Larry’s on a war path… no, the OTHER Larry

April 30th, 2008 by De Onion

First off I’d like to officially welcome Larry Burchall to the Bermuda chapter of the Order of the Shrill and venture a guess that “Men Named Larry” are now #1 on Dr. Brown’s ThreatDown.

Larry Burchall’s Bermuda Sun Column hits it out of the park this week.

The ‘big con’ is a distraction. It is the kind of distraction that cynical governments have cynically taken in the past. The idea is simple: “Get the people to focus on something that will take their minds off the real issues”.
So for us lot out here at 32N64W, it has been: “Let’s have a ‘big conversation’ about race. That way we can shift people’s attention from the still-worsening public education mess. While they’re tussling with each other over race and the unchangeable past, they also shouldn’t notice that we’re going to allow greedy developers to take a big chunk of what little remains of Bermuda’s black heritage and black history and destroy it by smashing it to smithereens.”

I have a sneaking feeling that Larry Burchall doesn’t get it. He needs to remember that this is a “black” government. Therefore anyone who supports it is automatically “black”. So what this means is that if you publicly support Dr. Brown’s Progressive Labour Party (even if you are pasty white business owner or executive level white collar professional) then you automatically turn so black that you make Shaft look like Mr. Rogers. After that the government is then of course participating in a huge piece of pro-black “empowerment” when it gives you large no-bid contracts for government work. Or a cement silo.

What we need to do is stop pretending that this is a black government – or even that there is such a thing.

There are governments of people, some which take a long-term view, listen to expertise, and have competent people execute, and as a consequence tend to do what is ultimately best for the quality of life in their country, despite their human failings. On the other side there are other governments who arrogantly choose instead to forge ahead with their own bumbling vision despite expert criticism, and end up producing primarily corruption, dishonesty, incompetence, and mismanagement. This government and the Bush White House are the latter. Colour has nothing to do with it.

Guess that answers that…

April 29th, 2008 by De Onion

A reader comments in response to my post “How bad could it be if they tried?“… and this reader’s answer appears to be “Much worse.”

2 hours & 24 minutes? Try 4:25. When I first got my ticket last month I thought “4 1/2 minutes, wow, that’s efficient”. This was at lunch time (not a bright move, I know), and when I returned at 4:30 (because all of us outside Government have real jobs and can’t sit around TCD reading 2 year old Bottom Lines and watching the same Argus ad on the screen – where is CNN anyway?) my number still had not come up. Of course I had to start again the next day, joining the desperate line at 7:30 (already number 20), because TCD doesn’t carry over to the next day. Good thing they don’t or we would be booking our appointments at the counter like our tests – 3 months in advance.

You would think that a Government so obsessed with taking our money to line their pockets would at least streamline the process of taking it off us – they can’t even get that right.

Rant over.

The rule with this government is simple: No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse. Also, don’t underestimate how efficiently TCD is lining party insider’s pockets. There’s just no money in rote administration… all the money is in physical plant and technology.

The rise of the Tourism/Construction Complex.

April 27th, 2008 by De Onion

A long post today, but I ask you to bear with me and read the whole thing and the links.

In the United States there is the Military/Industrial complex, a term popularized by Eisenhower in his farewell address to warn against the military manipulating the public for profit.

Eisenhower presciently warned:

…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

So in America we now know:

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Here’s a pretty good primer by Chalmers Johnson (author of the excellent book “Blowback: The costs and consequences of American Imperialism”) on the ultimate effects of the US military/industrial complex in a post-Cold War globalized world.

The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room” — the title of Alex Gibney’s prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.

As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay or repudiate. This fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.

