Signs of global inequality: vaccines aren’t there for all-June 28, 2021

Unseemly political behaviour-Jamaican parliamentary style-May 15, 2021

What Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith stated in the Senate, yesterday, was not a complete shock. She named the former Senator, whom she had claimed several weeks ago had sent her threatening and sexually harassing e-mails, as A. J. Nicholson.

Her statement was in response to calls by another Senator, Lambert Brown, to name the person, who latched onto the response like a dog with a squeaky toy:

Lots to unpack in this whole episode, including the good old ‘victim blaming’ and ‘just a joke’ reactions that Jamaicans often trot out in matters of sexual harassment.

All I’ll add is that Senator Nicholson will remain in infamy based on his previous quip about “flexi-rape”, notwithstanding any later apology:

By George, we’ve not got it! Wright and wrong about domestic violence in Jamaica-April 17, 2021

I don’t want to speculate about what happened between a man and woman that involved an assault with a chair. I’ve lots of questions about what the video ‘evidence’ shows, including whether it captures the true start point of an altercation. I’ve also heard or seen no text to go with that visual evidence. But, I know many have not bothered to weigh any of that and made their judgement, to which they are entitled.

For the moment, I will share what has been stated officially, and see if this becomes more than another Jamaican 9-day wonder in the court of public opinion.

The police case concerning George Wright, MP, and Tanisha Singh has come to a halt, for the moment. Both had made formal claims of an altercation between them. A video surfaced that purported to show the incident. Neither has decided to take the matter further. The hands of the JCF are tied, as far as criminal matters go:

The political ramifications are still rumbling on in their early stages. Mr. Wright looks set to leave the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and take a position as an Independent in Parliament. He may also take a leave of absence from the legislature, while investigations into his conduct continue:

Public opinion is only just getting formed and it’s possible that Mr. Wright’s political career will be ended as a result of the incident:

A clear bottom line, for me, is that domestic violence cases are difficult to mount, legally, and thus hard to resolve through the courts. We’ve seen little or nothing, publicly, from either party, and the trauma is something about which we can only speculate.

In this case, we can assume that no protections are afforded to either party in the altercation.

#COVID19Chronicles-338: March 10, 2021-Lenten reflections 22-Budget 2021/22 debate begins

Finance minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke, began the set-piece budget debate, yesterday, with the presentation of budget spending priorities (shown in the extensive thread, below):

It includes substantial infrastructure spending and financial support to many parts of the population and economy, in light of the devastating economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic.

That impact is clear from the main economic news that GDP likely declined over the year -12%; most importantly, for people, 130,00 jobs lost during pandemic, against 100,000 created in four previous years:

Against this planned spending, the finance minister again committed to “no new taxes”. But, that’s a nice phrase that covers the fact that tax revenues have exceeded budget, consistently, under the current and previous JLP administrations.

Public understanding of this process was again helped by the publication of an interactive version of the budget:

The budget schedule is as follows:

Dr. Clarke detailed yesterday the $830.8-billion Budget for the new fiscal year, which he tabled in the House on February 18.

The Standing Finance Committee of the House had met on March 3 and 4 to consider the Budget.

Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Planning and the Public Service, Julian Robinson, is expected to make his presentation on Thursday, March 11, while Opposition Leader, Mark Golding, will speak on Tuesday, March 16.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, will make his presentation on Thursday, March 18.

On Tuesday, March 23, Dr. Clarke will close the debate.

On Tuesday, March 23, Dr. Clarke will close the debate.

#COVID19Chronicles-327: February 27, 2021-Lenten reflections 11-Where is the PM? Here!

One thing about most politicians is they prefer to be associated with good news rather than bad. So, it’s been interesting this week to watch the barbs ramp up about PM Holness, and whether he has been MIA (missing in action) while the pandemic effects of Jamaica have worsened, especially into 2021. If I were really interested, I’d track the minutes, hours, and days from the first needle prick to a full response. Well, one response appeared in the media yesterday, and the PM made clear that he didn’t feel he’d been missing, because he was “working behind the scenes”.

This muffled cri de coeur reminded me of a photo that was taken and published of the PM ‘working’ on a plane that purported to show him ‘working’ while on an official visit to China in 2019. First reactions, were funny, as the plane interior looked swish and many thought first that he was on a private jet; it was just first class on a nice airline like Cathay Pacific.

