Friday, 31 October 2008

Time to Consult the Entrails again!

I've been considering how much you can extrapolate from the Senatorial Elections to the Deputies. I don't think it can easily be done, as they are very much a different kind of ball game, and the most one could suggest - as a rule of thumb - would be that people who did well in a district - e.g. Geoff Southern in the St Helier areas, will be unlikely to do badly in the Deputies in the same locality.
 
However, historical review of past votes suggests that the converse is not the case - Guy de Faye was slaughtered in the Senatorials in 2005, but managed to get quite a creditable lead over the candidate who didn't get in against him. Local issues tend to matter more, and canvassing can be more focused and in a way, smaller scale, more intimate, and usually hustings allow space for longer questions and answers.

People who campaigned on a particular platform in the Senators will probably stand a better chance (1) because they are already familiar faces (2) because they will have more time to get across to the voter than the ridiculous time (3) there are a lot fewer candidates.
 
There is also less of a split vote, because either people stand as independent, or the banner is not so high profile anyway, and there will be unlikely to be former Time4Change, JDA, or 20-20 candidates in the same areas against each other. In fact, there may be more "establishment" type candidates, so the split vote will work against sitting establishment candidates, unlike the Senatorials.
 
The local connection also plays a propaganda part, of course, any membership of honorary police, or procurer du bien public etc etc gets some votes by default from the parish connection. Notice how both candidates for Constable in St Lawrence trumpeted their connections there!
 
St Brelade No 2 will be interesting, as it has Sean Power - definitely standing, and likely to get in on the "I hammered Harcourt" banner - Martha Bernstein, Mr Bryans, Montfort, and possibly Peter Troy. From what he has said in the JEP, Mr Bryans is a sound-bite junkie ("proven track record", "safe pair of hands"), and I seem to remember him from Mensa mag editing days, so Peter Troy will have a rival there!.
 
Historically, I remember there was something of a sea change quite a while back, when Simon Crowcroft, and I think Imogen Nichols and various others (all non-establishment) all got in at one Deputies election, seeing off quite a lot of the "old guard", especially in St Helier and St Saviour. This was 1996, and it saw popular non-establishment types (back then they were - anyway!) such as:

Senator Corrie Stein
Senator Wendy Kinnard
Senator Nigel Quérée

Deputy Jerry Dorey
Deputy Paul Le Claire
Deputy Simon Crowcroft
Deputy Shirley Baudains
Deputy Gerard Baudains
Deputy Imogen Nicholls
Deputy Phil Rondel
Deputy Robert Duhamel
Deputy Alan Breckon
and Deputy Ted Vibert in 1999

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Brand-Ross Affair

I have been viewing from afar the fallout regarding the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross affair, in which - in a pre-recorded show - both presenters left rude messages on the answer phone of actor Andrew Sachs regarding his grand-daughter, despite his request for the show not to be broadcast.

1) One strange occurrence is that the programme only received a few complaints, perhaps four or five, and a lot of the indignation or hot air has been fueled by the media reporting of the matter. Even Gordon Brown has commented on the matter. It is most odd that everyone I speak to has an opinion on it, even if they never heard the broadcast!

2) There seems to be a degree of generational divide among people approving or disapproving of what Brand and Ross did, with the younger generation more inclined to dismiss it as a harmless prank, a bit of a laugh, and the older generation inclined to think it was disgusting.

3) One of the arguments against the presenters is that they are paid lots of licence payers money for their shows, and should they behave in this way if we are paying them. The logic of that argument would seem to suggest that minority viewpoints and behaviour cannot be tolerated, because the majority of licence payers get upset with it. It is as if Mary Whitehouse is revenged from the grave! But surely it should be not settling blame, but opening a debate about what is acceptable on radio and television, and when different presentations are acceptable, what boundaries there might be, and why they would be important. Instead, the debate is not even started, and judgment has already been made.

4) Another argument - from the other factions - is that Sachs Granddaughter goes under the stage name of Voluptia, in a group called "The Satanic Sluts". The logic of this argument is that if she is that provocative, and dresses in a particular way, she is fair game for all kinds of insults. Continue with this line of reasoning, and we end up with the "she was asking for it" school of thought. Do we want to go there?

The best assessment I have seen of the situation is from someone I have not often agreed with, Janet Street-Porter, who places the context of the remarks in a male culture than sees nothing wrong in "men behaving badly", being "blokish" or "laddish", and showing how "macho" you are. It is a pertinent criticism, because it is not just behaviour in this instance that she critiques, but a whole male culture which ultimately sees other people, and women especially as "fair game" for the butt of their jokes.

I admit, I've used bad language regularly on television. When the BBC broadcast a fly-on-the-wall documentary about my stressful time running Live TV a decade ago, it contained more bleeps in an hour than any documentary previously aired on BBC2. But they were bleeps, and there weren't many complaints.

Now, when we reach the 9pm watershed, an announcer will almost invariably tell viewers (on all channels): "The following programme contains strong language". Indeed, the only programmes without a warning are probably about the life of polar bears or butterflies. Bleeping is largely a thing of the past, unless you're using the c-word.

Telly and radio has become increasingly bloke-ish, and the incident with Andrew Sachs is about that. A few years ago I took part in Nine out of 10 Cats with Jimmy Carr. I was the only woman on that show. During the recording my fellow panelists were more and more lewd (a lot would be edited out for broadcast and was only for the live audience's entertainment) and I felt increasingly uncomfortable.

When a gay man I knew was mentioned, my fellow panelist made a joke about anal sex, at which point I nearly burst into tears and asked to leave. Everyone was told to behave and the recording completed with me saying little. Incredibly, they asked me on the show again, but I declined.

Brand and Ross were reflecting this attitude. Senior executives should have junked the item, and insisted the apology was appropriate. Fines, sackings and investigations can't alter a culture.

Links:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/janet-street-porter/janet-streetporter-men-like-russell-brand-thrive-in-the-macho-culture-of-the-airwaves-976802.html

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thought for Today

We are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world, a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make it a place of justice and compassion where the lonely are not alone, the poor not without help; where the cry of the vulnerable is heeded and those who are wronged are heard.

- Jonathan Sacks, "To Heal A Fractured World"

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Subsidiary Risks and Jersey

Channel Television had this report:

Jersey's party store Horseplay and The Luggage Shop have closed after their parent company went into liquidation. Six members of staff have lost their jobs....

They then put it into the wrong context, that of 101 Toys closing down, and support within the Island for small businesses. Why is that the wrong context? Because the reason they have closed has nothing to do with local profitability, but everything to do with the problems of the much larger parent company, of which they were a small subsidiary.

My son put his finger on the real question this raises when he asked where you could get costumes and joke novelty items now that Horseplay is closed. The answer, of course, is that there are other retailers, albeit not as large, which sell these kind of items. Fancy dress costumes, for example, can be obtained from downstairs at the Hallmark Card shop at Les Quennevais, and I am sure there are other outlets for jokes and costumes. Even if there were not, it would not be the end of the world. We could cope without joke items, or get them via the internet.

