30 August 2009

Keepers of the Dreams

John Maxwell


Teddy Kennedy can probably be best described in the very words with which he eulogised his older brother, Robert "…a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."
Edward Moore Kennedy, in death as in life, incites some of the best and the worst aspects of the American character. He was not a man about whom many people were neutral or lukewarm.
The journalistic cliché factories are in full production and their output may be best summarised by this headline in the New York Times
"Gifted and Flawed Legislator, 77, from a Storied family"
That just about sums up most of what will be written about Ted Kennedy, although to be fair to the NYT, their coverage of his life was not as cliché-bound as the quoted headline might suggest.
Born into privilege, Kennedy grew up as his family was being translated by the press and media into the American equivalent of royalty. He seemed born to be a playboy, a quintessential Irish charmer, who transformed himself by discipline and hard work into the best president the Americans have never had.
David Broder, a journalist who knew him for nearly fifty years saw Kennedy as a man who always met his challenges head-on:
"As a senator, as the de facto leader of liberal Democrats for decades, even as a failed presidential candidate, Ted Kennedy was always the same, pursuing his goals no matter the odds. Where brother Bob cautiously waited until Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the presidential race to begin his anti-Vietnam War campaign in 1968, Ted Kennedy in 1980 challenged the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, simply in the belief that Carter had abandoned the principles of the Democratic Party."
Kennedy overcame challenges that would have floored most politicians, no matter how gifted and well-connected. The disaster at Chappaquiddick – where, drunk and probably asleep at the wheel, he drove his car off a bridge and into a river killing his passenger, a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne – would probably have ended the career of any other politician, anywhere. Earlier, when his brothers John and and Robert were murdered for their politics, he replaced them in the firing line without hesitation. He took the war to the Republican party, earning their particular scorn as a traitor to his class, a leftist liberal who championed the causes of the poor, most importantly for raising the minimum wage and fighting to the last to guarantee affordable health care to the poor. Stories of his kindness to people he did not know continue to surface. His was a regime of service to the American people and the people of the world that lasted forty years. He was, after Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd, the longest serving American senator in history and a man of tremendous legislative accomplishments. He was simultaneously, the fiercest opponent of the GOP and yet one of the most bipartisan forces in the Senate – respected and even loved, by some of his opponents. He was both lion and lamb, a formidable warrior who preferred peace.
In the end, Teddy Kennedy probably represents to non-Americans the truest symbol of the 'real America' of their dreams, a plain human being with obvious faults and even more extraordinary virtues.
After he was defeated for the Democratic nomination he produced an epitaph for the campaign which fits his own life:
""For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Where is the Justice, Mr Mueller?

Few people in the United States of America appear to be aware that across the Atlantic in official circles and among the public there is considerable doubt that a credible case was ever made out against the Libyan al-Magrahi, the so-called Lockerbie bomber.
Even President Obama has felt constrained to chide the Scottish authorities for releasing the terminally ill alleged bomber to return to his home in Libya, to die . To say as many Americans do, that the compassionate release of al-Magrahi devalues the suffering of the relatives of those slaughtered at Lockerbie is not only cruel, but stupid.
Unfortunately the US media have never kept their audiences informed about the case. One who should know better is the director of the FBI, Mr Mueller, who was involved in the investigation. In a very personal response to the decision of the Scottish authorities Mr Mueller accuses them of making "a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy: the medical personnel who first faced the horror of 270 bodies strewn in the fields around Lockerbie, …But most importantly, your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988.
"…You apparently made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy." He accuses the Scots of "hiding behind opaque references to 'the need for compassion' ".
Where, Mueller asks, is the justice?
Oddly enough, another development this week brings up that very question. Former US army Lieutenant William Calley, now in his sixties, has apologised for his actions in the killing of over 300 people in My Lai during the Vietnam war.
In a speech to his local Rotary Club, Calley said " "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
In reporting Calley's remorse last week the New York Times said: "Just before Mr. Calley was released in 1974, Linda Greenhouse reported in The New York Times that three months in a prison barracks had been "[Calley's] only prolonged incarceration." As Ms. Greenhouse wrote, powerful supporters intervened as soon as he was sentenced in 1971:
"Three days after the conviction President Nixon ordered him released form the stockade at Fort Benning, Ga., and placed under house arrest in a comfortable two-bedroom apartment. There he received frequent visits from a staff of secretaries and a steady female companion." – New York Times, August 24, 2009.
Where was the justice then?
The relatives and friends of more than 70 Cubans, Barbadians and Guryanese blown out of the Barbadian sky in December 1976 are still waiting for justice. They know who ordered the mass murder, they know how he delegated and supplied his assassins, they know that the evidence against him is overwhelming, unlike the evidence against Megrahi. Yet this terrorist, this enemy of humanity is even now under the protection of the government of the United States, having been rescued from imprisonment in Panama and flown to safety in the US under the auspices of highly placed officials and agents of the US Government.
This assassin is named Luis Posada Carilles – 'Bambi' to his friends. He lives in opulent comfort in Florida, safe from justice.

Since Mr Mueller of the FBI has the authority and the evidence,, and since terrorism is a crime against humanity, why does Mr Mueller not arrest and charge Posada Carriles?

Where is the justice Mr Mueller?

