28 August 2005

The Fear of Fear Itself

Common Sense
John Maxwell

The prophet of the Christians, Jesus Christ, got it right: "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

When televangelist Pat Robertson a few days ago called for the murder of Venezuela's President Chavez there was a huge outburst of outrage, a kind of emotional fireworks display in response to the ever more predictable lunacies of the so-called Christian Right.

My father, who was a Baptist parson, would never, I think, have described Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the rest of the millionaire god-bothering sheep-stealers as Christians.

Those of us who do regard them as Christians forget that Falwell and Robertson, two days after September 11, 2001 said that the atrocity was God's punishment of the United States - probably deserved because of the anti-American activities of a variety of miscreants - gays, lesbians, advocates of civil liberties and other people bent on secularising America.
Jerry Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
Pat Robertson: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

And later in the programme:

Jerry Falwell: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularise America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
Pat Robertson: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government."
Both men more or less apologised in response to the public outrage provoked by their remarks, but their apologies seemed mere tactical withdrawals rather than sincere repentance for folly. And it took them a week to formulate their excuses.

Robertson's attempt to weasel his way out of the latest brouhaha is typical. As they said then, Robertson said last week: the remarks had been taken out of context; the press had misquoted. etc., etc.

The devil, and the evangelists, can cite scripture for their own purposes and Christians in America have justified all sorts of atrocities in the name of God since the time of the Conquistadors in Latin America and the North American Riders of the Purple Sage.

For nearly six centuries, Christians have regarded the world as a tabula rasa, awaiting the divine intervention of civilised men - a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other.

One of President Bush's military advisers, one General Boykin, is celebrated for his assertion that in any struggle with the infidel, he, Boykin and fellow believers were bound to come out on top because "my God was bigger than his!"

Pat Robertson's adjuration to the CIA to blow away Hugo Chavez is exactly analogous to the contentions of Condoleezza Rice and her train bearers, Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, who believe that the Western hemisphere has been set aside by God for American jurisdiction and control and that anyone who disputes that thesis deserves to die.

Long ago, when Dr Rice was in infant school, the CIA launched the first of more than 200 attempts to murder Fidel Castro. Pat Robertson's grave sin is that he made it clear that nothing has changed since 1959.

TIME magazine, in its first cover story on Hugo Chavez did to Chavez what it did to O J Simpson 10 years ago: its artists made him several shades darker, emphasising their jaundiced view of his mixed ethnicity.

He was clearly illegitimate, a leftist with capital and the will to spend that capital on uplifting poor people in contrast to his predecessors who squandered Venezuela's oil wealth to create millionaires in Venezuela and the US.

While Castro created a revolution in one country, Chavez' control of oil makes him even more dangerous to US visions of Manifest Destiny.

That is why a few months ago, Dr Rice tried to strong-arm the Organisation of American States (OAS) into adopting a US resolution which would give legitimacy to forceful intervention by the OAS/US into the government of any country whose democracy was judged not up to scratch. They had already backed two failed attempts to overthrow him.

In Venezuela Chavez has repeatedly demonstrated that he is the overwhelming choice of his people but this means nothing to the US. Dr Rrice says he is a democratically elected dictator. It would be idle to point out that George Bush was not even elected the first time.

The intervention in Haiti was justified by the same kind of reasoning. An overwhelmingly popular and democratically elected leader was overthrown by the US marines because, like Oliver Twist, he asked for more for his starving people, exploited and brutalised by 200 years of foreign military and financial interventions.

The American challenge to a pluralistic world - to political diversity - is nowhere better demonstrated than in Iraq where "the necessity for regime change" was hypocritically converted into a crusade "against terror" with results that are becoming ever more apparent. Instead of being welcomed with flowers by an 'oppressed people', the US is fighting a war against an Iraqi resistance inspired by a nationalism which claims 8 thousand years of legitimacy.

