January 2010 Archives

A delayed budget doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

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BDA Broadcasting has a still shot ad for the Super Bowl & even that image is barely viewable. @CBSTweet would be appalled at the picture.

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A reader writes on Paula Cox's shocking oped from Wednesday:

"In addition, there is an accountability framework that includes the office of the Accountant-General's Department, the Office of the Auditor-General, the Office of Internal Audit, and the Ministry of Finance HQ."

Why does she even mention this, when this exact "accountability framework" has been raising red flags over the years only to be ignored and/or challenged by government under the guise of menace.

Two qualified audits as a starter. And the Ministry of Finance can't overrule bonehead directives coming from Cabinet and the Minister. They just have to try and make it work.

The Finance Minister is really really reaching to justify her poor stewardship of the country's finance.

Bob Richards has a good rebuttal today. He wasn't overly academic for a change.

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Vexed has two good posts on Government's fiscal irresponsibility and poor attempts to justify the exploding debt against GDP, which are worth a read.

One additional point to bear in mind.

When Ms. Cox declares our debt as $679M (and counting but excluding the $200M guarantee on the Bank of Butterfield), she ignores the hospital redevelopment.

That project is an additional $315M of debt (budgeted, if past is prologue it will be multiples of that) hidden off the books through an accounting gimmick of Public Private Partnerships.

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A big shout out to my new reader from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who started reading on the 25th.

I wouldn't have pegged you as a Mac user, but it's nice to know you care.

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"Crimes against a person have soared" says @royalgazette http://bit.ly/cgYxJT. How unlucky is that that person? Sucks to be him or her.

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The PLP website boldly declares that the new flight from Toronto indicates that "WestJet [is] Bullish on Bermuda Tourism".

Or..."Westjet bullish on students, friends & family."

Additional airlift and competition is always a good thing, but the Miami flight was pitched as a tourism coup as well, but any local who has been on that flight knows that when you return from Miami you get through Immigration much faster if you skip the long Bermudians and Residents lines and head right for the empty visitor section.

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The role of Finance Minister has always held clout and prestige and that of a serious guardian of the public purse. Until today.

Paula Cox published a pre-budget oped setting the stage for a debt level that is clearly about to explode in the next budget and trying to deflect her role in the mess that the PLP have got Bermuda's finances into:

The Minister of Finance operates as a cog in the wheel. My role is to add value and to provide input on fiscal positions taken in various ministries. I can indicate support or objection. However the sponsoring minister(s) knows that I cannot overrule their request unless I have others who join with me to support and uphold my position.

Individual Ministers are 'finance directors' in their own right and have a responsibility to keep a keen eye on how their senior officials manage their budgets and projects.

Weak. Seriously weak.

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The iPad looks good, but I'll be waiting for version 2 or 3, hopefully minus that thick black border.

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A couple of quick email follow ups from my last post:

From Vexed (as I suspected):

For the record, their pointing out my post on the nuclear family as supporting evidence is incorrect. The same strengths apply to children in gay marriages. It is the union that counts, not the gender.

From another reader:

... I would have liked to see you also address the writers spurious references to studies regarding drug use and STDs. It seems this writer would have you believe that these things only exist in the LGBT community? (not really surprising considering they equated them with pedophiles and thieves).

The writer is either incapable or unwilling to take this data at anything
but face value. Perhaps the drug use is so commonplace in these studies
because the LGBT community has been discriminated against and they see drug
use as an escape from this. The same goes for the STD stats, where
dangerous, clandestine sexual acts are a necessity for these individuals who
have been forced to live a double life.

I can and will do that, but my previous post was already pretty long and there was so much to address. But yes, the science cited is selective and I will address that in the next day or so.

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This will be a long post, because I want to take the following email I received from a reader and respond. First the email.

Christian,

The gay agenda relates to efforts to change government policies and laws on LGBT issues (e.g., same-sex marriage, LGBT adoption, recognizing sexual orientation as a civil rights minority group, LGBT military participation, inclusion of LGBT history and themes in public education) as well as non-governmental campaigns and individual actions which increase visibility and cultural acceptance of LGBT people, relationships, and identities.

