Monday, 28 February 2011

The Heavy Cost of Road Maintenance

Jersey's roads are not designed to withstand heavy traffic and ice, according to the man looking after the island's infrastructure. Kevin Armstrong, who is responsible for highways at transport and technical services, said ideally all the roads should be resurfaced regularly.. He said Transport and Technical Services responded quickly to potholes in the island but he added that they did not have the resources or enough contractors to respond immediately, so they had to assess the situation on a case-by-case basis. He said: "If it is where there is heavy vehicle use or on a blind bend then we respond quickly but on country roads we would take more time."

Mr Armstrong said he wanted to introduce a 24-hour, 48-hour and a seven-day response system but did not have enough contractors available in Jersey to make it happen. He said: "Ideally the roads would never get to a stage where you have potholes appearing, with the exception of bad weather. "But that would require regular resurfacing of all roads and we don't have the budget or more importantly the contractors to do that."(1)

I wonder what road material is used for surfacing the roads locally. There is an interesting comment from an American journal "Washington Monthly", which compares American roads - and their deterioration - to French roads, and the better materials used in  their composition. Note - the American term "pavement" refers to roads, not pavements, which are "sidewalks" in America:

No one but the French would adorn the industrial strength Autoroute from Nancy to Nice with miles and miles of flowers. Yet a driver can afford to sit back and enjoy the foliage, because he never has to worry about hitting a pothole. Despite a higher percentage of trucks (with heavier payloads than permitted in the U.S.), despite millions of travelers annually, there are virtually no crevices in the Autoroute -or, in fact, in most of France's major roads.

The reason is that France, like the rest of Europe, has over the past few decades made a concerted effort to build roads with an eye to the long haul-to spend early to avoid spending more later. They mix their asphalt with additives-rubber, carbon, polyethylene-to a far greater extent than Americans do. And they make wide use of new technologies like Novophalt, a polymer-modified asphalt binder that gives cement more flexibility and thus increases the pavement's service life. Novophalt, which Europeans began using enthusiastically in 1976, costs between 4 and 8 percent more than traditional asphalt, but it lengthens the pavement's life between 50-100 percent. (2)

The binder Novophalt also is mentioned in a 2008 study in the "Emirates Journal for Engineering Research", (Vol. 13, No.1, 2008), which gives a detailed scientific assessment of traditional asphalt roads which is well worth reading. The authors provide a wealth of detailed, factual, data on the performances of the two road surfaces, and conclude that:

the rate of deterioration of normal asphalt pavement is greatly higher than the corresponding of Novophalt pavement. (3)

On a cost basis, Novophalt is more expensive but it increases the lifespan of the road surface considerably:

This means that the Novophalt pavement initial cost is higher than the normal asphalt pavement by 19%. But, the Novophalt increased the pavement service life by approximately 53% (3)

They conclude that:

From the economic point of view, the Novophalt pavement initial cost is higher than that of the normal asphalt pavement by about 19%. On the other hand, the overall service life cost of Novophalt asphalt less than that of the normal asphalt pavement by 17%. This means that from the economic point of view, using Novophalt pavement is more economical than using asphalt ones. (3)

I wonder what materials are used for Jersey road surfaces, and if they use modern materials such as Novophalt. I haven't been able to find it on any searches of the main government websites. Perhaps a matter for scrutiny?

The other main impact on roads, more than cars, is heavy vehicles. A small pothole can rapidly become a gaping chasm, as it is chipped away with large goods vehicles passing over it. The impact of large vehicles can be considerable. Here is an American comment:

Overweight trucks not only take longer to brake and are more prone to roll over in crashes, but they also damage roads and bridges at rapidly increasing rates even when slightly overloaded..... One legal 80,000 pound GVW tractor-trailer truck does as much damage to road pavement as 9,600 cars. (4)

The Danish study on "Road wear from Heavy Vehicles" from 2008 looks at how larger vehicles impact on road surfaces, and - using both mathematical formula and experimental analysis - notes that using dual tyres can make a significant difference in how the load impacts on the road surface:

Cebon concludes that various experimental and theoretical studies have indicated that single and wide based single tyres can cause up to 10 times more fatigue damage on thin flexible pavements, compared to dual tyres carrying the same static load. (5)

However, the type of tyre itself makes little difference, but the thickness and flexibility of the road surface is more important, as does the tyre pressure:

Moreover, tyre contact conditions are less important for rutting of thicker flexible pavements for which wide single tyres are only 1.5 - 2 times more damaging than dual tyres, and that the tyre type has little influence on fatigue damage of rigid pavements.

Cebon reports that several studies has indicated that fatigue damage due to tensile strain at the bottom a thin asphalt pavements is likely to increase rapidly with average contact pressure, while the inflation pressure has little effect on subgrade rutting. Based on asphalt pavement strain measurements, it has been reported that a 40% increase in tyre pressure would increase fatigue damage by 26%. (5)

We cannot remove heavy vehicles easily from Jersey roads, but it may be useful to ensure that they have the kind of dual tyres and appropriate tyre pressures to cause the minimum of damage to road surfaces.

(2) Why American Roads All Go to Pot. Betsy Dance, Washington Monthly, 1991

Saturday, 26 February 2011

De Futilitate

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of conservationists, species do become extinct. At some point the human race will follow suit. Rather like personal death, most people would rather not consider it. But while it is sad on a personal level, to see a species becoming extinct, we have to perhaps also learn to accept that part of this, at any rate, is part of the fabric of evolution. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote:

"Extinction is no shame. It is, in one sense, the enabling force of the biosphere. Since most species are extraordinarily resistant to major evolutionary change and since many habitats are fairly full of species, how could evolution proceed if extinction did not open space for novelty? Would I be writing, or you reading, if dinosaurs had survived and mammals remained, as they had for 100 million years, a minor group of small creatures living in ecological nooks and crannies that dinosaurs didn't penetrate?"

So extinction can also be an engine of change, opening up habitats to other species, and providing them with a different niche in which their may flourish.

We can try not to deliberately destroy species by hunting them to extinction, but we cannot hold the earth in forever in stasis.

The most successful life on the planet will probably still be around for thousands of years after human beings - bacteria.

The Wellsian vision sees humanity terraforming and jumping from one planet to another for survival, but in the end, all suns also die.

And with that in mine, I wrote this poem - a cosmic Ecclesiastes....

De Futilitate

All comes to pass, futility
Although mankind tries to flee
In sacrifices and in blood
But stasis fails, and time still flowed
All will die, there is no cure
Entropic elegance so pure

All striving, and all work of hands
Across the globe in many lands
All knowledge, all that we know
All born away by time's great flow
That wears away the hardest stone
And none to save, but time alone

Nothing in my hand I bring,
No security that I can cling
The void is all, the empty space
That leaves behind no single trace
A funeral pyre with ashes high
All is emptiness, all will die

Extinction ending every breath
Draws all life to end in death
On this and other worlds unknown,
Darkened heat death upon a throne
Rock fragments, an end to be
Let me sing of futility

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Education Matters

Jersey's state run secondary schools perform worse than almost all UK schools, according to figures released by the education department. The island-wide pass rate including the fee-paying and selective schools compares well with the UK. But take away their results and the GCSE pass-rates at the four State secondary schools fall dramatically. (1)

These are, of course, the figures that Deputy James Reed, the Minister for Education, didn't want to get out into the public domain. But Mario Lundy has a point when he notes that:

43% of our secondary pupils are in fee paying education and a further 15% transfer to Hautlieu.

Now - providing that is correct (and the statistics to back it up agree), then the national average of children at fee paying education is only 7%, which means that the spread of children over a broad range of abilities in the UK is much greater.

For Victoria College, for example, 35% of senior intake comes from state schools, and this is selected by an entrance examination.

Clearly, within the UK, many of the brighter pupils remain in the States sector. So there is good reason to believe that the situation in Jersey is quite different. The real question is:

Is it possible to take pupils with lesser ability and educate all of them to the same GCSE standard as the private schools? Or is there a plateau, beyond which most pupils are unable to go much further?

This brings up echoes of the debates about the fixed nature of IQ, which formed the basis of Sir Cyril Burt's work, and lead to the Eleven Plus examination. After all, if IQ is fixed, then the best strategy for an education system is to sort out the dull sheep from the intelligent goats, and educate them according to their ability. But Cyril Burt's data was discovered to have been largely fabricated, although such is the excellence of the peer review programme, that research which had taken place decades before - some going back to the 1920s - was not investigated thoroughly until the late 1970s!

A body of work notable for its warning signals was that of Cyril Burt, the psychologist who won the 1971 Thorndike Prize of the American Psychological Association. Burt's work on inheritability of intelligence, based upon studies of separated twins over a fifty year period (1913--66), reported correlations that were not just similar but identical, despite the increasing number of subjects in the sample. It was only after his death that parties examining the whole of his work brought the fraud to light.(4)

The problem, of course, with peer review is that when "assured results" confirm the expectations that most scientists reading an article want to hear, then the review process fails.

