Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jumping to conclusions

My sympathy for a young British-born and bred Muslim teacher rose after reading that he was turned back from a flight to the US.  His apparent crime - having a Muslim name.  The US authorities quite rightly state that they don't have to give a reason for refusal - it's their prerogative after all to decide who they want in their country.  My sympathy rose because I had been in a similar position - I had just finished university and literally picked up the letter confirming that I had qualified from the University on my way to the airport as I had planned to spend the summer break with relatives in Canada.  While I was there, some cousins decided to drive over to New York as another cousin was getting married and I thought that it would be fun to go. I went to the US embassy in Toronto confidently not expecting a problem, only to encounter a know-it-all middle-aged woman who questioned why I had not applied for a visa in London (hadn't occurred to me as I hadn't thought of going over to the US!) and informed me that I was just the age of Guyanese looking to 'disappear' in the US (a couple of years younger than this teacher).  I was suitably astonished and I informed her that I had just received my degree and had a job lined up for my  pre-registration year and that my degree was not recognised in the US. I would have loved to see my face when she  turned me down...as it never occurred to me that THAT was possible. I was sooo annoyed I thought to myself they could stuff it and it would be their loss and I wouldn't ever go there.

Ten years later, I decided to open a business in Guyana and logically the best place to source equipment was ... the US!   Pragmatism won, and I had to fill in the part that asked if I had ever been turned down for a Visa before. Well I have to say, I found the Americans to be a very generous people on the whole and black Americans willing to go the extra mile and in return I have spent many thousands of (US) dollars in their country.

Really is it worth the Badwill generated by randomly targeting  and antagonising people with a different name/culture?  Surely a better tracking system should be instituted? My Iranian friend had to report to the British police on a monthly basis although she had lived in the UK since she was 13yrs old before she presumably applied to be a citizen.

I really wonder about the stupidity of the officers carrying out the duties of their paranoid and ignorant leaders. I had to endure a more rigourous search at Miami heading to the Caribbean (not exactly a target of terrorists!) on a Caribbean airline with mainly Caribbean passengers. What annoyed me was, I had only a couple of hours been through a similar but less invasive procedure from a connecting internal US airport, which I told the officer while being poked and prodded and if that officer didn't find anything, they were unlikely to! But I hasten to add it's usually the disgruntled working-class person OD-ing on power who is being ridiculous, most of the Immigration officers and men with dogs are very pleasant and respectful.  There is always a danger of doing more harm than good.
 PS..I would have said Wales, where this teacher hails from, is not exactly a hotbed of militant terrorist types but remember listening on BBC to an interview of a native Welsh woman who married a muslim and had five children.  Her only son became withdrawn and then left to join IS secretly one day and she was relating how she found out he had died subsequently; that son would have been about the same age as this teacher and I wondered if guilt by association meant this teacher was refused entry to the US?
PPS... a 10yr old girl-child??    http://abc11.com/news/family-upset-over-tsa-check-of-10-year-old-girl-at-rdu/1148445/
PPPS... and a 65yr old American woman??  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-panty-liner-triggers-a-tsa-pat-down-just-one-step-removed-from-a-pap-smear/2017/03/30/ec86c10c-154d-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.09216d8633bf 
My gut feeling that the Americans are morons confirmed: http://theweek.com/articles/441310/confessions-former-tsa-officer

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Parking Meter Fiasco

So backwards Guyana, unable to institute a fair Tax collecting system, put questionable people in City Hall...their election seemingly rigged and repellent to decent folk who could make positive changes...who must have been approached by 'smarter' foreigners out to make an easy buck. Then, only in Guyana..it gets crazier..an apparent entrepreneur Jewish guy associated with a Russian telecommunications company (Russian mafia?) is uncovered to be behind it all...see photograph...all decidedly unGuyanese and without Guyana's interest at heart.
  The result was second-hand units shipped down and dodgy underhand deals with a select group of ignorant people signing the City of Georgetown to 49yrs of 80% of the takings given to 'brains' and 20% to City Hall to apparently pay themselves inflated salaries as services are likely to remain poor in the foreseeable unaccountable future! Super smart move to have the citizens pay for the nooses around their necks!
Their local PR person who it is alleged, contributed to the racial strife back in the day has mounted a slander campaign against the newly politicised citizens - even including suggestive remarks towards their employers.  Of course, this has limited use, as the ignorant seem firmly in driver seat, like under the last Administration, and the chattering (and more capable) class can only gnash their teeth and hope for a few crumbs of consultancies to eke by as most not in an employed situation.
Because the meter attendants are paid a bonus and there is virtually no-come back for the hapless parkers..see ticket and charge below..people will be under stress even if they ARE within the time zone-- having no higher authority to appeal to! 
The ultimate joke being that the parking Laws are not gazetted implying that the current practice is illegal.  Looks like the only thing to do that will be effective would be to not use the system as it is basically a shake-down operation-- I may actually miss the tramps on the street begging for $100 to 'watch' ya car!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hidden Figures

