Saturday, 28 February 2009

Exact wording of ruling on Shaft Jersey

This is the exact text of the ruling on Frank Walker. Items in bold are mine.

Newsnight, BBC2, 25 February 2008 - Complaint

The ECU received complaints from two viewers in Jersey about an item on the investigation into the Haut de la Garenne children's home.  The item included footage of an exchange between Senator Walker, the Chief Minister of Jersey, and Senator Syvret, one of his leading critics.  The viewers complained that this footage had been edited in a way which was unfair to Senator Walker, and that further unfairness resulted from his response to Senator Syvret being misquoted by Jeremy Paxman in a live interview with him.  One of the viewers complained that the exchange with Senator Syvret had been filmed without Senator Walker's knowledge.

The exchange, as edited and broadcast was as follows:
Senator Syvret
Frank, we're talking about dead children.
Senator Walker
Yes, Stewart. Exactly. You shouldn't be politicising it. You're trying to shaft Jersey
In the view of the ECU, the editing had not materially altered the meaning of the exchange, and did not result in unfairness to Senator Walker.  However, because of a mishearing, Jeremy Paxman paraphrased him as having said "We're trying to promote the international image of Jersey", then quoted him as having said "We're trying to show off Jersey internationally", despite his denials.  Although, by way of clarification, Senator Walker's actual words were given later in the programme, this did not sufficiently offset an impression of undue preoccupation with Jersey's image which his words did not warrant.  As to the filming of the exchange, the ECU found that sufficient steps had been taken to make both Senators aware of the likelihood that filming would still be going on at the point when the exchange took place.
Partly upheld

Further action
Editors in BBC News have been asked to stress to teams the importance of making sure the audience is clear about cases where a presenter's mishearing affects the subsequent discussion, in particular by ensuring that enough has been done as soon as is practical to prevent the audience being left with a misleading impression.

Friday, 27 February 2009

You’re trying to shaft Jersey, internationally

THE BBC's flagship current affairs programme Newsnight has been strongly criticised by its own standards watchdog for its handling of an interview with former Chief Minister Frank Walker about events at Haut de la Garenne. The damning report from the trust, published today, criticises Newsnight for the way Senator Walker was portrayed during the interview with Mr Paxman two days after the first claims, now dismissed, that children may have been murdered at the former home. Senator Walker and former Health and Social Services Minster Stuart Syvret were interviewed live outside Haut de la Garenne, where ex-deputy police chief Lenny Harper had sparked off an international media frenzy with a press conference to announce that human remains had been found there. A complaint made by a member of the public against the programme has been upheld, and the trust is to write to the BBC's deputy director-general to ensure that programme makers correct 'serious errors' in future.

Channel Reports's website noted that:

In an interview, which was broadcast last February, the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman repeatedly misquoted then-Senator Walker, accusing him of saying the former Health Minister, Senator Stuart Syvret, was trying to "shaft Jersey".Jeremy Paxman did correct himself after the interview and accept the former Chief Minister never used those words, but the BBC Trust found he didn't go far enough in apologising.There were a number of complaints - including one from Mr Walker's stepson, Adam Spurr - calling on the BBC to make an "official, well- published apology".

Having read this, you would be forgiven for thinking that former Senator Frank Walker had not in fact uttered the memorable words "You're trying to shaft Jersey, internationally", words which really are pretty appalling for a chief minister to use.

In fact, Jeremy Paxman misquoted Walker's words, putting in words about Jersey's international reputation, which while not accurately reflecting the appalling rude and unstatesmanlike language of Walker himself, surely conveyed the gist of his strongly expressed feeling, while not descending to the same level of gutter slang.

Such language as used by Frank Walker has only been topped in recent times locally by the poor jokes from the Deputy Chief Minister of Guernsey. While he wanted to retain his job, at least that individual had the grace to apologise for his remark. Walker, on the other hand, took pride in standing by what he had said, and telling the States effectively that the standards of language one can expect from a Chief Minister of Jersey can incorporate cheap and nasty insults.

So let's get it clear. Walker did say: "You're trying to shaft Jersey, internationally", and the serious error was that it was misquoted and bowdlerized by Paxman to language more appropriate to the dignity of a senior member of the Island's parliament than was in fact the case.

To put the record completely straight, here is the UNEDITED transcript supplied by the States of Jersey's own website. This is what was actually said:

SS: “Frank we’re talking about dead children.”

FW: “Yes Stuart exactly. So you shouldn’t be politicising it you should now be throwing your support behind the Police and behind every effort to find out who was responsible.”

SS “Indeed I have repeatedly expressed my full support.”

FW – “No you’re trying to shaft Jersey internationally.”

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Proof of Poison

"Proof of Poison" by Jurgen Thorwald: A Review
This book tells the story of toxicology, and explains, by detailed historical examples, how the study of poisons was used to bring the great poisoners to justice.
It is surprising to relate that the earliest breakthroughs in toxicology took place as late as the nineteenth century. Some of the chemical methods necessary as preliminaries in this field were developed in the late eighteenth century, with the work of Scheele and Metzger providing the means of chemically isolating arsenic. However, the first real application of this knowledge in criminology came in 1806, when Valentin Rose, of the faculty of medicine at Berlin, "conceived of a method of detecting the presence of arsenic in human organs, especially in the intestines and in the walls of the stomach."
After this point, the study of poison finally began to catch up with the poisons and, in particular, with the most commonly used of all poisons, arsenic. Arsenic was popularly known as "inheritance powder" because of its frequent use by members of a family in aiding the departure of an inconvenient relative, and so hastening the time of inheritance. But the method conceived by Rose was, in its final stages of chemical analysis, rather clumsy; it was still possible to cut up a cadaver and be unable to detect arsenic even though it contained quantities of arsenic sufficient to kill.
The extraordinary breakthrough in finding the solution to this problem came in 1833, with the invention made by James Marsh. Marsh "had a U-shaped glass tube made, with one end open, the other terminating in a pointed nozzle. In the nozzle, he suspended a piece of zinc; in the open end of the U-tube, he placed the fluid to be examined, to which he had previously added acid.
When the fluid reached the zinc, even the tiniest traces of arsenic would produce arsenic which escaped through the nozzle." The escaping gas was ignited and Marsh precipitated it on a cold porcelain bowl in the form of "a black deposit". This apparatus was extremely sensitive, and could measure "a thousandth of a milligram of arsenic added to the test fluid."
It might have been though that this would have solved the problem of detecting death by arsenic poisoning. But this was not to be the case: in a manner that was typical of so many advances in toxicology it created new problems. For a start, using Marsh's sensitive apparatus, it was found that "arsenic is an extremely common element"; consequently, some traces of arsenic are to be found in almost everyone. But, in the investigation of poisoning, with exhumation of bodies required, what proved a real stumbling block was that "Marsh's apparatus showed that the ground contained arsenic in many places, especially in certain Paris cemeteries." If this was so, how could one be sure that the arsenic found in a decaying corpse (taken from a rotting coffin) had not been washed in by rain from the surrounding soil?
How these problems were eventually overcome, and the setbacks and triumphs on the way, are related later in the book. It also deals with vegetable poisons, and concludes with a summary of the latest developments such as spectrography. It is an interesting story, showing how a science advances, solving problems with both luck and logic.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Good Government

