October 2005 Archives

Even 'P' thinks that his Cabinet is crap and publicly berates them:

Warning PLP conference delegates gathered at Devonshire Recreation Club that the ride would not be smooth he said: "Ministers will be held to a higher level of accountability and competency and treading water with no innovation must result in Cabinet shuffles – sooner rather than later.

I do not intend to compromise on standards and will continue to do all I can to ensure that we have the most effective Cabinet ever. I expect high standards of ethical governance and delivery on promises that have been made and that are required to be kept.

Mr. Scott added: "I expect no less than what I am prepared to do."

The Premier would do well to heed Wayne Furbert's advice quoted in a Mid Ocean News editorial some weeks back:

"If I was Alex Scott, I'd go to Government House right now and tender my resignation as Premier on the basis that I had lost confidence in myself." – Wayne Furbert

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After having further discussions with a few lawyerly types it would seem that the Political Broadcast Directions that I discussed yesterday - and how they would apply to Senator Burch's radio talk show - are open to a substantial amount of interpretation.

I've heard a range of opinions on how they may or may not apply, and don't think at this point that I could point to any real consensus, nor have the 2003 amendments ever been tested.

But, as one reader pointed out to me this morning, the PLP's track record of respect for the regulations surrounding political broadcasts isn't a good one:

"I might be a bit off-point, but I sometimes wonder whether the PLP ever paid the $300,000 they were supposed to cough up after Jennifer Smith ran a 30-min one-sided policitical broadcast. I think it was in early 2001 or thereabouts."

The reader is correct. Jennifer Smith ran a televised speech that was paid for by the taxpayers yet subsequently deemed to be political due to its partisan nature and attacks. The party, under then Premier Jennifer Smith, never saw fit to do the honourable thing and reimburse the taxpayers as directed (of which I'm unsure of the amount).

You're surprised?

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Mid Ocean News (28 Oct. 2005)
UBP MP John Barritt's 'View From the Hill'

LIKE you, Mr. Editor, I am never surprised by the growing number of people who seem to have the answer to our problems, but not the solution. Independence for Bermuda, and those who push for it, appear to fit comfortably into that category. BIC included. Let’s go to the Report for an example of what I am talking about. This time it is about the way in which we govern ourselves – or, more accurately, the way in which we allow ourselves to be governed. The passage to which I am referring is found in a chapter entitled “Findings of the Commission” in a short section headed “Political”:

“The Westminster style of government has served Bermuda well; however, the challenges facing Bermuda today demand a change in this inherent adversarial approach”.

We could quibble about the use of the word “style”. But I think we know what BIC meant. It’s the system – and the Westminster system of parliamentary government is decried because, in the eyes of the Commissioners, the political parties (I assume they mean both PLP and UBP) spend too much time in the Legislature trying to score political points, and, further, according to BIC, the fundamental issue of what’s right or wrong for the country takes a back seat to the political balance sheet.

Strong stuff, Mr. Editor – and who am I to disagree? But the criticism is not new. We have it heard before – for some long numbers of years in fact, and not just under the PLP but the UBP as well. Speaking for myself, I think we do not spend enough time actually debating the issues of the day: too much time and effort in the House of Assembly has long since been given over to the laborious reading of lengthy statements and prepared briefs by Government Ministers. This worst trait is best illustrated when the annual Budget rolls around in February when you can see for yourself just how choreographed and predictable and tedious debate has become. But I digress. Back to the Report and the Commissioner’s recommendation:

“The challenges facing Bermuda today require that there be a change in this style of governance.”

A change in the style of governance: what’s that got to do with independence, Mr. Editor? Nothing, in my view. But as long as we are on the subject let me make a few of my own observations and, yes, this won’t be the first time I have gone on about the need for parliamentary reform in Bermuda. We can change the way in which we govern ourselves now. We don’t have to wait until independence. All we need is the will to change and a willingness to act. But the PLP Government has shown itself to be steadfastly uninterested, if not flat out against any suggestion of parliamentary reform. Attempts to bring about reform in the House of Assembly have either been rebuffed or allowed to languish without action within the Rules and Privileges Committee, a committee headed by the Speaker and controlled by a PLP majority.

This isn’t rocket science. Nor is it radical surgery. We have fallen well behind the modern practices and procedures of other parliamentary jurisdictions whether they are to the west of us, the east, the north or the south.

Meanwhile, selected local parliamentarians traipse off annually on all expenses paid trips to conferences and seminars organized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, of which Bermuda is a member, where they are exposed to presentations on changes and improvements which have been made to the Westminster system of government, all of which have been designed to bring about and have brought about better governance.

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Page 32 of today's Gazette contains a half page advertisement from the Bermuda Independence Committee pleading their case after taking a pounding for the past couple of months.

There's a few things of note about the letter:

1) Perhaps not the most obvious element of the release is that not every BIC Commissioner signed the statement (and bear in mind they all signed the report itself)

Who signed:

- Bishop Vernon Lambe (Chairman)
- Derrick Burgess
- Dianna Kempe
- Gary Phillips
- Janet Smith Bradshaw
- Mike Winfield
- Crystal Caesar
- Eddy DeMello
- David Rowntree
- Robert Steinhoff

Who didn't sign:

- Marc Bean
- Rolfe Commissiong
- Donna Pearman
- Dame Lois Browne Evans (legal advisor)

Three of the Commissioners (and Dame Lois) didn't sign. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Next, is this lame excuse for stupidly attempting to mislead the public around the use of a referendum:

"The Report went through many variations, seemingly endless re-drafts and edits. In editing this section, we left a misleading and inaccurate statement. We apologize for the confusion this has caused."

So the statement that the commission found no instances of referendum's in determining sovereignty was an editing error? Give me a break. Even Premier Scott's racist email excuse was more creative than that. It's inclusion was intentional.

3) In response to the exclusion of the UBP's submission, the commission argues that all written submissions were summarized in Annex 27 (true) and that only those referenced in the text of the report were printed in full.

An objective report would have printed all the submissions in full (or perhaps none at all). Picking and choosing which submissions were worthy of comment and full inclusion speaks to the bias of the report and its authors. Selectively using submissions was clearly intended to draw attention to certain perspectives at the expense of others to further the report's pro-independence stance.

4) While the report gave special mention to "Benefits" and promised to explode the "Myths and Misconceptions", no section was dedicated to the benefits of continuing a relationship with the UK. The explantion?

"Some have stated that the Report does not address the benefits of the Status Quo and is therefore unbalanced. We are confident that all those reading the Report, will recognize the advantages of maintaining the status quo, which are contained, in some details, in the Report, particularly in sections 3.7 and 3.9"

Excusing the final sentence's terrible use of commas (we all have our moments), this is simply another example of the report's bias.

If the public is smart enough to infer the downsides of independence wouldn't they be smart enough to pick up on the upsides as well without the need for special sections. It's quite simple really: the pro arguments get preferential treatment and high play while the downsides get buried throughout the report.

