Gun Control

9 Oct

Following the Aurora shootings and the shooting at the Sikh temple in wisconsin, the case for gun control has become increasingly relevant.

All forms of violent crime in America have fallen. All except gun-related violence that is. The gun-homicide rate per capita in the U.S. is 30 times that of Britain and Australia. I have this crazy idea that perhaps the relative ease of access to firearms may be a contributing factor…

The biggest argument against gun control is the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

Restricting the sale or purchase of guns arguably infringes the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms”. Yet how can this be a right when possession often correlates with another individual’s loss of life – the biggest infringement of an individual’s right that there is.

Also, it’s the second AMENDMENT – you’re allowed to change your outdated constitution – especially as most you aren’t actually part of a “well regulated militia”, now, are you?

As for the self-defence claim, you are more likely to get shot if you have a gun in your home..

Wal-Mart recently sold ammunition to a minor. The fact that a supermarket sells ammo and firearms sounds absolutely crazy to me yet Wal-Mart is in fact the largest seller of firearms in the USA. All of this points to the inevitable issue of ACCESS.

Why not ban knives and cars also? Whilst they have the ability to cause damage and even kill, guns were created for the sole purpose of killing.

I believe that the licensing and regulation measures such as background checks and waiting periods are, whilst a positive stepping stone, ineffective and a total ban is necessary.

Not only common sense but evidence has shown that states with stricter gun control laws have a lower gun-related death rate.

The attitude of  “the world is still corrupt” despite any legislation that you may pass is entirely inappropriate. Although it may be true, why not do as much as possible to prevent tragedies from occurring?

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people”. …. Really? As Eddie Izzard puts it: “The gun helps..”

A sad comparison:     Hours before Newtown, a deranged man in China walked into an elementary school building and began to indiscriminately attack everyone in his vicinity. Before his rampage ended, twenty-two children had been hit. But while it sounds like Newtown, there were two crucial differences that share a common root. First, the man used a knife. Second, because the man used a knife, none of the twenty-two children were killed.

How this is a debate which the ‘pro-gun’ stance in America is winning is entirely beyond me.

especially 0:33

(having said all of this – my opinion in relation to guns and police is largely different.. I wonder how many of you agree with me?)

Rachel Corrie

31 Aug

I know I’m going to offend a lot of people by writing this but here is my opinion.

Rachel Corrie was a 23 year old pro-Palestinian activist and a member of the International Solidarity Movement. On the 16th March 2003 she was crushed by a D-19 bulldozer in the Gaza strip. A few days ago, an Israeli civil court in Haifa rejected the civil lawsuit brought against the Israeli military by her parents who demanded a symbolic $1 in damages.

Over the past few days, many have been filled with anger towards the Israeli military and justice system, claiming the courts, in accordance with government wishes, are granting illegal immunity to the IDF.

Such shameful examples show this is not the case. When soldiers conduct themselves in an inappropriate and inhumane manner, they should and will be punished.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/idf-soldier-convicted-of-manslaughter-of-british-activist-1.162287

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11462635

The fact that Rachel Corrie, an innocent civilian, was killed, is a tragedy. However, she should not have been there in the first place. She was ordered by the US government to stay away from the area, which was forbidden to civilians and had been engaged in conflict but a few hours before her arrival. She had entered a closed military zone at her own risk. On top of this, she was positioned in a trench while protesting behind a mound of debris. It is therefore, not so surprising that the bulldozer did not see her. The army conducted a full investigation into the matter. How are we expected to place the blame on the driver?

Furthermore, the ISM are a group that have protected Hamas and Fatah terrorists whilst blocking Israeli army efforts to stop the transfer of weapons between the border. This is not a peaceful or honest group. It opposes even a two-state solution by claiming the state of Israel should not exist.

Why are people not protesting at the actions of the terrorists the ISM are defending. Their victims, be they Jewish, Palestinian, Ethiopian, Thai or any other religion or nationality that has suffered as a result of the terrorism of Hamas and Fatah, had done nothing to expect danger or death.

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-03-07/news/29432349_1_hamas-militants-gaza-into-southern-israel-alaa-abu-dheim

http://frontpagemag.com/2010/anav-silverman/a-blind-eye-for-hamas-victims-2/

http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/c.hsJPK0PIJpH/b.3831671/

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/rocket-barrage-hits-southern-israeli-town-idf-kills-terrorist-involved-in-attack-along-egypt-border-1.439888

None of this means her death was anything less than a tragedy, yet it is clear that it was an unfortunate accident.

