Friday, 28 November 2008

Woolworths, the Credit Crunch and Redefining Prosperity

I sometimes wonder why the big firms spend so much on advertising consumer goods when all they need to do is to keep up the dull, faceless routine of the factories and the standardized grey cement of the workers' apartment blocks. For, as a Times leader pointed out in April 1974. 'It is boredom, not exercise, that creates our appetite.' Eli Chinoy's careful study of automobile workers in the United States shows that the only visible way left for them :o acquire a sense of identity and value among their fellows is by acquiring material possessions. New living-room furniture, a washing machine and colour television are the only available confirmation that one is getting ahead. And James Weaver, the American economist, shows up the inner hollowness of the whole structure of growth economy in the simple statement: 'If all of us decided that our homes were adequate, our cars satisfactory, our clothing sufficient, our present sort of economics would collapse tomorrow. For it is built on the assumption that man's wants are insatiable.' - John V Taylor, Enough is Enough (1975)

With the credit crunch, part of which is clearly responsible for the demise of Woolworths, perhaps it is time to re-assess our habits and move to gifts - such as World Gifts, or its equivalents in Oxfam - which actually help other people and move towards a more sustainable society not fueled by growth.

Woolworths was in a financial mess anyway, but the change in spending patterns was the last straw that broke its economic back. Other retails are also feeling the squeeze. The UK Government, terrified at the thought of a cessation of growth, is lowering VAT, and trying to get the banks to lend more. It is a case of "If we are lucky, we can spend out way out of recession". As an article in New Scientist noted:

SCRATCH the surface of free-market capitalism and you discover something close to visceral fear. Recent events provide a good example: the US treasury's extraordinary $800 billion rescue package was an enormous comfort blanket designed to restore confidence in the ailing financial markets. By forcing the taxpayer to pick up the "toxic debts" that plunged the system into crisis, it aims to protect our ability to go on behaving similarly in the future. This is a short-term and deeply regressive solution, but economic growth must be protected at all costs.

But this growth strategy was not possible in Jersey during the Occupation. A very different society was in place. Presents were "swaps", perhaps books, jigsaws, games, given so that another person could share the enjoyment of them. Food waste was cut to a minimum, because you could not afford to waste a gram of food. Clothes were patched, mended, and passed on to other people. Now I am not saying we should return to the near-starvation culture of those times, but it does provide an interesting contrast and, as with the wartime frugality in the UK, shows that such changes are possible (even if they were imposed from outside), and not just daydreams. On the contrary, those changes were needed to survive. Sustainability is always an alternative in times of need.

It might be argued that we need growth to support services. But the Sustainable Development Commission is taking this seriously in its report "Redefining Prosperity". One section deals with this - here is just the summary:

Confronting Structure was about taking the arguments against continuing growth seriously and thinking through the consequences. If the economy no longer grows, or grows at a much slower rate, what happens to - unemployment, tax revenue, the ability to repay debt and pay interest, company profits and economic competitiveness? Can we imagine any government pursuing this line of thinking? Or will they be forced to because of economic pressures creating long-term recession?

Isn't it time to say "Enough is Enough"?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Election Diary

This is my brief election diary (or Dairy, if you are Mr Sutton).

Went to Communicare with my youngest son (13), and saw Sean Power romp home (The Horse and Hounds will do well tonight!), and Montfort Tadier come a strong second.

At one point the JEP photographer wanted someone to be lined up as a Montfort supporter, so with rosettes, there stood Montfort, myself, and my son. Three of us in order of descending height! I am hopeful it may be in the JEP, probably for the caption competition - it was so like the Frost Report sketch with Cleese, Barker and Corbett!

Unlike the Senatorials, where a split vote meant failure for lots of good candidates, the Deputies have led to some good names getting in. Montfort, of course, Jeremy Macon, Daniel Wimberley, and lots of others, with the JDA being revenged for a poor showing with the Senatorials by sweeping the board.

Of the try-again Senatorials, Nick Palmer unfortunately did not get in - but I didn't see many posters in his parish of him in St Lawrence, and Cliff Le Clercq was in the wrong parish - his section mentioned St Ouen as the jewel in Jersey's crown, even though he was standing in St Saviour, giving the impression that he had hastily revamped the Senatorial piece.

It was not perhaps surprising that David Richardson didn't do very well in St Mary, but his cartoon face posters did provide a touch of fun for anyone driving through St Mary. He gets the award for lowest vote to date with 28 (although St Helier No 3, recounting as I type this, may have someone lower). John Le Galle was not much better in a larger Parish with 29, and of whom I heard a rumour that 2 nominees had decided not to vote for him!

Colin Russell and Sean Power on GST

Colin Russell:

Let's start with his manifesto. It says:
"It is evident that the GST system is so complex that to have certain items excluded is too problematical for any formula or structure to be agreed upon."
On the contrary, to exclude domestic heating and lighting would be simple.
Easily identified chain of supply: JEC, Gas, Coal, Oil. All "approved trader status", so no extra manpower needed to exempt their imports.
Easily identified domestic users - by tariffs (JEC, Gas, Oil) or generally (coal). Cost to company - one off change to zero rate on those customers. No cost to the States in manpower.
GST returns - already allow for zero-rated supplies to be noted. No extra manpower implications.
I don't really see how this is "too problematic"?

Sean Power:

On Planet Jersey, he has made the following statements:

"I do not want any excuse to hire more Treasury officials. Exemptions will do that.  If we have to have this tax, let us see how it operates in it's most simple form"

"Exemptions would cause Treasury to need more staff. Look at the UK VAT codes. It is an administrative nightmare. Look at yogurt and the classic Jaffa cake argument."

"I have no problem with lowering the % rate, or getting rid of the thing completely.  I have a problem with the tinkering or exemptions in any way or form.  That is a cost option and that is simply not an option for me."

I cannot see the "cost option" on domestic energy.

Let's look at it from an accounting point of view (which I have to often enough advising clients)

For instance, the JEC identifies domestic customers and commercial ones. It excludes domestic ones (or makes them zero rated). A one off cost to implement on their computer systems (most systems allow global changes of default VAT class to selected clients, so it is not that complicated).

Domestic fuel - again oil for central heating is easily identified by the supplier into home/commercial. They do it already internally even if not for GST.

Domestic gas - gas is again easily identified by the supplier into home/commercial.

If the import of the goods (oil/ elecrecity/gas) is treated (as it must surely be) as "approved trader status", the only charge is the one made not by customs but by the end user. If an end user is exempt (as happens with at least one business I know), no charge is made.

Cost to states of administration: none extra.

Where is the cost to the States in terms of extra people needed to manage anything?

The GST forms still get entered up by these companies, the GST remitted (albeit some less) than before. GST forms already deal with businesses which have some zero rated customers. No extra complication needed there.

Cost to states in terms of extra manpower - none.

Not much cost to the company either once in place - a one off change.

So, I'm sorry, I must be thick, but I can't see what on earth Sean is on about with this "cost option"?

The bureaucratic nightmare if food was exempt is fair comment, but on domestic heat and light, this does not apply. To conflate the two kinds of exemptions is to create a "straw man" argument against exemptions.
JEC say their costs are rising and consumers can expect a rise of 25%. That is 25.75 if one allows for GST.
Time for a rethink?
Their thinking on these matters is a classic case of "false dilemma". When two alternatives are presented, they are often, though not always, two extreme points on some spectrum of possibilities. This can lend credence to the larger argument by giving the impression that the options are mutually exclusive, even though they need not be. The inability to come to terms with arguments against this, and just continue repeating a position like a mantra, is a dangerous weakness in a politician.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Rev Gerry Baudains on Greenfields

I have just been reading the letter by the Rev Gerry Baudains on Greenfields, who says she visited Greenfields when the Grand Prix system was in operation. One comment stood out in particular.

On our first visit, the Grand Prix scheme was outlined in detail. I recall that it was a system of reward and punishment necessary to manage and contain the 'high spirits' of the 11 youngsters - a number of whom had recently held a rooftop protest. None of the panel members voiced a concern about the system, and there were no complaints from the youngsters working towards getting a TV or playstation in their room.

It is clear that she did not see or hear about the isolating treatment involved in the Grand Prix system. I would give her letter more credence, but one phrase in particular stands out - "there were no complaints from the youngsters".

That rang alarm bells about naivety, as it reminded me so much of Charles Darwin's comments on slavery.

I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of; nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil... Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master's ears.

One could paraphrase this as:

Such inquirers will ask children about their condition; they forget that the child must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching official ears.

Darwin was of course a shrewd observer, who applied intelligence to his observations, and did not take everything at face value. Before the Rev Gerry criticises the Howard League so strongly, perhaps she might reflect that she might not always have seen all that was occurring at Greenfields when the Grand Prix system was in place, and that when the children were uncomplaining to the visitors - who as Lay magistrates had sent them there - there might be good reason for their distrust of such an obvious authority figure for lending a sympathetic ear .

