Archive for 23 February 2010

Should we ban political parties or homeopathy?

“A recent court case found that political manifestos do not ‘create legitimate expectations’ even though there is a body of evidence to suggest politicians keep their promises – should we ban political parties?

That seems to be the logic of the parliamentary committee looking into the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for treating chronic illnesses. They claim that homeopathic treatments, which have no medicinal qualities beyond placebo, should not be used as a treatment on the NHS because of lack of efficacy.

It is known that practicing a religion can be good for health, because people who do it regularly interact with others, think and reflect on different issues, and are disciplined in their worshipping activities.

As a co-operator I believe in self-help and because of this I believe that if people are managing their chronic illness, however invalid their approach, then this can only be good. Chronic illnesses are incurable, so no medicine will be effective in treating them completely. However, developing daily living patterns, such as eating at certain times, sleeping at certain times, etc. can alleviate some of the comorbidities that occur with them, such as fatigue and depression.

Therefore I would argue that prescribing homeopathic placebos to those who believe in its effectiveness can be effective at providing a disciplined lifestyle to those who would otherwise deteriorate psychologically because of their condition. Similarly, homeopathic hospitals give people individual time and attention that eliminates the despair that accompanies chronic illness and gives people a sense that they are being cared for, which creates a sense of community and solidarity.

I would argue that Atheistic fanatics should stop trying to push their religious viewpoints against alternative medicine on so-called science grounds. They should understand that human beings are not always rational beings who ensure their beliefs are valid and reliable as a scientist should. These fanatics, who are not true scientists in my opinion, should not let their anti-spirituality religious beliefs cloud their judgment about the psychological benefits on patients with chronic illness that alternative medicine brings.

Medical professionals should not be looking for ‘the absolute truth’
when prescribing treatments, but creating a treatment programme that will make the most of the belief system of patients so that they are better able to manage their chronic illness. Such a programme should be based on self-help and solidarity and would be better than the alternative of subjecting the patient to disillusionment and despair for the rest of their lives.”

Intellectual Property Law – What does the EU Treaty actually say?

I was once told this joke about how a Catholic priest was asked by his junior to relook at the ancient manuscripts, where he found the word celibate was actually celebrate! My EU law tutor always said primary legislation overrules secondary legislation, so I will look at the primary legislation on intellectual property.
Article 36 of the EU Treaty states that there can be restrictions the protect property of an industrial and commercial character in individual Member States. This is used as a legal base for laws on intellectual property, such as copyright.

Considering this for a moment would suggest for something to be considered intellectual property it would have to be for commercial or industrial purposes. Therefore it could be argued that photographs taken by family members of relatives for personal use are not of a commercial or industrial character so cannot be copyrighted.

Also, consider the term, ‘intellectual property’ itself. The term would seem to suggest that an element of creativity and craftsmanship went into the creation of such property. This would again suggest that a photograph taken with an amateur camera where the person taking the photograph had no special commercial or industrial training also does not carry any copyright. Perhaps if the creator was to combine the photograph with text, it would then become an intellectual/creative work and would carry copyright if it was for commercial or industrial purposes, but not on its own.

At some point I will look at the EU Treaty article that gives rise to Data Protection, to see whether it is possible for those featured in photographs taken commercially to have the rights to use them, but that is for another day.

How does European Law apply to Co-operative membership?

Throughout this current election campaigning period the Tories have been trying to triangulate to support co-operatives and my Party, the Co-operative Party, has been arguing that it is the Labour Party over the Tories that best represent the co-op movement.

I’ve never really been a fan of the NUS, believe that students should be part of proper trade unions and student bodies should be part of universities and colleges and co-operate with them rather than have confrontations with them. However, the NUS does what it says on the tin – it is a national union of students, that campaigns for student interests.

The Co-operative Party on the other hand, while ideally being the party that promotes enterprise, empowerment and sustainability, often puts its co-operative ideals second to its relationship with the Labour Party. As a Co-op Party member I have been asked to rebut Tory policy to introduce worker co-operatives in the public sector.

My co-operative values stand above any political association I may be a member of, and although I’m not yet convinced that the majority of Tories genuinely believe in the Co-operative Movement, I also know from experience that many state socialists in the Labour Party do not either, but obviously for different reasons.

Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” This is in keeping with the 1st Principle of a co-operative, which is ‘Voluntary and Open Membership’.

