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]

Don’t get cocky, kid

You know you are a nerd when you are avidly googling the name of the author of a series of erotic novels all of which feature the word “cocky” in their titles because of the interesting legal issues the “Cockygate scandal” has brought up.

Dale L Roberts vlogs about self-publishing. In this video published on May 7th he explains that Faleena Hopkins, the author in question, wrote a slew of “Cease and Desist” letters to other indie romance authors on Amazon using the word “cocky” in their titles. Amazon, with typical cowardice, removed these other authors’ books as soon as Hopkins asked them to. Worse yet, Faleena Hopkins’ letter to the other authors included the phrase “My attorney at Morris Yorn Entertainment Law has advised me that if I sue you I will win all the moneys you have earned on this title plus lawyer fees will be paid by you as well.” I suspect that Morris Yorn Entertainment Law are not entirely happy with this summary of their advice.

I came across this story via the fantasy/SF author Chris Fox. His nine minute video dated May 11th explains well why this incident should and did arouse the anger of the community of authors who self-publish on Kindle and similar platforms – but he also spares a thought for Hopkins herself. In the four days since the earlier video, the situation had changed dramatically – and the trouble with internet shaming is that even when some punishment is deserved, there is no off switch.

A post that would have been a million times as funny

…if I could find the right bloody sketch on YouTube. First I thought it was “Negotiations” from Not The Nine O’Clock News, but it wasn’t. My goodness, they wouldn’t allow the line at 1:30 nowadays, would they? Sticking with Mel and Griff, I then tried “The Union Man” with no better success. The sketch about Gerald the Gorilla was always a long shot.

Nope. Just couldn’t find it. It’s the one where there’s this meeting between the leaders of the different unions, the TUC or whatever they called it, and they are having a break and someone says, “tea or coffee?” and one of the blokes says, “let’s vote on it” and so they vote and tea gets more support, only the bloke who wants coffee has a block vote of three million when the all the ones who wanted tea together only added up to two million or something like that or vice versa. That one.

Look, back in nineteen whaty-whatever it was quite surprising to see anyone on TV mocking the trade unions. All the luvvies were lefties even then.

Anyway, I thought of that sketch when I saw this story pop up in the Guardian:

One million students join calls for vote on Brexit deal

Student organisations representing almost a million young people studying at UK universities and colleges are today joining forces to demand a referendum on any final Brexit deal, amid growing fears that leaving the EU will have a disastrous effect on their future prospects.

Predicting a young people’s revolt over the coming months, student unions – representing 980,000 students at 60 of the country’s leading universities and colleges – are writing to MPs in their areas this weekend, calling on them to back a “people’s vote” before a final Brexit deal can be implemented.

Student leaders said last night that they were planning action that would dwarf protests held in 2010 against the coalition government’s plans for student fees, and that they would not rest until they had been granted a say on their futures.

That’ll be one million for coffee then.

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Breaking news: I am adding this clip of a random guy supporter of Zheremy Corbyn interrupting the current UK entry to the Eurovision Song Contest to shout, “Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom!” because it is very important.

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Edit: Hat tip to Patrick Crozier who found the relevant Not the Nine O’Clock News episode here. The block vote sketch in question starts at 8:00. The actual result of the vote was five hands raised giving one and a half million votes for tea, outvoted by Mel Smith’s five million votes for coffee.

Press freedom lives another day

Earlier today the Press Gazette reported,

Guardian distances itself from ‘anti-press’ Data Protection Bill amendments which would exclude title from paying punitive legal costs

Peers’ Section 40 amendments to the bill, which would see publishers pay both sides’ legal costs in data protection disputes, win or lose, have been slammed by many publishers as “anti-press”.

Guardian News and Media has said it has written to all MPs making clear that it disagrees with “attempts to impose a selective sanction on the media” ahead of a Commons vote later today.

MPs will vote on an amendment, tabled by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, this afternoon.

As it stands, news organisations signed up to a state-sponsored regulator – currently only Impress – would avoid the cost penalties.