Enough is Enough

I wish you wouldn't squeeze so,' said the Dormouse, who was sitting next to her. 'I can hardly breathe.'I can't help it,' said Alice very meekly: 'I'm growing.' 'You've no right to grow here,' said the Dormouse. 'Don't talk nonsense, said Alice more boldly: 'You know you're growing too.' 'Yes, but I grow at a reasonable pace,' said the Dormouse: 'not in that ridiculous fashion.'

"Enough is Enough" is the title of a prophetic book by John V Taylor, written in 1975, which I have been reading again lately. What is interesting is that - apart from predictions on population growth (expected to rise rapidly throughout the world including the West) - so much of what he is saying is now coming to pass. There are some signs of improvement - some of the pollution which he mentions has been brought more under control, and many rivers in England and Europe have been cleaned up. The case of pollution of water supplies by a Coca-Cola factory in India as recently as 2005 shows the problems are still here.

The most chilling comments come from his citation from "The Limits to Growth", where it is stated that "Man can still choose his limits and stop when he pleases . . . The alternative is to wait until the price of technology becomes more than society can pay, or until the side-effects of technology suppress growth themselves, or until problems arise that have no technical solutions." With the advent of peak oil, we seem horribly close to reaching those limits.

Back in 1975, when he was writing, being "green" used to be something of an eccentricity, after all, it was just past the days of the "white heat of the technological revolution". Now it is no longer an "optional extra".

John Taylor was a remarkable man, one time General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society (when he wrote this book) and later Bishop of Winchester, he had a gift of "seeing outside the box", and while he was not always right in his ideas about the future, more often than not he was spot on. Along with E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful", his "Enough is Enough" was one of the seminal books of the 1970s. Each chapter starts with a marvelously apt quotation from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the first is the one I have placed at the top of this page. The book is still available second hand, but really deserves to be reprinted.

In this extract, he is commenting on the paper "The Limits to Growth", and on the legacy we want to leave out children.

Extract from "Enough is Enough":

Three years ago economists, ecologists and social scientists started a violent debate which has continued ever since. In January 1972 The Ecologist devoted a whole issue to "A Blue-Print for Survival."

It appeared over the name of thirty-three scholars, mostly scientists and obviously sincere. It was based largely on a book which the authors had seen, though it was not published until two months later: "The Limits to Growth". This had been written by Dennis L. Meadows and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the auspices of an informal international association of industrialists, scientists, economists and educators, calling itself the Club of Rome.

The Limits to Growth derives its arguments from an intricate world-model which shows the inter-play of such factors as the global growth of population, of industrial capital, of environmental pollution, and the exhaustion of the world's non-renewable resources of minerals, chemicals and fossil fuels, and the insuperable limit to food yields. The conclusions of the study were deeply pessimistic.

1. If the global figures for population and for industrial output continue to increase, as at present, in a geometrical progression - or, to use the jargon, exponentially - then natural resources which are non-renewable will become exhausted during the next century. Agriculture and industry will slow down more and more until food production becomes inadequate for the human race.

2. If that model is corrected by new discoveries of non-renewable resources and by recycling wherever possible, then a rising pollution of the environment will bring about a drastic decline in food production early in the next century.

3. If, besides solving the problem of natural resources, pollution is statutorily reduced, then industrial production can have a longer lease of life, but the population explosion will exhaust the food supplies.

4. Even if the population is leveled off and the research enables us to double our food yields, then the exhaustion of the land, the eventual depletion of resources and the slower but still inexorable accumulation of pollution must ensure the collapse of the human life-system by the end of the next century.

One is reminded of the words of a much earlier and greater prophet of doom: 'It will be as when a man runs from a lion, and a bear meets him, or turns into a house and leans his hand on the wall, and a snake bites him.' But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, like the prophet Amos, does not leave us entirely without hope. The conclusion of the argument, we are told, is that we must immediately plan - hopefully the date 1975 is proposed - to level off the upward curves of population growth, industrial output, pollution and, a little later, per capita food production in order to achieve a stabilized global equilibrium.

There is obviously no surer way of arousing the emotions of economists than to suggest that the highly developed countries of the West should deliberately stop the growth of capital investment, slow down industry's consumption of raw materials, and set about educating the citizens to expect a leveling-off of the standard of living. To say these things is to challenge the basic assumptions of the economic theory by which we have lived since the 1930S and, with rather less awareness, for far longer than that.

The authors of The Limits to Growth anticipated a widespread disagreement with their figures and an angry dismissal of the solution they proposed. So in the end they seemed to be ready for their opponents to drive a coach and horses through their datelines and statistics, if they could only be persuaded to accept the fact that this spaceship. Earth, is a home that is already becoming almost too small for us:

There may be much disagreement with the statement that population and capital growth must stop soon. But virtually no one will argue that material growth on this planet can go on forever. Man can still choose his limits and stop when he pleases . . . The alternative is to wait until the price of technology becomes more than society can pay, or until the side-effects of technology suppress growth themselves, or until problems arise that have no technical solutions. At any of those points the choice of limits will be gone. Growth will be stopped by pressures 'that . . . may be very much worse than those which society might choose for itself.'

It is even possible that their startling facts and figures were intended as shock tactics to dislodge Western man at least from the assumptions that have governed his outlook and his aims for many centuries:

A whole culture has evolved around the principle of fighting against limits rather than learning to live with them. This culture has been reinforced by the apparent immensity of the earth and its resources and by the relative smallness of man and his activities. But the relationship between the earth's limits and man's activities is changing.

Whatever we may conclude about the nature of the limits that are inevitable, we have to recognize that all the curves on the graph are shooting up - expectation of consumer goods, consumption of energy and of raw materials, pollution and, of course, population. Our present situation of rapid material growth, which encourages every family to expect as of right an ever-expanding surplus, is, in the light of man's long history, so abnormal that one knows it has to cease. Sooner or later the curves have to flatten out. And if the quality of our children's life in this world is any concern of ours, then, in the industrialized countries at least, the sooner the better.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Election Posters

Some innovative posters around.

In St Mary one of the candidates (one of the David's) has a cartoon of his face with a "Vote David..." caption; it is a very good cartoon too, very well drawn.

At seven oaks, in St Brelade (near the shell house), someone put up a poster with "Vote for Dennis the Menace", but unfortunately it has been removed. He'd have got my vote! Ah well, we'll probably end up with Roger the Dodger instead.

At the roundabout by Rouge Bouillon, the innovation is to put up about 20 small identical posters of Mike Higgins all clustered together, rather like some kind of Andy Warhol election campaign. Or maybe he has been cloned, and is planning to be the States of Jersey - there are enough of him there.

The rest of the posters are more or less the usual sort, with a picture of the candidate's face, or even just the name. Some - like Ben Fox and Patrick Ryan - go for the "big beam" - a large colour poster of the candidate smiling, often with a slogan like "Balance and Reason" (which suggests a cross between a tight-rope walker and Richard Dawkins), or "Commonsense Values" which tells you even less. Smaller posters sometimes go for a colour border to stand out, but a basic black and white picture - a sensible and clever economy.

Sadly, some people have been out and about defacing posters, which they no doubt think is fun, but in fact takes the tired old children's game of adding a moustache (often Hitler style) and sometimes glasses. The odd poster has been ripped down, and not by the weather (although that has taken its toll).

What I like most about the Deputies elections is the Parish Boundaries. Normally difficult to spot, unless you are watching the kerbside closely for a marker which may be there, it is fun if you have to drive through several Parishes. I did St Brelade, St Peter, St Ouen, St Mary, St John, St Helier, St Lawrence on a round trip to visit someone on Sunday, and suddenly the posters change and you know you are in a different Parish. Perhaps St Ouen should have the odd poster saying "No Voting Here" to illustrate the lack of choice?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

GST Exemptions - The Spectre of Complications

I have been reading Sean Power's election pamphlet in which he says he is against the idea of GST, but now that it is here, should be given time to settle down, and exemptions would create a bureaucratic VAT style UK nightmare. Notoriously, the case of the Jaffa cake illustrates this. Chocolate covered biscuits are a luxury and subject to VAT at 17.5%, but the manufacturers argued that Jaffa cakes were not biscuits but cakes, and therefore exempt!

I can see where he is coming from with regard to food, where the UK is notorious for some foodstuffs being charged VAT and some not. But what about heating and lighting expenses? The chain of supply is very limited here - electricity, gas, coal, domestic heating oil. Is it really so difficult to identify those and exclude them? And what about school uniform? As anyone with young children at school will tell you, school uniform is precisely defined by the school, and such a readily identified item again could easily be excluded. GST would still remain pretty simple if excluded from these.

