How quickly we forget: The whitewashing of Americas past presidents

How quickly we forget: The whitewashing of Americas past presidents

They say time heals all wounds, they also say that persons tend to romanticize things from the past. We see this everywhere and with all people, in Jamaica, we gripe and mourn the good old days just before independence when everything was ‘hunky-dory’ and in the US they gripe and hark back to the glory days of the 50’s when ‘life was simpler and America ruled unchallenged’. Sadly, instead of healing wounds, it is my belief that time actually blinds us to the negativities of the past, especially as we try to come to terms with the shocking new day.

This can be summed up neatly with (I do apologize as I know he has been spoken of many times before) what is going on with Donald Trump. Now it is hardly news that Mr Trump rubs people the wrong way and that his policies, political actions and rhetoric put (if I may be frank) the fear of imminent death (by blunder) in people while also bringing out a deep visceral hate that the world has for these types of leaders. But this fear and rabid hatred for the current president has led to (what is in my eyes anyway) a shocking revision of how the US views the immediate past presidents.

The reaction of the American media post-Trump has been one of fawning for and the total revision of the immediate past presidents. We hear them yearn for the days for example when America disavowed and disowned bullies, the quotes from one previous president that they brought out to show Mr Trump what a statesman looks like were “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,”Sound and cogent words, a shame it came from Bush 43 of Iraq 2.0 fame, the man who used the bully pulpit so well to not only push for an illegal war on nonexistent charges but who also ok’d the leaking of the name of Ms Plame, a covert intelligence agent whose husband happened to disagree with the basis for the war. How the media can trot out Mr “if you’re not with us or against us” as an example of presidential decorum would be hilarious if it were a script, it reads more of a tragedy in reality.

In a further attempt to show Mr Trump for what he is, they call him (rightfully) a liar, call him someone who obfuscates and avoids actual answers (again true). To show us the people what a real president looks like, they bring out Mr William Jefferson Clinton III, the charmer himself. Who best to (poke fun at) and lecture the world on alternate facts than Mr Alternate Facts himself, for who could forget “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Lest we forget, that was a lie, so unnecessary and yet so big that it led in no small part to his impeachment. To bring this man out to act as some paragon of truth, the man who stated that NAFTA would have a net benefit for the US when all available information was to the contrary tells us what the US institution thinks of the American people, and what they think is not polite.

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It is obvious that most of the US public does not like the current president, but to then say that ‘G.W. Bush was a saint in comparison’ smacks of stupidity. To say that Mr Trump in his year in office has done anything earth shattering or out of the ordinary for an American president is silly and a total lie, it has been par for the course so far. What has been different is that he and his administration no longer put on pretences and lie. No more ‘nation-building’ no more ‘promoting democracy’ both of which were fallacies, now we have the truth, ‘give me your oil’ and ‘strength and stability’, and that removal of a carefully constructed mask is what has really thrown the American media into such a hissy fit.

The U.S establishment is in turmoil and it is hilarious to watch. The constant revision of history is taking place at such a pace that the actors can’t seem to keep up at times (as was seen when Al Franken ‘fell on his sword’) and is so muddled that one can’t help but think that the farce can’t hold for much longer. With the love for traditional Democratic and Republican politicians still at an all-time low and with the people still thoroughly turned off with what passes for news (which is nothing but tearing a person down and not addressing the system that brought it forth) it is only a matter of time before Americans look for something more radical than Trump. Then the liberal class in America will only have themselves to blame as they would have bigged up and praised what can only be called savage wolves in sheep’s clothing while demonising a person just as savage, only more visibly a vicious beast.

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Israel-Saudi-U.S. The axis finally reveals itself

Israel-Saudi-U.S. The axis finally reveals itself

The Middle East has always been a tinderbox, be it the Saudi-Persian rivalries, the intra-Gulf rivalries, the Ba’ath rivalries which tore apart Syria and Iraq and who of course could forget the age-old blood rivalry between everyone in the region and Israel, the Middle East always seems to be at the edge of the abyss (total and protracted warfare). Added to the already combustible mix is the U.S. which is for all intents and purposes is the army and intelligence of Saudi and the eternal bootlicker of Israel (whom they never fail to support in their war crimes), the U.S. who have always either directly instigated or outright funded the insanity and crimes committed by their dependencies. Things, however, have gotten even more fraught as the long suspected, poorly hidden and extremely dangerous tag team has been formed, or rather confirmed, and its open existence while definitely spelling short to medium term turmoil and strife, in the end, lead to some actual stability in the region.

This tag team, or to give it a more fitting epithet would be Axis, is made up of Israel, the U.S. and House of Saud and its existence was officially revealed only a few weeks ago. The revelation of this axis took place a few weeks ago when the current Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkotgave an exclusive (in many ways as this was Saudi does not officially recognise Israel) to a Saudi newspaper, and the content of that interview present to us even more credible evidence as to why this tripartite have so destroyed the Middle East for the past decade. In the interview with the Saudi Elaph, he states, Saudi Arabia “has never been our enemy. It has not fought us nor have we fought it” (skirting the fact that Saudi has housed and funded factions that have Israeli and IDF blood on their hands). The reason for the chief of staff of the IDF skirting the issue of Saudi bloody hands becomes clear when he states that Israel is “ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran”. In other words, Israel is willing to cosy up to the Arab monarchic despots (because the only ones slightly ‘liberal’ have been destroyed or are the enemies of Israel) to get at Iran.

