fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)
John Maxwell's regular column is at an end, but he's sending out older columns that are still relevant today. Here's the one he's sent out this week:

by John Maxwell

In my one excursion out of the ranks of the working press, half a century ago I was the first Information Officer for the Industrial Development Corporation, preaching the benefits of industrialisation by invitation.

At that time, Norman Manley was Premier and the government was a great admirer of the Puerto Rican model of development. The western world was also convinced that underdeveloped countries would find in this model a sovereign remedy for underdevelopment. If we could attract capital we would create jobs and find our way onto the runway for 'Take-off' into the realm of First World Development.

Fifty years later we are no further forward than we were then and in some ways we are behind where we were.

Oddly enough, the same is true of our model, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico seemed to have all the advantages. Their people were citizens of the US and at that time, nearly half of all Puerto Ricans lived in the US. Today there are more Puerto Ricans in the US than in Puerto Rico.

A few months ago the New York Times published an editorial "Puerto Rico, an Island in Distress" in which that other blessed isle was described in terms normally reserved for places like Jamaica. In January, the Miami Herald published a news story entitled "Puerto Rican killings may bring out National Guard" in which it was revealed that in the first 15 days of this year there were 46 homicides in Puerto Rico, just about the same level as in Jamaica.

The NYT editorial was a commentary on "The most exhaustive study of the Puerto Rican economy done in the past 75 years " This study, done jointly by the Brookings Institution and a Puerto Rican think tank, said that Puerto Rico's "hoped-for renaissance will require that the private sector and government join together to create thousands of jobs and that tax and other policies have to be developed to make this happen." Just what was needed fifty years ago.

The situation is indeed dire. According to the study "About 48 percent of Puerto Rico's 3.8 million people live below the federal poverty line, according to the 2000 Census. Despite the advances the island has made through the years, it has a per capita income of $8,185 -- about half that of Mississippi. Unemployment hovers at 13 percent.

This is odd, since Puerto Rico with only fifty percent more people than Jamaica, gets in one year assistance from the United States equivalent to Jamaica's entire National Public debt. "The island receives about $11 billion from Washington, $6 billion of which is through Social Security and federal worker pensions and salaries." That s, PR receives nearly one billion dollars in aid every month.

In the fifties and sixties Puerto Rico became a showcase for private sector investment and development. US government assistance enabled Puerto Rico to offer huge subsidies to manufacturers wishing to relocate to the island, but it soon became apparent that it was costing the US taxpayer about US$70,000 to bring an American job to PR, nearly twice as much as the real cost.

In addition to this, as in Jamaica, screwdriver industries began to leave the country as soon as there appeared to be cheaper labour elsewhere. The same process has been in train in the United States itself, which is de-industrialising as American capitalists find lusher pastures in China, which now supplies the US with manufactured goods of every description, from computers to ships.

Some of us have always contended that the so-called paradigm of 'competitiveness' meant nothing in a world in which levels of living and pay were functions more of culture and history than of economic development. The answer was, of course, Globalisation, designed to make everybody competitive.

What this really means is that the world is now engaged in a race to the bottom of the barrel, in which manufacturers forsake their own homegrounds to seek maximum profits in foreign parts, mainly Far Eastern.

It seems to have escaped most economists in the west that in order for the so-called free market system to function rationally, the essential component in production Labour  should be free to relocate just like capital, but racism and nationalism prevented most people from understanding Adam Smith's truism that like water, all productive forces should be free to find their own levels.

The Chinese are for the time being, in a prison of their own culture. Having escaped the inflation and consumer-driven extravagances of the West, Chinese labour is up to now, satisfied with relatively picayune rewards. But, as soon as their productivity rises there will be demands for better pay so that workers can afford the products they produce.

In the United States that was the secret of their industrial success: thriving markets based on the increased productivity and earnings of their workers.

But in the United States, as in Puerto Rico and Jamaica, the pull to the bottom has become irresistible; American workers are no longer competitive and the giants of the last century, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are busy closing factories and laying off hundreds of thousands of workers.

It has not occurred to many people that if people are out of work they can't afford to buy SUVs. If the money paid to labour goes to China it is the Chinese who will be able to buy cars and expensive appliances. That's one of the reasons stock markets round the world shuddered over the last few days. The de-industrialisation of the United States has up to now been buffered by the middleclass and working class. They've been borrowing money to buy – following President Bush's advice a few years ago to shop till they drop to help boost the economy. But loans have to be repaid and money borrowed on rising values has a tendency to become due and payable when values are dropping. That means that ordinary Americas who bought houses in a rising market or borrowed on the apparently increased value of their houses for the same reason, are finding it difficult to repay the money they borrowed.

Running out of Money

This is partly due to the de-industrialisation process and massive job losses, but also to the fact that American workers are not properly rewarded for increased productivity. The productivity gains are siphoned off by the bosses, who have also hijacked their shareholders' interest by paying themselves enormous salaries and other benefits.

As I pointed out six years ago, The United States is the world's largest financial black hole, attracting investments from bashful millionaires in Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Burkina Faso you name it by way of places like Cayman, Anguilla and the Isle of Man. This constant swallowing of foreign money is what keeps the American enterprise machine and stock and bond markets booming. It also impoverishes the rest of the world.

The result, as in Jamaica and other Third World countries, is that while productivity and GDP are apparently increasing, the working classes are getting ever smaller shares of the increased pie.

So when it becomes apparent to the Chinese and others that the US as a whole is defaulting or about to default on its loans, both private and public, the Chinese stock market takes a hit when the US stock market takes a hit and the effect is knocked on round the world.

The catastrophic deceleration of the world's largest economy has only just begun, and it will gain speed as panicked investors rush to cut their losses As more of them come into the market the stock tickers will soon become unable to keep up with the runaway elevator. The result: recession and perhaps, even depression.

Depression is not as outlandish as it seems, with the United States not only overextended in its foreign borrowing, but also overextended in its defense spending. The billions draining away down the rat hole of Iraq are not recoverable, and when the American taxpayer proves unable to cough up the ready cash, the foreign lenders will find their willingness to lend even more severely tested.

All of this is the result of globalisation or extreme capitalism, in which no thought is given to the basic principles of Adam Smith which briefly stated, are that income and outgo should fairly regularly come into balance.

We will soon feel the knock on effect. We will soon find that in the new atmosphere of economic stringency, the people who have lent us money will want it back rather more quickly than they'd promised. Since we have made our economy totally open, we have nothing to produce to pay for our purchases, the remittances from our expatriates will begin to fall, because many will be out of work and the earnings from tourism will crash because many middleclass Americans will no longer be able to afford the kinds of holidays to which they have become accustomed. With gasoline at $100 a liter how much in tolls will our new superhighways be able to collect?

What will happen to places such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica?

Eating cats, rats and dogs

Jamaica has swallowed the globalisation bait hook, line and sinker. We have opened up all our markets to unbridled foreign investment and competition, and, as I pointed out several years ago, this means that ordinary jamaicans are going to pay through the nose for the inestimable privilege of becoming for the second time round, a slave society. Our beaches, our forests and our farmland will become hostages to the foreign parasites. We will re-enter slavery.

And just in case you don't know what slavery was, l;et me quote a sympathetic observer who wrote 250 years ago:

“Negroes who are now computed to be more than 120000 [120,000] in number; and by whose labours and industry almost alone, the colony flourisheth, and its productions are cultivated and manufactured. The Negroes are, for the most part, the property of the Whites; and bought and sold like every other commodity in the country"

"When we consider the inconveniences under which these creatures labour, the toils they are obliged to undergo, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, to which they are exposed, and the grossness of their food in general; we ought not to be surprized they had been still more slothful and sickly than they are

commonly observed to be;

In a footnote, Dr Patrick Browne writes:

"(a)in the country parts of the island every plantation Negroe is allowed a Saturday afternoon or some other afternoon …to stock and manure his particular patch of ground, which he generally plants in cassada (sic) yams, potatoes, Indian and Guinea corn and on Sunday they provide provisions for the ensuing week, and send some to market, to supply themselves with a little salt beef or pork or fish, and a little rum, which are the greatest dainties they can come at, unless a cat, a rat or dog fall in their way . It is true, many of them raise a little poultry, and other stock; but these they generally sell to enable them to purchase some decent as well as necessary cloathes (sic) for their wives and themselves.." ( pp 24-25 The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica by Patrick Browne, M.D., Grays Inn, London 1756)

What Dr Patrick Browne is saying is that he is surprised that the slaves were able to work as hard as they did given the treatment they received. Not only were they poorly and badly fed, but they had to supplement the estate food by growing their own. The day off they got was in fact an additional slave labour so that they could eat and dress decently. And it is clear that if they were forced by hunger to eat cats, dogs and rats, their situation was wretched in the extreme.

That is where we are headed when we beg the WTO for special treatment for bananas and sugar and when we buy the garbage about producing ethanol and aluminum. What we get is mines which will destroy our precious landscape, flora and fauna, screwdriver industries consisting only of worksites removable overnight. as we have seen and are seeing again in the "garment industry". When that goes the women are reduced to whoring and the men to driving 'robots'.

Eventually, of course, the laws of supply and demand will mean that as in Germany after the first World War, a woman may be had for a pack of cigarettes and you will need a wheelbarrow of worthless currency to buy a loaf of bread. We have seen it happen in the largest countries in Latin America, in Argentina and Brazil within the last two decades.

In protecting the bloodsucking industries of sugar and bananas and aluminum, we are sterilising our land, rendering it unfit for growing food and we will have to import food from countries where the farmers fly Cessnas to work.

Our real assets, our land and our people, remain unprotected. As I said six years ago, Jamaica is another kind of Black Hole, " sucked dry of inspiration, brainpower and resources, busy burning the furniture to keep warm. We are going to destroy world-class biological reserves in Long Mountain, heedless of the fact that our crime rate is closely connected to the fact that children have nowhere to play and have no idea of their rich history or the fact that Jamaica's 'biological heritage is one of the richest in the world and that Long Mountain and Hellshire and the Cockpit Country are among our crown jewels. We, prefer to cast our pearls before developers." – and now, before Marc Rich and Alcoa.

"Instead of giving our children space to roam, to play, to learn and to study and socialise, we foreclose their options by blitzing green space and confining them to their barracoons on the same places which were slave yards 150 years ago. Having failed them, deprived them and corrupted them, we will, by another end of pipe solution, be making criminals of them.

Jamaica and Puerto Rico, meet Haiti.

Copyright ©2007 John Maxwell

jankunnu@gmail.com



fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

As a toddler on Derby Beach, now Silver Sands, I remember asking my father what was the roaring sound we heard when we put seashells to our ears. His answer, I believe, was to the effect that the shell concentrated all the sounds around us, the wind, the waves, the sand, every noise in the universe, into the shells and perhaps, with enough patience, we could unravel and make sense of some of it.

If my grandchildren were in the neighbourhood  I don't think I'd need to answer that question, since I doubt that they would now be able to find a whole seashell on any Jamaican beach.

My father died when I was 12, of a heart broken (it was said) by the electorate of Northern Trelawny, who had forgotten the hard labour he'd put in as Member of the Legislative Council for the whole parish. His brother-in-law, Morris Thelwell, a comparative unknown, had won Southern Trelawny for the Jamaica Labour Party while the totally obscure Clement Aitcheson, head-teacher of the Duncans Elementary School, selected for that job by my father, had won in Northern Trelawny also for the JLP. Another brother in law, Hugh Cork, had won southern Clarendon for the JLP.

I remember as a ten year old cowering in my father's library in astonishment as my father excoriated Bustamante who wanted to recruit him to run for the JLP in 1944. It was an unforgettable confrontation: my father, all 5'6' of him facing down Bustamante, nearly a foot taller with a hairdo that exaggerated his height. Busta, furious, simply went across the street and recruited Aitcheson.

My father had refused to join the PNP because he thought that there was still a place in Jamaican politics for independents. His sympathies were with the PNP and he really admired Manley, but a decade earlier, Manley had been the lawyer whose arguments unseated him on the ground that he was not wealthy enough to be elected. It wasn't Manley's choice; in those days lawyers were more or less obliged to accept the first brief offered and the first brief was from the losing candidate, the richest man on the north coast, the manager of the building society, the chairman of the Parish Council, the Custos of the Parish, the MLC and the attorney for more than half the land and sugar estates in Trelawny – Mr W.U.Guy S. Ewen.

Manley regretted the result – as he wrote the Chief Justice afterward – why should people be prevented from being represented by the delegate of their choice simply because he was poor?

A few years later Manley joined a ferment with O.T Fairclough, Ken and Frank Hill, W.A.Domingo, Adolphe Roberts, Amy Bailey  and the rest to first energise the Jamaica Progressive League in New York then Public Opinion in Jamaica and finally the People's National Party which was determined to give every man a vote and to bring universal human rights to Jamaica.

So, despite my father's defeat at the hands of Manley, he would tell me, as a toddler, that I had to grow up to become a lawyer like Mr Manley, to defend poor people.

Shortly after the case Ewen's solicitors distrained on my father for the costs of the case. They were determined to finish him off. The bailiffs seized everything in the house, including my baby crib and announced that they were coming back for the "body" – they were going to arrest my father for debt and cast him into the debtor's jail in the St Catherine District Prison.

This animus was provoked by the fact that shortly after winning the case against my father Mr Ewen dropped dead, felled according to the gossipmongers, by my grandmother's obeah.Dad won the ensuing bye-election with all his papers in order

When the sale of my father's pitiful possessions failed to satisfy the lawyers a commitment warrant was issued for his arrest and incarceration. My father's roots are in Accompong and in Maroon Town and he vanished into the Cockpit Country. Not even my mother knew where he was.

The plan was that he could not be 'attached' once he was sworn in to the Legislative Council. But Trelawny is a long way from Kingston; in those days of marl roads the drive was anywhere between four and five hours.

My father's best friend, Mr A.B. Lowe,  MLC  for St James and a very sober and upright Baptist deacon was the unlikely agent. By prior arrangement Lowe picked up my father  somewhere on the Burnt Hill Road and then drove south, through Manchester, Clarendon and St Catherine, outwitting the small army of scouts on the expected North coast route.

In Kingston my father was stowed on the back seat of the car, covered by empty luggage and a carpet. Instead of coming through Duke Street and the northern approaches to Headquarters House, Lowe came from the East on Beeston Street. When he drove around Headquarters House seeking a place to park, special constables alerted to his friendship with my father, asked Lowe if he had seen Maxwell. Telling what was probably the only lie in his life Lowe said he'd seen someone resembling my father at the Beeston Street entrance and the bailiffs dashed off. Lowe and one or two confederates, pulled some of the luggage out of the car, blocking the sidewalk while my father sprinted up the steps, escaping capture by inches.

He was duly sworn in and in time paid his debt to the solicitors.

Like Mr Manley

My mother and various family members pressured me for years to become a what the Americans call a trial lawyer. Unfortunately  as a teenager I had become hopelessly enmeshed in journalism.

Since January 29, 1952, except for 18 months or so spent as the first press officer for the Industrial Development Corporation( now Jamaica Trade & Invest) I have been employed or unemployed entirely  as a journalist. Last month made it 58 years hard labour and there is nobody in Jamaican journalism, living or dead, who has spent more time at it.

There are others  still alive who may have become reporters before me but they have spent most of their lives in other, more lucrative pursuits.

Over that time there must be quite a paper trail, millions of words, hundreds of lost causes. Some of this is because my career paralleled to a certain extent, the development of modern media. In broadcasting for instance, I did things in the fifties that no one in Jamaica had thought of doing, a weekly political commentary and a thrice weekly economics-made-easy commentary called Progress report. We did things because we didn't know they were impossible. I did an audio montage of the people who lived on and off, the Kingston Dump. C.L.R.James said he'd  never heard anything as moving.

Moving back into print journalism in 1963  Having been fired by the Prime Minister, (and a certain Edward Seaga) brought me into direct conflict with the new government of Jamaica who behaved, as I and others said at the time – as if they had simply assumed the prerogatives of the British colonial dictatorship. I don't think any current  Jamaican politician would even think about jailing a journalist; fifty yeas ago I was threatened with prison for my "rude, insolent, indecent" remarks, which verged, it seemed, on sacrilege. The threats were made in Parliament. THe government tried to shut down my paper and eventually forced me into exile.

I spent a few years in Britain, doing what I'd been doing at the JBC, but half the work for twice the money.

I have never fancied myself a politician, contrary to my detractors. I returned from Britain to contest West KIngston in 1972 because the sad truth was that every other plausible  PNP candidate was too afraid to run. I ran to prevent the seat being handed to the JLP on Nomination Day. Some JLP people who know the facts, feel I should have graciously allowed a coronation in West Kingston in 1972,

Perhaps the single thing of which I am most proud is the invention of the talk-show –the Public Eye. There had been other talk shows, but none combining news, commentary and public participation. WE changed things. Despite attempts, there has never been anything similar.

Rosina Wiltshire and Gillian Monroe gave the programme a vital push soon after we started . They had done a study of working conditions among domestic helpers, then, as now, the largest single class of workers in Jamaica. I interviewed them, let them talk and was amazed at the horrors they revealed. When I asked domestic helpers to phone in,giving their side of the story it was as if a a massive dam of years of hurt, oppression and cruelty had suddenly burst, sweeping away all the pretensions of the Jamaican upper classes to civilisation.

In those days we used dial telephones and you could buy locks for them. It soon became a joke in Jamaica that every shipment of telephone locks was swept up within hours of arrival.

I have reported here before, how  we recruited first the Prime Minister's wife, Beverley and then Michael Manley himself to the idea that only a national minimum wage with enforcement could rescue the workers.

Public Eye went on to campaign for other workers causes, equal pay, housing, against capital punishment and police brutality,   and for what I and others thought was the essential framework of a civilised society.

It was my opinion that radio could be used to mobilise pubic opinion in the non partisan process of what Norman Manley called nation building.

At that time I was also the unpaid chair of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority,(the Beach Control, Wildlife Protection and Watershed Protection Authorities) and the National Gallery.

We managed to do some serious work including organising public opinion to clean up  Kingston Harbour, , to alert people to the government sponsored theft of public beaches and other lands – Hellshire, Long Mountain etc) and to the need to guarantee safe land for housing.

Over the years I have accumulated some really good stories, for instance how I solved two murder cases that baffled the police,but the real story of my life has been in the small stories about the human rights of people without friends and most of all, the story of the defamation and despoliation of Haiti.

As I once wrote in this column, sometimes I think I can smell the blood of Haiti from here.

This column is the last one from me for a little while.

Some of you may know that I continued writing every week through my one year course of  radiation and chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer.

The cancers are no longer in evidence thanks to the esprit de corps, optimism, determination and skill of dedicated practitioners in Jamaica and the Netherlands.

Having come out of what seemed a very long dark  tunnel and having lost a slew of friends – Sonny Bradshaw, Trevor Rhone, Wayne Brown,Albert Huie, Rex Nettleford, to name only the most prominent, I remember that I want to publish my columns on Haiti, on Jamaican politics and on the Environment.  I also want to select from and publish some of the 6,000 pictures I call 'Portraits of Jamaican birds.

 

So, if you see my column only occasionally, depending on my arrangement with my editors, it is not because I have abandoned you, just that I'm taking things a bit easier.

 After all I've been working for longer than most people have been alive.

The problem of course is that no journalist is ever free.

Copyright ©2010 John Maxwell jankunnu@yahoo.com

 

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

Some of us grow up with the feeling that being free means that we are at liberty to do whatever we want – as long as we don't hurt anyone else; that simply by being born, we are entitled to inherit the riches and beauty of nature and to do whatever we think will make us wealthy, healthy and happy.

Most of us grow up in very different circumstances, walking barefoot, wearing cast-off clothing and knowing that we are mostly free to do what we can get away with and knowing that we will probably always have to worry about the next meal.

In places like Jamaica, however, rich and poor tend to believe that there are some basic freedoms we all share: the right to life, to liberty and to say what we want and associate with whomever we choose.

These freedoms are rights for which the human race has been fighting for a long time, and a few hundred years ago certain people believed that because they had acquired the Chinese invention called gunpowder, they owned superior rights to all those who had not got the secret recipe.

