Posts Tagged ‘Perception’
The last year at Atlantic College has been a rather interesting experience. With the IB and the UWC Experience, life is busy to say the least. It is a constant struggle between doing everything and doing nothing, academics and extra-curricular activities. More often than not, the choice ends up being – To sleep or not to sleep? That is the question.
Despite the mountain of articles about the benefits/harms of sleeping too much/too little/not enough, this post is not about that. Rather, it’s about how a lack of sleep conveniently rids of you your dreams. Perhaps it does this in a literal sense of ruining your plans by making you a living zombie, but it certainly does so in a practical sense by making you so tired you, well simply stop dreaming.
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I’m no constitutional lawyer, not even a lawyer at all, but it seems quite clear that the involvement of the US in ‘supporting’ NATO’s military action in Libya qualifies as ‘hostilities’. Short of news articles explaining Obama’s decisions and his legal argument to justify the US’s involvement as not being hostilities, I have failed to see a single commentary that suggests otherwise.
I can understand why it may be politically expedient for Obama to classify the involvement as not being hostilities, thereby removing the need to get approval from Congress. It certainly makes life a lot easier for Obama and removes any fear that the US will not be able to fulfill it’s commitment and be forced to stop it’s involvement.
That said, I think Obama ought nevertheless to go through the normal procedures with Congress. Certainly, there are dissenting voices in both the House and Senate that oppose the war, but I don’t see any real likelihood that he would loose the vote or funding. As it stands, Congress and the media seem more riled up about Congress being circumnavigated than by the US’s involvement in the conflict itself. So it seems unlikely that Congress would vote to significantly defund the operation. At the same time, it removes a purely (so far) political issue that makes Obama look more and more like Bush and less and less like the candidate he once was.
Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, takes on the legal aspect of the issue quite nicely in his Op-ed for the New York Times. I think it’s worth the read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/opinion/21Ackerman.html
Children should be seen but not heard
– 15th Century English Proverb
The old English proverb may have been around since the 15th Century, but just because it’s ‘tradition’ – a word whose meaning is itself unclear – doesn’t mean it’s a ‘tradition’ that should be upheld. Rather, like all other practices, it is something the each and every one of us should consider for ourselves. It essentially calls for children to make themselves presentable, but to keep quiet about their thoughts and opinions. For a lack of a better term, I would say this way of thinking is bollocks; or for our American friends, bullocks. The clearest case-study is the place where we spend almost a quarter of our day; or in the case of UWC AC which is a boarding school, all day; the school.
During my twelve years of education in four separate schools, I have seen a range of different approaches to student inputs in the way the school operates. True enough, student involvement at a primary level has little if any significance or effect. I would be the first to admit that I can’t even remember the issues that were brought up at Student Council while I was in primary school, despite me having represented my class for three of my four years there. Quite simply, the vast majority of students do not have the knowledge and ability to contribute meaningfully to the school’s operation when they are barely eleven. Certainly, having structures such as a Student Council is a hugely beneficial learning experience for students, but the reality of it is that there is little that they can contribute.
The thing that scares me is when this approach is extended into secondary schools. It’s easy to say that we are only one year older, twelve instead of eleven. But that creates a paradox where we will always be only one year older and never reach the imaginary level of mental capacity to take an active part in the school’s decision making process. No transition is ever smooth, and the process of growing up will take time, maturity will certainly not be ascertained overnight, but NONE of that means that we won’t reach the level needed to contribute meaningfully to the school management.
Student Councils are the most commonly cited avenues for student voice, but it isn’t and shouldn’t be the only forum. During my time at SIS, I was invited to interview potential new staff members for the posts as head of section, vice-principal and principal. That a student interview panel was even created is a commendable act that is testimony to how much further SIS has gone compared to other educational institutions. Whether our written comments were actually seriously considered is another question. On most occasions, the final decision was in line with our comments. However, I vividly recall one time when we voted heavily against a vice-principal candidate only to find out a few weeks later than he had been selected.
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In much the same way, my life is also undergoing a major revision with a version 3.0 soon to reappear. After Canada and Hong Kong, I’m now moving to the UK to further my high-school studies.
