June 2010 Archives

Suffering from a bit of World Cup withdrawal today.

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Government has wasted hundreds of millions over the past few years, and what gets cut?

A valuable summer school program and summer employment.

Government waste is real, it just takes time to bite. Those overspends at Berkeley, the Cruise Ship Terminal, TCD, travel etc. could have been put to good use.

Now it's too late. The coffers are empty when Government should have been sitting on tens - if not hundreds of millions - in surplus for counter cyclical stimulus.

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From the Premier's address to the Bermuda Captive Conference yesterday:

"We believe there is a considerable shift in terms of the understanding of what types of business we do and what they mean to us in Bermuda and what they mean to the US," Dr. Brown said.

"I would say we are seeing new levels of understanding with the key players in the US legislature."

This is important, but far more important is whether we're seeing new levels of understanding from the PLP's legislators.

The persistence of term limits, the antagonistic language and tenor from the PLP - in particular Immigration Minister Burch - to the international business sector and the escalation of payroll taxes for example all suggest that the PLP still does not understand what this industry means to Bermuda.

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Quote of the day:

"Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile - I'm just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That's what reporters are supposed to do, report the story."

Michael Hastings, author of the Rolling Stone story on General Stanley McChrystal

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I'm sure that on Friday we will be treated to one of David "No one is above the law" and "I want to live in a law-abiding country" Burch's trademark political Tourette's outbursts about the Premier's demand that he - and his wife - be held above the law by customs officers.

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But if the Premier's mail isn't opened like everyone's is, imagine the danger he would have been in as no-one would have allegedly intercepted that alleged bullet in the alleged mail.

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The cheer at the final whistle of the England game and the simultaneous US goal was deafening.

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The problems Bermuda face are self-evident to everyone except the PLP's fear merchants:

Increasing debt, a declining economy, an expanding education gap, declining social standards; and it's all encapsulated by a pathological reliance on vulgar and violent political discourse and tactics from the governing party.

The fundamental question to me is whether Bermudians want a better future or to endlessly re-litigate the past.

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Picked up the Rosetta Stone Bahasa Indonesia DVD. Time to brush up. Most of what I can remember is food related.

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Why is it that the only club I can hit straight(ish) and long(ish) is a rescue club?

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One point that got lost a bit in the hullabaloo about the PLP engaging in their usual histrionics around the gun crime legislation, is the BDA getting a bit carried away blowing their vuvuzelas about Mark Pettingill riding in on his horse to save the day with some unprecedented legal wrangling in Parliament.

Here's what the BDA has on their website:

The Firearms Legislation Act 2010 was passed unanimously in the house on June 4th, 2010. Thanks to the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. Although the BDA was in agreement with Government's approach to take a harder line on gun crime, we felt that, as presented, the law was flawed and lacking balance.

Thanks to the legal wrangling of Mark Pettingill, the law was passed and Bermuda for once WON and Parliament actually worked with the vision that the Bermuda Democratic Alliance has advocated for. A BETTER WAY!!

Now I understand that political parties, particularly a new one which has yet to make a real mark since its launch, wants to blow its horn and get some credit.

But this is a bit much.

I caught an interview with Mark on VSB news where he was patting himself on the back for guiding Parliament to something he had never witnessed in his time in the House, namely amendments being worked in real time during debate and the Government accepting and passing a bill with amendments.

Really? As I watched that interview I chuckled, because it was so clearly an overreach.

Firstly, this is not unprecedented, it was a better way, but it certainly wasn't a new way. It happens more than casual observers would think. If you listen to Parliament you'll often hear the UBP, usually through John Barritt, moving and proposing amendments.

Secondly, on this specific firearms legislation, the UBP was involved both before and during the debate to craft amendments. Both John Barritt and Trevor Moniz.

But the BDA acts as if they were the lone voice and contributors. Now certainly Mark contributed and made himself the spotlight, but the BDA is not practicing "a better way" by claiming something is unprecedented when it isn't, nor giving credit to others when due.

