Friday, 30 May 2008

The arguments for exempting basic foodstuffs from GST

I came across an excellent paper which looks at "Sales Tax Equity Again: By Age Groups and Income Classes"

It is American based, but none the poorer for that, because it has a wealth of data to draw upon, and it examines in detail, using empirical methods, and what the result is on different age groups and income classes of including a sales tax on food or excluding it.

The conclusion was that for "each age group the rate schedules based on the food-taxed structure are generally more regressive than those based on the food exempt structure". Indeed, "The exclusion of food from the base substantially reduces sales tax regressivity for each age group. This finding is not surprising; other studies which investigated the equity effects of food exemption, regardless of characteristics such as age, have obtained similar results."

All taxes hit different groups at different rates; a regressive tax, like GST, will always hit the poorer harder than the richer. But what is significant is the extent to which this occurs with food taxed; remove food from the equation, and while the tax still displays some inequity in its effects, that regressive impact is considerably reduced.

The report also highlights pertinent facts regarding exempting food from sales tax.

(1) The principle of horizontal equity ("equal treatment of equals") is violated generally for each of the three age groups, in that each group bears varying sales tax burden at comparable income levels, whether subject to the food-taxed or food-exempt structure.

(2) In most income classes, the burden is usually the highest for families with heads in the 35-44 age group, followed by the under-25 group, and then the 65-and-over group. This phenomenon holds particularly in the lower income classes.

(3) These horizontal inequities are less pronounced under the food-exempt structure than under the food-taxed structure.

(4) For each age group the tax burden differentials under the two structures are greater in the lower income classes and narrower in the higher classes. This is to be expected, since food expenditures tend to be a larger fraction of the lower income budgets than of the higher income groups.

Having seen these details, I am personally convinced that the GST on food is a tax which effects mainly the poor and vulnerable sections of society, and while support can be proffered (albeit with the ritual humiliation of a 20 page means test), it is by no means clear that this will mitigate the effects of GST sufficiently, and it is clear that it certainly will only help the very poor.

Those on the margins, perhaps pensioners owning their own home, or with small private pensions, or those earning just enough to be outside the support limits, will face this burden.

And if you are interested, in the USA, to cushion the effects on the poor, twenty-seven of the forty-five states that levy a general sales tax exempt food purchased for home consumption. Another three states tax food at reduced rates.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Bailiff and the Actress

"Are you looking for something prominent, with iconic frontage, perhaps rising to twin peaks?" said the actress to the Bailiff about the national art gallery.

Well, I know the old set of jokes has to do with a bishop and an actress, but as the bailiff is again speaking out on behalf of his idée fixe, the "national" art gallery, the idea of linking him with a performer of the arts is irresistible. Although surely "island" would be more modest - is Jersey a nation? Last time I checked it was not, but if St Helier is to become a city (as has been mooted), perhaps the Island can become a nation. Delusions of grandeur, methinks.

Channel TV lead with this story:

Jersey's Bailiff has repeated his call for a national art gallery.

Sir Philip Bailihache made his appeal at the launch of a street art exhibition yesterday.

Standing under a copy of one of the island's most famous paintings, 'The Death of Major Pierson', Sir Philip said 'art is for everyone. It's not elitist.'

He believes the money for the building can easily be found, and that many islanders would willing put their paintings on show. He also believes many national and international galleries would lend pictures.

In "The Middle Class Rip-Off, an episode of Yes Minister, it is noted that those saying the arts are for everyone are really asking for a subsidy for their own self-indulgence. I do wonder if that is what is going on here. And of course, there is also that grand patronising attitude, where Sir Humprey says:

Sir Humphrey: Bernard, subsidy is for art... for culture. It is not to be given to what the people want: it is for what the people don't want but ought to have!

Personally, when facilities for young people are seriously deficient, if non-existent, and when school milk is being curtailed (mainly because of Philip Ozouf's apparent need for something like a promotional tour of India), we need other things far more than an art gallery. When can we get a Bailiff who will address social issues and their remedies?

Instead, it is people like Nicholas France, the Catholic Dean of Jersey, who highlights the poor housing with high rental that many people are forced to live in, and provides the impetus for the Welcome Centre next door to St Thomas Church, which like Communicare, is open to the community - and if Sir Philip cared to look inside, also displays art for visitors to the centre to see, to brighten lives at the same time and not instead of addressing the needs of the community.

Would the Good Samaritan supply the wounded man with aid, or an art gallery?

The Welcome Centre
A Place of welcome for all communities living in Jersey. ·

A lively café selling coffee, tea, cakes, soups, snacks and lunches · Language Classes - English for foreign students, beginners and advanced. ·
The Sir John Cheshire Art Gallery, exhibiting paintings by local and international artists. ·Shop, selling cards and gifts. ·
Migrant-worker advice centre. ·
A surgery for housing estates' tenants

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP)

Turning concern into action The Centre is also home to the office of St. Helier Conference of he SVP, which provides practical help to people in need, regardless of religious affiliation, by way of assistance with food, clothing, furniture and non-judgmental listening ear.

Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story (BBC Two): A Review

Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story (BBC Two)

This was a hugely entertaining story, which gave probably rather more sympathy to Mary Whitehouse than to her nemesis, Hugh Carlton Greene, who was portrayed in this film as little more than a hedonistic dilettante with a penchant for swearing and pretty secretaries. Quite honestly, I am sure if he had so little work to do as the script seemed to imply, he would have been sacked long before.
The press conference scene in which he complains about a room being too hot and stuffy and climbs up to open a window to "blow the cobwebs away" was all to obviously symbolic, and gave the impression of the script beating the audience to death with a blunt instrument just to make absolutely sure that they got the point. There was also a bizarre fantasy dream sequence in which Mary Whitehouse has a nightmare of being seduced by Greene, with his hands reaching up to fondle her breasts. Shown to show how sexually repressed she was, it was again a sledgehammer approach which jarred very badly.

Julie Waters gave an excellent and nuanced performance as Mary Whitehouse. Hugh Bonneville, on the other hand, was such a grotesque caricature of an unlikeable pompous and clumsy human being that it seriously detracted from the realism of the piece. Alun Armstrong was more convincing as the supportive husband.

What was interesting was the huge numbers that Whitehouse managed to draw for her campaign (filling a stadium of thousands, generating a petition in tens of thousands), and the way in which the Corporation reacted to her, by satirising her on an early evening show Swizzlewick" (1964), and then being completely wrong-footed by bringing her husband's motor accident (arising from a suicide concealing themselves on an unlit country road in a brown sack) as the subject for humour.

I think she was misguided in some ways, but made valuable strides in others. We now have the current "watershed" of 9.00 after which more adult material can be shown ( which need not be fictional sex or violence, but could simply be a documentary or news story about a disaster ). It is clear that before her campaigns, the programme makes didn't think about these issues, and early evening programmes might (and sometimes did) contain material offensive to or distressing to young children. Now the makers do think about such matters. I think that part of her legacy is significant, even if it does not quite work out the way she would have liked.

Where she was misguided was in taking all television at its face value, as a kind of fundamentalist literalism, so that she ended up complaining about Pinky and Perky, porcine puppets she felt "unkind to the point of callousness to the grown-up in the programme". While she was undoubtedly right to raise some issues about timing and what was suitable for early evenings, she seems to have lacked a judgment that could discriminate between the serious and the trivial (or even absurd, as in the case of Pinky and Perky).

