Crackdown on poker: It must be "A victory for god"

Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion. 

— Ambrose Bierce

Every few months the same controversial topics rotate back into discussion.  Should it then come as a surprise that gambling has been thrown back into the limelight?  Is it not absurd that whenever it comes to gambling church groups rise up in a frenzy to combat the practice with a passion all while condoning their own style of gambling?  Will we see this practice repeat with poker as it did with the video machines?

In a true and just society where ideals reign king, our politicians would stand up against such hypocracy rather then bend so readily to the will of one oppressive group who chooses to impose their beliefs on others.  Why is it right for churches to be allowed to continue their practice of bingo while they condemn the practice of gambling by others?  If the police are sending out warnings to liquor establishments, should they not also be sending the same warnings to churches?

Aburdity indeed.

Tourism may look good now, but where will we be in a few months?

While the Premier may be ‘excited’ by the increase in number of tourists visitors, I still remain unconvinced that this year will be a good year for tourism.  In the past I have written about the potential for the new US passport regulations to have an impact on our tourism industry.  Another issue that may have impact on this years tourism season are Ajustible Rate Mortgages and how they have affected the US housing market causing a reduction in tourism spending this year.

Today, there was an interesting post on one of my favorite economics blogs – http://bigpicture.typepad.com – that was suggesting potential tertiary market impacts caused by the slowdown in the housing sector.  One potential slowdown that was listed was airlines, which got me thinking further about travel.

Back in Feburary I wrote about the potential impact rising interest rates may have on the housing market.  This being that many Adjustable Rate Mortgages were given out by lenders when interest rates were low and now that interest rates have risen, those attractive low rate adjustable mortgages have turned into high rate ones which have stretched the budgets of many beyond their expectations.

This stretch has caused many to begin to try to put their homes on the market in hopes of selling prior to foreclosure.  This also means that the budgets of many individuals who rely on such mortgages are now stretched further then they once were.  When an individual’s budget is stretched, they’re more likely to cut out luxuries such as fancy vacations to destinations such as Bermuda (especially when adding the hassle factor of not having a passport) in favor of cheaper vacations.

Will the downturn of the American housing sector have a negative impact on our tourism market?  Perhaps.  Is it a good idea to get Bermudians all riled up in believing that tourism is going to be great this year?  Well I suppose an election is just around the corner.

www.21square.com

My proper domain, www.21square.com is finally active after months of frustration trying to get it to point properly which ultimately meant I had to switch DNS hosts.  Thankfully however, the change should now be in place and you can now visit my blog by following the link www.21square.com

Traffic Solutions: The Stockholm Trial Solution

The "Stockholm Trial" was a congestion tax introduced in Stockholm with a special stipulation, that being that the tax would only be a trial that would last for 6 months, at which point it would be revoked.  Following the completion of the trial, reports would be produced on it’s impact and eventually a public vote (similar to a referendum) would be held to determine whether the tax should be permanently put in place or not.   Is this something we should try here?  Perhaps only being charged during specific hours, especially considering that RFID has already been suggested as an alternative to having Police Officers doing license plate spot checks.

A summary of facts released about the trial solution noted:

Public Transport and Park-and-Ride Sites

More people used public transportSource: http://www.stockholmsforsoket.se/upload/Hushall_eng.pdf

  • on weekdays between 06.30 hours and 18.30 hours traffic fell by approximately 22%
  • over a 24-hour period vehicle passages into and out of the inner-city dropped by 19%
  • approximately a 4% increase in the use of public transport

Park-and-ride sites

  • approximately 23% more cars parked on park-and-ride sites every weekday

Source: http://www.stockholmsforsoket.se/upload/Hushall_eng.pdfNew Travel Habits

  • a reduction in car use by 25%
  • As many as 69% of the inner-city journeys were made by public transport, 26% were made by car.

The Environment and Urban Life

  • a fall in emissions from road traffic by 8% to 14% in the inner-city.

Other environmental effects

  • The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide has fallen by 40% in the inner-city and by 2-3% in Stockholm County.
  • resulted in a reduction in the number of accidents involving personal injuries by 5–10% in the inner-city.

Retail, Business and the Economy

Retail little affected

  • Analyses of turnover within the retail trade in the Stockholm region show that the Stockholm Trial only had a minor impact

More efficient transport

  • Studies of companies within transport intensive trades such as taxis, courier services, and tradespeople show that in many cases they have been able to streamline their business as a result of improved accessibility.

Cost-benefit analysis

  • If regarded only as a brief experiment, not to be resumed, the Stockholm Trial was a financial loss due to associated setup, investment and the operation of the congestion tax system over the 7 month trial.
  • Social cost-benefits such as shorter journey times, improved traffic safety, and health and environmental effects
  • The congestion tax levied is estimated to be SEK 763 million per annum, and running costs around SEK 200 million per annum. 
  • The extended bus traffic is estimated to be unprofitable from a cost-benefit viewpoint, both during the Stockholm Trial and in any permanent charging scheme.

