Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dr. Eva Hodgson Speaks About Race

Some people really are stuck in the past.

Every community has a men and women who insist on framing the modern world in the thinking of a time now passed. In Bermuda one such a person is Dr. Eva Hodgson. I intend no criticism of her personally, but I must admit there was palm-to-face action as I read her recent two part opinion piece in the Royal Gazette.

As far I can tell her point was twofold. Firstly that more needs to be done to combat the racism that she believes still exists in Bermuda and secondly that Bermuda needs to abandon the party system. On both counts I disagree..

On the first suggestion, that not enough is being done to combat racism Dr. Hodgson has a number of arguments which she unfortunately begins with the suggestion that:
"All whites benefited from the system even if they were neither employers nor politicians."
 Which unfortunately is neither true, nor helpful in combating the racial divisions in our society.

Let us take as an example to illustrate why that statement is not true whites who have immigrated from Eastern Europe since the end of slavery, they certainly weren't benefiting from the racist system of the 60s were they? Nor were the Irish, many of whom were only just getting out of poverty themselves after centuries of subjugation under the English.

Sentiments like that, which stereotype on the basis of race (i.e. are examples of racism), simply make it easier for certain people to adopt a "whites are bad" or "whites are out to get me" kind of mentality which, in turn, make it harder to tackle the disparities between the races and stoke racial tensions. It is through no malice that Dr. Hodgson makes that statement though, that I am sure. Her intentions are undoubtedly good, the problem is that she seems unable to widen her focus from anything, but race.

Let us examine the various examples of seeming preoccupation with race in the piece:

She says of the situation following universal suffrage:
"it was logical that the black Community would now wish to ensure that they had a majority of those who would represent their majority status and their interest among the decision makers."
Which is an understandable sentiment of that time.

Dr. Hodgson further comments on the racial make up of our legislature in lamenting the split in the PLP which:

"Reduced the number of blacks in Parliament." 
In both these statements we see one suggestion that is constant: that the colour of a politician trumps all, even looking back from today.Had this been presented in a "this was what the thinking was like then" way there would be no disagreement from me, but Dr. Hodgson seems to suggest she holds that view even now. I am sure it is self evident that basing a political decision on race is a bad idea, so I will simply leave it at that as an example of her unfailing focus on race.

It doesn't stop at politicians though. Dr. Hodgson also says:
"It also meant that as well intentioned blacks set their mind on positive social goals those goals became integration with whites and not justice for all blacks.
The general idea, that justice is more important than integration, is an interesting one. On the surface it seems reasonable, but when one actually considers what integration means it becomes significantly less rational sounding. Integration means, essentially, that race is irrelevant (because everyone lives and works together regardless) and that one is judged on the content of one's character, rather than on the colour of one's skin. If that isn't justice then I don't know what is. Leading civil rights activists have dreamed of such a world throughout the struggle, how strange now that Dr. Hodgson should decide that apparently it shouldn't be our priority. Apparently wide spread racial discrimination is still possible, even when race is no longer relevant in the decision making process of the majority of people! Go figure! When we remember Dr. Hodgson's borderline obsession with race it is no surprise that this argument is made, but once again the intentions are good. The only problem is that her obsession blinds her to reality.

As I have argued before, the disparities in income between the races now have little or nothing to do with race any more. If we imagined that everyone in Bermuda woke up tomorrow and found themselves coloured purple what would change? Would the next generation of purple people porn to those on or near the poverty line (many of whom were previously black) have it any easier than their parents? Or would the poverty trap prove itself just as inescapable in Bermuda as in other countries? I would hazard a guess that the poverty trap would be just as strong and the poor would stay poor, while the rich stayed rich. I.e. it is socioeconomic status, not race that causes the continuing disparity. Of course the origin of the problem is indeed race, but that is no longer what perpetuates it. We have two options:
  • Large scale re-distribution of wealth from the wealthy to the poor so that everyone ends up equal
  • Improving education/support for our youth so as to ensure that anyone who has the skills and the drive will succeed.
I know which one I prefer. What about Ms. Hodgson?

Neither! In fact there is only one thing that needs to be said about this topic according to Ms. Hodgson:
"Many of us have been angered by both the resistance and the dishonesty of the white community over the issue of the Equity Bill and the disparity between black and white salaries"
Ahh.. of course.. The implication that those who oppose it, oppose it because they're white, while any true black would support it.. That's constructive and, as usual, shows her inability to move beyond race.

In case we needed another example:
"even be occasions when some of those who are now white UBPers would agree with some of those who are now black PLPers"
 Goodness gracious I don't believe my eyes! A UBP supporter agreeing with a PLP supporter! Surely no!

Well firstly don't call me Surely (R.I.P.) and secondly don't overstate the level of racism in society. The UBP has been shown to have around a 50-50 black-white support base and from what I can tell the majority disagree with the PLP not because it has a lot of black people in it, but because they seriously believe it is taking the country in the wrong direction.

There was a time when race was the defining characteristic of a person and when it was necessary to take it into account when making decisions on how to better the country because that was how society worked and the only way to correct for society's obsession with race was to push back equally hard. However that time has passed, the majority of us no longer think in terms of black and white and I genuinely believe that the majority of employers in IB are no different. To continue to think in terms of black and white puts us at risk of ignoring the realities and problems of today in favour or assuming they are the same as yesterday. Dr. Hodgson correctly suggests that economic disparity and the existence of an underclass is a major problem in our society, but she illustrates my point in that the only cause she can conceive of is race. As good as her intentions are she is no better than the racists of old, both shared the same obsession with race. The legal guarantees of equality have all been won an it is now time to put race to bed. Our future, as much as even its mention causes anger in some sectors of the community, is colour blindness. I believe it's possible.

But perhaps thats just wishful thinking?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reefer Madness 2.0

Walton Brown has made his opposition to in any way loosening Bermuda's Marijuana laws quite clear in his opinion post published today in the Royal Gazette. But do his arguments hold up under scrutiny?

Let's identify what his arguments actually were:

  1. "My objection in this respect has little to do with moral outrage and everything to do with health: smoking anything is simply not good for you. No government that cares about its people should want to validate the use of something that is so clearly destructive." A.K.A. The government has a right and a duty to stop you from doing anything that is unhealthy.
  2. "It is far more important to think about the example being set for impressionable young people, some of whom already consider it normal to get high on ganja, influenced as they are by the power of parental practice" A.K.A. When something is legal it is obviously encouraged.
  3. "I am unmoved by the juvenile juxtaposition of alcohol's legality and marijuana's illegality. The research is clear: moderate amounts of alcohol consumption can actually enhance one's health, notwithstanding the conclusions just reached by the UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs." A.K.A. Apart from the studies that show it is more harmful than Marijuana, Alcohol is less harmful than Marijuana
On the first argument, it comes down to whether or not you have the right to make your own decisions regarding health or not. The government gives you the right to drink yourself stupid, eat yourself to death and smoke (Tobacco) until your lungs curl up and die. Why then should it prevent you from smoking a relatively harmless (compared to Alcohol according to a study that Mr. Brown would have you ignore) drug which is generally believed to be impossible to overdose on (unlike Alcohol)?

