Sunday, July 31, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | Law ends UK tobacco sponsorship

It had always been a sneaking suspicion of mine that the result why our local government does not simply ban tabacco and let it go the way of the chewing gum was because of the revenue that could be raised from taxing the damn thing.

However, it was told to me (albeit indirectly) that this was not the case. Apparently, the tax revenue from such sin items were a small fraction of our total tax collection. I can't find the information on the net so I'm going to take it at face value for the moment.

But assuming that tobacco consumption patterns in the US is similar to that of Singapore, then for every 10% rise in the price of cigarettes, there's a corrosponding 6% fall in the number of teenagers picking up smoking. I'm not entirely sure what the number of smokers overall decrease but I think it's likely to be low.

So with those numbers in mind (10% rise in price = 6% fall in smokers) i.e. the demand for cigarettes is inelastic, there becomes a fantastic impetus and incentive for governments to bilk suckers *ahem* I mean smokers for all their worth. You raise prices, number of smokers fall but not by so much that it actually hurts your tax revenue. And assuming that smuggling and access to contraband cigarettes is not a problem (which it isn't in Singapore as far as I can tell), then you get the best of both world essentially.

Which brings me back to my original 'question' of why the government does not simply ban cigarettes outright. Partly because it does make economic sense (especially since smoking related diseases and illnesses are not directly borne by the government but outsourced to NGOs and HMOs) and also because banning it outright would be a losing battle in and off itself (kind of like the war on drugs as a whole, Singapore wins because of its top-notch enforcement more than anything else).

In which case, aggressive campaigning against smoking as well as limiting their ability to advertise would on first sight seeming to be an efficacious combination. However, if one were to take the effort to actually look at and read a cigarette ad, one would be hard pressed to discover how it could be seen (except very indirectly) as an inducement TO SMOKE rather than SMOKE THAT PARTICULAR BRAND. Most tobacco advertisment seems to be more an attempt to protect their own market share and to wrest away market share than any real attempt to gain NEW market share.

After all, why would one smoke? If you hate second hand smoke, try imagining it in a concentrated dose down your throat into your lungs. That keeps me away from smoking more than anything else (considering my eating habits, the health hazards of smoking are not large comparatively). And I have seen my cousin sneaking a puff everyday but never quite wanted to pick it up. In which case, perhaps there is a lot more truth in the concept of addiction being genetic (alcoholism tends to run in the family and not just because of the home environment). Or maybe its because cigarettes act as a forbidden fruit in which case would make it impossible to eradicate.

Does anyone still think smoking is cool? The ads don't give that impression, plus there are a lot more other things out there that are cool which does not include smoking. But what this policy does do is to deprive certain sports of a lot of money. More importantly, money like water on a pavement will find every crack and creavice.
So with one stroke, tobacco money to politics has just increased.

Which is worse? Tobacco money in sports or in government? Peace.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland | IRA says armed campaign is over

Fact or fiction? You decide.

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Chaucer's tales become rap songs

Um...*clears throat*. Right...okay... *Shakes head*

Before I sold out to become a law student, I wanted to be a b-boy (break dancer in the more common vernacular) or a rapper or a DJ. Yes, shocking as it may seem, I don't listen to Classical music unless there's rap involved. I don't pretend that I have a whole lot of street cred but on its intellectual traditions and on it's history, I probably know more about Hip Hop culture than most others, and yes, contrary to what some people think, it's more than gangsta' rap or Bling-Blings.

We do know that Hip Hop culture as a whole (involving rap, DJing, break dance and graffiti) has made tremendous strides in crossing and breaching cultural barriers and nationalities, both subsuming and being subsumed by musical traditions (and fashions), traditional or otherwise. In a sense, hip hop is remarkably similar to jazz in both its origins, spread and use of originality (or lack thereof).

And considering that the origins of rap (Old school) was borne in the tumultuous era of the 1960's civil rights movement, where rap was spoken words (often political messages and stories) said by a DJ over music, I don't personally think it's inconceivable that Chaucer could be transformed into a form of rap especially since the Canterbury tales have their own rhyme scheme incorporated into the stories. Admittedly, the rhyme scheme only works in 14th century English. Very painful to read and understand (in places it doesn't even look like the English we know).

