Thank you to Clawbies

I am a fan of many blogs, especially blogs where the writer(s) clearly enjoy doing what they do. It is always pleasing to get feedback – and I am pleased to get a Clawbies award again this year  for simply promoting Canadian blogs – which, frankly, is pretty easy to do since there are so many good ones.

So.. thanks…

Here is a list of the Clawbies winners – and the blogs from many, selected this year. The thing I like about the Clawbies is… that we are told to remember, rightly, that awards are just a bit of fun.. and not to be taken too seriously.  That.. is the right spirit..and in that spirit, I am pleased to be given one!

F**kART: The Complete Series… possibly

“Evil Dave” came from a well known web pic of David Cameron. Using my new *Painting by Numbers* technique; reducing tone and shape to essential colour blocks – I can knock these out quickly enough to stop me getting bored.  When I was in my early twenties one of my nicknames was ‘Risotto’ – ready in 20 minutes.  I tend to favour paintings or drawings which can be done quickly.  I blame all forms of government, modern technology and an inbuilt, but very British, tendency for shallowness and ephemera!

The split down the middle reflects my view that Cameron is, actually, a rather nice chap and  a true liberal;  but has to play Tory and do the business because he just happens to be our prime minister and leading a party, whose members, some of them, judging by their comments on blogs and other media, are orf the bleeding wall when it comes to humanity and caring for the interests of the wider community.   The title of the piece is a deliberate falsehood; consistent with the times we live in of smears, obfuscation, smuggery, Toby Youngery, venality, brutal self interest and crassness! (Just to get a few thoughts orf my chest)  – I don’t think Cameron is evil at all. In fact… I’d be quite happy to vote for him if he defected to Labour!

Having a glass or two and doing a bit on nonsense art (mixed media these days!)  keeps me amused.  I could be out raping the people of Britain by working in an investment bank or making things using child or foreign ‘slave’ labour and hedging my earnings offshore.  I’d rather earn a lot less and enjoy Britain.

This is LEG! – At the moment it is now in poster paint format and about 24 inches high….. BUT….  I am planning to turn it into a painting 6ft x 4ft.  This, I can tell you, is not going to be easy.  It is a friend’s leg, obviously – it is not easy painting one’s own leg… not even Picasso did it…nor Monet, Manet, Turner, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Mondrian, Constable, Leonardo Da Vinci Code, Damien, Nick Leg…. none of them…. not one great artist has ever painted their own leg…. I am not a great artist, ipso facto… I paint other people’s legs…. or only one of them… in these days of CUTS… BIG SOCIETY… *We are all innit to win it*… sorry…. *We are all in it together*….  That is all.

Coming soon…..

OK… as @infobunny tweeted it – it is her leg!  I am always discreet….. and did not wish to reveal the owner of the LEG!

 

 

A study in ‘Real Politik’ (2010)
Charon
Painting by Numbers in Acrylics on canvas board from a photograph

Charon demonstrates here a technique not often used by artists these days. In the good old days the artist would have hidden himself in a darkened room and used a Camera ObscuraCharon did not wish to paint while hanging upside down like Holbein , so used 21st century techniques to roughly the same effect…except he made it even simpler for himself.  Here,  he takes a photograph from the website of a popular politician, faffs about in Photoshop to make it easier to paint later, and then, using a restricted colour palette and a ‘painting by numbers’ technique, produces a graphic image of a popular politician in the prime of his decline.  It was then a relatively simple matter to stick a speech bubble on with glue.    It may be that this ‘work’ will attract international interest and will be priced accordingly when Charon returns from the bar in Chelsea where has now gone to reflect upon the meaning of art, life and the text he had from a well known footballer who sent him a picture of his penis.

I was a bit irritated this morning after phoning five accounts departments to see why they hadn’t dealt with my invoices as requested.  Two didn’t even have the invoice.  One said that the department had my invoice but had forgotten to deal with it and two of the departments were in India.  Dealing with accounts departments in India – outsourcing they call it – is wonderful for the organisation’s cashflow.  For the supplier who expects to be paid it is sheer hell dealing with them.  I gave up and reached into my fruit bowl for a banana.

It was at this point, as I peeled the banana, that I thought to myself…“If this banana could speak… what would it have said to the accounts departments?”  It was but a short leap to get my clay and paints out and make a talking banana.

What would the talking banana have said?   I can tell you… it would have said this….

“Get your farkin ass in gear and pay the man…. or the other bananas get it….Capische?!!”

Regular readers will be familiar with the fact that I am a 30adayDan in Smokedo. I still continue to practise the arcane art of smoking while I do weights and press-ups et al.  Now, a recycled elephant is in on the action.  Discerning viewers will note the subtle touch of using a match with the tip painted red for a Marlboro.

To be honest… I was a bit bored this afternoon.  There is only so much writing about Tort a man can stand.

F**K Nose?
Charon
Green nose, and playing card cut into a ? mark shape.
2010

I appear to be having a *Nose* period… and to complement my recent Who Nose?... here is another…. more subtle… a sense of scale being provided by a pint glass nicked from a pub, possibly, and a bottle of orange squash – empty.  The 1960s retro kitchen tiles provide an element of kitsch… but they aren’t mine… sadly.  The King of Clubs playing card (cut into the shape of a ? mark)  – from the 1960s –  was a deliberate choice… but I won’t say why.

I’d like to be able to say that amusement at recent Coalition government pronouncements on Justice  prompted the thought ‘Who knows?”and inspired the ‘piece’ … but that would just be silly… of course our new government knows what it is doing…..

***

***

In The Collection of Alyson Jackson of Mish-Mash

Coathanger Lawyers, Biro on paper
Charon

Thinking of making life size Torso and head of a barrister out of wire coathangers.  I have quite a few wire coathangers.

It may be that I have lost the plot… but if there is one there… why not go and lose it?  Made a change from painting. Took a bit longer too. I’ve now got superglue and clay stuck all over my hands… and, a bit of blue and orange paint.  Classy!

***

It might help to explain that I enjoy science programmes where people dig up a skeleton from 2000 years ago, wear weird coloured pullovers  and make the skull look like Nick Clegg with clay… they use a lot of matchsticks when they do these *reconstructions*.

I would also like to put in a word for my *Green* credentials:  I wore those black reading  glasses for four years.  I stood on them when I was a bit over refreshed a couple of weeks ago.  I am pleased to recycle.  That is all.

Neurones!
Charon
2010
Acrylic and white pen on board

Inspired by a science programme on BBC2 last night about who we are and  a section on neurons, I decided that I should do a painting of my own brain.  Inevitably, this did not take long.

The red wine flooding through my brain is picked up subtly with a lot of red paint.  The Mad Hatter Tea Party an entirely appropriate metaphor for part of my life

A larger version may be viewed here.

Other paintings in my F**kART series may be viewed here

PS… I am calling my neurons neurones…. OK with that?

 

 

 

 

Lapin! (2010)
Charon
Acrylics on canvas board

 

Lapin is a friend – a surrealist, photographer and voracious reader of books. I thought the PopArt style was about right and based it on a pic she took of herself recently.

 

 

 

Coalition! (2010)
Charon
22 x 18 Acrylics on canvas board

Cameron is portrayed as Captain America pastiche and the deputy prime minister, Clegg, as a spiderman type giving the bird with both fingers.  This is perhaps ‘inelegant’ – but some of his voters think he did by getting into bed with Dave.

Available for sale by arrangement!

Proceeds if sold go to fund the Free resources for students on Insite Law – although I may also buy a bottle of vino for myself to fuel the next painting! New politics – new transparency)

Charon Self Portrait (In Three Colours) 2010
Acrylics on canvas board
20 x 16

Charon, with new tache,  goes to a field in a yellow shirt and jeans on a sunny windy day in May and paints a glass of red wine.  That is all

Green! (2010)

Charon after a drink period
Spray can paint on board, matches, a cigarette and a box on board
Charon

On this day… when Britain had a change of  prime minister and government, I amused myself with creating a ‘painting’… well.. more of a collage.  It is, as with all my paintings, complete nonsense, but reflects attitudes to size and the importance and perception of size.  Is it a big box of fags (cigarettes.. not some unusual creature at Eton)  or a very small box of matches? Well… a bit like the Lib-Dems, sometimes… size really does not matter.

 

Nokiaman won the election

The final pic in the election series. I do drafts first on paper before painting sometimes.  Here is a draft… not painted yet… may never be.  There are two others – painted in acrylics and spray can paint!  Obviously – all three are modelled on artwork done by the real artists who create these wonderful superhero characters.  Mine are poor imitations – but kept me amused over the weekend.  Nokiaman… just had to be red.

 

CaptainCamCan: A study in working with fiends (sic)

 

 

Cleggoman:  A Study in Blue & Yellow

 

 

Barristerman
Pencil on paper
Charon
2010

As the Christmas season began in early December, and work trailed off in terms of new work from clients etc, I decided to amuse myself  by doing some painting.  The F**kART series, a mildly surreal  ‘homage’ /  pastiche to / of  Britart ends on 31st December.  Here are all the paintings in the series in reverse order….. with the accompanying text.  I plan to stop the series on New Year’s Eve/early New Year … possibly and will add the new ones this coming week as I do them.


The Social Media Maven pronounces (2010)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @ScottGreenfield

And it came to pass, when the Maven came down from the mount with the two tables of twitter rules  in Maven’s hand, when he came down from the mount, that Maven wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when @stephenfry and all the children of twitter saw the Maven, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

And the Maven said… I have been a stranger in a strange land…. and I say unto you…whatever you tweet…happens…

 

Will he ring? (2010)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @abeautifulmind1

I don’t read comics now (I did as a child) but I am a fan of the art and, of course, a great artist: Roy Lichtenstein. I claim absolutely no credit for this other than a few brush strokes but I wanted one painting in this style for the pack!

Green Dancer
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @Little_Lawyer

“Charon does like to take a knife to a painting….”

Butchery Today

 

Let There Be Greed (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @MarkHendy

001:001 In the beginning God created bankers and the earth.

001:002 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was
upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon
the face of Canary Wharf.

001:003 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

001:004 And the Bankers saw the greed, that it was good: and they divided the
good from the overdrawn.

In the beginning: A history of British Banking

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

I’ll Passmore on this (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @alison99

Geometry was a bit of a mystery to the young Charon – but over time, and through necessity, he came to understand the principles. Now geometry fascinates Charon more in the shape than the practical application and for the possibilities of optical illusion. If one looks at the two circles in the middle of the painting; soon one sees a cylinder, for the brain fills in the lines to connect the circles…and then the cylinders appear to change direction. I put this to Charon. He told me: “See what you like, mate…. When I look into the circle at the bottom left, I am looking down into a wine bottle and it has wine in it… this is good. When I look at the circle on the right, I am looking down into the bottle and there is no wine in it and I can even see the bar code. This is not good. When I look at the circle top right… it is the morning after and things, sometimes, are a bit bright. I have no idea who did the circles and geometry in the middle… it is possible that I may have been burgled during the night.”

Geometry Today, BBC Radio 4

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

Other paintings in the F**KART series may be viewed here.

***

“We know….about Quantum Physics”
Oil and Spray can paint on canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @Oedipus_Lex

Some time ago, I had a most enjoyable – but very bizarre – evening in Battersea with Johnny Biltong, Tonto Popadopolous and George.  @Oedipus_Lex, a friend met through Twitter and, it is fair to say, a man who knows how to enjoy good red wine…and liberate it…  joined us.  It was one of those nights… in fact , almost an allnighter, where the conversation turned…. suddenly, to quantum physics and Black Holes – possibly because I had encouraged George to change the subject which he had been extemporising on, randomly,  for some time.

The use of Orange in the lower left section symbolises Swine flu and other viruses… yeah right!  I got luck with a spray can.

***

I decided that I wanted to mark this remarkable evening with a painting about quantum physics – which somehow, ‘captured’ the insanity of a rather loud and amusing evening.  It is also, I suppose, a small poke at ‘Abstractionism’.

A larger version of the ‘work’ is here

***

Red Dancing
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of Amy

“Charon rarely draws or paints figures – largely because they are a bit more difficult than sticking fake jewellery on badly drawn sharks…but he has made an exception with this dancer based on a fashion designer style. Charon was having lunch, as he does most Sundays, at a local pub the weekend before Christmas. The team at the pub are great – they ensure that Charon can have roast chicken each Sunday even when it is not on the official ‘menu’.  One of the waitresses, Amy, who is doing Chemistry at university (Charon did Geophysics and Geochemistry for one short year many years ago) asked him what he was doing for Christmas.  ‘Drinking and painting’ was Charon’s reply.  When it became clear that Charon was not planning some orgy of DIY decorating and wallpapering over the festive season, Amy asked if Charon could do a painting for her.  While Charon was enthusiastic  about the possibility of painting a roast chicken he did feel that Amy might not be so enthusiastic about such a subject…. a  RED dancer seemed an appropriate theme!”

Sunday Lunch Magazine

A larger version of the painting is here

***

Christmas ‘09 (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charonasso

In the Collection of Gerry Wateridge

“Charon spent Christmas drinking Italian reds, listening to Verdi and Puccini, and amusing himself on Twitter and Skype video. He had, he told me, been dreaming of a White Christmas but it was not to be. He couldn’t explain why he painted himself, based on a well known painting by Picasso, dressed in blue underpants and a vest – because he doesn’t have any blue underpants or vests.  He does, however, have red wine, rather a lot of it, and red and green feature strongly in his main ’studio’. I noted the use of a knife in covering a fair part of this canvas with paint.  Charon told me that he liked to use knives while painting… they did the business.”

In Conversation with Charon, Tuscan Wine Quarterly

A larger version of this painting may be viewed here

***

You’ll believe a man can fly – Riojaman! (2009)

Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @Colmmu

“In this latest Marvel inspired piece from Charon’s ‘Superhero Period’ Charon achieves his ultimate ambition – transmogrification into a bottle of Rioja and superhero to boot.  The detail in building a cork into the headgear of the figure can only be marvelled at… not in terms of the brushwork or skill, for there is little of the latter in evidence – but marvel in the sense of….at what goes on inside Charon’s head.

Much of this painting was, in fact, painted while flying on a rather good bottle of … you guessed it… RIOJA…available at Oddbins and all good wine merchants £9.99″

Topers Monthly

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

***

A larger version of the original painting may be viewed here


In the Collection of Geeklawyer (The painting…that is)

***

Barristerman! (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

Charon read too many Marvel comics when he was a kid…and he likes Roy Lichtenstein….nuff said.

In the Collection of Diana

A larger version of the actual painting may be viewed here

***

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into an art gallery (2009)
Oil, Diamonds and Sapphires on Canvas
Charon

The original may be viewed here

“When Damien Hurst produced his diamond encrusted skull some time back, I remember getting a call from Charon.  It is fair to say that he was over refreshed at the time.  He asked if I had seen the seminal work by Hurst.  I told him that I had.  Charon said, enthusiasm clear in his voice:  “Fantastic nonsense.  I’m going to do a tribute.  I mean…how difficult can it be to stick a few diamonds onto a canvas and flog it? …..to some corporate and even add a bit of VAT to help the government?”

I heard no more of this ‘project’ until a few weeks ago when Charon appeared on the BBC Antiques Roadshow programme trying to get his ‘work’ valued for ‘insurance purposes’. Apparently this latest work’ is going to feature on one  or other, or possibly both of the daytime TV shows  Flog It and  Trash in the Attic fairly soon.  I am pleased to say, having spoken to Charon at a bar in Chelsea recently, that he has tired of sticking diamonds onto paintings which otherwise take him about ten minutes to do (excluding drying time, which he charges for by the hour), that he has moved on.”

James Scraatchi, Royalty & Hounds Review

***

Charon Cubist Sunday (2009)
Oil and bits on canvas
Charon
“Charon lives on the Medway.  From his balcony he can see yachts sailing by –  some with coloured sails.  Sundays are fairly lazy days for Charon – he eats a roast chicken every Sunday, cooked for him by a good chef at the local pub,  even when chicken is not on the menu.  When Charon is having a cubist Sunday it amuses him to be the only person in the pub restaurant eating roast chicken. He likes it when people at other tables say “That man over there is eating roast chicken.  It’s not even on the menu’. The Observer and Rioja feature every Sunday, ineluctably. The green post-it card is used by Charon to remind him to pick up ’supplies’ – cigarettes, Rioja, milk, general shopping and prawns. I asked Charon why there were fleur-de-lis on the blue panel top left.  He told me that he had a small  fleur-de-lis tattoo on his arse.  I made my excuses and left. I felt that I couldn’t intrude and ask him about the fish and the red and white tennis rackets.”