Primitive firearms made it possible for long distance 'impersonal' murder. Until then, if you wanted to kill someone you had to stab, or to throw a spear or an arrow not much further than the length of a cricket pitch. Blunderbusses and muskets meant that you could remain out of the range of your enemy's arrows and spears and mow him down with invisible darts accompanied by horrendous noises.

Primitive firearms meant that men on horses, armed with guns, could round up dozens of fellow humans in a cost-effective time frame and move them like cattle to enormous holding pens where they were selected for desirable qualities and priced accordingly. Upright European merchants would then select those creatures most likely to bring good prices on the other side of the Atlantic, either for breeding purposes or for hard labour growing sugar or cotton.

As the history of the Palace of Westminster makes plain: The outbound slave ships were packed with British goods such as metal goods, firearms, textiles and wines, destined for exchange for human cargo.  And returning vessels heading to their home port filled with plantation produce from the colonies.

Here was a trading network on an integrated international scale, lubricated by slavery, and all approved, regulated and monitored by Parliament.

We know of dozens of Acts passed specifically to encourage, regulate and monitor the trade in Africans."Cut here )

 

The slave trade and the plantation system which it supported, provided the motive force of the capitalist system and the foundation of the Palaces of Westminster and Versailles, of the Louvre and the British Museum, of London, Liverpool, Bristol and Marseilles.  The extinction of civilisations on both sides of the Atlantic and their replacement by plantation economies provided the capital on which the European Empires and social systems of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were erected.

The empires of Spain, and later France and Britain were built on the bones of the original inhabitants of the so called West Indian islands

The Spanish historian, Gonzalo Oviedo, estimated that of the one million Indians on Ayiti (Hispaniola) when the Spaniards arrived, less than five hundred remained half a century later.

Toribio Motolina, another Spanish priest, said in  some parts of Mexico "more than one half the population died; in others the proportion was a little less; they died in heaps, like bedbugs." A German missionary writing in 1699, said the so-called Indians "die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost."

Then began the wholesale destruction of nations and civilisations in Africa– some disappearing almost without trace, further impoverishing mankind's cultural diversity and robbing Africa of the populations and skills it needed for its own development.

As Sybille Fischer remarks in her book Modernity Disavowed: “Colonialism in the Caribbean had produced societies where brutality combined with licentiousness in ways unknown in Europe. The sugar plantations in the new World were expanding rapidly and had an apparently limitless hunger for slaves.” (Quoted in Common Sense "Christmas in Hell”, Dec. 30 2007)

The whole mad vampire enterprise seemed destined to continue as long as greed endured, notwithstanding bloody uprisings in every colony, the most dangerous being in Haiti and Jamaica. In Jamaica the slaves and their escaped brethren, the Maroons, fought the British to a standstill, a truce and a land concession. Bouckman, a leader  of the islandwide Taki rebellion escaped to Haiti and there helped light the spark of revolution.

An Unpayable Debt

It was the Haitian revolution that destroyed slavery and the slave-trade forever.

It was the Haitians alone of all of history's enslaved peoples who defeated the system, destroyed the institutions of slavery and legislated that thenceforth, all men, women and children of whatever colour or station or nationality were, in Ayiti,  full and free human beings. It drove the Americans mad.

That declaration anticipated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 144 years and should be recognised for what it is: the single most important definition of humanity ever implemented.

The world owes Haiti an unpayable debt.

At this moment apparatchiks of various ideologies are busy racing around in Washington and similar places, like scarab beetles marking out territory on a fresh deposit of excrement.

It is clear that the peoples of the world are minded to help Haiti recover from the most punishing natural disaster of modern times. The scarab beetles – with grand names and even grander resumes – intend to be first in line as was Cheney's Halliburton in Iraq – to milk the system and suck as much Haitian blood as possible. 

People have already threatened to stop speaking to me – I'm anti-American or I'm anti-Haitian – because I believe that we need to assemble all those who want to work for Haiti to work for Haiti in exclusion to working for anyone else.

There are two huge problems:

On one side are Haitians, jealous of their liberty and suspicious of any and every one who offers to help.  They have been victimised so often that they expect treachery as a given.

People like Clinton and Patterson do not impress them. Their records of anti-Haitian action speak for themselves. The hypocrisy is blatant.

On the other side –  the American/French/Canadian side while there is knowledge of the grievous harm these countries have wreaked and are wreaking on Haiti, there is no understanding of the need – the absolutely essential requirement  – that Haiti belongs to the Haitians and it is they alone who must decide what they want.

They may ask for help but the US, France and Canada must have the grace to apologise and atone for the heinous crimes they have committed in Haiti.  If the Haitians want Aristide back, simple human decency should inform the Americans, the French and the Canadians that they have a duty to help the Haitians get back their President and a responsibility to protect him and the constitutional integrity of Haiti. The Haitians have the brains, the genius and the skills to manage their own country, if they are only left alone.

Haiti is a charter member of the United Nations and its various organs. Haiti has however been cheated, blackmailed, double-crossed and screwed  by big powers in the IDB and IMF, for example.

Haiti needs to be able to summon the collective wisdom and skills of the General Assembly, to get rid of the so-called UN Peacekeepers – a bunch of bandits and rapists –and to assemble a force to keep the peace and help train a civil guard – as in Costa Rica – or whatever mechanism the Haitians prefer.

The United Nations General Assembly is the proper organ for the people-to-people assistance Haiti may require.  The Security Council knows nothing about land reform, cooperatives or community development.

Finally, the General Assembly must find some way to organise an endowment fund for Haiti from the enormous sums she is owed by France and the United States. This fund should be for the development of Haiti, not Halliburton or Bechtel. The $25 billion Haiti paid to France and the United States in a brute force extortion scheme was the single resource whose absence made Port au Prince so vulnerable to the earthquake. Generations of capital investment were lost because they were never installed. Simple justice and human decency requires they be returned.

The countries of the Caribbean, Haiti's siblings and neighbours, owe Haiti more than most. Haiti's abolition of slavery led to the immediate abolition of the Caribbean slave trade and Caribbean slavery, a few years later.

When the US, France and Canada decapitated Haitian democracy in 2004 Caricom first protested and demanded a UN investigation into the affair.  Patterson and Manning led Caricom's cowardly retreat from that position.

But the Caribbean was honorably represented at the UN by the experienced Trinidadian diplomat, Reginald Dumas. He had just been appointed by Kofi Annan as his Special Representative on Haiti – one of the few sensible actions Annan took in the affair. Dumas recommended to CARICOM that it should use the General Assembly to get assistance for Haiti. As Reggie Dumas has reminded me, the President of the General Assembly at the time was Julian Hunte of St Lucia, who could have used his position to help CARICOM seek justice for Haiti.

CARICOM (and Hunte) ignored Dumas, and some of the same cowardly leaders are now poised to 'help' or again betray Haiti and the aspirations of the downtrodden of the world.

 If the Caribbean wants to make sense and to help Haiti, we could do much worse than seeking the advice of Dumas and other Caribbean and Third World sages who know more about the problems of small states and are better disposed to help than the UN's caravanserai of scarab beetles and Praying Mantises.

Copyright©2010 John Maxwell –  jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

 

John Maxwell

Henry Kissinger once said that the United States had no friends, only interests. Watching the US intervention in Haiti makes it clear that the US, in the pursuit of its interests, does not need to exhibit any human attributes, such as shame or grace.

I said a few weeks ago that it seemed a little counterproductive sending masses of soldiers to Haiti since you can't eat soldiers and soldiers needed to be fed and, in Haiti, one American probably consumes as much as ten Haitians. Feeding 20,000 US soldiers takes as much resources as feeding the entire population of Cite Soleil - the biggest slum in the Caribbean.

It is heartbreaking to read of the screwed-up relief efforts, screwed up mainly by sending in soldiers instead of relief workers, nurses and just ordinary people willing to follow instructions and to use their imaginations and initiative. Remember that army put-down from the comic books:

"You're not being paid to think!"

Famines, famously, are not caused by shortages of food but by deficiencies of imagination and planning. In Haiti at this moment, some of the world's most disciplined people are too often, being treated like wild animals. The problem is that many of Haiti's self-appointed rescuers are scared witless by their own superstitions and the garbage fed them by irresponsible journalists and crazy preachers.

You can see it in the pictures, where people have on their own, formed orderly queues but are still being harassed by men with rifles and an inflated sense of their own importance. One of the scourges of Haiti, self-righteous NGOs, are clearly wasting resources, time and lives insisting on being protected against starving women and children instead of getting out and doing what they should be doing.

Above it all are the mainstream journalists, busy viewing with alarm, scornful of the heat, the smells and the people, and prophesying at any moment, outbreaks of mindless violence.

It is impossible to view Haiti without realising the enormous tax the world pays for ignorance and fear, and without understanding the real cost of journalism in promoting strife, frustration and unhappiness.

The Internet has made it much easier to transmit lies and superstition. A piece that landed on my screen supposedly from a black person in South Africa was so full of misinformation and outright lies that I thought that it must be a production of one of the thousands of rightwing solfataras of hate. Briefly, this farrago of nonsense claimed that no black country had come to the aid of Haiti – when his own country had been one of the first responders. Venezuela and other Caribbean countries had also made their contribution and of course he forgot Cuba, with 1,200 doctors and other emergency workers now there and more to come.

The letter was meant to discredit the poor, the black and the developing countries who are clearly not grateful for the incredible blessings bestowed on the by colonialism.

One of these days someone should try to estimate the real economic cost of 'journalists' like James Anthony Froude, Rudyard Kipling, Bob Novak, Jules Dubois and their more recent versions, the Wolf Blitzers, Judith Millers and their ilk.

These people are among the most important factors in the current confusion about Haiti and about the true state of the world.

Robert Novak, for instance, parachuted into Haiti in 2004 on a mission to sanitise the bloodthirsty La Tortue and his way of doing that was to malign Jean Bertrand Aristide.

 According to Novak, the Haitian ‘Prime Minister’ La Tortue was correct in describing the bandits, rapists and murderers backing him as  ‘freedom fighters’”.

According to Novak “The radical president’s [Aristide’s] reign left a country without electricity, passable roads or public schools, with a devastated economy and, according to LaTortue, a looted treasury.”

La Tortue told Novak: "The public finance is in crisis. They (the Aristide regime) took everything they could from the reserve of the country." His estimate: "over $1 billion stolen in four weeks.” (Emphasis added)

The problem is that there has never been one billion of anything in Haiti worth stealing, and what is remarkable is that a remark so completely unbelievable and outrageous as to verge on the insane, was published and republished in newspapers and magazines considered reputable in the United States. Aristide, despite his interruptions, left a country better off than he found it. (See http://www.haitiaction.net/News/WWNF/2_28_5.html)

The question of course, is why the US has such a down on Haiti and why apparently sane people are so ready to believe the rubbish they do about Haiti.

Some of the reasons are:

     • Haitian insubordination in declaring themselves independent and offering universal emancipation and universal rights.

     • Haiti's strategic position, commanding two of the most important gateways to the Caribbean;

     • Haiti's potential as a base to attack Cuba;

     • Haiti's position on top of a super-giant oil-field, rivaling Saudi Arabia's in importance

     • Haiti's potential as an offshore slave plantation from which US companies can import cheap 'manufactures' without worrying about unions or human rights.

Haitians of course, have completely different ideas.

• They want to be allowed, for the first time at last, to govern themselves without the brutal interference of the former slave-owning states;

• They want back the money – €20,000,00,000 – extorted from them by the French and the Americans over 120 years, and which robbed them of the resources to develop their own country;

• Haitians driven abroad by US backed dictators want to go back home and work for their development of their own country.

• Haitians cannot understand why they are denied the benefits of their membership in the United `nations and other International organisations of which they were foundation members.

Part of the problem with any discussion of Haiti with Americans is the political illiteracy of so many Americans – particularly journalists – some of whom think Obama is a Socialist or a Nazi. Aristide's opponents, including some so-called journalists, have portrayed him as a blood-drinking, baby-sacrificing black-magician Communist. This garbage has been spread so wide and so deep that outside of Haiti, most people do not know that Aristide is a gentle, God-fearing priest.  A practical man whose ideology is Haiti.

The Haitian people know this and keep telling the world that they want their democracy and their President back. The world press this week is full of stories about the lack of leadership in Haiti. There is no lack of leadership in Haiti; the leadership is there but it is the leadership of the majority, of the Fanmi Lavalas, of people loyal to Aristide. The United States and their clients in the United Nations Security Council do not wish to see this.

Aristide does not want to be President again, but he wants to help Haiti develop. Between him and that aspiration sit a small gang of parasitic margin-gatherers who call themselves businessmen but are really sophisticated gang-leaders operating by remote control.

If Haiti is to regain its integrity and autonomy there will need to be a programme resembling the post-war de-Nazification in Germany to re-educate people in elementary civics. Otherwise, sooner or later there will be another Papa Doc or maybe, even an Idi Amin.

In 2004, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, Reginald Dumas, a Caribbean man, declared that the UN should be committing itself to a long-term mission in Haiti to last about twenty years, "We cannot continue with the start-stop cycle that has characterized relations between the international community and Haiti. You go in, you spend a couple of years, you leave, the Haitians are not necessarily involved and the whole thing collapses. This has to stop," Dumas said.

 He told the council:

“There has to be a long-term commitment, which I perceive the council is ready and willing to give," Dumas said.   "It must be coordinated assistance. It must be sustained assistance, and it must be assistance that involves the people of Haiti. It cannot be a situation in which the UN or some other agency goes in and says `I have this for you.' There has to be discussion. There has to be cooperation, or else it will fail again."

I agree with Dumas but for one particular:  The Haitians needs to get out of the clutches of the Security Council and seek help from the General Assembly, where they have friends.

Copyright©2010 John Maxwell.  jankunnu@yahoo.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

It would be ironic, if you like your irony flavoured with blood and disinfectant, to discover  that moored off Port au Prince at this moment is  the US hospital ship, the USS Comfort, one of two employed in 1994 as floating slave barracoons in Kingston Harbour. Today the Comfort is providing medical care for people  injured in the great earthquake of  January 12.

In 1994, the Comfort and its consort functioned as temporary 'processing facilities' for Haitian refugees fleeing from a US supported coup and attendant tyranny. The refugees had been picked up either on the high seas or in Jamaican waters, running for their lives from a US-backed hoodlum-state, whose favourite law and order procedures were murder by dismemberment and disemboweling with bodies left in the streets; and   women and children, beaten, publicly raped and disfigured and otherwise terrorised to encourage the others. Of those kidnapped either in Jamaican waters or on the high seas, 78.5% were sent back to their murderers while the rest were sent to Guantánamo Bay.

This barbarous triage was a joint venture operated by President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States and Jamaican Prime Minister Percival James Patterson. It was ended by Clinton's deciding he couldn't afford the death of a prominent black American leader on his record, if not on his conscience. Randall Robinson, President of TransAfrica, in one last desperate initiative, began a fast to the death in protest against his President's callous behaviour.

Clinton had inherited "the Haitian problem" from his predecessor who could tolerate any number of fair-skinned Cubans dropping in on Miami Beach, but was revolted by the idea of Haitians doing the same thing. It didn't matter that the Cubans, like Jamaicans and Mexicans were economic refugees while the Haitians were literally  in fear of their lives.

This point was made explicit in 2002,  by a former US Ambassador to Haiti, Timothy Carney, at the launching of the Haiti Democracy Project, the  most important US NGO operating in Haiti. The launching was at the Brookings Institution, one of the most eminent right ring 'think-tanks' in Washington.

Carney said:

"Ambassador Roger Noriega mentioned that one of our interests is to defend human rights, but he didn't mention the fundamental interest, which is to defend Miami Beach. We don't want Haitians on Miami Beach … That is a fundamental interest of the United States … Now that you have realized that interest, you hopefully will have policies by which Haitians can realize their prosperity and their future at home.

" How do you do that? Well, we haven't figured that out yet, have we?"

That was a job for the Haiti Democracy Project and other US backed subversive NGOs whose function was simply to make sure that the President of Haiti, legally elected, would be unable to govern.  These NGOs, dozens of them, using tactics honed in the 'peaceful overthrow' of former Communist states, didn't work well  in Haiti; violence and provocation were introduced. The most effective weapons against Aristide were the press releases of the NGOs, swallowed whole by a criminally compliant US press.  Even now, six years after Aristide was kidnapped by the then US Ambassador, US news agencies are printing garbage about "Aristide, deposed amid a violent uprising.'

These days, the USS Comfort, Bill Clinton and P.J Patterson are back in the organised hypocrisy  game, along with new players like Ban Ki Moon who is proving as clueless about Haiti as his predecessor, Kofi Annan. Obama has brought back G. W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice's mouthpiece. No doubt there is room for old Haiti hands like Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. Pity they can't reanimate Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, both eminent authorities on black people. But there's always Luigi Einaudi: "The only thing wrong with Haiti is that it is being run by Haitians"

Encouraging News

There is good news for those people, and there are many, who worried that valuable American cash was being squandered on hapless Haitians who specialise in provoking Acts of God.

The Associated Press reports:

 Only 1 cent of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government, according to an Associated Press review of relief efforts.

Less than two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has tripled to $317 million at latest count. That's just over $1 each from everyone in the United States.

Relief experts say it would be a mistake to send too much direct cash to the Haitian government, which is in disarray and has a history of failure and corruption.

"I really believe Americans are the most generous people who ever lived, but they want accountability," said Timothy R. Knight, a former US AID assistant director who spent 25 years distributing disaster aid. "In this situation they're being very deliberate not to just throw money at the situation but to analyze based on a clear assessment and make sure that money goes to the best place possible."

The AP review of federal budget spreadsheets, procurement reports and contract databases shows the vast majority of U.S. funds going to established and tested providers, who are getting everything from 40-cent pounds of pinto beans to a $3.4 million barge into the disaster zone."

So, the worry warts can rest.

For one thing the Canadians and Europeans have donated more per capita to Haitian relief than the US and deserve a larger part in the  immediate relief works.

Organisations like the Haiti Democracy Project and John McCain's International Republican Institute will make certain that American money is spent on Strengthening American democracy and defeating the populist interests which have made governance in Haiti a problem ever since the peasant rebellion 90 years ago which required the machine gunning of entire villages to restore law and order.

Meanwhile the United States, Canada, France and the rest of the (rapidly diminishing) civilised world met in Montreal a few days ago to devise a plan for developing a Haiti for the Age of Globalisation.

The participants were more or less the same countries who plotted to depose Aristide. "Shortly after Aristide's overwhelming victory in Haiti's first democratic presidential election in 1990,  the relicts of the Jim Crow Marine occupation managed to convince the Americans, first John McCain's International Republican Institute and then elements of Bill Clinton's government and various Canadian politico and officials that Haiti under Aristide was a threat to civilisation as they knew it.…"

Denis Paradis, a Canadian Minister, convened a coven of like-minded fascists, "who decided that Aristide must go, and the Canadians and Americans through the Canadian aid agency (CIDA), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and John McCain's International Republican Institute financed a whole panoply of Haitian francs tireurs, pimps and wannabe-presidents and face-card NGOs to support the programme of the elites which was simply to grab back from the Haitian people, the Universal Human Rights promulgated 200 years earlier for the first time on Earth by Jean Jacques Dessalines and the other illustrious fathers and mothers of the Haitian Revolution." (Common Sense-Canada's Bloody Hands' April 19,2009)

This is the juncture where things get really tricky.

It would appear to me that a people who fought for their freedom incessantly, for 300 years and finally won it 200 years ago deserve to be accorded considerable respect. Moreso, because they fought as slaves, entrapped and circumscribed by the system itself and despite this, defeated three of the world's most powerful armies, one of them twice. They are the only people in history to have broken their shackles themselves. Spartacus who tried valiantly but failed, is revered as a European hero. Bouckman, Toussaint and Dessalines are ignored by the same historians. It is not so odd; TIME recognised Margaret Thatcher but not Fidel Castro as a revolutionary.

Those Haitians whose savagery, indiscipline and general lawlessness the western "press" celebrated  in slavering anticipation failed to show. The Haitians who survived behaved as those who know them expected: patient, disciplined, and displaying an exemplary solidarity, sharing their crusts while starving.

It was these same people who declared universal emancipation and universal human rights two centuries ago and who have told anyone who wants to listen that they know what they want and who they want to lead them and speak for them

They know how to develop their nation, if only, for the first time at last, they are allowed to do what they want.

They need help, but help on their own terms.