I get it, I really do, that they're looking for an issue to try and grab the spotlight and position themselves as bridging some intractable divide and pioneering a new kind of politics. But this one wasn't it. It was a success, a joint effort by the UBP and BDA, but it wasn't earth-shattering.

A better way would be to acknowledge the efforts of all involved.

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With BDA Broadcasting's awful, truly awful picture quality, and the drone of the vuvuzela's, it's going to be a tough World Cup experience.

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As expected Bermuda Broadcasting's signal of the World Cup is worse than a low-res online streaming feed. How can it be this bad?

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The slow motion train wreck that is PLP Senator Marc Bean's credibility continues with him taking political apologies to the next level with the immediate political un-apology.

It's pretty painful to watch at this point.

It seems that he's struggling to decide whose support is more important, his party benefactors or the public? Clearly he sensed quickly that his forced apology had resulted in lost credibility with the public after his unequivocally damning comments about his party's 12 year failed tenure.

In the process of trying to appease everyone after saying what most people think on education, he's now done the complete opposite.

And, to add insult to injury among his PLP colleagues, he's delivering these apologies and un-apologies through The Great Satan Royal Gazette.

I suspect what Marc Bean is playing out publicly is what is going on privately in a lot of formerly PLP supporters' heads.

He tried to withdraw his comments and return to the official PLP narrative but that won't play anymore. Times have changed and the narrative no longer resonates. He knows it too, hence the hasty un-retraction.

The PLP and their supporters - and the public - are realising that after decades of the PLP saying that under them life would be better because the UBP was intentionally engaging in public policy to hold back black Bermudians, governing ain't that easy.

Improving education, narrowing economic disparities, running a sophisticated global financial services economy isn't so easy. Policies take time to implement and have an impact, and sometimes the impact isn't what you anticipated, or is less than you anticipated.

What this is all starting to do is create some cognitive dissonance. Even those in the PLP's inner circle are struggling to publicly stay on message in light of the overwhelming weight of reality setting in.

And perhaps, just perhaps, if during 12 years of the most prosperous time in Bermuda history, the PLP - a party with strong public goodwill - have lost ground on education, black empowerment, the economy and tourism, to name a few, perhaps, just perhaps, the UBP and their tenure wasn't so bad.

And perhaps, just perhaps, they weren't intentionally engaged in policies attacking the black Bermudians that the PLP promised they'd do so much better for but haven't.

And as the narrative falls apart, all sorts of opportunities for the beginning of another political alignment in Bermuda begin to take shape.

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Yesterday's non-sitting of the Senate per the PLP's David Burch due to a lack of important business demonstrates the fundamental stupidity of the PLP's attack anything blog.

You see, last Friday the PLP took some characteristic cheap shots and attacked the UBP and BDA for requesting the customary two weeks to consider the ultimately flawed gun crime legislation:

Instead of moving forward now with tough new laws to crack down on gun crime, Bermuda's two opposition parties want to delay and dither. We disagree. The people are demanding immediate and swift action to build a safer Bermuda, and, we're responding.

Soooo, with the PLP saying that the Senate didn't need to sit yesterday they must therefore, by their own criteria be "out of touch', 'delaying and dithering' and practicing 'business as usual' while the 'people are demanding immediate and swift action to build a safer Bermuda', and, they're not responding.

When you only live for cheap headlines in the here and now, and trying to win every moment of a news cycle that doesn't really exist in Bermuda, you end up looking like jackasses.

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Question of the day: what is the clearance under Flatts bridge?

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There's nothing I find more entertaining than the classic political apology, when a politician apologises for saying what they actually believe for a change. Today we were treated to a truly comical version from PLP Senator Marc Bean who last week lambasted his party for a 12 year epic fail.

"My Government, from 1998 to today, has failed," he said. "I give my Government a triple F."


"It's like we bought a house built on sand and instead of fixing it we've changed the curtains and we've changed the tiles," he said last week.

