Last Lick Politics

The latest political hullabaloo comes to us care of the Sunday Gleaner, by way of Southern Trelawny. Apparently, the independent representative, Paul Patmore, has put forth the claim that the JLP Member of Parliament for that area, one Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert , has been giving out houses to her supporters. These are Food for the Poor houses that are intended for the most destitute, but have allegedly been going to wealthy JLP supporters. To these allegations, Mrs. Dalrymple Philibert has skilfully defended herself in the radio media (Jamaican radio doesn’t believe in podcasts, sorry) , while the Gleaner has now published some follow-ups

This reminds of that whole Richard Azan saga. No, not the similarity of the circumstances, or the fact that PNP politicians have no objective sense of morality, but of something that the Milk River Councillor, Carlton Bailey said. To paraphrase:

The JLP do some of the same things, and if we ever were to name some thing s them do , you would see how bad them is.

Now that the Azan saga has gone on for about 20 days (as of April 30 2013), instead of the planned 9 days, we must have something to distract us with. Something to show, not that PNP is innocent, but that the JLP is just as guilty. Kind of like the nine hour wonder that was the scandal over Bruce Golding’s bakery back in 2006.

When I was a boy, we used to play a game called “last lick.” You tried to hit one of your friends right before they left to go home. So all day you would try get yours in, while strategically dodging your victim, so that they would not catch you as you leave. And this is what this whole Food for the Poor scandal is. Politics as a children’s game – a food fight. Political parties in Jamaica have basically given up on morals, ethics, ideology, economic interests, sociological commonalities, and even identity, preferring instead to score points in tit-for-tat battles. It is at this point that we must abandon all hope for government to help us, and start working on traditional government responsibilities at a community level.

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Nationwide News Network is useless.

One of the main complaints against prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller is her indifference to the Jamaican media. This was highlighted especially by two bloggers, Jay over at Commonsense Jamaica and Ricardo over at Constructed Thoughts.

This is Ricardo:

the office of Mrs. Simpson Miller purported to be “concerned” for the safety of the Prime Minister. Fair enough. The worrying aspect of this development is that there is no security threat, in the standard sense, to the Prime Minister. Instead, the OPM released this dubious statement after members of the media sought a response from an ever evasive Simpson Miller. In her now characteristic attempt to dodge the media, and their relentless pursuit of information, the Prime Minister was apparently struck by a microphone. It is regrettable that the PM was struck, but the real issue is why was she running? The real issue is why hasn’t she consented to sit for an interview having taken office 15 months ago?

That;s all well and good, but I don’t think that really matters that much. This is a comment I had left over at Jay’s

Now compare that to media in our time. It is really nothing more than a means for press releases, press conferences, news leaks and interviews for politicians to twist around the interviewer.

I mean, what is the press going to do, call (ahem) Emmy-award-winning journalist Cliff Hughes to throw some softball questions her way?

Jamaican news at the Cliff’s edge

The reason why I am picking on Nationwide News is because it represents everything that is wrong with journalism in Jamaica – even more so than CVM News at its worst. Yet Cliff Hughes and company are generally considered the Jamaican archetype of the “Intrepid Reporter” running down leads and “speaking truth to power”

Again from my comment:

I listened to Nationwide News at 5 yesterday. It was really nothing useful. I can download and read the budget speeches from the net. Whatever commentary was added was redundant. The rest of the news was basically dudes asking the opinions of people on the road, reading aloud Facebook and Twitter posts and repeating BBC news posts that I had heard earlier that day.

The same could be said for all of their other news shows. There is no analysis of the day’s events, only annotations of previously existing news stories. The utter and complete lack of any subject matter expertise among any of their staff members is so laughable, its sad. They recently had several of the potential candidates for the new 360MW power plant project on for interview. You would have had expected them to ask questions such as:

  • How much cents per kilowatt/hour will you be charging for electricity?
  • How will you deal with fluctuations in the Liquified Natural Gas Prices?
  • What are the safety issues with LNG as a power source?
  • What advantages or disadvantages does a barge present during a natural disaster?

and so on. However, their journalistic team’s grasp of basic economics, infrastructural development, educational or any other technical issue is just lacking. Compare this to a Ralston Hyman or a Dennis Chung, whose brains seem to be made from Excel spreadsheets and SQL queries. Just listening to Hyman talk to someone,you know that, while he may be blunt, and not have manipulative skills of a Mike Wallace, he will catch you when you fuck up. With Cliff Hughes and company, its the opposite, they fuck up and get led around by their balls (or in Emily Crook’s case, her titties). Portia’s only problem, is a lack of grip.

Pseudo-events and Pseudo-Journalists

The great American social critic Daniel Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as an event or an activity that exists for the sole purpose of generating media publicity, and serves no other purpose in real-life. Events like these are planned, scheduled for media convenience, ambiguous, and try to be self-fulfilling prophecies. This means that the party who sets up the pseudo-event, for the media’s benefit usually do so for their own selfish purposes, i not the outright manipulation of the media itself.

Thus, examples of pseudo-events would include press conferences, interviews, press releases and newsleaks – exactly the sorts of things that the bloggers and Jamaican people want from Portia Simpson-Miller. More pseudo-events will not shame our leaders into morality and performance. Those types of events only allow the leaders to make their case in a deceptive manner, and give cliff Hughes and others like him the audience share and ratings he so desperately craves – as long as he doesn’t rock the boat.

