Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Some honour for 2014

I'm not usually fussed either way about New Year's honours lists. I can agree it has become more meritorious in recent years, but it still drips with a certain sense of hierarchy and class that I don't find appealing.  It is not important to this piece, but I was much amused that the main local media managed to disagree with each other in early reports on the number of locals recognised this year, citing either 2, 3, or  (correctly) 4.

Personally I was delighted to see Ed Le Quesne receive an MBE.  I have known him 40 years, and worked with him on a number of projects relating to Oxfam and the One World Group.  His award had little to do with his working life as a teacher, but  much more his genuine conscience led  community activity  both locally and in Kenya.  Just the sort of thing that brings some merit to the whole system.

The other awards that I noted were those to Helene Donnolly and Julie Bailey who led a campaign to expose serious care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS.  Helene as a nurse at the affected trust was  key as a whistleblower.  Like many whisleblowers she was threatened by colleagues and felt intimidated.  See http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/accident-and-emergency/whistleblowing-mid-staffs-nurse-too-scared-to-walk-to-car-after-shift/5036466.article In former times she would far more likely have ended up facing the sort of treatment Simon Bellwood and Stuart Syvret received locally in making serious failings of the care system public, even though their claims were substantiated in investigations and subsequent court actions.  Perhaps Helenes's award will bring it home to local notables that the times and attitudes are a changing. 

Happy New Year

Friday, 6 December 2013

Remember Madiba

Remember Madiba

I have been listening to the outpourings in the World Service on the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.   I’m sure those Africans out on the streets of the townships singing his name and dancing know full well what his life meant.   His greatness was not simply in nation building, and being the first black president of South Africa.  All that is true, but it is only half the story.

When I was an active student, Nelson Mandela was still a prisoner on Robben Island.  Those of us who held him in some regard and helped with campaigns to boycott South Africa and for his freedom were constantly reminded by our opponents that he was a convict, a terrorist. I did not then, and I do not now agree with violence and armed struggle, but I do concur that it is valid, indeed often necessary, to take action to oppose a legally sanctioned but nevertheless inhuman and manifestly unjust system.   His 27 years incarceration, subsequent election as president of the country and success in defusing so much of the bitterness and understandable vengefulness that could have overflowed at the end of apartheid, should have lessons for us.  

I am struck that so many of those lauding Nelson Mandela today will be those who have also been at the forefront of proclaiming a war on terror.   Without a hint of irony they will totally ignore that they too would likely have Mandela imprisoned on similar anti-terrorist legislation had he taken his action today.  Will those leaders and governments take any lesson from that?  If they really want to remember him they would look to their own actions in the light of what his life has shown us:

              Humanity will always eventually win out over legality;

              Coercive power is futile;

              Forgiveness is the power of the victim.

Finally a quote from the trial in 1964. “During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Sunday, 17 November 2013

More on the buses

I have written to Liberty Bus about the move to the use of Avanchi Cards for school buses.  Copied below.

I also noticed the TTS minister is proposing having a free bus travel day. See http://www.thisisjersey.com/news/2013/11/13/free-bus-travel-day-aims-to-get-us-out-of-our-cars/

The aim of the move is very good, and I am all in favour of encouraging people to use less polluting, more fuel efficient forms of transport. So I do hope he has thought this one day proposal through.  Lets look at a couple of scenarios.

Say it is a roaring success and people pour out to use the bus service to get to work.  Has he mad contingency measures for the increased demand.  Already the number 8 and 9 buses  that arrive in town the latest before 9am are standing room only. A few more takers and those awaiting passengers closer to town will be left at the roadside for the next service, which in the case of routes  8 & 9 is not that frequent. The result is existing frequent users are let down and  discouraged, the exact opposite of what is required.

What if  there is no measurable take up, what will  he then do to meet his objectives?  I have observed that the morning bus has a distinct pattern of usage - greatest on Mondays and Fridays it seems.  The day he selects for free travel might be material.  Will the minster be able to determine the change in usage patterns, whether it is commuters, or casual users who are taking advantage of the free ride? 

