June 2007 Archives

This week's caption competition is taken from the press conference announcing the dismantling of the Cable and Wireless satellite dish. (Special alternative title for those who need a racial reference in everything of "White Noise".)

phonehome.jpg

Photo courtesy of The Bermuda Sun

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Dr. Brown is busy misleading down in the Caymans with respects to term limits:

"He disclosed that there were more concerns about the paperwork and how the proposal would be administered than the concept."

Now that is far from a true statement, and Dr. Brown knows it:


Mr. Ezekiel told The Royal Gazette: “The impact will be in the businesses here in terms of them not being able to deliver the quality of product they have been delivering simply because they can’t attract the brightest.

“Then, as you go down the road, potential new entrants to the Bermuda market see what is happening with the companies that are here and it will persuade them to consider alternative domiciles, whereas in most cases at the moment Bermuda is the domicile of choice.

“We have always said the competition is ourselves. What we are doing is ensuring that we are the leader in the field and don’t create something that causes someone to say ‘maybe this is not for us’.”

and

“The term limits policy is having a big impact on our members, one in every two work permit holders leaves Bermuda within the first two years of employment. These people tend to include those staff members who contribute to the success of their business regardless of their position within the business — they work in the engine rooms of our businesses. These people can obtain jobs anywhere and sadly we have had feedback from our members of these strong employees leaving, this reduces efficiency and increases our costs.”

Mr. Everson warned: “In an economy growing as rapidly as Bermuda this leads to an increase in inflation. Our members have devoted an enormous amount of energy and time for dialogue with Government and other stakeholders to improve work force training, education and other related matters. “We have continued to impress upon Government the responsibility they have as the largest employer in Bermuda. “If they can improve the efficiency with which they utilise labour by five percent this would have a meaningful impact, this would lead to 300 fewer work permits, 300 fewer people needing accommodation and also reducing the cost of Government to the tax payer.”

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Here's one for Glenn Jones, the Premier's press secretary, after his email gaffe which he tried to explain away as:

It was intended as an internal document but I accidentally sent it to some people in my address book and instead of trying to recall it I thought why not send it to everybody. In my view, it’s better out there in the public domain than in my desk drawer.

Or, as a reader pointed out, you can't recall yahoo email (and recall never works anyway), surely created a moment defined as below:

onosecond (ō-nō-sĕk'ənd)

1. (n.) The period of time one spends between pressing the send button and then realizing that they really shouldn’t have sent that e-mail message.

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Why is it that whenever PLP members get outside of Bermuda they start talking up Independence, but when they get home they play it down? This is becoming a pattern.

Could it be because Bermudians are overwhelmingly opposed to it and they are totally out of sync with the populace?

Some interesting exchanges in the Caymans between other countries and the Bermuda delegation:


Many delegates at the CPA conference raised issues concerning the Progressive Labour Party’s quest for independence in Bermuda.

“People in Bermuda are enjoying a high quality of life, and a high standard of education as well,” said Turks and Caicos Opposition Party Member Arthur Robinson. “Why would Bermuda want to move toward independence?”

“My philosophy is ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’”

Mr. Caines said similar “scare tactics” have been used in many British Overseas Territories to argue against separation from the UK.

“The assumption is that the country would go in a less than stellar direction,” Mr. Caines said. “Would you believe in 2007, we have re–insurance companies and offshore companies clamouring to come to Bermuda?”

“It has very little to do with Bermuda the place, but with effective and prudent governance.”

A representative from Trinidad questioned the motives of certain political parties who promise independence to get elected, and then adopt harsh measures to prevent people from becoming involved in government.

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The UK conspicuously re-releases a paper on accountability in the Overseas Territories, and hits rather close to home on some issues currently consuming Bermuda (in case you hadn't heard there's a corruption scandal going on).

The Premier says "No Comment". No duh. More like "Don't know how to comment."

The paper urged Governors to keep a close watch to ensure, among other things:

* good governance including the conduct of free and fair elections, transparency e.g. in the sale of Crown Lands and awarding of large government contracts

* the unimpeded use of the police and criminal justice system in the face of corruption

* sound financial management, including adherence to responsible borrowing limits and prudence in entering into public private partnership agreements

* appropriate and prompt response to audit criticism.

Lord Triesman said some territories might think those issues are beyond the bounds of Governors.

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The legal correspondent reports in:

The Court of Appeals today gave the Government leave to apply to appeal to the Privy Council.

The Government then requested to stay the media injunction pending the Privy Council's decision to hear the case. The Court of Appeals rejected this request on the basis that they lacked the authority.

The Attorney General, who apparently has people in place working this in the UK before yesterday's ruling, then got the Privy Council to stay the media injunction.

The long and short of it is that the appeals process continues. No word yet on when the decision on whether to hear the appeal will be made, or any subsequent date for the actual appeal.

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This is from the Facebook group:

Students Against Independence and Government Corruption in Bermuda

THE PROTEST IS ON!

DATE: Friday, June 29th

TIME: 12 noon start

LOCATION: On the sidewalk in front of the Cenotaph on Front Street (in front of the Cabinet Building, between Court and Parliament Streets)

ROUTE: We will march along Front Street, up Parliament Street to the House of Assembly.

BRING: Your enthusiasm and a relevant protest sign or Bermuda flag (please no PLP or UBP bashing statements, nor any individual's names)

We need ALL of you to show your support so this has a real impact!

Spread the word!

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Well, any good scandal isn't a scandal without email coming into the mix, first we had the Son of the Soil, and now, just in time, is the evolution of the Premier's Press Secretary's talking points, which he inadvertently sent out to some unintended recipients (yep, I'm sure there was one of those "Oh my God, what have I just done" moments) and hit my inbox as well as some others I presume. (I understand that the press also have this correspondence).

This exchange lays the cold and calculated media strategy bare (note this was sent from outside the Government email system...hmmm.). Compare it to the second part of the too-clever by half press release today and you see some striking similarities as well as some rapidly intensifying and racial language:

Firstly, the Premier appears to have retained a political campaign operation/media strategy outlet (Park Row Campaigns) to help figure out how to avoid answering the questions and shift the spotlight onto the leakers, the media and the Opposition.

Secondly, re-frame the facts of the case into more convenient 'facts' which dramatically overstate the outcomes of the investigation, the intensity of the investigation and the source of the scandal.

Thirdly, don't answer any individual allegation because then you'll have to answer them all and it will open up the Premier and PLP MPs to scrutiny they can't take.

Fourthly, invoke Dame Lois.

Fifth, dress up a piece of political propaganda attack piece as a "Government Report" (the taxpayers are no doubt paying the bill here) and try and goad the Opposition into an overtly political response versus the current measured and responsible one.

Whatever happened to telling the truth?

From: Glenn Jones [mailto:xxx@yahoo.com] Sent: Sunday, June 24, 2007 10:31 AM To: Joseph Romanelli Subject: Re:

Okay, thanks.

Joseph Romanelli wrote:

Hey Glenn,

Below you'll see my revisions to the communications strategy draft we've been discussing. Give me a call, or email me with your thoughts.

Joe
_____

THE BHC ISSUE

1. FACT:

In 2002, an operation initiated, presumably, by order of the Governor of Bermuda, the Bermuda Police Service, Britain's Scotland Yard and US
Homeland Security mounted a joint investigation into allegations of
illegalities related to the BHC.

1. FACT:

The formidable assets available to and deployed on behalf of the
investigating units and countries produced - through due process - the
prosecution, conviction and incarceration of a person guilty of criminal action in relation to the BHC.

