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]

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

The problem of poverty is not a shortage of experts; it’s a shortage of rights.

– On December 6th 2015, William Easterly gave the most recent Hayek Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Tyranny of Experts: Foreign Aid versus Freedom for the World’s Poor”.

Just after 13 minutes and 40 seconds into his lecture, Easterly said the above words, twice.

Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs

Somehow I did not expect this from the former Secretary General of the United Nations:

Lift the ban! Kofi Annan on Why It’s Time To Legalize Drugs

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.

This year, between April 19 and 21, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs and the world will have a chance to change course. As we approach that event, we need to ask ourselves if we are on the right policy path. More specifically, how do we deal with what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has called the “unintended consequences” of the policies of the last 50 years, which have helped, among other things, to create a vast, international criminal market in drugs that fuels violence, corruption and instability? Just think of the 16,000 murders in Mexico in 2013, many of which are directly linked to drug trafficking.

Der Spiegel

The tone is condescending (“popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions”) and gently repressive (“The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption … show what can be achieved.”). Mr Annan makes no reference to questions of personal liberty. All the same, when the world’s former top tranzi starts talking this way it may be that, for the War on Drugs, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.*

*With the slight difference from Churchill’s time that in this case the good outcome is surrender.

Free speech for all (neds need not apply)

Further to my earlier post about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Kevin Rooney, a self-described fanatical Celtic supporter with a “deep loathing” of Rangers, wrote an article for Spiked in 2012 to which I can add little except to say that I had heard nothing about this case, which horrifies me and proves his point.

Football fans need free speech too

A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing.

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.

And

The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.

Hat tip: Rob Fisher

New stirrings at the Old Firm

The Herald reports: Rangers and Celtic fans to unite for football grounds demo over anti-bigotry law

RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.

The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.

Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.

One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”

Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.

An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.

It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.

On the false choice between Privacy and Security

Many commentators are referring to the current fracas over strong encryption and other security technologies, including especially Apple’s refusal to provide the FBI with hacking tools for the iPhone, as a trade-off between privacy and security.

Even people who feel that strong security technologies are a good thing often position things as a trade-off of this sort.

I would like to reiterate something many of us already know: this is an entirely false dichotomy.

Backdoors in security systems don’t just eliminate privacy, they also make systems insecure.

The current fight isn’t just to make sure that the government cannot learn that you’re reading dissident publications or to make sure the government cannot automatically find everyone who has opinions it doesn’t like, although those are certainly worthy things to want.

The current fight is about whether we will impose a technological infrastructure which will be exceptionally vulnerable to attackers in order to provide nothing more useful than some very, very short-term advantages to people investigating crimes.

This pits the interests of everyone in society who depends on technology for their safety, which is to say, more or less everyone, against a tiny group of law enforcement officials who find their jobs somewhat more difficult.

We should remember that the damage caused by insecurity in our critical systems is not theoretical — it is pervasive problem even today. We saw only this last week a hospital forced to pay ransom to restore its computer systems. We’ve seen instances in the last year of the US federal government losing data on literally everyone with a recent security clearance to enemies unknown who presumably are very, very interested in knowing who all those US government agents might be. Untold millions of dollars are stolen every day in various sorts of computer fraud — everything from credit card fraud to fraudulent IRS e-file refunds. We already know that you can do horrible things to SCADA systems and the like that could potentially kill people, and whether you believe that’s already happened or not, it is clearly only a matter of time before people die that way.

All of this is because of lack of security in computer systems — a lack of security that the FBI, Cyrus Vance Jr., and other special interests propose to make dramatically worse on a permanent basis, in order to make their jobs somewhat easier for the short term. Imagine what things will be like in a world where Cyrus Vance has a slightly easier job but maniacs who have stolen US government master crypto keys can cause thousands or millions of automated cars to crash, killing their occupants.

