We don’t think the world is getting better. This is why we’re not sure.

Banksy in Boston: Overview of the NO LOITRIN piece on Essex St in Central Square, CambridgeI came across Max Roser’s (Programme Director, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford) post on the World Economic Forum through social media, and I didn’t have the time to address some of the issues I saw when I posted it. There is something that had struck me as viscerally wrong about it.

Now I know. In the broad strokes, the data points are cherry picked. When we look at how the world has improved based on static measures, we all should know that yes, the world has gotten better. That’s not why we don’t think it is.  It’s because the measures themselves haven’t improved. I’ll make my points quickly as related to his points.


Globally, we have less people starving per capita. There’s no debate there. Where the debate should be is whether this should be a part of the debate. Population growth around the world varies; a nation with lower standards of living tends to have higher population growth while a nation with higher standards of living tends to have lower population growth.

So, if we look at the shell game of poverty, overall the number is decreasing. But is the standard of living? Are people moving forward without people being left behind? Is the number of people we’re leaving behind increasing or decreasing?

We hear more often than not about the ‘erosion of the middle class’. Where did they all go?

These are questions that we want to know the answers to; we know poverty is decreasing, but if our goal is constant improvement, shouldn’t our measure of how we’re doing improve as well? Or are we comparing poverty now with the cave people of a few thousand years ago? No, but metaphorically, the idea of comparing poverty across a few hundred years is a frequent optimistic perspective presented when the masses get a bit disturbed.


Just by social media we know more people are attempting to communicate – some literacy is involved, but I daresay that there is some functional illiteracy out there that has snuck past testing that is supposed to demonstrate literacy.

I had a real world example today. A friend of mine’s granddaughter needed a reference on a form since the form she had filled out was outdated. He told me he needed me to sign it. I looked the old form over and told him I didn’t need to sign it, that she already had references on the old form, and all she needed to do was transfer them to the new form. No signatures required.

An hour later, while I was writing this, he stopped by and told me the new form needed my signature. It did not need my signature. I didn’t need to sign anything. Functionally, that’s a form of illiteracy.  Functional literacy was defined by UNESCO in 1960 – 58 years ago – as:

“using these skills in ways that contribute to socio-economic development, to developing the capacity for social awareness and critical reflection as a basis for personal and social change”

Not knowing the difference between putting your contact information on a form or signing a form is one example. So how are we measuring literacy?

By the numbers reported of those that can read by passing certain tests that, if you ever spend time on social networks, you need to question. Nevermind reading comprehension.

So, while the numbers of those that are reported as literate can be shown to have gone up – from students to teachers to administrators to nations, who wants to give worse reports? The incentive for true reporting is simply not there. How many college professors lose their hair dealing with freshmen?

Has functional literacy gone up? With increased bureaucracy over the decades, as well as technology, what is the new literacy? No one really knows. It’s sort of like the difference between pornography and art; we know it when we see it.


Germ theory is the basis of the postulation here – something come up with in the latter half of the 19th century. We’re in the 21st century; we’ve made leaps and bounds since germ theory that have been put into practice – open heart surgery, as an example, has come a long way in the last few decades. Granted, it could not have happened without germ theory, but if we’re comparing how well we’ve done since germ theory a lot of other things should be spoken of.

Yet there is at least the allegation that big pharmaceutical companies overcharge – Brazil even went rogue with HIV medications because of it. Borders between nations become more permeable when there is a noticeable price difference in medications, where the medications flow to places of higher costs. The United States is no different here; people get medications from Mexico and Canada as examples. How much? I’m pretty sure we don’t have the data for it; black markets don’t publish their data.

Access to healthcare? In the U.S. alone, this has been one of the most sharply debated topics in the last decade.

So yes, gene theory has brought us a lot of good, but what have we done since? With an increased population – remember population growth? – partly because of our advances in medicine, I’d think we’d get some better points than just gene theory.

Yet I can see why no one wants to talk about how health insurance has helped people. After all, it was only about a century ago that doctors were paid in livestock. Gene theory, apparently, gave doctors much more.


Oh, freedom. How do we define it? Is the person who works three jobs to pay the bills, ‘free’? Fortunately, no solid points were made in this section because it’s all pretty ambiguous. One has to wonder why it’s even in there.