1. FACT:

Despite the BHC Report's gratuitous allusion to ethics, and its equally gratuitous desire to criminalise targeted members of the PLP
Administration, the Report found no basis for legal action against any other subject of the investigation. To all but the terminally envious, the Report exonerated its targets in the PLP Administration from allegations which had been thoroughly investigated.

1. FACT:

Five years later, as predictions for a July election by UBP
spokespersons, newspaper editorial writers and columnists had hit high
decibel levels, and precisely when the passing of Dame Lois Browne Evans had ignited black consciousness and PLP solidarity to an unprecedented level, two adversaries of the PLP Administration conspired with ZBM and the Royal Gazette/Mid Ocean News to use stolen police files to sensationalise allegations of illegality in a calculated hatchet job against PLP targets.

1. FACT:

The Premier's simulcast statement on the publication of the stolen
material elicited immediate and requested action by the Governor, who
promptly invited Scotland Yard to investigate the theft of the Police
files.

1. FACT:

The prompt Police intervention immediately flushed out two perpetrators who have been arrested for suspected possession of the stolen documents.

1. FACT:

Had this not been the case, and had their motive been anything but
flagrantly malicious, those two persons would have, before the
investigation even began, declared themselves as the disseminators and
immediately stated their reasons for collaborating. Instead the
propagation of the stolen files and the ensuing slant for emphasis
leaves a trail of guesses: what is their motivation, what is their
promised reward, who's making the promise?

1. FACT:

There are calls from various PLP sources for response/rebuttal by the
Premier/Party to the Anthrax Email and to the specifics it contains.

1. FACT:

Those issues/allegations have already been exhaustively investigated;
findings have been evaluated, assessed, and dismissed by the BHC
investigation as being of no evidentiary value such as to warrant
prosecution.

1. ITEM:

Any response to any of the email specifics will trigger calls for
responses to all allegations; an invitation for cameras to Gombey House to look for wooden beams, although beneficial in the short term, would be writing a blank cheque for further UBP-directed media invasion of privacy; would give the matter new oxygen; and would be the start of a zero sum game for the Premier and the government.

1. ITEM:

PLP voices should be coordinated and massed like thunder in
dissecting/condemning the conspiracy and the conspirators guilty of
stealing the police files and releasing them to rain on the celebration of Dame Lois' life, and to sabotage an expected election call; all because of political self interest, with a level of political nastiness that approaches evil.

1. ITEM:

All of this could, as well, be scripted, produced, documentary style, by acknowledged talent which is immediately available to the Premier, and presented as a government report. The Opposition would make an issue out of that, would mount their own TV production attacking the government, and would thus make it a nakedly political issue.

Uh oh. They just got caught spinning.

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The Chief Justice's ruling has been upheld by the Court of Appeals...meanwhile, the desperate cover-up attempt continues with the Government indicating that they will be filing with the Bermuda Court of Appeal for leave to take it to the Privy Council.

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Isn't it telling that the only media outlets not named in the gag order injuction attempt and the threatened but unlikely to materialise libel suits are Hott 107.5 and Bermuda Network News (which displays a huge banner ad for Dr. Brown's clinic.

Although I don't listen to it I'm told that Hott has probably spent more time on this issue than any other media outlet, yet they aren't named in either legal action, while Bermuda Network News has generally skirted around the issue but doesn't get touched.

Meanwhile the Bermuda Sun and VSB, who never published or broadcast the original accusations get hooked into the legal action.

It's abundantly clear from the Premier's extensive interviews on Hott that he's only willing to address the scandal with affiliated media who won't ask the obvious questions and allow him to spin this thing into some Opposition led political media conspiracy.

I'm surprised the other media outlets haven't raised this obvious exclusion.

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A reader writes with the definitive summation:

What's interesting about this faux outrage over the use of the phrase 'Brown Rice' is not that the phrase is actually offensive, but that those that appear to accuse you of using racist language don't believe their own accusations. They don't: it's political point-scoring, nothing more. I cannot seriously believe that the PLP has anyone in an official role in the party that is so utterly brain-dead that they actually find the use of the phrase 'Brown Rice', even in context, offensive.

When Brown accused Grant Gibbons of employing racist language when he described the then Premier as a 'political eunuch', he didn't really believe his own accusation. If the reference to 'eunuch' was so notoriously offensive in the black community, Paula Cox wouldn't have used the exact same phrase as Grant Gibbons a couple of weeks prior to Brown's disingenuous attack. It matters not whether someone is really being racist, or whether they have really used racist language; all that matters is whether you can convince others that they have done so. Once you pull out the race card, all people hear is 'racist'. You don't have to debate your opponent substantively, or produce any real ideas of your own, because once you drop racism into the conversation, that's all that some people will hear. If you can't debate someone substantively, you try to discredit them as being racist, and no one notices that you have nothing substantive to say.

That puts the full stop on that I think. Moving on then...

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And the winners are:

1st Place - Smoking Gun: "The official press release photo shows that Ms. Rice, fearing for her safety, managed to remove her watch and place it in her pocket before shaking hands with the Premier of Bermuda."

2nd Place - Rummy: "Having eaten at the Plantation Club on Harrington Sound Road many years ago, Condi just smiled as Ewart refused to answer questions about the service."

3rd Place - Smoking Gun: "Too funny... so you thought Slayton was hooking you up with a "condo" in DC? What's going to be even funnier is the look on your wife's face when she gets to see what the "condo" looks like."

Double special super-duper extra-honourable mention goes to the PLP for their long-form satirical entry called "Beware Media Trials".

I'm taking photos for next week. I have one in reserve but any suggestions are welcome.

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A reader writes:


If the term brown rice is now offensive what do we make of businesses called Brown & Co, Whites Supermarket or the Premier's race consultant's Blackstar Communications.

Don't ask me. The headline was a pun. I'm not surprised some are trying to twist it into something it obviously isn't.

The same pun would have been valid for a photo of UK Prime Minister to be Gordon Brown and Condoleeza Rice. Same last name you see. Some things aren't about race, believe it or not.

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I haven't got around to sorting through the captions yet for the caption competition, but I'm inclined to anoint the PLP the victor for this statement on their website in the latest of their ridiculous misdirections:

"And, they're even resorting to subtle racism. (No, labeling a picture of two black people "Brown Rice" is not acceptable.)"
Wow. That racism is so subtle it doesn't even exist.

So let me break this down for the humourly impaired (aka those desperate to use racism as a redirection tool for an apparent lack of ethics):

There's this guy who's the Premier of Bermuda, and this gal who's the US Secretary of State. Now, you see, one has a last name of Brown and the other is called Rice. And last week they got together for a grip and grin in DC.

With language being what it is, when you put those last names together you got a two word catchy headline and a play on the food, you know the starchy product? If their names weren't Dr. Brown and Dr. Rice it wouldn't have worked, would it? You know, it's a little wordplay....and I prefer brown rice because it has less carbs...it's mildly amusing because...oh forget about it. This is pointless.

It's all so obvious really isn't it. It's absolute and utter desperation. The pitch seems to be: well we may be unethical (3 weeks and counting with no denial) but those who challenge us on it must be racist.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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Bermuda's problems have produced a scathing editorial in the Cayman Net News and highlights how the reaction by those implicated in the BHC corruption scandal creates an opportunity for the Caymans, as long as they don't repeat the dangerous path of the cover-up:

It seems to us that if Premier Brown, or any other politician come to that, has nothing to hide, then what is all the fuss about making the details public?

The situation in Bermuda has the potential to benefit the Cayman Islands, but only as long as we are not perceived to be following in Bermuda’s footsteps.

Business leaders in Bermuda have said the dispute could damage its reputation as an offshore financial centre and, typically, whenever this happens in the region, we stand to benefit from the subsequent flight of new and existing business.