How did the fraud evade earlier detection? On a piece-by-piece basis, Burt presented plausible explanations, and when asked to share his data, he constructed it from published correlations. But inescapable also is that his conclusions about IQ and inheritance enjoyed a hospitable political audience, eager to embrace the findings about inheritability. (4)

There are clearly differences in a child's ability - but the factors which play into this are not just hereditary. The social background of the child may play just as important a role in providing the kind of role models and discipline in study for the child. It is not surprising that the schools which feature most poorly in the States sector in Jersey are those whose catchment area is around town, and where there are most children who are from a poorer background, or whose parent's native language may not be English.

A study in Scotland last year found that even within schools themselves in Scotland, that children from poorer backgrounds consistently performed worse at school:

Save the Children compared overall exam results with attainment by pupils registered for free school meals. The research suggested children from wealthier backgrounds performed about 60% better in exams than poorer pupils. The research indicated that the gap impacted in every council area and at every stage of school, varying from a 19% gap in Eilean Siar, the Western isles, to 102% in the Stirling area. Free school meals are provided in Scotland if parents are receiving help including income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and child tax credits. (2)

The other impact on children in education is undoubtedly class size. Private schools consistently have smaller classes, while in States schools, this is often masked by looking at the teacher / pupil ratio. A standard definition is as follows:

Pupil-teacher ratios shall be calculated by school. The pupil-teacher ratio for each school shall be calculated by dividing the number of enrolled pupils by the number of full-time equivalent teachers assigned to the school.

That is an average, and like most averages, can be distorted. A very small special needs or remedial class in a States school can help to lower the average, and even make it look fairly good compared with the private sector. But that's the wrong figure being considered. The median is the best measure, and median class sizes, in terms of number of pupils, ensure that the class size is not disproportionally reduced by a few outliers.

Results showed that as class sizes became smaller there were more times when pupils were the focus of a teacher's attention, and more times when they were engaged in active interaction with teachers. This effect was found for all groups at both primary and secondary levels. It was also found that pupils' classroom engagement decreased in larger classes and this problem was particularly marked for the pupils who are already attaining at lower levels. This, in turn, was accompanied by teachers seeking to control low attainers more than other groups in larger classes. It is suggested that small classes can be a valuable educational initiative right through school, but could be particularly targeted at lower attaining pupils at secondary level. (3)

What is needed at the present is more information on two fronts. Firstly, a study of how much poverty and language difficulties overlap with the States secondary schools, and what the same distribution looks like in the private sector, and secondly, some information on median class sizes in both States and private sectors. Part of the problem may be structural, simply because of the nature of Jersey society, and the distribution of poverty, but part may also be because of insufficient resources in terms of teacher numbers.

The full paper is available at:
(4) Scientific Misconduct and Editorial and Peer Review Processes, Mary Frank Fox, Journal of Higher Education, 1994

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Brains on Toast

Something extremely quirky for today from "Cookery and Household Management" by Elizabeth Craig (1936). It is a recipe for "brains on toast", which sounds as if it was a dish for cannibals!

The danger of eating human brains first surfaced with the disease called "Kuru". This appeared in Papua New Guinea in the early 1900s. By the 1950s anthropologists and government officials reported that this disease - called termed "kuru" was rampant among the South Fore tribe. "Kuru" was a Fore word meaning 'to shake', and the unfortunate sufferer developed a shaking, shambling gait before they died. The reason for this was that the tribes practiced a kind of ritual cannibalism - after a relative was dead, there would be a "mortuary feasts", and the dead relative was consumed, brains and all. The involvement of the brain as one of the organs eaten lead to one of the first known prion diseases. The word "prion" was conflation of words for an infectious agent composed of protein, and the route of transmission was the brain. The Fore tribe were eating themselves to death.

But prions also surfaced in "Mad Cow Disease", when cows were fed protein products involving parts of the brains of sheep. Scrapie - the prion disease in sheep - then resurfaced in cows, and from then was transmitted into the human food chain. One of the earliest examples of the human form - CJD - was in 1984, when after an illness of 3 months, the victim died.

Her first symptoms were that she became somewhat forgetful and then began to stumble and have trouble walking. Initially diagnosed by her GP as having had a nervous breakdown, she was later referred to hospital as her condition worsened. (1)

The lady in question had lived on a farm, where her favourite meal was calves brains on toast!!

I would not recommend eating brains of any animal; the risk of infection by prions is simply too great.

But despite this, there are online sites selling brains, and sometimes quite odd ones:

Available with us is a buffalo Brain, which is low in cholesterol and high in iron, protein and all the amino acids. Known for tenderness and taste, our frozen meat products are free from any kind of preservatives. Available at competitive price, buffalo Brain is nutritious and also helps in preventing heart diseases. These are stored in clean environment so that their freshness and taste can be maintained.(2)

Fried-brain Sandwiches from Missouri, US: This strange food comes from St. Louis of Missouri, US, where calves' brain is fried and served in thin slices with white bread. While the advent of the Mad-Cow disease has led to some decrease in the consumption of this gastronomic extravaganza, the sandwich is still sold in restaurants in the Ohio River Valley. (3)

For those who don't favour the taste of Potted Meat, there are other canned options. Pork Brains in Milk Gravy is irresistible just for its cholesterol content (1200% of the U.S. RDA!). (4)

And here is the recipe from 1936:

Brains on Toast
2 sets of Brains.
White Stock.
4 croutons of Fried Broad.
1 Egg.
8 rolled slices of Bacon.
Frying Fat.

UTENSILS-Basins, knife, saucepan, frying pan, skewers, grater, egg-beater, baking tin, fork. Enough for 4 persons.

Always be careful that the brains are quite fresh. Let them lie for an hour in a basin of cold water, to which a teaspoonful of vinegar has been added. Remove the skins, and put the brains into a saucepan, with sufficient well-flavoured cold white stock to cover. Bring to the boil, simmer gently for 10 minutes, then lift the brains out, and let them get cold.

Cut four croutons of bread, the same size round as the brains, and fry them a pale gold colour. When the brains are cold, dip them into whole beaten-up egg, and then into fine white breadcrumbs. Fry them a nice brown. Roll and thread the bacon on skewers, and while the brains are frying, put it in a tin, into a hot oven, and cook for two or three minutes. Drain the brains, and stand each one on a crouton of bread, on a dish. Put the rolled bacon in the centre, and garnish with a few sprigs of either fried or fresh parsley and slices of lemon.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Thoughts on a Refuge and Homelessness

"Before his conversion, the lepers had always inspired him with disgust. Even the sight of one in the distance filled him with horror and dread. He would never give them alms directly, but always through an intermediary. A hospital especially devoted to their care stood on the plain in the vicinity of Assisi, and whenever he went in this direction on business or for pleasure, to escape the nauseating odor.he hurried past with averted and closed nostrils" (Some Loves of the Seraphic Saint, by Fr. Augustine)

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
Gk Chesterton, The House of Christmas

"Imagine the parable of the Good Samaritan: 'Along came an economist, but he, having read Hayek, knew that to help the man in the ditch was only a short-term solution that would encourage a culture of dependency, so he passed by on the other side."(Bishop N.T Wright)

The media have been reporting on a proposed refuge in St Aubin for homeless men:

Plans to build a men's refuge in St Aubin have come up against fierce opposition at a public meeting on Thursday night. Colin Taylor from the Christian charity Caring Hands wants to turn the former Sabots D'or guesthouse into a shelter for men who have suffered some trauma in their lives and need a place to stay. But locals are concerned it will become a halfway house for prisoners, drug-users and alcoholics - and since it is near two pubs - they do not think it is the right place. To allay those fears Colin Taylor, who came up with the idea for Sanctuary House, took questions from the public at a meeting at St Brelade Parish Hall on Thursday night. Mr Taylor was supported by the Rector of St Brelade, Reverend Mark Bond and St Brelade Deputies Sean Power and Montfort Tadier. They explained the shelter was not for people with drug and alcohol issues and that potential tenants would be screened by various agencies, but they did not say what criteria would be used. (1)

It is notable that according to one news story, the St Aubin's residents' association said such a refuge was better placed in St Helier. One of the key features of a refuge or shelter's placement is that all over the world, there is usually a move to site them away from "better areas", and in what are, in fact, the worst possible areas. Writing on "New York's New Ghettos", in 1991, Camilo Jose Vergara noted that:

"Those looking for a place to put a shelter search for bad communities where nobody is going to ask questions:' explains Pancho Rodriguez, a building superintendent in the South Bronx. In 1983, when New York owned nearly 50,000 apartments in the most destitute and violent areas of the city, the city government decided to reserve units that became vacant for homeless families then living in shelters or hotels. Three years later it located the majority of its shelters in these communities as well.(2)

Jersey is a much smaller community than New York, but the same kind of thinking can be seen here. The argument that St Helier is a "better place" for a refuge means essentially that if it is placed among the worst areas of St Helier, where there are derelict flats and the poorer bedsit dwellers, no one is going to raise much objection. But are those really the best surroundings for helping people back on their feet again? In fact, of course, the most conducive place for anyone traumatized would be not an urban surroundings, but the seaside.

It was not surprising that the Victorians turned to the fresh sea air for recuperative powers, after the dark, somber, cities with row after row of sooty red brick houses; in fact, Karl Marx was one of the most notable visitors to Jersey for precisely the beneficial effects on health. Even today, Jersey Link of Chernobyl Child Life Line sees the benefits of this - ""We are thrilled to introduce the children to what, for most of them, is their first taste of the sea. We hope it will stimulate and leave them in better health along". Rebuilding a life after trauma is not just a matter of providing a refuge; the surroundings can be just as important towards helping recovery.

