November 2003 Archives

I've started to get hit with comment spam. I am going to install MT-Blacklist tonight which should cut out the vast majority of it.

This should be transparent to visitors to the site.

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The Bermuda Sun has published the text of E.T. (Bob) Richard's speech to the UBP's Annual Conference (which I attended).

[Bermuda Sun: ‘PLP falls short on honesty and integrity’ (2003-11-28)]

Mr. Richards pulled no punches and said what everyone has been dancing around saying since Alex Scott became Premier - Mr. Scott, while Minister of Works & Engineering at least obstructed an audit but more likely endorsed, if not participated in, a fraud with taxpayer funds.

For some reason the anti-PLP Royal Gazette, who had a reported in attendance all day, didn't see fit to report on this hard hitting speech. Maybe the reporter was napping.

I'll post the link when it is available after 3PM.

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Bermuda is in dire need of an Elliot Spitzer [CNN.com - New York's Spitzer becoming a political hot property - Nov. 26, 2003].

Imagine the field day he'd have investigating/prosecuting the Berkeley fiasco, Ewart Brown's BHC shenanigans, Renee Webb's secret Stonington contract re-write, obstruction of an audit etc. etc.. I could go on.

Sadly, Bermuda's corruption appears to be a genuine partnership between the Cabinet and some in the private sector.

I'm not usually an advocate of political prosecution departments, but Mr. Spitzer would be a breath of fresh air. He is a shining example of how successful they can be with the right individual in place.

With the obstruction, hints at a defanging of the Auditor by our Premier and the lack of public outrage, I continue to be pessimistic.

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Anyone who thought the PLP's recently announced Housing Plan wasn't a hastily put together plan, and actually involved consultation, should check out this story from the Royal Gazette's Wednesday edition.

Seems the MP for Constituency 13, the area to get the bulk of the new units (my old neighbourhood), wasn't consulted on this proposal either!

Mr. Blakeney is trying to save himself from being seen as an out-of-touch and ineffective area MP and backbencer, while Mr. Lister is letting it be known that he makes the decisions.

The more things change the more they stay the same. A change of tone, but the methods and results remain the same.

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Bermuda Sun: Sky-high ratings for Premier Alex Scott (2003-11-26)

The poll in the Bermuda Sun today wasn't too revealing. Any casual observer of Bermuda politics could have offered a pretty good prediction of where the numbers would fall, 4 months after an election - and the worst hurricane in recent memory.

The Premier's numbers are at an unsustainably high level while Grant Gibbons's are probably where they should be, maybe slightly high. Parliament has only just resumed after an extended recess and Mr. Scott has played the opening stages of his Premiership well, changing the tone - although the substance (or lack of it) is unchanged.

Mr. Scott is still in his honeymoon period, boosted further by Fabian and the island rallying around the leader. Post election periods are traditionally characterised by public goodwill for the victorious party. After the 5 long Jennifer Smith Years a smile and "Good Morning" will make any Premier look like a saint!

Bermudians are notoriously laid back and love a pleasant and amiable leader. John Swan set the standard for a charismatic Premier and Jennifer Smith set the standard for an aloof and arrogant leader. While Alex Scott is no John Swan he is an old hand at the PR/polling game and has a low hurdle to jump, thanks to former Premier Smith.

What remains to be seen is how Mr. Scott's numbers hold when the details of the Auditor's report are given a full hearing and the Police investigation wraps up.

He has much to answer for from his time as Minister of Works & Engineering.

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Well, if I'd started my Gun Amnesty Pool I'd be out already! My money would have been on zero as the number of guns (not weapons) likely to be turned in.

ZBM news reported this morning that the first gun, complete with a loaded magazine and additional bullets, was turned in at a Police station in a brown paper bag. It's not just liquor we transport in those baggies!

So the amnesty can be declared somewhat of a success, although I'm sure the Police are ultimately hoping for a larger number.

As discussed on A Limey In Bermuda and Bermy Adventures, the real solution is better policing and tougher sentencing.

Better policing doesn't mean sitting around while the Cops try and track down the criminals. It means that we have to stop protecting those individuals who possess weapons and are committing crimes.

Until the community stop protecting the criminals and give the Police the information they need, we won't make much progress.

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Today I released the new layout and design of the site. I've done some pretty thorough testing and think all is well. I've got a few minor tweaks to make but they shouldn't be noticeable.

If you see something that doesn't work please let me know. Any comments on the new look are also welcome.

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Someone called Trimonious commented on A Limey in Bermuda that Alex Scott has changed the tone "from racial incitement to nationalism and independence".

