November 2009 Archives

The B.D.A.'s PATI Submission can be found here or on Facebook here.

I can't find anything on the UBP's site yet except the post urging people to make submissions (and the PLP's is obviously the draft itself).

Jonathon Starling has posted his at his blog.

I presume we'll get the Gazette's in tomorrow's paper. Not sure about other media.

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Below is my PATI submission sent in today. It's by no means exhaustive, and this is a pretty complex piece of legislation, but I think it hits the main points.

I made a special effort to push for online access and electronic access to records, which I suspect may not be something which gets a lot of comment through the normal channels.

ATTN Cabinet Secretary

Please accept this email correspondence as a submission relating to the draft PATI legislation. Please confirm receipt.

I would comment on the following issues:

1) Retro-activity of this legislation is critically important. There should be no start date for record eligibility subject to the Public Access to Information legislation.

With respects to older documents, every effort should be made to retrieve these and the decision to release should err on the site of disclosure.

2) The draft legislation is silent on the issue of whistle-blower protection. This is a critical component of our public access to information.

Whistle-blowers tend to be insiders who will therefore require protection from negative sanction or consequences. Government officials, whether elected or otherwise, who attempt to interfere with or intimidate a whistle-blower should be subject to sanction and penalties. These would include potential fines and/or termination of employment as determined by an investigative panel and/or the courts.

3) Section 6 - The Commissioner should be required to maintain an online and open database of FOI requests (the log); including the status of all requests, the date requested and any subsequent actions as a result of the request.

Documents released should also be published online and be accessible to the general public through a website.

If the request pertains to personal information deemed unsuitable for public release (medical information for example) the log should contain an entry to that effect rather than an omission.

The draft legislation puts to onus on individuals to request access to the log. The log should be accessible at all times, and in real-time, through an open online database. Access to the server logs of website visitor activity should not be accessible by government officials, elected or
otherwise.

The ability to make requests online is vital. Individual identities can be protected and verified through digital certificates and digitally signed emails. The definition of a 'written request' should include electronic methods including email.

4) If it is not already the case, Government should make digitized records a priority and document retention enshrined in civil service procedures. Email should be considered a record and any emails sent or received on a government mail server should not be subject to deletion and should be archived as part of the public record. This would include mobile devices.

4) Fees for access to records should be low or non-existent so as not to act as a disincentive to FOI requests. Every resident is a taxpayer and as such should be considered a stakeholder who funds the public sector. As such anything other than nominal fees are inappropriate.

5) There should be no maximum number of requests for any individual or organisation.

6) Regulations should be made by way of affirmative resolution procedure i.e. vote in the Legislature, rather than negative resolution procedure, as is the case in the draft. Negative approach is inconsistent with spirit and purpose of Act.

7) All documents should be deemed releasable and exemptions should expire after 20 years (other than personal confidential information such as medical records).

8) Implementation of PATI legislation is a national priority and should be achievable within 12 months of passage by the House and Senate.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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Just wrapping up my submission on Public Access to Information. It's short and sweet, but I wanted to wait until the end before submitting to hear as many comments as I could to reinforce. Wisdom of crowds and all that.

Monday is the deadline. PATI@gov.bm is the address for submissions.

Please contribute, even if it's only brief. I think the key issues are retro-activity and whistle-blower protection. I'll post my submission tomorrow once it's final.

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The huge turnouts to see the Queen and the outpouring of goodwill along the streets feels like a valve has opened to release the pressure that has been building up.

I wandered down to the ferry terminal today when someone told me the Queen was on her way and the crowd was large, diverse...and giddy. People were thrilled to see the Queen, but I think more than that were really proud to show off their island to a large audience.

There's been plenty of comment about the lack of enthusiasm from the Premier and the Government for this 400th anniversary, which really has felt like a colossal missed opportunity. Overlay that with the constant niggling towards the Governor, the UK in general and the antagonistic approach to the British component of our heritage, and you had a population that was tense. Unnecessarily so.

We've heard relentlessly that because we're not independent that it is somehow 'unnatural' or that Bermuda is not mature. But I think the polls, and the atmosphere on the island this week, have shown that on this issue the Premier and his party are seriously out of step with the public by continuing to try to push an issue that people simply do not want.

I don't think that we Bermudians are royalists in any sense, or somehow enamored with the UK, or afraid of change. I'm certainly not. It seems to me that the constitutional arrangement that Bermudians ratified in 1995 and polls show support in larger numbers today, is rooted in our pragmatism.

