September 2008 Archives

Today is the fifth anniversary since I launched Politics.bm on a bit of a whim.

In the summer of 2007 when an election appeared imminent and I was wondering where to take the site I committed to myself that I'd continue through the campaign and until the site had completed 5 years.

Five years is up. So today I'm signing off to spend some time developing some other projects that I've been neglecting.

Thanks for reading and contributing. I hope that I achieved my stated goal, which was to inform, amuse and provoke some thought.

I'd note, for the record, that Dr. Brown's libel suit has gone, and will continue to go, nowhere after such a frenzy of pre-election activity. What a shock.

All the best.

PS (I recommend Vexed Bermoothes for your fix).

PPS My email will remain active and is my primary address to contact me at.

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A dispassionate look at media ownership in Bermuda.

1) Bermuda Press Holdings (The Royal Gazette / The Mid Ocean News)
- Publicly traded on the BSX. Anyone can buy shares.

2) Media House Limited (The Bermuda Sun)
- Publicly traded on the BSX. Anyone can buy shares.

3) Defontes Broadcasting (VSB, Mix 106 etc.)
- Privately owned by Kenny Defontes.

4) Bermuda Broadcasting Corporation (ZBM, Power95 etc.)
- Privately owned. Controlled by Fernance Perry.

5) Interisland Communications (Hott 107.5FM)
- Owned by PLP MP Glenn Blakeney. Program Director PLP Senator Thaao Dill.

6) Bermuda Network News
- Owned by PLP Senator Walton Brown.

7) CITV
- Controlled and run by the PLP Government

8) VistaMar (potential new daily startup)
- Registered by PLP Senator Walton Brown, board constituted of PLP insiders/benefactors and friends and family of the Premier.

Those are the facts. Where's the potential for bias?

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It seems I'm not alone in my disgust with the childish propaganda and outright easily verifiable lies that continue to be peddled on the PLP's official website by their Chairman David Burt and perhaps one or two others.

PLP Member Jonathon over at Catch a Fire comments on the PLP's site, and also raises a telling example of the disinformation and manipulation that is their online presence.

Firstly his take on the PLP's site:

The official site of the Party should be treated with the dignity that a Party with as illustrious past as the PLP has, not as some crass and pathetic propaganda machine.

Secondly, he pulls back the curtain on the party's inner circle hijacking the Progressive Minds site during the election, posting under the guise of the youth wing

I cannot speak for other former members of the Youth Wing but I myself grew disgusted with the abuse of that site in the run up to the election where for all intensive purposes the site was hijacked by elements other than the Youth Wing and far from being the site for active critical discussion it became just one more tool in a cynical and classless election campaign. As far as I am concerned it ceased being the blog of the Progressive Minds around November 2007 and while I initially hoped that the post-election blog would revert back to PM control for various reasons this has not occurred.

A few days ago PLP Chairman David Burt, the guy who refuses to take accountability for his own words on the PLP site by hiding behind a pseudonym, dug up an over the top rant from an internet forum and tried his best to tie it to the UBP.

He really has a low estimate of the intelligence of his audience.

We saw this during the election as well. The PLP, the party who ran an outrageously race baiting campaign with Puppet TV ads, claims that the UBP leader wanted to hang and flog blacks and 'was out to get you' attempted to conflate anything said anywhere against the PLP as from the UBP.

Remember the internet cartoons that they tried to pin on the UBP while the BIU gas station was distributing some of their own? The connection of the BIU to the PLP is real, the connection of some random guy on the net with Photoshop to the UBP is non-existent. And he knows it. But that won't stop him.

It's all just show business.

What a sad, shallow and desperate strategy from a morally bankrupt individual and party. Their reliance on these tactics suggests that they don't think they have much positive or substantive to offer. Surely they can make a better case than this fabricated one they continue to peddle?

We now have him demanding that UBP leader Kim Swan denounce the words of someone anonymous he doesn't know and couldn't know, as if they have anything to do with his party.

This from the guy who won't correct his own undeniable lie on his website - which he's been repeatedly called out for - nor will he link to those he quotes so he can re-frame their positions nor will he own his own words, preferring to post as 'PLP'.

He and his party won't even take ownership of their officially sanctioned public statements yet try and have the UBP own everyone else's, even anonymous ones on the internet?

What a farce.

Jonathon's right. The guy is crass and pathetic.

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Isn't it time to go ahead and just rename the Department of Tourism to The Department of Local Entertainment (The DOLE)?

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Sheesh Ms. Cox. All this talk about the ethical way to go about these things, and ambition, but so little decisiveness.

Someone told me some time ago that "Paula Cox is propping up Dr. Brown by being his number two. She's enabling him."

I think that's true. Paula Cox sitting as Deputy Premier is providing people with a sort of safety valve which is making them quite tolerant of Dr. Brown's antics and exploits.

If Paula Cox were to withdraw from his Cabinet then he would be immediately destabilised. But I get the sense that party loyalty is tugging on the heart strings.

I don't dispute Paula Cox's popularity although she doesn't do much for me; Captain Cliche as someone described her to me the other day. But she'd certainly be an upgrade as Premier.

Suffice it to say that I have a reliably terrible record of predicting results of these kinds of event - I thought Alex Scott would hold on (the choice was between benign incompetence and malicious competence) - I don't see any leadership change occurring at the PLP's annual conference.

Not with this kind of indecisiveness and passive aggression.

Frankly, Ms. Cox appears to want a coronation. That's not the way these things go down - in any political party - and most certainly not against a shrewd and ruthless political operator like Dr. Brown.

Couple that with his band of highly financially dependent and hence highly motivated taxpayer funded hangers on in the rapidly expanding executive branch and you have a group who will do whatever they can to keep him there.

There's quite a few people whose livelihoods are tied to Ewart Brown remaining as Premier. He's used the taxpayer purse to ensure he's got a highly loyal band of followers around him. They know who they are.

But now that I've made my prediction, it's bound to go the other way.

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I'm confused.

Tickets to the Music Festival are being returned for more local sales.

That can't be true. Because on July 3rd, Premier Ewart Brown said, and I quote:

"It's already known around the world that Bermuda's festival is sold out and the entertainers we were fortunate to get this year we cannot get for peanuts."

