Friday, April 16, 2010


So, one yesterday man (A. D. Hanna) leaves Government House, another one (A. Foulkes) moves in. Hubert Ingraham continues seamlessly, Perry Christie's policy of appointing "deserved men" to be our figureheads. However, what the current generation deem deserved are almost exclusively men who earned their laurels in the 1960's struggle for so-called majority rule. Now, forty-something years later, this record is beginning to sound tired in the ears of a young generation of Bahamians born post-independence.

To make matters worse, a closer look will reveal a certain discrepancy between history and legend. The true achievements of the mid-twentieth century were women's suffrage and the one-vote-per-voter principle, not the election of Lynden Pindling; the latter was the result of the two former, which were both introduced (admittedly after much public and political pressure from the opposition) by the "evil, 'white' Bay Street Boys." In 1967, the Generation SLOP took over our Bahamaland, and has retained control over it ever since, for neither Hubert nor Perry can really count as much other than Pindling's proteges, as becomes evident from the way they run (ran) government and their parties respectively. Generation SLOP took over a progressing, growing country, and after an initially optimistic start, when they hit the first pothole (proverbially speaking), they changed course. From now on, it was all about retaining power, and the people's progress was, potentially, seen as a threat to that aim.

From the mid-1970s until this day, there has been no real progress in the Bahamas. For the longest time, we were told that our economy was our jewel, our precious. However, what role are Bahamians reduced to in this? We are still in servitude. The only progress made since 1967 is that our servitude has become more profitable for our masters.

Generation SLOP has broken the Bahamas' education system. Generation SLOP has broken the Bahamas' safety and security and allowed crime to spiral out of control. Generation SLOP has broken the Bahamas, which is now a failed state.

Now, 82-year-old Arthur Foulkes (next month) was rewarded for his contributions to this misery by allowing him to live rent-free in Government House, occupying a well-paid do-nothing job, because the knighthood wasn't reward enough. Welcome, Governor-Geriatric, while the rest of us still wait impatiently for change.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Airline Rant

Every time I travel, I look forward to seeing new places and faces, doing new things, and simply enjoying a change of scenery. However, I also cringe with nervous anticipation when I think of what I might have to endure at Nassau International Airport, or what shoddy service I may receive from whatever airline I may choose out of Nassau.

There are many airlines connecting Nassau to the United States, even to South Florida there is a choice. When going to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, travellers can choose between (in alphabetical order): American Eagle, Bahamasair, Continental Connection, JetBlue and Spirit. Now, the latter two, while not always perfect, are a class or their own, flying modern, comfortable and clean planes. Bahamasair has so many nasty things said and written about them, I do not - today - want to contribute to that, as in recent times, they've usually gotten me to where I wanted to go on time, safe, and with my bags. (I do remember when things were different.) Continental offers so few seats between Fort Lauderdale and Nassau these days, they're not even worth considering. That leaves American Eagle, offering roughly ten daily flights to Miami, and thus more options than any other carrier.

Sadly, and I have said this for years, American Eagle is also by far the worst airline flying between Nassau and Florida. Underpaid, poorly qualified staff, whose Spanish may be perfect, but whose English is often unintelligible, and airplanes unsuitable for the job, because they cannot carry the amount of cargo demanded on flights from Shopping-Paradise-Florida to the Bahamas, make them often an adventure in and by itself. And that is the service you receive.

Last week, I was returning from Miami on their evening flight, which was delayed. No surprise. However, the experience around that was really what inspires today's rant.

