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Psycho….

15 Sep

Ok, since reading the “Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson, I have thoroughly renewed my fascination with psychopathy. (Read it, by the way. It’s hilarious – which isn’t what you’d expect from a book about psychopaths…)

So what are psychopaths? These images inevitably creep into my mind…

Trying to remember the criteria I googled “psychopath test”, and found several links* encouraging me to check whether I am a psychopath, including a relatively detailed “self-assessment” by some psychotherapist in Austria*. No, I didn’t bother.

Anyway, rather than a simple “yes” or “no” regarding gaining psychopath status, the ‘diagnosis’ is based on achieving an above-average score in a particular set of criteria, usually the Hare Psychopathy Checklist , including:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioural controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behaviour problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

Each character trait is given a score of either 0, 1 or 2 and if you score 30 or over, bam, you’re probably a psychopath.

You probably know some people who seem to fit the criteria pretty well. But don’t worry, they might not be psychopaths.

To me, especially since reading the Psychopath Test, the two traits which stick out the most are a lack of empathy and behavioural controls. The lack of empathy may allow a person to succeed in the business world*, with apparently 4% of CEOs thought to be psychopath whilst only making up 1% of the general population. However, after all that success, they can stab someone to death in a moment for jumping a queue.

By this point, society is probably worrying what to do about these uncontrollable creatures. The FBI notes how psychopaths make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of offenders (10-15) in comparison to the general population (1, as mentioned above). Obviously, after brutally killing people, it’s assumed that the justice system is going to deal with the matter.

However, as many neuroscientists* have discovered, many psychopathic traits, most dangerously the lack of empathy, are genetic and thus predetermined. This had huge implications. Ultimately, this means treatment is unlikely to be successful and prevention pretty much impossible.

Would it be fair to incarcerate someone based on the fact they may or may not commit serious crimes in the future, based on their disposition to violence?  Most of you would probably say no.

I guess we just have to wait for them to………………………..………snap.

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*http://wisdomofpsychopaths.com

*http://www.counseling-office.com/surveys/test_psychopathy.phtml

*The book anonymous lawyer comes to mind

* Including a relatively recent study by those at the University of Chicago and University of New Mexico – http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1681369

Image

5 Jun

Now I could write SEVERAL posts on hypocrisy in this world. Today, however, I’m going to talk about the relatively dated issue of “image”, more specifically the external appearance that is expected of you by society.

We think we’ve come a long way, tackling eating disorders openly, (less effectively by criticising people who are “too thin”), bashing the “Size-Zero” culture and everyone telling us variations of “It’s what’s inside that counts”.

Firstly, it’s all a little bit fake.  The same films which try to make us believe we can MAKE IT IN LIFE as long as we work hard, irrespective of our looks, are the same ones inadvertently implying we can, in fact, only do so whilst adhering to particular, shallow, ‘standards’. It’s ironic that the same media (not that everyone in the “media” promotes the same values) that is telling us “real girls have CURVES” is the same media plastered with the tall, skinny, wrinkle-free stereotype and incessant advice on diets that will help you “get that Bikini body NOW!”. Bi-polar pop culture?

Anyway, society’s hilarious hypocrisy is not actually the point. Even if the “curvy gals” were winning the size debate, you’re just criticising another body type rather than promoting acceptance of everyone. The same goes for this 24/7 gym hype image asking us “what’s your excuse?” for spending any free time outside the gym. They’re all wrong.

A mother answers this here: http://www.theinklingsoflife.com/2012/10/my-excuses-for-not-looking-like-maria.html , despite still trying to argue what a “real” woman is..

So long as society concentrates so much on image and appearance, the inevitable occurs. Criticism, judgement, insecurity, pressure, the list could go on…  Obviously I think that so long as you’re not in some sort of health risk (either morbidly obese or dying of starvation) your weight is a personal issue but at this stage we’re just going to find a multitude of other shallow conditions to judge each other by: boobs, bums, height, facial features and so on. Guess what they’ve all got in common? Irrational and shallow qualities to judge by.

History and cultural differences have shown as that beauty is completely subjective so let’s stop trying to mould ourselves into a narrow, unattainable and destructive image. What we should be criticising are the negative and obviously unhealthy features of a society which has made drugs/alcoholism/promiscuity a normality for the youth (and the not-so-youthful).

Rather than being defined by our looks or our “fashion faux pas”, let’s change track and start defining ourselves by our achievements, our passions and our true qualities.

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Apartheid… Really?

27 May

Just a collection of pictures I found on facebook which consider a “different” view to that almost universally promoted by the global media regarding Israel.