The disconnect between the PLP and the Bermudian people is that while the vast majority of Bermudians are deeply pragmatic, the PLP leadership and membership are dogmatic on this issue. What we've seen is a shift from an overt pro-independent campaign to this campaign of contrived confrontation, culiminating with the Uighur issue and the fight over the Police, to somehow convince us that we're being oppressed or treated like children.

It would seem that the enthusiasm for the visit of the Queen has blown open this idea that we don't have shared interests and history, both which should be celebrated and exploited not suppressed.

So we've ended up with our 400 year celebrations feeling like they really started with the Queen's visit because the Government seems so ashamed of who we are as a country. The Bermuda 400 organisers have been working so hard, but it felt like they really didn't have the support of the political leadership. This culimated with the Premier being on vacation for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Bermuda.

The political campaign to suppress and erase all things British has had the side effect of squandering one of our greatest tourism marketing assets. It's also wasted thousands of hours of energy on an issue that doesn't help advance solutions but creates new problems by embedding real problems in an outdated dogmatic political argument, rendering them that much harder to resolve.

It's been refreshing to see the Bermudian spirit unleashed over the past few days, and people from all backgrounds so excited to be showing off what makes Bermuda such an international success story and a unique blend of cultures.

May it continue.

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Hope the Queen enjoys her boat trip to Dockyard. Couldn't have a nicer day. Mr. Miliband looked quite relaxed weaving his way through.

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Seriously. $8.50 a pound for grapes? Even for Miles that's ridiculous.

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Considering that Bermuda bills itself as the world's risk capital it doesn't help the brand when the Premier of said island makes the following statement about health insurance costs:

Dr. Gibbons interjected: "If you have three times the number of people enrolled in something, it's roughly three times the cost."

But Dr. Brown said: "It's statistically dangerous to assume the second set of people who come into FutureCare will carry the same statistical likelihood of disease."

Say what? Statistically dangerous to assume that large pools of individuals have similar risk profiles?

Um, that's not 'statistically dangerous', unless you mean dangerous to weak political arguments. That's statistically sound. Law of large numbers and all.

Unless Dr. Brown intends to start screening Future Care applicants for pre-existing conditions, or weighing them, or taking their blood pressure, there is no reason whatsoever to assume that the next 5,000 entrants will look any different in medical profile than the first 5,000. None.

I'd go so far as to say that the projections of the Future Costs of Future Care being used today are going to end up being vastly underestimated.

As one of my readers emailed me today:


Christian, one thing you might want to remember. In 1966 Medicare cost $3 billion.
At the time the Ways and Means Committee estimated that it would cost $12 billion in
1990 - instead it cost $107 billion (a factor of 9).

I don't know what sort of analysis the PLP has done of this program (apparently none) but even if they had why should anyone be confident that any such estimate is more accurate than the one that the US used when it introduced Medicare.

Government is terrible at projecting and controlling costs on the simple stuff. The horror stories of capital project overruns are well documented.

This unreal and optimistic attitude to planning and costing out Future Care is worse because as crazy as the construction overspends have been at least when the job ends the costs stop (and the lawsuits end).

A poorly planned and politically oriented public health insurance plan will see costs compound at an astronomical rate with no way to put a lid on them.

You can't blame the local insurers for this debacle. The first rule of business is don't compete with the Government. Hence they pulled out of the over 65 market. After all they weren't just competing with Government, but Government offered to take the most expensive clients off their books.

The Minister said that the local Insurance providers had a responsibility to the public, saying that they work almost as a monopoly on the Island.

No. They have an obligation to their policy holders and shareholders. Government has a responsibility to the public. When Government offers free insurance to the highest risks, an insurer would be nuts to try and compete. How do you make money competing with free.

Dr. Brown is a medical doctor who owns private clinics. Dr. Gibbons is part of a family that owns a health insurer and sits on its board.

Setting interests aside, who do you think has a better understanding of the long term costs of insurance?

I'd say it's the guy cutting the cheques, not the one mailing the bills.

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Get home. Everyone out. Inside of the house lit up like Vegas. Women!

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Good to see a new flight to Toronto on WestJet, starting in May of 2010. Air Canada could use a little competition on that route.

I suspect the benefit will be greatest for locals and Canadian families than tourists, but every little bit helps.