You did read that right. Tom Watson’s amendment to Section 40 would have meant that newspapers refusing to join Max Moseley’s pet* regulator Impress would have been liable for costs when sued for libel even if they won the case. In recent years the Guardian has not often lived up to its name. But I am glad to note that even they balked at such blatant perversion of the justice system.

In the event Watson declined to put his amendment to a vote, and Ed Miliband’s less shameless but still repressive amendment regarding a second Leveson enquiry into press regulation was defeated.

Perhaps that’s the end of it, perhaps not. This monster has been apparently killed before but did not stay dead. I do not know what stage of the horror movie we are at.

*Impress is funded by Mosley. As is Watson.

Enlightened modern practice

“GP accused of paedophilia by ‘fantasist’ loses fight for costs” reports the Times. I have put phrases from the following excerpt from the Times article that seemed particularly striking in bold type.

A retired GP accused by a “serial fantastist” of being part of a paedophile ring was told yesterday he would not be reimbursed for £94,000 in legal costs he incurred before the case collapsed.

Stephen Glascoe, from Cardiff, spent most of his savings preparing his defence. The woman who made unproven allegations against him and others has won £22,000 in “criminal injuries” compensation and has asked for more.

Several cases have collapsed in recent months after the Crown Prosecution Service ordered a review of evidence in all serious sexual offence allegations.

Charges against Dr Glascoe and four other men were dropped in January, two weeks before their trial was due to start, after concerns about the alleged victim’s evidence and her relationship with her therapist and the police officer who had led the investigation.

Dr Glascoe, 67, who was not entitled to legal aid because of his savings, spent more than £100,000 on lawyers and expert witnesses. He will receive only £7,280 from the Legal Aid Board and no contribution to the cost of his barrister.

The complainant received £22,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority after contacting South Wales police in 2012 but later refused to co-operate with the investigation.

She spoke to police again in 2016 with more allegations about being abused at parties between the ages of three and 15. She said she had a pregnancy forcibly aborted and had been made to take part in torturing other children. She has applied for more compensation.

Christopher Clee, QC, applied at Cardiff crown court yesterday for Dr Glascoe to have all his costs reimbursed on the ground that the charges were the result of an “improper act or omission” by the prosecution. The prosecution should have been alerted, he said, to the poor credibility of the alleged victim by notes from 229 counselling sessions, which included “regression work”, and her improperly close relationship with the investigating detective.

Mr Clee said the notes made clear that the therapist “had exceeded any professional boundaries” and given the woman the idea that she had been raped by five men. Prosecutors had demanded to see the therapy notes before deciding whether to charge, but a senior police officer urged them to take a “victim-centric position”, he said.

Catherine Richards, for the prosecution, said the case was dropped over “considerable concern” about the detective, and because a jury might consider that there had been a “mirror of the undue influence” by the alleged victim on the officer and her therapist.

Judge Thomas Crowther attributed the collapse of the case to “dynamite” evidence that the complainant had lied about an Amazon package she claimed had been ordered by her abusers.

The judge dismissed the application for Dr Glascoe’s costs, saying he would have to prove that no reasonable prosecutor could have decided to bring charges. The decision had been “in line with enlightened modern practice”, he said.

It was certainly in line with modern justice as practised by the Enlightened.

Armed self-defence in the UK: apparently crossbows are OK

“Armed gang pick on the wrong gran as she fires CROSSBOW at masked men who kicked down her door”, reports the Daily Mirror.

A woman has told how she shot at a machete-wielding intruder with a CROSSBOW when a gang burst into her home and attacked her family.

Anji Rhys, 49, said she sprang into action when masked raiders kicked down her door in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, after apparently mistaking it for a drugs den.

Ex-Thai boxer Anji, who is reportedly a grandmother, grabbed her crossbow, which she dubs Manstopper, and shot one thug during the horrifying ordeal.

