15 December, 2008

Geekiness, green envy and gin

I can possibly forgive Virgin the hell they have put me through returning to London over the past few months as the Sunday journey time is now the same as any other day of the week - 2 hours, instead of 5.

Few blog posts as work a bit manic at the moment (and I was covering a hearing this weekend) and too little time. Boo hoo.

Pupillage situation (ie none) still sucky. Especially as I meet this year's crop of successes. They're lovely people, I'm just too green with envy.

Fundamental question on my mind at the moment is that given I will be spending new year in Ireland, and the Euro-Pound is E1=£1 and wine in Ireland is c E10 per bottle - do I take 2 x port, 1 x gin or vice versa - or some other combination?

Answers on the back of a postcard....!

02 December, 2008

Prague

Just got back from spending a weekend in Prague (with the Boy, not debating).

Was great fun :)

If you go, I do recommend doing one of the walking tours for one of the mornings, our guide was fantastic and it meant we got lots of extra anecdotes.

Hotel was great (5 mins from Josefov, the Old Town Square and Wenceslas square) and I hava e anew found love for Bohemiam Sekt and Moravian red wines... I'm not a beer drinker or I would have stayed on the Pilsner, I'm sure :)

Weather was fantastic (it was colder in Manchester when we arrived back yesterday!).

I wasn't so impressed with the Chirstmas markets. Whilst the ones in Germany are, of course, the best, the ones in Prague had piles of tat a lot of the time. Though the hot mead hit the spot as did a funny curly cake which was grilled over an open fire on a wooden rolling pin, not baked (trdlo - though God only knows how you pronounce that!) I was far less impressed with most of the other things on offer. that said, we did get an angel for the top of our Christmas tree, so it ca't have been all bad!

24 November, 2008

Two book reviews and a top ten list

I was feeling very intellectual when I decided to spend the portion of my birthday money that people had insisted be spent on books (damn) on Amazon the other day (see here) and bought:

Atwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

Ferguson, The Ascent of Money

Scharma, The American Future

I haven't yet started the last one, but thought I might review the first two.

I thought Payback was good, until the end where it became a bit preachy. Atwood's study of debt through history and in literature (as well as modern psychology) was one of those nice random read where the author has obviously done a lot of background reading and presents you with the more interesting things she found out as well sa what she thinks are the links between them. It's a nice, neat, little book and if you have any of the Myths series it will sit nicely alongside. Where I ended up not liking it so much was when Atwood used what had been an interesting ramble through debt to plug her environmental views which, whilst worthy, certainly felt over laboured and actually out of place in the book - which is ironic as at the end, I suspected that she had been wanting to spring the surpirse all along. It just felt disjointed That said, it is only the last 5% of the book and the rest is well worth a read.

I very much enjoyed Ascent. I have read a couple of Ferguson's books (notably, Empire and War of the World) but through no fault of the author, hadn't really finished either. Ascent pulls you through the book much faster. He did an excellent job - on thw hole- of explinaing financial terms which I had no idea baout before I read the book and was good at boiling reasonably complex ideas down into managable pieces. I regret that many of the footnotes were simply references to other texts without a one-linre explinaing why the text was relevant. In terms of examples where you think "must use that in a debate" the book was fantastic and I would certainly put it on a 'helpful to read' debating reading list - thought probably not in the top ten.

Hmmmm, what would be the top ten debating must reads in my view?

The Economist and West Wing defy any list making (and technically aren't books) so the other top ten are:

1. Mill, On Liberty
2. Swift, Political Philosophy
3. Levitt and Dubner, Freakonomics
4. Harford, The Undercover Economist
5. Ferguson, Empire
6. Friedman, Capitalism and Friedman
7. Dawkins, The God Delusion
8. Locke, Two Treatises on Government
9. Hobbes, Leviathon
10. Bryson, a Short History of Nearly Everything

Admittedly, with 6, 8 and 9 it would be enough to have a really good idea of what they said (and why they said it) without reading the original texts. Equally, I can argue 7 without having read it either.

21 November, 2008

The Barristers (part 2)

I've just watched the second episode of the Barristers and it made me miss dining quite a lot as I always really enjoyed it (perhaps I'm odd in that regard?). I do like seeing Middle Temple on there though - and I did like that they interviewed the porter (who holds a special place in my heart for letting us park the MDU mini bus there for a weekend instead of paying extortionate London car parking charges. Brick court went BMW, porsche, audi, 25 year old decrepit minibus with chipped paint and no brakes, porsche, mercedes....Well, you get the picture. Raise the tone of the neighbourhood, we did not!)

How on earth did that guy get pupillage (I can't remember his name). Having sat down over the last week with various people and chatted about the programme, we were all sure he wouldn't.

Without wanting to be unkind to all of the candidates, I do hope that the programme doesn't show everyone succeeding as it would somewhat undermine the 'only 1 in 5...beware....BEWARE!!!!!' statistics and would make it inconsolably unrealistic.

Put it all down to insane jealousy.

Thought the post-interview rejection feedback was very interesting, however, and made me realise that perhaps I did make the right decision on the paralegal front. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job quite a lot (though it's pretty intense at the moment on the piles of work front) but when I was offered this job, the same day, I was offered another, non-legal job paying £8000-£10000 per year more. As anyone would find, it was a difficult decision. Ultimately, I decided that I like the atmosphere of Law Firm better than the other place, but when I get my paycheque though, there is always that little bit of doubt lingering....! Had I enjoyed the atmosphere of the other place (having temped there) I might have found the decision much harder and gone the other way - and then watched the feedback given to the applicant tonight with my heart sinking through the floor!

Oh well, back to watching QI.

17 November, 2008

The Barristers (and other pupillage matters)

I watched The Barristers last night on the i-player and enjoyed it very much.

By the end of it, I remembered quite how badly I want a pupillage and consequently wandered off to pupillages.com to look at the newsflash. Well, one more application in the post....

It was slightly nice, actually, I was re-reading my covering letter and whilst it wasn't bad it didn't flow especially well. Having spent the past few month paralegalling and writing (seemingly) hundreds of letters, I was able to edit it into something much better, reasonably easily. Nice that my job isn't just giving me money and the legal experience box on the CV but actually helping me. Now I just need to complete that training contract application form so I have a back up.

I've also decided that I will apply to some chambers in London. I enjoy the work I do at the moment and I know we instruct a fairly narrow range of chambers. I'm therefore going to go onto the system on Monday and find the list of who we do and don't instruct and apply to them when the time comes. I note that the Nursing and Midwifery Council were also offering a pupillage last year. I didn't apply as it wsa London based but having now talked things through with the Boy a little more, I think if it comes up again, I'll go for it.

Talking of pupillage, a person came into the office the other day who had also completed the BVC. He had been searching for pupillage for a few years, but without success. It's alright for him though as Daddy is a barrister and so he starts his pupillage in Daddy's chambers in January. As he was telling us about it, he didn't seem ashamed in the slightest. He pointed out he had applied for a couple of years without success. It makes me so cross. If I apply for a couple of years and fail, I will accept that I am not good enough compared to the other applicants. I don't have Daddy to rescue me. So not only is the Bar not getting the very best people, this person has also 'stolen' a pupillage from someone else. Good Lord I was furious, I could scarcely speak to him - at the very least he should have been utterly ashamed at what he had done. Ethics my arse. Given that applications for pupillage have fairly strict guidelines, why on earth doesn't the Bar Council ban people from applying to chambers where they have a relative working there? Fairly simple, I would have thought!

16 November, 2008

Botswana Worlds bid 2011

When I first heard of the Botswana Worlds bid for 2009 I thought it was a little crazy. Whilst I would have liked to visit Botswana (blame Alexander McCall Smith), it was almost impossible to get to (flights into Jo'Berg or Harare - neither is particularly appealing), would cost the earth to travel to and the debating base in Botswana and the surrounding area didn't seem strong enough to pull in the judges. For 2009, I don't think they sufficiently addressed these concerns and so Cork won the bid instead.

For 2010, Botswana bid again, this time against Singapore and Turkey. Most people thoguht the competition would be between the latter two, but Singapore's bid was rejected fairly quickly. Possibly because we were in Thiland at the time (with the huge cost of flights that entailed) and because (whilst I wasn't there, I have been told that) the last Singapore worlds was pretty boring.

Turkey/Koc had just run the most amazing Euros labelled by many as the best ever, so it isn't so surprising that they took the win in this even, but Botswana's bid was certainly far better this time around.

