21 December 2008

Local "consultants" play role in Siemens bribery scandal

"The most common method of bribery involved hiring an outside consultant to help “win” a contract. This was typically a local resident with ties to ruling leaders. Siemens paid a fee to the consultant, who in turn delivered the cash to the ultimate recipient."

From NYTimes article on how the German firm Siemens regularly used bribery to win overseas contracts. I'll be thinking twice next time I see a Bermudian acting as "consultant" to an overseas firm bidding in Bermuda. Like, maybe Kurron? Who knows!

17 December 2008

Young United Christmas Party

Young United is hosting a Christmas Party this Sunday 21 Dec @ The Docksiders, 10pm, Featuring DA GENERAL & DJ Black Swan. Also a Live Band performance from the Battle of the Bands BAD CURRENT.


Dress Code is smart casual, no sneakers, no caps, and no sports clothing allowed!!! You must be over 18 ID is required!!!

Check it out on Facebook (login required)

16 December 2008

Where do old candidates go?

A reader asks:

Are many of the other candidates from 2007 that lost still involved in the party? I am speaking of Kenneth Bascome, Suzanne Holshouser, Keith Young, Austin Warner, Marilyn Steede, Tillman Darrell, Roderick Simons, Gina Spence Farmer, David Dodwell, Ed Bailey, Sarah Burrows, Donald Hassell. I notice that oftentimes the UBP has candidates that run for one election and then disappear. It makes me wonder if perhaps they are discarded afterwards, or perhaps weren't treated as though they were valued.

That's a good question. Many, but not all of our candidates are still actively involved. For example, Charlie Swan had been canvassing and working in the west end, leading up to his selection as a candidate and eventual election as MP last month. Michael Dunkley was appointed as a Senator by the party leader Kim Swan. Others of us ran for and were elected as UBP party officers, at the most recent AGM with over 100 attendees (or were previously party officers). Others still are actively involved in coming to caucus and speaking up, or are behind the scenes with other activities (committees, canvassing with Charlie, etc.). Finally, some have chosen to take a well-earned break and refocus on their professional activities and private lives, especially since there is no financial remuneration for being a candidate as there is for the positions of Senator or MP. Three or four of the candidates listed in the question have been quite actively involved.

Living in election mode is exhausting and takes up all of your mental and physical energy. During that time, many aspects of life are put on the back-burner. And to be frank, there is no such position in the party as 'failed candidate in the last election.' There are 'approved candidates', which would include everyone who stood for election -- these individuals are free to come to caucus and contribute their views & opinions if they wish to spend the time and energy, or not if they so choose.

They are equally free to continue working and canvassing in their constituencies with their branch, or not. Eventually when election time creeps up on us again, each branch will have to 'adopt' an official candidate that will run in that constituency, potentially with a primary election if there are multiple possible UBP candidates.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how much time & energy an individual has to dedicate to the cause!

Merry Christmas, Portuguese Style!

They eat a lot of cod in Portugal at Christmas. Fun quote: "I used to make bacalhau the old-fashioned way, but since I discovered Senhor Bacalhau here, I am faithful only to him".

15 December 2008

The Way Forward

Some of you may have heard that I am one of three new Deputy Chairmen of the United Bermuda Party. The new slate of party officers is:

  • Chairman: Sean Pitcher

  • Deputy: Jeff Sousa

  • Deputy: Alvin Wilson

  • Deputy: Douglas De Couto

  • Treasurer: Richard Krupp

  • Secretary: Alberta Waite

One project I hope to work on is improving our communication to the members and public about what is going on with the party, what we've achieved, and what we are thinking. This includes taking better advantage of blogs & other technologies.

If you have any opinions on this topic, and would like to make a suggestion, please contact me.

13 December 2008

Wow. So not impressed.

The PLP blog writes that Government is "helping the economy" by waiving fees for businesses to operate on Sundays. However, Government won't cut the duty on importing food, because "On the whole the duty on food is non-existent or very low and that has been so for at least the last ten years," and "there is little more that Government can do if it wishes to protect its existing revenue base".

I am underwhelmed. Why not take a more radical step and eliminate payroll tax for our lowest earners, who are most strapped for cash? e.g target those workers making under $42k a year, as suggested by the UBP last December. That would directly put money back into those pockets.

As for the groceries, the article states that meat, fish, and fresh veg get 5% duty, while bread and pasta get 10% duty, and frozen food gets 22%. I wonder if that 22% includes frozen veg. If it does, Government should cut that duty, as frozen vegetables actually have quite a lot of nutritional value ("frozen vegetables provide similar levels of nutrition to fresh vegetables") and are convenient to use and keep well. Government should further cut the duty on bread and pasta -- I am not a nutritionist, but those seem like staples to me. And as for "protecting its revenue base", I suggest Government start with cutting its expenses, including: travel, GP cars, throwing parties like the music fest (nice party, but really the best use of taxpayer (our!) money?), expensive consultants, building parking lots for the US consulate, etc.

Let me say here that I am not from the "starve the beast" ideology, and I support Government increasing spending on programs of social importance (youth development, fighting crime, helping the unfortunate get a hand up). At the same time I believe in prioritising and making disciplined, hard choices about expenditures. Because the reality is that Government money doesn't come from nowhere, it comes from all of us -- out of our payroll and out of our grocery & electricity bills, to name a few places.

Happy holidays all!

Dear readers, I just wanted to wish you luck in your Christmas shopping. I hope that you have a joyous and safe holiday season!

Last weekend I blinked while driving on my bike at 8pm, only to see a car coming right at me in my lane. The car managed to squeeze between me and the bike it was passing. The next day I went out and bought a new full-face helmet.

08 December 2008

GovTV & Local Media

correction: I referred to Beachlime as 'Vexed'. Sorry! All you bloggers look alike anyway. (cya note: I don't actually know who those other two bloggers are...).

Seems like BeachLime is vexed about GovTV. What he suggests, Gov't allocating support to the local broadcasters, is a good idea. My original thoughts on this topic were along the same lines, but I thought the Gov't should focus more on their portal, and I wrote a letter about it 3 years ago. We've seen now that GovTV hasn't been quite the propaganda machine I originally feared, but the principle still holds: that money could have been used to support private broadcasters.

To: Editor of the Royal Gazette
Copies To: Michael Scott, Alex Scott.

15 November 2005

Re: Why a Government TV Station is a Bad Idea

Dear Editor,

While speaking yesterday at the House of Assembly, Mr. Dale Butler provided several examples of how a Government-run TV station might inform the public of the inner workings of the Government. For example, the Minister said, such a station could communicate the details of Government’s 11-million dollar gift to Bermudian cricket, about which most sportsmen and women, taxpayers, and voters would quite like to know.

However, although Government’s effort to communicate information to the people is an admirable goal which meshes nicely with their recently proposed PATI (Public Access To Information) initiative, a TV station is not the right way to do it. Instead, they ought to concentrate on taking better advantage of new technologies like the Internet, and improve the Government Internet portal with real information, above and beyond giving it a facelift.

TV stations are very expensive to build, operate, and maintain. Any video or audio content that might be broadcast on a TV station could be made available much more cheaply ad conveniently on the Internet. It is true that not everyone in Bermuda has access to the Internet at home, but soon they will be able to access it through the Post Office and Libraries. And, Bermudian residents would be able to actively choose among the available videos and information on a website, rather than the unlikely scenario of sitting and waiting for the particular piece of information they desire to be broadcast on the TV station. As a sweetener, Bermudians who are overseas would also be able to access Government information from such a website, which could also act as an electronic archive. And if for some reason a TV broadcast is truly required, Government can buy the time on one of the Island’s existing commercial stations.

Finally, by scrapping the TV station idea and redirecting any earmarked resources to improving the content and services available on the Internet portal, Government can avoid the overtones of totalitarian propaganda which often accompany Government-run broadcast stations, which tell you what they want you to hear, when they want you to hear it. Unless, of course, that’s the point.


Douglas S. J. De Couto Ph.D.

07 December 2008

Before Independence, Let's Have Some Basics.

“The liberties of a people never were nor ever will be secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” - Patrick Henry

06 December 2008

Road Paving Drama

I had to laugh when W&E started paving the road in Southampton right before the by-election. In the general election, the same thing happened to me with Horsehoe Road, that runs from the top of Camp Hill over to South Shore Rd. by Horseshoe bay. If I had a dollar or a vote for every constituent who told me "I've been telling Stanley about that road for years, but he never does anything about it", I'd a) be rich, and b) would have won a seat in the election!

Speaking of Speaker of the House Mr. Stanley Lowe, I though Peter Woolcock's cartoon in Friday's Gazette was quite edgy, at least for him, with the lizard saying that the small dog in the middle (i.e., the Speaker), can "fit into your pocket".

04 December 2008

Charlie Swan Wins By-Election

(Note: edited to fix my math for the percentages!)

