Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Didn't Vote for This

I'm a voter. I'm a taxpayer. I contribute to my country's economy. Through the mysterious alchemy of terminology and taxation, the sweat of my brow is transformed into income tax, social security and GST. Yes, I do my most honest part by each of these methods of reducing my discretionary income 'for the good of all.'

My just reward? The current leadership has not given me a housing writeoff such as the likes of Dr Cawich apparently needed and deserved. Nor, since the fact that I was actually born here apparently makes me a second-class citizen, have I received a single piece of land in the last frenzied weeks running up to the pre-election lunacy -or at any other time. Nope, not even a Christmas card did I receive from my UDP area rep, so busy was he shopping for turkey. No, my reward is the unrewarding task of paying the bill for all of it, shipping and handling (and advertising) included.

Yes, as a taxpayer, I have the privilege of paying for everything I just listed above. I'm paying for it and so is my boss and so are all of you. We are told to quit our whining, that Cawich & Co. now have discretionary income freed up to spend in the economy and it will circulate for the benefit of us all, but I doubt I'll feel it because I'll be one of the many paying for their state-sponsored shopping sprees, which I do hope takes place in Belize and not Miami or Chetumal. And the more tax money they take from me to give to their poor, the less discretionary funds I have left to give to those who genuinely need it, or to circulate in my country's economy. Sorry Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, your homeless are no longer priority. Tough luck Helpage, your senior citizens will need to fend for themselves, if they don't belong to the right party. Too bad, it's all so pathetically sad. Look Mr Politician, you cannot take from one mouth and give to the other and pretend that means you created something; that's not how it works, that's precisely how it fails.

It all gets blamed on the PUP, and deservedly so. I mean, the Said/Ralph/Ashcroft love triangle is the stuff of legend. What those two produced for their lordly master, and for themselves...well, let's just say I'll probably be paying for that well beyond my death. It's why you were voted out, Blue Man Group. And I'm not sorry I did it. What I am sorry for is that the set of SOBs I did vote for in 2008 turned out to be of an even sickier, sorrier, more destructive and less productive mentality than you were. The downward spiral continues, at dizzying speed.

Red is the colour of anger, and the reds have been angry little people for four years. Be warned Reds, your lava-hot anger has spilled over to me, and not in the way you'd hoped. Your one hit single in four years is 'Blame It on the Superbond.' That song's played so damned often I hear it in my sleep. It is the excuse for doing every evil, and for doing no good. You tantrum-happy clowns have done everything you can think of to amass massive wealth for yourselves in four years, and you've done it without shame. It's the sickest competition our country has ever seen in its thirty years of existence: "who gat mo dan who." When we boil it down to the bone though, red or blue, you're all as corrupt as each other, and over these thirty years we voters have lost every single time.

Now that the madness of election season is officially upon us (unofficially it never ended, I think), we get to see asinine ads from both sides. The Bucket, the Puppet, the Strip Tease, King Dean.... God help us if that's all you've got. Keep the schupidness to yourself and tell me what you plan to do with my money for the next five years. None of you seem to know, and that scares me to the point where I start to wonder if it's time for me to take my talent and taxpaying ways elsewhere and leave you and your nonproductive constituents to make your Haiti-bound way without me.

I haven't made up my mind how/whether to vote yet. Ms Yasmin didn't interview me, but she's reported my feelings accurately. I'm undecided because the choices give me no decision. No, Mr Third Party, you don't present anything credible either -nothing personal, it's just the company you keep. But here's one more thought to add to the pile: if you Reds are gonna spend the next five years whining about the Superbond, then maybe I should vote in the guys who don't dare bitch about it because they gave birth to the damn thing. Maybe that fact will motivate them to do the right things about my economy and about crime. Let's face it, red and blue are both corrupt, and setting that as the baseline indisputable fact, I'd love it if someone could explain to me why I should waste my vote on a party that acts like the working taxpayer's hard work and general honesty and ambition make him Public Enemy Number Four, ranking just below Ashcroft, Said and Ralph?