This attempt for redemption is as weak as the report itself. The commissioners should just accept that their report has been discredited and dismissed.

A report that was billed as the definitive document on Independence isn't even part of the debate; it's irrelevant, not even a blip on the radar screen.

These commissioners lack credibility and their pleas are too little too late.

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I've been thinking about and discussing with a few people the implications of the statement made by David Burch that he has no intention of giving up his Sunday night radio talk show on HOTT 107.5FM now that he's a Senator.

Mr. Burch obviously is aware that if his show is deemed 'political' that he has much less wiggle room, hence his statement on VSB that most of the stuff he deals with isn't political, which is absurd if you've had the misfortune of tuning in.

Regardless, there are a couple of problems with this. Let's start with the obvious:

1) As a Cabinet Minister Sen. Burch operates under collective responsibility. Hence, when he speaks he speaks for Cabinet and any statement that he makes - and he's come up with some pretty offensive ones - represents all his colleagues and the Government of Bermuda. I struggle to believe that his colleagues are going to want him free-wheeling every Sunday night as he has been for the past few months.

2) From a legal perspective having a politician running a weekly radio talk show could run afoul, or at least test the limits, of the Political Broadcast Directions 1980 and their subsequent amendments in 2003.

I discussed some of this with a lawyer friend who provided the following comments - after a preliminary read of the act and amendments, so take it with a grain of salt:

The issue seems to boil down to the paragraphs 2 and 4C of Directions.

If the show is a political broadcast, then he would have to comply with all of rules relating to such broadcasts. The definition of 'political broadcast', as per paragraph 2, as amended, is:

"....a broadcast of a political nature the subject of which is designed to promote the view or interests of-

(a) a political party, a political organization, a person, or a group of persons which is not recognized as a party or organization;

(b) a member of the Legislature in that capacity; or

(c) a candidate, without equal time being given to promote contrary interests or views".

Arguably, Burch's show falls within the ambit of (a), (b) and (c).

The get out is paragraph 4C of the Directions:

"(1) Undertakings shall ensure that the reporting of news and public affairs is factual, is presented objectively and is without political bias.

.......................(4) Nothing contained in sub-paragraph (1) shall be construed as preventing an undertaking from broadcasting political commentary, so however, that

(a) the commentary is identified as being political; and

(b) an opportunity is given to the public, either contemporaneously with the broadcast or in a subsequent broadcast, to comment upon the commentary.".

'Political Commentary' is defined in paragraph 2 as:

"political commentary" means a broadcast of a political nature the subject of which is designed to promote public discussion and debate of political issues and includes political debates between political candidates or individuals with opposing views, news commentaries and talk shows;".

His show certainly falls within the definition of 'political commentary' (....." broadcast of a political nature the subject of which is designed to promote public discussion and debate of political issues"), BUT it may be possible to argue that it doesn't comply with 4C(4)b): "an opportunity is given to the public, either contemporaneously with the broadcast or in a subsequent broadcast, to comment upon the commentary".

I haven't listened to the show, but I have heard from several people who have that if you call in and disagree or offer opposing views you can expect to get cut-off and/or abused.

If this is the case, I do not think that it could accurately be said that the public is given the opportunity to 'comment upon the commentary' - this may make the show subject to censure by the Broadcast Commissioners and, certainly, he would have to change the show in order to give dissenting voices an opportunity to be heard.

I have listened to the show; dissenting opinions are not entertained and the guest list is decidedly one sided.

Political broadcasts are regulated differently depending on the period (oddly the closer you get to an election the less you can broadcast), but things like equal time and response for the Opposition, as well as Burch's show using up Government time could get sticky.

I'm going to sit down and re-read the act and amendments tonight to see if there are any other implication. But I'm not a lawyer, so I'd be interested in any other comments/interpretations that anyone might have.

Just click the "feedback" link at the end of this post and send me a note. Anonymity will of course be protected.

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One week ago I posted a note on some of the rumoured personal changes that might be coming down the pipe, and promised to follow up with some thoughts of my own on potential leadership challenges in the UBP. Time, a business trip and a lively news week interefered with that post...which is still coming.

But, some changes have already occurred both in the PLP and UBP, most notably the return of David Burch to the Senate for the PLP and the UBP's elevation of Jon Brunson to Deputy Leader and the desired nomination of Gina Spence-Farmer to the Senate (and ensuing scuffle with the Bermuda College).

So circumstances have overtaken me a bit, but something struck me as odd in yesterday's Gazette story on Jon Brunson becoming one of two Deputy Leaders in the UBP.

The odd thing was that there was no mention that Wayne Furbert must have stepped down to faciliate Brunson's stepping up. Wayne has been the subject of speculation lately as an aspirant to UBP leader.

I have absolutely no inside scoop as to what is going on in the UBP Parliamentary group with respects to leadership, but I struggle to believe that there isn't more to this than just a Deputy change.

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Whopper of the week:

David Burch, while being interviewed by VSB's Bryan Darby and asked whether he would be giving up his (tortuous) Sunday night talk show on Hott 107.5 (assuming he survives the restructuring) now that he's back in Cabinet:

"The real challenge would be when we're in election mode, because the main things that I cover are not political."

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (26 Oct. 2005)

If a public meeting flops in the middle of town does it mean that we don’t care? That’s the question being asked after only seven – yes seven – people turned up for last week’s Government sponsored public meeting on the Public Access to Information initiative (PATI).

Most people almost certainly do care about having access to information over how our business is conducted, but they’d rather not have to think about it.

In fact, most people would probably prefer to not think much about Government at all, they’re rather it just got on with what it’s supposed to do quietly, competently and efficiently, so they can get on with their lives; but then that wouldn’t be Government would it?

So along comes PATI. The announcement was widely greeted as a welcome but long overdue step in the right direction, an opening up of the inner workings of Government to those who it serves. But judging by the public meeting turnout it’s not the type of thing that fires up the populous, just the policy wonks.

As laudable as the PATI initiative is, the announced target date of the year 2011 for its rollout is unacceptable – a little public access to efficiency might be in order. This legislation isn’t so complex that it should take six years to implement. It’s not rocket science… or building a school, so why is PATI on the Berkeley timetable? Six years is far too long, six months would be more like it.

Cabinet might be basking in the glow after embarking on this path, but what they won’t say is that at the end of the day all they’ll simply do is adopt and adapt existing legislation from another jurisdiction. But if only seven people seem interested who can blame them for slow-tracking it?

The lack of existing PATI legislation however is not an excuse for Government’s refusal to disseminate information over the past few years, obstruction that continues today.

We don’t need PATI to begin providing access to information at all. That doesn’t negate the need for the legislation, which will formalize the process, but a less secretive Government is the problem. No doubt, they’ll protest that accusations of secrecy are unfair and off-base when they are the ones who are introducing PATI legislation. But are they?

