30 April, 2008

OLPAS and the final two choices...

Doing OLPAS applications at the moment.

Not all chambers are in OLPAS, 4 in Manchester, 2 in Liverpool, 4 in Leeds... and you get to apply to twelve.

Is it worrying that I'm filling up the final two spaces on my form by just applying to London chambers which have taken on debaters that I know and like?

For each set you apply to, you have to write 150 words saying 'why them'. Unless a person has done a mini-pupillage at a particular set, there's really not a lot more to write. "I want to apply to you because you are in the area of the country I want to stay in, do the areas of law I want to do and I figure you might just give me a pupillage" doesn't quite cut it.

Surely it would be far more realistic for people to list the 12, but only have people write anything if they've done a mini there (and that could be done by ticking a box, to be honest).

Yet another way the BVC-pupillage-tenancy system could be improved....

Q:How many members of the Bar Council does it take to change lightbulb?

A: Change?!

29 April, 2008

Environmentalism and Women

The Times reported yesterday that the number of women using re-usable nappies instead of disposables has gone up from 2% to over 10% in the last few years.

Councils now only collect rubbish once a fortnight and will prosecute you if you overfill your bin on the grounds that you should have recycled more of your waste.

Sales of organic food, food not treated with, inter alia, preservatives (so it goes off more quickly) have soared over the last decade. Indeed, the new trend, for those who think organic is not hardcore enough, is to grow your own food. St Jamie d'Oliver teaches the humble masses that even in a flat a 'few herbs can be grown on a windowsill' (thus assuming access to a south facing windowsill)

Ignoring, for the moment, how 'green' all the above behaviour actually is (nappies = landfill v washing energy, for example), what is noticeable about the whole business is two things.

Firstly, most of the trends above (nappies, recycling, organic food) start with the yummy mummies before moving into the rest of society.

Secondly, once they are imposed on society (by law or by peer pressure), the burden overwhelmingly falls on women.

In most families, both parents work. In many, both work full time. Even in families where women work full time, women do the vast majority of the household chores. When these chores involve putting a ready meal in the oven before dumping the waste in the bin and changing the baby's nappy whilst it cooks (new one on, old one wrapped and thrown away) then it already takes up valuable spare time, but at least there is some level of convenience. When the evening meal is prepared from scratch, the various parts of it are sorted into separate bins, the baby's nappies from the two days scraped, left in detergent, washed and then hung on the line to dry, the three different bins in the kitchen taken outside one by one... the evening gets much longer.

The causes of the problem are multiple: people not genuinely considering whether its worth doing what they are doing (organic food), the law forcing extra chores (recycling) and perhaps the most dominant cause - the pressure on women from other women to have a perfect home. Women judge other women when their home doesn't look like Bree Van De Kamp's home from Desperate Housewives. When Emily goes to school with carrot sticks, home made hummus and organic pitta breads where Antonia is sent in with a marmite sandwich, strawberry yogart (Tesco own brand) and a (non-organic, non-British) apple, Emily's mother judges Antonia's mother. Antonia's mother is made to feel like she has failed as a parent and is a bad mother who neglects her child. As a consequence, she starts sending Antonia in with the organic, homemade lunch box. Then Antonia's mother, and Emily's mother, can both judge James's mother....

Once again, women are their own worst enemy and their weapon this time is pseudo-environmentalism.

24 April, 2008

May 15th

In line with the popular 'because we can' flash mob attitude, for those of you who haven't seen, there is a plan afoot whereby on May15th 2008, about 220,000 people will panic buy carrots. In the UK, this looks to be between 50,000-100,000 people.

I urge everyone to join in this enterprise to pay homage to the absurd and surreal.


The concept of 'race' is, in my opinion, one of the more dangerous ideas to be developed in the C20th. The colour of a person's skin is useful to the extent that it helps to identify them, as in "Bob? Yeah, he's the tall back guy in the corner next to the Asian girl" and useful in almost no other way. Even in medicine, whilst there are some illnesses which certain racial groups are more likely to suffer from than others, the differences within those racial groups are larger than the differences between groups.

When people are trying to point out that there are differences between different races of people but not do so in a negative way they often point to the fact that the Olympics are dominated by black runners, even representing countries that are overwhelmingly white. What they omit to mention is that the 'black people who are faster at running than white people' actually only covers a certain portion of black people, genetically from a fairly small area of Africa (apologies, I can't remember where, exactly).

