25 February, 2009

Bar Boy

Please let me view your blog!

24 February, 2009

More on Macmillan

Well, after a bit more research I found out here that the Crystal Macmillan prize is "A memorial prize [which] is awarded annually in her name by the society of the Middle Temple to the highest placed woman student in the bar's final examinations".

Who'd have thought it?

20 February, 2009


Interesting article on Comment Central about placebos, both in medicine and in the economy.

I don't think homeopathy works, per se. However, it certainly has an effect when people think it will. Given that many diseases to have a psychological link (look at how quickly many patients recover when told they will be discharged in the next few days) then perhaps it is as well to continue to use homeopathy for 'homely' diseases - ie: fairly regular, uncomfortable but non-life threatening - such as eczema. Just because the science doesn't add up, if the sugar pill has the same affect on the patient as the 'real' pill and sugar is cheaper, give out lots of sugar pills.

The time I think there is a problem is obviously for diseases such as cancer. If people have got used to believing the sugar pill works for their coughs and colds, I can easily see a number of people trying the same for their cancer.

In the economy, I agree with the article's 'unethical' point, but equally, all of the economy is a confidence game (I don't say this is bad) so perhaps there could be a middle line to tred betweenthe outright lie and the modifying of behaviour - perrhaps a 'nudge' is what is needed.


Well, this seems to be a more intellectual version of the '25 things' meme going around Facebook:
The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally your total at the bottom.
5) Tag some friends

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowlin x+
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible - x
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman x+
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott x+
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare x (done enough, anyway)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk x
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffingber
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald x
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams x
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck x
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll x
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy x
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis x+
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis x+3
7 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini x+
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres *
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden x+
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne x+
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell x+
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown x
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery x
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy x
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood x+
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan x
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel x+
52 Dune - Frank Herbert x
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth x
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon x
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens x5
8 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon x+
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck x
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov x
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt x+
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold x+
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding x+
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens 7
2 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett x+
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson x+
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome x
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell x
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert x
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom *
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton x+
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 9
2 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery x
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks *
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

TotalRead: 44
Loved: 19
Want to read: 3

I'm somewhat hindered by the fact I dislike most 19th century literature - if I could count the ones I've watched the BBC adaptations of, I'd be sorted :)

Ironically, I would guesstimate that I own at least 85% of these....

19 February, 2009

Silks 2009

Well, it turns out that Scary Defence Barrister has just been made a Silk.

Makes her even scarier, IMHO, but she deserves it really.

17 February, 2009

Free Pizza

Two-for-one voucher for pizza at pizza express valid until end of February from the Times website.

12 February, 2009

Competitive government?

On Megan McArdle's blog, one of the commentators posted this, which is interesting.

"I've never seen a libertarian theory of the economy that's plausible in a country as large as the US. I think things like voluntary payments in lieu of taxation might work in a community of, say, 100 homogenous people."

Bob, what makes you think the current system is plausible? It should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention that the American system of government has broken down. The checks and balances of the three branches of government have failed to check and balance and the growth of state power has not only continued, but accelerated. Government spending has increased as a percentage of national economic activity to the point where the risk of default or hyperinflation approaches a mathematical certainty. Supreme Court Justices and legislators are biased toward increasing presidential power because, among other reasonst they draw their paychecks from the Executive Branch Department of the Treasury. Personal freedom has diminished to the point where we actually celebrate the ability to choose between despot A and despot B the way a condemned prisoner might be grateful to choose between death by hanging or firing squad.

The reason why I am so concerned about the usurpation of power by the Executive (and to a lesser extent the Judicial) branch is that the effect is a transfer of power from the citizenry to the government as a whole. Only Congressmen and senators are directly elected by majority vote. The president is selected by the Electoral College and the justices and judges of the federal courts are nominated by the president. The legislature is the branch of government most accountable to the people and it is the branch that has yielded it's authority to the other branches. Among other things, it has lost much of its authority to make war, negotiate treaties, and control spending.

