Friday, 27 April 2007

Maybe the women of Iran could say what the men could wear?

The BBC has a report on the crackdown on dress.
Isaiah Berlin's concept of "negative liberty"  badly needs revisiting. What is it with control issues with these people that they cannot let other people do their own thing? It is hardly as if what I wear harms another person just because they see it. This makes me despair of "moderate Islam" where plainly this is getting by with majority support (see article for % in favour). Let it be noted that this is not Islamaphobia, the fundamentalist right in American evangelicalism causes me equal grief, but at least there is a vocal liberal minority to protest.
Maybe Rawles theory of justice should be applied, and the women get to choose and have a say over what the men can wear! That would be more just!

Crackdown in Iran over dress codes
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Thousands of Iranian women have been cautioned over their poor Islamic dress this week and several hundred arrested in the capital Tehran in the most fierce crackdown on what's known as "bad hijab" for more than a decade.

It is the talk of the town. The latest police crackdown on Islamic dress has angered many Iranians - male, female, young and old.

But Iranian TV has reported that an opinion poll conducted in Tehran found 86% of people were in favour of the crackdown - a statistic that is surprising given the strength of feeling against this move.

Police cars are stationed outside major shopping centres in Tehran.

They are stopping pedestrians and even cars - warning female drivers not show any hair - and impounding the vehicles and arresting the women if they argue back.

Middle-aged women, foreign tourists and journalists have all been harassed, not just the young and fashionably dressed.

Individual choice

Overnight the standard of what is acceptable dress has slipped back.

I want the whole world to know that they oppress us and all we can do is put up with it
Tofiq, 15

Hard-won freedoms - like the right to wear a colourful headscarf - have been snatched away.

It may sound trivial but Iranian women have found ways of expressing their individuality and returning to drab colours like black, grey and dark blue is not something they will accept easily.

"If we want to do something we will do it anyway, all this is total nonsense," says a young girl, heavily made up and dressed up.

She believes Islamic dress should be something personal - whether you're swathed in a black chador or dressed in what she calls "more normal clothes".

Interestingly many women who choose to wear the all enveloping chador agree - saying it's a personal choice and shouldn't be forced on people.

"This year is much worse than before because the newspapers and the TV have given the issue a lot of coverage compared to last year; it wasn't this bad before," says Shabnam who's out shopping with her friend.

Permission denied

At the start of every summer the police say they will enforce the Islamic dress code, but this year has been unusually harsh.

Thousands of women have been cautioned by police over their dress, some have been obliged to sign statements that they will do better in the future, and some face court cases against them.

Though the authorities want coverage internally to scare women - they don't want the story broadcast abroad.

The BBC's cameraman was detained when he tried to film the police at work and the government denied us permission to go on patrol with the police.

"Really we don't have any security," complains Shabam's friend Leyla.

"Since we came out this morning many people we met have continuously warned us to be careful about our headscarves and to wear them further forward because they are arresting women who are dressed like this," she says.

Boutique owners are furious. Some shops have been sealed - others warned not to sell tight revealing clothing.

One shopkeeper selling evening dresses told us the moral police had ordered him to saw off the breasts of his mannequins because they were too revealing.

He said he wasn't the only shop to receive this strange instruction.


There's even been less traffic on the streets because some women are not venturing out - fearful they will be harassed.

And it's not even safe in a car. Taxi agencies have received a circular warning them not to carry a "bad hijabi".

"They have said we shouldn't carry passengers who wear bad Islamic dress and if we do we have to warn them to respect the Islamic dress code even inside the car," said one taxi driver.

And it's not just women who are being targeted this year.

Young men are being cautioned for wearing short sleeved shirts or for their hairstyles.

Morad - a hairdresser whose gelled hair is made to stand straight up - says it's necessary for him to look like this to attract customers.

"These last few days I don't dare walk down the main roads looking like this case I get arrested," he says.

"I use the side streets and alleys."

Morad is scared because his friends have told him they've seen the police seize young men and forcibly cut their hair if it's too long.

Fifteen-year-old Tofiq who'd also gelled his hair to stand on end said he too was afraid but he wasn't going to change.

