March 2010 Archives

In light of Marc Bean's attempted smackdown of Michael Dunkley as ignorant and arrogant I thought I'd highlight Dr. Brown opining on arrogance.

He continued: "What happens when black men in particular are confident and have a few dollars? The confidence is called arrogance and the dollars are called elitism.

"You will never hear (former Opposition Leader) Grant Gibbons referred to as arrogant or elitist yet those labels might more accurately be applied to him.

Well, (former Opposition Leader) Michael Dunkley was just referred to as arrogant by one of Dr. Brown's disciples.

How do we reconcile this? Ignorance, elitism and arrogance are not constrained by race, and the double standards and fabrications around political language (see political eunuch) fall apart quickly when only a little bit of pressure is applied.

It's all just politics.

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Emerging PLP hatchet man Marc Bean is getting some attention for using the Senate floor to call environmental group BEST a 'muppet show', and then after being called out has upped the ante with a 'pimps and prostitutes' reference.

I feel compelled to weigh in here because I seem to recall a couple of rent-a-protestors being sent over to harass my employer after I used the term 'media whore' in reference to the outgoing Premier in 2007 and his love of mugging for the camera.

I'm glad that the PLP has come around and implicitly acknowledged that I was trailblazing, and I must say I chose much more interesting language than 'pimp' or 'prostitute', which is Mr. Bean's primary offense.

His attack lacks creativity and originality. It's just crude, and lazy. Simply throwing out 'pimps and prostitutes' is really missing an opportunity to add a little creative license. He needs to get a bit more original and creative.

You see, the beauty of the term 'media whore' versus 'pimps and prostitutes' is that it says so much with two simple words. You know precisely what a media whore is as soon as you hear it (I didn't create the term but it's an all time favourite). Its beauty is its all encompassing brevity. Pimps and prostitutes doesn't have that same effect, it's low hanging fruit

These attacks are also weak on the substance on a guy like Stuart Hayward and BEST. Stuart, who I don't really know other than his public profile, is clearly committed to the cause of environmentalism - throughout his life. To try and suggest that he is some tool of the ever expanding Combined Opposition makes the pimps and prostitutes allegation more inflammatory than illuminating. Stuart has been an independent MP and an equal opportunity critic who admittedly has been applying a lot of heat to the PLP in the past few years. But he's got a lot of company in that regard.

Back to Mr. Bean. In 2007 the now Senator then candidate was previewing his flair for the overdramatic by calling the UBP 'neo-fascists' who wanted to lock everyone up when they (rightly) called for urgent action to arrest violent gang crime.

At the time I gave Mr. Bean a new award, the DIngbat of the Day, for his stupid and incendiary comments. Later that day I received an email from Mr. Bean saying that I was being disrespectful by calling him a Dingbat.

After a short exchange I decided to amend the post to "Hyberbole of the Day" as it was meant more in jest than an insult. The 'dingbat' can still be seen in the filename of the post.

So I would suggest that Mr. Bean take a look in the mirror and do a little self-assessment, ask himself what his reaction would be if someone called him a muppet or a pimp and a prostitute for expressing his political views. I suspect he'd argue that like my dingbat reference it was disrespectful and unhelpful for generating civil discourse in our country.

He'd be right.

But, judging by his release today that UBP Senate Leader Michael Dunkley is 'ignorant and arrogant' - an accusation that I might add would immediately send the PLP thought police into a frenzy if leveled by (white) Michael Dunkley against anyone in the (black) PLP - he's got a long way to go.

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Never ceases to amaze me how many Bermuda businesses never return calls.

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Expect many more labour disputes with the civil service as Government attempts to have workers make financial sacrifices while the Ministers continue their extravagant spending and taxpayer funded lifestyles unapologetically.

Overtime at the Ag Show and hurricane clean ups are two of the few areas that blue collar Parks staff can earn a few extra dollars a year.

Government wants them to take a hit so they can blow the money on travel and the consultant racket.

"I asked him do you get paid for a day in lieu. I said if you get paid for a day in lieu they can give us our overtime, and I left. And they gave me a verbal warning stage one," explained Mr. Smith.

"I feel real bad about it. If I can't ask a question without being warned, well something's wrong in this Country. Something's gone to the dogs.

"I've worked here 34 years and this is the first time I've ever been charged on something like this here. I want it taken back. I don't feel it's right."

Reality is setting in.

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The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason.

