Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Creationism and the Stork Theory of Reproduction

The Guardian today (23/12/08) reports that in an Ipsos/Mori poll* of teachers in England and Wales 29% of science specialists agreed with the statement: "Alongside the theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory, creationism should be taught in science lessons."

The newspaper has also published a response to this alarming news from Richard Dawkins:

"The 'Michael Reiss position' is defensible. Just as a chemistry teacher might discuss the phlogiston theory, or a physics teacher might discuss the Ptolemaic theory of the planets as history of science, so it is defensible to teach that there are people called creationists, and they believe what they believe.

But if teaching creationism 'alongside' evolution means what it seems to mean, it is no more defensible than teaching the stork theory alongside the sex theory of the where babies come from.

If 29% of science teachers really think creationism should be taught as a valid alternative to evolution, we have a national disgrace on our hands, calling for urgent remedial action in the education of science teachers. We are failing in our duty to children, if we staff our schools with teachers who are this ignorant – or this stupid."

Perhaps, to be charitable to these teachers, they have not been challenged to think about the issue of creationism, and the unexpected requirement for an instant response has caused them to take refuge in some woolly instinct to appear inclusive. Whether or not creationism presents the same threat to the rational, ethical pursuit of science in this country as appears to be the case in the USA, our science teachers should be challenged to think about it. If only because the discipline may sharpen their understanding of what science is. So Dawkins is right in calling for urgent remedial action.

* poll of 923 primary and secondary teachers conducted between 5 November and 10 December - results statistically weighted by sex, age and teaching phase to the known profile of primary and secondary school teachers in England and Wales.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Sun, Sea and Satan

I have just watched "Sun, Sea and Satan : Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, An Uncensored Cutting Edge Adult Documentary by Award Winning Film Director Bill Maloney".(www.pienmashfilms.com)

Bill appears as the presenter/director, and he makes it clear from the start that he is driven by anger. His reaction to the Haut de la Garenne allegations is emotional and deeply personal. I suspect the film may have only a peripheral role in the cause of justice for the victims, as it does not attempt to provide a body of rigorous evidence. Instead, his approach is based on the belief that `sometimes simple things can betray everything', and this brings some moments of devastating directness.

Nowhere is this clearer than in his repeated visits to a little shrine of ornaments in the garden of a very comfortable looking bungalow. Including both human and animal forms, this display - openly sited beside a busy road - could at a casual glance be taken for a quirky take on the nativity scene. But nothing could be further from the truth: one of the `ornaments' is a larger-than-life statue of a very young child with an enormous phallus in his/her mouth.

This is quite clearly 3-dimensional child pornography and surely illegal. I cannot imagine this happening anywhere in the UK without public disgust and legal action. Yet here in Jersey the owner is happy to flaunt his sickening display in a defiant statement that says, "I am untouchable." Maloney is blunt about what he would like to do to the person responsible, but does not reveal their identity. The house, though, he names as `Charnwood'.

As if this were not shocking enough, the film demonstrates that the house is a mere two minutes' drive from Haut de la Garenne. This little piece of public paedofilia has been on blatant display throughout the investigations at the former children's home, and barely a mile away. Investigating officers and members of the public must have passed it on a daily basis. Truly it beggars belief. It is a terrifying cameo that speaks volumes on how it may have been possible for a culture of abuse to have existed on the island for decades.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Jersey Again - Watch this Space

So why would the Jersey establishment be hell-bent on obstructing investigation into Haut de la Garenne? The recent evidence-free press conference to smear the investigatve efforts of retired cop Lenny Harper has allowed them to trumpet to a naive media, "No murders here!" I suspect this may be a prelude to "nothing very much happened here at all - and anyway it was all a long time ago" . Never mind that 200-odd people have provided statements alleging abuse.

Chief Minister Frank Walker is mainly famous for claiming that those campaigning for justice were "shafting Jersey internationally". This may be taken to imply that Senator Walker is frightened that the investors on which Jersey's tax haven economy depends will be scared off by the association of the island not just with sea and sun but also sex abuse. Who's kidding who? Don't imagne that the mega-rich tax-avoiders who pour money into Jersey give a shit about the health of the island's social services, past or present. Mired in self-interest, these people will invest in any regime that can provide the right financial terms and an opportunity to cover their tracks.