This is something that I've also noticed over that past few months, although Alex Scott will play the race card as well as anyone - as he did during the election campaign. The Premier is hoping for a 'rebirth', beginning the day he was installed. It isn't a coincidence that he hasn't made one comment on anything pre-July 24th. He is attempting to distance himself from his shameful antics of the past and is, as Trimonious commented, looking to shift the dialogue around Nationhood, using any excuse to raise the issue.

The fury over the Governor's comments strikes me as one which has been created to drum up nationalistic feelings. The Governor was speaking, at a pretty high level, about the complexity of foreign relations in the post Sept. 11 era and specifically commented that the process need not be confrontational.

Alex Scott and the PLP immediately attempted to portray this as something nefarious or ‘provocative’. My read is that the Governor was attempting to begin a dialogue and prepare Bermudians for some external scrutiny.

Mr. Scott's chest-beating about the exemplary manner we conduct our internal affairs rings hollow in light of the well documented corruption and mismanagement of the past 5 years. The Premier himself is a central figure in an active police fraud investigation involving $700,000 of missing taxpayer funds. A little external scrutiny might be welcome frankly.

Britain does, contrary to many people's wishes, have the final say in any constitutional change - they must pass an Order in Council before change is enacted. Independence however may be the only exception. If Bermuda voted decisively to separate from the UK, they would certainly have to comply (something they thought we'd do many years ago).

The Deputy Governor's interview in the Sun, suggests that the UK realised they screwed up in the recent amendments to the Constitution and don't want it to happen again.

The UK's representatives here appear to have been selected less for their ceremonial suitability as in the past, and more for their ability to be intermediaries between Bermuda and the UK.

Julian Hall's recent column in the Mid Ocean News makes for interesting reading on this topic, although I don't necessarily agree with his perspective. It also reminded me what a wasted talent Mr. Hall was as a politician. Once one of Bermuda's most charismatic and promising politicians, Mr. Hall is now mired in legal problems.

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Well, it isn't Bermudian and it isn't politics - but if you didn't watch the World Cup Rugby Final on Saturday you missed a nail biter.

I'm still smiling about the result, and I've forgotten about the 5AM wake-up call!

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The potential developers of the old Club Med site appear to be off to a good start. What they are proposing for a summer festival sounds promising. We've already got the Bermuda Festival but I assume this one is going to be targeted to overseas visitors as well as locals.

I hope this development comes together because what has been put on the table so far seems very promising and the CEO sounds quite creative in her ideas.

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A follow up to a couple of comments on my housing article:

If Graeme Outerbridge had any integrity he would have declared his interest before calling me biased. I'll do it for him: Graeme was the sole candidate of the NLP at the last election.

Unfortunately, as expected, he didn't make one constructive suggestion on the issue. He just attacked the messenger.

He did however say that the PLP doesn't have a solution on the horizon - so he agrees with me. I can only then assume that Graeme doesn't think that a plan to offer affordable homes for purchase (not rent), at lower than market interest rates is a good thing. I however do.

Graeme just throws his hands up and says that labour and materials are too expensive so this is hopeless. Perhaps this is why the NLP have fared so poorly over the past 20 years, they are as devoid of ideas as the PLP.

Yes, I support the UBP's Plan.

First Homes wasn't aimed at the Graeme Outerbridge's of the world - who don't need help finding housing, it was aimed at those who have lost the hope of owning a home in Bermuda. I lived in Bermuda Housing Corporation houses for 17 years of my life, I know the sense of hopelessness people feel, and the crisis was far less severe then. In fact one of the areas they are proposing to build 2 story houses is my old neighbourhood (Alexandra Rd, St Mary's Rd.).

With regards to Angelo's comments I agree with the first part and disagree with the second. Components of the UBP's proposal included tax breaks on materials and the use of newer, low cost construction methods which would make the under $2,000 mortgage possible. Otherwise labour, materials etc. are an issue.

I disagree that Government building the houses will be more affordable. In the past 5 years the PLP Government has proven that they cannot manage a capital project properly - cost overruns, fraud etc. have all been well documented. I'm certain that the partnering with the private sector will result in a better, more cost effective project than Government workers building homes. The PLP have managed it badly in the past and a purely Government construction firm would be a disaster.

Government pay scales are notoriously high. Labour costs aren't high due to a lack of competiton but from a small pool to pick from (This can spiral - if you bring in more labour then you need more houses, more labour and on and on and on). Scan the Government employment ads for comfirmation of the pay scales. I doubt we'd see them more effective in residential construction than the many private firms out there.

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The brouhaha over the Governor's comments on the relationship between the UK and Bermuda is escalating.