Many patriotic Americans will argue that, although the system is imperfect, it is still better than many alternatives. I actually agree with that claim, but that doesn't mean that the current state of affairs is acceptable. A failure is a failure, regardless of the degree to which it is preferable over worse failures. Having herpes is wonderful compared to having AIDS. House arrest is better than prison, but the domicile we are confined to is starting to look more and more like a penitentiary every day as the cage's gilding loses its luster. Considering the rate at which our less-than-ideal situation is deteriorating, the "it could be worse" defense is particularly unconvincing.

The central weakness with constitutional government is the government's ability to use its rule-making power to modify the rules that limit its power. This is accomplished through constitutional amendments, presidential signing statements, judicial review, judicial activism, selective law enforcement, and other legislative tricks. In the U.S., this has meant that, in just over two hundred years, the government has morphed from a relatively benign force of minor inconvenience into a near-omnipresent leviathan that interferes with almost everything we do. It may not be totalitarian yet, but it is clearly headed in that direction. In order to arrest and reverse this descent into servitude, alternatives should be considered.

I propose that, instead of three branches of government, we adopt three (or more) completely independent and non-territorial governments. I make this proposal because it is not the concept of checks and balances that has failed, but the inadequacy of the particular system in place that is the source of our problems. I know this is a radical proposal, but no more radical than the constitutional republic that we live under now was when it was first proposed. A radical solution is called for because, in my opinion, attempts at incremental reforms have been no more effective than efforts to liberalize the mafia or the Ku Klux Klan would be. It is simply not in the nature of a territorial or monopoly state to relinquish its power or operate in a non-coercive fashion.

Considering how unusual non-territorial competing governments are, several objections spring to mind. I will address a few of them here.

1. Isn't a known but flawed system preferable to an untried solution?

In fact, a system similar to that which I propose lasted for 300 years in Saga-era Iceland, which is longer than our current experiment in democratic republicanism has been running. Actually, as drastic as my solution admittedly is, when looked at another way, it is not so radical. People have the option of changing governments today by moving. I am merely suggesting we extend that same option to those who choose not to relocate. By increasing the ease at which we could switch governments, they would be forced to become more responsive or risk losing their subjects (and tax revenue).

2. Wouldn't a lack of a strong central Government invite invasion?

It's true that a group of non-territorial governments would be less able to protect us from foreign and domestic threats, but the upside of that limitation is that the governments themselves would be less threatening both domestically and abroad. The attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade center killed thousands, but not nearly as many as the Washington policies of slavery, the draft, Indian eradication, and Jim Crowe. Protection from government is at least as important as protection by government, and a decreased ability to prevent attacks is a decreased ability to aggress against other nations and consequently a decreased likelihood of provoking attacks against us.

3. What's to keep anyone from just choosing no government and stop paying taxes altogether?

Most people would still prefer to choose a government for the same reason most people now prefer to buy food rather than growing or raising their own. In economics, the phenomenon is known as Specialization. Nothing would absolutely prevent anyone from opting out of collective government altogether, but the benefits of specialization would encourage most to retain the services of a government at the same time such an arrangement would ensure that the governments would provide services equal to or exceeding the tax revenue they collect (otherwise, they would go out of business).

4. Wouldn't having several competing governments be less efficient?

Some economies of scale would be lost by having several redundant governments, but the benefits of competition outweigh the benefits of monopoly. If governments were run more like private businesses, the incentives would be reversed. Currently, a state agency that does a poor job asks for and receives more funding, which effectively rewards poor performance. Alternately, private companies usually lose revenue or go out of business altogether when they perform poorly and they profit when they do well.
These objections are by no means comprehensive, nor are my responses to them. The purpose of this proposal is not to end discussion but to start it. Real world constraints require practical, not utopian, solutions. As time progresses and the failure of democratic republicanism becomes more apparent, this discussion will assume greater importance and the need for some kind of alternative will be obvious. In my pursuit of a solution to the separation of powers problem, I have drawn on the ideas of many others. I don't claim to have developed this idea on my own and in fact very little of it is original. My goal is not to challenge the ideals of the American Revolution, but to advance them beyond their current implementation. Liberty is a noble objective in itself, but it is also the surest path toward future prosperity.

