Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Power of a Blog

Is it just a strange coincidence?
Stuart Syvret's blog publishes transcript of interview from Lenny Harper, naming two politicians who went to see the Attorney-General about someone he was about to charge. After some guessing games, the names of the politicians are "outed".
The following day, the JEP publishes a comment from them saying they had done nothing wrong in taking up the case of a parishioner (the accused's brother)
Stuart Syvret's blog has a section on guessing which letter by the JEP is a fake. It is a letter by a B. Riantz of Clarendon Road. A comment exposes this as a fabrication - the manager of the flats knows there is no one of that name there.
The following day, the JEP publishes a statement to the effect that it has come to their notice that B. Riantz is a fake, and no one of that name lives at that address.
The power of a blog - a pity the JEP couldn't be proactive rather than reactive.

Monday, 29 September 2008

All I survey


The JEP have gone to bona-fide pollsters, and the result is a survey which is "what you think of the States?"

There are two good things about this survey. It is:

a) random

Not self-selecting like the usual JEP or online poll. The problem with polls which ask people to phone in is that they are not representative of the Island as a whole, only of those people who want to reply, and may even count people twice or more. Remember the JEP phone poll on yes / no to tall buildings on the Waterfront where an automated phone system managed to clock up thousands of "yes" votes! Blog polls are the same, as they depend on checking IP addresses. Most businesses have fixed IP addresses, but the average home user is allocated an IP address (via their provider) from a pool when they connect to the internet, and can cheerfully vote each time they go on-line. I once added 30 extra votes to an on-line poll to test this.

A random poll has the advantage over this in that it takes a sample of people regardless of whether they would vote on an online poll or not. If you think "I have not been asked, and I didn't know where to find the poll", that is because the pollsters are doing their job correctly.

b) stratified by age

"Stratified" is a technical term for the JEP's own description as "posed to a sample of Islanders which was weighted according to the age profile of the electorate". That means that the pollsters get information on people's age and adjust the results in a number of possible ways to match the electorate. More accurately this poll uses a "stratified cluster" because it needs to group ages in bands.

General Comments

One way - the simplest - of doing this kind of stratified random poll is to ask the age, then discard those once you have too many for an age group. This is called "proportionate sampling" where the strata sample sizes are made proportional to the strata population sizes. For example if the first strata is made up of males, then as there are around 50% of males in the UK population, the male strata will need to represent around 50% of the total sample.
Another - and probably that used -is to get the results but adjust them in each group so that they match the age profile. This is the cheaper option. This is called a "disproportionate method", where the strata are not sampled according to the population sizes, but higher proportions are selected from some groups and not others. The results are then weighted to bring them to the proportions required.

As a simple example, suppose in an office complex, there are 1000 staff, 40% male, 60 % female.

We could poll 100 people in our sample, making sure there are 40 males, 60 females.

Or we could poll 100 people, and if we get (say) 45 males, 55 females, then we adjust their votes accordingly, by multiplying each part of the results by 40/45 and 60/55 to give the sample the same weighting as the original population.

Problems with the JEP survey

This works quite well, but several deficiencies are apparent.

Firstly, this is not the only way in which sampling can take place. While there may be little or no difference between male and female votes, by taking age alone, this excludes that. More importantly, it excludes different economic strata within Jersey, which is at least as likely to be representative of satisfaction with the States as age groups. I would say this is a pretty major flaw.

Secondly, this method can lead to overcompensation if there is large disproportion between the profile of the sample and the profile of the population. In our example, if they asked 10 males and 90 females, the male vote would be weighted at 40/10, the female by 90/60. This means that our 10 males are representing all the 400 males in the organisation, and even allowing for weighting it is clear this means their opinions can be disproportionate. The large the sample, the less likelihood of error - but that leads to the next problem..

Thirdly, we are not told how large the sample size is. Doubling sample size reduces sampling error by half. Along with this there is a lack of figures for sampling error, which can be expressed as a percentage range of how accurate responses will be in representing the population as a whole.

Fourthly, we are not told how the survey was conducted. Sampling is notoriously difficult to do properly because of what is termed "coverage error" which occurs because a sampling method excludes members of the population. For instance, a phone survey will not pick up on ex-directory people. The time it is taken may exclude workers, or shift-workers. Stopping people in the street only gets the people who live in that street. Mail surveys may get non-responses.

All told, the JEP survey leaves a lot out!

Spin and Statistics


"75% increase in burglaries" screams the headlines.

POLICE are urging Islanders to lock doors and windows after the number of house burglaries soared by 75% this summer. A total of 150 homes have been burgled since May compared to just 86 during the same period last year.

This is a perfect example of what Darrell Huff called "How to Lie with Statistics". Of course, any burglary is bad, and I'd hate to be burgled, but let's look at the real figures.

Assume - and there are more than that - a mere 20,000 households in Jersey - flats, betsits, houses.

86 / 20,000 = 0.43 %
150 / 20,000 = 0.75%

Now recast the text as:

Burglaries sour up from 0.43% of dwellings to 0.75% of dwellings!

Not quite as impressive, but in fact more representative of the true picture. When you have small numbers, 86, 150, a jump can seem like a lot if expressed as a percentage.

Wicca, is at the moment, for example, often described as "the fastest growing religion" simply because it is expressed in percentage terms like this, taking one figure as a percentage increase on the other.  It sounds good, but all it really means is that it actually has a quite small membership, so that any increase features heavily. If expressed per head of the population, the figures rapidly reduce in significance.

It is a pity the JEP didn't ask the statisticians doing the survey (more on that later) for advice before working out the figures and coming out with a headline that is needlessly alarming.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

What you think of the States.

A wonderful goof in the JEP on Saturday, where the report "What you think of the States" carries forward onto page 2, where you read - under the same headline repeated, with "cont. from page 1" that "the same expert judges return to whittle down the contenders to a shortlist of nine".
Expert judges judging the States? What can be going wrong?
It's all down to a proof-reading failure, of course. The correct continuation goes under the headline - also from page 1, continued on page 2, "Search is on for Island Heroes". The JEP has goofed and put the wrong columns under the headings, muddling the two up.
But just imagine - the third article on page 1 continued on page 2 was "Burglaries Soar". So you could have had on page 2 this wonderful muddle:
What do you think of the States (cont. from page 1)
Police have urged islanders to ensure that their doors and windows are locked and that their valuables are not left on display.
I've always wondered about our States members! This is obviously the new way they intend to fill the "black hole"!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Alan Maclean - The Deputy's Mandate


I found his site, and curiously, it still says "Please vote me in for DEPUTY ST HELIER DISTRICT NO 2".

That's interesting, because it means we have a benchmark to judge what he says now by what he promised 3 years ago - at least until he amends it. Here are a few of them, with a note of how effective he has been:

I was one of the organisers of the Black Tuesday silent protest in Royal Square that rallied some 2,000 people. The protest was organised to help persuade states members to focus on cutting wasteful states spending before increasing tax.

Taxes up - so not much success there, and see how this expands in detail below.

My principal aims, if elected, are to ensure that the 20% means 20% tax proposals are cancelled.

20 means 20 is still with us, I'm afraid. I'll return to that in more detail.

A responsible government should have a clear policy on the environment including incentives, such as tax breaks, to encourage us all to be environmentally aware.

No sign of those tax breaks yet, either. Not a single private members bill taken to the States on that account!

Government Reform: The Clothier report did not properly address Jersey's unique democratic style of government. I believe that the Deputy's mandate is not democratic and that any politician representing the Island should be elected with an Island wide mandate. There are too many States Members but the Clothier proposal to reduce the number to the low forties does not go far enough. Fewer politicians with appropriate pay to reflect their role, success and hours worked (full or part time) would ensure the best possible quality of candidate to represent the Island. I do support the Constable's role in the assembly.

This was a muddle then - any politician representing the Island should be elected with an Island wide mandate - so no Deputies. I understand the logic of that, but then he says, "I do support the Constable's role in the assembly." which completely contradicts that - they have a Parish wide mandate.

Not seen much progress on the Island wide mandate stuff either. On 26 September 2007, 2007 P98/2007/ - Deputies - extension of term of office to 4 years P98/2007, he was quite happy to vote in favour of this and retain the status quo.