Today they may be saying they simply want an amendment to the Human Rights Act, but if the US gives us an indication of their next steps, and I believe it does, then the items noted above will soon follow. Thus, it is properly referred as the Gay Rights Agenda

First we need to evaluate if this is a life style decision or if it has a genetic base. While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Identical twins have identical genes. If homosexuality was a
biological condition produced inescapably by the genes (e.g. eye color), then if one identical twin was homosexual, in 100% of the cases his brother would be too. But we know that only about 38% of the time is the identical twin brother homosexual. Genes are responsible for an indirect influence, but on average, they do not force people into homosexuality. This conclusion has been well known in the scientific community for a few decades but has not reached the general public. Indeed, the public increasingly believes the opposite. There are numerous other studies that lead us to the same conclusion, but for the sake of brevity I will omit further details. Consequently, I think we can conclude that LGBT is lifestyle decision and not a genetically determined factor.

Most, but not all, of the characteristics protected by the Human Rights Act relate to matters that are outside of a persons control - sex, race, colour, language, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. However, by and large the same protections are not extended for individuals lifestyle decisions. For example, we would not argue that the Human Rights Act should be amended to protect drunkards, drug addicts, thieves, slanderers or pedophiles. Likewise we should not be extending special protection to those who identify themselves as LGBT. Why?

Because, just as drunkards, drug addicts, thieves, slanderers and pedophiles are detrimental to society, so are those who are LGBT. The degree of harm to society is not the same (just as the degree of harm by two different drunkards is not the same), but it is still detrimental to society.

Consider some of the following:

* Analyzing data taken by the Ministry of Health of 15,000 New Zealanders between 2003 and 2004, the researchers found that 42.7 per cent of those in the homosexual lifestyle regularly smoke cigarettes in the last year compared to 27.7 per cent of heterosexuals. Homosexuals of both sexes are also twice as likely to have used marijuana; nearly four times as likely to have used amphetamines; more than four times as likely to have used LSD and more than three times as likely to have regularly used Ecstasy.
* April 11, 2007 - Last year, 6,360 gay men were tested by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center for sexually transmitted diseases, and one in four had used methamphetamines at least once, the Los Angeles Times has reported (1). That frequency is twenty times greater than in the general population.
* Homosexual promiscuity is well documented. Before AIDS almost half of white homosexual males had had at least 500 different partners, and 28 percent had had 1000 or more, mostly strangers.32 Homosexuals still have 3-4 times as many partners as heterosexuals6,66 (when medians rather than means are compared), and between 13 percent and 50 percent of gays continue to practice high risk sex post-AIDS, evidence surely of an addictive drive.
Please refer to Vexed's post regarding the importance of families at http://www.vexedbermoothes.com/nuclearfamily/
* and here is a link from the Gay and Lesbian Health Association regarding the health issues http://www.glma.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage

&pageID=690 of the LGBT community.

Again, I could continue with other examples, but for the sake of brevity I hope you will agree that LGBT is detrimental to society. Consequently, I would ask you to rethink your position on this matter.

I appreciate the email, however there isn't anything that I can agree with or endorse. The reader has gone to great lengths to attempt to justify discrimination and wrap it up in 'science'. What I read was a moral agenda being imposed on others under the guise of a dispassionate defense of the public interest.

This is about equal rights, not 'gay rights'. These are by and large the same pseudo-scientific arguments historically advanced to advocate racial discrimination which the overwhelming majority of people today find repugnant.

To break down some of the assertions.

Whether sexual orientation is a genetic or a lifestyle issue is simply irrelevant with respects to the Human Rights Code. The HRC protects many 'lifestyle choices' including political expression, religion orientation or others. Protecting a choice is not a new concept for the Act to embody, and protecting the private sexual behaviour of consenting adults strikes me as no greater or lesser a choice than religion or political views.

Regardless, lifestyle choices invoked by the reader - "drunkards, drug addicts, thieves,
slanderers or pedophiles" - involve a violation of the law or rights of others, excepting drunkards. However a drunk still has rights (but a gay drunkard has less).

Of course theft, defamation or sexual abuse of children is detrimental to individuals and society. But you cannot equate the sexual preference and behaviour between consenting adults with crimes against person or property by thieves, slanderers or pedophiles. The comparisons are simply invalid as they all involve force against someone else.

This is not a logical or legal argument on the reader's behalf but a moral one, based on the reader's own political or religious views (which I would note are protected under the human rights code).

I'm not all that interested in tackling the genetic or choice argument because that has little bearing on the Human Rights Code, but let's go with the example of twins. As the parent of identical twins I can attest that there are many differences between identical twins, identical genes or not. Think about it as two buildings built with identical blueprints. The blueprint may be the same but they will not be completely identical.

