January 2005 Archives

The pondblogger has picked up (follow the link and scroll down to Jan. 30, 2nd item) a story in the Telegraph ranking that annoying Scottish Labour MP Ian Davidson, friend of our PLP, 15th out of 658 British MPs in spending.

"In July 2003, Mr Davidson also managed to squeeze in an 11-day trip to Bermuda to observe elections there. His accommodation was paid for by the country's ruling Progressive Labour Party."

They must have formed a common bond over an appreciation for taxpayer funded junkets.

I remember hearing Mr. Davidson, during his 2003 visit, speaking at one of the PLP's rallies in July. That would make his visit partisan and political, not as an independent observer.

On that basis it would be interesting to know if, like the Focus Groups, the taxpayer not the party picked up the bill.

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I'm on the fence as to whether to waste energy disecting Laverne Furbert's letter segment by segment as I'd originally planned, but there is one very important thing that needs pointing out here in a separate post, which highlights the dishonesty in her response.

Ms. Furbert said:

After all, it was not too long ago that he used his venom against Dr. Brown in one of his columns by using such words as “inflexible, prime misleader, wicked, weak, cagey,” etc. etc.

Ok, two things here. Firstly, one of her initial points was that she didn't read my columns, but let's not get hung up on that.

Secondly and the real issue is that there’s a, um, tiny little itty bitty, well very big fundamental act of dishonesty here.

The words 'wicked' and 'weak' jumped out at me as things I wouldn't have said. So I went back to do a word search on my RG articles and what did I find? Well Ms. Furbert pulled those from this article on GPS where 'wicked' and 'weak' were words that the taxi drivers had used about Dr. Brown, not me. I was recouting an event. Big difference. The sentence is as follows, judge for yourself:

The mistrust toward the Premier and his Deputy was palpable. Comparisons to Fidel Castro were raised, the Government was accused of running a dictatorship and Bermuda’s leaders were labeled as ‘wicked’ and ‘weak’.

Those funny things around those words are called quotes in case anyone is confused.

And it didn't stop there. 'Inflexible' appeared earlier in the same article, where I wrote that Dr. Brown would have us believe that the taxi drivers were ‘inflexible’ - not that Dr. Brown himself was inflexible. Again a big difference. But you don't have to take my word for it, here's that sentence. Judge for yourself:

"It’s not surprising then the taxi owners are wary, not inflexible, as the Minister would have you believe."

But of course those details might get in the way of a dishonest response.

Which is why of course the Editor allowed me the right of reply at publishing, because her response completely misstated my complaint into a personal attack on Derrick Burgess and contained blatant untruths. But I was only afforded a couple of hours to put together a response, which resulted in my brief and incomplete rebuttal.

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Money quote from The Workers Voice (Vol. 30 issue 6, Friday Jan 21, 2005) in an article entitled 'Worker: Berkeley site work done mostly by foreigners':

"The worker, who asked not to be named, told The Workers Voice that he has been hoping to once again be working full time on the site, said that the majority of workers there now are white foreigners." [Final italics mine]

If the place is using foreign workers when suitable Bermudian ones are available then there is a problem. But can someone enlighten me as to why the race of the foreign workers is relevant?

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Today I broke one of my New Year's resolution not to waste money. But as someone told me this morning that I was honoured with the headline in the esteemed 'The Workers Voice', the BIU's newsletter, I made an exception.

So, at great pains I paid 25c for my copy and, well, the entertainment factor alone is worth more than the cost, by alot.

I'm going to hit a few of the highlights over a few more posts, but the reason I bought it was for the headline story which invoked my name: 'LaVerne responds to Gazette columnist Dunleavy's attack', which was just a reprint of the first of Laverne Furbert's two non-response responses to my column regarding Derrick Burgess' comments on managing the Bermudian worker.

