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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interesting Reading Today...

Jamaica has an even higher murder rate than ours.  Gunmen have even ordered people to leave their homes and communities under penalty of death .  However, the Jamaican press can still find uplifting stories like this one:
JAMAICA GLEANER: Gangster turns student - Former bad boy tells IMF boss how far he has come
http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20081211/lead/lead3.html
A friend sent this link that shows in all of ninety second how the world's five major religions were born and spread over the last five thousand years.  It's definitely not complete though as it doesn't seem to properly take diaspora into consideration:
The Geography of Faith and its Wars across History
http://www.mapsofwar.com/images/Religion.swf
I've chatted with a number of people on the causes of the current financial crisis in the United States, and the potential global fall out, with particular emphasis on what we might see here in Trinidad and Tobago.  It's a long discussion on multiple topics which intertwine readily and often.  However, one can get a visual of the root of the problem from one of the blogs that I read:
Mint.edu: A Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis
http://blog.mint.com/blog/finance-core/a-visual-guide-to-the-financial-crisis/
Mint.edu also released today an analysis of the bailout proposed by the US Government, including how the bailout is being funded and how some financial experts think it should be funded:
A Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis: The Bailout
http://blog.mint.com/blog/finance-core/a-visual-guide-to-the-financial-crisisthe-bailout/
And finally, given her physical response to rudeness, I feel not just a little trepidation about this robot getting the ability to walk.  Aiko, as the robot is called, would be an early precursor to a fully functional, straight out of a sci-fi  novel android.  Indeed the technology exists in various spaces to make her "perfect"... but without Asimov's Three Laws programmed in, that could prove to be a problem:
Sun.co.uk: Inventor builds She-3PO Robot
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2023392.ece

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A little mirth: Russell Peters on Trinis and Soca Music...

We're in the Christmas break between Band Launching Season and full Soca Switch.  Oil and gas prices are down, interest rates are going up, retail food prices aren't falling even though global food prices are, the Government has just announced cuts in expenditure, including the re-scheduling of needed hospitals... Crime is on the rise, with fears that things will worsen during one of the year's annual Silly Seasons... But, one thing that Trinbagonians know how to do is roll on through adversity, laughing and feting all the way.  Who else could come up with the idea of a Coup Party, or could find themselves liming in front of a bar in St. James with storm warnings in effect?

Comedian Russell Peters grew up among West Indians in Canada, and clearly has our number.  In slightly rough times, enjoy a little laugh at our expense.  The Trini ole talk begins at about the one minute mark, but you can enjoy the lil' jab at Jamaicans too.  The video is uncensored though so turn the volume down and send little children out of the room.


"In de crease... In de crease...!" (You've got to watch the video to understand... and if anybody does release that tune this season, make sure and pay the man his royalty fee please... He has copyright...)

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

Support World AIDS Day
Remembering those who are no longer with us and those who still are...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Interesting Reading for Sunday 30th November

BC Pires interviews noted economist Eric St. Cyr on the current global economic crunch
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161407642

Raffique Shah writes on religious zealotry and its impact on the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and the world
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_opinion?id=161407606

TIME Magazine article titled "Tourism is Whorism" dated August 3rd, 1970
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,876687,00.html

JAMAICA GLEANER: Study shows alarming tourist practice

Published in the Jamaica Gleaner on Saturday 29th November is an eye-opening article on tourist traffic, sexual behaviour and the potential for HIV transmission given that behaviour.  Given information available on HIV and AIDS, the numbers shared in the article are somewhat startling.  Scarily, they're likely representative of wider Caribbean statistics which must give us pause here at home given our own Simona Fricker debacle many years ago.

I think I recall somewhere the contempt of Dr. Eric Williams and other early Caribbean leaders for the tourist trade as an income earner.  After Simona and now the study summarised in the Gleaner article, given the clearly displayed disdain for the local populace, one can understand why.

Simona showed us that all it took was one person to spread a killing infection and then leave our social support system to clean up the resultant mess.  Given the potential impact, it's activity more criminal than some nowherian picking up a gun and going on a short-lived rampage.  We can prosecute nowherians for their crimes, and perhaps even see them meet their end in street-style justice.  I'm pretty sure that, given the work of the Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, we can trace the source of tourist infection, but sadly we may not be able to do anything about them and the situations they create except try to take care of our own after the fact.  The Government and your tax dollars at work cover the cost of counselling and comprehensive treatment.

The text of the Gleaner article runs as follows:
TWENTY PER cent of tourists who participated in an HIV and AIDS survey indicated that they have had sex with acquaintances that they met while on their trip to Jamaica, with only 49 per cent reported using condoms.

Within that group, 92 per cent reported that they had between one and four sexual partners while on vacation here.

The study titled HIV/AIDS and the Tourism Industry Fact Finding Survey Report was funded by the Department for International Development UK.

It was produced by Lisa Taylor-Stone, Research Development Specialist at the Jamaica Employers' Federation in collaboration with the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance for the Accelerating of the Private Sector Response to HIV/AIDS in Barbados and Jamaica Project.

The aim of the study was to determine the possible impact that the adoption of HIV and AIDS policies and campaigns would have on the tourism sector.

Resort areas tested

The study, which was launched yesterday at the Knutsford Court Hotel was conducted in the resort areas of Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios and Kingston.

A total of 600 participants were surveyed: 389 tourists and 211 hotel workers.

Additionally, the study revealed that 32 per cent of the tourists, surveyed had sexual contacts with sex workers and 27 per cent with Jamaican nationals who did not fall in the category of sex workers.

Another 23 per cent of sex partners were hotel workers and the others were guests from other countries.

Taylor-Stone said 14 per cent of tourists believed that HIV could not be passed from one person to the other, while five per cent of hotel workers were of the same view.

Meanwhile, the study revealed that hotel workers who perceived HIV as "not serious", were more likely to report never using a condom during sex.

Income earner

The workers said sex with tourists adds to their income. Taylor-Stone said some described the relationship with tourists as business and note that they may have this sort of transaction with several tourists at any one time.

One hotel worker said tourists had the mindset that Jamaican men are well endowed and Jamaican women "can do it good as well".

"It is obvious that the approach to combating the effects of HIV and AIDS on the tourism sector needs to be revisited. Jamaica has sold itself under the sun, sand and sex paradigm for decades and unfortunately this paradigm still saturates the psyche of our visitors," said Taylor-Stone.

Monday will be observed as World AIDS Day. The Ministry of Health estimates that 27,000 Jamaicans are living with HIV and AIDS and 18,000 are unaware of their status.

SOURCE: Jamaica Gleaner, Saturday 29th November 2008
Get tested.  Be sexually responsible.  Keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seth Godin on how one doesn't get rich...

Marketing guru Seth Godin writes on the overnight millionaire's scam:
You probably don't need to read this, but I bet you know people who do. Please feel free to repost or forward:

Times are tough, and many say they are going to be tougher. That makes some people more focused, it turns others desperate.

You may be tempted at some point to try to make a million dollars. To do it without a lot of effort or skill or risk. Using a system, some shortcut perhaps, or mortgaging something you already own.

There are countless infomercials and programs and systems that promise to help you do this. There are financial instruments and investments and documents you can sign that promise similar relief from financial stress.

Resist.

There are four ways to make a million dollars. Luck. Patient effort. Skill. Risk.

(Five if you count inheritance, and six if you count starting with two million dollars).

Conspicuously missing from this list are effortless 1-2-3 systems that involve buying an expensive book or series of tapes. Also missing are complicated tax shelters or other 'proven' systems. The harder someone tries to sell you this solution, the more certain you should be that it is a scam. If no skill or effort is required, then why doesn't the promoter just hire a bunch of people at minimum wage and keep the profits?

There are literally a million ways to make a good living online, ten million ways to start and thrive with your own business offline. But all of these require effort, and none of them are likely to make you a million dollars.

