Wednesday, 29 February 2012


The start of the run up to elections in Guernsey is beginning, with elections little more than a month away on 18 April and the Guernsey Press is looking to put together a Q&A supplement regarding the candidates:

TODAY is your chance to help shape the island's future by setting the agenda for the forthcoming general election of people's deputies. Instead of candidates simply setting out their views, we want to give electors the opportunity of getting answers on the issues that matter to them. We will be canvassing islanders and other lobby groups on the topics that they think are important and producing a list of questions for candidates to answer.

As well as publishing all the manifestos from would-be deputies, we will also produce a special supplement setting out their answers to the questions you have posed. Where a candidate won't or hasn't responded, we'll make that clear, too. (1)

Guernsey, of course, changed their "general election" day to April from October, meaning warmer, brighter weather, which is much more conducive to getting people out to vote. Jersey has pledged to do this by the next election. Let's hope it's not like the promise of a "Millennium Park", opened not in 2000, but in 2011, and still incomplete. That could almost be a parable of how Jersey politics manages reform.

And looking at figures, in Guernsey, only around 60% of those who can vote have signed up. It will be interesting to compare the take-up with Jersey. Tomorrow is the last day to sign up.

Latest figures show 28,220 people have so far signed up to vote in the general election of deputies on 18 April. There are believed to be between 47,000 and 48,000 people of voting age in the island.(3)

There doesn't seem to have been much of a protest visible from Green campaigners in Jersey, but in Guernsey they view the joint Island phone book as something of a waste of paper. Expect a flurry of letters and emails and blog postings from "Green Man" Nick Palmer in Jersey when he sees this, and realises that Guernsey have stolen a march on him.

THE new Channel Islands JT phonebook will just be a waste of paper, green campaigners have said. Keen recycler Rosie Dorey said the new phonebook was ridiculous and would create unnecessary waste. Public Services deputy minister Scott Ogier, who was largely responsible for driving through the new waste strategy, suggested phonebooks for each island should be made available only on request. However, JT has defended its decision and said it took on board customer feedback when considering this directory initiative. (2)

It's not clear, of course, from this what the "customer feedback" constituted. JT have not released any details of statistical sampling to show how this stacks up; probably any survey is just one of those self-selecting polls which requires people to respond if they are interesting.

But why on earth all the extra paper needed for Guernsey numbers if you live in Jersey or vice versa is needed is certainly questionable, especially as it should be quite possible to provide an online version of the directory, for far less waste of paper. It seems like a promotional puff by Jersey Telecoms, and perhaps the "feedback" came about after a liquid lunch; it certainly has the air of spin - and the idea could just about fit on the back of a beer mat!

Considering waste, Guernsey is now looking to export rubbish to Jersey's incinerator, and at present does not expect the ash to come back to Guernsey, although no detailed negotiations have taken place. Presumably, it would have to be shipped on elsewhere for dumping:

DISPOSAL of hazardous ash will form part of the negotiations for handling Guernsey's waste, a spokesman for Public Services has said. The States has backed the department's proposal to export what rubbish is left after high levels of recycling. But Jersey, one of the potential locations, has raised the prospect of ash left after it has been burnt in its incinerator being sent back to Guernsey and also the need to export the hazardous ash created from Jersey.(4)

Waste also forms part of the Public services strategy, where legislation may be brought in with the possibility of penalties for those who don't comply. Incentives are available, but as well as encouraging good habits, a "carrot and stick" approach may be needed:

Public Services details the steps necessary to ensure Guernsey reaches its 70% recycling target in its waste strategy report, which was approved by the States this week. In it, however, the department says it is also preparing to create incentive schemes to encourage green habits. After the States finally committed on Wednesday to the export of waste, Public Services will now press on with plans for kerbside collection - first of dry recyclables and then food waste - and report back to the States by December next year with proposals for any penalties needed for those who do not comply with waste prevention and minimisation measures.(5)

Major changes are also taking place in how Parish Churches and Rectories are managed. The Parishes will take over ownership of the Parish Churches and Rectories, rather than just supporting their maintenance. This may have a more significant impact where Rectories are involved, as the Parishioners may decide that they don't want to fund a residence for an Anglican priest, and the burden of that may fall on the Diocese.

On the other hand, the ancient Parish Churches are part of the historical legacy of all Islanders, whether of any religious persuasion or none, and it makes sense to regard them as a heritage site, albeit (and as it should be) as a living one rather than a museum piece:

RATEPAYERS will have more say in parish churches and rectories after reforms were passed by the States this morning. The Parochial and Ecclesiastical Rates Review Committee's proposals went through with only small signs of dissent. But the work will not end - while the new law is being drawn up further talks will take place with the Deanery to overcome its concerns that led it to state it could petition the Queen over the changes.

It could be years before the new legislation is back before the Assembly, but when that is approved the ownership of the churches, rectories and glebe land will effectively rest with the parishes. A meeting of the ratepayers could decide to sell the rectory and use the money for non-religious purposes. New boards will be created with representatives from the douzaines and church to manage the property and its care and maintenance. (6)

Chief Minister Lyndon Trott failed to delay the debate by one vote, warning of a "constitutional crisis" and the Dean reserved the option of petitioning the Queen should the proposals go through unamended. I know there has been a continual debate in the Guernsey Press about why non-Anglicans should support the maintenance and costs of Rectories and Churches, but what I don't know, which may well effect matters, is whether Guernsey Parish Churches have the strong connection with the Civil Functions of the Parish.

In Jersey, for instance, the Rector sits on the roads committee and goes out with them to check the branchage. Perhaps a looser connection has led to a more critical scrutiny of the funding involved, especially in these times of austerity. But sooner or later someone - probably Reg Le Sueur of the Church of Latter Day Atheists - will write to the JEP about this.

Meanwhile, the Vale Church's morning Eucharist service included special prayers to help politicians make the right decision about the Parochial Ecclesiastical Rate Review Committee report. It is not known whether the vote in favour of changes has been seen by the Rector and congregation as the will of God.

Is the day of beauty queens drawing to a close? While Jersey still has a "Miss Jersey Battle of Flowers", there are fewer contestants prepared to display, and some might argue, demean themselves, by parading as Parish Contestants. In Guernsey, however, the competition last took place for "Miss Guernsey" in 2010, and there has not been one since, with no plans for 2012. Miss Alderney 2012 is taking place, but then on such a small and remote Island, the locals probably will go for anything to break the monotony:

Hairdresser Lisa Knott won the title in 2010. Since then, however, the renowned competition has not taken place and there is no confirmation that it will this year. 'I have not heard of anything about another competition. No one has got in touch with me so I really don't know what is happening,' the 22-year-old said. 'But I am quite happy to hold the title until there is another one.' Despite the uncertainty surrounding Miss Guernsey, the search for Miss Alderney 2012 is on.(7)

And there you have it, plenty of interesting stories taking place across the water in our sister Island!


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Raven, Upstairs Downstairs, and Empire: Reviews

The Raven

Last Saturday, we watched "The Raven" on DVD tonight. Not the gruesome Karloff / Lugosi one, but the lighter, rather more fun one (1963) produced by Roger Corman where Vincent Price and Boris Karloff have a magical duel. It is extremely loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe - Price does recite the poem at the start - and is quite a short film, a bit slow at the start, but working up to a fine comic gothic horror film.

Hazel Court provides some eye candy, and an extremely young Jack Nickolson is present, and is bewitched at one point, showing that even then he could turn in a manic performance. Peter Lorre also provides some excellent humour as second rate magician Dr Bedloe who is turned into a talking raven. Nothing is what is seems in this light comedy horror film, with an extremely clever magic duel using "gesture magic", and some very good effects that work even today. Here is where Dr Bedloe wants to be returned to human form....

Dr. Bedloe: Restore me to my rightful form
Dr. Craven: But I just don't know how
Dr. Bedloe: Oh no, well do you got some dried blood of a bat in the house?
Dr. Craven: I beg your pardon
Dr. Bedloe: Bat's blood! dried or evaporated bat's blood
Dr. Craven: No
Dr. Bedloe: How about some chain links from a gallow's burg?, jellied spiders, rabbit's blood, dead man's hair?
Dr. Craven: No we don't keep those things in this house - we're vegetarians

Upstairs Downstairs

Sunday night, we watched the new series of Upstairs Downstairs: War looms, and there is considerable focus on the "rioting" against Jewish shops, synagogues and homes, which Sir Hallam rightly sees as deliberately instigated by the Nazi Party.

Lady Persie decides to come back from Berlin, as the riots erupt around her, while the Kindertransport is launched to save Jewish children from the dangers to come. There's a lovely piece where the children arrive on the train, and instead of incidental music is a choir singing "I vow to thee, my country", which works extremely well.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Joseph Kennedy comes to a dinner party at Eaton Place, with his son Jack, and offers Sir Hallam a post as European policy advisor to him in America. Curiously, no mention is made of Joseph Kennedy's strong anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi leanings - perhaps this will come in a later episode?

Meanwhile a subplot concerned friction below stairs, and the temporary loss of the cook to take up residence with her nephew's family (and get on their nerves). This was a much weaker story and didn't work terribly well, especially with the contrast to the larger events unfolding.


