Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Bid for Chief Minister?

The bizare nature of "unjoined up government" became even more apparent with the announcement by Philip Ozouf that he has put in an amendment to the Business Plan to allocate more funding for the Clinique Pinel Refurbishment.

BBC Radio Jersey notes that:

An "urgent" upgrade of mental health wards is needed at St Saviour's Hospital in Jersey. Treasury and Resources Minister Philip Ozouf has asked the States to approve additional funding of £1.7m. The money will be used to upgrade facilities at the Beech and Cedar Wards at the hospital's Clinique Pinel, which are not up to standard. Clinique Pinel provides assessment and treatment for people over the age of 65 with mental health illnesses. Some £1.1m has already been allocated to refurbish the wards, but Mr Ozouf would now like the States to increase the amount to £2.8m for "health and safety improvements". He said a recent visit to Clinique Pinel had make it apparent the work could not wait and was "absolutely essential" in order to bring conditions for residents up to a minimum standard. "I consider this work to be unavoidable," he said.

Now that part of the budget comes under the purview of the Health Minister, Anne Pryke, who has been asked no difficult questions about why the facility has been let to run down. With Health and hospital facilities, the departmental approach appears to be the same as that for Housing with the States Housing - not to spend money on any essential work until it is absolutely necessary. To paraphrase a saying, the maxim followed by the States appears to be:

"If it ain't broke, don't bother spending any money on maintenance"

Ben Querree, writing in the JEP on "one of the great States myths" notes that "one of central tenets of the 2005 ministerial reforms - that instead of 15 or so States departments pulling in various different directions, what you'd have is ten ministers pulling together, creating 'joined-up government'."

And he is quite right - there seems to have been no consultation over the cutbacks in health between Ministers, and clearly, when money is put back, there is no investigation about why matters were allowed to deteriorate in this fashion. Was the Health Minister, Deputy Pryke aware of the situation? Or was she kept in the dark by her Chief Officer, who was keen to save money at any cost? These are the kinds of questions I would like to have seen raised by the JEP or BBC Radio Jersey, but they were singularly absent. I am reminded of the curious incident of the dog in the night time.

According to the report in the JEP and BBC, this amendment was made after a recent visit by Senator Ozouf to St Saviour's Hospital, prompted by concerns raised by Anita Shepherd. Clearly, Senator Ozouf needs to get out and about more.

Other matters that he might like to consider in the budget proposals (in the Annex to the Business Plan, where all the dead bodies are usually buried) are:

Special Educational Needs and Special Schools - Provide educational support for children with special educational needs. Cut by £67,500

Youth service: Cutbacks £16,700

Grants and Advisory Council: Provide miscellaneous sports grants to support individuals and organisations.Cut Budget by £146,200

Of course, after the Elections this year, comes the election for Chief Minister, and it will not hurt Senator Ozouf to have on his CV such items as:

Provided funds to Durrell from the stability fund in 2011 - when of course, in 2010, there was a cutback to the education budget taking away the Annual Grant to Durrell enabling Primary Schools to take children there. Robbing Peter to pay Paul springs to mind. But the Education Minister had to make the cutback, not Senator Ozouf.

Provided funds to Health for St Saviour - and no difficult questions asked about why such conditions had been left for so long, who was in charge of monitoring the property, and why the Health Minister was not aware of this. Again Senator Ozouf triumphs, but it is not too good for Deputy Pryke.

This way, of course, he can be the harsh task master, reigning in States spending for other States departments, and yet also show himself to be generous and compassionate with his personal largesse - the other Ministers get all the flack, he gets the glory.

Or am I being unduly cynical in thinking he is using what is, after all, taxpayers money to buy popularity for his bid for Chief Minister?


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Belt Up 1984 - Part 3

July 1984 saw the publication of the first edition of "Thinks!", the Channel Island Mensa Magazine.

The editor Ken Webb, decided to mark the launch with a topical debate - on seat belts. He was annoyed that the JEP motoring correspondent seemed to be lobbying for seat belts rather than having an informed debate about the advantages and disadvantages, and giving equal time to protestors.

In the second edition, two people replied. The second was Andrew Christensen whose letter is reprinted below.

In Jersey, the most recent change to legislation was the wearing of seat-belts in the back of cars. States members agreed to the new law in March 2008, and this brought the island in line with the rest of Europe.

Philip Blake, from the Road Safety Panel, commenting on the law said: "In Jersey, on average, every three years at least one person has been killed in the rear of a vehicle who wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Many others who didn't wear a seat belt have been seriously injured. Making everyone wear a seat belt will reduce the risk of serious injury for those involved in crashes."

While the States agreed to the change in law in March 2008, it didn't actually get to the Statute books until April 2009, when it was passed by a Ministerial Order by Constable Michael Jackson. I have been unable to ascertain why there was a such a long delay. It seems that the previous Minister for Transport, Deputy Guy de Faye, who lost his seat in the November 2008 Elections, may have been dragging his heels on bringing the changes forward.

A few facts on seat belts and their history, which begins in the United States of America:

The first seat belts were not installed in cars by auto manufacturers. Early automobiles did not go particularly fast, and there were relatively few cars on the road. As the number of motor vehicles increased, so did the amount of danger. In the 1930s, a number of physicians, seeing the results of traffic accidents, lobbied car makers to create some sort of restraining device to keep people from being thrown from a car in an accident. Several doctors actually designed their own lap belts and installed them in their autos. It was not until the 1950s that seat belts began to appear with some regularity. In 1954 the Sports Car Club of America began to require drivers to wear lap belts as they raced. Soon afterward such groups as the National Safety Council (NSC), American College of Surgeons, and International Association of Chiefs of Police issued their own recommendations for the manufacture and installation of seat belts. The Swedish auto manufacturer Volvo began marketing lap belt in 1956; that same year both Ford and Chrysler decided to offer lap belts as well. Seat belts were not required by law, though, in the United States until 1968.

And now the Mensa article:

Contributed by Andrew Christensen

Dear Ken,

The intention of this letter is to take you to task over your ' defence. of the individual's right to choose to wear a seat belt. Yes, I am all for the rights of the individual and for freedom of choice. Notwithstanding that, certain facts speak for themselves, and in the case of the wearing of seat belts these facts speak loudly. Straight forward - the possibility of suffering, serious injuries or even death while wearing seat belts during driving is greatly reduced. It has taken legislation with the threat of penalties to considerably increase the percentage of car users who use seat belts. The real threat of death or serious injury, even reinforced by dramatic advertising was simply not enough.

In a recent House of Commons reply, Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Minister of State for Transport, stated that at present 95% of front seat occupants are wearing seat belts, compared with under 40% prior to legislation being introduced. In the first twelve months of compulsory wearing, there has been a reduction of over 7,000 fatal and serious front seat casualties compared with the previous twelve months.

At the same time, road traffic increased by slightly over 4%.

One final sobering thought is that the present estimated cost to the taxpayer of ONE fatal traffic (motorway) accident is £257,000. Though I would think the cost of a fatal accident on Victoria Avenue is slightly less, the cost in human terms is just the same.

If measures can be taken which do positively reduce the human and financial expense of a road accident, then those measures should be welcomed and not frustrated.

Anyway, I shall wish you many more miles of, hopefully, accident free driving.

With best wishes,

Andrew Christensen.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holidays

I have been reminded of the fact that when the August Bank Holiday Act was before the House it was objected to on the ground that if working people enjoyed a holiday they would get drunk and be unfit for work for several days. It is well within the recollection of the House that newspapers seemed to take a joy after the Bank Holiday in publishing the number of drunks and comparing the number with previous holidays. (Mr. Creech Jones, Hansard, 6 April 1938)

Today is a bank holiday, which according to the following definition is as follows:

Bank holiday (society): An official state or public holiday on a weekday (except Saturdays and Sundays) when most public facilities and offices, shops and factories are closed. The current bank holidays in England and Wales are New Year's Day (or the first weekday following it); Good Friday; Easter Monday; the first Monday in May (May Day Bank Holiday which may be abolished soon); the last Monday in May (Spring Bank Holiday); the last Monday in August (Summer Bank Holiday or August Bank Holiday); Christmas Day (or the Monday after it, if it is a Saturday or Sunday); and Boxing Day (or the next weekday after Christmas Day). There are some different bank holidays in Scotland (such as August Bank Holiday on the first Monday in August) and Northern Ireland. (1)

But how did bank holidays come about? The increasingly urban society of the late 19th century expanded the amount of leisure activities enormously, both intellectual pursuits and sports. Factory time may have been longer than we are used to, but the regulation of time meant that there were fixed times without work for many people, and a clear demarcation between work time and leisure time.

In contrast, the mainly rural population that had existed before the industrial revolution had their own seasonal festivals at slacker times of the year, but the persistent nature of farming activities meant that spare time was unregulated in the same way. The loss of the rural festivities also meant that there was no equivalent time off for the urban population. In 1834 most of the rural festivities were culled from 33 holidays to just 4.

