31 July 2006

1st August 1834

in all these years it's still the greatest day
the time when all our forebears became free
and the word slave was thrown into the past

that august morning was the brightest dawn
that any in the west indies had seen
breaking the chains and casting down the walls

that this was not enough they soon would learn
bare freedom cannot feed or clothe or house
but with it men and women have the power

to build for themselves in the strongest way
a house that cæsar's power cannot break down
a life that belongs to the ones who live

each august morning is a flaming dawn
each august morning is a recollection
each august morning is a simple promise
that freedom once obtained will still endure

imperial assertion

in summing up these days of george's power
one has to bear in mind that the more things change
the more george thinks that it is now the hour
to go beyond the normal human range

and do some thing carry out some banal act
that shows that even though he dominates
he lacks both common sense and simple tact
swearing and scoffing as he bloviates

then all his words declare an impotence
before the changing face of an angry world
leaving us to wonder at this vain pretence
when the flag of action has not been unfurled

and yet the horror and the crying shame
is that george will find someone else to blame

rat or drone

in the dark the alarm rings we rush through our ablutions
lunches are packed the coffee is made and we go
seeing the other waking souls groggily driving or walking

or waiting for buses or cabs as the week begins
this is the cycle of work the necessary duties the travel
for hours or miles to places designedly unfriendly

cold institutional walls or the grim acreage of cubicles
and the same dreary duties over and over again
while we wait for retirement or death to provide us a surcease

29 July 2006

The Human Factor

John Maxwell

Even the notoriously noncommittal Kofi Annan must have been surprised when a journalist questioned his credentials for refereeing the current Mideast free-for-all.

At a press conference in Rome after the failed Middle East peacekeeping talks, an English speaking journalist drove hard at Mr Annan. Didn’t the UN Secretary general think that his condemnation of Israel for deliberately bombing the UN position undermined his qualifications to be an honest broker in the conflict?

Annan pointed out that the questioner misquoted him. He did not say “deliberate bombing” but “apparently deliberate bombing.”

It was a little hard to understand why the questioner chose to tackle Annan on that point, since it had been clear for some time that there was no question that Israel had bombed the UN outpost after having been warned several times that they were firing perilously close to the UN position.

In fact, Israel’s commander in the field, who could see the UN position, was warned at least ten times, at least six of those times by an Irish member of the UNIFIL team. And when israel finally destroyed the post it was done by way of a bomb and a precision guided missile. If that doesn’t sound at least like an ‘apparently deliberate” act I can’t imagine what could.

Israel’s frustration is showing.

The plan was to teach its enemies a short, sharp lesson, to castrate Hezbollah and to punish the Lebanese for allowing ‘terrorists’ to hijack their country. Even the Lebanese government seemed to agree at the beginning of the conflict. It might be a good thing to discipline Hezbollah, it suggested. But that soon turned to something else.

The Lebanese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were soon saying that Hezbollah were Lebanese, patriotically defending their homeland. In fact, Hezbollah is a party and is included in the Lebanese Cabinet. The turnaround in attitude came when it became clear that far from being taught a short, sharp lesson, Hezbollah was fulfilling its promise to surprise Israel and the world. In two weeks of relentless bombardment the Israeli incursion has still not got past first base in Lebanon, and on Wednesday, at Bint Jabayl, a town they said they had surrounded, if not captured , the Israel Defence Force suffered a brutal setback, losing nine troops killed and many more wounded in intense fighting. The Israelis have admitted losing 33 soldiers; Hezbollah have said they have lost 35.

The Israelis have said that their assault was precisely aimed at Hezbollah assets, not at the civilian population. Clearly civilian losses included 600 people (according to the Lebanese government), about 200 of them children; 5,000 homes, one toilet paper factory, one bottle factory and 150 other businesses. Nearly one million Lebanese have been driven from their homes.

By Thursday afternoon a partial list of other important Lebanese assets destroyed by Israel included:

The Beirut Lighthouse and the ports of Beirut, Tripoli and Jounieh.

Three (3) Dams, two (2) power stations and one (1) sewage plant; 62 Bridges, 22 gas stations, 72 road overpasses, and 600 kilometers of road.

In the realm of communications Hezbollah’s Al manar TV station was one of two TV stations destroyed ALONG with two mobile phone networks

And finally in addition to this impressive list of presumably military targets we must add one military airport, two civil airports, 4 radar installations and one (1) army barracks.

According to ReliefWeb:

As of July 26, WHO reported … more than 1,267 people are injured. The conflict has affected an estimated 800,000 people, including internally displaced, individuals under siege, refugees, and asylum seekers.

OCHA estimated that 710,000 people have fled their homes, and the majority are now located in Beirut, Tyre, Sidon, the Chouf mountains, and the Alea region. Although the majority of displaced are staying with relatives and friends, approximately 125,000 are staying in schools and public institutions in Lebanon, and 150,000 have crossed the border into Syria. According to international media reports, remaining residents in southern Lebanon cannot leave due to ongoing attacks and damaged infrastructure.”

The UN children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 45 per cent of the displaced population are children. Approximately half of them – about 125,000 are living in 587 schools and shelters and in are in urgent need of water storage and tankers, improved sanitation, and health kits.

UNICEF says: “… the insecure situation especially in southern Lebanon has severely restricted UNICEF’s ability to reach the affected population outside of Beirut. UNICEF joins the rest of the UN family in its call for safe corridors for the delivery of aid to all affected children.”

Israel's security Cabinet decided to step up its air campaign against Lebanon on Thursday, but said it would not expand its ground offensive after the death of nine of its soldiers in fighting for Bint Jbeil the day before.