Short version of my opinion: If someone offers to sell you the secret system, don't buy it. If you need to invest in a system before you use it, walk away. If you are promised big returns with no risk and little effort, you know the person is lying to you. Every time.
In what might appear to be a weakening economic times, one might be tempted to shore up one's financial position by getting involved in plans that promise quick and heady returns.  Trinbagonians in particular seem to have a penchant for multi-level marketing and other complex pyramid schemes.  At least one renowned local film maker has been taken by advance-fee fraud.  (If anyone can send me a link to the newspaper article where she bared her soul about being taken by a 419 scam, I'll do an addendum with full credit.)

With the Lotto and other hopes for ready wealth soon to disappear, my people need to be careful not to be taken by anything more insidious than a late hand in a sou-sou .  Colombians did recently, and when de mark buss, they did themselves more harm than good by rioting in the streets, some of their scammers long gone with collected millions.

There is no quick buck, not without being grossly unscrupulous and causing another to come to harm, hardship, or financial ruin.  So watch your dollars.  Spend wisely.  Make good choices.  Rather than look for quick ways to make more, make what you have work better for you. [Link 1, Link 2]

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New York Times on the Boissiere House

IN the evening, when the heat breaks and a walk around Queen’s Park Savannah — the sugar-estate-cum-public-park here — becomes a reasonable proposition, the visitor is struck by the diversity of architecture along its perimeter, where commercial buildings sit incongruously amid Victorian structures. Even the Magnificent Seven, a row of famous colonial buildings including a French Baroque mansion and a castle inspired by the one at Balmoral, in Scotland, represent a random assortment of styles, in various states of repair.

But perhaps no building on the Savannah is more emblematic of Trinidad’s chaotic history than the Boissiere House, a 1904 cottage as majestic as any of the mansions and a rare example of turn-of-the-century Trinidadian architecture.

New York Times, November 13th, 2008
In February of this year, I wrote on the Boissiere House , speculating on whether corporate Trinidad and Tobago could not find money in their growing year-on-year profits to save just one bit of local history.

The New York Times' David Shaftel picked up the story of the House in their November 13th print edition, with online version of the story under the caption, "In Trinidad, a Painted Lady in Distress."  The piece includes a gallery of images of the house and other historic Port of Spain houses, some restored and at least one in a grave state of disrepair.

According to the article, the building is still up for sale, but:
...the National Trust was trying to discourage the owner from selling to someone who would knock it down, and that the owner has been “cooperative.”
My own call to corporate Trinidad and Tobago remains.  Can we still save this and the other architectural gems across the country?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Choice is Yours '08

I'm keeping things light tonight...  There's some heavier material to come soon, including a post with the caption "Sticker Shock" and another that I've been trying to pull together summarising my experiences and impressions as a mass transit commuter.

When I was growing up though, I'd loved the original track.  The artist, Dres of Black Sheep, reprised his group's hit hip-hop track in support of President Barack Obama's campaign.



President Barack Obama... Oh how sweet the sound!  Incidentally almost as sweet as original The Choice is Yours (provided here by Songza.com)

The choice is ours here in sweet Trinbago too... and I'm not just talking about elections either...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes, We Can: How The People Won The Presidency.

On November 4th, 2008, the people of the United States of America elected a new President in the person of Barack Hussein Obama. Mr. Obama received in excess of 350 Electoral College votes, greater than 64% of those available, far more than the 270 he required to secure the Presidency.

On the way to victory, he and his team won key and critical states carried by George W. Bush in 2004, including Ohio and Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico in America's heartland, and hotly contested Florida, the fourth largest State.

With numbers still coming in and votes still being tallied, the election is being touted as one of the highest numerical and proportional voter turnout ever in the United States of America, at least in the last forty years.

The run-up to the election also saw massive registration and voter education drives, ensuring that the average eligible voter knew that he had both opportunity, reason and right to exercise his franchise.

The campaign race featured the vilest rumours and mudslinging, race baiting and fearmongering. And still, on the early morning on November 5th, the United States' first minority President Elect took to a stage in Illinois to thank his supporters - American and otherwise - via the international media.


For all of Obama's oratory and his ability to inspire, none of the above could have been achieved without the individual activism of his supporters, the people on the ground. Says Obama in his victory speech (Full text transcript, Audio at NPR.org):
...above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth. This is your victory...

This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
It is a clear example of what a determined people can do, to bring about what they believe to be right for their country, and for each other, and for themselves.

In the face of bigotry (despite losing a number of Southern states, the Democratic candidate showed growth in his support base throughout), the threat of disfranchisement, and lies, tricks and various other shenanigans, the people who Obama inspired, the people who felt a connectedness to the man who they would have be President, ensured him victory.

It is clear testament to the word of another inspirational young man who, on January 20th, 1961 at his own inauguration advised his people to think not on what their country could give to them, but of what they could give to advance their country.

It's a lesson that we as Trinbagonians could stand to learn, that to achieve the things we want, to make our country a better place, it's not enough to sit on our hands and complain.  We need to move.  We need to act. We need to be positive.  We must work.

I extend heartfelt congratulations to President Elect Obama, and to the people of the United States of America.  They have showed the world what a people united can do, and one hopes that we take example here at home.

Yes, we can.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The man who should have been President endorses the man who would be...



The man who was widely tipped to be the first African-American presidential candidate, former Republican Secretary of State General Colin Powell (Ret.) makes a clear and resounding endorsement for Senator Barack Obama on NBC programme "Meet the Press".  In wrapping up a beautiful assessment of both candidates and the state of the campaign, Ret. Gen. Powell says:
"I've come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rheotorical abilities... we have to take that into account... as well as his substance... he has both style and substance... he has met the standard of being a successful President, being an exceptional President.  I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason, I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."
In near immediate response, in an interview on FOX, John McCain said that Powell's endorsement of Obama wasn't surprising.
"Well, I've always admired and respected Gen. Powell. We're longtime friends," McCain stated. "This doesn't come as a surprise. But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state, Secretaries Kissinger, Baker, Eagleburger and Haig. And I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired Army generals and admirals. But I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell."
Reacting to McCain's statement, one commentator soon posted:
Let's take inventory. Powell is an elder statesman. Kissinger is a modern day Machiavelli who helped Nixon, Baker helped steal the 2000 election & diminish the democracy. Eagleburger is a marginal partisan player & Haig is the nut who tried to take over when Reagan got shot.

Look forward to another tough week for McCain.
After you look at the clip from "Meet the Press", I'm sure you'll agree that Obama should really have been the second African-American United States President.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Sarah Palin's Assertions re Obama


Mih namesake on a roll!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Rafique Shah: Vision and visionaries to steer us through crisis

At some point, I feel I may just put an active running list of Raffique Shah's latest articles in the sidebar of the blog.  Today, on the impact of looming economic collapse in the developed world, he writes:
Here in the Caribbean we have much to worry about: our biggest worry must be the Government and many financial wizards telling us we have nothing to worry about! All around companies and countries are falling into financial pits-but we must rest easy.

Put our faith in [Prime Minister] Patrick Manning and [Central Bank Governor] Ewart Williams and [Finance Minister] Karen Nunez-Tesheria. They will see us through this global crisis, manage our funds wisely, keep us insulated from a world ravaged by rising poverty even in developed countries (don't even bother to add poorer states). Well, I have news for the Prime Minister and the genial Central Bank Governor, who, to be fair to him, has sounded some alarm bells within recent times...
Shah's article in today's Sunday Express can be found at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_opinion?id=161383638

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Was the PM protecting lawbreakers?

I borrow my caption today from Reginald Dumas' Saturday Express opinion piece.

There were several major and unfortunate statements made by the Prime Minister in the speaking time that he managed to appropriate recently.  The Cleaver Woods Project matter is one that will sort itself out mathematically, or not.  It appears to be the beginning of another tale of woe involving Emile Elias and NH International.  In the earlier matter of Landate/Landsend and the Scarborough Hospital, Dr. Rowley and family had been subsequently vindicated, but many questions still remain about the contractor's practices.  Issued under the cover of Parliamentary privilege, like many other allegations there cast, this item may never go any further.

