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]

Samizdata slogan of the day

They have an engine called the Press, whereby the people are deceived.
– C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, p. 292

One click, you’re guilty

Let me write a little fiction for a moment:

    John is in his late twenties and an Internet power-user. He uses it for work (he is an independent consultant of some sort), he uses it for games (he is a dab hand at playing on-line, feared amongst the community of Alien vs. Predator 2 gamers) and, being a guy, he likes to trawl through Usenet newsgroups to find pictures of who ever his babe-de-jour is… he is currently rather keen on Britany Spears (my, my, she is aging well).

    One night, he visits one of his favourite newsgroups: alt.binaries.celebrities.nude

    The list of articles builds, then he casts his eye down the displayed article headers, selecting several posts which indicate they contain images of Britany Spears. He sees one that says ‘Britany Nude’. ‘Hmmm, probably another fake,’ he thinks to himself, ‘no doubt some twit has used PhotoShop to put the divine Miss B’s head on the body of some porn star’..

    He clicks ‘extract binaries’ to download the images that people have posted in 120 or so articles and while that chugs away in the background, he launches Excel to catch up on some work he has been putting off.

    A few hours later, he goes back to the directory in which his UseNet reader saves extracted binary images and sees a long list of 120 .jpg and .gif pictures. He starts to check them out, keeping the good ones, junking the dross and any duplicates. Then he comes to a file called nudebritney.jpg. He opens it and his lip twitches up in disgust. It is a scared looking little girl, maybe 12 years old, naked and posed suggestively with her legs apart, a web address ending in .ru is written across the bottom of the image.

    ‘What type of vermin do that to a little girl?’ he growls to the un-hearing screen. With a couple clicks of the mouse, he deletes the offending image and moves on to the next, which turns out to be a picture of the real Britany Spears dancing with a snake at the MTV awards. The angry scowl fades and the smile reappears on his face.

    About 2 months later, there is a knock on his door and there is a tax inspector with a warrant. They seize his computer as part of an ongoing tax related dispute… two days later they return, not to charge him with tax evasion but with child pornography offenses! They used an un-delete utility (such as Norton Utilities) to recover supposedly ‘erased’ files and found a file called nudebritany.jpg.

Is this a far fetched scenario? Unfortunately not.

There is a fascinating article in Wired magazine about the terrifying approach taken by the FBI towards eradicating child pornography on the Internet:

As one FBI agent put it, “Even my friends can’t believe there’s a federal offense that’s so easy to commit. One click, you’re guilty.”

Possession of child porn is a strict-liability offense, like possession of cocaine. Possessing it, though, does not only mean you have intentionally downloaded and stored the images on your hard drive. Under Title 18 of the US Code, the felony is committed the first time sexually explicit images of minors — defined as anyone under 18 — appear on your screen. If your computer is searched, even files that have been dragged to the trash or cached by your browser software are counted as evidence. Some offenders have been sent to jail for “possessing” images that only a computer-forensics technician can see.

So even if you receive an unsolicited spam mail with attached pictures of child porn and delete the images without opening them, you cannot prove you did not look at them but the state sure as hell can prove they were on your hard drive once!

Much as RICO statutes in the USA were passed to fight against the Mafia but ended up being used against anti-abortion activists and environmental protestors, so too will laws against Internet kiddie porn be used to criminalise people the state just happens to want to criminalise, regardless of whether or not they have the slightest thing to do with the problem of child pornography. This will be hard to stop… after all, who wants to stand up and protest when that risks you being called an ‘apologist for child pornographers’. Nasty.

The Internet gives us many and varied ways to fight the state’s constant attempts to regulate our lives and livelihoods, but is also gives the state new ways to attack us. The state is not your friend.

My favourite music

The other night around Perry’s house after a few cans of beer and the usual chit chat I said that I was thinking of making a “my favourite music CD”. Perry is always trying to get me to post things on Samizdata, so he suggested that I come up with my list, post it on the blog and ask others to do the same. In some way this may give us an insight into the types of people that read this blog. I am not sure what we will get out of this, but it’s worth a go. So please feel free to post your lists as comments to this post. If we get enough, maybe a super list of the favourite music can be compiled.

Now I have put together tapes of my favourite music before, but they have always consisted of music that I was into at the time. What I wanted to do this time was put together a list of songs/tunes that I would take with me to a desert island if I was given the choice (desert island disc’s style). Now I have started to think about it, it is actually harder than you initially think. I had to make one or two rules for my self just to make things easier. I limited the number of songs to 15 (thats about what you can fit on a CD) mainly because I didn’t want to calculate the lengths of the songs and add them together to see if they would fit and the second rule was that you can only take one piece of music by any particular person.

When I was thinking about what to put on it, three tracks came straight to mind. These have always been favourites of mine since first hearing them, and have always been near the top of the pile of CD’s or records that get played, now all I have to do is get another 12 songs and I’m finished. I have been ill for the last week, so I have had plenty of time to contemplate what I was going to choose. The hardest thing to do was to not choose a song because it was a ‘classic’ song, you know the ones that always get chosen even if you don’t particularly like them, they just make you feel comfortable when you hear them. What I was looking for were songs that I really, really liked and could listen to for the next 10 years (or so). Also I do listen to a lot of music, and I have chosen not to put any of the new music I am listening to at the moment into my list. This is purely because it hasn’t survived the test of time yet, I like it now but may not like it in a years time. Anyway, less of my ramblings, here is my list of my most favourite music. If you don’t like my choices, I don’t care because it’s my list. Make one up and post it as a comment.

