February 2007 Archives

Hot off the presses, get your very own Bermuda Expat merchadise, courtesty of Whiny in Bermuda (not me...I swear) who says that "Every Government crackdown deserves its own T-shirt":

expat_shirt.jpg

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A wonderful find I'd forgotten about, dug out by a commenter at IMHO.

In Bermuda a holier than thou Government backbencher who most people have couldn't pick out of a lineup says that "no where else in the world would a person be able to treat an MP with such disrespect."

Meanwhile, post-Hurricane Katrina, US Vice President Dick Cheney was giving a press conference while a passer-by delivered the following greeting..twice:

"Go F**k yourself Mr. Cheney"

Nowhere else in the world huh George?

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Aa reader with some familiarity with the criminal code sent this enticing tidbit in:

Interfering with political liberty

151 Any person who by violence, or by threats or intimidation of any kind, hinders or interferes with the free exercise of any political right by another person, is guilty of an offence, and is liable on conviction by a court of summary jurisdiction to imprisonment for twelve months:

Provided that if the offender is a public officer and commits the offence in abuse of his authority, he is liable on conviction by a court of summary jurisdiction to imprisonment for twelve months and on convic­tion on indictment to imprisonment for two years.

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If Bermuda isn't in the Caribbean, as Dr. Brown repeatedly yelled across the floor of Parliament at the UBP's Cole Simons when he was discussing Bermuda's poor tourism results relative to our Caribbean competitors in Parliament on Friday, why do we want to be part of a regional Caribbean Cat Fund?

I'd suggest that a) our $1.5M contribution to the Fund could buy a much more economical Bermuda specific cover from some of our companies and b) we're going to pay out far more after Caribbean storms that we're likely to get back over time and c) why are we promoting state solutions when our economy is based on providing this in the open market?

There's an adverse selection issue at play for Bermuda in a Caribbean pool. Bermuda's premium is 100% diversifying for the Caribbean, the diversification benefit to Bermuda is far far less. This proposal is too concentrated in the Caribbean to be of much benefit to Bermuda. I can completely understand why including Bermuda is attractive to the islands in the Caribbean. Bermuda, on the other hand...

Has the Government explored private market solutions for us available just down the street?

This seems to have more to do with profiling in the region than any real economic value to Bermuda.

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A reader of my generation calls it like he sees it...he couldn't be more right:

Honestly. I think that our government is past the point of embarrassing themselves. I have never seen such a bunch of self righteous individuals. On many levels, this Island cannot sustain itself without international business. It filters into every facet of the economy. Yet they antagonize the very hands that feed us!! I hate to admit this is the case, but we are more dependent on International business then our dear old queen.

Now they are waving the racism card again (perhaps to win the next election) and not attending to this Bermuda’s most basic needs.

1) An increasing number of students are not graduating from high school.
2) The hospital is falling apart (and has been for quite sometime…..but I suppose an oversized high school in Pembroke is more important then healthcare).
3) In the face of a world that is “catching on” to reinsurance, it is not considering what to do when they eventually catch up. Tourism?? - Lower rates on Jet Blue and brand new, Ritzy hotels are great…but not if Bermuda continues to offer LIMITED activities at RIDICULOUS prices.

This list could get a lot bigger if I don’t stop now.

Then there are complaints about Bermudians not getting positions in upper management. I am sorry, but while this is a good cause, they need to be more realistic and stop trying to influence voters.

There are individuals in management that have had mastery over this industry for many years. Moving up takes time and if we put our mind to it, we will eventually fill those positions. Just consider the fact that some, if not all of these positions take a bit of polish when you represent a company globally. Training cannot transform the brightest employee into a CEO overnight. We must pay our dues.

Don’t get me wrong, perhaps there are many Bermudians who have been overlooked for management positions, but there are quite a number who are making the move which is due to their companies making the effort to promote Bermudians. Sure there are managers making a killing here…..that’s the nature of the business. After all, haven’t our Government MP’s benefited from being members of the ruling party?

Both Government parties need an infusion of new blood….younger, educated Bermudians who will put the Island before their own personal goals and truly understand how business works on this island now. It is growing and evolving, and I am beginning to think that the rest of the world will leave us behind if we keep spinning our wheels with all this tit for tat nonsense.

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The Royal Gazette changed software providers for their website this weekend, which has had the impact of breaking every link on my blog back to the Gazette, which is most.

I'm not sure how to fix this right now, or if there even is a fix.

The main address remains www.theroyalgazette.com.

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A Bermudian living abroad writes in:

OK, and in all seriousness, come on (and this is coming from someone who lives in a country where only some people can criticise the national leader without penalty, and where those who are punished for it win Grammys). If that poster in today's paper proves anything, it's that politics in Bermuda are completely racially polarized. And really, no other issue than race matters. So to hell with health care, jobs, and homelessness. Criticize the political leadership and get "black-listed." (Oops!)

If the gentlemen who protested your blog think you are racist because you are White and the leadership is Black, doesn't that make them racist since they believe that the only reason that you would be critical (other than your political affiliation) is because of your racial group membership? I wonder...

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From today's Royal Gazette:

Burgess to expats: 'Don't get involved in local politics'.

Unless of course you'd like to attend one of the PLP's Gala fundraisers, where foreigners, or in particular foreign money, is more than welcome.

And employees who speak out against their employer should expect to be fired. But also, don't forget that locals who speak out against the PLP should expect some dingbat protestor to show up at your workplace and demand that you be fired.

The hypocrisy is simply astounding.

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Here are links to the coverage of yesterday's micro-protest by the Bermuda Sun and the Royal Gazette. Other than the Gazette running a front page photo declaring my employer's name, I think the coverage reasonable.

I thank the Bermuda Sun (who I've been hard on lately) for obscuring my employer's name.

On a related note, while taking issue with the Gazette putting this guy on the front page, I guess I could have used some perspective. Evidently I was a little too close to the subject matter because a number of people have emailed me with the observation that this guy is so clueless that he can't see the irony in holding a sign with the term 'media whore' while media whoring.

While we're on the topic of media whores, I admit that I've probably introduced a new phrase into the local vernacular, but it's not a term I coined; it's been around for awhile in the US - and I admit I have a fond spot for it.

