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.

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:

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Behind Germany’s refusal to grant Greece debt relief – Op-Ed in The Guardian

I am thoroughly disappointed with the Greek Government’s vote last night to effectively capitulate to the Troika, despite the momentum they won from the successful No vote last Sunday.

I am increasingly convinced by the argument of Costas Lapavistas that the only viable option left for Greece now is a default and departure from the Eurozone.

Here former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis articulates some of the reality behind the Troika’s approach.

Yanis Varoufakis

Tomorrow’s EU Summit will seal Greece’s fate in the Eurozone. As these lines are being written, Euclid Tsakalotos, my great friend, comrade and successor as Greece’s Finance Ministry is heading for a Eurogroup meeting that will determine whether a last ditch agreement between Greece and our creditors is reached and whether this agreement contains the degree of debt relief that could render the Greek economy viable within the Euro Area. Euclid is taking with him a moderate, well-thought out debt restructuring plan that is undoubtedly in the interests both of Greece and its creditors. (Details of it I intend to publish here on Monday, once the dust has settled.) If these modest debt restructuring proposals are turned down, as the German finance minister has foreshadowed, Sunday’s EU Summit will be deciding between kicking Greece out of the Eurozone now or keeping it in for a little while longer, in a state of…

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Minister No More!

I’m saddened to see Varoufakis depart from his ministerial post – I enjoyed his insights and flair. Personally, I see it as an error to make concessions such as this to the Troika when the momentum was with Syriza following the successful OXI vote. Nonetheless, if it is Tsipras’s conclusion – and Varoufakis agrees – that this is the best course of action for the greater victory, then I wish them the best of luck accordingly. I trust that Varoufakis will continue to offer his keen insights – and may well have a freer hand to do so now that the ministerial burden is lifted from his shoulders.

Yanis Varoufakis

The referendum of 5th July will stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.

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Thanks Shawn

I gotta agree, the priorities seem rather confused. There’s been little to no talk/consultation or awareness raising about these issues, but there’s been clear social anguish at the continuing carnage on our roads, and a supposed commitment by the Government to address it.

And what do we get? Government backs down in the face of the alcohol lobby from taking some steps that might just work, and instead drops the ball and does a Monty Python ‘something completely different’ by putting its energies into tinted windows and hands-free kit.

Is this what counts as tragicomic?

Bermuda Blue

Months after the police launched a road safety campaign, months after Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell announced a working group to look at road safety, we get an announcement about tints and hands-free kit.


SMH! What matters more? Unbelievable, just unbelievable.

Thanks Shawn.

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Who is paying for all these writs?

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.

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

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.

Urban Issues


(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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De-Escalation Musings

I’ve been largely away from the news today – and from computers generally, hence the lack of posts today – however, I did have the opportunity to muse over what would it take for this situation to de-escalate. question mark

Now, I’m not saying this is how things are going to play out, or should play out, but I thought it to be a useful exercise all the same.

  1. The Government needs to rescind its invoking of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, referring the matter to arbitration.  This seems to have been done primarily to try and stop the movement in its tracks and/or intimidate workers.  This seems to have failed and, rather than putting a brake on the incident has acted as the proverbial gasoline poured on a fire.  Rescinding this action has to be the first step to de-escalating matters.
  2. The Government should, along with the BTUC, release the list of BTUC proposals that were rejected by the Government, and Government should clearly state the reasons why they chose to reject them.  The BTUC should release their rejected proposals anyway and put forward their arguments as to why they should not have been rejected.
  3. Government should accept that it has to take furlough days off the table.  The unions have made it clear that this need only be a temporary matter and is something they can talk about going forward.  I read that as the unions saying their members need a relief, at least for the coming year, and they wouldn’t be opposed to re-introducing them next year if warranted.  Government should have approached the unions this time last year to begin discussions about extending the MOU on furloughs – trying to dictate the extension the way the Government has done was counter-productive.  It’s quite possible that the unions would have actually been flexible on this issue on Monday.  I don’t think they would have agreed to a full-on furlough system, but I think they might have been amenable to a 50% furlough system.  This would still have been a hard sell to their members, but I think that it would have been doable and a possible compromise.  Government’s standing up the unions on Monday night however seems to have ruled out the flexibility there.
  4. Minister Bob Richards announced last year that he would be pushing for a 7% budget reduction in 2014, a 5% reduction in 2015 and a 3% reduction in 2016.  I questioned that as being designed from a political perspective – do the big cuts early and they’ll be forgotten sooner to election time.  I argued that it would be easier for members to adjust if he’d adopted a 5% cut per year for five years – same amount of total cuts, but spread out easier and posing less of a risk to fragile economic recovery.  I don’t see any reason why he has to stick to his 5% cut for this year.  He could go with the 3% cut this year (I think we have that with the already agreed BTUC+Government cuts), avoid the furlough, and maybe do the 5% next year, possibly with the furlough at that time.  Alternatively, we could go for a 4% cut this year and a 4% cut next year.  Still the same amount of cuts, just more spread out.  This gives both sides the flexibility they need.  Government can stick with its overall cuts program and the unions can get much-needed relief for their members, and both can leave this incident with face.
  5. If Government insists on pursuing furlough days, including acting unilaterally, then if they want to de-escalate matters then they need to offer some significant concessions.  This could be taking some serious actions to reduce other cost-of-living matters, be it through using its regulatory powers to reduce electricity bills (taking note of the cost of oil dropping by almost 50%), taking measures to encourage banks to provide more small-loans or adopting a more progressive approach to mortgages.  What can be done to reduce the cost of food for example. beyond the current discount system?
  6. In addition to the above, I think that due to Government’s mishandling of the issue, they need to make some additional concessions here.  Of the top of my head, if I was the unions, I’d be pushing for, at a minimum:
    1. Progressive campaign finance reform laws (to come into effect immediately).
    2. Extended maternity leave AND introducing equal paternity leave.  The Employment Act 2000 already ensures maternity leave, but this can be improved.  And there is some paternity leave within certain collective bargaining agreements, but are not national.  Now’s a good time to push for them.
    3. The repealing of Section 27 of the Trade Unions Act 1965.  This ties in with campaign finance reform and allows unions to engage in political action equal to corporations (but under new campaign finance laws) – the idea being to reduce the domination of our politics by capital, and thus ensuring greater democracy.

To me, the above at least lays a plausible foundation for de-escalating the situation.

What do you think?

What course are we heading down?

Bermuda Blue makes some good points about the Auditors report on Port Royal, and how the OBA’s walkout appears to have backfired politically.

Bermuda Blue

I’ve been very quiet recently because I have been very busy, which is a shame as there have been plenty of topics to blog about.

I’m still busy, but I cannot stay quiet any more. The red mist has descended – which means I’ll probably regret what I write here. So be it.

Two reports on Bernews today: Auditor Criticizes Port Royal Cost Overruns  and OBA Walks Out of House to Protest Marc Bean

Let’s deal with Port Royal first. The Auditor General in a statement says: (The highlights are mine)

“The Special Report speaks of cost overruns, a lack of proper oversight and monitoring by the Government, loan financing authorized by the Minister of Finance without the approval of Parliament and a total disregard of established financial practices and controls for government expenditures – including the lack of tendering and conflicts of interest relating to Board members, one…

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