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the waves
Golden Brown – the Stranglers
Norwegian Wood – The Beatles
This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush
Visions of You – Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart with Sinead O’Connor
Mr E’s Beautiful Blues – Eels
Night Boat to Cairo – Madness
Jangle of a Dogs Collar – Butthole Surfers
Ghost Town – The Specials
Sul-E-Stomp – Astralasia & Suns of Arqa
The Rhythm Divine – Yello with Shirley Bassey
59th Street Bridge Song – Simon and Garfunkel
Danse Macabre – Saint-Saens
Stop the Car (12” version) – The Woodentops
Big Noise from Winnetka – Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen

The current threat level is…


This meme hack is brought to you by the voice of critically rational libertarianism, www.samizdata.net. We now return you to your regularly scheduled torpor.

Nice one, Alan!

Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, has delivered a rather splendid kick in the orbs to the pro-€uro/anti-sterling campaign. Greenspan said whilst speaking in the City of London (London’s powerful financial district):

The City of London is thriving outside the eurozone and has not suffered from Britain’s decision not to join the single currency in the first wave […] and was a sterling place to do business. London has stayed on top in the provision of financial services despite the euro…

Now I am no fan of the whole concept of central banking (and hence no fan of central bankers) but the fact is it would be bonkers to deny that Alan Greenspan is probably, hell, certainly, the most influential voice on the subject of economic affairs alive in the world today. His remarks are therefore going to cause some gnashing of teeth in certain circles, which has to be a good thing, as the pro-€uro campaign is predicated upon turning the abolition of sterling from a constitutional issue into a purely practical economic issue… and thus having Greenspan point out that Britain is managing just fine outside the eurozone is not what Brussels’ fifth column in Britain want to see splashed across UK newspapers.

Ah, but you should have seen the size of the one that got away. It was this big I tell you!

News from gun free Britain

A detective working for the Metropolitan Police specialist crime branch fell victim to crime four times in an hour-and-a-half. His car was broken into and his bicycle stolen before being beaten up and having his moped vandalised.

The crime spree started outside his home in Fulham (which is a nice area!) in London. First, his CD player had been taken from his VW Golf. Then his bike was stolen as he went to report the car break-in and to call his insurance company. He took his moped to look for the thief but, after trying to detain a youth he saw riding his bike, he was attacked from behind by two others and violently kicked in the face and body.

John Cullen, the hapless policeman in question, said it was “frightening” that his attackers had little respect for people, including the police. He added:

“I don’t have any answers to all this but a multi-agency approach is surely urgently needed to tackle this sort of youth offending to protect the public – including me.

But there is an answer!

With the British government’s approach and policy towards crime, gun control and self-defence, how not very odd that even the police are now victims!

Unless, Mr Cullen considers a 9mm Uzi SMG a suitable ‘agency’ to tackle crime…

Update: Just saw Alice Bacchini’s post about the story from yesterday. How very fast – I only read about it this morning!

Samizdata slogan of the day

Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual
– Thomas Jefferson

Sidebar links

noun. See blogroll.


noun. A term of abuse for an advocate of what are deemed to be irrationalist and subjectivist values that have very little reference to the workings of the real world. Idiotarians are often socialist (quintessentially Noam Chomsky), but can also be paleo-libertarian or paleo-conservative. The defining phrase of idiotarianism is “it is all the fault of the United States”: this is usually applied to geopolitics but is sometimes encountered with regard to cultural issues, economic issues, environmental issues, the weather, socks lost in the laundry etc.

The term is obviously highly partisan but is in quite widespread use by many blogs. However it is not a term used exclusively by the neo-conservative ‘right wing’ and many well left of centre or libertarian blogs have used it describe the more surrealist wings of their particular branch of political thought.

Also see: Tranzi, Anti-idiotarian

Chuck her in Boston Harbour!

There is a splendid little article in the NY Post about well known Tranzi, Idiotarian and British national embarrassment Anita Roddick, of Body Shop fame. That she sees herself as being martyred by the ‘right wing’ along with a veritable ‘who’s who’ list idiotarians like Noam Chomsky, is particularly entertaining. We are not ‘right wing’ Anita, and we think you are a buffoon too.

Think what fun it would be to see the results of half a ton of Body Shop bubble bath being dumped in Boston Harbour!


Responding opportunistically, and there’s nothing wrong with that, to our last two slogans of the day, Radley Balko has emailed to tell us about this, this being, I kid you not, a Nietzschean analysis of The Simpsons. Well we can’t all be deciding what to do about Iraq.

The Simpsons bit that I often like best comes right at the beginning, when Bart is shown writing lines on a school blackboard, which allude to whatever he’s been doing that day that the school says he shouldn’t have been doing. My favourite: “Bart’s Bucks Are Not Legal Tender.”

A question for the USA, maybe for Balko himself, or maybe just for Brits with Sky TV (which is where The Simpsons were first shown here). The Simpsons is now on BBC2, but it often goes straight to the surreal TV sofa scene, and skips Bart’s blackboard lines. Is this because the show itself sometimes does this, or is this the BBC inflicting vicious cuts? The latter, I suspect, but maybe only so that they can cut it down to less than twenty minutes, for their own BBC reasons. Or, maybe they really do feel the need to cut out the most disturbingly anarcho-libertarian messages?!?! I await comments.

Balko, you say you want to train your dog to retrieve beer from your fridge. Stay tuned to Samizdata for some canine management advice, gleaned from my nice sister Daphne and her nice husband Denis (i.e. these two), which I will be posting Real Soon Now.

And while we’re on subject of dogs, don’t we all think that K19, now showing at London cinemas everywhere, sounds like a Silly Police Dog Movie, rather than a Serious Russian Submarine Movie? Yes we do.

Do I digress? But what could be more Simpsonian – nay Homeric – subjects than your dog getting beer for you from the fridge, and not-very-good-movies?

Samizdata slogan of the day

What’s the point of going out? We’re just gonna wind up back here anyway.
– another slice of The Wisdom of Homer Simpson