Monday, October 27, 2008
NCB Group Chairman Michael Lee-Chin with former Trinidad & Tobago Minister of Finance Wendell Mottley, now chief for emerging markets at Credit Suisse and Senator Don Wehby, Minister without portfolio in the Finance and Public Service Ministry.
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Jamaica Observer 27 OCT 08
Like a self-conscious mail-order bride, Jamaica knows she will only get suitors if we send out snapshots of her better-looking side. Lucky for her, she does have a most beautiful side, in stark contrast to those warts of crime that we try to keep away from the flashbulbs of foreign direct investment.
We should be very aware but not afraid of this global financial turmoil. If our athletes had become overawed by their first-world competitors, we would have got no medals in Beijing. That being said, our Olympians told Observer writer Selena Deleon that the common factor of their training experience has been PAIN – which is exactly what we should expect before the resulting GAIN. Just as our runners submitted themselves to a grueling programme, so will Jamaica have to take a rigorous route to socio-economic stability.
An estimable group of business leaders brought together last week by NCB Chairman Michael Lee-Chin and his top team, did not mince words after they listened to presentations by Senator Don Wehby, Minister without portfolio in the Finance and Public Service Ministry, and former Trinidad & Tobago Minister of Finance Wendell Mottley, now chief for emerging markets at Credit Suisse.
Even as he assured us of the Government’s resolve to come to grips with our plight, Don Wehby gave us some sobering information: “Despite the wealth of potential our island possesses, our economy is underperforming compared to other regions and compared to some of our own Caribbean counterparts.”
He goes further – we, each of us, rich and poor, carry “a debt burden of $370,000”. Unfortunately, as we carry it, many of us cannot even count it; in the words of the Minister, “73% of employed persons haven’t had any formal training at all; 68% of employed persons have not passed any exams at the CXC level or above.”
Because of the large recurrent bills to pay down our debt, Minister Wehby sees foreign direct investment as “One key contributor to economic growth.” This was borne out by Wendell Mottley who recalled Trinidad’s tense situation in the 1990’s with the Muslimeen threatening a coup d’etat. “We embarked on twin programmes,” he told us, “a massive programme of macro-economic reform and the privatisation of the energy sector.”
There was no drawn-out, expansive discussion, said Mottley, “We had to act with deliberate speed… I could hear the crowd baying outside Parliament.” The country acted, and the danger abated: “Without heavy direct investment and the coordinated role of the state, Trinidad’s development would not have taken place.”
Perhaps we have not recognised the “baying” of our crowds, because they have not physically descended on Gordon House. Surely, we hear them in the horrific increase in all major crimes over last year. How can we even bear to hear that there was a decrease to an average of four murders per day last month?
Mottley has great memories of Jamaica, participating in the Commonwealth Games held here in the sixties, and later working at ICD and “learning at the feet of the Matalons.” He says in those days, “Jamaica was the prince of bauxite and alumina.”
“Jamaica has it,” says Mottley passionately. He urged us to develop our value propositions “to make a compelling case. You have a big problem so you must have a big solution.” Mottley said he took one look at the size of the Chinese Embassy in Jamaica and recognised that this must be part of their strategic plan.
He described the marked development in Freeport, Bahamas and asked, “Where is the casino legislation?” Mottley recommended offshore healthcare facilities, and suggested that with the excitement of Usain Bolt’s performance in Beijing, Jamaica should look at staging a trade mission to China.
Michael Lee-Chin who has followed through on his energetic investment and philanthropic commitments to Jamaica, told us of a recent conversation with one of his Canadian co-investors in Columbus/Flow, John Risley. He said he had called Risley to commiserate on a bad patch he was experiencing in a North American venture, and the Canadian commented that his investment in Jamaica was one of the most promising he had ever made.
Karl Hendrickson focused our minds wonderfully when he reminded us that this country had a great ability to plan and that there were already good plans that “need not much except determination.” In the case of agriculture, he said, “no one has taught us the art of agriculture – we can’t do it by simply talking about it.”