Our population is increasing! Yes, we know that. We’re painfully aware of it, and I am not certain that it’s an indicator of things being better. It could mean that a lot of people in nations with lower standards of living might simply be unable to watch the television that they want because of content distribution rights or lack of internet access.

As I pointed out in the section related to poverty – population growth is a factor that is not spoken of enough. You can check out all manner of statistics in the United Nations World Population Prospects 2017.


We live in an era where there is cultural value placed on academic degrees; they were incentivized by salaries – at least at some point – and now the value of them is publicly questioned. Getting in debt for a college education and then being unable to get a job to repay that debt is a reality in the world. Yet we say that education is increased.

Formal education. But how has formal education changed? Aside from changing and adding some subjects, adding a lot of administration, education itself has not changed – and more than once we’ve seen education standards dropped so that more people pass. We don’t talk about that.

So while more people may suffer a formal education by 2100, can we honestly say that they have been educated better than now? Than 10 years ago? We’re talking about quantities when we should also be dealing in quality.

Why Do We Not Know That The World Is Changed?

We know that the world has changed – in our little pockets of what we read and see in the media, social or otherwise, and the reinforced perspectives we get from them. People share things without reading them, without rigorous thought (education? literacy?).

The world has gotten much better since we were cave dwelling mammals, though there is at least a sense of wonder when I consider that: Did we leave the caves because of the population boom caused by fire? Cave real estate maybe got so expensive that finally – probably a guy named Bill or Steve – said, “screw this, I’ll make my own cave!”. And so to this day, we live in variations of the cave, usually made by someone else. With fire. And cooling.

And yet, how have we really improved? The same country that has children eating tide pods also had an immigrant send an electric car to Mars while at least one person on the Tesla waiting list got upset (if they didn’t, I wonder if they should own one?). We have advances in medicine that should have us discussing contraception, even of the immaculate variety, and technology is giving us sex robots that – fortunately, so far – don’t distribute little humans like sexually transmitted diseases, or like Oprah. Look under your seat! There’s one for you!

We have advanced so far in technology that our education, our literacy and lack of it, has become more pronounced as we reinvent Babel despite people speaking the same language. We have people who are so angry that they’re either a mass shooter or a terrorist (but never both). We have archaic systems of governance that cannot shift as fast as the public can become less accurately informed.

The world has gotten better in some ways, yes, but it has become worse because people who never would have known each other 100 years ago now see each other’s posts quickly, algorithmically, based on what someone in a code cave thought was the best solution… so far.

We really don’t know whether things are getting better or worse. We only know within our own contexts and what we are told, and what we are told we too rarely question because our education systems teach us to accept what we are told rather than challenge it.

Challenge it. Challenge everything.  Things will not get better otherwise, and if people actually challenge things more, people won’t feel the need to write posts about ‘how much better things are’, a Hallmark card from the World Economic Forum to the ailing masses who aren’t seeing the improvements promised, with the dreams of yesteryear either dashed or worse, undreamed.

I, for one, do not wish any carcinogens blown up my posterior, no matter how fancy the pipe.

Smartphone As Dashcam

Down The Road #Mojave #California #vanishingpoint #igersThis is not new. Plenty of people use their smartphones as dashcams, which I have now gotten into the habit of here in Trinidad and Tobago – mainly because there are a subset of drivers that take chances, and my vehicle has a pretty solid bull bar in front. For those that don’t, or think this is a new thing and want to save a few bucks rather than buy an imported dashcam… here you go.

In other words, I’m covering my posterior. Or what happens to the car in front of me’s posterior when they try to cut me off (most don’t when they see the bull bar), or when they suddenly hit their brakes, or when they swerve in front of me, or… you get the idea. Should anything happen, presto magico, I have actual video.

It also serves as a video blog (vlog) when I’m driving through my land; it gets uploaded to the cloud so I can note things that change in my absence, or document what is happening.

What You Need

A smartphone. I have a Huawei P10-Lite, something I’ll be doing a review on now that I have already beaten the snot out of, but any smartphone with video capability can do. This article mentions some dedicated dedicated apps for Android that I don’t use (I simply use the video), and it also mentions the smaller field of view – absolutely true – as well as wear on the smartphone.

Given smartphones are outdated pretty quickly anyway, I’m not worried about the latter, but you have been warned.

