Sunday, February 22, 2004

(Me, talking law stuff)

Ar har me hearties!

How many lawyers does it take to get a laptop to speak to a projector? Well, I still don’t know because after more than 30 minutes of struggle me and my seminar-presentation minder gave up (after helpful advice from the Manciple and another guy from the Butler’s office) and called in the guys from the college IT office.

It took them around 30 seconds to drag my laptop under a light and tell me to press Fn + F8.

“Oh,” said I. “You mean that ‘LCD’ key has something to do with the picture display?”

Thankfully, my minder had suggested we start getting ready at 5 for at talk at 6.15. Factoring in a generous margin to cover one’s own ineptitude seldom goes astray.

So anyway, that’s me giving my seminar (“Containing Weapons of Mass Destruction: the US, North Korea and International Law”) on Wednesday in the Master’s lodge. My talk was basically about when you can stop a ship in international waters and confiscate its cargo, if that cargo contains WMD.

(The very short answer, in my opinion, is only when you are engaged in an armed conflict and the weapons are destined for your adversary - thus WMD bound for al Qaeda could be intercepted if the “war on terror” is actually a war not a metaphor, but there is no general right to seize WMD regardless of who they are being shipped to as an act of “pre-emptive” self-defence.)

I think I was successful in pitching it at a mixed audience of lawyers and non-lawyers, and I left the pirate joke in. It seemed to go rather well and drew a number of people from outside the college, including a few South Koreans and international relations students. Around 30 people in total, which was great.

A number of non-lawyers said they thought I was laid out a clear argument and spoke confidently and engagingly. A couple of law-types present said if I wanted to be a teaching academic I was clearly up to it – all of which was great to hear. I certainly had fun, and was happy that the Q&A session was pretty lively and people came up with some interesting legal and common-sense questions.

(My favorite: “If what your saying is right, and international law gives those involved in armed conflicts the power to seize contraband weapons destined for the enemy – does your argument mean, hypothetically, that an al Qaeda navy could legally intercept weapons being shipped to the United States?”)

I got to take a guest to the grad hall dinner afterwards and also got a nice bottle of wine for my troubles - a 1992 Bordeaux from the college cellars, certainly better than anything I could afford. It was also a good night to take a guest: pumpkin, prawn and coconut cream soup to start, quail for main, lychee ice for dessert.

A number of the Aussie LLMs said they would have liked to have come, but I was competing with the Paul Kelly concert in London. Unsurprisingly, international law didn’t quite have the same pulling power.

Still, I get to give the talk again on Monday to the Gates Scholars as a ring-in speaker for an international law colloquium. Should be fun.

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