February 2006 Archives

As I was flying back to the island Friday I missed Paula Cox's racial tirade about criticism of the budget (which has received little media coverage).

One reader however saw it coming, as evidenced by an email I received on Monday the 20th Feb (pre-tirade), and a follow up on the 25th (post-tirade).

.... did you hear the Burch talk show (PLP infomercial) with Paula Cox? Near the end she kinda went right off.... from talking calmly in her all too familiar verbose way..... to almost out of nowhere going into a tirade about what people will be saying about the budget, anticipating that those from 'the other side' will complain about how long each Minister will waste talking about their own portion of the money.... (leaving no time for the opposition to ask questions of course). Very weird. Everything before that was well scripted, with people calling and thanking the Lord above for such a gift.

and the post-rant follow-up:

"If the UBP did not see that coming I certainly did..... Paula planned to go off like that...."

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So which should it be? The good news or bad news first.

Let's start with the good news:

While not yet finalized, it looks like the Government are leaning towards not demolishing the Arboretum to build a new hospital.

And now the bad news:

That project is estimated to cost $500M. Yikes, can anyone say Berkeley.

Oh, maybe there's more good news:

They're not looking to start for 5 years, which means they can be voted out before history repeats itself on a much larger scale.

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The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has released it's second report on Independence and Bermuda.

I haven't read it in its entirety yet.

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From the horse's mouth:

“We did mislead you before Thursday by posing as a united front on Tuesday. We did mislead you - individually and collectively - on Thursday at the polls by smiling and being quiet about our level of discontent with the leadership and our intended action on Thursday evening.

“We misled you because we had to - because our greatest goal before Thursday was for the Party to win the election.

Dr. Ewart Brown, July 28, 2003

versus

He told the public meeting: “I will always tell the truth. I might not tell all of it.”

Dr. Ewart Brown, Feb. 22, 2006

Further comment unnecessary.

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The absurdity of Dr. Brown's latest tirade against the media (for actually asking him challenging questions) is that what he's trying to create is his own little media plantation. He's trying to become the master of Bermuda's media, ruling over a field of journalists who serve his interests with no voice of their own.

But the relationship between politicians and the press doesn't work that way. It's a marriage of convenience, where news organisations cover political parties staged public relations exercises (and if you haven't noticed, Thursdays have become the weekly press conference day - 3 papers are printed on a Friday with the broadcast media tending to repeat Friday's news all weekend) but expect in return some back and forth on their own issues.

Our Transport Minister however seems to have developed a fondness for one way streets. There's an easy solution for all this. It's quite simple really, as plain as the brown noses he looks for on the media's faces: the press should stop showing up when he calls a press conference.

That'll fix it.

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Ahh, the soothing and reassuring tones of a PLP MP's rant against a) the media and b) whitey.

The only variation in this week's installment of the media conspiracy is that for surely the first time in Bermuda, and perhaps world politics, a member of the Government used the term "man-boy". Not normally a phrase I expect to hear from the second in command (scary I know) of a country.

The irony of this is that Bermuda's media are a bunch of pussy cats, Mid Ocean News excluded, exteremely deferential to the Government of the day and rarely confrontational in their questioning.

But Dr. Brown knows that. He's an American, where the press can be quite aggressive, although perhaps not as much so as the UK press.

With all this talk of media bias and plantations, in addition to the millions of dollars being thrown at the problems the PLP have ignored and exacerbated over the past 7 years, one can be forgiven for getting that itchy feeling that ground work is being laid for an election.

It's all so 2003.

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But I thought he was a private citizen discussing non-political topics?

So how does Mr. Burch explain his use of the term "We" when dismissing the Berkeley "Death Trap" allegation on his radio talk show Sunday Night:

Last night Sen. Burch said: "Much has been written about the new secondary school and its preparedness. "Certainly we shall provide a full and frank explanation shortly, but I could not let this opportunity pass without a brief comment."

I've also been told that Sen. Burch interviewed the Finance Minister (who ended the show with a rant against anticipated criticism).

And he has the nerve to call The Mid Ocean News a rag?

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While perusing the Royal Gazette's website I just noticed that they've added a new section entitled "Gazette Video" which currently includes video of the Budget press conference and Sen. Burch ducking and weaving on the Berkeley "Death Trap" story.

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Posting will be light to none this week.

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Download the 2006/2007 Budget Statement here.

Much like the budget itself, the pdf file is rather bloated, and takes a while to download.

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Today's Budget Day.

The web stream of Parliament is available via Doug DeCouto's site at http://bermuda.lcs.mit.edu:8000/hp.m3u.

