October 2006 Archives

News picked up on the trick or treat trail this evening is that long serving Cabinet Secretary (Head of Civil Service) John Drinkwater has resigned effective immediately. Read into that what you want.

The purge begins.

Much more to come on this over the coming days.

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Today's Royal Gazette covers most bases today (here, here, here, here, and here) on the Cabinet appointments and the Limey has a high level take that I largely share.

There's no point in retreading that ground, so I don't have too much to add other than that on the surface there looks to be a lot of change but there are an awful lot of familiar faces in there; including a couple of established underperformers (Dennis Lister, Nelson (BHC) Bascome) and one seriously pissed looking Paula Cox.

I did want to touch on the surprise that many people have expressed with respects to David Burch retaining a Senate seat and Cabinet role, while the 4 other Senators got the boot.

I think a couple of things were at play here:

1) Dr. Brown felt a need to maintain some continuity in housing after 8 years of upheaval.

2) Firing all 5 senators would be a horrible move logistically. Someone with Senate experience had to remain to guide through legislation. 5 newbies unfamiliar with the Senate process, despite their smarts, would be open to abuse by the UBP Senators. I don't know who the Senate leader will be, presumably David Burch or Phil Perinchief, but I think that was an additional factor in retaining Sen. Burch.

[CORRECTION: This entry was corrected: It would appear that the "Junior Ministers" are not in fact in Cabinet, as I originally thought but seemed to be the case.]

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I'll add each appointment as they're announced. Click refresh to get the latest:

Cabinet

Premier & Tourism & Transport - Ewart Brown
Dep. Premier & Finance - Paula Cox
Education, Sport & Recreation - Randy Horton
Health - Nelson Bascome
Public Safety & Housing - David Burch (Senator)
Environment, Telecommunications & E-Commerce - Neletha Butterfield
Community & Cultural Affairs - Wayne Perinchief
Labour & Immigration - Derrick Burgess
Social Rehabilitation (WTF?) - Dale Butlter
Works & Engineering - Dennis Lister
Attorney General - Phil Perinchief (Senator)

Non Cabinet Senators

Junior Minister - Kim Wilson (Senator)
Junior Minister - Davida Morris (Senator)
Junior Minister - Wayne Caines (Senator)

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Rumour has it that a little post-election showdown took place over the weekend between Dr. Brown and technically-still-Premier Scott.

I've been reliably informed that Doc. Brown, fresh off his PLP leadership win but before his official swearing in as Premier, quickly called in GP1 - the Premier's official ride - and that Premier Scott refused to hand it over.

So Dr. Brown decided he'd take it anyway (or at least try). I hear that the Police were aware.

Priorities. The first order of business for the about to be Premier was to get his keys to the most oversized car on the island.

[UPDATE: originally I used the phrase saying 'the Police were involved', which is a little strong. The Police were 'aware' is probably better, based on what I heard]

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The latest iteration of Cabinet is to be announced at 11AM this morning, or thereabouts.

I'll post the lineup as soon as I hear.

I'll also be providing some more thoughts on where things may go from here, but the one thing that I'll say now, is that we'll almsot certainly be facing a general election within 6 months.

Dr. Brown will want to get to the polls quickly.

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Gone is Alex Scott's head shot on the PLP's website front page, already replaced with Dr. Ewart Brown's.

The leadership page has been quickly reshuffled as well.

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Moreno reports that Paula Cox defeats Randy Horton for PLP Deputy Leader.

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Randy Horton is contesting for Deputy Premier against Paula Cox.

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Gary Moreno of ZBM is reporting that Dr. Ewart Brown has beaten Alex Scott as the Leader of the PLP.

Vote count: 107 to 76

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ZBM's Gary Moreno is reporting that both Premier Scott and Dr. Brown have addressed the delegates.

The vote will be by secret ballot and the ballots are now being handed out.

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So, I figured that I have to do some type of prediction for this evening, so here goes:

BLOODBATH.

How's that?

But seriously, from what I've read I just can't see how either outcome, Premier Scott or Premier Brown, can resolve the animosity that has plastered the newspapers all week. I also think there's the distinct possibility that there is no resolution this evening and this could run through the weekend.

What sealed it for me was Paula Cox coming out in the press and disparaging Dr. Brown. That confirms that things are very acrimonious; she's not the confrontational type.

So we'll have to wait and see.

If I was forced to predict between Dr. Brown winning the vote or Alex Scott, I'd put my money on Scott. Incumbency has its advantages and Alex Scott is much more in-tune with the branches and the party mechanics than Dr. Brown who is all about me, me, me as his opponents/colleagues have pointed out.

And let's face it, how does the thought of a Government run by Ewart Brown, Rolfe Commissiong, Julian Hall, Calvin Smith make you feel?

I'll take (relatively) benign incompetence over malicious competence any day.

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Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

What do we have today?

The Premier saying that open space is sacrosant and that he'll "do everything [he] can to prevent the hospital being built on the Botanical Gardens."

Say what?

His Cabinet put that idea forward through his Health Minister.

You've got Ewart Brown either ignorant or feigning ignorance on the hospital plans in his 'vision' statement. While I agree with him on how it needs to be handled he clearly doesn't know what was included in the BHB Master Plan and was (presumably) a part of Cabinet's decision in that regard.

You've got two Cabinet Ministers openly campaigning against their Premier, without either resigning their portfolios, or being fired.

Collective responsibility is officially dead in Bermuda.

Bermuda can't afford this type of self-indulgent, divided and directionless Government any longer.

UBP leader Wayne Furbert is right; whatever the outcome in tonight's PLP leadership vote the party will remain divided. The divide is simply too great.

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Thrilled by the success of Tourism's recent showing of Movies on the Beach, the PLP will be re-enacting "House of Flying Daggers" this evening at Alaska Hall.

I'll post the outcome...if there is one tonight...as soon as I hear something.

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Ticket please....

PLP_Ticket.jpg

Thanks to the unknown comedian.

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Tons of good stuff in today's The Royal Gazette articles (here, here and here) and editorial regarding the PLP leadership battle. Must read material, after 10AM when it comes online of course.

Short version, Paula Cox to run with Scott as Deputy, craps all over Dr. Brown, and reveals a massive split in the party.

The PLP have a big problem here (actually same 3 year old problem finally resurfacing), whether this goes Brown or Scott's way....or another direction.

UPDATE: The Bermuda Sun has some good behind the scenes looks and take on my earlier observations about the different approaches taken by the Brown and Scott camps.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (25 May, 2006)

While the long knives are again being sharpened for this year’s installment of Friday Night Fights: Scott v Brown, the long-awaited no-holds-barred-fight-to-the-death political cage match, there’s an important question worthy of an answer:

Is Dr. Brown really “The Minister Who Gets Things Done” as he and others would have us believe? If only I had a government credit card for every time I’ve heard that phrase.