In like manner, the cartoon fantasy of Tom and Jerry cartoons would be condemned for its violence by her. On that canon, most of Disney's repertoire, and all the Warner Bros Cartoons (Road Runner, Bugs Bunny etc) would go out of the window, and even cartoon adaptations of Beatrix Potter, such as the tale of Jemima Puddleduck, where the dogs savagely eat the duck's eggs, would be condemned. Fantasy in science fiction was another blind spot, and Doctor Who came in for stick for showing a fight between a cybernised human being and a cyberman, in which the cyberman was hurled against a wall

Russell T Davies, who began in children's television, has a strict code of ethics regarding the current Doctor Who, and the kind of extreme violence promulgated at an earlier time under Eric Saward's time as script editor would simply not be allowed by him. That is not to say there is no violence in Doctor Who, but it is now a fantasy violence, and extremely careful to remain so. She would have probably still complained. Children like to be scared, and the point that G.K. Chesterton made so well seems to have passed her by:
"What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon," G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909).

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

A Mean form of Testing

Where a patient claimed he could not afford treatment, an investigation would have to be made into his means, with all the personal humiliation and vexation involved. This scarcely provides the relaxed mental condition needed for a quick and full recovery. Of course there is always the right to refuse treatment to a person who cannot afford it. You can always 'pass by on the other side'. That may be sound economics. It could not be worse morals.... The essence of a satisfactory health service is that the rich and the poor are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability, and wealth is not advantaged.

Aneurin Bevan, "In Place of Fear"

The Jersey system of attendance allowance is described as follows:

Attendance allowance (income-tested): Payable to a severely disabled person or a disabled child aged 4 or older who requires extra care and attention. The allowance is paid after 6 months of disability. The allowance is subject to an annual income ceiling of £51,511.

Recently (see article below), Paul Routier, the Minister in charge of Jersey's new income support scheme has come under fire, because attendance allowance for minors is being assessed as part of parental income, and under the new scheme, parents are worse off. It is not helped by the fact that in place of a simple application for one kind of benefit, there is now a form that weighs in something of the order of 20 odd pages to be completed.

I was reminded of Lord Addington, speaking on this kind of thing in England, with means testing. He said:

One has to go through a bureaucratic process and therefore, on the margins, that will probably waste money--through reassessments and so on--and incur greater costs. The bureaucratic system does not help.

Attendance allowance is given to those who, under the old Poor Law in England were termed "impotent poor".

The impotent poor could not look after themselves or go to work. They included the ill, the infirm, the elderly, and children with no-one to properly care for them. It was generally held that they should be looked after.

Because of this, and quite rightly, applicants are is subject to a medical report by an independent doctor appointed by the social security department for this purpose.

When it comes to the point that such applicants would clearly be unable to understand or complete any form, however simple, because of the severity of their handicap, and they are children, their parents have to apply on their behalf. Unlike other matters regarding income support, the lot of these children is unlikely to improve substantially in terms of independence, they may often need supervision for the rest of their lives. If the parents threw up their hands, and asked the State to take over this job, it would be at considerably greater cost. And yet these same parents are burdened with vexatious form filling and scrutiny where a medical report should be sufficient.

There is a wonderful debate in the Irish Parliament, where the speaker completely loses touch with reality. Here is his rational argument for means testing:

The real trouble about all this appears to be the means test. This only seems to arouse a lot of discussion and a lot of discord. I can never really understand this because through all our lives whether we are looking for a loan from the bank to buy a house or getting a car on hire purchase there is always the means test, no matter what class one belongs to.

Of course, you don't have to buy a car, it is your choice whether you want to be means tested and buy one. Having a severely mentally handicapped child is not a matter of choice. It is not something that people go out and actively seek! The complete inability of the speaker to see the difference shows how utterly removed he is from the lives of ordinary people.

Returning to the matter in hand. Not only is the State getting "community care", it is also getting a cheap alternative to institutional care, and it is no surprise that parents are going to be angry when after all the bureaucratic hoops, they are actually ending up in a worse regime than the ancient Poor Law, which despite its many deficiencies, looked upon the "impotent poor" as needing to be looked after by the State, not dumped on parents. Means testing under these circumstances is a mean form of testing, "a principle that eats like an acid", as Bevan put it, of those already facing a struggle that will not go away.

Kathleen Jones summed it up well, when she said:

To the politician, community care is a useful piece of rhetoric; to the sociologist, it is a stick to beat institutional care with; to the civil servant, it is a cheap alternative to institutional care which can be passed to the local authorities for action, or inaction; to the visionary, it is a dream of a new society in which people really do care; to social services departments, it is a nightmare of heightened public expectations and inadequate resources to meet them.

We have a long way to go to find a just society like Bevan's vision, in which the essence of a satisfactory social security support service is that the rich and the poor, but severely handicapped and in need of care, are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability, and wealth is not advantaged.

Parents' anger at income support

By Harry McRandle

PARENTS with disabled children at Mont à l'Abbé School vented their anger to a Scrutiny panel yesterday at the prospect of being much worse off under the new income support scheme. They were among various members of the public who told the Economic Affairs Scrutiny sub-panel how means testing of the attendance allowance benefit will make life more difficult for them. Their stories led to some spiky clashes between panel member Deputy Geoff Southern and Social Security Minister Paul Routier, when he later gave evidence on the new system. Deputy Southern accused the minister of depriving the most vulnerable by means testing an allowance paid to 750 Islanders at a cost of about £4 million a year. Senator Routier may be on the verge of a u-turn on attendance allowance for families with disabled children.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Derek Acorah's Dumb Britain moment

I caught a few minutes of the "Weakest Link" last Saturday.

Anne Robinson hosted a celebrity paranormal special of "The Weakest Link", in which contestants including psychic mediums Derek Acorah, Sally Morgan, Gordon Smith, Mia Dolan, Michelle Knigh,. Astrologer Shelley Von Struncke (what a name!!),. Mind-reader Marc Paul, and Joanne Hull.

The most priceless performance came from Derek Acorah. At the end of a round, everyone had written the names of who they wanted voted off, most has "Michelle". Derek had "Sally". Anne Robinson engaged him in some banter about psychic abilities, then threw in the killer question:

"Derek, why have you written Sally. She was voted out two rounds ago"

Stunned silence!

Then lots of drivel about vibrations and presence etc to cover his amazing faux pas.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Guernsey Bank notes and their sell-by date - Daniel DeLisle Brock's Experiment

Toby Birch has an interesting article entitled "The Guernsey Experiment".
I was not aware that the first notes issued in Guernsey had a "sell by date". If anyone knows if the first Jersey ones did, please let me know.
Article here, for your perusal. Makes interesting reading...
A long-forgotten alternative to unfettered credit creation...

AS WEARY TROOPS returned from a protracted foreign war, they encountered a land racked with debt, high prices and a crumbling infrastructure, whose flood defenses were about to be overwhelmed, writes Toby Birch of Blackfish Capital Holdings...

   Not some nightmarish news story from New Orleans in the years ahead, but the stark reality faced by the island of Guernsey, just offer the French coast in the English Channel, after the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815.

   To fund Britain's fight against the French, credit creation had become rife in the early nineteenth century. Once Bonaparte was beaten, deficits and inflation in Britain were likewise kept in check by containing the money supply, through the introduction of the Gold Standard.

   In theory, the holder of a paper note could demand an equivalent sum of Gold from their bank so money could only be created in proportion to the available bullion. The small annual increase in precious metal supplies helped restrict the growth of money, and price stability became the rule rather than the exception for the balance of the nineteenth century.

   While 1815 brought an end to the conflict on the battlefront, however, severe austerity ensued on the home front. The application of the Gold Standard meant that loans issued over many years were then recalled to balance the ratio of money to precious metals. This led to economic gridlock as labor and materials were abundant, but much-needed projects could not be funded for want of cash.
This led to a period of so-called "poverty amongst plenty". And the independent States of Guernsey (or rather, their government), endured similar problems to England, since the Pound Sterling was also the currency of the Bailiwick.

