Archive | May, 2012

Russian Grannies

27 May

The Eurovision used to be a big deal back in the day. Now, no one cares about it. But being the loyal Eurovision supporter since Estonia won in 2001, I watch it every year, despite how bad it gets. I do miss Terry Wogan I must say..

The cute little grannies from a small village in Russia, who are saving up to rebuild their church, were without a doubt the HIGHLIGHT of the night.

Catchy stuff.

P.s. I find it absolutely hilairious that Spain’s finance minister (or someone of the sort) ordered the Spanish entry not to win, as they could not afford it…

Capital Punishment – yes or no?

25 May

Yes it’s the eternal debate. No, no one has come to its conclusion.

I won’t bore you with statistics as I’m sure you can find these for yourself to either strengthen or weaken my argument.

It has existed largely due to claims of its effectiveness in deterrence. However, by comparing the countries and states that use it, the link between the murder rate and the death penalty, as well as studies of many criminologists show it does not act as an effective deterrent. This is hardly surprising though, as the people that are most likely to commit the crimes worthy of the death penalty, I’m sure we can all think of an infamous psychopath, are unlikely to be deterred or care enough to distinguish between life imprisonment and execution. Despite this, many agree with the lighthouse idea that “”If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.”

In the 21st century, we would expect that if the death penalty is still thriving in certain states, then the most human methods possible would be used. Currently the methods vary between the lethal injection, a gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and a firing squad. Studies are still being conducted as to how some of these can be considered “humane”. Do we even need studies to do this for us?

Many of us see it as an abuse of human rights, which I personally find bitterly ironic despite the universal nature of these rights, which has become an increasingly sensitive subject. Let us compare our attitude towards the death penalty to the recently cancelled Chinese show “Interview before execution” in which journalist Ding Yu would interview people on death row every week, often those with only 30 minutes or so before they were to be executed. Videos which were available a few months ago have conveniently disappeared…

Closure for the families of the victims is an argument which has become less prominent as even families of victims have signed petitions to have the death penalty abolished despite their obvious emotional connections with it. Also, I don’t believe even doing so would bring any form of sufficient closure to victims families. The argument that by doing so we are somehow “treating darkness with darkness”, “evil with evil” or “stooping down to their level” is absolutely ridiculous. Should retribution not exist within out JUSTICE system? What IS pathetic is the fact that for killing someone, people often receive a maximum of 8 years under the UK’s legal system. Well that seems fair doesn’t it? By accepting our citizenship to whichever country we belong to, we agree to adhere to the laws within it, despite the fact we don’t have much of a choice. I don’t see why the death penalty should be any different. Although horribly overused I don’t see why “an eye for an eye” should not apply.

I must admit, that as a Jew, the religious perspective is a little confusing. The commandment not to kill is contradictory to the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” principle. Jewish courts that implemented the death penalty did exist, though there were an exhaustive number of conditions which meant it was hardly ever applied as well as being encouraged to avoid it. People claim that the state should not be responsible for people’s lives however the state is almost definitely in control, not only through the justice system, but of almost every aspect of our lives. Isn’t this simply a reason reform and develop the state? The issue of cost, due to the length of time that people are on death row, is not solved through execution, but again, isn’t this just a reason to reform the death penalty rather than abolish it?

My final point, and the only reason that I cannot wholeheartedly agree with the death penalty is the possibility of convicting the innocent. This is best demonstrated by quoting William Blackstone, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer”. Although some argue that this has largely been a result of legal technicalities rather than fundamental changes, there have been 130 exonerations in theUSsince 1973. The case of Derek Bentley, familiar to theUK, saw justice being provided 45 years after his hanging.

Without this issue, which outweighs all arguments in favour of the death penalty in my belief, and the other restrictive technicalities, I would have no moral objection to the death penalty.

The King

23 May

Excuse the cheesy title…

So this past week I seem to have discovered the wonder that was Elvis Presley and have been listening to his music non-stop. Many songs I found myself mouthing the lyrics to despite never realising (despite his distinctive voice) it was him!

This led me to a quick wikipedia session on various interesting periods of his life and of course the disocery of his relationship with Priscilla. A thought that arose pretty much immediately was the connection between success and faithfulness. It seems that any successful musician, actor, entertainer simlpy cannot restrain themselves from various affairs…..  The quality of music (aside from a number of noteable exceptions) has deteriorated to singing about girls in clubs and adventures in the *cough* bedroom. I wonder if this, as well as the *issue* mentioned will simply get worse…

P.s. They’re both so beautiful….

We’re going to kidnap you Sir

22 May

You learn a lot from wikipedia….

