Friday, 31 July 2015

Lee Henry's replies on the Waterfront Development














Recently Lee Henry (of the States of Jersey Development Company) has been posting some information on Facebook and hence in the public domain. 

As Facebook has an annoying habit of retaining information, but gradually sinking it out of view on the Timeline, I thought it would be useful to have this reposted here on my blog as a reference source.

I would comment that tests on the contamination are mentioned, but no details are given here of what tests, what is tested for, and which professionals are doing the testing. When I find that out, I'll post further on the subject.  And nor can I find the original assessment for the site, which if it appears as one of the many planning documents, is not clearly visible.

Lee Henry on the Waterfront Development

Treating Contamination

To clarify - No excavations are currently being undertaken below surface. Top soil has been removed from the flower beds and stock piled. This was the dust that blew around last week. There are various monitors onsite that are monitored daily, independently reviewed weekly and audited on a monthly basis. Further monitors are being installed just outside of the site that automatically informal the Health and Safety Inspector by text message if the readings go above a certain level. If they do, a site visit will immediately follow.

Previous projects in Jersey, for example, Castle Quay, which was developed by a private company, had a contamination level assessed in excess of 20%, which is much higher than that currently assessed on the Esplanade car park area did not undertake the level of precautions currently being undertaken by JDC and its contractor and the site was not closed down. Our tests to date have revealed contamination of only 4%. The works being undertaken at the moment is to carry out further tests, which will determine what ground will be removed and dumped in the sealed pits at La Collette. The procedures for removal is being undertaken in accordance with Best UK practice.

Removal of Sea Wall

The sea wall is being numbered and carefully stored for the time being, before being reinstated in its previous position later on in the development. There will be sections that are not being reinstated due to openings for access to the area, however the granite that is not being replaced will be used in the community and landscaped areas of the development. All works to the sea wall are being overseen by MOLA (The Museum of London Archaeology).

The planning conditions stipulated that an archaeology study had to be undertaken in accordance with HE1, HE5 and BE2 of the Island Plan. In summary, an appropriately qualified archaeologist had to be appointed and therefore, ALL works to the sea wall are being overseen by MOLA. This includes numbering the stones and ensuring they are removed carefully and removed from site and stored without the risk of damage.

The MOLA costs are included as part of our main contractor's contract sum. I can't give you a specific figure as this is confidential information, however it has been released to Scrutiny and their advisors under confidentiality agreements.

We are following all the procedures as agreed with Environmental Health. If they felt that we needed to have a Safety Inspector onsite at all times, alongside all of the precautions we have put in place, then I presume they would have done so as part of the agreed safety procedures.

Parking

The 43 parking spaces under Building 4 will be for the office staff only. However, there will also be 525 public parking spaces, available for use throughout the construction. These spaces will be replaced with the underground carpark under the public park, after its construction.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Education needs better Statistics

Sample Graph to Illustrate Class Size Skewed Distribution













Average class sizes in Jersey primary schools overall remains at 24.1 pupils, which is well below the UK average of 27.

But in a fifth of all primary school classes, the Education Minister had to approve an exemption to the standing policy so that the maximum class size of 26 could be breached.

At the same time, the average number of pupils in secondary school classes was 21.6 – a figure above the UK average, but well below the department’s class-size limit.

(Bailliwick Express on Education Report)


I’ve downloaded the actual report and looked at it - and one thing is glaringly missing – median class size.

Class Size, as a UK report shows, is a left skewed distribution. That is to say it is not a Bell shaped normal curve, but has usually lots more pupils in higher class sizes. That means that the smaller sizes classes bring down the average. That is why, incidentally, the average size is only 24.1 and yet a fifth of classes breach that class size.

The policy in breaching 26 is a safeguard against just relying on just teacher – pupil ratio (average) precisely because that is weighted down by the smaller classes.

It is the opposite to wage distributions, which are skewed right towards the lower wages so that average wage is invariably higher than median.

This UK report gives at least graphic giving the kind of spread – a skewed distribution, even though it doesn’t give median. I've taken a graph of class size from this report and put it at the top of this blog by way of illustration.

www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/183364/DFE-RR169.pdf

Yet the median is the better measure of central tendency for skewed data.

Whenever the average is calculated it is important to be aware of certain outliers in the data set that could potentially skew the results and make the data unrepresentative.

The alternative statistic is a "trimmed mean", that is to say the mean with the very extreme outliers removed. But it is really not as good as a median.

In fact – and rather badly – there seem to be relatively few statistics out there on class size! There’s one example I’ve seen here, and that’s about it! And it is an an examination question about different statistical measures on class size:

http://college.cengage.com/mathematics/brase/understandable_statistics/9780618949922_ch03.pdf

It also explains that - in general, when a data distribution is mound-shaped symmetrical, the values for the mean, median, and mode are the same or almost the same. For skewed-left distributions, the mean is less than the median and the median is less than the mode. For skewed-right distributions, the mode is the smallest value, the median is the next largest, and the mean is the largest.

So while is report from Education is informative, it is not as informative as it should be. There should be graphic illustrations of the spread of class size, and the median class size, as well as the mean, should be given. Next time, the authors need to do a little more homework!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Definitive Political Orientation Test - Part 2













I just tried “The Definitive Political Orientation Test” on Facebook and had problems with it because the summary it gave didn’t match my views at all. I came to the conclusion that it was too rigid in what it asked, and didn’t allow for the nuances which a reply needed.

Now of course you cannot expect Facebook to supply you with anything remotely accurate, but it is worth looking at the statements and questions in more depth to see exactly what can be said about them.

So here are a few of the questions or statements, and my comments on them. What I don’t do is to put “strongly agree”, “agree”, “disagree” or “strongly disagree” – the only options given – and none in the middle.

POOR PEOPLE ARE USUALLY POOR BECAUSE OF CHOICES THEY'VE MADE.

“You believe that success depends on the individual's ability to pull themselves up by their own boot straps and take advantage of the opportunities they have.”

I don’t know how it came up with that from my replies!

Success is a very fickle matter. Looked at in economic terms, some people are born to wealth, so they don’t have to worry too much about choices in the same way that you and I do (assuming we are both not rich millionaires!).

But if you look at some of the people who have climbed to riches, or at least out of poverty, it is partly choices, partly luck, and partly hard world. So from a philosophical point of view, if I’m not filthy rich, part of that may be due to the wrong choices. The trouble is that some of those choices may be gambles; it is only possible to tell if they are the right choices with hindsight.

There is no way of determining whether a given choice may be good or not, although some bad choices clearly stand out – taking LSD, for instance, would not be a particularly good choice. So there is an asymmetry there – we can see what will be bad choices, but to be a success, we cannot easily gauge what will be a good choice, although some factors, like education, may help our chances.

That is why I am sceptical about all these rags to riches self-help books. It is not possible, as in a simple scientific experiment, to take someone’s life and extract a set of rules from it, and say that is how they become rich. There are just too many variables; that also explains why economics is not a hard science.

One question is how many opportunities are there to leave a poverty trap, and how is it done? And how much luck is needed. This may vary at different times, in different cultures.

For instance, in England in the early post war years of the 1950s and 1960s, education could take people out of poverty- the grammar schools were a singular success in doing that, in moving towards a more meritocratic society.

On the other hand, those who failed the 11-plus and were consigned to the Secondary Modern Schools were almost predestined by the system towards a lower position in society. At a grammar school, you could take O-Levels, for the Secondary Modern, it was the C.S.E, which didn’t have the same kudos.

And of course children of richer parents (pretty well regardless of political leanings) usually were sent to private schools, or to what are called, by the perversity of the English culture, “public schools”. Now there were scholarships both to private schools, and to Universities, but gaining a scholarship could be a both a matter of chance (to be entered for the scholarship) and ability. Success for them does not depend nearly so much upon chance, as they have more opportunities available.

