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The Royal Gazette
30 September 2011

Recently The Royal Gazette's columnist, Government consultant and former PLP Senator declared that 'there are no simplistic solutions to our immigration problem'
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While this is perhaps useful as a political redirect, Mr. Brown's simplistic analysis failed to acknowledge or address a number of critical facts.

Perhaps most glaringly, Mr. Brown's party has been implementing solutions looking for problems, the most simplistic of which were the six year term limits - no exceptions - and the discriminatory land licenses for mixed status families.

Mr. Brown's statement on immigration appears to be a doubling down on his previous week's claim that 'It is without question that the global economic crisis has more significantly weakened our economy than anything done locally by this Government.'

With PLP partisans such as Mr. Brown becoming increasingly isolated in their defence of the PLP's economic policies, they are having to resort to progressively more tenuous yet more definitive claims such as these.

Both of Mr. Brown's columns are shockingly uninformed and demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of Bermuda's sole economic pillar by an aspiring policy maker. It is by no means 'without question' that external forces drove Bermuda's rapid economic contraction since term limits came due.

That the jobs exodus occurred as term limits were triggered surely can't be written off as coincidental. This lack of coincidence is illustrated simplistically by the following questions:

If the global recession is the primary driver of Bermuda's economic downturn, and financial services is our sole remaining economic pillar, why is Bermuda the only place that has seen a contraction in (re)insurance jobs and capital during the global recession?

If global issues contracted Bermuda's (re)insurance industry, why then did Ireland and Switzerland both see gains in capital, company formation and (re)insurance jobs during this period; gains which are offsets of Bermuda's contraction?

If these global issues were hurting (re)insurance, why were these positions not eliminated but relocated outside of Bermuda?

If global financial issues were the driver, why did Ireland - a country with far more severe public sector financial problems than Bermuda had at the time (but perhaps not now) see an inflow of investment and jobs?

Why did these gains come as the first round of term limits kicked in?

Why did the global recession not hurt the balance sheets or capital adequacy of the (re)insurance industry, which remains well capitalized even after multiple natural catastrophes in 2010 and 2011?

These questions demonstrate that it is not without question that the PLP have contributed - perhaps even triggered - a rapid contraction in the Bermuda (re)insurance and its affiliated industries.

There are plenty of other questions, and data points, as well as statements by company managements which point directly to the PLP Government's actions as having done harm to Bermuda's economy and Bermudian jobs.

The lack of a US tax treaty with Bermuda certainly is one factor, but those of us in the local financial services industry watched from the inside as companies accelerated their Plan B's in direct response to the PLP's term limits policy, anti-International Business rhetoric and general unwelcoming tone.

The PLP was warned from the outset that precisely what has happened would happen. Yet now they want to absolve themselves of culpability and lay it at the feet of the global economy?

Bermuda has lost, and is continuing to lose, the vitally important critical mass of intellectual capital which established one square mile within Hamilton as the innovation centre of global insurance and reinsurance. We cannot thrive without a concentration of intellectual capital on the island with long term stability. Term limits prevents precisely that.

Cayman's now looks to be experiencing a come to Jesus moment over their own term limits misadventure. However, here the PLP remain doggedly wedded to a slightly watered down version in the face of as close to a universal chorus as you'll ever get to abandon it.

The PLP seem more interested in trying to preserve the depleted political capital they've invested in term limits than retaining and growing the real investment that Bermuda is losing every day because of it.

Furthermore, and not unrelated to our economic decline, Bermuda has an 'immigration problem' because we choose to have one.

Decades old politics built around envy and a national inferiority complex created our immigration problem. These have manifested themselves as a fear of outsiders taking our opportunities and our wealth, rather than actually creating and expanding them as is the case. Our immigration policy reflects that misunderstanding.

Bermuda politics should be aspirational; built around a deserved national confidence as a result of historically punching above our weight.

Our immigration problem exists because amidst a declining Bermudian population we no longer provide a path to citizenship, nor an environment for the retention of intellectual capital - the most important asset any company possesses in an increasingly competitive world.

The past few years should have made it self-evident that immigration and Bermudian prosperity, social stability and economic growth are inextricably linked.
Immigration policy has become our economic policy. Term limits promotes a high turnover transitional job model for our international companies, rather than a secure environment for those who are contributing socially and economically to our community.

We want the jobs, but not the people. And we want it all on our terms.

Those days are over.

Our companies are global. Where they locate their staff is a choice for most roles now and not something determined by local legislators and civil servants.

Recently the Premier head-faked to this political reality with overtures to a very narrow opening of PRC grants to long term job creators. While a positive sign, this alone is not a solution, particularly as it adds another layer of subjectivity, selectivity and complexity to a policy which needs to be clear, fair, stable and reasonable.

Bermuda's immigration policy has become little more than a political lever to pull at election time, and is therefore subject to the rapidly changing whims and moods of the governing party, and latest Minister.

The Premier recently bizarrely claimed that our immigration policy was 'dynamic', 'nimble' and 'flexible'. This kind of denial or delusion isn't productive.

Our immigration policy is arbitrary, subjective and uncertain. Not to mention that it's the greatest threat to Bermuda's economic recovery and long term prosperity.

Most importantly however it is also something completely within our power to address.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (11 Dec. 2008)

During the post election 60 Minutes interview with Barack Obama’s top campaign advisors it was revealed that his campaign never once held a meeting to discuss race. Here in Bermuda the topic of Barack Obama and race in the Bermuda context is dominating the headlines.

The topic exploded with the Premier’s prejudicial assertion that white Bermudians wouldn’t have voted for Senator Obama.

The Premier’s claim of (white) Obama bandwagon jumpers who wouldn’t actually vote for him may just be the opening for a more introspective and insightful discussion on race and politics in Bermuda.

As a Bermudian who happens to be white, the Premier won’t find me on his bandwagon. I first linked to an Obama article on my blog in late 2004, and then began writing with increasing frequency and admiration about his appeal and lessons for Bermuda in October of 2005.

It’s clear that the Premier and others are attempting to get ahead of the conundrum of the PLP’s inability to attract white support amid anecdotal widespread white Bermudian support for Barack Obama.

The Premier’s argument is typically shallow and goes something like this: whites wouldn’t support Obama because 90% support the UBP. The inference being that white support for the UBP is indicative of racism as the PLP self-define as the black party.

But how a group votes tells you nothing about why a group votes as they do.

If it did, what would we make of overwhelming black American support for the Democratic Party? Would that also be racism at work as he suggests?

In fact, black Americans vote Democratic in the same proportions that white Bermudians vote UBP? This is even more surprising because the Republican Party was formed in opposition to the expansion of slavery, yet the modern version cannot attract minority support.

Of course there are some white Bermudians who will never vote for the PLP because they’re “the black party” just as there are some black Bermudians who will never vote for the UBP because they’re the supposedly white party.

With them out of the picture things are no longer so black and white, but still quite simple. Yet the obvious explanation is seldom discussed.

The reason white Bermudians vote overwhelmingly UBP and black Americans vote overwhelmingly Democratic are probably identical: both minority groups believe that one party is at best indifferent or at worst outwardly hostile to them as a demographic.

It’s entirely understandable that black Americans vote against the party that routinely uses them as cheap props during and betweens elections as a tactic to drum up class and race resentments about crime and welfare.

It’s equally as understandable that white Bermudians won’t lend their vote to a party whose election campaigns are non-stop appeals to black group identity coupled with crude and offensive portrayals of whites as inherently and pathologically racist and UBP blacks as sell-outs.

If we are to move past racial politics we must at least concede some basic truths, such as the fact that the PLP present themselves as the black party and come across as hostile to whites. This produces a not-entirely unintentional by-product of anemic non-black support.

The PLP’s professed disillusionment about its lack of white support is either disingenuous or incredibly tone deaf if you cut through the politics.

Identity politics are designed to drive voting into racial blocks and this helps the PLP as they’re appealing to the demographic majority.

The PLP’s rather odd invitation to white voters is that the only way they can prove their lack of racism is to vote for the party that continually calls them racists. It’s not just unlikely to work, it’s politically self-serving.

The reason Bermuda’s swing voters are black is because whites have nowhere to swing to.

In Bermuda race is often confused with politics. Politics is about getting votes. Moving past racism is about understanding. Until Obama’s campaign, those things have rarely been combined successfully, although the UBP cobbled together a fragile coalition for three decades.

The PLP shout ‘racist’ as frequently as Sarah Palin called Barack Obama a terrorist. In fact, the PLP make the charge directly while Ms. Palin engaged in guilt by association and hoped for plausible deniability (well, not really, but bless her for trying).

But let’s take this further.

The Premier’s speculation about white Bermudian voting in a US context has two fatal flaws.

Firstly, white Bermudians have been voting for black candidates for decades, just not those in the PLP.

Secondly, and more importantly, it presupposes that the PLP and Senator Obama presented a similar product to the electorate, unless Dr. Brown is saying that race is the sole criteria in how you vote.

The truth is that Dr. Brown and his party’s campaigning is the antithesis of Senator Obama and his.