Now, it turns out that Botswana is bidding for Worlds again. Thir bid is still in a reasonably early stage, but on the basis of what they have on their website, it certinaly seems stronger than in previous years and I can genuinely see it being far more successful this year. They have tackled the travel problem by pointing out the options and saying that they will facilitate those. In addition, the psat two years has given time for debating to develop more in the region giving them a stronger argument on the judging front.

Given that North America is out because of Vancouver's costing problems leading to no alcohol and USA's drinking laws, given Europe will have hosted it twice, I think they could be in for a chance. If a sounds instittution such as Sydney bid for it then there would be a case for it going btack to Australia, or if Qatar put in a bid then again, there would be competition, but in the absence of that - I hope that they are home and dry.

I wont have a vote as I am not on the council, but best of luck to Botswana this year and I hope they do win their bid for 2011.

13 November, 2008

Ballet

Went to see Manon the other night at the Palace theatre.

I've not been to the ballet before but was very fortunate to be given tickets by the barrister who I was clerking who was unable to go at the last minute. (The five-year-old girl in my got very excited!)

Persuaded the Boy to go with me (he was a tad apprehensive) and initially sounded like he would prefer to learn how to walk on hot coals than go.

It was excellent and I enjoyed it very much :) .... makes me think that maybe I should check out the opera for once after all. I tend to think that I should try everything once....

12 November, 2008

Amazon (rant)

As I had recieved money for my bitrhday with the instruction to spend it on books, I decided to poodle along to Amazon as I had a fair idea of what I wanted as was sure it would be cheaper (it was).

When it came to shipping, I typed in my home address figuring that even if I wasn't there, it would be delivered to the Royal Mail depo which is around the corner and I could pick it up later, after work, or at the weekend as the dep it a 5 minute walk from my house with heavy books, as opposed to a 35 minute walk.

Turns out Amazon doesn't use Royal Mail, but a courier company who is based in Warrington. 23 miles from Manchester. The courier company phone me and say they haven't been able to deliver the package (note that this is not a criticism of the couriers - yet) and that they would hold it for 5 days before returning it.

Having been told where they are based, I ask their opening hours. 9-6, Monday through Friday. That's no use to any person who either
(a) works normal hours not in Warrington
(b) doesn't own a car and so can't drive to their depo

They said they would normally leave the package with a neighbour. Unfortunately, I live in a secure block of flats which means people cannot get access without being let through and there wouldn't be a neighbour with whom it could be left, anyway. I ask if they could redirect it to my place of work.

They can only do that with Amazon's permission. I couldn't find any way of contacting Amazon through their website so I can't change that.

Luckily, the Boy's sister and her partner live in the same block of flats and the couriers were nice enough to let me re-direct to them. The package should be delivered today or tomorrow.

Fingers crossed, eh?

31 October, 2008

Exit Poll

This is an interesting article by Karl Rove (yes, I know) about the impact exit polls potentially have on changes the results of US elections by changing the way people vote in 'later' states.

Definitely worth a read.

30 October, 2008

Spooks, Heroes and Desperate Housewives

New series of all.

Loving it.

Season 2 of Heroes suffered not only because it was weak in and of itself, but also by comparison to season 1. Season 3 looks better by far. Plus, as the BBC is only a week behind the US and showing episodes on the i-player, I'm probably going to stop downloading them and watch them legally instead - what a novelty! It's marginally more inconvenient to me, but as I'm a firm believer in 'rewarding' good behaviour in the hopes they will do it in the future....

...And the same reasoning means I will probably watch DH on Channel 4 as well. However, this is more problematic because their 4OD is crap (I've not managed to watch anything on it despite several attempts) and I have all the self will on a hungry 5 year old next to a bowl of sweets so I am likely just to gorge myself on all of them via the internet rather than pace myself over a few weeks.... I'll give 4OD a go again, but if it fails, I'm not sure I can be bothered in the future. BBC has shown it's obviously not a hard piece of software to get right.

I have none of these dilemmas for Spooks as it'll always be shown on the BBC first, I can only 'gorge' myself on one episode extra (on BBC three) and the i-player actually works as it is supposed to.

All fun and games :)

Any other recommendations for TV series out there? I heard that there is now a Season 3 of Dexter (which I would watch for the theme tune alone) so I may well check that out

Biting the Bullet

I have finally bitten the bullet and submitted my first training contract application.

The initial form was VERY vague and would be wonderful for people who hadn't actually done anything (hence my annoyance, as in my view, I have) but the next section is a verbal and numerical reasoning section. Not looking forward to that at all - think I might need to crib up on statistical manipulation before I sit down to do them!

29 October, 2008

Paralegal jobs going at Law Firm in Manchester

I have been told today that Law Firm may be seeking to hire a new paralegal in their Manchester office.

If you are interested in public regulatory work in Manchester, please leave a comment and I will arrange to send you the details (and/or chat to you about applications)

I can assure you, they are a lovely firm to work for and the work is interesting/fun/public spirited and the pay isn't bad at all for paralegalling in Manchester.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

It was Andropov's plaintive comment of 'where are youuuuu?' which made me realise that I haven't posted in aaaaaaages.

To cut a long story short, I've been out of the office most of the days of the past couple of weeks and my evening internet time has been spent trying to help people with various debating stuff - and sleep!

Think it may be summed up by the fact that in the past 2 weeks, I've slept for 12-14 hours in one go on to occasions! A lurgy-bug has been going around the ofice, and whilst I have been fortunate enough not to catch it, it has meant a ot more work.

I guess this serves me right because 2 weeks ago I was talking to the Partner and commenting that I often felt like I had capacity so I was given a new case - safe to say, that's no longer true....

There also hasn't been much in the news that interests me, recently. I couldn't care less about whether celebrities are rude to other people, I don't care about the American election (I was originally pro-McCain as I didn't like Obama's views on the economy and felt he swip-swapped to often, but now McCain has lost most of the stuff I liked about him and I'm still not turned on by Obama).

In fact, the MOST exciting thing was the snow yesterday. I was out interviewing witnesses so wasn't inManchester which got rain instead (unsuprisingly) so I got to see huge flakes of snow all afternoon before ebing driven through snowy countryside in the evening AND the trains weren't overly delayed by it. All in all, pretty successful.

14 October, 2008

Double Trouble

This story about an Italian judge with an identical twin is quite amusing...

13 October, 2008

Interview - Bad news

Didn't get it.

Am most upset.

At least they got back to me quickly though.

12 October, 2008

SOAS timetable (provisional) and travel details

Below is a provisional timetable and travel information for SOAS IV 2008.

Friday night:

Arrive from 5pm and register
Social is from 8pm.
(There aren't any rounds on the Friday)

Saturday:
9am-9:30: registration
9:30: first round is announced
11am: second round is announced
12:30: Lunch
13:30: Third round is announced
15:00: Fourth round is announced
17:30: Fifth round is announced (closed adjudication)
19:00 - Social

Sunday
9:30-10:15: Re-register and breakfast
10:20 - Semi-final announced
12:30- Lunch
13:30 - ESL final announced*
15:30 - Final announced
18:00-1830: Results and prizes
1900- Go home

*We hope to run an ESL final, but this is subject to there being a sufficient number of ESL teams.

This is all provisional and may be subject to change. However, the start and finish times for the day should all be correct.

A map of where SOAS is can be found here. More information can be found on SOAS's website, here.

Buy-to-let

There seems to be a huge amount of vitriol going around targeted at buy-to-let investors and I just don't understand it.

Yes, I would like to buy a house one day when I am secure enough to afford it. By secure, I mean borrow no more than 2.5 times our joint salaries and be geographically fixed in terms of career for a while. So, perhaps in 3-5 years, a house would be good.

In the meanwhile, renting is a boon to us. We can live in apartments far nicer than those we could otherwise afford, we can move every 6 months if we want to, if something breaks, someone else pays to fix it for us...

And I don't think there would be half as many nice properties out there if it wasn't for the buy-to-let market. If it wasn't for the investors, we would be in a tiny studio flat somewhere grotty or forced to buy a flat which means we can't be as flexible with our careers.

People complain that they can only rent because they can't afford to buy and that this forces them to be far less secure. I can understand that to an extent, but given that a lease can be for any length of time, why don't these people arrange with their landlord to have a longer lease? The landlord gets the guarantee that the property isn't sitting empty and the tenants get greater security - a win/win, surely?

