Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Dictator's Charter

Suspension threat for ministers

Ministers in Jersey facing a dismissal vote could be suspended until it takes place, under new rules suggested by the Privileges and Procedures Committee. If the proposals are approved, a minister could not continue working between the vote being lodged and it being held. The chief minister or another minister would take on their duties in the meantime, the committee said. The plans are to be considered by the island's Council of Ministers. Committee chairman Constable Derek Grey said the fear was that a disgruntled minister could cause problems in any interim period between a vote being lodged and it being held. He said: "Are they in a position to give loads of orders to upset the department completely? "If you think about business, it's quite normal, if somebody is suspended, that they have to leave the building. "Quite often they are escorted out, so I think it's no different to what would happen in a normal business."

For "a disgruntled minister" read "Stuart Syvret"!

This becomes clear if one looks at the wording of the proposition:

The sub-committee did not believe it was satisfactory that a Minister should be able to continue performing his duties after the Chief Minister had decided to lodge a proposition for his or her dismissal, and this view was shared by the Council of Ministers during the consultation that followed the publication of R.105/2007. Once the relationship between a Minister and his or her ministerial colleagues has broken down to the extent that the Chief Minister is seeking the dismissal of the Minister concerned, it seems inappropriate that the Minister, who may have extensive statutory powers and duties, should continue to carry out his duties; but should instead be suspended until the States make a decision on his/her dismissal.

Does this mean (if it got through) that if someone lodged a dismissal vote against the Chief Minister that he would be suspended until the outcome of the vote took place? Alas, no, the wording only covers the Chief Minister dismissing a Minister. In fact, it is clearly increasing the power of the Chief Minister to keep his colleagues in line. Note that when Syvret went, the moment the vote was passed, he was out, despite his offer to act as caretaker until a new minister would be found, and his inter-departmental emails access was immediately canceled. They couldn't get him out quickly enough. This would now happen as soon as a proposition was lodged.

It seems a suitably ridiculous idea by the Committee responsible for the fiasco over election expenses, but it may well get through if enough people have been upset by Stuart Syvret. In fairness, I think it should apply to the Chief Minister too - what if he goes mad, or gaga? Shouldn't it be in the interests of justice that if the States are seeking the dismissal of the Chief Minister, he gets suspended as well?

Chesterton pointed out how this government works: "our representatives accept designs and desires almost entirely from the Cabinet class above them; and practically not at all from the constituents below them. I say the people does not wield a Parliament which wields a Cabinet. I say the Cabinet bullies a timid Parliament which bullies a bewildered people".

This proposition is clearly a vote to make the Chief Minister into the top bully, with extra powers to cane those people he disagrees with. It is an extra stick to beat politicians in the Council of Ministers to keep them in line. It may, of course, not be needed to be used, but the cane will be there hanging on the wall, for all to see.

Where it is so wrong also is that it denies a Minister under threat the proper time to prepare a defense, by putting him on his own, away from any chance of going over his own internal records. What is likely is that it will lead to a culture by which Ministers will ensure they have - in a safe place - copies of records sufficient to mount a defense of any decisions they take, which they would otherwise not have access to in their defense, and which the Chief Minister will have available to him. That will be a likely outcome, and despite the best political will in the world, one that in these days of instant scanning to PDF, one that will be impossible to monitor.

Incidentally, the opposite applies, and in a weird looking glass manner, the Chief Minister retains his post until a successor is appointed, even when he is not a States member, so Frank Walker will be Chief Minister for a short time after the Deputies elections, even when he is not in the States!

Somehow Derek Gray thinks that piece of lunacy is needed for good government!


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Havana Worldwide and Legal Aspects

Following the JEP's coverage, the Mirror was the first to pick up on the story, followed by the Daily Mail, and now the Times. It has also reached as far afield as India! Mr Sayers has apologied saying it was a "moment of madness". Personally, I think the protestors should accept this apology - what more can the poor man do?

Some of the comments I've seen (including some on my blog) supporting Mr Sayers say he had a right to refuse entry to whoever he liked. Actually, that is false, if he started turning away people because they were Jewish, Asian, coloured, etc, he would soon find himself in bigger trouble, certainly in the UK, where such practices come up against the law, see, for instance (from 2007):

The Sonia Deol Show on the BBC Asian Network is looking into reports of racist door policies operating at UK nightclubs. Listeners have been contacting the show with stories of how they've been refused entry to clubs simply because of the colour of their skin.

Guardian investigation carried out this week has revealed evidence of racist door policies at some of Glasgow's most high profile nightclubs. In controlled tests, adhering to the requirements of the Commission for Racial Equality, a small group of Sikh students wearing microphones were filmed attempting to gain entry to a series of clubs. Two of the clubs, which cannot be named for legal reasons, rejected the Sikh group with the excuse that the club was full or only admitting regulars, while a control group of white students directly behind them were admitted.

The second one is directly pertinent, because it was noted by witnesses at the Havana that the policy was of barring larger women while letting in men of similar size, so in fact it was a form of sex discrimination. Again in the UK, that sort of thing is banned:

The European Union says clubs that admit both men and women but then discriminate against one sex will be outlawed by the end of 2007.

Now not all these laws may yet apply in Jersey, but some of the comments which have said "club owners can do what they like" are based in the UK, where clearly posters do not know their own laws! It doesn't surprise me in the least, as Ian Le Marquand has shown a similar ineptitude with regard to human rights legislation and the possibility of refusing bail. I've not had a chance to dig deep into the law on discrimination, but I notice that if it is not yet on the statute, it will be, and certainly the draft law says:

The Committee recommends that the authorities complete the current process of enacting legislation outlawing all racial discrimination. In accordance with Article 26, the authorities should also promulgate legislation which prohibits any discrimination and guarantees to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status

The Discrimination Law is designed to establish the areas in which discrimination should not be tolerated. It will protect anyone who suffers a detriment as a result of discrimination or a range of prohibited acts such as victimisation, unlawful advertising, harassment and other discriminatory practices in certain conditions, and will provide an enforcement mechanism for complaints brought under the Law.

It is proposed that the scope of the law should extend to employment, including selection for employment, treatment of employees, contract workers, partnerships, professional or trade organisations, professional bodies and vocational training, and also discrimination in education, provision of goods, facilities and services, access to and use of public premises, disposal or management of premises and membership of clubs.

UK News:

and in India:

A nightclub that barred fat women has backed down after international protests and claims that it was guilty of discrimination. The Havana nightclub in St Helier, Jersey, was accused of barring larger women while letting in men of similar size. Almost 1,000 people have joined an internet-based campaign calling for a boycott of the club and a protest on Friday night. More than 20 women are reported to be preparing to give statements to police claiming that they suffered discrimination. Police were called to the club on Saturday night to prevent public disorder after Martin Sayers, the club's manager, and his door staff started turning away larger women.

Georgina Mason, 23, one of the women refused entry, told the Jersey Evening Post: "About five or six or us got to Havana at about 11.30pm and the bouncers said we were not allowed in because we were too big." Miss Mason, a bank worker, said: "I told them not to be ridiculous and asked to speak to the manager. When the manager came out he would not look at me directly but said that they had received many complaints about fat people and he told me, 'Go and lose some weight before you can come in - fat people are bad for business'."

Jemma Warner, who saw larger women being turned away, said: "The man himself was far, far away from what we might call male perfection, making the situation somewhat ironic. Boycott the Havana club because this kind of discrimination is way more ugly then any kind of body shape."

Kierra Myles, who was also at the club, said: "Does this mean larger people can't go out and have a good time? Should they hide away because they might be overweight? As if there is not enough pressure on young girls to be thin and have the - in my opinion, disgusting - size-zero look. Then you have narrow-minded people like that stopping people that are perfectly happy within themselves from going out and having a good time."

Jersey's chief medical officer highlighted obesity as a key challenge in her recent annual report. However, the island has a relatively low level of obesity, with about half of adults classified as overweight or obese, compared with about two thirds in mainland Britain.

Mr Sayers, who has run the club, which has a capacity of 380, since 1992, defended his actions initially, saying: "We got a lot of people that I'd classify as morbidly obese and we were getting complaints. I am deeply apologetic but business is not good at the minute and I was trying to protect my business."

Last night, however, he said that the ban had been dropped and he appealed for those who had been offended to come back. Mr Sayers, who admitted being overweight himself and on a diet, said: "There was an error of judgment and I would like to apologise wholeheartedly to these people and say they are welcome back to the club. The vast majority of our customers are overweight. There should not be discrimination against people for any reason and if this incident highlights that then I guess something useful has come out of it." He denied that fat women were less attractive, adding: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Martin Sayers said he made "a wrong decision" by refusing entry to about 25 women at the Havana Club in Bath Street, St Helier, on Saturday night. "I'm just deeply sorry that people have been offended. It was a poor decision made," he said. He was highly embarrassed over a "moment of madness" which would not be repeated, he told BBC News."Anyone who was turned away will be very welcome in the future - there will be no restrictions," he said. "I don't like upsetting people. I just offer my apologies unreservedly.