The secular state of Iraq is in the process of being replaced by a government of Islamic fundamentalists which is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens or the democratic rights of its women.

To the fundamentalists that is no big thing. Some of them say that women's rights are not essential to democracy; after all, women could not vote in the US for nearly two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence.

They don't say that blacks are disfranchised - to the political advantage of the religious fanatics - even now. It is, of course, anti-American to point out these things but not anti-American to steal elections in order to frustrate the will of the majority.

Religious fundamentalism in the US is not a purely Christian phenomenon. The Project for the New American Century, PNAC - the neo-conservative blueprint for world domination, was largely written by Jewish fundamentalists lovingly embraced by such as Robertson and Falwell who believe as Pat Robertson does, that: "Indeed, there will finally be such a fullness of Israel when their hardness and blindness to the gospel is overcome as to vastly enrich the whole world. For the almost unbelievable truth is that all Israel will be saved."

Elliott Abrams, a Jew and prominent neo-con and now a leading White House adviser has written: "Religion is now one of the organising principles behind American policy."

(Introduction to the book The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and Foreign Policy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) Abrams is a former leader of the Iran-Contra conspiracy who escaped prison when he was pardoned by George Bush Sr.

The pragmatism of the Christian fundamentalists might be thought to contrast with the message oif the new Testament - "that ye love one another" only if one forgets that since the fundamentalists have created God in their own image, it is also possible to hold that "He that is not with me is against me" and justify hate and murder by further selective quotation to their own purpose.

The fundamentalists can find enemies and friends anywhere, as it suits them. The Spanish-American war was fought partly to Protestantise the evil Catholicism of the Spanish empire. The Palestinians - Philistines - have no place in Palestine because God gave the land to "His Chosen People". God is in his Heaven.

John Ashcroft, the former attorney general said it most succintly: "We are a nation called to defend freedom - a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God." The Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2002.

And presiding serenely above all of this is the president of the United States, George Bush, who has been recognised by the fundamentalists as their leader.

Shortly after his September 2001 faux pas, Pat Robertson resigned as leader of the Christian Coalition, a move greeted by Gary Bauer, one of the most toxic of the far-right spokesmen: "I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled... [Bush] is that leader right now." The Washington Post, December 23, 2001

Bush sees "America's mission" as the spreading of freedom worldwide, whether the various subject peoples wish to be blessed with "American" ideas of freedom or not.

Faced with such certitude the pagans don't have a chance. And since the pagans mostly are poor, non-white and alien, they have been at the sharp end of capitalism for a very long time, a fact that seems to justiofy their remaining in their places - places appointed by the bigger God.

Mr Allan Greenspan, one of TIME's Committee to Save the World is reputed to sleep with a copy of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged by his bedside, reading passages from it, as from a holy text, every morning. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism teaches that selfishness is the supreme virtue.

The ideal Life is, literally, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. This definition might almost be used to define globalised capitalism in which American multinationals mainly, are expected to have the right to determine the future of entire nations and civilisations, whose God is smaller than theirs.

As Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, and another member of the Committee to Save the World says: third world countries are vastly under-polluted and it would be cost-effective to export metropolitan toxic wastes to them because the lives of their citizens are so much less valuable than the lives of Americans.

The divine right to intervene militarily is tied to the divine rights to intervene politically and culturally. It is an offence against the sacred doctrine of free speech to try to prevent the dissemination of such evil works as 'Grand Theft Auto' - a series of video games in which the player can satisfy the most obscene fantasies of murder and bloody mayhem limited only by his own imagination.

These textbooks of wickedness are only now provoking any real controversy in their place of origin, the United States, not because of the barbaric violence but because of overtly sexual content. Murder is legitimate, love, or any simulacrum of it, is anti-Christian.

To make the slightest criticism of the US administration is to be 'anti American', outside the pale and subject to cataclysmic retribution. As Wayne Brown has related in his recent columns in this paper, rational criticism may be an excuse for informal torture.