The media has willingly adopted the narrative that Dr. Brown gets things done, with an abundance of magazine profiles, newspaper editorials, fawning opinion columns (not mine) and carefully timed endorsements from those auditioning for PLP Senator under a Premier Brown. Just Monday, Julian Hall invoked this theme in The Royal Gazette when he declared that “you can’t argue with success”.

I beg to differ. Dr. Brown’s ‘success’ is an unanswered and unanswerable question; not a fact. Far from it.

The wanna-be Premier’s entire leadership campaign is based on the idea that he gets things done. It has to be. The alternative would be novel: a candidacy trumpeting deceit, condescension, ethical transgressions (Pay for Play, undeclared property sale to BHC and Club Med to name a few) and avoidance of scrutiny through legal threats and racial incitement.

Recognising this character problem Dr. Brown and his wife staged a big wet made for the cameras kiss; complete with the dutiful Mrs. Brown imploring us that “You can trust him”…a reminder of course that we can’t.

Ethical matters aside, the question remains: Has Dr. Brown got things done?

At Transport he gave us fast ferries…or fast boats to nowhere judging by the amount of time they spend moored at the end of East Broadway. The Minister gave us GPS; the benefits of which are yet to be seen after more than a year’s delay due to his high-handed Minister knows best approach.

Is buying boats and ramming initiatives down an industry’s throats getting things done? I don’t think so.

However, Dr. Brown’s preeminent claim to success rests in Tourism; where we’re all supposed to accept as indisputable his accomplishments of new flights and increased visitor numbers.

It’s here, in the very area that is supposedly indisputable, that things get murky. Why? Because Dr. Brown is a shrewd and cunning politician, one who’s acutely aware that the devil is in the details; so he denies access to those details.

Dr. Brown’s secrecy at Tourism is the equivalent of him denying his medical patients access to their records but declaring them cured. Tourism doesn’t need a faith healer.

But isn’t it a fact that air arrivals are up? Indeed. But at what cost?

How many taxpayer dollars have been sent overseas as airline load guarantees, marketing assistance or other undisclosed incentives? How much have our hotels shelled out to the airlines in deals Dr. Brown committed them to - without their knowledge in some cases?

Opening the Government cheque book wide and asking ‘what will it take’ isn’t getting things done, that’s giving away the farm. Ask any business person if they’re interested in a guaranteed profit on the backs of taxpayers and they’ll say “Hell yeah!” Businesses don’t turn down those kinds of offers.

What Dr. Brown should have been doing is building a profitable long-term tourism model; not throwing money at the airlines to spur an artificial short-term boost.

Bermuda tourism is a business, and as shareholders in that business we should focus on the top and bottom lines. Dr. Brown has been somewhat effective at pumping up the top line number through an overdependence on cruise ships and airline subsidies – trademarks of an unhealthy industry.

He knows that the majority of people only remember the headlines. The rest is hidden. What the Minister has succeeded at is generating cheap headlines at great taxpayer expense.

Dr. Brown’s success - or lack of it – should be measured against the bottom line not top line growth. But that net figure is incalculable due to an intentional lack of disclosure.

Are we spending more on subsidies and marketing than the resulting tourists are putting back into the economy? What’s the duration of the subsidies Dr. Brown committed the Bermuda Government to? Will the airlines continue to fly if the profit guarantees go away?

Dr. Brown’s unwillingness to answer those questions means that we can’t reach a conclusion on his ability to get things done. What it does is suggest that he’s generating top line growth at the expense of the bottom line; and many a failed businessman can tell you that it’s easy to make the top line look good. It’s the bottom line that counts.

While the presentation of Tourism’s statistics has become more glitzy of late, the transparency has decreased – all those smoke and mirrors I guess. The baselines have changed while the last set of numbers were just flat out wrong, while the Minister stopped reporting ‘tourists’ in favour of ‘air arrivals’? And there’s been a marked increase in air arrivals wearing suits and carrying briefcases lately. Is that a result of Dr. Brown or a tight reinsurance market?

How many of those new flights are geared at locals than tourists? Take the Miami flight for example? I recently flew on a flight which was 100% full; 50% was Bermudians going to a wedding and the other 50% was Bermudians going to Disney world.

Dr. Brown has used the tourism budget to entertain locals at the expense of attracting tourists: feel the love at a taxpayer sponsored party.

Look at this year’s Bermuda Music Festival. Dr. Brown proudly declared that attendance reached an all-time high of over 10,000 people.

But how many of those were tourists? Two thousand - less than 20%. That’s not a tourism event, that’s a local concert that a few tourists show up for. I have a good time too, but I’m under no illusions that it’s designed for tourists.

If it were the line-up wouldn’t be so R&B heavy. If we were really trying to appeal to our East Coast demographic we wouldn’t be running an exclusively R&B festival; we’d select a line-up with broader appeal. But Dr. Brown knows that he can please the local R&B fans, boost his numbers and keep the festival afloat.

Except that it isn’t afloat.

So what was the total cost of the 2006 Bermuda Music Festival? We don’t know.

What we do know is that ticket sales exceeded $700,000 this year. Wow, $700,000 you say. That wouldn’t have covered the artists’ fees alone.

A Music Festival of this scope would cost many multiples of $700,000 to stage. The budget has so obviously exploded under Brown that he’s resorted to hiding the cost in an unregistered charity headed up by his wife.

Is running an event which consistently loses money success? Not by my standards. But maybe that’s just me.

And then there’s Movies on the Beach, another ‘tourism event’. Or not. It’s another example of the Department of Tourism entertaining residents.

Maybe that’s what people want from their Tourism Minister? It’s not what I want. I’d like a tourism industry that is economically viable and doesn’t have to buy - at great cost - the few tourists who come here.

So let’s not get carried away with the idea that Dr. Brown has got things done. That’s far from certain.

What is certain is that he’s thrown tens of millions of dollars around in a cynical PR campaign intended to convince us that he gets things done, as opposed to actually getting them done.

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A few random thoughts on the PLP leadership battle:

Firstly, my overall reaction to Dr. Brown's 'vision' was that it was underwhelming. The wanna-be Premier rolled out the same old platitudes and pandered to the same crowd as Scott; if this is the best he's got after lusting after the Premier's spot for so long I'm surprised.

For example, I struggle to believe that Brown cares one bit about the Human Rights Amendment which he opposed in his speech:

"I firmly believe in the right of all and any individuals to be free from discrimination in any form. However, I would not support the proposed Human Rights Amendment. I do not believe that there is a need for special protection of persons in Bermuda based on their sexual orientation. I personally know of many individuals who have reached the pinnacles of Bermudian society who have stated their preference for members of their same sex. There is no evidence that this divisive amendment is necessary for Bermuda at this time."

