12 October 2008


John Maxwell

Crackle! pop! snap!

I’m not talking about cereal. That would be snap, crackle, pop. Everybody knows that.

Crackle! pop! Snap!

Watching John McCain in action reminds me of Tom Paxton’s sixties song about the marvelous toy that

“…went "Zip" when it moved,

And "Pop" when it stopped,

And, "Whirrr" when it stood still.

I never knew just what it was

And I guess I never will.

Coupling McCain with Alaska’s toxic termagant presents a fairly terrifying vision for the rest of the world. It’s a far way from John Kennedy’s promise four decades ago that the US would be a friend of  people seeking freedom, a friend to the poor and weak. McCain and Palin present a fundamentalist and revanchist face to the world, promising an even rougher ride than George Bush as the Haitians are already aware.

As I said eight years ago, when the United States elects a president they are also electing a kind of chief spokesman for much of a world with aspirations light years away from the parochial vision of civilisation imagined by Bush, Cheney, McCain and Palin. For the rest of us, the US president we hope will be a singer-man for the world, one who embodies, expresses and guarantees the deepest aspirations of people for liberty and dignity. That it is why an English worldwide poll has found that the world wants Obama to win. The preference is almost 100% across countries as disparate as Norway and Saudi Arabia.

Almost all the public opinion surveys conducted in the US over the past few weeks show the Republican ticket steadily losing ground to the Democrats, Obama and Biden. One website is devoted entirely to analysing electoral polling by all the reputable pollsters. (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/) According to them, the odds on Obama being the next president were better than  90% as of this last week, and their projection was that he would win nearly 350 electoral votes with at least  52% of the popular vote

In elections for the Senate the projection was that the democrats would win at least 56 seats – not filibuster proof but close, with the probability of an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives.

Major reasons for these perceptions are the toxic unpopularity of President George Bush whose approval rating is now below Nixon’s just prior to his resignation, the feeling that the US is on the wrong track (more than 80%)   and the catastrophic declines in employment, living standards and economic security.

Adele Polk, a 90 year old woman in Akron, Ohio, shot herself twice in the chest when sheriff’s deputies came to evict her from the house she and her late husband had called home for decades. Mrs Polk’s mortgage has now been forgiven while she is being treated in hospital and is expected to recover.

The bankers and financiers are now among the best hated people in the United States. One sign displayed on Wall Street a few days ago  exhorted the occupants of the office blocks to “JUMP YOU F**KERS” .

Popular opinion is turning savagely against the people FDR called “Malefactors of great wealth”  – the saboteurs of the American dream, con-men whose Ponzi schemes hollowed out the productive centre of American capitalism until the very people they  had defrauded were being asked to come to their rescue, because they were “too big to be allowed to fail” and no one but the taxpayer had the resources to save them. The bailout means the US taxpayer will end up owning huge segments of the financial industry. Will they want to give it back?

 In Illinois’ Cook County –  effectively, Chicago –  the elected Sheriff has decided that his officers will no longer carry out evictions unless he is guaranteed by the mortgage companies that the people he evicts actually owe money on the houses they inhabit. Sheriff Thomas Dart says his officers have been evicting tenants from rented houses, people who have paid their rents to owners who have defaulted. He doesn’t think that’s fair.

All over the US resentment is rising against the injustice of it all, while the Republicans are intent on blaming the victims for the mortgage meltdown. According to the GOP orthodoxy, it was the Democrats in Congress and the federally backed mortgage wholesalers who were responsible along with the poor people who borrowed to buy houses they couldn’t afford.

What really happened is that the Democrats did exert pressure on mortgage companies to lend to minorities and others traditionally segregated outside the mortgage market. The companies responded by inventing mortgages which seemed affordable, but which rapidly morphed  out of the reach of working class and middle class  borrowers who had not read the fine print on their contracts. It was a scam and a highly profitable one which might have worked longer  had it not been so all pervasive that it collapsed of its own over-reach. It extracted billions in savings from the poorest layer of Americans and financed the ability of the scammers to speculate on the basis of ‘securities’  with values notional at best and fictitious at worst.

As in all Ponzi schemes, the crunch had to come when the scam ran out of ‘greater fools’. While the black and Hispanic communities knew they were in trouble two and three years ago, their predators remained blissfully unaware, wheeling and dealing as if there would never be a reckoning.

Now, even John McCain realises that no matter how much he and his cohorts have blamed the working class borrowers, it is important to help them out of trouble. This is one more flip-flop of McCain, who has been boasting about his reformist record, even while his real history is of a serial deregulator, a rule smasher, whose fondest ideals have been for freeing up everything in the interest of the unrestricted market –a man who never met a rule he approved of.