A media whore is essentially someone constantly mugging for the camera:

1. A person who has a psychological need to get into TV, Film, Radio or Print.

2. A person who becomes aroused almost sexually by seeing or hearing themselves or about themselves in the media.

Hence my use of the term; one which, at the risk of stating the obvious, is of course race neutral.

I find it absolutely appropriate in the context I used it (Dr. Brown pre-announcing the PGA Grand Slam event, and Dr. Brown sending out a press release about a funeral he would be speaking at).

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A reader writes:

"The picketers were not upset by your specific editorial; they are angry that you dare question the PLP at all. Rather than engage your legitimate criticisms, it is easier for them to shut you up by calling you a racist and being a nuisance to your employer. Bully tactics.

This is a trend. The limey blog had become a popular gathering point, and in recent months there was a noticeable push to intimidate and harry him into silence, either through the posted threats by Laverne Furbert and through the more ominious quiet legal threats by politicians' lawyers [Note: Phil Wells never received any direct legal threats from a lawyer.]. Limey gave up for now; I hope you do not.

"I am sure that many notice the sad irony: the PLP complain that they suffered in the past for speaking up publicly. Now that they are in power, they are amplifying that suppression while pouring money into control of public information sources (such as the impending TV station and the amazing amount of government advertising that appears in the Bermuda Sun)."

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Give me a break.

Two guys, both of shall we say questionable character, show up outside my job yesterday with stupid signs for an hour and the Royal Gazette gives them a front page photo declaring my employer's name - exactly what they wanted.

Come on. I even walked right past these guys noses on purpose, and they didn't even recognise me. They had no clue who I was and I guarantee you they aren't blog readers.

The PLP should condemn yesterday's 'protest'. But they won't. This is exactly what they've decried for decades - people's livelihoods being threatened for political speech and political choice.

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Man, these rent-a-protestors aren't even committed to their cause. A few drops of rain and they're gone.

At it's pinnacle I think reporters outnumbered protesters 2 to 1.

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I'd like to thank the two people (is that all they could muster?) who went out of their way this morning to picket me outside of my office because of my column today.

Thank you for proving my point about intimidation, that it starts with the expats and has already moved on to the locals.

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A reader comments on my Royal Gazette column today:

The only thing I disagree with is your last paragraph - /This decades old political strategy of racially dividing and conquering has run its course /- I don't think it has, I think it has only just begun. To believe that these incidents are simply outbreaks of bad behaviour, which condemnation will make the miscreants regret, is wishful thinking. Racial politics is our future."

It's a good point. I actually agree with this, racial politics will continue until the voters/community reject it. I've been quoted along those lines recently in some Gazette articles and RG Magazine.

What I should have said is that "This decades old political strategy of racially dividing and conquering should have run its course..."

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First the PLP came for the expats. Next the bloggers?

An Egyptian court has sentenced an internet blogger to four years' prison for insulting Islam and the president.

It's not that far from being reality, with the PLP/BIU's blog police, Laverne "Nails" Furbert, threatening to report Phil Wells to the Minister of Immigration:

Firstly, although you are married to a Bermudian, you need to be reminded that permission for you to work in Bermuda is still at the behest of the Minister of Immigration and Labour (the Hon. Derrick Burgess, JP, MP). Please refer to the Immigration and Protection Act to confirm this.

We're on a very slippery slope. I like the suggestion in today's Letters to the Editor (brilliant satire alert for the humourly challenged):

Government announces "Know Who I Am" Campaign, The Premier, like all Bermudians, is concerned by the recent confrontation involving Canadian foreign worker Curtis Macleod and Member of Parliament George A. Scott.

Of course, the most troubling aspect of this unfortunate incident is that Mr. Macleod was obviously unable to recognize MP Scott as the distinguished public figure that he is. No member of the ruling party in Bermuda should have to present a business card and repeated ask "do you know who I am". This is truly regrettable. As usual, Government has acted swiftly to address this issue. The Ministry of Labour and Immigration is proud to announce the launch of its "Know Who I Am" programme. Effective immediately, all foreign workers will receive, upon arrival in Bermuda, a pocket size guide to the luminaries who comprise Bermuda's ruling class.

The guide will include professional colour photographs as well as details of the MPs' children, spouses, former spouse(s), former spouse(s)' children, significant other(s), former significant other(s), former significant other(s)' children etc., to ensure that the appropriate degree of deference, obedience and reverence is demonstrated in all situations. As a related measure, work permit renewals (if any) will now include a short examination based on the guide. This examination will be administered in cooperation with the new Ministry of Expatriate Rehabilitation.


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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (22 Feb. 2007)

Given that Dr. Brown is so fond of renaming Government agencies, he might as well make it official and make the Department of Immigration the Department of Intimidation. The deportation of the Elbow Beach chef and revocation of construction site manager Curtis Macleod’s work permit confirm that the change is warranted; intimidation is the name of the game in the third attempt at a New Bermuda. I suppose we should have seen this coming. We weren’t promised a better Bermuda, just a new one.

As every day passes it’s clear that the New Bermuda is a rollback to an era that most of us hoped we’d progressed past, a time when overt racial antagonism and nationalistic incitement ruled the day.

Today, anyone who refuses to worship at the PLP altar will be deported as a first option, alternatively attempts will be made to silence them with racist dog, shyster, House n**ger or Uncle Tom slurs.

What remains is a select group of those racially authentic Bermudians apparently permitted to speak in this community. The rest of us – and that would be most of us – should just shut up and go home, even if this is home.

The launching pad for this campaign of intimidation was Dr. Brown’s “racist dog” attack in Parliament; an event which emboldened and authorized his sidekicks’ exercises in intimidation and abuses of power.

First the Elbow Beach chef was deported for a joke; then Dr. Wakeley of the Medical Clinic was fired for advocating for her patients instead of sending them off to private clinics (of which Dr. Brown just so happens to own one); and now it’s Canadian construction worker Mr. Macleod who failed to kowtow to George Scott, opting instead to offer a character assessment of Mr. Scott that is impressive in its all encompassing brevity: “…you racist, uneducated, ignorant a**hole”.

Maybe it’s me, but on a construction site I thought those kinds of comments were terms of endearment? I guess not.