The statement that worries me however is the allegation that an Opposition member had irregular and improper (illegal?) access to confidential Integrity Commission files and documents four years ago, and that the Prime Minister not only knew, but that there was proof of the infraction and he decided to hold onto that intelligence.

Which "security agency" was asked to look into the matter really is immaterial; SAUTT has since declared in writing that it was not them.  It could have been officers of the Police, the investigative arm of the Army, or a private security firm.  In the latter case, there are questions of admissibility of evidence dependent on how proof was obtained.  The fact is that there was proof and it may have been possible to build a criminal case against the sitting Member of Parliament for Siparia and leading United National Congress member.

Four years ago though would have put this alleged infraction square in the middle of both the Basdeo Panday Integrity trial, a matter in which Kamla was involved as defense counsel, and former Chief Justice Sat Sharma's attempted impeachment and criminal prosecution.  It was a time in the country's history where, once again, there were loud cries that people of East Indian descent were being persecuted, at this point by direct action of the Government of the day.  Had the Prime Minister turned what he had discovered over to the Police or Director of Public Prosecutions, MP Persad-Bissessar would have been added to the list of high-raking ranking East Indians in the country facing prosecution, and possibly fines and imprisonment.

Frankly, it would have been a move considered politically expedient to keep this additional affair quiet, especially with the amount of international attention that both the Panday and Sharma matters, particularly the latter, had already received.  The Prime Minister would have had a serious choice to make.  He would either have to:

  1. permit MP Persad-Bissessar to continue on unaware that anyone knew what she was doing, 
  2. pull her up privately, then embroiling himself further in matters that it was already being said that he had too much involvement, or
  3. say that the Devil may care what the public and international community thinks and turn the evidence over for the lady to be prosecuted for her alleged crime.

It's clear at this late stage that - unless Mrs. Persad-Bissessar comes forward and admits to a conversation with PM Manning, thus implicating herself - that he chose option 1.

This begs the question though, that if it were politically expedient to "protect" Kamla Persad-Bissessar then as he indicated, why raise the matter now?

The fact is though that the matter has been raised, and in the public interest, there are machinations that we must and absolutely must now go through.

Firstly, the evidence of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar's alleged infraction and that of her alleged informer must be produced and turned over to the relevant authorities.  If this is not done, then the Prime Minister should face censure before the Privileges Committee of the Parliament.  I say "should" here because I am not familiar with the Standing Orders, but in my personal view, criminal allegations should not be covered by Parliamentary privilege.

Secondly, if evidence of the alleged infraction is produced and it is sufficient to build a case and have a charge or charges laid, then the Member for Siparia must defend herself against such properly laid charge in a Court of Law.

It matters not what people's opinions of Patrick Manning the man are.  There is an allegation on the table for which there may be supporting evidence.  Manning's levels of arrogance and intelligence are nothing but red herrings in a very grave matter, and focus on those is diversionary.

It is unfortunate for him though that he puts this into the public domain, because he's now beholden to follow up.  Protecting the MP for Siparia ended the instant the Prime Minister opened his mouth and put voice to what he claims to know.
ADDENDUM: The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives are available for download at http://parliament.gov.tt/publications.php?mid=33

EDIT: "raking" corrected to read "ranking".

Saturday, September 20, 2008

JAMAICA OBSERVER: Oh Caricom, my frenemy. I trusted but you did not deliver!

Franklin Johnston writing in the Jamaica Observer on the topic of Caribbean integration and touching on the Southern Caribbean's attempts at unification:
I love the Caribbean, and as a youth I spent time using a loudspeaker to promote the West Indies Federation. Today, I have a love-hate thing with Caricom. I love the hype, but it has not delivered. After 40 years we can't move freely and cheaply; we can't work and we can't bid contracts in any Caricom country as a right. I notice that Trinidad and their close neighbours are to form an Eastern Caribbean coalition. They are in the heart of Caricom, so this tells me that after 35 years, their needs are still not met. I wish them well! When you embrace neighbours and your friends cuss you, something is amiss. This is the act of a "frenemy". When your house is on fire, you don't call the friend who lives four hours away by plane. Why does Trinidad's neighbourly behaviour threaten Caricom?
The rest of the article can be found in the Jamaica Observer and has been reprinted in the Saturday Express.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On Sarah Palin... and my wishing that people wrote like this here...

I got a forward in my email today and after checking it out, realised that it really made for some good reading.

I've not asked the lady's permission to re-post her email here, so I've posted a link to a site that did below.  I must say that I wish myself that we had clear, concise and relatively impartial information like this in Trinidad and Tobago on which to judge issues... not the kind of anonymous lies, half-truths and innuendo typically trumpeted under the cover of parliamentary privilege, copy having been deposited by unknown persons in MPs' mailboxes... not the barely-believable politically-biased fluff... not convenient utterances from people looking to divert attention from their own shenanigans... just good information from relatively credible sources.

Maybe one day we'll mature enough as a people to recognize it for what it is when it did pop up and not discard it because it's not bacchanalish enough...

Full text of Anne Kilkenny's email message about Sarah Palin, Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, is at the Huffington Post here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

SLATE: If Obama Loses...


...racism is the only reason that McCain might beat him...
You may or may not agree with Obama's policy prescriptions, but they are, by and large, serious attempts to deal with the biggest issues we face: a failing health care system, oil dependency, income stagnation, and climate change. To the rest of the world, a rejection of the promise he represents wouldn't just be an odd choice by the United States. It would be taken for what it would be: sign and symptom of a nation's historical decline.
Full commentary on the topic from Slate's Jacob Weisberg here...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

25,000 Hits and Counting...

Some time during the day on Tuesday, my site counter registered unique hit number 25,000.

Now this is not a completely accurate reflection of readership for a number of reasons.  For starters, the site counter wasn't installed until well after Keith in Trinidad got going, and persons do get my posts via email subscription and as forwards without having to visit the site.  But 25,000 pairs of eyeballs is still a major milestone no matter how you count it or where you count it from.

It's been more than two years since the site went live in April of 2006.   It was intended to be a simple outlet for my writing but it quickly became my soapbox with the republishing of "We wore black... What next...?" later in the same month.

At this point, I would like to humbly thank all my quiet supporters and my more vocal readers.  Even though I don't write as often as I'd like to, it has been and continues to be both fun and personally edifying to produce and share with you all.

Again, many thanks for your clicks, forwards and comments.

With warm regards,
Keith

Monday, July 28, 2008

18 years ago today...


Eighteen years ago Monday, I was on day one of six days locked inside my parents' home in Diamond Vale.

When Yasin Abu Bakr announced on TTT the evening before that he had taken over the country, my father had closed the door and said that no-one was going outside.  I can remember Emmett Hennessy on the radio.  I remember, and still shudder when I think about it, The Little Mermaid being broadcast over and over and over again on TV over the course of the next five days.  I remember that the video wasn't working, so all our videotapes were useless for entertainment purposes.  I remember the phone lines giving trouble.  I remember using precious phone uptime, much to my parents' chagrin, trying to find out whether my then girlfriend - who was on a camp somewhere in the back of oho-e-oho - was okay...

Eighteen years later, it's all very vague, very jumbled...

I remember, in the aftermath and in subsequent months and years, being patently upset that a group of men could commit treason and live.  I remember the drama that it took just to get jurors to sit on the case.  I wish I could remember who defended the insurrectionists in the Chaguaramas Court...

I remember feeling more than a little sick at the idea that all the looting could actually be considered a process of income re-distribution.  I remember too finding it very interesting that Port of Spain rebounded as quickly as it did...

Two decades later and there are still so many things, so many unanswered questions...