They want work, real work, not plastic 'jobs' in freezone  sweatshops..

They want to go back to feeding themselves. They want to be complete Haitians again; the people who helped Bolivar liberate South America.

The world needs to get out of the way. France, the United States and Canada owe the Haitians billions in damages. It is not for them to tell the Haitians what to spend it on. France used Haitian money to conquer Algeria. Haitians want that money to conquer child hunger and maternal mortality.

If the General Assembly wants to prove its worth it should move quickly to take the Haitian initiative away from the clueless and overtaxed Security Council. The Assembly can – guided by  the Haitians and with the expert help of Cuba, Venezuela,  South Africa, Kerala (India),  Brazil,  China  and other parts of the developing world – map out an agenda and organise help from wherever it is available without strings. The object is not to defend Miami Beach but to protect the vital interests of the Haitians, and, by extension, the vital interests of humanity.

And, if anyone wants to know what to do right now: Land 10 thousand wheelbarrows on the streets handing them over to neighbourhood groups. Let the groups decide how they are going to move the rubble and what they are going to do with it. Give the groups money and supplies to set up 10  thousand street kitchens say about $200 a group. Let the groups pay the wheelbarrow men if necessary.  In three weeks the casual journalist would be hard put to find any of the 'usual' stories. Total cost $2 million plus $1 million for wheelbarrows.

Meanwhile the UN can be assembling a real security force to protect the Haitians and particularly their president and under his direction, design and instal the apparatus  allowing Haitians to run their own country and to make their own mistakes, for the first time at last.

 COPYRIGHT©2010 JOHN MAXWELL – jankunnu@yahoo.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)


John Maxwell

 

When Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean nearly 40 years ago he was shocked by – of all things – a garbage dump in the middle of the ocean.

In the area known as the Doldrums (wonderful word) Heyerdahl's papyrus raft Ra II, was surrounded for days by a wilderness of plastic rubbish from all over the world. The Age of Plastic has bequeathed countless conveniences to humanity as well as new forms of cancer and enormous collections of litter on land, at sea and even in space.

Since Heyerdahl's observations we now know that every ocean in the world has its own garbage dump. The largest by far is the so-called  North Pacific Garbage Patch, an area covering most of the North Pacific from Alaska to Japan – twice the size of the continental United States and  discovered only in 1997. The gyres are not easily discerned, because most of the plastic rubbish has been macerated by marine forces and is composed of small particles that float just below the surface, killing fish that mistake it for food.

The Atlantic gyre like all others. has formed at the confluence of various ocean currents, an area of slackwater circulating majestically, slowly and almost imperceptibly until you pick up – on a Jamaican or Haitian beach – soft drink containers thrown into the Congo or the Niger.

There is another less well known gyre in the North Caribbean which has quite different effects from the other garbage patches.

This area of existential discombobulation is much more dangerous than its kin. It is, first of all, not composed of material fragments but of abstractions, strange apparitions that do not poison fish or litter beaches but poison minds and litter brave new policies with the toxic detritus of ancient ignorance, hysteria, and unreasonable beliefs.

It is a place where ancient racist libels still hang around, driving US politicians to distraction and the Bible. It is the place where apparitions like Pat Robertson, Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, and Luigi Einaudi flourish and have their being, sustained by vicious fables invented 500 years ago to justify human slavery, revised and updated periodically to deal with black rebellion against slavery, and colonialism,  and used today to frighten and confuse US soldiers and journalists.

Baron Samedi Walks again

When I was about 12 years old I borrowed a book from the Institute of Jamaica's Junior Centre library. It was part of a donation by the Carnegie Foundation and was almost brand new.

I cannot remember the name or author but the book was obviously written to sell millions by frightening the wits out of its American readers.

I had up to that time, heard nothing  about Haiti or their religious system, Vodun. The novel was populated by zombies – the living dead – as well as other evil spirits presided over by the sulphurous presence of Baron Samedi who seemed to be in charge of everything in Haiti, from cooking to current affairs.  If my memory is reliable there were incredible scenes of 'demoniac possession' mostly among the epically bloodthirsty natives but not sparing the fairest flowers of Nordic pulchritude and chastity.

Since the book was written n the first half of the twentieth century, indecencies were suggested rather than made plain and even bloodshed was a lot less indiscriminate than say – the latest dancehall invocation against homosexuals. What was clear was that the narrative was intended to make your skin creep; in my case it certainly succeeded.

The novel was not unusual for American colonial narratives of the time. Non-Europeans could be trusted as far as the front gate, being consumed by lust and crazed by the need to spill blood.

And the 'black magic' was integral to cultures that were brutish, repellent and totally merciless.

The Devil in the Flesh

A few years ago TIME magazine, quite seriously, printed what it said was a recipe for creating zombies. The process was not difficult, if one was not squeamish. It involved among other things, the flowers of the Datura bush (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,952208-2,00.html).

So, I was not surprised by the most recent eructations of Pat (Napoleon III) Robertson, a semi-literate Quack who seems to have a hotline to Satan himself and is always willing to explain the latest demonic manifestations. Nor was I really surprised to learn that the US Army was so terrified of unarmed, starving and wounded Haitians that it needed about ten soldiers to protect one aid person.

Others were not so intimidated by the Haitians.

Partners in Health, a Boston based NGO led by Paul Farmer, was running several field hospitals from its headquarters in Cange, in Haiti's Central Plateau. Tiny Iceland (facing bankruptcy) had search and rescue teams on the ground in Port au Prince within 48 hours of the earthquake. Andri Magnason, a friend in Iceland sent me the following:

"There is an Icelandic team of 20 rescue workers in Port au Prince and Léogane. They have saved a few lives with their special equipment. They have not seen the violence that has been in the news, on the contrary - they see only gratitude and goodwill and cooperation - no hostility - and they have even seen some hope. Strange how the world media wants to paint things black - while they could pick up many stories of human dignity from the ruins."

And, of course, the Cubans ("We Never Closed") had more than 400 medical professionals on the ground before the earthquake and doubled that number with their graduating class of 400 Haitian doctors. Doctors without Borders complained that the US military was preventing medical assistance reaching those who needed it most.

The real problem as I see it, is that the US has scared itself silly with the policy garbage bequeathed by Thomas Jefferson and refined by the like of William Jennings Bryan, Reich, Noriega,  Einaudi and their sainted mentors, Joe McCarthy, Strom Thurmond, and Jesse Helms.

If the US Army had thought to drop water, nothing more, they could have saved many lives. Some people drank their own urine. Others, less knowledgeable, may have died of thirst.

The late Hedi Annabi – the UN's man in Haiti, died in the earthquake. He was clearly another who thought Haitians were all terrorists and his way of preparing for democracy involved the UN mission –MINUSTAH – making periodic forays into the slums to slaughter members of Fanmi Lavalas.

The UN secretary general is even more clueless, tolerating René Preval's de-legitimising Fanmi Lavalas and appointing Bill Clinton as his representative in Haiti. Clinton was the man who restored Aristide in 1994 to stem the flood of refugees into Miami Beach and then broke every promise he made and pressured and blackmailed the Haitians by shutting down essential foreign aid.

So, I must confess that my blood ran cold when Barack Obama proved even more clueless than Ban Ki Moon by appointing Haiti's worst enemy, George Bush, to join Clinton to raise funds for Haitian relief. If there is anyone who believes in Haitian zombies and bogeymen, it is Bush. As far as Ban Ki Moon, Clinton and Bush are concerned, the Haitians are only good for mindless 'jobs' in foreign-owned sweatshops.

What is so tragic about the loss of life since the earthquake is that, were it not for the boojums, zombies and Baron Samedi, so much more could have been done.

If you don't believe me read the following:

"However, away from the glare of the international media, a team of Cuban doctors has been working among the quake-affected. The Cuban government offered its medical expertise to the governments of Pakistan and India immediately after the magnitude of the destruction caused by the quake was known. The Indian government did not even acknowledge the offer. Pakistan, where the scale of disaster was humongous, was quick to accept the offer. The first Cuban medical team was in Pakistan on October 14, six days after the earthquake." (Frontline Vol:22 Iss:26 URL: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2226/stories/20051230000606300.htm)

In short order the Cubans had established 19 field hospitals staffed by more than 700 doctors – half of them women – working 12 hour shifts.

This was in Pakistan in 2005.

Pakistan is 14,000 miles from Cuba and the Cubans were working  in foreign conditions, in fierce cold, in a country with which Cuba had no diplomatic relations.

There are now more than 25,000 Cuban doctors working outside their country and an almost equal number of teachers

If you think that boojums are a figment of my imagination, consider this: Three weeks ago the US government identified Cuba as one of the countries exporting terrorism.

After 200 years, the heirs of Jefferson are still hunting boojums in the Caribbean

Copyright © 2010 John Maxwell

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

 

If you shared my pain you would not continue to make me suffer, to torture me, to deny me my dignity and my  rights especially my rights to self determination and self expression.

Six years ago you sent your Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to perform an action illegal under the laws of your country,my country and of the international community of nations.

It was an act so outrageous, so bestially vile and wicked that your journalists and news agencies, your diplomats and politicians to this day cannot bring themselves to truthfully describe or own up to the crime that was committed when US Ambassador James Foley, a career diplomat arrived at the house of President Jean Bertrand Aristide with a bunch of CIA thugs and US Marines to kidnap the President of Haiti and his wife.

The Aristides were stowed aboard a CIA plane normally used for 'renditions' of suspected terrorists to the worldwide US gulag of dungeons and torture chambers.

The plane, on which the Aristides are listed as "cargo"  flew to Antigua – an hour away – and remained on the ground in Antigua while Colin Powell's State Department and the CIA tried to blackmail and bribe various African countries to accept ('give asylum to") the kidnapped President and his wife.

The Central African Republic –  one of George W Bush's 'Dark Corners of the World'  – agreed for an undisclosed sum, to give the Aristides temporary asylum.

Before any credible plot can be designed and paid for – for the disappearance of the Aristides – they are rescued by friends, flown to temporary asylum in Jamaica where the government cravenly yielded to the blackmail of Condoleezza Rice to deny them the permanent asylum to which they were entitled and which most Jamaicans had hoped for.

Meanwhile in Haiti the US Marines protected an undisciplined ragbag of rapists and murderers to allow them entry to the capital. The Marines chased the medical students out of the new Medical School established by Aristide with Cuban help and teachers. The Marines bivouac in the school, going out on nightly raids, trailed by fleets of ambulances with body bags, hunting down Fanmi Lavalas activists described as 'chimeres' – terrorists.

The real terrorists, led by two convicted murderers, Chamblain and Philippe, assisted the Marines in the eradication of 'chimeres' until the Marines were replaced by foreign troops paid by the United Nations who took up the hunt on behalf of the civilised world – France, Canada, the US and Brazil.

The terrorists and the remains of the Duvalier tontons and the CIA-bred FRAPF declared open season on the remnants of Aristide's programmes to build democracy. They burnt down the new museum of Haitian Culture, destroyed the Children's television station and generally laid waste to anything and everything which could remind Haitians of their glorious history.

Haitians don't know that without their help Latin America might still be part of the Spanish Empire and Simon Bolivar a brief historical footnote.

Imagine, Niggers Speaking French!

About ninety years ago when Professor Woodrow Wilson was President of the USA his Secretary of State was a fundamentalist lawyer named William Jennings Bryan who had three times run unsuccessfully, for President. 

The Americans had decided to invade Haiti to collect debts owed by Haiti to Citibank.

General Smedley Butler, the only American soldier to have twice won the Congressional Medal of Honour, described his role in the US Army:

"I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long.

General Butler said: "I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. … My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical in the military service’. Butler compared himself unfavourably to Al Capone. He said his official racketeering made Capone look like an amateur.

Secretary Bryan was dumfounded by the Haitians; "Imagine" he said, "Niggers speaking French.

Smedley Butler and Bryan were involved in Haiti because of something that happened nearly a hundred years before. The French slave-masters, expelled from Haiti and defeated again when they tried to re-enslave the Haitians, connived with the Americans to starve them into submission by a trade embargo. With no sale for Haitian sugar, the country was weak and rundown when a French fleet  arrived bearing a demand for repaations. Having bought their freedom in blood, the Haitians were to be oblige to purchase it again in gold.

The French demanded, essentially, that the Haitians pay France an amount equivalent to 90 percent of the entire Haitian budget for the foreseeable future. When this commitment proved too arduous to honour, the City Bank offered  the Haitians a 'debt exchange" paying off the French in exchange for a lower interest longer term debt. The terms may have seemed better but were just as usurious and it was not paid off until 1947.

Because of the debt the Americas invaded Haiti, seized the Treasury, exiled the President, their Jim Crow policies were used to divide the society, to harass the poor and finally provoked a second struggle for freedom which was one of the most brutal episodes in colonial history.

Long before Franco bombed Guernica, exciting the horror and revulsion of civilised people,  the Americans  perfected their dive-bombing techniques against unarmed Haitian peasants many of whom had never seen aircraft before.

The Americans set up an Haitian Army in the image of their Jim Crow Marines and it was these people and the alien and alienated Élite who with some conscripted blacks like the Duvaliers have ruled Haiti for most of the last century.

When I flew over Haiti for the first time in 1959 en route from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I saw for the first time the border between the green Dominican Republic and brown Haiti.

First world journalists interpret the absence of trees on the Haitian side to the predations of the poor, disregarding the fact  that Western religion and American capitalism were mainly responsible.

Why is it that nowhere else in the Caribbean is there similar deforestation?

Haiti's Dessalines constitution offered sanctuary to every escaped slave of any colour. All such people of whatever colour were deemed 'black' and entitled to citizenship. Only officially certified  ‘blacks’ could own land in Haiti.

The American occupation, anticipating Hayek, Freedman and Greenspan, decided that such a rule was a hindrance to development. The Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, one Franklin D Roosevelt was given the job of writing a new, modern constitution for Haiti.

This constitution meant foreigners could own land. Within a very short time the lumberjacks were busy, felling old growth Mahogany  and Caribbean Pine for carved doors for the rich and mahogany speedboats, boardroom tables seating forty etc etc. The devastated land was put to produce rubber, sisal  for ropes and all sorts of pie in the sky plantations.

When President Paul Magloire came to Jamaica fifty years ago Haitians were still speaking of an Artibonite dam for electricity and irrigation.  But the ravages of the recent past were too much to recover.

As Marguerite Laurent (EziliDanto) writes: Don't expect to learn how a people with a Vodun culture that reveres nature and especially the Mapou (oak-like or ceiba pendantra/bombax) trees, and other such big trees as the abode of living entities and therefore as sacred things, were forced to watch the Catholic Church, during Rejete - the violent anti-Vodun crusade - gather whole communities at gun point into public squares, and forced them to watch their agents burn Haitian trees in order to teach Haitians their Vodun Gods were not in nature, that the trees were the ‘houses of Satan.’

In partnership with the US, the mulatto President Elie Lescot (1941-45) summarily expelled peasants from more than 100,000 hectares of land, razing their homes and destroying more than a million fruit trees in the vain effort to cultivate rubber on a large plantation scale. Also, under the pretext of the Rejete campaign, thousands of acres of peasant lands were cleared of sacred trees so that the US could take their lands for US agribusiness

 

 

After the Flood

Norman Manley used to say ‘River come Down’ when his party seemed likely to prevail. The Kreyol word Lavalas conveys the same meaning.

Since the Haitian people's decisive rejection of the Duvalier dictatorships in the early 90s, their spark and leader has been Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose bona fides may be assessed from the fact that the CIA and conservative Americans have been trying to discredit him almost from the word go.

As he put it in one of his books, his intention has been to build a paradise on the garbage heap bequeathed to Haiti by the US and the Elite.

The bill of particulars is too long to go into here, but the destruction of the new museum of Culture, the breaking up of the medical school, the destruction of the children's television gives you the flavour. But the essence is captured in the brutal attempt to obliterate the spirit of Haitian community; the attempt to destroy Lavalas by murdering its men and raping its women, the American directed subversion of a real police force, the attacks on education and the obliteration of the community self-help systems which meant that when Hurricane Jeanne and all the other weather systems since have struck Haiti many more have died than in any other country similarly stricken. In an earthquake, totally unpredictable, every bad factor is multiplied

The American blocking of international aid means that there is no modern water supply anywhere, no town planning, no safe roads, none of the ordinary infrastructure of any other Caribbean state. There are no building standards, no emergency shelters, no parks

So, when I write about mothers unwittingly walking on dead  babies in the mud, when I write about people so poor they must eat patties made of clay and shortening, when I write about people with their faces 'chopped off' or about any of 8 million horror stories from the crime scene that is Haiti, please don't tell me you share their pain or mine.

Tell me where is Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and ten thousand like him?

If you share my pain and their pain, why don't you stop causing it? Why don't you stop the torture?

If you want to understand me, look at the woman in the picture, and the children half buried with her. You cannot hear their screams because they know there is no point in screaming. It will do no more good than voting.

What is she thinking: perhaps it is something like this – No mister! You cannot share my pain!

 Sometime perhaps, after the camera is gone people will return to dig us out with their bare hands. But not you.

 

Copyright©2010 John Maxwell

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)


John Maxwell

 

First- full disclosure: Butch Stewart has been a friend of mine for a very long time and I was a buddy of his dad's – Gordon Sr  – when he was the founding Chief Engineer of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. We haven't always seen eye to eye, except perhaps mostly on the environment and even there we have had some serious disagreements. Butch is also the owner of the Jamaica Observer in which my column has appeared for more than a dozen years. 

All this to explain that while Butch has never tried to tell me how to write my column, I am presuming to advise him how to run his business. Butch's hotel chain, Sandals has applied for planning permission to erect some over-water rooms on an artificial island off Montego Bay.

Butch had no planning permission to create the island, but that was a long time ago.

 It is my considered opinion that these over-water rooms are a bad idea and I hope Butch abandons his application for permission to build them.

       They provide a bad example to less scrupulous and less intelligent 'developers' who are intent on reworking the geography of Jamaica;

       They defy logic and wisdom in an area where strong 'Northers'  – storms – are prevalent in the winter tourist season and an 'accident' will bathe Sandals and Jamaica in the sort of publicity we cannot afford;

       Butch should remember Hurricane Allen which came ashore on the north coast shortly after he went into the hotel business. Allen made matchwood out of the Trident, a solidly built hotel on a cliff, not at sea-level. Allen’s  storm surge wrecked San San lifting the upper story of one house 18 feet above ground level and leaving it on the parochial road to the Blue  lagoon

       At Galina, near Oracabessa,  Allen lifted an enormous rock weighing several thousand tons off the seabed and onto the road 30 to 40 feet above sea level. A pretty solid little cottage between the rock and the place it came to rest was atomised and the two old ladies who lived in the house were never seen again.

       I was a little boy in Duncans when the 1944 hurricane came through. Among that hurricane's feats was the lifting of the perimeter verandah of the Eldon Great House and depositing it hundreds of yards away in a coconut walk in Harmony Hall/Georgia.

Not another Pear Tree Bottom?

          Several years ago some of us noticed that a Company called Tankweld had created an enormous unsightly stone-crushing arena on land at Pear Tree Bottom.  A few years later we noticed that the public road was diverted at great expense, apparently on the orders of the Great I-Nyam, and since most of us had said nothing about Tankweld's visual disaster nor about the road, we were soon greeted by news that a Spanish hotel was to be built there by the Pinero Group.

Despite protests and a court case launched by some brave women (mostly) led by Wendy Lee, the hotel was built.  The hotel's sewerage was reaching Pear Tree Bottom beach as I documented in these pages. The enterprise was allowed by some lunatic bureaucrats to inject sewage into the limestone aquifer, which means that by the time the hotel's incentives run out the land will be good only for tumble-tu'd' beetles and other coprophagic life-forms.

And then to everyone's surprise, in 2008, Mr Pablo Pinero declared his outrage at the decision of NEPA/NRCA, to stop him from concreting even more of the coastline in the interests of his bank account.

As I said at the time, the NRCA  had, up till then, managed to foul up almost every aspect of the regulation of the hotel including –  the EIA, the fact that the hotel is built on a public beach, illegally, and the inadequate sanitary arrangements and other environmental protections which ought to have been built into any permit for any hotel anywhere in the world, but especially in an environmentally sensitive and important Jamaican wetland, fronting a world famous and scientifically important coral reef.