The 1871 Bank Holiday Act was introduced by Sir John Lubbock, President of the Institute of Bankers and Liberal M.P.

On Motion of Sir JOHN LUBBOCK, Bill to make provision for Bank Holidays, and respecting Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes payable on Bank Holidays, ordered to be brought in by Sir 662 JOHN LUBBOCK, Sir DAVID SALMONS, Mr. BARNETT, and Mr. RATHBONE.[21 February 1871 ]

This established established Boxing Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and the first Monday in August as bank (i.e. public) holidays, and an amendment by Lord Colonsay "he proposed to introduce Good Friday, which was already observed to a great extent as a bank holiday" which was accepted.

The result of the increased leisure can be seen in a mention of Kew Gardens in 1879 as a popular venue for visitors at bank holidays::

On the occasion of two Bank holidays last year close upon 60,000 visitors entered the Gardens in one day. One proof that good had been done by the movement for extending the hours during which the Gardens were open to the public was afforded by the fact that on Bank holidays the Gardens were now open at 10 o'clock, instead of 1 o'clock, as was formerly the case. That the change was appreciated was shown by the circumstance that on Easter Monday 4,000 people, and on Whit Monday 5,000 people, entered the Gardens before 1 o'clock.

The Bank Holiday Act was to the subject of a highly topical reference in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience - "A steady and stolid-y, jolly Bank-holiday", and is also referenced in Ruddigore:

ROB. Really, I don't know what you'd have. I've only been a bad baronet a week, and I've committed a crime punctually every day.
SIR ROD. Let us inquire into this. Monday?
ROB. Monday was a Bank Holiday.
SIR ROD. True. Tuesday? 215
ROB. On. Tuesday I made a false income-tax return.
ALL. Ha! ha!
IST GHOST. That's nothing.
2ND GHOST. Nothing at all.
3RD GHOST. Everybody does that. 220
4TH GHOST. It's expected of you.

Part of the reason often cited for the bank holidays is that Lubbock was a keen cricketer and selected the extra days (apart from Christmas and Easter) to be suitable for matches, traditionally played in Whitsun and early August. The last Monday in August was formally made a bank holiday in place of the first Monday in August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1971.

But there was also pressure for reform in worker's conditions from the Chartist movement, which had come into being after the 1832 Reforms produced a singular lack of suffrage for the ordinary working class man. The increase in leisure pursuits available because of statutory holidays meant that employees would seek enjoyable distractions in preference to political reform, and it relieved the political pressures on reform. Other provisions such as the earlier Factory Acts of 1850 and 1853 had already brought about early closing on Saturdays to many factories. By 1874, a full Saturday half-holiday was normal. Workers conditions were improving, but paid holidays outside of bank holidays were still some time off.

The Bank Holiday Acts of 1871 and 1875, which came to guarantee four free Mondays in the year including the first Monday in August, were of no importance here, although they did help to open out summer holiday opportunities in parts of the country where the older holidays had not survived. Paid holidays for manual workers before the First World War were offered by only a few paternalistic or enlightened employers, and although they spread gradually through the inter-war years a compulsory Holidays with Pay Act was not passed until 1938, and did not become effective until after the Second World War, when English seaside resorts had a particularly prosperous couple of decades, before generally failing to meet the challenge of new opportunities and new destinations.(3)

A bank holiday is primarily a day in which banks close and there were several extraordinary bank holidays which came about because of the banking crisis in the 1930s, when banks were failing. The first took place in Germany and Austria in 1931, where the banks were failing because of the withdrawal by American and other foreign investors of liquid deposits, 'hot money' in flight and also a "sharp decline in the value of their medium- and long-term loans to and shares in shaky industrial customers." This seems almost a modern scenario, and as today, required international efforts to stave off a domino effect across the world's banking systems:

The first to collapse was the Creditanstalt, Austria's largest bank, which closed its doors on 11 May 1931. The panic spread quickly to involve the big German banks, the most vulnerable of which, the Darmstädter and National Bank (the 'Danat'), closed on 13 July 1931. The Austrian bank was reopened only after an international rescue operation had been arranged by Montagu Norman. To forestall a run on the other German banks an extended Bank Holiday was announced, lasting for a fortnight, with the German banks eventually opening again on 5 August. In the mean time an international financial conference was held in London from 21 to 23 July, at which US President Hoover proposed a one-year moratorium on international political debts, including German reparations. Despite strong French reluctance (since they rightly, if prematurely, feared a German-Austrian 'Anschluss'), this was accepted, providing a basis for the almost-final settlement of reparations and inter-Allied war debts and giving time for the German authorities to prepare plans for strengthening their perilous banking system. (4)

Later, in 1933, in America, 10 days of bank holidays were brought in to give another breathing space for the banks:

Franklin D. Roosevelt's first action on becoming President on Saturday 4 March 1933 was to declare a national Bank Holiday from Monday 6 March. Every bank in the country, including even the Federal Reserve Banks, were thus closed and allowed to reopen only after a special investigating team, hurriedly rushed into action, had declared each bank to be solvent. A number of States had already declared partial Bank Holidays, but this was the first time in American history for such a complete stoppage to occur in the country's main monetary artery, and the natural domino effect of the increasing rate of bank failures was brought at a stroke to its logical conclusion by presidential decree as a necessary prelude to enforced reform of the whole financial system. The world's largest economy was thus virtually bankless for at least ten days. More than $30 billion of bank deposits, in a country more dependent on such deposits than any other, were thus temporarily immobilized, causing a desperate money shortage which the almost simultaneous increase of around $1 billion in notes did little to alleviate. (5)

Other bank holidays have been declared on special occasions, notably for Royal Weddings ,although Gladstone was singularly unmoved by this argument in 1893 (the future George V and Mary of Teck)

HC Deb 22 June 1893 vol 13 c1679 1679

COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if his attention has been directed to the express terms of the 4th section of the Bank Holiday Act (34 & 35 Vict,, c. 17), authorising the proclamation of a close holiday in all banks in any particular county, city, borough, or district of the United Kingdom, without reference to any other part of the country in which such holiday is not desired; and if the Government can be induced to re-consider its refusal to take the steps necessary to secure freedom from ordinary work for the bank clerks and other officials in places like Sheffield, wherein, by popular desire and civic authority, the Royal Wedding Day is to be observed by all other classes of the community, and not least of all by working men, as a day of general rejoicing?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (MR. W. E. Gladstone,) Edinburgh, Midlothian I believe, Sir, that the hon. Gentleman is correct in his reference to the Bank Holiday Act. In cases of local holidays we have had no representation whatever from the Local Authorities that it would be, in their judgment, desirable to arrest the action of the banks on those days, and we certainly could not deem it to be our duty to consider that question except on the motion of the Local Authorities.

Not to be outdone, the good Colonel (who reminds me of a States Deputy) raised the spectre of "sinister effect", but to no avail:

COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central) I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if the Government is still determined not to afford banks the necessary legal facilities for closing and deferring their financial obligations on the day of the Royal Wedding, notwithstanding the repeated representations as to the sinister effect of such refusal, the danger to public property thereby involved, and notwithstanding that the 4th section of the Bank Holiday Act expressly enables the required Order in Council to have purely local application, and imposes no obligation upon any factory, shop, or establishment other than a bank in such locality to suspend for a moment its operations?

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston) May I ask whether the Government are in possession of any information which justifies the statement of the hon. and gallant Member in the question as to danger to public property?

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE In answer to the hon. Member for Shoreditch, I have to say that the Government have no information to the effect to which he refers. In regard to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield, I would remind him that only a few days ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer fully explained the views of the Government on the matter. I have nothing to add.

(1) A Dictionary of British Institutions: A Student's Guide. John Oakland, 1993, p14
(2) British History, 1815-1906. Norman McCord, 1991
(3) The Oxford Companion to British History. John Cannon, 1997, p.484
(4) A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. Glyn Davies, 2002
(5) A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. Glyn Davies, 2002

Sunday, 28 August 2011

As Usual, Average Nonsense in JEP

THE average salary in Jersey increased by just 2.5 per cent during the last year - the second-lowest rise since 1995. According to figures released yesterday, a full-time worker now earns an average of £650 per week, or £33,800 per year. Although the rise is higher than the 1.1 per cent increase seen in 2009/10, it is significantly lower than the increases seen during the previous 15 years. Economic Development Minister Alan Maclean said: 'The earnings growth rate does remain low in historic terms, but that is not unexpected given that we have a weak labour market and a challenging economic climate.'

The regular report of misinformation is in the JEP again. All across the world, the measurement of national earnings have moved from the arithmetic mean, commonly known as the "average" to the median. The arithmetic mean is obtained by adding all the items up, and dividing by the number of items. The median is a statistical measure obtained by looking at the middle item in a distribution. See "Mean Versus Median" below.

For wages, the distribution is not a balanced one - the normal distribution or "bell curve" - but a highly skewed one, with a few higher wages grossly outbalancing the majority, which is why the median is a much better measure.