Furthermore, given that the entire notion of studying literature which involves past authors and playwrights is premised upon the immutableness of human nature, then the incapacity of the original to be translated into modern form would be a damning indictment of that original premise.

Which is why I really do admire Shakespeare, for certain of his plays still retain remarkable realism even today. I watched the 'MTV' version of Romeo and Juliet and was utterly blown away by the sheer stylism and the manner in which ye olde English actually made telligible sense spoken out loud. Of course, having Claire Danes didn't hurt the play visually.

What is truely interesting about this article and the entire endeavor however, is the part which talks about having to tone down Chaucer for kiddy consumption. Anyone who has done Chaucer's tales would know that it could rival anyway sexual comedy shown today on our screens, both in terms of innuendos as well as sheer crude humour and inane plot devices. I still remember attending a local production that assuredly deserved its N16 rating (and remembering marveling at the sheer innocence of some of my classmates).

I think in a manner of speaking, it rips the heart out of Chaucer. The ribald humour was intentional and crucial in fact to the entire sequence of stories. These were stories told by pilgrims and the irony of cause was that it got more and more explicit and sexual as they neared their religious end point. But at the same time, these were very accurate portrayals of the type of people and stories and mannerism that we would have seen in would time. So while I can understand why the desire to tone it down as it were exists, nevertheless, such a form of censorship insults not only the original author but also the listeners/readers. After all, I'm pretty sure your teenagers nowadays have heard and watched a lot worse and are none the worse for wear.

Jane Austen set in the streets anyone? Peace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - Some pull 'Doonesbury' over Rove moniker - Jul 27, 2005

Moniker = nickname. Read my blog and learn a new word everyday? =)

The iteration of what happened in the comic strip is reproduced here by means of cribbing off the actual article. "In the strip, Bush and an aide are lamenting the problems the administration has had over allegations that Rove leaked the name of a CIA officer to reporters.

Bush says, "Karl's sure been earnin' his nickname lately."

The unnamed aide says, "Boy Genius? I'm not so sure sir ..."

Bush then says, "Hey Turd Blossom! Get in here.""

Yep, it seems that the word turd is so offensive (despite the fact that it is an actual nickname used by Bush for Karl Rove) that a few editors have decided to pull the strip instead of publishing it. I personally think that this is so ironic on so many levels that it is mind blowing (not unlike Huxley's Brave New World which I'm absolutely certain he wrote while taking LSD. It might have been confirmed by him but I have no idea).

1. That we're actually concerned about the word 'turd' over the possibility that Karl Rove indeed was the person who leaked the name for political ends and Bush has seemingly renaged on a promise to fire which ever Senior Official who was involved in the leak in the first place.

2. That we're concerned about a word which most people would not understand the meaning of.

3. That we are concerned about a word in a comic strip that is almost only read and understood by someone who ACTUALLY reads up on current affairs i.e. your above average reasonable person. So these adults can't read the word turd without their eyes burning and their brains melting?

But this raises an important issue that is stewing in American politics and the media right now. Ever since Janet Jackson's wardrobe misfunction, the FCC has fined the media companies more in the past year than they have in the past decade. Admittedly, the fine of a couple of million is pretty much a minute fraction of a trillion dollar industry but what is significant of this development is that it was due to pressure from Congress that forced the FCC into a content regulator of indecency like never before. Couple this with an Executive fixated on their (or his) version of moral values and it should be evident why the media companies feel like a frog in a slowly boiling pan (if they are feeling optimistic) or a rabbit caught in the headlights of an 18 wheeler (if they're feeling a tad more pessimistic).

Either way (fast or slow), there have been moves in Congress to expend: 1. the definition of indecency and 2. to other forms of media that were previously exempt from this ruling i.e. cable and satelite.

The media groups are fighting back of course, not simply with their standard 1st Amendment ruling on the freedom of speech but also more importantly by arguing that technology (in the form of the V chip and set top boxes that allow their users to block certain shows or types of shows) has the capacity to give those who really ought to be governing what ought or ought not be shown i.e. the viewers and the parents of children.

This is a battle that has its rises and ebbs. It's a neverending cycle of 'progression' and 'regression' (mostly depending on your own personal political ideology). But it should be interesting to watch how it turns out anyway (sorta like the US Supreme Court confirmation).