"I want the whole world to know that they oppress us and all we can do is put up with it," he said.

Some parents have complained that harassing the young over their clothing will only push them to leave the country.

But one MP has said those Iranians who cannot cope with Islamic laws should leave.

Some commentators have suggested that the government is conducting this crackdown to distract attention from the rising cost of living in Iran and increasing tension with the international community over the nuclear issue.

If so, it's a strategy that risks alienating people who've got used to years of relative social freedom and do not want to return to the early days of the revolution when dress rules were much more tightly enforced.


People of the Lie: A Revised Mini Review

Just about finished reading M. Scott Peck's "People of the Lie". A few notes:

a) the word "evil" is used a lot, but apart from seeing this as having aspects of narcissism, there is very little detailed and comprehensive explanation of what how it is defined. John Maquarrie, in his "Christian Theology", for instance, looks at evil in terms of different models - existence that is disordered, imbalance, alientation, fallenness (as myth), etc, but Peck's theology is severely dualist, and his chapter on exorcism goes over the top, more like gnosticism than Christianity. His notions about the devil seem more at home in Dante! N.T. Wright's "Evil and the Justice of God" is far better on the theology.

b) it is not clear how his use of the word "evil" actually helps in the case studies he presents, it seems more like an "add on", and suffers from over use. If you start to label all kinds of behaviour as "evil", there is a flattening out process, and the different spectrum of behaviour seems to be painted just one colour, black.

c) he sails very close to the wind regarding professional ethics on occasion. I'm not too keen on his Freudian ideas, and the notion that the therapist must take the role of parent, the patient as child. I think Freud probably had control issues, and I wonder if Peck has. Has he not come across other types of therapy? His is presented as "the way".

d) his use of the word "autistic" is bizarre, as he just uses it for any lack of empathy or consideration in relationships. Wasn't he aware of the body of clinical literature on developmental disorders? Hadn't he even taken the trouble to read Kanner or Asperger?

e) His chapter on group evil is probably one of the best, but it suffers from too much generalisation from one event, which obviously made an impression on him, and has also been done better by a recent New Scientist (with only one mention of the word "evil" in the article.

It was not a book I came away with feeling I had really learned much. On the religious aspects of evil, I would recommend N,T. Wright (who also deals with cultural enlightenment issues we often take for granted), on the philosophy Mary Midgely's "Wickedness" is also very good.

The case studies are interesting, especially when he recounts the evasiveness and shiftiness of people who are coming to him (for their own or children, spouses sake) with their own agenda, but what those agendas are could I think have been explored in more depth than just bringing up the label "evil" time and again. Of course deceit, shiftiness, trampling over children's interests etc is worth pointing out as a bad thing, but more on what made those people tick would be more helpful. The fact that they were seen with a public face of good, honest, decent, hard working Americans, and were therefore "people of the lie" doesn't really surprise me; the fact that it seems to be so important to Scott Peck to hammer home suggests that his intended audience was perhaps those people who regard all human beings as innately good, and who are in denial about commonplace failings as part of the human condition.

Scott Peck, I am afraid to say, has one or two ideas which he does to death in the course of the book, as though this was the only thing, or the most important thing to say. His big theme is how people are damaged by the narcissism and egoistical flaws of themselves and others, but it is a pity he does not address the blooming flower of hippy "self-discovery" within his critique, the legacy of which is still with us today (the spiritual seekers who seek their own "enlightenment"), which is the backlash against the aridity of enlightenment atheism, yet still entrapped in that value system with its self-interest and navel gazing. Where is Wiccan Aid, for example?