What if, as I suspect, it is a qualified marginal success.  A small increase in use for the day of a couple of percent passangers, but the net lost revenue meaning it has cost hundreds of pounds for each new person using the service. Is that a success?  How much is a new bus user worth?  Will it be applicable to the school bus service too? Which reminds me - that letter re AvanchiCards.

                                                                                                                    La Collette Bus Depot
                                                                                                                    St Helier
                                                                                                                    Jersey JE2 3NX


Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to express some reservations I have  concerning the use of Avanchi cards for school buses.  As I understand the proposals the Avanchi Card will be the only accepted payment method on school buses next year.  I believe this is too limiting on students, who may have no other practical method to get to school.

The current pre-paid ticket systems offer rather more flexibility.  Students who have forgotten or lost tickets can readily borrow one from another pupil.  Similarly someone who seldom uses the bus but has some occasion to do so one day can acquire a ticket or two for the purpose from friends.  Having tickets available from school offices greatly facilitates  ad-hoc use, as seems certain to occur with the complicated and full lives students lead.

As I see it the Avanchi card negates many of those convenient features of the current pre-paid tickets.   As a simple remedy, please can we have cash as a payment option, thereby alleviating many of the shortcomings of restricting payment to Avanchi cards.

yours sincerely,

Monday, 28 October 2013

A lack of perception

I was listening last night the play back of BBCJersey politics hour. The subject was whether we should have a population policy. Deputy Higgins correctly pointed out the illogicality of planning hundreds of millions on a new hospital and school classes when we haven't had a population debate or policy and therefore have no clear population model or demographics model underpinning these huge expenditures. Both the Education minister and the Health minster have prevaricated when asked direct questions in the States in recent assemblies about the figures and models behind their sizing of these schemes.

Unsurprisingly I suppose the question of having a population policy gets mixed up with how to implement it. If it is to be credible it has to be plausible to implement. It is clear looking at past figures this has not happened. The last policy was to increase by 150 households per year, but the figures appear to suggest something approaching double that. In a recent conversation with a States of Jersey Minister it was claimed the only reason the 30% decrease in finance industry revenues was not catastrophic was because of of working age incomers of recent years. That might make sense if they all came to work in other industries, but we know some of the unemployment is from finance – it is inevitable given it is such a huge proportion of the economy and of the workforce. But to claim the effects of a reduction in a sector are ameliorated by more people coming in to that sector does not stack up.

However the thing that really got me vexed was the statement from someone else on the programme who claimed there was a desperate shortage of IT skills like web development, and decried that locals do not want to work at menial jobs such as agriculture. I know several perfectly capable web developers locally who do not work in IT. Equally I could take you to some growers who have perfectly good degrees in applicable subjects like IT. No one seems to ask the question why we have educated capable people working low paid 'menial' jobs and eschewing high paid ones?

Reflecting on that question reveals something about society and who forms opinion. I'll give you the gist of it by way of an example. Some years ago I sent my cv to a local recruitment company in response to an advert they had for an interesting sounding job. When I went to talk to them about the position they were insistent I applied for a different position. When I looked at the details I refused because it paid too much. You could have heard the 'consultants' jaw hit the floor. It never occurs to some people that pursuit of money is not the only reason people work. It simply does not motivate, once you have enough income for your needs. And if you reflect for a while you will probably agree that the expectation and demand on you from someone paying twice as much for your employ is likely to be far more. That may put an unacceptable burden on family and other commitments.

There are countries where different values apply. In Germany engineer is an esteemed title, unlike in here where the connotation is a dirty physical undesirable type of work. Similarly in some southern European countries waiting table is a sought after job - it carries a degree of respectability. There are even places where journalism is something other than a despised profession. It might help our situation locally is bodies like the States stopped talking about 'high value' jobs a something apparently reserved for immigrants, locals need not apply. Similarly it would help if people referred to jobs as worthwhile activities, even socially essential, rather than as menial. However I don't expect such a change to happen any time soon.

