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Interesting and typically reality based analysis of political corruption by Kevin Comeau in today's Gazette.

Unfortunately the Gazette really buries guest Op-Eds to well down the page of the comment section of their website.

That would not be such a big deal if political corruption were a rare occurrence in Bermuda. But it appears that "Defamationgate" may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Numerous Government capital projects over the last ten years (e.g., Berkeley Institute, Port Royal Golf Course, Heritage Wharf, the new Courthouse, TCD) have collectively resulted in cost overruns of hundreds of millions of dollars. Generally, only two things can cause large cost overruns: Managerial incompetence and financial corruption.

When you consider that the cost overruns on some of these projects exceeded 100 percent of the initial cost estimates and that Government had at its disposal civil servants with collectively more than 100 years of architectural, engineering and construction expertise, it is hard to conclude that only incompetence was at play. Someone had to be doing something unscrupulous. Individually and collectively, these and other large Government contracts simply don't pass the smell test.

Not only were tendering rules violated and the recommendations of civil servants ignored in the granting of some of these and other large Government contracts, but inordinately large change orders were frequently made.

When you add to this the multiple damning reports of two Auditors-General, we are left with strong circumstantial evidence suggesting something untoward.

I find it interesting that PLP partisans' position is that an absence of prosecution demonstrates a lack of corruption. However those same people would argue that the administrations that proceeded them were horrendously corrupt, yet I can recall no prosecutions from those eras either which by their own definition means they were corruption free.

What we're seeing is situational ethics in full effect.

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It is always amazing to me that the PLP issues very guarded statements in response to allegations of Government corruption (one of the few statements which doesn't appeared on their website by the way) but goes all out to condemn those who call for an all out response to it in order to restore Bermuda's name. John Barritt:

"These are extremely serious allegations, made under oath in Supreme Court before the Chief Justice of Bermuda. They raise questions about the conduct of the Government of Bermuda that must be answered.

"Until the allegations are addressed, Bermuda's international reputation will suffer and we will endure another episode where the integrity of Bermuda's political leaders is open to question."

It takes a lifetime to build up a reputation, but seconds to destroy it.

Calling for a investigation to get to the bottom of corruption allegations at the highest levels of the Bermuda Government - in a measured way as OBA leader John Barritt did - doesn't harm Bermuda's reputation overseas, quite the opposite.

Corruption happens in every country around the world.

What shows your character and values is how you respond to it, not how you respond to those who want to root it out.

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No-one predicted this bombshell from the Emerald Financial court case:

Exclusive: Ewart Brown wanted share of company's business, court told

This is not the first time anyone will have heard a claim such as this. These stories have been the talk of Bermuda for a decade. But this allegation was public, substantive and under oath - which adds serious weight to it. Not to mention that the issue was introduced by the Prosecution not the Defence - and that there is nothing for the defendants to gain by making this claim.

The corruption allegation came out as a peripheral issue.

Not surprisingly the response was vintage Brown - go on offense.

Unfortunately he shot an air ball, with the old faithful attempted media injunction. This one ironically failed based on the precedent from his own earlier failed media injunctions.

On to Plan B:

Dr Brown issued a statement after the hearing, saying of Mr Bolden's allegations: "This outrageous accusation is a total fabrication."

He condemned Mr Bolden for bringing his wife Wanda Brown's name into it and said: "This will result in a separate legal response."

Mr Pettingill said Dr Brown planned to mount a private prosecution against Mr Bolden, alleging he had committed perjury.

This is the first time that the kind of rumours that have consumed the island have been aired not just in the court of public opinion, but a court of law - lending them a real sense of credibility and surely opening the door for others to come forward.

I suspect that the primary audience for a perjury 'private prosecution' warning against Mr. Bolden is a shot across the bow for anyone else that might be considering telling their story publicly.

Mr. Bolden's claim is out there and can't be taken back. A lawsuit won't change much.

Defamation cases are famously difficult to bring and often end badly. But if this opens the Anthony Weiner like floodgates, as these things so often do, then who knows where it could lead.

Note that his prior defamation suit remains farcically un-acted upon four years later - as I can personally attest.

I struggle to see this ending up in the perilous world of proving defamation in court. The former Premier would have to testify, and be cross examined. There's no telling where that leads. Not gonna happen.

A court of law isn't Parliament, where you can defame people at will while hiding behind Parliamentary privilege.

Just ask Mr. Archer.