A direct quote.

Sums this guy up. All hype.

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Two days ago the Premier released a pretty much by the book response (not yet posted on the Government's website but immediately posted on his party's) intended to downplay Obama's "Destination" ad which attacks John McCain and Bermuda's international businesses.

If he was being candid this is what he would have wrote:

Dear Senator Obama,

I, of all people, totally get where you're coming from. In fact I'm way ahead of you.

I know first hand how politically expedient it is to use Bermuda's financial sector and insurance exectuves as election whipping posts every few years.

And boy is it effective. You should have seen how we pushed some buttons. You don't know the half of it.

If you're anything like me (although I wish I was like you running for the real Presidency) I presume this is just shallow politicking; as soon as the campaign ends you'll quietly reverse or just drop altogether your campaign positions on this.

So I'm not that worried about your ad. Actually I dug it.

You should see how effective our anti-international business campaign gimmicks were: term limits, The Workplace Equity Act, Goodwill Plus (Sven and Johnny was a real hoot) and all those other election tricks. We never intended to follow through on any of them, or keep some in place, but they were more successful than in our wildest dreams.

These were our ultra high priority policies that contrasted us with our opponents who actually campaigned on not attacking our bread and butter business sector. Dopes.

Then, on Dec 19th, we put them in the closet until the next campaign.

Just dropped 'em. Vanished. Into thin air. Never to be spoken of again. Gone.

Oh, I guess I have to say this: "Please stop picking on Bermuda".

Anyway, back to more important matters. Can I get a ticket to the the Inaugural ball?

PS We feel about Switzerland the way you feel about Bermuda. You should look into it. They're eating our lunch. Could be another ad for you.

If anyone thinks that Barack Obama would go anywhere near the Premier of Bermuda with 6 weeks to go to an election and an anti-Bermuda ad running, you're kidding yourself.

That's political suicide.

On a more serious note (although the point that the PLP demonized our industry in the same manner Obama/Democrats do is undeniable), there is a perfect storm brewing.

You have the real likelihood of both houses of Congress and the White House going Democratic. Gridlock is better.

You also have a massive economic crisis and a US Government that is going to need to find new tax revenue.

This is the most real the 'Bermuda' election attacks has ever been.

Bob Richards is exactly right when he says that the attacks from the PLP Government against our international (and local) businesses are the primary threat facing our econmy.

It's not just the campaigning against our economic pillar but policies as well.

There is an ongoing 'silent move afoot' to Switzerland because of term limits and Government's contribution to driving up the cost of living through high taxes and uncontrolled spending.

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Kudos to the Government for cutting the size of the Government fleet by 9%.

“The decision to reduce the numerical size of the Government-owned fleet was not well received in some areas of the public service. However, the Government wishes to applaud those public servants who have lost their previously assigned vehicles without complaint.”

I have one question and two suggestions:

1) Did Cabinet lead by example, or just the civil servants?
2) Government should commit to further reductions through attrition.
3) Future vehicles should be electric or hybrid wherever possible (understanding that hybrid tends to need some higher speeds). As the largest vehicle owner on the island, Government has the purchasing power to jump-start the importation of environmentally clean vehicles. Perhaps they should look to Europe who use natural gas powered buses for a start.

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Obama's campaign today released a new ad tying John McCain to Bermuda and offshore tax breaks.

This is of course the flip side of the Bermuda love affair (myself included) with Obama's personal appeal.

On the bright side, Tourism can claim heavy free national cable tourism exposure.

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For those of you following the US elections you'll have observed Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's tactical shift to attack the press over media bias and running blatantly untrue campaign ads.

Today his campaign held a conference call to attack the press - which Mr. McCain formerly called 'his base' - for exposing the rampant lies underlying his ads and past few weeks of his campaign, which prompted this statement from Time's Joe Klein:

...it should be remembered that Steve Schmidt is doing this for two (nefarious) reasons:

1. he's hoping to work the refs: if he complains enough about press bias, we mainstream sorts will cower, cringe and try to seek false equivalences between the two campaigns.

2. the more time we spend covering this nonsense, the less we'll spend on the real issues in this campaign.

Feel familiar?

The PLP's media bias refrain is an effort to work the refs; a tactic to make the media "cower, cringe and seek false equivalencies".

Bermuda's media are tame and outgunned by a massive taxpayer funded disinformation apparatus which has exploded under the PLP.

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Consider this:

Government paid $500,000 so that Mets fan Ewart Brown could throw out the first pitch at 2 NY Mets games ostensibly as a tourism promotion.

Yet, on the eve of Bermuda's year long celebration of our 400th anniversary this same Government and Tourism Minister couldn't find it in the bloated billion dollar budget to donate a penny to restore the Deliverance replica - a 40 year old tourist attraction and culturally significant landmark.

$500,000 for a luxury box. Nothing for a historic landmark and tourism attraction.

Kudos to the Bank of Bermuda foundation for stepping in at the last minute and donating the $300,000 to save this historic landmark.

Shame on the Bermuda Government.

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A reader addresses the PLP's attempt to portray sarcastic lip service off as substantive economic policy:

What David Burt doesn't understand (or just doesn't want to acknowledge) is that, giving lip service to the notion that the worldwide economy is in a downturn, whilst telling people that they shouldn't worry about anything, because they are completely on top of the situation and know what they are doing, is utterly meaningless, particularly when it is plain to see that they are utterly clueless when it comes to matters economic.

Each of the quotes that he's used to assert that they've actually been making people aware of the economic downturn contains said 'lip service'. That's not presenting people with the economic facts, and taking decisive action, it's using the economic downturn for political gain, by falsely asserting that they're well-placed to deal with it.

For months they have shouted down and ridiculed anybody who expressed doubt about the economic outlook for Bermuda.

I don't think they're utterly clueless, I just think they are focused on the politics first and foremost and can't see the forest for the trees.

I also don't think they're using the global economic credit crisis for political gain other than the usual obsession with winning a 24 hour news cycle that doesn't exist in Bermuda. The language and tone they're trying to run away from on their website was simply a combination of ignorance and hubris on their part.