The Beirut Daily Star reports: “According to Elias Hanna, a researcher of military affairs, the decision to limit the ground campaigns was made because "Israelis are traumatized by their negative experience during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982."

"They are afraid of suffering more losses in every village they try to conquer," Hanna added.

The researcher said internal political calculations are also affecting Israel's military strategy.

"The ruling coalition includes the conservative Likud Party, which is constantly trying to prove that the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000 was a mistake in the first place," Hanna said.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said Israeli consensus over a large-scale offensive in Lebanon is beginning to "crack."

“…critics are starting to say the government launched the offensive hastily, with no exit strategy, and many fear the country is again being dragged into a quagmire across its northern border."

The truth is that Israel has got itself into an unholy mess from which it has no easy exit. Since its initial strategy seemed to be based on an easy, lossless victory, a sort of war college setpiece, driving back Hezbollah to its caves, the fact that they have taken nearly two weeks to make any impression in their ground offensive frightens many Israelis. Rockets are still hitting Haifa and there is no progress on the ground in Lebanon. The script was not supposed to be going this way.

Israel is now in a position where 'winning' seems implausible and anything less will look suspiciously like defeat. Too many IDF soldiers are being killed and the Israeli nation does not want to accept massive casualties.

Having totally destabilised the Hamas government of Palestine, Lebanon seemed a nice bit of icing to add to that cake. Israel, the script went, would then be able from a position of strength, impose its solutions on the rest of the Middle East, backed by its invincible partner, the United States.

They felt so confident that they spoke of enforcing UN resolution 1559 demanding the surrender of Lebanon and the disarmament of Hezbollah. This demand is especially poignant, when it is remembered that Israel has for fifty years, defied scores of UN Security Council’s resolutions about the settlement of the Palestinian question and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The israeli calculus was based on the doctrines of Ariel Sharon – who saw no reason to obey any law which did not suit him – and a long line of Israeli statesmen who have nibbled away at Palestinian rights and Palestinian property without fear of successful challenge.

This all depended on Arab armies which would fire a few rounds in the air and then retreat, honour satisfied. Hezbollah, it turns out, is made of sterner stuff. But Hezbollah should not have taken Israel by surprise. It was that organisation after all, which drove the Israelis to vacate Lebanon twenty years ago after Sharon's bloody and unsuccessful attempt to settle Palestine by way of Lebanon.

This time the defeat will be more easily visible on a larger stage particularly because the United States and Israel have postured so grandly and played their cards so badly.

It was clear, as some Arab commentators have said, that the mere kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers was not the real reason for the start of these hostilities. Soldiers have been kidnapped before and exchanged for prisoners kidnapped by Israel. The original kidnapping was, after all, an attempt to pressure israel into returning several hundred civilians held by Israel without charge and including dozens of women and children.

Somehow, the Western press, in reporting the Palestine conflict, finds it difficult to see Palestinian grievances as real and substantial. They proclaim the illegitimate expression of the grievances but ignore the legitimate grievances themselves. Israel’s arrogant kidnapping of several Hamas cabinet ministers was meant to teach a lesson, a lesson perilously close to the dictum stated some years ago by a Jewish rabbi at the funeral of a Jewish terrorist named Dr Baruch Goldstein. Goldstein walked into a mosque in Jerusalem with a machine-gun and killed twenty-nine Palestinians and wounded 125 others before he was torn to pieces by the congregation.. At his funeral the rabbi, one Yacov Perin declared "One million Arab lives are not worth a Jewish fingernail."

Western commentators and the Israeli government, echoed by Ms Condoleezza Rice and her president, suggest that the real problem is the support of terrorists by Syria and Iran. In calling for the enforcement of the UN resolution it does not seem to have crossed their minds that there are other, even more relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Whether the Israelis and the US press believe so or not, the UN resolutions were not anti-semitic,nor anti-Zionist nor anti-Jewish, but were the world’s sincere attempts to deliver justice to both sides – to people who have been holding the sharp end of the stick ever since Joshua smote the Amalekites and the Amorites, David smote the Philistines and the Romans smote the Jews.

The problem is that the Israelis, grievously wronged by European peoples, cannot believe that they can live peacefully and occupy the same general space as any other people. It is an exaggeration to describe the attitude of the Zionists as believing that the Bible is a title to Palestinian real estate, but the behaviour of Ehud Olmert and those Israelis who follow him, makes it seem very much that way. Olmert is reported to have said he would drive Palestinians mad with sonic booms.

Olmert and many, but not all his predecessors, have behaved as if might is right, that facts on the ground are tantamount to eternal truths. Which is why some ‘democrats’ were so surprised that the Palestinians, given a chance at democracy, elected Hamas to be their government. and that the Lebanese have now been radicalised, not by Hezbollah, but by the Israel Defence Force. It does not seem to matter that Hamas are Palestinians and Hezbollah are Lebanese, legitimate expressions of their people, not imported from anywhere else.

There is of course another difficulty. To attempt to separate Hamas from Palestine and Hezbollah from Lebanon on the ground that they are terrorists would require the dismemberment of the countries. The "Terrorists" have become integral with the populations because they express the terrible grievances of the people. Many Israelis over the years have realised that you cannot impose peace through war and injustice. Wise Israelis and others have been pointing out for years that every Israeli victory seems to produce a new and larger crop of enemies. The process seems endless.

If we were to calculate the suffering, the number of lives lost and destroyed on all sides, the amount of treasure and culture lost, we would be appalled, horrified, struck dumb, perhaps. It seems acceptable in small doses, until we realise how corroded our souls have become and how much of our civilisations we have thrown into the trash along with the truth..