Although the global media, with popular and well-know publications such as The Guardian and respected organisations such as Amnesty International, continue to criticise the Israeli Justice system and claim Rachel Corrie’s death was “intentional murder” by the Israeli army, why are we accepting this so easily?

MoD: Go fur-free!

14 Jul

So I went on PETA’s ‘Spare the Bears’ march today – and I’ll tell you why…Image

It takes the entire hide of a Canadian black bear to make just one cap for the Queen’s Guard. They are killed inhumanely, many are shot and die slowly from blood loss, gangrene and others may escape, suffering for days on end until they die of an infection, blood loss or starvation.

PETA has suggested numerous alternatives such as Stella McCartney’s plastic fibre design which passed the MoD’s ridiculous tests and is water repellent and fitted with air vents and also cheaper!! Yet the MoD has consistently for the past 20 years or so made excuses like “it lacks life”. Really?? Using such an excuse in this age when there are so many faux etc.. alternatives is a bit pathetic.

The fact is – these caps have no military value whatsoever, they serve no purpose other than a ceremonial one. Most tourists are horrified when they find out the caps are made from real bearskin. They have not been worn ‘in battle’ for hundreds of years. How can killing and maiming a species that will soon face the threat of extinction if this continues, be justified?

“I understand and appreciate the importance of uniforms, but continuing to use real fur in the 21st century is inexcusable, regardless of ‘tradition’,” said Ricky Gervais.

Tradition is no excuse for the continuance of such unnecessary cruelty.

Slutwalk

4 Jul

The slutwalk protests began last year on the 3rd March following an officer in Toronto’s comments about Rape – in his exact words “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

Since then, the protests have spread to cities all over the globe, including my own in London.

The core message at heart of these protests was “yes means yes and no means no” regardless of how women dress. Over 80% of rape victims do not report the assault to the police and to hear comments that partially shift responsibility of rape onto the victim is even more damaging. Most of these women feel that they will be blamed because of their dress or alcohol intake…

The message should be DON’T RAPE – rather than DON’T GET RAPED – which is what many were casually suggesting. For example, in 1999, Italy’s highest court ruled that a woman who wore jeans couldn’t be raped as it is impossible to remove a pair of pants “without the collaboration of the person wearing them.” To know that that is the attitude within the legal system that is supposed to be protecting us is horrifying.

There has been some criticism to the protests however, which focused on the way they were aiming to deliver this message. “Slut” has always been a term used as an insult, so attempting to “reclaim” it seems pointless. Society’s bi-polar attitude towards women’s sexuality “slut” if they are sexually active and “frigid” for not accepting advances – is not addressed.

Some feminists decided not to participate in the protest as they don’t want to be seen as accepting the term. They did not want their sexuality to be defined in male terms. As a result, the campaign offered to change its name – welcoming a choice of 4 options: Slutwalk, End the Shame, Yes Means Yes and Shame Stop. In the end the name remained but the fact that some of the organisers wanted to change it highlighted how divided different branches of feminism were on the protests.

The point of the protest – to change the attitude towards rape and allow women to have the freedom to dress however they wish without allowing to be a factor in blaming them as if they are “asking for it” – is a positive one. What a woman wear should not be relevant to the guilt of her attacker. Critics who accuse the protests of “celebrating sluttiness” are missing the focal point of the movement.

The name and nature of the protests shouldn’t be criticised, they were effective in attracting attention in order to deliver the key message: blame the rapist not the victim – whatever they were wearing.

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. “

The Legal System hmmmm….

17 Jun

So after spending a week at the Old Bailey (not as a defendant don’t worry) some general thoughts have arisen regarding the nature of our legal system. Things that annoy me about it mostly. Even though I might point these out, I’m not actually smart enough to offer any solutions or alternatives.

Speed: Well it’s rather slow isn’t it….. A particular case I was following was dealing with an “event” that occured in 2007. It is now 2012. That is quite a long time… Although out of all the cases I saw that week that was an exception, none of the cases had reached trail less than a year after whatever had occured. I’ve got to say that is seems the only reason this is happening is because of resources, or a lack of them. Preparation would take a few weeks maximum if there were enough courts, barristers and time.

