Organised religion: being sceptical

I avoid bringing up religious issues here because for the most part it's a personal choice to choose a particular religion, or reject it altogether, and it's a topic that ignites the fiercest of passions. That said, every now and then I read articles that make me question the validity of it all.

There's this big brouhaha in the Anglican church in Bermuda around priests and management and it's freaking political(!) among other things. And why is there such a detailed hierarchy at a church? Bishop, archdeacon, priests, rectors, and then vestries and wardens,... this isn't a church, it's freaking big business, complete with rumours and accusations and politics! Bleh.

Meanwhile, and this comes directly from a CBS News investigation, PrimeTarget.org discusses all the televangelists living the life of luxury off the donations of those that they minister to. Not an uncommon phonemenon, and definitely not restricted to those in the U.S., but yeah, all those guys with the powerful voices and compelling charisma, who preach stern gospel, and urge us to donate, or purchase trinkets, or buy to support the growth of the ministry, meanwhile get to take their tax-free earnings and grant themselves fancy cars, houses and other perks and live the high life. So much for that camel's eye quote.


Pink and Blue for a day

My bike died utterly on Sunday morning and while I considered spending big bucks on fixing it or spending even more big bucks (over $3000 for a scooter, guys!) on a new bike, I had to catch the bus, a.k.a. the "Pink and Blue" on Monday.

I decided to take note of the experience for future reference as I hadn't really caught the bus out of necessity for some time and wondered if the "Bermudians never "go back" to "inferior" transport. When people get their bikes, they'll never catch the bus. When they get a car, they avoid bikes at all costs" thought of a year ago even applied to me.

Anyway, I had to wait about 20 minutes for the bus to pick me up. Strike: unpredictability of arrival times.

The ride itself was decent, bus wasn't full really. Interesting how many more guest workers were on the bus than in years past. No strike here.

Got into town, disembarked. Noticed that although Government spent a ton of money refurbishing the place, indeed there was too much exposure to the elements for passengers unlucky enough to be far back in any queue. But the section where the bus operators could congregate, looked snazzy. Steeee-rike.

Also, and I think this comes into play in light of my bad experience with buying tokens from bitchy staff, but when the operating hours at the service counter are like 8:30 to 5:30pm, then you're absolutely screwed when you're fumbling to find change at 7:00pm and have nothing but 20-dollar bills. Why not have a simple kiosk where you can purchase tokens, sets of tickets, heck even monthly passes? Would bypass having to deal with surly customer service folk and maybe even save money which can be used to hire more drivers! Steeeeeeeeee-rike.

Borrowing a bike now. Thank goodness.


I think Bermuda's conscription policy is wrong

I've always thought that Bermuda's policy of conscription to the Regiment was wrong. Not only because it was random, but also because it discriminated against young men. And no, I don't believe in the weak "when a man has a uterus" arguments for keeping conscription to men only; women can run and fire a gun just as a man can.

Defendants of the current policy say that it's good because people should be required to give back to their country. That's all good except that in reality only men are expected to do this. They say nothing about women. They may say that it would help men get off the wall and learn some discipline. However, recruits are randomly chosen. If that was the goal, why not just recruit the men who actually sat on the wall and not those who are already productive members of society, then?

There is talk about serving in the Regiment may give recruits a sense of national pride. However there's a great sentiment here that people won't ever have national pride unless Bermuda is an independent country. So throw that out the window.

As far as conscription in general, well the United States has a law that states that young men must register for Selective Service at 18, which would mean they're liable to be called into military service in the event of great need (unlikely, but still possible). Currently, serving is purely voluntary. In Europe, about half the countries use some form of conscription. Israel, as predicted, has conscription for all citizens, men and women.

In the Caribbean, all armies are volunteer. The Cayman Islands, have no military force whatsoever. I suppose they don't forsee any invading troops storming the capital.

Currently, it appears that the majority of Bermudians support the current policy. Of course, the majority of Bermudians appear to be against amending the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as well. Sometimes 'doing the right thing' can go against the desires of the majority.