The States survey even mentions this - a warning not heeded by the JEP:

The level of average earnings derived from this survey is an informative indicator, particularly when comparing sub-sectors. It should be noted when interpreting these results that as a consequence of the earnings distribution being asymmetric (i.e. skewed towards higher values) the mean statistic provides a numerically greater measure of "average" earnings than the median. There are two surveys, and the 2009/10 Jersey Income Distribution Survey gives a median, so that:

the mean average weekly earnings of full-time equivalent employees (FTE) in Jersey in June 2011 was £650 per week
the median average weekly earnings of full-time equivalent employees (FTE) in Jersey in June 2011 was £520 per week

Now £520 gives a median yearly wage of £27,040, a fair bit smaller than £33,800.

The survey also notes:

The median average cannot be determined from the data collected for the Index of Average Earnings (IAE), since calculation of the median requires earnings at an individual level rather than at a company level. The Jersey Income Distribution Survey (IDS), which was carried out over the twelve-month period from May 2009 to May 2010, collected the necessary household and individual income information required to determine median income from earnings. The results derived from the IDS data, and presented below, include an up-rate from the survey period to June 2011 using the Jersey Index of Average Earnings.

But the main survey is terribly limited in scope:

Some 430 firms in the private sector were sent a survey questionnaire; 340 completed questionnaires were received back, representing a response rate of 79%.

Considering the number of small contractors, or individuals who run their own business, this seems like a very small number of businesses to survey, and one that itself will tend to reflect larger establishments.

I understand that Guernsey, on the other hand, can supply precise median figures for wages to a far higher degree of accuracy, although I have had trouble tracking it down. When I went to a recent talk at the Hotel de France, I was amazed to discover a figure being given for median wage. "Gobsmacked" would probably describe my reaction, having been told for years by the Jersey statistics department that it was not possible because of the nature of the survey (note they need a different survey to obtain the median which is also subject to sampling errors).

I asked the presenter from Guernsey how they managed a median, and Jersey didn't, and he told me they simply culled the information from the social security records. As far as I can remember, it was around £27,000 (figures on Guernsey's "open market"  - rental without property qualifications - are lower at a median of £18,000)

This is what he told me: there is no need for a survey, all the figures are available from Social Security on all Islander's earnings

In fact, it is massively more accurate. This works because although as in Jersey, there is an earnings ceiling, the median is the mid-point, so as long as it falls below the ceiling, it can be calculated.(see Mean versus Median below for an example). Now in Jersey:

There is an 'earning ceiling' this means that there is a cap on how much social security is paid by a person.  The earning ceiling this year is £3686 a month. So if you earn above this amount you will only pay Social Security on the first £3686 you earn, so the maximum you would pay would be £221.16 (6% of £3686). The maximum your employer would pay would be £239.59 (6.5% of £3686).

This means that the median (£520 per week = £2253 per month) is well below that, so it is quite possible to do as Guernsey does, and provide a median, not based on a survey, but based on the total workforce, with income gleaned from all the Social Security records, stripped to bare numbers, and easily number crunched in today's computers. All that is needed for median, in fact, is a sort from smallest to largest, and a count to find the mid-point.
Perhaps one day the JEP will have some real figures to report!

Mean versus Median

As an example, consider (as wages in thousands), the following cluster:


Now this results in Average = 25, Median = 25. (For the average - the mean - we sum, and divide by 8 in this case, for the median, we take the middle of the distribution when laid out in ascending order.)

Now let's change two of the numbers to 20.


Note that we now have Average = 23.75, Median = 25. The average has slipped down slightly.

Finally, let's just replace one of those 20s with a salary of a managing directors of a medium sized finance company (and I'm sure there are plenty with higher wages) at 120. We now have:


Average = 36.25, Median = 25

Note how rapidly the average wage has shifted. We

If we are calculating from Social Security, and there is a ceiling limit, say of 44, then the figures we work from show


But as long as the median - the middle of the list - falls below that (which it does), it can still be calculated at 25.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sweet Joy

Of happy memories of times past...

Sweet Joy
Sweet joy, to be so near
And hold you close to me
And kisses too, my dear
When loneliness comes so near
I cannot always clearly see
Sweet joy, to be so near
Once again, remove my fear
Memories of loving thee
And kisses too, my dear
Time to stroll along the pier
And walking by the sea
Sweet joy, to be so near
Stars in their appointed sphere
Tell lovers of the joy to see
And kisses too, my dear
Sorrow weeping but a tear
Forgets how it could be
Sweet joy, to be so near
And kisses too, my dear

Friday, 26 August 2011

Friday Funnies

This weeks Friday funnies comes from Jeff Hathaway, election candidate for St Brelade Number 1.

In the interests of fairness, I will put on any suitably funny pieces next Friday from any of the other election candidates who are standing in St Brelade; all they have to do is email me. Nothing political or rude please! A chance to show your sense of humour to the voting public!

Over the weekend I remembered a quote I wanted use, but could not remember who said it. So I googled it. Sam Goldwyn....but also found other quotes of his some of which made me smile. This is not all of them:

The harder I work, the luckier I get.
Samuel Goldwyn

Include me out.
Samuel Goldwyn

I read part of it all the way through.
Samuel Goldwyn

For your information, I would like to ask a question.
Samuel Goldwyn

If people don't want to go to the picture, nobody can stop them.
Samuel Goldwyn

I never liked you, and I always will.
Samuel Goldwyn

If I look confused it is because I am thinking.
Samuel Goldwyn

A bachelor's life is no life for a single man.
Samuel Goldwyn

A Hospital is no place to be sick.
Samuel Goldwyn

A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
Samuel Goldwyn

A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.
Samuel Goldwyn

Any man who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.
Samuel Goldwyn

Color television! Bah, I won't believe it until I see it in black and white.
Samuel Goldwyn

Don't pay any attention to the critics - don't even ignore them.
Samuel Goldwyn

Don't worry about the war. It's all over but the shooting.
Samuel Goldwyn

Every director bites the hand that lays the golden egg.
Samuel Goldwyn

For your information, I would like to ask a question.
Samuel Goldwyn

From success you get a lot of things, but not that great inside thing that love brings you.
Samuel Goldwyn

Give me a couple of years, and I'll make that actress an overnight success.
Samuel Goldwyn

Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.
Samuel Goldwyn

Go see it and see for yourself why you shouldn't go see it.
Samuel Goldwyn

God makes stars. I just produce them.
Samuel Goldwyn

Here I am paying big money to you writers and what for? All you do is change the words.
Samuel Goldwyn

I can give you a definite perhaps.
Samuel Goldwyn

I don't think anyone should write their autobiography until after they're dead.
Samuel Goldwyn

I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job.
Samuel Goldwyn

I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it.
Samuel Goldwyn

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Belt Up 1984 - Part 2

July 1984 saw the publication of the first edition of "Thinks!", the Channel Island Mensa Magazine.

The editor Ken Webb, decided to mark the launch with a topical debate - on seat belts. He was annoyed that the JEP motoring correspondent seemed to be lobbying for seat belts rather than having an informed debate about the advantages and disadvantages, and giving equal time to protestors.

In the second edition, two people replied. The first was Peter Bryans whose letter is reprinted below. It is interesting how some of the arguments that Peter Bryans brings to bear have a modern twist.

Consider former Deputy Gerard Baudains, who is standing again for Deputy in St Clements is vociferous in his opposition to a 30 mile per hour speed limit. Not one for mincing words, he tells us that "once again the Nimbys & Tree huggers have managed to inflict their ill-conceived ideas on others."

Gerard Baudains has his own unique argument for reduced speed limits causing accidents:

How does a reduced speed limit cause more accidents? It's not rocket science. At 40mph a driver is watching the road ahead (or the majority are) - looking to see if a pedestrian is about to exit his / her property onto the road - or a car about to pull out. Maybe some children are on the pavement and playing around as children do. So the driver is prepared.. Now take 30mph. The driver is frustrated. The journey needlessly takes longer as he knows he could safely go faster. In fact, so little is happening so slowly that he resigns himself to 'autopilot' mode, just staring at the back of the vehicle in front and no longer studying the road ahead. Why should he look ahead? It'll be ages before he gets there. All a recipe for accidents.

Really, one has to wonder if a driver is so frustrated that he drives on autopilot whether he should be out and about on the roads at all - perhaps a retake of a driving test would be a good idea! Driving without due care and attention is an offense - has Mr Baudains read the Highway Code recently? How a difference of a mere 10 mph could mean "ages before he gets there" in an Island that is 9 miles by 5 miles is beyond me. If he really wants frustration, perhaps he should try rush hour traffic in St Helier around 9.00 am, when traffic crawls along at between standstill and 5 mph. A clear run, at 30 mph, is not going to take that long, nor be that frustrating! The drivers who speed and would like more than 30 mph will probably zoom along at 45 mph in a 40 mph zone; one passed me on the way in from St Brelade doing around 50 mph on a clear road. What's needed is for measures to prevent speeding, and deterrents for those who are so careless of the speed that they endanger other road users and pedestrians.