But yet again, as with everything in Bermuda, ego, race and a resurgent nativism are the root of the dispute, with Mr. Scott allegedly demanded respect because he’s an MP, while racially taunting Mr. Macleod with this statement:

“You are not from here and you don't know what it is like to be a black man. You are a black man with a white man's heart.”

I suppose we should thank Mr. Scott for his own all encompassing brevity, capturing Bermuda’s debilitating political problem in two short sentences.

The optimists among us might be willing to dismiss these events as background noise – personal disputes that have bubbled over into the political domain – however the incendiary diatribe that was infused into the budget speech confirms that intimidation is now official public policy.

Finance Minister Cox, perhaps uncharacteristically for many people, inserted conclusions drawn from the CURE report into the 2007 Budget speech, cavalierly labeling our business community as racist, lacking “good faith” in their hiring practices, doing Bermuda harm and “profiteering” at Bermudians’ – particularly black Bermudians’ – expense.

Where to start? How’s about with what the CURE stats do and do not tell us? The CURE statistics identify issues, not explain why they exist; it’s up to others to diagnose the cause. Ms. Cox, an intelligent and educated individual who is more than capable of connecting the dots, didn’t diagnose the cause, she obscured it.

Her highly provocative diatribe ignores a major reason for the poor representation of black Bermudians in “the upper echelons of the private sector work-place”: Public education.

Just weeks ago Ms. Cox’s colleague, the Minister of Education, declared in solemn tones that the (disproportionately black) public education system’s graduation rates made for “grim reading”, that over half of our students are failing to complete a second rate diploma and that the Terra Nova test results revealed severe underperformance with our US counterparts (a system that underperforms itself). This Government has even gone so far as to label young black men as ‘a problem’, yet professes astonishment that we don’t have more black CEO’s.

If Ms. Cox and her colleagues had a shred of intellectual honesty they would draw the connection between the CURE results and the performance of the public education system which they’ve submitted to an independent inquiry. Politically that doesn’t play as well as attempting to shift the blame on the business community.

The poor representation of Bermudians – black Bermudians in particular – in senior business posts is an entirely predictably result of a public education system in disarray, not proof of institutional racism. That statement doesn’t deny the disparities between Bermudian and non-Bermudian, black and white and all of the cross sections of those categories, but honestly acknowledges one of the major drivers of this phenomenon.

Unless and until we produce students sufficiently educated to steward the assets of multi-billion dollar international corporations, no business would – or should – engage in social promotion to placate politicians who’ve sat on their hands for the past decade rather than start tackling the problem.

Simply put, the public education system’s continued dismal performance masks the extent of institutional racism in Bermuda and contributes to the racial disparity in senior executive positions.

In fact, it’s the business community that have been ringing the education alarm far longer than the PLP Government – which found religion only weeks ago – preferring to spend the majority of their past two terms deriding anyone and everyone – including myself – who dare state what they’ve now acknowledged.

This decades old political strategy of racially dividing and conquering has run its course. The endless racial antagonism, xenophobic nativism and endless tests of racial authenticity serve no-one other than a clique of egotistical, thin-skinned and self-serving politicians.

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There are a few things that I don't understand in the very pro-PLP press coverage that we're being treated to of late.

Firstly, how can there be so little follow-up on the resignation of a Cabinet Minister who appears to be on the verge of facing criminal charges arising from an investigation by the Police's Fraud Squad?

Secondly, other than a brief reference in last week's Mid Ocean News article, why won't the press report on the glaring conflict that Dr. Brown has in shutting down the Medical Clinic, when the private clinic he owns stands to benefit? That direct financial link is worth it's own media investigation. The Royal Gazette even ran a comment from Dr. Brown over the weekend but didn't appear to get into his potential direct financial benefit from closing the public clinic.

Thirdly, why has no-one gone to get the Premier's comments on the Immigration dispute that is going to the Supreme Court?

Fourthly, can someone put the brakes on the PLP-lovefest over at the Bermuda Sun? They're not even hiding their bias anymore.

The Sun ignored Dr. Brown's racial attack on Grant Gibbons; they're running op-eds by the Premier's "consultant" on race (which, to quote UBP Senator Bob Richards is like putting Jeffrey Dahmer in charge of the Vienna Boys Choir), where he repeatedly trots out patent falsehoods on the taxpayers dime in the name of an 'honest' discussion of race; and they shamelessly pandered with a series of puff pieces on Dr. Brown's sartorial elegance.

A little balance would be helpful.

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A new song by The Lizards on Bermuda's rapidly diminishing open space. It's catchy too:

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Business Week Online has the backstory of the infiltration of KPMG Bermuda by a Washington private intelligence firm working on the IPOC Fund that the Bermuda Government is now trying to wind up.

What I want to know is how this corporate spy got a work permit?

Soon, Enright was handing over confidential audit documents, including transcripts of interviews KPMG had conducted in the IPOC investigation, according to court documents on file in the British Virgin Islands and the source familiar with the events. Day picked out a rock in a field along Enright's 20-minute daily commute from his home in Elbow Beach and placed a plastic container under the rock, creating what spies call a dead drop site. At appointed times, Enright slipped new material into the container, which Day later retrieved. On one occasion, Enright left documents in the storage compartment of his moped, which he parked at his home. Enright had told Diligence employees where he hid the keys to the moped. When Enright left for a trip, Day collected the papers, according to the person familiar with the situation.

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An reader in the know sends in a refresher on what constitutes official corruption under Bermuda's criminal code while suggesting some at the top could use a gentle reminder:

Official corruption

111 Any person—

(a) who, being employed in the public service, or being the holder of any public office and being charged with the performance of any duty by virtue of such employment or office (not being a duty touching the administration of justice) corruptly asks, receives, or obtains, or agrees, or attempts to receive or obtain, any property or benefit of any kind for himself or for any other person on account of anything already done or omitted to be done, or to be afterwards done or omitted to be done, by him in the discharge of the duties of his office; or

(b) who corruptly gives, confers, or procures, or promises or offers to give or confer or to procure or attempt to pro-cure, to, upon, or for, any person employed in the public service, or being the holder of any public office, or to, upon, or for, any other person, any property or benefit of any kind on account of any such act or omission on the part of the person so employed or holding such office, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

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Last night I watched "Street Fight" a documentary about the Newark, New Jersey Mayoral Race between challenger Cory Booker and incumbent Sharpe James [Note: It is available at Leisure Time].

