Archive for September, 2017

A Premiership Devoid of World Class Players

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

What constitutes a world class football player? He is someone who can change the game in a split second whether it’s through a defence splitting pass, scoring goal from nothing, making a defensive stop to prevent a goal, all of which should be executed on a consistent basis. Basically a world class player can spin on a dime and light up a stadium with one phenomenal movement, creating one breathtaking moment never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. He is a match winner; a game changer.

For example, Gordon Banks’ spellbinding save from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, or one of Jimmy Greaves’ goals from a scissor kick, maybe a tantalizing run through the opposition’s defense by George Best or Ryan Giggs leading to a sublime goal, or the proficiency of a goal scoring machine like Ian Rush.

I maybe a couch potato, but I have seen many Premiership matches over the past few years, and rarely does any player in the Premiership have me  jumping out of my seat in excitement. Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Luis Suarez (Liverpool) had that effect on me, but they were unfortunately sold to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Gareth Bale had a hint of greatness in his time at Tottenham Hotspur, but sadly he was also sold to Real Madrid.

There are twenty clubs in the English Premiership and in my opinion less than a dozen world class players. Manchester City have spent millions of pounds on players, but I would only describe Silva, de Bruyne, and Aguerro as world class assets. Chelsea possess one in Eden Hazard, and potentially their new striker Morata. Liverpool have two: Coutinho and Mane. Harry Kane at Tottenham is quickly  developing into a world class striker, capable of scoring goals with either foot or his head, and inside or outside the penalty box. His colleague, Dele Ali has the potential to reach world class, but can be a little head strong and a tendency to drift out of games.

Alexis Sanchez wasted too much time in the summer attempting to engineer a move away from Arsenal which affected his game considerably. However, on his day he can touch the considerable heights of a world class player. One could argue that one player cannot make a team, but his absence can undoubtedly affect its performance. A case in point is Gylfi Sigurdsson who was transferred from my club, Swansea City to Everton. Gylfi Sigurdsson has the ability to create and score goals and is arguably the most effective dead ball specialist in the league.

The Swans bought  two or three fairly capable players in the summer transfer window, but with the loss of Sigurdsson the Club is playing like a ship without a rudder. Notwithstanding the dearth of world class players in the Premiership, I believe that not one of the Swans 25 man squad would earn a place in any of the top ten teams in the league. Indeed, Swansea are continuing to select three or four players (Naughton, Fer, Carroll, and Olsson) who are not of Premiership standard.

The transfer fees that are paid for mediocre players is outrageous. Liverpool paid 40 million for Oxlaide-Chamberlain who is an athlete masquerading as a football player. Manchester City paid 50 million each for Raheem Sterling and John Stones. Is that the price you pay for potential these days?



Trump Administration Casualties and The Trump-Russia Investigation

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Donald Trump once had a reality show “The Apprentice” where he delighted in eliminating contestants by informing them that “You’re Fired!” It appears that he took his penchant for firing people  to a new level when he became President of the United States:

  • Michael Flynn-National Security Adviser (resigned) 22 days
  • Sally Yates– Acting Attorney General (fired) 10 days
  • Preet Bhara-US attorney for the Southern Districts of NY
  • Derek Harvey-Top Middle East adviser for National Security Council (fired) 186 days
  • Katie Walsh-Deputy WH Chief of Staff (resigned) 69 days
  • James Comey-FBI Director (fired) 109 days
  • Reince Priebus-Chief of Staff (resigned) 189 days
  • Michael Dubka-Communications Director (resigned) 85 days
  • Walter Shaub-Office of Government Ethics Director (resigned) 180 days. Shaub called the Trump administration a “laughing stock” following his resignation.
  • Anthony Scaramucci-Communications Director (fired) 10 days
  • Sean Spicer-Press Secretary, WH director of communications (resigned) 182 days
  • Michael Short-Press Aide (resigned) 186 days
  • Steve Bannon-Chief Strategist (mutually agreed departure) 210 days
  • Sebastian Gorka-National Security Aide (unclear) 217 days
  • Carl Ichan-Special adviser to the President on regulatory reform (resigned) 210 days
  • White House manufacturing council (dissolved) 201 days
  • White House economic advisory council (dissolved) 201 days
  • Angella Reid– WH chief usher (fired) 105 days
  • Craig Deare-National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere affairs (fired) 26 days
  • K.T. McFarland– Deputy national security advisor (reassigned) 117 days
  • HR McMaster-National Security Adviser (fired) 13 months.
  • Rex Tillerson-Secretary of State (fired) 14 months.
  • Gary Cohn-Chief Economic Adviser (resigned) 14 months.
  • Hope Hicks– White House Communications Director (resigned) six years in the Trump Organization and three years with Trump during his campaign and presidency.
  • Andrew McCabe– Deputy Director of the FBI (fired) 14 months.
  • Tom Price-Health Secretary (resigned)

Despite the unfortunate distractions provided by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Trump-Russia Investigation has accelerated. Armed with more evidence, special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate whether Trump and his associates colluded with Russian operatives to win the White House.