Now, faced with the increasing disapproval of the US electorate it doesn’t seem that even the best efforts of Republican bureaucrats will be able to sabotage the election to the extent where it can be stolen as were the last two.  The disapproval is too wide, too deep. Today, polls show Obama preferred as being a better likely leader, a more compassionate leader and a more able president. McCain is still preferred as a warrior who could prosecute the Iraq war, but since most Americans don’t want to be in Iraq that advantage is nothing compared to the feeling that Obama can best get Americans out of their economic troubles.


The Wonders of Jamaica

        Our bureaucrats and technological experts have managed o convince successive governments that bauxite mining and alumina processing are  indispensable to Jamaican development. Successive ministers have blessed the increasingly predatory exploitation of Jamaica’s land and resources for a putrid mess of pottage. If you look at the map above

you may begin to understand that the bauxite industry is planning the effective destruction  of more than half of central and western Jamaica to feed the inexhaustible and unsustainable appetite of the aluminum industry.

In the map – published by the Geography department of the UWI  but authored  by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute – it is clear that Jamaica will go the way of Nauru unless we take steps to stop it.

       Nauru is the tiny Pacific island composed almost entirely  of fosilised bird excrement, guano, and reduced over the years to almost nothing by the mining of this resource. For a time the GDP of Nauru was above that of Saudi Arabia. Now, there is nothing left. The entire island has been exported as fertiliser and the people are trying to find somewhere to live before their island is reclaimed by the sea.

 If the JBI and the aluminum industry have their way Jamaica will become a desert  because almost all the clay in Jamaica is bauxitic and what isn’t clay  is limestone. And the ginnigogs want to dig that down and export that too.

Where will that leave the rest of us?

If we give these maniacs the licence we will lose all our farmland, all of our water supply that has not been poisoned by red mud – caustic soda, arsenic and cadmium; we will lose our magnificent scenery, we will lose our communities, our little villages and towns, we will lose any claim to civilisation and the country will become irreversibly a collection of bantustans in which the gated rich protect themselves from the rampaging poor  who will have no resources except their wits, their weapons and their testosterone.

If we allow the bauxite companies to destroy the Olmec pyramid in St Ann we will be committing a crime against humanity. But there are other wonder of Jamaica of which most of us are not aware. In Patrick Browne’s (1756) Natural History of Jamaica there is a map which shows a ‘grotto’ near Lumsden in St Ann. Three hundred years ago  this was  a tourist attraction. The bauxite companies will obliterate it.

In Trelawny in the Cockpit Country near Stewart Town there is a cave which is a wonder of the hemisphere, if not the world. One section of the Dunn’s Hole cave consists of a chamber over  200 meters long 100 meters wide and 80 meters high – big enough to contain the entire National Stadium. If bauxite and the bureaucrats have their way, all that will go and we shall be left not only in penury, but in the economic slavery that we will deserve.

One of the few  people to have entered the cave describes a huge stalagmite:

 “The width is about four meters, it is over ten meters high, and it is made up of tiers of beautiful flowstone. Despite it being the height of the dry season, there was a great amount of dripping of water down the sides, with this causing it to look like a large, calcified, champagne fountain. The colours consisted of golds and rich browns, and the moisture made it glisten and shine. It put me in mind of the legends associated with many caves in Jamaica that talk about "golden dishes set on golden tables"

Jamaica’s caves are an essential component of the  internal plumbing of our karst geology.  Rivers flow through them, rise from them and sink into them, and no one really knows what would happen if they are damaged or destroyed. The 1979 floods gave some idea  when, huge lakes developed at Chigwell and Exeter in Hanover and at Newmarket and other places  in Westmoreland/St Elizabeth. In Petersfield, Westmoreland a hillside exploded to reveal a river cave and the ensuing flood washed away most of the village and killed several people. People in Manchester say it is the bauxite companies that have caused the flooding of Porus and some believe that the once intermittent Moneague Lake has been made a permanent feature, inundating farm land, by the bauxite mining.

Bauxite mining and red mud have also polluted important water supplies in St Ann, Manchester and St Elizabeth. And Alpart’s mining in Manchester threatens Jamaica’s deepest and one of its most valuable caves – Smokey Hole.

Of course, if the bauxite-maniacs have their way, there won’t be anyone left to bemoan the loss of their water supplies or farmland or water supplies or birds and butterflies and other animals or our fabulous vegetation..

Jamaica – its wonderful people and beautiful landscape will be history.

Copyright©2008 John Maxwell


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