Diane Abbott… good politician.
Diane Abbott… good politician.
An attachment? For me? How kind…
By Stuart of MultiTask Computing
The first Word macro virus was released into the wild 20 years ago. In 2000, the ILoveYou (or LoveLetter) virus, one of the most damaging of its time, spread like wildfire, using social engineering as a vector.
So why, after all this time do viruses still arrive in your inbox, hidden in attachments, ready to do harm to your system? Why are the criminals still using the same methods as they were at the turn of the century?
Because they work. Curiosity didn’t just kill the cat, it also encrypted all your files, stole your bank details, and hacked into your social media.
Over and over, employees and the public are warned to be wary of unsolicited attachments. Yet, day after day, millions of these emails are sent out, because someone will *always* open them.
Don’t be that someone.
Spam filters are by their very nature, reactive. They can only work based on a set of algorithms derived from historic emails. So, if it’s a new pattern that doesn’t match the algorithm it finds its way into your inbox.
Only one filtering system remains at that point – you.
Well…they certainly are more direct, the Judiciary, across The Pond.
8 Habits of Highly Defective Contracts
Steven Covey’s 7 Habits are principles to help you become highly effective. His book became a classic of personal and business development. But I realised the astonishing parallels with my specialist area of law – contracts.
In brief, the first six of Steven Covey’s habits can be summarised as “make and keep a promise” and “involve others and work out a solution together”. If only …
My experience is that most businesses fall into the 8 habits of highly defective contracts. They make promises they don’t intend to keep, and they don’t solve their problems with their clients but through lawyers. The response from Talk Talk to its hacking scandal and the Adidas/IAAF dispute over sponsorship deal amply demonstrate our highly defective approach to contracts.
Of course, if you want to create effective contracts, you just have to do the opposite of these habits:
1. Use Contracts Lazily
As a contract is a tool to help you do business, why do most businesses get embarrassed about their contracts and treat them like a hurdle to be overcome? Why copy them from the internet, or hide them in a drawer? Effective contracts help you sell your business, your products/services, your skills, and your passion to those who need them.
Tip: Be proactive with your contracts and create contracts that work for your business.
2. Begin with a Bad End in Mind
Many terms in defective contracts focus solely on what will happen when things go wrong – how disputes will be resolved, complaints handled, liability limited, or risks insured. Of course your business needs protection, but the best protection is to begin by knowing what a successful project looks like. Unclear expectations about what success looks like will result in disputes.
Tip: Use your contract to define what a successful ‘end’ looks like for you and your client.
3. Put First Things Last
Defective contracts focus 80% of their content on the minutiae of transactions – definitions, addresses, notices and so on – rather than spending 80% of their content on the important things. What your client really wants to know is what you are doing, why, how, when and for how much money. If your client can’t read your contact and understand it within seconds, then your focus is wrong.
Tip: Start your contract with the most important aspects for your client.
4. Think Win/Lose
For the last 150 years, the English courts have intervened in contracts to redress the balance when merchants started to take advantage of naïve consumers. Regrettably, this is still happening today. Defective contracts read like the instructions for winning a battle, not the map for a journey to be travelled together. But collaboration and trust is the key to successful contracting.
Tip: For each clause, decide if it builds trust or breaks trust. You should aim for 95% trust building.
5. Seek Misunderstanding
Too many contracts are excessively long and irredeemably complex. They are written by (or copied off) lawyers to be read by lawyers (or misread by non-lawyers). If your contract cannot be understood then it cannot be effective as no-one can carry it out. You need to see your contract through your client’s eyes.
Tip: Write your contract in plain language to avoid misunderstandings.
Defective contracts assume that there are ‘sides’ and each ‘side’ has to protect its own interests. Effective contracts combine the strengths of both sides to produce an even better result. They involve clients in deciding the solution to their own problem, rather than imposing your ideas.
Tip: Treat your contract as a partnership for a project and work as a team to achieve agreed aims.
7. Blunt the Saw
Defective contracts seek short-term profits at the expense of long-term relationships. They stoke mistrust, create conflict and are unsustainable. An effective contract grows with the partners and the project, encouraging them to share ideas and improve the project for both their benefit.
Tip: Focus on results not the methods as this provides room for improvement as you learn.
8. Shout About You
Those who enter into, seek and enforce contracts for their own selfish aims are not clients you should do business with. Their defective contracts do not help you, they merely help your ‘partner’. But contracts are, and should be, about inspiring and helping each other. What people say about you (your brand) depends not just on how you write your contract, but how you use it.
Tip: Treat your contract as a way to inspire or help someone else.
As the book says “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” That is why an effective contract is about trust, not terms.
Is it Time for Blame Free Divorce?
Divorce is usually an extremely difficult time for a family and having to attribute blame for the marriage falling apart can intensify, or even create, acrimony between a parting couple. Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP for South Norfolk, has put forward a Private Member’s Bill that proposes to introduce an additional “no fault” divorce option. The Bill has received widespread praise and is expected to have its second reading on Friday 11 March 2016.
Resolution, an organisation of legal professionals dedicated to non-confrontational family law, commented, “If MPs are serious about reducing family conflict and the trauma that can be caused by divorce, I would urge them to support the bill as a welcome step towards removing the requirement of fault from divorce… a civilised society deserves a civilised divorce process.”
Divorcing in the UK
The current options available to a separating couple can make it impossible to avoid blaming one another. The only “no blame” option for demonstrating “irretrievable breakdown” is non-cohabitation. However, in England and Wales a couple will need to live apart for two years to use this option. The situation is slightly better in Scotland as only one year’s non-cohabitation is necessary.