I'm going to follow this post with a line by line analysis of Ms. Furbert's two letters, but the interesting thing was the intro to the piece:

'Editor's note: The following is the text of a column that appeared in the morning daily this week. The piece was authored by Sister LaVerne Furbert and it was in response to a column that criticized Brother Derrick Burgess for a statement that he is purported to have given to The Bermuda Sun recently.' [Italics mine]

'... a statement that he is purported to have given to the Bermuda Sun recently.'

'Purported'! This is The Workers Voice, the official newsletter of the BIU, the union that Derrick Burgess is president of. And they want to suggest that he might not have given the statement but don't have a definitive confirmation or denial from him (he's quoted in other articles so his phone must have been working)!

But I can understand why the Union is furiously backpedaling on this and misstating my argument - or as someone said to me 'trying to unring the bell' - but I've seen no retraction from the Sun, and surely Brother Derrick could have confirmed for his own newsletter whether he actually said it. Which of course he did.

But anyway, the content of the article is a reprint of the original RG non-response. But of course they didn't have the courtesy or integrity to include my original column, which is certainly convenient if you want to misstate my argument in your response and suggest I actually personally attacked Derrick Burgess, and not a statement that he obviously regrets making.

More soon ...

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Last night I received this email from Nosheen Syed, Director or Research at Research.bm:

"My name is Nosheen Syed. I am the Director of Research for Research.bm. Your website was brought to my attention. I would like to advise you that Research.bm has no part in any poll that may or may not have been conducted. Perhaps this is another agency. I wanted the opportunity to set the record straight."

Which is interesting because someone else has been then because a number of people have told me they have been polled in the past month, some as recently as in the last week. And one person I spoke with, who I absolutely trust, told me that they were polled in late December and then asked about participating in a Focus Group.

But I have no reason to not believe Ms. Syed, and my beef is with Government not Research.bm, so I'll continue to dig around and see who is behind the recent polling.

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If you've been polled recently and/or attended any of these Focus Groups I'd be interested in hearing from you. Just click on feedback here or at the bottom of this message.

Specifically I'd like to know what questions were asked, when the poll/focus group took place, how long they lasted etc..

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It seems that not only is Research.bm conducting Focus Groups (paid for by DCI) but that a phone poll is/was being conducted in conjuction with this.

I've now spoken with two people who have advised me that they participated in a phone poll. One was asked upon concluding the questioning as to whether he/she would be interested in participating in a Focus Group (in late December 2004), the other wasn't.

So, on to the poll. The content of the questions were described to me as including issues and being very heavy on education (which is fine), with Independence thrown in there, but also about individuals and parties.

Questions included the favourability/popularlity of Alex Scott, what you liked/disliked about him, who would you vote for (party) etc..

The last point is political in nature and despite Beverle Lottimore at DCI's protests, is inappropriate in a Government poll.

So there's a few things I'll be commenting on over the next several days, arising out of this:

1) Holding the PLP accountable for this misuse of taxpayer funds.
2) What else we're paying for (remember the political broadcasting change of early 2003).
3) What this reveals about the Social Agenda.
4) Implications for the timing of a general election.

CORRECTION: The original post stated that the individuals had been polled by Research.bm. Research.bm denies that they have conducted any polling, and the reference to Research.bm has been removed.

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Putting aside the unethical abuse of taxpayer funds and the Civil Service which is occurring in these Focus Groups for a minute, doesn't this blow the whole lid off the Social Agenda?

I mean, according to my attendee, the issue oriented questions were asking about what the participants thought the Government should do on specific portfolios.

Now we did hear in the Throne Speech that much of the Social Agenda was more studies, and there was lots of criticism of that, but weren't we also told about how ready to move on the major issues of the day the Government was? Shouldn't the Government - after 6 years in the drivers seat - be a little further on than this?

Seems that not surprisingly, the Social Agenda was nothing more than a hastily thrown together tagline, a substanceless ploy to buy time.

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There's a little more info coming in on the Focus Groups being carried out by Research.bm on behalf of Government (Dept. of Communications or DCI).