Didn't somebody smell a rat when young people suddenly found it cool to be a member of the Jamaat, an organisation with ties to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya?  Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly, but couldn't somebody tell that something was wrong when all the Jamaat's women headed off in one direction and the men headed off in another that Friday afternoon?  Maybe it's nothing strange to be away from the Parliament Chamber on a Friday, but why were so many MPs away anyway?  Who was responsible for letting the containers that carried the weapons into the Jamaat pass our borders?  Who are the bank chicks that got caught on camera breaking shop windows to steal jewellery?  How many businesses inflated their losses to get higher insurance payments?  Who was the Police Officer that reputedly took off his shirt when the first bullets went off and ran out of town?  Did they have anything but The Little Mermaid to show on TV?  Did the Army really beat as many people mercilessly as Trinis had reported during the curfew period?  Who authorised Curfew Parties?  Who knew that it was coming?  Who sat back and watched it play out having had advance notice?  What advance notice did who have?  Could anyone have done anything at all?

So many questions remain unanswered eighteen years later...

What now then?  Do we engage a Commission of Inquiry to look into the 1990 Insurrection?  Do we go on the hunt for an eminent jurist that everybody in the House can agree on, as well as a distinguished panel to hear testimonies and allegations of the events of the July 27th, 1990?  Do we rent a location large enough and suitable, hire support staff, and engage legal counsel in order to collate information from various persons and circles to eventually compile a hardbound tome chronicling events of two decades ago?  Couldn't an eminent historian or even an investigative journalist with a distinguished career do the same for less?

But what really are we looking into?  Do we have a specific allegation or allegations to investigate?  What will be the Commission's terms of reference?  Or are they just to freewheel?  Are we looking at a specific person or persons as we did in the Piarco Airport Terminal Inquiry or the coming UDECOTT Inquiry?  Do we have a location to examine, and contracts and building arrangements to look into as we did with the Biche High School Inquiry?

According to someone dear to me, isn't this whole Commission of Inquiry arrangement just a placebo, something to make us feel better while doing little to nothing at all?  In my opinion, it's worse than that, frankly, because in doing nothing, we're also going to be spending a lot of money to achieve little.  And subsequently, we will complain about how much money was spent to engage and execute a Commission of Inquiry with little return.

When we do engage this Trinbagonian panacea, this universal miracle cure-all for all our ills, all we do is provide an expensive avenue for people to sit in camera and launch allegations which are then questioned and documented.  Recommendations are then forwarded to Cabinet or President in a form that is not even necessarily actionable.  And then all a body need do, per precedent set, is file for judicial review to prevent President or Cabinet from acting, pending the results of some obscure thing or other.

So eighteen years later, what's our remedy really?  At the end of a six-month to year-long inquiry, after millions of dollars are spent, do we anticipate that we'll have a crime that we can successfully charge someone with other than that which the insurrectionists should have hanged for?  Or will we have a document full of he-said-she-said that couldn't stand in the face of basic rules of evidence?

If someone does have something holding strong enough to support a charge, why not take it to the Police or the DPP for investigation?  Is the statute of limitations on any such crime up?  Why duck down behind "alleged" and "reputed"?  Why hide behind veils of Parliamentary Privilege?  Why toss ancient red herrings around if you still have something holding eighteen years later?  Are you, herring-tosser, fooling anybody?  Are we fooling ourselves?  Are we feeling better by throwing blame around at no-one in particular for something that happened 20-odd years ago?  Are we hoping that if we throw everything at the wall that maybe something will stick?  Does someone have something that dastardly to hide?  Even if a Commission were engaged, who is to say that the people who would deny any allegations made in a Court of Law would not make the same denial before the Commission?

Eighteen years later, and there are still so many questions...

POSTSCRIPT: Let it not be said that I feel no sympathy for those who died and the many who were injured during the insurrection and in its aftermath.  Let it not be said that I do not empathise with the survivors.  But what we do next after all this time has to make sense.  Like everything else, we need to think through the hows and whys and determine incisive objectives of our next actions.  Otherwise, to wax colloquiol, we're just spinning top in mud... again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When greed leads to grief - Raffique Shah

While you wait for me to write, read Raffique Shah's piece from the Sunday Express of July 27th, 2008.
THE dovetailing of two incidents last week laid bare reasons why, in spite of its immense potential, this country seems to be destined for self-destruction. First, there was the execution of a reputed gang leader, Mervyn "Cudjoe" Allamby, in Aranjuez. Note I did not use the generic name Cudjoe, an Anglicised version of the African name that even those who bear it are unaware of. It's a bastardisation similar to Cuffie or Cuffy, the African root being "Kofi", and among Indians, "Maha-beer", a European version of "Maha-bir".

But back to Cudjoe's killing: that he was supposedly lured into his death-trap following another double murder is testimony to two aspects of underworld living-and-dying. One is the ease with which gangsters and gang leaders are "taken out", often by their accomplices who know them well. And the other is the brazen manner in which such killings occur, the killers confident they can commit serial offences without police intervention. It's the same with bandits who commit serial robberies, again knowing police response time allows them to escape unscathed. Acting CoP Philbert may want to look at this gaping loophole in crime fighting and try to plug it.

Following Cudjoe's death, a mass of people from the East-West Corridor erupted in spontaneous sympathy that was mixed with seething anger and a genuine sense of loss.

Why was there this outpouring of grief over the death of a man who seems to have been both feared and loved in the communities that knew him, felt his touch? Listening to many people comment on Cudjoe's life, the majority of them wondered who would give them money and material things he did.

A few admitted he'd led a life of crime but suggested he had "turned his life around", that he was now a peace-maker, not a law-breaker. Having sifted the many comments I heard or read, I deduced that Cudjoe will be missed mainly for the material things he doled out to those for whom a dollar is a dollar, matters not where it came from.

That people can be so insensitive to those who suffered or died in order for them to enjoy handouts, defies explanation. I have repeatedly written about bandits and thieves not adorning themselves with tonnes of stolen gold-which suggests others, including "respectable" jewellers, benefit from banditry. Parents know their children are robbing hapless people. But as long as they benefit, they accept the loot. How many more hide guns-hell, maybe even corpses-for their criminal offspring? So while crimes are committed by a handful of criminals, their support-bases are huge, driven not so much by poverty as by naked greed.

The other event of note was the collapse of the Hindu Credit Union (HCU). I know little of the early development of this institution, which existed for years before Harry Harnarine became the driving force behind its rapid expansion. Harry must take credit for moving the HCU from a hole-in-the-wall operation to the empire into which he transformed it. But by similar token, he must also shoulder blame for its demise. What bothers me is that it did not take a Harvard whiz to see where Harry was going wrong. This country suffered from the collapse of many big financial institutions in the 1980s, all because of poor financial strategies and management.

Financial institutions that accept short-term deposits at higher-than-average interest rates, but use the money garnered in long-term investments, tread on very dangerous waters. That is what happened to Harry and the HCU. Having cornered people's money by offering eye-popping returns, he soon acquired almost the entire thriving borough of Chaguanas. He bought everything in sight, and much out of sight. The HCU offered property owners way above what they expected to get for their properties, so they sold and the HCU acquired.

As he went on to spread his wings into ventures not normal for credit unions, he soon saw himself-and was seen by others-as King of Central Trinidad (sorry, Mayor Suruj: you didn't quite make the cut!). He ventured into commercial enterprises, supermarkets, media houses, plans-for-housing, and more. His empire, much like Cudjoe's, attracted greedy people from high-to-low, especially when he lured them with bigger bucks they'd ever seen. I was amazed at the calibre of people I saw kow-towing to this "Rajah", addressing him as "Mr. President". Harry had arrived into the stratosphere of society. Or so he thought.

