December 2006 Archives

What happens when you have a Government that does nothing for 8 years, and a new Premier who wants non-stop headlines for a few months before he calls an election?

1) Special Development Orders proliferate and make a mockery of planning laws, public consultation and oversight.

2) Four potential major hotel developments are promised for virtually simultaneous development, which will overheat the construction industry and potentially the whole economy.

3) Every job at these new hotels will be additive to the economy. For example, the proposed city hotel at Par-la-ville is expected to create 330 jobs. Those are new jobs. That's 330 new homes, cars, school places etc.. And that's just one development.

This is what happens when you have a Government in hurry up mode after almost a decade of neglect.

The public need to apply the brakes, and demand that development be managed properly and in the interests of Bermuda and Bermudians, not corporations.

I've never felt like much of an environmentalist, but I'm starting to now.

That isn't colonial. That's sensible.

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Maybe my final comment before I truly sign off for the holidays:

Did the waiter - the only person who overheard the chef's arsenic joke - serve the Premier the food?

I wonder?

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I know that I said I was on holiday until Jan 3rd, but I just saw this statement from Labour Minister Derrick Burgess and can only shake my head at the completely over-the-top nature of it:

"On Monday, December 18th, 2006, both the Department of Immigration and the Ministry of Labour and Immigration received complaints from members of the public in respect of this matter. As a result, the Department immediately launched an investigation. There was also a story on the electronic media about this incident. Once the Minister of Labour and Immigration, the Hon. Derrick V. Burgess, JP, MP, had been fully informed about the incident, and determined that this person was undesirable by any civic evaluation or standard, he instructed the Department of Immigration to take all immediate and necessary steps under the law to remove this man from the country forthwith.

To make a statement threatening to put arsenic in the food of the Leader of any country or Head of State, is reprehensible to say the least and is tantamount to threatening an act of terrorism, a criminal act of a most heinous nature. Such behaviour will not be tolerated by this Government administration, least of all from a guest worker in this country and particularly from someone who, as purportedly responsible as an Executive Chef, was in a position to make good such a threat. No modern democracy post 9/11 would or should, take such threats lightly or in jest.

For completeness, you will be aware that the work permit holder in question had resigned his position, thus his work permit and residence in Bermuda were no longer valid or legally tenable. At which point, travel arrangements were promptly made and the work permit holder subsequently escorted by Immigration Officers, to the Bermuda International Airport for safe and swift passage out of Bermuda."

Give me a break. The comment was dumb, but it was obviously just totally off the cuff and in jest. Chefs are notoriously foul-mouthed jokesters.

For the Government to equate a joke with terrorism and invoking Sept. 11th is just absurd.

But my favourite part is this act of intimidation to foreign workers:

Such behaviour will not be tolerated by this Government administration, least of all from a guest worker in this country...

Translation: Know your place you lowlife foreigners.

What a disgrace this non-event has become.

As I said initially, that we can fire and deport someone so quickly over a dumb joke, yet laud the Premier for his disgraceful and non-joking character assassination in Parliament says it all for me.

Grow up Bermuda.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

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The Mid Ocean News today essentially withdraws, under threat of legal action, it's story last week entitled 'AG allowed wife of Premier to by-pass charity regulations'.

I think the whole focus of the story on Mr. Mussenden was a distraction and not the core issue. The core issue is simple: What is the legal status of T.H.E.?

That remains an unanswered question after former Attorney General Larry Mussenden's response today (not yet online); what was the opinion of the AG's chambers was and what is the legal status of T.H.E.?

That's the question. Larry Mussenden's role is secondary.

If T.H.E. isn't a registered charity - which one must assume is the case or we'd have heard otherwise as it would have diffused this whole controversy - what is it? A business?

A lawyer friend suggested it may be an unincorporated association, which is a collection of people apparently.

But my understanding of the charitable regulations, as described recently to me by a lawyer, is that unless you are a registered charity it is illegal to solicit funds as a charity, and the invitation which T.H.E. sent out describes itself as follows:

This event is being produced under the auspices of T.H.E. FOUNDATION, a charitable organisation whose purpose is to raise money to help offset the price of certain costly Tourism activities. Net proceeds of this event will be used to help offset the costs of production of the 2006 Bermuda Music Festival.

The emphasis is mine.

That's the question, notwithstanding Dr. Brown's original comments on this back in October when he made a point of saying T.H.E. didn't represent itself as a registered charity but a 'charitable organisation':

"You should know that in no instance has THE Foundation claimed that it is a registered charity. They have said that the organisation is a "charitable organisation" and that is accurate.

Semantics. Using the term 'charitable organisation' implies that it is legitimate and registered.

Today's retraction by the Mid Ocean News doesn't change anything.

The question remains: Did T.H.E. break the law by soliciting funds as a charity?

And there's more, such as: If T.H.E. raised $400,000 as has been suggested, and turned over $110,000 to the Bermuda Music Festival, where did the other $290,000 go?

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My readers are a funny and cynical lot:

"And Furthermore Christian,

I can see yet another $102,000 per year position created for another of the Doc's cronies as "food taster to the president".

Fortunately the reader is he can't be deported.

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A reader sent in the following account as reported by VSB/ZBM on the 'arsenic' chef:

When I heard that the chef had been fired, my first thought was that there had been a major sense of humor failure. I think this has more to do with a few BIU shop stewards getting unreasonably bent out of shape than any real issue. A waiter came into the kitchen, asked which plate was for the Premier, and the chef replied, "that one there, with the arsenic on it". Obviously, it was a joke. How stupid can this Island get, for Christ's sake?

I doubt the reader is far from the mark in their assessment that this was probably more a function of the Elbow Beach employees' poiltical affiliations and an opportunity to flex their muscles to put an expat employee in their place. Even the complainants admitted it was a joke. No-one thought this to be a genuine security threat.