And later

"There is no choice between government and no government, there is just the choice between big government, small government, and good government/bad government."

DrPat, there is a choice between a state and no state. It's MONOPOLY government that's the problem. Voluntary, competing governments of varying sizes with no permanent exclusive territorial areas of operation would work, just like the providers of every other kind of service works this way.

"At least with our current system, everyone has some sort of say."

Really? Which election was decided by your one vote? Assuming there was ever a 1 vote victory, do you honestly think that it would stand or would it get thrown into court? Voting is worse than a waste of time. It lends legitimacy to a thoroughly corrupt system.

I very much like the idea when it comes to provision of goods and services, and taxation, but I wonder what the response is if a person who affiliates with government A commits a crime against a Ber. Will the Aer be metaphorically extradicted to B's criminal justice system?

I would link to Bearded Spock's blog but his name takes us to this link instead.

09 February, 2009


Scrabulous is back on Facebook, though it's renamed to Lexilous (or similar) and has 8 letters.

I'll admit to being a little OCD on scrabble, I like it and I'm good at it - not the least because I learned the two letter word list a loooong time ago.

It's quite amazing how much harder the game is when you have one extra letter. All the bingos which usually fall into place fail me utterly.

Nevertheless, I battle on. Mr Zero, it's your go.

08 February, 2009


Just spent most of the weekend watching coupling.

I'd seen the first series before, but not seen any of the others and had forgotten how funny it was.

I do recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it.

My only problem is how much sense Jeff makes. Ahem.

04 February, 2009


I'm engaged!

03 February, 2009

It's a panacea!

An Indian Court has been petitioned to ban Google Earth because it allegedly helped the Mumbai terrorists plan their attacks.

Yes, well, so did the map makers of paper maps. And the airlines/train companies who transported them. Don't forget the markets that fed them.

Ahem, for a far moer articulate rebuttal ofa silly idea, click here.

02 February, 2009

Riding out a recession? Training contract

Well, it seems the best way to ride out the recession is to be a trainee in a law firm as they are almost completely unsackable - even for gross misconduct, let alone minor details like profit margins.

In order to sack a trainee, you need the permission of the SRA....

More here.

01 February, 2009

Dreaming of Galbraith

Goodness knows what was going on in the depths of my subconscious last night but I merrily dreamt all about Galbraith submissions. That and images of plums and little piles of dust (representing duff, I imagine) were floating in an out... I think I need to drink more and eat less chocolate!

My only possible reason for this is that the case with Scary Defence Barrister has finished and in the last two cases against her, she has made submissions of no case to answer (and she was successful on one but not on the other, if you're interested in the record) at half time.

The way that hearings work is that, unlike criminal trials where there usually aren't too many allegations, there tend to be a great many made. It is therefore possible to have withdrawn, admitted and lost 50% of these at half time, but still have enough left to make up a case which could potentially lead to impairment. By way of example, the case that is starting on Monday has about 80 allegations (from memory).

However, many allegations aren't in themselves perjorative, it is only when they are added together that they may become so.

Whilst I'm on the theme, the hearing process is also different from a normal criminal trial because there are three stages rather than 2. Obviously, in a trial the facts are decided upon and then it is sentancing. At a hearing, the panel firstly decides which facts are found proved. They then decide whether, on ther basis of the facts found proved, that the practioner's Fitness to Practice is impaired. Finally, if they have decided that there is impaired FTP, they decide what sanction, if any, is appropriate.

Ok, a very boring post and possibly the most detail on my job that I have ever - or will ever - blog!

Needed to get it out of my system less the crazy dreams start again!

Real time, real life, dead people tweets

Genny Spencer is twittering a day-by-day diary of a 1937 farm girl.

You can follow her here. Definitely worth a visit.