But there is a deeper agenda at work here - the fear of those people who do not fit within the orderly structures of society. This kind of thinking can be seen with Romany people whose nomadic lifestyle is seen as an affront to the settled dweller, so much that they are the subject of misinformed stereotypes, simply because they don't fit into the neat boxes. Very much the same kind of thinking applies to those who, for no fault of their own, are homeless, cast upon their own resources:

To be homeless is to have suffered a fundamental rupture in the ties that bind. It signifies the breach of that intimate contract that regulates relations between private lives and the public worlds of work, consumption, political participation, and general social intercourse. The alleged offense of the homeless poor (aside from the exhibit forced upon eyes that would prefer not to see) is their "failure" to belong. The "dissolution of bonds without the formation of new ones," and the host of uncertainties about an individual's trustworthiness this gives rise to, explains (in the sociological account) the disreputable status accorded homeless persons (3)

The homeless have become the modern lepers in society, the outcasts whom no one wants to be close to, and no one wants to touch. There is a fear of contagion, that they will somehow infect and degrade the society around them, and that St Aubin would be better off without these disgusting creatures, who should be housed, because of course that is the charitable thing to do, so long as it can be at arms length, because like St Francis before his conversion, people would prefer to give through an intermediary.

Cultures have various ways of stigmatizing waste products in powerfully negative ways. These practices extend not only to inanimate objects and animals, but to people as well. In illustration of "a general principle of social hierarchies that the weak are believed to endanger the strong," the idiom of waste may be used by those with power "to suggest that ill health and misfortune are caused by people they wish to keep at a distance." Waste pollutes; it defiles and corrupts. Press coverage in the 1960s and '70s lapsed frequently into the jargon of "derelicts," "degenerates," "defilement," or "scum." Simultaneously worthless and (it isn't always clear how or why) dangerous, the homeless poor were a menace to be eliminated or contained.(3)

We can also see how the media reporting can bias how the story is seen. The story in 103 FM, for instance, notes the opposition, but says that:

Organisers of the men's refuge planned for St Aubin are positive they can go ahead having changed some minds. More than 150 people turned up to last night's meeting of the village residents association to have their say (4)

103 also reports on the rumours associated with the story

A refuge for men is opening on St Aubin's High Street. Sanctuary House will be Jersey's first shelter for men who have been through a crisis and have nowhere else to go. Formally the Sable D'or Guest House, the refuge will accommodate up to ten men. Founder Colin Taylor says it will offer counselling and advice to men going through break-ups, breakdowns and other problems in their life. But he is already facing opposition, with rumours circulating that it is a home for drug-users and alcoholics. Mr Taylor says they are not qualified to be able to support people with those problems. (5)

The Channel Television coverage, however, is much more skeptical about who will have access to the refuge. It mentions how "locals are concerned it will become a halfway house for prisoners, drug-users and alcoholics - and since it is near two pubs - they do not think it is the right place." And while it noted that the shelter was not for drug users or alcoholics, they gave the impression that there was still a question mark about this, and almost invite people to object:

They explained the shelter was not for people with drug and alcohol issues and that potential tenants would be screened by various agencies, but they did not say what criteria would be used (6)

The plan already has approval from the Planning and Housing Departments. The only way residents can object is through their St Brelade politicians. Deputy Angela Jeune wants people with complaints to come to see her. (6)

The media are keen to report on the meeting to discuss the "controversial" plans, but they seem reluctant to engage with the issues directly, and look towards exactly how shelters work, and what kind of homeless men would get the support they needed there.

The problem is not that the media are "biased", but that their very standards of "objectivity" reinforce dominant definitions of social reality; not that the media impose an alien ideology or manipulate audiences, but that they are able to win the consent and participation of audiences. (7)

One example would be domestic violence, and I find it curious that no mention of that was made in any of the news reportage, even if it is well known that the Woman's refuge provides a safe haven for women who need to escape an abusive relationship. While it is true that the majority of cases of domestic violence involve men abusing women, it is not uncommon for a man to suffer physical or emotional abuse by his partner. When such men have nowhere else to go, a men's shelter may provide precisely the short-term support which they need to get back on their feet and leave the abusive relationship.

That is not to say that journalists cannot engage with the issue of homeless men seeking a shelter, but that is more likely to be the subject of a "special report", rather than part of the general news reporting on a shelter, where it is likely to be overlooked in favour of a dominant narrative of conflict, where the "concerned residents" or "angry residence" are given a voice, but the homeless who would benefit from such a shelter have to rely on others to speak out for them.

Homelessness is reported on from the perspective of journalists whose understanding of authoritative sources directs them away from the voices of diverse groups of homeless persons. Journalists are more likely to encounter homeless persons from a distance, both directly and through the eyes of `ordinary' people. Moreover, the lens they use to tie observation to explanation is shaped from afar, by those who are unlikely to ever have experienced situations where it was difficult to meet one's basic needs of food and shelter.(7)

Colin Taylor, speaking to the meeting about the men's refuge, said "What we can do - in an Christian environment - is feed them, look after them, offer counsel, and help them get into work. They're not criminals.". But it is surprisingly often people who consider themselves to be Christians, who support charitable giving, who would prefer any refuge out of sight, like the leper colony of old. And yet there is a very real element in Christianity which challenges this complacency, and calls for more direct participation. This is not in the name of some abstract idea of justice, but with what might be termed incarnational empathy - seeing Christ in the other, the outsider, the stranger - and the homeless:

In Matthew's Gospel, chapter 25, Jesus tells us "For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I needed clothes and you clothed me. Then the people will answer Him, Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink, or needed clothes and clothe you? Then Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did it for me.' Cannot Jesus also say, 'For I was homeless and you gave me shelter?'(St. Matthew Habitat for Humanity Ministry)

(2) "New York's New Ghettos.", Camilo Jose Vergara, The Nation, 1991
(3) "Reckoning with Homelessness", Kim Hopper, 2003
(7) Images of Homelessness in Ottawa: Implications for Local Politics. Fran Klodawsky, Susan Farrell, Tim D'Aubry, The Canadian Geographer, 2002

Monday, 21 February 2011

Five Arguments Against an Enquiry

A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. If it's true, as I've tried to argue, that our debates about justice are often inescapably arguments about the good life, then a politics of moral engagement is also a more promising basis for a just society.(Michael Sandel)

Having looked at the case for an inquiry, I now propose to look at five of the main arguments against it:

1. Waste of Government Money

Existing enquiries have already cost in excess of twelve million pounds and any extra expenditure will simply end up in the pockets of lawyers without achieving anything.

This is a very basic pragmatic argument, that if an enquiry will not achieve anything, it is not worth going ahead with it. In its favour, it has to be said that existing enquiries - Williamson, Wiltshire, Napier - have been variously restricted in scope, and have not succeeded wholly in producing a full picture that satisfies the critics. Or alternatively, it could also be said that existing enquiries have produced as complete a picture as we are likely to get, and nothing will satisfy the critics!

Of course, this does require a certain degree of clairvoyance - if one knows in advance the outcome, then there would be little point in an enquiry. It could be argued that previous investigations have failed because their remit was too narrow, too biased, and not inclusive enough.

It also completely sidesteps the question of whether the States should keep their promises or not. Is pragmatism going to triumph here? I would argue particularly those who were present where the promise was made, have a duty to keep their pledge, and keep faith with the electorate, otherwise promises are seen as nothing more than short term expediency to defuse a crisis, which can be forgotten or casually laid aside as they so choose. If they give up on this promise, how can they be trusted in future? Are election pledges to be so casually laid aside?

2. Insider Knowledge

This argument is that the politicians in question have available to them more evidence than is in the public domain. If politicians are to keep faith with the public, then it is up to them to make more information available. Otherwise, we are dependent on putting our faith in people who might tell us they have conclusive evidence of weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes, and history shows that faith can be misplaced. The Wikileaks scandal has shown how two-faced and duplicitous politicians can be. Climategate has demonstrated how even science can be subverted by a desire for secrecy, in which information was withheld from the public domain.

Moreover, the record of disclosure is very poor with regard to Jersey. Guernsey manages appointments and other matters with a minimal amount of "in camera" debates. Despite promises, due to lack of time, the Wiltshire report has not appeared in a less redacted form.

Trust in politicians is at an all time low, both in Jersey and elsewhere in the world. A claim of "insider knowledge", far from assuaging public concern, is an example of the old fashioned paternalistic style of politics that now only engenders cynicism and electoral apathy. Trust must be earned, and claims - which may or may not be spurious - about "insider knowledge" cannot be relied upon. They may be valid, but they have to be set aside in the context of this debate, as there is no way of judging their validity.

3. Closure

There is an argument that Haut de La Garenne (and the attendant publicity in the media, some of it quite fantastical) is a phase in the island's history which the majority of people are sick and tired of and wish to see closed off. This is pure pragmatism again.