Read a good article about conscription on Catch-A-Fire, and think that if anything, Bermuda would be better served by a full-time, professional armed forces consisting of volunteers who join and receive superior benefits for their service (such as free tuition at Bermuda College and at least some paid education overseas) and are paid a decent wage.


A brief dip into celebrity crap

Is it just me, or does it seem as though Dr. Phil needs to take sessions with, um,... Dr. Phil? This man is too much. Must be fun making money while you're doing simply nothing at all these days, eh.

Okay enough of Hollywood junk. Tired of the news media treating it like big news. Besides, the Superbowl is in less than two weeks! Woo-hoo!


I want to believe in the crackdown, but...

Recently it was announced first on the TV news and then in the following day's newspapers, that the Police was mounting Operation Safer Streets, which is supposed to have the purpose of restoring public confidence in our law enforcement officials. Frankly, they have a very long way to go, but to be expected.

I think that for once, there seems to be some sincerity in the goals of the Police to accomplish this. First, the elections are over, and this won't be derided as a Government-sponsored tactic to appear as if the PLP is soft on crime, etc. Secondly, and this relates to the first point, now that the election is over a lot of the necessary-but-unpopular tactics such as arresting people and fining offenders can be accomplished.

So as of now, we apparently have batches of cops dispersed at Camp Hill, St. Monica's Road, Deepdale Road and other areas at uncertain times of day, to eye up things. We also have groups of cops gathered along East Broadway to check people for illegal tint or expired licenses. How long will that run for? No idea. What I do know is that there aren't any officers walking around town, monitoring people driving through red lights and flicking trash out their windows.

Meanwhile, there are a few parents who think that the emphasis should be moreso on the extremely serious crimes.

I think it can all be accomplished, but it may take even more unpopular stances to be taken. We'll see where things lie say two months from now.

Wouldn't you want to be paid directly?

I've been asked what are my views on the so-called "crackdown on crime" thing happening here and I promise I'll get to that when I can, as well as other issues going on such as the UBP "conundrum" and the like.

Meanwhile, I'm reading the Bermuda Sun and specifically this article where CoH workers are upset by a policy that enables them to be paid directly into a bank account instead of by a cheque.

I don't understand. What is the benefit of not being paid directly into a bank account and instead getting a cheque that you have to either deposit (or endorse to give to somebody else) anyway? I think that some people still don't trust banks to hold their money for them, however for a simple paycheck, they're probably protesting too much. Maybe people don't want to give up their ledger books and embrace quicker and more reliable methods of managing their finances. Mind you, they're not the only ones in Bermuda who are like that.


DLP wins Barbados election

Well, colour me surprised. The DLP won the Barbados elections in comprehensive fashion, 20-9, virtually reversing their previous election defeat. David Thompson after many years leading the Opposition, will become the next Prime Minister of Barbados. Congratulations to him and the DLP.

This loss must be tough to take for the BLP, who had known nothing but success at the polls for the past 14 years. There are several proud persons who have been stalwarts in Parliament for the entirety of their stint and even before, who may be wondering what now lies in their future, politically speaking, most notably outgoing P.M. Owen Arthur.

The biggest loser? Possibly Clyde Mascoll, former deputy head of the DLP who walked out on his party to join the BLP, served a stint as a Government Minister, was touted as a possible successor to either the P.M. or deputy P.M. role when Owen Arthur retired, and recently had to deal with serious allegations against him.

Finally, it must be some kind of unwritten rule in politics that when you unseat the incumbents, you're free to declare a public holiday. The PLP did that in Bermuda's '98 elections, and now the DLP's done the same thing in Barbados. Lucky Bajans ^_^

New blog: jumping the gun

So I was going to wait to announce the launch of a new Bermuda blog because the author wanted me to wait a little bit, but the always-investigative forces behind Politics.bm scooped my news in a preemptive strike that would make Dubya proud.

Anyway, Bermuda Longtail is out, so pay it a visit... (*mutters to himself at being scooped... grr*)

Seriously, it's a great blog ^_^


You'd think there was a blogging crisis

After reading another Gazette 'oh no blogging in Bermuda is in crisis' article, I'm absolutely befuddled by what the Gazette's trying to accomplish here.