Harcourt Nevada - July Briefing

This rumbles on. Look out for the next hearing on 08/11/2008 - that's American dating, so 11th August 2008. In the meantime, here are the minutes from 28th July 2008.

Case 08-A-562136-B Status ACTIVE
Plaintiff Sullivan Square Harcourt LLC Attorney Louis, Lena M.
Defendant Harcourt Nevada LLC Attorney Morris, Steve L.
Judge Denton, Mark R. Dept. 13

Event 07/28/2008 at 09:00 AM
Heard By Denton, Mark R.
Officers Sue Burdette, Court Clerk
Cynthia Georgilas, Reporter/Recorder


Paul J. Sievers, Esq., California counsel, also present on behalf of Pltf.

AND SEAN P. FARRELL): Ms. Louis advised no opposition has been filed. There being no opposition, COURT finds cause appearing; and ORDERED, Pltf's Motion to Associate Counsel (Paul J. Sievers, John C. Manley, and Sean P. Farrell)
GRANTED. Order, pertaining to the three (3) incoming counsel, signed in Open Court.

As to DEFT HARCOURT NEVADA, LLC'S MOTION TO DISMISS: Following arguments by counsel as to the Contract and the Operating Agreement, COURT ORDERED, matter taken UNDER ADVISEMENT to review the matter further; and stated for the record that the Court, in deciding the motion, will not refer to any websites or articles in the Review Journal or publication journals, but will only refer to the papers for which claims can or cannot be determined.

The Hidden Persuaders

"The Hidden Persuaders" by Vance Packard: A Review

In this book, Vance Packard conducts an investigation into advertising and seeks to expose the psychological techniques and thinking behind this "manipulation of the public". The book mainly deals with the American form of advertising yet much of his comment is still pertinent elsewhere.

One chapter which is particularly interesting concerns manipulation of the desire of people to achieve a greater status in society. In the case of motor cars, what the advertisers did was to find what sort of cars made good status symbols and then these were manufactured and advertised, selling well because they had seized upon a very common "Achilles heel".

It appeared to the promoters that small cars were poor sellers. So they investigated. When asked why they did not like small cars, many people came up with excuses - for instance, that driving a small car was not as safe as driving a large one.

However, deeper probing discovered that this was just a rationale: "What really worried them about small cars was that the cars might make them look small in the eyes of their neighbours.. The images which came into the people's minds were of being jolted, tense, cramped, 'and personally small and inferior'". Facing such evidence, the marketers "stepped up their emphasis on bigness" and so took advantage of this craving of the buyer for increased social prestige. But who bought the small cars? It emerged that "most of the small cars are sold to people who already have a big car and so perhaps can safely appear in a small one while knocking about."

Another factor which seems to defy logic was the price tag. It was found that the higher the price paid for a car, the more status it conferred. As Packard states: It could not really be a matter of more room, or power or ride and readability. It seems that people are buying higher priced cars just to prove that they can afford them." So by raising prices, the marketers raised sales! The third factor was a tried and tested one: testimonials. Here the status of the object is linked in the public mind with "personages of indisputably high status who invite the rest of us to join them in enjoying the product." It might be thought that people are somewhat cynical about this form of advertising, but it still proves highly successful - as not only the treatment of cars, but also coffee, fitted kitchens, drinks and other commodities has proven. Why should this be so? One reason which Packard gives is "many people express scepticism about testimonials but although people consciously deny being impressed by testimonials "there is a strong suspicion that unconsciously they are impressed with them."

Packer ends this section on a cautionary note, quoting economist Robert Lekachman who comments: "We can only guess at the tensions and anxieties generated by this relentless pursuit of the emblems of success in our society, and shudder to think at what it might give rise to during an economic setback. "

This is a well-researched and interesting book which should certainly give rise to questions in the mind of the reader: How effective is such manipulation? More important, is it right that advertisers should sell by subterfuge and deceit? What sort of society will this create?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Fat Night Club Owner Bans Fat Women

Marjorie Dawes: What advice can we give to Barbara, to turn her tragic life around? Paul?
Fat Fighter: [sighs] Cut out biscuits?
Marjorie Dawes: Cut out biscuits! erm... Mary?
Meera: Instead of sugar, use artificial sweetener in tea.
Marjorie Dawes: Something about sugar, but I think the best advice any of us can give you, is to look at the person on the inside, because you're obviously a very unhappy person...
Barbara: No, I'm not!
Marjorie Dawes: Well, you deserve to be! I know Mum doesn't speak to you, but that's not for here... but as far as she's concerned, if you were knocked down by a bus tomorrow the world would be a better place!
- Little Britain

A new form of discrimination!

Is it up to a night club to choose who it allows in? Should it be allowed to discriminate because of weight? The Havana club in Jersey, Martin Sayers - overweight proprietor - has decided to discriminate against women because of their weight. Interestingly, according to the witnesses, he cheerfully allowed overweight men inside!

FEMALE clubbers were refused entry into Havana nightclub on Saturday night for being too fat. Police were called to calm the situation outside the Halkett Street club as bouncers and manager Martin Sayers allegedly told women to 'go away and lose some weight'. Over 20 women are expected to give statements to the police today.. Georgina Mason was one of the ladies refused entry. The 23-year-old, who works for Lloyds TSB, had been enjoying a night out with friends when it turned sour. 'About five or six or us got to Havana at about 11.30 pm and the bouncers said we were not allowed in because we were too big. I told them not to be ridiculous and asked to speak to the manager,' she said. 'When the manager came out he would not look at me directly but said that they had received too many complaints about fat people and he told me: "Go and lose some weight before you can come in - fat people are bad for business."

One wonders how many complaints he had in fact received and how he noted them. What if he had received complaints about coloured people, or Polish or Portuguese people? He would not think twice about refusing to act on those complaints, and yet he can discriminate against people on grounds of weight, or rather, of appearance - because I am sure he did not have a pair of scales and a height/weight chart handy!

Discrimination against weight may be on the rise. Airlines, especially in the USA, are looking to do just this. Southwest Airlines is to start charging passengers who are too large for the seats.

Could air travelers face the same penalties for being overweight as they do for excess baggage? A recent U. S. study showed that the additional 10 pounds gained on average by American passengers during the 1990s resulted in an increase in the use of fuel, to the tune of an extra 350 million gallons. Already, Southwest Airlines has begun charging passengers who can't fit in a seat without raising the armrest. The company argues that, in charging customers a double fare (when the flight is fully booked), it is acting on complaints from customers whose seats were infringed on by overweight neighbours. It also considers that weight costs, and that total weight - including passenger weight - should be considered in assessing fares.

Southwest Airlines will soon begin to impose a second seat charge to a passenger who is so large as to have to lift up the armrest to fit into his or her already purchased seat. What will this mean to us at the airport? If the airline counter person or the gate attendant sizes you up and believes that you will not fit into your seat, is there a mock airline seat handy that can be used to measure while the rest of the line waits? Are we no better than a suspicious piece of carryon luggage? What if your traveling companion is thin and together you don't take up more than two seats?

Meanwhile Mr Sayers has achieved national fame. The story first in the JEP has now reached the National Media, and appears in today's Daily Mirror. Mr Sayers defends this on the grounds that it highlights the obesity problem. But at what weight are people refused entry? Is there a pair of scales available to tell people what is allowed and not? His comments seem like the desperate attempt to gain some semblance of credibility from the stupidity of his actions, and the lack of signs outside the club - note that no sighs refusing entry to obese people were shown - illustrate that this was an off-the cuff decision, badly thought out, and probably pandering to the prejudices of certain men (we know the type!). Now he will certainly lose business, and perhaps he should get the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot award for this month!

No weigh to treat a lady By Laurie Hanna 29/07/2008

A group of girls hoping to enjoy a fun night out were refused entry to a club - for being too fat. Police were called to calm the situation after they say the manager told them to "go away and lose some weight". Georgina Mason, 23, who was among the group, was left feeling "disgusted" by the ban. She said: "About five or six or us got there about 11.30pm on Saturday and the bouncers said we were not allowed in because we were too big. "I told them not to be ridiculous and asked to speak to the manager. He would not look at me directly but said they'd received too many complaints about fat people. He told me to 'go and lose some weight before you come in - fat people are bad for business'. "I was disgusted he had the nerve to say this. My friend, who is only a size 14, was not allowed in either." Helen Warner witnessed the storm outside the Havana Club in St Helier, Jersey. Helen, who says she will never set foot in the club again, said: "I heard the manager say 'Go away and lose some weight, love'. I can't believe what happened." Altogether, 20 women have complained to police and a Facebook protest page has been set up. But yesterday manager Martin Sayers defended his controversial decision. He said: "We got a lot of people that I'd classify as morbidly obese and we were getting complaints. " I am deeply apologetic but business is not good at the minute and I was trying to protect my business. If this highlights the problem of obesity, then perhaps some good has come of this. I am overweight myself. I did not do this to hurt anyone."