(Click to zoom in…)

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969800_606318809379943_180371179_n9909_609015129110311_385574498_n

21108_607264485952042_928631458_n

399954_597829833563104_267360337_n
945426_606587946020626_1797512464_n422027_600500759962678_979289559_n
541505_578522702160484_2143989875_n

These images clearly don’t reveal a detailed picture yet might make you reconsider the “apartheid” label so easily given to Israel ( meaning actual apartheid is taken less seriously).

Might upload more pictures later… but I can’t be bothered to write an entire post about it since people who actually think Israel is an apartheid state usually aren’t basing their view on rational arguments…

Here comes the hate 😀

Europe

8 May

In, out, shake it all about?  (Britain is definitely choosing the 3rd option at the moment…) 

The former Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s speech encouraging a British exit from Europe makes it clear the “Europe” debate has certainly not subsided…. it is alive and well. Perhaps then, the public should actually consider what it would mean if Britain were to leave the European Union.

What worries me is the influence of those with irrational political agendas on what is essentially an economic argument. (Nigel Farage springing to mind hmm…). UKIP has risen from a marginal party on the fringes of the right to a mainstream political party (increasingly seen as the “new Lib dems” as their by-election results have shown) whose populist image is already having a noticeable impact on voters.

Unlike both Nigels, I would have to say I’m in the Pro-Europe camp. Here’s why:

The benefits of free trade within the single market. We save a ridiculous amount on the cost of mobility of the factors of production simply by being members of the EU. Considering over 50% of our trade is with Europe, the CET that would be imposed upon us should we leave the EU is likely to be very damaging indeed. In addition, we are also seen as a “gateway” to Europe for many companies wishing to avoid the tariff by setting up factories and generating employment in the UK.

Despite the right’s ongoing rage towards immigrants exploiting the welfare state, EU immigration is actually pretty beneficial to the UK. Immigrants help to fill gaps in the labour market and actually pay more tax and receive less benefits than the average British citizen. If you’re a fan of the multiplier effect (as I am) then this is all good news! Also, sceptics may  not have realised that forced repatriation of many UK citizens living abroad isn’t likely to have positive effects – it is a 2 way-street after all. Although I said this was going to be an economic argument, I do believe there are many positive cultural benefits of immigration and for Britons to claim immigration is eroding their culture, I find absurd.

Evaluating the Costs of membership

Most of the “cumbersome regulations” that come with EU membership are actually there for our benefit. For example, ethical trade shouldn’t be seen as a burden but a necessary cost that helps to define a humane and developed labour market and the practices within it whilst retaining a degree of essential labour market flexibility that the UK has been noted for. We can cut costs yet I doubt any of us want labour practices mirroring those of developing countries.

I would have to agree with Ken Clarke in that a “Brexit” will be extremely damaging to the UK. The annual (approximate) cost of £8 billion is outweighed by the benefits of membership or rather the greater costs that would greet us upon exit. Although we could regain control of the North Sea, stop subsidising the agriculture of poorer countries/regions and get rid of those pesky regulations, we would also lose regional development funds which have helped to revive poor regions, we would  likely be seen as less attractive for investment and most significantly we would lose our elevated trading position.

A looser relationship with the EU, similar to countries within the EEA, has been suggested however this perspective fails to realise the UK will consequently be reduced to a bystander with no VETO power or input yet still be largely bound by these infamous regulations. Surely we might as well exploit our current position of power? There is also no guarantee that the EU would even agree to such a relationship with the moody child of Europe.

Britain should realise that not all of its domestic problems are a consequence of the EU and that when the trend is increasing integration, opting for isolation may not be the best idea.

Israel vs Hamas

24 Nov

Since the recent conflict and Israel’s operation Pillar of Defense began last week and  having now concluded , there has been an atmosphere of undeniable and most importantly irrational hatred towards Israel.

Firstly, it appears that the fact thousands of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel prior to the recent conflict has been largely ignored (preventing a great proportion of the Israeli population from living a normal life) and yet at Israel’s retaliation, anti-Israel groups immediately flock to criticise the murderous and aggressive state of Israel. The right (OBLIGATION) of a sovereign nation to defend itself apparently does not apply to the Jewish state.

Despite the fact that, as Netanyahu pointed out, Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza (evicting its own citizens for the sake of peace), rather than allowing it to prosper and become the “Singapore of the middle-East”, Hamas took power and turned it into a launch pad for terror. The blockade was a consequence (two years AFTER! Hamas began immediately firing rockets into Israel, smuggling arms, and forcing their disgusting ideology upon the people of Gaza) of the terror Hamas has imposed both on the citizens of Southern Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.