You may remember that Cory Booker was brought to Bermuda twice by the UBP to speak.

Besides being a gripping documentary, anyone who is interested in the mechanics and tactics encountered when running an on the ground election campaign against a no-holds barred opponent shouldn't miss this.

There are many parallels to the racialisation of our election campaigns, alhough this one is between two black American Democrats; one representing the old guard and the other a young up and comer.

Observers of Bermudian politics will note the many overlapping themes and tactics involved. For example, Mr. Booker - a black Democrat - was labeled by his opponent as a white Republican jew because he dare challenge the black establishment candidate.

Sound familiar? Shysters and Uncle Toms anyone?

Watch the trailer:

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You know what's both annoying and worrying?

That when I watch CNN on Cablevision, the audio is routinely interrupted by by marine radio communications by the Marine Police and Harbour Radio.

Right now I'm listening to the Marine Police and Harbour Radio try and identify the owner of an overturned boat on a mooring, but Harbour Radio can't find mooring information more recent than the year 2000.

It's annoying, for the obvious reasons, but worrying that I can listen in on Marine Police communications on my TV. Maybe that's because it's on an unsecure marine frequency, but surely this can't be ok.

I called both Cablevision and the Police about this a couple of weeks ago and was told very nonchalantly that "Yeah, we're aware of it" and "It happens sometimes."

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As mentioned in today's Royal Gazette Editorial, yesterday's budget contained a very threatening section towards international business, accusing the business community of not doing enough for black Bermudians.

For the Finance Minister to talk of profiteering, lack of good faith and lack of sincerity by our businesses is highly inflammatory. It's arguably uncharacteristic of Paula Cox, but very characteristic of the divide and conquer, race and class warfare tactics being utilised by Doc. Hollywood.

The ultimate insult from this attack of course is that this PLP Government has not even remotely upheld its end of the social contract, neglecting housing, education and social services for example for close to a decade while they lavish taxpayer perks on themselves.

This Government literally allowed the largest high school on the island to rot from the inside out with a toxic mould infestation, while producing abysmal graduation rates and test scores, yet expects international business to promote a poorly educated populous to the most senior of positions.

Clearly they have absolutely no understanding of what it takes to run a successful business. Businesses are not charities. The many millions of dollars that they (and we) pay each year in taxes are intended to fund social services, not Ministerial travel and houses.

These not-so-veiled threats will further un-nerve an already wary business community, which is now crystal clear that work permits can and will be revoked for completely inappropriate reasons - with no due process whatsoever - and that they will demagogue those who are doing far more for Bermuda than the sanctimonious Government Ms. Cox represented so poorly yesterday.

There are still many who have unmet needs. Our CURE statistics are nothing to be proud of. The advancement of Bermudians in the upper echelons of the private sector work-place, the advancement of black Bermudians in particular, is inadequate at best.

Mr. Speaker, those to whom much is given, much is expected. Bermuda is a goldmine for many from a business perspective. Yet a select few who come here to do business by their actions or inaction, tarnish our reputation and cause us harm. They think that it will be business as usual. Not so.

Mr. Speaker, we have a reputation to protect and to safeguard and we will do so wherever it may lead.

Some believe they can profiteer at our expense. Not so.

Mr. Speaker, as a new Government we believed in the sincerity of those who said that they wanted to treat people fairly – with equity, regardless of race, colour and creed.

Some were not being truthful. Indeed, their business practices and hiring practices demonstrated their lack of good faith and good will.

They were not doing good.

Mr. Speaker, as a Government we have provided every opportunity to employers and business to do the right thing. This Government provided an enabling framework so that businesses could flourish. We listened. We dialogued. We heard the challenges of doing business. We heard about the costs of doing business in Bermuda. We know, only
too well, of the need for Bermuda to remain competitive as a jurisdiction and to provide an effective and efficient regulatory framework.

Mr. Speaker, although we do not regulate the costs of professional services and service providers, in those areas within our remit, we did seek to do much to lower the costs of doing business by our tax policies and duty relief. In large measure, there have been
no appreciable tax increases. We relied on our Islands’ flourishing economy and the dynamic economic growth to increase the tax yield. This occurred.

Mr. Speaker, we thank all those who continue to work so tirelessly in the public and private sector to make Bermuda more competitive and a premier jurisdiction. Yet despite all that was done by the Government to foster a more level playing-field for business and business owners, not everyone has done all that they could do to assist and to provide
meaningful opportunities for Bermudians to develop in their careers.

So, we must do more to win the hearts and minds of all of Bermuda so they realise the need to provide the necessary tools and training to help those most in need. Those who follow the Government’s lead, by showing a willingness to work with, for and to the betterment of the people of Bermuda must be acknowledged and encouraged by tangible incentives.

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Immigration has always been a weapon in the PLP's arsenal, but we've seen it reloaded in a big way over the past several months. I guess that's the outcome of having the Ministry of Immigration as a wholly owned subsidiary of the BIU, under their former president Derrick Burgess.

The latest news of Immigration gone wild confirms that the Department of Immigration is on the verge of becoming a weapon of mass destruction as we hear of yet another incident where a self-absorbed ego-maniacal PLP politician - this time an irrelevant backbencher - abuses whatever little authority he has and has someone deported for being mean to him.

Boo hoo. Run home to mommy little Georgie.

First the chef was deported. Then the doctor was fired. Now a construction worker.

And what were their sins?

Daring to not worship at the PLP altar.

Expats beware. Locals, you're next.

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The 2007 Budget Statement (or Bermuda National Budget for the independence zealots) can be found here.

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The closing of the Indigent Clinic has been (rightly) getting plenty of attention lately; the Mid Ocean has covered it several times, as has the Gazette, a doctor was fired over a letter to the Editor she wrote, last night's speech by Wayne Furbert mentioned it, and today the Gazette's editorial touches on it:

Dr. Brown also repeated his explanation of why he wants to close the Indigent Clinic. In the overall scope of things, this is a relatively minor issue, but it is beginning to take on gargantuan proportions, in part because the Premier – as with the GPS issue and with the Southlands development – can be astonishingly stubborn when he does not get his way on decisions on which he has set his heart.

I'm not sure whether this is something the Premier has set his heart on, or his wallet.