Since then on the south coast of Jamaica, largely unspoiled, people are starting to spoil things, with a vengeance

Some time ago elements of the Bicknell family, owners of Tankweld, have built on the south coast, something even more hideous than any of their stonecrushing enterprises on the North Coast.

This excrescence, this wanton insult to civilisation and culture sits athwart the beach at Great Bay, Treasure Beach, about 9,000 tons of river stone (quarried under what licence) and placed to cock a dirty snook at the public interest and whatever else its builders may have chosen to insult.

The problem with this wall is not simply that it desecrates, defiles and devalues one of the last tranquil places in Jamaica; it is that it is so monumentally ugly, so devoid of any hint of an aesthetic sense, so vehemently and virulently hideous that it could provide an icon for some plague, some noxious affliction meant to torment and terrify frail humanity.

Its size is intended to impress, to overwhelm and oppress and if there were two of these monstrosities side by side one could easily imagine oneself in the anteroom to hell itself – "Abandon Hope, All  Ye Who Enter Here" or, alternatively, "Arbeit macht Frei""

But I don't wish to examine the existential meaning of the wall. What concerns me is the ancient doctrine of prescriptive right.

Under the Prescription Act 1882 as amended by Act 65 of 1955, the Beach Control Act:

"4.1 When any beach has been used by the public or any class of the public for fishing, or for purposes incident to fishing, or for bathing or recreation, and any road, track or pathway passing over any land adjoining or adjacent to such beach has been used by the public or any class of the public as a means of such access to such beach, without interruption for the full period of twenty years, the public shall, subject to the provisos hereinafter contained, have the absolute and indefeasible right to use such beach, land, road, track or pathway as aforesaid, unless it shall appear that the same was enjoyed by some consent or agreement expressly made or given for that purpose by deed or writing."

That seems to me to be perfectly clear, as it should be, having been drafted by N. W. Manley himself.

Although termites have been eating away at the Beach Control Act for years, they fortunately ignored the Prescription Act, possibly out of ignorance.

The situation in my non-lawyer's opinion, is that no land below high-water mark in Jamaica may now be claimed by any private or public entity. That is to say, apart from designated licenced private beaches adjacent to houses, and the public recreational beaches  including those attached to hotels with licences older than 1993, there are no beaches in Jamaica over which any entity or person, whether the Universal Devastation Conglomerate or Mr Vin Lawrence or his heirs and successors, can legally claim hegemony of any kind. The UDC's attempt to steal Winnifred Beach or any other attempt to compromise the public interest in any form, is ultra vires and null and void

Now and then I wish I had followed my father's wishes, that I should become a lawyer, like Mr Manley. Even if I hadn't become a lawyer like Manley, but just another lawyer, I would now be making life unbearable for those who trample on the public interest and human rights.

If the Spanish hotels are to attempt to  colonise Treasure Beach we now have a new weapon. The EPAs we signed under duress with the EU now allow poor litigants like me access to the European Commission for Human Rights where such enactments as the Aarhus Convention apply. That convention gives us the rights our constitution and laws such as the NRCA act say we have but sometimes can't find.

The Aarhus Convention according to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, " is by far the most impressive elaboration of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which stresses the need for citizens' participation in environmental issues and for access to information on the environment held by public authorities." These principles, believe it or not, are also enshrined in the Jamaican NRCA's guide to the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments.

"The Convention adopts a rights-based approach. Article one, setting out the objective of the Convention, requires parties to guarantee rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

It also refers to the goal of protecting the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to health and well-being, which represents a significant step forward in international law." (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe http://www.unece.org/env/pp/contentofaarhus.htm)

Mr Tufton and the Spaniards

          As I reported last week, the Spaniards are handing over to the Minister of Agriculture, about half a million US$ for a Centre of Excellence or perhaps a nice little agronomy lab. As Dr Tufton is also the MP for the Treasure Beach area, I really hope that my criticising the Spaniards has not queered his pitch with these eminent benefactors.

Copyright ©2010 John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

 

If you've been around as long as I, reading or listening to what passes for recent history can easily provoke the dry heaves.  Mr Edward Seaga, a centre of turbulence as a politician, remains a centre of turbulence as an old age pensioner. Some of the claims made by Mr Seaga or on his behalf are bizarre.

A couple of years ago, Martin Henry, while rightly castigating Seaga for his racist, [my word] elitist view that it is “the masses of simpletons who determine election victories and defeats. And since the people are incapable of sophisticated political understanding only simplistic messages can be delivered to them as entertaining sloganeering from the political platform." (Seaga, quashee and campaigning' July 19 2007, Sunday Gleaner)

Mr Henry almost proves Seaga's point by referring to Seaga as "the creator of the first and great Independence Five Year Development Plan, 1963-1968"– apparently blissfully unaware that the plan was the work of Don Mills, Arthur Brown and Raphael Swaby of The Central Planning Unit working to specifications laid down by Norman Manley, David Coore, Vernon Arnett, Allan Isaacs and other members of a PNP Brains Trust.

Mr Seaga has never attempted to publicise the truth. And why should he?

When he now bravely speaks of education it is from his eminence as the pro-Chancellor of the University of Technology and a Distinguished Fellow of The University of The West Indies.  Mr Seaga is quoted in a story in the Gleaner of September 2 2009:

"If the IMF is able to address [the budget deficit and the foreign exchange shortfall] and is able to lend other funds to help fund the semi-productive sector, Seaga said, the best way to use that fund is to put it into education.

"That is where I would like to see the funds go, because that is the real resource base of Jamaica that has not yet been fully utilised,"said the former prime minister …' (IMF the only option, says Seaga)

Mr Seaga's concern for education is truly touching.  Preening himself on the mistaken belief that he is the only political heavyweight of the fifties still extant, Seaga no doubt forgets the big, bold JLP campaign at the end of the fifties – "Saltfish better than education".

He similarly has no memory space for his government's unremitting campaign against the UWI in the sixties as a nest of intellectuals and subversives; the campaign against the Jamaica Teachers Association which led to wage-freezes for teachers and the desertion of the classroom by male teachers who turned to selling insurance and liquor or else fled to Britain or Brooklyn.

Turn Them Back

Seaga forgets the assaults he led on the PNP in the seventies when that party proposed extended vocational training in sophistication and coverage; and the fact that he destroyed the Vocational Training Institute and turned it into a college for cosmetologists as soon as he got the chance.

He forgets the destruction of the Jamaica School of Agriculture and any other institution created by Norman Manley by himself and others obsessed by the idea of destroying all trace of the Father of the Nation.

He forgets the corruption and destruction of the Social Welfare Commission and of its community integration and development work and the destruction of the Jamaica Youth Corps and the promise it bore for the future of our country

Mr Seaga should also remember his part in destroying the Agricultural Extension system and the network of Agricultural Experimental Stations which helped enthuse and invigorate Jamaican farming, producing, inter alia, Dr Lecky's four world class breeds of cattle, The Jamaica Hope, the Jamaica Black, the Jamaica Red and the Jamaica Brahman.

The loss in brainpower, in expertise, in biological science and in foreign exchange is incalculable. How much to restore the Library at Alexandria?

Seaga forgets the assault he led against free secondary and tertiary education and the fact that as soon as he became prime Minister he reinstated fees for poor children and boasted that these savage cuts in the Jamaican integument were the work of the government, not of the IMF.  The destruction of the JBC was a joint venture between himself and Patterson.

Mr Seaga has blamed the PNP for the dreadful state of the economy, forgetting that within three years of taking power in 1980 he had doubled the debt burden and effectively, put it forever beyond human control.

Mr Patterson, Seaga's only close competitor for the title of worst prime minister in history did his part, playing the Tony Blair to Seaga's Margaret Thatcher. Despite his faults, many and grievous, Patterson was not a patch on Lord Edward of St George's, (Grenada).

Jamaica? No Problem!!

Mr. Martin Henry in his more-or-less paean to Edward Seaga two years ago, noted that

 "The one and only time that Edward Seaga led his party to victory in a contested general election was when the critical issues at stake were starkly clear and voters/citizens, understanding those issues and their implications, overwhelmingly took a stand. Despite his participation in pandering to the quashee in Jamaicans, this country, including even Michael Manley, owes Eddie a debt of gratitude for clarifying and communicating those crossroads issues in 1980 and winning the vote which turned back a looming disaster."

It would be nice were Mr Henry to sketch, at the least, the basic parameters of the looming disaster of which he speaks.

I happened to have survived those interesting times and survived Mr Seaga's attempts to starve people like me into submission. In 1980, the election year, that year of transcendental clarity, 889 murders were registered, more than twice as many as the 351 of the year before.

Within three years – according to Carl Stone, the Gamaliel of the revisionists– Mr Seaga would have lost his majority had there been a free and fair election. Which makes one wonder about Mr Henry's  'crossroads' issues, not to speak of the Halfway Tree issues and the Time and Patience issues that bother people like me.

These issues are provoked, as is so much else, by the Gleaner's news that

          Spanish Gov't to help agriculture ministry.

The Spanish Ambassador is to hand over a cheque for $35 million Jamaican (about half a million $US) towards a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture. I can imagine what Sam Motta or Hugh Miller could have done with that or Jerry Bell or any of dozens more – some like Buddha Webster who gave their lives in the service of Jamaican farmers, not to speak of Dr Lecky and his world-class cows.

José Martí was to have been a coeducational boarding school for young farme to send qualified students over to the Jamaica School of Agriculture.  Seaga changed José Martí into an ordinary school and turned the School of Agriculture into a "Police Academy"

He sold the Research stations for a song and to build housing schemes.

And now they want to turn the Usain Bolt stadium into a battery-chicken-house for Goldman Sachs.

I tell you!  Mr Seaga is FULL of the most wonderful ideas.

Always has been.

I kid you not.

Copyright © 2009 John Maxwell  jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

Some of what passes for commentary today would not have been considered odd by people who ran Jamaica half a millennium ago – people  like Sir Henry Morgan and his bosom buddy and criminal accomplice, Sir Thomas Modyford.

Those two felonious financiers flourished shortly after Jamaica was first captured by the English. According to M&M the English had a divine right to whatever assets, fixed or floating, happened to be within their reach. If these assets happened to claimed by the Taino or Inca or the Spaniards or anyone else, judgment was simple – it all depended on firepower. Morgan and Modyford probably had an aphorism to match ours:  “T’ief from t’ief, God laugh!”

The Spanish should be able to accept the sacking of their cities like Panama, Porto Bello and Cartagena, the capture of their gold-laden galleons, the murder of their burghers and the rape of their wives and daughters. Globalisation is the new name for an old system – what  George Soros, one of the world's richest men calls "Gangster Capitalism".

 Just about 700 columns ago, in this newspaper, in March 1997 I noted the departure of several commercial enterprises from Jamaica to happier  hunting grounds, where labour costs are infinitesimal and unions non-existent.

"Jamaican development  is under serious threat from The Free  Market and the ethics of the slave trade.” I said then.

"The UWI, itself now apparently in the grip of the  free market hysteria, a mutated form of the Pyramid fever virus, is to invite Professor Jeffrey Sachs  to tell us how best we can divest ourselves of our intellectual and cultural  goods to follow Thatcher, Reagan and their fellow Titans into the empyrean realms of monetarist Paradise. As the newest, most fashionable  cults tell us, all we have to do is to submit.

""Salvation is simple. It consists of devaluation and deregulation. If you can’t compete, devalue. If laws, cultures, trade unions  and ethics get in the way, deregulate and beef up your police forces."

Rule of the Cognitive Elite

In 1997 the buzz  was about  a book called The Bell Curve, an earnest farrago of racist theory published three years earlier but then being hailed as a prototype of a new world order. This capitalist manifesto for the 21st century would build on the ruins of socialism, altruism and humane solidarity.

As I wrote then,  The Bell Curve purported to prove that there was a divinity that shaped our ends and that this divinity was Race. Inner city Blacks, the authors Murray and Herrnstein said, were not as clever as whites (at least in the US) and were destined to become a permanent underclass, producing crime and the other   primary products of which they were capable.

In their vision of the Custodial State, the cognitive elite (white) “with its commanding position, will implement an expanded welfare state for the underclass that also keeps it out from underfoot”.

“In short, by custodial state, we have in mind a high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nation’s population, while the rest of America tries to go about its business. … Extrapolating from current trends, we project that the policies of custodialism will not only be tolerated but actively supported by a consensus of the cognitive elite. To some extent, we are not even really projecting, but reporting. The main difference between the position of  the cognitive elite that we portray here and the one that exists today is to some extent nothing more than the distinction between tacit and explicit.”

 "…The central law of the market place may briefly be summarised as follows: Free and competitive markets bring supply and demand into equilibrium and thereby assure the best allocation of resources. To bring these conditions about, Jeffrey Sachs and his co-religionists prescribe reforms imposed by stealth, speed and compulsion, an economic blitzkrieg in which sudden, overwhelming reform simply sweeps aside the defenders of deficient systems, their central banks and the other impedimenta of  superstition.

In Sachs’ view it is at best a waste of time to seek a broad consensus for reform because most people don’t understand why reform is necessary and will block it if possible. Deliverance brooks no argument. All we need to do is send in the economic equivalent of the Waffen SS and that will be that."

The Capitalist Threat

At the time this was written I was immensely cheered to discover that the billionaire George Soros seemed to share my thinking. In the February 1997 issue of The Atlantic Monthly Soros considered that "“the untrammelled intensification of laissez fair capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”

For Soros, capitalism, like Nazism and Communism seeks to justify its claim to ultimate truth by an appeal to science. The ultimate truth is, as Soros says, beyond the reach of mankind, because we are part of the reality we seek to comprehend. In social and political affairs the participants’ perceptions help to determine reality - as postulated in Heisenberg's  Uncertainty Principle. [The fact of observation itself affects the thing observed]  In such situations the facts do not necessarily constitute reliable criteria for judging the truth of statements.

"…  in economics, unlike the natural sciences, the material facts can influence the result of any reaction. Atoms of oxygen and carbon can only combine with each other in certain proportions. The decision of an industrialist may depend on objective facts, but  may depend more  on how his wife treated  him last night or, on a hunch.

I will conclude my visit with Soros by another quote, even more relevant now than in 1997.

" “In many parts of the world control of the state is so closely associated with the creation of private wealth that one might speak of robber capitalism or the ‘gangster state’.”

“In the social sphere what is effective is not necessarily identical with what is right, because of the reflexive connection between thinking and reality. …our sense of right and wrong is endangered by our preoccupation with success, as measured by money. Anything goes, as long as you can get away with it.”

This axiom is no better expressed than in the recent treatment of the people of Honduras, Haiti and Palestine. It is nowhere more succinctly expressed by President Obama's chief economic heavyweight, Lawrence Summers, who, 18 years ago  was vice-president of the World Bank.

 In a memo to staff of the bank Summers wrote:

"'Dirty' Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

"…the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that

…under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City

… The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate [sic] cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is 200 per thousand."

Inequality and Human Rights

This is the thinking of one of the world's most influential thinkers and leaders, an adviser to two Presidents of the US, and the moral and intellectual helmsman of globalisation and modern capitalism. You may now be able to understand the Copenhagen debacle.

Summers is the paradigm of those so-called investors, casino gamblers and felonious financiers whose recklessness and greed have driven the price of food out of the reach of the poor, whose speculation in sub-prime mortgages and other 'instruments' have pauperised the American working class and destroyed the savings and pensions of millions round the world.

Ten years ago, in 2000, Mr Bill Gates' wealth was estimated at over 100 billion dollars, just slightly less that the wealth of 600 million people in the least developed countries

The World Bank’s Human Development Report for that year said global inequalities had increased in the 20th century to the point where they count as violations of human rights. The inequalities have increased "by orders of magnitude out of proportion to anything experienced before". The gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest countries was about 3 to 1 in 1820, 35 to 1 in 1950, 44 to 1 in 1973, and 72 to 1 in 1992. Today it is more like 150 to one.

It is in the interest of the rich that Jamaicans pay an interest rate 40 times as much as Americans, Britons or Japanese. We have paid back several times as much as we borrowed to build schools, to repair hurricane damage and to buy Pajeros or whatever for ginnigogs.

We are told that we must make sacrifices, must reduce the taxes paid by the rich to attract 'Development' while we watch our jobs outsourced to the Dominican Republic, China, El Salvador and other happier  hunting grounds, where labour costs are infinitesimal and labour unions non-existent.

We have never defaulted on our debt although the British, Americans, Mexicans, Russians, Argentineans, Germans and French and many others have done so. It is our duty to pay the usurious interest of the investors who double their money in three years.

It sounds like a good reason to hand the Usain Bolt stadium over to UTECH. We need to produce more cannon fodder for globalisation. Our culture and our talents are of no account.

We have never defaulted because we understand and accept the Summers/Herrnstein Bell Curve principle that we must be satisfied with our subservient status, generating crime and such other primary productions as we are capable.

It is not our business to dream, to make music or to be the best in the world at anything. Our jobs are to be foot-soldiers in the great march of the grey masses, the fertiliser for real wealth.

(Historical note: Under the Government Savings Bank Law, Repealed by the PNP in 1958, it was illegal for the savings of Jamaicans in the bank to be invested in Jamaica. The GSB invested in the South Africa of Malan, Verwoerd and Vorster.)

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell   jankunnu@yahoo.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

We never listen to good advice. Somebody, possibly a few dozen, including me, must have warned Audley Shaw to be careful what he wished for – because he might get it. He really wanted to be Minister of Finance.

I was a few thousand miles away from Gordon House on Thursday, yet I could have sworn that despite the sound deadening effect of snow, I could hear, far away in the gathering darkness, the unmistakable sounds of the heart of another Jamaican Minister of Finance, breaking.

As we contemplate the acrobatic  expertise of Jamaican politicians doing the fiscal limbo dance (How low can he go?)  it seems that Mr Shaw has outdone even Mr Patterson. PJ imposed a tax on knowledge, on books and periodicals. Mr Shaw has imposed a tax on bullas!

It now appears that higglers, the  unsung engines of Jamaican development will now be forced to collect taxes on behalf of Mr Shaw. How Mr Shaw, in his turn, will collect tax from the higglers will need to await the next issue of the comic book anthology of the Mighty Atom and Dan, the Dynamite – mythological heroes of  the mid-twentieth century.

I can just see Mr Danville Walker's emissaries at the Old Harbour Bay Fishing Beach – once represented I believe, by Mr Golding's father – attempting to calculate the tax on last night's catch. They will soon be wearing bullet proof vests and armed with M-16s

Nothing better expresses the vapidity of Reaganite-Thatcherite-Seagaism than Shaw's announcement taxing bullas and crackers but sparing used cars

It is at moments like these that I really miss my late great cousin Richard Thelwell. I can hear him now:

"I mean, is this cat for REAL?"

As Groucho Marx might say, "That is a good question.… a very good question!"

We have watched the worldwide mindless progression into dog-eat-dog globalisation, into the nirvana of neocon nihilism and the recent European Union preference for Central American slave-produced bananas over free enterprise bananas from the Caribbean. None of that has surprised us.

But a tax on bullas! A tax on coconut drops? A tax on the famously malleable sweeties called Bustamante Backbone?

"You cannot be serious!" as John McEnroe is reported to have said.

They'll soon be installing parking meters on Skyline Drive and on the road to Port Royal!

Drive-by Development

There's always a slip between intention and execution when it comes to writing  my columns. I will go round for days, carefully composing deathless prose in my head when some human projectile, some fiscal mortar-shell like Mr Shaw explodes and rudely exposes me to the real world.

I had really intended to write about an inspired and impassioned defence of the environment by a learned friend of mine, Dr Byron Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology & Head, Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group, and normally an inoffensive scientist more concerned with keeping things calm than in raising hell. His ire has been raised by Jamaica's Prospector in Chief,  Mr Edmund Bartlett, who has replaced Mr Vin Lawrence in looking for unspoiled places most needing to be clothed in concrete.

I am told by an unreliable source that Bartlett, Lawrence and Patterson, along with Tony Hylton of the Port Authority and John Ashcroft, former Attorney General of the US, are members of an arcane religious group  called the Society for Elimination of Elemental Nakedness  – SEEN. This group has been uniquely commissioned by God to seek out instances of natural and unnatural nakedness and unruly behaviour among human beings, trees and coral reefs and to suppress or disguise these manifestations of life in flagrante either by pruning, felling or mutilation or by dredging or alternately, where such measures may not be feasible, to cover these indecent manifestations by clothing, by grass lawns, by mega-ships or by concrete.