So I am not convinced with this "spectre of complications" argument, which seems to look to the UK for the most complicated set up, and then assume that it would have to apply to every kind of exemption proposed. It doesn't, and I hope Deputy Power thinks again on this matter. With electricity costs threatened to rise by 25%, and a global recession on us, I am not sure we can afford to elect politicians who cannot allow any exemptions because of some rigid dogmatic stance. To those who go on about the need to "keep it simple", I would say to look at the global picture, look at proposals to lower VAT rates in the UK to help out, and don't behave like simpletons!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Looking at the Deputies - Katy Ringsdore

I have been perusing Katy Ringsdore's manifesto and there is a degree of vagueness on it which I think is unfortunate.
Unlike comments I have seen on Stuart Syvret's blog, I have no problem with clips of her enjoying herself on the Clipper race. Unless extremely puritanical, why shouldn't she relax between the hard slog of actual sailing, sometimes in difficult conditions? And I do think the Clipper race is very good for raising publicity for Jersey worldwide, at relatively low cost. The main problem is not that, it is the generalities which are on her manifesto which I don't like. If she is vague on specifics now, what might we expect when she is in the States?

Unlike John Le Fondre, who has come out in all his election material in favour of GST without exemptions, Katy has very little to say on the subject, except that "The introduction of GST means that income support must work efficiently."  Presumably this means she supports GST without exemptions, but it would be nice if she had been up front about this.

Drugs are a big problem in Jersey; we need to have tougher penalties for those that abuse Jersey with drug trafficking.

She does not say what kind of penalties she would like to see. In fact, Jersey has a very tough sentencing regimes for drug smuggling compared with the UK on specific drugs (cocaine is about 3 years in the UK). A lot of sentences over here are for six years or more. Would she like to see this increased?

Jersey's population has to be carefully controlled by setting realistic immigration controls.

Fine, but what kind of immigration controls? It is not specified. This is a very general policy statement, and I would like more specifics. For instance, "realistic" might mean zero, or it could mean 250-500 immigrants per year as some States members have suggested.

It is absolutely essential that senior citizens are given the respect and care that they deserve after years of paying their taxes and contributing to our community. I will do whatever I can to support and enhance their well being.

Matters that effect pensioners - high fuel costs, with JEC tariffs set to rise by 25% - could be mitigated by exemptions from GST. Not all pensioners are eligible for income support because they may own their own home, and some would not like the indignity of State handouts (if they can navigate the 26 page form). Free TV licences would be another step in the right direction. A little more detail would be good rather than just "respect and care", whatever that might mean.

In some cases people do not visit their Doctor due to the high cost, this can lead to serious illnesses developing, which can ultimately lead to a greater cost to the health care system. I would support the less well off to ensure that they can gain care quickly and at a reasonable price.

Who are "the less well off"? How are they to be supported? Does this take account of Bevan's comments when setting up the National Health Service in the UK? Bevan wrote: "Where a patient claimed he could not afford treatment, an investigation would have to be made into his means, with all the personal humiliation and vexation involved. This scarcely provides the relaxed mental condition needed for a quick and full recovery.".
All told, this is a very vague manifesto, both online and in the JEP, in what it does not say. It reads rather like a promotional blurb from a PR company. Specifics are missed out, and instead there are vague general policies which promise nothing detailed at all. If she thinks means testing should be used in cases, she should state that, and give sufficient details of who would qualify. If she thinks immigration should be controlled, she should say how and at what level. If she asks for tougher penalties, she should say what she wants. Having read her manifesto, and the piece in the JEP, I haven't the faintest idea what she really thinks about these matters.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

British National Party in the Channel Islands

The British National Party (BNP) is a far-right and whites only political party in the United Kingdom.

It is curious to find among its membership people who do not live in Britain. The recently leaked membership list has been the subject of scrutiny in the UK press and media, but not a lot of attention has been given to it locally. The Guardian, for example, noted that " It includes the names of a number of clergymen, an actor, two solicitors, at least one doctor and a number of primary and secondary school teachers." It also noted that membership of the list and of the police was incompatible.

A perusal of the list is fairly simple as anything loose is almost impossible to contain. I think that BNP members have a right to privacy, so I am not going to post (or allow as comments) any links or names here. Moreover, it is apparent that some people on the list are additions by the leaker out of purely malicious intent.

But the statistics can be reported on. So here is a local breakdown!

It is interesting to note that there are 5 members locally (3 of the same family), only 1 in Guernsey, but a larger 13 in the Isle of Man! Of those in Jersey, 3 are in St John, and 1 in St Clement, 1 in St Helier. Nobody is a member on Herm, Sark or Alderney!

Historically, the BNP has been fuelled by race fears. It appears the same fears do not abound as much in Jersey and Guernsey, which is good news, especially as there is a significant immigrant (and now native) population of Portuguese descent, which has been the subject of racist comments in the past.

The implications may be far reaching. As Matt Wardman comments, this has happened not because of insecure systems but because of human failure, and he asks:

"Is this a good analog for what will happen when names from the Sex Offenders Register are parceled out on demand as proposed in future - a widely reviled group published on a potentially unreliable database?"


An excellent paper on the legal position for blogs.

Another paper on false-positives on the list

Grauniad Report on Leaked List

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Matter of Interpretation - Rusty Metal

What is the truth about those pieces of metal? Are they the remains of shackles, or are they bits of rusty guttering?

I'm not convinced we will ever know the truth. The evidence is so patchy that - as it stands - it is open to several interpretations.

If we can look back by analogy at the "Venus figurines" which have been found at archaeological sites, and which date from the Upper Paleolithic, the first explanation is that they were votive depictions of a goddess. This can be seen in the work of Marija Gimbutas - in her books The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974); The Language of the Goddess (1989), which inspired an exhibition in Wiesbaden, 1993/94; and her final book, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991).

Later archaeologists such as Peter Ucko were more critical, and saw that the interpretation of the artifacts could be distorted by the frame of reference in which the archeologist viewed it. For instance, if the archeologist assumes a goddess culture, then the figurines are goddesses. They could equally be fertility charms, or even toys. Certainly it was arguable that the idea that they demonstrated worship of a single "mother goddess" was something brought to the material, not taken from it, and there could have been a pantheon of deities, if that is what they were.

Ian Hodder, commenting on Gimbutas, noted that "She looks at squiggles on a pot and says it's a primeval egg or a snake, or she looks at female figurines and says they're mother goddesses. I don't really think there's an awful lot of evidence to support that level of interpretation." Instead, Gimbutas has a habit of habitually presenting debatable assertions as fact. Ruth Tringham, another archaeologist, says the evidence from early societies is far too incomplete to allow such definitive statements. "I would never write, 'This is the obvious conclusion' - there is nothing obvious about what we write. Whatever we write is always, 'it could be this, it could be that'. Our problem is that the public isn't attracted by that kind of ambiguous thinking."

When we look at the evidence for the pieces of metal found at Haut de la Garenne, the evidence is even more open to interpretation. The metal has degraded over the years, and there is little certainty over what it could be.

Lenny Harper's reasoning over the finds is plain enough. We can see the logical steps by which he arrives at his conclusions because he is basing the interpretation on the location of the metal, and the witness statements which tell of shackles in an underground chamber. Whether this is valid or not is open to question; it is possible that his interpretation is conditioned by the statements he has heard. Questions clearly need to be asked. What should have happened is for the evidence to be submitted double-blind to suitable third parties, to see what interpretations they could place on it. That this does not seem to have occurred is a failing, but not one which occurred in Warcup's presentation.

David Warcup's reasoning is not so clear. His review identifies the metal as corroded parts of a guttering drainpipe, but he has not given us the chain of reasoning by which he places the metal in its location, although it might be taken as part of builders rubble as infill (in which case, the builders clearly did some shoddy work). What is amazing is the certainty in which he boldly states that the metal cannot be shackles, when as Harper correctly points out, the metal has degraded to the point where positive identification is near impossible. Moreover, no comparative materials have been brought to light from other building sites which could be positively identified as part of guttering, and so make this case firmer.

In conclusion, I can see weaknesses in Harper's identification of the metal as shackles, but it also appears that Warcup's review is also seriously deficient. The most blatant example of spin is the seeming certainty, bordering on arrogance, in which it has been presented - contrast with Ruth Tringham's comments on archeological finds. Either this is because Warcup is not trained in archaeology, and hence is making statements outside his field and beyond his competence, or it is a deliberate attempt to discredit the original interpretation for political reasons.

The only good thing about it is that it does highlight the dangers of bringing one's own views to interpretation of evidence, but the failure to conduct a double-bind identification, or to provide comparative materials, makes it as deficient as Harper's original interpretation. The certainty with which it is presented is not warranted, and if questions should be asked about Harper's presentation of the evidence, Warcup's presentation is equally flawed.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Looking at the Deputies: What gets unsaid

In 2002 I offered myself for election in St Helier.

Why stand in St John's now? Well as I've already said my youth and roots lie in St John's, and last year an opportunity arose and I was able to move back to a house in the Parish. Although not the easy option the time and circumstances are right, I feel as though I have returned home. In life sometimes one has to follow one's heart.

One of the things I was looking forward to when I became a Deputy was to get involved more in community events and parish life generally, and I have been involved in many St Helier Parish events, however St John's feels more like home to me, and I am really looking forward to participating in my community in St John.