P.72/2008 was approved by the States of Jersey in July 2008 following a protracted public review of the alternatives and considerable States debate on three separate occasions. It is not good government to review the decision taken democratically by States Members so recently.
But is it "good government" to sign a contract just days before a general election in which the incinerator had been a matter raised? And moreover when a new house was due to sit which might have had very different ideas? That would seem to be to be a democratic two fingers up at the voters! On the day when the incinerator debate is thundering on in the States, perhaps this might not have been necessary if the government had been better beforehand.
In fact, I've come across a last minute contract elsewhere - in that place renown for a history of good government, especially during the apartheid years - South Africa. It is still going strong! Recently they have had what journalists are calling "L'Affaire Mqoqi". This was to do with a last minute extension to an employment contract for the city manager Mqoqi, just before the election. Editorial comments have called this a "fiasco", and said that "the last minute contract awarded to ex city manager (and ANC cadre) Mqoqi just before the election was not very democratic." The legality of this was questioned, because it was taken during a council recess, and not ratified by a full sitting of the council. Which is shades of passing a contract when everyone is fighting elections, some on this issue, after the last sitting of the States and just before members of the old legislative assembly finally cease to hold office.

Mgoqi was defiant, and said that "a competent authority had approved his contract", but he was suspended because of the last minute nature of the contract, which was seen by many as an attempt to thwart the democratic process, including the new government. Later, the Cape High Court  chosen to uphold Wallace Mqoqi's suspension, saying in no certain terms that his eleventh-hour contract extension by Nomaindia Mfeketo was illegal.

I don't think it makes for good government to do things this "last minute contract way", even if, with the Jersey States, it manages to stay just the right sign of legality. Regardless of which side people are on with the debate, we are only having it because the ethical boundaries were certainly transgressed.


'Gandhi."  by Taya Zinkin
This short biography by Taya Zinkin portrays Gandhi not as a saint, but very much as a man who was always in the process of discovery: trying to find a simple and non-violent lifestyle. The book deals with his early life in India, and follows him through a journey of discovery in England, South Africa and finally back to his homeland of India. It is well researched, and a fine illustration of how Gandhi's life was, as he entitled his autobiography, "The Story of My Experiments with Truth".
In India, Hindu society was divided, on religious grounds, into four rigid social groups, or castes. These are the priests, soldiers, merchants and cultivators. Finally, outside the caste system, and therefore with no social standing or rights whatsoever, are found "the Untouchables, people so low that they cannot be touched because their contact is so polluting."
It has been noted by James Cameron that this rigid caste system was perfect for British rule; all that the British had to do was to secure themselves a position above the top of this ladder of inequity.
But however much this anti-democratic system might have suited the British at the start of the Empire, it rapidly came into conflict with the ideals of justice and charity of a civilised British society. As Mrs Zinkin observes, considerable unrest occurred in India "because the British had interfered with age-old Hindu custom, like the killing of baby daughters and human sacrifice to the Goddess Kali".
Moreover, under British rule, it had been insisted that the children of Untouchables should receive education, "but even then these children had to stand at the back of the class, as if they had a contagious disease." The British could do no more; they "were helpless in the face of tradition."
Although Gandhi came from a Hindu background, he broke across this caste system. At an early age, into order to train in England as a barrister, he had to break a caste taboo by crossing sea. He faced a caste boycott - deprivation of status amongst his own countrymen, and treatment as an Untouchable. Events such as these led him to see that the caste system was an evil which must be abolished, and so, indirectly, to his death at the hands of a Hindu fanatic who saw him as a traitor to his faith.
Nevertheless, Gandhi's fight proved successful, and "the first thing that independent India was to do was to make the practice of Untouchability a criminal offense under the constitution."
The book also shows that Gandhi was able to apply his methods of "non-violent civil resistance" only because, despite all its faults, British rule was essentially just, civilised and humane. As Orwell commented: "It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the nights and are never heard of again".
Because the British held to such high ideals of justice and freedom of speech that Gandhi was able to embarrass them by showing the deficiencies and inequities in
British laws in India that did not stand close comparison with the ideals of British justice; ironically, such knowledge resulting from his training in British law. In this respect, Maucaulay ' s words form a fitting epitaph to British rule in India: "To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title of glory all our own."

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Purgatory as Child Abuse?

I came across these books recently, and I can only say that they make me realise the fire that burned within Martin Luther when he hammered his theses to the door and began, by accident, the fragmentation of the church called the Reformation.

STORIES ABOUT PURGATORY AND WHAT THEY REVEAL. Compiled from traditional sources, this book was written to impress upon its readers many truths about Purgatory: first, that it exists; second, that the souls there suffer long and excruciating pains, and that they desperately need our prayers and sacrifices; and finally, how we should strive to avoid Purgatory.

I found myself dumfounded by this description of the book. Who is one to impress about a truth on "long and excruciating pains"? I can begin to see that Richard Dawkins might have a point about religious education being a form of child abuse. To tell a child this kind of stuff is surely to instill a sense of fear in them, and then to tell them, no doubt, that by obedience they can escape this doom. What a wonderful basis for ethical behaviour! It might be said that it is not for children, and yet if it is a "truth", surely there are not truths that are somehow esoteric, available only to adults, rather like video nasties? This blurb certainly left a very nasty taste in my mouth. I have heard of contemporaries of mine who are friends telling about their education, and how they were presented with a fearful picture of burning fires, and I had assumed it was largely in the past. I'm not so sure it is completely so, having seen this book.

PRAYING IN THE PRESENCE FOR THE HOLY SOULS: by Susan Tassone. Introduction by Fr. Groeschel. This is a comprehensive collection of the most powerful prayers of the Catholic Church for the holy souls in Purgatory. These ancient and modern prayers are rich, beautiful and effective. Pray them during Eucharistic Adoration, before and after Mass, in prayer groups or during private meditation.