The Economy: We need a strong and diverse economy in order to maintain and improve our standard of living. In recent times we have come to rely too much upon the finance industry.

Parish Rates: The level of rates are too high in St Helier although steps are being taken to address this situation with a division between residential and commercial assessments. The burden needs to be shared more evenly and one way in which this could be done is for the States to pay rates on their buildings. The fact that rates are not paid on most States buildings despite the fact that they still benefit from the same parish services also distorts the real cost of government and deprives the parishes of much needed funds.

A Simon Crowcroft supporter then?

GST - We must ensure the less well of are protected. They are the most affected from this new tax and we must ensure that the proposed low-income support scheme provides the desired protection. Medicines and medical services should be exempt as well as children's clothing. We must ensure that the 3% rate is maintained as a maximum.

Ahem, ahem - children's clothing exemption. Don't remember much speaking out for that. But when it comes to voting!

25 October 2006 P86/2006/ Goods and Services Tax - exempt or zero-rated items - paragraph (g) children's clothing - voted against! When it came up again on 10 September 2008 (P103/2008/Amd (2)) which would have made school uniforms exempt only, he voted against exempting school uniforms. A man of consistency, but not one which tallies with his election promises!

20% means 20% - I support the fact that this has been delayed for twelve months in the recent budget proposals and would fight for an indefinite delay until the success of other cost saving measures have been assessed. In particular I want to see further savings made by the states before anymore tax rises are agreed. Cutting spending does not mean cutting jobs, there are many in-efficiencies where significant savings can be achieved. Greater independent scrutiny of all states expenditure is required. If this is done properly I do not believe that there will be any need for the 20 means 20 proposal.

Sorry, Alan, you didn't manage the "indefinite delay" after all. In fact, you were not even present when the debate took place.

18 July 2006 P58/2006/ Income Tax allowances, reliefs and exemption thresholds ("20 means 20")- reference back NOT PRESENT
18 July 2006 P58/2006/ Income Tax allowances, reliefs and exemption thresholds ("20 means 20")

There is a problem with serious vandalism and anti-social behaviour from a minority of young people. This causes a great deal of distress to the elderly who feel at times like 'prisoners' in their own homes. One way to redirect the destructive energies of the young is into organised recreational activities and facilities within the parish.

Voting record - Waterfront Skateboard and Youth and Community Centre, 27 February 2008. Proposition P8/2008/Re-Issue. Alan's Vote - Contre - against.

The Millennium Town Park: The Town Park was an agreed States Millennium project in 2000. Since that time progress has stalled. I strongly believe that The Town Park should be a dream that is now realised as a much needed regeneration project for St Helier No 2.

Still dreaming......

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Referendum Trivia

The "changing hour" brigade are trying to get into full flow with their hugely distracting referendum on whether the hour should change. "Just think", said Jim Perchard, on BBC Radio Jersey, "of how an extra hour of light means you could be outside, having a barbeque".
If the recently falling temperatures are set to continue - hardly surprising as we approach October - and watch for those gales - I'm not really sure there are going to be that many people sitting outside.
But when you come in, you can always stay up to 11.30 for the Channel News after the ITV News at 10.00 (UK Time).
Or maybe they'll bring back Jacques Durand for his news in French as that was the time he used to be on Channel TV. "Bon soir," he always used to say, and I'd reply "Bon nuit", and turn the TV off. Those were the days  - nostalgia warning - when Channel signed off with an extremely young looking Queen Elizabeth from 1957 on horseback and the Royal Anthem (even up to the 1980s). After which there would be a blank fuzzy white screen, and a high pitched whine.
And remember - an extra hour of darkness in the morning means an extra hour of ground frost, black ice, or snow before the sun can rise up and start to melt it. By which time, if the hour changes, everyone will have to be on the roads.
It will be ok for Jim, though, because his tractor will run in all weathers!

Stream Fayre - Autumn 2008

Went to the steam fayre last weekend, at the Pallot Steam Museum, and have some video clips.

The playlist is can be found at:


The clips are quire short, so the easiest way to view them is to open the playlist, and click on "Play All Videos" (right hand side)

If you missed the race between the trains, it can be found in the playlist of the Liberation 2008 steam fayre. This one also includes a brief clip of the inside of the fire box on the large train.


and finally, an old poem I wrote on the subject, and yes, it is true, my grandfather did catch the train!

Steam Fayre

The train is waiting on the platform
Steam building, waiting for perform
A chance for us to enjoy once more
Days of railways from long before

Once this train ran from the town
All day long, sunrise to sundown
To the Eastern reaches of Gorey
Beneath the castle that we still see.

But carriages were pulled another way
By a train upon the Western railway
To Corbiere point, to see the coast
The lighthouse that was westernmost.

Those days are long since gone, the East
Taken by land owners when it ceased
The West remains in part as walking path
A legacy of the closure and its aftermath.

But now we sit in carriages once more
Just like my grandfather in days of yore
The ticket inspector punches tickets, then
With a whistle, the train is off again.

Just twice round this short track today
At the Steam Museum, time's delay
To enjoy the rattle of train on track
A memory to enjoy, take back.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Common Sense

I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense . . ." - Thomas Paine

Just been listening to the first part of "A life of Thomas Paine", dramatised for BBC Radio 4 by by Trevor Griffiths. It is a fantastic production, and is part of my scheme to educate myself better in American history. After all, it is not as if there is a huge amount of it compared to British History!

I am also reading my way through Walter Lord's "The Good Years", about the period 1901-1914, which saw some extraordinary events, including the great earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906, the panic on the banks (nothing new there!), and the Wright brothers first powered flight.

I also saw the film "The Good Shepherd", about the birth of the CIA, although it is a fictional account in many respects. The central character, Edward Wilson, played by Matt Damon is absolutely and ruthlessly committed to his countries cause, and it is to see in this both the roots of the McCarthy witch-hunt, and the almost messianic belief of George Bush in the rightness of America's cause, whenever it intervenes. It was also unclear whether Damon's cold and expressionless manner was deliberate, or just the way he acts.

But back to Tom Paine, who had a number of fallings out with the American founding fathers, not least because he was against slavery even back then. Here are some very good quotes from his book "Common Sense":

"Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil."

That is of course not just Paine's opinion. C.S. Lewis was also of the opinion that democracy was the best form of government because all governments tend to go rotten at their heart:

A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserves a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.

Another quote of Thomas Paine's rings true so many times....

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom."

BBC Drama Cast list:

Tom Paine ...... Jonathan Pryce
Benjamin Franklin ...... Alan Howard
Thomas Jefferson ...... Ken Cranham
Governor Morris ...... Robert Glenister
Marthe Daley ...... Kelly Hunter
George Washington ...... Philip Jackson
Rittenhouse ...... Jack Shepherd
Sam Adams ...... Paul Jesson
Joseph ...... Nick Rowe
Lafayette ...... John McAndrew
Mrs Downey ...... Marcella Riordan
House Speaker ...... Hugh Ross
Will ...... Kwayedza Kureya
Lotte ...... Julia Reinstein
Music by John Tams.
Directed by Clive Brill.

Street Talk

"Street Talk" in the JEP was most amusing the other day, featuring an article all about "Gentle Denistry".
There was the bold headline, in all its glory, about a size 14 font!
I am sure the dentists in question would have been mortified to learn that their hard-earned cash was being spent on advertising how badly they could spell.
I don't know what "gentle" dentistry is anyway, and it sounds a bit like a confidence trick - I have yet to come across a dentist who didn't use drills somewhere in their dealings with tooth decay before putting a filling in. But I've never heard of "denistry before now.
Anyhow if you want "gentle denistry" whatever that is, you should contact the "Street Talk" people. Who knows what they may come up with next? "Genital dentistry", perhaps?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Another hotel going?


This is a video of St Brelade's Hotel. A lovely hotel, run by the son of the late owner, and always full of flowers in the summer months. My great-grandfather use to drink there - and I am told drank away a not inconsiderable amount of farmland!