Reading the entire contents of his manifesto, it looks - to the casual reader - as if he has moved back from St Helier to St John. Not so. In fact, in the 2007 Telephone directory, he is listed as:

Deputy P.J.D. Ryan, 3 Le Pepiniere, La Route de Boulay, Trinity

So here are a few questions for Deputy Ryan: why didn't you stand in Trinity, and "get involved more in community events and parish life" there? Why not mention that you moved back from Trinity to St John? Why was that unsaid?

Witch Trials in the Channel Islands

Not many posts the last few days, as I've been spending most of the time finishing off my "Witchcraft in the Channel Islands: A Critical Survey", getting to the point where it is ready for publication. This has been an ongoing labour, began way back in 2004, and finally returned to this year.

This is a 69 page paperback which presents a review of the trials, and how they have been treated by historians and writers from J.L. Pitts, G.R. Balleine and Cary-Curtis to the present day. It includes extracts from witch trials in Guernsey, and a timeline of trials in both Jersey and Guernsey, as well as a brief survey of the actual laws relating to witchcraft, historically and today, which I have not seen in print elsewhere (and for which I have Steven Pallot of the Law Officers to thank).

I wrote it primarily for my own benefit as it has struck me how the historical presentation and analysis of the trials has scarcely changed since Balleine writing on the subject in 1939 (Jersey) and Carey-Curtis in 1937 (Guernsey). Look at any modern book, including Balleine's History of Jersey - the latest revision - and what you will get, in terms of interpreting the Witch Trials, is still the same as Balleine's original work.

Yet the assumptions he made draw largely on the work of Margaret Murray, and the field of witch trial studies, which I have been following for many years, has moved on considerably, with a vastly greater range of documents studied, and a greater awareness of narrative framing in questions posed by inquisitors and how these were reported, as well as the cultural and geographical factors involved.

None of the later Jersey and Guernsey studies seem to have read anything of the work of Alan Macfarlane, Brian Levack, Ronald Hutton, Lyndal Roper or Owen Davies, or other modern writers, but just largely rehash Balleine. Even Neopagan writers on the subject such as Isaac Bonewits have given up on the Murray thesis of an underground conspiracy of "the old religion".

A warning - if you want conspiracy theories, pagan rites, spells and enchantments, this is not the book for you. Instead it is an attempt to look at Balleine and others interpretation of the trials, and to see how they slant the evidence, and what other possibilities are possible, taking in the vast amount of modern research across Europe.

Paperback book £6.20
Downloadable book: £5.00
Witch Trials in Jersey
Witch Trials in Guernsey
An Aside on Confessions
Two Modern Writers
Jersey Folk Lore
Laws on Witchcraft in Jersey
The Legal Position Today
A Modern Neopagan Perspective
Witchcraft and the Evil Eye in Guernsey
Select Bibliography
Appendix 1: Sample Confessions of Witches Under Torture
Appendix 2:Witchcraft Trials in Guernsey - A List
Appendix 3:Witchcraft Trials in Jersey - A List

Monday, 17 November 2008

Looking at the Deputies - Phil Rondel

I was lucky enough to meet him on Friday night, and here is an extract of his main points from his Manifesto:


Retaining my independence, I will always support the continuation of the Honorary System.
Previously I served at many levels of Parochial and voluntary -work, having been: President of C.I. Air Search, Trustee of C.I. Air Trust, Member of the Greenwood Trust (Maison Le Vesconte), Civil Emergency Liaison Officer for St. John, Vice-President of St. John's Rifle Club, Apprecier de Terre for St. John, Member of the Comite Paroissiale, Founder Treasurer of St. John's Shooting Club, Chairman of St. John's Rates Assessors, Centenier St. Holier and St. John (10years). President Bonne Nuit Boat Owners
Having received a petition for a pre-school play ground, I was able along with others to find a suitable site at the Church, this has now been in place for a number of years. Parents of Clos de l'Ecole were very concerned that their children had to use a busy main road to walk to school, and finally after negotiations, the children can now walk safely from their homes along a purpose built pathway to the school. I also took to the States a Report and Proposition to reduce the speed limit through the Village and was successful, as yet, this has not been fully implemented, I along with others was also able to persuade the States to re-zone land at Sion for first time buyer homes. Another success was to extend mains drains in a number of areas in the Parish as well as successfully introducing Parish road names.
Long-term plans for both St. John and Sion villages, as well as other parts of tile parish are necessary. These would be drawn up after meaningful consultation on all the needs of St. John, achieved through as many Parish assemblies as necessary, involving the input of all interested parties, resulting in a blue print for the future of "the parish". Some measures I feel needed are: traffic calming, more parking, lay-bys, extension to Maison Le Vesconte. Furthermore the Bus service in St John's is limited, additional services are required and if elected I would review these with the Bus Company to seek improvements.
Having been opposed to the intended plan for a bypass and significant development at the heart of our parish, I will do all I can to prevent this type of urbanization from happening. We have several sites within the parish that are already zoned for housing, I feel that these and suitable brown field sites need to be developed prior to any additional rezoning of green fields.
The Youth Club intend to develop a permanent home within the Recreation Centre. I endorse these plans and look forward to working alongside them to ensure that these exciting prospects are delivered to the youth of the Parish as soon as possible.
Recreation Centre
There was growing concern over the movement of the Centre. I was pleased that the Trustees decided to issue a new lease, albeit with more accountability included. I believe that the plans being worked on at present should enable the centre to move forward, eventually enabling both accommodation and the introduction of a catering facility at the Centre.
The current recycling initiative is working well, I believe that it could be expanded upon by linking it with neighbouring Parishes, this ensures that volume for processing becomes more viable. With some of the best scenery on the Island, I would propose that we start an "adopt a lane" scheme to ensure that our lanes are maintained and even improved..

Government Reform
The introduction of Ministerial government hasn't arrived without its problems. During the recent Senatorial Elections it was made apparent that States Members aren't given sufficient information from the ministers. My ability of getting information into the public domain is well known and I am surprised that members haven't used Questions to ministers more appropriately, to retrieve the necessary information. We need to revisit Clothier to ensure that we have a fully democratic and more transparent system of Government. I would bring a report and proposition to the house, reviewing Ministerial government, with a view to having four year terms of office with all members of the states being elected on the same day.
I would support the removal of GST from Food, Children's clothing and Fuel. This should be funded from existing budgets without the need to reduce services. Areas that savings could be made on, include the excessive use of external consultants, as well as the continued use of spin doctors to name but two.
Island Infrastructure
Our main roads are currently in a poor condition. 20 years ago many millions of pounds were spent per annum on road re-surfacing; today that figure is around 10% of the original sum. Many of the States owned properties are in disrepair and need real investment, if elected I would pursue proper investment in these areas.
Previously I took to the States a Report & Proposition on increasing the funding on mains drains extension. As well as amending a law on speed control for commercial heavy vehicles near the school and parish hall. Regularly I took on the role of scrutiny by asking questions, having got the Home Affairs Committee to amend the proposed draft on Police procedures and Criminal evidence law. This contained detail of Freedom of the Press, bringing Jersey more in-line with UK procedures. I have always been ready to fight for what I believe to be right, I have also represented Jersey at talks in Guernsey, White Hall,. the French Senate and the House of Deputies in the National Assembly in Paris. I have also spoken at the Normandy Regional assembly on matters to do with transport.
Many people will know me for my persistent questioning of State's members. I did far more than that, gaining wide experience of States departments and how they work. I served on a number of committees, including being vice president of several. I DO have experience of Scrutiny as I chaired the Shadow Scrutiny Panel on waste.
I believe I can give you more of my time and devotion to the Parish -1 now ask you to place your confidence in me and give me your vote, I repeat my promise, "to do my best and work hard for the people of St. John"

Thank you for your time and continued support,
Phil Rondel.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Worst Tricks of Modern Journalism

In his early days Hibbs However had had a great talent for one of the worst tricks of modern journalism, the trick of dismissing the important part of a question as if it could wait, and appearing to get to business on the unimportant part of it.  Thus, he would say, "Whatever we may think of the rights and wrongs of the vivisection of pauper children, we shall all agree that it should only be done, in any event, by fully qualified practitioners."  - G.K. Chesterton, The Flying Inn

I saw Lenny Harper on a Channel 5 clip, and it was very interesting what he said about the ACPO (Accociation of Chief Officers Review) - that they were happy with the way the investigation was proceeding, but they would make certain recommendations, and apparently they were amazed at the speed Lenny's team took those on board; they'd never seen their recommendations taken on so fast! Apparently, also the way the press release was done on one of the tooth (with a coin to show scale)was also in fact on their recommendation as to how to do that. I think this is extremely important because it contradictes the image of Lennie as a rogue officer doing his own thing with complete autonomy.

