We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Unfortunate Adjacencies in BBC News

Yesterday, the BBC 10 o’clock news covered wicked Mr Trump’s treatment of immigrant children (which, it was implied, was very unprecedented, nor ever praised by the left). The beeb’s Washington correspondent told us that

“In a series of tweets that will further strain the transatlantic alliance”

Mr Trump asserted Germany’s immigrants were causing that country problems such as more crime,

“but that is false. Germany’s crime rate is lower than it has ever been.”

(The emphasis on the word false was in the original.)

Soon after came their coverage of Merkel’s woes. The beeb’s Europe correspondent told us that, instead of a cooperative pan-European policy (which, she seemed to be implying, was what had been needed), individual European countries had raised barriers (references to populism and stuff), so now Merkel was meeting with the Italian PM one day, the French president the next, in

“a race against time”

to salvage things in a Europe

“more disunited than ever.”

I can’t understand why Merkel doesn’t just point out to her German voters that crime in Germany is lower than ever now they’ve imported such vast numbers of people from areas where crime rates are notoriously low – uh, well, notorious, anyway. 🙂 If any wicked right-wing populist dared to question her own crime statistics, Merkel could point to the happy experiences of Austria or Sweden, and if that doesn’t do the trick, she can always quote the majestic authority of the BBC: suggesting an immigrant-related rise in crime is false.

I also can’t understand why the BBC’s correspondents don’t coordinate their narratives better. That emphatic false from the Washington correspondent at the end of his story really wanted to be further from the somewhat downbeat report from the Europe correspondent – like, in a whole different news broadcast.

[I wrote down the BBC correspondents’ words from memory immediately after the programme aired yesterday.]

Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care?

In two days, on 20th June, the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee will vote on the proposed Copyright Directive.

By design the process by which the European Union makes laws is opaque. They would have been quite happy to slide this past the slumbering European public, but some people have woken up to the fact that it is an ill-drafted and authoritarian piece of legislation.

Opposition within the EU is being led by Julia Reda, a German Pirate Party MEP. Here is her summary page on the proposed law. Article 11, popularly called the “link tax”, and Article 13, popularly called “censorship machines”, are particularly sinister.

As it stands Article 11 would mean the end of blogging:

Anyone using snippets of journalistic online content must first get a license from the publisher. This new right for publishers would apply for 20 years after publication.

And if you think that sounds bad, wait til you see Article 13:

– Freedom of expression limited: Upload monitoring software cannot tell infringement apart from legal uses like parody, specifically enabled by exceptions and limitations to copyright. Filters also frequently malfunction. As a result, legal content will be taken down.

– Independent creators harmed: Platforms will receive instructions as to what content to automatically remove from large commercial rightholders. When independent creators have works removed by filters that are covered by exceptions or otherwise misidentified as infringing, they will effectively be deemed “guilty until proven innocent”, having to fight to have their legal creations reinstated.

– Surveillance risk: The proposal requires the installation of what amounts to surveillance technology. Due to high development costs, content monitoring technology will likely end up being outsourced to a few large US-based providers, strengthening their market position even further and giving them direct access to the behavior of all EU users of internet platforms.

– Startup killer: This requirement places a huge burden on internet companies and discourages investment in user-generated content startups, preventing EU competition to the targeted dominant US platforms from arising, effectively locking in YouTube’s dominance. (See Allied for Startups)

– Unintended targets harmed: Community projects like Wikipedia would likely need to implement such filters, even though they only accept freely-licensed uploads. Code hosting platforms would also be affected, “undermining the foundations upon which Free and Open Source Software is built”. As would scientific repositories, “undermining the foundations of Open Access”.

Interestingly, this proposed law is bitterly opposed on the usually pro-EU Reddit Europe. See this post currently “stuck” to the top of the subreddit.

There and elsewhere I have seen commenters – particularly the young, computer literate generation that are more usually seen rolling out pro-EU banners at Labour party events – state that this issue alone has turned them against the EU. At a time when both Government and Opposition waver in their resolve to stick to the result of the referendum it is at least arguable that we should be glad when the EU’s velvet glove slips to show the iron fist underneath.

