Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Taser Tantrums & Police Brutality

taserFrom ABC Local 30/08/10:

Marin County man has filed suit against the Marin County Sheriff's Department for an incident in which he says law enforcement officers went too far. Peter McFarland was Tased  inside his own home as his wife watched, begging officers to stop.

(BTW - is it tased or tasered? - no, i don’t know either)

On June 29, 2009 McFarland and his wife Pearl were returning home from a charity fundraiser just before midnight. McFarland injured himself as he stumbled and fell down the long steps to his front door.

"Mainly it was to my knee and the front of my leg, my shin," McFarland said.

His wife called paramedics, who helped him into the house and treated him. As the paramedics were leaving, two sheriff's deputies arrived.

"All of a sudden, they just showed up, they came in here ... like a gunfight was going on," McFarland said.

What happened in the following minutes was captured on a camera mounted on the deputy's Taser.

The deputy tells McFarland he is going to take him to the hospital because he may be suicidal.

"We want to take you to the hospital for an evaluation, you said if you had a gun, you'd shoot yourself in the head," the deputy can be heard saying.

McFarland says it was just hyperbole. He was tired and in pain.

The deputy orders him numerous times to get up or else.

"Stand up, put your hands behind your back or you're going to be Tased," the deputy says.

The exchange goes on for about five minutes; his wife keeps pleading with the deputies not to Tase him, saying he has a heart condition.

As he gets up to go to bed, McFarland is Tased. Not once, but three times.

McFarland says he never had any suicidal thoughts. In fact, he considers himself lucky to be alive.

[McFarland’s lawyer] says his client was arrested, jailed and charged with resisting arrest. A judge later dismissed the charge.

Clearly this isn’t a good story for the local police, no matter how you slice it. But what makes this incident all the more odd is that one of the officers knew he had a camera installed on his Taser - meaning the wisdom of his actions could easily come back to haunt him when judged dispassionately in the cold light of day.  So did he forget - or just not care?

Arguing for better training needed is as futile as it is trite; would training have really stopped this debacle from occurring? 

Perhaps the problem is more fundamental?  Maybe those responsible for attracting trainee officers need to revise their psychometric tests to avoid attracting such impetuous officers? This wasn’t just an error of judgement – this was a complete lack of common sense! Zapping the hell out of a wounded homeowner who merely objected to the officer’s self-righteousness isn’t the kind of ‘community policing’ anybody should have to endure.

I’m all for giving police better and modernised equipment to help them do their job but is this just providing trigger-happy cops with another means of venting their frustration after a tough day at work? At least they didn’t spray themselves in the face with their own CS gas – as the British police seem to be specialists at.

But this kind taser abuse needs to be nipped in the bud. Otherwise more cases of police brutality and wrongful arrest coupled with claims for compensation will just on coming!

(And, right on cue, I noticed this collection of clips of police brutality on Digg.  Fancy that!)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Is Digg recovering?

digg-logo-heart-lg1I’ve been a huge Digg fan over the last 4 – 5 years or so and have been pained by the ‘version 4’ debacle that very nearly buried Digg for good recently.  Although I’ve read from a couple of sources today that they’ve lost over 25% of their US traffic since the infamous 25th August launch (and even more in the UK), I don’t think Digg’s down and out just yet.

Happily, for the first time since the launch of Digg 4.0 (or whatever they called it) I actually found a whole bunch of genuinely interesting links on each page today – just like the old days!  Much better than the odd nugget of interest per 2 – 3 pages as has been the case recently.

So is Digg fighting back?  Who knows.  But thank God there’s still an alternative to Reddit!

 Smile with tongue out

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Commonwealth Games 2010–The Preparations

coming along nicelyFrom the Telegraph 23/09/10:

Indian government officials claimed that Tuesday's collapse of a footbridge near the Commonwealth Games Stadium, which left 27 people injured, could have been caused by the failure of components supplied by a British company.

Oh really? And what about *that* ceiling – did the Brits supply that as well? 

­Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit (are you freaking kidding me?!?) attempted to play down the seriousness of the bridge collapse. "These minor glitches do happen," she said. "Something maybe dripping, some tile may collapse, it doesn't mean the entire Games are bad."


[The aptly-named] Dikshit said the authorities had decided not to rebuild the bridge and would instead create a new path for the spectators to enter the venue. She confirmed that compensation payments would be made to those hurt in the bridge collapse.

However, the minister's stance is at odds with the majority opinion in India, with some commentators calling the series of calamities a "humiliation" and one newspaper carrying the banner headline 'National shame' on its front page.

Oh it’s surely not that bad? Oh wait… yes, it is!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Pigeon Thrashes Rural Broadband in speed test

broadband vs pigeonFrom BBC News 16/09/10:

Broadband is the most modern of communication means, while carrier pigeons date back to Roman times.

But on Thursday, a race between the two highlighted the low speeds of rural broadband in the UK; the pigeon won.

Ten USB key-laden pigeons were released from a Yorkshire farm at the same time a five-minute video upload was begun.