You know, you clowns in red suits have left me with one haunting question: if you can, all of you, get so damned rich in only four years, why the hell is it that I only get poorer every single day? What verse in 'Blame It on the Superbond' explains that fact Boots?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Press 'Mute' to Pause Democracy

I have had trouble, for the last three months, putting pen to paper on behalf of this blog. When the Ninth Amendment was first published, I wrote a brief piece about how dangerous it could be -and the nonresponse was deafening. Silence, not even an argument. I wondered. Was I that bad of a writer? Quite possible. Or was it a combination of fear and apathy? Also possible. Or perhaps owning two companies really did have to happen at all costs. Whatever the answer, I opted not to write any more pieces about the Ninth, but rather just to stand back and watch developments. At the same time, the Ninth was so all-consuming, so much like palpitations to the heartbeat of my country, and so far beyond just being about nationalization, that I couldn't write about anything else. In effect, the Ninth was so important that it rendered me mute.

Of course, writing about the Ninth with even the faintest criticism meant someone who you elected to look out for your best interests would instead accuse you of treason. Same for talking about it, and if technology permitted, I suspect critical thinking would have required caution too. Even now the government can't stop gnawing on the chewy rawhide if-you-aren't-for-me-you're-against-me bone. But the Ninth, now the Eighth, has passed, and we slowly emerge from our bunkers, blinking in the glare, to sift through the wreckage it has left in the wake of its passage. 

Make no mistake, the wreckage is severe, and rebuilding will not be easy, if it's even possible. Our leaders throughout this process have shown an astonishing talent for divisiveness combined with breathtaking viciousness. The unknown fortune in taxpayer dollars spent on insulting, taunting, universally negative ads and terrorist activism to me proved that our Prime Minister and his colleagues care nothing for this country as the democracy it was meant to be. It suggested to me that we as voters are a means to an end only, and while I'm not sure what the endgame is, it cannot be healthy when we are thus objectified. ChessMaster, here lie your pawns, they served us well.

It is the money spent to fight for an amendment the all-too-silent majority didn't want that confirmed to me that it was bad. That confirmation in turn led me to sign the petition circulated by the much-reviled Friends of Belize. It was all I had as far as options went, and of course it did no good except to make me feel qualified to say I'd tried. Incidentally, could someone please let Ms Lois know that I received no payment for my signature and ask her to let me have it as soon as she can? Things thin with the noodle budget.

I'm no lawyer, I know nothing about ouster clauses and other such things. I do know that a government that attacks its people cannot be good for democracy, just ask the Syrians. I also know that with no credible opposition to save us, and given the likelihood that this government is in for a repeat performance, silence isn't golden anymore.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Majority Ownership of Public Utilities...and of Persons

With the tabling of the Ninth Amendment Bill, our Prime Minister has produced his most egregious piece of legislation to date. While this amendment is ostensibly to bring ownership of our public utilities under Government's protective arm for good and all, it is for one thing deliberately vague in its definition of public utilities. So while we certainly are discussing BTL, BEL and BWS, we may very easily also be discussing Smart, or Belcogen, or Consolidated Water (the privately owned water company on Ambergris Caye), or BNE, or any number of other potential targets. To make it happen just pass legislation declaring the target entity to be a public utility, and then...why, thank you, Mr. Investor, a majority share of your company is just what the doctor ordered. A Constitutional amendment excusing the country from paying its displaced investors for their lost assets is also no longer out of reach. These possibilities will of course only excite the passions of a small number of people, being those companies lucrative enough to become likely targets, and maybe the Chamber of Commerce, which seems of late to have emerged as the champion of investor causes. The media, and especially the all-powerful, also-hungry Krem, will have no difficuly getting behind this piece of legislation with gusto. Notable exceptions will be Channel 5, owned by Mr. Ashcroft, which has already sounded a warning in its Friday newscast, and Love FM, which seems almost deliberately oblivious of what could be (and is) happening. And it is almost certain that the Bar Association, though Mr. Barrow may accuse it of being almost totally PUP, will bow to the will of its (minority?) UDP members and either remain silent or speak in a hoarse whisper.

What most people will miss, because the media will choose not to see it, is that the legislation, in its heavy-handed way of nailing the door shut against marauding foreign investors, has left a gaping hole (and this is no doubt deliberate) that allows this administration to become as powerful as any dictatorship that ever swallowed a democratic country whole. In stating that "...a law passed by the National Assembly to alter any of the provisions of this Constitution...shall not be open to challenge in any court of law on any ground whatsoever," the legislation removes the courts from the equation. What this means is, quite simply, that any amendment can be introduced and passed by the current supermajority in the House, and it cannot be challenged in the courts. So the passing of such amendments will become pro-forma, and we'll lose whatever freedoms we thought we had.