Charlie Swan wins by-election in Southampton.

I'm happy.

The article in the Sun is titled: "UBP hangs on to seat". Charlie won by 427 to 312 against Marc Bean, with 58% of the 784 vote turnout. In last year's election, Jon Brunson won by 548 to 406, with 57% of the 954 vote turnout. The turnout for this by-election was 18% less than last year's general election.

If you like election data, I have a compilation here, or you can browse around the Parliamentary Registrar's website.

02 December 2008

Whose Job is it Anyway?

Last month the PLP had a constituency meeting for Marc Bean, which I attended, and at which Paula Cox, Marc Bean, and Ewart Brown spoke. One of the comments that struck me (and I can't remember exactly which speaker this was -- not Marc) was that constituents ought to select a Government MP, as they would be more effective in addressing the constituents' parochial concerns (roads, lights, etc.).

A charitable interpretation of this statement is that the Government is unable to monitor and maintain these parts of parish infrastructure without some MP breathing down their back and reminding them what's broken.

A more sinister interpretation is that the Government is only interested in helping you if you are represented by a PLP MP. That is, UBP MPs shouldn't expect to get any help from Government or the civil service nor should their constituents. Now, I know this extreme formulation is not true, as many of my UBP colleagues have good relations with the civil service, who they rely on to serve their constituents. But I wonder why the PLP speakers made the original statement?

And, the reality is we have a massive civil service, one of whose jobs is to make sure the roads are OK, the lights are on, etc. It shouldn't take an MP exerting outside influence to get critical repairs & installations done.

Vote for Charlie Swan

Just a reminder for those of you who live in Southampton West to get out and vote for Charlie Swan in Thursday's by-election. I will be voting for him!

Charlie has a long record of accomplishments both in serving his community and building and running a successful business. Those of you who have had the chance to speak with him know that he is sincere & committed to Bermuda. And, due to his success in the private sector (which not all politicians are lucky to enjoy!) there is no doubt that Charlie Swan will be able to remain an independent thinker who will exercise his best judgment to do what is right for Bermuda.

Vote for Charlie -- it's best for Bermuda.


I've been slack with the blog -- but I think it's good. It means I've been spending time on other, (mostly) healthier pursuits. Like sailing. And spending time repairing my boat (pix here). And learning about twitter (find me here). And so forth.

20 November 2008

Marc Bean: Good with money?

My understanding is that Marc Bean failed to pay around $4,000 of payroll tax. All due to his Government consulting jobs, I would guess.

My question is, is he just bad with money, or is he trying to dodge taxes?

More on Unconscious Bias

Check out this page for a very long list of references about unconscious bias.

This article is also cool, and explains why whites who think they are acting appropriately may be perceived as acting in a racist or prejudiced manner.

Tackling Unconscious Bias

This recent NYTimes article gives a good overview of how unconscious bias and prejudices manifest themselves in Medicine. But all hope is not lost -- by understanding what biases we have and their sources, we can prevent ourselves from jumping to unwarranted conclusions about our fellow human beings.

19 November 2008

This is Not Leadership in Education

The RG reports on how Phil Butterfield really feels about the teachers union: "I don't give a damn that the unions are aggrieved." As chairman of the interim education board, he is demonstrating his inability to be a true leader. And without that skill, I am not hopeful that he and his committee can successfully turn around education on this island.

It's common sense that they should be working with the teachers. Like the teachers or not, and whether or not they are doing a good job, we need them to come on board and start doing a good job. Bad-mouthing their union secretary in a public forum demonstrates Butterfield's lack of respect for the teachers.

Good leadership requires many qualities, including respect, tact, patience, humility, among others. It is also true that leadership requires adapting the approach to the situation. By any of these criteria, Butterfield has failed his test of leadership in Education.

Truth in Advertising

The anonymous authors of the PLP blog recently wrote "The Opposition's Reply to the Throne Speech was about cheap political attacks - not ideas..." To be frank, that statement is a lie -- the Reply was a very good speech which rightly called the Government to account on many important issues, and proposed a multitude of concrete ideas -- 26 by my count. You can read them for yourself in the speech, but for your convenience I summarize them below. So I encourage to think for yourself, and decide, does the UBP have ideas? I think you will find the answer is yes.

  1. Reduce reliance on foreign consultants, thereby reducing costs and involving more Bermudians in running their country.

  2. Provide the people with a realistic & clear-eyed view of the economy, where it is going, and how that may impact Bermudians.

  3. Cut non-essential spending and institute a Government-wide austerity program, including a freeze on public service hiring -- thereby leading by example.

  4. Set aside extra money for Housing and Social assistance in anticipation of the hard times ahead.

  5. Prepare to pick up slack in economy with public projects, but only once the private sector construction boom has ended.

  6. Openly tender Government jobs to "spread the wealth" throughout the economy.

  7. Revive the "Buy Bermuda" campaign.

  8. Be prepared to cut payroll tax for small businesses, especially if Tourism falls with the North American economy.

  9. Aggressively promote energy conservation, starting with the Government.

  10. Repair Government's relationship with International Business.

  11. Do a better job exercising diplomacy in Washington, above an beyond photo-ops in the corridor.

  12. Ban corporate inversions in Bermuda as they are not worth the US political risk to Bermuda.

  13. Be honest with the people about the state of announced hotel projects, given the currently poor state of the US financial system.

  14. Increase Government-Industry teamwork, and "fish where the fish are" in picking up business for Bermuda.

  15. Create a non-political tourism authority.

  16. Start to collaborate with key stakeholders in improving Bermuda's education system: parents, teachers, and students.

  17. Give teachers the tools and training to attack anti-social behavior in the schools.

  18. Implement a fully-integrated technical education curriculum starting in the middle schools.

  19. Create an independent body to assess school performance.

  20. Create a Warwick Police Station to assist in fighting crime.

  21. Increase Police presence in the communities and on the roads.

  22. Install Speed Cameras to attack speeding on the roads.

  23. A whole list of items to help Seniors, such as improving the elder abuse register act, require higher standards of care in nursing homes, and help families care for their seniors at home.

  24. Eliminate payroll tax for lower income earners.

  25. Duty relief for Taxi owners.

  26. Ensure fair tendering of trucking across all truckers, not just the mega-truckers.

In addition, the Reply pledged support for several initiatives put forward by the Government:

  • Water conservation & production plans.

  • Support the Government's intentions in education reform.

  • Support Government's promise to address anti-social behaviour in the schools.

  • Support the Law Reform commission (as originally proposed by the UBP's Trevor Moniz.

  • Support the replacement of the Hospital.

14 November 2008

13 November 2008

Just the Facts

More fact-checking on the PLP blog. They write:
The response was that 24 members of the House of Assembly who were elected as independents morphed into the UBP in 1964. The electorate was voiceless in the formation, and this is an ignominious blot that forever stains the pages of our Parliamentary history.

That's actually false: the electorate was not voiceless about the formation of the UBP: they could have chosen not to vote for those MPs again. But they continued to, for the next thirty years!

Also, the blog-that-shall-not-be-named accuses the UBP of "racial sins". I guess those sins would include such things as:

  • Creating the Human Rights Act;
  • Desegregating schools;
  • Creating the Small Business Development Corporation to empower small business entrepreneurs, primarily blacks;
  • Commissioning the Clark Report to work towards improving racial issues in Bermuda;
  • Creating CURE;
  • Building low-cost housing throughout the island, such as up in St. Georges and by Morgan's Point.

Vote for Charlie Swan

Update: look for Charlie on Facebook and give him some support!

Despite what you might hear from the PLP spin, Charlie Swan has been involved in our community for a long time, and has been busy in the Senate this year. Last night I had the chance to canvass with Charlie, and learn what he's been up to.

Charlie's passion is improving training for the trades, and education. On training he says it is "crucial that Bermuda get that in place, so our youth can become productive citizens." As a businessman and past director of the Construction Association, Charlie knows what he is talking about.

As a Senator, he was on the Joint Select Committee on Education. He has also spoken on training and education, the dental practitioners issues, and telecoms and taxi GPS in the Senate.

Here is some more info about Charlie from his letter to voters. He writes:

Having been recently introduced as the UBP candidate in the upcoming by-election in Southampton West Central (Constituency #31), I felt an early letter is in order.

As I did during the last election, it is my hope to see and chat with each and every constituent in Southampton West Central. I sincerely wish to continue as YOUR representative, to serve all Voters and Residents of the constituency in which I reside.

Beyond a personal visit, please judge me based on my record of service, within the communities that I have resided in, spanning the past 40 years. These include 20 years involvement with T.S. Venture (the west end unit of the Bermuda Sea Cadet Corps); helped establish and organize the Bermuda Youth Sports Program (baseball, soccer); numerous projects as a member and Past President of Sandys Rotary Club, a member of the West End Sailboat Club and past director of The Construction Association of Bermuda.

