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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

EU “chat control”

Let me start by saying that I am no techie and I do not understand exactly what the EU are proposing with this law. Perhaps I am getting steamed up about nothing. But it sounds horrible. I first read about this topic via a link from Reddit Europe to a post from the blog of a Swedish VPN service called Mullvad. The original Swedish version first appeared as an article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The English version follows: “Stop the proposal on mass surveillance of the EU”

The European Commission is currently in the process of enacting a law called Chat control. If the law goes into effect, it will mean that all EU citizens’ communications will be monitored and listened to.

This text was originally published as a debate article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and it calls on Swedish politicians to vote against the law proposal. In order for the law to not become reality, more countries need to vote against it. Therefore, we encourage journalists and citizens in all EU countries to question their governments and urge them to vote no.

Right now, the EU Commission is intensely working on a legislative proposal that would monitor and audit the communication of all European Union citizens. The regulation is called Chat Control, and it really does include all types of communication. This means that all of your phone calls, video calls, text messages, every single line that you write in all kinds of messaging apps (including encrypted services), your e-mails — yes, all of this — can be filtered out in real time and flagged for a more in-depth review. This also applies to images and videos saved in cloud services. Basically, everything you do with your smartphone. In other words, your personal life will be fully exposed to government scrutiny. So, why is it that almost no one is talking about this?

The previous day the same Mullvad blog had warned that an unintended consequence of the bill might have been to ban all open source operating systems, although an update says that “Open source OSes might be saved from being covered depending on the interpretation of EU regulation 2019/1150 2.2.c.” Well, that certainly puts my mind at rest.

This brings a whole new meaning to “brigading” on social media

What is the 77th Brigade for? According to its own website, the mission of this unit of the British Army is to CHALLENGE THE DIFFICULTIES OF MODERN WARFARE. Despite the capital letters I do not feel hugely better informed. It continues,

We are a combined Regular and Army Reserve unit. Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.

Um, okay. I would not want the difficulties of modern warfare to go unchallenged. I would even be up for them challenging the easy bits of modern warfare while they’re at it. However, before I give my wholehearted support to “adapting behaviours of the opposing forces” I would like to know what adapting-without-a-to means in normal English. Is it us changing them or them changing us? The question is pertinent because according to a whistleblower who contacted the civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch, the last part of the line about the target of the British Army’s behavioural adaptation squad being “opposing forces and adversaries” seems to have been quietly dropped.

This link allows you to download a Big Brother Watch report called Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech.

The key findings are:

  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs David Davis and Chris Green, high profile academics from the University of Oxford and University College London, and journalists including Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer, all had comments critical of the government analysed by anti-misinformation units.
  • Targeted speech included public criticism of the government’s pandemic response – particularly lockdown modelling and vaccine passports – as well as journalists’ criticism of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and MPs’ criticism of NATO
  • Soldiers from the Army’s 77th Brigade, tasked with “non-lethal psychological warfare”, collected tweets from British citizens posting about Covid-19 and passed them to central government – despite claiming operations were directed strictly overseas
  • A counter-misinformation unit pressured the Dept. of Health to attack newspapers for publishing articles analysing Covid-19 modelling that it feared would undermine compliance with pandemic restrictions.
  • MPs and journalists were featured in “vaccine hesitancy reports” for opposing vaccine passports
  • Contractors paid over £1m to trawl social media for perceived terms of service violations on selected topics and pass them to government officials
  • Counter-disinformation units use special relationships with social media companies to recommend content be removed
  • Front organisations aimed at minority communities were set up to spread government propaganda in the UK
  • BBW have provided a jolly little template that allows you exercise your legal right to find out if you personally were having your social media posts monitored. However that does seem to involve giving the government the real name behind your twitter handle, which in the circumstances…

    The inadequacy of political “kindness”

    In response to a Times article called “How I watched the halo slipping from Jacinda Ardern”, a commenter called Iain Thorpe made a very good point:

    There are deep problems with “kindness” as a political philosophy. If kindness is the answer to all problems, then the problems must be caused by unkindness. And people who disagree with you must be unkind people. Obviously you don’t have to listen when unkind people try to tell you anything. And you certainly don’t have to offer them the same concern or compassion as other people. Their unkindness is their own fault. You don’t have to do anything for it, or for them. And so “kindness” ends up being without empathy, the opposite of inclusion. Adern’s inability to deal with people who disagreed with or were disadvantaged by her government’s policies was striking. She seldom even attempted to speak to them and seemed incapable of winning over anyone who opposed her.