Parliament sits at 10AM.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (15 February, 2006)

One of the most frequently invoked words by politicians on either side of the aisle is “The Youth”. Whether the issue is housing, crime, education or the economy for example, you can rest assured that our political leaders will profess to be acting with a deep and profound concern for our youth and their future.

So why is it then that a quick glance around the Cabinet Office, and Parliament in general, reveals an elected and appointed leadership severely underrepresented by Bermuda’s younger generations?

If so much of our public policy is geared towards the youth, why is there such a glaring absence of young people in the political parties?

What is it about Bermudian politics that doesn’t inspire, or actively repels our best and brightest young (and older) minds from pursuing political careers?

There are a myriad of reasons contributing to this under-representation. Whether it be younger Bermudians establishing their professional careers, starting families or just plain old trying to make ends meet in one of the world’s most expensive economies everyone can cite a cause. But there’s got to be more to it than that.

As a 32 year old Bermudian, I can assure you that there’s more to it than that.

Bermuda’s current political debate is built around a framework that, quite simply, has no relevance to the majority of us who were either too young to remember, or born after, the era of segregation ended.

That terrible time, those battles and those politicians continue to dominate our political landscape, bringing with them their hostility, animosity and anger that comes with it.

So while younger Bermudians struggle to find affordable housing, raise their young families in safe communities and educate their children to the highest standards, the PLP relics desperately cling to outdated issues at the expense of the current ones.

It’s hard to believe I know, but according to the PLP Government, the most pressing issues in a 21st century Bermuda are the potential for a return to a plantation system, a manufactured conflict with a non-existent colonial foe and a strategic alliance with a brutal Cuban dictatorship.

Simply trading in his safari shirts for suits and shaving off his beard can’t conceal the undeniable fact that Alex Scott, and most of his colleagues, are political dinosaurs on the verge of extinction.

The majority of Cabinet, and the radical PLP base who put them there, came of age in the 1960s, but ceased to mature. Meanwhile the rest of Bermuda has passed them, leaving them to shadow box their imaginary issues and opponents, thoroughly convinced that they can somehow win a battle in which they’re the only ones fighting.

The PLP political model is simple: stoke the fires of racial hatred; keep those fires burning and the public will turn a blind eye to neglect over housing, education, crime, healthcare and seniors. This lack of vision, dynamism and compassion is crumbling under its own weight.

It’s little wonder then that the very youth whose interests are so frequently invoked find little appeal in politics, opting instead for that familiar brand of political cynicism. While understandable, this is the wrong response.

Never before has Bermuda enjoyed such an abundance of well-educated, business savvy and highly successful young people. Never before have Bermudians of all ages been presented with so many opportunities on a global scale, complete with the skills to take advantage of them.

A promising and prosperous future will be secured only when forward looking Bermudians, free of the shackles of the past, step forward and demand their place on the political stage and deprive that racial fire of its oxygen.

The narrow-minded and increasingly irrelevant obsessions of our current leadership can no longer be allowed to dominate Bermuda’s political stage. Young Bermudians must step forward with their energy, their ideas and their time.

It’s not easy, and we owe a great debt to those visionaries who have come before us. But it’s time for the next generation of political leaders to step forward and claim the mantle. Public service remains a noble calling, despite the best efforts of some of its current practitioners to prove otherwise.

It’s time to get involved.

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Even the Government's own laywer, Mr. Willie Bourne (a fantastic guy and a great neighbour) has no idea what Labour and Home Affairs Minister Randy Horton's rationale was in amending the real estate policy which abruptly denied Bermudians the ability to sell their qualifying properties to international buyers:

"Mr. Bourne admitted there was “no statement” of the rationale behind the Minister amending the long-standing existing policy in the way that he did..."

The longer this goes on the clearer it becomes that changing the policy was little more than a knee jerk reaction intended to deflect criticism that Government wasn't acting on the housing problem.

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Interesting quote from Walton Brown in today's RG Magazine article entitled "Inside the UBP":

"Right now, the only issue is independence. If the UBP were real smart they would say they want an election on the issue and they would probably win it". Merely gaining a 'no' vote at the referendum for which they are campaigning, won't win any electoral advantage, argues Mr. Brown.

True. The UBP would probably win an election run on independence. The flip side however is that they'd be setting a precedent that runs directly counter to their point of principle that independence is an issue that the electorate are entitled to vote on directly.

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VSB news reported tonight that, a year to the day, Government's real estate policy change, which blindsided every Bermudian, will be challenged in the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs, a Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, are challenging the policy change preventing them from selling their qualifying Tuckers Town property to a foreign buyer - reportedly one Oprah Winfrey.

The Marshalls have apparently indicated a willingness to take this all the way to the Privy Council and are represented by one of the best, former Attorney General Saul Froomkin [Note: I'm biased because Saul's a good friend...but he's still one of the best).