Today's papers (not yet online), and the recent evening news are full of fallout from the Governor's speech. In fact the Governor specifically stated that "With good sense and good will on both sides - and those qualities are much in evidence here in Bermuda - this complexity need not evolve into confrontation".

It looks like we're moving to confrontation.

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The irony of this shouldn't be lost on anyone!

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. What was the Government's contribution? To attempt to either shut down TB Cancer & Health's insulin service, or drive up the cost of insulin.

It looks like a petition has already started. The thousands of Diabetics in Bermuda could be a real force on this issue if they choose to exert some pressure:

Royal Gazette Nov. 20, 2003: "Enough of the surprises"

I'll post the details on where to sign the petition once I get them.

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I listened to Terry Lister's Press Conference last night on the news and couldn't help but think that something was amiss. Granted he plans on doing a couple more announcements over the next few weeks to reap maximum PR out of the hastily put together housing plan, but the thrust of it seems misguided.

I've never understood why the PLP is fixated on rental units whenever they talk about housing. The controversial and outrageously expensive "Perryville" development on South Shore began as properties for sale. However as the project dragged - and costs increased, they changed course, withdrawing the previously agreed on sales agreements, increasing the prices or attempting to rent the units.

Renting is fine and well as a short term fix, but home ownership is what is really going to solve the housing problem. The barriers to entry in the Bermuda real estate market are high. With rents as they are, even the BHC rents, it is difficult for many families to save enough for the downpayment.

During the Campaign the PLP heaped scorn on the UBP's First Homes Plan, but it was the buzz of the community as it offered many a chance to "Buy Bermuda" at a realistic level.

Surely Government should put in place a plan to allow tenants in good standing to rent-to-own properties and shift their focus away from rental units. It isn't the Government's role to become a real estate manager.

While rental units may provide steady income for Government coffers the primary objective should be to facilitate home ownership among Bermudians.

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The Onion | Mom Finds Out About Blog

The Onion never ceases to amuse me.

How Not to Get Fired Because of Your Blog

The folks at Blogger have put together a useful guide for all those bloggers out there.

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I've been a little surprised by the lack of comment on the Auditor's report so far.

One reason for this lull could be that it was been tabled in Parliament on Friday (14 Nov. 2003). The report will remain on the orders for at least two weeks before it can be taken up for debate (as with most legislation). The Government could choose to leave it on the orders for quite some time, stifling discussion in Parliament.

The UBP may have decided to digest it for a few days before taking it up as an issue in the Press. Alteratively the Opposition could be waiting to take it up in the House, when the sparks are sure to fly.

Saturday's Royal Gazette should have been a real eye opener to the extent of financial mismanagement under the PLP.

In one report the Auditor touched on:

- A $700,000 potential fraud at the Berkeley project, involving the Premier of the country.
- Obstruction by Government in the audit process -which clearly suggests there's something to hide.
- Lax payroll collection
- $1,000,000 cash write-off at the Hospital
- The well known BHC issues and Police investigation
- Mismanagement at the National Sports Centre

When you add these to the list of Cabinet conflicts and secret deals, the record of the PLP is nothing but shameful and all Bermudians should be outraged.

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Finally a glimmer of hope in the depressing stream of bad tourism news Royal Gazette.

St. George's could use this boost and the eyesore of the old Club Med may finally come down. We've gone through this a few times before (Morgan's Point) but hopefully this will materialise.

If you combine this with Rammy Smith's project perhaps the long lull in new developments will be stopped with two top notch resorts.

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There's got to be more to this story Royal Gazette than we've heard so far .

Why would Cabinet attempt to suddenly stop TB Cancer & Health from dispensing medicine to over 1,400 patients, after they've been doing it for over 30 years? The Chief Medical Officer, who deliverd the message on behalf of Cabinet, sits on the board!

This doesn't make sense. Anyone know what's really going on?

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Bermuda Sun: Deputy Governor spells it out (2003-11-14)

Here's the interview I mentioned with the Deputy Governor on Independence and Constitutional change.

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The Bermuda Sun hasn't published their Friday November 14th, 2003 edition online yet but the interview with Deputy Governor Nick Carter is well worth reading.

It looks like the move to independence won't be as easy as the PLP had hoped.

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Yesterday the long delayed Auditor's report was tabled in Parliament [Royal Gazette Nov. 15, 2003: "Stop Obstructing Me"] and is sure to be the major story of the next week - at least.