I would not say that people are “usually” poor because of choices they make, but the choices they make, along with a complex nexus of chance and opportunity and ability may be needed to leave poverty.

By way of example - the Greek communities who came from Cyprus to Jersey in the 1960s did so because the main job opportunities in the somewhat rural economy of the time were being a shepherd (or some lowly land based occupation) - and they could see a better opportunity in Jersey in opening Greek restaurants. If that opportunity had not been there, and they had snatched it, their children would probably be herding sheep and goats on the hillsides of Cyprus.

I do think that there is a poverty trap in which people can be caught, and it can be very hard to leave, especially when some taxes, such as GST on food, impact so much more on the poor than the rich. Access to better education can be more limited by poverty. 

I also think we should listen to the voices of the poorer members of our society more rather than reports compiled by consultants. G.K. Chesterton said “By experts in poverty I do not mean sociologists, but poor men.”. What we really need is a Henry Mayhew for our times.

I BELIEVE THAT HARD WORK IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

“You believe in a society of independent and hard-working individuals who take care of themselves.”

I don’t know how it came up with that from my answers. It sounds like the sort of position that Reg Langlois would take. 

I do believe that people in an ideal society would be in a way independent and hard-working individuals who take care of themselves, but of course that is impossible. Some people cannot take care of themselves, because of handicap or illness or simply an inability to cope. We may be hard working now, but what about when we get old.

From those who have, more is asked, and I think those who are independent enough to take care of themselves should also take care of those less able. We are social animals, and while modern culture tends to a rather selfish egotism, we should be counter-cultural.

The tax system, however much it is not wholly efficient, is in part a means by which those better off support those less well off, without the latter just being dependent on trickle down economics - crumbs falling from a rich man’s table. If the richer members of society want private education, and private healthcare, that is their choice – but that should not absolve them from supporting by rates and taxes those institutions which provide education and healthcare for all. No man, as the poet reminds us, is an island.

I remember an advert which said “They always seem as strong as they ever were…” showing a strong looking but old man pulling a horse around an apple crusher. He nods off in his armchair, and his cigarette sets a newspaper on fire. It was not perhaps a brilliant advert, but it was about the need to keep an eye on the elderly. We may not smoke, but we may fall. We all need a society which can pick up the pieces when we do so.

Look at that dreadful story in the local news recently about the man who was lying dead in his flat for months. He was perhaps not the easiest of people to help – an alcoholic who could be verbally abusive to those who came knocking to see if he was alright, but it’s those people too who need to be cared for, otherwise “care in the community” becomes just a glib cliché.

The initiative by Jersey Post to have postmen keep an eye for signs where help may be needed was an excellent one, but we should all do that really with our neighbours. Paying taxes does not absolve us from a civic duty to support and keep an eye out for each other in our community.

And I’m also not too keen on the word “independent”. I think we should have a society in which we all look out for each other, because we all probably need help at some time or other in our lives. As far as “independent” means being empowered, that’s a good thing. A child can become “independent” and not tied to their parent’s apron strings, and we can see that to become independent in that way, and to learn the merits of good work is positive.

We should reward hard work – but we should do so fairly. I’m sure that the nurse works as hard as or perhaps even harder than the banker, and is of greater benefit to society. Farmers - who grow crops without which we would starve to death - certainly do work that is really of greater worth than footballers earning a million for a month’s kicking around of a ball.

There’s a topsy-turvy kind of order in our society which I think is a kind of systemic imbalance. In Gregory Benford’s Timescape, a future society is breaking down, and food becomes the vital commodity rather than cash. But we live in a society where the grower and the dairy farmer find themselves ground down by the large supermarkets to provide cheap food. At least the “Fair Trade” movement is a start in the right direction, but we have a long way to go before we share the benefits of wealth with those who really sustain us all.

Older people can be helped to be as independent as possible; it gives them dignity. But when independence means saying “I’m alright Jack”, it is not a view I would particularly want to countenance.

And on the subject of work, I can do no better than conclude with the words of E.F. Schumacher, perhaps best known for “Small is Beautiful”, he also wrote an excellent book called “Good Work”:

Let us ask then: How does work relate to the end and purpose of man's being? It has been recognized in all authentic teachings of mankind that every human being born into this world has to work not merely to keep himself alive but to strive toward perfection.

To keep himself alive, he needs various goods and services, which will not be forthcoming without human labour. To perfect himself, he needs purposeful activity in accordance with the injunction: "Whichever gift each of you have received, use it in service to one another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms."

From this, we may derive the three purposes of human work as follows:

First, to provide necessary and useful goods and services.

Second, to enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards.

Third, to do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others, so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Definitive Political Orientation Test - Part 1















I just tried “The Definitive Political Orientation Test” on Facebook and had problems with it because the summary it gave didn’t match my views at all. I came to the conclusion that it was too rigid in what it asked, and didn’t allow for the nuances which a reply needed.

Now of course you cannot expect Facebook to supply you with anything remotely accurate, but it is worth looking at the statements and questions in more depth to see exactly what can be said about them.

So here are a few of the questions or statements, and my comments on them. What I don’t do is to put “strongly agree”, “agree”, “disagree” or “strongly disagree” – the only options given – and none in the middle. I shall be working through the rest this week.

RATE YOURSELF ON THE SCALE: I AM PATRIOTIC

“You tend to be patriotic…” says the quiz, but how does the meaning tease itself out.

When I see the rich tapestry of Jersey history, when I hear the gull cry above Noirmont common, or see the Lighthouse against the waves and spray that dash against the rocks, I feel myself to be a Patriotric Jerseyman. I do not want to see the island spoiled through over development, or its history, good and bad, forgotten. I do not want Liberation Day, and all it meant then and means now drifting into oblivion. In that sense, I am Patriotic.

On the other hand, there is a kind of xenophobia in which some people see themselves as “true Jerseyman”, with family trees stretching back for decades. I’m a mongrel, I have part of my family tree stretching back like that, another part from France, and part coming from London, and part from the Isle of Wight. Go back far enough, and we are all mongrels of one sort or another.

DNA of the oldest Jersey families reveals a lot of Danish (from Normandy), not quite as much but quite a lot of Breton (from Brittany), some from the Neolithic, some from the Paleolithic, and the odd strand of Neanderthal, whom we know was not a separate species but interbred with Homo Sapiens in the distant past (like “kissing cousins”!)

So the kind of Patriotism which is linked to xenophobia, about nasty foreigners coming and taking away from true Jersey people, is not something I’d like to support in any shape or form.

It's what Orwell called "Nationalism" rather than "Patriotism", and allowing for the fact that words are vague, he makes a rather neat distinction:

"Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.

"By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."

I BELIEVE THAT A STRONG MILITARY IS A GOOD THING

It is easy to say “No”, especially if like me, you distrust political and military “hawks”. The recent history of the past gives us good reasons to do so. On the whole, I would distrust the idea of a strong military, especially after the disaster that followed the invasion of Iraq by the leadership of Bush and Blair. And yet the same kind of strong military of forces of the Gulf War of 1990-1991 enabled Iraq to be defeated after its occupation of Kuwait. It had limited objectives, and ceased when they had been achieved, and perhaps that is why it fared better than the invasion of Iraq, which had no clear cut objectives apart from toppling Saddam Hussein.

If it was not for a strong military, I’d probably be speaking German as part of a Nazi Empire, because it was the stronger might, both in men and machines, which was at least for a goodly part responsible for defeating the German forces in World War II. It depends what use the strong military is put to.

 In the last World War, the strong military might of the Germans was used to subdue and conquer; the strong military might of the Allies was used to free countries from the Nazi yoke. It was again how it was used that made a difference.