But the real question - what happens when the parent company closes, and the subsidiary then closes down as well, is an important one to consider, and not one given any time by Philip Ozouf in his soundbites on CTV. Some companies could close without great problems, because their goods or services are duplicated elsewhere, or are part of an optional nice market. But others are not, and as more and more local businesses are becoming controlled from UK parent groups, Jersey and Guernsey's exposure to these kinds of collapses becomes more probable.

What would happen, for example, if Connex went bust, and the Island found itself suddenly with no bus company? Or in Guernsey, if Cable and Wireless went down, and suddenly all the cabling infrastructure was on hold? Or Sandpiper (the Cheques / M&S) outlet had difficulties, and we lost one large chain of supermarkets, with extra pressure on the others?

When I discussed this, someone said that companies like Connex or Cable and Wireless were large companies, and C&W has a global outreach.

But large companies can and do suddenly go down, if overextended, and having loans called in - just look at Enron, which collapsed overnight, and took down with it a good deal of Arthur Andersen, which blew apart into fragments. From a high of 28,000 employees in the US and 85,000 worldwide, the firm is now down to around 200 based primarily in Chicago. Most of their attention is on handling the lawsuits and presiding over the orderly dissolution of the company.

http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5hLBG_kiEtHMGOXVIMcOe-6zZxYdw

Shares in Cable & Wireless fell amid speculation the group had delayed plans to split its UK and international businesses. It had been widely rumoured that the telecoms giant was planning an imminent break-up after C&W said in May that it was "demonstrating the necessary momentum" for it to consider the next steps towards realising shareholder value. The market was expecting an announcement alongside its interim results on November 10, but C&W's board is reportedly unwilling to make the move in light of the global financial crisis. A newspaper report over the weekend suggested the demerger could be delayed until next year... Shares fell more than 4% at one stage on Monday as investor hopes faded for a demerger before next spring or summer at the earliest. Jonathan Groocock, analyst at Investec Securities, said: "In uncertain markets and poor credit conditions, it would not be overly surprising if the demerger is delayed. But we believe greater uncertainty on the one key catalyst for C&W shares may be harshly treated by the market."

http://www.theage.com.au/national/easier-penalties-tipped-for-operators-20081027-59tb.html

In the year to June, Connex paid more than $33 million in fines [in Mebourne] for cancellations and late services.... Connex and Yarra Trams' contracts expire on December 1 next year.






Monday, 27 October 2008

The Ideas of the Century

What I remember most about Norwich was "The Sale of the Century", hosted by Nicholas Parsons, which ran for many years, and was very popular. The top prize was - typically for days of typical consumption - usually a car, on which would be draped various lovely females in skimpy adornment, but which were not, unfortunately, part of the prize - I was a teenager at the time!

But I've just seen "View from the West"

http://st-ouennais.livejournal.com/35797.html

"A flavour of what the Real Jersey 2035 event could be like..."

which has a You-tube clip of the start of the conference at Norwich on "transition culture".

The full site is here:
http://transitionnorwich.org

and well worth a look. One subsection

http://transitionnorwich.org/PeakOil.htm

has the following comments on the end of cheap oil and implications of peak oil for the local economy:

What are the implications of this shortage of oil, and the rising oil price, for our everyday lives? Some examples include:
- Travel will become more expensive, and air travel may quickly return to be a luxury enjoyed only by the very rich;
- Food is already becoming more expensive, as our modern food system uses around 10 calories of fossil fuels to produce each calorie of food on our plates; and as food crops and land are diverted to make biofuels;
- The economy will suffer as households and businesses, struggling to pay for food, utilities and petrol, default on mortgages and other loans, leading to a credit crunch.


Transition Norwich is looking at how Norwich can adapt and change from a dependency culture on oil to more independent and self-supporting; it is also looking at the problems of climate change for the locale.

It is what Jersey should be doing now, to prepare for the future, looking at the big picture, rather than tackling just local problems and hoping the big problems will somehow go away. They won't!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Black Butter Making at the Elms

video

Just a very short posting to say the Elms was open by the National Trust for Black Butter making. This is the real mcCoy, and not the version in jars that I personally think is spoilt by adding an overwhelming taste of cinnamon.

There were also sausages from local pork to try, very tasty, surprisingly sweet, and very meaty. No sawdust there! And Vautier Honey, with Honeycomb in the jar, and all sorts of other interesting things. It was very busy, and fortunately the weather held out on Saturday.

Anyhow, here is a video clip (not too good quality, I forgot my camera and had to make to with my mobile) which shows the cauldron, then pans back to the man stirring it. It has to be kept at a steady heat, and stirred continuously for many hours so that it does not burn. How long it takes depends on how moist the apples are.

Speaking of apples, the Societe Jersiase also had on sale a book which was just out at the Elms, but I imagine also at sale direct from the Societe in Pier Road, which details the different varieties of local apples grown in National Trust Orchards, and classes them with acidity sweetness etc as percentages, along with pictures of the same. Some are known, some just numbers. They will also help anyone who wants to start trying to grow their own Jersey varieties.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Population: Fudging the Issue

http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/documents/questions/14254-48338-21102008.htm

I notice that Geoff Southern asked a question about population: "Does the Chief Minister accept, in the light of recent population, immigration and job growth figures that one of the first tasks of a new Council of Ministers will be to bring to the Assembly a policy for controlling population and, if not, why not?"

After a lot of waffle about "Keeping Jersey Special", and the success in the performance of the economy, the bottom line answer was as follows:

In its 'Keeping Jersey Special' report, published in July 2008, the current Council of Ministers identified that meeting the challenge of the ageing population whilst maintaining the Island as a successful and wonderful place to live will require the right balance between social, economic and environmental policies.

Based on detailed analysis and consultation with the public, the report concluded that, whilst it is possible to combine the above policies to reach a sustainable path to meet the challenges ahead, this is unlikely to be achieved without some level of inward migration.

So in other words, a vague generality - "some level of inward migration". One of the Council of Ministers who was re-elected was Philip Ozouf, and his elect site is almost as uninformative.

Q: Should there be a limit on the population of Jersey? If so, what?

A: Yes. The best way to control population is by limiting the number of jobs available. In the past this has been controlled by a combination of the Housing and Regulation of Undertakings Laws. These laws are being re-written into one law and in future will be more effective. In addition, a population register is to be introduced. This will give us better information. The States will debate and set a figure, this has to take account of the fact that the population is ageing. It is important to maintain the ratio of workers to non-workers to keep taxes lower.

http://www.ozouf.je/section/41/index.html


What this reads as saying is (1) I'm not going to give you a figure that I can be held accountable to (2) "maintain the ratio of workers to non-workers" is the key issue in setting and changing any numbers.