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

*How the other 5% lives*

Going to side track to a personal post today.

I'm back from my trip to K.L., was orginally going to return home yesterday morning by coach but I had extended it by a day and returned by a shuttle from KLIA.

Which brings me to the title of my post today. Due to a very fortituous circumstance i.e. my aunt working for the Hilton, she gets a staff discount for rooms and Food & Beverages when she stays at another Hilton. As a result, this had to have been my most opulent trip ever to another country. I wasn't staying at any suite mind you but what seemed to me to be one of their 'normal' rooms but the scale of the rooms and the amenities present was (for me) jaw dropping.

The room was at least 2-2.5 times larger than a usual hotel room. The bathroom took up slightly less than half of that space with a full bathtub and waterfall shower. Not to mention the ubercool LCD screen inbuilt into the mirror that allows you to watch what is showing on the 42 inch plasma screen tv outside. This does not include the various nick knacks that are included like an iron and ironing board, books and games for the little kiddies etc.

So yes, between eating at the Hilton (decent value for money which is admittedly damning with faint praise, though the pastry chef is really excellent) and staying there, it was an absolute blast.

At any rate I don't have any particular abiding interest in the hotelling industry, especially when I found out that they don't employ in-house counsels. What is worth noting is that at least the local Hilton seems to be picking up very well with very high occupancy rates even during what might be considered off-peak season. Assuming that this is the state for the other hotels in Singapore, it looks like they are well and truely out of the doldrums that they had been in since the AEC (and the various major whammies that occured there after).

And oh, one more thing, for anyone actually interested in the real estate aspect of things, it's worth noting that the major hotel groups have stopped owning the land on which the hotel in on. Now, doesn't that say something about their perception of the future of real estate...=P


Friday, July 22, 2005

*Ta-ta! Will be back in a couple*

Off to K.L. for the next few days, will be back on Monday.

On a separate note, the cycling excursion will be held the Sunday after next at around 2 p.m. at East Coast Park. People who have no idea how to get there can join me at Eunos MRT station and we'll grab a cab down. It should work out to about a dollar a person. Feel free to invite people down.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush judge comes under spotlight

By sheer coincidence, I was reading some stuff for my upcoming semester's Comparative Legal Tradition (I'm actually excited about it, but considering that it's up against other topics like Equities & Trusts or Property Law or Company Law, I don't think I'm the only person) and the manner in which it describes the American legal system was basically one of 51 jurisdictions (50 states and 1 Federal). Apparently as a result, American lawyers are very well versed in resolving conflicts in foreign law (*ahem* out of state law) or to take advantages of various laws (apparently Loiusianna has easy paperwork on formations of companies).

Anyway, the interesting thing about the entire nomination is how much of a blank slate Justice Roberts is. Having been appointed to appeals court 2 years ago, according to the BBC, he "has given few clues to his likely stance on divisive issues that may come before the Supreme Court."

Given that Bush is often 'misunderestimated' it immediately raises the question of what does he know that we do not. After all, to be honest, he's placed in a position whereby the situation is so polarised and the issues so divisive, that any gains to one side will be taken as a loss by the other. So regardless of what he does, he's either going to piss off the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Which really makes Justice Roberts such an interesting choice. Theoratically he could play himself as a moderate and a compromise to the extent that he might actually garner enough support from both Republicans and Democrats. And since confirmation is a one time process, it really doesn't matter what he says before the Senate Committee, once he's in, he's in and free to decide as he should choose.

After all, in a previous post I pointed out why a conservative may not be socially conservative. Furthermore, let's not forget that some of the most 'liberal' judges were thought of as Conservative and had been appointed by conservative Republican Presidents. Judges are their own people and it's beyond the ken of mortal men to figure out how they would judge should a novel case come before them.

Let's hope that the Republicans and Democrats can come to a good decision without politics poisoning it too much. But in todays environment that's like hoping the moon is made of blue cheese.


*Updates: Or their lack thereof*

The author is going to be slightly busy the next few days for various reasons and as such is not terribly likely to update this blog:

1. He's just got two modules worth of readings from his mailbox and once again he's getting intimidated, especially by property law.

