Who is paying for all these writs?

J Starling:

I think Bermuda Blue is raising a good point here, and the Government should be pro-actively answering such a question – and I hope the media is pressing similar questions too.

I am concerned that this rash of litigation by the governing party could lead to self-censorship by all, and ultimately a chilling of what has been a relative flowering of online discourse over the last few years.

Originally posted on Bermuda Blue:

There are now, apparently, six writs outstanding which have been issued by various OBA Ministers. The latest is by the Finance Minister Bob Richards.

Apart from the fact that this smacks a little of being unstatesmanlike (making me a little uncomfortable) there has been no mention of who is funding these legal cases.

You cannot defame a Government, therefore Government (ie you and me) should not be funding these actions.

I have asked three times on an OBA Facebook thread for an explanation of who is paying, I have yet to receive an answer.

There has to be clarification that these actions are being paid for by the OBA Ministers themselves or by the Party.

For those out there who want to jump on my back, I instructed, when I was at the RG, for reporters to ask exactly the same questions when EB was throwing writs around…

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Commodification of the Pillars of Life: The Water

J Starling:

Interesting little piece by a fellow urbanist on water and neoliberalism. Thought I’d share – it’s got some relevance to Bermuda and our fresh-water limitations.

Originally posted on Urban Issues:

Picture4

(Image Credit: The Washington Post)

As Aristotle pointed out a long time ago, when two equal rights meet, power decides. Indeed, under the current neo-liberal hegemony, water rights are increasingly articulated via dynamics of commodification of water, private appropriation of water resources, dispossession tactics, and the like (Bakker 2003). (Swyngedouw)

As Erik Swyngedouw argues, in the age of commodification of everything, a.k.a. neoliberalization, water has been a pioneering issue via which neoliberal policies of privatisation has been rolled-out and tested.

By the effect of climate change, the condition has become even more severe.

cityLab’s recent article, Class Warfare and the California Drought, highlights the inequality of access to water and the risk of normalisation of the commodification of vital aspects like water.

Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes…

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Welcome ‘bermudavoices’!

Observations

Things have been somewhat dismal as regards the Bermudian blog environment of late.

My own site has taken a bit of a back-seat to my studies, with the number, quality and frequency of posts being greatly reduced.  While Bermuda Blue and Beachlime continue to post, like me their postings haven’t really been as regular as in the past.  And while a number of new blogs emerged last year, I fear many underestimated the time and energy required to sustain blogs – Bermuda Independent hasn’t posted since the beginning of January, and The Soap Box has been dormant since last September.  21 Square and Politcs.bm remain inactive also. New Blog

Despite this, online discourse continues strongly primarily on Face Book, the various traditional media sites and, to a degree, Twitter.  And in many ways I think these alternative commenting sites continue to suck the energy away from ‘blogs proper’.  I still think the two can complement each other, and I’ve tried to do so with this site, as has Bermuda Blue.

New blog!

Having said all that, I’m happy to announced the emergence of a new Bermudian blog – bermudavoices.

It’s run by Thomas Christopher Famous, who’s emerged as a key personality in online discourse, especially on Facebook, but also through his numerous opinion pieces in various traditional media.  As a pro-PLP voice, his presence goes someway to address what has historically been a political imbalance online, at least prior to the emergence of Facebook as a site for political discourse.

So far his blog seems to be more of a repository of his various opinion pieces rather than unique blog posts.  And that’s okay and welcome in its own right.  Whether it will also feature unique blog posts going forward is up to him, but as it is it is still a welcome addition to the Bermudian blogs, and an additional site for political and cultural conversations.  I also have a feeling that this blog will have a greater staying power than many of the other blogs that have come and gone to date.

I encourage readers to add his blog to their regular online visits – and hopefully it might inspire additional voices to also set up blogs and further diversify our online discourse.  So, yeah, go check it out!