Yes, to an extent, buy-to-let increase demand for property and this leads to a rise in price. on the other hand, I wonder how many of the new apartment blocks which are going up would have been built at all if it wasn't for the increase in demand for property caused by buy to let.... In addition, rises in houseprices in parts of the country such as London cannot be placed wholly at the door of the buy-to-let investors. London is an attractice city for many people to live, or they are forced to live there because that's where their job is, either way, it leads to an increase in demand for property in its own right - independent of the buy-to-let market.

The same people who complain about buy to let seem to be the same who would be willing to spend 5,6,7 or even 8 times their salary on buying - they are therefore hardly the people we should be turning to for considered, intelligent property advice, surely?!

11 October, 2008

The Interview

I'm not sure that I've ever been more nervous in my life than I was this morning - and I couldn't get rid of the nerves which made it worse. Admittedly, they were probably not helped by the can of Red Bull I had for breakfast on the way over to Liverpool.

The people were as lovely as I remember from my mini and it was nice to see their Liverpool base as I spent my mini in their Manchester one.

The interview was a 'round table' interview as opposed to the X-factor style one that I had at Winckley Square which was far more relaxing. On top of that, all the interviewers were dressed casually to try and help people relax as well - they were obviously very keen to try and get the best out of people. The first question was also a nice obvious one ("Why a pupillage at Exchange Chambers?") followed by a long chat about debating and then they asked me about the pre-prepared question. Whilst I had an answer thought out, I'm glad I had read R v Davis the day before as it not only meant that I felt my inital answer was more rounded by I was able to better respond to some of their other questions on it (including whether the government's law on witness anonymity was ECHR compatible - I said I didn't think it was).

The only big screw up I can think of right away was I was asked by one interviewer whether I thought it was right that as witness anonymity was popular, it should be brought in. The debater in me automatically says 'of course not, people are stupid' - I can't actually remember whether I said 'people are stupid' but I certainly pointed out that if criminal justice was run 'by the people' we'd have the death penalty and all suspected paedophiles would have to wear a big scarlet letter P (probably branded to their forehead).

After the formal interview was over, they then took me to a different room where the current pupils were waiting so I could have a more casual chat with them. A nice wind down at the end.

All in all, I couldn't have asked for more from the interview so let's just hope that they think I'm good enough. I still suspect my CV is nowhere near the callibre that they are actually looking for...

09 October, 2008

Witness anonymity in the Crown Court

Well, they have chosen a good question for the interview - the anonymity of witnesses in the Crown Court.

I know enough about it to argue it either way, but think if I don't prep at all, I will probably be setting myself up to fail. My only real decision is which side to take. I am instinctively against allowing complete anonymity - but only for fairly fluffy reasons. I am grateful to a friend for giving me a good example of where it has lead to bad consequences - in a liberal democracy, too - but still feel that the hard-core 'no, it's all fine' is easier to argue.

That said, most barristers seem to be fairly lefty-liberal so maybe fluff is the way to go...!

Oh, decisions, decisions.

Your call, dear blog readers, fluffy liberal or pragmatic right-winger?

Think I might run it as a motion (though word it sligtly differently) though as I quite like it.

08 October, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Well, on Monday I had a rejection from a set in Leeds which, admittedly, I wasn't overly bothered by but the fact it happened within about one week of me submitting my form was slightly galling.

The very good news is that I now have an interview with a set in Manchester this Saturday. I'm particularly happy as I have done a mini with them and was fairly certain that I'd screwed up along the line - so nice to know they don't hate me!

They are sending through a question which I have to prepare for the interview and have warned I may have to defend the view point I adopt. Oh shame - because I've never done that before!

Only bad thing is I had booked my trains to and from London this weekend to go to the President's Cup (novice debating competition) and now can't go down.

Fingers crossed, all, please!

04 October, 2008

BabyB: on pupillage interviews

Don't know if you follow Baby Barista, even if you don't, please read his post on pupillage interviews as it's very funny :)

Extract:

"Why this chambers? “Because you were stupid enough to offer me an interview.”

Why personal injury? “Because it’s easy and pays well.”

Why employment law? “Because litigants in person are always easier to beat.” "

03 October, 2008

The individual and the State in the minds of the centre left

I found this article to be quite interesting, and very true.

To give a small extract:

"Where does this all come from? Well, I have a theory. The most powerful bit of Cameron's speech at the Conservative conference was the bit about Labour seeing the world as containing the State and individuals, with nothing of any value existing in between. This is very true, but also unsurprising. With new Labour, legislation was the answer to every question. That was because most of them were lawyers. A government of priests would pontificate and pray, and if hacks ruled the world we'd place our faith in publicity. Outside politics, David Cameron has only worked in television. So maybe that's why his instincts tend towards EastEnders and Pigeon Street"



Worth going here to read the rest of it... Though I can't see an imam doing a tombola, what with gambling being so popular in Islam.

02 October, 2008

Supermarkets sell alcohol?

A Saudi man who came to work in the UK is taking Tesco to an employment tribunal because - in his role as forklift driver - he hadn't realised the job would involve handling alcohol and so is claiming religious discrimination.

Let's hope that the employment tribunal kicks this one out before it hits the front door.


[edits: to remove the excessive use of the passive.]

01 October, 2008

How babies are made: the 6 year old view

This is quite sweet.

5 Children were asked how they thought babies were made.

To be fair to them, they are quite accurate on the whole and even where wrong, it's the result of a wrong logical leap rather than anything their parents seem to have told them.

Admittedly, though, most of them ge a little lost after 'an egg hatches in Mummy's tummy' analysis....

30 September, 2008

Live time debate fact checker

The Washington Post is doing a live debate 'fact checker'.

Thank God we don't have those in the 'real world' of debating, otherwise I'd be screwed!

29 September, 2008

Court life




Something I observed today.....

28 September, 2008

Specialisation

Bleugh, just spent the last week watching 1 public debating, debating in another, doing a sponsored legal walk, cleaning the house (which was so bad it was toxic), starting my OLPAS form, finishing my OLPAS form and applying to various other chambers.

Hence the lack of blog posts.

Having substituted dinner (evening meal, not lunch - see what being up North for too long does to my wariness of the casual use of possibly misleading vocab?) for alcohol on 4 days of the seven my figure is loving my but I'm pretty sure my liver is in a sulk. Working on the principle that if I'm happy, my body is happy. My body includes my liver. Wine makes me happy. Somehow, I just dont think it's going to wash...


At the hearing the other day and was in the lawyers room chatting with the barrister I was supporting and another barrister who was in there. We were talking about pupillages and how they used to be very unspecialised and how that had changed - aparently becase of the demand from solicitors for 'experts' in a given area of law. From my point of view, which they agreed with, it seems utterly silly to ask a person who has done between 2-4 years of law which are of law they wish to specialise in until the end of time in 150 words on a pupilage application form. 95% of people won't have a clue - oh, we all knpw there are some areas we really enjoy and others which we hate, but for the in-between bits 'who knows/cares' probably sums it up. For the rare 5% who know whaich area they want to do because they are passionately in love with it, 150 words is hardly enough.

23 September, 2008

Obama in the West Wing

I very much like this conversation by Aaron Sorkin where Obama goes and chats to Jed Bartlet

22 September, 2008

Who goes? You Decide!

As this article points out, words come in and out of fashion and use.

When a word has not been used for a while, it is culled from paper versions of dictionaries. (The internet is changing cyberspace preservation)

The Times has a list of words 'up for eviction', cast your vote here to save the ones you like the best.

North Korea Kremlinology: Predictions of the Future

This article is quite interesting. It discusses the potential futures of North Korea when Kim Jung Il dies. On the grounds that assassination props are run fairly frequently - and often will be set in North Korea, it's probably worth a read.

I find what he says about the army v the party interesting - I wonder if anyone has been able to find out whether the leaders of both are as brainwashed into support Kim Jung Il as the rest of the population?

17 September, 2008

Stating the obvious

Dale Winton complains that no one ever asked if he was gay.

Yes, right, well no one ever asked me if I was female*. Some facts are so obvious that they don't bear questioning....


*comments along the lines of 'yes, but you're not a real girl' aside

16 September, 2008

Duty of Care and the Armed Services

I always find this a difficult topic.

On the one hand, it is clearly right that an employer should owe a duty of care to the employee.

On the the other, it is equally clear that applying this to the heat of battle is stupid.

However, if the MoD give out faulty equipment (say, bullet proof vests) and if that vest fails and leads to the death of a soldier AND the MoD knew the vests were faulty, should the soldier be allowed to sue?