It is like saying the German Occupation is a phase in the Islands history which the majority of people are sick and tired of. And there have been periods in Jersey history, especially in the immediate aftermath of war, when this was the case. There have been people who either didn't want to talk about it, or who harboured, as a result, prejudices against the Germans - one Constable, for example, refused to have anything to do with remembering the German War dead at St Brelade's, where for many years a smaller wreath of poppies has also been laid on Remembrance Sunday. But how much richer is the Island for the engagement with the Germans who were stationed here, or the township of Bad Wurzach! Closure comes facing the past, not burying it, from truth and reconciliation, not washing political hands like Pontius Pilate, and pretending it is all a nasty affair that will eventually be over and forgotten.

I think that majority of people are quite probably sick of the Haut de La Garenne history rolling on, and wonder if it will ever stop. But part of the problem is surely the States own inability to address the matter properly.

The case of the Iraq war in the United Kingdom shows what happens when enquiries are set up with very narrow remits, such as the Hutton enquiry, or the Butler enquiry. They fail to achieve closure because their remit is not truth, but political expediency. How often must Tony Blair have thought to himself - surely this will silence the critics? But each time, part of the purpose of the enquiry was evidently not the truth, but simply to silence the critics.

4. Concentrate on the Future

This argument says that an enquiry would look at past mistakes, but what the States should be concentrating on is ensuring that current child care is correctly monitored, with a proper chain of command and responsibility, and checks and balances. What happened has happened, and we cannot alter that.

While we cannot alter the past, it does not follow that we should not come to terms with it, and it provides a baseline of failure against which the present can be measured. I think that there is a greater chance of overlooking any weaknesses that might still be addressed, if we do not find out what was happening in the past and ensure that we can test that against the changes which have been made. There may still be gaps in our knowledge, despite the sterling work of Williamson.

Moreover, when Frank Walker made the pledge as Chief Minister, he was also aware of the work done by the Williamson report in addressing current issues in child care. Why didn't he adopt the same argument against a later enquiry?

5. Wrong Expectations

This is probably the strongest argument - that any enquiry would not achieve what was required of it because of the nature of such enquiries. It is argued most forcefully by Senator Ian Le Marquand in a private email, which he has given permission to quote:

"In relation to the merits or demerits of a public enquiry, I would say that the purpose of a public enquiry in an area like this is not to exonerate or to condemn individuals. There appear to be a number of people out there who have expectations of the outcome of such an enquiry which are unlikely to be fulfilled. That is a danger of such public enquiries. People may be looking for precise answers in individual cases and they end up with general statements as to areas of failure of systems and procedures."

I would accept that this is an extremely forceful argument. But the case of Scotland shows that this is need not be only purpose of enquiries. Without being able to exonerate or condemn individuals, Scotland nevertheless saw that there was a gap in how the past should be addressed, and following the same kind of decisions made in South Africa after apartheid, followed up the recommendations of Tom Shaw to set up a pilot forum which will enable the voices of those unheard to be heard. A pilot forum initiated by the Scottish Government will hear from 100 former residents of homes run by the charity Quarriers.

The independent forum, called Time to be Heard, was announced last year as part of the response to a report by Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education and training in Northern Ireland, on historic abuse. It was initially described as an independent "acknowledgement and accountability" body which would allow victims of abuse to achieve closure through a "truth-and-reconciliation" approach. Only allegations made against individuals still working with children or vulnerable adults will be passed to the police for investigation.(1)

Any enquiry or forum should also address these kind of matters, or it will indeed, as Senator Le Marquand says, simply produce general statements. While not necessarily providing legal outcomes, it nonetheless can provide personal outcomes, and a real chance of closure.


In March 2008, Frank Walker, the Chief Minister, said that the criminal investigation would be the immediate priority but that "the only way to ensure that there is total transparency in relation to this issue" was for a full public inquiry to be held "in due course" into unresolved issues involving all care homes in Jersey from 1945 to 2000.

Apart from the argument by Senator Ian Le Marquand, which addresses the nature of an enquiry, the other arguments are derived largely from political expediency and do not address the ethical issue of whether politicians should be bound by promises made by their predecessors (or in some cases, themselves). The issue of that is diverted by a series of pragmatic arguments, which avoid the substantive issue. But promising places a special obligation and should not be discarded lightly; certainly it should not be avoided. By instead producing arguments which divert attention from whether to keep promises, politicians erode the trust which they seek from the public, a fact which they would do well to remember as they compile promises for an election manifesto:

"Promising is an instrumentally valuable institution, and each of us should do her part to support that institution: one thing that each of us can do is to keep her own promises. Promises also create expectations in their recipients, and the harm of unrealized expectations or hopes needs to be taken into account when we consider whether the breaking of a promise has better consequences than the keeping of a promise"(2)

But even if a more expedient approach is adopted, consider this: Should politicians, particularly those who were present where a promise was made, have a duty to keep their pledge, and keep faith with the electorate? [Even if they were not amongst the Council of Ministers, no one in the States spoke against the pledge.] If they do not keep faith, how do they ensure the electorate can trust them in the future?

If a politician were to face a contested election this year, for example, and made promises in their manifesto, on what basis would they feel justified in breaking those in the future, and justifying this to those who voted for them without losing their trust? Ian le Marquand, for example, made pledges about exceptions on GST, which he has resolutely kept, despite being on the Council of Ministers. Some other politicians seem to have changed their minds within a month of attaining a seat in the States. Consequently manifestos lose value, especially where politicians do not seem capable of keeping promises.


Posted By TonyTheProf to Tony's Musings on 2/21/2011 04:00:00 PM

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Gathering

The Solar flares, and the possible Aurora over Britain prompted this. How must our ancestors thought of the heavens?

The Gathering
Blessed is the grove apart
On old straight track, our road
Where a druid intones prayers
And Dryads find abode
The starry sky, the heavens
In conjunctions now they bring
Portents to the world of men
Their Pattern, spheres now sing
Now face the Northern pole
According to the chart
And ask for signs and wonders shown
That  bring joy to the heart
Opening ritual do we seek
Here will our blessing be
That making and now set apart
A temple, we decree.

Friday, 18 February 2011

RIP: Ron Hickman

Black and Decker inventor Ron Hickman dies: Tributes have been paid to Jersey resident and inventor Ron Hickman who died on Thursday morning. He was best known for inventing the Black and Decker Workmate. Mr Hickman also worked as a car designer for the Rob Walker Lotus team and designed the Lotus Elan. His friend, Derek Warwick, said he would be dearly missed. "He was a kind, generous man," he added. (1)

I have no doubt there will be copious coverage, but here are a few anecdotes that are off the beaten track!

I went round his house just off Route Orange when it was still being built. I had a friend (Dick Poirrier) who lived next door, and his family were having a barbeque, and I was invited. Out of curiosity, and rather mischievously, as it was a light summer evening, we all trooped off for an uninvited exploration of the building. It was still being built, so there were no carpets, light fittings etc - just the bare shell of a building.

It was clearly more than a standard building, and showed the input of this remarkable man who had been involved in designing it himself. The sloping roof, which came at a gradual angle, almost came to the ground, so that it appeared to be more roof than building. I remember thinking that the proliferation of split-levels, where there would be about three or four stairs between different sections, would be something of a nightmare for the poor cleaner trying to Hoover. At that time, the swimming pool was not filled, and the sloping glass roof, with remote control blinds, had not been added.

Later, Ron was to open his house to raise money for charities, and it was possible to see the full extent of his design, and see the remote control which he used, both for the pool blinds, and for other aspects of his house. Unfortunately, it was a bespoke affair, possibly built to his own specifications, and he once had problems when it malfunctioned, and he didn't have a spare.

I also remember how he helped with the election campaign of Deputy Graham Huelin in St Brelade, and was most enthusiastic. Unfortunately, while all the other campaigners were dividing the district up into houses to visit and drop off election campaign literature, he took his list, and simply posted the leaflets at his own expense, thus giving the idea that Graham Huelin's campaign had plenty of money to spend - not the impression that was wanted. Fortunately Graham Huelin was re-elected despite this, but Ron Hickman was not asked to help with future campaigns!

He also was seen on national TV in "Floyd on Food", in the episode when TV chef Keith Floyd visited the Jersey, and the final sequence was a fish barbeque just outside his house, in the early evening, where he demonstrated what an engaging and pleasant raconteur he was.

Apart from the Black and Decker, Ron continued to invent. The "Ring Dri Chamois" wringer is still on sale - another invention of Ron Hickman. Maurice Willis and Ron Hickman OBE commenced development on the Ring Dri in 1994, and it was released after 8 years in 2002:

The Ring Dri Chamois wringer is the first of its kind! A hand wringer that attaches to any flat surface, the Ring Dri is a truly accessible way to dry your microfiber towels and chamois right on your vehicle! We were totally blown away by this device. It's like nothing ever seen, in any industry. The Ring Dri is extremely easy to use and small enough to transport in a bucket. It removes more water from towels and chamois in 60 seconds, than hours of hand wringing. Simple and fun to use, this handy tool saves time, energy, and number of towels you need to do a job. No matter where you are, simply lock the Ring Dri on to a smooth, non-porous surface with a simple turn of the suction cam lever and it's sticks in place until you release the lever. No matter how much pressure you exert, it cannot be moved. (2) (3)

But perhaps the most unusual patent, mentioned briefly on BBC Radio this morning, was for a child's toilet pot, which was filed in 1970. I managed to dig out the details:

This invention relates to of a toilet pot construction. At the present time most children's' toilet pots are manufactured from light plastics material but a major problem which occurs with all of them is that a young child finds difficulty in readily seating itself in the correct position, particularly where the construction includes a rising splash-guard. Equally the child finds difficulty when attempting to rise from the normal haunched or semi-squatting position without danger of the toilet pot being upset due to sticking or suction. Furthermore trailing clothes tend to get caught on parts of the toilet pot and also give rise to the danger of upsetting. (4)

Ron Hickman's invention remedied these deficiencies, although looking at the picture, it has a large area in front (to prevent tipping) with a place marked out for each of the child's feet, which makes it rather bulky for storage. I have to say that I've never seen anything like this on sale at any time! I don't think it was a huge success.

