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]

That’s how the cookie warning crumbles

KitGuru reports:

The European Union proposes law to stop browser cookie pop-ups

Back in 2012, the European Union passed a law requiring websites to give visitors a warning regarding browser cookies. These pop-ups or banner warnings are now common place across the web and were initially intended to protect user privacy but for the most part, they are just seen as an annoying box getting in the way of whatever content you are trying to access. It seems the European Union now also agrees with that and has proposed new regulations to do away with cookie pop-up warnings.

We initially saw a drafted version of the proposed law back in December but this week, the European Commission officially unveiled its proposal. The plan is to essentially remove website banners that provide disclaimers on browser cookies. A user’s browser preference in regards to cookies will automatically apply to sites they visit instead.

See, Brexit is doing them good already.

It’s a ruddy hate crime, that’s what it is!

The Times reports,

The home secretary’s party conference speech proposing that companies compile lists of foreign workers has been declared a “hate incident” by police under crime recording policies that she has supported.

Amber Rudd’s remarks about tougher rules for immigrant workers and foreign students attracted fierce criticism at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last October.

She said that the government would be “examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad” and ensuring that foreign workers were “not taking jobs British people could do”.

Joshua Silver, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, was so concerned that he reported the speech to police.

“I felt politicians have been using hate speech to turn Britons against foreigners, and I thought that is probably not lawful,” Professor Silver said.

Once he reported the speech, police were required to investigate.

West Midlands police have now written to the professor stating that the inquiry is concluded and the matter “has been recorded in line with the National Police Chiefs’ Council manual as a non-crime hate incident”.

The policy of blanket recording of all hate incidents was set out in 2014 by the College of Policing and backed by Ms Rudd last year.

I do not know whether Professor Silver’s motivation for reporting Rudd to the police was serious or satirical. Either way, it gave me a laugh.

Update: Apparently he was being serious. There is humour to be derived from his bout with Andrew Neil on BBC2’s Daily Politics, though I prefer my comedy to be less cruel. Kinder souls will hope that Professor Silver is remembered as the inventor of a type of low-cost user-adjustable eyeglasses – devices which might help millions of people – than for today’s embarrassing performance.

By the way, next time you read of the post-Brexit surge of reported hate incidents, remember the surge includes this.

Some things I will miss about the now defunct Bella Caledonia web magazine

Bella Caledonia is, or was, a magazine style website devoted to a far left vision of Scottish Independence. I lurked there often and commented seldom. When I clicked on the link http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ this morning I saw a message abruptly announcing its closure, and when I visited it again just now I saw the “404 Not Found” message. (Update: the site is now back up, though its future is still in doubt.)

I hope that was just a glitch and they haven’t really taken the whole site down. However far from them I am politically, I can have nothing but sympathy with someone who has been writing for or commenting at a website for a decade and then finds it has all been wiped. I would cry if that happened here.

As someone interested in languages, I shall miss the writing in and about Scots. I shall miss the commenters. Some of them were refreshingly, some worryingly, far from the mainstream of politics. A feeling of kinship… I shall say no more. Above all I shall miss their clarity about what they wanted for Scotland.

Three years ago I was so struck by an essay by regular Bella contributor Robin McAlpine, director of the Common Weal thinktank, about his desires for press regulation in a future independent Scotland that I copied it to my clippings file. The title alone was an Orwellian masterpiece. It originally appeared at this url: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/03/19/real-freedom-sounds-like-many-voices/. Since that piece now seems to have vanished along with the rest of the Bella Caledonia archive, and since it is a mirror to the latest efforts by a Conservative UK government to end press freedom, I shall preserve it by posting it below.

I have put the phrase “Above all, this would require that titles other than the franchised ones would be banned” in bold, but other than that have made no changes. Here it is:

Real Freedom Sounds Like Many Voices

by Robin McAlpine 19TH MARCH 2013

“What we are actually having a debate about is the right of very, very rich people to control our society outside of any oversight or regulation …”

I have unburdened myself of the frustration I feel at the way I feel about how the media regulation debate has been covered in the Scottish press (here). Since then I’ve been contacted by a number of people who share my frustration but who want to know if there are other options for media regulation or other possibilities or arguments that are being censored in this debate. Yes there are – all of them.

→ Continue reading: Some things I will miss about the now defunct Bella Caledonia web magazine

Sign here to protect both the freedom of the press and the integrity of the courts

I meant to write in more detail about the grotesque perversion of natural justice embodied in the proposed Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act earlier, but I was ill so I didn’t. Never mind. Guido Fawkes has covered the essentials here. That link takes you to a post on Guido’s site which contains a petition to the government. If you are from the UK, please consider signing it.

For an explanation of why I say that, see this from Michael Gove in the Times:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is considering whether or not to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the period of consultation ends next week. If implemented, section 40 would require newspapers either to register with an approved regulator or face active discrimination in the courts.