   The disintegrating sea defenses were symptomatic of Guernsey's financial woes as the island faced being swamped with hefty debts and interest payments. The situation seemed insoluble; existing borrowing costs were consuming 80% of the island's revenues. What was already an unsustainable debt burden would need to be doubled to fund the two most essential infrastructure projects.

   This was when a committee of States members was formed by the then-Bailiff, Daniel DeLisle Brock, in what proved to be the defining moment for the island's finances. He is still commemorated on Guernsey £1 notes, as is the Town Market which was one of the first beneficiaries of the Experiment.

   Like all great ideas, the principles were straightforward. The committee realized that if the Guernsey States issued their own notes to fund the project, rather than borrowing from an English bank, there would be no interest to pay. This would lead to substantial savings. Because as anyone with a mortgage should understand, the debtor ends up paying at least double the amount borrowed over the long-term.

   While some of the committee were merchants, they were not necessarily financial wizards. They did, however, appreciate the risk of previous schemes involving government debt which led to concurrent crises a century earlier – the Mississippi Bubble in France and then the South Sea Bubble in London.

   The irresponsible creation of credit is a dangerous game that temporarily benefits the current generation but steals from the next; a lesson that has been forgotten yet again in modernity. To bring balance to the equation, therefore, the people of Guernsey had to find a way to neutralize such deficits while neither contracting nor expanding the money supply.

   On a purely practical level, this was achieved by adding a sell-by date to the notes in issue, rather like a maturity date on a bond. For example, on a note issued 21 November 1827, it "Promises to pay the bearer One Pound on the first of October 1830". This begs the question as to how the future obligation was to be honored, but again, a simple mechanism was implemented whereby rent from the resulting infrastructure and tax revenues on liquor was set aside into a sinking fund to pay off the interest-free borrowing.

   The end result of the Guernsey Experiment was spectacular – new roads, sea defenses and public buildings were established, fostering widespread trade and prosperity. Full employment was achieved, no deficits resulted and prices were stable, all without a penny paid in interest. What started as a trial led to a string of construction projects, which still stand and function to this day. Money was used in its purest form: as a convenient mechanism for oiling the wheels of commerce and development.

   One would have thought that everyone would be happy with such a success story but this was not the case. When you open a closed shop to competition, those with vested interests become highly protective. In those days it was the private banks who were threatened, because they were cut out of the equation. No loans meant no interest and no profit margin. So they may well have been the source of a mysterious complaint made to England's Privy Counsel which put a ceiling on the issuance of Guernsey notes for the next century.

   Why is this story relevant today? Whenever stimulus packages, tax rebates or bank bail-outs are paraded as solutions to the credit crisis they are actually part and parcel of its very cause. It all stems from the quick-fix approach of producing money out of thin air and leaving it for the next generation to pay-off. This has been on-going in the United States since the Vietnam War, when the last vestige of monetary restraint was cast aside; in abandoning Gold as a check on the money supply, the US freed the world from financial discipline. The dissolution of the Dollar has been evident ever since.

   Credit creation is possible, and even beneficial today, but only if the money is later retired in a measured manner. This requires restraint and stewardship; qualities that are all-too-rare for those with misplaced incentives.

   Like swords to ploughshares, the banking industry does not have to be eradicated in the process of reform. Banks still have a role to play in providing liquidity by matching investors with borrowers. But they can no longer be trusted with unfettered credit creation. The Guernsey Experiment – as it was termed in a booklet compiled in 1960 by Olive and Jan Grubiak for Omni Publications, USA – shows that simple ideas can work wonders. They simply require an unselfish philosophy and a desire to do the right thing for future generations, much like America's Founding Fathers.

   One of their number, Thomas Jefferson – who was US President during the Napoleonic era – had uncanny foresight when he said "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

   As the blame game begins once more today, the very people who fostered conditions for the credit crisis will no doubt be implementing knee-jerk legislation. This is not the time for new laws, but for new leaders to match the calibre and insight of our ancestors.

J58517 Speeding...

I like the 30 miles an hour little stickers on long vehicles and the like, even if they don't always do any good. Today, a case in point, I came into work along Victoria Avenue - tailgated by a black car who wanted to overtake at 50 miles per hour - and in the outer lane, because I was overtaking a very long vehicle in the inner lane, travelling at 30 with a 30 sticker on his vehicle.

The next set of lights I came across another long vehicle, and this time, despite being set to overtake it, it was going at 40 miles per hour - despite the sticker on its back saying 30. In the end, towards the end of the Avenue, I had to fall back to move in to the lane behind it. My tailgating friend adopted the alternate strategy of zooming past at 50 miles per hour.

Fortunately, at the lights, we were stopped, and I could note down the long vehicle number for posterity, and internet fame: J58517.

No one seems to police the avenue for speeding, or this kind of thing early in the morning. Can't they do occasional spot checks?

30 is not a joke, it is assigned because of the risk of large vehicles overturning. I remember once around 4.30 pm, an enormous rush hour tail back by Bel Royal, where a long vehicle had jackknifed across the road, and smashed into the garage showroom window. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it is a reminder of why such stickers are placed on certain vehicles, not as a joke, but as a ready reminder of the dangers inherent in high speeds. Speed can kill, or as Jeremy Clarkson noted, stopping unexpectedly can kill.

Perhaps they should - as with smoking - have a more representational picture - a 30 with a skull and cross bones inside!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Notes on Satan

Notes on Satan

Satan in History

Satan is not present in classical Jewish sources (and scarcely present in traditional Judaism to this day). The Old Testament sources have nothing to say about Satan, apart from the fictional book of Job, where he appears not as a fiendish character, but simply as an "adversary" to provide a character in the story to ask God awkward questions about suffering in the world. He is not the cause of evil, simply a character device for asking questions.

The inter-testamental apocryphal writings developed the notion of angels, and also the idea of dark angels, and Satan, also known as Lucifer, or the Devil, became more sharply focused. The New Testament bears witness to a society where demon possession was believed in as a cause of madness, and demons (fallen angels) could spread disease and suffering. There is no idea of a creature with horns at all; if anything, the link is with the Serpent, and the Eden myth in the second Genesis creation narrative.

Later Gnostic movements, and purity movements (like the Cathars) took this further, and saw the world as under the sway of dark demonic forces. The official church teaching actually tried to pull people back from this kind of belief, as it tended towards a dualism of good and evil, where Christianity taught that good would triumph over evil. But remember the context of the times - wars, plagues sweeping the land, times of poor harvests and famine. In such a climate, people looked for solutions to the problem of suffering. But this also lead to absurdities, with the idea that Jesus died to pay a ransom to Satan, an idea well destroyed by Anselm of Canterbury.

The figure of the horned god came in from opposition to Greek culture, and the cult of Pan. By identifying the image of the horned god with Satan, any association with pagan beliefs was seen as evil. But this is a late development in the Middle Ages. The early Celtic Christians have no mention of horned figure in their literature, yet they were familiar with the Celtic horned god; instead, stories of dragons (which is code for paganism and/or the devil) feature strongly.

There was never a Satanic movement in the Middle Ages, despite the so-called evidence (under torture) at Witch Trials. The modern revival can be traced largely to Aleister Crowley, a self-seeking publicist who wanted to give the impression that he could work black magic, and of course, to the novels of once very popular Dennis Wheatley, such as "Strange Conflict", "The Devil Rides Out", "Gateway to Hell", "The Haunting of Toby Jugg", and of course "The Satanist", in which sacrifices and orgies abound.