I am not going to spin this out. I think we should care. Letting freedom be significantly curtailed for 450 million people for temporary political advantage and the chance to say, “I told you so” seems a poor bargain. If the EU succeeds in passing this law, Theresa May will be taking notes. Julia Reda has a “What you can do” page. For the sake of our friends in Europe, and for our own sake here in the UK, I think that if you are a UK or EU resident you should do those things.

But perhaps you disagree?

Samizdata quote of the day

Forty years ago, in 1978, 18 farmers from the village of Xiaogang in China, met at night in secret. They had seen subsistence and famine. Exhausted and emaciated, they lacked the energy to work the collective fields as Party discipline required. A few years earlier they had seen 67 of their 120 population starve to death in the “Great Leap Forward” Now they took matters into their own hands. By flickering lights (none had seen electricity), they came forward in turn to sign a document dividing up the collective farm into individual family plots, whose owners could keep most of the proceeds of their labours.

They knew the dangers, and added a clause to the contract pledging that if any were betrayed and executed, the others would raise their children until aged 18. Following that historic contract, the village produced more food next harvest than it had in the previous 5 years combined.

Madsen Pirie

Samizdata quote of the day

Even for The Guardian managing two logical fallacies in the one editorial is pretty good going. But that’s what they achieve in this one on funding the NHS. They manage both to get the Keynesian – and by extension, modern monetary theory – idea of deficit financing wrong and also the implications of the National Health Service being the efficient manner of organising health care. Actually, this is such a misunderstanding that I suspect it’s been written by Aditya Chakrabortty

Tim Worstall

What a bloke!

Today Tory MP Christopher Chope blocked a Private Member’s Bill, supported by both the Government and the Opposition, that would have made “upskirting” a specific criminal offence. Everybody hates him now. Even Guido says,

Tory dinosaur Christopher Chope has plumbed new depths by blocking a bill to make upskirting a criminal offence. Not sure how he plans to justify that to his wife and daughter. Chope has a tedious habit of blocking Private Member’s Bills supposedly on procedural grounds. In reality he just obstructs and prevents good ideas.

Guido then lists Chope’s previous obstructions:

In addition to the upskirting bill, Chope has also blocked:

  • Pardoning Alan Turing (which was supported by The Queen);
  • Same-sex marriage;
  • An investigation into Bercow bullying allegations;
  • The use of wild animals in circus performances;
  • Blocked free hospital car parking for carers;
  • Making revenge evictions an offence.

    What a bloke.

  • UPDATE: Not content with blocking the upskirting bill, Chope just blocked another government-backed bill to make it a specific criminal offence to attack police dogs and horses.
  • So this man Chope has opposed the use of the power of the state to… make what was already illegal under general principles of law doubly illegal by naming whatever crime led the headlines last week, to solidify the belief that the promises made by one person to another need to be ratified by the state, to allow modern “lawmakers” to display their enlightenment in comparison to their predecessors, to hold an investigation to reveal what everybody knows anyway, to ban the last half dozen wild animals from circuses, and to exempt one specially sentimentalised category of person from hospital car park charges thus loading them yet further on to, you know, sick people.

    Eight times. Eight times he has stood alone against the Hydra of therapeutic laws, vote-chasing laws, sentimental laws, virtue-signalling laws and “something must be done, this is something” laws.

    What a bloke!

    Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

    Quite a few days ago now, Roseanne Barr tweeted this:

    The liberal media is an absolute joke – they no longer provide real news or information. They have made it their ultimate goal to undermine our dually elected president everyday. I encourage real Americans to find other reliable sources for their news and share their information.

    It seems that Roseanne is copying the technique pioneered by her “dually” elected President of the USA, by including grammatical and spelling mistakes in her tweets, thereby getting these tweets noticed and written about by pedants like me, who would probably have had nothing to say about them had they been more properly phrased.

    Even better would be if she had misspelt duly as “duelly”. Imagine POTUS being chosen by literal single combat. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have won that either. (By the way, how do you not misspell “misspell”? Misspell doesn’t seem right. But miss-spell doesn’t seem right either.)

    See also: The liberal media “is” an absolute joke. Should be “are”, surely.

    On a more serious verbal point, I personally don’t like the way Roseanne Barr calls them the “liberal” media. I don’t like either “liberal” or “progressive” to describe people who seem to have no sane idea of what liberty or progress actually are.