Under the SQ, they cannot. But to mitigate this, issues surrounding the armed forces are given special parliamentary time for discussion in a manner that even other arms of the state (the police, for instance) are not.

James Rowley, of Byrom Street Chambers, has written an interesting article on this subject. If you follow this link, and then scroll to the bottom of the page.

14 September, 2008

My good luck is mine. My bad luck, yours.

This is a very short, but elegant, article on how we apportion 'luck' in society - especially when it comes to holiday companies and bad harvests.

12 September, 2008

Sarah Palin's critics

I enjoyed this article (by a non-Palin supporter) on how the critics of Sarah Palin currently say more about themselves than they do about her...
"The virulence of the language used by the anti-Palin crusaders reflects the contempt with which the American cosmopolitan elite regards common people. Such explicit denunciations of ordinary people’s morality and lifestyles by self-confessed progressive or liberal commentators are rare today, at a time when American culture professes to be non-judgmental and tolerant – certainly such vicious stereotyping would be condemned if it was directed at minorities or any other section of society apart from ‘rednecks’. That is why, normally, such top-down contempt is expressed through euphemisms and nods and winks.

In the US, terms such as ‘Nascar Dads’, ‘Valley Girls’, ‘Joe six-pack’ or ‘redneck’ have become codewords for the white working classes or the ‘underclass’. In Britain, commentators use different phrases for undesirable sections of society: ‘chavs’, ‘white van man’, ‘Worcester Woman’, ‘tabloid readers’. These are the kind of people who do not write for The Huffington Post and whose lifestyles are looked upon as alien by the very high-minded cultural elites. The very fact that ‘these people’ breed, are unashamedly carnivorous, are not on a diet, sometimes drink beer, sometimes
smoke and sometimes partake in even cruder pleasures of life means they cannot
be treated as the moral equals of their cosmopolitan superiors. "
I do recommend reading the whole thing.

Children, diet and exercise

We were chatting in the office today about the contents of children's lunch boxes (have I mentioned that it's an all female office?). It was sparked by a news article which had been read which stated that a father said his five year old daughter was obese because of 'comfort eating'. (this was sparked by me asking if other people thought it was possible for a child to weigh 20 stone...)

How does a 5 year old possibly comfort eat?!

At that age, the child has no income, is too short to reach into high cupboards and should have been taught to ask, if they wanted food, anyway. A 5 year old eats what is in front of them. Of course they will refuse to eat some items, and then ask for pudding anyway. At that point, the parent either insists that they eat the item, keeps it for later or throws it away and then says yes or no for pudding depending on the behaviour of the child. I just can't see how comfort eating comes into this equation.

When I comfort eat, then sure, I go to the freezer/Sainsburys and eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's, or Kettle Chips, or a bar of chocolate. I ahve access to the food and even if I didn't, I can buy it. At work, I never eat like that because someone else is in control of my time and therefore in charge of when I can eat. For children, it is surely similar? When a child is slightly older, they may have their own money or have developed a measure of deviousness and are therefore able to have a measure of control over their eating. With young children, this shouldn't be an issue.

Continuing the theme of childhood obesity, we were also comparing the contents of children's packed lunches today compared to what we take to school. The consensus was that today's lunches are healthier than ours were (more fruit and salad, less chocolate and crisps). If this works out over an average, then I wonder to what extent childhood obesity is fuelled far less by crap food than by a complete lack of exercise.

On this, I do blame the parents far less. Given the condemnation which was dumped on the McCains for Shock! Horror! leaving their children alone a short distance away for a short period of time rather than being sugically attached to them constantly as well as the attitude from officials where EVERY lone adult is ALWAYS a paedophile I can scarcely blame parents for being scared of the condemnation they would suffer if busy-body noticed a child playing alone in a garden... Much safer to keep the child indoors and give them a playstation.

Equally, my grandparents talk about going across London by themselves to go to school. I remember walking to school by myself (about 1 mile) from the age of 8 or 9 (year five, at least) where now children are driven. Again, the driving is partly a manifestation of the parents being too busy to walk their children to school, some are being too lazy but all are too scared to let their children walk the route alone.

I don't particularly want children at any point in my life, but I hope that if I did have them, I would be firm enough in my own beliefs to allow them the same freedoms I enjoyed rather than projecting my own fears onto them. Given that obesity is at least in part caused by a lack of exercise, given that, in the UK, obesity is far more deadly than terrorism (possible abuse of statistics), I would propose a fairly massive transfer of funds to try and win 'hearts and minds' of parents to convince them that the world is a safe place for their children to be in.

11 September, 2008

Terrorism and the Rule of Law

This article mirrors my views on 'those who exchange a little liberty for a measure of security', especially in the context of asking stupid questions like 'is the standard of proof too high in terrorism trials'

To quote part of the article:
"Well, I “just don't get it”. I just don't get it that it was OK then for ministers, police officers and the media publicly to label as guilty men who had not been formally charged with anything (there were 24 people arrested at the time, by the way.) And I don't “get it” that it was OK this week for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to indicate immediately after the verdicts - and in terms that might prejudice the retrial they are now seeking - that they considered the defendants guilty of plotting to blow up aircraft, regardless of the verdicts of the jury.

I don't get it that it was OK for Panorama on Tuesday night to continue to refer to “the airlines plot”, despite the jury's failure to reach a verdict on whether aircraft were, in fact, involved.

The jury rightly found three men guilty of conspiracy to murder, which carries a life sentence, but that isn't enough for the authorities - the men must be convicted of a plot actually to blow aircraft out of the sky, because that is what police and politicians told everyone was being planned, and every air passenger's life was greatly disrupted as a result. This is about pride and pique, not justice. Mr Reid told Panorama: “We would have sustained the worst terrorist attack in the UK's history.” He still doesn't know that. "
Bravo.

"Those who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security, deserve neither and will lose both" if my memory of the full quote stands correctly.

10 September, 2008

Sponsorship

Hello!

I'm asking people for sponsorship for a legal walk in Manchester which raises funds for legal advice charities, so I thought, who better to ask than you, my wonderful blog-readers!

If you would like to be a good and wonderful person, please go to: http://www.justgiving.com/fieldfisherwaterhousemanchester to sign up and for more information about the charities which we are supporting.

Thank you lots and lots in advance!

Miss Middle

09 September, 2008

Blog Recommendation

I do enjoy Devil's Kitchen for amusing rants - generally on the abuse of power by various idiot officials...

Pop over, if you have time.

08 September, 2008

In praise of the weak

I always enjoy Caitlan Moran's articles, and this one on why weak and weedy UK/European politicians are a Good Thing for the world is no exception....

05 September, 2008

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week at Law Firm - though I'm still constantly asking what I know are stupid and inane questions, but everyone is too polite to tell me!

The work is more interesting than I expected (no filing OR photocopying - I'm in heaven!) though I find billing very complicated and I'm sure I'm not doing it right!

The other people in my office are obsessed with food - which is wonderful as it means there is always nice food about. (I was about to end that paragraph on an exclamation mark too, but then I recalled what Terry Pratchett has written about people who over use them....).

The Boy has just bought a new computer game, Spore, which looks awesome - but has the unfortunate effect of him monopolising the computer.

I would comment on something interesting and current affairs related, but to be honest, I picked up one of the random copies of the Economist which lie around the house and read it for 20 mins before realising that it was several months old. Shows how little has changed in the world. We have conflict in the Balkans, the US elections (funnily enough, though I disagree with Palin on virtually every issue, I very much like her as a candidate), flood warnings... I blame it all on the silly season (or end of).

Oh.... Ugly Betty restarting....

Au revoir, mes petites choufleurs

04 September, 2008

Apologies, Update and Compliment

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I didn't have personal internet in London and didn't feel right to use Law Firm's computers. The job is going well and I'm very much enjoying it so far, everybody seems very nice - though there aren't any men in our office, which is slightly odd! Too broke to afford a real laptop so the Asus EEE is looking more and more tempting...

Charon has been most helpful if you want to stay updated on legal blog: Here

Right, I'm off to get dressed and mourn my cold as I have 'freshers flu' from meeting new people. Damn my crap immune system.

29 August, 2008

Virgin trains and retro albums

To be fair, the weekday Manchester <--> London service is normally very good - it takes about 2 hrs 15 mins and you can get some stupidly cheap tickets too.

