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]

Nigel Farage says ‘Say No to House Arrest’ – and a perspective on Red China

A video blog from Nigel, asking questions in his usual style about the lockdown and what it is for, police behaviour, and posing some questions about the UK’s relations with China. Then a China Uncensored video giving a view on the Red China ‘cure’ for coronavirus. He also has a good word for Stephen Kinnock going to see his Dad on his Old Man’s birthday.

A British politician calling for liberty, there is one.

And from China Uncensored, (a Taiwanese-backed channel I believe), a contrast on the American media’s soft touch on China with what has been going on.

This chicken has more freedom than anyone in Britain

A free chicken

Here is a free-range chicken in a layer flock at a site somewhere in Northamptonshire in the English Midlands. It roams free, it does not risk an unlimited fine for leaving its home without just cause, it can associate with chickens other than its flock, or any feathered or non-feathered friend. It does not have to queue to get into shops to buy basics, (nor did it ever), nor justify itself if it wishes to stroll around more than once a day. Although its parents were cooped up because of bird ‘flu a few years back, it knows only liberty. Mind you it doesn’t have the right to bear/bare arms, nor any right to free speech, nor protection against unreasonable searches or seizures. No one is going to ask it to self-incriminate, well, perhaps next week.

It is not required to keep itself 6 feet, 6 and three-quarter inches (or 2 metres) from other chickens not from its yard. It is not under sentence of death as it is not raised for meat. Welcome to the UK, where the chickens run free and there once was liberty. Do you think the concept might catch on?

Mind you, at least we are safer from the virus now, aren’t we.

We are all Uighurs now.

The ramblings of our Prime Minister this evening, no data, no projections, no reasoning other than the projected incompetence of our nationalised health care system, no laws cited (but they are there), and have been since 10th February 2020, backed up by threats and fear-mongering, announcing restrictions on the UK in an echo of what the Chinese Communist Party is imposing on Uighurs, evidence the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party in crushing the West, without (and indeed on account of not) lifting a finger.

And yet the borders remain open, as far as we know, to flights from hotspots such as China, Italy, Spain and Iran. This has all been thought through, and Johnson is content that it be so, is he being played or a player? if we wanted loo roll shortages and economic chaos and inflation we’d have voted in Corbyn last December, a man who is in power in terms of outcomes, but is not in office.

In France you now have to download a permit to go for a walk

At first I thought this was une blague pratique. Apparently not, unless Tim Worstall’s denial is merely evidence that he is in on the joke. He writes in today’s Times:

Among the measures introduced in France to deal with the coronavirus is a requirement to fill in a form before going out for a walk.

No, really, this is not a joke. As part of the lockdown it is necessary, before leaving the house, to complete and sign a download from the Ministry of the Interior. Name, address, what you think you’re doing and so on.

This is not filed with anyone, nor registered. It must simply be carried during the errand. Absence, if caught, will lead to a €135 fine. A new form is required for every exit from the house. And yes, there’s a box to tick for “aux besoins des animaux de compagnie” which my memories of exchange visits have as “for the needs of our furry friends”.

The solution to a global pandemic is a form for walking the dog. Of course, it is easy to mock the French but there is an important point here, for this is an example of a pernicious worldview. That we, the people, are only able to cope if we are told what to do, what we may do. All must be decided and enforced by the clever people in power and nothing left to ordinary folks to get on with.

Our own tradition is vehemently different. I have surprised people in a number of countries by pointing out that a British policeman isn’t actually allowed to ask — or at least not to insist upon knowing — what it is that you are doing. If accosted, a cheery “Going about my lawful business, constable” is all that is required. Such liberties might not apply in moments of crisis but they are indicative of a different manner of thinking.

A similar restriction is being applied in Italy, according to The Local.it:

Now that justification is required simply to be on the street, you’ll need to have a copy ready as soon as you leave the house.

If you have access to a printer, you can download the form here.

Ther’s also now an application able to generate an electronic version of the ‘autocertificazione’ form as many times as needed, to keep handy on your phone with a digital signature.

Police at checkpoints (such as those at train stations) should also have a stack of paper forms available, and you can ask to take a few.

But what if you do not have access to the internet?

