Sunday, 21 August 2016

It's not an honour

Will it be Sir Jason Kenny after his marvellous exploits in Rio, equalling Sir Chris Hoy with 6 golds medals to his name? After all, it's Sir Bradley Wiggo and Sir Steve Redgrave (great man, but I wouldn't have him near at TV studio myself), both with 5 golds and then Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Matthew Pinsent with 4. So presumably it will be Dame Laura Trott (also now with 4 golds). And Sir Mo Farah now he also has 4 golds. The Sun is demanding gongs for them all.

The performances have been outstanding , but I hope they don't hand out a mountain of honours for achievements at Rio. I've always thought it strange to give big gongs to sportsmen who haven't retired, so you get "Sir" whoever competing against his peers. A bit like them writing their memoirs while still competing, it doesn't feel right to me.

Actually, I think we should stop this whole nonsense now. Honouring sports people and other celebrities is not appropriate. They get the appropriate  recognition and medals from their sport. Honours  produce all sorts of strange oddities, like Nick Faldo conspicuously being belatedly knighted when he had been Britain's greatest golfer of the modern era and absolutely world class. Making us wonder why no knighthood. Though apparently golfer David Howell famously had a golf locker room in tucks of laughter when he said to Faldo that he knew why he hadn't been knighted (as of 2007). "Why?" "Because Her Majesty thinks you're a c**t."

Perhaps the biggest nonsense when it comes to gongs for sports people was the lack of a major honour for Bob Paisley (6 Championships, 3 League Cups, 4 European Cups - counting 1 UEFA Cup), who had to make do with an OBE when it was Sir Matt Busby (5 championships, 2 FA Cups, 1 European Cup) and later Sir Alex Ferguson (13 championships, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 4 European Cups - counting 2 UEFA Cup Winners Cups). And what about Brian Clough OBE (2 championships, 2 League Cups, 2 European Cups)? It's possible Mrs Thatcher thought Brian Clough, whose Nottingham Forest team won their European Cups in 1979 and 1980, was a c**t, though I expect more likely it was to do with her views on football and hooliganism. Presumably she wouldn't wear more than an OBE for a football manager. But Paisley had already won twice as many European Cups as Busby before Thatcher became PM, so that "tariff" was set by Labour.

Er, don't tell me there isn't a tariff for a "K" or whatever, because it sure seems to exist for political donors. Indeed, the honours system gets more and more discredited with each PM's resignation honours. It's been flaky since at least the days of Harold Wilson's "Lavender List". Cameron's egregious list is just the latest.

I can only think of one good reason to continue the honours system - to reward worthy service by unheralded people across the country, who don't get medals or gongs for their service. And only one reason for including celebrities - so that the worthies might get to meet a Lewis Hamilton (or Jason Kenny) at their inauguration and garden party (though the celebs could be invited anyway and might come to meet the Queen).

I don't personally think those are good enough reasons.

I'm with John Lennon, who returned his MBE and David Bowie, who declined a CBE in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003. Letters before or after their name wouldn't add anything to the quality of their achievements.

Arguably these sort of people are given honours so politicians can bask in reflected glory. So, rather than trying to modify it, let's scrap this whole ludicrous system now.

For the Howell/Faldo story see http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/golf/david-howell-joker-takes-a-royal-swing-at-destiny-6232508.html


Monday, 15 August 2016

My Dad and Monty Don

Or: In praise of the humble begonia (with pictures).

Monty, the well known celebrity gardener, made a crass remark during a broadcast of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show a while back on BBC Two, which was covered widely in the press. "I hate a plant because it is repulsively ugly and that’s the begonia.” He added: “Don’t tell me that anybody likes begonias.” Well, Monty, I love them and so did my dad.

I find the modern, politically correct take on gardening a bit strange. You know, "a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place" while at the same time decrying beautiful plants like dahlias as common. I once grew dahlias from a 10 pence pack of seed and then overwintered the tubers for many years, attracting lots of compliments - and some questions as to what the plants were. "Ah, you see, they are deeply unpopular, so not many folk grow them now" I would say.