A fool could have told him and his fawning followers that the HCU was a disaster-in-the-making. But greed blinds the greedy to the perils of their folly. Now that "Mr. President" has been evicted from his palace, I don't know that he has learned anything. And I fear the foolish have lost everything.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TRINIDAD EXPRESS: Father's Day for Lost Boys

B.C. Pires in the Trinidad Express of June 20th, 2008:
TWO weekends ago, a young man-who had to have had a father of his own-in the course of murdering yet another father, deliberately shot dead five-month-old Zion Jones, cradled in his target's arms, thereby creating the ideal poster baby for the new Trinidad (same as the old one), where all that matters is money and a rank we imagine makes us more than a gaggle of slaves...
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_opinion?id=161341707

Friday, May 30, 2008

TRINIDAD EXPRESS: West Indian Arrival Day

Read it once, read it twice, then put it down, come back later and read it again...
THE TUESDAY EXPRESS front page picture showed inmates of the Maximum Security Prison, in a cardboard Fatel Razack, the ship that brought the first sub-continental Indians to Trinidad in 1845, the 163rd anniversary of which we celebrate today, Indian Arrival Day; and the picture says more than we might care to admit about just where we've reached.

It could hardly be me alone, e.g., who noticed the captain in his peaked cap, white shirt and epaulettes (did they rob a coast guardsman?)-was fair-skinned. (Venezuelan? Part Chinese, perhaps? Certainly typecast.) One inmate-in the coolest darkers the year 1845 ever saw-was reefing the mainsail (though one-third the size of the foresail, itself rigged as spinnaker). Another man wore an ohrni, the headscarf of Hindu women (obviously a method actor). He/she, the lone female outnumbered ten-to-one, was consigned to the stern-and that (plus the absence of a bogus Brahmin in the bows, "attending to the spiritual needs of the noble, hardworking immigrants" Ã la advertising copy) was the closest anything celebrating Indian Arrival in Trinidad has come to historical accuracy.

The very vehicle of the presentation-the paper boat, impossible to carry anyone anywhere (except to Davy Jones' locker, swiftly)-was the most lucid front page illustration of ourselves I've seen since I was part of the editorial team that ran the photograph of the bodiless head held aloft on page one of the 1998 New Year's Day issue of The Independent.

On Tuesday, I was persuaded I was wrong about that photograph by one scene from A Mighty Heart, Michael Winterbottom's distressing film about the American journalist Daniel Pearl; in the scene, Angelina Jolie, as Pearl's widow, Mariane-amazing in the role-is asked by an interviewer whether she has seen the video of her husband being beheaded; she stares at him and says, "Have you no decency, to ask me that?" On Old Year's Day, 1998, I thought our horrendous picture might shock Trinidad awake; ten years and a thousand murders later, I regret having upset that man's loved ones for what Trinidad has proven to be no good purpose; and am having second thoughts about having used, last February, the name of a young suicide as the springboard for columns protesting the cruelty of religious doctrine.

And so this place makes me laugh even as I wipe the tears away; you could say it cracks me up, for I am in the same boat as the rest of the country for the last 500 years and the Maximum Security Prison inmates last Tuesday: any self-refection necessarily and quickly leads to self-abnegation; you could not just die laughing in Trinidad-you could kill yourself doing it.

That's why Trinis would rather put their hands in the air every chance they get than their finger or their own pulse even once; because we might feel the fibrillation. Twenty years ago, David Rudder, in "Madness" sang out lyrics that still collapse me with as much laugh as cry: "The short union man turn and tell the Tactical/ "Shoot we while we wine/ Because, Comrade, we not leaving here until half-past nine!" Shoot we while we wine, indeed. Or shoot a picture of us, criminals all, "reenacting" (really "staging") an ugly past as a pretty modern holiday. Everyone will remark how well the convicts did with only Bristol board and imagination, just like the kiddies in the primary school Carnival competitions. Count the paid advertisements in this paper; calculate the money behind the outright lies to which, every year, we solemnly rededicate ourselves: the nobility of the East Indian immigrant (don't mind the scrunt in the Motherland that made the kala pani a bush-bath); the Brahmins by birth (not boat); the indefatigable Hindu pride (that even today values a fair skin and a fat wallet higher than honesty); the hardship endurable only by superior beings (i.e., untouchables). Recall the Emancipation Day ads that simultaneously applaud Africans for maintaining family structures even as they chastise slavery for breaking families apart; and consider that any white Trini in West Mall could explain you that the country going down the drain becaw white people not in charge again! Indian Trinidadians with money-like their Syrian, African, Potogee and Chinee counterparts-would bankroll indefinitely the most ludicrous fantasy rather than count the cost of ignoring our reality.

See us create opportunities (like today) to look at ourselves. See us revealed by a jailhouse skit; but hear us applaud the few gallerying in the cardboard boat or Cabinet and watch our blindness to the rows and rows and rows of criminals in blue shirts lining the ramparts in the background. Watch us all miss the glaringly obvious: if we have progressed from slave society at all, we've got only as far as penal colony.

But, by an irony as subtle as a Chanderpaul tickle to fine leg, the thought of the transformation of a penal colony reminds me today is also the first day of the second Digicel Test v Australia. I don't know what those other famously unpatriotic West Indians, Cozier & Fazeer, will predict (turn to the Sports pages to find out), but I suspect the West Indies might well play a Test match. Forget the official proceedings at the Divali Nagar (unless Ken Ramchand or Brinsley Samaroo are involved). Shiv, Chris, Dwayne, Ramnaresh & Them might today-self begin the journey to a real West Indian Arrival Day.

BC Pires is run out of space. You can email your no-balls to him at bcmaverick@tstt.net.tt

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trinidad Express: Caught up in Consumerism

From today's Express, a letter by Stephen Chan. Echoes of the 1980's?

There are many contributing factors to inflation, but the root of the problem is that demand far outweighs supply.

But when you examine the situation objectively you should be able to see major contributing factors, such as huge tax cuts, our ever-increasing laziness. And what about our increasing demand for all things foreign?

If you do some simple mathematics you should be able to account for approximately $800 million in increased consumer spending over a two-year period.

This is a direct result of reducing taxation on the vast middle class. If you couple this with the induced need for a majority of foreign products one can see where local industry has suffered because of increased imports.

Maybe Mr. Robinson had it right when he implemented a black list. Back then we did well without apples, grapes and Kelloggs. The question is, once we have experienced these imported guilty pleasures can we go back to doing without them? Can we go back to paying $800 million in tax? Can we do without cable TV and the various foreign icons of consumerism? Maybe we can, and as a bonus we can win back our children as well, because there would be no more foreign wayward children on the television for our own children to want to emulate.

Stephen Chan

San Juan

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Raffique Shah: Reasons for runaway food price$ in T&T

As usual, reasoned and reasonable, Raffique Shah writes in Wednesday's Express - prior to the viral "the real increase in the price of doubles is 5 cents" email - on the reasons that food prices are increasing globally.

The journalist and agriculturalist synopsizes much that has been written and said by commentators all over the world, and puts the topic into local and regional context.

As always, he's a good read and I'll try to pick up his continuation to this article in the week ahead.
If anything, the announcement last week by the National Flour Mills (NFM) that flour prices will rise up to 39 per cent, should sensitise people to the gravity of the food crisis that faces the world.

The unbridled, and, for us, uncontrollable rise in basic food prices, are compelling reasons why tropical countries that do not produce wheat should look to cassava and corn flour as viable alternatives.

Countries like Trinidad and Tobago need to produce more of what we eat, and eat more of what we produce.

The cassava flour initiative by the TTABA is one small step in this direction.

The flour can be used by itself for making a range of edible substitutes for wheat flour dishes. Or, as is more often the case, it is blended with wheat flour to enable consumers to enjoy the best of both crops.

While a mix of ten per cent cassava flour with 90 per cent wheat flour is seen as standard in countries where consumers have developed a taste for the latter grain, experts postulate that the mix can be 30/70, thus further cutting costs of skyrocketing wheat.

If consumers need a kick in the palate to understand just how serious the food crisis is, and why there is an urgent need to alter our basic food choices, current and projected wheat prices ought to do the trick.