Later that very day, NCB announced winners of their first Nation Builders Awards, Omar Azan’s Boss Furniture Limited, Hamilton’s Industrial Machine Shop and my friend Michelle Smith’s Chocolate Dreams. Theirs were stories of diligence and commitment, resulting in the creation of jobs for scores of Jamaicans.
Last week also, The Observer launched its Institute of Business Leaders under the patronage of Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall, to be chaired by the excellent Ryland Campbell. Winning business leaders and nominees over the years will participate in training and mentorship programmes to give a hand up to aspiring Jamaicans. We need the generosity of these entrepreneurs to be matched by strong, swift government support.
Observer Chairman Butch Stewart summed up the importance of business: “Government should realise that Jamaica is a multiple of organisations and companies.” He said it was the business sector that provides funds to run the country, “so if you want the country to be prosperous, make sure that businesses are prosperous.” Stewart appealed to us to stop “bad-mouthing” and start “good-mouthing” each other – a superb and actionable idea!
Mutual affirmation is a great start for making to the world a compelling case for Jamaica.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
What a great morning at my alma mater, Alpha Academy! Our Alumnae Assn Florida Chapter led by the beautiful Patsy Lee (fab tennis player in our day)and the irrepressible Addy Chin launched the Sister Mary Bernadette Little Scholarship Fund with presentations to two recent graduates who are currently studying at the UWI. The thank yous were so heartfelt that there was not a dry eye in the room.
Sister Bernadette was as elegant and as inspiring as ever - and of course we all sat up straighter as we listened to her.
The local and Florida chapters also announced their participation in the Alpha mentorship programme. We heard encouraging reports from current mentors Lily (Hoo Ping Kong) Chen and Anne Marie (Talbot) Smith, and commendations from Alpha Board Chairman Joyce Archibald.
The presentation was preceded by a lovely Mass in the Chapel said by Father Ken Richards with readings by Rheta Chen and music by Sister Marie Chin.
We were delighted to hear that Velia Espeut was now the Religious Advisor at the school - and even moreso when she graced us with her song.
Among my contemporaries present were Gail Chung, Elsie (Lue) Lau, Helen Moss-Solomon (soon to return from Washington to invest in tourism), and Hermine (Lee Hing) Metcalfe. How refreshing to be back at Alpha and be with our classmates - better than any spa day!
Friday, October 24, 2008
New York Times Editorial
Published: October 23, 2008
The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush’s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens — whether they are fleeing a hurricane’s floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable.
As tough as the times are, the selection of a new president is easy. After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States.
Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.
In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.
Given the particularly ugly nature of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong. But there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. The differences are profound.
Mr. McCain offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans’ bank accounts. Mr. Obama has another vision of government’s role and responsibilities.
In his convention speech in Denver, Mr. Obama said, “Government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”
Since the financial crisis, he has correctly identified the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse.
The American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain — a self-proclaimed “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” — is still a believer.
Mr. Obama sees that far-reaching reforms will be needed to protect Americans and American business.
Mr. McCain talks about reform a lot, but his vision is pinched. His answer to any economic question is to eliminate pork-barrel spending — about $18 billion in a $3 trillion budget — cut taxes and wait for unfettered markets to solve the problem.
Mr. Obama is clear that the nation’s tax structure must be changed to make it fairer. That means the well-off Americans who have benefited disproportionately from Mr. Bush’s tax cuts will have to pay some more. Working Americans, who have seen their standard of living fall and their children’s options narrow, will benefit. Mr. Obama wants to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, restore a climate in which workers are able to organize unions if they wish and expand educational opportunities.
Mr. McCain, who once opposed President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy as fiscally irresponsible, now wants to make them permanent. And while he talks about keeping taxes low for everyone, his proposed cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of Americans while digging the country into a deeper fiscal hole.
The American military — its people and equipment — is dangerously overstretched. Mr. Bush has neglected the necessary war in Afghanistan, which now threatens to spiral into defeat. The unnecessary and staggeringly costly war in Iraq must be ended as quickly and responsibly as possible.
While Iraq’s leaders insist on a swift drawdown of American troops and a deadline for the end of the occupation, Mr. McCain is still talking about some ill-defined “victory.” As a result, he has offered no real plan for extracting American troops and limiting any further damage to Iraq and its neighbors.