I love the fibrous rooted annual begonias because they have thick leaves and so, like geraniums, they don't suffer as much as some bedding plants if the soil dries out. They flower pretty well continuously till the frosts come. They will survive through mild winters and, if fed, will flower all over again the next year. Here some are flowering in a trough. As you can see there are two different leaf colours:

My Dad introduced me to the corm type begonias. Well actually he gave me some. He'd been given a few corms by a friend who said he wanted them back in a couple of years, by which time Dad should have at least four of his own. This is because you can divide them after lifting them for the winter. Dad's friend didn't actually want any corms back as by then he had more than he needed. And within a few years so did Dad. So he gave me some. And over 25 years later here are just a few of my begonias flowering yet again this year:


I don't divide them every year else I'd have hundreds. As my sons now they have their own gardens I've given them some corms and here are some flowering in older lad's garden this year:


Now you can buy begonia corms from garden centres. They are often showier, with complex flowers but, in my experience, they are only good for one season. I don't know why. And they don't flower continuously for months on end.

I'm very attached to my begonias, though I'll grumble in November when I have to lift and dry them all for the winter and again in April when I'm planting them out. But then my buggeronias (as I'm wont to call them when I should have planted them out several weeks ago) will flower from July (earlier if you start them in a greenhouse) till the first frost, usually in November. And they don't complain much over a lack of TLC. What an amazing bounty of flowers, all for free, for decades and indeed across generations. Dad's gone but his begonias go on.

Begonias are wonderful and not just because they remind me of my Dad.  So Monty, do you like sex and travel? Well go and do one, then.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Right Mickey Takers

393 - the number of Rail, Maritime and Transport members at the rail company Southern who voted to strike in a ballot in April.
120,000 - the number of commuters affected by the strikes.
£2 billion - the cost of the new trains which Southern has ready to roll and which have been mothballed as a result of the dispute.

What's it all about? Southern want to change the role of conductors, making it the driver's responsibility to open and close the doors. As it has been on London Underground for a long time now.

The RMT have two objections. Firstly, they say conductors would be "devalued" (though Southern have promised no pay or job cuts). Secondly, and just as spuriously as the junior doctors, they say it's about safety. Even though the Rail Accident Investigation Branch say there is no evidence to suggest driver-only operated trains are less safe. The RMT also say, in an open letter to commuters, that Southern is actually introducing the change so that conductors can concentrate on revenue collection, but only from passengers who are prepared to pay since, working solo, the conductors cannot confront aggressive passengers. For me, none of these arguments cut much ice.

I know some of the senior management at Southern and its parent GoVia. In my experience it's a well run company, though not entirely free of being traditional railway. (None of them are). But management seems to have taken most of the flak, at least until recently. This was partly because of unofficial action taken by conductors, which led to many cancellations and a reduced service. The RMT "emphatically and categorically" denied this was the case, but the average number of conductors calling in sick each day nearly doubled, from 23 to 40 (and peaking on a daily basis at over 50) after the first one day strike in April. The commuters anger seemed definitely to be directed at management, at least early in the dispute.

The new London mayor has weighed in by claiming that Southern is a "failing company" and that, if Transport for London took over operation of the franchise, it could deliver a better service by "immediately assigning an experienced team to fix the service". Well, anyone could fix the short term service issue by caving in to the unions, couldn't they?

But there's no need to cave in. When I first worked in the rail sector, I was fond of pointing out to colleagues that, apart from the poor commuters into London, not many people would notice an all out rail strike. After all, about 90% of goods and people movements are by road.

I note in passing that pay in the rail industry is notoriously high, with significant perks including a traditional, public sector final salary pension and travel perks. Senior conductors earn more than the UK average salary (before perks) for a job which I personally wouldn't class as anything like more demanding than average.

The two sides are now talking at ACAS but don't hold your breath for anything more than a fudge. The rail industry has not been prepared to drive much change through in the last 20 years and there are still many out of date practices, despite privatisation. It's not a coincidence that new technology and working practices are hardest to introduce in the public sector and former public sector organisations that still, essentially, have the same culture.

Especially so in Network Rail, which isn't really private, though they liked to think they were before the government brought them officially back into the public sector. If you are in any doubt as to whether Network Rail is deeply dysfunctional, just ponder for a moment the remarkable fact that it lost over £1bn on financial derivatives, essentially currency swaps.  Why on earth a UK taxpayer funded company was gambling (they would say hedging) currency when essentially all of its costs and revenues are in sterling, you might reasonably ask. It was because they had been allowed to borrow money in the markets and chose to borrow in a range of currencies. Even when I worked in the industry I didn't realise this was happening, but the old Tory stager John Redwood has pointed it out many times.