No, at the risk of being labelled a conspiracy theorist, there simply must be some other reason. I have no idea right now what this might be and I was about to add, "Watch this space."

But better still, watch this space. Or if it turns out that the Jersey oligarchs are able to silence legitimate dissent, watch this one.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Jersey Politicians are Behind the Smears

The Jersey media adopts a staunchly - at times stridently - pro-establishment line. Think Pravda and you won't be far away. However, free speech may be in a healthier state in neighbouring Guernsey where the local paper gave Lenny Harper (now declared a non-person by the Jersey media) the chance to put his case:

From the Guernsey Press, 17 November 2008

‘Jersey politicians are behind the smears’

Former Jersey deputy police chief Lenny Harper this week found himself the target of accusations that he mishandled the Haut de la Garenne inquiry, stoking speculation about murders – the possibility of which has been ruled out by his successors. Speaking to the Guernsey Press’s Nick Mann from his Ayrshire home, Mr Harper claims he is the subject of a politically-motivated smear campaign

Do you feel you are being made a scapegoat by the Jersey authorities and/or Jersey police and if so why?

The States of Jersey Police is a professional and dedicated organisation. I have an extremely high regard for all of the officers and staff who were there when I was in the post.

Of course, I believe that this smear is politically motivated.

This has been an ongoing situation from the day the inquiry went public when the chief minister [Frank Walker] told me that I was in danger of bringing the government down, tried to admonish me for speaking to a politician who was representing victims and tried to force me to take the word ‘victims’ out of my media releases as ‘they are not victims until something is proved’.

Furthermore, I have been approached now by four journalists in the past 24 hours who tell me they have been questioned by police officers appointed by [Jersey deputy police chief] David Warcup and asked if I have leaked documents to them.

This refers to the report which I sent to the Attorney General in Jersey which was critical of him.

The efforts to smear me contrast markedly with the lack of effort which Frank Walker put into investigating the leak of an email by one of his ministers to a journalist after the SOJP [States of Jersey Police] made a formal complaint.

Both the minister and the journalist denied it, but the journalist’s admission was recorded on the publicly-known system at PHQ. That, and the timing of the release last week, which actually said nothing I had not said previously, give obvious clues.

If you are in any doubt that some months ago I was saying that the bones could be very old and that we might never be able to launch a murder inquiry, go to the BBC News website and go into the link of 31 July at 1756 UK time which features an article headlined ‘Jersey Murder Inquiry Unlikely’.

In that I am quoted as saying that if the evidence remains the same it is obvious there will not be a murder inquiry. This is vastly different to what Warcup inferred yesterday [Wednesday 12].

Do you regret the information you put out during the investigation or do you stand by it and feel the situation has been misinterpreted?

I stand by it and feel it has deliberately been misrepresented.

Was there enough evidence to dig up Haut de la Garenne and what was it?

The reasons for going in there are fully documented in a report on the SOJP website - unless it has been removed. Basically, witnesses were telling us of remains in the location and there was a local solicitor who said he had a client who would confirm the presence of a child’s remains.

We did not go into the home to dig, but to screen the area to try and prove the suggestions one way or another.

This was after a meeting in the UK with experts in the areas of search, anthropology, archaeology, canine recovery and scientific search methods and a desk top study by the leading scientist of a forensic science company.

There was close consultation with the National Policing Improvement Agency. It was only after we started to recover evidence and builders who had worked at the home were telling us that they had been told to burn bones and let bygones be bygones that we started to dig.

Who did you report to? Was there strong enough political oversight of the investigation? Did you make it clear to the Home Affairs minister or the chief minister that the evidence may not prove to be conclusive and when?

The Home Affairs minister [Senator Wendy Kinnard, who subsequently stood back because she was interviewed as a potential witness in the historic abuse inquiry} was totally supportive.

The political oversight of the inquiry was appropriate at her level. The degree of political interference from others masked as oversight was intolerable.