You’ll need a mount for the windshield. I have a pretty solid one since I’m offroad, and roads in Trinidad and Tobago are effectively routed around potholes.

You’ll want your air conditioning on to keep your phone from overheating.

That’s all you need, really – but it is a lot better to have external memory for your phone. My phone will take 256 Gig microSD, but I just picked up a 64 Gig microSD. You’ll want to change your default storage to the microSD, which you should find in your user’s manual that you threw away – but there are plenty of pages on the Internet that explain how to do it for your phone.

What to do

Plug your phone into the holder, and I suggest you charge it at the same time (common sense, really). Start recording video, drive around – and, regularly, back the videos up from your phone to a computer at home from which you can store it in the cloud or other storage options for as long as you want. Keep your phone memory as clear as you can – the less memory used on the phone, the better.

Software Licensing and Life Cycle Limitations.

Tight Loops Close-UpI ended up in a conversation related to software licensing over the last 12 hours (I did sleep for some of it) with someone doing some pretty nice work. And they hated the GPL license, which began a conversation.

Where once I was a strong Free Software Foundation (FSF) proponent, I am not anymore – mainly because there is a Right to choose how your code will be used in certain circumstances, and I’ve found in putting food on my table it has been necessary to compromise for the good of customer, as the customer sees it, and also for my own good, as I see it. And after a few decades of writing code to pay the bills – which I don’t do anymore – I can be a bit more grounded in all of this.


Readers looking at this will be at different points in their careers, with different levels of experience, with a lot of different perspectives and political philosophies. I’m not going to argue about any of that because all it does is keep geeks from doing what they’re good at, wastes electricity, and keeps t-shirt companies exploiting things.

I’m just giving a perspective, having used Free Software, Open Source and proprietary licensing as I needed to while feeding my keyboard addictions for a few decades1.

A Brief Look At The Future

Code is already writing commercial code. The implications of that are writ large for those that are simply code monkeys. Time for everyone to evolve beyond syntax wars (my apologies to those who suffered my own syntax nukes over the years).

Software Engineering is more than writing code, though, so that should be in good stead. This is going to be a weird time for HR departments who are still going to hire based on antiquated requirements, but it’s a 2 paragraph nudge to code monkeys out there to broaden their skillset beyond complex evolutions of “Hello World!”.

The Software Life Cycle

Code is only loved when it is used, it is only used when it does something people want and costs less to maintain than the ‘profit’ from it. In commercial coding, this is a necessary pragmatic.

Everyone has their own reasons to write code and release it in the wild, not everyone does it for money alone or money at all.

In voluntary coding, that still stands except the ‘cost’ and ‘profit’ are not monetary. This will confuse people who don’t do things simply for fun, or to prove that they are awesome to others.

So, when interest in the code for the coder is less than what the coder gets from it, you get code cul-de-sacs unless someone else decided to continue it.

Eventually, the code dies2.

A Few Words About ‘Commercial’ Code

Some uninformed people still use ‘commercial’ as a synonym for ‘proprietary’ when it comes to licensing. Code can be commercial under any licensing.

Now they’re informed, and you can call them idiots if they muck that up. You’re welcome.

Proprietary Licensing (Ye Olde Black Box License)

Probably the oldest model around, we have Bill Gates to thank for a lot of that. Despite his dumpster diving escapades to learn how to code, old Bill decided to write a letter to hobbyists that was pretty much the start of proprietary licensing for software – and, to be fair, it launched an industry that paid code monkeys and software engineers so well that to this day they’re willing to work in a place that rains so much.

Proprietary licensing, while the software models have evolved way beyond the waterfall model (which is still useful in special cases) has a definite life cycle where whoever owns the copyright decides whether or not that code lives from moment to moment. It’s always brass tacks or companies go bankrupt. This hasn’t happened to Microsoft to date, so we know that the licensing works for them quite well.

However, for the licensing to be good for them, they have to follow business practices that arguably limit the code based on the business model itself. Microsoft knows that now, which is why they’ve been plunging more and more into open source licensing (but remain leery of Free Software Licensing).

It is what it is. Working for different companies over the years, I decreasingly had this sort of licensing to pay the bills, but my last full time position was proprietarily licensed. My last contract was a hybrid.