If rules on human rights and co-operatives say this, then why is it that the Co-operative Party only allows people to be members of it only if they either are members of the Labour Party or have no other political affiliation. This does not sound very open and co-operative to me. The Co-operative Movement transcends political party boundaries. In fact, rules for co-operatives say they should be autonomous and only enter into agreements that don’t compromise this. I interpret this to mean that the Co-op Party’s relationship shouldn’t compromise its autonomy and mission. If the Tories do become the governing party after the election, I would like to think the Co-operative Party puts the interests of the Co-operative Movement first and opens its membership to Conservatives on the same basis as Labour Party members, and that is that they support co-operative principles and are a member of a co-operative.

Sign on the dot net line

The Question I want you to consider today is whether we should have to use an electronic signature to access the Internet.
An electronic signature is a piece of data in electronic form, which serves as a method of authenticating a person’s identity and access-rights to other data. the concept of advanced electronic signatures was introduced by a 1999 European Union directive.

These electronic signatures are:

  1. Firstly, uniquely linked to and capable of identifying the signatory;
  2. Secondly, created using means that the signatory can maintain under their sole control;
  3. And thirdly, linked to the data to which it relates in such a manner that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.

It is this type of electronic signature that we will be considering today.

Have you heard of Wikipedia? How about MySpace and Facebook?

The thing that all these sites have in common is that they are online communities, and by their very nature involve people having to identify themselves or use pseudonyms to hide their true identity. Another thing they have in common is that they are all subject to abuse from people who act maliciously, like common vandals or thugs, destroying community life for others in pursuit of self-serving interests.

Answer me this. Have you ever relayed a rumour about someone without telling them who told it to you? You probably have, nearly everyone has. Whether it was not meant to cause harm, but just to spark it bit of interest, everyone has done it. Now imagine that rumour is on a website, available to the whole world, yet the identity of the person who started it is unknown. Is that right? I don’t think so.

From the opposite angle, have you ever watched a TV programme and shouted at the screen when someone says something that is so obviously misinformed? Many people have, I know I do. I get frustrated when someone says something about Europe on Question Time that I know is inaccurate, probably because of all my years of legal training on the subject. The Internet could be the solution. Websites like Wikipedia have the potential to display the most accurate and up-to-date accounts of knowledge. But, there is a further problem.

The same people who hide their identities while spreading rumours can remove pertinent information that may be true, but which they wish wasn’t. Is it right that they can hide their identities and therefore censor information without being accountable? I don’t think so.

The solution therefore is electronic signatures. Why should people be able to hide their true identities and therefore not be accountable for their true intentions? With compulsory electronic signatures people would only be able to sign up for websites using actual data about themselves. They would not be able to post content without it being attributed to them personally. And therefore, they may be encouraged to only act in good faith, leading to an Internet society where people resolve their differences openly and take responsibility for their actions.

Looking after the elderly and victims of crime

I have just returned home from the Otley Arms where I watched Wales put on an exciting second half performance to steal the match from Scotland. An event during the match got me thinking about the rights of the elderly and victims of crime.

During the game an elderly woman went up to this man called James, the same man who two years earlier felt it appropriate to call me a ‘retard’ because I’m not a great conversationalist. She casually said to him ‘My family are part Scottish and part Welsh, I’m hoping for a draw as we’ve got to support all Celts’. She is quite frail and had to get up off her chair to speak to him, and all he did was stand up and walk away closer to the television!

This disgusted me, the way an elder in the community can be shoved to one side and treated like they do not matter. This has been getting to me a lot recently, as I felt my late grandmother had been silenced by those supposed to be caring for her when she was in hospital because they didn’t want to deal with the realities of her condition.

Similarly people who have become victims of crime are expected to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’, and many other phrases that mean the same thing as ‘shut up’.

I would like to see the remit of and finance for Victim Support and Help the Aged expanded so that they are on a non-for-profit basis able to provide support to their target groups in the form of ‘individual time and attention.’

Someone who has been the victim of a crime is more likely to go on and commit a crime themselves. Vulnerable adults, such as some elderly people, are more likely to be victims of crime than anyone else. Elderly people are the only group in society who can go days without seeing anyone without anyone knowing.

Victims of crime and elderly people, through the groups above, should have a statutory right to individual time and attention. Whether this in in the form of a befriending scheme, where a volunteer will go and speak to an elderly person on a regular basis to stimulate them socially and mentally, or alternative therapies, where a victim of crime will be given counseling or massage sessions that allow them to build trust in another person, I think it is essential we tackle the problem of a large section of society feeling vulnerable, alone and unwanted.

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