People of the Lie: Mini Review

Just about finished reading M. Scott Peck's "People of the Lie". A few notes:
a) the word "evil" is used a lot, but apart from seeing this as having aspects of narcissism, there is very little detailed and comprehensive explanation of what how it is defined. John Maquarrie, in his "Christian Theology", for instance, looks at evil in terms of different models - existence that is disordered, unbalanced, fallen (as a myth),  etc, but Peck's theology is severely dualist, and his chapter on exorcism goes over the top, more like gnosticism than Christianity. His notions about the devil seem more at home in Dante! N.T. Wright's "Evil and the Justice of God" is far better on the theology.
b) it is not clear how his use of the word "evil" actually helps in the case studies he presents, it seems more like an "add on", and suffers from over use. If you start to label all kinds of behaviour as "evil", there is a flattening out process, and the different spectrum of behaviour seems to be painted just one colour, black.
c) he sails very close to the wind regarding professional ethics on occasion. I'm not too keen on his Freudian ideas, and the notion that the therapist must take the role of parent, the patient as child. I think Freud probably had control issues, and I wonder if Peck has. Has he not come across other types of therapy? His is presented as "the way".
d) his use of the word "autistic" is bizarre, as he just uses it for any lack of empathy or consideration in relationships, Wasn't he aware of the body of literator on developmental disorders? Hadn't he even taken the trouble to read Kanner?
e) His chapter on group evil is probably one of the best, but it suffers from too much generalisation from one event, which obviously made an impression on him, and has also been done better by a recent New Scientist (with only one mention of the word "evil" in the article.
It was not a book I came away with feeling I had really learned much.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Women who repeatedly violate dress code may be banned from Tehran for up to 5 years

I see (story below) that Iran is becoming "hardline" again, i.e. repressive. I think the quote from the prosecutor says a lot about the feebleness of men to control themselves, and an almost paranoid fear of women.

Women who repeatedly violate dress code may be banned from Tehran for up to 5 years

TEHERAN - Women in Teheran who repeatedly flout the Islamic dress code in defiance of a police crackdown may be banned from the Iranian capital for up to five years, Teheran's prosecutor said in comments published on Tuesday.
'Those women who appear in public like decadent models endanger the security and dignity of young men,' prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi was quoted as saying by the Etemad newspaper.
In what has become a regular occurrence ahead of the warm summer months, police on Saturday launched a campaign against the growing numbers of young women testing the limits of the law with shorter, brighter and skimpier clothing.
Under sharia, Islamic law, imposed after Iran's 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures and protect their modesty.
Violators can be given lashes, fines and imprisonment.
'If primary punishments are not effective, repeat violators may receive up to five years exile from Teheran,' Mortazavi said.
Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, promising a return to the values of the revolution, hardliners have pressed for tighter controls on 'immoral behaviour'.
A Teheran police spokesman said that since Saturday 3,242 people had received a warning for breaching the dress code in the capital, the semi-official Fars news agency said. The code also covers men who are not allowed to wear shorts.
Police have also stopped foreign tourists, who have to respect the dress code, Iranian media reported.
Iran's judiciary chief criticised the crackdown.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

God's wrath

I came across this (the full sermon at is worth reading as well, which challenges sharply the "Honest to God" type of "God is Love, therefore do what you want" relativist approach.
"Face it: to deny God's wrath is, at bottom, to deny God's love. When God sees humans being enslaved – and do please go and see the film Amazing Grace as soon as you get the chance – if God doesn't hate it, he is not a loving God. (It was the sneering, sophisticated set who tried to make out that God didn't get angry about that kind of thing, and whom Wilberforce opposed with the message that God really does hate slavery.) When God sees innocent people being bombed because of someone's political agenda, if God doesn't hate it, he isn't a loving God. When God sees people lying and cheating and abusing one another, exploiting and grafting and preying on one another, if God were to say, 'never mind, I love you all anyway', he is neither good nor loving. The Bible doesn't speak of a God of generalized benevolence. It speaks of the God who made the world and loves it so passionately that he must and does hate everything that distorts and defaces the world and particularly his human creatures."