Having to wait one or two years to finalise a divorce may prove too long for a separating couple who want to gain closure, settle their finances and move on with their lives. This may prompt couples to opt for the one of the other options that require them to blame their spouse’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour for the divorce.
How Does Blame Hinder Collaborative Divorce?
When a couple separate, they often do so on good terms and would be able to work together in a harmonious fashion to settle matters, such as, who will live in the home they shared, what will happen to any debts or savings and what the living arrangements will be for their children.
However, the current system does not allow divorces to be wrapped up quickly. Separations are usually painful and emotional and over time a relationship can sour, making it impossible for former partners to work together in a constructive manner. This can increase the need for court involvement and can lead to expensive legal fees.
The relationship can be further damaged by having to delve into, and present evidence on, what the other partner did to contribute to the breakdown of a marriage. If this involves something as sensitive as adultery or unreasonable behaviour it could intensify the resentment each party feels. The spouse who is being blamed may feel that the failure of the marriage is not all their fault and might want to express how the other party was also responsible.
This can lead to arguments and ill feeling between a separating couple that can be very upsetting for any children who are involved.
It is clear that this unnecessary mudslinging can make a divorce even more difficult and can undermine any attempts to have a good natured and amicable separation. The time has come for a no fault divorce option.
This man comes across as a thoroughly unpleasant individual. And our American friends want him as their President?
As Sir Brucie might have said…”Didn’t he do well!”
Serious Brain Injury: Causes & Compensation
Serious mistakes that cause other people to suffer head injuries and brain damage are particularly tragic. Serious brain injuries often make living hard for the victim, as well as their family and friends. These injuries can significantly impact quality of life, leaving those injured unable to do basic tasks, and in some cases also causing drastic changes in personality and behaviour. Often, those who suffer serious brain injuries require permanent care from medical staff and support workers, as well as practical and mental support from their loved ones.
Although no amount of compensation can truly make up for the permanent and life-altering impact of serious brain injuries, the law is there to hold those responsible to account and award victims an amount of compensation to help them deal with the consequences.
Causes of Serious Brain Injuries – Recent High Profile Cases
Many serious brain injuries follow trauma to the head. Any trauma to the head poses the risk of significant and life-altering brain damage. Take, for example, an incident that took place a few months ago in Canada, where a 34-year-old had to undergo surgery to relieve pressure and remove some of his brain tissue after being punched, unprovoked, once in the head.
Closer to home, a man recently died of the head injuries he sustained 16 years ago in a road traffic accident in the UK. In 1999, a car accident caused by a lorry left him with permanent and serious brain injuries, including epilepsy and black outs. His catastrophic head injury meant he required full-time care for the rest of his life. In November 2015, he was taken to hospital after suffering a seizure and heart attack, where he died shortly after. The senior coroner concluded that the cause of death was road traffic collision, due to the bronchial pneumonia that resulted from the brain injury he had suffered over a decade and a half earlier.
Serious brain injuries can also be sustained before, during or just after birth. Unfortunately, this type of permanent brain damage commonly occurs where a medical professional has failed to meet the standard expected of them. For example, a failure to give a newly born boy the right treatment for jaundice at the right time left him with cerebral palsy and blindness. Another young boy was also the victim of mistakes by hospital staff. A failure to spot his low sugar levels two days after his birth caused him to suffer hypoglycaemic brain damage, resulting in epilepsy and learning difficulties. The family were recently awarded £6 million in compensation to pay for his life-long care.
Brain Injury Compensation
When someone suffers a serious brain injury with catastrophic and enduring impact, it is important to hold those responsible to account. Personal injury claims for head injuries and brain damage that result in grave and permanent physical disability, psychological conditions and mental illness, are treated very seriously and likely to result in an especially large compensation award. This is because these drastic and catastrophic brain injuries attract enormous sympathy – not just from society, but also from the law and the courts.
As the above examples show, serious brain injuries can occur in many different circumstances, but their impact is often significantly damaging to the quality of the lives of those who suffer them. While no amount of compensation can truly make up for the loss a serious brain injury will cause, it can at least, in a small way, help relieve some of the burdens victims and their families have shouldered as a result of another person’s negligence.
Contribution from Accident Claims Web, a useful personal injury law resource in the UK. Find out more about brain injury compensation claims here: http://www.accidentclaimsweb.co.uk/personal-injury/brain-injury-compensation or if claiming for head injuries in Scotland, visit https://www.unlockthelaw.co.uk/head-injuries.html
Marc John Randazza, JD, MAMC, LLM* |
This article has been removed by me pending further investigation into Mr Randazza
While this picture won’t add to the sum of human knowledge – it is quite good ‘Photoshoppery’… and amused me. I am easily amused, however.
See what happens when the lawyers price themselves out of the market? Good luck to the litigants in person.
And we may as well have this picture again…
The Law Society Gazette: A practitioner who ran up a £202,000 cash shortage in the client account has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Jeremy Humphrey Ashton Roberts, formerly sole practitioner and later principal at Cambridgeshire firm Bendall Roberts, admitted adopting a new system for handling client money from the mid-2000s to keep his firm’s overdraft below a £40,000 limit.
Roberts, who qualified in 1967, had tried to claim he was an ‘old-school’ solicitor who had failed to keep up with accounts rules and he denied he had acted dishonestly.
But the tribunal described this suggestion as ‘not credible’ and instead labelled Roberts’ conduct as ‘one of the most blatant and systematic instances of dishonesty which could be imagined’.
It added: ‘In repeatedly, over a long period of time, taking client money and using it without knowledge and consent of his clients/beneficiaries, [Roberts’] actions were clearly dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people.