One bizarre aspect was the fact that the two politicians responsible for child safety showed no interest in the inquiry whatsoever other than to try and rubbish it.

Several months ago Frank Walker brought his wife to the scene for a tour. In her presence, and that of some of my team, I told him that he had to prepare for the fact that there would probably never be enough evidence to launch a homicide inquiry.

He put his hand on my shoulder and said that would be no bad outcome, but he was sure I would do what I had to do.

The Home Affairs minister was being closely briefed and she was strongly supportive.


How many officers were working on the investigation and did any of them voice concerns?

There were roughly 50 officers from the UK and Jersey working on this. The team morale at that time was superb.

UK officers were reluctant to leave the inquiry and all had a shared sense of purpose.

They fully supported what the team were doing. Not one of them ever expressed any concerns.

When did you find out the ‘fragment of child’s’ skull was probably coconut?

Again, I have fully explained this. The lab who had the fragment had it for three weeks and reported to us referring to the item as ‘the Jersey skull’.

Firstly they said the bone was too old or too degraded to date. They then reported that they had found collagen in the item, a substance only found in mammals, not wood or coconut.

They then changed their stance again saying that the collagen was too degraded to date.

They then, and only then, said they were no longer sure it was bone.

They added in response to a question from me that if I wanted it definitively identified I would need to have it examined again.

They have never answered my other question which was how they had found collagen in it.

By this time however, the item had been ruled out of the inquiry because our experts had said that the context it had been found in dated it before our inquiry.

All of this was ignored by Warcup on Wednesday.

Are the Jersey authorities deliberately trying to divert attention from Howard League report?

That is a possibility strongly put to me by a number of ex colleagues and journalists.

Have you been contacted by the Met Police who carried out the independent investigation into the inquiry? If not, does that cast doubt on its findings and why?

The Met have arranged to come and speak to me in a week’s time. There has been no other contact. I would be surprised if they had delivered any conclusion to Jersey before speaking to myself.

Have you met David Warcup or [Detective Superintendent] Mick Gradwell since they took over? if so when?

Journalists have told me that Warcup inferred on Wednesday that we had. This is nonsense. There has been no contact since I left the island other than a letter from Warcup advising me ‘of my public duty and for the good of the victims, not to speak to the media’.

Jersey police chief Graham Power has been suspended and you stand by him why? And will you be prepared to defend him as part of the disciplinary process?

Graham Power has been an outstanding chief officer. Under his leadership, an abundance of local talented officers at all levels have prospered.

The HMI has delivered glowing inspection results in marked contrast to those before he arrived.

He has taken a firm stance against corruption, inappropriate behaviour, and, most of all, has fought a long battle against political interference in the operational tasks of the force. I will do anything I am asked to do on his behalf.

Will Wednesday’s announcements affect abuse victims in terms of coming forward to the Jersey authorities and why?

They did not trust the authorities previously and this will make it worse. The view expressed to me by several victims in the past 24 hours is that yesterday was politically motivated as was the suspension of Graham Power. One victim said it is back to the bad old days. Speak to Stuart Syvret.

Is there anything else you want to add?

No. Other than to say that the victims and the people of Jersey were badly served on Wednesday by the blatant misrepresentation of my views and things I had said. They made it appear as if they were contradicting me. In reality, they were saying nothing new.

Article posted on 17th November, 2008 - 2.28pm

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Gracious Words from an Astounding Source!!

Amongst the many tributes paid to Barack Obama on his election this week, you may have heard this:

"No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday. Across the country citizens voted in large numbers. They showed the watching world the vitality of America’s democracy and the strides we have made towards a more perfect union. They chose a President whose journey represents a triumph of the American story – a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation. Many of our citizens thought they would never live to see that day. This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes - and four decades later, see a dream fulfilled….

It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long. I know Senator Obama’s beloved Mother and grandparents would have been thrilled to watch the child they raised ascend the steps of the Capital and take his oath to uphold the constitution of the greatest nation on the face of the earth."

It is one of the astonishing effects of the election that these gracious words came from none other than George W Bush. Wonders will never cease! I could never have envisaged ending the week with, for the first time ever, just a little respect for the man.