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With the latest installment of free was never free, and the PLP unwinding yet another of the PLP's election promises which never made sense in the first place, the One Bermuda Alliance Opposition should start broadening the response, and not keep them narrowly focused on each f-up.

The real kind of connections they should be helping the voter make is:

If the PLP can't deliver their 2007 election promises why should you believe the next set?

If the PLP can't fix a minor bus and ferry problem, surely no-one can believe that they can fix the economy they broke, the violent crime outbreak they denied, the tourism freefall they branded a turnaround and education that is not really an education?

If the PLP said tourism was turning around why is it at an all time low?

If the PLP said crime was declining why are we averaging one shooting murder a month in 2011?

These aren't isolated issues, they're all interconnected to a fundamentally flawed public policy, an inability to effectively run the most basic apparatus of Government, a glib willingness to campaign on knowingly empty and undeliverable promises, and a public sector infrastructure that is crumbling due to projects being built to achieve the goal of redistributing public sector wealth to a handful of insiders, not the greater public interest.

All that is happening now, transport cuts as tourism season kicks in (our 4% second economic 'pillar'), police cuts as violent crime spirals out of control and debt escalation are all because of those supposed victimless scandals of the BHC, the Berkeley overspend, the cruise ship terminal overspend and the TCD overspend to name a couple.

As the former BPSU head said, the PLP's screw ups were paid for by the UBP's sensible economic policies that carried them for ten years.

The corruption and waste of the past decade weren't victimless and without consequence. They just seemed that way because the UBP's economy was so robust.

The Bermuda Government should be sitting on several hundred million dollars of surpluses which they can use to hire more police officers, put on more buses, spend on the current account and stimulate with capital spending as revenues decline. Instead we're incurring expensive debt which could take more than 10 years to retire - and only if the hard sacrifices are made now to return Bermuda to sensible fiscal policy, which is not happening.

The UBP have tried to connect the dots in their budget replies over the years. But it was intangible because the effects of that mismanagement took years to metastasize. Now things are different. The critique has real examples and should be hammered home.

It's not enough to be right. The Opposition have to be persuasive. You can't drive change unless you win elections.

As the One BA emerges over the coming days (hopefully not weeks), one of the positives is that the Opposition can reboot the critique and start planting the seed in voters' heads of what I think their campaign should be.

Which would be something like:

Bermuda: They broke it. We'll fix it.

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Well that didn't take long.

After 5 months as Premier Ms. Cox's approval rating has plunged to Ewart Brown territory at 29% (although he went lower), and the PLP's approval as Government down to an anemic 16%.

I'm a little surprised with the speed which the ratings have plunged, not that so many people disapprove, particularly because I thought the "anyone but Brown" bounce would last a bit longer than this. So much of Paula Cox's personal popularity over the past few years has been her being a blank slate and the light at the end of the Brown tunnel, but as she's come into office holding both the Premier's position and Finance, the reality of where Bermuda is and how she contributed to getting us there seems to have taken over.

I don't think there's too much interpretation to be done here, the ratings are bad because things are happening and being discussed in Bermuda that never were previously: Unemployment, foreclosures and a murder epidemic.

Never before has Bermuda experienced these things in a widespread way. Never.

I often ask people what the PLP would be doing and saying if the UBP had been in power for 12 years and was responsible for record unemployment, open discussion of foreclosures and a gun murder a month?

The answer is self-evident. They would be absolutely hammering them, and rightly so. We'd see marches, resignation demands, huge drumming up of public outrage - all that stuff that the PLP excel at. What they don't excel at it is governing and making the hard choices of public policy. The bad news for the Premier is that her ratings have fallen on the back of what I would describe as a dishonest budget that was supposed to prop up her popularity briefly - an election budget - that doesn't begin to make the inevitable choices that the Premier would make after an election (civil service job cuts, tax increases, slashing of services).

The UBP is pretty much the complete inverse of the PLP; good at public policy and managing but awful at the politics - although they have played the long game on finance and I think are seeing some dividends as their warnings are playing out.

The answer for a successful party and country is finding that sweet spot in the middle of reality based politics with reality based public policy.

What's also interesting is that this disapproval of the PLP and Premier is not translating in any real sense into support for the Opposition. Or Oppositions.

And that is the issue.

From a purely political perspective the environment is as hostile to an incumbent party and favourable for change as it can ever be. This is about as good as it gets from the Opposition perspective, but there has to be a viable alternative.

It is telling that the UBP and BDA's combined support in the poll exceeds the PLP (even after the BDA's support has been cut in half). I wouldn't read too much into that, but it is relevant.