Oh dear, there I go being "juvenile". How dare I make logical comparisons that don't support Mr. Brown's argument! Ah well, the damage is done, I might as well come out and say it: How can you justify the illegality of Marijuana considering legality of Alcohol?

Concerning Mr. Brown's third point (which basically says: Alcohol isn't harmful, except that it is), one must wonder why we should put the conclusions of UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs aside. Considering it is the only study Mr. Brown actually referenced it seems strange that we are then told to ignore it... But lets refresh ourselves on what this study actually says, in the hopes that we may be reminded why it is to be ignored.

It says: Alcohol is the most harmful drug when its effects on the user are combined with the effects on those around them (beating out Heroin by 17 points) and is the most harmful drug when effects on those around users are considered alone (beating Heroin again by 25 points). In total Alcohol scores over 70 while Cannabis scores just over 20 according to the BBC article on the study.

Ah... I remember why we were supposed to put it aside now, because it basically disproves the core argument of Mr. Brown's case. Oops!

Now lets get back to that second argument. That the legalization of something equates to an encouragement to commit that act. Well that doesn't really makes sense does it? There is a basic presumption of legality in all things and a need to prove there is a clear benefit from making something illegal that outweighs any potential costs before doing so. Legality is no encouragement and is in fact the natural state of things, any argument otherwise simply cannot be justified. Consuming large amounts of alcohol to the point where one is in danger of alcohol poisoning is legal, but not encouraged. Committing suicide is legal, but not encouraged. Smoking is legal, but not encouraged etc. The world simply does not work as Mr. Brown suggests.

The reality is clear. Unfortunately it seems to have a bias that leaves Mr. Brown's arguments without a leg to stand on. Getting beyond Reefer Madness... Ha!

Try Reefer Madness 2.0. 

It's time to accept that society is not going to collapse if Marijuana is legalized, time to accept that legalization doesn't mean that suddenly the island's youth are replaced by an army of stoner zombies and time to accept that the social costs of Marijuana are simply too low to justify an outright ban. If we can trust an adult with Alcohol, we can trust an adult with Marijuana. Either way they hurt no one but themselves. You and I may turn our nose up at it and fear the negative effects it could have on our lives, but we have no right to impose those fears on others in the form of a ban.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Step Forward And More Of The Same

Our new Premier just won a a little bit more respect from me.

Ms. Cox has announced that she has terminated the bodyguards that her Predecessor insisted on through some strange mix of egotism and paranoid. She rightly points out that no other leader in the Caribbean (except that criminal Misick) had bodyguards before Dr. Brown and has not only saved us the money previously wasted on protecting something that wasn't in danger, but also removed a symbolic barrier between the Premier and the people she is supposed to represent. For both of those reasons she is to be applauded.

On a less positive note, it seems like the hope that Rolfe Commissiong would get the boot from his high paid consultancy, considering that his main achievement thus far has been to create racial tension and infuriate large portions of the population., was only wishful thinking. He has been kept on to implement the recommendations of the Mincy Report despite the fact that, as far as I can see, he has no relevant qualifications or experience.

It is completely possible that there is a legitimate reason for his continued employment, but good luck ever finding out either way. Ms. Cox's commitment to transparency apparently ends as soon as anything involving Mr. Commissiong begins since she has refused to even release what his actual responsibilities are (something that one would assume the public has a right to know). Let's hope that this is an exception to how she will conduct herself as Premier, but exception or not it is unacceptable that our money is being spent on something we are apparently not allowed to know about. When will the Government realize that the money they're spending isn't theirs? It's ours and we deserve it to be spent well and to be spent openly, I won't hold my breath though. That's nothing more than wishful thinking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Little Redesign

Thanks to some changes in the interface that I've been playing around with I've finally been able to figure out how to make the blog a little bit easier on the eyes.

I do apologize for the way it was before but, it was the best I could manage with my blog-illiterate ways.

The Senate

A re-post from a topic on BIAW found here

Should the Senate be an Elected house?

The issue really comes down to 2 questions as I see it:
  • What is the senate's purpose?
  • How can it best fulfill that purpose?

In answer to the first question I believe its purpose should be to advise and to balance the highly political nature of the House of Assembly. If we lived in a world where the electorate made purely rational choices it is my belief that we wouldn't need two chambers and that the only reason we have two right now is to attempt to mitigate some of the failings of democracy in reality. Ideally it would retain the restrictions it has now on its ability to delay legislation and specifically those relating to money bills.

The answer to the second question is a little more complicated. To me it seems that it is obvious that it must be a non-political entity (something that we come close to achieving by giving the Government the same number of senators as everyone else) comprised of highly educated professionals like lawyers, doctors and economists (people who can truly consider the implications and rationale behind legislation). On whether it is elected or not I find myself torn between conflicting ideas. On one hand the will of the people is the primary source of power in a democracy. On the other however, the whole purpose of the senate should be to avoid politics and emotion while focusing purely on the legal, financial, rational etc. basis for legislation which would be impossible if its very composition was based on the often emotional responses of the voting public. Thus I cannot decide between two possible options for a reformed senate:

Firstly, a purely appointed body. Appointed either by the governor or by a commission which was appointed by the governor in which members would sit for long terms (7-10 years perhaps) after which they could be appointed again but, would be an equal footing in the commissions considerations as all other potential candidates selected from the pool of professionals in the country.

Secondly, a body where 50% + 1 were appointed in the same manner as the first and the rest were elected through proportional representation.

I think I lean towards the first option because we already have a chamber that is completely elected but, I think either could work as well as the other.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Glimmer Of Sense?

We could soon see Bermuda take a step into the 21st Century when it comes to Human Rights. 

The new Youth, Families and Community Development Minister Mr. Blakeney has announced that the government hopes to be in a position to move forward on guaranteeing protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation before the end of this session. A step forward that is long overdue.

I am slightly concerned about what Mr. Blakeney meant when he said: "without compromising the integrity or the moral fibre for some who might be concerned with regard to their particular spiritual and/or religious beliefs," despite my wish to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially now that Laverne Furbert, who on record as saying "... show me where I ever said I was against equal rights for gays. What I have said consistently is that I would have a problem renting one of my apartments to an openly gay couple." and who has argued consistently that there should be protections for those who wish to make decisions based on the sexual preferences of others when it comes to things like renting apartments, has been appointed Senator, I worry that what we will get is not a firm enshrinement of a fundamental human right within the law but, rather a wishy washy half-arsed change, watered down in an attempt to pander to the Church. Of course I might be being unnecessarily cynical but, I think there is reason for being that way.