Mr. Obama was an early and thoughtful opponent of the war in Iraq, and he has presented a military and diplomatic plan for withdrawing American forces. Mr. Obama also has correctly warned that until the Pentagon starts pulling troops out of Iraq, there will not be enough troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, has only belatedly focused on Afghanistan’s dangerous unraveling and the threat that neighboring Pakistan may quickly follow.
Mr. Obama would have a learning curve on foreign affairs, but he has already showed sounder judgment than his opponent on these critical issues. His choice of Senator Joseph Biden — who has deep foreign-policy expertise — as his running mate is another sign of that sound judgment. Mr. McCain’s long interest in foreign policy and the many dangers this country now faces make his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska more irresponsible.
Both presidential candidates talk about strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia, including NATO, and strongly support Israel. Both candidates talk about repairing America’s image in the world. But it seems clear to us that Mr. Obama is far more likely to do that — and not just because the first black president would present a new American face to the world.
Mr. Obama wants to reform the United Nations, while Mr. McCain wants to create a new entity, the League of Democracies — a move that would incite even fiercer anti-American furies around the world.
Unfortunately, Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, sees the world as divided into friends (like Georgia) and adversaries (like Russia). He proposed kicking Russia out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations even before the invasion of Georgia. We have no sympathy for Moscow’s bullying, but we also have no desire to replay the cold war. The United States must find a way to constrain the Russians’ worst impulses, while preserving the ability to work with them on arms control and other vital initiatives.
Both candidates talk tough on terrorism, and neither has ruled out military action to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama has called for a serious effort to try to wean Tehran from its nuclear ambitions with more credible diplomatic overtures and tougher sanctions. Mr. McCain’s willingness to joke about bombing Iran was frightening.
The Constitution and the Rule of Law
Under Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the justice system and the separation of powers have come under relentless attack. Mr. Bush chose to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the moment in which he looked like the president of a unified nation, to try to place himself above the law.
Mr. Bush has arrogated the power to imprison men without charges and browbeat Congress into granting an unfettered authority to spy on Americans. He has created untold numbers of “black” programs, including secret prisons and outsourced torture. The president has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of secret orders. We fear it will take years of forensic research to discover how many basic rights have been violated.
Both candidates have renounced torture and are committed to closing the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
But Mr. Obama has gone beyond that, promising to identify and correct Mr. Bush’s attacks on the democratic system. Mr. McCain has been silent on the subject.
Mr. McCain improved protections for detainees. But then he helped the White House push through the appalling Military Commissions Act of 2006, which denied detainees the right to a hearing in a real court and put Washington in conflict with the Geneva Conventions, greatly increasing the risk to American troops.
The next president will have the chance to appoint one or more justices to a Supreme Court that is on the brink of being dominated by a radical right wing. Mr. Obama may appoint less liberal judges than some of his followers might like, but Mr. McCain is certain to pick rigid ideologues. He has said he would never appoint a judge who believes in women’s reproductive rights.
It will be an enormous challenge just to get the nation back to where it was before Mr. Bush, to begin to mend its image in the world and to restore its self-confidence and its self-respect. Doing all of that, and leading America forward, will require strength of will, character and intellect, sober judgment and a cool, steady hand.
Mr. Obama has those qualities in abundance. Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility.
Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing. His righteous fury at being driven out of the 2000 primaries on a racist tide aimed at his adopted daughter has been replaced by a zealous embrace of those same win-at-all-costs tactics and tacticians.
He surrendered his standing as an independent thinker in his rush to embrace Mr. Bush’s misbegotten tax policies and to abandon his leadership position on climate change and immigration reform.
Mr. McCain could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of “drill, baby, drill.”
Mr. Obama has endorsed some offshore drilling, but as part of a comprehensive strategy including big investments in new, clean technologies.
Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”
This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.
The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 24, 2008, on page A30 of the New York edition.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama on NBC's Meet the Press this morning was measured and dignified. We remember that this is a man born in Harlem, New York, of Jamaican parents, Luther and Arie (nee McKoy) Powell.
