Post-Christmas goings-on

It's been an incredible week both in Bermuda and abroad of course. I think the entire country was stunned by the violent activities here over the holiday (as reported first by BNN). I imagine that the local police here are going to face even deeper scrutiny even though they weren't the ones provoking things, of course.

It may be time to increase the firepower of the police here (i.e. firearms), to be honest, as well as bringing in even stronger measures to eliminate the presence of such weapons on the island.

At a world view, the assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto is a damaging blow to the prospects of stability in Pakistan and possibly the Middle East and India as well. There's already some serious controversy brewing over the government's response.


Now it's Barbados's turn for elections

Well, my second home of Barbados just declared elections, right after Bermuda's one concluded.

Situation there is widely different in many aspects. The incumbents currently have a stranglehold on the number of seats in Parliament, and they're likely to lose quite a few. Both of the main parties have "Labour" in their titles.

While in Bermuda the PLP just won their third consecutive term in power, in Barbados the BLP is looking for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term, all with Owen Arthur as Prime Minister. Will be following things closely in an election that actually will be about the issues (with a scandal thrown in of course).

How many policemen does it take to direct traffic?

And yes, at the intersection of Reid and Burnaby Streets yesterday we had a total of 7 police officers standing around. Two were at opposite corners trying to direct traffic and pedestrians, the remainder were standing around looking idle.

There were 3 more at the Reid and Queen intersection, and a further 2 on bikes having a chat. And then there was one in between, at the pedestrian crossing to Washington Lane. Despite all of this, there was an "accident" as the driver of a large Chevy minivan reversed into a parking bay, scraping the side of a car.

More of the same tomorrow and Monday, I suspect.


Online Election Fallout

Even before the election was over, some of the local bloggers indicated that they'd be taking time out because of all the time put in, which is understandable. I can only imagine the amount of research and analysis that Denis Pitcher put into getting those recent ones about employment figures, for example. Politics.bm looks to be taking a temporary hiatus as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if Limey and others took a breather what with the holiday season and young families to spend time with. So there probably won't be too many online discussions about the election results and the new government just yet.

What I have noticed so far is that there's quite a bit of bitterness among UBP (or anti-PLP) supporters in the blogs and forums. They seem flabbergasted that a party tainted with scandal and unwilling to address issues of transparency and accountability could win another term as the governing party. We have topics titled "A victory for ignorance". On BermudaIsAnotherWorld one contributor said that he's packing his bags! The frustrations are quite visible for many people; whether those on the other side see it (and acknowledge it), is another story. Catch-A-Fire has also spotted this trend and has a viewpoint similar to mine.

I think that there's a feeling in some quarters that black Bermudians were sheep in this election, following blindly the "stay solid" mantra of the PLP and falling for the rants of "The UBP will lock us up" and "UBP will return us to the plantation". Way too thick a brush to paint with, of course. Sure there are many who will vote PLP even if they slept with your wife, threw you out of your house and kicked your dog, but it's definitely not the majority. Many voted because simply put, the UBP didn't do enough to sway their vote. I know people who don't like what the PLP's done in recent years, but weren't impressed enough with the UBP's tactics to change their vote.

The strategy of focusing on the issues and not delivering personal attacks was the correct one to take, no doubt. They'd never win a battle in the pits. However they failed to convince the electorate that they were running a clean campaign. I believe that the UBP had nothing to do with creating the Tony Brannon YouTube videos. I believe they didn't create those nasty cartoon strips. But the UBP needed to drive home the point to any UBP or anti-PLP supporters that they are not looking to trash their opponents. That wasn't done and by affiliation, the UBP was deemed responsible for those ads.

The UBP needed to produce their manifesto long before the PLP. There's a belief among many that the PLP are the innovators and the UBP the reactionaries. This goes back to when the PLP was formed and the UBP created in response. By going first, the UBP's message would have been in the minds of voters without any other alternative messages to compare. Then when the PLP's agenda came out the UBP could be the first to counter-attack.

Finally, the Long Term Status scenario. While it may be constitutionally proper to effect that policy, it was a bad move to highlight that in their campaign manifesto. The majority of Bermudians are not going to look at that in a good way. Heck, they left off other unpopular items such as Human Rights so why they kept the Permanent Residents issue on the board was bizarre. Rightfully (from a political point of view), the PLP seized that message and used it to stir up their support. Knowing that the PLP may try to spin such a message, the UBP should have left that off the table.

That's three reasons why I think the UBP lost the election. They needed to run a perfect campaign to offset what the PLP were doing and they didn't.