Perhaps hoping that they will do this right isn't just wishful thinking. Only time will tell.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's The Plan Mrs. Premier

No mention of Education in the Throne Speech on Friday although I'm going to give Ms. Cox the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was because she wants to give the new Education Minister Jennifer Smith time to run her own department.

All the same though, someone from Government needs to lay out their plan soon. This recent talk about school closures and now redefining what a school is (Yeah I don't understand that one either) is causing a lot of uncertainty and also quite a bit of worry too. Closing schools is the last thing they should be doing right now, if the education system is failing even with the current class sizes how could anyone think it's not going to get a lot worse by increasing the class sizes?

If the options are increasing education funding or raising class sizes the government should fork out the extra money. Cuts need to be made, we all know that, but education is the complete wrong place to be looking for them. It is simply too important for that.

There may well be efficiency savings that can be made in the Ministry but, we must be very careful to make sure that they have no effect on the already below standard education that public school students are receiving and closing schools is a perfect example of a cut that will have an effect on that education.

Start teaching Bermuda's youth properly, then we can talk about saving money.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Edumacation 2

Expanding on the theme of education, new research discovers something most people already know.

'Pushy parents' help children make the grade at school

Girls in a library
Parents who push their children to work hard at school have a bigger impact on their child's academic success than their teachers, research suggests.

The effort a parent puts into ensuring their child buckles down to schoolwork has a greater impact than that put in by the child or the school, it says.

Researchers at Leicester and Leeds universities found parents put less effort in the more children they had.

They looked at how much they read to a child and attended school meetings.
And also at teachers' perceptions of their involvement.

The academics used data from the National Child Development Study for pupils born in 1958.
And to judge how much was down to parental influences and how much was down to pupils being self-starting individuals, the researchers also studied the children's attitudes, such as whether, at the age of 16, they thought school was a waste of time.

Family backgroundSchools were assessed on how they tried to involve parents, what disciplinary methods they used and and whether 16-year-olds were offered careers advice.
The findings suggest that there is something of a perfect circle. Parents encourage their children to make more of an effort, and then when their child tries harder, the parents put in even more effort.

The background of a family affects the schools' effort, the study found.

Professor Gianni De Fraja, head of economics at Leicester University, said: "The main channel through which parental socio-economic background affects achievement is via effort.
"Parents from a more advantaged environment exert more effort, and this influences positively the educational attainment of their children.

"The parents' background also increases the school's effort, which increases the school achievement. Why schools work harder where parents are from a more privileged background we do not know. It might be because middle class parents are more vocal in demanding that the school works hard."

The researchers found children were more likely to put more effort into their schooling if their parents showed that commitment too.

Professor De Fraja added: "We found that children work harder whose parents put more effort into their education."

Big families The report says parents put less effort into their children's education the more offspring they have.

"There is a trade-off between quantity and quality of children: a child's number of siblings influences negatively the effort exerted by that child's parents toward that child's education," it says.

The researchers suggest policies aimed at improving parental effort - such as parenting classes - might help to boost children's achievements.
The research is published in the latest issue of Review of Economics and Statistics.
I've thrown out a few of my ideas about how to overhaul the public education system but, the question now becomes, how are we to increase the involvement of parent's in their child's education?

On this one I must admit that I am stumped. How does one change the culture of parenting in Bermuda? My first thought is through education but, if success in education is dependent on the culture of parenting changing how is that possible? I really have no idea.

Maybe Ms. Cox our new Premier and her new Education minister will know the answer but, I won't hold my breath on that one.

I've run out of wishful thinking when it comes to Education.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Tonight is a big night for Bermuda. We are about to discover at last who is to follow the illustrious Dr. Brown as Premier of Bermuda. What better night than tonight then to discuss Education, one of the most important issues as Bermuda goes forward. perhaps our new Premier will be more inclined to take discussion in the community on board than the outgoing one and actually arrive at a satisfactory solution or perhaps we're in for more of the same. Who knows?

Either way, here's my wish list for reform:

Firstly, employ the best teachers available, Bermudian or Non-Bermudian. Education is not the place to play immigration politics.

Secondly, introduce British GCSE (or IGCSE), A Level and BTEC external examinations for all students.

Thirdly, ensure that any student who is unable to pass an end of year exam in both Math and English every year is made to repeat the year and provided with extra support so they won't fail it twice.

Fourthly, stream students beginning at GCSE level into 3 groups: Top, Middle and Bottom. Call the streams what you like but, make it happen whether it be internal to schools or a situation where each level is at a different school. Ensure that the ability to move between the streams exists for students that show an improvement (or decline).

Fifthly, consider offering vouchers to parents who wish to send their children to private/boarding schools for an amount equal to the spending per student within the public education system (with the rest of any costs to be funded by the parent).

Sixthly, eventually remove all Government involvement in education beyond paying for it.

Seventhly, ensure that all students public or private participate in a Critical Thinking and a Citizenship class. The first to teach rudimentary logic, the construction of arguments, the difference between fact and assertion, the ability to infer information and identify assumptions behind a text etc. and the second to teach the political system in Bermuda and other major countries in the world as well as to discuss alternatives that have been suggested/tried in the past.

Those are the things that I would like to see as part of any meaningful reform of Bermuda's education system.

If wanting that kind of reform isn't Wishful Thinking (given the PLP's past record) I really don't know what is.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some Good News?

For once it seems I can write about something positive. How refreshing.

It would seem as though we are actually going to get a Park Hyatt Hotel up in St. Georges unless planning manages to turn the developers away even at this late stage. The need to redevelop our tourism product is well recognized by all people regardless of political belief and I'm sure everyone will see this as a positive step when/if it happens. You can't blame people for people being cynical about it though. We've been disappointed quite a few times before.

It's just a shame that this is the exception to business as usual with Dr. Brown.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Worst Kind Of Pathetic

Let's start with one question.

Can one expect fair judicial proceedings Bermuda if accused of a crime?

I would be inclined to say yes. Especially because we can't even convict people who are guilty never mind those who are innocent.

Have established that I think it's fair to say that were I to be falsely accused of a crime I would be eager to demonstrate the charges as false as soon as possible. I think that's something we all share.

Now consider Jahmel Blakeney.

Were I to want to give him the benefit of the doubt when he fled the country he's as good as extinguished that desire by challenging the extradition request filed by the Bermudian Government.

Here now we have nothing more than an obvious, pathetic attempt to keep himself out of jail and shirk all responsibility for his actions. He has been transformed before our very eyes from a full grown man into a pathetic coward running from what's coming to him.