Any attempt to tell the truth in this conflict is almost immediately denounced as anti-semitic or pro-terrorist and invites violence of one sort or another. But the much larger violences which are ignored by propaganda are likely to be apocalyptic in scale when they do happen,and are inevitable unless we begin to face facts and tell ourselves the truth.

I cannot do my duty to my friend by telling him the lies he wants to hear. If I do that, I am setting him up for his enemy.

Copyright©2006 John Maxwell


nobody or nation

our forebears came to these islands in tall ships
either on the decks or in the holds

the men on the decks dreamt of acres of fields of green cane
arrowing in the december sun of sugar of molasses of rum

and of the gold and silver they would turn them to
and how that would turn them into gentlemen

the men and women in the holds also had dreams
of returning home of slaughtering their masters of freedom

from abuse and being owned and all of the ills that slavery
carries with it and yet they were all changed

and changed their masters with them those fresh gentlemen
and their pale ladies yearning for a home that they had never seen

not seeing that they built one where they were because
all they could see were strangers to be feared not thinking

that master and slave change each other their connection
makes something new and hitherto unthought

but both look backwards and so in reverse
take the new light for yesterday's fading sun

27 July 2006

the andes don't sink

heroes are just ordinary men and women doing
the jobs they are paid to do those jobs being
ones that carry extraordinary risks
and pay no better than the straightforward ones
that bind you to desk or workshop every day

what makes a hero is meeting the obligation
just to do the job right when that job involves
risking your life for others taking the chances
that most of us would shun out of fear or prudence
while claiming that we really want adventure

kant had that thing right when he said
that we must act as if we want everyone else to do the same
but that requires extraordinary grace and the favour
of whatever gods inhabit our normal minds
and raise us for a moment beyond our daily selves

Miss Lou

Louise Bennett has died. This is very sad news.

Nobody or Nation

The conjuncture of state and society that produced the nationalism of the 1930s, however, confronts a world economy that demands privatisation and open markets. This is a barrier to the building of the class-alliance politics that characterised Creole Nationalism.[i] It is not necessarily an insuperable one. West Indians confront the same problems as other peoples in the less-developed world, but they do so with the advantage of stable democratic institutions, decried though they may be by scholars like Thomas who can carp about the adoption of a European model of democracy and see a two-party system as mere “factionalism” without telling us what the alternative could or should have been.[ii]

Creole identity was formed by a process of both contention and adaptation. That contention and that adaptation were on grounds set by the European coloniser. The result, however, was something that the British did not expect a people distinct from their erstwhile masters and who were to attain dominion both over the master’s tools and the house he built. The subordinated people had to struggle for the most basic recognition of their humanity in the process creating cultures which have produced genres to which the West has turned both for entertainment, instruction and, perhaps, renewal. Creoleness has not died, and, in the Francophone Caribbean, may be undergoing a renewal.[iii] In a world in which economic dominance is less and less given expression as white racial supremacy it may, at last, come into its own. It is a paradox that, at a moment when it is beginning to look as if non-Western powers will be the economic drivers of the near future, the West has become a truly global civilisation. The West Indies, as a part of the West that is also connected to the non-Western world, should have a role in that world other than as a provider of labour and a place to visit in the winter.

The largest Creole vision, that of Eric Williams, of a Caribbean economic league that could become the basis for a Caribbean Creole nation is still a hope. Its achievement would mean the overcoming of what Derek Walcott has called “that long groan which underlies the past”.[iv] The Creole talent for survival and adaptation, the best product of that harsh and inhuman history, is ultimately a sign that humanity can prevail. As one of the founders of Creole Nationalism put it: “In the West Indies, whatever the differences of colour, ‘all o’ we is one’.”[v]

[i] Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens, “The Bourgeoisie and Democracy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” in Social Research vol. 66 no. 3 (Fall 1999), 781.

[ii] Thomas 2004, 54.

[iv] Walcott 1992.

[v] James 1984,173.

A human condition

words are both walls and windows barriers to knowledge
and admitters of light they possess a duality that
we don't want to acknowledge lest we find
that it is also in us that we are both opaque and transparent
that we are both haters and lovers of the light

words are our creatures but we pretend that they
are masters of what we think and what we say

26 July 2006

novus ordo sæclorum

to be yourself and live by light and reason
is simple enough but there are those who think
that this life in and of itself is treason
and other crimes at which they will not wink

those who would govern us from the inside
wish for a simple and obedient mind
that will from them have not a thing to hide
and to the world will make its owner blind

to be a tyrant is a simple human thing
but to control a mind now that's divine
such power as that gives even the meanest wing
and strength to hold all subjects to the line

yet even the secret policeman wants to be
enrolled among the numbers of the free

23 July 2006

More Roger goodness

one does one's duty and sends new life
out into a tired dirty world hoping
that this time they'll get it right that their
sharp enthusiasms and nascent wits
will make our earth a cleaner better place

perhaps he will do it make a mark
that others look up to not because
it seems impossible but instead
because it indicates hope and possibility

in each young adult is the dawning hope
may it in him shine as a sun

Roger at 21, with Elise

22 July 2006

'God' buck him toe!

'God' buck him toe!

John Maxwell

I was talking to man who works as a waiter in a Kingston hotel.

“You know”, he said, “there are people who would rather knock you down in the street than risk their expensive car being damaged by a pothole. Rather than hitting the pothole they will hit you and drive off – figuring the cops will never trace them.”

“They don’t realise that they should be nice to the people they meet on the way up because they’re going to meet them again on the way down.”

I’m not sure that I have the same faith in divine justice as he, but I couldn’t help thinking about what he said as I watched the images of Israel’s destruction of Lebanon and Palestine and read about the the unravelling of the power of the man many in Jamaica have for the past several years referred to only half-jokingly, as ‘God’.