Having grown up without the distraction of TV, the boredom of Sunday was relieved by Sunday School/church and a trip to the cinema to see a double (two films) in the afternoon, possibly with swimming at Pegasus in between.  With the re-entry of cinemas in Guyana, I reflected that my time must be drawing to a close as I have come back almost to full circle of going to the cinema at weekends.
Hidden Figures was a pun on the coloured female mathematicians who worked on the Space program in the 1950s/60s. While the three black actresses were very believable, I thought the white actors were very good...Kirsten Dunst played the HR person talking down to the women who were her intellectual superiors, to perfection.  Jim Parsons brought his constipated look from The Big Bang Theory as the silently outraged white male whose turf was intruded on but reluctantly acknowledging the genius of Katherine Johnson.  Both characters played were fictional ones - but stuck in as gentle reminders of the Black scientists' grace under fire.  I was disappointed though that the film resorted to imagining that KJ took 40 minutes to go to the coloureds' washroom when in fact she simply used the whites' bathroom-- showing more gumption than the meek character on screen. The director said the film's portrayal was to indicate the help of the decent Whites.  I thought that was subtly done when the astronauts came to NASA and John Glenn made a point of coming over to the coloured women to introduce himself and ask their role; as I was reminded of an American Embassy staffer on duty here, who would acknowledge the help staff like the waiters when she went out, by asking their names and remembering to use said names during whatever event - I was quite impressed with that-- people simply just want to be acknowledged and appreciated.....shame that couldn't translated to American foreign policies!
The film did try to stay close the actual events and I was glad Katherine Johnson is still alive at 90-something to see it and finally be acknowledged on a larger scale-- to NASA's credit they named a building after her. As with Sully, the film ended with pictures of the real people...truly to tap the potential of a large pool of people will lead to things greater than the sum total...if only the Americans can figure THAT out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Worrying developments

Ironically while sorting out taxes, I happened across a YouTube video by a journalist speaking about aid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C30bJBcM_0c  Her point was - that countries NEED good governance, particularly poorer countries, not just emergency handouts when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately, aid doesn't go to less sexy projects such as training inspectors to ensure that buildings respect codes to lessen damage in the event of a natural disaster-- Japan has done remarkable work based on bitter experience so the knowledge is out there...and tax inspectors: doing so would ensure sustainability and lessen the need for aid as countries would learn to be self-sufficient.
With that in mind, observing what the elephant in the World is doing raises flags of concern! The new Trump administration is continuing to target journalists covering stories of groups of people protesting government actions which seemingly support corporate actions by insisting on implementing policies without bothering to consult with the people directly affected.  In effect, suppressing publicity which could garner further support and force said companies/corporations to back down - looks like numbers might be the only effective tool as the thinking class is a under threat and the strategy seems to be to keep them occupied by increasing the struggle to keep their heads above water starting with increasing the cost of living and removing social supports.  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was charged for giving air-time to the protests against the Dakota pipeline which the Obama administration eventually bowed out of but now Trump, who had/have shares in the company, has repealed said backoff so it looks like the pipelines are back on.   Of course, I am against stupid things such as damaging cars and property that are associated with the protests but it is not unlikely that the opposition put in vandals to give the protesters a bad name.
This upcoming scenario is what Snowden feared could happen....a sizeable proportion of the population are interested enough to educate themselves about an issue but are opposed by the might of  government resources who are representing the interests of a small handful of people benefiting from short-term gains and divesting themselves of Public Bads and long-term losses such as environmental damage and pauperisation of the rest- consciously heading for bad governance by dismantling regulatory checks and balances.
I would shrug my shoulders and say-- well that's their problem but their stupid decisions affect the rest of us- starting with American funds not being given to worldwide programs which offer abortions as an option for some women.  BTW I have no sympathy for the tears being shed by those shaking their hands that their last election was possibly influenced by outside forces as the US  has been tampering in other people's elections a long time now-- karma!  I would say thanks and well done Russia except we all suffer from ignorant policy decisions arising from a greedy, ignorant and corrupt administration most likely to arise from a Trump-led one, or one that put Trump at the head.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Children of the Spider