Satanism Today

A wide variety of phenomena are subsumed under the rubric of Satanism, including worship of Satan, the seeking of pacts with the devil, the cult of violence and evil, and superficial fashion statements better understood as "pop Satanism." . Most Satanism is a relatively modern phenomena, although its adherents, as always the case, often purport bogus historical antecedents.

But what are Satanists? Consider Polish society in the late 1980, and we see a huge diversity. There are Satanists who worshipped the devil without belittling the importance of God and who used either red wine or animal blood in their rituals; there are those who viewed God as nominally supreme but weak, and who advocated a gentle disposition, respecting nature and using red wine in rituals; Luciferians, who claimed that Satan was the Supreme Deity and that God is a usurper and requiring the use of fresh blood in their rituals; and lastly the Church of Satan, which had a magic-occultist slant. By 1991 about 20,000 Satanists were reported in Poland.

Today, formal Satanist Churches function in at least three countries of the region. The Polish Province of the Church of Satan is affiliated with the San Francisco-based Church of Satan, founded by Anton Sandor La Vey, the so-called Black Pope.

There are two dangers inherent in Satanism:

The Spotty Satanist

One is the appeal to the young rebel, in which case it can be linked to crime, and acts of vandalism against religious places. "These hypocrite Christian pigs," said one Satanist (who identified himself only by his cult name, "Grass") told the Warsaw Voice. "We need more freedom, more violence in this world.". This kind of approach can lead to desecration of graves, obscene graffiti spray painted on church walls, and uses Satanism as an excuse for jettisoning any kind of morality. It can also be associated with drug culture, and sexual promiscuity. Satanism is here "a legitimation rather than a motivation" as a recent study put it.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Hysteria

The other, which is far more dangerous, comes from the idea of Satanic ritual abuse. It is, as I said, the idea of Satanism that gives rise to this, and just as in the Witch Trials, there is in fact no evidence at all of Satanism. But this did not stop a period of dawn raids, children snatched from families, certain pediatricians seen child abuse and satanic cult everywhere; no family was safe from this kind of accusation. As Professor Bill Ellis notes: "The disruption to families, and the pain and injustice to individuals, has been horrendous; the cliché of the 'witch-hunt' has often been all too accurate."


"Nihil Obstat: Religion, Politics, and Social Change in East-Central Europe and Russia" by Sabrina P. Ramet, 1998

"Adolescent Satanism: A Research Note on Exploratory Survey Data" by William H. Swatos Jr,Review of Religious Research. Volume: 34. Issue: 2, 1992.

"The Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media" by Jacqueline Simpson - author. , Folklore. Volume: 114. Issue: 1, 2003

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Lord Snooty's Reunion Dinner

I've just received an invitation for a "grand reunion dinner" for all people who were at my old school between 1971 and 1980. The dinner costs £50 per person, is black tie, and includes half a bottle of wine and half a bottle of water for the table, and calvados for the toast. (I think it unfair to name the school, so please excuse the reticence)

I suppose it is the puritan in me, but I have an idea in my own mind about what kind of prices are reasonable and excessive. When I reach price tags like £50 per person, what comes to mind is how that could feed a whole family for a week in Jersey, or even more how much it could help those starving in Africa.

Cafod (and Oxfam too, now) has for some years been promoting an idea called "World Gifts". You get a card, and recently a book token as well, with an insert detailing how your money is spent. The idea is that you select a specific gift, and the money goes to that end; it is not giving to a faceless organisation where the money may appear lost as "aid work" or "aid supplies".
In fact, I think those are also necessary, and the Red Cross, in particular, is always on my list of organisations to give to, mainly because my mother was here in the Occupation (11 when the war ended), and might well have perished had it not been for the Red Cross and the Vega.

Returning to the matter in hand. Consider this school, offering £50 for a reunion meal, where a mere £7 can provide help to start schooling in Africa, where often children are excluded simply because they don't have the uniform, pen and books. No uniform, no school. I am afraid the former banquet of £50 seems more and more like a luxury, an indulgence that I could do without.

Why can't the school also do a reunion meal (for those who want it) which involves a simple meal, perhaps in this fine weather a picnic - they have a picnic area which was named after a past teacher, with plain water (or wine if you want to bring it), and still charge £50, so that the monies raised, like those from a Lent lunch, could go towards helping those less privileged? I would support that wholeheartedly. I am all for simple meals, and mere bread and wine can indeed be a feast.

In the meantime, here is a selection of the Cafod World Gifts. I will be putting my money where my mouth isn't and spending my money this way!
World Gifts is a range of alternative gifts that act as two presents in one - something for you to give to friends or a relatives at special occasions, whilst the real gift can help change the life of someone living in poverty.

School starter packs - £7
Without simple things like pens, books and uniforms many children can't go to school. This gift gets top marks for providing the essentials every budding scholar needs to shine - and to help them escape from poverty. The gift also helps to pay school fees and, because children need full stomachs to concentrate, it also includes their daily meals. The perfect gift to feed young minds and bodies!
Seeds and tools - £10
In conflicts around the world, thousands of families have been driven away from their homes and land, and precious crops have withered and died. This gift of seeds and essential tools will help displaced families grow new crops so that they can rebuild their lives.

Pair of piglets - £25

From little piglets, big piggies grow, which can be sold to provide poor rural families with a vital additional income to pay for extra food or education for their children. These pigs come as a pair and will breed so this present can go on giving for years to come!
Water - £30
Splash out on this potentially life-saving gift of clean, safe water. Your gift can help provide fresh water to a family, reducing the risk that they may fall ill or die from contaminated water. They will have clean, safe water for drinking, cooking and washing.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

CS Lewis: The Backward Glance

"CS Lewis: The Backward Glance" by Ronald Bresland is a fascinating study of how C.S. Lewis Irish roots remained important to him throughout his life, at times, when younger, as something to react against, when he could see the divisiveness of Irish society, and how he was able to step away from Protestant prejudices of his native Ulster. When older, the landscapes of his youth, visited again on walking tours, remained important as a continual wellspring for his imagination.

This is a superbly written book, and for a glimpse of some of the beautiful landscapes mentioned, with notes on how this fired his imagination and writings, I would recommend the site:

I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and would recommend it to anyone interested in a fresh glance at Lewis and his Irish background.

The theme was taken up in a fashion by Brian Sibley in the BBC Radio 4 Play, which I remember listening to back in 2004. It was broadcast over Christmas.

Writer: Brian Sibley
Duration/Slot: 60 min Saturday Play R4
Transmission Date: 21/12/02
Producer/Director: Gemma McMullan
Star Cast: Geoffrey Palmer (best known as Lionel in 'As Time Goes By') as CS Lewis, Dario Angelone ('The Calling', 'December Bride') as the young CS Lewis, Jack Logue as his brother Warnie, and Jimmy Ellis as their Grandfather.

A play about CS Lewis, one of the twentieth century's best loved writers

James O'Fee has written this review:

The Backward Glance: C. S. Lewis and Ireland, by Ronald W. Bresland,
(The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, 1999) ISBN 0 85389 746 8, paperback, 140 pp, 8.50 (UK), $17.95 (

Ronald Bresland's book is the product of his year 1997-98 as a Research
Fellow attached to the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University,
Belfast. The book follows a biographical format, but the theme is literary criticism, an investigation and appreciation of how Lewis's Irish background influenced his work.

Bresland first learnt of Lewis at his primary school where a teacher read the Narnia stories to her class. Bresland commands a deep understanding of the literature of Ireland, and during his fellowship he studied important primary sources, notably the copy of the "Lewis Papers" held in Oxford's Bodleian Library. His book has the welcome scholarly additions of Index, Bibliography and so on.