    Telling people they are not welcome, then being surprised that they leave

    “Private rents in Glasgow rocket as landlords exit market” What brought this on? The report from the Glasgow Evening Times quotes Colin Macmillan of Glasgow Property Letting as saying,

    Whilst the reality of the Scottish Government’s sanctions and actions are filtering through the private rented sector, many traditional landlords have had enough and are exiting the market.

    “With an oversubscription of university places, we find ourselves in a perfect storm.

    “Fewer properties available with unprecedented demand equals hyper-inflated rents.

    “We also find ourselves in a cost of living crisis at probably the worst time of the year, with energy costs rising as the temperature is falling, and subsequent worries that rent arrears may increase also.”

    The situation the Scottish Government created got so bad that even the Scottish Government noticed. The Negotiator, a site for residential agents, reported yesterday that the Scottish Government had U-turned, replacing a rent freeze with a cap on rent increases.

    The Scottish Government has dropped its planned rent freeze from April in a major U-turn.

    Ministers are now proposing a 3% rent cap for six months, with higher increases up to 6% allowed in exceptional cases.

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, led on the announced rent freeze in September, but left housing minister Patrick Harvie to reveal the climbdown.

    Harvie said the Government now accepted a rent freeze would hit landlords too hard: “While the primary purpose of the legislation is to support tenants, I recognise that costs have been rising for landlords too.

    Well, “disastrous” to “bad” is an improvement. But unless and until the Scottish government realises that both rent freezes and rent caps are very nice for tenants already in place but very bad for anyone trying to rent a house or flat from the day they are announced onwards, times will be hard for those seeking to rent in Scotland.

    Swatted by Siri

    “How a personal trainer’s smart watch caused 15 armed police officers to turn up to his Sydney gym while he was teaching a client”Daily Mail.

    Apparently, Jaime Alleyne, who is a a Muay Thai and boxing trainer, called out “one, one, two” followed by “good shot” to a client he was sparring with. He was not wearing his smart watch but it was still active – and 112 is one of the Australian emergency phone numbers. Mr Alleyne said, “Next minute about 15 officers including undercovers showed up, with several ambulances parked out the front, and that’s when I started bricking myself.”

    He would have had no need to fear an over-zealous response from the UK emergency services. They would still be waiting for a risk assessment.

    You were entirely in the tank, Jacinda

    ‘Jacinda Ardern has announced she will quit as New Zealand prime minister ahead of this year’s election, saying she no longer has “enough in the tank” to lead’, reports the BBC.

    ‘Ms Ardern choked up as she detailed how six “challenging” years in the job had taken a toll

    Labour Party MPs will vote to find her replacement on Sunday.

    The shock announcement comes as polling indicates the party faces a difficult path to re-election on 14 October.’

    The only shock was that she chose to jump rather than be pushed. Still, she can comfort herself with the thought that though her support inside New Zealand may have diminished, she remains much esteemed by the great and good worldwide.

    He who pays the piper says when the tune stops

    “Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally ill”, reports the BBC. Actually, the headline starts with the question “Who can die?” to which I would have thought the answer was obvious. But while death undoubtedly comes to us all eventually, when the state pays for healthcare it pays the state to make death come sooner:

    … last autumn, authorities launched an investigation after at least four veterans were prompted to consider Maid [the acronym for Canada’s medical assistance in dying programme] by a Veterans Affairs case worker, who now no longer works for the department. In one instance, veteran and paralympian Christine Gauthier said she was offered the option by the employee after she asked for a wheelchair ramp to be installed in her home.

    An industry that despises its customers, and I don’t mean Hollywood

    I shall miss the Times. My subscription only has a few weeks left to run. I cancelled it because it is no longer permitted to comment under a pseudonym. Will I still see interesting little stories like this when I make my hejira to the Telegraph? “French cinema is full of flops, says former culture minister Roselyne Bachelot”

    In an extraordinary attack, Roselyne Bachelot, who was replaced last May after two years in President Macron’s cabinet, has settled her score with an arts establishment with which she had clashed. The highly subsidised film industry is her chief target in her memoirs, 682 Days — The Hypocrites’ Ball.