Chatham & Rochester ArtReview.

A larger version of the original painting may be viewed here.

***

Ben had been a bad boy in 2009 – so we had to extraordinarily rendite him
Oil on canvas (2009)
Charon

In the Collection of @mrcivlib

A larger version may be viewed here

The Snowman is well known, so I just could not resist a slightly twisted take on it.  Delighted that M CivLib was interested in taking this piece.

A friend of mine asked if I had a particularly difficult childhood.  I didn’t.  I had a good one, fortunately.  I may, however, have overdone the juice when I came up with this idea.

***

“Continuing his theme, and because he is a bit bored, Charondigliani was taken by the first snow of Winter today. He was also traumatised by Snow White and the Seven Investment Bankers many years ago as a ‘difficult’ child. .  Charondigliani’s use of his drug of choice – Rioja – was clearly an inspiration behind this ‘work’.  No automobile spraycan paint was used in this – but Charondigliani did use some chalk to create that subtle translucence so necessary to suggest a degree of bollocks in modern painting. Cokehead, Charondigliani’s parrot was also most taken with this painting. When it was first exhibited,  a Police Community Support Officer arrested Charondigliani under the Terrorism Act for being in possession of a ‘Class A’ painting. Fortunately, a senior Metropolitan Police Officer friend of Charondigliani was able to tell the PCSO to stop being stupid and go back to eating buns on street corners with his PCSO mates.”Police Community Support Officer Review

Snow White Snorting Coke
Oil and Chalk on Canvas (2009)

Charondigliani

In the Collection of Geeklawyer

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here.

***

Charon’s series of Christmas Paintings start with a ‘homage’ to a favoured artist – Dali. The next Christmas painting will be ‘Snow White Snorts Snow’ in the style of Charondigliani.The Cross after Dali (2009)
Oil on Canvas

Charon
A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

In the Collection of @Jaffne

***

The Fuckpig
Oil on Canvas 2009
Charon
In The Collection of Paul West

“Charon clearly has way too much time on his hands during this pre-Christmas period.  This is largely because no-one wants to do any business with him because his clients are all attending Christmas parties or farting around on Twitter. This was fine with Charon because it allowed him to continue his ‘homage’ to BritArt.  In this very simple minded allegory, Charon nuances the subtlety of those least revered in our society at present – and who may not be with us for much longer: The Bankers.

Charon was amused by a cartoon he saw on the web – unfortunately the cartoon was too small to reveal the cartoonists name – but he has been able to capture the essence of the ‘genre’ here.  Charon is quite clear in his resolve that the painting bears no resemblance whatsoever to any person living or dead, whether to be found at Canary Wharf or, indeed, any bank in the British Isles.”

National Banker Magazine

***

Charonasso continues his ‘homage’ to F**kART with this latest  peice from his ‘Blue and Orange  pissed period’ – a self portrait with red wine glass.  As usual the artist has used automobile spray can paint to lay down a neo-ironic foundation and then, and this is clear from the brushwork, as the Rioja takes hold, paint is used with fervour, boldness and a lack of skill which brings to this work a degree of almost bucolic naivety.  The artist does know how to draw and is aware that eyes don’t in life appear as they are represented.  Scholars now believe that Charonasso was trying to signal to  other Masons that he wasn’t just ‘a’ Mason, but that he was two Masons in the one body. The painting is signed.Self portrait but was a bit pissed (2009)
Charonasso
14 December 2009

(A larger image is available here)

In the Collection of @bureauista

***

The picture above shows Fuckerflies – the first painting in the series and Erudite Elephants II

In his guise as a modern artiste Charondrian,  in his latest nonsense, reflects on the political creation of modern Africa as seen through the eyes of an erudite elephant.

“The white ‘Mondrian’ lines represent the linear boundaries between many countries in Africa.  The colours reflect the colours used in many african  flags today and the black handprint (Charondrians’s own) a metaphor for landgrab from both whites and blacks. The Elephant, as a species, will probably live on Earth forever. The spots suggest conflicts and trouble spots – but also hint that the fumes from the vandalpaint spray cans favoured by the ‘artist’ may have been getting the better of Charondrian.”
Loft Laggers Monthly Art Review

Erudite Elephant II – The Politics of Modern Africa
Charondrian

Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2009
(In the Collection of Natasha Phillips)

A larger version may be viewed here

***

Talking of dubious artwork….. I have completed another ‘painting’ in my ‘F**kART – a homage to BritArt’ series.  It is a portrait of Cokehead, my old parrot from a West London Man episode (Now in the collection of @jaffne) (You may view a larger version here)

Cokehead was a most enjoyable parrot – he enjoyed his life.
The remaining paintings are in the spirit of F**kART and include Erudite Elehpants 1 and, of course the three in the Fuckerflies series…
***

Following on from my ‘Fuckerflies’ series, as Christmas approaches and no-one can be bothered to answer their phones or are ‘ in a meeting’ (and it can only get worse as the Christmas party season gets under way), I am occupying part of my time each day by painting.  Charonaletto has many spray cans and enough paint and canvas to flood the art market with tat.  There is only one flaw to this ‘plan’.  I give the paintings away… but I do offer the recipients an option where I throw the painting away for them and save them the trouble.

‘Erudite Elephant 1′ (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon


In the Collection of @infobunny

The Elephant is at the start of a Nietzschean journey, which may turn out better than he thinks.  He first meets the Monkey – an avid reader of The Sun. The Monkey asks the Elephant what his thougt for the day is. The Elephant has two:  “The cautious seldom err’ and “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop’. (Confucius). The Elephant, being a pedant and a grammar nazi, corrects the Monkey’s English… and so the journey begins.

A larger version of the picture is here

***

While I can paint, after a fashion, I was told many years ago, by my Warden (They called the Headmaster a Warden) at the detention centre in Scotland where I was consigned on the Perthshire Archipelago,   that there was no money in art. He was wrong about that.  Damien Hirst has been taking the piss for years, relieving rich lawyers, bankers and magnates, industrial and advertising, of their money… in substantial amounts… and good on him!

As a ‘homage’ to BritArt and inspired by @infobunny and her recent paintings, I decided to amuse myself last night and late this afternoon. The works reveal absolutely no subtlety of colour, tone, design or, indeed, talent.  This is as it should be in ‘The FuckArt’ School’ which I founded late last night after dipping into a second bottle of the Bourbon King’s finest Rioja.  Typical of the Fuckart school is the use of spray paint used for repairing scratches on motorcars.  Charonaletto is the leading proponent of the ‘let’s get completely pissed and paint’ technique and he told the director of a Gallery in Chelsea (who has expressed interest in these two seminal works) “Vandals and Goths brought Rome down.  I’d like to have a crack at a bit of that as well and spray cans of paint as a base seemed an appropriate metaphor.”

There are two works in the ‘Fuckerflies” series

Fuckerflies I (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 1 December 2009
In the Collection of @infobunny (Click here for an enlarged view)

Fuckerflies II – ‘Dogging‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 2 December 2009
In the Collection of @Sianz (Click here for an enlarged view)


The Final painting in the Fuckerflies series

Fuckerflies III – ‘You do not mess with these guys‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 3 December 2009
In the collection of @colinsamuels (Click here for an enlarged view)


Charon’s Christmas Paintings: I’ll Passmore on this….

I’ll Passmore on this (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

Geometry was a bit of a mystery to the young Charon – but over time, and through necessity,  he came to understand the principles.  Now geometry fascinates Charon more in the shape than the practical application and for the possibilities of optical illusion. If one looks at the two circles in the middle of the painting;  soon one sees a cylinder, for the brain fills in the lines to connect the circles…and then the cylinders appear to change direction.  I put this to Charon.  He told me:  “See what you like, mate…. When I look into the circle at the bottom left, I am looking down into a wine bottle and it has wine in it… this is good.  When I look at the circle on the right, I am looking down into the bottle and there is no wine in it and I can even see the bar code.  This is not good.  When I look at the circle top right… it is the morning after and things, sometimes, are a bit bright.  I have no idea who did the circles and geometry in the middle… it is possible that I may have been burgled during the night.”

Geometry Today, BBC Radio 4

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

Other paintings in the F**KART series may be viewed here.

Postcard from the Staterooms-on-Sea

Dear Reader,

Well… a most enjoyable Christmas Day and Boxing Day but now, mercifully, it is time to move on.  There was a very interesting article in the Observer this morning…

Call for universities to charge well-off students £30,000 a year

Former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee says poor have been subsidising the rich for too long

Having been in the private sector of legal education for 25 odd years, and recently an observer of developments, it is worth pointing out that  students are used to paying market-rates for legal education at the Legal Practice or Bar Vocational Course stage with fees for those courses coming in at between £8500-£14500. Danny Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, said the “poor have been subsidising the rich” for too many years.  He is, I’m afraid, whether the rich middle classes like it or not, correct. He makes the point that universities are strapped for cash at the moment, that well off parents have been been paying substantial fees for private education and primary and secondary level for their children but resent paying for the most sophisticated education of all – the university degree stage; the stage that determines, more of ten than not, the future career and success of the student.

It is astonishing that those from poorer backgrounds pay the same at ther university stage as those from richer backgrounds. It isn’t fair and Blanchflower makes some valuable points – most, I suspect, unpalatable to those from richer backgrounds.  Will a future Labour or Conservative government have the courage to drive through reform so that the real cost of high quality education is divided more equably?  I am not holding my breath on this.  If anything, it will be a very long and slow burn.

In legal education at the LPC and BVC stage the fees are the same for all students – but some institutions do provide fee reductions in the form of scholarships and bursaries which, of course, cost the institution very little in real terms once the break even has been reached.  Interestingly, few, if any, institutions provide cash grants to students – so the institutional generosity is, arguably, more window dressing than natural charity to help good students – from any background. The big law firms pay GDL and vocational course fees and subsistence for their students and there are some fairly hefty scholarships available through the Inns for the brightest students. Other students have to fund their own education.   There is (or was) a reasonable prospect that students taking on substantial loans to pay for the vocational stage of legal education would get a good job or career at the Bar and be able to pay the loans back over time.Very few LPC and BVC providers, I suspect, run their courses at a loss and if they do, they should close them if public money is being used to support these unprofitable courses and students should be re-directed to other public or private service providers.  It is madness, in this time of austerity and cut-backs for universities to prejudice their position and resourcing in profitable or break even courses by running loss makers.

Before we start the serious stuff… my Tweet of The Week goes to Steve Shark for this…

A man who has been described as Britain’s most prolific shoplifter was jailed for one day yesterday after committing his 321st offence.

I marvel sometimes at the sheer incompetence of some people.  Here is a story about Britain’s worst shoplifter. Hopeless. “David Archer, 54, from Rhyl, north Wales, has served the equivalent of two life sentences as a result of his addiction to petty crime. He has been unable to spend 14 out of the past 15 Christmases with his daughter because he has been behind bars. Yesterday, Archer admitted in court to stealing two bottles of whisky from a store at Abergele. David Mainstone, prosecuting, said Archer had a “quite horrendous” list of previous offences and 155 court appearances.” Observer

I can only assume that the man pictured left is American and some form of judicial intervention, other than prison, was handed down.  I can’t see this catching on in Britain – boozed up blokes dressing up in women’s underwear is a British hobby  at Christmas Parties every year and in Pantomime…. I am advised.

Another ludicrous example of political correctness?

I am grateful to Fark for reading the Daily Mail – to save me having to do so…

The Daily Mail reports:

British Transport Police have dropped the word ‘Christmas’ from a national publicity poster to avoid upsetting people who do not ‘buy into’ the festival. The word was proposed as part of a slogan on the poster, which is designed to alert people to the extra number of transport police on duty over the festive period.The slogan – devised by an advertising company commissioned by the Transport Police – read ‘Christmas presence’, a pun on the word ‘presents’.

But in a move branded ‘bonkers’ by Christian leaders, the police’s marketing department decided the word Christmas could anger non-believers or people from other faiths who disliked its Christian connotations.Instead of scrapping the poster, however, the department merely swapped ‘Christmas’ for ‘Holiday’, so the slogan now reads ‘Holiday presence’.
The whole thing is ludicrous given that the shops are stuffed to the gunnels with Christmas tat from October onwards and, in any event, atheists, people from other faiths are more than happy to give presents to each other on Christmas Day… This Happy Holidays nonsense ‘started in America’ and is now a global problem’. (Gordon Brown phoned to tell me this.) Christmas is whatever you make it.  Does anyone really get offended in this country by seeing the word ‘Christmas’ ?

I quite enjoy taking pictures from the Conservative Flickr photostream and putting apprpriate or inapprpriate captions to them… but with this marvellous photograph I will use their own caption…. it isn’t political… it sends out a good message about british spirit and resilience, rings true and I liked the pic.

And finally… Afghanistan and a fascinating website I came across through friends on Twitter… well worth bookmarking for now and the future….

The Helmand blog is run by Major Paul Smyth from the UK Forces Media Ops team. The team is located in Helmand at Camp Bastion and the Task Force Headquarters and works to support the coalition forces together with the other government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.

Fascinating stuff – and a very interesting blog.

If you do fancy giving a bit of supportplease do have a look at a fantastic idea from the Royal Air Force which I posted on my blog on Christmas Eve… it really is a great idea.

That’s it for today… off to do another ‘black painting’…. a bit of maths and geometry….

Best as lways,

Charon

“We know….about quantum physics”….

“We know….about Quantum Physics”
Oil and Spray can paint on canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @Oedipus_Lex

Some time ago, I had a most enjoyable – but very bizarre – evening in Battersea with Johnny Biltong, Tonto Popadopolous and George.  @Oedipus_Lex, a friend met through Twitter and, it is fair to say, a man who knows how to enjoy good red wine…and liberate it…  joined us.  It was one of those nights… in fact , almost an allnighter, where the conversation turned…. suddenly, to quantum physics and Black Holes – possibly because I had encouraged George to change the subject which he had been extemporising on, randomly,  for some time.

The use of Orange in the lower left section symbolises Swine flu and other viruses… yeah right!  I got luck with a spray can.

***

I decided that I wanted to mark this remarkable evening with a painting about quantum physics – which somehow, ‘captured’ the insanity of a rather loud and amusing evening.  It is also, I suppose, a small poke at ‘Abstractionism’.

A larger version of the ‘work’ is here

Other paintings in the F**kART series are here.

Christmas paintings: Red Dancing

Red Dancing
Oil on Canvas
Charon

“Charon rarely draws or paints figures – largely because they are a bit more difficult than sticking fake jewellery on badly drawn sharks…but he has made an exception with this dancer based on a fashion designer style. Charon was having lunch, as he does most Sundays, at a local pub the weekend before Christmas. The team at the pub are great – they ensure that Charon can have roast chicken each Sunday even when it is not on the official ‘menu’.  One of the waitresses, Amy, who is doing Chemistry at university (Charon did Geophysics and Geochemistry for one short year many years ago) asked him what he was doing for Christmas.  ‘Drinking and painting’ was Charon’s reply.  When it became clear that Charon was not planning some orgy of DIY decorating and wallpapering over the festive season, Amy asked if Charon could do a painting for her.  While Charon was enthusiastic  about the possibility of painting a roast chicken he did feel that Amy might not be so enthusiastic about such a subject…. a  RED dancer seemed an appropriate theme!”

Sunday Lunch Magazine

A larger version of the painting is here

Other painting in the F**KART series are here

Charonasso Christmas

Christmas ’09 (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charonasso

In the Collection of Gerry Wateridge

“Charon spent Christmas drinking Italian reds, listening to Verdi and Puccini, and amusing himself on Twitter and Skype video. He had, he told me, been dreaming of a White Christmas but it was not to be. He couldn’t explain why he painted himself, based on a well known painting by Picasso, dressed in blue underpants and a vest – because he doesn’t have any blue underpants or vests.  He does, however, have red wine, rather a lot of it, and red and green feature strongly in his main ‘studio’. I noted the use of a knife in covering a fair part of this canvas with paint.  Charon told me that he liked to use knives while painting… they did the business.”