And was it wrong to defend the Falkland Islands? They didn’t want to be part of Argentina. They were invaded. Of course the Falkland’s War brought out the worst kind of patriotism, the tub-thumbing demonisation of the enemy in tabloid like “The Sun”. And the British government was very poor at picking up the pieces and caring for the war wounded. But was it wrong?

The invasion was prompted by the Thatcher government’s decision to scale back the armed forces, particularly in the South Atlantic, so it was a disaster of their own making, but I think it was probably the right thing to do, even if it came saddled with all the jingoistic baggage that is detestable.

The only answer that I can give is that sometimes a strong military is a good thing, depending for what purpose it is deployed, and how it is deployed. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Exit Stage Right....













RIP: Dick Ray, (real name Richard Raymond Marks)

Dick Ray along with his sister (the late Peter Sellers' mother), pioneered The Touring Revue or ‘Travelling Shows’ and with Peggy whom was also a dancer (and soon became a Jazz singing sensation working for Dick), travelled the world before they both married and settled in Jersey where they soon became well known for the major names and shows that Dick was to produce on the island.

As Jeff says below, if it was not for Dick, we would not have an Opera House today. And as well as the summer season, he also brought the "Gilbert and Sullivan for All" company over to Jersey, and I was with a school party, expecting something highbrow (as a typical schoolboy!) and was instead totally hooked on Gilbert and Sullivan, for which I am most grateful.

A guest posting today... a tribute to Dick Ray who died last week from Jeff Hathaway.

Exit Stage Right...
by Jeff Hathaway

Sad news. Knew Dick only too well. One of the last true impresarios. A devil of person to do business with, but in true old fashioned showbusiness tradition once he struck a deal he would stick to it and pay you on the nose even though he had a reputation for being a terrible skinflint. Fond memories of him. He was always straight with me and I could definitely regard him as a friend.

There is a story, whether true or not I don’t know - but its totally credible. He regularly travelled to London as he had interests in the West End - and over the course of time had amassed many air-miles with BA. Enough it would seem to fly him free Jersey to Honolulu (return), first class too. So he decided to do just that, taking his family with him - but he booked them tickets in economy.

Must be true as that was Dick to a tee.

It was Dick that brought me to Jersey. I first met him at Hatfield Civic Centre in the mid 80’s when I was playing in a ‘middle of the road’ pop group that was trying to break into recording. We were playing a 2 set gig for what I recall was an ‘Evening of Entertainment'. He simply just wandered up and said,: “I have just the contract for you - a summer season”. He did not say where, nor would for some time, for reason we later found out; he didn't actually hold the contract. But somehow he secured it and sign us he did and booked us into Les Arches for a summer season. It was perhaps at one of the same time both the best and worse move we could have ever made. But that’s another story.

He has left something of a legacy in Jersey. Without him, and his care with money, I doubt if the Opera House would have ever survived. It was only the summer shows that kept it just about solvent and of course Dick was quite adept at getting some household names to star in them - John Inman and Barbara Windsor being two in particular. Many will recall the endless line of coaches outside the Opera House in the evenings…full of holidaymakers dressed in their best ‘travelling' finery - and often, Dick patrolling the foyer to greet them, resplendent in bow tie and full evening suit.

Then there was Caesars Palace at Greve de Lecq which in its heyday would also be packed every night - a cabaret show which it must be said was every bit as good as anything you would have found elsewhere. Roger Bara was its Musical Director and as to be expected, Stuart Gillies (who he discovered - and that is true) topped the bill alongside the likes of Charlie Daze and Pat Mooney - two great comedians. Dick had a good eye for talent. He personally directed the show and was a stickler for getting the detail right. Yep. End of an era in some ways when Caesars finally closed.

Since, Dick has been a regular commuter to the Isle of Man where he is something of a legend. Just like the Opera House in Jersey he breathed new life into the Gaiety Theatre and has kept that going for years, pretty much with the same Jersey Opera House formula of a resident summer show, and touring productions of West End plays and musicals and various ’showcase’ concerts at other times. He had boundless energy.

Last I saw Dick he was still living in St. Peter on Old Beaumont Hill. No idea how he came to be in a Torquay hospital - but knowing Dick, their private wing was probably cheaper than ours at the General Hospital!

I did not know he had been battling leukaemia for so long, and a rather sad end to his life which was all about the razzmatazz, the glitter, the celebrity, the theatre in all its forms, the lights of the West End; showbusiness.

God bless Dick, God bless Mr Showbusiness.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've travelled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

‘My Way’ - Frank Sinatra

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Forgiveness and Anger



















My heart always sinks when I read Gavin Ashenden in the Jersey Evening Post, making wild generalisations about the culture in which we live. 

His latest article is speaking about forgiveness, and citing the case of Eva Kor who has forgiven Oskar Groning. It is a fine think for her to forgive; she was treated brutally in Auschwitz. But he also mentions very briefly Leon Scharzbaum, who lost 30 members of his family there, and cannot forgive.

I don’t think we should in any way belittle Leon, who showed the tattoo he had been given at the camp to photographers. And certainly we should not suggest that Christianity is a cure for that attitude.

Gavin Ashenden suggests, rather patronisingly, that “It isn’t that they won’t forgive, it’s often that the hurt runs so deep that they cannot” – and he suggests that Christianity is the solution - “That’s the point where those who have found themselves accepted, washed clean, and made new in a faith that prioritises absolution find themselves in a different place.”

But does Christianity prioritise absolution? Is that is what it is about – a religious form of psychotherapy to take away existential pain? I would say that while the Church certainly helps some people, it also messes up other people’s lives. It does provide absolution for some, but for some – and you have only to reference “Catholic Guilt” – that comes at a terrible price.

Some of the Church’s teaching in the past – and hopefully not the present – did really employ – on children, the threat of burning hell-fire. In other words, it created at atmosphere of guilt and fear where misdemeanours needed the confessional before absolution. Catholic schools really did have teaching like that – I have a number of friends who have escaped, sometimes damaged, from that kind of childhood.

It is the kind of religious upbringing which I suspect would not be tolerated today, but it did happen, and within my own lifetime. People were made to feel that they would not be forgiven unless they confessed their sins, and that they would burn in hell if they failed to do so.

Evangelicals - at the other end of the spectrum - held meetings at Universities where the speaker again builds up a sense of guilt. These were emotionally charged events. That they succeeded in the short term, in providing an absolution by making students convert to Christianity, does not mean that this approach was right.

This is the kind of approach for which the words of Bonhoeffer fit well: “Wherever there is health, strength, security, simplicity, they sent luscious fruit to gnaw at or to lay their pernicious eggs in. They set themselves to drive people to inward despair, and then the game is in their hands.”

When I read that on his comments on Churches, “people flock in to find a forgiveness that dissolves the poison in their hearts”, I really wonder which churches he is talking about. Certainly the relations between Jersey and Winchester have recently revealed what seems like a lot of poison that has yet to be dissolved.

The solution for the Jersey Churches was not forgiveness and reconciliation, but a break with Winchester, with oversight being given to Dover. That was not about forgiveness, about absolution, it was about finding a pragmatic solution for two sides which could not forgive each other for what had happened.

So the Churches don’t have a monopoly on forgiveness, even if some, like Gavin Ashenden, claim some kind of monopoly over absolution, with all the dangers that can entail in terms of controlling other people’s lives.

Forgiveness is important, and in that I do agree with Gavin Ashenden. Life is too short to hate, and be eaten away with the frustration of past hate. But anger and hate can in fact also be positives. If we hate what someone has done to us, we may in turn be able to speak out, and change things, and prevent other people suffering.

Anger can be a stimulus for justice. If you want to look at an example from Christianity, Jesus entering the Temple, and overturning the tables of the money changers would be a good example of where anger can be positive in the fact of corruption.