In 2004, this country bought 240,000 tonnes of the grain at an average price of US$190 per tonne.

That cost us US$26.5 million.

Today, high quality "spring wheat" prices hover around US$800 per tonne.

A recent Financial Times article stated: "Spring wheat at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange surged an unprecedented $4.75 to a record high of $24 a bushel (60 pounds) as consumers scrambled to secure supplies and speculators poured fresh money into the agriculture market."

Other, lower quality wheat prices stand at around US$360 per tonne, almost a 100 per cent increase from 2004.

The Christian Science Monitor reported last week: "Flour manufacturers are raising prices by at least 30 per cent or more. Since the beginning of the year, bread in t he supermarket has risen anywhere from ten to 30 cents a loaf. Wegmans, a grocery chain based in Rochester, NY, says it has raised prices on packaged breads from ten to 50 cents."

What both these reports spell out is that the price of the staple we cannot do without, wheat flour, has risen by 400 per cent.

Moreover, supplies are short for many reasons (bad crops in countries like India and Pakistan, un-seasonal weather affecting huge swaths of the US grain belt).

In her 'case for cassava' paper, TTABA's Omaira Rostant projected annual savings of around US$15 million through usage of ten per cent cassava flour.

Now it seems prudent to look at the "30 per cent" mix, which will mean savings of US$60 million and upward.

Another commodity that is competing with wheat in so far as price increase goes is rice. Here the story is similar, according to the Times report: "In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily. Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per ton, a nearly 30 per cent rise from a month ago."

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Keith Rowley, said at last Thursday's Cabinet media briefing that Guyana, our prime source for rice, has indicated, not surprisingly, it intends to raise its rice prices.

A similar pattern holds true for our other 'big ticket' imported foods. Among these are (in metric tonnes with 2004 unit prices in US dollars, and current prices where data is available):

- Soybeans: 75,000 at $342,

now around $470

- Sugar: (raw for processing into white sugar, some exported to Caricom countries): 84,000 at $250, now around $220

- Cheese: 7,000 at $3,000,

now around $3,700

- Dry whole milk: 6,000 at $2,600,

now around $3,000

- Maize: 112,000 at $139, now $180

- Rice: 70,000 at $300, now $340

- Soya Oil: 13,000 at $750, now $800

- Beef: 4,000 at $2,500

What the galloping increases in prices of these commodities indicate is there will be no let-up on consumers' pockets.

Commenting on how these will affect people worldwide, The Economist stated: "According to the International Grains Council, a trade body based in London, this year's (2007) total cereals crop will be 1.66 billion tonnes, the largest on record and 89m tonnes more than last year's harvest, another bumper crop. That the biggest grain harvest the world has ever seen is not enough to forestall scarcity prices tells you that something fundamental is affecting the world's demand for cereals.

"One is increasing wealth in China and India. This is stoking demand for meat in those countries, in turn boosting the demand for cereals to feed to animals. Higher incomes in India and China have made hundreds of millions of people rich enough to afford meat and other foods. In 1985 the average Chinese consumer ate 20kg (44lb) of meat a year; now he eats more than 50kg. China's appetite for meat may be nearing satiation, but other countries are following behind: in developing countries as a whole, consumption of cereals has been flat since 1980, but demand for meat has doubled."

Trinidad and Tobago is a meat-crazy country.

The biggest 'cut' is in poultry, which we produce on a large scale, so much so we are self-sufficient.

But even the poultry industry is susceptible to grain price increases since all feeds are based on imported grain.

Our beef stock has dwindled over the years, and with consumers increasingly developing a taste for high-end beef, lamb and pork, we remain at the mercy of rising global demand for these meats.

"Calorie for calorie, you need more grain if you eat it transformed into meat than if you eat it as bread: it takes three kilograms of cereals to produce a kilo of pork, eight for a kilo of beef," according to The Economist. The other factor that has impacted on food prices is the massive drive, worldwide, to convert grains and other crops to fuels. Biofuels have siphoned huge amounts of foods. "In 2000 around 15m tonnes of America's maize crop was turned into ethanol; this year (2007) the quantity is likely to be around 85m tonnes. America is easily the world's largest maize exporter-and it now uses more of its maize crop for ethanol than it sells abroad.According to the World Bank, the grain needed to fill up an SUV would feed a person for a year."

The Economist concluded: "In other words, were food prices to stay more or less where they are today, it would be a radical departure from a past in which shoppers and farmers got used to a gentle decline in food prices year in, year out. It would put an end to the era of cheap food. And its effects would be felt everywhere, but especially in countries where food matters most."

Dr Rowley, at the media briefing, alluded to a serious decline in grain stocks. On March 11, 2008, the USDA reduced its estimate of 2007-2008 US ending stocks from 272 to 242 million bushels, the lowest in 61 years.

The result is a US ending stocks to use ratio at ten per cent.

Worldwide, the USDA is expecting 2007-2008 ending stocks to fall from 125 to 110 million tons, or 18 per cent of annual use.

With such a bleak picture of the future of food prices, and given Trinidad and Tobago's heavy dependence on imported foods, there are many more reasons why we should stimulate local food production.

More than that, people will need to make choices about what they eat.

Cassava flour, which is but one of scores of alternatives to wheat flour, is one small step in the right direction.

There are many more-corn, pigeon peas, other root crops that provide carbohydrates, local fruits, and the food we are most competent at growing, vegetables.

Next week I shall revert to focusing on how we can fight-and win-the war on high food prices.

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Prison not make to ripe fig"


People will hear many unsubstantiated rumours about prison and prison life. We get a lot of what we think we know about prison from television, whether fictionalised accounts like HBO's Oz and Fox's Prison Break, or from various National Geographic and MSNBC specials.

A former Prime Minister who has so far avoided lengthy incarceration gave us the caption to this post when speaking about local prisons. And on the odd occasion, one will hear prisoners and prisons officers let something slip about life on the inside.

A news story this weekend though provides a telling idea of how horrifying prison in Trinidad and Tobago must be. The Express' Jensen LaVende in covering the Magistrates Court published a story of a prisoner who would rather die than go to prison, ironically, to die. Emphasis here is mine.

THE stench of blood lingered in the Port of Spain Tenth Magistrate's Court Room on Thursday, long after a bleeding prisoner was dragged off by police, kicking and screaming, to the holding cell.

Randy Mason was so disturbed that he was remanded into custody after Magistrate Andrew Stroude revoked his bail, that he slammed his head three times into the wooden walls of the courtroom.

Mason, of Sixth Avenue, Barataria, was out on bail for possession of a firearm and ammunition and appeared in court on Thursday.

Everything appeared calm until Stroude said that Mason would be going to jail.

Mason asked Stroude for a phone call to inform his family. Stroude complied and ordered that this be done. Mason then begged Stroude to have mercy on him and let him go home.

"They would kill me if ah go up dey, they go stab me. Mr Stroude, yuh go read about me," he cried as court officers tried to handcuff him to take him down to the holding cell to await transfer to prison.

He then threw himself on the ground and continuously begged not to go to jail. Mason slammed his head into the wooden prisoner's dock twice. He did it a third time on the wall at the back of the courtroom, and again in the corridor used by court officials while shouting of "ah rather dead".

There were clots of blood and a long bloody trail leading down to the holding cell after Mason was finally taken downstairs. Mason was taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital and then to prison.

He is expected to reappear on April 4.

If a man would rather smash his own skull than go to prison, one can begin to understand why a bandit will do literally anything to avoid incarceration, including murder potential witnesses.

The incident puts paid to something I've heard over and over of late: that the young criminal isn't afraid to die, but they 'fraid jail bad bad bad.

It begs the question though, why doesn't that fear stop them from getting into criminal activity in the first place?

Perhaps they begin with a sense of invulnerability when they're young and feel that they will never get caught.

