Sunday, January 31, 2010
Knoxville Horror Update: New Developments Regarding Vanessa Coleman, George Thomas, and Letalvis Cobbins
(My tireless and invaluable reader-researcher, David in Tennessee just wrote, detailing the following developments in the Knoxville Horror case. See also here, here, here and here for background. Many thanks, David!)
On Friday, January 29, the latest hearing in the Christian-Newsom torture murder case took place. It concerned the May trial of Vanessa Coleman, the fourth suspect charged. The state wants to test two cloth strips.
Before that, George Thomas, who was convicted in December and sentenced to life without parole, was sent to a maximum security prison after protest over his being first sent to a medium security prison. The same thing happened regarding Letalavis Cobbins, who was sentenced to life without parole in August. Cobbins was sent to maximum security only after protests.
We are always hearing that the death penalty should be abolished because murderers will get "life without parole." When Catherine Crier had her Court TV show, she would editorialize against the death penalty by saying she would "prefer to be executed rather than spend the rest of my life in a box." Well, in medium security Cobbins and Thomas would have spent a good part of the day walking around on the prison grounds and socializing, not locked in their cell for 23 hours a day as Crier would have us believe.
Judge Baumgartner also ruled that evidence of Coleman hiding a gun belonging to Cobbins can be used by the state. The state can use a letter Coleman wrote to her parents, as well.
Letalvis Cobbins will appear before Judge Baumgartner on February 4 to be sentenced on the lesser charges. George Thomas will be back in court for sentencing on the lesser charges on February 26.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Is Obama Bored and Contemplating Resignation, or are His Critics Bored, and Contemplating Resignation?
By Nicholas Stix
Updated at 11:48 p.m., on Saturday, January 30, 2010
Larry Auster and my VDARE colleague Paul Nachman are saying, and Byron York is suggesting, in the latter’s new column, that the John Doe calling himself “Barack Obama” is bored with the presidency, and may call it a day at the end of his first term—if not sooner.
In “Has Obama become bored with being president?,” York tells of Obama’s history of being dissatisfied with one powerful job after another, based on its having too little power to effect the changes he seeks.
He won in 2004, but the Senate proved unsatisfying, too. By mid-2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid “sensed his frustration and impatience, had heard rumblings that Obama was already angling to head back home and take a shot at the Illinois governorship,” write Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in the new bookGame Change. Reid knew “Obama simply wasn’t cut out to be a Senate lifer.”
According to the book, the majority leader invited Obama to his office for a talk. “You’re not going to go anyplace here,” Reid told Obama. “I know that you don’t like it, doing what you’re doing.” Reid suggested Obama run for president. Obama had been a senator for all of 18 months at the time. Soon after, he was off and running.
What drove Obama was not just ambition, although he is certainly ambitious. As he became frustrated in each job, Obama concluded that the problem was not having the power to do the things he wanted to do. So he sought a more powerful position.
Today he is in the most powerful position in the world. Yet he has spent a year struggling, and failing, to enact far-reaching makeovers of the American economy. So now, even in the Oval Office, there are signs that the old dissatisfaction is creeping back in.
At a Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Day event at Washington’s Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, Obama brought up the fact that many people see him as almost preternaturally calm. “I have a confession to make,” Obama said. “There are times I’m not so calm ... when progress seems too slow ... when it feels like all these efforts are for naught, and change is so painfully slow in coming, and I have to confront my own doubts.”
Obama said it to be inspirational, but the fact is, in the past, that’s when he looked for a new job.
A few days later, ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked whether Obama would sometimes “sit and confront your own doubts.”
“Yes,” the president said.
“Ever in the middle of all that’s coming did you think maybe one term is enough?” Sawyer asked.
Obama answered haltingly. “You know, I -- I would say that when I -- the one thing I’m clear about is that I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”
Many observers have remarked that, even when dealing with the most momentous issues facing the country, Obama has seemed oddly removed from the hands-on work of making policy. Maybe they’re noticing the same thing Harry Reid did. The president’s dissatisfaction is shining through; perhaps he’s not really cut out for -- or up to -- the job.
In the State of the Union address, Obama declared, ‘I don’t quit.’ And of course, there’s no danger he would just up and quit the presidency. But throughout his life, his reaction to frustration has been to look for a bigger job. What does he do now?
I don’t know what to make of “Obama’s” statement to Diane Sawyer, but the usually sharp (for a Republican) York made a huge mistake, in putting so much stock in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s Harry Reid story. Halperin and Heilemann blew it—or did they?; I don’t know Heilemann, but Halperin is a man of the Left—in presuming the truth of the script by “Obama’s” Svengali, David Axelrod, according to which “Obama” started his presidential campaign from scratch, in January, 2007. If you’ll believe anything Axelrod says, I’ve got a great deal for you on a slightly used bridge.
As Jonathan Kaufman already reported in the April 21, 2008 Wall Street Journal, in “For Obama, Chicago Days Honed Tactics,” “Obama” already had his organization on the ground in Iowa, the first caucus state, in 2004, before he had even been elected U.S. senator in Illinois.
Mr. Obama sailed to victory [in 2004]. By the end of the campaign, his aides were sending workers into Iowa, the first Presidential caucus state, to begin developing contacts among Democrats there, according to Al Kindle, an Obama campaign aid at the time.
The story Axelrod conjured up much later, and which the socialist MSM uncritically regurgitated was, like so much about “Obama,” a fairy tale. Therefore, the Harry Reid story which Halperin, Heilemann, and York all misinterpreted, is irrelevant, and merely expressed Reid’s vain hope that he had somehow influenced history.
The Reid story and the “not enough power” factor are the pillars of the “he’s bored and will not seek re-election,” or might even resign theory. With the Reid pillar collapsed, let’s look at the “not enough power” pillar.
As “Obama” emphasized in his first ghost-written autobiography, Dreams from My Father, he “very carefully” chose with whom he consorted with, and who he read in college.
To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist Professors and the structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy.” (Dreams, 100)
These people were totalitarians who scorned limitations on their power. And after college and law school, as an over 20-year-long devotee of Black Liberation Theology, “Obama” has undiminished contempt for constitutional limits on his power. One of the mildest statements by the founder of BLT—not to be confused with the noble bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich—James H. Cone, is “Blacks do not have to live according to white rules.”
For “Obama,” the solution to frustration with limits on his power is not to be found in seeking another job (Secretary General of the U.N.?), but in dashing away such limits, suspending the Constitution, and making himself ruler for life, perhaps with a different title than “President.”
Auster and quite a few Republicans assume that Obamacare is dead, and with it, “Obama.” They also assume that, because the affirmative action president is used to getting everything handed to him on a silver platter, that when things get rough, he’ll bail out. That is a misunderstanding of black psychology, in general, and of the “Obamas,” in particular. Typically, when black affirmative action babies do not get their way, they cry “racism” and sue. And whatever is going on in “Obama’s” head, Madame Michelle and Svengali Axelrod will not permit him to surrender one foot of captured land.
“Obama’s” enemies are celebrating prematurely. Republicans and conservatives have a history of declaring victory over the Left, and quitting the fight. Their enemies’ complacency and cowardice are the “Obamas’” best friends, and will guarantee the latter additional chances to destroy America—what’s left of her.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By Nicholas Stix
My VDARE.com colleague Joe Guzzardi has bestowed one of the most important awards in the journalism business on CNN’s Soledad O’Brien: VDARE.COM's Seventh Annual Worst Immigration Reporting Award.
This was the first time that Joe has ever given the notorious award to a TV “journalist,” but I suspect that it won’t be the last.
The VDAWIR Award is not the first journalism award that O’Brien has won, but it may be the first one that she ever earned. O’Brien was an inspired choice, and Guzzardi gave her a perfect reaming.
O’Brien, who is reportedly half Cuban black, half Australian Irish, has gathered many boring conventional awards, including one named after herself: the “Soledad O'Brien Freedom's Voice Award” from the Morehouse School of Medicine for being a “catalyst for social change”.
But, because the competition is stiffer, ours is harder to win—and therefore more prestigious.
I note that the “O’Brien Award” given to O’Brien is significant because, as you will soon learn, she’s in love with herself.
O’Brien has also been included twice in Irish America Magazine’s list of top 100 Irish Americans—as well as on Black Enterprise’s hottest list!
Newsweek featured O’Brien on a cover story and named her as one of the 15 People Who Make America Great”.
Therein lies the secret of O’Brien’s success. No matter what the assignment O’Brien, ethnically speaking, is the right reporter for the job.
When CNN wants a black to interview Michelle Obama, the Hurricane Katrina displaced, or Haiti’s victims, there’s O’Brien posing as a black. (See O’Brien with Obama, her “passion for justice” for New Orleans’ residents displaced by Katrina and the Haitian orphan victims here, here and here. More evidence: in this interview discussing another of her documentaries, Black in America, O’Brien identifies herself as black.)