The situation in Bermuda has since been compounded by even more troubling events, in particular an attempt by the government to obtain a gag order preventing the media from reporting details that are apparently embarrassing to the administration.

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I'm going to be making a few changes to the site over the next couple of weeks, nothing major but some tweaks.

One suggestion that I hadn't really considered but is very easy to do is to take over the onerous task of running the Friday caption competitions, so loved by Limey in Bermuda fans.

So that means that I'll turn on comments (see end of post) for those posts and then on Sunday night judge them with some input from a few of my trusted email humourists.

So without further ado here is this week's inaugural Politics.bm Caption Competition, entitled "Brown Rice".

Have at it.

brownrice.jpg

Photo courtesy of The Royal Gazette

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A reader writes in on "Damn those responsible reporters".

Its so funny that he can deny all these claims in 1990, and can answer all the questions about his personal life before they are even asked, without demeaning himself.... but can't answer the questions begging to be answered about his Public life.....

Good point.

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Well, the Premier today issued a strange press release that is essentially a declaration of war on the press.

Let's review the event that the Premier is trying to spin.

The Gazette evidently received a tip about a court case in the late 90's in California on which Dr. Brown and his wife were named as defendants.

So, doing as reporters do (just ask the Premier's press secretary and former Gazette reporter if he'd have followed that lead), they investigated and....didn't report on it, presumably because they found that the tip didn't have substance.

It happens all the time. That's called being a reporter.

In response, the Premier issues his own press release decrying the Gazette for NOT reporting a story. Damn them. Those responsible reporters!

What's really going on here is a preemptive strike, an attempt to get ahead of the bad news. Dr. Brown has been around long enough, and witnessed enough political scandals in the US I'm sure, to know that once serious allegations are finally aired that a deluge of bad news tends to follow, both because others now feel comfortable to come out of the woodwork to tell their stories, and because reporters feel that they now have the authorisation to dig a little harder than they otherwise would.

This was a pretty transparent attempt to try and frame any future bad news, of which more will almost certainly come, as some sort of unethical media assault, when it's nothing of the sort.

The truth is that Bermuda's press is quite tame and Bermuda's politicians (of any affiliation) aren't subjected to enough scrutiny.

Dr. Brown may be good at keeping a calm demeanor in the midst of a political crisis that is threatening his leadership despite the public denials (just read today's Bermuda Sun for a deluge of "he's got to go" stories), the reality is much more like that duck on a pond, gliding calmly on the surface but paddling furiously underneath.

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Perhaps our Government should have attended the Conference on the Caribbean where some enlightened positions on the Freedom of the Press and scrutiny of public officials are being discussed:

"...in a democratic society public officials should not receive such special protection but rather be exposed to a higher degree of scrutiny so as to foster public debate and democratic oversight of their conduct," he said. "A more complex issue is how to handle forms of indirect pressure that are within the purview of the legitimate exercise of public responsibilities.

"Such as [when] under relatively equal conditions, all or most official news coverage is made available to media that support the government, or when legal government powers are used to silence the opposition media.

"What is at issue, is neither the letter of the law nor the right of the state to enforce it but rather the fact that, when this is done, a clear signal is being sent to the rest of the media causing self-censorship and fear."


and very interestingly for Bermuda:

Governments, he noted, also use the lack of access to public information as a mean of stifling freedom of expression. "No society can claim to be pluralist, tolerant, and rooted in justice and mutual respect if it fails to guarantee its citizens the right to elicit information regarding the work of public institutions, so that they can contribute to their improvement and thereby enhance the potential for democratic governance."

Now, where are we on Bermuda's Public Access to Information laws? Oh yeah. That initiative has gone AWOL while Government hires away as many independent journalists as they can to the Department of Communication and creates their own propaganda TV station, putting the PLP's former Public Relations Officer, and briefly the Premier's Press Secretary in a prominent content role.

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A reader writes on the 'stolen document' question:

It's interesting, this. There are really only two places on the table as places the documents could have come from - the Police and the Auditor General.

If they really were stolen, as the Police and the Government insist they were, then the auditor general must be off the hook, except if he failed to report the theft.

It might be unpleasant for the proud Police Service to think that they might have been leaked by one of their own (and this is no doubt the reason people are saying they were stolen). But how much more unpleasant is it to think these documents, subject of a special 'take care' notice from the Governor, might have been stolen from, presumably, the most secure place in Police HQ. That really is an assumption that says volumes about Police competence, isn't it?

The obvious absurdity of the witch-hunt and arrest of the Auditor General is....that the Police should be focusing first and foremost on themselves. Surely?

Mr. Dennis has always said he had copies...which I've come to the conclusion based on the input of my rapidly increasing cadre of legal advisers, cannot possibly be considered stolen property unless it is the original. And even then it's probably not more than a petty theft.

As one reader put it:

As regards the question you pose on this topic - there is NO Data Protection Act in Bermuda therefore the issue relates to the paper and ink alone.

So at worst the individual who has the original copies - if it hasn't been destroyed (or misplaced) can probably only be legally charged with stealing $20 worth of paper and ink. The confidential nature of the information printed on the paper appears to be something of little interest under the law.

Any other lawyer types disagree?

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I don't know if Dr. Brown is facing a loss of confidence and potential removal by his party, although one would certainly hope that any party would take a serious look at a leader mired in an alleged corruption scandal and subsequent cover-up; altogether ignoring it is far worse than working through the issue and deciding to ignore the ethical problems and go with tarnished goods - as bad as that itself is.

But I couldn't help but get a real chuckle that Dale Butler is the poster child in today's paper to rebut yesterday's multiple sourced article suggesting Dr. Brown is starting to lose support.

Why? Well, simple. take a look at Mr. Butler's quotes when informed by a reporter of the last leadership challenge (only 8 months ago), which culminated with Dr. Brown taking out then Premier Scott [Note: The Gazette's website search SUCKS and all their old links are broken. Aargh.]:

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

and

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

Here we go again. If Dale is unaware, it's probably happening.

How much political capital are the PLP going to expend to protect Dr. Brown, Mr. Bascome and others? That's the question. If some people are not having buyers remorse I'd be genuinely surprised. Yesterday's article didn't mince words.

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Now, how does this happen?

The Gazette prints the "F" word but not the "S" word?

Oooooooooooooooppppppppppppppsssssssssss. Someone F'd up!

Thanks to reader JG for the tip.

[Aawww. Someone corrected it: "She said 'Give me that f***ing beer bitch."]

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When you see the language of a scandal trying to be manipulated, then you know that it has legs, and manipulating language is indeed what is occurring with the Premier's press secretary, and the Premier himself within the oh so friendly confines of Hott 107.5 this morning, describing the BHC Police report as 'stolen' as opposed to leaked:

On Sunday Dr. Brown's press secretary Glenn Jones issued a media advisory saying the police files were not leaked, they were stolen.
Firstly, I think that the leakers deserve the same benefit of the doubt as Dr. Brown, Mr. Bascome and the others implicated in the BHC scandal, so let's throw an 'alleged' in their as well shall we (which Mr. Jones's press statement did do immediately after making a definitive statement that the documents were 'stolen'. Which one is it?).

Secondly, the Chief Justice himself during the Gag order proceedings cast doubt on whether the report had been 'stolen' or whether the Police just can't locate it:

12. By concentrating on the confidentiality of the information contained in the documents rather than the documents themselves, the amendment to some extent meets the difficulties which the plaintiff [Police] might face if they were unable to show that any documents were in fact stolen, rather than simply being copied and the copies removed.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly when you now have the accused trying to demonise the Auditor General for acting on documents which allege financial improprieties by public officials with the public purse (aka doing his job), the Auditor has always been open about the fact that he had copies of the report. Copies of the report, not the report apparently.