 Those whose opinions are sought out and promulgated by our media are those of people who are seen as important , generally because they have reached some elevated position in their organisation or profession. Unsurprisingly this is a self select group – the people who wanted to do that sort of thing and were motivated to 'reach the top'. Their values and aspiration are then the ones that are then reflected as the desirable ones.If they are motivated by money then expect that to be seen as the norm for everyone.

Monday, 1 July 2013

JiT in July

The filmnight this month has a money and business theme. If you've ever wondered where all the money goes, or if there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to earn it, spend it, and pay all the bills, there might be some vital information for you in one or more of the three films. As usual, there'll be two short films starting at 7.30 pm (don't be late), followed by a 20 minute tea and chat break before the main feature starts. And of course, there's more tea and chat afterwards for those who want to mingle.

  • Grow your own fruit and veg - Tuesday 2 July, 7.30 - 9.00 pm at  La Source, Le Mont Vibert, St Ouen, JE3 2DS. Christine says:  We should be really starting to see the result of our labour by now, lots of veg are ready to be harvested. http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=49.2371&mlon=-2.1865&zoom=15
  • Eco-transport in Jersey - Monday 8 July, 6.30 - 7.30 pm at the Curiosity Coffee Shop, 14 Sand St, St Helier. This meeting is to inspire ideas and discussion into ways to improve and make our transport system more eco-friendly here in Jersey. All initiatives, and ideas, big or small, are welcome!! Its good to meet with like minded, eco-aware people, so come along. All welcome
  • Jersey Climate Action Network (J-CAN) monthly meeting - Tuesday 9 July, 8.00 pm at Frances Le Sueur Centre, Les Mielles, St. Ouen's Bay. Jersey Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan (R.49/2013): to consider this recently published report, and the links between air quality and climate change. Campaigns and activities: to discuss campaigns and activities, including Transport Policy, Renewable Energy, and Recycling.
  • Occupy Love Meditation - Monday 15 July, 6.00 - 6.45 pm at Liberation Square, St Helier. Inspired by last month's JiT Filmnight film, you are invited to join us in Occupy Love Meditation: "Be the change you want to see in the World" - Mahatma Gandhi.
    18:00 to 18:30 - Sitting meditation, in your own style. This is entirely optional: we invite you to meditate on your heartfelt wish for well-being, peace and happiness for yourself and for all beings; breathing in love into your heart, breathing out love out from your heart; love for yourself, love for all beings. 18:30 to 18:40 - Optional sound bath: You can use any mantra or sound, for example, Om, Ah, Ong, Nah or any other sound that calls you personally. If you choose to move closer to one another, donate your physical presence, your positive energy and your voice. It's also a lot of fun and just sounds awesome to everyone around. You are welcome to come to the entire event or you can come for part of it. You can meditate the entire time, or you can chill and bask in the peace. Please feel free to bring your own cushion or stall for sitting meditation. Bring everyone! This is going to be a beautiful event that we will all remember! This is an event open to everyone, all ages, from every path, experienced or not. Let us come together as One Community. This is a movement that our entire world is creating together as one unified force to set the momentum for the future of our planet! "If you are a Buddhist, please come. If you are a Christian please come. If you are Jewish, Muslim, or belong to or identify with any other religions, creed or peace organization, please come. We shall learn together that wrong perceptions of self and others
    are at the foundation of separation, fear, hate, and violence; and that
    togetherness and collaboration is possible." - Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Filmnight: Money as Debt 3 - Evolution Beyond Money  (2011, 62 mins) - Saturday 20 July, 7.30 - 9.30 pm at Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. Paul Grignon's film presents an attractive picture of how money could work in the future. It is full of surprising specifics for creating a nurturing economy using technologies that exist right now. It demonstrates in simple terms why our primitive concept of money as a "single uniform commodity" is a root cause of dysfunction and injustice. The film illustrates in extensive and entertaining detail how a fundamental change how a fundamental change in our long-held concept of money, paired with recent breakthroughs in technology, opens the door to a liberated, self-balancing global "money" backed by real value and open to all. Preceded by Heart in Business and What the Economic Crisis Really Means, two short films with different but similar takes on the same subject. Free teas and coffees. All welcome.
  • JiT General Meeting - Wednesday 24 July, 7.30 - 9.00 pm in 'The Boardroom', The Townhouse, New St, St Helier. This is where we plan and discuss, and hear 'News from the groups'. If you have ideas for events, activities, groups or campaigns, please come along. All welcome.
  • Grow your own fruit and veg - Thursday 25 July, 2.00 pm. Meet in the car park of Durrell Wildlife Park, Les Augrès Manor, La Profonde Rue, Trinity. Christine says: I've arranged a zoo visit to look at how they grow the food for the animals.  It's organic, they have polytunnels and sound pleased to have us. All welcome. 
  • Qi Gong Walk and Talk, Maz Heaney - Sunday 28th July, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm, tea and chat 12.30 - 1.00 at Les Platons. Directions: drive past Trinity Church past the old Trinity Stores, take the next left , then next right, then first left. Car parking on the left, Qi Gong on the ''lawn'' area on the right. The Qi Gong walk and talk is limited to 16 people, please message Maz on Facebook or email maz@bobheaney.com to register. Please wear comfortable shoes and clothing, depending on the weather you may need a sunhat or raincoat in these unusual weather times. Chinese tea and chat afterwards ;o) Should the weather be really bad Maz will let people know via Facebook or email. Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese exercise system for health and vitality. Gentle movements are linked to the breath and the flow of Qi. Qi is the Chinese word for '' life energy'' and Gong means ''work'' or ''benefits acquired through perseverance and practice''. The exercises are designed to massage the internal organs enabling them to function at their optimum whilst increasing the level of oxygen around the body. Maz has been practicing Qi Gong and Tai Chi for 15 years and has also visited China for further training.
  • Green Drinks - Tuesday 30 July, 7.30 - 9.00 pm The Townhouse, New St, St Helier. No agenda, no hassle. Put your feet up among like-minded folk, and chat about the stuff that matters.
Upcycling is talking a well-earned summer break, and will be back in action in September.