PLP launch new website – with blog

Only months after launching the PLP youth blog, the PLP has answered again with a blog as a part of the site’s relaunch.  I am very pleased to see one of our political parties open themselves up to greater communication with the people and hope that this is one step that is among many.

I’m hoping to see is the advancement of technology within government that results in blog sites being launched for each Ministry so that regular updates can be provided and open discussion can occur on new initiatives.

I also hope that this form of participatory discussion will encourage the PLP or any future government to begin to consider referendums as a good means of gauging public support. 

Are we alone?

Though not in my typical realm of posting (perhaps I’m too politically centric with this blog), I just caught wind of news that the first potentially habitable planet that is similar in size and conditions to earth has been discovered some 20 light years away.

It is an incredible discovery as it points to the potential for life on other planets given that it hosts similar conditions to those on earth which helped make life a possibility here. 

At 20 light years away it might be by the end of my life that we get our first concrete answer to the question of other life out there, but it certainly would be an incredible thing to live to see.

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Business or Pleasure?

 

Visitor
a person who visits, as for reasons of friendship, business, duty, travel, or the like.  
Arrivals
One that arrives or has arrived.

Tourist
One who travels for pleasure.

 

First quarter tourism statisistics review

So, a visitor is any person who visits, an arrival is any person who arrives but a tourist is someone who travels only for pleasure?  Ok, lets use these definitions as we review the first quarter tourism statistics:

I have been pleased to announce month by month, increased visitor arrivals during a period that traditionally had all sorts of adjectives to describe it and none of them were positive. Today is no different and I am proud to say that if the first quarter of this year is a sign of things to come, 2007 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for Tourism arrivals.

Wait.  If they’re visitor arrivals, do those numbers include business travellers here for international business purposes?

January arrivals up 24.71%
February arrivals up 9.01%
March arrivals up 32.25%

Wait.  Again, I’m confused.  Do arrivals count for all who arrived on a plane, including Bermudians?   How many were Bermudians and how many were not?  Who was travelling for business and who was travelling for pleasure?  Does this include residents who leave the island due to the cheap fares of the new discount airlines?

Total visitor arrivals for the first three months of the year have all resulted in increases, with a total quarterly increase of 23.47% over the same period in 2006. This increase of more than 9,000 visitors marks the fourth consecutive quarter of growth for the island and the highest first quarter visitor arrival statistic since 2000.

There are those words again…  Visitor?  Is a visitor a tourist or is a visitor anyone who comes to the island?

Ladies and gentlemen, the numbers speak for themselves!

Actually, they’re horribly ambigous and are misleading without a proper breakdown, which was not provided.

This comes at a time when, according to the CHA Weekly News, “The US State Department says it is cranking out U.S. passports in historically high numbers to meet an unprecedented surge in demand caused by tough
new immigration rules.” There was initial concern that the new rules would affect our first quarter
results; however the results underscore the growing demand for the Bermuda product in the
marketplace.

Where is this quote as google turned up nothing?

 

What the industry is saying

This when Fodor’s suggests ‘Need a U.S. Passport? Expect Delays’.  Does this means increased demand and limited supply?  What was it like when Bermudians needed their passports stamped?  Then there is United States Senator Norm Coleman who is “[pressing] the State Department for quick action to address the massive passport application backlog”.  “[Which] is primarily a result of passport applications that have increased by over 40% from the same time period last year”

 

What do the numbers say?

MarketWatch reports:

“About 1.1 million travelers applied for a passport in November, a 60% rise from the same month a year earlier, Royster said. In fiscal year 2006, more than 12 million people applied for passports, compared with about 10 million a year earlier.”

Wait a second.  Didn’t I write about a potential tourism crisis looming on the horizon?  Let’s do a quick flashback.

According to an August edition of the New York Times, only 27% of Americans are believed to have passports.

Well, if Wikipedia is accuate, the 2007 population estimate for the United States is 301,566,000 people.  So 27% of that is some 81,422,800 and lets add another 6 million to account for the other half of 2006, so approx 87.5 million people.  Let’s assume there is even a 50% increase in passport applications for the year, thats still only 18 million total processed in the year.  Which only adds up to at most 105.5 million people of 301.5 million, some 35%.  That doesn’t even assume renewals.

Also, it was suggested by Brian Major, spokesman for the Cruise Lines International Association that last year, 20 percent to 30 percent of cruise passengers used passports as documentation, with the rest using birth certificates or driver’s licenses.

Is it presumptious to assume that tourism hasn’t been impacted when the cruise season hasn’t begun?  If only 35% of people actually get around to having passports, how many will opt for a local vacation instead of the hassle.  Especially if there are delays and frustrations as outlined by Fodors and Marketwatch?