Now both countries are American allies, Israel less so because of its advanced economy and battle-hardened army, Saudi more so because they rely on oil exports which to make things worse is tied to the US dollar and neither country would dare make a move this bold alone as they both know that, while Iran may not win the war they would be definitely most noble in defeat and defeating them would mean taking Tehran (something that would make Iran-Iraq look like a playground squabble). And that is where the U.S. would come in, for the U.S. alone out of the three has the firepower and technology that would make the long slog to Tehran a little (note: a little) less bloody. The fact that the U.S. has long wanted to turn back the Islamic Revolution in Iran is not new, they have aimed for that since the Ayatollah declared ‘Death to America‘, the fact is that Operation Iraqi freedom was supposed to lead to regime change in Iran (and Syria) is not new, and the fact that almost everyone to a man in the current White House wants to crush the Iranian menace is also not new.

Saudi and the U.S. have long collaborated to stem the Iranian menace while the Israelis have also in the same period have been assisted by the U.S. to halt the imposing wave that is Iran in Lebanon, it is therefore only natural that they should collaborate all three of them together. The three nations (in spite of the ardent protestations of the U.S. and Israel) are all run by imperialist cliques, be they the Likud, Israeli Labour, Republican, Democratic or high flying members of the House of Saud, the members of these respective governments and states espouse what can only be called fascism-light at the best of times, therefore it should come as no great shock that they aim to unite and snuff out any opposition to them. Examples of this ideology are all over the place the mad and illegal invasion of Iraq (which in part was also a holywar in the region as the US president had stated), the funding of militant groups in the region by the Saudis (aimed at halting the increasing strength of groups aligned with Iran) and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon (really Israel-Hezbollah) war (which was aimed at securing the regions that would help make up greater Israel). All of them, members of this tripartite are also beholden to a version of their respective religions that have been so warped that they have taken them back in time both mentally and ethically and therefore it should come as no surprise that they all unite to bash the heathen.

Along with geopolitics, religion has a somewhat large part to play in what is going on with these three nations and there seemingly strange union. The extreme fundamentalist Christian, the practitioner of Wahabi/Salafist Islam and the believer of Zionism (the Orthodox Jews in Israel), in spite of what they all may say have so much in common that it isn’t funny. The biggest thing that they have in common is their bind and dogmatic zealotry that will, in the end, lead to total mayhem in the Middle East. With the Zionists fervently believing that they must inherit ‘Greater Israel’, with the fundamental Christians actively seeking to have the Temple rebuilt to fulfil ‘Biblical prophecy’ and with the Wahabi/Salafists believing that anyone who isn’t Orthodox Sunni (that is to say Wahabi/Salafist) is an infidel and should be put to death, it is easy to see how they could all unite around the common enemy that is Iran, the nation who through Hezbollah denies the Zionist/fundementalist Christian dream and through whose very existence makes the Wahabi/Salafists sick and perturbed to the point of insanity.

With the sabres not only rattling but actually out of the sheath and at the ready, we are seeing the region gear up for what could be a long and protracted war. The die has already been cast with the U.S. presence in Syria (which they say could last for decades), the table set by Saudi attempting (poorly I might add) to gin up anti-Iranian sentiment in the region and the troops at the ready war does not seem to be far off. With the Jerusalem statement (something that Saudi has long ago tacitly accepted) being made, it won’t take very much to get things started, most wars never really begin with a loud bang or something so obvious. This Axis must be stopped and it is my view that they will be stopped, that this the attempt at Iran/Hezbollah will be a bridge too far for the three of them (America in terms of prestige and finances, Israel in terms of blood and Saudi in terms of their throne), but the cost to the region will be so high that it would take decades to get back where they are now.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”: May I have your PIN?

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”: May I have your PIN?

The debate recently about NIDS (The National Identification and Registration Act, if I am to give it its proper name) is now done and dusted after doing the rounds in both parliament and the media, it has (naturally) been met with strong support for it along with an equal amount of dissent. The majority of supporters say that the bill is of the utmost necessity (even with the amendments exceeding that of the ZOSO bill) as the nation faces the dual threats of crime and corruption which are (and always have been) eating away at the nation. They also say that the law (even though they admit it is heavily flawed) is a must because the state has serious issues when it comes to identifying its citizenry because things like the driver’s license can be easily and cheaply falsified and obtained.

These vocal supporters chide the critics as being deliberately obstructionist, hoping that this new tool in the state arsenal fails, painted as plain old badmind or as being PNP sympathizers. However, an increasing (and very dangerous) grenade that is being thrown by the supporters of NIDS if ‘if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear’, a statement that 1. acknowledges the bills massive and blatant flaw, and 2. the statement shows just how ignorant most are of history, even recent history.

Now I openly acknowledge that we need a good ID system and one that is easily accessible (to the state and its various arms), but is everything in this law really necessary? Again, I can see the relevance of fingerprints, very necessary to capture someone’s identification. But when coupled with palmprints, foot and toeprints, retina and vein mapping and blood type along with the normal i.d. things (such as address etc), one is forced to ask ‘are we also waging a war against radical Islam?’. I am not a religious man but as a student of Jesuits, and as someone who reads a lot of religious literature, I personally struggle to see the Christian fundamentalists easily accepting this as it looks very ‘mark of the beastish’. I love but poo-poo a lot of sci-fi but does this not read like some sick John Wyndham/Issac Asimov novel?

I do not put my trust in sci-fi and religion, I do however put my trust in history, both distant and recent, as that is a very good way to gauge how something in the present will pan out and frankly, history is saying that this policy, however well intended will eventually fail. Fail in this instance does not mean that it does not meet its objective (assisting the state in identifying the citizens), instead, it means that it will eventually be abused by persons and actors with ugly motives. The Netherlands, for example, had in the early to mid-1900 ‘s an excellent (albeit a bit intrusive) ID and census system, inclusive of religion.