  1. Sitting in the waiting area at Miami, the screen showed that our flight was "boarding," then displayed a "final boarding" call, when the aircraft had not even landed in Miami yet, to be turned around and prepared for our flight to Nassau. Upon enquiring with the gate personnel, they did - absolutely nothing about it.
  2. When we were finally ready to go, we were driven to the aircraft in a bus. The bus driver did not know where to go. He stopped at half a dozen different planes to ask the crews whether this was the flight to Nassau.
  3. In the air, we got the "no cabin service due to turbulence" excuse, which, IIRC, was invented by Bahamasair about 20 years ago. It was, until we began our approach into Nassau, a smooth ride.
  4. In Nassau, we waited at the carousel labelled "AA####" for our bags. Which didn't come. They were already at a different carousel. Because there were only seven bags. For 63 passengers. Some friendly porter finally told us. American Eagle staff were nowhere to be seen.
  5. Surely when this plane left Miami with only seven bags, American Eagle must have been able to anticipate that there'd be lots of passengers in Nassau in need of assistance? You would think that Miami would pick up the phone, call Nassau, and they'd be prepared for the onslaught at the lost luggage counter? Ha!!
  6. When we finally got to the missing bags counter, there was one (1) - Yes, ONE (UNO, EINS, 1) - woman working. She got to deal with the 63 passengers whose bags were not on the plane.
  7. However, she did have the moral support of another American Eagle colleague, who was sitting right next to her, wearing her American uniform, and enjoying her Wendy's dinner.
  8. American's computer system had no idea where the bags were. (Again, I have in the past experienced this with Bahamasair, but every first world carrier that ever misplaced my bags could simply glance at their computer and tell me exactly where my bag was. At least in the past 25 or so years.)
  9. The bags finally arrive, and I get a phone call from baggage services that I can come and pick them up. I get this phone call at 3:30 in the morning!
Thank you, American Eagle. You see, the sad part is that this is *not* an isolated incident, where everything went wrong, but, rather, a fairly common experience for somebody travelling on your airline from Miami to Nassau.

I believe that it is time for our government, through the department of Civil Aviation, to set certain minimum standards that commercial airlines operating in or to the Bahamas must meet. Especially ones operating internationally, who make their profit from tourist dollars. American Eagle, I put it to you, in its current state, does not meet acceptable standards on the Bahamas-Florida runs.

If an airline consistently fails to meet minimum standards, its landing rights in the Bahamas ought to be revoked. We can provide shitty service for ourselves (believe it or not, we can do well, too), we don't need to invite an American operator into the country to treat us badly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lizzie's Lesson

As Hubert had already pointed out, the by-election in Elizabeth would not change the government of the Bahamas. It had been an opposition seat, so it would only be a question of whether the FNM could increase their majority, or whether the PLP could retain its size in the House of Assembly. And forgive me for not going into any detail about Messrs. Moncur, Rollins and Stuart, even though the votes they managed to get may have very well determined the outcome of this by-election, given how close the counting is at the moment (Sands/FNM 1,501 vs. Pinder/PLP 1,500).

In fact, in discussions I have often made the argument that a viable third party in the Bahamas must be formed, not with any hopes of actually winning an election, but with a thoroughly thought through agenda that will threaten both the FNM and the PLP enough by creating a scenario where this third party could take a sufficiently large number of votes away from either party to turn formerly "safe" seats into contested seats, thus forcing both established parties to focus more on their primary duty: to serve the Bahamas and its people.

However, yesterday's by-election illustrates how far we are from being a mature democracy. First and foremost, I was irritated by the ignorant babble on ZNS, where veteran politicians demonstrated how little integrity and understanding of how democracy ought to work they possess. The number of voters who didn't bother was higher than the number of votes cast for either candidate, and one commentator had the audacity to tell the audience that in most Western democracies a turnout of around 60% would be considered huge. No, it wouldn't. Only in one Western democracy, the U.S. of A. Everywhere else this would - rightly - be reason for concern. (And don't even get me started about all that garbage about the "Westminister" [sic!] system of government...)

So, what happened in Lizzie last night?
  1. We saw a by-election at a time when the Bahamas is suffering through a severe economic crisis, at a time when crime spirals more out of control than it was at any previous out-of-control stage.
  2. Outside of the by-election hype, even most staunch FNM supporters I know would concede that they are less than impressed with the government's do-nothing attitude.
  3. We are talking about a seat held by the PLP as recently as 2007.
  4. The FNM candidate showed his disdain for the voters, not by pointing out their alleged greediness, but by refusing to participate in the pre-election debate.
These are four reasons that in any mature democracy would have worked against the FNM, and would have been enough to secure a comfortable PLP win. Not so in the Bahamas, and even if the recount puts Ryan Pinder before Duane Sands, this is too close to make sense.

Pinder's problem may have been the issue of his dual citizenship. It is rather ridiculous that we suffer from such a major inferiority complex that we hold it against a man that he has a foreign mother. More mature democracies have many a politician with a migratory background and more than one passport. Yet, Pinder even renounced his U.S. citizenship before the election, which should have satisfied the skeptics right there.

The reason why the FNM polled so strongly in Elizabeth is because we are not a democracy. When Bahamian voters know that their vote won't change the government, they tend to vote for the governing party, because they fear that otherwise their constituency will be victimised.