Come on. Setting aside the not so subtle reminder to the PLP delegates of the sexual orientation of some of those who are working against his leadership bid, if I were to make the following statement what would Dr. Brown say:

"I do not believe that there is a need for special protection of persons in Bermuda based on their race. I personally know of many individuals who have reached the pinnacles of Bermudian society who are black. There is no evidence that this divisive amendment is necessary for Bermuda at this time."

He's call me a plantation owner, slave master etc. etc..

Brown doesn't give two hoots about someone's sexual orientation, of that I'm sure. He's "toadying to the church lobby" to borrow a phrase from Brown backer Julian Hall in today's RG.

Remember that Brown's cousin, and PLP Central Committee wingnut Laverne Furbert told the Bermuda Sun that the PLP Central Committee had killed the HRC amendment before it went to Cabinet.

Brown knows he'd better not stir up that hornets nest, so he sells himself and a lot of others out trying to triangulate a position that placates homophobic delegates.

Regardless, there was very little new in there, although I agree that the whole hospital decision needs to be revisited and approached from the bottom-up. But the statement on the hospital raises to me one very serious question about Brown that challenges the whole idea that the PLP train will suddenly get moving under him.

Essentially what Dr. Brown said is that the two successive Cabinet's which he has served in have been useless and accomplished very little other than letting things run as they found them. (The few efforts at tinkering have given us things like Berkeley, the BHC, an exploding travel budget etc.).

So here's my question:

If Dr. Brown is such a powerful orator, such a persuasive politician, why has he been so unpersuasive in Cabinet? He's been a party to all these discussions and initiatives and has defended them to the hilt in Parliament and the media. He can't disown the record of the past 8 years, as much as he'd like us to believe otherwise.

He also can't expect us to believe that with him at the helm we're suddenly going to get much better productivity out of the same useless and ineffective 21 (excluding the Speaker - from the eligible MPs, not being useless and ineffective) PLP MPs than we have for the past 8 years.

Brown's been in Cabinet for 8 years. That group is so clearly disfunctional that a simple change at the top isn't going to change anything; they'll still be split and mired in in-fighting.

Brown's speech offered nothing new, and frankly, from watching the delivery he seemed to be lacking his usual panache.

I'm getting the impression that Dr. Brown knows that he can't win as himself (Doc Hollywood). So he's trying to be all humble, and humble doesn't work for him; he's arrogant and cocky, some people lap that up...evidently not the delegates though.

If he succeeds in this leadership bid we'll see arrogance magnified not just personified....let alone the access to power and perks such an ethics-less Premier would have.

Regardless, I see the daily media blitz from the Brown camp and the silence in return from the Scott camp, as a sign that Brown knows he's not got the votes he needs and Scott is quietly working the back channels. So he's sent out his emissaries to convince/publicly shame the delegates into voting for him.

If he thought he could sway the delegates by talking to them directly I doubt he'd be rolling out the who's who of washed up PLP MPs and hangers on like Arthur Hodgson, Julian Hall (washed up MPs) and Rolfe Commissiong (hanger on) to make the case.

Time will tell if this is a good strategy.

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The Flyer Phantom strikes again (see editions 1.0 and 2.0 here), with a new flyer hitting the streets this morning.

No longer just complaining, we now have an immigration platform:


1. Status Bermudians need to be deported when they divorce their Bermudian spouse.

2. Permanent resident cards need to be abolished if the holder is not married to a Bermudian.

3. Non Bermudians need to be banned from entering the Public Education System as students.

4. Status Bermudians, Permanent resident card holders need to be banned from Social assistance and government jobs.

Firstly, kudos on adopting the spell checker.

Secondly, I love point 3, specifically that Non Bermudians be banned from the public education system, with this caveat: "as students." Presumably non-Bermudian teachers are ok then?

Thirdly, we're seeing the hierarchy of "Bermudian" now, with the suggestion that Status Bermudians be banned from social assistance and working in the government.

Lovely.

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From the guy who temporarily streamed Parliament over the internet, Doug De Douto's latest offering is an RSS feed he created for the Royal Gazette's website as well as aggregating Bermuda's blogs and websites into a shared Google Reader site. (you can get the aggregated feed here rather than visit the site)

Bless you Doug!

I use Bloglines to pick up my feeds, although there are many others.

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I presume it's the same for all users of Google Earth, but has anyone else noticed that a slice of the island is without images (Pembroke, Paget and Warwick)?

Anyone know how to report this to Google Earth? I can't seem to find a support address.

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One other thing that I wanted to point out from the article in today's RG about the increasingly nasty Scott vs Brown battle, is with respects to this quote:

"The Royal Gazette asked both candidates on their views on a head to head debate.

When asked if he was in favour of a TV debate Dr. Brown said: “Sure!”
However the Premier’s spokesman Beverle Lottimore said: “I believe the general public knows what the Premier stands for."

Civil Servants can't act in political capacities.

While I accept that this disinction becomes harder for the Department of Communication and Information, the PLP leadership battle is first and foremost a party matter not Government business, and as such it is inappropriate for Ms. Lottimore to be acting as his PR flak with respects to party matters.

She should stop fielding questions on this topic. Alex Scott can't hide behind civil servants.

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According to today's Royal Gazette, Dr. Brown is due to hold a press conference to announce his policy line-up:

"So far the campaign has been low key with neither candidate putting out a platform of issues although Dr. Brown is due to unveil his policies at a press conference this afternoon."

May I make a suggestion to the reporters in attendance.

By all means go to the press conference, but when question time comes let's ask Dr. Brown all the things we really need to know, like:

* How much did the Music Festival Cost?
* What are the details of the airline subsidies that he won't disclose?
* Why Four Seasons got kicked off the Club Med project?
* Some tough questions which he so far won't answer on Pay for Play?
* To release the details of his stay at a Dubai seven star hotel

And those are just for starters.

And when he refuses, and says those are plantation questions, let him know that you won't be dutifully transcribing his press conference for the next publications/broadcasts unless and until he answers these questions.

Otherwise you're not reporters; you're a transcription service and free advertising.

There's some give and take between politicians and the media. So far with Brown, it's all take. Now he has to give if he wants full coverage of his contrived press events.

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I love the smell of desperation in the morning...it smells like....defeat. (Well, maybe defeat. What do I know. But it made a nice intro nonetheless.)

A week ago I precariously went out a real limb and predicted that the PLP leadership battle would get ugly, and that Dame Jennifer would marshall her forces (ie. delegates) to block Ewart Brown....well, lo and behold today's newspapers are full of Brown lackies - led by Chief Brown-noser Rolfe Commissiong - whining that the Scott/Smith camp aren't playing nice.