Maybe Mr Sayers should go to America, where if Mississippi legislators had their way, they'd put forth a law that would ban obese people from being served at restaurants! He may say he "If this highlights the problem of obesity, then perhaps some good has come of this", but if so, he is clearly about as tactful about the matter as Marjorie Dawes in Little Britain's Fat Fighters!

Marjorie Dawes: What advice can we give to Christopher to help him lose weight? Paul!
Paul: Eat healthily?
Marjorie Dawes: Oh that's rich coming from you. Pat!
Pat: Don't eat too much chocolate!
Marjorie Dawes: What do you mean, don't eat too much chocolate, all the other kids hate him, chocolates the only friend he's got.

Monday, 28 July 2008

A vote for Guy is a vote for good government.?

Guy de Faye

These were my comments on his Senatorial campaign at the last election in 2005:

Behind major recent policy document which states it is not "anti-car" and then suggests a number of anti-car measures. As a lot of voters drive, work in St Helier, etc, the more he champions this as his work, the more his support is likely to leech away. Apart from that, has not been particularly notable. Said in 2002, that "I don't intend to be just another Senator. If I'm successful, this campaign website will continue as a direct conduit between me and the electorate. In due course I hope to introduce on-line opinion polling, so that I will know exactly what you think on any issue, at any time. Call me, email me. Tell me what you think. I'm not a member of the club, I intend to be a representative of the people. New Politics has arrived in Jersey. It starts here." I can't recall any of this!!! The Campaign website at the moment has a glossy picture, phone number and e-mail address. And that's it!

and now:

Where was this "direct conduit" via the website?

To be fair, his site now has a little more on it, although it still dates from 2005(!!!) and has not been updated since.

The "direct conduit" clearly ran out of money, and has not been built!

Some of the choice remarks made on the website, with the slogan "A vote for Guy is a vote for good government". Please don't laugh!

No Allegiances - Guy is a politician without allegiance to any party, group or ideology. But more important than that, in my eyes, is Guy's ability to judge the issues before him with a total absence of fear or favour.

One wonders if "judge" is the right word? For cock-ups over GST on paycards, the end of the Victoria Avenue fiasco, bus stations that close in the evenings of cold winter months but open in the summer, etc etc.?

States spending has been both excessive and wasteful, but times have changed. The workforce is being gradually reduced by natural wastage and voluntary redundancies, although it is wrong to believe that this process can continue without harming the quality and extent of public service provision. With that caveat, there must be pressure to continue to look for efficiencies and savings in the public sector. Some basic services, such as waste collection and management of public gardens are duplicated across both States Departments and parishes. There must be a rationalisation of these operations. All capital projects must also be more carefully scrutinised. - Guy de Faye

THE controversial redesign and resurfacing of Victoria Avenue which will force emergency services to mount the pavement is over budget and behind schedule, it has been revealed - JEP, July 2008

and note:

Ability to get to the heart of the matter - Anyone who follows States debates will know that Guy has a keen sense of humour, but more and more of his fellow members and those States employees with whom he works are recognising a deep intellect and an ability to get to the heart of an issue quickly.

well, let's look at a couple of issues the deep intellect was working on....

Car park scratchcards set to go: Drivers will no longer have to use scratchcards to park in Jersey's multi-storey car parks. Plans are being drawn up to replace the system some time next year. The new Transport Minister - Deputy Guy De Faye - says the department is determined to change the system to make it more convenient.

Yes - that dates from 18 December 2005. It is now July 2008.

and how did the "deep thinker" do here?

Green man hit by Jersey's quad ban: A QUAD biker has been told he cannot take his machine to Jersey. Reg Gallie, 59, was forced to switch from two wheels to four because of his diabetes and heart problems. His fellow Green Man Motorcycle Club members had a whip-round to pay for the trip, scheduled for October, but quads are barred from Jersey roads. 'It's obviously disappointing as not only will I miss an off-island trip with my club, but they offered to pay for it too,' he said. 'It's particularly disappointing as I was one of the club's founder members.' Mr Gallie, who has owned motorbikes since he was 14, had to take early retirement from his job at Ronez due to a hip problem. He then suffered a heart attack while on a club trip to England and was hospitalised for two months after undergoing a bypass. Since then, he has not travelled off-island with his friends. Mr Gallie's quad bike is road legal in Guernsey, the UK and Continental Europe Earlier this year, Jersey Transport minister Guy de Faye promised a rethink of the rules on a number of vehicles including quads and tricycles

Yes that dates from August 19, 2006. Don't hold your breath!

Weeds 14 feet off the ground!

I spent the weekend tackling weeds 14 feet off the ground! Or to put it another way, up a ladder, held by the boys (and it still shook sometimes) removing all kinds of debris including weeds, from the guttering of the house; long overdue, as I noticed last time it rained (the rain just came down OUT of the gutter) and the last time I looked up, and saw lots of green sprouting weeds.

Among the other odd artefacts that had somehow found their way up there (with weeds, moss and ferns):

- one seven inch Woody from Toy Story, fabric, and soaked in slime (yuk!)
- a Duplo child's brick
- a wooden brick
- A plastic holder for a toy sword, approx 1 ft long!
- a CD free with Frosties (maybe Father Christmas dropped it?)
- A toy Geppetto (still looking for Pinocchio?)
- Toy Winnie the Pooh (looking for the honey tree?)

(sounds like the Generation Game!)

Task for kids: write a 200 word essay on "What Dad found in our gutter!"

I wonder what the oddest item is that people have found in their gutters?

The Spiral Staircase: A Review - Part 3

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong: A Review - Part 3

This is the final part of the review of the book by Karen Armstrong (you can breathe a sigh of relief!); finally found time to finish writing it.

In the last part of her book, Karen Armstrong has said how she understands religious belief; she sees religious discourse as "a species of poetry" and not "the language of everyday speech, of logical discursive prose". She then goes on to ask the question: "Does this woman believe in God or not? Is there, or is there not, anything out there? Does she, or does she not, worship a personal God?.. To believe or not to believe: that is surely the religious question, is it not?"

Against this, she argues that many of the most eminent Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians and mystics "insisted that God was not an objective fact, was not another being. Some went so far as to say that it was better to say that God did not exist, because our notion of existence was too limited to apply to God. It was even misleading to call God the Supreme Being, because that simply suggested a being like us, but bigger and better, with likes and dislikes similar to our own." So she argues that talk about God is simply "one symbolic way of speaking about the divine"; otherwise we end up with a man-made God, and fall into the modern Western fallacy, "dating only from the eighteenth century, to equate faith with accepting certain intellectual propositions about God". Here she places the doctrine of the Trinity as in part showing "that you could not think about God as a simple personality", and instead gave a symbol of a "far more elusive reality".

Instead, she regards "faith" as "the cultivation of a conviction that life had some ultimate meaning and value, despite the tragic evidence to the contrary"; the Middle English word "beleven" originally meant "to love", the Latin "credo" probably derived from "cor do", I give my heart. So that the saying of Anslem, "credo ut intelligam" should be translated not "I believe that I may understand", but "I commit myself in order that I understand". As she concludes, "you must first live a sacred way, and then you would encounter within a sacred presence that monotheists call God, but which others have called the Tao, Brahman, or Nirvana"; and today we might add, Wiccans would call the Goddess.

Of course the criticism of this approach is that it might lead to a pick-and-mix, anything goes, kind of spirituality, in which we could think what we liked about God. Not so, she says, for all the great religious traditions are in unanimous agreement: "the one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience or devotional practice was that it must lead to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, then it was bad theology". So compassion becomes the marker, the "litmus test", which can be found in "the prophets of Israel, the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus for Paul and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao tzu, the Buddha or the sages of the Upanishads".

But how does it go wrong, as with the crusaders? She sees them as killing Jews and Muslims in the name of God, because they had forgotten this, and fallen into a kind of idolatry, making a God in their own image and likeness; hence also making a God with all their own fear and loathing. They had lost the compassion, and lost sight of the fact that God transcended personality, and given their hatred a seal of divine approval.

In conclusion, she sees compassion at the core of faiths, and of attaining enlightenment, as her study of Buddhism revealed; as well as classic yoga (which she notes is immeasurably more rigorous that most of the Yoga practised in the West), compassion also gives "the release of the mind from the toils of self-seeking", that lets the person come to enlightenment, Nirvana. In all faiths, compassion "dethrones the ego from the centre of our lives and puts others there, breaking down the carapace of selfishness that holds us back from an experience of the sacred".