To travel to the US is to lay oneself open to suspicion, misrepresentation and degrading treatment. Which is why I do not intend to ever darken their doors again.

I and many others feel threatened and not reassured by the policies of the United States.

People who never spoke to me 30 years ago because of my supposed ideological extremism, now walk up to me in supermarkets and on the street to commend me for my columns. And I thank all of those in the United States who have written to thank me for my writing.

I would ask them to be patient, however, as I am having serious computer problems and cannot reply as I would like.
In the meanwhile, consider the Jamaican aphorism: 'Time longer than rope'.

21 August 2005

Bush, in Check

Common Sense
John Maxwell

In chess, the King is the most important piece but, at the same time, the weakest. All other pieces can move more than one square at a time; even the lowly pawns at their first move can move two squares. And even a pawn can place a King in Check.

The king is the centre of power and he must be protected at all cost. He cannot be captured, but if he is ever threatened with imminent capture - if he is in 'check' - his handler must either get him out immediately or be 'mated'. The game is over.

Watching the antics of Mr Bush's supporters over the past few days makes it plain that the president's handlers think he is in check, and, short of nuking Mrs Cindy Sheehan, they don't seem to have any good idea how to prevent checkmate and presidential meltdown.

This week, Cindy Sheehan went back to California to arrange care for her mother who has had a stroke. No one has blamed her mother's stroke on the Republicans, but it must have been difficult for any mother to endure the traducing and sliming of her daughter that Mrs Sheehan's mother has had to bear.

The basic Republican reflex under attack is the Hagfish defence - to generate so much slime that your opponent needs to spend an inordinate amount of time, effort and money to clean himself up. Cindy Sheehan, unlike Senator Kerry, Governor Dean and President Clinton has ignored the hagfish and avoided entangling herself in the slime.

Her critics accuse her of betraying America, dishonouring her son, dishonouring the soldiers in Iraq, everything except cannibalism but that, as in the case of Haiti's President Aristide, is no doubt on the cards.

Mrs Sheehan has stayed 'on message' as the Americans say. She long ago made up her mind about what she wanted and she has not shifted her vision.

She claims the right, as an American, to ask her President to explain to her why she should feel proud to have sacrificed her son to the war against the Iraqi people.

Why, she wants the President to explain, is dying in Iraq a 'noble cause' when neither ordinary Americans nor ordinary Iraqis are benefiting from the wholesale slaughter now in progress?

Why does it seem that the war is being fought to enrich people who can have no possible need for more wealth? Why is it noble to shed blood so that oil companies can make greater profits?

"I don't believe dying in a war of aggression on a country that's no threat to the United States of America is a noble cause."
In her quest, Mrs Sheehan is a surrogate for the journalistic profession of the United States, which overwhelmingly acted as Judas Goats leading Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein instigated the horrors of September 11, 2001, and conned and gulled them into believing the other nonsensical claims: that Iraq was armed to the teeth with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and just itching to let them loose on the United States and Israel.

Even now, there is afoot a public relations campaign to make a heroine and martyr out of one of the most dangerous propagandists for the war - a New York Times newsroom employee named Judith Miller.

Long after everyone else either knew or suspected that the authorised version of the casus belli was a gross fabrication fashioned to deceive, mislead and entrap millions of people into endorsing an unnecessary war, Judith Miller was pumping out stories about WMD, justifying the spilling of innocent blood and the degradation, starvation and torture, rape and murder of people who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The war converted large areas of the Middle East into hotbeds of terrorism, damaged and abrogated the civil rights of millions, particularly Iraqi women and has generally made the world a much less safe place than it was before the war began. Yet Mrs Miller goes to jail to still defend its authors.

For all this, the American press/media is largely to blame and head and shoulders among those miscreants is Judith Miller. She has gone to jail because she insists that she has a right to protect a 'confidential' informant whose malicious purpose was to discredit a loyal, truthful US citizen, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, by endangering the life and ending the career of his wife, an undercover CIA agent.

