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]

My Number

The new unified identification system with its associated up-to-the-minute database will streamline government, reduce fraud and tax evasion, make it easier to stop people “falling between the cracks” of different government departments, provide a convenient single means for citizens to prove their identity, and protect us all from terrorism. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

What will bring about all these benefits? It sounds very like the UK Identity Cards Act 2006, but that cannot be since various malcontents forced the Act’s repeal in 2010. While it is true that for the British Civil Servant no setback is ever permanent, for now the torch has passed to Japan, where the latest version of the Eternal Scheme is called “My Number”.

Even in such a cooperative and law-abiding culture as Japan there are the inevitable troublemakers:

More Japan citizens sue gov’t over My Number system

Around 30 citizens in central and southwestern Japan filed lawsuits Thursday with regional courts, demanding the government suspend the use of identification numbers under the newly launched My Number social security and tax number system.

The lawsuits are the latest in a string of cases in which residents and lawyers argue that the right to privacy is endangered by the system, which allocates a 12-digit identification number to every resident of Japan, including foreign nationals, to simplify administrative procedures for taxation and social security.

Mitsuhiro Kato, who heads the lawyers’ group in the lawsuit with the Nagoya District Court, said at a press conference, “There were cases in which personal information was (illegally) sold and bought. Once the use of My Number expands, the state would come to control individual activities.”

According to the lawsuit, the action to collect citizens’ personal information without their consent infringes on their right to manage their own personal information. The plaintiffs are also worried about the risk of their personal information being leaked given the insufficient security measures currently in place.

My Number legislation has been enacted to make it easier for tax and other authorities to discover cases of tax evasion and wrongful receipt of welfare benefits.

But public concerns have grown over the government’s handling of personal information under the My Number system following massive data leaks from the Japan Pension Service in the wake of cyberattacks in May.

Here is a little more about that massive data leak from, or rather hack of, the Japanese pension system: 1.25 million affected by Japan Pension Service hack.

But fear not:

The hacked computers were not connected online to the fund’s core computer system, which keeps financial details of the pension system’s members, officials said. No illicit access to the core system, which contains the most sensitive information, such as the amount of premiums paid by and the amount of benefits paid to each individual, has been detected, they said, adding that they are still investigating the incident.

It is remarkable how when we read about these government data security breaches in any country, the most alarming possibilities always seem to have been avoided. Some special providence must protect government databases.

The public face of My Number is provided by popular actress Aya Ueto and a rabbit-like mascot with numbers in place of eyes called “Maina-chan”.

On feminists objectifying women and male versus female styles of trolling

Hillary Clinton objectifies women by reducing them to mere body parts:

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, said that she would win the nomination and unify the party. She gained perhaps her biggest applause of the night for taking on the moderators of this and past Democratic debates.

There had been “not one question about a woman’s right to contraceptive health care”, she said. In spite of attempts in some states to impose limits and “a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, saying women should be punished (for abortions)” it had not been discussed. “It goes to the heart of who we are as women,” she said.

So Secretary Clinton believes that the core of a woman’s identity is decided by her stance regarding contraception or abortion (as if all women had the same stance), or, more limiting yet, decided for her by the stance of her local jurisdiction regarding contraception and abortion. Time was when feminism was about refusing to define women by so-called women’s issues.

While I am on the subject of the decline of feminism, Guardian Clickbait-profiteer Jessica Valenti says in an article for which comments are closed,

I’m tired of having to explain, over and over again, why the tone of the comments under my pieces is indeed sexist

I strongly agree that the Guardian moderators have the right and are right to delete insults and ban those uttering them. When it comes to threats they should contact the police in any case where it appears that the threat might be credible.

But I’ve read many, many Guardian feminist articles and their accompanying comments and observed a few things.

The typical insult thrown at a woman writing online by a male troll is vile by convention. He will either denigrate some aspect of her physical appearance or sexuality, or will call her by the name of a body part. Conventions matter. These insults still hurt because all sides know they are meant to hurt. But looked at objectively, they are meaningless. The things referred to are not actually bad things. I am a woman who writes online and I have had a few such insults. I mentally sent them back to their originators with knobs on, then turned to other matters.

The typical insult thrown at a man writing online by a female troll (the Guardian sub-species of which is usually found writing above the line) is to accuse him of something that, if true, would actually be vile. She will typically call him a “misogynist”, a hater of women. That really is a bad thing to be. Worse still, she might call him a rape-apologist, a rape-enabler, or a would-be rapist. To truly be any of these things is evil. Yet such terms are frequently thrown around very casually at targets who have done no more than act in what the feminst writer sees as a sexist way, behaviour which may even be acknowledged by the writer to be unconscious, or at those who have simply expressed disagreement with her version of feminism.