Now no one can say that the Dutch authorities (internally at least as the practices changed radically in the colonies) were a repressive and oppressive regime, it was a byword for liberalism, a stable constitutional monarchy and home of the Hague (whose name has graced so many important European liberal milestones) , so nothing to fear, no issue. But when the Axis invaded, that intrusive and well-recorded identification and census information was gobbled up and readily utilized in its final solution i.e. the Holocaust.  Now I do apologize for the WWII reference as I am sure most have grown weary of hearing them, but I and others keep bringing that war and its atrocities up because we as a species seem to constantly repeat and actually refine them.

The genocides in both Rwanda and Burundi were made childishly easy by an intrusive (by the standards of the day) census and id system, as is the genocide and ethnic cleansing that has been going on in Myanmar/Burma (most notably against the Rohingya) for the past fifty years. With a track record and trail bathed in blood, why exactly would we want, let alone rush into this type of scheme without a serious discussion about the pros and cons?

These types of systems (with all of its intrusive elements) if, placed in the wrong hands could most certainly be used as it relates to divvying up the spoils of political conquest. This type of legislation is laughable, for heaven’s sake, one won’t be able to access anything sate related without this identification and something like that just is asking for and breeds corruption and pork belly politics. That means no PATH, no access to KPH, no access to schools, no access (or rather use of) places like the RGD and Companies Office, that is a system begging to be abused by politicians and others who know nothing but practising corruption.

Imagine for a minute if you will the dystopia that we would be living in if the creators of what are today’s monster garrisons had access to such an awesome (potential) power such as this that is found in this system? Hell, how would our current MP’s use this power when they already know and use the ‘unknowable’ such as the names of the persons who voted in their constituency during elections? Do we, as a nation really believe that the parties which gave us Tivoli and Arnett Gardens, the ones that gave us Trafigura and consistently run drugs and guns, have at the snap of a finger, or by the sprinkling of some magic dust become trustworthy and able to use this, such an awesome power?

As for persons who say’if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’ may I say; I am more trustworthy than the state apparatus and either party, I have no record of corruption. May I, therefore, have your ATM PIN (again I have more credibility than the state) and demand all personal information of both you and your employees (if you are a business owner)? After all, if you have nothing to hide you should, therefore, have nothing to fear. If one really has nothing to hide and therefore nothing to fear then, by all means, please be the first to have the JCF arbitrarily kick open your door (without a warrant) and then proceed to search both you and your belongings.

I don’t expect many (or any) to take up my suggestion of giving me the data, some because they may think me mad, some because they may think me an undercover criminal and some still because what I ask is just plain intrusive, overbearing and overdemanding. Some will refuse because what they have is either embarrassing or personal and that is the kicker, some things we keep to ourselves because it is personal. One expects a degree of privacy, even while acknowledging and allowing for the necessary intrusions on life, therefore if we as a nation insist on styling ourselves as a liberal democracy we must hold the cornerstone of that institution, The Magna Carta, to be true. If we are going to continue to style ourselves as a liberal democracy then we must look at the uproar that took place in the UK and Australia and the court ruling in India when they tried to implement such legislation.

With European nations and the U.S. who are  fighting any and everyone at the moment still debating about the intrusiveness of such laws (just look at the U.S. and  how they are tearing themselves apart over data retention and grabbing), we wish to rush headlong into this thing, we aim to implement it without even a proper debate. It should not be lost on anyone that the PNP (who loved it while they were in office) have done and continue to do little to challenge this law (apart from walking out of parliament) while JLP (who have always openly wanted such a sweeping law) have rammed this through, this is so because they love nothing more than control and power, and this law has the potential of cementing both.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and this matter is no different, it is telling that groups with such differing views and agendas such as JFJ, JFLAG and JCFHS all agree (though for differing reasons) that this law as is is bad. We need a proper and wholesale ID, I agree, but not like this. It is costly and intrusive, whats-more we all know it will do squat in relation to crime (as the killings in Mt Salem, the chronic undereducation and the recent gun find show). If we honestly intended to do a proper ID we could have done it without all of the unnecessary trappings, cost and fear by melding together existing things.  The TRN, NIS, birth certificate, driver license, electoral ID etc, these individually do what the NID will do, they capture already what would be in the future NIDS database, and without the intrusion. To do such a thing would have needed amendments to many laws, and probably a constitutional change or two, however as no party has the required majority to do this it won’t be done as that would mean dialogue, compromise and most of all a love for nation above party or self and the ramming through (and the walkout) show this.

Mental slavery; The final liberation struggle

Mental slavery; The final liberation struggle

Slavery in this part of the world has been over for quite some time (1838 in the BWI to be exact), and during that time the former slaves and their children have come a long way. Millionaires, politicians and clergymen came from this ‘humble’ stock as well as persons who always kept the flame of total equality for the masses burning bright. And yet when Marcus Garvey came unto the scene, stating in no unclear way we were still mentally enslaved, he was more or less condemned. Sadly the message delivered then was not heeded and whats even sadder still is that as I write this, many persons in this side of the world firmly disavow and mock the term mental slavery while remaining rigidly shackled themselves.

These shackles can be found all over the place, some of them are blatantly obvious. Some are ridiculously small and outright funny, for who can’t help but chuckle a bit when one sees the Chief Justice in all his/her thick, hot, clunky garb that looks so out of place in a region like Jamaica?jamaica-judge

 

Another obvious example of our remaining enslaved is the useless and potentially destructive role of the Governor General. Now we can all laugh at the fact that this man has been knighted for nought, and we can cringe that his Office is a constant reminder of our lack of full independence, but let us take time to be worried as well. The Governor-General as the Queens representative can shoot down bills, remove the Prime Minister and even call for foreign intervention  (Reserve Power).

