Tribalists and other defenders of political faith, draw near and take heed.

You’ll learn what you should be demanding of your political executive, especially pivotal members like the two Peters and Ronnie, rather than gushing commendations for minor fluctuations in fortune. One online reaction (“kjair”) to my January 10 exposé of political and religious backwardness (Scribes and Pharisees) emphasized the underwhelming nature of general expectations:

Cynicism is one thing, what Gordon spouts is nonsense. When you improve something you deserve praise and when you do nothing you deserve criticism. Gordon wants to change the goal post after every race while he is the only steward; which he thinks is objective! Too funny.

Let’s address the views expressed frontally rather than whine about imagined personal abuse as is the wont of one veteran Gleaner Columnist whose over-inflated ego appears proportional to his insecurity. I don’t discern personal abuse here just a strong, opposing view expressed in an attention-grabbing style.

I challenge kjair to expose one specific instance of my changing any of my proposed goal posts. I’ve consistently called for new paradigms in fundamental areas of public life (Governance; Education; National Security; Health; Infrastructure; and, consequently, Finance and Planning) and repeatedly criticised any of the responsible Ministers content to incrementally improve statistics within obsolete paradigms.

Kjair’s comment exposes how comfortable we’ve become as dyed-in-the-wool sufferers of trauma-bonding asking captors only to produce better stats (which kjair calls “improve something” but is, in reality, “do nothing”) and frightened by any threat of change. This is why Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon are National Heroes. They took positive steps to change international paradigms. None were content with any form of slavery even if illusory benefits were promised to trickle down to them.

On Sunday, Booklist Boyne, in an impassioned defence of his glorification of Peter, Peter and Ronnie that could’ve been headlined “I’m entitled to be biased”, wrote:

Questioning my motives is a lazy cop-out. Remember, I could be completely partisan and corrupt in my motives and still be completely right in my position. As they say, the fact that you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you. I could have a bias but be right.

Good for you, Booklist. Are you sitting down? I agree. However, any such convergence (corrupt motive and correct position) would be purely coincidental. In the same paragraph, Booklist blissfully continued:

A lawyer is clearly carrying a brief for his client. He’s not neutral or unbiased. He’s paid for it. He goes to court to defend a particular position. The judge and jury know that….. Do they discount what he says because he’s bought, hired, if you prefer? Does (sic) his evidentiary arguments amount to nothing because he’s bound to defend his client’s interests? No. His arguments and evidence have to be assessed rationally on their own terms.

Oh Dear. Booklist writes like an intellectually challenged aspiring stowaway who not only misses the boat but the entire ocean. He can’t follow his own argument. He might fail an art exam even if allowed to trace.

  1. A lawyer’s evidentiary arguments are EXACTLY what he’s paid to present; nothing more; nothing less. Lawyers are no more “biased” in favour of a client who pays them as is any employee “biased” in favour of his employer, including a government employer. Many employees detest their employers. Some lawyers detest some clients. Both perform their jobs regardless because of contractual and/or ethical obligation. But a lawyer who goes further and deliberately writes a newspaper article supporting a particular client without disclosing he’s paid to simultaneously represent that client in court is a different kettle of hot water. Unlike the court audience, newspaper readers are prevented from assessing the effect of possible motivation on his argument. Motivation (usually externally triggered) isn’t the same as “bias” (usually internal) but is equally destructive of reasoning. Disclosure is essential to equip readers to decide whether both or either have determined the argument’s thrust.  Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
  2. The judge and jury know that” is EXACTLY the point. The issue isn’t whether or not you’re “biased”. The issue is disclosure. Last week, I wrote “Above an ender that didn’t disclose his JIS connection, last Sunday, Booklist Boyne published his first column on local politics for weeks. It wasn’t about Outameni….nor Huntley Medley’s perceived assault on press freedom; but in praise of Peter Bunting, Ronnie Thwaites and Peter Phillips.” Get it, Booklist? It’s obvious from your stout defence of bias that, when it comes to grasping fundamental principles of disclosure, you’re slower than Earl Witter at a Spelling Bee. Maybe if I wrote them down in an august tome full of big words and abstract philosophical doctrine, you might understand.

Regarding Peter, Peter and Ronnie, let’s review their performance in the context of kjair’s principle “When you improve something you deserve praise and when you do nothing you deserve criticism.” My only disagreement is in interpretation. Did they “improve something”?

Peter Bunting: His task is to modernize the police force; ensure better trained recruits; and ensure the force has all necessary tools to bring crime down to tolerable levels. Until he lobbies cabinet successfully to fund the full computerization of the force; proper remuneration for police; and proper training to ensure

  • the ability to utilize modern detection methods/equipment; and
  • a “shoot-last” policy is entrenched,

he won’t be congratulated by me.

From where would funds come? For starters, there’s over $50 million available by scrapping that perpetual political pork barrel euphemistically named “Grand Gala”. It’s called prioritizing.

In the meantime, incremental improvements in crime rates will always be temporary and, as Booklist argues, tribalists will be calling for his head or praising him depending on the current body count.

Ronnie Thwaites:       No better fish. No better barrel. The education system inherited by Ronnie is irrelevant, obsolete and useless. His task is to revolutionize education. This begins with

  • policy making Teachers the most important, highest paid public servants in Jamaica. Why? Unlike police, doctors etc, teachers interface with Jamaica’s children years before all others and have a critical early role in moulding hearts, minds and bodies. If teachers are truly successful, everybody else’s job becomes easier.
  • Only applicants educated to the highest level in specialized skills including teacher training should be hired. Schools must be properly equipped and “exams” restructured to correlate with the reality of curriculum subjects.

I insist (no disrespect) that no 70 year old can visualize what’s required. I would appoint Lisa because, based on our irrelevant, obsolete, useless system of governance, choice is limited to government MPs. Among them, she’s my pick but I’d send her on six months “sabbatical” to Finland, all expenses paid, to experience a modern education system first-hand.

Peter Phillips: This is the toughest one because he has been handed a basket to carry water. But, carry it he must. Again, what’s required is a new paradigm. “Old school” systems should’ve been dismantled in 2000. His immediate tasks:

  • a significant shift in public spending from civil service salaries to capital improvements;
  • Businesses, especially small businesses, should be encouraged with lower up-front taxes. The simple idea: a flourishing business sector more than pays for itself with back-end taxes and spin-offs;
  • Renegotiation of the IMF deal to allow for some debt restructuring.

In Jamaica’s current crisis, I don’t believe any Minister satisfied with business as usual qualifies for praise. I’ll applaud any Minister who insists on trying new paradigms even if his/her numbers suffer.

Peace and Love


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  1. Kwame Gordon-Martin Says:

    My Dad, who is a fan of yours and as terrible a tout as you are, alerted me to your column and asked me to respond; so here goes. The crux of the matter is that until this column, I have not seen before any, where you were specific to the changes required by you that would be equivalent to goalposts. I should point out that you are wrong on most, but I will get back to that. IF per chance I had missed those, so be it. I am far from being an individual that settles for any old change, in my daily job I am actually a change agent that is responsible for driving improvements in my sphere, however having worked most of my natural life in the financial/banking field I understand that context is most important when adjudicating the extent of change possible in the exercise of power. In my world, I may see the need for an improvement, go about writing a CR (Change Request) to make said improvement, convince one or more profit centers to pay for this improvement, convince the powers that be that such a change is warrantied, get technology to “buy in” and allocate resources, coders may make the software changes, a date arranged for implementation and yet, after all that effort not a damn thing is implemented because other needs arise that take precedence. If I still want to push through, I will most likely have to start again from 30 instead of zero but their is no guarantee that its going to happen. One has to be irrepressible and delusionally optimistic to not get frustrated, but I am all three. The uninitiated and plain boring might call this making excuses when a politician goes through the same but the bottom line is that in any organization, political or corporate, there is push and pull and because we have rules, laws, and one heaping pile of a bureaucracy; change is extremely difficult. Hence, at its most finite level my argument stands and if I were to expand on it I would simply say that while Jamaica has a million problems, the issue that most Jamaicans should take with our politicians is that they have spent way too much times on the really large ones to the detriment of our country and a strong case could be made that if they had spent more time on the little, naggling ones the basic faith in our democracy and political parties would not have waned to this point where a dutty mangy dog is more popular than a politician. Which leads me to segue to your stated goalposts. On Crime- most police say and crime statistics in for example NY agree- that the most ardent need is for more personnel aka bodies on the ground. Police show of force, patrols and presence deters crime because they become ubiquitous and interrupt the criminal enterprise. Further to that our police work ridiculous hours, most of which is uncompensated (overtime). A young sergeant told me (not verified) that he saw stats that showed that at any point in time around 20% of the present force is not working for various reasons (injury, leave, Indecom, court cases, etc). Yes, they absolutely need to be networked so that they can communicate more effectively and criminal information available at a moments notice but before that is done, wouldn’t it make sense to take mug shots of all arrested so they don’t shoot the wrong guy? As far as I know we don’t have pictures of criminals so thats more of a priority for me before any monies spent on dna sequencing or fancy laptops. Most simply my point on Bunting was that if crime statistics turn worse, cuss him, if they continue to improve, praise him. As for Peter Phillips, the most important job he has is to balance our budget and introduce some level of stability outside of our drip drip devaluation fiasco, in other words we need a grown up to force us to live within our means; especially the government! The next most important herculean task would be to accredit by estimation our underground GDP whilst simultaneously seeking any and all measures to reduce it aka bring the masses into the banked rather than unbanked. Fortunately, once mobile banking becomes islandwide, it will do a partial job but we still need to find and tax these people so that we can reduce the overall percentage of taxes, ridiculous in size they may be, that we pay in PAYE and GCT. Lets just be frank; we will continue to be a banana republic until we crush this shadow economy and we are delusional that we will make some grand leap forward until this occurs. Until then its creep creep walk fall creep creep walk……..The size of government is too big by any measure, but as one Honorable Man a Yaad found out, you gots to win to make waves otherwise you are a imaginative chump. Guess who votes; the civil service and the poor! Guess who any smart politician won’t tick off if they want to get re-elected and effect change? Hence the neat little straight jacket inside a neat little box our politicians are in. Its their fault for sure, but its also their reality and they will act accordingly despite anybody’s wish for them to jump on the nearest cross.

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