‘His conduct in relation to the significant number of cases in which he was an executor would be regarded as particularly reprehensible by the public.’
The tribunal heard that Roberts admitted four charges, including failure to keep other people’s money separate to that of the firm, and failure to give or send a bill of costs to clients prior to requiring payment of fees.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s forensic investigation report found that as at 30 September 2011, a minimum cash shortage of £202,718 existed in the firm’s client bank account.
Analysis of four wills and probate cases followed, during which the SRA found 21 office-to-client transfers adding up to £85,338 from January 2011 to September 2011.
Roberts admitted during an interview that he did interim bills on his probate matters but did not send bills out until the end of the matter. If he thought that during the course of the matter he might have charged too much, he would do an office-to-client transfer.
He told the SRA that the system had not been picked up as a problem by his accountants and he thought he was doing nothing wrong.
The system, adopted in the mid-2000s, meant that Roberts had the use of clients’ money for a period of time.
The SRA did not accept Roberts’ assertion that all monies had been repaid, and the tribunal said that irrespective of this, clients and beneficiaries had been deprived of interest in capital sums.
The tribunal found the cash shortage arose because of the use of Roberts’ system, and even if there was an intention to repay the misused money, that was not material to whether or not the action was dishonest.
‘The requirement for solicitors to keep client and office money separate is probably one of the most fundamental obligations, understood by all solicitors,’ added the tribunal.
As well as being struck off, Roberts was ordered to pay £31,600 in costs.
And we may as well have this image to add to our history…
“Nigel Farage has said he made a “terrible mistake” in telling a newspaper that someone had sabotaged his car in what described by the newspaper as an “assassination” attempt.
The Ukip leader told the Mail on Sunday that police suspected foul play after a wheel on his Volvo fell off while he was driving on a motorway in France.
However French prosecutors have denied Farage was told someone deliberately tampered with the car.
“I made a terrible, terrible mistake. I should just have said ‘no comment’ and put the phone down. I took the view, as they were going to run it anyway, we would try and get it factually right.
“So I did give a few bits and bobs of information, that it appeared to have been tampered with. That then turns in a Sunday newspaper into an assassination attempt. I never said anything of the kind.
He added: “My view was whether it was deliberately tampered with or not what happened, happened. And I just want to get on with my life.”
And is Donald Trump tedious?
Frankly, I suspect that it would be no loss to anyone here if he did fark off out of Britain with his toys.
Parliament – we need you to do your duty. Ban him and deport him to France if sneaks in – he can irritate our friends in France for a while.
And I just HAD to include this tweet…
And then… this…
Mike is an interesting man. I have tweeted with him for a few years. The website is well worth looking at. – Mike Briercliffe is “right in the guts of Social Business – making it happen”. Currently ‘Chief Digital Bod’ and Social Business Architect with Next Dimension Media, Mike is also an IT and Communications guru with a 38+ year career and a decorated 50-year history behind a computer and is Hiscox’s monthly IT columnist.
Some years ago on Radio 4 I heard Krishna Das chanting to Hanuman, The Monkey God. I listen to this piece of music most days. It lifts the spirits.
Here is the recording…
And IDS doing what IDS does ‘best’. An unpleasant politician who, no doubt, thinks that he is saving Britain.
What Can Astronauts Teach Us About Delivering Legal Services?
Sarah Fox, 500 Words Ltd
Chris Hadfield’s “Guide to Life on Earth”, whilst a compelling view into the life of an astronaut, contains many lessons for those of us who are more earth-bound.
He splits his space travels into three distinct phases. These can be applied to legal services as well as extra-terrestrial activities. Whether you are acting on the sale of a business, a bitter employment dispute, registering intellectual property rights, or agreeing contracts for the construction of a bridge, the transaction can be split into these phases:
Chris Hadfield gives each phase equal importance. I suspect that’s not quite the way you see these phases of a client matter. Instead, your experience may consist of many hours of ‘churn’, process and admin, bookending by what you think of as ‘real legal work’.
From an astronaut’s perspective, the pre-launch phase ensures that lift-off is as risk-free as possible. Many hours of review, rehearsal, repetition and refinement guarantee that informed decisions can be made in a vital split second. With the pressure on fees, you rarely get the luxury of hours to prepare. But how many times have you attended court, or a client meeting, and realised a piece of paper, valuable information, or relevant people were missing, who could have made all the difference? Next time ‘sweat the small stuff’ – as he calls it – and the event will be more successful. Many years ago, following (unwarranted) murmurs of disapproval of my role as a junior on his beloved dispute, I went the extra mile before a hearing with an arbitrator. I planned, prepared, reviewed, and took summaries, maps and draft orders of every shade and hue. It turned potential disaster into a huge client success.
During lift-off, Chris recognises that even though it’s the astronauts in the rocket who get all the credit, going into space is a massive team effort. His recommends that everyone should try to help others and the project to succeed, not go for individual glory. Occasionally, legal teams can get hide-bound by status issues, doggedly pursue dead-ends, or fail to see the bigger picture. Your focus should be on achieving the best results for everyone involved. This produces better client satisfaction, and better work satisfaction too! Even as a progressed through the ranks of Eversheds, I never forgot that it was the paralegal working the copier or fax machine who helped us get the job completed and made sure they got credit too (not just the partners).