You can see the Bush speech here and read the full text here.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Creationism is not Science

The business of science is to constantly refine our theories about the world in the light of evidence. The best theory is the one that best accounts for the evidence, rigorously obtained. No scientific theory is the final word on the matter: it is simply the best current explanation for what has been observed. No scientific theory can be proved to be true, but it can be shown to be inadequate - wrong, if you like - by the production of counter-evidence. All science has to be potentially disprovable.

As new scientific understanding emerges, competing theories may also emerge. It is the proper business of science to design experiments to put these theories to the test in order to discover flaws. This in turn leads to the least flawed theory prevailing as the latest provisional explanation.

The reason why creationism cannot be taught as science - as if it were a theory in direct competition to evolution - is that it is not a scientific theory at all. Followers of creationism cannot define what evidence they would accept as disproving their `theory'; doubtless for some even to ponder on this would be to doubt their faith, akin to sacrilege. For them, creationism is simply not disprovable.

On the other hand, there is no reason not to discuss creationism in a science lesson. It provides a very clear illustration of what is and what is not science, and can therefore serve to further the understanding of the nature of scientific progress.

This is not to say that fundamentalist religious belief - such as creationism - is not an important topic of study in its own right. This is particularly the case given the threat that fundamentalism in its various modern world forms poses to enduring shared values such as tolerance, moderation and compassion. But its proper place lies within the teaching of religious education, sociology and psychology, not in science.

Footnote: in the same way, should we need to study the`Church' of Scientology it should be considered within business education, as an example of a successful ethically corrupt money-making scam, not as a religion.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Jersey Bloggers near to Tipping Point in Media War?

Lately I have been closely following the situation in Jersey. By this I mean I have been reading Senator Stuart Syvret's blog, because this appears to be the ONLY reliable source of information on the island. If you don't know what I mean by the `situation in Jersey', I suggest you read the blog itself. For the purpose of the current posting, the main issues of concern are:

  • the ongoing police investigation of historical child abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home, and the pursuit of justice for the victims
  • the prevailing culture within the political administration of the island which appears, over a period of decades, to have allowed such abuse to flourish
  • the de facto one party state - labelled by some the Jersey Establishment Party (JEP) - that has obstructed the police and the pursuit of justice - the charitable interpretation being an antideluvial attitude towards preserving the international image of Jersey; or, less charitably, a sinister closing of ranks to protect cronies
  • the impossibility of obtaining justice within such a system, where the judiciary and the establishment politicians appear to be less than separate parts of the same oligarchy
  • the formal declaration by the police of a senior education official as a suspect under investigation for child abuse, and the failure of the authorities to suspend the individual pending the outcome of enquiries, pleading a duty of care towards employees that overrides all other perceived duties
Now that is just to set the scene. But this posting is not just about Jersey - it is also about the growing practice of blogging.

You might imagine that all of the above points would have found their way into the local media. Well, actually no. You see the establishment has effective control of the media too. Are you thinking Soviet Union now? - it may sound incredible, but that's not too far from the mark. The local BBC channel actively stifles political debate that might challenge the status quo, and the only local paper, the Jersey Evening Press ( = JEP, get the connection?) even publishes made-up letters in support of the oligarchy. This may sound just too far fetched - but read Stuart's blog.

It is no surprise then that Jersey has a flourishing blogging community (like China I imagine). Many islanders have ditched the conventional media outlets in disgust and have opted to get their news direct from Stuart. The sense of community through a common cause is palpable, and, with Stuart's blog having now attracted over 70,000 discrete readers, a tipping point may be close. Newspapers are running scared of the internet - and not just in Jersey. Advertising revenue, their life-blood, is vanishing as internet-savvy companies learn to exploit the online market. And when the point is reached where most citizens choose to source their news from blogs both the raison d'etre and the viability of the traditional media may disappear forever. And, in Jersey at least, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this point is rapidly approaching.

I take absolutely no pleasure in this prediction. I am for the most part a staunch admirer of the quality of journalism to be found in the `serious' media in the UK. But "the times they are a'changing" and the traditional media will be forced either to adapt and find a way of living in harmony with the online dissemination of news - or perish. Efforts to manipulate or massage the news to suit a particular political agenda will be more easily and rapidly exposed as more people realise they can locate primary sources of news for themselves on the internet. Thus truth will out.