The dangers of using race as anything more than a quick identifier (in the same manner we would use ginger hair) was hammered home twice today:

1. Mugabe
2. Obama v Clinton

1. Mugabe is a nasty man. He's also lost his election, but just won't tell anyone. None of the people around him are doing it. Why? Well, this article suggests that it's in part a reflection of a pan-African identity. That basically, the reason why Mugabe isn't being criticised is because he was successful in overthrowing colonial government. Race in a historical context is more difficult. When a group of people have a shared collective experience which they were forced to share because a different group imposed their concept of difference on them then the extent to which race is an indicator of something more becomes a bit more blurred. That said, sure, colonialism generally bad, independence generally good; but when other leaders are not criticising Mugabe because he, as a black man, kicked out the whites a few decades before and they take the view that this act trumps all his oppression of his own people (also, on the whole, black), the the concept of race - especially the idea of there being a conflict between races - has got way out of hand.

2. More and more commentators, like this one, are pointing out that although they, personally, support Obama, they think Clinton has a better chance of beating McCain because Obama can;t get the votes of the poor working class. Now, some of this is racism on their part, some of this is a reaction against his preacher (who, inter alia, believes the US government developed and/or spread HIV/AIDS as an act of genocide against black people).

The preacher's attitude towards race is as damaging to a cohesive society as a typical red-neck.

A few centuries ago, being left handed or having red hair was a sure sign that you were a witch, in league with the devil and needed to be killed (hanging, burning or drowning being the 3 methods of choice). Now, no-one cares. Sure, red-heads are more likely to suffer some medical problems not suffered by non-red heads (usually related to their tendency to have paler skin and suffer from sun burn more). Sure, there are some jokes about red-heads. Sure, some people express a sexual preference for/against red-heads. None of this is especially damaging. We've managed to move on from 'burn the witch!'.

Am I being overly utopian when I say only hope that we are able to do the same thing with race.

Bringing tort law back...

This is hilarious.

But skip to about 1:20 into it as the beginning is just text.

A question for you all...

A question, for anyone who cares to answer it:

What social would you prefer at an IV on the Saturday night?
(a) comedy night
(b) 'japanese gameshow' esque?
(c) usual bar/club combination
(d) something else

Not a wholly idle question!

21 April, 2008

The drafting exam

Miss Elizabeth Ford


Manchester Metropolitan University


(a) Failed to read through instructions and papers in sufficient detail.

(b) Failed to use english in a suffiiciently clear and concise manner.

(c) Failed to adequately plan the draft.

(d) Failed to adequately listen to Angela Hogg since September.

(e) In all the circumstances probably failed.


Course - £9,000.00
Re-Sit - £15.00
Bus fair to Re-Sit - £1.00
New Pen - £1.00
Total - £9,017.00

I would do the interest but I can't remember how its calculated hence another reason why I probably failed.


Did not want to be a barrister anyway.

(stolen from facebook group)

Olympics, history and the US education system

This photo was taken from a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco.

One reason why history should be compulsory at school!

Net Neutrality

My opinion in this subject is, unsurprisingly, somewhat inexpert but I feel it's a debate worthy issue (ie: I'm running it at some point) so I might as well pass some comment on it!

The first problem with net neutrality is that it doesn't mean just one thing specifically. It's broad meaning is that on the internet, traffic shouldn't be prioritised in anyway. An example would be when you make a phone call, you expect it to connect regardless of who you're phoning and on what network. On the rare exceptions that it doesn't connect, it's either because the line is busy (new year, for example) or because, for exceptional reasons, other calls have been given priority (for example, the 7/7 bombings in London meant emergency calls got priority). So net neutrality isn't an absolute, but it is a good general rule to be broken only in exceptional circumstances.

Broadly speaking, there seem to be three principle meanings of net neutrality:
(1) absolute net neutrality: Everyone gets equal access, all data is treated equally. When the internet is busy, it slows down for everyone.
(2) limited discretion without quality of service tiering: similar to the above, but occasionally someone gets priority. This is not on a 'paid for' basis however, everyone has fundamentally rhe same access
(3) limited discretion and tiering: If you pay more for your connection charge, your internet traffic gets priority over the person who paid less. Companies such as Eclipse operate this system in the UK already.

So why is this an issue now?