An hour and a quarter later, the pigeons had reached their destination in Skegness 120km away, while only 24% of a 300MB file had uploaded.

Campaigners say the stunt was being carried out to illustrate that broadband in some parts of the UK is still "not fit for purpose".

The pigeons are expected to complete a 120km journey to Skegness in around two hours, but Tref Davies, who is organising the stunt to give publicity to the campaign for better rural broadband, said the broadband connection will take significantly longer to tranfer [sic] the 300MB file.

"The farm we are using has a connection of around 100 to 200 Kbps (kilobits per second)," Tref Davies, the stunt's organiser, told BBC News on Thursday morning.

"The kids need to do school work and the farmer has to submit online forms but the connection is not fit for purpose."

Tell me about it, Tref. My shocking internet connection is the bane of my life and while I’ve gotten used to using the connection strategically, it’s still a painful experience.  As Roy said to Moss in an episode of the IT Crowd, “Oh do you remember the internet at this speed? Up all night and you'd see eight women.”

Eye rolling smile But quite enough of that!

Anyway, I hope the stunt was cleared by the RSPB first; there’s nothing like taping a USB key to a pigeon to get the animal rights brigade’s panties in a twist!

It’s hard to believe my GF and I been in this house 11 months now and suffered with a terrible internet connection for so long. Given the fact we’re miles from the local exchange, the attenuation on the line means our ‘broadband’ connection is very narrow indeed. Of course, Virgin Media doesn’t provide cable in the area either!

So, short of doing some kind of community stunt a la what Rutland Telecom did in Lyddington, we’re stuck with sub-standard internet until we move. Of course, if our plans had worked out we would have been long gone by now - in our own house. As it is, we’re battening down the hatches for another winter in a house and area we both hate. Oh well.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Blawggies 2010 - The Afterparty

blawggies 2010 - the afterpartySo, the blawggies 2010 has been and gone and it’s time to take stock. When I casually suggested resurrecting the blawggies, I’d no idea what kind of adventure we were in for. Doing things democratically and letting the ‘sphere vote for the winners was always going to be an interesting decision.  It wasn’t pretty at times – believe me – but it was a useful experience.

The blawggies were always meant to be about celebrating all that’s good in the ‘sphere, accentuating the positive and marking the contribution that individual blawggers make to the common cause. God knows what will happen next year, if the blawgosphere hasn’t imploded by then, but for now, blawggers everywhere should savour this moment of camaraderie. 
                                                            Sick smile
Andro, Minxy and I managed the organisational duties between us quite well, I thought – particularly given the barrage of spam, abuse and dubious voting practices we endured. Crucially, though, the blawggies had a great response – and that’s what really mattered. What’s more, those few who did their darnest to skew the ratings, only did so because they care; they care about their blawgs, their status as blawggers and, by extension, the blawgosphere as a whole.

Alas, we didn’t manage to hold the ceremony on twitter in which each winner gave an embarrassing acceptance speech in 140 characters or less. Nor did the much-anticipated VIP after-party come to pass…

… The blawggies after-party, for those of you who weren’t invited, was great. What started out as a civilised and erudite celebration of all things blawg-related, inevitably degenerated into a drunken and lascivious free-for-all. Fuelled on by a truck-load of vodka and goodness knows what else, impromptu tournaments of unsavoury drinking games were quickly established. As some managed to salvage what little dignity they could and left, the remaining attendees decamped to the venue’s hot tubs - after which propriety crumbled away yet further. Sadly, I’ve no idea who ‘did who’, ‘took what’ or gave the waiting paparazzi the best crotch-shot of the evening as they stumbled drunkenly out of the club and onto the street. Nevertheless, I’m sure a great time was had by all.

Sounds like quite a party! Maybe next year?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Blawggies 2010–The Results

blawggies 2010 - the results

Yep, the votes have been checked and double-checked and here are the results of the winner and runner-up in each category:

Best Newcomer

1. Your Law Student

2. Ups and Gowns

Best Design

1. Barmaid

2. Aimless Wanderer

Best Blawging Regular

1. Law Actually

2. Travis the Trout

Best supporting role

1. Legally Ginge

2. Anya

Best Legal Commentary

1. Pink Tape

2. The IPKat

Triumph over Adversity

1. Lawminx

2. Aimless Wanderer

Blawg of the Year

1. Android's Reminiscences & Marilyn Stowe Family Law and Divorce Blog

2. Pupillage and how to get it

Services to Blawging

1. Law Actually

2. Android's Reminiscences

Well done to everyone!  Smile

Award badges are available for display on your blawgs – just email Andro, Minxy or I if you’re interested.

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Law Actually Interview with… BabyBarista


The legendary babybarista is next up to face the questions. 

