Hurricane Sandy of the thousand foot windspan…Hang tight everyone!

A note on Hurricane Sandy as she menaces the East Coast of the United States.

The Hope River in spate - Varun Baker photo. Email: varun.baker@gmail.com
The Hope River (Kingston, Jamaica) in spate – Varun Baker photo.

UPDATE! Seven people came to this blog today searching for “hurricane sandy in jamaican patwa”. Can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

SANDY. A hurricane event with a windspan so broad (1000 miles wide) she’s menacing the United States from New York and the East Coast all the way to Chicago. And this after ravaging us in the Caribbean from Jamaica to the Bahamas, through Cuba and Haiti. People don’t understand how a Category 1 hurricane can do so much damage. Satellite shots make it look as humdrum as buttermilk seething in a giant churn but Sandy is dangerous because she’s slow moving and large–as i said her windspan is unusually wide, and she’s adept at the slow creep. So though not packing as much power as a Cat 4 or 5 storm usually does over a much narrower radius Sandy’s still deadly because of the water she brings with her. She dumps so much rain on affected areas as she creeps along in slowmo that the earth gets sodden and trees and poles are no longer securely anchored toppling over once the wind starts plucking at them. Its the flooding Sandy produces that will be the real threat, especially to people in what are called “low-lying areas” (like the homes in the photos by Varun). Meanwhile the relative height of one’s locality is just coming home to people. As the writer Hari Kunzru (@harikunzru) said on Twitter:

Beginning to appreciate the ‘hill’ part of Clinton Hill. #sandy

The Hope River in spate - Varun Baker photo. Email: varun.baker@gmail.com
Varun Baker photo. http://varunbaker.com/
A view of the coast at Palmyra Rosehall, St James - Hoween Griffiths Photo. Email: h.griffiths@rosehall.com
A view of the coast at Palmyra Rosehall, St James – Hoween Griffiths Photo. Email: h.griffiths@rosehall.com

At any rate that was our experience with Sandy here in Jamaica. A lot of trees went down or were brutally pruned. She seemed to have something against banana plants…people think they’re trees but they’re not, they’re large plants…so yes, we’ll have no bananas for the next 6 months because both Portland and St. Mary, the banana parishes, have been devastated.

So good luck to all the folks in the US of A who aren’t used to tropical weather events such as hurricanes…its like a wet tornado i guess. And hopefully by the time Sandy has swept through the East Coast you won’t be emerging into a political cyclone as the Republicans and the Democrats go head to head and Mittens and Big O face off for the big one on November 6. We hope that whichever candidate wins he will take the threat of global warming seriouly. Again i turn to Twitter for some instant wisdom on the matter:

RT @TonyKaron: Sandy’s disruption of electioneering is nature’s poetic rebuke to both candidates for their silence on climate change #fb

PS: Breaking News! As of 8 pm EST it was declared that Sandy is now a post-tropical storm. She has morphed into a cold weather event.

and i eavesdropped on this twitterati convo:

SalmanRushdie's avatar
Salman Rushdie @SalmanRushdie

Lights flickered off/on. Wind crazy.Watching the big old tree out back. It’s a tough New York tree. It can take it. Right, tree? Am I right?

IamDeepaMehta's avatar
Deepa Mehta @IamDeepaMehta

@SalmanRushdie You absolutely are , right that is. Hang tight tree. Hang tight Salman XX

harikunzru's avatar

@IamDeepaMehta @SalmanRushdie having same feelings re tree outside our place in Clinton Hill

 

and look at this photo posted by @nycarecs
Official Twitter feed of the New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service (NYC-ARECS)

AN OCEAN ON NY’S LOWER EAST SIDE. Never happened ever like this. #sandy #nyc via @nycarecs

Hang tight everyone!

Got this from NYTimes.com.
“Sea water flooded the Ground Zero construction site.”
Photo: John Minchillo/Associated Press

oh my various gods! will the US Presidential elections have to be postponed…? at this rate? things are deteriorating rapidly in NYC, don’t think they can recover by Nov 6…

Where’s my vuvuzela? …Announcing the Second Coming of Portia Simpson-Miller

A summary of what i think went wrong with the JLP’s 2011 campaign to get a second term and the conditions under which Portia Simpson-Miller returned to political power in Jamaica despite her embrace of gay rights.

The Jamaica Observer made this really useful interactive map available, with all sorts of information on constituencies at your fingertips if you hovered over it
Las May, Daily Gleaner, December 30, 2011

The December 29, 2011 general election was the fifth election in which I’ve voted, all in Jamaica, and this one was the most deeply satisfying. Not just because the candidate I voted for won, but because she won so decisively. It was also almost like a normal day, with no skirmishes or violence to mar it (well actually that’s not really normal in Jamdown, is it? But you know what i mean) At 6.42 pm yesterday when I tweeted, “I think Portia’s going to whip dem, this is going to be a rout…” I was in a minority of one who called it correctly long before the results made it plain there was going to be a landslide. Everyone thought it was too close to call, though my friends at Nationwide, like many others, had given it by a hair’s whisker to the JLP.

As Election Day came closer and closer I began to feel in my gut that there was going to be an upset. Unlike the highly touted pollsters with their ‘scientifically tested’ samples (99% of which turned out to be wrong) I was going by my own experience, by what i was hearing from close friends, associates and radio and what I was picking up on the ground so to speak.

Up to a month before the election I also thought that the JLP had it locked with their master-stroke of appointing a new leader, Andrew Holness, whose relative youth (age: 39) in a party dominated by oligarchs, signaled the beginning of something fresh and long overdue.