Terror & Tragedy

A Terrorised World… 

There’s a lot of terrorism and tragedy in the world today, be it the atrocities of Da’esh in Syria/Iraq, the brutal assault on Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the quagmire of Libya, ongoing terrorist drone attacks by the US, state terrorism and Apartheid from Israel, and so on and so forth. Far too many for me to really address in detail in a single post. xxi-century-civilization-2-1365278-m

I do want to touch on this morning’s terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina though, primarily because it allows a segue into Bermuda’s racial issues.  I don’t mean at all to ignore, or diminish, the terror attacks elsewhere, such as the tragedy that befell San’aa yesterday on the eve of Ramadan.

Terror or Tragedy?

Was the attack on the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston a terrorist attack?  I think so.  It seems pretty clearly pre-meditated and designed to spread terror and targeted civilians.  I’m not sure how else to describe it other than being a terrorist attack, and the perpetrator, a young White male, fits the bill as a terrorist.

While the State and media representation of what constitutes a ‘terrorist attack’ and a ‘terrorist’ generally colours it as an attack by an Islamic extremist and by someone who is non-White, Muslim and likely wearing a beard or a hijab/niqab/burqa, personally I see such as only one version of terrorism/terrorists, and at that probably not even the dominant form.

I reckon the true face of terror is actually quite White, male and clean-shaven – be they far-right extremists like Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik or Dylann Roof, or State terrorists in the form of Western (including Israeli and Russian) military commanders and politicians, or even economic terrorists that dominate Wall Street.

So, was it terrorism?  Yes.  I don’t see how one can possibly rationalise it as not terrorism.

I won’t be holding my breath for the perpetrator to be whisked off to Gitmo or otherwise charged with terrorism offences though, and I’m fully prepared to see explanations of the individual being ‘mentally disturbed’, while those more representative of the American narrative of terrorists (non-White and Muslim) don’t get such apologisms.

Was it a tragedy?  Yes, of course.

It was a tragedy for those personally involved, for their surviving loved ones, and for the wider community, no question.

A Wider Tragedy

The wider tragedy though is that the underlying structural racism in the USA (and this is where a parallel can be drawn with Bermuda) has not been addressed; this structural racism is a direct result of a failure to address the legacy of both slavery and segregation, as well as overt but non-State racial discrimination of the past.

By failing to address this legacy, structural racism provides the latent potential to re-create and/or sustain ‘traditional’ racism.

Covert ‘unconcsious’ racism, which is one way of looking at structural racism, serves as a refuge or generator for overt ‘conscious’ racism. The two cannot be eradicated without addressing both simultaneously.

In Bermuda, a good chunk of the population, of both races (although one gets the impression it is most pervasive within the White population) seems to think that because we’ve got away from official racism, that we’ve established racial equality in a legal sense, that we are no longer a racist society.  And that those who still cling to overtly racist beliefs are an aged and dying group who had their prejudices formed in a different era.

Personally, I think there’s a lot more ‘traditional’ racists out there, but many of them have convinced themselves that their views aren’t racist.

Nonetheless, that we continue to not address the legacy of our overtly racist past and live in a very racist (structurally) society, there continues to be the potential for ‘traditional’ racism to reproduce itself in new generations.

I’m not saying at all that we’re likely to see a similar racial terrorist incident in Bermuda.  Not at all.

Just recognising that we do risk seeing new generations holding racist beliefs as long as we fail to tackle structural racism in Bermuda.  And this is doubly so in the USA.

Best of Bermuda Award!

Yay! I won!

I am proud to announce that I’ve won the 2015 Best of Bermuda award for the category ‘columnist/blogger’!

I would like to thank The Bermudian magazine for the award – I’ve been running this blog since 2007ish, and it’s nice to get some recognition! :-)  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep posting to justify the award going forward!

The award blurb itself goes:

Columnist Jonathan Starling has been sharing his educated opinion on all matters of local issues—including everything from breed-specific legislation to same-sex marriage, cabinet shuffles, the casino gaming act and more—since 2007 when he first set up his blog “Catch a Fire” as an alternative political voice. The social research and policy analyst who ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 general election currently shares his discourses regularly on Bernews. Catch his latest insight at jonnystar.wordpress.com.

Thank You!