Meanwhile, something's seriously wrong with the Progressive Minds blog. The PLP won the election and yet the first story published was *another* bash of UBP leadership. I know that they're the youth wing but I think some maturity at the administrative level needs to be utilized. People can win with grace and humility, you know.


Post-election motorcade?

Town is awfully quiet this morning. I'm walking along Church Street to get birthday office goodies, but town seems relatively subdued. Which probably means that the PLP victory motorcade is getting ready...

22-14 to the incumbents

So in the end, no net change in the composition of Parliament. Each party won 2 new seats but lost 2. There were a few surprise results, but the net gains were zero and I'd have to say that the PLP won even more comprehensively because:
  • The Opposition party leader was given a hiding by the PLP incumbent in the interesting Smith's North constituency (which may or may not be renamed "Dame Lois country").
  • The PLP held the majority of the popular vote (about 2,000?). Voter turnout was high again so they can easily claim a mandate from the people.
The candidates who lost their battles on both sides appeared to show grace and humility in interviews, which was impressive.

With a retained majority of seats, I don't expect much shuffling of Cabinet posts. Maybe Dr. Brown will shift one of his own big portfolios, but I doubt it as I think he has a few more initiatives he'd like to roll out. For example, he unveiled a minibus to serve along a 'feeder route' just before the election, the details of which I'm looking forward to seeing.

The UBP, they'll have to figure out where they went wrong. I think they made a few mistakes during their campaign (and in the months before) that didn't serve them well in gathering more of the undecideds or PLP frustrateds over to their side (e.g. BHC). They have the matter of reorganising their Shadow Cabinet and picking a new Opposition leader.

There's also the matter of choosing new Senators. UBP will have to make at least one change. PLP may stick with their current group (two Senators ran, both lost) or make a shift or two.

I may mention items from the UBP's agenda that I think the PLP ought to look at in a future post, but right now, I'm celebrating, and it's not because the election's over ^_^...



I really enjoy the actual voting, when it comes down to it. There's a sense of empowerment, a feeling of control, when you get that ballot paper and get to decide on which candidate will represent you in Parliament. This morning I got to greet and shake hands with the two men running in my constituency (as well as their assistants), and after casting my ballot, came out feeling quite proud. Good luck to each gentleman and to all the candidates. As Marilyn Steede said in the Gazette today, everybody who actually ran ought to be commended.

If it does snow on Front Street, I'm outta here

Got a cute e-card from BF&M today. A little strange that they're effectively spamming all of their customers, but I don't mind it too much. What's a little funny is the imagery used. If there really is that much snow falling in Bermuda on Christmas like their animation suggests, then they'll have to close school and the offices for a good three weeks! Heh.

If I whack somebody in the back of a head with a hammer

You'd think that I'd be facing a long prison sentence for assault, attempted murder, etc. if I was to strike a man from behind in the back of his head with a hammer.

However, for some reason the assailant got a suspended freaking 12-month sentence, on the basis of it being a first-time offense!

Something's wrong with the legal system where vicious assaults where there's a serious risk of permanent injury or death, get such weak treatment. I've never committed a crime, so would I get off if I just walked up to somebody and whacked them in the back of their head? Preposterous!

Time to vote!

No more debate (or lack thereof)! No more campaign ads! No more guessing!

The Bermuda Sun will have running counters on the vote-count through the day and we'll have a new government in place tonight. Predictions? I have no clue. I'd bet on the PLP retaining a majority in Parliament but there are several chances of constituency shocks that could have every pundit biting their teeth (and the daggone pollsters bopping their heads).


Reading the manifestos in-depth

It's amazing how coherent these political party manifestos appear once you get past the subtle (and not so subtle) digs at the opposing parties. Both have really pledged some interesting initiatives on improving Bermuda for Bermudians and to a lay person, they should show some promise.

I've been interested to read the feedback from both sides on the agendas. Good analysis of the agendas online can be found at Catch-A-Fire and Vexed Bermoothes. Catch-A-Fire gets right down to a bullet-by-bullet run-through of most of the items up for discussion. Props!

As for the parties themselves; the PLP claimed that the 'Three Strikes' proposal would lock up Bermudians. They've also said that their housing policy is superior to the UBP's. They've criticized the Permanent Residents proposal with some spin. And they've followed up with some nasty insert-words-in-mouths piece just now. With all due respect, the PLP ought to cut out the snide crap.

The UBP has challenged the PLP's proposals on the basis that no cost estimates have been provided. They've attempted to clarify their statements on Permanent Residents and trimming the Civil Service which was attacked by the PLP. I'm not sure how they responded to the PLP's free public transportation pledge.