If that is heroism, give me treason any time.

Counterposed to this official martyr and heroine is the stubborn housewife from CowTown Vacaville, California whose husband is in the process of divorcing her because of all the attention she has brought to herself and her family.

In an ideal world of course, we would not need the Cindy Sheehans if the Judith Millers were doing their jobs. As a journalist, it is my duty and responsibility to protect the public interest and to defend it against all those who would subvert the public good for private aggrandisement of whatever description. One cannot be neutral; a journalist does not shed his responsibilities as a citizen when he walks through the newsroom door.

In my view, journalists are the immune system of the body politic - an analogy I have used so often that some people may be tired of hearing it. I make no apologies for repeating it, because it is true and because most of us who say we are journalists forget what we are supposed to be about.

It would be nice to be well off, to be able to take a holiday whenever one felt like it, to buy a new computer or a new car whenever one fancied.

But the real deal, the compact we have made with the public is that we are agents of the public, we are delegates of the people, exercising on their behalf, and only on their behalf, the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are supposedly represented by a free press.

We have no privilege to deceive the public. Our legislatures can pass any number of laws protecting journalists from the ravages of their ethics and their consciences, but however shielded we are, we ought to know where our duty lies and to be willing either to do it or to get out of the profession.

Some of us have become millionaires because of a mellifluous voice or a lucky break. After a while, the millionaires cease to be working journalists in any real sense of the word.

They become habitués of the corridors of power, too cosy with their more powerful subjects and further and further away from the people whose rights they are supposed to be defending. Their view of the public interest becomes intermeshed and confused with the views of their new class and of their employers and their interests.

Dan Rather, one of the few US 'anchors with real claim to being a real journalist, admitted to a British television audience that American journalists are hogtied by fear.

After September 11, 2001, he said, news on American television was bound and gagged. Any reporter who stepped out of line, he said, would be professionally lynched as un-American.

"It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions," Rather told his British audience in June 2002. "It's an obscene comparison," Rather said, "but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented.

"In some ways, the fear is that you will be necklaced here. You will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck." No US reporter who values his neck or career will "bore in on the tough questions".

Back in the USA, Rather came to heel; he told his TV audience: "George Bush is the President. He makes the decisions. He wants me to line up, just tell me where."

But not even that stopped them from necklacing Rather last year when he told a truth he could not prove, about the whereabouts of George Bush when that worthy was supposed to be doing his patriotic duty flying aeroplanes for the Texas National Guard. That soft option got him out of going to Vietnam, but it wasn't soft enough for him.

Meanwhile, while Rather was savaged for being inquisitive about George Bush, someone who actually served in combat and was wounded in Vietnam was being savaged apparently for not having the decency to die there rather than come back to haunt George Bush with a record of courage and service which Bush could not possibly match.

The US press was as usual even handed: it gave as much publicity to the lies about John Kerry as it gave to the 'lies' of Dan Rather. There are good lies and bad lies.

The quaintly named organisation - Accuracy in Media, AIM, is one of the senior hagfish of the US media scene. One of its more outstanding exploits was in December 2003 when it presented what it called "concrete proof" that Al Qaeda had worked with Saddam Hussein.

An AIM top honcho, Cliff Kincaid breathlessly reported that somebody called Con Coughlin had 'revealed the content of an Iraqi intelligence document showing that Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, was trained in Baghdad just a few months before almost 3,000 people were murdered on American soil."

"While it is very explosive, this only adds to the evidence that has already been accumulated of how Saddam worked with al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers . This is additional evidence of Saddam's crimes against humanity." So said Kincaid.

Many of us suspected then what we now know: the only legible documents discovered after the fall of Baghdad and the destruction of its administrative infrastructure were elaborate forgeries linking left wing types to all sorts of conspiracies, wickedness and cash.