Yes, the first thing that should then come to your mind is the much-dreaded Preventative Detention legislation, which it is important to note that Mr. Barrow has only put 'in the cooler' and not withdrawn on this occasion. Once the Ninth Amendment is passed, the Eighth can go through without court challenge and then suspension of habeas corpus is complete. At that point, an admistration as vicious and paranoid as this one has shown itself to be will have a nuclear weapon of sorts at its disposal for use against its enemies on a whim. It is no longer an exaggeration then to say that the more energetic citizens' organizations such as Belizeans for Justice, COLA, the lately emerged BelizeCan, or Audrey Matura of Oceana will then either be forced to go silent or otherwise begin to operate under constant threat as the Chinese dissidents do.

Preventative Detention aside, Amendment 9 gives the kind of unlimited power that our Constitution's authors sought to prevent. Yes, with the passage of this amendment, Mr. Barrow also can, and most likely will, abolish, or at least shorten, the 90-day discussion period for such amendments, thereby eliminating any chance opponents would have had to gain traction against whatever measure he proposes. He can also --and for a man who has expended an unprecedented amount of time and effort amending the Constitution for control purposes, this is also not outside the realm of possibility-- even go as far as abolishing elections. Not that he needs to, since for all intents and purposes we have no Opposition, but this may even become his stated reason for doing so.

While the conjectures above perhaps could be consigned to the pages of a bestselling conspiracy novel, the fact is that Amendment 9 is a powerful weapon designed to obliterate the protections, rights and privileges that our Constitution grants us all as Belizean citizens. It is also a fact that laws made for one man, Mr. Ashcroft, have been used to damage others since they have been enacted, and on that basis alone there is an unavoidable requirement for broader interpretation of possible applications. One more conjecture to close with: our Prime Minister has openly and often committed to the notion of big government, and our big government is a bloated, hungry monster with a growing appetite voraciously devouring tax revenue. That tax revenue isn't coming in at the rate it should and it may be that the idea is to feed the monster with revenue from monopoly utilities. Before you laugh it off, look up your phone bills to see how much rates have dropped since the 2009 acquisition. Exactly. And will BEL rates drop? That remains to be seen, but you should not count on it. For now, and regarding Amendment 9, the question is, what will YOU do about it?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'Hating' as Leadership Strategy

Our Prime Minister and his Cabinet are, to use my teenage sister's favorite word, 'haters.' Think about it. If you really pay attention to the news lately, they've shifted focus from 'hating on' Ashcroft alone to attacking just about anybody, and worse than that, pitting everybody against everybody else. For example, the business community is under attack because it dared to question the government; the Bar Association too, and for the same reason, if not the same question. So then Mister Barrow makes the totally absurd comment that most of the Bar Association is PUP, while his bally Mister Finnegan tells the world that the business community wanted preventative detention. Considering that GST recently spent a few days chasing down and locking down non-Chinese and non-Indian business owners for non-payment of taxes, I doubt the businesspeople view preventative detention with any less suspicion than any of the rest of us do, but it's important that the government give the public someone to hate who isn't them. After all, if we really started to pay attention who knows what we'd discover about them, and if they learned nothing else from watching the Musa administration implode, they did learn that it's crucially important to keep everyone divided, and viciously so. Meanwhile they should publicly award a commendation to the Opposition for keeping itself divided and therefore crippled without any effort being necessary on the government's part. Thus endeth that lesson on the value of credibility.

Now, this preventative detention thing is nothing less than dangerous in an atmosphere where the government spends all its time attacking people and indulging vendettas. For example, should we really be this focused on Ashcroft? How many roads could we have built with the legal fees; how many jobs, besides those in the legal profession, have been created? I'm not saying we should have left The Lord alone completely, the man is a crooked sonuvagun after all, but isn't there more important stuff we could be doing? Instead of meaningful things like creating jobs, reducing crime and generally making life better, we're proposing to cement it into the Constitution that the government can, by way of preventative detention, make somebody disappear if they can trump up the barest excuse to haul him in. That can't make the Bar, the businesspeople, or any thinking person comfortable when you consider that this crowd spends their days coming up with accusations and threats against people who worry them, i.e. people who think for themselves.