Like a conjuror, Gerard Baudains pulls figures out of his hat to support his case:

The 30 signs had only been up a few days when there were three serious accidents, including a fatality.

In fact, this is the same kind of anecdotal evidence that Peter Bryans is talking about. The global statistics for 30 mph show a decrease in accidents, but there will, as he points out, always be the rogue statistics, the outliers, which are snapped up eagerly by the News of the World (when it was being published), and Gerard Baudains today!

In today's JEP, I see that a man has been charged with dangerous driving after a crash along St Clement's Coast Road. Does Gerard Baudains serious think that raising speed limits will prevent this kind of event?

Contributed by Peter Bryans

I must congratulate the new editor for conceiving a splendid plan to elicit a response from our generally silent readers. By choosing to write a deliberately provocative article, which brilliantly plumbed the pinnacles of banal naivety, he has demonstrated that at least one member of Mensa (me) will respond to an article which is intentionally lacking in objectivity, common sense and academic irrelevances such as facts and proof.

He asks a simple question - WHO DECIDES? On issues which affect all members of a community, single individuals could only be allowed to make their own individual decisions if we lived in a society of anarchists. Because we live in a democracy the answer had got to be that the government elected by the community decides, after listening to and evaluating all points of view. This decision is then given the force of law to protect the innocent and persuade the ignorant.

A simple fact (which Ken very cleverly omitted so as to generate controversy where there need otherwise be none) is that since the wearing of seat-belts became compulsory in the U.K. the number of road deaths and serious injuries has decreased dramatically (a 31.23% overall decrease and a 28.72% decrease in areas governed by a 30 m.p.h. speed limit) (Jul - Dec 1983). Put another way, at this rate 2,500 people are alive in July 1984 who would have died (statistically) had they not been made to wear seat belts in the previous months.

However, I am sure that investigative reporters angling for a career with the News of the World will eventually demonstrate that someone, somewhere has died because they wore a seat belt - just as instances can be shown of a pilot who was strangled by his own parachute, a Farmer whose skull was fractured by his tractor's safety cab and a hospital patient who had died from the side-effects of a "miracle" drug. All of these instances don't mean that we should ban parachutes, safety cabs, life saving drugs or seat belts - just that God sometimes has a sense of humour.

Mensa brains must be shown to be capable of supporting democratic measures (even paternal dictatorships) which demonstrably save large numbers of lives in the community. Membership of Mensa does not allow us to drink and drive, survive car crashes seat-belt less with impunity or walk on water.

Remember the cemeteries are full of people who knew better than to wear seat-belts - although their widows and orphans have now learnt by sad experience, that collective wisdom was better than their loved ones individual decisions. Ask them WHO DECIDES? they never got the chance.

Editor's Note:
Upon Peter's views I will not comment. On his attack on my personal integrity I most certainly will. He made an erroneous and unwarranted presumption as to my motives for writing the article. I do not use a subject affecting the lives of my fellow humans for the triviality of eliciting a response from Members. Some years ago my life was saved because I was NOT wearing a seat-belt. I would like everyone - including Peter - to have the same choice. That was my sole motive.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Deputies Elections - St Martin 1993

1993 saw a contested election in St Martin, in which sitting Deputy Bob Hill saw off a challenge from David Thelland.

The issue of drugs comes into Bob Hill's manifesto, which is perhaps not surprising for a former policeman. What is notable, however, is that unlike other candidates in other Parishes, who call for tougher sentencing to be taken, he clearly realises that the culture of dependency in which drugs users are trapped needs consideration, and just locking them up (as other Deputies had called for) is not a solution - hence his call for a "confidential drugs consultation unit".

David Thelland also wants to tackle the drugs problem by a "combination of education, counselling and stiffer penalties" - evidently he realises that sentencing policy alone is not enough, although he clearly thinks that "stiff penalties" is a phrase which will go down well with the more "gung-ho" members of the electorate.

Mr Thelland, like a number of other Deputies, is quite forthcoming about his Jersey credentials  but very unforthcoming about his business activities. He is a "company director", and has "business interests". An internet search suggests these might be as an "Independent Oil & Energy Professional", whatever that involves.

Deputies Elections - St Martin 1993

Bob  Hill
Occupation: Retired
Age: 53

BOB Hill believes in policies of openness and accountability, service to the community, and consultation. He wants to create opportunities for parishioners to feel more involved in Island affairs.

A farmer's son, he was educated at St Martin's School and worked for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police. The last 17 years were spent as youth and a community officer in Lambeth.

During his career he was awarded several commendations, including the British Empire Medal for his
service to the community. He retired and returned to Jersey two years ago with his wife Ann. Since returning, he has organised and run the Jersey Junior Citizen Project - a multi-agency approach to safety awareness.

'To enhance community spirit within the parish I shall look at the possibility of establishing self-funding increases to finance unemployment,' he says.

Mr Hill plans to to seek ways  of maintaining a stable population and supports training of people of all ages. He intends to look into voluntary exchange schemes and the setting-up of a small business enterprise scheme.
He wants to combat drug abuse and will support the establishment of a confidential drugs consultation unit.

Dave Thelland
Occupation: Company director
Age: 49

CENTENIER David Thelland's election platform is based on his policies of tackling unemployment and immigration through training. He wants to ensure that the local workforce is highly qualified.

He is adamant that the Island's heritage needs protection and is totally opposed to a marina at St Catherine. He believes in equal pay for equal work and supports business initiatives. He intends to tackle the growing drug and crime problems and believes that a combination of education, counselling and stiffer penalties will bring success.

Mr Thelland is a Jerseyman, but was educated at Farnborough Grammar and King Alfred's College, Winchester. He became a teacher and worked for 18 years at St Helier Boys and Le Rocquier Schools before leaving to devote more time to his family and business interests.

He thinks that the parish welfare system should be subsidised from a central fund and that politicians should be more accountable. He is very involved in youth work and sport, as well as with St Martin's Battle of Flowers.

If elected Mr Thelland promises to he a good listener and to work hard for both the parish and the Island as a whole.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

They were standing under a tree, each with an arm round the other's neck, and Alice knew which was which in a moment, because one of them had 'DUM' embroidered on his collar, and the other 'DEE.' 'I suppose they've each got "TWEEDLE" round at the back of the collar,' she said to herself. They stood so still that she quite forgot they were alive, and she was just looking round to see if the word "TWEEDLE" was written at the back of each collar, when she was startled by a voice coming from the one marked 'DUM.'

'If you think we're wax-works,' he said, 'you ought to pay, you know. Wax-works weren't made to be looked at for nothing, nohow!'
'Contrariwise,' added the one marked 'DEE,' 'if you think we're alive, you ought to speak.'
(Alice Through the Looking Glass)

The peculiar thing about Tweedledum and Tweedledee is although they say "contrariwise" a lot, they actually agree about most things. I was thinking about them when I was looking at two of the country Deputies, Angela Jeune and Anne Dupre whom, I have to confess, I have muddled up at time. They too, tend to say "contrariwise" a good deal, especially when it comes to their voting record in the States, which is mostly "Contre", voting against things. So I'll just let that speak for itself.

In 2008, I looked at the voting patterns over the first 27 votes where there was a significant conflict on votes, rather than those votes which have been carried by everyone present. I counted how many States members vote the same way as Senator Terry Le Sueur, the Chief Minister. The voting patterns below tend to be remarkably consistent thereafter:

26 Deputy Angela Elizabeth Jeune
24 Deputy Anne Teresa Dupre

Both candidates still have their 2008 websites up, so if you look quickly, you can see what they promised in their own words. For example:

Angela Jeune promises "If you, the electorate, choose me as your representative I will endeavour  not to let you down. I will make provision to keep in touch with you and  will use this website as a means of keeping you up to date."

The website has not been altered since 2008, when she was elected.


Council of Ministers' meetings: public access.

This proposition was to request the Council of Ministers to hold its meetings in public, except  when the Council is discussing any matter which, by virtue of any enactment or code, it is entitled to discuss in private.

Both voted CONTRE

"Responsibility/Accountability: States members must take the lead in this by example.  States Members are, in my opinion, answerable to the people of this Island, they are OUR representatives." (Angela Jeune)


Goods and Services Tax: exemption or zero-rating for foodstuffs, domestic energy and fuel paragraph (a)(i) [foodstuffs]
Goods and Services Tax: exemption or zero-rating for foodstuffs, domestic energy and fuel paragraph (a)(ii) [domestic energy]

Both voted CONTRE

"I am totally against GST on food and children's clothes. In 1973 the UK government introduced VAT, but food, children's clothes, books, newspapers and magazines were zero-rated or exempt. We normally follow the UK in a somewhat slavish way, but on this occasion, the States thought they knew best - how wrong they were! The majority of Islanders are against this tax as it affects every single person, from the young to the old. It affects the care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, nurseries etc" (Anne Dupre)

Electoral Commission: establishment as amended

This was to look into the way in which the States was constituted, as Clothier was only partly implemented, to agree that an independent Electoral Commission should be established in Jersey to investigate and report on all aspects of the electoral system and composition of the elected membership of the States Assembly and the election and voting processes for such members.