Fear of victimisation, however, has no place in a democracy. Bahamians too often make the mistake to equate democracy with majority rule (and I am *not* talking about 1967), because our politicians operate along the lines that when their party has the majority, it is their country. They then make decisions and implement policies that benefit their clientele at the expense of the minority.

However, democracy by definition means that compromises are forged that ultimately benefit as many people as possible and jeopardise as few as possible, preferably none. Government by the people, for the people. All the people. That is precisely what we do not get from our politicians. We live, sadly, not in a democracy, but in an ochlocracy instead.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Day the Earth did not Stand Still

My last post is dated January 12th, 2010. It was posted that afternoon. The date will forever be remembered in the region's history as the Day the Earth did not Stand Still.

Since that earthquake in Haiti, the Bahamas, as well as the rest of the world, has focussed much of their attention on our neighbour, and the Bahamian blog scene has written much about the country. How can we help? As individuals? As a country? What are Haiti's options for the future? What can we learn from Haiti's past about preventing disasters from reaching quite such a scope?

Many had some smart remarks. Many wrote and spoke utter stupidity.

The most obvious stupidity is coming from what I shall call "Corner A." Corner A is home to racist haters such as Pat Robertson and Paul Shirley. My advice is to ignore Corner A, because it is questionable why a TV evangelist would be an expert on geological phenomena such as earthquakes (though I will concede one point, at least he argues along religious lines). As for Paul Shirley, well, what can I say? He's an NBA has-been. I mean, WTF?

However, there's also a Corner B. Corner B is full of presumably intelligent people, who seem to have an allergic reaction to anybody criticising the fact that Haiti since independence had one unstable and corrupt government after another. If the criticism - not blame, mind you - should come from somebody pale-skinned, the people in Corner B try to force the critic into Corner A. Thus Corner B becomes the apologist reverse racist corner.

Corner B now also seems to attack anyone who speaks about about post-disaster problems in Haiti such as looting or human trafficking involving Haitian nationals as perpetrators. According to Corner B, Haitians can only be victims. However, I have seen a Haitian mob attack a relief mission bringing in medical supplies with my own two eyes, and while I am willing to consider extenuating circumstances, and I myself don't know how I would react if I were in their shoes, it cannot be condoned if an airplane is being met by flying rocks.

I will not attempt to write "the" history of Haiti now, but I would like to remind my readers that there are historical roots for Haiti's pre-earthquake problems, which in turn magnify the impact of this recent catastrophe. Some of these problems are part of the colonial legacy. Others are caused by a hemispheric refusal to lend a helping hand, in the more recent and more distant pasts. And some are homemade.

Maybe you should go and look at sources yourself, rather than regurgitate the prepackaged opinions of Corners A and B. I recommend this document, Haiti's Constitution of 1801, as a random starting point.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Superfluous Newspaper

A semester (or has it been two already) ago, a Professor teaching Political Science at the College of the Bahamas, voiced his concerns that the Bahamian media in general, and the Tribune in particular, have agreed to a "honeymoon," during which they would write nothing negative about the College, its move towards university, its administrators and its president, Janyne Hodder. In return, Hodder's College promised them advertising dollars.

It cannot be denied that the papers were very quiet about COB, but a certain December editorial in the Tribune demonstrated just how much that paper has given up its role as a reporter of news and independent observer. Rather, it served as the ranting mouthpiece saying everything one might suspect Mrs. Hodder to think, even though she has the good sense and manners not to actually say it.

Today though takes the cake. Yesterday, the Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB) staged industrial action, teaching one large class under the almond tree in Chapter One's parking lot, while regular classes were cancelled this first day of the new semester. ZNS was there. The Guardian was there.* Others were, too, and we have reason to believe that the Tribune was there, as well. Certainly, they knew about it. UTEB had invited them to a press conference the day before, Hodder did a press conference that afternoon.

However, the January 12th, 2010 edition of the Tribune does not mention industrial action at the country's premier tertiary institution, soon-to-be national university. It is sad to see, how a once progressive newspaper has been allowed to become a mouthpiece of the oligarchy. The Tribune has truly become superfluous.

* Jasmin Bonimy. "Industrial Unrest Erupts at COB." The Nassau Guardian. (Her command of the English language is limited, as is her understanding of the facts and circumstances, but at least the Guardian tries to report the stories that matter in this country.)