Monday had Jeremy Paxman on Empire - the first of a five part documentary. Part of it is history, but Paxman doesn't quite seem to know where he is going; whether it is a historical documentary, or a verdict on the legacy of Empire. It's not as assured and coherent a narrative as, for example, Andrew Marr did recently.

So in between the history, for example, of the Empire in India, Paxman speaks to Indians to get their judgment on the Empire. It's sound-bite politics, and the Indian army officer quite rightly said that there was both good and bad in British rule in India, with Paxman pressing strongly for an answer that the Indians are well rid of the Empire; the officer sees the historical continuity as well as discontinuity with the standards and banners of his regiment. The way in which the questions seem to lead the person being interviewed comes over as painfully obvious - Paxman has an agenda, and he's looking for support for it.

Yet the questions, which seem very leading about how bad the Empire was, suddenly turn about when he questions the elderly Jewish lady who helped plant a bomb at the King David Hotel in Palestine in 1946, an attack on British officers and rule. Didn't the British help Jews with the Balfour Declaration and do some good, he presses home?

Grudgingly she concedes they might, but has no regrets about causing the loss of life in what she saw and sees as a necessary strike against the British. The lack of doubt and cold certainty is quite chilling.

As Paxman sees it, the Empire was a massive confidence trick, pulled off by the odd show of force, but more by grand architecture and pomp and ceremony, by the sheer assumption of superiority, and by forcing deals which were later reneged upon once they had the reigns of power. I think that's very superficial, and overlooks the fact that - in India, for example - the forging of a single nation state was also done by railways linking the disparate regions together. India benefited from the industrial revolution and without the violent disruption of peasant populations in Russia when Stalin industrialised there. It's worth remembering that.

It was a kind of globalisation in microcosm, as suddenly transport between parts of the country, and movements of goods, became swift and easy. The effect of that on promoting a more uniform culture and a sense of Indian identity under Empire could not be underestimated, nor could the widening out of trade to wider markets than the next village or town. This, too, is a legacy of Empire, and one that Paxman conveniently overlooks, as also the construction of a civil service capable of administering such a vast region, which could be taken over after Indian independence.

Without mentioning America once (and America surely has a similar outlook), he talks about how the British Empire saw itself as a champion of right, with a God-given mandate to interfere in other countries where necessary; he also shows how the lesson of history is that the best of intentions are so often flawed as other people's perception of that intervention is not the same; they see a bully and are resentful. Britain had to pack up and leave Israel, failing in its self-appointed mandate. Surprisingly, he didn't mention Northern Ireland, where the same mandate for bringing peace by armed force collapsed into decades of violence against Britain.

And yet even after the Empire was disbanded (globally over a mere 20 years), the legacy remained, and Britain has been involved in other conflicts across the globe to try to bring peace.

This was the first of a five part series, and sometimes these can be patchy because they are setting up an overview of the series, but the meandering narrative didn't grip. Paxman interviews in a similar manner to Newsnight, as well, which is entirely inappropriate for a documentary, and this documentary suffers badly with comparison with Marr's Diamond Queen. It also seems to suffer from a bias against Empire that is almost a reaction against the more triumphalist Whig histories; history is more nuanced than Paxman makes out.

But this bias may help to sell it to American TV, especially if it is shown around Independence Day, and the lack of obvious comparisons between the mistakes made by the British Empire and American interventionism will surely help there.

Monday, 27 February 2012

A Miscellany of Annie

Here is a some more English work from Annie Parmeter, written when she was 12 at Moorestown College, St Peter.

In "The Attractions of the Country over the Town", she is clearly not writing from experience - no real country dweller could think that "the air is always fresh"  when fields are manured - and I think it shows. There is a tendency to make lists of one thing against another, and it does not quite have the coherence and descriptive ability of her later work. But her strong descriptive ability still shines through in places.

This is more apparent in the next work, which is simply an exercise in writing sentences which convey effective description, and here are some very powerful descriptions.

Lastly is a very short piece, where clearly her heart was not really in it. It is a very short piece, and the teacher comments as much on the lack of research. I've put it in just for a bit of fun, as Annie had a practice of annotating her English exercise book with her own comments, and these are in the square brackets, which were penciled in later, and show how she reacted to her teacher's comments! I have no idea if the teacher saw them or not, or if they were added after the book was finished.

The Attractions of the Country Over the Town
In town, one is almost suffocated by fumes from the factories and traffic; whereas in the country, the air is always fresh and clean.
The noise in the town is deafening, there are no fields and quiet gardens, nor trees for climbing. There is nowhere to play outside except in a back yard. The only friends you can play with live on a road, so that it is dangerous to play anywhere except inside.
In the country, you can ride for a long way without coming across a road or traffic. One can watch the crops grow and enjoy the flowers and fruit being planted and harvested. The riverbanks are full of fascinating creatures and water plants. You can row on the river, and even find tiny islands to make dens, houses, and castles on. The barns are haylofts are ideal places for hide-n-seek or potato football.
In autumn, the tints of red and gold and falling leaves can be enjoyed better in the country.
In the winter, one can see the old birds' nests against the bare outlines of the trees.

Effective Description
The still night crouched over the bare bones of the gnarled, witch-like trees.

The mist was swirling in and out of their wizened trunks like a skier.
Stars shine in the sky, like diamonds on sapphire velvet.

Frost glows with a greenish light on the ice hard grass.
The evil rays of the searchlight shone through the darkness like diamond rays of stardust.
The romantic moon gently washed the earth with its bluish light.
Soon it was dusk. Colour began to drain from the world, in this twilight. The lights sprang one by one into life piercing the stellar dawn. 
Witches were believed to be old hags [so are you], who collected mushrooms and poisonous toadstools to brew up along with a dead bat or two. They were thought to perform black magic, and rise around the sky on broomsticks when the moon was full. On the back of their broomsticks rode black cats, which nearly always had green eyes. Witches were often thought to be deadly enemies among the fairies.
More research could be done on other supernatural agents [no thanks]

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Christianity and Modern Paganism

I've been looking at people who like to blend Modern Pagan and Christian traditions. I think there is a good deal of value in both traditions, and each has something to learn from the other, but I think they should be kept distinct, and in some respects they complement each other. I don't think that hostility is good, as it invariably leads to efforts to purge one side or the other of insights that they might find valuable.

Of course, like the old Venn diagrams we used to have in school mathematics, they are like circles with an overlap; there is common ground. But each has its own distinctive nature and voice, and I've seen various attempts (from 2004) to combine the two - Christian Wicca, for example.

Fundamentally, there are inherent contradictions between (for example) the God / Goddess duality of Wicca and the Monotheism of Christianity. That's not to say that those can't be smoothed over, but what you have is something that is not quite Christianity or Wicca.

John Macquarrie (a writer I much admire) wrote "The Mediators" in which he looks at seven figures each in a different religious tradition whom could be called "mediators"; it's a clever choice - "saviours" wouldn't fit all the different people. Macquarrie likes that phrase both because he sees such persons as conduits of the transcendent and because it seems more inclusive (and less given to misunderstanding) than "saviour" or "prophet" or "sage." The "mediators" are Moses, Zoroaster, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Krishna, Jesus, and Muhammad.

In the book he tries to "put forward as faithfully and impartially as I can accounts of nine great mediators of the spiritual life, and in order to do this, I try to confine myself to facts and hypotheses which are open to my readers", and says he wants to show that these mediators all brought "to a group of human beings a new or renewed sense of holy Being" (again he finds a term which is more neutral than "God").

In it he wrote:

In 1964 I published an article entitled 'Christianity and Other Faiths'... [and] I continue to hold the views I expressed then... I believe that, however difficult it may be, we should hold to our own traditions and yet respect and even learn from the traditions of others. I drew the conclusion that there should be an end to proselytizing but that equally there should be no syncretism of the kind typified by the Bahá'í movement.

There will be no attempt to show that any one of [the mediators] is superior to the others... what has already been said... has shown the impossibility of any such judgment. No human being - and certainly not the present writer - has the exhaustive knowledge of the several mediators or the requisite criteria for making such a judgment. Neither does he or she have the detached situation that would enable a purely objective view of the question. Only God, I suppose, could make such a judgment.

I do not deny for a moment that the truth of God has reached others through other channels - indeed, I hope and pray that it has. So while I have a special attachment to one mediator, I have respect for them all and have tried to give a fair presentation of each.

In this respect, I think an analogy from language can be useful. Language users naturally borrow and adapt loan words from other languages, but they incorporate them into their language in such a way that it is still recognisably that language. English borrows extensively from everywhere, but is still English. Where French borrows from English, it remains French. That I think is like the way different religious traditions may borrow and adapt from each other - which is something we certainly see with Christianity in its long history.

A premature syncretism, in this model, is more like Esperanto. It is a language designed to be a universal language. But it is not universal, for the simple reason that languages don't work like that.

Macquarrie is against syncretism as such because he sees it as a method "prematurely merges the different traditions and is in grave danger of becoming shallow and sentimental." I think there's a degree of truth in that, which is why don't think it's a good idea to deliberately merge the traditions.

What I think a more deliberate syncretic approach will probably do is create something that inhabits a kind of no-mans land between Christianity and Paganism, and like a no man's land, it may be difficult for those inhabiting that space not to get criticism from both sides. Their language, like esperanto, will not be something which will be understandable by ordinary people. In that respect, it may end up more cut off than either tradition.

