#COVID19Chronicles-139: August 31, 2020-Don’t be surprised after the election

I can’t see how the government won’t come heavy with COVID restrictions after the elections on September 3. Its unwillingness to enforce clearly or inability to convince everyone that self responsibility was not a licence to just not bother is coming to haunt it. That some places of entertainment repeatedly broke protocols and high profile people felt their disregard for the risks was no big thing and that this could go on in full view tells us a lot. The examples set during the campaign that had widespread disregard for the same health protocols we are being urged to follow has left many confused and bewildered about whether the government is ‘all talk and no action’. Now, with curfew hours lengthened, we’re hearing of, or seeing, curfew breaking tells us that the concerns are yet high enough for all to fear.

The most recent messages we’ve gotten from the PM and minister of health and wellness stress no need for panic. But, people often panic once you tell them not to if they feel risks are getting out of hand.

The surge in COVID19 cases this month have produced a series of triple digit daily increases, new daily highs, including 245 yesterday. That will give many a sense that the pandemic is all around, especially those who casually thought that several weeks ago all was settled at much lower levels.

Having called the election, it’s now a period of holding breath to get to that date, in the mind of the government. The second guessing of the decision will go on but that’s fine. Right now, the big political unknown is how the surge will affect voting.

With the apparent indifference to health risks we’re seeing comes a political risk that makes Thursday now a day whose significance is raised several notches.

Candidates, in general, will be worried that mobilizing voters has not been easy, given general concerns about health protocols and campaigning in the traditional Jamaican way. Ruling party candidates, in particular, should be feeling more anxious about that because the election is theirs to lose. They risk losing power but also risk losing from a position that looked unassailable, if polls are to be believed. However, each day raises the level of unusualness in this election season.

Concerns about voter turnout should be high and getting higher as uncertainty swirls around whether fear will keep many away and if certain electors won’t get to vote—namely, those in isolation or quarantine. The numbers involved in the latter case may be small but the principle is big.

Not everyone crawls over the daily updates or understands what the various numbers mean. What they will be noticing is that many organizations are reporting cases amongst their staff and establishments are closing for ‘deep cleaning’. Again, that should convince more people that the virus may be everywhere and spreading.

Active cases…

#COVID19Chronicles-138: August 30, 2020-The leaders debate

Last night’s third national debate had much more bite and cut and thrust. This was a heavyweight bout and fireworks were flying. This wasn’t the hurling of brickbats we see in Parliament, but it also wasn’t the genteel fireside chat of the previous debate on economy and finance. Each man had his prey in sight and went for the kill shot early and often. That’s how we got to meet “Mas’ Tom” to help him with stories to lambast Dr. Phillips, whom he quickly dubbed “Pappa Tax”. Some may not like that, but it’s at least gives a sense that blood runs through their veins.

We saw a PM standing firmly on his government’s record of achievement. Getting things done was the mantra, whatever choice of words or actions described.

We saw an Opposition leader who had energy and clarity and qualities of a potential national government leader. His focus tended to be on betterment of people and opportunities for them to achieve that.

Questions were mostly well-pointed, especially those from Dionne Jackson-Miller, who was the real winner, for probing and persistence. But, that’s her norm.

George Davis punched well, too, but didn’t connect as well as DJM. She came with zinger upper cuts on matters to do with the PM’s apparent repeated disregard for the Constitution:

I, personally, put much store in the array of numbers trotted out in these kinds of debates, because I know that the ‘truth’ being delivered is whatever version of ‘facts’ the speaker wants. We may sometimes be asked to compare apples and pears, but without the option to clarify which. But, I notice where people stumble over numbers. So, the fuzzy maths about housing starts doesn’t really move me. But, I find odd that Dr. Phillips stumbled over the number of years of Jamaica’s independence “52…58”, not least because he has lived them all. 🤔 What did the PM mean when talking about “flattening the murder rate”? Too many COVID-19 updates, I fear. Who wants murders ‘flattening’ around 1000 a year?