While the closing of the clinic has received plenty of attention, one very relevant piece of information has not:

Dr. Brown owns a private health care clinic which stands to realise a direct financial benefit if patients are forced to find a private clinic, hence increasing his potential pool of patients.

Why no-one brings this up, either the press or the Opposition, is beyond me. I've mentioned this previously. Dr. Brown has an obligation to disclose this information when discussing this topic, it is very cogent to what the Editorial calls 'astonishingly stubborn'.

Is he stubborn or motivated?

Now we know that Dr. Brown doesn't value disclosure, as evidenced by his failure to declare in the Parliamentary Register of Interests the controversial sale of his Flatts home to the Bermuda Housing Corporation - a transaction which drew condemnation from the Auditor General, but at the minimum, declaring his interest on this topic is warranted, particularly when this appears to be his initiative.

The Royal Gazette reports that the BHC agreed in early 2001 to buy a property from Transport Minister Ewart Brown without first getting the cost independently appraised and without the MP declaring his interests. It says that Auditor General Larry Dennis raised serious concerns about a number of occasions where BHC purchased homes without first obtaining an outside appraisal on the value – and Dr. Brown’s was one of them. Dr Brown denies any wrongdoing and says all his transactions with the BHC were above board.

If Dr. Brown won't disclose this, the press and Opposition should.

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If Education is the 'big winner' in tomorrow's budget, as predicted in today's Royal Gazette, then there's only one question which needs asking:

Why are we throwing more money at a Ministry whose problems are not financial but structural, and is in the early stages of a comprehensive independent inquiry with a view (presumably) to an overhaul?

I can tell you one thing for sure that the inquiry will conclude: Lack of funds are not a contributing factor to the dismal performance.

Wait a few months and come back with a supplemental budget request after the inquiry is concluded.

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Following up on my post of this morning with respects to the candidates mentioned for the potential All Bermuda Congress, one of those individuals was on ZBM/ZFB to clear things up a little. It would seem that Khalid may have got a little ahead of himself in trying to present the ABC as far along in its development and candidate recruitment.

Former NLPer Charles Jeffers came on the news to clarify that he would NOT be a candidate for the ABC but had been invited by Khalid to hear some of the proposals.

Not quite an endorsement. Mr. Jeffers did say that he supports some of the things Khalid has been talking about, but he clearly not on board.

Not a good start when people are already bailing out.

But that's the whole issue with the situation around the UBP right. After the initial allegations - which have never been supported with anything approaching substance - the UBP's opponents, those seeking to replace the party, as well as a slighted Max Burgess and a media seeing a good story have kept up the pressure.

At its core there are two people making unsupported allegations coupled with Maxwell making an entirely different case (which he probably wouldn't have made at all if Wayne hadn't preempted his retirement announcement), which some have tried to also turn into racism, when he's said nothing of the sort.

But that's politics.

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Below is the speech delivered by UBP Leader Wayne Furbert tonight, in rebuttal to Dr. Brown's speech of Monday night.

I thought it both a good speech, hitting on all the right areas, but also that it was also the best speech I've heard Wayne deliver. He did a great job by anyone's standards, speaking clearly and with conviction. I must admit that I thought the speech he delivered a few weeks ago to deal with the UBP's internal problems was a mess and delivered poorly, so I didn't know what to expect tonight, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

What a difference a couple of weeks, and being back on the offensive, makes.

I would hope that the UBP can use this event and the budget debate which kicks off Friday, to move forward and put the last 6 weeks of sensationalised and unsupported accusations behind them.

My fellow Bermudians,

Earlier this week the Premier spoke to the country on his first 100 days in office.

The reality is that this government has been in power for 3,000 days not 100 days.

That's nearly nine years to make real headway on the problems facing the country.

Nine years when it has had the power to build affordable housing, nine years to ensure that our children get the education they need,

nine years to come down hard on crime and nine years to do more for our struggling seniors.

So ladies and gentlemen, I feel it is my duty to invite you to look past the "pop and sizzle" that the Premier serves up so well.

When I heard his address on Monday, I was reminded of the quotation:

"Oh what a web we weave, when we conspire to deceive."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I ask you to see the Government's record for what it is.

Let me talk first about housing.

The Premier said he recognized the challenge of dealing with the issue of affordable housing.

We applaud him for that, but we know from experience that recognition of a problem does not mean action.

The Government was first elected in 1998 on a commitment to provide housing.

What we got instead was a nine-year housing crisis; years when people who could have been housed were not.

Against this background the Premier told us of a new task force that has identified derelict properties that might be made into homes, and projects where groundbreaking will soon happen.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not good enough.

They have had nine years to get a grip on this problem.

We need action.

***

The most serious issue facing this country is the state of our public education system.

All of us have watched with alarm as our schools graduated fewer and fewer students.

Our concerns were underscored last week by reports showing two thirds of our young men and more than half of our young women "at risk" because of low literacy skills.

The problem in education is one of deep consequence for our society.

The failure to equip our young with basic skills holds dire implications for their lives.

The public has known for years that the problem cuts deeply, and we have called many times for dramatic, comprehensive action to give our young people the education they need to succeed.

We welcome the Government's commitment to a "full-scale" review of the system, and I want to assure you that my colleagues and I will keep close watch on this review to make sure the country gets the answers it needs.

At the same we must register our serious concern that this is one more study.

We've had nine years of studies. We need action. Our children need action.

***

Law and order is another area of deep concern.

The Premier proudly describes his new Minister of Public Safety as "keen to address the long-standing issues" surrounding public safety.

We welcome the enthusiasm, but note that issues of law and order became long-standing problems under the Government.

The country has witnessed the advance of new and disturbing trends in crime, including the emergence of gang-style violence.

People are fearful.

They are disturbed by the sense that as a society we are heading in the wrong direction.

These concerns were reinforced by reports last week showing the final three months of 2006 as the most violent since Police began recording statistics.

In our view, the Government is spinning its wheels on law and order.

We were struck by the Premier's remark during Monday's address that he had initiated discussions with the Governor to find new creative ways to fight crime.

This is exactly the same thing we were told in a meeting six months ago by another Premier.

Once again, the Premier promises a con-versation, but after nine years we need action.

***

Perhaps no other area of Monday's address was spun better than tourism.