For all the complaints that I have about the UBP's lack of aggression in making their case and defending themselves from the constant smear campaign, they've got it right in focusing on realism, sober fact based critiques and policy positions.

David Burt is just ultra political and ultra partisan and his party has allowed him to freelance irresponsibly on their website with the most inappropriate tone for a party that wants to be taken seriously.

Remember, this is a party website that regularly publishes official Government statements before the Government website itself does - if ever.

They've obliterated the line between party and Government, and thus the snarky taunting by their Chairman, whether he tries to hide his ownership of the words or not, should prove to be a liability as the site appears to be as much speaking for the Government as the party.

The PLP have allowed an aspiring propagandist to populate their website with statement after statement that suggests a glib dismissal of substantive and intelligent economic critiques that turned out to be on the money (pardon the pun).

Being on the wrong side of a major economic crisis, and using serious discussion of it to score cheap political points tends not to endear yourself to the public.

That's why they're pushing back so hard against me calling them out on it.

But we shouldn't be surprised. The PLP practices crisis management: they allow situations to become a crisis and then respond firstly politically and secondly from a managerial perspective.

- Pembroke dump was allowed to have an unsafe buildup of agricultural material that eventually erupted in a massive uncontrolled fire.

- Berkeley was allowed to run 100% over budget, all the while denying there was a problem.

- Cedarbridge was neglected to the point of having to be closed due to mold infestation.

- Whitney was allowed to deteriorate to the point of closure before a sudden about face after the PLP attempted to use the situation to brute force the school out of the successful aided school model.

- They lied about tourism results for the better part of Ewart Brown's tenure as Minister to see the bottom eventually fall out and have to admit the truth.

- They refused to listen to concerns over term limits and their impact on Bermudian jobs and Bermuda's desirability as a jurisdiction to now be clearly preparing for an about face in a massive global economic slowdown.

It's quite sad actually.

Compare Ewart Brown and Paula Cox's non-specific platitudes of the past week to the substantive, specific assessments and explanations from their counterparts.

Bob Richards and Grant Gibbons are schooling them. Times like these call for serious managers. The PLP have offered nothing to suggest they are.

The idea that Government is 'monitoring' the situation is about right, because as Bob Richards explained in his explanation of a sound fiscal policy, Government has foregone counter-cyclical economic policies and really has little to no ability to stimulate the economy if/when needed.

Instead of being actors in this they're observers.

But Beyonce's coming. Sleep well.

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An interview tip for the two finalists for the Premier's cook:

No arsenic jokes.

(And does Cabinet really need to be involved in the hiring decision? Really. Nothing better to do? Global credit crisis. No?)

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I guess the answer is no to my suggestion that the PLP employ a 'less tone deaf, less partisan, more respectful and honest approach' on their party propaganda.

The coward(s) hiding behind the 'submitted by PLP' name at the PLP's website never cease to amuse and elevate their propaganda to new heights.

Firstly, the fact that David Burt and whoever else is propagandizing over there won't sign their name to their words is telling enough.

Secondly, their website propaganda has a lot in common with cults, the ones which refuse to provide a link to the full text of critiques (while linking to favourable commentary and at times reprinting whole 'biased Gazette' articles). The tactic is desperate, to facilitate wholesale distortion, where they pluck segments out in isolation to quote out of context and re-frame with their trademark dishonesty.

So, until Mr. Burt has the strength of character to sign his name to his propaganda (and anyone else who is doing official party PR work over there) he remains a childish coward.

But seeing as he's dispensing advice to Barack Obama in Friday's Sun, let me suggest he heed the words of his Presidential candidate of choice who recently commented on the similar lies and distortions coming from the McCain Campaign:


"These guys love to throw rocks and hide their hand," Obama said, referring to the Republicans.

The cap fits. Wear it.

Furthermore, until Mr. Burt has the integrity and courage to link in full to pieces he quotes from, so that readers can be fully informed rather than hope they swallow his propaganda out of context, he remains in the company of wacky Scientologists and extremist fringe groups.

Thirdly, my final sentences of the post that sent Mr. Burt back over the edge was as follows:

Bi-partisanship isn't just the UBP supporting the PLP's agenda. It's the PLP acknowledging that others have a point and raise legitimate issues.

To prove my point, last week they were touting me as a 'UBP blogger and former candidate' who was 'lauding a PLP program' (not quite 'lauding' but again sans link to the article in full - it helps with the dissembling) is today calling me a UBP partisan? Wasn't I partisan then too? Or does it depends on the content?

As I said, everyone who doesn't spew their party line is a partisan, but of course the ultimate partisans, the PLP (the ones who couldn't bring themselves to accept a sensible amendment to legislation in the Senate) are not.

It's all so Bush Republican. Remember them? The ones who rejected bi-partisanship until they lost the majority in 2006 and immediately called for bi-partisanship.

What a joke he is. An unapologetic hack. If David Burt wants a grown up debate about any issue I'm all for it. But for a political party to put out anonymous public statements is absurd and is evidence that even they don't want to be associated with their spin.

I refuse to directly debate immature cowards who hide behind pseudonyms, although I'll continue to highlight the dishonesty.

Intelligent debate or throwing rocks and hiding your hand? The ball's in your court Mr. Burt.

With that formality out of the way, I find it hilarious that the PLP can consider accuse anyone of 'lying', something they are indisputably doing with their rewriting of history about means tested daycare, which remains in their online history despite it being on its face, categorically, 100% untrue.

Furthermore, my post simply quoted from the PLP website (with links) to demonstrate the repeated dismissal and demagoguery of those who have warned for months - years in some cases - about the PLP's dangerous excessive spending which was contributing to Bermuda's overheating economy.

If they're lies, they're the PLP's lies. How can they not be? They're direct quotes. "True Lies" I suppose (for the Schwarzenegger fans out there.)

David Burt and the PLP are welcome to their own opinions. But they're not welcome to their own facts.

Seeing as Larry Burchall and Tom Vesey in Friday's Bermuda Sun are striking a chord I've been playing here for a long time - the PLP's adoption of the political tactics of modern US Republicanism (as distinct from conservatism) - I thought it worth reminding readers of a couple of concepts the PLP has perfected.