Proprietary code is a closed system from an engineering perspective. All your problems are your own.

Open Source Licensing

There’s overlap between Open Source and Free Software licensing, but not the other way around. ‘Open Source’ can apply to both Free Software Licensing and Open Source licensing, so I tend to call something a Free Software License if it is compatible with the GPL, and I call everything else ‘Open Source’ licensing.

With the Open Source licensing (non-GPL compatible), you don’t have to release source code – which means it’s compatible for proprietary code projects. This means that code re-use hits new levels since code someone has never written can be pulled into projects at little cost for a company (or individual, or…). These are hybrid licensing projects and come with pain.

Pure open source projects are really projects that people decide that they will allow people the option to write proprietary code with. You don’t have to, you have a choice, and that’s nice in it’s own way.

Pure Open Source projects are limited open systems in that they’re not compatible with the GPL. If you’re going to argue that and take all the GPL code out of your options, do so wisely.

Hybrid Open Source/Proprietary Licensing

This has been pretty popular over the last decade, mainly because it allows ‘code re-use’ without actually bearing the cost of writing some of the code. Code re-use has it’s own problems.

  • Code being used for what it was not intended for gets buggy by design. Think about it3.
  • Dependency Hell: when you have multiple projects embedded in your code, you have to track all the dependencies – which costs in maintenance. An update in one piece of code can break things. That’s also a product of software complexity, but if you can’t control your source it’s an issue – particularly when an open source project is fixing bugs you coded around rather than contributed to the project to get done.This can also lead to getting locked into an antique version of an open source project – I’ve seen it before – where you’ve got so much code around it you *can’t* upgrade. It’s like having Dr. Who show up, shoot you in the foot, and keep shooting you in the foot every day afterward.
  • Documentation is a pain. It’s not as if many people actually write documentation – a pet peeve of mine – but if you’re going to follow the gold standard of someone new coming into a project and being able to be productive quickly, you’re in a world of hurt.

Free Software Licensing

I could get into what Free Software Licensing is, but the FSF has a good guide for licensing that they endorse here. In the context of this article, what you need to know is that it’s compatible for use with proprietary services, but not proprietary products. There is an exception in the AGPL – be advised (read the article linked).

Basically, if you have no problems releasing your source code with a product, you have no issues here. This is ok if you’re not coding proprietary business trade secrets and patents. I’m not a big fan of software patents, but they do exist – but not all patents related to software are software patents, either. It’s weird how things can get all mixed up with lawyers and software engineering.

If you’re willing to pass along the right to modify the source code provided to your end users, you’re golden here. An interested customer base with access to source code is a resource – and threatens to breed competition if people are willing to invest in it. If you do a good enough job, you won’t have that problem. Business is risk, right?

My personal argument for using the GPL is that I shouldn’t write a piece of code and think it’s the only code I will ever write or profit from. Artists don’t make one painting, they make many. Authors write a lot more than a single book. In my mind, as ‘businesses’, coders are ‘subscription model services’, so I like the Free Software Licensing. It can generate more paying work. It has for me more than once.

Hybrid Free Software/Open Source Licensing

These are more common, but the licensing hybrids can be wonky and occupies software philosophy geeks well past the time when they get bored with the conversation. They are a fact of life.

This model only works if the code is following the GPL or compatible licensing, where end users get the code. Linux, while not a simple software project, is a smorgasbord of licensing in this regard and has worked and continues to work.

What to choose?

Every one has pros and cons. I’m not your Dad4. Figure out what’s best for you and don’t complain if it bites you in the posterior somewhere along the way – they all do in one way or the other.


1Keyboard addictions include the basics – food, shelter and clothing – as well as feeding the curiosity. When it comes to food, it was usually flat, but after a few decades I’ve found that all food shouldn’t be flat. It affects Geek Longevity. 
Personally, I think the difference between a Junior Software Engineer and a Software Engineer is having seen some of their code die. And a Senior Software Engineer has not only had more than one project die, but has also marked them for death. A real Software Engineer Manager has evolved through these paths, in my experience, but it’s just an opinion.
3 When you get the ‘by design’ response from an open source project, or from someone else, it’s time to suck it up, cupcake.
Open to negotiation, though. If you want me to be your Dad, make a good case and send it to me.