This is not quite as "in your face" as the other, but it still has this conception of "souls" in purgatory. I'm not convinced, and have never been convinced, that the Platonic / Greek idea of souls is something that meshes well with the somatic Jewish ideas of resurrection and new creation.

PURGATORY: Fr. Frederick Faber answers many questions about Purgatory, like: Is Purgatory almost like Hell, or is it a place of peace and even joy? Based on Catholic teaching and revelations of holy people, especially St. Catherine of Genoa, this book helps us appreciate the supernatural treasures at our disposal, both to help the Poor Souls and to help us avoid Purgatory ourselves!

I love the final exclamation mark! At the end of this is a fear again - we might be cast into purgatory.

I note that the Catholic Library says that "Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn't use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.". That just about encapsulates the weakness of this whole idea. The word doesn't exist, scripture teaches it, even if it doesn't use that word. There is of course a lot of "proof texting" about purgatory, wrenching texts from context. The Orthodox church doesn't have a doctrine of purgatory, which is strange indeed, for it shares much of the same early history!

Lastly, I should add - in fairness - that the current Pope presents a vastly more nuanced rethink of the whole idea of purgatory, and to which I refer the interested reader in full in the link below, but here is an extract, which presents a much more symbolic account of the idea.

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation "as through fire". But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.


Funny Money

Jersey could lose £55m if a contract for a new waste incinerator is cancelled, the minister for transport and technical services says. The planned £100m plant at La Collette is set to replace the existing Bellozanne incinerator and was approved by the planning minister last autumn. Critics say the new facility is not needed and will be too large.

Minister Michael Jackson said £30m had already been spent on the project and backing out would cost the island more. He said: "On top of that [£30m], other equipment has been ordered which will have to be added on to that figure because the contractor will not be able to do anything else with it and he will have to be recompensed. "There will also be the question of damages being claimed by the contractor; and then, of course, we get into the unknown legal field. "This is the area which causes great concern because no-one ever knows how much it is going to be."

But Deputy Daniel Wimberley, one of the politicians hoping the States will reverse its decision to go ahead with the plant, said he believed that the estimated cost to cancel had been exaggerated. He said: "First of all he added £5m to the figure this morning, which shows the kind of joke world we're in. The price last week was £50m, now it's up to £55m. "In any case, the cost of the alternative is so much less that even with the cost of cancellation that it will make a saving to the island of roughly £10m in capital costs." If built, the new plant is expected to be cleaner and generate electricity for about 8,000 homes through burning waste, with an expected lifespan of up to 30 years.

Actually the figure than amazes me is not the way in which the figures have jumped up so rapidly, as

(1) The 30 million pounds spent on a one hundred million project, and not for "equipment ordered". What precisely has it been spend on, as it accounts for nearly one third? As far as I can tell, just the foundation work - digging a very large hole - has begun. If has been spent on work done, where is the work? If it has not, what precisely was it spent on?

(2) The casual way in which large round figures are thrown about. I know it might be convenient for PR to round figures up or down, but this gives the impression that they are just plucked out of a hat, and if asked for a supporting breakdown of costs, that would not be forthcoming. Figures to the nearest pound may still not be accurate, but at least if a politician is standing up and giving them, one feels that he must have something to back them up, because he would be held accountable if he lied in the States. It is hardly any wonder that that Daniel Wimberley calls it a "joke world".

(3) The unknown legal field is wonderful, because here we are in the land of dreams - or nightmares, and we can bid reality goodbye. Actually, the obvious thing to do is what Daniel Wimberley has done - and no doubt will given evidence of - other cases where contracts have been rescinded and where this kind of legal nightmare did not in fact emerge. I find it amazing that they cannot specify whether the contract itself has a cancellation clause which gives details of the sums involved. It must be an extremely poor contract if it does not; most contracts contain clauses giving details of what will be charged in the event of cancellation.

Here is an example of the kind of thing one would expect - it is part of a Dragon Energy From Waste Plant:

11.2 In the event of a determination by Dragon of the Contract in accordance with Clause 11.0.1 or 11.0.3 above or any cancellation and/or repudiation
of the Contract by the customer, Dragon shall be entitled to recover damages as follows.
11.1.1 The value of any work completed or goods manufactured at the date of the determination.
11.1.2 The value of any work begun or goods begun to be manufactured at the date of the determination.
11.1.3 The value of any work begun or goods begun to be manufactured but not completed at the date of determination including the cast of materials, labour, overheads and profit connection therewith.
11.1.4 A sum representing any further profit which Dragon would have made on the contract but for its determination such profits to be determined by Dragons auditors whose decision shall be conclusive and binding on the Customer.

Now 11.1.4 clearly has dangerous implications for any cancellation, but Mike Jackson has so far not come out with any specifics like that, or indeed, mentioned what the precise terms of cancellation are. He might have good grounds if our contract has a clause like 11.1.4, but the way in which the case is being presented at the moment against cancellation does not mention this kind of clause, and the TTS comments on the States website do not mention exact clauses either. Why not? Either they forgot when producing their detailed comments against Daniel Wimberley, or no such clauses exist (which would be a sloppy contract). If they exist, can we see them in detail please, so that we can see just what is involved, instead of fantasy and funny money?


Monday, 23 February 2009

God and the Mad Scientist

I've just been watching Colin Blakemore on Channel 4 "God and the Scientists" and a worse use of selective evidence I have rarely seen in recent times.

Blakemore is committed to "proving" a contradiction between the "Church"  and "Science" (which is taken in the singular - shades of Dawkins, "science says..."). If I was a scientist, I'm not sure I'd be too happy about being lumped together in Blakemore's ideology of what science is about. As with Dawkins, he seems to have no philosophical training, and his history is also pretty erratic.

He plays up the Church's opposition to Galileo and the belief in a geocentric universe as if it was totally a biblical matter, and the Aristotelian influence did not get a mention whereas a good part of the conflict was that the Church of that time, after the synthesis of Thomas Aquinas, was committed to Aristotelian science, which had a geocentric universe (along with many of the Ancient Greek thinkers). The reasons for a geocentric universe were observational and experimental.  The first is that the stars, sun, and planets appear to revolve around the Earth each day, with the stars circling around the pole and those stars nearer the equator rising and setting each day and circling back to their rising point. The second is the common sense perception that the Earth is solid and stable; it is not moving but is at rest. The third, and perhaps the strongest, was the Aristotelian argument of "the Tower". As Wikipedia notes: "The tower argument was one of the main objections against the theory of a moving earth. Aristotelians assumed that the fact that a stone which is dropped from a tower lands directly beneath it shows that the earth is stationary. They thought that, if the earth moved while the stone was falling, the stone would have been left behind. Objects would fall diagonally instead of vertically. Since this does not happen, Aristotelians thought that it was evident that the earth did not move. If one uses ancient theories of impulse and relative motion, the Copernican theory indeed appears to be falsified by the fact that objects fall vertically on earth". Galileo could not counter this, and had to make do with ad hoc hypthosesis and proceed counterinductively; the theory of relative motion relied on notions of gravity which required the later Newtonian synthesis to displace Aristotle. If Blakemore had read Stephen Toulmin's "The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics", or even Paul Feyerabend's "Against Method", he would have been able to give a more nuanced account of the controversy that the simplistic faith versus fact narrative that he provided on the TV. It was more of a clash between two scientific world views.