Both voted CONTRE

Standing Orders: Time Limits on Speeches During Debates paragraph (b)
Standing Orders: Time Limits on Speeches During Debates -paragraphs (a) and (c)

This was to reduce the time speeches could be made to 15 minutes which, allowing for any interruptions on a point of order, would be probably more like 10 minutes. However, the Council of Ministers would have 30 minutes for any of their propositions!

Both voted POUR (in favour of this reduction)

Historical Child Abuse: request to Council of Ministers as amended

This proposition by Francis le Gresley  was to set up an public enquiry as promised by former Chief Minister Senator Frank Walker, which had been dropped without debate by Senator Terry Le Sueur, who appeared not to want to be committed to promises made by the States previously.
Both voted CONTRE

Jersey Post: petition:

This was about the cutting back on deliveries and postal collections, and a fair playing field for all postal operations.
Both voted CONTRE

Millennium Town Park [in St Helier]
Both voted CONTRE

"We are very privileged to have such wonderful open spaces in our Parish [St Brelade]." (Angela Jeune)

Roads and Pavements: Legal Liability in Case of Negligence

To rectify the fact that the States have no obligations if a road develops potholes and someone injuries themselves because they haven't repaired it

Letter from Transport and Technical Services after one case: "We are sorry to hear that you were injured and hope you are progressing swiftly towards a full recovery. Our understanding of the Law in Jersey is that in the absence of an express statutory provision (and there is none), the States of Jersey cannot be held legally liable for injury to a third party as a result of failing to maintain a public highway in a good state of repair. There is no equivalent Highways Act in Jersey. Whilst we are sorry to hear of your injury, we regret that we have no offer to make in the way of financial compensation on behalf of our insured."

Both voted CONTRE

School Milk: Restoration of Funding

Proposition Notes: "Good habits, started in the primary years, may be developed into secondary school. The drinking of reduced fat milk is one such good habit. When a glass of milk replaces a packet of crisps and a can of coke, not only will it be contributing to a reduction in the worrying levels of obesity in our young people, it will be helping many to concentrate on their studies. Furthermore, if our young people are not encouraged to drink milk as part of a balanced diet, then where will the future customers for Jersey Dairy come from? Support for free school milk can be seen as a much-needed assistance with marketing for our dairy industry"

Both voted CONTRE

"We are also fortunate to see fields with our famous Jersey cow, sheep and pigs."(Angela Jeune)

Draft Civil Partnership (Jersey) Law 201- (P.85/2011): amendment. (to allow religious texts or songs)
Both voted CONTRE

Draft Civil Partnership (Jersey) Law 201- Third Reading (final version)

"I am compassionate, considerate, caring" (Anne Dupre)

Differences of Opinion

On these matters they differed, with Angela Jeune taking the Council of Ministers "Party" Line

Compulsory wearing of cycle helmets paragraph (a) (children under 18)
Angela Jeune: CONTRE
Anne Dupre: POUR

Recycling of waste materials: identification of suitable sites.
Angela Jeune: CONTRE
Anne Dupre: POUR

Minimum Wage Level as a Percentage of Average Earnings as amended

Proposition brought because "the level of the minimum wage, whilst clearly being an economic decision, was also one which was legitimately also a political one. In establishing a minimum wage the States have quite properly committed themselves to the protection of our lowest paid employees"

Angela Jeune: CONTRE
Anne Dupre: POUR

"Not all young people want or are able to work in the finance sector, and we need plumbers, mechanics, electricians, carpenters etc. We should encourage apprenticeships to be available for them. If we are developing the skills of our own folk we should have less necessity to recruit from elsewhere."  (Angela Jeune)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Silencing the Moral Discourse in Politics

Deputy M. Tadier: Are there any Christians in this Assembly, because I came in this morning listening to people mouthing the Lord's Prayer?...... (speech follows)

The Deputy Bailiff: Deputy, I did not want to interrupt you in the course of your speech - you clearly feel passionately - but you used earlier in your speech the expression that Members were "mouthing" the Lord's Prayer. Could you please explain the sense in which you used that expression because if you were meaning to imply that Members did not intend what they were saying, I think most Members would find that very objectionable.

Philip Ozouf: Deputy Tadier spoke about morality and the church and the Lord's Prayer. I have to say as a politician, I believe in a separation of the church and State. I am sorry if that is unpopular but I have never used Bible quotes and I have never used anything in relation to the issues of using selectively Bible quotes to make any political points and I do not propose to do so. I keep my own views to myself and I am not going to present any sort of particular moral religious issues on that.

These snippets from the last session of the States in July bring an interesting question to the forefront. How do moral and religious views interact with the States? It is a curious paradox, of course, that the States sessions begin with the Lord's Prayer, led by the Dean of Jersey, and somehow Philip Ozouf does not see this as contradicting the principle which he endorses. If it has no meaning to the Assembly, or should have no implications for the political debate which follows, what is the point of it being there? On the basis of this principle, it has been effectively relegated to a piece of empty ceremonial, because what follows can not take any account of the meaning in the words. In fact Deputy Daniel Wimberley argued that there should be a link between the Lord's Prayer and the States debates, and principles of justice and fairness should not be left out of the deliberations:

Following on from Deputy Tadier's mention of the Lord's Prayer that we all say every morning and in the preparatory prayer, we say, à la gloire de ton saint nom so the question is what glorifies God? I have a copy here of the Poverty and Justice Bible which is published by Christian Aid, I think, and they highlight all the references to justice or fairness in orange. As someone has said - I cannot remember who - if you cut out all the references to justice and fairness in the Bible, then the thing falls apart quite literally, it just falls apart.

But what exactly does it mean to separate church from States?

The philosopher Michael Sandel has argued that the "separation of Church and State", with the implications that implies for moral arguments, promises a neutrality that is not possible. This is because people have core values, and some regard the core values not as chosen, but as given because of their religious beliefs. Alasdair MacIntyre, asked about his Catholicism, replied that: ""I believe what I am taught to believe by God, through the Church. And, when God speaks, there is nothing to do but to obey or disobey. I don't know in what other way one could be a Roman Catholic."

Now by excluding religious beliefs from political debate, as Senator Ozouf wishes to do, means that these beliefs become submerged, as a hidden agenda, and other arguments have to be adduced to support them. But that is not necessarily a good thing: if the other arguments are exposed as fallacious, the person arguing in this fashion will change to another set of arguments, because the arguments are functioning on a surface level, and the debate about the real issues is concealed, so that in fact, members, are in fact being insincere because of the constraints imposed on them by this position. Brent Picket, from the University of Colorado, explains how damaging this can be:

Sandel presents human beings as creatures for whom moral goods and meanings are tremendously important. We look to our civic life to embody shared meanings. A failure to vest it with that meaning creates two dangers. One is that citizens will forsake the public realm since they find that it contributes little to their lives. Hence the sophisticated form of argument, by fastidiously trying to avoid the language of the good (even while covertly smuggling in a particular conception of the good), impoverishes the public realm, fostering political apathy and withdrawal. The version of liberalism by which we live thus weakens our capacity for self-rule. Also, when various conceptions of the good life are taken to be expressions of mere choice, the motivation to discuss and debate alternative conceptions is lost.

But the strategy of arguing that measures will improve the economy, and should be accepted primarily on those grounds, and removing the ethical dimension from debate, and the practice linked to that of "talking up the economy" rather than being realistic (e.g. "Jersey's economic rating would be AAA plus") leads to disengagement of a cynical electorate, who don't believe the "talking up" - and that itself, of course, is not value free. As Paula Thelwell observed of Philip Ozouf's statements:

While the world's economies are teetering on the brink of disaster and as political leaders cancel holidays or hurry home to avert national crises, we are in 'robust health' and in good enough shape to withstand any fallout. Tell that to the growing number of unemployed, and the alarmingly increasing sections of our community who are finding it very hard to make ends meet while those more fortunate enjoy all the luxuries 'fat cat' salaries can buy.

As Bishop N.T. Wright comments:

Our politicians have to go on promising us Utopia, because if they didn't the press would pillory them; but this essentially modernist dream, of socially engineered progress leading to Paradise, sits increasingly uncomfortably with our postmodern electorate, trained now in the high arts of cynicism, of 'Yeah, yeah' and 'Whatever'.

Of course, we do not want the Church imposing religious values in a theocratic rule. That is the real reason for a "separation of Church and States", that the State should not tell people how they should believe. History shows us the dangers of that, and how Christianity after Constantine became the "established Church" of the Empire, so that political decrees outlawed Pagan beliefs. Indeed, Christians themselves have seen how damaging that was. As the Methodist Thomas Coke put it:

No sooner did Constantine the Great ascend the throne of the Empire, and profess himself a Christian, but his Religion became the established one of the Empire. And now, the pernicious influence of that bane of truth and holiness, a national Church, began to pervade the Christian world. . . . And now the great, and the rich, and the wise after the flesh . . . pressed into the visible Church, which they treated as a mere Leviathan, . . . to frighten the vulgar,- the mere tool and stalking-horse of sinister and ambitious men.