Well, it's been coming up for a while as the internet offers more and more programmes which need large amounts of data to work. Even sites such as nationalrail or multimap use more bandwidth now than they did 12 months ago, and they perform reasonable simple operations. You've probably noticed how slowly many Facebook pages open now because their owner has so many applications on them. Broadband means people are less likely to stickat just downloading a single song or a single tv programme, they want the who album or series. Their download moves from 5mb and 350mb a time to 100mb and 6gb respectively. However, ISPs have largely been able to cope with the traffic caused by this, especially for downloads.

A year ago, if you were using 20gb a month, the ISP knew you weren't just reading text pages or going on youtube occasionally, it was fairly clear you were downloading films etc. You knew you were doing wrong, the ISP knew you were doing wrong and so even though you'd signed up for 'unlimited' internet, in reality, the 'fair usage policy' was an effective threat.

About a year ago, the BBC introduced its i-player. About 6 months ago, it began to allow people to stream programmes rather than downloading them. The number of people taking up the offer to watch TV programmes legally was huge. ISPs in the UK are complaining that they can't handle the additional bandwidth needed for this. Most people are pointing out that the service was sold as 'unlimited' and the ISPs should provide.

No doubt internet traffic is going to grow and grow. The amount of space available, one assumes, cannot expand indefinitely. At some point, therefore, access is going to have to be restricted.

In my mind, there are three models for this:
(1) The way internet is commonly advertised in the UK is as '2 mb download limit', '20 mb download limit' and 'unlimited' (or similar). The price of the 'unlimited' packages would have to increase fairly substantially to reduce internet usage and the lower download limit packages should explain exactly what a person gets for 2 mb. So, solution 1 is just an expansion of the currant system
(2) people explicitly pay for priority (like the eclipse link mentioned earlier). If you are on the £10 package, you get the lowest priority. In the evening, your internet slows to snail speed and so you set up most of your downloads to take place at night when it's faster. If you pay a bit more, you're less affected by busy periods. If you pay the most, your internet is always the fastest possible.
(3)The 'everyone suffers' model: most people still sign up for 'unlimited' broadband because it's still cheap, no one is explicitly prioritise and so when the net is busy, all suffer equally.

I'm not wholly sure what is the most desirable. I've been on the lowest tariff of model 2 and in the evenings by internet was slower than dial up. I had to use the 'text only' versions of most pages. I wasn't able to change my option easily (it meant typing into a new 12 month contract). If people could change their option instantly, say, a 1 month long contract, I could support option 2 a lot more.

Option 1's weakness is people's ignorance. People genuinely don't understand how much 2mb of data is. and even if it's explained to them, will forget until they are charged for the extra usage. Whilst I'm usually a fan of the 'stupid people can't be helped' variety of policy, I can't help but feel when something is reasonably complicated we should probably cut them a little more slack.

Option 3 is what will happen if nothing happens and the amount of internet space can't expand. It's basically the NHS version of the internet, but without the option of going private.

My hope is that technology will keep up or have a new breakthrough. With computers and the internet still be very new technology on the grand scale of things, I hope someone clever in a lab somewhere comes up with an idea so net neutrality can be maintained without anyone having to suffer.

There is one other, less contraversial, issue on this topic. Some ISPs want to try and prevent their customers from connecting to (legal) material on the internet. I don't think anyone woul;d object to laws preventing connection to what is clearly illegal material (child porn, for example), where material is doubtful, the customer should be allowed to download and just be prosecuted later (torrent hosting sites usually contain copyrighted material, but there can be a legal use for torrents too). But where there is no doubt over the legality, and it is only because the ISP has a competitive interest in restricting access (for example, if google.com were an ISP, it may want to restrict access to yahoo.com, its rival) then I would argue that ISPs should not, generally, be allowed to do so. If they wanted to offer a lower priced, restrictive package but where the customer was explicitly told which sites were blocked, I would have no problem. But I don't trust them to be clear and explicit when they advertised or sold the restrictive passage.

I think my main support from net neutrality comes from the angle that although I broadly support the concept of caveat emptor, when it comes to internet provision, many people don't even have the basic knowledge they need to understand the marginally more complicated aspects of buying it. Giving people this knowledge is reasonable difficult and the ISPs can't be trusted to provide it in a manner which the majority can understand. In this case, therefore, I can (at least temporarily) see the point of legislating to maintain net neutrality.

19 April, 2008

How would you plan a terrorist attack?

