January 2004 Archives

This is a worrying little story. My favourite quotes are:

"If you're teaching the concept without the word, what's the point?" said Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican. "It's stupid. It's like teaching gravity without using the word gravity."

and

"If teachers across this state, parents across this state say, 'This is not what we want,' then we'll change it," said Cox, a Republican elected in 2002.

| More

If you're interested in a free trip to the Presidential Inauguration in January 2005 then you might want to play the Presidential Futures Market at PBS.

| More

The Bermuda Sun is out of the gates first:

Bermuda Sun: 'UBP Names Sandys Candidate', Jan. 28, 2004

| More

The UBP has just announced lawyer Corin Smith as their candidate to contest the upcoming Sandys North bye-election.

| More

Premier Alex Scott delivered a long on rhetoric, short on details speech to the Hamilton Rotarians yesterday. Mr. Scott continues his campaign to convince everyone that he's been born again and isn't the divisive politician that his long career reveals him to be.

Sadly, I was amused by the following quote:

"I will readily admit that our community faces the problem of lawlessness, however, very little will be accomplished by simply locking up every offender."

This comment standing alone sounds reasonble enough, but couple that with an article on page 3 of the same paper, entitled "Murder trial may delay BHC probe" and it is revealed to be nothing more than warm and fuzzy sounding words that few could disagree with.

One of the few issues that the Government has led from the front on is the rise in lawlessness.

I'll put forward the Premier himself as Exhibit A. This Premier, while Minister of Works & Engineering, presided over and condoned the apparent misappropriation of $700,000 of taxpayer funds. These same funds remain unaccounted for.

Exhibit B? Refer to the previously mentioned, and slow moving investigation into the BHC.

Exhibit C? The PLP Government's vindictive and potentially illegal actions against Hardell Corporation at the Hospital and the Bermuda Airport, among others.

Exhibit D? Former PLP MP Arthur Pitcher's violation of health and safety laws while removing asbestos from buildings at Southside. The "new and improved methods of punishing it" was a long-hidden report that did absolutely nothing to punish the offender.

Exhibit E? The Government's failure to prosecute striking workers after Hurricane Fabian, clearly in violation of the law.

Why should we expect the community to show a greater respect for the law when our Government sets such a poor example and our current Premier has personally lead the downward spiral?

| More

Some food for thought on the role of the US as the sole superpower:

The New Yorker: The Critics: A Critic At Large - POWER RANGERS

| More

It looks like the Royal Gazette has bought into the hype and style over substance of Alex Scott, as evidenced by the following unsupported statement in the article:

"Like the Premier, Sen. Tannock, 57, is not averse to working with the Opposition on crucial national issues. "

You'd have thought the reporter would have supported this statement by pointing to anone issue where the Premier has actually followed through on his promises to work with the Opposition. Nope, nothing. Maybe the Premier's still campaigning!

So far the 'working together' has involved lip service in speeches (see here and here). The only thing anyone has heard about is an agreement, driven by the opposition, for a bi-partisan group to work on a code of conduct to prevent a repeat of the PLP's race baiting during the election.

I recall (although I can 't find the reference) Premier Scott specifically saying that he'd be interested in working together on housing and the UBP's plan, but no approach has been made yet from what I've heard.

This is the exact same empty rhetoric that Premier Scott and Dale Butler gave to releasing the old reports, delayed and hidden by the first PLP administration. We've had a trickle (Asbestos report) but nothing to write home about. Bear in mind the auditor's report is now languishing on the order papers in Parliament.

I think what you're seeing here is that because Alex Scott gives interviews and isn't beligerent, unlike his predecessor, that some in the press don't want to upset the apple-cart and call the Premier on his BS. You scratch mine, I'll scratch yours. They need the Premier as much as he needs them.

The press also report regularly that Alex Scott wants unity and to bring the community together. However, only weeks earlier the same man was preaching about how demographics were all that mattered (PLP election rallies).

Talk about giving out free passes!

| More

I wanted to elaborate a little on my previous post about the PLP Government's apparent lack of concern representing Bermuda's interests to US politicians. (I also should declare that I work in the International Business sector and have perhaps an increased awareness of the potential impact to this sector of our economy.)

We should be concerned not just at the legislative threat, which is real, but at the Premier's dismisive comments on the topic. Alex Scott is a substance-less Premier, proven out by his lifelong history of spin over substantive comments, and his regular public quoting of polling numbers (he quoted them again last night on ZBM). While Mr. Scott may lack the knowledge of the international business sector to respond appropriately, he should at least acknowledge the seriousness of the threat rather than wave it off as 'campaiging'.

As I've said previously, the 'Bermuda Loophole' isn't really our bread and butter business, so why do I think we should be so concerned at Sen. Kerry's comments?

Sen. Kerry's statements were a tactic to gain votes, Mr. Scott was right about that, but they also have a long term negative impact on our reputation as a business jurisdiction. When you couple a legislative change to prevent re-domestications, with a damaged international reputation and a lack of presence in Washington by our representatives, I believe that you have a danger brewing for Bermuda's economic prospects. But it's not too late to address these attacks.

While we continue to allow US politicians to besmirch Bermuda's name we must recognise that their tactic is as much to intimidate companies into either re-locating back to the US, or to prevent clients doing business with Bermuda based companies (see the Calpers pension funds) and more worringly to prevent new startups incorporating at all in Bermuda. These are the major threats that most concern me.

The US tax code is unlikely to change any time soon, although John Kerry's pledge to close the loophole within 500 days of gaining office boxes him in somewhat on that. (I imagine Premier Scott would have dismissed that as well. The PLP promised to have a plan to turn around tourism in 100 days after taking office in 1998 and here we are 5 years later with no plan and sinking air arrival numbers.)

Bermuda is a reputable business jurisdiction. We've worked long and hard to establish ourselves as a desirable location to operate out of, so much so that many publicly traded companies are now based here.

So why has our influence in Washington waned under the PLP?

Simple. While the PLP were sucking up to Castro and cozying up with Caricom, our relationship with the US started to deteriorate. The recent public criticism by the US consul over the Cuba relationship should have been an obvious enough sign. Dr. Ewart Brown publicly insulting the US President's intelligence wasn't much help either, nor is the fascination with being a big fish in a small pond with Caricom (an organisation constantly at battle with the US over economic issues).

