Monthly Archives: October 2010

A duck’s a duck

Lawyers are used to logical thinking and reasoning. After all, most of them will know the duck test: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Conclusions are reached by a process of inductive reasoning. Don’t go away! I promise this piece will lighten up shortly and there is a nugget at the end if that is not mixing too many metaphors! Please read on!

I wonder how many people know what the following are: WeeWorld, Taringa! Habbo, Elftown, Qzone, RenRen, Plurk, Bandoo or Viadeo. To hazard a guess, not too many!

But if I asked about LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo or Facebook, most people would know that they are social networking sites. LinkedIn has over 75 million registered users, Bebo 117m+, MySpace in excess of 130m and Facebook a whopping 500 million and counting.

By contrast the others are relatively small apart from the sites popular in China where RenRen has 15 million registered users and Qzone a highly respectable 200 million plus! [Source: Wikipedia, List of Social Networking Websites]

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Squaring the circle

Former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, once quipped that a week was a long time in politics. After a string of events which were calculated to make a lesser man blanch, Wilson was phlegmatic. He had spent most of his life climbing the greasy pole which is politics and he obviously felt that he needed to present an unconcerned mien to the public whatever the difficulties he or his Government faced at the time. His predecessor but one, Harold Macmillan was less phlegmatic and more laconic. When asked what was the greatest challenge facing a statesman, he replied: “Events, dear boy, events.”

Consider, however, how much more frightening than a mere week must have been the predicament of “Los 33” at the start of their ordeal. In the end they were all safely rescued after 69 days but 10 weeks must have seemed like an eternity to them at the outset and the original prediction that they would not be rescued until Christmas must have caused an agony of despair unknown to a politician.

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We are all believers now

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a concept with which most people are familiar, even if they do not know its origin.

The concept appears in the Old Testament, the Koran and the Talmud and probably elsewhere as well. It is even referred to by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: 

38. You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Matthew 5:38. 

Today’s litigation is not so much about eye gouging and/or tooth extraction as about cooperation and proportionality, while reserving the right to be as beastly to your opponent as possible if the rules permit and you are prepared to risk having to delve into what must be a deep pocket. 

I have heard it said that “proportionality is what differentiates restitution and retribution from revenge by proxy” but many people will be familiar with the use of the concept in relation to limiting the powers of the various European institutions. The idea is to limit the actions of the Commission or other agency of the European project to what is necessary to achieve any given object so that the extent of the action contemplated is in keeping with the stated aims.

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Burying our heads in the clouds

Did you see the 2004 film “Head in the Clouds“? I did not! But if you had you would know that the protagonists face unpalatable choices in 1930s Europe. In fact I had never heard of it until told about it by a lunch companion last week who raved about it. Whether it is any good or not, I do not know but a film with Charlize Theron and Penélope Cruz in it has something going for it in any event, I thought.

Apparently the film received poor reviews and has presumably sunk without trace. A pity, as I would have liked to see it now it has been drawn to my attention.

Burying your head in the sand is an evocative euphemistic expression of a failure to acknowledge or confront a problem. Ostriches are supposed to bury their heads in the sand but do not actually do so. The theoretical behaviour attributed to them derives from Pliny the Elder who wrote that ostriches are so stupid that they imagine that when their head is hidden the viewer cannot see the rest of them either! They have no need for this ridiculous attitude as they are very fast when threatened and expert at camouflage in the right terrain and have a fearsome kick which can seriously injure and even kill.

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Canute

Son of Sweyn Forkbeard and of Swietoslava (or possibly Gunhilda also known as Sigrid the Haughty) the daughter of Mieszko 1 of Poland, grandson of Harold Bluetooth and great grandson of King Gorm (the first historically recognised King of Denmark) and more famed for the story that he once tried to command the advancing waves to stop at Bosham in West Sussex than for his other achievements, the remarkable history of King Canute was brought into sharp focus for me the other day when I was sitting listening to the sermon in the Cathedral at the annual Justice Service in Norwich.

This service mirrors the service held each year on October 1st in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the start of the new legal year which is followed by the Lord Chancellor’s Breakfast held in Westminster Hall. Attendance by Her Majesty’s Judges is high and is always colourful as can be seen by newspaper pictures of brightly attired senior legal figures walking from the Abbey to the breakfast. Confirmation also came from the judge who presided over our Norwich service, Mrs Justice Gloster, Head of the Commercial Court and about whom I wrote recently in this blog [Whizzie Lizzie and the Commercial Court,  7th Sept, 2010 ].

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