In the tradition of Jamaica's National Heroes, Colin Powell has stepped out of his comfort zone to denounce the cynical tone of the McCain-Palin campaign, even as he reaffirmed his admiration and respect for fellow soldier, John McCain. Powell says he still considers himself a Republican.
In his autobiography, "My American Journey", we learn of the hardworking, decent parents who raised this exceptional man. Excerpts from his book and links to the NYT and CNN reports below.
[My father] was the second of nine children born to poor folk in Top Hill ... My mother was the eldest of her generation - of nine children - and came from a slightly more elevated social station ... She had a high school education which my father lacked.
... Mom was a staunch union supporter, a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. My father, the shipping room foreman [at Ginsburg's] considered himself a part of management.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Alton was truly a preacher of peace. His works (songs) such as Dance Crasher, Don't Trouble People, Cry Tough, and Big Bad Boy, to name a few speaks volumes of a man that had been cast in the mold of a peacemaker.
Incidentally, I learned of Alton's death while attending the Excelsior Alumni Association USA Inc 39th Annual Dinner Dance held here in New York last Saturday evening. Alton's song Dance Crasher is and will always be part of my Excelsior's experience as long as I am clothed in my rightful mind.
During my first and second forms days at Excelsior as soon as classes for the day were completed, my classmates and I would hastily make our way to the music room. The piano would come alive with Dance Crasher until the older boys arrived. In fact, often times the older boys would oblige my classmate who played the piano to complete the gig.
Ironically, my classmate that played the piano was also an "Alton" albeit surnamed Clarke. As a matter of fact, I used to call him Alton Ellis. As I write, I picture Alton (classmate) sitting at the piano biting on his lips and banging Dance Crasher on the piano keys. Another favorite back then and especially from the older boys was America soul singer, Barbara Lyn's "Letter to Mommy and Daddy".
Back to Alton Ellis, despite him being exploited by so-called the powers that be of the music world, Alton remained a true messenger of peace and love.
The circumstances surrounding his death really came as surprise to me, seeing that it is only this past June he performed and with such energy by newspaper account.
Deepest sympathy to Alton's family, friends, and relatives. May Alton's soul rest in peace.
Oh dance crasher, oh-oh -oh oh dance crasher
Oh no no, don't break it up
Please don't make a fuss
Don't use a knife
To take another fellow's life
You'll be sorry, you'll be so sorry
You'll be sorry, let me tell you, ba-oooo
For there's a death sentence, ba-oooo
And you won't stand a chance, ba-oooo
And that will be your last dance, ba-oooo
Oh dance crasher, oh-oh -oh oh dance crasher
Oh no no, don't break it up
Please don't make a fuss
Go to a gym
And get yourself a trim
Be a clean fighter
'Stead of a dance crasher
Let me tell you, ba-oooo
Be a gentleman, ba-oooo
You could be a champion, ba-oooo
Like Mr. Bunny Grant, ba-oooo
Oh dance crasher, oh-oh -oh oh dance crasher
Oh no no, don't break it up
Please don't make a fuss
Go to a gym
And get yourself a trim
Be a clean fighter - prize fighter
'Stead of a dance crasher
Let me tell you, ba-oooo
Be a gentleman, ba-oooo
You could be a champion, ba-oooo
Like Mr. Bunny Grant, ba-oooo
Thank you Ian!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; C01
Christopher Buckley knew he was venturing into treacherous territory when he endorsed Barack Obama: "It's a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They'd cut off my allowance," he wrote.
The penalty turned out to be more severe. William F. Buckley Jr.'s son said yesterday that he had lost his back-page column in National Review, the conservative bible founded by his father.
"Within hours, poor NR was being swamped with furious mail, 'Cancel my subscription, this is betrayal, Judas, Benedict Arnold,' " Buckley, 56, said in an interview. "I thought the decent thing to do would be to offer to resign the column. Well, they accepted it."
Buckley can't be completely disappeared; the Washington author owns one-seventh of National Review and serves on the magazine's board. But he is the latest right-leaning pundit to be slammed by his side for criticizing or breaking with John McCain.