This raises a very interesting question: Can you even accuse someone in possession of copies of a 'stolen' document to be in possession of a stolen document?

My crack legal team have given me answers that range from "No, it is not a stolen document" to "almost certainly not" to "maybe some stolen toner and paper if it was copied at the Police station". (That doesn't mean you can keep copies of a confidential document, but whether you would be in possession of a stolen document if you possess a copy is far from settled.

As an example, if you possess a photo of a stolen article, are you in possession of a stolen article? The answer is clearly no. Now in the event of a document I think it probably gets a little messier, but the point is that firstly it is far from confirmed that the report is in fact 'stolen', by whom is also up in the air and the answer to whether a copy of a leaked document can in fact be considered one in the same seem seems to be "No".

Interesting legal questions for sure, but don't be fooled by the attempt to control the language during the cover up.

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Another legal reader expands on the question of questioning:

And here's another point to consider on this: the police don't need the DPP's permission or advice on how they choose to investigate, or who they choose to interview. Someone in the police was either too scared to ask Dr. Brown to come down to the station, or decided to treat him with kid gloves, not do anything and leave it up to the DPP to advise whether he thought that it was a good idea. Clearly, the police believed that Dr. Brown had relevant evidence that could have assisted the investigation, so why did they not even ask him to come in for an interview? Can you think of another criminal investigation where, despite the fact that a person may have relevant evidence, the police just didn't bother to even ask for an interview. I've seen people arrested and brought in for questioning on the flimsiest of accusations, and yet they didn't even ask him for an interview! Why?

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As promised earlier, here's the link to a recent Wall Street Journal (may need a subscription) editorial on the perils of libel suits, they've been known to bite back:


Pursuing a libel or slander suit has long been a dangerous enterprise. Oscar Wilde sued the father of his young lover Alfred Douglas for having referred to him as a "posing Somdomite" and wound up not only dropping his case but being tried, convicted and jailed for violating England's repressive laws banning homosexual conduct. Alger Hiss sued Wittaker Chambers for slander for accusing Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party with Chambers, and of illegally passing secret government documents to him for transmission to the Soviet Union. In the end, Hiss was jailed for perjury for having denied Chambers' claims before a grand jury.

More recently, British historian David Irving sued American scholar Deborah Lipstadt in England for having characterized him as a Holocaust denier and was ultimately so discredited in court that an English judge not only determined that he was indeed a Holocaust denier but an "antisemite" and "racist" as well.

I'm going to bed. So much for not posting today.

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FreeLarrySm.jpg

Here's a link to a bigger one if you want to create a shirt or coffee mug.

Credit to Mike Hind.

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So the Auditor General can be arrested for further questioning and spend a night in jail but the Police were prevented from requesting an interview with Dr. Brown with respects to the BHC investigation?

I've spoken to a number of lawyers who have told me that the following statement by then Acting Director of Public Prosecutions is just plain wrong:


Before a person can be questioned by the police there must be reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has or may have been committed.

“On the evidence placed before me I see no criminal offence disclosed or suspected. Neither have the police been able to identify any suspected criminal offence. That being the case, the police have no authority in law to ask Dr. Brown to answer any questions at this stage and I advise accordingly.

Firstly, the Police notes as reported suggest that they suspected an offence may have been committed, hence their request for an interview. Secondly, isn't questioning people how you build a case? My very capable and experienced legal team have described those quotes as "complete crap". Apparently you can't arrest someone without a suspected offence, but you can certainly invite anyone for an interview as the investigators wanted to.

Of course if you are invited for questioning you're absolutely entitled not to participate, but to say that the Police cannot question anyone who is not suspected of a crime is apparently "utter nonsense".

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One would think that with the sad spectacle of Bermuda accused murders, drug-dealers and gangster thug wanna-be's being cheered on their way into court, that if ever there was a time that this would be appropriate it would be now, for the leakers and/or the Auditor - if they are ever formally charged that is.

They should be applauded for their actions not targeted.

It is a sad day when 3 people who appear to have been attempting to protect the public interest have been arrested (including our Constitutionally designated financial watchdog) while those at the heart of the scandal continue to occupy positions of public trust.

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I never got around to posting the link to the petition calling for a Royal Commission investigation into the BHC scandal, but with the hijinks of the past week, now seemed as good a time as any:

BHC Royal Commission Petition

The UBP have re-issued their call as well:

While we recognize that the police have a job to do, the search for the person or persons who leaked documents has become an over-riding witch-hunt.

There are much more serious issues at play here, and those relate to the roles of senior members of government and the part that they are alleged to have played in the original BHC scandal.

It's time for people to start speaking up. Call your MP. Write a Letter to the Editor. Get on the radio talk shows. The cover up cannot be allowed to succeed.

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Gag order appeals hearing to resume tomorrow morning.

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A legal reader provides an interpretation of the libel suit this morning, which appeared to be all queued up pending rejection of the gag order:

It would, indeed, appear to be a ploy. There's no way these guys would pursue a libel suit. None. They have too much to lose if they do not succeed. Plus, there's the problem of the leaked documents themselves being entered into evidence during a libel trial, which would then entitle the media to publish them as accurate transcripts of evidence in legal proceedings. The judgment relating to Julian Hall's attempt to sue the Royal Gazette for publishing transcripts on tapes entered into evidence in the Ted Ming drugs trial is authority for this in Bermuda The bottom line is that they appear to be attempting to prevent the Court of Appeal from upholding Ground's ruling and removing the injunction. I would bet that they've done nothing more than file a Generally Indorsed Writ, claiming damages for libel, which is simply a two page document, most of it completely pro-forma, which contains no specific allegations, but just a general claim that the Plaintiffs have been libelled. It's five minutes' work. Literally. And they can issue it, sit on it for a year without serving it, and let the whole thing die away without ever being penalized in costs.

Any other lawyers? I've got a good article on the dangers of libel suits that I'll post shortly.

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Bermuda Broadcasting Corporation workers have gone on strike and their stations (local produced (ie. not FM 89) are off the air.

Not sure of the specifics but I'm trying to find out.

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Dr. Brown and Nelson Bascome today issued a libel suit against Bermuda's media over the unanswered allegations, described by the Chief Justice as "not gratuitous, in that there is some evidence to support them".

I'm interested in any legal interpretations of what this means, but the lawyer for the Bermuda Broadcasting Corporation seems to think that the timing of the suit suggests it was intended primarily as a method to keep in place the gag order rejected by the Chief Justice but sent to an immediate appeal process:

“It appears to be a ploy to hold up the proceedings today,” claimed Richard Horseman, who is representing the Bermuda Broadcasting Company.

After President Justice Zacca ruled that the appeal should begin despite the arguments of Ms Pearman and Mr. Richardson, Delroy Duncan, lawyer for the Commissioner and Attorney General, commenced legal arguments.

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A widely read and very well respected industry publication - Global Reinsurance - today posted a breaking news story on the BHC scandal in the wake of the arrest of Bermuda's sole independent financial watchdog:


Bermuda’s auditor general Larry Dennis was arrested and detained overnight and police have executed a search warrant at his offices, reports Bermuda newspaper the Royal Gazette. He is the only watch dog for the voting public,and is protected by the constitution. The police are hoping to find out who stole the secret file about the investigation into alleged corruption at the BHC. The file apparently names several senior Bermuda government ministers, including premier Ewart Brown.

This is the latest in a series of political issues threatening the reinsurance paradise. New time limits on work permits, which could force out 10,000 guest workers, unpopular policies governing car ownership and concerns over freedom of speech have plagued the island over the past year.

