Saturday, 22 September 2018

One Government, Team Oligarchy

Another week, another consultant, another few millions down the drain, and another bout of patronising sloganeering.

In the latest episode of Kommandant Karl's quest for lebensraum on sunny Jersey, it's come out in a recent States announcement that actually, the five consultants comprising Parker's current hit squad (who as of the beginning of September have already cost the public purse over £9 million) aren't going to be enough to stomp out the remaining vestigial traces of democracy in Jersey create a "one government, Team Jersey" culture in the civil service, and that we're going to be bunging another £3.5 million the way of yet another gang of consultants to deliver the corporate-isation we apparently so desperately need.

Quote from the SOJ statement, "Team Jersey partner announced", dated 20th September 2018: "The first phase of the £3.5 million ‘Team Jersey’ initiative will see a group of ministers, stakeholders, islanders and employees working with TDP to co-design the programme."

"This will then be rolled out to all 7,500 employees to improve teamwork, collaboration and leadership capability, develop new ways of working, build a customer-focused approach, and help to embed the behaviours and values that underpin the new structure."

TDP refers to the TDP Group, a consultancy firm based in Halifax in west Yorkshire, and I can only assume that "stakeholders" refers to the crony capitalists in the financial sector. I can almost imagine the board room meetings between SOJ and TDP - "hey, guys, you know what politics in Jersey really needs? Even more disproportionate influence from the financial sector!".

Main question here - why have we been previously led to believe that Parker and the Gang of Four were going to transform the civil service themselves, and then suddenly this new group come onto the scene? For someone whose election manifesto included a commitment to "achieving greater value for money" in the public sector, John le Fondré seems like he's being way too easily taken for a ride.

It's not like this reform process is actually getting anywhere quickly, either. The civil service is practically in a state of anarchy - departments are shifting responsibilities, ministers aren't sure of their portfolios, Parker and co. are tossing more and more consultants and transformation programs into the ring and pouring gasoline onto a fast-building fire that seems sure to end with a major civil service strike and showdown between public sector unions and the state.

I had hoped before the election that if JLF ended up as Chief Minister, he'd be able to try and bring this gravy train to a screeching halt.

Seems he's perfectly happy to allow us to run right off the tracks instead.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Lawyers, legal aid and the world's smallest violin

Are you a rapacious greedy shyster concerned about politicians trying to reform the gigantic scam you and your buddies sell to keep the lights on?

 Do you think access to justice is a privilege to be enjoyed by rich people rather than a human right essential to any democracy worth the name?

Do you suffer from a particularly nasty persecution complex?

Then maybe, just maybe, sir, the Jersey Law Society is just what you've been looking for!

This week in Jersey: y'all get to hear the playing of the world's smallest violin, as our lawyers threaten to go on strike over reforms to legal aid currently being pushed through the States. The reforms in question? Brand new, shiny Access to Justice laws, which introduce a new legal aid scheme intended to make it easier for more vulnerable and less well-off members of our society to access legal support if they end up in the dock. Pretty uncontroversial, right? Access to justice is a fundamental underpinning of the rule of law, right? It would be completely insane for anyone to actually get offended by the idea of helping poor people afford a lawyer, right?


Or, at least, the president of the Law Society of Jersey seems to think so.

Sadly, the rag's coverage didn't include the whining email that Law Society president John Kelleher sent to his members on this topic, but it did include a few choice excerpts which to my mind really demonstrate the pure stone that Kelleher's heart is truly made of. Quote: "The effect of such changes would be to increase direct political control over the guidelines, while reducing the Law Society’s influence and involvement, with the potential for arbitrary and unilateral changes to the guidelines to be imposed."

"These changes in the round, if accepted and voted in by the States of Jersey government would in all likelihood increase the legal aid burden upon all the members of the Law Society."

Oh no! Shock horror! Hold the phone! Kelleher and his bandits might be obliged to surrender some of their control over the legal aid system to our democratically elected representatives! They might even have to help slightly more working-class people use the justice system for its intended purpose!!! Oh, the sheer humanity.....

Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Does anyone seriously believe this gang of spivs has any intent whatsoever other than to maintain the cashflow into their own pockets? What a joke. It's worth noting, as the rag did, that while the current threshold for legal aid stands at a total household income of less than £45,000, the Law Society wants to see that reduced to £30,001.

That's less than the combined salary of two people working 40 hours a week shop floor at the McDonald's in Hillgrove Street. Go in there and check - it's right up there on the wall. £18K a year for 40 hours a week. The combined earnings of two people in McDonald's every year is over £6000 more than the Law Society's recommended maximum threshold for legal aid.