Wah, wah, wah!

I'm going to go out on another limb here and suggest that after the way Jennifer Smith was treated by Ewart and his followers in 2003 she couldn't care less about playing by the rules.

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May I join the chorus (click here, here and here) on the stupidity of the Police declaring they'll be enforcing the 35kph speed limit.

The fatality problem isn't due to people driving at 40kph or even 50kph, which I'd consider the 'normal' speed on our roads. The problem is dangerous driving, reckless over/under-taking and people racing around late at night with a few cold ones in them.

But that involves work. What is proposed is simply lazy policing: throw a few road blocks up during slow-moving rush hour, ticketing bikes in the third lane on East Broadway or installing cameras and the like. These tactics are little more than backdoor taxation/revenue collection and won't change behaviour on the roads one bit.

What is needed is uniformed cops out on the roads...moving...not parked up and picking off the low hanging fruit.

What is needed is cops on the roads during the day and night in unmarked vehicles, hauling in every maniac who screams past them on a blind corner or tailgates on Harbour Rd..

What is needed is a resumption of those late Friday/Saturday night traffic stops impounding loud and modified vehicles...which are also much more likely to be stolen. When I went 16 these were commonplace on weekends and late nights.

What is need is to pull over and impound those vehicles with license plates strategically covered in mud or with locks obscuring them.

That takes policing. How's about we get back to that.

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If Dr. Brown wants to be Premier he's going to have to show a little more respect for our intelligence, and commitment to the truth, than he did today.

Responding to UBP MP Michael Dunkley's accusation of political grandstanding - Gasp, it can't be true - by Dr. Brown on the last day of his tenure at tourism, Dr. Brown said the following:

"The announcement formed part of his “normal pattern” of updating the public on things going on within the Department, he said, and had nothing to do with his leadership aspirations.

“Mr. Dunkley is entitled to his opinion – but all I was interested in when I was the Minister was informing the public of the work we had been doing,” he said.

Informing the public of the work he had been doing? Here's a few things I'd like to be informed about:

* Why did Four Seasons get summarily dismissed from the Club Med project to be replaced by the elusive and secretive KJA Development?

* What are the details of the load guarantees and incentives that you have provided to the airlines in exchange for new routes?

* What is the ratio of residents to tourists on the new flights? (Baltimore, Miami in particular)

* What was the total cost of the Bermuda Music Festival?

Come on Dr. Brown. You weren't informing the public, your were headline grabbing. Your plan was obvious: you wanted to resign your portfolio on a high note (I'm bringing Tiger Woods to Bermuda) and then, with that good press, have a headline the next day that the guy who's bringing you Tiger Woods wants to be your Premier.

It's not that hard to see through.

Look at the past couple of weeks, but the last week in particular. We've been treated to a series of highly staged managed leaks and press events by the Deputy Premier, culminating in his announcement that he was running for Premier:

* Sept 29th - Dr. Brown starts his campaign for Premier with a chest-beating blame diverting speech on his government's (terrible) record on empowerment.

* Oct. 11th - a clearly orchestrated 'leak' declares Dr. Brown's intention to challenge Alex Scott for PLP Leader (and Premier).

* Oct. 11th (same day as Brown to challenge Scott leak hits the press) - Dr. Brown surprises the Mid Ocean Club with a hasty press conference prematurely declaring that the PGA Grand Slam will be held in Bermuda (although nothing's signed).

* Oct. 12th (same day the PGA Golf grabs a big headline) - Dr. Brown officially declares that he is running for PLP Leader/Premier.

Bada bing, bada boom. What a good 3 day run of press for Dr. Brown. I don't begrudge his manipulation of the compliant press, who rarely seem to ask him the tough questions and never persist when he obstructs them).

It's insulting frankly for him to try and convince us that his motives were pure and altruistic in prematurely announcing the still unsigned PGA Grand Slam event.

I also couldn't help but notice the insincerity in distancing himself now if things fall through as a result of his media whoring:

However, Brown said yesterday he had been assured by the Department’s sports tourism consultant Roddy Carr – who works for sports management giant IMG and is the man behind the two-year-old mission to bring a major golf event to Bermuda – that negotiations were progressing to a positive conclusion.

Translation: If it falls through don't blame me, balme the consultant.

and

"Now if I was still working in the Department I would be able to give you the complete and up-to-date information, but as far as I am concerned and through my conversations with Roddy Carr, I’m certain it’s all-but sealed."

Translation: I wish I could shed even more light on the event but I'm no longer the Minister - aka Blame Burch if it doesn't transpire.

Way to lead Mr. Minister. Is this how we can expect a Premier Brown to operate:

Step 1: charge to the mic to take credit for anything and everything (even prematurely).
Step 2: once things come under a little scrutiny make it clear that you weren't the one calling the shots and had delegated it to someone else.
Step 3: when the inevitable criticism comes, throw your hands in the air and say you're simply unable to take any further responsibility - unless it does come off of course when you'll be gripping and grinning with Tiger Woods (if he qualifies) for the local press.

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Tomorrow is Green Day in support of the preservation of open space:

GreenDay_sm.jpg

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If you’re debating whether to summon up the strength to slog through a Cal Smith column in today’s Royal Gazette (mercifully not yet online) let me offer you a ray of hope: you can stop reading after the first paragraph.

Actually I’ll summarise the whole thing for you here now and save you 5 minutes of agony:

Paragraph 1: If the PLP delegates elect a leader who a majority of the PLP MPs don’t support then there is a constitutional problem (ie. the delegates better vote for Brown).

The next 1,000 words: Ewart Brown is the second coming of Christ.

There. Now that you’ve read the whole article let’s get back to the first paragraph.

Paragraph one could be a whole column in itself and is barely connected to the rest of the piece. So why did Mr. Smith include it?

Well he’s warning of and telegraphing an approaching storm where if Alex Scott doesn’t command the support of the MPs, regardless of what the delegates decides, then you could see a split in the party, and essentially be back at the 2003 post-election deadlock. (The fact that Scott had to go back to the David Burch well with the Tourism portfolio suggests that he has no-one left in the Parliamentary group - who isn’t already in Cabinet - who he can reach out to.)

From all accounts, and this is what I would call informed speculation, the 3 year détente between the two camps is over, the gloves are off and are entering unchartered territory where the Government could again descend into a standoff.

I’ve also heard that Brown is very unhappy with the smear campaign being conducted against him internally by Scott’s proxies. Well, to that I say: time to eat your own cooking Mr. Vote Yourself Back on the Plantation. How does it feel to be on the receiving end for a change?