George Galloway is just one victim of this professionally and governmentally organised fraud against public opinion. The media swallowed it totus porcus - whole hog. Dan Rather was attacked as a tool of Saddam for an interview he did in which Saddam spoke what we now know to be the truth.

So, don't ask what Cindy Sheehan is doing outside Mr Bush's ranch while he idles away the month of August, as he did just before September 11, 2001. What you need to ask is why the coterie of journalists enjoying Mr Bush's hospitality are not asking him the question Mrs Sheehan wants answered: what did you mean when you spoke of a 'noble cause'?

Some of us who opposed the war before it started carried placards saying, among other things: No Blood for Oil! Remember?

Cindy Sheehan, then as now, a loyal housewife and citizen, didn't carry any such placard. Then, she became a paradigm - a Gold Star mother.

Now, to some of those in high places, she is a pariah. Whatever she is, she has the president of the United States in check. Even pawns can put a king in check - and that, if you think about it, is what democracy, real democracy, is supposed to be about.

14 August 2005

Putting People First

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It took George Bush several years to achieve national recognition in the United States. A woman named Cindy Sheehan has attained worldwide recognition in one week by camping outside the gates of Mr Bush's 1,500 acre ranch in Texas.

Mrs Sheehan wants to talk to Mr Bush. Mr Bush does not want to talk to Mrs Sheehan. He says he has spoken to her before now.

Mrs Sheehan says that when she first spoke to Mr Bush, as a newly bereaved mother of a young US soldier freshly killed in Iraq there was no real communication between them.

Mrs Sheehan's ire is provoked by memories of her meeting with the president last June in company with several other families bereaved by the Iraq war. "He wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name. Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject."

According to her, Mr Bush behaved as if he were at a tea party. He was disrespectful to her she said, not bothering to find out who she was or what had happened to her son and he kept calling her 'mom'. Mr Bush is older than Mrs Sheehan.

Mrs Sheehan said she was so distraught at the time that she failed to ask the questions she now wants answered."I want him to honour my son by bringing the troops home immediately," Sheehan told reporters Saturday. "I don't want him to use my son's name or my name to justify any more killing."

Mrs Sheehan's son, Casey, was 24 years old when he was killed in Iraq, five days after arriving in that country.

The shock must have been extreme. Parents do not nurture their children to adulthood to see them sent out to be killed. On Thursday Mr Bush said he felt compassion for Mrs Sheehan as he took time out from his five week vacation to hold a press conference at his ranch.

But the president said he could not agree with Mrs Sheehan that American troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. That, he said, would send a "terrible message" to the insurgents.

Mrs Sheehan says she had always opposed the Iraq war in a vague way but her son's death crystallised her views; she now thinks he died in an immoral and unnecessary war, and no kind words from the president will change her view.

She wants President Bush to explain why it was necessary for him to send young americans to die in Iraq. Her anger was stoked by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and further fuelled by the Downing Street memorandum which made it plain that the facts were manipulated to justify the war.

"I want to ask the president, why did he kill my son?" Sheehan told reporters. "He said my son died in a noble cause, and I want to ask him what that noble cause is."

Last week Texas Rangers told Mrs Sheehan she would be arrested if she continued to camp out on the road to Mr Bush's ranch. She was given until Thursday to move.

She is still there, and says she won't move until she sees the president or he ends his vacation.

If this were a chess game, Mr Bush would be in Check.

The Invisible Poor

For much of the last several weeks the world's television screens have been populated by images of starving children, thin as sticks, many on the point of death.

The United Nations says that 32,000 children in Niger are in danger of dying from starvation and corollary ailments But strangely, the ruler of Niger, a former colonel named Mamadopu Tandja told correspondents last week that there was no famine in Niger.

It was all a conspiracy by journalists and NGOs like Oxfam who were promoting the idea of a famine in the hope of attracting more money.

Niger is an enormous country in the interior of West Africa, and includes some of the Sahara desert. As a child I remember looking at the map and wondering at the long, straight lines which defined colonial Africa.