The sad fact is, preventative detention will do nothing to reduce crime. What it will do is add water to the seeds of fear and hatred they've already sown. If the government and its Dear Leader truly wanted to tackle crime, they would strengthen the police force, hire more capable officers who would be incentivized to perform as proper custodians of the law, and run the corrupt cops out of there. Instead of making new laws that terrify everyone but the criminals, they can focus on enforcing all the boring, old-fashioned, yet quite useful laws already on the books. They could stop corruption, starting with the members of the Cabinet -get them arrested for contraband, tender-rigging, extortion and bribe solicitation, and all the other activities they are involved in. I could continue for pages and pages, but will end the list with this one: take all the legal fees Lois is getting and apply them to prosecution costs. Hell, I wouldn't object to having Lois paid, if she were a super-prosecutor and putting the criminals in jail just as aggressively as the government takes companies from unpopular foreigners.

I for one am a little tired of being told what to think, and I wish all the hating would stop, but I know it won't. The fact is, you have a corrupt, incompetent government that forgets why it was voted in to begin with, and they can only keep their power by distracting the masses and by provoking them into ripping each other to shreds. So the hating will continue, and it will distract you from the corruption, because it's their turn to feed at the trough; let nothing disturb them while they gorge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Mr Barrow sir, I am ashamed of you and of the fact that I voted for you. In the past couple of weeks you've shown yourself to be vindictive, vicious, unsportsmanlike, a sore loser, a sore winner, an almost complete liar, and more than a few other negative things. You seem to be under the very false impression that the power you hold is yours to do with as you please.

I cannot believe, as I listen to the news this evening, that you are vilifying Lynn Young for terminating his people and giving them the benefits they deserve, forgetting to mention that a major chunk of it is money they put aside themselves from their salaries, and instead twisting the truth for your own propaganda purposes. Mr. Young, as anyone who knows him will attest, is a patriotic Belizean and a good man. He is, or was, a supporter of yours, and you still casually tossed him to the wolves. Hell, something tells me you took a certain sadistic pleasure in having his dad sign the law that would rip what he helped build out from under him. None of what you have done marks you as a true leader or a good friend.

Dangerous though it be, you have thrown out a number that Mr. Young supposedly received on resignation and, whether it was a true figure or not, you did so purposefully to rile up the poor of this nation because it's more money than they've ever dreamed of having. You, in this society whose crime you have no time to clean up in between nationalizations, whose economy you've done nothing to grow because your obsessions leave you with no time for such mundane things as job growth, have very likely put Mr. Young in danger just for your own ends. I therefore put you on notice that if anything happens to him, you will be held responsible as though you did it with your own two hands.

Since you're all about the openness and transparency these days (well, you did promise it during elections), so that you want to reveal everyone's income, how about giving us the details on the following:

You and all your Cabinet ministers -and here we'd like comparative financials, how they entered office versus now, let's say. We want it for all of them, but feel free to begin with Boots and Gapi;
Lois -since we're her main client anyway, it's only fair we get a full accounting of how much we've paid her to date;
Anwar -yes, we know he's an astute businessman, so he need not be shy about letting us see just how astute he's become from 2008 to now;
Joe & Juliet -we're just curious how much poison costs nowadays;
Oh yes, and Cellular Plus -assuming all the paperwork wasn't accidentally destroyed when it fell down the shredder by mistake.

That's not all, but it makes a good start. By the way, before you accuse me of being a tail-sucking Ashcroft PUP, you can toss the opposition's financials in there just for kicks. Let's see how much pay it is they're not earning. The point here is that I remember the Integrity Commission and the publishing of annual financials even if you don't.

Now cut the BS rhetoric and go run my a mature adult!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Travesty of Democracy

Today was a perfect day for demonstrating just how thoroughly our democracy has disintegrated and how apathetic we are about it. 

First, our government, as personified by our Prime Minister, seized a company that they always meant to seize from its owner. The simple fact is that Fortis made the mistake of making a profit, of running a utility everyone loves to hate, and of getting between Nestor Vasquez and his dream of having all utilities revert to government, whether or not it makes sense. And (this is me being a cynical conspiracy theorist) probably because they couldn't afford to buy the utility in a straightforward negotiated transaction they used the Public Utilities Commission to bring it to its knees. Then today the PM delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce by passing legislation to acquire the 'insolvent' utility. 