In addition to this, as Managing Director of Batson Swan Limited--Mobile Plumbing and Heating for the past 25 years, I am intimately aware of the responsiblity and challenges involved in managing and motivating staff and running a business.

Like our plumbing services, I am available with a keen ear, and open door, 24 hours a day, all year round. I am at your service.

Please call me on 238-5000 or 234-1408 (messages may be left), or reach me by email at: cjrnswan@ibl.bm

Sincerely, Charlie Swan.

08 November 2008

How much racial bias is there, really?

In the aftermath of Obama's win, there's been a few interesting articles about whether or not predictions of racial bias are really true. Check out Where have all the bigots gone? ("Was this election a landslide defeat for the researchers labeling most Americans as 'unconscious' racists?") and Tolerance over race can spread, both from the NYTimes (and interlinked). Perhaps some of us are getting too worked about things...

05 November 2008

Yes They Did!

I would be proud to be an American.

It's a feeling of great possibility.

NY Times

30 October 2008

Proud to be Bermudian

Trying to be more positive, here's a post listing some things that make me proud as a Bermudian. Please add your own list of what makes you proud to be Bermudian in the comments.

- Bermudians have made an impact in arts, science, engineering, and sports throughout the world that although small is still very disproportionate to our size -- and much more so than a small town in another country that matches our size.

- Bermudians are hard workers. You always hear about the stereotypical lazy Bermudian, and those people do exist, but many Bermudians get up early and work long hard days. I was surprised when I moved back to Bermuda at how early people get moving on this island. Another example of Bermudian industriousness is people building their own houses. True, this is far less frequent than it used to be, and for many Bermudians was a necessity (as they could not get mortgages), but they did the work. Finally, I feel that Bermuda is a nation of entrepreneurs, whether they be a one-man appliance-repair business, or interior decoration business run out of the home.

- Bermudians take great pride in their homes, it is something that our visitors always notice and comment on. Everyday I am still struck by the natural & man-made beauty in Bermuda. Even so-called 'bad' areas such as those around Camp Hill in Southampton are neighborhoods with well-tended gardens and proudly maintained houses.

- Despite all the racial talk and the real issues around race, many Bermudians have been able to cross the color line, whether in their friendships, professional relations, or in their romantic entanglements. Our youth are even more advanced in this area, although they do bring their own problems...

- I was proud to serve in the Regiment with other Bermudians, and I am proud of the almost 150 or so soldiers who are essentially volunteers: full-time staff and everyone who signs on for extra time. Those soldiers give a massive amount of their time and energy to serving the country and whatever issues the Regiment has, you cannot discount that dedication.

That's my 10 minutes of madness for now...

Gambling v2

I am not that shocked to hear that Gov't is now mooting allowing offshore on-line gambling to occur in Bermuda. Despite my previous post on gambling, I am not as clearly opposed to this concept.

BUT... it strikes me a bit as the Gov't trying to get a free lunch -- and you know there's no such thing. Although on-line gambling will avoid many of the problems I mentioned in my previous post, it does have the obvious downsides of straining relations with the U.S. So Bermuda will need to balance the impact on that relationship very carefully with the possible cash income from gambling.

I'm probably not as hard-line about this as Vexed, but I do doubt the magnitude of the economic benefits. E.g. the Royal Gazette cites Antigua as earning $35 million and gaining 3,000 jobs. I don't think that $35mm number will be very significant to the Bermuda Gov't budget, and I can't really understand where the jobs are coming from -- other than to speculate that Antigua did not already have very many white-collar workers. I don't buy that it will make jobs for Bermudians. I would envision jobs in IT, marketing, accounting, and legal: all areas where our island already has to import talent. Again, no jobs there for our bottom half...

I wish I had the answer for that problem at this time -- it's a very hard problem.

29 October 2008

Gambling Away Our Future

Recently the Government announced that it is sponsoring a study on gambling in Bermuda, that will, usefully, be carried out by a firm that makes its money advising people on how to successfully implement gambling. So no surprises how that will turn out.

Gambling in a Bermuda is a bad idea. It won't solve any of our important problems, but it will aggravate many of our existing problems and bring new ones.

Will gambling improve our educational system? NO

Will gambling reduce crime & usher in more cooperation between our people and the police? NO

Will gambling make our country more palatable for international business? NO

Will gambling reduce the frustration of under-educated Bermudians who watch the glittering world of international business and 'platinum' tourists glide by and wonder why they can't find a place to live and a job that will help them pay that rent? NO

Will gambling help our families rebuild themselves? NO

What will gambling do, you must be asking? It's simple, and the OPC has got most of it down. At the end of the day, the sole positive thing (and this has been debated through the ages) gambling will bring is more money to the island. It will bring more jobs, but not for Bermudians: the hospitality industry on this island is already stuffed to the gills with non-Bermudians. That industry cannot survive while paying Bermudians the salaries they need to live the life they can pay for doing something else.

Gambling will also highlight and increase the gap between rich & poor; increase the incentive for crime; and, very importantly, stress our natural and technological infrastructure.

So, why is the Government pushing this? The answer to this is also simple: they are thinking only about how to get more money to spend. They see spending money as an exercise of power & ambition, and because they aren't very good leaders in the true sense of the word, it's the only way they know how to lead and influence people. And, of course, they get their cut too...

Like so much else in this world, all you need to do is follow the money...

This post brought to you by ten minutes of madness.

28 October 2008

Parliamentary Salaries

10 M-O-M, go!

For the short version of this post, check out The Devil Island.

Parliament will soon be voting on whether or not to increase the salaries of many of the MPs. I believe that part of the reason is to rationalize the salaries so that there are not as many big gaps between e.g. full and part-time ministers, back-benchers, senators, and the Speaker.

Nevertheless, it is clear that on both moral and practical grounds all MPs should vote against the increases. First of all, the Government has just said it will cut expenses by 10% across the board, and has just closed offices and laid off workers in New York. MPs should set the tone and act as leaders for the rest of the Government by refusing to increase their own salaries.

Second, in these current uncertain economic times, many Bermudians will be suffering economically: at the pump, at the supermarket checkout, and when they pay the rent. Also, the downturn will reduce profits of most of the international businesses currently on the island. Government's social services will be increasingly in demand while its tax receipts will be way down, and although the MPs' salary raise would not be a massive proportion of the Government budget, it will be a meaningful amount that can be reallocated to more important purposes.

Some MPs will say that they deserve the increases, that a large fraction of their time is consumed with parliamentary duties, that their job is not paying them for the time they spend politicking. That may all be true, but is no surprise for these MPs: they knew what they were getting into when they signed up for it, and if the financial situation made sense then, it should still make sense now, even without the increases.

27 October 2008

Blogs are for people who think

10 minutes. Ready, set, go!

I have had it up to here with the junk that the PLP blogs are spewing. They are immature, childish, and full of either half-truths or falsehoods. Somehow, the PLP writers seem to think that repetition, alliteration, tiresome adverbs, and ad-hominem attacks help them make their point. I suggest they go read some Hemingway (I know, a white male) to learn how to actually say something with their writing.

The progressive minds blog is particularly childish. I am all for people being able to say what they want, and link to blogs even if I disagree with their point of view. But, I have finally decided that I am not comfortable giving any link to that particular pit of iniquity, and have removed them from my blog-roll. Gasp! Horror of Horrors! They must be reeling from the forceful slap in the face that I have to delivered to them by the momentous act of... removing them from my blogroll!

The regular PLP blog is only one notch up, parroting the most ridiculous spin. I do hope for the sake of his future career that Glenn Jones is not the one behind that drivel. Take for example, the recent PLP blog entry about the by-election in #31, Southampton West. They write that "Charlie Swan is part of the problem with the United Bermuda Party", and then go on to spin about Marc Bean.

The reality is that Charlie Swan is an asset for the UBP. He is a successful businessman in his own right who has been around serving his community for a long time, and who is well known and well respected. Marc Bean is one of Ewart Brown's lackeys: he serves in all of his positions at the pleasure of Brown, and would no doubt be right in Brown's back pocket if by some strange stroke of fate he was to be elected in #31.

As a constituent of #31, to me the choice is clear. A mature, accomplished man who has earned his position, versus yet another henchman to assist Brown in running this country into the ground? My vote is for Charlie.

(13 minutes...)

More Good Rhythms: Clinark

This is the second in a continuing series of Ten minutes of madness.

I recently picked up Clinark's new album from the Music Box. It's called Journey to Foreign, and I recommend that you buy it. If you like good classic reggae beats, you'll like this album. I've had it on repeat all week -- to me it's the music of summer: the game, the beach, the raft-up. Go buy it.

OK, as far as ten minutes of madness goes, this entry was cheating. But we're just starting...

This blog is not dead...