This is not just a little localized scandal. This impacts on the very soul of our political and economic integrity and reputation.

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There will likely be no activity here on Tuesday.

Also, I have been receiving a ton of email with comments, tips, analysis etc. and can't reply to everyone but will do my best to sort through it all as I can.

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Any legal beagles, or aspiring ones, can read the full judgment on the Government's attempt to issue a gag order against the media here (I apologise but several pages are scanned upside down, rotate the document, I didn't want to print and re-scan losing quality).

Money quote in conclusion:

33. On the other side of the balance there is the media's constitutional right to inform the public about serious allegations concerning important public figures. As the cases cited above illustrate, that is a weighty and powerful consideration. The allegations are not gratuitous, in that there is some evidence to support them, as set out in the material so far reported. Nor do the allegations concern the private personal life of those concerned. They touch upon their conduct in office. In those circumstances I think that that the public interest is genuinely engaged, and this is not a case of the public being officiously interested in matters which do not concern them. I think, therefore, that the balance comes down firmly against restraining the media's freedom expression. I consider that that is the case even at this interlocutory stage, it being hard to envisage what a full trial could add to the considerations already before the court.

Well said.

It is notable that the injuction is to prevent further information coming to light, because what has been published so far is "only a fraction of the contents".

My, my, my.

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The Police are raiding the Office of the Auditor General Larry Dennis.

The Government are appealing the Chief Justice's ruling against the gag order in the morning.

The cover up continues.

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This just in. The gag order against the media has failed.

No word on if the Government will appeal.

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A reader writes on the tin-foil hat brigade:

Understandable mistake.

They never did get a handle on separation of personal money and
the tax-payer's money. A loan from Cap-G to a politician shouldn't really have to be paid back in their minds so it must be a political score being settled.

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Oooh.

The Tin-foil hat brigade is at it again over at Dangerous Minds, with the latest flight of fancy being that Capital-G's suit against UBP MP Maxwell Burgess for unpaid debts is [cue ominous music]....the big, bad UBP 'calling in' their MP's mortgages because he is stepping down at the next election and has taken some contradictory positions over the past few months.

Let me put this one to rest so that they can refocus their energies on the search for Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster and their summer vacation to Roswell.

Now I know that in PLP-land the UBP is evil personified; but can we at least admit that people that evil don't get that way by being stupid.

Surely by now we've all learned if you're going to screw one of your MPs, you don't do it in the lead up to an election, you do it the morning after. Right Dr. Brown?

That would've been a rookie mistake.

Now, back to locating Elvis in Mexico please.

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A reader writes:

On Julian Hall's article ... is the leak of Police communications/emails to Alex Scott (then a Shadow Minister) any less scurrilous than the leak of Police BHC documents to the press? Is the misappropriation of public funds not as heinous as racist remarks?

Spot on.

Nor is attacking un-named Police Officers as part of the KKK (are they even around anymore, other than in Dave Chappelle skits?). If we do have cops like that, let's have the Royal Commission look into that too. We don't need racist cops in the same way we don't need unethical politicians.

I'm waiting for the Attorney General to take Mr. Hall to task for bringing the legal system into disrepute, as he did Michael Dunkley for his Independent Commission request.

These sentences in his attack on Michael Dunkley seem appropriate in Mr. Hall's case:

I am offended and I expect hundreds of our country's police officers, prosecutors, and judges are likewise offended.

Together all of us are tasked to make sure the laws of our land are adhered to and that our democracy is protected.

It is a job carried out day after day and thanks is not required or expected, but brutal and insupportable criticism is also not expected - especially in a thoughtless political speech delivered by a politician who clearly does not recognize that the responsibility of policing lies with the Governor's Office.

I'm not holding my breath, but perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

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Two arrested last night in relation to the BHC Report leak investigation.

Here's a clue: They ain't white. They ain't white supremacists. They ain't UBP. Julian Hall - Mr. It's a White Supremacist Conspiracy - is about to look really silly.

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A police officer writes in on the [phony] argument about control of the Police:

I watched with interest some of the arguments put forward by Minister Burch regarding ‘wrestling’ control of the Police from the Governor.

It was with interest because he noted that he did not think the Police were effective enough, he would do things differently, and some in Government have commented that they want more Police on the streets.

Well, you may be interested to know that the Commissioner put forward multiple requests for increases in the number of Police Officers and other significant areas of the Service.

EVERY single request for additional manpower for the current financial year was turned down by Cabinet. EVERY LAST ONE.

I guess that is what we could expect if Government ‘wrestle’ control of the Police into their hands.

The converse of that argument is the fact that in many ways they DO control the Police, and their effectiveness. This is ironic, because the fact that they control the purse strings as per above, is evidence of that.

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Nice to see that the Premier and Finance Minister are over in DC for a grip and grin with the movers and shakers and tout our 'pristine financial reputation' (uh, I think the BHC report is doing some damage to that).

I love the bit about how this would be done on the cheap, I guess the travel cost flap stung a little.

"This trip is included in our travel budget for the year. We are trying to keep the cost as tight as we can, as reasonable as we can. We are not even staying overnight on Friday."

One Congressman I didn't see on the list is Al Green of Texas, whose campaign committee received a $500 donation on March 26th 2004 from our Deputy Premier, declaring his address as Apt 6503, 150 W 56th St., New York, NY 10069.

A googling reader sent that in to me some time ago and then recently reminded me of it with another email link showing some donations from the early 90s, including a Republican (gasp), Bob Dole.

Now we all know that Dr. Brown has been quite active in US politics, and those connections have been touted as an asset for Bermuda.

What is interesting about the 2004 donation, is that only US citizens or green card holders can make political donations, not foreign nationals - not even the foreign spouses of US citzens/green card holders. US law is explicit on this.

So, that little $500 donation raises an interesting set of questions:

:: Did Dr. Brown in fact renounce his citizenship in the late 90s so that he could serve in the Bermuda Parliament or didn't he?

:: If he did renounce - as I thought had been the case - then it would seem that he has violated US election laws:

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

Taking this a little further, if Dr. Brown didn't renounce his US Citizenship that would mean that as a naturalized US Citizen he should be disqualified from serving in Parliament as he'd have sworn allegiance to a foreign power.

It's amazing what you can find on the internet. One little donation. So many questions.

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The Royal Gazette is reporting that the Police appear to have lost the original documents comprising the BHC report. Very nice.

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I was forwarded an email this morning, several times in fact, sent by someone claiming to be the leaker, as reported on ZBM news some nights ago. The email address is 'Son of the Soil' and it is clear that this document has been sent far and wide.

I have been advised not to re-publish it for legal reasons [the email has surfaced at Bermuda Sucks. You can read it here].

But I will say that as I said in the Gazette this morning, the BHC genie can't be put back in the bottle. Welcome to the internet age. Gag orders are useless.

[UPDATE: I originally posted the full email, but it was suggested to me by a lawyer that I not post it in it's entirety as it could invite a lawsuit, although other lawyers have told me that that is unlikely. So I removed the post while I ponder my options here. Judging by the frequency with which it has hit my various inboxes this morning, I can't see it staying quiet for long.]

[UPDATE 2: [the email has surfaced at Bermuda Sucks. You can read it here.]]

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (13 June, 2007)

Two weeks on, conversation in Bermuda continues to revolve around the details of the leaked BHC Police Report, compounded by the Government’s legal effort to silence any further public discussion of the scandalous revelations contained in the Mid Ocean News of June 1st, 2007 – and presumably any new leaks from the report.