If the Premier had any class, rather than say that he was 'very concerned', he'd have laughed it off and told the hotel that there was no need to fire or discipline anyone over a joke.

Instead, the Bermuda Sun reports that Immigration department officials marched the chef to the airport:

The Bermuda Sun understands Immigration officials escorted Anthony Reynolds, the former executive chef at the luxury Elbow Beach Hotel, off the island today - five days after the alleged comment was made. He reportedly took a flight to London via New York.

I can only shake my head at the silliness of it all.

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How's about this for a study in contrasts:

The head chef at Elbow Beach makes an admittedly dumb but off the cuff wisecrack about assassinating Premier Brown by putting arsenic in his food and is promptly fired and deported.

Premier Brown, Bermuda's head politician, delivers a deadly serious and premeditated character assassination attempt on Grant Gibbons in Parliament and his colleagues, various racial wingnuts and worst of all a Human Rights Commissioner jump to his defence.

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Former Senator and Attorney General, and now PLP dog's body Larry Mussenden, certainly seems to have managed to get his hand in just about every current political mess (of which there are many).

Let's review:

1) He's the head of the BFA which has allowed the Premier to hijack the Dudley Eve Trophy under the guise of Government sponsorship and rename it in his image.

2) He apparently gave the green light for the Premier and his wife's unregistered T.H.E. charity to solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars after having the foundation's application for charitable status referred to him because the Charities Commission was too scared to reject it themselves.

3) He's the latest chairman of the Bermuda College, which is embroiled in a scandal over improper taxpayer funded perks for the College President, Dr. Greene, and sees no urgency to read the Public Accounts Committee's damning report.

That's not easy to do.

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I was interested to read that Bermuda had hired a DC lobbyist (and that's what he is, Ms. Cox's over the top protests should have confirmed as much, as does Mr. Slater's own website bio header of "Public Policy and Lobbying, Homeland Security, Defense, and Technology Transfer") to represent Bermuda on areas such as 'taxation and security'.

I'm not opposed to increasing our presence in Washington, in fact I'm all for it, even if it entails using that quintessentially American creepy crawly creature known as a lobbyist, where a whole industry has been created around who you know.

But speaking of who you know, I'm a little confused. Why did we hire someone to represent us on 'taxation and security', whose impressive credentials are singularly focused on transportation?

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater helps clients integrate their interests in the overall vision for the transportation system of the 21st Century—a vision he set as transportation secretary to promote a safer, more efficient, environmentally sound and sustainable worldwide transportation infrastructure. Mr. Slater also helps state and local government clients address the vexing challenge of closing the gap between transportation demand and capacity by employing public/private strategies and innovative financing solutions. Mr. Slater's practice focuses on many of the policy and transportation objectives that were set under his leadership, including aviation competition and congestion mitigation, maritime initiatives, high-speed rail corridor development, and overall transportation safety and funding. He continues to embrace the framework he established as secretary for making transportation decisions that called for more open, collaborative and flexible decision making across the transportation enterprise here and abroad.

Call me cynical, but could it be that Mr. Slater's appointment is as much about his DC contacts as it is about his credentials as a a Howard Graduate - as is Dr. Brown. A little googling turns up a meeting between Dr. Brown and Mr. Slater in October 2000 in their respective capacities as Transport Minister and Secretary of Transportation.

The Premier and Mr. Slater are not strangers to each other.

And while we're on the topic, here's another Howard connection for you: The foreign event organiser of Dr. Brown's Presidential Inauguration, er I mean Premier's Gala Weekend, is the wife of the Vice-President of University Advancement at Howard University (aka Fundraising), Mr. Virgil Ecton.

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Two editorials worth a read in The Royal Gazette today.

The first hits on the absurdity of the exploitation of race and the use of racial slurs to combat legitimate questions of accountability and ethics around the Premier and his Government; while the second touches on the not so Special Development Orders that have become an increasingly frequently used tool of Cabinet to expedite development, and the implications for public consultation.

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You really couldn't make this stuff up:

The Bermuda Football Association has turned over sponsorship of the annual Dudley Eve Trophy to the Government (ie. Ministry of Education and Sport), who evidently spent $150,000 for the sole purpose of boosting the fragile ego of Dr. Brown and giving him yet another event to profile at by renaming the tournament the "Premier's Dudley Eve Cup".

If Dr. Brown really understood Bermuda, our culture and our history he'd know that these events are important, dare I say more important than his presidency.

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On July 26, 2005 I wrote a column on our failing education system which resulted in then Education Minister Terry Lister accusing me of being 'absurd and divisive', to which I wrote a follow-up column.

So, 18 months later, the Premier declares that 'education is in a serious situation':

“I have told the Minister of Education that I’m deeply and seriously concerned with some of the trends and performances that I have seen in education,” he told them, in response to a pupil who asked him what changes he wanted to make as leader of the country.

“If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we have been getting. We have to do some serious change. Education is in a serious situation.”

Talk about stating the obvious. But it's a start, admitting there is a problem is always the first step. So I'll withhold judgment until the proposals that the Premier alludes to are put forth, but with Randy Horton in the Education drivers seat I'm not optimistic.

I will not however, be holding my breath for former Education Minister Terry Lister, now warming the backbench, to accuse the Premier of being 'absurd and divisive' and refusing 'to take off his partisan blinkers and acknowledge anything positive that comes out of this Government'.

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In Bermuda, this would be an indisputable example of racism:

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been questioned by police investigating allegations that government honors, such as seats in the House of Lords, were bestowed in return for political contributions, Blair’s office said Thursday.

Downing Street said Blair was not interviewed as a suspect in the case, but it is still extremely rare for a serving prime minister to be questioned by police.

