Sunday, December 20, 2009

Biting The Hand That Feeds

Did anyone else in addition to Clameur de Haro pick up on the snide little dig from the Jersey Evening [sic] Post’s Elaine Byrne in her reporting of the winners of the Christmas Lottery?
In her “you have to be in the finance industry to win anything in Jersey” intro, La Byrne couldn’t resist, could she, doing a little resentful biting of the hand that feeds, conveniently forgetting which sector of the economy it is that predominantly generates the tax revenues needed to fund public services. Perhaps she needs reminding that governments on their own can provide nothing without first extracting the financial wherewithal from private citizens and firms through taxation.
Possibly she’s one of those who likes to propagate the myth that Jersey suffers from a class divide between the finance sector and the rest. Unfortunately, this fallacy is more widely held than it should be.
What it does is to deflect attention from the real class divide in Jersey, which is the divide between those employed in the public sector – enjoying salaries in many cases on a par with private sector counterparts carrying more responsibility, plus the added benefits of job protection, security of employment and taxpayer-funded pension arrangements which the private sector can only dream about – and those in the productive, wealth-generating private sector of the economy struggling to cope with the downturn, and having to accept pay cuts and job losses as the price of survival.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Clameur de Haro’s Weekend Music R&R # 5

To apologise for the lack of these in the past 3 weeks or so, it’s two for the price of one this weekend – although partly also because they’re both sub-3 minute clips, and you do all deserve your money’s worth, after all………
On to a bit of a boogie-woogie theme this week, jazz manifestation of the genre first. CdeH used whenever possible to listen to the late Humphrey Lyttelton’s prog on steam radio sampling all the jazz greats of times past, and came to appreciate the jazz boogie-woogie piano virtuosity particularly of Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. So when he ran across this clip of Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson performing (he thinks) Boogie Woogie Dream, it went straight to the top of the playlist. Despite being a tad grainy, the relaxed attitudes contrasting with the superb synchronised playing just takes the breath away.
Then, transposing the boogie-woogie theme to the present, it’s across the years, across the Atlantic, and across the genres, to Johan Blohm, keyboardist with Swedish rock-blues-boogie band The Refreshments. Apparently they’re huge in Sweden, and often have that phenomenal guitarist Albert Lee, late of Hogan’s Heroes and Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band to name but two, guesting on the live gigs. Johan Blohm seems to get billed as “the greatest rock’n’roll boogie-woogie piano player in the world”, but for once (and even though he seems singularly unfazed by it) the hype might just be accurate……..
Even CdeH’s tin musical ear can detect the connection between the two performances, across many years and one ocean. Enjoy…….
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Over The Top With Swine Flu Vaccination?

Clameur de Haro was quite surprised last weekend when one of his close friends, a fellow-guest enjoying a relaxed informal supper with several other mutual friends, launched into a fairly trenchant criticism of the swine flu vaccination policy. CeH's friend is usually rather more inclined than is CdeH to give our politicos, their advisers, and those who do their bidding the benefit of the doubt, so this critique was doubly interesting to listen to, coming from the source it did.
Its substance was that the States in general, and the Medical Officer of Health in particular, have essentially gone over the top in the extent to which the swine flu scare has been talked up, almost to the point of causing a degree of anxiety among putatively vulnerable sections of the population which cannot be wholly justified, either by the incidence of infection, or its severity if actually contracted - and that there has of course been a considerable public expense incurred.
Not being in one of the allegedly-at-risk categories, Clameur de Haro hadn't previously given this too much thought, beyond a vague feeling of uneasiness that the whole thing seemed to be being promoted with the kind of almost evangelical zeal and "the nanny-state knows best" authoritarianism redolent of some of the more infamous scare campaigns of recent years which turned out eventually to be largely just that - a scare. Whatever happened to bird flu and SARS, which were similarly talked up as a serious threat?