It's possible that prison life is so horrific that no one ever tells them what it's really like in clear and graphic terms. Maybe then when they get a first taste for themselves, they swear that they will never go back.

Either way, things need to get to a stage where prison becomes part of a set of deterrents from engaging in criminal activity, rather than the raw impetus for finding ways - legal and illegal - to avoid incarceration.

The matter here isn't unique to Trinidad and Tobago, nor is it restricted to our own lower classes. One only needs consider the time, money and effort exhausted by our own alleged white collar criminals to avoid even a day in Court, and to evade extradition to foreign jurisdictions.

Lying, cheating, stealing, twisting the law, and delaying justice are all fair methods it would seem to avoid prison. One wonders how soon it will be before we find that one of the upper crust has taken a life - directly or indirectly - to avoid jail time...

But as Slate's Daniel Gross notes, the motivations of the rich might not be that much different from those of the poor in any case.

Monday, March 10, 2008

JAMAICA GLEANER: Living "a foreign" no bed of roses

It was a letter to the editor of the Jamaica Gleaner. It was not only too sweet to let pass, but also put quite a bit of perspective on a topic or two that I've been pondering.

Readers must note that Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago compare favourably on several levels. As such, I've taken the liberty of replacing "Jamaica" and "Jamaicans" in the letter's text with Trinbagonian equivalents to give a different reading. No disrespect to Tobago is intended but the text unfortunately seems to read more smoothly with "Trinidad" and "Trinis". That though is for a whole other topic of discussion.

All the same, change the name and the sentiment remains. And I'm sure that many a foreign-based Trinbagonian will agree with the Jamaican writer that life at home is indeed sweet.
The Editor: Sir,

Growing up in [Trinidad], I often heard the phrase uttered by many that 'foreign is no bed of roses' I used to get angry at individuals who, in my mind were only saying this to discourage other [Trinis] from going to America, giving them the impression that life is difficult there. Up to this point where I am now living and working in the United States (US), no one could tell me that life was not much better here than in [Trinidad]. In fact, living in America was my dream and no doubt the dream of countless [Trinis] who still hold on to the notion that America is still the best place to live.

I will not for a minute deny that there may be more and better opportunities for young people here. However, people must realise that opportunities must be sought wherever you are. It will not just come and fall in your lap. I must also admit and make it clear that you have to work twice even three times as hard here as you would the same job in [Trinidad]. "[Ah] neva work so hard [in mih] life!"

A different experience

Living in the US is a completely different experience. Would I come back to [Trinidad] to live now? Absolutely! I now realise that indeed foreign is no bed of roses as I used to hear others say and do I agree! For me and I guess for many [Trinis] living here, I feel like I am not living, merely existing. Life is or can be very monotonous and downright depressing. Especially if you live in those states affected by winter. Frankly, this place is not fit for human habitation in winter. Try spending a day in your freezer and you will know what I am talking about!

I guess what I am trying to say is that I would rather be in [Trinidad], with all the crime and violence, with all the so-called poverty and everything else that others seems to be running from. There is no place like home. America is not for everyone. If I knew that I would still be extremely homesick after eight years living in the States, that I would feel so incomplete and yearning to return home every given minute, I probably would have made a different decision about relocating. I would have stayed in my country and made the best of my life and my situation. I would have been more grateful being a [Trini] and living in [Trinidad]. I wouldn't be so critical of everything, and eager to leave.

A blessed country

[Trinidad] is, as we say, a blessed country. There is this sense of freedom and happiness that you experience there. I am not saying that there isn't a lot of problems and that things are not very difficult for many [Trinis]. What I am saying is that it is not much different here in the US, Life is just as difficult for many, especially if you do not have a skill or a career. You have to fight and work just as hard to make ends meet and to be successful.

My advice to the average [Trini] that still thinks that America is the answer to their problems is that you are in for a rude awakening. Work hard and build your country. Try to make a difference in whatever way you can. You have it good and you don't even know it. [Trinidad] is still the best place on Earth to live. Ask any [Trini] living a foreign.

I am, etc.,

[Name removed. If yuh fas' an' want to see, go an' check de Gleaner]

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Combating Global Warming


Click on the preview image to see the full size mind map. It outlines strategies that you can undertake personally to combat global warming.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Shivonne Du Barrry's Ramblings and Reason: Portrait of a Criminal

On Monday, in her blog Ramblings and Reason, Shivonne Du Barry wrote:
If we were to take stock, I am certain we would realise that our elite criminals swindle more money and cause more death and harm each year than all of the gun toting youths who are the objects of our collective ire combined....

Some people are too scared to walk the streets in broad daylight these days. They are afraid of the criminals in their midst and understandably so I suppose. But they smile and shake hands and look admiringly at some of the worst criminals and don’t even recognise them. It’s about time, I think, that we start seeing some new faces splattered across the front pages of newspapers or being hidden in shame while their owners are led to court. And it’s about time, I think, that we revise our idea of a criminal to include not only the baggy jeans wearing but the suit-clad as well.
Well said. Very well said.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Raffique Shah: One Caribbean, One Love

"...that short stint in [Jamaica] showed me why we need more than CSME. We need to bring our people closer together, not just facilitate traders. We have so much in common. We can achieve so much more through unity. One Caribbean. One love. Let's get together, as the prophet of reggae sang."

Friday, February 29, 2008

ttgapers.com: Hypa Hoppa calls for curb on violent music

A long time ago, he was a neat li'l fella coming to Sunday School in Diamond Vale with his sister. By all reports, he was even then a serious-minded and determined young man.

He entered the media space young, paid his dues, and broke from the establishment to forge his own path. Even so, he continues ever to show respect for those who went before him, both the deejays and the performers who gave him his love for the music and his industry.

He possesses an incredible humility for someone who has done as much as he has while still so young, knowing that even though he is one of the biggest names in the game, he's still "one ah we".

His social conscience and conscientiousness shine now as he takes a stand to do something I've advocated that our society's role models do for some time. And it might not seem like much now, but it's the trickle that could start a wave.

It's a move far more impacting than wearing black or driving with your headlights on all day. He makes a change in his own space, within his own sphere of control that he knows and we all know will likely make a big difference.
After the recent stabbing murder of 16 year old Shaquille Roberts, local DJ Kwesi "Hypa Hoppa" Hopkinson has called on his peers in the entertainment industry to take a stand against violent music. Artists mentioned in his call include popular dancehall artists Movado and Busy Signal as well as hip hop mogul 50 Cent.

Hopkinson, of Radioactive and RED 96.7 fame, in an interview with the Trinidad Express stated, "There is no doubt that the music is influencing the youths towards violence. Particularly an artiste like Movado who says he's a gangsta for life and has the youths emulating that lifestyle." Other individuals do not necessarily hold Hypa Hoppa's views on the matter while some are in total agreement"...

He continued to say that in his Afternoon Drive programme that no violent music will be played and is also urging other radio personalities to follow suit and set an example. Hopkinson is not calling for a ban against the music, but an exercise of caution when playing music on the national airwaves.
At a time where no-one seems willing to accept responsibility for anything anymore, it's refreshing and heartening to see this call.

The full text of the article on Hopkinson's appeal to his peers is available at http://www.ttgapers.com/Article1889.html.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Crisis of Leadeship: I want to feel Obama-mania

I want to be able to hear one of the immigrants flocking to Trinidad and Tobago's shores say something, anything like the video below about a leader here. Trinidadians and Tobagonians are so starved for real leadership that we've been willing to settle in various pockets for:
  • an arrogant,
  • a has-been playing at dictator,
  • an alleged criminal charged at various times with both white-collar and sexual offences,
  • a trouble maker who would sooner undo the country if he can't have his way with it,
  • a scamp likely looking for 1,000 times return on his electoral investment,
  • a battered woman who keeps coming back home for more licks...
Where is our great hope? Where is the one who will inspire the entire national (regional?) community under one purpose, once cause? Perhaps Barack is a model for one of our young politicos to follow... Rowley, Browne, Hypolite, Annisette-George, Lucky, M. Panday, Griffith, Dyer, Seetahal... will you shrug off the narrow expectations of your principals and be more than they imagined you would be, more than they want you to be? Will you burst the shackles of partisan politics and engender the universality that is enshrined in our anthem and pledge?