This is not made up or, a random theory or something dragged from the air, this is a fact and a tool that has been (albeit rarely) used. The examples of the removal of the Australian Prime minister Gough Whitlam in the 70’s by the Governor-General (The Dismissal) and the call for foreign intervention by the Governer-General of Grenada Sir Paul Scoon in the 80’s have set the precedent. Now the common retort to that statement is ‘well that would be the Governor-General signing his own death warrant’, but with Australia and Grenada still retaining the Governor-General, with our seemingly never-ending fetish with the Queen and seeing one of our own being paid by us to ‘rule for the foreigner’, we can see where the chains are still holding firm.

For heaven’s sake, if your defence of the Monarchy, the Governor-General and the Privy Council is “they keep us safe from the local corruption”(and you’d be surprised at how common that statement in particular is), then you are mentally enslaved. I am afraid that you are saying that you would prefer foreign corruption and exploitation (the P.C, for example, can & is influenced) that you cant control, rather than a domestic version which you can tailor to our needs and better regulate, and that is saying you prefer the mental chains.

Mental slavery is again visible through the disgusting, disturbing and heartbreaking practice of skin-bleaching. This is probably the most visible and telling sign that yes, we are still enslaved and large chunks of black people are running from their race. This act though disturbing is, in its warped way, something I as a ‘brown-man’ understand. That persons who make up less than ten percent of what the average Jamaican looks like are treated better than the other ninety percent feeds this sick fetish is not novel, in fact, it is now so common that it is cliched to the extent that persons no longer take it onboard. Examples of this abound and plentiful, there are many times when I an utter unknown (but brown-skinned) am treated better than the known (darker-skinned) person. To make matters worse this treatment of placing a person of a lighter complexion above the darker individual is meted out by black people. How can we end bleaching if that treatment continues? How can we end that treatment unless and until we liberate ourselves mentally?

Areas as innocuous as clothing and the dress code have long acted as hidden shackles in our minds. Girls told no to ‘natural’ hair at school (though a white person’s hair is natural to them), boys told to cut their hair to a military length (not so for the ‘nice hair’) and being turned back for government places because of the length of clothing. This particular area has reached levels of such insanity that even persons who don’t normally believe we are mentally chained now demand that rules relating to our archaic and colonial dress code in public (government) buildings.

However, what is in my opinion, the largest shackle, the heaviest ball we carry is our relationship with patois. This is the mass vernacular of the nation, it is a tongue spoken by all persons of all races, class in both formal and informal settings. It is the language of our ancestors, white, black and in-between, the language of commerce (local) and we treat it like absolute garbage. We deride it and persons who use it, and to defend the self-hate we spew lame and factually incorrect statements such as ‘Haiti uses creole as the main language and as a result, they are poor for want of trade’. Statements such as that (and it is a statement shared by far too many people) show persons who know nothing of history and are just bringing to light those who wish to see us remain in mental chains. Haiti is impoverished not because they ‘use creole and cant trade’; a forced ‘deal’ by the French post-independence, relentless foreign occupation, the propping up of tyrants by foreigners and some poor national choices have led to Haiti being where it is now. When the Dutch, French, English and Africans met up in southern Africa, the indigenous language was Afrikaans, a creole, a bastardised tongue. Up until the fall of the Apartheid regime in 1994, it was the language of South Africa with special status (Because Afrikaners make up a small portion of the already small white populace). Apartheid South Africa was and forever shall be a mark against humanity, but the ruling white elite of that regime understood cultural retention in this (language) aspect in ways that we, their opponents are yet to fully grasp, language is a major hurdle to mental emancipation.

Black liberation, our full emancipation, is a long and slow process. It took centuries of riots and rebellions to get the physical chains off, a further century of struggle for us to get equal political rights, but we still have some way to go as it relates to total emancipation. Mental emancipation is a must if we are to truly be both emancipated and independent. We must learn to love ourselves, our black selves. We must truly accept and acknowledge that black skin is not intrinsically bad, that Afro-languages are not signs of ‘ignorance’ and we must appreciate that all that is Europen and North American is not necessarily better than that which is African. The liberation is happening, continuing rather, it has its ups and downs, but some one-hundred hears since Garvey stirred things up again solid progress has been made, I just wish it was more.

Internship: The I word

Internship: The I word

For some it means dirt cheap labour, for some, it means a chance to dump grunt work, for some, it means vital experience and for others still, it means outright sufferation, this is what the I word inspires whenever uttered. By I word of course I mean the word internship, both paid and unpaid internship, these are words that when spoken can illicit such fear and hope, such a lively and heated discussion comes forth whenever this phrase is spoken.This phrase has been in the Jamaican lexicon for some time, but with the recent utterances from the media (All Angles) coupled with the inevitable firestorm on social media, it has become a hot topic again.

In the end (from my point of view), the discussion has boiled down to the tired trope of ‘millennials are just a lazy lot who desire instant riches’ or ‘I did the same type of internship and am now a better person’. Now while that line of argument holds some (and it is very little) merit, it totally misses some of the rather important factors that the young have to deal with and as such rightfully in quite a few cases resent the intern position (especially the unpaid variety).

The truth is that while internship (of both varieties) carry many benefits, however a big issue with internship programs is that in many cases (maybe even the majority) it is selling a false bill of goods, and the false product is that of ‘work experience’. Now the idea of work experience sounds lovely, a potential lawyer shadowing an attorney and learning about the nitty-gritty of law, or a potential doctor shadowing a doctor and learning first hand about that field of medicine is a brilliant idea, that is until one takes on the intern role. One then realizes that one is not shadowing, not learning anything first hand, but instead delivering letters and messages, getting coffee and refreshments or if they are very lucky doing the menial data entry of figures. Now while that does have upsides such as the links built and the better connection with your superiors, it hardly furthers your knowledge of that field of work getting coffee and you gain no vital experience as the intern gets very little conversation/feedback time from the supervisor. Rather than work experience maybe a more appropriate term would be ‘Link building’ or ‘Network Enhancing’, for no real experience is gained from many of these posts.