So it was with more than a passing interest that CdeH read press reports this week to the effect that Roche, the manufacturer of oseltamivir (Tamiflu), has been accused by no less august a publication than the British Medical Journal of making it impossible for scientists to assess how well it works by withholding evidence the company has gained from trials.
Of particular significance, it seemed to Clameur de Haro, was this -
"A major review of what data there is in the public domain has found no evidence Tamiflu can prevent healthy people with flu from suffering complications such as pneumonia.
Tamiflu may shorten the bout of illness by a day or so, the investigators say, but it is impossible to know whether it prevents severe disease because the published data is insufficient. Roche has failed to make some of the studies carried out on the drug publicly available, the scientists say.
Freemantle (Professor Nick Freemantle, Birmingham University) said he saw "very little evidence to support the widespread use of oseltamivir in the otherwise healthy population who are developing signs of influenza-like illness." He added: "We have remarkably few resources in this country to spend on pharmaceuticals on health, and it is surprising to see such widespread use of oseltamivir".
Freemantle went on to suggest that the large stockpiles amassed by the UK health authorities may have had more than a little to do with the frequency and extent of distribution/vaccination, irrespective of the questionable effectiveness of the drug.
So, in the Jersey context, the questions arise - if there really has been precious little data on the effectiveness of oseltamivir/Tamiflu in preventing severe disease: if in many cases the swine flu infection itself really turns out to be either barely distinguishable from, or not much more onerous than, "normal" flu: and if there really is no conclusive evidence found that it prevents healthy people contracting flu from suffering complications: just what on earth have the Jersey health authorities been doing in playing up both the risks and the alleged benefits (including the constant flow of press releases suggesting dangers and remedials of almost epidemic proportions), and putting into action an vaccination programme compulsory in all but name across large swathes of the population? Is it also a case of a large stockpile having been amassed, and therefore having to be used to justify it?
Some answers from the Health Minister, please.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Can We Now Drop the ID Cards Lunacy Once And For All?

According to the TeleBarclaygraph this morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer Fiscally Incontinent & Incompetent Glove-Puppet-In-Chief Alistair Darling has dropped a strong hint that the national ID cards proposal is going to be dropped.
Which is excellent news, if true, although, as quickly picked up by several UK libertarian bloggers, the key issue here surely is not so much the "...biometric passports can do the same job..." issue, as the continuation of the all-encompassing state database comprising the iniquitous National Identity Register.
With the need now to re-cast next year's budget expenses downwards in the wake of Deputy Sean Power's successful heading off of more taxes on Middle Jersey, perhaps the Treasury Minister could take the opportunity to pronounce the authoritarian and illiberal idea of any ID card system or centralised identity database for Jersey to be totally and absolutely dead for any time in the foreseeable future.
Confirmation please, Minister.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Internet Journalism, New Media, and Political Reporting

Challenging the Mainstream Media’s Self-Assumed Monopoly
Clameur de Haro's fellow-blogger Jersey 24/7 commented recently on the threat which the traditional press feels is posed generally by the growth in internet journalism, and particularly, the blogosphere: and J-24/7 quite correctly links this to the concerns of Jersey’s political bloggers that the local “accredited” press are trying to stifle the development of the medium.
As political bloggers we have a great opportunity to put our collective case across at the moment, because after the recent kerfuffle about rights of access for the reporting (and in particular, the filming) of Scrutiny hearings, the Media Working Party set up under the chairmanship of Senator Ben Shenton has issued a call for evidence (“Publicising the States and Scrutiny”). In particular it asks -
Do you have an opinion on the use of blog sites?
Who do you believe to be ‘the media’?
and its terms of reference require it, after considering “…..the distinction, if any, between ‘bloggers’ and the ‘official’ press…”, to come to a definition of “the media”.
Clameur de Haro’s view is that no coherent definition of the media in 2010 can possibly exclude the political blogosphere: and that regular local political bloggers have just as much right as the MSM to attend and report events like Scrutiny hearings, should receive formal press accreditation to do so, and should be included in the definition of “the media”.