Israel is spending a great deal of time, effort and money in buying itself enemies. People on the jamaican street , knowing what I do for a living, come up to me and ask me to explain what’s going on in the Middle East. And they are not just seeking my opinion, they are giving me theirs.

The major question is why israel believes it makes sense to slaughter hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese civilians in the effort to recover three Israeli soldiers captured by Palestinians and by Hezbollah. It seemed totally out of proportion to them.

The Israelis wouldn’t be doing it, they tell me, if the Americans weren’t giving them the money and the arms to do it. “Don’t they believe” they ask, “that one day the money will come to an end? That one day the shoe might be on the other foot?”

Jamaicans have always had a lively and intelligent interest in what happens in the rest of the world. In small countries, people tend to be very attentive to anything that might conceivably affect them; the behaviour of our powerful neighbour to the north is one such factor, partly because Jamaicans realise that we could not possibly defend ourselves against any attack from that quarter, but also because most jamaicans have a – fast disappearing – tradition of respect and affection for the USA. There are so many Jamaicans there. Many Jamaicans serve and have served in the US armed forces.

In my daily peregrinations I increasingly encounter people who formerly would have been partisans of the United States. I meet them in supermarkets and such places, middle-aged middle-class women who want to know why the US believes that it makes sense to be buying new enemies, as one put it to me last week. I had not realised how many Palestinians there are in Jamaica and how many of them – who are mainly middle and upper class – hate the United States.

“Buying enemies” is an apt description of the process. They see the destruction of Palestine as a process which began 60 years ago, when some of them were first displaced. They know that their ancestors had given shelter and succour to the Jews and do not understand why Middle Eastern people should now be paying for the sins of European racists.

And they tell me that they think the Israelis are behaving just like the Nazis who persecuted and murdered them by the millions not so long ago. Although few of them are Muslim and most are Christian, Jamaican Palestinian and Lebanese people identify strongly with the Islamic resistance to Israeli hegemony. One businessman told me a few months ago that the memories of Palestinians are just as long as the memories of the Jews.

“We still remember Saladin” he said

And he reminded me that 60 years ago, people like Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin were officially described by the British as terrorists; just as Hamas and Hezbollah are now described by the Americans, the British and the Israelis. And, don’t even begin to talk about Iraq!

Some Palestinian, Lebanese and other Middle Eastern people in Jamaica muse on the cost of the current destruction – wouldn’t the money spent on missiles and bombs, on F-16s and missile-firing warships make more sense being spent on the development of the whole area?

Wouldn’t it make Israeli safer if they were to try buying friends rather than enemies?

Wouldn’t it be cheaper?

And my Middle Eastern friends, turning away from the United States, slowly but increasingly more surely, have a particular contempt for the American press. My businessman friend asked me to explain what was the essential difference between CNN and Pravda or Izvestia? Even the British BBC he said, could no longer be trusted.

‘God’ buck him toe!

The major Jamaican story of the week (and of several weeks to come), is the scandal surrounding the Sandals Whitehouse hotel development.

The Urban Development Corporation which has never been about urban development, is now at the centre of a dispute about their management of the construction of a hotel on Jamaica’s south coast which was supposed to inaugurate a new era in jamaican tourism. The hotel was being built for the Sandals group, headed by Butch Stewart who also happens to be the owner of this newspaper.

Several months ago it transpired that Sandals and the UDC were involved in a dispute about who was responsible for horrendous cost overruns in the construction of the hotel. The project was originally scheduled to cost about $70 million US. The final cost is somewhere north of $110 million, a cost overrun of more than 60%.

I do not have the space to go into the details of the corporate arrangements surrounding the project management, except to say that, according to Butch Stewart, the Sandals group who were supposed to be joint venture partners, were never made aware of the exact financial position. Despite trying to find out what was the position, Sandals kept getting the run around from the UDC and its nominee on site, a project management company headed by Mr Alston Stewart, a journalist and public relations practitioner who suddenly became an all purpose expert, running the National Solid Waste Management Agency as well as the Sandals Whitehouse construction project.

The Contractor general’s office has now issued a report on the Sandals project and the contents so far, are mind-boggling. According to the Contractor General, the UDC has been uncooperative in providing the facts required for a proper investigation of the scheme. It is apparently at this moment, impossible to accurately trace what happened to nearly US$40 million.

As in every story, there are several sides. In this case the Contractor general insists that the UDC had contravened the Government’s mandatory requirements for the procurement of services and goods, including the hiring of consultants.

The UDC, on the other hand says that it has provided full access to all the information it has in its possession and that the Contractor General had never asked for additional information nor did he indicate dissatisfaction with the quality or timeliness of the information provided.

One of the more curious aspects has been the contention of Vin Lawrence that government guidelines about the hiring of consultants were not in place when he hired them for the project. Whether there were guidelines or not, wouldn’t any sensible businessman make sure that the process was transparent and ethical? You don’t need official guidelines for that.

The Sandals group, through director Chris Zacca, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Observer newspaper, says the Contractor General was misinformed about the part Sandals affiliates played, but the group shared the concerns expressed by the CG about the lack of transparency and accountability in the construction project. They have promised their side of the story shortly.

All of this seems to lead inevitably, to the former Chairman of the UDC group, the man formerly known as ‘God’ – the man some believed was the real deputy prime minister to Mr Patterson – Vin Lawrence, Jnr. While Mr Patterson reigned, it was said, Mr Lawrence ruled. He was the man to see if you wanted anything done. Without his say-so, supplicants could wait a very long time.