And Aristotle, while also praising forgiveness as a virtue, also noted in his Ethics that: “Anyone who does not get angry when there is reason to be angry, or does not get angry in the right way at the right time and with the right people is foolish”

For Aristotle, being angry in the case of an injustice can mean that one is much more likely to do something about the injustice in order to make sure that it does not occur again. Emotions can be intelligent and purposeful. A person should be “angry at the right things and with the right people, and, further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought” (Ethics)

Paul Hughes, writing about forgiveness in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes the positive aspects of forgiveness:

“Forgiving those who wrong us often helps us move beyond strong negative emotions which, if allowed to fester, could harm us psychologically and physically. Forgiveness benefits wrongdoers, as well, by releasing them from the blame and hard feelings often directed toward them by those they wrong, or helping them transcend the guilt or remorse they suffer from having done wrong, thereby allowing them to move forward in their lives.”

But he also notes that forgiveness is not always positive, and can actually reinforce very damaging patterns of behaviour:

“Forgiveness may also go awry, deliberately or inadvertently serving more dubious ends, as when a victim of domestic violence routinely but without good reason forgives her abuser, thereby fuelling increasingly violent cycles of abuse. Moreover, perpetrators of such wrongs often feign apology and repentance, thereby fraudulently securing forgiveness from the victim. In these ways, forgiveness may become complicit in or collude with wrongdoing, converting what is generally regarded as a good or virtuous reaction to wrongdoing into its opposite.”

This ties in very much with Aristotle, noting that there is a deficiency with people who “are thought not to feel things, nor to be pained by them, and since they do not get angry, they are thought unlikely to defend themselves; and to endure being insulted.” Forgiveness can become a means of tolerating injustice rather than seeking to put it right.

Gavin Ashenden says:

“Our culture and our media reflect and amplify this treasuring of victim hood and anger, one feeding the other. Victims and victim hood has become the new ‘sacred’. Pain has become a currency that cannot be challenged or addressed, except by revenge.”

But while the media may highlight victims of sexual abuse to sell papers (e.g. the Daily Mail), that is not to say that this cannot be addressed or should not be made public.

Jimmy Saville is dead, but the stories of his victims should still be heard. The scars that the trauma caused by sexual abuse may not ever go away, but this is not just a new “sacred”.

The importance of listening to these witnesses is that we learn what has happened. No one can be revenged on Jimmy Saville, for example, but we can address the challenges of making our society much safer, and where those who are victims can call for help and not ignored. 

If we dismiss this simply as a “treasuring of victimhood”, then we belittle the crimes that have been committed. That has happened in the past; we must make sure it does not happen again.


References
Hughes, Paul M., "Forgiveness", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition),



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Shadow on the Stone















This is inspired both by the Earthsea stories of Ursula Le Guin (especially A Wizard of Earthsea) and a walk this evening around La Pulente headland and to La Sergente dolmen.

Shadow on the Stone

On Roke Knoll, I stood, just time to be
As out I looked to the Inland Sea
Master Windkey kept the water calm
The setting sun was evening balm
Scent of the heather, sweet to me
And the low tide, rock lapping sea
The islands nearby, the sea so blue
High above the sparrow hawk flew
And over the rocks, the causeway bare
The path to the Isolate Tower was there
Names of Names, the lists to learn
A portion of magic to find and earn
And I raised my staff, and turn around
And made my way to the sacred ground
The stones in a circle, from Segoy’s word
The time of making as his voice is heard
And I see the shadow upon the stone
Even though the sun has set, I am alone
For a candle to shine, there must be light
And a shadow falling across my sight
I reach and touch, and the spell is done
And I greet my shadow, and I am one


Friday, 24 July 2015

Funny Business



















Jimmy Carr is coming to Jersey with his show “Funny Business” on 4th August 2015.

He knows a thing or two about a funny business, like a tax avoidance scheme, from his past.

Last year he paid more than £500,000 in tax last year – after his company produced bumper profits. He is now paying his full share in the UK after ­quitting a controversial off-shore tax-avoidance scheme, which certainly was a “funny business” that he would probably like to forget.

Around 2012, he quit the scheme K2. He had placed as much as £3.3million into the Jersey-based K2 scheme from his TV ­appearances, DVD sales and live shows. K2 helped members shelter millions of pounds from the taxman, cutting bills to just 1 per cent. Carr said he had been told the scheme was entirely legal.

In 2014, actor Robson Green hit out at celebrities like Carr who had or were using tax avoidance schemes and the importance of everyone paying their fair share: “Anybody who tells me they’re not going to pay tax… we’ve got an NHS system on its knees…

'I tell you what, my son was in real trouble when he was young and we took him to the hospital, there were four specialists waiting for him. That’s why you pay your taxes. ‘We’ve got a police system who protect us, we’ve got firemen who put out fires. We’ve got defence, man. That’s what tax is for.’

It might be noted that Jimmy Carr’s bill last year is enough to pay for 25 graduate trainee nurses starting on the entry-level £21,000 salary.

Apparently Lord Alan Sugar was offered, and turned down, the same tax avoidance schemes which gave Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr such bad publicity. Sugar said:

“I’ve had various schemes thrown at me by various people, and I’ve never been interested. Loads of times I was offered their schemes but I’m a very straightforward thinking person and I keep things nice and straight. They come up with all these fascinating schemes which are all allegedly legal and yet the people who bring them to you all then get a fee for doing so. Then off they go and, 10 years later, you find out it was all wrong. “I try and keep it very simple – pay your tax, that’s it. I’ve been right in the end.””

But there’s a twist to the tail on Jimmy Carr. According to the Daily Mail report from 18th July, 2015 this year:

“Comedian Jimmy Carr was condemned by David Cameron three years ago when he was exposed as a beneficiary of an aggressive tax avoidance scheme. Is he about to give HMRC another swerve?

"Carr has put the company that handles his millions, F N Good, into voluntary liquidation — a move which appears extraordinary as the firm is in rude health, with a profit of £4 million in the past 13 months and total assets of £9.5 million.”

“Carr declines to comment, but tax experts say he could now apply for Entrepreneurs’ Tax Relief, resulting in a tax bill of just 10 per cent of the £9.5 million, instead of 28 per cent in capital gains tax.”

More funny business?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sporting a new Body

 
The new body would be at arm's length from the States.













It has been announced by Steve Pallett, Assistant Minister with responsibility for sport that there may be another Quango – Sport Jersey, which will be at arms length from the States. What other bodies are there that have been set up over the years?

Visit Jersey – body set up to market tourism

Sport Jersey – body to co-ordinate sport in Jersey.

Vote Jersey – body set up to provide information on candidates standing for election and thereby dissuade people from voting.

Waste Jersey – body to co-ordinate sewage tax and increased States spending - and more States members pay

Tax Jersey – body to promote tax advantages of living in Jersey or running a business with Jersey from outside Jersey and getting money by hiking taxes for locals.

Charge Jersey - body to coordinate increased and new stealth taxes

Rate Jersey – body set up to centralise property rates and replace unpaid rates assessors with a professional middle management

Film Jersey - body set up to spend £200,000 on a vanity project

Rule Jersey – Another name for the Council of Ministers

Reform Jersey – A body set up to promote States members growing their hair very long.

Hole Jersey – a body set up to co-ordinate golf and pot-holes in Jersey roads for the International Golf Roadathon

Phone Jersey – body set up so that Ministers lost in Budapest or India can call home.

Love Jersey – body set up to promote same sex marriage on Island beaches

Exorcise Jersey – body set for the Vicar of Gouray to sound off about things he doesn’t like, such as same sex marriage on Island beaches

Time Jersey – a body set up to co-ordinate time between different Island Parishes after it was noticed that the clock at St Aubin’s Parish Hall runs slow every day.

Grow Jersey – a body set up to co-ordinate ways to circumvent the immigration policy

Tweet Jersey – a body set up to promote birdwatching

Blog Jersey – an uncoordinated body of slightly eccentric individuals, among which I am pleased to include myself.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Ripe Plum to be Picked















The Property Tax review is back on the agenda.