And just when you think your project is (basically) over, it is not the end. As Chris highlights, failing to return to earth safely can destroy years of evidence, data and experiments, as well as astronaut’s lives. How many times at the end of the matter, do you take your eye off the ball and create problems for the future? How about leases with pages missing? Maps incorrectly drawn? Wills misplaced? Agreements not signed by the authorised people or adequately witnessed? Keeping your focus until the very last task is properly finished can make all the difference to whether your project (or mission) is deemed a success – especially in the future. Many years ago as a paralegal, I was part of a team scheduling all the leases on all the UK sites for a huge retailer – it was incredibly rare that the paperwork was properly signed by all parties, dated, with the right map attached and put in the correct deeds packet. The client was not impressed!
Unlike an astronaut we rarely need to ask ‘what’s the next thing that could kill me?’ but we could spend more time thinking ‘what’s the next thing that could derail this matter?’ and plan for how we can avoid it. Taking an astronaut’s perspective on your next client matter or earth transaction could help you be more successful.
Sarah Fox, 500 Words Ltd
Speaker and Author of the 500-Word Contract™
6 January 2016
Conversation: Peacebuilding in the Middle East, with Dr. Elie Abouaoun
Michael Cavendish, American Trial Lawyer.
2015 was the year of the further disastrous turn in the Syrian civil war, and the year of the rise of the terror state ISIS. As 2016 begins, what are the prospects, amidst the air strikes, terror and counter-terror attempts, and city-by-city militia battles, for peacemaking in the terror-afflicted states of the Middle East and North Africa?
Dr. Elie Abouaoun is the Lebanon-based Director of Middle East Programs for the United States Institute of Peace. In this Conversation, exclusive to Charon QC, he offers us his insights into the strife and the solutions.
MC: Dr. Abouaoun, you are a professional human rights and peacebuilding practitioner serving with the United States Institute of Peace as the Director of Middle East Programs, and you are based in Beirut, Lebanon. How did you get started in human rights advocacy and peacebuilding in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa Region)?
EA: My interest in public issues started in my teen age as I was involved with the Lebanese Boy Scouts Movement. During my university training, I got involved as a volunteer with a French-based human rights group. I discovered a personal interest in this field, and started acquiring more knowledge, given that my original academic background was in Dental Surgery.
Things evolved quickly; I was called to be part of small projects and training workshops in Lebanon and the Euromed region.
In 2003, I was offered a job in southern Iraq in the aftermath of the US military operation that toppled Saddam Hussein. After several years working between Iraq, Jordan and Beirut, I was employed by the USIP, first on the Iraq program, and then in a regional capacity.
MC: Are there specific projects you are working on at the present that you can share with us?
EA: We are working on several projects in the Middle East. In line with its mandate, USIP implements projects aiming at building local capacities on conflict related issues, doing research to inform the US public policy on peacebuilding, as well as playing the role of a convener and facilitator between parties to conflicts. Most of USIP’s projects are done in partnership with local actors, whether governmental or non-governmental.
MC: You witnessed the political geography of the Middle East in the period before the 1990-91 Gulf War, and then you had the opportunity to study the same thing during what we might call the early post-U.S. period following the tail-end of the 2003-2011 Iraq War, and now you are witness to I think what could be labeled the Civil Wars years in both Iraq and Syria. How in your view have the prospects changed for the individual man, the individual woman, the isolated locality—your exemplar Syrian or Iraqi town—to find their way back to local life without local armed conflict?
EA: It is hard for the average citizen in the MENA region to think outside the framework of conflicts.
The level of violence in the last fifteen years, combined with decades of autocracy and/or theocracy, shaped the mindset of people in the region to an extent that they are not able to envisage their future in isolation from the current events.
What has changed though, is that the expectations of people are now “diluted” somehow. In the 1970’s and the 1980’s, the focus was on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on issues related to what the leftists in the region called “social justice.” The rise of the Islamic Jihadism in the 1990’s altered the political landscape and posed new challenges, or to be more accurate, highlighted the scope of the “Islamist” problem. In all these struggles, no significant win was achieved.
The Palestinians are still stateless, Palestinian refugees are all over the region, dictators were heavily supported by the West under the justification of “preserving stability and preventing Islamists from gaining power,” the economic disparities are larger than ever, the human rights records in the region is still very poor, et cetera.
The 2011 uprisings were interpreted by some as the jumping board to freedom, democracy and prosperity. But the failed transition in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt & Libya, added to the unprecedented level of brutality by both the Syrian regime and its opponents in Syria, have added to the dismay of people about the chances of success.
The only exception to this grim picture is the extremely fragile – though relatively successful- Tunisian model.
MC: In a white paper the USIP released of January of 2015 you gave two observations. One was that we are in the midst of the age of militarization—the age at which a male turns about 15 and can be thought of to take up arms—of those children of the Iraqis who fought in the Iraq War, starting in 2003. The second was that you have observed a higher tolerance of, perhaps emotionally a higher willingness to resort to violence, among roughly this same demographic of young men in Iraq, than you would have seen in that same cohort of age in 2003, or prior. Are you concerned that the repeated war events in the Gulf since 1990 are creating within Iraq and other areas influenced by Iraq a cultural imprint depicting war and low level armed conflict, shootings, bombings, as a part of a value system that is passed from father to son?
EA: Needless to say that violence did exist in the region pre-2003. As a matter of fact, many countries in the region have witnessed atrocious conflicts such as the Lebanese civil war, the Algerian civil war, the Inter-Kurdish war in Northern Iraq in the mid-1990s, as well as dozens of smaller scale but very violent conflicts (crushing the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama-Syria in the early 1980s, crushing the Shia uprising in the early 1990s…). This is not new.
However, many contextual elements have changed and these developments might need to be considered as red flags. One of these changes is the growing role and legitimacy of militarized non-state actors. Not only they are trained and equipped by regional and international actors, but these small to medium size armed groups have acquired a legitimacy that their predecessors did not necessarily enjoy.
