, earlier this week, I saw a ‘jeep’ with about four soldiers come into the car park. The vehicle went past the caddy area then came back with only two sitting in the front. The vehicle then drove off.

As I went to start my walk, I saw two young soldiers standing looking at their mobile phones, rifles by their sides, absorbed with messages.

Absorbed by the contents of the bag

I said good morning and asked if they’d been left there; they had. I joked that they had been fooled by the old trick that someone would come back for them, but would eventually have to run about 15 km back to base. The light went off in their heads. I giggled and went on my walk.

They seemed to take it for granted that I was not threat, but, is that really the smart attitude? What do I know about military training and always being at the ready?

Flu has flown the coop-May 6, 2021

The results are clear: the fight against COVID-19 has been won in 2020-21…against flu strains.

New COVID restrictions in Jamaica through June 2-May 5, 2021

PM Andrew Holness announced new restrictions for the period throuhg June 2, covering the Memorial Day holiday in late May:

While most restrictions are unchanged, schools will go back to in-person for certain examinees from May 10.

Also, the travel ban from the UK has been lifted, while a ban has been placed on travel from Trinidad & Tobago.

Many are against renewed visitors from the UK not least because of the UK variant, and despite the UK making good progress with vaccinations, but are mindful that a previous surge had possible origins in the resumption of travel from the UK.

Football Takes Capitalism Out of Bounds-Project Syndicate-May 4, 2021

This is a reposting of a blog by Yanis Veroufakis, a well-known Greek economist and former finance minister.

Europe has discovered its moral Rubicon, the frontier beyond which commodification becomes intolerable. The line in the sand that Europeans refuse to cross, come what may, has just been drawn.

We bowed to bankers who almost blew up capitalism, bailing them out at the expense of our weakest citizens. We turned a blind eye to wholesale corporate tax evasion and fire sales of public assets. We accepted as natural the impoverishment of public health and education systems, the despair of workers on zero-hour contracts, soup kitchens, home evictions, and mind-numbing levels of inequality. We stood by as our democracies were hijacked and Big Tech stripped us of our privacy. All of this we could stomach.

But a plan that would end football as we know it? Never.

Last week, Europeans showed the red card to the moguls – and their financiers – who tried to steal the beautiful game. A potent coalition of conservatives, leftists, and nationalists, uniting Europe’s north and south, rose up in opposition to a secret deal by the owners of many of the continent’s richest football clubs to form a so-called Super League. To the owners – including a Russian oligarch, an Arab royal, a Chinese retail magnate, and three American sports potentates – the move made obvious financial sense. But from the perspective of the European public, it was the last straw.

Last season, 32 clubs qualified to play in Europe’s Champions League, sharing €2 billion ($2.4 billion) in revenues from television rights. But half of the clubs, teams like Real Madrid and Liverpool, attracted the bulk of the European television audiences. Their owners could see that the pie would increase substantially by scheduling more derbies between the likes of Liverpool and Real Madrid, rather than matches featuring lowly sides from Greece, Switzerland, and Slovakia.

And so it was that the Super League proposal was hatched. Instead of sharing €2 billion between 32 clubs, the top 15 clubs calculated they could divide €4 billion among themselves. Moreover, by creating a closed shop, with the same clubs every year, regardless of how well they perform in their national championships, the Super League would remove the colossal financial risk that all clubs face today: failing to qualify for next year’s Champions League.

From a financier’s perspective, kicking out the laggards and forming a closed cartel was the logical next step in a process of commodification that began long ago. Here was a deal that would quadruple future income streams and remove risk by turning those streams into a securitized asset. Is it any wonder that JPMorgan Chase rushed in to finance the deal with a golden-handshake offer of €300 million to each of the 15 clubs that agreed to leave the Champions League behind?

Whereas the Brexit saga lasted years, this particular breakaway attempt collapsed within two days. Whatever the financial logic behind the Super League, its plotters had failed to consider an intangible yet irresistible force: the widespread conviction among fans, players, coaches, communities, and entire societies that they, not the tycoons, were the true owners of Liverpool, Juventus, Barcelona, and the rest.

And who could blame the owners for not seeing it coming? No one protested when they floated their clubs’ shares on stock exchanges alongside McDonald’s and Barclays. For years, fans watched passively as oligarchs poured billions into a few leading clubs, killing off all real competition by packing their rosters with the world’s great players.

But while the European public could tolerate that the probability of a laggard ever winning anything had fallen close to zero, the Super League would officially take that chance the rest of the way. Maximizing profits would now mean the formal extinction of the possibility even to dream that a lowly team like Stoke City or Athens’ Panionios could one day win the Champions League. The complete elimination of hope, however distant capitalism had rendered it, provided the spark that stopped football’s oligarchy in its tracks.

Meanwhile, in the United States, even cynical sports moguls understand that free-market capitalism chokes competition. The US National Football League is a paragon of aggressive competitiveness, and not only because super-fit players sacrifice their health for wealth, acclaim, and a shot at Super Bowl glory. The NFL is competitive because it imposes on its teams a strict salary cap, while the weakest are guaranteed their pick of the best rookie players. American capitalism sacrificed the free market to save competition, minimize predictability, and maximize excitement. Central planning lives in sin with unbridled competition – directly under the spotlight of American show business.

If the objective is an exciting, financially sustainable football league, the American model is what Europe needs. But if Europeans are serious about their claim that the clubs ought to belong to the fans, players, and communities from which they draw support, they should demand that clubs’ shares be removed from the stock exchange and the principle of one member-one share-one vote is enshrined into law.

The crucial question of whether the oligarchy should be regulated or dismantled extends well beyond sports. Will US President Joe Biden’s spending and regulation agenda suffice to rein in the unbridled power of the few to destroy the prospects of the many? Or does genuine reform demand a radical rethink of who owns what?

Now that Europeans discovered their moral Rubicon, the time may have come for a broader rebellion that vindicates Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager and staunch socialist. “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death,” Shankly famously said. “I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

COVID vaccine hesitancy in the USA as herd immunity seems unlikely-May 3, 2021

It’s more than ironic that as more vaccines have been rolled out, and major developed countries grabbed the bulk of those, we find they are now the major problem to overcoming COVID. They’ve done well to get 1st vaccines to the bulk of their populations in some cases, and must now get the job done of giving 2nd doses. Here’s where they are hitting a wall of ‘vaccination hesitancy’. The USA has now about 30% of it population fully vaccinated against COVID. Daily vaccinations are declining from about 3 million to 2.5 million. The ‘hesitancy’ map for that is interesting for its apparent clustering:

CDC also has an interactive map:

Wyoming has been flagged as having the worst cast of hesitancy, about 32%:

So, the risk facing the USA now is that, even with its fast roll-out, the sought for ‘herd immunity’ is now less likely. The needed rate was about 70%, but with variants spreading, a number nearer 80% seems needed.

We heard that CVS and Walgreen’s have wasted more vaccines that most states combined.

Meanwhile, those of us in the rest of the world are just desperate to get a substantial stock of vaccines, and are imploring the USA to let us have some of the 60 million AstraZeneca doses they’ve so far said they’ll offer other countries, once it receives federal approval.