Since the owner died, the hotel ownership has passed to three children, one of whom runs it as manager, and the other two live in the UK. The one over here would like to buy the others out, and has made a very reasonable offer - but, of course, it cannot compete with what the developers (always waiting in the wings) are prepared to offer, for developing the building as luxury flats, or for demolishing and putting something else in its place. Either way, the hotel will be gone for good, and as old postcards show, it has been in the bay for many years.

It is a pity we can't have a "sea zone", like the green zones, to protect hotels close to the sea, always popular for tourists, especially in a bay like this. Once gone, they won't return, and countless ones - the Bryn-Y-More along the La Haule to Beaumont road is another - they won't be back again. The St Brelade's Bay hotel is commercially viable - but worth more if developed and sold as housing. What a shame that would be!

Election 2008: A family man

"A family man" has become one of the sloppy adjectives trotted out by journalists when describing any public figure, and it rarely has anything to do with how they may behave in general, let alone to their family. It is a shorthand way of saying - a good person - which used to be performed by the adjective "Christian" around 30 years ago.

Now we live in a more secular age, so it is harder to find adjectives which can do the trick, and suggest some kind of devoutness. But as we have "family values" - another loose and extremely poorly defined ethical marker - so now we can also have "family man", another meaningless piece of lazy journalese:

"The proposer said that 35-year-old Mr Tindall was a family man who had the full support of his wife Julie, who is a trademark expert."

" A family man and Chair of Governors at Haute Vallee School..."

"I am a Jersey born, happily-married family man with three daughters..."

Sir Peter was a great family man who was devoted to his wife and children.

In his essay "The Sermon and the Lunch", C.S. Lewis recalls a vicar who was preaching on "the family", and who said:

And so the home must be the foundation of our national life. It is there, all said and done, that character is formed.. It is there that we retreat from the noise and stress and temptation and dissipation of daily life to seek the sources of fresh strength and renewed purity.

Lewis comments that "The sermon, for all practical purposes, was over; the five minutes for which the preacher continued talking were a total waste of time- at least for most of us." Lewis noted how, from his own experience at the vicar's house for lunch, prior to the service, the vicar kept interrupting the other members of the family, the children were at odds with their father, the father raised his voice, the mother got hurt feelings, the daughter got sarcastic. "Then a few hours later he spoke on how wonderful family life is."

He [the Vicar] keeps on talking as if "home" were a panacea, a magical charm which of itself was bound to produce happiness and virtue. The trouble is not that he is insincere but that he is a fool. He is not talking from his own experience of family life at all: he is automatically reproducing a sentimental tradition- and it happens to be a false tradition. That is why the congregation have stopped listening to him.

But this sentimental and false tradition is still alive and well in the world of the cheap sound-bite. Michael Shermer, in In "How Thinking Goes Wrong: Twenty-five Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things" notes how often it is trotted at to show the reliability of someone, a reliability which is misplaced.

Farmer Bob in Puckerbrush, Kansas, may be an honest, church-going, family man not obviously subject to delusions, but we need physical evidence of an alien spacecraft or alien bodies, not just a story about landings and abductions at 3:00 A.M. on a deserted country road.

After, all, as a another headline noted, the "family man" can be a cover for all kinds of nastiness lurking beneath the surface:

A HIGHLY respected 'family man' who engineered ten operations to import nearly £50,000 worth of drugs into Jersey has been jailed for nine years.

and in a recent book, "The Himmler Brothers: A German Family History", we are told that:

"Heinrich himself emerges-not a lone evil executioner, but a middle-class family man, loved and fully supported by his respectable German family."

So when someone says to you (wanting your vote) they are a "family man", why not say "Like Heinrich Himmler, you mean?" And don't vote for them. Anyone who thinks that such a spurious argument can sway a voter is capable of anything. If they certainly don't bother to think about what they are saying, how will they make up their minds in States' debates?




Lewis, C. S. (1970). God in the dock: Essays on theology and ethics, (ed. by Walter Hooper). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Changing Costs and Goal Posts


A MOVE to give the Chief Minister's department over £570,000 to improve the Island's international image was approved by the States yesterday. Politicians voted by 33 to 13 to endorse a plea from Chief Minister Frank Walker for money for a range of new positions - including a £50,000-a-year 'change officer' position to oversee a programme to increase States efficiency. Senator Walker proposed an amendment to his own Council of Ministers' spending plans seeking funding for positions that also included a part-time media adviser based outside the Island. Another part of the package was £100,000 a year for a social policy development executive and also £70,000 for a deputy to the Emergency Planning Officer.

Hang on a moment, wasn't part of the remit when Bill Ogley was appointed Chief Officer to the Council of Ministers that he had successfully been involved in a local government change programme, and he was ideally suited as a candidate for the change to ministerial government because he had experience in "managing change", and making efficiencies when it came to "joined up government" (as he had done in local government)? That was part of the selling point of his appointment in all the press releases at the time.

A few years down the line, and Mr Ogley is clearly too tied up with other matters and needs someone else to do part of his job. The goal posts have moved! Isn't life wonderful! A pity the £50,000 couldn't be taken from his salary to cover it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

States Strategic Plan

Some interesting statistics out of the States Strategic Plan (also known as the pre-election publicity splurge for ministers because of its interesting timing!).


Even by their own internal assessment, Transport and Technical Services has a damming rating of 20% off track, and 50% on the amber (delays) category, mostly due to funding failures. I'd be hugely surprised in Guy de Faye retains his post even if he retains his seat, but I don't think it is entirely his fault, although his attitude doesn't help.

Some of the tick boxes seem a little out. For instance:

In 2006/7 investigate the feasibility and potential efficiency savings of providing regulatory services in partnership with Guernsey and report back to the States (CM)

That is ticked as "completed", but the outcome is rather paltry.

Various potential initiatives were raised by the CoM with Guernsey's Policy Council, none of which the Policy Council wished to pursue. This will be revisited later in 2008

If it is being "revisited", forgive me for being thick, but it doesn't really seem completed, does it?

This one is also important, and incomplete, but ticked off as complete:

In 2006 engage the relevant authorities in France, through appropriate channels, in discussions, and, in 2007 or earlier, bring forward measures to provide improved communication in relation to the nuclear activities on the Cotentin peninsula and compensation arrangements in the event of a nuclear accident (CM)

And the result:

Close links on emergencies planning and notification of incidents established between Emergency Planning Officer and authorities in Normandy; consultation with MOJ on compensation available under the Paris-Brussels conventions.

"Consultation" doesn't exactly sound as if anything is fixed regarding compensation, does it? Or is there a nice agreement lurking somewhere that I missed?

Health has several items in the "red", and with the new sunken road, the lack of progress on this one is, I feel, significantly bad:

In 2007; debate and implement an Air Quality Strategy for Jersey, including proposals for monitoring and publishing levels of local air pollution, and targets, policies and timescales for reductions in air pollution levels that reflect best practice globally (P&E) Note: This is the responsibility of the Environmental Health Team at Health & Social Services

Under "green", for ongoing and on-track, Planning have this!

Develop a viable proposal in 2006 to provide a new town park for St Helier within three to four years (P&E/TTS)

with the comment (and failure of the spell-checker in their PDF!):

Work underway to develop porposals (sic) for remediation, provision of new park and development of public car parking facilility.

and given the failure of Stuart Syvret to get anyone to look into toxic metals on the Waterfront, is it any wonder that the following is "red":

In 2007; consult on, then debate and implement, a Contaminated Land Strategy (P&E). Slippage due to competing priorities.

Social security is extremely short, and has nothing at all about supporting any kind of work schemes for mentally handicapped adults leaving the education system - who may well find that they have nothing to do except stay with their carers. It is wonderful how you can get ticks for "green" and "completed", and solve the difficult problems by just ignoring them.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

14 Year Old Speaking Wisdom for Our Planet

Ou comment une jeune fille de 14 ans remet à leur place les dirigeants du monde.


This is an impassioned and intelligent discourse on the environment, on poverty, on waste, on wars - by a 14 year old girl.

Subtitles in French, but the language is English. It is only 6 minutes long, and quite, quite brilliant. I wish I could be as clear.

I was sent it by a friend, and have just listened to it with my son. We were both absolutely blown away with the clarity in which she says everything. It is an extraordinary speech, so full of passion and plain common sense. She is talking to the delegates of a conference, and has an assurance and confidence that belies her years. While impassioned, it is also full of cogent argument, not just an appeal to the emotions, although there is that too.