2. He's trying to get through an entire season of The West Wing before school starts. His 'most brilliant plan' right now involves him watching at 3X the normal speed and reading off the subtitles...=)

3. He's off to HCJC (I just think HCI just sounds like some half baked software company) tomorrow afternoon to listen in on a bunch of bright young debaters come up with a case on why This House Believes that copyrights is the death of knowledge *rolls eyes*

4. He'll be off to K.L. for the weekend. Anyone needs a spot of shopping done?


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

*It's all about me A.K.A. why a knowledge economics and law is good for you*

Good, now that I've got your attention, yes, the content of my post today will have something to do with yours truely, the author.

As regular (and even non-regular) readers should more than evidently know by now, this entire blog has almost nothing tangent to my life at all. The number of posts that have actually made mentioned of the weird and wonderful life the author has can be counted on one hand *Mr Fluffy says to ignore the author for he's obviously self delusional i.e. the author has no life*

But I got a new DVD-rom today and I can now finally watch my West Wing Season Two. The relevance of this to anyone else's life has begin in the next paragraph.

I bought this entire second season of The West Wing from Mae Sin, the border town in Changmai which borders (obviously) Myanmar, at a fraction of the price you would have paid for in Singapore. To be precisely, it was slightly under 50% of what I would pay in most retail outlets in Singapore.

Now before you go calling the police in what seems to be a confession of a flagent breach of Intellectual Property Infringement, let me assure you, it was all perfectly legal and legitimate. As an aside, piracy is not theft mind you, that's what the big (small and medium sized companies have more pressing worries to do with the bigger companies and also mostly because no one bothers to pirate their software) software companies want the public to think. But it's not theft since it isn't 'real' property i.e. you are not depriving someone else of use of that piece of property, which is why the word infringement (and not theft) is the correct legal term. At any rate, I was simply engaging in a spot of grey/parallel importing (in Singapore it's more often associated with cars).

Anyway, the reason why I could get a similar cheaper product elsewhere and bring it back legally is premised upon something called exhaustion of rights. Once the company sells the product to the distributor or retailer, it has exhausted it's right with regards to the good in question. And since price differentials exists everywhere in the world for a variety of reasons (taxation and exchane rates being the major factors), the legal cost of the good in Changmai was simply cheaper than in Singapore. Hence, it was entirely within my legal rights to purchase a similar cheaper product elsewhere and bring it back AS A CONSUMER.

The consumer bit is relatively important because sometimes companies try to get round this form of arbitrage (buying low and selling high till the price reaches parity) by creating technical barriers (that's why you have the various Codes and Regions on your DVD and DVD players) or through laws which state that you can only buy and/or sell the product within a certain country (which nevertheless allowed me to buy Neverwinter Nights at yet another massive discount and bring it back home since I originally bought it in Thailand and was not planning to sell it here).

Another good example is how the mandated retail price of The Economist is nearly double here than it is in Malaysia. It also explains why Americans can, as consumers, go to Canada to buy their prescription drugs (the Canadian government puts a price cap on them) but not to import them for sale within the US.

And here we have it. This is how a economist background and some legal knowledge can be beneficial to your audiovisual pleasure.


p.s. If anyone is going to Thailand, could you help me get Season 3 of The West Wing pls? =P

Monday, July 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | UN at odds over internet's future

For anyone who has ever watched Jackie Chan: The Animated Series, you might find the next quote funny (or perhaps sadly only the author finds it funny), as Uncle says, "One more thing..."

I've read The Economist take on this and I still don't understand why controlling the naming rights of the net is actually important. I think it might have to do with something we called the goods and services exchange mechanism a.k.a money. Because, while there's much talk about things that the things Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) does not do outside of its relatively 'narrow technical remit', most of the debate has centred around the US control of Icann. After all, there's really no reason why the US can't maintain control of Icann while the UN sets up the equivalent of Tom Clancey's Net Force to police cyberspace threats (not withstanding the likely drift net laws and massive invasion of privacy that is likely to occur).

But apparently there is money to be made from such naming rights, not just the domain names per se (which is really a shorthand for the numbers that these addresses actually are) but the extension i.e. .com or .org or the lastest .xxx. If I'm not wrong the Icann () doesn't parcel out domain names but does so for the extensions.