Railways are generally regarded as a good thing. But they cost the taxpayer nearly £5 billion a year (£4.8bn in 2014-15, £3.8 bn of it paid to Network Rail). The subsidy has gone down a bit: it was over £6bn in 2007, but it was a lot lower in the 1980s and 1990s. It's a bit puzzling that the railway is carrying record numbers of passengers, who are paying all time high amounts in terms of the fare box (£8.2 billion in 2013-14), but the subsidy has only come down marginally in absolute terms. (It was about 50% of total costs a few years ago, whereas now it's more like 35%).

Intercity and busy commuter routes make money and the subsidy is needed mainly for rural routes though surprisingly (to me anyway) the highest subsidy per passenger kilometre is for Merseyrail, at 12.4p nearly half as much again as First ScotRail (8.6p) and Arriva Trains Wales (8.5p), followed by Northern, with its plethora of cross country routes (4.9p). If the regional railways didn't exist (say,  because we did a super Beeching type cull) comparatively small numbers of people would be hugely inconvenienced, though it would probably be cheaper to pay for them all to go by taxi. And better environmentally: an industry big cheese once said to me "you see, Phil, a full train is an environmental miracle but an empty train is an environmental catastrophe". And, of course, regional trains make many journeys practically empty.

Before I worked in rail I used to tease colleagues who did that it would be better to tear up the tracks, tarmac over the permanent way and use it to run convoys of lorries and buses. The reason they didn't like this jest is that it isn't totally daft.....  A right mickey take but not half as much as the RMT.

I'd leave the heritage railways of course, as working examples of industrial archeology.

There's a good summary of the issues involved in the Southern dispute at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37021504. 
The London Mayor's comments are at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37057753
Statistics on rail costs are at http://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/18842/rail-finance-statistical-release-2014-15.pdf
For John Redwood on Network Rail and currency swaps see http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2012/07/17/derivative-losses-at-network-rail-could-we-save-that-money-and-spend-it-on-the-railway/
As ever, the opinionated parts of this post are all mine.







Sunday, 7 August 2016

Something about drumming - and plastic puke

Further to my post on Patti Boyd (Layla, 31 July) one of the famous love songs written about her was George Harrison's Something, which Frank Sinatra described as the greatest love song of the past 50 years. Well not in your hands, chum, as personally  I never thought Sinatra could sing anyway (an opinion which has got me into a few arguments...) As Ian MacDonald noted in his splendid Beatles book Revolution In The Head, an old crooner like Sinatra singing Something didn't really work as the expressions belong to a gauche young man rather than someone by then middle aged.

I do think Something is a very good song. MacDonald called it "the acme of  Harrison's achievement as a writer" with a "key structure of classical grace and panoramic effect". Lennon thought it the best song on Abbey Road and McCartney said it was Harrison's best song. Ringo thought it on a par with "anything John and Paul or anyone of that time" wrote. Paul Simon described it as a masterpiece  and Elton John, "probably one of the best love songs ever, ever written... much better than Yesterday....it's, like, the song I've been chasing for the last 35 years".

As ever with Harrison, his guitar runs fit the song perfectly. (I once read a critic who argued convincingly that you couldn't imagine any  guitarist could improve on Harrison's work on a Beatles song or John Frusciante's on a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, hence they were two of the best ever guitarists).  But the thing I always listen for on the Beatles version is Ringo's drumming, which is the icing on this particular cake for me. The bit I love is the high hat flourish that kicks in with the lyric "You're asking me will my love grow...", which I think musically is called a bridge section (well it ain't a conventional chorus, anyway).

The website Popdose lists "Gimme Five: songs where Ringo Starr doesn't, you know, suck". In the "also considered" section it refers to the drumming in Something as a "subtle delight", and from the same album, in Come Together, they say "Starr deftly blends his drums with both the vocals (“shoo” …) and McCartney’s bass". It is indeed a wonderful bit of drumming right at the start of Abbey Road. And they note, as I always thought, that Lennon's oft quoted jibe (when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world) that Ringo wasn't the best drummer in the Beatles is thoroughly laid to rest when you listen to McCartney drumming on Back in the USSR and The Ballad of John and Yoko.