Anji keeps the bow on a wall inside the house to protect her family which include her partner Rebecca, son Dillon and elderly mum Lilian.

The so-called survivalist, who possesses an arsenal of weapons inside her home, was reportedly watching TV when the yobs entered her home and pinned down her son.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to read that this lady was able to protect herself and her family. But I am mystified by the supportive tone of the Mirror reporter, and of most of the comments, when exactly the same sequence of events but involving a gun-wielding grandma in the US instead of a crossbow-wielding one in the UK would have been dismissed as NRA propaganda and further evidence of the lunacy and barbarism of Americans in their “love affair with the gun”.

Sometimes all you can do is paste the story

…and say, “This is where we are”. The BBC reports:

Woman guilty of ‘racist’ Snap Dogg rap lyric Instagram post

A teenager who posted rap lyrics which included racist language on Instagram has been found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message.

Chelsea Russell, 19, from Liverpool posted the lyric from Snap Dogg’s I’m Trippin’ to pay tribute to a boy who died in a road crash, a court heard.

Russell argued it was not offensive, but was handed a community order.

Prosecutors said her sentence was increased from a fine to a community order “as it was a hate crime”.

She was charged after Merseyside Police were anonymously sent a screenshot of her update.

Liverpool Justice Centre, sitting at Sefton Magistrates’ Court, heard Russell posted the lyrics to her account after the death of a 13-year-old in a road accident in 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The words Russell used on her account contained a racial label which some people find extremely offensive.

The screenshot was passed to hate crime unit PC Dominique Walker, who told the court the term was “grossly offensive” to her as a black woman and to the general community.

As in the Count Dankula case, all it takes is one member of the approved victim class to turn up in court and say they were offended. The fact that in this case the approved victim is also an approved witchfinder makes everything more convenient.

The Liverpool Echo reported that Russell’s defence had argued the usage of the word had changed over time and it had been used by superstar rapper Jay-Z “in front of thousands of people at the Glastonbury Festival”.

Prosecutor Angela Conlan said Russell’s defence also argued her profile “wasn’t public”, but it had been proved in court that anyone could access it and “see the offensive language”.

She said prosecutors also “sourced case law that showed that posting the profile on her account constituted sending it and making it public”.

Russell was found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message by a public communication.

She was given an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and told to pay costs of £500 and an £85 victim surcharge.

One giant leap for womynkind

“How does it feel,” asks Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, while arguing that the first human on Mars should be a woman, “to watch a person of your gender set foot on a faraway celestial body for the first time? Could you write to me, men, and let me know?”

I was only a child on the one and only occasion that a man has set foot on another celestial body for the first time, but I can answer her question. It felt amazing. Though I didn’t watch the moon landing live (my parents were not the sort to let their young children stay up until three in the morning even to watch history being made), along with much of humanity I watched the footage avidly the next day. I looked up at the moon and thought, there are people there. It sparked a lifelong interest in space. For years I had a perfectly serious ambition to be an astronaut. Who knows, in this era of renewed progress in spaceflight technology, maybe I’ll live long enough to do it simply by buying a ticket. And if I do, it will be the fulfilment of a dream that started with that one small step for a man.

At this point the alert reader might object that as I am female and Neil Armstrong was male I have never watched a person of my gender setting foot on a celestial body for the first time. But that does not stop me answering the question. You see, the splendour of that moment had nothing whatsoever to do with Armstrong being male and everything to do with him being human.

Today’s gloriously Guardian Guardian article

Well, yesterday’s actually. Or the last century’s, or maybe the century before that. Meh, who cares; with these guys everything old is new again but not in a good way. Here is your helping of reheated Grauniad porridge from someone called Rhik Samadder:

Landlords are social parasites. They’re the last people we should be honouring

A comment to a Guardian editorial about the French rail strike

The editorial itself is forgettable, but this comment by “Cavirac” astounded me:

Polls run in the left, centre and right newspapers show overwhelming support for Macron by the French public with regards to the changes he will make to SNCF.

