I'm on a blog Holiday for the next 10 days.
March 2008 Archives
Vexed makes some good points on the ACE re-domestication:
You may recall a little contra temps last year between the Minister of Finance (who *ahem* also works at ACE) with her boss ACE’s CEO over the quality of Bermuda’s regulatory efforts. He said inadequate. She said balderdash, we’re The Gold Standard™. He disagreed but realised that most of the world’s gold trades in Zurich, which is also host to a growing number of Bermuda insurers. Grüezi!
This change is inevitable - given the prestige held by ACE and the insurers’ herd mentality, I am sure others will soon follow. It is not necessarily a gloomy deal for Bermuda. But it means that Bermuda better act intelligently with our international taxpayers and employers, because their options get wider every day. And somehow we have to pay for our Government that spends money like a drunk hooker.
We don't have to kowtow to business interests, but we do need to recognise that we are just one jurisdiction of many, and one that is placing increased demands on our major companies while offering bureaucratic inertia and political demagoguery in return.
Readers write on the Obama speech:
Your point that Ewart Brown (and many in the PLP leadership) are the antithesis of Obama is lost on many in Bermuda that admire both Obama and Brown. Many would consider Brown to be our Obama when, in fact, in the context of the speech, Brown is a spitting image of Reverend Wright.
Bermuda would benefit greatly to understand Obama's lesson. We ought to condemn angry racial rhetoric but not the person who utters it. This is possible only if we understand the origin of the anger and work to deal with it productively.
It seems to me that Obama is saying "I recognise that some of Jeremiah Wright's public stances are wrong and damaging but nevertheless I feel he is also a force of significant good in my community and to me." In other words, he's human. This is a point that the Bermuda revisionists will not concede about Bermuda's past leaders, and will always be a sticking point for the Big Conversation.
The announcement today that ACE intends to re-domesticate from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland, is a reputational win for Switzerland, a big loss for the Caymans, and (hopefully) a wake up call for Bermuda; we have become very complacent and arrogant when it comes to our financial services industry of late.
While the business reasons behind the move will become clear shortly, this event should demonstrate definitively to us all that with a proxy vote and a few legal documents, massive multi-national corporations can just up and move.
Those big buildings on Pitts Bay Rd? Rounding error on one quarter's earnings.
And when they leave, they take with them some of the prestige they loaned their former home, and that's much harder to earn than lose.
I also think this sentence is interesting for what it doesn't say:
ACE Limited will continue to maintain executive offices in Bermuda, and ACE Group Holdings will continue to maintain executive offices in New York.
What didn't it say? It didn't refer to Bermuda as its corporate headquarters.
ACE and XL have largely defined Bermuda as a business destination for some time. And while it might be a surprise to many that both were founded as Cayman Islands domiciled companies, I think it's safe to say they are seen - both here and abroad - and have functioned, as Bermuda companies, our flagship companies.
The language in that press release suggests that Bermuda is just another operating location for ACE now.
In the early 80s we thought that tourists were so fortunate to visit Bermuda that we could charge them a 15% gratuity for poor service. We all know what happened since then.
Why should the financial services be any different?
Will our complacent politicians take notice?
Obama's address yesterday was profound, but it was also long for our attention deficit disorder society.
The upside of that however is that it covers a lot of very important territory; watching and listening gives you the full measure of the man though.
While his speech was intended for an American audience and is American in context, many of the themes are very applicable to Bermuda.
So in that vein, over the next couple of days, I'll be taking segments and highlighting them as well as expanding on some of my initial comments yesterday.
Here's a segment that hits precisely what is wrong with discussing race in Bermuda, and that is that it is almost always done with political overtones. And, when you mix race and politics all you get is politics, destructive politics:
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This is the way race really needs to be dealt with by politicians (Youtube clip at end of this post).
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
While it was a political speech, it is actually much more than that.
It is impressive not just in its content, but in what it says about Obama's temperament in particular. It is unusually nuanced and appeals to people's intellect rather than their prejudices. It's realistic yet idealistic.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
Most importantly, it explicitly rejects the easy point scoring with which race has traditionally been used and abused in political discourse.
On the other hand this is what a speech on race should not be. Race is not a weapon; nor should it be deployed as a defense mechanism for poor ethics.
To borrow a paragraph from Obama:
That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
A lot of people, including our own Premier, are trying to piggy back on Obama for their own political purposes.
But, after listening to this speech, seeing Obama campaign, and understanding what he has experienced and worked for in his life, it should be clear that Obama is in fact the antithesis of Ewart Brown and the PLP's identity politics.
Obama explicitly rejects using race as a wedge issue. He explicitly rejects identity politics. He challenges all sides to find the middle ground, not scorching the earth to mask his own inadequacies.
This was a remarkable speech by a remarkable candidate.