As of now, only Limey is gone for sure. 21 Square (whose author is serving in the Regiment anyway and was always likely to take things light on the blogging end) still exists. Politics.bm likely isn't going anywhere. Now, if the Gazette wants to use the in-hiatus BravoZulu.bm and Imho.bm (which were the blogs they profiled way back when, anyway) as proof maybe they'd have something. But that would be naive at best.

The Bermuda online community is more crowded than ever! We have Catch-A-Fire, Vexed Bermoothes, New Onion, still active. On top of that there are more new blogs on the scene - they'll be noticed by everyone shortly. And then you have the forums of BIAW and BermudaSucks. Progressive Minds is also back after a few weeks 'off'.

Then again, if the Gazette would take the time to actually scan the web instead of proselytizing or whatever they're trying, they may learn that there's still a lot of discourse in the blogosphere.

Barbardos: Time to vote

Racial issues aside, there may be similarities in Barbados's election to those in Bermuda last month. Both campaigns took place during the Christmas period, which upset many people. Both feature an incumbent party that has had to deal with allegations of scandal and kickbacks. Both feature a challenging party that's been labeled as not ready to govern and their leader labeled as not the right guy to lead the country.

My sources (yeah, I have 'sources'... ooooh how juicy) tell me that the BLP are likely to retain easily a majority of seats this time around, securing an unprecedented fourth consecutive term governing the country.

Apparently I was mailed brochureware from both main parties, as I'm eligible to vote in Barbados because of my citizenship. Hopefully I'll get to take a look at it sometime soon. More on the results later, I suppose.


What's wrong with hiring at Ice Queen?

While I'm sure that management at the Ice Queen fast food joint may be limited in who they can hire, they ought to try a little to get front-line staff who can speak and understand English.

Tonight, I'm hoping to get a simple chicken burger and bottle of water (trying to avoid the sodas, go me! Yay!), but the guy up front first couldn't understand my order. First he thinks I'm asking for chicken fingers. Then he struggles to find the correct button on the cash register for a chicken burger. Then my water order which is okay. However he must have punched in something wrong because my bill came to over $13 bucks!

Now I know Bermuda's expensive, but not yet. I tell the guy that price can't be right, so another cashier jumps in to figure it out and eventually my order goes through.

So Ice Queen management, try to sort that crap out, mmkay? Thanks.


The Gazette and grammar-check

Clearly the Gazette's price increase to 90 cents hasn't been used to upgrade their editors' skills. First spotted on the BIAW Forums, a Saturday headline once read:
'You don't chose music – it chose music you'
but now it's the easier-to-read but still-poor:
'You don't chose music – it choses you'
However, people berate the young people for poor grammar and spelling; when often it's the adults, particularly those in position to set a good example such as the Gazette, who can't phrase a praragraph so that it at least looks a little like it was written by someone whose first language was English. We haven't outsourced our reporters and editors to India or Hong Kong yet, have we?


Over the cliff

In another follow-up to driving in Bermuda, I was pointed to an article on PrimeTarget (a full two days before the Gazette!) that discussed a car that was driven over a cliff.

Over a cliff. The driver lost control of his vehicle, it was said, and went over the cliff. Glad that there wasn't a loss of life there, but dang. And this type of "accident" continues to happen all the time here, and a week later, it's "whatever" as far as the public and Government's concerned.

$89,935 per person: what does that mean?

Bermuda's GDP was $5.35 billion, or $89,935 per person. That's a big ol' number and I'm sure the economists are excited to say how it's such a good thing and how the island is thriving, etc.

On paper, sure it sounds great. But for many, I wonder if their quality of life represents such a lofty dollar figure. Personally, I think, and this probably also exists in many other parts of the world, Bermuda is the sort of country that is so focused on boosting the already affluent to even more lofty standards of living, that our numbers aren't going to be anywhere near representative of the population at large. For us, inflation is high and the costs of goods and services continue to increase and I don't think that my buying power has increased at all.

Maybe someone with an Econ degree can show how the regular Joe has benefitted from this. In the meantime, another point of view on the high GDP results exists at PrimeTarget.org.


A shift in local political blogging?