Obama presents himself as a candidate who happens to be multi-racial, Dr. Brown and the PLP present themselves as “the black party”.

Whereas Dr. Brown runs campaigns about “slaying the vile vicious racist dragon”, “obliterating” his opponents complete with clenched fist salutes, Senator Obama studiously avoided race as a direct issue and campaigned on bringing conservatives and liberals together to end a generation of trench warfare.

When Dr. Brown was whipping his rallies into anti-UBP frenzies Senator Obama was shutting down booing of John McCain at his.

Where Dr. Brown talked the day after the election of making whites ‘uncomfortable’ Senator Obama said in his acceptance speech “…to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.”

Just on Tuesday President-Elect Obama talked about leading with humility as 46% percent of the population voted for John McCain.

Night and day.

What was so disheartening about Dr. Brown’s claim about white voting was that he evidently won’t admit, or was trying to paper over, what Senator Obama’s campaign represented.

The Obama campaign represented a generational changing of the guard as much as a racial victory; a move away from the 1960s battles that have dominated the US and Bermuda’s scene.

The reason so many Americans, and yes, white Bermudians, responded to Senator Obama’s message was that he expressed a desire to forge a broad new coalition.

In his book “The Audacity of Hope”, Senator Obama described US politics as a psychodrama “rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago”; he spoke of those who had been “fighting some of the same fights since the ‘60s”; he expressed bewilderment at constantly “re-litigating the civil rights era”.

Sound familiar?

This is the epitome of Dr. Brown’s persona and the foundation of PLP politics. PLP Chairman David Burt conceded as much in a recent opinion piece calling for the PLP to modernise.

The UBP too are not immune, but they stand to gain nothing from identity politics and racial gridlock. The UBP seem trapped as unwitting enablers – PLP foils – rather than enthusiastic practitioners. It is becoming increasingly evident that their existence is perpetuating the tired old politics that the PLP have mastered but is holding Bermuda back.

The rapid aggressive responses from the PLP to the unavoidably unfavourable comparisons with Barack Obama suggests that they are aware of the threat that his cross generational, cross racial, cross party appeal poses to the political model they are so heavily invested in.

Senator Obama might not have just de-fanged old school racial politics in the US. He might be facilitating it here in Bermuda. It’s about time.

If Dr. Brown and his PLP colleagues are truly interested in testing his hypothesis about white Bermudian voting habits, he should change his tone. Spend a few years talking about positive change, building partnerships and moving past decade old fights. Emulate Obama’s message and example of inclusion and collaboration, his temperament. Disavow divisive racial rhetoric that leads to stereotypes about how Bermudian whites would vote.

Try it. They might get my vote.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (15 Oct. 2008)

Cognitive Dissonance: the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

It’s been four years now since Barack Obama was catapulted onto the national and global stage with his remarkable speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Setting aside Bermuda’s interest in the US campaign, and even the political differences of the candidates themselves, the campaign has been fascinating. Even more interesting are the many parallels between recent US campaigns and our own.

The PLP’s Julian Hall recently described the US campaign as “the most negative, heavily-coded, but thinly-veiled, campaign of raw and naked racism in the history of modern democracy.” (“It’s the economy, stupid. And race.” The Mid Ocean News, Friday 10 October, 2008)

I would agree. Mostly. It is not unprecedented in modern democracy.

Mr. Hall is undoubtedly not alone in this sentiment in Bermuda; supporting Mr. Obama and decrying the McCain campaign’s use of raw identity politics and culture wars as a campaign strategy.

The condemnation of these tactics by a Dr. Brown/PLP insider is curious. Either Mr. Hall has a serious case of cognitive dissonance or he and others are suffering from a huge blind spot.

What exactly was the PLP’s election campaign against the UBP in 2007 if it was not a “negative, heavily-coded, but thinly-veiled, campaign of raw and naked racism”?

Let’s backtrack a little. Neither campaign should be a surprise. Mr. Obama himself predicted these attacks in a speech on July 30, 2008 in Springfield, MO:

“What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. He doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills. He’s risky….The argument is “I know you don’t really like what we’re doing but he’s risky."

This prediction was absolutely correct; to the word in some cases.

The PLP campaign was a mirror image. It told black Bermudians to fear the UBP in response to Dr. Brown’s own unpopularity. He admitted as much when he said that the party should deal with leadership challenges after the election but band together to “slay the vile dragon”.

Michael Dunkley and his colleagues were portrayed as outsiders – pseudo-foreigners – un-Bermudian.

Both the McCain and PLP campaigns were based on raw identity politics; overt appeals to solidarity among a demographic majority.

In a recent Bermuda Sun column PLP Chairman David Burt offered Mr. Obama political advice to get aggressively negative and advocated precisely this tactic by declaring that “in politics, you're either defining your opponent or you're being defined by your opponent.”

What Mr. Burt forgets is that unlike the PLP, Mr. Obama is in the minority and must create broad based coalitions which eschew politics of division. Negativity won’t work for him. Ditto for the UBP.

Crass identity politics free of issues and policy debates are effective: the PLP defined the UBP precisely as the Republicans are attempting to define Mr. Obama. Successfully so.

Like the PLP, Mr. McCain’s campaign is trying to turn the election into a referendum on their opponents. This has been achieved through a series of extremely ugly ads and rallies implying that Mr. Obama is un-American – an Islamic terrorist even – due to his membership on a Chicago education board with a Vietnam era domestic terrorist.

Perhaps not surprisingly then the McCain rallies have degenerated into hate-filled events – much like the PLP’s “Big Events”.

Racial epithets, declaring that Mr. Obama is not American, “an Arab”, a terrorist and a traitor are common, with someone even calling out “Kill Him!” Mr. McCain has attempted – to an extent – to tamp down the tone and vitriolic outbursts, unlike Dr. Brown who led the charge.

You may also recall the extremely ugly ads which the PLP campaign ran.

These suggested that the UBP, Michael Dunkley in particular, was “out to get you”. They ran print ads declaring that Mr. Dunkley supported lynching and flogging. PLP events were filled with racial epithets, including the predictable slurring of UBP candidates as Uncle Toms, “confused Negroes”, neo-fascists and literally wanting to re-enslave black Bermudians.

Mr. Obama is being defined by his opponent as a terror sleeper cell while the UBP was defined by the PLP as a KKK branch.

Murderers, to be blunt.

These tactics are beyond the pale and unacceptable, against anyone, Mr. Obama and the UBP included.

There’s “defining your opponent”, as PLP Chairman Mr. Burt advocates, and then there’s dishonest raw naked racism and character assassination. It’s one thing to say that your opponent is wrong; it’s another entirely to portray them as killers.

And let’s not ignore the media bias strategy.

Mr. McCain, a former darling of the national media is now in an open war with reporters he formerly called “his base”. Of course in Bermuda the only non-biased media is apparently the PLP-owned and run variety (Hott 107.5, Bermuda Network News, CITV and the proposed new daily paper).

Media bias is a key tactical weapon in both the Republican and PLP campaign toolboxes.

None of this is new of course. Republican politics has been expertly exploiting identity politics and culture wars with great success for the past decade, while Democrats have dithered.

The PLP’s politics have increasingly taken the same approach, turning politics into a spectator sport built around a core strategy of identity politics and culture (race) wars.

Their insistence on recasting everything through a racial lens was best illustrated by their “Puppet Show” ad which portrayed black UBP candidate Wayne Scott as a puppet of a white master during a press conference where he got stuck for a word and received a cue.

The absurdity, insincerity and double standard of this racist attack were exposed by a rebuttal video showing PLP candidate Wayne Caines receiving the same assistance from one of his colleagues.

It is easier to stoke fear than hope; pushing the racial and cultural buttons of a demographic majority to vote for someone who looks like you.

According to the polls, Mr. Obama could be on the verge of breaking through this divisive politics. The UBP on the other hand appear frozen, at a loss to combat this and refocus both themselves and the electorate.

As the US economy has worsened considerably during this campaign, Mr. Obama has pulled ahead in the polls and the McCain strategy appears to be failing as real issues take precedence.

I suspect that the PLP’s gimmicky, unserious race based campaign would have been far harder to pull off in today’s economic environment than 10 months ago.

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The Royal Gazette
8 October 2008

The upside of this past weekend's weather is that I can't be accused of raining on the Music Festival parade.

Measured by performances, the event was a predictable success. However, when the Premier took to the stage to give the obligatory thanks, he conspicuously forgot the most important group: taxpayers.

Now that 2008 Festival is in the history books, it's time for a substantive discussion of what it is intended to achieve, whether that's being met and what changes could be made.

Because let's be brutally honest; the few tourists at the National Stadium were almost entirely on stage. If heads in beds is no longer the objective of the Music Festival, the Department of Tourism should make it official and hand this event over to the Department of Community Affairs and put it on the local calendar.

Precise tourist numbers will undoubtedly be a state secret, but hotel occupancies were reportedly at 50 percent. And Beyonce's entourage alone probably accounted for a couple of percentage points of that.