However, if CNN decides that it would be a good idea to run a documentary about being Latino in America”, they can call on O’Brien, (a self described Latina….
When a highfalutin’ organization needs an ethnically all-purpose speaker, O’Brien is their girl. Her appointment calendar is booked solid because she’s everything all rolled up into one: female, African-American, Hispanic and Irish….
…a little biographical information will help you understand why my choice is an easy one.
O’Brien never misses a chance to literally cash in by referring to herself by her complete name, María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien.
Although she doesn’t speak Spanish, this gives O’Brien an excellent opportunity to define herself as a multicultural maven who’s perfect for CNN or any other mainstream media outlet. Maybe if she looks back far enough in her genealogical tree, she’ll find Asian ancestors!
Against all evidence, O’Brien stretches to make a point of her black/Latina roots. In an interview for her official CNN biography, O’Brien states that she has: “a mass of kinky hair, light brown skin and lots of freckles.”
Photographs of O’Brien do not support her claim. In this ethnically ambiguous photo I see a traditional hairstyle, no freckles and either light brown skin or too much make up.
Now to my topic: During her seven year CNN career and before that at NBC, O’Brien has been consistently terrible on immigration and race.
What iced our award for O’Brien is her two-part documentary, Latino in America, which bombed in the ratings and had the curious effect of angering everyone including some Latinos. Her 2007 documentary, Black in America, also raised the ire of many blacks.
Defending Latino in America, O’Brien tries to make the case that she represents a “voice for the voiceless.”
This position is patently absurd. Anyone who follows immigration knows that immigration reform patriots are the voiceless ones, to the point that the media regularly censors us.
Read the whole thing.
This woman is emblematic of everything that is wrong with journalism and, indeed, America today. This moronic, demanding, racist newsroom enforcer and unelected political officer is the quintessential affirmative action baby. She has, to my knowledge, never broken a legitimate story, and is the female version of what “Joseph Kay” calls “the black empty suit,” a person of no talent or accomplishment, on whom through affirmative action high-profile jobs, prestigious- sounding awards, and staggering fortunes are lavished, based on her identity and politics. However, O’Brien is not empty: Like her fellow anti-white AA hires, she can be relied on to fraudulently spin cover every story she covers.
During the post-Katrina anarchy, O’Brien showed her empathy for black criminals in New Orleans, and while covering the 2007 march of illegal human beings, where she spoke of “countries” such as “Honduras and Puerto Rico,” and of illegal immigrants (I don’t recall her euphemism of choice) from Puerto Rico, she displayed her intelligence.
Even O’Brien’s supposed constituents ignore her. Her CNN show had such low ratings that the channel gave her time slot to Kiran Chetry and, as Guzzardi pointed out, no one watched her Latin in America shtick.
And as far as her being “African-American,” she’s light, bright, and damned near white. I can’t believe that she would have the cheek to even lie about her hair, which is lovely, thick, and straight.
As Joe suggested, she may only be passing for black—not to mention, Hispanic, Irish, and a journalist—but O’Brien is a black supremacist. I just found a Republican report of her “gushing” over a racist speech—if you’ll pardon the redundancy—by Jeremiah Wright, and even rationalizing his “Goddamn Ameri-KKK-a” speech. (To critics who may argue that O’Brien’s positions are borne of opportunism, not conviction, I say: What is the moral conviction behind black supremacy? Moral convictions aside, I leave it to the reader to decide whether black supremacy out of passion or calculation is worse.)
Although we in the Stix household only occasionally catch Jeopardy these days, we did see the celebrity edition that Guzzardi cited. Middle-aged, white actor Michael McKee, whose face is as ubiquitous as his name is hard to place, blew away Alcindor/Jabbar and O’Brien. The old hoops star barely beat out O’Brien, but that was because in the middle or late in the game, he gambled everything on a Daily Double that he answered wrong. However, he proved himself staggeringly more intelligent and better-informed than O’Brien, who took no chances, and only distinguished herself on the topic of People magazine, which is apparently her favorite publication. (Unlike O’Brien, Alcindor had a legitimate academic career as a history major at UCLA.)
Speaking of O’Brien’s erudition, I saw her last February on “Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull,” a talk show hosted by comely, white, alleged journalist, Campbell Brown. O’Brien and fellow CNN black supremacist Roland Martin were helping out their fellow black supremacist, the extortionist and inciter of mass murder, Al Sharpton, who had attacked the New York Post on the imaginary grounds that it had published a “racist” political cartoon by Sean Delonas.
O’Brien, for whom last week constitutes ancient history, shouted, “We know our history!,” Martin repeated her line, and Brown kowtowed to each three times.
As Joe notes, by way of hyperlink, O’Brien is not only a fraud as a journalist, but even her reputation as a nice person is a sham.
She’s actually a dog-hater.
There you have it: The face of contemporary, post-American “journalism” is María de la Soledad Teresa O'Brien.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Make that “Asbury Park Press: ‘Police: [Illegal Alien] [Honduran] Elizabeth man recruited teens to help him burglarize homes’”
Meet “Elizabeth man,” aka “29-year-old Elizabeth man,” aka “Union County man,” aka “Joeys Sebastian Cruz,” aka “Jorge Luna,” aka “Joeys Sebastian Cruz Morales,” aka “Manuel Gomez,” and aka “Jorge Armondo Vadladares Luna.”
Police from various New Jersey jurisdictions say that they have no idea what this individual’s real name is, but are convinced that he is 29 years of age. He has been charged with “burglary, theft, conspiracy to commit burglary and theft and hindering apprehension,” with more charges likely to come. One 15-year-old alleged accomplice—also “from Elizabeth”—has so far been “charged with burglary, theft and conspiracy to commit burglary,” with more teenaged accomplices expected to be charged. They will all likely be “local boys,” from places like Honduras.
Most of reporter Michelle Sahn’s story for Gannett's Asbury Park Press is an unintentionally comic exercise in euphemism and misdirection:
MIDDLETOWN — Police arrested a Union County man who they say operated a burglary ring, using juveniles to help him steal from homes in Monmouth and Somerset counties….
After further investigation, police determined an Elizabeth man was having juveniles accompany him to homes to commit burglaries, the lieutenant said….
[And my favorite:]
The Elizabeth man was arrested Tuesday in his hometown [where, Tegucigalpa?] by the Middletown and Holmdel detectives, with help from city Detective James Ponto.
“Police: Elizabeth man recruited teens to help him burglarize homes: Burglary ring targeted homes in Monmouth, Somerset counties, police say” by Michelle Sahn, Asbury Park Press, January 21, 2010.
Only in the 14th and final paragraph, after many readers will have already moved on, does the truth finally come out:
“He is a native of Honduras and believed to be in the United States illegally. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has issued a no-bail immigration detainer for him, pending the outcome of their investigation.”
Hey, it could have been worse; Sahn and the APP could have suppressed the truth altogether, and left it to readers to guess, based on their profiling of immigration journalists, what the euphemisms stood for.
Write Michelle Sahn at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Write Managing Editor Gary Schoening at email@example.com
Send a letter to the paper at firstname.lastname@example.org
Found, thanks to American Renaissance.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Defending the West
February 19–21, 2010, Herndon, Virginia, near Dulles International Airport
Ours is an era of fear and self-censorship. Virtually no whites anywhere are willing to break taboos about racial differences in IQ, the costs of “diversity,” or the challenges of non-white immigration.
We are different. We believe these are vital questions.
At this conference you will hear some of the most courageous academics, journalists, and political figures of our time discuss the forces that will determine our future. This will be a remarkable group of speakers and guests — undeceived, outspoken, and committed to the defense of Western Civilization.
Please join us for what is sure to be an extraordinary weekend. Register today on-line for the 9th biennial American Renaissance Conference, to be held February 19 through February 21 in Herndon, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.).
Speakers and Topics
The conference will begin on Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, with registration from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The American Renaissance staff will give opening remarks followed by a reception. Latecomer registration is at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, and the program will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m.
There will be a banquet (additional charge of $45) on Saturday evening. Participants with alternate dinner plans are welcome after the meal to hear the speaker. The program will resume at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday the 21st, and end at noon.
Gentlemen will wear jackets and ties to all conference events. We will prepare name tags in advance; please call us if you would like to use a nom de guerre.
Accommodations and Transportation
The conference will be at a three-diamond hotel close to Washington Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C. The special “New Century Foundation” room rate is $79 per night. There is no extra charge for double occupancy, so a spouse or friend can stay for free.
The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service from Dulles Airport and there is free parking for those who are driving.
As soon as you have registered for the conference we will forward the address and contact information for the hotel so you can make room reservations. We look forward to seeing you!
Please send payment or register on-line by February 15th.
