Some updates…

Apologies readers for the lack of regular posting of late.

Busy busy busy with research... :-)

Busy busy busy with research… :-)

I’m focusing on finishing off a key part of my PhD research, and so the site is taking a bit of a back-seat at the moment.  I’m expecting that I’ll be able to resume more regular posting shortly though.

There’s certainly no shortage of things to comment on however – last Friday’s resumption of the House of Assembly was full of incidents and issues worthy of a detailed look, namely:

  1. The undermining of our Freedom to Information laws (PATI) by a Minister (the incident is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner).  If I find the time I’ll seek to discuss the relevant sections of the Act and the seriousness of what the Minister did…
  2. The flawed motion of censure, incompetence of the Speaker and the subsequent suspension of the Opposition Leader.  If I find the time I’ll try and point out the problems with the motion in question, where the Speaker made a mistake and what our Standing Orders state, along with precedents from Westminster…
  3. The ongoing saga of the airport deal involving CCC/Aecon, of which the PLP is currently in London meeting with UK officials.
  4. The allegations of bribery alluded to by the Opposition Leader shortly before his suspension.

I also have the PAC review of Port Royal that I’ve been meaning to revisit.

Hopefully I’ll find some time to at least touch briefly on some of the above matters – and noting that this coming Friday, with the motion of censure against the Speaker bound to bring some more fireworks.  There’s also the interesting UK General Election result, developments in Canada in the run-up to their October federal election, and the astounding victory of the NDP in the Alberta provincial election.

Despite the hiatus from regular postings here, I have prioritised the odd opinion piece for the formal news media, the most recent ones being on the airport emails released by the People’s Campaign, and a response to the arch-neoliberal Robert Stewart’s extraordinary attack on the unions celebrating May Day.

There’s a few more opinion pieces that should be published shortly, and I’ll provide links to them here when they are.

Observations on some current events

Title Change

I’ve changed the title of this post from the original ‘Dog legislation & same-sex marriage’ as a result of an unintended offensive juxtaposition of the two.  As I sought to explain in the opening section, there’s no connection between the two.  I thought that would be sufficient, but I can appreciate that many found the title misleadingly offensive.  As a result I’ve changed the title accordingly.

The way wordpress works though, I believe the original title will still show up when it’s linked to however.  I cannot do anything about that really, but hope that readers will recognise that no offense was intended.  Apologies.

Um, what?

I realise the title for this post is likely gonna confuse many – to be clear, there’s no connection between the two of them other than they’re current events issues in Bermuda right now.

I realise I haven’t been posting all that regularly of late; I’m trying to focus on my research at the moment and so ‘non-essential’ things like blogging and social media in general are kind of on the back-burner right now…

Dog Legislation

I’ve got a new opinion piece on Bernews concerning the need to amend and update our legislation relating to dogs, particularly the need to end breed-specific legislation (the ‘pit-bull’ ban as it’s commonly known in Bermuda).

This is a subject I’ve touched on before, providing an overview of the amendments I think are needed back in December 2014.  Last week a group of activists launched a petition and a more general awareness campaign concerning breed-specific legislation, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to contribute to it, and build on my earlier writing on the subject.

In particular, I’ve provided links to a detailed review of the problems with breed-specific legislation from the American Bar Association (see the article itself for the links), and highlighted an often overlooked aspect of our dog legislation which allows authorities to search premises without the safeguards that the Police & Criminal Act 2006 has in place concerning such searches.  This is a direct threat to civil liberties and very much open to abuse – and some would argue it is already being abused by authorities.

I don’t intend to repeat the article here, but I did want to address some of the comments that have already been left on the article at the moment.  As I’ve written elsewhere, I generally don’t comment on such opinion pieces directly, as I find it detracts from the article even more than usual.  Rather, I’d like to just make a few observations.