Mr Bartlett, probably under the guidance of the UDC, has fixed his beady eye on Manatee Bay, no doubt having been warned off Halfmoon Bay, Hellshire,  pre-owned as it were, by fishermen.

Manatee Bay, further along the Hellshire Coast, is a prime candidate for the attentions of SEEN. Somebody has been exposing Mr Bartlett to Hellshire, and the minister for Tourism , properly excited, has declared his intention to turn Port Henderson's notorious 'Back  Road" into the equivalent of Montego Bay's comically misnamed  "Hip Strip".

The headline in the Observer was

'Back Road' to get hip strip status as Portmore looks to tourism

It may have escaped the attention of the magnates of the Back Road that as far as I can see, there isn't a single Jamaican-owned enterprise on MoBay's Hip Strip.

Mr Bartlett, according to the news item has plans:

"… tourism minister Edmund Bartlett is already examining the possibilities of developing the Manatee Bay area into an exclusive tourism product.

Manatee Bay is a prime waterfront property which extends beyond Hellshire (sic)

The minister said he has since taken potential investors there to scout out the area.

"Manatee Bay has tremendous potential for tourism development and one which could be developed into a new frontier," Bartlett said.

According to Bartlett, Portmore has great potential … as the community with its already great dormitory areas would be a good catchment for tourist workers. (As I said a long time ago, people will be trying to find a good reason for Portmore until it disappears under the sea)

Mr Bartlett's entire vocabulary is that of the real estate huckster. There is not even the hint of an environmental, cultural or esthetic consideration; it’s all about cash. A country that brazenly and incessantly  claims to be motivated by spiritual ideals , led by a government which invokes God at the drop of an expletive, finds it impossible to remember that life is not all about cash, that land is not all about property rights and commissions and fees.

Thirty years ago I had an acrimonious argument with the UDC who came close to accusing me of insanity because I contended that a UWI expedition had produced evidence suggesting that iguanas might still exist in Hellshire, contrary to the conventional wisdom which held they had been extinct for 40 years.

Thirty years ago I fought for the university's vision of a Hellshire that was managed to protect its natural wilderness, its biodiversity and to safeguard its scientific integrity. The UDC was for "Development" covering the wilderness with concrete, pumping sewage into a 500 million year old underground reservoir of pure water in a landscape devoid of springs and other sources of potable water.

The UDC's ideas for Hellshire have never been too short of nuttiness, of an arrogant disregard for facts as against public relations jargon and boosterish BS.

Since then, however, other things have changed and people have organised to protect  Jamaica's valuable patrimony. What we have is not just our patrimony, but the heritage and patrimony of the entire human race and we need to recognise that we have serious responsibilities to protect the interests of humanity.

Dr Wilson has written to the editors of our newspapers, laying out the case against Mr Bartlett's fantasies.  I haven't  yet been able to ask his permission but I will quote him nonetheless because what he has to say is too important to the public interest to be kept from the public.

•" … the Manatee Bay area has, at least until now, managed to escape the major assault that has been launched on the island’s other coastal areas.  Indeed, every white sand beach is a potential target for destruction by development interests.  From an environmental perspective, the Manatee Bay area contains the least disturbed and most valuable coastal habitat remaining on the island.  The area’s most famous resident, the Jamaican iguana, is one of the world’s rarest [animals], and its population is restricted to the dry limestone forest that borders Manatee Bay. 

       "… in contrast to the “tremendous potential for tourism development” cited by Mr. Bartlett, the Manatee Bay area is in fact a horrible location for tourism development.        This was the conclusion reached by a joint UWI-Institute of Jamaica study commissioned in 1970; more recent research has served to underscore this assessment. 

 • " For starters, the water in Manatee Bay is extremely turbid; it’s usually not possible to see one’s feet while standing in only a foot of water.  That is not the sort of clear blue Caribbean sea that tourists want to swim in.            

• "Second, Manatee Bay and the adjacent coastal waters are a major spawning ground for the Southern Stingray.  The combination of turbid water and plentiful but “invisible” stingrays renders the area decidedly unfriendly when it comes to water sports.

          • Manatee Bay is prime crocodile habitat.  We started monitoring the population a year ago, and have already marked and released 100 crocodiles…and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Where will the hundreds of displaced crocodiles go?

          Dr Wilson then explains why the area is scientifically important and why, although it is largely unnoticed in Jamaica, the area is recognised by the international community for its biological importance. The international community   have incidentally, invested more than a million US for protection of the manatee.  Dr Wilson continues:

          " Make no mistake about it:  the international conservation community knows all about Hellshire, and all about its precarious persistence.  They have also invested heavily in saving both Hellshire and the iguana, and they will not be happy to learn that their efforts may have been in vain.  Hellshire is no Pear Tree Bottom, because tragic as the destruction of that area was, it did not harbour any so-called site endemics.  Developing Hellshire would lead directly to the extinction of the iguana, because it occurs nowhere else.  The battle over mining the Cockpit Country for bauxite would seem like a friendly exchange among colleagues compared to any battle over destroying Manatee Bay and driving the iguana to extinction.  So please Minister, shelve these plans.  And after all, the Manatee Bay area sits squarely in the middle of the Portland Bight Protected Area, and is part of the Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays – which has been designated as a wetland of international importance through the Ramsar Convention.  Moreover, the government has already committed to protecting the iguana and the other unique natural resources of this biodiversity “hotspot within a hotspot.” 

I (JM) quoted Edward Seaga last week speaking about the social dichotomy represented in what he called the Afro-European divide. It isn't so much an Afro/European divide as it is a divide between the humane and the exploitative, between those who care for the soil and those who see land purely as a portfolio asset. This is what is at the heart of the conflict between the so-called "Developers" and the rest of us in this country. For the developers there are no 'sacred places' in this country. They are as willing to dig down Barbecue Bottom and the rest of the `Cockpit Country as they are ready to destroy anything that can be looted.

That is why,  despite solemn promises, the government of Jamaica daily shames itself by its non-ratification of the SPAW protocol which would settle most developer-conservationist disputes before they started. An ecosystem like Little Bloody Bay at Negril may not be of transcendental importance, but taken with the destruction and planned destruction of similar precious or valuable sites, its conversion to concrete would be  a disgusting piece of vandalism negating  our claim to be civilised .

Professor `Elizabeth Thomas Hope has been preaching for years about the need to care for our patrimony and specifically about the problem of solid waste. Yet, successive governments claiming to be civilised, refuse, for example, to put a deposit on plastic bottles or to tax capital gains or to reintroduce a progressive income tax, all prerequisites of a civilised society. Why?

Because people who give large sums of money to the PNP and the JLP won't like it.

So – they put a tax on bullas, on yam and on fresh fish.

Life is about to get extremely interesting.

Copyright © 2009 John Maxwell jankunnu@yahoo.com

 

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

I have decided not to retire. If retirement does to me what it has done to Mr Edward Seaga the risk is too great, I fear.

Last weekend Mr Seaga was reported as saying that partisan politics has slowed Jamaica's growth. 

"Meanwhile, Seaga said that one of the issues that many of the country's leaders have not been able to fully address is "the cultural underbelly" of the society.

"The two-Jamaica syndrome. That is what sets the tone for the social conditions and eventually what sets the tone for economic progress or no economic progress," Seaga said.

He argued that many persons in diagnosing problems facing Jamaica fail to realise the cultural dichotomy.

"The two worlds that we live in - one Afrocentric, one Eurocentric - have different standards and different value systems," Seaga said.

Seaga said that it was at the level of representational politics that it is assumed that the people who come from the folk society will understand what their people are like, and work towards helping their conditions.

I remember writing a column entitled "Sieg Heil! Heil Seaga!" in Public Opinion in October 1965 addressing that very problem. In that column I denounced Seaga for plagiarising the words of (National Hero) Paul Bogle and using them to threaten (National Hero) Norman Manley with "Blood for Blood and Fire for Fire" simply because PNP supporters had booed Mr Seaga at a public occasion in honour of (National Hero) Marcus Garvey.

That speech of Mr Seaga's epitomises for me more than any other single thing, the damage Jamaica inflicted on itself  when it elected the first government of independent Jamaica.

According to Thursday's Gleaner  "Seaga said that having served under the leadership of former prime minister Sir Alexander Bustamante, he is convinced that the government [Bustamante] formed in 1962 had the best mix of leaders. He also said that there were marked similarities between Bustamante and People's National Party president, Portia Simpson Miller."

It is a sad fact that of that 'mix of leaders' four died prematurely – Ken Jones, Clem Tavares, Donald Sangster and Victor Grant; four had career-ending differences with Mr Seaga – Hugh Shearer, Wilton Hill, Robert Lightbourne and Ronald Irvine, while  L.G .Newland, Edwin Allen and Tacius Golding were simply dumped by Seaga. Of their successors the major casualties of Seaga were E.K. Powell, Frank Phipps, Ian Ramsay and later Bruce Golding, Brascoe Lee, Tony Abrahams and above all, Pearnell Charles, beaten for his pains, who comes closest to Seaga's Bustamante paradigm, one of the few politicians with what Seaga calls a big heart.

And this was the toll among his friends and allies. If you happened to be among his enemies, as I was, exile became an irresistible option.

 If you happened to be P.J. Patterson you were alternately racially abused as a 'black scandal bag' and set up for lynching by being attacked as a homosexual – a 'chi chi man'. Since most Jamaicans are pretty sensible, Seaga's tenure as JLP leader almost guaranteed Patterson lifetime tenure in any position Seaga coveted. As for me, I am secure, paired forever with Norman Manley, as Seaga's original and best hated bêtes noires.

Engines of Development

If one takes corporate-speak seriously one would be totally unaware that the smart and discriminating shoppers, customers and consumers, are exactly the same dumb, freeness loving, whining taxpayer aka John Public or, in conservative USA, Joe Six-pack.

The consumer and the taxpayer are the same. If you are a businessman, however, you are allowed to take liberties with your clientele that might be accounted as indecent in relations between rapacious bureaucrats and taxpayers.

Now hear this:

On August 31, 2009, First Global Bank disclosed that it had "uncovered irregularities with respect to its trading operations. Further investigations confirmed that the bond trading losses of approximately US$19.93 million were the result of breaches of procedure and the irregular conduct and reporting of transactions done in US treasuries with overseas counter-parties that were initiated by a senior employee of the bank, who has since been dismissed. At this time there is no indication of a misappropriation of funds."

If this had been a government entity the uproar, I am sure, would be audible in Madagascar. Loud would be the calls for inquiries, transparency, perhaps even capital punishment. Instead, all is genteel and discreet.  The money involved, nearly 2 billion J$  is a fairly significant sum, even for me, and I would have thought that most shareholders – had they remembered that they were also taxpayers – would have raised a stink. The money was made good by Grace, no doubt wiping a few hundred thousand off the Directors' bonuses.

Of course, trading losses like these will no doubt be paid for eventually by the taxpayer, not the shareholders, but consumers in another incarnation.

Capitalism, they tell me, is a term of art.

To Arms! To Arms!

In recent days the Daily Gleaner has printed a series of rousing editorials  – well, at least they roused me – appealing to the private sector and civil society to launch a revolution in Jamaica, fire civil servants, throw out politicians and generally make Jamaica more like Singapore.

That would really be revolution  – as in "Comrades! to the Bastille!"

The most stirring calls to arms these days are written by mild men pretending to be dangerous journalists. That, of course, guarantees that at any given moment they will be talking through someone else's hat.

To compare Jamaica to Singapore in the sixties blows their own arguments out of the water. The bloom of the sixties came from the seeding, manuring, weeding and watering of the Fifties. Within three years of Norman Manley's defeat in 1962, Jamaica began to slide and apart from the notorious seventies, we've been sliding ever since. Singapore prospered on the Vietnam war and the US and British navies. Lee Kuan Yew thought he was imitating Norman Manley.

Please, before you start throwing rocks, go read the basic statistics on production and so on. Mr Seaga who did so much to create a civilised atmosphere (see above)  keeps talking about migration as an index of public satisfaction. Fewer Jamaicans migrated in the 70s than in the 60s or the 80s.

And when the Gleaner 'bats' for the wholesale uprooting of civil servants, the newspaper owes it to its readers to explain the factual bases for this argument. Having had to deal and work with civil servants at all levels and relationships it is my view that government employees pound for pound, are better trained, better managed and more productive than their private sector counterparts.

And the Gleaner gives the whole game away when it argus for the cutting of workers rights in minimum wages and severance pay to deliver more profit to a parasitic class of margin gatherers who always keep asking for more more cuts in the personal tax rates, abolition of estate duties, capital gains taxes, you name it; they think its bad.

As they argue for the progressive maiming of the Jamaican state they will find hordes of middle-class boobies who will repeat the mantras Bob Lightbourne and people like me introduced to Jamaica in the 50s through the IDC. They seemed to make sense then. They don't make sense now. Ask Puerto Rico.

As always, the blame is on the poor and their representatives. People who get paid to go to lunch downtown want to slash popular representation to make parliament cheaper and even less effective.

The Gleaner is unequivocal:

"Political parties and their leaders must no longer be allowed to manipulate poor, uneducated Jamaicans, whose votes they perennially milk for the advantage of the political class. A rejuvenated and newly assertive private sector and civil society must be vigilant and willing to speak out."

We need more representatives of the people, not fewer. To get from Orange Grove to Orange Field, both  in West Rural St Andrew you need to go through Castleton, in St Mary. The private sector doesn't know this. It probably doesn't know what or where Castleton is either.

In my view if we want a working parliament capable of representing the people we need about 120 MPs to enable a working cabinet, two capable front benches and enough people for working committees. I believe we need a parliament at least half of whom are women, at least half of whom are under 40 and all elected by proportional representation. That would solve the garrison problem and mean that MPs would really have to represent people.

Then we could begin to contemplate democracy, the Arhus convention and real public decision-making.

Chopping down the public sector will mean reduced service for poor people, even more restricted access to their basic democratic rights but  higher infant and maternal mortality rates.

 It will mean that quasi non-governmental organisations (Quangos or state corporations,) like the UDC will be free to take even more indecent liberties with our rights, freedoms and beaches. When the private sector and their spokes-media talk about transparency they don't mean examining the process by which Robert Cartade is colonising Wareika Hill or Little Bloody Bay. In this country, a European pastry cook has superior rights to most Jamaicans. He can propose to destroy important national patrimony and no one can question him.

The real failure

For me, the real failure of democracy in Jamaica is in the failure of public dialogue.

When parliament had no more power than the average sixth form debating society our newspapers used to publish reams of parliamentary debate

Now that parliament seems to be preparing to repeal sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are not going to see the arguments. And having devalued parliament by denying it attention, the media now are preparing to relegate it even more drastically to insignificance.

That’s how JBCTV reduced the attention paid to cricket and helped legitimise those who turned cricket grounds into housing developments.

There are always more ways than one to skin a cat.

The removal of real journalists from the ranks of the commentators guarantees that commentary will be untrustworthy. I have never met a journalist without a p[political point of view – usually their owner's. But, even biased, journalists know enough to base their opinions on fact. This is at least, gives the reader a baseline from which to judge the probable reliability of a columnist. These days the so called journalist is a hired gun, a gunslinger for Murdoch or some other billionaire booby who believes himself entitled to rule the world.

I am a Socialist and I have been since before I became a journalist at 17. People know who I am because I don't sail under false flags. I believe people trust me not to lie to them. They may disagree with my opinions, but at least they know they are my opinions, not borrowed from somebody with money or power. That is not true of many people who claim to be journalists.

The media product, the Press as I prefer to define it, advertises itself as a public trust, a purveyor of factual information on which we may all depend. Unfortunately our experience has shown that we cannot always depend on the press.

I cannot forget, nearly 20 years ago, Bryant Gumbel blurting out on Good Morning America  that the Oklahoma City bombing, then 'just in'– must have been the work of MIddle Eastern terrorists. Or, last week, when Tiger Woods was reportedly 'seriously injured' after gate-crashing a fire hydrant and a tree. The US press has printed more about that story in a week than it has about Honduras since July or about Haiti in five years.

The Press does not understand that real democracy depends on  Information and that without  guaranteed sources of real information no democracy is possible. Without the truth Jones Town and Denham Town disappear without a trace. Ask Mr Seaga.

The people need to be guaranteed information as pure and wholesome as the water they drink.

Copyright©2009John Maxwell    jankunnu@gmail.com


fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

When I read that Trevor Munroe and his cohorts are warning about the dangers of baddies capturing the state I remember 1963 when Trevor was a student at UWI and his daddy, Huntley, was quite properly threatening to have me arrested for criminal libel.

In those days people like Trevor and I were exercised about the prospect of the Jamaican state being captured by local elites. In discussions at my house with Trevor and some other members of the Young Socialist League, I mentioned my theory that Jamaica was controlled by about 21 families and that they could be tracked quite easily. Whenever a member of one of these families died, whole swathes of trade and industry were closed down on the day of the funeral and the names of these enterprises were published in the Gleaner to impress the hoi polloi.

One of Trevor's associates took up my idea in a pamphlet which really did not do justice to the theory. It is an idea that is still relevant, particularly when the society is delving into the decision-making behind FINSAC and other manifestations of private sector hegemony. The media and others are asking Omar Davies for answers to question which they already know; rather like a cuckolded husband asking his wife for the name of her lover.

Quite simply, the Jamaican elite threatened to use their money to bet against the Jamaican currency and create political chaos. The high interest rate regime was a socially sanctioned bribe to encourage the rich to behave themselves. Remember how they derided Butch Stewart's campaign to stabilise the exchange rate?

It is my opinion that blaming Omar Davies for the economic debacle that is Jamaica is like blaming the undertaker for the murder.

That is why in 1997 I described the Patterson economic regime as the greatest machine for the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich since the end of slavery.

When the IMF/World Bank Washington Consensus was consolidating its takeover of Western hemisphere politics most of us were unaware of the connections between the pot-banging housewives of Chile and the formation of new private sector coalitions all over the Americas to repel and defeat bloodthirsty socialists intent on such revolutionary anti-democratic schemes as National Minimum Wages, Equal Rights for Women and human rights for Haitians.

 One of the first casualties, of course, was Salvador Allende and Chilean democracy. Jamaica soon followed.

 

Liberté, Égalité, and most of all, Fraternité

The latest casualty is Honduran democracy where, with the help of Jesse Helms' flesh eating political bacteria – Otto Reich & Co – the American right-wing fanatics have finessed the Obama administration into a shameful and humiliating defeat. They are celebrating an election in which no one knows how many voted – held under the auspices of an illegal putschist regime.

This defeat follows the total rout of democratic forces in Haiti, where Obama's Secretary of State and her husband have sold out to the forces of the local elites and their multinational sweatshop patrons.

Haiti will need to wait for its human rights until some new Dessalines is ready to take those rights back from the gangsters and 'businessmen' whose capture of Haitian state power was initiated, aided and abetted by elites in the US, Canada and France.

When Transparency International speaks of corruption they signify, to me, devils quoting scripture; the words are right but the motives are suspect.

Transparency International is the product of World Bank elites and in my view, is intended as a force to delegitimise third world politics. TI does not speak of the massive corruption crises in the World Bank itself, or of the corruption crises involving the former  heads of state of Germany(Kohl)  and France (Chirac) or the incredible, mind-boggling corruption involving the Iraq war, former US vice president Dick Cheney and Halliburton/Brown&Root, the former UN facilitator in Iraq, Richard Galbraith and a whole slew of elites who have used their positions to grossly feather their nests.

And we do not speak of those I describe as the Komodo dragons of capitalism, whose bite transmits toxic bacteria, flesh eating financial omnivores whose wheeling and dealing has devastated the US car-making industry, laid waste entire communities like Detroit and Flint, in Michigan, or Crewe, Luton and other places  in England and elsewhere; whose irresponsible and criminal misrepresentations have destroyed the US working class, extorted billions from the pensions and savings of middle-class Americans and has almost extinguished the concept of a black American middle class.

These Komodo dragons captured modern capitalist states, distorting all concepts of justice and justifying their wicked extortions by preaching about the evils of distributionist policies. We should not pander to the poor, was the message. We needed to comfort the rich in the cause of "Development"..