I am told that the internet connection and access in Southern Wales is poor. Despite this, PaulLau.com will not die off. In fact, it will be an even greater unifying force. Though there will be fewer posts, a more personal dimension documentation my experience will join the current array of debating and general commentary on news issues of the time.
Paul Lau (Website Owner, Creator & Subject)
For those who are from Hong Kong, enjoy a sped up view of our little city.
You can find more timelapse videos of Hong Kong from HD Timelapse at http://www.hdtimelapse.net/location_movies.php?location=Hong%20Kong%20-%20China
This showreel includes timelapse shots from Victoria Peak, Nan Lian Garden, Golden Tower, Chi Lin Nunnery, Diamond Hill, Nathan Road, Kowloon Peninsula, Garden Road, Causeway Road, King’s Road, Marble Road, North Point, Yee Wo Street near Times Square, Jardine’s Bazaar, Des Voeux Road Central, Queenway Road, Johnston Road, Connaught Road Central, Happy Valley, Tsing Ma Bridge, Tin Hau Temple, Kwanyin Statue, Repulse Bay, South China Sea, Lantau Island, Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Ladies Market, Mongkok, Kowloon Peninsula, Avenue of Stars, IFC Two, Bank of China.
The Death Penalty doesn’t deter crime – “In China, as in the rest of the world, most murders are domestic affairs, and courts have recently been directed to avoid the death penalty in such cases. Another common type is the spree killer who kills at random or out of revenge and often commits suicide on the scene. It is hard to see how capital punishment could deter such crimes.”
In China, the Death Penalty has most certainly been over-applied – “Until the 1980s, capital punishment was effectively restricted to murder and treason. In a major study, law professor Zhao Bingzhi of Renmin University has shown how during the following two decades it was gradually extended to lesser crimes. It is now available to judges for 68 separate offences, including theft, forgery, smuggling antiques, and even VAT fraud.”
The Death Penalty does little to prevent crime, but tarnishes China’s image – “Capital punishment not only does not prevent crime but also degrades those who carry it out and tarnishes states that practice it.”
As author John Sexton notes – “Abolition would allow China to occupy the moral high ground over retentionist countries, such as the United States, and would pull the rug from under critics of its human rights record. It would be a move without risks and with many benefits. It just needs leaders with the vision to steer it through.”
Full Article Below :
“The Paper Debate”
By Robbie Brown
from New York Times, Education Life , April 18, 2010, pp ED24
Before each tournament, Sam Crichton, a senior on the Wake Forest debate team, meticulously stocks a half-dozen Rubbermaid tubs with computer printouts. Each sheet of paper — perhaps 5,000 total — summarizes the argument in, say, a presidential speech or op-ed piece. These “cards” have been sorted into manila files, grouped into brown accordion folders, stacked into the tubs and labeled by argument type: affirmatives, disadvantages, counterplans, critiques, case arguments/negatives, backfiles.
There are 50 tubs for the entire Wake Forest team — a traveling library of debate research. With the aid of all those pages of argumentation, debaters can summon up well-reasoned, highly specific points about nuclear disarmament, this year’s topic for college policy debaters. What if an affirmative team contends that nuclear armament has hurt Africa? What if a negative team cites Heidegger to bolster its response?
“There’s a strange comfort in reading off a sheet of paper,” Mr. Crichton says. “Having all of this paper may seem like a form of chaos, but to me it actually seems more organized.”
It was often said by pundits that Hillary Clinton was ‘polarizing’; either you liked her, or you hated her. The same can be said of Sarah Palin. She broke onto the political scene as John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate, inspiring what was then called the Palin firestorm. Even the usually calm and composed ‘No Drama Obama’ team appeared initially fazed. But as her record got dug out and things started to surface, she seemed to falter and fall. Katie Couric interviews, her role as an attack dog, problems she faced in Alaska, it all seemed to put her at a disadvantage. Expectedly, she and McCain lost the general election.