It gets even better though. This wasn't just the the normal insincere apology of convenience. This wasn't just the forced apology, it was public groveling, humiliation, begging for forgiveness. And how do you do that in PLP land? Well, you have to do a complete and utter reversal and parrot the well worn old faithful PLP narrative of.....

It's all the UBP's fault!

How unoriginal. 12 years later, after over a decade in power with an Opposition in disarray, the PLP's failures are the fault of the UBP?

"Upon reflection I recognise that my words may have created discomfort among the hardworking men and women in this Government who since 1998 have striven to overcome the failed education system, the economic inequity and the institutional racism that we inherited from the former Government."

If only we had a local Daily Show. They wouldn't even need to ridicule, it's just so patently absurd in the first place.

And to think one of the PLP's nasty attack ads during the election was that one of the UBP's candidates was a puppet and was having words put into his mouth.

Who's the puppet now?

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Filmed on one breath with the World Champion freediver and the French champion operating the camera. Amazing. http://bit.ly/algpU0

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As hard as it is to believe, the predictably ridiculous PLP website has outdone itself. I know, you didn't think it possible. Neither did I. But this one is pretty funny.

In a desperate attempt to try to deny the BDA and UBP credit for yet again addressing poorly crafted legislation, this time on gun crime, the PLP website attempted to pull one quote from Mark Pettingill's speech in Parliament to somehow cast him as racially insensitive.

This was also by the way on the back of a similarly despicable post accusing the UBP and BDA - except the PLP refuses to call them the BDA (who responded by amusingly referring to the PLP as the "Labour Government") - of "delaying and dithering" on gun crime by requesting the customary two weeks notice before passing legislation. (Legislation that the PLP ultimately conceded was flawed in Parliament by accepting amendments.)

But on the Pettingill post, two things are going on here by my read.

The first is the reflexive PLP PR strategy of racial word association. The sum total of most of their political strategy is to attack opponents by simply constructing sentences with as many words as they can that they think have perceived negative racial connotations.

The idea being that as soon as you invoke racism, or racial insensitivity, rational discussion is impossible and all people hear is someone's name and "racist".

So in this case, the communication genius(es) over there said: "Hmmm, he invoked Desmond Tutu. Desmond Tutu is South African. South Africa had apartheid. South Africa had a Democratic Alliance post apartheid. Bermuda has a Democratic Alliance. Mark Pettingill is white. White South African's engaged in apartheid. We can associate Mark Pettingill's comments with apartheid".

Bingo! (Except the PLP doesn't support gambling, except on their website which is more pro-gambling than the Las Vegas Gaming Association.) But I digress.

So let's start over. Bingo! We can put out a press release with the words South Africa, apartheid, Pettingill, Bermuda Democratic Alliance and it must mean bad things, even if it is an absurd stretch.

We've seen this before many times. Too many to bother recounting here.

Secondly, and just as importantly, the PLP hate it, hate it, when anyone else invokes anything to do with race to support their arguments, especially one directly against the PLP. They absolutely can't tolerate this. It undermines their whole identity as the sole authority/positive association on race.

So they lash out. Always. They do this all the time, but this one was particularly in-artful and absurd.

It's not surprising, it just suggests that they really are coming apart at the seams because this one was real amateur hour. They succeeded in drawing more attention to the UBP and BDA's Parliamentary victory over the PLP's latest hasty and badly crafted legislation and demonstrate that it is indeed the PLP themselves who are trivialising apartheid.

By making the argument that they do, that Mr. Pettingill in referring to Apartheid era laws, is somehow trivialising Apartheid SA, can actually be turned against the PLP itself. An argument can be made that it is indeed the PLP that is now trivialising Apartheid and using it to play political football.

Plus, and I'm surprised no-one has mentioned this, the PLP's proposal to hold people for a month without charge amounts to preventative detention. You may recall that in 2007 the PLP accused the UBP's version of this as being "draconian, and "neo-fascist".