1) Truthiness, as coined by Stephen Colbert:

...truthiness refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. As Stephen Colbert put it, “I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart.”
2) The Reality Based Community,as explained by Ron Suskind in the NY Times Magazine. Mr. Burt long ago emigrated from reality to co-habitate with the Republican neo-cons:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

PS I'll wait patiently for Mr. Burt and his colleagues to a) start signing their names to their ad-hominen attacks at the party website and b) have the intellectual honesty and integrity to link through to those he criticises.

Intelligent critiques are not afraid to air the other sides position in full; we respect the intelligence of our readerships. Can the PLP say the same?

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Well, we're finally witnessing a change in tone from the Government on economic issues, after they've cried fearmongering at anyone who has raised concerns about the unrestrained growth in Government spending and debt since the PLP took the reigns in 1998.

Vexed as usual provides a sober take, but I would recommend everyone re-read Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards' excellent and prescient analysis on the pending economic slowdown written a month ago.

The UBP have been warning for some time that Bermuda is going to be facing tough times and Government should prepare for it.

The response from David Burt at the PLP blog has been typically unhinged, head in the sand, sarcastic, shallow, substanceless partisan button pushing.

It's terribly indicative of the PLP's obsession with managing the next headline instead of sound public policy and their reliance of ridicule over reason.

13 Aug 2008:


Low and behold, a fearmongering opinion piece from one, Mr. Bob Richards appears in the pro-UBP daily.

...

Bob Richards, the UBP and the Royal Gazette have made careers out of smearing the PLP and our leaders. They've been fearmongering over our economy for a decade now and they've been proven wrong time and time again. The PLP government is ready to weather the international economic storm and you can bet on the fact that we'll prove them wrong once again.

14 Aug, 2008

No Beyonce. No Alicia Keys. No Bermuda Music Festival. That's the UBP's ridiculous plan to deal with an international economic downturn from which Bermuda's not immune. What's next UBP? A dance ban?

15 Aug, 2008:

Bob Richards and Pat Gordon Pamplin have egg all over their faces. Just a day after they engaged in a fearmongering attack over Bermuda's economy (an attack predicted by Premier Brown), Finance Minister Paula Cox announced some wonderful economic news:

19 Aug, 2008

The UBP and their friends love to run around screaming that the 'sky is falling' and that we're headed for economic doom - but, after ten years, your PLP government has more than proven that we can effectively manage Bermuda's economy.
20 Aug, 2008
Quick, someone get down to Horseshoe and pull Bob Richards' and Pat Gordon-Pamplin's heads out of the sand! Despite their dire predictions, Bermuda's IB sector continues to prosper even in a difficult international economic climate.

Get the picture? Stupid, substance-less political snarking, rather than a willingness to stop cherry picking minor events as major accomplishments and step back and take a realistic look at the developing macro economic picture.

While the PLP's spinner David Burt suggest that everyone should just put their faith in Dr. Brown and the steady hand of Paula Cox, the truth is that the economic snarking stopped at the end of August as XL's problems took centre stage, and you now have the Finance Minister finally admitting that Bermuda's economic numbers will have to be recast downwards.

Paula Cox's tenure as Finance Minister has been a terrible disappointment. It has not been a steady hand, it's been a heavy foot on the spending accelerator. As Bob Richards warned a month ago, and many times before, the PLP's spending has left them with very few levers to pull as Bermuda goes into a slowdown:

My good friend, economist Craig Simmons, recently stated on TV that government spending patterns SHOULD BE, “counter cyclical.” That is absolutely correct. This means that, when the economy is strong and government receipts are strong, government should restrict spending, otherwise it will overheat the economy causing inflation. During a recession, government should expand spending to take up the slack in the economy and provide jobs lost during the down turn. That’s how it should work.

In today’s Bermuda, the reality is somewhat different. This Government, under this Finance Minister and this Premier, has done the opposite: It has spent like a drunken sailor while the economy has been very strong, helping it to overheat. If next year the economy cools to the extent that there is a recession, how is government going to help the economy by providing counter cyclical stimulus?

As the economy cools, Government receipts will decline but the current account expenditures will remain largely constant because much of it is in salaries of civil servants. The current account will sink into a deficit position. To finance this, the Minister could increase taxes or fire civil servants but this would be at precisely the wrong time for such a move and would exacerbate the slowdown and increase job losses. Alternatively, they would have to increase the national debt, but this would likely be more expensive because it would be added to the debt that is already outstanding from previous overspending.

It would be helpful if PLP Chairman David Burt can drop the idiotic spin and get a little more serious for a change.

A less tone deaf, less partisan, more respectful and honest approach to what is going to be a difficult time for Bermuda is in order.

David Burt and his party need to rise above the politics for once, particularly now that Bermuda is looking at job losses and the financing for the Sonesta redevelopment disappeared with the Lehman bankruptcy.

Time to drop the childish tone on the PLP website and show that the PLP can be serious managers and take on board what are legitimate concerns and warnings from others rather than predictably dismiss them as fearmongering, haters or media bias.

This isn't a high school election, although that's the impression the PLP website leaves one with.

This is about the real lives of real Bermudians and Bermuda's Government hasn't positioned us well during a period of rapid growth driven by external circumstances (Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina).

We may be able to muddle through, but right now the Government is watching and waiting - reacting - because they don't have a lot of cards to play with massive spending and an increasing debt load.

Bi-partisanship isn't just the UBP supporting the PLP's agenda. It's the PLP acknowledging that others have a point and raise legitimate issues.

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In the wake of the passing of legislation for a new hotel in St. George's Vexed says he doesn't get it:

I don’t get it:

* With the disastrous terms limits policy, the PLP says there’s not enough room and forces out hundreds of expat workers who are active contributors to our economy and community thus rocking the sector that provides upward professional mobility for Bermudians and generates the most tax income for Bermuda.

* With its rapid development policy, the PLP is giving up public land and providing huge tax relief to build hundreds of new condominiums for sale to expat investors to create hospitality jobs that most Bermudians don’t want and will be staffed by low-paid expat workers.

Actually, I don’t think Government gets it either.

Well, yes and no.

Bermuda's tourism product needs refreshing and revitalising, I don't think many people (including Vexed) would disagree with that.

