Saturday, 28 July 2012

First day of the Olympics

Bit of a disappointment about the cycling, eh? I was quite amused by the commentators take on it though. They were trying to push the idea that the other countries strategy was to team up on Britain even though Spain were leading. Fair enough. Maybe they were. But it isn't in the rule book that teams have to stick to a standard strategy. If other countries did decide to marginalize Britain it was their choice to make. For Colombia, Kazakhstan and Norway it was a strategy that reaped rewards.

As for that bloody interviewer. If somebody asked me, 'So everybody was against Britain today weren't they?', after I'd won an exhausting cycling race I'd probably react with a similar level of incredulity to that poor Kazakh cyclist.

Olympic gag reel

I rather enjoyed it! Being Bristol-born it was nice to see Isambard Kingdom Brunel play such a big part in the proceedings. That even got a cheer from the mysteriously dull crowd at Millenium square. However, rather than having him quote Shakespeare I think one of his own quotations would have better summed up the proceedings: "Everyone around me seems mad, stark raving mad. The only course for a sane man is to keep out of the way and stay quiet." (NB Highly unreliable - can't find it on the Internet and don't remember my original source).

Glastonbury Tor turning into the Dark Satanic Mills was evocative if mawkish. I did like the treatment of the other kingdoms of the Isles too. They each got their own spiel before the event started (ending with a rugby victory? Really? Had none of the organisers heard of the Highland Games? Hurling? Gaelic football?). However, they were then forgotten in the highly suspect whizz through British history which seemed to bounce from 1918-1945-1964 with nary a hitch and no thought for inconvenient details like decolonisation or the secession of the Republic of Ireland.

Still in the end the Chinese Olympics had set a high standard for mass organisation. There was no way we could compete with that so nice to see something that was silly, eccentric and had Mr Bean in it. It certainly summed up Britain better than a lot of ceremonies might have.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The purpose of the Jury

[Disclaimer - I am on Jury service at the moment but understandably I will not be breaking the confidentiality of my assigned trial in any way. I merely wish to communicate some general thoughts I've had about the utility and meaning of the Jury in general]

If there is one thing everybody knows about Juries it is that they are not allowed to communicate with others about the trial until after it is over. This is very understandable as they will be receiving information of great import in a confidential environment. This can, of course, be frustrating to those involved. Jury duty is often a once in a lifetime experience and there is a great temptation to discuss events with others to stress their novelty and importance.

But what are the practical effects of this enforced silence? The idea behind the rules is that unsanctioned conversation could affect Juror's thoughts on the trial. The people you discuss the case with are unlikely to be directly involved but will have their own biases and prejudices that they could easily or even accidentally implant in the mind of the Juror.

This means that the ideal Juror is isolated - a sort of self contained brain that listens and then reasons about what it has heard and seen. However, this ideal situation does not fit with modern psychology. No human is entirely rationalistic. Since Freud and (in a less coherent manner) before there has been an acknowledgement of the existence of the subconscious, which can massively influence our thoughts and actions.

Therefore, the Enlightenment view of an uninfluenced and independent Jury is a fiction. Everybody in the Jury seats has their own emotional and intellectual baggage that will influence their perception of the facts. Yet this doesn't make the Jury useless. In fact it may even make it more useful as a gauge of the mood and norms of society. The ban on individual conversations outside of the court stops specific influences from dominating but the experience gained from living in society is allowed to permeate the thoughts of the Jurors. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing (one can imagine that it could allow certain societal discriminations to take free reign) is up to the observer.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Yasuni in trouble?

Interesting article on the attempt by Ecuador to prevent oil prospecting in environmentally sensitive areas in return for international financial support. I'm not sure exactly where I stand on this one. It is a bold move by Ecuador but similarly it is difficult to see crisis threatened Western governments and corporations going for such an untested scheme that is likely to offend so many vested interests.

Le Monde seem to be generally positive while aiming slight criticism at Ecuador's past political conduct and economic choices.