I’m also not too bothered by what is really hype; image is part and parcel of the whole political game. So, we had the PM strutting onto the stage sporting his now iconic green Clarks shoes. If we didn’t see them during the walk-on, we got them at the end with the ‘elbow bump’ farewell (see below). But, not everyone likes the shoes.

I was bothered by the PM’s rambling answer to the question of how he’s dealt with corruption or misgovernance within his administration, for which I think he should get little credit for what has been at best ambivalence and at worst tolerance of corruption—and perception is key in that waving hands to show they are clean doesn’t cut it for most people when they see what ‘dirt’ has been blowing around. We have court cases pending, so the legal system may not come down definitively on the matter of crimes committed, but the stench that’s been lingering hasn’t been sweet.

The PM was duly criticized for the way he has accumulated power into his own hands (minister of 6 portfolios), and in the Office of the Prime Minister—“the Ministry of everything“. That allowed Dr. Phillips to contrast himself as being more about ’Team’. (In truth, that may be a way of making sure he doesn’t go down alone with the ship ‘Orange Manifesto’).

Again, time management reared its head, and both leaders struggled mightily to get their words out in the allotted time. In my opinion, the PM was guilty of this to an egregious extent bordering on rudeness in pushing through to the end of his desired words, despite calls to stop by the moderator. That’s disrespectful on several levels, but it’s also telling about how ‘power’ is seen by some.

The PM stressed leadership, strength, and stamina—a set of metaphors for youthfulness—and who can get things done.

Many people ‘scored’ the debate at worst a tie and a best a clear win for Dr. Phillips.

More elaborate polling is also underway:

Although, I thought the discussion panel for the economy/finance debate was weak in not committing themselves to identifying a winner, I wasn’t taken by the elaborate scoring method that was employed last night, which seemed like a means to force decisions.

On final optics, both remembered to urged voters to cast their ballots, appropriately. They were also each given a chance to send a message about voting safely in COVID-risky times.

The debate was a warning about polls. Dr. Phillips has been trailing badly in favourability ratings for months, by some 40 percentage points.

However, on his performance last night, whatever his ‘favourability’, he was at least a match for the PM. That may spur some to give PNP candidates a boost, feeling that the leader isn’t such a loser, after all. However, his performance may do little to change the other poll view that PNP has performed poorly and is disunited.

Image courtesy of 1SpotMedia

My takeaway from the debates, especially this last one, is what economics tells us is important: what shifts sentiments. Jamaica’s electorate is fickle and has shown it’s ready to dump an administration that has done many good things for the population, but can get overtaken by the lure of a juicy present (in 2016, ‘1.5’ [J$1.5 million tax threshold] did the trick). (People may now have views about how good was the cut in income tax being offset by increases in GCT and other indirect taxes.) This time around, I don’t thing the bag of goodies offered by PNP will do it, but a funny conundrum about what the current administration represents in all its pushing to archive may create its downfall. It’s often not really taken people along with it. Those with better memories will look at the road programs and how pretty the ‘cyaapet’ is but not forget the months of mayhem it inflicted on many of us, and how many loud concerns went unheeded. Last week’s heavy rains also showed that the quality of some of this work is shoddy. The management of the pandemic may be such an event, where the sense of calling elections when the spike is clear will strike some as another rung on the ladder of disregard for popular concerns. That’s separate from addressing what would have been a better time. So, I’m positioned to see a closer election than many predict. I have no money or reputation on the line, but want to see if those rumblings in my gut are meaningful.

#COVID19Chronicles-137-August 29, 2020-National Debate on the economy and finance

Jamaicans tuned in or logged on Thursday night (August 27) for the 2nd national debate leading into the general elections. It had been billed as a ‘heavyweight clash’ and we were told to expect ‘fireworks’ by one of the main newspapers as well as the host of the TVJ pre- and post-debate discussions (Emily Shields).

It never lived up to that billing, in my opinion, and that of many others.

The general impression was that, while Nigel Clarke seemed to have been the clear winner, both he and Mark Golding put in performances well below their best. Clarke won in many views for style and confidence; Golding gained praise for content in many of his replies.