But as highlighted above, there is a serious disconnect in the way our low-headcount high-margin financial services industry is being treated in favour of the introduction of the complete opposite: low-margin high-headcount hotels (if you ignore the massive residential real estate sales side of this).

A new hotel in St. George's is long overdue, but I seriously question the economic viability of it. I also struggle to see where the funding is going to come from in the current anemic credit markets. The financing just isn't there.

But ultimately, I believe this (Southlands etc.) is about Ewart Brown's legacy (and ego). Every Premier wants a legacy (hence why most reach for the Independence poison chalice), and it seems to me that Ewart Brown has staked his on delivering the first new major tourism development to Bermuda in decades.

He's willing to give very generous terms away to secure this legacy.

The problem as Vexed lays out, is that staffing these mega-hotels (Southlands etc.) requires tons of low-paid staff. Bermudians won't/can't do these jobs (can't because the wages will be inadequate) so the anti-immigration Government is advocating a plan that they say will create jobs for Bermudians but will create far more for a massive influx of low-paid foreign workers while they simultaneously chase out high-earning professionals who have a far greater economic impact on Bermuda.

The other problem, or at least one of the other problems, is that this legislation appears to be a marketing tool for the developer to use to try and raise capital for the project that admittedly has none, not to put the final piece of the puzzle together.

The whole thing doesn't feel nearly as appealing once you get into the specifics and reality of the situation. It all feels very desperate, the needs of Bermuda's tourism product and St. George's notwithstanding.

There's also the problems with the length of the lease etc.. But we know that Premier Brown is concerned about headlines not details.

I'd also note, if I may show my cynical side for a moment, that the developer has 5 years to use it or lose it with this legislation.

Five years means that if this were to be yet another failure to launch at the old Club Med site, as we've seen many times with Dr. Brown's promises of a hotel in St. George's, the fallout will be pushed out post the next election.

Cynical I know.

Anyway, the optimistic side of me hopes this all works out for the benefit of St. Georgians and Bermudians, but the realist in me keeps saying "Yes but..."

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There's an Opinion piece in Friday's Bermuda Sun entitled "How the Cabinet Office jump-started my career", written by Cabinet Office intern Kenneth Minors which is worth addressing.

I'd suggest you read it in full here and then come back to my comments below if you're interested.

In short, Mr. Minors returned to Bermuda with a Masters degree at age 22 and was unsuccessful in finding employment in the private sector and was subsequently accepted as a Cabinet Office intern.

Before I get into the meat of this, I want to preface this by saying that this is not a political issue, despite the connection to the Cabinet Office, and the PLP's promotion of the article on their website on Friday.

It is precisely Government's role to fill in gaps in the private sector and a program like the Jump-Start program is absolutely worthwhile.

But, as I'll demonstrate below, the claim that the 'capitalistic system is corrupt' and the 'anger and disgust' that Mr. Minors now holds against the private sector is completely misplaced. The problem isn't the private sector discriminating or claiming they wanted experience over education which Mr. Minors had, the problem I would suggest is the degree he was holding.

When I read the piece I immediately thought that something didn't add up. Despite Mr. Minors not identifying the kind and level of position he was applying for, I found it odd that a 22 year old with an MBA would receive such a poor reception in the private sector as he says:


The truth is I was about to get a major wake-up call about how cruel and corrupt the capitalistic system in which I was forced to live can be.

A few weeks before I graduated, one of my business professors told me what to really expect. He said if your MBA is from Harvard, Yale, or Princeton (the Good Boys Network), you would start out at $100,000 a year with no experience. However, since my MBA was not from these schools he said I would be lucky to make $50,000 a year fresh out of school with no experience.

Well he was right. For a while I was looking in the private sector for a job.

Interview after interview I was told, "You have the education but not the experience, therefore, we can't hire you. You're overqualified." I started to get angry and disgusted at the private sector.

It turns out employers wanted experience first and education second. It was sad this was not stressed in my college and university education. I was misled over and over again by teachers who did not teach about the real world.

Literally seconds of googling answered the question.

The cruel and corrupt capitalistic system he should be attacking isn't Bermuda's, but the capitalistic owners of the for profit American Intercontinental University.

Here's the Wikipedia entry, well sourced and referenced, on American Intercontinental University:

AIU's parent company has grown rapidly and had become increasingly controversial. CEC has been investigated by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Allegations specific to AIU include reports that the school misrepresented its programs and classes, made a practice of admitting students who had not graduated from high school, and included in its enrollment numbers students who had never attended class.[1]

....

SACS placed the university on probation in December 2005.[3] AIU had come under scrutiny for its student recruiting practices. AIU is an open-enrollment institution, where nearly everyone who applies is admitted. AIU argues that these open standards help create educational opportunities for low-income and minority students who might not otherwise be able to attend college. Others, including current and former AIU employees, have countered that enrolling students who lack adequate preparation and qualification does not actually help them. One anonymous professor stated: "If you can breathe and walk, you can get into the school."[4] In 2006, SACS reported that AIU did not comply with eight of their Principles of Accreditation, including integrity, program content, and faculty.[5] On December 11, 2007, CEC announced that SACS has removed AIU's probation and that the university's accreditation remains in good standing.[3] However, an unresolved problem facing AIU is still current Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in the United Kingdom's audit of the London campus, which concluded that it "identified fundamental concerns regarding the academic standards being achieved ... which included the identification of 'alarmingly low standards of student achievement'"[6]]. A further audit has been postponed. AIU London continues to be the only UK university to have failed a QAA audit. [8]

...

AIU continues to be dogged by issues relating to its quality assurance problems, including several class action suits against it and its parent company CEC. On March 19, 2008, Wargo & French filed the attached Complaint against American Intercontinental University and its parent company, Career Education Corporation (collectively "Defendants"). The Complaint alleges that Defendants defrauded current and former AIU students by advertising false employment rates for its graduates, failing to disclose to students that it was on the verge of losing accreditation, and falsely telling students that an AIU education was worth the significant financial investment. The Complaint is a putative class action, with the Plaintiff seeking to represent all other students of AIU who have been defrauded by AIU.