The recent presentation of "facts" about Haut de La Garenne smacks of the "worst tricks of modern journalism" described by Chesterton. It is boldly stated that the evidence is "in tatters", and the question is then "How did this happen?", thus neatly avoiding the question "Is the evidence really in tatters?" or "Is the evidence really as discredited as you are making out?" Instead, I have watched Frank Walker and Andrew Lewis both commenting on this as if those questions should not arise, because the matter is already settled, and the question is instead how this state of affairs came about. It is precisely how Chesterton describes the method!

Certainly, it is the very worst possible way in which the truth - whatever that is - can be found. I find the whole idea that all the evidence to date, painstaking collected -  and overseen by ACPO! - has been proved to be wrong, and the evidence PROVES nothing of the sort, has an a priori improbability.

If I was to seek a historical antecedent for the recent multimedia presentation - that pretty well everything so far given has turned out to be, after review, completely false - I would be put in mind of the "big lie" - a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously", as one politician put it, or as another mention, "the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous." Or in the words of Victor Meldrew, "I don't believe it".
Harper and the Jersey police, to be certain they are carrying out their work correctly, they have voluntarily called in a review team from the UK mainland. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) Working Group will review the investigation so far. With Jersey not being part of the United Kingdom and therefore not under Home Office jurisdiction, Harper is nevertheless keen to ensure his investigation is working by the book, even if it is someone else's.
Wendy Kinnard said she had commissioned an independent review from the Association of Chief Police Officers to look into how Harper's team had handled the inquiry so far. The first, confidential report from Acpo, which covered the period between February 29 and March 2, showed the police were doing their job well, she said.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Looking at the Deputies: Phil Rondel

It has been a nightmare trying to find if Philip Rondel has a web site and manifesto. In the end I gave up! Here, however, are how he was when he was last in the States! A selection of stories extracted from the JEP are below.

Also his voting record can be found at:

and he voted FOR exemptions on GST!

Parishioners voted by 14 to 10 earlier this week at the first rates assembly presided over by new Constable Graeme Butcher to approve a budget that will provide a £300,000 surplus. But there was opposition to the proposals led by former Deputy Phil Rondel. He felt the proposal to boost the parish's rainy day fund was a step too far at a time when Islanders face the prospect of goods and services tax becoming a reality next year. However, Mr Butcher said that 17 percentage points of the total 28% increase was to cover the parish for the move to the all-Island rate and changes to the welfare rules (June 30, 2007)

THE police have been given significant new powers to stop teenage drinkers causing trouble in public places.
Officers are to be given the legal power to seize alcohol from those aged under 18 who are unaccompanied by an adult in parks, on beaches and in other public places. They will also be able to confiscate drink from young people, as well as adults, when they have unlawfully entered the place where they are drinking. States Members yesterday voted in favour of the new powers to combat the issue of under-age drunken behaviour. The measure was passed by 40 votes to one, with only Deputy Phil Rondel voting against it.

EFFLUENT from a beach-side sewerage works was too dirty to be pumped out to sea last month and had to be removed by tanker and treated. It was revealed in the States yesterday that the safe levels of contamination in the clear-water waste that flows from the Bonne Nuit site had breached guidelines. Answering a question from St John Deputy Phil Rondel, Senator Philip Ozouf, president of Environment and Public Services, said that waste was tankered away before a desludging exercise was undertaken.

Five amendments have been lodged, but more are expected to be unveiled on Tuesday. The amendments so far focus mainly on the issue of free television licences for the over-75s. Senator Mike Vibert's attempt to raise beer duty to pay for free television licences for over-75s subject to an income limit. Deputy Phil Rondel's attempt to fund those licences from States Members' pay, rather than beer duty.

THE Public Services Department do not know how many civil servants enjoy free parking in town car parks, committee president Deputy Maurice Dubras has admitted. Deputy Dubras was responding to questions from Deputy Phil Rondel in the States on Tuesday.'The committee does not have information on how many public sector employees have parking provided free of charge,' said Deputy Dubras. 'It is for each administering committee to decide on how it provides parking for its employees.'That no figure was available for the number of free spaces handed out to civil servants provoked Senator Stuart Syvret to get to his feet.'This answer is particularly unhelpful,' he said. 'His department could have got the information the Deputy has asked for.'

MORE than 11 per cent of public sector employees were paid packages of £50,000 or more last year. Official figures released today show that 882 of the total 7,673 States employees were paid basic salaries of at least £41,000 topped up by pension contributions and overtime to go above the £50,000 mark. Although prepared to give outline salaries, Senator Walker said that P & R would not release the exact earnings of individuals. In responding to a question from Senator Ted Vibert in the House, Senator Walker said that exact earnings were contractually confidential and resisted calls from Deputies Phil Rondel and Jennifer Bridge to change the policy.Deputy Rondel said that the public had the right to know exactly how much public employees were paid, and Deputy Bridge called for the confidentiality clause to be removed from the contracts of new senior officers.

Look a Like

Chief Inspector Mullet, States of Jersey Police

Chief Superintendent Warcup from TV's "Frost"

Is it just my imagination, or does David Warcup look remarkably like Chief Superintendent Mullet, as played by Bruce Alexander in TV's "Inspector Frost"?

In Season 3 of A Touch of Frost, Detective Inspector Jack Frost (David Jason) continues to utilize controversial tactics to solve cases for the Denton police department. His methods are often questioned by Superintendent Mullet (Bruce Alexander), whose primary focus is following protocol and maintaining a good public perception of the department.

Harper's Reponse

They claim to see fern-seed and can't see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.  - C.S. Lewis

Interesting detailed reports coming in from the Belfast Telegraph. Having listened to Andrew Lewis saying he was not briefed properly on BBC Radio Jersey yesterday, it is especially interesting to see Harper contradict this. It is a pity Wendy Kinnard, always supportive of Graham Power against the critics, is not available for comment.
And what on earth was Frank Walker's wife doing on a tour of Haut de La Garenne with him? Is it common practice for Minister's wives to have guided tours of crime scenes? As she is the editor of "Jersey Now", I would have said that even if there could be a press case for her involvement, it seems a little unusual to allow one member of the press to have a privileges that other journalists clearly did not have!

"What I have said has been deliberately, or otherwise, totally misrepresented," Mr Harper told this paper. "I am bemused as to why this press conference was held to say nothing substantially new. I never said we had credible evidence of murder or murder suspects. I have always said we did not have a homicide enquiry but were treating the scene as one of a potential homicide. I would have thought they would have understood the difference. As for the bones, they said they could be hundreds of years old - we said that months ago. And the fragment thought to have been from a skull - we ruled that out of the investigation months ago. They are not saying anything I have not said previously."

He added that officers had never labelled the cellars at Haut de la Garenne as torture chambers and had been acting on evidence from victims. "We never called them dungeons. The victims were telling us that they were lowered down into these rooms, which we always made clear, used to be the ground floor of that building," he said.

Mr Harper added that Mr Warcup's comments came at "an opportune time" for the Jersey government, as a report into the island's care system by the Howard League for Penal Reform was due to be released on Friday.

"I'm totally mystified as to why he should issue this non-event. I'm sure it is a coincidence that the Howard League for Penal Reform is publishing its report on allegations of abuse within the Jersey care system. That will be interesting," said Mr Harper.
He added: "I am not going to let this get to me. I have no regrets about the way this investigation was handled by myself and my team. Some of the criticisms made (yesterday) were made by Andrew Lewis the new Home Affairs Minister who said they had not been told all details. "I briefed Andrew regularly when he took over the role. Indeed, the night before I left the island he told my wife and myself that my team and myself had done a fantastic job, despite all the political nonsense and backbiting we had to endure."

Warcup and Harper's war of words: The accusations and the rebuttals
Deputy chief officer David Warcup's claims at press conference... and Lenny Harper's |response to the Belfast Telegraph in his own words.

Warcup: There is no evidence that any children had been murdered or bodies destroyed at the former home.
Harper: They said they have "no credible evidence of murder" and "no suspects for murder." They announced this as if it was a contradiction to what I had said. Not true. I have always said we did not have a homicide enquiry but were treating the scene as one of a potential homicide. Surprisingly they seem to miss the distinction. Furthermore I told the Chief Minister Frank Walker, on the day that he brought his wife for a tour of Haut de le Garenne, in her presence and that of my team, that he should prepare himself for the fact that we might not be able to launch a homicide enquiry because of a lack of evidence. He said this would not be a bad outcome and he was confident that we would do what we could.

Warcup: After being examined by experts from the British Museum, a fragment thought to have been from a skull turned out to be a piece of Victorian coconut shell.
Harper: They spoke about the original find "probably being a piece of coconut or wood." The truth is that the item has never been positively identified and the source they quoted was only one of a number of varying opinions. Furthermore, it has never been explained just how collagen, which is only found in mammals, was found in it. Additionally, we had, of course, ruled out the item anyway because our experts were telling us it was too old.

