Wireless internet access on the ferries?

T-Mobile in the UK have recently launched a new service on trains to provide wireless internet access for mobile commuters.  The system utilizes long range wi-max based internet connections combined with short ranged based wi-fi connections to allow mobile commuters to connect via wi-fi enabled devices.

Similar launches in Bermuda could be helpful in convincing business commuters to make the switch from driving their cars to taking the ferries as they would enable the commuter to make use of the time to get an early start or a late finish on their daily workload as opposed to throwing away the time on the commute.

Does such a system exist presently on the ferries?

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Are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

Purchasing a new car today can be costly in the long term no matter how you slice it. Assuming no down payment, a $30,000 loan for a new car over 5 years at a 6% interest rate will result in interest totaling nearly $4,800. This means that a car whose sticker price may be $30,000, realistically ends up costing the consumer $34,800 over 5 years or $580 a month. Thats without even considering licensing, insurance, gas and maintenance.

At the end of those 5 years, that owner may be able to sell that car. Lets assume they can manage to get $10,000. That $10,000 can then be used to be put towards savings or offsetting the cost of a new car. Assuming that new car is still a $30,000 one, that would be a loan of $20,000, with nearly $3,200 in interest, costing the consumer $23,200 over 5 years, or payments of $386 a month.

Under the present system, an individual could have a new car every 5 years for an initial 5 year term of $580 a month and recurring terms for $386 a month. Conversely, if this used car ban goes into effect, that same individual would have to purchase that $30,000 car for 10 years, which results in monthly payments of $333 a month, total interest of nearly $10,000 and a total price of $40,000.

For those individuals who are able to purchase that used car today, they may only have $1,000 for a down payment and get a loan for $9,000. At that same 6% interest rate would result in interest of nearly $1,440. Thus the car would end up costing $11,440 over 5 years, or $174 monthly. Assuming it held no final value, that individual would then buy another used car, costing $22,880 overall for the 10 years for 2 used cars.

What happens when those individuals who have been purchasing used cars are now forced to purchase new cars? Well according to the calculations above, their monthly car payments would rise from $174 per month to $333 or more. This creates an added $159 monthly strain on the checkbooks of less wealthy Bermudians.

It will be difficult to convince many Bermudians to give up their cars given the alternatives, so what happens when our economy is hit with a $1,900 yearly cost of living increase for many in the low to middle income earning bracket?

In the $30,000 a year bracket, thats a 6% increase in cost of living. For those at $40,000 a year, thats a 4% increase in cost of living. Those at $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 respectively. 3.8%, 3.2% and 2.7% increases. The result? The poor likely will get poorer with this policy.

An increase in the cost of living of those in the middle class means they cut out luxuries to cover rising cost. Perhaps it’s fewer morning coffees, less regular haircuts, fewer nights out, cutting their own grass, cleaning their own house, or worse, less savings for retirement and hard times. Futher, many of these luxuries are services that provide jobs for lower income earners, those heaviest hit by the cost of living increase. This will mean some may lose their jobs or have their hours cut back, thus being unable to meet their own increases in their cost of living, causing them to default on their loans and spiral deeper into poverty.

Will the ban on used cars spell danger for our economy in the long term?  Will the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?  Will banning used cars be a good idea?  Time certainly shall tell.

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We need real leadership

The following was published as a letter to the editor in today’s edition of The Royal Gazette, available here.

Dear Sir,

There aren’t words to describe Mr. Larry E. Smith’s recent letter to the editor dated the 8th of December. For someone who suggests that he lives in Florida, is it not surprising that he is abundantly willing to act as an authority on Bermuda’s present racial situation?

In his commentary, he asks “Why were blacks, above all other population groups, singled out for and successfully kept in slavery for such a protracted period of time?” As evidenced by the Wikipedia article on the topic of slavery, “Slavery can be traced to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi in Mesopotamia (~1800 BCE.)”. Not limited to just blacks, “The history of slavery in the ancient world was closely tied to warfare. Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hebrew , Greek, Roman, Persian, Chinese, Mayan Aztec and Indian sources are replete with references to slavery in connection with warfare.”