Stealing from our Children, Again

As the working class heroes of the Berlin World Championships return to their homes in Jamaica, most will be returning to homes in areas which cannot be described as upscale in neighbourhoods not shall we say, exactly salubrious.
The managers of the team, whose stupidity almost caused us to lose half the team and most of the medals, return too, in triumph of a kind, I suppose. They live in townhouses.
And the people M.G. Smith once called "the motorised salariat" are again about to steal what properly belongs to the working class of Jamaica
I was born, like Usain Bolt, within a ten mile radius of the new multi-purpose Trelawny Stadium. The ginnigogs now ruling the University of Technology are campaigning to capture this prime sporting asset to turn into a factory for the production of cannon fodder for the class wars. They want to turn it into a degree mill for the production of Masters of Business Administration.
The UTECH ginnigogs may not be aware that the father of their university was a man named Norman Manley, who, when he set up the College of Arts, Science and Technology fifty one years ago, envisaged it as the nucleus of a University of jamaica.
Manley saw that university as a dynamo for the empowerment of working class and small farm Jamaica, where people would become equipped to develop and return their knowledge to the development of Jamaica, especially the Jamaican countryside, which he saw not as an appendage to Kingston, but as a full partner in economic development based on local production, enhanced by scientific and technical expertise developed to serve the nation.
That's one of the reasons he was called the Father of the Nation.
Trelawny is at the centre of Jamaica's history, the centre of resistance to British hegemony, the home of the Maroons and even now, the home to the most economically independent Jamaicans.
The super ginnigogs like P.J.Patterson, Vin Lawrence and Tony Hylton see Trelawny as an outpost of the North American dream, a coastline fenced off from Jamaicans, entertaining casinos and private dwellings on the land where so much blood has fertilised Jamaican freedom.
Falmouth is presently slated to become a kind of apartheid trading post, run by foreigners for their own benefit, where enormous cruise ships will come to offload their sewerage and buy cheap water while allowing their thousands of passengers to patronise selected attractions, none of which will involve Jamaican culture, knowhow or people.
The Glistening Waters' phosphorescent lagoon, one of only three remaining in the world, will be obliterated, the parish will be divided by a cordon sanitaire, without respect or regard for the precious botanical, pharmacological, historic, geological and hydrogeological resources of the Cockpit Country; resources which could transform the entire nation. And Accompong – over the border in St Elizabeth but geographically a part of Trelawny – seems destined to be corrupted into the most darling little theme park.
And the multipurpose stadium will not serve the interests of the Usain Bolts and Shelly Anne Frasers, the Veronica Campbell Browns and the Asafa Powells. Instead it will be churning out thousands of otherwise useless people trained to design Ponzi schemes and produce superprofits for their masters.
In my view, the multipurpose stadium would be the perfect place for the relocation of the piece of the Berlin Wall presented by Berlin to usain Bolt. It could become an extension of the G.C Foster College, already the premier establishment of its kind in the Caribbean. With the stadium as an extension of G.C.Foster, it could expand its range to become the Third World headquarters for training people in all kinds of sporting and sporting related activities including gymnastics and physical rehabilitation. It could also be home to music, dance and art schools and be a real dynamo of the Jamaican culture, extending the reach of children, training teachers, trainers and coaches and helping them to make the best of themselves and of their country. and becoming a centre of excellence for the Americas and the world. Instead, UTECH wants to turn it into a forcing house for bean counters, a place inhospitable to culture and learning, training people to produce even greater economic inequality in Jamaica and even more criminals.
While they are about it, perhaps they could build a new prison there, too.
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell

28 August 2009

dark gospel

if you mistake plain truth for silly word

your punishment shall not be very light

shall not last merely one short day and night

you'll be cut out forever from the herd

rejected scorned listed with the absurd

treated as source of all disease and blight

you may think this is harsh not just nor right

but you're the loser now the hunted bird

honour was what we asked and what we gave

to reach the place where only angels sleep

to find it empty and the treasure gone

this world is conquered and become a grave

where even maggots nightly fear to creep

and we may wonder what it is we won

23 August 2009

submissionary duty

you want us happy do not give us chance

keep us instead within a narrow gate

no options open to excite debate

absence of space for retreat or advance

but lots of room for leer or angry glance

tell each that there's no time for love or hate

that every place has been chosen by fate

and then demand that all must rise to dance

this is the law for those within the wall

who name it freedom when they do not die

no longer noticing the stale old stink

no longer hearing when fresh voices call

since each one's ear has been numbed by the lie

and no mind's left that even wants to think

Your Money or Your Life!