This blog is not dead... it's just been on hiatus. It takes a surprisingly long time to get something out on the blog, and the activation energy can sometimes hold me back from getting started. To get things lively again, I am going to try 'Ten minutes of madness', which I first learned about from the busblog. The idea is simple: write a blog entry in no more then ten minutes. Try and keep it interesting too, OK? Let's see how we do, I think I've gone over already...

06 October 2008

Secret Po-Po: Go Buy It!

I just bought the debut eponymous album by Secret Po-Po, one of Bermuda's latest home-grown acts. It's mostly reggae, with a bit of rock thrown in, and I can highly recommend it. You can get it at Rock Island Coffee.

If you can suggest any other good Bermudian artists, feel free to contact me or list them in the comments. I have a few in mind, so might blog on them in the future.

05 October 2008

Racism Without Racists / White Privilege

This recent NYTimes op-ed does a great job of explaining "racism without racists". I've been meaning for a while to post on this topic, and the related one of white privilege, but this article says it much more succintly and clearly:

Research suggests that whites are particularly likely to discriminate against blacks when choices are not clear-cut and competing arguments are flying about — in other words, in ambiguous circumstances rather like an electoral campaign.

For example, when the black job candidate is highly qualified, there is no discrimination. Yet in a more muddled gray area where reasonable people could disagree, unconscious discrimination plays a major role.

White participants recommend hiring a white applicant with borderline qualifications 76 percent of the time, while recommending an identically qualified black applicant only 45 percent of the time.

That is, blacks are sometimes discriminated against even though the person doing the discriminating is doing it unconsciously -- even though the person is not what we would call "a racist".

To my thinking, racism without racists, and white privilege are two sides of the same coin. Racism without racists explains white privilege in the here and now: why whites may be more likely to get certain jobs, not get stopped by police, etc. White privilege as a whole, though, includes more than just what's going on today: it includes history. That is, how did I get here? Was I advantaged relative to my fellow black Bermudians because of the color of my skin (and that of my parents and their parents and so on...)?

I personally believe in both of these concepts, and believe that they affect us in Bermuda today. At the same time, I don't advocate the kind of approach that some (especially white) activists take, which is to beat themselves and those around them over the head with white privilege. I believe the thinking is that whites need to confront their terrible history in order to move past it. That may be so, but making people feel miserable is never a good way to get them to buy into your cause. And, there is no doubt that lots of white Bermudians worked their tails off to get where they are today, even in the face of much opposition from the infamous Front Street families. So those hard workers are obviously not very interested in being told that they got to where they are today solely on the color of their skin.

To me, it makes more sense to approach these whites (that you hope to convince about the reality of white privilege/racism without racists) using concrete examples like that I quoted above. Because the reality is that most people (black and white) are concerned about being truly fair. And if you can show to them examples of unfairness & how it can be promulgated by even well-meaning people such as themselves, I think it will start them reflecting upon and truly examining their day-to-day interactions. And they can do it at their own pace without being bullied.

My last point is that although I believe in these concepts, I don't buy into the "racism as power" orthodoxy that comes from North America, which holds that blacks cannot be racist. There is not doubt that racism as practiced in the U.S. was significantly about power. But our reality here and today in Bermuda is different: there are many blacks with power, especially in Government, who by virtue of their position have the ability to act in racist and xenophobic ways that negatively affect other people in Bermuda.

By the way, check out this post earlier this year from politics.bm.

Psychology Research on Whites in Bermuda

Carol Simmons is doing a psychology research project on "how personality traits and patterns of social interaction influence interracial attitudes among whites in Bermuda" (link). If you are white, over 18, and live in Bermuda, I encourage you to participate in her survey. See here original blog post & link to the survey here.

02 October 2008

XL Layoffs: Canary in a Coal Mine?

For a while now I've been thinking about the XL layoffs, and what it means for Bermuda and Bermudians thinking about their careers. I have thought about the most constructive way of expressing my opinion, and I believe it is this:

Bermudians who go to work in the (re-)insurance sector and who desire long-term success and stability need to evaluate their opportunities very carefully, and be willing to go above and beyond their employers' expectations.

What do I mean by this? The insurance industry has been touted as a gateway to success for many Bermudians, with promises of training and pathways to advancement within the industry. One of the premises is that you can start at the bottom and work your way up, even if you have no special insurance skills.

For example, you can start by working in IT, accounting, claims processing, or other jobs that support the industry but aren't at its core. And in fact, I would speculate that the vast majority of Bermudians are in these areas, and at a relatively low-level (since corporations are generally hierarchical).

And that's to be expected: you have to start somewhere, right? But the irony is that by definition, those jobs that are most accessible to Joe and Jamahl Bermudian without any experience are in fact the first jobs to be outsourced. Because they rely the least on deep experience and connections within the industry, they are the most accessible to Bermudians, and also the easiest with which to get someone in India or Halifax up to speed.

What does this mean for you, the average entry-level Bermudian Insurance Worker?

I don't claim many special skills in my advice-giving, and will probably come across as santimonious here, but I would suggest something along these lines (and I hope readers will chip in). But the general idea is to differentiate yourself and become the kind of person that is, literally, irreplaceable:
  • Find out everything you can about getting training from work.
  • Make sure you know your career path. I know that not everyone is the ambitious corporate type, but if you're not going forward, you're going backwards or will be left behind.
  • If your boss promises you advancement, make sure you get objective criteria for obtaining that advancement, and keep track of how you stack up against that criteria.
  • Don't be an a role-player, be the protagonist. That is, don't just do your job by fulfilling all the basic requirements & checking the boxes. Instead, think about your business, come up with ideas, suggest things to your boss, and generally be proactive.
  • Become an expert at something in your firm. Then find someone else to do it, and become an expert at the next thing...
  • If you are in a bad work situation, address it, it may mean moving companies.

01 October 2008

Role of the Opposition

I see that I haven't posted a new entry in my blog for almost two weeks! Must have been slacking... have no fear though, I have a whole slew of fascinating topics lined up to post on for you.

Today's juicy article is on the role of the opposition in the parliamentary system. I found these papers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) that outline some ways to think about the opposition. You can find even more materials and papers if you Google for "CPA Role of the Opposition".

The CPA is an organization for Parliamentarians around the world to exchange ideas about how to be better governments within a parliamentary system.

Here are some key points from the CPA materials:

  • Society and the Government have to agree that there is an important role for the Opposition.
  • The Opposition needs resources to do its job (e.g. access to research).
  • There should be a "culture of accountability" [think, e.g. of Government responses or lack thereof to Parliamentary Questions].
  • The opposition has to be seen as a credible alternate Government -- i.e. has to be seen as able to develop policies and govern successfully.
  • Government and the Opposition should be able to work together behind the scenes, e.g. in producing good legislation.
  • The opposition needs to remain in contact & communication with society.
  • "...although MPs are increasingly concerned with constituency business the work of making, amending and repealing laws is central to their task and that, while the initiator of legislation is usually the governing party, the Opposition can have an important role".

I have a strong opinion about that last point. Too many MPs in opposition, and especially our current Government, seems to think and act as if their main job is to get re-elected. In fact, that is not their jawb at all! Their jawb is to make Bermuda a better place: put in policies to lift up those at the bottom of society, make sure we are all well educated, make sure we all have access to economic success, if we choose to work for it, etc.

Sometimes that means making hard decisions which may require long-term thinking to see payoffs. Or, eating humble pie and engaging in the political art of compromise and discussion to get things done.

Let me list a few concrete examples where the current PLP Government has failed to do this, preferring instead to spin their way from crisis to crisis:

  • Education: 18 months later, and what's happening? Teachers not getting paid and the Bermuda Union of Teachers still shut out of the reform process.
  • Crime: Run an election campaign that calls your opponent too tough on crime, and then turn around and start talking about SWAT teams. And, still don't bother to negotiate a contract with the Police, your front-line against crime.
  • Housing: promise homes in lotteries, but don't bother building them for 4 years.
  • Tourism: Crow that air arrivals are flat rather than down, even though tourist arrivals are down 9%.

I'd continue but it's shooting fish in a barrel.

20 September 2008

Bermuda Election Data

I've created a searchable database of Bermuda election results & candidates. I screen-scraped the data from the Parliamentary Registrar. For a while I had working links to Bios & pictures, but those links are now broken. I will endeavor to fix them, but I thought some of you might enjoy being able to explore the data. This is definitely a very beta project -- I need to get more data & organize it better, so let me know your thoughts.

See the searchable votes data here, and the raw data here.

19 September 2008

Example of Transparency

The latest New York City Mayor's Report is a good example of transparency in government can help make society better. It gives citizens an objective look at what is working or not. We need to get more like this in Bermuda. To be fair, lots of our government departments do a great job in collating and producing data (e.g. the Department of Statistics), but it's generally hard to find, and the gov.bm portal doesn't do much to help.

