Service at your discretion

This past Thursday we found out what the pay increase is to be. We had been told previously that the pay would match that which a police officer of the same level is paid. The actual increase? Well it’s almost double to $30.23 a drill. So quite a large increase by percentage, but what exactly is a drill? Well tonights session is one example of what is counted as a drill.  Typically sessions that last as short as 2 and as long as 4 hours in which we do various exercises.

We were to complete CPFA’s, which may stand for combat personal fitness assessment though I’m not certain. That meant we had to do pushups, situps and a 1.5 mile run. The problem is, we have absolutely no clue why we’re doing this. All we’re told is that we’re to do CPFA’s, little more.   How are these CPFA’s going to help us in an emergency scenario? It isn’t like we’re doing constant training, rather just 3 different styles of tests, a pack run, range shooting and tonights debacle.  We don’t have a clear understanding of why all this is actually useful.  By present law, we won’t ever be required to go overseas to war, so why are we doing the training for it?  It more so seems like we’re just doing it because thats what militaries do, only without the actual training, just tests.

Why were doing what we’re doing is a question that comes up often among conscripts see little value in what we’re being asked to do.  You can discount those who volunteered for it because this is something that they wanted to do, but even when talking to some of those who joined the cadre, ultimately the only value I’m hearing the ones I talk to describe is being able to boss people around if they get rank.

Without knowing what the point is, it’s hard to accept why we’re suppose to be thrilled that we’re ultimately going to be paid between $10 and $15 an hour for what for many seems pointless. Certainly any money is appreciated considering we’re forced against our will, but the key sentiment that echoes among many recruits is that we’re not respected nor are we appreciated. We’re not respected among the community as sometimes people laugh at us. We’re not respected by the community or government because rather then paying a wage comparible to any basic job, we’re conscripted into when, as a victim of it, feels like slave labour.

What is the true point of the regiment? I’ve heard the speel that regiment’s primary goal is to support the police in times of need, but really, that argument is losing weight as time passes. So far we’ve learned how to create vehicle checkpoints which best forseeable purpose likely falls within the regiment policing itself rather then assisting the police. We’ve guarded a literal fortress with security so good the only flaw was that common members of the regiment learning the gate code and having unrestricted access to the computers inside. The two most critical flaws in the "key points" security were that the regiment was trying to guard it in the first place.  What is the point?

I’ve heard the arguement of regiment serving as an entity for hurricane support which is fair and reasonable for we certainly do need support in times when our country needs it most. It has been suggested that following fabian, the regiment worked so fast to restore things that Works and Engineering staffed complained about regiment stealing their overtime pay. This suggests one of two things to me, either Works and Engineering staff don’t work efficiently or it’s easier to get work done when you can have a load more workers you conscript and pay slave wages.

Of course you may heavily disagree, but isn’t it easy to turn a blind eye when the discrimination isn’t happening to you?  As Martin Niemöller once said of the Nazi’s

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Regiment is appearing more and more like a really expensive insurance plan for a disaster that because the actual work comes cheap, seems like a good investment.  Despite what you believe, The Regiment isn’t doing much to provide adjustment to Bermuda’s youth.  Instead it’s introducing even more contempt for authority as for everyone but the conscripts the law doesn’t apply if you’re the ranking individual.  How can one respect the rules of an organization if the leadership opts to not follow it’s own rules?

I’m having a harder and harder time justifying the need for an army as opposed to a mostly full-time/part time volunteer disaster response force.  If the bulk of what is necessary is extra hands in the event of a disaster, then take the necessary steps to make it a reality without conscription.  Right now we’re budgeted to spend $9 million on the regiment, how well is that money being spent?  How much would an insurance plan offered by our local reinsurance companies cover us?  How many million would they pay out in a disaster scenario if we were to take a few of those millions and put them towards insurance coverage that would cover the costs of paying the overtime of Works and Engineering staff?  What if the other few million left over were to go towards a smaller full-time contingent of soldiers, or better, coast guard style staff?   Ones fully trained in various skills that are critical in times of crisis as opposed to a contingent of poorly trained ‘soldiers’ which is as much a product of our lack of proper resources, limited ethusiasm due to lack of purpose and respect and limited training due to our part time nature.

That’d at least be a fair compromise that would eliminate the need for conscription and give regiment or whatever other entity that is to help us in times of emergency the respect it deserves and even further, the capacity to truly serve our community in times of need.

Posted in Uncategorized

Culture of entitlement

Premier Brown recently had some great comments about Bermuda’s culture of entitlement and the need to get over it.  His commens have helped me see the perspective he has about Bermuda becoming too dependent on government and it weakening Bermuda overall as it has in the states.  Along these lines, is it not also the role of government to make opportunity most accessible to the people so they have the ability to rise above dependency?