    But at least Roseanne Barr refrains from calling these media the “mainstream” media. This is a usage I am starting seriously to dislike. It attributes to these very particular media a cultural dominance that they did once possess, but no longer do. “Mainstream” says to me that any other media only have significance if they are tributaries of this main stream. But now, other streams can find their own way directly to the great sea that is public opinion, with no help from that still supposedly “main” stream at all.

    I will now elaborate on what I mean.

    → Continue reading: Roseanne Barr denounces the regressive media

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Sometimes I think maybe I’m becoming too strict as I age. Maybe this is all a natural evolution of a technology. But I can’t close my eyes to what’s happening: A loss of intellectual power and diversity, and on the great potentials it could have for our troubled time. In the past, the web was powerful and serious enough to land me in jail. Today it feels like little more than entertainment. So much that even Iran doesn’t take some — Instagram, for instance — serious enough to block.

    I miss when people took time to be exposed to different opinions, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares.

    That’s the web I remember before jail. That’s the web we have to save.

    Hossein Derakhshan, who is speaking at State of the Net in Trieste today

    “Has the time come to do something?”

    Ah, the eternal question. Retired circuit judge Nic Madge has taken to the august pages of the Times to ask it anew in a way fitting to this age.

    Time to regulate the murder weapons in your kitchen drawer

    Barely a day passes without news of another fatal stabbing or knife attack causing serious injury. For instance, in the past month in Wolverhampton 15-year-old Keelan Wilson died from multiple stab wounds. In Northampton 17-year-old Louis-Ryan Menezes was stabbed to death in broad daylight in a crowded street. In separate incidents in Sheffield a 15-year-old, a 19-year-old and an older man were found dying from stab wounds.

    And so on for a depressing few paragraphs. If anyone had not known that violent crime persists despite the laws against it, they have no excuse for not knowing it now. He continues,

    Much has been done to combat knife crime. Possession in a public place of an article with a blade or sharp point without a good reason carries a prison sentence of up to four years. Possession of blades or pointed items on school premises is a separate offence. Anyone convicted of a second knife offence faces a mandatory minimum custodial sentence.

    Recently a new Sentencing Council guideline with tougher sentences for knife crime came into force. It is illegal to sell knives, axes or swords to anyone aged under 18. The police are taking steps to prevent internet sales to young people. In Bedfordshire many shops put such knives on shelves out of reach of customers. The police have made metal detecting arches available for schools. The police, youth offending service, schools and others are doing excellent educational and awareness work about the dangers of knife crime. The Metropolitan Police are piloting a deferred prosecution scheme for less serious offences.

    So, how is this migthy wave of banning and sentencing and “excellent awareness work”-ing working in the other sense?

    Yet these measures have almost no effect on the availability of knives to youths.

    Oh.

    A few of the blades carried are “Rambo” knives, “zombie” knives or samurai swords. These, though, are a minority. The vast majority are ordinary kitchen knives that are potential murder weapons. It is easy for any youth who wants a knife to take it from any kitchen drawer.

    Why, though, do we need 8in or 10in kitchen knives with points? Butchers and fishmongers do, but how often does a domestic chef use the point of a knife that size? Yes, we need short knives with points to fillet fish or pierce meat, but they are less likely to be lethal. Any blade can cause an injury, but slash wounds from them are rarely fatal: the points of long knives cause life-threatening and fatal injuries.

    Manufacturers, shops, the police, local authorities and the government should consider further regulating the sale of long, pointed knives. At the very least shops should sell alternatives with rounded ends. There have always been stabbings and always will be. The carrying and ready use of large, pointed knives has led to the increase in death and serious injury. Punches, kicks and attacks with blunt objects injure, but the results are less likely to be severe or fatal.

    Young lives are needlessly being cut short. Those who survive knife attacks carry physical and psychological scars. The lives of families, communities, and not forgetting the young offenders who receive lengthy sentences on conviction, are blighted by the ready availability of such knives. Has the time come to do something?

    Time for you to step back from the computer and have a relaxing hot bath to cure this fit of the vapours, m’lud.