Police have been investigating claims that all three major political parties awarded seats in the House of Lords and lesser titles such as Member of the Order of the British Empire in return for secret loans.

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As I've said before, I hate to bring facts into Bermudian political arguments, but after the garbage from Cal Smith in today's paper I thought it worth pointing out exactly what Dr. Gibbons said in Parliament, which contained barely a passing reference to Mrs. Brown - for what its worth.

Here's Cal Smith's characterisation of Dr. Gibbons comments, which I highly doubt he's even heard:

"It seems fairly clear that the Brown-Gibbons dispute in the House of Assembly during the motion to adjourn was triggered by aspersions made by Dr. Gibbons with respect to Wanda Brown – the very charming, very intelligent and highly skilled wife of Dr. Brown. If Dr. Gibbons understood anything about black Bermudian men, he should have known that negative comments about women important to us is a direct invitation to a physical encounter. Yet this is what he threatened by making unkind remarks about the wife of Dr. Brown."

And here's what was actually said, in a broader point piggybacking on John Barritt's comments on the use of the term corruption.

Dr. Gibbons was speaking about the 2003 Pay to Play scandal and moved on to the issue of Kurron Shares of America's donations to the T.H.E. Foundation and awarding of the subsequent hospital contract:

When we start to hear from a former Premier that we should be concerned about money being given on donations, I start to worry. And I also worry, Mr. Speaker, because in the headline in the paper today, we have a statement from Dr. Brown that we will go on accepting large donations from foreigners. We’re going to continue to do it. And I also noticed in the paper today—interestingly enough, it cropped up in the Throne Speech as well—listen for it, Mr. Speaker, that there is now announced—this came from the Health Minister, the Honourable Member—there is a partnership with Kurron Shares of America.

Mr. Speaker, you’ll remember Kurron. These are the ones who were friendly with the current Premier and were brought in to do a $500,000 study a couple of years ago. Now, Mr. Speaker, what’s really interesting, and again, it’s this issue of being careful of accepting money, in the THE Foundation, this is the Tourism Helps Everyone, when you look at who’s giving money to the THE Foundation—this was an initiative from the current Premier, the Honourable Member, and his wife, Wanda Brown—under the “Emerald” category, and let me tell you Emerald is a $10,000 gift, who do we find? We find…

Then the speaker comes in and directs Dr. Gibbons to move on because the Premier wasn't present.

Then there is an interpolation from Walter Lister:

Point of Order Mr. Speaker. I don't think it is parliamentary for any member to try and implicate the Premier's wife in something that she has no position to defend herself. It's wrong and it's immoral. Thank you.

That's it. That's the sole reference to Mrs. Brown, and a factual one: "...and his wife Wanda Brown".

A passing reference that is now being frantically spun as aspertions and unkind remarks.

Now, what was Mr. Smith saying about "if a lie is told often enough without rebuttal, it will eventually be accepted as truth"?

I have the audio recording, but it's 19MBs, so too big to load up here and chew up all my bandwidth.

[UPDATE: The transcription of Dr. Gibbons's quote was updated with an expanded one going a paragraph earlier.]

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What a pile of meandering, rambling, dishonest, nonsensical tripe.

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Ok, two quotes today, this one from US Consul General Gregory Slayton speaking on the PLP Gala fundraiser and Dr. Brown's intention to have the PLP be wholly owned by his American friends:

...the US Government does have very real concerns about US companies contributing to any political party in any country (this is a worldwide policy).

I must admit to having read the original story in the Mid Ocean and wondering what the hell Mr. Slayton was thinking. But I guess, the quotes he delivered were just far too nuanced for most of us, including the reporter, Mr. Finighan, and were delivered in extreme diplomatease. I'll translate based on today's Letter to the Editor:

"Now I know that my friend Dr. Brown wouldn't do such a silly and unethical thing, inviting Americans to break the law, now would he...hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge."

The best part is that he is disputing the interpretation of his comments by the Mid Ocean News, which headlined the article "US Consul General praises Premier for 'upholding highest ethical standards'".

So I guess that means he doesn't believe Dr. Brown upholds the highest ethical standards if he went out of the way to dispute the implication of the article.

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The quote of the day comes from Peter Woolcock, one of the finest - not to mention talented and funniest - people one could be honoured to know:

“It makes me wonder what planet some of these people have arrived from that they haven’t seen the way that leaders of much greater countries than Bermuda (in size, if not importance) are dealt with. I have yet to hear any member of Congress or the House of Commons stand up and say, ‘Mr. Speaker today’s cartoon in the newspaper was absolutely disgraceful’. But it happens here.”

It's nice to hear Peter speak publicly. Usually he lets his pencil do the talking.

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This is the type of thing that gets me annoyed.

No, not the fact that the Premier hires three new employees and refuses to disclose the cost to the taxpayer, although that bugs me too.

What really bugs me, is the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

Just last week, the Bermuda Sun published an article declaring that Premier Brown was going to get tough over automobiles.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Premier hires a Press Secretary and a Chief of Staff, who in addition to fat undisclosed paychecks get a car each.

And the Speaker of the House was recently given a car after being snubbed on a pay raise.

That's three more totally unnecessary vehicles on the road. Everyone sacrifices but the political elite.

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Last week CaymanNetNews reprinted (with my permission) the Royal Gazette column I wrote 2 weeks ago on term limits entitled "Govt. must admit its term limit policy is a mistake".

They have followed up with an editorial today entitled 'The "C" Word', reiterating the problems with term limits, known in the Caymans as 'rollover'.

I've had some exchanges with people in the Caymans subsequent to my column's publication, and it would seem that few people are willing to speak out against the policy for fear of getting on the Immigration Department's bad side, but that employers are widely concerned about the effect this will have.

Sound familiar?