There’s very little doubt that the MSM in general and the Dead Tree Press in particular see the growth of the local political blogosphere as an unwelcome development at best and a threat at worst, and would like to negate it or marginalise it so as to protect its near-monopoly of political reporting and comment. The Jersey Evening [sic] Post kicked off its campaign of objection - in what it presumably thought was a subtle way - with Christine Herbert’s op-ed piece in last Saturday’s edition (still not posted online yet, incidentally – now there’s web-savvy for you….).
Writing about blogs, Ms Herbert professed herself to be “….a firm believer in the freedom of speech – and in the freedom of information” – but here comes the qualification “when it is fair and in the public interest”. That’s exactly the point, Ms Herbert, which you signally didn’t go on to address. Before the development of internet journalism, it was the MSM which exclusively determined what was “fair” or “in the public interest” and either allowed or denied the public access to it: the MSM no longer has that monopoly, and like all monopolists whose position is challenged, it doesn’t like it.
She went on to say “Sadly, blogs in general are often little more than a licence to bully and victimise without fear of retribution”. In some cases that’s correct, but as Mr David Rotherham pointed out in a splendid riposte a couple of days later (curiously, also not viewable online), many concern themselves with the same kind of issues and material as the Dead Tree Press (sometimes rather more analytically), and no-one is forced to read a bad blog among the many alternatives available.
Ms Herbert continued “The information contained on the internet is often untruthful and lacks the kind of rigour and responsibility that more formal forms of communication have been subject to for many years”. Well, that’s sometimes true – but just a few lines above her blogging-related comments, when talking about the finance industry’s marketing initiatives in the Middle East, Ms Herbert referred overwhelmingly to Dubai, and used the phrase “families who had made their money from the liquid gold known as oil”. CdeH hopes that she has by now had it pointed out to her that Dubai has virtually no oil of its own, and that most of the UAE’s oil reserves are those of Abu Dhabi – as most bloggers of CdeH’s acquaintance well know. Not an especially momentous error, perhaps, and it doesn’t destroy the sense of the piece, but it shows that lack of journalistic rigour isn’t by any means exclusive to specifically internet journalism.
But the JEP isn’t alone: dislike of the accelerating development of new political media runs across most of the MSM, which increasingly floats reasons of public propriety as an unconvincing camouflage for its innate protectionism.
Mr Peter Wilby, the former editor of the New Statesman, referring to MEP Daniel Hannan’s monstering of Gordon Brown in the European Parliament which became such a hit on YouTube, is on record as saying “The online success of Daniel Hannan’s speech…………proves what we knew: the internet lacks quality control”. Echoes of Ms Christine Herbert there, methinks.
To quote Daniel Hannan (and with a large H/T to J-24/7 for directing CdeH to it) in reply -
“Yup. That’s the thing about the internet: it turns the quality filters off. Until very recently, few of us could get political news direct from source. It had to be interpreted for us by a BBC man with a microphone or a newspaper’s political correspondent. Now, though, people can make their own minds up. The message has been disintermediated. What Mr Wilby seems to mean when he complains that the internet “lacks quality control” is not that my speech was ungrammatical or shoddily constructed, but that its content was disagreeable. The quality filters he evidently has in mind would screen out points of view that he considers unacceptable”.
Or to quote Douglas Carswell MP -
“….the web should put a smile on our face – it provided the means to change. The web will do to the princely quangocrats and the priesthood of professional politicians who preside over us what the printing press did to their forebears. It’ll smash concentrations of power in our political system – just as it’s doing in retail and the media. Barriers to entry in politics will go. Clear distinctions between amateur and professional will blur. A few years ago, (Polly) Toynbee and co formed an unchallenged aristocracy of commentators. Today, often to their consternation, they have to keep up with the likes of Guido Fawkes and a democratised commentariat.”