How did BabyBarista come about?  Did you just wake up one morning and think, “I’ll start a legal blog today”?
I’d dreamt of writing a novel but struggled to imagine how it might come about. I’d written or co-written a bunch of law books but it was a pretty big jump to think about fiction. The next step was through co-writing a motivational book entitled ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (xpl Publishing, 2007) with Dr Michelle Tempest which suggested the possibility of lawyers looking for inspiration outside of law and used surfing and the power of the ocean as metaphors for living the day to day. When this was done I very much wanted to sit down and write a legal thriller. But instead what popped out was a legal comedy about a fictional young barrister doing pupillage. I called him BabyBarista which was a play on words based on his first impression being that his coffee-making skills were probably as important to that year as any forensic legal abilities he may have. It’s a strange thing to say but I discovered that this bold, irreverent and mischievous voice along with a collection of colourful characters had simply jumped into my head and the words started pouring onto the page.

Yours is arguably the most famous blawg in the UK blawgosphere?  Do you ever feel pressure to continually think-up great content and do you worry about your readership levels?
I love having the blog as an outlet for my writing both at The Guardian and on my own site. There’s something about the immediacy of blogging which is a great attraction. You think up what you want to say, write it down and a few clicks later it’s available to the whole world. I think if you enjoy writing about something then it’s a lot more likely the readers will follow.

Your blawg features some great cartoons by Alex Williams.  How important are images in blawg posts do you think?
Alex Williams’ brilliant cartoons are a relatively new addition to the blog and yet already in my view they are absolutely integral to it. That reflects specifically on Alex’s skill at not only having captured the characters about which I had written but also having given them visual form that personally I hadn’t been able to quite imagine until seeing them from him. He’s also captured the humour wonderfully which I think reflects the fact that we both find similar things funny. All that has led to a wonderful cross-fertilisation of creativity which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But above all, it’s a massive privilege to be working with so distinguished a cartoonist and animator as Alex.

What’s the most satisfying aspect of blawgging for you?
Beyond the immediacy of publication I also love the fact that writing a blog allows you to sound off on whatever particular issue takes your fancy on that particular day. I particularly enjoy doing this through the voices of fictional characters which I feel gives me even more freedom to express than if it were simply through my own personal voice.
Can being a blawgger make you a better lawyer?
I don’t know whether it makes you a better lawyer or not. For my part, I’ve taken a break from the law for over two and a half years now and a big part of that break has been writing the BabyBarista books which came originally from the blog.

Tim Kevan is a barrister and writer and author of Law and Disorder (Bloomsbury). For more information about Tim Kevan visit The Barrister BlogTim Kevan[4]

Law and disorder[4]

Copyright Jay Stirzaker

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I need to ask my WHAT?!?

So, there I was browsing Productive Geek earlier (actually via Digg – I’m not a huge fan of so-called productivity websites) reading all about tips on avoiding eye-strain when using computers.  All was going well until I reached the latter part of the article when I spotted this gem:ask your

So, let me get this straight: as a wearer of lenses, I need to ask my obstetrician if they’re a good fit?

Geez Louise.  What kind of lenses are these?  Eye rolling smile

I won’t even begin to ask how you insert them!  productive geek

Thanks, Productive Geek.  Thinking smile

A Law Actually Interview with… Lisa Hutch – (The Trials)

Most members of the UK blawgosphere probably aren’t too familiar with Lisa’s blawg, but I’ve been following her for a couple of years or so now.  It’s nice to get an alternative perspective from the blawgosphere and, being Canadian, Lisa provides a very welcome breath of fresh air.

UK blawgers who have typically eschewed the US blawgosphere (for whatever reason) should definitely take a look at Lisa’s blawg - as there are undoubtedly more similarities than differences to the UK approach to blawgging.

As a bonus, UK lawyers who are ‘getting on in years’ will no doubt be tickled by the fact that Canada still have ‘articles’ as part of the entry route to becoming a lawyer and clearly haven’t succumbed to the pressure to attach to modern, plain (and very dull) labels to esteemed conventions. Good on them!

Rest assured, there’s not a single reference to a ‘training contract’ in sight!

Anyway, let’s get to the questions:

How did you get into blawging?
When I made the decision to go to law school, I began to scour the internet for information about what law school was "really" like.  I couldn't find very much at all.  There were a few student blawgs, but many of them were older or were inactive.  I decided that I would start my own law school blawg, and attempt to document my experience as accurately as possible in the hope that it would help out other people looking for this type of information.

There aren't many Canadian student blawgers out there; what other blawgs do you tend to visit?
I visit the ones on my blog roll quite regularly, which includes the blawgs of various law practices and a faculty blawg from the U of A.  I like visiting the Precedent, but sometimes find that the material is very centered around Ontario in particular, rather than being aimed at a wider Canadian readership.  I also like SLAW.

Do you think that being a blawger can make someone a better law student?
Definitely.  In looking for interesting subject matter to post about, I paid far more attention to my law school experience.  I went to different lectures that were offered, in looking forward to being able to post about them.  I paid more attention to what I was doing in class, so that I could comment on it.  I remember posting something on my blawg about an error in the CANS that some of us had been using when we were studying for finals, which other students actually told me that they appreciated.  I also paid more attention to law in the news.  Made for a richer experience, and definitely made me a better law student.

Do you think you'll carry on blawging for years to come - even when you start practicing?
Already am!  As time and energy allow, I will continue blawging.  The connections that I build through blawging are just too valuable to give up.