Please watch it if you have the time, especially if you think these things don't matter.

Blog Reviews 1

This is horribly incomplete, but at the rate they are expanding, if I don't put something down, I'll never do so. More to follow later....


This is the Constable of St Saviour's blog. Don't expect much comment about the States here, it is all about Parish events, like the St Saviour's entry in the Battle of Flowers, Jeux Intervilles, St Saviour in bloom etc. But very well done as a celebration of those aspects of Parish Life. We need these "glimpses of eden", life does not revolve around politics all the time. Although it is a little strange to have quite such an omission of anything political!


The informed and intelligent rural scene from someone at the cutting edge. This has an interesting variety of articles, from those about farming - from the farmer's perspective - to GM food, waste disposal, the environment, global warming and Imagine Jersey. For events like Imagine Jersey, or the The Jersey Care Leavers' Association public meeting, expect meticulous detailed reports that are a boon to those whom, like myself, are unable to easily attend, and who do not like relying on the inadequate precis of the Jersey Evening Post. These reports remind me of the old days when the JEP would devote pages and pages to States debates, meetings etc, before the era of the quick "sound-bite". The other comments, on GM Food, Global Warming etc are also well reasoned, with lots of useful links to primary sources. Interwoven with this, are his personal stories, the farming year, planting chestnut trees, stories of how St Ouen folk rally round when flooding strikes. Wonderful!


A Jerseyman in Poland. A mixture of comments from afar, some interesting stuff on Poland, and how the news appears from far abroad. As well as the manifesto he would have given if he had been in Jersey and eligible for election; being in Poland for so long disqualified him. A very strong environmentalist from St Ouen who comments a lot on those matters, and is appalled how little consideration is given to that by the Jersey States.


The State of Jersey. An infrequent poster, mostly critical of GST, but a good clearing house for information with his directory at:


Cameron Harris' Blog
A combination of posts on computer technology, computer games and robotics intersperced with traffic issues. The traffic issues are local, the others are more general, but very interesting. If you want to see one vision of the future as seen by a young man, look at "Brains in Jars", a thought-proving and intelligent posting. Good stuff on the deficiencies of Jersey transport by someone who uses the buses.


Really good photographs of Jersey, with a cluster of photos for each theme - e.g. Moonlight Parade, La Coupe Lookout Tower, and several on "Nite" which are really classy views of parts of St Helier by night.


Mostly about writing, but the odd Jersey theme like the Battle of Flowers

If your're not there, I haven't forgotten you - this is only part 1!

The Omen


THE collapse of one of the world's largest investment banks could be a good omen in the longer term, according to a finance industry spokesman. Geoff Cook, chief executive of industry promoters Jersey Finance, believes that the crisis might actually solve problems in the financial system. Reacting to yesterday's news that US bank Lehman Brothers was insolvent, Mr Cook said that there was likely to be global volatility in the markets for some time to come. 'In many ways it is a good thing,' he said. 'There are problems in the financial system and this will take the weaker players out, which is what is needed to free up the system.'

Isn't it such a charming manner in which people - like Geoff Cook - can say that a collapse which means massive job losses worldwide, and lots of suffering and misery in the process, can actually be a "good thing"! You'd never know about the suffering; it is just all figures on a balance sheet. Would he have said the same about the Wall Street crash, or the German financial meltdown of the 1930s? Probably.

No doubt if he had been around when the Titanic sank, the redoubtable Mr Cook would have been expounding on how this would benefit world passenger shipping by removing the weaker players and making sure than lifeboats were there for all. And perhaps he is right in the long term, but to state it like he does, with no sign of consideration for the short term misery inflicted, displays a degree of callousness that is almost beyond belief. Even Lord Mersey was not quite as bad at that when he presided over the British enquiry. I think the Titanic survivors would have wanted a few words with Mr Cook, at the very least.

No doubt an ancestor of his was about saying the Black Death was a "good omen" because it opened up employment opportunities by taking the weaker players out, which was what was needed to free up the system.

But - to be fair - perhaps the JEP only reported part of what he said, in which case, if I were him, I'd contact the JEP forthwith and get them to put the other quotations - if they exist - to show that he actually cares for the people who have lost everything as a result of the market collapses in the USA rippling round the world, and who don't have the luxury of same States supported amour-plated job security of his own employment.

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Jersey Election reporting 2008

Voters have a choice of 21 candidates for Senator. There are six available
seats. Three sitting senators will be trying to keep their jobs in the States -

Philip Ozouf, Paul Routier and Mike Vibert. Five deputies are aiming for an Islandwide mandate. They are Alan Breckon, Sarah Ferguson, Alan MacLean, Geoff Southern Peter Troy. And thirteen potential newcomers are seeking election. They are Cliff Le Clerq, Nick Le Cornu, Mark Forskitt, Mike Higgins, Jeremy Macon, Ian le Marquand, Nick Palmer, Mick Pashley, Chris Perkins, Trevor Pitman, Montfort Tadier, Adrian Walsh and Daniel Wimberley.

Radio 103 has a site up and running as a blog on the candidates starting at:


The BBC site is at:


and the JEP has a section at:


I'll be doing my own blog on candidates later, when there is more information about them. For the moment, all I will note is that a number will certainly be seeking some kind of "protest vote", and I hope the vote does not split among them like it did with the JDA and Jersey Central Party in the last elections, so that only the more establishment figures get in - because there are not enough of them to split their votes.

Incinerator Backup Plan

The States having voted to go ahead with the incinerator, I have a number of questions for the people standing who want to go back on that motion:

a) Do you personally know what the position is regarding a new incinerator? In other words, have any contracts been signed, and if not what is the deadline for signing them? What penalty might there be if they are signed?

b) How much of a delay do you see in any debate on alternatives? Will it set the time table for putting a new incinerator in place back by one month, six months, a year? Or is the alternative incinerator available in less time?

c) In the meantime, should the current one completely break down before there is anything to take its place, what practical contingency plans would you put in place to dispose of rubbish for the interim, for instance, household rubbish, and do you how much is that going to cost?

The more facts and figures - costings especially - the better. Alternatives may look good on paper, but it is the fine detail of a business plan that is needed.

I'm undecided, but if the incinerator breaks down catastrophically, then I can see (1) costs of shipping waste out - if we can find a taker (2) massive health problems - rats, smells etc etc It would be nice to recycle everything overnight, but that costs too - shipping costs at least - and I'd like to see some real budget facts and figures.

I know someone who works at Bellozanne - not management, but ground floor workforce - and the news I have from them is that we are living on the brink of chaos.

Commercial Ethos?


Deputy Maclean (45), who is married with young children and runs the estate agency Mulberry, has had responsibility for the Airport and the Island's harbours since assuming his role as Assistant Economic Development Minister. He said he had introduced a more commercial ethos to both Jersey Airport and Jersey Harbours that had resulted in more services, more routes and more travellers.

Is that the commercial ethos which has seen the loss of HD Ferries, and budget airlines are pulling out of Jersey routes? It's a very strange way to announce your campaign? I know it is not his doing, but to completely ignore the recent losses of services, and the continual failings of HD Ferries in order to paint a rosy picture (for which he takes all the credit) seems very strange!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


I hope to get back over to Guernsey in the first weekend in October. Some interesting stuff happening.

A DETAILED survey of the Bailiwick seabed started yesterday. Guernsey Electricity's submarine survey is designed to gather information that could help potential developers assess whether conditions are suitable for tidal projects. The availability of this data is likely to make the Bailiwick more attractive to developers, who would otherwise have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds carrying out a similar survey themselves. Project head Sally-Ann David, GE's engineering services manager, said the physical requirements for the seabed could differ depending on the type of technology being used. 'But whatever system you have, you are going to need to secure it to the seabed somehow in an area where there is a fast-flowing tidal stream. What this survey will do is provide the critical data engineers will need to assess whether locations we believe offer the right tidal conditions are going to be suitable for a particular technology.'


