Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Odds and Ends

The Politics Hour
This was last Sunday, and Deputy Sean Power was the politician being interviewed. The subject was Jersey Charities, and Deputy Power made a number of good points on Twitter:
"Charities can run some services more efficiently than the States could"
"Tax payers would face a bill for millions to replace the work of volunteers in Jersey"
"Regulation of charities needs to be done with a soft touch"
"Former opponents of men's shelter in St Aubin are now volunteer helpers there"
"Chief Ministers Department looking into States relationship with voluntary sector"
The latter is certainly important. A number of charities receive monies from the public purse, either from the States or from the Parishes. Those help sustain the charities, but in terms of the benefits of that funding, it invariably far outweighs the input given, principally because of the volunteers who help with the charity, and the fact that charities are always aware of the need to keep costs down. That is something which went terribly wrong with David Cameron's idea of a "Big Society", because not only did he imagine that communities and charities would take the place of the State, he also thought that could go hand in hand with cuts in funding to charities.
As Richard Rondel also tweeted: "The voluntary sector is hugely important in Jersey and must be recognised as so - The cost to the taxpayer would otherwise be enormous!" He also notes that "People like League of Friends that run the coffee shop at the hospital without even admin costs contribute significantly to the hospital!"
There's an old maxim from the Bible:  "Cast Your Bread upon the Water and it shall return to Thee" which certainly applies to the States supporting charities.
Smoking Kills
Deputy Power has been busy tweeting about smoking:
"Andrew Mitchell, cardiologist at Jersey says that Jersey should become the 1st jurisdiction in the world to become free of tobacco. I agree."
"Smoking serves absolutely no function whatsoever. It causes ill health and raises millions in taxes for Treasury. Let's end its use here."
I don't agree with that. This time Deputy Power has got it wrong. I do accept that smoking is not good for health, but total bans never work well; they drive matters underground. The United States tried to ban alcohol, and the end result was smuggling, illicit trading, and the rise of a gangster culture which took advantage of the market opportunity.
I think that ending indoor smoking in public places is positive; I like the fact that I can go into a pub with clean air, and not come out with clothes reeking of tobacco. I can understand warnings on packets, banns on advertising, and the use of price as incentives to reduce the amount of tobacco smoked. But an outright ban strikes me as wrong, especially if it is not universal. It will criminalise people coming from the UK, Guernsey or elsewhere if they happen to accidentally bring over tobacco with them. Let's restrict tobacco by all means, but not by a total ban.

The Tasmanian Times notes:
"Control over smoking is working. Most young people do not begin: this is revealed in the statistics on the numbers of people who have never smoked. Nationally, an extraordinary 57.8% (52.8% in Tasmania) have never used tobacco; another 24.1% (28.7% in Tasmania) have managed to kick the habit. Prohibition would destroy this extraordinarily successful strategy by placing tobacco use outside of the range of regulation and control, and into the far more dangerous limbo of underground criminal supply."
"It is a fantasy to say that this ban will result in a smoke-free generation. It won't. It will lead instead to the criminalisation of an entire generation of law-abiding people. It will spawn a powerful and dangerous new pack of organised criminals, and the consequent corruption of police and officials. And it will mean, eventually, an end to our chances of genuine and effective tobacco control."
Tax Transparency UK
Richard Murphy ‏, the critic of tax havens, is sounding off about a jurisdiction which has the "largest company register in Europe, and not a single one of the 3 million companies on it need disclose its beneficial ownership to anyone."
Is this a sounding off on tax havens? No, it's a criticism of the UK itself. As Murphy notes:
"Not a word about reform of Companies House and how the law is to be upheld as it stands, let alone how the UK will ensure that beneficial ownership will be disclosed in future, has been delivered by the UK as part of the G8 process."
And on Twitter, he adds: "Cameron's got to get transparency right in the UK before he starts lecturing the world and he's failing miserably"
That explains a lot about why letters have been sent Crown Dependencies about tax avoidance and transparency; it is a classic diversionary tactic. It's nice to see Richard Murphy noticing that and being as critical about the UK as about tax havens.
Official Denial?
BBC Jersey tweets that "Home Affairs Minister refuses to say whether there's an investigation into allegations concerning the Chief and Dep Chief of Police".
He should have listened to "Yes Prime Minister", where the one rule of politics is never to believe anything until it has been officially denied. Either there is an investigation or there is not. As Home Affairs Minister, Senator Le Marquand should know about it. Refusing to say suggests that something must be happening; it's very close to an official denial!
Guernsey Bus Strike
Twitter has been full of the bus driver's strike
"Bus drivers are on strike in Guernsey. A total of 30 drivers met last night and voted unanimously to walk out."
"Bus workers in Guernsey are walking out today after the union voted for strike action late last night" "CT Plus Guernsey says all school services are running this morning despite strike by Unite union members."
"CT Plus Guernsey says all school services are running this morning despite strike by Unite union members."
There was a note that the States committee responsible thought that continued disruption would mean they have to 'consider the potential implications for the bus contract'. The advent of CT Plus in Guernsey has been troubled from its inception.
Late news was that Guernsey's bus service will resume on Tuesday after "productive" talks between drivers and their employer CT Plus. Bus drivers on the island have been in talks with CT Plus following a strike over pay and conditions on Monday.
It shows, I think, a certain intransigence on the part of CT Plus that it had to come to actual strike action before the bus company would talk to the drivers.
Meanwhile, in Jersey, spokesman for Unite the Union says Jersey bus drivers will vote on strike action as soon as a ballot can be organised. Wouldn't it be better if CT Plus started engaging with the drivers before that happens?
Of course, CT Plus in Jersey have recently being trying to be classed by TTS as an essential service, making the notice given for strike action longer, but that is hardly likely to solve the problems; it seems the worst way to do so. Shouldn't TTS intervene as a broker between Union and Drivers to empower a conversation between them? Or does it need a politician like the late Dick Shenton to intervene? (As he did with a Jersey Bus strike)
gsyDonkey tweets the following statistic: " 6,900 languages have been defined on our planet, most of which are spoken by groups of 1,000 people (or fewer)."  I wonder where Jerriais fits into that?
Reverend Richard Coles, always one for eccentric saints, tweets on Monday: "It is the Feast of Saint Landry of Paris. He was famed in life and thereafter with the gift of healing. After his died one of his teeth... was preserved and found to be very efficacious in the treatment of splinters. The monks would simply wave it over affected body parts......and the splinter would jump out of its own accord." It's like something from The Blackadder!
And historian Tom Holland tweets: "Can never decide whether to think better or worse of Horace for the fact that he had mirrors installed on the walls & ceiling of his bedroom"
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC 8 BC), usually known by the abbreviated name "Horace", was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus. Quintillian said of his writing "He can be lofty sometimes, yet he is also full of charm and grace, versatile in his figures, and felicitously daring in his choice of words."
I've always thought of him as a very educated man – he spent some time in Athens – and his father spent a small fortune on his education. Horace was high in the ranks of the Roman army. And yet he had these mirrors on the walls and ceilings of his bedroom, according to Suetonius! Naughty Horace!

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