Accountability Theatre

I doubt you’ll remember reading about “Security Theatre” in my 2005 ID Card paper so I’ll repeat the passage here: I was commenting on the Home Office’s naïve concept of their ID Card as being somehow self-verifying.

It is a classic example of what Bruce Schneier calls “Security Theatre” where we make users go through the motions to make it look like we’re “doing security” but the procedures are actually meaningless “snake oil”

It’s taken me a while but I now realise that the concept is a useful template for another political/commercial deception I’ve been trying to tackle for some years. Most recently I’ve been trying to pique the interest of the only MP I know well enough to trust. Unfortunately he’s rather busy trying to manage at least two portfolios in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Despite which I see that he’s taken up the struggle against the Parliamentary Expenses Watchdog – IPSA – and their overweening bureaucracy.

I learned about his (so far) one man campaign from this standard mud-slinging DailyWail story  I’m sure Paul knows he’s got absolutely zero chance of succeeding with his proposal for fixed allowances. But the real issue he’s trying to address is an example of how a system designed to avoid real accountability has no idea how to create it when they’re forced to.

The normal mode of (All) Governments is to avoid disclosing any information which might be used against them while trying to appear as open and transparent as their citizens demand. The result is what I have decided, henceforward, to call “Accountability Theatre”. It can be defined thus:

ACCOUNTABILITY THEATRE

1 Setting up mechanisms, in order to pacify public demands for accountability, which are supposed to audit sundry claims and reassure the public that proper consideration and due process have been applied. But…

2  The mechanisms lack any provision for realistic forensically verifiable means of validating such claims. So…

3 The public are required to Trust the declarations of the auditor and the auditor is required to trust the limited evidence s/he is permitted access to.

4 Specifically, there is no mechanism for ensuring that the evidence accessed by the auditor is both complete and unedited.

5 In the most egregious examples, the auditor is also a member of or closely allied with the organisation they are supposed to audit.

As regular readers will know, the claims I’m most concerned about are those made by the State, such as “we only tapped this suspect’s mobile phone, to obtain call and location history because we had reliable intelligence that he was involved in a potential terrorist plot”

The Accountability Theatre in that situation consists of the fact that, at no point, can any potential auditor either see the raw data without the consent and collaboration of its custodian, nor, even if permitted to see it, to verify that it is complete and unedited. The entire process, in other words, is based purely on faith that the State can do no wrong, a ship which sailed at least a century ago.

Returning, briefly, to Paul’s complaint:

What MPs are stuck with, regarding Parliamentary Expenses is a direct result of recognising that they cannot get away with the normal Accountability charade in respect of their expense claims. i.e. following the expenses scandal  they are now forced to jump through a ludicrous set of hoops in order to retrieve sometimes trivial sums of money which are often not worth the effort. They are, in the name of “Transparency”, effectively forced to stand on the “naughty step” every time they hold out their hand to get back some of the money they spend while doing their jobs. Hence, for example, we know that both Jeremy Hunt and Amber Rudd each submitted claims of just 27 pence for two short car journeys.  This level of disclosure is considered necessary so that the public can be convinced that proper scrutiny of expenses claims is taking place.

And, frankly, it looks like they do a pretty good job. In the sense that no frivolous claims are ever likely to make it through a pretty rigorous checking system. The “Quick Guide” to what they’re allowed to claim  is a mere 11 pages. The detailed version  weighs in at 75 pages. IPSA employs about 70 civil servants, full-time, and are run by an “independent” board which includes at least one judge, at least one ex MP and an at least one real auditor. All this to manage the Pay and Expense claims of just 650 MPs, at an annual cost of around £5 million.  In a typical commercial organisation of similar size, you’d expect 2 or 3 relatively junior staff to deal with that workload. They’d report to the Company Secretary or Financial Director. Total cost, probably less than £150k.

I hasten to add, in case it’s not obvious, that what IPSA are doing is most definitely NOT Accountability Theatre. It is Political Theatre, designed to demonstrate just how thoroughly we’re now watching our elected representatives. It is also a useful distraction from the unpublished detail of much more serious matters we ought to be demanding.

Contrast the obvious overkill effort they put into scrutinising what MPs claim on the Expenses, with the trivial and meaningless scrutiny put into examining the thousands of security requests  routinely dealt with by the Home Office. At her Mansion House speech, June 2014 Theresa May proudly proclaimed that her role as Home Secretary included:

“If the Security Service wants to place a device in the property of a terrorist suspect, or the National Crime Agency wants to listen to the telephone calls of a drugs trafficker, they need my agreement first. On the basis of a detailed warrant application and advice from officials in my department I must be satisfied that the benefits justify the means and that the proposed action is necessary and proportionate.

The warrant application gives me the intelligence background, the means by which the surveillance will take place, and the degree of intrusion upon the citizen. Neither the Security Service nor other intelligence agencies, nor the police, nor other law enforcement agencies, can undertake sensitive surveillance without providing these details and gaining my approval. Ministerial oversight – which I share with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – is a crucial safeguard to make sure that the most intrusive powers are used only when they are necessary and proportionate.”

Now then, how long do you think it would – or should – take to make a thorough assessment of the validity of just one such warrant application? Checking the content of the intelligence and, if necessary, its provenance; considering whether that content, in context, justified spying on a citizen; considering the means and degree of espionage being recommended; investigating whether the individual has previously been targeted and what, if any parallels there are between the circumstances of that targeting and the one being proposed; verifying that the appropriate risk assessments have been made and properly recorded; verifying and justifying the proposed cost etc. etc.

It is impossible to answer such questions without a detailed academic study, which we will, of course, not be permitted to make, but an intelligent guess has to be between one and five days of pretty intensive study. Yet, as MP David Davis pointed out in 2015, Theresa May was required, during the previous year, to approve up to 10 warrants a day – and that was just for phone interceptions.

That speech was supposed to illustrate how seriously she takes her responsibility for “political oversight”. I have no doubt she was sincere and believed that what she was doing actually constituted meaningful oversight. It was obviously, in reality, just a box ticking exercise and classic “Accountability Theatre”. I doubt she has the faintest idea how to seriously examine the validity of those warrant applications. She’s been trained and advised to rely on her Civil Servants, who will do all the real work on her behalf. All she needs to do is feed the monkey.

Their defence against such a charge would likely be along the lines:

well of course the Home Secretary doesn’t research the applications herself, that’s what the “advice from officials in my department” is supposed to mean.

But that’s no more than one branch of the establishment giving the nod to another branch, with which it has closely entangled, even incestuous relations. Why on earth are we supposed to trust that arrangement?

Their ultimate answer to that is the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which, ostensibly has the power to question everybody and see everything. Yet the Snowden revelations came as a surprise to this ultimate oversight body (search the page for “Snowden”)

And their subsequent investigation of the revelations regarding GCHQ “rather promptly” resulted in an absolutely clean bill of health. So “promptly” that even a former Chairman of the same committee, Lord King, was moved to comment that:

“the decision by the Rifkind-led committee to swiftly endorse the work of GCHQ was “unfortunate” because the endorsement came while new disclosures from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were still being published by the Guardian and other newspapers around the world.

“I think their response was pretty quick,” said King, a former Northern Ireland secretary. “It came at a time when revelations were still coming out. It is very important the ISC maintains public confidence as a scrutiny committee.”

Quite so.

Not only are the committee members obviously part of the establishment that they are supposed to police, but NONE have anything like the skills or expertise required to make a thorough examination of the work of GCHQ, especially “promptly”. They don’t even know the right kind of questions to ask.

The ISC is designed to be Accountability Theatre and, on this occasion, they panicked and fluffed their lines. Normally, they would have made a big show of visiting GCHQ, interrogating its mandarins in both public and private, and, after a few months of due consideration, announced their august whitewash. But the veil slipped for a few moments and those of us who were paying attention spotted the naked Emperor.

So now let’s turn to the serious shit.

The Government Case for Watching All of Us All The Time

The chief response of the Government, to being caught with its pants down over the unregulated Bulk Surveillance of its own citizens has been to frame new powers which retrospectively justify that outrageous invasion of privacy and to pretend it hasn’t already been going on, illegally, for years. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can read their arguments here:

It may surprise you but I am not going to take issue with any of their arguments for Surveillance. Such objections are, in my view, the weakest argument made by the Privacy/Liberty lobby and the one most easily defeated by the State. Given the right circumstances, there is NOTHING which can be definitively ruled out as a legitimate counter-measure for a State to employ in defence of its citizens. I certainly include the occasional need to assassinate one or two citizens in order to protect other citizens. Perhaps the most recent unarguable example of the legitimacy of that counter-measure being the killing of the French lorry driver who deliberately ran down 86 of his fellow citizens in Nice on Bastille Day.

But given that such circumstances obviously have arisen from time to time and will, inevitably, arise again, it must follow that less dramatic circumstances will arise which will justify all manner of lesser measures like Surveillance and other intelligence gathering activities. Here, I include, for example, the highly controversial embedding of “deep cover” agents inside hostile organisations.

But if we’re prepared to delegate such powers to the State, then it ought to be obvious to any intelligent citizen that nothing and no one should be (digitally) watched more closely than those we delegate such powers to. Then we would be in a position, after the event at least, to determine whether their action was justified and proportionate. And THAT is where we’ve dropped the ball. Or, rather, that’s where the State has chosen to run off with the ball and not allow us even to see it.

I really don’t want to start giving examples of how often and how badly the State has made indefensible and often disastrous decisions in this field and how seldom anyone has ever been held truly accountable for them. This blog and my other writings contain hundreds of examples and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already read a few of those and many other similar analyses dotted around the web.

I’ll just touch on one area; the embedded agents. We used them to penetrate the IRA. That was necessary and justifiable; even when our agents took part in some of the killings. Anything less would have blown their cover. We’ve almost certainly got or are trying very hard to get embedded agents inside ISIS and Al Qaeda and their more serious offshoots. Those agents too will have to participate 100% like the real thing. That means they’ll take part in recruiting other Jihadis and even occasionally have to kill innocent civilians just to maintain their cover. Some of those citizens might even be British.

But if and when something goes wrong with these operations, the agents are exposed, the shit hits the fan and everything goes titsup, who are we going to trust to tell us the whole truth about how and why it happened? The people who screwed up in the field or in the back office? The politicians who authorised it?  Or should we trust the half-tamed “Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation” who has just endorsed the Bulk collection of Private Data as having a “clear operational purpose” as they “play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield”?

He can’t, unfortunately, provide concrete examples but he does advocate “very considerable caution” without coming close to providing a meaningful mechanism for proving that such caution was exercised.

And if you study the government’s own case for such powers (see the link above), you’ll find 3 references to “Safeguards within the Bill” and in each case, those safeguards amount to an assurance that the powers can only be used for purposes specified (chiefly National Security related) and will be independently audited.

Real – Digitally Verifiable – Accountability

If ever a government gets serious about Accountability, here’s what it will need to do, not just for matters related to snooping on their own citizens but for ALL government decision-making processes; though the obvious starting place is “Watching the Watchers”.

The audit trail should contain digital copies of all evidence, relevant conversations, policy decisions and the operational recordings of implementation, pertaining to the events being audited. Each item should have been cryptographically fingerprinted (hashed) and the hashes lodged on a public accessible immutable database (blockchains or protected hash-chains) in real-time as the items were created.

Case folders or periodic snapshots of such data should be similarly hashed so that no item can be withdrawn after the event, without the gap in the data being obvious.

These techniques are not new. I’ve been promoting them for more than a decade myself but Bitcoin has done a much better job of waking people up to the significance of immutability.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the government “Safeguards” contain no mention of real-time mandatory data storage on an immutable database, so there will be no way for the independent auditor to determine whether he is seeing the whole story and whether what he’s been  allowed to see is as it was when originally stored. The proposed safeguards are just routine Accountability Theatre.

In the optimally Accountable world, whenever an issue is raised regarding the validity of behaviour by the State, the audit team will include appropriate experts in the technical, legal and financial fields they are about to investigate. Their proceedings will be overseen by a Jury, not a Judge. It might be a specially vetted Jury and it may often choose to sit in Camera in order to protect genuine National Security. But Democracy requires the power to reside not in State Appointees who may have a vested interest in hiding incompetence or malfeasance but in  ad hoc representatives of the People who will, for the duration of the audit at least, have no other agenda.

The audit will have unfettered access to the data. With such a provably complete and unalterable (without detection) audit trail, the audit team and their Jury can now sift through the evidence and decide for themselves what questions need to be asked and whether the evidence fully answers them. If it doesn’t, they can establish culpability and publish the relevant facts, with due care to ensure sensitive secrets are not exposed. If all the questions are answered and the actions taken shown to be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, they can publish that finding and, unlike the situation today, we could safely believe them.

In such circumstances, for example, how do you suppose that process of true Accountability would have dealt with the disgusting overreach of the State in those other more famous embedding cases such as the 7 women who unwittingly had long-term relationships with undercover cops who were paid by the State to infiltrate legal political organisations like environmental groups, animal rights groups and Trade Unions? I suggest the mere knowledge that it would be impossible for the Police to hide such behaviour from the Audit would be enough to prevent that kind of abuse in the first place.

The Pitchford Inquiry  is supposed to be investigating a whole raft of other similar abuses. But many have already commented that unless the relevant Police could be compelled to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it will be a waste of time. Given that none of the relevant material was immutably recorded at the time, we will never know how much, if any, of “the truth” they are telling. So the entire inquiry is bound to be just like all the other major inquiries. The Accountability Theatre Players will throw just enough meat to the baying wolves to make them think there’s been a real kill and then everything will return to normal.

The State already has vast Surveillance capabilities and total freedom to use them without any meaningful independent oversight. The crimes committed in our name in this century alone have illustrated the desperate need to eliminate Accountability Theatre with the relevant technology and the laws required to mandate its use. Yet, instead of moving in that direction, the government is intent on ramping up the extent of surveillance  to levels which make even the Police State of America’s USA PATRIOT Act look restrained.

If you’ve read this far can I suggest that if you wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, you could make a useful start by demanding that your own MP explain how s/he is going to fight Accountability Theatre.

Democracy V Politicians. Who or Which is more stupid?

My wife suggested I sign the petition. I thought about it. Then signed. Reluctantly. Why, given my recent posts and obvious disappointment with the result, the reservations?

The first point to make is that there is no intelligent argument to justify moving the goalposts after the game is over and that, if the Remain side had won by a similar margin and the Leavers had launched a similar attempt to overturn the result (as Farage threatened before the vote), they too would have been met with howls of derision. Hypocrisy isn’t restricted to the other side. That held me back for almost five seconds. Then I remembered that Politics has buggerall to do with Intelligent Argument whereas hypocrisy is it’s bread and butter.

My second objection, however, is the naïve wording of the petition. It demands “a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.”

This hints at what might be a reasonable principle – that for important decisions, nothing less than support from an absolute majority (of the electorate, not just the voters) should be required before anything changes – but still leaves the possibility that the decision could be carried by as little as 45% of the electorate (75% of 60%=45%) which isn’t, philosophically, any more defensible than what has actually happened (37.5% of the Electorate voted to leave).

It’s no surprise, of course, that the political class didn’t even consider the “true majority” question when framing the relevant Referendum law as, were they to concede such a principle for this issue, they might find themselves having to defend their own elections, which have NEVER achieved true majorities. Last year, for example, the present Tory Government achieved power with the support of less than a quarter of the Electorate. But so wedded are they to the need to be able to claim “mandates” on the basis of winning a corrupt electoral game with mediocre participation, that they are obliged to concede that, under similar “first past the post” rules, the Leave camp can now claim a mandate (50% bigger than their own) for our departure from the EU.

It’s not that they don’t understand the need for much more credible levels of democratic support. It’s just that they don’t think such restraints should apply to themselves. They should only apply to lesser mortals, like striking workers, whom the Tories would like to force to require a minimum 40% (electorate) support for any strike action.

In other words, shutting down London’s transport system or the Power Stations, or whatever, is regarded as so potentially disruptive that the workers should not be allowed to do it unless at least 40% of those entitled to vote support the call for (in)action. That, in my view, is actually a perfectly reasonable proposition and I have long been critical of my Trade Union friends for not treading the more democratic path.

But it is hypocrisy (or stupidity) on a truly gargantuan scale to suggest that shutting down the London Underground should require a democratic hurdle higher than shutting down the most important Political, Economic and Social Alliance in British history.

So that condition should have been part of the Referendum bill when it was enacted. And let’s just emphasise how little consideration was given to this aspect of the problem. There isn’t even a MINIMUM participation level specified in the Act. In other words, in principle, if just one person had bothered to turn up and cast their vote, that person could have, legally, at least, decided the referendum. And even that doesn’t plumb the depths of inanity in the legislation. Despite passing a law to enable the Referendum to take place, they deliberately excluded any obligation to obey the result.

Yes that’s right, it’s not even legally binding! (although they clearly don’t dare to hide behind that escape non-clause)

Now, you could argue that this was their backassed way of protecting themselves against the ludicrously low turnout scenario imagined above, but it’s not like they haven’t thought about such things. As you’ll read in that link, in 2011, when they held the referendum on the “Alternative Vote” proposal, it contained the explicit instruction for the Government to act on the result.

And it’s been interesting to hear how vociferously the Petition has already been rubbished by at least one member of the Leave campaign, Charles Walker, chairman of the Tory 1922 committee, who said on the “World this Weekend” (relevant snippet starts at 34 mins 20 seconds)

”That petition is not going to have any chance, whatsoever, no matter how many people sign it, of impacting the result that we heard about on Friday morning” [emphasis added]

Really?

As of 5 minutes ago that petition had gathered just over 3.2 million votes. This is already, by far, the largest ever response to an official Parliamentary Petition, since the scheme was set up a few years back, as a sop to make voters believe they can actually influence the political process WITHOUT something truly democratic like a referendum.  If you sit and refresh the page a few times, you can actually see the total shooting up at the rate of between 50 and 100 signatures per second.

It’s not going to happen, of course, but just suppose that reached a total of 18 million votes in the next few days. On what intellectually coherent basis could any politician argue that it should not be heeded?

Indeed, that’s the basis on which I finally decided to sign it. I would love to see the bastards wriggle to get off that hook! So, if you’re a UK voter and would be similarly entertained by the sight of wriggling politicians, pop along to the petition and add to the pressure.

But the overall conclusion we must reach is that the whole debacle is merely another illustration of how tenuous is the public or political grasp of the true meaning of “Democracy”.  Nothing since the Athenian model, has come close. The political class is fully aware of this and would rather like to keep it that way. Indeed, ironically, one of the biggest objections to edging back in the direction of true Democracy is the derogatory term “Tyranny of the Majority” – particularly in the USA, whose constitution was explicitly designed to AVOID Democracy in favour of Liberty (which they obviously perceived/perceive as natural enemies).

As the United States demonstrates better than most, the consequence of this historical and ongoing Patriarchal and Paternalist dictat, is that we all continue to suffer “Tyranny of the Minority”, which is exactly what Athenian Democracy was explicitly designed to avoid.

Jo Cox Assassination could tip it for the “Remain” campaign

That’s the nightmare scenario for the “Leave” campaign. And it certainly isn’t helped by headlines like

Death to traitors, freedom for Britain

which is what the killer declared in answer to the Magistrates request for his name.

The decision on Thursday will be made by around 25-30 million citizens subjects for about 25-30 million different reasons. Probably less than one in ten of those reasons will constitute some degree of rational analysis. The rest will be controlled by the Amygdala. Which is not, I need to add, in case I get an accidental visit from the occasional gun totin’ conspiracy theorist  (like the idiots who believe last week’s Orlando massacre was “staged” to provide a pretext for seizing their guns) a newly discovered secret masonic Cabal.

National sporting success has been shown, for example, to dramatically improve the prospects of re-election for the sitting incumbents, but it’s difficult to map that effect onto an issue which isn’t so obviously partisan. So I was ruminating on what proportion of the decision would be controlled by the reptilian emotional control centre at the base of our brains, during the England Wales Euro match on Monday night, about 40 hours before Jo Cox was murdered by a man shouting “Britain First”.

You could feel the emotional shudder running through the entire country when that news came out. Bad enough to have a rising young “political star in the making” cut down, in her prime, on a British street while doing the job she was elected to do, but then to have her murder so nakedly dragged into the fractious political debate was far too hot a potato for the media to handle. And, to be fair, I haven’t seen any obvious attempts by the “Remain” camp to exploit it. Indeed the “serious” political response, on both sides, has been measured and dignified.

So I was a bit surprised to find so many “Leave” campaigners rushing to denounce any such attempts. Their denouncements have been far easier to find than the exploitation they’re obviously “frighted” by. Here’s a classic from the Daily Mail’s pet hater Peter Hitchens

If you scroll down below his forlorn dream that, if we vote to Leave, we’ll somehow get our 1950s version of England back, you’ll find

“I would not dream of exploiting the untimely death of a young mother for political purposes. I am grieved for all those who loved Jo Cox, and are desolated by her death. I extend my sympathy to them.

But I have the strong sense that others do seek to turn this event into propaganda for a cause. It has happened very swiftly. It needs to cease.”

No examples or links to examples, just “stop it!”

I can’t say that there are no such examples, but I certainly went looking and the only ones I could find were from those who had sympathy with the killer, such as this American nazi who actually thought that she put a target on her back or this British neo-nazi pleading that we mustn’t let the KILLER’S SACRIFICE be in vain! That story encapsulates the fear on the “Leave” side with the fantasist’s comparison between the current campaign and the Swedish campaign in 2003:

‘In 2003, Sweden was about to vote out of Europe. On September 11, 2003, three days before the vote, pro-euro Anna Lindh was brutally stabbed to death.

‘Debate was suspended in the media and replaced by eulogies for the politician. The polls reversed and Sweden adopted the euro.’

Not actually true. They rejected the euro but stayed in the EU. But the fear is on display.

And I suspect it will be justified. Things are so close that if it makes just 5% of  “Leavers” switch sides or abstain, and 5% of previously apathetic “Remainers” get off their arses to put in an appearance at the polling station, that would be enough to seal a “Remain” win.

Early indications are that just such a shift is on the cards. The “Leave” camp have been ahead in the polls for the past couple of weeks, producing ever more desperate tactics from the “Remain” campaign. They even dusted off Gordon Brown to see if he could reprise his role as the late game-winning substitute he played in the Scottish referendum. But this poll, taken just 2-3 days after Jo Cox’s death, is the first for some time, to show the pendulum swinging back.

Obviously a “Remain” win would be “what Jo Cox would have wanted” so it might be tempting to suggest that, if we get that result “at least she won’t have died in vain”. But that’s bollocks. If she’d been knocked down and killed pushing her children out of the path of a careless driver, you could argue, then, that she wouldn’t have been killed in vain. But nobody should have to die as the result of someone elses diseased and inflated Amygdala.

Vote “Remain” to Restrain (the Little England Authoritarians)

That’s the only criterion by which I decided which way to vote on June 23rd. As regular readers will be aware, I regard all forms of government as among our most dangerous enemies and in need of serious restraint.  The single most important advantage of our continued EU membership is that it is much more difficult for 27 governments to agree on an evil authoritarian policy than for any lone wolf government. The obligation to achieve consensus is a very effective constraint.

Consider, for example, which regime is more likely to concede threats to our privacy; the British government acting alone, with it’s already legislated criminalisation of password privacy, its already demonstrated craven submission to American demands for information and its naive echoing of childish American demands for cryptographic back doors somehow available only to “good guys” like them; or the EU collective which, in its various forms, is engaged in fairly significant resistance,  to similar American demands, following the demise of the “Safe Harbour” fig leaf.

TTIP is another instance where the EU Consensus requirements are proving a major obstacle to a cosy deal between the bureaucratic elites on both sides of the Atlantic. Can’t see the isolated Brits fighting anywhere near so hard to resist US demands for corporate control of trade legislation (for example). In fact, having left the biggest trading bloc in the world, British politicians will no doubt gladly bend the knee (or the back) to do any deals they can get with the likes of authoritarian China and the USA, just to preserve some kind of economic wellbeing.

But the most obvious area in which the Little Englanders have revealed their wet dream ambitions is the area of Human Rights; specifically those protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. Even some of the Tories campaigning to stay in the EU have declared their intent to divorce the UK from it’s obligations to operate under that convention, for the understandable reason that those laws already constrain our politicians authoritarian tendencies more than they are prepared to concede.

Even if we vote to stay in, it won’t stop the bastards from trying but the likes of Terroresa May will find it extremely difficult, for mundane legal reasons, to implement our withdrawal from that reasonably civilised and protective convention and they will probably be forced to back down. Conversely, if we’re stupid enough to vote to leave, then there will be no serious obstacle to that immediate assault on our rights and the many others to follow.

Concluding in haiku,

So Please Vote Remain
Let the Collective Restrain
It’s just a No-Brain
er

 

 

 

Manufacturing Consent: Anti-Zionism NOT= Anti-Semitism

Rarely have I seen such a blatantly artificial storm in a teacup and I am stunned by how pathetically the Labour party and leadership has caved in and run away from the controversy. What a bunch of spineless cowards. This faux furore is (one of many) clearly designed to equate Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism. Hence the appropriate reference to “Manufacturing Consent” in the title.

Let’s get some relevant credentials on the table here. I’m genetically Jewish, and my family lost some 46 members in the holocaust. So even though I’m atheist, I’m not remotely inclined to sympathise with anti-Semitism. But I’ve looked long and hard at what evidence is still in the public domain and I have failed to find any plausible trace of anti-Semitism in what Naz Shah posted on her Facebook page. Unfortunately, we can’t be absolutely certain about that because the coordinated bleating of the sheeple has intimidated her into removing the post.

So all we have to go on is the tory activist Guido Fawkes “exclusive” from which I gathered this image:

So check it out for yourself. Yes, it’s obviously an attack on Israel and its right to exist where it currently does. That makes it anti-Zionist. So what? Millions of us are, including me.

I don’t believe the proposal is rational or practical and, if it involved coercion, I’d be as opposed to it as I am to all other examples of political or social coercion. But there is nothing in it that, as a Jew, I or any other Jew could justify being “offended” by, however much we might disagree with the policy.

But the way in which Fawkes has managed to twist this not just in his own mind, but somehow in the public perceptions of the UK political classes is by emphasising the use of completely appropriate words (in the context of the policy) as though they are deliberately designed to invoke a recommendation to repeat the holocaust. Take a look at the comment beneath the image on his website:

The post argued the “solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict is to “relocate Israel into the United States”, claiming the “transportation costs” of deporting Israelis would be “less than 3 years of defense spending”. Shah agreed, arguing it would “save them some pocket money“. You don’t have to be a history expert to see how incendiary these comments are…

So, presumably, “solution” can no longer apparently be used as a term in any discussion of the plethora of problems caused by Zionism, in case it implies “final solution”, while  “transportation” can’t be used in case it reminds us of the Cattle trucks.

What a pile of pusillanimous bollocks. Even Fawkes displays the ACTUAL usage within his own argument!

“solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict”

just google that phrase on its own. I just did and got a little under 80,000 results. Are you going after that lot as well Fawkes?

And I guarantee – though I can’t be arsed to prove it – that if you refine that search to add in the names of arbitrary British politicians, you’ll find – at least – dozens. So that phrase is clearly uncontroversial, among grown-ups at least.

What about “the transportation cost will less than 3 years of defence spending”?

It is not completely clear as to which countries defence spending they’re talking about. There are, presumably 3 options, UK, Israel and USA. The smallest of those budgets is Israel’s, with a modest $18.5 billion. 3 years worth of which gives us $54.5 billion. Which works out at a little over $9k per person to get each of the 6 million Jews in Israel over to the USA. So even the budget option certainly ain’t talking about Cattle Trucks! And, of course, if the defence budget in question was the USA’s ($597 billion) then each Israeli could be ferried across in their own private jet. The worst case scenario (which, after my bit of fun, is probably what they really meant) is that they’re referring to 3 years worth of annual US subsidy of Israel which does knock it down to a mere $9 billion, and thus only $1500 each, which, given bulk purchasing power, should at least get ’em all Business class one way tickets…

In any case, are we supposed to imagine for a single microsecond, that words like “solution” and “transportation” are not routinely used in Israel itself? Of course they are.

So how has anyone with an IQ in excess of their shoe size allowed themselves to be bullied into submission by the spurious accusation that this post was somehow anti-semitic? This really is “political correctness gone mad”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do Gun Deaths Matter More Than Road Deaths?

The Daily Mail got me started, with their headline: “A mass shooting happens every FIVE days in America which led on, in turn to this analysis by one of the “tighter gun control” journalists at the “Daily Beast”.

We always get a similar flare up from the gun control lobby whenever there is yet another slaughter on the American street, but I was surprised to find the casualty rate this high. What, I wondered, was the current rate of US Road Deaths and to my even greater surprise I found that they’ve just about reached perfect parity, which is, I believe an historical first.

Now the question is, how should we put that?

For the first time ever, “Americans are killing as many people with guns as they kill on the roads” represents it as bad news for supporters of the 2nd Amendment. On the other hand: “American Road Deaths have fallen as low as American Gun Deaths” makes it a good news story for both.

In fact, truth is a good news story for both. Deaths from both causes have declined in the past decade, quite dramatically. But Road kills are down more dramatically than executions.

Both are currently killing nearly 90 Americans every day. 32,000 every year.

Consider the furore which began with 9-11 and continues to this day; the massive surveillance and legal infrastructure imposed around the world in an attempt to prevent another similar scale attack. Consider the – largely successful – attacks on liberty, free speech, free movement and privacy which have so dramatically changed all our lives since that evil day; not to mention two wars, one of which is internationally recognised as illegal and which have, between them, caused the deaths of vastly more civilians than the event which sponsored them.

If that colossal and sustained response is considered a rational reaction to the loss of 2600 innocent Americans, two rather large elephants appear in the room.

On the one hand, anyone who regards the reaction to 9-11 as rational and proportionate, can hardly complain when some citizens want to do something about the vastly greater American civilian death toll caused – often as deliberately as the 9-11 perpetrators – by their fellow citizens.

And, on the other hand, anyone who regards tighter gun control as the rational response to gun crime needs to address the question of why they make so little fuss about the – currently similar but historically much MUCH worse – CARnage on the roads.

Where, in other words, is the “Campaign to control Cars”?

Actually, I first answered that question in my chapter covering the War on Drugs. But an obvious further distinction has occurred to me which answers the question as to why gun death cause more anger and reaction than road deaths. Gun deaths are mostly deliberate. Road deaths are mostly accidental. But that doesn’t make it rational to prioritise one over the other. Not only that, but I would bet that every thousand dollars spent on Road death reduction would save more lives than a similar sum spent on gun death reduction.

What the gun control lobby have to accept, however, is that the principles involved in upholding the 2nd Amendment matter at least as much to supporters of gun ownership as do the massive convenience and freedom of movement (which even the wave of post 9-11 Authoritarianism hasn’t significantly dented) matter to car owners and users.

In each case, it is clearly the consensus of the supporters of their particular lethal prediliction that the benefits outweigh the costs.

But there is a further complication. The costs of both lethal behaviours are borne by society as a whole. And in terms of sheer numbers, there are clearly far more beneficiaries, and therefore, supporters of road transport than there are supporters of gun ownership. Even citizens who never drive clearly benefit from road transport; if only as a result of the food and material distribution network which keeps us all fed and clothed. So we can easily argue that support for our deadly motor transport system is, near as dammit, a true consensus. Only a few percent would be prepared to argue for dramatic reductions in the “right to drive”

BOGOF. 1. Trump>Drumpf 2. House-training Windows 10

There is no obvious connection between the slow train wreck represented by Donald J Drumpf’s inevitable nomination and the almost equally irritating but, eventually, reasonably benign Windoze 10 upgrade, though some would no doubt beg to differ. The fact is I have spent the last 3 months fighting Microsoft’s paternalism and finally cracked the last major problem which was holding me back from recommending it to anyone else. Didn’t even touch it, till Spybot had issued their fix for the privacy breaches (see below), but was really pissed off by the forced Updates. It’s taken me that long to find the fix so we can get back to the kind of control we’ve been used to since Windoze 3.1. I had in mind to publish a quick guide as a public service for those who are banging their heads against the same wall. Not the sort of thing I normally do but, hey, you only live once; organically, at least.

And I couldn’t be arsed to write two blogs so you’re getting two for the price of one. We’ll deal with Drumpf first, then the taming of Windoze 10. It’s John Oliver’s fault. He interrupted my preparation of the guide and I couldn’t resist the urge to alert either of my readers who might have missed it. You really shouldn’t. If anyone has performed a better hatchet job on Drumpf, kindly let me know. In fact, if anyone’s done a better job on ANY politician, ever, please share. Meanwhile, for those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, check this out (Unfortunately, if you’re outside US, you’ll need a proxy):

Apparently a third of a million bitizens have already downloaded the Chrome Extension. Make that a third of a million and one.  We desperately need more John Olivers. I wish he’d come back to the UK and speak the necessary truth unto power here. The desperately sad truth, however, is that his intervention is likely to have zero effect on the Trumpsters. Yes, those of us who recognise the Viagra driven Authoriarianism and the howling pack it has awoken among the disaffected Redneck & Religious crowd, will hug ourselves with glee that someone has finally had the balls to say what needed to be said as brazenly, and publicly, as Drumpf makes all his own pronouncements, and yes, anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size will glory in the surgical precision and (reasonably) restrained eloquence of Oliver’s delivery.  But it won’t change a single mind. Those minds that need changing are way – WAY – out of reach of abstract notions like truth, rationality, civilisation or even RealPolitik.

The only question now, is what percentage of American minds are in that feverish condition. I’ve been confident for more than a decade that only about 25-30% of American Voters (and about 70% of American Politicians) are certifiably insane. If I’m right, your next President is likely to be another Democrat. It won’t help. Neither Clinton nor Saunders will be permitted to do anything that might actually heal the growing rift in American Society. Is anyone offering odds yet, on a second Civil War? If so, put me down for 10 bucks.

But you’re not here to listen to me gloating over the disintegration of the United States, you’re here to seize back the control of your Privacy and their Updates which Microsoft, in their infinitesmal wisdom, have tried to take away from you, after virtually shoving Windoze 10 down your throats. Whoever is responsible for their commercial strategy should be made to listen to every speech and read every tweet that Donald J Drumpf has ever made. And then, they should be shot. Slowly, as usual.

I can think of no faster way to alienate your customers than to force them to accept a free upgrade that eliminates their privacy and does many other things in a way they’re not used to and/or don’t like. It is as insane as a Trumpster arguing that Drumpf “says it like it is”. Perhaps there is a connection after all.

The irony is that Windoze 10 is actually OK. Nothing special. No fantastic improvement over 8.1. But a reasonable step in the steady progress towards stability and reliability that might one day result in an Operating System we can trust. I’ve been using it for a few months now, with only a couple of BSODs on the 4 main machines I use and I’m now dragging a handful of my own clients into the (slightly) new world. And though it has to be said that it is designed with some horrendous defaults which would result in Microsoft knowing more about you than your mother, if you let it, and it’s tried to stop you using all sorts of useful tools that you can’t do without, we’ve managed to find cures for all of that shit. And once those cures are in place, it’s OK. And given that it’s for free, you might as well go for it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but after the way they’ve behaved, they don’t deserve one.

The single worst offence they committed was the change to the update policy. Completely unforgiveable and, had I not, at last, found the fix, I’d have said it was a deal breaker. No software author in their right mind would do what they have done. Forcing updates on users, without allowing for the billion different environments in which those users operate is as close to technological insanity as I’ve ever come across. I’d bet another 10 bucks that there isn’t a single windoze user on this planet whose past or present windoze system hasn’t been broken by at least one of their updates. Cretins.

So here are the two most important things you need to know in order to survive their stupidity.

Protect your Privacy. By default, W10 sends huge amounts of data, potentially revealing almost everything you do on your machine, back to base. No doubt for the purest of motives – to learn how they can help you even more than they always have. But given the fact that even if they were inclined to keep such intimate details from the more hostile eyes of the Police State, they’re not actually allowed to, and that we’re witnessing, as we speak, the proof of that Police State intention to go after that kind of interesting material whenever they see fit, now is not a particularly sensible time to force the masses into such total abject exposure.

The easiest solution is Spybot’s Anti-Beacon.  You need no technical skill or understanding. Just download and install it. With about 8 clicks, you can shield yourself against all the privacy breaches. Click “Immunize Now”. Then Click the Options tab and select all the options on that page, with the possible exception of the Bing IPs. It may be useful to keep that channel open in case you need to look up Windoze help online. You can’t do that if you shut off the Bing as well.  However, if you’re not prepared to concede even that much personal contact, it has to be said that googling windoze symptoms as they occur will usually turn up better and more readable results than Microsoft’s own turgid prose, so you’re not losing much.

I’ve read rumours that Microsoft has wised up to what’s going on with our blocking them in the hosts file and that they are beginning to hard code around the obstacle. I’m confident we’ll find or create the countermeasures as required.

Regaining Control of Windoze Updates is, I’m afraid, not quite so easy, so if any of the following instructions look like something you don’t already understand, you’re probably better off avoiding the fix, and, if you’ve got one, phoning a friend instead.

Let’s start with the heavy stuff. If you don’t know how to run something like gpedit.msc, it’s probably better that you don’t try. For those who are happy to proceed:

Run  gpedit.msc and go
Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Updates\Configure Automatic Updates

Click “Enabled”

In the popdown list below “Configure Automatic Updating”

select “2 – Notify for download and notify for install”

Apply or OK

That’s enough to prevent Windoze doing any updating without your permission. It’ll notify you when downloads are available and it will put up a dimmed screen that makes it look like you don’t have a choice, but that’s a bluff. Just escape and carry on.

But it doesn’t deal with the remaining problem, which is that, by default, whenever you do realize, like it or not, that you need to update, at least to get the security glitches fixed, Windoze 10 will download ALL available updates, regardless of either your lack of need for them (eg, I use Office 2010. Word, Excel and, occasionally, Powerpoint ONLY. Despite which, I was getting updates for Outlook, One Note, Sharepoint, Publisher etc, none of which I have installed or intend to use. Ever.) Worse, some of their updates will break your system. Their recent Cumulative update broke mine because it failed to cope with the fact that I’d installed my SSD drive as something other than Drive Zero. (Good idea to do that, I now know. Or else disable UEFI in the BIOS, which is what I’ve now done) And thousands of other punters have had their systems broken by driver updates imposed on them without choice.

So here’s how you crack that problem.

2 DOWNLOAD WUSHOWHIDEDIAG.CAB from Microsoft. (that link active as of time of writing. I’ll change it or even post my own copy if they move the goalposts again)

Put a link to it on your desktop, you’ll be using it every time you decide its time for an update. I’ll get to “how” in a minute.

3 Amend the default settings for the Updates.

PC Settings\Update & Security\Advanced Options
You should see, given the changes you made above, that “the Choose how updates are installed” has changed to “Notify to Download” (might need a reboot before you see it)

Click the box “Defer Upgrades”. May not be absolutely essential but in principle allows you to avoid updates for ever (except, I believe for “Security Updates”). Which is not what you actually want, but it’s nice to know you can.

From this point on, you are back in the driving seat. You can either wait for Microsoft to notify you that there are updates available or do a manual check whenever it suits you.

The key step, which is essential if you want control of WHICH updates are downloaded is this:
Before you check for, or permit ANY updates, fire up the WUSHOWHIDE.DIAG  CAB you linked from the desktop

Microsoft has presumably been obliged to create this option to avoid being firebombed by irate users or, more likely, head off the major class actions from all those users whose machines have already been  borked by incompatible updates, like the examples above.

So it appears in the guise of a fault finder, but you’ll be using it as an update selector.

Let it initialise and it will go online to find any available updates. It will list them just like it always used to. and NOW you can tick all those you DON’T want and “hide” them.

Then go back to  PC Settings\Update & Security\ “Check for Updates” and let it update any it finds, which will not include those you hid.

Bingo, we’re back to normal control.

But while we’re at it, here’s a bonus fix for one of their tweaks that had thousands of us tearing hair out. The idiots have replaced the standard Windoze Photo Viewer with their “Photos” app. As soon as you try it, and realise you can no longer cursor back or forward to the next image, you think WTF? and kick the cat. After you calm down, you find that someone else has kicked their own cat before you and  created the quick(ish) fix.

Oh, and don’t forget to install Classic Shell, free, open source and a lot easier to  configure than any menu system windoze has ever included. And if you seek reassurance that you control how any third party software might be abusing your system, downstall at least the excellent free version of Spyshelter. And finally, nothing to do with Windoze 10 directly, this works on all windoze systems from 7 up. If you’ve ever lost a file that you know you haven’t deleted but just cannot find, you need the nearest thing to magic I’ve come across on the Windoze platform. Again, totally free, though if anyone deserves a donation, Everything, is my nomination. That 10 bucks, at least, has gone to a good cause.

Once you’ve got that lot installed, Windoze 10 can be almost fun to use…