In Conversation with Charon, Tuscan Wine Quarterly

A larger version of this painting may be viewed here

Other paintings in the F**kART series may be viewed here.

Absolutely brilliant… for Christmas and every day…

Twitter is a wonderful concept and never more so when humour and kindness overpowers the snakeoil people trying to rip people off.

I follow @Geeklawyer on Twitter who follows @RAFairman – and, through Geeklawyer,  so do I.  @RAFairman is trying to promote and help  raise a lot of money for a remarkable cause run through the Royal Air Forces Association.  I don”t need to write anything for this post.  The best money I have spent in years was a modest donation (everything helps) to this wonderful cause.  I support our troops as most people do.  This gives us the opportunity to show that we also support the families of troops.  I think the idea is brilliant.  I hope you will too and donate if you are able to and wish to.

Click here for the detail about the project and donate from there is you wish to.

What a great way to give a bit of / more  meaning to Christmas.  I am happy to say that it gave me pleasure to read about this and donate a modest amount.

A Christmas trip to Rochester and Chatham on The Medway…

While I was invited to dine and get  drunk with good friends in Battersea and, thereby, remove the need to do anything at all on Christmas day – I decided to spend Christmas at the Staterooms-on-Sea so that I could be conscious during daylight hours tomorrow.  I shall see my friends next week, when I can simply hop on a train back at 8.00 the next morning.

I am fully equipped, however, to withstand the siege conditions. This morning I took a trip to Rochester to have a quick wander and had a look at the Castle and then back to Chatham, two of the Medway Towns – an area steeped in history. I don’t know the area well having only moved down here fairly recently for a short time. I have, however, been on HMS Cavalier, a World War II warship and I have been on HMS Ocelot, a submarine. Rochester is the home of Charles Dickens, or was when he was alive – but they do manage to recreate ‘Dickens World’ to great effect at this time of year.

I like Chatham.  It is being regenerated. Chatham suffered from the closure of the naval dockyards some years ago and, inevitably, from the recent credit-crunch – but to an outsiders eye, it has interesting buildings, a good waterfront, St Mary’s island at Chatham Maritime (where I am currently based) and the people are friendly – in fact, very friendly as I discovered at lunch…more of which later.

Arriving in Chatham, I went to the Pentagon, a shopping mall, with the aim of getting a haircut. I enjoyed a few glasses of rosso last night, went to bed pleasantly over refreshed and woke this morning to see King Lear in the bathroom mirror staring back at me.  The hair had grown mysteriously in recent weeks.  The ‘salon’ has a curious system, rather like the Barber shops of old – one queues.  So I did.  I got bored with that so wandered off (losing my place in the queue) to get in the way of shoppers, bumble about at the entrance of Sainsbury’s (like OAPs do when they get a blast of hot air from the overhead heaters) and went to see how stressed out people were.  I had seen the BBC’s  Grumpy Guide to Christmas and had been much taken with the narrator, Geoffrey Palmer, describing the panic buying that goes on at Christmas (The supermarkets are closed for all of one day).   Geoffrey Palmer was right.  I saw many people with trolleys loaded to the brim with food and satsuma oranges – catering, no doubt, for the possibility, as Palmer had suggested, that ‘Napoleon and his army might pop in on Christmas Day’.

Sainsbury’s exhausted my limited attention span fairly quickly – although I made a point of asking a very busy shelf stacker if he, or Sainsbury’s, had any brandy butter – being fairly certain that it would be sold out.  It was.  This gave me a perverse pleasure.  He seemed quite crestfallen and apologised as if he, personally, was  responsible for the lack of brandy butter at Christmas.  I didn’t have the heart to ask him if he had thought of applying to run Eurostar (I did think of doing so) wished him well in the hours of hell ahead and a good Christmas and walked out.

I then had the extraordinary idea of having lunch in Chatham. The main High Street is full of retail shops.  I found a Chinese restaurant ‘nearby’.  For reasons of discretion I won’t identify by name or location.  It was, without doubt, the worst Chinese meal I have ever had. Billed as providing  a Chinese, Thai and Malaysian cuisine, and knowing Malaysia particularly well,  I ordered chicken satay and some sweet & sour chicken.  It was a very limited lunch menu and it was either sweet & sour ‘something’ or ‘something in black bean’ sauce. I realised, fairly quickly that I was going to have to apply my ‘What is the thing they can fuck up least rule’.  I chose chicken satay and chicken sweet & sour.  The satay arrived.  It had been stuck in a deep fat fryer and was like leather.  Satay (as in the picture)  is cooked over an open charcoal fire in Malaysia or on a very hot flame grill in restaurants.  It is not embalmed in batter and deep friend.  I didn’t eat it.  I explained to the waitress, when she asked why I was not eating it, that it was, in fact, inedible and that I don’t like satay being battered and lobbed into a deep fat fryer.  She seemed quite satisfied with my explanation but asked me if I wanted  batter on my sweet & sour chicken. I thanked her for her prescience and chose not to have batter on my chicken pieces.  The sweet & sour chicken and egg fried rice arrived.  The chicken was suffering from nuclear radiation burns and had gone a most unwelcome shade of orange. I ate a mouthful or two and gave up.  It was terrible.  God knows who was doing the cooking – I suspect it could well have been a recent visitor from Eastern Europe who just happened to have a tin of pineapple chunks in his rucksack. A gentleman seated nearby, who was struggling with his ‘something fucked up in black bean sauce’ – asked me how I was getting on with the the orange coloured chicken.  We commiserated and chatted for a while about the history of Chatham. This, I found very enjoyable and interesting.  I paid the bill – £7.20 (Christmas: did not have the energy to make a fuss).

I returned to the shopping mall and my eye was caught by a stall selling plastic models of football fans in various football strips. They had fans from Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.  Each plastic football fan could sing five songs.  I was absolutely fascinated by these.  People nearby started laughing because I was laughing maniacally. I even sang along ‘Arsenal’…clap, clap, clap‘.  I mastered the lyrics in no time.  I truly regret not buying one now and may go back to do so on Boxing day or order one from Amazon.  £20…. worth every penny.

Enjoyed my haircut.  In the bunker for the next two days – adequately provisioned.  I have a large festive red stocking stuffed with cigarettes and Rioja… no satsumas. Have a good day tomorrow…whatever you do with it.

I shall be tracking Santa on Norad – to ensure that I get him  this year. I am reliably informed that Santa will be in British airspace shortly before 12.00 am

You’ll believe a man can fly – Riojaman!

You’ll believe a man can fly – Riojaman! (2009)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

“In this latest Marvel inspired piece from Charon’s ‘Superhero Period’ Charon achieves his ultimate ambition – transmogrification into a bottle of Rioja and superhero to boot.  The detail in building a cork into the headgear of the figure can only be marvelled at… not in terms of the brushwork or skill, for there is little of the latter in evidence – but marvel in the sense of….at what goes on inside Charon’s head.

Much of this painting was, in fact, painted while flying on a rather good bottle of … you guessed it… RIOJA…available at Oddbins and all good wine merchants £9.99″

Topers Monthly

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

Other ‘works’ in the F**kART series may be viewed here

In the Collection of @Colmmu

A mention in ‘dispatches’ in the Annual ‘Blawggies’…

Dennis Kennedy, a US lawyer,  produces an annual Blawggies’ award. It is the sixth year.   While I am more than happy to see if I can purchase the odd peerage from the corrupt or award myself ‘honours’ when I am in the mood, I always appreciate interest from fellow bloggers.  Dennis Kennedy was kind enough to mention my podcasts in his runner up selection for podcasts.

The real star of all my podcasts  is the guest – usually a lawyer, but not always – who gives of his or her time free.  Thanks to Dennis for the mention – appreciated.

See:  The Blawggies 2009

How to be a social media maven and guru, killing burglars and other matters…

Serious lawyer and excellent twitterer @brianInkster, who runs his own successful law firm out of  offices in  Glasgow, wrote a review of a book written by an American lawyer on how lawyers could use twitter.  I haven’t read the book and, as Sir Maurice Bowra used to say, I shall lose no time in doing so.   There is a wealth of FREE material out there (and some of it written by very good US law bloggers) and I was most amused to find that this book is ‘out of stock’ on Amazon at the wonderful price of £145 for some 77 pages – or £2 a page for those ‘time poor lawyers’ as another well known lawyer tweeter/twitter observed. US lawyer Scott Greenfield summed it up neatly

@BrianInkster If he had a clue, maybe he could get a job instead of selling snake oil twitter to lawyers incapable of twitting on their own.

I have absolutely no idea how to be a social media maven or guru or, indeed, how to ‘use’ twitter ‘properly’, let alone for personal profit.  I have no intention of learning how to do so.

Moving on…

It is election time,  so Chris Grayling and Alan Johnson are falling over each other in an attempt to show the hang ’em, flog ’em brigade in Britain that they can talk tough. The trouble is… talking tough often equates to talking complete and utter nonsense – rather as pissed up yobs do at each other on a Saturday night before getting carted off in a Police van.

All this rather foolish posturing follows on from the Hussain case. The Times reports: ” Last week Hussain was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent after he and his brother used a cricket bat to beat one of the intruders who broke into his home in Buckinghamshire. Judge John Reddihough acknowledged that the family had been subjected to a “serious and wicked offence”, but said Hussain had carried out a “dreadful, violent attack” on the intruder as he lay defenceless.

See also: Jail for ‘courageous’ Munir Hussain who beat intruder with cricket bat

While I can commend anyone for defending themselves in their own home (and the law already permits this – (infra)) chasing a burglar down the street and then beating him senseless with a cricket bat goes beyond reasonable force.  The rule of law is best left to the Police in such matters, however imperfect they are on occasion. We don’t really want to see summary justice meted out by victims of crime.

The Times points out that Mr Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, has modified his stance and the Tories deny that that they are planning a ‘licence for householders to kill burglars’.  Mr Grayling seems to do a fair amount of engaging mouth before brain. This may be why he has risen to the dizzying heights of Shadow Home Secretary – it seems to be a requirement for Home Secretaries of all political persuasions in recent years – so I am not singling Mr Grayling out.

I am not a criminal lawyer, but fortunately the Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association is a criminal lawyer…and is sane.

The Times notes: “Paul Mendel, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, told the BBC that people could already use “reasonable force” under the law. A jury would take into account the emotional stress someone acted under when discovering a burglar in the home, he said, and suggested moving the bar to anything up to “grossly disproportionate” might be too high.

He added: “The statute that we presently have allows the force to be proportionate which, I would have thought, is what most people would require the force to be. It’s a case of what’s proportionate and only the judge can make the decision. He did have discretion to come down in favour of householder.”

I would also like to commend an article in the Guardian written by a friend of mine, Carl Gardner, who invariably both talks and writes sense: On self-defence, let’s trust the courts

Carl Gardner writes: “But Grayling’s solution is too blunt. The answer may not be for politicians to put forward yet more criminal law reform to endlessly refine, clarify and redefine, while obliging judges to deliver ever more convoluted directions to juries. Perhaps we should simply trust those who have heard all the evidence to judge what is and is not reasonable.”

Carl Gardner also writes the excellent Head of legal blog

Blawg Review #243 – from Silverman Sherliker blog

Blawg Review #243 – from Silverman Sherliker blog
Fighting Back: A Festive Meditation for Lawyers

The Physical Universe tends towards chaos and dissolution …the Moral Universe towards injustice and despair ….the Legal Universe, for surely such a dimension does exist, towards obfuscation, misdirection and delay.

But there is a contrary principle.

As Chris Sherliker says…“The legal blogosphere fairly rings with fighting spirit this week.”….
Read Blawg Review #243

I enjoy Chris Sherliker’s tweets and this Blawg Review from Silverman Sherliker is extremely good – amusing, but also serious in part and raising important issues and sentiments…. with a bit of Churchill thrown in – quite right!

Christmas Card from The Staterooms-On-Sea

Dear Reader,

I am snowed in, at least in terms of getting up to London – so no amusements for me tonight on a planned trip to London and then down to Brighton for a Tweet Meet with @geeklawyer @Rah-Rah @special_noodles et al.

This leaves me time to do a slightly longer weekly ‘postcard’ or, Christmas card, (if you will) this week.

It is a time of good will to all men and women, so it was amusing to see this tweet from Labour MP @KerryMP to another Labour MP, @TomHarrisMP, on Twitter last night.

I didn’t trace back the context on Twitter –  so it may well have been a quite innocent exchange – but I did enjoy the wording of the tweet.

And of course… lawyers also like to spread good cheer at Christmas. So my thanks to @infobunny for alerting me to this remarkably festive bit of enterprise from Lloyd Platt & Co.

The Telegraph reports:

Lloyd Platt & Company claims to have had hundreds of enquiries since putting the vouchers – which offer couples half-hour or hour-long advice sessions with a lawyer – on sale last month. They cost from £125 plus VAT and the firm says it has already sold 54 in three weeks.

Chief funmaker at Lloyd Platt & CO (and senior partner)  Vanessa Lloyd Platt said:

“Christmas can be a very stressful time for families as we have always seen by the huge increase of people seeking advice in January.

“The vouchers seem to appeal to an enormously wide spread spectrum of people looking for that ‘must have’ gift for Christmas.”

She said that purchasers have included husbands, wives, mistresses, and people using them to suggest to friends and family members that they should get a divorce.

If you are still a bit short of ideas for Christmas decorations or, indeed, Christmas presents – why not try these nifty little creations for your nativity scene.  I am grateful to fellow blogger and family lawyer, John Bolch of Family Lore, for drawing my attention to these… (What is it with Family lawyers?)

Caganers: figurines of defecating world leaders in Catalan nativity scenes

The Telegraph, believe it or not, has 24 large photographs of these Spanish artworks.  Mind you… they can also serve as a post-ironic metaphor for, or comment on,  the recent Nopenhagen Climate talks.

Italian craftsmen have brought out a figurine of Silvio Berlusconi to commemorate his being attacked with a model of a cathedral the other day.  I did enjoy the Bill Bailey joke on Have I Got News For You about Gordon Brown hand writing a note  to express sympathy ….. Dear Slivio Broluscino….

Readers will, I hope,  be pleased that I am not doing a review of 2009. This is largely because I may have spent a fair part of 2009 either working or over refreshed and cannot be bothered to trawl through my blog which now serves as a diary.

So… in the spirit of Christmas… I am going to spread a bit of good cheer about and look at some of my favourite blogs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of favourite blogs – and I am writing the first Blawg Review for 2010 on 4 January So if I leave you out here (because I only plan to provide 10 or so links out of several hundred blogs I read)  – I won’t in my Blawg Review.

Jimmy Bastard is right up there on my list. His new blog, quite different in style from the one he ‘lost’ when he got ‘pished’, is a very subtle one with some wonderful writing.  Stark and direct, it repays careful reading.  It is a tale of our times (or rather, his) from Glasgow.

Although I am a law blogger and, indeed, I do try to shoehorn some serious law in from time to time – a fellow law blogger, the White Rabbit, who is a serious lawyer,  manages to produce a blog with absolutely no evidence of law content in it whatsoever…  The White Rabbit comes up with some very eclectic stuff – always worth a look, particularly with a glass of wine to hand (and a ciggie, if one is so inclined).

Guido Fawkes, right wing…. but always of interest is regular reading for me. If you haven’t tried this blog – have a look.   On the political side, given my left leaning politics (although still none too happy with Labour’s record on civil liberties) is Tom Harris MP’s blog And Another Thing…. whether you like Labour or not – always something of interest there.

There are some truly wonderful US blogs. Many US blogs are serious – some are both serious and biting… You may like to try this small selection:  Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice always has something even for lawyers who aren’t interested in Criminal Law.  He is argumentative, direct and I always enjoy clicking away on his more general posts. (I am not a criminal lawyer)  Dan Hull – what can I say?  Hull’s  WhatAboutClients? blog (WhatAboutParis? at weekends) is written by Dan and close colleagues.  This is a serious blog.  Dan takes no prisoner’s when it comes to client service and there is much of value there for all lawyers – but he also is a Europhile and erudite. There is much to be enjoyed on this blog.  It can be eccentric… this is why I like it.

Colin Samuels of Infamy or Praise is a good friend of mine. We do the occasional spot of writing together (West London Man and Unsilent Partners)  Colin has won the only four annual Blawg Review of The Year Awards and may win again. He has taken to doing a good round up of law blogs each week – Round TuitDip in… take a look?