There was also a dump of selected stats released again on tourism today. I'm only linking to the article because I'm at the stage where I find tourism stats completely incomprehensible. The constant reclassifications, reporting period changes and highly selective snapshots provided make any kind of informed analysis of trends almost impossible.

Most of the incoherence I put down to political interference, but some is also the press not charting things out, preferring to describe in 1,000 words what could be best illustrated in a nice little picture.

Take this for example:

However air arrivals did increase in September, by one percent -- previously, industry leaders predicted the air arrivals figures would be lower.

One percent in September is rounding error; one percent is Michael Bloomberg bringing a couple extra NY politicians down for a round of golf.

We need trends, not cherry-picked snapshots. A couple of disconnected points does not a trend make.

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Did I spell teachable wrong? Ooh. That's bad. That's really a teachable moment.

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Demerit point to Michael Dunkley for using the phrase 'techable moment' in a political oped today. http://bit.ly/92mU25

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Channelling my inner 14 year old girl. Off to see New Moon.

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Isn't it funny that the only time our politicians don't like cameras is in Parliament.

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LIstening to the debate on Future Care in Parliament has been interesting. Let's just say that it's a good thing the Premier went into medicine and not actuarial science. But that's not what I want to comment on here.

He also made a statement in rebuttal to Grant Gibbons and his estimate of the ultimate cost of Future Care.

Dr. Brown paralleled the cost which the UBP are using with the PLP's number during the election campaign around status grants. You may recall the PLP attacked the UBP for wanting to create 8,000 new status Bermudians (and the press duly repeated it, even though it was on its face absurd creating a phony controversy).

The Premier said that the PLP put a number out there, and he paused to pick his words carefully, 'which resonated', suggesting that the UBP was adopting this tactic on Future Care to 'frighten people'.

So there you have it folks, the Premier proudly admitted that his party blatantly lied to the public during the election campaign as a scare tactic (even though I have no idea what the UBP were doing bringing up status during an election campaign).

Of course this admission invites the completely reasonable accusation that he is similarly fabricating a number now on the low side to give false comfort over the true cost of Future Care.

The extension of the argument was that it's the current and future Governments job to control the cost of Future Care. We know how well Governments in general, but particularly this Government, controls costs don't we. And construction costs are much easier to project and control than health care costs.

Revealingly the PLP, and even the Speaker, continued to interject that the UBP can't criticise the PLP for not costing it out properly because "it was an election promise". There you have it, election promises shouldn't be taken seriously. That was in fact the core rebuttal to the UBP's critique.

While most people expect a certain amount of silliness, political campaigns need to be grounded in some level of honesty. That was one of the UBP's insurmountable challenges; they've been operating around a basic level of seriousness while the other side will say anything no matter how outlandish.

As a friend constantly says to me, riffing on comedian Stephen Colbert's famous line, "reality has an anti-PLP bias".

We desperately need to elevate our political discourse, and demand reality based politics.

Future Care was an election promise issued on the assumption that the details were unimportant and Government revenues would always increase.

Is there anyone left who needs disabusing of that notion? Can Bermuda afford to continue on this way?

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Wonders how long before we can retire '@royalgazette framed me' as an excuse? http://bit.ly/26bfgH Get more original people.

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RT @UncleElvis: just saw that the Premier is giving the Loyal Toast. This could be an amazing train wreck! - No kidding Mike.

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A little low on motivation right now. You can blame me downloading the first season of Mad Men on AppleTV.

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Is it not a bit early for Christmas to be starting? 12 days is turning into 12 months of Christmas.

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At my breaking point with Vista. Why should I pay Microsoft for Win 7 to fix Vista? They should be paying me. Seriously considering Mac.

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For The Daily Show fans out there, this rather silly but entertaining segment on how Jon Stewart feels while he watches Fox News is how I feel when I pay a usually ill-advised visit to the PLP's website.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Sean Hannity Apologizes to Jon
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Andrew Sullivan's description of Fox News's Sean Hannity articulates precisely the disconnected from reality, extreme brand of partisanship peddled by the PLP, particularly on their website:

Above is Jon Stewart's version of watching Sean Hannity. Yes, I've tried to as well. It's like listening to Hugh Hewitt. Or reading Pravda in the old Soviet Union. But somehow watching a human being so brainwashed and engaging in conscious brain-washing makes it worse. Hannity is a pathological level of propagandist, because his entire reality, his entire mindset is programmed for ideology and partisanship. There is no world for him but politics; and no perspective within politics except conflict and warfare. He greets views that do not comport with the opportunistic ideology of the moment as threats to be extinguished, not ideas to be engaged.