Parochial Information

I've created a new section on my website for parochial information. That is, info on how to get streets paved, lights fixed, etc. It's a bit skimpy right now, but if you have any additional information, please send it along. Check it out at decouto.bm.

18 September 2008

They Call him The Gambler

Beach Lime sums up Alex Scott's lack of moral courage about gambling pretty well.

In Mr. Scott's defense, in party politics you are often not allowed to vote against your party except on a conscience vote (such as we have had here in Bermuda on homosexual sex). If you do vote against your party, there can be consequences from the Party Whip (e.g. kicked out of caucus, etc.). In practice, however, it would take quite a lot before you got into trouble...

However, that would presume that the PLP cabinet & caucus as a whole are pro-gambling, that they have debated the pros and cons, and reached consensus that gambling is right for Bermuda. But knowing how this government operates, I am quite sure that is not the case, and that if Brown decides he personally likes gambling, it will happen as the cabinet meekly stands by and acquiesces to his every demand.

If I were Alex Scott, I'd stand up for what I believed -- and not just when it comes to parking spaces. After all, what could the PLP do to a man once they've deposed him from Premier and then stuck him on the back bench?

Not so Merry, Man

Regarding my previous post on commercial advertising littering up our public parks at rush hour, I see now that the promoter of the upcoming Merry Men concert has decided they've got the right to stick their signs all over East Broadway.


17 September 2008

Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Rules

My last post was about Fitted Dinghy Racing, a special kind of sailboat racing that is unique to Bermuda. I was recently lucky enough to be given a copy of the class rules from 1984, which in keeping with my scanning compulsion I have digitized and put online as a PDF.

For comparison, you can also see the latest version of the rules from 2004.

The 1984 booklet also contains a short history of fitted dinghy racing, including a historical list of all the dinghies and their clubs. These quotes struck my eye:
...this race did not take place, as the St. Georgians were unable to get to the Hamilton regatta on 25 September 'owing to pressure of business'.
Even in 1920, when the Hamilton Dinghy Club scheduled a series of races to re-establish the sport, the first race had to be postponed because "clubs and owners of boats have found it impossible to secure skilled men to aid them in preparing the boats for competitive purposes in the time available."
One of the frequent topics of discussion in the current dinghy fleet is how to increase participation, and get more boats. There are 7 boats on the island right now capable of racing, but only 4 are currently running programs: Contest, Elizabeth, Challenger, and Victory. Port Royal, Echo, and Bloodhound are sitting in boat sheds waiting for enough people with time, energy, and commitment to get them out on the water on a regular basis. As the booklet shows, this is not a new problem!

15 September 2008

Challenger II Sweeps Contest III

Last Sunday was the last race day of the 2008 Bermuda Fitted Dinghy season. Challenger II of Sandys Boat Club swept Contest III of the RBYC in 3 match races at Mangrove Bay. Unfortunately due to weather and crew mishaps, Victory IV from St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club, and Elizabeth II of the RHADC were unable to make it to racing.

The Sandys race committee set a short 3 and 2 course with lots of action for the crews, including a sinking by Contest in race 2 (our first in two years, unfortunately breaking our streak). Challenger sailed with the #3 suit of sails, and Contest went a little smaller with the #3 1/2.

As a crew member of Contest, it hurts me to say that Challenger dominated the day, but their hard work & practice has now paid off. Of course, thanks to our stellar early-season performance, Contest still wins the season. Challenger has reminded us that we need to get back to work if we want to continue to win next year...

Since the races were short and sweet we were able to spend a bit of time fraternizing with the enemy at SBC, below is a picture of the Challenger crew celebrating:

And here is the SBC burgee flying proud, topped by a very special flag signifying a "clean up" by Challenger...

12 September 2008

Car Sharing Services

This is my obligatory idealistic, one-idea-will-save-the-world post of the week.

And, this idea is not new, it's done elsewhere, and I am sure I have seen it somewhere in the Bermuda Blogosphere before.

I think Bermuda would benefit from a commercial car-sharing service, along the lines of ZipCar, which operates in many US cities.

Here's the idea: you join the service, which owns a fleet of cars. Each car has its own assigned parking spot, at various locations or neighborhoods in the Island. The service maintains and insures the cars, you pay a monthly fee that entitles you to a certain amount of time to use the car (or vehicle, imagine mini-vans).

You sign up for time using an on-line service, e.g. Saturday morning 8am to 1pm, rock up to the parking space, pick up the car, and drop it off when you are done.

The advantages are low hassle for you; a guaranteed parking spot in a useful space; fewer cars in total on the Island; and you can probably even afford to buy time on the service as opposed to buying a car... I know that in general many people without children on this Island don't own a car, but this is a service that I would use and pay for, and which would make me even less likely to purchase a car,

Happy Trash? Not me...

This is my obligatory grumpy post of the week.

By now you may have seen the bright billboards scattered throughout the island advertising 'Happy Trash', brightly coloured and patterned trash bags. Or maybe you got one of their chain emails exhorting you to buy their striped and polka-dotted trash bags.

I can't fault their innovative idea, or their aggressive marketing campaign, but why do I have to look at their billboards on my commute? In fact now that I think about it, why do they get to put their advertising materials on public property? (e.g. middle of East Broadway, railway trail by Barnes Corner.) I'm all for community groups and clubs getting their message out at drive-time, but I draw the line at allowing commercial operations to clutter up our public property with their advertising.

Does happy trash have permission to litter public property with their advertising? And, whose advertising will we see next? Maybe more Island Construction or Correia Construction billboards...

09 September 2008

Equity vs. Race Relations

I had a very interesting discussion with a colleague today about how racial equity is not the same as having good race relations. We theoretically could have a society with equity for all races, that is, equal economic opportunity, but possibly very bad inter-personal race relations in your society. This might happen if you have strong laws about discrimination, etc. In fact, you could make the argument that this is the case in the US right now -- civil rights laws ensure (mostly) equal opportunity even though it is not clear that blacks and whites are truly comfortable dealing with each other. The issues around Obama in this election are an example.

On the other hand, there may be a situation with good race relations where everyone gets along jus' fine, but there is serious inequity. This might be due to some screwed up post-slavery relationship (in which case it is actually an illusion, and deep resentments and frustrations will soon emerge). Alternatively, it might be the case that while race relations are fine, there is some serious economic inequity along non-racial lines.

I feel Bermuda's situation is probably something like 2/3 the first situation, and 1/3 the second. It's not rocket science to reach the conclusion that you probably need equally good inter-racial relations and social and economic equity if you are to have any hope of a stable long-term solution. But, I am not exactly a race-relations theorist, so feel free to tell me what you think.

08 September 2008

Park Hyatt Again

Just a reminder that this Friday Parliament will reconvene in a special session to debate the Park-Hyatt bill. I wrote about this previously, and you can see an outline of the site plan in Google Earth here. There is supposed to be some sort of informational community meeting up in St. Georges on the night of the 10th, at 7.30pm. I am not sure where, but check the papers. It's too bad the government couldn't see fit to hold the meeting more than two nights before it passes the act. Also, apparently there is nothing filed with the Planning Department, so you can't even go and get a look-see for yourself.

Although I think a proper hotel in St. Georges would be great for Bermuda, I am not convinced this is it. Too many condos (140!) versus hotel rooms (100), which translates into cars and traffic for the Old Town. Also, there are too many questions from the act. Exactly what is Bermuda getting back in turn for letting some developer get rich by selling of our land for condos to people from overseas? And, what is the value to Bermuda of a condo versus a hotel room; what should the tradeoff between them be? We will certainly find out...

05 September 2008

"Am I Being Used?"

In last week's BRRI session on race and politics, Gwyneth Rawlins made reference to Dr. Clarence James's 1967 speech, "Am I Being Used?". She was talking about her experience in the UBP, by whom she felt used and abused, and quoted the title of Dr. James's speech to highlight her point of blacks being used.

In fact, however, Dr. James's speech describes why he left the PLP for the UBP. He makes quite clear his point that the PLP leaders were using blacks: "...coloured people may choose to be used by the power hungry leaders of the P.L.P. They may climb aboard the hate train of the P.L.P., run by irresponsible and unscrupulous leaders..."

Much of his speech might apply today, although quite a bit of it will also seem over the top. You can download the speech here from my online library, and I've also reproduced it below.

A brief historical note: the speech mentions Geoffrey Bing, the former Attorney-General of Ghana. Bing served as a "constitutional advisor" to the PLP for the 1966 Constitutional Conference in London. He was a controversial figure as he had been blamed when things unraveled in Ghana. (From Lois: Bermuda's Grande Dame of Politics, by J. Randolf Williams, pp. 126-127).

Speech by Dr. Clarence James at the City Hall on 11th October 1967.

My Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

My appearance here tonight stems from a longstanding interest in race relations which began in 1948 when I first went abroad. At that time I was clearly a product of a rigid dual system of education. This segregated system was even developed to the point of granting scholarships under different names. There was the Bermuda Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship for white children. There was the Bermuda technical education scholarship for coloured children which I received.

Once abroad, I suffered through a period of adjustment to an integrated educational environment at McGill University. This adjustment took real effort on my part for the first year or two. I also became keenly interested in the problems of racial discrimination in general and especially those problems as they affected Bermuda, my home. Dr. Gordon, and others, made Bermudians aware that the root of the problem was the lack of universal franchise, which particularly affected the coloured segment of the population. This I believed, and still believe, to be an accurate appraisal of the basic cause as far as Bermuda is concerned. So, I followed with interest the events which led up to the mixed land and universal franchise used in the 1963 elections. I returned home just prior to these elections. I actually joined the P.L.P. at that time because I felt the party was sincere and completely in support of racial integration in Bermuda. I vigorously supported the protest against the lack of true universal franchise and the gerrymandering of the electoral districts.

But during the succeeding years, I sadly noticed in the P.L.P. a growing movement to abandon their early claim to foster racial integration. They developed an increasing and persistent dissociation from all sincere efforts to promote racial integration in such a way as to produce results. The P.L.P. trend has proceeded in recent months to the point of a virtual hate campaign. The hate campaign, if allowed to gather steam, will eventually lead to a division of the races and to destruction of Bermuda. Of course, I left the P.L.P. when I found they were bound in this direction.

In the past two years I have also observed increasingly sincere efforts made in support of meaningful integration. These efforts have been made by a group of men, led by Sir Henry Tucker, known as the United Bermuda Party. And the U.B.P. is supported by a large group of liberal white and coloured non parliamentary members, some of whom are former members of the P.L.P. In the early days of the United Bermuda Party I cannot fail to admit that I looked upon the party as a white party, with token coloured support - too weak to be effective in the area of race relations. Subsequent events indicate that the U.B.P. was, indeed, sincerely responsive to the strong public opinion built up by the early P.L.P. and by several other organizations before it.

The most important event was the development of our new constitution. In the face of aroused public opinion, in spite of public right-wing opposition and while in command of a majority in the house, the U.B.P. did what was right in the matter of franchise. They adopted the present universal suffrage of 21 years of age, with no extra advantage for land owners, by abolishing the plus vote and by reducing the voting age from 25 years to 21 years. I dare suggest to Bermudians that the real enemies of progress in race relations are those members of the legislature, and that segment of the population they represent, who voted against this measure.

Then came the constitutional conference during which the true position and intent of the U.B.P. was consistently distorted by the P.L.P. with the help of Mr. Geoffrey Bing, a proven distorter of human rights in Ghana. The U.B.P. has been branded as racialist and most recently the Governor has been branded as a racist and white supremacist because he, too, signed the majority report of the constitutional conference.

What does this constitution actually provide that is so racially inbalanced? It provides for 26 seats in the constituencies where there is a clear coloured majority, and 14 seats in constituencies which have a white majority. How then can the U.B.P. or the Governor be seriously considered to be promoting white supremacy?

The members of St. Paul’s A.M.E. church (with which I am associated) have had the Governor as guest visitor on numerous occasions. I am quite certain that they do not agree with the disrespect heaped on the Governor of these Islands by the certain P.L.P. leaders. This disrespect was obviously condoned by the rest of the P.L.P. oligarchy at the time, at least until they observed the broad and general opposition in Bermuda to this sort of distortion and mud-slinging.

It is now clear that the P.L.P. programme of distortion of the truth is but part of a hate mongering campaign which actively seeks to divide the races. The hate attempts to cover up for the irresponsibility and incompetence of P.L.P. leaders themselves. It creates a frame of mind which would constantly distort a true assessment of what is fair and what is unfair. It breeds civil disorder, disrespect for law and order, and eventual anarchy. Already P.L.P. leaders have instructed Bermudians to break the law, and P.L.P. leaders are now asking their followers to save their money. Could they be actually planning civil disorder and disruption of the economy where there may be no jobs for the very workers they say they are representing? Make no mistake about it, in any disruption of the economy, naturally, politically, or hatefully induced, it is the working class that will suffer the most not because of any malicious intent of those who are relatively more advantaged but because of the general rule that workers have less in savings and fewer alternative job opportunities. Furthermore, the close association of the P.L.P. leaders with their Communist-minded friends during the constitutional conference last November in London leaves little doubt of their alliance with Communist dictatorial policies. These dictatorial policies will usurp the rights of workers for the P.L.P. leaders’ own selfish ends. The P.L.P. thus becomes a power loving party at the expense of the very people which they are supposed to be helping. Independence is just an assurance that they would not be disturbed in carrying out their conspiracy. They want to cut themselves off from any outside democratic influence the same that Ian Smith and his gang have done with their unilateral declaration of independence in Southern Rhodesia.

In this regard, I view the recent close P.L.P. - B.I.U. association as a betrayal of the unsuspecting union members by the B.I.U. leaders who openly flirt with irresponsible and undemocratic leaders of the P.L.P.

The membership of the B.I.U. will be more wise and cautious than their leaders. They will know that a crushing blow was dealt the trade unions in Ghana. Nkrumah at the height of his political power outlawed trade unions and the man who drafted the laws was Mr. Geoffrey Bing. Bermudian workers will not be used by unscrupulous people to grasp political power - a power which P.L.P. leaders will employ to suppress the freedom of trade unions as was done in Ghana.

At this point, one might ask "can the U.B.P. really represent the workers?" My answer is, "yes". And we can represent their genuine interests far better than any other party! Firstly, the U.B.P. and only the U.B.P. will have a fully integrated team of capable men and women who will have that necessary experience and skill in government, commerce and finance to see that this Island is well run. We are for, and we can ensure, a rising per capita income, together with a better distribution of that income that will result from our commitment to build cohesion between the races. As we accomplish these objectives, who benefits most? Obviously the workers will. All our plans for forward-looking social legislation are entirely dependent upon sound government, and a united and prosperous Bermuda. The United Bermuda Party is dedicated to preserving democratic principles and practices which will ensure that there are no abridgements of human rights and freedoms as we work together to build a better Bermuda. There is a growing representation of workers in the highest councils of our party. These workers are full and equal members of our party. Their presence and their contribution within our party ensures that the point of view of labour will be capably and effectively represented.

Another major area of distortion in race relations is in educational policy. Disputes between the teachers’ union and the board of education have been highlighted by prominent P.L.P. members in an attempt to overshadow a major contribution by the U.B.P. - a contribution which has far-reaching effects in fostering racial integration. That development is the embodiment in the education act of the rule that no government funds can be allotted to a school unless it is integrated. This rule is quite similar to a federal law in the United States which is used to effect integration in the southern United States. Why would the U.B.P. pass such a law if it was a racists’ party? It is noteworthy that the schools which are more than tokenly integrated are those schools which have trustee chairmen who are prominent members of the U.B.P. I refer to the Whitney Institute of which Sir Henry Vesey is chairman, and the Warwick Academy of which the Hon. John Plowman is chairman.

It is also noteworthy that the Bermuda High School could not accept government funds because its building and grounds are largely those which were given the school in a bequest for white children only. The U.B.P. will invalidate this racial designation in future pending legislation, making it possible for that school to proceed to integrate.

It has been said that race will be a major issue in the next general election. I think this is true. The coloured people in these islands will have a clear choice - they may choose to participate wholeheartedly in the establishment of racial harmony and integration and in the elimination of every vestitage of racial discrimination by supporting the U.B.P., understanding that the leaders of the U.B.P. are sincere in this regard, and understanding that they are to participate wholeheartedly, not in any token manner, but in proportion to their numbers.

Alternately, coloured people may choose to be used by the power hungry leaders of the P.L.P. They may climb aboard the hate train of the P.L.P., run by irresponsible and unscrupulous leaders towards the destination of self destruction of the economy of the island and, therefore, of themselves. And when they arrive at their destination, they will find Mr. Bing there to trap them like he trapped the people of Ghana. Where there can be no escape without bloodshed.

The white people of Bermuda also have a choice. They can either solidly support the United Bermuda Party and their fair dealing with the race problem or live in the past and support the racist independent. If they support such independents they will be stoking the fires of the P.L.P. hate train to faster destruction of the economy and, therefore, of themselves. Incidentally, an independent seat in the next house will not be worth two cents in Chinese money.

One may ask, "what about the B.D.P.?" It is clearly imperative for the future of these islands to find a solution to our race problem. The U.B.P. has moved, and moved sincerely, to resolve the problem. The P.L.P. has moved, and moved deceitfully and with hatred, to confuse the problem. The B.D.P. has not moved. No Bermudian can afford to waste his vote to support a party which is not working hard to resolve this vital issue.