Although Geeklawyer appears to have given up blogging regularly in favour of his relentless quest for fame and totty on Twitter – his blog is always worth reading when he takes ‘twime’  away from Twitter and knitting (Yes – Geeklawyer has taken up knitting!) – so do go and look.  Not always office safe, so if you are of a conservative and gentle disposition – don’t go.  I understand that Geeklawyer is knitting himself a summer house.  or a very very big scarf.

And finally… in this quick review.. not a law blogger… just a very good blogger and writer. Ms Robinson – A woman of Experience.  It really is a very good read.. do have a good look around.  Ms R suggests some posts for you to start on, if you are a new reader!

OK – the blogs above have serious content – but are also excellent reads for the Christmas period when the posts address lighter issues.  The really serious law blogs I shall, of course, mention in my January 4th edition of Blawg Review, and repeat the law blogs above which also have serious content.  I have started planning Blawg Review for 4 January 2010.

Well that is it for this week.  I wish you a Happy Christmas and a remarkable New Year… I shall, of course, be at my post…. blogging, painting, drinking… and eating a Christmas cake for one on Christmas Day… (I have replaced the three which have already been eaten) and there will be a Postcard next Sunday as usual

I just could not resist this wonderful tweet.  I am doing a podcast with @lawyer_coach in early January – this tweet is pure class!

Best, as always

Charon

***

 

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into an art gallery…

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into an art gallery (2009)
Oil, Diamonds and Sapphires on Canvas
Charon

The original may be viewed here

“When Damien Hurst produced his diamond encrusted skull some time back, I remember getting a call from Charon.  It is fair to say that he was over refreshed at the time.  He asked if I had seen the seminal work by Hurst.  I told him that I had.  Charon said, enthusiasm clear in his voice:  “Fantastic nonsense.  I’m going to do a tribute.  I mean…how difficult can it be to stick a few diamonds onto a canvas and flog it? …..to some corporate and even add a bit of VAT to help the government?”

I heard no more of this ‘project’ until a few weeks ago when Charon appeared on the BBC Antiques Roadshow programme trying to get his ‘work’ valued for ‘insurance purposes’. Apparently this latest work’ is going to feature on one  or other, or possibly both of the daytime TV shows  Flog It and  Trash in the Attic fairly soon.  I am pleased to say, having spoken to Charon at a bar in Chelsea recently, that he has tired of sticking diamonds onto paintings which otherwise take him about ten minutes to do (excluding drying time, which he charges for by the hour), that he has moved on.”

James Scraatchi, Royalty & Hounds Review

Other ‘works’ in the F**kart series may be viewed here.

Charon Cubist Sunday

Charon Cubist Sunday (2009)
Oil and bits on canvas
Charon

“Charon lives on the Medway.  From his balcony he can see yachts sailing by –  some with coloured sails.  Sundays are fairly lazy days for Charon – he eats a roast chicken every Sunday, cooked for him by a good chef at the local pub,  even when chicken is not on the menu.  When Charon is having a cubist Sunday it amuses him to be the only person in the pub restaurant eating roast chicken. He likes it when people at other tables say “That man over there is eating roast chicken.  It’s not even on the menu’. The Observer and Rioja feature every Sunday, ineluctably. The green post-it card is used by Charon to remind him to pick up ‘supplies’ – cigarettes, Rioja, milk, general shopping and prawns. I asked Charon why there were fleur-de-lis on the blue panel top left.  He told me that he had a small  fleur-de-lis tattoo on his arse.  I made my excuses and left. I felt that I couldn’t intrude and ask him about the fish and the red and white tennis rackets.”

Chatham & Rochester ArtReview.

A larger version of the original painting may be viewed here.

Other nonsense ‘artworks’  may be viewed below and here

[If you happen to have stumbled onto this blog in the belief that it is a law blog – it is.  Not much law on it at present because I am taking a short break over Xmas – but, rest assured, I shall shoehorn a bit of law in soon.]

Rive Gauche: The Christmas spirit… et al

As Christmas draws closer, work has tailed off a bit. No-one is that interested in discussing consultancy, advertising on Insite or any of the other things I do to amuse myself – so I have been doing a series of F**Art paintings. I wanted to see how they would look in a different context so I am posting a few images containing ‘paintings’ I have done recently interspersed with a few oddities in the news this week – some even relating to law.

The Telegraph reports: “A judge who gave a community punishment to a teenage girl for her part in a near-fatal stabbing “wholly failed” in his public duty, London’s Court of Appeal has ruled…… Judge Timothy Nash was also criticised for handing just two years to a second youngster involved in the attack as Lord Justice Thomas declared the sentences “unduly lenient” and increased them in a bid to counter knife crime.

“That things went gravely wrong, of that there can be no doubt whatsoever,” he said. “Judge Nash wholly failed in his duty to the public in marking these offences in the way he did.”


Another case where ‘things went clearly wrong’ involved a man trying to have sex with a Rottweiler.  This, I just can’t quite my head around. Bizarre. But I am grateful to @infobunny on Twitter for alerting me to the news.  Infobunny is making snowmen today.


Snow has come to Britain, or parts of it. In fact, as I type, it looks as if another four inches is about to land on the four inches from last night’s snowfall.  Above is a painting I am giving to Geeklawyer “Snow White Snorts Snow”  It looks vaguely sane in this setting.

RollonFriday has a truly brilliant story (and you just have to go to the site to see the posters!)

CMS Cameron McKenna has tried to improve its lawyers’ client care skills by decorating the firm’s loos with inspirational posters.

In a move that the firm maintains is “quirky and fun“, posters have appeared featuring a man standing at a urinal and a loo with the seat left up. Apparently this is part of the firm’s Reflect campaign, intended to encourage its lawyers to think of their clients’ best interests at all times. Including when doing number twos, because nothing says client care like “I was just thinking about you while sitting on the bog crimping off a length“.

Above is ‘Fuckerflies’ my first painting this Christmas season… this, I gave to @infobunny because she does ART and started me off again with her excellent paintings.  On the right, at the back…. Erudite Elephant II.

It is not all doom and gloom in the legal world…. The Times reports today…

Lawyers growing rich on NHS negligence

I missed it – but Twitter was down for a while last night.  This must have added to the Christmas stress of many thousands of Twitters.  Apparently President I’madinnerjacket’s Iranian Cyber Army was ‘responsible’. The Guardian reports:

“This site has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army,” said the message.

“The USA thinks they control and manage internet access, but they don’t. We control and manage the internet with our power, so do not try to the incite Iranian people.”

The Times has a fascinating story about ‘No win, no fee”

The Times reports: “Laywers are quick to defend the practice of no-win, no-fee as the way that people without funds can get access to justice. Its importance is without question, but the quirks and loopholes that have evolved — and that facilitate and encourage eye-popping claims — have skewed the system.Since 2000, and in far greater numbers in the past few years, claims for the successful law firm have rarely stopped with basic legal costs…..Colum Smith, a lawyer specialising in medical negligence claims, says that half his business are a no-win, no-fee clients. A partner in McMillan Williams Solicitors in Coulsdon, Surrey, Mr Smith says he sees the situation as a simple business transaction. Mr Smith says that he is a “superb advocate of the NHS” but describes the frequency of out-of-court settlements “very strange”.

I could get into painting on a large scale! I think the spraycan paints I use are getting to me.

The Police do seem to be doing some very odd things in recent months. After the furtore about Police and the donut eaters, their PCSO counterparts, stopping people from taking photographs under the terrorism Act – we now have a High Court judge saying…

//

Police ‘must not harass’ man cleared of Dando muder…

Independent

And…. finally…

Charonasso will be doing some more nonsense over the next ten days – it will help him get through Christmas!

By the way… if anyone would like my most recent ‘painting’…. below… The Snowmen extraordinarily renditing a little boy who has been bad in 2009…. let me know in the comments section or send me an email – FREE… naturally!

Bling Dong merrily on high….

As Britain prepares to shut down for the annual Christmas holiday – although ‘hunker down’ may be a better word if Eurostar, British Airways and severe weather in the form of a ‘White Christmas’ stop anyone leaving Britain – here are a few choice morsels from the world of law.

Bar Council website borked?

I’d like to be able to bring you glad tidings from the Bar Council news section but I can’t – because they appear to be having problems with their website.  This is what I saw this morning when I clicked on the Bar Council URL in my bookmarks and when I tried on Google.  Bizarre.  Has someone forgotten to renew a domain name?

The URL is here: Perhaps they have sorted it by the time you click on the link?

I went on to the Bar Standards Board website to try the link to the Bar Council there – same bizarre result pictured above.  We live in competitive times.  It would probably be a good idea if someone sorted the link to the Bar Council out.  We wouldn’t, after all, want those people over at Chancery Lane stealing a march as the  Legal Services Act comes into play in 2010.  [Excellent:  the Bar Council’s website has been restored to full health!]

David Pannick QC has an interesting Legal Review 2009 with some quite amusing ‘awards’ – worth a read over a coffee.

Prince Charles has been firing off memos to several government departments in an attempt to get them to fall into line with his thinking.

I can’t see this causing a major constitutional crisis as we lurch towards Christmas Day but the Prince is clearly managing to irritate a few people in government.  The Guardian reports:

Prince Charles was tonight facing fresh accusations of meddling in government policy after it emerged that he had written directly to ministers in eight Whitehall departments over the last three years.” ….

Leaks of previous correspondence, known among ministers as “black spider memos” because of the prince’s sprawling handwriting style, provoked a backlash among politicians furious that an unelected royal was meddling in the affairs of democratic government.

On the subject of Mr ‘Brine’ as the Royals probably pronounce his name, our beleaguered prime minister, Guido Fawkes has a special item on the ‘Jonah’ effect which is well worth a read if you need a laugh.

The BBC reports: The Supreme Court has found a Jewish school guilty of race discrimination for refusing places to pupils it did not consider to be ethnically Jewish.

Nine justices ruled, by a small majority, that the JFS in London had breached race relations legislation. The case was brought by a Jewish man whose son was not given a place because his wife was not regarded as Jewish under rules set by the Chief Rabbi. The parents were angry that their Jewish status was being questioned.

‘Not racist’

Giving the court’s verdict, Supreme Court President Lord Philips said: “The majority of the court has concluded that the JFS admission policy does discriminate on the grounds of ethnic origin and is, in consequence, unlawful.”

Judgment of The Supreme Court | ‘Summary of the  decision

The Law Society Gazette has an interesting piece today “Human rights committee warning on civil litigation funding curbs” :

The government must consider evidence that civil court costs rules and funding limitations are preventing people who have suffered human rights abuses at the hands of UK companies from seeking redress, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said today. In its report on business and human rights, the committee urged the government to consider costs and funding implications as part of its response to Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs.

And as it is Christmas here is another tweet from last night to bring a bit of festive cheer…?


F**kArt Christmas: Snow White Snorts Snow – Charondigliani

“Continuing his theme, and because he is a bit bored, Charondigliani was taken by the first snow of Winter today. He was also traumatised by Snow White and the Seven Investment Bankers many years ago as a ‘difficult’ child. .  Charondigliani’s use of his drug of choice – Rioja – was clearly an inspiration behind this ‘work’.  No automobile spraycan paint was used in this – but Charondigliani did use some chalk to create that subtle translucence so necessary to suggest a degree of bollocks in modern painting. Cokehead, Charondigliani’s parrot was also most taken with this painting. When it was first exhibited,  a Police Community Support Officer arrested Charondigliani under the Terrorism Act for being in possession of a ‘Class A’ painting. Fortunately, a senior Metropolitan Police Officer friend of Charondigliani was able to tell the PCSO to stop being stupid and go back to eating buns on street corners with his PCSO mates.”

Police Community Support Officer Review

Snow White Snorting Coke
Oil and Chalk on Canvas (2009)

Charondigliani

In the Collection of Geeklawyer

A larger version of the painting may be viewed here.

Other F**kArt works by Charon may be viewed here

Charon saw a very funny cartoon on t’interweb thingy which inspired this nonsense.

Charon’s Christmas paintings: The Cross after Dali

Charon’s series of Christmas Paintings start with a ‘homage’ to a favoured artist – Dali. The next Christmas painting will be ‘Snow White Snorts Snow’ in the style of Charondigliani.

The Cross after Dali (2009)
Oil on Canvas

Charon
A larger version of the painting may be viewed here

For a full list of Charon’s F**kART paintings so far – click here

I plan to do a painting each day through until the 27th December.  Then I shall stop… possibly!

Trafigura at it again….

TRAFIGURA are at it again with Carter-Ruck doing what lawyers do. The BBC has climbed down.  Iain Dale is encouraging bloggers to have a look at this Trafigura newsnight film – and I am happy to look at the film again.  You may be as well?

Tom Harris MP is also scathing..” THE BBC have apparently wet their pants at the prospect of legal firm Carter-Ruck getting annoyed at them over their Newsnight report about James Bond villainesque company, Trafigura. They removed this video so that the big boys wouldn’t steal their dinner money and give them a Chinese burn.”

And Carl Gardner, Author of the Head of legal blog suggests that you might want to look at THIS – and It’s legal to do so.

UPDATE Friday 18th december 2009

Trafigura accepts £25,000 damages from BBC over waste dumping allegations

The Times reports:

The oil-trading company Trafigura accepted £25,000 libel damages and an apology today over a BBC Newsnight claim that its actions had caused deaths, miscarriages, serious injuries and long-term sickness.

The BBC report in May focused on the discharging in August 2006 by Trafigura of gasoline waste in Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast. The waste was subsequently dumped by a local company.

Today Adam Tudor, the solicitor-advocate for the BBC, told Mr Justice Eady in the High Court, in London, that the BBC had withdrawn its allegations.

It acknowledged “that the evidence does not establish that Trafigura’s ‘slops’ [oil waste] caused any deaths, miscarriages or serious or long-term injuries,” he said.

Britain: A Winter Wonderland or F**kerland?

Christmas is on the way and, like everyone else, I am looking forward to it. It also means that for two weeks we can forget about many of the things going wrong in our country – many, it has to be said, caused by the present government .which I and many others voted for all those years ago.  I remember the scenes of jubilation and pleasure as a young Tony Blair appeared to bring hope as he walked into Downing Street.  Well things have changed.  We are now fighting a war on terror – much of it brought in on our own people by the present government.

It gets pretty serious when a former Director of Public Prosecutions and respected lawyer, Sir Ken McDonald QC, has a go at Tony Blair (reported in The Mirror, 15th December 2009) stating that the ex-PM ‘misled and cajoled’ people into supporting the ‘deadly’ invasion of Iraq because of his ‘love of power’.  The Mirror continues… “Sir Ken wrote in The Times: “This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions and playing footsie on Sunday morning does nothing to repair the damage.  Mr Blair’s fundamental flaw was his sycophancy towards power.”  [See: Guardian article re Sir Ken McDonald’s remarks ]

Well.. today was the first time the Iraq Inquiry closed the doors. It won’t be the last.  Tony Blair will be asked some questions (but will not be subjected to searching, probing, combative and properly asked questions by an experienced barrister) in secret.  I wouldn’t bother panic buying white emulsion from B&Q when it comes to Spring cleaning in the New Year…there will be white emulsion plenty enough, I suspect, when the Iraq Inquiry reports.  Who knows?  Things ain’t going too well so far and Philippe Sands QC, who said right at the outset that he could not understand why there are no lawyers on the panel, is absolutely right.

And..last night we had the news that Simon Cowell is thinking of entering the political arena.

I got the feeling that Kirsty Wark was taking the piss on Newsnight – but I am probably wrong, because I had to take strong drink to get over the shock that Cowell may now dumb down political analysis –  which for most of us is a fairly important matter. I’ve nothing against Cowell.  I even enjoy Britain’s Got Talent when I am completely over refreshed. (Especially if the contestant comes on with a leprous animal to get the extra sympathy and make Cowell wince.)

I have REDACTED the first word in the ‘Tweet’ above – not because I am concerned about the expletive.  I redact as a tribute to our great Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who enjoys a bit of redaction..as my post below reveals.  Hopefully, the Court of Appeal will cure him of this problem on our behalf.