The second aspect of this is that I’ve seen polls, man on the street interviews etc. about whether it should be Brown or Scott (or Cox). Which while interesting, is pretty much irrelevant (note the poll quoted in the Sun was commissioned by Ewart Brown and conducted by his cousin (which the press never mention) Walton Brown of Research Innovations).

One of the things that is being largely overlooked in this leadership campaign is also the most important: the opinions of 99.99% of the population are irrelevant. It’s only the opinions of the 150 to 200 PLP delegates that counts, and as someone said to me last night: “They’re selected for their loyalty.”

This means the delegates are likely less to be favourable to Brown and would be more likely to support the old guard and the status quo (aka the Lois Browne-Evans back seat driver).

This is one reason why you’re seeing Dr. Brown pushing people out to endorse him publicly and create a sense of hopelessness under Scott and inevitability for a Brown win to try and sway delegates who might be torn between party loyalty and a dislike for Dr. Brown.

Arthur Hodgson laid it bare today when he said the PLP have to take some risks (ie. Go with Brown) which can be translated to mean that they expect to lose a general election under Scott:

“We probably don’t have anything to lose in trying something new. We might now be ready for a bit more risk. Someone like Dr. Brown would take risks.”

I won’t point out the irony of someone who got smoked in his own leadership challenge advising those delegates of how they should vote. I’m sure that will go down well.

So while The Limey poses a bunch of questions for Brown he surely knows that he won’t get an answer, because Brown doesn’t need to convince him and would be simply wasting his time. He makes this clear in the Bermuda Sun when he says that he is going to make his ‘vision’ known to the delegates first:

“We wanted to ask Dr. Brown where he stands on issues like independence, immigration and housing, but he wants to release his "vision statement" to delegates directly rather than have them read about in the newspaper. He said: "I want to share that with the delegates first. I'm trying to get an email out to them by Thursday. I want to make it available to them first because the decision is theirs."
Fair enough. He knows the deal. The benefit of wasting his time on non-delegates is to stick his finger in the eye of whitey, which could endear him to the delegates (as he did with his African Heritage Conference speech).

Then there’s the issue of these insiders who are quoted in the press, for example in yesterday’s article in the Gazette, heavily reliant on these anonymous sources which reeked of manipulation and posturing versus insight:

Several sources told The Royal Gazette that Dr. Brown was picking up support from unexpected places.

One backbench MP said: “It has been surprising. A lot of people are saying ‘Look at how he gets things done’.

“They are tired of the uncertainty – back when the UBP were in power, they did what they had to do. They didn’t have town meetings, they got on with it.

“As I talk to more people I realise the leadership race will be closer than I thought. I thought at the beginning it would have been the Premier who wins but Dr. Brown seems to be closing ground.”

That’s 100% Brown spin. The quote of “Look at how he gets things done” is exactly the message Brown wants out there, as well as the line that it’s going to be closer than thought. The person who gave that quote was trying to create false momentum rather than reveal the truth; smart politics but easy to see through.

Brown knows that oftentimes the difference between winning and losing in politics is looking like a winner; people like to vote for the winner. He's hoping that sentiment carries him over the top.

So I heavily discount everything that I’m reading, particularly the anonymous sources who are touting the Brown party line.

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I missed the evening news tonight, but a friend told me that Paula Cox is reported to have taken herself out of the running for PLP leader (aka Premier).

But she didn't stop there; she endorsed Alex Scott, which is interesting for her to do so publicly and so early in the process rather than play coy and wait for the delegates conference.

It's well known that Paula Cox comes from the Jennifer Smith wing of the party, and this move suggests that that wing remains opposed to Ewart Brown's leadership.

This has both positives and negatives for Dr. Brown. On the upside Paula Cox would have been a formidable opponent for both Scott and Brown. Brown probably also prefers a one-on-one race with Scott.

On the downside her endorsement throws some weight, and almost certainly some delegates, to the Scott side.

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Hmmm. This could be interesting. Seems a student at Berkeley has set up an anonymous blog called "Inside the Berkeley Institute".

First two posts touch on sex and race. Now this looks to promise for some good reading...although the grammar could use some attention.

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Sometimes it's better when other people point out the obvious, and today former PLP Senator and Brown backer Cal Smith obliged:


"...more importantly he has unique strong connections with the black elite in the US, who are getting better placed all the time. "

Emphasis on the "more importantly he has unique strong connections with the black elite in the US".

It should be obvious to casual observors of the Tourism Minister in action that the Government's tourism budget has been increasingly funneled into the pockets of that "US black elite".

Just look at the Music Festival, the hiring of Brown's friend at Global Hue, or the pay to play scandal with the Government's pensions fund advisors and consultant/Brown friend Tina Poitevien.

Why? It's got nothing to do with tourism but everything to do with his personal profiling and wanting to buy his way - with taxpayer dollars - into that "black US elite". Remember, Brown identifies with the US more than Bermuda and his ways are more American than Bermudian.

What do you think the offstage celebrity attendees were for? Look at the celebrity guest list that Tourism paid to truck down to the Music Festival:

"According to the Ministry's press release, celebrity attendees included Catherine Zeta-Jones, Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick and First Lady Lisa Raye McCoy Misick, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick, Grammy Award winners Dionne Warwick and Yolanda Adams, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson (Ashford and Simpson), actress Lynn Whitfield, soprano Kathleen Battle, TV producer, director and actor Glynn Turman, actor Montell Williams and actress Tichina Arnold."

Brown was so excited to be seen next to comedian/host Steve Harvey that he actually flew him in - for a couple of hours - to hug for camera and announce that he'd be the host ("look at me - I'm a celebrity too!"); an event designed solely for the local media and so that he could impress locals who are mesmerized by the "US black elite".

Personally, I'm more interested in what a leader can do for Bermuda than how he can send Bermuda tax dollars to the "US black elite".

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Methinks (actually meknows) she doth protest too much.

I trust Brown too....as far as I can throw him that is.

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Could Dr. Brown's headline grabbing stunt with the PGA Grand Slam event have shown Bermuda's hand too early?

Maybe not, but his media whoring to prematurely grab a headline the day before his leadership challenge announcement might come back to bite him/us.

"Sassada said Poipu Bay has also been in negotiations with the PGA of America, and though nothing has been finalized, the contract for next month’s event wasn’t signed until early this year.

“Obviously we are not hoping we have to go through that,” he said.

History would indicate they won’t.

Sassada said Poipu Bay’s relationship with the PGA has always been good, evinced by the fact that the tournament — originally designed to move from course to course each year — hasn’t budged in 13 years.

Wednesday's PR stunt was typical Brown and exactly why he's unsuitable as Premier: he always puts his own self-interest before Bermuda's. Always.

No announcement about the PGA Grand Slam should have been made until the signatures were down.