Warcup: "Shackles" found in rubble turned out to be "a rusty piece of metal", and there was no evidence to suggest it had been used for anything suspicious.
Harper: They described the shackles as "just rusty pieces of metal." Of course they are rusty pieces of metal - they have been in the ground for over 30 years. Furthermore, they ignore the fact that it was not only us who described them as shackles, which one pair obviously are. Builders who found them in 2003 and left them where they were, tipped off the media that we would find shackles.

Warcup: The "secret underground chambers" were just holes in the floor, "not dungeons or cellars".
Harper: They said that the cellars are "not cellars or dungeons, but are merely floor voids." Surprisingly, I never used the word dungeons. They are not floor voids. What we call the cellars (and what the victims call the cellars) are in fact what used to be the ground floor. What is certain is that victims described them accurately and the abuse that went on in there.

Warcup: Most of the 170 pieces of bone found in the search came from animals. Three were human and two of these dated from between 1470-1670 and 1650-1950 respectively.
Harper: "The bones could be hundreds of years old." Well this is certainly not new. When detailing the results of carbon dating, I made it clear that the dates ranged from 1650 to 1950. The expert in the UK who had examined the first bones we sent (which included a piece of child's tibia) said that they were very likely the bones of a juvenile human, they had been burnt shortly after death and buried shortly after burning. In his view they were no more than a few decades old. I made it clear that in the light of the conflicting information which, if it remained the same, it was "obvious that there would not be a murder enquiry." This is clearly confirmed by, among others, the BBC News website which carries a link from yesterday's story to one called "Jersey Murder Enquiry Unlikely" which was posted at 5.46pm UK time on July 31, 2008.

The Unanswered Question - Haut de La Garenne

Harper and the Jersey police, to be certain they are carrying out their work correctly, they have voluntarily called in a review team from the UK mainland. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) Working Group will review the investigation so far. With Jersey not being part of the United Kingdom and therefore not under Home Office jurisdiction, Harper is nevertheless keen to ensure his investigation is working by the book, even if it is someone else's.

Will someone explain how Acpo didn't spot anything wrong with the investigation? I read the JEP report tonight but was unable to find any mention of this!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Malaisey Evening Star - Special Crimewatch Edition

Malaisey Evening Star
Crimewatch Special Edition
by our correspondent Joseph G. Whopper

In this sensational edition, we spend 11 pages in which Inspector Desmond Hiccup of the Malaisey Police Force shows that former Inspector Leslie Harpic was wrong. In a coconut shell, these can be summarised as follows.

1) It is inaccurate that former First Minister Wally Frankl has a speech impediment, even if he appears to sometimes blurt out words without thinking
2) Everything that Leslie Harpic has said is wrong; not one thing he has said is right.
3) Everything Desmond Hiccup says is right; not one thing he says is wrong.
4) 2 + 2 = 5, according to our team, who have reassessed the evidence of the original boffins who told Leslie it was 4
5) "Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur" has been an abiding legal principle
6) Black is white

In a press release specially issued today to the Malaisey public by "lots of concerned people", it was stated by the press spokesman that Leslie Harpic had been very wrong, and everything he said was wrong. Desmond Hiccup said that whatever Leslie said it was not true, and far from cleaning up, he had made a mess instead, which Desmond was convinced he would be able to clean up with a generous and liberal dose of whitewash. "We do not know why Leslie acted in the way he did and so annoyed the Malaisey establishment," he said, "but I am quite different, and it will be obvious why I am acting in the way that I am."

Wally Frankl said that "At last we can put the nightmare of Leslie Harpic's press releases behind us, and we now know the truth, that there have never been any cover ups, any blanket secrecy, any duvets of doom, and I can sleep easy in my bed knowing that it has now had been made of nice clean fresh linen, suitably laundered."

Press Release - Jersey Police

As well as the UK press, CNN and Australia, the recent news story about the suspension of Graham Power, and the "tearing to shreds" of the Lenny Harper enquiry by David Warcup has also gone global. Whether this is planned or just interest remains to be seen, but the Australian site mentioned Warcup giving an early briefing, and a later one especially for Australian time, suggesting this press release has been extensively organised. Incidentally, the "coconut" jibe about a bone fragment has been resurrected, even though the actual pathology report said nothing of the kind.


Europa Press

Ouest France







Howard League report

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.  - C.S. Lewis

I heard Jimmy Perchard on BBC Radio Jersey today saying he was upset that Community Care were releasing part of the report today.

Why do they have to be so defensive?

If a business were told by FSC (Financial Services Commission Jersey) said they were not fully compliant and would have to pull their socks, and get proper procedures for Know Your Client, the thing to do would be to take that on board, and set up a rectification programme.

Yet much the same has come from the Bull report, and more recently the Williamson report. The sex offenders register is not in place, nor is there - as all the recommendations make - an independent body to oversee facilities like Greenfields. When Ian Gorst raised the matter recently, he was told that these matters were "in progress".

Why can't the States do the same as any business would do if faced with the need to put their house in order with childcare? There's a lot of talk about putting into place the Bull report, or Williamson etc, but a timetable would be better. Our target is to do this by this date, this by this date etc. Then we can see how successful they are, and it is 100% better than bland assurances. If not achieved, reasons will need to be sought, and the project can be monitored properly. Otherwise, it is more or less on a par with the Millennium Town Park - 8 years later, and still on everyone's "wish list".

I think there is a lot of misplaced arrogance in some people in the public arena who cannot easily admit that there might be faults in the systems - unless they can lean over backwards to say, in effect, "but they are minor ones", as if to say "well, it doesn't really come to much criticism after all." This constant "need to reply" seems to display a great measure of insecurity, to get in the "last word". As C.S. Lewis says, "There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake."

Declaration of Drinking Preferences

I would tell a man who was drinking too much 'Be a man', but I would not tell a crocodile who was eating too many explorers 'Be a crocodile'." (G.K. Chesterton)

Do you think that candidates should declare their drinking preferences? You can tell a great deal about someone by their tipple, more perhaps than in their manifesto, which is more concerned with principles and promises than practice.

Obviously, someone who goes to L'Horizon is more likely to be a champagne drinker, or maybe even a claret drinker like Roy Jenkins? And have money to burn as well.

Whereas the more modest candidate is likely to drink beer in a pub, which is generally more sociable. Unless they are a lady, in which case a more genteel drink would be suitable. G.K. Chesterton, who always thought politics and pubs went together, would approve.

Here is where I think some of the candidates of St Brelade Number 2 would be placed on a "drinking scale"

Mervin Le Masurier looks definitely like a port and lemon drinker to me.
Martha Bernstein might probably be a sweet sherry
Richard De La Haye - lemonade (as a cab driver)
Montfort Tadier - a French red wine
Jeff Hathaway - best bitter (probably Mary Ann when it comes back)
Sean Power - Guinness

Any suggestions for your own locality, please add as a comment.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Not Forgotten

An excellent programme by Ian Hislop on Channel 4 last night about those who would not fight for reasons of conscience in the First World War.  None of the 6 men whom Ian Hislop focused on could be accused of cowardice; all had very clear religious convictions about the morality of warfare. Some were "alternatists", that is those who would not fight, but who would do something else of importance, providing medical care - often at the front line, and where they were just as likely to be gassed or die. Others were "absolutists" to whom anything that might help the war effort was an act of complicity.

Often Methodists or Quakers, they took the commandment Thou Shall Not Kill to mean Thou Shall Not Kill Ever, Under Any Circumstances. Ninety years on, Hislop asks whether these conchies were "cowards and shirkers" or whether they were courageous in their refusal to fight. "Some 16,000 men applied for exemption when conscription was introduced in 1916," he says.

"Most of the ones trying it on soon gave it up. They went before a tribunal where they would be asked: 'What would you do if a German was going to kill your mother?' Most buckled at that point and enlisted. The ones who held out despite the intimidation were incredibly brave in their way. Their single-mindedness was extraordinary."

One of the leading "conchies" that Hislop mentions was a methodist lay preacher who asked in a sermon "Would Jesus bayonet a German?" "Can you imagine Jesus with a machine gun?" Uncomfortable questions for those with whom Christianity and warfare often sit too easily side by side. I certainly can't; it is like those images of Jesus riding a dinosaur. Mohammed, if he lived today, might have found a use for a machine gun, as warfare and Islam went together from the early days, but the only occasion Jesus displayed any real violence, it was overturning the tables of the moneylenders. Which does not bode too well for bankers either!
Conscientious objection seemed to stem from religious convictions, but interestingly, Time Magazine reported one modern case in the USA where an atheists convictions, formed against a religious culture, were sufficient to allow him to claim exemption from the draft.,9171,844701,00.html

Jack Straw on Jersey

There is this wider responsibility for good governance. You have to be very careful about exercising that and it will be known that I have had representations in respect of certain criminal proceedings in respect of that and I have declined to intervene in those, as far as I am concerned, on good grounds. I think it is now generally accepted that there is a high level of regulation and practice of the financial institutions in the Crown Dependencies, but were that not the case then on the basis of good governance as well as other matters you could intervene. - Jack Straw, October 2008

Interesting question time in October in the UK regarding the Channel Islands, especially in the light of the recent comments about not interfering in the judicial process. Jack Straw makes it clear that he does not think he needs to intervene in the recent criminal proceedings "on good grounds", but he makes it very clear that if the grounds were there he could intervene "on the basis of good governance". He does not say how he would do this - but it is clear that he does have the power to do so.