Of course, those shots need to offset the impression of a junket that some take when they seen politicians doing what looks like tourism, such as trips to the Great Wall of China:

The public also get confused when they see politicians doing what they call leisure. But, taking exercise is often seen as a good thing by most people. I’ve noticed how some politicians have played with the optics of their taking exercises; it sometimes backfires.

Many people don’t know how bureaucracy works so need relatable moments to convince them their tax dollars are being put to good use. Having been on the inside many decades, it helps to know that work often never stops for many in bureaucracies. Some would then say they should work all the time for the people. While many expect their politicians to be super human, they also want them to be relatable and like them. It’s a no-win situation.

But, it’s funny to watch.

#COVID19Chronicles-297: January 29, 2021-Another year passed; interesting times for a birthday

A year ago, I was planning to take a short vacation to England, in mid-February, just because, but also to get a personal sense of how Brexit was rolling in. Now, after it rolled in, I’d have much less desire to make the trip. The pandemic, which was declared as my vacation was ending, is being managed badly there and Brexit is turning out to be the ‘pig in a poke’ that the supporters lied it wouldn’t be. With COVID restrictions, I’d be able to leave Jamaica but would not be able to return from the UK!

A year ago, I had anticipated my daughter returning from school for Spring break in March and my mother-in-law and her sister coming to spend a few weeks while my wife and I headed off on work travel to Colombia. I didn’t anticipate they’d be still here in July and later. That’s life during a pandemic!

A year ago, as I turned 65, I was happy to be retired and enjoying my life as a mainly home-bound person. I didn’t anticipate that the bulk of the country and likewise in many countries would be living their lives as work-at-home or stay-in-place people. That’s life during a pandemic.

Once the pandemic rolled through the world, eyes turned to scientists for solutions; a vaccine was hoped for but would be far off, we thought. Yet, here we are and vaccines have been developed and are being dispensed in several countries; richer ones are better placed than poorer ones. Ironically, the UK is better placed than its EU neighbours, because it had decided to order 3 months ahead of them.

I was keeping an eye on the US presidential elections, due to end in November 2020, and as the Democrats fought over who would carry their torch, my hope was that it would be a strong contender against the incumbent President Trump. Then, the election over, I looked forward to the transition. I did not expect a simple handover—Donald Trump doesn’t do losing well; I recalled his threat in 2015 that he would not commit to accepting any result but his victory. He had warned during 2020 well before the election that he thought the election was rigged. So, when he started digging in his heels and vacillating about accepting results, I knew we were in for a struggle.

On election night, the contest was compelling watching and it was a nail biter than looked like a win for the Democrat candidate, Joe Biden. Waking to that confirmation was frankly delightful.

I did not anticipate a string of efforts to overturn the results. I did not expect the overt efforts to do that! The law suits did not seem too out of line, though it was clear that with nothing inside the paper bags that were being used as briefs for the courts, made it clear that the claims of fraud would go nowhere. I didn’t anticipate that this effort would go on so fruitlessly for so long. I expected some of the lying on the stump but it was clear that the truth had to be told in courts. I had doubts about whether the courts would hold the line, especially as many of them and the Supreme Court had been stuffed with Trump nominees. That they did was an amazing surprise.

As we went through what were usually pro forma events to confirm the election results, I was really nervous about where the presidential resistance efforts would lead. I heard words about “peaceful transition”, but in my mind I could see that was not a given, by a long shot, The level of divided opinions, with nearly 3/4 of Republican supporters believing the propaganda that the election was stolen and Trump had won, by a “landslide”, in his words.

The State certifications became dramas. Normal snooze-fests were now must-watch. After that, the wait for Congressional confirmation turned from being ‘who cares?’ to must-watch. As many turned in to see this dull as dishwater piece of political theatre, it was not part of the popcorn eating to watch an insurrection unfolding in front of our eyes. (As a grim reminder, it was like watching the disaster of the 1986 Challenger launch.)

January 6, 2021 is now seared into our memories as the day when the US democratic system was pushed to the brink.

It appeared to survive on the day, and the institutional finalization of the election, the Inauguration on January 20, again became its usual must-watch event. But who could have anticipated that, in addition, to the COVID protocols that forced fewer people and more distance, we would see Washington DC in lock down and thousands of the National Guard lining the streets and ringing the US Capitol, itself ringed with high fencing? The eerie sight of the Washington Mall filled with flags and free of people will remain a deeply strange image.