Well, not precisely:
- capacity of sewage system
- capacity of reservoirs (and usuage)
- maximum load possible on electricty cabling infrastructure
and any other infrastructure matters

These, if I am not mistaken, are better indicators of the ceiling for population, and it is about time that figures were calculated back from these, rather than simply looking at jobs and the ageing population.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

An Anonymous Bank Account with Fictitous Beneficial Owner

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/jersey/7686239.stm

Changes target money laundering

Changes to Jersey's anti-money laundering laws have been outlined by the island's Financial Services Commission.  They include making it an offence to set up an anonymous bank account or to run an account using a fictitious name.  Companies could also be ordered not to do business with countries that don't comply with international anti-money laundering standards.  The changes will come into force on 7 November

Has April 1 come early? How many anonymous bank accounts, or fictitious names are there over here? Will we be told?

Banks now have rigorous "know your client" rules, as anyone who has changed their bank account knows. I once had an existing deposit account ("special reserve") which was an "old" one with low interest, that the bank wanted to "retire" so I had to fill in a form to move it to a "new" one, called "first reserve" - and I had to provide a copy of my driving licence, utility bill etc just for this. Then I needed a root filling, and that was the end of that!

What fictitious names could people be using? The whole idea suggests there may be bank accounts in the name of:

Ebenezer Scrooge
James Bond
Mr Bean
Worzel Gummidge
Jim Bergerac

And what in the name of sanity is an "anonymous bank account"?

FSC Official: What's the name of that bank account?
Bank Official: Number Six.
FSC Official: It is anonymous! Tell me who is the person behind it. We want a free man, not a number. He must be stamped, filed, debriefed.
Bank Official: I'm only the new Number Two here.
FSC Official: Who is Number One?

(cue zany weather balloon bobbing up and swallowing Jersey, link in jazzy Ron Grainer music, and cut to shot of Jersey Green candidate peddling furiously on a penny-farthing bicycle)

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner
 

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A Nasty Mess

Catching up on the Hansard, it was good to see that Senator Syvret has lost none of his ability at making sharp and well-argued comments. Here is an extract from the Hansard below when the subject under discussion was again GST, and the arguments for and against exemptions. I have heard the argument that exemptions would benefit the rich as well as the poor - the argument Syvret notes - given by a member of management in my own office, and if that was the only argument regarding GST, and there were no inconsistencies in States policy, it would be a good one. But the fact that 20 hours of free nursery care violated precisely this principle, shows that, as far as the States are concerned, it simply doesn't add up. Or as we say in the age of GST, 2+2=4.12!

Last Friday we agreed, very substantially - I supported it - to give all children of nursery age in the Island access to 20 hours of free nursery.  Now, was that targeted?  Is that going to benefit only the poor or those on middle incomes or are the wealthy, are the better-off going to also benefit from that blanket policy decision?  Of course they are.  So it is amazing, is it not, to compare and contrast the highly flexible thinking and approach of this Assembly when it comes from one policy decision to another, when it is something as politically high pressure and of such concern?  As Senator Vibert's re-election campaign, yes, we can fund massive hours of free nursery care on a non means-tested basis.  As I said, it was a decision I supported.  But suddenly when we come to questions about G.S.T. it is a different matter.  Oh, we cannot possibly just have a simple exemption with G.S.T. because the wealthy, the better-off, might benefit a little bit from it.  We could not possibly have somebody in a middle to higher income avoiding the tax of £5 a week or whatever it might be on their food bill.  Dear, oh, dear.  We cannot possibly have that.  I long ago stopped expecting some kind of rational decision making on the part of this Assembly.

Allow inconsistency to come in, become acceptable, and reasonable, and, as Chesterton pointed out, you are on the road to injustice, where people will accept anything, because there is no yardstick to measure against it, no rules, but just ad hoc actions with no rhyme or reason. In another book, he also comments on justice and rules - what we would call good orderliness - and I think that what we see in the States with this kind of inconsistence, is precisely "a nasty mess":

You can be guided by the shrewdness or presence of mind of one ruler, or by the equality and ascertained justice of one rule; but you must have one or the other, or you are not a nation, but a nasty mess.  - G.K. Chesterton


Links

http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/documents/hansard/21148-311-8102008.htm#_Toc211231790
 

Watching the States - Recent Green Issues

Harcourt

On the Waterfront, not on environmental issues, alas, but on financial ones, a stop has been put for the time being on any agreements to be signed with Harcourt. A prudent proposition, especially as the credit crunch has made the cost of borrowing increase, and if Harcourt collapsed, the States could be left to pick up the pieces.

The JEP also reported that Jim Perchard had come under pressure not to bring this proposition. As it was supported by virtually all members, including the Council of Ministers, that means the likely suspect is Web, especially as the only States member to go against it was Jacqui Huet, who is a States director on the board of Web.

Hopefully this pause will provide enough time for alternatives to be explored, especially ones which will not leave the States with a 1/2 million pound maintenance bill for the sunken road, poor air quality etc.

The JEP has already reported small businessmen who want the whole development looked at again because of the credit crunch, looking more for retail outlets and housing than office blocks.

James Perchard's proposition came up "to request the Chief Minister to give directions to the Waterfront Enterprise Board Limited in accordance with Article 22(a) of the Articles of Association of the Company that no development agreement should be signed by the Company in relation to the proposed Esplanade Quarter, St. Helier until the details of the proposed development agreement have been recommended by the Waterfront Enterprise Board for endorsement by the States, presented to the States by the Chief Minister and approved by the Assembly."

POUR: 40 CONTRE: 1 ABSTAINED: 1 ILL: 1 OUT OF ISLAND: 1 EN DEFAUT: 1 NOT PRESENT: 8

Senator Frederick Ellyer Cohen ABSTAINED

Deputy Jacqueline Jeannette Huet CONTRE

Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy

This was proposed by Freddie Cohen, who could have used his powers but wanted the widest possible States approval. The whole proposal is worth a read, but here is a pertinent extract:

THE STATES are asked to decide whether they are of opinion - to refer to their Act dated 26th June 2006 in which they approved the States Strategic Plan 2006 to 2011 and approved, inter alia, Objective 4.7.5 "To bring forward for consultation and debate in 2006 a Coastal Zone Management Plan"; Commitment 1.1 "Show the world that economic and environmental success can work together, indicated by Conservation and enhancement of biological diversity locally and contribution towards the conservation of global biodiversity where appropriate"; Commitment 4.4 "Clean air, clean water and uncontaminated land"; Commitment 4.5 "Jersey's natural and built heritage is sympathetically managed" and Objective 5.2.8 "Over the period 2007 - 2010, meet, where possible, international standards set through the extension of international treaties and conventions".

The coast and seas around Jersey are an integral part of Island life. It is therefore essential that the coast is protected and managed so that it can continue to be enjoyed by generations to come....We know far more about the terrestrial parts of Jersey than we do the sea. Consequently, the system for protecting land is far more advanced. However, our coasts and seas are under increasing pressures such as calls for more reclamation, the likely advent of offshore wind-farms, the impacts of climate change and an unprecedented growth in marine and coastal leisure activities. If we are to manage these pressures with any confidence, we need to redress this imbalance and improve our knowledge of the underwater world that surrounds us. In short we need to protect our coasts and seas, we need to know more about them, we need to use our marine and coastal environment sensitively and everyone with an interest or responsibility needs to be involved to make it happen.