--Immanuel Kant

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Stephen Catlin, CEO of Catlin Group has a very important interview in the Royal Gazette today where he covers a lot of the waterfront, including cost, term limits, and crime.

"All of us who run global companies have a choice of where we employ people," Mr. Catlin said. "We need our underwriters at the coal face -- they have to be where the business is done -- but the support for those underwriters does not have to be in the same place.

"It's not cheap to employ people on the Island and I would urge the Government to be mindful of that when they make increases in employment costs.

"We know exactly what it costs to run each office and the costs per head of our employees, so we are constantly comparing and contrasting. Like every public company, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders to keep expenses down. And our people are a large part of our expenses."

This is much of the point I made to Mr. Burch in a short email immediately after his invitation for a meeting on term limits with Bermudians in IB.

The reason I believe the article with Mr. Catlin is important is because you get a real sense from it as to the character of the man, which is not that different from the character of the senior management of most of our international companies.

He is completely reasonable, guided by a commitment to shareholders and profitability but also keenly aware of the societies he operates in and his ability to have a positive impact.

It becomes quite difficult to demonize the leadership of international business as racists, either institutional or otherwise, when faced with completely reasonable unsolicited comments such as these:

Every jurisdiction had its challenges, Mr. Catlin said. In Bermuda, he felt there was a real need to instill in children the realisation that they could grow up to prosper and take some of the great opportunities the Island offers.

"In Bermuda, I think a rebalancing of the social strata is an important thing to do," Mr. Catlin said. "The key is get young Bermudians, especially boys, by the age of 10 to have a purpose in life and a self-belief that they can make themselves a decent living.

"If you just achieved that one thing, then a lot of things would change for the better."

Catlin has been proactive in its attempts to boost opportunities for young black males through a mentoring partnership started three years ago with CedarBridge Academy, which gives participants the opportunity to go on to further education, with some funding help.

Recent shooting incidents and a rise in crime had heightened the importance of ensuring children grew up with aspirations they could pursue.

"I think the business community has a responsibility to help the community and the Government to get through this," Mr. Catlin said. "We can't employ people who can't write or add up, but what we can do is help with people's education."

Reality is setting in, and I'm pleased that - albeit belatedly - our business leaders are speaking up and demonstrating the power of a robust economy built on low taxes and an efficient delivery of social services and law and order.

For too long our international business leaders thought they should keep their heads down, often at the direct urging from the PLP Government to stay out of politics (but donate). They are reasonable people who have generated a considerable amount of wealth not just for themselves but the 65,000 of us living on this little dot in the ocean.

It behooves Bermuda to acknowledge that the way we've been doing things for the past 10 years is unsustainable.

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The Finance Minister today applauded a US diplomat's comments on international trade:

Mr. Hormats, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said that the US must reject protectionism and economic nationalism, and champion foreign investment as a key driver of US prosperity.

"We need to maintain a positive environment for international investment," he said. "The US along with other Governments needs to resist protectionism and economic nationalism.

"We also need to recognise that foreign direct investment contributes enormously to our economic success. And we need to pursue policies that will increase the confidence of foreign investors. This is the key to extending our economic recovery and global economic growth."

I agree.

The Bermuda Government should implement this advice themselves, "rejecting protectionism and economic nationalism", starting with term limits.

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After Wayne saw the 2010 budget he figured that as he runs a pyramid scheme that his natural home is the PLP.

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I'm not surprised in the least that Wayne Furbert is trying to make a move over to the PLP. I am slightly surprised that he's doing it now, particularly as about a year ago we had a conversation outside my office while he was doing coffee deliveries that went something like this:

CD: So Wayne, when are you going to join the PLP?

WF: Christian, the one thing that I'll say is that I will not cross the floor.

CD: Sure, so you'll do it when the next election is called rather than between elections. But you're still going to go switch to the PLP.

WF: As I said, I won't cross the floor.

CD: Same difference.

And across he goes.

I tend to agree with Corey Butterfield on ZBM News this evening; this diminishes whatever stature Wayne had left after his public tearjerkers, and it is more than a bit bizarre to have a former leader of a party switch over.

I'm not sure it's a big win for Dr. Brown as Corey suggested, unless of course he can get Wayne to vote for gambling, but he might struggle with that because of his churchiness. But to be honest, he's already running a pyramid scheme, so a casino is a step up.

One more PLP seat doesn't really change the math, and like Jamahl Simmons who switched and to a lesser extent Grace Bell, he'll never be brought completely in the PLP fold and will always be seen as an outsider and a disgruntled opportunist. It's difficult to see him ever having any influence or position of importance within the PLP.