He also says "We have got to recognize that grace and revelation are present and universal. This, however, does not mean that all religions are to be merged into a syncretistic faith, for we cannot travel on all the roads at the same time."

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Devil

he Devil

The Horned Goat, with bat-like wings
Evil with him now he brings
A blessing reversed in altered way
What is unsaid, and not to say
A countenance of terror’s blight
Eyes that cast fear in their sight
The pentagram is upside down
Above his darkly menaced frown
And down beneath his grim domain
Are man and woman, bound in chain
The occult from the astral plane
Here is darkest in his reign.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Funny Old World 14

Health Warning: what follows is not news, any more than the middle section of Private Eye is news, or The Impressionist is news, or Spitting Image was news. It is a light hearted spin on the real news, which can be found on genuine news sites, such as BBC Jersey. Other news sites are available. This is not one of them. None of the individuals mentioned have ever said anything quite like the words attributed to them. Which is perhaps a pity.

Fog continues to seriously disrupt air travel to and from the Island. Today's early flights were cancelled or delayed. Passengers for flights still scheduled to depart were being advised to check in as usual, as this is one of the few occasions when the mega-large airport departures lounge actually becomes useful.

Almost £1 million has been seized from the Jersey bank accounts of a businessman jailed in the UK for allowing drugs to be dealt in his nightclub. Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh is serving a nine-year sentence. He was charged with allowing his premises to be used for the sale of class A drugs and having a name that is almost impossible to pronounce, thereby getting sentences both under the Drug Trafficking Law (2002) and the recently passed Deviant Names Law (2012).

"Van" Morrison is to headline the first Folklore festival this summer. The Northern Irish singer-songwriter and six-time Grammy winner has been confirmed as the top act for Jersey's newest music festival, and will be arriving in the purple and green psychedelic coloured van from which he derives his nickname.

Taxes will not have to increase during the next three years for the States to tackle issues such as unemployment, housing and reforming the health service, the Treasury Minister said yesterday. Instead, there will be increased use of user-pays charges for such as sewage charges, outpatient charges, parking charges, increased housing rentals.

The use of the phrase "stealth tax" is to be banned from use by the Weasel words Act" (2012), which is up for debate in the States on 1st April this year. The Weasel Words Act (2012) which is to be passed by the States this year says that "a user-pays charge is not a tax, even if it looks like an indirect tax", and levies a fine of £200 on anyone using the term "stealth tax".

According to an unconfirmed rumour, a memo from the Treasury Minister's office says "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it is probably a duck-billed platypus instead. And no one thinks a duck-billed platypus is a 'stealth duck'. So there!"

Houses fell by an average of one per cent last year, according to figures out today. Data from the Statistics Unit showed that the last three months of 2011 also saw a two per cent drop on the previous quarter. A spokesman said that too many houses were being built on land which could not take the weight, and parts of the Island, especially in St Helier, were gradually sinking.

Downturn fails to stem hunger for mergers and acquisitions. The turbulent economic climate is not diminishing the strong appetite for mergers and acquisitions in the Island's finance sector. Ashley Paxo, head of advisory for KPMG in the Channel Islands, said that demand was as strong as ever. "There are still a lot of people trying to get on the gravy train where mergers are concerned" said Mr Paxo.

The latest event is the merger of a an independent television production company and a building society. The result will be a series of adverts to be broadcast later this hear entitled "Downturn Abbey".

"Downturn Abbey" will be on TV screens later this year. The cast may include the following:

Ian Gorst - Lord Hopeworth
Sir Philip Bailhache - The Right Honourable Robert Crawley, Foreign Secretary
Anne Pryke - Florence Nightingale, known as the Lady of the Limp (in charge of health reforms)
Frank Walker - Earl of Shaftsbury, retired
Stuart Syvret - Matthew Crawley, Third cousin, once removed (to prison)
Sarah Ferguson - Housekeeper (keeping watchful eye on finances)
Philip Ozouf - Duke of Crowalot
Rob Duhamel - John Logie Beardie, Farmer and Environmentalist on the Estate
Ian Le Marquand - Mr George Murkie, Lord Hopeworth's Lawyer
Alan Maclean - Footman, promoted to Lord Hopeworth's Valet
James Reed - Wounded officer, retired from active duty

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Earthquakes in Jersey and Guernsey

A "Wrinkle in the Skin" by the science fiction writer John Christopher has cataclysmic earthquakes which destroy most of Guernsey and drain the English Channel. The novel follows the story of a vinery worker's attempt to reach his daughter in England, by walking! That is perhaps, somewhat far-fetched, as the area is relatively geologically stable.

Nevertheless, there have been a surprising number of earthquakes reported in the Channel Islands, possibly slightly more in Jersey than in Guernsey. The Times newspaper reports the following over the period from 1790 to 1900 - quite a large number, and also notable enough to make a national British newspaper:

Tuesday February 05 1799 Earthquakes - Shocks in the Island of Jersey
Saturday February 09 1799 Earthquakes Shocks in the Island of Jersey
Friday August 03 1832 Earthquakes at St. Helier's, Jersey
Saturday March 18 1843 Earthquake in Guernsey
Saturday December 30 1843 Earthquake in Guernsey
Tuesday January 02 1844 Earthquake in the Channel Islands
Monday January 15 1844 Earthquake in the Channel Islands
Tuesday April 05 1853 Earthquake in Jersey
Wednesday April 08 1868 Jersey, Earthquake
Wednesday August 27 1884 Earthquakes in Jersey
Friday April 22 1887 Earthquake in Jersey and Guernsey
Wednesday April 27 1887 Earthquake in Jersey and Guernsey
Friday May 31 1889 Earthquake in Guernsey

The last must have been quite notable, for the Reverend Alban E Ragg, writing in his 1896 "Popular History of Jersey" reports that May 1889 "ended on the 30th with a severe shock of earthquake."

The British Geological Survey has records of an earthquake in 1926, on 30th July 1926:

This strong earthquake was felt throughout NW France and as far E as Paris, and along the S coast of England, principally in Dorset and Devon, but as far east as Hove, Sussex. The epicentre was between Jersey and the Cotentin coast. In Jersey there was much damage of a slight nature, plaster cracking, windows breaking, etc. A church spire was damaged and some few chimneys fell. A small amount of damage was also caused in France

This was a fairly strong earthquake, which caused considerable damage to the Fisherman's Chapel - so much so that the Reverend John A. Balleine (Rector 1892-1942) had to undertake considerable remedial work, but when writing it up, he confused the quake of 1927 with that of 1926:

"The earthquake of 30th July, 1927, shook the sea wall and the foundations of the Chapel to such an extent that a great length of the former had to be rebuilt and the latter underpinned."

The British Geological Survey has records of an earthquake in 1927. This occurred on 17th February 1927 around 17 minutes past 11 at night, and had a magnitude of 5.4 ML. The report notes that:

The epicentre of this earthquake appears to be the same as that of the 30 July 1926 event some 6½ months previously - East of Jersey, near the West coast of Cotentin, France. The magnitude was slightly smaller and the maximum intensity certainly less. There was very little damage reported in Jersey, mostly confined to plaster and in many cases probably exploiting weaknesses caused by the 30 July 1926 event. The earthquake was felt at low intensities along the South coast of England from Falmouth, Cornwall, to Worthing, Sussex, and also slightly in London and Newbury, Berks. The limits of perceptibility in France seem to be Lisieux in the East and Lorient in the South West. As with the 27 December 1896 Hereford earthquake, something like a meteor was observed at the same time as the earthquake.

It seemed to be a time of earthquakes - coincidentally, across the globe, in 1927, newspapers reported on the highest intensity earthquake ever observed in New Jersey.

Probably the best detailed observations of an earthquake that I've found is from the Victorian period. "An Account of a slight Shock of an Earthquake felt in the Channel Islands." by J. Elliott Hoskins, M.D,, F.R.S. : in a Letter to P. M. Roget, M.D., Sec. R.S., &c. Communicated by Dr. Roget. This appears in the Abstracts of the Papers Communicated to the Royal Society of London (1843-1854). 1843-01-01. 5:498-499, and describes the earthquake of 1 January 1844.

Here is the complete text; I've kept the original spellings - Serk, Herne, and Jethore - which are exactly as they appear in the document:

An Account of a slight Shock of an Earthquake felt in the Channel Islands, January 1844

The phenomena described in this letter occurred simultaneously in Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Serk, Herne, and Jethore. On Friday, the 22nd of December, at seven minutes before 4 p.m., a noise resembling a distant thunder-clap was heard ; this was immediately followed by sounds as of a railroad carriage rumbling over an irregular metallic surface ; it was accompanied by distinct undulatory motion. This again was succeeded by a shock; the whole lasting from 10 to 15 seconds. The barometer was uninfluenced, standing at 30:354 : a light wind prevailed, varying from S.S.E. to S.S.W. During the whole of the month the air had been peculiarly still, and the barometer uniformly high ; the maximum, up to the above date, having been 30:518, the minimum 30:042.

The thermometer had ranged throughout the month, from 47° to 52° during the day, and from 45° to 49° during the night.

