Relaunch of Catch-A-Fire

Almost three years ago (well, October 26th, 2015 to be exact) I mothballed this blog.

At the time I stressed that the blog wasn’t dead, just that I was putting it to rest while I focused on other things, largely so that I could focus on a new job without being distracted or having this blog negatively impact my ability to do my work.

Well, now it’s time to reactive the site. I'm_Back

I’m going to avoid local politics, and politics generally, although I may muse on global events and politics from time to time, as well as political theory and philosophy. For the most part I want to try something slightly different and look at policy matters.

I’m not quite sure what that will involve at the moment, however I’m currently seeking inspiration from some other blogs that focus on policy analysis and to begin with I’ll probably use them as a template until I’ve got my groove back.

I’m also going to respond to public consultations as I’m aware of them and try to encourage greater awareness of the issues around them as I learn about them. Which will likely involve me leaving my comfort areas of environmental issues – which is fine, that’s how one grows after all!

I’m going to try to post at least once a week, and I might vary between a short post and then a much more detailed post. I’m not sure. I’m really just going to be experimenting initially.

I decided to reactivate this blog rather than start a new one, primarily because I’m familiar with it and it has some familiarity to readers too. Over time I may decide it truly is time to end this site and launch a whole new one.

I’m open to feedback on that.

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Door closes, window opens… Welcome back 21square!

While I’ve ended commentary on local politics, I’m pleased to see that 21square has come back to life.

I always appreciated 21square’s perspective and reasoned commentary, even if we naturally had our ideological disagreements. So, I’m happy that while I may be ending local political commentary another site has come back to life right at the same time.

 

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.

This site has been operating now since January 2007. Throughout this time it has changed quite a bit, both in terms of its focus and its writing style.

I’ve enjoyed writing here.

The flame's not out. Just taking a break. :-)

The flame’s not out. Just taking a break. 🙂

However, after almost eight years, it’s time for a change.

I’m not saying the blog is dead.

I’m not necessarily stopping the blog. However, it is going to undergo a change.

A good chunk of this blog has focused on local politics, first as an independent pro-PLP site when I was an active member of the PLP, and since then as an independent, non-aligned, political blog.

I am not able to continue that particular line of writing going forward, at least not for the forseeable future. Effective immediately I am ceasing all commentary on local politics.

What that means for the blog, I don’t really know. I’ve been experimenting over the last few months with a non-political writing style. Thoughts on books or articles I’m reading, a review of this or that legislation (in a non-political way), or a look at historical (or other) speeches/writings which I think are simply interesting.

I’d like to experiment some more with such an approach.

I realise they don’t quite have the same popular appeal as posts framed around local politics. However, I’ve enjoyed them and found them quite stimulating. Whether readers agree, I don’t know. But needs must.

So, as regards blogging about local politics, adieu, adieu to you and you and you!

And for the sake of clarity, the above also applies to Facebook and Twitter.

My Vote Starling page on Facebook has already been converted to this blogs Facebook page, and my Twitter handle has changed to a non-political one. The Vote Starling website that I set up for the election has also been retired. The ‘About’ page has also been changed already to reflect this change in direction.

Reflections

I have tried over the years to engage in reasoned discussion.

I have my positions; I’ve never hid them. I have, however, tried to listen to others and been willing to change my mind if convinced by an argument. I’ve tried to be respectful of others and their positions. To what degree I’ve succeeded in any of that is not something I can really judge however. All I can say is that I’ve tried my best.

I am hopeful that other voices will continue to grow in strength and number to continue these political discussions going forward, even if I am not able to participate actively along with them.

While much of these conversations are quick to descend into partisan shouting matches and personal attacks, there are also good conversations where individuals come away from them with healthy respect for the other, positions have been clarified and perhaps even one or two minds changed.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, however, I’d like to think that – in time – we’ll have more of the latter and less of the former.

On a related note, I realise that my ending local political commenting further reduces the number of local blogs providing local political commentary. Blogs provide a much different contribution in terms of such commentary, very much different from the more rapid-fire conversations that social media like Facebook and Twitter offer. They provide a greater in-depth more constructed argument in my opinion.

If we are to achieve a sustainable Bermuda then one thing we also need to achieve is sustainable and respectful conversations that are based on constructive dialogue, mutual respect and and reasoned debate which together contribute to positive change for our island. Central to this is the ability to listen to the other and reflect on what is being said rather than reacting. We must learn to listen to each other with enough care to learn from each other if we are to work together for our common interests.

I remain hopeful that such is achievable, and I wish you well.

Continuity?

One last note. I hope that someone else will pick up the baton of local political commentary. There is a space there for a critical progressive voice out there, and that’s what this site tried to do.

While I’m no longer able to continue that, I am happy to help facilitate anyone that wishes to do so. Just drop me a line.

There are already a number of other voices out there, writing on their own sites, on Facebook or in the media. I’ve enjoyed sharing the platform with them and learning from them.