I’d like to thank my folks and my partner for their support and encouragement; ‘Limey in Bermuda’ of course deserves a shout-out for helping me set-up the site in the first place, and I think it’s important to give a particular thank you to the media proper, Bernews, the (unfortunately now defunct) Bermuda Sun and the Royal Gazetter.  All of these have, at times, given me a platform for opinion columns, as well as feedback and the opportunity to learn from their readers.

Over the years my writing skills have improved (I hope) and they’ll continue to improve with any luck.

Similarly, my understanding of certain technologies/software has improved over time – and this experience has proven to be a constructive and challenging experience so far.  Additionally, it’s forced me to learn and research topics that I doubt I’d ever have considered in the past.

To be honest, I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that this blog/column-writing experience has profoundly affected my world-view and the certain decisions I’ve made in my life since 2007.

I know a lot of political and social discourse has largely moved away from the blogs and forums and onto Facebook and Twitter.  And there’s only a handful of blogs and forums (with various degrees of activity) still clinging on compared to the ‘golden age’ of Bermuda blogging.

Nonetheless, I think blogs still retain certain qualities that the Facebook and Twitter threads miss out on, particularly the ease of finding articles and those conversations.  Facebook/Twitter are more like a flowing river, a stream of consciousness – an active ongoing conversation – while the blogs serve more as more detailed and solid writings.  Fleeting conversation versus the solidity of writing I suppose.

The two, of course, can be used to complement each other.  I do hope we’ll see a few more – and more ideologically diverse – blogs in time.  Perhaps we’ll even see a backlash against Facebook/Twitter and a return to more full-on blogging?  Who knows?

Criticism

I’d be remiss to not recognise that there’s been some criticism – on Facebook and Twitter – to this particular category of ‘blogger/columnist’.

I don’t think the criticism is personal against me, against me winning this years award.  Rather, the criticism seems to be that there should be two separate categories.  Some seem to interpret the combined category as meaning one has to be both a blogger and a columnist in order to win it.

Myself, I took the category as meaning ‘and/or’ and that it was created to expand the pool of possible winners away from just traditional columnists in the media proper, recognising that bloggers also contributed to opinion-forming in the Bermuda context.  Not that one had to be a blogger and a columnist to win it, but that one could be a blogger and/or a columnist.  I happen to be both, but that doesn’t mean that someone who just blogs or just writes columns couldn’t win it.

Anyway, as the saying goes, one can’t please everyone all the time.  There’s always going to be some criticism when it comes to handing out awards, and I’m not taking it personally.  Just thought it important to recognise that there is such criticism.

Hog Money on Channel 82 (Bermuda)

I hope everyone’s enjoyed a good National Heroes weekend – I’m still in Scotland working on my PhD research, hence the general lack of regular posting at the moment.

Despite this, I was invited to take part in a panel-like discussion on a relatively new show (I believe this was the second one ever) called ‘Hog Money’ on Bermuda’s Channel 82.  The show is co-hosted by Lamone Woods and Robert Stewart, and touches on various political and economic issues, with a particular theme for each episode.

The particular episode in question was focused on welfare/financial assistance and the various pros and cons of it.  Mr Stewart is rather well-known for his rather neo-liberal and, arguably, conservative, positions, and I think myself and the other guest, Cordell Riley – a social scientist/statistician and former president of the anti-racism group CURB, were invited in order to provide a counter-narrative to his.

I enjoyed the show and the clashing of strongly different perspectives.  It is supposed to be broadcast in about three weeks, so early July, and I’ll write a post about it closer to the time.

As part of my preparation for the debate I did some minimal research and wrote up a few notes.  These notes are such that I think they could serve as a series of posts on different aspects of the issue, and they also expand and could provide links to the various statistics, etc, that I brought up during the debate.  Which I think will help augment the show itself – and I of course welcome Mr Stewart and Mr Riley to comment here or elsewhere in like manner.

I don’t want to steal the proverbial thunder from the show itself however, so I won’t say much more until it is due for broadcast.  I’m thinking I’ll release a series of posts based on my notes around that time too.

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.