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]

If you want Pride you must allow the cry of “Shame!”

The Daily Mail shows a video in which

Muslim woman wearing a niqab shouts ‘shame on all of you despicable people’ in shocking homophobic rant at Pride march in London

This is the shocking moment a Muslim woman spits homophobic abuse at a reveller on a Pride march in east London.

The niqab-wearing woman was filmed screaming ‘shame on you’ to a woman draped in the LGBT rainbow flag during the rally on Hoe Street, Walthamstow, yesterday.

She screeches ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’ while a marshal in a high-vis jacket moves in to shield the clearly shaken Pride marcher.

The video was shared on Twitter by Yusuf Patel who wrote: ‘Disgusting homophobic abuse at those on Waltham Forest Pride today.

The report continues,

The Walthamstow arm of the Metropolitan Police said officers are investigating and branded the abuse a hate crime.

The force tweeted: ‘We are aware of footage circulating on social media of abuse directed at those taking part in the Waltham Forest Pride event and enquiries are underway.

‘Abusing someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is a hate crime.

Put aside the question of the direction in which your first impulse of sympathy might fall, and consider whether there is any objective reason to say that the Muslim woman is aggressing against the Pride marcher rather than vice versa – or neither. The Mail writer says that the Muslim woman “spits homophobic abuse” at the Pride marcher, but she does not literally spit. It cannot have been pleasant to have been on the receiving end of that tirade, but all she ultimately did was vehemently tell the marcher that she thought they ought to be ashamed of their sexuality. The very purpose of the Pride parades, as the name indicates, is for the participants to declare that they are not ashamed of their sexuality. To that end the Pride marchers went – proudly wrapped in their rainbow flags – down Hoe Street, Walthamstow, where they knew full well that many of the inhabitants would deeply disapprove of them. (I used to live in Walthamstow, just off Hoe Street. It is not a “Muslim area” as such, but there are many Muslims there.) The law allows Pride parades to do this, just as the law allows Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland to carry their flags through Catholic areas.

The current Establishment would like to ban the Orange Order march and arrest the Muslim woman for protesting against the LGBT Pride march. In my childhood it would have been the other way round. I would not be surprised to see the cycle return to something like its starting point (although perhaps with the roles of the protected national causes and religions played by different actors) before I die. Or, just a thought, we could let everyone speak.

Samizdata quote of the day

I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.

It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”

Sandya Hewamanne

Samizdata quote of the day

The UK is following the USA in adopting conviction-free, hell, trial-free presumption of guilt. It starts with ‘obvious’ bad guys but as USA’s example with asset forfeiture shows, it doesn’t stop there.

– Perry de Havilland, discussing this.

Games and money

The BBC is breathlessly reporting cases of parents whose bank accounts have been cleared out by their children playing games with in-game purchases.

We are technically savvy but didn’t think to put a password on and my son, who was 12, ended up spending around £700.

It was on his own phone and he managed to download Clash of Clans through a Google Play account, enter his own children’s bank card details and buy lots of in-game items.

It is possible to prevent this. My own children often ask to buy in-game items, which tells me I have somewhat succeeded in training them to ask first. Steam has a PIN code that only I know. The iPad requires my fingerprint before it will take money. And Google Play is set up to require a password. So far, so good.

I installed Mini Golf King on my phone for my son who is five. He knows he’s not allowed to spend money in games, yet this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases.

[…]

People will say “well, you should be supervising him”. I was! I was in the room.

But the game is a children’s game, rated PEGI 3 [suitable for players aged three and above].

I would allow him to watch a U-rated film and I assumed PEGI 3 games were safe to play with casual supervision.

Now things are getting tricky: user interfaces are hard to get right even when you are trying not to confuse people. I can remember a handful of occasions where I have done something daft with a computer, have been met with no sympathy at all from support staff, but objected that the problem is that the user interface was misleading. There are worthy complaints here.

Now politicians are taking an interest. There is always this instinctive call: The Government should Do Something! I do not see the need. Complain instead to marketplace. Google Play, the Apple App Store and Steam are in a position to enforce user interface standards and they can probably do better with default settings, spending limits, and better-designed family accounts.