Bresland identifies Irish connections with Lewis at several levels. Among Irish writers, W B Yeats was a major influence on Lewis's early poetry. In the 1920s Lewis met Yeats in Oxford when Lewis discovered Yeats's fascination with the occult. Shortly afterwards, a brother of Mrs Janie Moore became deranged and died in torment. Lewis blamed the brother's interest in the occult, and Lewis would reject the occult as a dangerous snare. Bresland traces the influence of the episode in forming Lewis's first attempt at a novel, what Bresland calls the Ulster novel (really only two chapters), set on the Liverpool-Belfast ferry and then in Belfast.

About 1917 Lewis was attracted to the ideas of the Romantic Nationalist movement, associated with W B Yeats and his circle. Lewis wrote to his friend Arthur Greeves of his love for the Ireland of "Patsy Macan" (sic) and declared that if he ever were to become interested in politics, he would be a nationalist. (Patsy MacCann is a character in a novel by Irish writer James Stephens.) Lewis also writes that, if he were ever to publish (ie the material that became Spirits in Bondage), he would choose the publisher Maunsel in Dublin to "tack myself definitely onto the Irish school".

Yet shortly afterwards Lewis was writing to Greeves of the danger of the 'New Ireland school' becoming a cult, or an intellectual by-way. Lewis wrote of the importance of keeping 'in the broad highway of thought', to 'feel what can be felt by all men, not merely a few'. This about-turn was decisive - how greatly Lewis would succeed in the aim of communicating what 'can be felt by all men'. 'Spirits in Bondage' was later published, but not in Dublin.

Frank Frankfort Moore wrote a satire on Ulster life, The Ulsterman (1914), which may have influenced the young Lewis in his part-satirical "Ulster novel". Earlier unpublished texts of Lewis's reveal his familiarity with Frankfort Moore's book. Lewis knew well the work of perhaps Ireland's greatest Irish satirist, Jonathan Swift -- Lewis's science fiction may have been influenced by Swift's Gulliver.

Amanda McKittrick Ros was an Ulster writer beloved of The Inklings. Her novels are wildly melodramatic and romantic -- she may be said to bear the same relation to prose that William McGonigal does to poetry. The Inklings amused themselves by a competition as to who could read the longest passage from Amanda's works without laughing. One winner was John Wain who, Warren Lewis records, was able to read an entire chapter without a smile.

Albert Lewis had dealings with Amanda through his legal work. Amanda wrote Albert Lewis a letter published in Jack Loudan's biography of Amanda, O Rare Amanda (London, 1954). Bresland has done us a service by re-printing this choice item.

Forrest Reid was a Belfast author of whom CS Lewis wrote an appreciation for the magazine Time and Tide. Both authors dedicated books to their friend Arthur Greeves. Bresland reproduces Arthur Greeves' portrait of Reid, which hangs today in Reid's old school.

Louis MacNeice was a poet and author from Ulster with whose background Lewis had much in common. MacNeice gave his best-known play for radio the ominous title of "The Dark Tower". Yet the two had opposed views of modern poetry and MacNeice was a friend of Lewis's old rival for the poetry Chair at Oxford, Irishman C. Day Lewis.

At another level, many of CS Lewis's closest emotional ties were with fellow-Ulstermen and fellow-Irishman, for example Arthur Greeves, Warren Lewis, WT Kirkpatrick, and Janie Moore. Bresland adds the names of many more Irish friends.

In his domestic arrangements, Lewis often lived with Irishmen (and women). Kirkpatrick spoke "purest Ulster" and Kirkpatrick's Bookham became almost an Ulster colony in deepest Surrey. For many years The Kilns at Oxford, too, resembled an Irish enclave.

The Irish landscape continued to inspire and refresh Lewis throughout his life, yet at times he less sympathy with the human inhabitants. In a letter to Arthur Greeves, Lewis wrote of Ulster, "The country is very beautiful and if only I could deport the Ulstermen and fill their land with a populace of my own choosing, I should ask for no better place to live in." Bresland shrewdly argues that Lewis did precisely that in his Narnian stories. Narnia can be seen as an idealised Ulster populated with creatures from Lewis's imagination.

This is a fine and well-argued book. There are, however, a few sins of commission and omission.

Bresland writes that W T Kirkpatrick was born in Belfast -- he was born on a farm in County Down. And Bresland fails to mention Lewis's tribute to Kirkpatrick, the character MacPhee in That Hideous Strength. Bresland ignores two Irish denizens of The Kilns. One was the widow Mrs Alice Moore, for whom Lewis built a bungalow in the grounds where she lived in the 1930s. Another was Vera Henry, through whom her native County Louth became a favoured holiday destination for Warren Lewis. Vera helped with the cooking at The Kilns in the 1940s and, with her brother Frank, so charmed the Lewis brothers that Warren began to take holidays at Annagassan, County Louth. Vera died in 1953, but Warren Lewis had developed a liking for these Irish breaks, where C S Lewis would often join him. Frank Henry, blessed with longevity, drove the Lewises on many of their Irish jaunts and lived to see the Lewis Centenary. Finally, omitted is any reference to Mary Rogers' fine article "Narnian Ulster". Despite these minor defects, The Backward Glance is a well-written addition to Lewis scholarship. A wonderful selection of period photographs supplements and illustrates the text. The whole is a delight.

No further comment....

An Australian News story running recently

noted that:

THERE was a Pythonesque moment in the State Government's wordy submission to the Freedom of Information inquiry last week. When asked to answer questions about a culture of concealment in the public service, the whole-of-government response was, "No comment." If the public has a right to know, then Freedom of Information reform is vital in ensuring information flows freely. Yet all we get is a "no comment". This from the same government that espouses openness and accountability.

Bear that in mind, when considering the following.

The JEP carried the story (see below) today that Joe Kennedy is to resume his duties after his suspension.

I note that the findings of the enquiry are not public because this is "a personal staff matter". There is no information about who carried out the investigation, whether it was really external or internal (Yes, Minister is full of cases of "full enquiries") .The statement is not available on the website here, so the JEP quote is all we have to go on.

When Joe was originally suspended, the press release said:

"The disciplinary process is to investigate specific new evidence relating to the behaviour of the member of staff, which came to light during the recent employment tribunal. It is not appropriate for the States of Jersey to comment upon this matter during the management investigation, but we can confirm that this will begin within the next few days and is likely to be concluded within the next fortnight."

So Joe Kennedy was suspended for reasons that were vague and unspecified, and after an enquiry, the results of which are again extremely vague, he is restored to his post.

"Following an independent investigation and internal procedure, the employee of the Health and Social Services Department employed in Residential, Secure Services has returned to full duties, with matters which led to the employee's suspension now resolved. As this is a personal staff matter no further comment will be made."

Is it any wonder that the idea that there is a "culture of concealment" is so popular?

This is certainly not transparent government, this press release with its "no further comment" only confirms that it is again there is a strong desire to control information, which may well not be in the public interest. Whether it is or not remains uncertain, because there is no information on which the public can base their opinions.

Government by secrecy, when the matters resolved are controversial, is never a good idea if public confidence is to be restored. A lesson that is yet to be learnt.

Remember the Australian news story. Is there a culture of concealment? No further comment!

Suspended manager back at work today

By Elaine Byrne
FORMER Greenfields manager Joe Kennedy is back at work today having been suspended for two months.
It is understood that he was suspended as a result of evidence that was given at an employment tribunal in March.

