Saturday, 30 January 2010

Coming Spring

As Imbolc, or Candlemas is approaching, I thought I'd try my hand at a slightly different (and more pagan) version of a well known carol!

Coming Spring

Now the green blade rises, from the buried grain,
East brings the cold winds, and the freezing rain
Love lives again, with feathered touch unseen
Opening the east, comes time to spring up green.

In funeral pyre now burning, and beyond all pain
South brings the fires, ends where death has slain
Ashes scatter on the wind, incense sweet and clean
Opening the south, after firestorm, spring up green

Now the green blade rises, from the buried grain,
West brings the snowfall, and then thaws to rain
Love lives again, with pure water bubbling clean
Opening the west, herbs now spring up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
North brings forth rich soil, winter's gods are slain
Salt brings its flavour, light of the world now seen
Opening the north, like wheat that springs up green.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Jersey Disaster Appeal

Islanders are being encouraged to help victims of the Haiti earthquake by supporting a local appeal. The Bailiff, Michael Birt, announced the launch of the 'Jersey Disaster Appeal' ..Announcing the appeal, the Bailiff said "What has happened in Haiti is clearly a human tragedy on a massive scale and as a fellow island community, Jersey will be keen to show its support to those who so desperately need emergency supplies, be it in the form of essential medicine, clean drinking water, food or shelter. "I hope that by establishing a public disaster appeal fund, Islanders will feel better able to make their contribution count, in the knowledge that the funds raised will collectively be put to work to achieve the highest possible benefit for the people of Haiti in their hour of need."

Where this may be useful is in fund raising events, which can be channeled though the "Disaster Appeal Fund". I can see that a local fund would be useful, although Oxfam and Christian Aid also have local branches, and I don't really see why we need another fund for channeling donations.

But apart from that, I cannot understand the sentence "will feel better able to make their contribution count".

Does it mean that we, as an Island, can say - look how well we did, didn't we do well? I've given directly to the Red Cross, and I can't say that giving locally would make me feel any better, or that it would count any more.  But perhaps I'm in a minority, perhaps most people like to know there is some official Jersey fund.

But what I'd like to know is how the fund will be channeled to give help to Haiti.
The Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and other relief organisations have their own infrastructure for ensuring that aid gets to where it needs to go (and doesn't end up in the hands of somewhat dubious governments). I've read a few accounts of the Jersey Disaster Appeal, and all it says is that has been set up, and how to donate, but it doesn't answer that question, which strikes me as remiss in an appeal.

If you know the answers, please comment on this post! In the meantime, try and donate - either via Jersey charities, the disaster fund or otherwise - to help Haiti.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Distorting History

LENNY Harper's conduct as head of the historical abuse inquiry was branded 'disgraceful' by appeal judges yesterday. In dismissing the applications by two child abusers to have their convictions and sentences reviewed, the court also accused the Island's former deputy police chief of 'wilful misconduct'. In delivering the court's judgment, Clare Montgomery QC criticised Mr Harper for his conduct regarding day books relating to the investigation of Claude James Donnelly and Gordon Claude Wateridge. Mr Harper had been accused of stealing the books from Jersey by Donelly's and Wateridge's defence, Advocate Mike Preston, and not returning them when requested to do so. Donnelly (69) is serving 15 years in jail after being convicted in June of five counts of rape, 13 counts of indecent assault and one count of procuring an act of gross indecency. Wateridge (78) was convicted in August of 11 counts of indecent assault and one count of common assault. Miss Montgomery, who was sitting with fellow appeal judges Dame Heather Steel, president of the court, and Michael Jones QC, said: 'The conduct of Mr Harper regarding the day books is regarded as disgraceful. We are also prepared to assume that Mr Harper's contacts with the press were the product of wilful misconduct on his part. But we are satisfied that fair trials took place and that the publicity did not have an effect on the process.'(1)

The "day books", as Mr Harper explained before, and has explained recently, did not exist, despite the criticism of him for not giving them up. Quite how he could give up something that he never had, that never existed, is remarkable! What is even more remarkable is how the Court of Appeal could be so ill informed. Historians trying to piece together the saga of Haut de La Garenne - if they take as a primary source the Court of Appeal summing up, or the JEP report of it - will be presenting an unverified and potentially distorted version of history. Lenny Harper, in his own words, gives quite a different picture:

One late evening as I was heading out of the country I was told that a note had been pushed through my door telling me to contact Strathclyde Police. I did so to find out that I was wanted at court in Jersey the next day. Perhaps I could just beam myself up there? I had no idea what it was about. Eventually I managed to get hold of a Crown Officer in Edinburgh who dealt with applications and requests from foreign jurisdictions. He explained that the AG wanted me to produce some day books. I explained to him there were none. He told me that there was no witness summons of any kind issued and that it was up to me to return to Jersey or not. He told me they would be willing to facilitate my appearance at court in Scotland if I preferred to do it that way. I said I would be happy to do that. (2)

Why were there no day books kept? This was part of the review by Scotland Yard of the procedures followed, in which instructions were given not to give day books, but to keep policy books. These were reviewed by the ACPO Homicide team, who said they were "kept properly".

There was also a bizarre series of e mails between myself and the AG during which I explained that I had not kept day books on the instructions of Scotland Yard. All my decisions were in the policy books.(2)

It would, I feel, be instructive and worthwhile for a journalist to try to track down those emails, especially since the appeal process is now ended, and one assumes that matters, even ones on the periphery, are no longer sub judice. The result of this exchange resulted in what appears to have been a very bizarre request by the Attorney-General, again an allegation which should be checked out by responsible journalists:

Eventually, after I had reminded the AG that Scotland Yard had corroborated what I had said in a statement and had also told the enquiry team that at none of the meetings had I ever used such a book, he made the pathetic request for me to hand over the retirement cards I had been given by my colleagues, "in case there was anything relevant to the case in them." After removing officers' names I sent him copies.(2)

Lenny Harper also offered to testify and answer any questions in a Court in the UK, hence under oath, which certainly gives a lot of credence to the authenticity of his reply.

Incidentally, my offer to testify and answer any questions in a court in the UK was forwarded to Jersey. I have never even had an acknowledgement. Instead the lie has been peddled that I refused to return and defied an imaginary court order to hand over imaginary books. (2)

How was it that the Appeal Court were not aware of this? Did his emails get somehow lost in the process of transition when the Attorney-General was made Deputy Bailiff, and the Solicitor General was made Attorney-General? It seems quite clear that no thorough checks were made, and the pronouncements of the Appeal Court regarding pocket books were made on the basis of faulty intelligence they received, or failed to receive, and somewhere along the way the chain of command failed, resulting in a headlined criticism which turns out to be based on a mirage. I do not blame the Appeal Court, because after all they have to rely on information given to them, but it does highlight how easy it is to make judgements that distort history.

Regarding the media contacts with the press, an early statement by Lenny Harper, which was judged authentic by BBC Radio Jersey only after they had quite properly vetted its authenticity (as any responsible reporter should), gave a quite different, and again verifiable picture. Lenny wrote:

They only have to look at the BBC News website for the 31st July 2008, to see that I was saying that in view of the contradictory evidence from the experts in respect of the evidence of the age of the bones, unless things changed there would be no homicide enquiry. Even clearer, the Sunday Times on 10th May 2009 made it plain that I was actively discouraging their journalist from believing the more lurid headlines.(3)

Now given the way in which some of the media certainly overplayed the "house of horrors", linking it in to Dutch paedophile rings, bodies uncovered, six more bodies feared buried, etc, it is not surprising that some criticism was made of Lenny Harper by the Appeal judge, although the criticism should have been largely directed at the media. And yet the appeal failed, a new history, it seems to be is being written.

This new history takes the form of saying that "but now we know the truth about Haut de La Garenne", which is usually taken as almost implying that nothing happened, that it was a complete distortion, a fabrication of lies, and can now quietly be forgotten.