It is clear they are very serious about tidal power, and why not? For islands with such huge tidal ranges, it seems folly not to be able to harness that immense flow and use it to generate electricity, especially in these energy conscious days. When we get very clear weather, a look over at France reveals wind turbines on their hills, just visible to the naked eye. Alternative energy can work, if you have the right energy source for your locality, which is why solar power is not such a good bet. But Guernsey are really putting a lot of effort into making tidal power attractive to developers by providing this survey data. Why isn't Jersey doing anything as forward looking? The only tidal power suggestion over here was part of the land bridge to France idea, and it was interestingly the power generation aspect that appealed to the French.

Elsewhere, however, Jersey has stolen a march on Guernsey.


FOR avid States-watchers - and there is an island full of them - a move by the States Assembly and Constitution Committee to make the voting record of the House available online is a significant advance. For short of visiting the Greffe and asking to access the register, there is currently no easy way of seeing how your district representatives have voted on key issues. Yes, this newspaper publishes the main decisions but unless electors cut them out for future reference there is no easily researchable archive of the outcome of debates and, to that extent, less accountability than there should be.

I have found Jersey's own voting record site to be excellent in that respect. Its Hansard is sometimes a little on the slow side, but still brilliant in enabling us to see what arguments (or lack of arguments) are actually made, but the voting record is sometimes updated on the day itself, and if not by the morning of the following day. It does enable us to see how people vote, and pick up on consistent voting patterns, and all without having to buy the JEP. In the old days, columns of newsprint were devoted to States debates and votes, and while important ones still get a mention, there is much reduced coverage. But that is as it should be: democracy in action, as the Guernsey Press points out, should not depend on having to read a newspaper to find out what is going on.

More on Eugene Hughes at:


EUGENE HUGHES'S vile crimes were finally brought to justice when he ogled one of his victims' children by chance in Town. The woman, who did not wish to be named, had been walking up the High Street with her 18-month-old daughter when she spotted her abuser going the other way. She hadn't seen him for years and was unsure if he had recognised her. The encounter made the woman decide to tell Hughes how she would never forget what he had done to her. When she sought police advice on the best way to do it, she ended up making a formal complaint. By coincidence her decision came just before other women who had suffered at his hands decided to come forward. Last week, the 80-year-old was jailed for six-and-half years after he admitted eight counts of indecent assault on girls between the ages of seven and 14 between 1987 and 1996. Two other offences were taken into account in the sentencing. The case related to offences against five different girls, all now adults.


A YOUNG mother has told of how her physical abuse by a paedophile tore her family apart. Her complaint against Eugene Hughes was the first in a sequence that culminated in him being locked up for six-and-a-half years. 'I was determined that if it stopped one person from going through what I have, it would be worthwhile,' she said. 'The Royal Court made no allowance for his age, which is only right, as he made no allowance for mine.'

An example of justice that still stands out against Jersey where delay follows delay, and Lennie Harper again reiterated the difficulty he and his team had. However, On the child abuse issue, the Guernsey press highlights in its letters page that Guernsey still has not got a sex offenders register, although the paper itself is happy to name and shame when it feels it is in the public interest to know if a known sex offender is released in the community, as it did in late 2007, when the editor commented on his actions as follows:

[The article] simply reflected the very real concerns of the parent at the receiving end of James Brehaut's actions which, unless our critic believes them to be normal behaviour, were perverted. The reason we went into depth - and gave all those concerned or involved every opportunity to comment simultaneously - was that for reasons we cannot explain, none of the island's media appeared to know the case was being heard. The father's fears were all the more understandable given the context, which is why we felt it important to provide the background of what was presented in court, unpleasant though it was. Does the Guernsey Press have faith in the legal system? Yes. Do islanders feel adequately informed about the whereabouts and identity of child sex offenders? No. We are accused of scaremongering, yet the fact remains that a man who deemed it acceptable to steal into children's bedrooms and download shocking images of abused youngsters is now free. The issue, it seems to us, is how the authorities convince islanders that no more offences will be committed - and why they shouldn't see what Brehaut looks like.

Pity the JEP is not as outspoken!

The Return of the Gods


Just been reading the letter in the JEP by Michael de Petrovsky about Advocate Falle's actions, in which he comments that:

Having just returned from a refreshing two-week tour of Western Europe, I read that a Jersey magistrate had threatened to incarcerate a fellow human being for refusing to stand up for morning prayers. One shudders.

He then goes on to give an example of how bad things can be by citing an example of taking the book of Jonah literally:

In one school, where the head was a highly qualified scientist, some way-out crank was permitted to perform a ridiculous interpretation of Jonah and the Whale. There, these young primary age children were subjected to an account so absurd that I failed to understand why the staff did not challenge it.

In fact, the story of Jonah - and the large fish - which is unidentified - has in Judaism, and in many strands of Christianity, long been taken as a fable. In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as taking the story not literally but as a "type" or "symbol" of what he is talking about.

In 409 AD, Augustine (who also took the genesis stories as myths or fables) wrote of Jonah:

The thing is utterly improbable and incredible, that a man swallowed with his clothes on should have existed in the inside of a fish. If, however, the story is figurative, be pleased to explain it. Again, what is meant by the story that a gourd sprang up above the head of Jonah after he was vomited by the fish? What was the cause of this gourd's growth?" Questions such as these I have seen discussed by Pagans amidst loud laughter, and with great scorn.

Augustine's approach was to see the story as an allegory, and not as literal history.

It was only the rise of fundamentalism, with its emphasis on literal truth, that the story became - as de Petrovsky points out so clearly - an absurdity. But Augustine had already said that.

De Petrovsky uses this to make his argument:

In this day and age, I firmly believe that the only place for religion is in the home. It has no place in the law, nor in education (except in a purely academic sense), nor government

But does this follow? Insofar as a religious belief - as much as the ideology of an atheist - informs their morality, then to completely exclude religious belief would be to exclude the ethical reasoning which may derive from religious roots. Theocracy - such as in the Middle Ages, or in Nations where Sharia law is practiced - is clearly a bad thing, as it makes the ultimate court of appeal beyond criticism. But an informed conscience whose reasoning may derive from or have roots in religious belief is another matter, as long as what Richard Dawkins calls "the God Card" is not played as a trump to say "I am right, you are wrong".

If religious people had kept their religious beliefs in the home, the war against slavery might not have been fought, to give just one example. It was the slave owners who kept their beliefs compartmentalised, and saw no contradictions between the private piety and the public business practice.

Finally De Petrovsky comments that:

There is no doubt that in years to come the current religions of the world will be viewed by future generations as we now view those of the pre-Christian era. Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha and the thousands of other current deities will one day take their place alongside Zeus, Thor and all those other gods who now appear but figments of an uninformed imagination.

I don't know where he has been the past twenty years, but his understanding of history seems to have a lot of the 1970s about it, when science and the white hot heat of the technological revolution was going to do away with any kind of religious belief. He should spend some time in the bookshops, where the science section has sadly been fading away, down to a single book case, and the new age books, all full of colourful items - channeling, tarot, wicca, paganism, druidry, angels etc etc - have expanded to take up four or five book cases.

Conventional religious belief - often a matter of form as much as conviction - has been steadily (and in some cases rapidly) vanishing as those who went along with it as a matter of custom (or were blungeoned into it by school assemblies) have ceased, and only the committed remain. But New Age beliefs have exploded in the last twenty years, as can be seen by any visit to a Mind, Body and Spirit Fair, where some of the beliefs on offer would give Mr De Petrovsky even more of a fit than the Jonah story - and gave Richard Dawkins such apoplexy he devoted two programmes - The Enemies of Reason - to it.

And if he thinks Thor and Odin have gone away, he should really read the volume of "The Athlone History of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The 20th Century", which deals among other matters with the rise and popularity of Odinism, a revival of the Norse pantheon, and which certainly have members (not me I hasten to add!) over in Jersey who meet outside on "sacred times" to chant and beat their drums, and other ritualistic matters.


Here you will find information about the Odinic Rite, about Odinism, our Gods & Goddesses and our Folk. You will also find many articles from previous issues of OR Briefing, our members publication, audio & video and news of interest to Odinists.

In Greece, some New Agers are reviving the Greek Pantheon. So far from "being figments of an unformed imagination", they are now emerging again as part of a post-modern reformed imagination, which finds scientific reductionism too arid and dry to provide enough emotional sustenance.