There is a worldwide 'United Global Monsanto Mega March' on Saturday 20 July. Quite a few of us joined the similar 'March Against Monsanto' in St Helier in May, and this will be bigger and better. I'm not sure what is planned in Jersey yet, but there will be more details on Facebook nearer the time.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Those population figures

I was contacted by both the JEP and BBC radio Jersey today for a  comment on the latest population figures. The report from the statistics unit can be found  at. PopulationUpdate2012 . The headline figure is we are now at 99,000 or 846 people per square kilometre. I was rather sorely tempted simply to say I told you so.

The report usefully distinguishes the natural increase - the difference between local births and deaths - from the inward migration.  Ethically there is little we can do about the former, though we do still have to understand the immense implications of relentless increases.  We can do something about the latter.  And the evidence that we can is in the figures coupled with a little knowledge of population policy.  You only have to look at the figure for 2003; 0 net inward migration: it is possible.

When the J-cat policy was introduced the idea was that those coming in would have ten years  in which time they would train up locals to take the roles, and then leave.  I have tried to find evidence for this training element , and for J-cats leaving after 10 years, but without success.  I rather suspect that is because it is simply not happening.  As so often happens an expedient temporary measure ends up as a permanent fixture, even when its purpose no longer stands, much as income tax was introduced as an emergency measure in Britain to fund war against France in 1799.