But the conviction of Wateridge, and the failure of his appeal, shows that despite many allegations not being deem strong enough for conviction, there is at least some very strong legal evidence for abuse taking place at Haut de La Garenne:

A former carer at a Jersey children's home was found guilty today of indecently assaulting teenagers in the 1970s. Gordon Wateridge, 78, was convicted of eight charges of indecent assault and one charge of assault following a trial at Jersey royal court. He was the first person to be charged in connection with the Haut de la Garenne abuse investigation.(4)

Clearly, the staff were not properly monitored, and neither, it appears, were the children there. Another child was able to abuse younger children when he was at the home, and this was not picked up on at all. Again, this resulted in a conviction - solid evidence that the home was not a well-run happy place:

A man has been sentenced to two years' probation for sexually abusing two boys at the Haut de la Garenne children's home on the island. Michael Aubin, 46, of Southampton, admitted two counts of indecent assault and two of gross indecency on two boys under 10 in the 1970s when he was 14.(5)

There are also anecdotal reports of physical abuse taking place during the 1970s, such as this reported by an anonymous individual to the BBC:

There were two dreadful places for me - school and home. I spent two brief periods at Haut de la Garenne, and thought it was going to be a relief for me. But it wasn't. It felt unsafe. At Haut de la Garenne, physical abuse was a regular occurrence. It was common currency to be hit about the head. The local hospital, where I received attention on more than one occasion, never reported anything untoward to the local police or the equivalent of social services. The local police, and in particular the local 'honorary' police, ever keen to ensure that these matters were resolved behind closed doors, never raised an alarm. Everything that could be done by those in authority to normalise a terrible situation was done, and more than once I was given a thick ear for trying to stand up and make complaints about actions that today would be described as assault.(6)

That is physical abuse, not sexual abuse, and physical abuse was commonplace in many island schools. In the 1970, Victoria College, for example, still used the cane to punish boys, and teachers were not above using a wooden ruler to sharply clip boys around the ear for inattention. So we must place this anecdote in the context of its time.

Nonetheless, the extent to which this was carried out - receiving attention at the hospital - suggests that the perpetrators were carried away, and no one wanted to look into the matter, which again in the 1960s and early 1970s culture, is perfectly possible. For an orphan, or child in care, with places such as Haut de La Garenne still almost under Victorian standards of discipline, and harsh physical punishments, life was probably extremely wretched and unhappy.

So it is just as much as distortion of history to say that "we now know that nothing happened" as to say that there were, as one newspaper put it, six bodies feared buried. The anecdotal evidence, such as that mentioned, also indicates a harsh regime, not that far removed from the Victorian workhouse, and certainly there are many lessons to be learned from that. The two convictions which have taken place, shows that there was indeed sexual abuse also taking place. Other evidence may not be good enough to secure a conviction, but the very fact that two cases have been proven, should not cause us to dismiss them so casually or overconfidently.

Let it not be supposed by the enemies of 'the system,' that, during the period of his solitary incarceration, Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society, or the advantages of religious consolation. As for exercise, it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence of Mr. Bumble, who prevented his catching cold, and caused a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane. (Oliver Twist, 7)


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Final Frontier

Final Frontier

To boldly go where no one has gone before
My beloved, all hailing frequencies ended
And gone now, behind time's closing door

Immortality, always refused in Star Trek lore
My beloved, never fully comprehended
To boldly go where no one has gone before

Now in eclipse, I cannot see you any more
But glimpse only a shadow, a life ended
And gone now, behind time's closing door

Space, the final frontier, wonders to adore
I see you on a path, all things apprehended
To boldly go where no one has gone before

I would walk with you upon an alien shore
Yet now all our time together is expended
And gone now, behind time's closing door

One day we'll be on that Enterprise and soar
Seek other worlds, and that will be splendid
To boldly go where no one has gone before
And gone now, behind time's closing door

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Durrell and Membership Fees

DURRELL is making up to 14 staff redundant as part of a major cost-cutting review to claw back £600,000. The trust will also reduce the number of endangered species in its care and scale down on its overseas projects. But this may not be enough to save the Trinity wildlife park, which could still face a deficit of £400,000 even with the cost-cutting measures. Durrell says that the global economic downturn has caused a drop in charitable support and a decline in visitors. The trust made cutbacks last year, but with an even bigger deficit predicted for 2010, chief executive Paul Masterton said that more had to be done, including cutting ten per cent of the workforce.(1)

I was looking at their prices, and the entrance prices (2) are as follows:

Adult: £12.90
Child (4-16 years): £9.40
Student 17-22 years £10.50

For annual membership, the costs are as follows:

Individual - £40
Member & Guest - £65
Family - £100
Student - £23
Senior Citizen - £23

While the individual may have £40 to spare, the high cost of family membership may well be putting families off. Families are often more strapped for cash than individuals.

I wonder if actually reducing the family membership might get more families to apply, and make up the difference that way. The other side of the coin is that while an annual member can visit any number of times in the year, families are more likely to make frequent visits of lesser duration, rather than having screaming kids along with them. They are more likely to spend at the cafe, or on the shop on the way out, the more often they visit - there is a knock on effect, which means that, on average, someone with an annual membership will probably spend more because they come more often.

It is interesting that Dartmoor Zoological Park may well have seen this as the way to go. In 2009, they introduced a new range of lower pricing, to get more people to take out annual membership.

As of 1st April 2009, we are instigating a major review of membership pricing and introducing an exciting new offer for DZP members. From April 1st Annual Family Membership will be reduced from £105 to £80 and the cost of Child Membership will be dropped from £25 to £10. In addition, at DZP 'child' will mean under five, so now your four-year-old goes for free!(3)

Bristol Zoo, on the other hand, has membership that is very much on a par with Durrell, but has also affiliated itself with other zoos. Whether or not this would effect Jersey is another matter, because travel to English zoos is not probably that common, but some kind of partnership scheme - perhaps with St Malo's Aquarium (the large one outside the city centre) might be beneficial to encourage French visitors to Jersey, and more Jersey take up on local membership. After all, St Malo is not too expensive for a day trip foot passenger.

Free entry to selected other UK zoos and safari parks, including; Colchester Zoo; Chester Zoo; Edinburgh Zoo; Marwell Zoological Park and Woburn Safari Park . If you want to visit another zoo in the scheme, please
remember to take your welcome or renewal letter with you. (4)

One adult £48.00
Joint (two adults) £77.00
One child (3-15) £19.00
One disabled child £14.50

Another note is the concessions that are available, which are much more inclusive that Jersey, in that concessions are made to the disabled and senior citizens, again a group who might find costs prohibitive.

Concessions are available to disabled visitors, senior citizens, young people aged 15 - 18 years inclusive and students in higher education with NUS or ISIC card.(4)

Lastly, and on another note altogether, a YMCA in America is looking to encourage annual membership in the economic downturn - for those who do not want to declare income, there are the standard rates, but for poorer members of the community, there is a means tested sliding scale. Perhaps Durrell could learn from that?

Have you cancelled your gym membership to cut back in the down economy? Here is some good news: the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA is offering a new income-based membership fee structure in response to the current economic conditions facing many individuals and families in the greater Bridgeport communities.

Through Membership For All, the YMCA hopes to continue to be accessible and affordable to all community members, particularly those who now find themselves having to make tough choices based on personal finances. The program uses a sliding scale rate structure based on gross annual household income so that all people are able to have access to the YMCA, regardless of income.

Proof of income is required at the time of enrollment and all personal information will remain confidential.(5)

I do hope that Durrell (or Jersey Zoo, for those of us with old memories) will survive, but I also hope they look at ways in which they might market their membership in more flexible ways, and attract more people to visit.

At some point, just increasing entry fees and annual memberships reaches a tipping point with supply and demand, and increased fees leads to reduced membership, which necessitates raising fees to generate the same income. Durrell will be just pricing itself out of the market.

It is a vicious spiral, and I hope they can look at alternatives which will increase membership, because while members won't pay every time they visit, they'll certainly browse the shop, and may well buy something for themselves or presents.

It gets people to the shop, if nothing else, and in addition, begins to educate them into the need to support Durrell. If they don't even go there, they won't be in a position for that to happen.

A last comment, which I forgot, is that Durrell were proposing to have a restaurant just on the border of the Zoo to generate extra income without people needing to come in. That seemed like a good idea to me; I hope it has not been shelved.


Monday, 18 January 2010

Why Jersey Needs Gift Aid

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.

-C.P. Snow

Gift Aid, not to be confused with Live Aid or Band Aid, is a mechanism whereby the charity can claim extra money from the government when taxpayers make a donation.

It is extremely simple for the individual to do, and was introduced as part of a drive to encourage people to give to charities.

An example of how it works will suffice. If I am a taxpayer in the U.K., I can go online to the Red Cross site, and make a donation of £10. I then fill in my name, address, postcode , and tick a box to say that I am a taxpayer and want the donation to be Gift Aid. That is all that is needed. The Red Cross can then reclaim £2.50 from the tax authorities. It is as simple as that.

In Jersey, there are two mechanisms for charities to benefit from the taxpayer giving. One is the covenant scheme, whereby the person donating agrees to give a sum over more than four years. The other, which is an adjustment to that, allows for a single lump sum payment to be made over £100. These limitations restrict the amount which can be claimed back.