A plot to kidnap Douglas-Home in April 1964 was foiled by the Prime Minister himself. Two left-wing students from the University of Aberdeen followed him to the house of John and Priscilla Buchan, where he was staying. He was alone at the time and answered the door, where the students told him that they planned to kidnap him. He responded, “I suppose you realise if you do, the Conservatives will win the election by 200 or 300.” He gave his intending abductors some beer, and they abandoned their plot….

Issues with our Constitutional arrangement

20 May

Despite the fact I have 4 exams next week, here I am updating this thing…   I did write this a while ago though so I’m letting myself off. This is based largely on the wonders of my Politics lessons regarding the issue, however the concerns are as relevant as they could be….

The extradition of Abu Hamza and others         –           The Other Side of Human Rights Abuse

Although the public mood has unsympathetically called for the deportation of the alleged terrorists, the conflict between adhering to the absolute guidelines of the HRA, which Britain has accepted and incorporated into law, and carrying this out was clear. This particular conflict was highlighted by the Abu-Qatatada case. Following a 6 year detention, the ECtHR blocked his deportation to Jordan on the grounds that his return may lead to torture being carried out on him. However a recent European Court judgement has allowed for numerous terrorists, including Abu Hamza, to be extradited to the US as there would be no violation of either Article 3 or 5 in being held in solitary confinement. Although they have 3 months to appeal to the Grand Chamber, it is unlikely they will succeed even if they decide to do so

Although the European Convention of Human Rights is seen as the definitive document protecting human rights it should be noted that it’s ambiguous nature as well as the several “exceptions” for example for in the “interest of national security, protection of health, morals and reputation and the prevention of disorder or crime” actually give significant room for avoidance. The ECHR was originally drawn up in 1950 as an agreement between 12 nations to prevent the atrocities that had occurred during WW2 from reoccurring. However, over time, this sensible conclusion has diverged considerably, allowing many to take advantage of the system in the name of their “human rights”. The most common method, which ministers are currently commanding judges to do their best to amend, of such abuse is using the “right to a family life”. As a result of having relatives, or in reality any relationships including wives and girlfriends, even if their relationship is in reality limited, can be used to avoid deportation. A particular case, involving Take Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, a failed Iraqi asylum seeker who had killed Amy Houston in a hit-and-run, sparked anger from both the public and the prime minister as he could not be deported due to his “right to a family life” with his wife, 2 children and 2 step-children he had gained since moving to the UK seven years previously. Neil Houston, the bereaved father of Amy, claimed with bitter irony that he had taken away his right to a family life. There is hope that following a consultation on Article 8 of the Human Rights Act and amended immigration rules, this defense will no longer be acceptable. However, any consequence of changes in British law that conflict with the ECHR will undoubtedly be challenged by the courts, in particular the EcTHR.

This has led many, in particular David Cameron and his party to call for the introduction of a British Bill of Rights to replace the HRA and ECHR. This had been proposed earlier by the then Justice secretary Jack Straw who claimed that judge’s interpretation of the act had led to the creation of a “villain’s charter”. The Lib Dems who are in coalition with the Conservatives are in fierce opposition to such a measure, implying there may be significant difficulty in passing this controversial piece of legislation. Due to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty which Britain has held for hundreds of years as a result of the lack of codification in its constitution, all laws, treaties and so on including the ECHR are subject to the current parliament’s approval. Unless codification occurs rapidly, this parliament cannot bind its successors. In theory therefore, Britain is not subject to the impositions of the ECHR, as long as it is willing to abolish the HRA which would exclude the necessity of the ECHR being upheld by British law or subject to the ECtHR. The call for a British Bill of Rights can therefore only be applies successfully if we agree to revoke the Human Rights Act. This however, may have numerous consequences. It would retreat in providing justice external to national and cultural boundaries, the Scottish Human Rights Commission claimed it would be a regressive measure and would act as an attack on civil liberties as well as making government less accountable, however opposition claims that currently the power is in the hands on unelected judges in Strasbourg which is worse. Furthermore, there are worries it will not stop criminals taking advantage of Human Rights unless we also agree to withdraw from the treaty. It could act as a global signal arguably encouraging abusive practices and allowing countries such as Russia and China to avoid criticism for their action. Many argue that rather than replacing the HRA with new legislation, better interpretation should be encouraged. Currently, the interests of national security, such as in the recent case of Jordanian Islamic cleric, which is itself an exception to the ECHR, conflicts with another article of the same convention. The public mood has without a doubt shown support for the first and is justifiably angry with the current abuses of the Human Rights Act.

This is unmistakably a constitutional issue which provokes much debate. In its current state, the Human Rights Act does little to protect rights due to its ambiguous wording and exhaustive “exceptions”. By revoking it and introducing a British Bill of Rights, there is hope that the negative aspects of protecting human rights will be eliminated, and in addition to existing protections from the Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, Petition of Right and Common Law, will serve to carry out the original aim of protecting the fundamental rights individuals are entitled to.