An Employment Tribunal heard in March that Mr Kennedy was accused of 'bullying and persecuting' sacked social worker Simon Bellwood. That tribunal ended after the States dropped their case and offered to pay Mr Bellwood the full unfair dismissal settlement that he was seeking.

A statement issued by the Chief Minister's communications unit yesterday said: 'Following an independent investigation and internal procedure, the employee of the Health and Social Services Department employed in Residential, Secure Services has returned to full duties, with matters which led to the employee's suspension now resolved. As this is a personal staff matter no further comment will be made.'

Herbal Drugs of Abuse: An Emerging Problem in Jersey and Guernsey

The Guernsey press has recently reported on a very alarming story about Spice, which is an unrestricted substance available in Jersey and Guernsey. One site online notes that:

Many people are looking for mind-altering experiences without the dangerous consequences of hard-core, illegal drugs. Also, any illegal substance can get you into serious trouble. You risk losing your job, dealing with heavy penalties and carrying a negative stigma. It's no wonder that people are more and more interested in experimenting with legal highs. If you are interested in a drug harm minimisation solution or a more natural alternative to illegal substances, a good place to start looking is the internet. There is a wide variety of online stores that carry legal high products. It's a good idea to try a small amount first to try out the effect. An herbal smoking blend like smoke spice is a good starter. Spice legal high is one of many smoking blends that can give you a completely natural, legal high effect.

On the other hand, MD Consult has an article

Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America - Volume 25, Issue 2 (May 2007)  -
Herbal Drugs of Abuse: An Emerging Problem

This notes that some herbal products - like Spice Gold - are emerging as popular drugs for recreational abuse. It points out that plant and herbal supplements used recreationally can have a wide spectrum of clinical effects ranging from euphoric and stimulant effects to hallucinogenic experiences. The warning the authors give is that despite the potential for abuse, addiction, and serious adverse effects, there may be a false perception that these products are safe because they involve natural and herbal ingredients.

And here is the alarming story, which raises the question: should these products be restricted?

Shot 3 while stoned
By Joel de Woolfson
Richard Le Conte had reportedly smoked a large quantity of Spice before shooting three people with a BB gun.

A YOUNG man had smoked large amounts of the legal high Spice when he shot three people with a BB gun.
Richard Le Conte, 17, was sentenced to 18 months' youth detention by the Royal Court for that as well as burgling a house, stealing from his friend's grandmother and deceiving a shop owner, all of which he admitted.
His advocate, Chris Green, said his use of the herbal substance had played a big part in his client's actions. Judge Russell Finch said it had clearly contributed.
Le Conte's shooting spree took place on 8 September from the back seat of a friend's car. His first victim was a woman walking in Route de Cobo, Castel. She was hit in the right arm.
At about 3.20pm a man was on a stepladder outside his St Sampson's home when Le Conte fired pellets at him, striking him just below his left armpit. The third attack occurred in the King's Mills area when a man on holiday was struck in the back as he walked on a footpath.
Le Conte told police that it had begun as a prank and was not intended to be a vicious attack. But Mr Finch said: 'Innocent members of the public are entitled to go about their business without the threat of being shot at.'

The Prayer of St Francis

The Prayer of St Francis

I was looking into the "Prayer of St Francis" ("Make me a Channel of Your Peace"....) which draws inspiration from St Francis, but which I suspected that he probably never used at all (unlike the Canticle of the Sun, which he did compose, and which appears in narratives written in or around his lifetime).

The popular musical version, is actually the work of Sebastian Temple.

But the origin goes back further. Its an interesting and inspiring story. This site has information on its origin:

The first appearance of the Peace Prayer occurred in France in 1912 in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). It was published in Paris by a Catholic association known as La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League), founded in 1901 by a French priest, Father Esther Bouquerel (1855-1923). The prayer bore the title of 'Belle prière à faire pendant la messe' (A Beautiful Prayer to Say During the Mass), and was published anonymously. The author could possibly have been Father Bouquerel himself, but the identity of the author remains a mystery.

The prayer was sent in French to Pope Benedict XV in 1915 by the French Marquis Stanislas de La Rochethulon. This was soon followed by its 1916 appearance, in Italian, in L'Osservatore Romano [the Vatican's daily newspaper]. Around 1920, the prayer was printed by a French Franciscan priest on the back of an image of St. Francis with the title 'Prière pour la paix' (Prayer for Peace) but without being attributed to the saint. Between the two world wars, the prayer circulated in Europe and was translated into English. Its has been attributed the first time to saint Francis in 1927 by a French Protestant Movement, Les Chevaliers du Prince de la Paix (The Knights of the Prince of Peace), founded by Étienne Bach (1892-1986).

Monday, 19 May 2008

The cost of refurbishment

This appeared on the BBC News.
Ceiling collapse is investigated
An investigation has begun after part of the ceiling collapsed in the States of Jersey chamber. One side of the public gallery, above the senators' benches, was affected, with plaster and ceiling materials falling on to seating and a corridor. Maintenance engineers, who are investigating the collapse, think it could have been caused by heavy rain over the weekend. No-one was hurt. The entire States building was refurbished about five years ago. It is not know how long the ceiling repairs will take. The next states meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Five years is not a long time, after an expensive refurbishment! One wonders what excuses the builders will come up with!
It makes one wonder how good these "refurbishments" are. I remember back in the 1980s, that when Terry Hampton left St Aubin's, the Vicarage needed to be "refurbished" for the new Curate, Bob Booth. All well, and good, but in the space of almost no time at all, possibly within around five years, he left, and it needed urgently to be "refurbished" for the new Curate after him. After he left to St Mark's Church, it needed "refurbishment" again.
In each case, these refurbishments were notable for the cost, and the repetitive nature of the work, which suggests that the builder was not doing his job properly.
A similar occurrence occurred with St James Church when it was taken over as a "new" venue for the Arts in Jersey - they had the Arts Centre and Opera House, but needed - apparently - another venue. All well and good, but it was only in the course of "refurbishing" the Church interior for use as an arts venue that it became apparent that dry and wet rot was present, and the purchase costs had not taken into account the extra expenses needed for its repair. Here is the report on how to waste tax-payers money -read and despair!
Seven years after acquiring the building, and during the Trust's conversion project when it was necessary to erect a full internal scaffold to facilitate both the redecoration of the vaulted ceiling and to act as a safety platform for men working above, it was discovered that the plaster of the plaster-lath ceiling was detached from the laths. Visually the ceiling was in sound condition, but upon taking core samples (which necessitated a scaffold) it was found that the key between the plaster and the laths was suspect. It is possible, but not certain, that the necessary works to soundproof the roof in connection with the building's conversion to an arts venue may have disturbed the ceiling and contributed to the breakdown of the plaster to lath key.

Upon commencing the repair works to the ceiling, it was discovered that the timber support structure to the ceiling in the vicinity of the column head and external wall support points was seriously rotten, and extensive repair of rotten timberwork was needed before the ceiling repairs could be completed. These timbers were obscured from view due to their location at the column heads, and furthermore, timbers which visually appeared sound, were found to be hollow with rot when cut and drilled. .

When the problem with the ceiling was identified, the Arts Trust sought the help of the Planning and Environment Committee as works were delayed. The Chairman of the Trust met the President and Chief Officer. Subsequently the Committee identified funding of £150,000 from savings from 2-10 Halkett Place and Belle Vue capital projects which, with the agreement of the Finance and Economics Committee, was transferred to the Arts Trust project budget. The Arts Trust requested the Director of Property Services to take over the project as project manager to ensure the problems were fully assessed and the scheme put back on target. This arrangement was agreed free of charge by the Committee in order to help the Arts Trust. Technical evaluations and a thorough review of works was prepared. The Finance and Economics Committee agreed further funding sufficient to deal with the ceiling. That Committee has asked the Planning and Environment Committee to give a guarantee that no further funding will be required. The Committee is unable to provide this undertaking, having not been responsible for the conversion contract, and having taken over project management at a late stage.