He knows he can't win as an independent. So this is simply Survivor: Bermuda.

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A must read in the Gazette op-ed pages today by Kevin Comeau.

Interesting, thought provoking, grounded in reality and dispassionate. A very, very important piece as more and more people are building the overwhelming case that despite the Government's most creative and energetic attempts to spin away are becoming more than just inconvenient truths.

Back on the term limits discussion, I've had quite a lot of feedback from all sorts of people over the past 24 hours. There is a collective shaking of heads at the tone and hostility towards the leaders of our business community, referred to as the 'alphabet groups' (a term which would include the "PLP" I might add) coupled with a guarded optimism.

The underlying message here is that the calling of this meeting is an implicit acknowledgment that the Minister is, as a friend put it to me today, "not absolutely sure about his stance on term limits otherwise he wouldn't be looking for outside views".

That much seems self-evident. I suspect that the anticipated end game here is that the Minister and his party are open to, or perhaps actively seeking, political cover to walk back or substantially amend the term limits policy. The reality is that the PLP are so heavily invested politically in term limits as the centre-piece of their claim to be the party of and for Bermudians that they are not going to revoke it without minimizing the political damage.

So, despite the many aspects of the email invitation and structuring of the event that I find distasteful and disrespectful towards the business community - who have created more opportunity and wealth for Bermudians than any Government policy or program - I would encourage people to attempt to engage with the Minister constructively.

Sometimes opportunities present themselves in unusual ways without warning. This is a chance for Bermuda to take one small step away from the edge and acknowledge that our relationship with our international businesses does not have to adversarial and is mutually beneficial and that the PLP, like anyone or any group, can grow with time and acknowledge that times have changed and perhaps their policies must as well.

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I received via forward the email below which was sent out by Immigration Minister David Burch last night soliciting the views of Bermudians in International Business about term limits. I didn't receive it directly so I emailed Mr. Burch personally who confirmed its authenticity in remarkable brevity with the word "confirmed" (the tone suggested to me that it was legit).

Dear Bermudian Worker in International Business,

I have heard from every alphabet group in this country who purport to represent you and your industry and they have indicated to me that Work Permit Term Limits signal the death knell of international business in Bermuda. They have always cited that this will negatively affect Bermudians in the industry and so I want to hear from you.

Characteristically caustic, but unfortunately I am off the island and will not be able to attend. The timing is generally bad with schools on holiday and many Bermudian families traveling - but I'd encourage as many people as possible to go and make your opinion heard. IB touches every industry in Bermuda, if you're a direct employee, work in a restaurant, drive a taxi, work in a hotel or rent a house.

If you can't attend I'd suggest writing a Letter to the Editor expressing your views in advance or I am happy to compile feedback. Click the "feedback" link at the bottom of this post to reply to me.

The requirement to prove Bermuda status for entry is draconian and unnecessary but he's calling the shots.

I am extensively on record as opposing term limits for any number of reasons, including:

  • Term limits is window dressing to achieve a political outcome not a policy one.

  • The PLP change rationales regularly as to its purpose: preventing citizenship or creating opportunities for Bermudians being the most common alternating justifications. If it's about citizenship then a simple waiver already in place achieves that. If it's about opportunities then Immigration policies should already prevent non-Bermudians taking positions over qualified Bermudian applicants.
  • Employers are unwilling to lose term-limited employees, and will move expertise to our competitor jurisdictions, making them better competitors, hurting the Bermuda market and jump-starting new markets.

  • When positions leave Bermuda the associated Bermudian jobs go with them.

  • Whole departments previously serving as the entry point for professional Bermudians to enter the industry are shifting overseas (analytical, modeling, accounting, IT) because of term limits, denying young Bermudians opportunities.

  • Insurance/Reinsurance is largely a relationship business. Long term oriented businesses can't have forced turnover for no reason. Intellectual capital is the industry's most important asset and they're not going to see it hired away every 6 years.

  • The overwhelming number of non-Bermudians stay for less than 6 years anyway, so why have a policy in place that creates unnecessary uncertainty for employers and tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist? This policy simply churns expats as Immigration is willing to replace an expat for an expat resulting in unnecessary disruption and increase in cost.

  • This policy makes non-Bermudians more short term dollar oriented and is a disincentive to become involved in the community as you can be turfed out arbitrarily.

  • International business doesn't need internally generated uncertainties and attacks on them when they're already defending external ones.