Two more people contacted me today, both who were turned away as the groups were over-attended. They got $100 and a 'thanks for coming out'.

But someone who did attend has made it clear that political issues relating to the specific performance and favourability of Alex Scott and the PLP were discussed.

Questions like:

"Rate the Premier's performance on a scale of 1-5"


"Use one word to describe the current Government".

That's political and completely out of order. It is inappropriate to use taxpayer funds through the DCI or any department to research on political matters, which is exactly what is going on.

The civil service is supposed to be entirely a-political and this type of stuff is not permitted. Taxpayer funds are not to be used for political activities. Sure PR can be a little fuzzy but this isn't even on the fringe, it is just blasting right through the ethics and independence of the civil service. The civil service has been compromised and taxpayer dollars used inappropriately.

I've always been suspicious of the rapidly growing DCI under the PLP. The Central Policy Unit (CPU), and DCI seem to me like a permanent taxpayer funded campaign organisation for the PLP.

Someone has to answer for this. We deserve to know exactly what went on in these sessions, whose budget it came out of, what the questions were etc..

The session was described to me as a 'fishing expedition' and detailed a little more in this general assessment by an attendee:

"The bulk of the evening was focused around the current government, how we felt they were doing, what we felt were their strengths and areas where they should improve and at the end we were given handouts listing 10 issues from the throne speech (the same issues we had discussed all evening - housing, health, seniors, safety, tourism, finance, education...) with details below and we were asked to add out thoughts and comments to the sheet and asked how important each item was to us and what we would like to see happen in each area."

Larry Dennis (Auditor General), we have another job for you, seeing as the Ombudsman is yet to be appointed.

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Well that was fast.

Following up my last post about Research.bm Focus Groups I received the below quoted comments from a reader about one of the sessions.

This sounds an awful lot like taxpayer funded pre-election political work, testing out support levels etc., most helpful in gauging the optimal time to call an election and what to run on.

Key phrase is: 'said she was hired by the Department of Communication'.

Note that at least some of the questions focused on individuals and party not Government policy. That smells fishy to me. We should not be funding either party's polling and message testing etc.. That should come out of party funds.

Due to start at 5.00 for 2 hours, it started at 5.45 due to lateness. I only mention that, because it was 'important' to the leader that the groups of 10 were fully constituted.

Groups were split up into Male and Female - no mixing.

The Group Leader was Black/American...introduced herself as "living in New York".

She told the group, that she had been hired by the Department of Communication, to draw out from the group, their thoughts on various topics - central to which was whether the group felt that the Government communicated with the public.

They were asked a series of questions, and invited to offer a verbal response. The responses were recorded into a tape recorder and they were filmed by way of an unseen camera.

Ethnic composition of the group was 60/40 (B/W) and appeared to be from mixed economic backgrounds.

The types of questions asked were:

* Was Alex Scott a good leader.
* Was the PLP doing a good job etc

Each response to this type of question, opened up further debate on issues raised by the group members, e.g. "They have done a good job on housing". "Oh really"....said another member...."why do you say that"? Etc

Group members were asked to take notes and record their opinions/feelings, even if they did not want to divulge their opinion in public. All notes were kept - and the group was told that they would be summarised as part of the presentation to the Government.

Overall impression, was that the process was professionally handled and managed.

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I received a random (or so they say) call the other night asking if I was interested in participating in focus groups on topical issues for an organisation called Research.bm.

After enthusiastically agreeing - I love spouting off as you all know - the caller seemed quite pleased but had one final question:

Q. "Do you work in advertising or marketing, do you work for the press or are you in a political party".

A. (reluctantly) "Well, err, hmmm... well yeah. I write a political column for The Royal Gazette and I was cannon fodder for the UBP at the last election."

Q. Silence. "Well that's too bad. Do you know anyone else who might be interested?"

So, are you interested? If so, send them an email at contact@research.bm.