Imagine there’s no countries

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

The Times editorial I am about to quote, like John Lennon’s much-loved song, begins with the word “Imagine”. It describes a little incident, seemingly unimportant to all but those most directly affected, that took in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. At least, Vanuatu calls itself a nation, and it has a flag and a seat at the UN and all the paraphernalia of a nation, but it seems to have decided that it no longer wishes to function as a separate state. A little incident that took place there four days ago gives a preview of what Lennon’s dream of a world where borders did not matter would really be like.

Imagine for a moment that last Friday a charter flight full of police officers from a foreign power landed at Heathrow. Picture those officers then driving to a series of addresses, identifying four British and two foreign citizens and then, declining to tell British authorities on what grounds they were taking this action, detaining them and forcing them on board the aircraft, which then took off. What might we call such behaviour?

This exact scenario was played out just before the weekend in the South Pacific republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu might be the answer to a quiz question, but though it has a population the size of Hull it is also an independent sovereign country and a democracy. Nevertheless, last week the Chinese government sent officials to Vanuatu and arrested five men and one woman, all of Chinese ethnicity.

That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying. Before the Chinese police arrived it is reported that the six had been held without charge for several days on the premises of a Chinese company. Though the Chinese informed the government that their officers possessed Chinese arrest warrants, neither the islanders nor anyone else has been told what the charges actually are. In spite of this, local police assisted with the accompanying of the detained individuals to the China-bound aircraft.

Almost incredibly the internal affairs minister of Vanuatu has told the press that the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory. Presumably if they had been then they would have had their day in court. As it is the minister has, in effect, connived at an abduction of his own citizens by a foreign power almost certainly in contravention of his country’s laws.

The South China Morning Post report on the same story is quite bold to make an explicit link to the protests in Hong Kong against the proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China, given that the newspaper has itself been subject to pressure from Beijing.

Samizdata quote of the day

I say let the Nazis speak. There is no evidence that the alt-right’s propagandists can turn impressionable YouTube viewers into deranged mass-shooters. We have little to fear from open debate. Let the Nazis preach white separatism and white supremacy. Let them deny the Holocaust. Let everybody see how full of shit they are. Let them openly sell a product nobody wants. These ideas have been around for decades, and few people are persuaded by them. There is significant reason to believe that Twilight Sparkle will prevail over the alt-right in the marketplace of ideas.

Daniel Friedman

“It’s about all of us”

There’s an interesting video story on the BBC website today:

Spearmint Rhino strippers fighting for the right to strip

Feminist[s] campaigners have secretly filmed at the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Sheffield. They claim the recording shows sexual acts taking place in the club, which breaks the licensing rules.

Ella, a stripper at the club, is furious with Not Buying It for secretly filming dancers naked and fears losing her job as the club may now lose their licence.

But Dr Sasha Rakoff who assisted the secret filming insists this was the only way to expose the dark side of the industry.

My immediate sympathies were with Ella, but I can see both sides. I support the right of women (indeed the right of all people) to do what they like with their own bodies. On the other hand, the Spearmint Rhino club agreed to abide by certain rules about what could be done on the premises, and it does seem to me as if the covert filming by “Not Buying It” made a good case that those rules were being broken. I did not find Ella’s argument that the investigators had misunderstood what they saw entirely convincing. And it won’t wash to say that the conditions of the club’s licence were merely another example of state repression; though it would be better if they were voluntarily entered contracts between private parties, zoning rules of that broad type would probably still exist in a libertarian utopia.

Still, I found this statement from Dr Rakoff problematic:

Feminism, kind of like the rest of society has been somewhat infected by these really neo-liberal, really dumbed down, simplistic, very selfish attitudes that it’s all about me, me, me and what I choose and if I choose something it’s my right. That’s not what feminism has ever been about, it’s about all of us. So even if these women do choose to be lap dancers, it’s not just about them, it’s about wider social attitudes which is breeding Harvey Weinsteins.

So, according to Dr Rakoff feminism has never been about women’s individual choices. I had heard otherwise but perhaps that merely reflects my ignorance of modern feminism. As I said in a recent post, ‘I’m still holding on to the idea that “what a feminist looks like” can include what I see in the mirror. But it is getting harder.’

I would also like to know exactly who is included in the “all of us” she mentions as having some right to override an individual woman’s choice to be a lap dancer. All of humanity? Just the female half of it? Self-identified feminists? Or just those feminists who meet Dr Rakoff’s standard of feminism uninfected with neo-liberal selfishness?