Read the footnoted story entitled "The student trap: As American InterContinental University fights to keep its accreditation, students on the Buckhead campus wonder if they've received the education they paid for"

Unfortunately for Mr. Minors, and I imagine through no malicious intent of his own, he is the holder of an MBA degree which is simply not credible.

The potential employers who were telling him that he was overqualified and lacked experience were being polite, not wanting to tell him what they really thought: his degree lacked legitimacy.

I'd never heard of AIU, so I can guarantee you that any employer would research the university, particularly for a 22 year old with an MBA, and have concluded that it was at best an inferior degree.

Again, this is not a criticism of Mr. Minors. He's the victim in this, but he is not a victim of Bermuda's private sector. His anger should be directed at AIU. I'd suggest he try and join the class action suit.

But it's a tale all too often told in Bermuda.

The private sector gets labeled as discriminatory when Bermudians are not being discriminating enough, selective enough in what schools they attend.

All universities are not created equal. Pick wisely.

Even among accredited, credible schools there is a lot of brand value to going to a Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, McGill, Oxford etc., even if you think there is a lot of mystique and not a lot of substance around that.

The professor who warned Mr. Minors in the last week of class that he wasn't going to be on equal footing with other university graduates should have told him that in the first week, not the last week.

I feel for Mr. Minors. I really do. The Jump-Start program will be invaluable for him over the coming years to build up experience which will prove more important than his MBA; the MBA from AIU is for all intents and purposes useless.

Bermuda's is a competitive job market with lots of people with degrees, BAs, MBAs, PhDs etc.. The Institution at the top of that piece of paper counts - a lot. It signals credibility, a proven history, a track record of producing well educated, highly trained, highly educated graduates.

This is an unfortunate story. But it's not the story Mr. Minors thinks it is. And I'd hope the Cabinet Office aren't validating his perception that he was unfairly treated by Bermuda's private sector.

His letter was intended to promote the Jump-Start program, but it is first and foremost a cautionary tale to all young Bermudians to pick your university wisely; research, research, research the schools well; don't discount name value; and please don't think that a degree is a degree is a degree.

Finally, I think it is important to raise this as a failing of the public education sector as well, which needs to do a far better job in helping students make better choices about post-secondary education (setting aside the problems with the education the public sector itself provides).

A lot of Bermudians are paying a lot of money for an education that is not recognised as in the top tiers, and in an employment market that is teaming with recent graduates with a lot of impressive education credentials, that's a problem.

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I haven't focused much on the Parliamentary session tomorrow around the potential development at the old Club Med site, but Vexed has been on it well.

I would hope that the Senate blocks this after it inevitably passes the House tomorrow (the PLP have the majority).

Today's Gazette article makes it clear how big of a giveaway this is, and how little confidence we should have that the development will proceed after the Premier admitted financing isn't in place...and doesn't seem interested in that being a prerequisite to the legislative giveaway.

This legislation looks like Ministerial malpractice Dr. Brown.

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I know as much as anyone else about what might be said or go down in the UBP's general membership meeting tonight.

I have had very little contact with the UBP in over a year, before the election really, other than when I bump into some of the folks on the street, the occasional email correspondence with those I consider more friends than than political contacts.

Occasionally I get the irresistible urge to call someone up and bitch and moan about what they're not saying, why they need to be more aggressive, and they always humour the dude who won't shut up and listen to my rants.

The only thing that I did hear today is that the meeting could be a sort of climax of much of the internal back and forth over future direction. I doubt that means some immediate statement as the press will no doubt want, but it's probably healthy because the party has been drifting for too long.

The core problem for the UBP is that it is a coalition (which is also it's strength), but that the coalition has become quite fragile and long ago ceded their branding to the PLP attack machine.

They've failed to claim their many historical accomplishments and allowed the caricature that the PLP paint of them to go unchallenged.

So not being in Government has compounded the problem because UBP types tend to be managers and their strengths are in managing organisations but they've proven terrible at the politics.

The PLP are of course the inverse, they've got the politics down but are terrible managers of the Government (mostly because they look at everything as a political issue to be addressed not a policy one).

So what we're seeing now is a fragile coalition that is struggling to find something to coalesce around, while the PLP base are easily rallied.

It shouldn't have gone unnoticed that as soon as Ewart Brown's leadership began to be publicly questioned post election he focused on what gets the PLP base back in line: attacks on the UBP and attacks on the press (all of which are wrapped in race).

You might also have noticed that this is exactly what John McCain's campaign have done since his VP pick, he's staged phony outrage about Obama, worked the media bias angle, and portrayed Obama as a scary non-American. (The irony of course is that most PLP Obama supporters in Bermuda will be able to both horrified at the attacks on Obama while deploying the same tactics against the UBP).

I digress.

So it will be interesting to see what comes out of tonight's meeting. Obviously I'm not there because I'm typing this and because I'm not a member anymore. Haven't been for about 2 years. I just haven't advertised the fact.

My membership expired and I consciously haven't renewed it because I have become increasingly alienated by the destructive nature of the historical party battles and the UBP's inability (and at times unwillingness) to effectively counter the PLP attack machine.

That doesn't mean that I don't support them. I remain convinced that the UBP's values and principles will best serve Bermuda, despite the challenges that the party faces in holding together a broad coalition in a Bermuda which the PLP would like to keep racially polarised for a political end.

But I am pretty much of the mind that both parties need to go away.

Perhaps, when we wake up tomorrow, we'll be half way there. Or perhaps, we'll see them continue the difficult but noble task of pushing unity and tolerance in the face of an aggressive and dogmatic counter-campaign of polarisation and division.

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Well, I said that I could be wrong on this term limits story when I speculated last night about the lack of rebuttal from the PLP, and it looks like I probably was.

I was chatting with someone today who is in close contact with the Government regularly but is not in the Government - and therefore is not one to ply me with political BS. The topic came around to term limits, and the Chamber head floating what Vexed called a 'trial ballon', and I was told that term limits aren't going anywhere.

Unfortunately the policy is here to stay because politically the PLP are too wedded to it, although there is some willingness on Government's part to improve it on the fringes with specific process and key employee exemption issues.