Tuesday, 24 April 2007


"The amazing thing about St Paul is not that he said and did all these things,
it's that he said and did them without coffee. "

-- N.T. Wright, on the New Testament

Horse at Hougue Boette

La Hougue Boëte

The horse burial at La Hougue Boëte has attracted the Section s attention. These burials are uncommon and this is possibly the only one known within a wide radius. The burial was discovered in 1911 and for many years was considered to be of Neolithic origin. At least five horses were sacrificed and a more recent analysis of the horses teeth judged them to be modern. As considerable doubt now exists about the burial, the History Section has arranged for one of the teeth to be sent for carbon dating to a laboratory in Oxford. This has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Lloyds TSB Group, to which we are most grateful. The results of the test are expected shortly.
How Old was the Horse? Horse burials are rare and evoke widespread interest. To have one located in Jersey and not to have
established its age is an omission which is hoped will soon be corrected. Currently one of the many teeth from the horses
connected with the burial, and it has been identified there were as many as five horses sacrificed, has been offered for
carbon dating. Carbon dating is a long process taking 4 or 5 months to complete and the results from the Oxford laboratory
will not be available until early in the new year. We should then know, thanks to Lloyds TSB who sponsored the project,
whether the grave was neolithic, Gallo-Roman, Teutonic or modern.
The Report on the Radio Carbon Dating of the Horse's tooth from La Hougue Boët was circulated among those present (copy in Société Library). Frank Falle said that the date was a surprise and would require a revision of the interpretation of similar finds in Brittany. There was a general discussion on the Celts and their activities in Armorica and southern Britain.
Dr Mark Patton in his article on page 252 of the 2002 Bulletin argued that the graves found on Green Island may
be much later than predicted; possibly Medieval. Following the success of the Horse Burial at La Hougue Boete being radio-carbon
dated to between 60 BC and 50 AD, sponsorship money has again been generously provided by Lloyds TSB
Bank to unlock the answer to the Green Island (La Motte) burials.

Apple Brown Betty

Came across this short piece, and it reminded me of why I find Stephen Jay Gould so inspiring!

by Stephen Jay Gould

The patterns of human history mix decency and depravity in equal measure. We often assume, therefore, that such a fine balance of results must emerge from societies made of decent and depraved people in equal numbers. But we need to expose and celebrate the fallacy of this conclusion so that, in this moment of crisis, we may reaffirm an essential truth too easily forgotten, and regain some crucial comfort too readily foregone. Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by ten thousand acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the "ordinary" efforts of a vast majority.

Thus, we face an imperative duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior. I have stood at Ground Zero, stunned by the twisted ruins of the largest human structure ever destroyed in a catastrophic moment. (I will discount the claims of a few Biblical literalists for the Tower of Babel). And I have contemplated a single day of carnage that our nation has not suffered since battles that still evoke passions and tears, nearly 150 years later: Antietem, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor. The scene is insufferably sad, but not at all depressing. Rather, Ground Zero can only be described, in the lost meaning of a grand old word, as "sublime," in the sense of awe inspired by solemnity.

But, in human terms, Ground Zero is the focal point for a vast web of bustling goodness, channeling uncountable deeds of kindness from an entire planet -- the acts that must be recorded to reaffirm the overwhelming weight of human decency. The rubble of Ground Zero stands mute, while a beehive of human activity churns within, and radiates outward, as everyone makes a selfless contribution, big or tiny according to means and skills, but each of equal worth. My wife and stepdaughter established a depot to collect and ferry needed items in short supply, including respirators and shoe inserts, to the workers at Ground Zero. Word spreads like a fire of goodness, and people stream in, bringing gifts from a pocketful of batteries to a ten thousand dollar purchase of hard hats, made on the spot at a local supply house and delivered right to us.

I will cite but one tiny story, among so many, to begin the count that will overwhelm the power of any terrorist's act. And by such tales, multiplied many millionfold, let these few depraved people finally understand why their vision of inspired fear cannot prevail over ordinary decency. As we left a local restaurant to make a delivery to Ground Zero late one evening, the cook gave us a shopping bag and said: "Here's a dozen apple brown bettys, our best dessert, still warm. Please give them to the rescue workers." How lovely, I thought, but how meaningless, except as an act of solidarity, connecting the cook to the cleanup. Still, we promised that we would make the distribution, and we put the bag of 12 apple brown bettys atop several thousand respirators and shoe pads.