  1. A poster going by the name ‘Ringmaster’ takes me to task for writing about animal rights but not on the rights of PRC holders and voting in Bermuda.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the article in question and seems to be more about a deflection than anything else.  Having said that, I’ve explicitly touched on this issue before  – during the 2012 election campaign and both before and since.  In particular, I’ve said I support:
    • All PRCers to have Bermudian status and the right to vote;
    • The introduction of term limits (say for five years at a time and only renewable once) to prevent new PRCers being created;
    • A naturalisation system to be put in place to manage this problem going forward.
  2.  I’m accused of ignoring facts.  Despite being the only one there bringing references and facts.  Yes, pit-bulls can be dangerous animals – the same is true of any medium to large animal, especially of dog breeds.  No one breed however is inherently dangerous (in terms of temperament) and this is a factor of training, medical care and socialisation.  Any dog breed can be trained (intentionally or accidentally) to be dangerous, and so the focus should be on ensuring this is not the case.  By forcing these breeds underground (and c’mon, has prohibition ever worked for anything?) one reduces the ability for them to receive appropriate training, medical care and socialisation, not to mention the risk of inbreeding (which increases the chance of dogs with dangerous temperaments), and thus making the argument that pit-bulls are dangerous a self-fulfilling prophecy.  There are alternatives to prohibition, through better regulation, that are more effective and don’t lend themselves open for abusing civil liberties.

Same-Sex Marriage

This issue has raised it’s head again with news that a cruise ship, registered in Bermuda, has told it’s customers that it is unable to perform same-sex marriages on board due to it being subject to Bermudian law on this matter.  I doubt that many considered the wider impact of our refusal to adopt a progressive approach to this issue as regards cruise ships, however it does serve to bring the issue back into public thought.

I wrote about this issue two years ago on Bernews, calling for the island to do the right thing and allow same-sex marriage.  That position remains the same, and I hope that our politicians will put aside electoral calculus to do the right thing.  I wrote a reaction piece on the matter, but will be rewriting it for a more full article in the coming days, hopefully.

The recent news story has, however, sparked a new campaign on the matter, with a petition being launched.  Hopefully this might just help push the matter along.

In my view, these social changes tend to be resisted for a long time and then quickly alter, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see a change on this going forward.

Yemen – Hypocrisy in Action?

As regular visitors to this site will know, I haven’t been posting all that regularly of late.  Quite frankly, I’m too busy with my research at the moment to invest the time and energy in regular posting at the moment.

I did, however, want to make a very quick post about the developing situation in Yemen.

First off, I find it hypocritical and straight up disgusting that these various Arab powers (with Pakistan mobilising ground forces to assist with an invasion too) are able to cobble together a massive military campaign, led by the richest Arab state (Saudi Arabia) against the poorest Arab state (Yemen), but have completely failed to actively defend Palestinians against Israeli aggression.  Where the heck was this massive military power to stop Israel in its war against Gaza last year?  No where.

Pan-Arab solidarity, my foot.

Saudi Arabia and its allies are willing to sacrifice the lives of Palestinians simply to appease Israel and slaughter Hamas as a Muslim Brotherhood threat to their interests.

And the intervention isn’t about restoring democracy or defending human rights.  The vast majority (if not all) of the States involved in this obscene intervention are guilty of some of the worst atrocities in these areas of any countries on the planet.  One need only look at the Saudi-engineered coup in Egypt, complete with the a greater massacre than Tiananmen Square in the form of Rabaa.

This is rather just another reflection of the Saudi-led fears of Iran.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The Saudis live in fear of their own Shia populations (primarily found in their oil rich provinces) and the risk of losing this economic resource.

I’ll write in more detail about this later.

Right now, what’s important is that innocent people are being killed and terrorised by this military intervention, and lots more blood is going to flow before it’s other.  All the while these same military resources are being diverted away (if they were even directed in the first place) away from the war against Da’esh (which has its own problems), and Palestinians remain under occupation with Israel having a carte blanche to do as it pleases there.

There is a massive risk of this conflict escalating, not simply in Yemen itself, but in the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, Iraq, Syria, Iran and even Afghanistan all getting mixed up, as the various proxy wars for control and influence between Saudi and Iranian interests gets blurred into a single regional conflict spanning North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

It would have been better to let the Houthi’s try to govern and fail, than to make them into martyrs.  There will be no military solution to this, only the peace of the graveyard – and even then the ghosts will haunt the living for decades to come.