I’ve had a few of this type of insult too, in the days when I used to comment on the Guardian website using a screen name that did not clearly indicate my gender. They made me far more angry than the body-part type of insult. What did I do to get me called a rape-apologist? I argued that not every claim of rape is true.

Thanks, Recep old boy. Cheque’s in the post. Yours, Boris.

The Telegraph reports,

Turkey demands Germany prosecute comedian for Erdogan insult

Angela Merkel is facing a political dilemma after Turkey demanded one of Germany’s most popular comedians face prosecution for insulting its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The row could jeopardise the EU’s controversial migrant deal with Turkey.

The German government confirmed on Monday it had received a “formal request” from Turkey over the weekend indicating it wishes to press charges in the case.

If Mrs Merkel agrees to allow the prosecution, she will face accusations of limiting free speech to placate the authoritarian Mr Erdogan.

But if she refuses it could put the migrant deal with Turkey, which she personally brokered, at risk.

Jan Böhmermann, one of Germany’s most successful young comedians, faces up to five years in prison over a poem in which he referred to Mr Erdogan as a “goat-f*****” and described him as watching child pornography.

Insulting a foreign head of state is illegal under German law, but a prosecution can only take place if a foreign government requests it.

Any prosecution also requires the express authorisation of the German government — leaving Mrs Merkel in a difficult position.

Death to the blasphem… long live the brave reformer!

“Let’s abandon our broken NHS and move on”, says Melanie Phillips.

Dame Julie Moore, the respected chief executive of the University Hospitals Birmingham trust, was asked last week to explain why the NHS was in such difficulty. A lot of it, she believed was down to leadership failure and incompetence on every level. “We’ve created a culture of people who are terrified of making decisions because you can’t be held to account for making no decision but you can if you make a decision,” she said.

Much of the blame lay with previous governments who had centralised power, leaving many of her colleagues “waiting for a command from God on high” instead of taking the initiative.

What Dame Julie describes is typical of highly politicised bureaucracies. In the NHS, this entails a culture of fear from the health secretary downwards. What are they all so frightened of? In essence, that the veils of illusion surrounding the NHS will be torn away and it will be seen to be the failure that it is.

That this is so surprises me not at all. That it is said by a popular, if marmite-flavoured columnist suprises me a little. That the comments ordered by recommendations enthusiastically agree with her surprises me quite a lot. One would get a very different result at the Guardian, of course. The Daily Mail? Right now, I think the Mail readers would feel as free as Times readers do to recount their bad experiences of the NHS, yet would still baulk at the words “abandon the NHS”.

Hey, Cameron! Remember what you did to Jimmy Carr?

June 2012: David Cameron uses his bully pulpit as Prime Minister to denounce the comedian Jimmy Carr for the entirely legal way he arranged his financial affairs to minimize tax.

April 2016: David Cameron is denounced from all sides for the entirely legal way he arranged his financial affairs to minimize tax.

I weep. With laughter.

The Times smears Cruz, to his advantage

By now I should have got over my bemusement at how “[a] feature of British reporting on American affairs is that even newspapers that sell themselves as right wing or too grand to take a side in US politics take their tone straight from the Democratic party”. I haven’t. It’s still weird. It has almost stopped working but they haven’t stopped doing it. A case in point: this article in this morning’s Times by or posted from a person or place with the delightful name of “Boer Deng” will not displease the Ted Cruz campaign team.

‘Hypocrite’ Cruz hounded out of the Bronx by pupil protests

He was forced to cancel an appearance at a high school in New York on Wednesday when pupils threatened to walk out if the event went ahead. The same day, a rally was disrupted by protesters who called him a “hypocrite only looking for money and votes”.

Politician looking for votes – shock horror! Peaceful political rally disrupted – yay wonderful! Times readers are not likely to think either of these things. The recent redesign of the Times website seems to have wiped out all previous reader comments ever, but, trust me, previous stories like this one about protesters disrupting Donald Trump’s rallies called forth a stream of comments along the lines of “I am no fan of Trump, but this is thuggery”. Getting back to Cruz:

His win in the Midwest on Tuesday has paved the way for a challenge to Donald Trump at the national convention this summer. However, the limits of his staunch, right-wing brand were laid bare as he was practically chased out of the Bronx, a diverse borough that is home to many Hispanic and Asian immigrants.

Some of whom might have wanted to hear the views of one of the candidates for the office of President of their country. Tough.

In the past, he has made remarks about women that many have found misogynistic.

Any chance of a link to the exact words of these remarks so that readers could judge for themselves whether that oft-quoted expert “many” is correct in this assessment?

Mr Cruz had hoped to gather at least some support from socially conservative ministers in some Bronx neighbourhoods, but was overwhelmed by animus from the locals.