The Bailiwick Express noted:

“The Treasury Minister has announced that plans for possible changes to property taxes will be out by the end of summer, after a consultation that floated annual property tax charges and windfall taxes where house values rise.”

“St John Constable Chris Taylor responded, saying: “I understand at election time the document was torn up in public and the public were told it would not be continued.””

“Senator Maclean: “I witnessed it being torn up by one of the election candidates, who didn’t tear the whole document up. He tore up one element. If you wanted to know the reasons, you would have to ask him.””

It is extraordinary the lengths some Ministers will go to avoid mentioning Philip Ozouf’s name, as it was known to all and sundry and widely publicised that he did it at the Trinity Hustings for Senator. Alan Maclean has a remarkably selective way of referring to his predecessor.

In fact, he has a very poor memory if he cannot remember the reasons why!

The Yes Campaign in the Referendum on the role of the Constable stated this succinctly:

“The loss of the Constables will weaken opposition to the current consultation which puts forward a proposal for a centralised property tax. This proposal would cost islanders more than the current rates system, and be set by the Treasury Minister, not Parishioners.”

“Parish rates have remained steady for 10 years. Without an effective Parish Administration the size of bureaucracy will increase, stifling business in Jersey, and increasing the burden on the individual ratepayer.”

That was the section Senator Ozouf tore out, and swore that he had no intention of having a centralised property tax rather than Parish rates – which is what the consultation suggested.

That Senator Maclean cannot – or chooses not to – remember this suggests when he was sitting next to the Senator at the Hustings suggests that he would still like to introduce those kind of changes at some point in the future.

Deputy Simon Bree said: “It will be of grave concern to many members of the public that a new property tax would introduce certain elements of possible capital gains and certainly would increase the amount of tax paid under the current Parish rates system. I think that the public would like confirmation from you as to whether or not you intend to introduce proposals for a new property tax.”

Senator Maclean responded: “It would not be my intention to predetermine the outcome of a review that’s being assessed at the moment. It’s absolutely appropriate that I assess it and consider it in a timely fashion, and then publish at the end of the summer. To make any announcement today would be wholly inappropriate, however much you would like me to do it.”

If you want a translation of that, it is fairly easy:

“It’s absolutely appropriate that I assess it and consider it in a timely fashion” means – I need to judge the scale of any opposition to that property tax section which Senator Ozouf tore up, and whether I can bring it back again.

“To make any announcement today would be wholly inappropriate” means – I like to know if I can push that through before I go ahead.

But of course, unlike Senator Ozouf, Senator Maclean is not facing an election, and is sitting pretty. He doesn't have to make statements, and can play a long game with his hand of cards.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Guernsey Watch










Guernsey Watch

I’ve been taking a look at the news in our sister Island.

http://guernseypress.com/news/2015/07/18/environment-wants-to-introduce-smaller-buses/

“The first phase of Environment’s replacement programme will see it replace 12 buses, purchase two minibuses, one of which has already been secured, and refurbish up to 27 of its existing vehicles.”

As well as replacing buses sufficient for the existing capacity, the Department is also looking at smaller vehicles for some roads. A spokesman said they were “retaining the required carrying capacity to meet peak demands while securing vehicles that are smaller than the existing fleet”

It’s an interesting idea. Whether Jersey could benefit from a similar scheme is a moot point, but perhaps a park and ride which used a smaller bus would be useful, or a minibus service, either operated by Liberty Bus or another operator, linking the Island’s more remote sites to main trunk bus routes could be viable.

http://guernseypress.com/news/2015/07/16/deputies-to-have-final-say-on-introducing-same-sex-marriage/

“The option to introduce same-sex marriage in Guernsey over the controversial union civile reforms could rest with deputies when proposals are debated, one of the politicians behind the recent consultation has indicated…. Deputy Green gave his backing to opting for same-sex marriage legislation over union civile and revealed the ‘high level’ of public support for that option, supported by over 70% of consultation respondents.”

Guernsey has been looking initially more positively at the “Union Civile”, which would remove the religious element from all marriages – including those conducted by the Church of England – a civil ceremony for all sexes (including same sex marriage) would be followed by a religious ceremony, where the church allowed (an opt out for same-sex marriages, but the latter would not be a legal marriage; that would remain with the civil ceremony for a “Union Civile”.

Jersey looked at the option, but rapidly ruled it out, and it looks as if Guernsey has now done the same. It would be easier for Guernsey, as it has no formal Canon Law of its own, but there would still be disquiet that the Established Church, of which the Queen was the Supreme Governor, would not be able to conduct traditional marriages. In a way, the idea of a “Union Civile” was a fudge to avoid a discrepancy between civil marriage and marriage in the church, and avoid controversy over opt outs for religious groups.

It is interesting to see that the same pressures to do something are in place in Guernsey, just as they are in Jersey, and matters are moving in the same kind of direction towards recognition of same sex marriages, at least in the civil sphere.

The language of debate has also moderated from even 2006, when a perusal of Jersey’s Hansard sees such terms as “sodomy” and “buggery” used by some members, without the slightest reprimand from the Bailiff of that time, who nonetheless ruled Geoff Southern’s use of the term “godforsaken” as inadmissible because it was “religious” when the term has patently been denuded of all religious meaning for at least the past 20 years!.

Curiously, a search of the site by the in-house search engine does not turn up those terms anywhere, and yet a perusal of Hansard from 2006 reveals their presence. Is there a selective censorship in the search engine?

http://guernseypress.com/news/2015/07/16/female-politicians-launch-inspiration-drive/

“Some of the current female deputies are leading calls to encourage more women candidates in the lead-up to next year’s election. Environment minister Yvonne Burford said there was probably more than 20,000 women eligible to stand as a politician in 2016 and it really should not be too difficult to get 20 of them elected into the States. She said to answer the million dollar question of how to get more women to stand, they first needed to understand what might put women off standing in the first place.”

That is indeed the million dollar question! 

Research from the Brookings Institute suggests it is not family concerns and responsibilities which are the main reason why there are less women in politics. Jennifer Lawless from Brookings noted that "Family roles and responsibilities exert no impact on potential candidates' decisions to run for office -- and that is the case for both women and men" although she does note that younger women have a lot more juggling of responsibilities for home than men. But the real reason is a male bias in those looking to support candidates:

"Political gatekeepers tend to recruit from their own networks, and those are men who tend to operate in pretty male-dominated networks," Lawless said in an interview. "So there's not much evidence to suggest there's any overt bias against potential female candidates. It's just that they are not the ones that the electoral gatekeepers are surrounding themselves with. They're not the immediate names that come to mind."

In other words, the political support network for women is harder to come by than that for men. I wonder if that is the case in Jersey?

The method of election is also important. The late Professor Wilma Rule showed the biggest reason for female candidates’ success in these some democracies and not others is the use of “fair representation” electoral systems, also known as proportional representation. Looking, for example, at Germany and New Zealand, women win a lot more seats chosen by the fair representation method than in those chosen in one-seat districts—twice as many seats in Germany.

http://guernseypress.com/news/comment/letter-of-the-day/2015/07/15/safeguards-needed-in-states-reshuffle/

“WE ARE a small island where we can all contact each other and there is plenty of opportunity to exploit the benefits of flexibility, nimbleness and ‘mucking through’. This is our strength; we need our quirks, ‘Guernsey ways’, traditions and anomalies. If we accept a global ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, we are dead in the water. An analogy: go-karts are quicker up Le Val des Terres than dragsters.”

“Spoonerists will find it appropriate that it is Matt Fallaize who has spearheaded proposals to reduce the number of States departments from nine to six. This will mean having six obese departments. I have seen numerous illustrations that departments are already too large and cumbersome”

“Given the increased size of their departmental mandates, in the long term it’s likely that deputies will become less ‘hands on’ and will increasingly farm out decision-making to consultants and experts largely appointed by committees and sub groups made up of civil servants and consultants appointed by civil servants, etc.”