    Or maybe not. As a highly recommended Times comment by someone called “Erasure” puts it,

    Next week: The Times makes a case for removing baths from homes;

    “You just can’t be too careful, said an HSE spokeshuman….Baths are filled with water and if you have children in your home under the age of 4 then I’m afraid the danger is too great and the bath must go………….either that or the Council will remove your children from the appalling danger. I think that is a sensible and proportionate sanction and something that I am sure all sensible, well-educated and right-on families living in Islington are in agreement about”

    Time to get some strawberries and think of Wimbledon

    As is customary on these occasions, I would like to express the hope that it will be over quickly, and that everybody loses.

    Seriously, though, if the British were serious about Brexit, they would stop playing and following this ridiculous and offensive round ball game that is so beloved of continental Europeans and Latin American thugocracies, and which in recent times has sold itself to the highest bidders in Russia and the Middle East, no matter how odious and disgusting. If you actually understood and realistically wanted to join the Anglosophere, you would disdain it. Certainly we in the rest of the English speaking world would have more respect for you if you did.

    (Yes, I know you invented it. That’s not remotely the point).

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Media breaths a sigh of relief that a raccoon climbing Union Bank of Switzerland building in Minnesota distracts public from Trump’s diplomatic success with North Korea. Next: IRS audits raccoon & announces he has a Swiss bank account & ties to Vladimir Putin #MPRaccoon

    Perry de Havilland

    Anyone know how the new EU internet censorship & link tax law will affect the UK?

    According to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware, in one week’s time I might no longer be able to link to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware and quote him like I’m about to do. Or have I misunderstood? I hope I have, because this sounds serious:

    EU Expected To Pass Censorship Machines, Link Tax On June 20

    As soon as June 20, next week, the European Parliament will vote a draft legislation proposed by the European Commission (EU’s executive body). Critics have attacked the proposal as being quite extreme because it could impact many digital industries too severely.

    Censorship Machines (Article 13)

    One of the biggest issues with the new EU copyright reform proposal is the Article 13, which mandates that websites that accept user content (anything from videos to online comments) must have an “upload filter” that would block all copyrighted content that’s uploaded by users. Critics, such as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, have also called upload filters “censorship machines.”

    Under the censorship machine proposal, companies would be required to get a license for any copyrighted content that is uploaded to their site by its users. In other words, websites would be liable for any content their users upload to the site. It goes without saying that this could significantly hamper innovation on the internet.

    For instance, YouTube or a site like it, probably wouldn’t even exist today if the site would have been liable for what users uploaded from day one.

    Link Tax (Article 11)

    The “link tax” proposal in Article 11 of the copyright reform directive is another idea that’s not just seemingly bad, but it has also failed in countries such as Spain and Germany, where it has already been attempted. Instead of getting companies such as Google or other publishers to pay for the links, or article excerpts and previews, those companies simply stopped linking to content coming from Germany and Spain.

    To make matters worse, the EC will allow EU member states to decide for themselves how the link tax should work. This seems contrary to the Commission’s “Digital Single Market” objective, because it will create significant complexity for all online publishers operating in the EU. They will have to abide by all the different copyright rules in the 27 member states. Existing fragmented copyright laws in the EU is one of the reasons why services such as Netflix took so long to arrive in most European countries, too.

    Reda believes that a link tax would significantly reduce the number of hyperlinks we see on the web, which means websites will be much less connected to each other. Additionally, the link tax could boost fake news, because real publishers may require others to pay for linking to its content, but fake news operations evidently will not. These groups will want their content to be spread as easily as possible.

    Reda also said that the link tax would be in violation of the Berne Convention, which guarantees news websites the right to quote articles and “press summaries.”

    I have heard of Julia Reda MEP before. She sits with the Greens in the EU Parliament but don’t hold that against her; she is actually a member of the Pirate Party. She is fighting the good fight.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    If the Left could see themselves through the eyes of neoliberalism, they would see people whose motives might be laudable, but whose methodology is not. They are seen not only as economic illiterates, but as ones with no sense of history, no knowledge, or even concern, with what has happened before. They appear as people whose fixation with theory lifts them above the practicalities of the world as it is. Their proposals are just as impractical, error-strewn and doomed to failure as they were the last time they were tried. Human nature as it is, not as it might be, often thwarts their intent. It exists in the real world, where neoliberalism has its roots and works with the grain of human nature, not against it.

    Madsen Pirie