Right now, both parties have bought prime-time TV ad space on local TV, which I'm sure ZBM and VSB greatly appreciate and they're broadcasting more speeches even now. They're all trying their hardest now to get the votes out.

Time will tell if the PLP's more fiercely attacking campaign or the UBP's stand-and-bear-it campaign will work best here.

Leave the kids out of this

Whether it's the PLP's pouring out that little kid talking about "keeping the PLP in power" or the ROI group getting that girl on-screen talking about how Dr. Brown is going to ram Independence down our throats, it's too much. We shouldn't be exposing preteens to this negative campaigning stuff.


Disturbing sentiments

From an article on TheKingofAllKings:
"He reportedly shouted, 'Let those n***ers vote the UBP back in and see what happens! Watch what we do!'"
Now, we know that many Bermudians just give big talk, but the fact is that there are a lot of men who are angry. They seem to be upset at white folk as well as black folk, and I'd bet that right now they're ready to take their frustrations out on anybody.

Are civil disturbances on the horizon? I don't think any more than usual, but hopefully the police are on alert considering that it's a fierce election and that we're in the Christmas season.

Things I haven't seen

Crap, so I forget to take my manifestos home this weekend to study in depth. However, I'm a little disappointed that some of the issues that I am interested in were not highlighted by either political party as far as I know. Denis Pitcher brings up his own outlooks on the highlighted items by the Gazette.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation being added or not included to the Human Rights Act has been avoided like the plauge. I think that all of the politicians are conscious of losing support by taking a stand in either direction. Although, it also exposes them as being soft-bellied and incapable of anything besides party-speak. Yes, it's likely that most Bermudians are against the amendment because being gay is still taboo in the island. Therefore you'll probably lose votes because you want to make the amendment. Also, it's politically incorrect to say you're against it because we're living in a society where there is freedom of religion, etc. So it's convenient to stay silent until you get the feeling that the support is strong in either direction. Bleh. What I do remember, is the pathetic non-debate that happened when it was brought up by Renee Webb not long ago. A sad day all-around.

Conscription to the Bermuda Regiment is another one that the parties don't address. I remember when I was in Barbados reading a Gazette article that showed the Regiment campaigning for volunteer women (but not men!). It reminded me of the fact that the Regiment are more than happy to continue to pluck at random a batch of guys and force them to undergo military training. Again, I think that the majority of Bermudians either don't care (because it doesn't affect them - remember half the population would never be forced to serve) or support it on the basis of "we had to do it, so should you". Politicians are avoiding this issue for the most part. Again, the current policy is biased and sexist and the politicians aren't bothered. Great blog post on this issue, Denis.

Finally, the UBP has pledged to bring in speed cameras (aren't they already on-island in a warehouse or something ^_^) while the PLP will trumpet their introduction of the licence points demerit programme. Neither has appeared to want to clamp down on Bermuda's culture of reckless driving. Whether it be by increasing traffic wardens in town and nailing those double-parkers along Queen and Reid Street, or having more officers to book the folks doing their dangerous weaving on their bikes, people seem to be happy with our "accident" rates which are quite high for such a small country.


How expensive are these campaigns?

As I rode home and passed banner after banner and signpost after signpost, after reading every full-page ad in the newspapers, after seeing every manner of web banner ad on sites from the Gazette to Vybez Alliance to even Google, and hearing about unlimited TV and radio ads airing on every local station and the YouTube network I wonder how much freaking dollars are these guys putting up for elections? Surely it's a record.

Waste of money? I'm sure it probably seems that way to the people struggling to avoid living on the streets this Christmas period.

Bringing in 8000 voters?

Came back from vacation, then swamped by work, now have a sore throat and ought to be in bed. But I want to throw this one out quickly.

I heard that at a recent PLP rally in Somerset, the PLP attacked the UBP's plan to bring back offering long-term residency status, claiming that this is a gesture to make certain types of expat workers into citizens, and with a natural leaning towards the UBP party. I.e., more white voters. The follow-up from the PLP was that this would guarantee that blacks would never be able to lead the country again.

I don't know if this issue is yet in the newspapers or discussed currently in the blogosphere, but I'd imagine that the point was effectively made by the PLP to its core supporters and unless the UBP can set a solid and believable counter-argument (such as insisting that the policy is only applied to people such as spouses-of-Bermudians, 20 years residence, et al.), they'll lose a few more of the undecided and currently disenfranchised voters who struggle as it is to get attention.


Oh no she didn't (PLP candidate)

Wow. Candidate Lovita Foggo dredged up the ol' "don't vote yourself back to the plantation" speech. I really hoped that it would have been dead and buried but nope, here it is 4 years later and just as nasty.