This letter of the week by Matt Watermann is interesting because that is exactly what one tends to see in Jersey – monster departments that really are too much for any Minister, even when supported by Assistant Ministers. And I rather like his implicit spoonerism at the start! Did you spot it?

http://guernseypress.com/news/comment/nick-mann/2015/07/15/lack-of-cross-departmental-working-has-cost-millions/

“Current Scrutiny and Legislation Committee chair Rob Jones outlined areas including the power to compel witnesses to give evidence, being able to force the release of existing documents and being able to review the extended arms of government, those bodies such as Guernsey Post, the competition regulator or Aurigny, that are in receipt of public funds but because they are non-political cannot be touched, at the moment.”

The States of Guernsey are looking for reforms, and as well as a reduction of departments from nine to six, they are also looking to “beef up” Scrutiny. I bet John Le Fondre would like those powers in relation to the Waterfront development, where crucial documents are permitted to be held back, making Scrutiny into a toothless tiger.

http://guernseypress.com/news/comment/letter-of-the-day/2015/07/14/whisper-it-there-are-some-things-that-jersey-does-better/

“Whisper it... There are some things that Jersey does better”

And finally, I rather enjoyed reading this story!

“The first notable difference was the ways in which the two ports handle passengers sailing between the islands. In Guernsey, I was required to walk along the quay, walk down the car loading ramp onto the car deck and finally up a flight of stairs to the passenger lounge. Fortunately, the weather was fair but had it been raining I should have been very wet indeed before reaching the lounge. In St Helier harbour, I left from the upper stern deck via a dedicated covered walkway.”

“The second notable difference is the way Jersey manages vehicular and pedestrian traffic and the attitude drivers as a whole seem to have towards pedestrians…. Crossing from the Pomme d’Or Hotel to Liberation Square is easily achieved by using two zebra crossings linked by a traffic island. Drivers were always – or so it seemed to me – prepared to give way at this very busy junction.”

“The third difference I noticed was the Jersey bus service, operated by the same company that runs our bus service….There are frequent services – as often as every 15 minutes at peak times – to the more popular parts of the island with a fare structure which includes a £1.50 for a ‘short’ journey or £2 for a ‘long’ journey. There is also a variety of season tickets – daily, weekly or monthly – to suit both holiday visitors and residents. There are even double decker buses.”

“My final observation relates to the different experiences enjoyed on a visit to Elizabeth Castle compared to a visit to our own Castle Cornet. As the tide was in, my visit to Elizabeth Castle began with a sea crossing aboard a modern-day DUKW-like amphibious vehicle. When the tide is out, it remains possible to use the DUKW in its wheeled format. The return fare is a modest £3. I realise Castle Cornet is never cut off by the tide, but some sort of transport to the castle would be an advantage.”

“Apart from a very interesting talk set in 1781 from an ‘army surgeon’, which is not a daily offering, the ‘noon day gun ceremony’ is a very different experience indeed. In Guernsey, while you can almost set your watch by the firing, the whole thing is over in 10 minutes. In Jersey, the ceremony took over an hour on the day of my visit. It involved visitors being ‘volunteered’ to parade with the gunner and then assisting with the firing when he eventually got around to firing the cannon at approximately 15 minutes past one.”

“However, to end on a positive note, there can be no dispute that St Peter Port harbour beats St Helier harbour hands down”

Nice to see some praise from a Guernseyman, although he was obviously aware that he might stir up and hornets nest with this letter – so name and address withheld!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Stephen Regal and Sam Mezec: A First Comment












Because there is only a screen shot facsimile of the letter by Stephen Regal in reply to Deputy Sam Mezec, I am publishing below, in the interests of transparency, a copy here.

I would note that in Deputy Mezec’s reply, he stated that

“I’ll be clear – I utterly condemn every single rocket that is fired by a militant group in Palestine. They are wrong to do so and they should stop immediately. I could not be more unambiguous. What betrays any hope of intellectual calibre from his argument is the inference written across every word of his letter that because I did not fit anything about the crimes of Hamas in my one side of A4 that I am somehow an apologist for them.”

But why should that be important? It is important because Deputy Mezec is not just calling for a boycott of Israel, but for setting up a Jersey Branch of BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions).

That is where the blind spot is, and I notice that he has failed to address the key feature of Mr Regal’s argument – that BDS is partisan:

“[Deputy Mezec] also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so called Isis against all and sundry, particularly Christians, he fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and its actions against civilians and the use of chemical weapons as well as other horrific weapons.

Wikipedia notes that “There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement.” It also appears the global BDS movement’s demand for the return of all Palestinian refugees to their former home in Israel effectively calls for the end of the Jewish State of Israel.

Whether or not this is true I cannot say for certain, but it does mean that any BDS Jersey branch should make a clear and transparent declaration that this is not the intent of the local movement and it distances itself from this stance.

One of the founders of BDS has certainly stated that he wants an end to the state of Israel and not a two-state solution as favoured by the international community.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated the problems of this partisan approach: “Criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and out itself necessarily anti-Semitic. But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself while systematically ignoring or excusing the violence and oppression all around it?”

How well sanctions work is a moot point. Deputy Mezec thinks that they were instrumental but this is problematic. The fundamental problem in assessing the role of sanctions is that the end of apartheid is that they were they were among the many potential causes linked to the single effect.

An example of the problematic nature of this can be by looking at GDP. After the mid-1980s sanctions, GDP growth actually accelerated in South Africa: 0.5 percent in 1986, 2.6 percent in 1987, and 3.2 percent in 1988.

As Philip Levy notes: “The financial crisis was brought on by the decisions of private lenders who saw a deteriorating political and economic situation and doubted the country’s creditworthiness. For the purpose of public policy discussions, this privately induced financial crisis — the repercussions of which were substantially greater than any of the public sanctions that ensued — cannot be used as evidence of sanctions’ effectiveness.”

Letter from Stephen Regal to JEP

Dear Sir,

I am writing with reference to a report in last Friday's JEP regarding Deputy Mézec’ s expressed intention to set up a Jersey Branch of BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), particularly aimed at eliminating any trade or relationship with Israel. I feel that I must, in the first instance, take issue with the statement reported from Deputy Mézec "last year as Israel was launching another of its regular bombardments of the Gaza Strip killing hundreds of innocent civilians.....

Sadly Deputy Mézec fails to mention the fact that prior to Israel’s engagement in Gaza last year more than 2,500 rockets had been fired at Israeli civilian targets in the period immediately prior to Israel's operation and more than 10,000 rockets in total. As an elected politician here in Jersey how would he wish our elected Government to respond if our nearest neighbour behaved in such a manner? Bearing in mind Israel does not occupy one centimetre of Gaza, having unilaterally withdrawn in 2005.

He also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so called Isis against all and sundry, particularly Christians, he fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and its actions against civilians and the use of chemical weapons as well as other horrific weapons. Not one word does Deputy Mézec utter regarding the activities of Iran and its nuclear aspirations or Russia's takeover of large parts of the Ukraine.

Sadly one can only put one construction upon BDS singling out the only democratic country in the Middle East, that is resurgence of the centuries old basic anti-Semitism. I am not saying that Deputy Mézec is anti-Semitic perhaps just misinformed and misguided. I am certain that he has a strong social conscience but he really needs to re-examine the facts and not to be blinded by extremist rhetoric.

In requiring disinvestment from Israel, perhaps BDS need to disinvest from the following products which were either manufactured, designed or developed in Israel? To disinvest, BDS, and its Jersey supporters must give up Microsoft Word, Office and Excel, also the Pentium and Intel chips in their computers, all of their pen drives, their anti-virus software, all HP computer products, not to mention their mobile phones (developed by Motorola Israel), most generic drugs now manufactured in Israel, Israel's world renowned water filtration technology, the MRI scanner, micro cameras for use in non-invasive medicine.