This is my Bermuda blog, and I don’t want to bore readers with my rantings on how I believe that the USA is in the middle of a generation-long decline as an imperial power in the world thanks in a large measure to the PNAC inspired foreign policy (which ignores economics in favor of military might) and faith based economic policy of the Bush administration… and how the Chinese are the next world power, although the world probably doesn’t have the resources to provide them with a first-world standard of living at current technology levels…

However, this is relevant because we in Bermuda are seeing the rise of the Tourism/Construction complex where we fail to innovate in legislation, educate our children, address social problems, and instead are engaging in a number of big ticket tourism projects that are providing profits for government insiders (cruise ship docks, hotels, golf course, limos, etc.). The similarities are overwhelming. It doesn’t take an angry bearded leftist to see that we have massive conflicts of interest, and the potential for rent seeking by political insiders who will take full advantage of the strategic misrepresentation by the Premier and his cronies who consider deliberate misrepresentation distinct from lying and thus perfectly acceptable. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, rich, poor, if this continues then it will end badly for everyone not a shareholder in the tourism/construction complex.

OSO does an excellent job of summarizing:

Essentially it goes like this – the Pentagon, under orders from the Bush administration, got together retired military experts, briefed them regularly, and then watched as they turned up as talking heads on every major news network defending what was going on in Iraq. Moreover, many of these “experts” are also board members of, and/or lobbyists for, defense contracting companies who profit from war. This is shameful, and it confirms a number of different things:

1. The Bush administration lied about the war.
2. The Bush administration let Americans and Iraqis die in order to serve their political ends.
3. The upper echelons of high ranking American servicemen are riddled with political corruption.
4. The military-industrial complex – in which industries that profit from war encourage its escalation – is real.
5. The media is not biased towards the left wing, but the right wing.
6. Conservatives swallowed this bull because they’re not objective, can’t think properly and suffer from cognitive dissonance.
7. Anti-war lefties who opposed the war from the very beginning and who argued that the Bush administration was orchestrating a sophisticated propaganda campaign to promote the war and lie to the American people were not crazy moonbats but actually well informed thinkers who merely reacted to the facts as they saw presented to them.
8. Pro-war conservatives will read this New York Times report and dismiss it as lies propagated by the left-wing media.

1-8 are clearly happening in Bermuda too.
1. The government is lying.
2. The government is screwing people to serve political ends.
3. The upper echelons of the government are riddled with corruption.
4. The Tourism/Construction complex is real.
5. The media is sloppy, not biased.
6. PLP supporters who swallow the BS are suffering from cognitive dissonance.
7. Anti-PLPers who think that Ewart Brown & Co. are organizing an orchestrated campaign for personal profit are not crazy moonbats but well informed clear thinkers who merely interpreted the facts correctly.
8. Pro-PLP readers will dismiss evidence of corruption as lies propagated by the racist media.

So let’s total up the government contracts going to insiders for tourism projects (it’s on the order of $100 million dollars x 10% profit margin = $10 million dollars profit) and then ask ourselves if we can do better.

This is my last post for a few days because I think it’s the most important I’ve made in a while.

Thanks for reading.

Finance can be funny!

April 27th, 2008 by De Onion

If you saw someone sitting in a hotel bar reading a finance textbook and laughing that was me.

Why?

Because I was revising the principles of capital budgeting and putting it in the context of the Bermuda government’s decision making.

Capital Budgeting Process in the Bermuda government
1. Generate Investment Ideas (How can we funnel ourselves lots of money but make it look like it’s not stealing?)
2. Analyzing individual proposals (How much can we funnel to ourselves?)
3. Planning and capital budgeting (How can we do this so that nobody notices, or if it has to be public how can we make it look not completely crooked?)
4. Monitoring & Post Auditing (Let’s keep Larry too busy with other things.)

*facepalm*

How bad could it be if they TRIED?

April 24th, 2008 by De Onion

So we now know for a fact that the Transport Minister is not doing his job. A number articles in the Bermuda Sun highlighting that the bus service is being mismanaged. Personally, I already knew the transport minister was useless thanks to the 2 hour 24 minute wait time at TCD last time I went to get my bike licensed.

2 hours, 24 minutes

In typical fashion, the government has decided to push big ticket systems that come with photo opportunities and perks for party members like E-TCD, emissions control, and fast ferries while neglecting the unexciting job of bothering to manage basic services like having buses running or making sure that there are enough tellers working at TCD. Never mind bothering to make good on long standing promises to end fees.

There really is no excuse.

Over the Mountain

April 24th, 2008 by De Onion

I haven’t really wanted to comment on the whole traffic situation… DAG has it pretty much under control.