That does not mean not speaking against injustice, she notes that "we should cry out against injustice and cruelty wherever we find it, as the prophets did, especially when it occurs in our own society or on 'our side'", but we must also "find room for the other in our minds", for "if we cannot accommodate a viewpoint in a friend without resorting to unkindness, how can we hope to heal the terrible problems of our planet".

In this, she has found that she has learnt also from periods of solitude, where silence has "also opened my ears and eyes to the suffering of the world. In silence, you begin to hear the note of pain that informs so much of the anger and posturing that pervades political and social life.. Silence and solitude strip away a skin, they break down that protective shell of heartlessness which we cultivate in order to prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed by the suffering of the world that presses in upon us all sides."

At the end of the book, she comments that "the best theologians and teachers have never been afraid to admit that in the last resort there may be 'Nothing' out there. That is why they spoke of a God who in some sense did not exist. It is why the Buddha refused to comment on the metaphysical status of a Buddha after death, and why Confucius would not speak of the Tao. What is vital to all the traditions, however, is that we have a duty to make the best of the only thing that remains to us - ourselves. Our task now is to mend our broken world; if religion cannot do that; it is worthless. And what our world needs now is not belief, not certainty, but compassionate action and practically expressed respect for the sacred value of all human beings, even our enemies".

As well as telling her story, she also tells of her quest to seek meaning in life, and to present a deeper understanding of the nature of belief, and what differing belief traditions have in common. The old stereotypes which she dealt with in her book on fundamentalist movements (The Battle for God), she sees as sterile, and the position that I am right and you are wrong, is a form of dogmatic arrogance which we simply cannot afford any longer. The book is both a personal reconciliation of her beliefs with post-modernity, and a signpost for others who seek this path.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Care in the Community

I believe that the way forward is not to cling to the ideology of care in the community. That ideology, like the ideologies of eastern Europe, is waning, and we should take a more balanced view. Every ideology, by its nature, imposes a philosophical and intellectual straitjacket on those who practise it, and care in the community has in some ways been as thoughtless as other ideologies. Alan Hurst M.P.)

A really excellent report on the Care Leavers Association Meeting and their professional speakers from the UK.

On one point:

There were some good questions and points raised on the floor. In particular someone from a mental health group asked about the link between abuse and mental health. There is clear evidence of both care leavers and abuse victims/survivors having significantly higher incidence of mental health problems. It is very likely extra resources would have to be found to deal with this locally. So why have we closed the relevant hospital ?

The Jersey authorities, following those in the UK decided more or less on ideological grounds to go for "care in the community", which often meant little care, no community - but it was cheaper than rectifying the problems of institutions for those who needed and still need some kind of 24/7 care because through mental illness or severe mental handicap are never going to be able to take care of themselves.

A similar ideological shift occurred with the "inclusion" lobby against having special needs schools and trying to integrate all children, however severe their mental handicap, in a mainstream school environment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is impossible, and no amount of ideological fervour will make it anything other than an exercise in futility and demoralisation when it is plainly will not work.

In his study of community care, and its rise as an ideology, Jason L. Powell ( notes the way in which it was promoted both as supposedly empowering people in need of help, and in saving money.

Social services is one of the highest revenue spending departments for most local authorities, and within social service budgets at the time, residential and domiciliary services for older people consumed the largest amount of revenue. Thus, community care for older people in particular presented itself to government, in both financial and policy terms, as an obvious area of provision into which market principles are introduced and implemented

Second, at local levels throughout the 1960's and 1970's, social service departments and health authorities were responsible for joint planning and service development and charged with the need to provide community-based services as alternatives to institutional care (Wistow et al. 1994). In rhetoric, joint planning between health and social services promoted integrated and multidisciplinary community services. In practice, such arrangements failed to realise such services and were criticised as pedestrian and 'patchy' (Working Party on Joint Planning 1985). Community care services were indeterminate, with many users unable to obtain the services they require.

The first is the real reason why St Saviours' Hospital has been steadily closing, while at the same no, no money has been spent on alternative supported accommodation in the community - because the support costs. In the meantime, support is provided by various allowances and access to various outpatient or day services, but that depends upon people being able to take care of themselves, or carers to do it for them (basically on the cheap), and one aspect of the "demographic time bomb" that has not been considered is that there will come a time when substantial numbers of carers will drop from the system, and the authorities will be "fire-fighting" with patchwork remedies, put together at the last minute.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Rape and Article 5: Misjudgments in Jersey

On Friday, 7 January, 2005, a boy was refused bail by Ian Le Marquand on the grounds of an alleged stabbing.

Boy in custody over school attack: A 14-year-old boy accused of stabbing five teenagers with a pair of scissors at Jersey's Les Quennevais school has been remanded in custody. The boy, who cannot be named, appeared at the island's magistrates court on Friday. He reserved his plea to five charges of grave and criminal assault, and to one of possessing an offensive weapon. Magistrate Mr Ian Le Marquand refused an application for bail and remanded the boy in custody until next Tuesday

However, fast forward to July 2008, and we now find the following:

Human rights fears over rape bail: Calls to stop people suspected of rape in Jersey being released on bail could conflict with human rights legislation, a former magistrate has warned. The plea for a change was made by the national charity Rape Crisis after a woman was raped by a man who had been bailed for a similar offence. The charity wants previous convictions for sexual offences taken into account. But former magistrate Ian Le Marquand said refusing bail could undermine the basic principles of human rights. The man accused of rape was subsequently found guilty of raping both women.

It seems to me that one of the problems here, apart from the sheer inconsistency of legal practice, is the inability of Ian Le Marquand to understand the European Convention on Human Rights. A similar failing occurred in the Soham murders, with a misunderstanding of the Data Protection Law, leading to a miscarriage of justice.

The Scotsman noted that anyone can apply for bail. That is in fact, the human rights position. But it does not follow that bail will be granted, only that it cannot automatically be refused.

The volume of bail orders issued has jumped significantly in recent years with the advent of the European Human Rights Act, which allows anyone to apply for bail regardless of the offence.

The website detailing rights notices that courts can grant bail, but can also refuse bail. Remember, this is looking at rights from a human rights perspective from the accused individual - and yet it notes that bail can be refused.

If you are charged with an offence which does not carry a possible sentence of imprisonment, the court can normally only refuse bail if you have failed to attend in the past and they believe you would do so again.

Where conditions are attached to your bail, or bail is refused, the court must state its reasons for doing so. In cases of rape or homicide the court must also state reasons if it decides to grant bail.

When we look at the convention, article 5 is the one that is significant, and these are the relevant sections.


No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
1. c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority of reasonable suspicion of having committed and offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;
3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial

In the case of alleged rape, this would certainly seem to apply - " reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence", i.e., another rape.

In fact, if we look at the wider context, we note that elsewhere in the world, human rights clearly does not reflect Ian le Marquand's suggestions on the matter. Nana Oye Lithur, in the report below, is an international human rights lawyer, dealing with cases where bail is often granted by corrupt officials in rape cases.§ion=12

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has expressed dismay at the decisions of certain judges to grant bail to rape and defilement suspects contrary to the Criminal Procedure Code. The human rights organisation has therefore urged the Chief Justice to hold such judges accountable for such actions and also reprimand them in the appropriate manner in order to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system. Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday, to mark International Human Rights Day 2006, Nana Oye Lithur, the Regional Coordinator for the CHRI-Africa Office, cited several cases where judges have granted bail and even in some instances without surety to suspects in rape and defilement cases. She said another essential piece of evidence in securing a conviction for rape and defilement is the medical report.

We can see how article 5 does in fact apply in the case of Loukanov v Bulgaria - the bold text is mine.

Criminal proceedings had been instituted against the applicant, a former Prime Minister of Bulgaria and a member of the National Assembly, allegedly on suspicion of his having misappropriated, in concert with other members of the Government, a large quantity of public funds intended as assistance and loans to certain developing countries, contrary to specific provisions in the Criminal Code. The applicant was arrested and remanded in custody pending trial. Subsequent appeals and requests for release were refused, and the applicant was detained for 115 days before being released on bail. He complained that his arrest and detention on remand had been in breach of Article 5(1) (c) of the Convention, in that the facts alleged against him could not objectively ground any 'reasonable suspicion of [his] having committed an offence'. His complaint was, in essence, that his arrest and detention were really nothing more than an overt act of political reprisal.

The Commission was of the view that there had been a breach of Article 5(1), because none of the grounds specified in Article 5(1) (c) as justifying detention had been shown to exist. The facts invoked against the applicant could not, in the eyes of an objective observer, be construed as amounting to the offences of misappropriation with which he had been charged, and it could not therefore be said that there was any reasonable suspicion of his having committed an offence. Nor could his detention be justified as being reasonably necessary to prevent him committing an offence or absconding. Having reached this conclusion about the permissible grounds in Article 5(1)(c) not being made out, the Commission found it unnecessary to decide whether the detention was 'lawful' under domestic law.