The inclusiveness of ‘You didn’t build that’

“You didn’t build that” (Obama)

If you’ve ever seen an episode of The Prisoner then you’ve seen Portmeiron, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’ Italianate architectural fantasy on the Llyn peninsula in Wales. In politics, Sir Clough was sometimes less of an individual than in architecture – he could echo the fashionable leftisms of his set.

One day, the state noticed what he was achieving at Portmeiron and ‘gave’ it protected status. After that, anybody who wanted to do any more building there had to satisfy the bureaucrats. “I was rather surprised”, said Sir Clough, “to discover that ‘anybody’ included me.”

Recently, Nancy Bass Wyden, wife of Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat), had a similar experience in De Blasio’s New York. I wonder if she was similarly surprised when all her democratic party connections and all the 11,000 signatures on her petition against it did not prevent De Blasio adding one more bureau to the list of those who get to tell the increasingly-titular owner of the Landmarks bookstore what she can and cannot do. (And if you think none of these bureaucrats would notice if Landmarks ever seemed overeager to push an off-message book then I have a bridge in De Blasio’s New York that you can ‘own’ every bit as much as Nancy owns Landmarks.)

Ayn Rand’s architect hero in The Fountainhead has one solution for what to do when the state steals your building – blow it up – but I’ve always found that a bit negative. Trump has, I suppose, at least ensured that whatever excuse they ‘trump up’ to attack his buildings, it won’t be by declaring them much loved landmarks that must be preserved. But I’ve yet to think of a general solution. Buildings, alas, cannot vote with their feet.

Yes. But?

In the Spectator, Brendan O’Neill writes In defence of Jo Brand:

Brand’s comedy-crime was to say the following about the recent spate of milkshake attacks on politicians: ‘Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?’ Boom-tish. Funny? I think so. I like Brand’s dry, deadpan wit, so to me it was funny to hear her jokingly propose something so wicked in her droll tones. Others will disagree. That’s subjective taste for you.

But what we surely cannot disagree on — unless we’ve taken leave of our senses, which I think we have — is that Brand was joking. We know she was joking for the following reasons: 1) she tells jokes for a living; 2) she said it on a comedy talk show; 3) she confirmed that it was a joke. ‘I’m not going to do it’, she said, clearly remembering that we live in humourless times in which people are constantly pouncing on someone’s words as proof of their violent intent. ‘It’s purely a fantasy’, she clarified.

And

Amazingly, people have been saying that in response to the Brand controversy. The same political figures, tweeters and tabloids who normally have a field day mocking soft leftists for crying over questionable jokes or edgy ideas are now demanding the censure of Jo Brand. You staggering hypocrites. What is sorely lacking in the free-speech debate today is consistency. The whole point of freedom of speech is that it must apply to everyone. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t free speech at all — it’s privileged speech, enjoyed by some, denied to others.

So here goes: Jo Brand must have the right to joke about throwing battery acid at politicians. Jimmy Carr must have the right to make rape jokes. Frankie Boyle should be free to make fun of people with Down’s syndrome. Boris is perfectly at liberty to say women in burqas look like letterboxes. People must be free to film their dogs doing Nazi salutes. Do you get it now? When it comes to mere words and ideas, no one should ever be censured, censored or punished for anything. Literally anything.

I do not hesitate to endorse the last paragraph (though I would delete the word “censured” from “no one should ever be censured, censored or punished for anything”) but in defence of the snowflakes of the Right who are making a fuss about this, could it not be said that they are only applying the fourth of Saul Alinsky’s famous Rules for Radicals, “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

A month ago the YouTuber and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad was investigated by the police for saying “I wouldn’t even rape you” to the Labour MP Jess Phillips. Someone called Steve on Twitter posted this clip of what Jo Brand said about Carl Benjamin then:

“I think it shocking that politics has been reduced to vile personal attacks… especially from a twat-faced beardy tiny-cocked tosser like him.”

She delivers the line rather well, but did not seem too concerned that Benjamin was being investigated by the police for making a crass but obviously not seriously intended threat to commit a crime. Technically it wasn’t even a threat; he said he wouldn’t rape Jess Phillips. Now the boot is on the other foot. If Carl Benjamin wants some quick brownie points he should ride out in Jo Brand’s defence like a non-rapey knight in shining armour.