 However, the Committee has recently forwarded a report to the Finance and Economics Committee from the Department of Property Services which identifies the need to deal with certain building elements which are still compromising the building's wind and watertight state, at a further cost of £50,000.


Weathering Times: The Pros and Cons of Privatising Weather

The BBC Noted that:

Forecasters could be privatised A report says Jersey's meteorological office is among States departments which could be privatised. The Auditor General has investigated how efficiently the States are handling taxpayers' money. Christopher Swinson thinks Jersey Met's ability to sell its services to others is unreasonably constrained by being part of the States. The report also asks whether Jersey Harbours and the airport could benefit from being run more like private firms.

The actual report states:

136. In the course of the Spending Review, the position of the Meteorological Office was considered and, as will be seen from Appendix Three, it is suggested that consideration should be given to that office becoming independent of the States and in that position being encouraged to maximise the commercial potential of the services that it could provide.

137. In making this proposal, the purpose is not to question the judgement that it is valuable to the Island that local weather advice services are available. It is however to question: (1) whether those services necessarily have to be provided by the States; and (2) whether the location of an Office within the States can unreasonably constrain the development of its services with the result that the cost of the service to the States is higher than otherwise it need be.

It seems more likely that (1) is the question at the forefront, and it has occurred before in spending reviews; I definitely remember Tony Pallot making the case against the loss of the department some ten years or so ago.

For (2), it should be noted that no indication at all is given as to what this "unreasonable" constraint actually entails. It sounds good, but no indications are given of how a small and local private weather department could suddenly develop loads of profitable services - where is the market for these outside of the Channel Islands?

There may be one restraint, noted in the Jersey Airport and Meteorological Department - Service Level Agreement of 2007, which relates to this. It notes that:

However, to enable the Jersey Meteorological Department to satisfy agreements with the United Kingdom Meteorological Office on the exchange of the meteorological information necessary to provide the services described in this Service Level Agreement, it will not be permitted to knowingly supply aviation or other meteorological forecasts, data or information obtained under this Service Level Agreement to anyone, other than those concerned with the operation, or the undertaking of a flight originating from, terminating in or transiting the Channel Islands' area. For example, for the sake of clarity, it will not be permitted to provide forecasts to anyone for any other purpose other than aviation related purposes or to provide aviation forecasts to anyone intending to fly from, for example London to Paris.

But it is not clear what the cost would be to obtaining the information from the UK if it was bought in, and whether it would be able to afford buying it without any restraints.

In order to examine this further, it is interesting that America has many private weather forecasting companies - A New York Times article notes that it is a bonanza business, with the State services providing only the raw data, and the trendy graphics and presentation of targeted forecasts coming from private companies which buy that data.

In Europe, however, the situation is very different. The New York Times summarises the difference:

''In the United States, it is thought that taxpayers pay for the data, so they [the private companies] should be able to get all the data. In Europe, it is thought that taxpayers pay for the data, so they should not be able to make a profit from it.''

The UK, of course, is still a government agency -

One notable exception in Europe is Meteo Consult. In 1986, this became the first private forecaster in the Netherlands and was looking to package weather data for broadcasting, agricultural and energy companies. But the fees the company was charged by the Dutch Government were hefty. Indeed, today, with a staff of 16, it still has the Government as its major competitor. The Dutch agency provides forecasts tailored to specific business needs - for a fee. ''Sometimes the Government is cheaper, but we have to be more accurate,'' they said.

Meteo Consult's enterprise has its roots in the United States. The founder, Mr. Otten, who had worked for the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute as a forecaster and later as a television weatherman, took a year-long sabbatical at Pennsylvania State University. There, he consulted for Accu-Weather and came up with the idea of bringing private forecasting to the Netherlands. With trade barriers coming down in the European Community, Mr. Otten feels, governments will be less able to throttle private weather companies. The growth of private meteorology in Europe might be slow, but as Mr. Otten said, ''Accu-Weather didn't have 16 employees after its first five years.''

However, the report "Weather Data Commercialisation and the International Association of Broadcast Meteorology" paints a different picture. It notes that:

Historically, weather services within Europe have been provided by National Meteorological Services (NMS's), government agencies funded by the taxpayer who provided weather forecasts at little or no charge to the general public, frequently through the medium of the national broadcasting services. In the last decade or more, these NMS's have come under increasing pressure from their governments to increase the (non-tax) revenue they receive for the provision of forecasts. Side by side with this development has been the growth in Europe of a substantial private weather industry for the provision of forecasts to specialised users, including broadcasters. This private weather industry uses as its basic input weather information which has been collected, at the taxpayers expense, by the NMS's.

Yet another element in the problem has been the development of EU competition legislation, which gives the freedom to the provider of any service to operate anywhere within the EU. The NMS's have responded to these challenges in two ways:

1. They have banded together to from ECOMET, an economic interest grouping of European Met Services. This group has attempted to establish a common tariff structure for weather information that will apply right across Europe. It has also put into place regulations which will define the basis for competition between the private and public sides of the weather industry, and also for competition between NMS's, themselves, as each NMS is now allowed to offer forecast services outside its own national boundary.

2. EUMETSAT, the European weather satellite organisation, controlled by the same NMS's, has recently put into place the technology which will allow it to charge broadcasters and others for the use of weather satellite images which heretofore were available free.

It seems that it may be better in the long term for Jersey's weather service to ensure that it is part of Ecomet, and so benefit from (1) the "common tariff structure" and (2) be inside the economic interest grouping, as with current agreements with the UK.

In order to be viable, a private Jersey met department would need to buy in weather information from the UK, and sell it with a main user being the airport. As the Guernsey department puts it ( "These days our "Raison d'être" is, of course, the provision of current and reliable information to Air Traffic Control in particular and aviation in general." There are really no other local suppliers of weather forecasts, and the market is both necessary but necessarily limited.

Before embarking on a rushed quick fix to save money quickly, one question is how much extra a company, designed to maximise profits for its shareholders, would charge. Would the Jersey government be able to exercise controls on the prices charged for services to the Airport? I do not see how this could sit easily with the idea of privatisation, the whole point of which is to let market forces have dominion. And if that goes, internal costs are saved, but the charge may be greater.

The recent report certainly highlights that costs should be considered, but in the absence of any controls by means of comparison, and observing the wider European scene, it is very unclear whether costs would be saved in the long term.


Amazon USA - Expensive but Quirky

This link is to the JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank

Yes, it is real! For ONLY $19,999.95, you can be the proud owner of a vehicle with the following specifications:

"The JL421 Badonkadonk is a completely unique, extremely rare land vehicle and battle tank. Designed with versatility in mind, the Donk can transport cargo or a crew of five internally or on the roof, and can be piloted from within the armored shell or from an exposed standing position through the hatch, thanks to special one-way steel mesh armor windows and a control stick that pivots up and down to allow piloting from the standing or seated positions. The interior is fully carpeted and cozy, with accent lighting and room for up to five people. A 400 watt premium sound system with PA is mounted to project sound both into the cabin and outward from behind the windows. The exterior is a steel shell with a rust patina, and features head and tail lights, turn signal lights, trim lighting, underbody lighting, fixed slats protecting the windows, and a unique industrial-strength rubberized flexible skirt that shields and protects the wheels to within an inch of the ground, while still allowing for enough flex to give clearance over bumpy and uneven terrain. "

I'd really love to see one on Jersey's roads!