by Imam Baksh.   I liked very much the beginning of the book..located in Mabaruma - familiar enough to locate in my mind's eye and recognise some markers, but relatively unknown enough to suspend disbelief and follow a science-fiction plot involving Amerindian youths.
I was happily thinking of buying a copy to send to my pre-teen nieces then I hit Chapter 3 with its rather precocious discussion of how far along sexual initiation each teen had gone and my thoughts of sending the book screeched to a halt-- it seemed inappropriate as a pre-teen gift...I figure children should be left in the ignorance of childhood as long as possible..the cruel world will be out to mash them up soon enough!

So the book was fast-paced indeed, side-slipping the daily grind of survival but then I felt it got too complicated and twisted, although it was an easy read.  I particularly enjoyed trying to guess places mentioned and was amused the bother of poor English was bypassed by using a sort of creole dialect. It was interesting about highlighting Dog-Fights in Guyana as I hadn't realised this could be a big thing but clashed a bit with the overall theme of the spiders planning to wipe out the dogs when they got to rule..likewise cloudy was how Daisy, the dog the teens befriended, ended up in the Dog-fight pit.
I felt the writer tried to be innovative...mixing local myths with Greek ones, or rather a Greek one and throwing in a touch of science-fiction for good measure, while locating the story in Guyana.

Monday, January 2, 2017


This was chosen as my Old Year's Night film simply because the video shop had slim pickings ...Queen of Katwe not yet out.  I must have been in a cloud as I had my nose deep in books during the whole hoohah with the Snowden scandal, coming soon after Wikileaks and mixed up in my mind with the abominably-treated Manning youth.  While I appreciate the dangers that operatives would have been exposed to in 'the field'; on the whole I welcome an airing of Big Brother techniques if only so that those on their supposedly high moral horses can see that they are no better than those they are purporting to judge!

I thought the film tried to be fair and give voice to poor Mr Snowden whose life got tumbled up, following his revelations of the extent to which we are all electronically tracked.  I remember seeing a 60 minutes clip about how certain key words can be picked up and investigated but didn't realise the extent of the gross invasion of privacy until being interested enough to follow through with Mr Snowden's interview in Citizenfour on You Tube.  So yes, great to have readily accessible information but bad that at anytime someone can have access to the fact that I viewed it and extrapolate God Knows What from that information.
Mr Snowden was portrayed as someone who believed in his leaders until he got in there and saw it was not subject to rigourous checks and balances - with innocent people as collateral - rather like the policewoman in Whistleblower and his concern was that if it got out of hand, the machinery would be too big to stop.  I came to the conclusion he was a brave, intelligent person and am sorry some view him as a traitor as in the first 40 minutes of Citizenfour, when he handed the documents over to responsible journalists, he did tell them to try and not endanger other people lives with their revelations; and thought what a shame it was that the US could not find a 'slot'/position to use him as part of a check + balance system.  Pretty similar to where we are heading here now- no explicit criticism allowed.
As it was, I was surprised that he managed to hold interviews for several days in a hotel room in Hong Kong, assuming he was still using his passport to travel and check in.

Ironically, today a news item came out that Donald Trump was of the opinion that really important things should be hand-delivered by courier!  We really come to full circles eventually!  I think this must be the first thing that I have read about Trump that indicates he has a smidgen of common sense.

Here is a prescient observation: http://on.msnbc.com/2dEJrrz
There is a part when he comments about the ignorance of  civic knowledge leading to the loss of democracy