The Flashing Blue Lights of Trinidad and Tobago

Squad Car @ The Bridge
Police car at night in Titusville, Florida, published under a Creative Commons License by Flickr user GunnerVV

One of the things that has bothered me over the years is the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) having their flashing blue lights on all the time. Be it simply being on patrol or running to Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch, the lights are strobing, day or night.

You can always tell when the police are coming. Always.

Meanwhile, in other countries, I’ve noted that there are different response codes that demonstrate different levels of visibility. Using the United States as an example:

    • Code 1: No lights, no siren.
    • Code 2: Lights, no siren.
    • Code 3: Lights and siren – running hot.


It varies from country to country, but there are different levels of visibility of police and EMS vehicles. The TTPS, though, is always at Code 2 for some reason – rarely at Code 3. As a former EMT in the U.S., I’ve noted the ambulances in Trinidad and Tobago have similar codes – most ambulances I see are constantly at Code 2, but that may be because they are supposed to in moving patients.

So, why are those lights on all the time? Given the advances in lighting technology with LEDs, the lights are less of a drain on batteries and they last longer so maybe they feel there’s less reason to turn them off. Of course, at night they can be blinding to drivers – and nevermind the LED billboards that flash blue and make people think that they are police.

I brought it up in a meeting. About how criminals are put on notice before the police actually get there, particularly at night, and how they react accordingly. The response from a member of the TTPS was that the blue lights made people feel comfortable.

There is some validity to that, but the patrolling blue light doesn’t actually stay in people’s homes – it’s a passing beacon of law enforcement that gives as much comfort as a shooting star, which lasts about as long.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a supermarket in the United States – K-Mart – that had flashing blue light specials. K-Mart was on the brink of being shut down in 2017

Times change. With crime in Trinidad and Tobago as much of an issue, it might make sense for police to stop warning criminals to get out of the way so that they might actually catch them.

I’m not a Law Enforcement professional and don’t pretend to be one.

I’m just someone who sees how a neighborhood changes when a blue light passes and how, once that blue light goes away, things return to the way they were.  I’m not sure that what TTPS want to do and what they are doing are compatible.

I simply question if it is an appropriate use of technology to catch criminals.

On Foreign Exchange, Credit Cards and Trinidad and Tobago (2018)

Use of Credit CardsYesterday, at least one person in the media (Judy Kanhai) started circulating the raw press release from the present Minister of Finance in Trinidad and Tobago. You can click it and it will open in a new tab so you can read it more clearly.

Personal Context and a Sincere Disclaimer

I found this particularly interesting in my own context since, even as I write this, I am trying to send money to my sister to help cover my mother’s funeral expenses. Because of the bank (whose name remains something I will not discuss … yet?…) bureaucracy as related to foreign exchange, will require me to send only half of the expenses I am paying per day under two separate wires – which, of course, works for the banks. They get to charge me for two wire transfers and two fees for purchasing foreign exchange. I had tried to charge up my own Visa Travel Money (VTM) card for handling it, but my sister decided to nip it in the bud – and meanwhile, I can only charge $100 US/day on the VTM.

So I’m quite literally being punished financially for assisting with funeral expenses for my mother. They aren’t even really that much given how much funerals cost, but the present systems allow me to be nickeled and dimed by banks for something that – let’s face it – isn’t me shopping on Amazon.com to get things I might simply want.

Clearly I have a reason to be unhappy. Clearly I have a reason to be angry. I am just one person, of course, but there are other stories at banks throughout Trinidad and Tobago about people dealing with their own issues with foreign exchange – illnesses, deaths, what have you. We have to be nice in the bank; we need them to deal with foreign exchange because to do it without them is deemed illegal.

Criminals of desperation, be warned. Right?

Writ Large

It comes down to the global economy, the Internet, and the inability of local banks to get their acts together to make accepting foreign exchange easier on websites for small businesses.

Pushing aside my own personal feelings I encountered today at the bank, let’s really look at the data that was given by the Honourable Minister. Credit card payments, which would include VTMs, come to $1.2 Billion of $5.2 Billion in U.S. dollars of foreign exchange, and that comes to 23% of the foreign exchange.

So, given this data that we acknowledge is rounded, we know that 77% of foreign exchange was not credit card related. For those slow with math, that’s $4 billion US.

