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...

Bermuda gets good financial ratings from Fitch

Fitch has recently reaffirmed its good ratings for Bermuda's foreign-currency debt. What does that mean? It means that Fitch is telling lenders that Bermuda is a safe borrower. So all is not gloom and doom. I'll have to dig around though because I recall that recently one of the other ratings agencies (there are several of them) was a bit jaded about Bermuda. Also, given the current subprime financial crisis, we've seen that the ratings agencies are not always to be trusted in their ratings: many things they rated as top quality have turned out to be bad performers.

11 August 2008

Murder: What I would say if...

The more I think about Kellon Hill's murder (and those earlier this year), the angrier I become.

What can I do? I am just a dude with a laptop. I am not a policeman, a pastor, an MP, etc.

We used to think it was just drug dealers killing each other, but the recent murder victims this year have all been innocents.

If I was a preacher, I would say something like this: brothers & sisters, mother & fathers, it is up to us to solve this problem. If you know who did this, come forward. Do not be afraid, if they threaten you, we will protect you. If they threaten to come after your grandmother, we will protect her too. We will all stand watch outside your house for as long as it takes to make sure you are safe. Because we must not stand for this senseless violence on our tiny island. But we will also not stand for retaliation. We know from history that death is never the answer to death.

If I was a Government leader, I would say something like this: I have spoken with the police, and our country's number one priority in the short term is to find & capture the murderers out there, bring them to justice, and give the the maximum punishment under the law. If that means we have to shift resources from less important projects (golf courses?), we will do it. We will cooperate with the police to make sure they have the resources they need. In the medium term, we will dedicate all required resources to stamp out gang activity on our island. In the long term, we will work with our teachers and educators to improve the futures of our children. We will make sure they have the tools & knowledge to succeed, so that they do not feel the need to turn to violence.

And so forth.

I only wish it was that easy.

Letter to Editor: Kellon Hill Murder

I've just sent this letter to the RG Editor. I don't know if it will be published.

11 August 2008
To: The Editor, The Royal Gazette

Dear Editor,

The murder of Kellon Hill marks yet another tragic moment in Bermuda’s history. As our island’s youth literally kill themselves, we are losing our Island’s most important resource: the future. But we can only blame ourselves.

We begrudge our police a pay rise, yet we spend millions of dollars on golf courses. We can’t properly educate our children, yet we spend millions of dollars on a music festival. We can’t make our community safe enough for people to assist the police, yet we send money to the Playboy Mansion.

Ask yourself, what would you give up to ensure that our future gets the education it needs? What would you give up so that our children could safely walk down the road at night?

When you decide, call your Government representative and tell them to get their priorities straight. Tell them to stop chasing the glitz and start working with the Island to solve our real problems.

Douglas S. J. De Couto, Ph.D.

06 August 2008

What would reparations look like?

Seeing this cartoon on Salon made me laugh.

The OPC had a scathing comment on the apology -- he is a militant pro-reparationist.

It's obvious to me that reparations as a pure cash payout are a stupid idea, starting with the fact of who will get the money? If there's someone you don't like, you can give them the job of parsing down bloodlines and deciding how much 'slave' each Bermudian has in them.

Then there's the problem of who will pay? We already know that Bermuda's tax system is (generally )regressive, so the poorer Bermudians would be disproportionately burdened with supporting the reparation payments. Since statistics show that poor Bermudians are also disproportionately black, cash reparation payments would be a wealth transfer from poor blacks to rich blacks!

That is obviously a stupid idea. A better idea would be for the Government to invest in social programs to help the needy and disadvantaged, who, as we already know, are disproportionately black: education, health, education, social services, education,...

Oh, wait, that's what the Government had been doing since the UBP came to power in 1968, starting with: desegregating schools, increasing school leaving age, the Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation, introducing land tax, hospital insurance, building public housing, the Bermuda Housing Corporation, the Bermuda College and Stonington, etc. ("History of the UBP", from here).