Student Discounts Available
If you are a full-time student, please call Stephen Webster at 703-716-0900 about a discounted rate for conference registration.
We’re back home, in what used to be civilization, after three weeks in what used to be paradise.
At about7:30 p.m. on December 23, we got a call from one of The Boss’ sisters in Trinidad, that their father had just died. Pa was 84.
It was hell getting a ticket during Christmas season at any price, and we had to fly out of Newark, instead of JFK, our usual point of embarkation. The racist black American female from central casting, working as a TSA security screener, went out of her way to hassle me, lying in insisting that my dry foam spray soap was a “liquid,” and confiscating it. I had carried the same container back and forth to Trinidad repeatedly, without a problem. I told her, “If you’re going to take it, take it, but don’t tell me that it’s ‘a liquid,’” but she insisted on maintaining her lie.
What’s the point in having a little power, if you don’t abuse it to harass white folks?
The earliest tickets we could get were for a Continental redeye leaving at 11:59 p.m. on the 27th, so we landed at Port of Spain just before sunrise on the 28th.
My sisters-in-law had already held four wakes, and held two more, before the funeral on the 30th.
I had planned on helping to bury Pa, as I had my mother-in-law in January, 2006, but that was not to be. On the afternoon before the funeral, one of my sisters-in-law asked me to give a eulogy, as I had in March, 2006 at my brother-in-law Meno’s funeral, and so I spent eight hours working on it that day and night, and the following morning. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can either write a eulogy or dig a grave, but not both.
Just as at Meno’s funeral, I was preceded by MP Subhas Panday, the brother of former Prime Minister and current opposition leader, Basdeo Panday. (In 1989, Bas Panday founded the Indian United National Congress party, UNC.) As with Meno (known to locals as “Fat Boy”), Subhas spoke extemporaneously.
Panday emphasized both Pa’s generosity and his independence.
Basdeo and Subhas grew up down the road from Pa and Ma, and when Subhas was a young boy, Ma had babysat and bathed him. When we spoke briefly during one of the wakes held for Meno in 2006, Subhas told me that Ma was the prettiest girl in the region. He also said that his brother Bas would have come for Ma’s funeral, but that he had been away on business.
Since Subhas said the same thing at Pa’s funeral, I surmise that it is a boilerplate line of his. But that’s not a knock on him; after all, he showed up for Meno and Pa. Basdeo Panday (here and here), called the “silver fox,” due to his still full mane of white hair into his seventies and legendary cunning, is a jet-setter, with no time for common folk.
I was disappointed that Subhas didn’t remember me from Meno’s funeral, but he is a politician, and is preoccupied these days with his fight against prostate cancer. He repeatedly told people about it, emphasizing that he had not mentioned it publicly, though someone pointed out, out of earshot, that he had. Actually, it was over three years since he’d publicly announced it.
The wrong pundit (Hindu priest) presided over the funeral, the same one who had done Meno’s funeral. Wrong, as in someone who didn’t know Pa from Adam.
The guy was actually better than before. He no longer sounded like he was speaking with marbles in his mouth (while I’ve got a hopefully temporary lisp, due to one tooth that my magic mouth man had pulled, and several others that he’d jackhammered, days before Pa died), and he seemed friendlier, but Pa had his own pundit. The reason this guy did the funeral, was that he is the pundit of one of my sisters-in-law, and she insisted on him, because it permitted her to use Pa’s money, in order to extend her sphere of influence, and keep the pundit in her debt.
(The foregoing digression may appear to be in bad taste, but it actually represents the least of my complaints. The others are unprintable.)
Pa had a wonderful life. He sired nine children, whom he did a fine job raising and nourishing, in part through the many fruit and vegetable trees he planted on his four acre spread, in addition to the ones that were already there. He worked in the oil fields, as a bus mechanic, and as a small businessman, delivering truckloads of gravel to building sites. Although he started out penniless in a backward country, through hard work and intelligent investing, he was able to amass considerable personal wealth, by local standards. And although he had little formal education, he was an autodidact, and was one of the smartest men I ever knew. A mechanical marvel who thought like an engineer, he never quit on life, and as late as November, while The Boss was visiting, had repaired the motor on Ma’s old washing machine. Pa was a very respected man in “the village,” as the neighborhood is called.
Although I was unavailable to dig Pa’s grave, I was able to help shovel the dirt to cover him, once he was in his final resting place. (The family of the deceased is responsible for digging and reburying the grave.) It was in a different cemetery than the one Ma is in, with soft soil that shovels easily. Pa is interred with his father’s family.
Ma is in the cemetery where her sister is buried, though due to a screw-up, they are not together, although Ma is not alone. While digging her grave, we found one “neighbor,” whose “box” jutted into Ma’s grave, and about five feet down, found a body bag full of male bones. The cemetery boss had triple-sold the plot! Apparently, he had also stolen “body bag’s” coffin, probably selling it back to the funeral director.
Digging Ma’s grave was hell, because it was on the peak of a hill, and the soil was solid clay. We had two shovels and two pitchforks that day, and the pitchforks broke through clay better, though not by much.
I secreted the final version of the eulogy for publication in our room, but it disappeared, leaving only the first half of the first draft, on scraps of memo paper in a different part of the room. Should it turn out that The Boss had inadvertently packed the final text, or I am able to reconstruct the lost half from memory, I’ll publish it here.
By Nicholas Stix
September 2, 2009
VDARE.com/Nicholas Stix, Uncensored
People have long associated anchor babies with Mexico, but that association is obsolete. Get ready for anchor babies from around the world. Ah, the joys of diversity!
And those births will be greeted by the obligatory emotional, celebratory news stories from OBL traitor-reporters.
Even in Trinidad, people know all about the anchor baby scam. While we were there for 20 days in late July through mid-August on our annual visit to my wife’s family, two separate Indian couples informed my wife that they planned on going to the U.S. to have their babies. One woman, who looked to be in her late 20s (her husband, a builder, appeared to be in his thirties), was already five months pregnant. The other woman, who is about 30, is not yet pregnant, but plans on getting knocked up and coming over next year. Her husband has a decent government job as a painter, also does “PJs” (private jobs), and built his wife a house.
(The country is officially named, “The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago,” after the two islands which it is composed of, off Venezuela’s northeastern coast, and also called “TT” and “T&T,” for short. We never go to Tobago, which is a tourist trap—even when white tourists aren’t being raped or butchered out of purely racial motives—and follow the Trinidadian practice of speaking of the country as “Trinidad.” The government created the barbarism, “Trinbagonian,” but no real people use it. Although TT has a national government, relatively wealthy, sparsely populated Tobago enjoys its own, semi-autonomous government. As of last month, TT’s population was estimated at 1,229,953.)
I wrote, “even in Trinidad,” because few people there have Internet service. But they have cellphones, and a great many TTers talk to relatives and friends who have already moved, by hook or by crook, to the States.
Since TT has socialized health care, it has no public health care. In the public hospitals, the staff steals most of the supplies, including crucial medicine like antibiotics, so you have to bring everything your loved one might need.
If you take ill and want to live, you must ante up for a private “nursing home” (read: clinic) or private hospital, where you have to pay cash up front, or they let you die. And “cash” means just that. No plastic, no checks.
While we were visiting, a beloved sister-in-law of mine, who had just had her gall bladder removed, almost died of a bile duct obstruction that her doctors had missed the first time around. At one point, my sister-in-law needed to be moved from a private nursing home to a private hospital, for the bile duct procedure. But it was 5:30 p.m. by the time the doctor scheduled her 9 p.m. procedure, hours after the banks had closed, and so, when the ambulance (an independent, private service) brought her from the nursing home to the hospital, and her husband didn’t have the necessary $5000 TT cash for the procedure, the hospital staff refused to admit her. So, the driver took her back to the nursing home, only when he brought her back to her room, he demanded $1,800 TT, not the $1,200 he had agreed to in advance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there at the time, and he was able to bully L’s daughter-in-law into paying the $1,800. (Which was a complete waste.)
For an alternative description of TT’s public health system, in the entry in The Pretend Encyclopedia, aka Wikipedia, one reads,
Public Healthcare is free to everyone in Trinidad and Tobago and is paid for by the Government and taxpayers. Healthcare services are offered on a walk-in basis. There are a few major hospitals throughout the country as well as smaller health centers and clinics located regionally throughout.
The Ministry of Health is mandated to provide a functioning health-care system to benefit all citizens. This had led to the reforming of the entire health-care system in the country.
In addition to TT’s relative poverty, its health care system, or lack thereof, makes America doubtless terribly attractive to TT women. But that’s not America’s problem. For approximately 5.5 billion people, health care is as bad or worse than it is in TT. And if Trinidadians know about the anchor baby scam, the whole world does.
(The exchange rate has for years fluctuated from $6.20-6.30 TT to $1 US, with TT banks giving you an even $6 TT, but that rate means nothing to locals who earn their money in TT dollars.