He claims the Bermuda government hasn't presented enough evidence to prove him guilty. Although if that's true it's strange to me that he refuses to come before Bermuda courts. If the prosecutions case is so weak that it can't justify his transportation to Bermuda to face trial then surely there's no hope in hell of it securing a conviction. Clearly someone is counting on a sympathetic American judge.

Ignoring completely the unjust practice of allowing one country to decide whether or not another country should have the right to try someone accused in that country of breaking that country's laws (assuming a fair judicial process) just the fact that he is fighting the extradition comes across to me as proof of his guilt.

I look forward to when Bermuda get its chance to try this pathetic excuse for a man and lose the case on a technicality or out of incompetence. Or perhaps I'm being too harsh. Although we can be sure that in the event of a conviction the judge definitely won't.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Cannabis Debate

Over the past few months we've had quite the back and forth (mostly between members of the PLP) in the news over the issue of whether there should be a new debate drug control. Whatever your views on this subject I think we can all accept that debating the issue is exactly what we need to do. When everything is on the table (as it always is after a full and robust debate) we can begin to make informed decisions about the future of drug control on the island, whether it be strengthening them, weakening them or adopting a completely different approach.

More recently the leader of the BDA has come out and spoken out against having such s debate and shared a heart wrenching story about what he and his family went through because of his fathers addiction to drug but, while that may provide a reason to argue against weakening controls it is irrelevant in the immediate question: Whether a debate should be held. While his views are understandable given his past he cannot let his personal feelings or even the feelings of the members of his party prevent a wider public debate.

Monday, August 30, 2010

If Only He Had A Chance

While Kim Swan's statements regarding the PLP leadership campaign will have no real impact on the race they do provide two positives in my opinion.

Firstly they help in some small way to fight the idea that some in the PLP seem to have that this campaign should be fought completely internally without the sunlight of wider public scrutiny. It promotes discussion on the points made both within the PLP (even if it is simply to slam down the points made and insult the point maker) and within the community as a whole. Since eventually the winner is going to be the premier of the entire country it can't hurt to discuss the candidates even if we have no actual voice in the selection process.

Secondly they give us an opportunity to gauge the way the candidates would interact with political opponents as Premier. We all know how Dr. Brown dealt with criticism from the opposition in the past and I think most people agree that the kind of petty fighting that it encouraged were bad for Bermuda as a whole. While we have yet to see Lister or Cox make any break from that style I found it very interesting that Butler responded to today's reported statement in this way: "As an astute Bermudian, we will take your wide ranging views into consideration as we reflect on action that is needed after all is said and done". That's something more than the usual Shut Up response that we have gotten used to and I can't help but respect Butler more for it.

With the incredibly divisive political landscape in Bermuda perhaps a Premier that can bring people closer together and promote cooperation is exactly what we need and Butler seems to be that kind of person. Unfortunately it seems Butler is a distant third with no chance which is a shame. Perhaps he could do some good as Deputy Premier?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Summer Comes To An End

Summer is now unfortunately drawing to a close and so are all the distractions that have drawn me away from the often frustrating world of Bermudian news and politics. As Dr. Brown's departure from the Premiership draws ever nearer I feel things will get more and more interesting. Perhaps a new page will be turned and Bermuda will take a turn for the better (or possibly even the worse).

Only time will tell and I look forward to spouting more opinions as the events unfold.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How Pathetic

Part of Dr. Brown's statement in the house yesterday:

"However, we must be cautious with our Parliamentary privilege — we must speak the truth, and we must be careful not to stereotype what people can or cannot do based on their ethnicity or size."

Pot, Kettle, Black.

Woops, there I go playing the race card again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

PLP Attack Dog

Seems the PLP has released Burch upon the world for another edition of "Lunatic Rants From the Hilll", this time to slam perfectly legitimate criticisms of a rather poorly thought out law as driven by greed.

It really makes me wonder why we bother playing Parliament at all on this little island when clearly our supposedly Democratic Government takes criticism more like Kim Jong-il than Barack Obama. Which leads me on to another unrelated point that falls well under this title.

It seems they've unleashed their Blog to link the UBP and BDA with the American Republican party who opposed the stimulus because they criticized the government's repeated fiscal failure, completely missing the fact that much of the waste that contributes to our deficit has absolutely no benefits as far as our economy is concerned. A good portion of it heads off to foreign consultants and minister's hotel rooms. How they can argue that is helping Bermudians is beyond me.

This country needs a change and only the electorate can give it that. The only question is what state Bermuda will be in by the time the next election is called.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Something Different

As this is a blog about Bermuda I try to avoid things that aren't really relevant to Bermuda. I'll leave it to you to decide if I've broken that rule with this post.

I first heard of this story a week ago and have been following it since (in attempt to make myself feel better about the direction Bermuda is headed):

Texas schools to get controversial syllabus

Education officials in the US state of Texas have adopted new guidelines to the school curriculum, which critics say will politicise teaching... Critics say the changes are ideological and distort history. However, proponents argue they are redressing a liberal bias in education... But during the discussions some of the most controversial ideas were dropped - including a proposal to refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade"... Opponents of the changes worry that textbooks sold in other states will be written to comply with the new Texas standards, meaning that the alterations could have an impact on curriculums nationwide.

The full list of originally proposed changes were as follows:
  • Referring to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade".
  • Diminishing the role Thomas Jefferson and the idea of the Separation of State and Church
  • Casting the United Nations in a critical light as a threat to sovereignty
  • Promoting American ideals as beneficial for the world
  • Emphasizing the role of religion in America's founding
  • Promoting the superiority of the capitalist system
  • Toning down criticism of McCarthyism
Now can anyone think of something more ironic than the nation that is supposed to be the shining light of democracy so obviously going down the road of the conservative indoctrination of children? I can't. Sure history is up to interpretation but... there's only so far you can take it and still preserve at least a semblance of objectivity.

The rest of the world is laughing at how absolutely ridiculous this is and the hypocrisy is incredible. In any other country it would have been laughed off as a complete joke, no one would have expected it to be serious and yet... America is another world too.

I wonder who else may want to rewrite history? Surely no one in Bermuda... that would be silly.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It Hits The Fan

It seems that it's really hit the fan over this Media Council Bill (Dubbed the Media Suppression Bill by Vexed), its gotten to the point where I'm losing track of the number of international organizations that have released damning condemnations of the bill. Those of us in the online community seem united in opposition as well.

To restate the reasons for the strong opposition to this bill is by now redundant and a waste of time and I hadn't intended to post again on the subject but, when unnamed government spokesmen clutter our newspapers with the absolute drivel that they've seen fit to grace us with this time it's hard not to address their attempt at a counter-argument.