John Maxwell

Like an eighteenth century highwayman the world financial system has levelled a gun at Jamaica's head and told us to "Stand and Deliver" – 'hand over your valuables or else!'
The Fitch Ratings Agency has told the government: Accept whatever conditionalities the IMF imposes or we will make it impossible for you to borrow money and you will default on your debts.
Since there is no Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for countries it is my view and has been for years that we should default, divert the interest payments from Cayman and Zurich to the Consolidated Fund and start making ourselves economically autonomous. At astroke we could double or triple the money available for government expenditure.
What will the usurers do? Seize King's House?
In the old uncensored versions of the highwayman stories, the first bandit stops the stage coach, instructs the women to tie up the men and then each other. Then, at his leisure, he and his band would go through everyone's pockets and purses. In the old tales sometimes the highwayman would ride off with his loot, leaving his victims helpless until a second highwayman – a confederate – would come upon the scene and 'realising' there was no loot to be had, would avail himself of the pleasures offered by the helpless women and girls while their husbands or brothers or fathers watched, helpless to intervene.
Something very like that is now happening in Haiti and will soon begin to happen here. The criminal consequences of globalisation are beginning to be felt and not the least of them is loss of autonomy and sovereignty, the enslavement of the economy and the expropriation of the country's wealth.
Over the last forty years the decolonisation of Empires has left hundreds of millions of people exposed to new, sophisticated buccaneers and freebooters, sporting Thatcher/Reagan/Ayn Rand letters of marque, giving them the authority to loot and plunder using techniques which would have astonished Sir Henry Morgan, Blackbeard and Lollonais, not to mention King Leopold of Belgium, Sir Basil Zaharoff and even J.P. Morgan and John D Rockefeller.
IN one of the strange paradoxes of capitalist development it is the most resource-rich of the former colonies that are the deepest in misery. Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the Congo, Angola and South Africa are producing rivers of wealth for a few people in Zurich, New York and London. AS in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia and Colombia, and as in Iraq, Saudia Arabia and that neighbourhood, the native populations watch open-mouthed as learned theoreticians attempt to develop theories to explain their poverty and misery as money is exported by the tanker load from their countries and sympathetic statesmen confide that, next year, or the year after, they will be in a position to help with a little alms. The World Bank says it is dedicated to eradicating poverty and the IMF is supposedly a collaborator in that effort. Yet, it seems fairly clear that Third World poverty will end only when Third World resources are exhausted and the globalisers go home, sometime late in the next millennium.
As Fidel Castro pointed out to the Group of 77 summit in Havana in 2000:
"Economic failure is evident. Under the neoliberal policies, the world experienced a global growth between 1975 and 1998 which hardly amounted to half of that attained between 1945 and 1975 with Keynesian market policies and the state's active participation in the economy."
Castro said that was also true in Latin America where doctrinaire neoliberalism was applied.
"After World War II Latin America ha no debt but today [2000] we owe almost one trillion dollars. This is the region with the highest per capita debt in the world and also the greatest income differences between the rich and the poor.>
There are more poor, unemployed and hungry people in Latin America now than at any other time in history".
The recent implosion of the world financial system exposed almost infinite levels of criminal complicity between various elements of the system. A conservative critic of the system, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times said:
" A fundamental lesson concerns the way the financial system works. Outsiders were aware it had become a gigantic black box. But they were prepared to assume that those inside the box at least knew what was going on. This can hardly be true now. Worse, the institutions that prospered on the upside expect rescue on the downside. They are, alas, only too right to expect this. But this can hardly be a tolerable bargain between financial insiders and wider society. Is such mayhem the best we can expect? If so, how does one sustain broad public support for what appears so one-sided a game?"(Banque de France • International Symposium: Globalisation, inflation and monetary policy • March 2008)
The ratings agencies and the huge worldwide auditing companies turned out to be an integral part of the scam. Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at the University of Essex. ,told the Treasury Committee of the British House of Commons :
"I do not think the Big Four accounting firms are fit to conduct public watchdog functions. In my submission I have highlighted how they have been involved in running cartels, tax evasion, bribery, corruption, many other things; it is difficult to see how such entities can actually deliver the public interest function. Maybe that is one of the reasons why people in the market chose not to believe the unqualified audit report when auditors were saying all is well and the marketplace were saying "We do not believe you because you have a particular kind of a track record."
The problem is compounded by the ratings agencies with their own massive conflicts of interest. Professor Joe Stiglitz says:
The incentive structure of the rating agencies also proved perverse. Agencies such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's are paid by the very people they are supposed to grade. As a result, they've had every reason to give companies high ratings, in a financial version of what college professors know as grade inflation. The rating agencies, like the investment banks that were paying them, believed in financial alchemy—that F-rated toxic mortgages could be converted into products that were safe enough to be held by commercial banks and pension funds."
Yet, these are the people who presume to tell us how to run our country. Fidel Castro has for decades been pointing out the system is not only corrupt, but insane.
"The Third World is forced to immobilize financial resources and grow indebted to keep hard currency reserves in the hope that they can be used to resist the attack of speculators … this leads to the paradox that with their reserves, the poor countries are offering cheap long term financing to the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world while such reserves could be better invested in economic and social development."
When Fitch piously expresses the hope that we can reduce our interest rates from the twenties to the teens it doesn't remark on the fact that ordinary homeowner mortgage borrowers in the US can borrow at less than half that.
While Jamaica has never defaulted, it is treated with much less respect than privateers like Donald Trump, a professional gambler and airhead.. Nearly thirty years ago when the Trump group and the Jamaican government were facing cash flow probems and each owed about 4 billion dollars, Trump was able to make an accommodation with his creditors which allowed him to keep his yacht.
We had to give up free education and food subsidies, among other extravagant public expenditures.
If we default it will be a nine day wonder. It will cause hardship to the rich, to the coupon clippers, but will have hardly any effect on the poor unless of course, they insist on using Pampers and buying Pringles popcorn and ice-cream imported from France.
If we tell the bankers that for the next ten years we will be paying them at normal rates of interest we will save half of the money we export to banks in foreign countries.
We would immediately double the amount available for our budget and we could then begin to do what we really need to do, invest in small farmers, in poor people, particularly in women and children, and we could probably cut the murder rate in half, simply by getting all our children in schools and their fathers growing food and employed in building those schools.
Fitch and Moody's and the rest will curse us, as they have been cursing Cuba for half a century. but Cuba's an infant death rate is lower than the US and its educational and health systems. are superior
What exactly, have we got to lose?