PATI legislation doesn’t have to be in place for the Premier to release the years old and still unseen performance bond from the Berkeley project, or the documentation that the $700,000 premium was collected? The controversial and secretive Cuban cultural memorandum can be released before PATI is completed. The absence of PATI legislation isn’t standing in the way of the publication of the controversial Coco Reef lease and its subsequent re-draft. The Government is.

And we can’t forget Parliament. If the Premier and his Government are so committed to openness, why do House committee meetings remain closed to the public? It’s been well over a year since the Public Accounts Committee recommended that their sessions be held in the open, yet Government hasn’t lifted a finger to make it happen.

Considering that Parliament is the people’s House, the lack of information that comes out of it is astounding. There are no transcripts of what is said in Parliament, the only sessions that are televised are the inconsequential ceremonial ones, and the most comprehensive written record of Parliamentary proceedings are the scant House minutes.

Public access to information is more than legislation; it’s a philosophy. Openness, transparency and accountability might be the Government’s favourite buzzwords, but actions speak louder than words, and that’s been in short supply.

But PATI isn’t the only area that the PLP Government only says one thing and does another; consider the cherished but clumsy PLP battle cry of: ‘one man, one vote of equal value’. It’s hard to argue against that right? Not if you’re the PLP, who continue to go to incredible extremes to prevent Bermudians from having one vote of equal value on Independence.

And how do you reconcile a Government that talks about public access to information but repeatedly signals its desire to regulate the media and free speech?

If the Premier and his Cabinet are serious about open Government they’ll provide access to the information that they’ve been suppressing for years… immediately. Additionally, relatively little effort and money is required to implement the simple reforms that are so sadly lacking in our archaic legislature and legislators, the first step in any move to provide better public access to information.

PATI is a welcome initiative, but it doesn’t get our secretive Government off the hook.

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I'm off the island but apparently Ashfield DeVent is out as Housing Minister, former Senator David Burch is back in the Senate, replacing Raymond Tannock and assuming the role of Minister of Works, Engineering & Housing.


UPDATE: According to ZBM news (via an email tip) it appears that David Burch will be replacing Reginald Burrows in the Senate, not Raymond Tannock as I earlier noted. That makes more sense as Sen. Burrows has been at the game for awhile versus Sen. Tannock who is one of the newer faces on the Government side.

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You should never blog while watching the World Series. If you do you're likely to forget to make a point in your post, as I did with last night's post.

One of the examples I meant to cite of the Premier's insincerity and duplicity in how he is going about attempting to rig the method used to decide Independence, was the following quote from Saturday's Gazette story (as well as a similar point he made in a radio interview with VSB on Friday):

"Yesterday the Premier replied that it would have been pointless to discuss an idea with Islanders without first checking if it was going to be feasible possibility with the UK Government."

If that's the case, why did the Premier charge out the gate with a press release raising the idea of an election-referedum combo immediately after the meeting concluded?

The UK gave no indication of their position either way, they just listened, or so we were told. Why then would the Premier raise the idea in a press release, other than to apply pressure, which is what might have annoyed the FCO in the first place.

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So the FCO seems to be a little schizophrenic about whether the Premier broke some protocol by issuing a press release about the dicussions at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meetings, held this past week in London.

First, in unattributed comments reported on VSB and then in yesterday's Mid Ocean News, FCO officials were said to be annoyed that a longstanding protocol of confidentiality was breached. Then today's Gazette and yesterday's VSB news broadcast ran comments that it was no big deal.

Perhaps the real answer is that the FCO would have preferred that confidentiality had been maintained but are now engaging in a little diplomacy to calm things down. Who knows to be honest?

I'm not so bothered really, particularly if what was released were issues discussed in open session. But that doesn't get 'P' off the hook.

I'm in total agreement with the comments from UBP Leader Grant Gibbons - the Premier should have these discussion at home first before trying to cut a deal with the UK. This issue is about Bermudians, and they overwhelmingly want to exercise their right, and one with a precedent in the 1995, to vote on Independence in the most democractic method possible, a referendum.

To the contrary, the Premier is simply shopping around to see what the least democratic method is that he thinks he can get away with. That's unacceptable and makes a mockery of the PLP's clumsy 'one man, one vote of equal value' claim. 'One man, one vote of equal value...as long as the result goes our way' would be a more honest slogan.

It's pretty clear that the Premier is backed into a corner on this. Just look at the moves and statements they've been making lately.

That he's over in the UK lobbying for an election-referendum combo is an implicit acceptance that a referendum is inevitable; the vast majority of Bermudians want ome and the UK has made it clear that anything less is unacceptable. Hence, the Premier's begrudging acceptance that there's no way around it, leading to Plan B: dilute and muddy a referendum as much as possible.

Secondly, as I pointed out yesterday, by inquiring whether the UK would allow a 'unique solution' that was 'agreed by the people of Bermuda' has further boxed him in. There's only one way to get agreement of the people, and that's via a referendum.

What are the alternatives?

Polling?. If 'P' were to poll test his unique solution and hope to use the results as an example of 'agreement' then he's in a bind. Endorsing polls as a legitimate measure of public opinion would be pointless. He'd have to concede defeat on Independence; polls have consistently reported enormous and unwavering opposition to the whole idea of independence itself. They also indicate enormous support for a referendum.

I suppose he could try to say 'Trust me, Bermudians are ok with this', but that ain't gonna cut it with anyone. Trust went out of the window a long time ago.

I can't think of any other way really? Unless he wants to make the method an issue for the next election. But that's just stupid for all the obvious reasons.

Time to throw in the towel Mr. Premier.

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Mid Ocean News (21 Oct. 2005)
UBP MP John Barritt's 'View From the Hill'

FIRST the sugar, Mr. Editor: I actually thought the BIC Commissioners presented a pretty fair summary of the opinions for and against Independence near the end of their Report – see pages 62 through to 66 inclusive entitled "Opinions Offered in Oral and Written Submissions".

In fact, Mr. Editor, you might even say that that they appeared to have gone out of their way to be fair as they seemed to have made a point of listing an equal number of opinions for and an equal number against Independence.

But the rest of the Report, Mr. Editor, was in my view not so even-handed. The early critics alighted on the obvious. There was little or no fairness when the Commission chose to highlight "Myths and Misconceptions" and "The Benefits" to Independence, but gave no separate and equal treatment to "The Drawbacks" and "The Facts".

Mere superficiality? I don't think so, Mr. Editor, when compared to the reported analysis and findings in the rest of the Report; and most especially when you bear in mind that the Man Who Set Up The Commission, aka "P" The Premier, told us at the outset that the appointment of BIC was to be "a comprehensive, fact-finding, analytical and reasoned approach".

You can, of course, read the Report yourself to make up your own mind (don't wait for the movie), but it seems to me that what the Report does is traffic in opinions and is itself an opinion on the way in which Bermuda should go on this question of Independence.

We don't just get facts, but the facts which BIC thinks important – even if they get some of them wrong. The biggest clanger was the assertion that the Commission in its research could uncover "no instance" where the issue of Independence was determined by means of referendum. Some research, Mr. Editor – which tells you a lot about the scope and the depth of the work which the Commission undertook.