I scouted around their website a little. It's got a funky layout and attractive design and what they do looks interesting.

There was no information on who the principals of the company are so I did a BermudNIC Domain WHOIS lookup. The site registrant and administrative contact is listed as Ben Fairn, the Managing Director of Aardvark Communications, who may be behind the company or just their advertising agency/website designers.

Anyway, let me know what you hear if you do sign up.

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I've linked to this letter responding to my RG column of last week (never published on RG's website).

We (as Premier Scott would say) will have some fun with this later, but the Editor (rather belatedly) gave me the right of reply at time of publication, which is included at the end of the letter.

But the response was typical in that it used the standard PLP/BIU format of:

- misrepresent the original argument
- attack the individual
- play the race card

Anyone who read my original column would know that Ms. Furbert fails to come remotely close to addressing the crux of my complaint, namely Derrick Burgess's comments about managing the Bermudian worker.

But my favourite line in her letter was that I should be 'grateful that the PLP allows freedom of expression'.

Whoah! So that's where the chill in the air the past few days came from.

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RG Opinion (19 Jan. 2005)

Answering the Premier's Dare

“.. in actual fact Bermuda is governed very nicely, thank you very much and I dare anyone to challenge that."

The above invitation was issued by Premier Alex Scott in The Royal Gazette during his charm offensive – emphasis on the offensive – of last week. I’ve never been known to turn down a free lunch, particularly one with such an abundance of enticingly juicy low-hanging fruit, so I’ll take that dare. But to be honest, the only challenge is where to start, and keeping within my word limit.


In the beginning, there was … corruption and mismanagement. After 30 years on the opposition benches, the first term of a PLP administration was notable by the absence of a plan to improve the lives of Bermudians but an ambitious one to improve the lives of the new Government and their cronies.

Most notably there was the BHC, and then the BHC again. Initially we discovered that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were missing, while even more had been directed to contractors at vastly inflated prices. Then, to add insult to injury during a housing crisis, we discovered that at least two Cabinet Ministers used the BHC as their own personal real estate agency, covertly transacting business without declaring their interests.


After corruption there was investigation. But we now know that in the New Bermuda investigations stop at the door of the Cabinet Office. These extended inquiries produced little of substance, with the buck stopping well short of the implicated elected officials who were never questioned about their dubious behaviour.

Thus began the decline of accountability in our ‘nicely’ governed island, where the Premier crows about the creation of an Ombudsman’s post as a watershed moment in good governance, except of course that the Ombudsman is forbidden from investigating those who govern.


And of course there was deception. We know the story all too well. A tale of how Alex Scott found himself crowned the Accidental Premier; installed solely as a compromise candidate to end a standoff between two PLP camps. The wisdom and desperation of this move is apparent today, with directionless and deliberately deceptive politics practiced with pride.

The outrage of this compromise wasn’t that the party replaced its leader, but that it occurred only hours after the final votes had been counted and the electorate had spoken. This incident was not, as we are told, a triumph of democracy. It was the lowest point in our electoral history, an electoral result subverted. ‘We misled you because we had to’, is the notorious value statement of this Government.


Moving right along, the taxpayers find our hard-earned-but-easily-collected dollars at risk in an entirely avoidable arbitration, one arising from the Premier’s signature accomplishment – the yet to be accomplished Berkeley school project.

Ostensibly a school, but more closely resembling an incinerator project for taxpayer dollars, is years late, with $700,000 missing, likely to be at least twice over budget, embroiled in a costly legal battle and with our highest elected official unable to decide whether the contract was awarded on the merits of the bid or as a stab at empowerment.

It’s ironic then that the most notable outcome is an out of work ‘economically empowered’ contractor, and a cynical public. But at least the lawyers will get paid.


And then there was the resignation of Renee Webb, the Minister who looks a little bit like all of us. Ms. Webb’s surprise resignation triggered an unintentionally entertaining and revealing look at what most people assumed was occurring in Cabinet.