The American Constitution endorsed this kind of separation when it stated that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But what it doesn't do is to say that religious and moral values shall play no part in political discourse. Stephen L. Carter of the Yale Law School comments that:

If the separation of church and state is understood as a doctrine prohibiting the government from endorsing a religion's claims or penalizing or encouraging membership, it is difficult to understand why that separation must go further and actually seek to exclude from the public square those to whom religion is important in forming their personal moral consciences.

So what happens for for many people the notion persists that "separation of church and state" inevitably requires the privatization of religion and a denial of its prophetic role in society. But the economic motivation is not value free, there are three major consequences.

Firstly, economic arguments contain embedded values, and by not unpicking those values, and engaging in a debate with on values, those values are not challenged, and the debate is flattened into one on how effective or efficient a particular strategy might be, which gives a primacy to those economic values, and ignores or subordinates the ethical debate on matters of principle, almost completely reversing the tradition enshrined in classical philosophy where the debate on principles comes first. As the Buddhist P.A. Payutto has noted:

Economists look at just one short phase of the natural causal process and single out the part that interests them, ignoring the wider ramifications. Thus, modern economists take no account of the ethical consequences of economic activity

Secondly, where individuals do debate on matters that are underpinned by their own religious or ethical values, because these are bracketed out of the debate, all kinds of other arguments are brought to the forefront to make their case, but as those are not core arguments, no real debate is taking place. It is like the creationists in America who grab any scientific argument (often torn out of context) in order to argue their case, where their real agenda remains off the political map.

Thirdly, the prophetic voice is silenced. How could Martin Luther King have made his case against racial segregation and against economic segregation if he had been bound hand and foot by an ideology which forbade all such debate in the public sphere? There is a place for righteous indignation, and for the call for values of justice and fairness to be given an equal place in the public debate:

On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." (Martin Luther King)

Justice, Michael Sandel
Sandel, Ontology, and Advocacy, Brent L. Pickett
The Separation of Church and Self, Steven Young, 1992
God and Government, NT Wright, 2010
Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place, Ven. P. A. Payutto

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Truth is Two-Eyed

By temperament, training or tradition most of us have allowed ourselves to become one-eyed or so monocular in our vision of reality that effectively our 'lazy eye', spiritually speaking, contributes nothing. And some people, not least religious people, deliberately close that other eye, because, in a sense that Jesus did not mean it, it is a cause of 'offence'. They would rather be blinkered and bigoted. And if in that mood they pluck it out, it is scarcely likely to save them from hell, and their vision of 'life' will certainly be mean and narrow. (JAT Robinson, Truth is Two-Eyed)

Bishop John Robinson gave the 1978 Teape lectures in Delhi, later expanded as a book "Truth is Two-Eyed", which I've just been reading for the first time. It is a fascinating study which is based not only on Robinson's wide reading on the subject but also from a visit to India where he could study and immerse himself in Indian culture. Robinson is not arguing for a syncretic merging of different faiths but rather that from wherever our own tradition comes from, we also learn from the strengths of the other which enables us to have a more balanced and less distorted picture. Why is this important? Religious traditions and our participation or nonparticipation in them (in the West) do shape our ethical values, how we feel about treating other people, of social justice. So although Robinson is arguing for a deeper picture of reality, what he says can result in practical outcomes. And sometimes, a religious tradition also can be blind to the evils within itself, as with Christianity supporting slavery, and Hinduism endorsement of the caste system. Looking with two-eyes, we are more likely to see those evils.

And lest it be thought that it is only Christianity which makes claims to be the best way, often with a distorted vision of other faiths, it is worth remembering that others have done the same to Christianity. Anagarika Dharmapala, a nineteenth century Buddhist, said "The Nazarene carpenter had no sublime teachings to offer, and understandably so, because his parables not only reveal a limited mind, but they also impart immoral lessons and impractical ethics...The few illiterate fishermen of Galilee followed him as he promised to make them judges to rule over Israel", while A.J. Mattil said that "Jesus is a spiritual dwarf before Buddha, the spiritual giant."

Robinson does not consider the case of those who live a purely secular life, and who have no time for religious belief, although his other writings, such as "Honest to God" do address these issues, not for academic reasons but for pastoral reasons. But the rise of New Age spirituality and the increasingly strident tone of militant atheism (such as Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris) demonstrate that our society cannot easily live in a spiritual vacuum. But the New Age has its own weaknesses, not least being an often unreflective assimilation to consumer society and an individualism which can see personal goals as more important than social goals. Many people are "dabblers", and often only interested in the effect New Age practices have on their health or well-being; it is only a minority who go further into the subject, and try to understand its theoretical (or "mystical") significance. This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in our society. As a result, many facets of New Age approaches have adapted well to the laws of the market, and it is partly because it is such an attractive economic proposition that New Age has become so widespread - just look at the expanding bookshelves in Waterstones! 

"Readiness to look at reality through both eyes at once brings the promise of extra-dimensionality and depth, but presents the labour of a fresh learning and focusing progress. It also, as we shall see, brings the danger of a mixed or syncretistic vision, which in dealing with Hinduism is again always very present."

Robinson suggests that in Christianity one finds the ultimate nature of reality to be personal, which he sees as the primacy of the "Thou" over the "That", where the Christian view of God is expressed in categories of the highest in personal relationship: love, trust, freedom. By contrast, he notes that in Hinduism one finds the opposite movement of the primacy of the "That" over the "Thou" at the heart of the ultimate nature of reality.  "The sa-guna (qualified) Brahman, that is, Is'vara, the personal divinity, is an anthropomorphic representation. The 'I-Thou' understanding of Christian personalism is inferior to the 'I-That' or 'Tat-Tvam-Asi' view of the Upanishadic tradition. The impersonal Brahman is the ultimate truth whereas the anthropomorphic Is'vara is a concession to popular devotion, unable to raise itself above a human image of the divine.  "

He notes that we always have a "stronger eye", so that by temperament or tradition, we are drawn to one side or the other, but we have to twy and see truth with both eyes.

George Gispert-Sauch, writing on  "Two Eyed Dialogue" noted that Robinson's thesis was not a naive syncretism which just seeks to mesh two pictures, but a way of improving our vision by keeping different perspectives together in our sight, which is an altogether different and more difficult enterprise:

A healthy vision, he said, comes from complementary perceptions. We have two eyes, but each one of us has taken to using one or the other, either the right or the left eye. The picture given us by our preferred eye must then be complemented by what the other eye can give us. The process by which the two visions become one remains hidden in the depth of the preconscious. The healthy complete vision has a wholeness that the one-eyed vision lacks. We can of course choose to look at reality with only one eye. We can use only the Western eye, and stress the personal, the historical, the dualistic, the contingent as the only place in which as creatures we can situate ourselves, the only place from which we can see God. Or we can be Easterners in vision and see everything in a monistic way,  sub specie aeternitatis, in a quasi-divine vision: from that pinnacle we see ourselves and the world  as expressions of God (though we wrongly think ourselves autonomous).

Whoever we are-Hindus, Buddhists, Christians or whatever - Robinson suggests that we should use both eyes. Of course our original culture or faith will lead us to make a choice as to which is our primary  eye, but both eyes are needed if we are to have a complete perception. The one-eyed vision is dangerously flat; we lose perspective on distances; we might make misjudgments and have an accident. If we have been educated exclusively in one culture, we are one-eye blind. We need to borrow the other eye from the traditions of other cultures. And here dialogue has a function.

He explains how difficult this can be, because of the embedded nature of symbolism, but how it is fear that makes us want to pull back, and our understanding can be enriched by other symbols when we penetrate beyond the superficial:

However, symbols are not like coins from one currency that can easily be exchanged for others according to market rates. Symbols come with a retinue; they bring with them a world of moods, perceptions, mystic intuitions, ways of relating to the Divine, all derived from their origins. A sharing of symbols means also a sharing of religious experiences, seeing the Divine with a different eye. Some feel comfortable with this process; for others, it is unnerving, a call to death. It often demands an ascetic renunciation of things that give us security. Faith is purified, with less dependence on its external expressions, and a greater trust in the inner guidance of the Spirit. My colleagues taught me to see the temple, the gurdwara, the mosque, the great tirthas (pilgrimage centres), as places for worship and meditation, not tourist attractions. They are places vibrating with centuries of bhakti, love, devotion, tapas (penance), faith, trust and prayer. Here we cross frontiers; here we experience liminality; here we share a different spirituality which we do not understand fully. But at this level, understanding matters less. The important thing is communion in silence. The symbol is only a sacrament, a door to another spiritual world.

I think this was brought out very well in an article in the Tablet Magazine in 2008, where the Dalai Lama went to a Dominican colloquium on contemplative prayer in the Christian and Buddhist traditions, held at Blackfriars Priory. He had personally requested the meeting with the Dominicans, saying that he wished to learn something more about Christian prayer during his stay in Britain.