The weekend is normally much worse with the same journey taking 3hrs 30 mins upwards. Quite often, the journey is via Birmingham - something I can never quite make sense of.

during engineering works, the routes, understandably, take longer still.

The Law Firm (I can't remember what I said I was going to call them) sent me an e-mail about induction today and have booked me into a hotel in London as I'm there for two nights (which was nice, I would have assumed I would have had to book hotels myself :)).

Unfortunately, my parents are up this weekend and I now need to catch the train to London on Sunday evening (so will be bustling them out of the door at 6pm... They don't know this yet.) to be at Law Firm's offices on the Monday morning.

How can it be considered a good idea to send a train between the first and second cities of Britain where a: you can't buy a single ticket for the whole journey, but instead have to buy two tickets - one for each part - and send it via Doncaster. This means, I think, that I can't buy a normal return ticket.

Life is really too short. No wonder people drive.

Oh, the retro album in the title? I'd forgotten how much I love the Stereophonics Performance and Cocktails. Sheer awesomeness.

27 August, 2008

Money, money, money

Hmmmm.... and this table is why being a solicitor may not be such a bad idea.


(Yes, I know, it's London wages and regional ones are between 1/3 and 1/2 lower - but nevertheless..!)

26 August, 2008

Teaching evolution in schools

This is a really interesting article about how one biology teacher is teaching evolution in US schools and the type of difficulties he is encountering whilst doing so.

I especially like the conversation he has with a student about the purpose - and limits - of science:

Teacher (Mr Campbell):“Can anybody think of a question science can’t answer?”

A student: “Is there a God?”

“Good,” said Mr. Campbell, an Anglican who attends church most Sundays. “Can’t test it. Can’t prove it, can’t disprove it. It’s not a question for science.”

Bryce (a student who reads the Bible as literally true) raised his hand.

“But there is scientific proof that there is a God,” he said. “Over in Turkey there’s a piece of wood from Noah’s ark that came out of a glacier.”

Mr. Campbell chose his words carefully.

“If I could prove, tomorrow, that that chunk of wood is not from the ark, is not even 500 years old and not even from the right kind of tree — would that damage your religious faith at all?”

Bryce thought for a moment.

“No,” he said.

The room was unusually quiet.

“Faith is not based on science,” Mr. Campbell said. “And science is not based on faith. I don’t expect you to ‘believe’ the scientific explanation of evolution that we’re going to talk about over the next few weeks.”

25 August, 2008

Foreign aid

I especially like the (self-confessed cynical) quote at the beginning of this article on foreign aid:

Foreign aid is where we tax the poor of rich countries to fund the rich of poor ones.

That aside, it is a really interesting article on where our foreign aid money goes (most of it doesn't even leave the UK).

Well worth a read.

21 August, 2008

When is a law not a law?

Written by Rhydian Morgan. Wonderful writing, very thought provoking.

____

Q: When is a law not a law?

It sounds like the opening for a bad pun, but is in fact a genuine question, and not just a legal one. It is a firmly established principle, perhaps the most basic one, of the rule of law, that all are equal under it, and none, including the law-maker, may be set above it. The idea that those in charge are, as individuals, subject to the same laws as the rest is one that has been examined and affirmed consistently in philosophy and jurisprudence, and is stated by Thomas Paine thusly: "For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other." [Common Sense, 1776 (pamphlet)]. The Magna Carta is the first, and perhaps prime example of the rule of law in England, forcing King John to submit to the law, and succeeding in setting limits on feudal fees and duties. Later, the theoretical foundations for this principle were laid down in Rutherford’s Lex, Rex (1644),
and later in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748). Modern theories of the rule of law, particularly when articulated in common law jurisdictions include: a clear separation of powers, ideas of legal certainty and legitimate expectation (required for any set of laws to be regarded properly as a legal system), and importantly, the equality of all before the law.

When rulers have sought to position themselves above the laws they have set, the results have often been dramatic, violent and bloody. The illegitimate actions of rulers may be the cause of most revolutions around the world, whether refusing to suffer alongside their populations the strictures of circumstance, and imposing privations to which they themselves are not subject, or violating more directly the people’s stated rights, and thereby the rule of law. The French and Russian revolutions are clear examples of this, and other popular revolts too numerous to list here (I do not intend to analyse the myriad causes of such revolts, merely to suggest that the common factor in all is a perception by the people that those in power were acting illegitimately in their perceived oppression of the people). Even the assassination of Julius Caesar was legitimised by the (perhaps false) idea that Caesar was seeking to extend his power illegitimately. It seems incompatible with the notion of justice that heads of state be allowed to commit extra-judicial murder, for example, or to plunder state resources for private benefit. [It is here accepted that there is a clear difference between state mandated action, and the actions of private individuals who are also officers of the state. A President, for example, may order an execution (where such is permitted by the legislature of that state) and maintain the rule of law, whilst the person who holds that office may not choose to shoot someone he believes to be worthy of execution, if the rule of law is to be maintained.]

Is there an argument against this position [that the lawmakers are themselves subject to the laws they set]? There is an argument that belief in a natural justice, or ‘natural law’, does not in fact determine what law is, but what it should be. Legal positivism argues that all that laws require in order to be law properly so called is to be passed according the rules set in a given society for the enactment of legislation. All concerns about the just nature of otherwise of a law are then conveniently pushed to one side, as all that matters is the legality of authority, as opposed to the morality of that authority. But it is rare to find a legal positivist who will argue against the principle that all individuals are, or should be, treated equally under the law, whatever the perceived justice or otherwise of those laws. For Aristotle and Plato, the rule of law included the obligation to obey positive law (that is, law passed according to the rules) and the idea of formal checks and balances on rulers and magistrates [the contrast between the ‘rule of men’ and the ‘rule of law’ may be found in Plato’s Statesmen and Laws, and again in Aristotle’s Politics]. This position had not changed when Dicey wrote his treatise, Law of the Constitution (1959), equality before the law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts being identified as the second element of the rule of law. As he states, “... every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen.”

It is also a generally accepted maxim of natural justice that lex injusta non est lex [‘unjust law is no law at all’] [Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, c. 13th C, after St. Augustine]. That is to say, on a moral level, that laws which violate a sense of natural justice, such as those permitting some to act against the law, or the founding principles thereof, are not laws properly so called. We may call them ‘bad’ law, unjust law, or refuse to give them the title of law at all. On this, the analysis provided by modern jurists on the ‘laws’ of the Third Reich is particularly instructive. Unwilling to accord the system the legitimacy of law properly so called, great work was done exposing the illegitimacy of laws that so fundamentally violate the concept of natural justice, an objective standard by which all law and society may be judged. We continue to apply this objective standard today, as intervention in countries where we might seek to promote democracy is often couched in rhetoric that links that aim inextricably to the establishment of the rule of law.

Thus it would appear axiomatic that good governance, whether democratic or not, includes the rule of law being adopted and maintained. Criticisms of Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, as well as the actions of several governments around the world (Burma, several former Soviet satellite states that remained under dictatorships, such as Turkmenistan) centred on this failing. If then the rule of law is so important, and one cannot have the rule of law when lawmakers seek to set themselves above the law, why do we let them get away with it?

I am not talking here of a lack of action against Zimbabwe (although that is in itself shameful); I am talking about Presidents and Prime Ministers of what are apparently democracies. During his two terms as President of France, Jacques Chirac relied on a constitutional bar to investigation and prosecution for the President for all crimes short of treason to prevent the enquiries of a juge d’instruction into alleged corruption and other scandals which may have taken place whilst he Mayor of Paris (from 1977 to 1995). [It is interesting to note that, whilst M. Chirac used his office to prevent investigation into allegations of earlier misconduct or impropriety, he needed have no such worries about any illegality that may have been committed whilst in the Palais d’Elysée; according to constitutional expert Guy Carcassonne, speaking to Le Monde, Chirac could be held to account for actions taken while he was Mayor of Paris, but not while he was France's President.]