Seeing as when I'm bored I occasionally sit and wonder how I would blow up wherever I'm sitting (train, theatre, shopping arcade...) I found this article quite interesting.

Levitt suggests random snipers, all over the country, on the grounds that (in the US) it's easy to get guns and there would be widespread terror.

I would argue any similar attack should focus partly on suburbia and partly on financial and transport hubs. The suburbia is to reinforce the 'we attack everyone' message so people don't silently exclude themselves as 'we don't catch the train/go into banks/live in a big city'. Given that guns are significantly more difficult to get hold of the UK, I'm not sure what would be better.

Macabre subject, maybe. That said, thought?

(ps: for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, here is a link to the answers I got when I originally asked the question)

18 April, 2008

Drafting exam

I have a drafting exam today.

Now, I'm slightly wierd in that I actually quite like exams. I don't like revision and I get horribly nervous in the hour or two beforehand, but once I'm in there, it's quite good fun.

Drafting is an open book exam, which means no actual revision is needed. So you get all the 'fun' bit of a normal exam, without half the bad bits :)

The only problem is, I don't actually like drafting :( On the up side, it seems to be a subject which simply measures how good you are. I know one friend who wrote almost nothing, but got a very good mark, because she is very good at filtering our irrelevent material. I think a lot of people tend to knowledge dump in exams and this time they get heavily penalised for doing that.

Well, given I have a tendency to walk out of exams (finished) in about a third of the time allowed, let's hope I enjoy it this time as well.

17 April, 2008

How not to cook (part 349)

The grill on my oven is rubbish. This is only important in the context of cooking potato waffles (something of a staple diet, at the moment) as instead of cooking in about 10 minutes under the grill they take closer to 30. Consequently, I figured that a toaster is really just a grill on my sideboard so decided to cook one in there.

Unfortunately, the last person who cooked anything in the toaster evidently left quite a lot of bread-y stuff in there (it looked like teacakes) as I turned my back for oh, all of 2 minutes, to turn round again and find flames coming out of the toaster. Damn.

After a moment of indecision, turning the toaster off at the wall seemed a like a good idea. I then had a decision, do I put the toaster outside, douse it in water where it stood or try and smother it. With all our tea-towels costing about 3 for 15p at ASDA, I didn't think they were up to smothering and I was worried that because it's electrical, dumping lots of water on it may be a bad idea.

Went for the putting it outside option (somewhat scary as using oven gloves as my only protection didn't appeal to me too much). Then, of course, realised the key reason one doesn't throw water over electrical items is not that they in themselves can use electricity, but because more often than not they are connected to electricity. It steamed wonderfully when I threw the bucket of water over it.

Delia would be proud.

Things I have learned:
1. 30 mins for a potato waffle can take much longer when using a 'short cut'
2. Check the toaster for bits before use
3. Don't by £3 toasters from Argos.
4. Had I not been so lazy by staying at home, none of this would have happened.

Moral: Going into uni stops you potentially burning down your kitchen.

Individuals v The Collective

Here is a good example of why individuals frequently act better when alone than in a group.

It makes me wonder if one of the reasons people are less likely to involve themselves when they see, say, teenagers causing disruption in a park, is because of increased surveillance? When you are fairly certain that everything is monitored by CCTV - ie: the authorities are watching- you may think that it's even less of your responsibility to deal with it. Perhaps visible surveillance in society magnifies the problem described in the link.

If so, this would seem an even more powerful case than 'mere' privacy and distrust of government to restrict surveillance.

16 April, 2008

Chav-watch, innit?

Ha ha

A Christian State?

There are a number of Christian sects who do various thing such as trying to run a town based on the ten commandments (see West Wing commentary). However, mainstream Christianity (including groups who may have pretty vigorous opinions on many others things such using prayer rather than medicine) usually shies away from creating a Christian State (in the legal sense of the word, not the community sense, obviously!). Pope Benedict has just arrived in America today and one of the first things he praised was that there was no state religion there.

Whilst the three Abrahamic religions share a number of features, to me, this attitude to religion's place within the state is one of the crucial separations of Christianity from Islam and Judaism. Christianity not only lacks any form of legal framework to create a Christian State (sure, it's possible to disagree with the frameworks of Judaism and Islam, but they are clearly there and fairly comprehensive, even in the modern age), but Christians are explicitly instructed to 'render unto Caesar', ie, let the state deal with the business of the state and let the church deal with the business of the church.