Another issue with an internship is the vagueness that comes with the position as it relates to what area of work you will be in, how long will you be in that area of work and how many hours you will be working. I am not for a minute saying that having an internship that takes you all over the chosen field is bad, in fact, it is a good thing as it broadens one’s understanding of the field. But if employers refuse to (politely) advise prospective interns of the runnings (that they should expect any and everything), then they will always be faced with reasonable questions and grievances about why they are interning in this area of work, or if they will be getting paid for the overtime. To imply that the prospect will be shadowing in job X or work Y hours, then have them do job X-Z while working N hours is ungrateful or crass for making what amounts to a simple enquiry is insulting and especially hurting when one takes into account the intern took the job based on a lie of omission.

Remuneration is however probably the biggest sticking point when it comes to the institution that is internship and this is hardly surprising. With most of these intern positions primarily requiring some form of higher education and with the cost of higher education being so high (just have a look at the SLB rates), it is no wonder that prospective interns and current interns grumble about the rate (or lack thereof) remuneration. The popular retort is that ‘I the older person have done it’, or that ‘person X in your age group did it’, and while those statements may be true, the time has moved on and individual circumstances differ greatly. For the older persons, they need to understand that society has transformed greatly in the past 20-50 years and so has the community. The community for the most part in those days WAS the safety net. If a person in the community needed help and showed promise they could look forward to communal assistance in the form of; transportation fare, lunch (money or a meal) or lodging. Community assistance was forthcoming in those days, many a member of the financial elite received community helping hands and now that they are in the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and success they scoff at the youngsters and forget the helping hands they themselves received.

For heaven’s sake, if a recent graduate who either has SLB repayments or a family to take care of (siblings in school etc) is presented with the options of either (1) a six-month unpaid internship position, with the eventual prospect of a well-paid job, or (2) an immediate paying (albeit below one is overqualified and thus underpaid) and secure job, is it truly that much of a shock when they choose the immediate money? In those cases (which are the majority in my estimation) are they really looking for fast money or simply looking to survive? It seems to be the latter when I have a good hard look at it.

With the cost of education being so high, with the cost of living always increasing and with the community safety net gone, should it really come as a surprise if interns ask for remuneration that allows them to survive? Is it truly ‘above their station’ to insist that at some point someone gives them a helping hand? I do not believe so and quite frankly anyone who harbours wishes of this economic model working in Jamaica really needs to look at rectifying the internship programs around the nation.

Many of these ‘issues’ could be avoided if a proper system of internship were to be implemented at the high school level, say during grades 11-13. I make this suggestion for two reasons (1) At that age, they are still wards and therefore would have their major expenses covered by either their parents or the state (if they are PATH recipients) and as such wouldn’t require payment, simply a stipend for transportation and food, and (2) Most graduates already have some idea of what it is they want to do and as such feel offended and resent the constant ‘chopping and changing’ of areas of work while interning, whereas those still in high school generally tend to still be in the decision making process and as such would benefit more from gaining knowledge of the industry from as many vantages as possible.

An internship has many benefits and advantages and I am not sure that I know anyone who understands how the economic system operates who is anti-internship. The links, the subtle nuances you pick up on, the lexicon and all the other tricks of the trade are gained by going through a quality intern program. However, to say that those who have grievances are ungrateful etc is pointless as this in fact only serves to alienate future prospects. Respect, decent remuneration and some actual knowledge of the field is what the call essentially boils down to, and when one really looks at it the call truly isn’t an unreasonable one.

Andrew Holness, the consummate politician

Andrew Holness, the consummate politician

Andrew Holness one has to admit it is a damn good politician. That I can say that would, of course, stun those who know me, but one has to pay the devil his due, and Andrew Holness in spite of what I and others may think of him has shown himself to be a first-rate politician. People see him as pompous, as a man in love with himself or as a man who is so power hungry that he will stab anyone in the back, but that couldn’t be further from what I see.

I see a man who was handed the mantle of power in a most precarious time (and that is putting it in such airy words it is not funny) for both his part and his nation and was tasked with ensuring it didn’t sink. Now when faced with the options of either 1. maintaining power and then dealing (in the short time) with the economic issue that had to be addressed and then lose your (personal) shine, or 2. call an early election, tell the nation of the inevitable suffering that will be done by whoever wins and lose (shunting the unpopular reform burden onto the PNP). He chose the bold move, lost the general election (as expected) and then faced what seemed to be a long political exile.

With knives out for him and his position he walked a tightrope and manoeuvred some tight corners, he was roundly embarrassed and scandalized by the resignation letters scandal but even that scenario showed a man who in political terms anyway is always trying to be a step ahead of his opponents, for by demanding that type of action demonstrates that 1. you and you alone run that show, and 2. total fealty is a must and anyone who runs afoul of you will suffer the consequences (ala Arthur Williams or Dr Tuffton). Then when Mr Shaw challenged for the JLP leadership it was thought by many that Andrew was done. Instead, he won that internal battle, and he won convincingly silencing Audley Shaw and his acolytes for now.

That, however, pales in comparison to what must surely be called one of the most unexpected electoral results in any nation recently. The election of 2016 was amazing, this was a man who managed to reduce the PNP to a mere shell, an embarrassment of its former self. This was a campaign that saw the then governing party (PNP) that not only righted the economy, brought actual investment and liberalized the ganja policy getting trounced (and yes the PNP bears some blame for the defeat but that doesn’t take away from Andrews shine) in such  manner that they still haven’t found their bearings after almost two years.