In a shameful modern echo of this position, Silvio Berlusconi’s government in Italy succeeded this July in passing through the lower chamber a law granting the President, leaders of the upper and lower chambers and Prime Minister [incumbent: S. Berlusconi], the four highest offices of the state, immunity from investigation whilst in office. This is particularly important for Signor Berlusconi, as he was previously under investigation for financial irregularities in a case in which David Mills, husband of the then UK Secretary of State Tessa Jowell, was also questioned. (Ms Jowell and Mr Mills underwent a separation when news of his alleged involvement in the scandal broke in the UK, presumably so that the Labour Government might avoid any taint by association – difficult, given Tony Blair’s acceptance of free holiday accommodation from Signor Berlusconi whilst he [Blair] was Prime Minister.) [Signor Berlusconi had earlier introduced a bill, passed by the Senate on 18th June, freezing for a year all trials started before June 2002 and carrying a maximum possible sentence upon conviction of fewer than ten years’ imprisonment. Conveniently, that included his own, but may also have stopped up to 100,000 criminal trials for offences including manslaughter, theft, kidnapping, grievous bodily harm, extortion, fraud and corruption (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/2152711/Silvio-Berlusconi-suspends-his-own-trial.html).]

This latest law has yet to be passed by the Italian Senate (the upper chamber), although it is likely to do so easily, as Berlusconi enjoys strong support there. It also faces challenge in the Italian courts, and they are due to pronounce on its legality shortly following its (expected) passage through the Senate, and it should be noted that in common with the French law, it does not grant full immunity from investigation or prosecution but only whilst office is held. Thus, it is possible that Signor Berlusconi will face prosecution at the end of his term; possible, although unlikely, as the chances of a proper investigation into financial affairs when those allegedly involved may have had five further years in which to cover any tracks are seriously diminished (see numerous Serious Fraud Office cases, including the collapse of the prosecution of the directors of BCCI, for the difficulties in investigating financial trails years after the event).

But as mentioned above, the question is not merely one of legality, but of politics and philosophy. It is entirely possible that the Italian courts will rule, much as the French courts did, that the due process for the passing of the law has been observed, and therefore it is ‘good’ law, in a positivist sense. Whether it is properly passed or not is irrelevant. The question is: what should we expect of those who govern us? Second, what are we prepared to accept from our lawmakers? These questions are posed not just for the Italian people, but for us all, as Italy’s actions may have ramifications far wider than that peninsula. How can we condemn other regimes when we have failed to put our own house in order, or to apply the same condemnation to our friends and neighbours? We cheapen both our rhetoric and our moral position by allowing those who make our laws to grant themselves immunity from investigation or prosecution when they break those laws.

In recent speech in the U.S. Senate in opposition to the FISA Bill, Senator Dodd (Democrat, Conneticut) spoke these words:

“There is only one issue here. Only one: the law issue. Does the president serve the law, or does the law serve the president? Each insult to our Constitution comes from the same source; each springs from the same mindset; and if we attack this contempt for the law at any point, we will wound it at all points.

That is why I’m here today: Retroactive immunity is on the table today; but also at issue is the entire ideology that justifies it, the same ideology that defends torture and executive lawlessness. Immunity is a disgrace in itself, but it is far worse in what it represents. It tells us that some believe in the courts only so long as their verdict goes their way. That some only believe in the rule of law, so long as exceptions are made at their desire. It puts secrecy above sunshine and fiat above law.”

[Full text of this speech, including video can be found at http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=node/4476, the Senator’s home page, and I am indebted to Chris Jones for posting this link on his page.]

The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), enacted 1978, was originally introduced following President Nixon’s use of illegal surveillance of political opponents and their supporters as revealed during the Watergate scandal, and has been amended substantially, in particular by the 2001 U.S. Patriot Act, 2006 Terrorist Surveillance Act, and the Protect America Act of 2007. [I will make no comment on the use of terms such as ‘Protect America Act’, or indeed ‘Patriot Act’, by the Bush administration. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions about what such nomenclature does in attempting to divert criticism of the provisions of the Acts in question.] The current bill grants retrospective immunity to telecommunications companies involved in the illegal wiretapping of domestic citizens provided they can show documentation which shows the act received prior authorisation from the White House. To quote the Senate Intelligence report:

“Beginning soon after September 11, 2001, the Executive branch provided written requests or directives to U.S. electronic communication service providers to obtain their assistance with communications intelligence activities that had been authorized by the President.

… The letters were provided to electronic communication service providers at regular intervals. All of the letters stated that the activities had been authorized by the President. All of the letters also stated that the activities had been determined to be lawful by the Attorney General, except for one letter that covered a period of less than sixty days. That letter, which like all the others stated that the activities had been authorized by the President, stated that the activities had been determined to be lawful by the Counsel to the President.

Under the legislation before us, the district court would simply decide whether or not the telecommunication companies received documentation stating that the President authorized the program and that there had been some sort of determination that it was legal.”

Thus we see that even in the most vocal and vociferous critic of rogue regimes, of undemocratic government, and of failure to implement the rule of law, a fundamental principle of that rule, that all be treated equally under the law, is easily pushed to one side. The FISA Bill and the so-called ‘Alfano law’ (after the Italian Minister of Justice) are merely the most striking and recent manifestations of this contempt for the rule of law in modern Western democracies; presidential pardons in numerous countries are permitted, overturning safe convictions and preventing prosecutions. Why then do we allow this?

Signor Berlusconi claims the law is necessary to prevent his being hounded by a biased and politically motivated judiciary; Jacques Chirac used much the same argument. Berlusconi also claims as legitimacy the argument that all states have such laws. Apart from being a demonstrably false assertion, even if it were true, it would not in itself provide a philosophical justification for the existence of such laws. George Bush’s administration uses the rhetoric of ‘extraordinary measures being required in extraordinary times’, the idea that, during a time of conflict, special powers must be granted in order to ‘get the job done’, a favourite phrase of despotic regimes everywhere. It might very well be true that, in times of war, certain rights may be temporarily suspended (such as the right of freedom of movement, even to the level of internment), but the fact of the matter is that neither M. Chirac nor Signor Berlusconi can rely on that. The FISA Bill concerns the illegal surveillance of U.S citizens, not noticeably part of the ‘axis of evil’. It seems clear, therefore, that each of these bills, and any bill which seeks to grant immunity to holders of high office, is a self-serving permission to act outside the law with impunity, and therefore an unjustified assault on the rule of law, one that should not be tolerated in any democratic society. If anyone can provide a justification for immunity laws, I should like to hear it. Until I do, I will continue to speak against such laws, and would urge others to the same.

19 August, 2008

1990

I find it most worrying that many of the applicants I'm speaking to at the moment have their birthdays in 1990.

Shouldn't they still be playing with barbies? How are they possibly old enough to drink, let alone come to university!

This is probably the first time in my life I've felt old. It's upsetting.

18 August, 2008

Awkwardly, true



(http://xkcd.com/386/)

Politics, religion and incentive structures

This is a really interesting post on the role of religion in politics. Not in the theocracy sense, but in the incentive structure sense. To quote a key part:
Indeed, though I myself am pro-choice and mostly irreligious, it seems more likely to me that the main effect of faith is to spur people to embrace causes that are personally and socially inconvenient. Slaveowners didn't need religion to motivate them to defend slavery; they had a powerful financial interest in doing so. Similarly, the pro-choice movement, at least in my experience, gets most of its activist energy from reproductive-aged women who have a strong interest in being able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Well worth a read.

Georgia

I think these two article from the Economist give the best analysis of the situation, that I've read.

This one focuses more on the regional consequence

This one on the internal consequences.

I find the latter more interesting, with a far more balanced and non-poarised view than anything else I'v read so far.

Overall, however, I stand with my opinion that when a nuclear country invades its poor, weak neighbour against the wishes of that neighbour without Jus ad Bello, there's only one way that this'll play on the world stage.

If you're grown up enough to be playing with nukes, you should be grown up enough to stop acting like a petulant child who throws a tantrum because the world is no longer in the 'good old days'. Whilst both parties have some blame in this matter, Russia as the 'world power' and a long established state surely had far more responsibility. Georgia was silly for letting herself get sucked in but Russia really shouldn't have provoked it all in the first place.

Paralegal position

Got the paralegal position I applied for a while ago.

Am very happy indeed!

15 August, 2008

Beauty and the Game Theory Geek

One of my less admissible vices is a minor addiction to the TV show 'Beauty and the Geek'

Ahem. I'll wait a moment to allow you to catch your breath and exclaim something on the lines of 'oh, I'd never have though it of her!'.

Interestingly, one of the freakonomics guest posters has analysed the game theory of selecting couples for elimination.

From my point of view, I'd choose two strong couples as 2 of the three scenarios leads to a strong couple disliking you so it's almost inevitable anway. By choosing two strong couples, you definitely eliminate one, thus improving your odds.

What would you do?

Desperate Housewives and Bike Thieves

So, this poor woman is sent to prison for stealing to feed her children, but the guy who is found guilty of stealing a bike and has thirty odd other convictions for theft behind him, gets an £80 fine.

