February 2008 Archives

The Bermuda Sun has launched a new Bermuda Sports Blog: Talk Sport.

As Sports are generating plenty of attention lately, and interact with all sorts of social and political issues, it could turn out to be a lively site.

Enjoy.

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Right on cue, the insider traders who were handed the cement company start to get what they knew was coming.

No-one is surprised are they? I mean really?

This was a mugging in broad daylight, and as usual few spoke up against what was obviously a fix.

I see Jim's lawyering up, which could get interesting.

Any lawyers out there see any sort of a case? Can you sue for failure to negotiate in good faith?

It's almost comical if it weren't so corrupt.

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A reader writes:

Not only does it bother me that he is manipulating the figures to appear better then that are, but I want to know why he couldn’t use his new media room to make the quarterly announcement. To have a luncheon for a hundred or so invited guests, four times a year to announce tourism figures at a location like Tucker’s Point seems unnecessary. Can you imagine how much food, drink, decorations and the rental of that expensive Audio Visual equipment costs the taxpayers? That’s like the equivalent of having a sit down wedding four times a year just to read off some figures. If you’ve ever planned that kind of wedding you would know… they don’t come cheap!

The quarterly lunches are not quite a wedding, but there is of course no such thing as a free lunch. The whole production around the tourism stats is necessary because when you cut through the BS, tourism isn't performing well at all.

The massive increase in cruise arrivals is being used to mask poor air arrivals; occupancy rates are being used to present high occupancy which in reality is a very low inventory that can't be filled; business travelers are being represented as tourists, and they're filling the restaurants, driving around in taxis and playing golf; the Music Festival, Culinary Festival and Faith Based Tourism events would be deserted if it wasn't for residents.

And, with the latest glamour shots from the Love Festival, an event which was advertised heavily locally, and they still couldn't sell enough tickets for, can't we finally, once and for all, just call these events what they are: personal parties for the Premier, his friends, and those he wants to be friends with when he's done his stopover in Bermuda?

It reminds me of a quote I heard once: "There are two types of politicians: those who want to be someone and those who want to do something."

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Better late than never.

The Reply to the 2008 Budget.

Settle in, it's a long read, but it's well worth reading. I'm going to revisit some specific sections, because it methodically addresses many of the initiatives which are great headline generators but become far less appealing once a little scrutiny is applied (ie. interest free loans) while putting the PLP economic policy into the global context needed:


The 500 interest-free down payments to first-time Bermudian homeowners is an intriguing idea. Under this plan, the new home will be 100% financed: X per cent with the mortgage and Y per cent the interest-free down payment. Our questions is: How does this borrower pay all this debt back? The interest-free down payment does have to be paid back does it not? If a person can qualify for, say, an 80% mortgage, but cannot find the 20% down payment, how likely will he be able to afford the servicing of the mortgage and the down payment simultaneously? This dream could become a nightmare. We look forward to the Government's explanation of how they will make this plan work.

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A reader writes on the media's continuing acceptance of chronically distorted and cherry picked tourism numbers at face value:


I have to laugh at the media for reprinting Dr Brown's claims of record tourism numbers - he's actually using 2001 (as in the year of September 11) as his comparison point. And as Vexed Bermoothes points out, he's stuffed the numbers with a very high proportion of cruise arrivals.

When will they learn?

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A reader writes on income tax:

Christian, I think it's important to realize that Bermuda already has an income tax, albeit by another name. Payroll tax is income tax that only applies to earned income (salaries, bonuses, etc.) and does not apply to passive income (interest, dividends, etc.). At present it's levied at a modest rate and it's not progressive. That is the same rate applies to everyone. But it's still income tax. As a point in fact, prior to the introduction of payroll taxes, financial statements for captive insurers for example used to say there is no income tax in Bermuda. Now they say that there is no tax on corporate profits. A subtle but important difference. It's also worth noting that the exempt companies have an undertaking that says they will be free from tax until 2016. Given that one of the attractions of Bermuda is the lack of corporate income tax, I don't see this being changed.

I agree; but a tax on Total Income would be a major shift.

That's all your income (presumably both personal and corporate income tax), not just payroll tax as exists now. It's everything including rental income, interest, dividends, capital gains etc..

Corporate income tax would obviously be committing economic Hara-kiri as that's the sole reason our economy today exists.