Today, several groups and solitary practitioners around the world attempt to revive the worship of the ancient Greek pantheon, including Zeus. These people are involved in revivalist religions that operate under various names including: Hellenic Reconstructionism, Hellenic Polytheism, Hellenic Paganism, Hellenismos and Dodekatheism.

I'm not saying whether this modern revival is a good thing or not, I'm simply noting that it is a fact, and will not go away, however much wishful thinking De Petrovsky would like to indugle in.

Books of the Post

"New Age Movement. The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity, Paul Heelas
The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality, Paul Heelas

(These are academic studies of the phenomena from a sociologist)

Still Alive

I was amazed to see Alan Whicker (aged 87) the other day. I was just going into the JEC showrooms up Queen's Road, and there he was, coming out of them. He was unmistakable, because he was still wearing the same glasses and the same kind of check jacket that I have seen him in on his TV programmes, all those years ago. It was as if he had stepped out of a time warp, or perhaps the JEC building houses a cryogenic chamber, and they've been testing it on local celebrities. Alan is looking very well for his age, and I'm amazed to see he is still alive.

Unless, of course, it is one of those doppelganger Alan Whickers who turned up in a Monty Python sketch about Whicker's Island, an Island populated entirely by Alan Whickers! "There are just too many Whickers on Whicker Island" said one, and other gave the riposte "And not enough people to interview".

Speaking of other ancient people still alive, I was equally startled to hear the plummy tones of Robert Robinson (aged 81) on Radio 4, with a Quiz show of some sort, still giving the same patronising put-downs that I remember from his TV show from the 1970s. Private Eye used to lampoon Robinson under the nickname 'Smuggins' because of his pompous manner. The TV show was "Ask the Family", which I always thought should have been called "Ask the Teacher", because pretty well every family competing was a family of teachers. Perhaps they had enough time to take off for quiz shows in their school holidays?

Teachers are quite an odd crowd. They often marry other teachers - Jurat Nick Herbert - a former head teacher - has just celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary (Diamond, I think) with his wife, who was also a head teacher, and their daughter is a teacher too. It is probably due to the fact that most of their conversation is with other teachers in the school staff room, especially I think - from observing teachers at Mont Nichole for a term in the 1970s - with primary school teachers.

At least the air was clear there, whereas the staff room at Victoria College used to reek of stale tobacco from cigarettes and pipes. A number of the teachers there used to go down to the Lilly Langtree in La Motte Street, a lovely building - part of a hotel - that was just knocked down one day for building flats. I'd not even seen a notice in the JEP at the time, and it was before the modern practice of sticking up site notices mentioning planning permission.

I do think that of all the recent changes in planning that has to be a great advantage, as it highlights the planning permission where it takes place, not some obscure field number only available if you have an Ordinance Survey Map, or a copy of Jersey Place Names, which made checking for planning permissions about as easy as finding that demolition notice in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Adrian Walsh

A little background gleaned from last time he stood. He was not then an establishment figure, far from it. It will be interested to see if he is reinventing himself this time round. Some of us have good memories, and for those who don't a quick Google enables us to see the following:


Background: Information management consultant with local business that was set up in 2000. Previously a director of Future Systems Limited, an IT and programming company. Achieved media profile in 2004 through his ownership (subsequently temporarily transferred to Senator Ted Vibert) of certain web sites which criticised the Jersey Financial Services Commission.

Honorary and other appointments (past and present):
- Founder member: UK group "Programmers for Charity", which writes a computer program or database for a different charity each year.
- Member: Institute of Analysts and Programmers
- Member: British Computer Society


I am looking to contribute, to make a difference. That's the idea of stepping into politics. Since childhood I have never been the kind to just sit and watch. I'd rather do something and come up with a solution. Right now, I want to work at reducing the costs associated with government. If pruning needs to be done then prune from the top down not the bottom up and let's start with removing free parking for States Members.

What's the most important issue for your district?

Lack of money. I know it sounds like a flippant answer, but people are finding it more and more difficult to cope on the money they earn. Pensioners are not getting cost of living rises, people are worried about the effect of paying ITIS and their last years tax. We need to increase the help we provide without increasing our costs.
There is a mass of duplication in the states which costs millions. I would like to see those millions paying for pensioners TV Licenses, or creating areas for our youth to use up their energy and encourage their abilities.

CHIEF MINISTER: The choice is limited so far to the two who have put their names forward and out of those I would have to choose Senator Syvret.

He is the only one who could accept the position past 2010 when most of the tax and finance policies come into effect. We don't need a Chief Minister who is not going to be there just before we have to face the EU with our fiscal policy. I would like to believe though that there will be a third or maybe fourth choice candidate dependant on the new deputies coming into the states.


PRESSURE from the Financial Services Commission put on a trust company to suspend an employee who created a website called the Jersey Financial Scandals Collection was an 'absolute disgrace', Senator Ted Vibert told the States on Tuesday. Other members said that moves to 'gag' former Senatorial candidate Adrian Walsh, a trust company IT manager, by forcing him to remove the website were a serious infringement on his freedom of expression. Senator Stuart Syvret argued that the perception that the Island was silencing dissenting voices would harm its reputation far more than any damage the website could do. Mr Walsh's website was critical of aspects of Jersey's finance industry and its regulators, and made comments about the FSC's director general, David Carse.

The Non-Voter in Jersey

Today is the last day to register to vote. I know of several people who will not be registering, and here is a brief analysis of the types of non-voter that I have come across over the years.

The Intelligent Non-Voter

I spent an interesting time discussing the merits of voting with a chap from St Peter who told me he had no intention of voting, or for that matter, of registering to vote. His reasons (as far as I could understand them) were as follows:

Voting is not related - as in some countries - to life and death matters, as for instance in Zimbabwe, or other countries where politics is repressive and they have only just had the vote. Consequently, the differences in policy that different politicians may bring will be largely cosmetic, and there is not really that much that will effect him, if anything. Most of the major changes of importance - social security, public health - have been dealt with in the past, and what is left is more or less either "tinkering", or acting at the mercy of outside forces - like with the changes to our tax systems such as zero/ten etc forced upon us from outside pressure.

Obviously, if you are on the poverty line, you may see matters very differently, as I tried to put to him, but he thinks that whoever is in charge of a very rich island should be able to deal with poverty if they put their mind to it, but whoever takes over from them will probably be just as slow in doing anything about it, whatever their election promises.

The Uninterested Non-Voter

Related to that chap is the uninterested non-voter, typically, but not always, someone who is an immigrant to the Island, and who basically just "gets on with their life". What is going on at the political end, such as GST, impacts on them, but they just accept it as something that happens, and carry on making do as best they can. They may grumble occasionally about new taxes introduced, but it is just something to moan about from time to time, and that is that way things are, and they just live with it, and accept it. They don't have the time to get involved in following what goes on in politics, as their lives are busy enough, and anyway, there are more interesting things to do, and they don't understand it, or even want to understand it. Sometimes this is because of a language barrier, which is probably especially the case with the Portuguese population, and sometimes it is because they have come from England or Scotland ("the mainland"!) and it is an alien world to them.

The Misinformed and Missed Voter

I have come across one person who had been told - and taken on trust - that you had to be in the Island for five years before being able to vote, and wanted to vote. This presumably was a garbled version of the actual requirements, only one of which involves five years.

To be eligible to register to vote in Jersey you must be over 16 years old and have been either (A) ordinarily resident in Jersey for the period of at least 2 years or (B) ordinarily resident in Jersey for a period of at least 6 months prior to registration as well as having been ordinarily resident in Jersey at any time for (an) additional period(s) totalling at least 5 years.

He assumed that was the reason why he had not been sent an electoral role form, even though he has in fact been over here for at least 2 years. In the end, he went to the Parish Hall (St Brelade) and filled in a form there so that he can vote. In case Guy de Faye is thinking of standing for Senator - I would mention that he comes from Italy, so one vote lost there, Guy! Quite how the Parish slipped up on that one, I do not know, but it is alarming that firstly, he should be misinformed, and secondly, that he should not receive an electoral role form. How many more people may be excluded in this way?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Idiot Quotient


People in Jersey will be able to find out their IQ score when Mensa head for the island next month. There are currently 23,500 members in The High IQ Society, the only requirement being that your IQ falls in the top two per cent of the population. The IQ tests will be held at the St Paul's Centre in St Helier on Saturday 11th October at 10.30am. It will be £15 to sit the test which takes two and a half hours in exam conditions. John Stevenage, Chief Executive at Mensa, told Channel Online: "Knowing your IQ is useful for university and job applications, it can make your application stand out."