The CIA World Factbook ranks TT 112th in world purchase power parity, between Botswana and Senegal. Affluent North Korea ranks above it at 95th, with Tokelau last at 228. The U.S. is ranked a very close second overall, due to the expedient of misrepresenting the European Union as one country.)
Insight on the News
Sept 16, 2003
Byline: Nicholas Stix, SPECIAL TO INSIGHT
"Let no child be left behind"; ... "It takes a village to raise a child"; ... "Quality time"; ... "Crime Stoppers." Each of the foregoing, unfortunate phrases is supposed by many to be an expression of progress, is as American as Enron and now is at home in … the West Indian Republic of Trinidad and Tobago?
During our just-concluded annual visit to my wife's folks in Trinidad, my family was bombarded with warmed-over Americanisms on television. (While prosperous, tiny Tobago with its beautiful beaches is the preferred destination of tourists, 93 percent of the 1.3 million largely hardworking, hard-luck citizens in the two-island republic live in Trinidad.)
In 2001, then-prime minister Basdeo Panday of the (Indian) United National Congress Party demanded, "Let no child be left behind." Panday got American welfare guru Marian Wright Edelman's phrase from his American political consultant, Trinidadian-born, retired California congressman Mervyn Dymally. In a bold reform, Panday extended schooling for all Trinidadians and Tobagonians beyond grammar school. While acknowledging that many of the reform's beneficiaries had little to gain from extended schooling, Panday spoke of "remedial education."
In the United States, most folks are unaware of how such "progress" routinely works. In my Hungarian-born grandmother's benighted day, children in America graduated literate from grammar school, as she did in 1907. Today, however, functional illiterates now routinely are graduated from U.S. high schools and admitted to college.
While Trinidadian politicians speak of educational opportunity, once-rigid school discipline is collapsing. Three years ago, a then 16-year-old nephew of mine dropped out of school. Though he was strong enough to cut sugarcane in the blazing sun for 12 hours a day, he could not handle the routine violence of school.
"It takes a village to raise a child," now spouted by nonprofit organizations in Trinidad, is a made-in-America "African" saying. Taken literally, it would mean that each village could have only one child. Indeed, its meaning has nothing to do with villages; rather, it is an argument for replacing parents with agents of the state.
American-style progress in Trinidad has resulted in the nascent spread of out-of-wedlock childbirth, which until recently was extremely rare. Compared to the United States, the Trinidadian family is intact, but it won't be able to withstand much more "progress."
"Quality time" is a phrase coined by a yuppie journalist to put a happy face on middle-class child neglect. In late July, the new chairman of the Princes Town Regional Corporation, Kemchan Ramdath, said that he sought to make the town a tourist destination for families wishing to "spend quality time together." But sleepy "P-Town" shuts down at 5 p.m.!
Children require immense quantities of time—just ask my son! In the vast majority of Trinidadian families, the husband works and the wife still stays at home to raise the children. Quantity time—what a revolutionary concept.
"Crime Stoppers" is a program in U.S. cities that asks citizens to call a telephone number to report information on crimes. Prior to the advent of Crime Stoppers, folks talked to the local beat cop or called his precinct.
In Trinidad, the people are besieged by criminals. The first seven months of this year saw 112 kidnappings, the hottest new felony. Initially, businessmen were kidnapped for substantial ransoms; now, any member of the middle class is fair game.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning of the (black) People's National Movement Party (who beat Panday in a controversial 2001 election) has an American consultant on crime, counterterrorism guru Kelly McCann. In July, McCann advised people to deal with crime by calling Crime Stoppers, and not to arm themselves.
Consultants are people who amass fortunes by spreading bankrupt ideas around the world. Tropical Trinidad has the world's sweetest mangoes, and is the birthplace of steel-pan music. But the government just performed a mercy killing on the sugarcane industry, which for centuries was Trinidad's chief form of employment. Trinidad needs consultants like it needs more mosquitoes.
American influences go back to at least World War II. In A House for Mr. Biswas, the Trinidadian-set masterpiece by Trinidad's greatest writer, Nobel-laureate V.S. Naipaul, the novel's narrator tells of the positive influence of the Americans, much to the misfortune of protagonist Mohun Biswas. A journalist covering the poverty beat, Biswas is hired away from his Port-of-Spain newspaper to be chief investigator for a new "Community Welfare Department." But as the war ends, the department is shut down. "[T]he war, the American bases, an awareness of America had given everyone the urge, and many the means, to self-improvement. The encouragement and guidance of the department were not needed."
Those were the days—when American-style progress truly was beneficial.
Nicholas Stix is associate editor of Toogood Reports. His work has appeared in Insight, the American Enterprise and Middle American News.
By Nicholas Stix
Trinidad Series, Part III
Toogood Reports/A Different Drummer
October, 2000 (exact date of publication unknown)
“He’s a wicked man, and must suffer. He start tellin’ lies at 4 o’clock in the morning, and tell lies until he go to sleep at night.”
The speaker, an Indian Trinidadian man, is talking about Patrick Manning, the once, and possibly future prime minister of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. The Indian is a supporter of the Indian party, the United National Congress. In a common phrase (“He start tellin’ lies ... “), he summed up the feelings most Trini Indians have for Manning, who is conversely a hero to Trinidad’s Negro population.
Patrick Manning is the leader of TT’s black party, the People’s National Movement. It’s as simple as that; one party for Negroes, one for Indians, and never the twain shall meet. Each group makes up approximately 40 percent of the two-Island nation’s 1,250,000 citizens; the rest derive from East Asian, Portugese, and Spanish populations. (The UNC also has a prominent Chinese member, Finance Minister Brian Kuei Tung). [The Indians enjoy a plurality of perhaps three points over the Negroes.]
A longtime PNM stalwart, Manning was the official heir to T & T’s first prime minister, Dr. Eric Williams (1962-81). Shortly before his death, however, Williams saw a vision of one of his deputies, George Chambers, sitting in Williams’ chair. Thus it was decreed that Chambers would succeed Williams, even though Manning was legally next in line.
People put a lot of stock in visions here.
Shortly after becoming prime minister, George Chambers visited New York, where he had some fun. An infrared camera caught him frolicking in his hotel room with a young woman who most certainly was not his wife. That cost Prime Minister Chambers his government, his wife, and through her, all he owned.
New elections were called, which were won by the PNM with Manning at its helm, and he ascended to the head of the government, though not for long.
Although it has never been proved, many Trinidadians have always believed that Patrick Manning set Chambers up for the fall.
Politically, the PNM is similar to our Democratic Party, prior to the introduction of Bill Clinton’s third-way, New Democrat spin: The government’s job is to “manage” the economy, and engage in “job-creation” through incredibly wasteful, state-owned businesses and assorted boondoggles. TT’s PNM-led history has caused a great many Negroes to see the government as the employer of first resort. In other words, what Bill and Hillary believe, but won’t say, is here trumpeted openly.
The UNC more closely resembles our Republican Party, in that it routinely calls for the shedding of state-owned businesses, and for fiscal conservatism. In practice, it is also, like the Republicans, a job mill for its supporters. The UNC has continued, as well, the all-party, TT tradition of collecting oil companies. No businessman in his right mind would ever sell a successful concern to the government, and no sensible politician would want to be saddled with the responsibility of running a business.
The UNC has also assiduously avoided the Caroni Problem, which is the Third Rail of Trini politics.
The sugar company, “Caroni (1975) Ltd.,” is the nation’s biggest agricultural concern, and largest “private” employer. The problem is, Caroni is private in name only. The parenthetical “1975” refers not to the founding of Caroni, which has been around for a century, but to the year that the government began subsidizing it. Caroni has since become the nation’s biggest patronage mill, lousy with highly-paid “managers” with nothing to manage. While the average farmer who sells his sugar cane crop to Caroni may work like an animal to live at subsistence level, the typical Caroni manager’s “work” consists merely in showing up in the morning at the office.
At election time, there is always talk of reforming Caroni, but it remains just that. The reason, as one of my in-laws, who works there, pointed out, is simple: One out of five Trinidadians either works for Caroni, or is an immediate family member of a Caroni employee.
Last year alone, Caroni burned up $301M TT in subsidies. At $48m US, that might not sound like a lot, but consider that the US is over 200 times the size of TT in population (270 million to 1.25 million), and America’s economy is almost 1400 times the size of TT’s ($7.8 trillion GDP to $5.6 billion GDP, in 1997 US dollars, according to the UN). Whereas the fiscal year 1999 US budget totaled $1.703 trillion US, the 1999-2000 TT budget totaled $2.1 billion US ($13b TT). That means that Caroni ate up 2.3 percent of the entire TT budget. An equivalent portion of the FY 1999 US budget would have been $39.1 billion US. Imagine the U.S. government giving agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland an annual gift of $39.1 billion?!