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Activity will be light until the New Year, as this is the crazy season at my paying job.

I'll still post when I have the time but I'm not making any promises.

I'm happy to post comments from readers.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (07 Dec. 2006)

In the aftermath of Dr. Brown’s racial attack in Parliament on Friday night, I’m going to do something inherently dangerous in Bermudian political debate; I’m going to introduce a few facts. I apologise in advance:

Question: What politician made the following statement? “On paper, the role of Deputy [Premier] is more the role of a political eunuch.”

Answer: PLP Finance Minister Paula Cox and current Deputy Premier.
(The Royal Gazette: ‘I’m running for the Deputy Leadership’, 25 October 2006)

Question: Who first questioned the role of Premier Brown’s wife in the Tourism Helps Everyone Foundation (T.H.E.) in a letter leaked to the press?

Answer: Bermuda Public Services Union Secretary Ed Ball
(The Mid Ocean News: ‘Unregistered charity is above board says Brown’, 22 September, 2006)

Question: Who instructed reporters to address their questions about the T.H.E. Foundation’s fundraising to Dr. Brown’s wife in the wake of Ed Ball’s letter?

Answer: The Tourism Minister himself, Mrs. Brown’s husband, one Dr. Ewart Brown.
(The Royal Gazette: ‘Brown downplays critical letter’, Nov. 1st, 2006)

Question: What politician went to the press with concerns about Dr. Brown’s desire to fund the PLP with foreign corporate dollars as ‘something to be wary of’ and raised the prospect of ‘sweetheart deals’?

Answer: Former PLP Premier Alex Scott
(The Royal Gazette: ‘Beware sweetheart deals’, 22 November, 2006)

Question: Who did Premier Brown attack as racist for using the term “Political Eunuch” (coincidentally the title of UK Conservative MP Sir Arthur Douglas Dodds-Parker’s political memoir); for daring mention his wife’s role in the T.H.E. fundraiser and for questioning the ethics of foreign fundraising?

Answer: Dr. Grant Gibbons

Question: What is the difference between Dr. Gibbons and Ms. Cox, Mr. Ball and former Premier Scott?

Answer: Dr. Gibbons is the white dude.

So the Premier should tread lightly with the “racist dog” epithets. Bermudians are smart enough to judge for themselves to whom that tag might apply after Friday’s attack.

Don’t be fooled though. The attack on Dr. Gibbons wasn’t some heat of the moment personal dispute as many would have you believe; this was a prepared speech, a calculated decision to lower the tone and tenor of debate in the run-up to a 2007 election.

The message was clear, the Premier went to great pains to manufacture phony incidents of racism as a launching pad for his party’s election campaign; signaling his intention to unleash a vicious brand of racial polarization intended to bury the possibility of a debate of ideas.

There was one line that Dr. Brown delivered which nicely summed up the problem Bermuda faces today, only not as he intended.

Dr. Brown accused Dr. Gibbons of being the “uninformed representative of Bermuda's racist legacy”, which has a nice ring to it but serves only to highlight that Dr. Brown sounds an awful lot like the representative of Bermuda’s racist present…but hopefully not the future.

Recently, in promoting his book “The Audacity of Hope”, US Senator Barack Obama delivered a very insightful quote about the state of US political debate, which bears striking resemblance to where Bermuda finds itself today:

"When you watch Clinton vs Gingrich, or Gore vs Bush, or Kerry vs Bush, you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the ’60s. Vietnam, civil rights, the sexual revolution… All that stuff has just been playing itself out and you feel like, okay, let’s not re-litigate the ’60s 40 years later."

Senator Obama’s comment strikes a chord, at least with me, someone 30 years younger than Dr. Brown who has no desire to ‘re-litigate the 60s 40 years later’.

Unlike Dr. Brown and many of his colleagues, I was not ‘born into the divided era’ that he discussed with a skeptical group of Bermudian students in London; and I have no desire to return to it.

After Friday’s display it would appear that Dr. Brown is determined to roll back Bermuda to this bitterly divided time; hence the painful contortions and distortions he engaged in Friday night, a valiant but futile effort to resurrect a bogey man that simply no longer exists.

That’s not to say that racism isn’t real in Bermuda. It is. But white Bermudians hold no monopoly on it that’s for sure, and there can’t be a genuine effort to tackle it when a Premier engages in physical threats of violence and vitriolic character assassination.

Is it any wonder we have a problem with machete violence and gang retribution when the leader of the country emulates it in Parliament? A little introspection for Dr. Brown, his cheering colleagues and the mob in the public gallery is in order.

I can see only two ways that this destructive racial campaigning will end. Either the electorate flat out rejects electoral campaigns built on the foundation of outdated racial hostility, or we’ll have to wait for those politicians tragically trapped in a decades old time warp to expire.

We can’t afford to lose more time. We as a community must take a stand and reject the exploitation of a legitimate issue – racism – for short term political gain.

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This is exactly why campaign finance reform is needed in Bermuda.

Both parties are too short-sighted and worried about their immediate prospects to tackle an issue like this that affects them so directly.

Foreign political fund-raising is the worst end of the spectrum, but you've got to be willing to risk something and sacrifice something here for a bigger cause.

I agree with Wayne that donations would dry up if people's names were made public in such a small place as here, but that's probably a good thing and why public financing is probably the answer (although it has it's issues as well).

However you cut it there is an appearance that people would expect something in return.

Wayne Furbert could have totally embraced the concept, regardless of whether he agreed or not, and let the PLP stand alone to reject it. Instead he was honest. Something we don't expect from politicians. Maybe a bad political move, but honest - although short-sighted in my opinion.

We need to look at the bigger picture. We need to get money out of our politics.

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One more comment before I sign off for the night.

Julian Hall very cleverly omitted one very relevant word to Dr. Gibbons' criticism of Dr. Brown's PLP Gala and fundraising: "Foreign".