First of all I must point out (as many others have) the irony of the use of unnamed spokesmen to defend a bill that seems set to be debated on the same day as the PATI legislation. Go figure. Then of course there's the question as to why the government use an unnamed spokesman in the first place. For a government that claims to have no intention but to protect the public interest and promote a free and fair media one would think they'd take reasonable steps to avoid creating the suspicion that the choice of spokesperson create but then again... It is Dr. Brown.

Unfortunately things only get more ridiculous from that point. Step one of the Government counterattack seems to be to discredit the international organizations that have expressed their concern (Hmm.. Where have I heard of governments doing that before?). What's most interesting is their strategy. They dismiss all but one of the organizations of having an inherent American slant which makes their concerns invalid because we're not America. The one they don't paint with that brush, The International Press Institute, which isn't based in America is dismissed with a suggestion that their spokesperson may be American. Yeah that's right. He may be American. Now if you live in the same Bermuda I live in then you will remember the various battles the Government has had with the Governor and the way Dr. Brown repeatedly takes shots at our "Colonial Masters" you wouldn't have dreamed that suddenly the Government would take a U-turn and begin extolling the correctness of the Governor's views (he believes that the Council would, in fact, be independent in its current form). Such is the political times we live in though. As soon as it becomes convenient the Government drops the attempts to portray us as closer to America with the UK and their representatives as our evil masters and turns around to dismiss experienced international press freedom organizations for being too American and begins using the UK appointed Governor's statements as proof of their point. Apparently it is completely acceptable for the Government to ignore not only the skills and reputations of some of the organizations but, to mislead the public as well because two of the organizations in question are actually related to the UK and have little/no ties to America (those two being the Commonwealth Press Union and the Press Complaints Commission which is the corresponding council in the UK). Lets have a look at some of the big names:

  • The IPI
60 years of defending press freedom:
The International Press Institute is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists. We are dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.
  • Commonwealth Press Union
The CPU Media Trust has been established to defend the interests of the Commonwealth media.

The Trust is committed to a professional, ethical and effective media across the Commonwealth. Its primary concerns are supporting media freedom and media rights, the training of journalists in the skills necessary for them to enable their work and a thorough understanding of media law and the establishment and support of self-regulatory bodies throughout the Commonwealth.

Groups with a purely American slant that don't understand the way things work in Bermuda? Or dedicated press freedom organizations expressing concern at the direction a reasonably developed democracy is going? You decide.

Next we have this issue of whether or not it is right to have Government appointees sitting on the council. The spokesman attempts to justify it by pointing to the presence of "lay members" on councils in England and Ireland. Lets be clear on that point right off the bat. Government appointees are in no way lay members of the council, they are Government representatives with the forseable power to vote to suppress embarrassing stories. Were it to be 5 representatives of the Media, a Governor appointed chairman and 6 independent members of the public agreed upon by the Media and Governor then it would be a different story but, these 6 members are appointed on the advice of the Premier who shall have consulted the Opposition Leader as it currently stands and that is a risk no one should be willing to take. I previously stated that I understand the arguments for including government representatives on the council but, would rather see 6 Media reps and 5 Government reps rather than the current opposite situation because then the Government would require the support of the Governor's rep which creates a presumption to err on the side of the media as it would require the Governor's rep to actively vote against the media. That being said however, I would prefer to see no government involvement at all much like the UK council which proves that self-regulation not only works, but works well.

In defense of the independence of the Governor's appointees the spokesman points to the Public Service Commission and the Ombudsman and this is a good point but, unfortunately it's not good enough for me. In any political system there are two parties in almost constant conflict, the People and the Government. In a Democracy the weapons of choice are (theoretically) facts and the arms dealer (to both sides) is the Media. Such a basic pillar of our system cannot be put anywhere near the danger of control by the Government. As well intentioned and incorruptible as any current or future leader may be it would only take one with ambition to abuse the system and that is a risk we cannot afford to take. For the PSC and the Ombudsman we have no choice but, to deal with the imperfect system but, the same risk should not be taken with the Media. If the Government was really committed to ensuring a fair and open Media they would adopt the successful policy adopted by the UK government and let the local Media attempt to create their own self regulating council before rushing in with the big guns and taking what could be a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

Then there are the power to effectively gag the press that the council would have under the legislation., keep in mind that the UK commission acts without any statutory powers at all and yet functions perfectly well. This has created one of the biggest bones of contention regarding this act. The defense from the spokesman?...

They can only gag it for a limited time.

Clearly they missed the point. It should have no power to gag at all!

We can only hope that this will not go through on the nod under the PLP whip. It would be a travesty for local democracy. The UBP opposes it, the Alliance is almost certain to express similar views, now its time for the PLP backbenches to take action in the interests of the Bermudian people rather than following the agenda of a clearly confused cabinet which seems unable even to figure out the name of the spokesman in charge of dealing with this bill.

Wishful Thinking

Friday, May 14, 2010

More On The Media Council

Vexed has posted a copy of the proposed Media Council bill on his website here and looking through it there are a number of interesting things that caught my eye.

Section 2 lays out the purpose of the act and subsection (a) specifies that it should be an "independent" entity and yet the government will effectively appoint half of the members. That gives a party with a vested interest in keeping the media subdued (what government wouldn't want the media not to report embarrassing things?) a lot of power to control it. Granted it seems that it's not as unbalanced as I previously indicated it may have been since Chairman appointed by the Governor exercises both a normal vote and an extra casting vote in the case of a tie. This balances it up although I must still question why the choice was made to give the council a bias towards the government when international practice often allows the media to police themselves with much success. There must always be a certain level of inherent distrust of the government in a democracy, with the media supposed to be the counterbalancing force. While the council has great potential to do good I'd rather have 6 elected by the media and 5 appointed by the government and since the balance would remain the same (the governor's appointee still with the casting vote) I would hope that the government would be receptive to the worries of cynics such as myself and make this slight change so that if Dr. Brown truly does wish to do good with this council it is not hidden behind the suspicion and distrust that his actions so often evoke from many within the community (and rightly so).

The act also seems to give a lot of power to the Minister to decide who the Council has jurisdiction over and who it doesn't. I'd rather see specific definitions that all media outlets could be tested against than this power be given to a politician who could potentially have vested interests in deciding one way or the other.

Finally it is interesting that the Media Council is to be funded purely by the media. It just seems a bit wrong to me, I doubt the profit margins are high (especially considering that a newspaper was forced to close due to costs recently) and if the Government wishes to regulate the media it is only fair that the Government pays for it. If however the council is adapted to consist purely of members of the media then the case could certainly be made for them paying for it but, in its current form it is wrong.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It Gave Unto Them Spines

It would seem that the PLP parliamentary group has at last found its voice... and its spine at last. In a thus far unprecedented move an overwhelming majority of PLP MP's spoke out against a key piece of their Leader's agenda, gambling.