Have any of these gangsters tried surviving on £30K a year?

Go on, lads. Go on strike. Show us what you're made of.

The people of Jersey are laughing in your face and spitting in your path.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Forget a drugs debate - it's time for a drugs revolution

So, Tracey Vallois thinks "it's time for an Islandwide drugs debate".

You might've seen a few days ago how Joel Lewis, former Vic College student and wannabe Mr Big,  got done for importing 300 pills of ecstasy in the Royal Court on Tuesday. You also might've seen how Advocate Sarah Dale, Lewis's defense, managed to pull a fast one on the Superior Number and get Lewis community service on the misleading argument that he might still be able to take up his bursary at Sandhurst (something which the army's own website proves false). You might also know that the normal sentence for drug smuggling of this sort is around ten years in the slammer, and that the court had recommended a two and a half year sentence.

Vallois wasn't best pleased, and she makes a worthwile criticism of the judicial system's decision, as well as making the point that the States Assembly needs to have a new conversation about the rules surrounding the use of drugs in Jersey.

Er, no shit, Tracey.

Of all the nannying and condescending policies the state in Jersey insists on pursuing, drug prohibition is perhaps the most ridiculous. The international failure of the so-called "war on drugs" is no longer an arguable opinion, it is an objective fact. After four decades of warfare against the international drug trade by the US government and other states and groups, profits from illegal drugs are soaring, levels of drug use in the UK are at an all-time high, and some poor bugger seems to land themselves in the courts every other week on charges of drug possession, drug smuggling or drug dealing. Prisoners banged up in HMP La Moye for drug offences make up, as of exactly this time last year, nearly 30% of the prison population - higher than any other category of offences. Across Europe, the winds of decriminalisation of "softer" drugs like cannabis are blowing.

Jersey can forget a drugs debate. Our current reactionary way of dealing with drug users requires a drugs revolution.

First of all, the possession (without intent to supply) of any illegal drug should be immediately decriminalised without reservation. Drug use is a victimless crime - while "softer" drugs are simply recreational substances, much like alcohol or tobacco (which the state frankly has no business telling intelligent adults whether they can use or not), people unfortunate enough to be addicted to "harder" drugs, especially heroin, need treatment rather than criminalisation.
People use drugs, and other intoxicating substances, predominantly either to distract from the abject horror of everyday life in the hellworld of late capitalism or because they are satisfying an addiction. Neither of these will change by locking someone up or forcing them to do the state's slave labour in the form of "community service" - addiction to serious drugs, and the poverty that causes it, requires professional support, not time in a jail cell. Drug addiction is a disease like any other - time it was treated like one.

In the longer term, the government must bring the distribution of these drugs into the light. The fact that drug dealing is currently the domain of shady blokes in dark streets who own six different mobiles and have a direct material interest in getting you addicted means drugs are a Wild West - no regulation, no taxes and certainly no concern for your safety. Distribution of this stuff is far, far too serious to be left to the laissez-faire approach - the drug distribution business must be legalised, regulated and made to conform to strict safety standards. It's a well-known fact that drug dealers cut their supply with assorted substitutes such as brick dust, laundry detergent and caffeine powder in order to rip off customers, and that this is a contributing factor to the risks of using such drugs. So - regulate it and tax it! This approach, as opposed to the current one of leaving drug dealing unregulated, untaxed and unsafe, would make drug use much more safe for users, ensure that ordinary folks don't have to come into contact with criminals and provide a nice boost for the taxman.

In the long term, legalisation and regulation of all drugs is the only rational approach, the only humane approach, and the only practical approach. Prohibition simply doesn't work - the only alternative is a truly libertarian and people-first policy of immediate decriminalisation and long-term total legalisation of all drugs, in a society that treats drug addiction as a health problem requiring support for sufferers rather than a social problem requiring police teams and jail cells.

Hopefully, Vallois's new debate means a new approach can get a fair hearing, and we can begin to build a more egalitarian and humane drugs policy. Either that, or we can keep dealing with the complex problems posed by drug addiction in ways like this:

Which do you prefer?

Monday, 10 September 2018

The cost-of-food scandal - an masterclass in the inefficiencies of capitalism

Tony O'Neill is sick of your shit.