It suggests that people are looking at their options, but don't see the UBPBDA as an option.

And who can blame them. The length of time that this merger has taken to get done - and it will get done, and is on the verge of getting done as I understand it - is lost time.

Once the new entity is announced and launched, they have to work double time.

The UBP tend to expend a lot of energy on things that the voters don't care about. Like fine tuning the party constitution and getting lost in internal procedural minutiae. Voters don't care about that, and the marginal return is very, very marginal - arguably negative. Those things are important over the mid to long term, but now the focus has to be on putting together the basic framework, putting candidates in place and getting out in front of the public.

I was hoping that this would have been done in December. The first 3 months of the year could have been spent introducing the entity and defining its priorities and identity on their own terms (as much as is possible with someone counter branding you). April, May and June would be all out communication/campaign mode, driving and reinforcing a tight message on the economy, crime and education in anticipation of a summer election.

Voters have to be receptive to an alternative after the PLP's policies and politics have been exposed as incompatible with Bermuda's prosperity and social stability, but a lot of that goodwill might have been squandered in an overly long merger exercise.

Of course the Budget debate dropped in the middle was part of that, where the UBP (and a subset of that) do the heavy lifting of the Official Opposition. But that time can't be recovered and it's time to keep moving forward.

The poll results today would perhaps give the Premier second thoughts about going to an election in June or July. August is just too damn hot (as is July for that matter) and I don't think too many people want another Christmas election. The vitriol just kills the holiday fun!

The Premier would probably not want to go into an election in this environment with her poll numbers low and not much good news on the horizon absent a disorganized and fragmented Opposition. Waiting gives a new Opposition time to get more organized and time to reconnect with a newly accessible voting public.

Her options aren't great, but nor are they as bad as they should be. What I suspect could happen is that the Premier will keep her options open with a view to a summer election. If the environment continues to worsen, and the Opposition look better positioned, she might wait for any minor uptick in support or good news to quickly pull the trigger and capitalise on it.

In many ways that was where the UBP were in 1998, aware that the environment was against them but waiting for a bit of good news and respite to go to the polls and hope to eek it out, or at least minimize the losses.

The big difference is that unlike the UBPBDA the Opposition PLP was very well organised - a known and newly moderate entity in a state of constant campaign readiness - and the public felt it was their time.

The message for the Opposition(s) couldn't be clear to me.

The BDA signed their death warrant by acknowledging that they were talking to the UBP about a merger early this year. The UBP, even their most loyalist supporters, know that the party has run its course. Both Oppositions are aware that Bermuda is best served by the UBP and BDA coming back together as a new entity, taking the best of both worlds and asking the voters: "Do you want more of the same or positive change and a reversal of Bermuda's PLP driven decline?"

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Maybe I'm just getting old, and setting aside the wisdom of using a property such as White's island as a youth rehabilitation centre, but calling an anti-gang group "Cartel" seems a bit ill-advised. No?

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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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The Sun today has an article with Peter Carey of the Family Centre discussing the link between the breakdown of families and the proliferation of gangs.

This reminded me of the following from a Gazette article after the Good Friday shooting:

A 40-year-old woman told how her grandson heard gunshots from inside the family home and ran to her.

"He was shaking when he came to me. He said: 'Nana, nana, I heard gunshots.' I was sitting outside and I heard them too. He is nine and he goes to the school. And this is not the first time he's hearing gunshots.

Did you catch that?

A 40 year old grandmother...with a 9 year old grandson!

Do the math. That situation alone is part of the problem, babies having babies, and is indicative of a serious problem which is more widespread than people think. It leaped out at me when I read that article. I'm surprised that no-one really picked up on it.

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If I were advising the PLP, I'd suggest the following:

More Kim Wilson, less of everyone else.

The Senator and Attorney General comes across as reasonable, serious, genuine and not overly political. She's sort of the anti-PLP in a lot of ways.

She's not cantankerous like Mr. Burch. She's doesn't come across as a self-absorbed-professional-say-anything-politician like the outgoing Premier. She doesn't escalate situations and get used as an attack dog like Marc Bean is.

From a distance, Ms. Wilson comes across as a pretty impressive person who is in politics for the right reasons, is deeply serious and keeps her head down.

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If the crime situation on the island wasn't so serious you could get a lot of comedy out of the outgoing Premier's rather desperate redirection by attempting to blame his party's inaction on the UBP for swatting at his SWAT team suggestion.