Take a good look at the Police Community Support Officer on the right – the ‘gobby’ one. This is a must watch film if you have the time…I do hope that he no longer has a job (in Policing) , because his behaviour , frankly, is a disgrace.  He did not know what he was talking about…nor any law…  – that much is clear – and if the story is reported correctly –  he shouldn’t have a job working with the Police. I am grateful to a friend @Oedipus_Lex who tweeted about this story this afternoon. The story is carried by BoingBoing – usually reliable.  I quote…

In this video, two British police officers come up to a young woman who is filming a building and harass her, imply that she is a terrorist, intimidate her, demand to see her footage. The policeman says that he’s harassing her for being “cocky” — punishing her for failing to cringe sufficiently. England’s police chiefs have ordered policemen to stop harassing photographers, but this officer called for backup and 7 more officers converged on the photographer. The photographer was brutally detained — she is covered in bruises — and fined but she had the presence of mind to return to the scene and interview the witnesses to the assault.

The Independent has been doing a series of pieces on this very issue and Yates of The Yard (a very senior copper) has issued instructions to the more dense of his officers that photographers should be allowed to take photographs without being harassed under the Terrorism Act.

The PCSO in the film is just a licensed little bully boy.  Full marks to the young woman who filmed the exchange who stood up to him – only to get more Police attention and bruises later. Disgraceful. I am, of course, assuming that the report of her subsequent detention by the Police is accurate.

And another thing… why do Police and PCSOs wonder around with their hands tucked into their flak jackets?  Are they feeling their tits up on duty?  I think we should be told.

And, while we are at it…. another friend of mine @ManxStef alerted me and others to this ludicrous nonsense.

Mall security staff will get police powers in Norwich

A controversial scheme to hand police powers to civilians has been extended to include guards in one of Norwich’s main shopping centres.

Security staff at The Mall, Norwich, will have the right to issue on-the-spot fines, give lawful orders and check normally confidential police records after being accredited by Norfolk police.

EDP 24 story in full

The local Magistrates, not surprisingly, have written to Chief Homo Plodiens for Norfolk to express their ‘concern’.  It wpould appear that all is going to be Ok.  The story continues…. “Since then the chief constable has reassured us that, although this power exists, no civilian has issued a fine and he does not expect it to happen in future.”

I do understand that drunks and other undesirables – perhaps even the odd investment banker – might cause difficulty at a shopping Mall – but we do need to be careful who has fairly extensive powers.  Surely? It beggars belief…and I always enjoy using this well worn and hackneyed expression.

Well… there we are… enjoy  your evening… I’ll be back with another painting tomorrow….

F**kpig: A painting for the Christmas of our times….

The Fuckpig
Oil on Canvas 2009
Charon

In The Collection of Paul West

“Charon clearly has way too much time on his hands during this pre-Christmas period.  This is largely because no-one wants to do any business with him because his clients are all attending Christmas parties or farting around on Twitter. This was fine with Charon because it allowed him to continue his ‘homage’ to BritArt.  In this very simple minded allegory, Charon nuances the subtlety of those least revered in our society at present – and who may not be with us for much longer: The Bankers.

Charon was amused by a cartoon he saw on the web – unfortunately the cartoon was too small to reveal the cartoonists name – but he has been able to capture the essence of the ‘genre’ here.  Charon is quite clear in his resolve that the painting bears no resemblance whatsoever to any person living or dead, whether to be found at Canary Wharf or, indeed, any bank in the British Isles.”

National Banker Magazine

A larger version of the picture may be viewed here.

Jonathan Sumption QC says Binyam Mohamed judges were irresponsible

Jonathan Sumption QC, no longer a candidate for selection over the heads of Court of Appeal judges in the race for the new Supreme Court Justice appointment,  told the Court of Appeal that the judges’ stance in the Binyam Mohamed ‘redaction case’ was “in many respects unnecessary and profoundly damaging to the interests of this country”. Not content with this – The Times noted ” Sumption went on to say… “I would go so far as to say their views were irresponsible.”

Frances Gibb, writing in The Times, covers the story...Lawyers for the Foreign Secretary launched an extraordinary attack yesterday on High Court judges who want to disclose intelligence material relating to allegations of torture involving the CIA. David Miliband accused the two senior judges of “charging in” to a diplomatically sensitive area over what happened to the former terror detainee Binyam Mohamed while he was held by the Americans in Pakistan.”

Interestingly, the composition of the Court of Appeal hearing this case is slightly ‘out of the ordinary’ in the sense that The Chief Justice, The Master of The Rolls and The President of the Queen’s Bench Division are sitting together.  I shall look forward to that law report appearing.

I could be wrong, but I thought the Americans have already published this ‘sensitive’ information – and it is ‘sensitive’ because it is believed that the redacted paragraphs reveal some extremely unpleasant descriptions of torture et al carried on in the name of protecting us from ‘terror’.

The Times notes: “On November 9, in their latest ruling on the issue, the High Court judges said: “Of itself, the treatment to which Mr Mohamed was subjected could never properly be described in a democracy as ‘a secret’ or an ‘intelligence secret’ or ‘a summary of classified intelligence’.”

Self Portrait but was pissed when I did it

Charonasso continues his ‘homage’ to F**kART with this latest  peice from his ‘Blue and Orange  pissed period’ – a self portrait with red wine glass.  As usual the artist has used automobile spray can paint to lay down a neo-ironic foundation and then, and this is clear from the brushwork, as the Rioja takes hold, paint is used with fervour, boldness and a lack of skill which brings to this work a degree of almost bucolic naivety.  The artist does know how to draw and is aware that eyes don’t in life appear as they are represented.  Scholars now believe that Charonasso was trying to signal to  other Masons that he wasn’t just ‘a’ Mason, but that he was two Masons in the one body. The painting is signed.

Self portrait but was a bit pissed (2009)
Charonasso
14 December 2009

(A larger image is available here)

In the Collection of @bureauista

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Robert Heslett, President of The Law Society

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Robert Heslett, President of The Law Society Today I am talking To Robert Heslett. We cover a wide range of topics from the rule of law, the opportunities and threats to the solicitors profession, human rights and Twitter and other forms of social media and how they could be of benefit to lawyers.

Listen to the podcast

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea….God edition

Dear Reader,

I really did not expect to meet God ever… but I did…earlier today… I was reading an article in The Guardian – after pulling a most enjoyable allnighter –  and there he was, staring out,the  familiar messianic grin…. it was Tony Blair explaining that he would have found an argument to justify invading Iraq even if there had been no weapons of mass destruction, which there weren’t as we now know (and some say, was known to Blair et al at the time).

The trouble with politicans, not all of them, is that they start to get a bit of a ‘self-importance complex’ and it just gets worse the further up the ladder they go.  The latest nonsense – but VERY SERIOUS nonsense  – concerns a new section 124H Communications Act 2003 (Clause 11 Digital Economy Bill) which would, if passed, give sweeping powers to the Secretary of State. I quote, unashamedly, from Francis Davey’s EXCELLENT analysis because he puts it so well and the full piece is worth reading for anyone even casually concerned with freedom of speech and a free internet.

It begins:

(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—Pausing there. Note that this says nothing at all about copyright infringement. For example the power could be used to:

  • order ISP’s to block any web page found on the Internet Watch Foundation’s list
  • block specific undesireable sites (such as wikileaks)
  • block specific kinds of traffic or protocols, such as any form of peer-to-peer
  • throttle the bandwidth for particular kinds of serivce or to or from particular websites.

In short, pretty much anything.


Tiger Woods is a great golfer.  He has a few ‘issues’ with his wife and his personal conduct – which, frankly, I believe should be a private matter, BUT should not impact on everyone else through the use of superinjunctions. What I do not want to see in our country is libel (and privacy) lawyers threatening all and sundry with ‘hell and damnation, contempt of court, prison, seizure of assets et al’ because some golfer fucks up and people want to to ‘extract the Michael’ .  Life is rather more serious, valuable and important than that.  We need to get a grip on superinjunctions, libel and freedom of the press.  Guido does what Guido does – and well done.

We have a lot of MPs in our country who are not government ministers…. I would like some of these MPs to do something really valuable for us (and in doing so get back some respect)  and stand up for our law, reform it, so that our judges and our laws are not made to look ridiculous by people on Twitter, by people in other countries (where English High Court writs  do not run) publicising the very things we should – as people who live on Earth, FREE, be entitled to know.  I have no problem with high level terrorist and security of the realm issues being kept ‘secret’ if in the national security interest (few would object)…  but I do object to being told by an English judge that I can’t read a celeb  or MP story in England, where I live,  but can do so simply by flicking onto a good Scots Law website or American website and read what the celebs / MPs want to suppress.  English Law deserves better than that?…Surely?  There are more important issues?  Surely? I really do hope so.

I am, thankfully, a moderate atheist (apropos of other mumbo jumbery going on in our ‘wonderful’  world)  – believe what you want to believe – but let us, at least, keep law for the really serious issues of our time and not the absurdities of celebrities and others who fuck up and want to protect their brand.

We really do need to get a grip on freedom now that that the internet is here.  Yes… there are lots of loonies on the internet… but there are also a lot of sensible people on the net and on twitter… I think that most people can sort out the wheat from the chaff… and  what are you so frightened of when you do fuck up?.. fucking up?.. or people finding out that you did?  That is not what law is there to protect… there are higher values.  Law needs to get back to protecting real values… Sorry…. but that is what I believe…and if I get turned over by people who don’t like this sentiment…so be it…

Best, as always… but I have a feeling it won’t be

Charon

PS.. I don’t have any money… I have a few assets… if you want a few unfinished Fuckerflies paintings  and I did go to a Scottish public school (Not with Tony but there was a future Lord Chancellor at mine at the same time)  so prison won’t be so bad…. Come on… we really need to get a grip on the core value of life and our law… don’t we deserve that?

Channel 4 covers Paul Clarke shotgun case

Channel 4 news tonight covered the Paul Clarke shotgun case.

Shotgun man faces years in jail

A man who handed a shotgun that he found into a police station may face up to five years in jail for possession of a firearm.

Paul Clarke says it started with what looked like a bag of rubbish dumped at the end of his garden Clarke said: “I saw a black bag here, looked inside, and there was a shotgun.”

He was prosecuted and a jury found him guilty of possession of a firearm. He is now facing five years in jail. He says he was simply doing his civic duty – handing the shotgun in at his local police station. He has been advised not to discuss his case in detail until sentencing next month.

Jack of Kent was the reason I appeared on the news briefly to comment as he suggested to Channel 4 that they do a short interview with me.  Jack of Kent did the heavy spade work on this with a very good blog post on the issue which may be read here.

It is a pretty shocking story and, for my part, I think the Police and CPS have made the wrong decision here and I very much hope the judge will discharge Clarke under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ provision which he is fully entitled to do.  As I say on Channel 4 News – this case illustrates the absurdity and dangers of strict liability offences and minimum sentences.  I am not a fan of minimum sentences. While I am not over bothered about ‘maximum sentences’ being prescribed by Parliament,  I take the view that the matter of sentence should be left to judges and that parliament should be very careful when introducing ‘minimum sentences’… or better… parliament should not  introduce minimum sentences at all into any statute. Do, please, read Jack of Kent’s review of this case.  Hopefully we will not have a miscarriage of justice when Clarke comes to be sentenced before Christmas.

While Surrey Police seem reluctant to comment on this case because the judge has yet to sentence (Clarke has been convicted so not ‘sub judice’), The CPS representative was not reluctant, nor am I or others.  One thing I am reasonably confident of is that Crown Court judges make their own decisions and are not swayed by news, bloggers or anyone else – and that… is as it should be. So we are free to express a view here given that Paul Clarke has been convicted.

Jack of Kent’s blog post

Channel 4 News film (short 3.42 mins)

And… well done to Channel 4 News (few mainstream tv/newspapers did) for taking a lot of time to cover this important issue…. and to a young journalist Holly Thompson at a local Surrey newspaper for breaking the story in the first place.

***

UPDATE 21 December 2009

The judge gave Clarke a 12 month suspended sentence – applying the exceptional circumstances rule.  It was a very unusual case.  For my part, not that it matters what I think – the judge applied common sense all round.  Good judgment.

Rive Gauche: Jailhouse Rock edition, it would seem….

A bizarre story appeared on the Manchester evening News website last night:

Top lawyer in ‘missing’ £150K probe

“A TOP Manchester barrister is being investigated by police for alleged theft and has been dismissed from his chambers.

David Friesner, the deputy head of the highly-regarded 9 St John Street Chambers in the city centre, was asked to leave after accusations involving more than £150,000 of chambers funds. Mr Friesner, from Salford, has not been arrested. The investigation is being carried out by Greater Manchester Police’s Economic Crime Unit……

….

According to his former chambers’ website Mr Friesner’s specialist areas of practice are Criminal Law involving complex fraud, money laundering, homicide, health and safety, and drugs and the use of computer technology. It adds that he ‘regularly leads in cases of the utmost gravity including murder, rape, robbery and firearms offences’.

Latest Tory Labour Bashing poster

Guido Fawkes notes:Labour Toff Claimed £20,000 for Bell Tower”

I rather liked the wry comment…. “After what has to be the most outrageous claim by an MP yet, Guido suspects something nasty will happen to Mr Davies before too long and he will have no one but himself to blame.

I could be wrong… but didn’t Quentin Davies MP commit political harikiri and apostasy some years ago by doing a Winston and cross the floor?

But it gets better…

The Independent reports…

£74,000 for the most expensive peer

John Laird, an Ulster politician and public relations man, has emerged as the UK’s most expensive peer.  Lord Laird claimed almost £74,000 in expenses in 2008-09, 10 per cent more than the next highest claimer. Though he speaks only rarely in Lords debates, he also holds an unbeaten record as the most prolific asker of parliamentary questions. Answering his written questions cost the taxpayer more than £100,000 in the same year.”

That was mildly amusing… but what followed in the Indie article kept me amused for a while  as I sank Malbec with my slow cooked  boeuf bourguignon… A conviction for ‘ARSON’? See below….

Our Peers are world beaters… Jailhouse ROCK! I quote from the Indie article….

1. Another high claimer was Lord Ahmed, the Labour peer who earlier this year spent sixteen days in prison for dangerous driving.

2. Another Labour peer who has spent time in prison is the former MP Michael Watson, now Lord Watson of Invergowrie. He was given early release in May 2006, after being sentenced to 16 months for arson. He claimed £44,267 in 2008-09.

3. Members of the House of Lords, unlike MPs, do not lose their seats if they are convicted of a crime that draws a jail sentence. The novelist Jeffrey Archer, who was sentenced to four years for perjury in 2001, still has the title Lord Archer, but has not returned to the Lords since his release in 2003.

4. Lord Black, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph, is still serving a prison sentence in Florida for fraud.

Goldifraud and the Three Peers

And… I suspect that a few more peers will be doing porridge for eating too much of DaddyTaxpayer’s porridge soon.  We shall see.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

I have to admit… David Cameron came up with a good one here… reported in ConservativeHome “Brown and Darling are like a couple of joy-riders in a car smashing up the neighbourhood, not caring what is going to happen and not caring about anyone who might have to take over the mess they have created… They showed no care for the risks they are running with interest rates, the risks they are running for future taxes, the risks they are running in terms of racking up debts for our children.”

I have this surreal image in my mind of Brown and Darling in a car …. like the scene at the end of the Thelma & Louise (1991) movie

Parliament, freedom of speech, libel law and freedom of speech

Tucked away in the Observer / Guardian last Sunday was an interesting article stating that “Lawyers advising John Bercow are understood to have informed the Commons culture, media and sport select committee that the super-injunctions, under which even the reporting of the existence of an injunction is banned, do restrict the right to publish or broadcast what MPs can say openly in parliament.”

The Guardian notes that this advice is rather different from that put forward by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice who appears to regard the right of a newspaper to publish the proceedings of parliament in cases where a super-injunction exists ( As in the Trafigura episode) to be enshrined  in the 1688 bill of rights.

Law blogger and writer, Jack of Kent, takes up the cause for libel reform with a closely argued piece in his blog: Engaging With Libel Reform. He writes: “The formal campaign was launched today for fundamental reform of English libel law. England’s libel law is currently a public danger and a public disgrace.