It was during this dispute that Alex Scott became a man – or ‘The Man’, and Renee Webb predicted the impending fraud that is the Social Agenda, a “ten year all-encompassing cross Ministry initiative” to do exactly what Government hasn’t, but should have, been doing all along.

Only in Alex Scott’s world do a computer recycling program, road signs and traffic calming receive such hype and take ten years.

More Deception

And now, we find ourselves right back where it all started for this Premier, with deception.

In an implicit admission that his Government has not, cannot, and will not deliver on the things that everyone wants, we find ourselves in the midst of a campaign that almost no-one wants.

Independence we are told will bring us together, and in this belief the Premier may for the first time be correct. The deceptive and disingenuous campaign to manufacture phony constitutional crisis after phony constitutional crisis as justification for this unwanted excursion is succeeding. The community is uniting in opposition to Alex Scott with a 37% approval rating.

And we can’t forget Cuba, chronic labour unrest, Coco Reef, GPS, inaction on housing, rising crime, declining education standards, and on and on and on. Unfortunately I’m out of space, but dare accepted nonetheless.

Now can we get on with delivering on what the people want, not an obsession with the one issue they don’t?

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Dilbert does the PLP (popup image)

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We here at Politics.bm have become quite concerned about the mental stability of our Premier.

We were watching the latest installment of the Alex Scott Media Charm Offensive (emphasis on the 'offensive') on ZBM last night, when we noticed that 'The Man' seems to have multiplied into 'The Men'.

We sprayed Diet Sunkist across our living room when we heard The Man repeatedly refer to himself as the collective 'we'. Most notably, we counted upwards of 5 instances of 'we' and one instance of 'us' in response to just the final two questions from interviewer Jim MacKey.

For example, Mr. MacKey asked how comfortable the Premier was in his position after a year and a half at the helm, to which The Men responded that 'much more than we were one, two or three days after taking over'.

We thought this might have been a slip of his forked-tongue until we heard it several more times, in elaborating on his answer. In fact we lost count. Cementing our concern, the Premier told Mr. Mackey that he was 'pleased you could spend some time with us'.

We spent the night ruminating over the expansion of the Premier into a plurality, and can offer the following potential explanations:

1) The Cabinet Office is situated over Mount Doom, the Premier is in reality a hobbit formerly known as Smiegal, who refers to Independence as 'My Preciouuussssssssss'.

2) That Alex Scott might be just one personality of the multi-personalitied Sybil Scott, as wonderfully captured in the 1970s/80s film 'Sybil'.

3) That we live in the Matrix, ergo we're all slaves to the artificially intelligent architect. Alex Scott is Agent Smith and Grant 'Neo' Gibbons might be The One capable of resetting the Matrix.

4) That puppet-master Ewart Brown was discreetly crouched behind the plush stripey chair that was gobbling up our posturely-challenged Premier, whispering the answers to him, in a low tech version of the Bush Bulge.

Our concern is genuine and we'll stay tuned for further developments in the Lives and Times of Alex Scott.

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RG Opinion (11 Jan. 2005)

We mustn't let the BIU's work ethic sink us all

If you thought it was hard for a Bermudian with career aspirations to move up the corporate ladder, as of Friday January 7th 2005, it just got much, much harder. You can thank BIU President Derrick Burgess for that.

In an interview in the Jan. 7 edition of the Bermuda Sun, officially about the latest chapter in the Coco Reef saga, Mr. Burgess managed to validate every stereotype and every criticism of the Bermudian work ethic. He was even kind enough to create a couple of new lines of attack, erecting more obstacles in the career path of every Bermudian.

Responding to criticisms of the performance of the Coco Reef hotel staff by its outgoing director, Mr. Burgess ‘defended’ the Bermudian worker with a novel angle. Instead of focusing on the allegations themselves, he took a higher level approach, managing to disparage us all and accomplish what Coco Reef itself has been unable to do – he made them seem just a little bit sympathetic. Ok, that feeling didn’t last for long, but it was there.