Messrs Hannan and Carswell express the MSM’s (and the JEP’s) fears in a nutshell, Clameur de Haro suspects. The fundamental point – and benefit - of internet journalism is precisely, as Mr Hannan puts it, that it does disintermediate the message: so that the MSM is no longer the only interpreter, the only route and the only filter through which the public has to accept its news and comment without an alternative source.
So the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and the game and its rules have irrevocably changed. And we’re starting to see instances of governments and organisations admitting this fact, recognising that the definition of “the media” has broken open and widened for all time, accepting that it’s better to acknowledge and provide for this rather than try and ignore it or thwart it, and changing their media practices to acknowledge the role and reach of the new, “social” media.
As recently as 16 November, for example, the UK announced a review of the government briefing / parliamentary lobby system to end the predominance of Dead Tree Press journalists in the lobby and accommodate in future all forms of new media in briefings about government and parliamentary business. And on 07 December, NATO held its first ever briefing for political bloggers, inviting several authors from the UK political blogosphere to NATO HQ in Brussels for a day-long briefing with senior personnel, mostly about Afghanistan.
Jersey’s government needs to make sure that it’s not left behind the curve on this subject, by resisting the likely blandishments and objections from the MSM and embracing both the distribution and reporting possibilities that Jersey’s new media and its practitioners open up.
Admitting local political bloggers to the hitherto closely-guarded and jealously-protected ranks of the accredited media is vital to increased transparency (which politicians are fond of talking about), because it enables the message to be taken directly to the electorate without it being subject to the necessarily one-dimensional filter of the monopoly MSM’s interpretation of it. CdeH suspects, for example, that two or three local bloggers, irrespective of their individual political leanings, might well make a considerably better fist of reporting Scrutiny hearings and the like than JEP reporters subjected to firstly, space constraints imposed by the need to sell advertising space and secondly the whims and prejudices of the sub-editor.
So Clameur de Haro is inclined to spend a little time during those dog days between Christmas and New Year preparing a submission to the Media Working Party arguing strongly for the local blogosphere to be regarded unequivocally as an integral part of the media and accredited as such, with all the privileges – and responsibilities – of access which that entails. Comments, ideas, and contributions from fellow-bloggers welcome.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Inconvenient Truths About “An Inconvenient Truth”

Hearty congratulations and support from Clameur de Haro to Deputy Phil Rondel, who in the States last Tuesday warned the increasingly supine Minister for Education Sport & Culture, James Reed, that “An Inconvenient Truth”, that provenly inaccurate, meretricious farrago of cod science produced by that execrable peddler of false green eco-wackery propaganda Al Gore, should not be shown in Jersey schools.
Mr Rondel’s reported comment about the judicial objections to its showing in UK schools, while correct, doesn’t go halfway towards describing the full extent of the criticism heaped on it from the Bench.
In 2007, Mr Justice Burton, sitting in the Administrative Division of the High Court, ruled that showing the film, without both correction of its errors and presentation of the alternative hypothesis, breached the 1996 Education Act and constituted political indoctrination. Not only did nine inaccuracies specifically have to be drawn to the attention of school audiences, but more importantly, not all of the film’s inaccuracies were considered, as Burton J requested only a sample for the purposes of considering the case.
Clameur de Haro’s readers can see here the summary of the judgement, and the links to the ancillary submissions. They really should be read, in full, to derive a complete picture of the extent of the errors and fallacies peddled as incontrovertible truth.
Since that time, even more, and serious, flaws, both scientific and in biased selectivity of data, have come to light. To recount just a few -
Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph, on which Gore relied so much, was confirmed and subsequently accepted even by the IPCC as being a fraud: firstly omitting, then dramatically under-representing the Mediaeval Warming Period, and secondly being based on a computer algorithm which generated the desired headline-grabbing hockey stick result no matter what data was fed into the algorithm.