Inner & Middle Temple Library not to merge

Good to see that consultations and feasibility studies are not being used to justify a decision made in advance.  The Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries are not to merge. A statement released yeterday stated:

After lengthy deliberations, the Inner Temple and Middle Temple have concluded that none of the available options for a merger of their libraries and creation of an advocacy and education centre is sufficiently desirable to warrant further investigation and implementation.  We have therefore agreed to bring to an end the negotiations which have been taking place under the aegis of the Joint Collaboration Committee.

The PBR and bank robbery

The politico-economic pundits have moved on.  The PBR speech by Darling caused brief excitement and cheap television to keep the hyperventilators on BBC and Sky happy… but the reality is that the PBR is an irrelevance.  The Tories will put their own plans into play if they are elected.  If Labour returns to power, a new chancellor will push out another budget (prompting speculation that there may be a March 25th election so that Labour won’t have to do another budget speech or face returning chickens roosting badly during a May election campaign)… and the plan to supertax the bankers has been widely regarded as so full of holes that evasion is easy. Capitalists@Work review the matter with their usual clinical precision.

Charon’s Christmas….


The plan is that I have no ‘plan’ for Christmas at all.   Next week, people will be at their office parties and will have little interest in anything I might wish to suggest in terms of business.  This is just fine by me.  I will  update Insite Law news throughout the holiday period through to 4th January – I will be painting, blogging, drinking, cooking and generally faffing about.  I ate the small Christmas cake for one I had bought in readiness for Christmas Day the other night – but I am certain I shall re-stock.

Have a good weekend…

Erudite Elephant II – The Politics of Africa

In his guise as a modern artiste Charondrian,  in his latest nonsense, reflects on the political creation of modern Africa as seen through the eyes of an erudite elephant.

“The white ‘Mondrian’ lines represent the linear boundaries between many countries in Africa.  The colours reflect the colours used in many african  flags today and the black handprint (Charondrians’s own) a metaphor for landgrab from both whites and blacks. The Elephant, as a species, will probably live on Earth forever. The spots suggest conflicts and trouble spots – but also hint that the fumes from the vandalpaint spray cans favoured by the ‘artist’ may have been getting the better of Charondrian.”
Loft Laggers Monthly Art Review

Erudite Elephant II – The Politics of Modern Africa
Charondrian

Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2009
(In the Collection of Natasha Phillips)

A larger version may be viewed here

For other ‘paintings’ by Charonaletto (Charondrian, Charonasso et al)

Fuckerflies | Erudite Elephant 1 | Cokehead the Parrot

The Judicial Process…

The UKSC Blog (a very good resource for those who wish to keep bang up to date with the proceedings of the new UK Supreme Court) reports today that Jonathan Sumption QC has withdrawn his candidature for the remaining twelfth seat in the Supreme Court. The UKSC noted in October (picking up on a story in The Times)  that “senior” judges from the Court of Appeal oppose the much discussed appointment of Jonathan Sumption QC to the Supreme Court to fill the one remaining vacancy.  The article suggests that the judges are concerned about his lack of judicial experience as well as the “disincentive to other top names at the Bar to join the circuit or High Court”.

(I would like to be able to give the direct URL for the UKSC reports – but this does not seem to be possible (curiously) from their blog.  The RSS feed is also not recognised by widgetbox or my RSS feed readers)

While I can well understand the ‘concerns’ of senior members of the judiciary, who themselves took the ‘vow of poverty’ to become High Court judges and then rose through effort, ability and patience (possibly) to do their time in the Court of Appeal, that a barrister who has not done his or her time as a judge should ‘leapfrog’ over them into the Supreme Court.It may well be essential that a Justice of The Supreme Court should have judicial experience – but this would preclude the possibility (envisaged by the legislation?)  that the Justices could be joined and made more diverse by senior academics or very talented members of the Bar or the solicitors profession direct.

One assumes that these ‘senior judges’ from the Court of Appeal are not suggesting that appointment to the Supreme Court should be on the ‘Buggins’ Turn’ principle so beloved of many British institutions? That would, surely, be absurd. [ “Sorry chaps, we know there is this brain the size of a planet knocking at the door who may well do the job rather better than anyone else but we really have to let Buggins LJ have a go for a few years”? ]

It is not unreasonable to suggest that their concerns did not turn on the fact that a ‘start performer’ at the Bar or in practice as a City or other solicitor could decide not to take a lesser judicial appointment and continue to earn substantial amounts of money……. although this is hinted at in the UKSC blog post which notes…”the judges are concerned about his lack of judicial experience as well as the “disincentive to other top names at the Bar to join the circuit or High Court”. [ “Right… we have another person with the brain the size of a planet who is about to blow the bloody doors off…. he / she has been earning truly fantastic sums of money when others of his/her generation have  defied mammon and done their duty by becoming High Court judges…. quick..close the doors and call a journalist to stir things up a bit” ]

It would, therefore, on this analysis (which may, I accept this, be entirely faulty and driven by fumes from painting too many pictures with paint from a spray can) come down to this – that a barrister or solicitor who has not done time as a judge is simply not suited to the  work of the Supreme Court.  I have no experience of practice but having talked to a person with considerable experience at the Bar and on the Bench, and from my own understanding of the  role of the Supreme Court – such judicial experience is not vital to the very demanding and specialised issues facing the justices where intellect and understanding of the law  in its most refined form, arguably, is so important.

We may have missed a trick.  Jonathan Sumption QC, I am told by people who know, would have made a good Justice.  He has withdrawn his application. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have the very best minds of our time in the Supreme Court and if these come from the Bar, academe or the solicitors side of the profession would it not be to our advantage to encourage change and recruit Justices from a wider pool?

Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome in the comments section below.

Propaganda, PBR and Cokehead…my parrot.

Hat tip to Tom Harris MP and the Wrinkled Weasel for drawing attention to a rather bizarre Christmas card being sent out by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.  (The pic on the left) A most unfortunate icon?

You don’t mess about with ‘Lambo’. Lieutenant-General Sir Graham Lamb, a man who does not mince words as can be seen by his recent statement: “We are continuing to strike the Taliban, and have to, till their eyeballs bleed”. The former SAS officer and Commander, Field Army,  is now advising both Stanley McChrystal and President Karzai. Paul Waugh, in his  Evening Standard blog is keeping a very close watch on the Iraq Inquiry and has a good piece on yesterday’s presentation to the Inquiry by ‘Lambo’.  Typical of Sir Graham Lamb’s direct responses is… “The most difficult people to deal with weren’t the Shia or Sunni militias/insurgents, it was the Americans and their refusal to accept the idea of reconciliation, of dealing with people who had blood on their hands.

The White Rabbit (whose blog is always worth visiting – not much law on it – no bad thing for a law blog, of course) has a rather good video with the added bonus of Nena and her 99 Luftballons which I enjoyed back in 1984.

I do not know, of course, if Matron was called to attend to Tories who appeared to be wetting themselves when George Osborne responded to Darlings PBR speech yesterday. Certainly, Speaker Bercow had to ask members to calm down several times and he admonished Henry Bellingham MP (Tory) for doing a running commentary oln Darling’s speech which ‘neither the house nor members of the public needed’. It always good when member’s become excited but this is a law blog so I’ll leave such matters to others.

I was watching PMQs and the PBR speech yesterday on my laptop while also looking at Twitter. @KerryMP, Labour’s so called ‘Twitter Tsar’, was at it hammer and sickle… getting very over excited when Gordon Brown landed blow after blow on Cameron during  PMQs but appeared to lose interest when Osborne came on to respond to Darling.  No matter, we had a raft of Tory twitterers to wave the flag for ‘their chap’. All wonderful propaganda, of course, with neither side conceding that the other had made any useful points at all. But that is what I like about Twitter when it comes to politics and Tom Harris MP (who tweeted all the way through PMQs from his place on the back benches)  gets a special ‘Tweet of the week’ award for this…when Speaker Bercow had to intervene to calm the over excited members when Nick Clegg got rather angry during his turn.

The Tory propaganda machine has swung into action and while I find their latest poster rather lame, they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves and more ‘artwork’ will surely be forthcoming.

Talking of dubious artwork….. I have completed another ‘painting’ in my ‘F**kART – a homage to BritArt’ series.  It is a portrait of Cokehead, my old parrot from a West London Man episode (Now in the collection of @jaffne) (You may view a larger version here)

It is 4.10 am – a bit early for serious analysis of matters legal.  I shall return later in the day… possibly. Have a good one.

Iraq Inquiry: Panel asks questions with the precision of a Rich Tea biscuit dunked in a cup of tea.

I don’t normally enjoy daytime television, but yesterday’s episode of the BBC’s new ‘Panto Season’ drama  ‘The Iraq Inquiry‘, after a shaky start where urbane beknighted mandarins were paraded en masse, gave way to the appearance of the ‘villain’… or at least one of them – Sir John Scarlett, ‘M’ or ex-Director of SIS / MI6.   The pantomime dames:  Lord Falconer, Lord Goldsmith, Alistair Campbell and Ali BabaBlair and the 45 minutes are due to appear in 2010 – no doubt to shouts of “He’s behind you” and “Oh NO he isn’t!”

I watched with mounting fascination (and some amusement) and marvelled at the relaxed, suave, almost gentlemanly exchange between one of the panel members and Sir John. Sir John didn’t look as if he was even walking fast, let alone running,  to keep up with the ‘Inquisitorial’. The word ‘Inquiry’ tends to suggest an element of questioning, hints at probing…. and yesterday, as other commentators have observed, showed the folly (or cunning)  of failing to put an experienced barrister, for whom cross-examination is both a sport and an art, on the panel. Simon Jenkins has a wonderful piece in the Guardian entitled ‘A very British Inquiry’.  It is worth reading in full.

Blair ‘was told Iraq had disarmed – but still went to war’

Sir John Scarlett tells inquiry of pre-war intelligence doubts

Meanwhile The Sun tells us: “JAILED Amanda Knox has applied to work in the prison laundry, her father revealed yesterday.Curt Knox distanced himself from a transatlantic row over his daughter’s conviction as he flew home to the US from Italy. US senator Maria Cantwell has declared it unsafe because the Italian justice system “raises serious questions”. [The Sun]

Apparently, the Italians are none too pleased at the suggestion that the trial was unfair and their justice system a sham and a shambles.  Both may or may not be true.  I have no idea – but as every country in the world says that their justice system is the best in the world (Well… they would, when you think about it),  it is not surprising the Italians are prancing around like overdressed opera singers, shouting that they will not take lessons from America on ‘justice’ when America has Guantanamo Bay problems.  Frankly, I favour the view – whichever country’s justice system is being reviewed – that wrong and unjust is wrong and unjust and that we have a perfect right to examine and comment on the justice system of our own country and those of other countries if we so wish.

A senior British judge demonstrates how to deal with anger and ‘heated moments’

The Times reported yesterday: “A senior family judge took the extraordinary step of leaving court to calm down because he was so angered by two local authorities who “abandoned” a sick boy to save money.”

It is a shocking case.  The Times continued:

“Mr Justice Hedley said that he was left with a sense of disbelief that the two local authorities, Cambridgeshire County Council and the Orkney Island Council (OIC), had distanced themselves from the boy to avoid footing the bill for his care. He made his judgment public yesterday and also sent it to Westminster and Holyrood to draw attention to the two local authorities.“I found it necessary to adjourn briefly so as to ensure that no wholly improper judicial observations escaped my lips,” he said of the October hearing.

More idiotic behaviour from Homo Jobsworthiens and Homo Plodiens is reported in the Independent this morning… ”

//

Police search photographer using anti-terrorism laws

It comes days after a memo was sent to all police forces in England and Wales warning officers to stop using terror laws to harass innocent photographers. The memo was sent after The Independent forced senior officers to admit the controversial legislation is being widely misused.

The Independent reports:

Mr Smith, 53, was taking pictures of Christ Church, in Newgate, when a security guard from nearby bank Merrill Lynch asked for identification. When he refused, the police were called.

Mr Smith said: “A Police Community Support Officer asked me what I was doing. I said it was obvious and he told me he had to question me otherwise he was not doing his job properly. The next thing I knew three police cars with their sirens blaring came round the corner. Again they asked what I was doing.” Mr Smith gave the officers his name.

A spokesman from the City of London Police said: “When questioned by officers, the man declined to give any explanation. He was therefore informed that, in light of the concerns of security staff, and in the absence of an explanation, he would be searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.”

I have a bit too much time on my hands at the moment. Britain is about to shut down for the annual binge drinking season and few people seem to have any appetite for work in the  season of office parties. Normally, the Christmas season is the cue for some enterprising firm of employment lawyers to trot out an article about  the ‘office party’: Do not snog the boss’s daughter or wife, Do not turn up dressed like a stripper, and advising in moderate, Law Society approved, tones against drinking too much and then telling the boss that he or she is a tosser or tosserette. I haven’t seen any of these rather dull articles yet… but it can only be a matter of time.  I will be grateful to any reader who finds one of these annual articles from a law firm  and sends me the link.  I need a laugh at the moment.

Anyway… as I was saying… I have too much time on my hands. I may take a trip to London and photograph some Police Community Support officers as they huddle together in small groups on street corners eating their buns.  S 44 of The terrorism Act seems to be alive and well and I’d quite like to see how it works first hand should I hear the sound of sirens and screeching of tyres while taking pics of the PCSOs.

***

Thanks to Camp’s Solicitors for supporting Insite Law Magazine’s free services .

I am always appreciative when advertisers on Insite Law contribute  to the costs of running the free online resource for students on Insite Law and like, occasionally, to express my thanks in blog posts on Charon QC..the blawg.

Shaking things up…a bit of politics… just a bit.

David Cameron has good days and bad days. Having complained about Gordon Brown’s attempts to fight the 2010 election on class war grounds, Tofftastic has now been compared to Quisling, the Norwegian collaborator who helped the nazis take over Norway during WWII and put him in charge. Shane Greer, who picked this wonderful nonsense up in Hansard, is absolutely right to suggest that Labour is now stooping to new depths with that one. Politicians do have to put up with ridicule, name calling etc etc but there are limits!  I am, however, very pleased to have found an excellent picture of Cameron talking to some visiting dignitaries from the UAE – on their excellent Flickr account.

Shane Greer notes the following exchange:

Mr. Reed: The Leader of the Opposition currently resembles the Quisling of the climate change deniers, so if he seriously wants to bridge the chasm between his rhetoric and the reality of so many in his party, he should have the basic decency and courage to do that publicly. We need a consensus or else we invite failure. If we fail-

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am not very happy about the word that the hon. Gentleman has just used. Perhaps he would like to withdraw it.

Mr. Reed: Which word in particular, Mr. Deputy Speaker? [Laughter.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the word that I am talking about?

Mr. Reed: I am afraid not, sir.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: He might consider withdrawing the word “Quisling” .

Meanwhile… my Tweet of the Week just has to go to Stephen Fry for this…. I enjoyed the wry humour.

Boris has other pre-occupations: Ever since the Aztecs first worshipped the cocoa bean, mankind has experimented with various ratios of solids, fats, sugar and milk, and Cadbury has got it right. The chocolate bar-barians at the gate are Americans. The Thoughts of Boris

Old Holborn hit the nail on the head with his take on Climate Change: “Nohopenhagen was never about saving a few idiot Bangladeshis who keep building their huts on stilts in river deltas. It was never about polar bears. It was never even about climate change.” (Old Holborn – There are 60 million of us but only 646 of them)

Iain Dale asks: Are People From West Sussex Stupid?…. “I ask the question having seen the video below. It raises two questions – not just the question as to whether West Sussex County Council thinks their population is completely stupid, but also the more important question of why they are spending council tax payers’ money on this inanity.” (Iain Dale)

Lazy Hyena, who also produces GuyNews for the Guido Fawkes blog, has an amusing piece…

A nice girl ain’t nothin’ without a string of pearls

“Here are some of the verbal gems that have been tossed her way by these terribly suave gents (almost exclusively middle-aged men)  over the past few months. But Hyena’s too nice to tell you who said them:

What’s a nice girl like you doing with this lot? [Many a time]

If you don’t mind my saying, you have a very well developed mind.

You’ve got this look in your eye!

You’re a mystery. I just don’t understand you.

You project a certain image, but really you’re a well-mannered, nice girl.”


Cab driver source of all intelligence on WMD in Iraq war – Shock horror!