If you believe the Department of Tourism's mandate is to provide socialised entertainment, then you're probably satisfied and should stop reading now. If, on the other hand, you think the idea is to attract tourists and generate broader economic benefits Island-wide, then however enjoyable, the Music Festival is failing.

The original intent over a decade ago justified a short term loss: extending the tourism season into October. That worthwhile goal however surely should be coupled with an effort to build this into a self-sustaining fixture, reducing the burden to the taxpayer?

Instead Government is going in the opposite direction: content to throw an increasingly expensive annual party and hopefully not lose too much money. At best cover costs.

The predictable rebuttal will be that we benefit from overseas media coverage.

But this is an increasingly weak argument, not to mention unquantifiable. Scant international coverage was picked up by the ubiquitous Google News service.

The economic goal for tourism appears to have been superseded by a political one: local politicking through glitzy distractions and photo ops of our Government MPs with the beautiful people.

While Dr. Brown is often described as a master of promotion, the rub is that he's mostly promoting and entertaining himself. His declaration in July that "it's already known around the world that Bermuda's festival is sold out" confirms that political public relations were paramount.

That wasn't just an outright lie invoked to temporarily fend off valid criticism, it was colossally counter-productive.

As overseas ticket sales lagged, we saw not one, but two announcements that "Bermuda releases additional tickets" (read: unsold tickets). Eventually an unspecified amount of these "additional" tickets were sent back for sale and handed out as freebies.

This outcome was probably inevitable based on the marketing of this event, and increasingly the marketing of Bermuda in general.

Now I know that this next statement is incredibly politically incorrect, but it might not be the best strategy — economically that is — to market Bermuda's tourism product so heavily to black East Coast Americans via urban black media and black celebrities.

These were the few outlets that seemed to promote and cover the event and the celebrities who were paid to walk the pink carpet.

It's a risky marketing strategy for sure, but an attractive political one as the Music Festival was geared to cater to Bermudians first and tourists second.

Based on population size alone, a highly targeted demographic promotion is going to produce lower numbers of overall visitors.

This strategy will have to be executed to perfection or it will never result in enough tourists. The US Northeast is by definition a much larger potential pool of visitors than Northeast black Americans. It's simple math. By all means market to black Americans, but let's get the balance right.

If Beyonce and Alicia Keys can't attract a meaningful number of tourists, something is seriously wrong. It's definitely not the calibre of artist. The logical place to look is the promotion.

Results suggest that the marketing strategy is too narrow. The dilemma the Minister has put himself in is that by producing events for locals under the banner of tourism and de facto marketing to them as well, he's created a perennial tourism disappointment.

Dr. Brown has tilted our marketing too heavily to one group, rather than the bigger pool of Americans. This is confirmed by the selection of Global Hue for the Department's marketing and Dr. Brown's declaration that "money is now brown".

Based on recent numbers from the Department of Statistics, tourism spending is approaching 30 year lows, the worst years in recent history.

The kind of money that helps Bermuda is green it would seem. The formula for local politics doesn't necessarily make for sensible tourism economics.

This racial shift in our tourism marketing is the same dynamic on display when the Premier goes on his trips to DC. He seems overly-focused on the Congressional Black Caucus; far less interested in the bigger pool of legislators (a curious half-hour chat about little of substance with a lame duck President Bush notwithstanding).

Dr. Brown's personal agenda and Bermuda's aren't necessarily aligned. Too often Bermuda appears to play second fiddle and be a springboard for his personal interests.

Throwing out first pitches and staying at seven diamond hotels doesn't make for a successful marketing strategy or tourism product.

The numbers speak for themselves. It's time for a review of the Music Festival. We should start rebuilding this from the ground up by cutting costs, marketing it more broadly and pushing out smaller acts Island-wide to create a true festival environment.

The success of internationally acclaimed festivals (music and film) is the result of long-term cultivation of a memorable experience un-compromised by political marketing strategies.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (19 Dec. 2007)

Election 2007 is now in the history books and most of us will be at least pleased that this campaign is behind us and that we can look towards the holidays.

1998 was for all intents and purposes a two-term victory for the PLP.

Yesterday was the first real measure of political sensibilities in the new Bermuda.

While 2003 was close, something would have had to have gone terribly wrong for the electorate to vote out the PLP then.

For most observers then, and I include many in the PLP in this, this election result is a bit of a surprise.

With all of the talk in the press — both attributed and un-attributed — to the style and substance of Dr. Brown's leadership, continuing un-resolved scandals and his closed style of governance, it is surprising that there was no erosion of support for the PLP in this election.

It is apparent that there was nothing that the UBP as a party could have done, said or promised in this campaign which would have created a national move toward them.

They ran a good clean campaign focused on the issues. But this election had nothing to do with policy, nothing to do with debate.

It has sent a clear message that party affiliation reigns supreme and that Government reform, openness and accountability is not an issue for a portion of the electorate.

What it came down to in the end was what separates the two parties in Bermuda, and that's not policy. On policy there are differences, but this was about something else.

The UBP is a political party. That might seem like a dumb statement because the PLP is a political party as well.

Right? Technically yes. But ultimately the PLP sees itself and presents itself as a movement; mobilising that movement at election time is something they are very effective at.

The ability to tug on the heartstrings of that movement at election time is incredibly powerful.

Dr. Brown's campaign was effective at convincing his party's core support to come home and vote party despite the rancour of the past few years.

This strategy was not a secret; Dr. Brown said as much at his party's final rally when he urged the party faithful to "forget how you feel about personalities" and vote PLP at yesterday's General Election.

Dr. Brown's campaign was actually quite simple, driven by a few core messages of a vast white and media conspiracy designed to take him in particular down, and by extension all black Bermudians, while touting his party's accomplishments and attempting to portray the alternative as a return to slavery, as one of his candidates put it.

Boiled down, the strategy was to hide Dr. Brown and his inner-circle, destroy Michael Dunkley, hype minor achievements and race, race, race. The PLP stayed religiously on message.

This political campaign presented two distinctly different choices, as evidenced by the way they conducted their campaigns.

The UBP ran a conventional issue oriented campaign which stuck doggedly to their governing philosophy and platform proposals, the PLP on the other hand adopted an intensive North American negative campaign.

As ugly as negative campaigning is, it can be very effective and undoubtedly contributed heavily to the atmosphere on the island during the past seven weeks.

The tone was incredibly shrill and the willingness to dissemble and distort was remarkable as well as engage in some extremely distasteful racial baiting and stereotyping.

There was no way that the UBP could have conducted a similar campaign.

What was created was a climate which was very hostile to open political discussion but drove people back to their relevant party allegiances.

Race continues to dominate our political scene, and party loyalty trumps performance.

Bermuda remains polarised and there is a segment of the community which wants only one thing from their vote.

Dr. Brown's strategy was to amplify that polarisation, and he succeeded.

Combine that with boundaries which are unfavourable to the UBP, as evidenced by a second election with significant disparities between seat allocation and popular vote distribution and you have a formula which will be very difficult to overcome in the near-term.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (6 Dec. 2007)

Two weeks to go in the election campaign and for the first time I’m close to speechless. That’s not because a lot hasn’t been going on – it has – but so much of it has been so hysterically shrill and mean-spirited.

Five weeks into the seven week campaign and only one party has been consistently speaking to the issues. You may agree or disagree with some of the UBP’s proposals, but you can’t accuse them of not focusing on the issues.

On the other side it’s, well, it’s just full on attack the UBP mode. That’s the totality of the PLP’s campaign.

They’re operating in a parallel universe, as if we’re watching a production where the audience is expected to suspend their disbelief, cast aside everything they’ve come to learn over the PLP’s decade in office and vote them back in because the UBP are “out to get you”.

That’s it. There’s been nothing else. I suppose there can’t be; the election was called as an act of individual political self-defense; four and a half years later Bermuda is being asked to do the deception dance all over again, and we know how well that works out.

I know, I know; the “Solid as a Rock” theme song and slogan has been repeated ad nauseum – the message of which is “ignore your gut, stay loyal”. If things were “solid” we wouldn’t have to be reminded so often would we? Alex Scott didn’t have to point it out, but it certainly brought things into focus.

We can thank the former Premier for acknowledging that so many people are turned off by his party’s dominant leader; but the appeal for Bermudians to vote PLP and trigger another post-election leadership battle is a stunningly familiar admission to say the least.

Someone needs to remind Dr. Brown and his colleagues that elections are about the people, not the politicians. Bermuda doesn’t vote every five years to serve the political elite’s interest, but to select who can serve ours. They’ve got it backwards.

Dr. Brown’s substance-less campaign confirms he’s only interested in holding on to power now.

But why should the people of Bermuda endorse the leadership of a party that many of its own senior MPs and members don’t – whether they’ll publicly admit it or not? Why should the electorate endorse the leadership of a party which, for example, ignored vocal protest at Southlands only to have a death bed conversion on the eve of an election (and probably a post-election about face)?