But what if a month in the tank makes you very crabby and in need of serious relaxation. Why not try the Relaxman Relaxation Capsule for only $39,995.00

"Be the first in the U.S. to own one of the finest relaxation devices invented. Used in helath clinics all over Europe. Designed by the world famous Biotonus Clinic in Switzerland specifically for relaxation and stress reduction. The custom designed Relaxman is completely heat, light, and sound proof, providing total isolation for the ideal environmental therapy. Inside, the heated water mattress stays at body temperature while soothing, preprogrammed music and lights take you into a deep state of relaxation. Research shows that a 50 minute rest in the negative ion-enriched atmosphere effectively helps reduce tension, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Also helps combat jet lag and sleep imbalance. 10'L x 5'6"W x 4'6"H. Relaxman will be shipped from Switzerland to your door with separate charges to be estimated based on location."

For a cheaper "odd buy", for only $29.95, why not buy a tin of uranium ore. Please note

We are always in compliance with Section 13 from part 40 of the NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules and regulations and Postal Service regulations specified in 49 CFR 173.421 for activity limits of low level radioactive materials. Item will be shipped in accordance with Postal Service activity limits specified in Publication 52.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Party Names, Party Games

As Jersey is shortly to have a registration of political parties (a draft law is on the legislation website), and it follows the same rules on names, I thought I'd take a peek at the UK.

One difference between the Jersey Law and the UK one is that in the UK, an independent electoral commission looks after party issues, whereas in Jersey, what is acceptable will come under the eagle eye of the Attorney-General.

In the UK there is a list of acceptable and registered parties. Remember - the U.K. has pretty much the same naming rules as Jersey, ruling out obscene ones etc. But it still allows some pretty diverse names.

Will Jersey people have as much freedom under the rule of the Attorney-General? Will he take UK practice as precedent?

Enough of the serious comment...

Here are some interesting and some amusing names of valid registered parties.

For the whole list, just go online to

Carmarthenshire Ratepayers' Association
Hadley & Leegomery Residents Association

These kind seem rather popular, residents or ratepayers association parties in a district. A "locality" independent party. Similar, but not quite the same are the "locality issue" parties, these include ones such as:

Southampton Save Our Services Party [The]
S O S! Voters Against Overdevelopment of Northampton

Stop! Durrington's Overdevelopment - Save Titnores' Trees
Save Bedford Hospital
Save Huddersfield N.H.S.

Maybe we could have a "Stop Building on Plemont Party"?

Then we come to the regionalist or nationalist parties. Apart from well known ones, like the Scottish National Party, we find smaller and larger regions:

Wessex Regionalists
Suffolk Together
Mebyon Kernow - The Party for Cornwall

Forward Wales
Free England Party [The]
Free Scotland Party [FSP]

"general" issue parties also feature:

Republican Party [The]
Referendum Party [The]

along with some very strange parties:

Red and Green Alliance Party
Virtue Currency Cognitive Appraisal Party
Dragon Party [The]
Dungeons Death And Taxes Party [The]
Fancy Dress Party
Personality AND Rational Thinking? Yes! Party
Idle Toad [The]

The last seems particularly well-fitted for Jersey!

Then there are a few specifically religious parties, although I'm not sure about the Elvis one!:

Islam Zinda Baad Platform
Christian Democratic Party
Christian Peoples Alliance
Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"

Clause 28, Children's Protection Christian Democrats
Church of the Militant Elvis Party

and specific policy issues:

Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel
Smokers U.K.

"Remove GST from food" party - any takers?

By the way F.A.G.S. stands for "fight against goverment suppression" and has a website at It is an pro-smoking party, to do with cigarettes (just in case you wondered if it was gay rights!)

Then there are the "slogan" parties, one really wonders what their policies are apart from the slogan in their name (which may or may not tell you much)

Get Snouts Out The Trough
Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers
Vote Liberty Vote Freedom
Had Enough Party [The]
People Against Bureaucracy Group

Make Politicians History
Protest Vote Party

I wonder what the Attorney General in Jersey would say to "Jersey Against Crooked Lawyers"!

Groups to do with older people:

Pensioners Party [The]
Pensions Action Alliance
Grumpy Old Men Political Party [The]

So we can have our own "Angry Men" party. Step forward Peter Tabb and co!

Then bygone age parties (or perhaps Latinists at school):

Imperial Party
Roman Party. Ave! [The]

Women's movements:

Mums' Army

No "Dad's Army", alas!

and of course, not forgetting, for odd parties, to make the list complete:

Official Monster Raving Loony Party [The]

Maybe we could have Official Crapaud Raving Loony Party?

Here in Jersey....

The latest Trinity in Jersey newsletter says:

Last week Hillary Clinton continued her campaign for nomination as the Democrat candidate for, arguably, the most powerful position in this world - ever. She is seeking to become President of the United States of America. In a speech Hillary explained graphically her only visit to Bosnia - she was in grave danger from sniper fire as the plane descended, had to scurry down the airport apron and the planned welcome party for her husband, Bill Clinton, President of the US had to be abandoned. Within hours a news video of that event was posted on the internet showing what looked like a normal welcome party on the tarmac with Hillary chatting happily with a small girl. Hillary explained that she "misspoke". The prefix "mis" means "bad" or "badly". She had spoken badly..... Unfortunately this was not the first time - for her or her husband.

Here in Jersey, such things would never happen.

I must admit that I was following the argument until that sentence, when I laughed out loud!

I don't know where the writer has been for the past six months, but it is painfully clear that in Jersey such things do happen all the time, and over the last year, more than I can remember for some time.

Or perhaps the writer meant that some politicians here may well deceive the public on numerous occasions, but, alas, unlike Hillary, they are rarely found out?

UK and Jersey - Party Registration

Regarding my previous post, I notice in fact that the UK has a six-word limit, and also requires the name to be in English, Welsh or Irish, with the requirement that names in Welsh and Irish have a translation which is also taken as a registered party name. So I was mistaken about that! A pity though that the Jersey law did not include any information about Jerriais, or translations as part of the name. Obviously not drafted by a Jersey-born person!

Some interesting differences between the UK and Jersey law - these are from the UK law:

The party address will be made public on the Commission's register of parties but other contact details will not.

I can't find this in the Jersey law!

2.3 Important: these controls apply only to the description used by candidates on ballot papers. The Commission does not regulate the descriptions used by candidates on their election material and advertising. A candidate could therefore stand as an 'Independent' while describing themselves in their election material as the 'candidate against closures', or stating that they represent the 'Quite Small Party'. The controls also do not apply to descriptions used by officials once elected. So, a number of councillors who were all elected under the description 'Independent' could call themselves the 'Imaginary Party group' in the council.

Nothing like this in the Jersey details, although it is common sense.

A registered party is allowed to register up to three emblems for use next to its candidates' names on a ballot paper (although it does not have to register any emblems at all).

Jersey restricts to one emblem!

On the constitution, unlike Jersey, no requiements:

3.39 There are no requirements about what a party's constitution should include. However, applicants may wish to include details of:
. the structure of the party (e.g. branches of the party, the party headquarters, organisations affiliated to the party)
. how the party is run (e.g. frequency of meetings, decision-making, appointment of officers)
. what officers the party has and what their responsibilities are
. membership requirements
. the party's aims and objectives

Unlike Jersey, The Commission will not retain the party constitution, once the party has been registered.

3.40 The Commission will not review a party's constitution except to crossreference the structure of the party with the financial arrangements outlined in the party's financial scheme. The Commission will not retain the party constitution, once the party has been registered.