I then subsequently had it confirmed by a couple of other people as well, in no unequivocal terms that there is no change coming and they were surprised at the characterisation in the article as something the Government might be open to.

Apparently it was recently privately reaffirmed by the Premier, as the Gazette said a few months ago, that the PLP will not backtrack on - despite how counterproductive it is - for any number of reasons.

I'm genuinely surprised that there hasn't been any blow back from the PLP yet, but that is probably because Senator Burch is/was apparently off island and therefore out of reach to deliver one of his trademark smackdowns.

I anticipate some serious finger pointing because if you read Phil Barnett's comments in this light, it reads more like he's speaking about what he'd like to see - 'eternally optimistic', which got written up as if he was implying it was likely to happen, particularly with the "Term Limits Rethink" headline and the first paragraph.

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PLP Chairman David Burt is truly a hard act to follow with his lunatic posts over at the PLP website, today inserting himself into the UBP's Central Council meeting tonight with the following comedy routine:

Tonight, the UBP is holding a closed door meeting of party insiders to make critical decisions that could very well impact all Bermudians. These decisions will be made behind closed doors by a select group of elitist party powerbrokers. The average Bermudian who happened to support the UBP in the last election will be left out, unable to even know how the party they support comes to their decisions.

How outrageous.

"...critical decisions that could very well impact all Bermudians. These decisions will be made behind closed doors by a select group of elitist party powerbrokers."

Sort of like the annual PLP Delegates conferences? You know, the ones where Ewart Brown took out Alex Scott as party leader, after failing to take out Jennifer Smith as leader originally in 2003.

I remember the general public being invited to that meeting, the infamous internal coup that occurred days after an election. Don't you? I didn't think so.

I remain perplexed as who he thinks he's convincing with his loopy website posts. Surely he's smarter than this. Surely he wants to be seen as a serious individual, not another mindless partisan nut.

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I waited a day before posting on the article in Tuesday's Gazette, where Chamber of Commerce head Phil Barnett raised the out of the blue possibility of an end to term limits.

I waited because I wanted to see what the reaction was from the always quick to be outraged over everything PLP, in particular their website. I figured their were two possible reactions.

1) A self-righteous reassertion of the PLP as the only party which gives a damn about Bermudians and term limits are here to stay or;
2) Silence.

So far? Silence.

Not even a mention of the highly controversial topic on a website that lurches from posting on a daily basis Royal Gazette articles in their entirety because the coverage was favourable to simultaneously railing against the biased coverage they have to endure.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the PLP are ready to drop term limits, and Phil Barnett went out to telegraph the climb down, test the waters to see what the public reaction would be.

What is almost certainly happening is that the Chamber of Commerce is floating the idea of an end to the PLP's signature policy of term limits. He's easing people into it and giving the PLP some political cover for when they announce in the relatively near future that they are doing away with term limits.

Of course, they won't say that they're abandoning term limits. The reversal will be couched in a way to make it look like they're not backing down on what a Gazette editorial said back in May "is a policy on which the Progressive Labour Party government cannot backtrack".

Throwing out term limits is the right thing to do because it's a completely counter productive political prop posing as policy to promote Bermudians in the workplace.

In June 2007 Dr. Brown, while in the Caymans, grossly misrepresented the concerns over term limits as about process not substance.

All the while the PLP got plenty of mileage out of the policy in multiple elections and in between, vilifying the UBP who (not wisely from a political perspective) spoke the truth and warned against the policy, as well as others such as myself.

There was a lot of chest thumping and 'see, we told you they don't care about Bermudians' bravado from the PLP over this policy - starting with then Labour Minister Terry Lister during the 2003 election, but it was always going to cause more problems than it would solve.

Not to mention the fact that while many Bermudians actually think that the policy had teeth, and meant that expats all got on a flight on the day after their 6 years were up, in practice things were very different.

In reality, the policy was full of holes (key employee), and with key employee exemptions, and presumably a campaign donation or two in the right direction, any non-Bermudian could have the 6 year limit waived and stay indefinitely.

So, while I'll be glad to see the policy go away as I suspect it's about to, that doesn't mean that the PLP shouldn't have to pay their penance for implementing a policy that has done nothing but ship Bermudian jobs to Dublin, Zurich, Halifax and elsewhere, while churning non-Bermudians with no appreciable impact to the Bermudianisation of the workforce.

While there were endless ways around it for many companies (usually the big international ones not the local ones), the policy has I believe done serious and long-lasting damage to Bermuda's attractiveness as a location to set up a meaningful physical presence for international companies.

So, while I could be wrong, I suspect term limits as we know it is about to disappear or undergo a radical reworking.

While that may be a good thing, it's probably too little too late as Bermuda's economy comes under global economic pressures after being subjected to unnecessary political ones for the past 6 years or so.

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Well, we're 10 days into September, which means we're 10 days into the life of attempt number 2 by PLP Senator Walton Brown at his "Bermuda Network News" website.

So far it's not a pretty picture.

September 1, the promised relaunch date, came and went with nothing. Then, late that day or on the 2nd a 'system undergoing maintenance message, site will return shortly' kind of message was displayed for 3 or 4 days.

Then, on the 4th or 5th day, it appeared.

So what's happenened since then? Nothing. 5 days and not an update.

But let's look at what is there, seeing as PLP Chairman David Burt who hides behind the 'PLP' username over at plp.bm likes to write about media bias.

1) All content appears to be generated by PLP Senator and cousin of the Premier Walton Brown himself. There are a few opinion pieces by him under the Opinion/Editorial section to which he is named as the author.

The 2 opinion pieces are on politics and race, yet nowhere is Mr. Brown's affiliation as a sitting Government Senator declared.

2) Then there's the opinion pieces dressed up as objective news in the News section published with no reporter in the byline but 'BNN Staff', particularly the Restaurant and African Accountants story.

Both are stories which lack even the most rudimentary compliance with good journalistic practice, and lack any sourcing for the provocative claims they make but are full of unsupported assertions. The latter was described to me by several people in the field as 'categorically false' and that no-one approached the accounting firms for comment contrary to the claims to that effect.

'BNN Staff' is almost certainly a pseudonym for 'Walton Brown'.