POUR: 35 CONTRE: 4 ILL: 1 OUT OF ISLAND: 1 EN DEFAUT: 2 NOT PRESENT: 10

Sadly 10 members were not present, and clearly didn't see this as a major issue. A strange group of those voting against this - I've not seen any clear pattern, and hopefully Hansard will reveal why they did.

Connétable Thomas John du Feu (St Peter)
Connétable Graeme Frank Butcher (St John)
Deputy Gerard Clifford Lemmens Baudains (St Clements)
Deputy Sarah Craig Ferguson (St Brelade)


Links
http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/documents/propositions/48839-10207-2352008.htm

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A Trail of Slime and Other Rules of Engagement

http://www.thisisjersey.com/2008/10/20/unwelcome-trends-in-politics/

Senator Vibert, who can look back on 12 years in the States, complains - with full justification - that Island politics have become too personal....We should look particularly carefully at Senator Vibert's complaint because it alludes to a pernicious, and even vicious, development in Island politics which runs counter to unwritten rules of engagement which, until recently, were observed by all and sundry. The availability of the internet and e-mails has coincided with a shift in behaviour among some politicians and political activists that appears to be based on the premise that anything - including personal vilification, wild accusation, defamation and intemperate abuse - goes, as long as it is in electronic form. This is a gross and dangerous misunderstanding of the essential principles of free speech. The right to comment frankly and fearlessly must always be tempered by a sense of responsibility, respect for other people's opinions and a sense of decency - not to mention an understanding of the libel laws, which apply in cyberspace as well as in the realms of print and broadcasting. There are no immediate signs that the outpourings of online vitriol that have become part and parcel of what some would like to call political 'discourse' are likely to be stemmed. That said, someone at some time is going to say that enough is enough. Then writs will fly.

I'm looking forward for some writs to start heading towards Stuart Syvret, although I suspect the real reason why they will not is that he had solid evidence for all the claims he makes, however intemperate his language may be. Although when one looks at the kind of robust language used in England or America even by leaders of the main political parties or elder statesman, it is clear that part of the problem here is that Jersey is just too insular and unused to that kind of debate. Here are a few choice examples - compare with any of Stuart Syvret's invective, and there is not always that much difference:

"An empty suit that goes to funerals and plays golf."
- Ross Perot talking about Dan Quayle

"A triumph of the embalmers art"
- Gore Vidal on Ronald Reagan

"It is better to be sincere in one language than to be a twit in two,"
Crosbie said in 1983 about former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
 
She has the mouth of Marilyn Monroe and the eyes of Caligula
- Mitterrand on Margaret Thatcher

He is a self-made man and worships his creator.
John Bright on Benjamin Disraeli

If a traveller were informed that such a man was the leader of the House of Commons, he might begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshipped an insect.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), British prime minister and author, on Lord John Russell (1792-1878), British prime minister

The right honourable and learned gentleman has twice crossed the floor of this House, each time leaving behind a trail of slime.
David Lloyd George on Sir John Simon (1873-1954)

It is rather clear that only the Jersey Evening Post has a notion of what it means by "unwritten rules of engagement", and most politicians do not abide by those and never have. 

Also when you look at programmes like "Have I Got News for You", "Spitting Image", "2D TV", or magazines like "Private Eye", it is clear that part of what has surfaced on the internet - for example, with the blogs "A Holiday in the Sun", and "Moving Finger" (now defunct) are well within that tradition. Private Eye is well known for a section which always purports to come from the Prime Minister of the day, from Mrs. Wilson's Diary to Gordon Brown's "Leadership in the Age of Change". Perhaps the local blogs don't always get it right, and come close to overstepping the mark, but it is not "intemperate abuse", it is part of a long line that goes back at least as far as Jonathan Swift. Perhaps it is new to Jersey, but it has long and honourable historical antecedents.

I also think an accusation that politicians may seem to be acting as hypocrites is fair comment when they state certain positions in their last manifesto, and - as evidenced by their voting record - run counter to those positions, and assume no one notices or cares.  Yes, it is personal, but how could it be otherwise? If I say - as one Deputy did - that I will support GST exemptions on children's clothing in my manifesto, and vote the opposite way in two separate votes, what is the public to think? Is an accusation of hypocrisy in such circumstances just personal vilification, or is it a justifiable surmise?

Moreover, regarding Mike Vibert's record, as Education Minister, his voting record seems to run counter to support for that constituency - parents with children at school - in his voting against exemptions on children's clothing, even when cut down to just an exemption on school uniforms, and his voting against school milk. This was just at the point when a major UK study (May 2008) released showed the benefits of school milk (a study overlooked by the medical officer of health, Rosemary Geller).

Against that has to be balanced the provision of 20 hours free nursery education for pre-schoolers, ending in part the postcode lottery on places in the public and private sectors. But one question one might ask on that is surely why this came about so late in the day? Why suddenly, with elections upon us, did the Council of Ministers find the extra funding? Surely it is not beyond the bounds of suspicion to imagine that this follows the same kind of pattern as in the UK, where chancellors have been well known for creating a pre-election boom to help boost their parties popularity. Would that be a wild accusation? Or a reasoned suspicion?

I have not been on many of the online forums, as I have not had the time, so I cannot comment on those. I have seen one site that I would consider defamatory, and to be fair, that site was directed at Mike Vibert, probably in a rather too personal way, even in the name of the site. A friend of mine in Denmark managed to track the domain registration down to France, which does suggest someone covering their tracks rather carefully.

On balance, however, I would say that the Jersey Evening Post's somewhat carping note has perhaps more to do with the fact that it is not longer the only source through which political comment is made or read. Perhaps it would be going to far to say that "The right to comment frankly and fearlessly must always be tempered by the editor of the Jersey Evening Post", but I cannot help thinking that there is a certain disquiet about online comments precisely because they are not subject to editorial control, and as seen from the questions posed to candidates, many of those get their news online from electronic versions of paper sources now anyway.
Links

Children Should Drink Milk To Help Prevent Osteoporosis -
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/108821.php
 

Monday, 20 October 2008

What should the Jersey 2020 loose coalition do now?

I keep missing the "What should the Jersey 2020 loose coalition do now?" poll
(at http://st-ouennais.livejournal.com/33932.html?mode=reply)

Here are some options from that site, and my comments.

Fold up

I think that is not a good idea. Having got a visible profile, it would be a shame to give up. The recent New Scientist specials have demonstrated, I think very publically, that these issues are not going to go away. Being Green is no longer a luxury.

Continue as an eco/green campaign group

This certainly should be the case, and it is not necessarily exclusive to some members standing in the Deputy elections. I'd also like to see little lapel badges of some sort - green obviously - that could easily identify people who support the 2020 ideas, and perhaps using a low-volume publisher such as Lulu, a small relatively cheap subscription based journal with articles and ideas on a monthly basis.