Back home

I returned to Jamaica last Wednesday night after 8 months abroad, being treated for advanced lung cancer. I underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment with the result that a few weeks ago, a CT-PET SCAN could find no trace of the three tumours which had sent me scuttling for treatment.         
I promise in a few weeks, to give you an account of my treatment and the astonishingly kind professionals who delivered it at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital/National Cancer Institute in the Netherlands.
This note is simply a first, brief thank you to the many people who have wished me well, prayed for me and celebrated my recovery. And special thanks to my Jamaican doctors, Dr Richard Gomes, my GP, Dr Abeng-Doonquah, daughter of my old friend and PanAfricanist stalwart, Dr Burchell Douglas Abeng-Doonquah, and Dr Roger Irvine, oncologist. In the Netherlands I owe much to the skill, kindness and professionalism of Dr Peter Kunst and Dr. Josie Belderbos and their unfailingly polite, smiling and competent colleagues, doctors, nurses, technicians and assistants.
More anon.    

Copyright ©2009    John Maxwell

22 August 2009

no mystic symbol

no mystic symbol nothing so absurd

you wait for vain ceremony to end

meanwhile are bored and straining to attend

keeping in mind each false thing that occurred

not being halted in no way deterred

by each of those you know who might intend

the simple path of truth to twist or bend

or hide in shimmers the awakened bird

not much is taken but not much is due

to each of us this day except the right

to find our home where each desire is left

beside the place where no one else could rue

lost hopes and pain unhealed at fall of night

nor words all stripped of any human heft

16 August 2009

Misrepresentation in Politics

John Maxwell

Recent remarks by the Prime Minister remind me of an old joke.
A man who was being tried for murdering both his parents told the court he deserved clemency on the ground that he had recently become an orphan.
Mr Golding is reported to have expressed his dissatisfaction with the legal processes which have left in limbo, the constituents 'represented' by 'Members of Parliament' whose legitimacy is now in question.
I have long had a difficulty with the legal doctrine expressed by the Chief Justice and reinforced by the Court of Appeal.
In my column – "Gaming the System" – published on May 31, I said:
"In a letter to the Editor earlier this week I said I believed that the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal were wrong when they decided that voters had not thrown away their votes when they voted for people who they were warned were not qualified to be elected. I need to withdraw that opinion and apologise for not having paid proper attention to what the judges actually decided..
"According to the judges, the voters were entitled to believe the then Director of Elections when he vehemently and quite erroneously, assured voters that they could ignore the PNP's warnings on the subject. As the law stands, the voters need to be unambiguously certain that they are voting for a candidate who is unqualified before they can be judged to have thrown their votes away.
"There was no way they could be assured of the actual situation in time to do much about it. "
I have after much thought, revised my opinion and I am now convinced that the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal were wrong.

Heads they win, tails we lose

Their judgment and opinions have effectively put the electorate at a disadvantage in that the onus is placed on the voters to assure themselves of the bona fides of candidates for election while giving the people no means of determining whether they are buying what Jamaicans call "a puss in a bag".
It is my view that all candidates offering themselves for election are duty bound to ensure that they are eligible for election and must be legally presumed to have no secrets which would disqualify them.
By offering themselves for election, the candidates are effectively assuring the electorate that they are qualified to sit in Parliament. If the candidate knows, as he must, that his nationality disqualifies him, the fact that he offers himself for election is nothing short of fraud. He is employing false pretences to try to gain a privileged position.
The result of the rulings by the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal is that the fraudulent candidate retains his alien status if he loses the election but has the choice of surrendering his foreign citizenship if he wins. Consider the potential gain in his surrendering his alien status: as a Member of Parliament the fraudster will, after a ritual cleansing in the courts, be eligible for election and, if elected, be entitled to travel on an official or diplomatic passport.
Talk about eating one's cake and having it!
The fraudulent candidate wins either way, the electorate loses. As some assert, Jamaican citizenship is transformed simply into a convenience, a bagatelle. The freedom of travel guaranteed by an American passport is replaced by the greater freedom of travel represented by an official passport at the expense of the Jamaican people.
In the instant cases, the Director of Elections was himself an alien and therefore disqualified from appointment to the job. His intervention therefore, was another fraud on the people and compounds the deficiencies suffered by a so-called sovereign electorate. The Vox Populi becomes the voice of America, and those of us who have worked all our lives to gain and sustain our national integrity, independence, sovereignty and autonomy are left wondering exactly what the struggle was about; why were so many of us denounced, tear-gassed, jailed, beaten, executed and murdered?
I understand that it is a legal principle that a wrongdoer should not, if possible, be allowed to profit from his wrongdoing. In the case of the Alien MPs, the wrongdoers are not punished but rewarded. More than half a century ago, in 1955, Mr George F. Peryer lost his seat and was disqualified from standing as a parliamentary candidate for five years because Mrs. Rose Leon had during the election campaign, made false and defamatory statements on Peryer's platform about his opponent, Mr Percival Broderick. Mrs Leon was unseated and disqualified as might be expected, but it is striking that the law also penalised Peryer who was accused only of permitting Mrs Leon to tell lies about Mr Broderick unchallenged.
It seems clear to me that Peryer, whose sin was one of omission or possibly ignorance, was expected to have known better and to have protected his status as a candidate by denouncing Mrs Leon's misstatements.
The "Alien MPs" were guilty of far graver and more dangerous offences than Mr Peryer and even of Madame Rose, as serious as her offence was. She did attempt to mislead the electorate but not nearly as seriously as the Aliens who deliberately pretended to be something they were not, a form of personation not recognised in the law but even more dangerous than the offence of personation officially recognised – which deals with individual voters and not with an entire voters' list.
The judges' decisions are faulty for another reason: they give more weight to the opinions of the Director of Elections than to the candidates who warned the electorate to beware of voting for unqualified people. As Mrs Leon discovered the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) prohibits false statements made on election platforms. Every PNP candidate who warned electors about the status of their opponent became instantly liable to be punished and disqualified if their statements were untrue.
In those cases, therefore, the ROPA contains its own cure for misrepresentation, and the intervention by the putative "Director of Elections"' was not only improper political behaviour, but totally unwarranted and constituted a false statement made on behalf of candidates for election. Under the law it would seem to me that Mr Walker's misbehaviour disqualified all the "alien MPs' – if the ROPA is to be taken seriously.
Mr Walker, the putative DOE was, like those for whom he vouched, rewarded for his misbehaviour. He was given another highly paid appointment in the service of the government. One wonders whether he has decided to become a Jamaican citizen.
It is my view that all these questions require serious examination by the Constitutional Court. The present position flouts the spirit of the law, devalues the democracy of which we boast and the citizenship of every Jamaican.