Despite this, Israel has done huge amounts to separate the terrorists controlling the strip from the innocent people, and support Gaza. It has provided Gaza’s electricity, funded projects, and supported the people of Gaza as much as possible -all funded by Israeli Banks. A few mentioned here (http://www.aish.com/jw/me/Israels-Support-of-the-Palestinian-Economy.html )

Throughout the recent conflict, over 100 trucks of gas/food etc… of aid was sent from Israel to Gaza. During the military operation, the IDF did everything possible to minimise civilian casualties (including leaflets, phonecalls etc..)  http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/15/how-does-the-idf-minimize-harm-to-palestinian-civilians/ provides the information at the time.

By contrast, Hamas, was and will continue to commit double-war crimes by EFFECTIVELY hiding behind their civilians and aiming their rockets directly at Israel’s civilians.

Criticising Israel’s actions as disproportionate is simply wrong. One must look beyond the figures and decide who is truly to blame. It should be pointed out that if Israel was less developed, the IDF was as not advanced as it was and the Iron Dome system was not in place, Isareli deaths and casulaties would be much greater.

Another interesting article highlighting the double-standards regarding Israel’s military action http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100190310/why-is-israeli-militarism-looked-upon-as-more-disgusting-despicable-and-criminal-than-the-militarism-of-any-other-nation-on-earth/

What sort of stable society can Hamas, a (TERRORIST) group, that kills it’s own people for suspected cooperation with Israel, kills their people for being gay, uses their people as human shields, states in it’s charter how it wishing to destroy Israel and I quote “the time will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (and Kill them)” and has no respect for human life, bring?

This is why ultimately I am disappointed in the ceasefire. I will not try and mince my words – the goal should be to destroy Hamas and its detrimental regime.   (who by the way have ALREADY broken the ceasefire agreement).

(Recommend to read – Richard Kemp support of IDF and the necessity of the blockade, Israel’s restraint and the unlikeliness of a successful ceasefire http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/11/20/former-afghan-british-troops-commander-on-possible-israel-hamas-ceasefire-i’m-skeptical-of-how-long-it-can-last-exclusive-interview/

Furthermore, it is important to remember who the real enemy is to the arab world: the dictators repressing their people and the militant Islamic fundamentalist terrorists gaining power. It is not Israel.  http://www.arabnews.com/arab-spring-and-israeli-enemy  We have seen what Hamas has done to the security of Southern Israel and the palestinian people in Gaza, this should be reason enough to topple the regime.

Frankly, I don’t remember any US-Al-Qaeda negotiations, or anything of the sort. There should be no dialogue with terror. The ceasefire – unfortunately it is true – has arguably given some form of legitimacy to Hamas and has given them an opportunity to restock in arms (supported I’m sure by Iran) which will lead to the next inevitable conflict and more loss of life.

The amazing Mossab Hassan Yousef, a son of one of the founders of Hamas -who spent years inside the regime working undercover for Israeli intelligence) has given his perspective. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/162454#.ULEQ7dvKcec

The enemy is Hamas, not Israel. Freedom for the people of Gaza and the people of Southern Israel can only be achieved when they are eliminated.

 עם ישראל חי

Side points: Hamas Charter (if you’re interested in reading it’s vile words) – http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/www.thejerusalemfund.org/carryover/documents/charter.html

Also interesting – Muslim supporters of the state of Israel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_supporters_of_Israel

P.S. Must express my anger at the anti-Israel bias, especially in respected BBC, and the claims by anti-Israel groups that it was the other way around are beyond absurd! Photo-fraud, biased reporting and often actual lies..  Very sad…

Recent Escalation

17 Nov

This is largely an emotional post following recent events in Israel… I encourage to explore the facts  in depth (and let go of any possible bias that you may be presented with).

Raising your children to hate and view certain other citizens as “enemies” to be destroyed will bring a society inevitably connected to violence and conflict. Common sense may lead us to an opinion when differentiating between a leader declaring war and firing (more) rockets into a sovereign nation on the basis of “revenge” for the killing of a terrorist leader and a leader who promises to retaliate in order to “protect innocent citizens”.

I must say even the Russian news is presenting a more objective picture than the western media at the moment. “We” only wake up when Israel retaliates – despite the fact ordinary people have been prevented from living a normal life due to thousands of rockers being fired into Southern Israel since 2008. When Egypt attempted to negotiate a cease-fire recently, Israel put down their weapons whilst Hamas continued firing and then tried to lie to the international community that it was the opposite!

Operation pillar of defense is MORE than justified!

Whilst Israel makes greatest efforts to avoid civilian casualties (dropping leaflets warning people not to go near military/terrorist bases and more..) Hamas cares little where it’s continuous rockets are directed at and builds some of it’s bases under schools and hospitals as an attempted shield. If their rockets were more successful and Israeli’s defense less so (including the Iron Dome), Israeli casualties would be much higher. It is clear the blame lies with the violence of Hamas terrorists.