The UBP isn't and wasn't perfect, and made a lot of mistakes leading up to 1998's loss. But they aren't and weren't racists, and they worked hard and achieved significant progress for our country. And that's not revisionist history, that's fact.

04 August 2008

In His Own Words

Last week I blogged about the Emancipation Day March, and later made some comments about what Senator Thaao Dill said. He has supplied me with his actual words so you will not need to rely on my potentially inaccurate recollection.

What it means to be black, on a very basic level, is to recognize that one is considered to be inferior, or, more to the point, that society believes that one is not deserving of freedom, liberty and justice. Now, with that said, what it also means to be black is to understand that society is wrong and it must be convinced accordingly, reformed in the most powerful ways through the most powerful spaces available. Recognition of such a set of conflicting concepts doesn't just motivate, it obligates effort and focus.

I agree with him that there are serious problem in society we must all attack.

03 August 2008

Obligatory Non-Mariners Post

This was my favorite non-vessel from the non-mariners' race that didn't happen today. Despite the non-happenings of this particular float, I predict that the faith-based tourism issue is the one least likely to sink below the surface as time progresses. It seems as if Andre Curtis has been hung out to dry with nary a peep from LaVerne Furbert, and without any op-eds in support from the party commentators.

The non-mariners' race can definitely be classified as a white event. Not exclusively, but very true across the participants and spectators. It is one of the few examples of political satire on this island, and I believe that Bermudians, especially black Bermudians, don't enjoy satire. Now that I have made an egregious generalization, feel free to let the beatings begin...

Speaking of race, is it just me, or were whites over-represented at the Crown & Anchor tent on Friday afternoon at the game? Given the terrible odds for Crown & Anchor, does that mean whites are less intelligent than blacks? Or perhaps the blacks played on Thursday? Or maybe whites just don't like cricket...

02 August 2008

Crown & Anchor: Fun But Deadly

This Wikipedia page has a petty good description of how Crown & Anchor is played. If you follow through to the description of "chuck-a-luck", you can find an analysis of the odds. For the simple 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1 payouts we get in Bermuda, you can expect to lose 7.9% of your money.

I've seen the chuck-a-luck game at Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, where it featured the additional payouts described on the Wikipedia page. That's when I realized what an edge the Bermudian version of the game gives to the house!

But I'd take the Bermudian version of the game any day, thanks to the atmosphere, action, and of course, the free drinks.

Red & Blue, Red & Blue

Happy Cup Match All!

I've spent most of the weekend under the weather, but have been enjoying Cup Match anyway. I woke up particularly grumpy on Wednesday morning, but thanks to the holiday and a few well-chosen Soca and Reggae tunes on the radio for the drive in, I was smiling and bopping in the car by the time I reached Johnny Barnes. It's hard to be in a bad mood with the big holiday in sight and great riddims on the radio.

Cup Match has something for everybody, ranging from the gentle murmur of the cricket on the radio, to the heat and action of the game -- two very different ways of enjoying the festivities. Personally, I like to split my time between the beach, the game, Crown & Anchor, and a big serving of fish! This year I just about managed to to cover my game expenses from my time under the Crown and Anchor tent, but I watched a lot of big spenders financing the tables...

I was disappointed to get another draw, especially as I was looking for a Somerset win. As the radio announcers remarked, it wasn't bad cricket, given the rules of the Cup Match game, but it may not be what a lot of the spectators are hoping to see. Personally, I would support either a limited overs game, or adding a third day.

I hope you enjoy what remains of the weekend!

01 August 2008

The 1978 Pitt Report

This is the second installment in my archive of reports about Bermuda, race, and politics. After the 1977 riots, a royal commission was formed to investigate the causes. The produced a lengthy report which spent most of its time examining the conditions in Bermuda that created the frustrations enabling the riots. I've been working my way through it this weekend, and what is interesting is that we have many of the same issues that were around 30 years ago (although perhaps in different degrees of severity).

At first I couldn't figure out where to find a copy, but it hit me at last: the library. Remember those? If you are an avid reader, I would suggest using the library and saving yourself spending the $$ on books...

You can download the report here, and I have reproduced the cover page below.