The security policy failure has still be fully explained and now proposals may include permanent fencing around the Capitol complex and a ready-response force stationed nearby.

The sight of the sourpuss departing president determined to not accept the election results by not publicly uttering the name of the new president and refusing to attend the Inauguration was in keeping with him, but as distasteful a piece of adult behaviour as one may ever seen.

For me, the fact that his narcissism has extended to letting his Vice President and his family be under siege, maybe in fear of their lives during the siege of the Capitol, was more telling of a moral bankruptcy that is rare in anyone, let alone a politician.

The past 12 months have been dominated by the pandemic. Many wanted to see the back of 2020, but 2021 looks set to be no cake walk.

The physical violence that took place on January 6 now appears to have an underpinning of political connivance and planning that is really worrying as it suggests a serious plot to subvert elected government. The fact that Congressional politicians should be openly expressing fear of some of their colleagues is mind boggling. But, these are indeed interesting times.

As I turn 66, I have the mixed emotions that come as the prospect of a vaccine comes closer. Then, I read yesterday that one of the vaccine manufacturers stating that its vaccine should not be given to those over 64. That’s not the kind of present that I want to look forward to.

A year ago, I did not anticipate not spending Christmas with my family, but home alone for 2020 was how it went, while they went to Grandma’s house.

The end of the pandemic is not in sight, and while we can think that a year from now the situation of lockdowns, quarantines, and other restrictions on what was normal life, it’s not a given. New waves keep occurring in various countries. New highs keep occurring in terms of cases and deaths.

We’ve seen a new president, in his first week, return the office to a welcome state of normality, including important things like a daily press conference where the press are encouraged to ask questions and answers are willingly given. What a time to be alive!

The desire for more-open communications from the White House includes having scientists and other specialists speak directly to the public and media from the White House. Having sign language interpreters is an important step.

We got a quick ‘read out’ of President Biden’s call to Russia’s President Putin, before the Russians issued theirs, and it differed. We also got to see and hear a call with the NATO Secretary General:

In coming weeks, we have the first ever second impeachment trial of a president, albeit now a former president. In coming months, we may see law suits that have sedition charges laid against people in the US and even against the former president, in addition to other legal risks he was facing before. Some of those charged already point towards Trump was their inspiration to riot, as ‘patriots’ whom he’d called to Washington DC. It will be interesting.

What a time to be alive!

My wife baked a cake with bourbon, whose smell wafted up to be as I headed to bed. I’ll look forward to that, at least. One day at a time.

#COVID9Chronicles-294: January 26, 2021-Heading to the second Trump impeachment trial

The article of impeachment of Donald J. Trump was walked to the Senate by the House impeachment managers, yesterday evening:

It was delivered:

It was read:

It will not be presided over by the Chief Justice, as it involves a former president:

The trial will begin on February 8:

Many are concerned that as time passes, the natural pressure to see conviction will abate. it will be difficult to see where 17 Republicans will vote for that, fearing backlash as well as some concerns about the legitimacy of the process. But, in the minds of many politicians and the public, the question will always be that if the actions that can be laid at the feet of the former president do not amount to impeachable events, what does.

Each day, brings out more evidence of a larger conspiracy to overturn the legitimate election results, driven directly by Donald Trump, so his intent to subvert the democratic process is clear.

#COVID19Chronicles-287: January 19, 2021-Almost there; the final day of the Trump administration

Reports are that President Trump will leave the White House tomorrow, January 20, early in the morning, before the Inauguration, and have a farewell ‘ceremony’. He will not attend the Inauguration (and president-elect Biden rebutted that he was glad about that). He has recorded a farewell address, which will be released during the day:

It will be another demonstration of narcissism as he tries to upstage the new president and keep attention on himself, even though he could just go quietly. He’s refused to act like a graceful loser and may never utter the words of concession that almost all of his recent predecessors have. He will not have shown the simple grace and good manners extended to him and his wife by outgoing President Obama and his First Lady by welcoming them to the White House.

He displays many traits of toxic masculinity that feeds on the idea that displays of strength, rudeness, disrespect for others, especially those weaker and unable to defend themselves are what ‘make a man’. ‘Weakness’ in this optic captures all the things that represent empathy or a hint of caring for others.