Become a formal political party

No - definitely not. I think that would make it exclusive, close it off to "friends of these ideas". It is fine for the JDA, or even Time for Change. But it would be much better if 2020 got a wider endorsement of "affiliated" support from across the political spectrum. Some independents too! Alan Breckon, in the recent elections, would certainly fit that bill.

Wait until the deputy elections are over

No - I think in areas where there are not enough candidates, or no elections at all, there should definitely be at least one Green candidate. St Mary is a likely suspect! Where the JDA or Time for Change is concerned, the notion of "affiliation" would endorse the candidate on Green issues, even if they had their own stance on general matters, and would avoid splitting the vote.  It would be good to also have other politicians outside of those groups - Peter Troy springs to mind - who would be part of the Green web. That would ensure it would also be linked to independent candidates, which I think would be good. Get affiliated supporters standing for Deputy to ensure some issues - population, waste - are kept on the agenda.

Something else (please leave a comment to explain)

Yes, organise a real Imagine Jersey - a think tank on issues such as the transition to a steady-state economy, recycling targets, etc etc.

Demographic Time bomb or Tunnel?

Part of the problem with the "aging population" doomsday scenario is that it makes a number of assumptions which don't really make sense.

One is that the demographic time bomb is permanent. Unless birthrates are falling to the point of extinction, at some point the population is going to rise again. The problem seems more of a cyclical one - how can we cover the years in which there is an older population needing more support from a younger one. When the baby-boomers generation is gone, the problems may well go away too; the question is - how long is the tunnel, and if cyclical, what kind of period do we need to face.

It is true that life expectancy has been rising (along with the more informative median age for death), but it has been rising over the last hundred years, and it is now approaching a plateau where - while more people may live longer - they will only live longer to a certain age.

If the population is in permanent decline, then we are facing a different order of problem, and it is primarily biological rather than purely economic. It is called extinction, and managing that is a qualitatively different problem! That may yet be the case - recent studies have increasingly shown a steadily declining sperm count in industrialised countries, almost certainly due to environmental factors. If this cannot be reversed, or the factors identified, then no attempts at bolstering populations by immigration is going to help in the long term, as immigrants will in turn be effected by the environmental hazards. Locally, problems raised about the biological side-effects of the new incinerator may well be significant here, on the environment, both land and sea life (if waste products from the chimney fall into the sea, and penetrate that food chain).

I am not so convinced that this is happening. At the moment, there is a declining birth rate, because birth rate is defined by way of the ratio of births per year over the total population, times a thousand. Naturally, even if the number of births is static, if the median age of death goes up, then the birth rate will decline, because it is a statistical artifact.

What we have at the moment is the result of an increase in the median death rate, and the outcome of the post-war baby boom. This means that for a time there will be an increase in the numbers of people above a certain age dependant for public services upon the working population - the "dependency ratio" - the number of people that each working person has to support.

But this is also not the whole picture. The increase in people living longer, according to a Canadian report, has little to do with the increase in medical costs

While aging is one factor driving up the health care tab, it plays a relatively small role... According to the report, the biggest factors pushing up costs are new drugs and diagnostic tools. The report found that population aging will continue to add less than one percentage point each year to public health care spending, even with a spike in boomers approaching old age.

What is a certain fact is that increasing immigration to sort out problems is a non-starter. For a start, the age of the immigrants would be a necessary factor, and no politician has really considered any laws to ensure that most of the immigrants, are, for instance, under 30. Secondly, the immigrants themselves will get old, so the effect of increased immigration will be another bulge coming through the system, only solvable by further increases, until a leveling off is reached which would be way above the present population. It is like the half-life of drugs. If you take a particular medicine - for example, a thyroid drug -  the half life is the period of time it will take until only half of the drug is left in your system. Of course, by then you will have taken at least one more dose, so you now have half the original concentration, plus the extra taken, and its half life in turn, so that the maximum in your system will be far greater than the single dose. Increased immigration to deal with demographic problems works very much like that.

What we really need is to look at cyclical effects, and how we can cope with them. After all, we find, on a smaller scale, from one year to another, that the the same kind of cyclical effect occurs with schools, when a bulge ripples through the system over a number of years, but then is gone. Our organisations are not really well constructed to adjust flexibly to these effects, as we think in terms of static and fixed systems, often huge ones, rather than modular and flexible ones, to solve problems. What can both deliver solutions now, and be redeployed or modified flexibly as events change? That is a challenge for the next Imagine Jersey!


Links:
Age and Health Care
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/features/longevity/story.html?id=1ec491a3-87ee-49b8-af15-7d197ed6abb9

 

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Green Science

'It doesn't help that virtually all representations of pleasure and the life we should aspire to come from advertising, with its incessant message that our happiness is dependent on consuming ever more "stuff". We hear little about the joys of escaping the stress, congestion, ill-health, noise and waste that come from our "high" standard of living. .The absurdity of our situation is illustrated by the way our economy profits from selling back to us the pleasures that we have lost through overwork: the leisure and tourist companies that sell us "quality time"; the catering services that provide "home cooking"; the dating and care agencies that see to personal relations; the gyms where people pay to walk on treadmills because the car culture has made it unsafe or unpleasant to walk outside. As the economy continues to expand, consumer culture becomes ever more reliant on our willingness to accept this. A growing number of people are starting to realise that there may be more to life than working to spend.'" - Kate Soper

In recent weeks, I have been greatly encouraged, despite the poor showing of the Green candidates in the local elections, by the way in which scientists are coming to terms with the changing environment. Two editions of New Scientist stand out in this respect.

One was "A brighter future", a special edition which looked at alternative sources of energy. Of particular interest to the Channel Island was the sections on wind power and tidal power. The technology is now beginning to get the investment it needs to realistic produce significant amounts of energy. In particular, the use of currents to drive turbines is most interesting because it uses a lot of the same approach as a wind farm, but underwater, and has already been shown to work in Norway.

The other New Scientist was this weeks - "The Folly of Growth", which looks at the ways in which we must change our lifestyle, because ultimately there are finite resources, and we are approaching the limits in a number of areas, not just peak oil, but also various important minerals and metals. In a series of separate articles, here are the hard arguments against growth, and in one fine article, which might be called "Imagine Earth 2020", an imaginary scenario is played out in some detail on exactly what a "steady state" economy would be like, with a surprising amount of detail.

What we really need is a get together of concerned people to look at the implications of a "steady state" economy locally, for Jersey, and prepare alternatives, so that when the crunch comes, and the politicians are clutching at anything, there will be a properly coherent and totally workable alternative which we have in place, and which, in stages, we can begin to push for today. A real "Imagine Jersey", rather than a fixed fiasco which did not allow important and false assumptions to be questioned.

[This edition is still in the shops now]

Links:

Herman Daly: Towards A Steady-State Economy
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3941

uneconomic growth in theory and in fact
http://www.feasta.org/documents/feastareview/daly.htm

Friday, 17 October 2008

GST and Spin

I've seen a number of reports from various people in the media that this election has delivered its verdict on GST. This is normally from those elected who voted for GST, or their supporters, or other States members who voted for GST.