But the really really important bit to this entire post is what the article does not mention. What the BBC fails to note is that the entire backbone of the Internet (all those servers) are located within the USA itself. So even if CERN did 'invent' the net (according to Dan Brown at any rate), the physical infrastructure is under the territorial and soveriegn jurisdiction of the USA. Which poses a big question of whether any advisory committee of the UN is capable of taking it away from the US in the first place.

I mean if the US does not acquiese to it, what could the UN do? After all, the majority of the participants were pretty much happy with the status quo and are not entirely keen on much change. The opposition is as noted above and by the article, "Others, particularly delegates from developing nations, resent Icann's role and the fact that the US has kept control of it." Tough luck for the opposition to try anything, given their lack of support (if it even gets put forward to the General Assembly) and the current US's administration perchant for unilateralism and desire to keep control of their own soveriegnity as opposed to the UN meddling and interfering in their affairs.

To reiterate, if the desire is to truely govern and handle things that are currently beyond the capabilities and remit of the Icann then by all means the UN should do something about it. There's no reason to conflate this with the much narrower issue of naming rights.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Indonesia agrees Aceh peace deal

Indonesia was once described to me as an incoherent geographical expression. All it was (now that Timor Leste is independent) was all the former Dutch colonial possessions coming into the hands of the Jakarta one. As is, it is a mish mash of various nationalities coming under the banner of 'Indonesia', a highly centralised system that has had a tendancy of ignoring the outer lying areas.

Stuff flows into the centre and may not flow back. This was a point of contention in Timor Leste as well as Aceh in that mineral rights and royalties were felt to be not equitable for the outer lying provinces. Of course religion had a role to play in it. Timor Leste is mostly Christian (not sure if its Roman Catholic or one of the protestant sects) while Aceh seeks to impose a more 'Islamic' version of Sharia (Islamic Law) instead of the highly indigenous version practiced by the Indonesian courts. It has been claimed that the Sharia courts are basically a divorce courts for women seeing as 70% of the cases are for divorce and 70% of those initiated by women.

Aside: I had a visiting Australian Professor who works very closely with the Indonesian government and the Acehnese who was heaping praise on the Sharia system for basically taking the best practices from elsewhere. I don't know the intricacies of it but I'm somewhat inclined to believe him till it changes. He also felt that GAM, the Free Aceh Movement was basically a bunch of bandits who had not much support on the ground.

Anyway, Kudos to the Finish for brokering the deal and hopefully the Norwagians will be able to do similarly for Kashmir. GAM gave in on independence while the Indonesians gave in on letting it form a political party. I'm not entire sure this is necessary an improvement from Status Quo seeing as there's already a lot of autonomy given to Aceh to the point of the Sharia being implement (although still subject to the Jakarta Supreme Court but no one has contested their jurisdiction and constitutionality yet I think). Things have really cooled down since the simmering tensions a couple of years back.

But hey, if both sides can live with the deal and it leads to more stability in the region, it's always better for ASEAN and Singapore.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

BBC NEWS | Europe | Cocaine traces at EU parliament

The implication of all these is of course a swipe at the people in the EU parliament who MIGHT POSSIBLY BE snorting coke. It seems that of the 46 swabs taken from various toilets and public places of the building, nearly all (41) tested positive for cocaine in amounts beyond trace ones i.e. was brought into the building deliberately for consumption.

What lends this story some credence (the method of collection and testing is not really scientifically rigourous, and the fact that since these were public areas, obviously the general public had access to them) is that such traces are not found in all public places, the example given being German high schools. Contrast this to the fact that most currency (US and EU) have traces of cocaine on it such that a sufficiently big pile could send sniffer dogs into a frenzy.

The biggest difficulty that Europe has with regards to drugs is that of enforcement. After all, it's a land continent, every part being immediately and conveniently accessable by roads. The single market means that the roads are perpetually loaded with trucks and their produce, and more fundamentally, it acts like a super big state. So just as no one really bothers to check goods moving from one city to another, the EU has this on a broader scale with goods moving from one state to another. This on top of the problem of whether they could even properly check the goods with the volumes that we're talking about (80% of the trade by the EU occurs within the EU, the remaining with the other nations of the world).