However,

I did have to laugh this morning (otherwise I was going to cry). Yesterday morning the police were out pulling people over on East Broadway… everything was very civil. This morning the police were gone and traffic was utter lunacy. I wish I had a helmet cam so I could put the video to a soundtrack of Ozzy Osbourne and upload it to youtube.

Bloomberg had an article a few weeks ago about traffic enforcement in Brazil and that if the new Brazilian points system for driving infractions were magically enforced 100% of the time then on average each driver would keep their license for about 20 minutes in downtown traffic.

Rock bottom?

April 23rd, 2008 by De Onion

I am glad to see that the Annual Pembroke Fire is smaller this year, but of course from a certain point of view this is excellent progress. Three years ago it was the huge fire on North Shore, two years ago it was Belco, and last year it was Mount St. Monica at the dump.

This blogger would like to congratulate the government on their striking progress. In only a single year they have reduced the size and duration of the annual fire by almost 90% in a move that has saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in firefighting expenses and improved the lives of Pembroke residents who did not have to deal with such large quantities of soot coating their roof and turning their tank water into sludge this year. So when’s the press conference? If we can’t celebrate competence then we should at least celebrate when government only screws up a little bit.

Why I support new hotels.

April 22nd, 2008 by De Onion

They may be able to employ the growing number who leave the public school system without the ability to survive in any of Bermuda’s other industries.

Of course, in a perfect world with a competent government capable of managing effective services then we would see high social mobility as students came out of public schools, into Bermuda college, and then onward and upward taking advantage of the many scholarships available… so that the proverbial son of a bricklayer could move up in the world to become a wealthy executive. Of course, since that’s not happening the way it should – and in many respects we have made substantial backward progress in the area of social mobility over the past 10 years, perhaps because the government believes in the talented tenth (and therefore the useless 90%), or is just plain corrupt and incompetent. The reasons are irrelevant. What matters is that the only answer to having failed an entire generation in public education is to create more low-paying, low-skill jobs, and hotels are the answer because we can’t put all the non-graduates to work in construction, drug distribution, and odd jobs forever as the industries are cyclical and risky – and next time there is a recession or competent management of Bermuda’s long-term growth then Bermuda will face massive structural unemployment… well, more than we already do anyway.

Remember that with on the order of 70% of males (by Larry Burchall’s reckoning) not graduating from public high school that means that there is essentially a generation of a segment of society who do not and will never have the skills necessary to make a living in any industry that requires the ability to read and do math. Even the most entry level of international business or service jobs require the ability to read, write reasonably well, and do basic maths, and most more senior positions require the ability to deal well with fractions, percentages, and use “there/their” correctly, never mind a fancy degree. Without these skills a person’s options are seriously limited and these hotels will provide jobs for those products of the failed public education system.

If we take government incompetence as a given then those of us in the reality based community have no choice but to support the building of new hotels.

Capital Spending

April 21st, 2008 by De Onion

With government programs the accounting distinction between capital spending and expense is a bit of a misnomer. If we look at Bermuda’s budget we have large amount of “capital” spending on negative expected return projects (ie. we are borrowing money at say 6% and then reinvesting into things that will take money out of our pockets over the long run at a rate of say 2% per year), while failing to pay the “expenses” associated with a well designed social program that has been shown to generate long-term returns (ie. over a generation) that compound at rates well into the double digits when we bother to look at the return in terms of lower incarceration rates, drug law enforcement, public welfare, and personal employment prospects.

I’d link everything, but I’m lazy tonight and am asking readers to be understanding and to follow the local news and use wikipedia to look up definitions, and perhaps for the more intrepid to check out Google Scholar to find some of the academic research that looks at these issues.

Real Estate Developments in disguise.

April 21st, 2008 by De Onion

We need to take note that many of the hotel developments include a large portion of fractional units.

So here’s the question – if we need to discriminate against Bermudians married to non-Bermudians and Bermudians who own properties in the international purchasers end of the market in order to preserve Bermuda for Bermudians then why is it perfectly acceptable to sell Bermuda to foreigners as fractional units?