The one regulator the government has so far approved, Impress, is funded largely by the former Formula One boss Max Mosley, a determined campaigner for restrictions on the press ever since a Sunday tabloid published disobliging details about his private life. Mr Mosley has assembled a team to run Impress who could never be mistaken for carefree libertarians.

Three of his board members support a campaign to starve The Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail of advertising revenue. One board member has expressed his sadness that the Mail cannot just be banned, and the CEO of the organisation has shared social media posts comparing the Mail to Nazi newspapers and has decried its work as fascist. One does not have to admire every aspect of the Mail to recognise that its crusading journalism played a huge part in bringing the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice. Nazi newspapers tend not to be big on opposing racist violence.

Gove too right wing for you? Try this article from the left-liberal David Aaronovitch in the same paper, which I quoted in this Samizdata post and unapologetically quote again:

Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.

What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.

Perhaps you are inclined to oppose the views of anyone writing for one of the Murdoch papers? Then read this piece and this follow-up from Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. There is no paywall at the G, so I will just link rather than quote any more than this:

In so doing, its [the lobby group Hacked Off] ideologues have placed their faith in the political establishment. They believe the charter is safe in the hands of MPs and peers and that the conditions that might lead to it being altered are highly unlikely.

But my lack of respect for what they call the media establishment (which, incidentally, is itself a mythical construct) is nothing like as great as my lack of respect for the so-called political establishment.

Added later: The Daily Mirror is another left wing paper opposing this measure: Do you want to gag the truth? Why new law will silence the free press.

In too much of a hurry to read all that? Guido’s earlier posts on this topic provide a quickie crash course. Here are enough to be going on with: (1), (2), (3), (4).

One last point. Quite apart from the danger to the freedom of the press, Section 40 would also set a precedent for using the attribution of court costs as a political instrument to apply pressure on bodies and individuals to do the government’s will. That corrupts the justice system itself.

Denial in the face of shame

I recommend this essay by Jack Staples-Butler for his “HistoryJack” blog, Starvation and Silence: The British Left and Moral Accountability for Venezuela.

DENIAL in the face of catastrophic failure of one’s ideas is a predictable reaction from a believer, as per Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance reduction in response to the failure of one’s beliefs. Denial in the face of shame for one’s actions is an experience well-studied by psychologists and criminologists. One 2014 study summarises the role of ‘shame’ in creating both denial of responsibility and recidivism among offenders:

“Feelings of shame… involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others — a process that can lead to aggression.”[1]

Combining both faces of the phenomenon of denial is the behaviour of the supporters, apologists and promoters of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, the late Hugo Chávez and the PSUV regime in Venezuela, and their response to the present state of the country. Humanitarian catastrophe of an apocalyptic scale is now unfolding in the most oil-rich state in the world. The magnitude of human suffering is indescribable. The scenes of bread queues and shortages familiar to Eurozone-crisis Greece are long since surpassed. Venezuela has become a ‘Starvation State’[2] which “today drowns in a humanitarian crisis”, with lawless cities and hunger for the majority.

And

The Chávez apologists are confronted with two cognitively distressing facts; that a favoured political project has failed, dragging millions into an abyss of hunger and despair in the process; and that they played an instrumental or even essential role in bringing this state of affairs about, whilst enabling the regime responsible to suppress and destroy its opposition by legitimising and even providing its conspiratorial narrative, pro bono. What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony is the absence of response.

The vacuum of recognition or even acknowledgement in the face of disaster is followed by an absence of moral accountability. Knowing full-well that Venezuela is still there, suffering beyond measure, those who involved themselves intimately in the politics of a South American republic now conduct their lives “as if” nothing had happened. In a devastating article, the writer Paul Canning named this as ‘The left’s giant forgetting’[16]. Venezuela has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation; although tacit recognition of their previous behaviour is found in some of the apologists, as in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s deletion of any reference to ‘Venezuela’ from his website in March 2016, after two decades of promoting the Chavismo ideology in articles, demonstrations and media appearances.

Bookmark the essay. It would take some time to follow all the many references and links provided by the author, but they are a resource in themselves. This one, about the ambiguous and contradictory testimonies given by two British Communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War decades later, caught my interest.

Is this true about the EU and the internet?

Julia Reda, a German Pirate Party MEP, has issued this list of 10 everyday things on the web the EU Commission wants to make illegal.

In a few days, scandal-prone Günther Oettinger will stop being Europe’s top internet policy maker – he’s being promoted to oversee the EU budget.

But before leaving, the outgoing Digital Commissioner submitted dangerous plans that undermine two core foundations of the internet: Links and file uploads. While Oettinger is going away, his lobby-dictated proposals are here to stay.