In 2004, the Jersey Archive, with Beth Lloyd, did a number of interviews with Islanders, and Ron Hickman was one of those chosen:

Personal View of Ron Hickman, inventor of the workmate, interviewed by Beth Lloyd. Born in South Africa and he was inventing from an early age. Remembers his first invention was a car that had a bridge over them so cars could travel on the same road. His family thought he was a bit made until he had his first burglar alarm that worked well at the age of 16.

Was an outdoor person and he enjoyed music-playing the piano and violin. At 12 he became the local church organist. If he didn't become an inventor wanted to become an engineer. When he was 18 he qualified as an associate of the Trinity College of Music in London. Never got as far with the violin.

When he left school he decided to go into the magistrate's office-moved around in different towns for 6 years-enjoyed the experience. Decided to come to England in order to pursue his desires to be come a car designer. When he first arrived in London he got a job in a music store and studied the organ part time. Talked his way into a job with Ford as a model maker-was rejected several times but eventually gave him a chance. Nine months later was promoted on to the drawing boards as a designer and he stayed with Ford for 3 years. Met Colin Chapman who had created the Lotus Car Company and was hired to help. Soon found himself as chief designer and stayed for 9 years. Got on well with Colin Chapman-respected you if you knew what you were doing. Owns a Lotus now. Bought a 1931 V16 Cadillac the previous year-drives around the Jersey roads in it.

Decided to leave Lotus Cars because of the responsibilities-decided to make a break from car design and tried to invent things. The first two inventions-one was a failure and the other was the workmate. His wife Helen backed him in his decision to leave his job. An inventor's working day is varied-have to have an idea, try it out-it gets a life of itself. Thought up the workmate because he was assembling a wardrobe and cut through a chair. There is a need to patent the invention or it becomes public property. The workmate was rejected by 7 British manufacturers and 3 American manufacturers. Black and Decker turned him down but came back to him 4 years later after he had put it into production himself. Had to put his money into it in order to put it into production. It took 6 years to start making money for him.

Decided to come to Jersey after he made licensing arrangements with Black and Decker-a nice environment to continue inventing in. Found it easy settling in Jersey-tried to run a Jersey company Techron but it lost money and now he runs it on his own. Is working on two major new inventions but are kept secret. He designed his own house in St Brelade-bought an old house with a good site and then designed his house with his wife and the architect. Have many inventions in the house-all for practical use. Created a fault reporting panel and an error took place without being reported-he discovered it was the fault reporting panel that had gone wrong. His most useful invention is a panel that tells him what doors and windows have been left open (5)


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Laws Apart

The Jersey and Guernsey Law Review 2010 is now out, and is always worth a look. In the "Miscellany Section" , on a consideration of a recent case for forgery, the author notes, with some dismay that:

There is, as yet, no textbook on the criminal law of Jersey. The best substitute for such a work that we have is probably the 36th edition of Archbold, published in 1966. The solution to the problem, in default of the writing of a textbook, was probably identified as long ago as 1847 when the Commissioners recommended that "[a] definite system of penal law ought undoubtedly to be laid down"; in other words, codification of the criminal law should take place. In the meantime prosecutors need to take care that reference to current English textbooks on the criminal law does not lead them astray.

"Archbold" here refers to "Archbold: Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice" which is a comprehensive coverage of the practice and procedure of the United Kingdom Crown Court including jurisdiction, bail, evidence, costs and appeals. It was first published 1822, when it was written by John Frederick Archbold. Successive editions have been produced to the present day, and now it is published annually.

The trouble comes when English law has changed, and the case law flowing from that legislation depends upon a foundation which is not, in fact, present in Jersey law, either because similar legislation has not yet been passed, or because Jersey is still relying on older laws and customary law. This is why the 1966 edition of Archbold is prized, because there was enough overlap between Jersey and the United Kingdom for it to form a useful groundwork for Court cases. But there has been a raft of newer legislation in the United Kingdom which has not been mirrored in Jersey:

The problem for practitioners today is that reliance upon English textbooks and authorities is no longer so easy. Quite apart from offences against property, there are other important areas of the criminal law where statute has now changed English law so that it differs materially from the old common law and from the law of Jersey. The law relating to sexual offences is perhaps the prime example.

The result is that Jersey has to rely on its own customary law to pick on the same effect as legislation in the United Kingdom, and while this works, it is not codified:

The customary law offence of fraud (which is not reflected in the common law of England) catches much of the conduct which would now be criminal in England under the new Theft Act offences.

An example is given of the case of Paul Self in 2009, the indictment was framed using a modern version of Archbold, and some of the charges were dismissed because the categories in the UK law did not exist in Jersey law, and the wording was not amended to allow for those charges to be made under Jersey customary law. While this was the fault of the draftsman of the indictment, it highlights the problem of not having a codified law, which will mean that slip ups will invariably occur; it is not the most efficient way to conduct legal matters.

It also means that members of the public who may think that a criminal offense has taken place against them, or the police investigating a crime, viewing the matter on the basis of cases in the United Kingdom, may find that in some circumstances, Jersey customary law is not strong enough to deliver the same justice, or can only do so in other ways that are obscure to all but the legal expert.

The article then turns across the water to Guernsey, there was also a call for codification back in 1848, when Commissioners were appointed to enquire into the State of the Criminal Law in the Channel Islands. They concluded that the reliance on interpretation of custom law, rather than case law for criminal cases was often up to the discretion of the Court, and varied widely, sometimes using UK law, and sometime custom law, on a "jurisprudential "pick'n'mix" approach":

It is sufficient to state that we found scarcely a single instance in which the law could be traced to a higher source than the discretion of the Court, or in which that discretion was itself secured from continual variation in practice. It is clear that the continuance of such a system is inconsistent with the administration of justice on any fixed principle, and that it tends to subject the Court to the imputation of partiality or caprice.

We recommend the adoption of a course, with regard to the criminal law of Guernsey, similar to that suggested in our First Report with regard to the criminal law of Jersey: that is to say, that a code be drawn up, embodying in as few words as possible the definitions of crime, and, so far as may be thought expedient, assigning punishments, in language which has already become familiar in the English law books

This led to considerable changes in Guernsey law, so that:

Whilst the Commissioners' recommendations were mostly directed towards the administration of justice rather than the substantive criminal law, from mid-Victorian times the character of Guernsey's criminal jurisprudence became, and resolutely remains, English, and nowadays recourse to French sources for purposes of identifying and characterising criminal offences and their ingredients would be regarded as aberrant.

But the codification still had not really been done by 1953, when a letter was sent to the States Advisory Council by the Procureur, William Arnold (later to be Bailiff of Guernsey from 1960 to 1973) wrote:

"For some time past I have had under consideration the necessity for bringing our Criminal Law more into line with that of England and for codifying step by step those parts of it which are most frequently administered by the Royal Court and the Magistrate."

Hence Guernsey became more engaged with a legislative programme in order to codify the law, one example being the English Larceny Acts (particularly of 1916) which eventually found a near complete legislative reproduction in the Bailiwick in the Larceny (Guernsey) Law, 1958.

The procedure in Guernsey's with regard to criminal law has been to refer to and reproduce English statutes. In contrast, Jersey has relied more on customary law. The Theft Act of 1978, and the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 - UK legislation - have not been mirrored in Jersey Law:

In England dishonesty is now a key ingredient of the new offences. Specific offences now cover conduct such as obtaining a money transfer or a pecuniary advantage by deception...None of these new English offences forms part of the law of Jersey.

In contrast, Guernsey has continued its legislative codification. The recent Forgery and Counterfeiting (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2006 was based on the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. The Theft (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1983 took a substantial part from the UK Theft Act of 1978.

The Law Officers in Guernsey adopt the view that arguments (as occurred for example in Jersey in the case of Paul Self) over whether an offence exists as part of Guernsey law distract prosecutors from their proper functions. They also note that:

Furthermore, it cannot be denied, in our human rights conscious environment, that any uncertainty as to what conduct might or might not constitute a criminal offence leaves the administration of justice pregnant with vulnerability and inconvenience.

No codifications have taken place, either in Jersey or Guernsey, but because Guernsey has largely introduced legislation which mirrors UK law, this means that authorities such as current editions of Archbold can be utilised to extremely good effect as an alternative to local codification, and a wider scope of judgments is available to draw upon, and this also speeds up the Court's time and expense in the framing of indictments.