- from "Yearbook of European Law. Volume: 17", 1998, p599

Should our magistrates receive training in European Law? Did any case law judgements get cited which indicated bail would breach article 5? Or was it just an off-the cuff opinion based on a very loose reading of the law? Judging by the former Magistrate Ian Le Marquand, the answer has to be a resounding yes.

Dark Figures and Number Laundering: Christian Aid's Death and Taxes

"Nine million Witches were martyred in the Burning Times."

I start with a digression, whose importance will become very clear later. It is by way of illustration as to how "dark figures" - estimates of invisible numbers - are created, and how via a process known as "number laundering", they achieve popularity and remain in circulation, even after they have been subjected to critical scrutiny and debunked.

This figure was by a German historian in the late eighteenth century who took the number of people killed in a witch hunt in his own German state and multiplied by the number of years various penal statutes existed, then reconfigured the number to correspond to the population of Europe. Professor Behringer traced the estimate of nine million victims back to wild projections made by an 18th-century anticlerical from 20 files of witch trials. The figure worked its way into 19th-century texts, was taken up by Protestant polemicists during the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf in Germany, then adopted by the early 20th-century German neopagan movement and, eventually, by anti-Christian Nazi propagandists. In the United States, the nine million figure appeared in the 1978 book "Gyn/Ecology" by the influential feminist theoretician Mary Daly, who picked it up from a 19th-century American feminist, Matilda Gage.

The modern estimate is much reduced;

For witchcraft and sorcery between 1400 and 1800, all in all, we estimate something like 50,000 legal death penalties," writes Wolfgang Behringer in "Witches and Witch-Hunts" (Polity, 2004). He estimates that perhaps twice as many received other penalties, "like banishment, fines or church penance

In fact, and almost counter to intuition, the death toll is decreasing as more and more trials are discovered.

As historian Jenny Gibbons points out:

If historians simply reported the number of executions, more deaths would obviously mean a higher death toll. But that isn't what scholars do. They can't -- they know that we're missing many court records and that several areas have never been thoroughly studied. Because of this, scholars compensate for lost records and missing data. That's why if you look at the table of estimated deaths, you'll see that the estimated death toll is about three times as high as the number of recorded executions.

Why do new trials have little impact on the death toll? Because they're replacing estimates. These newly discovered deaths aren't trials we never dreamed existed -- they come from previously unstudied areas and courts. When you "add" those new trials to the total, you also have to "subtract" the estimated deaths that scholars used to add for this same area. And since older estimates tended to be extremely high, new trial data usually ends up decreasing the death toll.

Now all that is ancient history, but it has a significant relevance to today.

Looking at Tax Evasion, the Christian Aid report looks at two methods of tax evasion -

Our figures deal with just two of the most common forms of corporate evasion. The first of these is known as 'transfer mispricing', where different parts of the companies sell goods or services to each other at manipulated prices. Again, the potential scope of this practice can be seen from the staggering fact that some 60 per cent of all world trade is now thought to take place between global corporations and their subsidiaries. The other, 'false invoicing', is where similar transactions take place between unrelated companies. We calculate, from just these two activities, that the loss of corporate taxes to the developing world is currently running at US$160bn a year (£80bn). That is more than one-and-a-half times the combined aid budgets of the whole rich world - US$103.7bn in 2007.

Our figures are derived from the work of Raymond Baker, a senior fellow at the US Center for International Policy. To arrive at his findings on transfer mispricing, he and his researchers conducted 550 interviews with heads of trading companies in 11 countries - all on condition of anonymity.

What are Christian Aid doing here? Clearly the methodology is similar to that of the counting of Witch Trials. They take the result of one study, look at how much tax is evasion is taking place from the 550 interviews in this study, and any other figures they have gleaned from public trials, and then multiplied numbers to get the larger figure. This assumes - as with the early calculations on the witch trials - that the "missing figures", what statisticians call "dark figures" - follow the same pattern on a larger scale.

Frequently we hear in reports that what is revealed - either in corporate corruption and tax evasion that comes to light - is just the tip of the iceberg, and the same kind of extrapolation as went on with the witch trials is made here. The numbers gets repeated from places ("billions in lost taxes") and by being repeated undergoes what the statistician Joel Best calls "number laundering" - it takes on a life of its own, and becomes legitimate because it is continually repeated from place to place.

A statistic's origin--perhaps simply as someone's best guess--is soon forgotten, and through repetition, the figure comes to be treated as a straightforward fact--accurate and authoritative. The trail becomes muddy, and people lose track of the estimate's original source, but they become confident that the number must be correct because it appears everywhere. It barely matters if critics challenge a number, and expose it as erroneous. Once a number is in circulation, it can live on, regardless of how thoroughly it may have been discredited. Today's improved methods of information retrieval--electronic indexes, full-text databases, and the Internet--make it easier than ever to locate statistics. Anyone who locates a number can, and quite possibly will, repeat it... Electronic storage has given us astonishing, unprecedented access to information, but many people have terrible difficulty sorting through what's available and distinguishing good information from bad. Standards for comparing and evaluating claims seem to be wanting. This is particularly true for statistics that are, after all, numbers and therefore factual, requiring no critical evaluation. Why not believe and repeat a number that everyone else uses?

In fact, the Witch trials were scattered, with clusters of intense activity, and other locations with little or no activity. The more detailed count, as Gibbons notes, reduces numbers.

Let me give you an example. Before Poland's Witch trials were counted, Bohdan Baranowski guessed that 15,000 Polish Witches died. Today, Polish historians are studying the Polish court records. They've found several hundred executions, and assume that the final death toll will be approximately 1,000. When their research is done, we will have "discovered" maybe 500 new trials. But the death toll for the Burning Times will *drop* by 14,000 because we didn't find as many trials as we expected to.

The same may well be true of the missing millions lost through corporate evasion. We simply do not know. But there is a very great danger in making use - however well intention - of figures that may well not be representative of the whole. By overstating their case in this way, Christian Aid may well ensure that in the long term, it will be seriously undermined. The corruption that comes to the surface may not be the tip of the iceberg, it may be most of the iceberg. We simply don't know. But let me finish by saying that I am sympathetic to their case, even if I think their numbers simply do not add up. As Joel best says:

When activists have generated a statistic as part of a campaign to arouse concern about some social problem, there is a tendency for them to conflate the number with the cause. Therefore, anyone who questions a statistic can be suspected of being unsympathetic to the larger claims, indifferent to the victims' suffering, and so on.


Counting the Witch Trials

Books of the Post:
Best, Joel. Damned Lies and Statistics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001.
Loseke, Donileen R. Thinking about Social Problems. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1999.
Paulos, John Allen. Innumeracy. New York: Random House, 1988.

A Cry for Help

A heartbreaking letter in the JEP yesterday. This letter is a cry for help.

It remains to be seen if any of our politicians will comment or look into these kinds of situations. How many young adults are there like this? What contingency plans - if any - are being put in place to help these adults when their parents are not able to cope any longer?

Obviously, politicians can delegate finding the answers to these questions to their civil servants, because after all, that is what the civil service is there for. But how well do the politicians monitor what is being done? And how much personal contact do they make with the families concerned? Do they follow individual cases up, and get reports on them? Is it so beneath them, or are they so busy that they cannot?

I would imagine the particular politicians who would be involved are, in this instance, Ben Shenton, and Jim Perchard, as being involved with Social Services, and Paul Routier regarding any help from the Employment and Social Security side. Paul Routier actually has a handicapped son, although considerably more able than Martin, the young man mentioned in the letter below.

It would be nice if they just made contact with the family concerned. Obviously help has to go through their departments, but we do not elect Senators and Deputies to be aloof rulers sitting like oriental magnates in ivory towers. Politicians should not forget to reach out, forget that it is the individual that matters, and not just the grand design. The grand design - like that of William Beveridge - only comes because someone has listened to many individuals.

Data Protection Note: The Letter is Public Domain, available on the JEP website.

From Angela Tuohey.

MY son, Martin, has been a pupil at Mont à l'Abbé School for 15 years. He is leaving this month. Both Martin and the school have undergone many changes in that time since he started at the nursery in 1993.

Before going any further, I want to give heartfelt thanks to the many teachers, school assistants and other professionals who have worked so patiently and tirelessly with Martin over this time, helping our family - he has two younger brothers - through many challenging and difficult patches caused by autism and learning difficulties.

Our family now face the future with some trepidation. Following many meetings and discussions, there may be a small glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, although there is still no guarantee of work for our son, as he would need support in the workplace.