 

The real numbers

The real question is how many $$$ were spent in Bermuda.  Visitors matter nothing if they arn’t leaving their money here, unless you just like the joy of entertaining.  We’re told that the numbers speak for themselves.  Well here are the numbers according to the number of times the following words appear in the first quarter statistics.

 

Arrival: Occurs 19 times

Visitor: Occurs 16 times

Tourist: Occurs 0 times.

 

Remember those definitions above?

 

I’ll belive it’s been a banner quarter when you can tell me in statistics that include non-bermudian, bermudian, resident, non-resident, business, pleasure and hopefully how much is approximated to have been contributed to the economy by each group.  Until then, these numbers mean nothing to me.

Traffic solutions: car-sharing

The Problem

We’ve got too much traffic on our roads and too many cars. 

Do I need a car?  Not always, but there are occasions when I do.   Having recently cut my car in half, I’m considering my options in terms of replacing it before the used-car law kicks in.  Considering that I can afford either a used or a new car and I find not having one quite a hassle for the times when you need it, I shall ultimately end up getting another one.   One more car off the road, and one more on.  Net change to the number of cars on the island?  Zero. 

It isn’t right to force people to give up their cars when alternatives could be created that make people want to give up their cars.  Even still, is there a way that companies will best be able to satisfy the needs of their employees without discriminating against certain individuals such as single ex-pats, the commodity that international business most wants to attract.

What are the alternatives?  Are there better solutions?  How could we implement them and what difference would it make?

 

Current Alternatives

What are my alternatives?  Well, it is highly unlikely for me to take the bus.   They wouldn’t like all my kitesurfing gear and the service doesn’t run after 6:30 to St. David’s anyway, which makes public transport pointless if you actually have a life. 

What about a taxi?  When it costs $20-30 to ride from Hamilton to St. David’s, what would a trip out to Somerset cost?  $60?  Then back?  So we’re looking at $120 a trip for something I try to do every weekend, some evenings and really any time there is wind.  That’s a fair bit of cash to drop any time I want to go kitesurfing and when compared to the added luxury of having your own car is not an incentive to give up having a car.

 

A New Solution?

According to FlexCar, a for-profit car-sharing company based out of Portland, they have been able to succeed in getting 1400 people to share 40 cars.  That’s 35 people for every car.  Compare that to Bermuda, which according to Bermuda-Online.org there are some 29,230 cars for our population of 65,773.  That means there are 2.25 people for every car. 

If we could achieve half of the success that FlexCar has had and get 700 people to share 20 cars.  Today, those 700 people with their own cars at 2.25 people per car equal some 311 cars.  Take out the 20 original cars and that’s some 291 cars that have been eliminated off of the roads.  Compare this to ZipCar, whose 100,000 members share 3,000 cars.  35,000 more people than the number who reside on this island sharing 1/10th the number of cars.

Imagine, a variety of different styles of cars and trucks parked in various places around the island including grocery stores, bus stops and in and around town.  All you’d have to do is be a member, walk up to the car, wave a card and drive off.  Gas, reserved parking and insurance are all included and all you have to do is return the car to it’s spot when you’re done. 

Imagine if we could get 10,000 people to use such a program and get more than 4000 cars off our roads?  What would that do to traffic?

 

How to implement it?

1.  Conduct a survey

Put Research Innovations to work in polling the people to see how many people would consider a car-sharing scheme.  Do they have cars today?  How often would they use it?  Do they use public transport?  Would this increase interest in public transport? 

2.  Introduce legislation/licensing incentives

Make car-sharing legal and encourage insurance companies to back the scheme with adequate coverage. 

3.  Introduce personal incentives and disincentives.

 

Would you give up your car?

If today a car-sharing scheme existed in Bermuda, would you be willing to give up your car?  What would it take to convince you?  Do you think car-sharing would be a good solution to help address our traffic woes and encourage more people to consider public transport alternatives?

What kind of country are we becomming?

Is it concerning to anyone that our Premier feels our country has become so unsafe that he needs a personal police escort and security fencing around his property?  It isn’t like we’ve got Al-Qaeda lurking in wait to assassinate our Premier, so what exactly is so concerning to warrant such increases in security?

The Premier has his protection from ‘mentally ill’ people who could slice him up with box cutters, but what of us common people?  Who is going to protect us?  Is the Premier getting security an indication of just how unsafe Bermuda has become?  Should we all look to put up fencing around our properties, bars on our windows and stay in our homes after dark?

Are these signs of the Bermuda we live in today?  If our Premier feels unsafe among our small population of 60,000, how should we feel?  Do you feel safe?  Is Bermuda no longer what it used to be?

Direct Deposit?

Tonights camp was an odd one.  Rather then our regularly scheduled drill night we discovered that we were to be paid to clear up our accounts before being switched over to the pay increase.

One thought that came to mind is why we bother to take up so much time paying out in cheque form when we could get paid via direct deposit.  While I can understand that some would be difficult to gain such details from, it would be nice to be able to provide my banking details to the Regiment so that time could be saved for all involved.