So, it all comes full circle, with the PLP as the inept "draconian" "neo-fascists" who "want to lock everyone up".

You've got to love the absurd desperation of it all.

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A reader (and my sometime spell-checker) weighs in on Bermuda's economic picture:

Don't overlook that Bermuda's currency is effectively worthless. It is not backed by any assets and cannot be freely traded off the island. Couple that with how Bermuda's GDP is calculated, which includes a large contribution of profits of IB, which reduces as each company redomiciles and the profits are consolidated where the parent is now domiciled, and the picture is exceedingly bleak.

I don't think a bleak future is inevitable, but it will take a severe course correction. I only see that occurring with a change of Government because the PLP have proven themselves incapable of introspection and humility.

Term limits, anti-Bermudians laws such as licensing your spouse and the real estate limitations, an increasing pace of overspending amid declining revenues, continued focus on irrelevant dogma like independence will be the death of Bermuda.

The PLP have taken one of the most vibrant economies in the world, with budget surpluses and surplus employment and completely reversed that.

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So I did a little 1970s throwback test of the over the air signals for the local stations now that ZBM/ZFB say they've got a digital/HD head-end, and the result is?

ZBM/ZFB looks terrible (ABC/CBS), worse than through Cablevision.

VSB (NBC) looks better.

Figure that one out. The clear conclusion though is that Bermuda Broadcasting is not putting out an over the air digital signal.

Baby steps. Meanwhile I've got my 3D glasses out to see if that helps refocus the picture on ZBM during the World Cup.

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Events in the UK should serve as a warning to Bermuda about what unbalanced and unsustainable Government spending can do to an economy and the future:

The prime minister laid the blame for the situation squarely on what he called "reckless" spending by the Labour government, which was in power for 13 years before being defeated in last month's election. He said that as the financial crisis was "Labour's legacy," so, too, would be the spending cuts.

"Nothing illustrates better the total irresponsibility of the last government's approach than the fact that they kept ratcheting up unaffordable government spending even when the economy was shrinking," he said.

Labour argued that spending would help boost the economy, Mr. Cameron said, "conveniently forgetting that if you start with a large structural deficit, ramping up spending even further is likely to undermine confidence and investment, not encourage it."

Larry Burchall has been doing yeoman's work laying out the bleak financial picture the PLP has put us in. But in case you're feeling comforted that Bermuda's debt is nowhere near the size of the UK's GBP 771B (USD 1.116B at today's exchange rate), let me disabuse you of that notion.

UK Debt = $1,116.0B
UK Population = 6,141,4062
UK Per Capita Debt = $18.117

BDA Debt = $1.0B
BDA Population = 65,000
BDA Per Capita Debt = $15,385

Not so fast. I haven't included the imminent $500M bond issue, nor the imminent budgeted $400M hospital redevelopment which they're trying to hide off balance sheet with a Public Private Partnership.

Throw that extra $900M in and the debt almost doubles to 29,000 per capita. That's 60% higher than the UK's.

But unlike Bermuda, the UK has monetary policy options. They have a central bank and can print money and play with interest rates (not that it will make the debt go away).

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One very clean boat. No more kid crumbs.

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Rick Richardson of Bermuda Broadcasting was on the radio this afternoon having a pretty good rant about signal quality, World Cup exclusivity and a few other things.

Setting aside exclusivity, which is a legal argument about regional television distribution rights, here's the good news.

Mr. Richardson stated that Bermuda Broadcasting has just finished a million dollar upgrade of their equipment and now has the capabilities for digital and HD. He put the onus on the cable provider as to how they 'disseminate that signal', however it seemed pretty unequivocal that they are now fully digital and will be distributing a digital signal of the World Cup.

The bad news? As I understand it the cable providers have to apply for approval to add stations, and this process usually takes months. So the likelihood of an HD signal for the World Cup is low at best I'd suspect.

Time will tell, but I'm plugging in some rabbit ears tonight to my HD TV and seeing if the picture has improved.

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