There has been much talk of 'tight budgets' and 'limited resources'. Even my requests for Martin to join a youth club - my son is at present non-verbal, i.e. mute - have been rebuffed. However, we have been offered daycare for Martin, for which we are grateful.

To have reached this stage, though, and to have gained help and support for this young man (19 this year) has been an ongoing battle. This, too, at a time when it would normally be possible for parents to have less stress and responsibility bearing down on them after years of caring and coping. A child leaving school should surely be a time of hope and celebration rather than fear and uncertainty.

This is not a plea for sympathy. We love our son dearly and are very proud of his achievements. He has come such a long way from a little boy unable to cope with any change or noise to a young man who wants to explore, learn, try new things. He needs support and help to do this. As his mother, I shall do all I can for him, but time is not on my side.

What happens when parents of disabled youngsters can't cope any more?

Martin and many others have the right to a fair chance. It is not their fault that they are in this situation. There is so much money being spent on roads and development while all these voices go unheard.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Vanishing Chief Advisor

Those of us with long memories can remember the post of Chief Economic Advisor to the States, which was upgraded to that of simply Chief Advisor, pretty well because that was what it was anyway.

In those days, the Chief Advisor to Policy and Resources (which represented presidents from all committees) was Colin Powell (not to be confused with the American politician of the same name!). He was ubiquitous, writing in supplements in the evening post, fronting reports on the state of Jersey's economy, even seen indulging in paint-ball shooting in St Catherine's woods for charity (so perhaps there is a link with his more military namesake). His face was well known, often printed, and he looked stately and imposing, rather like the actor Ian Richardson in House of Cards. He even wrote a book on Jersey's Economy, and added a chapter at the end of the revised Balleine's History of Jersey.

Then we had Dick Mills, who was still out and about, dealing with the Edwards report, Dawn Primarolo (known as "red Dawn"), and all kinds of problems. He could be guaranteed to be beside Senator Pierre Horsfall, and then Senator Frank Walker. He was Jersey's face against the OECD, the EU, and the Paymaster General in Whitehall. He was also romantically linked to Imogen Nichols, when she was a Deputy. But he probably wasn't quite as well known as Colin Powell, and he didn't write any books.

Now we have Bill Ogley, who came in to "manage change", and the chief change he has managed is conspicuous absence. He doesn't make pronouncements, write articles for supplements in the JEP, and pictures of him are scarce. He was involved in Imagine Jersey Conference, and stood behind Frank Walker at the farcical St Martin Public Hall Press Briefing glowering at Stuart Syvret -but public appearances are far and few behind.

One hears of "faceless bureaucrats", but it seems that the role of chief advisor has become that quite literally!

The Spiral Staircase: A Review - Part 2

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong: A Review - Part 2

Karen Armstrong, like many people, had "assumed that Islam was an inherently violent religion", and she began her book "Muhammad" very much as a polemic, intending to answer the controversy and "inbuilt cultural suspicion of Islam". She found that Muhammad emerges as a far more human figure than Jesus or the Buddha: "We see him laughing, carrying his grandchildren on his shoulders, and weeping over the death of friends. We see his doubts, his griefs, his moments of despair and terror." The Pakistani scholar Akbar Ahmed told her that "your book is a love story".

Her book on the prophet was written shortly after the furore occasioned by Salman Rushdie and his Satanic Verses, and she realised that her study must be sensitive, and avoid levity, or witty, biting remarks. She had to subdue her own ego, keep herself "in the background", which was for editorial reasons, but as she saw, also was one of the most universal religious principles, keeping out the ego, which is seen as "a prerequisite for religious experience". She also found her study was in many ways "a constant concentration of mind and heart that was in fact a type of meditation"; this was because she had to "make a daily effort to enter into the ghastly conditions of seventh century Arabia", leaving "twentieth century assumptions and predilections behind. to develop a wholly different way of looking at the world." Yet while this was undertaken for study, and writing a book, she came to reflect on it and see it as a spiritual discipline, that of transcendence, or "standing outside": "All the traditions tell us, one way or another, that we have to leave behind our inbuilt selfishness, with its greedy fears and cravings. We are most fully ourselves when we give ourselves away, and it is egotism that holds us back from that transcendent experience that had been called God, Nirvana, Brahman or the Tao".

Islam, as she came to see, is like Judaism, not so much concerned with imposing official doctrine: "it propagates no creed, and is rather dismissive of theological speculation". The word "kafir", often translated as "unbeliever" really means one who is ungrateful to God. "Instead of accepting a complex creed, Muslims are required to perform certain ritual actions, such as the hajj pilgrimage and the fast of Ramadan, which are designed to change them. The physical discipline was meant to affect their
inner posture."

As time went on, and she began teaching again, she also came to understand that most religious discourse is like poetry: "read quickly or encountered in a hubbub of noise, makes no sense. You have to open yourself to a poem with a quiet receptive mind, in the same way as you might listen to a beautiful piece of music. You have to give it your full attention, wait patiently on it, and make an empty space for it in your mind. And finally, the work declares itself to you, steals deeply into the interstices of your being, line by line, note by note, phrase by phrase, until it becomes part of you. Like the words of a poem, a religious idea, myth or doctrine points beyond itself to truths that are elusive, that resist words and conceptualisation."

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Guernsey Watch

An interesting development in Guernsey. It is clear they are looking at freedom of information laws. Our legislation in Jersey has not yet got off the drafting stage. Perhaps the Chief Minister should also talk to Michael Wills?

On world stage by Simon Tostevin

KEY policy issues facing Guernsey are on the table today at a meeting between Chief Minister Lyndon Trott and Michael Wills (pictured), the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. Freedom of information and the island's legislative process will be just two of the issues that Deputy Trott has said he will look to tackle in his 45 minutes face-to-face with Mr Wills at Selborne House in London. 'One of the issues I'm going to talk to him about is freedom-of-information principles because from the UK's perspective, Michael Wills has been a key champion and supporter of the act,' said Deputy Trott. 'We will also talk about the legislative process and how we can improve the submission of legislation from our end. 'I'm going to invite him to visit Guernsey in the autumn for further discussions on tax information exchange agreements and other matters.'

On an odder note, the Guernsey Press is running an online poll, asking the question: Should the birch be brought back for young criminals?

The current replies are perhaps typical of a newspaper, with the Victor Meldrew brigade out in force. Unfortunately the statistics are only percentages, and it is impossible to see the numbers polled.

Yes - Current deterrents are insufficient (76%)
No - It's too barbaric a punishment (24%)

Good Neolithic Sites in Jersey

I've been out and about walking, taking advantage of the hot weather to get to some of the Neolithic (stone age) sites in Jersey. If you have never done so, or only been to Hougue Bie, you are missing some of the strangest stone legacies this Island has.

This is the best site ever on Jersey! It contains Perry's Map references if you have a Perry's Guide Maps, which is very useful. All sorts of information. And some old archive photos recently added from original past digs. And a timeline. And lots of pix! Brilliant!

Do note that it contains:

a) suspected sites that may not be genuine - under the section "stones"
b) some destroyed sites where it is known they existed
c) some sites on private property

The main ones listed, and my notes are below:

La Hougue Boëte - private property

La Hougue des Géonnais - off beaten track a bit, not all left as some taken for building

La Hougue des Grosnez - destroyed

La Hougue des Platons - at Hougue Bie

La Hougue de Vinde - difficult to find - even a local history historian

La Pouquelaye de Faldouet - near Ransoms Garden Centre

La Sergenté - by La Pulente, may be difficult to find, off beaten track a bit, very unusual beehive design.

Le Couperon - stones reassembled, may not be quite right

Le Mont de la Ville - taken to England by General Conway (thief!)

Le Mont Ubé - by Samares Manor

Les Mont de Grantez - off beaten track a bit, visited Midsummer Eve for solar alignments

The Beauport Dolmen - private property, only fragments

Ville-ès-Nouaux - inner road, by St Andrews Church

La Dame Blanche - private field, can see at distance

The Broken Menhir - Sand dunes, St Ouen, easy

The Great Menhir - can be tricky if overgrown, can see in distance, sand dunes

The Little Menhir- Sand dunes, St Ouen, easy

The White Menhir - on a golf course - be careful!

The Ossuary- Sand dunes, St Ouen, easy

Les Trois Roches - can get to if field empty of cows, which were there yesterday, alas!

The Spiral Staircase - A Review: Part 1

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong: A Review - Part 1

This is a book which is a reflective memoir of part of Karen Armstrong's life. Karen became a nun in the 1960s, before the changes of Vatican II, when nuns had a severe dress code; that was symptomatic of the repressed and disciplined servility of their society. Seven years later, she left that life as a nun, and returned to the outside world, trying to make sense of the strange cultural landscape she found herself in, and trying to find her own path in life. In this, she describes her journey in a vivid image used by T.S. Eliot in his sequence of poems called "Ash Wednesday"; she says that "the experience of spiritual progress and illumination was represented by the symbol of a spiral staircase", in a slowly turning movement, changing perspectives, "slowly ascending to one new insight after another".