This calls into question not only their objectivity but their credibility when you consider that the entire UBP submission was not only about the need for a referendum, but even went further and actually catalogued for the Commission those countries which had decided the issue of Independence by way of a referendum.

But there's no sense letting the facts get in the way of an opinion, Mr. Editor, when you are on a mission to convert – and, of course, as we also now know the UBP submission didn't even rate inclusion in the published Appendix. Such was the disdain, it seems, for a submission the Commission didn't want – or didn't want to hear. Or to read either, it seems.

We might understand BIC's apparent disdain for the UBP, Mr. Editor: First, the Opposition UBP didn't agree to put one of their own on the Committee (few lambs ever volunteer for the slaughter) and, secondly, the UBP declined an invitation to make an oral presentation to BIC (we all knew that when BIC wanted an opinion, they gave you one). We cannot, however, excuse BIC's disdain for the facts.

Subtract and Divide

Take another example: in the section entitled "Race" under the heading "The Divide" we get a mention of the polls. Good. The reported polls in Bermuda have been reporting some consistent positions on the issue of Independence. But here's what you find in the Report: "Recent polls indicated that an overwhelming percentage of the White population oppose Independence".

Okay, that's worth noting and worthy of comment too – which the Commission gladly does, to the extent of even quoting one of their own presumably as proof of the truth of what they believe.

What really gets your goat is that this was the only finding on which the Commission elected to report – and the omission of other, equally significant poll results, once again reveals a lot. Those same polls have consistently shown that a majority of Bermudians are against Independence, and that while an overwhelming percentage (80 per cent) of white Bermudians are against, a pretty good majority of black Bermudians (58 per cent) feel the same way.

That majority, which cuts across racial lines, is deliberately ignored. Yet, later in this same Report, we find this poignant lament: "Bermudians have been focused for many years on the issues that separate them, potentially because they have failed to embody successfully that which they share."

Well, excuse me, Mr. Editor, guilty as charged: in reporting on the polls, the Commissioners in their Report chose to focus on that which separate Bermudians and not on those positions which they reportedly share.

The fact of the matter is they couldn't bring themselves to acknowledge in the Report even the existence of this strong majority of black and white Bermudians who have been pretty consistent in their opposition to Independence for Bermuda, not to mention the equally strong majority of white and black Bermudians in favour of a referendum to decide the issue.

Mind you, Mr. Editor, and to be fair, there was one instance in the discussion on Race where there was some attempt to acknowledge a shared position of white and black Bermudians – even if it was in a kind of a back-handed, snippy sort of way.

I quote the passage in full: "There is, however, one fundamental theme that seems to be common to both Blacks and Whites, albeit with some variation. Bermuda has developed into a very materialistic society. (The emphasis is mine).

"Successive governments have tended to define the measure of success of the economy and society in starkly material terms. Consequently, there is little evidence that any real effort has been made to initiate meaningful programmes to truly bridge the manifest racial divide.

"Bermuda, whether Independent or not, will have to ensure that the historical legacy of racism and its effects are addressed. Both Blacks and Whites do, however, share the concern of how Independence will affect them materially.

"It would appear that what will satisfy both Blacks and Whites is the assurance that the constitution of an Independent Bermuda will be one that is strong, inspires confidence and truly attempts to represent the interests of all citizens."

Dollars and sense

Materialistic, huh? But really, Mr. Editor, wasn't that one of the points of the exercise – if not the point for many: what will Independence cost? Can we afford it? What will it bring by way of improvements not just to our way of life but our standard of living, and what might be the risks?

And no one need apologise for engaging in this type of analysis. Most Bermudians, black and white, undertake such analyses every day. Can we afford this holiday? Can we afford to send our child away to school this year? Can we afford to purchase a home? How will we finance them? What can we reasonably expect in terms of expenses and can we make provision should the unexpected (and the worst) occur? What might we have to give up to make it happen?

The approach is not so much materialistic, Mr. Editor, as realistic – and when it comes to dollars and sense, realistic, frankly, is to be preferred in my books. On the price tag, the Commissioners also got it right when they stated in their opening paragraph under "Estimated Costs of Independence": "The final cost of Independence can only be determined when Bermuda has made the decision to go Independent and the Government of the day has made various policy decisions on the scale upon which an Independent Bermuda would conduct its affairs."

True that: BIC can speculate all it likes on estimated costs, giving us a range from a low to a high or, as people have said in the past, depending on whether we travel the route of the Volkswagen or that of the Rolls Royce.

But who is to say what the number of embassies there will be and the size of the missions? Although the good people of Bermuda know how this really works. Governments promise this but deliver that and the expenses rarely go down but up ... and up ... and up ... and ...

The voters have had some very real and recent experiences under the PLP Government to which they can point – and we don't have to look far to see how the millions mount whether it be the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal and the millions of dollars that had to be written off there according to the recent reports of the Auditor General, or the Berkeley construction project where the overspends are in the tens of millions of dollars and still counting.

Not to mention the general funding of the operation of the Government and the style to which the PLP Government has grown accustomed. I take the following three line items from the annual Government budgets over the last seven years to illustrate the point:

Travel: A reported expenditure of $2,055,00.00 in the financial year 1997/1998 compared with an estimated expenditure of $5,138,000.00 for the current financial year 2005/2006 – an increase of $3,083,000.00 or up 150 per cent.

Cabinet Office: From $1,953,000.00 in 1997/1998 to $3,128,000.00 in 2005/2006 – an increase of $1,175,000.00 or up 60 per cent.

Professional Services: From $29,267,000.00 in 1997/1998 to $47,097,000.00 in 2005/2006 – an increase of $17,830,000.00 or up 60 per cent.

You wonder too, about the priorities of a Commission which projects that as much money will be spent on Independence celebrations (from a low of $500,000.00 to a high of $1,000,000.00) as will be spent on the careful and comprehensive work that would necessarily be expected to precede Independence through a constitutional conference and legislative review (the costs of which are estimated to run from a low of $350,000.00 to a high of $1,000,000.00).

Mind you, Mr. Editor, the Progressive Labour Party in their submission took no stab at costs, probable or otherwise.

But that's not so surprising. We must understand that there are those among us who want Independence regardless of the price. For them costs are not an issue.

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Can anyone help me decifer this part of the statement that the Premier released on Wednesday from London (apparently a violation of diplomatic protocal and to the annoyance of the Foreign Commonwealth Office):

"Premier Scott queried if the British would give fair consideration if the decision to go to Independence by a unique method agreed by the people of Bermuda was submitted." [Emphasis mine]

Just how does Mr. Scott propose to determine the agreement by the people of Bermuda? Surely the only way would be via a referendum.

So is Mr. Scott suggesting that we have a referendum about whether to have a referendum?

Forget about agreeing the method. If Mr. Scott is so willing to determine the agreement of the people of Bermuda on issues he'll be comfortable simply measuring the (lack of) agreement on the issue of Independence itself via a referendum.