I could go on, but here's the email in full.

From: Burch, David [] Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 5:34 PM Subject: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS IN BERMUDA

Dear Bermudian Worker in International Business,

I have heard from every alphabet group in this country who purport to represent you and your industry and they have indicated to me that Work Permit Term Limits signal the death knell of international business in Bermuda. They have always cited that this will negatively affect Bermudians in the industry and so I want to hear from you.

So what say you?

As the Minister currently responsible for Immigration - I wish to first of all share with you the policy and the reasons for its enactment and also to hear directly from you - those in the industry. Please join me on Thursday, 8 April at the Berkeley Institute starting at 5:30 p.m.

Come with your concerns and solutions.

This is not an opportunity to whine, but an opportunity to share relevant information about the industry and discuss viable solutions directly with me.

This is a private meeting for Bermudians only - no media - so that there can be an honest sharing of ideas. In this vein proof of Bermudian Status will be required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your fellow Bermudians in the industry.

Please feel free to share this email with everyone that you know who works in the industry.

We are keen to gain an understanding of how many we will be catering to - so please respond to

Many thanks and I look forward to seeing you on April 8th.

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Gambling is back, right on schedule, and it promises to be the dominant discussion of the next several months.

I am generally ambivalent on gambling, I don't see it as a tourism silver bullet or a social death knell, and while I have little interest in it myself I do have some serious affiliated concerns.

Firstly, if the sordid allegations, however gently put, of attempted political insider dealing around the Southlands/Morgan's Point swap/development are remotely accurate, we have a glimpse into what will come in a Bermuda that lacks even the most rudimentary ethics and disclosure laws for our politicians and developers.

So I cannot support the introduction of gambling and a major casino development or developments without the precursor of comprehensive public access to information, campaign finance laws and ethical oversight bodies. There's been too much sleaze in the past few years, including the use of Trusts with public projects at the Courthouse and the Bermuda Cement Company hijacked and handed to a crony just to name two.

If we want gambling we must act like a modern well regulated and highly ethical jurisdiction. Bermuda under Brown is light years from that.

Secondly, we must accept that if legalised and widespread gambling is to come to Bermuda it will ruin lives, and Government will have to earmark substantial amounts of their casino revenues for social programs and facilities to counter the effects on some of our population.

Alex Scott is correct that the Gambling Green paper was a sales job, but so was Alex Scott's Bermuda Independence Commission.

That much was expected. We all knew the recommendation would be in favour. The question is do we have the requisite checks and balances and oversight ability for what will be a cash printing machine that has and will attract all sorts of unsavory elements, including unscrupulous politicians of which we have no shortage lately.

The answer to that is a resounding no.

Reform first. Gambling might follow.

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The parade of non-development hotel developments of the past few years has created a complete sense of disbelief among the public, with hopes raised and dashed by a short term headline oriented Tourism Minister.

This strategy has resulted in complete PR exhaustion by Bermudians. Few buy the hype of the outgoing Premier's quarterly staged events which have increasingly resembled hostage situations more than major announcements; everyone except the outgoing Premier looks uncomfortable and wearing a "how did I get here and whose script am I reading from" expression.

The point of all these intentionally premature announcements was to buy the outgoing Premier more time through a quick headline, trot out the latest potential developer doing a site visit, or brand of the moment doing their due diligence and promise great things to come, sometime soon, this year, I promise.

For these reasons I've learned to wait until the bulldozers are idling before reading too much into any tourism development announcement.

With all those caveats, it was refreshing to see The Four Seasons come out on their own initiative a few days ago, absent a staged for the media event and the empty political suits with their over the top hyperbole, and sound a note of optimistic that they could begin redevelopment of the Coral Beach and Horizons properties this year.

Call me naive, or an optimistic, of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but that announcement gave me hope for once rather than hype.

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For some Bermudians the idea of gay tourists gets them all riled up, so I can't imagine how they'd react to the Gazette's headline today that a "Gay cruise ship plans a visit to Bermuda".

A gay cruise ship?

It seems like the reporters over there were having a bit of fun in their opening sentence that the ship was going to 'swing' by the island.

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Interesting article in the New Yorker on NY Times Columnist and Economist Paul Krugman.

Consistent with my ongoing assertion that the PLP are Bermudians Republicans (essentially driven by dogma), I liked this quote:

"Some of my friends tell me that I should spend more time attacking right-wingers," he wrote in 1998. "The problem is finding things to say. Supply-siders never tire of proclaiming that taxes are the root of all evil, but reasonable people do get tired of explaining, over and over again, that they aren't."