Both debaters are great gentlemen, and they have moved into representational politics after solid careers in business and finance (Clarke) and finance and law (Golding). Both are very articulate. I don’t think this made them great material for TV debates, not that their fields were not competitive or abrasive, just that their manners are not usually in that direction.

So, I’ve my general doubts about them in the cut and thrust of Jamaican representational politics; they were excellent senators. Golding was Justice Minister (2012-16) as a senator, not becoming an MP till 2017, after PNP lost the 2016 election. Clarke had been a senator (2013-15) before serving as Jamaica’s Ambassador-at-Large for Economic Affairs within the Office of the Prime Minister from 2016, until he was elected an MP in early-2018.

So, one thing going for them in the debates was expected to be their solid credentials on the subject matter.

It’s also a sad reality, though, that once you’ve had a certain kind and level of education, it’s hard to unlearn some lessons. So, Mark Golding (Campion College and Oxford University) and Nigel Clarke (Munro College and Oxford University) are more like peas in a pod rather than oil and water. They find it easier really to be in agreement that violently in disagreement. But, watch, if you will, some or all of the debate:

I didn’t find most of what they had to say that riveting, and became more interested in aspects of their performance.

Golding began nervously and tried to lay the ground that Jamaica has PNP/Peter Phillips–as ‘Mr Fix it’–to thank for setting the solid macroeconomic base on which JLP/Clarke has built. But, in that opening, he hit his own Achilles heel—an inability to manage time so that his points could be made fully. As things went along, I sensed that Clarke noted this and tried to get in crisper replies to avoid the same trouble. It didn’t work consistently and he too was hit by ‘the buzzer’ and being cut off by the moderator/main questioner.

In truth, the two parties want to promote similar things: mainly, jobs, education, housing, and infrastructural development. As a result, at times, the debate was more like a minor squabble in the playground as the two traded numbers for each objective, and the gunpowder was damp in the fireworks that they tried to light near each other’s home. Some of the fireworks never exploded after launch.

Some of the exchanges lacked real bite. You could feel the debaters searching for each other’s soft spot to attack but often just missing flesh or gnashing on bone with a phrase that grated. What’s with Golding telling Clarke that housewives call him “Mr. 150” [the J$:US$ exchange rate is hovering around 150:1.]? At times, I was reminded of Denis Healey saying “Being attacked by Geoffrey Howe was like being savaged by a dead sheep”.

They sniped more often at each leader. Clarke called Peter Phillips the “architect of destruction” of the economy-rather odd, given that he has happily built on the macroeconomic stability that Phillips achieved as finance minister and for which he won the accolade of Gleaner ‘man of the year’ in 2015. He also said PNP’s package represented a “big back of tricks”. Golding said the Office of the Prime Minister had become a “holding cell” for corrupt Cabinet ministers. Some of the other barbs are shown below:

They had a couple of simple jobs to do heading into the elections. Golding needed to defend the manifesto his party had put out, but revised hastily after that, which made it look slapdash, at least.

Now, it is a nifty document that allows the creation of a customized manifesto based on information you feed in. However, to get that, you have to register and log in and give some ‘personal’ details, which need not be true. Well, that opened up the charge on ‘privacy rights’. Whether or not it was a real issue, it was ‘out there’.

Then, came a flurry of revisions ahead of the debate, namely to amend the coverage of the utilities subsidies. That opened the PNP to a string of criticism during the day and during the debate about which plan was being referred to.

“Monday plan
Wednesday plan
The one Damion talked about on the radio…
2’oclock PM plan…
6’oclock PM plan…
I don’t even know which plan to respond to” Clarke quipped.

Golding struggled many times to defend the document—explaining the cost and funding of the plan was a problem. Clarke said it added up to J$100bn; Golding said it was J$70bn and would be covered by repriotizing spending. But, many want to know if it can it happen without new taxes.

Both debaters were often drowning in numbers on jobs, poverty, growth phases, etc. I wondered if many had the feeling they were not getting a picture of what really happened in the economy, ie real gains and real pain. Talking about these things as abstracts is quite different to say something like ‘2000 unemployed women now have jobs in…’ It felt sterile to me. But, honestly, it’s often that way at the highest policy levels.