For example, it is perfectly “normal” nowadays to endorse and facilitate the movement of Kurdish fighters from Iraq’s Kurdistan to go through Turkey and fight in Kobane. The same applies to Shia militants from Iraq and Lebanon fighting in Syria.
More recently, UAE has enrolled mercenaries from Latin America to support their units in Yemen. YPG units are seen as partners of the international community in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra is being marketed by some GCC countries as “legitimate” actor or “freedom fighters” in Syria, and there are many other examples highlighting the increased capacity and legitimacy of these non-state actors.
The presence of hundreds of distinct armed groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, et cetera, poses a serious challenge to the prospective stabilization efforts of these countries.
How can any Iraqi government deal with 60.000 to 100.000fighters who have been fighting for several years on their own, outside any legal or governmental framework?
Are we trying to imagine the scope of this problem once the conflicts tends to an end?
This same question applies to Syria, Yemen, Libya and some extent Lebanon. There are thousands of fighters who have been involved in military and criminal activities for several years, in addition to thousands of youngsters who are outside the education system because of displacement.
The impact of this reality on the future of the region is of particular relevance given the long prevailing social paradigms in the region that consider “violence” as a strength and virtue, rather than a vice.
All societies in the world went through this madness at some point in their history, but many of them have learned. It is unfortunate to realize that people in the region are still in the denial phase. For them, the problem is always imputed to “Foreign intervention”, “Colonialism”, Israel, Iran, Turkey, GCC, et cetera.
In a nutshell, it is always someone else’s’ responsibility but no one is admitting that the root of the problem lies in the people of the region themselves. They were unable to generate a good model for diversity management and have resorted instead to a blame game. This means that stabilization efforts should include a component of “social transformation” for the people in the region to start demonizing violence. Otherwise, we will be just jumping from one war to another.
MC: Can we or should we draw a contrast between the status of the young man surrounded by conflict in Iraq or Syria versus a peer of his surrounded by conflict in Lebanon? Is there a distinction to be made between working on post-conflict identities for the young man in a state where conflict is being summoned versus a young man in a state like Lebanon where the conflict is spilling in as an import?
EA: I don’t see major differences between countries where the conflict is ongoing compared to those
bearing the spillover of a given conflict. There are certainly minor context-related specifics, but with very little impact on the overall dynamics.
The prevailing reality in the region is one of weak national identities compared to the ethno-sectarian ones. This is a legacy of years of inappropriate political governance models imposed by the secular Colonial powers who just decided that “a national identity” can be imposed. The result is the chaos and violence we are seeing today. On another level, the justification of violence— the fear of being eliminated—is almost the same in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and other places.
A Sunni in Lebanon has the same fear as does a Sunni in Syria. The same applies to a Shia in Iraq and Shia in Lebanon. All of them accept a resort to violence under the pretext of “self-defense”.
MC: In another USIP white paper just released last month, the British politician David Miliband was credited with adopting the quote that as of today:
“the Muslim world is living through its own Reformation, Declaration of Independence, American civil war, and collapse of communism all at the same time.”
Within Syria I tend to think that view is hard to counter, but from your vantage point, is the majority of the MENA region experiencing such a disruptive level of conflict? What is the most apt analogy to history we can apply to the Middle Eastern Muslim populaces in terms of the conflicts of the past several years and what we can see around the bend?
EA: The level of violence is different from one country to another but the conflict depth and dynamics are the same. I am not sure there is one relevant historical analogy, but I would say that the peoples in the region are going through their own political transition after centuries of occupation, colonialism, monarchies and dictatorships.
What is different is that the actors leading this change appear to be as bloody and repressive as the previous regimes. Here comes the fact that the social paradigms—praising violence— are not helping the transition processes to generate an inclusive model of governance. In Iraq for example, those who came to power after Saddam used exactly the same approaches in government. But instead of having one dictator, we have seen many of them trying to split the cheese among themselves. Failing to work on the social level, the transition in the region will remain bloody and uncertain.
MC: The militia operating as the self-styled caliphate IS, some now call them DAESH, has carved out a fluid, temporary state comprised of one-third of western Iraq and one-third of eastern Syria.
And then, through terror killings and threats of further terror attacks, IS has seemed to intentionally provoke all three of the planet’s military super-powers—the U.S., Russia, and China—into agreeing on taking military action against them.
Have observers discerned a deeper belief held by a wide spectrum of the IS hierarchy that could explain what seems to be such an irrational, non-professional strategy from the very top of the IS hierarchy?
EA: That ISIS lacks a rational strategy does not need to be proven or justified. The “Islamic State” is not based on the Western State model and therefore comparing both models does not seem to me very relevant.
ISIS is not working to capture one specific country and transform it into an “Islamic State”. They are rather after a model that is a trans-national, inspired from the “Islamic Umma” model, where all Muslims in the world live under Islamic Charia, irrespective of borders and national identities.
MC: You had also indicated in a previous discussion that formal or traceable financial support to IS from neighboring states, particularly those states in the Gulf Cooperation Council organization, is not evident, yet there are suggestions that wealthy individual sympathizers living in those other Arab nations are intentionally directing financial support to IS through low-key channels such as religious charities.
In terms of popular politics in the region, profile for us the makeup of private interests that would be interested in seeing IS transform into a permanent state in its current physical footprint.
EA: The motivation of ISIS supporters are different.
Some of them see this organization as a Sunni defense line against Shias and Iran’s expansionism in the MENA without necessarily endorsing its precepts.