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Jeesh.

Dr. Brown has been a candidate for PLP leader for less than 24 hours and people are already considering throwing themselves off a cliff.

[Note: Emergency services this morning talked a woman down from the cliff ledge between Cavendish Rd and East Broadway by Hamma Galleries.]

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Amazing.

The PLP bench is so deep that unelected senator and political timebomb David Burch is now Minister or Works, Engineering, Housing & Tourism.

The former Minister Without Anything to Do - I mean Without Portfolio - is Minister of Transport.

Not that the current Cabinet iterations will persist long after the upcoming PLP Delegates Conference, no matter what happens.

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The Royal Gazette has posted video of Dr. Brown's resignation speech.

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There will be lots to write and lots to speculate on in the coming weeks with the leadership challenge in the PLP, but it's clear that this is do or die time for Dr. Brown with his commitment to move to the backbench and retire at the next election if his leadership challenge is unsuccessful.

There's a few wildcards here that will be interesting to watch out for.

The first and most obvious is whether other challengers will emerge. Paula Cox is the most talked about, and I would suggest be the wisest choice politically for the PLP, although I'm not a fan and she hasn't made any noises about wanting to run and give up her sweet gig at ACE. I doubt there will be any others candidates outside of Brown, Scott and Cox.

The other wildcard is the Grand Dame Jennifer. What will Dame Jennifer do? Remember that the 2003 deadlock between the Brown and Smith camps was only broken when Jennifer Smith agreed to step aside to be replaced by Alex Scott - aka: not Brown.

I imagine she still harbours some anger about what went down and how her Premiership went up in flames, and would make it her mission to prevent a successful challenge by Dr. Brown. That's sheer speculation on my part as I'm not privy to anything on that side, but it seems likely.

I would expect that if things don't go as Dr. Brown thinks, this could get very ugly. This is clearly his last hurrah. He has no desire to be number 2 any longer, and as such he could decide to take a bunch of people down with him on his way out.

Who knows. I certainly don't. But I'll be glued to this one.

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The Royal Gazette reports on its website that Dr. Brown has resigned from Cabinet to run for leader/Premier.

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Dr. Brown media whore.

Refer to this line in the Mid Ocean Club's letter yesterday about the Grand Slam of Golf tournament:

"..but the proposed Government release, which was made known to us yesterday, has somewhat changed our timetable for us!"

I wonder what accelerated the announcement of an as yet unsigned deal and the invocation of Tiger Woods' name, even though there's no guarantee he'll play, even if he wins a major?

It couldn't be that he wanted to announce that he was personally bringing Tiger Woods to Bermuda, oh and by the way, I'm running for Premier?

Nah.

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The Bermuda Sun is reporting that Dr. Brown has declared himself a candidate for PLP leader...and by extension Premier.

The battle begins.

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With both The Royal Gazette and the Bermuda Sun having the same story on the same day, with the same sources and the same quotes about Dr. Brown throwing his hat in the ring, it's pretty clear that Dr. Brown sent someone out to 'leak' this information and guage the reaction before a formal announcement.

All I say is...be afraid, be very afraid.

If Paula Cox wants this she can surely slide in the middle, but otherwise the choice between Scott and Brown is bleak.

Surely no-one is surprised here. Brown telegraphed this with the launch of his campaign at the African Heritage Conference and when he one-upped the vacationing Premier during Hurricane Florence.

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The Mid Ocean Club has sent out a letter to its members announcing that they will be hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf (strokeplay tournament of the winners of the 4 major PGA tournaments).

Note that Government (aka Department of Tourism, aka Dr. Brown who wants some positive PR before his leadership challenge) appears to be charging out of the gate with the announcement before the host club was quite ready.

Dear Member,

I am writing to inform you that Government intend to announce today that the PGA Grand Slam of Golf will come to Bermuda in 2007 and that they and the PGA ‘ are in final stages of negotiation with Mid Ocean ‘. That is exactly the situation – we have an agreed contract wording and were waiting for final signatures before we came to you with the news, but the proposed Government release, which was made known to us yesterday, has somewhat changed our timetable for us!

Much more detail will follow later – and I must caution that until all the contracts are executed this is still not 100% - but after talking to the President we thought you should, if possible, hear about it from us first.

We have been working on this for some three months and, whilst we know there will be some challenges along the way, are really excited at bringing this event to Mid Ocean. The event has the support of the Board and we think this is a brilliant opportunity to showcase Bermuda to a large audience and we wanted to join with Government, who are providing the funding, and the Fairmont Southampton, who are also a sponsor, in making it happen.

The PGA Grand Slam is a two day stroke-play tournament between the four Major winners of the year, and up to now has been held in Hawaii with this years event being held in November. The playing days in 2007 are scheduled for October 16th and 17th with a pro-am on the 15th and possibly an outing for the PGA Tour sponsors on the 18th. Both the PGA and Mid Ocean have an option to stage the event in 2008 if the other party is agreeable. Members will gain free admission to the event.

Again, a lot more on this later as I know you will have many questions on course closures, course length and layout etc. As soon as we have an Agreement signed and sealed I will send out a follow-up which will hopefully address all the issues we are likely to face, so please hold your questions till that time – it shouldn’t be long.

Best wishes,

David Ezekiel, Vice President and Men’s Captain


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It's official. Minister of Community Affairs and Sports Dale Butler needs a spine transplant. Either that or he was providing some comic relief in today's story about Dr. Brown's anticipated leadership challenge:

"I have no comment. I am totally confused. I thought he said he wasn't going to challenge. This is all news to me."

Totally confused indeed. That's old news for those of us who've seen him in action.

"Nobody has approached or lobbied me. Mind, I don't go to those cocktail sips. I am always the last to know."

And now the punchline:

"When it came to the Jennifer Smith thing I was tucked away in a private location and only one person knew where I was. I intended to wake up three days later.

"But the one person who knew where I was came and spoiled it."

"I was tucked away in a private location". The bathroom perhaps?

It's all rather reminiscent of the contentious sexual orientation vote when Minister Butler - responsible for the Human Rights portfolio - gave this excuse for not speaking on the bill:

"I came back from the bathroom and lo and behold we had moved to committee. I didn't have to speak but I wanted to speak but the thing moved so quickly. I had worked all afternoon on my speech."

Gay rights? "But I had to pee! I'd done all that work to get my speech together and my bladder let me down."

Jennifer Smith leadership challenge? "I was tucked away in a private location with only one [traitor] knowing where I was and interrupting my 3 day nap!"

Hysterical. Whenever things get a little uncomfortable and the heat gets turned up, Minister Butler - by his own admission once by design and once (he claims) by accident - disappears.