In Britain and the US at this moment there are incandescent arguments raging about the rewards due to those who have eviscerated their societies. Should they be allowed to further reward themselves with billions looted from the corpses of pension funds, health insurance and social welfare funds?

It’s a difficult decision isn’t it?

The bonuses Goldman Sachs will be paying to its designated gamblers could feed clothe and govern Haiti or Honduras for a year or two.

It really is a hard call.

Closer to home

  A few years ago I was spooked by the prospect of people destroying the tranquility and amenity of the peri-urban hillside on which I live. When I went to live there, 35 years ago,  my friends told me I lived in the bush, too far to visit, too dangerous because of the surrounding remnants of forest. Then, a few years ago there were signs of  people wanting to build the new Jamaican paradigm – townhouses in a forest. . Three years ago, almost to the day I wrote:

"Where I live in Stony Hill, the water has been turned off at night for the last 26 years, because there isn't enough St Catherine water to supply the thirsts and toilets of Havendale and upper St Andrew. Although there isn't enough water for Stony Hill, within a mile of the Hermitage Dam, confident developers are even now preparing to put in dozens of upscale mini-mansions with lots of bathrooms. (The Next Bad Thing – 10 December 2006) And about half a year later on the same subject:

"There is only one problem: I don't know where it is in this vicinity that the NWC has discovered a new river or lake, and the hillside road is the width of a domestic driveway.(Chainsaw lullaby – Sunday, June 24, 2007)

I thought perhaps I'd made the boobocrats reconsider their schemes. Apparently not.

They must have discovered  a new lake or river somewhere in Stony Hill but are keeping it a secret. 

Some developers have apparently got NEPA and KSAC approval to double the population of Gibson Road by building six 3-bedroom townhouses and twelve 2-bedroom apartments on 11,319 square meters of land.

According to some people the development was approved after covenants were varied on three lots of land. As far as I know and speaking as a layman, covenants on property can only be removed by petitions to the courts and all persons whose property is affected by a covenant are entitled to object to the varying or removal of a covenant.

The new development is intended, as I said, to double the population of Gibson Road. Gibson Road is a narrow road cut out of a hillside about a hundred years ago. My home is probably the oldest house on the road, having its last significant reconstruction in 1939. The newest house on the road is about 20 years old and is next to the proposed development. On my side of the road there are four houses; on the other eight or nine.

To my knowledge at least two of my neighbours have been refused permission to subdivide their land on the ground that the water supply is inadequate for the proposed habitations. These people were proposing to build accommodation (in total) for fewer than ten additional souls. The newly approved scheme envisions nearly one hundred (100) new people, with perhaps fifty new cars and 10,000 gallons of sewage daily.

Jamaica has an enviable record in the provision of self-contained sewage systems. Out of more than two dozen in metropolitan Kingston just two are known to work as advertised. Just below Stony Hill, at the bottom of Long Lane, a small development discharges its effluent into the same gully proposed to be blessed by the excrement from Gibson Road.  All round Kingston there are these malfunctioning systems, saving money for developers and endangering the health of ther neighbours.

Since that same gully passes through my property (above the probable point of discharge), I have every intention to object. The soil up here is rocky but very permeable .

Where I live the air is clean, perfumed by wildflowers and plants, populated by at least 20 species of indigenous birds. I have photographs to prove that assertion and I intend to protect my own tranquility as well as one of the few places in Jamaica where one can see our country's native glory.

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell   jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

This time last year I was in the throes of preparing to dispatch a petition to the then President-elect of the United States.

The petition or open letter to Barack Obama was never sent, largely because I was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and ordered to undergo treatment urgently. It was entirely my fault that though the petition had already  been signed by a couple of hundred people  it was never sent.  Haitians, Jamaicans, other Caribbean people, English and American people, French people, Canadians and others from all over the world, had endorsed the call for Barack Obama to seize the mantle of  the Liberator and to restore to  the people of Haiti   their freedom, liberty, dignity and all their human rights.

As I say, the letter was never sent. I wonder whether it have had any effect had it been sent.

Looking at what has happened to Honduran democracy and this week's latest farce in Haiti, I have my doubts.  I am excerpting the letter here. What do you think?

When the Haitians spoke of Freedom they did not qualify it. They named a major promenade after John Brown, and offered Lincoln a Union Army brigade to complete the service they had  begun to render in the American War of Independence.

In our letter to the President-elect we began by noting the coincidence of Mr Obama's electoral victory in the bicentennial year of the end of the slave trade, an achievement owing much to the Haitian struggle. We continued

 We, the undersigned, are a group of people of many nations, of  all classes and callings moved by what we consider an overwhelming moral imperative to seek assistance for Haiti in breaking a vicious circle of defamation, economic oppression, external political and military interference that has unjustly constrained for nearly two centuries, the exercise of Haiti’s hard-won independence, freedom and liberty.

Because of these malign factors the Haitian people have been reduced to penury; most are unemployed, many are starving and their land and environment degraded by decades of over-exploitation. A proud people whose forefathers once produced enough to make other peoples wealthy and powerful, are now prevented from exercising their own free will and genius in deciding their own destiny.

 Despite these factors the Haitian spirit remains free, undaunted and optimistic. The Haitians want to be free –  to be themselves, to employ their own genius and strength as they did in their unique struggle for independence, defeating powers mightier than themselves to abolish slavery  and to assert their independence and freedom

Now, as they languish prisoners in their own land, justice and humanity demand that the Haitian people should be able to reclaim the dignity and respect they have earned by centuries of their struggle for human rights and dignity for themselves and  for other nations and peoples.

The circumstances surrounding this demand are so important and so extraordinary that we believe it is important to set them out in some detail.

This historical narrative included the following:

You are aware that two hundred and four years ago the people of Haiti, having defeated the armies of France (twice) and of  Britain and Spain,  the greatest powers of that time, declared their independence and simultaneously abolished slavery. The Haitians were the first and only people in the world to abolish the evil system that enslaved them.

Their struggle effectively destroyed the trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans and accelerated freedom for those enslaved in the British and other empires.

The Haitians did more: the Haitian Revolution invented the concept of universal emancipation, guaranteeing the freedom of any enslaved person who set foot on Haitian soil.

The Haitians  went even further: Haiti was the first, and for a long time, the only state in the world to recognise the universal equality of rights for all human beings regardless of sex, economic condition or any other consideration. It was the first state   to implement human rights universally and unconditionally at a time when the only free people in other modern states were white adult male property owners.

Human freedom was then and is now, of transcendental  importance to the Haitians.

 In 1816 – with their economy still in ruins after a twelve year war of independence, while blockaded by greater powers and prevented from international trade, the Haitians made an heroic and decisive contribution to the independence of six major  countries in Spanish South America.  Haiti gave the then-penniless and friendless liberator Simon Bolivar soldiers, ships, arms,, ammunition and provisions to prosecute the liberation of South America. The Haitians asked in return only one thing from Bolivar: that whenever he liberated a country he should also liberate those who were enslaved.

It was the Haitian support of Bolivar in his liberation of South America which made possible the Monroe Doctrine by which the US forbade European attempts to re-colonise South America.

Clearly, Haiti has made enormous contributions to the cause of human freedom and the world owes her an unpayable debt.

The world has not been as kind to Haiti.

After brief review of the twentieth century history of Haiti we related how Haitian democracy had been destroyed by its enemies within Haiti and outside. First, in 1992:

"The new President’s (Jean Bertrand Aristide) aims were simple: that all Haitians be treated justly as God’s children, that all have food and shelter, and that all take pride in their own Kreyol language and culture. He said he wanted “to build Utopia on the dungheap” left behind by the dictators

Elements of the Duvalier army, backed by elements of the business and elite classes promoted a coup which ended with the attempted assassination and departure into exile of the lawfully elected President Aristide after only six months in office.

Mr Patrick Robinson, a distinguished Jamaican jurist (now President of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague) went to Haiti on behalf of the Inter American Human Rights Commission in 1994. He reported

"The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way .…

The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide; women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution."

In 2001   former President Aristide was again inaugurated as President after another overwhelming electoral victory.  A  campaign, led by the same elements responsible for the first coup but this time directed and openly  supported by various agencies of the US and Canadian and French  governments, including the CIA, the State Department, John McCain's International Republican Institute, USAID and the Canadian International  Development Agency (CIDA) , promoted the formation of a small and divided  Opposition formed by a  assemblage of Haitian NGOs  and supported by elements of the corrupt army dissolved by President Aristide.

This opposition, on the basis of a few disputed election results unconnected to the election of the President and before he took office, refused to work or even speak to President Aristide to resolve political problems. The opposition, which at all times represented a small minority of the Haitian people, was supported by non-Haitian elements, American, Canadian and French, in their demand that President Aristide must leave office.

No substantive reason has ever been presented to support this demand.

Decapitating Democracy

In the early morning of February 29,  2004 the US Ambassador and a party of US Marines arrived at the private residence of the President and his family and left with the President and Mme. Aristide in a heavily guarded motorcade to the airport where the Aristides were placed on a plane to Africa, manifested as cargo.

A worldwide wave of disapproval of this kidnapping placed the blame squarely at the door of the United States.

A delegation led by Randall Robinson of TransAfrica and Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California together with  Sharon Hay Webster, a Jamaican member of Parliament and aide to Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica, travelled to Bangui by chartered plane to rescue the Aristides and bring them back to the Caribbean, to asylum in Jamaica.

The government of Jamaica, despite being threatened by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, accepted the Aristides until they could arrange permanent asylum. They were received by President Thabo Mbeki to South Africa where they remain to this day.

The United States, Canada and France, operating through the UN Security Council, then imposed upon the Haitian people a government headed by a Haitian businessman who had lived outside of Haiti for most of his adult life.

Under this unelected regime, a so-called “peacekeeping” force of US Marines and later, of soldiers from other countries, provided the armed state power to maintain law and order.

Terror is still abroad in Haiti. Two prominent supporters of the Lavalas movement, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and Maryse Narcisse  were kidnapped last year (2007). Mme Narcisse has been restored to her family after a worldwide outcry. Pierre Antoine is still missing and the government has done nothing to investigate his disappearance.

All over Haiti poor people have been reduced to eating earth to stave off hunger. The women mix clay, salt and a little fat to produce patties which are baked in the sun before being eaten. Women, too malnourished to breastfeed their newborns, watch them die in their arms.

What Haiti needs

Haiti needs, first of all, reconciliation, a period of peace and order and negotiation to reclaim its democracy and to develop among all its citizens, a true respect for the universal human rights implemented in Haiti, for the first time on the planet, two centuries ago.

Haiti needs peace and order to build the institutions, facilities and infrastructure which it has been unable to build because of foreign interference and exploitation

Haiti needs a programme of long-term development, designed and implemented by the Haitians themselves without interference from outside.

Haiti is hungry and its farmlands and forests have been depleted, degraded and destroyed as a result of the fatal interventions from abroad. Haiti needs assistance to feed its people and to restore the population to acceptable standards of nutrition.

Haiti needs to resume and accelerate its programme of building schools and universities and training people to prevail against the threat of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Haiti needs roads and water supplies and a governmental apparatus that will design and implement them.

Haiti should be able to expect, as of right,  justice and fair treatment from the United Nations, the Organisation of American states and the Multilateral Financial Institutions. Haiti has suffered and is suffering from unfair  treatment by many of these organisations of which she was a founding member.

Finally, President Obama, we who sign this letter do not presume to speak for Haiti. We believe that you will want to hear from the Haitian people themselves.  They have spoken eloquently over the centuries in which they have built the economies of other countries, in which they have fought for and won their own freedom and have accelerated the freedom of others. But we believe we speak on behalf of humanity, being moved by the unbearable suffering of a people who have contributed so much to human freedom and dignity.

We believe that achieving justice for Haiti is an undertaking important to the history and integrity human civilisation  and to the cause of the human rights of all people, everywhere.

We believe that you are uniquely qualified by history by temperament and by your  office to make the decisive intervention that will cure  centuries-old injustices and free your country and Haiti from an entanglement which devalues and in some ways, delegitimizes humanity’s constant struggle for the secure establishment of the inalienable rights of mankind.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, humanity cannot be half slave and half-free.

If Haiti is not free, none of us is free.

It is long past time for outsiders to stop their deadly interference in Haiti’s affairs and time for any who can come to Haiti’s assistance to do so, on Haiti’s terms. Haiti need a new relationship with the United States, a partnership  that promotes human rights, debt relief, reciprocal trade, sustainable development, Haiti's domestic agriculture, an  end to foreign occupation and  justice for the victims of official terror.

 This is a long letter, but as one of our signatories has noted, for Haiti, the suffering has not simply been long, but apparently endless.

We are confident that you will see the justice of the Haitian case.

Millions of people in the United States and in the Caribbean and Latin America and in Africa owe a debt of freedom to Haiti. It is a debt that is long past due.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell  jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)
This is John Maxwell's column from last Sunday. Because I was on the road last weekend, I couldn't post it then, so I post it now a week late (almost). His column for tomorrow is on a very different subject.

John Maxwell

 

 

 

By the time you read this it should be official – the end of the Triangular Trade, the traffic in human flesh, sugar and consumer goods between Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean begun 500 years ago. It will soon be transformed by "Globalisation" into a cat's cradle of exploitative relationships in which the exploiters and the exploited will remain the same, only the terms of trade will be transformed to protect the guilty.

Europe's trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, told the world's press on Wednesday that within the next few days the Europeans are close to a deal  to end the world's longest-running trade dispute and bolster the World Trade Organisation, whose Doha negotiations to free up global commerce have at times been held hostage by the row.

What Ms Ashton meant was that the former Caribbean, African and Pacific colonies of Europe will at long last lose the tariff protection which kept their lands addicted to producing bananas and sugar as against producing food for their people.  It was a serious addiction for these nations, comparable to but worse than addiction to crack or alcohol, distracting the addicts from productive thought and activity and promoting the short-cut, Anancy mentality.

In Jamaica the end of plantation banana and sugar cane may bring enormous benefits to our national health and well-being.

Plantation economics depend heavily on labour-sparing techniques. No longer are weeds eliminated by hoes or harrows but by spraying ferociously poisonous chemicals which are 'biocides', in Rachel Carson's formulation, enemies of life which kill everything. In plantations such as Jamaica or Central America the biocide of choice is, as in the rest of the 'civilised' world, a Monsanto Chemicals product called Roundup.

Roundup is a package deal. The farmer buys soya bean or wheat seeds from Monsanto which has altered the genes of the seed to make the emerging plant resistant to Roundup – or glyphosate as it is known in the world of chemists. Roundup is not a simple product; it contains other chemicals – catalysts – to intensify or accelerate the penetration of glyphosate, so making it more potent.

The problem with these so called surfactants and accelerants is that some are even more toxic than glyphosate and they are not simply more poisonous to weeds, they are more poisonous to everything, including fungi, worms, rats and human beings.

A recent article in the journal Toxicology reports that very low doses of Roundup not only disrupt human hormone function but also kill human liver cells within 24 hours of exposure.

"The toxicity of some of the formulations was independent of how much glyphosate - the active herbicide in Roundup - they contained, suggesting it is other "inert" ingredients that may alone - or in combination with each other and/or the weed-killer - assault the cells. This study's results are similar to prior studies  that find human embryo cells are affected more by the Roundup formulations and an inert ingredient than by the active ingredient."

What is even more alarming is that all formulations of  the weed-killer – even and perhaps especially those with reduced glyphosate levels – were potent hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors mimic or suppress the action of human hormones producing premature puberty in young girls, for instance, or feminising boys and deforming their genitalia.

There is worse to come.

Soils are composed of organic (living) and inorganic (non-living) material. Worms and fungi are among the organic components of coil, rock and sand are inorganic. In good soils these components are in balance and harmony. In vegetation killed by Roundup the normal balance of fungi is upset, penicilliums are killed while toxic fungi of the fusarium family begin to flourish.

Jamaica is 'Roundup-ready'

The fusarium family includes fungi that kill bananas, and, in St Elizabeth, melons of all kinds, cucumbers and others of that family. Dr Robert Kremer and other soil scientists at the University of missouri now believe that fusarium is a natural, secondary characteristic of Roundup use. Fusariums turn up even in the grain produced by the Roundup ready plants, capable of killing innocent people eating breakfast cereal, for instance.

This little tale of Roundup – the Great Panacea – should allow us to see that we need to be more careful in our decision making. The bean counters, the armies of MBAs, will always be Roundup-ready. Others among us realise that thirty years after the introduction of Roundup we still know very little about it or its long term dangers. As Rachel Carson said, more than forty years ago, we should understand that it has taken life on earth hundreds of thousands of years to adapt to most of the chemicals naturally found on earth. We are crazy to believe that – within the lifetime of any human being – we can adapt to the hundreds of thousands of new chemicals introduced annually.

 

Growing our own food

Now that we have the liberation from globalisation in bananas and sugar, it may be useful not only to look at what we may have escaped but at the opportunities we can now investigate.  Edith Clarke gave me her collection of the Journal of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, from 1920 to 1954, one or two of which have been borrowed/stolen in the 30 or so years in which I have been their custodian. I am in Amsterdam at the moment so I cannot quote from them but there is an entry in one of them which has stuck in my memory since the day I first read it.

The entry is entitled "A small holding" and is a report from Mr Hanson, a famous Agricultural Instructor who was writing about a small farmer near Clonmel, in St Mary. This man had on his holding of slightly more than an acre about a thousand different plants, from coconuts to sweet basil, from ginger and turmeric to annatto  and calomel, varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit,cocoa, coffee and tea (as in Earl Gray), black pepper and capsicums. His land was always producing something he could eat or trade or transform into a marketable product. He was self-sufficient and proud. Professor Kari Levitt was so impressed by this story that she used a copy of it as an illustration in her book on the George Beckford papers on sustainable agriculture.

In the JAS journal and in the memories of Jamaicans, many of them relatively young, there exists  a template of a Jamaican culture that is mature, autonomous, and self-respecting.

It is a culture that is capable of regenerating the Jamaica that knows  its people and their capacity better than the British or the IMF ever could. We need to devise a process to sweep away the politicians, commentators and private sector  leaders who promote the Roundup Ready culture and its toxic contaminants at every level and class.

Deliverance

Our connection with the Triangular Trade could not have ended at a more opportune time. The World Summit on Food has just ended without Jamaica making any serious contribution to the discussion.

We know that there are millions of people starving all around the world. The Cubans say say that none of the millions of children sleeping on the streets is Cuban, but the Americans, the British and most 'advanced' societies in Europe and elsewhere cannot say that. We certainly cannot.

Where would we start?

We should already have a pretty good idea of how many people are short of food in our communities, how many people especially children, go to bed hungry.

If we know that we can calculate the amount of food needed to bring them back into the society. What and how much food does a child or an adult require?

We know that an acre of well treated land can produce ten to thirty tons or more of sweet potatoes. We know how much corn and cassava can be produced on an acre of land in Trelawny and St Ann, how much pumpkin can be produced on an acre of land in St Elizabeth.

We may not understand but we are at this moment in a state of extreme emergency and we need to move fast.  About two years ago I forecast this moment and suggested that we needed a bipartisan approach to the problem.

At that time Mrs Simpson-Miller was Prime Minister and I suggested that she should ask the leaders of the society to volunteer their energies, abilities, money or machinery to tackle the problem before it became unmanageable. I would like to suggest that instead of concentrating on whether UTECH should get the Trelawny stadium it might make more sense to devise an Emergency production plan and a distribution system to go with it.

We need to get thousands of idle acres into production and we can worry about systems of tenure later . I really do believe that such an effort may be one thing that most Jamaicans would find themselves willing to support.

Copyright©2009John Maxwell    jankunnu@gmail.com



fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

There are studies enough and statistics galore to prove to the most ignorant and obscurantist amongst us that retaliatory crime and violence is not a policy to defeat crime or criminality.

 Crime is a symptom of a diseased society and we can no more 'solve' crime by killing criminals than we can solve terrorism by exterminating people identified as "terrorists".