The Premier should be proud that visitor arrivals were up in 2006, but it is important to keep some perspective on the situation.

The 2006 results were driven by an unprecedented reliance on cruise ship visitors, not air arrivals, and they follow the worst five-year performance since the start of mass tourism in the mid 1960s.

There is a long way to go before we get this vital industry out of the woods.

We welcome the interest of Jumeirah and the Ritz-Carlton hotel groups in Bermuda.

Our tourism industry needs new hotel operations, but we caution people not to get carried away by the Premier's rhetoric.

Too many hotel companies have come and gone in recent years without a room being built.

I am reminded that just last year the Premier decided not to extend an arrangement with the world-famous Four Seasons hotel group which wanted to develop the Club Med site in St. George's.

The circumstances of that bust-up remain a mystery, but we think he should have done whatever was necessary to get that hotel group to St. George's.

Think of what a Four Seasons operation would have meant to the Old Town.

Instead of walking away from the table, the Premier should have walked the extra mile for the people of St. George's.

***

We welcome the Premier's concerns about global warming and that Bermuda must play its part in addressing the problems of pollution.

But we do not think this government really cares about the environment.

The five-year review of the Bermuda Development Plan has not been conducted since the Government was elected in 1998.

This neglect has left the country facing the current wave of hyper-development with a Bermuda Plan that was put together more than 15 years ago.

It means there is no up-to-date strategy in place that tells us the best way forward.

The current rush by developers for Special Development Orders tells us the system is broken.

This is a shame because we are in a vacuum facing crucial decisions that will affect the Island for generations to come.

We are not giving ourselves the best chance for smart decisions.

We are not giving ourselves a chance for smart growth.

***

The last area I want to address is the Premier's decision to shut down the Medical Clinic.

The Premier wants its patients to be able to visit the doctor of their choice.

It sounds like a good thing, but we are concerned that closing the clinic will create unnecessary challenges for the very people it is supposed to benefit.

There are no guarantees they will be taken by the doctor of their choice.

Many are fully booked and not taking new patients. Many of their offices are not accessible.

We urge the Premier to reconsider.

The clinic is a one-stop shop for its patients.

It works for them.

Talk to them, and use their answers to guide you to a better decision.

***

My fellow Bermudians,

One of the strangest aspects of life in this country is that despite being known as one of the most prosperous places on the planet there is so much anxiety and concern for the future.

My colleagues and I have been talking with many of you and we understand your concerns.

I understand that there are strong feelings about the direction this country is heading.

I know that many of you sense we are fast-approaching a crossroads between what we are and what we might become.

I know you are concerned that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, and that the struggle to make ends meet is not getting easier.

I know you are concerned about overdevelopment.

I know that many of you are concerned that materialism is eroding cherished values and our community spirit.

I know you want problems solved.

I share your concerns and I want you to know that my colleagues share your concerns.

We are with you.

Over the next weeks we will be coming forward with more of our plans to build a better Bermuda.

It will be a Bermuda that provides equal opportunity for all citizens, and gives them the chance to reach their full potential.

It will be a Bermuda where people can trust their government to do what is right.

It will be a Bermuda that ensures our success as a country is shared among the many, not the few.

It will be a Bermuda that protects our heritage and our future.

It will be a Bermuda that brings us closer together as one people.

Whether you are a parent with a child in school, or a single mother juggling too much every day, or someone paying too much in rent,
or a victim of crime, or a senior struggling to make it work, you deserve better than what you've been getting.

So tonight I would like to leave you with this thought:

The United Bermuda Party will stay the course. We will be there for you.

We know that talk by itself does not move a country forward.

If given the chance, we will get the job done.

Thank you for your time,

God bless all of you; and take care.

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Over at Bermuda Network News, Walton Brown (cousin of Dr. Brown and PLP supporter) has a run-down on the PLP's Dr. Brown and the UBP's Wayne Furbert.

I think he oversimplifies things in his assessment of Wayne and his ascension to leader, but his polling indicates Wayne's support at 20% and predicts he won't last much longer.

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ZBM/ZFB news last night ran a report and interview last night with Khalid Wasi who is trying to start a new political party; one predicated on the UBP falling to pieces.

Without getting into the full details of the interview, he expressed supreme confidence that at the next election there will only be two parties...the PLP and the All Bermuda Congress with the UBP having folded.

I can't say I agree with him there. The UBP continues to have its issues but much of it is being spurred on by one or two loud individuals and Khalid is using it as his springboard for a new party; its demise is far from certain. Political parties have their ups and downs, and the UBP is in a down for sure, but I don't feel any upswell of support on the island for a new party, other than those trying to promote it as their political vehicle.

At the end of the interview, Gary Moreno, who appeared to be writing the story as he was going along, said that the names currently floated as candidates for the ABC were Stuart Hayward, Sheelagh Cooper, Charles Jeffers (former NLP), Khalid Wasi himself presumably, and also 2 more, one of them being a UBP MP (Maxwell Burgess?). The final two comment seemed like an afterthought and far from certain. In fact it appeared that this information was being relayed to Gary Moreno off camera and probably shouldn't have been included in the report. Tacking that on at the end made the whole report feel hasty and overly speculative.

I say all that only to make the comment that no-one in that lineup strike me as individuals who are fresh, dynamic or exciting enough to carry a new political party far. They're all people who have their pet projects and causes that serve as platforms for their opinions.

And as much as I like Khalid, he is a thinker not an organiser. And starting a new party requires some serious logistical work which is not his forte.

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And you wonder why white people struggle to understand race? Here's a classic example.

Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report gets to the bottom of whether Barack Obama is black.

My favourite quote:

"You are judging blackness not on the colour of someone's skin but by the content of their character. Which I think realizes Dr. King's dream in a very special way."

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With the never-ending racial-ness (or is is racial-mess) of Bermudian politics I thought it worth a lighter look at America's "Blackness Scale", courtesy of Saturday Night Live.

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In today's interview Max Burgess says alot that I agree with (ie. the chicken and egg quote and the next election being a referendum on the UBP's future rather than the PLP's desirability - a point I made when interpreting the last poll (last sentence)).

I can't help but note that the article ended with what can only be read as a very ironic position with respects to the party re-establishing a black caucus (a concept I have no problem with in principle):

He said under Sir Edward Richards the UBP had to form a black caucus to get black issues on the agenda.