As usual when creationism was mentioned, but Augustine's views on genesis as not being a literal seven days were somehow overlooked; instead we had (1) a creationist presented who said that when the bible and science were in contradiction, the bible was correct, and so much the worse for science (2) other Christians whom Blakemore suggested had needed to tailor their faiths to science as it made inroads. Augustine's nuanced view on science (natural philosophy) and scripture was made well before Blakemore's supposed "conflict", and can be summarised thus by Kenneth J. Howell,:

Suppose someone says that the earth is no more than ten thousand years old, as Christians in the West believed for centuries. Again, we should test this claim by the means that science has at its disposal. For well over a hundred years historical geology has developed tests to show that the earth must be far older than ten thousand years. These tests are cross-checked and rechecked to make sure the time estimates are not flawed. Now what should we do? Shall we insist that the Bible teaches that the earth is no more than ten thousand years old? Could it be that our interpretation is wrong? Augustine advises the second step: "But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture . . . is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions." He urges us to change our interpretation of Scripture, not because Scripture is to be ruled by science, but because no two truths made by God will contradict one another. All truth comes from God, whether discovered by science or by the Church in its interpretation of Scripture. The first question we must ask is whether a particular scientific theory is well-founded. If it is, then we must make sure we don't read the Bible in a manner that contradicts sound knowledge of nature.

Blakemore then he presented the American Declaration of Independence as the major political triumph of the enlightenment, and while it was a triumph it had major deficiencies in its understanding of human nature. "We hold these truths to be self evident... that all men are created equal" - did not apply to women or slaves. He praised Benjamin Franklin as the "enlightment man" with his lightening conductor, and yet failed to mention that Franklin advertised slaves for sale and rewards for capturing runaways in his Philadelphia newspaper. He was proprietor and the advertisements were good business. When he did change his mind, it was first of all on economic grounds rather than humanitarian ones, and only after a time in France, much later in his life, did he accept the French ideas of equality contradicted the American ones of slavery. Thomas Jefferson saw the institution of slavery as an evil, even though he continued the practice of slave ownership. George Washington was committed to slave ownership. The failure of these supposedly rational thinkers to see this is remarkable given Blakemore's position that they had discarded religious superstitions in favour of enlightenment science. Franklin, of course, was also a freemason, and hence was certainly committed at least to what we would term "deism". Incidentally, Franklin's kite experiment probably never happened, but was written up later by him as a "back story".

When we get to the Darwin religion versus science debate, Blakemore accepts most of the Huxley propoganda at face value, and we now know that most of that never happened as he would see if he was up to date with modern historical research on the subject. It is now pretty well established that the debate between Huxley and Wilberforce never happened in the way Huxley wrote up in his memoirs nearly half a century later - as a piece of typical Huxley self-promotion. Wilberforce, far from being the old fuddy-duddy opposed to Huxley, had already made his position clear:

But we are too loyal pupils of inductive philosophy to start back from any conclusion by reason of its strangeness. Newton's patient philosophy taught him to find in the falling apple the law which governs the silent movements of the stars in their courses; and if Mr Darwin can with the same correctness of reasoning demonstrate to us our fungular descent, we shall dismiss our pride, and avow, with the characteristic humility of philosophy, our unsuspected cousinship with the mushrooms, - `Claim kindred there, and have our claim allowed'  - only we shall ask leave to scrutinise carefully every step of the argument which has such an ending, and demur if at any point of it we are invited to substitute unlimited hypothesis for patient observation, or the spasmodic fluttering flight of fancy for the severe conclusions to which logical accuracy of reasoning has led the way.

Darwin saw Wilberforce as presenting real and formidable criticisms, which he went out of his way to address in his later revisions. This has been well known to historians for some time, and the latest BBC History Magazine dispelled the science versus religion myths of the time. The late Stephen Jay Gould - always careful on sources - had written about the extremely suspect (and unlikely) character of Huxley's account almost a decade ago.

All in all, Colin Blakemore has presented us with a new mythology about science, presented historically selective (or discredited) evidence, weighted to "prove" his case, and given probably the best example of the New Atheist fundamentalism on television since Richard Dawkins. Why can't scientists, supposedly committed to truth, do a little historical research before presenting a kind of schoolboy textbook history that went out of date 20 years ago, and which is accepted without any criticism?

Links and References
The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics (1963) with June Goodfield ISBN 0-226-80848-3

Sunday, 22 February 2009


"Creation" by Claus Westermann: A Review
This book sets out to explore the background to the Creation stories of the Bible, and explains how they are meant to be understood.
The introduction to the book deals with how the narratives came to be written, and Westermann shows us that: "the first eleven chapters of the Bible were not composed as a literary work in the same way as Paul's letters in the New Testament.. The written draft is rather the end product of a long history of formation."
Westermann explains how a careful study of the early chapters of the book of Genesis reveals two distinct creation stories: (a) Genesis chapter 1, verse 1 to chapter 2, verse 4; (b) Genesis chapter 2, verse 4 to chapter 3 verse 24. A particular clear feature marking these as distinct is the fact that the order of events described is quite different in each narrative.
The first narrative is a great poem of joy in the beauty and goodness of creation, and praise in their Creator. Westermann mentions that the Hebrew word "tob" which is translated by "good" in this narrative, has a broader meaning, and also includes our word "beautiful".
Westermann also comments on a distinctive feature of the first narrative - "the procession of the days of work into a day of rest." He remarks that this is to teach us a lesson: "The work which has been laid upon man is not his goal. His goal is the eternal rest which has been suggested in the rest of the seventh day."
With the second narrative, we come to "the creation and limits of man." Here is the story of the temptation of man by the serpent; it is a story which contains a central paradox: "God himself has created the being which leads man to disobedience."
Although some commentators have tried to explain this away, Westermann warns us that to do so is to misunderstand the text. We must simply accept that "the origin of evil cannot be explained."
This is a fascinating book, with many arguments and insights. Westermann shows how Genesis can be understood even when it is not treated as historical fact. He regards it as myth, and points out the value of such myths as presenting universal truths which could not be portrayed otherwise.
It is hoped that such a book will help the reader not to neglect the Creation stories in the book of Genesis. All too often, these have been brought into a false conflict with the scientific picture of how the world was made. But this conflict arose relatively late in the Church's history, when the texts were interpreted by theologians whose perspective was so distorted by rationalism that they could not see that there could be other truths apart from scientific ones; naturally, such a procedure brought discredit upon the texts, because they should never have been understood as giving historical truth in the first place. Instead, they should have been understood along the lines of parables - stories which reveal truth, but which it would be most improper to treat as historically true. This is not a new discovery. As long ago as the 5th century A.D., St Augustine remarked that the Creation stories should not be understood as historical chronicle of events; this was because, he says, they were not written that way - they were "written after the manner of a popular poet."