He has shown himself to be an excellent campaigner, he has a campaign machine that is always in action and humming, a machine that I am sure one PJ Patterson would even begrudgingly admit is in tip-top shape. This can be seen in the way that the party trumpets any and all achievements (even ones that are not even half met), how often, for example, has one seen an advert in the paper with the JLP banner talking up their policy achievements, how often has one gone online and been bombarded with the ‘prosperity gospel’ of the JLP?  He has simply revolutionised the way campaigns are done in Jamaica with the way his party used technology and social media in the last campaign, and this by-election shows that. A surprisingly (if you have awakened from a slumber that began in the early 2000’s) large amount of this key by-election (SE St Mary) fight is being done online. Canvassing groups, discussion groups, groups that look to get the party talking points in order are all to be found online as well as the lengthy and (sometimes) witty statements that emanate from the campaign trail, all of this is as a direct result of the way in which Andrew Holness and his JLP team went about campaigning during the general and local government elections.

The composition of his cabinet also showed a man who has come far in terms of political growth. Take the positions of Bobby and Chris at MoH and National Security, now to some these ‘high profile’ positions show how much faith and trust he has in these people, and that may be so, but those appointments coupled with his (Andrew) statements on nonperformers and the positions (or lack thereof) they took during the internal election, one can also see these placements as nothing short of punishment. For realistically, who in their right mind would want the National Security portfolio, one that is almost always bound to leave your political reputation in tatters? Which sane person would want to manage our health ministry with its anaemic budget and its dilapidated or nonexistent infrastructure? This is a man who clearly while not discarding of his political opponents (as they all have their uses) is going to punish them and ensure that any route to his throne is fraught with obstacles.

The policies he has implemented or carried on with since taking office have also been rather impressive. I know I’m not the first, and I surely won’t be the last to make a comment on it, but the way that he has stolen some critical (really the only ones they spoke of anymore) left-wing policy pieces from the PNP (such as the free health care and education) coupled with his thrust at the housing question has left the opposition reeling and unsure of just how to tackle this administration when it comes to ideology (though the PNP seem to be re-aligning and regaining their socialist core). That march has been impressive to watch and watching how he handles the captains of industry within his party will be key, it will be an interesting balancing act and a most impressive feat if he can pull it off.

One doesn’t have to like Andrew Holness personally, or even his political policies, lord knows I don’t (policy-wise that is). But for me to say that I am not impressed by how he has operated in the past few years would be a barefaced lie, by all accounts he should be dead and buried, instead he is sitting pretty as PM and is looking to extend his parliamentary majority. I don’t like his policies, but he has some while the opposition dithers, I don’t like the roadmap to the national vision, but at least after nearly three decades of going around in ever decreasing circles at least, we have a roadmap. He may not be my cup of tea or even the majorities cup of tea, but he is no fool, he is very adept and is a survivor, love him or loathe him he is the most complete politician in the island at the moment, time will tell if the PNP can dislodge what is fast looking like a titan in a field of shrinking violets (see Peter Bunting et al in the PNP front-running).

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

CARICOM, as is, is dead. It is going nowhere fast, what with all the dick-swinging, animosity, regional tension, economic tension and social tensions, CARICOM as is, is dead as it relates to harmonising and developing relationships throughout the region. The sad reality is that in spite of our common history and shared culture the distance is too great to overcome along with the population and economic disparities.

Trinidad & Tobago along with Barbados (despite the latter’s recent malaise) are streets ahead of every other nation in this bloc in terms of economics, and they flex their muscles much to the chagrin of the other nations in the regional bloc. Jamaica and Trinidad dominate in terms of population size (and therefore have a large labour pool) and we see where their nationals make up a large portion of the workforce in the other nations in the grouping, pressuring wages of the locals downwards (in some cases) while alienating/forcing out of work quite a few of the local populace.

The CSME (Caribbean Single Market & Economy) is non-existent, the ‘freedom of movement’ that CARICOM was supposed to have afforded us is nowhere to be found and ideas of political/legal integration seem to have been strangled in its crib if the CCJ is anything to go by. CARICOM it must be said again as is is dead in the water unless something drastic and earth-shaking takes place, and that event may very well have taken place (or is slowly taking place).

Global warming and the tectonic movements in my mind are going to be the driving force behind the region finally integrating, climate change may very well be the thing that saves this bloc. As seen with the recent hurricanes this season along with the precarious fault line that is between Jamaica and Haiti, the nations of this bloc could literally at any moment face a crisis that would bankrupt any one of the individual nations that make up CARICOM. Rivers and streams are drying up and islands that are used to importing water are now paying through the nose for the same commodity as a result, it cant continue, something must change.

The time for doing nothing has ended, that door slammed shut the minute Dominica got battered by the third category 4 hurricane of what has been a hellish nightmare that is this years hurricane season. Frankly, the door started closing during the five minutes of hell that Haiti endured (the 2010 earthquake). Simply put, stagnation at this point in time is akin to willfully signing our death warrants, the only way out of this mess is with true unification and integration.

CARICOM as a bloc has a population of just under eighteen million persons, almost all of them living on islands, except two. Guyana and Belize are on the continent and are (wait for it) actually underpopulated. If we as a regional bloc were serious about not only political integration but most importantly our peoples survival, then we would look into setting up a plan to get off the islands and move to the continent, the mainland which happens to be CARICOM members as well as being underpopulated and underdeveloped (like all of CARICOM in that regard).