Something isn't the only song in which I get fixated on the drumming. Other notable songs include Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon, in which Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are tighter than a mortice and tenon joint. No wonder they were such an admired rhythm section, even in the era of Nile Rogers. I particularly like the way Fleetwood sticks to the rhythm and avoids the temptation to extemporise in between the vocal sections. I love the drumming so much that, although I'm a lyrics man, I couldn't tell you a single word from this song other than the much repeated title. I had thought for several years (and listening mainly on MP3) that Fleetwood was doing a dextrous double hit on the snare drum throughout the song - and in the era before sampling meant you had to keep playing it. But, listening on the hifi, I concluded that it's actually one long sound. I've only just discovered what makes the unusual snare drum sound on this song (and indeed the whole 1975 album Fleetwood Mac). Strangely, the answer is plastic puke.

There's a reference to plastic puke on the section of Mick Fleetwood's Wikipedia page covering this album, which describes how the bass drums was real skin, not a plastic head, but the snare was "plastic puke". This didn't make much sense to me, though some research revealed that plastic puke is practical joke material, like fake dog poo. Eh? The answer is given in a Q&A with the album producer, Keith Olsen, on a website called fleetwoodmac.net. Fleetwood met Olsen essentially by chance in 1974. He introduced Fleetwood to Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and got himself hired as their producer. In the Q&A he is asked "how did you achieve that crisp drum sound on the Fleetwood Mac album? it sounds really great":
Plastic Puke..... no really...... We taped that soft plastic puke on the snare as a "mechanical" gate.... whenever Mick would hit the snare the "soft plastic" would lift up and the drum would ring like crazy.... (top end) then as the plastic would lie down, the ring and snare rattle would diminish.... kind of linear level drop.... it was cool.
So my ears were right. It's one long sound not a double hit, but nothing like a normal snare drum sound.

Another song in which the drums seize almost all of my attention is Free's My Brother Jake. Simon Kirke's rhythmically hypnotic bass drum, with plenty of tidy rolls and cymbal crashes somehow distract me from the rest of the song going on, for me, in the background.

Which all goes to show that drumming doesn't need to be complicated to hit the spot and sometimes steal the show.

Sources:
Ian MacDonald - Revolution in the Head, Publisher Fourth Estate, 1994
http://popdose.com/heres-something-else-beatles-songs-where-ringo-starr-doesnt-you-know-suck/
Wikipedia
http://www.fleetwoodmac.net/penguin/qa/keitholsen_qa2.htm
and stuff in my head

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Greece was sacrificed to save the euro

I must admit I thought that Greece probably got what was coming, having cooked the books to get into the euro, spent profligately and, notoriously, failed miserably to collect taxes. However, it may not be entirely like that - at least according to the International Monetary Fund, whose top staff misled their own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments over Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory in the eurozone debt crisis. Who says so? The IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) watchdog. It describes a “culture of complacency”, prone to “superficial and mechanistic” analysis,  and traces a shocking breakdown in the governance of the IMF, leaving it unclear who is ultimately in charge of this extremely powerful organisation.

The report said the whole approach to the eurozone was characterised by “groupthink”. They had no fall-back plans on how to tackle a systemic crisis in the eurozone – or how to deal with the politics of a multinational currency union – because they had ruled out any possibility that it could happen. Before the launch of the euro, the IMF’s public statements tended to emphasize the advantages of the common currency. Some staff members warned that the design of the euro was fundamentally flawed but they were overruled.This pro-EMU bias continued to corrupt their thinking for years. “The IMF remained upbeat about the soundness of the European banking system and the quality of banking supervision in euro area countries until after the start of the global financial crisis in mid-2007. This lapse was largely due to the IMF’s readiness to take the reassurances of national and euro area authorities at face value,” it said. The IMF persistently played down the risks posed by ballooning current account deficits and the flood of capital pouring into the eurozone periphery, and neglected the danger of a sudden stop in capital flows.

"The possibility of a balance of payments crisis in a monetary union was thought to be all but non-existent,” it said. As late as mid-2007, the IMF still thought that “in view of Greece’s EMU membership, the availability of external financing is not a concern". At root was a failure to grasp the elemental point that currency unions with no treasury or political union to back them up are inherently vulnerable to debt crises. Now this is something that made me adamant we shouldn't join the euro, against the general tide of opinion, in the early years of the new millenium. Mind, I'd been reading David Smith, of course. And I wasn't the only one - Gordon Brown was also against it - one of the few things I agreed with him on. Though I always thought Brown was against the euro only because Blair was for it.

Returning to the IMF report, they note that states facing a shock no longer have sovereign tools to defend themselves. Devaluation risk is switched into bankruptcy risk. “In a monetary union, the basics of debt dynamics change as countries forgo monetary policy and exchange rate adjustment tools,” said the report. This would be amplified by a “vicious feedback between banks and sovereigns”, each taking the other down. That the IMF failed to anticipate any of this was a serious scientific and professional failure.