My own problems with Mr Lawrence were simpler. The word “Environment” was to him an incendiary device, and he made sure that ‘development’ – as the UDC saw it – had nothing to do with sustainability or the Precautionary Principle.

Thirty years ago, long before Mr Lawrence became Chairman of the UDC I convinced Michael Manley to hand over a portion of the Hellshire (Halfmoon Bay) beach to the fishermen who had originally colonised it. It seemed to me that in addition to their fishing they should also be permitted to run the beach as a Public Recreational Park, and initially, 32 acres were set aside for this. The UDC, led by Moses Matalon, then Chairman and Gloria Knight, Managing Director, fought every step of the way to prevent the transfer of ownership. The original 32 acres were cut to 10.

They also fought my proposal to accept the advice of a high-level UWI scientific team that Hellshire should be handled with kid gloves because it was ecologically important, sensitive and potentially a huge scientific and touristic asset if properly protected. The UDC saw Hellshire as another step in the urbanisation of Jamaica concentrated on Kingston and premised on massive hotel developments. I was famously denounced as a dreamer for saying that iguanas still existed in Hellshire. They were wrong.

The UWI and the NRCA (of which I was chair at the time) were happy to give up Eastern Hellshire to housing but wanted the rest of it for a wilderness park and a scientific reserve. There was space, we thought, for all of this in Hellshire's 17 square miles.

In the first place, the UDC refused to surrender its claims to Halfmoon Bay, allowing the construction of a monstrous edifice on the western side of the Beach and sending in bulldozers to flatten the houses of the fishermen. They were squatters, the UDC said.

It was only later, two years ago, that the Hellshire Bay community learned that even while the UDC had been demolishing their houses, the title for the land had already been passed from the UDC to the Fishermen's cooperative. The UDC was in fact criminally trespassing on their land.

Mr Lawrence was chair of the UDC at this time and after the demolitions he undertook an eventually fruitless attempt to get the fishermen to surrender their land in exchange for 30 or so barracks houses away from the beach.

It took us nearly thirty years to get what had been promised by Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, in 1978.

Since then the UDC has gone from strength to strength. It has claimed that the 50 year leases granted to farmers on the Winniefred Beach property at Fair Hill In Portland are null and void. It has better things to do with the land and the beach. The UDC intends to wall off the beach and the property from Jamaica, to make it an exclusive ghetto for foreigners. The same solution is to be applied to the Trelawny coastline, talking away public beaches for the pleasure of the UDC’s rich friends abroad.

If the UDC were allowed to continue its mad career pretty soon Jamaicans won’t be able to find a decent public beach in their own country.

There cannot be a better reason for the Prime Minister to order an immediate and full scale forensic audit of the UDC as a preliminary to abolishing the corporation in the public interest.

No accountability for decades

In 1973 I was invited to a press conference by the then Minister of Mining and Natural resources, Allan Isaacs, to hear about the UDC’s plan to rebuild downtown Kingston. During the course of the Press Conference I asked Mr Matalon whether I could have the UDC’s last annual report. It wasn't available yet, I was told. Could I have the previous annual report? That too was unavailable. Could I have any of the corporations annual reports? None were available.

Allan Isaacs, listening to this exchange with bafflement and increasing fury, asked Moses Matalon whether the UDC had published any annual reports since its inception five years before? Matalon said no. Isaacs then ordered the UDC to let him have the annual reports on his desks within some reasonable time, and the press conference was at an end.

Several weeks later the UDC produced a a document which was said to contain the annual reports from 1968 to 1973. Among other things it revealed that the UDC had been financing itself with promissory notes from local and foreign banks, all without the knowledge of the Ministry of Finance. It would be interesting to discover how many other annual reports have been published since 1973.

Since then, the UDC has instead of urban development, gone into the business of property development. It has built two condo hotels Seacastles and Sandcastles and earns a substantial but undisclosed share of its revenue from the (US $) fees it charges at the Dunn's River Falls.

Nobody really knows what the UDC is up to. What we do know is that it is not, in any sense, an Urban Development Corporation.

Copyright 2006© John Maxwell


the simplest musics

say yes to the sun to the vivifying warmth
of summer and the endless shades of green
that cover ground and trees and ease the eye

and for the sparkle of the light on water
its friendly beckoning and pleasant cool
when you intrude your foot or your whole body

into the pool say yes to all the varieties of life
that whizz and whirr and circulate around us
even the ones that do nothing but annoy

summer is short and autumn's pleasures pall
too quickly in the face of bitter winter
in deepest cold we long for the warm sun

20 July 2006

A milestone

Yesterday was Roger's birthday. He is now 21. We celebrated with champagne. When asked if he preferred it to real pain he hastily agreed.

17 July 2006

O milénium

day symphony

betake yourself to the most hidden well
with water that tastes of unknown fruits
and listen for the sounds of natural music

not wind in the trees or the songs of angry birds
but the music of the rocks and the moving earth
the sounds made as the world revolves and the sun

warms all that has cooled off in the night
the chirps and bangs and the gentle hum
that undergird the whole realm of life

16 July 2006

Busha Blockhead

Busha Blockhead
Common Sense
John Maxwell
Sunday, July 16, 2006

There are one or two important things in this life of which we must always be aware. One is that you can kill as many Haitians as you like, you can rape as many Haitians as you like, you can chop off the faces of as many Haitians as satisfies your blood lust, and you can still live like a king in Queens, New York, as long as you remember that you mustn't mess with Uncle Sam's financial system.

Not even a teensy weensy bit.
You don't have to rob Fort Knox or deprive 50,000 people of their pensions and life savings, or like Al Capone, avoid income tax. All you need to get into real trouble is to work a simple little scheme to relieve a bank of some of its surplus cash. That will get you the attention of New York's finest. You will go to jail, be fingerprinted, mug-shotted and become a person of interest to the FBI.