I assume nearly everyone who reads this believes in free speech. In the present circumstances, what should we be doing to defend it? Should we take the high road, or apply Rule 4?

“Lock ’em up.” “Can’t. We need one of them to be Prime Minister.”

“Michael Gove is a man who invites a number of opinions, a great deal of them unflattering, even within the Conservative party, but I am yet to meet a Tory MP who sincerely believes that it would have been better for anyone had he spent a decent chunk of the early noughties in prison. Yet the official position of his party, and that of the main opposition, is that it would.

I do not always agree with Stephen Bush, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, but ain’t that the truth?

“That’s right: it is Tory party policy that they would have been better off if one of their most dynamic administrators and a near permanent presence on the frontbench since his entry into politics had been either imprisoned or working in a minimum wage job. That might be the private view of some teachers and some particularly committed pro-Europeans but it’s an odd look for a party that might yet make him prime minister.”

Even odder that the very suggestion that the leading candidate to be prime minister might not have taken cocaine on multiple occasions elicits laughter from all quarters. In fact according to the Sun, seven of the eleven candidates for the Tory leadership admit they have used banned substances in the past. The same article adds that Boris Johnson claims that he only did it the once, but hesneezedsoitdidn’tgouphisnose, and it mayhavebeenicingsugaranyway. Now, I do not deny that kind of thing can happen. I was first offered the chance to smoke some grass when I was at secondary school. Man, that was some real grassy grass. But the idea that, having left Oxford and achieved such early success as journalist that getting sacked by the Times for falsifying a quote was but the start of his career, the freewheeling young Boris was so chastened by his early experience that he never again sought to obtain the substances so widely used by his media colleagues convinces about as well as the idea that he stuck to icing sugar thereafter. Ladies and gentlemen: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Stephen Bush’s article in the Guardian, “Michael Gove got high but his party champions a futile war on drugs”, continues:

The overwhelming evidence from around the democratic world is that countries which have legalised drugs have seen numbers of drug deaths fall and have taken billions out of the criminal economy.

As annoying?

We’re confident that North Carolina’s politics will annoy us from the right as much as California’s does from the left, but we’re equally confident that center-right North Carolinians won’t try to personally and professionally ruin us for daring to disagree with them.

The quote is from a comment to this article (that I found from instapundit). The commenters – Californians who have decided to vote with their feet – complain they’ve seen one too many

smart, talented colleagues fired, and their reputations blackened, because they had the temerity to utter a heterodox opinion, or made it known that they voted for a Republican, or were insufficiently enthusiastic about adopting the latest politically-correct newspeak.

They expect to be as annoyed by NC’s right-wing politics as by CA’s left-wing politics. It may be just their way of expressing it. And I suppose it will be a culture shock (understandable they’ve not moved to Texas, or Alabama – or Samizdata 🙂 ). But I have a hard time imagining being as annoyed by politics that will allow me to dissent as by politics that will punish any hint of dissent.

But maybe that’s just my typical right-wing focus on the honesty of the process rather than the nobility of the goal.

A cross-party group of Green, Labour and progressive Conservative MPs have finally seen the light and are demanding deficit reduction

I thought this day would never come!

New laws should be checked against a “compassion threshold”, to ensure they will not harm future generations or the most vulnerable in society, a cross-party group of MPs will argue this week.

At last “progressives” have acknowledged that to run up the UK deficit by reckless government spending is to bribe the present electorate at the expense of ruinous consequences for future generations. I do not know what caused the likes of the Green Party’s only MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour MP Thangham Debonnaire, or the famously wet Tory MP Tracey Crouch to belatedly see the wisdom of the US Tea Party movement and Senator Rand Paul’s Balanced Budget Amendment, but whatever caused this Damascene conversion, it is most welcome.

Naturally these generally left-wing MPs see the proposed “Compassion Threshold” that would bind this and all future Parliaments in what laws they can pass as primarily affecting issues of more traditional concern to the Left:

From rising levels of rough sleeping to the rollout of universal credit, there are a growing number of issues that campaigners believe underline the unintended consequences of policymaking on the most vulnerable in society.

Backers of the idea of the compassion bill say they hope it would allow those affected to bring legal action, as they can when they believe their human rights are being breached, for example.

But since it should obvious to anyone how readily this proposed law could be used to enforce stringent budget responsibility on future governments, including what may very well be our next Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, let us wish the sponsors of the Bill every success.