Recent Deliveries :D

19 May

Ridiculous that I had to pay £11 postage for these from China, but they’re so gorgeous it’s almost worth it!


I had to finally buy wooden bokkens as I kept scaring everyone with my semi-real metal sword…


And finally… I just got a postcard from a friend in Beijiing and I must say I am very impressed with their envelopes….



Which Uni ?!?!

18 May

So glad that I have finally narrowed it down from 22 to 9! However there are still 4 left…. seem impossible! Help!



Entry Requirements
LSE International Relations AAA
Gov and history AAA
KCL Politics   of the International Economy (BA or Bsc) AAA
Politics, Philosophy, Law (4y) A*AA
Queen Mary Economics and Politics AAB
CollegeofLaw Law (2y) ABB
Goldsmiths Economics,   Politics and Public Policy BBB
Bath Politics   with economics AAA


17 May

The consequences of ACTA

The internet revolution has had significant impacts on every area of life. It has acted as a catalyst to globalisation and helped to spread ideas, cultures and most importantly markets. The digital economy has provided developed nations with scope for expansion and specialism whilst also providing an opportunity of growth developing nations. Studies in Western Europe and North America have shown that for each 10% penetration in broadband an increase of between 0.25-1.38 per cent in a country’s GDP. High street shops are competing with online shopping, bringing greater efficiency to a variety of industries. A projected 55% increase is projected for Nigeria’s online retail industry, contributing over N40 billion to its economy.  However, as (developed) nations become accustomed to the internet within the digital economy we forget the uneconomic benefits it brings.

As the internet grows in influence it is only right that regulations are put in place to ensure the safety of various interests. However the implementation of ACTA will infringe two of our fundamental rights:  freedom of expression and privacy.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a treaty aiming to enforce and defend intellectual property rights whilst protecting the industries suffering from global counterfeiting. As of October 2011 the agreement has been signed by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States of America. However it is yet to be ratified by even one of these participants.

Although the protection of key developing industries from online privacy may seem like a justified pretext to such an agreement, the unavoidable consequences presents us with an extreme picture. Internet disconnection and website blocking may become a feature of daily internet use.  Authorities will be able to “act upon their own initiative” in confiscating infringed goods in customs checkpoints. Piracy such as recording a movie will now become a criminal offence, rather than merely a civil matter. Furthermore, such infringement does not even have to occur, but appear to be “Imminent”. Many are in fear of such arbitrary judgments. This is not merely a consequence at a commercial level but on an immediate individual level affecting ordinary citizens of the signatories. Travelers may now be subject to pervasive searches, hunting for pirated material. Oxfam is worried that the regulations could mean a block on generic medicines reaching the poor in developing countries. Copyright law also, to the extreme it seems. The use of any copyrighted material in any context will be prohibited and subject to numerous criminal sanctions. In addition, ISPs will be forced to collect information about its users and store it for government. This includes any action you make using the internet. The violation of privacy is clear. Furthermore, freedom of expression is severely restricted in the name of preventing counterfeiting. Theft and counterfeit of physical goods is compared to file-sharing. Under this new law, teenagers sharing a few songs could potentially face prosecution. This ultimately represents a diversion of justice. The legal system should cover every necessary aspect of society that needs regulation, however by conflating minor issues we are at risk of distraction from the major legal problems our justice system faces.

The uncertainty over the effects of ACTA’s various provision is evident. Protests are already visible: Polish law makers wore Guy Fawkes for their obvious recent connotations and were in conjunction with Slovakia and the Czech Republic in refusing to ratify the treaty. 1.8m petitions to the treaty have already been distributed online. Despite the European Commission’s acceptance, the European Parliament is unanimously against ACTA.

ACTA will face an ECJ ruling regarding its possible conflict with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms however this is not expect until 2015 at the earliest. In addition to the negative consequences outlined, the lack of transparency in the process is worrying. Lastly, ACTA will be ineffective in its achieving its core aim as most counterfeit goods are produced and distributed by developing countries, excluded from ACTA. Ultimately all it will do is serve as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of the citizens of developing nations.

Rethinking the old “money can’t buy you happiness”

17 May

An interesting viewpoint: maybe it’s the way we selfishly spend our money that prevents us from being truly happy. After all, we’ve all met those people who are barely scraping a living and are happy as Larry…

Money and Happiness


I started this …

17 May

I started this blog simply because I realised that as I go about my days (a lot of which are spent glued to this screen) I have come across so many intriguing things, which I not only want to share but keep for myself to reflect on or enjoy later. Here goes!