Cocaine trafficking? Rape? Murder? Terrorism? Crimes against humanity ? Bagatelles!!! Who remembers them? But making a banker look stupid? Now that's really serious.
You're gonna swing for that. That is a crime against the Holy Greenback itself.

Emanuel Toto Constant, like Baron Savimbi of Angola, was a friend of the CIA and various Higher Powers. He had not, as far as is known, yet been invited to the White House like Savimbi, but he was doing very well, thank you, as long as he confined his depredations to the Haitians, as long as his attachés with machetes, machine guns and murder in their hearts carved their bloody way through Haitian democracy with lavish fascism.
Toto, living the life in Queens, New York, just didn't know the rules.

While he danced, his president was in exile 5,000 miles away, his country's prime minister languishing in jail for no good reason, along with Haiti's foremost folklorist, a sexagenarian lady named Anne August, and thousands more like them are dead, or in prison, or in exile, because of the machinations and macheteros of Good Ol' Toto, friend of the CIA and Mr (Deadeye) Dick Cheney.

And other friends, like Louis Jodel Chamblain and other assassins, walk freely in Haiti, shooting and chopping up as they please. One of them ran for president a few months ago.
They even have anniversary Massacres! They had one last week.

It all goes to show that, contrary to what some people believe, some of us don't have to await the Rapture; Heaven is right here on earth as long as you don't mess with the Feds.

In Haiti itself, God has at long last deigned to speak - through the American ambassador, one Ms Sanderson. This oracle has delivered herself of the message that perhaps Prime Minister Yvon Neptun has been in jail long enough. She thought it was because of Haiti's "flawed judicial system" that he was still there, after two years without charge or trial.

Which is strange, since it was her government which elevated the head of that same judicial system to the post of "President" of Haiti, from which eyrie he and another American carpetbagger, one Gerard Latortue, dispatched Mr Neptun to jail.

The charade now taking place in Haiti is not a Haitian production, it is an American production, like "The Emperor Jones". In this American version of Grand Guignol theatre, an important walk-on part is played by black people who have the temerity not only to speak French but to anticipate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by 144 years.

The real actors are Americans - a whole panoply of eminent fellows, steel-jawed and gimlet-eyed, full of 'resolve' - from Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson, to George (the least) Bush, from William Jennings Bryan, a failed Presidential candidate, to Colin Powell, a failed Jamaican.

In their polished diplomatic phrases they all express themselves satisfied when the Haitians, the first and only people to abolish the servitude which chained them, are reduced to their proper status as less-than-people, undeserving of even as much democracy as Iraqis or Palestinians. The Nanny-in-Chief, a failed African-American named Condoleezza Rice, was quite within her rights to inform them last year that their vote was all-important. It was the most important thing they could do.

Because, no matter which way they voted, they were not going to get the leader they wanted. He would have to stay in South Africa while Uncle Dick scouted the waters round Haiti for oil.
There must be oil in Haiti. Just read the CV of the latest prophetess, Ms Sanderson. Her minor qualifications seem to have been her alleged intimate involvement in the illegal detention of two dozen Algerian nationals at the US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay in 2002.

She completed an honours thesis, "The Arab Oil Weapon", the year before joining the State Department as a career diplomat in August 1977. She later served as the petroleum attaché to Kuwait. During the first Gulf War, Sanderson was working as economic counsellor at the US Embassy in Jordan.

As ambassador to Algeria she was most famous for her attitude to the arrest of 24 Algerians working for aid organisations in occupied Bosnia. They were accused of "planning terrorist attacks on the American and UK embassies in Sarajevo". Two of the men are computer programmers, while the other 22 held administrative positions in several different NGOs.

The men were detained without bail for three months before the Bosnian Supreme Court acquitted them. However, in the early morning hours on the day they were to be released, the men were hooded, shackled and taken away to an unknown destination. They wouldn't be located for over a month. Eventually they were found to be in Guantanamo Bay.

After a year in custody, all 24 Algerian aid workers were released. Strangely, Miss Sanderson refused to lift a finger to help their families locate them, referring them to the Algerian authorities although she must have known they were in American custody. (Thanks to Lynn Duff for this info).

During a Senate hearing in 2000, Sanderson was gung-ho about the so-called drawdown programme, under which favoured US allies are allowed to receive, free of cost, unused US weaponry to control unruly trade unionists and pesky journalists, for example. "The drawdown programme, like the rest of our foreign assistance programmes, underscores the importance we attach to [the country we give weapons to] and to our ongoing political, military and security relationship."

That connection, and her little noticed expertise in petroleum matters, suggests to me that Mr Cheney knows that there is oil off the coast of Haiti and that he wants Halliburton to retrieve it for its rightful owner, the USA. Sanderson's human rights and petroleum background would seem to fit her perfectly for this critical mission.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the slaughter goes on. It is a fair fight, with the Palestinians using their concrete schools, hospitals and power stations to damage Israeli bombs and tank-shells and employing their formidable skulls against Israeli bullets. Children's sleep patterns repel sonic booms at 4 o'clock in the morning, no doubt damaging the Israeli F16s.

Mr George Bush, recognising a championship fight when he sees one, has called on both sides for restraint. He has vetoed a Security Council resolution encouraging Israel to behave herself. Not evenhanded enough.

As I have said, ad nauseam, the ruling classes of the world, but especially in Jamaica, have no class and cannot rule. Just as the Israeli rockets and shells are powerless against Palestinian civilians, so are our own rulers powerless against the public they say they serve.