I remember that back in the 1980s, Mensa testing was done locally by the Jersey chairman who would occasionally take time out to go off to Guernsey to give tests there, and at the same time - as was common knowledge - to visit his mistress there. Unfortunately high IQ does not indicate any superior morality, and cheating on your wife is just as common among the clever as the stupid, only the clever are probably too stupid to realise that everyone knows.

Together with my friend Ken Webb, the editor, I was assistant editor of the Channel Island Mensa Magazine "Thinks!" for several years from 1984 onwards. Ken developed the magazine from the photocopied and stapled pages he inherited into a neat little piece of journalism, with a glossy cover, bound and stapled into a small booklet, and produced monthly by means of a photocopier and an Amstrad PCW512 - remember them!

Because contributions were exceedingly thin on the ground from the membership, Ken wrote additional material under his own name and the pseudonym Charles Cabeldu, and I contributed extra essays and reviews under my own name and also the unlikely names of Matthew Shepard, Gideon Fell, Una Nancy Owen and Magnus Riddolf! Mensa people may be supposedly bright, but they were barely literate when it came to any contributions, if they managed to put pen to paper at all. They were best seen at the monthly Mensa dinners, because intelligence and the ability to pontificate correlate very highly.

Regarding intelligence testing, I could never see quite what the value was in something that was so clearly a nonsense - a statistical artifact of cultural prejudices and general knowledge. On the one occasion when I did look at an IQ test paper, I had great fun working alternative answers - and legitimate ones - to all the questions.

For the best historical book to treat the subject, see Stephen Jay Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" (revised edition, 1996), in which he looks at "one particular form of quantified claim about the ranking of human groups: the argument that intelligence can be meaningfully abstracted as a single number capable of ranking all people on a linear scale of intrinsic and unalterable mental worth" ; it "is a critique of a specific theory of intelligence often supported by particular interpretation of a certain style of mental testing: the theory of unitary, genetically based, unchangeable intelligence". He also demonstrates the statistical basis for IQ (factor analysis) and why it is flawed in its application.

Examples of cultural bias are given in the paper "Cultural Bias in Standardized Intelligence Testing" by Nicolas Bommarito:

Bias in an item on intelligence tests can result from cultural familiarity with one of the objects or words that occur in the question. For example, one item that appears in a form with pictures and in another form with words, gives a set of four instruments, harp, drum, violin, and piano. The test taker is then asked to cross out the one that doesn't belong. (Eells 258). Over half of the lower status children picked the harp, rather than the correct answer of drum, probably because they were unfamiliar with the harp as an instrument from a lack of exposure to it. A similar bias occurred on the WWI alpha IQ test, which contained obviously biased terms requiring knowledge of brand names and baseball players, and also on the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), which calls for knowledge of English weights and measures, literature, and history. (Mensh 1991:50). Questions like these seem far from measuring any type of innate intelligence, instead it appears as if they measure, at least to some degree, knowledge acquired though experience and thus environment. The may seem to be of minor importance in the overall results, but since speed is a requirement this unfamiliarity can be a severe handicap. For example, the WISC picture-completion subset allows only fifteen seconds for picture identification, an amount of time that requires significant familiarity.

Looking at the one test available from the site:


Intelligence Test, Part 1: You have to work out what the letters mean. See No 0 as an example. It doesn't matter if you write the answers in uppercase or lowercase, but the answers must be exactly as expected (no additional intervals or dashes and the spelling must be correct).

0 24 H in a D = 24 hours in a day
1 26 L of the A
2 7 D of the W
3 7 W of the W
4 12 S of the Z
5 66 B of the B

and it goes on, another page of endless and pretty appalling culturally conditioned testing - try translating it into French, or even transplanting it from America to Scotland. Another blogger notes of this kind of rubbish that their should be a disclaimer saying: "Test results are only accurate for Americans, between the age of 25 - 34, and who had never voted Republican, and have consumed more than 3 beers in the past hour [you must be relaxed]"

And here is another one:

Tennis is to racquet as golf is to:
a. club
b. strike
c. bat
d. swing

This question does not just measure mental skills like insight or creativity; instead, it measures a specific piece of cultural knowledge that must be learned. To the extent that a child's environment does not include such knowledge of tennis or gold, they will not be able to answer the question.

Mensa's own site (http://www.mensa.org.uk/iq-levels/) says that:

IQ or Intelligence Quotient is an attempt to measure intelligence. This means many things to many people but generally the attribute of intelligence refers to quickness of mental comprehension (or mental agility). Intelligence is often confused with knowledge, wisdom, memory, or other attributes and in general has a variety of meanings depending on the context in which it is used. The term IQ usually refers to the attempt to measure a person's mental agility.

This is an incredible idea - that the "mental agility" - whatever that is - can be somehow divorced as a discrete measurable item apart from knowledge, wisdom, memory or other attributes. In theory then, it should be simple to devise an single intelligence test for human beings, cats, ants or spiders. After all, if it does not require the other attributes - which can be screened out of the testing process - then why not? Of course, the ability to read may be helpful - I believe that is called knowledge - which will cause trouble to some spiders.

Language, is of course, encoded in a particular culture, and the choice of words - try toilet, loo, lavatory etc - is also often highly correlated with class. Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed demonstrates how choice of language reflects social and cultural bias. Even pictures can reflect bias, for example, those of Robert Yerke's IQ test for immigrants made assumptions about knowledge of American society.

For the pictorial tests, go to:

Part Six of the beta IQ test (link above), developed by psychologist Robert M. Yerkes, was given to Army recruits to determine their innate intelligence. Yerkes intelligence exams (alpha, beta and individual) were culturally biased, taken under markedly different conditions and tended to reflect years in the U.S. and familiarity with dominant culture, rather than innate intelligence. Nevertheless, the early 20th century IQ exams have been the basis for standardized tests ever since.

There is a mathematical paper by the Princeton mathematician W. Smith, which looks in detail at the mathematics and logic behind both IQ and Artificial Intelligence. Regarding the founding work of Spearman in establishing IQ, he gives this verdict (which most mathematicians would agree with):

Spearman's 93-page 1904 paper (which Jensen calls "one of the 3 or 4 most important papers in the history of mental testing") in fact was quite shoddy both mathematically, statistically, and methodologically, and to add injury to insult, R.B.Fancher redid Spearman's calculations and found about 50 erroneous results apparently due to wrong arithmetic and with the signs of the errors showing an amazing fortunate tendency to "improve" the validity of his conclusions (Spearman's uncorrected numbers were then reprinted by Jensen [86] p.24). Specifically, Spearman seemed unaware of much of linear algebra, for example never mentioning eigenvalues and eigenvectors in his paper.

It is quite an amazing thing to me as a mathematician, but the psychologists and educationalists who devise IQ tests seem to care remarkably little about whether the "correct" answers on their tests actually are correct. For example, the criteria for the "right answer" to Raven's matrices are pseudo-logical or aesthetic, but there is never any proof any answer is right or wrong. So this test - despite the plentitude of praise heaped upon it by Jensen at every opportunity - is purely a "popularity test" or "conformity test" testing whether your aesthetic preferences (or preferences when employing pseudo-logical argumentation), happen to agree with more or less of society (specifically, the normalization subsample of society) or with the test-creator, and is not a test of how good you are at finding the "right answer."

He concludes that:

Since "intelligence"is about "the ability to solve problems," one might have proposed the naive idea for an IQ test that a problem-task be described (in some language) and then the testee tries to solve it. Bad idea: it is important to be able to solve problems that do not have (or do not have obvious) descriptions and definitions at all - in real life, often a large part of solving the problem first is to find a good problem statement. This whole paper is, in fact, an excellent example of that. In real life, one determines "what the problem is" oneself and then determines "how good the solution is" oneself also, usually with the aid of some disagreeable interaction with the external world.