Partisans & Selective Memories

Over the last few years I’ve largely adopted a rule of not commenting on articles or social media threads where I’m featured, or are by me.  I do break it sometimes, but I try not to.

The reason for that rule of mine is that when I do intervene, even to counter a patent lie about myself, the thread derails and it becomes a focus for personal attacks on myself rather than a discussion of whatever I’ve raised.

I do find though that partisans are intent on generally making everything political, and largely trying to force things into a binary political strait-jacket of PLP or OBA.  If I don’t explicitly criticise the PLP in a post (even a post which isn’t political at all, at least not political in the sense of our two political parties) someone tries to paint me as being pro-PLP.

It’s almost as if readers expect any post by me to be encyclopedic and defend against every possible attack – which of course would render any such post completely unreadable.

What particularly gets me is the very selective memories of some partisans who quite blatantly lie about me.

Take my International Women’s Day 2015 article, published on Bernews earlier today.

The very first comment on it reads:

“Creamy: And yet Mr Starling won’t hear a bad word said about the mysogynist-led PLP.”

This despite my explicit criticism of Mr Bean’s apparent misogyny in various articles such as:

Same Sex Marriage Right Thing To Do – July 2013

A Question of Leadership – November 2014

The Alleged Bean/Daniels Encounter – November 2014

The OBA Walkout – November 2014

It’s clear that people only read what they want to read, or remember what they want to remember, so as to fit people into their preconceived perceptions.

Due to the binary partisan nature of our society and politics, if you’re not for one party, you must be for the other.   When I criticised the PLP (including while a member) various PLPers accused me of being UBP, BDA or OBA (depending on the time).  And now with the OBA in power any criticism of the OBA (or any failure to applaud them) results in being accused of being PLP.

‘Creamy’ is blatantly lying – either because they are ignorant (and haven’t checked the validity of the accusation) or deliberately so (either to fit their preconceptions or out of deliberate misrepresentation).  The articles I link to above clearly show the lie of their comment.

Does it matter?  I doubt it.  I could call the sky blue and certain people will maintain with their dying breath that I declared the sky was orange.   Even if ‘creamy’ recognises that I have, in fact, criticised mysogynism and the leadership of the PLP, they’ll simply change tack and accuse me of insufficient denunciation.  They’ve made up their mind and, I fear, no amount of pointing out their error will convince them otherwise.

Such is the intellectual dishonesty and/or mental damage that our poisonous and divisive two-party system both reflects and compounds.

Happy International Women’s Day 2015!

I generally write an annual article to commemorate this event, and this year is no different – only, as with last year, it’s on Bernews rather than my blog. 

This year I decided to build on a theme from my 2012 election platform:

“Enact Workforce Equity legislation to require all workplaces with more than 10 employees to develop a workplace equity review and plan to ensure gender and racial equity in the workplace concerning wages and decision-making.  Enable workers to seek compensation for unequal gender or racial pay regimes up until the year 2000.”

I decided to focus on the matter of gender (and racial) equity concerning decision-making in particular, and the article itself provides some useful links that I used for the argument.  I was also working on an equal pay aspect, but the article got far too unwieldy – so I’ll develop that for an article in it’s own right.

I would like to add a quote which I ultimately decided to cut from the article itself, because I think it does make a good point and is something to consider going forward.  It’s an excerpt from a 1983 work The Nouveau Poor by Barbara Ehrenreich and Karin Stallard – though over thirty years old, it still seems pretty valid to me!

“We need a feminist economic program, and that is no small order.  An economic program that speaks to the needs of women will have to address some of the most deep-seated injustices of a business-dominated economy and a male-dominated society.  Naming it will take us beyond the familiar consensus defined by the demand for equal rights – to new issues, new programs, and maybe new perspectives.  Whether there are debates ahead or collective breakthroughs, they are long overdue; the feminization of poverty demands a feminist vision of a just and democratic society.”

Closing the Recycling Centre a Backwards Step

This is just a short post alerting leaders that I’ve got a new piece on Bernews right now concerning the news the announcement yesterday that Government is to ‘suspend’ operations at the recycling centre based at Government quarry.