At the time, the UBP stood united against the SWAT Team and led a public relations charge to kill it.

Piublic relations charge? Seriously? The suggestion was part of the PLP's constant headline shopping whenever crime spiked; emergency Cabinet meetings, declarations that "we've had enough", the SWAT suggestion all were met with zero follow through other than jabs at the Governor.

Few amounted to anything whether the Opposition or others said they had merit or not.

The PLP have always been focused on the politics before the policy. But for the Premier to suggest that he couldn't follow through on SWAT because of the Opposition is comical, and more than a little desperate.

This is of course the guy who single-handedly imported the four Uighurs, without informing his Cabinet or the Governor, and quite frankly does whatever he wants in general with hiring, firing and uses the Tourism budget as his personal bucket list fund.

If he was serious about SWAT he'd have done it, or at a minimum pushed it harder. He didn't. It was floated and promptly dropped because it had served its purpose with a cheap headline.

So it's extremely lame to try and pin his party's failure to arrest escalating violent crime on a Opposition he routinely reminds isn't entitled to know what's going on because they're not in power.

Somehow, I think the public is tired of lip service on this topic. There's too many bodies for cheap politicking.

It's pretty clear where the responsibility lies on this one. That wouldn't be with the party that has been out of power for a decade and can't even get Government to respond to their Parliamentary questions.

But the time for excuses and finger pointing is gone.

Act. Stop blaming. Try a bi-partisan task-force if the UBP are really so persuasive with the public.

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Bermuda's biggest selling points for both tourism and international business investment were that we are stable and safe.

Term limits, ballooning debt and tax hikes means we're no longer stable.

The violent crime situation obviously means we're no longer safe. All of us.

It's time to get a grip and abandon the politics that have led us here.

We need tougher laws and less politicking. Bermuda lost 3 or 4 years to the criminals as the PLP demagogued the UBP's anti-crime election proposals to arrest escalating violent crime - which they denied was escalating - and then spent two years trying to use control of the Police as a wedge issue for independence with the Governor.

But we are where we are now and it's time to deal with it.

The UBP should re-table all of their election proposals on law and order, and Government should admit they have merit and implement them. Stat. Particularly preventative detention, three strikes and you're out.

Every time a murder or shooting occurs a massive amount of Police resources are redirected to investigate and prosecute, which dramatically reduces the amount of prevention they can do. This is not the fault of the Police.

Government should look to dramatically increase the size of the Police Force, not Service, Force. Double it. We should enforce any little law on the books to choke the criminals before they can even get around the island.

Loud muffler? Bike impounded. Tint on your windows? Car impounded. Loud music? Pulled over and warrants checked. Run a stop sign? Pulled over and warrants checked.

We have laws that we can enforce to make movement around the island close to impossible if you don't want to be pulled over.

With shootings in St. George's we know there's only one way in and out. So set up road blocks and start enforcing every little law and confining the criminals to their houses.

This will require many more police, meaning a substantial increase in budget and recruiting from overseas, including the UK which has been politically unpalatable to the anti-anything-UK PLP. Police officers can't be subject to fixed terms because it takes years to integrate into a community.

Times change. Our immigration policies are no longer working. Change them.

Everyone is going to be inconvenienced, but the alternative is an end to Bermuda as we know it.

I often tell people that the term Bermuda's Economic Miracle needs to be retired because it is not a miracle, it was the product of vision, hard work (and balanced budgets and low taxes).

But Bermuda is like a thoroughbred racehorse. If it pulls up lame you might as well shoot it in the head because the investment in people and dollars isn't going to come back once it leaves for Switzerland, Ireland or Luxembourg. The days of 'oh they'll never leave' are gone. Long gone. They're leaving, quietly, and they're not setting up here and creating new jobs. A shooting war is just another reason to implement your Plan B.

Employers, international and local need to know that they can staff their businesses adequately and that their employees, local and foreign, can expect to live and work in a safe environment.

The upside is that the PLP can no longer deny what many people they ridiculed have been telling them for years, that international business can not be taken for granted and that crime was on the verge of exploding to levels that would be hard to contain.

Well, both scenarios are here, at the same time.

Time for some realism and tough love.

The politics and policies of the past decade have failed. It's time for every Bermudian to step up and demand better.

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A reader extends the Parental Responsibility legislation to the political arena:

Statutory provision will be made to make the voters civilly liable for the actions of their Ministers in circumstances where the voters have failed to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control towards their Ministers when it is found to be a contributing factor to the offences committed by the Ministers.

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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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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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