I have a number of theories as to why this may have happened (or more specifically why it happened NOW). Here are a few:

  1. Dr. Brown is now a lame duck Premier on the way out so they aren't worried about upsetting him anymore.
  2. Paula Cox's leadership early in the debate gave backbench MP's the courage to speak their minds
  3. Gambling is an issue that arouses such strong opposition within the church community (traditionally a strong PLP support base) that the MP's are terrified of upsetting them by supporting it.
Theory 1 is the pessimist in me, it is what so many years of complete lack of backbench scrutiny of Dr. Brown has done to me. It seems to be a theory that is widely shared and it certainly isn't a good indication of the health of Bermudian democracy. With such a small parliament it is simply impossible for our system to function when the backbench is willing to stick their head in the sand and ignore the failures of their party leadership. This needs to change.

Theory 2 is a more moderate approach that also seems to be rather popular. Not much to say about it except that it seems clear that Paula Cox is set to become our next premier. Ms. Cog the Jellyfish hasn't had much in the way of backbone until now and its a worrying prospect that she won't have developed one in time for the serious changes that need to come under our next Premier if our Island is to continue to prosper. Better late then never though I suppose but, then again her backbone may well have only materialized due to theory 1. In which case it is no backbone at all.

Theory 3 is the hope that this incident is actually democracy in action. Whether or not you agree with the church lobby you can't deny that they represent the views of a large portion of Bermudian society and if this was really a reaction to their opposition then it just goes to show that the MP's actually listened. That would be a very positive sign and would suggest that the onus is on us to keep our politicians working for us. I have argued in the past that our system is what we made/continue to make it. If only every issue got people as interested and active as gambling did. Then we'd have the healthy, thriving democracy that we all want. But.. there I go with the wishful thinking again.

In the end I think it comes down to a mixture of all three. A little bit of positive in there, a little bit of negative, a little bit of "Yawn, Bermuda really is another world". It will be interesting to see where this new phase of politics in Bermuda will take us, if it even lasts beyond October that is.

Wishful Thinking

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Media Council

The PLP is no friend of the Royal Gazette. This is more than obvious to anyone who has watched the Government kill the Mid Ocean Newspaper by withdrawing advertisiment, attempt to gag the RG on major stories and repeatedly criticize the Royal Gazette for reporting on anything negative relating to the Government. But I certainly didn't expect it to go as far as it seems to be going.

Dr. Brown has announced his draft plans for a Media Watchdog which he's been speaking about for a while now. At first glance it seems reasonable enough (although personally the thought of any government controls on a free media is worrying) but, as usual the devil is in the details. It is proposed that the council have 12 members, 6 of which are appointed on the advice of the Premier (i.e. appointed by him in non-political speak). One of the remaining 6 is to be the chairmen appointed by the Governor (presumably with only a tie-breaking vote) and the other 5 are supposed to be members of the media. If my assumption regarding the chairman is true that leaves the Premier with a majority representation on the council. As far as I'm concerned that gives a dangerous amount of power to the people who have the most to fear from a free media. Especially if our next premier is as openly hostile towards the Royal Gazette as the current one.

Unfortunately I expect this bill to go through parliament on a purely partisan vote without much in the way of public opposition, except for those who are already suspicious of or dissatisfied with the PLP. I look eagerly for when the bill itself is released, perhaps my fears are unfounded but... I doubt it. So much for..

Wishful Thinking

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank You Mr. DeVent

PLP MP Ashfield DeVent has at last hit back at Rolfe Commissiong's comments that Bermuda's drug problem is purely an issue of structural racism and good for him! I think he says it all when he accuses Commissiong of "Tunnel Vision" on the issue of race. When it comes to Comissiong's opinions it seems that we can link everything from crime to support of the BDA back to race somehow and it seems that Mr. DeVent believes, as I do, that this is doing more harm than good.

As much as we'd all like to say there was no racism in Bermuda we all know there is but, it does a disservice to us all when we freely allow people to shirk responsibility for their actions in favour of blaming racism when in fact it comes down to personal choice. But, I've said all that before; most of all it's just good to know that there are those in the PLP who will stand to Mr. Commissiong and his race based tunnel vision. Perhaps there is some hope to be had for the future after all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marry Your Own Kind

Its interesting how the Government seems to actively discourage Bermudians marrying non-Bermudians. If one were a cynic one would read something sinister in the apparent attempts to encourage Bermudians to marry amongst themselves rather than leaving the island for love but, naturally to do such a thing would be the opposite of wishful thinking and thus it must be avoided. So I will simply say that it's interesting. Whether it be suggestions that certain foreign spouses are prostitutes, calls for Bermudians to be allowed only one foreign spouse in their life or the requirement for married couples to purchase a land license like any other expat owning property, it would seem that the Government has something against the deepening of Bermuda's Gene paddle pool.

On the issue of land licenses, although not something new, I would have to agree with those who say that it seems to create two classes of Bermudian marriages: Bermuda-Bermuda and Bermuda-Other, which doesn't seem right. I of course understand the need to ensure that Bermuda is owned by Bermudians but, the way the Government has gone about it feels all wrong. Perhaps at some point in the future the law will be reexamined. I certainly hope so.

Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

They Say The Cutest Things Don't They

Senator Burch has a habit of making the news for saying some pretty out there things and, for the most part, Bermuda accepts it as just being the way he is. He often says what needs to be said and often hits the nail right on the head when others would rather skirt around the issue but today I couldn't help but look at his comments regarding marrying foreigners with a rather strange mixture of amusement and worry.

He suggested that Bermudians should be only allowed to marry one foreigner and if that doesn't work out then they have to stick to Bermudians for the rest of their days. In any other western country I would laugh and forget but, the worrying comes in when I think that it might actually be possible.

First of all I find it amusing simply because of the fact that Burch is suggesting that Bermudians should stick to only marrying other Bermudians.. Potential genetic troubles aside, this should appall anyone who values their personal liberty. We all recognize (for the most part) that the world we live in involves compromise, we give up certain liberties so that the rest of them may be protected by the government however I believe that any proposal to tell people who they can or cannot marry is going too far.

Secondly although he is of course entitled to speak his mind this comment is extremely divisive bordering on xenophobic. Bermuda already has a strained attitude towards expats, this (were it to go any further) would just make it worse. Sure there may be a few who use marriage simply to get in on Bermudian status but, to paint all expats with this brush does a disservice to the many people who come to work here, bringing their money, talent and time to grow Bermuda's economy and bolster Bermuda's charities.

Normally I wouldn't feel the need to comment but, I'm in a cynical mood and unfortunately I can just imagine such a thing happening.. So much for

Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Budget Debacle

So I've had the opportunity to listen to the budget "debates" on Monday and Today and I must say that I'm ashamed of what this country has come to. Blatant filibustering, petty bickering and overall low standard of debate.