Twelve apple brown bettys into the breach. Twelve apple brown bettys for thousands of workers. And then I learned something important that I should never have forgotten -- and the joke turned on me. Those twelve apple brown betty's went like literal hotcakes. These trivial symbols in my initial judgment turned into little drops of gold within a rainstorm of similar offerings for the stomach and soul, from children's postcards to cheers by the roadside. We gave the last one to a firefighter, an older man in a young crowd, sitting alone in utter exhaustion as he inserted one of our shoe pads. And he said, with a twinkle and a smile restored to his face: "Thank you. This is the most lovely thing I've seen in four days -- and still warm!"

The Numskulls - A Gene Machine Model

Reading transcript of Dawkin's interview (for full details see link), I was struck by the fact that:

a) he assumes what might be called a simplistic understanding of language, in that he is not aware that the model of people as "machines" which are "programmed" by genes uses a good deal of analogical language. Now if he had but engaged in a dialogue over language with a theologian, such as, for example the existentialist John Macquarrie, he would have seen that part of theology (and linquistic philosophy, for that matter) is understanding how language relating to "god" is laden heavily with analogical language, and part of theology is understanding how that kind of language relates to experience, and the dangers of pressing analogies too far or taking them literally. "Biological machines" also came up in the recent Star Trek! The main danger of that kind of metaphor is in overlooking the very real differences between human beings and the machines from which the model is derived. The model has been updated, and now is more like a software / hardware analogy, but it often causes absurdities at a very basic level - as for instance when some thinkers press it so hard that they cannot find a place for the phenomenon of consciousness, so they end up saying it is an illusion.

I fear that as ideas of "god" can be linked with facile images of man in white beard in clouds, that people as "machines" can give rise to the same kind of naivety, in which people are seen as run by operators (as machines are). In "The Numskulls" - a comic strip in The Beano -  some tiny human like creatures that live inside the head of Edd, a boy, and control his actions. The Numskulls are: Brainy - Controls Edd's brain. Blinky - Controls his sight/eyes. Radar (previously Luggy)- Controls his hearing/ears. Snitch - Controls his smell/nose. Cruncher - Controls his mouth/taste. That I fear is the main force of a "machine" model, that it is run by operators and not self-determining, and any use of the word "machine" should be very clear about. Dawkins, especially in his answer on "free will" seems singularly muddled.

b) he is very clear on what "selfish gene" means then spoils his answer completely by talking about morality, thus confusing the model again, after just explaining that selfish genes do not imply selfish behaviour. No wonder Mary Midgely was exasperrated by him!

QUESTION: Professor Dawkins, could you explain your belief that human beings are just "gene machines"?

MR. DAWKINS: When I say that human beings are just gene machines, one shouldn't put too much emphasis on the word "just." There is a very great deal of complication, and indeed beauty in being a gene machine. What it means is that natural selection, Darwinian natural selection, which is the process that has brought all living things to be the way they are, is best seen at the gene level, is best seen as a process of differential survival among genes, and therefore living organisms and their bodies are best seen as machines programmed by the genes to propagate those very same genes. In that sense we are gene machines. But it is not intended to be at all a demeaning or belittling statement.

QUESTION: Now, if we are gene machines, presumably then our behavior is also programmed by genes -- you have made that case. But Christians would say that there is a thing called free will, and that free will gives us a genuine choice about our actions, that effectively free will allows us to override biology. What is your response to that as a scientist?

MR. DAWKINS: I am very comfortable with the idea that we can override biology with free will. Indeed, I encourage people all the time to do it. Much of the message of my first book, "The Selfish Gene," was that we must understand what it means to be a gene machine, what it means to be programmed by genes, so that we are better equipped to escape, so that we are better equipped to use our big brains, use our conscience intelligence, to depart from the dictates of the selfish genes and to build for ourselves a new kind of life which as far as I am concerned the more un-Darwinian it is the better, because the Darwinian world in which our ancestors were selected is a very unpleasant world. Nature really is red in tooth and claw. And when we sit down together to argue out and discuss and decide upon how we want to run our societies, I think we should hold up Darwinism as an awful warning for how we should not organize our societies.

QUESTION: If, as you have said, there is a tendency from our genes for us to be selfish, would that perhaps suggest that we need institutions like religion to encourage us to override this innate selfishness?