Others believe firmly in the “Islamic Umma” model and see ISIS as a continuation of previous similar initiatives (Wahhabism, Al-Tahreer party, et cetera) who called for one Islamic Umma.
When you look at the grass root constituency of ISIS, you can easily detect a majority of people who see ISIS as bad, but less harmful than a Shia hegemony over their countries. However, the longer ISIS controls an area, the higher risk we incur in seeing people accepting their political vision.
MC: The exodus of Syrian people out of Syria is the hottest news imaginable right now in America and much of Europe. But it is old and ongoing and ever-present news in Lebanon, and Turkey, and in some other nations that are near to Syria. Lebanon’s population has swelled with Syrian refugees such that one-fourth or one-fifth of those people currently residing in Lebanon are newly-arrived Syrians.
Just from a standpoint of culture and political culture what initiatives are needed from a peacebuilding standpoint to address the sheer cultural disruption of adding such a huge population of refugees fleeing a civil war climate?
EA: It is hard if not impossible to convince people in Lebanon, Jordan or the Kurdistan region in Iraq that this huge and disruptive (to their social cohesion) number of refugees compared to their population is going to stay and that they have to accept the fact.
There have been many calls by politicians, activists and relief organizations about the need to envisage a consistent “demographic burden sharing” policy. Unfortunately, very little has been done by the International community at this level. It is not about humanitarian solidarity.
On the contrary, the above-mentioned societies have shown a great sense of solidarity. It is just that this huge demographic burden is looked at from the “fear of elimination” lens, i.e. the possibility of seeing permanent or long term demographic changes occurring in these countries.
MC: Quite a bit of today’s strife in Iraq and some of the surrounding states is placed at the feet of the Sunni vs. Shia sectarian divide within contemporary Islam. I don’t think anyone discounts that in some localities this divide has devolved into active hate and violence, with reprisals back and forth. But if you are asked in terms of a state-level political future for Iraq, for Syria, or for Muslim Arab neighborhoods in other places, is the Sunni-Shia divide a scapegoat that is catching blame for other causes and motivations for conflict?
And is it safe to assume that—again apart from certain localities that the wars have ravaged the hardest—the average Iraqi and the average Syrian do not see Sunni-Shia differences as any kind of implacable obstacle to a lasting nationhood or a functioning state that can provide services and also protect the individual?
EA: The political affinities in the region have been built around ethno-sectarian identities since ever because of the chronic absence of diligent state structures and inclusive national identities.
Today’s conflict is indeed a Sunni-Shia one, but it is not primarily a religious conflict as much as a struggle of power between groups that identify themselves as “Shias” (without necessarily being themselves pious Shias from a religious standpoint) and “Sunnis”, the majority of whom are not necessarily following the “Sunna” in every single aspect of their life.
It is not a war between two religious institutions (the Najaf Shia religious pole and the Sunni Azhar in Egypt for example).
The conflict is between two socio-political groups, called Sunnis and Shias. I know Shias in both Iraq and Lebanon who know very little about Imam Ali and his teachings; yet they are proud to be fighting Sunnis. It is just that they were borne in a Shia family or tribe that they consider themselves as Shias. And they consider the “Wahhabism” a threat to their existence as a collectivity not as a religion.
The Sunni-Shia divide existed since the seventh century and took different forms, but it was always a political one more than a religious. The whole issue started as a war of succession to Prophet Mohammad after his death.
In the aftermath of the French withdrawal from Lebanon in 1943, Lebanese political actors discussed a “national pact” that regulated Lebanon political life until the war in 1975. During these discussions in 1943, the Sunni-Shia divide was an issue and one of the arrangements was to give the position of the Speaker of the Parliament to the Shias and the Prime Minister position to the Sunnis. But those who were discussing these arrangements were not religious actors. They were political leaders who had very little to do with the Islamic mode of living.
MC: The writer Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that life on this planet can be so hard at times, for anyone, that adults should issue all children with a standard book explaining where the ‘hard knocks’ that are waiting for them will come from and what are the strategies or the coping skills the adults that have survived those employed.
If we think about the youngest of the young demographic in the MENA region, children of age five and younger, equipping them with a workable plan to find a way out of a tribal conflict, a religious sectarian conflict, and then a citizen-vs-regime conflict that might be waiting for them and their demographic cohort, seems like a naïve idea but at the same time seems like an interesting idea. Because no other young population in recent history has been asked to—if we go back to David Miliband’s quote—extract themselves, all at once, from a sectarian reformation, a civil war, and a post-colonial or post-dictatorship revolution type of war.
Is there any sense from where you sit that the MENA state populations need an intervention of beneficial anti-conflict advice the likes of which the world has never authored, perhaps because it has never had to?
EA: What is absolutely necessary is to show people in the region, kids and adults, that there are alternatives to violence in dealing with conflicts, and that the cost of war is always higher than the cost of political compromises.
However, this approach does not really work in cases where the conflict is driven by the fear of being eliminated. This is why the international political and diplomatic efforts should be first focused on addressing this specific issue. In the meanwhile, other interventions work on conceptualizing and disseminating the benefits of the alternatives to violence. Both tracks need to be carried over in parallel.
MC: As we speak, the U.S., France, and Russia are running bomb raids across IS-held Syria. The U.K. has recently formally joined in the bombing runs. What effect on the IS territories in Syria do you think a sustained conventional bombing campaign—let’s say it continues for 12 months— will have?
EA: Sustained and multilateral military campaigns will certainly allow military gains on the ground. But with the present political disengagement of the West and increased militarization of non-state actors, I can hardly see how such gains can feed into the process of stabilizing Syria and Iraq. I just don’t see the direct correlation between the two.