But on a personal level it's not just a big bite out of people's wallets to fund future care, but also would cause yet another explosion in Government bureaucracy for an IRS equivalent that we'd have to pay for.

It would be a radical move, certainly. I think it's highly unlikely; but to float a tax on "Total Income" in an RFP is beyond careless if they're not actively considering it.

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Someone at Bermuda Broadcasting deserves to be put in the stocks for running the 20/20 cricket over Lost.

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As Bermuda's budget continues to grow uncontrollably, and we all pay more and more for less and less, Vexed picks up on a warning sign at the end of the Future Care RFP - perhaps the biggest of the PLP's un-priced and unspecified election promises:


The particular revenue sources would be designed optimally for Bermuda’s economic structure and would include some mix of the following revenue sources:

o Employer contribution

o Employee contribution (persons age 20 to 64 inclusive)

o Total income- or wage-based tax

o Coordination of benefits

o Patient cost sharing

The "Total" in "Total income - or wage-based tax" is what gets my antennae up.

But the document is vague; they're making this up as they go along.

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I caught most of Labour Minister David Burch's press conference on this evening's news where he addressed, among other things, the appallingly slow Department of Immigration.

The Minister suggested a couple of strategies to address the time it takes to process work permit applications:

1) Shutting down the Department for a month and just clearing the backlog.
2) Put on a night shift (already being done to a limited extent)

I have another suggestion, a very simple one that I think is also very fair:

1) Establish a realistic and appropriate period for Immigration to process a properly documented application, say 6 weeks.
2) If Immigration fails to process the permit in 6 weeks, the application is automatically approved.

Why should public sector inefficiency be inflicted on our private sector, making them less competitive and driving up their costs?

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Following up on my comment about the war that is being waged against the media by the Government, a reader sent on a link to put some colour around the Guyanese President's tactics to silence independent media, specifically the Stabroek News:

President Bharrat Jagdeo's government has since November, 2006 withdrawn all state advertising from the Stabroek News in a clear attempt to punish the newspaper for its editorial independence and stance on various issues.

I expect we'll be seeing these kind of tactics shortly.

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A reader writes:

So I am driving the kids around this weekend, busting my hott 107.5 tunes and all of a sudden .... I hear: " This is the Premier of Bermuda, Dr. Ewart Brown, and you are listening to Hott 107.5"

Unbelievable ... don't they have singers who can do that for them?

This highlights the fundamental problem with the media bias attack by the PLP: unlike the UBP, they actually DO own and operate media outlets.

Hott, their unapologetically official propaganda outlet, is owned by a PLP MP, is run by a recently rewarded partisan and now Senator, with content that is constantly pushing a political agenda, both overtly and subtly.

Then there's PLP Senator Walton Brown's press release spinning Bermuda Network News, which is almost certainly a placeholder for a more robust PLP news outlet.

And we can't forget that Dr. Brown promised a PLP newspaper during the election campaign while proposing in the 2008 Throne Speech a Press Council to 'regulate' the independent media (will Hott be subjected to it, or blogs, or is it only for trained journalists?).

The spin is - as usual - quite shrewd: they're combating bias with alternative media. The truth is the opposite, they're creating State Media, both indirectly and directly (CITV).

As a Guyanese blog writes on the topic:

The main problem with state owned media has always been that if they fall under the control of the party in power, even indirectly, that can lead to a contamination of the news process. That is not only unfortunate in itself but it can also lead to a politicisation of other privately owned media in response.

I'd suggest people get familiar with that term, because there is literally a war being waged against the media (specifically The Royal Gazette and The Mid Ocean News) that we're only in the very early stages of.

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Seeing as we're having fun, here's a couple more pretty entertaining websites:

Stuff White People Like

The Top 10 Rap Songs White People Love

For the record, I don't like many of those rap songs, but I know lots of people who do.

I am firmly of the opinion that the greatest rap group of all time (excluding Run-D.M.C. which you have to say) is without question Public Enemy, particularly the album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, followed closely by Fear of a Black Planet.

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DISCLAIMER FOR THE HYPER SENSITIVE: The following is intended as humour (specifically mocking white culture).

A reader sent on me the following pretty funny website, called:

White Whine: A new white person complaint every day of the week.

It's hard to pick a favourite among the complaints:


Complaint 130: “I really wish the Wings DVD’s would get here… I’m almost done with Mad About You.”

Complaint 143: “I only checked out one Country CD on Amazon.com and now all my recommendations are Country music!”