Now, as I have pointed out, these nations are actually pretty underpopulated. Guyana with a land mass of 83,000 sq mi (making it number 83 in terms of country size) has a population of 773,303 as of 2016 (making it number 165 for population size) and therefore one of the least dense places on earth (ranked at number 8). Suriname is a bit smaller but still again a massive nation with a land mass of 63,252 sq mi (ranked at number 90) and with a population just above half a million. These are nations roughly the size of Great Britan (in the case of Guyana) and Greece (in the case of Suriname) and with a fraction of their population, in other words, there is ample room for population expansion. As it relates to the environment (which should be at the forefront of our minds if we even begin to plan this out), I believe that we (at least in this region anyway) have learnt our lessons and would look to do as little damage as possible to the magnificent beauties that make up Guyana-Suriname hinterland, forests and waterways, we wont be doing concrete jungles anymore I believe.

I am not pretending that this is either a roadmap or a policy piece on how to achieve this, that is for persons in a much bigger pay bracket than I can imagine. But it is something that we must at the very least be thinking about and hopefully, this will spark some stimulating conversation on the topic along with concrete actions. The way has already been somewhat paved by the  Guna people of Panama, these people live on the Caribbean side of Panama and as such are seeing their land slowly swallowed up by the ocean as the climate becomes more hostile. As a solution, they are all (within a specified timeline) moving to the mainland of Panama, showing that a solution is out there.

This type of regional cooperation and integration I admit is at this moment very much a pipe dream and honestly seems laughably impossible, however, the alternatives are also just as, if not more so, impossible. Option one is, hope, pray and cajole the nations of the world to meet and surpass (because the current targets will mean the regions extinction) the goals set at the Paris climate talks (a tall order especially with the US pulling out). Option two is, we as individual nations try and make the best of it, build dykes as tall as skyscrapers to keep the water out (see King Canute) and then die (not very pleasant what with these hurricanes, heat etc). Option three is, we all vacate the region and go to the former colonial masters, something that just sounds mad when one looks at current events (see Trump and all of Europe). None of these options are likely or realistic, the truth is we in the region have been left to fend for ourselves, to act as the test case in how well/long humans will live in the front lines in the era of global warming, at this point it is really either swim together or die a slow death for the nations of this region because we are not going to get any outside help.

It’s high time we audited Jamaica’s debt

It’s high time we audited Jamaica’s debt

Jamaica has a high level of debt, pardon me for stating the blatantly obvious, but just to hammer home that point let me state that Jamaica’s debt to GDP ratio is at the rate of %115, in other words, each Jamaican citizen owes an individual total of roughly $800,000 (JMD). This level of indebtedness has had a massive toll on the nation, be it the fact that we have to take on stringent IMF regulations in order to get by, the fact that borrowing on the international stage is now rather taxing, but the most damning thing about all of our debt is that we really have nothing to show for it.

The billions in debt that the state (and as such we individuals) have to repay and honour is in need of auditing. The fact of the matter is that (and I’m only speaking of the 80’s onwards) for all of the billions we owe the nation (to use a technical term) looks like a piece of crap. Monies that was borrowed for bridge building in Parish X disappears and the bridge is not there, money borrowed for road repairs vanishes and the roads are left to further cave in. Money that we cant afford to pay back is borrowed to upgrade jail cells to move them out of the mid 19th Century is not accounted for and the jails remain like dungeons.

A majority of the money owed was borrowed because the state wished to ‘improve the lives of its citizens’, and yet here we are, 37 years after the economy was returned to pure capitalism and a willing credit market (the little democratic-socialist initiatives initiated by Manley were almost all killed off by the successive administrations) with nothing to show for it except an ungodly level of debt, nothing relating to infrastructure, and a sick joke when it comes to social services. Along with politicians and certain well-connected individuals getting rich coincidentally of course.

The people have not benefited, we as a society have received no gains from this borrowed money and instead, are left to foot the bill, that is utter madness (to put it politely) and should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. We should demand a forensic audit of this debt (or as much of it that can be audited) so we can find out just where the money went and most importantly, who has/had it. Now I’m not of the opinion that the guilty parties once found out would (or even could) pay back the money, but it would be a massive start, it would show that theft from the state is no longer something to turn a blind eye to and it would also send a strong message to those who wish to dip into the public purse for their own benefits.

Were in over our heads when it comes to this debt, full repayment is simply not an option if we wish to live in a nation resembling anything near half decent, it is a massive handicap. The audit of our borrowed money (who got it, what was it used for and the terms of the loan) would be a most important step in either wiping away our debt (something we should be heavily lobbying for) or at the very least in getting a haircut on the debt, that is only possible with an audit. I say again the people have not benefited from this borrowed money, and unless and until a full forensic audit is done on our debt, quite frankly we shouldn’t (as citizens) pay our taxes (which only go to debt service) and demand that a closer look at our debt is carried out.

P.S. I’d like to thank Mr Lloyd D’Aguilar for providing the seed for this bit of commentary, if it weren’t for his posts on twitter I’m not sure that this process would have crossed my mind.

The JLP’s to lose now

The JLP’s to lose now

Political soldiers are on the move, all over St Mary one will be greeted with bunting, placards, billboards and of course, flags representing the opposing parties and their respective candidates, its by-election time in South East St. Mary. But this was to be expected, with the slim margins of victory coupled with the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Dr Green (and the sticky issue that was the election petition) the campaign never really ended in this part of Jamaica, and I believe that will be to the JLP’s great benefit.

Anywhere one goes in that part of the world, from Castleton all the way to the border of Portland as I said earlier, one will see campaign paraphernalia all over the place. But just a look at them will tell you which party is ‘rolling in it’ and which party ‘cant afford a pot to piss in’. Placards bearing the image of the PNP candidate (Dr Shane Alexis) are there and in numbers too, probably outnumbering those of his opponent (Dr Norman Dunn), however (and I may be reading a lot into this but not too much) they are not of the same quality and make of Dr Dunn’s placards. A small thing, but this is just one indicator of a party flush with cash (and using it strategically) and one that is running on fumes as it relates to finances.