And yet, none of that really tells us anything.

We know, at least anecdotally, that some foreign exchange is used for:

    • Business
    • Personal


So, what percentage of the 5.2 billion was business related? That might be hard to discern, since because of the bureaucracy at least some businesses are using credit cards to get their foreign inventory, and they are being throttled by new limits of charging their VTMs up. What percentage was personal?

Where’s that data? We actually have been given pretty useless data for anything deductive, and it makes me wonder if that data even exists. For a nation whose national ICT plan includes ‘open data’, where we hear talk about transparency, we are really not getting worthwhile data and we have to question if it exists. If it doesn’t exist, how are decisions actually being made?

This, in a country that doesn’t manufacture as much in the way of consumer goods as much as it imports – anecdotal, of course – it seems at least to me that most businesses in Trinidad and Tobago are simply resellers of imported goods. Food is a case that is arguable and remains arguable because of a lack of worthwhile data (there it is again), but other than that, just about everything is imported.

Cars. Tires. Sugar – revel in that a moment. We buy imported brand name oil for our vehicles when we export oil. We import… everything. We make… well, I don’t want to disrespect anyone who is actually making anything, but I’m pretty sure that they themselves are importing materials.

With an economy without jobs – and let’s forget the de facto welfare state government jobs that only exist to keep people from not having jobs – people become purveyors of goods and services to make ends meet, or they get into crime.

I’d wager that the largest employer in Trinidad and Tobago is the government if you roll up all the ancillary corporations and State owned enterprises.

And where is the investment in manufacturing locally? The Ministry of Agriculture subsidizes farmers, but I’ve seen people with farmer’s badges on land that they do not own or have receipts for. People are collecting money from the government for that and… are they giving anything back to the government in the way of taxes? We don’t talk about that. We should.

But instead, we have people doing what they must inside a nation that hasn’t figured out that it probably could have used a Ministry of Technology (where did that go and why?). We have banks showing profits yet increasing fees on their own customers. A proper Ministry of Technology might streamline all the disparate technology and protocol incompatibilities between Ministries while perhaps even refining processes in other Ministries to be more efficient and therefore less corruptible.

And if you want to get paid late, the best group to be owed by is the government. I know personally; NIDCO owes myself and others money over the Pt. Fortin highway project and yet somehow NIDCO has money to clear a forest reserve in Aripo, allegedly illegally.

Yet credit card usage is somehow the issue of the day, with incomplete data, with a lack of understanding of the global economy and the slippery slope of not adapting technology quickly and appropriately enough to bring in foreign exchange from companies rather than bleed it out for things we could probably do ourselves.

We know we have goods that would sell overseas – a small business could set up shop and sell our pepper sauce, as an example. Or dried fruits. But instead, the idea of centralized businesses persists, maybe because that’s where campaign finance comes from, when the global economy proves over and over again that the network has more power than the old centralized systems. And so, the old guard tries to cut that off – to assure that they retain their financial power and thus political power over a populace doomed to purchase ugly neon plastic things.

The world has changed. AirBnB sells timeshares that they don’t have, Uber rents taxis that they don’t have. In Trinidad and Tobago, it seems our model is the government spending what they don’t have while not paying what they owe to people, all the while enabling systems corrupted to disempower people.

So we talk about credit cards without any actual data of worth in the conversation in Parliament and hope for the best, apparently.

On Trinidad and Tobago, Policing and Crime

I’m no expert on Law Enforcement. I am, however, a lifelong student of systems with experience ranging from agriculture to medicine, business to the military, and of different cultures. I’m sure I’ll aggravate some people with this, maybe these are the right people to be aggravated.

It’s difficult to live in Trinidad and Tobago and not consider crime. To the simple, it is simple, to the political, it’s politics, and there’s little difference between those two. How crime is considered by the populace affects crime itself – it affects the approaches, it affects the way things are implemented, it affects what is actually considered crime outside of the police service and justice systems. There are so many perspectives on it that, on a slow grey morning, I find the time to explore some of them with you, gentle reader.

