August 2006 Archives

The Limey disagrees with me on the Hospital plan, and thinks that the new structure should be plonked in the middle of Bermuda's centre-piece parkland:

"Sustainable development does not mean that open spaces should be protected at all costs."

I'd agree with that statement. I do however think it means protecting it at a slight increase in cost and inconvenience, which is what should be done here.

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Another aspect of the proposed hospital redevelopment which is concerning is the Government's increasing tendency to shut out the public on controversial issues:

"National Trust director Mr. Conway was critical of the way the plan had been settled without broad public input. The Trust wrote in July to the BHB calling for it to redevelop the existing site but had not received a response."

Government has kept the proposed Loughlands housing development and Special Development Order (SDO) secret from everyone, including area residents, and didn't respond to the National Trust's letter regarding the Hospital redevelopment.

That's not acceptable. That doesn't mean that they have to cave in, but another SDO is going to be needed for the hospital if they are going to build on parkland.

A generic dog and pony Sustainable Development show doesn't mean much if the overarching principles are discarded when it comes to the nitty gritty of new development. Cabinet are going to have to do some real heavy lifting to get support on this.

I remain in favour of a phased redevelopment of the current site.

The alternative, which sets a terrible precedent whereby parkland is fair game for new development, just makes me squirm.

It's hard to believe that in 10 years when a new hospital exists in the Botanical Gardens, and land is even more scarce, that whatever Government is in place isn't going to backtrack on the pledge to turn the old hospital site back over as parkland in favour of another 'very difficult choice'.

Leave the parkland alone.

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I can't get this proposed new hospital thing out of my head today. It's just bugging me.

I must admit to having a little bit of sympathy with the Government here, because this is a really tough call, but only a little bit. If they had a better track record of managing capital projects and weren't acting so holier than thou over Sustainable Development the heat wouldn't reach the levels it's going to.

But it occurred to me this morning as I was thinking of alternative sites, has Government announced any intention for the now vacant old Berkeley site on Berkeley and St. John's roads?

That's a large parcel of land (remember they bulldozed a huge woodland are for the new Berkeley as well). I know it's a massive shift in location which would render Doctor's row on Point Finger Rd. less useful, and I obviously haven't thought about any of the logistics of the hospital there, but why wasn't that site thrown in as a potential location?

It's not zoned greenspace. It's already developed. It's big enough. A building could be largely cut into the hillside and hidden from view.

Just a thought. Any comments?

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And there you have it, as the Bermuda Sun scooped yesterday, Cabinet voted to develop on probably Bermuda's most iconic piece of parkland - the Botanical Gardens.

The inevitable and justified criticism is there, pointing out the hypocrisy of Goverment's Sustainable Development roadshow in the face of a massive redevelopment of greenspace into a (necessary but not there) pile of concrete:

National Trust director Mr. Conway was critical of the way the plan had been settled without broad public input. The Trust wrote in July to the BHB calling for it to redevelop the existing site but had not received a response.

He added: “We cannot accept that the Botanical Gardens and the hundreds of acres of protected land under the National Parks System should be viewed as an exploitable resource – they are of incalculable public value.

“Government should lead by example and practice what it preaches regarding public input on the largest project in decades, anything else present the sustainable development process as a complete charade.”

Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.

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If I were UBP MP Jamahl Simmons, and I felt that I was unable to get work because I was an active politician and/or a member of the Opposition, I wouldn't be too pleased if the hapless former PLP Cabinet Minister Ashfield De Vent - who could barely read his own court reports on VSB Evening News, and performed horribly in his portfolio of Works, Engineering and Housing - joined me in my complaint...even if he predictably chalks it up to race not party affiliation.

Thanks for nothing buddy.

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There's an interesting story in the Bermuda Sun today, predicting that a press conference tomorrow will announce that the Botanical Gardens will be filled with concrete for the new hospital.

Here's where the Government finds themselves stuck on a rock and hard place.