We need to stop blaming Israel when history has shown us that every attempt at peace has been forcefully declined by Israel’s enemies and realise that, like any other nation, they have a right to defend their people.

also read this:

http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/15/how-does-the-idf-minimize-harm-to-palestinian-civilians

Courtroom advocacy in decline?

13 Nov

Previously, solicitors could only represent their clients in a magistrates court, whereas a barrister would represent the client in higher courts.  Now, solicitors can apply for different advocacy/representation rights and represent their own clients, and collect both fees. Barristers can now also apply for “direct access” to clients, but this is rare and relevant in only certain sectors.

I doubt the role of barristers is being challenged, however many claim that the junior bar is being deprived of work and ultimately the quality of advocacy will decrease as work is not passed on to those specifically trained and experienced in the profession.

The most significant question however is whether the blurring of the different roles has contributed to miscarriages of justice.  The Bar would argue it has. The Law Society itself has agreed their advocacy training is “not fit for purpose”. Apparent lack of familiarity with rules and courtroom procedure or advocacy generally may give an unfair advantage to the prosecution (or the defence if we’re talking about in-house CPS advocates).

With cuts in legal aid contributing to the decline of the “legal aid equality myth”, the justice system really doesn’t need any more obstacles.

Get rid of the “middlemen” (we can apply that to either profession actually) and reduce costs or encourage each to stick to their traditionally defined roles to ensure the quality of advocacy and therefore justice is preserved?

Illegal to be fat?

9 Nov

Although I had just discovered this interesting piece of information today, the obesity law in Japan has been in place since the 1st April 2008!

The “fat tax” encourages companies to reduce the size of their employees waistlines – 33.5 inches is the limit for men and 35.4 inches for women… (despite the heigh differences..)

This is to avoid the dreaded “metabo” which includes health risks from stomach fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the national healthcare costs associated with them!

That is certainly an interesting way of reducing government costs and is especially ironic as Japan is the thinnest developed country in the world with an obesity rate incomparable to that of the USA.

Companies will be fined if they do not reduce the number of “obese” employees, which will be noted through bi-annual check ups. Embarassed employees can chose “clothed” check-ups and deduct 1.5cm from their results and be forced to pariticipate in counselling sessions and “health-courses” if they fail to meet the requirements. Humiliating an already generally healthy nation into a healthy lifestyle?

“Goodbye, metabolic. Let’s get our checkups together. Go! Go! Go!” – a chant used to encourage employees…

Do we have the “right to be fat” – or should the state be allowed to impose requirements to reduce healthcare costs for the taxpayer?

 

Tax Avoidance

22 Jun

Although an issue I have mixed views on – it does annoy me quite a lot.

The recent scandal with comedian Jimmy Carr transfering millions of his money to a company abroad in order to receive most of the money back as a loan on which he has to pay no income tax, has made the relatively eternal issue resurface. As well as this K2 scheme, there are many other ways that people can avoid tax, including tax reliefs and other schemes. George Osbourne hopes that GAAR (General Anti-Abuse Rule) will attempt to tackle this but most realise similar schemes will then by concocted to adapt to this.

Now there is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance = using all means to exploit the tax regime legally for personal advantage. Tax evasion = the same thing but by illegal means.

Since tax avoidance is legal, the issue is a moral one. Some say that paying any more tax than you absolutely have to is a gift to the government, and it is every citizen’s right to avoid doing so. However the blatant fact is the poor are paying a greater rate of tax than the rich. This is because they can afford the financial advisors to assist them in these schemes and activity with off-shore companies etc… that ordinary people simply cannot. Jimmy Carr was revealed to be paying only 1% income tax and the top earners paying a rate of only 10%. This is costing the exchequer £25bn every year, probably much more than the “benefit scroungers” that so many have been complaining about.

Bill Bragg put it well yesterday: “Who was it who said “taxes are the price we pay for a civilised society”? Jimmy Carr is just the tip of a massive iceberg that includes individuals and corporations who cost us much more each year than ‘benefit scroungers’. You’d think making millions every year would be reward enough, but no – so many high earners do everything they can to avoid making their contribution, often while complaining how uncivilised society has become.

Having said all of this, the focus really should be redirected. It is the tax system created by politicians that has allowed people to avoid making their tax contributions. After all, Jimmy Carr disclosed the scheme to HMRC.

The conclusion is that we need to reform the system rather than dishing out moral criticisms – and simplicity is key.

Funny side-note:

“In the United States, thieves are required to report their stolen money as income when they file for taxes, but they usually do not do so, because doing so would serve as a confession of theft. For this reason, suspected thieves are sometimes charged with tax evasion when there is insufficient evidence to try them for theft. “

Aside

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!