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Intel from the grang opening of the Bus Terminal yesterday:

"I was watching the news last night and honestly though I was viewing a recap of the throne speech … given the number of PLP MPs in the audience. It was only after the camera angle widened that I realized it was a dedication ceremony for the bus terminal … wow … these guys must really be quite cognizant of the fact that they’ve done SFA for the last +7 years and are now taking every opportunity to show their mugs on TV … it reminded me of Bill Murray’s 2004 Golden Globe’s acceptance speech for best actor in Lost in Translation : 'I would thank the people at Universal and Focus, except there's so many people trying to take credit for this I wouldn't know where to begin.'

"What’s even funnier is that a friend was getting a sandwich at the Grand Central Deli at about the same time the press conference was going on and mentioned that on his way out the door he noticed that the inaugural bus had just turned up the street in the first ever official arrival …. but was unable to find a bay to park in … they were all taken up by ministers’ cars … this is just too rich …."

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A funny thing happened in Bermuda's courts yesterday. There was a guilty verdict in a high profile murder case.

Who'da thunk it?

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (01 Feb. 2006)

It’s said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. That has never been more true than in today’s Bermuda where a disturbing attitude seems to have taken hold in the corridors of power: we the residents of Bermuda exist solely to fund Government’s wasteful spending habits.

The recent comments by former United Bermuda Party Leader Grant Gibbons and Senator Bob Richards were on the money: overtaxing Bermudians – to the tune of $50 million in 2005 alone – is not a virtue. Government is not a profit making venture.

While it’s reasonable for Government to turn a small budget surplus each year, overtaxing us to the tune of $211 million over the past four years is a disgrace. Excess revenue of this magnitude should not simply be thrown into the Government coffers, but returned to the taxpayer as tax reductions in subsequent years. A quarter of a million dollars is much better used by the people, not politicians who think they’ve won the lottery.

Sadly, Premier Scott and his colleagues seem to measure their effectiveness on the basis of how much money can be extracted from our pockets: the more we pay the better job they’re doing. Of course the opposite is true.

Good governance involves doing more with less. Typically, like most things in the New Bermuda, the inverse is true; the PLP Government is doing less with more. Much much less, with much much more.

Not only is Government’s budget growing at a worrying rate, but taxation is outpacing that growth. That might be tolerable if we were receiving value for money, but we’re not, despite the incessant invocation of that tired phrase “The Social Agenda”.

The outcome of this increased taxation and spending is that everyone wants a piece of the action. To their credit, Cabinet is leading by example, treating this over-taxation as a license to travel; permission to furiously swipe their Government credit cards; an incentive to lavish perks on themselves – like two renovated residences for two Premiers; and allowing capital projects like the new Berkeley Institute to run obscenely over budget.

It’s not surprising then that others, including the Civil Service and the BIU want their cut. Give the BIU their due, they were the more creative side, requesting a reduced work week for the same pay, which translates into a financial hit on multiple levels: an effective pay raise and increased overtime requirements.

It’s bonus time in the public sector.

But who can blame everyone for drooling over that taxpayer slush fund. The pot of taxpayer funded goodies is being raided from the highest levels at the expense of those at the bottom. “The People’s Government” indeed.

These tens of millions of dollars of excess revenue collected annually aren’t even finding their way to programs and organizations that would presumably qualify under the auspices of the vaunted but vacuous Social Agenda. Just ask the Salvation Army.

Here’s an organization quietly doing important but difficult work in housing the homeless, and the Premier and Health Minister show their gratitude through budget cuts and insults. Sad but true.

You see, Cabinet values their $340,000 parking lot over a homeless shelter in a period that the Housing Minister himself has described as a ‘crisis’. Again, sad but true.

This taxation and wasteful spending will catch up with us soon enough, if it hasn’t already. It’s not a coincidence that tourism and retail – our most taxed sectors – remain on a multi-decade slide, while international business – the least taxed – is booming.

Our future economic success depends on the reversal of the tax, tax, tax, and spend, spend, spend ways of the current administration.

Bermuda is an increasingly expensive place with taxation and fiscal mismanagement as its primary driver. But don’t be mistaken. Government’s insatiable appetite for revenue and unrestrained growth will catch up with international business as well.

The gap between Bermuda and our competing jurisdictions is narrowing, as Government drives the cost of doing business in Bermuda into the stratosphere.

Our consumption based tax system detaches us from our taxation to a large extent. If we filled out tax returns annually we’d be shocked at how much we pay in tax.

We wouldn’t just be complaining that Bermuda is expensive; we’d be complaining that Government is overtaxing us. And we’d be right.

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