National Review editor Rich Lowry, a Bill Buckley protege, told readers in a posting that the younger Buckley had been writing the column for several months on a trial basis, although Buckley believed it was permanent.
"Chris says that his Obama endorsement has generated a 'tsunami,' that e-mail at NRO [National Review Online] has been running 'oh, 700-to-1' against him, and that there's a debate about whether to boil him in oil or shoot him. Chris is either misinformed or exercising poetic license," Lowry writes. "We have gotten about 100 e-mails, if that [a tiny amount compared to our usual volume], and threats of cancellations in the single digits."
Buckley delivered his endorsement of the Democratic presidential nominee last Thursday in the cyberpages of the Daily Beast, a new, blog-heavy Web site launched by Tina Brown, the former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. "I went out of my way to spare NR from being associated with this endorsement," Buckley said.
In that piece, Buckley said that he has known McCain since 1982 and once wrote a speech for him but that the senator has changed, airing "mean-spirited and pointless" attack ads and -- "What on earth can he have been thinking?" -- picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. While the result was "genuinely saddening" and even "tragic" for the country, Buckley wrote, he had concluded that Obama has a "first-class temperament and a first-class intellect" and could be a great president. That is, "assuming anyone gives a fig" about his views.
Buckley noted that columnist Kathleen Parker, after a National Review Online piece declaring Palin unqualified to be vice president, had received 12,000 hostile e-mails. Parker, who is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, described the reaction in her next column: "I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn't, I should 'off' myself."
In his embrace of Obama, Buckley quoted his father as saying, "You know, I've spent my entire lifetime separating the Right from the kooks."
That didn't sit especially well with Lowry, who declined to be interviewed. "No doubt part of what upset these readers was the dim view Chris expressed of them in his first Daily Beast post," he wrote. "So it goes. It's an intense election season and emotions are running high. We continue to have the highest regard for Chris's talent and wit, and extend to him warmest regards and understanding."
Buckley, who said his proffered resignation was "briskly" accepted by Lowry on Saturday, declined to criticize the magazine: "I'm very fond of NR and I'm sorry this happened." But as he wrote in a follow-up Beast essay, "It's pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land."
Buckley noted that his father was unpredictable, had endorsed such Democrats as Joe Lieberman and wrote in 1969 that it was time America had a black president. "He would let you say anything you wanted as long as it was argued."
Were his pup still alive, Buckley said, "what my dear old dad probably would have done is taken out two pages and had me roundly denounced, carcass tossed out on the sidewalk. It would have been journalism. It would have been interesting."
Sunday, October 12, 2008
“Girl I’ve got a date!” sang Alton Ellis and everybody on the dance floor sang “aaaah –ah!” Alton Ellis flavoured our lives with his rich lyrics and voice. On Winford Williams’ CVM “Onstage” we learned that many of his songs were cris de coeur as he struggled with his tempestuous marriage. And so we were gifted with “I’m still in love (with you girl!)”, “Willow Tree” and “Muriel”. His was a voice appealing for peace as in “Dancecrasher”.
Below is a heart-rending comment from his also famous nephew Owen 'Blakka' Ellis as reported by Basil Walters in the Observer.
Alton Ellis hailed a musical icon
BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter email@example.com
Sunday, October 12, 2008
MEMBERS of the musical fraternity yesterday hailed the late Alton Ellis as a musical legend who will never be forgotten, even as they lauded him for his hard work over more than half a century.
"He always called me 'ska king'. And I always called him 'the great Mr Rock Steady'," said Derrick Morgan, one of Ellis' musical peers for more than 50 years. "A lot of shows, he and I performed in Europe together. The last show I remember he and I did was in June at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Jamaica."
Ellis, 64, lost the battle against cancer in a London hospital last Friday night.
Michael Barnett, who along with Keith Brown used to promote the longest running vintage show series called Startime, said Ellis had always been one of his biggest drawing cards.
"Alton was always a favourite artiste of the people from day one. The people just had a love affair with him," he said.