In claiming far more frequent use of the Thames Flood Barrier and increased flooding on the East Coast of England (due, naturally, to global warming [sic]), Gore presented flood instance statistics going back to 1930. Highly selective, and suspiciously so – had he gone back just two years earlier, to 1928, he would have had to include the worst Thames flood on record, which occurred during a period of cooling temperatures, and he neglected to mention that the East Coast of England has been geologically sinking at the rate of several inches a year, both from general slow subsidence and the extraction of water from naturally-formed underground reservoirs.
His apocalyptic predictions for the melting of the entire Antarctic ice sheet turned out to have been predicated only on data for the c.7% of the entire Antarctic land mass constituted by the Antarctic Peninsula, but which Gore then extrapolated to apply to the whole. The Antarctic Peninsula is now considered to merit a different climate classification from the rest of the continent under the Köppen climate classification system, due to the influence which the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has on it, while the main ice sheet of the entire Antarctic Continent, accounting for something in excess of 80% of all the world’s ice, is both thickening and cooling.
The best summary of all the main scientific errors and all the flawed conclusions can be found in this paper, entitled “35 Inconvenient Truths – The Errors in Al Gore’s Movie” prepared for the Science and Public Policy Institute. It too should also be read, in full, by anyone with even the remotest connection to the possibility that Gore’s discredited fallacy-fest should be foisted on to impressionable young minds as though it was established and undisputed fact, and without any qualification.
According to the Jersey Evening [sic] Post’s report, Mr Reed responded with nothing more than a typically weasel-worded reply to the effect that he would pass on Mr Rondel’s concerns to his department.
That is just not good enough. Mr Reed is, whether he likes it or not, the repository of both a statutory duty and a moral responsibility to deliver an education system to the Island’s children free from the blatantly biased and inaccurate propaganda of the type of which Gore’s film is such a baleful example. And with the scandal of Climategate and the revelations of data manipulation and concealment in the Climate Research Unit currently breaking all around us (has he not heard of this?), for him not to undertake to give it his urgent personal attention and ensure that the film is not shown in schools without further reference back, is little short of a grave dereliction of duty.
At one time Clameur de Haro was disposed to think quite favourably of Mr Reed, but no more. Recent events, in particular his reactions to the suspensions/discipline issue, his denial of falling primary school standards, and his falling in with the majority criminality-excusing view on the withdrawal of anonymity from young violent offenders, give the distinct impression of a minister who has gone native and become house-trained, and a minister who has quite visibly been captured by the triumvirate of producer interests which dominate the education industry – his department’s civil servants, the teaching unions, and the fashionable educational theorists - so his reaction is, regrettably, not surprising. He is beginning to look ineffective, and out of his depth.
So – once again – plaudits to Deputy Rondel for raising this issue: Clameur de Haro pleads with him not to let the matter rest.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

A Dearth of Hard Facts In The Charities Furore

The aspect which seems to Clameur de Haro to have been completely overlooked in the recent furore about Mr Edward Trevor’s ill-judged utterances on charity collecting is whether or not there is factual substance to his remarks, however inelegantly expressed, about the precise sources of HIV/AIDS infection in the Western world.
Mr Trevor did not, to put it mildly, express himself well in any event: but in conflating the issue of infection source with the issue of who should or should not be collecting for which particular charity in alleged competition with the Joint Charities Christmas Appeal, he was incredibly foolish, and thereby opened himself up to the emotion-based and fact-free criticism which duly ensued.
It sheds however an interesting light that, during the time which has elapsed since all the criticism about the tenor of Mr Trevor’s comments, and in all the personal odium heaped upon him, there has been no discernable rebuttal, based on established statistics, of his factual claims.
Deconstructing those from his opinions, what he claimed, if the reports in the Jersey Evening [sic] Post and its transcript of his BBC Radio Jersey interview were to be believed, was that the primary causal sources of HIV/AIDS in Western countries are, with the exception of blood transfusions, behaviours over which the individual is able to exercise control or choice.