Lady wears both party colours so as not to be victimized by either?

Then unexpectedly one or two friends whose opinions i value highly, and who are both more Labour-leaning than PNP-types both said they thought the JLP would lose. The reasons they gave–the bleak economic landscape foremost among them–made sense. Still I didn’t really believe they were right and in the meantime the ruling party’s catchy election jingle Vote for Labour had bored itself into the nation’s skull, including mine. EVERYONE was humming it, I didn’t see how the JLP could lose, particularly as the PNP seemed to be mum on the whole judging by the lack of memorable jingles, TV ads or statements.

The much hyped debate did a lot to boost Sista P’s votability quotient. Widely portrayed by the JLP as being incapable of stringing a sensible sentence together the Leader of the Opposition came across as relaxed, friendly and totally in control in contrast to former Prime Minister Holness who looked like a rabbit caught in the horsehairs. He seemed visibly nervous whereas Portia came across as gracious and comfortable in her skin. These things speak louder than words, something the JLP seems to have forgotten even though they have the example of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding to hand. Golding was articulate to the point of eloquence, as sharp as they come and extremely knowledgeable. Did all this make him a better leader? Really? Then why are we even discussing why the man who prematurely succeeded him lost the election to win his own mandate yesterday?

So incredibly considering the negative publicity she received in advance of the debate, Portia took the debate. Another major blunder the JLP made was the scurrilous attack ad in which Portia was depicted as a raving lunatic. They aired it so often it began to be annoying and I started to feel resentful because it seemed like a cheap shot to me, using the most questionable editing tactics, freely re-arranging quotes, speeding up speech, distorting sound and generally altering and doctoring existing audio and video to suit their own purposes. To make matters worse the message they seemed keen to transmit was that Portia was loud, emotive, out of control and therefore not capable of being a good leader. It’s the kind of scornful, contemptuous portrayal women have suffered at the hands of men for centuries; poor people have suffered at the hands of the smug middle and upper classes; those who are not quick on the draw face from those who are considered bright; Muslims face from the West, etc etc.

Consequently anyone who has ever been the butt of such demonizing tactics would have and probably did, identify with Portia. I know I certainly did and I share very little with Portia in broad terms; imagine then how the hundreds and thousands of people who view her as someone who has risen from their own ranks, who feels she represents them, felt.

And that was the big miscalculation on the part of the JLP’s G2K. To make matters worse the Party lobbing such belittling take-downs is widely perceived as representing the ‘Mulatto’ and light-skinned segments of the population. Coming from them, or from anyone for that matter, the attack ads took on a racist dimension.

The JLP also miscalculated how their attack on the PNP’s Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) would be viewed. In their haste to scoff at JEEP as being ” nothing more than another crash programme” that would burden taxpayers’ pockets the Labourites forgot that while this approach might appeal to the middle class minority, to the far larger group of unemployed, underemployed and unemployable, JEEP would be a boon. Most of them don’t pay taxes so what do they care about that?

So in general the JLP was seen as trying to win the election through slander and mudslinging; they had very few ads promo-ing their worldview, their plans for new and inspired governance, or their creative approach to the problems plaguing the country.

The 2011 Elections in Jamaica were notable for the comraderie displayed by supporters of both sides

The utter contempt and disdain displayed by the government concerning the Tivoli incursion in which 73 civilians lost their lives was another nail in the JLP’s coffin, coming on the heels of the JDIP scandal. Security Minister Dwight Nelson’s blasé denials and prevarications when questioned by the media about a ‘spy’ plane (see my previous posts on this), fortified by a truly callous campaign mounted by the de facto JLP organ, the Jamaica Observer, dismissing the role of the US DEA Lockheed P-3 Orion in the invasion of Tivoli was more than any citizen could stomach. Former PM Holness’s belated attempt to set the story straight by contradicting his own security minister was the final straw: here was a party whose ministers didn’t hesitate to lie when it suited them, for whom the deaths of 73 civilians mattered so little they would try and shrug it off as Nelson had done.

But the most laughable, most despicable strategy employed by both the Labour Party and the Jamaica Observer was (as @BalanceMan said on Twitter) to treat the election of 2011 as if it was a referendum on gay rights. Again they completely misread the mindset of so-called ordinary Jamaicans (who are anything but ordinary). They assumed that this was a life-and-death issue which would be a liability for the PNP following Portia’s gallant statement that her government would review the existing buggery laws and that she was not averse to having a gay minister in her cabinet. The Observer tried its best, with numerous cartoons and articles on the subject to turn the population against the PNP by playing on the well-known local hostility to homosexuality.

Instead it backfired on them. Out of 63 parliamentary seats the JLP won 22 and the PNP 41! As Trindadian writer/editor Nicholas Laughlin observed on Facebook after the results had become known:

To summarise: in Jamaica, widely considered the most homophobic country in the Caribbean, the ruling party runs a gay-bashing general election campaign and loses by what can only be called a landslide.

On a side note you couldn’t help laugh at the following wisecrack referring to the PNP’s promise to remove general consumption tax from our energy bills. RT @rushknot: Electricity tax gone! *turns on AC*

And that is where I’m going to leave this for now; let’s hope that these are not just empty campaign promises because the outcome of the 2011 elections in Jamaica, in which popular sentiments on gay rights played such a prominent role, must give all of us plenty of cud to chew on. It certainly demands a rethinking of the global view of Jamaica as ‘the most homophobic place on earth’. Let’s see if the PNP having gained such a huge nod from the electorate will now put its mouth where its money is and REALLY strike a blow for equal rights for all.