“In some ways, history repeats itself. I believe the UBP is heading that way – to have a black caucus to ensure the needs of black Bermuda are in the fore of the party’s minds.”

Firstly, the majority of the UBP caucus is already black, so I'm not sure what a separate black caucus will achieve that couldn't already be.

Secondly, Max suggests that a black caucus is needed to 'ensure the needs of black Bermuda are in the fore of the party’s minds'.

Here's the problem with that: Max stated sentences earlier that white leaders had been more progressive on the issue of race than blacks in the party:

He said the UBP had moved backwards on the race issue since switching from Grant Gibbons to Wayne Furbert.

“Under Grant Gibbons the question of race and what we could reasonably be expected to do about it was on the agenda and was being worked on.

“There were committees doing work on it. In some ways that’s the irony of the UBP and its history.

“White leaders have historically made measured strides, but some strides in this whole area of race, and perhaps with the exception of Sir John Swan who had varying degrees of success on the subject, black leaders have not done as well.”

Seems contradictory does it not?

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And the beat goes on.

Max throws the cat back among the pigeons.

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What is the editor at the Bermuda Sun thinking running a headline like this:

"Has Planning lost its balls?"

Firstly, it's in bad taste for a reputable news organisation.

Secondly, the whole 'balls'/testicular fortitude sayings are more than a little sexist, implying that only men can be tough.

Good article. Dumb headline.

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PLP Productions (courtesy of the taxpayer) brings you Dr. Brown's College Tour. The election approaches:

premierscollegetour_flyer.jpg

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Just out from the UBP:

United Bermuda Party Leader Wayne Furbert today announced changes to his Shadow Cabinet for the next session of Parliament.

The new appointments are as follows:

Deputy Leader Michael Dunkley – Shadow Minister for Public Safety
Mr. John Barritt – Shadow Minister for Legislative Reform & Justice (with responsibility for Attorney General)
Ms. Suzann Roberts-Holshouser – Shadow Minister for Social Rehabilitation
Mr. Trevor Moniz – Shadow Minister for Labour and Immigration
Senator E.T. (Bob) Richards – Shadow Minister for Telecommunications and Transport.
Senator Gina Spence-Farmer – Shadow Minister for Community, Cultural Affairs and Race Relations.[i]

Mr. Furbert said:

“I am pleased to announce these changes because each of them strikes an excellent balance of experience, knowledge and personal interest.

“Michael, for example, has shown all of us that he is a voice for law and order in Bermuda. As Shadow Minister for Public Safety he will push this government hard for safer streets and safer neighbourhoods – something I know we all want.

“John Barritt has been the architect of our programme to restore ‘good governance’ to Bermuda. A lawyer of 20-years standing, John possesses an excellent legal mind and a passion for parliamentary reform, social justice and fairness. I think he is the perfect choice for these important responsibilities.

“I am particularly pleased to appoint Suzann Roberts-Holshouser as our spokesman for Social Rehabilitation. Suzann naturally expresses the compassion and understanding for the problems people face, perhaps better than anyone in Parliament. She also brings to the table a tough, no-nonsense attitude that will be essential in challenging a government that has yet to bring about meaningful social improvements, let alone rehabilitation.

“I know Trevor Moniz will be a superb critic for Labour and Immigration. In addition to possessing an excellent legal understanding of these areas of public life, I don’t think there is anyone sharper when it comes to identifying the inconsistencies and inequities in the application of our laws and regulations.

“I am also pleased to appoint Senator E.T. (Bob) Richards as our new spokesman for transportation. Bob possesses a keen eye, an analytical mind and common sense; all of which well equip him to serve the people of Bermuda in one of the more complex areas of Island life.

“Gina is well-known in the community for her involvement in cultural activities. I believe culture will play a significant role in building better relations among our people. Gina also knows what it is to be down and then pick to herself up. She has an irrepressible, positive outlook on life and a deep faith which I think are essential qualities for building a better Bermuda.”

The full Shadow Cabinet is:

Public Safety and Deputy Leader - Michael Dunkley
Finance – Patricia Gordon-Pamplin
Legislative Reform & Justice – John Barritt
Education – Neville Darrell
Seniors and Health – Louise Jackson
Environment – Cole Simons
Social Rehabilitation – Suzann Roberts-Holshouser
Tourism - David Dodwell
Works & Engineering, Sports – Jon Brunson
Community, Cultural Affairs and Race Relations – Senator Gina Spence-Farmer
Telecommunications & Transportation - Senator E.T. (Bob) Richards
Housing – Senator Kim Swan

“This is a strong team,” Mr. Furbert said. “Going forward, it will be tough-minded, fair and always guided by the need to give the people of this country the government it deserves.”

February 6, 2007

--------------------------

[i] Previously, Mr. Dunkley was Shadow Minister without portfolio, John Barritt remains Party Whip and House Leader, Ms Holshouser was responsible for the concerns of women, children and family; Mr. Moniz Justice and Sen. Richards, Telecommunications.

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With Nelson Bascome's pending legal problems forcing him to step aside at the Ministry of Health, it is notable that the massive portfolio went to an appointed Senator, Attorney General (and Dr. Brown loyalist) Phil Perinchief.

The obvious questions are: could no backbencher step up? Couldn't Dale Butler at the Ministry of Social Services pick up the slack, even temporarily; Health is a better fit with Social Rehabilitation (essentially the Ministry of Family/Social Services which was previously married with Health) than Justice. Why put such a portfolio, along with Housing, into the Senate?

This move suggests to me that Dr. Brown still doesn't have much confidence/support outside of his core inner circle; the Alex Scott/Jennifer Smith wing of the party and the deep chasm that has existed since 2003 remains alive and well.

I'm sure the spin is that this is temporary, but you've got to admit Phil Perinchief is a strange choice - particularly when he doesn't sit in Parliament and won't be participating in the Ministry of Health's imminent budget debate.

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And now the PLP are on defense, after weeks of it being the UBP:

Health Minister Nelson Bascome has resigned from Cabinet in the face of fraud allegations originally aired in the Mid Ocean News 6 months ago.

I seem to recall Mr. Bascome advanced the vast media conspiracy theory at the time and promised to sue.... hmmm, I guess not.