But whilst the pundits predicted a quite withdrawal back to Alaska in preparation for the 2012 general election, she choose to resign and move out of Alaska in the mist of a spending scandal. As unexpected as the move was, its effect has been even more surprising with Palin getting the job as a Fox political pundit and lots of cash in the for of keynote speakers. Her importance has been underscored by her involvement in may 2010 campaigns, including John McCain who has been struggling.
Repeatedly she’s been written off the books, in the 2008 elections, her return to Alaska and her subsequent departure. She still draws crowds in the thousands at rallies she attends. And yet even the polls seem to show Palin facing difficulties in actually winning a presidential campaign. Her inexperience has long been a thorn and leaving Alaska doesn’t seem to have helped. So is Palin a political maestro or just another minor political player? In fact, she’s neither.
US-Chinese relations have been rocky at best and outright hostile at times. The Chinese got pissed of at the US’s decision to sell military arms to Taiwan and then at Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. Then there was the row over censorship in the wake of Google’s pull out. The latest spat has been over China’s supposedly undervalued currency. To be fair, there is an almost unanimous international consensus that the RMB is undervalued. This however is irrelevant. Regardless of this, the US should not be trying to pressure China for a RMB rise.
First, those who are calling for the move are hardly reliable. Sure, they have their share of Nobel economists and awards. But muddled amongst their claims were that China and Hong Kong were both currency manipulators. C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think-tank in United States said in a Congress hearing that
“Several neighboring Asian countries of considerable economic significance — Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan — maintain currency undervaluations of roughly the same magnitude in order to avoid losing competitive position to China.”
True, Hong Kong has a peg to the USD since 1983, and the government has had to control the currency to maintain that peg, but maintaining a peg is hardly currency manipulation. And if a peg is to be maintained, its rather difficult to manipulate a pegged currency! The total irony of it all is that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner paid a visit to Donald Tsang and other prominent financial people during his stopover in Hong Kong just this week. The HKD-USD peg has been around for almost 30 years, as long as Bergsten has been out of the government and out of touch with reality. John Tsang, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong put it quite nicely :
“This is a sign of rising protectionism and this kind of absurd voice will continue to be heard. Hong Kong’s peg to the U.S. dollar has been in effect for over two decades, how could we have manipulated our currency in that period?”
Even if we assume their claims are correct, what’s the real problem? Is the US-China trade imbalance a result of currency manipulation or a more fundamental issue with the US economy? Understandably, the currency plays a part, but the underlying problem is not the RMB but the lost of competitiveness of US products. Made in US just isn’t that cool or in demand anymore. US goods are expensive in comparison to almost all countries, that’s the underlying problem. Changing the RMB value won’t change the price of US products. Until something is done, the trade imbalance will still occur.
There really is no better indicator of the US’s lack of competitiveness than the fact that a trade imbalance would occur even if the RMB raised its value. Many Chinese goods would still be cheaper than US goods. Even if they aren’t US goods won’t be the cheapest because Indonesia, South east Asia, India, Brazil and other countries will still be cheaper than Made in US. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s multilateral merchandise surplus of $212bn in 2008 dwarfs China’s $175bn surplus. Has the US cried about Saudi Arabia? No. It wants the oil. Would RMB revaluation do anything to the Saudi Arabian surplus? No. What does Bergsten want to do then? Ban all foreign goods?
Sometimes, communist states do strange things like organizing lip syncing on the biggest sporting stage of the world when it was totally not necessary. Why not publicly criticize a world champion for not thanking the brutal state sport system, despite the fact that they just won a gold medal and brought ‘glory’ to the country!
18 year old short track speedskater Zhou Yang survived the brutal Chinese Sport System to win Gold in the 1,500m individual race and the 3,000m relay at the 2012 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Following the event, she was interviewed by CTV and choose to thank people from the bottom of her heart :
It’s my dream. After winning the gold I might change a lot, become more confident and help my parents have a better life.
She then thanked her coach and teammates but left out thanking the one million people involved in the state sport system. FAIL!
In fact, Yu Zaiqing of the China General Administration of Sport as well as an IOC vice-chair gave the following statement
It’s right to respect and thank your parents but you also have to have the country in your hear. The country must come first.
Gao Jian of the CPPCC even tried to back up Yu, saying later that
moral education is more important than physical training