Lady Bustamante

Lady Bustamante was a person with whom I had a fairly unconventional relationship. We first met shortly after I joined the Gleaner as a reporter in 1952. As a young and very junior reporter I was frequently assigned to run-of-the-mill political occasions and "Miss G" as she was universally known, paid attention to all the scribes not matter how insignificant.
In January 1955 when I was reporting politics at Public Opinion, (PO) an English journalist named Don Ludlow came to Jamaica for the London Daily Express, to cover two stories: the new wave of Jamaican emigration to the UK and the imminent General Elections.
Don wanted me to help him with contacts and Vic Reid, my Editor, agreed.
About the time Ludlow arrived in Jamaica I had submitted a cartoon idea to Vic Reid who presented it to a young self-taught cartoonist named Bill Reid (no relation) who produced a cartoon titled "Sweep them Out!" showing Norman Manley with a broom sweeping out the JLP, Bustamante and a variety of vices alleged against the government.
The idea caught fire and was adopted by Manley who took to wearing a miniature broom in his lapel and PNP supporters who armed themselves with brooms at every political meeting.
Ludlow wanted to interview Bustamante on election night January 12, 1955, and we hired a taxi to go to May Pen where we found the old warrior at the house of his friend Simeon Shagoury. When we got there `Miss G' – ever protectful of the Chief, demanded to know who I was and I told her – truthfully – that I was the stringer for the London Evening News and omitting my Public Opinion connection. She was clearly not satisfied but was overruled by the "Chief`" who testified that he knew my father.
Busta regaled us with whisky, champagne and wild tales of his reputed past, which differed in important respects from his published biography in the 1940 Who's Who. As the election results came in Busta became increasing contemptuous of his losing colleagues and ended with a denunciation of "Judas Island" – Jamaica – where the people were ungrateful and mean.
Meanwhile the Gleaner had sent my old mentor, Percival Trottman. the News Editor, to get Busta's thoughts on the electoral disaster. Discreetly, 'Miss G' asked Trottman who I was, and shortly after he left she questioned me again. This time I could not deny that I also represented Public Opinion.
Busta was enraged, woke up his sleeping bodyguard police Sergeant Barnett and ordered him to throw us out. Barnett, drunk and half asleep, waved an enormous six-shooter at us and we left in a hurry.
Seven years later, just before Independence, I was the only reporter at the marriage of `Busta and "Miss G" at the RC Archbishop's residence on Hopefield Avenue. When Busta saw me standing outside the fence he wanted to know who I was. When he was told, I was summoned to the presence. He invited me to the reception at Tucker Avenue and despite my protests that I was not dressed for the occasion he insisted. [This was a few weeks after he had tried to have me fired from the JBC]
At Tucker Avenue, I was commanded to kiss the bride, much to her obvious displeasure. Busta insisted.
In later years "Lady B" and I became good friends and one of the regrets of my career is a two hour interview I conducted with her on Power 106 shortly after it opened. After the interview, filled with fascinating personal history, I was told that the studio operator had not recorded it.
I could have strangled the man.
Copyright © 2009 John Maxwell

12 August 2009

devouring bird

now goldfinch angles to destroy a bloom

to work its hatred out upon a flower

a pretty bird but yet an angry doom


there has to be a reason we assume

and yet it seems to shred not to devour

now goldfinch angles to destroy a bloom


in the clear light on a day lacking gloom

no sign of cloud that would presage a shower

a pretty bird but yet an angry doom


for solemn purpose that seems to consume

hardworking bird harmless petals to scour

now goldfinch angles to destroy a bloom


as we peer curious from our quiet room

at the odd wonder of this summer hour

a pretty bird but yet an angry doom


to turn a garden spot into a tomb

a kind of solemn message of its power

now goldfinch angles to destroy a bloom

a pretty bird but yet an angry doom

09 August 2009

Bauxite owes Jamaica Billions

John Maxwell

My friend Laurie Broderick is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Energy and Mining. Laurie is the son of Percival Broderick Snr. onetime PNP MP, Minister, and President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society. He is the younger brother of Dr Percival Broderick, onetime Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Agriculture. The Brodericks come from the hill country of Clarendon which was serious farming country before much of it was devastated by bauxite mining.
According to the Gleaner, three Sundays ago, Laurie Broderick made what I think is one of the more extraordinary statements ever made by a Jamaican politician.
Mr Broderick was reported as having said that the Government of Jamaica is to rehabilitate mined out lands to alleviate rural poverty. In his contribution to the sectoral debate "on Tuesday, July 21, the minister mentioned that 1,263 hectares of mined-out land in Manchester have been transferred to the commissioner of lands. He also reported that in June the government had acquired approximately 5,514 hectares of certified rehabilitated land in Manchester and St Ann.