He said when he was the deputy chairman of the UBP that party raised a lot of cash from big companies.


The Bank of Bermuda had made substantial donations to the UBP when its head Henry Tucker was Premier and subsequently while the two largest law firms had weighed in with thousands of dollars in donations, said Mr. Hall.

Note that he says big companies, not big foreign companies, and the 3 examples he cites are local companies, the Bank of Bermuda (at the time local but no longer) and the local law firms.

This isn't to say that there aren't issues with local fund-raising, but political fund-raising is a continuum with foreign interests on one end and public financing on the other with local businesses and individuals somewhere in the middle.

That's very different than fund-raising from overseas which is very problematic. It's illegal in the US. In the US it's even potentially illegal to donate to foreign political parties and governments. They protect it both ways.

Dr. Gibbons criticism has always been that political fund-raising should be local. He's never said you can't fund-raise from companies. Local companies pay taxes, create jobs, contribute to the community etc.. They are part of the community. Foreign corporations' sole interest would presumably be securing access or a Government contract.

On a related note, former UBP MP Allan Marshall made a compelling case for publicly financed political campaigns in a letter to the editor today and has obviously put some thought into it:

I think it’s time for all political party funding to cease. As a solution, both parties will receive $1 million each per year from the Bermuda taxpayer via the Consolidated Fund. In order to ensure some level of protection for the taxpayer, a political party will only qualify for such a stipend if it has the support of at least 20 percent of the voting public at elections. A political party should be able to operate on a yearly budget of $500,000 which would allow the party to staff and operate its headquarters and carry out some polling during the year. Over the five year election cycle the party would be able to reserve approximately $2.5 million which should be sufficient funds to run an election campaign. The parties will also have to present annual accounts to the Charities commission to ensure total transparency. No other party fundraising will be permitted.

I like his suggestion and in theory I support publicly financed political campaigns.

The only problem that I've never been able to reconcile is how you prevent the parties from using outside organisations that are financially unaccountable. So there's probably some combination of public and private financing, but the laws will get quite complex as are the US's.

In the US they have a lot of issues with campaign finances, and frankly, the more laws they write the more ways around it they find. The latest major loophole being 527s, which are outside organisations which campaign for a specific issue or party but are not supposed to coordinate.

But it's very hard to police.

So I like what Allan suggests, but it's not quite that simple.

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Julian Hall was on VSB news tonight expanding on his comments in the paper today.

Firstly, Julian lost all credibility the moment he said that Dr. Brown and Dr. Gibbons would have been in the backroom laughing moments after Dr. Brown's speech. He knows that is not the case and would not be the case. Dr. Brown was out for blood and Dr. Gibbons was justifiably angry.

But I can tell you it's not the case because I spoke to several UBP MPs who were still livid on Sunday and Monday. Julian's a smart guy who's been in Parliament. He knows this wasn't the usual Parliamentary banter. This was a viscous calculated personal attack - the worst kind. For him to try and dismiss it like that just destroys his credibility and is entirely disingenuous and insincere.

Secondly, let's dismiss this line about Dr. Brown being only human, and getting angry because Dr. Gibbons dragged the Premier's wife into the debate and being a dutiful husband.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, BPSU secretary Ed Ball was the one who first raised questions about Mrs. Brown's role among other things, and Dr. Brown directed questions on the THE Foundation to his wife. Dr. Brown inserted his wife into this not Dr. Gibbons.

Contrary to the argument that if you have a problem with a man you don't fight his wife macho bravado, the real question is what kind of a man hides behind his wife?

However let's examine the facts here. Dr. Brown's wife, after consulting with him, set up a charity which solicited funds while it was not registered (something that is probably prosecutable). Now, one of the largest contributors was Kurron Shares of America, who received a contract shortly after T.H.E. held the concert that the donations were for.

Now what we're being told by Dr. Brown and Julian Hall is that a) questioning the Premier's wife is prohibited (even after Dr. Brown directed questions to her) and b) that Dr. Gibbons was only raising Kurron as a problem because it's CEO is black (American).

I'll deal with the second part first. Dr. Brown's comment was to the effect of "why did the member single out Kurron" but then rather oddly went on to say "and if he doesn't know he should spend the weekend figuring it out."

"If he doesn't know he should spend the weekend figuring it out?"

So Dr. Brown is admitting that Dr. Gibbons doesn't know why he supposedly raised the Kurron conflict as a potential conflict, but then implies racism.

How can that question be racist if Dr. Brown admits that Dr. Gibbons probably was unaware that the CEO is black? It's another of the manufactured incidents of racism that Dr. Brown had to resort to in his desperate attack.

But more importantly, it suggests that Kurron was appealing to Dr. Brown because the CEO is black (Affirmative Action for foreign corporations - now that's a first). In that example, it appears that Dr. Brown - by his own admission - is the one hung up on race, not Dr. Gibbons.

Now, back to the first part about it being inappropriate - or not manly - to bring up Mrs. Brown's role in T.H.E..

Mrs. Brown is the chairperson of a charity which was created and funded to contribute to a Bermuda Government event. Of course she's going to come up in discussion of the T.H.E. Foundation and fundraising that raises legitimate questions of pay to play. If you can't stand the heat...don't get in the kitchen.

It's a great defense mechanism though. Hell, why not put every male Cabinet Minister's wife in charge of everything and then no-one can ever ask a question about anything for fear of having their manhood challenged?

Are we really at this point? Is this really how silly and nonsensical Bermuda's political debate around accountability is? Sadly, I think it is.

Speaking of defense mechanisms, the other main thrust of Julian Hall's comments is essentially this:

Oversight = racism.

How absurd.

Julian said that questioning a 'black' Premier (and presumably a self-defined 'black' party) is racist in and of itself. But he didn't stop there.