It gets better and better. You couldn't make this stuff up it's so ridiculous.

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As you can see (or if you can't hit 'Refresh/Reload' on your browser toolbar) I've updated the colour schema of Politics.bm. This would be version 3.0 I guess.

I'm interested in your feedback or bug reports, although bugs should be minimal as the only changes are to the style sheet.

After promising this several months ago, I finally got my act together and made the changes, which for a guy with little artistic flair and bush coding skills took some motivation.

The site tagline has also been updated from "A Mostly Bermudian Blog", which was pretty uninspiring, to "Inform, amuse, provoke".

The next piece that I'll be tackling is a logo/banner graphic, and that's really stretching my abilities. So if there are any graphic designers out there who want to take pity on me and throw a freebie my way I'd willingly accept.

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By the way, while Phil's chillin' over at Limey in Bermuda a guest opinion has been posted by Marsha Wiggins, entitled "The Manipulator".

Ms. Wiggins delivers a swift rebuke to to Calvin Smith's rather disingenuous Opinion in Tuesday's Gazette.

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The annual party leadership speculating game is getting hot and heavy, as it always does after the summer recess (Parliament resumes on Friday Nov. 4th).

On that basis I'd concur with UBP leader Grant Gibbons that this is an annual press event and that it would be inappropriate for him to comment – but that doesn't mean there isn't something to the talk. And I think this year more than most there’s a little more substance to it, for both the UBP and PLP.

But staying on the UBP for now, I've been hearing the rumblings, like most other people have, for some time now.

The press, VSB in particular, has focused mostly on UBP Senator Bob Richards and the maneuvering that would have to happen for him to take a seat in Parliament before assuming the party leadership. It’s an interesting option, but a tough one to execute. And the one thing that I know for sure is that in politics the outcome you expect is the least likely one to occur.

Enter Wayne Furbert and Maxwell Burgess on ZBM’s newscast last night, and then again (with John Barritt) in today’s Royal Gazette top story 'Gibbons UBP leadership said to be shaky.'

The story is short, and there isn’t too much meat in it, but there are a couple of items of note.

Firstly, there’s a little positioning going on in The Royal Gazette’s piece. I don’t know who their “MP”, “another senior figure” or “some party sources” are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the leadership hopefuls is in there. The statement attributable to “some party sources” that “Sen. Richards has been damaged by his failure to get elected in Warwick for the past two elections” seems suspiciously like a candidate or someone in his camp attempting to take some of Sen. Richards’ shine off.

Then there’s the statement from “another senior figure” that the “party would do what is necessary to win the next election.” That type of talk is always a good sign, but it also implies that some believe a win can’t be achieved under the current leadership.

And I hear that a lot both inside and outside of the party. Perhaps the most public indicator of this is the recent poll results which suggest that the huge dissatisfaction with the PLP and Premier Scott is not translating into support for the UBP and Grant Gibbons.

That is indeed a worrying sign, and is as much an indictment of the UBP team as a whole as it is the party leadership. But at the end of the day the leader is the one who sets the tone and drives the party and must accept responsibility.

So is there something to the idea that Dr. Gibbons needs to be replaced if the UBP are to win the next election? Maybe.

At its simplest level, a change in leadership and direction is desirable in any organization that seems to be treading water as the UBP are. But you’ve also got to look at what the alternatives bring to the table.

More on that in my next post later today (or this evening).

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (19 Oct. 2005)

One wouldn’t expect that an island with a long and proud sailing tradition such as ours would be drifting rudderless into the doldrums. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening in the New Bermuda.

The PLP Government, devoid of ideas and internally divided, has rendered itself politically impotent by demonstrating proficiency at producing solely scandals and high-profile failures.

Our motto may be “Whither the Fates Lead Us”, but our future is too important and fragile to be left to fate. In fact, it isn’t fate that we should be concerned with, it’s the Government. We can’t, as the Premier would hope, wave the white flag of surrender – or at least one that looks and sounds like a white flag, in the Shakespearean sense of course. The Government is waging a war of attrition, one that must be arrested.

Even the most optimistic PLP supporters seem depressed and uninspired, unable to comprehend how after finally ending thirty years of electoral futility it all went so horribly wrong so fast. After seven years at the helm Cabinet continues to flounder; desperately resurrecting an outdated and unappealing issue that an ever dwindling number of Bermudians find even remotely appealing.

This Government has never articulated a vision or chartered a clear course, and as Sir John Swan recently pointed out, they have been unable to complete even the most rudimentary day to day tasks of governance. That’s a shockingly harsh indictment of a party which had over thirty years to prepare.

Under Alex Scott’s tenure the PLP Government has transitioned from what some might have termed benign neglect into malicious abuse. Bermudian voters, business leaders and international bodies are treated as objects of derision and ridicule, mere obstacles in a game of political chicken.

The current approach to governing involves little more than relentless damage control via highly staged press events and sterile press releases. These diversionary tactics are unleashed to obscure the chronic social and economic neglect and abuse that is the hallmark of the PLP Government’s tenure.

It seems that more and more Bermudians start the day in a crouched position, wondering just what today’s revelation will be; which shoe will drop next. And who can blame them? The past seven years have seen enough scandals, failures and public relations disasters to establish a Governmental Hall of Shame to compliment the Sports Hall of Fame.

It’s not all bad though. Bermuda’s NASCAR fans will have another source of entertainment; it’s not the left hand turns that keep them glued to the TV, it’s the high speed wrecks. The New Bermuda has an abundance of those.

Whether it’s the disgraceful and discredited BIC report; BIC’s calculated manipulation of the good faith of the business community; the de facto nationalization of a private business by WEDCO; the racially tinged email from the Premier, compounded by his ensuing intelligence-insulting half-hearted mea culpa; the public insulting of 14,000 democratically inclined referendum signing Bermudians; the collapse of the Southside housing project after months of denials and a meaningless housing lottery; a myriad of incomplete and over-budget capital projects; escalating violent crime; a deteriorating quality of life for our seniors; or a failing education system, little has been accomplished.

If you despair about the current stewardship of Bermuda you’re not alone. There is clearly a rising chorus of discontent, but it’s doubtful that we’ve been shaken from our complacency. Bermuda is on the brink of being sucked into a dangerous downward spiral, one that will be difficult to emerge from.

The potential decline of Bermuda as one of the world’s pre-eminent financial services jurisdictions is real, and our competitors are watching with glee. The list of potential suitors for Bermuda’s multi-million dollar world leading companies – and the associated jobs – is long.

This external threat however is secondary. The real danger will more likely be self-inflicted, driven by the instability and uncertainty spawned by a Government determined to impose their self-serving drive to Independence – with no clear timetable – on an uninterested public and distressed business community.

Notwithstanding Government’s efforts to convince us otherwise, our international business sector – the sole economic pillar - isn’t invincible. And we, more than anyone, should be painfully aware that once seemingly indestructible industries begin to crumble, there’s little that we can do to stop it.