Coming Out

Just a short note here. I wanted to commend Mr Deacon for this post and helping to raise awareness about this issue – and mental health generally.

I also have the occassional bout of depression, and have over the years learned how to manage it better. But there’s a lot of stigma and myths attached to it, and other, conditions that need to be dispelled. I hope that this post by him can help with that.

Bermuda Blue

I often hear people say that they are depressed. Of course, what they really mean is that they are unhappy, they would not use the phrase if they were aware of what it really meant.

What is depression? Here is one definition but it will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I suffer from depression and thought it was time to ‘come out’. I was diagnosed about four years ago and since then it has been on my mind to write about my experiences.

For the rest, click here: http://bernews.com/2015/10/opinion-time-come/#comment-3059342

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BPSU AGM, Thursday October 8th, 2015

There’s quite a bit of discussion on social media and the RG today regarding the BPSU’s upcoming general meeting slated for this Thursday (5:30pm at St Paul’s AME Church). A lot of this seems to stem from an anonymously authored email/flyer that makes certain statements in a particular phrasing.

In the hope of ensuring the conversations around this are more informed, I thought I’d provide some key excerpts from the BPSU’s Constitution and their recently released 2014-2015 Annual Report, which generally answers or clarifies some of the issues in question.

I encourage members (and others) to take the time to review the entire report. I am only taking excerpts that answer some of the key questions, in the hope of providing a quick read.

I stress I am not taking any sides or making an opinion hereBPSU AGM

I am just quoting from the publicly available report concerning the issues that seem to be causing most of the concerns in social media. I leave it up to readers to come to their own conclusions, and encourage members to attend the meeting to voice any concerns or seek further clarity.

I am not a member of the BPSU, so I do not speak for them. Just providing a ‘public service’ in the hope of more informed discussion. 🙂

AGM 2015

The meeting called for tomorrow is in accordance with Article V (Organisation), Section 2(a) (General Membership Meetings, subsection (i) of the BPSU’s Constitution (as amended in February 2015). In particular, this reads:

2(a) General Membership Meetings

i) The General Council shall convene a General Membership Meeting at least once a year.

Notice of this meeting was initially given on August 18th, 2015.

Why this ” is the first general meeting that the BPSU will have had in decades” according to a statement by the BPSU President in the RG article in question, is not something I can answer. Without looking at an older copy of the Constitution (pre-2015) I cannot say whether the Constitution required such a meeting previously, or if this was somehow neglected to date. I don’t know.

BPSU President acting as Treasurer

Page 25 of the report provides clarity on this:

“The BPSU received the resignation from both the 2nd Vice President and Treasure and, as a result, a bi-election was called to fill the two vacant positions…. […] As a result of no nominations being made for the post of Treasurer, the General Council was charged with electing an officer from General Council to serve as Treasurer until the next Triennial Election. In June 2015, the General Council elected the President Brother Jason Hayward to take on the additional responsibilities as Treasurer of the BPSU. For additional financial oversight, a Finance Committee was also appointed to ensure that the BPSU finances are under proper stewardship.”

I do not see anything in the report that speaks to claims the BPSU President is also receiving $10k as compensation for this role in addition to his Presidential salary.

The BPSU President’s Salary

Page 25 provides information concerning the Presidency becoming a full-time paid position, while page 26 provides information concerning his salary. Regarding the salary question, the relevant paragraphs are:

“The delegates also approved the formulation of a President’s Post Review Committee that was tasked with determining appropriate remuneration for the post and to explore the feasibility of this post being filled in the future by secondments and leaves of absence.”

“On September 9, 2015, the General Council decided that the salary for the post of the President will be set at $119,478.70. This salary was based on a review completed by a Presidents Post Review Committee (PPRC) and an independent HR firm. The PPRC recommended a salary of $141,458.77 and the HR firm recommended salaries of $110,000 (entry level), $131,000 (midpoint level), $154,000 (maximum level). Other factors that were taken into consideration were salaries of the Secretariat Staff, the President’s current responsibility, and financial sustainability.”

Attendance Records, etc.

The report makes for some interesting reading, and I think it’s good for all members (and the general public) to review it to learn more about what the union has been doing and where it’s going. Members, for instance, might find the attendance records of Officers (pages 39-41) interesting for example, amongst other interesting bits in the report.

“To Hell With Paradise”

Readers will perhaps be aware that, stemming from the recent sea glass incident, I thought it might be a good idea to try and have a conversation about tourism in general and what kind of tourism we want for Bermuda. This post seeks to continue that.

It’s not my intention here really to give an opinion, per se.

Rather, what I want to do is put forward some excerpts from a speech, dating from the 1970s, by the then Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The idea is for readers to reflect on his ideas and ask themselves to what degree his sentiments then are still applicable today, not just for Bermuda but for the entire Caribbean.