It was only later that I realised that these countries were artificial constructs, designed by soldiers with protractors and set squares and admitting nothing of culture, language or any other civilised consideration.

Like most of post-colonial Africa the departure of the colonial power has meant that people coralled together by European power decided to establish their own identities as soon as they got the chance.

This brought wars and economic disruption, most of which was settled by the armies, the one functioning institution left behind by the colonisers.

Niger is a classic of the genre. It is a desperately poor country rich in natural resources. It boasts the largest uranium deposits in the world, but the wealth goes to a French company which mines the uranium, and to the dealers who buy uranium on the world market and sell it for about $20 a pound.

The uranium boom of the 1980s rapidly created a deep economic and social split within the country. A few rich, an elite, lived in the cities. The poor of various tribes, lived outside. In the population of about 13 million there are estimated to be 50,000 slaves - a legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.

And, of course, since the poor are outside the purview of the elite, they don't exist. Niger, unlike Haiti, is large enough that one can drive for days without seeing anyone, rich or poor. President Tandja told the BBC on Wednesday, "The people of Niger look well fed, as you can see." All the talk of mass starvation was just "foreign propaganda", deception by relief agencies to obtain increased funding. What problems there are, he says, "are not serious".

His critics insist that there is starvation. They insist that President Tandja himself is responsible for much of it. A severe drought and plagues of locusts devastated the country's farms. Tandja decided, as a faithful student of the World bank and the IMF, that if people wanted food or medicine they had to pay for it.

When people marched on the capital in July he refused to heed them saying it would be foolish to run down the government's reserves of food carefully built up for just such an emergency.

Meanwhile, Niger is waiting patiently for debt relief promised years ago by the World Bank and IMF in their Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative and re-promised by the G8 in July. No doubt relief will arrive before the last peasant dies.

It is ironic, isn't it, that a country on which the West depends for its nuclear authority and a substantial portion of its electricity generation, is too poor to feed its own people?

That the country which provides the nuclear muscle for economic domination by the titans of the earth is existing literally, from hand to mouth? That Niger is the poorest country in the world?

The Reckoning

I am not surprised that those who defend Prime Minister Patterson's record seek to portray his critics as motivated by personal animus including racism. It doesn't surprise me because most of those defenders are members of the clique surrounding the prime minister, insulating him from any contact with the real world.

It was odd, though, when on the Breakfast Club on Friday I asked Mr Patterson's apologists to supply me with what they thought were Mr Patterson's signal achievements nobody could name one. The problem with PJ is simple.

He, like President Tandja and a host of others round the world, bought into the latest incarnation of the Trickle Down Theory. Instead of tackling human development he chose to build monstrous highways to get us more quickly from one urban traffic jam to another. He rescued the financial sector, lowered income tax, raised sales tax and borrowed money to pay the shortfall.

The result is that Jamaica is alone in the world in spending more on debt repayment than it spends on governing.

Our Millennium Project (MP) is the most expensive undertaking in our history - the Doomsday Highway. Norway - one of the world's richest countries - put its entire educational system free for all on the internet for its MP.

Instead of community development we spent millions on police cars, high powered weapons and bullet proof vests. Instead of spending money on education we spent it on rescuing rich investors from the consequences of their own folly and then marveled at the crime rate.

While Mr Patterson and Fidel Castro are probably the only world leaders still in office who signed the Treaty of Rio, Cuba is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world and Jamaica is one of the least.

The government flouts its own rules about public consultation and environmental impact assessments. Instead of building new schools, playing fields and swimming pools it first decided to give away part of our major Botanical Garden, and, thwarted in that piece of lunacy, handed over a precious biodiversity reserve, Long Mountain for a millionaire to make more millions.

And while neglecting public recreation and destroying the natural patrimony Mr Patterson's government latest bright idea is to steal public beaches to be handed over to private investors and to wall off the people from the sea.