Does the word ‘Tourism’ sound familiar?

Our former glory years as the world’s pre-eminent tourist destination should serve as a grim forewarning of what occurs when we take success for granted. Tourism’s decline didn’t happen overnight; it was gradual and continues to this day. Our complacency and arrogance led to a belief that success was guaranteed.

That a six month general strike coincided with the peak of our now defunct tourism industry is not a coincidence. We lost sight of what was important and undermined our own product. We became less than friendly to the industry and our visitors, wrongly assuming that tourists would always flock to our shores.

The PLP Government’s arrogance, negligence and complacency threatens to repeat this scenario in the international business sector, an industry who would not hesitate to look elsewhere for more friendly shores.

To borrow a phrase from a former PLP Premier, we ignore the concerns of the international business leaders and betray their good faith “at our peril”. Real trepidation has been raised over the impact the unpopular and back door push for independence will have on our attractiveness as a business centre. We have no fallback position. They are our sole economic engine.

Past and current success is no guarantee of future success. That’s a mistake we’ve made before. Need we be reminded? Let’s not go back to the future.

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Productivity has just sky-rocketed at several offices around Bermuda with the news that Phil over at A Limey in Bermuda is pulling back for awhile to recharge his batteries.

The Limey will be back, of that I have no doubt. He just needs a break to play Warcraft again and realize that being the target of the PLP attack machine is actually quite flattering.

Life is about striking a balance, and sometimes before you know it circumstances overtake you; particularly when you've got a rabble of scrappers fidgeting in their corners every morning waiting for you to ring the bell and begin the rumble.

I feel your pain Phil. I shut down commenting here ages ago after my patience for baby sitting some of the more malicious or nutty commenters ran out.

In Phil's case the final straw appears to have been the storm in a teacup that erupted after it was hinted (and then confirmed by the individual himself before mounting a hasty retreat) that a commenter using the pseudonym 'Bud' was a (rather foul-mouthed) PLP Senator (hint: who has been holding a lot of press conferences lately) spewing the party line under the guise of just another Bermudian.

Riiiggghhhttt. And Berkeley will be finished on time and on business.

No wonder Phil got annoyed, as did others who dropped some shrewd hints about who it was.

"Bud" confessed, before angrily retracting the next morn, after briefly confirming that his anonymity had been blown. What ensued was a furious backpedal and the classic PLP counter-attack when caught red-handed.

"Bud" had no choice really but to act so schizophrenically, if he is indeed who he appears to have been that is.

Firstly, he has a particularly foul mouth, one that makes Alex Scott's use of the word 'crap' seem angelic.

Secondly, for a sitting Senator and prominent PLP mouthpiece to be posing as Average Joe is pretty desperate, particularly after the PLP recently denounced the "voices of division", with special mention for the internet. But the PLP have no defenders, so it's not surprising they've resorted to fabricating them.

And finally, "Bud" wasn't very flattering about his boss at times, otherwise never straying from the talking points.

I wish Phil well and encourage his jousters to take a breather as well, and then return with even more vigour.

The island needs voices of reason and good sense. Lord knows, there's plenty of irrational nonsense eminating from the Cabinet Office.

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I guess it's better late than never, but evidently it's finally sunk in that Bermuda has an affordable housing crisis.

Mr. Burch - surely the most sour-faced person in Bermuda politics - didn't say anything earth-shattering, but he did hit a couple of areas where he thinks he can make a dent, namely:

- cracking down on people who keep units empty to get a second car (something that I think is already technically illegal, but easily circumvented and hard to police)

- assessing BHC tenants to ensure their rents don't exceed 25% of their income

- working with tenants to save and buy their own homes

- bringing in cheap labour (can anyone say Cuba?) to curb building costs

It's a start I guess, albeit 7 years too late.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (13 Oct. 2005)

Every 12 months or so, or after a particularly bad traffic jam, someone inevitably reissues the call for a ban on non-Bermudian car ownership, because we all know that every Bermudian problem is ultimately attributable to foreigners.

Several months ago Government flirted with an additional twist on this model by suggesting that not only should those pesky ex-pats be prevented from owning cars, but also single people. Not surprisingly that idea lasted all of a couple of days; Cabinet foresaw not only fewer vehicles, but fewer votes.

So with another Throne Speech imminent, it’s worth asking whether the traffic situation can be improved without taking such drastic steps.

The Transport Minister recently suggested, and he might be right, that it’s time to start taking the tough decisions. The question becomes however just whom these decisions will be tough for? If Cabinet is truly serious on this and other issues, they’d start at home, in their driveways for example.

A logical first step in tackling congestion would be to reduce the size of the Government fleet of vehicles; there are just too many GP cars and Government vehicles on our roads.

Contrary to the belief in some quarters, there is no God given right for Cabinet Minister’s to have a car, nor high level civil servants. No other business in Bermuda is permitted to buy corporate cars for its management to compliment their personal vehicles, so why should Government be any different?

There’s little doubt that most of the GP cars serve very little official purpose other than being a taxpayer-funded perk; a second vehicle to circumvent the single vehicle restriction. On any given morning these cars stream into town with a Minister or a civil servant and their spouse in them, and back home they go in the evenings.

Leadership as they say starts at the top, and Cabinet should set the example by curbing their appetite for this longstanding perk. A more appropriate solution would be to maintain a Government pool of vehicles for use as needed, hopping in a taxi, or simply expensing fuel costs.

Not only would this remove unnecessary cars from our roads, it would save wasted tax dollars and earn Cabinet some much needed credibility before they propose these tough solutions on the rest of us.

Secondly, we should start enforcing some of the existing laws rather than start writing new ones. A good place to begin would be with some of the ‘commercial’ vehicles on our roads.

You know the ones, the ‘you can’t have one of these’ glistening SUVs replete with leather seats, tinted windows and racing wheels. Most of these vehicles have never, and will never, see a bag of cement let alone a construction site; they’re nothing more than oversized second family cars disguised as commercial vehicles.

But it doesn’t end there. What with all of these commercial vehicles on the roads on Sundays anyway? Most don’t have the required permits to operate on a Sunday and clearly aren’t going to a job site, but that law seems to have gone by the wayside.

This trick isn’t limited to unmarked cars or vans either. Just look at the number of BELCO, TELCO, Cablevision, landscaping and other trucks cruising the roads after hours or on the weekends. Rarely is the driver in uniform, nor is it all that uncommon to see a family of 4 jammed into a dump-truck for a family outing.

Clamping down on the number of unnecessary Government and commercial vehicles on the road is a useful step, but it isn’t the only one. There are a few other moves we could take to ease traffic flow in and around Hamilton.

While the major pinch points are the South Shore and Crow Lane roundabouts, traffic through town moves like molasses as well…except when the traffic lights are out that is. Surely it isn’t a coincidence that when the lights were out for weeks after Hurricane Fabian, and again after the BELCO power outage, that traffic flowed great.