Both on Monday and today I have had the misfortune of hearing exceptionally long, irrelevant and quite frankly unnecessary speeches from ministers that stretch a simple analysis of budgetary figures into ridiculously long thank you speeches to departmental cleaners and in depth discussion of hospital cleaning utensils. Twice debate on important issues has been cut short, once most certainly deliberately, the other quite obviously deliberately but, I'm sure its possible to argue the other side if you try hard enough.

In case you're wondering the debates I'm referring to are the debates of the Cabinet Office and Future Care (part of the Ministry of Health debate) respectively.

I've had a number of things to say over on BIAW about the budget this year and if your interested I invite you to go and have a look Here and Here.

Anyway there I is one thing I think needs to be done to "fix" the issues with debate in the house. As of right now the Opposition chooses the schedule but, the Minister responsible always gets the chance to give an opening statement and breakdown of the figures. I think this needs to be changed to allow the Opposition to begin by highlighting their concerns (perhaps this could be done in advance of the actual debate) which would then be dealt with by the minister and the debate could move on from there. That would stop the complete waste of time that is so much of the budget debate these days.

Also, although not really something you can fix with rules or changes in system, MP's really need to get their act together and debate rather than just making speeches at each other. Too often there is so little "clash" as it is called in debating as a competitive activity and it doesn't allow them to get to the bottom of whatever issue is at hand. All we have currently is MP's repeating the party line with different words over and over again and no rebuttal of the opposing view. That's the only way to really flesh out an idea. As it is now that doesn't really happen.

Wishful Thinking

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cog Is The New Black

In today's Royal Gazette Finance Minister and Deputy Premier The Hon. Paula "Cog" Cox JP MP reiterated her position that she is just "a cog in the wheel" of government.

What then does the Department of Finance actually do?

Lets begin this search for the meaning of the only department actually specifically mentioned in the Bermuda Constitution by looking at what the word Finance means.

Webster's Dictionary defines it as: "the science or study of the management of funds" and " the obtaining of funds or capital" but, in this context I think most can agree that it means simply money management.

So now that we know what the word Finance actually means let us play with the definition and imagine that the Department is instead called the Department of Money Management and not the Department of Stand By And Let Them Spend What They Want Regardless Of How Much Money We Have as one may have expected. What does the Department of Money Management therefore have responsibility for? Well.. Money Management right?. Both in the regulating the flow of money in the economy and in regulating the incomes and expenditures of government funds right? That would seem logical to me anyway.

So why does Ms. Cog seem to have a different idea? How can she or anyone justify completely ignoring the management part of her portfolio? What if we applied her team idea to her management of the economy? No one would be paying taxes! Every company would do what was profitable, not what was legal! Does that sound like a good thing?

It's about time that she stops this strange attempt to shirk all responsibility for her failures and just admit that either she is incompetent or doesn't have the testicular fortitude to stand up to Ewart Brown and the other members of the cabinet. We need expenditure cuts, reductions in government waste, better management of capital projects and economic stimulus. Not a 10% increase in spending, a 2% rise in payroll tax and a reduction in the tax rates on TVs.

So enough with this cog in the wheel nonsense. Bermuda has been mismanaged financially over the last few years Ms. Cox was the one asleep at the wheel while it happened but, if there was ever a time to turn things around it is now. So lets see some proof that she has the testicular fortitude she is so fond of talking about. For the past few years good financial management has seemed like wishful thinking but, perhaps with a bit of a backbone that can change.

Wishful Thinking

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 Bermuda Budget

Now I'm no economist but, still the 2010 Budget raises some interesting questions in my mind.

1) Where are the spending cuts promised?

We were promised 10% cuts in departmental spending. Instead we've seen a 9% rise in total. With the Department of Education being one of the few that takes a cut.

The government blew through the good times with a spend spend spend attitude, putting very little aside for when times turned bad and now that we are in those bad times they seem completely unable to deal with it. The country's debt is going through the roof, passing this government's fiscal problems off to my generation to fix, and the Bermudian people are facing hard economic times to which the response of government is to raise taxes. That being said however we do see an increase in the amount of money being put towards financial assistance for lower income families which is commendable however how much can the government do when the very people they are trying to help are being forced out of their jobs by the taxes paying for the government's thrifty attitude.

On the point of the Department of Education's budget cuts it may not be as shocking as it may seem to be on the surface. While we do face major issues with the public educations system on the island one must take account of the fact that the number of students enrolled in the system has constantly decreased over the years (undoubtedly a symptom of the failures of the system). It will remain to be seen if the spending cuts are in line with the reduction in students and if the budgeted amount is enough to turn the failing system around but, for now I believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

2) Why tax employment when we already have a problem of unemployment?

Perhaps someone can explain it to me but, I always thought that the more someone has to pay for something, the less of it they will want. Since the budget includes a 1% rise in the amount of money employers will have to pay for every worker won't that actually discourage employing more workers? Or even force small businesses to lay off workers or close down? Perhaps I'm missing something, or our Government knows something about the economy that the rest of us are missing.

3) Why are they still claiming that no one saw this coming?

Again Ms. Paula "cog" C0x claims that this is something that no one saw coming, stating that it was a once in a 100 years event so they couldn't have been expected to prepare for this. As Shadow Minister of Finance Bob Richards retorted post-budget, apparently his name is No One. 3 years ago he warned that something was coming and was shouted down as a scaremonger... Oops.

As I have already mentioned there is also the question as to why the Government wasn't putting money away when the economy was booming to deal with even unexpected downturns? Save while you can, spend when you must should have been the motto of Ms. Cox's department but, then again, how can the head of the department tasked with managing the government's finances and spending do anything? It's not like it's her job or anything. She's just a cog in the wheel.

4) How much more of this kind of fiscal management can Bermuda take?

Who knows.. On this one there's not a lot of room for..

Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hmm.. Now Thats An Idea

An interesting article I found on the BBC:

MPs to be watched on local issues

Web-based democracy activists have kicked off the first round of a project to see if MPs keep their promises.

Meetings are being arranged up and down the country to draw up lists of issues important to locals.

Once compiled, prospective MPs will be quizzed on their views about the issues and the responses recorded.

After the election, the voting behaviour of MPs will be monitored to see if the policies they back or vote against match their words.

Better democracy

The meetings are being organised by volunteers involved with the Democracy Club, a non-partisan online group that aims to ensure people are better informed about their political representatives.

Seb Bacon, the co-ordinator of Democracy Club, said it was set up to become the place people could turn to for neutral information about MPs.

"It gives people an insight into the people they are voting for rather than them just getting information from the party machine," he said.

Volunteers who sign up to help get given weekly tasks, said Mr Bacon.

"It's about giving people small bite-sized tasks to further transparency and improve democracy," he said. "It's about doing something small to achieve that bigger goal."