    To ensure France’s “cultural exception”, the film industry is “stuffed with money” allowing it turn out more films than anywhere else in Europe, but its members complain endlessly about their conditions, she writes.

    “The famous ‘cultural exception’ allows very many French films ‘not to find their public’, as they say politely, or more explicitly, to be flops,” she writes. “This system also guarantees lead actors to earn fabulous fees, three or four times higher than actors in the American independent cinema.”

    The system, which includes direct subsidies, tax breaks and advances on box office earnings, pours hundreds of millions of euros a year into production, “creating an assisted economy that hardly cares about the tastes of spectators and is even contemptuous of popular, profitable films,” she added.

    Good stuff, but do not assume that she has seen the light about the enervating effect of state subsidy. An article I found in an outlet new to me, The Fashion Vibes, said:

    However, she [Mme* Bachelot] denied that her comments about the film’s financing implied that she felt France was pouring too much government money into the film.

    “Oh no! It makes perfect sense to continue it. If France is the only European country with a film industry which in turn feeds an industry on the platforms, it is because of the policy we have had since 1946 , since the creation of the National Cinema Center (CNC),” she said. We must keep it.”

    *I had better be careful to use the correct title – Madame Bachelot herself was instrumental in the banning of the term “Mademoiselle” from French government documents. I have no objection to that, so long as the “ban” is limited to being an instruction to civil servants.

    The circuit breaks

    In the Times, Giles Coren explains why he has pulled the plug on his electric car.

    As I watch my family strike out on foot across the fields into driving rain and gathering darkness, my wife holding each child’s hand, our new year plans in ruins, while I do what I can to make our dead car safe before abandoning it a mile short of home, full of luggage on a country lane, it occurs to me not for the first time that if we are going to save the planet we will have to find another way. Because electric cars are not the answer.

    Yes, it’s the Jaguar again. My doomed bloody £65,000 iPace that has done nothing but fail at everything it was supposed to do for more than two years now, completely dead this time, its lifeless corpse blocking the single-track road.

    I can’t even roll it to a safer spot because it can’t be put in neutral. For when an electric car dies, it dies hard. And then lies there as big and grey and not-going-anywhere as the poacher-slain bull elephant I once saw rotting by a roadside in northern Kenya. Just a bit less smelly.

    Not that this is unusual. Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it, beached at the dealership for months at a time on account of innumerable electrical calamities, while I galumph around in the big diesel “courtesy cars” they send me under the terms of the warranty.

    But this time I don’t want one. And I don’t want my own car back either. I have asked the guys who sold it to me to sell it again, as soon as it is fixed, to the first mug who walks into the shop. Because I am going back to petrol while there is still time.

    A message from Niall Kilmartin’s widow

    My husband and I are currently staying with Niall’s widow. Though she describes herself as not one for comments, she has long been a Samizdata reader. She asked me to say how comforting it was to read the replies to the post announcing his death. She described it as “a real joy” to her to see how highly Samizdata readers and posters regarded Niall’s writing.

    Niall’s actual cause of death was an aortic dissection which led to a stroke. Evidently he had had an aortic aneurysm without knowing about it. In these times it is perhaps worth saying that Niall had received the original two Covid vaccines, but chose not to have the autumn booster, so that cannot have been the cause of death.

    I do not want to end this post by focussing on the medical details. Niall’s wife asked me to let you know about a little detail that is much more representative of his life: Niall’s computer was open at Samizdata when he died.

    British political tweeting

    Y’know, for a minute I hesitated to post this when I am feeling such sadness over Niall’s death. Then I thought, don’t be daft, woman, he’d have enjoyed it. In particular, as a lover of Scottish, English and British history and the complicated interactions between the three categories, he would have liked Gawain Towler’s comment to Lawrence Whittaker’s tweet: “Enough time to get married I guess.”

    Niall Kilmartin has died

    A couple of hours ago, Niall Kilmartin’s wife telephoned me with terrible news. Last night, Niall suffered a heart attack and a stroke. He was rushed to hospital but died during the night. Niall was my dear friend for more than forty years, a friend to my husband for even longer, and to my children for all their lives.

    I know he valued Samizdata immensely. Read the comments that he made yesterday to my previous post. As ever they are full of wonderful scholarship and commitment to truth. I can hardly make myself believe that we will not continue the conversation in this life.

    May he rest in peace.