Many observers speculated that this report's imminent release earlier this year was the impetus for Jennifer Smith calling the election (and dissolving Parliament) - thus stifling the evidence of widespread corruption and mismanagement until after polling day. The general disorganisation of the PLP campaign, lack of preparation or substance and stunned reactions of Cabinet Members to the election news suggests that this was the case, notwithstanding then-Premier Smith's pedantic denials.

The individual cases the Auditor cites have mostly been reported on previously so these won't cause too much of a stir, although the involvement of the Police is a major step. What is surprising is the blunt language and no-nonsense approach. The Auditor General has obviously run out of patience and believes crimes have likely occurred.

The big story here is that the man at the center of the worst allegation - the $700,000 fraud case that the Police are now investigating [Royal Gazette July 23, 2003: "Police probe $700,000 Govt. payout over Berkeley"] - is our current Premier - the former Works & Engineering Minister.

Let's say that again, the Police have opened a fraud investigation which will involve as a central figure Premier Scott. He managed the Berkeley project very closely during his time at W&E and can't claim to be unaware of what went on.

Premier Scott has always been completely dismissive of the bond issue and potential illegalities when it was first raised, but did nothing to dispel it. If the Ministry acted appropriately, and “...There is absolutely no irregularity involved. We have conducted ourselves properly, We are quite satisfied with the way we have managed it.” as Mr. Scott says then the simple question is:

Where is the proof of payment?

Some PLP apologists try and brush this all off as the mistakes of a rookie Government. But that is far from the case.

These allegations highlight an orchestrated campaign of obstruction by a corruput Government.

Alex Scott should come forward and produce the bond or resign. But he won't.

The PLP will attack the messenger as Alex Scott [Royal Gazette November 28, 2002: "Scott questions future of Auditor General" and Derrick Burgess [Royal Gazette November 26, 2002: "BIU's Burgess brands Auditor General a racist"]> did immediately when the initial allegations surfaced; Ewart Brown did after the revelation of his unethical dealings with the BHC [Royal Gazette July 23, 2003: "Minister did not declare interest in sale of house to BHC, says Auditor", Royal Gazette July 23, 2003: "BHC twice turned down offers to buy Brown property"]; and Renee Webb did after the secret back room deal with John Jeffries with the Stonington Hotel was revealed [Royal Gazette July 23, 2003: "Webb tears into Gazette"].

It can't help Bermuda's reputation internationally when the leader of the country, in addition to the major Union, is under investigation for fraud involving public funds.

Watch the rats scatter.

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I'm thinking about starting a pool for predicting the number of guns turned in during the amnesty. While the Government has decided that the UBP's proposal is worth a shot - and it is worth a try - I can't claim to be optimistic.

There's a few obvious problems here:

1) The guns are to be turned in at one of the Police Stations. How many people, in such a small community where everyone knows everyone, are going to risk being identified while turning in a weapon. Even if the Police claim to not be taking names, they can't help but make a mental note.

2) The people who have the guns, overwhelmingly don't care about the repurcussions of their actions. The attacks that have sparked this have taken place in very public places with TV cameras around. What makes us think they'll give up their weapons without being sure that their enemies have?

I'd suggest setting up a more neutral location than the Police Stations. Have someone other than a police officer there to handle the turned in weapons, if any indeed materialise.

Unless of course the idea is to lure people in to be casually identified for future reference!

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I've now officially moved over to movabletype as the publishing tool for this blog. The additional flexibility and features that Blogger lacks are too good to pass up.

New features in politics.bm include:

- Comments
- Permalinks
- Site Search

I'm currently implementing and testing the trackback feature of MT.

Several templates need to be completed or tweaked (like Comment Previewing) but the bulk of the site looks to be good. Please email me if you notice anything that looks suspicious.

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My traveling for 2003 is now over!

While I was away I had the pleasure of seeing three great political speakers:

JC Watts, former US Congressman spoke and was followed by Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala of CNN's Crossfire who tag-teamed for 1 1/2 hours.

JC Watts is very articulate and passionate. He's very conservative on economic issues but speaks passionately about empowering minorities and legislating with a social conscience. Unfortunately I only caught the first 30 minutes of his presentation.

The Crossfire gang were actually very entertaining. Tucker Carlson, proudly hangs out on the far right while Paul Begala is much more of a moderate liberal than I had imagined. His criticisms of Bush are much more reasoned and effective than the hate Bush left. Their presentations were very light-hearted at times. These guys are as much entertainers as they are analysts, although yheir analysis of the pending US Presidential elections were very astute.

The big news from Paul Begala was that he's heard from a confidant of Ralph Nader that Nader will run again - which is certainly bad news for the Democrats. Without Nader, Al Gore would have won several additional states and taken the presidency without any Supreme Court shenanigans.