Issues, guys! Talk platforms! Stop the freaking scaremongering!

Okay sometimes the Gazette does well

Today I noticed a RSS feed icon on the Gazette's website. This was long overdue (the Bda Sun had this feature long ago), but nevertheless I will give credit where credit's due.

This will be a great benefit to many online readers of that newspaper.

Gazette dealing with cute child contests

For over a day and a half the Gazette home page is showing a banner for a company (I've heard it's owned by the Gazette's editor-in-chief's wife, which makes things very weird) and its cute kids contest winners.

And because all URLs for the Gazette's pages are long and ugly instead of something useful like /news/, your best bet to getting actual content may be in your browser history.

Digihell and Cap G should be demanding a refund on their whopping inline ads :-) Lord I'm tired of finding things to complain about this newspaper...


Manifestos out in Bermuda

Glad to hear that the PLP's election manifesto is now out and that the UBP's one is coming soon. Looking forward to reading it although the commentary I've read so far seems to indicate that it's a lot of promises without an explanation of how they will be achieved.

Of particular interest to me will be the free bus and ferry proposals (I don't see this as an incentive for people to ditch their cars, still and have yet to see a study/poll that proves it), the first-time homeowners getting interest-free downpayments (nice, I think, but will that make a home affordable to me even if I was one of those fortunate 500?), and the environmental Green Paper (as NewOnion says, this could be initiated now or in the past, and really is a very blah promise in comparison. The duty breaks for 'green' initiatives, is good though).

More later. Barbados for its part is in a vigorous political battle as again, an election is due soon and the incumbent party is dealing with allegations of government money going to private enterprises behind the scenes.


Idealogically speaking

Take racial issues out of the equation. What distinguishes the PLP and the UBP from an idealogical or a goals-focused view?

I raise this after reading Zane DeSilva's comments in the Gazette today where he calls on whites to join the PLP to heal the undercurrent of racial tensions as well as Calvin Smith's featured piece dealing with PLP accomplishments.

For many potential voters, they seem tired of race, race and 'they'e out to get ya if you vote them in' speeches. I think they'd rather hear about how the two parties will improve education, housing, crime, etc. Right now both parties are saying similar things. They'll both increase housing stock. They'll both get St. George's police station refurbished. Both of them are avoiding the gay rights topic. But it's hard to pick out why Party A's plans will work better than Party B's, as it gets shunted aside to be replaced with the bickering.

Why is the PLP's tourism strategy better or worse than the UBP's? Why is the UBP's plan for Bermuda College admissions better or worse than the PLP's?

Why should a person, regardless of race, support the PLP or the UBP?


Independence, the TV ad

I'm with Denis Pitcher. Why did that CURE stats stuff highlight B.A. Degrees and not other undergrad degrees? That seems weird. B.Sc and LL.B should count there, right? Anyway.

The PLP blog throws an interesting question regarding the mysterious RCI group and their strange TV ads warning the public that Independence could get forced down their throats.

I don't think that the group is affiliated with the UBP (although I bet that all members will vote that party), but the message they're sending out is clearly scaremongering for something that could be a red herring. There's really no indication so far that Independence would be sought by the PLP if they won the election. I'm no legal mind but if it's not in their official manifesto (which for all I know may get released December 18 at 8pm), they probably won't be able to use the results as a mandate to go independent against the will of the people.

That ad, UBP-funded or not, will not win any votes for the party that the RCI is tying to draw towards and may easily do the opposite.

Blogging mobile

It's not easy blogging and reading blogs from mobile devices but it's worth it, particularly now that every day somebody's blogging new content, whether it be VB, Politics.bm, Prog Minds, 21 Sq. or whoever.

Regading the blogs themselves, I'm interested in the studies done on 21 Square with the CURE numbers. Also the commentary on the cement situation which contrary to my earlier musing, is an issue front and centre now. Government appears to be taking on a large heap of projects now, which seems rather presumptuous of them. Apparently some PLP supporters have responded to the nasty cartoons with trash of their own. Peachy.

Bermuda Broadcasting, another walkout? Sheesh. Maybe Gov't should buy them and merge it with Gov TV and then things can move on. No, I'm not serious.

BermudaSucks have relaunched their site and forum using the cool Joomla tool, as seen on other local sites. Problem is that navigation is worse now for mobile users, heh.

More later.

Family and Sesame Street

So I'm in Barbados chilling and on TV is Sesame Street. Shoot me, it's a monsoon here and people are panicking over rumour of another earthquake coming... Yep Bermudians aren't the only ones who are subject to getting tricked when it comes to natural disasters.