It has always puzzled me, given that all Christians accept 'New Testament trumps Old Testament', why fundamentalists (whether today or in the 16th century) feel the urge to return to the OT. Seems, to me, a clear example of working out what you want your religion to say and then finding the passage that supports your view. I realise that the NT is also quite clear on judging people, but this type of action really annoys me. Very glad the Pope made the Church's position on the issue clear.

15 April, 2008

Fathers, Mothers, Hospitals and the State

I was shocked today that fathers are being pushed out of maternity wards even when the mother wants them to be there!

If the couple have decided that they don't want the father there, of course he should not be compelled.

If the mother has decided that she doesn't want the father there, I believe her wishes trump the fathers as it is her going through the process.

But where both parties are in agreement that they both want both people to be there, what kind of backward Saudi-esque thinking are the maternity nurses employing bundling the fathers out?

I feel that not only do medical guidelines on the parents of babies need to be re-considered, but other guidelines do too.

Under the status quo, a woman who becomes pregnant (subject to certain conditions) is entitled to 1 year of maternity leave. Fathers of new babies are entitled to 4 weeks. I accept that in the majority of families, traditional gender roles are still happening. I wouldn't force people to change this against their will. But the current set up is an active barrier to change should the parents want a different family set up.

My solution would be to distinguish between the biological aspects of pregnancy and childbirth and the social aspects. If the mother chooses, she should be able to have roughly 6 weeks of parental leave (some to be taken before the due date, 4 weeks or so to be taken after the due date). That accounts for the biological aspects where the burden is shared solely by the woman, however supportive her partner is. The year which women currently get off as maternity leave should be re-labelled parental leave and it should be up to the parents of the new born to deicde how they wished to split this leave.

Now, what happens if the father of the child is irresponsible, refuses to take care of the child but demands his right to parental leave (ie. getting something for nothing). Well, maybe it seems unfair (but still better than the SQ) but I would say the decision for allocating the maternity leave should be legally left to the woman. In the vast majority of cases, this can then be decided jointly, but use the woman's signature to confirm the decision made. In cases where there is conflict between the woman and the man, realistically in these situations - where there is a newborn- conflict will end up with the woman taking care of the baby. It seems sensible that she should then get the childcare.

I also think that as babies are generally considered to be a social good, the burden of paying parental leave should be shifted from the employer to the government.

One added bonus of this scheme? At the moment, women are being seen as a liability by potential employers as they may get hired and then promptly take a year off to care for children. By giving both parents equal rights, both are equally risky to employers to there is no point in favouring one sex over the other.

14 April, 2008

Organ donation

There has recently been the story of a woman who died who had, whilst living, signed up to donate her organs. He mother had problems with her kidneys and was awaiting a transplant. The daughter, everyone agrees, was quite clear that she wanted her mother to have her kidneys and was in the process of signing up to be a living donor. The daughter died before she could put this desire in writing. When she died, her organs were taken and given to strangers on the usual allocation basis of the organ donor registry. The mother therefore didn't get the kidneys.

This is an interesting ethical dilemma. On the one hand, there is broad agreement that medicine should try and save as many lives as possible, that's why we have a system of triage. On the other hand, we recognise the rights of living people to donate to whom they please, why does that right cease on death? Seeing as we do recognise that the dead have rights (that's why we have wills, don't allow medical experiments on dead people without consent and why digging up dead bodies is heavily regulated), why should the right to decide where ones organs go stop when you are dead where a clearly, undisputed request to the contrary has been made?

If people were never allowed to have a say in where their organs went after death, I suspect the number of organs donated would go down. Had the two men who received the daughter's organs in this case not received them, they may have died waiting.

All in all, what probably sways me in this particular case are a number of secondary considerations. The daughter, in this case, had a daughter of her own (Macie). The mother was the main carer of Macie. Now the daughter has died, she is the sole carer. I'm not a doctor, but various research programmes (ahem, House, Scrubs...) have taught me that organs can be rejected. The closer to donor and donee are genetically, the less likely rejection is. A daughter donating to her mother, therefore, suffers far less chance of rejection than the two men who received the organs. As the mother is also now the carer of Macie, the pendulum swings even further in her direction. To lose a mother is bad enough, to lose your guardian a while later, even worse.

The decision is difficult as it has to balance human lives, but in this case, I would have given the kidneys to the mother, not the strangers.

13 April, 2008

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

A number of scientists have criticised various church leaders for commenting on the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill where those leaders have opposed the Bill on moral grounds and have suggested, in strong terms, that MPs who profess (insert type of) religious belief would be going against their church's teachings.

To the extent that any opposition to the Bill is based on ignorance, I applaud the offer made by the aforementioned scientists to go and explain the parts that matter.

However, I am of the opinion that most of the religious leaders who spoke out against the Bill know exactly what it says and what it aims to do, have considered the issues in it in the context of their faith and have spoken out on that basis. The idea that people would only oppose the Bill because of 'ignorance' is charitable arrogance on the part of the scientific community, I fear.

The second criticism made of the stance of religious leaders (henceforth, shortened to Church leaders, as the people in the main firing line are Catholic, generally) is that they have no right to tell MPs how they should vote.

Now, I opposed the idea of the government only giving Catholic MPs a free vote on this issue, but compelling everyone else. I feel, very strongly, that MPs should have a free vote on as many matters as possible (but recognise that is quite possibly a reflection of my disdain for party politics), but that it is more crucial to have a free vote on issues of conscience than other issues. I'm glad that the government has backed down on this issue and has extended the free vote to all MPs, regardless of their faith (or lack of it).

But why, in my opinion, does the Church have a right to try and publically persuade its members to vote in a particular manner? Well, to me, the Church taking a public stance on this Bill - something they consider to have strong moral implications - is no different to say, Stonewall, taking a stand on single-sex couples adopting children. No one has a problem if Stonewall stands up and says to gay MPs, 'if you do not vote for this, you are betraying the gay community'. We recognise and encourage interest groups to speak out on their chosen subjects. The chosen subject of religious organisations is morality. Why do the people who criticised the Church not criticise Stonewall (and other similar organisations ) in the same manner?

It saddens me that the only reason I can think of for this double standard is unthinking 'anti-religion' on the part of the critics. I would love to know if there is another reason.

11 April, 2008

The environment and panaceas

Given my willingness to often accept various things scientists tell me at face value without researching them more, perhaps this post will be a larger piece of hypocrisy since a person who proclaims green values had five children.

I don't like people interfering in the lives of others unless strictly necessary. Even when such intervention is done for the best possible reasons and with the purest heart, it often backfires so spectacularly so as to be not worth it. The damage done by well-meaning intervention often seems worse when it is the issue of the day which is 'meriting' such intervention.

In the nineteenth century, female labour was 'scandalous' and so laws were brought in restricting it. The result? Families which depended on such labour were impoverished and female children worth even less before and consequently even more ill-nourished. When we ban the sale of alcohol (the source of much low-level anti-social behaviour, true) we get organised crime.

When explaining anything, one always get to the point where if the explainer were to simplify what they were trying to say down more, it just becomes wrong. The same applies when trying to cure a problem. The modern day 'evil' is 'the environment'. The problem with this is 'the environment' is just too big to be dealt with as one, but if we split it up and try and deal with different components separately, we often 'cure' one at the expense of another.

For example, we currently focus on carbon and aim to reduce it. That all sound very commendable, except the focus on carbon is to the detriment of dealing with other problems such as methane. So not only are our resources being misallocated, the decisions made can often be wrong too. A focus on carbon reduction says we should put waste in landfill rather than burning it in an incinerator. Whilst landfills are unsightly and smelly, they do not cause carbon and are therefore 'better'. However, if we leave rubbish in landfill, it produces methane, looks unsightly AND gives nothing back. The overall balance is negative. If, on the other hand, we burn our waste in an incinerator, methane is not produced, the energy it produces from burning can be converted into electricity (thus meaning fossil fuels need not be burnt as much), we don't have unslightly and smelly landfill (although an incinerator in your back garden may not be desirable either!) and much of the 'dirty' carbon can be scrubbed out. The overall balance is therefore positive for incineration.

The above is merely an example of where the balance can go wrong within an environmenal equation. Where non-environmental factors have to be taken into account like, say, human lives, the equation is even more difficult. The use of biofuels might salve the consciences of rich nations and reduce their dependence on oil from countries they might not like much. But the cost hits the poorest in the world the most as it causes food prices to rise. And biofuels might not even be that environmentally friendly after all, anyway.

When a problem is so large, a single panacea is almost certainly not going to exist. Biofuels will not save the world any more than banning alcohol rescued the morals of America in the 1920s. Many decisions sound good and make us feel better, but it would seem wiser to take a step back, make the unpopular decision and be willing to change our minds.