Jersey, on the other hand, has diverged significantly in a number of areas from the UK, and as a consequence has no codification, an increased risk of mistakes with indictments where there is a divergence from UK law, and a much narrower and obscurer base of judgments to draw upon.

It should be said, in fairness, that the Jersey & Guernsey Law Review does help to mitigate against this problem since its inception in 1997 with its discussions of criminal cases, but there is still a long way to go before such a substantial work as Archbold exists locally.


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Truth, Reconciliation and Child Abuse

"What is important is we give a voice to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to present their views." Scottish Government spokeswoman.

"The physical, emotional and sexual abuse that has taken place in Scotland's residential care homes - perpetrated by the very people who should have been providing support -must never be forgotten. We are demonstrating our commitment through action, and that's why we are providing a new support service for adults who experienced childhood abuse in care." Adam Ingram, Minister for Children

With the debate coming up on whether to hold an enquiry, as promised, into Haut de La Garenne, I have been looking further afield. I believe that what the people who want an enquiry really want - the victims of abuse - above all else, is the chance to be heard, rather than a more generalised historical examination of the systems in place, and why there seems to have been no adequate supervisory controls of care homes.

I've noticed that in Scotland, what the home abuse victims have sought is a "truth and reconciliation" body, which can not only take witness statements, but also take statements of anyone who has been falsely accused, looking not for legal recourse, but for restorative justice. It is easy to confuse legality with justice, but the domain of ethics is, of necessity, broader than that of legality.

In 2009, the first plan was mooted in Scotland for a "truth and reconciliation" body:

SURVIVORS of abuse in children's homes have backed plans for a "truth and reconciliation" body. It would publicly acknowledge the crimes committed against hundreds of young people in residential homes in Scotland. A Scottish Government consultation on the move, which was announced last year, has revealed strong support for the creation of a "historical record" of abuse as an "act of remembrance". Creating a reconciliation forum could also allow perpetrators of abuse to accept responsibility for what they did, and lead to victims receiving education, counselling and higher levels of compensation. But it is unclear how much the bodies which ran scandal-hit children's homes are willing to take part. The consultation has so far led to a range of alternative names for the forum, including "No more secrets", "Chance to be heard" and "Truth and reconciliation"... A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was keen to hear from survivors of childhood sexual abuse about how the forum could support them. She added: "The wide-ranging consultation has included gathering responses nationally and internationally from survivors of abuse, survivor organisations, charities, children's homes organisations, faith groups and other organisations. "What is important is we give a voice to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to present their views."(1)

What happened to this idea? Looking forward one year to March 2010, a pilot forum was set up. Under the headline - which I think says just as much for the Jersey situation - it says "Truth and reconciliation' body to give 'historic' victims chance to find closure":

Later this year, a pilot forum initiated by the Scottish Government will hear from 100 former residents of homes run by the charity Quarriers. The independent forum, called Time to be Heard, was announced last year as part of the response to a report by Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education and training in Northern Ireland, on historic abuse. It was initially described as an independent "acknowledgement and accountability" body which would allow victims of abuse to achieve closure through a "truth-and-reconciliation" approach. Only allegations made against individuals still working with children or vulnerable adults will be passed to the police for investigation. But the Scottish Human Rights Commission said those shown to have perpetrated historic child abuse should also be referred.(2)

Tom Shaw's own review ("Historic Abuse Systemic Review") was very much an examination of the past:

- to identify the laws, in the period 1950 - 1995, to provide, regulate, and ensure inspection of residential schools and children's homes
- to identify the adequacy of monitoring and inspection systems
- to review the practical operation and effectiveness of monitoring and inspection (3)

and he found himself hamstrung by constraints - "This review was not about individual cases, and he was not permitted to report on the facts or circumstances of any individual cases of abuse, nor to receive submissions from individuals. Mr Shaw considered and found this last a serious, unrealistic constraint. He sought and gained permission from Ministers to make contact with and receive information from individuals." It is notable that there is an argument that any enquiry on Haut de La Garenne should focus on systemic matters rather than individual cases, which would constrain it in just the same way Mr Shaw both criticised and overcame.

The Review pointed to an urgent need to act to preserve historical records, ensuring that former residents could access records and information about their location. Mr Shaw's recommendations included noting that records, often scattered, should be properly collated: "The Government should commission a review of public records legislation to ensure it is appropriate to meet the records and information needs of Scotland, not least, the needs of former residents and researchers".. In his conclusion, he addressed the importance to the historical record of the victims being heard, even if those who abused them may no longer be living:

Time and time again in the course of the Review I came upon people, stories and records highlighting the need for us all to recognise and to keep reminding ourselves that children are the most valuable yet the most vulnerable group in society. Our responsibility to respect them, to care for them, to protect them, to acknowledge and respond to their needs and rights can never be taken lightly, or patronisingly. Wherever child abuse occurs it is intolerable, a self indulgence in its ugliest form. Whenever it occurs where children are placed for safety, it is even more despicable. Those who experienced abuse in the past need to be heard, to know society supports them in speaking out, and that their experiences are recognised and addressed. (3)

As a consequence of this, the Time to be Heard Forum was set up, as a pilot scheme in 2010, and is still running in 2011:

Scottish Ministers agreed that a pilot forum Time to be Heard would go ahead in 2010. Time to be Heard is part of the Survivor Scotland strategy to help adult survivors who were sexually abused as children. The Pilot Forum is funded by the Scottish Government. Up to £375,000 is available for 2010 and the same amount for 2011. It is hoped that the forum will help survivors in the following ways:

- Provide an opportunity for survivors to talk openly about their experiences and be listened to without question.
- Safeguard the rights of survivors and the rights of people and institutions against whom allegations are made. Time to be Heard will not be an alternative to criminal prosecution or civil action.
- Creation of a confidential 'historic record' from the information presented. This record will not name individuals but will validate what survivors experienced and acknowledge Scotland's recognition of their experiences. The record should help us learn from past failures and improve practice in the future.
- Provide access and signposts to other forms of support for survivors. We're aware Time to be Heard may re-awaken distressing memories for survivors. Therefore any survivor involved in Time to be Heard will be offered access to counselling and given details of relevant support services, both during and after Time to be Heard. (4)

I see no reason why Jersey needs to "reinvent the wheel", and while any such body might well need adjustments to local needs, there must by now be a considerable body of expertise, which I am sure could be shared with our Island on the challenges and successes of this forum.

Tom Shaw, whose report seems to have triggered the move to a forum, notes that:

"There are many challenges to finding out about our past and the process is even more daunting when those experiences were bad. The reaction to our search can be defensive and cynical. the need to know can be viewed with insensitivity, rather than respect. The past can be dismissed as something which is over and done with, rather than as significant to our present.learning from our mistakes is a sign of maturity, an indication that we want to do better, to do so for all who were, or are, children in the care of the state."

I think those words are well worth bearing in mind. We can too easily dismiss the past as something over and done with, and unless those who have suffered abuse can find a voice, and have their pain respected, we have yet to learn from our mistakes. In the meantime, I would recommend a visit to their website, and see their National Strategy.


The Shadow of Manichaeism in Jersey Politics

Modern science has subtilized its projections to an almost unrecognizable degree, but our ordinary life still swarms with them. You can find them spread out in the newspapers, in books, rumours, and ordinary social gossip. All gaps in our actual knowledge are still filled out with projections. We are still so sure we know what other people think or what their true character is. (Carl Jung)

The Manicheans understood the world, and morality, in very absolute, and dualistic, terms. Everything was black and white, dark and light, or good and evil; there was no room for compromise with them.(John Savage)

I am very concerned at the way in which former Senator Stuart Syvret has been behaving on his blog. He seems to be taking the view that any politician who doesn't agree totally with him is a "traitor", a word he bandies around very freely, and he seems to have an almost clairvoyant perception into their motivations and "true character".

Lisa Tessman, in "Burdened Virtues: Virtue Ethics for Liberatory Struggle", notes how this is a feature of what she calls "communities of resistance":

The ideas of loyalty and betrayal have been used within communities of resistance, particularly communities engaged in some form of 'identity politics,' namely, a politics where the identities of members of a subordinated group are under- stood as providing a basis for organizing against injustice. In these communities, loyalty to other members of the subordinated group are expected, and departures from the assumed identity or rejections of what are taken to be the defining features of the identity or of the political agenda of the group are considered to be acts of treason.
(Tessman 136)

In the case of Stuart Syvret's criticisms, what I think is emerging is a critique of others which is serving to legitimise his own particular stance by branding any dissent or departure from his position as a reprehensible act of treason. A key question here is whether "loyalty" is compatible with criticism, and it seems that it is not.

With regard to the case of Deputy Daniel Wimberley, for example, he writes:

I'm afraid Daniel Wimberley - like Montfort Tadier - is just a time-serving - pay-cheque receiving - fake plastic progressive - who will make all the right - meaningless - low-risk noises - in such danger-free ways as using States question time - but when the chips are down, supports the likes of Geoff Southern.... You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. That Wimberley could even contemplate supporting Southern - tells us all we need to know about him.