People in the private sector (builders, electricians, plimbers etc.) now see their retirement age at 67. You need to have worked for 41 years to get a full state pension, tha’st six years more than in the UK.

The SNCF, EDF and La Poste workers can retire at 50 if their work is “physical” on a full pension and 55 if they are administrative staff.

Not only do they get to retire but they get loads of perks which are not taxed. EDF workers get a 80% discount on their electricity bills and after working for five years this discount is for life. SNCF get free European rail travel for themselves and direct family. La Post get a super Mutual insurance which allows them access to the best hospitals in France for free. The facteur (postman/woman) suffer very bad shoulder and elbow strain from leaning out of their vans delivering the post apparently and many need replacement elbow and shoulder joints.

EDF, La Poste and SNCF also own holiday villages all over France including some of the more prestigious holiday resorts where they benefit from all inclusive holidays as stupidly low prices, typically 150 Euros per week per person.

All this comes at a cost and is paid for by the tax payer and the users. It represents a big chunk of the current deficit for each of these institutions.

This is why the general public in France support Macron in this. Why should they have to work every hour god sends till they are 67 to get a shit pension when a guy who sweeps the station platform, because it is outside manual work, be able to retire at 50 on full pay and still keep his perks including cheap holidays etc?

Can any readers familiar with France tell me whether that is a fair presentation of the facts?

There is no need to hail me as a prophet

Despite the fact that I foresaw all this years ago. So did you. So did anyone with the slightest knowledge of the principles of law. So did anyone who had ever read a fricking detective novel.

The Times reports,

Metropolitan Police ditches practice of believing all victims

Britain’s biggest police force has abandoned its policy of automatically believing victims after a series of flawed inquiries into alleged sex crimes, The Times can reveal.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said she had told officers they must have an open mind when an allegation is made and that their role was to investigate, not blindly believe.

“You start with a completely open mind, absolutely,” she said. “It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed. Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate.”

The issue has become one of the most fraught for the police service since a national policy instructed officers to believe alleged victims automatically. It was aimed at encouraging people to come forward with the confidence that they would be taken seriously, particularly in sexual abuse cases.

The guidelines were put in place after revelations in 2011 that police had failed to properly investigate abuse allegations, including by victims of the former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, who was revealed after his death to have been Britain’s most prolific paedophile. However, the Met was later severely criticised after its detectives placed their faith in a man known only as Nick, declaring that his uncorroborated claims of a Westminster abuse ring were “credible and true”. The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether Nick will be charged with perverting the course of justice after his claims were shown to be false.

Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge, identified failings in Operation Midland and said that the instruction to believe a victim’s account should be withdrawn. It undermined the principle of suspects being innocent until proven guilty, he said in 2016.

Ms Dick took the helm at Scotland Yard nearly a year ago, after the collapse of Operation Midland. Asked if she was rethinking the belief policy, she said: “Rethink? I’ve rethought. I arrived saying very clearly to my people that we should have an open mind, of course, when a person walks in. We should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them. We should record what they say. From that moment on we are investigators.”

She said that the police had been criticised for not being open-minded enough. It was important to encourage victims to come forward and she wanted to “go on raising confidence”.

She said: “Our job in respect of investigations is to be fair, to be impartial, and where appropriate to bring things to justice — and of course to support victims, but it isn’t all about victims.”

That is progress. But I note that she is still saying “victims” instead of “those who claim to be victims”.

This month’s quota

February 23 2018:

Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women? – Bob Ward

I posted about it here.

March 28 2018:

‘It’s a Very Male-Dominated Space’: Welcome to the Sexist World of Brexit and Climate Science Denial – Christine Ottery

And I’m posting about it here.

An unintentionally honest headline to an unintentionally honest article

“Labour’s plan to tackle inequality can revive the ailing development sector”, writes Nick Dearden in the Guardian.