In addition, there is paperwork required, forms to be filled in.

Now the U.K. scheme can involve paperwork, but it also allows for an online declaration to be made. It encourages giving by anyone, and the humblest gift - the widow's mite - can also be a gift aid payment to the charity, only provided the widow pays tax. The declaration can be in writing, on paper, electronically on the internet, or by email, fax, mobile phone or text message. This is a 21st century scheme!

But the U.K. scheme is even better. Once a declaration has been made to a particular charity, it stands - a future gift does not require more forms to be filled in. The charity has the information on file, and does not need an extra form - again a contrast to Jersey.

One extra advantage - a gift aid declaration can be made verbally and recorded as long as the charity sends a written confirmation to the donor. This means that events such as Children in Need can take information from phone pledges in the U.K. and ask the donors if they want to gift aid the donation.

Sponsorship forms can have a single Gift Aid declaration at the top of the form, and a tick box to say the sponsors want to gift aid the funds. The full name and address of the sponsor are all extra that is required, with the sum pledged and collected.

The Jersey Law Commission Report on the Jersey Law of Charities recommended introducing Gift Aid in Jersey in November 2006. A revised report was produced in March 2009. It had the same recommendation.

At present, some Jersey charities have to go cap in hand to the States for grants, but with gift aid, they could much more easily become self-supporting.

Just consider how many events take place which raise money on sponsorship forms, how many donations are made in lieu of flowers when someone dies, how much the children in need, or the recent Red Cross fund raising could raise!
Isn't it time to change?
If you live in Jersey would like to support a campaign to introduce Gift Aid in Jersey, please join the Facebook group

Let's Introduce Gift Aid to Jersey

Sunday, 17 January 2010


This linked PDF, from "Save our Shoreline" is the exact PDF of the first proposition which differs from that which the States will now be debating on Tuesday.
Save Our Shoreline

The Moon Opposes Pluto

NewsScope for January 18, 2010
by Michael Wolfstar
Haiti's Earthquake
Haiti's horoscope (January 1, 1804; Gonaives, Haiti; noon) reflects the long and difficult history of the country, as well as the current devastation. The Capricorn Sun attended by six other placements in Capricorn shows the tendency for strong, patriarchal government. But with a Mars-Chiron conjunction squaring Saturn, the government has often been ruled by corrupt dictators supported by a brutal and oppressive military.
At the moment of the 7.0 earthquake (January 12, 2010; 21:53 UTC), transiting Saturn and Pluto were squaring each other while aligned with Haiti's Mars-Chiron square Saturn. If we think of the transiting Saturn-Pluto square as a crisis of authority (as described here last week), we can see how this incident left Haiti without a functioning central government.
Natally, the Moon opposes Pluto in the Virgo-Pisces polarity, which describes a population that has been victimized politically, socially and economically. Challenging transit and/or progressions to planets in the Virgo-Pisces axis often lead to disaster. In Haiti's case, the progressed Moon and Pluto were conjunct in Pisces while being squared by progressed Mars. Here we have the indications for violence and chaos that could have been seen beforehand had any astrologers been tracking Haiti's national horoscope.
I came across this recently. I find the notion that the natural disaster was somehow "in the stars" and could have been "seen beforehand had any astrologers been tracking Haiti's national horoscope" is a good demonstration of why I don't give much credence to astrology. One might as well say that any disaster could be foreseen by astrologers and people evacuated beforehand! It just doesn't happen.

"Haiti's horoscope reflects ...the current devastation". If someone had said that before I might pay more attention. Retrospective predictions really aren't much good.
Astrology is not the only offender. Even with the technology, and computer models, there is still so much chaos and randomness in weather patterns that weather forecasters either make incorrect predictions, or fudge the forecast ("wintry showers", "occasional rain", "risk of thunder" etc) which are almost impossible to pin down.

I have no gripe about the incorrect forecasts, because it is not an exact science. What I would like to see, however, is an explanation in scientific terms of why the forecast went wrong, and only rarely (the Michael Fish Hurricane) do we get that. Mostly what we get is much the same as in astrology - a retrospective explanation of why the weather happened the way it did, which is, of course, 100% accurate.

I'd like to see the forecasters being more open about the deficiencies in their models, and if astrologers ever want me to take that seriously, I'd like to see them making more definite predictions, and explaining where their models are deficient, and saying how they are improving the models to make better predictions. My prediction: the forecasters might, the astrologers will not.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Haiti Earthquake Appeal

A number of the U.K. based charities allow reclaiming money from tax if you are a tax payer. In other words, the donation is treated as tax free, so not part of your taxable income, and the tax that you have paid on that income (if you pay tax) can by claimed back by the charity.

I have been investigating, and a similar situation applies to a degree in Jersey, though not to the same extent. Any donations in the U.K. can be claimed for; in Jersey, only donations over £100.

Ed Le Quesne noted the following:

Oxfam are a charity recognised by the Comptroller of Income tax.  I pay a monthly standing order under covenant to the Jersey Oxfam group treasurer and he claims back an extra 25% each year.    Similarly with Christian Aid in Jersey..   If you pay to the local group, they can claim back tax and then send the lot off to Christian Aid in London.

I should imagine that Red Cross, Jersey group, have similarly got themselves recognised locally.   You would have to ask their local fundraiser, Sara Clews 720547.

Christian Aid have launched an appeal for Haiti.  Our local treasurer is Martin Dryden, Mont Ube House, La Blinerie, St Clement JE2  

For donations over £100 made to Christian Aid through him a lump sum donation form would add 25%.

Ed Le Quesne


Christian Aid has launched a £1m emergency appeal for victims of the Haiti earthquake. Thousands of people are already feared dead and many more are believed to be critically injured. Countless are thought to be homeless.

The quake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, struck 15km southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince just before 5pm local time yesterday, and was shortly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5.
Launching the appeal, Dame Anne Owers, Chair of Christian Aid, said: 'I visited Haiti in recent months with Christian Aid and was deeply concerned about the level of poverty there. It is one of the poorest places on earth.
'This latest disaster is going to cause untold suffering and hardship, particularly in communities with very little to fall back on. There is an urgent need for emergency supplies, including food, shelter and medicine.
'In the longer term, rebuilding is going to require massive international assistance. I appeal to people and to governments to give what they can.'

Nick Guttman, head of Christian Aid's humanitarian division, said today: 'The situation in Haiti is very, very serious due to the strength and shallowness of the earthquake and its proximity to the capital Port-au-Prince.

'Most of the buildings and infrastructure in Haiti are very fragile.  Many people have been killed by falling debris and there are still many more trapped under the rubble, in desperate need of assistance.

'Hundreds of offices, hotels, houses and shops have collapsed, the presidential palace lies in ruins, and many churches have also been completely destroyed.

'The Christian Aid office itself has also collapsed and three people, including Christian Aid staff, had to be rescued from the rubble. Thankfully they are safe but communications to the country are very difficult since the city is without electricity and the telephone network has broken down.

'The absolutely critical humanitarian needs now are obviously search and rescue, much of which is initially being carried out by local people and organisations, shelter, clean water and medical assistance.'
Christian Aid's Caribbean Regional Manager Judith Turbyne said the Christian Aid building was relatively robust but was still destroyed. Loss of life in poorer communities is expected to be very high.
'One of the key issues in Haiti is the weak state and the lack of resources at the state's disposal,' she said.
'There will be a national response, but it is unlikely to be sufficient.  There will be a huge need for a concerted response on behalf of the relatively large aid community in Haiti.'
Christian Aid partner organisations in Haiti, Veterimed and Koral, are very experienced in emergency response work, and will be working round the clock to meet the urgent humanitarian needs.
Ignore this bit and give locally as above.#

Those wishing to donate on on-line should go to
Notes To Editors:

1) Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

2) Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty.  Our new drive, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to make that vision a reality.  Details at
Andrew Hogg
News Editor/Campaigns Editor

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

No bus, snow Bus!

Schools in Jersey closed early yesterday, around 2.20 pm, as the snow and hail began to fall, so that the children would have time to get the school buses and get home safely. By 4.15 pm, the school buses had still not left as the bus inspectors were deciding - dithering might be a more appropriate word - on whether the buses should go or not, if the routes were safe enough. By this time, of course, the road surfaces had deteriorated still further, and the public bus service had been mostly cancelled completely.

The comments pages on the JEP have a lively correspondence on the buses not running (1).