So what did he say? The BIU President proudly proclaimed that the employer-employee relationship is different in Bermuda than other places, like the Caribbean. We have over-employment here and foreign managers need to adapt he said.

“In Bermuda, what we’ve adopted is not master servant relations where the master says, ‘Do this, do that.’ It is one of cooperation where the management will get your views and because it works better that way.”

“It’s a different style you need. Those that understand that and adapt to it and change their management style, they do great jobs. Those that come here and don’t adapt to what they see in the country as far as the economy won’t do as well.”

Translation: Performing the tasks a worker was hired for is demeaning. A manager must negotiate on a daily basis to see what an employee is agreeable to. If someone doesn’t feel like working, then so be it. Of course you can try and find someone else to do the job - but don’t forget they don’t exist (and we have an Immigration Department). Oh, and by the way, make sure you’ve got the payroll completed on time.

Can I get an Amen? I didn’t think so. Just how this approach has ‘worked better’ in tourism is anyone’s guess, as the thousands of beds and millions of dollars that have exited the anemic industry attest to. But it does clear up any lingering questions about why tourism is in such appalling shape.

Thanks to the Derrick Burgesses of our island, Bermudians are immediately at a disadvantage when seeking employment in our own country. We have to overcome a stigma that we’re lazy and averse to hard work, that foreign workers are more desirable. It’s a stigma inflicted on us by a vocal minority of the population, but inflicted on all Bermudians nonetheless.

The vast majority of us perform at a high level, higher than expected. Not because we’re servants but because we take pride in our work and understand that strong performance is rewarded. The last thing we need is someone labeling us all as unapologetic chronic under-performers – an island of workers who think that putting in an honest day’s work is akin to a master servant relationship.

Mr. Burgess might want to consider having a chat with his Tourism Minister. Dr. Brown recently identified poor service as one of the critical issues crippling tourism in Bermuda. Quite eloquently, he characterized our unacceptably low service standards as resulting from a belief in some quarters that equates ‘service with servitude’. Sound familiar? Maybe the two MPs can have a chat at their next caucus?

Our whole economy is service based. There’s nothing demeaning or undignified about performing the job you were hired for well, whether it’s serving drinks to our visitors or serving the insurance interests of a multi-million dollar client.

Everyone from the CEOs of our largest financial companies to the pot-washers in our restaurants serve their clients, customers and ultimately shareholders. More significantly perhaps, most Bermudians are working hard to get ahead, determined to rise to the top of a worldwide talent pool and make their mark professionally in our tiny island with a global presence.

Let’s hope that Mr. Burgess isn’t successful in extending his work ethic to our sole remaining economic pillar, international business. The over-employment aspect of his thesis will quickly fall apart if he is.

Our people are our only natural resource, and we’re competing against the world. We’ve already killed tourism; let’s not do the same to our financial services industry.

The worker of today is the manager of tomorrow. The manager of yesterday is the CEO of today. And lest we forget that owners and managers work too.

We all work, we all serve. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that.

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After Alex Scott claimed again today that Government is hamstrung in dealing with drugs, crime and public safety due to the Governor's oversight of the Police, two must-answer questions for the Premier spring to mind:

1) Name one instance when the Governor of Commissioner have ignored a request for action regarding a law and order issue?


2) Define 'the following' in this statement: "I can't direct the Minister for Public Safety to direct the Police Commissioner to do the following because he answers to the Governor."?

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Hmmm, perhaps I'll send a case of chewing gum to the Cabinet Office. If the Premier's mouth is full of a wad of gum it might prevent him from embarrassing himself when he speaks:

'Concerns that Government should be focusing on other, more pressing issues did not hold water with the Premier. "What - we can't chew gum and talk at the same time? Gee, how hard is it to discuss? Come on now," he said.'