The closer December 18th comes, the louder the noise becomes – as the volume on the Solid as the Rock amplifier is cranked to the max – the more obvious it becomes that the intent is to drown out the constant hum of internal and external dissent.

Don’t believe what Alex Scott, Renee Webb and other unnamed MPs and voters are saying; it’s all good, we’re Solid as a Rock. That’s why Dr. Brown has all but disappeared since his 60 minute rant against the world to launch this election campaign.

Has he ever been this low-profile? Ever?

Are we really supposed to be misled into believing that the man who has dominated every aspect of Bermuda politics for a year but has gone into hiding during the campaign won’t re-emerge emboldened if his party were to sneak out an election win? Are we going to be misled into thinking that it’s really about team, not a cult of personality?

The PLP’s campaign is clearly built on two themes: stay loyal, and “Us versus Them” (cue foreboding music).

Every statement, every ad, every ridiculously hyperbolic statement on their website is written with a sneering “they’re out to get you” tone. They’ve even resorted to running shameful radio ads that say exactly that. Are they really that devoid of content and afraid to stand on their record?
Do reasonable people really think that the UBP are out to get them? Are Albertha Waite, Charlie Swan, Donte Hunt, Darius Tucker, Don Hassell, Austin Warner, Gina Spence-Farmer, Wayne Scott, Mark Pettingill, Doug DeCouto etc. out to get anyone? Really? It’s sad that in this day and age a party has to resort to these backwards looking tactics.

The hyperbole has reached such a crescendo that the news is almost unreadable and definitely unwatchable. The misinformation has become so thick, the smearing and sneering so constant, that they’re now resorting to actually attacking the UBP for things the PLP are engaging in: smearing and deception.

The attempt to transfer their liabilities over to the UBP, and turn Michael Dunkley into some dangerously dominant strongman figure, when this is precisely the PLP’s plight, is impressive in its boldness.

Election 2007 has become a bizarre parallel universe. You don’t have to be a psychologist to diagnose the outright schizophrenia of the PLP’s campaign.

Dr. Brown’s PLP have said that they're for the people but against tax relief.

They were against a referendum on independence, before being in favour of one, but are back against it (but don’t ask the Press Secretary, what does he know?).

The Police Station which they’ve steadfastly refused to re-open in St. George's for years? Well, now they're all over it. They can’t move fast enough.

The UBP promised to build 500 homes. Well, 3 days later the PLP promised 550.

The PLP attacked the UBP for being right wing and wanting to cut 'essential Government services'. The next day they said that the UBP wanted to create a welfare state.

Someone pass the meds.

All of this confirms that they really don’t have any issues to run on, other than attacking and vilifying good, decent, hard-wording, community-oriented Bermudians who see the UBP as a vehicle to bring Bermudians together.

The PLP’s closing strategy of transferring their leader’s liabilities onto the UBP, and running on that divisive phrase of “Us versus Them” is desperate.

The meanness, the nastiness, the obsession to portray anyone who isn’t part of the PLP elite as ‘vile’, ‘vicious’ and a ‘force of darkness’, as the Premier described them in his opening speech, is absolutely not what Bermuda needs. Affirming it on December 18th will do just that.
The climate of distrust, fear and division that the PLP is trying to cultivate during this campaign needs to be firmly rejected at the polls.

Election Day may be a day of political survival for some, but it’s really an opportunity for the voters to decide on who can serve Bermuda in a positive way. Don’t be misled.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (21 Nov. 2007)

On Saturday November 17th, The Royal Gazette published a Letter to the Editor from Dr. Eva Hodgson which took issue with a recent column of mine calling for an end to divisive, dishonest, racially polarizing politics.

Dr. Hodgson began by saying that “perspective is everything” and compared her experiences as a black woman with mine as “a white male who has probably never faced any form of discrimination, certainly not racism…”

Since I started this column, some have attempted to rewrite my life so that they can discredit me based on their prejudiced assumptions of me and my motivations. They reframe my views as racially driven, when in fact race is almost entirely unrelated to most of the issues of which I write.

Although I very rarely write about myself or my life – preferring issues, principles and values – and this column is not a forum for personal arguments, it’s time to explain why I’m so personally angry and outspoken about the scandalous events at the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) and the deteriorating public education system in particular.

Contrary to Dr. Hodgson’s ill-informed and stereotyped portrayal of me in her letter, my grievances have nothing to do with race but a great deal to do with my connection with the victims of the BHC travesty. You see, I grew up in BHC housing.

As a child, my family struggled to afford housing in Bermuda, but we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rent a home from the BHC. It was largely because of the support of the BHC that my parents could provide for their family; because of this subsidized rent, my parents were able to use their remaining income to send their children to the schools of their choice.

Yes, Dr. Hodgson, this “privileged” white boy grew up in Prospect in Government housing because, unlike the stereotype of the endlessly privileged white that you’ve painted me with, my family couldn’t afford to buy a home and struggled like so many others just to rent.

My present day situation is possible because of opportunities afforded to me by the BHC. It is inexcusable to me that anyone – worst of all government officials – could plunder the BHC for personal gain. I know firsthand how it feels to need the support of an agency like the BHC, and how well-managed government services can have a real and lasting improvement in people’s lives.

The reality is that the race of those implicated in the scandal is of no interest to me. What I do care about – what outrages me and so many others – is that senior members of the present Government apparently abused an agency founded to provide a hand-up. I’m outraged because, instead of using the BHC to help Bermudians, some in this Government helped themselves to the BHC.

It is perplexing then, to say the least, that I am consistently accused of racism, simply because I want public officials to be held accountable for exploiting an agency that primarily benefits struggling black families.

Has Bermuda’s racial climate become so distorted that it’s racist to criticize a handful of unethical politicians who happen to be black for the sake of thousands of black Bermudians in need?

Yet Dr. Hodgson and most likeminded critics of mine, implies that my outrage at this present government is built on a desire to return to all-white rule. That assertion has nothing to do with my views and everything to do with their stereotyped views of me. It is an insulting and offensive accusation.

But just what would I be returning to? I was born post-segregation into a working class family with a father who was as comfortable at Warwick Workman’s Club as at the Old Colony Club. I spent most of my childhood at a garage on Ord Road owned by my sister’s working-class black Godfather. You wouldn’t find us at Coral Beach, the Yacht Club or the Mid Ocean Club where I, like many Bermudians black and white, feel hopelessly out of place to this day.

I was never taught to view black and white Bermudians as separate or unequal. In my experience, we’re all just Bermudians. Why then would I want to go back to a time when things were otherwise; when racism was socially acceptable?

It seems that some do want a return to those days … they just want the racist shoe to be on the other foot awhile. These are the people who invoked white privilege when I asked for a comprehensive and independent review of our public school system – fully two years before the PLP Government finally decided it was due.

They saw the issue only in terms of race. They saw a white man criticizing black officials. They refused to see it for what it was: a Bermudian citizen criticizing Bermudian officials for neglecting the well-being of Bermudian students.

Perhaps most ridiculously, people routinely ask why I didn’t speak out when the UBP was in power. The reason for that is simple. When the UBP was in power, I was a kid. I was fresh out of university when the PLP took the reins with so much goodwill. I am part of the ever-growing generation of young Bermudians that have spent their adult lives under a PLP Government.

For me and others of my era, the PLP are the status quo. They don’t represent change, they represent the establishment. While my generation is grateful for the civil rights battles the party fought in the past, we are far more concerned about what the PLP is doing – and not doing - for Bermuda today, as the government in power. They haven’t embraced modern progressive politics but are locked in an antiquated battle against a white foe that has largely died off. I don’t have a dog in that fight.

The racialism and combativeness of the ‘60s is not useful in addressing today’s problems. Those critics with their old-fashioned and hardened views want to drag the rest of us back into their world by misrepresenting our words, our beliefs, our interactions and our experiences. They insult the values that I was raised with, and my family who are not all white.

We don’t all carry around the baggage of the 1960s. Not all of us categorize and stereotype people by race. Some of us, as Dr. Martin Luther King proposed, judge people on the content of their character, not the colour of their skin.

So yes, Dr. Hodgson, I guess I have been privileged, but not for the stereotyped reasons you say. I was privileged enough that when my family needed the help of the BHC, it wasn’t being looted and undermined by unethical politicians.

I was privileged enough that the BHC gave my family the ability to send me to the school of their choice. That’s why I passionately criticize the present government for the events at the BHC and falling education standards. Affordable housing and an excellent education are privileges that I want every Bermudian to enjoy.

As you said, Dr. Hodgson, “perspective is everything.” Your polarizing, stereotyping-based perspective is, with each successive generation of Bermudians, thankfully becoming a thing of the past.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (15 Nov. 2007)

“Primum non nocere” is a saying that Dr. Brown might be familiar with. It’s a Latin phrase meaning “First, do no harm” and is a principle taught early to medical students to consider the possible damage that intervention may create.

With Tuesday’s disturbing revelations published in The Royal Gazette regarding the state of our only Hospital, it is not an understatement to say that the Premier, Health Minister, the rest of Cabinet and an unaccountable inner circle are literally playing politics with people’s lives. A helpful reminder: “First, do no harm.”