Coloured Bermudians who support the U.B.P. are often attacked as Uncle Toms. It is claimed by the drivers of the hate-train that we are being used. This claim is ridiculous. The U.B.P. urges and welcomes coloured Bermudians to participate wholeheartedly, as full and equal members of the party. Not in any token manner, but in proportion to their numbers - numbers which have already been recognized in the U.B.P.-supported constitution: 26 to 14. Now I ask you, "are we being used", to maintain a racist government - with a franchise so fairly weighted in favour of the coloured community. I think not.

Most Bermudians would agree that many of the improvements in race relations were the results of pressures of one sort or another. But to say that the improvements are just concessions is to suggest that one is thinking in woolly retrogressive manner in two ways. Firstly, one wishes there were no concessions so that civil disorder and ultimate violence may be justified. Secondly, one constantly bemoans the fact that the improvements were not spontaneously initiated years ago. Both attitudes are quite non-productive. What is most effective is to apply pressures in such a way as to harness and fully utilise responsiveness under the terms of the new franchise towards the development of a truly united and prosperous Bermuda. This is best done by vigorously supporting the United Bermuda Party.

I, like many other Bermudians, am prepared to devote my life in serving the people of Bermuda because I love Bermuda, it is my home. I feel compelled to portray a frank, undistorted picture of race relations as I see them. By doing so, I sincerely hope that I can assist in saving Bermuda from self-destruction due to racial strife. I have no other motivation. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

01 September 2008

Education: Parallels in the U.S.

Phil Greenspun writes about the public education system in Cambridge, MA. He writes that Cambridge high schools have the highest cost, lowest student-teacher ratio, and "the most non-teacher staff". The net result: very low SAT scores. This sounds like Bermuda.

In addition, Cambridge is a very affluent city, in that is filled with academics from MIT, Harvard, and all the other schools in the surrounding area. At the same time, Cambridge has many poor people. East Cambridge (technically a different town) is in fact a blue-collar town with deep Portuguese roots. Many of the well-to-do in Cambridge go to the private day schools in the area, leaving the public schools full of the poorer students. There's also an accompanying white/black (or other) split along the obvious economic lines. I don't know which causes which, but they are certainly connected.

This again is very reminiscent of Bermuda's situation, where those without the resources to attend private schools are being let down by the public education system, despite massive spending & ministerial apparatus. And here, some people will say that because all the "good" (smart, well-behaved, good home situations) end up in private schools, the public schools are structurally doomed to failure.

31 August 2008

Black Power Salute: Not what you thought

This recent op-ed in the New York Times talks about the "black power" protest at the 1968 Olympics.
Walking toward the stand — his wife had by then passed the gloves along to the runners — he decided to “represent the flag with pride, but do it with a black accent.” Wearing their medals, they raised clenched, gloved fists as the national anthem was played — Smith his right, Carlos his left. It was done, Smith says, “in military style” — Smith was in the R.O.T.C. at the time. “My head was down,” he says, “because I was praying.”

“I wanted to embody my pride and love for what America is supposed to be,” he told me. “There was no hate, no hostility shown or intended.” It was not, contrary to how it has been portrayed in the media, intended as a black-power salute.

(My emphasis)

This piece indicates serious revisionist history: either by the writer of the piece, or by the media in the wake of that event. It makes the point that it was the Olympic Committee which forced Smith and Carlos to leave the US team and the Games fter the salute. But in the 1936 Olympics, no such sanction were made upon German athletes who made the Nazi salute.

See also Alvin Williams commentary on politics and the Olympics in last weekend's Mid-Ocean News.

Take-home point: the interpretation of this salute says more about the interpreter than the original symbol.

And, for the record, I think the VRA objections to the PLP's use of the salute are ridiculous. I don't like the salute from a political standpoint, but that's politics.

30 August 2008

"Island Thinking"

The below excerpt is from Jamaica Kincaid. When I lived in Boston, I used to keep it on my fridge to ponder when I thought about what life would be like after returning to Bermuda. She was originally from Antigua, but moved to the U.S. Solely from this quote, I always thought of her as being angry and bitter about the islands, but then, I haven't made it through any of her writing.

I like to think that here in Bermuda, we are a bit further along than the subjects of her quote.

[excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 30, 1998]

In the place I'm from you don't have much room. You have the sea. If you step on the sea, you sink. The only thing the sea can do is take you away. People living on a tiny island are not expected to have deep thoughts about how they live, their right to live. You can have little conflicts, disagreements about what side of the street to walk on, but you cannot disagree that perhaps there should not be a street there. You cannot disagree about fundamental things, which is what an artist would do. All they're left with is a kind of pastoral beauty, a kind of natural beauty, and wonderful trinkets. They make nice hats. They catch fish in an old-fashioned way. It's all aesthetic, but it has no thinking to it. They cannot think. They will not allow themselves to think. They might have to change things, and they can't bear it.

--Jamaica Kincaid, writer, in Conversations with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from The Missouri Review and the American Audio Prose Library, edited by Kay Bonetti, Greg Michalson, Speer Morgan, Jo Sapp, and Sam Stowers, and published by the University of Missouri Press

28 August 2008

BRRI Panel & Discussion: Race and Politics

The Bermuda Race Relation Initiative (BRRI) is having its next panel discussion tomorrow night (Friday the 29th), on Race and Politics. It's at 7pm in the Bermuda College North Hall Lecture Theatre. Panelists are David Commissiong (politician from Barbados), Gwyneth Rawlins, and Zane DeSilva. On Saturday, there will be a follow-up discussion at the BPSU building from 3-5pm (note this location has changed from the Leopard's Club).

Let me start by getting the major problem with this particular panel out of the way. Tomorrow night's discussion is obviously a setup -- and I say this while at the same time being committed to engaging in constructive dialogue on the topic of race.

First of all, no-one at the UBP was invited to sit on this panel. How can you have a constructive conversation with a one-sided panel?

I don't know anything about David Commissiong -- perhaps he is related to Rolfe Commissiong? You can see a bit about him on the web here and here.

We know that Gwyneth Rawlins has an axe to grind against the UBP -- not only did she quit the party after serving as the Party Chairman, but she then signed up to support the PLP via YouTube, where she explains how she is bitter because she did not get a Senate seat.

Finally, that brings me to Zane DeSilva. This is a whole another blog post. I have nothing against whites in the PLP. I respect those such as Jonathan Starling and others who join out of true belief. I personally think they are misguided, but at least they are acting on their principles. But Zane DeSilva and Jane Correia? Do you think there is any coincidence that the only whites willing to run for the PLP happen to be the two biggest recipients of our "labour" Government construction contracts? Whose firms, by the way, are not unionized. Perhaps I have a closed mind, but I find it impossible to view them as sincere.

The point is: what good can come of this discussion? Those who are doubtful about the BRRI are having their fears and prejudices confirmed just by looking at the make-up of the panel, and those who are already solid supporters of the BRRI are going to be the choir tomorrow night. I'll personally be there, if only to make sure the points above are heard, and because I am an optimist; you never know what can happen.

Finally, I am disappointed because from attending quite a few of the BRRI panels and discussions this year, I was at least mildly positive about them: they seemed to be avoiding (at least a little bit) the partisan trap into which they fell last year. But tomorrow night's panel has caused me to doubt the sincerity of the BRRI, which I have been trying to sell to many of my UBP colleagues and supporters.

Blessed Elackshun

It's very easy for us to forget how lucky we are in Bermuda & how beautiful it truly is. We often become obsessed with 'Rock Fever', and itch for that next trip to anywhere else. This is a trite thing to say, yet is inescapably true.

Last night while I was on my "statutory monthly jog", I stopped by the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse at around 7pm. First of all, the view was stunning; if you haven't been recently, at least do a drive-by and spend a few minutes looking out on the island. Second, there was a tourist and his son there, and I offered to take their picture. After I gave him back his camera, he said, "You are truly blessed to live here", and he repeated it when I said my good-byes. It's true, and we ought to strive to remind ourselves of that every morning. And let me just add here that I am not what you would call a frequent churchgoer.

That night while looking up something on the web, I came across this old letter from the Royal Gazette, which I had posted on my MIT homepage, and which I had taped to my bathroom mirror as an undergraduate. Re-reading it, I had to laff and smyle, and I hope you will too. I don't know who "De Beta Timex Groop" is, or exactly where Rabbit Island is, but I wish I'd had them on my team at the election.

[Royal Gazette letters to the Editor]

August 19, 1992
Dear Sir,

Nah lookie her. Wif alla de stuff dat is goin' don aroun' de place, like; an' vif all de childrens all gettin' kinda vurried, like; an' vif alla de pollatishens in de doldrums, like; an vif a ressashun, a deprasshun, an' alla de peepol gettin' snarly, like; den vee byes has got de ansuh, like!