It's long past time for the PLP to start representing our interests to the economic powers with whom our fates are tied, not profiling and wining and dining with Caricom and Cuba.

| More

Now I'm really worried! This article in Friday's Mid Ocean should scare the hell out of all Bermudians.

Why should it concern them? Not only because US Presidential candidates are attacking Bermuda, that's been building for a few years now and has picked up the pace after the September 11 attacks, but because Premier Scott doesn't have a clue - or an interest apparently, in addressing this properly. Dismissing this as only campaigning is incredibly naďve and negligent in representing Bermuda's interests.

The fact that Bermuda has become the poster child for the appalling behaviour of US regulated and publicly traded companies is particularly distasteful when you consider how valuable the Bermuda market is to the US, and worldwide economy. Bermuda has in fact been the saviour of the US insurance industry many times over (see this Bermudian Business cover story for some additional background):

- In the 80’s ACE and XL were formed in the Caymans (and subsequently Bermuda) to fill an enormous gap in the excess liability market.

- When Hurricane Andrew devastated the insurance industry in 1992, the Bermuda market responded, providing critical insurance cover to US insurers, US homeowners and other US businesses.

- After September 11, Bermuda responded within weeks to the most serious insurance crisis in history and replaced the capacity quickly with the most rapid capital raising ever. In fact, Ace and XL - Bermuda's two flagship companies, quickly paid their share of the World Trade Center claims, in full, while other reinsurers are yet to pay - pending the outcome of litigation.

- Again, post-September 11, the US economy was on the verge of a crisis due to a lack of terrorism insurance. Who responded? Bermudian companies provided billions of dollars of protection to many industries including the airline, real estate and life insurance sectors among others. Without this cover many American businesses could not have continued to operate due to the terrorist threat. When the Terrorism Reinsurance and Insurance Act (TRIA) expires in a year (or potentially two) it will likely be Bermudian companies who again will provide the creative solutions to the problem of terrorism insurance.

In fact, the “corporate inversion” issue that garners the most attention is a side bar to the success of Bermuda as a financial centre, though you wouldn’t know that through the media hype. Relatively few companies have in fact re-domesticated to Bermuda, although the pace has increased in the past few years due to a struggling US economy. The real bread and butter of our international business economy comes from Bermuda companies who have never existed in the US, and can’t be subject to US taxation whether the Bermuda loophole is closed or not.

So while US politicians, both Democratic and Republican, continue to use Bermuda as the whipping boy to drum up votes, what does our Premier have to say? "Remember now, he's campaigning".

That’s what should worry us all!

Yes John Kerry is campaigning, but these 4 words are quite revealing. While the PLP and Premier Scott in particular may not mean one word they say when they are campaigning, many other politicians do. The threat to Bermuda (and other jurisdictions) is real - and building. Unless we want our insurance industry to go the way of the tourism industry (whose success we took for granted as guaranteed), the PLP Government better get moving on this threat now.

Who would you rather have representing your case in the US? Alex Scott, who dismissed this as just politics, or someone like Dr. Gibbons who in the same article provided a solid, thoughtful and persuasive argument in Bermuda’s defense? I know who I'd want in front of American legislators on our behalf?

The threat to our industry and economy is real. Our Government had better figure this our sooner rather than later.

Premier Scott would do well to pay attention to one of the most threatening issue facing the livelihoods of all Bermudians, and he’d better get moving on it now before it’s too late.

| More

I received this article yesterday from someone by email. It was written in 1998 but the similarities to Bermuda are striking.

Marion Barry: Last of the Black Emperors - June 1998

| More

Four changes to Cabinet are:

Attorney General and Minister of Justice - Sen. Larry Mussenden
Works, Engineering and Housing - Ashfield DeVent
Education - Terry Lister
Finance - Paula Cox

There is no longer a Minister Without Portfolio.

Michael Scott has got to be disappointed with this scenario and it remains to be seen whether he will be successful in gaining the PLP nomination in Sandys North. Dale Butler would also be less than pleased that he has missed another opportunity at the Education portfolio.

I imagine that morale just took another dive at the Dept. of Tourism after hints that Renee Webb would lose the Tourism portfolio.

| More

Larry Mussenden is currently being sworn in as Attorney General. That's a rapid rise in politics! As an appointee of Alex Scott, Mr. Mussenden has no ties to the Jennifer Smith camp.

VSB was right on this one. Let's see how the rest pan out. Could it be that they've got themselves a good source in the Government...former court reporter turned Cabinet Minister Ashfield DeVent?

| More

Larry Dennis has indicated that he will again be riding in on his horse to try and figure out what went on at Investors in People (IIP). ZBM continued the story last night with not much new.

The details are still very fuzzy but Mr. Dennis has a stellar track record for getting to the bottom of these messes.

As a point of clarification on my earlier post on IIP: my concern with Work Inc. is not that funding was withdrawn, but that Government projects/agencies seem to be riddled with problems in administering programs effectively and that the management controls need strenthening.

| More

Government announced last night that a new Cabinet Member will be sworn in today at Government House. So there's one thing we know for sure.

VSB is reporting that Larry Mussenden will get the nod as AG (from the Senate) and be sworn in today at the Cabinet Office. This would be a big surprise that no-one called. Mr. Mussenden has managed to stay under the radar during the cabinet shuffle sweepstakes, perhaps due to his relatively short time in politics. If Michael Scott was overlooked for AG this would be a major setback. Mr. Scott has long been assumed, by both the press and himself, as the AG in waiting, an understudy of sorts.

RG however reported this morning that the odds are on for Raymond Tannock to gain a portfolio, Terry Lister to go to Education, Paula Cox to Finance, Ewart Brown to Tourism, Mr. Scott as AG and Ashfield DeVent to get something other than Minister Without Portfolio.

So much for moves to a smaller cabinet!

The only thing that is ever certain is the fact that the speculators will be wrong (me included)! But that's half the fun.

| More

As a recovering C-SPAN addict I'd like to ask a simple but aggravating question:

Why is it that camera's aren't allowed in Bermuda's Parliament during regular sessions but are used during joint sessions of no legislative significance?