The PLP Government have a well deserved reputation for being big spenders and allowing the cost of capital projects to escalate out of control, as at the Berkeley school.

So with the new hospital they want to assure people that they will manage the development prudently. Therefore the economic decision is to build on the Botanical Gardens.

However, the Premier has been professing his visionary commitment to Sustainable Development at every turn, while preparing to mow down the Botanical Gardens and putting a massive and top secret housing project at Loughlands.

Either way they're going to take some well-deserved flack.

The idea of converting the old Hospital into a new section of the Botanical Gardens seems a reasonable compromise on the surface, but it isn't.

We're on a slippery slope when we start developing supposedly sacred parkland, and it's highly likely that (despite best intentions) the current hospital site will prove too enticing for another massive development and the Botanical Gardens will be lost forever.

If the Bermuda Sun is correct, Government have made the wrong decision, inevitable criticism aside.

Parks should be sacred. Otherwise what's the point? And let's stop wasting everyone's time with talk of sustainable development.

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Kudos to (former schoolmate) Laurion Burchall for his small but significant gesture of repaying the scholarship money he received over a decade ago.

"I'd like someone else from Bermuda to have the same opportunity to get the same education and have the doors open up – giving them the opportunity that I had. I feel it is the correct thing to do."

Education, education, education. That's where it begins and ends. Fix that and most other things will fall into place.

When will our politicians realize that?

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Tortured...and torturous, is the only way I can describe Calvin Smith's self-delusional re-writing of history in yesterday's Royal Gazette.

I can't really summon up the energy to give it a total going over but a couple of gems that stood out for me were:

"The Progressive Labour Party first won election to government in November, 1998. The victory was a result of good planning, effective branch organisation and excellent public relations."

Well a decent campaign, better than they'd run before, but a huge part of the victory came courtesy of a UBP that had totally imploded with infighting over Independence and McDonald's coupled with voter exhaustion after having elected the same party for 30+ years.

"The PLP campaign plan was developed by a campaign committee that comprised the most senior and experienced members of the PLP. Chief among these were party leader Jennifer Smith, Alex Scott, Eugene Cox, David Allen, Walter Roban, this writer as campaign committee chairman and deputy chairman Larry Burchall.

As chairman, I assembled the many decisions taken by the campaign committee into a comprehensive plan which was endorsed by the party delegates conference without objection."

I'm the greatest. Can you go blind masturbating your ego?

"A major strategy of the UBP to downgrade the PLP was achieved by claiming that the PLP government was corrupt. This charge has continued to play in UBP propaganda despite the fact that the charges of corruption were investigated by the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions who found no basis for the charges of corruption."

The truth is of course that the DPP said that Bermuda's corruption laws were so antiquated that he couldn't press charges, not that evidence of wrongdoing didn't exist:

"Police said yesterday that evidence gathered over the past two years was not enough under existing legislation – legislation which is nearly 100 years old – to accuse many of anything other than bad ethics in a scandal involving public funds which ran into the millions.

When asked if the outcome of the investigation may have been different had that legislation been updated before today, consultant to the DPP, Kulandra Ratneser replied: “Yes, the outcome could have been different”."

Got that? If our corruption laws were up to modern standards then charges would likely have been laid.

That's a lot different than the Police and DPP giving a clean bill of health and said it was all an innocent misunderstanding. They even went on in the ensuing debate over the use of the term "unethical" to say:

"...established practices had been abandoned ... an environment was created which could have enabled criminal offences to occur," among other examples of misconduct and mismanagement.

It's too exhausting, depressing and pointless to go line and by and debunk the nonsense, but another of my favourites was the hyping of the Hotel Concessions Act passed early by the late Tourism Minister David Allen, which resulted in virtually no development of hotels but lots of residential units.

We're still waiting on the hotel components down at the old Palmetto Bay Hotel and Tuckers Point is only now making noises about starting on the hotel for example.

The whole article is so disingenuous, I don't know what is worse. That Mr. Smith is so shameless as to write such nonsense, or that he believes his own spin.