Premier Brown described one Club Med Squatter as follows:

The Premier said: “Minister Burch told me that while we were in Trinidad I should look for a certain individual — a fellow who was living at Club Med.” The crowd began to laugh and the Premier said: “This is a true story. Minister Burch said, ‘the guy locked his door at Club Med, left a note saying when he would be back and told his mother to look out for his two sons because he was on his way to cricket’.

One might be quick to agree with Dr. Brown that it seems pretty rediculus for someone to be living off of the country then pick up and spend money on cricket when clearly he should be spending it on housing?  However, what happens if you take a look from the perspective of this particular individual?

Of course one could not speak for the individual without knowing him, however, what could be deduced by what is suggested of him?  Well, seeing as he left his two sons with his mother, could he be a single father?  Do half of Bermudians not make less then $45,559 a year according to the 2006 Labour Market Indicators?  Let’s consider for a moment the scenario of a single father and his two sons.

What kind of housing is available for a man and his two sons in today’s Bermuda?  A quick look at a couple places on e-moo suggests that the cheapest 2 bedroom apartment runs for $2,200 a month, the second cheapest, $2,500 a month.  For a single parent with two children on a salary of $3,797 a month, how affordable is a $2,200 a month place assuming he can beat all the competition in today’s limited rental market.

Assuming very basic numbers, food for 3 people at $75 a week works out to $900 a month.  Add another $100 a month in electricity and you’re up to $1000 in added living expenses.  What of clothing for his children?  A bus pass, furniture, health insurance, little toys so his kids can enjoy christmas.  All that out of $597 a month?  What about savings to one day buy a home’?  How affordable is Bermuda for the single parent who likely is one of those on the bottom half of the income range and likely is working more then one job just to reach that median mark which means less time to raise his children.

With already 583 people on the housing waiting list, how likely is it that he will be quickly chosen for affordable housing?  Could he have been one of the Bermuda Homes for People lottery winners?  Even a 100% mortgage on one of the $695,000 Olive Bank condos would run him a mortgage of almost $2000 more then he’s making a month at a 9% interest rate.

Bermuda simply isn’t affordable for the single parent and it is becoming less affordable for many Bermudians in general.  One could certainly agree that Bermudians shouldn’t feel entitled to government giving them homes or giving them jobs, however one could also disagree that government should be doing as much as it can to help rebalance the supply and demand of our housing market and do more to make the jobs that are out there better known.

Young Bermudians shouldn’t expect government to find them a job, however for those away at school finding a job in Bermuda is not very easy.  Every job posting that is taken by an ex-pat is put in the paper of which those postings are not subsequently listed online which is the most accessible means for a student abroad to find out what jobs are available.  Could our government move to make this sort of information more accessible by posting jobs that are sent in to the immigration department for workpermit approval right on the immigration website so that more Bermudians have ready access to apply for the jobs they may well qualify for?

Dr. Brown is right that Bermudians should not feel entitled to be given a free ride for we all must each pull our own weight.  However, I am hopeful that he will also heed my words and recognize that there is more that our government could be doing to make Bermuda more accessible for Bermudians.

Posted in Uncategorized

How do we fix education?

Government, through a review being conducted by the Attorney General, has made an interesting call out to the people for ideas on how we can fix our education system.  You can write to submit your insights into the Bermuda school system by writing to bermudareview[at]yahoo.com.  What we are witnessing is more of a rise in public consultation which is a great thing to see.  What we can hope is that our government shall listen, that it shall harness the strength of all Bermudians for ideas on how to bring desperately needed change to our education system. 

Do we have standardized testing across the island for both public and private schools?  Something that will give us a solid measurement of the performance of each student across our entire education system so that we can assess the progression and improvements we make to our education system?  Do we have a standardized curriculum to ensure that all students are learning the right tools at each level?

Can failing students be held back if they need extra assistance?  Can we afford to pay teachers more in order to retain their skills over the summer to teach those students who need that extra bit of attention to make it through the year?  Not just a summer school, but a full complement of teachers so that we can vastly reduce our teacher to student ratios for the summer term?  What is our current teacher to student ratio and how do we compare to other countries where there are successful educations?

As a friend suggested, can we encourage more positive male role models and try to spread our schools more evenly so that children in younger grades have ones in older to look up to?  This as a contrast to what may well be happening now where the only role models in school are of the same age group, drop out and take a great many followers with them?

Are these the kinds of questions you would be asking?  Do you have ideas and insights into how the Bermuda school system could be improved?  Could you have the suggestion that could make the difference of an education for our island’s children?

Take a moment to make the most of this opportunity, submit your thoughts and watch for the review.  When the review comes, take a moment to review it yourself, find out if they’ve come up with good ideas of how we can fix our education system and tell your representative that you want to see the best ideas pushed forward so that we can start making a difference today and put our country back on the right track.

Posted in Uncategorized

Southlands on Facebook

One of the most interesting things about the BEST forum tonight was mentioned by two of the speakers, who happened to be girls in highschool.  They made mention of a group of nearly 500 people who had joined a group in opposition to the Southlands Project on the popular social networking website called Facebook.