Hundreds of persons agree as to having experienced a distinct shock, their impressions varying according to the positions occupied by the observers. Those inhabiting the solid granite structures of the lower town conceived that heavy masses of furniture were overturned and moved in the apartments above or below them: they were not, however, so conscious of vibratory motion as those in the less substantial houses of the upper part of the town, or as those in the open air. In many houses, this vibratory motion was so violent as to cause much alarm, and was accompanied by crashing sounds, as though roofs and chimneys were falling ; in some instances, chimney-pots were thrown down ; suspended lamps were observed to wave ; bells rang spontaneously ; the vane of the town church waved, and one of its bells struck twice.

Persons in the open air were sensible of an undulatory motion, tending from the S.W., which occasioned unsteadiness of footing, and in some cases a transient feeling of nausea. A steam-engine in the Serk mines was remarked to suspend one out of its usual five strokes per minute ; the engineer was alarmed lest this should be a precursor of bursting of the boiler. The massive granite works of St. Sampson's quay were so shaken, that glass vessels situated on various parts were thrown off. Two gentlemen engaged in Daguerreotype experiments on the ramparts of a fortification founded on a solid granite rock, felt the whole to vibrate.

The crews of sailing-vessels beating up in the "roads," also felt the shock; those below rushing on deck under the impression that the vessels had struck on a rock.

The testimony of a great number of witnesses leaves no doubt as to the distinctness and strength of the shock. It was also felt, though in a slighter degree, in the neighbourhood of St. Malo, and near Brixham in Devonshire.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday Reflections

Ash Wednesday Reflections
Come, bow down, and take the ash
The sign of the cross on the head
A mark on the brow, just like a gash
In penitence, in sorrow, like one dead
It is Ash Wednesday, and whenever I think of ashes, I think of a funeral pyre, of the great burning into ashes of those dead, whom we have loved. And all that remains is ashes.
On the rocky headland, the gulls swooped across the blue sea, and a wind was rising. I stood there, gazing at the distant horizon, gazing down from my craggy perch to the tide, breaking on rocks far below.
There were three of us here, and we came in sorrow, not with a mark on our heads, but with a gash within our hearts. This was her favourite place, to come and sit, and meditate upon the restless sea; she would watch intently, as far off, we saw the flashing of a distant light at night, a warning to the mariner.
And in daylight, yachts sailed smoothly around the headland, white sails billowing in the breeze; weaving along with the currents, navigating around the treacherous rocks beneath the surface.
The sky was turning deep purple, and the day was drawing to a close, and the rising wind caught my scarf around my neck, and the ends flapped up towards the east; the sun was slowly setting behind the trees.
And we open the jar, and each take a handful of ashes, and throw them high, so that they are blown by the wind, across the rocks, over the sea, towards the setting sun.
This was our farewell, the sign of the cross we bore, and our letting go.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

TV and Film Reviews

Law and Order UK: Last Friday saw a very dark story about a manipulative woman who conned men out of money to help her supposedly dying sister in Africa. The men (police, court officials) were floundering until a woman lawyer pointed them in the right direction for finding evidence. At first sight, it was not obvious, because the woman suspect was at first apparently a victim, and worked for a police forensic laboratory.

It was a very uncomfortable tale, with perjury, fabrication of evidence (leading to a taxi driver being arrested for a murder), and a climax in court where the accused told the judge he had said she would be alright when she had sex with him that morning. She hadn't, she was using that kind of accusation to attack the judicial process.

When she was found out, she finally launched into a bitter tirade about how men treated women as meat, and she was only getting her own back, and justifiably so. I hope I never meet anyone like that; it was a seriously scary portrayal of someone who appeared on the surface to be quite a normal human being, but who used their sexuality as a weapon.

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned" said William Congreve in the Mourning Bride (1697); often misquoted, this summed up the plot of this episode.

Sexuality and manipulation featured strongly in an early James Bond film, "From Russia with Love" (1963), which I watched at the weekend. He sleeps with the girl, and wants to get his hands on the Russian Lector decoding machine (a clone of an Enigma - electronic rather than mechanical, but typewriter size). Yet he is not prepared to abandon her to the villains, and there is a degree of chivalry present there as well, which is also there in the original book.

A notable highlight is the recreation of a match between Chess Masters Boris Spassky and David Bronstein at the USSR Championship in Leningrad in 1960, where the Spectre agent Kronsteen wins the game. It's a wonderful set piece, in a vast open hall, with chess pieces on the table being mirrored on the large magnetic board. It was almost a visual illustration of Bobby Fischer's remark about playing the game. "Chess is war on a board," he once said. "The object is to crush the other man's mind." And Kronsteen is the one who sets up the elaborate plan, with move and counter move, to crush Bond.

The whole film presents a much more leisurely pace than modern Bond, and the Istanbul location and the Orient Express is used to great effect. Would you be allowed to film in Mosques nowadays though, I wonder?

I remember visiting Istanbul in the 1970s, and seeing people puffing away on those strange bubbly globes, which looked quite fun. The Turkish coffee, small cups of very hot, black, sweet coffee, was another memory I'll not forget. I've seen lots of other types of coffee nowadays, but Turkish coffee is not usually one of them at coffee shops. According to David Warr, who knows all about coffee in Jersey, no one makes it locally. Agatha Christie loved Turkish coffee, and it features in one of her short stories, "The Harlequin Tea Set"

"They have some special Turkish coffee here," said Mr. Quin. "Really good of its kind. Everything else is, as you have guessed, rather unpalatable. But one can always have a cup of Turkish coffee, can one not? Let us have one because I suppose you will soon have to get on with your pilgrimage, or whatever it is."

The Turkish coffee was brought in little cups of oriental pattern. Ali placed them with a smile and departed. Mr. Satterthwaite sipped approvingly.

"As sweet as love, as black as night and as hot as hell. That is the old Arab phrase, isn't it?"

Harley smiled over his shoulder and nodded.

I caught up with "The Great British Countryside" with Hugh Dennis and Julia Bradbury at the weekend. While there is a degree of overlap with the BBC's programme Coast, this is one not so tightly focused on separate bits of the coastline, but instead gives more of an overview in contrast to Coast's fine detail. It used the different parts of the coast - and inland - to illustrate the changing geology and use of the land.

Any series which devotes just one hour to Devon and Cornwall is going to be a bit of a "big picture", but this series doesn't do badly in conveying a sense of deep geological time - and it was good to see ordinary people - such as a man who works in Tesco - also have an interest in geology. He regularly went fossil hunting, and although not a paid professional, had found an particularly fine ichthyosaur fossil; he keeps it in his kitchen!

I always like learning new snippets of knowledge that I didn't know before, and this series did that. I didn't in fact know that limestone from around the town of Beer is in fact the best for working with, and is used extensively in Exeter Cathedral, nor that the rise in copper and tin prices has made opening a Cornish mine viable once more, which is rather nice. I did recognise the vast China clay quarry in Cornwall though, because it was used as a very different location from bog standard quarries for filming Dr Who "Colony in Space". That geeky fact went unmentioned, which was probably for the best.

I liked the fact that Dartmoor ponies keep the landscape from becoming overgrown by grazing - an eco-friendly method. We've a lot more sheep in Jersey than we used to, and they do much the same task. I didn't know that Cornish hedges are in fact not hedges, but stone walls with earth in the middle, which prevent soil erosion and flash flooding. All in all, a geological focus with some interesting historical asides that I'll be watching next week - Yorkshire!

‎"Call The Midwife" ended on a high note, with a wedding. Chummy stood up to her terrible snob of a mother and married the policeman she loved. Before that was a wonderful sequence where, with candlelight and a bare minimum of resources, she delivers triplets. The houses have a 50s feel around them and often look rather dingy, but this one had no electricity, no water hot or cold, and really looked like a slum. We forget how low the standard of living was in the 1950s, and how wartime austerity still was biting after the war. Formica worktops would become a new sign of modernity, and I still have an old table with one dating from the 1950s in my garden shed.

‎"Upstairs Downstairs" came back with a slightly different feel, a bit more of an edge to it, as the realities of impending war, and the legacy of the Great War, both began to impact on Eaton Place. The Butler, Mr Pritchard, stood up for Quaker conscience in the face of hostility from both the police and the household, although those upstairs were more tolerant.

It is rare for belief to play a large part in a drama as this did, but the script was nuanced, so that you could both see why Mr Pritchard followed his conscience, and why others were hostile to it. They had sacrificed much, and saw conscience as a convenient excuse, an easy way out. But as he explained, he had been brought up by Quaker parents, and had embraced their belief; it was a deep seated and not a shallow conviction. He had, in fact, worked at an ambulance driver in the Great War, which he saw as the easy option because he did not go to prison like other more principled Quakers, and it was only when he protested against the unspeakable prison conditions that his fellow Quakers were in that he himself was sent to prison.