Mr Broderick's statement startled me because, according to the laws of Jamaica, it is the bauxite companies who are supposed to rehabilitate mined out land and, as I pointed out in an earlier column, the bauxite companies are legally required to rehabilitate – a their own expense – all mined out land and that land is the property of the government.

In a column entitled "The enduring curse of bauxite (March 22 2009) I wrote

"The [Mining] Act requires mining companies to compensate Jamaica for every hectare of land mined but not restored.
"Currently there are at least 2,669 hectares on which the companies owe us US$ 66,725,000 in one time compensation, at the rate of $25,000 per hectare. In addition the companies owe the people of Jamaica an additional US 2,500 per hectare for every year the land is not rehabilitated. According to my calculations, which are probably an underestimate, the companies owe us another US $150 to 350 million. We are talking real money here, our money– between US$200 million and US$400 million.
When is the government going to collect this debt?"

In our current situation where we need every dollar we can legally get, it seems to me scandalous that the Government of Jamaica is not taking steps to collect millions o dollars owed to the poor people of Jamaica by the bauxite companies. These companies are controlled by two of the richest men in the word, Marc Rich and Oleg Deripaska.
    As far as I am aware the government of Jamaica has taken no steps to secure the sovereign rights of the Jamaican people by collecting money which has been owed to us for a very long time. Furthermore, I believe we are entitled to know exactly who has certified the 5,514 acres of ' rehabilitated' land in Manchester and St Ann. I do not trust that description.
As I have detailed in this column before now, I have no reason to be confident that either the Commissioner of Lands or the Jamaica Bauxite Institute understands their statutory duty in protection of the public interest. In an appearance before the Access to Information Tribunal two years ago, the Commissioner of Lands, in reply to my questions, said that it was his duty to protect the bauxite companies against the inquiries of such as the Jamaican Environment Trust. He actually enunciated principles and 'conventions'– later found to be non-existent - which he said governed dealings between mining companies and their regulators. He said these conventions made information about their activities trade secrets and matters of confidence. The ATI tribunal was not only unable to find any such protocols, we found that the worldwide mining industry, like most of tee world, is moving deliberately towards more openness in order to protect not only investors, but the public interest and particularly those citizens affected by mining. Far from owing a duty of confidence to the companies, he Commissioner according to law and practice, owed his duty to the public whose interest the law commands him to protect.
I therefore have no confidence in the ability of the government's agents to secure our interests in this matter because in addition to the failures enunciated above, the JBI and the CM&G have never demanded, as they are required to do, Environmental Impact Assessments in relation to bauxite mining.
This entails some horrendous costs to this country – costs which are legally recoverable from the bauxite companies.
The companies and the past and current governments had been planning to destroy the precious heart of the Jamaica – the Cockpit Country – by mining and alumina refining. I believe that public opposition, combined with the fortuitous worldwide recession, is all that has so far saved the Cockpit Country which is the geological, biological cultural and historic heart of this country. If the bauxite companies were allowed to mine there they would complete the destruction of Jamaica's major water supplies and condemn the tourist industry to death. As it is, one of the major reasons for the misbegotten plan to destroy Falmouth in the interest of Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is the fact that Falmouth will be one of the few places in this region that there is sufficient water for the floating monstrosity that is designed to steal five thousand customers a week away from the Jamaica hotel industry.
As I said in my March column, it is not simply the mining and land degradation for which we are owed compensation:
"In addition to all this the companies are liable under international law to reclaim and make harmless nearly 100 million tons of red mud – an enterprise that would solve our unemployment problems for a decade or two and pay pensions to the bauxite workers.. In addition we are entitled to seek damages for the reclamation of the aquifers poisoned by red mud, under the Polluter Pays principle, endorsed in 1992 by P. J. Patterson in Rio."
I am unable to understand why the movers and shakers of this society, knowing all these things, do not take steps to protect our financial integrity or our patrimony and our water supplies.
If, as I believe, the ginnigogs managing bauxite are incompetent and and/or careless, is there no organ of the state to compel them to behave themselves and do their duty?
When the law is so flagrantly flouted by those at the top of the society how can they in good conscience expect and demand that those at the bottom should respect and obey the law?
Perhaps there may be other people who feel like me and who would join me in seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the competent authorities in bauxite to perform the responsibilities laid on them by Parliament and the people of Jamaica.
Stay tuned.