Most polls I’ve seen show Clarke was viewed as a clear winner.

I was struck that neither tried to put Jamaica’s current situation and any outlook into a clear global economic context, albeit driven by a health crisis.

Opinions seem divided on how Clarke handled the thorny topic of the objective to grow the economy by 5% in 4 years (5in4): Clarke went to the purpose of growth: employment, reduce poverty, increase tax revenues that allowed higher public investment, etc. He positioned growth as a means to these ends; and the government had “achieved the ends”. Of course, we want to growth faster, he added. “Brilliant answer,” said Emily Shields in the post-debate discussion. I thought it was a good repositioning by a finance minister who too office long after his predecessor and PM had committed to it, and avoided possibly throwing them under a large bus.

Clarke also ended cleverly by starting his closing statement is regal or priministerial style: “My fellow Jamaicans…” and reminded people to vote JLP 🙂

Golding closed by reminding people of the public health crisis and an economy reeling. He seemed relieved at the end 🙂 His self-assessment was honest, and he noted how timing had not been his friend. Clarke’s self assessment was calmly assured.

Discussion of the debate by a panel of ‘economists’ was interesting but nothing much came up that surprised until the end, when none of them wanted to ‘declare a winner’. Some intellectual arguments were put forward, but it seemed a bit cowardly, and perhaps a bit elitist that their personal views were too important to share. I’ve a suspicion that behind the reluctance is some sense that their views will be held against them, at some later stage. Watch and see:

https://www.1spotmedia.com/#!/tv-shows/5f3be75f8b104a10163d8604/5f3c08288b104a10163d86d5/5f4920588b104a10163e4269

The debates are really stand-alone and don’t really set each other up. So, the last, on Saturday night, between the two party leaders, should cover all possible grounds and could—we hope and pray—get a bit tasty.

#COVID19Chronicles-136: August 28, 2020: Our baby left on a jet plane 😳🤔🙏🏾

Our number 1-2-3 child headed back to school yesterday. She left early afternoon and by 10:30pm she called to say she’d landed safely. Bags came fast and she was in her dorm not long after 11 and one of her teachers had left her snacks 🙂

When she came home in early-March for Spring break, we had only expected her to be with us till end-month. Well, COVID19LIFE mashed up those plans. She was able to have online school for her Spring term. We had her grandmother and grand aunt with us for 3 months. Now, nearly 6 months on from her arrival, in-person schooling can resume.

Living with COVID19 has meant many major changes, especially with international travel. So, face coverings are mandatory at airports and, in Jamaica, non-travellers cannot enter the departure area. Temperatures are checked along with travel documents at entry. That means a little log jam on entry. So, decked out with cloth mask and face shield, and carrying hand sanitizers and spare masks, our young warrior set off.

Family and friends illing around outside NMIA, while passengers enter
Face shield is almost now de rigeur for airplane travel

She’s a seasoned traveller so was happy to be flying solo. However, she met an older friend travelling to the same destination, to resume college, so ended up with a peer buddy.

We’d talked extensively about how to proceed through airports and navigate other people, with some clear advice to take no nonsense from anyone not following protocols and keeping all at a good distance. She passed security at this end easily; the airport was quiet. Our concerns were at the US end and how things would be managed at Immigration and with TSA, so we’d checked online for any horror stories. Of course, we read and saw reports of the odd crazy travellers who refuse to wear masks and are being forcibly removed from planes. But, none of that presented issues.

NMIA walkway to departure gates

So, now, she has to quarantine for 14 days while settling in—‘cohorting’. School will be on-campus and remote and lessons will be recorded to allowing remote learning for any who prefer. Daily health testing is scheduled. I’m interested in how the eating etc will work, though I think the general meals wont be happening, but more family-style and small group dining will prevail. It’s still nice weather and I’m sure the teenagers are champing at the bit to get back into their sports program.

Anyway, lots to ponder and lots to hope for in terms of good things to happen in this important senior high school year. Thinking about college is stressful enough, but with the health and safety issues on top. Ay caramba!

#COVID19Chronicles-135: August 27, 2020-Happy birthday, curfew…‘60 is the new 40’

My wife celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday. Yea, Therese!