This is, or ought to be, a simple issue of fact, easily verified from readily available statistical sources, and publishable. Yet on this purely factual issue, there has been silence – including from ACET itself, which might reasonably have been expected in the circumstances to have issued an unequivocal factual rebuttal, and which would have been far more persuasive.
If accurate statistics showed that the primary cause of acquiring HIV/AIDS in the Western world is involuntary or accidental, and is unrelated to self-directed behaviours, then the criticisms of Mr Trevor would have been factually vindicated. If however, Mr Trevor’s claims turned out to be factually accurate, that may well be uncomfortable reading or listening for some, but should not on its own be sufficient reason for the virulent abuse hurled at him.
That abuse seems to have been motivated primarily, not just because of his opinions differing from those of his detractors, but due to those opinions being outside the spectrum of permitted thought as defined by the bien-pensant cultural left, a point which was picked up by several of the more astute on-line commenters to the JEP.
This is the true danger of political correctness (or Frankfurt School cultural marxism to give it its more descriptive and accurate name), the top-down imposition of curtailment and restriction of freedom of thought and speech by which whole areas of opinion are sought to be rendered incapable or forbidden of expression.
For the JEP to aver that Mr Trevor’s remarks were “unacceptable” is profoundly disturbing, for a responsible media outlet should not be, or be perceived to be, curtailing legitimate freedom of speech in this (or indeed in any) way. Equally, the statement attributed to Mrs Rosemary Ruddy of ACET, that Mr Trevor’s views were “untenable”, is plainly nonsense, since all any view held is by definition tenable, however repugnant it may be and however much it may offend the recipient.
HIV/AIDS, however acquired, is an unfortunate fact of life, and ACET is a valuable charity, dispensing advice and support in an admirably non-judgmental way: Jersey is undoubtedly the better for existence. But Clameur de Haro wonders if the lady doth perhaps protest too much? He trusts that the executive director of a HIV/AIDS charity in particular, in describing as “untenable” views such as those unwisely articulated by Mr Trevor, would not seek to use the dubious techniques of political correctness to divert attention from statistical facts which many might prefer not to acknowledge and which might risk – however unjustifiably – mitigating against the valuable service which ACET provides.
Mrs Ruddy, together with Mr Trevor’s numerous other detractors, might have been better advised to counter his ill-advised and poorly expressed remarks with statistical data proving them to be, quite simply, untrue, rather than with opprobrium heavy on opinion but light on hard fact from impeccable, and verifiable, sources. Presumably ACET possesses this information - it might still at this stage put the matter to rest by publishing the hard statistical data on the actual sources of infection in Western countries, and the extent to which there is, or is not, a correlation with multi-partner sexual activity, so that the public could with hindsight better judge the extent of Mr Trevor’s transgression.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Stuart Syvret – A Sick Joke

So, observes, Clameur de Haro, t’would seem that Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus, aka Stuart Syvret, phoned in to School last week claiming that he has a sick note from Matron, and needs to be excused from games.
Such is Mr Syvret’s (totally misplaced) opinion of his own pre-eminent intellectual brilliance, and such his contrasting opinion of the congenital stupidity of virtually everyone else, that he probably genuinely assumes that no-one at all is astute enough to spot this ploy for what it presumably is – an attempt to avoid suspension on the grounds of his continued absence from Assembly proceedings and the consequential discontinuation of his eligibility to receive remuneration.
Perhaps his erstwhile host and like-minded oddball Mr John Hemmjng needs to buy more vegetable oil to power his car, and is demanding some contribution to offset his continuing hospitality.
Those who seek to support Mr Syvret in this enterprise do us, and indeed themselves, no favours whatsoever. In the light of recent revelations and judicial opinions, plenty of people would say that Fugitivus Laxativus Diminutivus is indisputably sick – although not, perhaps, in any medical sense.
Long may he find a return incompatible with his health [sic]. Long may he continue to benefit our polity by his non-participation in it – lock, stock, and delicate medical condition.
Add to del.icio.usDigg It!Stumble This