He said that for whites to want accountability is racist, but for blacks to ask is self-loathing because they've been taught they're inferior.

The outcome of this position is clear (and Julian's a smart lawyer so presumably he knows the problem with his position), "black Governments" (a self-defined moniker) are immune from oversight and can never be questioned, ever, by blacks or whites.

Wow. If that isn't a recipe for disaster I don't know what is. Any Government has to be subject to questioning, it doesn't matter what race. Government's do bad things without oversight. Power is a dangerous thing unchecked.

And for some reason there seems to be an inability to accept that some people, such as myself, just want oversight of the whole system. Campaign fund-raising, tendering of contracts, political appointments etc.. Everything. And that isn't racist. It's a practice that is in place in all modern political systems except Bermuda. And these arguments, if they hold, mean we'll never get it.

Julian engaged in one of the most circular and ill-thought out arguments I've ever heard, but he delivered it with his usual flair.

It does explain a lot though. Presumably this is the mentality of the PLP MPs, and it would therefore explain why successive PLP Governments bristle at even the most mundane questions, and it probably also explains why they haven't seen concerned about producing results and performance: to ask for results is racist.

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The quote of the day goes to Patricia Gordon Pamplin in her Letter to The Royal Gazette Editor:

"We have a Premier who might possess charisma, but not one ounce of class."

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A Googling reader writes in:

Ewart Brown has given a statement on his trip to the BOT meeting in London:

Summary: he hated it and struck a blow for the oppressed people against the tyranny of the colonial hegemony, but felt better cuz he stayed in a really nice hotel.

(Note that this was released on the PLP website, not the official Government portal. Because the Government exists to support the PLP you know).

Contrast and compare with the content of the Montserrat delegation's report:

Montserrat reports there was agreement amongst the group that the UN Convention Against Corruption would be extended to the Overseas Territories at the earliest opportunity, as well as discussion of an FCO document on good governance and ethics.

I suppose it's not a strange omission on the Doc's part given that the UN Convention deals with, among other things, transparency in the funding of political candidates and parties as well as the need to strengthen systems that promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interest. It also calls for standards/codes of conduct for the correct, honourable, and proper performance of public offices.

No I don't suppose the Doc would like that much at all. Understandable that he'd neglect to mention it.

The text of the UN Convention may be found here. It has been ratified by the majority of UN members. But they are presumably all racist dogs so screw em.

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Talk me through this one:

The unregistered charity Tourism Helps Everyone (or is it Tourism Helps Ewart) Foundation secures $400,000 in funding in a questionable manner, but only $110,000 clears expenses?

I have a very good friend who is a fundraiser, and I was talking to him recently about a charitable idea I had and asked what type of expenses were reasonable. His response? A good rule of thumb is that no more than 30% should be spent in overhead.

With the T.H.E. Foundation you've got the reverse, with expenses around 72%.

And you wonder why people are asking questions?

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So why hasn't Dr. Brown attacked BPSU secretary Ed Ball, who raised concerns about the Premier's wife in a letter after the 2006 Music Festival?

Mr. Ball said: “The focus of the disquiet is whether or not it is correct for the wife of a Cabinet Minister to publicly declare her interest in raising funds for a government funded programme.”

And Dr. Brown himself inserted his wife into the debate over a month ago by directing the press to speak with her directly (same link above):

Dr. Brown said last night that The Royal Gazette should speak to his wife directly about the letter, but she would not be available until her return from a trip to New York tomorrow evening.

Which negates the spin Julian Hall uses today about bringing the Premier's wife into the equation:

"When you bring into the equation his wife you get really personal. The Premier is a human being like everyone else. He's going to react as any human being would.

"There is underlying racism in making this attack without evidence or substance.

"When you go around impugning motives without any evidence whatsoever, it smacks of racism."

So is Mr. Ball, a black Bermudian, a racist? Nope. He raises the same legitimate concerns that Dr. Gibbons and the UBP have:

He said the union understood that the Music Festival appeared in the Department of Tourism accounts and was concerned that accountability for the financing of the event may have been compromised.

He asked for clarification on points including whether registration of a charitable foundation for receipt of the funds had been completed.

He asked if it was correct that the Music Festival was funded by the Government through the Department of Tourism.

He also questioned whether the Government was the sponsor of the festival or whether the festival was a charity that Government could donate to.

“We note that in other jurisdictions, in particular the UK, the charitable status of a body like the Music Festival would have to be established after due diligence procedures had been satisfied, and before any funds could be raised,” wrote Mr. Ball.

“On the basis of our understanding, it appears that the foundation established by Mrs. Henton Brown to raise funds for the Music Festival does not have a mandate from any source.

“This must put the funds raised in question. These funds are not insignificant as we understand that a check ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 US was collected at the close of the Kathleen Battle performance.”

Grant Gibbons raised the same issues other did, including the Political Eunuch comment.

The difference? Grant's white. Now you tell me who's got the race problem?

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If you needed an example of the PLP's problem in backing out of the term limits policy you need look no further than PLP backbencher, and a former Labour Minister, Terry Lister in Parliament on Friday night.

Current Labour Minister Derrick Burgess says term limits is about preventing new long term residents not jobs for Bermudians and blessed Mr. Ezekiel's trip to London to look for an alternative, Terry Lister thinks differently, he says its about racism:

Mr. Lister then changed subject, stating that international companies in Bermuda were not doing enough to combat racism. He said just two percent of people in management jobs in the country were black.

Mr. Lister said: “Racism must be removed from Bermuda and must certainly be removed from the workplace.

“Some members of the public feel this Government has moved too slowly on the issue of racism.

“What we have tried to do is to be balanced and fair to give companies time to get their acts together. “I’m very disappointed with international companies and their development.