Additionally I have read a lot of the science on sexual orientation, and cannot agree with the claim that the biological contribution has been dis-proven. To the contrary, there is extensive research which points to sexual orientation being biologically determined, although it can clearly also be a choice.

As I said earlier though, none of that has any bearing on the Human Rights Code whatsoever.

You're not going to find me agreeing that homosexuality or trans-gender people are 'detrimental to society' any more than you're going to find me saying that inter-racial relationships are a detriment to society. Much the opposite, it's part of the fabric of what makes the world such an interesting place and I hope that as a society we can get past the fear or people who are different and choices we dislike.

Normally what happens is that once these changes are made there's a collective shrug, and everyone looks at each other and wonders what the big worry was.

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Can someone explain to me what an American law firm brings to the table in reviewing and drafting U.K. legislation for abolishing the Corporations?

Why were they picked for this? There's an angle here. What is it?

What will they recommend? Well, let me take a stab at this:

They're consultants. They'll recommend a) what the client wants and b) whatever results in another contract.

PS The Bushian effort at controlling the language is impressive. 'Reform' means 'abolition' or 'takeover', just as 'enhanced interrogation' is a polite term for 'torture'.

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Seriously? Cablevision overlays a sub-standard def CTV feed over both the regular and HD FOX channels for the NFL game? WTF? I hate BDA TV.

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Government held a press conference today regarding 'reform of the Municipalities' (read dissolution and takeover), and have apparently hired a consultant on this front. (So much for the moratorium on consultants).

A further centralisation of political and economic power in Bermuda is not a positive development. The Corporations provide local government and force collaboration between political entities. The Bermuda Government has not distinguished itself as an effective manager or responsible steward of public funds. They want total control now.

The corporations, while perhaps antiquated, are a key aspect of separation of powers and decentralisation of power in our small island which for all intents and purposes has a combined federal and local government.

Taking over the Corporations is likely to lead to less, not more efficient and effective Government.

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Larry Burchall writes today something that I've been saying to people for the past few weeks:

A difficult year lies ahead. I do not believe that Bermuda, or any other country, is so well-protected that it can fritter away nine months of 2010 with a 'lame duck' Premier and a ruling party that is idling its brain and twiddling its political thumbs while waiting on the slow roll of its own constitutional calendar.

...

No one political group or one politician transcends this country. Bermuda needs a fresh start today, not a long wait until far-off October. Grow up. Change. Admit and undo the now obvious mistake and move on.

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The tourism picture is bleak and worsening. That's not news.

But the story on the sale of Waterloo house, ending its time as a tourism property as it will be redeveloped into commercial residential space, was interesting for this comment from the developers:

Originally they wanted to build a hotel on the site as they own other hospitality properties in London, but found it was too small.

"We could not get the numbers to work as we would not have been able to have enough rooms," Mr. Green said. "We are now hoping to do a combination of office and residential.

An investor is on record admitting that the numbers for small properties no longer work. It's hard to see how the numbers work for larger properties in Bermuda as well.

The financing and capital just doesn't seem to exist for large scale developments in Bermuda; and it's hard to see the new Tucker's Point Hotel's experience as inspiring to potential hotel developers.

The optimist in me hopes someone finds a way to make this work, but the realist in me wonders what the economic model for hotel development in Bermuda is?

The numbers for small developments don't work, the capital required for large developments doesn't seem available for Bermuda? Something has to give if tourism development in Bermuda is to make sense to potential developers and financiers: capital is limited, labour costs are high, staffing and immigration rules are onerous, air arrivals are in a free fall, on island entertainment is almost non-existent, St. George's is a ghost town.

A couple of weeks ago the Gazette ran an article that frankly seemed delusional, listing off the same old properties all saying financing is in place and they'll be breaking ground shortly. We've heard this before, for years in fact.

I propose a new rule: no-one - particularly the outgoing Premier - is allowed to declare that a tourism development is imminent until the bulldozers are idling behind the press conference.

To date, the outgoing Premier/Tourism Minister's greatest tourism achievement has been the implosion of an old hotel. That about sums up his time at the helm.

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Apologies for the lack of activity. I unplugged for a few days and enjoyed it a bit more than expected.

I'll start re-posting again shortly.

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Anyone know a good piano teacher for a 7 year old?

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Who sync'd the rain with the work drive? Is there a new weather phenomenon known as El Commuto?