MC: There is further talk that a number of nations may commit ground troops into Syria. Russia has started this, and France could follow, and the U.K. again through the Cameron government is floating out the idea of a U.K. ground troop presence in Syria after a defeat of IS. Is a post-IS Syria that is occupied by foreign ground troops a place that, in your estimation, an appreciable number of Syrian refugees will willingly return to?
EA: I am always resistant of the temptation to advance figures for such complicated matters.
What is the difference if 40 or 60% return? You would still have thousands of families not willing or not able to return.
The idea that ISIS is the reason for displacement is by itself misleading.
The main motivation for any Syrian to return is to see a credible stabilization process being put in place. This element seems to be missing from both the US and the Russian strategies. Hence, I don’t see a lot of families packing to return home in the short to medium term.
MC: As a professional peacebuilder, what are some non-military initiatives for Syria and Iraq you would like to see the world powers and also the regional powers— Saudi Arabia and Iran—pursue?
EA: As stated above, a credible stabilization process within a clear political framework is needed to allow a sustainable peace. This should include inclusive governance models that would address the prevailing fear of elimination, as well as a compromise between the Sunni countries (mostly Saudi Arabia and Turkey) and Iran on a modus operandi in the region; a sort of a mutually agreed delineation of the zones of influence of the regional powers. Short of these two requirements, military gains will remain short-lived.
MC: It is not popular to talk about Balkanization—the permanent or long-term redrawing of national borders into smaller units to yield to ethnic or sectarian or tribal homogeneities. But in your view, are there states in the MENA that would benefit, both within themselves and from the standpoint of their neighboring states, from being divided into smaller units of, say, Sunni Iraqis, Sunni Syrians, Turkmen, Kurds.
EA: My view is that the social and cultural links as well as economic interests between the various ethno sectarian communities in the MENA are historic and sufficient enough to avert any attempt of re-mapping the region into small ethnic based entities.
Having said that, maintaining countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon takes more than acknowledging these ties. It has go to the crucial aspect of finding inclusive governance models that give each constituent enough guarantees that the others will not eliminate them, that they will have enough autonomy to govern themselves while allowing for cross ethnic collaboration.
Such a model would be closer to decentralized federal system whereby regions are administered by their own people without pushing necessarily for complete secession. It is a fine balance that needs to be found between addressing governance issues and political inclusion without inciting people to ask for a separation.
It is worth noting in this regard that redrawing the map of the region in the direction of small and demographically homogenous entities will lead to more conflicts in the present context of fear and caution.
So the cornerstone of any viable solution is addressing the valid concerns of the various constituents and then moving to negotiated political settlements.
MC: You co-authored a 2011 piece observing that Iraq’s then-government was worried, and perhaps was alerting other nations, of the chaos that could ensue within Syria if Bashar al-Assad were removed, and how that chaos could spread directly next-door to Iraq. Exactly this has come to pass in the form of IS, although it did not require Assad’s complete removal, only the incomplete rebellion against him. This is a bitter “I told you so” for Iraqi officials, but to your view how does it, as an unheeded warning, affect Iraq’s willingness to burden-share or make further sacrifice for a solution to the open crisis that will be post-Assad Syria?
EA: Unfortunately, Iraqi political forces are captive of their own regional patrons. They are not in a position to craft any role for Iraq in regional politics outside of their patrons’ will. I don’t see them in a position to craft a place for an Iraqi agenda in the regional turmoil.
MC: What is one solid-footed step of peacebuilding work you would like to see happen in 2016 in a state in the MENA in turmoil?
EA: The key to stabilization and peacebuilding lies in two tracks: inclusive governance models and consistent engagement by international and local actors, to induce a social transformation that would demonize violence.
Michael Cavendish is an American trial lawyer appearing specially with Charon QC.
I’ve seen a few unusual sights in my time. This picture is right up there. It did occur to me that the man inside the suit may well be Gordon Brown who has not cracked post-Prime Ministerial money making opportunities yet – or wants to.
Particularly, how do I safely duplicate the shock of what Dr John Leach describes as ‘the moment of impact’, that moment when all your lemons line up and what was just another day becomes something from a Hollywood movie.
In my defence, I don’t do this to all my friends, but Paul has put himself in harms way in order to raise money for charity and help save a species. Not a bad goal really, so I do feel slightly indebted to him.
At this point I think I ought to explain that, among my many and varied qualifications, I am also an advanced survival instructor; it is my job to teach people to survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet.
I just wish he could have picked something or somewhere warm to save! Orangutans, the rain forests, dolphins, those small and exceptionally cute Quokka things, all thrive in the warmth. But not Paul.
Paul’s passion in life is the very rare Canadian Eskimo dog. It is considered to be the oldest and rarest of the remaining purebred canines. Due to the huge popularity of snowmobiles as transport, the Eskimo dog is facing extinction, with as few as 300 – 500 still in existence. And obviously being sled dogs they need more than a little bit of snow. Lots of snow in fact. More snow than is reasonable to have in one place at one time. Pristine, white and very cold snow.
Paul’s expedition, entitled ‘The Return’, will take him inside the arctic circle where temperatures can range from +30 degrees centigrade on a good day to – 50 on a fairly cool one.
The range of skill and adaptability he will need to possess by the time he gets there is almost frightening. Not only does he have to take care of himself, he also has to look after his team of dogs, which are his lifeline to home and safety.
I have already managed to get him to book the time off work, under the guise of ‘ the end of his survival training’. What he probably doesn’t realise is that this will involve being whisked away to one of the remotest and most inhospitable places in the UK, let out of the car with only what is to hand, and then ‘left on his own’ for a few days whilst he navigates his way to safety.