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Guernsey Carnival - February

A round-up of recent stories in our sister Island. The full stories are in the links.
Source Recruitment Specialists says that it has 250 vacancies on its books, but admitted that the lower end of the job market was tricky, with over 400 unemployed. Last month, 343 people were registered as unemployed with Social Security. At this time last year, the figure was 255. Their Managing Director commented that "Although the unemployment figure has regrettably increased, it's important to stress that there are still a large number of vacancies in Guernsey at all levels, in all business sectors and companies continue to expand and create new opportunities.". It would be interesting to see a like comparison in the JEP, and perhaps this would go some way towards not just reporting redundancies, and providing a more balance picture.
Former farmer Peter Falla, 83, made a representation to the inquiry yesterday suggesting more land reclamation for landfill and calling on the States to look ahead more. Guernsey has reclaimed land at Longue Hougue, and as we know, once you have it, you start to think what you can do with it. Reclaim more land, is Mr Falla's opinion, and you can use this for extra landfill, which would be cheaper than building an incinerator. I've been out to the extremity of our own landfill area at La Collette in Jersey, and I'm not sure whether that is still slowly growing in the quiet. If not, what are all those diggers and lorries still trundling back and forth doing?

About 15 years ago, the island imported stone from France to build a breakwater at Longue Hougue so that many thousands of tonnes of solid waste could be diverted there from Mont Cuet. 'Less than £10m. spent on a containment area of land reclaimed from the sea would be preferable to £80m. to £100m. spent on an incinerator,' said Mr Falla. 'Remember, an incinerator will have smoke, ash and residue to dispose of on a site close to the island's bulk oil storage tanks.'

Now why does this seem familiar, all of a sudden?
THE Policy Council wants to defer debating the Government Business Plan after deciding at the last minute that it needs a radical rethink. It has long championed the plan, which has been developed since 2004, as key to prioritising government's work. It is now set to be simplified with Treasury minister Charles Parkinson in charge of a new political team. He put proposals to Monday's Policy Council meeting, which unanimously backed the concept of an overall strategic plan to guide how the States conducted its business and that departments' work needed to be coordinated. But it also agreed that to be successful it required widespread ownership together with understanding and commitment to a plan that was relevant and easily comprehended by the man in the street and States members.

This is the similar kind of talk we see from Terry Le Sueur - if you substitute "taking the Island along", and "inclusive" for the phrase "widespread ownership". It will be interesting to see if Guernsey manages to do this better than Jersey, where there is a lot of talk, but most of the action is simply to go with the status quo, the same old policies, the same old faces. Maybe Terry Le Sueur could learn from Guernsey?

Killer dogs drive Forest couple to quit keeping chickens. Francis Russell surveys the pile of feathers after a dog attack killed three and injured one of the 20 silkie chickens that survived a New Year's Day attack. Four were safe in their hen house when dogs struck again but the rest of the birds have vanished....He blamed the same animals that carried out the first strike and, by the size of the bite marks, he believed they were terriers. 'My wife was devastated,' he said. 'We aren't going to get any more.'

Wayne Le Cuirot, in Grouville, Jersey has also had attacks on his birds. It seems that in either Island, there is little policing that has been done on the issue, although it is difficult to see what could be done unless the dogs are caught in the act and their owners identified.

The incinerator is also a dominant issue in Guernsey, but the planning is not as advanced a stage as in Jersey. In the letters page, Laurie Queripel has a long letter on the subject, in which he looks at one of the alternatives mentioned. Wouldn't it be ironic if Guernsey ended up with a better system! Here is what he has to say - it is quite long, but worth hearing in full.

HAVE to report that I was thoroughly impressed by the Bio Plex waste solution presentation at the Vale douzaine room on Wednesday evening...There are serious environmental and health implications associated with mass-burn incineration, with children being particularly vulnerable. Of course this version of biogas digestion would not be a complete solution to our waste problems but it would deal with several thousand tons of our food waste each year in a clean and sustainable way and produce energy as a by-product.  The public really needs urgently to re-engage on this topic and then lobby their deputies. It has to be said that there does not seem to be the political will to furnish the public with all the relevant facts and details. Whatever the reason for this determination among certain politicians to push for a mass-burn incinerator, I can assure the reader that such a choice would not be in the best interest of the community. The Bio Plex representatives seemed to answer every question and query in a most satisfactory manner, including the fact that this process would not endanger our water supply, as the compost by-product would be sufficiently sterilised.  It was also pointed out that once this system was running, it would be most cost effective as opposed to a large incinerator, which would not.  Of course, as with all new initiatives, there would be a cost allied to the logistics and practicalities of setting up such a scheme. A small problem to overcome would be in persuading people to make the small adjustment needed to their lifestyles to support the scheme, i.e. food waste separation, however, this need not be onerous and would be to our and our children's long term benefit. This system has proved to be a success among all communities who have chosen to partake in it - indeed, it is a source of local pride and its proactive nature has a positive affect upon the spirit of the  ommunity. Plus, this is a modular system - it can be added to and adjusted as required and is so flexible as to where and how it is sited. One must remember this is not a new, untested approach. Anaerobic digestion has been in existence for many hundreds of years, the difference now is it has been allied to contemporary technology making it fit for purpose in the modern world. We must not settle simply for a mass-burn solution, it is the antithesis to the recycle, reuse, waste-avoidance preservation message that has previously been sent out. Remember the monster will have to be fed - once you burn you can never return. This is one of the most serious and far reaching issues Guernsey has ever had to face. It involves us all, therefore it behoves all of us to get involved.

