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]

Ejecting people from restaurants

The Whitehouse press secretary was required to leave a restaurant because the restaurant owner did not like her views. This seems like a perfectly civilised and non-violent way of objecting to views or actions. A restaurant owner should be free to require people to leave for any reason; the restaurant is private property.

The Guardian article quotes Walter Shaub‘s tweet:

There’s no ethics rule against Sarah Sanders fans being cartoonish hypocrites in defending merchants discriminating against gay people but howling when a merchant rejects a human rights violator based on her involvement in harming babies & children. Ridicule will have to suffice.

The Guardian article does not mention the obvious response:

Conservatives aren’t arguing the restaurant didn’t have the right. Not asking for the government to step in and force the restaurant to serve her. Not going to the Supreme Court either. Let the free market decide.

It is surprising how often it is necessary to spell out the difference between not liking something and wanting the state to intervene to stop it.

The presumption of liberty

My attention was drawn to an article about a harmless Australian eccentric who was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the authorities.

The gentleman who was harassed, a certain Mr. Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, had removed the fare chip from a train travelcard and had it implanted in his hand, thus allowing him to access the train system without needing to carry the card — he could wave his hand over the card reader instead. No allegation was made that he had defrauded the Sydney transit system in any way. He paid his fare, he was just using a chip implanted in his hand instead of into a plastic card.

However, the humorless martinets of the prosecution service decided to go after him anyway, even though he had obviously done no harm to anyone. Why? Presumably because we now live in a society where the implicit rule is, that which is not explicitly permitted is forbidden. Never mind that he’d paid his fare, never mind that no tangible harm was done to anyone or anything, it annoyed them that someone might do something they found peculiar, and so they set forth to crush that behavior.

(Mr. Meow-Meow’s fare chip was cancelled, by the way. This, to me, seems like a breach of contract, and possibly even a theft, as he had paid legitimately for his travel, and his money was taken without recourse.)

The assumption in any civilized society society should be this: that which harms no one is legal, and should not be subject to punishment upon the arbitrary and capricious whims of humorless prosecutors who decide to find something irritating for no important reason. Laws should be few, clear, irredundant, and should exist only to deal with actual interpersonal conflicts in which one party has actually damaged another and not merely offended their sensibilities. It should never be possible for an official to decide to crush someone merely because they find them vaguely distasteful in some manner.

Indeed, any official who decides to do such a thing should, in turn, themselves be guilty of an offense, for they have proposed to use the weight of the courts not to restrain a malefactor but to deprive someone of their freedom.

The presumption should always be that things which harm no one are perfectly legal. The fact that your neighbor doesn’t like your haircut, or the music you prefer, or the fact that you like keeping your proximity chip in your hand rather than in your wallet, or that you eat strange food or enjoy sleeping at the wrong time of day should never be an offense, and indeed, society should vigorously and mercilessly prosecute those who would interfere with the liberty of others.

Mr. Meow-Meow won his day in court this time (although he found himself forced, unaccountably, to pay court costs when he had caused no one any harm), but I fear that the presumption of liberty in the Anglosphere has long since been forgotten. It is long past time to resurrect it, and vigorously.

EU votes yes to copyright reform

The EU, or at least 15 out of a committee of 25 MEPs, has voted yes to the link tax, censorship machines and meme banning bill, previously written about here by Natalie Solent. There is still a possibility it could be blocked. From The Next Web:

However, there is a way to change that. Plenary is the European Parliament’s tool to bring matters out of committee and put up for a vote in the Parliament itself, i.e. have all 751 MEPs vote instead of only 25. But there needs to be enough support in Parliament for this to happen, so opposers have already started campaigning for a plenary session.

Julia Reda is saying that this new vote could happen on 4th July. The Save Your Internet campaign site has information and is urging people to write to their MEPs.

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?

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!

    “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”

    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.

    The Prince of Prosperity and Secession

    Here is a fascinating YT documentary on Liechtenstein, that remote Elysium high on the young Rhine, with a long interview with the Prince himself, starting just before 6 minutes in, and running mostly to the end, in all 38 minutes. Some fascinating commentary from him on his policies and his country’s history, including the slightly farcical Nazi ‘March on Vaduz’ of 1938. Having started as a ‘rotten borough’ in the Holy Roman Empire, the first Prince to live there moved in as late as 1938. He is a fan of being in the EEA, unlike the Swiss, but he got it through via direct democracy. Every village has the right to leave the nation. He found inspiration for local democracy from Switzerland and the United States (at the State level one can infer).

    They have a system where 11 municipalities (villages) engage in tax and regulatory competition with each other. He says that he is trying to make government work. (He’s not done badly). He wants them to deliver services with low cost and therefore low taxation.

    Are you listening Mrs May, or are you changing your slogan to ‘Brexit means Anschluß’?

    There is direct democracy, where you have to explain your policies. That actually means that people discuss government proposals and it provides stability despite the low threshold for proposing changes. He also has his royal veto power, last used in 1961 for a hunting law. The only law he can’t veto would be the abolition of the monarchy. Some less ‘royalist’ politicians note with almost heart-breaking sadness in their faces that by popular vote, the royal veto was retained, so they cannot prevail.

    “…One kept taxation as low as possible so as to attract business…”

    He asks why should taxes support banks. He notes that people are getting detached from governments, and states can get over-centralised.

    GDP per capita: $139,000 (USA $59,000).

    Of course, the people and what they do are what make Liechtenstein what it is. By God, it looks like a decent place.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    The Turkish cab drivers aren’t opposing Uber because it is bent. But because it is honest.

    – ‘Chester Draws’ commenting on the Continental Telegraph.

    The EU vs. the Internet

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Holocaust denial is, of course, completely irrational, has no basis in historical fact, and is almost always motivated by deep-seated racism. But there are no specific laws against Holocaust denial in the UK. Britain has even resisted attempts to enforce an EU directive outlawing Holocaust denial. In 2008, British courts prevented the extradition of suspected Holocaust denier Frederick Toben to Germany.

    No matter how abhorrent Holocaust denial is, there are important reasons not to ban it in law. Deborah Lipstadt, who successfully defended a libel suit from the notorious Holocaust denier, David Irving, argues against giving politicians ‘the power to legislate history’. Banning Holocaust denial simply turns deniers into martyrs. It should be defeated by the facts, not by the law, argues Lipstadt.

    Fraser Myers

    Samizdata quote of the day

    At the end of a week in which the House of Commons defeated Labour’s draconian plans to regulate the press, the Tories revealed their own draconian plans to regulate the internet. The culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged to make Britain ‘the safest place in the world’ to be online. But when the world’s ‘safest’ internet is currently found in China, where access is heavily restricted and censored by the state, it becomes clear how terrifying the government’s safety agenda really could be.

    Fraser Myers