The Broad Strokes: The Context

In his January 4th, 2018 Bitdepth, Mark Lyndersay mentions the pronounced dichotomy and the grey in between when it comes to how people see crime in Trinidad and Tobago:

…There are at least two societies active in T&T, one committed to all the lovely sentiments that church-going, law abiding citizens are supposed to abide by and another that LOLs at that type of thinking before stuffing a pistol into their cargo pants and going off to demand what they want…

This is, of course, a brief explanation that is accurate in being vague. It’s exactly right. Speaking for myself, as someone who is not church-going, I fall more closely to the first group than the last. And, because of the nature of Trinidad and Tobago, I end up drinking beer now and then around some more close to the latter at local bars. The street knows who the criminals are, and a balance is there between self-preservation and being an extreme law-abiding member of the South Oropouche Police Council for me.

It’s also interesting to note that Mark Lyndersay and I look at things differently in that we’re generally in different circles garnering the perspectives of different people in different ways. This is one of the many reasons I value what he thinks.

And yet, we can talk about crime in Trinidad and Tobago and come to similar conclusions. In fact, most people have very similar thoughts. I’m just taking the time to go deeper into my perspective.

In Trinidad and Tobago, like other places, there is a veil of what remains unspoken in most company. You just don’t talk about certain things, mainly because you don’t know who you’re talking to will talk to with your name attached. I’ve seen it come back and bite others soundly not in their posterior but in their neck over the years – why would decades of experience relent to yet another attempt by

The same is true of at least some members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) that I encounter as well. With whispers of corruption echoing through the country beyond what occupies the traditional media, there’s a hard balance to be struck between the police service and the communities that they police. Trust is the core issue, but there is something more endemic: The criminals themselves are ‘law enforcement’ oftheir own areas, sometimes more so than the TTPS, but with their own local ‘laws’.

This leads to the ‘Community Leader’ label that has been applied by politicians for those that operate toward the darker side of grey. The only thing keeping some politicians from those labels are the Laws which don’t necessarily reflect Ethics in society; that so many politicians are lawyers is something that I consider now and then. Community Leaders know each other for what they are, some are just law abiding but have as fluid of ethics as their understanding of Law permits.

This didn’t all just happen one day. It didn’t happen because those without ethics woke up one morning and decided to go on sociopathic or psychopathic sprees; seeds do not grow in soil that is not suited for them.


Having came and left Trinidad and Tobago quite a few times over the decades, I have the luxury of snapshots that allow me to see some differences more easily. The poor, as they are, have always been poor. However, people living outside of their means seems to have escalated more. This is not just in Trinidad and Tobago; it’s global, but the degree here in a small island nation is a little more tangible and seems to have accelerated more quickly than other places I have seen.

Why? Well, the most obvious issue is that the economy is arguably not as diversified as it used to be. The sugar cane industry was lost due to government and private industry inefficiencies on a broad canvas of a decrease in demand in sugar due to different sources for sugar, such as corn. Generally, other businesses have been about importing things and reselling them locally; this does well when oil prices are high but it also developed an economical infrastructure that is crippled when oil prices are low. Factor in outright corruption and theft by people sitting comfortably abroad on their ill-gotten gains, and you have what we have now.

Because there was unemployment, the answer was having people cut grass and paint stones white. This was disguised under different acronyms attributed to different political parties by some. This work, sadly, became a means of income near enough to that of a recent University graduate to make it worthy of comparison. Factor in the national pastime of alcohol and politics, like everywhere else, and you find people doing less than more. The minimum wage, something I don’t really agree with in principle due to it’s easily being gamed, is hard pressed to keep abreast of the cost of living.

It seems that there are more single parents, it seems that there are more parents where both partners work to support the family. I write ‘seems’ because there’s really no publicly accessible statistics of worth that I know of; another issue that keeps coming back in my writings.

Because there seems to be more parents working to support their children, there’s less time effectively being spent with children. The moral majority, which is neither, will likely indicate that there are more children having children. Again, I have no statistics. Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not, but it does seem like the nurture is increasingly required of primary and secondary school education systems whose ability to nurture has become more handicapped. Further, I’d say that the curriculum isn’t as challenging as when I went to school in Trinidad and Tobago – but I am biased and admit that openly.

Meanwhile, one of the other national pastimes of the country is leaving the country. This is what is termed as ‘brain drain’; as someone who could fall into that category, I can say that opportunity in this country is limited – it’s not so much about one’s ability to do things as much as knowing the right people and having enough letters behind your name to make you seem plausible to people who don’t know anything about what it is you do. Even in this downturned global economy, there does seem to be better opportunity for the young to go abroad than to stay… here. The system feeds itself by starving itself.