Arguably, the incentive for enforcement is that by taking down the drug money, you cut off a significant source of funding for terrorist cells and organisations. The question remains, WHICH terrorist cells and organisations. After all, while it is certifiably true that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) is a significant playing in the cocaine business and receives a lot of its operating expences from it, the same cannot be said of organisation like the ex IRA which made a practice of kneecaping drug peddlers in their neighbourhoods. Al-Qaeda has had links to the drug trade via the Taleban and opium in Afghanistan but that its pretty much limited to one drug which has a limited appeal (as far as I know), it's hard to see their funding being cut off even if a crackdown on drug smuggling were possible.

Which makes for a very good argument about legalisation....but that's an old debate which I have touched on previously.

But anyway back to the original article, it really isn't a terribly big surprise. Unlike heroine, cocaine is primarily a middle/upper class drug. Very popular with the traders on wall-street in the 1970s, it has made the transition to some sort of sophisticated party drug for the young and well-heeled.

Which brings me finally to the punchline of today's short post. It seems that the reason why most people were upset at the Swiss proposal to provide cocaine was not its illegal and immoral nature. After all, they already have a heroine shooting centres and needle exchange programme going on. It seems that most people found subsidising the drug addiction of rich bankers a little too much to swallow.

Peace =)

Friday, July 15, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | Suicide bombers' 'ordinary' lives

It's not really surprising if you think about it. When was the last time you had neighbours thinking that the serial killer next door really acted like a serial killer. If he had been dragging in bodies in the middle of the night and borrowing hatchets which come back bloody and there's news of some poor victim who has been hacked up, you would think that SOMEONE would have called the police.

Similarly, given finite resources and an instinctual human habit of hammering the nail that actually sticks out, it's more than probable and likely that domestic intelligence and police forces would concentrate their efforts on vocal radical extremist groups. This thereby allowing others who are not so vocal (but as zealous and willing to commit atrocities and act on their 'faith') to slip under the net.

So what do we know about the suspects. Education wise, you've got a teaching assistant, someone who dropped out and a sport science graduate. Religiousity zealousness wise, again you've got a scale on their vocalness and apparent religiousness. Background wise, none were terribly poor, probably comfortable though not from particularly middle class neighbourhoods. With regards to criminal backgrounds, you've got an examplary citizen, a juvenile delinquant who converted (often converts are the most fervent) and someone cautioned for disorderly behavior (but was deeply religious...protests perhaps?).

So where's the common thread that ties them all in? Well, The Economist argues that there are subtle hints as to the likely make-up of these 'sleeper cells'.
1. Decendants of immigrants in 'internal colonies' i.e. ghettos. They are effectively 'cut off' from mainstream society and thereby are more prone to viewing the world in an us vs. them fashion. Hints of this come from a recent Asian Wall Street Journal article which focused on France giving annedoctal evidence of preaching (by laypeople and not necessary by the Ulamas) calling for a disassociation with the 'outside' society on the basis that it was UnIslamic.

2. Under 30. Guess it has always been the young who will provide the necessary impetus (violence) in a revolution. Remember Iran and its student led revolt against the Shah?

3. Though middle class, their community may not be. I think this ties in with the notion of disenfranchisment and isolation. Does poverty breed zealotry? Maybe. If your current life sucks, then the afterlife might be worth 'achieving' before your time is up.

4. Drifting back from crime. As mentioned earlier, converts tend to be the most fervent and fundamentalist. And the link between extremism and the propensity for such atrocities is really beyond doubt. It's a number game. A high proportion of fundamentalist tend to be extremist. A high proportion of extremists are the type who would willingly use such means to achieve their ends. You don't get moderate suicide bombers. The mindset of a suicide bombing or anyone willing to plan a terrorist act must necessarily be one of closed extremism for tolerance of others necessitates you staying your hand despite your disagreement with them.

So where do we go from here? Conventional policing does work. The Metropolitan Police stopped 3 other plots which would have seen a larger toll. But terrorist being terrorist, they only have to be lucky once. Planning is important. Kudos to the British forces for successfully carrying out a highly effective containment and rescue mission. It was very impressive to watch in real time.