Dr. Brown’s invocation of God as his defender at the PLP Banquet notwithstanding; it’s clear that this Government has completely lost sight of what it was elected to do. They exist to serve the public interest, not the reverse.

That is the inescapable conclusion that reasonable people will reach when presented with the private notes of Health Minister Michael Scott which reveal that a damning report from Johns Hopkins on the Hospital “must be managed, it must be written so that it suits the Government and does not become a document that embarrasses GOB [Government of Bermuda]” because “the reports out of KEMH would be devastating.”

Here we go again, with another report going unreported pending a rewrite, while yet another is prepared by Kurron Shares of America, a member of the armada of foreign consultants that seem to be running Bermuda on very lucrative contracts with little accountability or oversight to the public who fund them.

Report shopping is rampant by this Government, whether it’s problems at the hospital or the latest study on young black males; Cabinet will commission an endless number of reports until they find one that tells them what they want to tell us.

To make matters worse, Government won’t even Buy Bermuda; the island has become a playground for highly paid foreign consultants whose loyalty is solely to the politician who cuts their cheques. Independent views ‘must be managed’ and are hastily locked away.

Perhaps this would be tolerable if Government’s performance wasn’t so abysmal and we weren’t constantly subjected to brazen untruths; statements which transcend political spin and classify solely as unabashed propaganda and the denial of reality. Managing public perception now trumps honesty. This Government has crossed the Rubicon when it comes to spin versus deception.

The political propaganda which is being peddled daily in respect of every aspect of Bermuda political life is mind-boggling; whether it’s inflated public school graduation rates, business travelers misrepresented as tourists or the affiliations of whistleblowers and the sources of leaked files. It’s not just unfavourable reports that are rewritten, but facts too.

Rather than communicate honestly and forthrightly with the public, Government has assembled a massive public relations apparatus designed mostly to prevent genuine communication. It’s a sad condemnation when, in the case of the suppressed Johns Hopkins report, saving face is more important than saving lives.

These incidents aren’t aberrations, they’re an operating principle that was enshrined into Bermuda’s political folklore after the 2003 election where the aspiring Premier notoriously conceded that he and his colleagues ‘misled you because we had to’ during an election campaign. Here we go again four and a half years later.

This psychosis has become so pervasive that the PLP party’s website regularly engages in the blatant misrepresentation of quotes, and even fabricates new quotes from fragments of others. This began months ago when the party propagandists edited aspiring candidate Ianthia Wade’s public condemnation of the party’s leadership into a ringing endorsement, inserted a full stop in the middle of a sentence of mine while ignoring whole paragraphs so they could attack me over the Workplace Equity Act, or most recently blatantly lied about the opening line of a Royal Gazette editorial so they could twist it into an (easily debunked) admission of pro-UBP bias.

It’s no wonder that Bermudians are becoming increasingly disconnected, disgusted and dismayed with the state of Bermuda’s political leadership and are cynically resorting to staying home on Election Day. It’s why bumper stickers like “I love my country, it’s the Government that scares me” don’t just make you laugh, but nod in agreement.

Presumably if truth were on the Government’s side they wouldn’t have to resort to this kind of unprecedented and pathological deception; the desperation is an admission of failure.

When critically important reports on the state of our health care system are surgically removed from existence and filed in the morgue, one wonders what ever happened to the concept of “First, do no harm”.

To have first hand proof that politics is trumping the health care needs of Bermuda is disturbing to say the least. Secret weekend meetings where a closed circle of hand-selected loyalists plot the future of health care in Bermuda – with the Premier himself revealed as the not-so-secret back seat driver of a portfolio where he has massive private business conflicts of interest – runs counter to the public interest.

It was offensive enough when the cover-ups concerned allegations of improper conduct by public officials with taxpayer funds; but to now be covering up vitally important but damning assessments of our public health infrastructure is more than “embarrassing”, it’s dangerous.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (07 Nov. 2007)

The next six weeks will certainly be interesting ones in Bermuda, with the announcement that we’ll be going to the polls on December the 18th. If the tone set by the PLP in the first few days is any indication, the season to be jolly will be anything but.

Judging by the misinformation which is being furiously peddled in the wake of the damning leaked corruption investigation of our highest elected officials – which reached a fever pitch with Dr. Brown’s rant on Saturday night to the PLP Banquet – there is going to be the need for a serious fact checking element to this election.

The temptation to respond to each of the individual untruths, slurs and character attacks will be huge; the sheer volume will render that impossible.

Dr. Brown has kindly, and repeatedly, warned us to expect lies, personal attacks and hysteria. He neglected however to identify himself as the primary source. After the latest seething tirade against…well, the world, he should consider seeking professional help, and I don’t mean with speech writing.

The local media seem stunned by attack after attack, an orchestrated campaign to discredit them for doing their jobs as the Fourth Estate. Trying to prove their objectivity (as defined by those who seek anything but) by dedicating massive amounts of type copy to these very attacks, which they meekly point out are patently dishonest, unfair and overtly political will achieve nothing. Nothing, other than complete and total submission, will ever be enough.

Despite – or because of – the obviously rattled and weakened PLP leader, the opening days of the 2007 campaign have been very instructive. The PLP are demanding to be re-elected on the basis of a cult of personality; an apparently unquestionable, unaccountable, infallible leader with a weak Parliamentary group being dragged along for the ride.

What is striking isn’t the partisanship or the distortion; to that we’ve become accustomed. It’s the increasingly strident rhetoric, the extremism, the militancy, the fanaticism. Dr. Brown has become so deluded and isolated that he seems to think that his powers of persuasion are so great that he can change the facts; that he can continue to mislead the electorate over things as clear cut as the source of the leak, disillusioned PLP member Harold Darrell. He insists that this was, is, and always will be, a global UBP media conspiracy (hell, if they could pull that off they deserve to be Government). The mountains and mountains of evidence to the contrary serve only as a platform to shout even louder from. The extent of the dishonesty or the delusion is shocking.

It is evident that his electoral strategy is to pick fights; attack the UBP, attack the media, attack whistleblowers, attack anyone who dare have an independent thought or deviate from the mandated racial allegiance.

Dr. Brown is banking on the “a best defense is a strong offense” strategy and hopes to draw select individuals from the United Bermuda Party into personal grudge matches; with the electorate and their issues reduced to mere spectators.

So the tactics are clear. Sure they’ll sprinkle in some policy ideas here and there to provide a breather, but ultimately it’s a smear campaign – disguised as a response to a smear campaign. Brash, but not surprising.

The question then becomes what should the UBP do?

That’s simple. Dr. Brown and his party don’t set the agenda unless they’re allowed to. Not that they won’t continue to try.

The UBP shouldn’t be distracted from executing its own campaign. They should simply bypass the desperately shrill and increasingly irrelevant Ewart Brown and speak directly to the issues and how they will address them. Of course the lies, distortions and personal attacks can’t go without a swift and strong rebuttal, but if a personal fight is what he wants then he can shadow box his way out of a seat and his party right out of Government.

The lessons of the past decade are clear: it’s time for leadership that delivers more than scandals and spin. The serious social and economic issues which have exploded since the late 90s impact the lives of everyone living within our tiny 21 square miles.

There’s only one party that, if we’re honest, knows that it has no option but to produce results, be collaborative, and move Bermuda out of a half century long racial/political argument that is going precisely nowhere.

The United Bermuda Party cannot possibly be successful by polarizing the community around race or trying to build a cult of personality. They cannot demand a free pass for lack of performance and outright negligence with a cynical appeal to racial solidarity. They must be responsive.

The United Bermuda Party should run their own campaign built around the themes that they’ve been articulating consistently during their time in Opposition. They needed to spend some time out of Government reconnecting with the people, reassessing their core values, and finding that hunger to serve. This is time well spent for a party that governed for an unprecedented thirty plus years and laid the foundation and infrastructure that is the Bermuda of today; accomplishments that are dismissed as non-existent by Dr. Brown and his inner circle yet deserving of being renamed in the PLP’s image.

It is time for change, positive change, around issues of honesty, transparency and accountability in public life; not a self-aggrandising, self-indulgent, self-destructive cult of personality. Personality politics are not serving Bermuda well.

United Bermuda Party candidates don’t need to be drawn into a one on one fight with a flailing, embattled, discredited politician. Bermuda needs a cohesive team, a collection of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, both economic and social, who don’t want to connect with political punches, but one on one with their constituents. The way a party campaigns is how they will govern.

Political parties, MPs and Premiers come and go; but an entrenched, legislated culture of openness, transparency and accountability, complemented by a results driven Government, will go a long way to putting Bermuda on a steady footing as we look towards many more years of success.

An ever broadening cross section of Bermudians should be able to participate in this prosperous future; not just a narrow and rapidly out of touch political elite.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (26 Oct. 2007)

One of the major topics of discussion lately – or at least the one that the press isn’t temporarily gagged from reporting on – is “will he or won’t he”, call an election that is.