Okay, its not truly ‘ left on his own’, myself and a team of world’s top survival instructors from Outdoorology and Survival Wisdom will monitor his every move, but he won’t know this.
To be outdoors, in the wilderness, on your own, with only what you are carrying in your pockets and no hope of rescue, is a very frightening prospect. Whilst I could make the precipitating event more scary ( have us arrested, hijacked from a roadblock, accident etc) in this instance I don’t think it will be necessary. That horrible moment as the car pulls away and the enormity of the silence sinks in, I think will be enough to bring that ‘ moment of impact’ home to him. I do hope he forgives me!
Make no bones about it, this is a tough test. It is not a cosy bushcraft course where you sit in front of a fire, under a parachute whittling cutlery from an impossibly hard piece of wood. This is a bespoke, absolutely bare minimum, test of ones basest mettle and ingenuity, which I am confident Paul will pass.
He has to, his Arctic survival starts later this year!”
I like to look back to see what caught my mind in past years and I came across a few of my pre-occupations at the time. I thought I would put a few on a post. Fortunately, there is no law for me to concern myself with on new Year’s Day – and, as I am in Scotland, there is another bank holiday to come to recover from the New Year. I was only too happy to get the Photoshop out to oblige this chap.
The BBC reports: An MP has called the wearing of burkas the religious equivalent of “going round with a paper bag over your head.
In a parliamentary debate, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said it was “offensive” for women to cut off face-to-face contact with other people. The Kettering MP said he had “huge sympathy” with those who wanted a ban on face-covering veils in public. None of the three large UK parties back a ban, with ministers saying it would not be “British” to bar them.
And of course…this:
A bit of Silk for the weekend, Sir…Madam?
The Legal Services Act has not exactly ambushed the legal profession – although a remarkably high number of lawyers I have spoken to in recent months do not have a grasp of…shall we say, the detail or, indeed, the implications for the profession. The Lawyer reported yesterday: QC aspirants think again as LSA casts pall over bar
“Concerns about the future stability of the bar are having a knock-on effect on the number of barristers applying to become QCs, leading barristers have warned. In total 275 barristers have applied to the QC appointments committee this year. That translates to 11 per cent more applications than last year, when 247 people applied, but 17.4 per cent lower than 2008’s level, when the number of applications stood at 333. It’s a worryingly low figure,” one barrister commented. “I thought it would be much higher, especially when you consider it’s open not just to commercial barristers.”
There appears to be support for the changes brought in relating to the appointment of silks and support for the rank of QC as a ‘kitemark’. The market rules, however, and The Lawyer reports a clerk as saying (neatly summing it up) “Many people are worried they’ll lose clients when they’re made QC,” he said. “It may be a great status symbol, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more instructions.”
While the Tories appear to be focusing on the fears of Britons being burgled in the night and their rights (It is interesting to note that only 11 prosecutions of householders have been brought in 15 years according to the DPP) Jack Straw has announced plans for a National Victims Service.
The Ministry of Justice has announced:“An additional £8 million will establish the National Victims’ Service, which guarantees all victims of crime and anti-social behaviour referred by the police more comprehensive and dedicated support. The first stage will begin helping families bereaved by murder or manslaughter from March. This will provide intensive support, care and attention, tailored to their individual needs, beyond the conclusion of any investigation or trial.” Full press release
The Guardian reports: “Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law” as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.
The term ‘Natural Law’ has very little practical meaning. The cynic in me tends to believe that it is most often prayed in aid by those in power to control the activities of those not in power. The mumbo jumbo men are becoming increasingly concerned that Britain is no longer in thrall to the power of religion. The bishops have told the Pope..“…sexual orientation legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs.”
The Guardian notes: “In his letter the pope said: “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”
For my part I am more persuaded by the entirely sensible line taken by the National Secular Society. Terry Sanderson, the society’s president, said: “The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – in which he has indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”
It can’t be as much fun being Pope these days. Back in history the Popes wielded considerable power, could start Crusades and organise for Inquisitions to be set up by Torquemada et al… hey ho… times have moved on.
And this caught my eye then…
The Independent reports: ” Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was challenged last night to take immediate action to tackle the proliferation of “super-injunctions” issued by courts. The demands follow the failed attempt by footballer, John Terry, to obtain a double gagging order preventing reporting of his affair with a team-mate’s ex-girlfriend. Vanessa Perroncel was last night at the centre of a bidding war, with newspapers offering her a reported £250,000 to tell the story of her affair with the England captain.”
Injunctions, in the digital internet age, have ‘limited utility. While the information can be suppressed within Britain – the High Court writ goes no further than England & Wales. People in Scotland and elsewhere can read, comment, disseminate, host on severs to their hearts content – and we in England can simply go to those servers and read the details. (Hence the idea behind the ’super’ injunction which not merely suppresses the information but suppresses the knowledge that such an order was even given…theoretically)
The Independent notes: ” Mr Straw has signalled his concern over the issue and has launched a review into super-injunctions. The former minister, Denis MacShane, has called for action within weeks. Mr MacShane said: “Any order that bans the press from reporting the facts, and then bans the reporting of the ban itself, is Kafkaesque.”
Can’t Leave George Osbore out…
It would be inelegant to leave Kill A Burglar Grayling out. This was before he took up a second career as a Lord Chancellor impersonator at The Ministry of Justice
The men above now govern, largely, many suspect, in their own interests.
Have a good 2016. I am reasonably confident that our politicians will provide amusement for those, like me, with too much time on their hands.
A piu tarde as I say on my daily visit to Pizza Express in Perth.