It's for those reasons that when I see the PLP website say "Let's put the political games aside, focus on what unites us and work together to build a better Bermuda" I cringe.

Less than a week ago they were wrongly accusing people of being members of the new political party and defaming them:

Those who have thusfar joined Bermuda's DA are the same old vitriolic voices who have long opposed the PLP. Many of them have a long historic of being partisan, anti-PLP attack dogs desperate to regain political power.

It's a pathological level of propaganda. It isn't serving Bermuda, nor their party in the long term, well.

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My perhaps cynical read of this article on amending the gambling laws (which I'm personally ambivalent about - it will neither save nor destroy Bermuda tourism), is that this legislation will be crafted so that a vote against gambling means Crown and Anchor will disappear from Cup Match. Now that would be an interesting tactic... and fun to watch unfold:

"We will table a Green Paper that will set out the research commissioned by the Task Force on Gaming. There will be some clear indications of what is not suitable for Bermuda and what, provided it is supported, Bermuda could have.

"Additionally, the Paper will recommend consolidation of all laws that touch on gaming of any kind into one piece of legislation. This will permit far greater certainty and clarity in the law.

"In my view, once we as a community are able to make an informed decision based on high quality, independent research, we can make a decision that represents what is best for all of us in Bermuda."

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Thinking about a lunchtime bike ride dodging traffic.

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Just saw the Kindle TV ad. Holy Apple iPod knock-off.

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Spent an hour at Parliament watching the Throne Speech debate. 4 people in their seats out of 36. Dinner was up.

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8:45 AM (After Monsoon), Marsh Folly Rd, guy in a red BMW convertible...top DOWN! Either he's an extreme meteorologist or made of Gore-Tex.

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On the topic of why Bermuda Democratic Alliance don't have the bda.bm domain, Sean Soares, a party member emailed me the following:

To be fair to BermudaNIC, the domain has been registered by a public person. Talks are ongoing to see if they will make it available. In the spirit of the name, We truly hope that if it is not released that it is used for good purposes.

I understand this to be true as well based on detailed information from multiple persons. However the lack of a WHOIS record suggests that it is not formally registered which is odd. My understanding is that the Registrar changed their position recently on giving out bda.bm, which they were, for lack of a better word, protecting, due to it's strong affiliation with the Bermuda national identity.

They had been approached recently by a private individual for it and felt they should offer it to them prior to the BDA political party's more recent attempt to register.

Actually, I think they probably should then go all the way back to Denis Pitcher who appears to be the earliest known individual who attempted to register the domain.

If I were the BDA I would register "thebda.bm" as a backup, because it's that little bit better than "thealliance.bm".

I should also add that I agree that no-one should be forced to give up a domain which they have properly registered.

This also illuminates the shortcomings around the BermudaNIC domain registration service. It's a horribly antiquated and bureaucratic process that doesn't even charge a nominal fee to own a .bm address.

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Rain meant 28 five year olds in the house today. No blood or tears! Parliamentarians take note.

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The UBP are taking abuse, and rightly so, for not releasing the vote count from their leadership election - even to the delegates.

There goes the high ground on transparency guys. What are they thinking?

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St. George's ferry service cancelled, overtime cutbacks in the Civil Service. Cue Simply Red:

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It is somewhat surprising, although not unexpected, that the initial skirmish around the new party (other than trying to brand it the UBP), is about the name.

This hasn't been explicitly raised but is clear to anyone observing the language around the launch:

  • the PLP's first statement referred to them as "Bermuda's DA", which is conspicuously intentional
  • Jonathon at Catch a Fire (who's always up for a conspiracy) refuses to call them the BDA, opting also for Bermuda's DA with a sort of weird and clumsy argument about global parties using Democratic Alliance. But he's prone to overthinking issues.
  • the name was previously used by Alex Outerbridge and
  • and the party does not (yet or perhaps ever) have the domain bda.bm registered, although they do have bermudademocraticalliance.bm and thealliance.bm registered.

I'll take the last one last, but it's pretty clear that the PLP do not like the name and want to try not to let the BDA acronym stick.