The advantage of that is to locate "intelligence" within an evolutionary context as something which helps survival, by providing a kind of "mental agility" to solve hitherto unseen problems. This problem solving ability would very likely involve reasoning, but also the ability to deal with real world problems rather than total abstractions, and considerable knowledge may also help. That is why this is the approach being taken by different researchers in Artificial Intelligence. We can program a computer to do a set task, but how do we program it to learn intelligently and solve problems by itself. By divorcing IQ from the evolutionary context, and making it something like a Platonic ideal, as Mensa does, the end result is a set of exercises in trivia.

The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould,
Betrayers of the Truth, William Broad, Nicholas Wade (good on the fraud perpetrated by Cyril Burt)


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Child Abuse in the 1980s - Guernsey and Jersey

A case of "historic child abuse in the Island".
Dating from the 1980s.
Into the courts and sentenced for 6 1/2 years in prison, five years on
Extended probation afterwards

This is Guernsey, of course, not Jersey. It seems that Guernsey can get their act together. No signs of the Bailiff pontificating (although in fact the Guernsey Bailiff does not make a liberate day speech), no mentions of cover-ups, slow-downs, legal officials obstructing the course of justice, but justice seen to be done. How come they can get it so right, and Jersey cannot?

The victims of a former judo instructor, who was found guilty of abusing young girls in Guernsey in the 1980s, have been speaking about their ordeal. Eugene Hughes was sentenced to a total of six and a half years in prison as well as five years on an extended probation license. He admitted seven charges of indecent assault and one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse between July 1987 and January 1996. One of his victims says the ordeal stripped her of her personality while another has revealed it left her with years of depression. Police say Hughes' role as a Judo instructor made it easy for him to abuse young girls in his care and have vowed to pursue any allegations of historic child abuse in the island.


Of course, Jersey has to get a word in, and Frank Walker has been quick to attack any comparison of how slow Jersey is doing with historic abuse enquiries. But the editorial comment hit back in fighting mood:

A LETTER from Jersey's chief minister seeking an apology from this newspaper for critical comments made about the investigation into child abuse there reinforces the view that the enquiry is floundering. From around 160 individuals who came forward to give evidence of abuse, police were able to draw up an initial list of 80 potential suspects. That has been reduced but the level of arrests and prosecutions has been surprisingly low. Add the high profile claims of case blocking and prosecution interference and it is difficult to see how anyone can have confidence in the process.

Unfortunately, the chief minister's own letter further strengthens that unease when he talks about 'alleged' victims. There was a high level of corroborative statements from those who came forward, plus inexplicable remains and bloodstains, yet the harrowing accounts the witnesses gave are, apparently, still regarded with suspicion. Of more concern, however, is the chief minister's assertion that 'the truth will eventually emerge' and it will be very different from that presented by this newspaper.

Really, chief minister? And would that truth be the version Jersey's professional police are still trying to uncover or that as viewed by the Attorney General, who does not think officers have given him enough evidence on which to prosecute? Perhaps it is the truth the chief minister's committee of inquiry will establish at some distant time in the future when it asks searching questions like those he put to the States in March: How have the island's children's homes been run in recent decades? Alternatively, it might be the truth which he has apparently already predetermined and which islanders and victims, alleged or otherwise, would dearly wish to know.

As we have argued before, these islands remain independent not just because they are well run but because they are seen to be well run. And having a visibly robust, impartial and credible judicial system is the cornerstone of that freedom. Whatever the reality, confidence in Jersey's has been damaged and, at least in the eyes of our offshore critics who regard the Channel Islands as one entity, that reflects badly on Guernsey, too.

I don't think that Guernsey has too much to be worried about, given that they have clearly managed to follow through a case of historic abuse with success, no complaints by the police of obstruction, no special lawyers appointed to make sure the police don't go "the wrong way", and so on. All in all, Guernsey has provided a good example of how justice is seen to be done, to use the words of the editorial, "visibly robust, impartial and credible". No wonder Senator Walker is incensed at any sidelong glances from Guernsey to Jersey's own historic child abuse case. Perhaps instead of swiping out at the Guernsey newspaper, he might reflect on what mistakes Jersey has made instead.

Other links:

Bad Arguments on GST

If you make an exemption of GST then you benefit the richer rather than the poorer - that was Deputy John Le Fondre's argument according to BBC Radio Jersey. It is also the only cited by Peter Body and loads of other pundits writing to the JEP.

And it seems sensible, until you realise that the proposed exemption is on food.

As the late Benny Hill used to say, you can only eat so many meals in a day.

How are the richer people going to benefit more? There is not a huge margin between different foods, and who wants a permanent diet of caviar and lobster anyway? A Herald Tribune article on expensive foods mentioned "Beluga caviar and hippopotamus steaks" as the world's most expensive foods - who is going on a diet of those? I think Benny Hill had a very good point.

If the GST is coming off food and drink, the drink element is easily rectified for alcoholic beverages by increasing the duty - which after all is still a tax. That will offset any loss on champagne or fine wines etc.

Regarding restaurants, they are providing a service - so they will still be charging GST if their turnover is high enough, which the fits the most expensive ones. Are the rich people going to slum it down at the chip shop every night?

John Le Fondre's scheme benefits those getting income support or paying taxes. But what about people not paying taxes, because they are perhaps home owners on a small pension? Because they are home owners, they will probably not be eligible for much income support, yet they still have to eat. So these poorer people will not be better off.

Moreover, as food prices rise, so does the amount of tax gained by GST on food. Will the exemptions and income support be index linked to take account of cost of living rises on foodstuffs, or will it go up below that, so that more people end up paying GST on food in the long run.

This is an old government trick - the UK did it with inheritance tax, moving the thresholds up so slowly that now thousands of ordinary people are paying crippling taxes because house prices have increased - what decimated the landed gentry is now decimating ordinary families.

So I suspect that no firm index linking would be made, only political promises, which are often as ephemeral as the politicians who make them.


Monday, 8 September 2008

Les Creux, St Brelade: An Exercise in Ugfliciation

"We all need to play our part in respecting the environment.", Freddie Cohen, Election 2005 Manifesto


I've added a playlist of 4 short videos which show the area around Les Creux. There is not only the dumping of the soil to be seen, as I start with the road widening, in which the construction company (or should it be destruction) have widened the road hugely, hacking away at the cliff face, so that instead of vegetation, there is now a raw granite face - which itself is not just the roadside denuded of plant life, but hacked away itself. Large wooden "sleepers" also abound, making the whole roadside - which used to be a pleasant stroll - into a very ugly path.

It is clear that lots of the material from here is that dumped further around, and one of the clips also shows that.

There is also a brief shot of Lord Trent's Grave. Jesse Boot, later Lord Trent, was the founder of Boots the Chemist, and it is his widow we have to thank for Millbrook Park, the Lalique Glasswork at Millbrook Church, and the football field next by to that. What they would have thought to this "uglification" of the landscape, I do not know!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Welcome to Holland

There is a lots of "inspirational" stuff about disabilities that I find quite frankly rather insipid, particularly the religious stuff. This piece, however, I have found doesn't; it resonates well with my own experiences of disabled children.

The thing I suppose I like is that it isn't preachy, it doesn't say, like some pretty awful stuff does, that this was intended, or still worse, what God intended - there's one about "The Special Mother" by Erma Bombeck that I absolutely dislike, it means well but is so patronising, smug and self-satisfied. The message that Bombeck gives is - you are special and saintly, and how do you know? Because you have been given the gift of a handicapped child by God. It is well meaning but totally insensitive, and the idea of God that it portrays is pretty dreadful, and a complete misreading of John 9:1-3; it is too easy an answer. As Rowan Williams said "Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up with comfort and ready answers", and the same can be said of disabilities.

But this piece is much, much better. This one is more akin to a myth, it tells a story, and does not belittle the pain, which so many others do.

Welcome to Holland

By Emily Pearl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some bandy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

"After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes and says, 'Welcome to Holland.'

"'Holland?!' you say. 'What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy.'

"But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

"The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

"So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

"It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

"But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, 'Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned.'

"And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

"But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland."