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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

IF the whole situation weren’t so awful this would be comical:

Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister, accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Thank God there is such a position in the Sudanese government . . . Whether the ICC could prove much of a solution I don’t know (see here, here or here; make your own mind up).

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I bet this has already been going round the blogs but I still think it's excellent:

"Our mistake was to spell everything out," says a senior German official.
"For 50 years, the people of Europe were happy to eat sausages. Then we came along and asked them whether they wanted to eat tubes stuffed with chopped-up sow's udders."

He’s got a point, though I’m off now to have some sausage and potato salad (very German!) . . .

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Nobody should ever claim the BBC doesn't bring you the most important news right here and right now:

Cat rescued from drowning in rain


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why state intervention is no perfect cure for market failures, by Jane Galt:

1) People are often stupid
2) Bureaucrats are the same stupid people, with bad incentives.

You may also like this cartoon version of the Road to Serfdom. Via Andrew Sullivan

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This may strike readers as a polemical question, but it is kind of genuine. I am not going to bother disentangling James's various points about the link between either "selfish capitalism" and inequality and mental illness or however he wants to put it exactly (see here for more). What I haven’t seen in the debate that’s been on the blogs and in the papers the past week or so, but it may of course be in the book, is the wider reason for the problem of "affluenza", i.e. affluent societies suffering from high rates of mental health problems.
And that’s why I ask whether James has heard of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim is often considered the founding father of sociology. His seminal and defining work was on the most extreme outgrowth of mental health problems, Suicide. Durkheim ignored any individual factors leading people to commit suicide, and rather looked at the statistical likelihood of suicide occurring in a given group of people or under specific circumstances. The common view on suicide was, and I suppose still is, that it is done by people who are having a hard time so to speak. But Durkheim had a look at the evidence and found the data showed a slightly different picture, although much of it seems received wisdom these days. Suicide is more likely in cities vs villages, married vs unmarried, childless vs parents, involved in clubs vs not involved in clubs . . . even societies at peace vs societies at war.
What Durkheim distilled from this is that what increased the likelihood of suicide wasn’t about objective hardships, but rather more due to people feeling unconnected to others. Durkheim termed this anomie; later this has also been termed individuation and other sociological terms . . . but the point remains, that the less people feel connected to others around them, the more likely becomes suicide, and by extension the more likely other mental illnesses.

So what drives mental illness on the bigger level is this lack of community sense. Now, it is perfectly possible to argue that "selfish capitalism", particularly as practiced in Anglo-Saxon countries increases this decline of community feeling. But I wonder if that’s really the case? The Unicef study on childhood wellbeing -also out recently- found for example that the UK and the US at the bottom of the pile were joined by France. As usual the Scandinavians came out on top. So, let's run Durkheim's approach along this. One of the obvious differences is size: compare the small Scandinavian countries and compare them to the fairly large and populous France, Britain and America. The bigger a society, the more complex it inevitably becomes, and the more complex the more anomic it will become. This has a cultural dimension to it as well. The big three are countries that due to their internal structure, their history and their present role on the world stage have far raging and often painful debates about national identity and connected issues (from anecdotal evidence much more than the Scandinavians do). These debates inevitably put the national community into question, thus potentially weakening it, thus increasing anomie. In addition, and I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way, France, Britain and America are societies that are culturally very diverse, and certainly more diverse than the Nordic ones. Again this possibly lowers the strength of community.
Are these factors negligible compared to income inequalities, as some seem to believe? I’m not so sure. I tend to take the view that cultural problems have cultural causes and need cultural solutions. I don’t for example think that multi-cultural societies need to be lacking in community, nor do I think that the same has to apply to societies with high-powered capitalism.
I don’t find there’s an entirely obvious answer to the problem of high incidences of mental illnesses in our societies. Particularly I find it hard to see how state intervention to redistribute income will make much of an impact. But perhaps I’m not quite on top of this yet?
Right, that’s Professor timmyhawk’s lecture for this week. And for next week: figure out how to fix this problem!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

. . . well, more insult-opedia maybe. This entry on Modernism starts with the following sentence:

The first writer is mark twain. tim skronski is a gay person thats retarted

One of the more significant aspects of Modernism for sure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I don't know about my readers, but in 99% of all cases I can't stand the use of the word "community" in the political context. There's something gooey and unspecific about it that ticks me off. In any case it's normally a PC-word to say group of people. For my most recent encounter check this out, from the DfES' December 2006 Consultation Report: Languages Review, p.13:

2.29 In the adult community there is a healthy interest in languages.

Words fail me. Adults form a "community"? Give me a break!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I am very heartened by the news that the Conservatives are standing by our commitment to oppose id cards and longer detention without trial. The Government’s trying to sound off against this naturally:

Mr Reid said: "David Davis has shown today that he and David Cameron talk tough
while acting soft."

Almost beyond satire coming from a member of this current Gov. This has been a government that creates ever more criminal offences and gives the police ever greater powers, but the net result is an increase in disorder (and crime). Perhaps it’ll dawn on them one day, that the two might be connected? Not likely with this bunch.
Let’s face it, we only have so many police, and the more tasks they have, the less well they are going to be able to do them. Not exactly rocket science. The police’s duties should be limited as much as possible to make them as effective as possible. Just imagine what the introduction, management and enforcement of this ID card scheme would waste in terms of resources and time of the police and Home Office. And with absolutely no benefit for us citizens to boot. Good on the Tories to stick the boot in. Let’s just hope they stay at it.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

I know there are serious things happening in the world that I should be adding my wisdom to, but I've just "discovered" YouTube . . . yeah, I know I'm a little behind the curve. Yes, I know, I'm not a particularly productive blogger at the moment and most readers will find this entry superfluous, but I'm somewhat busy. So just enjoy.
It's a practically unlimited reservoir of music that was buried in the past, and in some cases probably justly so too:
ahh, blessed memories
men, what can you say?
Sonique looks hot in this vid and not boyish, though plenty of boys . . .
My better half told me off for liking this video, because apparently this so "out". Well, it was in 2004, but not in 1994 when I developed theses tastes.
The lyrics are as rude as the hats are silly
and finally, this should just make you feel good. It worked for me.

What seems to be quite popular is putting one's own film and pics to music:
This is sort of cool, a tribute to the Paras, set to Oasis Supersonic
This, set to Ana Johnsson's We are, is more typical YouTube-fare . . . though I'm sure it meant something to her . . .
It's also strange how all of these things can attract so much commentary. It's a whole little universe; bit like blogging really.

Sort of reporting too:
Though there's some debate whether it's genuine, it still gives you a bit of an impression of infantry combat

There's loads of funny stuff too:
he got some rap
The thing with cyber sex is, you can never really be sure who's on the other end . . . .

Righty, back to work!


Friday, February 02, 2007

Given the spate of recent stories about overflowing prisons, I have been hearing again and again this notion that Britain imprisons more than anyone else in Europe. Now in terms of prisoners per head of population that’s true. But is that really what matters? No, what matters is the proportion of prisoners to crimes and on that count Britain is third from the bottom in Europe, a point made very clearly by Robin Harris some time ago. In its newest press release Civitas also makes this clear with some up-to-date figures:

If we imprisoned offenders at the average rate (per 1,000 crimes) of EU members, the prison population would be 113,150 instead of 80,000. [. . .] Socialist Spain has the highest rate per 1,000 crimes and if her rate applied in England and Wales the prison population would be about 369,000.

The causes of crime, whatever you think they are, are not going to vanish anytime soon either, so we seriously need get building more prisons.


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