Or rather, some of the locals. The ones who got to decide that the likes of “socially conservative ministers in some Bronx neighbourhoods” who might well have not shared their animus and wished to hear Mr Cruz speak were the wrong sort of locals so their wishes didn’t count.

This may come as a surprise to paramount leader Deng, but it is possible for a politician to still gather support despite being “chased away” or even by the fact of being chased away.

His campaign team quickly retreated to the whiter, more conservative northern part of the state, where he received a warmer reception yesterday morning.

If the category “white hispanic” had not already been invented for George Zimmerman it would be necessary to invent it for Ted Cruz.

Fooled ya!

The Daily Mail reports:

April Fools is no laughing matter, China’s official news service intoned Friday, saying the Western tradition of opening spring with a gag is un-Chinese. The official news agency Xinhua’s stiffly worded post on micro-blog Weibo declared: “Today is the West’s so-called ‘April Fools'”. The occasion “does not conform with our nation’s cultural traditions, nor does it conform with the core values of socialism“, it added.

“Don’t believe rumours, don’t create rumours and don’t spread rumours,” it said, capping off the note with a smiley emoticon. A cartoon accompanying the post showed two phones “spreading rumours.” A finger pointing at them is accompanied by a word bubble that says “breaking the law”. Spreading rumours online can be a violation of Chinese law.

But the country’s Internet users met the reminder with a collective guffaw, suggesting that in China, every day is April Fools. “You speak lies every day, use government policy, data, to trick the people in every way. What’s up, what’s down? What’s wrong? What’s right? We’re on to you,” one Weibo commenter said. Other users likened the post to the satirical American newspaper The Onion. “The most amusing ‘April Fools’ news is that Xinhua is seriously saying ‘don’t believe rumours’,” said one.

One has to admire Xinhua’s deadpan delivery, but didn’t including the smiley rather give the game away?

A reminder: opposing the EU does not have to be about immigrants

Tyrannical EU threatens our liberal laws

“If Britain is at little risk of such tragic convulsions, it’s exposed to the EU’s progressive authoritarianism in more surreptitious ways. The jurist Sir William Blackstone articulated the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of British justice: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” The Napoleonic code that influenced much of continental Europe, and the EU, lacks that respect for individual liberty.

Take the European arrest warrant (EAW). Innocent British citizens have been subjected to Kafkaesque justice systems by a fast-track process that sidesteps basic safeguards. In 2014, Keith Hainsworth, an Ancient Greek tutor sightseeing in Greece, was wrongly accused of setting a forest ablaze. Arrested without a shred of evidence, a five-week nightmare saw him holed up in a notorious Athens jail. A Greek judge eventually released him, admitting a simple error that could have been cleared up with one phone call. The Hainsworths were left with legal bills approaching £40,000.”

– From a piece by Dominic Raab in the Sunday Times.

Update: There is an oddity in this morning’s edition of the Times. Under the heading “Understanding European Capital Markets”, which seems to be a series title, there is a little article that starts as follows,

What is the European Commission doing to improve the access to financing for start-ups and SMEs?

David Muxworthy is adamant that without the EU’s financial assistance, he would have been forced to give up more of the equity in his company to private investors. He is the chief financial officer of MyPinPad, a state-of-the-art technology company that specialises in authentication solutions for devices like mobiles and tablets.

According to this year’s European Parliament annual report, there are around 22 million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) like Muxworthy’s operating in the EU, providing two thirds of private sector employment – around 75 million jobs. The International Monetary Fund describes these sorts of businesses – agile, innovative, entrepreneurial, job-creating and growing – as the “backbone” of the European economy. The EU is well aware of SMEs’ importance and has set up a series of financial organisations to help them fulfil their potential. Localisation is a key consideration, and focus is often given to geographical economic “clusters”.

Something in the tone struck me as a little off. The typeface was just very slightly different, too. Then I saw the discreetly placed logo at the top right corner. “In association with Goldman Sachs.” Ah.

Public Health Wales keeping themselves in work

E-cigarettes could be banned in Welsh public places to protect children, reports the Telegraph.

E-cigarettes could be banned in public places where children are present in a landmark vote in the Welsh Assembly.

The Labour-controlled government in Cardiff Bay is hoping to pass its Public Health (Wales) Bill in the Senedd on Wednesday.

If passed, the Bill would become a UK first and would restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in certain public places – such as schools, places where food is served and on public transport.

The move has been criticised by opposition parties and even divided opinion among health charities.
However, Health Minister Mark Drakeford insists the legislation will protect people from harm – and the curbs on e-cigarettes would make smoking less appealing to youngsters.

He said: “The Bill will help us to respond to a range of public health threats in Wales, including the risk of re-normalising smoking for a generation of children and young people who have grown up in largely smoke-free environments.