It had long been her intention to ‘make it another big bash’, after her 50th party rave in Nassau. That had been blessed by rain that never dampened people’s spirits, while the real stuff flowed with wine and champagne, and all graced with food that Caribbean people love, with its strong Bahamian twist. Friends had gathered from far and wide, and airline business got a boost.

Without going into details of the plans for 2020, several venues came up in Europe, Africa and the Bahamian Family Islands. Then, the spoiler of all spoilers arrived on a plane from ‘Corona’.

“Hello, anybody locked down at home?”

So, scaling down began as the problems of international travel increased, till the plan was left as just a mainly family event in Nassau.

Badoom! Corona said “Not this time, baby!”

The Bahamas went into all-island weekend lockdown again in late-July. Using that now-common COVID phrase, out of an abundance of caution, She cancelled flights her and our daughter—I’d already decided not to travel, as I am in a ‘more vulnerable’ category, and thoughts went on how to ‘party’ in a COVID19Life way. I threw out the idea that the refreshments could be supplied and people celebrate remotely.

“Hi, I’m Zoom. Going my way?”

I wasn’t on the planning committees, but the many skilled organizational hands that my wife has as siblings were, I’m sure, hammering away at ideas.

So, as the day approached, I say goodie bags arrive at the house with ‘Hip hip, hooray’, then I saw boxes of what looked like Champagne delivered. Hmmm. I went off to play golf at the weekend, and got a message that my playing partner needed to stop by on our way back, as there was ‘something for him’. I’d heard plans to bake a poppy seed cake, so I primed him to get one of those. Well, I hope he wasn’t disappointed to get a bag with a bottle of bubbly, instead, and instructions to join the celebration.

So, on Monday, a ‘courier’ was despatched with filled bags and envelopes to deliver. I was not a recipient, so I guess the details were included along with the number of the offshore bank account for the birthday contributions. Whatever.

Tuesday morning came, and in a moment of weak romanticism, I decided to make coffee and take it up to wake up the birthday girl, along with a cupcake delivered along with others in a box the night before. I met her at the top of the stairs as she got up early…planning to play tennis. Quick hug and off she went to sit down and enjoy her birthday ‘breakfast’. She, then, headed off to tennis about 5.50am.

I just trundled along till our daughter surfaced early, at about 7, asking “Where’s, Mummy?” I told her and she was glad that time was on her side to whip up a surprise breakfast.

There we were in the kitchen as she and our housekeeper rustled up some fruit and a cooked offering. Her mother came back at about 7.15, and, seeing the plans, headed for a shower.

“Earthquake! Did you feel it?” I yelled, as my swivel counter stool shook and I gripped the counter. Two sets of blank stares met mine. It was about 7.30. They had not felt a thing, while I had shaken for about 3-5 seconds. ODPEM later confirmed that we’d had a 4.8 earthquake, centered in Mile Gully, Manchester.

While ‘Mutt and Jeff’ looked blank, the birthday girl had felt it while in her birthday suit under the hot water: “Did you feel the Earth move?” She yelled from on high. “I wont say; our daughter is listening,” I replied 🙂

She came down and enjoyed her breakfast, then was off, for a hair appointment and ‘meetings’. She came back around 9.30, phone in hand and headphones in…”I’m on a Zoom call…” trailed off upstairs.

The rest of the day, she was busy, from what I heard, as Spanish and English voices swirled around.

Fast forward, we had an early dinner, together, and waited for the appointed hour, 6.30pm.

Cutting to the chase, her brother had set up a Zoom birthday party and the guest list was long; it reached over 50 by the time the call was ending at about 9pm.

As we say, the list was full of the ‘usual suspects’, which included friends from our many homes in different countries, but mainly Barbados and the USA, with a good crop of Jamaicans on the island, plus a Jamaican friend who shared the birthday with my wife, but had decided to head back to England last week to sort out some business. For him, the party started just after 1am and he stayed the full course, to after 3am, UK time.

As is often the case with these calls, a few glitches needed sorting out to get everyone access, but they were minor.

We were scrolling furiously on an iPad to see the many guests, while her brother-MC had set his feed up on his TV in Nassau and could see all at once. We need to figure that out.

Lots of happy faces and voices and well-wishing came, and a few late arrivals soon caught up.

It’s harder to manage people in these online sessions, especially if the ‘rules of engagement’ aren’t set out at the start. But, we are mostly polite and ‘raised hands’ to speak and there wasn’t too much cross-talk. The toasts were nice, and a lot of acknowledgement of my lady as a modern ‘rock star’ in her field and as a representative of her country and the region. Behind every great woman, there’s a man glued to football on the TV: I play my part 🙂

She’s fresh off a several-page glam spread in the Jamaica Observer:

The pandemic has forced many changes to ordinary life, and this is yet another example. 50-odd people ‘go’ to a ‘party’ on their computer or mobile device. The drink and fete and dont have to worry about driving home after, or getting stopped during curfew—ours restarted earlier last week from 7pm, instead of 11. We didn’t need to be like some ‘celebrities’ have done recently and have people risk their health and hug and mingle and not bother with any health protocols except as an initial nicety.

Much as I like lots of modern technology, especially for fast and wide communication, I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a Zoom-aphobe, not yet fully at ease with the clustered images. But, I stayed the course, last night. So proud of myself! 🙂

The birthday girl crashed about 10pm and is still in the Land of Nod. That’s how to do it!

Whether ‘60 is the new 40’ has any meaning, we shall see. I hope she doesn’t have to work another 25 years to prove the point, though 🙂

In praise of the full stop — The Accidental Ringer

My friend, Mary Jones (no relative) writes really interesting posts, from the rare perspective of a newish bell ringer. This piece resonated immediately. I did not see the image and I do not know any e e cummings poems, but I do know words and letters—cryptic crosswords, anagrams, puns, grammatical slip, I love them all—and saw, immediately, that I was being summoned. You see, this resonates because ‘grasshopper’ is one of my writing pseudonyms, and I saw the word about 3 letters in. Why I chose that soubriquet, you’ll have to trawl through my blog posts 🙂

*****************

I discovered e e cummings, the experimental American poet, when I was about 14 or 15, and I could not believe what I was reading. Or rather, not “reading” because some of his poems you do not exactly “read”, you sort of absorb them through what you know about reading. If you try to “read” […]

In praise of the full stop — The Accidental Ringer

#COVID19Chronicles-134: August 26, 2020-The Debates begin: kid gloves stuff, so far

The National General Election Debates began last night, hosted by the Jamaica Debates Commission, with teams of 3 representing the two main parties—I really missed the chance to hear from the now-crashed-on-takeoff Jamaica Progressive Party.

It wasn’t riveting to watch, and being a declared fogey, I found the 9pm start time too late for my tastes. I gave it 15 minutes, went to bed and enjoyed catching up with the rest this morning—it’s just over an hour. I don’t need to listen to analysts discussing things after.

I’m no fan of televised political debates, which are too often just platforms for party sound bites, a bit of back biting, and often short on real substance; more damage-inflicting on the opponents, if possible, and damage limitation for your own side. Because politicians are often fast and loose with their facts, many such debates now come with fact checking; I didn’t detect it last night.

My vote won’t change because of the debate, but my views on politicians may. However, all on show last night have given us hours of airplay over the past four years, so little new will surface for me. A few odd juxtapositions happened, for instance, when Raymond Pryce (brought in to replace a COVID-infected Peter Bunting) was dealing with a question on roads, I couldn’t help but see him protesting at the weekend by lying on the rain-sodden street in the constituency he is contesting. His explanation to the Gleaner is worth a read:

‘Pryce said he was told by the policewoman that he was in contravention of the Disaster Risk Management Act, insisting that unless he lived in the community or had a spouse there he had to leave. The politician said he demanded to know what section of the act he had breached, but the deputy superintendent could not say. “So, mi siddung, then mi cut me two hands behind mi neck and mi cross mi feet at the ankle,” he said. Pryce said the policewoman told him that he was “an embarrassment” and that his antics were unnecessary.’

The video is as good:

The debaters started off mainly nervous, but Lisa Hanna showed that she has been good at this stagecraft for a while. Pryce, too, was the consummate debater in terms of tone and demeanor, and how words and looks must meld to give the right aura. It was all genteel stuff, really, for the most part, and because it’s supposed to be about politesse as well as politics, it’s just a bit sad.

It was not until after about 50 minutes that things got a little spicy. First, Dr. Tufton went after Dr. Campbell (stating clearly “the member opposite”–Dr. Campbell is an MP, like him–except he apparently looked at Mr. Pryce, which caused him some offence) about a reference to a death ‘during’ the COVID-19 pandemic and linked it to the government “campaigning”—the by-election was in early-March (well before any national COVID issues) and the unfortunate death during childbirth was in mid-April. Not sure what Dr. Campbell was trying there, except a badly aimed cheap shot. Anyway, back came Mr. Pryce to correct the minister of health on yet another ‘piece of misinformation’–the apparent misdirected glance–and he went there!!!! He got in his quick jab about ‘marketing…’ and stopped short enough to for it to not cross the ‘Market Me’ line (a matter related to the company and its contract with the ministry of health and wellness, that some want to suggest comes from a personal relationship between the minister and one of the company’s principals). It was truly bizarre, not least because, all through the Tufton-Campbell exchange, the cameras panned only between the two of them, so we the viewers were in no doubt about the exchange. As for Mr. Pryce, perception is a funny thing.

But, we had to put up with some stolid stuff, instead, the rest of the time. With no audience, the atmosphere was also lacking. None of the piped crowd noise like in recent COVID-affected football matches, sadly: “C’mon, Tufton! C’mon, Tufton!” 🙂

I’m a sports buff, so I have no doubt that things like debates are fine for a country’s intellectuals or insomniacs, but I would like to see a change-up. Why not some arm-wrestling, or a simple display of strength test. In this era where almost everyone is working out and looking to get fitter, put some of them under a barbell and add the weights till they say ‘Stop!”. Burpees, crunches, push-ups, wind sprints. We want to know these people have the stamina. So, have them do a few wind sprints, or spin around a pole and then answer the questions, while catching their breath. At the least, it would be entertaining. I know some would welcome a no-holds-barred WWF slam down.

In passing through the corridors of social media earlier, I was intrigued by the range of opinions, praise and criticisms. I was also intrigued by various displays of what could be called ‘shade’. This one from Phase 3 Production’s head had me rolling. It’s innocent enough on the face of it, but, did it need to be noted? 🙂

Some interesting ;social distancing occurred

We have two more of these to deal with.

But, hey, spare a thought for our northern neighbours having to endure the Republic National Conference, with screech-fest performances such as that of Kimberly Guilfoyle:

Sometimes, you have to be grateful for life’s small mercies 🙂

#COVID19Chronicles-133: August 25, 2020-What do the main parties stand for?

Election Day is September 3, and the first of three debates will be tonight.

You can keep track on a scorecard provided by the Jamaica Debates Commission:

I’d hoped to read at least part of both manifestos by now, but the JLP hasn’t got theirs ready, yet—due out this morning. (I could make the obvious point about how daft it seems that the party that had the election timing in its control couldn’t have its manifesto out first.)

Instead, we have the LalaLand Manifesto of the Jamaica Progressive Party. I’m being uncharacteristically harsh on that, because it was the tail of a damp squib of an election appearance, because the party pulled out days after issuing the manifesto. It was manifestly a non-flyer. It would not get on the manifest of an plane except to see Barnum and Bailey. They will be the butt of jokes for days, and deservedly for the many dreams of untold riches that were snatched from our grasps.

PNP has come out with a nifty ‘personal’ manifesto. It’s cool in that you don’t have to provide a real profile, so you can see how you’d fare, for instance, if you were a rich, transvestite with a family of four, and a herd of pangolin living in St. Elizabeth. There’s hope for all, in that sort of offering.

But, as we’re really talking about the political heavyweights, I’d like to have both JLP and PNP story books at the same time. I’d also have preferred if a bit more technological flair had been shown and I could have had the documents in audio file form, so that during the likely many days of being locked in, I have lots of material to listen to and dream the days away. So, let me hold off.