Note to casual readers, I've left in the joke he made at the end of the session on the Channel Islands!

Tuesday 7 October 2008


Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 68

Q14 Dr Whitehead: In your background note, which you very kindly provided this Committee with, you mentioned that the "UK receives criticism for intervening, say, too little and too much, sometimes at one and the same time". What are the criteria that exist in the Ministry of Justice for intervention and how might you judge the point at which intervention might be appropriate given the protocols that are in place?
Mr Straw: First of all, Dr Whitehead, the United Kingdom Government is responsible for international relations and defense, so we deal with those. For example, if there is a case before the European Court on Human Rights we are the respondent in that case.

The international responsibilities are not just for foreign relations, crucially in terms of day-to-day life within the Crown Dependencies they include the European Convention on Human Rights. It is best to illustrate this by a specific example. There was pretty well-publicised argument about whether the form of governance within Sark was consistent with basic democratic principles which are at large but also parts of which are contained within the European Convention on Human Rights. One of the powers that is available to anybody in my seat is in respect of whether to recommend a particular draft law from the Crown Dependencies for Royal Assent, and in most cases these are pretty routine or they are parallels to legislation which has been introduced in the United Kingdom and there is not an issue. In this particular case in respect of the original proposal for reform from Sark, I judged that it was insufficient to meet any kind of democratic test because it gave too much continuing power to the so-called tenants, who are the land holders of the 40 key parcels of land within Sark, and gave them disproportionate power within what should have been the democratic chamber of Sark.

There is this wider responsibility for good governance. You have to be very careful about exercising that and it will be known that I have had representations in respect of certain criminal proceedings in respect of that and I have declined to intervene in those, as far as I am concerned, on good grounds. I think it is now generally accepted that there is a high level of regulation and practice of the financial institutions in the Crown Dependencies, but were that not the case then on the basis of good governance as well as other matters you could intervene.

Q26 Robert Neill: I understand where you are coming from. I had the chance to visit the Channel Islands earlier in the year and spoke to some legislators there. Taking on board your point about the difficulties where there are specific complexities, for example the constitution arrangements, or where there is clearly something that falls within (I was going to call it) a long-stop role that the British Government has to pick up, can I take it, in respect of other more routine domestic Channel Islands legislation, which, nonetheless, has to be recommended by your department for approval, that the basic principle there is that assuming it does not offend against any of these major issues you would not seek to intervene in what has been passed by the Legislature?

Mr Straw: I have not got the numbers, but a surprisingly large number of these draft laws come through my hands and David Hanson's each month and my guess is that more than 99 times out of 100 they are recommended. Sometimes there are issues which arise, for example over drafting. There was an issue recently where I was concerned about loose drafting which was creating a breadth of criminal offences, albeit it technical, which I do not think would have had an easy passage here. I got undertakings about how it was to be dealt with.

Q35 Mr Heath: I think we could probably comfortably fit the population of several of the smaller Channel Islands into one of your Titan prisons.

Mr Straw: Actually I worked it out. We could have fitted it into the old building, easily, of the Ministry of Justice.


Looking at the deputies - Jeff Hathaway

I was interested to see that there is a lot of good "green" stuff in Jeff's manifesto. We could do with more recycling in Jersey.

Incidentally, I heard on the news today that recycling of plastic bottles is being held up because of lack of demand in the UK. And yet we have France just on our doorstep! Isn't it a shocking indictment of the recent much publicized visit to France that recycling was not clearly one of the issues that came up - and yet it would probably be as important to the Island as a high profile meeting regarding tax and offshore. What on earth was the point of Guy de Faye going if such an important matter did not arise? Apologies will be given if it did, but I've seen nothing in the press releases which say virtually nothing at all, and certainly no mention of recycling. If you'll excuse the pun, a wasted opportunity! 
I wish to work with the Connetable, other Deputies, third-parties and importantly the parishioners to further explore and introduce a re-cycling and roadside collection scheme into the Parish, and ensure that the one adopted for our Parish delivers the best solution, at the lowest cost and takes into account all practical issues.
Although forming part of the original ideas submitted to the Les Creux Working Party and representations made to Sport, Leisure & Culture by myself and others, there is still no prospect of securing land at Les Creux for allotments. There is however considerable support for the idea amongst those in the Parish who live in flats, or have ridiculously small gardens, and many retired people. Allotments have proven to be an invaluable community asset, and in current circumstances where our food is taxed, of even greater value to those on low and fixed incomes. I should like to form a group to pursue the issue.

The concept of taxing food and other essentials I find morally unacceptable and those who defend it lacking in social conscience. GST should be removed from food, water and other basic human needs. There is also the compound effect caused by supply chains in which one or more service provider is forced to pass on their unrefundable GST. The affect on small and medium sized business, in contending with yet another layer of administration that government has burdened upon them, only serves to reduce business efficiency and fuel inflation.. It was claimed to be a simple tax. The reality has not borne that out - ask any retailer or accountant! If elected, and the removal of GST from food is again proposed in the States Assembly , I will vote FOR the proposition. I would however favour GST scrapped altogether and replaced by more equitable methods of raising revenues. The recent GST refund bonuses announced by Social Security is an admission that this tax is causing hardship.

Clearly Jersey can no longer compete economically in the wider EU agricultural community. It is also clear that the industry is devoid of States initiative to explore viable 'land-use' alternatives. I believe that it is time to put new resource into creating a sustainable strategy to ensure agriculture not only survives but can have a exciting future. I fully support the enterprise of those undertaking small-holding projects and 'Genuine Jersey'. I would suggest that both climatically and geographically, Jersey vineyards and wine is a realistic opportunity waiting to be explored, having the potential bonus to combine agriculture with 'tourist appeal'. 

Monday, 10 November 2008

Looking at the Deputies - Rod Bryans, Sean Power

Each day I am going to try and pick a few matters from the Deputies who are standing that I think of interest, together with the links, some sitting, some standing. Here is some stuff from Rod Bryans and Sean Power.
Rod sticks his neck out on GST, but his comments on the waterfront are more ambivalent. Notice he doesn't actually come down one way or another about it.
Sean speaks as he finds, and there is refreshingly little fudging, or the kind of Gus Hedges management speak that a certain Senator is notorious for coming out with. I have to say that while I don't completely see eye to eye (I think basic exemptions on fuel would be relatively simple, not as complex as food obviously would be), he seems to dig into issues - the information about the waste and analysis has not appeared to my knowledge in the JEP - and be very responsive to explaining things, despite some general snipers on Planet Jersey who are, in my opinion, behaving like kids (maybe they are?).
Rod Bryans
There should be exemptions for necessities, food, heating and utility bills. This is a given. If the UK can do it so can we. To tax the essentials for those who find it difficult to afford is madness.
There are so many concerns about this development they are difficult to number.  It just feels wrong. Gut instinct is a great litmus test and nobody feels easy about what is happening. Why is the project so large? As the case against Harcourt becomes more public so does the disquiet. What assumptions are being made regarding the growth of the Finance Industry and its inherent population to warrant so many offices? Now with the current climate of businesses reducing staff and resources, who are going to fill these offices?
Sean Power - in his own words
If you are referring to GST, I have voted 5 times against this awful tax.  Now that 28 of my colleagues voted to bring it in last November, I am firmly of the view that my colleagues are not disciplined enough to hold it at 3%. Already the clamour for exemptions on food, children's clothes, school uniforms, books, fresh food has started.  If we go for a VAT monster type model with large numbers of civil servants dealing with exemptions, then inexorably, the rate will have to go up.  And it will because of this clamour.  That is why I am of the view that GST will never stay a simple tax

On GST, I voted against GST everytime.I then voted against exemptions.   We must keep GST simple. We cannot have a UK VAT look a like monster.  That takes battalions of  civil servants to do the exempting.  If we have to have the bloody thing, then this clamour for exemptions will give any future Treasury Minister carte blanche to raise the base rate. I don't agree with that. I don't agree with GST as I am still unconvinced we need it.  It is the GST is the problem, not GST on food.

West of Albert and Toxic Waste
A brief comment on the West of Albert (1980's) reclamation site. I have checked with Health and Social Services (Protectorate) and Social Security (workplace). The major works being undertaken by Dandara, the first of the developers is that constant daily monitoring is going on as to what is being extracted. This is subject to Lab analysis and the results come back every three/four weeks. So far, they have found some gray asbestos that is being handled properly and lots of mixed debris, including batteries that should never have been dumped there as mixed loads.

Soil samples are taken daily and these are bagged and batched and sent weekly to a UK lab.  The results come back for that BATCH about three weeks later.