One person writes:

We've just returned from Scandinavia, where it was up to a meter depth of snow, average temps down to minus 13 C, where it would be a joke to close schools, with parents not thinking twice about their children some as young as six walking or to ski to school, without worrying about their little darlings if they fall over, why? because like most sensible countries Norway is not caught up with the Exaggerated madness which ravages Britain called "Health and Safety"! Up there busses, trains and airports run as normal, people go to work by car as normal, as winter tyres are law, from Nov to March whether it snows or not. Before anyone says it, I can assure you Scandinavia hates winter, but they just get on with it, without any whining, and all that real winter hardly gets a mention in the media, don't believe it, then visit it, its stunning and an education that other countries could learn from.

Another writer takes a different tack, commenting on why snow chains were impractical for these sudden bursts of bad weather, as opposed to the thick and long standing levels of snow in Scandinavia.

In defence of Connex. If we had 6″ of snow on the ground I would expect them to fit snow chains and supply a service. As it is we have roads with 2″ in some places and 0″ in others. A fully laden Bus, approx 15 /20 tonnes running on snow chains with no snow would be an ideal way of smashing up the road surfaces. 15 / 20 tonnes of bus + 40 odd souls sliding downhill on ice into a bus queue does not sound too good either.

But another writer notes the difference between the older JMT buses which were narrower, and puts this down as part of the reason, although they also mention the snow chains impacting on the road surfaces.

Some interesting comments here. Connex can't run the buses on snow or ice for three reasons. The buses are too wide for a lot of the roads, they know that if the driver has to take evasive action, (usually to avoid a non professional car driver), the left side of the bus is gonna be ripped open risking passenger injury. Chains WILL damage the roads and they can't maintain a schedule anyway because the roads will be full of stuck vehicles. The gritters get stuck for the same reason.

A bus driver writes, and gives us an "inside view" on why the bus drivers refuse to drive:

Now are you sitting down, I'm about to defend Connex, or rather the bus drivers. We are good, but not supermen, the laws of physics still apply. During this week, I have refused to take a bus along part of a route until it was gritted. A 6 3/4 ton toboggan is not a fun ride! Why? Because I'm selfish, I'd rather you explain to your boss why you are late or can't get in, than me explain to a Coroner why you are dead don't think commuters blame the bus drivers for one moment, but many of them are a little vexed with the individuals who run Connex!

It doesn't explain why the JMT was running bus services in 1987, when I remember catching one from La Moye pub - they sensibly wouldn't go round Corbiere or down to St Brelade's Bay, but they did tackle St Aubin's hill. But perhaps buses were smaller then, and the bus drivers more used to driving in slippery conditions, or alternatively (which may be more likely) were prepared to take more risks.

But new snow tyres are suggested rather than snow chains:

How can anyone blame you for protecting yourself and your passengers? Your bosses should be thankful to you for being so wise. Furthermore, for the safety of all, Connex should invest in some new-generation snow tyres before even asking their drivers to take the buses out on hazardous roads.

Granted, your 'no-snow-roads-ruined-by-chains' scenario holds up but, I find it hard to see how anyone can really defend a company (Connex) which fails to invest in a few sets of winter tyres…New-generation snow/winter tyres don't have studs, therefore, do not cause any damage whatsoever to road surfaces…

Logistically, short bursts of bad weather do not make this feasible, as this writer comments. It would be worth knowing if Connex had snow chains and snow tyres in case of more prolonged and settled periods of snow, though.

Yes, snow tyres are good, but very "expensive". These tyres are also unsuitable and experience rapid wear when used on roads in normal conditions, and to say the least, the ride is uncomfortable. They can not be fitted in 15 minutes by the driver on the side of the road. In advance of inclement weather the wheels have to be removed by mechanics and the snow tyres fitted by tyre fitters. When the weather improves the process is reversed. From our recent experiences they would have been on and off at least 3 times in a fortnight.

So let's look at snow tyres in more detail. In some places, such as parts of Canada, they are required by law:

If you are driving in the winter remember Snow Tyres are now Law in Quebec! (2)

Remembering the writer who spoke of the Scandinavian countries, Norway has this policy in place, which is instructive because it shows there is an extra indirect tax on snow tyres because of their impact on the road surface:

Snow chains or winter tyres are advised during the winter (however, most urban areas now levy a toll on vehicles with studded tyres)(3)

Here in Luxembourg, we are required to have winter tyres, which makes driving in snow a great deal safer (4)

In Sweden there is next to no gritting either-there would be no point since it is too cold and snows too often. Instead people have the appropriate tyres and learn how to drive on compacted snow. As individuals we do not purchase a set of wheels with winter tyres because it is not cost-effective compared to the amount of use we'd get out of them in the UK. This is exactly the same type of cost-benefit analysis that councils have to perform when they decide how many gritters to buy and maintain etc.(4)

Modern winter tyres are not just designed for snow, however. The technology has improved:

Winter tyres are, in fact, designed not just for snow and ice but for any type of cold weather. Winter tyres have especially designed treads to move larger amounts of water than regular tyres, as well as coping with mud and snow, maintaining adhesion long after ordinary tyres lose grip. The softer rubber compound used in cold weather tyres provides excellent grip when the temperature falls below 0 degrees, moulding more easily to cold road surfaces and providing better braking in snow and ice. (5)

In fact, as Wikipedia mentions, winter tyres are actually softer rather than harder, so have less impact on road surfaces. It also mentions the possibility of studs, but notes that is never for heavier vehicles - like buses.

Mud and Snow, (or M+S, or M&S), is a classification for specific winter tires designed to provide improved performance under low temperature conditions, compared to all-season tires. The tread compound is usually softer than that used in tires for summer conditions, thus providing better grip on ice and snow, but wears more quickly at higher temperatures. Tires may have well above average numbers of sipes in the tread pattern to grip the ice.

Some winter tires may be designed to accept the installation of metal studs for additional traction on icy roads. The studs also roughen the ice, thus providing better friction between the ice and the soft rubber in winter tires. Use of studs is regulated in most countries, and even prohibited in some locales due to the increased road wear caused by studs. Typically, studs are never used on heavier vehicles.(6)

But I think, that despite the gripes about health and safety, that the bus driver has a point. One comment on another site in the UK puts this well from a UK bus driver:

The impression I am getting from a few posters here is that they consider that, once it becomes too dangerous for them to drive their own car due to snow and/or ice, it is perfectly acceptable to expect somebody else to drive them (and up to 80 other people) to where they want to be.

Now, I know that public transport should be available to all at all times and it is, if we're being honest, a trifle laughable that it grinds to a halt in inclement weather. I don't want to get into the whys and wherefores, or the Elf'n'Safety aspect but I would like to put across the bus driver's point of view.

It is a huge responsibility, and one that is rarely acknowledged in my opinion, to carry a bus load of passengers about safely and without incident. As a driver, you am responsible for the life of everybody on that bus and as one poster has already said, those passengers will be someone's mum, dad, son, daughter etc. Not only that, but you are also responsible for ensuring that you do not injure anybody not on the bus (if you see what I mean). When the roads are clear and the weather is fine, you can accept that responsibility and, by and large, that responsibility is totally within your control.

Add thick snow and sheet ice (as we have here) into the equation and the control that you exert over the situation diminishes rapidly. A full single decker (ie 49 seats) will weigh in total around eighteen tonnes and that is a lot of vehicle to keep on the straight and narrow. As another poster has said, once a bus starts to slide on ice all you can do hold on to the steering wheel and hope for the best. It is a terrifying experience and one that, once you have had you will not want to repeat ever again.(7)

In conclusion,

A) I think that Connex are certainly right to cancel bus services, except for those on the flat - to Gorey and to St Aubin, but they need to do more to educate the public on why they are doing this - the sheer physics of the situation. It should not be up to bus drivers to defend what is a very sensible policy. Some necessary PR from the bus company, or Transport and Technical Services is required.

B) It would also be worth knowing if they have contingencies such as snow chains or winter tyres for prolonged snow for at least a skeleton bus service.

C) Moreover, with school buses, to get children on buses, then off buses to wait again, and have over an hour between schools closing and buses leaving is simply not acceptable. The schools should have closed earlier before the snow settled, the buses departed promptly before the conditions got worse. I have spoken to people who have young children catching school buses who have been somewhat traumatised by the experience. There seems to have been in some cases certainly - rather like the Eurotunnel fiasco - no responsible adults taking charge and providing reassurance and information, which is what was needed in a crisis.

D) One really good point, for those with internet access, is the rolling display which shows disrupted services, or whether they are running on time at the which seems to be updated very promptly. I checked this morning, and knew at once that school buses and public services were running normally.