The reason for this argument is simple: the pro-GST candidates - Philip Ozouf, Alan Maclean, Sarah Ferguson, Paul Routier got in, while their opponents did not.  And yet...

a) Comparing like for like in votes, the pro-GST candidates all polled significantly less than at the last election. On a percentage swing basis:

Philip Ozouf - down 40%
Mike Vibert - down 42%
Paul Routier - down 25%

and compared to last time

Geoff Southern  - up 52%

b) The top placed candidates have both stated or voted against GST on "essentials".

Alan Breckon's voting record speaks for itself.

Ian Le Marquand examined options, came to the conclusion (on his manifesto) that GST was probably the best option ("the lessor of evils"), but stated quite clearly:

My position is that GST is probably the least of three evils as compared with a change to the 20% rate or a wages tax.
However, I would have opposed and intend to oppose its imposition upon essentials such as food, drinks, children's clothing and utility and heating bills for homes. I also believe that, if revenues from other sources rise in order to allow this, GST should be phased out as soon as possible.

The main problem with GST is that although provision has been made for those on income support, very little has been done for the lower paid who are above the income support level. The effect of this has been to expand the poverty trap, with little or no incentive for low paid workers with families to go out to work.  The timing and method of the introduction of GST came at the worst possible time because of the recent increases in food and fuel prices. The June 2008 Cost of Living figures showed that during the last year food had increased in price by 13% and fuel and light by 26%. The percentage increase in the Cost of Living Index due to GST is put at 1.9%.

As Ian Le Marquand romped home streets ahead of the other candidates, and Alan Breckon came second, is the election really a vote of confidence in GST?
 

The Starfish

An old man was walking on the beach at dawn when he noticed a young man picking up starfish stranded by the retreating tide, and throwing them back into the sea one by one. He went up to him and asked him why he was doing this. The young man replied that the starfish would die if left exposed to the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles, and there are thousands of starfish. You will not be able to save them all. How can your effort make a difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. "To this one," he said, "it makes a difference." 

- David Baum, quoted by Jonathan Sacks

I've been reading Jonathan Sacks very wise and thought-provoking book, "To Heal a Fractured Word". In it he notes the difference between a culture of responsibility, and a culture of blame and rights. He explains these as follows:

When things go wrong, it is rarely our fault. Something or someone else is to blame: poverty, discrimination, a difficult childhood, the educational system, psychological abuse, the media, the government, junk food, or any other of the proliferating varieties of exculpation. An employee, fired for consistently showing up late to work, sues his employers on the grounds that he is the victim of "chronic lateness syndrome".

Sacks notes that not only does this look at whom to blame, it is also a backward looking way of looking at the past. It doesn't actually learn lessons from the past, because it is a fatalistic way of looking at what has happened.

The opposite culture, he ventures to suggest, is a future looking one. As with the Jewish people, when they suffered, they did not look for someone to blame, but took responsibility for their own future. The lesson from the past was one of responsibility for the future, and the question was not "Who can I blame?" but "What can I do now?" Not a counsel of despair, or of presumption, but one of hope.

In the face of seemingly overwhelming odds against doing something, and considering the "Green" showing at the Jersey elections, I would venture to suggest this is the way ahead. Green issues were put on the agenda very firmly even if the Green candidates did not get in. And they won't go away. It is the ostrich mentality of "business as usual" that will have to adapt, because the world is changing, and in ways which make the Green agenda ever more relevant.

At the moment, the difference that can be made is small, because the voice is not always heard, and people are deaf to what they do not want to hear. But any difference can be an important difference, as the tale above shows.
 

Thursday, 16 October 2008

What If?

I've done a few calculations based on the following.

a) Fewer candidates that were "opposition" (however loosely defined)
b) Rather than votes being split, I have allocated these on a proportional basis to the candidates, having taken some out.

If we take Le Clercq, Wimberley, Macon, Perkins, Forskitt, Palmer out:

This gives an interesting hypothetical scenario:
Candidate Votes
Le Marquand 14238
Breckon 10273
Maclean 9094
Routier 8775
Ozouf 8712
Ferguson 8546
Southern 7194
Higgins 6979
Vibert 6098
Tadier 5011 9380
Pitman 4931 9231
Troy 3927 7351
Le Clercq 3597 0
Wimberley 3458 0
Macon 3130 0
Le Cornu 3074 5754
Perkins 2768 0
Forskitt 1932 0
Palmer 1538 0
Walsh 1210 2265
Pashley 682 1277
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Of course this is "what if?" and pure speculation. But it is interesting, none the less.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Results so far

So far the results have been a triumph for the "establishment" party, with only Mike Vibert set to lose a seat to Alan Breckon.
 
The proliferation of candidates against them has meant, like last time in 2005, but even more so, a complete split of the "opposition" to the degree that none of them can do well. It will be interesting when the results are in to see what would happen if their votes had gone to say just 3 candidates. I'll post on that later.
 
The one who has done best - Mike Higgins - is the least "opposition" and most clearly marked independent from any groups, be they JDA, Green or Time for Change.
 
The disturbing thing is the way at some Parish Halls, voters were asked how many voting slips they wanted, i.e., did they want the Senators, the Constable (if election was happening) and / or the CET slip. I'm sure that is not either right or a good idea, and neither did the commentators on BBC Radio Jersey.
 
 

Apologies Granted

Following what "Holiday in the Sun" recently posted, I would like to say that:
 
If any politician, lawyer, or journalist has a problem with anything about themselves which appears on this blog, please simply email me ask for a retraction, correction or apology.

 

Dranage Works at Val Plaisant - Stage 3

This was on the State's website for recent entries: "Dranage Works at Val Plaisant - Stage 3"

It links to a site
http://www.gov.je/TransportTechnicalServices/News/ValPlaisantDrainageWorks.htm

which is also headed "Dranage Works at Val Plaisant - Stage 3"

Maybe we can expect - Spellchecker - Stage 1 to come into operation!!! Is Goya da Faigh responsible?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Against the Time Change

By the time we get to the coldest months of the year, January and February, the days are beginning to lengthen, and the mornings are getting earlier. This means that the risk of early morning frost or ice on the roads is reduced, as it begins to thaw as the sun rises. The extra hour of daylight allows some time for ice to thaw and for fog to clear. This is especially important because there are often drops in temperature immediately before dawn which can create black ice. By the evening, even with early sunset, the road surface has had a day's heat, and the effects of cooling are not immediate.
 
If the hour is changed, we might not only suffer darker mornings, but also icy roads until around 9 o'clock, well past the time that most of the rush hour and school traffic has been out on the roads. Morning traffic is worse than that in the evening already (traffic is more concentrated over a shorter time), so it would be a recipe for disaster.
 