Will you be for us what Barack Obama means to them? Can I hope to sound like this guy anytime soon?


The video above was linked from the blog, Think On These Things - Research, Commentary, and News on the 2008 Presidential Election with a Pro-Obama Slant.

PS: Did you know that "Forged from the Love of Liberty" was intended
originally to be the anthem of the West Indies Federation?

Ah shoulda be in Antigua in Stanford Grounds...

Trinidad and Tobago Celebrates - Photograph by: Joseph Jones Photography
Photo courtesy Stanford2020.com

Ah did never like de set o' la couray dat Trinidad and Tobago success does bring. All de "fans" does come out o' wherever only when t'ing goin' good. When was de World Cup in Germany, ah did prefer to sit down in mih house wid a tall cup o' juice, loll off in mih Morris chair, takin' in de t'ing wid nobody aroun' to arkse mih nuttin'. Ah had de bes' seat in de house wid nobody red headdress in mih face, all de replay and close-ups and camera angles at mih disposal. Besides, it ent have nothing worse than when yuh concentratin' on de game an' some drunk jus'-come in de sports bar cyah find nobody but you to explain to dem what offside mean!

Last night wasn't no different. Dis time, de 20-20 final ketch mih on mih couch in mih unmentionables flickin' back an' forth between Miss Trinidad & Tobago and de Jamaica innings. But mih remote start to stick on TV6 when ah see Dave Mohammed bowl out Gayle at number five fuh a measely six runs! As de innings continue to unravel and de Jamaicans continue to be undone by We-Boys, ah tell mihself dem gyul an' dem could wait, oui...

91 runs! Dey couldn't even bat out dey 20 overs! Three whole over and two ball to spare!

Long as hell commercial break before We-Boys come back out to bat, an' ah could tell yuh ah feel it for Ramdin when he out. But small t'ing! He still make more dan half de Jamaica side could muster wid his eleven, wid ah six and ah four in de mix to boot!

But den Simmons an' Perkins settle een together and like dey tell deyself dey wasn't makin' de mistake dem Bajan boys make in de semis. Mohammed an' Emrit set de pace wid de bowlin'. Time fuh de batsmen to shine. Make de small score fast an' done de story. It ent have no waitin' an' takin' time in dat.

And is a batting exhibition from ball one against less dan stellar bowlin'! Fours an' sixes in a rage! All kinda fancy shot! Divin' forward an' over de shoulder... t'ing dat looking like ah West Indian immigrant's fanciful embellishment of Sobers at work against England in de 1950's.

At de end of it, Perkins raise his fifty. And Lendl do Uncle Phil damn proud, sloggin' a massive six to close the innings.

26 overs of play out of 40 to demolish the Jamaicans in Antigua!

Man of the Match for spin bowling. Play of the Match for Bravo on a run out. Two hundred thousand for de Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board. A cool million and championship rings for We-Boys...

And as ah watchin' de prizegiving, ah feelin' ah lil' pang. Ah shoulda be dey in Antigua in Stanford Grounds under lights.

Ah watch de fact dat de grounds was full of Trinbagonians and Jamaicans, and ah tellin' mihself ah never see nothing so, not before Sir Allen Stanford put money behind a West Indian institution - The Fete Match.

Bring the elder legends with the stories of glory days. Let people come and play who you would not have even thought of as cricketers. Limited overs with tight fielding, precision bowling and punishing batting... Complete cricket in a neat package, playable by and acceptable to all. And in these days when West Indies cricket is bereft of joy, the Stanford Tournament is a festival and a showcase of overlooked talent.

Whether the man has ulterior motives or he just has a love for the game as an adopted Caribbean citizen, Stanford is to be roundly thanked and commended. In two short years, he has done more for public passion over Caribbean cricket than the West Indian Boards has been able to muster. You can see it in the players. You can see it in the crowds. You can see it in him...

And for the first time in many a year, I felt like I should have been there...

Congratulations to Trinidad and Tobago, to Captain Daren Ganga and his team, on full success the second time around! May the boys tighten up where it is necessary, and may there be even greater success in future. May the West Indies selectors cease to overlook incisive spin bowling! May the future of the one-day and test batting attack be found in Trinidad and Tobago as our young batsmen grow from strength to strength.

Congrats to Sir Allen Stanford and his team on a second successful tournament. May he and the Antiguan Government host many, many more.

May the West Indies Cricket Board open their eyes and realize that there is far more of a talent pool available to them (including spin bowling!) than their current crop of recycled underachievers... but let me not get ahead of myself now. Perhaps some things are too much to ask.

===

A few things you might not have known about Sir Allen Stanford:
  • He was born on the island of St. Croix in 1950
  • He's the chairman, CEO and sole shareholder of the Stanford Financial Group, managing over US$43 billion in 136 countries on six continents
  • His personal net worth is estimated to be in excess of US$2 billion
  • He is committed to a variety of causes, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), and Inter-American Economic Council (IAEC), a group established by the Organization of American States which addresses economic development in the Western Hemisphere.
  • He has contributed in Antigua more than US$1.2 million to the construction of a modern public library, $25 million to the Secondary School of Excellence fund for youth, and made $10 million available in a revolving loan fund for small business entrepreneurs.
  • He has created and funded the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament in the West Indies, for which he built his own ground in Antigua.
  • Stanford was awarded a knighthood by Antigua and Barbuda in 2006, when he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation (Antigua and Barbuda)
Source: Wikipedia - Allen Stanford

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thoughts on assisting Guyana after Lusignan and Bartica

Guyana is now engaged with a guerilla army with no political motivation. The mass execution at Lusignan and murderous attack at Bartica were so violent that even the population of Jamaica, reputed murder capital of the Caribbean, would have leaned back, drawn a breath and muttered a collective b----claat!

Guyana is a Caribbean brother, and the Guyanese population in Trinidad increases daily - legally and illegally. The latter group can pose its own set of problems, given the attendant costs of dealing with illegal immigration, our country having become a safe haven for displaced foreign nationals.

The bigger problem now though is that it's not you and me alone looking on as these twenty-something men wreck havoc along the Essequibo. It's all of Trinidad and Tobago, including our ever-boldening miscreants, delinquents and reprobates.

Consequently, the faster and more efficiently that these attacks in Guyana can be snuffed is the faster the spirit behind them will be contained and near-assured copycatting across the Caribbean can be avoided.

Now, if these fellas get a chance to run, there's the distinct possibility that they won't head into Venezuela, Suriname or Brazil, Guyana's Western, Eastern and Southern neighbours. They may head right here to Trinidad where they will blend in with our diverse Afro-population, hiding out with some Afro-Guyanese higgler (or live-in housekeeper!) who has little love for Indo-Guyanese persons. Consider that several Trinidadian bandits have ended up in St. Vincent and Grenada to hide from the law. Read back your papers and you will see.

Our government has already committed weapons and a helicopter for air support. It might also be helpful to quietly send in some of our Sandhurst-trained commandoes to help President Jagdeo's defence force deal with these murderers strategically and incisively.

Personally, I'm glad that the offer to help was extended, and that in a spirit of Caribbean cooperation. We seem too to have the military capacity to do so. I'd like to think that if we were in a tight spot that our CARICOM neighbours would put out a helping hand too.

It's also my sincere hope that other Caribbean leaders step up and offer whatever they can. The Caribbean people have done it before for Grenada, Montserrat and Jamaica. There's no reason that we can't do it again now.

Perhaps though this can be the precursor to a properly organised Caribbean-based defence initiative which allows us to further reduce reliance on the metropole, and moves us one step closer, even through tragedy, to a single pan-Caribbean nation.

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