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I'm traveling for a week so will unlikely be writing until 14th Nov.

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It's no secret that politicians poll frequently. A common disease that has spread through the 90s and into today is the poll driven politician - poll first, formulate policy second.

I was surprised to hear Premier Scott directly quoting poll numbers in his PLP banquet speech. Politicians have always tried to stay above quoting polls. There was something particularly crass about the Premier quoting poll numbers in his speech.

It has been suggested to me that Alex Scott was sending a message to any rebel factions in the PLP and Dr. Brown in particular. Premier Scott has, by his own admission, thoroughly enjoyed his time in office and was letting it be known that any move to replace him would be unpopular with the public.

At the same time this overt quoting of polling exemplifies what we can expect from the Scott government - style over substance. Alex Scott's background is in PR, he's always been known for spin and the first 100 days of his term don't feel too different. Remember the ridiculous but straight faced Berkeley construction project press statements by then Works & Engineering Minister Alex Scott?

The new "New Bermuda" seems to be the same as the old "New Bermuda" but with a softer tone. The overriding theme since Jennifer Smith was dumped has been a better relationship with the press. This is to be welcomed. However a little more introspection in the PLP leadership should reveal that this wasn't the sole cause of discontent. Corruption, scandals, arrogance and reactionary governing was as much a component of the rebellion at the polls on July 24th.

Unfortunately that kind of thinking was highlighted in the empty but warm and fuzzy 2003 Throne Speech. Lots of buzz words about openness but very little in ideas and absolutely no vision.

New PLP spokesperson Scott Simmons has reiterated this theme in an interview in today's RG.

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The UK is looking for input on further constitutional reform in Bermuda.

Submissions should be sent in written form only to depgov@ibl.bm.

No sign of a cut-off date yet.

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I've decided to move the platform for this blog to movabletype. It is much more powerful and has the ability for comments, permalinks, calendaring etc already built in.

There is some legwork to do however in translating the template to MT format so I imagine this will happen in the next week or so.

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The story in today's RG about former Deputy Governor Tim Gurney's new assignment is very interesting.

Either he upset someone at the FCO or they decided he had it too good for too long in Bermuda!

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A pressure group has formed to push Government to address the Tourism crisis. Renee Webb gave a classic politician's response in the article, but based on her track record they'll be resisted all the way.

The goals of the group can be found on their website and are detailed in this Mid Ocean News story.

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The 2003 Throne Speech was entirely underwhelming.

Alex Scott attempted to hype it in the week preceeding Parliamenent reconvening and piqued my interest. I thought we'd hear about a specific idea for housing, or a task force on gambling, an overhaul of education, seniors health care etc.. Instead we continue to get commitments to look into problems. The PLP government is 5 years in the making and is yet to prove that they can manage current crises, let alone articulate a vision for the future.

Some notable items in the speech were:

- Good Governance: an Ombudsman, Public Access to Information Legislation, full time Ministers and Absentee Ballots. Other than the Public Access to Information Legislation this has all been on the agenda - undone - for some time. The only new idea is the Public Access to Information Legislation, and that's the UBP's Freedom of Information Act. This angle was used with the Bermuda Alliance for Tourism - a renamed UBP Tourism Authority concept but gutted of any real power. Hopefully the same won't happen to any Public Access to Information Legislation and it will have some teeth. Bermuda is in the dark ages in this regard.

- Tousim educational programmes in the schools: I'm not sure what we're trying to achieve here but it sounds ok. I'd hope this is in the form of an awareness campaign and isn't introduced into the curriculum proper.

- Housing: "Government will take a collaborative appraoch to land development and housing". This is corporate consultant-speak and tells us nothing. Housing is a crippling problem for Bermudians today and the PLP government after 5 years doesn't even have a plan.

- Education: "...School boards for family of schools" is a good idea. Removing the Department of Education from day to day management of the schools is long overdue. Hopefully the boards are given real autonomy and allowed to work for the betterment of the students rather than bureaucrats running amok.

- Healtcare: "...restructuring and upgrading of...Rest Homes". The PLP Government seems focused on bricks and mortar to point to achievements. This type of approach completely ignores the problems that seniors both in and out of rest homes are having with managing health care costs. The stop gap measure by the PLP before the election of $1,000 in free prescriptions is not working well and was reactionary to counter a comprehensive UBP plan.

- and don't forget the neutering of the cats.

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I'm working on adding the ability to comment on posts within the blog articles. So far I'm deciding between a few options and may actually move the whole blog to movable type as it has so many more features.

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