SE ST MARY

Dr Alexis, it is true has been trodding earth, going to many communities and reaching out to many persons, and it is true that he has brought a vim back to the PNP cadre in that constituency who have been afflicted by the broader party malaise, but that is no surprise. The simple fact is that he has to go door to door and drum up support and name recognition because he is a totally unknown quantity in the regional party and politics in general, as a result he has to ingratiate himself with the constituents, a long and arduous process as he will also if he has sense be looking for the ‘swing’ voter. The fact again is that Dr Shane Alexis has his work cut out for him if only for that one fact, though I do believe that he does stand a fighters chance and could very well be the MP after the next general election, he faces a likely (not certain but likely) defeat this time around.

Dr Dunn has no such worries as it relates to name recognition and has no nagging questions about what his message is (he is a known quantity). Having run, and only just lost in the last general election (with such a narrow margin that a petition was working its way through the courts) and being born in the region, people know him. Couple those with the facts that both the JLP (with its very good marketing) and most importantly he himself has never left campaign mode (by all accounts he has been operating as if an election could have been called their ever since he lost). They have the ground covered, they have the people canvassed, they know the local issues already, they understand the local mentality as it relates to politics. The JLP is in a nutshell well oiled and prepared for this election and personally, it would be bordering on an upset (I’m sure Belmont Road would be fuming) if the JLP lost.

I don’t feel this is a referendum on the Andrew Holness administration, in spite of what Dr Phillips of the PNP would want us to believe. This is, however, a serious test for the PNP and could be the beginning of an Indian Summer for the JLP. If the PNP lose and give the JLP, even more, breathing space (they already act at times like its a parliament of 53-10rather than one of 32-31) then Andrew Holness would have a green light to either destroy them with policy measures that ‘no well thinking Jamaican could oppose’ such as ZOSO, or if he is wise (and he strikes me as politically adept) call a snap election whenever things bump back up and further weaken a PNP that is only now bearly showing signs of stemming the cannibalization.

The ball is in the court of the JLP, with the councils under their control and with a candidate who has never stopped campaigning the election is the JLP’s to lose. They must avoid blunder, walk on eggshells and stay far from a scandal at this point in time and if they do that then they have a hand on the trophy already. The PNP must be in a frantic mad dash at the moment as they aim to retain the seat and continue to ‘bite at the heels’ of the government, however they shouldn’t be too down if they lose and that shouldn’t herald the resumption of the civil war. They should instead take stock, try to retain Dr Alexis as the caretaker for the seat (as he has built up some rapport and is very young) and aim for the long run, that is the only way that they can hope of having a permanent chance in that seat.

Is Jamaica serious about tackling crime?

Is Jamaica serious about tackling crime?

The JCF has killed Duppy Film! Let us break out in song and dance and let us breathe easy, the JCF has it seemed to found their aim again. Over the past two weeks, the JCF has been on a roll, killing up to a dozen dangerous wanted men and having one turn himself in. Some would see this as Jamaica finally taking crime seriously, taking it hard to the criminals and ensuring that they hurt no one else, and while I am elated that these persons can no longer cause such harm to society as they have been alleged to (yes almost none were tried and found guilty so alleged), I can’t help but wonder if by the recent actions of the JCF and the majority of our reactions are we serious about tackling crime or do we only like the idea?

Now before one gets to thinking that this is some piece crying over the ‘fallen soldier’ that is Duppy Film, let me say again no it is not, persons who commit crimes, and persons who commit violent crimes deserve prison, and in some cases a bit more than that. However, that does not blind me to the fact that something is fundamentally wrong with a crime strategy that entails simply ‘kill anything that moves’, or worse still ‘shoot first and questions be damned’, a strategy that totally ignores key questions and a society that seems willfully blind to them.

Now it is not a secret (or maybe an open one) that Duppy Film was well connected, a hired gun he was in hot demand for a time and used by quite a few influential persons. It is also not a secret (again maybe another open one) that he was paid to take out an influential individual. He was found in a part of the island (his home parish admittedly) where the guns for drugs trade and the import/export of drugs is home, and just like that, after seven years on the run, eluding a dragnet of 180 joint JCF-JDF, was found and gunned down out of the blue… does that not strike anyone else as strange? That this man who had answers so so many pertinent and pressing issues, was gunned down just so, after seven years of eluding everyone? To me, something smells fishy about that whole incident.

That is really the point that I am really trying to make here, this not so much to mourn the life that was wasted because the system was set up in such a way that the young man faced a choice of the gun (with its pros and inevitable cons) or play by the rules and be shafted (as is the everyday reality in this nation), no, it is to simply state that as a nation with crime and criminal elements roosted and having taken deep roots in the society and state apparatus, how can we be pleased with the killing of a person who held such key information?

Yes, in all likelihood he was the bloodthirsty killer that we read about in the papers, and that may have been the case with the countless others, but is it any real surprise that after destroying the criminal element without getting the necessary information (for which man living in West Street working as a day labourer can afford a brand new AK-47?) as to who funded him/her, or who their boss is, has only resulted in us looking to smash the 1300 mark for murders this year? Catch them, hold them, convict them, wring the information out of them and then go after the big fishes, that is one of the fastest ways to put a dent in crime.

Let’s not remain the same society that we have been for so long happy with half measures and actions that in the long run will only lead to the national harm. Let’s demand that instead of killing every suspected SOB on site and in every shootout, the JCF instead shoot to wound, say a gut or knee shot, painful but not necessarily lethal, that way we can get the relevant information, lock up the actual power players and truly start ending this crime scourge.