While the simplest way to reduce congestion would be for more people to ride bikes or take public transport, if you must drive a car into town you’re likely to spend as much time stopped as moving. A simple law change could ease this problem, one widely in place in North America; allow a left turn (in our case) on red.

If the junction is clear of pedestrians and no vehicles are approaching, why not allow a left-hand turn on a red light? Sure, some dingbat will take that as permission to charge through without stopping, but they do that already. The corners of Church and Par-la-ville, Reid and Court, Church and Cedar Avenue or Church and Parliament for example would be great candidates for a left-turn on red.

Finally, and somewhat less critically, why not turn all the lights in town to flashing oranges on Sundays and late nights as they do in some towns? When approaching an intersection it’s simply first come first served; no more waiting endlessly at red lights on an empty road.

These suggestions won’t solve the problem, but before we bring out the sledgehammer, we might want to try the nutcracker.

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Someone sent me this recent article by US Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) which was posted on the blog Daily Kos.

Sen. Obama's piece was a response to a recent discussion on Daily Kos regarding the Senator's comments and subsequent vote on the nomination of John Roberts for US Supreme Court Chief Justice.

The reason I've linked to it here, and posted a snippet below, is because the challenges which Obama identifies as facing the Democratic party are highly relevant to Bermuda's political situation. Specifically he discusses what he sees as the problem with the tone among the Democratic activist base.

I'd highly recommend reading the whole article:

"The bottom line is that our job is harder than the conservatives' job. After all, it's easy to articulate a belligerent foreign policy based solely on unilateral military action, a policy that sounds tough and acts dumb; it's harder to craft a foreign policy that's tough and smart. It's easy to dismantle government safety nets; it's harder to transform those safety nets so that they work for people and can be paid for. It's easy to embrace a theological absolutism; it's harder to find the right balance between the legitimate role of faith in our lives and the demands of our civic religion. But that's our job. And I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate.

"Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist." In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark. Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

"Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

"Finally, I am not arguing that we "unilaterally disarm" in the face of Republican attacks, or bite our tongue when this Administration screws up. Whenever they are wrong, inept, or dishonest, we should say so clearly and repeatedly; and whenever they gear up their attack machine, we should respond quickly and forcefully. I am suggesting that the tone we take matters, and that truth, as best we know it, be the hallmark of our response."

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Well, after today's lengthy piece in p. 4 of the Royal Gazette (which again bumped my column, no hard feelings Sir John, but this is becoming a habit!), any questions about what Sir John Swan is up to should have been cleared up.

That piece (not yet online in its entirety but summarized in a front page article) is an election platform and serves as confirmation that Sir John is doing his advance work for a re-entry into the political arena.

I'll comment further on this in a post this evening, but there should be no doubts that Sir John is back in the game.

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With the WEDCO/Bermuda Cement Company saga well into its second year, I thought rather than rehash the whole saga I'd just point back to some posts I did in March of 2004 here, here, here, here and here.

This move by WEDCO amounts to nothing more than a defacto nationalisation of a private business, notwithstanding the 2 year lease to Mexican conglomerate Cemex, which WEDCO will rue in short order when they realize they're out of their depth.

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Last night I had a great time at the Bermuda Music Festival in Dockyard. As someone who worked on the first ever "Jazzfest" 10 years ago at the National Stadium I love the event, although I'm not deluded enough to buy into the idea that it is a 'tourism' event.

It ain't. The Music Festival, like most Department of Tourism sponsored events (including the upcoming Culinary Arts Festival, Harbour Nights, World Rugby Classic etc.), is completely supported by locals with a few tourists sprinkled throughout. If we're honest, the Department of Tourism is really the Department of Local Entertainment and Travel.

Nonetheless, I enjoy myself every year, and last night was no exception, except for one exception that is.

First the good: Joss Stone put on a great set and Al Green proved himself worthy of his reputation, the organisation seemed pretty good, and a few new touches like the local stage and the food courtyard worked well. (I won't get into the luxury skyboxes at the back of the seating area for VIPs and PLPs.)

But....one thing during the evening really summed up what is wrong with tourism in Bermuda.

Shortly into Joss Stone's set a small crowd developed (including me) in the gap between the base of the stage and the first row - as has been the case for a number of years now.

You'd think people dancing and interacting with the artist on stage (who was clearly pleased with the energy and interaction) was the whole point right? Evidently not.

In typical Bermuda fashion the Fun Police appeared, flashing their lights in people's faces and directing them back to their seats to sit down. If that doesn't sum up our problem with tourism nothing does.

Bermuda puts on a music festival, where presumably people come to enjoy good music, yet as soon as they start enjoying themselves they're directed back to their seats to sit quietly. Amazing. I thought I was at a concert not music appreciation class.

As the night went on people came back for Joss Stone's encore and Al Green entire set, but I must admit it left a bad taste in my mouth.

When will we loosen up?

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Ok, I've been resisting taking apart piece by piece the Premier's crappy letter yesterday, but I can't help myself. So just a couple of tidbits to take the edge off:

What is an 'unadvertised' email (second sentence)?

Is it one without advertisements in it? Or could it be that before you email the Premier you have to email him to ask if you can email him?

Haven't we been through the political eunuch stuff before?

Well, at least over here we have.

Just to restate the obvious, the PLP don't have the balls to say balls, so they use the ridiculous term 'testicular fortitude' when they pat themselves on the backs for being willing to take the tough decisions. Therefore, someone lacking testicular fortitude would logically be a political 'eunuch', ie. lacking testicles.

Seems perfectly appropriate comment.

Was Brannon's email "disrespectful and offensive; laced with obscenities"?

Nope. It included the word "bull_ _ _ _", that was it. And, just in case the Premier isn't sure, that could have been "bullcrap". A term he might have some familiarity with.

How's about a random jab?

I won't even get into the Premier's quoting of Bermuda Sun editor Tony McWilliam in two or three different tenses and included "etc..." at the end. Just how do you quote someone and use "etc" at the same time?

Ok. We'll see if that rant makes me feel better. If that doesn't work I'm sure listening to Joss Stone belt out some soul tonight at the Music Festival will take Alex Scott off my mind. If she can't, no-one can.

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The Premier's weak reach for a plausible denial yesterday resulted in one of those "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" moments.

When you've got to come out and declare that what you weren't being racist, and the headline reads "Premier: I was not being racist" you're in a no-win position.

So it's little wonder that in his letter the Premier turned to the Lord as his saviour, and then swiftly pivoted to the devils in the media. Old dog, old tricks, same itchy fleas.

But Alex the Great was faced with a serious problem. The guy has no credibility...with anyone. He's an accomplished and established liar who was caught red-handed in Parliament months ago lying on the floor of the House to Maxwell Burgess over the insolvency at the now defunct Bermuda Homes for People.

Was the statement alluding to race? At the risk of wasting precious reak estate on the world wide web, I'll state the obvious: of course it was.