MR. DAWKINS: The phrase "the selfish gene" only means that genes are selfish. It doesn't mean that individual organisms are. On the contrary, one of the main messages of the selfish gene is that selfish genes can program altruistic behavior in organisms. Organisms can behave altruistically towards other organisms -- the better to forward the propagation of their own selfish genes. What you cannot have is a gene that sacrifices itself for the benefit of other genes. What you can have is a gene that makes organisms sacrifice themselves for other organisms under the influence of selfish genes.

I think we certainly benefit from social institutions which encourage us towards moral behavior. It's very important to have law. It's very important to have a moral education. It's very important to try to inculcate into children moral rules, such as "do as you would be done by." It's very important to do moral philosophy, to try work out the principles we want to live. But when you say religious principles, there I think I would part company. I see no reason why they should be religious. But I certainly think that they should be developed by society and not necessarily following biological dictates.


Monday, 16 April 2007

International Money Laundering

This is the kind of factual information I would like to see more of from Tax Justice Network and Richard Murphy. A few interesting facts:
a) most of the laundering went into a USA account and then to London. It was London that picked up on the suspicious transactions, not the USA. What happened to regulation there?
b) Some of the later money went via Jersey when she was still not under arrest, but as soon as arrested, money was frozen and recovered from the Jersey account. Banking secrecy does not apply in money laundering cases in Jersey.
Floriberta Clemente, a 42 year old Mexican national, arrived in London in 1997 and began associating people involved in international frauds. Aided by them she set up "shelf companies" in the UK, supported by bank accounts.

Clemente styled herself as a lawyer based in London and purported to specialise in representing clients involved in investment opportunities. She opened an account with Merrill Lynch in London who used a correspondent bank in New York to move the account to New York in order to reduce her UK tax liability.

In late 1997 and early 1998 the New York account was credited with five deposits:
  • $999,985 from an opaque Grand Cayman-based corporate entity.
  • $800,000 from a US citizen based in Tennessee.
  • $3,499,990 from the Dutch Malaccan Churches.
  • $999,985 from an opaque Liechtenstein-based corporate entity.
  • $20,448,950 from the Dutch Malaccan Churches.
Clemente instructed Merrill Lynch to invest the monies in a variety of 'blue chip' stocks. Some monies were transferred to London, which were dissipated in the form of property purchases. A London-based financial institution made a disclosure in respect of these transfers and, as a result of the ensuing financial investigation, the following was established:
  • The bank in London was being used to finance the purchase of property based assets in the UK.
  • The funds were the proceeds of a fraud in the USA.
  • The audit trail led back to Merrill Lynch in New York where the bulk of the fraudulently obtained funds were located.
  • Audit trails also led back to the victims of fraud.
The Metropolitan Police fraud squad, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies in the US, applied for the restraint of the funds in the US.

The beneficial owners of the two opaque corporate entities were difficult to identify. At no time had they ever reported that they were the victims of a fraud. It was decided to proceed only with the evidence of the frauds perpetrated to the detriment of US citizens in Tennessee and the Dutch Malaccan Churches, who had reported their respective frauds to law enforcement agencies. Anecdotal evidence suggested that Clemente had been involved in those frauds with other parties.

Clemente was arrested, resulting in the recovery of evidence that would assist prosecutions in the UK, US & The Netherlands. She was bailed pending case preparation.

Whilst she was on bail another victim of an 'Advance Fee' fraud was induced to wire-transfer $400,000 from Vienna to Clemente's London account. Clemente then transferred these funds to Spain via Jersey.

Again an early arrest was made which led to recovery of 50% of the funds in a Jersey account. As police and prosecutors felt it would be more difficult to prove the originating fraud, Clemente was immediately charged with money laundering offences for this fraud and for laundering the proceeds of the earlier frauds. She was held in custody pending trial and pleaded 'Not guilty' to all three offences. The jury found her guilty on all counts and she was sentenced to a total of eight years imprisonment. The investigation resulted in the recovery of $23,000,000.


This case illustrates how the UK police can assist a foreign law enforcement agency investigating a fraud. If there is an audit trail running through the UK, or an individual based in the UK who has facilitated the receipt of funds and their dissipation or onward transmission, then action can be taken.