When Parliament conducts the people's business in the House and Senate we're subjected to barely comprehendable audio over the radio, televised reports with bad quality photos and the same crappy audio overlayed. The only record the public can get is an intimidatingly boring slab of words printed in the Royal Gazette on a Saturday and Monday.

In recent memory I can recall 2 or maybe 3 televised sessions:

- Mr. Cox's tribute session
- Baroness Amos's visit to Bermuda several years ago
- The special session for late Tourism Minister Allen (I'm not certian on this one)

There's nothing wrong with televising these sessions but I do have a problem televising these while not televising regular sessions! So much for open Government.

Why do I believe we should televise Parliament? Firstly, you'd see just how few Members actually are present, even though they are marked as present! (Many are in the back rooms relaxing or having dinner, show up for a few minutes to never return for the day, or in extremely rare cases may actually be working in the library!)

Secondly, you'd see just how adept our MPs are at sleeping in really old and uncomfortable wooden chairs! You'd also witness something neither party would like you to see - opposing members sitting together and having a friendly conversation where they show a real affection for each other!

But a little more seriously, televising Parliament would be a vital step in bringing a distant legislative process closer to a detached public. People don't care! Why don't they care? Because most of us don't have a clue what goes on in the House or Senate, because there is so little access.

What are the drawbacks. Well, maybe you'd have a little more grandstanding and playing to the camera, but a good Speaker can easily keep that under control. Perhaps we'd be treated to the cheesy phenomenon you see in the US Congress of bringing in a huge visual display to ensure that you get on the evening news. I think we can tolerate that in the spirit of increased access.

Bermuda conducts our legislative process under an antiquated system or rules designed for a different time. Modern technology is available to open this up. Let's use it.

Have you ever tried to get a written transcript of a Parliamentary session? They don't exist. Ever tried to check on the attendance of your MP? Ever tried to check Parliament's website to see the orders for the day and minutes of the last session? Ever tried to check the Register of Interests? Well Parliament doesn't have a website and you have to make an appointment with the Clerk to thumb through a disorganised and outdated set of forms which make up the Register or Interests.

One of the things that should be implemented in Bermuda's Parliament is a question and answer period for the Premier, much like the Prime Minister in the UK is subjected to. Hearing someone answer a question over the radio only gives you a taste of what's reallu going on. Watching someone's body language, watching a Member squirm when a particularly pointed question is lobbed across the floor, is priceless and reveals a lot more than an audio feed.

Bermuda needs to move into the 1980s and open up the process - show the people, who our MPs work for, what they're doing.

Let's get with the times!

| More

The Sandys North bye-election is looking like it's going to be a real battle for the PLP nomination. A number of candidates have offered themselves, including apparently the infamous Col. Burch who's looking for a political resurrection after hitching his wagon to Jennifer Smith.

The Sun and RG have interesting articles on some of the potential candidates and what the outcome could signify.

ZBM also speculated last night that Paula Cox is in line to take over from her father as Finance Minister, allowing Ewart Brown to move to Tourism, Renee Webb to Transport and Dale Butler has been tipped for Minister of Education, a position he's aspired to (other than Premier that is). The Attorney General's post would be filled by most likely Michael Scott, either from the Senate or the Lower House if he was successful in gaining the PLP nomination and support at the polls. I've now confirmed that a Senator can indeed hold the AG's post:

"Section 71 (1A),of The Bermuda Constitution Order, 1968, provides as follows:

The Attorney-General shall be either a member of either House who is entitled to practise as a barrister in Bermuda, in which case he shall be appointed by the Governor in accordance with the advice of the Premier, or a public officer."

If new faces appear in the Cabinet and others disappear it would suggest that Premier Scott is confident in the support of his elected members, no-longer threatened by a lingering pro-Jennifer Smith camp. The current cabinet is a compromise group patched together as a coalition of pro-Jennifer Smith MPs and the dissidents.

Any significant changes, as a consequence of Mr. Cox's unfortunate passing, would suggest Mr. Scott has consolidated his position.

| More

The great casino debate continues unabated today in the Bermuda Sun. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who is ambivalent about gambling in Bermuda (which is already widespread). The vast majority of people I speak to are either adamantly for or against, with few people without an opinion. These two camps don't appear capable of talking, or even listening to each other. They feel so strongly about the pros and cons of gambling in Bermuda that communication is impossible.

The arguments in favour usually begin with the fact that we already have gambling, it will spur a rebirth in tourism through better entertainment and air arrivals and we'll benefit from the tax revenue. Sounds reasonable.

The opponents of gambling point almost exclusively to the negative impact it has on the fabric of society and that it isn't worth it. Gambling destroys lives, tears apart families and brings with it nothing but trouble they say. Sounds reasonable.

Bermuda is a bit strange when it comes to gambling. We must be the only place in the world that allows gambling but doesn't tax it!

The current batch of machines are due to be removed in July, but we're sure to be treated to endless legal manoeuvering and court challenges. Julian Hall recently stated at the Tourism Forum that gambling is NOT illegal in Bermuda. His assertion was essentially that the prohibition on gambling was a policy of past governments and that this has perpetuated into a myth of illegality. I'm not sure what the legal opinions on this are but surely the Lotteries Act comes into it somewhere (you can't even run a raffle without a permit) and Mr. Hall was being overly simplistic. I imagine this will become much clearer over the coming months while the lawyers have their say in trying to keep the current machines going.

Both sides of the argument are valid but my concern about gambling in Bermuda is that the corrupting influence will be as prevalent in the administration of a casino as in people's personal lives.

Bermuda is a small place and conflicts of interest crop up all the time, even among people with the best intentions. I need only point to the reluctance of MPs of both sides of the house to keep current on the Register of Interests as an indicator of the low priority that public figures give to their potential conflicts.

More worringly, recently Government has proven that they are incapable - or unwilling - to implement the necessary controls and transparency for the public to have confidence in the handling of public funds and Government initiated programs. While a casino would most likely be a private sector venture this would be a largely Government directed project and that makes me worried.

Over the past few years we've been treated to a myriad of scandals. The oversight and controls at any number of Government projects have come under scrutiny. Our own Premier has unapologetically obstructed an audit. The tendering and mis-management of the Berkeley project, shady deals and criminal conduct at the BHC, slow Police investigations and politicians not cooperating with Audits, should set off alarms.

If a decision is made (hopefully sooner rather than later) and Government supports the concept of a casino, Bermuda should think long and hard about the regulatations and controls required to manage this.