Clicking on Mr Dearden’s name took me to a link that said, in true Grauniad style, “Nick Dearden is director of the Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement)” The faltering fortunes of “the Global Justice Now” and similar organizations in what is called the aid “sector” (as if were part of the economy rather than a drain on it) distress Mr Dearden for understandable reasons. No man likes to see his prospects of a secure and comfortable living imperilled. I do not see why the rest of us should care. I would be quite happy to issue the development sector with a one way ticket to Switzerland.

Mr Dearden writes,

At the height of New Labour’s power, Peter Mandelson famously said: “We are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” To be fair, he added, “as long as they pay their taxes”. But New Labour never had a burning ambition to reduce inequality. They could live with inequality as long as no one was really poor.

Extreme poverty was the focus of New Labour’s international development policy. The wanted to make global capitalism work for the poor – better markets and voluntary codes of conduct to encourage the private sector to “do the right thing”.

And the problem with this was…?

It wasn’t without its achievements, coming as it did after an era in which the poor were regarded as responsible for their own poverty. But it continued to allow the real drivers of poverty, western corporate and foreign policies, to go unchecked, while offering a charitable contribution to clean up the mess they created.

Emphasis added. Libertarians and similarly inclined folk often see the Guardian commentariat as being no less daft than the Guardian writers. That is not always true. Nearly all the most popular comments to this piece make pretty good sense and I am going to quote several of them. For instance take this one from someone called ‘Humza’, who says,

No, fighting poverty is much more important than fighting inequality. Trust Labour to come out with a policy that would punish the person who makes $5 a day and scream injustices because his neighbour can only manage $1 a day.

Absolute/extreme poverty has dramatically declined over the past couple of centuries and quelle surprise, that coincides when most of the world began to transition to world trade and free markets.

https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty

Mr Dearden continues,

On Monday, Labour announces a new development policy which takes a radically different approach. In essence, you can’t solve the problem of poverty without tackling inequality. And you can’t tackle inequality without dramatically changing how the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable.

Concretely, Labour proposes a new law, ensuring that all aid money must be spent fighting inequality as well as poverty.

Neocolonialism! British interference in the policies of sovereign African nations! (Hat tip to commenter ‘daveg861’ for that point.)

Fighting inequality requires huge changes to the way the global economy works.

In other words, Labour’s policy is unworkable. Wait, didn’t I say that only a minute ago? Yes, I did, but if Mr Dearden is going to repeatedly state that reducing inequality cannot be done unless the Labour party conquers the world I am just going to have to repeatedly point out that it ain’t gonna happen.

Labour proposes a range of policies that will require further clarity in office

Those policies require further clarity in office the way a fish requires further water on the deck of a trawler.

but include changing the way we trade with southern countries, clamping down on tax dodging, reforming the debt system, transforming institutions like the IMF and World Bank, introducing a financial transactions tax, changing the way we measure wellbeing, and providing “global leadership on the refugee crisis”.

As ‘FatherChewyLouie’ says in the most recommended comment, “What exactly do Labour mean by providing “global leadership” on the refugee crisis? If it’s what I think it means then I can guarantee it won’t be a vote winner.”

Meanwhile, back in the The Global Justice Now! universe:

Countries like Britain grew rich on the turbocharged exploitation of Africa

Countries like Britain might have, but Britain grew rich because of the Industrial Revolution before it had African colonies. When it got them it turned out they were a net cost to the British government and were unpopular thereby. The original “Little Englanders” were opposed to expansion of the British Empire for that reason. (I swear, I had already written that when I saw a comment by ‘YEverKnot’ saying the very same thing. Of course it is a fairly obvious point to make.)

– and still today Africa bleeds wealth to rapacious corporations. Aid, which should be a form of reparation or, at least, redistribution of wealth akin to taxation, becomes largesse: a gift which should be cut in the bad times, and given to our current government’s pet projects in good times.

Reparations? That might not go down well with voters. However, the point about aid being largesse which can be cut off on a whim is true. And thus Mr Dearden unintentionally makes an excellent argument against government-to-government foreign aid and against the very existence of his beloved “development sector”.