No reputable and respectable news organisation, other than the Economist which is unique in this respect, publishes stories anonymously and certainly not with a generic byline (a la PLP Chairman David Burt with his 'PLP' website pseudonym - understandably used because he doesn't want his name associated with the pack of lies and distortions he peddles on a daily basis over there.)

The absence of a byline rarely occurs in papers, but usually suggests that the editor wrote the piece. However a byline like 'BNN staff', when there is no sign that they actually have any is misleading and unethical.

3) The story entitled 'Restaurants taking tips from staff' presents a horrendous undeclared conflict of interest for Walton Brown who has financial interests in a restaurant group which owns the restaurants that are advertising on the site: Silk, Opus and Frescos.

4) The remainder of the advertising is equally as conflicted, with the head of the Government's medical business advertising with a banner at the top and the bottom, along with Walton Brown's own polling agency Research Innovations at the bottom left and a Government ad (of which he is a member) from the Ministry of Health promoting exercise.

So let's review the advertising, one ad from the Government he is a member of, one from his restaurant group, one from his cousin and the head of the Government and one from another of his companies.

Not quite a ringing endorsement and sustainable business model.

5) Nowhere is the ownership of the site declared, nor are there any phone numbers listed on the contact page or a staff directory for anyone to get a live human to address any concerns.

6) The Premier has a 'journal' which looks like a speech churning free Government PR section on a site his private businesses and Government is advertising on.

What a mess. It's not even a good attempt at a second rate news site. It's just embarrassingly amateurish and incredibly biased.

Vexed recently had a good post on alternative media in Bermuda.

Bermuda doesn't need alternative media for the sake of alternative media, or overtly politically aligned and run operations to provide some dueling talking heads model of journalism.

We need ethical competent media staffed by trained journalists not political operatives.

BNN definitely isn't it. I won't be adding it to my links and other than this post I won't be promoting such an irresponsible operation.

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If, as we're constantly told, the Premier is an individual who is results driven and demands high performance of others, why has Premier Brown not fired Dr. Brown as Tourism Minister?

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Sorry for the lack of activity lately, but I've been watching, increasingly with bewilderment, the US party conventions, which are at best staged news but seem to be moving into the parallel universe territory now.

The Gazette also yesterday had a piece on the complicated relationship that many Bermudians have with Obama, which is something that I've been thinking and writing about for some time now.

If you're sick of my comparisons to US politics then stop reading now, but the Republican and Democratic conventions have really crystalised for me the parallels that I've discussed previously between the PLP and modern day US Republicanism and the UBP and the Democrats.

Firstly, on Obama, I admit I'm an admirer, but I should probably stipulate that Bermuda's interest in this US election is certainly with a McCain presidency, in the sense that Obama has made targeting non-American jurisdictions a central plank in his economic plan.

I say 'non-American' for a reason, because 'offshore' is a perspective not a location. The US is offshore to me, and any attempt to penalise Bermuda companies because of the US's own ridiculous tax code is something that we should all be concerned about and will have real consequences for Bermuda.

Generally these threats have been empty Democratic party rhetoric in the past 2 or 3 US elections; the US's economic problems and need to generate more tax revenue to pay for the debt generated by the war(s) make these more real this time around.

However, setting Bermuda's interest aside, I find Obama a very compelling, intelligent, charismatic politician who as I've said before is trying to combat a formidable political machine, and he's trying to do it by (largely) rejecting the traditional culture wars, identity politics and elevate the tone of Presidential politics.

That to me, is the same challenge that the UBP have proven unable to master in Bermuda (which I wrote about here recently), with the PLP's political playbook of exploiting racial tensions and divisions, emphasising political identity and a bare knuckle street fight style of campaigning.

Obama summed up to me very well the Bermuda dynamic in a recent 60 Minutes interview where he said:


The Republicans don't govern very well. But, they know how to campaign.

That's precisely how I would categorise the PLP: they're great campaigners.

You're seeing that right now, with the PLP (or at least the Brown loyalists) in full campaign mode until the PLP delegates conference in October after a rocky first half of 2008.

I predict that, for example, Brown's embrace of a 35 hour work week will get lots of lip service as the BIU core probably overlap heavily with the party delegates who will have a say in any PLP leadership challenge in October.

As soon as that leadership vote is done, and assuming Ewart Brown is successful, that's the last you'll hear of it.

It will go the way of the Workplace Equity Act, Goodwill Plus, the St. George's Police Station renovation, free daycare and any other host of broken promises.

During a campaign, and the PLP are pretty much in a constant campaign, they'll say anything and promise anything, even things they previously opposed (35 hour work week in 2006) or ultimately support (the UBP's means tested daycare proposal). The PLP's 2007 election platform was for all intents and purposes the UBP's ideas + 10%.

The UBP said St. George's needs a Police Station, the PLP send the Hustle Truck.

The UBP promised means tested daycare, the PLP say daycare for everyone.

That was the way the election went almost on a daily basis.

Now, I know I'm rambling because it's getting late, but back to my main point, the UBP have proven unable to articulate with brevity the problems with the PLP's style of campaigning, and also seem unwilling to fight back with any sort of vigor.

So I defer to Obama, in his 2008 Democratic Convention speech, to describe all that is wrong with the politics that the PLP are practising today, that of demonising any critics as racists, angry partisans and pseudo foreigners:


Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it.

I get it too.

The PLP don't have a record, and much of what they claimed was their record during the election was a fraud and is crumbling under the weight of its spin - 'increasing tourism' and 'declining crime' for example, so they painted their 'opponent as someone people should run from.'

That much is undeniable, with the ads that Michael Dunkley was 'out to get you', supported lynching, wanting to 'lock everyone up'. It was shallow, crass and despicable.

But it was also successful.

So as I watched the Republicans over the past few nights try to paint Obama as someone people should run from, I grew weary and appalled. It all felt too familiar, so eventually, tonight I just had to turn the TV off.

There is a better way.

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A brief flurry of additional suggestions for the PLP's party paper:

- Brown Noser and/or Brown Knowser
- The HOTT-press
- The Prescription
- The Premier Times
- The Elitist Voice
- Brown's Daily Dose
- Brown's Full Court Press
- The Daily BrownOut
- The Dyslexic qlq Daily

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