As ever with the internet, the freedom it brings is a double-edged sword. The technology itself is a morally neutral medium that can just as easily be used as a vehicle for obfuscation and disinformation as it can to reveal the truth. As citizens of the online news community we need well-tuned antennae. We need a `moral compass' that will allow us to recognise and home in on those sources charcterised by honesty, integrity, compassion and a commitment to truth, justice and clear ethical principles.

Where better to test your moral compass than by logging in to Stuart Syvret's blog. You will find all these qualities in spades. He really is setting a standard for committed and principled investigative blogging which should have the emasculated media in Jersey and beyond truly fearful for their future.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Do Directors of Education Abuse Children?

Suppose for just a minute - and I know it is going to sound far-fetched - that a Director of Education and his predecessor had been publicly accused by a local politician of systematic physical abuse of children. And that the allegations were under investigation by the police. What would you expect to happen?

You might expect the employee concerned to be suspended - without prejudice - while the investigation was conducted. You might expect the media - local and national - to afford the matter some attention: it would after all be an extraordinary story.

You might expect all this - unless of course it happened in Jersey.

For such an allegation has this week been made in Jersey - so far to absolutely deafening media silence. And not the slightest hint of anyone being suspended.

I make no apology for referring once again to Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret's blog. You need only know that McKeon is the recently retired Director before I let Stuart take up the story:

In the early 1980s McKeon was the Head of the then child secure unit, known as Les Chennes; this place having gradually taken over child imprisonment responsibilities from the infamous Haute de la Garenne, which closed in 1986.

While McKeon was the Head of the “school” – as it was euphemistically known – his Deputy Head was Mario Lundy.

McKeon, miraculously, worked his way up the Education hierarchy to become its Chief Officer – a position from which he retired only last Christmas. And – wouldn’t you know it – his side-kick, Lundy, followed the same career arc – and replaced McKeon as the Chief Officer of Education at the beginning of this year.
Tom McKeon and Mario Lundy were both in the habit of routinely committing savage, violent assaults on the male children in their care.
And so ‘normalised’ were both men to this criminal conduct they thought nothing of blithely carrying out such assaults on an open basis – in front of other witnesses – children and adults.

And we are not talking about the occasional slap on the wrist or tweaked ear.

McKeon was known as “The Pinball Wizard” because such was his calculated propensity for violent child abuse – he even had the furniture in his office at Les Chennes arranged in such a way as to afford a nice, clear run-up to the walls of the room.

He was then able to grab children by the arm, take a run-up – and swing them –wrestling-fashion – so that the child would smash savagely against the walls.

Bouncing children off the walls and furniture in this way gave rise to the nick-name “The Pinball Wizard”.

Now that's just a flavour of the astonishing allegations. I urge you to visit the blog and read the whole posting and the comments it has attracted.

So where on earth is the mainstream media coverage? Stuart Syvret's blog has attracted 60,000 readers. This is more than the circulation of "The Scotsman". So don't tell me this has somehow escaped the radar of the media.

Maybe they just don't care - Jersey after all is an island with half the population of Dumfries and Galloway, which sits nearer to France than England and enjoys a quaint constitutional status that affords it the same nationhood as Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, along with its vaguely suspicious `offshore' tax status. And sadly it is far from unique in having experienced institutionalised child abuse.

Or maybe they are just too lazy: there is a lot of reading in Senator Syvret's blog. Or maybe too cowardly - fearing litigation perhaps if names are aired. Stuart Syvret has no such fear, and he has explained clearly why. His blog is written in forensic detail and with passion. But it is the regular comments his blog attracts from some of Jersey's abuse victims that ultimately give the greatest credence to what he is trying to do. Beyond question they deserve justice. The UK Government (i.e. Justice Minister Jack Straw) has shown a marked reluctance to intervene to ensure justice, despite their constitutional entitlement - I should say obligation- to do so.