Casinos are magnets for corruption, we've got plenty of that already.

| More

ZBM ran an extensive report tonight on alleged missing funds - and a key employee who might have flown the coop - at the Investors in People program. The story was a little confusing, but there were plenty of the indicators of a brewing scandal, the classic "not available for comment" and "didn't return our calls" from key figures.

I'll be keeping my eye on this one to see where it leads. The financial controls and oversight from Government agencies continue to be appalling.

So far we've been treated to debacles at the following projects:

Berkeley School Project
Bermuda Housing Corp (multiple scandals)
Work Inc

Mr. Dennis might need to get ready for another special audit.

| More

Keeping with the traffic theme of the past couple of days:

While sitting at the traffic lights in front of the Bank of Bermuda the other day I fondly remembered one of the few benefits of Hurricane Fabian - non-functioning traffic lights in Hamilton.

Most lights were out for weeks and I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed that traffic had never flowed so well. Obviously there were a few danger spots like Burnaby Hill and Front St, Number Six Shed etc. but generally traffic flowed very well with few incidents.

A few years ago a friend of mine asked why we don't have a 'turn left on red' within the city. I've never really forgotten that question, particularly when I'm sitting pointlessly at a red light with no on-coming traffic.

Surely this would be an easy thing to implement with a public awareness campaign, some street signs and an amendment to the existing legislation. Not every intersection is suitable for a left on red, but places like Church and Par-la-ville, Front & Bermudiana among others would be good candidates.

I'd also suggest turning all lights to flashing yellows after midnight, meaning an All Stop, as they do in places like Halifax. This would prevent people sitting at red lights with no traffic around.

| More

After a few attempts to promote reasoned discussion on local issues I've regrettably decided that this experiment has failed and am removing the commenting facility. Public comments have been removed permanently.

I would suggest that if people want to discuss the content or issues on this site that they head over to the BermudaFreeSpeech Forum. As always I welcome private comments.

| More

Another interesting perspective in Friday's Sun (recently added online) by Tom Vesey, a veteran observer of Bermudian politics (and a friend). I greatly respect his insight and think he's touched on a number of critical areas.

Bermuda Sun: 'Figures show the UBP is more diverse than it was', Jan. 16, 2004

| More

It's hard to argue with a seat belt law although if someone refuses to wear one I'm not sure it's our place to force them to. If someone's kids, who aren't old enough to know better, aren't buckled in then that's another story.

However, recently I saw the most ridiculous thing I've seen on Bermuda's roads, which suggests that we've got a much more dangerous, although not as widespread, hazard we really need to deal with, in-car entertainment centres.

The car I saw today was a Peugeot convertible with no less than 6 TV screens in it. Everyone, including the driver - AND THE CAR BEHIND - were enjoying a movie! The car behind you say? Yes, in the back of the REAR seat headrests were TV screens, of use only to distract a following vehicle.

The driver had a screen on the dash, the 3 passengers were all enjoying the movie (as was I) while driving down Reid St.! I've also been informed that if you open the trunk there's a flatscreen mounted there as well.

Surely there's some law that this guy is violating? The proliferation of in-car TVs, particularly in front of a driver (and for the car behind) have got to be made illegal! Not wearing a seat belt can cause injury or death to yourself but watching TV while driving (and distracting others with TV sets out the back of your car) is going to kill others.

| More

| 4 Comments

If you're following the US Presidential Campaign then you'll want to check in here regularly.

| More

| 1 Comment

The Department of Environmental Protection sent out this email today. Sounds good to me as licking a stamp and putting it on an envelope is a severe deterrent to timely lobster catch reporting.

If you're a lobster diver I encourage you to reply to this message with a yes

----Email Below----

To All Lobster Divers:

The Department of Environmental Protection is actively pursuing the establishment of a system that will allow lobster divers to submit their statistics online. The proposed system will be internet-based and accessed by a user ID and password. It is projected that this service will be in place for the 2004/2005 lobster season. More details will be forthcoming closer to the implementation date. The purpose of this email is to firstly, confirm that the Department has everyone's correct email address and secondly, to ascertain how many lobster divers would utilise the proposed online reporting system.

To express your interest in this service, please reply to this email with a simple "yes". Similarly, if you are not interested, please reply with a simple "no". If you know of a lobster diver with an email address that did not receive this message, please tell them to send their email address along with an expression of interest to ttrott@gov.bm. If you have received this email in error, please inform us so that we can correct our distribution list.

Thank you for your interest in this new service.

Tammy Trott

----End of Email ----

| More

The Governor has not surprisingly denied Neslon Bascome III's request to be exempted from his regimental duties.

In this case I'm sure that Mr. Bascome's behaviour, preferential treatment by the courts and subsequent lack of regret over his drug conviction made any claim for "Conscientious Objector" status laughable to Gov. Vereker.

A little discpline in Mr. Bascome's life will be a good thing and I'm sure the many locals who were outraged over his light sentence will be thinking that justice is being served.

| More

| 1 Comment

Parliament needs to put some teeth (and organisation) behind the Register of Interests for Members of Parliament.

It is important that we know where the conflicts of interest might be for our elected representatives. As Trevor Moniz has rightly pointed out, the Register should be available online and not only by appointment with the Clerk.

| More

| 1 Comment

More info on the seat belt law from ZBM Radio News this morning.

The DPP, AG and Police got together recently to discuss some of the issues:

1) Police don't have the ability to weigh a child when ticketing (weight determinds type of seat/restraint)
2) Seat belts are defined as needing the manufacturer's sticker on them with some pertinent details (many Bermuda cars with belts don't have these)
3) The criminal vs. ticketing offense issue
4) Others that I didn't catch.

It sounds to me like this was hastily enacted with legislation from another jurisdiction being used as a base.

This process has highlighted the need for better preparation of legislation by the AG's chambers and improved debate in Parliament to highlight these deficiencies. Maybe we need a few more lawyers in the House! Gasp, did I say that?!

| More

| 1 Comment

Parliament will be in session on Friday for a special session allowing Members the opportunity to pay their respects to the last Finance Minister C. Eugene Cox. Mr. Cox will be buried on Saturday after an Official Funeral at the Anglican Cathedral.

| More

ZBM News reported tonight that it's back to the House for the evidently poorly drafted seat-belt legislation.