In this piece I mostly highlight how this announcement raises more questions than it answers and warn that this decision may prove to be a false economy – providing some short-term savings but risking greater long-term costs.

I am also concerned that this is a move towards privatisation, although I don’t discuss that issue in the piece itself – which was an immediate ‘reaction’ piece.

I hope to release a follow-up piece which highlights alternative policies towards recycling, building on what I’ve already stated publicly in the past, be it in my 2012 platform [pdf] or subsequent statements.

LTTE’s & Plagiarism

Bemused & Astonished…

I have a letter to the Editor (LTTE) in today’s RG – it replies to a LTTE published last Friday which selectively quoted from a rather obscure 2007 post of mine critiquing a speech by Dr Brown, the then Premier.

I won’t lie, I got a little kick out of having the RG publish a photo of Leon Trotsky by the way… :-)

The initial LTTE does correctly quote me, but selectively so, as it misses a bit where I explicitly state that my comment was not meant to be taken literally – that I was making an analogy concerning internal party democracy rather than actually stating that Dr Brown had translated a speech by Trotsky from 1919-1921. Trotsky MIA

One thing about this site is that ‘behind the scenes’ I can see certain statistics, things like readers, unique hits, where clicks are coming from and what they click on, what posts are more popular, etc.  It also has a feature that shows me what search engine searches have led to my site – and what post in particular.

On reading the initial LTTE I took a look at that latter feature.  I could see that in the last seven days prior to that LTTE someone had found that 2007 article using a search for ‘Ewart Brown plagiarism’.  I can only surmise that someone was looking for evidence to write such a letter for the purpose of deflection, of turning the criticism away from MP Leah Scott and back onto the PLP.

Furthermore, I think it’s reasonable to think that this person then used the ‘find’ feature to search the post, rather than read the entire post and resulting comments.  If someone searched for just ‘plagiarism’ they would find the two quotes used in the letter and completely miss my explicit statement that the comment about plagiarism was not meant to be taken literally.

A Challenge

Despite my LTTE clearing up the matter, I have absolutely no illusions that this will be the end of the matter.  Due to the divisions and prejudices of our society and its resulting political partisanship, people will believe what they want to believe, the facts be damned.

I will however extend a challenge to those who want to insist that I’m guilty of hypocrisy on this matter.

If it is true that Dr Brown plagiarised a speech of Trotsky’s from the 8th and/or 9th congress of the Russian Communist Party (as my comment, if taken literally, implies), then one can easily enough review Trotsky’s speeches.  One could event trawl through his entire writing, beyond the confines of 1919-1921 if that initial search proves fruitless.

If Dr Brown plagiarised, then just as the original Hello Beautiful source for MP Leah Scott’s article was found, so too could the original source from Leon Trotsky.

If one can’t find it, then what I explicitly said at the time, that I was making an analogy about the sentiments, as a criticism of what I saw as an attempt to stifle internal party democracy and the organic vibrancy of organised labour, would stand, no?

And if it is found that Dr Brown did indeed plagiarise Leon Trotsky, one can bring that to light and lay out my alleged hypocrisy for all to see.  I’ll make a public apology – I’ll even walk the length of the island in a pink dress as some form of public atonement.

I know for a fact that no such speech by Trotsky will be found, but I challenge anyone to try.  We can even approach the disciplinary committee of Bermuda College to rule on it – heck, lets make it a learning moment for all about plagiarism and integrity, and I can even raise money for a charity during the walk.

I’m willing to put my proverbial money where my mouth is – will my detractors?

The least I’d ask of the original LTTE writer is a public apology in the RG.

I’m certainly guilty of some clumsy writing.  But not hypocrisy on this plagiarism issue.

Bizzaro Island?

It’s often said that ‘Bermuda’s another world’.

We are indeed a bit of a bizarro island.  I note with some degree of bemusement how some commentators are using the original LTTE, and my follow-up, to accuse the PLP of being communist.

There’s some irony in using the writings of a socialist criticising the PLP for not being even social democratic, let alone socialist or communist, to argue that the PLP’s communist.  Certainly some twisted logic there…