There is much in the book that is interesting, and here I select a few instances at random. One of the areas that she began to notice, and later to research in some depth, was the rise of religious fundamentalism - not just Christian fundamentalism, but a growing movement, reacting against the strain of civilization, and the barren spirituality of modernity. "The old ways had been dismantled, but as yet nothing new had appeared to take their place. Traditional boundaries and markers had come down, and many lacked a clear sense of identity. In America such people followed Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, in Iran, they turned to Ayatollah Kohmeini. In Britain they voted for Margaret Thatcher." That was significant because she epitomised "an attitude of unquestioned and unquestioning superiority", and influenced a culture of money, with little time for the "large numbers of homeless men and women now sleeping rough on the streets"; the economic and political certainty had "pushed people on to the streets". Karen Armstrong comments that "certainty made people heartless, cruel and inhuman. It closed their minds to new possibilities; it made them complacent and pleased with themselves." In this was a special danger for religions of all kinds, because "religious people seemed particularly prone to this dogmatism" which "made people ride roughshod over other people's sensitivities."

When looking at the lives of some of her friends who were not particularly religious, she notes that they kept diaries, and "in every evening they record the events of their day". She comments that "it was, I could see, another form of meditation, or even an examination of conscience; it was a way of making sense of their lives".

There is a wonderful anecdote about one of her friends who was commiserating with an elderly couple who were moving house about the trials and upheavals it caused. "Moving is hell, isn't it", he said, and the old man replied that it was terrible, but "fortunately I have a friend who makes the whole thing bearable"; her friend was utterly perplexed and confused when the "friend" turned out to be Jesus, and told her he could not understand it. She comments sharply that she agreed "especially as the historical Jesus would have been more likely to tell the couple to give all their possessions to the poor rather than help them convey their worldly goods around the country in heavily insured vans!"

She tells of her encounter with Judaism during the making of a religious programme for television, and how for Judaism, belief was not as much of an issue as with Christianity, with "orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy" - "right practice rather than right belief", as Judaism saw their beliefs more as "poetry, ways of talking about the inexpressible". Her Jewish friend cited the story of the Jewish teacher Hillel to illustrate this: "Some pagans came to Hillel and told him they would convert to his faith if he could recite the whole of Jewish teaching while he stood on one leg. So Hillel obligingly stood on one leg like a stork and said 'Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you. That is the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.' "

As time went on, she came to see that she had to follow her path: "The great myths show that when you follow someone else's path, you go astray. The hero has to set off by himself, leaving the old world and the old ways behind. He must venture into the darkness of the unknown, where there is no map and no clear route. He must fight his own monsters, not somebody else's, explore his own labyrinth, and endure his own ordeal before he can find what is missing from his life. Thus transfigured, he - or she - can bring something of value to the world that has been left behind. But if the knight finds himself riding an already established track, he is simply following in somebody else's footsteps, and will not have an adventure. In the worlds of the Old French text of the quest of the Holy Grail, he must enter the forest 'at that point he himself had chosen, where it was darkest, and where there was no path'." Against this, she sees a "waste land" where "people live inauthentic lives, blindly following the norms of their society and doing only what other people expect".

Monday, 21 July 2008

Journalism at its best?

The JEP story about Tony Carlyon being savaged by a dog ends with the story that the police told him "there was nothing they could do" because it took place on private land. He was told that an offense would only have been committed if the dog had been ordered to attack, and the story ends by saying "he was told that the same would apply if the dog killed a child on private property".

Now either there are some very stupid policeman out there, trying to pass the buck and not have to take action, or else there is sloppy reporting.

What is astounding is that no one checked the story out, with the suggestion that it gives that nothing would happen if a child was killed by a dog.

What appears to be the case is that if a child was killed while no charges would be laid against the owner if it took place on private property, the dog would none the less almost be certain to be removed and destroyed, or destroyed on site. In other words, the owner would not be liable in criminal law, but would not be allowed to keep the dog as if nothing had occurred.

We can see that in two tragic stories elsewhere in 2008. The second case makes this distriction clear.

A pit bull terrier has killed a five-year-old girl and seriously injured her grandmother. Police are investigating whether New Year's Eve fireworks may have scared the dog and prompted it to attack the girl. Ellie Lawrenson was found bleeding to death in the living room of her grandmother's home in St Helens, Merseyside. Police concluded that the dog could not be safely removed and it was shot.

A seven-year-old Sydney girl was mauled by the family dog in a backyard attack that ended when a neighbour dragged the pitbull cross-breed off the child. The girl's father said nobody was to blame for the attack, but his pet of two months, named Sargeant, would be "put down". The dog was impounded by Blacktown Council officers. "We've seized the dog and it's in our animal holding facility," a council spokeswoman said. Police said it was likely the dog would be destroyed. "The most likely scenario is the people who own the dog will hand ownership over to the council and then they will actually destroy the dog," a police spokeswoman said. As the attack happened on private property, it was no longer a police matter and no charges would be laid, she said.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Anyone who is still listening to this debate will need psychiatric treatment

The recent debate on the incinerator had its lighter moments, which I have extracted from the 10 hours or more of debate. For your enjoyment, here they are, taken from Hansard. Parliamentary debates at their best!

Connétable A.S. Crowcroft of St. Helier:

The Parish of St. Helier got very close to setting up a trial plant for a particular Jersey-based company that claimed that they could take all of their household waste in black bags, have a material separating facility to take out the valuable bits, like aluminium cans and so on, and then treat thermally the remainder of the waste and produce a plastic-type pellet, and I was going to bring some along today but they are in my office.

Deputy P.V.F. Le Claire:

The answer is we cannot give you an answer because we were not given the answer; we asked the same question you are asking me, through the Chair. We tried it through the chair, we tried it through the wardrobe, we tried it through the bed, it did not work.

Senator F.E. Cohen

The design of the Energy from Waste building is a simple box with a wrap around steel envelope and glazed gable ends. The roof structure is an express steel lattice frame placed outside the external envelope of the building. Rather like the Fly Tower for the Glyndeborne Opera House the express structure makes for a far more interesting distant view of the building.

Deputy J.A. Martin

There will be two green hills faraway, according to the Minister for T.T.S. As long as you have your glasses on and you are sitting in the car deck and you cannot see out of the window from the boat, you are all right.

Connétable S.A. Yates of St. Martin:

It looks all sort of ethereal, transient, like an ice palace. Unfortunately, it is massive. In fact, if you look on the front page of that, you will see that it is higher than South Hill. I do not mean Mount Bingham; I mean the cliff at South Hill. When you drive round, the height of that cliff is where the height of the incineration plant roof will be, and I am afraid it is a monstrous carbuncle. When my granddaughter in a couple of years' time, 3 or 4 years' time, says: "What is that, Papa?" I say: "That is the recycling plant." "Well, who told them to put it there?" I do not think, that I should be able to say: "Well, I was partly to blame, because I voted for it." I am afraid that is not going to be part of my legacy to my granddaughter.

Connétable P.F.M. Hanning of St. Saviour

I know the Minister for Planning and Environment said that it was a good design, it had good detailing and materials were good, but the Gherkin is a good design, it has good detailing and the materials are good, but it is huge and you cannot disguise the fact that it is a huge building.

Deputy S.C. Ferguson of St. Brelade

I listened to the Constable of St. Martin just before lunch, and he talks about the growing economies in China and India and so on. In actual fact, the economies there are getting extremely wobbly with the current credit setup. Vietnam has imploded, and they reckon that China and India will probably follow suit.

Deputy J.B. Fox of St. Helier:

We have the finest growing tomatoes in the back streets of St. Helier due to our composting, but, unfortunately, we are not able to get rid of all our green waste and therefore use the facilities and, indeed, the other waste facilities that are available.

Deputy J.A.N. Le Fondre of St. Lawrence

I hope you are all feeling refreshed after a good day yesterday and looking forward to more enlightened debate this morning. I have managed to resist the temptation up to now to use the rather worn statement about a group of politicians talking a load of old rubbish, or perhaps I should say about a load of old rubbish, but that rather denigrates what is an essential debate that we have been having since yesterday.

Deputy P.N. Troy:

We need adverts in the newspapers saying: "Get your home composting kits. This is how you operate. This is how you carry out home composting." We could take a lot of the waste out of the stream.

Connétable J.L.S. Gallichan of Trinity

Well, Sir, anyone who is still listening to this debate will need psychiatric treatment, I think

Senator P.F. Routier

Fortunately my Sunday was brightened up by Wimbledon. We had a really good, lengthy Wimbledon final. I think this is turning in to be one of those occasions, having a lengthy debate.