On the larger stage, the Munich Treaty was well done, with an impressive portrayal of Chamberlain as a man prepared to sign away almost anything to preserve the peace. It is not perhaps surprising that "appeasement" became such a dirty word. Chamberlain had no principles, except peace, and this part of the narrative showed how there can be such a thing as a bad peace where there is a fundamental lack of honesty. Peace and principles were at loggerheads here, unlike the small domestic drama played out back at Eaton Place.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sparking Up

In a study of the cardiac effects of prominent stun-gun models on anaesthetized pigs, Roy and Podgorski found that such devices could cause ventricular fibrillation if they were applied directly to the heart, and pump failure when applied directly to the chest. For people utilizing pacemakers the dangers were said to be particularly acute. (Journal of Law and Health, 2006)
Tasers were fired, or as police chiefs prefer to call it 'deployed', 1,765 times between April 2004 and June 2009. Stun gun officers have a less PC term for firing their weapon - they call it 'sparking up'. (Daily Mail)

The issue of Tasers in Jersey is a very emotive one, and perhaps rightly so, because any weapon that can discharge enough volts to shock a person into inaction must raise concerns about safety. The potential misuse of the weaponry can be seen in the fact that the export conditions are extremely severe because it could be used as an instrument of torture by a repressive foreign regime:

It is not only human-rights organizations that have taken a stern critical position about electroshock weapons. For purposes of export controls from Britain, electrical devices such as taser and stun batons have been classified as instruments of torture since 1997 and their export is strictly forbidden. The British government has also publicly supported such a categorization for the European Union as a whole.

As part of a medical review of the safety of tasers for a British police force, an evaluation concluded that 'depending on how their introduction might be publicized in the media, their use might be construed as a potential weapon of torture'. The medical authors advised that 'the media portrayal of the introduction of these weapons needs to be handled very carefully' (1)

Clearly the safety aspects of Tasers is one of balance between not using them, and the risks involved in using more conventional methods of policing. When there is a strict policy of only using them as a substitute for conventional fire arms, the number of cases is relatively small, and the risk to individuals less - a risk also balanced by the risk of being shot in a confrontational situation. But where that is relaxed, and the Taser becomes a weapon of choice for dealing with a belligerent and perhaps not necessarily violent individual, the greater number of cases will make fatalities more statistically likely.

Shaun Kedir notes how the expansion of the use of the Taser has led to more reported deaths, which is something that might be expected. The Taser organisation does not test their product on children, elderly or pregnant women, and are unlikely to test it on people with suspected heat conditions or compromised immune systems. As the population potentially subject to the use of Taser increases, the statistics gathered for its safety record thereby have less validity:

Recently, media and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, have released reports of more than 100 people since 2001 dying after receiving Taser shocks. Although coroners have attributed the majority of the deaths to other factors, such as drug use, in at least five of the cases, coroners found Tasers to be a contributory factor. In addition to reports of fatalities, there have been reported cases of police officers deploying Tasers on unarmed, non-compliant, or disturbed individuals who do not pose a threat to themselves or others.  Some of these individuals include children, elderly, and pregnant women. (2)

Part of the problem is the "quick fix", where the Taser is deployed without adequate - and costly - training, and seen as an instrument of first resort, rather than one of last resort, because it achieves results quickly:

In short, Taser weapons have the potential of providing law enforcement with a viable life-saving tool that presents no greater health risk than other less-lethal methods currently in use; however, extensive training, detailed deployment policies providing clear direction on how to avoid unnecessary acts of force, further research, and community approval are critical to ensure its safe, effective, and appropriate use.(2)

The most controversial use of the Taser is when the subject is simply non-compliant. This could almost be termed the "Ghandi situation", where someone is offering non-violent resistance, and rather than talk them into compliance, the police resort to use of the Taser. Clearly protocols in Jersey need to be established extremely clearly to ensure that this could not happen. There need to be controls, and controls that are not worded in a vague and badly defined way to prevent this.

Generally, the lowest level of force that police agencies allow the use of Tasers is when an officer perceives the situation as tactical, as when the subject is passively resistant. This occurs, for example, when a subject refuses to comply with police officer's verbal commands, but does not interfere with the police officer and presents no physical threat. This level on the force continuum is the most controversial for Taser deployment, and generally, no other forms of physical force are appropriate. (2)

The legal consideration of Taser use in the USA should flag up a warning signal. Unless those voting and drawing up Taser legislation are in favour of making non-violent resistance potentially subject to the use of Taser, that possibility will exist. It is that, I am sure, which gives a good deal of disquiet, and I think most politicians and members of the general public would like to see strict controls on the use of Tasers in writing, otherwise, as in the USA, the Courts may actually permit their use in a wider context:

Courts have held that the single use of a Taser in making the arrest of a suspect who appears "hostile, belligerent, uncooperative," and repeatedly refuses to comply with police officer's commands was justified and does not amount to excessive force.

A May 2004 study in Denver, Colorado, on the Denver Police Department's Taser deployment found that officers commonly used Tasers against passively resisting or fleeing suspects.  In at least ninety percent of the cases, the suspects were unarmed, and in more than two-thirds of the cases, the suspects were only cited for misdemeanors. The study also found that Denver police officers used Tasers on sixteen juveniles and suspects already restrained. (2)

Amnesty International has provided a study of the use of Tasers in practice, as opposed to the ideal use as outline by those promoting their use. It is important not to dismiss this, because those wanting the use of Tasers in a very wide range of circumstances will play up the positive aspects of that, and downplay any negative consequences.

"Tasers are not the 'non-lethal' weapons they are portrayed to be," said Angela Wright, US researcher at Amnesty International and author of the report. "They can kill and should only be used as a last resort. "The problem with Tasers is that they are inherently open to abuse, as they are easy to carry and easy to use and can inflict severe pain at the push of a button, without leaving substantial marks." (3)

In 2005, reports came out that Tasers have been operating on Merseyside for more than six months without alarm, and once in place, the argument came that their use should be expanded to more widespread use by general members of the force and not just the armed response units. The idea is that many officers could be trained:

Up to this point, though, the 50,000-volt weapons, which cause targets to lose muscle control and either freeze on the spot or collapse to the ground,  have been available only to armed response units. But they comprise just a small proportion of the force and Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe is now hoping for distribution to other officers, having become convinced of the worth of the Tasers. Mr Hogan-Howe said: "I think at the very least we need to spread the use of  Tasers more widely than they are at the moment. "To have them available to all patrolling officers would be a very good option, and at the moment would appear to be a very safe option.

This overlooks, of course, the possibility that they might not measure up. Membership of an armed response unit is not just a matter of training; if the officer does not pass certain standards, they will not be accepted into the unit. Expanding the scope of Taser deployment to many officers will mean lowering those stringent standards.

In 2007, this occurred in Northumbria:

MORE police are being trained to deploy Taser stun guns to take down violent suspects. Units will now operate in each of the six Northumbria force command areas on 24-hour standby. At the moment, the electrical volt devices are only being used by firearms officers in violent or threatening incidents. Now Northumbria is one of 10 forces throughout the UK, moving into a second phase of a pilot programme of extended Taser use. From this Saturday, small teams of trained non-firearms officers will be available for a rapid response in their local area.

It is this "second phase" which takes the Taser out of the armed response unit, and puts it in the hands of non-firearms officers that has the potential for fatalities, and for indiscriminate use of Tasers. This is a "slippery slope" of the use of Tasers, and the anecdotal evidence emerging is that away from the strict controls of trained firearms officers, there is a significant risk of making mistakes and harming members of the general public.

In 2009, the Taser was used on an 89 year old man who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This is what happens when Tasers can be used as a "quick and cheap fix": This was in Merseyside, where the decision had been taken to deploy Tasers by non-firearms officers:

POLICE officers who Tasered an 89-year-old war veteran with a 50,000 volt stun gun after he threatened to cut his throat have been cleared by a  watchdog - to the anger of his family. A police constable used the Taser gun twice to stun the pensioner on Abbey Road, Llandudno, last January, fearing he was going to kill himself. The pensioner's sister-in-law said: "We are disappointed our concerns about  the use of the Taser were not upheld. We just feel there was a much better way to handle this. We think he was scared and could have been talked down if they had backed off. This has caused untold stress to him and his family. The message this gives is that anyone could be shot with a Taser no matter of their age or their physical condition."

An officer discharged one Taser shot which was not fully successful as only one barb attached. He dispatched another shot and the man fell on the grass and the glass was taken from him. He was then handcuffed and taken to hospital. (5)

The man's nephew, an engineer, added that his uncle had gone into a residential home three weeks earlier, apparently suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's disease. 'He didn't like it there and walked out a few days later, and then again on Saturday,' he said. 'We've been to see him in hospital and he seems better than for a long time. He can remember what happened with the Taser. He says the pain was excruciating and that he was frightened to death. 'The police say he was holding a shard of glass to his neck but we think they should have tried persuasion. It's a miracle he didn't have a heart attack on the spot. Of course we are angry. We've been told his arms were handcuffed behind his back, which we don't think is the way to treat an old man who had never been in trouble in his life.' (6)

Another case in 2007 involved a diabetic. Now I know a diabetic, who sometimes behaved in a bizarre way because their sugar level was too low. The cure was to persuade them to take sugar, in milk or water, to stabilise their condition, which would often appear quite manic. It required calm, persuasion, often a considerable amount of time, and the need to stay calm as their eyes were bright, and their movements might become very jerky. It can be an alarming site, and it appears from the story that the "mistaken terrorist" was an excuse by the police to get out of what was, in fact, simply a use of the Taser as another "quick and cheap fix":

A DIABETIC in a coma and in need of urgent medical attention was shot with a stun gun by police who feared he was a suicide bomber. Nicholas Gaubert's bizarre ordeal happened just six days after the July 7 bombings with the country in a state of high alert. But apart from wearing a rucksack and being on a bus, he is bewildered as to how he could be mistaken for a terrorist. Last night he accused police of using him for 'target practice'.

The 34-year-old bistro owner and son of a magistrate has been dependent on insulin for 20 years. He was on his way to meet friends for a drink after work when he fell into a diabetic coma on the top deck of a bus in his home town of Leeds. He says he was the only passenger on board. He does not remember any more until he woke up in the back of a police van  in handcuffs, initially fearing he had been kidnapped. It appears armed police had been called to the bus and shot him twice with a Taser gun after he failed to respond to their orders.

'I was in a diabetic coma. I could have died and all they were bothered about was whether I was going to blow up an empty, stationary bus.' From the back of the police van, Mr Gaubert eventually persuaded officers to take him to hospital for treatment. 'I just remember waking up in the back of a van and I could hear people talking in the front. I genuinely thought I'd been kidnapped. I just shudder when I think what could have happened if I hadn't come round. They would have thrown me into a cell and I would probably have died.' He was on anti-depressants after the incident and suffered from back pain for two weeks. (7)

The recent removal of protestors at Dale Farm signified another escalation of the use of Tasers, this time not for individuals, but as a method of crowd control:

POLICE who smashed their way on to Dale Farm were accused of being too eager to use 50,000-volt electric stun guns to bring down protesters. Witnesses claimed at least two Tasers were fired as officers surged through a fortified metal fence in the dawn raid. It is believed to be the first time the controversial weapon has been deployed by police when faced with activists, and there were fears that this could mark a worrying escalation of its use in Britain. But Essex Police insisted Tasers were not used to quell protest and an officer pulled the trigger only after facing a 'serious level of violence'. Dramatic amateur footage showed the moment officers brandished their Tasers as they stormed the barricades. One officer could be seen and heard discharging the weapon, which fires two metal prongs before delivering the incapacitating charge through a thin wire.

A young man was hit and collapsed to the ground but managed to pull the barbs from his skin before disappearing in the crowd. The shot narrowly missed a legal observer. (8)

Last year, the Daily Mail started to assess the less discriminate use of Tasers - "phase two" - when they have been deployed more generally and not by trained firearms officers. They reported that Nicholas Gaubert "has since become what is believed to be the first person in the UK to obtain compensation for being shot with a Taser. West Yorkshire Police has confirmed that it made an out-of-court settlement - thought to be tens of thousands of pounds - and an apology, after a civil action brought against them."

It notes the wider use of Tasers, and  - worryingly - the way in which the use of non-firearms officers has led to an escalation in their use - the slang phrase "sparking up" denotes an attitude of mind which is quite worrying:

Tasers were fired, or as police chiefs prefer to call it 'deployed', 1,765 times between April 2004 and June 2009. Stun gun officers have a less PC term for firing their weapon - they call it 'sparking up'.

Oliver Sprague, the UK's Arms Programme Director of Amnesty International, says: 'Because it's a projectile weapon it's much more likely to cause injury and damage if it hits someone in the face or head.' He adds: 'The key concern, however, is instead of Tasers being used in genuinely life-threatening cases, you start to see it creep into mainstream policing. It is disturbing to consider that a Taser could be in the hands of every police officer in a matter of years.' (9)

It does note, however, that not all police go along with a wider use of Tasers. The use of Tasers is restricted to armed response officers by some forces:

Not all forces agree with the decision to arm non-specialist officers. Sussex Police and the Metropolitan Police are among those which are refusing to extend the use of Tasers to the rank and file.(9)

As Jersey is likely to get Tasers, I think there should be clearly prescribed limits, which would require full States Approval if they were changed, to their use. I have no problems with them as a substitute weapon for armed response officers; I do have a problem with the wider use, as the risk to members of the public, and the less discriminate use of them poses a serious hazard to the safety of those subjected to Tasers.

In 2011, the first person in Britain died as a result of Taser use - or misuse, as he was hit three times:

A BODYBUILDER is believed to be the first person in Britain to have died from a police Taser after officers shot him three times with the powerful 50,000-volt gun. Father-of-two Dale Burns, 27, was confronted by up to eight officers after they were called to reports of a disturbance at his bedsit in a block of flats. He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage but when he refused to calm down officers used pepper spray before one fired at him three times in quick succession.

A friend, who did not want to be named, said: 'I don't know what kicked off  the trouble but when the police got to him they couldn't control him so they Tasered him. 'But he got back up and was going off his head because he was angry at what they had done, so they Tasered him twice more. 'They got him up to the hospital and his body went into shock. 'They brought him back to life with the shockers but then he just went  flatline.' He added: 'The police went overboard with the Taser. They didn't need to Taser him three times (10)

The article notes that this is a direct result of indiscriminate use of Tasers by non-firearm officers:

At first only firearms officers were allowed to use them in exceptional circumstances. But by July 2007 they were given powers to use the high-voltage weapons in less serious incidents. Two months later, non-firearms officers were given authorisation to carry the weapons, provided they were given additional training under a pilot scheme involving ten forces which was later expanded to include all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

In most of Scotland, only firearms officers are permitted to carry Tasers (10)

The case for medical safety of Tasers is also not as clear cut as in might seem. The evidence coming from America is that political pressure is put on pathologists to ensure that a Taser does not feature often as the cause of death. Forensic pathologist Dr Allen, who works in Los Angeles notes how this has happened on his watch:

I was apparently one of only two medical examiners in the Los Angeles office to list taser on a death certificate. This was because pathologists in Los Angeles were under pressure from law-enforcement agencies to exclude the taser as a cause of death. [One] autopsy was performed in the presence of six upper-level law-enforcement agents who were confrontational and argumentative in their attempts to persuade me that death was caused by drowning in a few inches of water. I was not allowed to attend the death scene. I insisted that the cause of death would not be determined until all tests were complete. My opinion was widely and prematurely misquoted by the officers. Likewise, I was called into Dr. Kornblum's office to defend my investigation in something more akin to a disciplinary hearing than a scientific conference. In the end, Dr. Kornblum seemed to agree that the tasering was the immediate cause of death. Yet, in his article it is stated that 'the death clearly fits into cocaine category'. (2)

The Journal of Heath notes that people and circumstances vary, so that controlled testing, especially when a wider use of Tasers is in place, is of limited use in assessing safety:

[There] are variations in effects due to recipients' characteristics (body temperature, amount of clothing and skin moisture), the contact duration and the areas targeted (the chest, eyes), and differences within and between types of devices in terms of their power sources, peak voltage and electrical outputs. Once electroshock devices are used in connection with other types of force, the possibilities for specifying likely effects of weapons becomes even more problematic. (2)

This is particularly important, as the Taser company has introduced more powerful weapons, which again will filter down to the police:

Despite long-standing claims about the effectiveness of TASERs, TASER International has recently stated that its older devices proved ineffective in 15 percent to 33 percent of cases. In response, it has introduced a new advanced line of weapons with significantly higher wattage levels. The new 26-watt version, the ADVANCED TASER, is said to be 99 percent effective in incapacitating individuals, making it more effective than firearms. Promotional material fosters this image by illustrating test results on elite military and police personnel. So, a former US Marines Chief Instructor in hand-to-hand combat states, 'I have been hit by hand grenades yet still completed my mission. The ADVANCED TASER is the only thing that has ever stopped me.'

In conclusion:

(A) The use of Tasers as a weapon of choice in place of firearms by a trained firearms unit could significantly reduce fatalities and I would recommend its use.
(B) The "Phase Two" deployment of Tasers by non-firearms officers for situations where firearms use would not be deployed poses significant risk to the general public, and the use of the slang term "sparking up" illustrates a kind of attitude that we do not want to see in Jersey. I would not recommend "phase two" under any circumstances.
(C) If Tasers are introduced in Jersey, legislation should restrict its use to trained firearms officers in situations where firearms would be deployed.
(D) Any change to a "phase two" wider deployment should not be a matter for operational consideration, but should require full States approval to change legislation. Without this safeguard, there are no controls by the States on a "slippery slope" in the use of Tasers.

(1) Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics and the Management of Conflict. Brian Rappert, 2003
(2) Stunning Trends in Shocking Crimes: A Comprehensive Analysis of Taser Weapons. Shaun H. Kedir, Journal of Law and Health, 2006
4) Hundreds of Fingers on the Trigger; Every Police Officer on Merseyside Could Soon Be Equipped with a Taser Stun Gun. Chief Reporter Andy Kelly Reports. Daily Post, 2005
(5)  Daily Post (Liverpool, England), August 8, 2009
(6) Police Fire Taser at Man, 89, Who Fled Care Home; Stun Gun: The Taser Causes Paralysis; The Daily Mail (London, England), January 14, 2009
(7) Police Shoot Diabetic with Taser after Taking Him for a Terrorist; Target: Nicholas Gaubert Is Considering Suing the Police; The Daily Mail (London, England), November 16, 2007
(8) But Were Officers Too Eager to Fire Their 50,000-Volt Taser Guns? The Daily Mail (London, England), October 20, 2011
(9) TASERS: THE SHOCKING TRUTH; A Commuter in a Diabetic Coma, an 89-Year-Old Man and Children as Young as 12 - Just Some of the Targets of British Police Armed with Skin-Piercing 50,000-Volt Taser Guns. as the Home Office Investigates Bringing an Even More Powerful Rifle Version to Britain, Jason
Benetto Reports on the Slow Creep of Arms onto Our Streets; The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 7, 2010
(10) Bodybuilder Dies after Police Blast Him Three Times with Taser Gun; The Daily Mail (London, England), August 18, 2011
(11) MORALIZING VIOLENCE: Representations of Electro-Shock Weapons, Brian Rappert Science and Technology Studies Unit University of York

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Musings on Christianity and Church

BBC Radio Jersey is asking the question: "Can you be a Christian without reading the Bible or going to Church?" The answer, of course, is obviously that you can be. The real question is: would you want to be?

If you are marooned on a Desert Island, and don't have the advantages of the delightful Kirsty Young to provide you with your favourite music, a luxury, the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible, then you can't read the Bible or go to Church. You may be a Christian nonetheless. After all, the term "Christian" means a follower of Christ, and I would have thought that it would be possible to reflect on those parts of the Bible that you did know, and pray, even on a desert island.

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is not in fact a Christian, or even religious, when he is stranded on a desert island, although in the world he came from he may have participated in religious observances as a matter of form. He does, however, have a Bible, which is more or less the only thing he has to read, and in reading it, he becomes a Christian who thanks God for saving him, and providing for him, where he has everything he needs but the society of other human beings. His spiritual journey comes about not through listening to sermons in a church but through spending time alone amongst nature with only a Bible to read.

But some men and women in the past have chosen a solitary lifestyle as hermits. They are Christians, but quite obviously did not go to church. One of the most well known is probably St Simeon Stylites (390 - 459 AD). He was a Christian hermit who achieved fame by living for 39 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria. He didn't go to church in that time, either. Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describes Simeon's existence as follows:

In this last and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross, but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty- four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account. The progress of an ulcer in his thigh might shorten, but it could not disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without descending from his column

But while this was a solitary existence, he was reading and writing; he had provisions and writing materials lifted up to him, and taken down. Some of those preached against profanity and usury; one imagines he would have sharp words to say to the bankers in today's society. So it is almost certain he would have read the Bible. He seems to have been very forceful in his words, and quite fanatical about his faith as well, and although the crowds came to see and listen to him as a holy man, I'm not sure that he was necessarily a good man. Crowds, after all, do listen to religious fanatics, as we have seen in recent history. The Ayatollah Khomeini was seen by many as a holy man, but he was harsh, fanatic, judgmental and quite willing to call for the assassination of Salman Rushdie. While Stylites never called for anyone to take up weapons, there is an anti-Semitic streak in his letters which is quite unpleasant:

Because in the pride of your heart you have forgotten the Lord your God, who gave you the crown of majesty and the royal throne, and have become a friend and comrade and abettor of the unbelieving Jews; know that of a sudden the righteous judgment of God will overtake you and all those 'who are of one mind with you in this matter. Then you will lift up your hands to heaven, and say in your distress, Of a truth because I dealt falsely with the Lord God this punishment has come upon me."

Other solitaries, however, have been less fanatic. Richard Rolle and Julian of Norwich, for example, were English mystics whose existence was solitary, but who did not have quite the same kind of zeal as a Stylites. Nevertheless, because they had withdrawn from the world and the church, they could be critical of both. Rolle, for example, is quite severe in his strictures against the love of money, and the piling up of wealth, as a distraction which takes people away from God.

Truly turning from these goods that in this world deceive their lovers and defend them nought, stands in want of fleshly desire, and hatred of all wickedness; so that they savour not earthly things, nor desire to hold to worldly things beyond their strait need. For they truly that heap riches and know not for whom they gather, having their solace in them, are not worthy to be sometimes gladdened in the mirth of heavenly love; although they seem by devotion, not holy but simulated, to feel in their diseases something of that felicity which is to come. For truly for their foul presumption they have fallen from that sweetness with which God's lovers are softened and made sweet because they have unmannerly loved worldly money.

The wicked truly are alway greedy after vile delectations, and as dead unto ghostly exercises; or else cast down with full great feebleness: whose love is ever inordinate; for they love temporal goods more than eternal, and their bodies more than their souls.

Of course what modern people - who don't want the Bible or the Church, but want to call themselves Christians - are after is hardly the uncomfortable existence of a religious ascetic devoted to prayer and meditation, or even the weekly commitment of a churchgoer. They want the comfortable lifestyle, perhaps dropping the odd crumb into a charitable donation, but to all intents and purposes to lead a secular life. They want the church to be there for christenings, for weddings and for funerals, but for the rest of the time, they are not really that bothered.

I suspect that deep down, there is a kind of folk-faith, of half-remembered childhood Christianity from school days, and that is part and parcel of this taking upon themselves a label of Christian. Does it matter? Some Christians get extremely fervent about those who don't read the Bible or go to Church, and label them "nominal Christians".

But the hypocrisy can be on the other side. People who do read the Bible and go to church, can be unforgiving and judgmental, like the blacksmith in Chesterton's Father Brown story "The Hammer of God":

Is Colonel Bohun dead?' said the smith quite calmly. 'Then he's damned.'
'Don't say anything! Oh, don't say anything,' cried the atheist cobbler, dancing about in an ecstasy of admiration of the English legal system. For no man is such a legalist as the good Secularist.
The blacksmith turned on him over his shoulder the august face of a fanatic.
'It's well for you infidels to dodge like foxes because the world's law favours you,' he said; 'but God guards His own in His pocket, as you shall see this day.'
Then he pointed to the colonel and said: 'When did this dog die in his sins?'
'Moderate your language,' said the doctor.
'Moderate the Bible's language, and I'll moderate mine. When did he die?'
'I saw him alive at six o'clock this morning,' stammered Wilfred Bohun.
'God is good,' said the smith.
'There are two men standing outside this shop,' went on the blacksmith with ponderous lucidity, 'good tradesmen in Greenford whom you all know, who will swear that they saw me from before midnight till daybreak and long after in the committee room of our Revival Mission, which sits all night, we save souls so fast. In Greenford itself twenty people could swear to me for all that time. If I were a heathen, Mr. Inspector, I would let you walk on to your downfall. But as a Christian man I feel bound to give you your chance, and ask you whether you will hear my alibi now or in court.'

Father Brown later comments on this kind of Christianity:

Look at that blacksmith, for instance,' went on Father Brown calmly; 'a good man, but not a Christian -- hard, imperious, unforgiving. Well, his Scotch religion was made up by men who prayed on hills and high crags, and learnt to look down on the world more than to look up at heaven. Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.'

And a real case in point is in an autobiography I was reading of Dick Van Dyke, who was a Christian (although he didn't make a great show of it), and was for many years an elder in a Presbyterian Church. This is the kind of behaviour from Christians in Churches that drives people away:

One of the elders suggested inviting the congregation from a black church from the inner city to our church and, ideally, they would invite us to
theirs. I thought it was a great idea, right on target. It sounded like something that would have come from Charlie, who preached the best possible way, by example. The things he did the other six days of the week were far more inspirational than anything he said on the seventh day in church, which was also pretty good. "Black families, white families, people in general - we look at each other like strangers," I said. "But I think we have much more in common than any of us realize. We sit in our churches on Sundays, we read from the same book, we pray to the same God, we want the same thing, which is to feel loved, not hated. What if we got to know each other through an exchange program?" The idea did not go over well. One of the elders emphatically stated that he did not want any black people in the church. Appalled, I stood up, shared my disgust, grabbed my jacket, and walked out. I never went back there or to any other church. My relationship with God was solid, but the hypocrisy among the so-called faithful finished me for good.

Even where there is not this attitude, the Church can seem to be restrictive to outsiders, telling people that they can't share in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, Communion, Eucharist (the names vary) unless the participant is part of the holy circle, either as a baptised Christian, or a confirmed Christian, or only a member of that particular denomination.

The theologian Jurgen Moltmann takes issue with that practice, and suggests that the celebration should be open to all who want to come, with no artificial barriers put in their way:

Where does Jesus' feast belong? On the streets of the poor who follow Jesus, or in the church of the baptized, the confirmed and established? I decided for the feast that is open to all, and to which the weary and heavy-laden are invited. Baptism on the other hand, should be reserved for believers. That certainly contradicts the practice of our mainline churches, but it is in conformity with Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus' Supper is not a church meal for people who belong to one's own denomination. It is the feast of the crucified Christ, whose hands are stretched out to everyone.

Saturday, 18 February 2012



The eldila shines in angelic form
In harmony, it does conform
Pouring living water from one chalice
into another, thesis and antithesis
with one foot on earth, one on water
This is temperance in alternator
That combines and harmonises all
Mind and matter entwines install
Balance rises upon its wings
This the angel voice now sings
But unsmiling, controlled in poise
Temperance, but here no joys.

Friday, 17 February 2012


One of my favourite American writers, as readers of this blog are aware, is the American humorist James Thurber  (1894 - 1961). In this piece, which is from The New Yorker (1929), he looks at the English language, and the little word "which", which as he points out, can cause all kinds of problems which writers struggle to resolve.

It is a wonderful little piece, which appears at the start to be one of those faddish monologues on correct use of language, the sort of thing you'd find in "Eats, Shoots & Leaves". But it is actually sending up the whole genre of those patronising people who "know" what is "correct" use of English and want to dictate to other people how to write. If you come across any of their irritating ilk, give them Thurber to read as an antidote.