It is necessary for the requesting agency to provide evidence that the funds are the proceeds of crime. This will substantiate an allegation of money laundering in the UK and the police can investigate with a view to prosecuting an individual in the UK and applying for the restraining of funds.

Jersey and Money Laundering

Interesting report from 2006. As some critics talk about unsubstantiate vast money laundering though Jersey, it is nice to read a more balanced perspective as opposed to supposition and rhetoric.
Many Jurisdictions Remain Vulnerable To Money Laundering, Says US Report
By by Leroy Baker,, New York
08 March 2006


Jersey's sophisticated array of offshore services is similar to that of international financial services centers worldwide.

The Government of Jersey has established an anti-money laundering program that in some instances, such as the regulation of trust company businesses and the requirement for companies to file beneficial ownership with Jersey's Financial Services Commission (JFSC) go beyond what international standards require, in order to directly address Jersey's particular vulnerabilities to money laundering.

Jersey should establish reporting requirements for the cross-border transportation of currency and monetary instruments. Jersey should continue to demonstrate its commitment to fighting financial crime by enhancing its anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing regime in areas of vulnerability.

Eye on TNJ

Some interesting remarks recently on his blog (

"It is quite astonishing that the word 'corruption' occurs only once in this 13,000-word survey of tax havens. Tax haven activities promote cross-border crime and corruption. Corruption has a demand side (money-launderers, tax evaders, kleptocrats, fraudsters, and their like); and a supply side: those who provide secrecy and sell the services that exploit it. The general strategy for fighting drug abuse by tackling both users and suppliers is equally applicable to the global struggle against corruption. While The Economist survey stops short of actively encouraging criminal activity, it does so indirectly, by actively advocating tax haven activities. In doing this, The Economist is indirectly encouraging cross-border crime, and corruption on a global scale."

Private Eye did a good expose of how Tesco used a tax vehicle to reduce tax in the U.K. until Gordon Brown got wise to that (in the course of a year) and then closed the loophole off. There were facts, figures, dates, companies involved etc.

It would be nice to see that kind of attention to detail in the TNJ's blog, rather than rhetorical flourishes. Case studies please?

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Pet Peeves

How Good is the Original Source?
April 3rd, 2007 by Dan Klarmann

Information Reliability. This is a pet peeve of mine. Stephen Jay Gould was a stickler for finding out where ideas "that everybody knows" came from, and often finding the original source to be dubious.

Came across this on a blog today. Nice to know someone else shares my own pet peeves!

Areas of recent annoyance:

Quotations: "Edmund Burke said all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". This was the theme of a poem of mine, and I wanted to include it in my notes. Alas, I could not track down the source in Burke because it isn't there!

Dawkins: not his anti-religious stance, but his attack on Steven Jay Gould's Noma which takes a simplistic reading of Gould's "Rock of Ages" (if Dawkins ever read it) and then trashes it.

Peck: His "People of the Lie" section on excorcism draws heavily on Malachi Martin, who was a fantasist, conman, and possibly a rather wicked man (cf "Clerical Error: A True Story") (see also

False History: S.V. Peddle is the latest in a long line of people to concoct a history to say what they want it to be, in his "Pagan Channel Islands: Europe's Hidden Heritage". Lovely photos, but for a serious exploration, Heather Sebire is much much better by far!

Synopsis (from Amazon) with my comments.
Around three to five thousand years ago, an ancient people began building stone sites and monuments on the Channel Islands, creating a landscape as rich in mythology as any archaeological site in Greece or Egypt.
But without any text to explain their beliefs unlike those in Egypt, for example.
Since early Christian times, the dolmens (stone chambers) and menhirs (single standing stones) have been reviled as the domain of witches, ghosts, and dragons. They were thought to bring bad luck and sudden death to all who came near.
This is amazing! I've lived on this island all my life, read numerous histories, and I've never come across anything like the fantasy presented here. Some dolmens were linked to druids, none as I recall were linked to witches.Rocqueberg, a Jersey site notorious in folklore tales (two different tales) has no neolithic remains.
Yet, they have also been cherished as sources of healing, female fertility, good harvests and buried treasure, as well as the dwelling place of friendly fairies.
Where does "female fertility" creep into the dolmens and menhirs? A menhir, for goodness sake, is a phallic object par excellence!
Despite the fact that these structures were seen as a threat by the Christian Church, which was determined to erase the Paganism of the past, a good number of them remain.
Actually, it was farmers keen on building material who were the greatest threat!
The superstitions surrounding the dolmens and menhirs, in particular the dire consequences said to ensue following their destruction, have preserved many of them to this day. The authors recount the terrible fates which have befallen several Channel Islanders who have dared to disturb or destroy these ancient sites.
The Curse of Hougue Bie! Hasn't got the same ring as Tutenkamen!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Not so obvious