Paul Lapage looks at a different option, not unlike our own kind of incinerator, but what is interesting is that he thinks the bulk of construction work should be done "in house". And why not? I've seen Geomarine on billboards over in Jersey. Shouldn't they be involved in our local project, whatever it is? With a downturn in the economy, and a weak pound, this would have made perfect sense.

To try and reduce our dependence on landfill, the States want to look at other processes, including recycling and energy recovery. This comes in the form of energy-from-waste, which is a process whereby energy is derived from burning waste.  The combustion process produces high-pressure steam that can be converted to electrical power by the use of a turbine and generator. This electricity can be fed into the Guernsey grid and supplied to local industry.  Energy-from-waste plants can also be used to supply high-pressure hot water or steam that can be used for industrial or domestic heating. This type of facility is known as a combined heat-and-power plant because of the two types of energy it produces. These plants are highly efficient. Brilliant idea, I hear you hark. Fantastic idea. But who is going to construct such a fantabulous plant? English or European companies? Well, I hope not, as Guernsey has sufficient skills in the construction industry. Fantastic, skilled, local companies to construct our fantastic energy-from-waste plant is what I say. We have a high-class civil engineering company in the form of Geomarine. We have superb construction companies in the form of R. W. Rihoy and R. G. Falla. OK, I agree some parts of construction may need to come from England but, by golly, we should demand that we (Guernsey) do a large chunk.

And a letter from the redoubtable Peter Falla. An interesting point he raises is the cable replacement. What is the lifetime of our own power cables from France? I've not seen any figures on that, but think there probably should be. Nothing lasts forever. Is the cost of replacement factored into the price of electricity?

Yes, we use nuclear energy from France but like all man-made materials, that cable will have to be replaced, while oil is getting more expensive.  China needs oil and Russia feels she can charge whatever she asks for it and gas. So will France for her electricity in future. We must consider a measure of self-sufficiency, including tidal power.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Logic of Madness: An Observation

When Courant was asked to explain the special factor that gives mathematical talent, he replied that "There is no such thing." To underline his point, he added: "Rather than ask what special qualities mathematicians possess, you should ask - what do they lack that other human beings possess."
Diderot, the famous French encyclopaedist, would have probably replied: "A sense of fair play, that goes with adulthood and maturity. Monsieur." Diderot must have been wary of mathematicians ever since his encounter with Euler at the French Court. There was to be a grand debate between the most powerful intellects of the day - "Did God exist?"
Diderot would argue for his own brand of atheism, while Euler would espouse the Christian cause. Euler opened by stating, with a great sense of certainty, a nonsensical algebraic formula (which he had just made up on the spur of the moment). He then declared solemnly, "Therefore God exists! I rest my case." Diderot was a mathematical ignoramus, and consequently was unable to come up with any reply; he ended up as a laughing stock - a cautionary example for all "great" intellects.
But the most apt illustration of the odd behaviour of mathematicians is Cardan, who was a famous mathematician and astrologer of the 16th Century. Using astrology. Cardan predicted the exact date of his own death. And he was absolutely correct! However, astrologers care to avoid this single proof of the veracity of their predictions. Cardan was such a logical pedant that he considered that his reputation would suffer if he was wrong. On the predicted date - 21st September 1576, he killed himself. Quod erat demonstrandum!

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Jersey Finance Fantasy

Seafront plan 'will ease crisis': A major building development in Jersey will help stimulate the island's economy, a financial expert has said. Chief executive of Jersey Finance Geoff Cook said a multi-million pound plan to develop the Esplanade could help Jersey through the financial crisis. He said it would create jobs and tax revenue and boost the wider economy. Mr Cook said when the project was completed in about three years' time, the crisis should be over, creating more demand for office space.

When you are in a hole, there is nothing quite like digging it deeper. That is what I thought on reading, with incredulity, Geoff Cook's recent sound bites in the BBC and JEP about how it is especially important to press ahead with the Waterfront development. This is a development that will - according to estimates at the time - cost a cool half a million pounds in maintenance costs for the sunken road infrastructure. Can we afford to just chuck away that money as if there is no tomorrow? According to Geoff Cook, yes!

If he was a passenger on the Titanic, I can imagine him not only as one of those who dressed for dinner as the ship was sinking, but someone who would go one stage better and order one of the most sumptuous five course meals, with champagne, as well. Buttressed by his no doubt inconsiderable salary, and part of a quango which as far as I can make out - unlike even WEB - has no published accounts easily available, he can afford to indulge in these costly flights of fancy.

Whether the States can afford to indulge - or finance - someone like him is another matter, and one I would like to see Ben Shenton and his scrutiny team investigate. Who is Geoff Cook accountable to? Who elects him? He seems to me to be a complete fantasist, living in his own private world, a parallel universe without any recession.

I can hear him saying, "Don't worry about the iceberg, by the time we reach it, it is certain to have melted anyway" - that appears to be the Jersey Finance / Harcourt line on the credit crunch from the JEP stories on them. I think instead the iceberg will still be there, and there will be a nasty crunch when we hit it, if they have their way. 

If Mr Cook is a "financial expert", who "predicts" the crisis should be over, maybe he should write the horoscope columns for the JEP, because he is obviously an expert in that kind of prediction.

The Empty House: A Ghost Story for February

I can still remember that night in the empty house. I was asleep, then suddenly started into wakefulness, with a feeling of disquiet. Alone, in my bed, in the darkness, every sound had a strange and sinister quality. There was a creak of timbers, adjusting to the change in the air, the cold wind howling past outside the window, and the odd rattle of the window pane. Every so often, the wind would gust, and the bare, finger like, branches of the nearby elm trees would scratch softly against the glass.

Then I thought I heard, almost below the level of hearing, a soft, muffled, whisper; a voice, speaking faintly, so quietly that the words were all but inaudible, but sounded like a human voice, trying to talk. I could not tell where it came from, it seemed all around, sometimes from far away in the dark recess of a distant wall, and sometimes close to hand, a hissing by the ear. Was it a voice, a trick of hearing in the silence? We are here, it seemed to say, we are here and we are waiting, waiting, waiting. We are here.

There seemed the sound of footsteps, softly, as of slippered feet, moving across the carpet; then at the bottom of the bed, a weight, first sudden, at the foot, then moving slowly up, on top of me, nearer and nearer to my face.

I was now awake in terror, alive to all sensations - the scraping branches like fingers, scratching on the window pane, the muffled whispered voices far and near, and the soft weight slowly moving up the bed.

A white and shadowy shape took form in my dazed, blinking eyes, peering into the gloom, and hoping against hope that I would see nothing. Then it become more distinct, more solid, and I saw that it was only a cat, a large white, long haired cat, come to keep me company, and comfort me throughout this night of horrors.