I understand that, but it won't work because it's a good name, so good it had to be used; catchy and relevant. The election campaigns are right there, two words "Vote BDA". Short and sweet.

You've got to try and shut that down early. It is futile though.

It reminds me of the US, where some Republicans refuse to call the Democratic Party by that name. They call it the Democrat Party, which is a rather subtle dig that the party is not democratic. It really annoys some Democrats, but is just silly insider baseball.

There's also the issue that there was a previous attempt at a party called the Bermuda Democratic Alliance and therefore the new party shouldn't be able to use it. But that doesn't make much sense to me because the party never got off the ground and the name is a good one, was available and is fair game to be used.

The PLP would howl if people said "well, they're not progressive nor labour in any real sense, so we'll just call them "Party". Surely we're mature enough to respect the name an organisation chooses. If that's the name they want to go by then that's what they should be called.

Finally there's something that I looked up immediately when I heard last week what they were going to call themselves, which is the website.

The party conspicuously lacks the registration of the domain "bda.bm". They do have bermudademocraticalliance.bm and thealliance.bm, but there's no way they don't want, or didn't try to get that domain. Zero chance.

So why do they have the other two but not the logical bda.bm?

BermudaNIC, which is part of the Registry General, is a real relic in the way sites get registered: only businesses can register, you have to send a fax - yes a fax - on company letterhead, and the process takes days if you're lucky. (Plus, they don't charge. Government could make a few bucks off domain registrations.)

The process requires human approval versus the US process which is automated. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some games going on around the bda.bm domain.* [See update below.]

Look at Denis's experience when he tried to register it not too long ago:

One of the first ventures into attempting to form the party came in the form of trying to register www.bda.bm. It proved an interesting saga as I was made to jump through endless hoops in what was a clear attempt to find every means to not give me the domain. I was told I couldn't have the domain name unless I was a registered company or charity. So I went to the registrars office and looked up the requirements as well as the listings of the existing UBP and PLP. Turns out, they weren't registered. So I took this evidence back to plead my case only to be told I had to have a request printed on the letterhead and logo of the party. So I went off, composed this and returned only to then be told that I needed to have a party constitution. So I threw his together and returned only to be told that I needed to identify who the officers of my party was, who the treasurers were and that I needed to prove an established presence before I could get the domain name. I tried to plead my case that the foundation of the party I was trying to form was to be solidly based upon the website and that I couldn't possibly have directors and an established presence without attracting more individuals via a website. The manager/director there wouldn't budge and it became obvious that no matter what I did, the bar would be raised ever higher to prevent me.

If the BDA were given the other two domains there can be no logically consistent reason not to give them the other more obvious one. Hence their use of thealliance.bm, which is fine but not really what they wanted I'm sure, although it's not bad either.

If I were in the BDA, which I'm not, I'd repeat the name every chance I had. It's going to stick anyway, but this would help it along.

[*Update: I'm informed that bda.bm is already registered. Which would be odd because it doesn't show up in a domain registration WHOIS search as it should.]

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Talk about looking for problems, but how can you make the following all-encompassing statement in the Throne Speech on a core issue of discrimination:

"The intention of the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination against all classes of people must be fulfilled. Therefore the Act will be amended to ensure that no person is discriminated against in Bermuda."

And then less than 72 hours later say that "all" didn't mean "all", particularly the issue that everyone presumed you were talking about because it's been the hot topic for a few years now, culminating in a Parliamentary flame-out of epic proportions:

Today, Ms Butterfield told the media Mr. Butler had taken the issue to Cabinet earlier this year, but that it had been turned down. She said she did not know whether individual Cabinet members had been against the move, but only that the collective decision had been to reject it.

This is a cop-out, but also political strategy malpractice.

Firstly, why make such a grandiose statement in the Throne Speech when you didn't have to, and secondly why queue this up in your first post speech press conference?

Self-inflicted really. But it is a shining example of not letting the facts get in the way of your bold spin.

The PLP professes to be the party of civil rights, but on this core issue of discrimination they are chronically incapable of doing the right thing.

This is a basic human right. Make it happen.

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Smoking ribs. Kansas City style tonight. Carb count? Zero. Mmmmmm.

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Population of Bermuda is 65,000 people, 6.5 billion ants.

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Earlier today the PLP website quietly deleted the whole section of their post from Thursday where they engaged in a ridiculous and factually devoid attack on a number of people and organisations, including myself.