10 April, 2008

A favour to ask y'all...

I would appreciate it if people could wander over to either of these two links and vote and/or edit the debates there :)

Male Circumcision

Forced Marriage

It's related the the post I left a little while ago discussing free i-pods etc.



Christians v Google

Pornography (name your type), pro-anorexia websites, the UK's top 240 dogging locations, how to building a bomb, why [insert group of people here] aren't as human as the rest of us, holocaust denial, libel, BDSM tips, illegal downloads, westlife fansites... Google, we usually assume, has it all. It does not censor on the grounds of sexism, racism, homophobia or any other -ism or -phobia a Canadian equity policy would define as 'bad'.

It does, however, have one exception. If you are atheist, secular, irreligious or agnostic your (paid for) views on abortion are welcome. The one group google won't accept money from for the adverts which it uses to make a profit? Any religious group commenting on abortion. Apparently, the logic behind this is that religious views on abortion are automatically 'non-factual'. Leaving aside this assertion for one moment, since when has Google only accepted money for adverts from 'factual' organisations? And why is abortion a special case?

The Christian Institute are now suing Google on the grounds of religious discrimination.

More here. Thanks to Cranmer.

Exams, OLPAS and other complaints

Exams are actually killing me :(

I have my first one tomorrow (civil litigation MCT (multiple choice test)), I then have a family thing in Kent all weekend arriving back late Sunday, followed by an advocacy exam on Monday (in which I failed my mock) and drafting on Friday.

Slightly concerned on a number of counts. Firstly, I'm trying to read less than 10 pages on disclosure but keep zoning out, it's taken me over three hours! Ridiculous. I keep on doing short procrastinating activities between paragraphs (such as blog posting) hoping that it will help my concentration in the next paragraph to have had a break. Turns out that's not the case!

My second concern is that my institution puts up online MCT questions for us to practise with. When I did them before my mock (score: 63%), I was getting 70-80% on average. One month later, with more revision under my belt, doing the same questions (!) I'm getting only 50%. This isn't good :(

Not helped by other people in the same position as me don't seem to be worrying! And this individual is usually crazily hard working (in the good way!). Oh dear, oh dear!

On top of that, OLPAS (the pupillage version of UCAS) closes in three week's time and my application is only bare bones.

Feel I'm quietly crashing and burning which is mildly concerning. Hope I don't crash out until half way through May, but not sure I'm going to last that long!

Anyway, sorry about the long list of complaints, nothing to do with debating, I just had a strong need to vent.

01 April, 2008

Free MacBook Air, I-phone etc for debaters

For those of you not signed up to BD, here's a copy of the e-mail sent out by JLM recently:

Hey all - no gimmicks, that subject line really is accurate. Read on...
www.debatewise.com is a new internet start-up, which seeks to provide a forum for those interested in cotroversial issues to write up, ammend and discuss arguments without having the trawl through pages of biased websites, blogs, or forum discussion pages.
To achieve these goals, however, they need the initial outlines of more debates written for the website, and to encourage this, they are launching a competition. Full details are available at http://www.debatewise.com/competition - but in brief, you enter by writing the basic outlines of a debate on a topic of your choice with three arguments in favour, three arguments against, and rebuttals for each, with some explanation of each. You can enter as many debates as you want, and all of them should go up on the website and form the foundation blocks for the wider public to ammend, discuss and develop.
Of all the submissions, those that provoke good responses from visitors to the site will be put before a panel of judges including myself and reigning World Universities Debating Champion Samir Deger-Sen. The best debate wins a brand new MacBook Air. The second best debate receives a new iPhone. According to the number of debates entered into the competition, more iPhone second prizes are also likely to become available. Finally, there is a prize of a free iPhone for the individual who contributes the most debates that meet the website's guidelines.
I hope people don't need too much convincing that this site is a pretty good cause. And you all get the opportunity to win amazing prizes. So do all check out the website and the more detail competition guidelines and enter many many debates!
Hope you are all well,
Jonathan Leader Maynard

House Moving

Sorry about lack of posts etc. Just moved to a new flat (two weeks ago) and only got the internet for it yesterday. Suddenly realising how rubbish my old ISP was though. Used to take me days to download stuff, just done 4 gb on this new one in under 7 hours. Frankly, good enough for me.

Anyway, the trauma of being internet-less is now over so the procrastination can begin once again!