I’m not sure why this is such a hard question and generates such hand-wringing. The answer is obvious: he might.

Predicting an election is always an entertaining exercise for everyone from the political junkies (to whom it is an obsession) to the casual observer. There are the usual warning signs; although the shark oil of election preparation is the timing of a taxi driver fare increase (before an election as expected but this time after the lucrative summer months and the PGA Grand Slam and the Music Festival have passed).

Lately however, the prediction game has turned out to be a little different. If you feel like we’ve been in election mode for the better part of a year, it’s because we have.

First there was talk of a snap election after the PLP Gala (aka Presidential Inauguration), then there was the slow(ish) build during the summer months – a plan clearly scuttled by a rather notorious leak and the subsequent extraordinary attempts to suppress information by the Premier and his inner circle - the speculative but unlikely Labour Day timing talk to preempt the Privy Council ruling, and now we’re at it again as the next logical window of November’s reconvening of Parliament and a December poll approaches.

The signs that an election could be imminent – again – are everywhere: race has predictably moved to the forefront, Cabinet Members are touring uncompleted housing projects (complete with shiny green hard-hats), they’re trying to reverse course on Southlands, graduation rates and tourism numbers are being misrepresented, the taxi industry received their large fare hike and our litigious Premier is again trying to silence the press.

These are all reliable indicators that the PLP spin doctors are trying to put on their best face, mend some fences and minimize their vulnerabilities.

As previously mentioned though, we’ve done this dance before. So is now the real deal? Maybe. Although there’s another dynamic probably driving our Premier to be The Constant Campaigner.

One is inclined to believe from the PLP insider rumblings in newspaper articles, word on the street, and talk of the PLP delegates returning their leadership elections to two from four years, that there remains an entrenched dissatisfaction with both the style and substance of the PLP’s latest leader both within his party and outside.

Whether it’s The Friends and Family Plan that drives the Brown Government’s agenda; the expanding inner circle of unaccountable taxpayer funded consultants and advisors; the confrontational approach which has destroyed any good faith with the business community; the lack of consultation over controversial development or the lingering ethical problems and troubling but unanswered questions, there’s a lot to leave one disenchanted.

The days of an emboldened and boastful PLP post Alex Scott are long gone. The polls appear to have shifted – substantially it would appear – after the public became aware of things previously buried in Police files…at which point the Premier began his perpetual campaign.

If you were a party leader with growing discontent inside (and outside) your party what would you do? How’s about put your party into non-stop election mode, or as a friend recently described it to me, as a constant state of arousal? (Well he used a different rather cruder term that rhymes with ‘election’, but that would be crass.)

It isn’t a bad survival strategy to load your election rifle, look down the sight, take aim, remove the safety, apply a little pressure to the trigger but not pull it all the way. It’s a surefire way to ensure that the firing squad is pointing in the other direction.

It might have appeared strange during the summer months to see the Premier working his supporters into frenzy after frenzy, dragging the press around for day long photo-ops, hitting the PLP-friendly media circuit, announcing candidates in a very deliberate and planned manner and dropping election hint after election hint all for naught. Until you consider the alternative that is.

Unhappy party members with idle time on their hands can make life difficult for a leader with big ambitions but bigger liabilities.

Observers of recent political developments in the UK will be aware that when Gordon Brown publicly changed his mind on calling an election after the Tories built some momentum he experienced another sudden drop in the polls; the move was an acknowledgement that he knew things looked bleak and was weak.

Only time will tell if an election will materialize from this latest re-upping of the election ante, and there are only so many available opportunities before that hard deadline of July 2008 hits, but something tells me that part of that decision will hinge as much on developments in the courts as in the constituencies

It would appear that the Premier knows he’s not in a very strong position, and is waiting either for a little good news or a mistake by the UBP to pull the trigger and hope for the best.

The one mistake he won’t make however is to admit that things aren’t going as well as he’d hoped; but you don’t have to be a political pundit to see that.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (10 October, 2007)

The past several weeks have seen a renewed focus on the relationship between international business and the PLP Government. This debate was re-ignited after anonymous comments expressing concern over Bermuda’s political leadership made at an influential annual gathering of reinsurers were printed in several international reinsurance publications.

Local attention on this issue has been intense, with good reason; international business directly impacts every Bermudian’s quality of life, whether you are employed in it or not. Indeed the long overdue detailed breakdown of air arrivals reveals that business travel has even been used to mask tourism’s ongoing decline.

Generally I avoid writing on the insurance industry too directly as I work in it. Even though the opinions expressed are always my own and not those of my employer I am well aware that there are those who will attempt to use me against my employer and my employer against me. However, I believe the concerns raised recently are sufficiently important and should be addressed from the perspective of a Bermudian in the industry.

Firstly, on Friday September 28th, 2007, The Royal Gazette published a column by an anonymous senior Bermudian reinsurance executive entitled “External Threats, Internal Challenges”. This column addressed a potential business ‘exodus’ from Bermuda. I was subsequently informed by a number of people that it was alleged on a radio talk show, by PLP candidate Laverne Furbert, that I was in fact the author of this article.

Let me say definitively that I was not the author, nor was I privy to its composition. I, like everyone else, read the article for the first time on the morning of September 28th.

The predictable attempt to ‘out’ the author entirely validates the writer’s desire to protect their identity; it’s precisely why those reinsurance executives at Monte Carlo spoke off the record. This retributive behavior is contributing to a climate of unease among those within our largest industry, both Bermudian and otherwise.

I can think of many Bermudians insurance workers who share the sentiments of that article but wouldn’t want their names attached to it for fear of retaliation against themselves and/or their employers. As someone who puts his name on his opinions daily, I understand this concern as I am the target of this at times, but at some point we must stop being scared of our shadows and speak up.

Where are the young Bermudians in International Business in this debate? There are many, many of us working our way up through the industry quite successfully at various levels – with no help from the Government – who are far more qualified to discuss this topic than Cabinet and their advisors; few who possess more than a superficial understanding of Bermuda’s biggest economic engine.

As a young Bermudian reinsurance underwriter, I regularly meet with international clients, brokers and competing reinsurers. So I was not at all surprised to read the comments in The Royal Gazette articles entitled “Prepared to take flight: Bermuda's $64bn reinsurance community unhappy with Island situation - new report” and “More claims of discontent among reinsurers”, although the phrase ‘preparing to take flight’ is a bit of an overstatement.

It is indisputable that the impact of term limits, the precedent setting deportations of several non-Bermudian workers for minor issues, threats to prohibit car ownership by non-Bermudians, Ministerial warnings to non-Bermudians to stay out of politics (ie. by all means publicly agree with the Government but never dissent) and Dr. Brown’s intensely adversarial approach has created an environment of unease among our billion dollar corporations.

This is discussed within the industry regularly, both informally and otherwise. Mr. Ed Noonan of Validus Re was recently reported as characterising the chatter as “bar-talk”, prompting the Premier and his proxies to spin away the concerns as those of people “who had been drinking”.

Here’s where it’s useful to actually understand how the industry works; conversations and discussions aren’t limited to set agenda meetings in a board room. Bermuda’s companies are friendly but fierce competitors who operate in a small market. “Bar talk” doesn’t mean getting full hot; it means casual but frank conversations about issues facing the industry as whole conducted outside of regular business hours, versus the specifics of an individual business deal.

No-one schedules an open session at a conference entitled “Threats from the Bermuda Government”, but you can be absolutely sure it comes up afterwards. Just as many important discussions are held and relationships solidified on a golf course or over dinner, “bar talk” plays a major role in this industry, both as a networking tool and a way to discuss broad concerns and sometimes vent. If you doubt that assertion, take a wander over to Little Venice Wine Bar any day after 5:30 and see it for yourself.

It is also undeniable that Bermuda’s international businesses, which are broader than just insurance, are moving jobs out of Bermuda. This is due to basic economics but also a hedge against the increasingly hostile political climate which is hamstringing companies’ ability to compete, hire and retain key staff. These policies seem designed to generate a political rallying cry for rallies which the industry is asked to finance through political donations while being told to stay out of politics.

The Premier’s recent speech in Washington DC about a program labeled as Goodwill Plus, whereby every expatriate employee has a Bermudian college graduate attached to them to succeed them in 3 years, simply put an exclamation point on the lack of realism and pragmatism in the election year policies which are being rolled out.

Goodwill Plus should be called Opportunities Lost; it is at best naïve, at worst disingenuous. Either way it’s counterproductive.

As a Bermudian in the industry who would like to see other Bermudians continuing to benefit from it, it is clear to me that young university educated Bermudians hoping to pursue a career in insurance will in fact suffer if this policy is ever acted on (versus just hyped before an election).

Term limits are equally as counterproductive as Goodwill Plus. The cumulative effect of all of this politicking, and the never-ending scandals, is a drastic reduction in Bermuda’s attractiveness as a long term business home.

Talk about replacing experienced and skilled ‘Sven’ with fresh out of college ‘Johnny’ is little more than political headline generators which will not achieve the professed results for a number of reasons, some obvious others not.