Breeding moderation and tolerance ultimately is key. As long as people are willing to let live and handle disagreements in a democratic fashion you won't have atrocities. The EU coming on the back of hundreds of years of mutual antagonism, wars, and genocides even is living proof of that. Unfortunately, since we can't rid ourselves of the inherent divisiveness of human nature (we'll always find something to differentiate ourselves from our neighbours) and can't quite impose a mindset in its totality (totalitarianism tends to be doomed to failure), it looks like we're going to be muddling along until aliens come by earth.

But before that event, Peace.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Like bad news and/or (apparently this is bad usage of grammar) Chucky, I'mmm bbaacccckkkk *evil twisted grin*

If you want stories of Brisbane or debate or both (this apparently is the appropriate usage), ask Her. Or ask us out for coffee. I haven't seen anyone outside of debate since ever and I think I'm losing the renaments of my social skills. Or the remains of those that have not been eradicated by debate, being surrounded perpetually by debaters, being a law student, or playing WAY too many games by Bioware *chant mode: All hail the great company that brought us Baldur's Gate*.

But seriously because I just got back and seemed to have missed the greatest scandal to hit Singapore since Steve Chia and his maid, I'm not going to comment about it except with the following time-honoured phrase: "Why am I not surprised?"

And now back to your regular programming...
BBC NEWS | Technology | Clinton wades into GTA sex storm

I'm not going to talk or comment about the purported link between what you see/do in video games and what you actually then do in reality because the data just goes back and forth and back and forth and back again. And it's all so GP(ish) level *snooty snideness*

But here are two interesting things to take away from this article.

1. The rating system is actually more a guideline and actually voluntary and not actually enforcable per se. It's actually more of a recommandation more than anything else. Its enforcability comes not simply that of the parent monitoring what their children are playing but more so that of retailers. Wal-mart (amongst many others) refuses to stock anything with adult content in it and they are one of the biggest sellers of games (and pretty much every other thing) in America.

But since we're on the topic of standards, here's a interesting factoid to use in youy essay or debate. Did you know that Playboy and Penthouse are available in Australia on a M(Unrestricted) rating? That is, it is simply not RECOMMENDED for ages below 15. Those two magazines are sold unwrapped in Borders. In fact, only High level sex scenes are restricted to 18 and above.

2. Hillary Clinton looks to be attempting to regain the 'moral' ground for the Democrats in her bid for the Presidency elections in 2008. And from the selective quotation of the BBC it seems that she's attempting the moderate path which steals some support from the Republicans without delving into the sort of extreme fundamentalist social/religious conservativism that the Republicans have made their bed with. Thye best path is that this wins over the moderates without alienating the Liberals. Sounds familar? Well, her husband 'invented' it and introduced it into American politics and has been very successfully copied in the UK.

And on the cheery note of the Democrats regaining the presidency in 2008, Peace!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

*Back from Brisbane*

Updates will resume shortly. Been a very newsworthy week indeed.

Friday, July 01, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | US Supreme Court justice resigns

*Fuel to the fire*

Sandra Day O'Connor is to retire, paving the way for Bush to appoint (subject to Senate approval) a (presumable Conservative) US Supreme Court Judge.

Can anyone say Culture War? I wonder how the bipartisan bill on judicial nomination and filibuster will hold up. If you thought that the recent judicial nomination battles were bad, then consider the fact that they were mostly Circuit Court judges, important in the sense that they handle 90% of the case work but regardless, the important battles will always be in the Supreme Court.

I've got to admit though, that a Conservative (in terms of interpretating the Constitution) may not ALWAYS be so bad a thing. In the recent US Supreme Court battle on medial marijuanna, it was the two of the most Conservative members (plus Justice Day) who dissented in favour of allowing medical marijuanne. The majority were of the opinion that it affected inter-state commerce.

However, the real fear still exists that they might overturn things like Roe v. Wade (again not bad thing IF it becomes legalised via legislation) or AA (also not necessary bad, considering that it can be used to cap the number of Asians in University or in certain cases, privillage those in power demanding 'equality'). What would be really bad I think is if the separation between Church and State is relaxed thereby advantaging fundamentalist (rightist) protestants over the other religions.

But more fundamental to that is if the court starts follow 'strict Constitutionalist' like Justice Scalia and decline to see the Constitution as a set of guiding principles rather than a document set in stone and resistant to interpretation. The roll back could be tremendous and further polarise the nation.