The argument that lighter evenings will mean less accidents is also a little spurious: the reason more people have accidents on dark evenings is precisely because they are dark. Make the morning rush hour dark, and more people will have accidents then.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Alternative Taxation - Raising the Social Security Threshold

A number of proponents of cutting GST have suggested that a good way of increasing income to the States is by raising the social security threshold. Currently those above a certain income only pay up to a limit, and no more. Increasing that threshold would produce more income from all those earners.

It should be noted, however, that the whole principle of thresholds has to do with the way in which social security payments are viewed. They are not in fact viewed as another form of taxation, but as a specifically earmarked charge on income. The fact that there are thresholds prevents them from being just another form of income tax by another name.

One of the most iniquitous facts about social security payments is that they are in fact a double charge upon employees. The employee is charged income tax on their gross pay, but that includes social security payments, which are deducted at source, and go into the coffers of the State. This means that people get income net of social security, but pay income on gross earnings including social security payments. The State thereby taxes income it is already taking by law via other means.

The argument that is mustered against this is that the thresholds ensure that this is not in fact just taxation by another name on earnings. But the more thresholds increase, the closer it becomes to being precisely that.

If thresholds are to increase, so that it becomes more of a payroll tax on earned income, then it is clear that the basis of its relationship with income tax should be restructured so that it does not tax employees twice over.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Voter Lout

Well, I was out delivering leaflets yesterday up and down the nearby housing estate and along the road. I think that there must be some kind of mathematics to describe the distance walked, something like Mandelbrot fractal, for example, because it seems a lot longer than when I just walk up and down a road, probably because people's drives are set a little back from the road, so there is all the in and out of that. I'm sure there must be a way (based on average length of drive) of calculating the extra distance.
 
I was humming the candidate's unofficial song as I went. Well, he doesn't know it is his song, but it fits perfectly - the Womble song. Wimberling, womberling.... - and it is about caring for the environment as well. On my way back, I found one of the leaflets crumpled up - I don't mind the voter doing that, it's their privilege - but what is not is to dump the crumpled up manifesto in the middle of the road. It just sums up some people's attitude to the environment, and I think "voter lout" would be a good description of this kind of dumping in the middle of the road.
 
 

JEP Misrepresentations

I'm sure Nick won't mind me putting this on my blog. I've been busy - having read in detail what candidates say, and how the JEP soundbited them, putting the record straight with what they mean when the JEP says "supports capital gains tax".

This is his email to the JEP:

Dear Sir/Madam,I enclose a copy of a post I made today on one of the Island's online fora. I think whoever boiled our views down into soundbites went a bit too far."

In today's J.E.P. they have, on pages 16-17, "Who stands for what". This purports to give a guide to "Senatorial platforms and promises".Unfortunately, they give the reader a very wrong impression of my position by reporting that I "wants (sic) capital gains tax on residential property".

This is incorrect. I have said, in answer to questions about replacing GST with something else, that one option would be to tax property SPECULATION i.e. the buying and rapid selling or the development of, then early selling of, property primarily to make money.

Any capital gains tax would be tapered off completely over, say, 10-20 years, in order not to penalise people who actually live in their property. The taper would fall off rapidly so that the earlier one sold one's property for non emergency or social reasons, the more tax would be paid."I think you must agree that your 7 word précis is misleading - could you correct this please?

Nick Palmer

Friday, 10 October 2008

A Word for Friday - Thrifty

http://www.thisisjersey.com/2008/10/08/bye-to-the-eye/

IT is time to say goodbye to the Jersey Eye this week, as the four-day operation to dismantle the giant Ferris wheel is now well under way. The 60-metre attraction, which became a dramatic feature of St Helier's coastline and was brightly lit up at night since it was erected in June, is being taken to Cardiff for the Christmas season....It was that sort of luck that seemed to dog the venture, which Edward Mellors from Funderworld said would lead to them facing an overall loss of around £15,000. 'I don't think enough local people were interested in it and there were not the number of visitors around to make up for that,' he said.

I have heard it said time and time again - "Why do I have to pay when I can just go to Fort Regent and look at the view?" I am amazed that I haven't seen with my binoculars all the hordes of people who must be doing just that! If all the people who go to the wheel in other places went to Fort Regent over here, the place would end up in the Guinness Book of Records! I can just imagine thousands thronging the skyline! Or is it just a lazy argument, given by people who are rather thrifty with their money?

"Thrifty" is a wonderful word. One of my cousins lived with a teacher for many years, and he was so "thrifty" that he made her pay extra for any heating during the Christmas holidays because he was at work and she wasn't. And it was Economy 7 heat anyway!

In the meantime, if you are "thrifty", faithful reader, you can still experience the Jersey Eye - for free - from my You Tube playlist!

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B278D782EC6C5AF8

I enjoyed the experience anyway!

Never to be forgotten

I've just been reading the excellent "Never to be Forgotten" by Joe Mière the Occupation Years.
 
In the section on the Deportation of UK People to Germany 1942-1943, he notes how "not all deportation notices were served by German servicemen. Many of the notices were served at the deportees door by local uniformed and honorary police."  He notes how only sometimes was a German soldier present, more often than not just the local people, so that when his friends Fred and Jenny Thomas had a notice on them, it was delivered by a Centenier all on his own.
 
He notes how the Island authorities were complicit in providing names, because "The Germans could not have found the addresses of so many people in so short a time without the help of the Jersey police forces". The picture is not all bad. Some local police, like his cousin and uncle "refused to serve the notices on their own people."
 
What happened then? "They both were informed that the order came from the Jersey Attorney General's office. To refuse to carry out the police order they could be dismissed from the force." So much for the impartial workings of justice! In the end, they were sent home "on sick leave", a face-saving exercise by the Attorney-General.
 
One English born couple were concerned because both their two children were mentally handicapped. They went to the Constable of St Helier for help, to be told that the children could stay, but they would have to go!
 
Apparently, Joe tried to find the parish files on this period, but was informed by Bob Le Brocq, then Constable of St Helier "that a lot of old time files were dumped to make room for more up to date documents"! If you believe that was the reason, then the moon is made of green cheese, and pigs can fly.

It is a shameful period of Island history for the Island authorities. Coutanche emerges as a pretty good Bailiff, who did manage to "act as a buffer" at the right times, getting death sentences commuted to prison terms. Le Quesne also stood firm.

But the Attorney-General, Duret-Aubin, was in his actions little more than a quisling of the German authorities, ready to sacrifice any morality to "the greater good", in a piece of double-think that discarded all notions of morality in favour of expediency. Quite how he managed to stay in his post, and not suffer any prosecution after the war is extraordinary.

The next time you hear about an unbroken 800 years of justice in Jersey, read "Never to be Forgotten", and see how little of that was around during the Occupation years. 
 
I found it profoundly disturbing to read, because it is unsettling to see how easily the legal authorities - such as the Centeniers, Attorney-General, Constable of St Helier, Aliens Office - became lackeys of the Germans, complicit in actions that almost certainly led to the death of some Islanders.
 