In Afghanistan the world is now recognising these truisms – after thousands of deaths, of American and European soldiers, of Taliban guerrillas, Al Qaeda terrorists and after spending billions on a wild goose chase and slaughter of  innocent Afghans, Pakistanis and others, caught in the crossfire of a misbegotten "War on Terror".  In the process we have destroyed cultures and ecologies, economies and communities, all without making any serious progress toward the stated objective. Using the present means guarantees comprehensive failure, as in Vietnam and Cambodia, and as over and over in Afghanistan itself from the time of Alexander the Great to the present day.

Right after '9/11'  some of us  pointed out that it was impossible to wage war on an abstraction; that terrorism was an abstraction with no central command; that 'terrorism' was the last resort of the hopeless, the anthem of the desperate in the last extremity of their attempts to communicate their misery, their thirst for justice. . As Fidel Castro points out, bullets can kill the poor, but bullets can't kill poverty; bullets can kill the hopeless and the hungry; bullets cannot kill hopelessness and bullets cannot kill hunger.

A Summons to Justice

    One Friday morning more than 40 years ago I was at my Editor's desk at Public Opinion, the weekly political review, when I got a phone call from Jamaica's very first Director of Public Prosecutions, Huntley Monroe, QC.

"Maxwell," he said,"I have read your editorial in this morning's paper and I must tell you that if you cannot justify every word of it it will be my duty to put you behind bars."

There were actually two editorials titled

Was it Murder ? – I

 and

Was it Murder ? – II

Both concerned unlawful killing. The second was about the lynching of men in Padmore, Red Hills, on suspicion of being goat thieves and called for the DPP's intervention.

The first was about the killing of a young waiter of the Courtleigh Manor Hotel by a policeman named George Porter.

George Porter was a policeman who had a year or so earlier, assaulted me and charged me with using indecent language, obstructing a policeman in his duty, resisting arrest  and assaulting him and another policeman at a police roadblock at Constant Spring. The details of the fracas were recorded rather imaginatively in the Star under the headline:

"Editor charged with Cursing, Cop-beating."

I was innocent but that was no excuse on the night. I was dragged to the Halfway Tree Police Station where Porter and some other cops, one a woman. tried to drag me upstairs to give me a 'proper beating.' I resisted and they eventually desisted. My then wife had meanwhile woken up my publisher, O.T. Fairclough, a JP and a man of some presence, who came and bailed me.

One result of all this was my being found guilty on the lying evidence of Cons Porter and one of his accomplices. I was fined £2 each on the 'bad word' and assault charges and had to pay £2 each for teeth I had allegedly knocked out of Porter's mouth.

The other consequence was to prove much more serious for Porter. I lost my front door key in the second fracas at the cop shop.

A friend of mine, Rolly Simms, a Communist who farmed a piece of land in Mocho, now destroyed by bauxite mining, was a director of the Citrus Growers Association and stayed at my house whenever the CGA and or JAS had directors meetings in Kingston.

Sometime after my soiree with Cons Porter, Rolly came to town, went to my house and found that I wasn't home and my door key was not in its usual place. He went down to the Courtleigh for supper and heard that one of the waiters, a person he knew, had ben shot and killed the night before as he made his way home after collecting his week's pay.

According to the story in the Sunday Gleaner, Constable George Porter had been on duty in the Holborn Road gully area on Friday night in response to 'numerous' reports of a robber operating in the area. On the night, Porter had accosted a suspicious individual  who, when challenged had attacked the constable with a huge clasp knife and the constable, in self-defence, had had to shoot the highwayman.

But Rolly heard a different story at the Courtleigh. The waiter, Cassells, was a slight fellow and his sole weapon was a small penknife with a picture of a naked lady on the handle.  Cassells himself was not only small, he was meek and peace-loving. Further, his colleagues and family wanted to know what had happened to his pay-packet, his wallet, and the bicycle he had been riding?

 When Rolly told me the story and I told him who Porter was we were both determined to follow the trail to the end.

Through the Courtleigh workers we soon found a taxi driver who had been parked in the bushes where the Towers now stand on Dominica Drive. (The area was said to be a lover's lane.) When I heard THE TAXI DRIVER'S STORY I asked Kenny McNeill, one of Jamaica's foremost surgeons to attend the autopsy. When Kenny got to the morgue he was told the autopsy had been held earlier than scheduled and burial ordered.

When Huntley Monroe phoned me I told him some of what the taxi driver had told us and about the phantom autopsy.

THE TAXI DRIVER SAID there had been  no attack by Cassells - who was about six inches shorter than Porter and about thirty pounds lighter.

What happened was that Porter, in plain clothes, had constituted himself into a one man crime-wave. He had waylaid Cassells  as he had ambushed others before; Cassells who like Porter came from Kellitts, recognised his schoolmate.

Cassels last words were something like:

"But a no you dat George?"

to which the reply was a savage 'pistol-whipping' ended by several gunshots, many in Cassells' back.

When Kenny McNeill reported on the phantom autopsy, the DPP at my suggestion, ordered an exhumation of the body and a second, real autopsy. The results from Kenny, were devastating. Cassells had been savagely beaten as we contended and shot in the back.

Porter was guilty as charged and sentenced to hang.

We don't hang policemen in Jamaica as a rule, no matter how serious their crimes. As I was a known opponent of capital punishment, Porter's supporters knew they could count on my signature on the petition to the Governor General.

Porter's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

In 1972 the government of Michael Manley wanted to pardon a man who had been in prison, many thought, wrongfully, for the manslaughter of several fellow policemen who had tormented  the young policeman – Roy Morgrage – beyond endurance. His 'crime' had been committed in 1948, and he had been in prison for 24 years, well beyond the normal life sentence. He had been kept in prison by police pressure. No matter how gross the provocation they felt, Morgrage had killed policemen.

Many people had long felt that Morgrage should never have been convicted, but for what seemed a specially selected jury and that even had he been properly convicted, his sentence was excessive. When the police federation heard of Morgrage's impending pardon all hell broke loose. The police demanded Porter's pardon in return for not making problems about Morgrage.

In the eyes of the police the offences appeared, somehow, comparable. Morgrage, tormented, humiliated abused and sexually threatened reacted in blind desperation seizing the first instrument to hand to end a programme of merciless persecution.

George Porter, who murdered a civilian in cold blood was given full support by the police and by certain members of the press and of the legal profession. He spent one third of Morgrage's time in prison, under considerably better conditions.

Both, I believe are now living abroad. I tell the story because there is now an artificially created frenzy, a supposed ''popular movement' to install one of Jamaica's most volatile men as Commissioner of Police.

I believe that the director of Public Prosecutions should do for Mr Reneto Adams what her predecessor did for me, so long ago. She should facilitate him in discharging his clear public duty, particularly because of the nature of the job he covets

Mr Adams a little while ago, while discussing the vacancy in the office of Commissioner, made some statements about criminal behaviour in certain places, in politics and among human rights organisations.  

These statements were so serious that I believe if they are true they must be pursued with the utmost rigour.

I believe that Miss Paula Llewellyn QC. has a statutory duty to ask Mr Reneto Adams for further and better particulars and if he cannot produce them, to do what Huntley Monroe threatened to do to me four decades ago – prosecute for criminal libel.

Copyright©2009John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

 

Why we fail

Nov. 8th, 2009 07:49 am
fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

Once upon a time, it seemed, we could do no wrong. These days, it seems we can do nothing right.

Apart from the brilliant natural talent of our young men and women, everything we touch turns to lead.

But wait!

If our young people can do so well at athletic sports, at university and in competition with spellers and chess players from all over, how come we're not doing much better, overall? Why are so many of our kids killing themselves or being killed by other kids or getting into all kinds of bizarre trouble?

Perhaps we should ask Mr Latibeaudiere, lately governor of the bank of Jamaica, who earns in a year more than most of us would earn in several lifetimes. Anyone paid as much as he must be very, very wise indeed. Or perhaps we should ask Mr Tony Hylton, head of the Port Authority, whose weight is enough to anchor US$200+ millions in debt – no questions asked about how we will pay back this money.

On one side of our society are thousands of children who, given encouragement and the right leadership, will work like slaves to excel and do well for their country. On the other side are ladies and gentlemen of exalted degree whose mantra is development  and who persistently  ask a question so simple that it should be duck soup to answer: why can't the police reduce the crime rate?

Such a simple question.

 Really?

One of the good things about writing for the press is the feedback. You get it in the shops, in the newspaper columns and courtesy of some of the so-called talk-shows. I've got it from fishermen in Discovery Bay and Treasure Beach, from a 'limousine' driver in Ridgefield, Connecticut and from Rastas everywhere.

In response to my column last week there were several of the standard responses, suggesting that I am simply wrongheaded and wondering why I didn't join the respectable classes.

They didn't quite put it that way. A few weeks ago an item in the Gleaner's historical highlights reminded me of a time when I provoked even more anger. The  was an item  about the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, (October 22, 1975) a fight begun and carried on Public Eye until it was eventually successful. But not before one stush chatelaine in her stush Benz took deliberate aim and spat at me as I walked on South Odeon Avenue.

 October was a busy month for me in the Gleaner's highlights, recounting my close encounter years earlier (October 23, 1960) with the statue of Lewis Quier Bowerbank, one of George William Gordon's murderers. At about midnight on that October night 49 years ago, I unleashed my  sledgehammer in protest against Bowerbank and the fact that Gordon was still considered a criminal. People noticed, although only a few knew who the midnight 'vandal' was.

Memories like these amuse me when I read something like this

"Yawn!!

Maxwell, sometimes I think you encourage slackness too much. Squatters and other so-called underprivileged are responsible for the uglification of Jamaica.

What is it that you have against progress? Do you want Jamaica to continue in poverty and ugliness because people have to "scratch out a living"? "

There exists a whole phalanx of critics who have swallowed gallons of the Globalisation Kool-Aid and who believe that Jamaica would be well on the way to "Take-Off" if only we were more "competitive"

These characters don't realise that we are competitive where it counts: Our interest rates are among the highest in the world, to try to persuade people to rinse their money here rather than in Cayman; We have more underemployed able-bodied skilled and unskilled. people than anywhere else. Our country, instead of being able to be in any way self-reliant,has forgotten how to cook and instead depends on junk-food and imported sugar water for sustenance.

And then they wonder why people are so violent.

Is there anyone in Jamaica who makes his/her own butter? I did at my Uncle Hugh Cork's small farm, first in Tollgate and then in Juno Gully, May Pen. I learned to manage honeybees, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and rabbits. Our people having been driven off the land can't tell the difference between coco and dasheen or know what you mean when you speak of renta, St Vincent, Lucea or himba. The development of bauxite has obliterated enormous areas of Jamaican culture, devastating farmland, driving fathers abroad and mothers and their children to kraals in inhospitable cities.

The sense of community is destroyed. The artisan skills of the elders is replaced by cheap shoes, cheap clothes, cheap furniture and cheap 'food'  from abroad. Our people are adrift in the most extreme shopkeeper culture in the world, ignorant and incompetent to help themselves.

Many of the apparently Jamaican products now merchandised here are imported. No Jamaican farmers are involved. Even some coconut water is imported from southeast Asia. The merchants see no need to foster Jamaican agriculture. After all, they are helping famers, in Thailand, Brazil and California.  That's Development!

"Come on, let development proceed and we will have more people getting employment.

I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a country where we have all these underdeveloped establishments"

The 'underdeveloped establishment'  would be  a community owned beach, run by the community with minimal assistance, perhaps, from state agencies. That was the aim.  But there were and are forces in this country determined that poor people should have no autonomy and for nearly forty years they have sabotaged, corrupted and tried to destroy that dream of Hellshire and a productive, autonomous community.

The causes of Squatting

One in every three people in Jamaica is a squatter, driven off the land by bauxite or some other 'development'. We can't afford to find safe housing land because, when the Constitution was being written in 1962 the rich decided that the government effectively must pay cash for any property it wanted. So housing is built on marginal farmland which has defaulted into the hands of government. We lose land for food and endanger the lives of those who live on these lands. We can't plan to develop places like May Pen or Santa Cruz because the speculative vultures have cornered the land markets. Instead we build dormitory disasters on land subject to flooding or landslides.

          In beautiful and historic  Falmouth, we are busy making a billion dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth  What we don't know is that we have probably been conned…

Mr Arthur Frommer is probably the foremost travel writer/publisher in the world. He has been investigating the fabled Oasis of the Seas . Here Is Mr Frommer:

"Starting in May of 2010, Half of the Itineraries of  'Oasis of the Seas' Become Cruises to Nowhere

"You have only to read the actual schedules of the new, 220,000-ton, 6,000-passenger Oasis of the Seas to understand the revolutionary nature of the changes it will bring about. .…

On weekly, seven-night sailings, the mammoth ship leaves each Saturday afternoon from Ft. Lauderdale, … then sailing for six more days and nights. Every week, on all itineraries, it spends three of those six days simply at sea, stopping nowhere. And then, on an itinerary it follows every other week starting in May, it devotes the fourth of those six days to a stop at the "private island" (actually a "private beach") of Labadee on the coast of Haiti. Labadee, as you may have experienced on one of your own cruises, is a totally isolated stretch of sand fenced in by barbed wire and guards from Haiti and Haitians. "

There's more, much more here:http://www.frommers.com/blog/

As I reported nearly a year ago, the new megaships are no longer means of transportation; they are full-fledged resorts in their own right, offering dozens of restaurants, casinos, shops, auctions and other consumerist attractions too grandiose to mention.

The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele…

 

'Crapital' (sic) of the world

According to the literature each ship’s 'central park' will be basically a mini ‘jungle’ themed to reflect an imaginary island, say Jamaica, no doubt with its quota of  5 iguanas, 3 crocodiles, 2 dozen parrots, a cage of humming birds and other ‘authentic’ simulacra of the ‘authentic’ island experience – about as much authentic ‘nature’ as a couch potato can stand–  and making it unnecessary to actually visit the place.

One cannot help hoping that these benefactors of the sea will have the forethought to include appropriate accommodation in their casinos to display retired politicians and other ginnigogs  in their natural habitat.

Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There’s got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth’s destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitised, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world. And, thanks to the Port Authority, we get to pay for it – another taxpayer privilege like the Doomsday Highway.

You read it here first.

What is development?

The Kool Aid drinkers, waiting on Deliverance will wait in vain. They will soon discover that there is little difference between the likes of  Bernard Madoff and Goldman Sachs apart from the fact that one has immeasurably more 'backative' than the other but they were in their own way, developers, making things happen, destroying pensions nest-eggs and lives.

We in Jamaica, particularly people like Derek Latibeaudiere, would understand this. It is a natural consequence of 'development.'

In Germany there is a substantial number of people who feel differently. They were brought up in a society, like old time Jamaica, where people looked out for each other. This philosophy is even engrained in the law, which mandates what is called "co-determination" in which the workers have a statutory interest in their enterprise, in the goods or services they produce and in the management of their production. Workers sit on the boards of management, even of Krupp and Volksagen.

It was therefore no surprise to me to read two news items from Germany that may have startled some others but didn't really shock me. Just as Goldman Sachs was announcing a bonus fund for its managers equivalent to the GDP of the Greater Antilles, the BMW company was announcing  new bonus and pay policy.

Sustainable Culture

"BMW plans to tie executive bonuses to those of its blue-collar workers, in a bid to create a fairer and sustainable compensation environment within the company.

" Starting in 2010, the company will use a common formula to ascertain and award bonuses to its upper and lower level employees, based on the company's performance as measured by profit, sales and other factors. That means that upper level management could potentially lose more money than their lower level counterparts for bad performance, BMW said."

According to a spokesman BMW wanted not only to produce sustainable cars but a sustainable corporate culture.

Mr Golding should perhaps ask My Latibeaudiere to write him a short study on the possibilities of applying these principles in Jamaica

The other news item did startle a few of my friends. Some rich Germans have come together to petition their government to raise their taxes to help their country. For retired doctor Dieter Kelmkuhl, 66, it is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country.

Dr Kelmkuhl  estimate that if the 2.2 million Germans who have personal fortunes of more than 500,000 euros (750,000 dollars) paid a tax of five percent this year and next, it would provide the state with 100 billion euros.

Perhaps Mr Golding could ask the Private Sector Organisation to come up with a comparable proposal. It is well known that Jamaican salaries at the top are competitive with the Developed world, and Jamaicans are famous for their generous and benevolent nature – as Lady Nugent and the Caymanians can testify.

We could easily raise the money to build our own cruise-ship. After all,seventy five years ago,  the 27,000 small farmer members of the Jamaica Banana  Association raised the money to build three ocean going "banana boats" – the Jamaica Producer, the Jamaica Pioneer and the Jamaica Planter, two of them sunk in wartime service.

What couldn't we do if we could get the rich to invest in Jamaica?

  If we started by putting money into education (meals, buildings, teachers, playing fields) we would certainly not find it necessary to change Commissioners of Police quite so often.

As the World Bank might say –"Trust us!"

Copyright©2009  John Maxwell      jankunnu@gmail.com

 

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

In 1973, nearly forty years ago,I was one of the journalists on the new JBCTV public affairs programme, Press Conference – later renamed Firing Line.  One of the first guests on the programme was Moses Matalon,  the first chairman of the UDC – the Urban Development Corporation.

Mr Matalon was then – as we say in Jamaica 'in him ackee'. He had been installed in 1968 by the JLP Finance and Development Minister Edward Seaga and confirmed by the new, PNP Prime Minister, Michael Manley when he took office in 1972.

Someone of course had to invent the aphorism: 'JLP or PNP in office, no matter, Matalon in power!'

The UDC was then at the height of its public relations prowess, spinning out brochure after brochure detailing how the corporation was going to give Jamaica an extreme makeover and convert it into the Miami of the Caribbean.

At that time, Hellshire had only recently been rediscovered. The rugged geology conspired with the harsh climate to keep Hellshire out of sight to all but a few Jamaicans, mainly bird-shooters and crocodile hunters like James Gore, father and son,  hog hunters and fishermen. The UDC decided to change all that. It was going to build another Kingston across the water – eclipsing Portmore whose prospects were pretty dim at that time.

Some of us who knew something about Hellshire would drive out on the new UDC road to swim and eat some fish with the fishermen. It was even possible to skinny dip on the deserted white sand beach with 20-ft dunes walling off parts of the beach from easy view.

It was paradise, whether you inhaled or imbibed or simply lay about in blissful, peaceful idleness.

About two or three weeks before Mr Matalon's appearance on Press Conference a few of us found an enormous gully cut across the road to Hellshire –  between Fort Clarence and Halfmoon Bay.

On Press Conference Mr Matalon expatiated on his plans to remodel Jamaica, always skirting delicately round Hellshire. In response to a direct question he admitted, yes, there was a plan to develop Hellshire as a tourist resort . I asked him whether he realised that Halfmoon Bay was the only good beach within reach of Kingston's sweltering multitudes. He said there was Gunboat Beach. I said Gunboat was now too dirty for swimming and even with its neighbour, Buccaneer Beach there was not enough space for Kingston's people.

Since he didn't reply to that I asked him why had the UDC cut the road to Hellshire preventing people going to the beach?

Matalon said he didn't know the road had been cut. I told him it had been done, when and by whom. Would he make inquiries and ensure that the road was back in operation say, by the weekend?

Somewhat sheepishly, he agreed.

Matalon regarded me, as a journalist, as a damned nuisance. In 1977, when I became Chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, he became really upset with me.

Obnoxious Obstructionist

Matalon was what they call 'multi-faceted’: He was not only chairman of the public sector UDC Group, he was also Chairman of the Portmore Land Development Company the developers and West Indies Home Contractors, the builders of Portmore, and a director of the Adventure Inn/Forum group, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

We clashed over Portmore, further development of which we stopped, until the developers agreed to reserve land for parks, schools, public buildings including an advanced health clinic, a fire brigade station and several police stations. We also insisted on serious strengthening of the foundations of the houses, since Portmore was underlain by irregular lenses of  peat, sand, quicksand, unconsolidated clay and  gravels and other debris deposited by the Rio Cobre, the Sandy Gully and other streams which had formed the estuary on which Portmore was being built. The whole area was subject to liquefaction in a sufficiently violent earthquake.

We also insisted on a complete modern sewage treatment plant plus  measures to mitigate hurricane storm surge and flooding from the rivers.

The upshot was that Michael Manley summoned me to Jamaica House to inform me that the houses at Waterford, originally to be sold for $7,000 would now cost $11,000.

In one particular exchange Mr Matalon was upset by some figures I had quoted on earthquake risk at Portmore. He then said: "But Mr Maxwell, you are not an engineer!"