Anyway. The subject of the episode was families. They then did a montage of families and one of them showed briefly two men flanking a kid, all of them eating ice cream.

I thought that was quite interesting. There's probably something on the Web addressing this but I wonder if people both in Barbados and Bermuda, places dominated by the church at times, this will be noticed. Suffice it to say the issue of gay rights has been prominent in the news.

In fact there was a news story in the Nation News where a prominent Catholic priest said that the Church has to fight against legislation that excludes people because of lifestyle or sexual habits.

It's an opposite path to that taken by many leaders in Bermudian churches.

Right now this issue in Bermuda is on the back-burner even during election season, thanks to the usual party dick-measuring games. I'm guessing that since both parties avoid the issue that's why it doesn't come up. Maybe in the New Year the topic will arise again.


Clayhouse Inn

Not long ago, I was making the ride into work. Passed by a big UBP/Dunkley banner in Flatts. Then another hanging from a house near Terceira's Shell in North Shore. And later I would pass by an enormous banner for Patrice Minors (and if I must say, she looks absolutely gorgeous in her campaign photo).

But anyway I reach this large building and think to myself, this would be prime real estate to hang a big political banner from.

This building, which has fallen into an unsightly condition, used to be the ClayHouse Inn, once a popular place for entertainment and I assume hotel-like lodging. It's sat in a disused and abandoned state since 1999 at least, yet it seems as though people are content to let this building blight an otherwise beautiful strip of coast.

From what I've heard, the current property owner isn't concerned with renovating or selling. And, I don't know if Government has the capability to take over the property in the public interest. But surely there's value in taking such an unwanted property, and making a set of accomodation, even emergency housing, out of it?


It gets nastier

A large batch of Photoshopped images making fun of Premier Brown and other PLP MPs were making the e-mail rounds recently. Many of them would be considered extremely offensive, particularly one that depicted Dr. Brown alongside Hitler, Mussolini and others.

It's nasty stuff. The Bermuda Sun addressed the responses to these images from representatives of both main political parties.

Two points. The PLP chairperson plays a bit of a political game here, calling on the UBP party leader to issue a public condemnation of those images, however saying that the images were deliberately done at the request of the UBP in the first place. Which, come on. Either give the benefit of the doubt or make the accusation, don't try to do both. It's like he's trying to put the UBP in a no-win situation, which is indeed politics, but not really necessary here.

The UBP leader makes a poor response by claiming that doctored images of himself are making the rounds as well, which screams of deflection and an 'aw shucks' kind of attitude instead of focusing on the images currently being discussed. He didn't come off as disgusted with the images, which to many will seem like he's not too bothered by this issue. Remember, Bermudians generally take offense more easily than our North American friends so I expect people will believe that the UBP leader is completely out of touch with the mainstream based on his comments.

We may never know if it was an anti-PLP group, a UBP directive, a bunch of kids with too much free time on their hands, or even a PLP job to make the Premier et al. a martyr figure, but I do recall the effects of the 1998 election newspaper ad that slagged former MP Delaey Robinson because he had dreadlocks. This too could be a turning point come election day.

More arguments over Gov TV

There's a debate on the worth of CITV, the government-owned and produced cable channel, taking place at the Progressive Minds blog. There's much support for this TV station from most of the people posting there, claiming that it adds much value to our society. The general protest against it is that Government (a) spent too much money, (b) should not be involved in broadcasting.

I even posed a question there but it got lost in the debate over what Government should and shouldn't be doing. My personal opinion is that there are currently three TV stations, not counting Fresh TV, that have the capability to show local programming produced by local organisations including Government itself.

That said, I have no problem and think it's commendable for a Government area to produce local TV programmes that cover history, culture, education, environment, etc. But I don't think that Government needed to create a whole new TV station to broadcast those programmes. VSB, for instance, doesn't really show much of anything on Sunday mornings. ZBM is usually idle during that Oprah Winfrey timeslot on ZFB. As someone pointed out, there are cable channels LookTV and OnionTV which may be of use in showing local programmes.

Speaking from the Barbados experience and my favourite channel of all time, one CBC (inside joke), which has come along leaps and bounds in recent years, they're a government-funded (as opposed to government-run) TV station which provides local programming throughout the day. The situation is a bit different there because they're a monopoly in local TV and operate in a nation with great national pride (each probably influenced the other), but I think that rather than spend money on a brand new channel Government could have used less funds, guaranteed itself daily or weekly airtime on the public TV (and radio) channels of its choosing and still provided the country with the programmes of choice. From all accounts on the Prog Minds blog, the shows themselves are of high quality compared to Bermuda Broadcasting's in-house shows, so they ought to get an audience if they were moved to local TV.