“Is there anybody in this country who believes that when you get the best minds together, two percent of them are black?”

He said that too many companies had a “we won’t do it” attitude. Mr. Lister criticised international business leader David Ezekiel’s recent trip to London, stating workers should be found in Bermuda instead.

He added: “What will it take before they understand that this country belongs to all of us?

“At a time when the six-year rule is on the horizon, one would expect favourable working environment for black workers, but instead we see Mr. Ezekiel going off to London.

“What’s he going to London for? The people are here! Hire them, develop them, make them your own.

“We are too nice in Bermuda. Everybody says good morning, everybody says good night, and toots their car in the road.

“I don’t want us to stop being nice, but I want those who can make a difference to make a difference.”

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The Royal Gazette has posted the full audio file of Premier Brown's racial tirade in Parliament on Friday night.

The file is large, almost 10MBs, and the audio quality is poor. But it's clear enough.

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Dr. Grant Gibbons has released the following statement to the media, responding to Premier Brown's disgraceful and vicious racial attack on him Friday night on the floor of Parliament:


December 3, 2006

Former Opposition Leader Grant Gibbons today responded to the unprecedented personal attack launched against him by Premier Ewart Brown during the Motion to Adjourn on Friday in the House of Assembly.

“Friday night’s disgraceful personal attack by Premier Ewart Brown was one of the most vicious and racially charged speeches I have ever heard in my 12 years in Parliament. As elected members, we understand that the heat of debate can occasionally prompt intemperate remarks, but Premier Brown’s hate speech was premeditated and carefully calculated— he spoke from notes.

“He resorted to tactics that can best be described as thuggish: lying, bullying and physical intimidation.

“He made accusations designed to impugn my integrity and was unable to substantiate a single one.

“When he failed to hit the mark with that approach, he moved on to an unhinged racial attack, using shameful language designed to incite, polarize and divide—a far cry from the “healthy” talk about race relations he promised the country in his inaugural Throne Speech.

“Finally, he threatened me physically, suggesting he would cross the floor of the House, not to vote for the UBP, but to prevent me from raising unwelcome questions about his and his party’s political activities in the future.

“Premier Brown’s extraordinary behaviour has debased both the office of the Premier and the House of Assembly. He has brought shame to himself and his country.

“If the Premier’s remarks were designed to discourage me from asking further questions about fundraising activities of the T.H.E. Foundation, he has failed. It is my job, as an Opposition MP, to hold Premier Brown and his Government accountable, and I will continue to so. And, if my brief comments regarding the T.H.E. Foundation in the House the previous Friday, before the Speaker cut me off, solicited a response of this magnitude from the Premier, I must have touched a nerve.

“Even former Premier Alex Scott recently warned about ‘sweetheart deals’ and the dangers of political donors who could ‘buy into government’ and demand something in return.

“A week ago, I attempted to speak to the principle of foreign donors, who have no connection to Bermuda other than through Government contracts, contributing to the T.H.E. Foundation, which was initiated earlier this year by Mrs. Wanda Brown to solicit funds for Government tourism projects.

“T.H.E. Foundation contributions included a $25,000 donation from Mr. and Mrs. Don Coleman; he is chairman and CEO of GlobalHue, a U.S. advertising agency that holds the Bermuda tourism contract. Kurron Shares of America—hired three years ago as a consultant to the hospital and recently referred to by Health Minister Bascome as a “partner” of KEMH—donated at least $10,000. FIS Group, which advises the Ministry of Finance on pension fund managers, contributed a similar amount. FIS and their CEO, Tina Byles (Poitevien) Williams, were involved in the 2003 pay-to-play scandal when she issued invitations to U.S. pension managers to attend a lunch and contribute to then-Minister Brown’s personal re-election campaign.

“If these companies or individuals had donated to the Bermuda Red Cross, my questions would be unnecessary. But when foreign companies donate directly to Government officials or Government-related events and appear to be rewarded with Government contracts, it raises serious questions of pay to play.

“In most states in the U.S., this activity is illegal. In Bermuda, where our domestic anti-corruption legislation lags behind best practice in sophisticated jurisdictions, it should be considered at least unethical.

“Premier Brown boasted on Friday night that he had access to sources of great wealth in the United States that would ensure that the Progressive Labour Party would remain in power for a long time. Every Bermudian should be concerned that their current PLP Government is seeking U.S.-based donors to influence a political process that should remain local.

“In fact, it is possible that foreign donations of this sort violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign government officials or foreign political parties to obtain or retain business.

“Dr. Brown’s vitriolic comments on Friday night suggest a troubled man who is still trying to settle old scores. His behaviour should prompt every Bermudian to think about what kind of person they want and trust to represent Bermuda as Premier.”


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Lost amid the Premier's race based tirade in Parliament Friday night was another important event, namely the Premier and his Party's refusal to answer properly tabled Parliamentary Questions inquiring about the cost to the taxpayer for the 3 new unbudgeted positions of the Chief of Staff, Press Secretary and Consultant on Race (Rolfe Commissiong).

The Premier doesn't just have contempt for the Opposition, he displayed an absolute contempt for every Bermudian by refusing to answer the questions as required under Parliamentary rules and procedure.

These were new un-budgeted positions for 2006, and therefore require supplemental expenditures be tabled in Parliament, a step which has not occurred and seems increasingly unlikely based on Friday's non-response.

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A old post I wrote on the inspiration of the 'political eunuch' crack:

Dr. Gibbons' comment referring to a eunuch describes a man who has had his testicles removed. That sounds like a rough analogy unless you listen to Pariament, where the PLP, and Dr. Brown in particular, constantly using the phrase 'testicular fortitude'.

A political eunuch would therefore be someone who lacked testicular fortitude.

Seems fair ... and accurate.