In theory, reforming Caroni is simple: just cut off all state subsidies, forcing Caroni’s executives to choose between firing 70 percent or more of their managerial cronies and relatives, or shutting down altogether.
That’s a lot of kid brothers and cousins out of work, angry, desperate sisters-in-law and cousins, and hungry nieces and nephews.
Withdrawing state support from Caroni would consitute political suicide. The only way to do it, would be through implementing a well thought-out plan immediately following a convincing re-election victory, in combination with an aggressive program for increasing the confidence of businessmen, and attracting foreign capital. And yet, Trinis’ lack of confidence in their ability to attract foreign investment; the PNM-founded tradition of making TT less than welcoming to such investment; and the radical racism that oozes out of the Port-of-Spain campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and which opposes all foreign capital, because it invariably comes from whites, combine to make an aggressive economic reform program unlikely to succeed. Note too that in TT’s British-style parliamentary system, sufficiently deep discontent may force early elections.
In an example of the prevalence of such anti-market economics, on August 27, on the eve of Finance Minister Brian Kuei Tung’s unveiling of the 2000-2001 budget in Parliament, three economists appear on a TV panel: Former PNM finance minister, Selby Wilson, UNC-leaning Dhanayshir Mahabir, and Lloyd Best, who, dissatisfied with the insufficiently radical PNM, once sought to start his own, TAPIA party -- but “no one would stand for him” (agree to be a candidate).
Selby Wilson is content to take a couple of cheap shots at the UNC, claiming to have been “part of the team that originated the idea of fiscal responsibility,” and denouncing “people [who] are riding a wave that they didn’t create.” “People” refers to the UNC, and the momentary prosperity, created largely through the rise in oil prices, and the production and export of government oil.
Lloyd Best is given to statements of a strangely metaphysical cast for an economist: “The central problem is that the people who live here never belonged, the land never belonged to them. We must settle the people... Why is it that the people don’t belong here.”
At this point, I need a translator. Who are these people who do or do not “belong here”? My father-in-law, a retired contractor, explains that Best is talking about (white) foreign industrialists, whom he would throw out of the country, and whose businesses and property he would steal, er, nationalize. “Put he to do it, and he can’t even build a shoe!”
Lloyd Best continues, “You have to identify who are the entrepreneurs, where are you going to find the money to support them... and therefore, you must transfer resources.”
A real economist would observe that one can easily identify entrepreneurs, because they are the people making the most money WITHOUT GOVERNMENT HELP, and that the best thing government can do is to leave them alone. Requiring government support is the sure mark not of an entrepreneur, but of a failure. In Lloyd Best’s bizarro world economics, the government steals (“transfers”) from some, to give money to incompetent, political cronies. It sounds like something out of the Robert Mugabe School of Genocide Economics.
The only one here who seems to know anything about economics is Dhanayshir Mahabir, who alone came with a sheaf of facts, figures, and program proposals, and who is clearly a flaming libertarian: “I don’t trust government—it will always be captured by special interests. We must expand the private sector.... We need to de-emphasize the role of the finance minister.... Caroni is not an economic issue at all; Caroni is entirely a political issue.... The state is hemorraghing to support Caroni. Caroni is a bullet lodged in the body of Trinidad & Tobago. I think [political leaders] will just leave it.”
For Lloyd Best, Caroni is not a significant factor, and that is good enough for moderator Diane Seukeran, who from the start shamelessly sucks up to the pixilated Best: “The ever-eternally open Lloyd Best ...” “Do you, Lloyd, as a deeply committed Trinidadian ...”
At least Seukeran, whose shameless partisanship is no worse than Ted Koppel’s, does not pretend to be a journalist. A well-connected lawyer, she is the daughter of Lionel Seukeran, who was a member of Parliament as an independent, and then as a member of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Party. In a political deal prior to the ascension of the UNC, Diane Seukeran’s brother-in-law, Lennie Saith, borrowed $13.5 million TT ($2.17M US) from the TT First Citizens Bank, but was permitted by his governing cronies to write off the debt under “debt-forgiveness.”
Seukeran, while Indian, clearly does not care for Indians. When she isn’t washing Lloyd Best’s feet, she is trying to put Best’s words into Dhanayshir Mahabir’s mouth, steering the conversation constantly to issues of the state “managing the economy,” and engaging in centralized planning (via the euphemism, “strategic planning”). She also baits Mahabir into saying of his thinking, “It’s not laissez-faire” (a market economy), when that is exactly what he is talking about. In agreement with Best’s call for intensive, high-tech education, Seukeran proclaims that TTers are no longer content to be “a nation of hewers of wood and carriers of water.” By the way, she also explains economics, speaking of “a history of a lack of assertiveness, of laissez-faire—a budget is an assertion.”
So, a real government takes over the economy!
Seukeran’s demagoguery is positively Clintonesque: In TT, the largest employment sector is still agriculture, specifically, the growing and processing of sugar cane. TT is indeed “a nation of hewers of wood and carriers of water,” and has no reason to be ashamed of such status. America, on the other hand, is a progressive nation of high-tech, college-educated, glorified clerk-typists—the cyberspace equivalent of “hewers of wood and carriers of water.”
Seukeran reminds me of the well-to-do actors in American TV ads for CISCO Systems, whom we are to believe are typical citizens of “third world” countries. Representing communist China, a nation where hardly anyone has even HEARD of e-mail, an actor says, “Now we have visual mail, instead of e-mail.” And then he challenges his American viewers, virtually all of whom actually HAVE e-mail,
“Are you ready?”
My father-in-law explains the demagoguing of Best, Wilson, and Seukeran, with a Trinidadian expression: “In all countries, the wise live off the fools!,” adding,
“That is three PNM fanatic.”
The gap between rhetoric and reality notwithstanding, under Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s leadership, the UNC has shed scores of formerly government-owned businesses.
For the first thirty years of TT’s electoral history (1956-1986), blacks ran things politically through the PNM. (Early on, many Indians, especially in the Deep South, did not know English, the official language, and the only one used in voting.) In 1986, the National Alliance of Reconstruction (NAR), created through a merger of the former Democratic Action Congress (DAC) and United Labor Front (ULF), finally wrested control from the PNM. The NAR was disturbed briefly in 1991, by an attempted coup by revolutionary Muslim leader, Abu Bakr. It wasn’t until 1995 that the UNC, led by Basdeo Panday, finally had its day in the sun.
The NAR is the only influential political party that is not race-based. It numbers Negroes, Indians, Chinese, and other ethnic minorities among its leaders and followers. Although the NAR’s leaders criticize race-based politics, they are able to taste power only through coalitions with race-based parties. Its situation is not unlike that of Germany’s Libertarian Party (“Die Liberale Partei Deutschlands,” which in contemporary terms translates into not “liberal,” but “libertarian.”), whose principles are in conflict alike with the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, but which since 1966 has always had to join coalitions with one, the other, or in one case (1966-69) both parties, in order to be a “player.”
Although NAR members are still in Panday’s cabinet, he presently does not need them, in order to rule.
At least one NAR cabinet member, Minister of Tobago Affairs, Dr. Morgan Job, has signaled a readiness to jump ship to the PNM. Last month, in an interview with Clevon Raphael of the PNM newspaper, The Independent, marked by open hostility on both sides, Minister Job refused to endorse Prime Minister Panday’s government in the coming elections:
“I believe in freedom of choice and in democracy and I don’t want to prejudice people’s choices. I must go to Tobago and make sure the people of Tobago East think they should re-elect me to represent them. That is my primary responsibility. With respect to how people vote in Trinidad I don’t want to get involved in this ethnic politics.”
Translation: As an NAR leader; a black man whose heart never left the PNM; and as a Tobagonian, who expects to be financially supported by Trinidadians, but feels no obligations to them, Dr. Morgan Job feels little sense of loyalty to anyone. When Clevon Raphael (himself black), asked Job if he is a “neemakaram,” a Hindi word understood by some blacks to describe an ingrate, Job sought to twist Raphael’s words.
Job: “If Panday says I am a neemakaram.”
Raphael: “He never said that about you, it is I who just said that.”
J: “In reference to me as one of the neemakarams?”
R: “No. I said it is I who just told you that.”
J: “Well, perhaps that is his judgement and if that is his judgement what you want me to do? If Mr. Panday judges me as a neemakaram I cannot tell him how to judge.
R: “Dr. Job I am saying it is I who is telling you that, using it in a general way.”
Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, aka “the silver fox,” is fighting to hold onto his parliamentary majority. The nickname refers both to the 68-year-old Panday’s mane of thick, white hair, and to his legendary cunning. Last year, he had promised elections, but then forgot about them. Now it looks like elections will be held at the end of February.