So, please stop making it sound like it is merely the right to privacy that is at stake. Certainly the right to privacy is crucial for our society, but even those who do not agree with privacy should understand that back doors are not about making a trade-off in favor of increased security but in favor of pervasive insecurity.

This is not about security vs. privacy. We’re talking about nothing less than deranged short-term thinking that privileges the convenience of a small part of the machinery of law enforcement over the safety of almost everyone in our entire society.

A survivor speaks

Eagles of Death Metal frontman: ‘Everybody has to have guns’

The frontman of the Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was performing at the Bataclan theatre in Paris when 90 people were murdered by terrorists last year, has remembered his terror at encountering a gunman backstage – and argued for universal access to guns.

The Californian rock band was performing in front of a crowd of around 1,500 on the night of 13 November when three terrorists armed with assault rifles entered the room and began shooting and throwing hand grenades.

It was part of a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that night, that Islamic State later claimed responsibility for.

Vocalist-guitarist Jesse Hughes, who is a long-time advocate for access to gun ownership, told the French television station iTélé in a 19-minute, at times tearful interview on Monday that restrictions on guns in France had helped to enable the terrorists.

Asked if his views on gun control had changed after the terror attacks, he said gun control “doesn’t have anything to do with it”.

“Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.

“I know people will disagree with me, but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal,” he said. “And I hate it that it’s that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe that until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.

A survivor of a mass shooting makes an appeal for more gun control? Even the politest disagreement is held to be vile.
A survivor of a mass shooting makes an appeal for less gun control? Well, take a look at the Guardian comments.

There should be room in our hearts for pity…

for the striking London black cab drivers whose hard won skills have been rendered obsolete by Uber and Addison Lee, just as we should remember with pity the thousands of drivers of hansom cabs whose hard-won skills with horses were rendered obsolete by the coming of the internal combustion engine. I am not being flippant or sarcastic. To lose one’s accustomed livelihood to new technology is a tough spot to be in, and there will be many reading this, some of them highly paid at present, who should look at Trevor Merralls’ situation and tremble.

But that pity should not extend to offering to keep Mr Merralls forever in the style to which he has become accustomed simply because he was born working class, or to stifling the opportunity for self-employment that Uber offers to its drivers (also working class), or to depriving Londoners who could not afford black cabs of the ability to take a cab at a reasonable price at any time day or night, and which will, as one of the Guardian commenters put it, “actually go to exotic destinations like Lewisham”.

A government gag, you say? I hope they tie the knots good and tight.

The Times reports:

Charity lobbying rules are ‘government gag’ say critics

Attempts to stop charities using taxpayers’ money to lobby ministers have been branded draconian and are an “attempt to gag organisations raising concerns about policies”, it was claimed today.

A clause has been inserted into new and renewed charity grant agreements, stipulating that money must be spent on improving people’s lives and on good causes rather than lobbying for changes to regulations or for more funding.

While the government insisted that the clause would not prevent charities from using privately-raised funds for lobbying campaigns, others were not convinced.

Matthew Hancock, cabinet office minister, said: “Taxpayers’ money must be spent in improving people’s lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.

“The public sector never lobbies for lower taxes and less state spending, and it’s a zero sum if Peter is robbed to pay Paul.

“These commonsense rules will protect freedom of speech – but taxpayers won’t be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying.”

Good. This incestuous relationship between the government and what were once charities has corrupted both.

Peter Tatchell changes his mind

Contrast this recent Guardian comment piece by Peter Tatchell:

I’ve changed my mind on the gay cake row. Here’s why

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee. I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict – the bakery was found guilty of discrimination last year. Now, two days before the case goes to appeal, I have changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

with this one from 2010:

Chris Grayling reveals the real Tories

… the right of B&B owners to turn away gay couples is an echo of the bad old days when some landlords used to stipulate: “No blacks, Irish, gays or dogs.”

The equality laws exist to protect everyone against discrimination.