If this were not so we would not have people like Mr Dennis Morrison whining about the all-powerful Jamaican NGOs, some of them intimidating entities boasting two women and a WMD fax machine.

These are dangerous adversaries indeed, which is why such powerless bureaucracies as the Ultimate Degradation Conglomerate (UDC) and various ministries are forced to do good by stealth.

In the all-important race to curtain Jamaica off from its seacoast, the poor, helpless Cyclops-like JAMPRO, the Ministry of Production, the Ministry of Transport, the UDC and various other enervated entities must find ways round the law, ways to evade the public's due diligence, ways to diddle the public out of its beaches, its national parks and its sadly neglected cultural assets.

The government entities are giving privileged positions on the seaside to such as the RIU hotels, who, if all goes according to form, will soon produce in Jamaica a massive scandal which will tarnish the image of the entire Jamaican hotel industry. The RIU chain owns two hotels in Jamaica, forcing-houses in which tourists are processed for a few days and sent back whence they fled with nothing to show that they have been in a faraway country of which they knew nothing before coming and about which they remain blissfully ignorant after having been.

In the Dominican Republic RIU owns at least three hotels and since last year, according to several firms of English lawyers, the Financial Times and the Daily Mail, droves of English guests in RIU hotels have come down with serious and debilitating gastric afflictions.

According to Financial Times information services, quoted in the Daily Mail:
"Hundreds of British holidaymakers have been struck down by a severe vomiting bug at a luxury Caribbean resort - a year after an identical outbreak.

More than 200 guests have fallen ill at a five-star hotel in the Dominican Republic, which closed for five weeks in June last year to eradicate the highly contagious virus.
Many of the sick, including dozens of children, had intravenous drips hooked up in their rooms and one 18-month-old baby was hospitalised for a fortnight.

Some of the guests asked to be transferred to another hotel, but say their requests were rejected. Others were simply too ill to be moved."

But the story, judging from travelblogs, is not new: "29 year-old Nicola Piercy from Mansfield was affected by the outbreak of the virus at the same resort in 2005 and says, "I think it's absolutely disgraceful that this has happened again. I travelled to the resort in March 2005 for what I hoped would be my dream wedding, and instead had to endure seeing my fiancé placed on a drip on our wedding day and most of our family, including myself, suffering from severe gastric symptoms".

The personal injury law firm of Pannone in Manchester, England, says, "Hotels in the Dominican Republic have suffered similar problems over recent years with the Riu chain featuring in newspaper articles last year regarding complaints of poor standards of hygiene. Identical complaints are surfacing again this year as well as reports of vermin in hotel bars and restaurants, tour operator reps denying there were problems, unsupervised groups of Puerto Rican teenagers, some of whom were seen urinating in the swimming pool and medical staff treating patients without washing their hands."

If anything like this were to happen in Jamaica, you know that the entire hotel industry would be shut down within a week or two. The US Press would roast us, the British Press would trot out its favourite template about Trouble in Paradise and the dollar would probably be devalued.

Have the Jamaican government agencies done their due diligence? Do they really understand what is at stake?
I have my doubts.

God Speaks, Again

The founding prophetess of the Church Dayton Diamond Ridge has lashed out at those people in her church who informed the Press and others about the case of the violated teenager. And, before we go any further, a child cannot consent to sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse without consent is rape.

I don't want to say too much about this strange and increasingly noxious case, except to point out that it is an offence to conceal knowledge of a felony, which carnal abuse is. The founder of the church should have sought legal advice before making a fool of herself in public.

But she had legal advice available; her pastor is a Queen's Counsel, a former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, former High Court Judge and former Justice of the Court of Appeal.
He is a bona fide member of the ruling classes.
Copyright ©2006 John Maxwell
jankunnu [at] yahoo.com

15 July 2006

ubi Calypso non dea amantissima est, immo ut Musa colitur

Derek Walcott received an honorary degree (D. Litt.) from Oxford this year. Here's the citation:

Mr Derek Walcott, OBE, FRSL

Poet and Playwright

Felicem eum esse qui ut olim Vlixes navigationem bene perfecerit dicit poeta Francogallus. Homerus Vlixem primum ostendit Ogygiam incolentem, insulam in Oceano remotissimo positam; nam deam Calypso, amore captam, captum eum ibi retinere narrat. Ecce poeta arte et lyrica et epica sollertissimus, qui ut Catullus multa per aequora vectus est et ut Vlixes multorum hominum urbes vidit mentemque cognovit. Civis Britannicus in loco a Britannia remoto natus est; patria est insula Sanctae Luciae, pars Indiae illius Occidentalis ubi Calypso non dea amantissima est, immo ut Musa colitur. Apud Homerum Vlixes post reditum Ithacae remanere, apud poetam Britannicum etiam in senectute peregrinari voluit: 'Praemia sunt et adhuc senibus decus.' Hic quem laudo iam senex nihil prisci vigoris amisit. Nam in libello nuper edito, cui titulus Vir Prodigus, se ut etiamnunc viatorem repraesentat. Novum Eboracum Londinium Lutetiam Mediolanum iter facit; ad Alpes Italiam Americam Australem pervenit. Attamen quamvis crepusculum illud Vergilianum admiretur (verbis ipsius utor), Europae antiquam gloriam onus factam esse existimat. Dum tabulas statuas molem aedium sacrarum spectat, dulcem domum reminiscitur; nam ut Vlixes apud Homerum nihil dulcius quam solum suum videre potest, et ut Cicero reditum in montis patrios et ad incunabula sua perpetuo desiderat.