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Two interesting developments yesterday by the UBP:

The first was the announcement that former Warwick North East (#25) candidate and former Senator Mark Pettingill will be moving to Warwick West (28) - the district I am about to move out of.

Current UBP candidate and Shadow Education Minister Neville Darrell will be stepping down after one term in the House and one in the Senate. I understand Mr. Darrell is stepping down for personal reasons, he'll be missed. While some criticize him for keeping a relatively low media profile he works hard behing the scenes and is a thoughtful person. My hope is that he resurfaces in the Senate.

Mr. Pettingill adds some legal expertise which is sorely needed in the legislature, as well as tenacious debating skills and a high profile.

He's a solid candidate, but he needs to get out and hit the pavement.

Secondly was the story on ZBM news (and maybe others) that the UBP's Pembroke team has been very active assisting the residents in collecting school supplies for needy families and will be holding a community back to school event.

This is such a positive move on a number of levels, not the least of which is that Pembroke has been a PLP stronghold but has been neglected by their PLP representatives.

For the UBP to make a strong push in Pembroke shows that they are willing to work in all constituencies, and helping people who are struggling to get their children school supplies is a great way to have a meaningful and measurable impact.

Keep it simple. This initiative isn't just good for the community, it's by extension good politics.

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If anyone still bothers to check the site out I want to apologize for the lack of activity as of late.

The perfect storm has converged on me lately, with an office move (now complete), an imminent house move, ants invading my house (and computer) and some memory chips suddenly going bad in my home PC taking a while to decode why it wouldn't start up.

I intend on picking things up in the next day. So apologies.

And of course, if anyone has anything to spout of on in the interim I'd be happy to post it.

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Remember that post I put up last night that the President of Iran had launched his own blog? Well, the latest news is that Israeli's are claiming that it attempts to send a virus to you if you're coming from an Israeli IP address and Israeli hackers are retalliating by trying to take the site down.

They certainly fight on all fronts in that region. Amazing.

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Wake-up call to Bermuda's politicians.

The President of Iran lauched a blog today in four languages.

Time to get with the program Bermuda.

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You might be interested in two legal opinions I received on the response from the Premier with respects to the Human Rights code and sexual orientation:

That is the most pathetic legal 'analysis' ever...What a completely bullshit answer you received.

and

If that wasn't so hilarious, I would cry!!

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Well, I've been meaning to get aroung to this for awhile, but my business trip and vacation interrupted.

On June 27th I emailed the Premier the following:

Dear Mr. Premier,

I listened with great interest to your presentation on the motion to adjourn this past Friday in Parliament.

You have stated several times now, as you did then, that 'all Bermudians' are protected under the Human Rights Code, including those who may be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, and unless proven otherwise (presumably in the courts) that an amendment is unnecessary.

I would be most appreciative if you could point me to the relevant section of the HRC from which you draw your conclusions. I have attached the Consolidated HRC document for your reference.

Best regards,

Christian Dunleavy

I received this reply on July 18th (the first day of my 3 week trip off the island):

Dear Sir:

Your email of June 27th, 2006 with respect to the captioned matter and addressed to the Premier, the Hon. W. Alexander Scott, JP, MP refers.

In the first instance, the Human Rights Act 1981 (the “Act”) affirms the rights and freedoms of all members of the community. “Community” is defined in the Act as: “All persons lawfully residing in Bermuda”.

Please refer to Section 2(2) (a) (ii) of the Act as read with sections 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Please also note that under “Interpretation” [Section 2 (1)] of the Act, “he” includes “she” and vice versa.

I trust the foregoing is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth S. Dill
Assistant Cabinet Secretary
The Cabinet Office
105 Front Street
Hamilton
Tele: 292 5501
Fax; 292 8397
Email: ksdill@gov.bm

While I appreciate the response, I can't begin to describe how weak it is. It's a good thing the Premier isn't a lawyer. He just creates laws.