According to a source in the Police, 8 amendments must be made in order for them to be able to ticket properly. Additionally, apparently the current law has this as a criminal offence when it was intended as a ticketed offence.

Just what is going on at the AG's Chambers? First they blew the Hardell case, having to scramble to get the default judgment dismissed, and now we're going back (for the 2nd time) to get the legislation corrected!

Remember, last time the vote almost failed, passing only with the Deputy Speaker Jennifer Smith's vote in favour 14-13.

| More

The winners of MoveOn.org's Bush in 30 Seconds contest were announced yesterday.

The overall best ad was Child's Play, probably the ad with the best production and a good message.

| More

Bermuda gets treated annually to the regimental boot camp, an opportunity for the local media to write some more entertaining articles and curious onlookers to get some amusement.

Each year the turnout gets worse while the roundup squads for delinquents seem to get more aggressive. Regardless of what you think about the relevance of the Regiment I think it's time to regroup on this topic.

Not that I'm anxious to leap to the defense of Nelson Bascome III, but if he has an objection to serving in the regiment then he is objecting in a valid way (as is Magnus Hengulph). In Mr. Bascome's case his behaviour and light treatment during his recent trial for importing marijuana have made him a very unsympathetic character.

As I've said I'm undecided about the relevance of the Regiment to Bermudian life, particularly the continued use of the archaic conscription system. If only 100 out of 180 potential recruits show up, it suggests that the whole idea of the regiment needs to be reviewed and potentially replaced with a model with more appeal.

Perhaps a full-time (supplemented with volunteer) coast guard or national guard to replace the Marine Police etc. would be more appealing than coercing people into becoming soldiers. We could return the Marine Police to the streets to tackle crime and have a larger presence on the water. This would be more useful than the worthry goal of building a monument to those lost at sea.

If this few recruits showed up - and quite a few didn't show up post-Fabian, how many do we really think will show up in the event of civil unrest when they'll be the targets of firebombs etc.? This role is probably the most useful and intended function of the Regiment (other than parades). The one time in recent memory that the Regiment was called in for quasi-military purposes, post-Sept 11, the soldiers were issued unloaded guns! A wise decision, but telling all the same.

People argue correctly that the Regiment serves a critical role in disciplining (some of) our males (and many do need disciplining) but that is not the mandate of the Regiment. If we want to discipline our males we should put programs in place to do that before they reach 18. For most it will be too late to be reached at that stage.

People feel quite stronly on either side of this issue and many parents like the discpline the Regiment gives their sons - but I'd suggest it is time for a review.

| More

| 2 Comments

The Bermuda housing crisis is getting worse, much worse. Admittedly it is a complex problem but the lack of vision from the Government to resolve this is surely a contributor to the problem.

To highlight the PLP's head in the sand attitude over this problem you need only look at the Deputy Premier Ewart Brown's, accusation that the UBP was being negative about the housing situation in Bermuda. The emergency housing list has increased by almost 90% since the PLP took power in 1998! That's even better than the return Dr. Brown got on the shady sale of a home to the BHC. I can understand why he doesn't have a negative perception of housing in Bermuda but most other people do.

Wayne Furbert and the UBP are being realistic, and today's data from the BHC is confirmation. I imagine every one of the more than 1,000 people on the waiting list would concur with that assessment.

Until the Government stops spinning this issue and acknowledges that we have a serious housing problem (among others) I doubt we'll make much progress. So far what little has been done to address this has been conducted in a piecemeal manner.

Both parties need to work together, developing a long term development plan to make a real dent in this problem. Consideration of the UBP's First Homes proposal from the 2003 election is a good starting point.

CORRECTION: I mis-interpreted the housing list as having increased from 125 to over 1,000. Actually the emergency list was at 56 under the UBP, 125 in 2001 under the PLP and now at 106. So the emergency list is up by about 80-90%. It's the rental list that has skyrocketed to 976 names. My apologies for the error.

| More

| 2 Comments

Here's another interesting perspective on the lessons from the 2003 campaign:

Pondblog: 'Race and Bermuda’s Election', Aug. 2003"

| More

| 1 Comment

I'm reopening comments on the site after the brief hiatus. Following some consideration and input from a few readers I'm going to be a little clearer in establishing a comment policy (will be available tomorrow), defining what is and is not acceptable and how to report abuse.

This step is not at all intended to stifle debate but to ensure that the discussion is cogent to the issue at hand, and that personal attacks and misrepresentations are not being made. I recently removed the posting of email addresses to try and protect privacy and encourage more input. The commenting policy is a work in progress and will be expanded if necesary.

I'd ask everyone to please read the policy when available and if you can't abide by it then please refrain from commenting.

| More

| 1 Comment

OK Folks. I think everyone needs a cool off period here so I'm closing comments on the site. Maybe I'll reinstate them later but maybe not.

I appreciated the input of everyone involved, regardlesss of the differences, but I've now had my words twisted to try and infer that "blacks are too dumb to see through the PLP's racist rhetoric". That is an outrageous and insulting misrepresentation of my argument to try and paint me as a racist.

As much as Bermuda Voter might want to try and make me out to be a racist - just because I'm in the UBP, it is clearly not the case. I won't be libeled by someone cowardly enough to hide behind an email address with no real name. I'm putting my name against my comments, how about they do the same when they go down that road?

You can contact me through a private email but there will be no more public comments for now.

| More

Eugene Cox has passed away after his battle with Stomach Cancer.

Mr. Cox, a soft-spoken and popular man and politician, will be missed.

Speculation has been rife for some time for Mr. Cox's replacement. Likely candidates are his daughter Paula Cox (who has filled in on many occassions), Terry Lister (although this seems unlikely), Jennifer Smith (also unlikely) or the Premier himself. If Ms. Cox is appointed, it is expected that she will have to relinquish the Attorney General's role. This almost certainly means that Michael Scott will run for the empty seat in Sandys with a view to assuming the role of Attorney General. Otherwise it's back to a non-Political Attorney General, which ain't gonna happen.