The BBC reported, solemnly, this afternoon that  “Ex-spy chief Sir John Scarlett has told the Iraq war inquiry there was “no conscious intention” to manipulate information about Iraq’s weapons. He denied being under pressure to “firm up” the September 2002 dossier which contained the claim Iraq could use WMD within 45 minutes of Saddam’s order.” BBC

Unfortunately The real life ‘M’ was not asked about claims that British Intelligence on WMD at the time of the Iraq war came from a taxi driver on the Iraq Jordanian border – so we are none the wiser on that issue, as yet.

Paul Waugh, writing on his Evening Standard blog has a most interesting development

Waugh writes: “I posted first thing today on Adam Holloway’s extraordinary claims* about an Iraqi taxi driver being the source for British intel on Saddam. I pointed out that Adam seemed unclear about exactly what the cabbie had overheard. The MP told me that it was more about long-range missiles that could target Cyprus. He wasn’t sure that the cabbie had heard anything about the separate 45-minutes minutes claim.”

It seems that Mr Holloway MP  amended his original piece.  Whether he did this to sex it or sex it up no-one is sure.  The FT has now got in on the Act.  Waugh reports… FOOTNOTE* It gets weirder. The FT’s Alex Barker prompted the thought that the cabbie in question may even have been “Curveball”, the flaky fantasist who also duped the US on WMD.”

Wonderful stuff… I may go out and buy myself a James Bond T-shirt. I don’t, after all, want to be left out.  I watched the Iraq Inquiry this afternoon, as it happens. Ex-Chief Spook, Sir John Scarlett,  looked very much the part, I thought…..  for a Bond movie… close cropped bald head, piercing eyes, clipped voice, precise diction, measured tone… a superb Bond villain… I may have had too many pain killers.

***

Editor: Post edited 6.00 with picture to sex it up.

.

A bit of Tuesday Tat….

Following on from my ‘Fuckerflies’ series, as Christmas approaches and no-one can be bothered to answer their phones or are ‘ in a meeting’ (and it can only get worse as the Christmas party season gets under way), I am occupying part of my time each day by painting.  Charonaletto has many spray cans and enough paint and canvas to flood the art market with tat.  There is only one flaw to this ‘plan’.  I give the paintings away… but I do offer the recipients an option where I throw the painting away for them and save them the trouble.

Here is my latest series: ‘Erudite Elephant 1’

The Elephant is at the start of a Nietzschean journey, which may turn out better than he thinks.  He first meets the Monkey – an avid reader of The Sun. The Monkey asks the Elephant what his thougt for the day is. The Elephant has two:  “The cautious seldom err’ and “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop’. (Confucius). The Elephant, being a pedant and a grammar nazi, corrects the Monkey’s English… and so the journey begins.

A larger version of the picture is here

Blawg Review #241: Colin Samuels of Infamy of Praise

Colin Samuels is a good friend and occasional co-blogger.  Colin has also won four of the last four annual Blawg Review awards and he may well be on course to win again with his latest Blawg Review #241 themed on President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech following Pearl Harbour.

Blawg Review #241 is erudite, beautifully written and structured and full of useful links to bloggers commenting on the issues of our times in the past week. Excellent. A must read – it is fairly long, but you can take it in stages.

Tax and taxing times ahead…

David Cameron states that Lord Ashcroft’s tax affairs are nothing to do with him and are a matter for Lord Ashcroft and HM Revenue and Customs. The Independent notes: “The Tory leader insisted that Lord Ashcroft’s tax affairs are a private matter. But a different rule is now applied by Mr Cameron to Conservative MPs and parliamentary candidates. Anyone who wants a Tory seat in the House of Commons has to be a UK taxpayer, Mr Cameron said.”

Only last week, David Cameron faced  embarrassment when it was revealed that prospective parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith was a non-dom for tax purposes – a state of affairs now reversed and backdated for the year. The Independent continues: “The House of Lords Appointments Commission says that it does not know whether Lord Ashcroft is UK resident. The Cabinet Office and HM Customs and Revenue have declined to answer questions about his status, on grounds of privacy. Last week, the Conservative Party chairman, Eric Pickles, suggested that Lord Ashcroft is prepared to break his silence on the issue, and would be “happy” to be interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss his tax status.”

Clear unequivocal and very public statements. It would be a rather curious state of affairs when a British peer who happens also to be Deputy Chairman of the Conservatives had tax irregularities?  If it transpires that Lord Ashcroft is not paying UK taxes it would be a rather curious state of affairs if he was allowed to retain a position of influence and power at Tory HQ?

A wonderful story in the Times this morning: Dubai World’s founding document shows UK banks were wrong to think emirate would guarantee loans

British banks, which could lose billions of dollars after lending money to Dubai World, were under the false impression that the debt would be guaranteed by the Dubai Government when they made the loans. The Times has obtained a copy of the law that created Dubai World and it clearly states that the Gulf emirate will not back the state-owned company’s debts. It would appear that the Banks may have relied on the ‘honour concept’ under which much business is done in the Gulf. Unfortunately, the wording in the document is coming back to haunt all those clever bankers who, apparently, may not even have had the time to read the document so keen were they to rush in and lend. I agree with one of the commenters on the Times website – I  think we should give the bankers  another bonus. It beggars belief… as I was rather hoping I would be able to say this morning.

And finally – bad news for rich people and the middle classes

The Independent says that times are hard and everyone’s disposable income is going down. I’m going to spend a bit of time looking into how the International Monetary Fund works…. may as well get ahead of the game.

Fortunately, I have not made it onto the front page of Vogue – the pic comes from my brief appearance as ‘Judge Charon’ on GUYNEWS’ at the weekend – I shall now have to come up with some other new ideas to keep myself occupied and amused over the long Christmas Season as Britain shuts down for the annual binge drinking, binge eating and mammon fest.

Postcard from Blenheim Palace: Operation De-Toff

Dear Reader,

I write to you this week, not from behind the barricades waving a red flag,  but from outside Blenheim Palace –  the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. David Cameron has decided that he must de-toff the Tories (suggesting that new prospective candidates like Nunziata Rees-Mogg cut their double barrelled names down to one name, because the party already has rather a lot of people with two or more surnames. The Sunday Mirror reports, with some delight (and just a hint of schadenfreude) that Cameron was ‘star turn’ at a ‘glitzy bash’ at Blenheim Palace where £1,000,000 was raised for Tory coffers.

Meanwhile, Tofftastic is complaining that Gordon Brown, who enjoyed a resurgent performance at PMQs this week, is demeaning the political process by fighting the election on ‘class war’ lines.  The Tories have long feared revolting peasants.  Frankly, I couldn’t give a damn where people went to school or where they come from.  This is why I am a ‘socialist’ – which does mean giving undying allegiance to the Labour party when they make a pig’s ear of things – which they have done, royally, on civil liberties and the war on terror. The jury (or at least my jury) is still out on the economy.Vince Cable seems to be making sense though.

And talking of Pig’s ears – or, as Guido Fawkes  would have it ‘Troughers’. Guido Fawkes signalled the story earlier in the week (on twitter, if I recall) which appeared in The Sunday Times today.  Lord Taylor of Warwick is having his original ‘lies’ re-examined by the police.  The Sunday Times notes… ” A TORY peer has been caught using someone else’s home address to claim tens of thousands of pounds in expenses. Lord Taylor of Warwick, a 57-year-old former barrister, told the House of Lords that his main home was a terrace house in Oxford which he neither owned nor lived in.” I suspect this will be another file for the CPS to examine ‘in the public interest’. Ridiculous.

Snakeoil, Douchebags and the social media guru

There is much talk among lawyers on Twitter, particularly among well known US bloggers, about social media gurus, mavens etc.  Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice often points out the absurdity of lawyers who have never practised telling practising US lawyers how to blog or use Twitter to advantage. Kevin O’Keefe, who does know how to use blogs and twitter and how both can be of some value to lawyers or law firms has an article this week on ‘snakeoil’.  Law firms should beware social media snake oil

I looked up social media maven on Google and came up with this – a  script that converts every instance of the word ‘maven’ and ‘expert’ into the word ‘douchebag’. Good effort! It certainly makes reading those websites a lot more entertaining. Try it.

***

Chef cooks rat risotto on I’m a Celebrity: I have no interest in this programme but my attention was caught by an item in today’s edition of news of The World (I always like to see if anyone I know or know of is in it).  Apparently some ex-burglar who is now a celebrity chef was nicked by Australian RSPCA inspectors for catching a rat and cooking it for the contestants.  the RSPCA inspectors want to know if the the rat was alive when it was beheaded.   Apparently the chef was convicted of burglary for stealing £4000 worth of guitars from Paul Young’s home.  This could be viewed as a valuable social service by some, but not, of course, by the beaks and he went down.

The I’m a celebrity get me out of here show is a rather unpleasant bit of TV.  I can see why people might want to torture some of the weird people who appear on TV but I don’t see why real animals, insects and the like should be subjected to it…. but there we are…. I prefer to watch wildlife programmes like Life and natural World. It would, I suppose, be inelegant to suggest that people who do take pleasure at seeing animals abused and celebrities ridiculed are morons or worse, vulgarians?

HM The Queen cracks down on Paparazzi

When I saw this story I didn’t read the headline carefully enough and thought that The Queen was having a go at Pope Ratzinger and his attempts to throw some of our Anglican christians to his Catholic lions because of the furore over gay and lesbian Bishops. I can’t quite see what the problem is with the mumbo jumbo brigade worrying about the sexuality of their employees.  But there again, as an atheist, I can’t really see what ‘they’ see anyway.

Back to The Queen. I have some sympathy with her crackdown.  The Royals do have to put up with a lot of public exposure – some of it formal, ceremonial…. but the really good stuff is scurrilous.  Some of the Royals do rather invite the attention of the world’s media.  The Queen doesn’t. The Queen wants to be left alone at Christmas to enjoy Sandringham without photographers with telefoto lenses intruding. It would, I suppose, be inelegant to suggest that instead of trying to stop paparazzi she has a word with the Home Secretary to see if it would be possible to get a few temporary ‘Control Orders’ on some of the more wayward Royals and have them tagged for Christmas? That would ensure they don’t do anything worthy of photographing? I like to look at alternative strategies these days.  Maybe I’ll even get a late letter from the Palace?

***

Help us to sneak up on the Americans and eat their cake: Vote for Charon, Geeklawyer and BabyBarista in the ABA Journal Top 100 Blawgs

I’m afraid that we have to resort to hopelessly shameless tactics if we are to prevail.  The Brit 3 are hopelessly outnumbered. Think of The Alamo – think of the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift – think of Custer’s Last Stand and think BRIT!  Please vote for Charon and Geeklawyer in the IMHO (In my humble opinion) section and Babybarista in the Lighter Fare section.  You will be helping your country and if it isn’t your country… you will be helping US! (as in the Brit3). Fortunately, Babybarista is just as shameless as Geeklawyer.   He also has the benefit of his babybarista column in the Times. (Cunning!) There is, of course,no truth in the proposition that the ABA Journal is trying to engineer the results – BUT WE ARE… with your help.  As with the MPs, you must do this ‘within the rules’…. so no flipping votes twice..no quackery…. but you may vote for all three of us. FREE THE BRIT3….Thank you.

Well… that is all for this weekend… I shall be covering some quite serious law stories this week and may be doing a podcast with the President of The Law Society for The Gazette if he is free to do one.  After next Friday, I shall be blogging, painting, sculpting and drinking… there won’t be a lot of law… this may well improve things for the reader?

Do have a look at at the Guidogram below if you have time – apart from seeing me… I do, seriously, encourage you to read the Guido Fawkes blog if you don’t already. The commenters often have ‘insights’ of their own!

Have a good week

Best, as always

Charon

Charon on GUYNews commenting on MP expenses

I have been reading Guido Fawkes’ blog for quite a few years now – the commenters providing as much entertainment, often, as the posts themselves.  Now Guido has started his own NEWS station with Emily NoMates and Tory Bear reporting. This week GUYNews introduces a new weather girl and Judge Charon QC ‘The most expert judge in the World’ sits in a plush upmarket  bar discussing dishonesty and MP expenses with Emily NoMates. Thoroughly enjoyed nipping orf to London to do this.  Perhaps another reason why I shouldn’t be allowed out without a ‘keeper’.

Watch the short film?

Rive Gauche: Homo Plodiens and Homo Jobsworthsiens edition

I tend to go along with those who subscribe to the ‘cock up’ theory of life rather than those who go for the ‘conspiracy theory’ when it comes to many aspects of Police and Officialdom f**kpiggery – simply because the British Isles is home to Homo Jobsworthiens, a bipedal human with a unique ability to apply rules with astonishing stupidity. The United Kingdom is crawling with Jobsworths.  Give a man or a woman a yellow jacket and they turn into puffed up, self-important, masters  of f**kpiggery immediately.  I have, on many occasions, seen examples of state sanctioned f**kpiggery being committed by Police Community Support officers who tackled me – repeatedly –  some time back about a hedge, requiring me to cut it back in case a criminal would find it a convenient place to hide behind.

Left, is a Picture of Parliament; albeit not a very good one. The interesting thing to note is that this picture was not captured by the Police from some hapless tourist, but comes from the official Houses of Parliament website.  On the right, is another picture of Parliament.  That also comes from The Houses of Parliament website.  In fact there are enough pictures of Parliament (exterior and interior shots) on the official Parliament website (in the online tour section)  to make any self  respecting, donut eating,  PCSO hyperventilate. There is  even a video tour!

Presumably a potential terrorist would know about the ‘internets’ and could, in fact search Google and get all manner of photographs of buildings in London?  I find Google Street map most useful when trying to locate a particular address in London and discovered that there are helpful aerial photographs and street view photographs of many of the places in London (and elsewhere) that I want to go.

This, however, does not deter Homo Jobsworthiens or his cousin… Homo Plodiens.

The Independent has a wonderful story today…

Photographers snap over use of Section 44 by police officers

The Independent reports: “Politicians, civil liberties groups and police bodies yesterday added their voices to fears that police officers are abusing anti-terror legislation to stop and question photographers taking pictures of famous landmarks. Yesterday, The Independent highlighted the concern that police forces across the country are misusing the Section 44 legislation granted to them under the Terrorism Act, which allows them to stop anyone they want in a pre-designated area, without the need for suspicions of an offence having been committed. But photographers have complained that they are regularly stopped while taking pictures and are treated like terrorists on reconnaissance missions. This is despite the act giving officers no power to seize cameras or demand the deletion of photographs.

Astonishingly: “The Metropolitan Police use Section 44 legislation far more than any other police force in England and Wales. In the first quarter of this financial year the Met, along with British Transport Police, were responsible for 96 per cent of the Section 44 stop-and-searches in the country.”

BUT: “Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said the force would cut back on its use of Section 44, except around sites which are obvious terror targets, such as the Houses of Parliament.” (Independent article)

There are so many examples of Jobsworths indulging in f**kpiggery that one could write a book about it – from local council officers, who imagine themselves to be Robocop, using RIPA powers to snoop on people’s bins, to Civil Enforcement Officers and PCSOs wandering about in their yellow jackets applying the law badly or, worse, incorrectly.  We need to get a grip on this ‘YellowJacket Peril’.

Moving on…. RollonFriday has an excellent story this week – “Lawyers at Linklaters kicked things off with a massive 5 page diatribe on the firm’s new staff canteen.”

Homo Jobsworthiens also suffers from having too much time on his or her hands.  I really do recommend that you read this ‘5 page diatribe’ about Silks, the newly revamped canteen for hungry lawyers at Linklaters.  It is a classic.  Clearly, the recession is far from over if these £500-£900 per hour lawyers have time to hyperventilate about their sandwiches!

I particularly liked the part in the ‘diatribe’ where the angst ridden sandwich fancier lawyer complained that they were no longer allowed to ‘make’ their own sandwiches by selecting bits to go into it and now had to order their sandwich online before 10.00 am.

Just think…. next time you go to Linklaters, you could be in a room with a sandwich fancier whose mind is distracted by not being able to ‘make’ his or her own sandwich anymore.