If there are any real investigative journalists with a social conscience still out there, the story is waiting. To capture the current public preoccupation, their starting place could be Jersey's dependence on international banking at this time of crisis, and a few short steps would lead them to the serious failings in the governance of the island and the devastating effect this is having on the quest for justice for the victims of abuse.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Is Jersey in Africa?

I just don't get it. This is about Jersey again, and I make no apologies. If a tsunami hit the island tomorrow it would rightly be all over the papers - yes even here in cold, distant Scotland - and we would probably all dig deep into our pockets to provide for the victims and play our tiny part in restoring normality.

Yet the victims of abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home, the victims - it is becoming clear - of an institutionalised culture of harsh treatment that prevailed for many years - might well wish for a tsunami if it would sweep away the apparatus of the state that so cruelly conspires to deny them justice.

If you think I overstate the case, take the time to read Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret's blog on http://stuartsyvret.blogspot.com/. It will take some time, but I urge you to do it. In case you fear that you are just reading one side of the story, check out your gut feeling - are you reading the words of a person of integrity? Since January there have been nearly 120 postings and thousands of comments.......

OK, have you got the picture now? If you didn't know it before, you will now know that Birmingam Lib Dem MP John Hemming and Grimsby Labour MP Austin Mitchell have been urging the UK Government to intervene, which it is constitutionally entitled to do, to ensure that justice is done. Not much about that in the UK media was there? And maybe you did hear a little fragment of the BBC interview with former Deputy Chief Constable Lenny Harper, who led the Jersey abuse investigation until his retirement earlier this year. But now you also know that he said of the obstruction his enquiry encountered:

"There just seems to be a thread running though of people interfering, and people obstructing, together with a series of delayed decisions, which all very, very, easily lead amongst victims to an even stronger suspicion that they are not being supported, and that people are actively trying to delay the enquiry.

Now even if I look at it from a cold and clinical investigator's point of view, there were a vast number of decisions which just totally escaped me, in respect of a rationale for them. "

And now you will know that a former very senior official has recently been unmasked on the blog as having been involved in the physical abuse of children. And still the British media maintains its silence.

You would think Jersey was in Africa, where we somehow manage to ignore or tolerate flagrant abuses of human rights, either because it's not nice to interfere or because we think that's just the `African way'.

Jersey deserves our attention. The victims of abuse deserve our support. And they deserve it now.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

What future for the SNP?

Is it just me who is wondering what will happen to the SNP post-Scottish independence?

Or, more particularly, what will happen to Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon et al? Alex clearly will become President, Father of the Nation, King or however we decide to honour the architect of our new status. Chris Hoy or Andy Murray will of course be appointed to the Hoose o' Lairds and appointed Sports Minister. But seriously though, what happens to the SNP?

There seem to me to be two options. Either they will all migrate to splinter nationalist parties, such as the FNP (Fife) or SNP (Shetland) or else they will be absorbed into the new political landscape. Whatever that may be. I can't see many of the left-leaning Nationalists wanting to jump into bed with the dejected rump of Scottish Labour (even with Alistair Darling as their emollient new leader), much less Annabel and the Scottish Tories. A few perhaps will be tempted to bolster Tommy Sheridan's ranks and perhaps a few more will turn Green or Lib Dem. Perhaps the majority will be content to retire to the family croft with the comfort of `job done'.

What is Scotland?

With the Labour party in its death-throes, the Conservatives meaningless in Scotland, and with the consummate politician Alex Salmond at the helm, Scotland has now passed the tipping point on its journey to independence.

Which raises the question: just what exactly is Scotland? Earlier this year an unofficial referendum in Berwick-upon-Tweed resulted in a majority in favour of the oft-disputed burgh returning to Scotland. Well fine and dandy. As Descartes once said, "I think I am Scottish, therefore I am."

But why stop at Berwick?

Let's suppose, sometime after Scotland has won its independence, a groundswell of opinion emerges in, say, Cumbria, that folk would prefer to throw in their lot with Scotland. This is overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, so Cumbria joins the party. What next? Perhaps other coterminous English regions would consider their position. How much, after all, do Geordies identify with London? You might try asking Kevin Keegan.