If BDS wish to be truly honest they should not pick and choose which elements to eliminate from their Israeli consumption they should get rid of many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted today.

Finally I apologise for the length of my letter and I certainly acknowledge that misdemeanours exist on both sides of the dispute to which we should not be blind, and yes as I state, a social conscience is important even here in a place remote from the conflict as Jersey.

Above all perhaps Deputy Mézec's time would be better spent exercising his mind dealing with the issues we Islanders face here at home, rather than blindly and awkwardly entering into an arena of which he has little knowledge and even less experience. As a Politician, Deputy Mézec should be aware that disengagement is not the ultimate way to solve a problem; discussion is far most practical and often leads to a reasoned conclusion.

Yours faithfully
Stephen J Regal
President Jersey Jewish Congregation

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Cheating the Elderly












Scrooge Budget?

“The Christmas bonus paid to pensioners in Jersey could be scrapped in a bid to cut a £145m deficit.” (BBC News)

Some people have been in Jersey for many generations. They were evacuees, or here during the war. They have seen privation and scarcity. But modern society has, up to now, helped redress their contribution to Island life, and that of others who have come to live and work here and build up the Island’s economy, and support charitable enterprises. They have retired, and live on a pension.

Up until now, there has been a light in the year at Christmas. As Dickens said, Christmas is a time for generosity, for giving, and they have had a Christmas bonus p to now just to sweeten that time of year. That there should be deemed no need for that is but a small matter, but Dickens thought that small matters were important. Here is Scrooge’s Nephew speaking on the subject:

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

And how is this Council of Ministers thinking “of people below them”? Not as fellow passengers but more as “another race of creatures bound on other journeys”. Small acts of generosity, such as the Christmas bonus may not seem much to Ministers, but they are the gleaming candle of hope that is a joy at Christmas, and they show that the State has not forgotten people, not in large things, like the Long Term Care Allowance, but in the small beautiful gestures that make life worthwhile to the recipient.

They show that despite all the needs of economy, all the needs for austerity, that once a year, there is still room in the heart of government for the common welfare to be their business, to show charity and benevolence to those who have contributed in their working life to this Island of ours. They would instead cheat the elderly of what little they have.

This Sunday is a story by the brothers Grimm retold by the wife of Joy Davidman, the wife of C.S. Lewis. It is about treating the elderly, and the message that undervaluing them, future generations will in tern be less likely to respect the elderly, and more likely to treat them as discardable election fodder.

The Little Old Man

“Once upon a time there was a little old man. His eyes blinked and his hands trembled; when he ate he clattered the silverware distressingly, missed his mouth with the spoon as often as not, and dribbled a bit of his food on the tablecloth. Now he lived with his married son, having nowhere else to live, and his son's wife was a modern young woman who knew that in-laws should not be tolerated in a woman's home.

"I can't have this," she said. "It interferes with a woman's right to happiness."

So she and her husband took the little old man gently but firmly by the arm and led him to the corner of the kitchen. There they set him on a stool and gave him his food, what there was of it, in an earthenware bowl. From then on he always ate in the corner, blinking at the table with wistful eyes. One day his hands trembled rather more than usual, and the earthenware bowl fell and broke.

"If you are a pig," said the daughter-in-law, "you must eat out of a trough." So they made him a little wooden trough, and he got his meals in that. These people had a four-year-old son of whom they were, very fond. One suppertime the young man noticed his boy playing intently with some bits of wood and asked what he was doing.

"I'm making a trough," he said, smiling up for approval, "to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big."

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while and didn't say anything. Then they cried a little. Then they went to the corner and took the little old man by the arm and led him back to the table. They sat him in a comfortable chair and gave him his food on a plate, and from then on nobody ever scolded when he clattered or spilled or broke things.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Summer Blues














Summer Blues

It’s cooler air with fog and rain
The hot days are left for now
And mud again upon the lane
Grass so wet for grazing cow

Fog is creeping from the sea
White and thick and cold
My joints ache, bones achy
And I am feeling rather old

My love is gone to another land
And in the armchair I recline
Think of our night, hand in hand
Jupiter and Venus make a sign

And later on, she will come back
We’ll walk again the woodland track

Friday, 17 July 2015

Looking at the Local News











Heritage and Case Law

Having considered his options, Deputy Steve Luce has accepted the decision of the States and is not going to pursue his appeal in the Royal Court. But he is going to review the heritage aspects of the Island plan, no doubt to make sure this does not happen again. It is important that the Court ruling be taken into account.

The States makes the laws, but if taken to the Courts, that teases out any ambiguity, and settles on part of the meaning.

When most people talk about "the law," they tend to think only of statutes. But when disputes arise over the meaning of statutes, judges must interpret the statutes. Judges' interpretations of those statutes -- called "opinions," "decisions," or "cases" -- are as important to understanding what the law is as the words of the statutes itself. To “clarify” (the Minister’s favourite term in this regard) must not mean to contradict that which has already been made clear by judges.

Any changes which abrogated those judgements would be a substantial change in the Island plan, and should be brought back to the States for approval as amendments, not passed as Ministerial decisions.

Judicial Timing

A Ministerial decision by the Treasury Minister on 6th July stated that:

“The Minister for Treasury & Resources determined that the remuneration for Court of Appeal Judges and Royal Court Commissioners should increase from £839 per day to £848 per day with effect from 1st April 2015.”

“The remuneration paid to both Court of Appeal Judges and Commissioners is, and always has been, in line with the remuneration paid to a Deputy High Court Judge in England and Wales. It was brought to the Minister’s attention by the Bailiff that, with effect from 1st April 2015, the remuneration for a Deputy High Court Judge will increase from £839 to £848 per day (an increase of 1%).”

This is not in statute, it is simply the custom of the day. It is interesting to note that the Bailiff brought it to the Minister’s attention – it was not an initiative within the Department. In these days of cut-back, cuts to public expenditure, and public sector pay freezes, is it right that the judiciary should be an exception to the Medium Term Financial Plan?

It is certainly notable that the timing of this was judiciously before the Medium Term Plan was revealed!

Alienating the Elderly

In the movie ET, the alien tries to ring home, but cannot. Pensioners may feel a similar alienation as the cost of calls is set to increase. A subsidy that allowed retired people to get a cheaper home phone line is being stopped for new customers. JT used to offer a PrimeTalk line for pensioners giving them line rental at £1.90 per month. This will end. There will also be an increase in call costs as PrimeTalk customers paid 7p for half an hour, the new charge will be 2p/minute.

So costs for pensioners will increase, and I am sure when the accounts get published for this year, we will see directors remuneration and bonuses also on the increase at JT.

Action, not Verbiage

"What I've been able to do is get those specialist services actually working much better together looking at the holistic needs of an individual rather than just within a specific areas of service"

That’s what the Head of Jersey's adult services Chris Dunn said about the dead man who lay undiscovered for up to seven months. This is not English; it is some kind of management jargon masquerading as English. It is the kind of language which Orwell described in the following terms: "When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink."

Richard Dix, 62, had a long history of alcoholism and had refused help on a number of occasions. Clearly no one flagged up just keeping an eye on him, making contact, even if help was refused, on a regular basis. But surely there must have been some unpaid bills – electricity, water, rent – which gave warning notices.

In Essex Square, Harnham, last year, a blind man’s body lay undiscovered four month months. His family questioned why council officials who hand-delivered eviction warning notices over unpaid rent never raised the alarm.