The centralization of the Trinidad and Tobago budget, too, is a little disturbing. On one hand, the government decides how to support those who supply something locally – for example, chicken – versus those who import. Where money influences politics and businesses that import with more influence, local suppliers are forced to compete at a global level within a limited economy. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I do know that I’m uncomfortable with a system so easily corrupted controlling such things.

The government now, with less in it’s coffers every year, wants to tax those who are earning less more to compensate for decades of poor planning and lack of diversification. It means less for the government to spend on things to correct the problems that the government created in the first place with bad policy and lack of diversification. Those who like talking about politics will now bring out their knives to stab at their opponents – but really, both sides of the political soap opera contributed and the political discussion simply keeps the easily distracted… easily distracted.

Public servants act like they’re doing you a favor sometimes; in some cases you can find tax-free businesses running to allow people to get through the rampant bureaucracy and poor customer service to get simple things done. Bribery is an open secret. Poor customer service is noted by at least one Minister publicly. This translates to time and money losses for citizens for things already paid for by the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago; in some cases these losses are necessary to avoid penalties and fines that are at least as antiquated as the processes involved.

On the ground, people are not happy with the government – and it’s not a matter of politics if you tune out the politicians. Right now, the national discussion is about how many murders there have been for the year already – more than New York City – and protests in various areas related to infrastructure. One more humorous protest even seems to have worked… so far.

This is, sadly, a result of systems that have worked exactly as designed – except with the perimeters well outside of what the systems were designed for.

Porous borders

I listened as a policeman formerly stationed in Cedros lamented to me that there were 25 points of entry and Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard support has to happen through calling Port of Spain. All manner of things make their way through the borders on an twin island Republic which boasts a Defence Force on land and a Coast Guard at sea – the former assisting the Police, the latter the Police cannot seem to work with. On islands. I’m no expert, but I would think having rapid response vessels in key areas might cut down on illegal trafficking – from guns to drugs, from people to animals.


I am amused every time someone laments that whoever is the Prime Minister is at fault for crime – and I write that because indirectly, they are in some ways, but the expectation seems to be that the sitting Prime Minister should don a spandex outfit and go fight crime themselves. There’s a reason, aside from not wanting to see anyone in politics wearing spandex, that this does not happen.

The second politicians directly control the police services, or other matters of national security, and they do so without appropriate checks and balances there is the potential for abuse. Don’t like your Opposition? To the Gulag! Don’t like journalists? To the Gulag! Don’t like someone for any reason? To the Gulag!

So, directly, politicians can’t be blamed for such things. And while we have had Ministers of National Security over the year and all sorts of toys bought by the government to support them, they are little more than figureheads. The problem is so well entrenched that it will not be removed overnight – and, as I pointed out above, the larger view of the nation requires that across the board, policies must be implemented that mitigate socioeconomic issues as well as access to government services.

Silver Bullet?

There is no silver bullet. There is no way to deal with this overnight; this goes well beyond simply ‘fighting crime’ but dealing with the issues that create the fertile ground in which it grows. We live in a connected world now, where the Internet allows people to see things faster than any leader can steer through – but steer they must. The delays of antiquated bureaucracies need to be streamlined with common sense and appropriate technology usage (what we’ve seen so far in technology leaves much to be desired).

It boils down to trust – not trust in politicians, we change those like diapers, but trust in systems of governance.

Net Neutrality, Competition and Target Blindness.

Yesterday I had the misfortune of attempting to have a conversation with someone who was certain that there was no problem with competition without net neutrality.

Instead, I explored their perspective. The only thing I could come up with is that when some people speak of competition, they think of competition between Internet Service Providers  (ISPs). They do not think of the ISPs themselves competing with services that are simply accessed through their network.

It’s mind-boggling to me that people don’t understand that issue of disruption within the Internet.

It also boggles me that such people are in regulatory frameworks, and these are people who define discussions had about such neutrality. It’s no wonder that assuring equity between companies providing services on the internet and ISPs is such a moot point at this time.

And therefore, we can’t get beyond network neutrality to the real crux of things.