Stuart's supporters, such as Rico Sorda, are in a quandary here, because they are well aware that there is a broad coalition of concerned politicians, such as Daniel Wimberley and Bob Hill and Francis Le Gresley, who are supporting the need for greater transparency with regard to the Haut de La Garenne investigation and question whether what has emerged in the heavily redacted Wiltshire report can constitute justice:

Hi Stuart. I know Daniel signed Geoff's nomination paper but I'm not sure what else he has done This is just a thought, but one I believe might have happened. Geoff asked Daniel "do you mind signing my nomination paper" and Daniel said "no not at all Geoff" without giving it that much thought. Because, lets face it, if he did stop and think about he probably wouldn't have signed it. Geoff-St Mary-No Brainer One thing I cannot stand is all this bitching it's just pure negative cr*p. We must move on from this. This belongs in the past if we are ever to move forward. Not everyone is perfect, not everyone is going to be how we want them to be but I will say this Daniel has been a great help...

Lorna (aka Proud Survivor) agrees with this:

Rico, I agree with you. I don't believe there was any malice in Dan Wimberley signing Southern's nomination. He may have been naive in doing so but apart from that as you say what has he done other than be supportive of our cause? Stuart I know you and I will never agree about this because we have talked long enough about it and we can agree to disagree. I have known Daniel Wimberley most of his life and I believe him to be a man of intellect and integrity. He is generally well thought of and I believe he is willing to help the survivors in any way he can. He keeps himself informed and works very hard in a quiet unobtrusive way.

But Stuart returns in a belligerent mood, not prepared to make any concessions towards other peoples points of view:

Wimberley is - as you say - an intelligent man. As a supposed "progressive" - and someone who is "supposedly" on the right side - you simply do not do something as manifestly insane - as stupid - as ridiculous - as support Geoff Southern - against me - in a by-election I had to cause in order to try and bring fundamental matters of the illegal concealment of child abuse and of corruption - to the Jersey public. Any politician genuinely on our side would have needed but a femtosecond upon being asked - to laugh in Southern's face; indeed - the only sensible action would have been far stronger - not only not support, but tell him plainly you will oppose him. Wimberley knew exactly what he was doing. He knew it exactly. It was no "accident".

Jill Gracia also has commented on this:

Stuart - on the subject of Daniel Wimberley I have to say I agree with Rico and Lorna on this issue. Firstly as Lorna says, guilt by association is most unfair, and I remember this happened to Monty when it was made known that his mother had worked at Haut de la Garenne. I do not think that at this particular moment in time we are in a position to be criticising the very people who are going to support the forthcoming proposition and indeed have been supportive throughout all this and the Power/Harper affair too. Realistically, none of us can hold our hands up and say we have never made an error of judgement or a mistake. Human nature I'm afraid.

Stuart again bounces back in pugilistic mode:

Jill. Montfort Tadier is - if anything - worse than Wimberley. He has never been anything other than a fifth-columnist. Did you know he's friends with Phil Ozouf?

Quite where Stuart gets his information from is unknown. Even if he is a friend of Senator Ozouf, it is clear that Montfort Tadier has supported exemptions on GST, and generally opposed pretty well all of the proposals brought by Philip Ozouf and the Council of Ministers that impact on frontline services, so clearly if there is a personal friendship, it doesn't mean political agreement. Tony Benn, in his Diaries, says that he had a lot of time for Ted Heath, even if he opposed him strongly politically. Political friendship does not mean selling out. So that kind of slur is really unwarranted. What does he expect Montfort to do when he sees Philip Ozouf - say "hello", or instead hiss and boo theatrically as one does to a pantomime "baddie"? I happen to think that having to meet people you disagree with politically is actually a good thing; it prevents an "ivory tower" siege mentality which effectively shuts out the world.

Another writer points out that Stuart's position has shifted to a more extreme position than he held:

Stuart, I agree with rico about DW. Actually you also thought highly of him ... I quote from your blog posting oct 2009: "Daniel Wimberley: Daniel has a proven track-record of selfless and committed work for social justice and environmental issues. Very intelligent - a person who makes sure to be well-informed before coming to conclusions. As remarked in my previous blog post - Daniel absolutely nailed the attempts of the Jersey Establishment Party to spin and con the public with the so-called "Imagine Jersey" event. In a devastating and concise (I must ask him for lessons) letter, he exposed the exercise for the attempted example of "opinion-management" that it was. Not one of the very expensive spin-doctors or civil servants would answer Daniel's critique when I sent it to them. They knew they'd been exposed. Daniel - as is true of all the candidates I'm voting for - will perform as advertised. Just how many more times do we allow ourselves to be conned at election time with the same old lies from the Jersey establishment? They treat the public with utter contempt - completely disregarding their election promises once in. "

But Stuart simply cannot admit that he might be mistaken:

If you think for one instant - those people - and those who supported them, like Wimberley - are truly on the side of ordinary people - then you do indeed have the government you deserve.

Now I brought Stuart's criticism to the attention of Daniel Wimberley, and he said he would risk a post on the blog, and explain his actions, because there was good material there as well. This is what he said on Stuart's blog:

Daniel Wimberley said... I was researching for the P19 committee of inquiry debate, read Lenny's piece. Very very useful to have a lot of the necessary info about the investigation in one place. So thanks to Lenny for taking yet more time to set all this out again. Then I read the comments, as I often do. Then came across the stuff about me and signing Geoff's nomination paper. Rico hit nail on head. The cock-up theory of politics (or any human endeavour I guess) is sometimes right. "Here will you sign this?" "Oh yes" Just didn't think. I am pretty sure that I apologised to Stuart at the time. If I didn't I apologise now. Not like me not to think? Got it in one. I did not campaign ("support Geoff") , did nothing except go to two hustings. Asked a question on green economics or similar at St. Mary and only Stuart gave a remotely credible answer, as I thought would be the case. Maybe Stuart never makes mistakes. I did on this occasion, and no doubt others. "It was no accident" (that I signed Geoff's paper) he says, implying some deeply-thought out political gambit. As others have said it is BARMY to waste time, effort, energy on fighting each other, when so much more is at stake. Stuart did indeed write those positive comments in 2009 was it? about Geoff and me, and both are pretty perceptive. But Geoff and Stuart are now "enemies." Stuart and Trevor are now "enemies" too. I suppose Daniel and Stuart must be as well. Do you think the others are pecking at each other like this?

Anonymous said...

Well done to Daniel. I don't know him but he seems to me to be a thoroughly decent and highly intelligent human being.I use "human being" for, just like all the rest of us, all human beings are fallible. We make mistakes and errors of judgement. If we didn't, we would never learn anything and would just go on thinking we are right all the time.I look forward to Daniel's further contribution to this most important debate.

But Stuart cannot accept a gracious apology:

Some "mistakes" are not forgivable. I, and a lot of readers of this site, know that. Mere apologies are rarely ever enough. If they were - why would we need a criminal justice system that involved punishment? Criminals would only need to "apologise" to their victims.

I have been trying to understand how the shift has taken place between someone who was happy to fight alongside others for justice, and someone who has now turned his back on the whole political process as futile. I was struck by this description by moral philosopher Michael Walzer:

The stereotypical leftist critic breaks loose from his local and familial world (bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, conformist, religious, sheltered, provincial, and so on), escapes with much attendant drama, detaches himself from all emotional ties, steps back so as to see the world with absolute clarity, studies what he sees (scientifically, in accordance with the most advanced views), discovers universal values as if for the first time, finds these values embodied in the movement of the oppressed (class, nation, gender, his own or the other-so long as the 'finding' is objective, it doesn't matter), decides to support the movement and to criticize its enemies, who are very often people such as he once was. ("The Company of Critics",1988, 225-226)

In the case of Stuart Syvret, he has even broken ranks with his fellow-progressives, but the same features are present - the absolute clarity with absolute certainly, the inability to take on board any criticism of his own position, and the accusations that anyone who is still in politics is a traitor, a fake, a fraud. Nothing brings the rush of moral superiority more quickly than a casual accusation, and there are plenty given out on his blog. But lazy accusations are an easy way to declare other people beneath contempt, so their ideas can be discarded as rubbish without a second thought.

The picture that he paints of the world is one in stark colours of black and white, in which he alone can expose "a conspiracy of infamy so bleak that, when it is finally exposed, its principles shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all liberal men", as one politician said.

Psychologically, this has the kind of surety that Jung describes when he pictures how people can be when they are unaware of their own shadow, and project their certainty upon the world, populating it with monsters, without being aware that part of the shadow cast by those monsters is, in fact, partly created by their own mind:

How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright day-world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious? (Jung)

What I would like to see is a return to some kind of rationalism rather than rhetoric, rather than character assassination, and some self-criticism and introspective reflections on whether his own position - on branding anyone who disagrees with him as a "traitor" - which is intolerant and inflexible - is the most reasonable course of action. I don't think it is, and I don't think he is sufficiently self-critical of his own position. I have seen the same kind of rhetoric in religious fundamentalist groups, where anyone who deviates by one jot from the rigid dogmatic position is branded a "heretic".

He has said in his blog that he is only human and fallible, but he seems to act to the contrary, and has (as far as I can see) been becoming progressively more rigid in his stance. This is a shame, because he has a considerable amount of expertise and information about Jersey politics to share, but this is being buried under a mountain of simplistic clichés which are repeated again and again, ad nauseam.