These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way (yes, you read that right), as well as the music industry’s wish to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube.

These proposals will cause major collateral damage – making many everyday habits on the web and many services you regularly use downright illegal, subject to fees or, at the very least, mired in legal uncertainty.

Not that the UK government needs the EU’s assistance to pass stupid and repressive laws about the internet, but if Ms Reda is correct about what this proposed law means, and it is ever enacted, that will be ten more things to paste into my “better off out” file. Quite possibly it would be the progenitor of many more “better off out” files created by angry internet users all over Europe. But I admit that do not know enough to judge whether these proposed measures are likely to come to pass, or would really be as bad as she says, or whether there is anything to be said in their favour.

Puzzle time!

Oh dear! Sir James Munby has had ever such a clever idea. His friend Frances Gibb has written a story about it for the newspaper. But they have both forgotten something very important. Can you help them find it?

Family courts chief calls for ban on abusers cross-examining victims

Abusers should be banned from cross-examining victims of domestic violence as a “priority”, says England’s most senior family judge.

Sir James Munby is pressing ministers to legislate to stop such cross-examinations, which still happen despite efforts by senior judges to prevent them.

The president of the family division, who raised the issue in 2014 amid concerns over the stress that such questioning puts on victims, is dismayed at the lack of action. He argues that the family justice system “lags woefully behind the criminal justice system” where cross-examination of an alleged victim by the defendant is not allowed by law.

In a statement today Sir James said that he would welcome a ban, adding: “Reform is required as a matter of priority.”

He added: “But the judiciary cannot provide this because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers.”

Senior judges are in talks with Women’s Aid, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence, to try to have the practice banned.

A spokesman for the judiciary added that Sir James, who is president of the family division of the High Court, was “disappointed by how slow the response to these issues has been and welcomes the continuing efforts by Women’s Aid to bring these important matters to wider public attention.”

Judges and women’s groups are discussing the workings of the existing rules, contained in a practice direction which has been reviewed by a senior family judge, Mr Justice Cobb. Cross-examination by violent partners has continued, despite the practice direction.

A survey by Women’s Aid found that a quarter of victims of domestic violence had been cross-examined by abusive partners.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told The Guardian: “When we talk to judges about this they say that this never happens. But it is happening, that is clear, and it seems fairly difficult to get this across.”

Concerns about cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses were raised by Sir James more than two years ago, prompting the setting up of a working party to deal with what was described as a “pressing need”.

The working party reported in 2014, condemning procedures for taking evidence from alleged victims as inadequate and pointing out that one High Court judge, Mr Justice Wood, had drawn attention to the issue as long ago as 2006.

Research by an all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence found that 55 per cent of women had no access to special measures in family courts, where 70 per cent of separation and child contact cases involve some form of domestic violence.

The group’s report, in April, called for an end to abusers cross-examining victims and was backed by two MPs, Jess Phillips and Maria Miller, who launched a joint call for action. The all-party group said it had launched its inquiry after becoming increasingly concerned concerned about the safety of women and child survivors of domestic abuse within the family courts.

No responsible adult would find this funny

Russian drunk drives car inside airport. (EXTRA FOOTAGE) Benny hill version

A contract signed under duress is invalid

All I have added to this excerpt from an article in the Times by David Aaronovitch is emphasis on what I consider to be the key words:

A free press must not be bullied by the state

Readers don’t know, but this happens all the time. Rich men and women threaten, companies threaten, gangsters and dope cheats threaten, aggrieved and time-rich individuals threaten; day in, day out letters before action flow like little streams of menace into our legal department. Almost every single time you expose someone or something, it happens in the context of legal threats. People don’t like it if you tell lies about them and they like it even less if you tell the truth.

Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.

What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.

And that of course is why, as sticks go, it’s a knout, a knobkerrie, a bludgeon. It would have to be because otherwise the British press, from the pinkest metro-sheet to the shoutiest judge-hating tabloid, will not sign up with the government-approved regulator.

Two articles about sexual violence in left wing papers that surprised me

The first article was by Eve Livingston writing in the Guardian: “The state is an enabler of sexual violence. So what hope for the victims?”

The headline caught my interest, which lasted well into the third paragraph. She wrote,

Violence does not exist solely in the instant that blow meets body, but in the circumstances that facilitate it and the systems which excuse it.

My heart soared. Could it be that Ayn Rand’s argument that all state laws are ultimately enforced at gunpoint had penetrated the pages of the Guardian? For it is certainly true that the state facilitates and excuses its own violence, and I have long thought that this produces a climate of opinion that tends to facilitate and excuse violent acts by anyone.

‘Fraid not. It was just another rehash of the tired old trick of redefining “violence” to mean “anything I don’t like”. Ms Livingston thinks that the government spending less money than she thinks it should on women’s refuges is “violence”. As is the government spending less on anything, or talking in metaphors that might induce unpleasant thoughts.