The Premier and his hired help are twisting like Chubby Checker and contorting like pre-pubescent Chinese acrobats in suggesting that Mr. Scott was following the tradition of great literary minds like Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare, but we all know he wasn't. Cuz he ain't that smart.

Anyone who bothered to read the poorly written letter itself would have learned that our esteemed Premier hasn't been close to a piece of good literature in some time, although he is starring in Alex in Wonderland.

I'd bet that "P" doesn't reading Shakespeare at all, he reads the Royal Gazette. (Gasp, horror I know.)

The old 'mean and hungry look' line was probably fresh in P's mind from the recent trial of his good buddy Julian Hall. (Now there's a gifted orator and writer, someone the Premier would have been wise to consult with before writing that dreadfully inadequate letter.)

And then of course there's the ridiculous threat the Premier concludes with - that Free Speech isn't free and he'll be announcing an initiative in the upcoming Speech from the Throne, which if it's like its predecessors might as well be read on the throne.

Just how the Premier promises to quash voices of dissent in the media is yet to be determined. But I promise to do my part in the interim and commit to upping the levels of derision and ridicule for such a pitifully inadequate man so clearly out of his depth.

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RG Opinion (Wednesday 05 Oct. 2005)

The past several months, but in particular the past few weeks, have seen a notable increase in the public levels of discontent over the direction – if indeed there is one – that the PLP Government is dragging Bermuda and Bermudians; it seems that only now however, have we started kicking and screaming.

While Sir John Swan’s comments certainly increased the intensity of the criticism with his unexpected salvo several weeks ago, it’s unlikely that his remarks indicate the peak of the crescendo. The public frustration which has been simmering for many months, years in fact, appears to finally be bubbling over.

Although the Premier, or “P” as “The Man” affectionately refers to himself in his emails, may be tired of “taking crap from people who look and sound like [Tony] Brannon”, he should take a long hard look in the mirror; the public have tired of taking crap from him.

No single incident triggered this shift. It was more likely the cumulative effect of episodes like the release of the disgracefully dishonest and manipulative BIC report; the Premier’s public dismissal and subsequent insulting of 14,000 referendum petition signatories; the implosion of Dr. Brown’s tourism-has-turned-around charade; and the collapse of Bermuda Homes for People for example have all combined into the perfect political storm, catapulting generally deferential Bermudians into what could be the early signs of a broad-based revolt.

And just in case the Premier needs reminding, the voices of frustration, anger and disgust towards him and his colleagues aren’t restricted to outspoken white folks. The anger is palpable, and everywhere, from high-profile members of his own party (read Renee Webb’s recent RG Magazine interview) to newly empowered housing activists, or marching pensioners to mostly anonymous business leaders.

One week in politics however is a lifetime, things can change quickly. But what does the current situation mean?

Cabinet’s attempts to divide and conquer may have succeeded – in uniting Bermudians against a self-serving, self-aggrandizing political agenda. The culture of mismanagement and climate of sleaze that ‘P’ presides over is inflicting long term and potentially irreversible damage. Bermudians are now signaling in larger numbers that their patience has been exhausted and are no longer content to be treated as an after thought.

While vocalizing ones displeasure is great, there must be more to it. Letters to the Editor, calls to the talk shows or talking politics with your friends and co-workers might be therapeutic and have an impact, but effecting change and securing a successful future requires new people, quality people, to enter the political arena.

Of course politics isn’t for everyone, particularly in such a small community where tactics have become notoriously personal and intensely vicious, but until some fresh faces with fresh ideas take up the challenge little will change.

Despite the worldwide and somewhat justified cynicism and distaste for politics and politicians, this remains an important calling, and we’re blessed with some fine individuals, both past and present, here at home who’ve taken up the challenge.

Bermuda has a wealth of intellectual talent to call on; an oasis of charismatic leaders, community activists, accomplished professionals and civic minded citizens and businesses. But this pool isn’t choosing politics in large enough numbers, and a dearth of quality legislators and leadership will lead to a decline in our imperfect but entirely enviable way of life.

Much of the onus rests on employers. It’s no secret that many businesses frown on their employees being ‘political’. One sitting Opposition UBP MP was recently forced out of his employment for choosing to remain in public service. If we’re serious about ensuring and improving Bermuda’s stable social and economic systems for future generations our businesses must support, not discourage their employees’ aspirations to participate in the political process as they do with other community organisations. Some do, too many don’t.

Of course being a political candidate and ultimately serving as an MP or Senator is a huge time commitment, one that involves sacrifice on everyone’s part. It requires time away from your family, career and friends, but the contribution is of the utmost importance and will secure our envied way of life well into the future.

Bermuda needs and deserves our best and brightest at the highest levels of Government. We need individuals of integrity with successful track records running organizations or businesses that can articulate a vision, deliver initiatives on time and on budget, and never lose sight of whose interests they serve.

Being a nice person with a well known name but scant leadership abilities isn’t enough. We need our best and brightest. Our future depends on it.

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After being off the island on a business trip and floored with a sudden bout of strep throat during my travels, I had lots of time to think about the Alex Scott vs Tony Brannon email brouhaha, as well as see if the Premier will deign to comment over the past 5 days.

He hasn't and presumably won't.

After following some of Phillip Wells' work on the topic over at Limeyland (here, here, here and here) I'd suggest that anyone who thinks Tony Brannon is going to get any love from the Human Rights Council is going to be in for a let down.

Without having a copy of the Human Rights Commission legislation handy, the Premier's email almost certainly won't qualify as something they can pursue for the simple reason that Tony hasn't been discriminated against.

Sure, the email revealed what I think most people knew but probably hoped wasn't true now that Alex Scott is Premier, but what Tony Brannon received was a racially tinged insult, not an act of discrimination.

Oh, and the Premier also won't resign. The PLP have long used race as a wedge issue? Their racial slurs didn't stop them winning the past election, so why will this be any different? It could be another nail in his coffin for those in his party who covet his post, but I won't waste my breath with a call for a resignation.

But that doesn't let him off the hook. The incident is more about character, and if the Premier sees no need to retract or clarify his comments then that speaks volumes.

When you have a party that operates from a bunker of press operatives, designed to soften the image and make their rants palatable, all it takes is one unguarded moment to unravel it all. And they don't come any more candid than that. (As an aside, it also should be of great concern that the Premier would be comfortable sending a message like that to a civil servant.)

The Premier's email revealed a moment of candor which revealed frustration at the increasingly aggressive criticism he's receiving. Absent the "look and sound like Brannon" component the email might have actually humanized the Premier in the eyes of many. Instead that all gets overshadowed.

It's not a stretch to conclude from the Premier's statement that criticism from non-whites is a different kettle of fish, or that part of his frustration is that he's got to take crap from outspoken white folks. Sure, Tony Brennan's email was abrupt and aggressive, but that's the beauty of politics in Bermuda, there's no sacred cows here. Nor should there be.

People who look and sound like Brannon are an annoyance I'm sure, but that's a fact of life for those who practice politics in multi-racial societies.

If Mr. Scott can't stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen (Cabinet).

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