In a whining letter in today's rag, chief exec of Sandpiper CI - the franchise that runs a lot of big-brand businesses in Jersey like Costa, Iceland and Cornish Bakery - has lashed out at critics who claim that his food is overpriced compared to the UK.  In his reasoning, he sets out a couple of major points explaining why this is - and, in his mind, always will be - the case. These are:

- UK food is exempt from VAT
- Transport costs are very high
- Labour costs are akin to London's
- The new retail tax has pushed up prices
- Store fit-out costs are 25% more than in the UK
- Jersey can't benefit from economies of scale to the same degree the UK can

Cry me a river, Mr O'Neill. Cry me a river.

Sandpiper is a private company - as far as they see it, their first obligation is to their shareholders, not to you or anyone else who doesn't own stock in their company. Even in a life-or-death business like food retail, their attitude is that they've still got to make a profit for their owners.

I'll leave aside the fairly obvious question of whether it's moral to profit off of something everyone needs to survive and simply ask this - why is something so critical to our very survival as an island in the hands of a corporate mafia?

It doesn't take a genius to look at Mr O'Neill's reasoning and think that a lot of that wouldn't be so much of a problem if the people importing food didn't have to make a profit - say, if they were nationalised under the management of the workers who actually do the heavy lifting, so to speak. Sadly, Sandpiper doesn't publish its accounts, so we can't actually dive into how much money citizens could potentially save if the business was run in a socialist fashion, but we can certainly ask the question - is for-profit food distribution, controlled by one large private company or a few large private companies, really the best deal for Jersey? Could cash be shaved off manager's salaries by workers' self-management, or would the lack of an obligation to make a big profit drive down prices for ordinary people? You've gotta ask - is the current system a rip-off, and if so, why is it being allowed to continue?

One need only look at Venezuela for how these oligopolies on crucial supplies like food - or even private, for-profit distribution of food at all - can be weaponised against the population they supposedly exist to serve. Since the early 2000s, opposition-affiliated corporations have systematically hoarded food and medicine in order to push up prices and undermine the socialist Bolivarian government. Opposition-controlled offshore corporations have been caught redirecting food supplies to smugglers near the Colombian border, who then sell the food back to Venezuelans at a higher price. Could this happen in Jersey if a socialist government was ever to be elected?

Corporate ownership of the crucial resource that is food distribution is an immoral, inefficient and dangerous rip-off that drives up profits for a few fat cats like Tony O'Neill and drives up prices for the rest of us. It's time these oligopolies were wound up and shut down - unless, of course, we want the cost of living to keep rocketing up and the continual increase of the amount of people living in relative income.

Do you?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The deradicalisation of Pride and the case for a left counter-narrative

Another year, another corporate-sponsored, bourgeois, defanged Pride.

First off, I want to make sure this isn't taken the wrong way. I enjoy Pride - it's a good event and it does always provoke a reaction from indignant straight people demanding "straight pride" or saying that Pride isn't needed any more, blah blah blah. It's good fun and I don't like having to knock it.

But good Lord, does it really have to be so defanged and deradicalised?

Guess who two major sponsors of this year's Pride were? That's right, folks - G4S (the company whose toxic homophobic culture was said to have contributed to radicalising the Pulse nightclub shooter) and Channel Insurance Brokers, an insurance company based in Guernsey - AKA, a gang of people who make money off other people's chance misfortune.

Oh, and did I mention that the Guernsey pigs decided to join in by putting the Pride logo on two of their cop cars?

Call me a bitter old socialist, but I don't like corporate or police sponsorship of Pride, because by doing it the queer community is playing right into the hands of the capitalist system that seeks to use our struggle to prop itself up. Let me explain. Capitalism benefits from the oppression of queer people because the fight for queer liberation - gay marriage, hate crime legislation, equalised age of consent, etc. - provides a nice distraction from the fight against the corrupt system itself. By dividing ordinary folks into different categories based on sexuality and encouraging one group to hate the other, it means we're all too busy fighting each other to fight the ruling class. This is true of the struggles for racial and women's liberation as well. That certainly isn't to say that we shouldn't fight these struggles - they are absolutely critical to any revolutionary struggle, and no-one is free until we all are - but that we must combine these struggles with a class struggle and the building of class consciousness. And, when capitalism does allow further rights for queer people, it allows them to defang and deradicalise the queer liberation movement and portray the system itself as "progressive".

You'll see this very often in liberation movements - liberation groups are conceded a few inches of ground, and in return the system expects them to shut up and deradicalise. "Alright, we'll decriminalise homosexuality - now shut up". "OK, we'll introduce civil partnerships - now shut up". "Alright, here's gay marriage - now shut up". This often plays out in dialogue between queer and straight people - a straight person will question the need for the queer liberation movements or for Pride when "you already have rights" - or, even worse, privileged queer people (usually white, gay men) will ensure that the movement remains deradicalised because their own privilege means that a radical queer movement is a threat to them.