Jury: As rude as this may seem, allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to decide ultimately someone’s future based on a complex presentation of a case seems odd. However, having said that, it is the job of the prosecution and defence to present their argument in a way that is clear and understandable. My main issue really is that cases more often than not (especially for the more serious or copmlex) run into well over 2 weeks. In this case, the jury is only really representative of the people who can afford to take months at a time out of their life and cannot manage to ABSV themselve of their jury duty. Instinctively I would prefer our fate to be decided by a legal expert (the judge) who will consider the arguments (as he is supposed to act neutrally anyway) and come to a conclusion, since the decision is probably needed because of a breach of the law. But then all the other arguments obvious arguments come in. Misquoting Churchill when he spoke about democracy, something along the lines of…”It’s the worst system, except all others that have been tried”, which I think fits rather well to trial by Jury. Juries are already being removed for complex fraud cases, will this expand into other cases or is that just a horrible slippery slope fallacy? In some cases, despite clear instructions from the judge, the jury have ignored what has been said and either convicted or accquited, giving ordinary people a say as to the actual law…. a little worrying no?

Legal Aid: This is a good thing. Why are we (well the tories anyway) cutting it down? Isn’t equal access to justice quite an importnat principle in our society? I know Michael Mansfield agrees with me anyway! The fact that Barristers were recently thinking of striking should send out a strong messgae. £350m out of the MOJs legal aid budget – really? Couldn’t you just cancel the stupid olympic posters floating around every street corner annoying my eyes instead. Health, Education and the Legal System – the 3 main things I think a government shouldn’t mess with. Please.

Access: To the profession I mean. It is getting more and more competitive every year, which isn’t such a horrific thing in itself. The horrific thing is that by the time I finish my legal education I will be almost £50,000 in debt. Loans and all that jazz do exist, true, however you can’t argue that the figure may be slightly off putting to those who aren’t from bakgrounds used to those sums. And although there is an “equal opportunities” obsession going on at the moment, 2/3 of the bar are privately educated. 93% of the population are not. I’m sure (I hope) this will improve over time though.

I’m sure I have many other things to complain about – especially in relation to law – but my head is aching for my pillow so I think I’ll let you wait till next time!

 

Hedge Funds, Currency Trading and other Financial mysteries…

1 Jun

So although the Occupy movement is dwindling, especially after its eviction fromSt Paul’s, it has certainly left a big impact onLondon. The battle between the ‘evil 1%’ and ‘angelic 99%’ is something all of us have spent a least a little time thinking about. I think they do make a certain point, especially about the people with the economic power causing the mess that ordinary people have had to clean up. However criminalizing capitalism isn’t going to work. They attack “the system” without providing a viable alternative. They want “a system that operates in the interest of the people” but how exactly, besides going on endless marches and protests, do they propose to do so? Capitalism works effectively at creating wealth, though not necessarily distributing. The importance of the second part is something the various existing political ideologies will continue to disagree on.

Now all this inevitably made me think, what does the British economy rely on now? Certainly not manufacturing and this is a shame – arguably inevitable but then there is always the black sheep Germany as an example. Financial services now define us. Much of this sector has encouraged economic growth over the past few decades and are extremely useful to us so it is careful not to lump everything in the same boat. The problem that I have, which is largely due to my ignorance in this subject, lies mainly with hedge funds and currency trading. What the hell do these people actually do? They get paid for….investing and transferring money? The second especially, the only thing that I can see it leading to is a volatile and fragile economy. Where is the stability in this?? I really need to get around to reading this… http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Hedge-Fund-Mirage-Illusion/dp/1118164318/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&coliid=IZMBM4T8WR3AB&colid=1VSRPWB2GRAB0

Personally I think we should focus on improving our manufacturing sector, in particular technology firms that provide a relatively stable business base for developed countries. Even other services, as a deficit on the goods market…. is fine as long as we have an overall surplus.And please stop the obsession with deregulation! Good to an extent but a dangerous path. Also, we need to find demand before increasing the spare capacity in our economy even more.

P.S. If any hedge fund managers or traders are reading this and would like to enlighten me to the magic of their profession, I would be very grateful.

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….