E) This could be improved further. A fixed "emergency" page, available via WAP on mobile phones, would be an even better improvement, as many phones can access mobile web pages (such as those excellent ones providing weather, tide times on Jersey Insight) and would enable the commuter on the move to instantly find out what is happening. After all, if Jersey Insight can provide such as WAP enabled service, it should be simple, and not too costly for Connex to do so.

Lastly, I cannot resist this anecdote posted by one commenter on the JEP website, which evokes a bit of wry humour from yesteryear.

I went to The Beeches, or De La Salle College, in the 60s and I can not recall anytime when we missed school through adverse weather. I can recall when we had snow and ice,in the mid 60s, some scallywag put water in the locks of one of the class rooms, so that when it froze, the teachers couldn't open the building for a while. Then of course there were the inevitable snow ball fights on the playground. Somehow I think the J.M.T. always managed to get us to school….not always popular in those days, as I am sure we would have preferred to have stayed at home.(1)


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Politics of Politeness

Politeness means the atmosphere and ritual of the city, the symbol of human civilisation...Politeness is not really even a thing merely suave and deprecating. Politeness is an armed guard, stern and splendid and vigilant, watching over all the ways of men; in other words, politeness is a policeman. (G.K. Chesterton)

Yet another member of PPC who was not aware, even by the simple courtesy of a cc. , that Deputy Juliette Gallichan had written on behalf of the Committee. Montfort, on Facebook, says:

Monty Tadier: Many of you will be aware that I am a member of PPC (Privileges and Procedures Committee), but this letter is news to me. Like Senator Le Marquand, I have never seen this letter either (I find it hard to believe that the Home Affairs Minister would not be aware of such a letter - but hey, in Jersey stranger things do happen). It is strange that the first sight of a letter addressed to PPC (and to me) should only come to my attention a few weeks later via the blogsite of Citizen's Journalist.

Now as I've said, it may well be well within the prerogative of the Chairman of PPC to write on behalf of the Committee without consulting them. I don't know the protocols under which the Committee operates. But I do consider it exceedingly impolite to do so, and to not inform other members of the Committee that she had done so.

Senator Syvret, as is well known, thinks that politeness is something which can and should be discarded in a greater cause, but it is obvious that even among other States members that standards of courtesy are slipping as well. Such standards, such as copying in other members of a Committee, are important, I believe, because without them there will be a fertile soil for all kinds of conspiracy theories, and this in turn will lead to mess and muddle. There have been complaints about States debates being taken up by trivia. By not showing mindfullness, and consideration for other Committee members, in my opinion, Deputy Gallichan has simply added to the trivia, because now the mess and muddle needs clarification.

Of course it might well be that other Committee members might have regarded such unilateral action as high-handed, and would have disagreed with her arguments, but if she thought that she might avoid having to seek consensus, it is plain that was misguided.

Lastly, politeness, consideration do have one more important place in the States. If you - as a member of the public - need to go to a States member for advice or help, would you go to one who has shown consideration for others, or one who did not? Someone who was mindful that they need to consider other people, or someone who simply goes off on their own bat? Would you go to a politician who was inattentive to others, or one who was attentive? If I had a New Year's wish, it would be to see a little less presumption, a little more humility in politicians today, who never seem able to admit they make mistakes, as if that was somehow a sign of weakness.

I'd like to finish with a quotation from Ghandi which sums up the positive aspects of politeness, and why it is so important, not just as some kind of act, a hypocrite wearing a mask, feigned politeness - but true politeness, which comes from within, becomes part of the character of the whole person.

Civility, good manners and humility-these virtues are at such discount these days that they seem to have no place at all in the building of our character... It may be safely asserted that a person deficient in good manners lacks discrimination and that, lacking discrimination, he lacks every thing else. Vishvamitra's tapascharya was considered incomplete till he had learnt civility.
Civility and humility are expressions of the spirit of nonviolence while incivility and insolence indicate the spirit of violence. A non-co-operator, therefore, ought never to be uncivil. However, the most persistent charge levelled against non-co-operators is that they lack manners and are insolent, and the charge has much substance in it. We are apt to believe that in becoming non-co- operators we have done something very great, as if a person who had done no more than pay his debt had thereby become entitled to get an address.

I trust no one will understand politeness to mean flattery. Nor does it mean hiding our regard for our dharma. To be polite means to show respect towards others while clinging to our own dharma

Where there is egotism, we shall find incivility and arrogance. Where it is absent, we shall find a sense of self-respect together with civility. The egotist thinks too much of his body. The man of self-respect recognizes the atman, is ever thinking about it and, in order to realize it, is always ready to sacrifice his body. He who holds his self-respect dear acts towards everyone in a spirit of friendship, for he values others' self-respect as much as he values his own. He sees himself in all and everyone else in himself, puts himself in line with others. The egotist keeps aloof from others and, believing himself superior to the rest of the world, he takes upon himself to judge everyone and in the result enables the world to have the measure of his smallness.

Hence, the non-violent non-co-operator should regard civility as a distinct virtue and try to cultivate it. The importance attached to it provides the measure of an individual's or a nation's culture. A non-co-operator should realize very clearly that incivility is another name for brutishness and eschew it completely. (Ghandi)


The dark side of paganism

Unlike neopaganism, ancient paganism was often steeped in rites of blood. When Pete Owen-Jones visited the Church of Thron, in Africa (Cononou, Benin), he was upset by the Voodoo practice of slitting and hurling to one side animal carcasses, including cats and dogs, in order to obtain communication with the spirits, and for no other reason.

But in Uganda, this kind of ritual propitiation involves the sacrifice of young children. The BBC report (Crossing Continents)states what is happening:

One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits. Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.

The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners. The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice. He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth. "They capture other people's children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits. They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming," he said.

Former witch-doctor turned anti-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela says he has persuaded 2,400 other witch-doctors to give up the trade since he himself repented in 1990. Mr Angela told us he had first been initiated as a witch-doctor at a ceremony in neighbouring Kenya, where a boy of about 13 was sacrificed. "The child was cut with a knife on the neck and the entire length from the neck down was ripped open, and then the open part was put on me," he said. (1)

Modern paganism as in Western countries is very different and should no more be culpable for this than modern Christians should be blamed for the madness of the crusades. The forms of modern paganism are largely eclectic and peaceful, and if they look to the past, it is to the best of the past, those parts of ancient paganism that were at peace and at harmony with nature.

But where Uganda does impact upon modern paganism is in its desire to capture a lost past, and not learn from the darker side of that past. Just as Christianity must learn from its persecution of pagans, and the crusades, burning and hanging of people for witchcraft, so modern paganism must distance itself and critique and not ignore those aspects of pagan religions of the past which committed atrocities in the name of religion.

The populist books of "ancient wisdom" and "secrets of the ancients" etc which fill shelves of book shops, and the modern kinds of pantheism and animism are in fact far distanced from the kind of animal and human sacrifice that took place in the past, but which can also claim a direct link in the atrocities committed in Uganda or the Voodoo sacrifices of domestic animals.

The Radio 4 programme "Crossing Continents" also made it very clear that what was happening in Uganda was not a delusion, like the Satanic Abuse fantasies which erupted in the last century in Britain and America. Unlike those, where no evidence
actually existed, the reporter noted that forensic examination of some of the body parts has indicated they come from human beings, and some of the child victims have actually survived being mutilated.

Joy Davidman, in her book, "Smoke on the Mountain", places sacrifices of this kind as the end result of a kind of idolatry, where the desire to placate the idol (or spirit) leads to an escalation in the bargaining process:

The essence of idolatry is its attempt to control and enslave the deity. If the idol has power over man, so has man power over the idol; he can bribe it, he can drive a bargain with it, by certain rituals and sacrifices he can compel it to grant his wishes. Or, so, at least, the idolater thinks. For an idol is not just an image, of one shape or another, meant to represent a deity. An idol is a material object, by the proper manipulation of which a man may get what he wants out of life.

Only, of course, he can't. The universe is not made that way; there is no such power in any material object. Sacrifice as much as you please, cajole and flatter as you please, beat your disobedient idol with a big stick if you please-the thing still won't give you what you want. In consequence, all idolatrous cultures tend to get nastier and nastier. If a small bribe doesn't succeed, they offer more. The idol will not respond to a dance of virgins with flowers? Very well, let's try a dance of warriors mutilating themselves with knives. You have cut off a lock of your hair and laid it before the idol, yet life is still dark? Try cutting your first-born's throat and offering him. Nor does the idol's continued silence teach you better sense, if you're a natural-born idolater. For if Mumbo-Jumbo is so bard to please, what a very great Mumbo-Jumbo he must be ! (2)

Ancient Carthage provides a chilling example of this.
Ancient writers such as Kleitarchos, Agathocles, Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, and the Christian theologian Tertullian (c 160 CE- 220 CE) all testify to the practice of child sacrifice in the realm of Carthage. In December 1921, the largest cemetery of sacrificed infants in the ancient Near East was discovered at Carthage, now a resort suburb of the city of Tunis.