Patrick Manning may not be an angel, but Basdeo Panday is no choir boy, either. Prior to being elected prime minister, Panday left his late, then-ailing wife of forty, childless years for a mistress (the present Mrs. Panday) young enough to be his daughter, with whom he sired a child, but without bothering to divorce his wife.
One Indian woman says of Panday, “He must suffer. When he was younger, she wash his clothes, and iron his clothes, like a slave, and he cheat on her. He have no reason to do that.”
The critic grants, however, that hers is a minority opinion, and that most Indians have long forgiven Panday, if they ever condemned him.
Panday did not carry on in public at the time: “The Indians are more private,” notes his critic, “the Negroes are more that way.” But Trinidad is a small country, and people do talk.
Panday’s political opponents complain of a $20M TT payout the government had to make to a ferry operator for a deal that went sour, that was to have provided additional service between Trinidad and Tobago. More dramatically, they point to the new, as yet unfinished airport terminal in Port-of-Spain, whose planned cost of $769M TT is now projected at $1.3B TT (and will likely come in at closer to $2B TT, ultimately). Such boondoggles make any distinction between PNM and UNC (and NAR) “economics” difficult to draw.
Critics cite, as well, the August taxi drivers’ strike. While refusing to pick up passengers, the drivers blocked the Point Fortin road in the south, by driving back and forth en masse at five mph, to protest the road’s condition of disrepair, in which entire strips of asphalt were gone. The critics note that such conditions are pervasive throughout Trinidad, the one nation in the world with its own pitch (tar) lake, in southwestern LaBrea.
Though Panday has a firm parliamentary majority, politicians in modern democracies—whatever their party affiliation—always feel the need for dramatic re-election initiatives.
Radical multicultural American academics identify TT as a “developing” nation, which is their way of saying that they are too lazy to bother studying the place. Just as tenured, American professors project their fantasies onto other countries, foreigners variously project their fantasies onto America, or adopt the slogans of American politicians. So it is with Prime Minister Panday, who peppers his speeches with phrases from the likes of Harry Truman (“The buck stops here”) and Winston Chuchill (“We shall never surrender!,” from his August speech on the war on drugs). As we shall soon see, however, in desperately seeking Negro votes with which to lock up the election, Panday is ready to go beyond slogans, and transform TT’s competitive, merit-based educational system into a “progressive,” American-style system marked by continuous dumbing-down, social promotion, and escalating, counter-productive expenditures that may ultimately make Caroni’s subsidy look like so many nickels and dimes.
Ain’t progress grand?
Trinidad Series, Part II
Toogood Reports/A Different Drummer
October 3, 2000
“White man, you know where you goin’? You limin’ [just hanging out]?” In the marketplace in my wife’s South Trinidadian town, the Negro produce peddler isn’t hassling me; in some ways, people are simply more direct here. I answer in kind: “Yeah, black man.”
The peddler saw me looking into the ruins of the burnt-out building, overgrown with weeds, in front of which he and his competitors are plying their wares. I obviously don’t belong; the less than one percent of whites who remain here dress, look, and act differently than I do.
I am looking for a safe place from which to engage in a natural, necessary function that could cost me $100 in New York. Although the TT police routinely commit what New Yorkers would consider acts of unspeakable brutality against career criminals, law-abiding citizens, and TV cameramen alike, they do not consider public urination an offense, provided it is done discreetly.
While I lean to my left, to hear if anyone is sneaking up in the weeds as I do my business, my driver, “Mr. Singh” (not his real name), watches my back.
Trinidadians may be more polite than Americans, certainly than New Yorkers, and adults may not routinely “bad-talk” (insult) each other in public, but that doesn’t mean they don’t despise each other any less. Unlike us, however, they don’t cling to a phony ideology of integration, and of not only tolerating, but “celebrating” each other’s differences, that almost no one in America believes in.
For an example of the way a typical Indian feels, one said of America, “The Europeans [whites] must keep the blacks under control.” Another said of blacks, “They cannot run a business,” adding proudly of the industrial firms in central Trinidad’s Point Lisas area, “They all run by Europeans.”
An Indian taxi driver points out that virtually all of the robberies are committed by Negroes, more often than not against Indians. “The Indians do drugs,” he grants, by way of balance. In early June, 1999, the government hanged Indian drug kingpin Dole Chadee, and eight of Chadee’s henchmen, for the murder of four members of the Baboolal family. The Baboolals had worked for Chadee, who suspected them of skimming drug money.
The cabbie asks where I came from. New York. “Queens?!” he asks excitedly, as all Indians ask, when someone says he comes from New York. His brother is in Queens. “Hospital administrator.” The brother’s son is going to medical school. “In America, there is opportunity.” I inform him that American blacks disagree. “Like them,” he says, pointing at some Trini blacks lolling at and on a white cement wall, by the taxi stand. He says some of the blacks by the wall are nothing but beggars.
When my wife grew up during the 1970s, much larger, broader black girls would call her “Coolie!” the equivalent to the “n” word, an epithet which goes back to the Indians’ days as indentured laborers (“coolie labor”). Think, Kipling’s Gunga Din. (“It was ‘Din! Din! Din!/You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?/You put some juldee in it/Or I’ll marrow you this minute/If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!) She’d respond, “Nigger!”
At 7 a.m. on TT Independence Day, August 31, a dozen or so black “poor people’s marchers” stride up and down the road in my wife’s town in the South, demanding support through megaphones.
Afterwards, one of my in-laws asks, rhetorically, “How many was Indian?” Just one. He clucks, “They don’t want to work; they don’t want to persevere.” Meanwhile, a couple of days before, the TV news had reported the government’s plan to “guarantee upward mobility” for “the poor.” “The poor” is a euphemism for welfare recipients, the vast majority of whom are black.
Until after World War II, the majority of Indians, who lived in dire poverty, did not even know English, and parents did not send girls to school. (The notion of sending even boys to school was relatively new.) Most of the Indians spoke almost exclusively Hindi, until Presbyterian missionaries taught them English. More than a few Indians converted, let themselves be baptized, and adopted new, Christian names.
Because the blacks had no linguistic hurdle to jump, they enjoyed huge advantages in politics and the civil service that last to this day.
In spite of, or perhaps because of this late start, the most important Trinidadian novelists, Vidia Naipaul (1932-) and the late Sam Selvon (1923-1994), are Indian.
In Naipaul’s tragicomic masterpiece, the 1961 novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, the Indian title character’s successful aunt translates, whenever the family has to deal with non-Hindi speakers. In 1915, the day after the title character is born feet first, and with six fingers on one hand, the pundit (Hindu priest) pronounces his fate:
“Hm. Born in the wrong way [feet first]. At midnight, you said.”
Bissoondaye [the boy’s maternal grandmother] had no means of telling the time, but both she and the midwife had assumed that it was midnight, the inauspicious hour.
“... First of all the features of this unfortunate boy. He will have good teeth but they will be rather wide, and there will be spaces between them. I suppose you know what that means. The boy will be a lecher and a spendthrift. Possibly a liar as well. It is hard to be sure about those gaps between the teeth. They might mean only one of those things or they might mean all three.
“What about the six fingers, pundit?”
“That’s a shocking sign, of course. The only thing I can advise is to keep him away from trees and water. Particularly water.”
“Never bath him?”
“I don’t mean exactly that.”
He raised his right hand, bunched the fingers and, with his head on one side, said slowly, “One has to interpret what the book says.” He tapped the wobbly almanac with his left hand. “And when the book says water, I think it means water in its natural form.”
“Natural form,” the pundit repeated, but uncertainly. “I mean,” he said quickly, and with some annoyance, “keep him away from rivers and ponds. And of course the sea.
"And another thing,” he added with satisfaction. “He will have an unlucky sneeze.”
I suppose we should count ourselves lucky. My wife and one of her sisters decide that the cause of our six-month-old son’s mysterious stomach ailment, which limits his ability to eat, is “maljo,” which the Indians translate as “bad eye.” (It translates better as “the evil eye.”) Someone put the evil eye on him. Well, that explains everything!
And so, one day while I am in town, my sister-in-law puts our son on the bed, surrounds him with onion and garlic skins and some other produce, and says a Hindu prayer. Afterwards, she burns all the vegetables.
My wife insists that our son’s bowel movements smell much better since the ritual.
It could have been much worse. After all, no one has pronounced him a future lecher, spendthrift, or liar, ordered him kept away from all bodies of water, or warned that he would have an unlucky sneeze.
But dangerous, old nonsense is replaced by dangerous, new nonsense. In a store in town, a saleswoman tries to sell us a frilly, cotton “onesie” shirt for our son. When I object that the shirt is for a girl, the Indian saleswoman responds, with a straight face, “They’re unisex.” Refusing to buy such rubbish, my mother-in-law goes shopping elsewhere, where she buys her grandson some “no-frills,” boys’ outfits.