Prior to the colloquium the Dalai Lama attended the Divine Office sung by the Dominican community in the Priory Church. It was an impressive sight to see the Dalai Lama, dressed as always in his maroon and yellow Buddhist robes, surrounded by some 40 Dominican friars in their white habits, united in prayer

Apparently there are some Buddhists who do not feel easy with the familiarity the Dalai Lama shows to Christians, and some Christians who feel that Buddhism is a threat to Western Christianity. This shows the way in which fear makes people want to keep a single vision, and not engage. This, of course, was where multiculturalism in the UK went wrong, it encouraged tolerance, but the tolerance of the Ghetto, in which each group could live behind their own barricades.

It is also interesting that what emerged from the Blackfriars discussion on both sides was that contemplation and meditation was needed away from the rush and pace of work and daily life, in order that one could better engage with the world; it was not an individualist goal in itself:

The Dalai Lama said that what he had heard about Christian prayer confirmed his long held conviction that all religions had the same goal of working for the welfare of all human beings, even though they differed in many of their fundamental teachings. Fr Murray had said that within the Dominican tradition it was felt that time spent in contemplation should always be followed by the handing over of the fruits of that prayer to others out of love. The Dalai Lama saw in this a convergence with the Buddhist emphasis that the two central pillars of Buddhist life, wisdom and compassion, were bound up with each other. Meditation and the pursuit of wisdom should always issue forth in acts of compassion for others.

But what of the the different perspectives on what may be termed (loosely) "ultimate reality"? There, too, there may be differences in emphasis, but a closer truth than one might think:

Professor Paul Williams of Bristol University, both a scholar of Buddhism and a Catholic, asked the Dalai Lama whether Buddhism could find common ground with the Christian idea of God reaching out to humanity in love. In the Buddhist tradition, he said the goal of meditation was not a personal creator God, but the realisation of an ultimate reality characterised as "emptiness" (shunyata), meaning that nothing had independent existence. In reply, the Dalai Lama explained that in the Vajrayana form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet, "emptiness" was held to be "shining" and could thus be held to radiate out to others, just as the joy of meditation radiated out to others in compassion.

In many ways, John Robinson was ahead of his time. In "Truth is Two-Eyes", he was proposing an alternative avenue that multiculturalism, which has now pretty well been acknowledged to be a failed enterprise. Toleration was very much a virtue promoted by the enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Lock, and while the ability to live together without religious strife and wars was extremely valuable, it was a part of what philosopher Isaiah Berlin described as "negative liberty". When used as a positive force, it encouraged a ghetto mentality which strenuously avoided engagement, and instead promoted segregation in which extremism could take root. Against that kind of relativism, Robinson's approach suggests that what we need to do is engagement, not segregation, which will produce not just a "live and let live" attitude, but positive fruits in terms of how society works better together.

George Gispert-Sauch notes that while Robinson was considering East and West, which was very much part of the framework of the British culture in which he was writing, the today vision needs to be wider still.

Of course the two-eye metaphor will need to be expanded: there is not only a so called 'oriental' and a 'western' pattern of spirituality: there may be, there are other patterns, e.g., those of the indigenous peoples who live closer to mother earth.

Truth is Two-Eyed. London, John A T Robinson. SCM Press, 1979
Two-Eyed Dialogue: Reflections after Fifty Years, George Gispert-Sauch 
The Tablet, 7 June 2008
Spirituality of Hinduism and Christianity at:

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Belt Up 1984 - Part 1

July 1984 saw the publication of the first edition of "Thinks!", the Channel Island Mensa Magazine.

The editor Ken Webb, decided to mark the launch with a topical debate - on seat belts. He was annoyed that the JEP motoring correspondent seemed to be lobbying for seat belts rather than having an informed debate about the advantages and disadvantages, and giving equal time to protestors.

It seems strange to imagine now, because we are so used to seat belts as part of our way of life. But back in 1984, the debate was happening in Jersey, and legislation was not on the statute books. TV campaigns had been run in the UK since 1971 and seen in Jersey on television, where popular presenter from "Top of the Pops" and "Jim'll Fix it", Jimmy Saville exhorted motorists to belt up with the slogan "Clunk Click Every Trip". Nostalgia buffs can watch one - which makes clever use of an egg and a tin box - here:

What is fascinating is that the same kind of argument - which is basically a libertarian one that citizens should be free to make their own informed judgments - resurfaced, albeit in a slightly different guise, when cycle helmets were an issue. For the record, I didn't agree with Ken, despite the fact that not wearing a seat belt saved my sister's life on one occasion.

The piece by Ken was intended to provoke a response, and it did. Later, I'll post the replies that came in the next issue.

THE SMOKE SCREEN by the Editor.

So someone in the Jersey Evening Post decided it would be a good thing if every motorist in Jersey be forced to wear a seat belt. There followed a highly pressurised campaign all designed to convince people that wearing a seat belt is always a good thing. Of course, under certain circumstances it is good, it can save your life or prevent serious injury. But why has no mention been made of the other side of the coin? That, under different conditions, seat belts can kill you or seriously injure you. The duty of a responsible journal is to inform the public not to attempt to brainwash it. A good journalist reports the news, he does not try and make it.

Now, led by the nose, the Jersey States is to introduce a law forcing each motorist to wear a seat belt - even if it kills him/her! I object to legislation promoted by a newspaper irresponsibly taking advantage of its monopoly position. That there exist in Jersey people who, from their ivory towers of ignorance, have the arrogance to play at being God with your life and with mine - this I find most worrying. Only you know the circumstances of your driving - the type of car; its condition; your reflexes; re-action time; alcohol intake; speed of driving, etc. These decide the conditions of the crash. Seat belts play no part in the cause or prevention of crashes - they operate for good or ill only at impact.

Let us dispose of the smoke screen. The argument is not if seat belts are good or bad, they can be both. The only point to consider is:- "WHO DECIDES?" You who know, or those who do not know? I drive a large, heavy estate car. I sat and considered the problem. If involved in a crash I face a ball of fire; a steering wheel going through me; my going through the windscreen. With a large engine and a heavy chassis in front of me and a petrol tank tucked away in the back, I reasoned that the probability of a ball of fire was not great; the probability of being impaled on the steering wheel was also not great; the probability that I hit the windscreen was greater. Knowing the facts I formulated a judgement - seat belts are fitted and I wear them. But that is my judgement and, I believe, it is an intelligent one.

The second car I drive is a light, rear engined run around. There is nothing in front of me but an empty space and a petrol tank six inches from the front bumper. The probability of a ball of fire is much greater; the probability of being impaled on the steering wheel is also much greater; the probability of contact with the windscreen remains the same. On balance I believe that I am better off not wearing a seat belt in this car and I do not. My judgement - my life - my decision.

Remember, seat belts can be both good and bad. Which ? - no one knows !

The issue is a very simple one:-


You after an intelligent appraisal,



The Editor requests your views. (He can duck ! )

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Local Pop Idol

Davy Jones, DJ at Radio Jersey

The Monkees:
Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Murray Norton and Mickey Dolenz

Is it my imagination or does BBC Radio Jersey's Murray Norton look like Monkee Davy Jones?

Friday Funnies

I've been trawling through the archives again, and as it is Friday, it's time for jokes. Here are a few timeless jokes from "Thinks!", the Channel Island Mensa Magazine, edited by Ken Webb, dating from 1984.

Jos Smuts du Toit, Cape Town Mensa

In these days of escalating costs one may be tempted to tackle repairs oneself in order to save the exorbitant cost of calling in a repair man. As a word of warning to the budding do-it-yourselfer, it should be borne in mind that the following immutable DIY Laws apply:-

Law No.1. Any DIY job requiring ten minutes work is always preceded by two hours of labour which has to be done because "someone" has a) borrowed, stolen or lost the necessary tools, or b) broken the step-ladder giving the only access to the job, or c) used up the last of the paint/sandpaper/cement, and the shops are closed for the week-end.

Law No.2. Any appliance requiring repair has been previously repaired with "x" screws; (x - 1) screws can be removed without difficulty, but the final screw can only be removed by effecting the total destruction of the appliance itself. This is the manufacturers' trick known as "screwing the customer".

Law No.3. No matter how many thousand nuts, bolts and screws of various shapes and sizes the DIY man may have accumulated over a lifetime none of these will fit the appliance to be repaired as the exact nut/bolt/screw required is a) lost, or b) longer, or c) shorter, or d) of larger or smaller diameter, or e) left handed thread, or f) cut with a Patagonian knife-sharpener's patent micrometer thread of variable pitch, the dies for which were all- melted down in 1932.


The other day, coming out of the bathroom, I noticed a towel on the floor. "I wonder," thought I, "If Webb still has the dexterity he had in his youth?"

I stretched out my foot, caught the towel in my toes, tossed it into the air and caught it with one hand. A gratifying smile spread across my face.

My wife who happened to be passing, made the following comment:-

"You really are getting old. You can't even bend down now."