Second, despite the critical importance of acquiring BEL and saddling the taxpayer with the attendant costs, or perhaps because of all that, the government did it all in one day, with a House meeting in the morning, a Senate meeting in the afternoon and the Governor General signing the paperwork before punching the time clock on his workday. There's something a little sickening about having the father sign the legislation that legitimized everything the son fought so hard against, but such it is in Belize these days, we have no loyalty, not to anyone.

Third, there was not even the pretense of a House debate, and why should there be? After all, the opposition hadn't even bothered to show up. A more than slightly whiny press release issued later in the day suggested that the opposition was in a bit of a sulk because they found out about the House meeting after the media, etc, etc. No, Mr. Briceno, we weren't impressed by your integrity and your nobility of stance. We were, and are disgusted, because you couldn't be bothered to show up and record your feelings on the acquisition or on the way the House meeting was called. If you had a problem, as we all do, with the way today's meetings were you should have gone there snd ripped rass about it. You have the ultimate bully pulpit, after all. This way you actually weakened your party even further -and who knew that was even possible?

Fourth, the Senate performed as expected. This is a body that is as rubber stamp-y as it gets, and without the opposition there they were even more so. Senator Gordon wins the denial prize (which is a lovely set of almost-leather horse blinders) for in essence suggesting that 'God will provide' and 'people will understand.'

People, what makes you think it will stop here? Our PM hijacked the House for his own purposes, subverted the processes more than he ever has before, and none of you noticed because he took over a utility that he had convinced you had to be taken over, and hell, you never liked those jerks anyway because your light bill is too high.

What's next?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Labour Pains

The more I read and hear about the new Labour law, the more I wonder what glorious, illicit and mind-altering substances our politicians are on. No, that was facetious of me, and I apologize for saying it. But I'm pissed, and as you should know, anger leads to ugly thoughts. On the surface of it, I should be thrilled with this new law, since I'm an employee and it's all about keeping me in my job and making it more difficult for me to get fired. Oh yes, and guaranteeing me an available toilet when I need to visit one. It all should make me want to climb a ladder up to the highest rooftop and shout for joy so that all may hear my gratitude, right? Instead I'm angry because the jesters in Cabinet are insulting my intelligence.

You see, unfortunately for the people I made the mistake of voting for, I'm one of those employees who ensures my job security via the old-fashioned method of working hard and having my employer appreciate my efforts. I'm comfortable in my job, happy that I have one in these hard times, and I'm weird enough to think my boss is pretty cool. See, he assists us with education costs, gives us excellent health insurance, and I have ways to earn extra holiday time, and so many other benefits. His business isn't huge, but he tries to share the good news with us. And do you know what happens with the benefits he gives us? The Government of Belize, currently run by the same sad clowns who say that our welfare is their only thought (yeah, they all say that), makes us pay taxes on those benefits.

Now, if you are heartless enough to tax me for getting help in my quest for higher education, how the hell am I supposed to believe that you care in the least about my welfare? It seems to me that what's in play here is the endless political goal of keeping us poor and ignorant. This law isn't for me or for anyone else who wants to improve themselves, to excel in their chosen profession. Because the moment we do that, the moment we climb above a certain level, as my employer is trying to help me do, the tax man's waiting to pick us off. So what I should be doing is sitting in a packing crate with the sign 'Home, Sweet Home' over the door, which opens onto swamps and London bridges, and waiting till the day of the week when I go to see my area rep for my weekly handout, correct? Beloved area rep then feels the love, and I remain happily ignorant in my fetid swamp and financial slavery, indebted to 'the man' for my daily bread. Yes, Mr Amandala, slavery is alive and well in Belize -we are all whipped, beaten, fed crumbs for good (servile) behaviour and kept subservient by the political party du jour. 

Then again, this law is about jobs, so to be fair the picture I paint above, though all too real, isn't applicable to the situation under discussion. Okay, that's true, but what we're talking about here isn't too much different. What this law creates is a tidy balancing act that can't be healthy for culture or economy. Employees who barely do their jobs are granted security of tenure, while those of us who are ambitious and want to rise to the top are punished through taxation. Excellent way to develop this developing country of ours, I cannot but admire the sheer genius of it.

Mr Prime Minister, please don't do me no favors, I can't afford it. But then, you aren't doing it for me, I'm not your slave.