The putative element of her sentence should be mandatory contraception and the rest of the sentence should be rehab and help.

The law is an ass.

14 August, 2008

Law school league tables (BVC, LPC and GDL)

QEDlaw is fantastic news as it is wishing to publish the full results of various law schools and course providers.

To quote from them directly:

The information will show

  1. The total number of the students enrolled on each of the university’s full time GDL, LPC and/or BVC in the academic years 1997/8 and 2007/8
  2. The number awarded a ‘pass’ at the first attempt in 1998 and 2008
  3. The number awarded a ‘distinction’ at the first attempt in 1998 and 2008
  4. The number awarded a ‘commendation’ at the first attempt in 1998 and 2008
  5. The number failing / failing to complete the course at the first attempt in 1998 and 2008.
I looked for this information when I applied, but I could not find it.

Given that I feel that when making potentially expensive, yet risky, decisions a person should have as much information as possible, this is a very welcome idea.

On A-level grades and Illiteracy

I was surprised (given its usual political leanings) to find this piece on A-level reform in the Telegraph. Nevertheless, IMHO, it's well written and considered and points out that the real problem in education sin't 27% of candidates getting A grades (that's only a problem for admissions tutors) but the scandal that children are still leaving school unable to read because of Marie Antoinette "let them read Beowulf" approach.

Success and the role of government

I very much like this quote:

The people cannot look to legislation generally for success. Industry, thrift, character, are not conferred by act or resolve. Government cannot relieve from toil. It can provide no substitute for the rewards of service. It can, of course, care for the defective and recognize distinguished merit. The normal must care for themselves. Self-government means self-support
Calvin Coolidge (US president 1923-1929)

(taken from freakonomics)

13 August, 2008

Alcohol. rape and compensation

This article on the woman who's initial criminal injury compensation for rape was reduced by 35% because she had been drinking is excellent in my view.

I especially like the analogy that she draws between the drunk victim of a rape and a little old lady in the context of vulnerability.

11 August, 2008

The Merciful, the Compassionate

Thank God - or Allah - that the Iranians are finally seeing sense and remembering one of the names for God is 'the Merciful' as they have now stopped stoning people.

Here.

Coase Theorem and Class Allocation

I love the attitude of NYU to allocating classes - hold a lottery.

It allows the students who got classes that they didn't want to trade them for other favours, usually, but not always, money.

My comment in reply to the killjoy anonymous who posted first should be up at some point.

10 August, 2008

Background to S. Ossetia

Here's a little bit of interesting analysis on the background to the S. Ossetia situation

09 August, 2008

Dead bloggers

The Orwell Trust have decided to publish Orwell's diary entries online, one day at a time.

I think it's a wonderful idea - despite my loathing of suspense normally - and I hope other trusts do it for their relevant historical figures.

I've not read (shamefully) the diary of Anne Frank, but that would seem ripe for posting in the same manner. If an entry was written on 13th August, it should be published on the same date, as far as possible.

Alan Clark would work quite well, too, I think.

Suggestions for other diaries?

Life update - very boring, really

Start new job tomorrow - somewhat apprehensive as they appear to have given it to me on the basis that they liked me rather than there actually being work to do. As a consequence, they don't know what the job description or hours are - and only have a rough idea of the pay!

Oh well, they assured me that it'll be at least 2 weeks of work which means I'll have enough to pay for my share of the rent this month.


Going to the theatre on Monday hopefully to see hayfever after a friend recommended it. Haven't been to theatre in aaaaaages - looking forward to it.

Just bought and costructed 2 new bookcases - meaning we now have 9 (and all full) in total in the house. Vive la livre!

Ok, enough personal updates, will try and blog of my interesting topics at some point (the Boy is using the computer to play games os I can't read the news....)

Oh, Ossetia most upsetting. I've thought it would be Abkhazia which caused the problem instead.

ps: hear about whether or not I got the paralegal job, tomorrow. V. nervous.

08 August, 2008

Parental leave and Tory policy

Well, it seems my policy on parental leave is now an official Tory policy.

I might have to stop spoiling my ballot at this rate and vote for them again now that they seem to have grown out of the 'foreign people are bad' phase that they went through...

07 August, 2008

Blog troubles

I seem to have some problems posting at the moment - is blogger doing this to anybody else?

Dawkins, evolution and God (round 328)

I absolutely agree with what Libby Purves says here.

It's well written and makes perfect sense to me. Further more, shows a much greater understanding of human nature than the #my way or the highway' set.

06 August, 2008

Playing the game

I've always found game theory a really interesting aspect of economics, possibly because behavioural economics appeals to me. Freakonomics has an interesting analysis of who the candidates should pick for their VP on the basis of game theory, here.

Mixed bag

Sorry about the lack of updates, my router broke and so I had to wait for a new one to be sent through.

Well, one of the non-legal jobs I applied to rejected me - but I was genuinely underqualified so not too upset - but have offered me temporary work starting Monday.

Waiting on hearing from the paralegal job (which seems like it would be very interesting given the type of work and client).

The Boy is quite pleased as it means I can pay my rent this month....

04 August, 2008

Bad news

Didn't get the pupillage in Preston.

Most upset.

02 August, 2008

Top 10 blogs competition

I'll be the first to admit this blog is, on occasion, a tad schizophrenic.

It's not quite sure whether it's a debating blog, a blawg or just about current affair commentary and tends to change depending what is interesting me at the time (note heavy debate coverage during Euros/heavy BVC coverage when a deadline is coming up).

However, I am honoured that 2 people have voted for me on Iain Dale's search for the top UK political bloggers.


And one of those people wasn't me!

Whilst I consider voting for myself the height of immodesty, I have no such qualms about asking any readers to do the same.

Just follow the link above and write your top 10 political blogs in a comment. If you don't read too many political blogs, you can always reference nought.point.zero (regular commentator Al's blog) and Iain Dale's diary itself. I'm sure geeklawyer and Charon could quite probably count given that they touch politcs and current affairs (sometimes!)

01 August, 2008

Roomba

I want one of these cleaning robots so much!


ps: does anyone know how to get a video into a post if you don't upload it from you computer?

Muphry's Law

Muphry’s Law (no, not Murphy’s). Muphry’s law states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”

Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation: “any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror”.

“McKean’s Law” (after Verbatim editor Erin McKean):
Call it McKean’s Law: Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.

“Skitt’s Law” (after alt.usage.english contributor “Skitt”):
Skitt’s Law, a corollary of Murphy’s Law, variously expressed as “any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself” or “the likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster.”


Courtesy of posters from the Freakonomics blog

31 July, 2008

Underwear in videogames

This article is an interesting look at the sheer (ha ha) ridiculousness of female underwear in video games

30 July, 2008

Blog list addition - marginal revolution.

I've added Marginal Revolution to the blog list as Ive whilst I've read it fairly freqeuntly over the past year or so, I suddenly have found myself on there daily for the past few weeks.



Megan McArdl often references them, as has comment central



(sory bout any an all typos, mid week middle class binge drinking means another bottle down...


edits o follow tomorrow.)

Murder

Whe non-lawyers write about law, I often have the same feeling I do when I see 'historical' fiction, however, much of te commentary on the suggestion that the law on partial defences to murder should be changed is not only inaccurate, but often wilfully and maliciously so.

This article
is one of the best, and most balanced I've seen on the subject.

But what is the difference between the wife who kills her husband after a long campaign of domestic abuse, and the husband who kills his wife having caught her in flagrante? Simple really, in my mind. Domestic abuse is illegal. Sex between two consenting adults, whilst morally wrong, is perfectly legal.

I do like the debate about removing minimum sentances though. Really, the guidelines should be enough and the judges should be considered learned enough to go outside them when it is just to do so. If a judge makes a truly crazy decision (of 'short skirt/rape magnatude') then the sentence can be appeal for undue leniency/severity.

More later, I'm very ill.

Playboy for the blind

Playboy for the blind...

The only group who read it for the articles?


(ps: link clean... I've checked)

29 July, 2008

Indexed - BVC style



In a homage to indexed


And because I am very much at the point where the 'days' axis is running out of numbers...

'Tis the season

Well, having applied for a job as an admissions officer at Salford, I'd given up hope as I hadn't heard anything.

This morning just got a letter asking me to interview - yay!

Let's hope the spate of 'good luck with jobs' extends to pupillage!