And, two weeks on, every allegation which the Police detailed in the leaked report, remains unanswered – every one. Now, only one week later we have a new twist in the Government corruption scandal; Government MP Nelson Bascome was arrested and reportedly charged with Official Corruption (ie. in his duties as a Minister) and theft – matters separate from the BHC investigation.

While Dr. Brown can posture and buy time through contrived confrontations with the Governor and legal maneuvers, the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, the allegations can’t be retracted and new details are almost certain to emerge. You can gag the local press of you want, but we live in the internet age. Dr. Brown can’t press rewind.

Regardless of how this scandal develops over the coming days, weeks and months, the ramifications of the allegations in the Police report will be far reaching.

Firstly, they put to the test one of the underpinnings of modern democracies – that is the idea that Governments should be “of the people, by the people, for the people”; it’s the ‘for the people’ that seems to have been thrown by the wayside. The un-answered revelations reveal suspected behaviour which if true, would fail even the poorest ethical tests.

The longer these allegations go unaddressed by Dr. Brown, Mr. Bascome and others named in the report, the more they’ll be deemed to have substance – gag order or not – and the more the public should demand answers.

So far, Dr. Brown’s defence has been more interesting for what he hasn’t said than what he has. What has not been said is that the suspicious relationships and incidents that the Police uncovered did not exist; that is the glaring omission of the Premier’s sole comment on this matter. What has been said is sorely lacking in substance, but revealing in that it speaks to the double standard and hypocrisy of Dr. Brown’s brand of politics.

Dr. Brown advanced some rather weak yet novel defences in his non-rebuttal rebuttal of June 1st to The Mid Ocean News revelations; standards which he clearly believes are not universal.

Firstly, let’s dismiss the outright false and desperate claim that the report ‘exonerated’ those implicated. Quite the contrary, the report raised serious allegations that the Police wanted to pursue further as potentially criminal offences – but were prevented from doing so.

Secondly, the Premier made the following declaration:

On a personal note, I give my fellow Bermudians the assurance that my professional practice and my business interests have long provided me quite adequately with the means to live in relative comfort.

I am blessed with the good fortune of being married to a businesswoman of independent income. I have absolutely no need to seek to improve my net worth by any questionable actions. I deserve to be given credit for being sensible enough to keep my hands clean and my character beyond question.

What’s notable here is that the Premier doesn’t say that “I’ve kept my hands clean, the multiple allegations in the Police report weren’t true”, instead he vaguely pleads for the benefit of the doubt, saying that he deserves “credit for being sensible enough to keep my hands clean…” Deserves credit? Not after that report. The public deserves answers.

We deserve to know if public officials were engaged in the behaviour the Police uncovered (which can’t currently be repeated due to the impending ruling on the gag order) or not. Considered in a political context, that argument is weak and reveals a whole ‘lotta hypocrisy.

Firstly, the argument that Dr. Brown and his wife make too much money for him to be corrupt just doesn’t hold up, even to the gentlest probing. The line of reasoning is essentially that rich people cannot be corrupt, because they don’t need the money.

Most of us weren’t born yesterday and therefore are aware that greed knows no boundaries. Most of us are also aware that the past decade has seen some of the most fabulously wealthy individuals convicted of corruption (Enron, Worldcom, Tyco for example). So it’s not hard to prove that living in ‘relative comfort’, or even ‘extreme luxury’, doesn’t immunize someone against corrupt behaviour.

Secondly, and here’s the hypocrisy, Dr. Brown routinely attempts to turn the tables on his political opponents and avoid his own dubious actions (Pay to Play, T.H.E. Foundation, Kurron Shares hospital contract, Medical Clinic Closure etc.) by labeling his critics as corrupt, most recently Michael Dunkley and Grant Gibbons; two of his favourite targets.

It’s safe to say that both Mr. Dunkley and Dr. Gibbons live in the ‘relative comfort’ that Dr. Brown speaks of. Therefore – according to Dr. Brown’s own defence – they should likewise deserve credit for ‘keeping their hands clean’. He’s never afforded them that. In fact, it’s safe to say that they live in probably a little bit more ‘relative comfort’ than Dr. Brown, which according to Dr. Brown makes them less likely to be corrupt; because the more wealthy you are the less corrupt you become, right Dr. Brown? The Premier wouldn’t believe his own defence if used by others so why should we believe it in his?

Furthermore the BHC Police Report contains very specific allegations, ones apparently supported by documentation, something Dr. Brown’s attacks against his political opponents have always lacked; innuendo and wishful thinking is a sufficient foundation for Dr. Brown to throw the corruption charge around.

In fact, his latest broadside against Michael Dunkley – that the UBP gave Dunkley’s Dairy a legislated ‘virtual monopoly’ in milk production – is a flat out lie; one delivered under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege where an MP can’t be sued for slander or libel*. [Quite the opposite, the legislation actually protected dairy farmers from monopolistic behaviour and was supported by Dr. Brown and the PLP.]

While Dr. Brown professes outrage that the BHC Police report ‘defamed him’ (isn’t it only defamatory and character assassination if untrue?), he’s quite capable of defaming others on far less substantial evidence. At least those he’s targeted don’t hide behind the convenient ‘Plantation’ defence; they stand up and rebut the accusations

This hypocrisy on matters of defamation and the presumption of innocence was further highlighted by the Premier’s statement on MP Nelson Bascome’s arrest last week. The Premier characterised Mr. Bascome’s plight as a ‘human tragedy’ and pleaded for the benefit of the presumption of innocence for his colleague:

"This is a deeply regrettable development and a human tragedy. We must allow the law to take its course. However, we must not forget he is innocent unless guilt is determined by the courts. Every accused person is entitled to that."

How does Dr. Brown reconcile that statement with his regular and unsupported public characterization of his political opponents and critics as corrupt? The Premier has never afforded his political opponents the presumption of innocence; individuals he attacks relentlessly for fabricated incidents that have therefore never come before the court let alone the Police, allegations that he never backs up with specifics and that he delivers under the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege.

Even more hypocritical is the frequent defence we hear that because the Police Report is four years old and no-one was charged, that they are ancient history and we should move on. This rings particularly hollow when you consider that the PLP’s political strategy is founded on dredging up things that happened not four – but four hundred years ago in many cases – and attempting to attach them to those who didn’t perpetrate them.

In PLP-time four years is an eternity, too long for them to be held to account for their own actions, while four hundred years is not long enough for their opponents to answer for the actions of others.

If Dr. Brown continues to avoid answering the specifics of The Mid Ocean News reports, one can only conclude that the New Bermuda is intended to be the worst of the Old Bermuda but in someone else’s image.

It would seem that the public is expected to tolerate – or outright ignore – today’s corruption while remain outraged about yesterday’s. Or, as someone said to me not long ago, the message being sent to the voter by the PLP leadership is “Wouldn’t you rather we ripped you off?” To which the only reasonable response is: “We’d rather not be ripped off. Period.”

[* CORRECTION: The attack on Dunkley's Dairy was delivered via a press statement, not in Parliament with Parliamentary Privilege. It was the "Racist Dog" attack on Grant Gibbons which took place in Parliament.]

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...and we get another Health Minister.

No word yet on if we were paying Mr. Bascome a Ministerial salary during his 'leave of absence'. The fact that Dr. Brown won't comment on that question suggests we were.

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Candidate for most ridiculous political release ever is exhibit A from PLP.bm:


This week, Premier Ewart Brown and the PLP stood up for the best interests of Bermuda. When it became clear that someone leaked confidential documents to the media, the Premier and the PLP stood up for the rule of law. The Premier skillfully dealt with the situation. He didn't back down from his principles and he cordially came to an agreement with the Governor and Government House.

Give me a second while I compose myself. This one is just too ridiculous to not be intended as a complete joke. Surely.