He will go down as a sourpuss. He will go down as rude. He will go down as a hypocrite. He will go down as a terrible president. A man who openly said he finds losing hard will show that he actually doesn’t know how to lose. Yet, if you look you’ll see that he’s actually been a serial loser, with business failures far exceeding real business successes, and a list of grifting activities.

He’s a serial liar! It’s on record, so you can see, read and hear it for yourself.

He’s shown he’s a really bad judge of character, if only because so many of his choices are soon dismissed by him! The rate of turnover in his Administration is enough to make desserts for all for life. 🙂

He’ll probably rue the fact that he could have won the election handily had he grasped the ‘Hail Mary’ pass tossed to him by a pandemic, where he could have done all the things that make someone look like a leader. Instead, he fumbled it (extending the American football analogy), by denying it was a problem, recovered it when he was struck by the virus, and then ran it back the wrong way by readily discarding his mask and holding ‘super-spreader’ events at the White House to score for the opposition.

He got more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 and far outstripped the total votes for any loser. He was more unpopular than any president in recent history, but still amassed 74 million votes out of about 150 million. He wasted the support he has, whether we like to acknowledge that his base is huge (to use one of his favourite terms). The presidential election was actually his to lose, and he lost it! He probably right to think he couldn’t lose, except for the Trojan Horse that was his own set of personal failings.

He will go down as a divider, not a uniter. He could lead, if it was the rabble.

In the end, he also divided the party he leads, resulting in the previously unthinkable of Georgia voting against him as president, and eventually voting in Democrats as Senators, and leaving the Senate tied, not with its previous Republican majority. He burnt down the barn!

For his departure, the Pentagon had already indicated it would not be giving the traditions Armed Forces Farewell tribute:

The White House announced that last weekend Vice President Mike Pence delivered “remarks to sailors on the Trump Administration’s historic foreign policy achievements at Naval Air Station Lemoore,” and then to the 10th Mountain Division, in Fort Drum, New York.

The First Lady gave a farewell speech, yesterday:

It was filled with platitudes that were at stark variance with what her husband had espoused for four years. In that sense, it’s par for the course: living in an alternative reality, where truth is what the White House want to make it.

For those who don’t understand these things, this is classic for autocracy.

Since, the election on November 3, 2020, the vast majority of Americans have believed that Joe Biden won:

Sadly, many Republicans didn’t and don’t and now does Donald Trump. He said he’d accept the results and at every deadline to do that, which confirmed him as the loser, he’s refused to accept the results.

Also, what we’ve seen played out with Trump and the presidential election in 2020/21 is exactly what he promised would play out in 2016/17, if he didn’t win. That much has been a consistent stand. The fact that he said in October 2020 that he was prepared to accept the result, so long as it was not “fake” seemed to miss people and a clear indication that he believed only his winning would not be fake. His true position had been stated back in July—that he won’t agree to accept 2020 election results because it’s “fake”:

The snake oil salesman has to make his sale and he’ll make his pitch, and if you buy the pitch and the products you’re likely to end up with a pig in a poke.

A BBC news reporter pointed out this morning that Trump got his wall, except it’s a series of barricades around Washington DC. That about sums it up.

Finally, to anyone who thought Trump was fit for office or doesn’t think he deserves to be impeached and convicted, I offer one simple observation. When the mob was laying siege to the Capitol, he was again handed the moment to show that he should be president. President-elect Joe Biden went on television and social media and demanded that Trump appear on national television to “fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.” Instead of grasping that moment, he doubled down on rejecting it. He was essentially missing in action. The worst of it was that his Vice President and the leaders of Congress were on the verge of being attacked and maybe assassinated. However, you play that, here was a potential win-win to ‘save’ Congress, quell the riot, show the world that you are the one who can hold the nation together. Instead, a series of huffy tweets and an insincere call to quell activities. Again, that only makes sense if you see that Trump is only about himself.

At some future date, I hope Mike Pence explains what he thought and why he did not immediately resign, knowing that the president never checked on his or his family’s welfare (as they were also in the Capitol to witness the certification of votes). What we know, too, though, was at those crucial moments, the decision-making was done by the Vice President, not the President. When you keep dropping the ball, it’s best to just leave the field and go sit on the bench.