This is how many in Bermuda feel when trying to debate pretty much anything with the PLP, whether it's immigration, the media, debt, overspending, independence or race for example.

Reasonable people who see the nuances of real world issues tire of trying to discuss rationally Bermuda politics with another side who relentlessly repeat canned slogans and engage in endless demagoguery.

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It is par for the course that the outgoing Premier is creating legislation for a media council to address complaints about the media while he and his colleagues are subject to absolutely no oversight body to address complaints about their behaviour (including blatant abuse of the broadcast regulations during the 2007 election campaign which the PLP appointed broadcast commission refused to address).

Just this past week we've seen filibustering and refusals to answer Parliamentary Questions not to mention the outgoing Premier himself threatening physical violence against an Opposition member in parliament several years ago.

So a media council is a priority but mention Parliamentary modernisation or standards of conduct for MPs and you're greeted with silence. In conjunction with a media council shoudl be a Parliamentary oversight body as any credible modern democracy hass.

Take the Premier's statement on the media council and insert the political and he sounds quite reasonable for a change:

"This bill was developed to create an independent ethics council which will promote fairness, accuracy, accountability and integrity in the content and presentation of political behaviour.

"This is an unprecedented step for Bermuda and as such, its aims are to establish standards of conduct for elected officials and a mechanism for dealing with complaints of breach of any of those standards; to respect political expression ; and to provide a forum through which elected officials will interact with the community."

Dr. Brown said the community had "suffered too long from the devastating impact of unaccountable elected officials".

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If you're a masochist you've been listening to or following the budget debate.

I'm one of those. The outgoing Premier kicked it off in style:

Premier Ewart Brown yesterday launched a vociferous defence of his Government's financial record -- saying it had no choice other than to spend money for the good of the people.

Dr. Brown said the United Bermuda Party Government had left the Island in such a state 12 years ago, cash had to be directed toward fixing social problems such as absentee parents, crumbling infrastructure, ailing Government buildings, antiquated transport system and an out-of-date tourism model.

You see, fixing the low debt budget surplus expanding economy that the PLP inherited involved aggressively funding social programs, for example building a $70M school for $120M and a $35M cruise ship pier for $60M.

That's $75 million that could have been spent on actual social programs, or counter-cyclical spending, not stimulating the pockets of a couple of cronies and calling it social policy.

It takes some real effort and creativity to be this disingenuous with a straight face.

This is George Bushism, create your own reality Republicanism at it's best.

Judging by the PLP's back to form delusional statement on it's website as Vexed points out, the noise machine is back to form.

There's a few criticisms that you can level at Bob Richards as a politician, but being 'long on rhetoric short on substance' when it comes to budget replies isn't one of them. The core criticism of course is that he's too academic, too substantive and not communicating at a layman's level.

Again, classic Republicanism, the kind the Democrats always struggle to respond to in the same way the UBP always struggles to respond to complete and utter fiction.

You take the case being made against you, in this case that the Finance Minister's Budget is long on rhetoric and short on substance, and pin it on your opponent with the volume set at max.

The same way that the Republicans complained about media bias while getting very favourable almost cheerleading coverage heading into a war based on false pretenses, the PLP whines about media bias while their Cabinet Minister's radio station appointed Senator DJ plies their propaganda during the daily morning drive.

So the outgoing Premier can toss his Combined Opposition sloganeering around ad nauseum as has been the case the past few weeks, while his combined government media outlet can wax poetic about 'tilting at windmills' and the politics of fear (gasp - this from the architects of the PLP's election campaign of fear in 2007), but any rational observer who peruses the PLP's website wonders if the PLP actually believes their hype or thinks that the public is absolutely, completely incapable of separating pure unadulterated BS from fact.

Those are your two choices.

Bermuda is facing a serious economic contraction exacerbated by a decade of overspending which outpaced even a rapidly expanding economy and the Government's response is to deny any semblance of reality.

This is really, really worrying. We haven't even seen the slightest acknowledgment that things could have been done differently.

Things are most likely going to get worse before they get better. The party that has missed every revenue and spending projection wants you to believe that the guy who called the overheated economy and imminent recession doesn't know what he's talking about.

If you want to see which way the winds are blowing, have a read of Dale Butler, a PLP MP who sits in the marginal of all marginals and knows that he can't mindlessly spout party line BS, a guy who gets elected based on an image of bucking the party line and acknowledging reality.

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