Dr. Brown stood up for the rule of law? That's right after the police recommended further pursuing their fraud and official corruption investigation only to be questionably overruled by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Oh yeah, and the whole saga with the Governor and now a gag order was 'standing up for Bermuda' not trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

I believe the media injuction would be termed as an exercise in 'Covering Your Ass'. After the Premier was implicated in potential corrupt and arguably criminal behaviour they're spinning this as 'standing up for Bermuda'.

I'll agree that the Premier 'skillfully dealt with the situation' - if you consider head faking the press into covering the non-story of the confrontation with the Governor so he didn't have to answer the allegations themselves - which remain unaddressed and he now hopes to kill media coverage of.

And lastly, in one real classic of an example of Orwellian political doublespeak in one paragraph, the Premier 'cordially came to an agreement with the Governor and Government House'. Cordially? They really have no shame denying reality.

It gets worse though. Read the whole thing.

You see last week saw the UBP play political games (better than corrupt ones I suppose), and the UBP engaged in name-calling (gasp, versus allegedly lining themselves up for backhanders), and it was the UBP who escalated the issue (versus threatening to cut off relations with the Governor), and the UBP who will say anything to win an election (versus nothing to counter allegations of corruption).

And I'll hazard a guess that the quotes from John Barritt in the last paragraph are taken completely out of context.

My God. Tragedy or farce? I'm going with farce at this point. A tragedy is apparently what happens when a PLP MP is arrested and charged with official corruption and theft (versus an outrage I suppose).

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Some time ago someone sent me a link to an online petition which had been started by former PLP candidate Neville T. Darrell in favour of the Southlands development, to counter the one opposing it. I took a quick glance and dismissed it as it wasn't getting much support (currently at 87 people versus 3,226 opposing) and the little it had received read like a who's who of Bermuda's construction industry.

I don't know why, but the corruption scandal of the past week and a half triggered a memory that after the revalations of the Mid Ocean News BHC Police Report report just puts it all in perspective yet again.

What was the memory?

Well, let me put it to you in a question:

Who do you think is the first signatory on the pro-Southlands petiton?

You get three guesses, and the first two don't count.

So who is it?

None other than one Zane DeSilva, key player in the BHC Police Report, being the central player in almost every lead that the Police were investigating in conjunction with Dr. Brown and Nelson Bascome, whether it was Dr. Brown and Nelson Bascome's alleged $100,000 kickback for the Cuba asbestos plan, or Dr. Brown's apparent $1,500 'consulting agreement' with Zane Desilva on asbestos abatement, or the contractor behind the alleged 'mixing of funds' between Dr. Brown's AP Owen Road Home and the Southside housing project, or the alleged sponsor of an apartment in Fairylands for Nelson Bascome's girlfriend and child.

The fact that Zane Desilva should show up as the first signatory on the pro-Southlands petition, in light of the allegations that Dr. Brown is now trying to muzzle, just seems so appropriate doesn't it.

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Funny. No breaking news alert from the Bermuda Sun about the arrest and reported charging of a Government MP and former Cabinet Minister with what I understand to be Official Corruption and theft.

I get them all the time about pretty mundane stuff. Not this time.

And I love the story sourced with PLP insider's at the 'heart of the party' (ie. Dr. Brown loyalists) on how his shenanigans of the past week will have played well internally. Former Premier Alex Scott seems to disagree. I wonder how those corruption charges played?

Nothing over at Bermuda Network News either. But they do have a story that the PLP are going to complain to the Broadcasting Commission about the UBP's 3 minute broadcast. Much more important I know.

That banner ad from Dr. Brown's private clinic wouldn't have anything to do with it would it?

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PLP MP and former Cabinet Minister Nelson Bascome has reportedly (ZBM radio news: arrested at 8PM last night, bailed on two charges) been arrested.

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Parliament's in today, and should prove to be interesting.

Will Dr. Brown, as was indicated yesterday, take advantage of Parliamentary Privilege to try and address the corruption allegations after trying to silence the media and refusing to answer their questions on the substance of the report all week (so I'm told by a reporter)?

Asked this morning to address specific allegations relating to BHC, Dr. Brown replied: "No. This matter is being handled for the Government by the Attorney General."

Tune in on AM 1230 at 10AM. Ministerial Statements and personal explanations come early,

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A reader writes:

This whole episode is surely taken from Yes Minister Volume 3 - The Bed of Nails? Leaks are from the top of Government and a Leak Enquiry never comes up with a culprit. It does however help in the pursuit of megalomaniac behavior.

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You know, when I go back and read Dr. Brown's initial and only real statement on the allegations against him and some of his colleagues, the more I realise how boxed in he is to convince people that he didn't behave unethically if not illegally.

I'm not just talking about the specific allegations themselves, which are damning, paticularly as no-one has come forward to deny that what was alleged occurred. That silence speaks volumes.

I'm talking about some of the arguments he advanced in his general defence.

The most amusing to me was this statement:


On a personal note, I give my fellow Bermudians the assurance that my professional practice and my business interests have long provided me quite adequately with the means to live in relative comfort.

I am blessed with the good fortune of being married to a businesswoman of independent income. I have absolutely no need to seek to improve my net worth by any questionable actions. I deserve to be given credit for being sensible enough to keep my hands clean and my character beyond question.

Firstly, the PLP and Dr. Brown have argued that UBP politicians are corrupt. It doesn't take much for the public to believe that PLP ones are too, particularly with the bombshell reports in the Mid Ocean last week.

It reminds me of the old joke "Don't steal. Politicians hate competition."

Secondly, perhaps the most frequent attack line by Dr. Brown and the PLP is that politicians from some of the richest Bermudians families were and are incredibly corrupt? He made this argument only weeks ago responding to his Kurron Shares scandal and earlier in the year with the Racist Dog attack.

In fact, he never disputes the allegations, he just tries to turn the focus on the UBP. Which makes me wonder if the message isn't "Wouldn't you rather we ripped you off?"

Does he really expect the public to believe that his 'relative comfort' means that he therefore couldn't be corrupt, but others of a different political stripe who live in similar comfort are?

In fact, presumably the very individuals he attacks are richer than he is, which by his logic would make them less corrupt, not more.

The argument is absurd on it's face. Dare I mention the incredibly rich corporate criminals of the past decade:

Ken Lay - Enron
Dennis Koslowski - Tyco
Bernie Ebbers - Worldcom

Rich people are not immune from corruption. Dr. Brown makes that argument on a regular basis.

You reap what you sow.

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As I wrote this morning, the press missed a whole week of chasing the right story by focusing on the phony constitutional crisis, which was clearly now just a smokescreen to buy a week for Dr. Brown to figure out how to shut this thing down.

And he thinks he has with the gag order issued against the local media. My understanding is that a hearing will take place on Wed/Thurs next week to rule on the enforceability of the gag order.

In the meantime the Mid Ocean and Royal Gazette and BBC have agreed not to publish or reprint the allegations against Dr. Brown, Nelson Bascome and the rest.

Big deal. Welcome to the world wide web, emphasis on world. Try and get an injunction against the internet.

So here we go. A reader sent in this email of all the questions that Dr. Brown and the rest of the implicated PLP MPs must answer, and so far have left conspicuously unanswered. It's quite simple really. Deny that the allegations have any substance and it could all just go away.

The cover up is always worse than the crime.

So without further ado, my reader lays it out:

All questions from the info at
Mid Ocean News: 'Police probe of abuses went as high as Cabinet', June 1, 2007
and
Mid Ocean News: 'Bruce was against this', 1 June, 2007

Questions for Premier Ewart Brown:

• Did you coerce BHC boss Raymonde Dill into buying your Flatts
property at a price you knew to be above market value?