But Grayling apparently believes that some people – homophobic people – should be above the law. Why this exception? After all, he does not agree with B&Bs refusing accommodation to black or Jewish couples. If race discrimination is wrong, why is Grayling saying that homophobic discrimination is right?

I am glad to see Mr Tatchell go from being wrong to being almost right. I am glad and surprised to see most of the Guardian commenters agree with me as to which is which. (I say “almost right” because he is still of the opinion that “Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas”. One day I hope he will acknowledge that the distinction is meaningless. The former behaviour is as much an inherent human right as the latter.) I do not think it is coincidence that the older article was, as well as being wrong, badly argued. There were two howlers in the first three sentences. The article started with reference to the ‘the bad old days when some landlords used to stipulate: “No blacks, Irish, gays or dogs.”‘ It is difficult to prove a negative, but… nah. Never happened. Signs saying “No Irish” and “No blacks” certainly did exist. Signs saying “No xxxx or dogs” turn up everywhere on internet discussion boards but not so much in photographs. As for signs saying “no gays”, it would never have occurred to anyone in the bad old days to specify homosexuals as a group against whom one could wish to discriminate. By the time things got to the stage that anyone could think of gays as unwelcome – rather than as criminals – it was practically the good new days. A couple of lines later Mr Tatchell says, “But Grayling apparently believes that some people – homophobic people – should be above the law.” You would think that he of all people would be aware that peacefully advocating for legal change is the opposite of wanting anyone to be above the law.

And to be fair, it now looks as if he is.

Open borders; open carry

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A new ‘recruit’ to the Anti-Sex League

A man who has been acquitted of rape, after a retrial, (spot the insinuation) has made subject to an ‘interim sexual risk order’ by Magistrates in York.

It requires the man disclose any planned sexual activity to the police or face up to five years in prison.

The order – which was drawn up by magistrates in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and extended in York – reads: “You must disclose the details of any female including her name, address and date of birth.
“You must do this at least 24 hours prior to any sexual activity taking place.”

A further court hearing in May will decide whether the interim order should be made into a full order, which has a minimum duration of two years and can last indefinitely. Sexual risk orders were introduced in England and Wales in March last year and can be applied to any individual who the police believe poses a risk of sexual harm, even if they have never been convicted of a crime. They are civil orders imposed by magistrates at the request of police.

This is an interim order, pending a full hearing, and the court’s power is wide:

(3)The court may, if it considers it just to do so, make an interim sexual risk order, prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order.

The Full Monty, as it were, is below in section 122A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, with a broad discretion for the order to be made. So now this chap must manage his affairs so that he pops down the police station, queues at the desk with the people reporting lost wallets etc. and then reports the details of his intended ‘conquest’ at least 24 hours before he gets frisky, sexual ‘activity’ not just intercourse, is covered. It is not clear what Plod will do in the meantime, but I expect that the lady concerned may face some questioning.

Well George Orwell’s Anti-Sex League appears to be taking shape here. Can anyone remember this being discussed by candidates at any General Election? Did the Stasi even dream of doing this sort of thing?

Sexual risk orders (England and Wales)

122A Sexual risk orders: applications, grounds and effect

(1) A chief officer of police or the Director General of the National Crime Agency (“the Director General”) may by complaint to a magistrates’ court apply for an order under this section (a “sexual risk order”) in respect of a person (“the defendant”) if it appears to the chief officer or the Director General that the following condition is met.
(2) The condition is that the defendant has, whether before or after the commencement of this Part, done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for a sexual risk order to be made.
(3)A chief officer of police may make an application under subsection (1) only in respect of a person—
(a)who resides in the chief officer’s police area, or
(b)who the chief officer believes is in that area or is intending to come to it.
(4)An application under subsection (1) may be made to any magistrates’ court acting for a local justice area that includes—
(a)any part of a relevant police area, or
(b)any place where it is alleged that the person acted in a way mentioned in subsection (2).