To which I replied: "But neither are you, Mr Matalon!".

As far as he was concerned, and as he told Vin Lawrence a few minutes later, Maxwell was simply "an obnoxious, overeducated Rasta!" In addition to which, I seemed far too fond of mangroves and mosquito-breeding swamps.

Relocating the Fishermen                                  

I got along well with the Rasta fishermen of Hellshire. They had heard that they were to be 'relocated' and asked me to help them. Their beach was to be converted into an exclusive Beach Club and they would have to find some other place to scratch a living

Some of these men had been on Halfmoon Bay for more than thirty years, and there seem to have been fishermen on that beach since the Tainos. The UDC had come in, knocked down Fort Johnstone and other ruins or allowed freebooters to sack them for the stones. A pair of contractors told me that they had been paid to remove the dunes and transport the sand to the nascent Adventure Inn/Forum in Port Henderson.

The UDC had revised its plan for Hellshire. In that limestone desert they were going to build a collection of suburban developments but still backed by the beach club.

I argued with the UDC, wanting them to reserve wilderness and scientific reserves. I argued the despite what they thought,  the hog-hunters knew that iguanas and coneys were not extinct but still lived in Hellshire.

I begged them for 32 acres of land at Halfmoon Bay for the fishermen. We wanted space for a fishing village, a secure area for boats and gear and an area behind the beach where the fishermen and the families could sell the cooked result of their labours.

I got nowhere until I went to talk to Michael Manley He deputed Hugh Small and D.K.Duncan to try to solve the problem. We were valiantly backed up by Beverley Manley.

It was agreed – in 1979 – that the UDC would turn over ten acres of land to the Fishermen's Cooperative

Slippery customer

The UDC is by far the slipperiest customer with whom I have ever had to deal.

•A few years ago, fully aware that their legal department had already signed off on the transfer of Title to the fishermen – although the fishermen had not been informed – the UDC proceed under cover of darkness to criminally trespass on the houses of the fishermen, bulldozing them,  while publicly and libellously claiming that the people were squatters.

•In or about 1980, the UDC, having been informed that what they proposed was illegal, proceeded to construct a groyne at the outlet to Jackass Water Hole, starving the fisherman's beach of sand. now, a quarter of a century later, because the Jackass Water hole groyne has colleted enough sand on its southeastern side to make a new, small beach, additional sand is once again flowing to Haalfmoon Beach.  The dunes are back and new middleclass squatters have built substantial buildings on them, contrary to law and common sense and against the interest of the original stakeholders and the public interest.

•According to the campaign now being waged in the Gleaner, the fishermen are merely leaseholders and any minute now I expect the UDC to claim that these are 24-hour leases, or some such lunacy.

The propaganda is that the beach is a hotbed of gun and drug smugglers though how these activities would go unnoticed in this community mystifies me. Perhaps the beach will be seized  as the product of contraband activity and sold, perhaps to the Spaniards. I wonder who will get the finder's fee?

It is simply the latest in a series of campaigns to demoralise the fishermen, subvert their leadership, undermine their will and spirit and drive them off the beach.

Now that the white sand is back, the beach has become 'marketable'– the sand is valued by the ounce,  and the poor fishermen and their families are about to be defrauded of their legitimate interest. The public is about to have another beach stolen, despite the existence of prescriptive rights inherent in the fishermen and in their clients such as you and me.

The state, as the Public Trustee, will betray its trust, as usual

Incredible stories have surfaced, all to suggest that poor people's rights are not worth respecting. And all those who, over the years,  refused to help defend the fishermen and to build a really attractive folk industry centre will no doubt be happy when steel gates go up across the beach and you are offered croissants instead of festival with your Dover sole a la bonne femme.

The Brutification of Falmouth.

  I haven't seen it myself, but I do not doubt the stories I've been told of the savage attack now in progress on the history and archaeology of Falmouth. I know, as a boy and much more recently, that in the Falmouth nearshore it was possible to pick up 300 year  old bottles and other relics of the past.

Now, people watching the dredging say they have seen historic artefacts in the material being dredged for the establishment of the proposed cruise shipping pier. These artefacts are unceremoniously dumped in the offshore deeps.

 If this is true I believe the coroner for the area should be informed and that he should take immediate action to end this depraved assault on our history and our culture. Is there no one in Falmouth, or Trelawny or in Jamaica, public-spirited enough to pledge some money to fight these barbarians in court?

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell   jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

 

John Maxwell

Freedom and Liberty are properties of a free society.

A free society is one which is able to govern itself  because all its members have equal right to take part in making the rules by which it is governed

All of us are equal and no one is more 'Equal' than any other. Mr Anthony Hylton has no more right to decide the fate of Falmouth than does the most miserable homeless person on the streets of Yallahs or Heartease.

All sorts of far-reaching decisions affecting work, health, security and welfare are being taken by people who believe that their temporary authority gives them the right to change the rules under which we operate – usually to their advantage.

Obviously, governments must be able to change the ordinary rules to fit them better to public satisfaction, but there are some rules that are so important that they should always require a special mandate from the society – a certification that the people have discussed the question and agree how it should be resolved.

In modern democracies, particularly those who take their cues from the US, there has arisen a tendency to employ hysteria and expensive public relations  campaigns to change laws to accommodate some private interest with the excuse that such change will benefit the public. The snow job of the 20th century  was the eventually successful campaign to neuter the  Glass-Steagall Act, of which you have probably never heard. What you may have observed, however, is the catastrophic human suffering and financial carnage which were consequences of the dismantling of the Act.

The Glass-Steagall Act was the last constraint preventing US banks from turning themselves into casinoes, bucket shops and high class financial brothels, evading tax, breaking laws left, right and centre while pauperising millions of working and middleclass people all over the world.

This week, a personage as august and unlikely as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, launched his campaign for the breaking up of the big banks, plus tough  new regulations to force them to behave more like banks and less like the Mafia.

In his drive to break up the banks Mr King joins a distinguished assemblage on this side of the Atlantic. They include, mirabile dictu, Alan Greenspan, the single major factor in the recent lunacy; Mr Paul Volcker,  Greenspan's predecessor; the former eminence grise of the IMF, Stanley Fischer; Nobel prizewinning economists including Joe Stiglitz and Ed Prescott, MIT professor and former Chief Economist at the World Bank Don Johnson, the president of the Independent Community Bankers of America (5,000 members); the head of the FDIC (Bank regulator) Sheila Bair; the leading monetary economist and co-author with Milton Friedman of the leading treatise on the Great Depression, Anna Schwartz; Profs. Nouriel Roubini and Prem Sikka and a whole galaxy of economists of greater or lesser magnitude. Eliot Spitzer, former Attorney General and Governor of New York says that the only people who don't seem to understand what's necessary are President Obama and his advisers, Geithner, Summers and Bernanke – and, of course, Goldman Sachs.

Whatever happens, whether the banks are rationally re-sectioned or simply collapse from the weight of their criminal incompetence and  corruption, it should be obvious to all of us that the cost of  snow jobs may be catastrophic and may engulf entire societies.

 

Hanging for Abortion ?

More than half a century ago there was published one of the first, if not the first scientific survey of a Jamaican population. It was authored by J. Mayone Stycos  and Don Mills, both of whom are now world famous. The survey was as far as I can remember called something like the Jamaican Fertility Survey and it investigated the practice and prospects of family planning among Jamaican women. I am reminded by references on the Internet that this was a groundbreaking study for several  reasons, among them its developing country primacy, but also because it contained devices which could test the veracity of the respondents.

This was necessary because of the intimacy of the questions and the suspicions of a largely illiterate sample in an exercise that was totally new to them.

For me, the most surprising result of the survey was that Roman Catholics, largely middle class, were the most enthusiastic receivers of family planning information and were the most likely to practice birth control. The better educated, the more likely to accept family planning, regardless of faith.

In its latest fantasia the Don Anderson polls report that Just under 80 per cent of adult Jamaicans surveyed believe that abortion is murder, and "are strongly convinced that abortion should be regarded as murder …"

This of course brings up some serious questions, especially with the Opposition baying for capital punishment in a savage reversion to primal mores; with the leader of the Opposition asking the rest of the world to be charitable towards Jamaica's new taste for barbarism and with the government apparently willing to ' do a ting' for any interest group that can seriously allege that it has 500 votes.

Will Mr Golding consider  hanging (working class) women who abort, the doctors and others who assist them? Are we preparing for American style shoot-outs at doctor’s offices?

Are we really ready for the logical consequences of our lunacy?

Before we do ourselves  serious mental, physical, material, economic  and political  injury I would ask my readers to have a look at some thoughts of a learned Roman Catholic nun, who is also a theologian and one who has worked among poor people for most of her life.

Sister Ivonne Gebara was silenced by her Archbishop, Cardinal Cardozo Sobrinho of Recife, and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil. In refusing to shut up, Sister Gebara replied:

In Defence of LIfe

“The question of legalized abortion has for too many years undergone a notable process of mutation, not only in society in general, but also in the church.  In the same way as the mirrors and the coloured stones of the social and religious kaleidoscope change, so too do the discussions concerning this difficult question; and this has generated a tremendous diversity of philosophical, religious, psychological, political, and legal discussions, not always with the direct participation of women. 

“Today I am in favour of decriminalizing and legalizing abortion as one means of lessening the violence against life.  I am also aware of the inherent irritations of this position, and of the difficulties, legal and otherwise, due in particular to the inefficiency of our public institutions. 

“Living in a neighbourhood on the periphery of the city and having contact with the suffering of hundreds of women (especially poor women who live under tremendous stress due to their personal problems as well as problems of survival), gives me the necessary backing for some of the affirmations that in conscience I must make.  I address the question more from the perspective of poor women because they are the main victims of this tragic situation. 

"According to statistics published by various health organizations, it is estimated that in Brazil there are millions of illegal abortions annually, with maternal mortality at 10 percent.  Such frightening figures are indicators of a serious social problem that needs to be brought under control.  Thus, it is primarily the duty of the state to guarantee order and to legislate in a way that assures that the life of all citizens is respected.  Legalizing abortion does not mean the affirmation of the ‘goodness,’ ‘innocence,’ or even ‘unconditional defence’ of the act of abortion: rather, it offers the possibility of humanizing and making safe what is already being practiced. 

 

ivonnegebara.jpg

“Legalizing abortion is merely one of the important aspects of a broader struggle within a society that condones the social abortion of its sons and daughters.  A society that does not provide the conditions of adequate employment, health, housing, and schools is an abortive society.  A society that obliges women to choose between keeping their jobs and terminating a pregnancy is an abortive society.  A society that continues to permit pregnancy testing as a requirement for hiring women is abortive.  A society that remains silent about the responsibility of the men and blames only women, disrespects their bodies and their history, that is exclusive and sexist, is an abortive society. 

“Decriminalizing abortion could be considered, according to this way of thinking, a means to perpetuate institutionalized violence; a kind of violent response to a violent situation.  But such a thesis would apply only if the thousands of abortions and women’s deaths did not in fact already exist.  As these are indisputable facts, to legislate them in the most respectful manner possible becomes a way of diminishing the violence against women and society in general. 

“In this line of thought, to focus on the ‘defense of the innocent’ from its most embryonic stage, as some people propose, is a way of concealing the indiscriminate killing of whole populations – who are equally innocent albeit in a different way – as a result of wars, or of economic, political, military, and cultural processes that take place in our societies today. 

“For me as a Christian, to defend decriminalizing and regulating abortion does not mean disavowing the traditional teachings of the Gospel of Jesus and the church; rather it is a way of entering into them more deeply given the paradox of our human history, a way of actually decreasing violence against life. 

“Christian principles, as well as others, do not always withstand the imperatives of concrete life, imperatives that make us more compliant, more merciful, more understanding, and more convinced that the law is for people and not people for the law; that the law should help us in our weakness, above all when our liberty is crushed by unjust structures that do not permit the realization of free and totally human acts. 

“My position with regard to the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, as a citizen, a Christian, and a member of a religious community is one of denouncing the evil, the institutionalized violence, the abuses, and the hypocrisy that envelop us.  It is a testimony to life; it is in defense of life.” 

Sister Gebara now teaches at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The clipping was sent to me by one of my readers, Fred Nunes.

I think all who intend to take part in this discussion owe themselves the duty and privilege of re-reading Sister Gebara’s testimony.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell  jankunnu@gmail.com

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)

John Maxwell

On Monday, in this newspaper I made an astonishing and disconcerting discovery. The Don Anderson poll, on the basis of 535 interviews announced that 90% of Jamaicans agreed that a foetus is a human being.

I knew that many Jamaicans were ignorant, but I had no idea that so many of us were so clueless.

I then became extremely offended by this so called poll because I am almost certain that 90% of  Jamaicans cannot give any sensible definition of the word 'foetus'. In addition the number of respondents is too small, we have no idea how they were selected (were they all churchgoers?) and the questions were unscientific and unbalanced.

My apprehension was confirmed on Wednesday, when the Observer, to my absolute incredulity published one of the most misleading news stories I have ever read.

According to the Anderson poll, reported by the Observer

"Abortions being done without knowledge that foetus is real child, poll finds."

If the Observer can provide proof that a  "foetus is a real child", that foetuses are 'real' children I will donate whatever the newspaper pays me over the next year to the Mustard Seed Community or to any charity of their choice.

I would like to ask the sponsor of the poll – the Mustard Seed Community, the polltaker, Don Anderson and the Observer to publicly explain the process by which they have arrived at the determination that a foetus is a child.

This is extremely important, because if a foetus is a 'real child' – the rules of science will need urgent revision and the teaching of biology and sociology will be revolutionised.

I believe that public discourse, particularly public discourse designed to influence public opinion and to change the laws by which we are governed, must be conducted ethically.

That is to say all the participants must recognise the right of the public to be told the truth, so that when they make up their minds they do so rationally and not because they have been  misinformed by lies or misled by hysteria.

I define  a fact as a statement susceptible to independent verification. Facts will turn out to be facts whoever is looking at them and wherever. They don't change whether the scientist is a Muslim, a Christian or an atheist.

Different belief systems have their own attitude to certain facts but the attitude does not alter the fact. Scientists may be moral persons according to their lights, but neither their DNA nor the instruments they use have any moral status.

To argue, as the so-called pro-life faction argues, that human life begins at conception is nonsense. Human life began a long time ago and conception is simply another link in a continuum which began long before human consciousness.

There is an old joke about a young woman coming aboard a tram, looking a little exhausted. Seeing all seats filled she goes to a nice young man and asks for his seat, on the ground that she is pregnant. He yields his seat and, out of shameless curiosity asks–

"And how long have you been pregnant?"

"About fifteen minutes", she says.

Laws for Nomads

The Israelites needed as much manpower as their small tribe could muster, so when they codified the rules of their society they made an example of Onan, who spilled his seed rather than impregnating his widowed sister in law. For this he was put to death, an example enlarged and magnified to terrify young boys with the perils of masturbation.

Science has now discovered that those who masturbate or otherwise spill their seed in non-procreative events are less likely to be killed by prostate cancer than those who dont.

There are all kinds of people telling us that we must pay literal tribute to the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

They all forget who wrote the books and when. Divine inspiration is one thing, but even God has been reported to have changed his mind.

And, as we wear our invisible phylacteries it may be useful to remember that

"The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath."

 Is a jelly coconut a tree?

To describe a foetus as a human being does violence to language, science and commonsense.

The girl on the bus may have been impregnated and one of her ova may have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of some fortunate spermatozoon, but she certainly was not pregnant and could not be described as "with child".

Nature itself disposes of dozens of potential Einsteins, long before even their sex is determined. A woman's heavy period may well be nature's way of rejecting a defective gamete, despatching some hapless haploid without inquiring about personhood. Spontaneous abortions, miscalled miscarriages, are nature's way of deleting unwanted processes, and foetuses are processes long before they become people.

A jelly coconut has encoded in it all the information it requires to become a tree –  just as a foetus has all the information it needs to become a living human being. But a jelly coconut can no more be described as a tree than a foetus may be described as a person.

One well established and notorious fact ignored by those who would criminalise abortion is that criminalisation does not inhibit – even slightly – the practice of abortion. What it does do is to promote illegal, backstreet abortions which every year kill four times as many women as all the men, women and children killed in any of the first four years of the Iraq war.

I do not understand how anyone knowing this fact can, with a clear conscience, contemplate the criminalisation of abortion, because they know or ought to know that the only measurable effect of criminalisation is in killing women who do not want, for whatever reason, to have a child.

To force women to bear children they do not want has a measurable effect in domestic violence, in brutalised children and eventually in minor and major criminality. I do not understand why it is OK if the body rejects the foetus, but not if the mind does. And I cannot understand the intellectual sadism and emotional brutishness that tries to prohibit abortion even in cases of rape, including child rape.

Those who call themselves 'pro-life'  should put their money where their mourths are. Every one of them should, as an earnest of their sincerity, adopt an unwanted child. Otherwise they are responsible for every bully, domestic brutaliser, pedophile, rapist and murderer that they let loose upon the rest of us.

Those who preach responsibility should practice it.

 

 

Making Jamaica work

The same old soothsayers are at the same old corners peddling the same old garbage.

Jamaica is in a recession and has been for a long time. But it’s going to get worse. So the same old bull is trotted out.

   Cut wages

   Cut labour forces

  Cut off our noses to spite the unions.

Nobody asks these geniuses to explain the effects their 'solutions' will have and how soon. They are our paid 'Theorisers and their theories are the equivalent of prayers to a God yet to be revealed.

Life is funny. According to a story this week, "Bauxite sours milk," Jamaica is in a bind because Mr Deripaska, the Russian oligarch is having financial problems which may hurt Jamaica because one of his companies, Windalco,  produces one in every four gallons of milk consumed in Jamaica.

Some of us remember when a few years ago,  as a consequence of globalisation and the advice of our IMF parakeets, millions of gallons of milk were dumped into drains and gullies.  Dozens of Jamaican dairies failed. One of the major beneficiaries of that policy, Nestlé, has taken its most of its business to the Dominican Republic and is now importing ice cream from Colombia.

We followed the idiot Theorists and their lies have crippled us.

FOR INSTANCE:  Now that the world is looking for a small, tough drought resistant high yielding milch cow just like the Jamaica Hope, we cannot even begin to think  of responding to the demand. Those who preached against import substitution and self-reliance are still doing it, and when their time runs out here will get good jobs in the World Bank and the IMF advising some other potential economic suicide.

We need to deny airspace and house room to these idiots. I remember saying so in 1994 on the Breakfast Club when our resident jackasses were advising us against subsidising interest rates for farmers.

Time, they say, longer than rope!

What we really need are some simple proven practical solutions. We have two major problems:

          WE need more – not fewer – people working,  and more money in circulation at the bottom of the society.

          We need to prepare for global warming, climate change and all kinds of disasters.

An intelligent development policy will combine these two needs and solve both problems:

To protect our land we need to plant more trees, fruit trees on hillsides. We need to employ teenagers in this job and combine their work with literacy and skill training

We need to convert cane-land into food growing land, with diversified  small farmers feeding themselves and trading their surpluses. WE need to abolish the plantation-agribusiness-slavery mentality which has destroyed farming in Jamaica.

If a man cannot make a more than adequate living off 500 acres he has no business owning land. Limiting land ownership will limit waste and improve food production.

Planting the hillsides will not only occupy many young people, it will decrease soil erosion, increase productivity especially of food; revitalise the fisheries, especially Kingston Harbour. Planting the hillsides will also increase water supply, increase water quality and help restore the beaches.

Increasing economic activity by public works must include building more schools, particularly in the most deprived areas. More schools mean more teachers so we give incentives to teachers and tax the MBAs to pay for them. WE need to build more playing fields and arts and crafts schools and to bring farming into all schools, including university.

We need to reinvent Jamaica Welfare and pump money and manpower into the building of social capital by the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the Ministry of Agriculture's Experimental stations and hugely expanded Extension Department.

Above all, we need to put ideas like these before the people and see what they make of them and then we need to fund them to put their ideas into practice.

The murder rate, I guarantee, will go right down.

Copyright©2009 John Maxwell  jankunnu@gmail.com

Profile

fledgist: Me in a yellow shirt. (Default)
fledgist

March 2015

S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22 232425262728
29 3031    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags