#COVID19Chronicles-269: January 2, 2021-I’m coming to eat you! A Trumpian feeding frenzy gets bloody.

It’s worse than the worst shaggy dog story. Donald Trump lost the election but insists on trying to make it seem he won in a series of demented legal assaults and textual missiles that appeared shot by a blind man who doesn’t care where they land. The man craves attention; he’s a narcissist. Duh! His worst nightmare is to be forced to leave the stage on someone else’s terms.

His strategy has a number of inevitable twists and the latest is acting like those animals that eat their own kind–there are a mere 7 listed, without adding the snakiness of electoral or sporting banter:

All manner of Republican Party/GOP children are now being eaten by Papa bear as he growls and scratches at anyone who comes too close; he’s now called the November vote in Georgia “illegal” and “invalid”:

So, here’s the glaring problem with this latest match thrown into the barn of drying hay. I know consistently reasoned arguments are not POTUS45’s strong suit. So, while he’s clearly sabotaging the Republican Senate runoff election candidates, he’s ignoring the obvious point that had he won Georgia would have made the same argument and be ready to ditch those results that were in his favour? Also, if this glaring problem is sticking in his craw, why did it not jam in the gullet in the Spring? Could it be that he assumed losing was not an option?

The self-feeding and more are now turning out all sorts of nutty scenarios. One that was around before, but means more a few days away from the Georgia run of is the idea of Donald Trump being elected as a senator if people write him in on the ballot:

But, in for a penny, in for pound and ‘nutty buddies’ are having their day. Serial maniac attorney, Lin Wood, just issued a series of vile threats to Vice President Mike Pence, who could “face execution by firing squad” for “treason”.

To round off the feeding frenzy, various Trumpites on the president’s legal team are finding this kind of trumpeting too much, even for them, and distancing themselves. Jenna Ellis went public on this:

If you feel that things are carrying out of control in the crazed efforts to suborn US democracy, you’re not wrong. A few more week of this and 2021 could get off to the kind of flying start that could help it knock 2020 into a hat for being bad.

#COVID19Chronicles-144: Devastation—the votes have been counted

JLP predicted a big win and got it:

I don’t pay much attention to polls, but it seems the pollsters were picked up the right scent about where popular sentiment was leading. Those who questioned their qualifications ought to think hard about how they missed what the wind was blowing throughout the country.

The PM had said it would be about the thinking voter and I think he was right. Ample evidence comes in the result that substantial discernment is there in many voters’ minds.

The preliminary result was JLP 49 seats, PNP 14, on the back of a much lower turnout than in 2016, 37% against 48%:

https://twitter.com/televisionjam/status/1301730896979005441?s=21

Though it will be hard to measure, many will put the low turnout down to the ‘COVID effect’ that made many fearful for their health and did not venture to the polling stations.

The full recount to finalize the results takes place today.

42 seats would give a 2/3 majority and that is something that people will be focusing on as the new administration takes office, and how it will be used.

PNP were graceful in accepting defeat, but also are in shock at how fulsome it was:

https://twitter.com/televisionjam/status/1301727718648819712?s=21

The country is now mainly green, and it’s not because of ample rain during August:

https://twitter.com/televisionjam/status/1301724360433172480?s=21

The PM, Andrew Holness, held his seat by more votes, emphasising that lower turnout overall was carrying a huge wave of support for him and his party:

Big upsets were many for the PNP, and some on the back of strong showing by women opponents. The most stunning of these defeats was of Peter Bunting in Manchester Central, by Rhoda Crawford. I’m not sure where that leaves his campaign claim that his coil was thick like dumpling:

He was joined in the loser’s column by Wykeham McNeill in Westmoreland Western, Luther Buchanan in Westmoreland Eastern, and Fenton Ferguson in St Thomas Eastern.

Beyond the personal losses were the territorial losses in areas that had long been seen as PNP strongholds. Amongst the long list of PNP introspection will be how the west was lost:

https://twitter.com/televisionjam/status/1301722080099131392?s=21

Lisa Hanna squeaked in by 14 votes.

Dayton Campbell is now gone. Many disliked his bombastic style and he put his own head on a pike with his performance during the national debates.

After Peter Phillips threw confusion into the wind by announcing he would resign as leader and from politics if he lost, though he kept his seat, eyes are now on a successor, and with Bunting gone, are eyes now on Julian Robinson? He’s been admired by many, not just partisans, and tends to be a voice of reason and clarity within a sea of bombast and fringe lunacy.

PNP will have to reflect again on how it missed the point of popular connection so badly, and that using a platform that spoke to caring for people it started with a ‘bag of tricks’ that few couldn’t see through for hype over substance. In that reflection, it’ll need to understand how a party with some of the best thinkers in the current Jamaican political sphere, it allowed good ideas to be overtaken by things that were not far from nonsense. I, personally, see a common thread there, and it stems from a politician who’s labelled himself a trickster.

A Jamaican doctor friend, who hails from the west sent me a message this morning: “A decisive victory for the JLP, now the concentration should shift to abating the Coronavirus, the economic crisis and reducing crime and violence.” I think many would support that, along with the hope that the greatly increased mandate—which gives the new government a 2/3 majority that could effect Constitutional change—will use that power humbly, not with arrogance.

Democracy now. Who matters more, voters or those who fund the budget?

Not surprisingly, with each new chance for a nation to vote, comes the chance to test the mettle of its electorate. In Jamaica, and many other countries, however, voters have been less and less willing to go to the polls. In our last general election, in February this year, the official turnout was about 48%, the lowest ever, but the data point in a clear downward trend since Independence.

Jamaican national election turnout 1962-2016 (Source: DiGJamaica)
 

Let’s say this is a reflection of both voter apathy and voter antipathy. Either way, electors are not so interested these days in casting their votes in representational races. It’s not just a Jamaican thing, either.

It’s interesting, though, that voter turnout internationally seems to be higher when specific matters are being polled, as with referendums. So, people may well be interested in having their opinions counted on issues, but are less willing to have their opinions counted in the selection of representatives. The recent UK referendum on EU membership hit a voter turnout high-water mark (see report). 

This difference between voting for people as opposed to things could be telling in many ways. It says something important about candidate selections, especially about qualities that voters now count increasingly (such as gender, race, cultural background). 

It’s rare for those who have not voted to be polled about WHY they did not vote. If they were, it could tell parties and other citizens that people are staying out of electoral races for quite legitimate reasons that reflect ‘the candidate does not represent me’. The recent US presidential elections are interesting studies. First, a largely white, racist country chose a black man to lead it. After two terms, the same country voted for a white man, displaying racist tendencies, to lead it. Is the USA schizophrenic? Well, opinions change, so what seemed a good decision can be overturned. That’s freedom of choice. But, the presidential candidates represented many different things, and embodiment of ideas was one of those, so race was neutralized. White American women certainly did not think that gender was a good calling card, as they dumped Hillary Clinton. 

It’s also the case that people often vote negatively, not positively. So, voting ‘for’ a candidate can often be a vote ‘against’ another candidate. Depending on the choices, voters may not be able to vote strategically without doing damage to their own life prospects. In the UK, the re-emergence of a viable third party (Liberal Democrats) meant that people did not need to withhold their votes totally, but could now vote for another option. When that third party returned to being a questionable option, voting patterns changed again. 

In places like Jamaica, where politics is highly partisan, electors tend to do what is known to happen in such situations–they do not vote for the other side, but instead do not turn out. We have seen this clearly in the last general and local elections in Jamaica, where the voting base for the PNP collapsed. But, on top of that, the voting for the JLP increased in the general election–a double whammy.

We also know that in Jamaica many of the so-called middle class have decided not to vote. Again, the limited studies do not make it clear whether they are just jaundiced by politics, feeling mistrust, dislike or a range of negative sentiments about politicians, or if they have just stopped caring because of politics that are not affecting their lives much. Political favours are important in Jamaica, and having the ‘wrong’ party in power can seriously damage life chances in many cases. We read and hear about the seeming partisan firing and hiring of staff when controlling parties change in Jamacica. The National Solid Waste Management Authority has a reputation for such practices, which sits awkwardly with its recent reputation of being headed by political activists. This happens, too, in the USA, but their system of republican government and its layers of federal and state controls, plus the many checks and balances renders such activity in a different light. 

Reasons for not voting vary. Some have to do with the logistics. For instance, in Jamaica, a voter must vote in a particular constituency, and transferring votes takes time. So, some students, for instance dont vote because they are ‘away’ from home districts. Things like that could be overcome by, say, some form of absentee voting, by post, electronically, or some other way. Ironically, someone could find they are in a constituency where they cannot vote, but would prefer the choices of candidates where they are, rather than the choices in their home districts. But, we also know that the voter registers include people who CANNOT vote, because they are DEAD or no longer resident. So, we need to remember how that skews the apparent turnout figures. Again, too, we have people who haven’t registered. But, we also have noncitizens (e.g. Commonwealth citizens) who can be eligible to vote. So, assessing voter behaviour requires a bit of digging around to really understand what’s going on. 

Voting systems matter, too. The first-past-the-post system left by the British has morphed into ‘garrison’ politics in Jamaica, where some seats have well over 90% voting for just one party. That may make those in the, say, 10% feel their votes are always wasted. So why bother? If Jamaica had proportional representation, then the heavy biases of ‘garrison’ politics could be neutralized to some degree if people knew that all votes really mattered, and that voting for a slate of candidates changed the electoral maths. 

But, voting aside, what should representative government be? I’m a strong proponent of representation of the people, totally. One aspect of my view is that tax payers have a significant stake in a healthy democracy, not least as one of its important financiers. I stress ‘one of’ because some argue, rightly, that non-citizens also have this role. So, foreign lenders and donors may even matter more to national financing. That truth is borne out by the fact that such financiers have a big say in how government policies are shaped. So, all the hoo-ha about voting is a bit airy, when the IMF, World Bank, EU, IDB, Chinese businesses, and other private capital providers want something in return. CHEC may have a bigger say in whether you get a new road than if you burn tyres and wave placards. 🙂

So, national tax payers are as entitled to have their views counted as much as, if not more than, voters? This is tricky. While tax payers are one group who make government possible (who do you think is funding the wages and cars?), they are difficulty to represent. It’s hard to know what tax payers want. Imagine, if each time you filed your income tax return it came with a questionnaire on government policies. In some places, voting is a little like that. In the US, voter interest is often higher because it’s not just candidates on the ballot, but issues (schools, human rights issues, etc.) So, voting in the USA can be a better gauge of public sentiment. 

It’s not practical for every GCT payment or other indirect tax levy to give you the chance to express your views about policies. Some people have tried to limit their tax paying because of protests about the direction of government policies. Tax resistance has a long and interesting history. Remember the ‘Boston Tea Party’: “No taxation, without representation!” Interesting! 

My economist bias suggests to me that governments should be more fearful of tax payer protests that voter no-shows. However, it’s easier to know a voter and to go kiss his or her baby than it is to identify the person who just paid a hefty chunk of GCT to bring in some goods. That said, we (the tax authorities, at least) can see direct tax payers, and large indirect tax payers are usually easy to see, even if they would like to stay out of full view. (Nice Jeep, Usain!)

So, as we head into Christmas, my concerns for Jamaican democracy are more about whether politicians actually deliver on promises than whether Liza and Cousin Errol made it to the polls, or if voting boxes were found hidden in a warehouse in some district. We have people who tend to respect election results, whatever. (By the way, The Gambia, we’re watching!)

We could have governments formed with 100 percent or near 0 percent voter turnout. However, ineffective government is not driven by voter turnouts. We may need to see whether a slim margin of one seat leads to better delivery on promises. Ironically, going for a bigger mandate in terms of more seats also gives the cushion (pun for free) of less pressure to deliver on promises. 

So, chew over that as you hit the turkey and Christmas pudding. Sorry, if it causes indigestion, though. 🙂

Can Jamaica stop being a ‘pothole’ (patch over problems) society?–‘As I See It’ Facebook Live chat

I spoke more fully on this topic and was able to expand some more on the basic ideas and examples. Watch and listen, at your leisure: https://www.facebook.com/dennisjonesasiseeit/posts/1155926584500234

Why do the press think we should speak with one voice?

Economic activity, or what is called casually ‘growth’, is hard to measure, so when the question of whether growth is occurring, plenty of scope exists for differences of opinion. Without getting too technical, what we want to measure is either the total production, incomes, or spending within the economy. If everything was tied to some central calculator, it would be easy to know what is happening in real time. That would be really cool. But, we humans haven’t been that clever. Instead, we try to get an idea of what’s going on by taking surveys of firms, government, and households, to compile our data. Adding the pieces is simpler when we have common units, such as how much money is involved. That’s fine for incomes or spending. For production and services, we’re stuck trying to measure physical things that are not similar: tons of steel girders, bushels of potatoes, kilos of fresh fish, number of people given advice, patients treated in hospitals, etc. That gives an idea of the computational issues. When the bodies surveyed don’t reply or reply late, the compilers have to adjust for the gaps. So, the best of intent is often subject to the failings of people involved.

The difficulty of measuring correctly and consistently is also there across all areas of the economy, but tends to be of a different order with say prices, external trade, monetary developments, or government financial operations.

Earlier this week, the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica spoke about how the economy had shown “unprecedented resilience” to inflationary shocks, and touched on how the economy had been growing and would grow in coming months. Not surprising to me, at least, someone took issue with that. The fact that it was the chairman of the newly formed Economic Advisory Council of the Jamaica Labour Party–the official opposition party–made this difference of view more interesting. That no academic economists sought to debate the matter says volumes. The official government spokesmen on economic policy are more likely to put data and developments in a positive light, so we need someone to either put a different view on the data and developments or to corroborate the official view. That the academics appear to do neither makes me wonder what role they think they should play, other than training another generation of thinkers and doers.

Countries like Jamaica are full of partisans and many views can only be understood through the optics of partisanship. But, we need to hear those diverse voices and we can try to filter the biases.

The official opposition and its support agencies cannot spend their time effectively being a cheerleader for government. Instead, they oppose, at the least by questioning what government says and does. That said, it’s peculiar that one newspaper would think that it should tell an opposition agent to be careful in disagreeing with the spin the government has given to economic news. The media themselves should be seeking to assess what the government is saying, questioning the speed with which opposing voices are raised. This is a democracy, after all. 

Jamaica is in a low growth environment for decades, and has been for decades, according to official data. Saying that it’s grown by about one percent in recent quarters, is as good as saying nothing has changed, if we look at the statistical noise surrounding that small rate of change. So, disputing the contention is no really big thing–unless one only wants to hear that things are better, which is as bad as only hearing that things are worse.

If we just go with our eyes and ears, we can come up with a story that fits the notion that Jamaica has been growing recently (e.g., construction activity), or remaining stagnant (e.g., little change in unemployment), or going into decline (e.g., drought has meant negative disruptions across a range of economic activities, and people who are having a harder financial time now than a year ago, not least because wages have been held unchanged or considerably lower than many prices, especially the cost of utilities).

There is rarely a single truth where economic data are concerned. Asking that we all hold onto the single message put out by the government does us all a disservice.

Jamaica’s electoral problems are not about voters, but about voting…and politicians

Everald Warmington, MP, would have us believe that the 48 percent of Jamaica’s electorate who do not vote are a source of problems in our political system. I say, on the contrary: they are a symptom. If those non-voters were to cast ballots we could end up with a situation that, in my mind is worse than what results from their not voting. It could seem as if they had not voted.

Jamaica has a first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system, which gives to victor in elections all of the representative power. In other words, just being ahead of your opponents means that all of the spoils are yours and your party’s. So, we could have the 48 percent voting, and they call cast their ballots for one party evenly across the country, and the remaining 52 percent vote for another party in similar fashion, and that party would take all of the parliamentary seats.

In many countries that would not be terrible. But, in Jamaica, it is the tip of a major disaster. Our system of politics is so tribal—JLP or PNP—and vindictive that when ‘it’s our time’ the winners make sure the losers know what they have lost—power. So, the 52 percent ‘make life hell’ for the rest. That’s perhaps an extreme portrayal, but it’s what’s at the bottom of our system. If our politicians were more prepared to represent the nation then we would be less worried. But, they want to take care of their own. So, the 48 percent lose big time.

The system would be at its most obviously ridiculous if the 63 parliamentary seats were each decided by a single vote in each case in favour of one party. Then, we would have all 63 seats going to PNP or JLP and all because of 63 people, out of a total electorate of just over 1.7 million. Imagine that.

I don’t know if the non-voters have made that analysis, but it would not be difficult to do and not unlikely to have been done.

If we had a proportional representation system, we would end up with a legislative body that reflected the 52:48 split in votes, and that would be near parity. Depending on how we let the legislature work, the 52 percent could still railroad the rest, but it’s less likely.

The UK has wrestled with this problem for decades. It was mainly a two-party system, but a third party started to get a large proportion of popular votes. However, the geographical shape of electoral seats meant that this party hardly won any seats in Parliament. The unfairness was clear. But, things reached a point where that party managed to get enough seats to start to matter. The larger parties needed to get their support to be able to win elections overall. They did not get proportional representation, but they started to matter more. The last set of UK elections resulted in a situation where one of the two major parties needed to get the support of the third party to be able to form a government–a deal had to be brokered.

The Liberal Democrats became 'king makers' in UK elections
The Liberal Democrats became ‘king makers’ in UK elections

The Tories had got the sweetheart and their ‘marriage of convenience’ with the Liberal-Democrats has now gone down in history.

I think that Jamaicans have acted rationally in many ways over the past 50-odd years since Independence. They have seen that votes matter less and have decided to vote less. That is the clear trend. Look at the voting data. Votes don’t count that much when seats are skewed in favour of one or other party. That withdrawal has been one of the signs of a lack of faith in the political system. That could change if all votes counted equally. That, of course, would not meet the approval of many politicians who depend on being able to boss and bully because they have the margin of votes to hold a seat, even though that margin may be slim in some places. It also means that holding onto that seat become much more important. The FPTP system is one reason why Jamaican politicians do not get held to account in a way that they should.

Some politicians like to label voters as the problem and do not see that they are as big a problem. Not only do we have a screwy system of voting, we also have a set of candidates offered to voters that clearly do not appeal. That’s also what non-voting shows. Dud 1 or Dud 2? Neither, thank you. It may be hard on the ego of would be national leaders and builders of legacies, but like when children dislike okra or spinach, it’s just the truth.

So, will Jamaica do anything about this? The basic problem was aired soon after the last general elections in Jamaica, in a clear article by Ken Jones (not related 🙂 ). The issues have not changed.

Most nations use some forms of proportional representation. However, former British Empire countries tend to hold onto FPTP. It’s time to let go of this relic of our colonial past. 

Problems with the way we think

Earlier this week, my daughter and I were listening to the radio on our way to swimming practice. I was listening to Irie FM’s ‘The Art of War’, hosted by Mutabrauka. Muta is always prodding us to think about what we do and say. You don’t have to agree with his views or arguments, but be engaged and provoked. He mentioned how some Jamaicans have an odd logic. For instance, he noted how people will throw trash in the roads and say that’s the right thing to do, otherwise garbage collectors wont have work to do. Yes, the trasher has a point, but misses a point. Muta also said that Jamaicans wont walk to a crossing when the place to which they want to go is directly across street. True, and the way our society is physically laid out that has a lot of sense. You can’t fault the logic, but it poses problems for the rest of us that people think in such a way.

Get on your thinking cap. Does it fit well?
Get on your thinking cap. Does it fit well?

But, the odd thinking is not confined to Jamaica. A friend posted on Facebook the following account: ‘I met a lady yesterday in the bank who said she voted against the FNM referendum in 2002 to give Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men, and when the PLP bring it she will vote NO again! I was confused and could not understand why women continue to vote against their best interest. So I asked Why? She said “It’s not about my daughters, it’s my sons…this is the only place in the world my sons have an advantage over other men when it comes to employment for the high-paying jobs and I plan to keep it that way! My daughter marry some “high hot shot man” and he comes and take my son job from him….HELL NO!” The logic we use sometimes…..gets me everytime!’ Many commentators took the woman in the story to task about her lack of foresight, insight, etc. but, that’s how she sees the world.

In Jamaica, people often talk about ‘the system’ or ‘Babylon’ and how it oppresses. Some of what people use for reasons and reasoning come from interesting places in their physical and emotional lives. We know that people with eyes too close together are…

We know that religious conviction can lead some into ways of thinking that defy sense for many of us. I am not going to tackle any individual’s view on religion, but some of the thinking leaves me gasping, and it’s often more disturbing because the people concerned clearly do not hear or listen to the voices and opinions of others.

Muta was also interviewing a pastor, in relation to new efforts by the national bus company to improve service by imposing its already existing ban on people preaching on buses. The pastor argued that he was spreading the word of God and that those who did not want to hear it would suffer, etc. He also saw no problem with disturbing the peace of those who were on the bus for their journey. If they did not want to hear him preach, they could get off the bus and take another. Muta tried to get the preacher to see that as being unreasonable: people were not on the bus for sermons, but to try to get to work or home or play. Why should they have to use hard-earned and scarce money to avoid something they had not bargained for or demand? The pastor was unmoved.

I did some quick unscientific research, and searched Twitter using ‘Jamaican logic’ as my terms. I found the following:

‘Drink tea. Broke your leg? Drink tea. Just got HIV? Drink tea.’ Some joked about the naiveté of Jamaicans, for instance, with a meme that showed people lined up at a polling booth to vote for a TV show–not knowing that there are many different types of votes and places to make them. Funny, but…We get the point.

The logic is clearly not that just exercised by people who live cut off from the rest of society. I read a short story this morning about children growing up in Jamaica in the 1950s, and how they would hide in the bushes when they heard a car approaching. They had seen few cars, but were afraid that they would be kidnapped and taken away by pirates to be slaves. Oh, the mind of a child, we think.

Jamaica has a very colourful and voluble MP, Everald Warmington. He thinks in a very different way to many and has little hesitation in sharing his thoughts. He has just proposed that registered voters who fail to exercise their franchise be required to pay approximately $705 (US$7) eachback the national Treasury. There are 1.7 million people on the voters’ list. Only 52 per cent of the electorate voted in the last general election, which ‘cost’ $1.2 billion. “If you have 48 per cent stay-home-and-don’t-vote, you need to establish a system where that 48 per cent pay back to the Consolidated Fund the amount that it costs.” Mr. Warmington does not entertain the idea that in a democratic society not voting is a legitimate option at elections. He feels that whatever the choices available people should vote. Some have said that ‘write in’ votes could deal with people’s dislike of the options for candidates; in other words, spoil the ballot, but turn out and vote, anyway. Mr.Warmington also does not see that persons like himself may be the reason some do not vote. He may not see the logic that says people may actually not approve of the government spending money on electoral systems ahead of spending money on say health and education or sanitation. Some people feel that ‘bad’ politicians should also look to pay back the nation. The parties are engaged as I write.

My simple suggestion to Mr. Warmington would be a first step for Jamaica to change its voting system. Now, if one party gets 51% of the vote in every constituency it ends up with ALL of the seats, all of the representatives, even though the nation said there’s only a small margin more in favour of that party. The ‘winner takes all’ system is patently unfair and unrepresentative. Add to that, clear evidence that MPs are vindictive or favour their supporters rather than the opposition, and we have plenty to concern us. Maybe, we should move to proportional representation, where at least the balance of support is reflected. If we try something like that and the numbers who vote remain low, then we can think about what else is wrong. But, now, we have a broken system and also a set of candidates that clearly does not get much support from a large swathe of the nation. But, that’s just my crazy logic at work.

We have to accept that we do not all think alike. What we find odd in the way some think may not have much impact, if we feel that the views are limited. We have no way of really controlling how people process the world they experience and translate that into how they should react and live their lives. Those of us who have received well a lot of education may lament and hold our heads in our hands and wonder what to do with ‘these people’. We have to get on with them. We may be the ones who have gotten it wrong.

 

Jamaican political rhetoric–getting warm and could get hot

I am still hopping mad about Mr. Warmington’s comments on voting. (Maybe, it’s subliminal, because some years ago, he lost an election to Dennis Jones–it wasn’t me :-))

At least, some bigger voices than mine in terms of public commentary have made it clear that this is not acceptable. Professor Trevor Munroe yesterday referred to Mr. W’s recent remarks as “political corruption”Observer columnist Mark Wignall today cites what I also find very disturbing–the tacit support given by the JLP leader, Mr. Holness, who was on the same platform as Mr. W, and said NOTHING against what he heard. We must take that as, at least, tacit approval. If so, then where do we go with that endorsement? You cannot transform what you are not prepared to change. You will be what you accept. Maybe, Mr. W. will get his wish at the next election, with a resounding rise in voting and the nice present of a lost seat.

Only 22 countries in the world have compulsory voting on their books and only 10 enforce those laws, according to information on Wikipedia. If Mr. W. wanted to argue for the improved legitimacy that would come from higher voter participation then he could have expressed himself better. Some of these countries make an exception for ‘very young’ and ‘very old’ voters. Others make exceptions for illiterate voters.

What still grieves me is the total disregard in Mr. W’s comments for those who have every right to full political representation through their participation in the financing of the State. The notion that voting confers rights to state benefits is the beginning of justification for political patronage. Some see it as more sinister because it implies perhaps the justification of party favouritism. How dare a politician think of only giving benefits to those who have cast their mark on a ballot and not think to support those who want benefits and have contributed directly to government being able to provide those benefits?

Since, starting to write this, I read that Andrew Holness has now made a comment. He is reported as having said. He signalled that the Party is not in favour of Mr. Warmington’s position: “The general secretary, I believe, responded to say that the party’s position has always been that state resources are available to all citizens, regardless of their belief and whether or not they vote, yes or no”. Well, let’s take that muted remark as distancing himself and the party from Mr. W.

Now, let’s clear up what Mr. W. means by arguing that if you do not vote you should be put in jail: “…you should lock them up if they don’t vote…”.

Mr. Warmington’s arguments are very confused, and I repeat ‘dangerous’–making it clear that he knows that those who did not vote are really below consideration and deserve condemnation: “48% sat home and didn’t vote and they have the loudest squeal and the loudest talk and everything is bad for them in government and they don’t participate in anything and those people are going to say that I must apologize?”

Let’s see if the talk is another nine-day wonder, or if something is done about something that is supposedly unacceptable.

Where’s the coup? I want a ticket.

My wife asked me the other evening, while we were driving through the military base at Newcastle, why Jamaica has not had a coup. I explained that the Caribbean has a long and proud tradition of peaceful democratic transfers of political power. Haiti has had more than its fair share of coups, but its history is unique. But, the region does not do insurrection. Grenada’s coups during 1979-83 were an extraoridnary episode. So, unlike many parts of the world, Jamaica is in an unfashionable area, coups attempts are not our thing. But why?

The popular image of Jamaicans as being aggressive and easy to take offence should lend itself to a little bit of government overhtrowing, you’d imagine. But, something about the whole unseating of civilian governments and replacing them with a band of men in camoflague gear is a full turn-off.

It’s not the climate: Africa and Latin America show that heat is often a part of the coup party scene.

It’s not living conditions: Jamaica is not in the bottom half of poverty measures, but many coup-affected countries have been associated with grinding poverty, so we’ve helped ourselves by not downpressing people too much, no matter how often we hear how “Wi a suffa”.

Could it be that we are not really into the kind of struggle where we have to do the bidding of someone in uniform? The army would be overthrown faster than they overthrew. Also, our ‘bad boy’ culture and ‘dons’ taking over areas may be as much insurrection as we can deal with. The army would have to at least be as good as the dons in ‘looking after’ us. Box lunch and new fridge, please…

I joked that the military would stand less chance of success in a place like Jamaica, in the same way the British did when trying to control runaway slaves: the country and its extensive mountain ranges lends themselves to guerrilla tactics and the mountaineous terrain lends itself to hiding so well. Civilians are better placed to keep control of places than the military. Jamaica’s sorry history of electricity provision and brown outs suggests that a military take-over of power stations would be a two-edged sword. Would the army really want to deal with all those JPS customers constantly complaining about the lack of power in their areas? They’d want to give it back quick o’clock.

Could the military take over the airports? Sure, but with Jamaicans, there would still be the usual throng of people going to the airport and wanting to fly to Florida, Atlanta or New York, and they wouldn’t put up with any nonsense that might hamper their shopping trips. Take over the airport by all means but make sure my flights are still going. You’ll see people-power for sure if the military start cancelling–they have that enough with bad weather and mechanical problems. Also, don’t start trying to tell people that they can only travel with one bag. GOd made us with two hand for a reason. Don’t increase the security checks, either; we’re already unhappy about all of the feeling-up taking place: “Frisk but don’t get frisky!”

How about wresting control of the means of commuication? Please! Army man as DJ? Spin it, Colonel Selector! Don’t you dare take off the latest dance hall and reggae tunes and put on any stiff marching music. You mad? And don’t even fool with the call-in programs. It’s a wonder how countries. which have lived under military rule for decades tolerate the dire shows they put out. Lime Tree Lane, set in a barracks? Nah!

But, maybe it’s our love of opportunity that would undo any coup. Once the army took over, they would find all of their places of occupation surrounded by higglers and vendors selling them everything from ‘Coup, no problem’ or ‘Army bway, irie!’ tee shirts to the men who usually clean car windshields surrounding the tanks and armoured cars offering to give them a wash and a shine. You’d see more sellers of guns and bullets, and better quality than the army had already–no delays, officer :-). Of course, the food vendors would be there in a flash. “Come, solja! Buy one soup, nuh?”

The party goers would not be far beheind, I think. ‘Coup Jam’ or ‘Coup Street Dance’ posters would be up in no time and the army men would find themselves more likely to be hemmed in by so many winding and bumping people that they would feel that they had been taken over. Ticket touts would be there in a heartbeat, selling ‘VIP passes’ for ‘front row view’ of the coup, live and direct, as the military tried to spread its presence.

Please don’t start imposing army rule and having all-day curfews. When would people be able to go about their regular business? We’re already accused of being ‘work shy’, so don’t force peope to stay home, save for a lunchtime run to get patties and cocoa bread. What about all the sloping off that needs to happen so that every man and woman could continue with their secret assignations? You want a riot on your hands?

No Jamaican will let the army requisition his vehicle. “Tek my bimmer? An’ scratch it up? Drive it inna mud? No sah! Yu nuh see it juss clean? Yu ha fi kill me fuss!”

The final insult may be that, with the army in charge, camoflague gear would have to be legalised. Jamaicans love fashion and what better way to show your support for the new era of army rule but for everyone to put on fatigues.
camo jamaica

Some customs don’t travel well. We don’t do coups.