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The Royal Gazette has a run down of the hate speech spewed forth by Dr. Brown last night in Parliament, but it missed some of the disgusting attempts the Premier (I'm ashamed to call him that) made to portray Grant Gibbons's criticisms as racist.

Take the ridiculous story Brown made up about his friend who trains monkeys. Speaking directly to Dr. Gibbons, he told a story about someone who trained monkeys, who could make them do all sorts of things including sit, run and eat bananas. The ending of the story was that Dr. Gibbons might be surprised that one day he came home and saw the monkeys on the internet.

A stupidly offensive story trying to suggest that Dr. Gibbons viewed black people as monkeys. Digusting. Offensive. Shameful. Venemous. But not a surpise.

Here's one that the Gazette article did cover:

“Mr. Speaker, that Honourable member made a comment about my predecessor, and I heard no one on the other side take him on about it,” Dr. Brown continued. “He referred to the Honourable Premier at the time as a ‘political eunuch.

“Now black people respond negatively to any reference to castration. During slavery there was a big call for eunuch stations and it was at those stations that black men were sent to be castrated. If I called that member a racist dog. You see it is the dog that matters.

Dr. Gibbons interjected: “Mr. Speaker is he calling me a racist dog?”
Dr. Brown replied: “Mr. Speaker, I would never call that member a racist dog, because I can tell that he is not a dog.”

Hmm. Here's another quote about political eunuchs delivered 5 weeks ago:

But she signalled she would not be happy to take a backseat if she landed the Deputy Premier’s post.

“On paper, the role of Deputy is more the role of a political eunuch.”

But she said a relationship based on respect and trust could see important functions delegated to the country’s number two.

Who delivered that quote you ask? One Paula Cox, now PLP Deputy Premier and Finance Minister, commenting on the role that Dr. Brown filled since July 2003.

So, where was Dr. Brown's outrage then, when his own colleague called him a political eunuch? Did he 'take her on'?

Does Dr. Brown consider Paula Cox a racist dog as he called Dr. Gibbons? It would seem that way.

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Dr. Ewart Brown, Premier of Bermuda, delivered tonight - on the motion to adjourn - the most disgraceful and hateful speech I have ever heard in my time following parliament. Ever.

The Premier evidently has taken offense that what he calls the UBP's 'de facto leader' would have the gall to point out over the past several weeks the problems with Pay to Play, foreign fund-raising, and the unregistered Tourism Helps Everyone charity set up around this years Music Festival by the then Deputy Premier's wife among other things.

The Premier of course characterised all this criticism as racist, but in the most personal and vicious of ways, using phrases like "I would never call the member a racist dog, because he's not a dog", that Dr. Gibbons is the representative of Bermuda's racist forefathers and several times said that he was close to crossing the aisle.

Disgraceful doesn't say it strong enough. The Premier came across as unhinged, and judging by the amount of the Premier's supporters I'm told were in the gallery this was a big event for the PLP.

If it wasn't clear before to people, once they read the Premier's comments or hear them on the radio it will be; Dr. Brown is intent on tearing this community to shreds and taking race relations and accountability back decades.

To say that he wants an honest and sustained discussion on race and engage in that type of frothing at the mouth hate, has revealed him - within a month of seizing power - to be simply unsuited for the office he now holds.

Bermuda will never move forward with the brand of racial hatred he is about to unleash on this community.

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Some testy exchanges on the Motion to Adjourn today after a relatively benign session.

I think I caught most speakers, although I did miss the earliest ones, but UBP Member Grant Gibbons seemed to really get under the PLP, and Education Minister Randy Horton in particular's skin, with his comments on the never-ending soap opera at the Bermuda college.

Randy Horton responded with his usual decibels and engaged in some rather unbecoming personal attacks and misrepresenatations of the facts (blaming Dr. Gibbons for closing down technical education in Bermuda when he wasn't in Bermuda).

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, as she tends to do, really set the Government= off when she discussed the College and term limits in particular. Ms. Gordon-Pamplin was interrupted more than she spoke, which is always a sign that you're on a good wicket.

The write-up in the papers tomorrow and Monday should be a good read.

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The Royal Gazette carries the PGA Grand Slam story today:

However, sources at both the PGA of America and Mid Ocean have told The Royal Gazette that Bermuda has now been given the thumbs up – although Government is prevented from making the news public until next week because of a contractual agreement with the PGA of America. So excited was Dr. Brown at the prospect of making the announcement that he almost gave the game away at a public meeting held at Penno’s Wharf in St. George’s on Wednesday night.

Urging the media and the general public to adopt a more positive outlook on the state of their country, he said: “Next week I am going to make an announcement – I can’t sleep at the moment because I want to make the announcement now but I am under contract and I cannot do it. But it’s an announcement that will make all of you proud to be Bermudians.

“And when it’s announced, you are going to go back and remember headlines that essentially said that it was not happening, that it was not going to happen, that I was jumping the gun, that it’s nothing but politics. When we make the announcement, it will show that this is not the case.”

My favourite bit? Dr. Brown saying he didn't jump the gun...but that the PGA now has him contractually obligated to keep his mouth shut until next week, a feat he still couldn't really manage.


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South Africa yesterday legalised same sex marriage:

The government has defended the new legislation for representing a wider commitment to battle discrimination.

“In breaking with our past ... we need to fight and resist all forms of discrimination and prejudice, including homophobia,” Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told members of Paliarment earlier this month, when the bill was passed by the National Assembly.

Barely a decade ago the country had legalised apartheid. Today, they have same sex marriage. Bravo South Africa. They understand discrimination in a way that too many Bermudians evidently do not.

Here we can't even get our Parliament to even debate homosexuality as a protected class and our new supposedly progressive civil rights driven Premier says he sees no need for it.

We have a long way to go.

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