As the eurozone wasn't prepared and couldn't get an act together - which was the real root cause of the problems - I think the IMF is being a bit hard on itself here. It had to act and was in an invidious position when it was first drawn into the Greek crisis.  The Lehman crisis was still fresh. “There were concerns that such a credit event could spread to other members of the euro area, and more widely to a fragile global economy,” said the report. The eurozone had no firewall against contagion, and its banks were tottering. The European Central Bank had not yet stepped up to the plate as lender of last resort. It was deemed too dangerous to push for a debt restructuring in Greece.

While the Fund’s actions were understandable in the white heat of the crisis, the harsh truth is that the bail-out sacrificed Greece in a “holding action” to save the euro and north European banks. Greece endured the traditional IMF shock of austerity, without the offsetting IMF cure of debt relief and devaluation to restore viability. A sub-report on the Greek saga said the country was forced to go through a staggering squeeze, equal to 11pc of GDP over the first three years. This set off a self-feeding downward spiral. The worse it became, the more Greece was forced cut. Ex Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (you remember him - the dude who wore a long leather jacket and his shirt out of his trousers when he met Osborne at No 11 - real rebel, huh?) called it "fiscal water-boarding". Well he might have looked a prat, but it turns out he was right (very rare for an ultra leftie in my experience, but there you go).

The attempt to force through an "internal devaluation" of 20pc to 30pc by means of deflationary wage cuts was self-defeating since it necessarily shrank the economic base and sent the debt trajectory spiralling upwards. “A fundamental problem was the inconsistency between attempting to regain price competitiveness and simultaneously trying to reduce the debt to nominal GDP ratio”. The IMF thought the fiscal multiplier was 0.5 when it may in reality have been five times as high, given the fragility of the Greek system. The result is that nominal GDP ended 25pc lower than the IMF’s projections, and unemployment soared to 25pc instead of 15pc as expected. “The magnitude of Greece’s growth forecast errors looks extraordinary,” it said.

The injustice of all this is that the cost of the bail-outs was switched to ordinary Greek citizens  – the least able to support the burden  – and it was never acknowledged that the true motive of EU-IMF Troika policy was to protect monetary union. Indeed, the Greeks were repeatedly blamed for failures that stemmed from the policy itself. This unfairness – the root of so much bitterness in Greece – is finally recognised in the report.  “If preventing international contagion was an essential concern, the cost of its prevention should at have been borne – at least in part – by the international community as the prime beneficiary,” it said.

Never trust the Greeks, hey? Or the Germans either, methinks, as they seemed to drive the Greece agenda. And what about the Italians - I'm still waiting with some anxiety for that report on the banks..... (see post of 18 July)

A lot of this came from a good newsfeed on msn (see http://www.msn.com/en-gb/money/news/imf-admits-disastrous-love-affair-with-the-euro-apologises-for-the-immolation-of-greece/ar-BBv0jOf) but the gratuitous comments are all mine

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Layla

All you fans of music trivia out there will already know that Patti Boyd, who was married to George Harrison and then Eric Clapton, had three of the world's most famous love songs (of the pop/rock era anyway) written about her: The Beatles' Something and Clapton's Layla (performed by Derek - who was Eric - and the Dominoes) and Wonderful Tonight. But there was lots of other stuff about Patti and her relationships I didn't know. Such as:
  • as a 19 year old model dressed as a schoolgirl, she met Harrison on the set of A Hard Day's Night. Harrison made sure he sat next to her at lunch and his first words to her were "Will You Marry Me?" followed by "Well, if you won't marry me, will you have dinner with me tonight?"
  • it was Patti, who an interest in meditation and yoga, who turned Harrison and the other Beatles on to the Maharishi which led to them visiting India in 1968. Ironically the India jaunt marked the beginning of the end of her relationship with Harrison as, presumably inspired by the Maharishi who was a notorious womaniser*, he returned more into Krishna and less into monogamy, starting a string of affairs (* the initial version of Beatles song Sexy Sadie written, as much of the White Album was, in India had the working lyric "Maharishi, you made a fool of everyone" when Lennon realised what the yogi was up to)
  • Harrison's friend Clapton wrote her lovesick notes and then, in 1970, invited her to his flat and played his new song, Layla, for her. She thought it sounded "powerful and desperate". Layla was Clapton's pet name for her, after the ancient Persian story of Layla and Majnun, about a poet driven mad by his love for a girl who was promised to another
  • However, Boyd didn't split with Harrison until 1974, the final straw being Harrisons's fling with Ringo Starr's wife, Maureen (though by then she'd had an affair with Ronnie Wood of the Faces and later the Rolling Stones).
  • Having swapped George, who Boyd said used cocaine excessively, for Clapton, who preferred heroin and alcohol, she married Clapton in 1979. Clapton started cheating on her a week after they married. But two months after they married, they held a reception at which Harrison, McCartney and Starr took part in a jam session with Mick Jagger, Elton John and David Bowie. Might have been worth seeing - although they were probably all smashed.
  • By 1989 the marriage to Clapton was over and Boyd had to get used to life outside the rock n roll bubble, finding out how to use public transport and pay electricity bills (no big divorce settlements in those days)
  • Boyd was also the inspiration for the Clapton song Bell Bottom Blues.