(Although Naipaul is known around the world, and among his foreign, critical champions as “V.S. Naipaul,” I have never heard a Trini—even a college professor—call him anything but “Vidia Naipaul.” This peculiar populism, born of local pride, stands in stark contrast to the arrogance of the man himself, who long ago stopped identifying himself as a Trinidadian. And if we are to believe Naipaul’s former protegé and friend, the novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux’ memoir, Sir Vidia’s Shadow, fifty years after Naipaul left Trinidad and his impoverished youth to study at Oxford on a scholarship, he dismisses longtime friends -- e.g., Theroux -- whom he deems no longer of use on a whim, the way a spoiled, rich man suddenly dismisses a faithful, old servant.)
In spite of Indian literary achievements, University of the West Indies historian Bridget Brereton has reduced all of post-1917 Indian culture to one dependent clause:
“McBurnie and Gomes, in quite different ways, were each in the vanguard of the postwar renaissance, which also produced brilliant Trinidadian novelists like Vidia Naipaul and Samuel Selvon.
Brereton’s work, A History of Modern Trinidad 1783-1962, is a standard textbook used in high schools (British-style “A” and “O” levels) and universities. Meanwhile, Brereton rhapsodizes for pages on the political and cultural value of Trinidad’s crude steel pan and calypso music. But they were both invented by poor Negroes, a fact which endows their creations with magical powers. Brereton practically swoons over calypso king The Mighty Sparrow, from two of whose songs she quotes:
Leave the damn doctor,
And don’t get me mad.
Leave the damn doctor
Or is murder in Trinidad.
Well the way how things shaping up,
All this nigger business go stop.
I tell you soon in the West Indies,
It’s please, Mr. Nigger, please.
(The phrase “The damn doctor” refers to Dr. Eric Williams, who as leader of the black, People’s National Movement (PNM) party, was from 1962 until his death in 1981, TT’s first prime minister. According to The Mighty Sparrow’s website, he was born Slinger Francisco in Grenada in 1936; his family emigrated to Trinidad when he was a year old.)
Brereton is unmistakably a black supremacist, though she would surely prefer the term “Creole” or “black nationalist.”
One of the marks of the West Indian black supremacist is xenophobia regarding foreign investment. You don’t have to be Milton Friedman to appreciate the blessing that foreign capital represents to any economy, but never more so than to a capital-poor, “developing” economy lacking a manufacturing, technical, or scientific infrastructure. Yet for the black supremacist, foreign capital is a curse.
Brereton laments the transition to independence that lasted from the late 1950s through the early 1960s:
By and large, the expected development of a local entrepreneurial class involved in manufacturing did not materialize in this period, and the industrial programme increased the country’s dependence on foreign capital, technology, markets and expertise.
We should all be so dependent.
But Brereton does not hate ALL foreigners. Her problem with foreign capital, etc., though she won’t come out and say it, is that it invariably comes from whites. She also holds the Indians in contempt, as shown by her reduction of their history to their subjugation by the white man, to those post-independence Indians who subjugated themselves to black supremacists, her diminution of Indian cultural achievements, and her corresponding exaggeration of Negro cultural attainments.
I wouldn’t hold my breath, waiting for Brereton to explain her contempt for the Indians. Anti-colonialism can be used as a cover for anti-white racism, but in that case, consistency would require that Brereton and her allies embrace the Indians. I think understanding the anti-Indian racism of Brereton and other black supremacists requires that one tear away the anti-colonialist mask, and see the racist within.
The political reason for Bridget Brereton’s embrace of the Negroes is simple: Negro racism was already institutionally established; Indian racism wasn’t.
The University of the West Indies (UWI; pronounced, “you-we”), in the northern, capital city of Port-of-Spain, has long been a hotbed of black supremacism, where Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) is lionized. In working towards realizing his dream of a worldwide, anti-white holocaust, Garvey was thrown out of one Caribbean country after another, and ultimately deported from America in 1924.
Insisting that he was the father of fascism, “the black Moses” derided Mussolini and Hitler as mere imitators.
When I first read Brereton, I assumed she was black. It turns out that she is white, but is married to a black man. I’ll never understand the pull that black supremacism has for certain white women, who ignore (or embrace?) black supremacists’ oft-stated hatred of them. Brereton’s role as a white black supremacist makes as much sense as would a 1930s’ German Jew seeking to join the Nazi Party (or for that matter, a contemporary Jew supporting “Palestinian” nationalism). But in this case, the party let the “Jew” in!
That different races and ethnicities should hate each other is not extraordinary, but rather the norm throughout human history. The interesting question is why in some societies mutually antagonistic groups manage to co-exist without killing each other.
Substantial portions of the TT populace have long maintained a Victorian restraint that the British often honored in the breach, and long ago gave up. And so, while despising each other, Negro and Indian adults are for the most part able to tolerate each other much more peacefully than do Americans. It also can’t hurt that in Trinidadian culture, the university and its propagandists—Brereton & Co.—still play a relatively minor role.
(And yet, other Trinis have apparently declared war on all restraint. Thus it was that last year, when American hip-hop content-provider DMX (Dark Man X) gave a concert in Port-of-Spain, it ended early with his arrest. It seems Mr. X had started cursing on stage; cursing is an integral part of his “performance.” Public cursing happens to be against the law in TT, a law the concert promoters were well aware of. They provoked a confrontation with custom and law, and lost. For the moment, at least.)
To appreciate the degree to which Indians are still often shut out of TT culture, note that last summer, when a committee convened to choose a TT sports hall of fame, of the 100 sports figures chosen, only one was Indian.
In politics, the Indians have also had to play catch-up, a story I’ll catch up on in my next dispatch.
By Nicholas Stix
Trinidad Series, Part I
Toogood Reports/A Different Drummer
September 26, 2000
A dog sits in the road, and hearing us approach, casually peeks over his left shoulder, as our car swerves out of its way, into incoming traffic. A man “bounces” (knocks fists), black American style, with his two-year-old grand-nephew. A 12-year-old boy wears fubu jeans. All these are representative images of today’s Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, yet each requires a second look.
Take the greeting. The man is not black, but “East Indian,” meaning of Indian descent. In “T & T,” the greeting has none of the racial significance it has in America. As for the jeans, they exhausted the boy’s meager earnings as a contractor’s helper. The much cheaper, no-name jeans imported from nearby Venezuela just aren’t in style.
Trinidad & Tobago really is a lush, island paradise. It is hot (86-95 degrees) year-round, mosquitoes, flies, and ants are plentiful, the soil is fertile, and most people are poor, by American standards. But though it produces bananas (called “figs” by the locals) that are sweeter than most you’ll find in the States, T & T is no banana republic.
In 1962, Great Britain granted independence to the new Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. About 80 percent of this nation’s 1,250,000 citizens is split evenly between “West Indians” of African and “East Indians” of Indian descent; the balance is a melange of French, Spanish, Chinese and other minorities, and various mixes thereof.
(The vast majority of T & Ters are Trinidadians; residents of Tobago call themselves “Tobagonians,” with the second syllable accented as “bay.” The media have created the generic term, “Trinbagonians,” but no real people use it. Civilians identify themselves as “Trinidadians” or “Tobagonians.” The only commonly used term combining Trinidad and Tobago is the phrase “TT dollars”; only politicians, journalists, academics and businessmen ever speak of “the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”)
The demographic mix was created largely through generations of battles pitting Spanish, French, and English colonial powers against each other, and whose legacies are apparent in the street signs. The West Indians were brought here in chains, the East Indians as indentured servants. The slaves were emancipated on August 1, 1838, while the gradual freeing of indentured servants, who were first imported in 1845, lasted until 1917, according to historian Bridget Brereton of the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies. The indentured servants had to buy back their freedom.
(Although the terms suggest that the East Indians were more free than the Africans, many were Shanghaied, as were great grandmothers on both sides of my wife’s family. Already married, they thought they were going on day tours on boats in India among groups of married women, but were instead kidnapped and taken to Trinidad, where they were forced into second marriages with strangers.)
In small towns, skinny “common dogs” (mutts) wander aimlessly in the road. They may be strays or kept dogs—not that you’ll want to find out. Although the family dogs are friendly after their fashion, unlike Americans, T & Ters generally keep dogs neither as spoiled, affectionate, domesticated playmates nor as trained killers. The dogs feel the same way.
A family primarily has a dog to keep robbers at bay. Owners do not waste money on dog food, let alone pet boutiques or dog salons, and usually feed their dogs table scraps alone.
Most Trinidadians in the south sleep so soundly, that they awake unaware that dogs were barking, and roosters crowing intermittently through the night. My father-in-law, for instance, accepts the apparently universal rural folk wisdom, that you can set your watch by the rooster crowing at dawn. Folk myth is more like it! His next-door neighbors’ roosters will sometimes start crowing continuously at 4:00 a.m., sometimes at 2:30 a.m., and sometimes they will crow all night, especially a gamecock they own who sounds like rooster who’s had his neck wrung, and who seems to want to provoke the other roosters into crowing all night, every night. They ignore him, probably because he does not sound like a real rooster.
