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.