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Southlands developer Craig Christensen weaves his way through the tricky landscape that is his new investment in today's Royal Gazette.

While I'm not converted, some of my initial concerns remain (ie. rigged SDO process, rezoning of protected areas, net increase in foreign workers etc.) I think he probably won over a few skeptics with this article, while opening up a whole new can of worms - CASINOS.

This one is shaping up to be the perfect storm! Pass the popcorn.

I'd heard rumours last week that Southlands had been 'promised' a casino, whatever 'promised' means, but to see the article today lends some credence to some of that.

As someone who submitted a (non-form letter) protest letter, with some of the concerns addressed today by Mr. Christensen, I remain against this project as proposed.

I should say that the developers certainly have a right to develop the property. I would never oppose that, however there are enough concerns around the periphery that I'm far from convinced an SDO is justified to facilitate the full scope of what they're requesting.

With the latest round of tourism stats out, it's clear that Bermuda can't fill our existing beds. Dr. Brown seems to be subscribing to the "If we build it they will come" approach.

I also am opposed to a development such as this being rushed through a secretive Special Development Order process, in which no real rationale has been provided as to why it has been approved (and Dr. Brown's announcement last week confirms that it has been approved even if the official approval hasn't come).

With the number of sites which could be redeveloped successfully, it seems unnecessary to raze Southlands and leave brownfield sites fallow.

One can also not ignore the destruction of the coastline and woodland, in conjunction with the tunneling of South Shore Rd..

Government has not made the case of what the benefit will be to Bermuda and the economy, nor have they addressed the potential inflationary effect and resultant increase in foreign workers which will be required to staff a resort such as this.

And then there's the massive housing component, which is hypocritical in the extreme with locals being shut out of selling their high-end homes to foreign buyers while Southlands/Jumeirah can.

And finally, a nagging concern for me is that Dr. Brown sees this as Bermuda's Atlantis. And while I'm sure Atlantis is a great place, I must admit that more and more it seems like Atlantis is the Bahamas, or at least a lot of people think of Atlantis first.

I'd hate for that fate to become Bermuda. The threat is there that the island could be secondary to some swanky new resorts.

The UBP's David Dodwell has harped on for years that we need to fix the product before we can roll out massive increases in beds.

Nowhere have I heard that critical piece addressed if we are to fix Bermuda's tourism product, not just create a new self-contained resort.

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I think I can be of assistance here:

A British MP has surprised Regiment officials by suggesting recruits have to pee in plastic bags after lights out.

The MP, Andrew Mackinlay, has been asking questions about the Regiment for years, usually about conscription. In his latest assault he asked the British Government to tell him "when the practice of requiring conscript recruits in the Bermuda Regiment to urinate in plastic bags after 11pm was ended?"

Government Minister Geoff Hoon responded saying: "It has never been the practice for Bermuda Regiment recruits to be required to urinate in plastic bags."

Here, Captain Marlon Williams, Second in Command of Training Company, is baffled by the question, although he suggests it might have originated from a story he read in another newspaper here.

"Surely he [the MP] would understand that is not the Regiment's proper protocol. There are measures in place to protect against those sort of abuses," he said.

Blogs people. The pee in a bag thing came from Regiment recruit Denis Pitcher's blog.

It's called Google, people.

Try: "bermuda, regiment, pee, bag"

Bada bing.

And why would the Regiment be baffled? Their public relations officer and model of a modern Major General - Stephen Caton - addressed the issue over at Limey in Bermuda:

“What of the 18 hour days during recruit camp? Where individuals are forced to constantly run and perform tasks as demanded by their superiors. Are they not forced to ask permission to eat, sleep, attend the bathroom? Are they not confined to their rooms after lights out and forced to pee in a bag should they need to urinate between the hours of 11pm and 5:30am? Sleep often falling shy of these hours due to extra duties that will result in further punishment?”

Like many, I have 18 hour days in my civilian life too. Yes the Regiment is disciplined, with protocols, practices, parameters and sometime, punishment. Ps all over the place, if you will.

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The Royal Gazette's latest poll makes for interesting reading, but for crying out loud can they not lay these trends out in a few graphs? Come on. Get with the program!

A lot has occurred since the last poll, including Dr. Brown's racial tirade in Parliament, and the UBP's internal meltdown.

So from a first quick read of the poll it's interesting that although the UBP's support has declined substantially, and probably not surprisingly, the PLP and Dr. Brown have not capitalised on that.

The support that has left the UBP has not shifted to the PLP.

Wayne Furbert's position has to be extremely tenuous right now. The hits just keep on coming.

Also interestingly, and somewhat reassuringly for those of us who've always pegged Dr. Brown as divisive, the Premier's favourability has declined, although only slightly, in the face of his counterpart's disastrous few months. Even more significantly, a number of the unfavourable metrics around him have increased.

I've always felt that he has a major trust issue with the public, which is a large negative that is pretty fixed and really won't move. Most people's opinion's on him are set.

Dr. Brown's initial favourability rating after he took office was not really that high, at 54%. A bigger bounce would have been expected after such positive press and a larger than expected defeat of Alex Scott.

Compound that with the poll revealing that those who view him unfavourably has increased, and it would seem that his first few months haven't won many people over. I would presume that his confrontational style with the UK, his attack on Grant Gibbons in Parliament and his desire to pave over the island aren't endearing him to too many people. He can throw as many millions as he wants at sports and social clubs, but I can't see his numbers moving up much.

Make no mistake, the PLP and Dr. Brown are in the driver's seat. But as I've said before he is by no means invincible. The problem is that the UBP is a mess right now and needs to sort things out quickly.

The story of this poll to me is the UBP. They're losing ground, while the opportunity to gain is there; the public remain unimpressed with the Governing PLP, regardless of their Premier.

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Dr. Brown's media whoring reaches a new high...or more accurately, a low.

Get a load of the release from Government's Department of Communication and Information this morning:

The media is advised that the Premier, Dr. the Hon. Ewart Brown, JP, MP, will be honouring the late Edna Mae Scott, MBE at her funeral tomorrow at the Cathedral. Your participation and cooperation is appreciated.

Nea Talbot
Public Affairs Officer

The Premier is soliciting press coverage at a funeral. Classy. Very classy.

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