The following notice was pinned at eye level in front of every cashier in a certain bank: "To err is human. To forgive is not Bank policy."


A gentleman found himself in a field confronted by an irate bull. His only avenue of escape was the branch of a tree - unfortunately ten feet above the ground.

With amazing alacrity and no little athleticism he ran and jumped - and missed it! However, he caught it on the way down.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


As tonight, we remember the families that died..

Here we come to honour the silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
At the fury killing, so blinded
For with dying in his hand
He wrought of the family death
And a sorrow great to our land
A loving family, yet contrary
Nothing seemed to be going that good
House of cards collapsing a venture
And the price came in blood
A dark rage to all his faithful
Love turning darkly his mood
Lost the children dying unshriven
And sorrow enfolds with dismay
At the sudden ending of breath
Time becomes an endless day
And the light fades, to vanish
As darkness comes this way
Mourn the family, such tragic death
Light a candle in darkling eye
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice we cry:
Farewell, we will mourn you
Now on wings, arise and fly.

How to Translate Philip Ozouf

I've been looking over Philip Ozouf's replies to the JEP survey, and decided, in a light-hearted way, to translate what he says into what he may actually mean, or what may the be intended outcome.

The "translation" is very much an opinion based on what he has said, and is intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek. The idea that he might really be slightly duplicitous, and conceal his real intentions behind well chosen words, is of course, a figment of my fevered imagination!

He says: The States need to organise their business more strictly, introduce time limited speeches and find a mechanism where proposals that are never going to get a majority approval do not dominate States assembly business.

Translation: When I am Chief Minister, I don't want lots of speeches from backbenchers, and I want to cut out any propositions that backbenchers may bring against me.

He says: The Council of Ministers is elected to serve the Assembly and the island; ministerial government has been in place since 2005. Now, with the benefit of experience, I believe there are important aspects about the way the Council of Ministers operates that need to change. Most importantly the Council of Ministers needs to work better together as a collective committee, making joint decisions, without individual agendas becoming dominant.

Translation: When I am Chief Minister, I want a Cabinet Style government, with the Chief Minister acting very much like the Prime Minister in the UK, with the power to ensure other members come to the "right" decisions.

He says: Many scrutiny panels have been characterized by in-fighting, yah-boo point scoring, and reports that have lacked research, balance and depth.

Translation: I don't want any Scrutiny that criticises me seriously at all, or scores any points against weaknesses in my arguments.

He says: Going forward, we are proposing to cut spending by 65% (to fill 65% of the deficit), and raise 35% of the deficit through more taxes. That means more taxes on business, raising the cap on social security contributions, and more tax on islanders with the increase of GST to 5%.

Translation: More means testing and stealth taxes, another rise in GST (I keep my promises!) and no extra taxes on business because despite endlessly promising that something would be done about local trading companies owned by overseas shareholders who pay no tax at all here, I can't think of anything that will work. Meanwhile, I'll stick to Mr Micawber's line - "something will turn up". And taxes on islanders doesn't include 1.1(k)s, of course.

He says: We need to be careful and sensitive about immigration, looking after the island and protecting the right of locals, while still accepting and welcoming the skills, expertise and hard work of new residence.

Translation: Expect Chief Officers to be appointed from the UK, as they have been mostly for the past decade, and paying them massive salaries for their "expertise".

He says: One of the downsides of strong economic performance that Jersey has seen in the post war period is that house prices have risen to unaffordable levels for young people and first time buyers. Providing affordable homes for islanders should be a very high political priority. With the right to develop land should come the responsibility to provide a proportion of affordable homes. The island plan provides for the first time, planning obligations on all sites that will be developed in the future, limited re-zoning of brown field sites will also provide affordable homes for first time buyers.

Translation: You can expect more luxury development, but the developers will have to provide houses for first time buyers, providing they are rich enough and probably work in the finance industry.

He says: We need to deliver affordable homes on states owned sites and give further consideration to the scale of re-zoning that is going to be required.

Translation: Now that John Le Fondre has been sacked and is no longer in charge at Property Services, we can get all kinds of deals passed without careful financial scrutiny. Expect more costly States mistakes like the "affordable homes" at St Lawrence, where Housing can rubber stamp deals.

He says: As an elected member, perhaps it's inappropriate for me to answer this question! I suppose I would like to know a new States Members view on long-winded speeches, and how many, if any, they intend to give.

Translation: I want States members who are quiet, say little, but just vote the way I want them to.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Jersey Kitchen - Part 3

This is the final part of the booklet on the Jersey Kitchen of 1932. It mentions black butter. That's still made today, and when there is an open day at the Elms, often around a winter weekend, you can go and see it being made and buy some. It is excellent when spread on bread with whipped cream generously layered on top! I've also been to evening sessions of black butter making, although my abiding memory of one of those was a very draughty barn, and some wiring that kept shorting out and causing the bare light bulbs to flicker, not something that would be the case today, I'm sure! But it explains why everyone wanted to huddle round the fire and stir the black butter on a cold winter night!

Black butter originates from a time when cider was a popular drink, and much of Jersey was taken up with cider orchards; the excess glut of apples being turned to black butter, which is a kind of jam. Unfortunately, beer took over in popularity in the UK, and the thriving export market in cider fell away.

La Mare Vineyards also produces their own black butter, but using mechanical aids to stir the butter rather than the traditional way by hand and only with only a five-hour stirring period rather than continuously for 24 to 30 hours. Their product has, however, won awards, although personally I have found that the cinnamon they add tends to swamp the more subtle flavours; the traditional black butter by contrast has a rich fruity flavour.

Traditional Black Butter Recipe (BBC website)


10 gallons cider
700 lb sweet apples, peeled and cut
20 lb sugar
3 sticks liquorice, finely chopped
24 lemons, sliced
3 lb allspice


Boil the cider until it turns to jelly. Add the apples, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Two hours after the last batch of apples has been stirred in, add the sugar, liquorice and lemons. In the last ten minutes of cooking add the spice. Store in jars.

But the making of black butter from surplus apples was not just confined to Jersey but was more widespread in England as well, with the same ingredients, although the method of production might vary. Jane Austen mentions black butter in a letter to her sister, dated December 27, 1808:

The first pot [of black butter] was opened when Frank and Mary were here, and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good." (2)

What would Mr Darcy have thought of "unpretending privacy", one wonders?

Black butter crossed the Atlantic, where it was mistakenly observed and thought to be an American specialty:

Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery (1870's) actually calls it "American", reflecting its popularity in the former colony, and the ignorance of the editors in respect of its history. Like pumpkin pie, it crossed the Atlantic, and then acted as if it had been born there.(3)


During the winter evenings " black butter "  (niè'r  beurre) was made. This is an excellent apple preserve, so named on account of its colour when cooked. Barrels of sweet apples were peeled and sliced and placed in large earthen jars (tèrrines) several days before by the women folk ; a party of men arrived in the evening to cook the " butter ". The contents of the terrines were emptied into a large brass preserving pan, called la paîle, resting on a trivet (trepid) over a wood fire. Then sliced lemons and spice was added and in some cases liquorice to darken it. The contents were continuously stirred for from 26 to 28 hours, by the men working in relays by means of a long-handled wooden rake (un moueux) and the rest of the company spent the time in merrymaking. This was called a Séthéé d'nièr beurre, (" black butter night ").

The Jersey sunbonnet, as seen on the model, was largely worn by the women, some parishes having different styles with frills, etc. These were worn to come to Town to sell the produce and also when working on the farms.Cider was the chief beverage in the past; each farm had its orchard and large farms made their own cider. The apples were crushed in a circular trough (le tou) with a huge stone wheel (la meule) turned by a horse. The pulp (le mar) was then spread in large pieces of sacking and placed between layers of wheat straw in the press (le preinseu) which squeezed the cider out of the pulp into large wooden tubs (tchues). At one time much cider was exported.

Each householder had to look after the Roads of his Parish, and spend six days a year in repairing them ; those with horses had to lend a horse and cart. Defaulters were fined a shilling a day.

All the male population had to serve in the Royal Militia of the Island. This service originated in the old feudal service and was reorganized by the British Government from time to time. All these honorary services are being gradually discontinued and replaced by paid services.

In the Bedroom alongside the Kitchen may be seen on the four poster Bed (la couochette) a very fine counterpane or quilt (couvèrtuthe pitchie) with a printed design ' The Tree of Life ' (I'Arbre d'vie).

The hanging-closet door in the Bedroom (le vitchet or armouaithe dé pathai) was taken from an old house. It is typical Jersey work of the 17th century.

La pouchette or la paûte was an ancient place for hiding money and valuables. It was close to the fireplace, and consists of a long pipe ending in an earthenware jar, built into the thickness of the wall, the whole being
the full length of a man's arm.

During the German Occupation of the Island the valuable gold torque belonging to the Museum was successfully hidden by the Officials in la Paûte of the Kitchen.


Other references
Book: Jane Austen and food, Maggie Lane, 1995