This could also be an opportunity for the Premier, currently vacationing in Australia, to shuffle his Cabinet and move Renee Webb out of Tourism (preferably to the backbench).

| More

| 18 Comments

This letter by Bob Richards (someone I know well from the 2003 UBP campaign) is a must-read:

A sad chapter

Dear Sir,

The saga of the choice of the new Chief Justice marks a sad chapter in Bermuda's journey toward self-determination and ultimate political independence. It has highlighted just how easily the judicial branch of government can be subverted by political manoeuvring.

It seems that almost immediately after he was promoted to Premier, Mr. Scott was in dispute with the UK Government, and its local representative in particular. Under the Bermuda Constitution the decision as to who will be our Chief Justice lies with Britain, after consultation with the leaders of the Bermuda Government and the Opposition. Note it does not say, "after a recommendation from the Premier," because the word "recommendation" in government parlance would carry a much stronger obligation on the part of the UK to carry out the wishes of the Bermuda Government.

Under the Westminster model of government, which we have inherited, the judiciary is supposed to be separate from and indeed above politics and the selection process for judges is supposed to be equally untainted by partisan politics.

Of course, the relationship between politics and humans mirrors that famous relationship between smoke and fire: where there's one you generally find the other. Bearing this in mind the Americans have taken a more "in your face" policy (Americans would say, "less hypocritical") with respect to the selection of judges.

They elect some of their judges, and US Supreme Court justices are nominated and chosen by politicians. No system is perfect because its designers, humans, are imperfect.

However, knowing British tradition and practice in this regard, it was truly amazing that Premier Scott would mount a public campaign to promote his favoured candidate. He could have ranted and raved in the private chambers of Government House, even in the cloistered meeting rooms of Whitehall, and his viewpoint would have stood a chance of succeeding; but the moment he went public, he guaranteed only one outcome, an outcome that would be diametrically opposed to his public preference.

The UK Government could not be seen to be bowing to overt political influence in an area in which the Bermuda Constitution gives it wide discretion, and it could not be seen to be undermining its own man in Bermuda who would surely have had to be replaced if it went against his recommendation. So it's clear that Premier Scott's public strategy to promote Mrs. Justice Wade Miller ensured that she would not get the job.

This is a shame because I believe that Mrs. Justice Wade Miller would make an excellent Chief Justice. All the reasons that Premier Scott gave in her favour are totally valid. He has done her career a great disservice because his behaviour has caused many people in this country to suspect or believe that she might have some bias favouring the Government or the governing party. I, for one, do not think this is so.

But surely Premier Scott could have figured all this out for himself. Why then has he done this? Well, as one of those on the outside I can only speculate, but consider this. In its first five years in power the PLP Government has caused a stench of corruption to rise from these shores like no time in our entire history. So much so that Scotland Yard was brought in to investigate the Government of Bermuda, an unprecedented event! No doubt the Governor is privy to more of the findings of this investigation than most people.

Is it be possible that these troubling events, matters that have been heretofore swept under the carpet, subject to the muzzle of "sub-judice", had a bearing on the UK Government's insistence on having an outsider being the new CJ?
After all, the same cast of characters were re-elected by Bermuda's electorate, in the absence of more factual revelations before the election. If charges are now to be laid before the courts regarding corruption in the Government sector, then this new CJ will surely be the one to preside. The recent decision by another judge with respect to a politician's son only underscores the perception of the inability of a local judge to properly handle such matters.

In light of this background the Premier's publicity campaign takes on an undertone of desperation. It irks me, as a Bermudian, when anyone suggests that we cannot handle our own affairs because I believe in the ability, common sense and honesty of the Bermudian people. I have publicly supported the progression to independence for Bermuda.

But the developments of the past five years, and particularly those relating to the choosing of the new CJ, have given me pause. I'm sure many other Bermudians are mulling over the ramifications of the actions of the Government in recent weeks.

E.T. (BOB) RICHARDS
Warwick

| More

Sir John Swan is taking some hits in the local media today with a guest editorial in the Mid Ocean, and a Letter to the Editor in the Royal Gazette.

| More

John Swan's comments have triggered a very healthy public debate on the UBP, its current leadership and the Party's relevance going forward. I firmly believe that this is good for Bermuda and good for the UBP. The Royal Gazette editorialised on this yesterday and Bryant Trew has a column on it in today's Bermuda Sun (I'm going to write on Byrant Trew's column in a later post).

I think that it is important to establish where I stand on this issue as someone who ran for the UBP in the last election, worked on the Campaign, and continues to believe that the UBP is the best political choice for Bermuda, despite some structural problems and a resistance to change from some supporters.

As I've stated before, I generally agree with John Swan's sentiments about the fortunes of the UBP, although his delivery left much to be desired. If you accept the two interpretations of the UBP's election performance in today's Royal Gazette editorial (although I think it’s more complicated) then I'd concur with the second, namely that:

"the PLP's own disarray and miserable campaign handed the UBP a golden opportunity to win the election."

One element that I think has been missing from most assessments of the UBP’s election performance, and Sir John's critique, is the complete state of disarray that the party found itself in after - and in many ways because of - John Swan’s departure. I respect Sir John for his principled stand on Independence through a referendum and his subsequent resignation, but memories seem to be fading on his role in the McDonald’s fiasco, an unpopular drive for Independence and his subsequent support of David Saul over Jim Woolridge as his successor. If you subscribe to Sir John’s analysis of Bermuda’s political climate then you must believe that David Saul would also have been a “turn off to black voters” - yet my understanding is that Sir John supported him.

Ruling out Sir John supporting David Saul as a Machiavellian method to ensure a UBP defeat (which I don’t think is a credible position), this support doesn’t jive with his own analysis of Bermuda’s political dynamic - unless he misread it in the mid-90s, and has since re-assessed (a distinct possibility). Members of the UBP who ran in 1993 will tell you that the Party thought it was going to lose that election but were saved by Maxwell Burgess and Wayne Furbert, who unexpectedly defeated Julian Hall and Eugene Blakeney. These two PLP candidates took the voters for granted, didn’t canvass and paid the price (a valuable lesson to all aspiring MPs).

What am I trying to say with all this? Simply that the UBPs problems go back further than the 1998 election and were exacerbated by internal battles around two issues (Independence & McDonald’s). Sir John was the central figure in each of these debacles. The parting of the UBP and Sir John was acrimonious and well documented, but in many ways it contributed to the current state of the UBP and current public perception.