Lawrence E. Stager and Joseph A. Greene comment that:

The evidence that Phoenicians ritually sacrificed their children comes from four sources. Classical authors and biblical prophets charge the Phoenicians with the practice. Stelae associated with burial urns found at Carthage bear decorations alluding to sacrifice and inscriptions expressing vows to Phoenician deities. Urns buried beneath these stelae contain remains of children (and sometimes of animals) who were cremated as described in the sources or implied by the inscriptions.

Moreover, the osteological evidence reveals that most of the victims were children two to three months old, though some were as old as age five. So far no skeleton has shown any signs of pathological conditions that might have caused death. These were healthy children deliberately killed as sacrifices in the manner described in the classical and biblical texts.(5)

From its earliest days in the 8th century B.C., Carthage sacrificed animals  (lambs and kids) to Ba'al and Tanit, dedicating the offerings as ''substitutes for children.'' Traditionally, Dr. Stager said, archeologists have tended to the view that as Carthage advanced over the following 600 years, the practice of human sacrifice subsided as the sacrifice of animal substitutes increased. This is in keeping with the supposition by historians that human sacrifice, at first transformed into animal sacrifice, eventually evolved into the bloodless wine-and-wafer Eucharist of Christianity.
But excavations led by Dr. Stager and others have shown, he said, that in Carthage, the trend was reversed. The oldest burial layers at the Precinct of Tanit hold urns containing burned skeletal remains in the ratio of three children for one animal, but in a later era, the 3d century B.C., the ratio increased to ten children for one animal.(6)

The story of Abraham in the Old Testament is instructive in displaying how Jewish attitudes changed. The story tells how Abraham was prepared to be so obedient to his God as to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and up to the moment of sacrifice was ready to kill Isaac, until God provided a lamb instead.

The Old Testament scholar Richard Friedman notes that the first part of the story, in which God demands the sacrifice of Isaac and Abraham complies, to take him to the place of sacrifice, refers to the God by the plural name, Elohim (usually rendered "God" in English translations). The verses that record the sparing of Isaac come from a wholly different source in which the name of the god is Yahweh ("LORD," in English versions).

Friedman suggests that in the E version, Isaac is not saved. The story ends with the words, "And ABRAHAM returned to his servants." There is no mention of Isaac. And in the E version, there is no further reference to Isaac. Friedman also notes that
there is a midrashic tradition that Isaac actually had been sacrificed.(3)

If this is the case, then the Y story is an emendation which takes a familiar story (and sacrifice of children was also rife elsewhere in the near Middle East) and subtly transforms it into a story in which sacrifice is not required after all.

According to the Jewish scholar Shalom Spiegel, "the primary purpose of the story may have been only this: to attach to a real pillar of the folk and a revered reputation the new norm-abolish human sacrifice, substitute animals instead."

It is from Christianity, drawing on the Old Testament roots, that the renunciation and denunciation of human sacrifice is making headway in Uganda. The reporter on Crossing Continents was talking to a Ugandan Minister in charge of stamping out this practice, and it was clear that the Minister himself was very much a believer in good and evil spirits, and placed the sacrifice of children in the context of the demands of evil spirits.

The reporter was quite incredulous at this kind of belief, coming from the secular background of Western culture in which this kind of thinking is regarded much more skeptically. There was more than a hint in his questions that this practice should be educated out as superstitious, and eradicated that way.  But perhaps it is only within a language which can speak of sacrifice and spirits that persuasion can be made, as much as it offends the skeptics among us.
In the meantime, the relationship of modern Neopaganism to blood sacrifice is ambiguous, and Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, after a passage in which he praises the practice of flagellation as releasing power, comments that:

Sorcerers chiefly used the blood sacrifice; and while we hold this to be evil, we cannot deny that this method is very efficient. Power flashes forth from newly shed blood, instead of exuding slowly as by our method. The victim's terror and anguish add keenness, and even quite a small animal can yield enormous power. The great difficulty is in the human mind controlling the power of the lower animal mind. But sorcerers claim they have methods for effecting this and that the difficulty disappears the higher her the animal used, and when the victim is human disappears entirely. The practice is an abomination but it is so. (7)

So there is a mixed-message here, that on the one hand, blood sacrifice is "an abomination" but on the other that it is "very efficient". Perhaps it is time for modern neopagans to draw upon the Greek myths which parallel those of the story of Abraham:

The Greeks had two versions of a similar fable; one, that Agamemnon had a daughter whom he dearly loved, and whom he was ordered by the deity to offer up as a sacrifice. When preparations were being made, the goddess carried the girl away, and substituted a stag. The other is of a Greek king, who had offended Diana, when the sacrifice of his daughter was demanded; but she suddenly disappeared just before the fatal blow.(8)

(2) Smoke on the Mountain, Joy Davidman
(3) "Who Wrote the Bible" Richard E. Friedman.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Sensible Clairvoyance Planning?

Andrew Lewis has now replied to the problems with chronology on BBC Radio Jersey

"My knowledge of this matter stems from my role as Home Affairs Minister. As such I am bound by the confidentiality requirements in the Chief Police Officers disciplinary code.  Once again I must re-iterate that we were at all times advised by the Law Officers and followed that advice to the letter. To the best of my knowledge the actual decisions were taken on the date recorded in the correspondence. The earlier dates of creation simply reflect the preliminary work by the legal and HR advisors which was contingency preparation in the event that the full disclosure of information by the Deputy Police Officer might result in a decision to invoke the disciplinary code. This was sensible contingency planning."

This still raises the questions:

Who asked the legal and HR advisors to start this "contingency preparation"? Someone must have been responsible, or do they just do this kind of thing unprompted (with no directives), which seems unusual?

Why was it deemed "sensible"? What grounds were there for believing that a suspension was likely, and who held that opinion at this stage?

Has any "contingency preparation" been made in any other cases where suspensions were made? If not, why was this done in this case?

If so, what criteria are given for deeming this "sensible" when it could, of course, turn out to be a waste of legal resources, time and costly?

How much preliminary work was done?

Once more, there is no transparency in the chain of events, and responsibility seems to be shifted to vague generalities. Looking at this from a historical perspective, there is a good deal missing from the sources, part of which is probably covered by the "Chief Police Officers disciplinary code" which certainly does not help the situation.

Guernsey has no legal requirement for the States to discuss these matters "in camera" if the same eventuality as the suspension of a Chief Police Officer ever occurred there, and I do wonder why Jersey needs this when Guernsey can manage quite adequately without it. As David J. Robilliard, the Principal Officer of the Guernsey States Assembly and Constitution Committee told me:

1.    There is no provision in the Rules of Procedure of the States of Deliberation for the holding of in camera meetings.

2.    I cannot recall such a meeting ever having been held.

3.    It would be within the power of the States to change the Rules to permit an in camera meeting should they deem it necessary.

Also in the news here is the email from Bob Hill which has appeared on the Voice for Children blog, which is worth repeating as Deputy Hill strongly argues against the notion that suspension can be reasonable considered a "neutral act" in this case.

Dear Terry,

Below are two Voice for Children websites which contain a letter from Mr Power to PPC dated 30th October and the reply from the Chairman dated 13th November 2009. I would add that the letters have been subject to attention from the other media.

I write to express my deep concern not just at the contents of Mr Power's letter but also by the dismissive action taken by PPC's Chairman who appears not to have discussed the letter with her Committee.

As you will see Mr Power has made allegations regarding the untoward actions surrounding the events leading to his suspension which he is able to substantiate. I think it is important to remind you that in a statement read by the former Home Affairs Minister at the States Sitting on 2nd December 2008 in relation to Mr Power's suspension, the Minister said, and I quote " In addition, of course, the Chief Officer cannot comment and has not yet had the full opportunity that the process allows to answer to these matters and to defend himself. Any debate would thus be unfair to him as the full facts are not yet known. I am sure, however, that Members will readily understand that a suspension in these circumstances is a neutral act and implies no finding one way or the other, but is rather an entirely prudent course to preserve the integrity of the investigation,"

A neutral act should by definition be neutral with neither side impeding the integrity of the investigation which should be conducted in an even handed and transparent manner. Also before any suspension is implemented those responsible for the implementation should be above reproach. Clearly from the contents of Mr Power's letter the integrity and motives of those involved with the suspension are highly questionable. It would appear that there is substance to Mr Power's observation that the actions of a number of people raises the possibility of a " Government within a Government" in which unidentified and unaccountable individuals exercise power outside the parameters of the law.