Presumably someone with some political sense, common sense, but most importantly a legal background, advised them of the potential perils of leaving that post up there.

What remains is what they should have had the political sense to write in the first place. There was no upside to the desperate and manufactured cheap shots at people unaffiliated with the BDA.

Magnanimity would have played so much better than a post that displayed a complete lack of class and suggested they felt threatened.

Most importantly this incident encompassed so much of what is wrong with the whole political environment in Bermuda. It highlights why the debate about free speech, freedom of the press and responsible journalism, as discussed at the HRC forum the other night demands further examination.

I should also say that I was extremely disappointed that Bermuda Broadcasting appears to have been the only news entity which lacked the professional to report that statement on air in its entirety, verbatim.

The Gazette ignored it, as did VSB as far as I'm aware. The Sun ignored the offending sections and reported the appropriate part, all displaying their journalistic credentials, professionalism and common sense.

Bermuda Broadcasting ran it with no fact-checking, no consideration of the unfounded character attacks and no consideration to the individuals subjected to the character attacks.

At best it was lazy, at worst it was unprofessional. It certainly wasn't journalism.

What it was is a shining example of what I referred to a few posts ago as what happens when the press fall victim to one party's relentless attacks on the press as biased, "working the refs" in a political system. They "madly try to split the difference" in a misplaced attempt to show balance.

Balance, fairness and objectivity is not simply repeating whatever both sides say, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how disconnected from reality it is. It doesn't matter if you attribute it as a direct quote. That doesn't give you a free pass to report utter libelous nonsense or play off complete fiction as a credible argument.

As someone emailed me today they said:

Like you say, play the refs. It's not necessary to be "balanced" when one side is crazy.

It's even worse that the PLP website posts these attacks anonymously and the press reports on them. The press should quite simply ignore anything that comes from a political party without a name attached to it.

Someone has to be accountable for what they said. And no, the parallel to an anonymous letter to the editor is not applicable. This is a political party that is issuing official statements anonymously, specifically so they can attack people without recourse.

We heard so much at the forum about responsible journalism, the power they wield and the dangers of ruining reputations. In fact that was Wendell Hollis's whole angle attacking the Gazette and defending the PLP and Dr. Brown at the forum other night.

Wendell is completely silent on the absolutely libelous nonsense and character attacks that appear routinely on the PLP website, the party he currently is affiliated with and campaigned for.

I have been the target of these attacks on multiple occasions. Members of my family have been targeted by these anonymous character assassinations along the lines of last night's attack. Even worse in one instance.

Bermuda can do so much better than this.

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I'm embarassed for Bermuda that you have to send a fax to register a website domain. How 1980s. Acid wash jeans anyone?

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Is pleased to be leading the PLP now that I joined their Facebook pages.

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Last night I posted the following quote:

...it is patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side.

Swap the "American" for "Bermudian" and I present Exhibit A

Money quote:

Those who have thusfar joined Bermuda's DA are the same old vitriolic voices who have long opposed the PLP. Many of them have a long historic of being partisan, anti-PLP attack dogs desperate to regain political power. Consider the DA's facebook group members: they include longtime PLP opponents like biased former Mid-Ocean News reporter Clare O'Connor, former UBP public relations operative Alex Jones and former UBP candidate and anti-PLP bomb thrower Christian Dunleavy. Even The Royal Gazette's official facebook page has signed up to be a facebook supporter of Bermuda's DA, a party led exclusively by former UBP members.

Sadly, when I said it was a time for seriousness I did expect the nuttiness to continue but this Facebook angle is pretty desperate.

Oh, an FYI. I joined the PLP today. Really.

It was simple. How did I do that? I simply clicked "Join" on the "I am Celebrating Victory for the PLP!" Facebook page and clicked Become a Fan of the PLP on the PLP Facebook page. Which of course means then that I'm a member, which of course then means the PLP is led by an "anti-PLP bomb thrower" right? Because that's what it meant when I joined BDA's Facebook page.

The thing about Facebook, you see, is that you join a group so you can get a feed. The thing with Twitter is that you "follow" someone so you can get the updates. But they of course know that. This is just school yard stupidity.