The PLP’s rise to power was a result of a number of factors including an apparent shift (mostly superficial) to the centre under Freddie Wade, a self-destructing UBP and a feeling that it was time to give the PLP a chance after 30 years of UBP success. The PLP’s reduced-majority victory in 2003 was a function of a large second chance sentiment, a much improved but still recovering UBP, and a masterfully executed race-based guilt trip dropped in the critical final days of the campaign.

Many black voters who had supported the PLP in 1998 were frustrated by arrogance, mismanagement, corruption and inaction. A large portion of black Bermudians were on the fence, unsure whether to begrudgingly vote PLP, stay at home or go back to the UBP (remember the UBP won 9 successive elections drawing significant black support). The PLP were well aware of this and resorted to an issue they knew they can exploit to trump their appaling track record – Race. This strategy was the only thing that could persuade voters that 'a vote for the UBP was selling out your race', a powerful weapon. This message was delivered on the doorstep in the early days of canvassing and cranked up in the press during the final week. Bermuda's racial wounds are still raw, the PLP masterfully re-open these wounds for political purposes regularly.

If you don’t believe the success of the PLP’s race based campaigning then consider this: the PLP essentially ran no campaign, didn’t present a position on any of the major issues, didn’t bother to produce a platform, and didn’t have candidates until a couple of weeks before. The party was in such disarray that the newly elected group almost imploded minutes after the votes were counted.

This brings me right back to the initial question? Did the UBP manage to rise from the ashes, present itself as a viable party and compete on its own accord (which they did to some extent) or was the success largely attributable to the PLP’s own “disarray and miserable campaign”.

I believe that if you don’t subscribe to a slightly modified second assessment, that the PLP contributed as much to the UBP’s success (and revival in the pre-2003 election years) as the UBP did, that you’ve got your head in the clouds.

So where does that leave the UBP? Quite simply, the UBP have to continue doing what they’ve been doing - but be prepared to lose some support in order to gain more (ie. don't pander to the Old White Bermudian membership). The party needs to spend some time doing some soul searching, re-defining their own core values and becoming more relevant and inspiring to a country with a large black majority. As an opposition it is too easy to be reactive, forgetting to define what you stand for. The UBP must take the country in its own direction, bearing in mind that the PLP are clearly going to using Independence as the 3rd step in a race based strategy to retain the Government.

Firstly the PLP used the theme of “Emancipation” to achieve victory in 1998. We graduated to “Affirmation” in 2003, and the next election will be “Independence” (or some more powerful term representing the breaking of the colonial master's chains) as the final step towards Emancipation (we come full circle). So Bermuda can look forward to at least one more round of PLP race based campaigning, intended to mask the feeling of betrayal from the corruption and scandals which are about to erupt, characterising the PLP's second term. Independence, it is hoped, will "distract from scandals involving Cabinet-level graft and fiscal malfeasance".

Unless the UBP defines its own vision and direction for Bermuda (which could very well include Independence), inspiring Bermudians to come along with it, the future will continue to be an uphill battle - regardless of any criminal record of the PLP administration.

| More

| 3 Comments

If you've been following MoveOn.org's Bush in 30 Seconds Competition you might be interested in the 15 finalists.

Make sure you've got a little time on your hands for the downloads as they can be quite large.

Anything intended to move Bush back to Texas gets my support!

| More

A couple of changes to commenting on the site:

1) I've added private comments to the site. I often receive comments via email from readers and want to make this process a little easier and more obvious. Additionally, I want to encourage input from people who may want to remain anonymous, although I still require a valid email address for submitting a published or private comment.

I reserve the right to use private comments in an unattributed manner if deemed of interest, unless specifically stated otherwise.

2) I've removed the commenter's email addresses from public display as I think it inhibits some people from posting due to privacy and spam concerns. The climate for political dissent has become much more harsh since the PLP took over and people are reluctant to speak out. As a result if you include a URL in the comment form, your URL will be displayed (on the individual entry's page), otherwise the name/nickname only will be shown.

| More

Where do we start with Hardell's recent securing of a Judgment in Default against the Government (namely Transport Minister Dr. Ewart Brown and Tourism Minister Renee Webb)? As the details of Hardell's complaint aren't yet too well known, although some aspects of it have been reported, I'll focus on the Attorney General's apparent negligence in putting up a defence.

I've been meaning to discuss this since the story broke but I've been trying to pin down some details, primarily whether a Judgment in Default can be obtained against the Crown. Well the answer seems to be yes, but it is very difficult.

Here's what Order 77, which deals with judgments in default against the Crown, says:

77/9 Judgment in default
9 (1) Except with the leave of the Court, no judgment in default of appearance or of pleading shall be entered against the Crown in civil proceedings against the Crown or in third party proceedings against the Crown.

According to an attorney friend of mine this means that:

"the proper interpretation of Order 77 is that the leave must be obtained via a summons. I certainly think that that is the way a court would interpret it since, the very fact that Order 77 exists must necessarily mean that, in order to obtain judgment in default against the Crown, you must do something above and beyond what would be necessary is the defendant was a private individual."

Additionally I understand that even though a Judgment in Default was obtained it is a relatively simple thing to set aside, probably even more so when it is against the Crown. So we're almost certainly back to the courts with this one. Many issues arise from the obtaining of this initial judgment and the potential exposure of the Bermuda Government (read YOU) to 4 million dollars in damages.

While working on this post I received an email in response to Paula Cox's statements in the Bermuda Sun on Friday. I've included excerpts from the email below as it more than adequately hits on all the relevant issues:

"1. Her (Ms. Cox) comments seem to imply wrongdoing on the part of Hardell’s attorney, Richard Horseman of Wakefield Quin – suggesting that he failed to follow ‘protocols’ and was incorrect to seek judgment in default in the circumstances. Absolute crap – he had already granted the AG’s chambers an extension within which they had to file a Defence, wrote a letter to them to remind them that, unless they served a Defence on Wakefield Quin within the new time limit, they would seek judgment in default against them AND he waited the best part of a week past the time limit before filing for judgment. Who’s in the wrong here?