For Lloyd Parks, whose We the People band was the longest backing outfit for Startime, Ellis was a mentor. "I used to go to Studio One on Brentford Road just to look at Alton and Ken Boothe; and said 'I want to be like them'. It brought joy to me when I started backing them. That brought so much joy to me that when they started labelling me as a vintage band, I just didn't care - even though I back everybody. His passing touched me," said Parks sadly.
Minister of Information, Culture, Sports and Youth Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, for her part, extended condolences to his family, while lauding him as a reggae icon.
"Like thousands of other Jamaicans, I deeply mourned the passing of Jamaica's most famous exponent of rock steady, Alton Ellis," said Grange, adding that it was Ellis and keyboardist, the late Jackie Mittoo, who invented the rock steady beat in the mid-1960s.
One of Ellis' more enduring gems called 'Why' has been immortalised as he is said to have asked 'why' in his final moments. It is a reality that has deepened the sadness of at least one family member. "My cousin (Uncle Alton's son Clive) tell me that one of the last words he uttered was 'Why'," said Owen 'Blakka' Ellis, comedian and nephew of the trailblazing Jamaican singer. "And I'm asking the Almighty why, why so many good people have to die. I think I feel too numb to think. My heart full and my eyes too tired to cry. I was about to sleep but the news got me out of bed. Now, Uncle Alton's words are stuck in my head."
Legendary Alton Ellis passes on
published: Sunday Gleaner | October 12, 2008
ALTON ELLIS, the west Kingston balladeer who defined the lovers' rock genre, died Friday evening at age 70. The singer succumbed to a 10-month fight with lymphatic cancer.
Sandra Ellis, one of his children, told The Sunday Gleaner that her father passed away at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, where he had been receiving treatment for the past two weeks.
Ellis had been diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands in December 2007.
No singer had more success on Jamaican charts during the 1960s than the Trench Town-born Ellis whose first hit song was Muriel, which was done with Eddie Perkins.
Throughout the 1960s, Ellis recorded a series of ska hits for rival producers Arthur 'Duke' Reid and Clement Dodd. These included Dancecrasher, Girl I've Got a Date, I'm Just a Guy and I'm Still in Love.
He immigrated to England in the early 1970s where he remained active musically. He enjoyed a career resurgence in the 1990s when there was a rocksteady revival in Jamaica and Europe.
In 2003, dancehall superstar Sean Paul and singer Sasha had a minor hit in the United States with their cover of I'm Still in Love.
Ellis, who last performed here in June, is survived by wife Judith and over 20 children.
Published - New York Times: October 12, 2008
.... the country got conditioned to Obama appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.
Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of "Treason!" and "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" and "Off with his head!" as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.
....But it's not just the old Joe McCarthyesque guilt-by-association game, however spurious, that's going on [in the Republican campaign] . Don't for an instant believe the many mindlessly "even-handed" journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign's use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign's hammering on Charles Keating.
What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." He is "palling around with terrorists" (note the plural noun). Obama is "not a man who sees America the way you and I see America." Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops. By the time McCain asks the crowd "Who is the real Barack Obama?" it's no surprise that someone cries out "Terrorist!"
The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama's middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies. This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers's Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.
That's a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. "Barack Obama's friend tried to kill my family" was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 - when Obama was 8. We all know what punishment fits the crime of murder, or even potential murder, if the security of post-9/11 America is at stake. We all know how self-appointed "patriotic" martyrs always justify taking the law into their own hands.
Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers's behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What's troubling here is not only the candidates' loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that "a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that." To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.
It wasn't always thus with McCain. In February he loudly disassociated himself from a speaker who brayed "Barack Hussein Obama" when introducing him at a rally in Ohio. Now McCain either backpedals with tardy, pro forma expressions of respect for his opponent or lets second-tier campaign underlings release boilerplate disavowals after ugly incidents like the chilling Jim Crow-era flashback last week when a Florida sheriff ranted about "Barack Hussein Obama" at a Palin rally while in full uniform.
From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.
McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani's mocking dismissal of Obama as an "only in America" affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.
No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin's convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago's mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was "regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man." In the '60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: "Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls."
This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It's astonishing there's been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan - or William Ayers - in Denver.