May I suggest that all bathrooms are locked at the PLP delegates conference (with Mr. Butler on the outside) when it comes time to vote for leader.

What a joker.

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Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Royal Gazette is all over the story that the Deputy Premier is about to challenge Premier Scott for the party leadership at the upcoming conference.

I can't imagine too many people are surprised, Dr. Brown's recent protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Consider Dr. Brown's recent speech to the African Heritage Conference the kick-off of his leadership campaign.

This will be interesting...and I predict nasty. In fact, it already seems to be with leaflets apparently being circulated with Dr. Brown's head on a snake.

I'd also predict that Dr. Brown hammers home on a few themes, being his (undeserved in my opinion) reputation for getting things done, the Premier's lack of movement on empowerment and makes Bermudianisation (race) his calling card.

The winner in all of this could - if she plays her cards right - be Paula Cox. I'm not much of a fan for a number of reasons, but people seem taken in by her and she could slide in to the post as Dr. Brown and the Premier sling mud at each other.

We'll have to watch how this unfolds.

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From the department of better-look-like-I'm-doing-something, new Labour Minister courageously ensures that all Bermudians can aspire to be pizza delivery men/women.

Bold new moves on the labour/empowerment front indeed. Thank God we have visionary leadership like this.

Is this really the best the PLP can do in the face of a widening wage/jobs gap between Bermudians and non-Bermudians.

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You've got to love this one.

You'll recall that the Deputy Premier recently attacked whites for blocking his party's (non-existent) moves on economic empowerment. Well, the Mid Ocean News asked Dr. Brown to defend his comments in the face of criticism that his allegations were baseless. His reply?

"No comment on any of this at this time. I would prefer to wait until an election is called."

This coming from a politician who has admitted that his infamous 'don't vote yourself back on the plantation' comment was made for political gain - aka empty racially inflamatory election rhetoric.

Just to be clear then: the PLP want to talk about race (and racial empowerment) at election time, when tensions are high and details hard to come by, rather than in cooler periods when rational fact-based dialogue is possible.

Any questions about whether the PLP are more concerned with perpetuating racial tensions and inequality for political gain or addressing it sincerely?

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As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Below is the text of the UBP's press release yesterday (received by me this morning) on the apparent change in reporting methodology/manipulation of tourism stats this quarter, as reported in today's Mid Ocean News:

A Statement from United Bermuda Party MPs Dr. Grant Gibbons and David Dodwell

Press reports and Government claims of recovery in the tourism industry are based on factual errors, spin and the undisclosed manipulation of statistics.

Media reports this week that tourist spending jumped $40 million during the second quarter of the year – from April to June – are not supported by figures supplied by Government’s Department of Statistics, which only shows a $25.1 million increase.

And Government claims of recovery were brought into further doubt by errors and questionable figures in the Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics (Second Quarter 2006), including:

* A reported 52% jump in cruise ship visitor spending during the second quarter. The jump was really 25% based on the numbers provided; and

* An astounding $36.8 million jump in air visitor spending in the second quarter on accommodation and food to $102.7 million in 2006 from $65.9 million in 2005.

The statistics bulletin deepens ongoing questions about the role of spin and deception in relation to the Government’s claims of recovery.

We are especially concerned by the Government’s recent expansion of the definition of tourism spending, which now apparently includes new factors such as spending by the crews of cruise ships.

These changes were made without an official announcement and can be seen as a manipulation to pump up the numbers.

There is nothing wrong with changing methodology in the gathering of statistics, but it is essential that changes be disclosed and explained to the public so that people can adjust their interpretation of the numbers.

As far as we can determine, there was a change in the method of calculating tourism statistics some time in 2005.[1] The Department of Statistics subsequently revised spending figures back to 2004 but not beyond, where the revised numbers now show end-of-year spending in 2004 to be $31 million more than before.

The change in calculation muddies reality, making it difficult for people to gauge the health of the industry. Everything is made to look better on paper but not necessarily in reality. In terms of the statistics released this week, people have no way knowing how much visitor spending increases are real or how much they are based on the recalculation of numbers.

We are also concerned by the Government’s ongoing focus on spin as evidenced in this week’s bulletin of statistics. There is a fondness for upbeat, inflated words such as “robust” and “boom” to describe tourism’s performance, and a disposition to accentuate the positive.

The United Bermuda Party believes the public should be given the most accurate picture of the tourism industry, if only because the truth will enable people to make more informed choices about the way ahead.

The United Bermuda Party welcomes any improvement in the performance of the tourism industry. Increases in visitor spending mean that our retailers, taxi drivers, restaurateurs, boat operators and hoteliers do better. But we want to be very clear that the increases in spending from April and June this year – whatever they were – came to them like a cup of water to a man dying of thirst.

The fact is that in the five completed years since 2001, Bermuda’s tourism industry registered the worst year-to-year performance since the start of mass tourism in 1960s. The positive results that the Government wants to fix in people’s minds come from a place where there is virtually nowhere to go but up.

It is also important to note that the latest figures are driven by the Government’s unprecedented reliance on cruise ship visitors, whose numbers distract from the fact that our hotel industry is a shadow of its former self.

Most Bermudians understand that cruise visitors – now accounting for over half the visitors to the Island – do not create the level of economic activity that air visitors do. Industry measures indicate that you need nine cruise ship passengers to equal the spending of one hotel visitor.

The reliance on cruise passengers to turn around the tourism picture is worrying because the Government’s main focus should be on creating conditions for hotels to succeed and air arrivals to improve. In that vein we applaud the expansion of air service connections and some movement to lower fares, but much more work needs to be done with more honest communication with the public.

[1] We note that the new methodology has been acknowledged today by the Department of Statistics as a result of our questions and is to be found in a footnote in a revised bulletin released this afternoon.

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Maybe HSBC could find a use for the Trimingham's site after all?

An article from the Scotsman suggests that the banking giant is threatening to leave Britain over it's cumbersome tax regime.

"The bank, which reviews the position of it headquarters every three years, said Britain was no longer an attractive place to be in terms of tax - raising the possibility that it could take its business elsewhere."

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Reading the latest poll results online, very quickly, from NY, my initial reaction to the Independence results is that they don't really make sense.

Big swings in undecideds such as this, in a two month period, just don't happen - in either direction - barring some major development to change people's minds. And that hasn't happened.

Historically support, opposition and undecideds have remained extremely stable, so a sudden move is odd; particulalry when you consider that the main advocate of independence had a slight downtick in his popular support, yet his signature issue experienced a reduction in outright opposition.

Doesn't add up to me, although the fact that support has held steady does. I just don't see what event would have triggered so many undecideds to reconsider. Nothing happened.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (Oct. 05, 2006)

Politicians rarely limit themselves to reality, particularly when they’re simultaneously professing their greatness and blaming the other guys; but Dr. Brown demonstrated a new level of competency at this last week with his speech to the African Heritage Conference.