You are aware that the Chief Executive has admitted to destroying the original notes of the suspension meeting on 12th November 2008. Also although the Royal Court, when considering Mr Power's application for Judicial Review was unable to formally pass judgement on the initial suspension, it did say "we feel constrained to voice our serious concern as to the fairness of the procedure apparently adopted by the previous Minister." In page 4 of his letter Mr Power makes reference to significant differences between two media scripts which have come to light by the Wiltshire Constabulary. There appears to have been an alteration to a script drafted on 5th November 2008 and the one actually used at the briefings a week later. It may be pure co-incidence but the person involved with both scripts had much to gain from Mr Power's removal from Office.

I believe you should already be in receipt of the exchange of letters between Mr Power and PPC and considering the action to be taken.. However to give you the benefit of the doubt I ask that you read the letters below and ask yourself if you can allow for such damning evidence to be put aside. I remind you that the suspension has been claimed to be a neutral act. For many months Mr Power was denied details of the dates of documents which he eventually obtained via a successful application to the Complaints Board. It should be recalled that you personally defended the request for the details at the Hearing. Where was the neutrality? Mr Power had not been charged with any offence.

Home Affairs engaged the services of the Solicitor General to oppose Mr Power's application for a Judicial Review of his suspension. Where is the neutrality? Mr Power had not been charged with any offence.
You and the Council of Ministers successfully opposed the Connétable of St Helier's proposition (P182/2008) to request the Minister for Home Affairs to commission a compliance check on the procedures followed by his predecessor in suspending Mr Power, Where was the neutrality? Had you supported the proposition, not only might an honourable and decorated man and his family have been spared the stress and uncertainty, but also the States might have saved in excess of a million pounds on Royal Court and Complaints Board Hearings, costs to cover Mr Power's suspension and the ever rising cost of the Wiltshire Constabulary investigation. Also at stake is the Island and Government's integrity and reputation.

Mr Power's suspension issue has been running since 2008 against a background of extensive publicity little of which has reflected well on the island or its government. If one of the original aims was to protect the reputation of the island then this has clearly not been achieved. It is now a matter of public knowledge that Mr Power is to retire sometime this year, if the object of the exercise was to remove him from office then this exercise now appears to be pointless. He is to leave the service this year anyway and against that background, any disciplinary action, which has not yet been decided upon let alone started, would appear to be pointless. This whole matter has now been "drifting along" since 2008. It appears that Ministers are oblivious to the human cost to Mr Power and his family and the financial cost to the taxpayer.

The issues raised by Mr Power are too important to ignore and it would appear that they are pointing towards a conspiracy at the highest levels of Government, therefore immediate action needs to be taken to find a way forward. I must urge that you to show leadership and to "get a grip" before the matter runs further out of control and further damage is done and needless public expense is incurred. I would be grateful if you would inform me of your proposed actions by 5pm next Friday.

First blog contains Mr Power's letter to PPC.

Second blog contains PPC's Chairman's reply  

Deputy Bob Hill, BEM.,
Deputy of St Martin.
Tel: 861019

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Family Britain: A Review

Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) by David Kynaston

This book covers society over the decade just before the major changes of the sixties. It threads together the history, together with personal anecdotes of those who lived through that period.

There were highlight for people to go to, such as the Festival of Britain, which was a post-war boost to the economy, and the Ideal Homes Exhibition, where modern washing machines were promoted to the housewife. It is easily forgotten how laborious washing clothes was before the washing machine, and I can still remember the old mangle, relegated to the garage, which had been used for squeezing out all the water from clothes washed by hand. New kitchen fitted furniture, with formica worktops, easy to clean, was also making an appearance. Now, all new homes come with "fitted kitchens", and it is only in historical buildings that the older style of kitchen is seen.

The death of George VI marked the end of one era, and the Coronation, a new one. What Churchill dramatically called "The New Elizabethan Age", was in fact the age of Television, as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth saw more people than ever scrambling to see remotely what they could not get to see live. One anecdote in the book concerned a village in Sussex where the local pub rented a TV set, and even the local squire came to see it. The sets, like those I remember from the 1960s (when we had one), were designed to look like part of the furniture, sometimes with doors to open. They also took a considerable time for the valves to warm up, and the grainy 425 line black and white picture might need further adjustment for contrast, or horizontal and vertical roll, which often occured once the set had warmed. Broadcasts always ended with pictures of the Queen, while the National Anthem played. The respect for the trappings of royalty were still very much in place. But the television also was effecting another change, in the "living room" in which it was placed. Furniture and chairs were re-aligned to look at the new box, changing how people used this space, a change which has continued to this day.

Public and government attitudes to morality were very strongly reflected in the furore over the love affair between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend. Not only was he a commoner, he was also, and most significantly, a divorced man. Very few members of the public thought that a marriage was possible, and the government followed the lead of the public in making it almost impossible for Margaret to marry without making a sacrifice not only of her Royal status, but also of any income from the Civil List. The vast change in attitudes between then and now can be seen in the fact that members of the Royal famility, including Prince Charles, have been able to marry divorcees without a massive public outcry.

Another change worth commenting on is the rise of the teenager. Over this period, the finances of the teenager changed. Teenagers just left school had gone out to work, and given all of their earnings to their parents, and would, from this, be allocated an allowance. Now the working teenager would pay a fixed amount of board, and have the rest of their earnings to spend as they chose. This was a significant change, because the new earners could then buy the latest records, and the popular record industry really took off.

This is a fascinating book, and it will be interesting to compare with the new television series which is starting on Monday. For listening to ordinary people, in their own words, this is a wonderful read. It allows one to see a "family Britain" which is very different from today, but with the seeds of today's society being planted.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow Queen

Snow Queen

Behold Freya, Goddess of the North
With breath to freeze the beating heart
Her hands of ice now stretching forth
And bringing snow to every part

No Earth Goddess, warm, gentle she
But ancient Pagan terror to behold
Makes the land colder daily by degree
Nature embodied, both cruel and cold

In homes, old people shiver by the fire
Fearful for food, and the threat of death
This is the coldest joy of Freya's desire
As Arctic wind brings frozen breath

Now the Snow Queen asks her price
This is nature blue in snow and ice

I should perhaps (after criticism) make it clear that this is not an "anti-Pagan" poem! I am criticising one strand of Paganism here, and the poem was prompted by both reading one very ill thought out comment that all the snow in Jersey and in the UK was the "goddess purifiying the land with snow" or words very like that, and at the same time seeing news stories about pensioners facing heating bills, but saying that if they didn't have the heat, they would die of hypothermia. How anyone could suggest that the snow was good made me think they simply weren't considering the news enough. It did make me cross, which is why I penned the poem, drawing upon both Hans Christian Anderson - the Snow Queen is also Freya in his story - and deliberately providing a comment on the Darwinian savagery of nature - "blue in snow and ice" is a riff on "red in tooth and claw"!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Making the News

Some notable stories from around the world.

In Uganda, the darker legacy of ancient paganism is exposed in BBC reports which show that child sacrifice by witch-doctors still goes on, and has been increasing. The sacrifice is made as part of a ritual to enable communication with the spirits:

One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits. The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

In Burma, the regime is as repressive as ever, and two officials were caught leaking material to exiled media outlets. Burma's Electronic Act prohibits sending information, photos or video damaging to the regime abroad via the Internet.

Two Burmese officials have been sentenced to death for leaking details of secret government visits to North Korea and Russia, the BBC has learned

In the UK, Professor Nutt, the Government advisor sacked for providing politically incorrect advice about the dangers of different drugs, has decided to set up his own body, which will be independent from political interference and aim for scientific neutrality in objective assessment of the effects of drugs:

The professor said the new body he was setting up would provide independent scientific evidence about the effects of drugs, and that its "goal" was to supplant what the ACMD was doing. "I think in a way we will take over that particular role of the ACMD," said Prof Nutt. "We're going to focus on the science and the ACMD can continue if it likes to deal with issues about treatment provision, about social policy etc."