The operatives who would have Palin quote Pegler have been at it ever since. A key indicator came two weeks after the convention, when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad's visuals. There are no black faces high in the McCain hierarchy to object to these tactics.
There hasn't been a single black Republican governor, senator or House member in six years. This is a campaign where Palin can repeatedly declare that Alaska is "a microcosm of America" without anyone even wondering how that might be so for a state whose tiny black and Hispanic populations are each roughly one-third the national average.
There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place. Could the old racial politics still be determinative? I've long been skeptical of the incessant press prognostications (and liberal panic) that this election will be decided by racist white men in the Rust Belt. Now even the dimmest bloviators have figured out that Americans are riveted by the color green, not black - as in money, not energy. Voters are looking for a leader who might help rescue them, not a reckless gambler whose lurching responses to the economic meltdown (a campaign "suspension," a mortgage-buyout stunt that changes daily) are as unhinged as his wanderings around the debate stage.
To see how fast the tide is moving, just look at North Carolina. On July 4 this year - the day that the godfather of modern G.O.P. racial politics, Jesse Helms, died - The Charlotte Observer reported that strategists of both parties agreed Obama's chances to win the state fell "between slim and none." Today, as Charlotte reels from the implosion of Wachovia, the McCain-Obama race is a dead heat in North Carolina and Helms's Republican successor in the Senate, Elizabeth Dole, is looking like a goner.
But we're not at Election Day yet, and if voters are to have their final say, both America and Obama have to get there safely. The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder.
The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Ananda Dean's distraught mother after her mutilated body was discovered (Jamaica Observer photo)
My friend Errol Smith at HOT 102 called me in a temper after news broke about the horrible murder of a nine-month-old baby. The details of the report told of the depths to which our society had sunk. The mother of the child was a prisoner, and so the poor hapless child, who had been born in prison, was left by his approved guardian with a deranged relative. As we heard Ananda Dean’s grieving father appeal to the country to be more protective of our children, we are left to wonder why we have become such a dysfunctional society.
Errol related how a Jamaican student in Barbados was amazed at the level of order and development in that country, with the population of Portmore. One of Barbados’ distinguished sons, Sir Courtney Blackman, has long maintained that good governance had to be the foundation of nation building. So what has been standing in the way of the development of governance in our country? Everyone has a different answer: politics, selfishness, indiscipline, greed, poor parenting, sub-standard education, inadequate justice system. The answer is, all of the above, caused by all of us.
Unfortunately, the only group that has been working assiduously to raise the bar is the same derided, browbeaten Police. We long to hear all the various groups of churches, teachers, politicians and media announce their own charters, calling themselves to higher standards. The private sector is doing more than its fair share: providing employment, training workers in subjects they should have learned in school, paying taxes and sponsoring various community projects.
Well-meaning civic groups should widen their focus to look at all the other factors that are contributing to the anguish in our society. The police are a much easier target, because one always has a CCN release on which to base one’s criticisms. Our civic groups, our journalists could make a significant difference if they ask more probing questions and relentlessly pursue the answers.
But we also acknowledge that the buck has to stop somewhere: the people who put themselves up for public office must take responsibility for the state of the nation. Government and opposition members of Parliament are well-paid and equipped by the country. They need to give us the results. Former broadcaster Tony Laing used to remind us constantly that we are the shareholders in government and should demand to know what we are getting for the investment of our hard earned taxes.
We are seeing more love and loyalty for party over country and even as the news gets worse, so does the behaviour of some parliamentarians in the hearings on proposed crime-fighting amendments to our laws.
Police community head, ACP John McLean gave us a lesson from nature about cooperation. He said when geese fly in formation, the lead bird drops back when it gets tired and is replaced by another, without losing momentum. This has been the problem: too many want to be “lead-birds-for-life” instead of harmonizing and synergising our efforts. As we face this crisis in crime, and look to our leadership for solutions, we in the media should expose to the public who are just profilers and who are the real producers.
In addition to the USAID and UNDP, we have CIDA (Canada), IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), the European Union and DFID (UK) backing our security programmes. The daily headlines may have made us punch-drunk, but with these goodly folks in our corner, we had better sober up before they throw in the towel.