By 2007/8 the Jersey inward migration rate was up to 1100 and 1700 a year. (No longer driven by French emigrees fleeing the revolution!)  By no coincidence the abysmal and rightly condemned Imagine Jersey 2035 exercise in opinion management was undertaken at that time with the astounding outcome that we should indeed deliberately increase the population.  Though even that could only engineer support for a maximum 540 persons a year. The outcomes of Image jersey 2035 are still available at ImagineJerseyFinal Report 2010 03 23

But we knew long before that of the immense impact on our Island of population pressures.  Queen's Valley reservoir was completed in 1991 ( seeThe watermills of Queen's Valley for a view and history).  20 years later in 2011 work had to be undertaken as Val de la Mare to facilitate future expansion (see Val de la Mare makes a splash) .  What do you imagine we shall do in another 20 years time, flood another valley?

Of course new arrivals need and expect decent housing.  There is only so much 'brown field' infill and renovation that can do to provide for an extra  900 people annually, or say 400 households. Inexorably more agricultural land is rezoned for housing.  Naturally those extra people themselves then have children and the problem grows exponentially. 

We now have an almost 50:50 split agricultural and developed land in the Island. And it matters. Chatham House issued a document only the other day on how food supplies in the UK are threatened, as reported by the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22913559.  Jersey imports a much bigger proportion of its food than the UK. We are taking a much bigger risk when we increase population and reduce the available land.  Even if we could organise to grow enough wheat to make bread to feed 100,000 how would we mill it and bake it? 

In the last lifestyle survey we came 30th out of 37 for environmental quality and one the significant factors there was access to open areas.  That is not just a nice to have, it is the sort of factor that contributes to mental and psychological wellbeing.  Take it away and you only pile up costs in the health service treating the resulting conditions. 

Another aspect of environmental quality in the longer term is our greenhouse gas emissions.  Emigrants don't add much to the overall picture, but the growth in local born numbers certainly does.  Each one, whether born here or immigrant, makes it that much harder for us to meet our Kyoto commitments to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

We rely absolutely both directly and indirectly on the eco-services provided by nature for our own well being as well as the health of the systems that feed and supply or water.  We concrete and tarmac them over at our own peril and the ability of future generation to withstand turbulent times and events. And for sure we live in increasingly uncertain times.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Technical troubles with hosting site

My apologies, the Jersey Today paper is not appearing.
The problem appears to be at the hosting site Paper.li. http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/paper.li.html

There is nothing I can do about that until they sort it.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Not as clear cut as it appears.

Readers will be aware I had grave reservations about the mechanics of the recent referendum and the 3 options presented. To my mind there were serious problems with all three choices.  Had we the option I should have been very much in the none of the above camp.

Since it was not a binding referendum, the final decision will be taken by the States (notwithstanding their historical inability to deal with reform).   As such the outcome is indicative, it serves to inform the States in their decision making, not direct them.  The question therefore arises as to what the results  tell us and how do we interpret them.

Simplistically, B got the most votes so that is that.  However there are two problems with that.  First is that there was differential turnout in different constituencies, the second being that the total votes achieved by B was less than half of those who voted. ( 6804 first prefs plus 1386 transfers from C out of 16624 total ballots gives 49.27%). The reason is less than half the C first preferences expressed a second preference.  Whether these were voting for retaining senators, or against superconstituences, or something else cannot be determined.

The only way I can see to deal with the differential turnout is to scale the results by each parish to bring the totals up to 100% for each.  I have attached screen shots of the spreadsheet I used to do this.

The outcome on first preferences is A 27,065; B 24,889; C 11,704. 
After transferring the C votes the totals are A 27,585; B 29,773.
 In percentages terms 48.1% to 51.9%

I am not enough of a statistician to judge if that difference is significant, but it suggests the real mood of the people is closer than the raw results suggest.

Of course none of this would have been so much of a problem had the referendum been a traditional yes/no question. It also does not answer the question of what would have happened if we had other options too such as retaining the constables  in the States but without a vote.