"2. Whilst the judgment in default will probably be set aside (with costs awarded to Hardell, mind you), this should not be construed as any kind of vindication of the attorney general (for, ultimately, it is her responsibility that the judgment was obtained – I don’t care that she has a full time job with ACE, or that she has another Ministry to look after. This is precisely why we shouldn’t have politically-appointed AG’s). The judgment will probably be set aside – not because the government is in the right – but because it is incredibly easy to get a default judgment set aside. The government only needs to show that there is a ‘triable issue’ in dispute between the parties. In layman’s terms – unless the case is an absolute ‘slam-dunk’ for Hardell, the judgment will be set aside, even if the judge is of the view that Hardell are likely to prevail at the end of the day.

"3. Paula Cox’s implied suggestions of misconduct on the part of Hardell’s attorneys are, in themselves, in breach of the Barristers’ Code of Professional Conduct, which provides that no Barrister shall make disparaging comments about another.

"4. Most worryingly – and another reason why we shouldn’t have a politically-appointed AG – Paula Cox, by her comments today in the Bermuda Sun, shows that she has NO IDEA how a party even obtains default judgment against another in Supreme Court proceedings. She states that the Plaintiff may conduct ‘a search’ of the Supreme Court registry to see if a Defence has been filed and, if not, may seek default judgment. WRONG. There is no obligation at all for a party to file a Defence at the Supreme Court Registry. The Defendant’s only obligation is to serve a Defence on the Plaintiff. If the matter eventually gets set down for trial, the Plaintiff must compile and file a bundle of pleadings (including any Defence) at the Registry, but this doesn’t occur for quite some time after proceedings are commenced. Don’t you think that it is more than a little worrying that the most senior attorney for the Government of Bermuda has literally NO IDEA about a procedure as simple as that involving default judgment?"

Well said!

I think the Royal Gazette was quite kind in referring to this as a "Blunder". I'd say the AG was negligent and this case has revealed that she is completely uninvolved in the day to day affairs of the AG's chambers. In Ms. Cox's own words:

"(I) take it very personally, but even though I may not have personal conduct, I am the Attorney General, so it would be unconscionable in my view if the Government’s case failed because in any way this could be seen as due to a lack of due diligence on the part of Chambers."

That looks to me like she is saying "Yeah, I'm the AG but I'm not involved in the running of the Chambers, so don't look at me".

Note that the AG stated that she was not personally involved! I'd hate to know what type of case would actually qualify for her attention if a $4M claim against the Government, because of the actions of two of her Cabinet colleagues, wasn't enough.

Additionally her comments appear to be attempting to shift the blame to the lawyers in Chambers. I hate to break it to the AG but she's the AG. It's her office. She runs it and ultimately she must accept ultimate responsibility, a foreign concept to PLP Ministers. Ms. Cox is clearly unable to balance two Ministries (Education and Attorney General) and her full-time job at ACE. Ms. Cox is getting paid handsomely for all of these responsibilities (including her private sector job) yet I'd bet none of them are getting the attention they deserve.

The AG needs to take personal responsibility for this debacle. Premier Scott should ask Ms. Cox to devote all of her energies to her ministries and take a leave of absence from her job. Alternatively she could step down if she isn't prepared to make the people's business paramount, since that's what she was elected for. Perhaps Premier Scott is aware that his backbenches are so devoid of talent that he has few options.

This also raises the additional question of who else could fill the Attorney General's role. The PLP have no other qualified lawyers in Parliament and I don't think you can have a Senator as AG! So it appears Ms. Cox refusing the role would necessitate a return to a non-Political AG - something the PLP will never allow.

As an aside, I spent the whole of July 24th, 2003 (Election day) standing in the sun with Ms. Cox outside our polling station. Towards the end of the day a friend of mine asked her specifically if she wanted to be the AG and she answered definitively "No, I'm not interested. Absolutely not."

It appears that she was telling the truth.

| More

| 3 Comments

Civil Servants, while much maligned for their productivity, are reasonable people. I spent two summers in the Parks Department (about 8 years ago) where there was a genuine respect for senior employees and certainly the Minister, although the same petty office politics were present that exist in any organisation. I was never around when a Minister was present, so I don't know if people stood or not, but this whole controversy around Renee Webb is symptomatic of a larger problem.

Actually I've always thought that the unrequired formality between similar level civil servants was a little over the top (calling co-workers by their surnames - Ms. Smith, for example). In my experience, civil servants tend to err on the side of being overly deferential. In light of this I look at the Renee Webb controversy as a real problem. Nothing good will come out of Tourism under her leadership, because she isn't going to change.

The following quote from the article sums it up quite well:

A senior civil servant also confirmed staff are expected to stand up for Ministers, but said it showed the extent to which Ms Webb’s relationship with staff had deteriorated that she had to demand this from them.

“Yes, absolutely, staff should stand up, but she shouldn’t have to ask for it, should she?” said the source.

When you juxtapose this with the PLP's election proclamations that they are the party of the people, the D.O.T. revolt is pretty telling. I vividly recall Renee Webb screeching at a PLP election rally something to the effect of "Do you really think that Grant Gibbons from Tuckers Town understands your needs as well as we can". Well, maybe not but I bet he's more approachable and receptive to them than Renee Webb.

We've never had this type of anger by the civil service. They feel undervalued and treated with dis-respect since the PLP came in. This isn't the first time this issue has cropped up. A few years ago the Civil Service was angry because a memo was sent out with then-Premier Jennifer Smith demanding that people use a ridiculously pretentious title in any correspondence to her, including an Honourary Degree.

Bermuda's a small place and we're all pretty familiar with each other. We're electing representatives not monarchs. We'd get much more done without all this pretense in the conducting of our Governmental affairs. If Minister Webb treated D.O.T. employees with some respect, I imagine she'll get some in return.

Perhaps they'd be happy to stand when she entered the room.

| More

| 1 Comment

I'm going to write some more on this topic later but if you haven't bought the Mid Ocean yet today I'd do so.

There are 3 good articles:

1) An interview with Khalid Wasi (a friend of mine) about the emergence of a new activist group to try and gain the middle ground in Bermuda politics
2) John Swan elaborating on his comments in last week's Royal Gazette.
3) Tim Hodgson's editorial on what John Swan may be up to.

Well worth reading.

| More

| 1 Comment

Bill Zuill has started the New Year with a fantastic editorial pulling the rug out from under the PLP. Their track record on Bermudianisation is very different from their self-congratulatory proclamations.

| More

Archives