Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Mark Wignall | JLP banking on chik-V bite

Published:Sunday | November 20, 2016 | 11:00 AM
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the chik-V and Zika virus.
The Jamaica Labour Party's Desmond McKenzie shakes hands with the People's National Party's Angela Brown Burke following Wednesday night's local government debate at the Creative Production and Training Centre in Kingston.
President Barack Obama (right) meets with his successor, Donald Trump, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on November 10.
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Political debates are usually boring events, but in the few times they are not, the main features take the form of words balled up like a fist and designed to take a bigger message than just the obvious.

I am not so sure that politicians would prefer to cuss each other across the aisle instead of engaging in fisticuffs. Either way, both options are disgusting and entertaining at the same time as it allows us, the people on the right side of the cage, to have an extended glance at the quality of the performers inside and a long-term view of what our vote generated.

In last Wednesday's debate at the CPTC studios, JLP councillor from Spanish Town Kenisha Allen, an obviously quite capable woman, earned some amount of derisive laughter when she said, "Portmore, I am speaking to you: If a mosquito has ever bitten you in your life, do not vote for the PNP."

Now it is quite possible that the many mosquitoes that occupy inner-city pockets and sections of Portmore are very tribal and have, at times, exercised their franchises and bitten mainly depending on whether one is orange clad or garbed in green. Those in the uptown, ornately gated communities hover somewhat, but it is much harder to penetrate the two-coloured air conditioning.

Seriously, though, when one sees the bigger political message in Ms Allen's jesting, the thought behind the political strategy must have been planned. Tribal? Using mosquitoes?

As a political analyst, the main criticism I have with the Jamaica Labour Party administration's political strategy is that the party has waited too long to hold the locals. Nine months. The 'joke' from Allen was a stark reminder from those who may have forgotten that it was in the time of the People's National Party, which controlled government and the parish councils in 2014, that the massive Chik-V outbreak crippled this nation.

In the nine months since the JLP won the general election, some of the hard-core supporters who will be voting may have a bone to pick with the Labourite government on the smorgasbord of murders presented each week, and, because control of the murder rate seems quite beyond its abilities, the easiest and most effective way to present a protest vote is to hurt the JLP in the parish council ballot box.

Allen was bringing back that focus of PNP failure in public health in 2014, and, failure it truly was, as the then health minister, Fenton Ferguson, was seemingly just as surprised as the rest of us when the painful malady arrived, although he had ample warning to empower the nation.

 

ARDENNE, WOLMER'S GIRLS

GETTING NUMBERS RIGHT

 

As a boy attending KC in the 1960s, there were times when groups of us would arrive at the Ardenne High campus on sports day, mainly to ingratiate ourselves with the girls, but also to make comparisons of KC's huge footprint in sports with Ardenne's tentative steps.

"Your fastest runner could not make our B team, tcha!" would be the typical taunt, as if that would more endear the girls to us. The fact is, Ardenne has always been a top-quality school, but in the 1960s, KC was the go-to school for sixth-form maths.

The picture has changed somewhat - in Ardenne's favour. Last month, it was reported that 33 students from Wolmer's Girls' School had scored full distinctions in CSEC maths in grade 10. In my time, only those boys with special maths aptitude would take the overseas exam in fourth form (grade 10).

Now it seems there is a stirring of a better brand of maths teaching, to the point that entire groups of students can be turned on to, and made to excel at, maths. At Ardenne just recently, it was reported that 94 students in grade 10 did what those bright sparks at Wolmer's did last month.

Maths can only be effectively taught when teacher-student interaction is encouraged by the teacher. That seems to be what Wolmer's Girls and Ardenne have been practising. If it has not been already done, I would like to see it taken a step further - student reviews of the teachers and constant feedback.

First, let us recognise what is at the root of success in maths teaching. Our brightest and best in this country still leave this country a few years after graduating university. At the same time, we know that those nations who possess a stock of those highly schooled and trained in the sciences, tech of all sorts, engineering and mathematics will be those nations best positioned either to build their nations's economies or migrate with their skills for a better life. In the next three decades.

 

WATCH TRUMP WITH PUTIN

 

When he was prime minister of Grenada in the 1970s, Eric Gairy was a man who was more there than here. When bolts of wisdom struck him repeatedly, he would speak at the UN about it starting a campaign to study a most pressing concern in the world at that time: unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

He had attached to his raw, political street side a militia known as the Mongoose Gang. Once when he was being interviewed about his country's crime-fighting strategies and it was pointed out that he was using many of the ex-criminals who made up the Mongoose Gang to deal with controlling crime, he uttered these words, "It takes a thief to catch a thief."

At this time, the world's greatest con man is headed to the White House, and he has already performed his first effective con job by convincing President Obama that he will retain much of Obamacare and keep the NATO alliance as strong as ever without the rigid enforcement of the collection of allies' individual contributions.

There can be no doubt that Trump's connection with Russia and its autocratic, undemocratic leader, Vladimir Putin, has been solid for some time, and it seems to be on firmer footing since the shock win for Trump.

Trump's experience has been all about business. Although he has gut instincts for a few other matters, it is known that he knows nothing about foreign affairs/relations. In the mutual overture rendition taking place between Trump and Putin, what importance does Trump place on advice from those highly trained and experienced in those areas? Does he understand the specific strategy to employ to meet the moment?

Although I believe Americans in the diplomatic services and US intelligence agencies know more than Trump about the many sides of Putin, they would much prefer if in any interactions with him, caution and low expectations be the caveats.

In the case of Donald Trump, he is going in head first, and it may prove to be an absolute geopolitical nightmare. But then again, who knows? Maybe Putin will meet his match with Trump because at their core, they share the same philosophical framework when it comes to seeking power, tightening loyalties, and pitting rival against rival.

The most crucial consideration is the extent to which Trump will display this framework in the next six months. Putin and Trump know each other because they are swishing around in the same Jacuzzi of ideas.

That Obama could actually report that Trump intends to unravel Obamacare by only a little bit is probably not proof that Trump is a con job as it is that Obama's sense of fair play cannot exist in the same space as the scary man about to occupy the White House in January.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com, or visit his blog at markwignall.com.