07 August 2005

A Man of Promise

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Traditionally, the Jamaican Press has employed outsiders to do the heavy lifting. So I was not surprised that when the Gleaner at last decided on a critical examination of the Prime Minister's record it turned to an outsider, one Dr Penrole Brown, hitherto unknown.

The Prime Minister's consigliere, Senator Delano Franklyn has produced the ritual defence of the PM, one of the central points of which is this statement: "To be the longest continuous [sic] serving prime minister in a democratic country, where the people are free to elect or reject a political party every five years, is a phenomenal feat."

It would be a phenomenal feat if one does not remember the process. Five years ago, in an open letter to the PM calling for his retirement I wrote in this column:
"You have now been Prime Minister for about as long as anyone else in the history of Jamaica and you share with Michael Manley the distinction of having been re-elected in a contested election. Your majority has been massive.

You have had nothing to fear from your opponents, who, for the last six years, have been a thoroughly demoralised, disorganised rump of a once proud party. The odds are that you could continue being prime minister for as long as you wish, barring Acts of God and the Queen's enemies." (June 11,2000)
Long before Mr Patterson was re-elected in 1997, I was contending that Mr Seaga was the PM's secret weapon; as long as Seaga remained where he was, Mr Patterson would remain where he was.

Nobody believed me then

Senator Franklyn's defence seems to depend largely on what he calls Mr Patterson's government by consensus but which other, 'bad-minded' people like me might call misgovernment by committee.

If, as some say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee, it is notably more successful than anything produced by Mr Patterson's committees - if they ever produce anything. (Some young journalist should be assigned to discover just how many committees and task forces Mr Patterson has set up and the results.)

Franklyn excuses the PM for taking no action on education for 12 of his 13 years of stewardship. As Mr Patterson might say now that two of his 'committees' reports "have come to hand, they are under the most active consideration with a view to evaluating the options for possible expeditious implementation".

These reports are from the Task Force on Educational Reform appointed 18 months ago and the national four-month long 'island-wide consultations to develop, articulate and validate the National Shared Vision for Education in Jamaica'.

Coming more than a decade after Mr Patterson's inauguration, I suppose one could say that this demonstrates Mr Patterson's passionate dedication to intensive procrastination.

Values and Attitudes

In the meantime, one wonders what happened to the National Consultation on Values and Attitudes which petered out a decade ago for lack of interest and leadership?

Last month, the minister of foreign affairs tried to reassure Jamaica that the government had not sold the pass to the forces of GATS - the General Agreement on Trade in Services in which Jamaica imprudently, committed itself to globalising education despite the warnings of people like myself as long ago as 1998.

In a column entitled 'Global Reich', I warned that the Multilateral Agreement on Investment - the precursor of GATS - would have dire consequences for Jamaica.

"At the heart of MAI is the idea that in a truly free world, every millionaire should have the same rights as every other millionaire. Or, forgive me, every MacDonald's or Disney investing in say, Jamaica, should have the same rights as Tastee's or the local jerk pork counter. Any country so bold as to try give incentives to a local manufacturer of say, shoes, would be compelled, in the interest of fairness to give the same incentives to Shell or Esso if they decided to go into the shoe-manufacturing business."

Under the subhead - A world safe for Neanderthals - I declared that the new globalisation, typified by the MAI/GATS was "the twentieth century equivalent of the Conference of Berlin, which, just over a hundred years ago, carved up Africa into a dish fit for King Leopold of the Belgians and his fellow cannibals." - Global Reich April 12, 1998

So it has proved, and no amount of 'clarification' is going to get the Jamaican government or the Jamaican educational system out of this hole.

Our one possible consolation is that the University of the West Indies, not being an entirely Jamaican institution, may escape the consequences of Mr Patterson's malign neglect. UTECH, now run by the brother of the minister of finance, will not.