The group features some 473 members at present, lists some 22 reasons of opposition to southlands, recent news, links,
photos, a bulliten board and a discussion board.  What many may not realize is that this is a clear cut example of what the future for younger generations will hold as these sort of resources begin to become prominant tools for empowering technologically capable individuals.

In today’s Bermuda, individuals are not privy to a great deal of information and are required to go to great lengths to become informed and express their opinion.  Tomorrow’s Bermuda is perfectly demonstrated by this website dedicated to the Southlands project which shows how the youth are becomming more and more connected with the world and the issues that surround them.  More so than any who have come before them.

Any indivdual is free to sign up to this website and use it as a means to not only track their friendships, but also share contacts and trace friendships back to those you once had lost.  Beyond this, the technology has also evolved to provide an advanced online meeting place for individuals to share ideas and express themselves on anything of interest.

In the future we will only see more of these kinds of technology rise into prominance.  Like it or not, the face of Bermudian politics and politics globally is guaranteed to change as the youth and other technologically enabled individuals become more connected and more aware of the world that surrounds them.  Freedom of speech and participatory democracy are soon to take on whole new meanings as we transition into the age where the younger generation has a true voice. 

If not for the coming election, expect that by the time the next one rolls around, the young generation will have amassed a voice unlike anything that has ever been encountered before.  A force and movement of organization behind the people to be reckoned with.  It is becomming clear that the future will guarantee greater access to information for all and a greater ability to express oneself, share ideas and have an opinion, regardless of how things were done in the past.

The only question is, how will our system of leadership adapt?

Posted in Uncategorized

Can the milkman deliver?

There’s an interesting article in the paper today suggesting a potential bid to replace Wayne Furbert as leader.  While I find Mr. Furbert to be a very honourable, honest and likeable guy, his performance as leader unfortunately hasn’t reflected as much hope in the polls as many UBP supporters would have liked.

With an election that’s just around the corner it is definitely a make it or break it time for the UBP.  Do they stick it out with Mr. Furbert and his low performance in the polls or do they change horses very late in the race?  Thus far, Premier Brown has had a running start at leadership and many of the plans he’s been putting into place are swinging into motion.  While not everyone would agree with all of Dr. Brown’s plans, he is proving to be a man of action, something which was much needed in the PLP leadership after the lack of action seen by former Premier Scott.

Given that the opposition has no actual portfolios, it is less easy to judge them on their performance aside from polls of  public perception, which have not climbed in quite some time.  Given the unfortunately poor perception of Mr. Furbert in the leadership seat it would come as little surprise to see a new leader rise to enter the fray.

The question though is who could replace Furbert in leadership?  Though it is unfortunate to say so, does the UBP need a black leader to win the next election?  Could the Bermudian people really be that racially biased?   The color of Wayne’s skin ultimately proved to not be a heavy factor in gaining anything but early support in the polls.  Thus it is questionable as to whether or not it is necessary for any leader set to replace him would need to be black in order to win the support of the people.

Who is the next best candidate to lead the UBP should the bid be more then a rumor?  Deputy opposition leader at present is Michael Dunkley and as such he’d be a likely candidate as a successor in the least because of his present standing and no doubt there are other potentials waiting in the wings.  If it were Mr. Dunkley, would the color of his skin matter in his ability to win support of the people?  Would we dive into another racially based election where attacks are made on the UBP because it has a white leader?  Or, by contrast, would the next election be one based purely on the issues?  I suppose if Mr. Dunkley were to be the ultimate successor, the only reasonable question to be asked is: can the milkman deliver?

Posted in Uncategorized

Presentation of SDO petition to Environment Minister

Another press release from BEST:

At 3pm on Friday 23 March 2007, The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) will be presenting to Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield its petition objecting to the issuance of the Special Development Order for the Southlands development as published in draft form on 9 March 2007.

Mr. Stuart Hayward, BEST Chairman, said “These signatures have been collected in response to the Minister’s request for public input on this important issue. We see our role in this as providing a vehicle for members of the public to make their feelings known.”

Petition signatories of Bermudians, Bermuda residents, and interested parties around the globe have left comments on the electronic petition. These will be tallied and the totals added to those on the paper petitions.
BEST will continue gathering signatures until the SDO is either issued, modified or abandoned.

Update:  The time of the presentation has been changed to 3pm rather then 12 noon.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wondering about Southlands?

Courtesy of a BEST member, I’ve been forwarded the following marketing materials for the proposed Southlands project. I’ll leave you to compose your own opinions for the time being.

source

(it’s a flash animation, so give it a min to load)

Posted in Uncategorized

Government Portal is too slow

Over the last few weeks I’ve noted that the gov.bm portal is getting slower and slower.  It’s not a huge concern but it is a bit of an annoyance for those trying to access the information available online.

My hopes are high that those behind e-government are working to improve the situation.  If anyone has any updates or estimates on when it’ll be improved, let me know, it’d be appreciated.

Posted in Uncategorized