Now I am not saying that Scotland should have designs on currently English territory - I am just following the logic of Descartes. And there would of course have to be a clear geographical rationale for any such arrangements. It would be patently absurd for the good people of the Isle of Wight to harbour ambitions to sport the kilt, although I would have to concede that the Scottish legal system might better address the need for justice in Jersey than then current ruling elite in London.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Why Bother About Jersey?

OK, I guess you know about the Jersey child abuse case, centred around the former Haut de la Garenne children's home. Maybe you think it is just another sad chapter in the litany of child abuse cases that have come to light in recent years. A sad chapter it certainly is - most especially for the victims - but don't imagine this case is just like all the rest. For it seems that in Jersey things are done according to `the Jersey Way', and this all-pervasive culture amongst the ruling echelons of Jersey society has evoved to protect the status quo - potentially at odds with the hopes of the victims for justice.

The closing of ranks of the Catholic church in the face of the earliest abuse allegations against priests is not dissimilar. The first instinct of the church was misguided compassion for the `fallen priests', who, having yielded to the temptation of the flesh, required the full and forgiving support of the church, to the point of denial and even vilification of victims. Later experience has strongly suggested that child-abusing priests were following their vocation as paedophiles and cynically manipulated the church as a vehicle enabling their gratification. Such people never deserved the naive protection of the church.

Read Jersey maverick Senator Stuart Syvret's blog to learn how the Jersey oligarchy is also closing ranks to conceal the truth.


Friday, 15 August 2008

Automated Answering - Time for Legislation?

It's pretty much a cliche that we all hate being put on hold, told we are in a queue and then forced to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody for who knows how long. The wait may be long, or very long but the stress is inevitable, and comes from the utter powerlessness of your situation. By the way, I don't believe that Lisa, Trisha and Mandy are separate members of their customer care team - just the same person with a different random name that appears on their screen each time they answer a call.

Anyway, I have to admit that on a couple of occasions I have had experiences that break the mould. Sadly I don't recall the organisations, or I would give them full credit here. But how refreshing their approach was. This time the script went like this: "We are sorry that all our operators are busy at the moment. Your call has been placed in a queue. You are number. One hundred and thirty seven. And we expect your call to be taken in approximately. Four. Minutes." Yeah right, you hear me thinking. Four minutes indeed. Then the message again, only now I am 103 in the queue and the estimate is 3 minutes. Then 69 and 2 minutes. And yes I do get to speak to a real human being in roughly 4 minutes. What a brilliant system! I love these people!

But sadly this system has not caught on, despite the fact that it's the ideal way to make friends of all your customers. Or maybe because of this fact - at least in the case of those companies who just want to fleece the customer by keeping them on a premium line for as long as possible, rather than actually providing a service.

Now I think the situation calls for legislation. It should become law for all companies to operate an accurate, informative automated answering system like this. The government could even pay for it all with the savings from the National Health Service having to deal with far fewer stress-related illnesses!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Conservatives Need a New Name

The perceived wisdom is that - sooner or later - Gordon Brown is on his way out and the Conservatives will win the next election. This may or may not be true. What certainly is true is that I will never vote for any party associated with the word `conservative'.

Conservative - what does it mean? The dictionary I consulted offered `favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change'. Now `traditional' has positive connotations for me when applied to, say, beer or cheese; but people who claim to espouse traditional values are often those whose idea of traditional is the transient social norms of the 50s. And those who `tend to oppose change' are close cousins to the those such as creationists who deny its existence. To`tend to oppose change' is irrational, cynical and often born of self-interest.

The head of an organisation to which I once applied for a job explained that his organisation was clearly successful by any of the accepted measures. He did not know why, but he was not about to change anything: `if it ain't broke, don't fix it*'. At that moment I lost interest in the job. He should have said, "I don't know why it works so well, but I am going to find out. Then I am going to figure out how to make it even better." But he didn't - he was a conservative.

If the Conservative Party seriously wants to attract new voters like me, it needs a new name, one that embraces change, optimism and generosity of spirit. Any suggestions?

* H L Mencken defined a platitude as `something that everyone believes to be true, but which is in fact false'. This phrase is a good illustration.