Mischief and the Media

The US and British media have spent the last few weeks making fools of themselves and their audiences.
In the UK a report was issued last week by a government agency with a long history of distaste for organic farming and a tendency to welcome genetic manipulation and other industrial corruption of natural processes. The somewhat inappropriately named Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a report which asserted – after studying a cherry-picked array of research over 50 years – that 'organic' food was not more nutritious than conventionally produced food.
Since the point about organic food is not primarily nutrition but purity and quality, it might have seemed to some cynics that the report was simply intended to muddy the water and confuse people. It certainly confused journalists. Headlines ranged from merely foolish
"Organic food has no health benefits"
to the quintessentially absurd
"It's wrong to believe that nature is always best."
And some of this garbage was written by people with degrees in science.
The point about factory farming is that it employs techniques and chemicals which alter the characteristics of food in unpredictable and often unknown ways. Pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics turn up in food crops, in meat, in wild-caught fish and even human breast-milk. Organic food, so called, is n attempt to get away from the artificial, ersatz and frequently toxic adulterations of modern food. As Rachel Carson points out in "Silent Spring" humanity has had millennia to adapt to the products of its natural environment while we have had no time to adapt to the 100,000 new chemicals introduced into the environment every year. While some of us occasionally get poisoned by natural foods, there are no known natural foods which cause the testicles of infant boys to atrophy in their mothers' wombs or produce the monsters generated by thalidomide, stilbestrol, mercury and lindane.
The Press, bless its freedom loving, investigative heart, didn't bother to try to explain the real irrelevance of the FSA study.

Innocent while Black

Sometimes the little lies are the worst. In the reporting of the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates various organs of the press said he had been arrested outside his home. It is clear from the photographs that Gates was handcuffed in his house; on his verandah or in even in his yard doesn't matter. Every citizen has a right to repel trespassers and if you have satisfied a cop as to your identity as Gates had, the cop has no further business in your house. And if the cop doesn't know that I can't see him qualified to teach anyone anything – as reported in Crowley's favour.
The racist character of the police is demonstrated by several facts. One is that after the Crowley had seen Professor Gates' ID he was still asking the police dispatcher to "keep the cars coming" as if he were confronted by a rioting mob in the city centre, instead of by a diminutive, partially disabled man who he outweighed by about fifty pounds, overtopped by at least four inches and who was twenty years older than he.
The 911 dispatcher tried hard to get the informant, Gates' neighbour, to say what was the race of the men she saw trying to get into Gates' house. The informant was calm, refused to panic, said she couldn't tell what race the men were and told the dispatcher that the men could have been legitimately trying to get into the house.
Crowley reported that on his arrival the informant told him she saw two black men with backpacks. She said nothing of the kind. She did not speak to Crowley. Crowley made that up. The whole affair, from arrival to arrest, took 5 minutes. It seems unlikely that any serious breach of the peace could have happened in that time frame, unless Gates had assaulted the policeman. He had not.
It is clear that under the law the fault was entirely with Crowley; that Gates was well within his rights and that President Obama was right when he said the police had acted stupidly.
The white police union as wrong, rude and disrespectful to President Obama as it would never have been to G.W. Bush.
One of my correspondents last week told me that Gates should have "respected the uniform" .
I replied that respect is due to the man and the law, not the uniform, and I asked whether her principle applied, for instance, to that unknown Chinese hero who unarmed and alone confronted the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square so many moons ago?

Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell


02 August 2009

Mud-Wrestling with the IMF

John Maxwell

I once calculated that given the track records of the IMF and the World Bank, their combined programmes aimed at eradicating world poverty would require at least another thousand years of effort to work. At that, my calculations could not assure me that the two heavyweights of international Finance would succeed in eradicating poverty before they managed to eradicate the poor.
Jamaicans and other poor people round the world are well aware that so-called Structural Adjustment Programmes were really designed to radically reduce our capacity to develop ourselves while allegedly making us more attractive to rich benefactors – in the same way that Indian beggars mutilate themselves in order to attract more pity and theoretically, more alms.
Special Employment Programmes – intended to provide jobs mainly for women while improving public amenity – were verboten and state ownership of productive enterprises were similarly beyond the pale since they risked making the state more able to fend for itself and make the lives of its citizens more bearable.
Besides which, as superstition has it, private enterprise is always superior to public. This nonsense was disproved in the fifties when Norman Manley bought out and operated the Bronstorph Ice factory which, without subsidy or any state assistance, almost caused the bankruptcy of the Kingston Ice Factory, then owned by Jamaica's leading family of 'industrialists'. He also started Zero Processing and Storage, now making millions for private enterprise under another name. The fantasy was again disproved in the seventies by the state-owned National Commercial Bank which quickly became Jamaica's largest and most profitable bank, although most government accounts remained where they had always been, with the Bank of Nova Scotia.
It was proved again by the State Trading Corporation which was able to reduce the consumer price of 'bully beef' by nearly 50% in its first month of operation and by the Agricultural Marketing Corporation which while raising the income of its farmer-suppliers, reduced the cost of food to the consumer, again without subsidy.
These facts are irrelevant to the Creationist capitalists and their allies in the IMF/World Bank.
It was N.W. Manley who began the Jamaican programme of 'industrialisation by invitation' and, as Bob Lightbourne's PR man, I wrote a great deal of the publicity designed to attract foreign direct investment. It took us fifty years to discover that unless you were blessed with mineral wealth or your government was expert at keeping its population docile as in Singapore or Indonesia, you could send out investment invitations t to every millionaire on the planet and still find that the only jobs from foreign investment were in sweatshops and other approximations of slavery.
In 1919, according to the Jamaica Agricultural Society's Journal, the Jamaica Government Railway (JGR) brought into Kingston 50 tons of butter from producers in the countryside. Today, most of our butter comes from New Zealand, 14,000 miles away. Our ice cream comes from Paris and Vancouver and Florida and the Dominican Republic while a perfectly good milk processing plant at Montpelier was destroyed by Mr Seaga's government. Our agricultural experimental stations – where Dr Lecky developed three breeds of world class cattle and where Department of Agriculture scientists developed varieties of citrus new to the world – were similarly burnt offerings to the IMF and its sponsors.
While we are building superhighways to enchant the day-tripping tourist, our farmers – those that survive – must depend on some of the worst roads in the world and commuters in the capital city take one hour to drive one mile from King's House Gate to Barbican Square.