Never one to respect the facts or the truth, the Deputy Premier delivered a real howler:

“Ours is a curious nation. In 2006 we are still forced as a Government to defend policies that are aimed at empowering a majority of the population and made to consult with representatives of the minority to reverse years of economic injustice against the majority.”

If you’re scratching your head in bewilderment wondering just what policies - or even policy - that would be, you’re not alone.

The simple fact of the matter is that in their eight years in power and two terms with unassailable Parliamentary majorities and a compliant Speaker of the House, the PLP has neither implemented - nor attempted to implement - a policy or piece of legislation aimed at empowering the majority of which Dr. Brown speaks.

Not one. Ever. In eight years. There was nothing to oppose. That’s an indisputable fact. An inconvenient one I know; but indisputable. What Dr. Brown delivered to the conference was a confession, an admission of guilt.

What’s curious then is not Dr. Brown’s fabrication of aggressive white opposition to his party’s attempts to implement economic empowerment; that one’s easy.

He was pandering and misleading; two of his favourite pastimes. The Minister was pandering to the international attendees at the African Heritage Conference, pandering to the PLP base and again attempting to mislead everyone in the process.

We’ve been through this before haven’t we? Back then it was called the 2003 election campaign.

But Dr. Brown had few options at his disposal. He couldn’t stand before the attendees and cite how his party - after 30-plus long years of electoral futility - finally broke through and at long last implemented their agenda of economic empowerment.

That would have been a very brief speech: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Now I must go. Thank you for your time.”

Nor could he rattle off impressive statistics and display charts demonstrating the measurable positive impact these policies have had on the upward mobility of the majority of the population since his government took power all those years ago.

Perhaps understandably then, to compensate for his party’s aching Achilles heel, the Doc reverted to a familiar strategy of misleading when he has to. So he just…well…he just made it all up.

Fortunately for him the conference audience was none the wiser; the international audience that is. Unfortunately for him, the rest of us know better and can separate fact from fiction.

The more interesting question is why hasn’t a party that rose to power almost a decade ago, with two large parliamentary majorities, on a platform promising a larger piece of the economic pie to the historically disenfranchised black population, lifted a finger on the defining issue of their two successful election campaigns?

Now that’s curious.

While Dr. Brown and his colleagues would like you to believe that despite their best efforts they’ve been unable to overcome white - and UBP resistance - to these policies, those desperate claims just don’t hold water.

The PLP have a commanding Parliamentary majority, one they’ve used to great effect on important social issues, like Parliamentary salary increases for example.

This has been coupled with a ruthless willingness to violate Parliamentary procedure and House rules; forcing through amended salary legislation in the final hours of the final session of Parliament after desperately sidestepping the Senate.

When Dr. Brown and his colleagues want to get things done they can; nothing will stand in their way. Sadly, the issues that warrant their attention have been limited to bigger Cabinet cars, houses for two Premiers or Parliamentary salary increases for example.

The UBP are the party which took the initiative on empowerment and made a legislative effort to address it – an attempt which was flatly rejected by the PLP Cabinet and backbenchers in a lively Parliamentary debate – the highlight of which was Finance Minister Paula Cox referring to the empowerment legislation as ‘a trifle patronizing and condescending to small businesses’.

Oddly enough, as I wrote this column on Monday evening, a television ad for the Government’s Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) ran during the local evening news. The Finance Minister herself made a cameo, providing the introductory and closing remarks.

What did the Minister have to say? Ms. Cox assured us that the SBDC will “empower and enable” small businesses. I wonder where the Minister picked that up from?

Nor can we forget that the SBDC was created under the UBP; being largely ignored by the PLP since 1998. Yet now – eight years later and at most two years out from a general election - the Finance Minister (and Dr. Brown) have got religion on the issue of empowerment – their party’s supposed defining issue.

Curious that. Suddenly it’s all empowerment all the time – again.

The groundwork for an election campaign is being laid, with the PLP deciding that they must look like they’re finally doing something on empowerment, while blaming others for their eight years of inaction.

Few would argue however that there hasn’t been empowerment in the New Bermuda; just not for those who were told it was coming to them. Where there’s no political will there’s no way, and empowerment outside of the PLP inner circle has proven to be little more than an election slogan, worthy of nothing more than lip-service. The next two years will see plenty of that.

Talk about patronising and condescending.

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Get a load of this Bermudian sensationalism in Barbados:

[Opposition MP David Estick] charged that Arthur was leading Barbados down a similar path that now afflicted Bermuda, when instead he should be learning from the Bermudan experience.

The St Philip West MP said the average price of a house in Bermuda was $3.5 million and that price could increase to as much as $37 million.

He said that similar to Barbados, average Bermudans found themselves in a position where they could not afford to buy land or house.

He added it had got so bad that real estate agents had taken the Bermudan government to court on the issue of land sales.

Estwick added the government there had subsequently put a law in place where Bermudans were not supposed to sell their land to foreigners.

I'll ignore the use of the term 'Bermudan' over 'Bermudian'...damn you Microsoft spell-checker but...

Real estate agents taking the Government to court? Well, a private individual did.

The Government 'subsequently put a law in place' to block land sales to foreigners? Well not quite. They were taken to court after they put the ban in place.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

[CORRECTION: Originally I'd said that the average home price was more like $1.2M not $3.5M, but as someone pointed out, I was forgetting about the conversion between USD and the BBD, which resolves the discrepancy of the average sale price.]

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Empowerment. Get ready to hear plenty of that word over the coming months.

First we had Dr. Brown attempting to shift his party's failure to act on empowerment onto the white community and the UBP (the same thing in PLP-land) while tonight the Finance Minister appeared on a TV ad for the Small Business Development Corporation.

And what did the Minister have to say? Ms. Cox opened and closed the short ad, with her parting words being that the SBDC will "empower and enable" small businesses.

The (very?) early stages of an election campaign, again geared around race, are starting.

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I stumbled across a story from the AP, that the Government has signed (presumably) a contract for a desalination plant at Tynes Bay.

Does this ring any bells for anyone? I don't really recall this as being on the table, but it could have slipped under the radar screen:

Bottled water producer Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. said Monday the Bermuda government wants it to build and operate the Tynes Bay desalination plant on the north coast of the island.

The project includes a 600,000 gallon per day seawater desalination plant, a full standby electrical power plant and 1.27 miles of main water delivery pipelines.

Under terms of the contract, Consolidated's affiliate, Consolidated Water (Bermuda) Ltd., will be required to build and commission the plant and pipeline within 12 months and to operate the plant for at least a year after commissioning.

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