I joined the "Department of Communication and Information" group because I wanted to get the feed on what Government is doing, obviously not because I'm a Government press officer. I follow all sorts of cycling feeds on twitter because I follow the sport, not because I'm a pro-cyclist, as much as I'd love to be but I'm about 60 pounds and a transplanted VO2 max away for that.

Is everyone on Ewart Brown's Facebook page a supporter or there for the info? Read some comments and decide for yourselves.

This. Is. So. Stupid. I can't believe I'm even wasting time on this.

I'll say this again as I did last night. I am not a member, supporter, covert operative or anything to do with the super-double-secrety-secret-great-white-conspiracy-steering-committe-aka-the-UBP-aka-the-new-Party.

I'm a member of no party, which I know is threatening to the PLP's define your opponent strategy. I'm attempting to engage in rational conversation in the midst of a shrill political environment orchestrated by the PLP.

Really. It doesn't have to be this contrived and shallow.

I posted this before, but this just reeks of the Bush Administration which famously said that they create their own reality.

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.''

I know that's what the PLP are trying to do here, but do they really want to continue down this path.

Really?

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Learned that I'm leading the new BDA party because I joined their Facebook page. I'm also a bomb thrower. The PLP never cease to amuse me.

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Suffering from internet induced ADD. Blackberries, Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs. Pass the Ritolin.

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Interesting forum tonight at the BUEI by the Human Rights Commission on the Free Press and Responsible Journalism.

Pretty high turnout, around 100 people at its peak and it went until about 8:45 with a long interaction between the panel and the audience.

Rick Richardson moderated well and prevented it deteriorating, which it looked poised to do early on. He was having none of that.

There was a lot of venting, some explanations but not much pandering which was refreshing. The hard news to come out of it was that the Human Rights Commission sought and received a legal opinion from the UN and a constitutional lawyer (as I recall) that the Premier's directive to reduce contact with the Gazette was unconstitutional and against the UN's declaration on freedom of the press.

Otherwise there was a pretty good interaction.

I must admit that the continual comparison of the Premier's war on the Royal Gazette with that of Fox News and the Obama administration in the US makes me chuckle, although Gazette editor Bill Zuill teed it up.

The more appropriate comparison would be the Bush administrations strategic fight with the New York Times, which involved screaming liberal bias while getting very compliant pro-Iraq war coverage.

The whole idea was quite simply to work the refs, which the New York Times as the paper of record is.

That's what is going on with Dr. Brown's ramping up of his adversarial approach to the Royal Gazette, our only daily and the paper of record. He's working the refs.

As I said at the end of the meeting, picking the fight with the Gazette is not a principled argument but a political tactic to play the underdog, even though he is the Premier of the Government, the most powerful institution on the island with a large PR apparatus.

Now, on the idea that the RG is the equivalent of Fox News which I wanted to address but it was late and the meeting was wrapping up.

The appropriate analogy is of course Fox News and Hott 107.5.

Fox News is strongly aligned with the Republican party, to the point of being caught circulating Republican talking points to their on-air talent. Their prime time lineup is heavy on conservative opinion and has blurred the line between news and opinion. Staged conflict between Fox News and the Democrats and other 'liberal media' energises the Republican base and increases ratings.

Hott 107.5 is owned by a PLP Cabinet Minister, run by an appointed PLP Senator, and receives substantial Government support through advertising. Their drive-time lineup is news embedded in opinion, delivered by that same Government Senator. If you want a politically biased media outlet that's it.

If that isn't enough to convince you, then consider this: Dick Cheney will only be interviewed on Fox News by their conservative hosts, while Dr. Brown's long-time exclusive interviewer was radio host Thaao Dill, his Senate appointee on, yes, you got it, Hott 107.5, the radio station owned by a PLP Cabinet Minister.

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BDA

ZBM announced, and the website confirms that the former UBPers are launching tomorrow as the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

Website ready to go at bermudademocraticalliance.bm or thealliance.bm.

How do I know? Am I involved? Nope. I just guessed the first domain and it refers to the latter.

Good luck to them.

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Pretty big turnout at the forum on Freedom of the Press tonight. About 100 people.

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I'm off to the forum by the Human Rights Commission on the media at the BUEI.

Here's an applicable quote from an interview in the Economist with Dan Froomkin, former columnist/blogger for the Washington Post, on the challenge journalists face in the US which applies in Bermuda as well today:

DIA: Do you think the media should strive for objectivity in its reporting?