What is so disturbing is not just that they signed orders - the Germans would have made the laws anyway - but the way in which they followed those orders so diligently and even, at times, enthusiastically.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Avoiding libel in satire

Avoiding libel in satire
 
Some notes I have gleaned from various websites, which may be useful to other bloggers.
 
Discerning readers will note that "News from Nowhere", with its surrealist slant, fits all the points given. Unless like Malaisey's "Evidential Rule", ours is three foot long, wooden, hinged in two places. Or our sunken road is already sunk and flooded like theirs! But I don't think so somehow!
  • Use of an irreverent tone will signal that the story is not straight news.
  • Consider the context of the publication the story will run in, including whether the publication has a history of satire or parody. The Wall Street Journal should be more careful than Mad Magazine.
  • Use of an unorthodox headline will alert readers from the beginning that the story is not straight news.
  • Unbelievable or outrageous items in the story, experts or groups with names that are ridiculous or have a silly acronym, and quotes that are unbelievable, illogical or over-the-top may all signal that a story is not stating actual facts.
  • Instead of using the names of actual people, consider using fictitious names that are close to or suggest real people.

  • In a recent case in America, a libel case was thrown out on the following grounds:

    Satire, the court noted, is important to political debate because it is usually directed at public figures and "it tears down facades, deflates stuffed shirts, and unmasks hypocrisy." More generally, the court observed that humor "is an important medium of legitimate expression" and that "defamation claims involving humor . . . raise important issues pertaining to free speech."

    For any publication to have a defamatory meaning, it must be capable of being understood by a reasonable reader as stating actual facts. As the court held, a reasonable reader "does not represent the lowest common denominator," but is a person of "reasonable intelligence and learning."

    Looking at the entirety of the Observer article, the court concluded that it contained "such a procession of improbable quotes and unlikely events that a reasonable reader could only conclude that the article was satirical" and did not state actual facts.


    Links:
    http://www.rcfp.org/news/mag/28-4/lib-avoiding.html
    http://www.gannett.com/go/newswatch/2004/september/nw0917-9.htm
 

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Baldrick of St Brelade's Bay

http://www.thisisjersey.com/2008/10/07/heres-a-quick-and-easy-way-to-save-1-million/

Here's a quick and easy way to save £1 million - From David Râtel.

I HAVE a cunning plan, one which will save Jersey's long-suffering taxpayers the best part of £1 million. It is simply to scrap the plans to rebuild the vandalised public toilets at the Winston Churchill Park in St Brelade's Bay. Proof that they are not needed is the fact that everyone has managed quite well without them for the last six or seven months. There are three other public toilet buildings in the bay, and all the hotels, cafés and restaurants provide facilities. If they are rebuilt they will only be attacked again, so let's not bother.

When Blackadder's servant Baldrick came out with "I have a cunning plan", you could be sure that what followed was an idea of such idiocy and daftness that Blackadder would sigh with despair.

I feel very much the same about reading Mr Râtel's exceptionally stupid letter. Here is a man who thinks only of himself, and he can quite easily walk the the other toilets and use them. Perhaps he should try using a wheelchair and seeing how easy it is to use the other toilets in the bay.

I can tell him - from someone I know who used to drive the disabled transport from Maison Les Landes - that the official line is that the toilets in the centre of the bay are simply not suitable for access for disabled people in wheelchairs. There's no room there to make any facilities there either. And the perfect place for their special mini-bus is the car park by the Winston Churchill park, hence also the ideal place for a toilet.

Mr Râtel should be in the States. They are always on the look out for members who can only think in terms of people like themselves, and not ever consider that there might be people who are different, and need other facilities. "Let's not bother" fits the bill perfectly.

Anyhow, it's early for Halloween, but he can have the Baldrick's Pumpkin Award for most thoughtless suggestion of October 2008.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Cleaning Up His Manifesto

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

http://www.alanmaclean.je/section/7/

Yes, Alan Maclean has actually seen fit to repeat this from his last manifesto - regular readers will know I saw this on his Deputy website before the recent facelift.

It is good to know he does not try to conceal what he put then, although you would be hard pressed to know that on the two votes on children's clothing, he consistently voted against the exemption. The voting record is missing. The voting tab just tells you where to vote.

The section "Track Record" does not mention this, just as usual the posts he has held. And how he has done so much single handed at the Airport. You'd never believe that Jersey had an Airport Director who did anything!

The new 2008 version does not mention the GST exemption for children's clothing. It is now off his political radar.

If we take his posters as questions, here are some of mine:

Honesty - Is it honest to say you support exemptions on children's clothing, and vote against those exemptions?
Integrity - Is it a sign of integrity (whatever that vacuous word means) to say one thing, and do another?
Ability - What do we call the ability to promise one thing, and break a promise.

The success in attracting 'low cost' airlines and developing new air and sea routes has helped increase visitor numbers.

http://www.alanmaclean.je/section/4/

One has to admire his cheek when airlines are fast cutting Channel Island routes for the winter, and HD Ferries has ceased to operate!

On the "About Me" page there is a section marked "Blog extracts". It is blank, but he can put this extract from my blog in for free if he wants to.
 

Monday, 6 October 2008

Land Lottery and Taxes

Some good new stuff on Daniel Wimberley's site:

http://votedaniel.wordpress.com/day-by-day/

What I like about Daniel's thinking is that he tackles issues in depth, and tackles issues both on the political map - like GST - and other important ones that should be there. I always find myself thinking - to use the phrase so notably used by Thomas Paine - it's just "common sense".

Consider, for example this one (I quote from his site, and a letter linked to his site).

"land lottery tax"     This would put an end to the absurd situation that as soon as a plot of land is rezoned for housing the owner pockets a vast increase in value at the expense of the new homeowner.

It has often puzzled me that in Jersey we have a situation where if you own a piece of land it is worth what it is worth one minute, and then if it is zoned as building land its value increases overnight 10, maybe a 100 times.

When the units eventually get built this inflation of the land value, for which windfall the owner has done precisely nothing, adds enormously to the cost of the units. We go on and on about the cost of housing in the island and yet this cause of the high prices carries on unchecked.

The States lose (if they are the developers), the buying public loses, the only ones to gain are the owners of land. So the States (i.e. taxpayers) and house purchasers put money directly into the pockets of the landowners.

Could this be part of the pressure to just keep building in Jersey? It is certainly and obviously wide open to corruption, as such huge sums of unearned cash are at stake.

Am I missing something? And why was a stop not put to this easy money long ago?

Dark Mornings

I don't want to make a political point as such about the hour change vote, but the mornings are already getting much darker, and accidents are more likely to happen. Please take care when driving on the roads.
 
Only today, I passed an accident where a boy had been knocked off his bike by a car at a junction in St Brelade. I stopped to see if there was anything I could do, but an ambulance had been called, and there was a knowledgeable "first aider" who had also stopped to help. All I could do was give a picnic rug from my car to keep the poor lad warm as he lay on the road. I felt very inadequate, and wished I could do more, but the ambulance arrived, and they took care of him. He couldn't have been far off one of my son's age, and I thought about his parents getting the news, and all their worry.
 
So please take care.