Firstly, it seems to be treated as a given by the Government that businesses in Bermuda are discriminating against Bermudians. But with the Government admitting that the public education system is grossly inadequate – and has been for some time – and has labeled young black males as a problem, it seems rather unfair and insincere to then put the blame on employers for not having enough senior Bermudians (of any race) in their ranks.

An objective observer would most likely conclude that businesses are being handed a problem rather than creating one. Politicians are motivated to shift blame for this, at least the ones running for re-election are, which is why departing MP Renee Webb felt free to point out that we have to deal with education first before we can claim rampant discrimination.

Secondly, international business, and insurance in particular, is an industry that is built on relationships and experience, not ‘jobs’. We as Bermudians must stop thinking about ‘jobs’ and start thinking about careers, relationships, experience and credibility. This takes time. Goodwill Plus talks about 3 years; 10 to 15 is more realistic.

And bear in mind that Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance industry really only began to ramp up rapidly in the last 15 years, at which point Bermudians began to transition out of tourism and into business roles. A massive culture shift had to occur as well as re-calibration of skills.

Thirdly, Bermudians working in the industry in Bermuda have a much better chance to advance because our companies currently locate their most senior staff here. The key decision makers and most valued employees in our billion dollar companies are interacting on a daily basis with entry level staff in a way that does not occur in North America, Europe or Asia.

While every Bermudian should spend time overseas building up experience prior to returning to Bermuda (hence the need for an EU passport) those of us working on island should exploit the unique opportunity to be exposed to key figures in the global financial services industry. The value of that is unquantifiable.

Fourthly, the cumulative effect of forcing companies to terminate experienced and skilled non-Bermudian staff after 3 years in the Sven example or 6 years for term limits will drive key positions to the many competing jurisdictions where our companies already maintain a presence; jurisdictions that are anxious to erode Bermuda’s dominance as a global financial market. Sven will never get here, so who is Johnny going to be attached to?

A key employee in this industry is someone who can generate tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue and/or investment for their firms. When they are re-located, so will the positions around them; resulting in opportunities lost for Bermudians. And if we’re honest, one of the hardest things for our companies to do is retain Bermudians, they are in such demand.

I wonder how – with this phenomenon already occurring in a low-key manner – the next generation of Bermudians will be able to enter the business that fuels our economy the way I did. The vital entry level professional positions are moving elsewhere.

The associated promising career paths are shifting to Dublin, Zurich, London, New York, Halifax or even Waterloo Ontario. Ten to fifteen years later those non-Bermudian beneficiaries might end up here in the top level positions that remain on island, positions which Bermudians could have previously aspired to.

Furthermore, the net impact of this is that we will begin to push Bermuda back to a model which we’ve successfully moved away from, much to our benefit. Bermuda is far better served by having companies with a genuine physical presence and the accompanying skilled analytical, actuarial and management roles, rather than by driving those elsewhere and being attractive as a holding company location only. That model holds less benefit for us economically and re-invites intense scrutiny as a tax haven.

The Bermudians in international business can’t remain silent. There are plenty of us methodically working our way up through the ranks quite successfully; I interact with them in Bermuda and overseas and see them handling important financial deals.

Those of us in this industry have not been called on by the Government in this discussion, and we can’t sit idly by as observers. We are in fact far more knowledgeable about this topic than those who keep telling us what is good for us. We deserve a voice.

There are many Bermudian success stories in the industry, and we can tell the Government a thing or two about what should and should not be done, about what is and isn’t helpful. Chasing away broad economic opportunities for present and future generations of Bermudians in an effort to secure another political term isn’t productive.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (26 July, 2007)

One of the best things about politics is the unintended humour of it all; the blatant hypocrisy, the self-important personalities, the thin-skinned bullies, the opportunists and the revisionist history for example.

Friday’s PLP “Main Event” at West Pembroke school field had them all, let’s just hope that the school children weren’t around to have their impressionable heads filled with some of the most hateful stuff you can hope they never have to hear.

The PLP’s 2007 campaign has started where the 2003 one left off: racially divisive and destructive for the future. And you wondered why the UBP’s Parliamentary Code of Conduct was rejected out of hand by the PLP?

If the events of Thursday night hadn’t been so offensive they’d have actually been comedic. Well, even then it was comedic, unintentionally for sure, but a virtual comedy routine nonetheless.

What else can you call trotting out Jamahl Simmons to talk about a leopard not changing its spots, when he’s done it five times now (PLP, NLP, UBP, IND and PLP again – not the ABC though…yet) in a decade, then comparing the UBP’s Shawn Crockwell to a pedophile before hilariously invoking a biblical reference about himself as the Prodigal Son. How very Christian that speech was.

What else can you call an event that in the year 2007 saw a new PLP candidate refer to someone in the UBP as a “confused negro”; welcome to the 1960s. Who said dinosaurs were extinct.

What else can you call an event which saw the PLP Leader incite his devotees to draw their swords to ‘slay the lying, vile, underhanded, vengeful UBP dragon!” (Does that qualify as a bladed weapons offence?) Someone’s been counting down the days to the new release of the final installment of Harry Potter it seems.

Evidently Dr. Brown got a little caught up in the moment and forgot that he was at a political rally not a Harry Potter convention. Come to think of it, maybe Dr. Brown was waiting in the book release line outside a New York bookstore with the 10 year old dress-up wizards, before “flying in for The Main Event”.

Speaking of wizards, the whole rally had a whole “Wizard of Oz” feel to it actually.

Dragon’s and negroes and paedophiles. Oh my!

I was looking for the munchkins and the Lollipop Guild, but evidently they weren’t among the 500 – or was it 1,000, or was it 5,000 attendees (as new PLP candidate Walton Brown’s ‘news’ site was reporting for half of Friday) – in attendance. Maybe the difference was attributable to whether you counted the Presidential entourage or not?

It’s not hard to pick out a Cowardly Lion, a Tin Man and a Scarecrow among other characters on the stage, but I’ll leave that up to you. Whichever way you slice it – and there’s a lot of material here but I only have a word limit – “The Main Event” was both a national disgrace and a comedic triumph.

Just follow the yellow-lined road to the Emerald Field and behold the Wizard – don’t pull back the curtain though, you’ll find the act is all a big manipulative fraud.

No doubt after all this racial incitement, Dr, Brown probably spent the weekend with the white oligarchy he just demonized at those exclusive institutions called The Mid Ocean Club or The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club where he’s a member.

Now that’s funny!

It’s just a shame that “The Main Event” was the foundation for a modern day political campaign and not a Not the Um Um or Saturday Night Live skit; the rally was the carefully planned, scripted and choreographed launch of a political campaign…in the year 2007. Divide and conquer never loses its appeal does it.

Believe it or not, seven years into the new millennium, the content of the PLP’s campaign to determine our future is built around racial slurs not issues. The list is long and shameful: “slave masters”, “confused negroes”, “lying, vile, underhanded, vengeful dragons”, pulling mortgages, “racist dogs”, “throwing out the milk with the rest of the garbage” and threats of a race riot if the heat isn’t reduced.

If it’s a comedy it’s a farce. If it was intended as drama it’s a tragedy.

The comedic element to this is of course the hypocrisy of a party that has been predicting that the UBP is going to run a nasty campaign before initiating theirs with such unbridled small-minded hatred; it’s the PLP putting words in UBP members mouths – Phil Perinchief did exactly that when he claimed that the UBP has talked of dictatorships – so that they can then attack them for things they’ve never said; it’s a party that demands that people are respectful of their MPs, while they ruthlessly smear anyone who dare take an alternative view.

The problem here – or at least one of the many problems – is that the PLP’s campaign has started on such a shrill note that it is hard to imagine how much worse the racism will get. And it will get worse. You can’t pivot from “Don’t vote for the former masters and their confused negroes” to “by the way, have you seen our housing plan?” and expect the latter to be heard.

Supposedly, elections are about the future. So far, it’s more like back to the future. Intolerance and the political exploitation of racial wounds is not going to move Bermuda forward. Tolerance, ideas, accountability, integrity and honesty will.

There was none of that at “The Main Event”.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (16 July, 2007)

If there’s one thing that is becoming more and more apparent as every day passes, it’s that the 2007 election is shaping up to be a lot like 2003.

All indications are that the PLP are headed into yet another election with a leader who has little internal support (with good reason), and, if 2003 is anything to go, fully intend on replacing if they mange to cling on to the Government.

That’s not a mischievous assertion on my part, that’s about the only thing that can be read into the series of comments by aspiring and rejected PLP candidate Ianthia Wade, departing PLP MP Renee Webb and recently removed from his incumbent constituency PLP MP George Scott made.

Let’s start with the harshest comments first and then work our way back.

Ms. Webb released a barrage of criticism that makes me look like a shrinking violet; the MP described her party leader and Bermuda’s Premier as believing that ‘rules are made for others’, that he uses ‘people to get what he wants and then steps on them’, and that ‘integrity and honour at the top are not what we currently have’.