Which by James Thurber

The relative pronoun "which" can cause more trouble than any other word, if recklessly used. Foolhardy persons sometimes get lost in which-clauses and are never heard of again.

My distinguished contemporary, Fowler, cites several tragic cases, of which the following is one: "It was rumored that Beaconsfield intended opening the Conference with a speech in French, his pronunciation of which language leaving everything to be desired . . ." That's as much as Mr. Fowler quotes because, at his age, he was afraid to go any farther. The young man who originally got into that sentence was never found.

His fate, however, was not as terrible as that of another adventurer who became involved in a remarkable which-mire. Fowler has followed his devious course as far as he safely could on foot: "Surely what applies to games should also apply to racing, the leaders of which being the very people from whom an example might well be looked for . . ." Not even Henry James could have successfully emerged from a sentence with "which," "whom," and "being" in it.

The safest way to avoid such things is to follow in the path of the American author, Ernest Hemingway. In his youth he was trapped in a which-clause one time and barely escaped with his mind. He was going along on solid ground until he got into this: "It was the one thing of which, being very much afraid--for whom has not been warned to fear such things--he . . ."

Being a young and powerfully built man, Hemingway was able to fight his way back to where he had started, and begin again. This time he skirted the treacherous morass in this way: "He was afraid of one thing. This was the one thing. He had been warned to fear such things: Everybody has been warned to fear such things." Today Hemingway is alive and well, and many happy writers are following along the trail he blazed.

What most people don't realize is that one "which" leads to another. Trying to cross a paragraph by leaping from "which" to "which" is like Eliza crossing the ice. The danger is in missing a "which" and falling in. A case in point is this: "He went up to a pew which was in the gallery, which brought him under a colored window which he loved and always quieted his spirit."

The writer, worn out, missed the last "which"--the one that should come just before "always" in that sentence. But supposing he had got it in! We would have: "He went up to a pew which was in the gallery, which brought him under a colored window which he loved and which always quieted his spirit." Your inveterate whicher in this way gives the effect of tweeting like a bird or walking with a crutch, and is not welcome in the best company.

It is well to remember that one "which" leads to two and that two "whiches" multiply like rabbits. You should never start out with the idea that you can get by with one "which." Suddenly they are all around you. Take a sentence like this: "It imposes a problem which we either solve, or perish."

On a hot night, or after a hard day's work, a man often lets himself get by with a monstrosity like that, but suppose he dictates that sentence bright and early in the morning. It comes to him typed out by his stenographer and he instantly senses that something is the matter with it. He tries to reconstruct the sentence, still clinging to the "which," and gets something like this: "It imposes a problem which we either solve, or which, failing to solve, we must perish on account of." He goes to the water-cooler, gets a drink, sharpens his pencil, and grimly tries again. "It imposes a problem which we either solve or which we don't solve . . ." He begins once more: "It imposes a problem which we either solve, or which we do not solve, and from which . . ." The more times he does it the more "whiches" he gets.

The way out is simple: "We must either solve this problem, or perish." Never monkey with "which." Nothing except getting tangled up in a typewriter ribbon is worse.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Jade Horse with the Diamond Eyes

Here is a another short story from Annie Parmeter, written when she was 12 at Moorestown College, St Peter.

The Jade Horse with the Diamond Eyes
by Annie Parmeter
Li Ting Po sat patiently carving a beautiful piece of jade. Skillfully he fashioned the shape of a beautiful horse, and with each stroke of his implement, he incised a spell into the carving.
Lovingly he fitted its diamond eyes. This was to be his masterpiece, specially commissioned by the Emperor Tseen-Kang.
Li Ting Po was seeking revenge on the avaricious Tseen-Kang because this Emperor had confiscated his farms to change into part of the Imperial gardens. The spell of the horse would be his revenge on the Emperor.
The horse was to be presented to the Emperor, and Li Ting Po carried it carefully into the Hall of Audience. The Hall of Audience was a vast marble construction with a gold roof inlaid with precious stones. The Emperor's throne was made of rose quartz and gilded wood, his magnificent robes were of multicoloured silks, embroidered with exquisite patterns and scenes.
Li Ting smiled inscrutably as he presented his masterpiece to the ever treasure-hungry Tseen Kang. The Emperor was greatly pleased with this wonderful work of art.
Then the Emperor ordered the carving to be placed in his bedroom.
The following morning, the Emperor was found dead, in his bed, and a blinding ray of light seemed to come from the eyes of the horse; while on the wall was written "those who own me, shall never live to see" - meaning that those who own the horse will be blinded with such pain that it would kill.
Tseen-Kang was buried in the family vault at the Temple of the Thundering Winds. Li Ting Po, still smiling inscrutably, called at the tomb to pay his last respects.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Don't ruin a body that was to give everyone a voice to be heard

Once again, Deputy Wimberley's letters are missing from the JEP online version, so if you don't get the JEP, here's a place to read them. Online space is cheap compared to print, so why are some letters chosen and others not - there seems to be no rhyme or reason outside of the editor's own bias.

This letter is on States Reform. We hear a lot about Senator Bailhache being elected on a "platform of reform", and therefore being the person most suited to lead the task. This is a new argument, as when Senator Vernon Tomes entered the States, also on a platform of reform, he was sidelined to the back benches until he had given up on the idea. The same is true of Stuart Syvret, Ted Vibert, and going back in time, for those of us with long memories, John de Carteret.

Time and again we have been told that just because the public places someone on top of the poll, that gives them no special privileges or legitimacy. That is something which has been singularly lacking on the debate about Senator Bailhache's suitability, and instead, we are told that as a poll-topper, he has a special mandate to do this which should be complied with by the States.

Moreoever, the policy of reversing decisions recently past and changing the terms of reference of the review surely opens up a whole can of worms. If a precedent is set that decisions by the previous States, passed less than six months previously, can be put asunder, what is to stop re-opening the debate about spending cuts, especially the draconian measures taken and approved with regards to sports in Jersey?

As Senator Bailhache is the first to admit, he has expressed opinions. He argues that does not commit him to a particular position. But surely an independent commission would remove all shadow of doubt on that score, so that he would be free to make his own submission, with no perceived conflict of interest?

Don't ruin a body that was to give everyone a voice to be heard.
From Daniel Wimberley.

THE version of the Electoral Commission put forward by the Privileges and Procedures Committee is a complete and utter mockery of the original proposal passed by the States.

Deputy Le Hérissier amendments, though welcome, do not go far enough. The question now is: can the commission be saved?

The commission was there to serve Islanders. Its job was to make democracy better in Jersey, to give fair representation to all (at the moment, the country is vastly over-represented and the urban areas are under-represented), to try to reflect shades of public opinion accurately in the States (which our first-past-the-post voting system fails to do), to allow voters to influence who gets to be in government, and thus to improve accountability and get away from the appalling mantra of 'I don't vote, it does not make any difference.'

The commission was to be independent and was to look at all the issues in the round before coming up with a package to be put to a referendum.

The commission would lead a debate across the Island on the issues. External experts would ensure that the process was kept free from bias, and give advice on technical issues. All perfectly straightforward - All perfectly fair. The Island gets what it needs at a cost, incidentally, of less than 4p for each resident for each of the 50 years the new elections system should last.

So what do Privileges do? They butcher the proposals. In so doing, they appear to put vested interests above the public interest, and they put at risk the reputation of the States itself.

Privilege's proposals are extraordinary. They want to put three States Members onto the commission, one of these being the chairman, to remove any external oversight of the process and to cut out half of the terms of reference.

In doing so, they have destroyed the commission's independence, they have ensured that the public will mistrust the results, and they have made its job impossible.

To his credit, Deputy Le Hérissier amendment tries to undo the damage. It would remove the politicians from the electoral Commission and restore the terms of reference. This is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. It does not tackle the removal of outside expertise, and this is the real prize for those who are intent on killing off the commission.

Outside expertise is vital. Last year Privileges correctly pointed out the danger of any commission with an all- local lineup: 'This option has the disadvantage that the local members may all come with predetermined positions and it may be difficult to identify local residents who would have the necessary interest and expertise in this subject without bringing strong preconceived ideas about the way forward.'

There is nothing wrong in this, but it does point out the need for checks and balances, for external eyes. Our police, social services and the prison are inspected from outside, and we get outside advice on our fiscal policy. And all for very sound reasons: to ensure impartiality, transparency and best practice.

The outside experts should not sit on the commission itself, but form an independent advisory panel. This cuts out the expense of travelling and accommodation, adds flexibility and opens up a bigger pool of expertise for us to choose from.

Each major step of the commission's work, for example, the overall outline plan for public consultation, or their initial statement as to what the issues are, should go to the panel for comment.

This comment would be in writing, open and public.

The response of the commissioners, accepting or rejecting that advice and giving their reasons, would likewise be in writing, open and public. Any technical advice would also be on the record. This transparent external quality assurance is the people's guarantee that the process is not being manipulated in any way.

Anyone looking at this episode from outside the Island, (which may very well happen, given the great interest in tax havens and offshore finance centres these days) would quickly conclude that the establishment has been trying to rig the process of reform for their own advantage. This must not be allowed to happen, for the sake of democracy and for the sake of our reputation.

I hope that a States Member proposes a further amendment to ensure that the process has independent outside scrutiny and technical advice. Nothing less is good enough for a commission whose work will set the framework for our democracy for the next 50 years.