Patti Boyd was interviewed by Sarfraz Manzoor in the Sunday Times Magazine, 24 July 2016. But I thought the most striking thing was the photos of Patti from back in the day, which showed how much things have changed in 50 years. Apologies here feministas, but it was the huge gap between her two front teeth, which no model would appear with now, which caught my eye:


And here she is with George (and toothy gap):


And with Eric (and toothy gap):


But in the up to date photo of Patti with her 3rd husband, a property developer, not surprisingly she looks like she's got a string of shiny, evenly spaced gnashers.:


(Some additional information here is from Wikipedia and recollections of what I've read elsewhere)


Friday, 29 July 2016

Will the golfers go to Florida?

I don't think Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy did themselves or golf any favours in pulling out of the Olympics. Rory especially with his rather churlish comments, reeking of entitlement. I thought he'd grown up a bit more than that. But today's news of a zika virus outbreak in Florida, the first cases apparently transmitted by mosquitos in the USA, makes me wonder, as they all blamed zika for their no-show, whether the world's top 4 golfers will boycott PGA Tour events in Florida next year. After all, if the Florida cases, affecting people who haven't travelled or had contact with people who have brought the virus back to the USA from other countries are confirmed then similar travel advice is likely to apply to Florida as Brazil. This advice relates mainly to pregnant women, a category to which the world's top four golfers presumably assigned themselves.

There aren't any PGA events in Florida in the rest of 2016. But 2017's calendar includes The Honda Classic (at Palm Beach Gardens, 20 Feb), the Valspar Championship (at Palm Harbor, 6 March), the Arnold Palmer Invitational (at Orlando, 13 March) and The Player's Championship (at Sawgrass, 8 May).

I think we know the answer already. Money talks and these guys probably don't know what a hypocrite is. I expect they will find that there haven't been any zika carrying mosquitos within some safe distance of these golf courses (the flying radius of the mosquitos is only 150 yards). Which is probably also true of where the Olympic event is being held, but there you go.

Mind, the golfers ignored risk assessment advice for Rio, which concluded that the risk was low in the Brazilian winter (mosquito season there ends in March). As evidence, Dengue fever is another mosquito borne infection and, during the 2014 World Cup, only 3 out of the one million tourists who went to Brazil for the tournament contracted it. Indeed gastro-intestinal infections and flu are considered higher risks (and probably mugging). Flu is a much more dangerous disease than zika, killing 30,000 Americans annually. The total number of Americans who have died from zika so far? Zero. But flu doesn't have the dread factor of birth defects. Meanwhile in Brazil, as Peter Dawson (former Chief Executive of the R&A) pointedly noted "I take great heart from the fact we haven’t lost a greenkeeper yet."

It's not clear to me whether zika has been contracted near the Olympic golf venue, but there are two manmade ponds on the course. Special mosquito repellant might be distributed to fans, and officials plan to create movement in the ponds to eliminate standing water.

Anyway, don't let it put you off your game at Baltusrol, chaps. (Oops, Dustin's and Rory's game went to pot in the first round anyway....) I fully expect to see you all teeing it up at Sawgrass on the TV in May.

Some of the above information comes from:
1. the American science and health website Vox (http://www.vox.com/2016/5/25/11760228/zika-virus-risk-rio-olympics-2016
2. the American news site UPI (http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/2016/02/08/Zika-Virus-a-new-concern-for-Olympic-Golf-in-Brazil/6941454948924/)