What’s it really like in the law?

I keep on eye on developments in my old professional hunting ground, the UK law scene. One site I regularly visit is Roll On Friday. It’s independent, irreverent, and entertaining. Perhaps its major contribution is its Firm of the Year survey, a surefire antidote to the PR view of how good things are, created by the simple approach of asking the staff what their place of employment is really like.

As well as scoring each firm, the survey allows comments. For example:

“If a turd walked into the firm, he/she/it would be a valuable addition to management.”

They’ve really got the workforce with them, don’t they?

“All the staff from the Sheffield Office were asked to leave work by the fire exit on the night of a client party. Presumably they didn’t want the clients seeing their solicitors with holes in their shoes and miserable faces.”

It’s perverse how some jumped up “professionals” can develop and maintain a Victorian workhouse like attitude to the people who actually do the work.

“Wall to wall tossers. Even Brutus would wear a stab proof vest. Some of the senior associates manage to be on their knees for a partner while simultaneously shitting on juniors.”

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

The sad thing is, much of the criticisms are probably true. Check out the firms involved in these quotes, and see some more crackers, here.

Facebook and the blood libel

From Eric Lee:

I learned on Wednesday that Facebook has a page devoted to “Jewish ritual murder” which I found hard to believe — so I checked and found it’s true.

So, as one does, I used Facebook’s complaint procedure to formally report harassment. After all, I do feel harassed — as a Jew and a human being — by people promoting vile anti-Jewish propaganda.

It took Facebook 32 minutes to respond, which is great.

Good to see that they care about racism and antisemitism and are as keen as I am to … wait a minute … here’s a screenshot of their response:


Just in case you can’t read that, here’s the essence of it:

You reported Jewish ritual murder for harassment.
Status This page wasn’t removed
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the page you reported for harassment and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.

When I went to look at the Facebook “Community Standards” here’s what I found under “Hate Speech”:

“Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”

So, Facebook, how is a page promoting the oldest anti-Semitic slur, the infamous “blood libel”, not hate speech?

I’m hoping this Facebook attitude will be reversed after the topic garners more interest and gets kicked up the corporate ladder there. However, don’t expect it to be the last Facebook page that goes there.

[First seen at Harry’s Place.]

Six Years – Harlan Coben

Six years ago Jake Fisher saw the love of his life marry another man. And his former lover made him promise to leave the happy couple alone. For six years Fisher kept his promise. Then, Fisher sees the man’s obituary, and suddenly that promise does not seem so binding anymore.

The book is the rollercoaster story of Jake Fisher’s journey to find that woman, and his trials and tribulations along the way.

It’s classic Coben in that you get a non-stop blur of action, with the story fairly rattling along.

It’s also classic Coben in that our hero discovers things around him are not what they seem.

And finally, it’s classic Coben because it seems so familiar. The plot is familiar. The characters are familiar. The conclusion seems familiar. This is not to say it’s a bad book; it’s just not new, or fresh, and has the slightly odd whiff of recycled, old material.

So good story, good read, but Coben fans with a critical eye may well feel they have been here before.


This is from the latest Crypto-Gram:

Last Month I Briefed Congress on the NSA

One morning in January, I spent an hour in a closed room with six members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Bobby Scott, Rep. Goodlatte, Rep. Mike Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren had asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn’t forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me — as someone with access to the Snowden documents — to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course, I’m not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it’s extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country.

Surreal part of setting up this meeting: I suggested that we hold this meeting in a SCIF, because they wanted me to talk about top-secret documents that had not been made public. The problem is that I, as someone without a clearance, would not be allowed into the SCIF. So we had to have the meeting in a regular room.

This really was an extraordinary thing.

First, the Crypto_gram comes from Bruce Schneier, an independent IT security consultant. Second, the SCIF referred to is, according to Wikipedia:

In United States security and intelligence parlance, a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF; pronounced “skiff”) is an enclosed area within a building that is used to process Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) types of classified information. SCI is classified information concerning or derived from intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes, which is required to be handled within formal access control systems established by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

In other words, a SCIF is a secure room where you can have secrets available.

I get that Bruce finds it extraordinary that, due to his lack of clearance, they could not use a SCIF. I find it extraordinary that the members of the Senate do not know what the NSA is doing. And, it’s extraordinary that to solve that problem, they ask an independent security consultant? Something is very wrong there.

Five for Friday

Another fast week. I need to try and work out a scheme to slow things down, or 2014 will be over before you can say “peace talks”, or something like that. Back in the real world, the really fast world, here are a selection of links I hope you will find interesting and worthy of your time and attention. Especially your time.

Shabbat Shalom!

When is work, work?