It's pretty evident to even my non-legal brain that Section 2 defines specifically what categories of discrimination are protected under the Act - and sexual orientation isn't one of them:

(2) For the purposes of this Act a person shall be deemed to discriminate against another person—

(a) if he treats him less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons generally or refuses or deliberately omits to enter into any contract or arrangement with him on the like terms and the like circumstances as in the case of other persons generally or deliberately treats him differently to other persons because—

(i) of his race, place of origin, colour, or ethnic or national origins;
(ii) of his sex;
(iii) of his marital status;
(iiiA) of his disability;
(iv) he was not born in lawful wedlock;
(v) she has or is likely to have a child whether born in lawful wedlock or not;
(vi) of his religion or beliefs or political opinions;or
(vii) of his criminal record, except where there are valid reasons relevant to the nature of the particular offence for which he is convicted that would justify the difference in treatment.".

(b) if he applies to that other person a condition which he applies or would apply equally to other persons generally but—

(i) which is such that the proportion of persons of the same race, place of origin, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, disability, religion, beliefs, or political opinions as that other who can comply with it is considerably smaller than the proportion of persons not of that description who can do so; and
(ii) which he cannot show to be justifiable irrespective of the race, place of origin, colour, ancestry, sex, marital status, disability, religion, beliefs or political opinions of the person to whom it is applied; and
(iii) which operates to the detriment of that other person because he cannot comply with it.

(3) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that the rights conferred by this Act on any disabled person do not in any way restrict any right or duty that any other person or any authority has under the Public Health Act 1949 [title 11 item 1] or the Misuse of Drugs Act 1972 [title 11 item 4] to perform any function conferred or imposed by either of those Acts upon the last mentioned person or that authority in relation to that disabled person.

[Section 2 amended by BR 54/1994 effective 16 December 1994: amended effective by 2000:37 August 24 2000]

The only grey area to me would be the term 'sex', but it's clearly used in the gender sense. Sexual orientation is not covered.

In fact the Human Rights Commission themselves have affirmed that, in their ruling reported the day after I sent the Premier my email.

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This press release and poster was forwarded to me today from the Department of Tourism. It sounds like fun, but I'd question whether we have a Department of Tourism or the Department of Local Entertainment (as the Music Festival seems to have become increasingly centred around locals.)

For Immediate Release August 7, 2006

Movies on the Beach Film Line-Up Announced

First-ever event on Warwick Long Bay, August 17-20, features top films on four consecutive nights

The Bermuda International Film Festival is pleased to announce the film line-up for the first-ever Movies on the Beach event at Warwick Long Bay, August 17-20.

The event is presented by the Bermuda Department of Tourism. BIFF is assisting Tourism with the presentation of the event, and has arranged the film line-up.

The films will be projected on a screen measuring 18 feet by 48 feet. Projection will be handled by Starlight Screenings, an American organisation that handles the same duties for screenings by the Disney studio.

“I am delighted with the film line-up, and looking forward with anticipation to a first for Bermuda – watching the stars under the stars,” says the Hon. Dr. Ewart Brown, Minister of Tourism and Transportation. “This is an event that both locals and visitors will enjoy.”

The four nights of films on the beach will kick off on Thursday August 17 with a screening of House of Flying Daggers, the archetypal action film that won 13 awards when it was released in 2004, including the Best Foreign Film award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It also won three cinematography awards, and was nominated for 33 other awards, including an Academy Award for cinematography.
The film takes place during the reign of the Tang dynasty in China. A secret organisation called "The House of the Flying Daggers" rises and opposes the government. A police officer called Leo sends officer Jin to investigate a young dancer named Mei, claiming that she has ties to the "Flying Daggers". Leo arrests Mei, only to have Jin breaking her free in a plot to gain her trust and lead the police to the new leader of the secret organisation. But things are far more complicated than they seem...
On Friday August 18, we will screen Nanny McPhee, the 2005 family film starring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Kelly Macdonald. Ms. Thompson stars as a governess who uses magic to rein in the behaviour of seven ne’er-do-well children in her charge. The film was a hit at the box office in the United States, doing more than $47 million in business.