If economic policy too accurately embodies its violent language of slashing and cutting,

Whatevs, thought I. And nearly missed a rather good point:

…legislation around crime and justice delivers an almost laughable irony. In some cases, the very laws purportedly designed to protect women from violence can, in practice, enable it: the criminalisation of various activities relating to the sale of sex, for example, is universally opposed by sex worker-organising collectives, on the grounds that it limits their ability to work safely – for instance, in groups or designated zones – and without fear of violence from both clients and state agencies.

I was surprised and glad to read this. Until now almost the only voice in the Guardian opposing the fashionable “Nordic model” put forward by an unholy alliance between old style authoritarian conservatives such as Caroline Spelman MP and Gavin Shuker MP (one of whom does and one does not have the abbreviation for “Conservative” written after their name, not that it matters) and new style authoritarian feminists such as Guardian regulars Joan Smith and Catherine Bennett, came from Melissa Gira Grant. Ably though the latter writes, she tends to be discounted because she would actually know. Dear me, we can’t have that.

I really was glad to see that Eve Livingston sees that laws that claim to protect women from violence can have the opposite effect. It is sad that she almost hid her message from me (and not only me judging from the comments) by that silly attempt to stick the label “violence” on something that, even if one believes it to be bad, is not violence. Ironically that same trick is played by the crusading politicians she rightly opposes. Click on the link relating to Gavin Shuker MP above to read the following (emphasis added):

The year-long parliamentary enquiry argues that prostitution should be seen as violence against women and an affront to sexual equality, but sex workers have reacted furiously to the proposals arguing that the criminalisation of clients will push sex work underground, further stigmatise women and put lives at risk.

The second article that surprised me is from the New Statesman. Sarah Ditum writes, “What’s missing from the transgender debate? Any discussion of male violence.”

One of those things that supposedly never happens, happened. Luke Mallaband was convicted of six voyeurism offences after a female student at the University of East Anglia found his phone hidden in the university library’s gender-neutral toilets. The probation report described him as “high risk of posing serious harm to females”.

Here I was simply and honestly surprised that a piece in the New Statesman admitted there was a potential problem at all. I had thought that the whole “transgender bathroom rights” issue was still so new and shiny, like a newly socialist country whose economy has not yet visibly gone to pot, that no one on the Left dared break ranks. But Sarah Ditum did dare, and despite the many poor arguments elsewhere in her article, she saw where Eve Livingston did not the danger in the attempt to use the emotions stirred up by a word as a substitute for argument:

“Inclusion” and “equality” are words with strong positive connotations, and those positive connotations can sometimes smother the problem of competing rights in a warm feel-good fuzz. On 1 December, Parliament debates the report of the Women and Equalities Committee into transgender equality: from reading it, you would have very little idea that the rights of women and the rights claimed by trans people have any points of conflict.

It is not that I have any particular opinion on whether gender neutral public toilets are a Good Thing or a Bad Thing in general. Of course they should be allowed, and of course gender segregated public toilets should be allowed. Libertarianism offers a way out of the contradictions about the “competing rights” of this or that group: respect the right of whoever provides the toilets in a premises to enforce what rules they think best and the right of potential users of the toilets to use those ones or go elsewhere as they think best.

“The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.”

“Richmond Park marks the start of a new, cross-party rejection of Brexit”, says Hugo Dixon in the Guardian. Predictably. People like Geraint Davies MP and David Lammy MP been weaselling away since the week of the referendum. Zac Goldsmith’s defeat at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in the Richmond Park by-election has worked on the Remainers like a psychotropic drug in their carrot juice.

A Reddit user called “lordweiner27” neatly turned around every cliché of the Weasel genre. His or her post seems to have been removed from r/ukpolitics, so I thought I would preserve it here:

The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.

We know that the LibDems lied and put out fake news during the campaign. When people realise this how many people will change their mind?

We also know that this wasn’t really a vote for the LibDems, it was a by election with very low turnout. What this really was was a rejection of the establishment in the form of multi millionaire Goldsmith, not a vote in favour of the LibDems.

I’ve already spoken to people in Richmond and they’re telling me that their having Libgret and wish they’d voted for Zac. They’re telling me that they were decieved by the LibDem campaign, they fell for the lies and they feel that they themselves are possibly retarded.

And anyway, why should ordinary people get to decide who their MP is? Zac was more well qualified than the LibDem candidate having been an MP for years. All the experts back Zac and they’re always right.

Parlez pas trop vite

Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?

Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU’s disastrous economic policy?

– Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 7 May 2012

François Hollande will not seek re-election as president of France

François Hollande, the least popular French president since the second world war, has announced he will not run for a second term in office.

With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.

– Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 1 December 2016