Now the horrors receded from my sight, I was not alone, because I had the company of a warm and friendly cat to share the night. I was so relieved, so happy at this sight. I reached out to pat the lovely animal. But my hand touched only empty air, it, reaching only a cold, mist like wraith, that moved to embrace me in its icy grip. Then everything vanished into a whirlpool of darkness, and I knew no more.

When I awoke, the sun was shining, and the room was full of the colours of the day. The ordeal was over. Had I imagined what I saw? The ghostly cat upon the bed, the whispered voices, the trees rattling against the window pane. It all seemed so far away, now I looked out of the bed, to see the leafless branches of those elms.

But Dutch elm disease had long left its mark; only the bare stumps remained to mark their spot. Not a single branch remained.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Aspects of Antiquity

"Aspects of Antiquity" by M.I. Finley: A Review
This book contains essays on a variety of aspects of ancient history. With each subject, Dr Finley takes care to describe how the history came to be written, showing what different historians made of the evidence, and explaining why they reached the conclusions that they did.
One of the most interesting essays concerns the fall of Rome. Why did Rome fall, and what caused the mighty Roman Empire to lose its power? The popular view on this has largely been due to Gibbon, and his epic "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". In this, he portrayed the citizens of Rome as "timid and luxurious inhabitants of a declining empire", and placed the blame largely upon the decline in moral standards, and a resultant collapse of the social order. Rome fell. Gibbon tells us, because the Romans had lost all discipline; their minds were "degenerate".
Dr Finley points out the deficiencies of Gibbon's analysis. "Even if one were to accept the characterization," he writes, "it does not explain. One would still have to give reasons why the Romans had become 'timid' and 'degenerate' if that is what they now were. "
If Rome fell, then the first area to scrutinize for weakness should be defence. The army, Dr Finley points out, was only about 300,000 strong from the times of Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. However, despite its small size, it "was sufficient for its purposes; it kept the peace within the empire; it could cope with rebellions, though that might require time; it protected the frontiers; it was even able to make a few further conquests,  including Britain." In a straight fight, the Roman legions usually defeated larger numbers of German warriors, because the Roman army was "better trained, better, better equipped, better led." But, as Dr Finley observes, the trouble was that the army was not at war with "a neighbouring state like themselves, but with migratory tribes." The Roman forces were faced with the problem of continual, scattered attacks, and found themselves spread too thinly over a great frontier "from the mouth of the Rhine to the Black Sea and then on to the borders of the Persian kingdom". The problem was one of manpower.
Dr Finley argues that the agrarian economy of the empire could not provide such manpower. He summaries the Roman economy of this time in a simple model. Most of the population produced just enough to live on, and enough to maintain the "very rich and high-living aristocracy, and the modest army." This was a sort of "social equilibrium" and if any change took place in any of the elements making up the equilibrium, it had to be balanced elsewhere. It was this which resulted in a vicious circle which brought an end to the empire under the threat of the barbarian invasions: "The army could not be enlarged because the land could not stand further depletion of manpower; the situation on the land had deteriorated because taxes were too high; taxes were too high because the military demands were increasing; and for that the German pressures were mainly responsible."
Other subjects in the book include Crete and the Trojan War. The book is informative and at times acutely critical of popular beliefs about ancient history; it is also well argued, and shows with great clarity how the historian pieces together a picture from the fragments of the past.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A Review

Set in India, in Mumbai, director Danny Boyle's film tells the story of a slum kid who appears on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire". The film is a marvelous evocation of India, of the slum dwellings, the economic changes in India, as finance booms, so that the slums we begin with are replaced by gleaming office buildings, but there is still the seamy side of the Indian underworld, where gang leaders carve out their own fiefdoms. On the way, we also have the railways - always a central and defining part of India - and even the Taj Mahal! Yet this is just the background, sketched out in just enough detail, against which a wonderful personal narrative is constructed.

We start with the interrogation by a police officer of the central character, Jamal K. Malik, and the story gradually unfolds in flashback, as we learn why he is being questioned - for suspected cheating in the Indian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. And we move further back in flashbacks, as the way in which the questions unfold in the Quiz show dovetail with Jamal's remembering of his childhood in the slums, of how he and his brother scratch a living, and of his mother being killed in a savage attack on the Muslims by rioting Hindus; he and his brother Salim flee and escape, guided by a vision of the god Rama, and also save the girl Latika.

Rescue comes from the apparent benevolence of a man called Maman searching for children homeless and refugees, but he turns out to be a sinister gang leader, sending children out to beg, and in one sequence - not for the squeamish - his henchman mutilates one boy the brothers know in order that he can be a better beggar. The brothers escape, but lose Latika in their flight. They then take to a life of petty crime and become street wise, with Jamal on one memorable and very funny occasion, guiding a tourist couple around the Taj Mahal, with a commentary that is part fact, mostly fiction. This sequence moves into their teen years (the parts being taken by other actors, but brilliantly ones that capture the look and mood of the child actors). We see them now settled in part in work in fast food kitchens in Mumbai, and their encounters with the crime barons, and throughout this Jamal is haunted by the search for Latika, and never gives up hope. His brother betrays his trust at one point, but then redeems himself in one final act of sacrifice.

All this is told against the backdrop of the - by now almost conversational interrogation - by the police inspector, and the relentless tension of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with its bearded charismatic host (although in private asides to Jamal, he shows his ruthless egoism), and the prize money in rupees gradually increasing as he gets questions right.

How Jamal eventually finds Latika, loses her, and finds her again - his personal quest - I will not reveal - you'll have to see the film! Did he win by cheating? No. Was it luck? Or, is it - in a wonderful way in which the film both starts and ends - simply that "it was written".

The leading stars are relative unknowns, but give brilliant and naturalistic performances (which is actually very difficult), and this is far from being an urban or domestic drama (good as those can be); as a result, it opens a window onto a refreshingly different world, and I can well see why it has run away with all kind of plaudits.

In terms of narrative construction, the versatile use of flashbacks (and interrogation to call forth memory) works extremely well. This non-linear approach reminded me very much of Ararat, the film about the Armenian genocide, which uses a similar technique to great effect. And don't miss the wonderful Bollywood-like dance sequence at the end while the credits roll.

Lastly, the conditions of poverty that come as the vast panorama reminded me of the wisdom of C.P. Snow, and the call upon our consciences to ensure that this is not just left alone. In an essay on Magnanimity, Snow wrote:

"I have said before, and I shall say it again, because it is the most imperative social truth of our age, that about one-third of the world is rich and two-thirds of the world is poor. By this I mean something very simple. In North America, in most of Europe, in Australia and New Zealand, and now in the Soviet Union, the great majority of the population get enough to eat and don't die before their time. That is what "riches" means, in a world whose harshness those of us born lucky don't willing admit.