I have checked with TTS and HSS. Because I am on PAP, I cannot contact Dandara direct. This monitoring is being done. My information is that Castle Quay and excavation is proving a very expensive and difficult exercise. Why ?  Because so much non-recorded crap was deposited there in the early 80's. Mostly by the Jersey born dominated States public service of then.

I understand that specialist firms and sealed 20'  < psi proof containers with containment monitoring are being shipped on a weekly basis with Huelin Renouf .
Child Abuse
Any civil servant under investigation by the SOJP [States of Jersey Police], particulary in the area of child care should not be active  and should be suspended.

Bus Shelters
I  have now had a long conversation with some people in the know at TTS. Connex and TTS have agreements that make it difficult for Connex to carry advertising.  That same applies to Bus Shelters as the advertising has to be done on a common agreement. There are now one or two sponsorship deals notably EDD. Anyway sponsored Buses and Bus shelters are being re-visited.
Getting people on buses is a bit like recycling. You can provide a good bus service and shelters and the user friendly stuff. My sister lives in Seattle. They have an integrated bus policy with decent shelters, mini-stations, bike racks on buses and the whole thing works. TTS need to realise that they can get people onto buses, but it is not just the bus. It is the whole package. It is comparable to recycling. TTS have a captive audience that are soooo keen to recycle. Yet, they only do the 32%.

I have had bus shelters as an agenda item for three years.  All of us have been waiting for the Integrated Travel and Transport Plan for three years. It was never delivered by TTS. It is a bit like New Directions.

Buddhist economics

THE last crop of carnations to be grown by Jersey's once world-famous flower industry were being picked this week. Economic pressures have forced Grouville-based De La Mare Nurseries to stop growing flowers. Owner Roy Smith has put in a planning application to demolish his greenhouses and build housing on his land instead. However, he says that he now finds it is now cheaper to import from foreign countries than grow his own supply

These large greenhouses would be an ideal size for allotment space for people who wanted to "grow under glass", and when peak oil really hits, and we find imports rise in price, we will regret the loss of the amenity, for either flowers, or more importantly, for food. E.F. Schumacher noted with the coal industry many years ago in one of his books that what was "economical" was a fickle guide to change, especially when all the plant and expertise is thrown away, and has later to be regained again at much greater cost, if possible at all. At that time, oil prices meant that coal mines were deemed "uneconomic" and a policy of pit closure was instituted, which was a typical political decision based on short-term gain.

I was introduced to the work of E.F. Schumacher, in particular "Small is Beautiful", way back in the 1970s by physics teacher of mine, who - by doing so - probably was one of the most formative and important influences at school on my later thinking. This is what Schumacher said about imports, and consider that this was written in the 1970s! Like John V Taylor's "Enough is Enough" (also written in the 1970s), there were prophets around in those days. It is a pity that more people did not hear them, but they have laid the groundwork for a new way of looking at economics, which everyone will soon need:

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services between a man's home and his place of work signifies a misfortune and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist would hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success.


Number Crunching

Thursday, 18 May 2006, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK

States staff earning above £150k

More than 20 States of Jersey employees are earning more than £150,000 a year, new figures have shown.
The salaries were detailed in annual accounts released by the States.
Three of the Crown Officers - who serve as the Bailiff, Deputy Bailiff, Attorney General and Solicitor General - earn between £210,000 and £229,000.

These are 2006 figures!

Could this be the same Attorney General and Solicitor General who have just asked for free parking at the taxpayers expense? A saving to them of probably at least £960 a year!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Remembrance - 11 November 2008

Remembrance - 11 November 2008

3000 BC at the Dolmen

The tribe can rest now, and our stone temple is complete. Into the side chambers, the tribal priests will place the grave goods - amulets, bracelets, and some of the bones of the ancestors. The fires will burn brightly down the passage, and we will chant the sacred songs, and the past will be very close tonight. The air is thin between this world and the next, and we build this to remember the past, our ancestors who will always be with us, and as long as stone will endure, may not be forgotten. Most are buried in earthen graves, but these bones are a token, a sign for the tribe, and it is enough. At the turning of the sun, at the matching of the night and day, and especially at the cross quarter day when the nights are growing long, we shall see the patterns in the stars, and know that it is time. We shall gather with the shades all who have gone before, and all their hopes shall be our hopes, and we shall pray for a good harvest and a mild winter. The fires will burn bright, and we shall remember them.

11th November 1918, In the Trenches

Today, we are told, sees an end to the mud, all the cold and wet, the noise of the guns, and the shells pounding down. Too late for some of my friends. And we are all wounded now, one way or another, with scars in our memories, which will remain with us until the day we die.

Now all we can do is to hope for a better world. We have been promised a land fit for heroes. It seems like only yesterday, but another world, a bright and sunny day, in which we marched up and down the parade ground. The band played a rousing marching song, and we felt sure we would find victory; we were full of thoughts of valour and brave deeds. Little did we know the despair and misery that would be our lot; the lice, the trench foot, the iron rations, and the endless mud and rain. This was, until today, our lot, for those of us lucky enough to survive, and those not driven mad by the endless noise of guns.

And when we are old, we will look back and remember those Islanders who died here, in a foreign field, friends and comrades in arms, taken in their youth, never to grow old, as we who are left grow old.

But our hopes are now for a brave new world, fresh shoots of spring, and families to build in a time of peace. Will there be that world so promised by the politicians? Or will we be forgotten, as some have said, only remembered on ceremonial occasions once a year, standing at cenotaphs across the land, but forgotten for the rest of the time? Will we grow old, struggling to make ends meet, fretting over food and warmth, while those we fought for, and their descendants, stand and make fine speeches, and enjoy acclaim and wealth? Will we decline into an old age in which we again face hardship, frugal rations, and the biting cold of wintertime? Who will really remember us?

1944, The Normandy Beaches

We landed on Normandy to the sound of machine gun fire, and shells from the German positions. The carnage was dreadful, and I saw many of my mates fall down beneath as they struggled up the beaches. But now, the day is over, and we have won a victory, and taken a beachhead, and we move inland tomorrow. The great attack is over, and victory is in our sights. A time to take stock, and reflect of future hopes, if any of us come out of this alive.

One thing is certain, we will not be cheated like our grandfathers and fathers were, with glib promises of a land fit for heroes. Where there is the chance, we will take it, and we will vote for change. It is time for change. People are dying here, and they are dying so that all those of use lucky enough to survive will have hope. Well, you can't have that if all those who didn't fight are in charge, in the same old way.

The mood is that we can do this; we will look forward not to just let the politicians do it, but to elect our own people. The English soldiers are already talking of Attlee and Labour. Churchill may have won the war, but when war is past, we want people looking forward, to changes, to free health for all, housing, a decent pension, social security, and a fairer society.

We want a world built from the ranks of the ordinary soldier, the common man. If we are to remember our fallen comrades, we shall pay tribute to them in this way, by changing the world. I don't know if there is another world, like the padre says, but I know we don't want pie in the sky, but fair shares for all in this world. How much we build a better world, I do not know, but this will be our memorial to the dead; our monument to their lives. In this time of hope, we shall look back and not forget that ordinary folk paid with their life's blood for our future. Yes, we shall build a better world. And we shall remember them.

1975, Northern Ireland

I would not have thought our Islanders could be caught up in this conflict, but they have. I am here as a representative of the funeral directors to convey, with dignity and respect, the remains of a poor lad shot and killed here last month. To the rest of the world, the conflict here must seem a very private little war, but it still has the power to destroy lives.

I remember my grandfather taking part in the Great War, the war to end all wars. Only it was not, because then there was the Second World War, in which my father fought. Warfare has become less global, but smaller private wars continue, many still die, and so often those fighting have lost sight of all reason why the war began; hatreds become inbred, and even those who are brought in to keep the peace get caught up in the madness.

Now there will be a new name on the Cenotaph; a new date, and a new war, in which we remember the dead.

600 AD, A Remote Bay in the Island

We landed today in our small boats. This is an empty bay, with rocks at either side, and no signs of habitation; here we can settle and begin our small community. The Lord gave us a strong wind, and blew us onto the beaches, bringing us safely through the storm, in his great mercy. Under the shadow of his wings, we came safely into harbour. Blessed be his name.

Once we have settled, we will seek out those who live here, and trade with them, for we have many skilled artisans, skilled in working with metal and wood. We have scribes who can read and write, and who can bring the Lord's word of peace and joy to the people who live in this land. For in our travels, across the channel dividing our lands from these southern regions, we have come across much sorrow, tribal laws which are not just, where the widow and the orphan and the stranger are forgotten. We shall teach these peoples to know the justice of the Lord, and his mercy on us all. For we are all strangers in a strange land.

There is wood here, and we can fashion a shelter for worship, in which we can pray for the peoples of this Island. We shall gather the names of their ancestors, and the names of the living, and all their songs and stories, and we shall take care that nothing is lost that the Lord has entrusted to us. We shall light our candles, break bread, and we shall remember them.