The result of [the ‘sharing economy] is that in many ways, private tech companies have ended subsidising new forms of public services, for the public good.
That ought to make them the darlings of the Left. Yet unfortunately, the Left just can’t rid itself of its urge to regulate, legislate and tax. And in their efforts to thwart consumer freedom, they have a useful ally in the shape of a legal framework which was developed for the analogue age.
Uber, for example, is the poster child of the sharing economy. Yet 2017 is make or break year for its European ambitions – and at its core is an age-old political battle of Left versus Right.
This battle isn’t on the streets of San Francisco or London; Uber has already won over consumers. Instead, the fight is moving to a soulless courtroom in Luxembourg. The question is whether the company is a technology or a transport company; and the answer is incredibly complex.
– Daniel Dalton
Hitler lookalike arrested in Austria
A Hitler lookalike has been arrested in Austria on charges of glorifying the Nazi era, local officials say.
The 25-year-old man reportedly calls himself Harald Hitler.
The man, sporting a side parting and a trademark moustache, had been seen having his photograph taken outside the house in Braunau am Inn in which Adolf Hitler was born.
The lookalike had recently moved to the town on the German border, police spokesman David Furtner told the BBC.
Well if ever someone’s face didn’t fit… Best not be a Charlie Chaplin tribute act in Austria then, or go to a Sparks concert, that town ain’t big enough for the both of them.
What’s next, putting down cats with unfortunate colouring?
On a more serious note, how better to discredit freedom that to carry on like this? Perhaps that’s all socialists can think to do. Mocking a fool is better that locking a fool up. Hitler is, thanks to Downfall parodies (here’s one, oddly prescient on the EU referendum, about Gordon Brown’s fading Premiership), a laughing stock, and the one thing that discredits tyrants more than anything is being laughed at. After all, mass murder has not discredited any brand of socialism.
It is reported in the Guardian that the career of a noted creative artist is coming to an end.
… the offences of Phil Shiner, the human rights lawyer who has just been struck off by the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal, are worse even than they appear at first sight. It is hard to comprehend the nightmare faced by British soldiers he wrongly accused of torture and murder in Iraq. But he did not only fail those he traduced in court. He failed Iraqis who believed they had a case; he failed genuine victims of abuse who will face a harder fight in future. And his dishonesty and deception, and the bringing of baseless cases, risks tainting the whole case for human rights.
There is quite a bit to agree with in this editorial, but the insouciance of the writer takes my breath away. Will the Guardian, so long his leading patron and publicist, be holding a retrospective exhibition of its own extensive Phil Shiner back catalogue?
The convener of the Health and Sport Committee, Neil Findlay MSP, defended the proposed policies: ‘Scotland has not previously been afraid to take the initiative to tackle health-related issues when other interventions have failed. This is why this committee is asking for a bold approach to tackling obesity.’ This, in all its overtly protective language, is a call for further intrusion into the life and liberty of Scots. We don’t need to be subject to gross social engineering. We don’t need to be treated like ignorant, gullible pawns, shuffling brainlessly towards Scotmid for another high-calorie fix. We drink alcohol because we like alcohol. We eat fatty foods because they’re tasty. We drive cars because they’re useful. We don’t need the obesity-obsessed overlords in Holyrood lecturing us on our lifestyle choices.
Our message to politicians like Findlay should be clear: get stuffed. Who knows, it might make their policies taste less sour.
– Charlie Peters
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a bus company acted unlawfully by failing to do more to enable a wheelchair user to board the bus. The claimant’s complaint was that a young woman and buggy had been occupying the designated area for wheelchairs. Many have focused on the court’s conclusion and celebrated the ruling as a blow for disability rights. But the true significance of the case is that who sits where on the bus could become an issue of law. The rule of law now extends to regulating issues of politeness.
– Jon Holbrook
Here are two contrasting articles from the Guardian:
Watching porn in public is not OK. It’s harassment – Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump – Luke Harding
It is no discredit to the Guardian that different writers for the paper have said contradictory things, although none of the dozens of comments I read to Ms Cosslett’s article brought up the the difference between the views of old and new feminists on whether it was liberating or deplorable to shock the public.
Many Libertarian-ish people would say that incompatible preferences across different groups of people regarding what should be seen in public could be solved by property rights and competition. Each shopping mall and bus company could set its own rules, some catering to the puritans, some to the libertines. That would be nice, but until we find the door into Libertopia we must deal with the major regulator of such things being the State.
What do you think? How should people behave here and now? Do the existing laws come first or ten millionth on our list of things to oppose – or should we support them? Is there more of a problem than there used to be, now that people can watch R18 movies on their Kindles on the bus while a twelve year old sits next to them? Or is this just another moral panic that could be solved if people kept their eyes to themselves?
By the way, consider this blog post to be a a venue where, as they say on the cinema screens, “Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification”.
The European Union proposes law to stop browser cookie pop-ups
Back in 2012, the European Union passed a law requiring websites to give visitors a warning regarding browser cookies. These pop-ups or banner warnings are now common place across the web and were initially intended to protect user privacy but for the most part, they are just seen as an annoying box getting in the way of whatever content you are trying to access. It seems the European Union now also agrees with that and has proposed new regulations to do away with cookie pop-up warnings.
We initially saw a drafted version of the proposed law back in December but this week, the European Commission officially unveiled its proposal. The plan is to essentially remove website banners that provide disclaimers on browser cookies. A user’s browser preference in regards to cookies will automatically apply to sites they visit instead.
See, Brexit is doing them good already.
The Times reports,
The home secretary’s party conference speech proposing that companies compile lists of foreign workers has been declared a “hate incident” by police under crime recording policies that she has supported.
Amber Rudd’s remarks about tougher rules for immigrant workers and foreign students attracted fierce criticism at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last October.
She said that the government would be “examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad” and ensuring that foreign workers were “not taking jobs British people could do”.
Joshua Silver, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, was so concerned that he reported the speech to police.
“I felt politicians have been using hate speech to turn Britons against foreigners, and I thought that is probably not lawful,” Professor Silver said.
Once he reported the speech, police were required to investigate.
West Midlands police have now written to the professor stating that the inquiry is concluded and the matter “has been recorded in line with the National Police Chiefs’ Council manual as a non-crime hate incident”.
The policy of blanket recording of all hate incidents was set out in 2014 by the College of Policing and backed by Ms Rudd last year.
I do not know whether Professor Silver’s motivation for reporting Rudd to the police was serious or satirical. Either way, it gave me a laugh.
Update: Apparently he was being serious. There is humour to be derived from his bout with Andrew Neil on BBC2’s Daily Politics, though I prefer my comedy to be less cruel. Kinder souls will hope that Professor Silver is remembered as the inventor of a type of low-cost user-adjustable eyeglasses – devices which might help millions of people – than for today’s embarrassing performance.
By the way, next time you read of the post-Brexit surge of reported hate incidents, remember the surge includes this.
Bella Caledonia is, or was, a magazine style website devoted to a far left vision of Scottish Independence. I lurked there often and commented seldom. When I clicked on the link http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ this morning I saw a message abruptly announcing its closure, and when I visited it again just now I saw the “404 Not Found” message. (Update: the site is now back up, though its future is still in doubt.)
I hope that was just a glitch and they haven’t really taken the whole site down. However far from them I am politically, I can have nothing but sympathy with someone who has been writing for or commenting at a website for a decade and then finds it has all been wiped. I would cry if that happened here.
As someone interested in languages, I shall miss the writing in and about Scots. I shall miss the commenters. Some of them were refreshingly, some worryingly, far from the mainstream of politics. A feeling of kinship… I shall say no more. Above all I shall miss their clarity about what they wanted for Scotland.
Three years ago I was so struck by an essay by regular Bella contributor Robin McAlpine, director of the Common Weal thinktank, about his desires for press regulation in a future independent Scotland that I copied it to my clippings file. The title alone was an Orwellian masterpiece. It originally appeared at this url: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/03/19/real-freedom-sounds-like-many-voices/. Since that piece now seems to have vanished along with the rest of the Bella Caledonia archive, and since it is a mirror to the latest efforts by a Conservative UK government to end press freedom, I shall preserve it by posting it below.
I have put the phrase “Above all, this would require that titles other than the franchised ones would be banned” in bold, but other than that have made no changes. Here it is:
Real Freedom Sounds Like Many Voices
by Robin McAlpine 19TH MARCH 2013
“What we are actually having a debate about is the right of very, very rich people to control our society outside of any oversight or regulation …”
I have unburdened myself of the frustration I feel at the way I feel about how the media regulation debate has been covered in the Scottish press (here). Since then I’ve been contacted by a number of people who share my frustration but who want to know if there are other options for media regulation or other possibilities or arguments that are being censored in this debate. Yes there are – all of them.
→ Continue reading: Some things I will miss about the now defunct Bella Caledonia web magazine
I meant to write in more detail about the grotesque perversion of natural justice embodied in the proposed Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act earlier, but I was ill so I didn’t. Never mind. Guido Fawkes has covered the essentials here. That link takes you to a post on Guido’s site which contains a petition to the government. If you are from the UK, please consider signing it.
For an explanation of why I say that, see this from Michael Gove in the Times:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is considering whether or not to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the period of consultation ends next week. If implemented, section 40 would require newspapers either to register with an approved regulator or face active discrimination in the courts.
The one regulator the government has so far approved, Impress, is funded largely by the former Formula One boss Max Mosley, a determined campaigner for restrictions on the press ever since a Sunday tabloid published disobliging details about his private life. Mr Mosley has assembled a team to run Impress who could never be mistaken for carefree libertarians.
Three of his board members support a campaign to starve The Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail of advertising revenue. One board member has expressed his sadness that the Mail cannot just be banned, and the CEO of the organisation has shared social media posts comparing the Mail to Nazi newspapers and has decried its work as fascist. One does not have to admire every aspect of the Mail to recognise that its crusading journalism played a huge part in bringing the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice. Nazi newspapers tend not to be big on opposing racist violence.
Gove too right wing for you? Try this article from the left-liberal David Aaronovitch in the same paper, which I quoted in this Samizdata post and unapologetically quote again:
Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.
What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.
Perhaps you are inclined to oppose the views of anyone writing for one of the Murdoch papers? Then read this piece and this follow-up from Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. There is no paywall at the G, so I will just link rather than quote any more than this:
In so doing, its [the lobby group Hacked Off] ideologues have placed their faith in the political establishment. They believe the charter is safe in the hands of MPs and peers and that the conditions that might lead to it being altered are highly unlikely.
But my lack of respect for what they call the media establishment (which, incidentally, is itself a mythical construct) is nothing like as great as my lack of respect for the so-called political establishment.
Added later: The Daily Mirror is another left wing paper opposing this measure: Do you want to gag the truth? Why new law will silence the free press.
In too much of a hurry to read all that? Guido’s earlier posts on this topic provide a quickie crash course. Here are enough to be going on with: (1), (2), (3), (4).
One last point. Quite apart from the danger to the freedom of the press, Section 40 would also set a precedent for using the attribution of court costs as a political instrument to apply pressure on bodies and individuals to do the government’s will. That corrupts the justice system itself.
Julia Reda, a German Pirate Party MEP, has issued this list of 10 everyday things on the web the EU Commission wants to make illegal.
In a few days, scandal-prone Günther Oettinger will stop being Europe’s top internet policy maker – he’s being promoted to oversee the EU budget.
But before leaving, the outgoing Digital Commissioner submitted dangerous plans that undermine two core foundations of the internet: Links and file uploads. While Oettinger is going away, his lobby-dictated proposals are here to stay.
These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way (yes, you read that right), as well as the music industry’s wish to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube.
These proposals will cause major collateral damage – making many everyday habits on the web and many services you regularly use downright illegal, subject to fees or, at the very least, mired in legal uncertainty.
Not that the UK government needs the EU’s assistance to pass stupid and repressive laws about the internet, but if Ms Reda is correct about what this proposed law means, and it is ever enacted, that will be ten more things to paste into my “better off out” file. Quite possibly it would be the progenitor of many more “better off out” files created by angry internet users all over Europe. But I admit that do not know enough to judge whether these proposed measures are likely to come to pass, or would really be as bad as she says, or whether there is anything to be said in their favour.
Oh dear! Sir James Munby has had ever such a clever idea. His friend Frances Gibb has written a story about it for the newspaper. But they have both forgotten something very important. Can you help them find it?
Family courts chief calls for ban on abusers cross-examining victims
Abusers should be banned from cross-examining victims of domestic violence as a “priority”, says England’s most senior family judge.
Sir James Munby is pressing ministers to legislate to stop such cross-examinations, which still happen despite efforts by senior judges to prevent them.
The president of the family division, who raised the issue in 2014 amid concerns over the stress that such questioning puts on victims, is dismayed at the lack of action. He argues that the family justice system “lags woefully behind the criminal justice system” where cross-examination of an alleged victim by the defendant is not allowed by law.
In a statement today Sir James said that he would welcome a ban, adding: “Reform is required as a matter of priority.”
He added: “But the judiciary cannot provide this because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers.”
Senior judges are in talks with Women’s Aid, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence, to try to have the practice banned.
A spokesman for the judiciary added that Sir James, who is president of the family division of the High Court, was “disappointed by how slow the response to these issues has been and welcomes the continuing efforts by Women’s Aid to bring these important matters to wider public attention.”
Judges and women’s groups are discussing the workings of the existing rules, contained in a practice direction which has been reviewed by a senior family judge, Mr Justice Cobb. Cross-examination by violent partners has continued, despite the practice direction.
A survey by Women’s Aid found that a quarter of victims of domestic violence had been cross-examined by abusive partners.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told The Guardian: “When we talk to judges about this they say that this never happens. But it is happening, that is clear, and it seems fairly difficult to get this across.”
Concerns about cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses were raised by Sir James more than two years ago, prompting the setting up of a working party to deal with what was described as a “pressing need”.
The working party reported in 2014, condemning procedures for taking evidence from alleged victims as inadequate and pointing out that one High Court judge, Mr Justice Wood, had drawn attention to the issue as long ago as 2006.
Research by an all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence found that 55 per cent of women had no access to special measures in family courts, where 70 per cent of separation and child contact cases involve some form of domestic violence.
The group’s report, in April, called for an end to abusers cross-examining victims and was backed by two MPs, Jess Phillips and Maria Miller, who launched a joint call for action. The all-party group said it had launched its inquiry after becoming increasingly concerned concerned about the safety of women and child survivors of domestic abuse within the family courts.