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With XL re-domesticating from the Cayman Islands to Ireland, our tourism stats look set to take a hit as well:

XL Capital has no employees in the Cayman Islands and McGavick said he has not traveled to the British territory once during his 18-month tenure as CEO. The operational headquarters will remain in Bermuda, but more than half the board meetings will be in Ireland to comply with regulations for establishing a holding company there, McGavick said.

Those board members get reported as tourists in the deliberately obfuscated air arrival numbers.

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Can someone explain to me what a 'gay rights agenda' is please?

The more appropriate terms would be an equal rights agenda.

It is very interesting that the PLP is staking out the territory as the party of discrimination.

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The end of Dr. Brown's authority began in earnest today with Dale Butler''s rather unconventional launch of a bid for his party's leadership today (11 uses of the word 'they', 2 uses of the word 'we' when referring to his own party), combined with Paula Cox's raised profile on crime smelling like the soft launch of her own bid. (Not to mention that the Finance Minister was the clear political beneficiary of the leaked Cabinet document revealing her objection to purchasing real estate in Hamilton).

The new year has not surprisingly signaled the beginning of the outgoing Premier's lame ducking. The practical realities of him having to offer to step down in 2010 to quell the Uighur uprising is that he has no political capital to spend, which is vital if he intends to advance an issue like casinos or negotiate any large new tourism developments without deception and more Parliamentary tricks (which failed the last time).

The only question left to answer now is if and when the 'beg me to stay' campaign begins?

One suspects that the crux of that campaign, if it happens, will be that Bermuda is facing some very difficult times ahead and Dr. Brown is the only guy up to the task.

That argument won't resonate because his legacy is all that has created these difficult times: an economy that has tanked, exacerbated by out of control spending; crime that has sky-rocketed both in frequency and severity; and tourism at all time lows.

2010 looks to be a critical year for Bermuda. Many question remains such as:

  • Who will lead the PLP (and therefore Bermuda) and what is their vision
  • Will the BDA be able to differentiate themselves from the UBP? So far there isn't any daylight between the two parties on philosophy or vision, just vehicle and personalities.
  • Has the UBP hit rock bottom and will it be able to start rebuilding?
  • Will the economy continue to contract or will it level out?
  • Will any tourism developments actually break ground, or will we be tortured with more vague assurances that financing is in place and yes, it's going to happen this year, even though we said that last year, and the year before, and the year before that?

The only way the outgoing Premier can make himself relevant in 2010 is to say that he doesn't intend to step down and will look to be re-elected in October.

Otherwise, during this most critical year, everyone will look past him as the Gazette's articles this morning demonstrate. He'll be increasingly talked about in the past tense.

The contenders are stepping up early. What's missing is a vision in how to to right this ship. The first task of those looking to succeed Dr. Brown's will be to start putting some distance between themselves and the outgoing Premier -as the Cabinet leak did for Paula Cox.

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The annual Regimental stories begin this week with boot camp, but this caught my attention:

"There are individuals who come here in gangs or people who just don't see eye to eye in the civilian world.

...and then three sentences later:

During those 13 days, the recruits will be trained in drill, firearms and survival skills.

Are we sure this is a good idea?

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Well that was an interesting lunchtime ride in gale and storm force gusts on North Shore. Shoulda gone South Shore. I'm covered in sea salt.

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Add two new members to the media conspiracy against the PLP. This time it's gone global, with New York's (liberal) Village Voice, Post, Gothamist and Cityfile gaining new member status for reporting on Mayor Bloomberg's offer of the NYPD to help Bermuda.

Over to the PLP for your daily laugh as Vexed points out:


While the media may prefer to focus on manufactured "controversies," the PLP Government will continue to focus like a laser beam on combating the crime crisis.

Like a laser beam? And the controversy is in the US not Bermuda.

The PLP like to lecture the local press about being careful what they print because news travels overseas thanks to Al Gore inventing George Bush's Internets; but of course it was they who ran out to crow about the outgoing Premier's 'friend' Mr. Bloomberg offering support for Bermuda out of his concern 'as a Bermuda resident'.

I'm sure Mr. Bloomberg and other friends of Bermuda will think twice after Minister Burch and the outgoing Premier thanked him for his offer by racing to the press to rehab some credibility on the back of the Premier's billionaire 'friend' by teeing him up for a beating in the NY press, who already love to slap him around for his Bermuda affiliation.