Well, uh, that's the point isn't it. Your Government's woeful track record suggests that you don't seem able to chew gum or walk, let alone do them both together.

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Here you have it, from an interview in today's RG:

"We want to fight crime, drugs, and have a society that is safe for everyone. I can't direct the Minister for Public Safety to direct the Police Commissioner to do the following because he answers to the Governor. He responds to and respects the Minister but we don't control the chief cop in this community.

Nonsense. Utter nonsense. More on this later.

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"The Government stands solidly with the Police and will make available those resources that are required in order to guarantee the kind of safe and secure society that all of us have a right to expect."

Labour and Home Affairs Minister Randy Horton, 29 Dec. 2004

One Week Later

(Paraphrasing here) The inability to deal with crime and law and order lies with the Governor who is responsible for policing and internal security.

Premier Alex Scott, 06 Jan. 2005

So according to Alex Scott, just yesterday, the Government is helpless to get involved with the Police until we go independent. So was Randy Horton the Governor's puppet on New Years Eve?

Or are we again being played for fools by the Premier - on so many levels?

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From a reader, and a candidate for the claim vs. fact database:

"Did you happen to catch the VSB interview with Alex Scott last night (I heard it this AM on the radio) wherein he blamed the government's ability to adequately deal with crime and prevention thereof on the Governor (in his capacity as the head of the police service) and the Commissioner as they are the parties directly responsible for policing and internal security? He went on to say that these barriers would be removed in an independent Bermuda. Am I wrong here or is he saying that Bermuda's crime rate and violence will continue to spiral southward (pun intended) until we're independent? Talk about scare tactics !!

"I think what he's really indicating is that his government isn't capable of providing the necessary guidance to the governor (as was successfully done under the UBP) nor are they capable of properly allocating resources, fiscal and otherwise, needed by the police service, an effective prosecution and AG chambers to carry out their jobs properly dispensing justice.

"I imagine his comments are going to cause quite a flurry among the independence debaters and would hope that the UBP takes this opportunity to remind the electorate that they had no problem with the current setup and (to me recollection) didn't point the finger at the governor and the commissioner during periods of heightened criminal activity. This is just another example of an inept PLP."

A new low, even for Alex Scott.

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It felt like more than just a coincidence to see the story in today's RG about counterfeit money.

I think I'm becoming clairvoyant. Yesterday I bookmarked this piece on Slate, as something to link through to over here. The article discusses the move in a number of jurisdictions away from paper and towards plastic money.

Surely with such a small circulation of notes, Bermuda could easily implement this. This would improve the durability and security limitations of our current paper currency as well as achieve cost benefits.

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Oh, one important thing I forgot in my last post. In section III of the Bermuda Government's letter of Jan. 20, 2004 it states that:

"The Bermuda Government has tentatively selected a licensee, pending further final approvals and related governmental procedures."

So it looks like we're in negotiations with a DBS company already, presumably Echostar or Direct TV, back before 2004. It will be interesting to find out where the negotiations stand.

Let's see if I can get any joy out of the Department of Telecommunications.

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My last post about Government doing something about our historically terrible television options via Direct Broadcast Satellites (DBS) was semi-serious.

Obviously Government shouldn't buy a dedicated Bermuda satellite from one of the DBS companies -- they're extremely expensive, can fail on launch, degrade very quickly in orbit, and the Government can't manage a construction project let alone a satelite, for starters. But I do think that there might be some ways to try and get us some coverage from the big US Satellite TV providers to end the Vulcan death grip that Cablevision have had us under for so long.

Shortly after that post, a master Googler emailed me a couple of links to some recent (2004) correspondence between the Bermuda Government and the US Federal Communications Commission. My knowledge of the satellite business is extremely weak, but I'll make an effort to interpret what I've tracked down.

The FCC International Bureau requested comment in late 2003 on proposals to reduce the orbital spacing between DBS satellites. The full directory listing of correspondence can be found here, but it is quite technical and can take some time to get through.