• Did you fail to pay a $150,000 bill for renovation work carried out by BHC at your Flatts property before it was sold?

• Did you receive a $1,500 monthly consultancy fee from Zane DeSilva's company Island Construction Services without doing any consultancy work? Why did you allegedly ask for cheques to be made payable to you personally, rather than to Bermuda Healthcare Services, the company that was supposed to be doing the work?

• Did you agree to receive a 5% share of an estimated $1.65 million profit from a deal between the Government and Island Environmental Management to ship asbestos to Cuba?

• Did you have some of the cedar beams from the St. George's post office installed in your home?

• Did Zane DeSilva bury approximately $422,000 worth of costs incurred in the building of your house in a BHC housing project? If so, when did you become aware of this?

• Question for former Telecommunications Minister Renee Webb: did you have renovations done to your home that were paid for by the BHC?

• Did former Housing Minister Nelson Bascome order BHC boss Raymonde Dill to award BHC contracts to certain builders, including one who allegedly provided the Minister a Fairylands apartment free of charge? If so, when did you become aware of this?

• After the BHC investigation was wound up, the PLP Government
promised to strengthen Bermuda's anti-corruption legislation. When
will you be doing this?

I'm sure others will come up with more. Send them in and I'll post them.

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Yep. They're running scared and have something to hide.

The Attorney General has taken an injuntion out against the media:

My Chambers will employ all legal means to stop the Mid Ocean News and any other publication from printing or speaking additional content from the stolen investigative documents.

A word of advice. The cover up is ALWAYS worse than the crime.

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When will Bermuda's media wake up and cover the real story here?

The story isn't some manufactured constitutional crisis.

The REAL story is serious and supported allegations of clearly unethical and arguably unprosecuted criminal behaviour under Section 111 (Official Corruption) of the Criminal Code.

Which reporter is going to stick a tape recorder or a mic in front of Dr. Brown, Nelson Bascome et al and ask them to confirm or deny the allegations of kickbacks, consulting agreements, abuses of power and positon etc.?

Who is it going to be?

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I've uploaded UBP Leader Michael Dunkley's statement on the BHC to YouTube. If you'd rather read it the full release is here.

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UBP to make a televised broadcast tonight at 8PM on VSB, ZBM and ZFB at 8PM.

Don't worry, Oprah will still come on afterwards.

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And, the BHC scandal has made the international press.

Britain’s oldest colony was in the grip of a constitutional crisis yesterday after the Prime Minister of Bermuda threatened to suspend all dealings with the island’s London-appointed Governor.

To the consternation of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the bemusement of the first summer tourists, Ewart Brown, Bermuda’s elected Prime Minister, threatened on Friday to halt co-operation with Sir John Vereker, the Governor appointed by the Queen.

The crisis was sparked after the publication of a confidential official document last week by the Mid Ocean News alleging government corruption relating to the island’s housing corporation.

Dr Brown, who ran a medical practice in California before returning home to enter politics, responded angrily to the article. He claimed in a televised address that the document had been leaked deliberately by senior officials to undermine his office. He went on to demand that the Governor order a police investigation to find out who had released the document, suggesting strongly that it had come from the Governor’s office.

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Several very, very important quotes in today's Gazette story on the threats to a free press and the consitutional brinkmanship courtesy of the Premier (emphasis mine):

He said members of the news team filmed the officers as they searched and that media outlets outside Bermuda, including in the States, were interested in the footage due to the potential constitutional crisis brewing between the Premier and Governor.

“We are going to get many inquiries if this matter doesn’t die down.”

Mr. Richardson said he viewed the raid as unacceptable and a threat to journalists and the principle of freedom of information.

“It (the raid) was very disturbing when we are trying to get to the bottom of a story. We don’t particularly invite a battle with the Police. We are not inviting that.”

A source within the Police described the pressure being put on the media as “unproductive and very dangerous”.

“It’s a very slippery slope,” said the insider. “In any balanced society there are checks and balances. There is only one body that can check the Police and that’s the courts, no one else. That’s what the media need to be looking at.”

The media can't lose sight of the core of this scandal: The allegations must be answered.

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Public Education meets Public transportation at the 2007 May 24th parade? (Hat tip to AH for the catch and picture).

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Today's 12% swing in favour of independence isn't the first time Research Innovations have produced independence numbers that aren't credible and correct next time around.

On October 10, 2006 I commented that:


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

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

And then 2 months later, on November 28th, 2006 another poll was released and I wrote this (apologies for the broken RG links, they changed their website):


I was right. The latest poll has things back on track, with the last poll clearly an anomaly, although one that makes me question the methodology and interpretation of the results. The article and pollster should have disclosed that the results were inconsistent and viewed skeptically.

So in a 4 month period independence support suddenly went up and then dropped back to normal levels. Nonsense.

Which is why today's supposed 12% move also isn't credible. A statistically massive move like that would only occur with some significant event, not just in a two month period when independence hasn't been on the agenda.

The UBP has their own beef with the polls - and pollster - as well (a conflict I've written about before):


June 3, 2007

Dear friend:

I am writing as a result of a Royal Gazette story on Friday on national polling.

The story reported poll findings by the firm Research Innovations which we consider questionable and suspect.

Our own poll results from early May show a dramatically different picture.

...

These ratings differ dramatically from those reported in The Royal Gazette. We believe our figures are more accurate for two reasons:
They are supported by our polling in marginal constituencies with a second polling company that has worked in Bermuda for many years; and
The Royal Gazette pollster Mr. Walton Brown is the cousin of the Premier and also, at this time, listed to be a candidate for the PLP at the next election. I believe this constitutes a conflict of interest.

The United Bermuda Party is well-positioned to win the next election.

Our push for integrity in government, education reform, strong public safety, seniors care, tax relief and environmental protection stands in sharp contrast to a government that is faltering in terms of performance and trust.

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I posted it back in February, and it seems appropriate to repost "Official Corruption" under Bermuda law:

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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The police today executed (or attempted to) a search warrant today on the offices of Bermuda Broadcasting Company.

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I've been off the island for a couple of days so I've missed most of the excitement of yesterday, but the emails have been coming in and I managed to find a couple of the Mid Ocean stories about the BHC corruption through the RG's website search tool (see here, here and here).

From afar the police report is extremely, extremely concerning, containing allegations that would appear to meet even the most lax standards of unethical behaviour if not outright criminal - if true.

So while I understand that the Premier has decided that the best defence is a strong offence - by targeting the Governor in a cynical political ploy and attempt to use a unilateral threat of pseudo-Independence as a desperate ploy to defend his personal scandal - the realists among us will know that the leak shouldn't be the only thing investigated.

So should the allegations themselves, through a commission of inquiry or something along those lines. The leak doesn't look to be the only 'nefarious scheme' here.

There are quite simply too many issues now known to the public to go unanswered. It is simply astounding how many MPs were doing business with the BHC. Simply astounding. The number of allegations of kickbacks and backhanders is astounding. These cannot go unanswered. The people of Bermuda can have no confidence in the holder(s) of the highest elected offices until these allegations are answered. Some are quite simply answered if in fact they are not true, others are more complicated.

But they must be answered.

Criminality isn't the sole threshold now, ethics and integrity are; both the integrity of our elected representatives but also our whole system of governence and the credibility of Bermuda.

The public deserve answers, and not just to how the report was leaked, but what is and is not true.

Taxpayer resources, including the Department of Communications, the Premier's press secretary and anything else should not be used to defend those implicated. There is too much at stake to draw civil servants into the private scandals of the Premier and his Minister.

That would in and of itself be an abuse of Government resources.

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