(click image to enlarge).

Monday, 18 March 2013

Electoral Reform mechanics

I have written previously on the failings as I see them of the way the Electoral Commission set about  its task, see why-i-have-not-made-submission. A few of those points have been reiterated elsewhere, alongside questions over why 42, and of course why there are effectively 2 votes possible for some options, but only one for others.

Looking at the way the questions and the voting mechanics have been set up for the April 24th vote I  wonder if those making the arrangements really understand either referenda or AV/STV voting systems and their merits.

It is normal for a referendum to have one question and a straight yes/ no vote.  The aim is to have a clear mandate from the electorate for a decisive and meaningful change in a constitution or major long running international arrangement. Of course you don't need AV/STV for a simple binary choice.

The problem with the questions the EC have given us is that they are  necessarily incomplete because there are undefined ramifications to the options, such the issues arising from the mechanics of government and the number of ministers, the right of requete if constables are removed etc. 

But I am also perplexed by the decision to use AV for the voting.  Why - because if you have AV there is absolutely no reason not to have all the valid options on the paper.  We could have options for retaining senators, having all island wide voting, having smaller constituencies etc.  The great merit of AV, and more so STV, is that you have a mechanism to allow people to express their real views and preferences, and derive a broadly acceptable (or perhaps least objectionable) result at the end. 

So why only three options?  It would possibly make sense if people were to have but one vote, first past the post style. The cynical would observe the system has been crafted to give the best prospect for returning a particular desired outcome.  The more generous minded might think it is simply that the EC members have not the depth of experience in referenda and AV voting systems to grasp the fundamentals of what they are doing in terms of electoral mechanics.  What is for sure is we have missed an opportunity to do this in a meaningful way that would give a very clear steer to the States over the real wishes and priorities of the electorate.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Is the CoI a bigger issue than you imagined?

It seems we are finally to have a debate in the States on setting up a Committee of Inquiry into child abuse in the Island. It is on the order paper for the sitting on 5th March, see http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyOrderPapers/2013/2013.03.05%20Order%20Paper.pdf . For reference, the original move to request a Inquiry was in 2011 (see http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2011/45258-28763-222011.pdf.  For a detailed run down of why it has taken so long to come about you could take a look at Bob Hill's blog at http://bobhilljersey.blogspot.com/2013/03/jerseys-historical-abuse-inquiry-no.html

There are of course numerous stakeholders in this process.  The victims and survivors, particularly those whose cases were not prosecuted, who deserve and indeed may need a chance to voice publically what happened to them.  There are former staff.  There are the agencies who should have realised something was amiss and either did  not identify an issue, or identified it but ignored or possibly colluded with it.  There are the past politicians and the senior civil servants in the States who could and should have identified and acted on problems. And of course there are the actual perpetrators of abuse and their colluders.

Missing from that list is the Law Officers. Yet I think they have a huge amount at stake in the CoI. In fact I would go as far as to say this CoI has the potential to be as constitutionally significant to us as the reforms of 1948.  I think this explains is why certain statements and comments have been issued to try to shape the debate and the approach of the CoI even in advance of it being sanctioned by the States.

Perhaps the best place to start is what  an inquiry is and is not. Canada makes a lot of use of Public Enquiries similar to our Committee of Inquiry.  There is a good piece discussing a number of important topics such as whether judges should chair at
http://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/ps/speeches/publicinquiries.htm.  The item I would like to take up is the purpose of the inquiry ' Broadly speaking, there are two types of independent inquiries: those that have a mandate to find and report on facts, and those with a mandate to make recommendations for the development of public policy.'  Our CoI has nothing to do with policy formation - it is about finding and reporting the facts. 