#COVID19Chronicles-286: January 18, 2021-Would Dr. King still have a dream, today?

The ‘March on Washington’ on August 28, 1963, was peaceful, in stark contrast to the most recent ‘march’ on Washington on June 6, 2021:

But, I’m not going to spend time drawing parallels today, Martin Luther King Day, in the USA. Dr. King’s speech that day has many prophetic words, most notably “I have a dream”, and I’ll leave some of them here, so that they can be used as the basis for reflection, on the dreams that can be had:

#COVID19Chronicles-284: January 16, 2021-The deeper plot behind the US insurrection?

More than a week on from the insurrectionist siege of the US Capitol (and I’m sure that the historical term has still not yet been set), we’ve learned a lot about the events of January 6, 2021 that are disturbing and suggest a deeper plot was in play and that the political divisions that were behind it are not going to subside quickly. This is just a sample of what has surfaced.

The timeline looked like this:

It shows that credible and disturbing evidence existed within official security circles to have forwarned of the violent events, but a serious lack of coordination of that stopped mobilization of personnel to at least suggest these were credible threats.

On the day, after others speakers (especially Rudy Guiliani and Don Trump Jr.) had done and while President Trump was making his remarks to the rally, the mobs were on their way at about 1pm. President Trump finished his remarks about 1.15pm, then spent some two hours berating his VP and complaining about the election being “stolen”.

At about 2:25 p.m. Trump tweeted criticism of Vice President Pence: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

Around 4.15, Trump tweeted a video downplaying the events of the day, repeating false claims that the election was stolen and sympathizing with his followers, saying: “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. … You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”

This was while the mob was laying siege to the Capitol, not acting to put in place resources to quell it. His ‘calming’ tweet at 6pm is damning: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

The policy vacuum and failure to anticipate the disruption are now part of the focus of various government agencies:

What also needs to be established, but for a different set of investigations–maybe, if/when the Senate looks at the impeachment charge–is what the president knew (from official briefing and other sources-phone and messaging logs) and how did he act ahead of, during and after the siege of the Capitol. Reports are that at the time he was watching it play out on TV–apparently pleased with what he saw. What he didn’t do was issue orders to quell it–in fact, refusing to approve National Guard responses. His actions were late and too little, and reports suggest that he was not in favour of doing the little he did with ‘softer’ tweets and scripted videos. He issued a denunciation only after being impeached.

As information emerges, there are clear signs that ‘inside’ help was involved, not least in knowing the layout of the complex Capitol building. The matter has led to an Inspector General review.

Wider spread disruptions happened on January 6 and are likely for the near-term. Already, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have warned about potential violent and armed protests in all 50 state capitals.

Arrests and charges are beginning to flow in as culprits are identified. More than 200 case files have been opened. According to the FBI, more than 100 arrests have been made in connection with the Capitol siege. The F.B.I. has received more than 100,000 tips, including photos and videos, and that number does not include tips that people have submitted by phone; the number of arrests is expected to “geometrically increase.” He noted that some defendants had been charged with misdemeanor crimes so they could be quickly arrested, but those people could be indicted on more significant charges, including sedition and conspiracy.

Planning for the presidential inauguration is now seeing a series of cancellations as the security threat widens; the rehearsal, due Friday, has been postponed till Monday, due to security concerns. President-elect Biden will not travel to Washington DC by Amtrak due to similar concerns.

DC has already gone into lockdown ahead of the presidential inauguration:

The National Guard has been deployed in large numbers (20,000+) to DC, with many camped out at the US Capitol:

This response reflects a serious under-estimation of the risks that were emerging last week.

Businesses nearby are also taking precautions and trying to do things that won’t feed the needs of potential troublemakers. For instance, AirBnB has cancelled all existing bookings and blocking any new bookings in metropolitan DC area for inauguration week.

Airlines have invoked ‘don’t fly’ rules for people seen and identified as participating in the insurrection.

Lawmakers are also openly expressing fears for their lives, including risks that may come from Congressional colleagues!

Those who have opposed President Trump in recent days have found themselves harrassed when trying to travel and some report death threats at their homes and offices. Add to that growing evidence that the insurrectionists included people whose intent was assassination.

Retired and current members of the military and police forces are being identified amongst the insurrectonists.

Political fall out for some who supported protests on January 6, continues to be heavy, especially for Senators Hawley and Cruz.