Next time I'm sure the phone call will end with a 'I know you want to boast that I'm your friend, but please be discreet. Our press actually are tough on us. Unlike yours."

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Traffic in town always flows better when the lights are broken. We should turn them off for a month as a test.

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I should say, after my last post, that I don't see the need to cut the PLP any slack on the crime issue for a number of reasons.

Setting aside my belief that the lawlessness and culture of silence stems in part from an anything goes political culture with its own code of silence, primarily I have not forgotten the way the topic of crime was treated during the election by the PLP.

They chose to engage the UBP on this core issue in a deeply irresponsible way, vilifying their proposals to crack down on an obviously escalating crime problem as 'draconian'; likening the UBP to 'neo-fascists'; the 'they want to lock us all up' comment from now Senator Bean; last minute 'renovations' of the St. George's Police Stations, all wrapped up in the Premier's speech on the eve of the election.

It was the most extreme kind of short term electioneering at any cost.

It struck me at the time as shockingly shallow, opportunistic and dangerous. Today, I find that to be even more apparent, as evidenced by the post election amnesia of everything they'd argued with a sudden turn around with talk of curfews, 'drawing lines in the sand' and 'we have had enough' speeches; although you get the sense they really are just throwing anything at the problem to see what sticks.

That is because the Government is playing catch up, rather than getting in front of a problem and stopping things escalating (not unique to crime). That was what the UBP's proposals on preventative detention and three strikes laws were about: taking known individuals off the street in the short term to stop a cycle of revenge. We could use that ability now in the tit for tat gun war which is raging. It was about removing prolific repeat offenders from society, not permanently, but for an extended period to give some room to breathe and focus on rehabilitation and prevention.

These ideas were not ideal, but they demonstrated a realism, a recognition of where things were heading, and showed a seriousness of purpose that was glaringly absent on the PLP's side. They were legitimate proposals worthy of genuine debate, rather than ridicule, vitriol and scare-mongering. They weren't all or nothing ideas, but a starting point for reversing a worrying trend.

We're paying the price for this lack of seriousness now. It felt to me at the time, and still does today, that the PLP sent a message - intentionally or not - during the campaign that violent criminals didn't have to worry too much. It seems to me that the PLP was campaigning for that vote, and that of those who knew what was going on but were looking away, those who Ceola Wilson today describes as providing consent through silence.

I understand some will find that suggestion inflammatory, but what else was the message behind the "criminal offenders we are talking about with these laws are our children, our nieces, nephews, and cousins" comment on the eve of the polls opening?

The consequence of this is that we've lost two years of time to the gangs who ramped up while Cabinet fiddled. This was exacerbated by the Premier and Minister Burch's strategic choice to focus on crime as a wedge issue to manufacture a case for independence while the machetes were being exchanged for guns.

So I'll admit to not having much time for the PLP on the issue of crime (and the economy - another area they've ignored many warnings over many years), and am somewhat cranky every time I hear Minister Burch, or the outgoing Premier, give another speech about getting all draconian on criminals 2 years after they savaged the UBP for wanting to confront the problem head on.

Maybe my tone is a bit harsh, but that's where it comes from.

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Note to self: Out of shape, no carbs and squash do not mix.

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When comments from the outgoing Premier generate headlines like this - Bermuda leader says island safe for tourists - people will obviously read that as the exact opposite.

Cue the old Nixon "I am not a crook" quote. Come to think of it, our Premier has one of those too: "I'm no coward."

When you've got to make a statement like that it's game over. The target audience for this is presumably whatever few hotel developers and investors are still in the mix and getting ready to cut bait. I still think you don't go out and say this. You act and demonstrate this as true rather than try and press release your way out of a problem.

Dunkley's right. It's the old No Bad News Brown routine again; he keeps a very low profile while problems escalate around him. Brown cuts the ribbons. Ministers deal with the flak.

Now that the outgoing Premier has lost in trying to make the Governor the issue rather than crime and violence, he quickly becomes disinterested. I'm convinced that a fundamental problem in the PLP as a governing party is that they are far more interested in the politics of issues than the policy. The UBP are the complete other extreme.

We're way past that now though. It's policy time. Minister Burch is belatedly getting with the program and Mayor Bloomberg's offer is very helpful I'm sure.

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Easy lunchtime ride today, a few raindrops but a great temperature and only a few people tried to run over me.

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Bumped into Sir John Swan today. He really is the most natural of politicians. His brain is a vast political social network.

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