***

And the other ‘Law’ stories in the news today…

First up: The Times  – just a few months behind the curve on this one – brings up the continuing saga of BPP Law School raking in an ‘extra million’ by oversubscribing on their BVC Course. I am waiting for the BSB report on this to be published and shall be contacting the BSB again soon as it was due in December.  Frances Gibb does, however, make some very important points – particularly in relation to the fact that some students were ‘de-enrolled’ from the course until 24 of them complained to the BSB.  Shoddy stuff, I’m afraid – so it will be good to get clarification on the truth behind this story, rather than terse press releases from BPP,  when the BSB report is published. It is  possible, of course, that this oversubscription of students by BPP Law School was just a silly ‘cock-up’ and not a ‘conspiracy’.  All will be revealed when the BSB report is published?

Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law – a man not known for his reticence –  also comments on the SEC investigation into BPP’s parent company Apollo with this ‘GUTTED – sick as a parrot’ metaphor –  “The issue here is one of regulation. Is it right that a foreign person can’t buy a football club without being a “fit and proper person” yet can buy a British law school with degree-awarding powers?” (Times story in full)

The Times notes that The BSB costs of £55,000 for the investigation into BPP will have to be paid by BPP and that BPP has had to hire more lecturers – who will presumably be fired at the end of this year since they won’t, presumably, be needed because BPP Law School will not, presumably, be oversubscribing again. The Times notes…”However, the fee income from the extra students is estimated at £700,000 to £900,000. A full report is to be published by the board shortly.”

So… not a bad return on an extra cost of…say… £100 grand in all?  He who laughs last, laughs loudest?

Rather bizarrely, in the same edition of The Times, Frances Gibb then puts in a very short story about the the fact that BPP is now the fashionable place to study!  The article lacks the usual in-depth precision Frances Gibb brings to stories – so I am a bit baffled as to the purpose behind the article. I understand that Frances Gibb does have a good sense of humour…maybe she just fancied giving us a laugh? Who knows?

Ambulance chasing has gone digital!

And finally…. a wonderful sign of the times we live in.. The Times has a great story about a law firm in Manchester developing an application for your iPhone!

Next time you prang your car, do not be surprised if the driver or cyclist you have unfortunately hit takes out an iPhone and starts taking pictures of the scene.

It appears ambulance chasing has gone digital after Bott & Company, a law firm in Manchester that specialises in personal injury claims, has developed an application for the iPhone that prompts people involved in an accident to record insurance and witness details, take multiple photographs, store GPS information and click through to a dedicated hotline to lodge a claim.

The solicitors believe it is the first time such an application has been launched. It is a free download and walks the user through what they should do if they are involved in an accident.

Have a good weekend…

A surreal and enjoyable day…

I don’t take much time off and my last holiday was just over five years ago, so I don’t feel any angst at all at having done absolutely no real work today.  I went up to London this morning to film a short piece for Guido Fawkes’ GUYNews.  I met ‘Emily Nomates’ who appears in the weekly TV prog on Guido’s blog along with ToryBear.  I did a bizarre piece about MP expenses… strictly ham on rye – but fun.  If they use the piece, I shall put up a link to it. I even got to wear a wig and gown… even more surreal with a black polo shirt!

For the train journey back, I purchased the latest private Eye.  There is an excellent story in it under the News from the Officer’s Mess section written by ‘SquareBasher’.

Briefly – we appear to have 1000 + officers in our armed services than we actually need. Recent figures reveal that the Army has ’90 more generals, lieutenant-generals, major-generals, brigadiers and colonels than required…. Things are no better at sea where the Royal Navy has a surfeit of 80 admirals, vice-admirals, rear-admirals …considering the navy’s grand total of 88 commissioned ships in service, this top-heavy brass superstructure could lead to an imminent capsize….. Meanwhile in the air – or rather on the gound behind various desks – the RAF is supporting a splendid 160 air marshals, air vice-marshals etc etc etc…”

What are they all doing… they are certainly not all operational on the front line…surely?  I can’t imagine that tanks are being commanded by Brigadiers and the usual rank for command of a destroyer or frigate is, i believe,  commander or captain. Curious.

Private Eye notes that the number of experienced and seasoned NCOs, ‘long regarded as the traditional backbone of the British Army’  continues to dwindle.

I shall return to writing about Law and ‘the law’ tomorrow.

Putin the Boot In….

I am pleased to report that Geeklawyer and I have a cunning plan to WIN the IMHO category for the ABA Journal Top 100 Blogs. I don’t, as it happens, mind if I win or lose – I am delighted to be a nominee.  BUT… we lost America all those years ago because of King George III and now we have a chance to recover some dignity for British blogging.  Geeklawyer and I are massively outnumbered by American bloggers and their readers.  I now know how Michael Caine felt when he won the Battle of Rorke’s Drift against the Zulus all those years ago….

The Ruskis have declared for us. It is quite possible that China may also declare for us. I am going to get in my yacht, sail into Iranian waters and see if President I’madinnerjacket is amenable to enriching our chances with a bit of nuclear voting.  I have devised a CAMPAIGN poster – which modesty and taste requires that I do not display on the page.

You may, however, click here to view our first campaign poster.

Remember – we are saying to you… “Ask not what Charon and Geeklawyer can do for you… but what you can do for Charon and Geeklawyer”. You can vote for us BOTH in the ABA Journal Top 100 Blogs.. you will be voting for Britain, to avenge losing America all those days ago when George III was on the throne….

You may Vote here… and don’t be fooled by Randazza and his “Satyriconistas” and their threat to kill kittens if he doesn’t win.

VOTE FOR the CHARON/GEEKLAWYER ticket..VOTE BOTH.

***

I thought this Tweet would summarise our Manifesto….

We do accept that this is shameless behaviour on our part to get votes… but would you expect anything less?

F**kArt – a ‘Homage’ to BritArt by Charonaletto

While I can paint, after a fashion, I was told many years ago, by my Warden (They called the Headmaster a Warden) at the detention centre in Scotland where I was consigned on the Perthshire Archipelago,   that there was no money in art. He was wrong about that.  Damien Hirst has been taking the piss for years, relieving rich lawyers, bankers and magnates, industrial and advertising, of their money… in substantial amounts… and good on him!

As a ‘homage’ to BritArt and inspired by @infobunny and her recent paintings, I decided to amuse myself last night and late this afternoon. The works reveal absolutely no subtlety of colour, tone, design or, indeed, talent.  This is as it should be in ‘The FuckArt’ School’ which I founded late last night after dipping into a second bottle of the Bourbon King’s finest Rioja.  Typical of the Fuckart school is the use of spray paint used for repairing scratches on motorcars.  Charonaletto is the leading proponent of the ‘let’s get completely pissed and paint’ technique and he told the director of a Gallery in Chelsea (who has expressed interest in these two seminal works) “Vandals and Goths brought Rome down.  I’d like to have a crack at a bit of that as well and spray cans of paint as a base seemed an appropriate metaphor.”

There are two works in the ‘Fuckerflies” series

Fuckerflies I (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 1 December 2009
In the Collection of @infobunny (Click here for an enlarged view)

Fuckerflies II – ‘Dogging‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 2 December 2009
In the Collection of @Sianz (Click here for an enlarged view)

Fuckerflies III (I shall be getting pissed again soon)  can be customised with diamonds at the request of the purchaser

The Final painting in the Fuckerflies series

Fuckerflies III – ‘You do not mess with these guys‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 3 December 2009
In the collection of @colinsamuels (Click here for an enlarged view)


The Billion Dollar Bonus

The Billion Dollar Bonus

By Tonto Papadopoulos

Exactly what has all this financial “talent” from The City done in 2009 to deserve such vast rewards?

First there’s another question of elephantine proportions sitting on our chests, and it’s not if City and Wall Street bonuses are merited or not, it’s why did they spiral so high in the first place?

A decade or so ago, 50 out of a total of 50,000 City workers received bonuses above £1,000,000. Today 4,000 ‘workers’ will be handed over £1,000,000, many well over this figure.

Apparently we now have at least 4,000 geniuses working in London, which makes me feel I’m in great company.

OK, I used the term ‘workers’ cautiously, because a few of these guys actually did do some work, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The most telling and interesting comparison between back then and now is that large bonuses were once the preserve of only the most exclusive houses of the time: Salomon, Goldman, and the Morgans. Even within these firms extraordinary bonuses were only awarded under extraordinary profit scenarios, and only to a select few who were directly instrumental in creating those extraordinary profits. The operative word here being, extraordinary.

Of course these days everybody’s a special breed of cat, everybody is part of the select few, and when you have virtually free money through stupidly low interest rates year after year, well, every day is pretty much a windfall.

Irritatingly – really irritatingly – now every financial institution is claiming to possess the aura of excellence reserved for the capstone of the industry pyramid.

You say, “Hang on, you can’t all squeeze on to the pinnacle”, and the banks retort,

“Like hell we can’t! We pay Big Bonuses!,

“I see… so it’s a bit like all the contestants winning the same X-Factor show?”,

“That’s exactly right. We’re all extraordinary. I could explain, but you wouldn’t understand”.

What we have here is a ridiculous game of one-upmanship, as second- and third-tier institutions scramble to redefine themselves by aping their betters, just as Victorian arrivists sought to emulate the aristocracy with fake Elizabethan beams on their terraced houses.

If we weren’t all footing the bill for this extravagant aspirational therapy with our bailout money, the saga might be amusing. In a really pathetic way.

However, in all honesty, some of the bonuses are well deserved this year. In fact some of the players don’t just deserve bonuses, they deserve a friggin’ Nobel Prize. In fact I’m writing to the Nobel Prize Committee, right now.

An Open Letter to the Nobel Prize Committee from Tonto Papadopoulos

Sirs,

I’m astounded. A grave error has been committed this year in awarding the Physics Prize to Charles K. Kao, “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication”, and to Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith for, “… the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”. As enlightening as these achievements are I believe they pale to insignificance by comparison to developments in the financial arena.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics should be awarded collectively to the merry band of brothers has taken us far beyond the frontiers of weird science. With sweat and toil they have defied gravity and lifted world stock markets by more 60% from their lows this year.  They have reversed the Laws of Physics.

Your Prize should have gone to the Brokers. Yes, right down at the lower end of the City food chain. Why ordinary little Brokers and not the ‘rock star’ fund managers? After all it was their unrelenting buying spree that pushed up the market this year, was it not? Well, yes and no. I know these guys are amazing, but they didn’t do much of the work (that’s what makes them so amazing!).

It helps to remember the two distinct sectors, or roles, in to which the financial industry is divided: the Buy Side and the Sell Side. I don’t mean, bids and offers, I mean those people who manage funds, the Buy Side, as opposed to those who broker and advise on transaction and investment flows and execute the trades, the Sell Side.

When the Buy Side panics and loses its bladder, as it did in the big sell-off a year ago, money managers turn into the startled Bambi caught in a car’s headlights. They freeze in their tracks. They do nothing, and you could hear the sound of a P-45 drop on Threadneedle Street. That’s when the whips start cracking in the brokerage office, that’s when the manager starts running up and down the desks throwing staplers at people heads screaming things like,“Smile & dial, bitches! If you can’t write tickets I got a hundred guys younger, more aggressive, and better-looking than you who want your job. Hit the phones, NOW! Or your ass is grass and I’m a f***ing lawnmower!”, and offering other inspiring calls to excellence.

The brokers not only got Bambi moving again, they have her charging head down towards the oncoming vehicle at full gallop. And that is one heck of a difficult task, probably much harder than splitting muons. Respect!

Yours most sincere and humble admirer,

Tonto P., xox

But guess what, for all their hard work, the brokers aren’t the guys and gals getting a lion’s share of the bonus pie.

The people getting the fat checks this Christmas will be the Buy-side Bambis who were coaxed back into the market thanks to the sheer dint of effort by their lowly brokers. The same Buy-side Bambis who failed to notice the 172-font-size neon sign flashing on the wall from the beginning of serious subprime defaults in early 2007 all the way up to the day Lehman imploded.

Yes, Respect, and many thanks, brokers, but sorry, not that much cash to give you chaps. Unless, like investment banks, you’re not just a pure intermediary but also heavily involved in leveraging and managing the firm’s own capital then you simply cannot afford or self-justify paying out millions. No, the big money goes to the position runners who receive wedges of the profits from the funds they run. When ‘performance’ is up 60% because of such low valuations at the beginning of the year – well, you do the maths.

Most of these Buy-siders, with hardly any exception, are exactly the same people who loaded their portfolios with toxic waste year after year. These are the same people who collapsed the system. More cheap money and hardly any recriminations have allowed the party to resume in full swing with all the same dancers. Central banks and policy makers have turned the music up, and now we can complain about the racket all we like, but the party is still in full swing.

Never mind all the noise, the whole point is this: if you have savings or money to manage you have to be asking yourself one ultimate question –  Do you think it’s smart to buy stock in financial institutions that gratuitously spend crazy sums on remuneration, often signed off by the very people receiving those bonuses?

I’ll say that again in Italic. Do you think it’s smart to buy stock in financial institutions that gratuitously spend crazy sums on remuneration, often signed off by the very people receiving those bonuses?

“Well do ya’… punk?”

Two important principles of law

The High Court handed down an important judgment yesterday and a further reminder to the government that it must act within the law.

The Guardian reports:

Two men suspected of terrorism-related activities won a landmark high court battle today when judges ruled a person could not be denied bail solely on the basis of secret evidence.

Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Owen, said bail applications should be treated the same as control order cases, where terror suspects must be given sufficient material to enable them to answer effectively the case made against them.

The ruling, which could have wider implications for the use of secret evidence, was described as a “historic” victory by the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce. The home secretary, Alan Johnson, said he was “surprised and disappointed”.

The two judges said it was “impossible” to conclude “that in bail cases a less stringent procedural standard is required [than in control order cases]”.

The court also rejected the claim that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which deals with terror suspect cases, are immune from judicial review.

Lord Justice Laws said judicial review was “a principal engine of the rule of law”.

The government seems unwilling to deal with a basic principle of our law and the right to a fair trial.  It is not so much the decision of the High Court that is ‘disappointing’ it is the approach taken by the Home Office which is ‘disappointing.’

The Guardian notes: “Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said it had taken a senior judge “to point out what most people already know – if the government is going to lock you up, it needs to tell you why”.

Mr Justice Eady comes under fire.

The Guardian reports: “In a rare public speech, Mr Justice David Eady – who was accused last year of “moral and social nihilism” and “arrogance” by the Daily Mail, said there was an increasing tendency for judges to become the target of anger from the media. “The media have nowhere to vent their frustrations other than through personal abuse of the particular judge who happens to have made the decision,” Eady said. “It has become fashionable to label judges not as independent but rather as ‘unaccountable’, and as hostile to freedom of speech.”

Mr Justice Eady may well be out of step with current thinking on libel tourism and the developing law of privacy but I do agree that members of the judiciary should not be subject to vulgar abuse or uninformed ranting, whether by newspapers of others. The Daily Mail has been banging on about Mr Justice Eady for some time.  I don’t, personally, feel that Mr D’Acre’ s more severe statements are particularly helpful but, of course, we must defend his right and freedom to make them – even if we then solemnly go on and ignore his views in favour of deeper analysis elsewhere.

However, that being said – I can see absolutely no reason why judicial decisions should not be subject to very close inspection and analysis and, indeed, this seems to be very much the official view these days with the Supreme Court preparing summaries for the Press so that important judgments are clearly explained.  Academic and practitioners for many years have analysed decisions with great care in the press, in leading journals and in texts and, no doubt, this very fact raises the bar for the judiciary as much as it helpful in explaining and developing our common law.

Not surprisingly, given my own leanings, I agree with Mark Stephens.  The Guardian notes: “In the face of Max Mosley, all the newspapers lost their bottle and settled everything because they recognised that there was a change in law,” said Mark Stephens, a media lawyer. Eady’s comments today, at a conference by the human rights organisation Justice and legal publishers Sweet and Maxwell, are his first since last year’s criticisms.He is described by friends as “profoundly hurt” by the attacks. His remarks come amid claims by media lawyers that the court system for dealing with cases of privacy and libel needs reform.

“The problem is that the common law is meant to be a commonality of judicial voices,” said Stephens. “There is a system flaw in that we have historically concentrated libel and now privacy law into the hands of only a handful of judges – because of the dearth of cases that has meant we have effectively had Eady doing them full-time.”

Let’s hope that Jack Straw’s review of libel law actually leads to a change in the law and the current law on libel (and privacy?) is put on a rather more equable, balanced, reasoned and fair footing.