Deputy J. Gallichan of St. Mary:

I thought Wimbledon was last week but I am sitting here at the net and I am seeing baseline volleys from the Minister for Transport for Technical Services being returned and then resoundingly responded to by the Environment Scrutiny Panel. It is quite clear to me that from either of those quarters I am not going to get the match point that I need that gives me the clear decisive solution I am looking for.

Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:

Some Members have said that this debate is a bit like a Groundhog Day movie. This morning, or rather was it this afternoon, after 12 Noon, the Deputy of St. Mary likened this debate to a tennis match. I like the Deputy of St. Mary very much. She is a very thoughtful Member and her contribution was, as usual, well considered, but I am afraid that I did not quite get her analogy of a tennis match. It seems a long time ago, the weekend, but I certainly enjoyed the marathon of the Wimbledon final, 5 hours of really good sport at its best.

Deputy J.A. Hilton:

I am sure Members can recall when an English M.P. (Member of Parliament) made a comment - I cannot remember who it was now - about eggs and decimated the U.K. egg industry. Edwina Currie, correct. I would not like to see the same thing happening to our potato industry.

Connétable M.K. Jackson of St. Brelade

The technicalities of the proposed Energy from Waste plant have been well ventilated, Sir and I am not qualified to add more

Deputy G.P. Southern of St. Helier

There were moments yesterday when I was suffering from extreme existential angst. The whole point of life seemed to be negated, and indeed there were moments this morning when I relived those moments once more in one particular speech.

The Connétable of St. Mary:

I will not be too long, I will be about as normal as I normally am when I make speeches. [Laughter] Three proverbs as such spring to mind on this debate: necessity is the mother of invention; where there is a will there is a way; where there is muck there is brass.

Senator S. Syvret:

This is one of those rare occasions, probably less than 10 occasions I can recollect in nearly 18 years, when I have approached this debate genuinely torn and undecided as to which way I should vote. What do we do then? What to do? Well, as the proverb has it about asking directions to Dublin, you get told: "I would not start from here."

Deputy G.C.L. Baudains of St. Clement:

First thing this morning I was beginning to understand how an incinerator felt, having been fed with so much rubbish. In fact, I was thinking of having my own breakdown.

Deputy F.J. Hill, B.E.M., of St. Martin:

Yesterday the Chief Minister referred to comments made by the former Deputy of St. John about getting on with it and I think we all concur with what the former Deputy of St. John was saying. However, what we did not hear was what the former
Deputy of St. John was asking us to get on with.

Senator T.A. Le Sueur:

Sitting here this afternoon, after 10 hours of debate, I must say my mind wondered temporarily and I was thinking about the poem of The Walrus and The Carpenter; not for any particular Members but the opening line: "'The time has come,' the Walrus said, 'to talk of many things'."

Senator T.J. Le Main

Sir, we are in a crisis and I have heard Members like my good friend the Connétable of St. Helier in front of me. shipping to France. Well, I hope he has got more confidence than me about dealing with the French. Well, I can tell I would not take a chance dealing with the French or doing a business arrangement with the French or the French Government. Nice people all of them but, by gosh, can they not change their minds on various issues? They do not take long to blockade ports and roads and set vehicles on fire and do all sorts of things. So I am very, very nervous of hearing things like that.

Deputy G.W.J. de Faye:

I regret to say I do not have an energy output chart with me in order to answer that question accurately. I would have needed notice of that.

Election Names

In view of the proposed law relating to Political parties being able to register in Jersey - with the Attorney General vetting the names - it is instructive to look at the UK with the recent election of David Davis.

Among others standing were:

Grace Astley (Independent)
David Bishop (Church of the Militant Elvis Party)
Ronnie Carroll (Make Politicians History)
Mad Cow-Girl (Official Monster Raving Loony Party)
Gemma Garrett (Miss Great Britain Party)
George Hargreaves (Christian Party)
Hamish Howitt (Freedom 4 Choice)
Shan Oakes (Green Party)
David Pinder (The New Party)
Joanne Robinson (English Democrats)
Christopher Talbot (Socialist Equality Party)

Will Jersey be able to have as much fun?

See also:

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Should a Senator Who Loses His Seat Contest The Deputies Elections?

Should a Senator Who Loses His Seat Contest The Deputies Elections?

This is the question asked in a poll at:

I think this is one reason why a single day for elections would be a good thing.

Please go and vote there on his site. And consider this.

A few past instances:

Senator Don Filleul, President of Public Services (or as I think it was then Public Works). Lost the confidence of the public as President of Public Works. Voted out. Got in as Deputy. Re-elected by States to - guess where - President of Public Services.

Senator Clarence "Clarrie" Dupre. President of Tourism. Lost confidence of the public as President of Tourism. Voted out. Got in as Deputy. Re-elected by States to - guess where - President of Tourism.

There are more, but it is late, and I'm dozing as I type!

You have to be as old as me to remember back that far, so in recent times -

Deputy Guy de Faye - attempted to get elected as Senator, but failed. The public did not have confidence in his suggestions that he would be good as Transport Minister. Did not get voted in. Got in as Deputy. Elected by States as - Minister for Transport.

What this does is to suggest that voting is a sham, because the largest public mandate - the Island wide vote for Senator - can count for nothing if the individual gets in by the back door of the Deputy's election - where they do not have to carry such a large public with them - and then gets into the position the Island wide vote had no confidence in. No wonder there is apathy!

Stop Press: The weekend edition of News from Nowhere is off to the press. Watch this space.

Lodging Houses in Jersey

The JEP commenting on the Broadlands fire, asked some very pertinent questions.

How many residents were living there, in what conditions and in what circumstances? Assuming that their situation was fully legal, do we still want to consider ourselves the kind of community in which families with children can find themselves living at such close quarters with so many others? It will be of relatively little immediate consolation to the families concerned, but the closeness of that brush will surely focus political attention on the Island's lodging house rules and the question of whether they remain satisfactory by modern standards.

Registered lodging houses are supposed to have minimum standards, which are detailed together with a written agreement at

Registered Lodging Houses-Minimum Standards and Standard Written Agreement.

It is fairly basic, and covers washing and toiletry, cooking and food hygiene, minimum space per person. Not a lot about whether there is mould on the walls, or if the fire standards are up to scratch, or if there are fire hazards in the vicinity.

There is an extremely good article available online at:

This is called "Housing and Poverty in Jersey", and here are a few selected quotations from it, which make disturbing reading.

The Residentially Unqualified

Where do these non-qualified people live? Apart from a fortunate few who live in "uncontrolled" properties, the vast majority live in lodgings. There are lodgings and lodgings. Financial institutions often have smart (and subsidised) apartments for their staff. Hotels and farms often house their workers - in varying degrees of comfort. The rest are housed in registered lodging houses, or unregistered, privately owned or rented houses.

Conditions are often cramped and sometimes unpleasant. Ironically improved standards e.g. room size per number of people - which have recently been implemented, have made matters worse in some cases. As a baby is counted as a "person", a couple in a double room may have to leave if they have a baby. Obviously one double room is not big enough for a family of three to live in comfortably, but it is far less expensive than having to rent a larger unit. Remember there is no rent rebate available, and rents average 50% higher than the market rate in the private sector for residentially qualified tenants. In any case, children are often unwelcome in lodging houses as sadly, they often are in the private sector also.

In general, many lodging houses are unsuitable for family life.

Even where accommodation complies with these regulations, families brought up in lodging houses suffer various deprivations. Babies sharing one-room units with parents create marital tension. Children of different ages lack the space and quiet necessary for proper bedtime routines. If there is inadequate space, how can children engage in creative play - or do homework properly, or have friends to play? There is no privacy for parents either. Anecdotal evidence suggests that children brought up in such cramped conditions fail to develop properly. At nursery and primary school they tend to cling to the sides of rooms because they are "afraid" of space.

Lack of space/quiet/privacy/scope for different activities for parents and children can lead to terrible tensions and family breakdown. In tolerating these conditions, Jersey is storing up emotional, social and criminal problems for the future. Indeed that "future" has already arrived as education and social workers will testify.

Deprivation in Jersey arises both directly in respect of inadequate accommodation (in relation to prevailing norms in this community) and also in the experience of marginalisation that this can engender. Whilst many of the policies that deal with the underlying housing stock will take considerable time to implement there are immediate opportunities to address some factors that tend to engender a sense of marginalisation. In particular, where opportunities for involvement, for example through the formation of householder groups, can be encouraged this can nurture a significant sense of partnership and shared responsibility.

Let us hope Terry Le Main, the Minister for Housing, tackles these matters before the next election.

Some questions I will ask him when he starts his campaign for re-election: What are you going to do to improve the lot of people in lodging houses? How often does the department check these (or have them checked) for fire safety and health standards when they are approved? Do they check the vicinity for fire hazards? Will they do so now?