The thought that’s going through my mind is just a simple one: What does each party stand for? Once upon a time in my life, I had a clearer idea of different philosophies driving the parties and their policies. That was clearer to me from I could really think about these things in the 1970s through 1990s, and I had the clear social democratic dreams of Michael Manley to look at and a more capitalistic and business-oriented and US-focused stance of Edward Seaga.

Now, it’s a bit harder to describe in a substantive way. I asked my wife and she said ‘Prosperity; focus on growth’ versus ‘Cater to the people’s needs’. I’ll not hold her feet to the fire on this, but it tells me that the ideas are a bit squishy. Maybe, that allows for more chewing away at the middle ground of people’s desire for better lives shaping it is slightly different images.

More assuredly, after the current administration, the JLP can put itself forward as a party that is set on ‘getting things done’ and appearing to get them done quickly. One of the problems with the PNP’s cries that much of this is building, literally, on their plans, is that people wonder why the plans were languishing. Ideas that don’t materialize aren’t worth much.

The real meaning of support for each party is maybe quite basic for lots of people and it’s not about grand images that show a Jamaica in totality, but the state of a community, say, that looks different then than it does now. Hence, politicians’ focus on basic services, like water and roads. It’s embarrassing to the nation that water supply is still such a thorny issue across the country. The state of roads is, sadly, going to be an unwanted thorn to the administration, after Tropical Storm Laura lashed us this weekend and many roads—including the crispy ‘cyaapet’ are now in a flooded or washed away shambles.

The damage to the rural roads cement (no pun) a tale that is as old as most people, of roads that are just not fit for purpose.

The damage to newly constructed stretches tells us that little has changed: US$20 million spent and what? Many will smell a familiar rat when learning that new roads were built without drainage systems. ‘Tom drunk, but Tom is no fool.’ 😦

The most that any party can do in coming days is make more promises about the provision and the maintenance, but memories will be fresh of what those realities are.

I don’t want to keep harping on about the things that can turn a near ‘slam dunk’ election win into a ‘squeaky bum’ nail biter, but you’re seeing some of them with the impact of nature on the national ability to move. That’s one of the problems with any idea of delaying elections, as far as the government is concerned: more stuff can go wrong.

In this narrow, optic, then, it’s not going to do the government too much harm that the pandemic has forced its hand to tighten restrictions again, with effect from tomorrow.

While, it’s easy to see a cynical take to that, it’s also what people have been clamouring for as the infection numbers rise sharply. But, as cards get handed out to play in coming days, it’s going to be a nervous time seeing whether some of them are hard to play with a positive air or if they are just to be turned over with hope of drawing a better one. Nature is not a controllable beast and, during hurricane season… 🙂

Laura came for brunch and outstayed her welcome

Yesterday started calmly enough and I took a quick spin downtown to put gas into my car…for the first time since mid-March. 😳

Job done. But I also took a quick spin around Parade and nearby streets just to see how things were.

Taxis awaiting riders were the main event. Though just some quick observations, but masks were more visible than I’d seen recently, especially amongst taxi drivers.

I then scooted home for a quiet morning.

Rain started late morning as traces of Tropical Storm Laura passed by. It never let up and by sunset I’d wished I’d bought that Ark kit. But, the washed sky left us a super pink tinge as the sun set.

By bedtime, the rain was still heavy and winds were lashing and we’d had one massive thunderclap that had me gripping the chandelier. 😂

As I lay in bed, the pounding rain was soothing. I was asleep just after 10pm. So, when I woke for a bathroom break around 2am, I was serenaded by howling wind and pounding rain.

I was mesmerized for about 15 minutes then slept soundly till past 5.

No damage to report by daybreak but some flooding was at the bottom of the yard, where we grow our little urban garden.

Our plants are loving the recent heavy rain but we may then get an upsurge of mosquitoes. Most of today has been dry so the excess water can soak in.

Laura called to say she’s headed north towards Texas, and thanks for the visit. She has plans to become a hurricane and will send a card if things change.