The Bermuda Government responded on January 20th, 2004. The response is interesting.

What the Government's letter reveals is that we have 3 satellite 'slots' that were assigned to us some time ago. The economic potential of those was minimal or didn't exist until recently -- digital satellite technology was in it's infancy and restricted them to a solely Bermuda footprint.

This changed in the late 90's when:

1) the US government enacted DISCO II, which appears to allow non-US satellite providers to broadcast into the US, as well as US providers to broadcast to non-US customers.
2) digital and satellite technology improved with 'spot-beam' capabilities for targeted broadcasts (used by DBS companies to provide local station coverage for example) as well as signal shaping among other things.

The letter also reveals that the Bermuda Government is exploring the economic potential of at least one of these 3 slots (and has some concern about interference from reducing the spacing between slots and interference from other satellites operated from other regions.)

The only slot that is specifically referenced is at -96.2 degrees West Latitude, and my understanding is all these slots are around/over the equator. This location would appear, to my untrained eye, to be a prime location for the US market, hanging over the US mid-west or thereabouts. (There is also a follow-up letter, reiterating the Bermuda Government's concerns, filed with the FCC on April 21, 2004.)

So in short all this suggests that:

Our 3 slots are not necessarily over Bermuda. If any of those slots have a major US metro region in their footprint, they are worth huge sums of money to license them to a satellite operator. It also sounds like the Isle of Man has done so, but wants to do it in a way that might degrade our slot.

So, what does all that mean. It suggests Bermuda has some potential to commercially develop at least one satellite slot, but more importantly - from my TV deprived self-serving perspective - it suggests that we might have some leverage in making a trade with one of the US DBS providers:

They can rent our slot to serve the lucrative US market, and as part of the agreement we receive spot beam coverage for our little 60,000 people market. We'll happily pay like a regular customer, no more piracy, forged decoder cards etc., we just want some coverage.

Anyway, I'm going to place a little call to the Department of Telecommunications to see if I can get some clarity on:

1) the status of the slots and negotitations over reducing the orbital spacings
1b) if new 4.5 degree separated slots have been created, did we get more allotments
2) what Bermuda's intentions are for our existing 3 slots
3) and where the other 2 slots are (one is at -96.2 WL)

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Over the holidays, while on hiatus from my whining on this site, I spent considerable time thinking about a couple of things that consume an inordinate amount of my cranial time: better ways to spend the money that the Guv'ment cronically wastes, but more importantly how to improve our television choices.

Suddenly, in a moment of rare clarity, the answer came to me: these are actually part of the same question. Stick with me for a second.

The Money: Let's look at the money that has been, and no doubt will continue to be wasted at the Money Pit, I mean Berkeley. If it ever is completed, and that's a big if, this is anticipated to run about twice it's original estimate (and actual value as an asset) of $70M. So Government will waste an extra $70M, or maybe closer to $100M, of our money on a building that wasn't really needed in the first place.

The TV: Getting decent TV programming in Bermuda has, and probably always will be, an unsatisfying feat - sort of like expecting the truth from Alex Scott. US export restrictions, our isolated location, small market etc. mean we're of little interest to any decent satellite provider. (I don't even include Cablevision here as an option. They're so hopelessly horrible and WOW doesn't seem to be doing much better.)

So I sat, wondering what we could do to get better TV, when it dawned on me:

If Government can nonchalantly throw an unnecessary $70M - $100M extra at Berkeley, then the least they could do would be to save the money and get us a Bermuda satellite from, or maybe instead a spot beam directed from an existing Dish Netork, DirectTV or Voom satellite. A satellite costs about $250M from design to launch so surely $70M would provide an incentive to give likkle Bermy some coverage!

Imagine, no need for a monstrous 6ft dish in your yard, every channel would be available - all the time, High Definition broadcasts and a Government using our money on something that might actually have a noticeable improvement on our lives for a change. I bet it would be a big vote getter too!

Just a suggestion.

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