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Powerful Arguments

Voice for Children has posted a letter from Mr Graham Power:

Assuming the letter to the Privileges and Procedures committee from Graham Power is authentic, and as yet there is no reason to doubt its genuineness, it raises some odd instances in the timetable of events leading to his suspension. In particular,

Letter from the Minister for Home Affairs notifying Graham Power that the disciplinary process had been commenced - dated to 0844hrs on Saturday 8 November 2008

Written notification that Graham Power was suspended from duty - this letter was created at 0848hrs on Saturday 8 November 2008.

According to the official Chronology (as detailed by Mr Power):

On 10 November 2008 the Deputy Chief Officer, Mr David Warcup, wrote to the Chief Executive, Mr Bill Ogley, expressing concerns regarding aspects of the management of the Historic Abuse Enquiry

This was received on 11 November 2008 by Mr Ogley who, the same day, wrote to the then Minister for Home Affairs, Deputy Andrew Lewis, enclosing a copy of Mr Warcup's letter

In his statement to Wiltshire Police Mr Lewis states "Up until I received the letter from David Warcup, I had no reason to believe that they were not managing the investigation well."

Former Deputy Andrew Lewis in his statement to the Wiltshire Police investigation claims that he instructed that the letter be drawn up on Wednesday 12 November 2008 and he is supported in this claim by Mr Ogley.

All of the three letters referred to are dated 12 November 2008 and refer to information received on 11 November 2008.

The creation date of a Word document is embedded in the document, and is not easily altered. It is not the same as the time the document was last modified or saved (see So it is entirely feasible that the date stamp on the documents were created when Mr Power claims they were. The date typed on the letters themselves counts for nothing in this respect.

What is needed is an independent third party (such as an expert in computer forensics) to corroborate this, because if it is true, then clearly something is wrong with the official chronology. It may well be that Mr Lewis is correct in his statement about being ignorant of affairs until the 11 November, but if so, that suggests that someone else had prepared a draft document ready for dating and signing.

The reasons for doing this could be manifold, ranging from a desire to attack the integrity of the Haut de La Garenne enquiry, to simple presumption on Mr Warcup's part that a suspension would take place, given his assessment of the situation; in which case, he could have drafted a form of words in readiness as a measure which might or might not prove necessary.

There have also been apparent changes in the press release. Again, according to Mr Power.

Changes made between 5 and 11 November 2008. For example, the draft script says "It has never been suggested by the States of Jersey Police that Child Murder took place at Haut de Ia Garenne." The script actually used in the briefings on 11 and 12 November 2008 says "Statements which were issued by the States of Jersey Police suggested that serious criminal offences had been perpetrated against children and also that there was a possibility that children had been murdered, bodies had been disposed of and buried within the home." Other differences between the scripts are of a similar nature.

Because this redaction took place around the same time, again this needs an explanation. Again, different explanations are possible. It might be that the press release was given to review by several people, and it was thought that the first draft was not as clear as it might be. However, coupled with the suspension of Mr Power, the timing and changes seem impossibly coincidental.

What is clearly the case is that Mr Power was taking a short period of leave, and when called in for the review, and thence suspension, had no idea what awaited him. It seems to me that at least two quite different historical explanations might fit the facts, and while Stuart Syvret favours the latter, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility at this stage that the former might be true.

Explanation 1:

This begins with the draft script, which was never intended as a final version. Soon after 5 November, perhaps in consultation with others, whoever was responsible for revising writing the final version (which might have been a team effort), decides that significant changes are needed to make it clear that whatever may have been implied, no murder has taken place. This, after all, was very much the tone of the press releases such as those reported by the BBC in May 2008:

Bone fragments found in the cellar of a former Jersey children's home had been cut, suggesting a homicide or an unexplained death, police say...

( )

Once the revision has taken place, either the redactor(s) or David Warcup reads it, and realises that it is likely to lead to a question being raised about the leadership of Mr Power. At this stage (8 November), a draft letter is prepared as a contingency against a possible suspension. On 10 November, Mr Warcup contacts Mr Ogley, and in turn Andrew Lewis is notified. After the meeting with Mr Power, the prepared letter can be used, and Andrew Lewis is none the wiser about its provenance, even if the speed at which it is drawn up might arouse curiosity. (Here's one I prepared earlier!)

In this scenario, there is no conspiracy as such, but there has been a degree of presumption and pre-planning, which is disquieting as it has not been publically corroborated by Mr Ogley or Mr Warcup, who surely would have been aware of the draft letter.

Explanation 2:

This begins with Wendy Kinnard's departure, and then Mr Power's short leave. Soon after this, a decision is made by person or persons unknown to spin against the Haut de La Garenne investigation - perhaps for political reasons - and the opportunity presents itself when Mr Power is away and unaware of any whispers which might reach him of emendations to the press release.

Wendy Kinnard has been replaced by a newcomer with relatively little working experience of Graham Power or Lenny Harper, Deputy Andrew Lewis, who can be counted on to be open to persuasion. Significant changes are made with the purpose of discrediting the work of Lenny Harper, and it is considered that Graham Power would not be complicit in this approach, so the press release is also used as a means of suspending him. As long as he is suspended, and not dismissed, he is effectively silenced. In this scenario, the letters are prepared beforehand, because the entire process of suspension has been planned before. Whether Andrew Lewis is part of this process is immaterial, because he is willing to listen to advice from Bill Ogley and David Warcup, and has not been in a position of having to defend the conduct of the investigation (as Wendy Kinnard did earlier).

In this scenario, there is a conspiracy to discredit the leading officers involved in the Haut de La Garenne investigation, as as well as a degree of presumption and pre-planning.

I know that this kind of explanation is probably the favoured option, but I have given two explanations to show how different historical constructions can be built on the basis of the limited evidence which we do possess. It will not do to simply say - it must have happened this way and in no other - if alternatives are possible.

Even if we accept "Explanation 1", there is still a good many questions unanswered. Why was the original draft changed in the way that it was? Who drafted the letters regarding the suspension before the meeting with Mr Power to discuss his suspension, and what reason did they have for doing so? Given that these letters existed, was there a draft letter for the possibility that he might accept resignation instead?

I find it strange that neither the BBC nor the Jersey Evening Post has as yet commented on Mr Power's arguments, and can only conclude that they are waiting for the reply from the scrutiny panel, or for further data to be forthcoming. Certainly the discrepancies in the chronology, and the later editing of the press release on Haut de La Garenne raise serious questions which should not be lightly dismissed.

To some extent, apart from some blogs, the media seem to be treating this very much as yesterday's news, which is, after all, what the professional media the world over tend to do. But for Graham Power, who is still suspended, there can be no case for unfair dismissal (as would happen if he had been sacked), and instead he is reduced, to the most part, to an impotent silence by the terms of the suspension, with no means of publically clearing his name.

Cases for unfair dismissal are a matter of public record, but proceedings of suspension are not, and in this instance, the law requires any discussion within the States to take place in camera (which is without precedent in any other democratic assembly). If his term of office comes to an end before his suspension, will there exist any means by which he can publically seek justice for himself?

Amos Group

Ed Le Quesne has issued this message:

Subject: Amos meeting cancelled

Dear All,

In view of the weather forecast of heavy snow tomorrow afternoon and a light agenda as nothing much went on over Christmas / New year, I agreed with Barbara that we will cancel the meeting set for tomorrow.  Our next meeting is due on Wed.Feb 10th.

Keep warm.


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle

Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time by Stephen Jay Gould: A Review

This is a fascinating book, dealing with the way in which metaphor and myth about time entered into the interpretation of the age of the earth, and the geological transformations over time.

The key to modern geology was a move from the dominance of the idea of time as a cycle, coming round again and again, to that of an arrow, irreversible, one way.
Yet the early pioneers, such as Hutton, used the cyclical theory of the world machine, mountains raised, folded, eroded etc, to get a grasp on the idea of deep time, that time was needed for geological cycles.

Lyell took deep time as the dominant feature, within which some kind of geological cycles might occur, but only in form, not as exact repetition.

Deep time, one of the central ideas in this book, is still so alien to our way of thinking that we shy away from it. The idea of deep time is simple, but difficult to grasp. It is the knowledge that human kind's existence forms only a minute fraction of the history of this planet. Millions of years passed with no life, and the emergence of life, without mankind existing. Yet we still see the past from a very anthropocentric perspective, the dinosaurs (who lived millions of years more than mankind) pass in a flash, and we see ourselves and our culture at the end (and almost summit) of history, as if history led up to the emergence of intelligence and that is important.

Mark Twain, quoted in the book, gives a salutary and sarcastic critique of this:

"Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno."

This is a challenge to personal cosmologies, to come to terms with the short duration of humans, and yet find a meaning in the world.