So, what's the alternative?

Leftists have a long history of "alternative Pride" activities protesting against the complicity of the queer movement with capitalism. One example is No Justice, No Pride, a radical group of organisers in the District of Colombia who attempted to halt D.C. Pride last year by forming a blockade along 15th Street with railings, a long line of activists handcuffed together and a car, while members of the group handed out flyers condemning the Pride parade's sponsors such as Wells Fargo (the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline) and Lockheed Martin (a defense contractor and weapons manufacturer responsible for selling weapons to countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia). Organising this sort of large-scale and confrontational operation would be difficult to pull off in Jersey, but there's nothing stopping leftists disgusted by the corporate sponsorship of CI Pride from handing out flyers, putting up posters or organising some sort of presence at Pride to ensure the corporate narrative doesn't go uninterrupted.

Pride is and always will be a good thing.

There's no reason why we can't make it better.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Hey, kids - fascism isn't cool

I've been inspired to write today's blog by some delightful graffiti I found today while using the loos in Snow Hill. As you can see from the photo below, some edgy scumbag has taken to drawing a Nazi swastika on the Jersey Action Against Rape sticker and scrawling "WOPS OUT" (wop is an offensive slur for Italian people) in full capitals.

I'm beginning to be slightly depressed by the frequency of this sort of thing. If it seems we're hearing that some bell with a marker pen has taken to drawing fascist symbols god-knows-where way more often than we should be, it's because we are. July 2017 - the cops announce that they're increasing focus on bunkers following a wave of Nazi graffitiAugust 2017 - 40 swastikas are sprayed onto Nazi bunkers around the islandMay this year - Kristina Moore's election poster gets daubed with a swastikaJune this year - 68 swastikas are drawn at various locations around the slave labour memorial at Noirmont PointAugust this year - 27 swastikas, along with the letters SS and HH, are found drawn on bunkers at Elizabeth Castle.


Drawing swastikas on historic monuments in an island which was occupied by Nazis for five years and whose government co-operated in the deportation of thousands of Jews and English people to concentration camps IS NOT ON.  

Jersey is pretty unique in Europe for a number of reasons - one is the level of collaboration by our occupation government with the Nazis. Did you know Jersey and Guernsey are the only places in Europe apart from the Soviet Union to have had the same government before, during and after the Second World War? No-one was ever tried for the crimes they committed during the war - hell, the owners of the JEP even thought to cash in printing Nazi propaganda. Our relationship with the occupation is still very much unresolved and hot-button. 

Two reasons why drawing swastikas around the place isn't on.

One - people were deported to Jersey by the Organisation Todt to work as slave labourers. Many died. I don't really want to live in an island where people happily piss on the graves of the people who died while enslaved by the Nazis by drawing Nazi symbols on the bunkers the Todt helped build. 

Two - it normalises fascism and fascist and racist symbols in everyday life. No-one thought it could happen in Germany, either - your edgy swastika graffiti is at best incredibly disrespectful and offensive and at worst normalising of fascism in everyday life. 

On a more positive note, fair play to Deputy Kevin Pamplin, who condemned this rising tide of edgelord fascism the other day after seeing swastikas drawn on a toilet door in the central market. 

In any case...

Monday, 3 September 2018

Wage bill for Parker's team tops £9 million as fifth consultant joins the team

The grand old gravy train is rollin' down the tracks yet again at SOJ headquarters.

As the Gang of Five - now, I suppose, the Gang of Six - stumbles from scandal to scandal, it's come out that Ein Kompanieführer has decreed that the public will be footing the bill for another one of his pet sycophants.

So, who's our shiny, expensive newest consultant? A Mr. John Laverick, former corporate suit at, er, Carillion, the construction firm which collapsed earlier this year after racking up £7 billion in debts and is now under investigation by the Insolvency Service in the UK. Fresh from overseeing the biggest compulsory liquidation in British legal history, Laverick is now Parker's "chief information officer" - in English, the new head of IT. He's the latest addition to Parker's hit squad, now comprising four UK consultants being paid something between £1,200 and £1,400 a day. Yes, folks, you heard that right, over a thousand quid a day.

Or are they?

According to the rag's coverage, someone - presumably a disgruntled civil servant - has handed them new information suggesting that these ludicrous rates have actually gone up - their source has suggested that the bill for the Gang of Five has crept up to over £9 million in less than a year.

Parker and co. must be laughing all the way to the bank.