Been there, Done that

Shortly after the Second World War the Jamaican government had a small problem. Jamaica's small farmers had a surplus of 5,000 tons of corn and didn't know what to do with it. I believe it was exported to the US. During the war, a functionary whose official title was "The Competent Authority" and next to God and the Governor in the official hierarchy, had decreed that all landowners should devote 10% of their land to local food crops.
The Jamaica Agricultural Society and its Four-H Clubs promoted self sufficiency through school gardens, backyard gardens and small stock husbandry. The result:
Except for saltfish and flour, Jamaica, in the midst of wartime shortages of everything, could feed itself. And, what's more, we produced surpluses of almost everything. The scientists at the Department of Agriculture invented a way to mass produce sweet potato slips.
Fifty-three years ago, in Public Opinion Weekly, I suggested that with air freight rates coming down, we should start ripening our fruit in Jamaica and exporting it directly to markets abroad. Guess what ? The Israelis, the South Africans and now the Turks, the Panamanians and Costa Ricans, the Moroccans and the Californians are sending their fruit all over the world by planes landing within a few miles of their markets, fresh, ripe and flavourful – but not as flavourful as the Jamaican varieties.
In California and Mexico, an item known as 'Jamaica flower' or 'Jamaica hibiscus', is a valuable item of trade for the making of fresh drinks and desserts. Jamaica flower is what we call 'sorrel' – Rosella sabdariffa. Sorrel Tea is also widely used for its reputed medicinal benefits – to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, diuretic, kindney, liver problems and to strengthen the immune system.
In the Netherlands, where I have been for the last few months, what Jamaicans call coco and dasheen – tannia, taro, eddo or whatever, are valued foods because they are 'hypoallergenic' – i.e., people who can't eat wheat flour or potatoes can eat coco and its relatives. It is an almost perfect baby-food.
In Costa Rica and Surinam cocos are an important article of export trade. In Jamaica a few years ago I was told it was 'hog food.'
In my personal Pharmacoepia, sorrel, coco, mangoes and sweet potato are among several specifics against evil spirits and malignant afflictions such as the White Death, aka the IMF. Combined with hard work and a little imagination these products can be used to drive away all kinds of systemic weaknesses and the urge to bow down before bankers and usurers. They help strengthen the spine and reinforce the urge to be self-sufficient.
Many modern Jamaican ginnigogs are the product of families that have been driven from the countryside , forced through mostly urban secondary schools designed to unlearn them of any useful skills, into high cachet professions, Masters of Business Administration, banking and moneychanging and Ponzi scheming. Their land has become a portfolio asset, useful to borrow money for speculation and foreign exchange trading. Most of our land – like the people who could produce food and wealth from it – lies idle while thousands starve and moulder away in bloody slums, fighting for what one talk-show host salivatingly describes as 'scarce benefits and spoils.'
Years ago Norman Manley was on his way to revolutionising small farming and the culture of the Jamaican countryside. He invested in small farmers, enacting the Facilities for titles Law which gave farmers secure tenure and allowed them to borrow money loaned by the Agricultural Development Bank to buy farming implements and machinery, fertiliser and build sheds to house their pigs, goats and chickens.
The effort climaxed about a year and a half after Manley lost the Premiership. In 1964/65 Jamaican agriculture as a whole reached a peak not attained before or since. Even sugar was at an all time high.
In 1962, the year Manley was sent back into Opposition, there were about 1.7 million people in Jamaica. Today there are about one million more – an increase of 62.5%
In all of 1962 there were about 60 or 70 murders in all of Jamaica. An increase of 62.5% would mean about 113 murders a year. Today we kill that many in about three weeks in the hunt for 'scarce benefits and spoils.'
Copyright © 2009 John Maxwell

01 August 2009

villanelle for emancipation day

free folk who turn their backs on the sweet cane

for bitter striving on the mountainside

don't count hard labour now as any pain


since now there is good reason to hold strain

while men on horseback dare not shout nor chide

free folk who turn their backs on the sweet cane


whose feet are moving uphill from the plain

towards the places where they used to hide

don't count hard labour now as any pain


when it's all yours when none of it's in vain

as hopes are reached and none of them denied

free folk who turn their backs on the sweet cane


have seas to cross and great dreams to attain

their inner voices have made them decide

don't count hard labour now as any pain


they will not fall back to bondage again

but face the world with proper joy and pride

free folk who turn their backs on the sweet cane

don't count hard labour now as any pain

what is surrendered

move forward and you come back to the past

you give up peace and friendship at the start

but still the monster won't let you depart

anguish alone must hold on to the last

love smiles but all its moments go too fast

and hope is faster here than any dart

anger and rage will rot the normal heart

while hatred journeys before every mast

time is no cure nor change of sun to rain

nor is the amaranth a source of steel

though each magician turns out just a liar

we turn to them to ease the steady pain

produced each day by turning of the wheel

knowing full well we can't avoid the fire