Mr Froomkin: No. Journalists should strive for accuracy, and fairness. Objectivity is impossible, and is too often confused with balance. And the problem with balance is that we are not living in a balanced time. For instance, is it patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side. Madly trying to split the difference, as so many of my mainstream-media colleagues feel impelled to do, does a disservice to the concept of the truth.

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These links will take you to the properly formatted documents released yesterday:

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Wondering if Bermuda Broadcasting will ever bother fixing the audio levels on channel 9? HD is far too much to ask for I know.

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Two important and highly anticipated reports released on successive days. Yesterday was the report on young black males and today was the Bermuda First Report.

I've skimmed both but need to digest more.

My first reaction is that both support the arguments that serious commentators have been saying for some time but has been lost in all the shrill background noise (not unintentional):

  • on race we won't see parity until we fix education in general and a horrendous dropout rate.
  • on the economy the near term outlook is poor but doesn't have to be that way. The most important factors to ensure continued economic success and expansion is to eliminate the internal attacks on our sole economic pillar, put tourism in the hands of non-political professionals and be pro-active in the face of external threats to the financial services sector

None of these conclusions are particularly earth shattering or novel, but it is very helpful to have them presented by non-partisan groups/individuals and can hopefully allow the serious side of politics - policy making - to take precedence over the deeply un-serious campaigns of the past decade.

How quickly things can change.

I've said to a number of people that the PLP were very fortunate to have gone to the polls in December 2007, when the good times appeared to be rolling. That resulted in a shallow and un-serious campaign dominated by shrill tactics and demagoguery.

That wouldn't have played so well in December of 2008 during the economic crisis, or December 2009 with Bermuda's economy showing signs of pain.

While the UBP would almost certainly still not have won, I suspect voters would have given them a harder look; on the issues they were much, much more serious and substantive. The popular vote very well could have been closer and the UBP may have pulled another seat or two.

It's a shame that the UBP are so bad on the politics while the PLP are the complete inverse, giving complete primacy to the politics, leaving the policy as an afterthought or trying to catch up.

The optimal answer is somewhere in the middle - reality based politics grounded in achievable public policy.

Hopefully these reports can usher in an era of somber seriousness. Bermuda is indeed at a crossroads, one that we were approaching in the late 90s early 2000's but was delayed by the reinsurance boom post September 11th and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

It's time to face the music.

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So many reports to read. So little time.

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I know I've been a persistent critic of the Music Festival, but it's with reason. So here it goes again:

The measure of the success of the Music Festival isn't whether it was 'a huge hit' as the PLP website declares, or whether the acts were entertaining.

Success is whether the event delivered tourists to the island, which is after all the mandate of the Department of Tourism.

This image from the first night of the music festival, as well as the many empty seats visible in the video footage, suggest that even in a much smaller venue seat sales were weak.

That isn't much of a surprise when you consider that the lineup was a mystery until weeks before the event, which is clearly not conducive to travel planning, hence the plethora of freebies which were circulating in the last couple of weeks.

I must admit to being a little bewildered that after Government hired Rock Newman to promote the event the appearance was that he then outsourced the lineup to "Quincy Jones" and (as yet unknown) "Friends" in a last minute Hail Mary.

The taxpayers of Bermuda deserves an economic impact study of the Bermuda Music Festival, the Love Festival and the PGA Grand Slam, not the subjective declarations of success from the vested political interests and their hired hands.

I worked on the first JazzFest, and believe that an event like this has its place in our calendar, but it is so far off the mark right now that it isn't funny. It needs to be completely reassessed and reworked with a clear mandate and time frame for moving it towards profitability and/or a private sector initiative.

It has become increasing hard for even the most charitable souls to deny that these events, and participation in Bermuda politics in general, are an extension of Dr. Brown's obsession with celebrity, both his own and others.

if you don't believe that, just view the paid images on the Getty Images website of Dr. Brown with the beautiful people, and the press release from the Bermuda Music Festival about the premier of the Michael Jackson movie with Dr. Brown and "the First Lady" as one of the confirmed celebrity appearances.

This really needs to stop. These events are catering to the wrong constituency. It's little more than a taxpayer funded celebrity vehicle for Dr. Brown.

What we need are dispassionate numbers about the economic value of these events to Bermuda. And spin like the 'audience of 80 million" for the PGA tournament isn't it. That's the total subscriber base, not actual ratings.

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Savouring my final carbs for awhile.

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