I find it really difficult to understand those who are only now discovering Mr Patterson's ineptitude. Talking about sugar and its apologists nearly 10 years ago I forecast what was going to happen when the bottom dropped out of the European Union bucket and added:

"Sugar is the charnel house of our history. Remaining in sugar is akin to finding peaceful uses for the gas ovens of Auschwitz." I condemned those who continued to plead for Jamaica to remain a sugar producer and to continue hewing wood and drawing water for the rich and idle of the world.

I contended that sugar is "an important part of the reason Jamaica is slipping back into the poverty of the colonial era.

"We have turned over to sugar without question, the land which it has always controlled, despite its criminal inefficiency, despite all the injury it has caused us, despite common sense. Somebody said that only lunatics continue to do things which they know don't work." - Avoidable Disasters Dec 29,1996

'The Duty of a Leader'

Another avoidable disaster is Haiti. In 1994, 11 years ago, I pleaded (in the Jamaica Herald) for Jamaica to offer some of our admittedly meagre resources to help Aristide rebuild Haiti's human infrastructure in agriculture particularly, and in creating a functioning civil service.

I thought we should make amends for our earlier sell-out of the Haitian cause, allowing what I then called 'American slave ships - floating barracoons' to be stationed in Kingston Harbour from which the US Coast Guard could sally forth to capture and 'process' Haitian refugees - including those who had already landed in Jamaica - and dispatch them back to their murderers, rapists and 'face-choppers' in Haiti.

Last year, Patterson did allow President Aristide some time in Jamaica after he was rescued from his illegal rendition to the Central African Republic after his kidnapping by the Americans and transportation across the Middle Passage with his family as "cargo".

But Patterson accommodated Aristide with bad grace and it is clear that he'd bought Colin Powell's argument that Aristide was wrong for Haiti and needed to be removed. In this he was joined by the equally politically backward and subservient governments of Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago, all of them forgetting that had it not been for Haiti, we might all be slaves still.

In his betrayal of Haiti, Patterson betrayed the example of Norman Manley and his own heritage and historical obligation. Nothing more damning can be said of him

How could a Jamaican prime minister fall for the arguments of such creatures as Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, the intellectual spawn of the infamous and admitted racist Jesse Helms?

How was it possible to betray Haiti not once, but twice? The Haitian cock will crow again, but hopefully, by then we will have a Jamaican leader able to blow the trumpet in response.

There is more, much more. Mr Patterson's environmental record is an unmitigated disaster: his misbegotten Operation Pride land giveaways; his refusal to obey the government's own rules on Environmental Impact Assessment; his government's beach-stealing programme; the monstrosities of the North Coast and Doomsday Highways, Portmore, Kingston Harbour; his foiled attempt to despoil Hope Gardens; and his successful depredations on Long Mountain are just the most obvious.

But why go on?

I will conclude with some lines from a column published on September 15, 1996, almost exactly nine years ago and especially appropriate now as the police are seeking to recruit high quality leadership from abroad.

At that time (1996), the police were resisting Col MacMillan's idea of a graduate entry programme: "That would provoke the police establishment which is quite content with its appalling lack of police competence and forensic expertise.

It is why most politicians, including Mr Knight, believe in giving the police more money, more cars and more firepower and in hanging more poor people."

In the same column, I concluded with words which I have no reason to regret and which are entirely appropriate today:
"The people of Jamaica find themselves at a dead end. There is no vision, no grand ideal behind which Jamaica can unite.

All sorts of sturdy beggars, "warners" and false prophets abound, precisely because there is no one who can, or will, speak on behalf of Jamaica.

"Worse, none of the [three] party leaders appears to want even to listen to the people, to understand their suffering and to voice it.

"Almost everybody in Jamaica is aware of what is wrong with this society. What nobody knows is who has the will to fix it. It certainly is not P J.

"As Norman Manley said: 'The duty of a leader is to lead'. - PJ Must Go!" September 15, 1996.