Democracy Club now has about 3000 volunteers spread across 98% of the UK's constituencies. The task they have been given this week involves setting up meetings to brainstorm a list of important local issues.

Mr Bacon said he only expected a few meetings to be held but, so far, about 40 are being arranged. An indicator, said Mr Bacon, of the desire among the electorate in the wake of the expenses scandal to ensure politics becomes more transparent.

"The next phase is going to be turning those local issues into questions we can put to candidates," he said.

"The questions must be answerable yes or no so at a glance they can compare what the candidates are saying," said Mr Bacon.

"Exactly how it is going to be useful, we'll have to see," he added.

Democracy Club has grown out of volunteers involved with the TheyWorkForYou website which monitors the activities and voting records of MPs. Information gathered by Democracy Club will appear on the TheyWorkForYou site.

Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety which created TheyWorkForYou, said gathering the information would act as an incentive for MPs.

"If you have an opaque regime where people can get away with things they will try to get away with them," he said.

"This will give them the incentive to do right in the first place," he said.

In October 2009, Mr Steinberg started advising the Conservative Party on ways to make government more open and efficient. At the time, Mr Steinberg said he would be doing the advising and MySociety would remain "strictly non-partisan".

It would be interesting to see such a thing implemented in Bermuda, it would certainly improve accountability although it would still depend on the electorate caring... I wonder if even with that system in place in Bermuda race and petty party politics would still be the orders of the day though. As long as they are, no amount of accountability is going improve Bermuda politics.

Busy busy life > Blogging but, my posting should become more regular again soon.

Wishful Thinking

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How Do You Run A Country When You Can't Balance A Budget?

With Paula Cox touted as the most likely successor to Premier Ewart Brown come October it is not without good reason that I am worried that she seems either unable to control the spending of the Bermuda Government, which is exactly what Bermuda needs.

Under her watch we have seen:
  • Heavy spending in the good times leading to the accumulation of massive debt in the bad
  • Multiple projects running over budget
  • Qualified Audits 2 years in a row
  • $800 million going missing from the Consolidated fund

We have seen a finance minister who again and again has shown she has the backbone of a jellyfish. Unable (or Unwilling) to stand up to Dr. Brown and her cabinet colleagues she has appeared, and even claimed to be, politically neutered. Is that what we want in a future premier?

We have seen a Finance Minister who's best response to 20% yearly budget overspending is to pass the blame and play the part of the politically (or perhaps financially) neutered victim:

"I can indicate support or objection. However the sponsoring Minister(s) knows that I cannot overrule their request unless I have others who join with me to support and uphold my position."

We have seen a Finance Minister who has attempted to mislead the public using Bermuda's strangely large GDP (thanks to International Business) to mask the fact that our debt really is going through the roof (around 50% per year increase over the past 3 years).

We have seen a Finance Minister who can't even release the budget on time. Sure, according to law it's within their right but, one does not break with parliamentary tradition unless something is wrong. Maneuverability is a pathetic excuse.

Is it wrong of me to expect better from our probable future Premier? I guess in today's Bermuda it is.

The public's silence is deafening.

Expecting better would simply be...

Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here's Johnny!

Sorry about the recent lack of posts (to anyone who may read this) but, life got in the way for a while and life > politics/current affairs.

Just to ease myself back into it I'd like to make a few comments on an article that I was unfortunately not surprised to find myself reading. One regarding Dale Butler's hope of becoming Premier when Dr. Brown steps down in October.

An article that actually used the words "gay rights agenda" as if it were a subversive organization set out to destroy our country and repeatedly focused on the fact that any attempt to bring equality to our country will go against all that the PLP's religious supporters stand for and (here's the big argument) lose them votes.

That's right I'm talking about the article reporting Rolfe Commissiong's comments on the subject of Dale Butler and after a little reading around I'm happy to have found that Rolfe's views don't appear to be the actual party line but all the same the sheer ignorance of his comments left my head spinning. In the last century the very comments he is making would have been used to justify the inequality of blacks compared to whites and to justify the prevention of female suffrage and to even go into explaining why in so many ways his comments are unworthy of a first world multicultural country like Bermuda would be to simply waste my time because its common sense. It all boils down to equality.

He also seems to forget (as a very good LttE pointed out) that the current Premier and other PLP big names have previously voted for this "gay rights agenda" in passing the Stubbs Bill. Didn't seem to affect their popularity much did it?

Perhaps if PLP (And UBP and BDA) members were to simply vote conscious and forget about politics for just one second they would see just how important amending the HRA is. It's a matter of principle, of equality and of rights. Not Politrics.

And to all who may be reading I encourage you to go out and see what you can do for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. I can't stress enough how important even a few dollars can be but, I'm not going to go on and on about it. It's all been said already but, the people of Haiti need our help.

Wishful Thinking

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Happy New Year To All

Well the new year has begun and I'm sure we've all just about settled back into the daily grunge of regular life after a season of festivities but, there are storm clouds on the horizon. Violence is becoming worryingly common in Bermuda. Not even just gun violence but, violence in general. Without this culture of violence and disrespect that is now rearing its ugly head we would not now be dealing with what is just another extension of a long existing problem. Crime in Bermuda has become almost a joke, a dark, dark joke at that. Whether it be a comedy of errors in the courts, a lack of manpower on the streets or the inability to solve the crimes there always seems to be something. But, perhaps this is changing. Things are happening now, cooperation throughout the community and and between Government and Governor have always been key and now we really seem to be moving in the right direction. Unfortunately it took the shock of such unnecessary loss of life to get us to this point and we still have a long way to go. I'm hopeful but, part of me believes its going to get worse before it gets better and I don't know if Bermuda can handle that. We depend too much on image for both IB and tourism. Both of which have already taken major blows.

If I didn't listen to the talk in town I might have been able to fool myself and say that we're experiencing the platinum period of tourism that we've been told about all last year but, the numbers don't lie and spending is down. Its part of a trend that I can only assume won't reverse itself unless something is done and given the Government's record on tourism over these past few years I can't deny that I'm worried.

Bermuda has a lot to deal with in the coming year(s) but, I think we'll be able to handle them. Bermuda used to be another world but, we can't claim that any longer. We face the same troubles as all the rest of the world. At this point we can do two things: Pretend the ships not sinking Or get out there and start bailing. There's no reason we can't return to some semblance of the country we used to be. All it's going to take is a lot of work and this is the crucial year. As we weather out the aftereffects of the recession, deal with crime we will also experience a change in leadership. Dr. Brown has always been a controversial leader but, undoubtedly he's made his mark. In the past he's been a close candidate to take my title as the King of Wishful Thinking but, he has the power to do a lot of good this year and turn the country around.

We can only hope.

Wishful Thinking