The most critical witness of all, and a likely target of the investigation, is Trump himself. As the grand jury investigation accelerates, and it focuses on Trump’s role, he will almost certainly be subpoenaed, and his testimony demanded. It should be emphasized that Trump has no legal privilege to avoid testifying  before the grand jury. A grand jury has the power to compel testimony from anyone, even as president, as Bill Clinton was compelled to do for the first time in U.S. history in 1998.

These are some of the general areas that Trump likely would be questioned about. Each of these areas is a relatively core subject, and would likely be the foundation to develop peripheral questions:

  • Did Trump know when he  was running for president and hired Paul Manafort as his campaign manager that Manafort had extensive financial dealings and lobbying work with Ukrainian and pro-Russian officials? Did he discuss Manafort’s connections with anyone?
  • What was the basis for Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey? With whom did he discuss the firing? Did he discuss the firing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
  • Did Trump know that his son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign and allegedly obtained damaging information about Hilary Clinton? When did he learn about the meeting? From whom? What was his response?
  • Did Trump alter Don Jr., initial statement about the Russian meeting, in which Don Jr. stated that he met to discuss Russian adoption but then changed this fabricated story to a new explanation that he wanted to judge Clinton’s “fitness.”
  • Did Trump have any financial dealings, projects, loans, and any other financial or other interests with Russia, Russian officials, and Russian business interests?
  • Did Trump know of any contacts between persons involved in his campaign and Russian intelligence operatives? Who were these persons? Did he have any conversations with them?

A Bit Like a Curate’s Egg

Monday, September 4th, 2017

An American friend of mine asked me where I was yesterday because I wasn’t in work. I told him I was playing golf. He asked how was my round. I said it was a bit like a curate’s egg. He exclaimed: “What the hell does that mean?” I said that it meant it was good in parts and bad in places. In my mind that was a perfectly accurate explanation, but unfortunately not in the American idiom and therefore lost in translation.

Come to think of it, a curate’s egg would also describe Trump’s presidency. Trump is actually the reason I haven’t written anything over the past few weeks. I had planned to write a review of his first 100 days as President but the whole period was dominated by the Russian connection to the Trump family and the alleged Russian influence on the Presidential Election. I then decided to review his first six months in office but his presidency continued to be mired in potential scandal, North Korea, firings, resignations of his Cabinet and White House staff, and now Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston.

During his election campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” which he attributed to eradicating Washington of political corruption. This is all very well but he alienated politicians on both sides of the house, and therefore its no surprise he failed to have sufficient support to repeal or scrap Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare and make other positive changes to the nation’s health care system. Recently Trump commented that the swamp had now evolved into a sewer! He probably extended his colorful rhetoric to include most of the media who he constantly condemns for producing “fake news.”

One of his nemesis is Senator John McCain who Trump publically insulted by claiming “real heroes don’t get captured,” referring to McCain’s long internment by the Vietnamese when he was shot down over enemy territory. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, but made a remarkable comeback to the senate to provide the decisive “no” to block the repeal of Obamacare.

One could argue that Trump has made progress with illegal immigration, the economy and other issues since he took office. There is almost a 50% reduction  in illegal crossings on the southern border, consumer confidence is at a 16 year high, and CEO confidence is at a 20% high. He has also achieved some success in Congress approving in principle to build the wall on the border between USA and Mexico. Could this wall rival in time the history, notoriety and infamy of  Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, or the Berlin Wall?

When Congress returns from their summer break, the major item on the agenda will be tax reform which was ranked high on Trump’s election platform. Meanwhile he has to deal with the contentious issue of North Korea firing nuclear missiles across Japan, and recently producing a hydrogen bomb. Trump has threatened North Korea with some aggressive rhetoric, but he may have to rely on international diplomacy to take the heat out of a risky situation.

Swansea City have had  what could be described as a curate’s egg of their own in the summer transfer window. They sold last season’s  two top goal scorers and chief creator, Siggurdson and LLorente to Everton and Tottenham respectively. Only to make one of the more audacious loan deals of the transfer window by signing 20 year old Portugese international Sanchez from Bayern Munich for the remainder of the season. This was quickly followed by the return of former favorite Wilfried Bony who hopefully can recapture his form that he produced in 2014-15.

On a final note, I found it ironic that Georgia’s Governor unveiled a bronze statue of Martin Luther King at the Capital Building in downtown Atlanta last week amidst the protests and outcry nationwide to remove countless Confederate statues. These protesters claim that the statues are racist and offensive to their delicate countenance. When will the Silent Majority stand up and tell them the statues represent a part of America’s history and do no harm to anyone with an iota of intelligence?