Of particular interest to the enslavement of blacks is the Wikipedia article on the African Slave Trade which suggests “Slaves purchased from black slave dealers in West African regions … were sold into slavery as a result of a defeat in tribal warfare. Mighty black kings in the Bight of Biafra near modern-day Senegal and Benin sold their captives locally and later to European slave traders for goods such as metal cookware, rum, livestock, and seed grain.”

Does this imply that it was black Africans fighting amongst themselves who originally condemned our ancestors to their enslaved fate? The black president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, a descendant of generations of slave-owning African royals, said it best when he ridiculed reparations for slavery, saying “If one can claim reparations for slavery, the slaves of my ancestors or their descendants can also claim money from me”. Is it possible that you could be one of the descendants of the slaves of his ancestors that he does not wish to repay?

Mr Smith asks, “Was there something that was uniquely different about black people that caused nearly the entire world to support and profit from our enslavement?” While the entire world did not involve itself in Black enslavement, this question is also answered by the African Slave Trade article under the section entitled “Why African Slaves?” “In the late 15th century, Europeans … attempted to enslave some of the Native Americans to perform hard physical labour, but found them unaccustomed to hard agrarian labour.” “Their lack of resistance to common European diseases was another factor against their suitability for slavery.” “The African slaves proved more resistant to European diseases than indigenous Americans, familiar with a tropical climate and accustomed to agricultural work.”

Blacks were chosen as slaves because they were a strong powerful race, as evidenced by modern Black dominance of many professional sports, that could survive the tough conditions of the Americas, not because they were weak and inferior. If Blacks of the past had not fought against one another in the beginning, they may never have sold one another out and we wouldn’t be in this mess. Today, we still witness an age old battle of Black on Black sellouts. If you’re not a member of the PLP, you’re a “House Nigger”, an ‘Uncle Tom”, or a “Sambo”. Thousands of years and nothing has been learned.

Dr. Brown is using an age old strategy of divide and conquer. By pitting Blacks against one another, he might well end up like those mighty black kings. He works hard to paint Dr. Grant Gibbons as representative of “the establishment”, the one he fought hard against in the 1960s where he solidified his political views. Yet, the establishment of yesteryears is very different from the one that rules today. Today we live in an age where “the establishment” is the PLP government. Where Dr. Brown has gone from fighting “the man” to becoming it himself.

Dr. Brown could be using his new found endowment to get right to work to bring great change. Instead, he is selfish and takes the opportunity to gloat against an adversary that is no longer there. How can an individual be a “de facto leader” when he sits on the backbench? How can Dr. Gibbons represent “the establishment” when the PLP, today’s “establishment”, have reigned over Bermuda for the last 8 years? Was Dr. Brown not also a pivotal figure throughout those 8 years? Did he not have a hand in what occurred or, more critically, what didn’t?

To answer Mr. Smith’s question, “What are those conservative black UBP members conserving when black Bermudians are faced with poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness and other social pathologies?” Could it be that they hope to conserve some kind of honesty and decency in our government? One where all Bermudians are equal and we have a true government more interested in doing what benefits the people rather than themselves. Ask yourself this: How quick has the PLP been willing to help themselves to fancy cars, expensive travel budgets, pay raises and a lot of other things they won’t even report on? Ask yourself another question. When was the last time they did something that actually helped YOU?

“One man with courage” doesn’t “make a majority”, it makes a dictatorship. Our people, all Bermudians of all colours, need to have the courage to stand up and demand real leadership, not those who are more interested in winning Oscars and settling old scores than doing what will make a real difference to us tomorrow.

We need leaders willing to stand up and unite Bermudians behind what is best for all Bermudians, not just one group over another. As long as you’re willing to settle for the excuse “the UBP did it too” as the answer to everything, we’re guaranteed to forever face poverty, crime, unemployment, homelessness and other social pathologies. Our issues of today should take the foremost of importance. We’ve got a black government, “the establishment” of yesterday is gone; we need leaders who will focus 100% of their energy on making Bermuda better for ALL Bermudians.

We shouldn’t stand for anything less.

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