In the rest of the world the opposite is true. The great majority of the population don't get enough to eat; and, from the time they are born, their chances of life are less than half of ours, These are crude words, but we are talking about crude things, toil, hunger, death. For most of our brother men, this is the social condition.

It is different from our social condition. That is one reason why there is a direct call upon our magnanimity. If we do not show it now, then both our hopes and souls have shriveled. It may be a longish time fore men at large are much concerned with hopes and souls again.

For the future is in our hands, if we care enough. The means exist for our seeing to it that the poor of the world don't stay poor. The scientific and technical knowledge which we now possess is enough, if we can find the human means, to solve the problem within a couple of generations. I do not pretend that it is going to be easy to find the human means-but the knowledge exists and, since it exists, no man of the faintest imagination or good will can rest easy."

C.P. Snow (Magnanimity)

Movie cast and details on Internet Movie Database

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Senator Alan Maclean nominated for Yes Minister Award

Alan Maclean recently showed his prowess as a  master of "Yes Minister" style prevarication. He has lost none of the assured professionalism demonstrated by Estate Agents in providing clever obscufaction. In answer to a question by Deputy Phil Rondel, about defects at the Marina, Maclean comes out with "seek clarification as to what they relate to in the context of the ongoing discussions".

Now if you google "Sir Humphrey Appleby ongoing discussions", you come up with "Yes Minister", and this is a perfect example of a sentence where Senator Maclean is on the edge of comprehension, on the point of heading off into the Twilight Zone of sheer nonsense.

When pressed more firmly about actual assurances  - "Will he give us an assurance that within the next 28 days they will be addressed?", he is happy to give "an assurance that within the next 28 days they will be considered" - note "considered", not "addressed".

Alan Maclean is fast becoming a strong contender for the Yes Minister Award for the Arcane Art of Saying Nothing in Many Vague Words.

Here is the exchange reported in the States of Jersey "Hansard":

4.1     The Deputy of St. John:
If I could pass this across, please, to the Minister.  In December 2007, I along with others were at St. Helier Yacht Club and put a number of questions to the Minister on maintenance of St. Helier marina.  He gave me an undertaking that he would look into this.  On a number of occasions during 2008, I wrote to the Minister and asked what progress had been made.  As Members can see, I will pass a couple of these around . in fact these photographs were taken, Minister, this week.  Could the Minister please explain why the serious defects are still in the public domain, and are a danger to the public, and why they have not been put right?

Senator A.J.H. Maclean (The Minister for Economic Development):
I would ask the Deputy who has written to the department - has written to me and I have referred it to the department to deal with - I understand he has had numerous discussions with the department and meetings.  My understanding is that most of the issues that were raised - I think in the first letter the Deputy wrote there was something like 28 particular issues raised on matters pertaining the harbours - have been addressed in full.  As far as the photographs are concerned, I am more than happy to take them down to the department and seek clarification as to what they relate to in the context of the ongoing discussions that the Deputy has had over the past 2 years.

4.1.1  The Deputy of St. John:
A supplementary.  If I could pass the Minister a copy of my original letter, he will see of those 20 plus faults reported a number of them, even on the front page which are underlined in a highlighter, have not been addressed.  Will he give us an assurance that within the next 28 days they will be addressed?

Senator A.J.H. Maclean:
I am more than happy to give the Deputy an assurance that within the next 28 days they will be considered.  As far as I am aware, these issues had been resolved and I have asked the Deputy personally as to whether there are any outstanding issues to which he did not give me an answer until this precise moment.  Thank you.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

An Inventive Mistake

Professor Sir Stephen Mugglewort
Was often aggrieved and badly hurt,
For when he dropped his jam on toast
The jam always landed bottom most!
He invented a bread slicer - very clever;
It sliced at a special angle, so that never
Would the toast fall with jam on floor!
But unfortunately, there down before,
His feet was jam, facing right side up!
His feet went on this, what a smash up!
Banged his head as he tumbled down,
And there fatally, he broke his crown;
Now the moral of the tale is quite clear -
Inventions can cause mishaps dear!

The Greedy Landlord?

In this time of when there is a squeeze on credit, shop's margins are often cut to the bone in order that they can sustain enough profit to be viable. In Jersey, 101 Toys closed citing GST as the last straw that broke the camels back. Poundworld closed because it was no longer viable. But is GST to blame, or is it the extraordinarily high rents that landlords (usually companies not individuals) have demanded of shops or stores?

One argument is that rents can be raised to what the market can bear. But it is not quite as simple as that. A shop (or store) has all kinds of furniture and fittings, signage, and so on, which cannot easily be just shifted to a cheaper site because of the expense and loss of earnings incurred doing that. It is not just as simple as a consumer deciding to shop elsewhere.

Once a business is in place, it is to some extent at the mercy of its landlords, especially if it is a shop, rather than offices which can be run from any location. Relocation of retail stores is difficult, time consuming, and cumbersome, and often not an easy option, so that rents can in fact be raised to higher than would be the case.

There is a great deal said about the high cost of renting property to live, but not so much attention has been given to the extra cost - which in one way or another gets passed onto the consumer - of rental costs to retailer outlets. Of course  rents are easy to see for housing in the JEP, but all rental leases do pass through the Royal Court, and are in the public domain. So here are a few, to let the reader judge for themselves - these all relate to leases passed between 2007 and 2008. These are what the stores are paying - per annum - to their landlords.



A De Gruchy & Co

De Gruchy's Department Store, St Helier


Norman Ltd

10-31 Commercial Buildings, St Helier


Norman Ltd

Huelin Five Oaks Depot, St Saviour


Norman Ltd

Rabeys Universal Ltd, St Saviour


Three Mile Garage

Grande Route de St Martin, St Saviour


Big Verns Trading Co

Corbiere Phare, St Brelade


Big Verns Holdings

Big Verns and Discovery Bay Apartments, St Ouen


Pizza Express

59/61 Halkett Place, St Helier


Lloyds Pharmacy

Unit 1 Centrepoint, Red Houses, St Brelade


Lloyds Pharmacy

Unit 2 Centrepoint, Red Houses, St Brelade


Axle Clothing Co

55 King Street and 12 Broad Street, St Helier





Marks and Spencer

King Street, St Helier


Marks and Spencer

1 and 5 Maison du Squez, St Clement


Marks and Spencer

St John





Woolworth plc (20 yrs)

23-35 Halkett Place, St Helier