Regulation 6 of the CoI regulations http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2007/7471-48374-562007.pdf  is clear. "Because a committee of inquiry can be seen as a quasi- judicial process witnesses can, if the committee wishes, be examined on oath. " The key phrase is 'can be seen as quasi-judicial'.  Quasi means resembling or being akin to, but not actually being.  Can be seen as means it is one possible view.  To put it in other words it is NOT a judicial process.   Indeed point 10 of the AGs comments says 'At the conclusion of its deliberations, a Committee of Inquiry reports back to the States Assembly. It does not, however, make any finding of guilt or innocence in a criminal sense nor does it determine a legal right.'

Last month Tony Musing blog made some important observations on the comments from the Attorney General at http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2013/02/prejudging-issues.html.  However I think it is worth re-reading the AG's comments (http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2012/P.118-2012%20Com.pdf) bearing in mind the points above. This leads to some further questions.   Why in item 14 does the AG refer to people accused by complainants?  There can be no such thing in a fact finding non-judicial process.  There are only witnesses and evidence.

In item 23 we read  'There is a fundamental principle that the prosecution process should be free from any political influence or interference in any way'.  The quid pro quo of that is the prosecution service should not act politically or influence political process. A point missing from the AG's comment. Why?  In fact the whole of section D section could be read so an attempt to head off questioning of prosecution decisions and processes.  However as an independent CoI is neither a political body nor a judicial one, it is perfectly free to question and inquire into the prosecution process without breach of the fundamental principle outlined above.

If the AG succeeds in his presentation of this CoI as a judicial process with accusers and defendants and the use of lawyers to represent the opposing sides, then he wins a much larger point.  He will in effect have established  that the Law Officers are unchallengeable by any format or any body in the Island.  Much as he might tout the fundamental principle of individual prosecutions and processes being free of politics, that situation would violate an even more important and precious principle that none, not even Law Officers, is above the law or public scrutiny.  We have come perilously close to that state.  It is that sort of thinking that got us in a position that a magistrate cannot be relieved of pay and office when found guilty of a crime.

It is imperative that all States members understand the hugely important and significant repercussions of the amendments and the comments of the AG when voting on this proposition and amendments. This is a turf war that the people , transparency, accountability and democracy cannot afford to lose.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Getting noticed

Thanks to my friend Nick Palmer (http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com) for spotting that I was quoted in the Independent today on the subject of population, resources and services.  See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/jersey-considers-population-cap-to-deal-with-increasing-migration-8444906.html

Over the last 6 months I have done a number of interviews with local media on population, pollution, Care leavers and child abuse, climate change and Plémont. What is interesting to me is the spread of those media. BBC Radio and ChannelTV both did a number of interviews, but remarkably the JEP did not cover a single one. I have no idea why, but it is nothing new.

 It transpired that my e-mail address had been blocked at the JEP sometime in the run up to the election in 2011 - perhaps they still regard me as persona non grata. I have a number of times queried content and the failure to update links on their web site (ThisIsJersey), most recently the failure to update the link on the transport site to the new bus service provider and timetable for a number of days after the service began.

 I have also queried the monopoly they have over the publication of the official Gazette, and the inconsistent updating of that public information on their web site. Up to 1960 the law actually required the gazette to be published in 4 Sunday papers - 2 in English 2 in French. The last local French newspaper closed in 1959, which forced a change in the law. If you think 4 sounds like a lot of newspapers for our little island, at one point in the earlier part of the nineteenth century there were 10 or more in town alone. Of course in 1960, we had no local radio or television and the web had not been conceived. It seems to me if we were serious about the Gazette as a public information service we would change the law to make better use of those media. At the very least we should have a properly updated and maintained online gazette as part of the States of Jersey web site.

Monday, 7 January 2013

JiT in January

There is plenty going on below to stimulate any Beginner's Mind. We continue to look for positive, fun and practical things to do, to sow the seeds and tend the shoots of a kinder, more skilful, more resilient and more self-reliant island community.