Vee has set up de ``Beta Timex Groop'' see, and it has alla de solooshuns to allotta de problums. Vee beleeve Battuh Times iss ahed! Mostly ar um Platfohm iss lajislayshun dat de peepols muss be happy! Dey muss laff an' dey muss smyle an' dey muss tal jokes! Lajisslayshun like dat vood sattul alla de problums. Vee is lookion' fuh beeg s'port in de naxtest alacshun.

Battuh tymes are ahed! Dashrite!

Rabbit Island

Welcome Alsys & Carol

Whew, it's been one of those weeks. So I have a bunch of things to crank out tonight. But first I'd like to welcome two new Bermudian bloggers. This week I've learned about Alsys with Bermuda Fables, and Carol Simmons with A Bermudian's View (who scored the sweet name bermudian.wordpress.com, I wish I'd thought of that!).

I am glad to see some new voices online -- more participation by different people can only enrich the whole scene.

22 August 2008

Park-Hyatt: Investment, or Give-Away?

The Government has called an extraordinary meeting of Parliament for one day on 12 September to debate (and try to pass, I would imagine) the Park Hyatt Act 2008. Normally, Parliament would not come back until November, so clearly the Government is looking for some quick action on this. You have to wonder what the rush is.

You can download the act here, and view the area to be developed using Google Earth or Google Maps.

The act is intended to allow the redevelopment of the old Club Med site with a new resort, but a careful reading of the act raises more questions than answers. Based on the information in the act, it looks more like a giveaway than a sensible investment in Bermuda's future.

  • For example, the act gives up to a 262-year lease on 125 acres of property to "Addax Holdings", for an unspecified amount of compensation. The baselands leases were only for 99 years, and that was during wartime!
  • The property includes the St. Georges golf course, which will no longer be public. The act does specify that the course remains accessible to the public.
  • The property includes the beach, to which the public is to have "reasonable access", free of charge.
  • Government can forcefully buy any property from other owners that is covered in the planned area.
  • The developers can build 140 condos, of which 40 are fractional ownership.
  • There will be no customs duty on the building materials, and no land tax or occupancy tax for the first 5 years after opening.

If you look at the map, you see that about half of the area other than the golf course is for condos and fractional ownership (red and orange vs. pink for hotel). So to me, this looks more like a condo development than a hotel. My questions are:
  • What is Bermuda getting out of this?
  • How much are the developers paying the Government?
  • What are the other terms and conditions?
  • Why is the lease so long?
  • What if the developers' financing falls through?
  • Can they then turn around and sell the lease to another developer, perhaps pocketing a profit subsidized by the people of Bermuda (ala Southlands land swap)? And if so, does the name of the act need to change?

If any of this concerns you, or if you want to find out more, call your MP!

SWAT Team? Who will pay?

Latest news is that Government is considering creating a "US-style SWAT team to tackle violent crime". Well, that might work. But how will Government pay for it, seeing how they are unwilling to reach an agreement in contract talks with the existing police force, which is woefully under-resourced?

21 August 2008

Bermuda-Related Projects

Dear faithful reader, I have just created a page listing a bunch of Bermuda-related projects I would like to do, help with, or otherwise see happen. They are generally digitally-orientated, and include Portuguese-Bermudian heritage, digital mapping, race relations, and political history.

Check them out here.

If you are interested in any of them, please contact me.

By the way, I am also interested in telling someone more about my ideas, and watching them run with it on their own.

19 August 2008

Addition to Library: Wooding Report

In addition to the 1977 riots, there were riots in 1968. The Wooding Commission was formed by the Governor to investigate the causes of these riots, much like the Pitt Commission would be formed to investigate the 1977 riots. I've just added a digital copy of the report to my online library of important Bermuda documents. Unfortunately I haven't had time to read it -- it's almost 200 pages -- so can't say much else useful about it here. You can download it here.

If you have any problems downloading or reading this or other reports, please let me know.

Race and Marxism in Bermuda

I left the following comment on Johnny Star's recent blog post on Marxism, which actually has a good thread on race.

Also see his follow-up post. He, like so many others, is still treating whites as a single bloc, which to me is one of the most hypocritical things we can do when trying to sort out racism... after all it's that kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.

Once again, I want to repeat my question: what makes you think the UBP is not interested in the problems of racism, institutional and otherwise?

Unfortunately the UBP cannot exercise total mind control over its supporters, but the UBP is absolutely opposed to institutional racism. Period.

Just saying it is so doesn't make it so. Specifically, and I am repeating myself, the UBP created CURE as a first step to addressing institutional racism.

There are many UBP MPs and candidates who are very concerned about race in Bermuda. In fact, while he was leader of the opposition, Grant Gibbons and others worked on ways of addressing the current racial equality on this island, including the economic empowerment zone subsequently adopted by the PLP. Also, it was the UBP that originally started the Small Business Development Corporation specifically to help small black entrepreneurs.

I will, unfortunately, have to concede that the UBP has, in the recent past, fallen prey to a common kind of institutional racism: that is, setting people up to fail. The situation with Jamahl Simmons and Gwyneth Rawlins are prime examples of this. Many people maintain that neither of them were properly suited to the jobs they held -- not because of their race, but because of their personalities and working styles. But under pressure to shed its perceived whiteness, the UBP sought black individuals and made hasty decisions.

As for whether or not the Big Conversation is effective, I will have to refrain from a total judgment, as I missed many earlier sessions. This year's modified format seems okay, but needs better moderation and less political posturing. For example, while moderating an event Eva Hodgson flat out said that the UBP never did anything for blacks. When challenged by me, she weaseled out of it with a 'what I really meant was...' But her lie will be repeated etc.

I apologize I did not have time to be more brief.

Bermuda Sets Cement Example for World Leaders

Looks like during all his globetrotting, Ewart Brown has had quite an influence on world leaders. For example, Venezuela has just nationalized its cement plants. I am sure that one day Venezuela will reach political maturity, like Bermuda, and give the cement companies away to (white) (non-union) political cronies.

18 August 2008

Violence Around the World

In Birmingham last week, a 17-year old woman was shot, "just hours after selecting an outfit for her first day at a new high school". More fighting over nothing, and the same themes as in Bermuda: "An editorial in The Birmingham News quickly condemned the continuing “mayhem,” and called on this city of 230,000 to develop “a simmering, determined, constructive anger” — a resolve, really, to protect its children."

Is there a point to this post? No. I just saw parallels in that article.

17 August 2008

Peace March, or Police?

Sen. Thaao Dill, along with his employer HOTT 107.5, is organizing a peace rally on 31 August to protest violence. I think that will be a positive event. Bermudians need to stand together against the violence in their community and make it clear that they will tolerate neither violence nor those who perpetrate violence.

But, I am disappointed that the good Senator has nothing more to offer. Some might say I am being too hard on him, but I have extremely high expectations from my Government, and I know that peace rallies won't be sufficient too stop the violence. Criminals need to know that they will be caught and prosecuted, and that requires police & prosecutors.

I've said it many times before, and I hate to be a bore, but why can't our Government get it together and sort out whatever issues they have with the Police? And I don't want to hear that excuse about the Governor again: he doesn't pay them, Senator Burch does. And he doesn't seem willing to pay them right now...

15 August 2008

Now we are three...

The latest PLP blog entry plays off Fitch Ratings affirmation of Bermuda's AA+ sovereign debt rating against Bob Richard's and Pat Gordon-Pamplin's press conference highlighting the increasing pressures in Bermuda's economy.

Allow me to make several points. First of all, I don't know who writes the PLP blog, but they seem to have the maturity of a 3 year old. As much as I wish the UBP could produce a regular blog advertising their views and initiatives, I would rather go without than to have one as immature and ad-hominem as the PLP's. It is true that blogs allow for remarkably free expression, but the official blog of the governing party ought to meet a higher standard. And, I would definitely wish for more creative writing... and a little less repetition.

My second point is that Bermuda having a good debt rating is far, far from saying the economic times are good for all Bermudians. In fact, the debt rating means that Fitch knows the current government of Bermuda has a lot of room to raise taxes and pay off Bermuda's national borrowing. And make no mistakes about it, under the PLP Bermuda's debt has risen, and those costs are being passed on to you, the taxpayer. The Fitch report isn't about whether or not the average Bermudian can make ends meet, can put food on the table, or can pay the rent. And that's what the UBP are concerned about. For example, our election platform promised to eliminate payroll tax for those making less than $42,000 a year, giving them back almost $2,000 more to cover expenses.

Finally: the PLP blog makes a lot of noise about the suggestion to trim the Music Festival. But, which would you rather have: a happy, well-paid police force, a happy, well-paid supply of teachers, well-paved roads, or a big set? No-one is against a party, but it is up to the Government t act responsibly and prioritize to tackle our national problems: education, crime, drugs, etc. But, after several years, the Government still hasn't reached contract agreement with the Police. And, last time I checked, Bermudians didn't need government help to throw a good party...