Curious - a little game

This is an excellent way of wasting half an hour.

I completed it in 22mins and 31 secs.

I have a very slight obsession with these sorts of games...

Will post the daymare one when I've found it.

Any recommendations gratefully received.

Paralegalling

Well, I bit the bullet and applied to three paralegalling positions yesterday.

Was pleasantly surprised when the firm I liked the most got back within the hour and offered me an interview for next Monday. They're a respectable sized city firm with a Manchester office. My only problem is that the advert said 'PRG paralegal'. If anyone has ANY idea what PRG stands for, I would be grateful!

My only thought as to why I got the interview was because I've done two vac schemes with solicitors firms in Manchester - maybe that helped?

Or it was simply my sparkly personality!

Fingers crossed, eh?

Crime maps and data protection

Ignore the Tory love-fest going on in the not-so-sub-text of this article, I actually very much agree with crime maps.

There was an article in the Times about a month ago on the same topic (the Times has one of the worst search engines I've seen, I had to use google to find it. Thank God for site search!) where the writer had heard about this working in America, but wanted the same statistic for their street in the UK. The police told them that yes, they had the data and that no, they couldn't have it because of data protection. Boris had the same success.

I can agree that the name and houst number of a rape victim shouldn't be shared, but that#s not what was requested. All you need to know is that on high street in townsville, x number of crimes happened and they were abc. Or, given we have a very efficient postcode system (I just don't understand how countries live without it!), say in postcode are AB1 2CD crimes efgh happened. As postcodes tend to cover about 20-30 houses, this would seem quite a useful number to know about.

I'm broadly supportive of the laws on human rights, data protection and freedom of information. What really annoys me is the non-lawyer idiots who decide to say no to everything in the name of these pieces of legislation.

the most stunning example I've seen was a criminal who sat on top of a house in Gloucester (where else!), shouting, throwing stuff and generally making a nuisance for himself for several hours. Now, I would have just let him sit there until he came hungry as that would be the short way of getting him down and would mean that all the neighbours in the street could go back to their daily lives. What did the police do? They went and got him a KFC bargain bucket because it was his 'human rights'. Have I missed an HR article here? Is my reasonably decent mark in consitutional and administrative law actually a sham and a mockery?

I think every petty official who tries to invoke one of these pieces of legislation - or is in a profession where he is in danger of doing so - should be made to sit down once a year, read all the legistlation in full, have a lecture on it and then sit a written test.

Oh, we can throw health and safety law in there as well.

Fashionable to be green

This article is a wonderful expression of my own views on being green.

We all feel a need to cast the first stone at our neighbours, but now adultery is off the statute book, we'll judge them for their 4x4.

The line I love best:

"I find I can neither get too excited about polar bears (too far away); nor about the twiddly, fiddly little efforts we obedient households are supposed to make to ensure our planet keeps ticking along nicely. Yet, like the thoroughly conditioned member of the chattering classes I am, I do exactly as I'm supposed to."


So, so true.

Right, I'm off to take the glass and cans out...

EDIT: thanks to Al for pointing out the complete lack of a link

28 July, 2008

Victorian Cities

I broadly agree with the thrust of this article but I get very annoyed when people abuse Victorian cities.

Yes, compared to today, they weren't fantastic places to live. I mean, you could smoke in pubs - how backwards is that?

But we seem to have the idea that the slums were the worst places to live. Again, fine, they weren't Victoria Park or Chelsea and Kensington, but they weren't as bad as, say, the countryside. Or Ireland.

There's a good reason why, despite people knowing that the cities were pretty grim, that they still migrated from the country and from places such as Ireland to work there. That's because life was better.

Even working in a factory for 12 hours a day, you would live longer and have (marginally) better health. You were paid (as opposed to living from the land), you had a far wider variety of foods to choose from than in the country, there was almost limitless entertainment on offer for you and inequality was far less entrenched in the cities than in the countryside (the factory owners were new money - unlike the landowners - and there was far greater opportunity to say, set up small shop or similar than just gleaning).

Of course, the pictures that writers such as Engels draw for us of places like Little Ireland (situated in the area just south of what is now Oxford Road Station in Manchester) are of esperate poverty. What should concern us more is how bad that makes the country.

So why do we persist in thinking the cities worse? For to main reasons: firstly, because of an anti-capitalist agenda/pro-back to nature agenda (modern day environmentalists?) but secondly because the poverty in the cities was more noticeable because it was on your front door.

When there was famine in an area of the country, you'd read about it in the paper, but itw ould be a distant place. When the supply of cotton was ut off because of events elsewhere, the factory workers were laid off and would starve to death on your door step (even I'll concede that the cotton famine years quite possibly brought the standard of living down to that of the country). Then, the poverty wsa noticeable.

Good from Evil : The Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan genocide was undoubtably wicked and evil, but the aftermath seems to have sprung some good.

The government has been painstakingly careful to erase any differences between Hutus and Tutsi since 1994 (to the extent that freedom of peech etc have taken a back seat).

The aftermath of the genocide has also meant many opportunities for Rwanda's women - as shown in this article here.

Incarceration and Mother Jones

This article on worldwide levels of incarceration is interesting.

My one criticism is that it fails to consider what may be the future impact of our policies today and sticks very much to fact recital.

On the same site, but on Afghani women, I found this photo-journalism essay more interesting.

27 July, 2008

The interview - Preston

Well, I had the interview with 15 Winckley Square yesterday and I enjoyed it more than I thought I might!

Turns out they are interviewing 8 people for one pupillage - so we'll see how it goes!

They spent the first third of the interview asking me about debating. I realise a question like 'so, you say you're the 71st best speaker in the world - how is that measured?' may have sounded odd in many contexts, but for me it was the perfect opening as it meant I could just go onto 'auto debating explanation' :)

They went through my application form in a lot of detail, luckily I didn't make any of it up or I would have been in trouble! I'd photocopied my results transcript as well, so when they started asking for details about my marks, I handed it over which seemed to save them some effort!

I'm a bit worried that they thought I didn't want to do crime at all. I had to explain that whilst I have a greater interest in civil, I don't loathe crime. I think they were amused when I said that the reason I was put off somewhat by crime was because of the clients!

After they'd gone though the OLPAS form and academics, they moved onto three problem questions involving professional conduct - one of each of their practice areas. I had to be prompted to take further action sometimes (like forgetting to negotiate - oooops!) and got bogged down on side issues on others. I hope they figured that it was just nerves!

The final part focussed on 'HR' questions. Luckily, I'd played the dinner party guests games with friends a while ago (Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austin, JS Mill and Mary Wollstonecroft, in case you were wondering! I reject Jesus as although He would be interesting and the water to wine is useful, I fear I would have to be on best behaviour all the time!). They also asked a couple of other reasonably odd ball questions - nothing too bad though and all perfectly reasonable.

A friend who was interviewed after me found their contradicting her somewhat disconcerting, I guess debating is fairly handy for being taught just to go 'no, I really do think I'm right and here's why' in a polite manner but unmovable manner.

I tend to become one of two things when nervous: self deprecating or verbally aggressive. They appeared to be laughing at a lot of my answers (Q:"do you get scared when speaking in front of large numbers of people?"A: not really. 1 person and 100 people are all the same to me, it depends who the people are. For example, I'm more scared of a 5 member pupillage committee than I am of 500 students....) OK, so not too funny but hey!

They also asked me my favourite film. I blurted out Princess Bride without thinking and then realised I should probably have said somewhting far more intellectual! What's worse, I then said out loud that I should have chosen something more intellectual.

Given I wasn't sure what to think of the set before the interview (there isn't much information out there) but that I now really like them (quicky, in a good way :)) I really hope to get this one.

Fingers crossed, eh?


(Whilst I came out feeling somewhat positive about how I ha performed, the more I think back, the more errors and mistakes I realise I made. Wish I could stop the mental dissection!)

24 July, 2008

Wii-fit

The Boy came back with a wii-fit yesterday.


It's even more fun than I had expected! Whilst on the BVC, I used to walk the journey to and from uni about 50% of the time and its about a 2. 5 mile walk. Now, I spend all day in front a computer convincing myself that reading blogs and playing Civ IV counts as career research and jobs applications and all the typing I'm doing *must* have compensated for the complete lack of leaving the house and walking.


Hmmm, the bathroom scales begged to differ so lets see if the wii-fit can do better!

22 July, 2008

Jibjab- 2--7

And on a similar theme, the same people bring you 'In 2007'...

The iphone bit is great :)