On Saturday, August 19, see the history of the blues in one night in the concert film, Lighning in a Bottle. Beginning with a stirring African folk song (Zélié performed by Angélique Kidjo) the roots are established and rapidly swell into a trunk thickened by the hardships of the Great Depression (Gamblin' Man performed by David `Honeyboy' Edwards) and the oppression of segregation (Jim Crow Blues performed by Odetta). Finally, this Blues family tree shows off vibrant new growth as it reveals the Blues' influence on our modern wealth of talented musicians (Midnight Special performed by John Fogerty and Hound Dog done by Macy Gray). Ruth Brown gives Blll Cosby a full-throttle serenade (and a playful smoldering gaze), along with Mavis Staples and Natalie Cole. Angélique Kidjo persuades Buddy Guy to an unforgettable rendition of `Voodoo Child,' shortly before Bonnie Raitt and Robert Cray accompany B.B. King and Lucille for the final number, `Paying the Cost to be the Boss.'

On Sunday August 20, Movies on the Beach wraps up with a screening of the well-loved romantic comedy, Moonstruck, by acclaimed director Norman Jewison. Nicholas Cage, Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia star in a film that won 15 awards, including three Academy Awards. Cher won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance as a widowed Brooklyn book-keeper who is torn between her fiancée (Danny Aiello) and his brother (Mr. Cage). Ms. Dukakis won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film was also nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mr. Gardenia).

Films start at 8.30 p.m. on all four nights. Admission is free, and food and drink will be available. Film watchers are advised to bring a chair or blanket to sit on.

On Saturday, after the film, unité productions is hosting an after-party from 10.30 p.m. onwards with wine, beer, special cocktails and chill-out music under the stars. The organisation is best-known for its Pink, Red and White parties.

On Sunday, before the film, unité productions is hosting a pre-party from 7 p.m. onwards with wine, beer, and special cocktails on the beach before the sun goes down.

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As painful as it is to start my post-vacation blogging this way, here goes:

I don't for the life of me understand why UBP leader Wayne Furbert felt the need to hold a press conference on Independence today. Sure, most of what he said was fine, but what was the point?

No-one gives a damn, and the PLP have been looking for someone to spar with on this for years now. So far they've just been talking to themselves.

And lately they've even started answering themselves, which is the real sign you need to vist St. Brendan's, aka the Mid Atlantic Wellness Centre.

I don't know what he was thinking. The PLP look like idiots for continuing this in the face of complete and overwhelming disapproval and ambivalence.

I wouldn't be surprised if the PLP come charging out of the gate on this again thinking that they've got someone to argue with.

The UBP is on much better footing when they do what Kim Swan did this week, which is point out that the Government's own Sustainable Development report notes that Government has no housing policy and is just winging it:


"They reported that Government has no clear housing policy, relying instead on initiatives that are ad hoc and purely reactive in nature; that it has an uncoordinated approach to housing that means ‘only a partial view of the housing needs of the Island is being taken’ and it lacks a separate department with clear roles and responsibilities for housing."

If you don't think that Kim struck a nerve then you mustn't have noticed that the Finance Minister made a little statement today and that Senator Walter Roban was out rattling of the very ad hoc reactive initiatives as if they constituted a plan and a coordinated approach.

Leave independence to the PLP. No-one else cares in the least But people do care about housing, crime, education etc.. That's where the UBP is on the best footing.

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I'm back on the island after 3 weeks of virtually completely ignoring Bermuda news.

But as always it's great to be back on the island.

There does seem to be a fair amount worthy of comment, which I'll do over the coming couple of days.

I didn't take long for me to remember why I love our news here. During my drive back from the airport yesterday one of the top stories on VSB radio news was that someone had stolen 2 pieces of lumber and 3 pieces of plywood from a construction site.

Classic.

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