Limey in Bermuda has decided to discontinue blogging. He cites that "there is no room for well-meaning criticism or thoughtful debate in Bermudian politics today," because any sort of criticism of the PLP government results in the messenger being labeled as a traitor, racist or other insult.

In addition, he believes that other outlets critical of the government may find it wise to cease posting criticisms, and allow for accountability to be asked not from those external to the PLP but from PLP supporters themselves. It's an interesting suggestion. I don't see it as a reality because the man-on-the-street is going to air his views whether it be Letters to the Editor, calling in on talk shows or inputting on one of Bermuda's online forums.

Meanwhile 21 Square is also contemplating an extended break from action. I think generally, most bloggers who are critical of the PLP are tired of being labelled as nasty, unethical or racist simply because they criticise aspects and actions of the PLP. And after the PLP won the general election with an increase in popular vote (mind you it's *still* only about 52%!), the feeling is that the electorate simply isn't interested in issues but continue to follow what someone described as a "movement" for blacks to continue to strive for equality.

I know that I am going to miss Limey's posts, and already miss new material on 21 Square and other blogs. They really do stimulate discussion in new avenues, and Bermuda has benefited from their input over the years.


Perfect example (Bermuda drivers)

I didn't have to wait long after my previous post to see another example of how poor we are as drivers.

I'm behind this SUV driver and we approach a roundabout, there's already a bike rider on it, so we have to give way as he's coming across our path. Whoops, the SUV is halfway into the roundabout when he realizes he's supposed to wait. Next, the biker decides to wave the car through. Sigh. After a bit of posturing the car goes and the bike continues.

Later we're on the road where it splits into two lanes, one to go down Canal Road and the other towards the traffic light. The SUV straddles both freaking lanes, confusing the hell out of me. I'm ticked off here.

So anyway, the lazy driver of 05387 is first on the Booked List of '08. Congrats, numbnut.


Does the time fit the crime?

A tourist had four joints, 1.63g of cannabis, estimated street value of $75.00.
He was fined $1,600.

A man who refused to comply with a policeman's request to turn off his car engine, and then took off, dragging the officer along and eventually running over the police officer's leg, later abandoned the car, got a different punishment.
He was fined $500.

Seriously, is carrying weed that much more serious a crime than striking a police officer?

About driving in Bermuda

There was a Letter to the Editor in the Gazette recently where the contributor seemed to take offense to a previous letter because that particular author was British. She then followed up with two strange statements:
"This must be attributed to too many unfamiliar persons driving on our little roads when they are only supposed to be riding bikes"
Well, we simply have a bunch of poor drivers, both car and bike. You can tell by all those who can't keep on their side of the road. However, once you pass that TCD exam you're free to get in your big SUV and drive along the centre line as much as you like, no skill required.
"Could it be that the persons operating these vehicles doing unusual things are other foreigners who are non-knowledgeable and causing so much stress to the Bermudians who knows when the bends are coming up and who are familiar with our laws of the road?"
That last one was the biggest crock of bull I've read in some time. This insinuates that it's the foreigners who are the dangerous drivers while the Bermudians are safe and sound?

The blame for the people running red lights without a care, turning into side streets without using indicators prior, failure to understand that pedestrians have the right of way at a zebra crossing, goes all around. If anything, Bermudians' despicable driving habits may be rubbing off on everyone else who comes here.


January 08 brings winter to Bermie

Despite some worry among many that gang-related violence may rear its head again after the shootings on Boxing Day, I attended the big Shaggy and Collie Buddz show to celebrate New Years'. The price tag may have been a little high (I think the VIP $300 tickets were severly overpriced for what they got) but it was a very good show and I was really impressed by the local artists. HomeGrown, Roache Killa, C'Daynger, were on top of their games and the headline acts were solid. Props also to the DJs (including one Vybez Alliance, although I have to holler at him for missing the countdown) and the MC. Negative points for broadcasting on the screens some fireworks footage and claiming it's live from Hamilton Harbour. Whatever, heh.

However the past two days we've been under assault from some fierce winds, rain and cold. Combine that with the dampness and it's a pretty nasty January so far. Combined with my bike acting up again (darn World Distributors), and I'm not too happy on the roads as it is. More on road life shortly.