Hot on the heels of this white hot assessment came Ms. Wade, who quite astoundingly made an out of the blue call to The Royal Gazette begging voters to support her party despite its leadership; outright pleading for the public to ignore their instinct and gut feelings of lack of trust and disillusionment.

Finally, George (Don’t you know who I am?) Scott was rolled out in a stop the bleeding damage control candidate announcement after weeks of public turmoil and infighting. The best endorsement that he could muster was little more than the statement that he’s ‘a party man’ (translation: This sucks but I’m doing this out of loyalty).

In the wake of the BHC scandal, and with the isolating and self-indulgent Presidential style of the Dr. Brown, these public comments – and the suspiciously silent members of the PLP – strongly suggests that the not-quite-a-whisper campaign of “vote party we’ll remove the problem after the election” is in full swing; Dr. Brown looks like he’s about to get a taste of his own medicine.

What this really reveals however is just how weak the party is; they’re either unwilling to take a principled stand against alleged misdeeds by their colleagues, preferring to continue on with a leader and other colleagues mired in multiple ethical scandals, or they’re about to go into a second consecutive election fully intent on again misleading the public. Actually, it’s probably a combination of both; lack of principle and the need to mislead.

We deserve to know fully the facts around the extent that public officials mixed private and public business at the BHC, asbestos removal and other public projects. We also deserve to know how public funds have been spent around the mysterious faith based tourism initiative.

Unlike religion you see, politics isn’t about relying on faith. Lord knows that history is replete with faith being used as a front for all sorts of misdeeds, both financial and otherwise.

Hell, we shouldn’t even have to trust our politicians. Sure it would help, but trust is a bonus; we should have access to information about anything that involves public funds and the public interest, not suffer through politicians who continually dance around issues with vacuous evasive statements such as:

"The Opposition's wrongful assault is not just an assault on this Government and Mr. Curtis, but an unprovoked and unnecessary assault on a religious effort, an effort which has lifted the hearts of many tourists and touched the souls of many Bermudians."

The Devil’s in the details as they say (no more religious puns, I promise).

The UBP have laid out detailed and overdue plans and a fundamental reform and opening up of our political process. The PLP? They’re relying on the slogan they ridiculed so shamefully used against the UBP in 2003 with their racially divisive “Trust me” ads.

The only proper response to questions involving public funds is to lay out the details? What is going on in our country when information is withheld on public project after public project, with a trite sound-bite offered in its place?

What is going on in our country when we start parsing illegal versus unethical and charged versus not charged? What ever happened to right versus wrong?

Forget the Ministry of Social Rehabilitation. We need a Ministry of Ministerial Rehabilitation.

This compulsive secrecy and incessant evasion leads one to believe that the reason the Premier shut down Parliament one week earlier than anticipated is because he didn’t want to answer Wayne Furbert’s Parliamentary Questions on the Faith Based Tourism and to debate the damning Cedarbridge mold report – a report the Education Minister promised to much fanfare would be tabled and debate in full – before an election. Postpone the pain until November seems to be the plan, much like the BHC Police Report.

Delay, delay, delay. Evade, evade, evade. Confuse, confuse, confuse.

In fact, the PLP seem to be in such dire straits that they’re resorting to the same scare tactics that they to this day decry they were subjected to while in Opposition; with the Premier, in full attack mode, reaching way back, dusting off the cobwebs, and tossing out the “voting for the UBP will see a return of the 40 Thieves” bogeyman; that’s the 2007 version of “Don’t vote yourself back on the plantation”. And to think that the PLP have been criticized for not being environmentally friendly. They certainly believe in recycling.

This desperate 40 Thieves meme is no different than the claim that business would flee Bermuda if the PLP were to win in 1998.

Don’t believe the hype. The PLP are not the romanticized party of the past that they pretend to be and the UBP aren’t the demonized party of the past we’re told they are.

Times change. People change. Parties change. It’s time for change.

It’s clear that the PLP would love to keep us focused on what happened in the past, rather than what is happening right now.

But the public deserves better. We deserve to go into an election with all of the information in front of us, not tied up by legal maneuvering, Parliamentary tricks and a replay of the events of July 2003.

Don’t be misled again.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (02 July, 2007)

Four weeks and counting with no denials; law suits, plenty of lawsuits and threatened law suits, but still not one denial about the allegations in the BHC Police Report.

Instead we’ve heard plenty of noise but very little clarification about the extent to which high level public officials participated in the exposed alleged improprieties at the BHC.

The longer this goes on, and the more attempts are made to suppress and obscure the information about apparent misappropriation of public funds, the more the public will reach the inescapable conclusion that the information yet to be revealed would cause us all to reel in horror at the extent of the corruption and breach of public trust.

It is notable that the response to this scandal by those implicated in alleged wrongdoings and their proxies has been to try and confuse the issue and make the unethical but not illegal actions secondary to other considerations.

It is also notable, and undeniable, that with every court ruling in favour of the public’s right to know about public officials and public funds, there is an accompanying intensification of blame the media and opposition syndrome and racial red herrings, when the truth is very much the opposite.

Mr. Julian Hall for example, like the Premier, managed to tie himself in knots in an effort to confuse, redirect and obscure the facts. Mr. Hall’s arguments were so contorted that only his chiropractor would have benefited.

Essentially Mr. Hall’s argument boiled down to “well, unethical they may be, but their critics are racist”. In fact, Mr. Hall lumped every Bermudian who wants to get to the bottom of the BHC scandal as either a white supremacist or a white apologist.

That’s quite a wide net; you either agree with everything that Dr. Brown and the PLP have ever done or will do, or you’re a white supremacist or a white apologist. I’m sure that won’t sit well with most people.

This all or nothing, black or white, the-best-defence-is-a-strong-offense (offense in all meanings for the word) feels remarkably similar to the media strategy of George W. Bush as his Presidency began to crumble along with his war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush’s approach to building support (and subsequently losing it) was quite simple: He portrayed things as good or evil: You’re either with me or you’re with the terrorists. The Bermuda version is black and white, as usual: “You’re either with Dr. Brown or you’re a racist.”

The other interesting aspect was Mr. Hall’s ability to hold two absolutely contradictory positions with such certainty and ease.

Mr. Hall happily trotted out decades-old leaked police information which suggested that there may be racism within the Bermuda Police service and heaped praise on then Opposition member Alex Scott for presenting this to the public. In the next breath he proceeded to criticise the leaking of police information about apparently unethical Government politicians. So it’s okay to leak information about racist cops but not unethical politicians?

It’s okay in both circumstances. Anyone who provides credible information in either event is doing the public a great service. We don’t need racist cops or unethical politicians. And we certainly don’t need racist unethical politicians.

Mr. Hall isn’t alone in his selective use of principal in defending the allegedly unethical behaviour of our public officials. The Premier and his publicly funded army of spin doctors have produced some rather extraordinary examples as well.

The Premier was widely quoted during a radio interview as refusing to answer the now public allegations of misappropriation of funds at the BHC, abuse of power and undeclared conflicts of interest by himself and some of his colleagues as ‘demeaning, embarrassing and insulting’.

Strangely, late last week, he released a statement denying allegations that hadn’t even been reported, but had been looked into by reporters but never reported…because the claim wasn’t deemed credible – responsible journalism indeed, a far cry from a “media frenzy”. Dr. Brown is now in the peculiar position of having denied things he wasn’t accused of but not those he is.

And then there are the misdirected talking points by the Premier’s Press Secretary and former Royal Gazette reporter Glenn Jones, which revealed that answering the allegations would be a ‘zero sum game for the Premier and the Government’.

Now, that’s a very interesting statement. Zero sum games are ones where once you add up a participant’s gains and losses they equal zero, ergo in this situation, some allegations might be deniable but others aren’t. Whoops. And even if there is no benefit for the Premier in answering the allegations, what about the public's right to know?

And then there’s the idea that this is some UBP and media conspiracy to destabilise the PLP’s election prospects. I think by now almost everyone knows who the un-named ‘Son of the Soil’ is (as well as the other individual who was questioned by the Police), and they are by no means UBP or “the media”.

This is clearly an inside job, this isn’t a UBP effort to oust the PLP; it’s a PLP effort to oust Dr. Brown. That is patently obvious to all but the most deluded.

What really is intriguing however is why the investigation by the Bermuda Police and Scotland Yard included the FBI and Homeland Security? Surely that is what the massive legal effort to prevent further publication of the investigations findings is intended to cover-up.

Why on earth the FBI and Homeland Security – two US agencies – would be interested in a localized corruption scandal in Bermuda is beyond me? The Premier suggests that the involvement of these agencies and subsequent lack of charges ‘exonerates’ him. To the contrary, the investigation appeared to reach a premature conclusion, and leaves hanging some particularly concerning and serious questions about what we still don’t know, and won’t know for some time pending the Privy Council appeal – unless the file appears on the internet somewhere that is.

Every Bermudian must be wondering just what potential revelations could warrant such an extraordinary effort to conceal information from the public. What is so damaging that has caused this cover-up to go to such lengths over the past four weeks?

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