I’m not able to find an online link to his speech, so I’ve taken these excerpts from a Sports Illustrated article. The entire article is well worth reading, and can be found here.

Speech by Prime Minister James Mitchell in Haiti, 1972

“As premier of my state, you will pardon me, I hope, if I appear not too anxious to grab the easiest dollar. The tourist dollar alone, unrestricted, is not worth the devastation of my people. A country where the people have lost their soul is no longer a country—and not worth visiting.” 

“It is inappropriate to talk about trade winds whispering on islands where poverty shouts.” 

James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines.

James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines.

“[Government policy should be] development of our people while giving good value.”

“One myth that needs to be exploded is the idea of the Caribbean paradise. There is no paradise, only different ways of life. The North American trying to escape a big-city problem like air pollution may not recognise the West Indian’s problem of lack of opportunity in a small island – but it is a problem just the same.”

“[St Vincent will concentrate on small numbers of tourists] whose idea of holiday is not heaven but participation in a different experience.”

“St Vincent needs tourism, but we must deal in realities. That’s why it’s wrong to talk of paradise. It’s an image that can only disappoint; tourists come and find roads potholed or they find poverty and ignorance. It’s the same with yachtsmen. We’re not going to control the tides. Some days it might be rainy or rough. But in these islands you have a better run for your money.”

“We mustn’t become overdependent on tourism. We want balanced tourism. This means serving homegrown vegetables and lobster caught the same day instead of imported caviar and steak. This will preserve our agriculture and keep tourist revenues going out for imported food. It’s what visitors want, too. They want to see things indigenous to the islands, like cultivated fields and fishing boats leaving.”

Thoughts?

As said, I don’t intend to give an opinion here. I just thought that these excerpts were interesting, and I wonder how relevant they may still be some forty years later.

What do you think?

Branding Bermuda – An Addendum

In my previous post I intended to provide the relevant excepts of the various legislation that the America’s Cup Act 2014 exempts the America’s Cup (and its associated ‘corporate’ partners) from in Bermuda. Unfortunately, it was just getting to be a far too big an article, so I ended up just dealing with the most relevant one for that article.

And so, here, I provide the remaining advertising exemptions granted by the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Just as a reminder, this is the relevant section of the America’s Cup Act 2014 concerning advertising exemptions:

3 – In relation to advertising of and at the Bermuda Events, ACEA and its designated commercial partners, and the Teams and their designated commercial partners, shall be exempt from –

(a) sections 2, 3, 4 and 6(c) of the Advertisements Regulation Act 1911;

(b) section 14(4) of the Development and Planning Act 1974;

(c) the Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952; and

(d) sections 3 and 4 of the Alcohol Advertisement (Health Warning) Act 1993.

I addressed subsection (a) in my previous post. As the entire Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952 is exempted, I’m simply going to direct you to read the entire Act than reproduce it here… (opens as a pdf).

Development and Planning Act 1974

Section 14 (Development requiring planning permission) – Only subsection (4) of this section is exempted under the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Section 14(4)

Without prejudice to the Advertisements Regulation Act 1911 [title 20 item 9], the use for the display of advertisements of any external part of a building that is not normally used for that purpose shall be treated for the purposes of this section as involving a material change in the use of that part of the building.

Alcohol Advertisement (Health Warning) Act 1993 – Only sections 3 and 4 are exempted under the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Section 3 (Alcohol advertisement in printed publications; Schedule)

(1) No person shall print or publish an alcohol advertisement in a printed publication to which this section applies unless the advertisement bears the health warning as set out in the Schedule.

(2) This section applies to – 

(a) any newspaper with majority ownership by Bermudians printed or published in Bermuda;

(b) any periodical, magazine or other publication with majority ownership by Bermudians printed or published in Bermuda.

Section 4 (Health warning when alcohol advertisement displayed; Schedule)

No person shall – 

(a) display; or

(b) publish or distribute for the purpose of display,

an alcohol advertisement in writing or other permanent form or semi-permanent form unless the advertisement bears the health warning as set out in the Schedule.

Summary

Basically the America’s Cup Act 2014 exemptions here remove the need to include health warnings regarding alcohol and remove the need for planning permission (and all the related checks and balances that involves) for advertising on the outsides of buildings.

Although I haven’t included the Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952, it is a relatively short Act (six pages). Some of the key sections though are:

Section 4 (General Principles)

The superficial design and colour of restricted motor cars and trailers and of any advertising matter displayed thereon shall be regulated and controlled by order of the Minister –

(a) so as to conduce to road safety; and

(b) so as to preserve as far as possible the amenities of Bermuda, notwithstanding any consideration of private gain.

Other sections generally provide regulations for lettering, colour, designs, etc, mostly with regard to ensuring road safety. I encourage readers to read through it fully though. It is mostly an Act about advertising on vehicles, as is indicated by its name.

Thoughts?