UK local elections-Tory Party bashed over #Partygate-May 7, 2022

Lots of wounds had to licked after Thursday’s voting was over. Tory councils got booted.

PM Johnson’s Partygate antics weighed heavily:

London was a ‘bloodbath’ and the PM now lives in a Labour-controlled borough:

The outcomes elsewhere were mixed, though it was a good night for the Lib-Dems.

So, what’s next?

Brexit: Frosty reception of a “done” deal upending a country-April 30, 2022

The UK is learning to ‘live with’ Brexit, much like it’s being asked to “live with” COVID. One problem, though, is that Brexit was a policy position bombarded onto a population, as opposed to some set of natural phenomena. But, both have crept into the lives of Britons with devastating effect. The latest spin of the Brexit wheel is essentially about ministers admitting they bamboozled the electorate. Read on!

First, the delay of border controls:

Next, admissions from the minister who negotiated Brexit that the people were misled:

In a world of properly functioning politics, this would be grounds for the bags getting packed by the leader of government. No such actions, yet. But, on top of other scandals, is this act of political deceit not a straw too many for the political camel to bear?

Cartoons give a good viewpoint of life-April 26, 2022

I’ve enjoyed some personal refocusing by giving more attention to humourous takes on life’s issues. Cartoons are the easiest to understand, visually, although jokes are good, but sometimes don’t do well in translation:

Macron wins another turn as France’s president:

A humourous take on a common problem on urban areas:

The internal contradictions of some American political posturing:

New waves of COVID spread are putting parts of China, namely Shanghai, into a strong lockdown:

Elon Musk’s pending purchase of Twitter is raising concerns and comment, especially the spectre of a door reopened for former President Trump:

The possibility that Russia’s aims are much wider than Ukraine was noted:

Misogynistic reports about Angela Rayner, MP, were given a subtle pushback:

British PM, Boris Johnson, is still in the eye of a political storm:

Some good historical perspective on the current wave of inflation:

If you’ve not followed some US political events, this may miss you:

Finally, out of time:

Context:

“It’s the police. Ello, ello! What’s goin’ on here?”-February 12, 2022

It’s been quite a week in British politics, centered around policing at its highest ranksCommissioner of the Metropolitan Police resigned-and policing of the head of government-the PM is under criminal investigation for breaching COVID restrictions.

Cressida Dick lost the confidence of the Mayor of London and jumped before being pushed.

She’d been under much recent criticism:

The departure is awkwardly timed, as the Met digs into #Partygate, and if and when the PM participated in the many parties that have come to light while people were supposed to be under strict gathering guidelines.

PM Johnson has now been issued a questionnaire by the police:

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.

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