Not all “Trinis” sleep as soundly as my father-in-law, however. One occasionally hears of an enraged, sleepless neighbor tossing a barking dog a piece of poisoned meat.
My father-in-law notes that, as many families keep “fowls” (chickens), if one permits one’s dogs to run free, they will invariably snap the necks of the next-door neighbors’ chickens, eating some, and gratefully presenting the rest to their owners. My mother-in-law observes that in such cases, she must go out and eliminate the trail of chicken feathers that her dog, Lion, will have left in his wake. Otherwise, she will have to pay the neighbor a hefty restitution fee.
In the towns, you’ll pass a mix of beautiful, bright new cement houses and faded, wooden shacks that look ready to collapse, often adjacent to one another. Unlike America, rigid class distinctions dividing entire neighborhoods are the exception here.
Rich or poor, almost all of the roofs are made of the same, corrugated tin and zinc hybrid that T & Ters call “galvanize.” Similarly, whether rich or poor, virtually all houses outside of the cities are built on stilts (be they cement or wood), due to the uneven landscape. Having seen houses on flat land built the same way, I don’t think the local builders know any other way.
Huge satellite dishes commonly stand in front of tiny houses. People whose state-provided electricity quits on them five or six times a night, and whose state-provided water sometimes gets shut off for days on end (while being turned back on at night), can nonetheless see everything on TV we can. And even without “dishes,” everyone can see American broadcast TV reruns from recent years on government TV. And so, my 14-year-old niece’s favorite phrases are now, “Duh!” and “Whatever.”
Some might call that progress.
Speaking of which, a sobering scene awaits drivers on the highways leading to and from the northern, capital city of Port-of-Spain, where the carcasses of freshly killed dogs litter the shoulder. The dogs must have taken their more genteel, small town assumptions about driver behavior to the more fast-paced highway. They learned too late, that progress is unyielding.
(Postscript, 2010: According to The Boss, I was wrong in describing Indians as “East Indians”; she maintains that that description applies to Indians in India, and that “West Indian” is the proper term for Indians in the West Indies. I have seen “East Indian” used on occasion to refer to Indians in places like Trinidad, but was probably influenced by hearing the term “West Indian” used exclusively to describe blacks, growing up on Long Island. In Trinidad, people typically refer to blacks as “Negroes,” and Indians as “Indians.”)
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Revised on January 20, 2010
Last revised at 5:43 a.m., on February 23, 2011.
On Saturday, Sundariah Ramrakha died of renal failure at the age of 72 in Trinidad. Mrs. Ramrakha is survived by her husband of 55 years, Ramrakha, by one son, six daughters, twelve grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Although Mrs. Ramrakha’s husband and children traveled halfway around the world in variously seeking work and visiting relatives, she only left the island of Trinidad once, as a young woman, to visit the sister island, Tobago, of the two-island nation. (When three of their daughters moved variously to New York and London in search of fortune and husbands during the early 1990s, Mr. Ramrakha, who is at home in both cities, periodically traveled to them to look after his girls.)
During Mrs. Ramrakha’s life, Trinidadian culture and politics utterly changed.
At the time of her birth, some Indians had only recently been freed from indentured servitude by a 1917 British decree. The majority of Indians (as opposed to blacks, who spoke English) still spoke only Hindi; that began to change, thanks to Presbyterian missionaries, who in the 1920s taught Indians English … and converted more than a few to Christianity.
Mrs. Ramrakha and her husband wed in 1950 in an arranged, Hindu marriage; conversely, only two of her seven daughters were wed by arrangement.
When Mr. and Mrs. Ramrakha wed in 1950, Trinidad was still a colony of Great Britain; in 1962, the nation gained its independence from the Crown, and was renamed the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, which remains its name to this day. (Note that the Ramrakhas were devoted to each other, proof that an arranged marriage can be a most felicitous union.) Amidst such social upheavals, the Ramrakhas managed, through backbreaking work, to rise from poverty to a relatively prosperous life. They had no luxuries, but were able to meet all of their needs, and to purchase and extend one house, and then sell that home and move into [and extend] a second house that they had had built new.
Mr. Ramrakha planted fruit and vegetable trees, bushes, and vines on their property, so that their children grew up with a cornucopia of mangoes, avocados, coconuts, oranges, Mandarin oranges (Portugal, pronounced "pottigoll"), chestnuts, sugar cane, bananas ("figs"), cocoa, cherries, corn, peas, cassava, pigeon peas, tomatoes and eggplant.
In a traditional West Indian household, in addition to having a house built for his family, it was the father’s job to arrange marriages for his daughters. Mr. Ramrakha, however, found himself caught betwixt and between changing customs, and failed to arrange marriages for five of his seven girls. Thus, some fifteen years ago, when he referred to one of his daughters as an “old maid,” Mrs. Ramrakha retorted, “And who she should marry—woman?!” (In today’s Trinidad, that retort would still be understood as a joke, and not as a real possibility.)
Mrs. Ramrakha’s town recently gained its first “hospital” (really a clinic). By contrast, when Mrs. Ramrakha gave birth to at least one of her children in the 1960s, she had not so much as a doctor or even a midwife to rely on. All alone, while her husband was off driving a gravel delivery truck as a subcontractor, she delivered the baby herself.
But some things have not changed. In the rural, predominantly Indian South, running water is still a sometime thing, and Mrs. Ramrakha and her family had to work their water use around the practice of the authorities often having it “locked off” during the day. Thus, she would have to fill (or have one of her children or grandchildren fill) buckets and bottles with cold water from her shower in the morning, for use for bathing and washing hands. And hot running water is still unheard of in her town. But then, it is a model of progress compared to villages farther south, where people get their water from government trucks that fill huge plastic water barrels.
And yet, apparent backwardness can have its virtues. The land that Trinidadian Nobel Laureate V.S. (or “Vidia,” as he is known to “educated” Trinidadians) Naipaul repudiated, is home to a substantial proportion of self-reliant people who can fix almost anything. (Naipaul is most famous for his Trinidad-set novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, which won him his Nobel Prize. [Biswas was a loving, thinly veiled biography of Naipaul’s father, Seepersad Naipaul, motivated, I believe, by the author’s grief and guilt over having been in England, studying at Oxford, while his father ailed, died, and was buried.]) A proportion of those self-reliant “Trinis” are Indians such as Mr. Ramrakha, who are ardent, self-taught students of history and politics, and who snort at the pretensions and misrepresentations of the black nationalist academics who hold court at the Trinidadian campus of the University of the West Indies (pronounced “you-wee”) and on TV. (Unlike pretentious Indian school teachers, who are in awe of Mr. Naipaul, such “primitive” Indians are typically unimpressed with him.)
Trinidad, unlike the “progressive,” more socially stratified U.S., is also a land where one might grow up down the road from a future prime minister, as Mr. Ramrakha grew up near, and knew future Prime Minister (and current head of the United National Congress party) Basdeo Panday, and the rest of the Panday family.
Although Mrs. Ramrakha received a minimal education [and never learned to read or write], she and her husband encouraged all of their children to gain an education. [Mrs. Ramrakha was somehow able to teach her children the alphabet and numbers.] In a nation where few students went beyond primary school, all but one of the Ramrakhas’ children finished high school (“O” levels, which at the time in Trinidad, where less than ten percent of people attended college, had a status equivalent to at least two years of college in the States), with most of them entering various allied health professions, and one running her own business.
The Ramrakhas’ son, Nanram, followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a subcontractor delivering truckloads of gravel to builders. Mrs. Ramrakha outlived two of her children – a second son who was born the last of her nine children, and who died at six months of age of an undetermined illness; and a daughter, Tauti, who died in 1998, at the age of 28. [I’m still not clear on the cause of Tauti’s death.]
Although she only occasionally spoke of them, Mrs. Ramrakha mourned her dead children 'til her dying day. Although Mrs. Ramrakha's mother lived to be 103 years old, and her maternal grandmother reached the age of 106, the 4'11" woman was less hardy than her forebears. Having so many children surely exhausted her body, and may explain why her last child was born so sickly. And yet, aside from the lack of availability of medical procedures such as tubal ligation, which might have extended Mrs. Ramrakha’s life through her having fewer children, she wanted and loved all of her children unconditionally. Having fewer children was never a consideration for her.
In recent years, Mrs. Ramrakha suffered from diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis, yet until recently, no matter how painful it was for her to walk, she got up every morning to do her house work.
(When I originally published this obituary, I mistakenly wrote that my mother-in-law was 75, at the time of her death.)
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