The day job involves electronic disclosure or e-Disclosure of documents (electronic discovery, or e-discovery in every common law jurisdiction save England & Wales). My role is to educate and inform judges, lawyers, clients and suppliers about the law, the practice and the technology involved in e-discovery, and in marketing the ideas and services to others. The primary medium for this is a blog for the e-Disclosure Information Project, whose 250 or so posts in 2009 sometimes generated several thousand words per week. There is more than enough to write about on that subject, and optional things fell by the wayside. In addition to work in the UK, I spend about a month each year at conferences abroad. These trips simultaneously gave me a wider range of subjects to write about and less time to do so. It seems worth having a go at reviving the non-work blogs.
The subjects which I used to air in them – dishonest politicians, the creeping power of civil servants, the expensive stupidity of local government officers and the incompetence of railway companies – have worked their way into my e-Disclosure writing. This is not a drawback – I like comparisons and parallels, and my readers seem to appreciate the leavening of the rather dry legal and technical subject-matter with examples pulled from other areas of everyday life. There is, nevertheless, plenty to write about which cannot be turned to didactic purposes in my work blog and, besides, it is refreshing for the brain to cover other things from time to time.
The two non-work blogs have distinct purposes. Oxford Inciter relates to the city in which I have lived for over 30 years and in which I was an undergraduate in the early 1970s. It is a beautiful place, gradually being eroded by the actions and non-actions of the useless people who run it – with a handful of exceptions, the councillors are the usual run of jumped-up nobodies whose belief that they were elected to engage in continuous activity is matched by their patent unsuitability for it. Their policies are executed by the regiments of dumb animals which you find in local government everywhere. Paper-shufflers in the planning offices recommend ghastly developments to councillors who (as I put it in one of my posts) “could not differentiate between Wren’s plans for St Paul’s and a child’s depiction of a Wendy house”. Here in Oxfordshire, if we wish to signify that someone’s intellect is not all that it might be, we use the highways officers as a yardstick. Their mission is to screw up the traffic-flow as best they can, filling every view with railings, signs and notices. Intellectually-impoverished they may be, but they have been adept throughout the recession at extracting funding for useless projects by whispering “a child might die” into the ears of impressionable councillors who are scarcely brighter than they are and whose own ambitions are met by disbursing large budgets. Our household waste is collected under the supervision of a councillor who seems keen to show that his intellectual prowess compares unfavourably with the contents of the bins for which he is responsible.
The name Oxford Inciter is explained in section About Oxford Inciter. Briefly, the purpose is equally to incite opposition to the largely destructive activities of the councillors and their pen-pushing cohorts and to incite admiration for the many fine things which survive in this city.
Oxford Agenda has a wider purpose, recognising that only Oxford residents and visitors are interested in the city and the inadequacy of those who govern it. Oxford Agenda’s purpose is recited on its face: for old liberties, against the new morality, and in the hope that my children’s generation will undo the work of this one. There is much in it representing my visceral hatred of the New Labour government which ruled us for 11 years – it’s economic and administrative incompetence, its ceaseless interference in every aspect of our lives, and the sheer unpleasantness of some of its members.
That infected every other area of life. It became clear that mass immigration was not simply a policy thought to be beneficial, nor just the result of Home Office incompetence, but a deliberate strategy aimed at angering Labour’s political opponents, as well as a way of building an army of client voters. The practical implications – shortage of space, jobs, housing and infrastructure resources – were deliberately ignored, it appears, in pursuit of this strategy and were not, as we thought, merely the result of oversight and incompetence. The ban on fox-hunting owed nothing to any goodwill towards Foxy Woxy; it consumed many more hours of Parliamentary time than any other issue, including the decisions to go to war. The decline of education, the ruin of the landscape, the failure to control crime, and the constant erosion of civil liberties all have their place in Oxford Agenda, but it is home also to any miscellaneous matters which attract my interest, save for those which more obviously belong in Oxford Insider.
There is pleasure to be derived from dancing on New Labour’s grave, but a new focus now appears – putting pressure on the coalition government to reverse or undo as much as it can of the damage done by its predecessors. It started well with the abolition of Home Information Packs and of the General Teaching Council, but there are deeper ills to cure: the relationship between the police and those whom they exist to protect; the power of that pervasive enemy, the thick jobsworth, with clipboard, rulebook and authority far beyond his brain; bloody notices everywhere; the whole apparatus of state power which prompted one lady to write to the Times asking the last government to publish a list of things which we are still allowed to do. I was not wholly convinced that a Conservative government would have the will to tackle all this; it will be even harder with the Lib Dems hanging on to their ankles like a ball and chain. Liberal Democrats are lovely people, some of them, but they do think they know what is good for us in a way which mocks both parts of their party name.
Both Oxford Agenda and Oxford Insider were published anonymously. This was not because I was embarrassed to own my opinions (far from it) or for fear of facing those whom I upset or angered by what I said (that is pure pleasure so far as I am concerned). I kept my name out of them because I wanted to establish it (in Google as well as in real life) as primarily associated with my professional subject. That objective is now achieved and I am happy to put my name to my other sites. So far as I am aware, only one person guessed at my identity, having cleverly spotted stylistic and subject-matter similarities between posts in Oxford Inciter and the letters which I used to write to the Oxford Times.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My Twitter name for these purposes is OxfordInciter, kept distinct from my main Twitter account (which is chrisdaleoxford) in order to spare my professional followers my non-professional ruminations.
The rules of engagement – in particular my policy on fair comment and corrections – are set out in the editorial to Oxford Insider.
I do not promise constant attention to either of these sites but I hope to make more use of them in the coming year than I have done in the recent past.