"The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question."

Stephen Jay Gould
US author, naturalist, paleontologist, & popularizer of science (1941 - 2002)

I like this quote very much, as it sums up much of Stephen's own popular work, looking at all kinds of misconceptions, ranging from the naturalist on the Beagle (not Darwin) to Huxley's bold claim against Samuel Wilberforce about preferring to be descended from an ape than someone who misused his powers of rhetoric (which seems to only appear in Huxley's much later write up; the minutes of the debate show nothing of this) to the flat earth (concocted late in the 17th century as an enlightment "straw man" to shoot down religion on). Most of all I like his essay on Darwin's last work (20 years in completion) which was a study on earthworms, and how they enrich and change the soil in which they move. The person who asked Darwin wanted a grand theory, but all Darwin's theories came from a study of minutae, of little things, and Stephen Jay Gould always brought to light little things, of great interest, but neglected by those evolutionists who want a large grand all encompassing picture (that often loses sight of those humble roots).

I think too of the Goddess myth, and Gimbutas seeing the statuettes as a goddess, whereas that is something read back into the artefact.

Adam Curtis' The Trap, too, also showed how "taking something for granted" is something we often do.

I am sure I have my own presuppositions, some of which are invisible to me. I think I do have a somewhat different outlook on contemporary assumptions (mind body spirit type stuff) because I come at it from a different tradition, which can be used to highlight the weaknesses of that kind of approach. That is not to say that there may not be a place for introspection, but given that modern culture (and reality tv shows especially) have gone overboard on that, I think (being a perverse person) I'd like to go in another direction!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Be Yourself?

"In an age where there is much talk about "being yourself" I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anybody else. Rather, it seems to me that when one is too intent on "being himself" he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow."
- Thomas Merton
As someone deeply distrustful of the introspective directions which much popular culture seems to go (all the books on "finding yourself" etc), I like this very much.
It is interesting that the Aborigine "Walkabout", while a journey to find oneself, does not do it by contemplating one's navel (or any other part of the human anatomy) but by actively doing something else, in such a way that you need to lose yourself in the action, before you can meet yourself.

Monday, 2 April 2007

The Trap

Just watched Adam Curtis "The Trap: Whatever Happened to Our Dream of Freedom".

A few notes.

1. The Sartrean idea of freedom, as authenticity found in the revolutionary act, was dealt with ages before Sartre and answered extremely effectively by G.K. Chesterton in his short story "The Yellow Birds". I advise anyone who thinks Sartrean freedom with bombs etc is not mad to read this story.

2. What happened to the Asian financial crisis, which certainly came in the middle of the Russian move to free market economy, and must have had an impact? Not mentioned, which is a weakness. If you are going to present history, present a fuller picture and don't omit bits which don't fit.

3) What happened to the other Eastern former USSR countries, which did not go through the Russian experience despite moving towards a market economy? Not mentioned, which is a weakness in the presentation, and makes me wonder how selective it was in making its case rather than looking to test its hypothesis.

4) Berlin was mention as the only promoter of an idea of liberty. If Popper's ideas had been in place in the USSR transition (assuming Curtis depicts it right), it would probably not have happened. A sweeping change (no price controls, especially on foodstuffs and essentials, privatisation etc) is what Popper would have condemned as Utopian social engineering (e.g. The Poverty of Historicism), which he said invariably goes wrong. He also pointed out an asymmetry - we cannot legislate for happiness (because everyone has their own idea), but we can legislate to minimise suffering.