But if smoking could by some strange magic – some ingenious invention, let us say – be supplanted by a process that gave similar satisfaction but was much less dangerous, why would normalising that be bad? “Think of the children” is not an intrinsically bad argument. Hard-core libertarian though I am, I do concede that it would be better not to smoke around the kiddies. But making it harder for smokers to quit involves the consequence that the children of those smokers will not grow up in smoke free environments when otherwise they might have. I would have thought that the health of the children of smokers, the children we are told are being harmed with every breath they take, should be prioritized over the purely theoretical health problems that might or might not arise for a future generation after something that looks like smoking has been “renormalised”.

Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, a couple of medium-fake charities that I would once have expected to join in the chant of “ban it” are showing surprising sense. No such weakening and deviationism is seen from Public Health Wales. Nothing will sway this “health body”, whose austerely modernist Three Random Word name is purged of all extraneous prepositions, from its work of protecting itself from evidence-based policymaking:

And health body Public Health Wales’ added: “We cannot sit around and wait a couple of decades to see whether or not the conclusive evidence that people might like to see is available before making a judgment.”

UPDATE: Mr Ed tells me that the measure failed to pass by the narrowest of margins after a considered and principled change of mind by Plaid Cymru. Nah, not really. It failed after a Labour guy called Plaid a “cheap date” and Plaid got into a huff. “Oft evil will shall evil mar”, as Theoden said about Wormtongue, a bloke almost as prone as the members of the Welsh Assembly to throwing his toys out of the pram.

Indirect advertising

Academies are paying comprehensive schools to take troublesome pupils, a study claimed yesterday, indicating that schools are finding stealthy ways to be selective.

It was suggested that thousands of children are being pushed out by schools desperate to improve their results. Some failing schools are closing and reopening with a smaller intake as a way of excluding difficult pupils, according to the Centre for High Performance, run by Oxford and Kingston universities.

I expect there to be a storm of outrage.

And a rise in applications to those academies so named and shamed. One “difficult” child can ruin the education of dozens of others. Parents know and fear this. If the elite truly wanted to improve the education of the masses, they would give comprehensives the power to exclude as well. But then what would happen to those children no school would take? That would happen. No school would take them. They would not be educated, by their own choice.

Revealed: papering over the cracks does not actually repair them

More than 50 years of education reforms ‘have not helped social mobility’, “reveals” the Guardian

That is because the reformers’ response to observing the problem of underachievement among poorer children was not to cure it, nor even to explain it, but to conceal it.

Try not lying

Another story from Der Spiegel International caught my eye: Lying Press? Germans Lose Faith in the Fourth Estate. It says it is by “Spiegel staff”. Someone would rather not put their name to this.

This comment from a reader calling themselves “wildberry” summed it up well:

“How can a woman who has been reading SPIEGEL, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Badische Neueste Nachrichten for years hit upon the idea that the journalists writing for these publications are trying to manipulate her, their reader?” This sentence encapsulates the problem. This air of injured innocence betrays the utter refusal of the journalists and their employers to understand why they are mistrusted and seen no longer as telling the truth to the world and holding the establishment to account. Instead they are more and more regarded as no more trustworthy than this same establishment. In fact, as with the latest example of (at best) partial and belated attempts to confront reality, they are seen as culpable, partial, and biased. That they cannot understand their own shortcomings and their own unconscious bias is at the root of the problem. When the press is seen, not as having a slight political preference – that has ever been the case and is widely accepted and understood, but as being complicit in the deliberate twisting of news-facts, one has to recognise that newspapers have dug their own graves and cannot complain when no-one believes them any more.

Another one, this time from “Pryor Oak”:

I am amazed that Der Spiegel is suddenly allowing readers to post comments. That is a step in the correct direction to earn trust in the media. Regarding the events in Cologne on New Years Eve, the Chief of Police issued a press release on January 1, 2016, stating that it was a “peaceful New Year’s Eve”. Only after Germans posted eyewitness accounts on Twitter, Facebook and international media that people learned the truth. This event created a distrust of the German media, police and government because it appeared that these institutions wanted to create a wall of silence regarding crimes committed by migrants against German citizens.

Here are two posts from the Samizdata back catalogue with a similar theme: If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right and Politically correct evasiveness fails on its own terms. And just to show that this isn’t me jumping on the latest bandwagon, here’s a depressingly similar Biased BBC post from ten years ago: Two Beaches.

In the latter Samizdata post I asked (without, it must be said, any serious doubts as to the answer) the British press how it thought the strategy of silence and euphemism about the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the crimes for which Rotherham is now world famous was succeeding. The same strategy was tried again in Germany with the same result. If the press of either country actually cares about diminishing the hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims it needs to try a new strategy. Try not lying.