Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, September 27, 2013

Laughter in the court

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary (‘the OED’) the word eleemosynary, which is largely used to frighten law students, made its debut in English in around 1640 and is derived from the medieval Latin word eleēmosynārius which means ‘alms’. The OED defines eleemosynary to mean: ‘Of or pertaining to alms or almsgiving; charitable’.
Its utilisation by trust lawyers as a replacement for the word ‘charitable’ was made necessary because the effect of the law of charities is that the word ‘charitable’ in law bears little resemblance to the concept it bears in ordinary English. It might perhaps have promoted clarity for lawyers to have used the word ‘eleemosynary’ to refer to the technical sense of the concept and to have left the word ‘charitable’ with its ordinary meaning, but it is too late now to rescue the language from this misfortune.”

Mr. Justice Perram, The Hunger Project Australia v Commissioner of Taxation [2013] 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Clanricarde rules

One of the suggested reasons for bombing Syria is to punish the regime; which seems to face the problem so perceptively pointed out by Lord Clanricarde (second marquess, fifteenth earl) around 1880.
With the rise of [Irish] land agitation after the bad harvests of 1879, [his] unyielding attitude, coupled with his unsociable personality and his position as the stereotypical absentee landlord .... made him a major target; his financial resources enabled him to resist effectively. His obduracy brought him into conflict even with some of his land agents; he is alleged to have told one: ‘If my tenants think they can intimidate me by shooting you, they are very much mistaken’.
Assad is, I'm sure, able to take the deaths of any number of his soldiers, public servants, and citizens with an appropriately philosophical stoicism. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

God in chains

So all the information in the entire electronic communications system of the world is now being bugged and searched.  We have what is by orders of magnitude the largest data bank ever conceived, giving us Laplacian knowledge about our society at every point in time.  I've occasionally speculated on the kind of data cornucopia we could have if we weren't obsessed with privacy - and now we've got it.

And what are we doing with it?  If you believe the government, they're looking for terrorists; if you listen to just-proven-correct paranoiacs, they're looking for opposition; in any case, how terribly trivial.

We have a corpus that contains the answers to almost any question about human beings.  We have the oracle in front of us.  And all we can ask it is "Who is going to plant a bomb where?"
it's been pointed out that this is expensive and inefficient - it would pay us to dismantle it unless it was stopping one 9/11 a month - but not much attention has been paid to the opportunity costs.  We're not asking how many people with prescriptions for drugs A and B and C but not Q visit emergency rooms, or what proportion of users of different mobile phones have convictions for domestic violence, or which mobile phones correspond to an unusual number of burgled houses, or..... why isn't there an industry for thinking up questions? 

Privacy's dead, and we're not getting anything worthwhile out of it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Now that we know, as they didn't in the fifties, that dinosaurs like T Rex used their tails to balance when running - tails off the ground - that should change our portrayal of Godzilla.  Horizontal above the legs.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The tumult and the shouting dies

Unfortunate monarchs day at Heritage.  I make a bid on Lot 62758 -
despite the predicted sale price being between two and three times my bid; you never know....
and look longingly at
the execution of Marie Antoinette.......

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