  • J-CAN monthly meeting - Tuesday 8 January, 8.00 - 9.30 pm at the Town House, New St, St Helier. Energy White Paper; Transport Policy; Energy audits; Campaigns and Activities; J-CAN website and newsletter
  • Upcycling (sewing) - Thursday 10 January, 6.30 - 9.00 pm at the Harbour Gallery, St Aubin.     New creative ideas for 2013? Come along and enjoy MAKING something, professional advice, chat and laughter. It is important that you book in with Kirsten, so that she knows approximate numbers,  via Facebook, or by e-mail at atlanticblueuk@aol.com
  • J-CAN talk: Electric Cars: The Future for Jersey? - Tuesday 15 January, 8.00 - 9.30 pm in the Members’ Room, Société Jersiaise, Pier Road, St. Helier. Kevin Sharpe of Zero Carbon World ( http://www.zerocarbonworld.org/) will talk about the importance of electric transport in a low-carbon strategy, and the particular relevance of electric vehicles to an island such as Jersey.
  • Green Drinks - Thursday 17 January, 7.30 - 9.00 pm at the Town House, New St, St Helier. Start the New Year with a quiet drink, chatting with like-minded and friendly people, in front of the open fire. What could be better?
  • JiT Talk: The big picture and YOU - Saturday 19 January, 7.30 - 9.00 pm in the Cafe, Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. A talk by James Williams. James was a friend of the late John Seymour and helped John on some of his projects. He also worked at the Tibetan Farm School, set up to teach Tibetan refugees subsistence farming. James became a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and meditated at least an hour every single day for over thirty years. He bought a nine acre property in Hereford and grew crops using the Bio Dynamic method. In his talk James would like to share a point of view that is not commonly held. He now lives in St Brelade, with his wife of over fifty five years and is a keen organic gardener.
  • Open Meditation - Wednesday 23 January, 6.00 - 6.40 pm under cover at Liberty Wharf, or outside in Liberation Square if the weather if fine. Thirty minutes of silent meditation followed by ten minutes of sound bath - please bring your voices, singing bowls, chimes. Bring a candle, bring your own cushion or stall for sitting. Everyone welcome, all ages, from every path, experienced in meditation or not.
  • JiT General Meeting - Wednesday 23 January, 7.30 - 9.00 pm, in 'The Boardroom', The Town House, New St, St Helier. Minutes of the last meeting are attached here, as always. Everyone welcome.
  • JiT Filmnight: Home (2009) 93 mins. - Saturday 26 January, 7.30 - 9.30 pm in the Cafe, Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. Moving and visually stunning footage, all shot from an aerial perspective. Yann Arthus–Bertrand shares with us his sense of awe about our planet and his concern for its health. "In the past 200,000 years, humans have upset the balance of planet Earth, a balance established by nearly four billion years of evolution. We must act now... The price is too high." A symphony of beautiful music throughout written by Armand Amar.
Everyone is welcome at all these events. There is no charge for any of them, and where we can, we make free refreshments available.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A bumpy start to the new bus service

Today was the first day of the new bus service under CTPlus.  One expects some teething problems , but the scale of adverse comment and mishap reported to me is worrying.  The drop in passenger numbers in Guernsey since the same outfit took over their service in April made me apprehensive from the outset.  I won't report the third party points, but my two journeys today on the buses I can recount.

The 7:30am  from the Parish Hall did not arrive did not arrive until almost ten to eight.  This despite a lower level than normal traffic on the roads.  When I did get a number 9 the driver was unable to get the new ticket machine to issues the £1.70 fare, only the £1.20  tickets.  At the station, none of the information boards was working, and the hand written notices showed that despite keeping largely the same routes, the departure stands have been changed. My return journey was ten minutes late leaving, and when it got to the border of St Peter and St Brelade the driver clearly had no awareness that the road had been closed all day for electric cable work. 

On the plus side, the seats have more leg room and the buses are quieter.  But this is no substitute for clear information and punctual arrival and departure at stops.  Unless service levels  pick up I foresee local passenger numbers following the Guernsey trend.