Equally entertaining is (again a joke website):

Black People Love Us!

Dedicated to the "But haven't you read Tim Wise or Robert Jensen Big Conversation crowd."

See disclaimer above.

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Here's PricewaterhouseCoopers' Budget Review.

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Here's the pdf of the 2008 Budget, saved from the Government portal which is interminably slow.

2008 Budget Statement

Vexed's quick summary is here.

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UBP MP Bob Richards speaking on the antiquated nature of our Public Accounts Committee, which he now chairs but is one of only two Opposition members:

We think it's quite antediluvian that these things are held in secret.

Not being a religious kind of guy, I had to look that one up:

1: of or relating to the period before the flood described in the Bible2 a: made, evolved, or developed a long time ago b: extremely primitive or outmoded

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Shaun Goater is absolutely correct - and as usual a class act - in his analysis of the state of local sport:

I feel we have become an arrogant sporting nation. Do we really believe we can hold a dozen national team training sessions and expect to roll over countries who have invested in top coaches and training camps? How arrogant!

For me our attitude is a major stumbling block. I don't see a great deal of commitment from the players and I don't think the necessary sacrifices are being made.

In sport, more often than not, you get what you deserve. And right now we're reaping the rewards we deserve.

It isn't restricted solely to sport however; the exact same dynamic is at play economically in Bermuda today, we are giving away our economic edge through arrogance, complacency and bad public policy.

We have become an arrogant economic nation (even though we're not a nation).

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Some parody based on the Yes We Can video (which you should watch first to fully enjoy these). Not particularly kind to Sen. McCain, who I think is a very decent individual, but the comedy is priceless:

No you can't

john.he.is

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I've been a little distracted lately, but came across an interesting book review last Wednesday that I wanted to highlight. I ordered in on Thursday and it isn't yet in Bermuda, but it was subsequently reviewed in the Royal Gazette on Friday (not online).

The book is called "The Race Card" and is written by a Stanford University Professor.

I won't rewrite the NY Times' review, but it does appear to tackle modern day race and racism in a much more sophisticated and nuanced manner than the blunt force trauma method employed here by the politically oriented "Big Conversation".

An interesting theory is what Mr. Thompson Ford calls "racism without racists", which is a very effective summation of a lot of what is called racism in Bermuda but is something entirely different (like criticism of the PLP Government):

In the cabdriver phenomenon, for example, many drivers who refuse to stop for black passengers are themselves black, Mr. Ford points out, and others are Asian or Middle Eastern. Some are motivated not by antipathy toward blacks but by a fear of being asked to drive into a dangerous neighborhood. Some are rushing to return their cabs to the depot.

This may be racism, but of a special variety that Mr. Ford calls “racism without racists.” Disproportionately, and because of past racism, black Americans live in dangerous neighborhoods, which nonracist cabdrivers might reasonably wish to avoid.

Similarly, when Oprah Winfrey, in a celebrated instance, was turned away from an Hermès shop in Paris, racism might or might not have been the cause. The circumstances suggested several reasons other than racism for why she was not let in: she arrived after closing, for example, and the store was preparing for a special event.

Sometimes life deals out injuries and setbacks. Not all rise to the level of a social problem requiring legal remedy. “If both racism and a more innocent or more complex explanation are plausible causes of an incident, it’s just as wrong to insist on racism and refuse to consider the other possibility as it would be to deny the possibility of racism, ” Mr. Ford writes.

Even so. “If the reason for Oprah’s humiliation was that the incident at Hermès triggered memories of her past experiences with racism, then Oprah’s race was the reason she felt humiliated,” Mr. Ford writes. “In this sense, Oprah was humiliated because of her race.”

I'm looking forward to reading the book.

I get the sense that it will provide a welcome balance to the one-sided and simplistic preaching of the Big Conversation; a political exercise which is hyper focused on historic white on black racism, not the much more complicated and applicable modern day racial dynamics.

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I'm smitten. I know.

Speeches generally don't move me, but Obama's consistently do. His campaign is turning into a movement:

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I'm feeling very lazy lately, so I'll direct you to Vexed Bermoothes brings who kindly brings us the Throne Speech minus the self-congratulatory platitudes.

Notably absent? The Workplace Equity Act, looking more and more like a disingenuous pre-election stunt. One of those publicly touted things while privately the donors are being told "don't worry about it".

If you want the long-winded version, you can get it here.

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