Alternatively you can copy out the whole thing by hand: make sure to write everything exactly as it appears on the form, in full.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’ve Got Mine Now Sod Off Says Zuckerberg

Tim Worstall providing a typically succinct summation.

Down the slippery slope

riot police in Ankara

I was in Ankara on December 23 last year, in the commercial centre of town in the middle of the day. I walked past a street with a number of cafe/restaurants. I realised I was hungry. I sat down at an outdoor table, looking away from the street. I ordered a sandwich. My sandwich came. It was mediocre, but satisfied the “I am hungry” problem. (This was slightly disappointing of me. Turkey is a country of terrific food, and one should plan one’s meals better than just going for the nearest food when one finds oneself hungry). I got out my phone and started reading a book on the Kindle app as I was having my lunch.

After an indeterminate period of time, I realised I was hearing a high pitched scream behind me. It was probably a woman, but I couldn’t be sure about that. I turned around. There was an almost literal phalanx of riot police, separating the public from what was going on. There was a police van on the other side of the riot police. The person who was screaming was somewhat violently pushed into the van. The rear doors of the van were then closed fairly violently. The van drove off. The riot police then dispersed. They looked like this was heavily rehearsed, and this was something they did every day.

There was no riot. There was no demonstration. I don’t know how this started, because I was looking in the opposite direction and I was distracted until I heard the screaming. This looked like a well planned operation to grab a particular person off the street. In broad daylight. In the middle of a busy city. So that people would notice.

When I saw that this was happening, I noticed that other people in the cafe were taking pictures with their phones. So I briefly stood up and took a picture with my phone. The police were looking in other directions. One day I will get myself into trouble doing things like this, but in this case, well, I think the police wanted to be noticed. By locals, at least. Maybe not foreigners such as myself.

A few days later, after visiting a few wonderful archaeological sites in parts of Turkey, I was on a bus travelling along the Turkish Black Sea coast from Trabzon to the Georgian city of Batumi. During this journey there were two stops at police checkpoints. At the first one, a police officer got on the bus and everyone was required to show ID. The Turkish people had bar codes on their ID cards scanned electronically by a reader being carried by the police officer. (I held out my passport – the policeman looked at it and nodded). At the second one our ID documents were taken off the bus and into the police checkpoint building, before being brought back on the bus.

When you book a train ticket in Turkey and you are Turkish, you don’t even need a ticket. You simply give your ID card number when booking the train, and when you board they scan the ID card and associate it with the booking.

Turkey tracks the internal movements of its citizens electronically. They do it like this if you catch a bus or train or plane. If you drive your own car, I suspect it is done with number plate recognition.

Turkey is a wonderful country full of magnificent things. I visit often. It is also a police state, and a very nasty one.

I enjoyed my trip to Turkey, but I felt some relief when I reached Georgia. A much freer country.

I hope so

Harry Miller: “This is a warershed moment for liberty”

The police response to an ex-officer’s allegedly transphobic tweets was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

Harry Miller, from Lincolnshire, was contacted by Humberside Police in January last year after a complaint about his tweets.

He was told he had not committed a crime, but it would be recorded as a non-crime “hate incident”.

The court found the force’s actions were a “disproportionate interference” on his right to freedom of expression.

In a separate story from the one I quote above, the BBC goes on to report that

Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the effect of police turning up at Mr Miller’s place of work “because of his political opinions must not be underestimated”.

He added: “To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom.
“In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

I did not know we still had judges like that.

Edit: This is the text of the judgement: Miller -v- College of Policing, 14 February 2020.

Samizdata quote of the day

The wise & incorruptible state can be trusted to decide what people are allowed to watch, read & listen to, no way would they abuse such capabilities once they are in place

#MakeOrwellFictionAgain
#TheStateIsNotYourFriend

– Perry de Havilland in response to this.

Bringing a criminal to justice at the cost of telling their victims what they would rather not have known

A horrible thought occurred to me while reading press accounts of the recent trial and conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, who may have been Britain’s most prolific rapist.

Sinaga’s modus operandi was as follows:

He would wait for men leaving nightclubs and bars before leading them to his flat, often offering them somewhere to have a drink or call a taxi. Giving them a drugged drink, believed to have been spiked with GHB, Sinaga would then assault the victims while they were unconscious and video the attack with a mobile phone.

In this fashion he got away with more than a hundred rapes because his victims did not know they had been raped. Finally,

In June 2017, his last victim, an 18-year old, regained consciousness during the rape, fought off his attacker, and reported the incident to the police. Sinaga was badly beaten and was taken to hospital, while police initially arrested his victim on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. Subsequent examination of Sinaga’s iPhone by the police led to the discovery of more than 3 terabytes of digital video evidence of his assaults and rapes. Many of his victims were traceable because Sinaga kept their phones, watches, ID cards, etc., and he had used social media to reach his unknowing victims online.

Note the word “unknowing”. The horrible thought that occurred to me was this: some (not all, but a substantial number) of Sinaga’s victims have said that their lives were seriously damaged by the police tracing them and telling them that they had been raped while drugged and unconscious. They would have preferred not to know. More painful yet, the fact that they had been raped became public knowledge at the trial. But if the police had not traced Sinaga’s victims and marshalled the evidence against him for the judge and the jury to see, he would have been able to continue with his crimes indefinitely.

In the end, I would say that in Sinaga’s case the public interest had to take precedence: he had to be stopped. Yet I think that situations could occur where it might be justifiable to let a criminal go unpunished in order to save his or her unknowing victims from the pain of discovering that they had been wronged.

Hello, I’m Dr Google and I’m here to look after you

John Harris is one of the Guardian‘s best journalists. He is a left winger who wanted to remain in the EU, but the series of video reports by him and John Domokos called “Anywhere but Westminster” showed their determination to literally and figuratively move outside their comfort zone on the issue of Brexit.

Now he has turned his attention to a new subject: health apps and Big Data in the age of the Internet of Things.

Will having longer, healthier lives be worth losing the most basic kinds of privacy?

The deal has yet to be approved by the relevant regulators, but Google has got most of the way to buying Fitbit – the maker of wearable devices that track people’s sleep, heart rates, activity levels and more. And all for a trifling $2.1bn (£1.6bn).The upshot is yet another step forward in Google’s quest to break into big tech’s next frontier: healthcare.

Last month, in a Financial Times feature about all this, came a remarkable quote from a partner at Health Advances, a Massachusetts-based tech consulting company. Wearables, he reckoned, would be only one small part of the ensuing story: just as important were – and no guffawing at the back, please – “bedside devices, under-mattress sensors, [and] sensors integrated into toilet seats”. Such inventions, it was explained, can “get even closer to you than your smartphone, and detect conditions such as depression or heart-rate variability”.

Most people here will probably think that the article and even more so the comments give too much weight to the creepiness of private corporations monitoring your every breath and too little to the creepiness of the NHS doing it. But even the biggest fans of capitalism can feel unease at anyone having this level of knowledge of the most intimate aspects of our lives. (Time was it was only little green men from flying saucers who had such a probing interest.) Nowadays both the private and the public sectors are amassing data, and whichever of them gets a comprehensive health surveillance system working first will promptly sell it to the other.

Then again, before you declare that you will never allow the Internet of Things anywhere near your body, read this comment from “ID20857”:

A few months ago my Mum had a stroke. She is now paralysed down half of her body and confined to a wheelchair. I’m sure if she had the option of an early warning which could have prevented her stroke she wouldn’t give a f**k about her privacy.

What, if anything, should we be doing about Huawei?

There is a kerfuffle here in the UK over 5G. I can’t in all honesty say that I have the slightest idea what 5G is but I surmise that it is one better than 4G. The issue is around whether the Chinese company, Huawei, should be allowed to supply some of the equipment. Lots of people, including James Delingpole say, “no”. And very few people say, “yes”.

The first question that springs to (my) mind is, what has this got to do with the government? Which I suppose is bound up with the question of what is the threat? Assuming that there is a threat and that government should be “doing something about it”, what is that something?

About the only thing I know about China and telephony is that you should never take your phone to China.

Oh, and one other thing. Guido Fawkes observed that the real scandal is that Chinese technology should prove to be better than western technology. Is this true and is it a portent?

Samizdata quote of the day

Wearing face masks in public is presently illegal in Hong Kong and compulsory in Wuhan

Michael Jennings