The failure of mainstream Jamaican media

Remember back in about 2006, when P.J. Patterson resigned and you had about five PNP members competing for leadership? Remember how they treated Portia? Hell, even Mutty Perkins got a hard-on interviewing her, and he hated the PNP almost as much as me! By failing to critically engage Portia in the first place, the media has put itself in the situation it is in now.

You fix that problem with boots-on-the-ground journalism. Not reciting Twitter feeds or reading Facebook responses, or reading the morning dailies verbatim. You get on the ground, dig through spreadsheets, official, and unofficial and cultivate sources. You cannot expect to go up to a politician’s face and expect them to tell you the truth. That is not how you hold power to account in a democracy. Perhaps if Nationwide News Network took their job more seriously, they would understand this.

P.S.

What they hell kind of piece of shit website these guys have operating? No podcasts? Live streaming? What the fuck is this, 1998? I call and the lady tells me that they don’t record their shows either? Ah fuck. And what the fuck does Emily Crooks do? Is she really needed?

Teachers and Tablets – Phillip Paulwell Epic Fail

During yesterday’s (24th of April 2013) budget presentation, we saw Phillip Paulwell in an excited, enthusiastic mood, and utterly overjoyed about the prospects for the future. This therefore means that the rest of us should be scared shitless, hopelessly depressed, and in a state of total fear for the future of our children. I say the future of our children because Minister Paulwell intends for the “duncest” of them to receive 30,000 tablets. Yes even the teachers are going to tablets!  Every single student! Every single teacher!

Tablets for the Illiterate

Any reasonable person should see that the obvious problem with this line of thinking. Giving children tablets is….OK , I guess. Giving children who can’t read or write properly tablets is self-defeating and wasteful. If they can’t read or write on paper, how will they be able to so on a tablet? Of course, if the intention is not for them to be able to read or write…

paulwell_tablets

There is no need to imagine this as a conspiracy against poor people. Conspiracies and plots require a small amount of secretive, highly intelligent, extremely well motivated individuals who know exactly what they want – the complete opposite of the current People’s National Party administration. But nevertheless, the result will be the same. Paulwell’s obsession with technological solutions to social problems will only further entrench poor people into the pit of illiteracy, and their richer counterparts in the slum of aliteracy.

(Insert technological solutions here) is the best thing for the kids

Technological solutionism in education has occurred many times throughout history. One need only look at America to see this ideology in action.

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks” (Thomas Edison). 1922

That didn’t work out too well. Same with radio in the 1920s. Television was tried in the 1940s, with the Ford Foundation underwriting the Fund for the Advancement of Education to use instructional television – by 1961 over $20 million in 250 schools and 50 colleges from Ford Foundation. Now we have arrived at tablets and laptops, like the One Laptop per Child program that was pushed by Nicholas Negroponte. There are are a number of reasons why initiatives like these fail.

  • The medium is unsuited to the message that it is trying put across.  The medium of the tablet is one that is intended to replace the textbook, and include activities like games to engage the young people. But a tablet, with its multi-colour interactive display, is by definition, best suited to the display of moving, rather than static images. And in this case the static image is the superior. The moving image is a distraction towards education.
  • Tablets are made for entertainment , not learning.  In order for education to be successful, you generally have to include the following.Prerequisites, as unlike an app, you cannot just point on a book and get into it immediately, you must have had prior education in a topic. There is no app that states that, “you must have taken app 101 and app 201 before starting.” Perplexity, as while you may get stuck while learning, no app wants you to get stuck while using it. An app makes all its features immediately accessible, without having to memorize them, as is the purpose of a GUI. With education, perplexity is a must. You will get stuck, when you overcome that barrier then you are educated. Exposition is also lost with a GUI and apps, as while a tablet can bring across exposition via MP3s and PDFs, that just makes it an inferior version of a Kindle DX. Take away continuity, perplexity and exposition, and you are left with entertainment, not education.
  • It attempts to solve deeply ingrained social problems with a technological one.

Tablets of the poor, Proper facilities for the rich

That last point, I feel, is the most important. In this case, the answer was given before the the question was asked. The question was “Why are these students failing?” The answer was, “Give them some tablets!” Had this been Campion or Hillel, the PTAs and blogs would have had been on fire. Had this been Campion or Hillel, there would have been demands for more teachers per classroom, maybe even a ratio of 10-14 to 1. Had this been Campion or Hillel, there would have had been calls for increased hours in school, one-on-one time with weaker students, regular home consultations, and surprise evaluations by the Ministry of Education, Cambridge and CSEC. But as these are poor people we are dealing with, we give them video games instead.

With regards to the poor, we have continued a caste system that locks young people in a specific level through the use of the shift system. When you tell one set of people that their children are worth 4 hours of school , and another that their children is worth six hours, then you are effectively creating a two-tier caste system that puts the less able in a situation where their latent intellectual ability can never be developed, and are never given the opportunity to achieve their full potential. And giving out these tablets will only further this caste system.

And this is the epic failure of Phillip Paulwell. For tens of thousands of young people at all age levels, the Jamaican educational system has failed them. They don’t have the skills, their parents don’t have the time, their teachers don’t have the patience, and the social workers don’t exist. For Phillip Paulwell to say that tablets can, in any way, help these young people, is as much an admission of failure, as Peter Bunting crying like a bitch. Instead one set of children being worth four hours a day, and the  other six. he instead says that one is worth four hours a day and a tablet, and the others six and good infrastructure. And until we change that that line of thinking, then, to paraphrase Larry Cuban, the poor will get the tablets, the rich will get the teachers.