Carmini eius celeberrimo Homerus inscribitur, qui titulus ad Graeciam ut fuit et ut nunc est spectare plane videtur. Magna scriptrix quaedam fabularum commenticiarum dixit poetas epicos et tragicos de fortunis regum atque heroum scripsisse, se gaudia ac dolores hominum mediocrium depingere maluisse; putavit enim, ut videtur, fabulas commenticias a carminibus epicis plurimum discrepare. At hic epos de hominibus obscuris fecit, obscuros epica dignitate vestivit. In versibus eius casus Achillis Hectoris Philoctetis narrantur; sunt tamen plebei, non principes. Itaque quod Vergilius de semet dixit de eo dicendum: 'In tenui labor, at tenuis non gloria.'

Praesento Homerum reducem et Vlixem, Theodoricum Alton Walcott, apud Vniversitatem Bostoniensem professorem, praemio Nobeliano nobilitatum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris.

Admission by the Chancellor

Vates egregie, qui cum amorem patriae cecinisti tum multas gentes multa saecula totum orbem terrarum versibus pulcherrimis complexus es, ego auctoritate mea et totius Vniversitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Litteris honoris causa.


'Heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage,' says Joachim du Bellay. When Homer introduces Ulysses to us, he is living on Ogygia, an island lying in farthest Ocean; for, as the poet tells, the goddess Calypso, herself love's captive, holds him captive in this place. Here is a master of both lyric and epic verse, who like Catullus has been 'borne o'er many seas' and like Ulysses has seen the cities of many men and known their mind. He was born a British subject in a place far indeed from Britain: his home is the island of St Lucia in the West Indies—where Calypso is a muse, not a goddess in love. Homer's Ulysses wanted to stay in Ithaca once he had got back there, but Tennyson's Ulysses yearned to explore even in old age: 'Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.' In his seventies our honorand has lost none of his old force. In his recent volume, The Prodigal, he represents himself still as a rover. He travels to New York, London, Paris, Milan; his journeys take him to the Alps, to Italy, to South America. But while he admires the 'Virgilian twilight', to borrow his own phrase, he feels that Europe's glorious past has become a burden. As he views paintings, sculptures and great cathedrals, he finds himself thinking affectionately of his Heimat; for like Homer's Ulysses he thinks that he can see no sweeter sight than his own land, and like Cicero he longs constantly to return to 'my native hills, the cradle of my being'.

He has called his most famous work Omeros, a title which surely evokes Greece both ancient and modern. The great novelist George Eliot said that whereas tragedians and epic poets had written about kings and heroes, she had chosen to depict the joys and sorrows of ordinary folk; she supposed, it seems, that the novel and the epic poem were utterly different art forms. Our honorand, however, has made an epic out of humble people, and clad these humble people in an epic nobility. His verses tell of Achille, Hector and Philoctete; but these are common people, not lords of the earth. When Virgil wrote about bees, he said that his theme was slight, but not slight the glory; and we may say the same of this poet.

I present the Homer and the Ulysses of our time, Derek Alton Walcott, Professor at Boston University, Nobel laureate, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

Admission by the Chancellor

Great poet, who while expressing your love for your homeland have at the same time brought many times and nations, indeed the whole world, within the compass of your magnificent verse, I on my own authority and that of the whole University admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

quod scripsi scripsi

while rain comes down in squalls and thunder claps
i try to sleep and calm my whirling brain
the thoughts that don't quite make it to the top
but dwell immanent just below awareness

are platonic shadows on the cavern wall their flickering
alarms and teases but does not quite reveal
the flame that makes them swim upon the wall
and torment my poor mind with not-quite-there

the words seem solid firm indicating substance
the thoughts behind them i am not so sure
i know the story know how i must tell it
but hear a voice saying is it enough?

do i have it right is it the proper story?
or am i simply frittering my time
to tell a tale that no one wants to hear
in a time when other images shine in the light?

i leave this thought so far from resolution
and write a poem to relieve my fears

14 July 2006

up north the green invites

greens of all kinds from yellow to dark
at height of summer inviting cool
they tell a simple lie none can escape
the heated damp with not a breath of wind

atlanta summer is a kind of hell
from which we long for the escape of autumn
the regular storms seem governed by the clock
and what the thunder says is watch your electrics

or da datta you'll see them fried to death
but still the green invites and tells its lie

13 July 2006

Two limericks

An idiot president named Jarge
Had ideas that were not at all large;
He became a huge bore
About the need for war
But never held either sword or targe.

His sidekick, the PM Tony,
Followed around on his pony;
Like George he loved war
And on that score
Was belaboured by all as a phony.

11 July 2006

Secular mystic

to sing and dance and make a holiday
would be a great ambition if we could
raise our eyes from the dirt and see
the palest clouds against cerulean sky

but we are doomed to serve and so to bend
our necks to toil and duty in this life
our hopes we place on an eternal rest
of joy unlimited beyond the world

but heaven is simply the abode of death
and liberation but another word
for dying and we know that there is not
rebirth within the universe we ken

why then should we whose life is made of toil
rise up each day and undertake the round
that duty has inured us to until
we can no more and turn back into dust?

the answer is contained only in life
to live and to endure and overcome
a secular redemption we achieve
through hand and mind and every living breath

10 July 2006

petit cahier d'un retour

we travel in hope and journeying have dreams
of seeing once again the places of our youth
and everything is different yet it seems
that everything retains a basic truth

places have meaning but do not signify
all the things that we would want to mean
the eyes of youth and childhood magnify
but adult eyes are duller yet more keen

to see the things that once did loom so large
reduced at last to a more human scale
the river flows carrying ship and barge
the human weight that seems too strong to fail

all this to say that though the road be long
the heart responds to it and gives out song