The logic of his position is plain - if the Jersey government is all made of shysters, gangsters, fake progressives (the gospel according to Syvret), then what point is there in any of Stuart's friends trying to persuade any of them about a committee of enquiry? Indeed, the logic of the position is complete disengagement from the political system, except as a blogging commentator, scowling from the sidelines, and hurling forth curses on those who are engaged in the political process - "perhaps Jersey readers will now be able to understand a little bit more, just why I grew sickened of politics - and would never seek election again. The political environment is no place for an honest person.", as he says, although clearly this is a fairly recent Damascus conversion, as he was seeking election only about 8 months before making that statement.

What would perhaps be a good start would be learning to listen to what his friends (such as Rico) are saying, and perhaps considering that he might be mistaken, for instance, about Daniel Wimberley. As Karl Popper noted when suggesting how reason was needed for "the open society":

"We could then say that rationalism is an attitude of readiness to listen to critical arguments and to learn from experience. It is fundamentally an attitude of admitting that 'I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.' It is an attitude which does not lightly give up hope that by such means as argument and careful observation, people may reach some kind of agreement on many problems of importance; and that, even where their demands and their interests clash, it is often possible to argue about the various demands and proposals, and to reach - perhaps by arbitration - a compromise which, because of its equity, is acceptable. to most, if not to all."

I know that this will seem like in some ways like an attack on Stuart Syvret, but actually it is intended more as a piece of friendly advice, to ask him to take a look at how (despite what he may say), he is acting in a manner that is becoming very intolerant and inflexible, and petition him to listen to his good friends who - as can be seen from the posts above - are begging him to think again, and not just lash out indiscriminately at all members of the States of Jersey.

Just as we tend to assume that the world is as we see it, we naively suppose that people are as we imagine them to be. In this latter case, unfortunately, there is no scientific test that would prove the discrepancy between perception and reality. Although the possibility of gross deception is infinitely greater here than in our perception of the physical world, we still go on naively projecting our own psychology into our fellow human beings. In this way everyone creates for himself a series of more or less imaginary relationships based essentially on projection. (Carl Jung)


Monday, 14 February 2011

Ever Thus

For Valentine's Day, a poem from my late partner, Annie Parmeter, on words, deeds and acts of love; it is very much a reflection of how she aspired (and often managed) to live.

Ever Thus
Let every little word
Bring warmth and encouragement
And remind us of our goodness.
Be mindful of your words
They can change the life of another.
Let every little deed
Bring support and delight
And speak in the name of justice.
Be mindful of your deeds
For they have the power to change history.
Let every little thought
Bring words of love
And acts of kindness.
Be mindful of your thoughts
For theirs is a power beyond measure.
Published in "In This Life", United Press Poetry Anthology, 2004

Saturday, 12 February 2011


Feberwary" is a old Scottish form of "February". It's a strange transitional month, and I wanted to write something that captured the fierce paganism of the ancient Celts and Norse folk...

In the bleakest times, cold wind upon stone
Cauldron bubbling on the fire stirred by crone
Grey the clouds, grey the days, sunrise slow
Tell the tales, tell of long, so long ago
Icy hands reach out, barely can earth sustain
The Ice Queen still may reach out and reign
Streams running ceased, a frozen land so iced
Glitter the icicles, that sparkled and enticed
The giants fight the gods, all have gathered here
And stormy weather tears and rends the air
Warriors in their element, fierce exultant bliss
As wet rain beats down on faces like a kiss
The spring is coming, the frolic of the lamb
And grey clouds will pass, so sings the dahm
A month of struggles, of weather torn apart
As anger subsides before the joyful heart.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

RIP: Emile Collins

Montfort Tadier has a mention of long time political campaigner, Emile Collins, who has just died:

Emile Collins passed away today aged 98. Emile was a seasoned political campaigner, an enthusiastic follower -and often a critic- of Jersey politics. He was an avid contributor to the lunchtime BBC phone-in. He was both passionate and compassionate. (1)

Indeed, Emile was such a familiar voice on the Radio that he even found his way into an amusing comment on a Jersey forum relating to Global Warming:

Due to Global Warming most of Jersey will be desert by then and the only Jersey Royals will be in the museum. Luckily foreign visitors will be able to come to the island via the bridge from Normandy. Emile Collins, at the age of 183 will still be ringing BBC Talk back and arguing his case. (2)

More details about Emile can be found on Voice's blog, where Team Voice commissioned a bronze bust to be made of him:

Emille Collins was born at St. Helier in September 1912. He has lived in the Island ever since - except for just one single day when he visited Guernsey. He still lives in St. Helier and unlike most residents of the Island - he always votes. In the picture above, Emille and Constable Simon Crowcroft of St. Helier are seen with a bronze- bust portrait of "our hero." (3)

This is on display at the Town Hall. There is also a farewell tribute to him at Voice's blog:

It seems so sad that some people are honoured in Jersey simply for having been in a particular position, be it Bailiff, or Chief Minister (before that President of Policy and Resources) and yet people who fought against the Germans in the war, and have campaigned for justice ever since, seldom get honoured in any such way. It is true that a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown, so it was good to see Team Voice commission the bronze sculpture:

The BBC also reported on him after this event:

On the Voice for Protest blog they have a photo and details of a new portrait of 97 year old Jersey political campaigner, Emile Collins. Emile was born in St Helier in September 1912 and has lived in the parish ever since. Emile has been an active member of political movements in Jersey for over 60 years, including membership of the Jersey Democratic Union in 1944. That was during the Nazi Occupation of Jersey when it was punishable by death to be a member of a political party. In those early days the JDU members would meet in a house in Stopford Road trying to dodge the German patrols and the curfew. The Jersey Democratic Union later became the Jersey Democratic Movement after the Occupation. Even now Emile is still an active political campaigner in Jersey, regularly attending rally's and contributing to BBC Jersey's lunchtime phone-in and our weekly Sunday political phone-in. (4)

Of course it should be noted that while the JDU worked against the Germans, a lot of those involved helping the Russian slave workers, like Norman Le Brocq, were considered tainted by association with Russian communism, and never received due recognition for their work.

As the Island looks again at the States, here is what Emile submitted last time. When Privileges and Procedures had a consultation on the composition and election of the States in 2006, this was his response:

Mr. Emile Collins - He wanted a fully elected government with no Senators, no Deputies and no Bailiff. He wanted to be able to vote for anyone who is standing for the States not just candidates in his district. He would like all Deputies to have an island wide mandate and to be able to vote for anyone. He had no opinion regarding the number of States members.(5)

And in December 2008, after the last election, he wrote to the JEP as follows:

Now that the elections for Senators and Deputies are over, I am waiting with great interest to see what influence the new States Members are going to have. Could I be so bold as to make a few suggestions? The first priority is homes and jobs for our young Jersey-born people. The States' housing loan could be for people up to 65 years of age. They would still be paying rent, so why not the loan? More young people would be able to take on a loan, as the payments could be reduced. On jobs, we should rejuvenate our building industry and have a States-controlled section, like for instance Public Health. We have local building workers who could do the job. The work on States property would be done by them. There would be no need to import the 'experts', who do not know the cutting edge of a chisel. Agriculture must be given the chance to go organic, to supply local shops and farms, and there should be allotments in every parish. As for tourism, we keep destroying the very things it needs to survive. Fort Regent should be rejuvenated and a permanent ice rink is a must. We also need a proper Island bus service and a census of the population now. (6)

He also had some good ideas about property maintenance and youth unemployment:

I read in your paper (JEP, 00 May) that the States' property maintenance bill could be £120 million. I think that there is a way of reducing that by some millions of pounds. There are teenagers leaving school with no jobs to go to. There must be some retired craftsmen who would be only too pleased to be able to earn a few quid in overseeing a States-owned building force in which some of those school-leavers could be included. They would learn a trade and at the same time save Jersey millions. Is that too difficult a subject for our line up of ministers to grasp? (10)

And when he was 95, he was featured on France 24, giving his opinion (as one who had been around) on haut de La Garenne: "This is just my opinion but I do not see how it is possible, given the way Jersey is run, this kind of scandal has not filtered out and was kept secret for so long. They have always heard things here and there, but they did absolutely nothing. They have done absolutely nothing. " (7)

But Emile's life was not all politics. The Jèrriais page has this lovely anecdote:

The recent daffodils exhibition at the Jersey Museum has set a few memory bells ringing, I hear. Emile Collins phoned to let me know that when he was a lad, daffodils were in plentiful supply in St Peter's Valley. 'No one had money for flowers m those days, so people just used to pick them,' he said, recalling that there were so many daffodils in St Peter's Valley that you couldn't see past them. 'My mum used to call them "pipots".' Pipots is the Jersey-French name for wild daffodils, yet if there is only one pipot, that is a buttercup. Mr Collins remembers walking to St Peter from St John with his friends. 'We used shanks's pony, and we got there when we got there,' he said.(8)

What would be the best legacy? More parents of young children taking an interest in local politics and helping to shape the Island's future. This is what he wrote for the ATTAC newsletter:

Open Letter to all Parents
with Young Children
. Have you really thought about the way that Jersey is going?
. What is there now for your children?
. What will there be in 10, 15 years time?
. You must assert yourselves. Enough is enough!
. We can do it.
By Emile Collins


(apologies for any typing mistakes; I am suffering from a heavy cold and cough)