From Guy Fawkes’ blog:

Leaked Tory Memo Tells MPs to Dodge Minimum Wage Laws

MPs Told “Don’t Mention Work” in Adverts to Bend Rules

A leaked internal Tory memo advises MPs on how to get away with exploiting their unpaid interns without breaking the very same minimum wage laws those MPs insist other employers adhere to. Unpaid intern campaign website Graduate Fog has got hold of the memo which urges MPs to seek out loopholes in their own legislation:

Swap the phrase “You will be expected to…” for “The kind of activities it would be great to get some help with include…”

– Don’t mention ”work”, “worker”, “tasks” or “hours” – but instead ask applicants to offer their “help” with “campaigning administration”

– Instead, use the words “volunteer” and “volunteering”

– Take care only to reimburse expenses for actual bought items, as opposed to a flat rate per week. This is because “regular payments of expenses are likely to give the volunteer the right to the minimum wage” and create a “risk” that they will be “classed as a worker” and therefore must be paid.

So the Tories tell employers that they must pay employees doing work the minimum wage, yet advise their own MPs on how to dodge the rules. Which has to win the hypocrisy of the day award…

I am not sure if I agree with this part:

Which has to win the hypocrisy of the day award…

I think it’s a contender for hypocrite of the week, at least.

It’s no wonder people have a low opinion of politicians. Where are the standards? Where are the people with real principles? When was somebody going to stand up and say: This is wrong. This is not right. This is immoral, exploitative, and damaging.

I don’t care if what is proposed is legal. Apart from the fact that sometimes the law really is an ass, the total lack of compassion towards other people is an indelible mark of unsuitability for any public office. (And many private ones as well.)

Lost and found


This week’s regular session had a warm up game: find the venue, played by newcomers Katie and Mimi. They finally cracked it, and were welcomed by Susan and Yehuda who introduced them to the joys of Dominion.

Katie and Mimi, bolstered by Yehuda’s usual and thorough explanation, soon got into the swing of things. And even if they were not in contention, they seemed to have picked up what the game was all about. And they were having fun. An important factor, for sure.

Susan has been on a hot streak with the game, but that came to an end with Yehuda’s win. However, it was a very close thing, and certainly doesn’t look like Susan has
lost her knack. The next meetup should be interesting.

Elsewhere, Amir, Laurie, Rochelle, and I played Hansa Teutonica. This was a first time out for Amir and, amazingly, he did what he has done with other first time games, and won. That is quite an achievement. (Maybe I can claim part of the credit because I did the rules explanation for him?) Laurie was his serious challenger, but she just couldn’t generate enough points in the closing rounds. Rochelle and I were enjoying ourselves, but not in contention. However, Rochelle beat me by enough that I could claim the wooden spoon.

We finished with Amir, Susan, Laurie, and I playing 7 Wonders. It’s a different game with only four players: faster, and with a chance to see some cards again that you previously passed on.

Amir went for a military strategy, but did not have enough other points to put him in contention. Susan had a range of victory point sources, but nothing exceptional – unfortunately for her. Laurie went for the green cards and money, delivering a neat combination that almost got her the win. However, as Laurie commented, she had been passing me good (blue and purple) cards all night, and I was able to use them properly and grab the win. Just.

Great night.

Mayhem at Gettysburg

This month’s Mayhem Monday saw me guiding newcomers Ben and Roy through Chris Harding’s publication of the Jim Zoldak game, Battle for Gettysburg – The First Day (reviewed here).

Ben has some experience with wargames, and Roy a bit more. However, both know – or rather, knew – almost nothing about the Gettysburg battle. And although I explained, in rough outline, the strategic situation and the flow of forces on to the battlefield, it was probably a bit too much information for them to take in at once. The consequences were a wild and woolly battle which was nothing like any of my plays of the game, and thoroughly intriguing.

These guys pushed the boat out a bit, and had fun doing so. For example, both sides were keen on attack (and flank attacks at that) and damn the consequences. So, the Union forces got caught early on, too far forward, and probably only got their defensive line together – eventually – by a combination of a little luck, a little good play, and some poor die rolling at key moments by the Confederate attackers.

Although we had to call the game at the end of turn four – with the casualty bill almost even – it was a useful exercise. (I blame the Singleton and the Glenfarclas and the gamer chat for the glacial pace of play.) First, they both now have a good handle on the rules. Second, they also better understand how the flow of forces, victory points, and opportunities on the table, interact. Finally, I have two new potential ftf opponents! And whisky fans…

Thanks for coming guys.

It happens

Even the massed ranks of the BBC make simple mistakes. (Don’t they have editors by the bucket load?) Here’s the proof:


“The team’s exploits of…”?

This post is just to show, it’s not only Israelis that can be sloppy with their English. Oh, by the way, you can click the picture to see the BBC article. Cool if you like cars or Top Gear.

(Right now, in the bowels of Broadcasting House, a junior editor is being beaten within an inch of his life, by an ex public schoolboy armed with a hardback thesaurus, a rolled up Guardian newspaper, and the determined resolution of a man on a mission that matters. Oh, that’s got to hurt. This mental image comes to you free, from my fevered, overactive, and doubtless inaccurate, imagination.)