Our leaders and aspiring leaders would do well to consider Obama's words and emulate his approach; rather than try and simply ride his coattails without a little introspection.
The Royal Gazette is participating in Sunshine Week as part of their campaign to get Bermuda into the 1900's with such radical legislation such as Public Access to Information and Freedom of Information laws.
Typically, Bermuda can't just do what's right, we have to wade through the morass of politically inspired payback and typically condescending and arrogant declarations that the Doctor knows best, some-dead-guys-didn't-want-to-do-it-400-years-ago, so-we'll-deal-with-it -in-our-own-sweet-time, thank-you-very-much-rejections-dressed-up-as-agreement spin.
Meanwhile, back at the Stem Cell Clinic, the secret Saturday hospital meetings continue, the Berkeley project settlement gets buried and contracts continue to go un-tendered.
The perception of Bermuda, when looked at from the outside in - where the political noise is largely ignored in exchange for a dispassionate assessment based on competitiveness, attractiveness and integrity of the jurisdiction:
The greatest threat to established OFCs like Bermuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands is not the United States but competition amongst themselves and the threat posed by emerging financial centers like Dubai and Singapore, says Hewson.
"The OFC with the biggest bulls-eye on its proverbial chest at the moment is Bermuda," he adds. "There are signs that this phenomenally financially-successful island has peaked economically and will face a future of decline caused by rampant political corruption and the very real prospect of independence in the not-too-distant future.
"There are striking similarities between what is currently taking place in Bermuda and what took place in the Bahamas in the 1960s and 1970s, when corruption, independence, and a lack of concern for the needs of international businesses contributed to a wave of insurers moving to Bermuda and banks to the Cayman Islands."
"If Bermuda's corruption continues to worsen and the country goes independent, particularly if it is forced through by the government against the will of the people, as has been threatened, then it is only reasonable to expect an exodus of existing business and a slow-down of new business.
While the UBP's Wayne Furbert and Darius Tucker may have started the latest piling on against the press, Derrick Burgess needs to grow up. (And at least Darius had enough integrity to back up his complaints by showing up to greet the cricket team himself - that's more than can be said for the other holier than thou media whiners.)
Are our Ministers such thin-skinned babies that every time someone hurts their feelings they need to ask to see your passport and threaten deportation?
Or engage in economic retribution and vilification if the press doesn't simply transcribe their press releases? Trying to punish them financially, as Senator David Burch has suggested by canceling subscriptions and revoking advertising.
Is this really what Bermuda has come to?
Have we all become so concerned only with our own narrow self-interest, so intimidated by second rate big-fish-small-pond aspiring power players that we won't stand up to defend a newspaper sports editor's right to free speech without the threat of deportation by an immigration gestapo, or an investor's ability to not have Government take their business by force in an overt act of unadulterated cronyism and random political and social payback and scapegoating.
I fear the answer is increasingly yes.
Our apathy is mind-boggling...and getting worse. Apathy and cynicism about the political process is exactly what unscrupulous self-interested politicians and their cronies count on. They feed this cynicism with the process as a whole so that they can engage in political and economic muggings in direct view as we're witnessing on a regular basis.
So when some media outlets think they can endear themselves to the political leadership by playing into the idea that their competitors are biased but they're not, or business owners sit mute while Government drives out ownership of a business they don't approve of, one wonders when they'll realize that they're next.
When will our politicians grow up? And when will the public wake up?
Is that 'beneficial occupancy'?
(The tactic of challenging the eligibility of Corporation of Hamilton common councillor Graeme Outerbridge and alderman David Dunkley revolves around the apparent legitimacy of their 'beneficial occupancy' within the City; both appear to maintain at the most shared office space in the city, or at the minimum, token occupancy.)
Since this whole insidery political power struggle at the Corporation of of Hamilton began, I couldn't figure out why it felt atypical as Bermuda political scandals go.
But it's actually obvious: no-one has accused the other side of being a racist yet.
How refreshing. A simple good old fashioned political dust-up. Let's enjoy the break from the predictable shall we.
Graeme Outerbridge's quote today applies to just about every dispute here that inevitably goes racial:
Mr. Outerbridge, who has previously run unsuccessfully for Mayor, says he has no concerns about his eligibility, adding that the inquiry "really is about the differences around the table".
He claims he and Mr. Dunkley are being targeted because of "philosophical" disagreements and because they have tried to ensure the Corporation operates under good governance.
Reminds me yet again of that great concept of 'racism without racists' that a Stanford professor has discussed.
Seems to me that since the Corporation doesn't revolve around that tired PLP v UBP dynamic, that race hasn't come into it. Hallelujah.
Which I think presents a simple truth: when you mix race and politics all you get is politics.
And I maintain that 99% of the time a political dispute in Bermuda goes racial, it has nothing in fact to do with race at all, but race is a useful political lever to pull and the UBP and PLP lend themselves too well to that tactic.