One wonders if such alarms were failed to be followed up in Jersey over unpaid bills. If disconnections were made, should the utility companies have a duty of care to report to social services. Cases in England have highlighted that this is an area where Data Protection should not be interpreted as a reason to fail to pass on information, as has tragically happened in the past

In 2003, George Bates, 89, and his 86-year old wife Gertrude were found in a decomposed state in October in the south London house they had shared for 64 years. British Gas said the Data Protection Act prohibited them from passing information on the situation to social services. The Data Protection Commissioner noted that: “"It is ridiculous that organisations should hide behind data protection as a smokescreen for practices which no reasonable person would ever find acceptable.”

In the UK case last year, Wiltshire Council’s ethical governance officer Roger Wiltshire said: “There are lessons to be learnt from Terry’s case including ensuring the recording of tenants’ needs and encouraging staff to see the tenant’s whole picture, age, needs, etc to help pick up cases where a tenant may be vulnerable.”

That says much the same as Chris Dunn, but in ordinary language.

Checking up on his doorstep on a weekly basis, even if house calls are rejected, would have also helped. Knowing about someone is one thing; doing something about it is another. A case file is no good if it is left in the filing cabinet, however complete and comprehensive it may be.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

On the Box: TV Reviews












“Means?” said Stephen. “That is an odd word to use. Yet it is true – skin can mean a great deal. Mine means that any man can strike me in a public place and never fear the consequences. It means that my friends do not always like to be seen with me in the street. It means that no matter how many books I read, or languages I master, I will never be anything but a curiosity – like a talking pig or a mathematical horse.” (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell)

Sadly “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” has come to an end. A wonderful mix of period drama and magic, taking the viewer into the ordinary world of the early 1800s, and then into the stranger world of faerie. All the parts were played by actors who were relatively unknown which I think added to its strength; there’s always some difficulty in appreciating a well known actor in a quite different role. But the characterisations were wonderful, especially the leads - Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan. Special mention should also go to the brooding Enzo Cilenti and the charming but deadly “gentleman”, played by Marc Warren., and Ariyon Bakare as Stephen Black, an understated performance of distress as "the nameless slave".

With Stephen Black and his story, slavery is something which was below the surface of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, where the fictions roots in history anchor it to a time when so many lives were wasted.

The vast compensation paid to slave owners, and the way in which its tentacles crept like an insidious and pervasive weed into British society was the subject of a documentary tonight - "Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners" presented by historian David Olusoga. One individual who became a slave overseer kept a detailed journal, and it is a journal of horrors, as he easily becomes assimiliated to ordering beatings and even more inventive tortures of the slaves under him.

A recent talk in Jersey about a year ago revealed how many clergy had invested into the slave business, as the return on a modest injection of capital was considerably more than other choices of investment. In these days when we are now realising that there is an importance in "ethical investment", it is salutory to see how so many clergy and some Jersey people connived in the slave trade by unethical investments.

A detailed database of slave ownership - and the compensation paid to end slavery by the British government is available at:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

Christopher Lee was the subject of a documentary on Saturday and it was interesting to see how he changed his mind about his favourite film – “The Wicker Man” – into that of “Jinnah” in which he played the founder of Pakistan, Jinnah in a biopic about the founding of that nation. I’ve never seen the film, but having heard Lee on it, and read a few reviews, I think I’d like to.

There was something of a “Lee fest” last weekend, with “The Mummy”, “The Devil Rides Out” (Lee as a hero for once), “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”. The first Dracula film was his strongest, while he had far less to work with as the creature made by Peter Cushing’s Frankenstein. In “The Mummy”, however, he was the High Priest in the historical flashbacks, but also managed to convey emotion through his body language and eyes extremely well as the titular monster. “The Devil Rides Out” sees him shine as the Duc de Richelieu in what is a pretty faithful movie rendering of the Dennis Wheatley novel.

I enjoyed the first part of Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Railway Journey, even though some of the television conventions make me long for the days of the late Keith Floyd. She gets one ticket for her journey, with great emphasis on this - “just one ticket” whereas it is obvious there is at least one other individual holding the camera and recording the sound.

Dear old Keith used to always tell the camera man to come closer and look at the food (and not the glass of wine in his hand!), and was one of the first to break the unwritten rule that the person in these programmes is always supposed to be alone. Michael Palin managed to bring his crew into part of his journey “Around the World in 80 Days”, but Joanna reverted to the rather old fashioned call for a suspension of belief by the viewer.

The stories of China were fascinating, and what struck me clearly was that despite a Communist Revolution, all these ancient palaces and statuary has been preserved as part of Chinese culture, including the massive Buddha figures – the nose of one was something like 6 feet long!

Such a contrast with Dan Cruickshank’s recent film detailing the destruction of ancient monuments by the Islamic State which really is wiping the slate clean. To preserve the ancient heritage of China shows that even in the most repressive days of Chairman Mao, there must have been some glimmer of light.

That reminds me of a recent blog post by Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt in which she says:

Every life contains brokenness, but the brokenness doesn't need to define the life. Our broken places can also be openings for something new. As the great sage Leonard Cohen teaches, "There is a crack in everything; it's how the light gets in."

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Medium Term Plan: No Hard Facts on Stealth Taxes












Philip Ozouf recently said: “Finance sectors results exceed all expectations”, and Geoff Cook of Jersey Finance tweeted “Jersey's Finance Industry Records Stellar Performance in 2014”

Meanwhile we read on the news:

“The deficit in public finances has grown to £145 million and ministers are now planning even bigger cuts in the States’ wage bill and a freeze on benefit spending to fill the gap.”

Something is clearly wrong with the economy if the finance sector is doing really well – but that is not translating into increased revenue for the States.

We all know what the elephant in the room is, of course. It is Zero / Ten. Ever since the “deemed dividend” was ruled inadmissible by the EU, and removed, no trading company has paid any tax in Jersey. There is no capital gains tax, so if a business is sold, including cash in the bank, the seller gets the money as one off sale, not as income to be taxed.

And I certainly remember Philip Ozouf on numerous occasions when he was Treasury Minister, saying that the Treasury would be working on a solution. This one plays on and on, rather like Waiting for Godot.

The draft Medium Term Financial Plan outlines government’s income and spending proposals for 2016-2019, although it is moot whether outline or hastily sketched cartoon would be the better description. What, for instance are we to make of this, as summarised by Bailiwick Express (and also in the JEP):

“£45 million will be raised in ‘charges’ (which appears to be the new word for ‘taxes’) – although we don’t know how the health and waste taxes will work, if its spread evenly across the Island that works out at £1,000 per household, per year.”

This is supposedly some kind of business plan, which aims to get a principle for raising stealth taxes on health and on waste without specifying how these will be collected and on what basis they should be charged.

It seems sneaky to try to get approval for extra taxes in the Medium Term Plan without having to specify what they are or how they will be levied, just that they will be! How can anyone vote to approve anything on that basis? It’s not a business plan so much as a proposal for a smash and grab raid on Middle Jersey, and probably those on less incomes as well.

And the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well! Scrooge would be overjoyed to hear that £1.8 million – which in States budgets is a relatively small amount – will be found by by cutting the Christmas bonus for pensioners and phasing out the free TV licences for the over 75’s.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that if before the next election, the States Remuneration body says they can have a pay rise, they will say how sorry they are but this is independent - and take it, or say they are giving it to charity - but it will go up regardless!

It’s about time States Remuneration was linked to Public Sector pay awards, then they might appreciate how much they can do as their own contribution to cutting expenses.

The States website says: “This is the first part of the MTFP. The second part, the 'MTFP Addition', will contain detailed departmental spending for 2017 to 2019, and will be published by the end of June 2016.”

Will that contain the fine print detailing how the new taxes are to be levied and on what basis? I somehow doubt it. Where is the detail on expects from a business plan?

“Medium” Term Plan is probably the best name for the plan, as to know what the Council of Ministers really intend on taxes (or “charges”) on waste and health requires the talents of a clairvoyant.