THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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September 2007

Maxwellian abuse of the defamation laws?

Lawyers acting for Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek businessman of allegedly doubtful repute, have persuaded Tim Ireland's and Craig Murray's webhosting service to take down their sites. This, over allegations about Mr. Usmanov which are allegedly defamatory. Idiotically, the webhost has managed, at the same time, to take down other sites on the same server, including those of Bob Piper and Boris Johnson.

Defamation law needs updating to protect ISP's and webhosting services. This does not need parliamentary intervention. It just needs some sensible decisions (by judges who know how to plug in a computer) to set reasonable precedents.

At present, there is a genuine risk that a web-hosting service or even ISP might be ordered to pay damages for "publishing" defamatory comments over which, by the nature of their businesses, only the most antedilivian judge could imagine they had meaningful control. That is what makes their lawyers so cautious (going on panic-stricken in this case, by the sound of it). They should not be at risk. They should be seen as mere instruments of publication, no more to blame than suppliers of the cables and routers which make up the physical infrastructure of the internet.

If the law were clarified to that extent, this problem would be solved. The lawyers of rich bullies who abuse libel laws to suppress free speech could then take the matter up with individual bloggers, who are of course fully responsible for what they say.

In the interests of illustrating to the courts how ludicrous would be the approach this webhost's lawyers fear, bloggers are everywhere directing their readers to the allegedly offending remarks, which are freely available from cached pages. Some of the ire directed at the hapless web-host is misplaced (although their clumsiness is taking down unrelated sites is a bit pathetic). The issues for freedom of speech, however, are very real.

Britain's libel laws are outcrops of medieval codes of honour and now often have perverse effects. Robert Maxwell abused them mightily to suppress adverse comments about his business methods. As a libertarian, I would abolish them entirely. It would do people good to have to evaluate critically what they read in the papers, saw on the TV or gleaned from the blogs. Libel laws tend to lend spurious credibility to half-truth, rather than to promote truth.

I don't know Mr Usmanov. I don't know whether the allegations against him are true. His use of Maxwellian methods, frankly, is all I will ever need to know about him.

h/t to virtually every respected citizen of the UK blogosphere. Mr Eugenides has a roll of honour.

Which book are you?

If I can't be a great book, I am glad at least to be a funny one. I admired Douglas Adams, who was a Mac user with a child's curiosity, a very adult sensibility and a relentless inability to take pretension seriously. Would that I could muster more than two of those four.

You're The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!
by Douglas Adams

Considered by many to be one of the funniest people around, you are quite an entertainer. You've also traveled to the far reaches of what you deem possible, often confused and unsure of yourself. Life continues to jostle you around like a marble, but it's shown you so much of the world that you don't care. Wacky adventures continue to lie ahead. Your favorite number is 42.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

h/t Alice, whose belief in talking rabbits may well explain her views on Margaret Thatcher.

Burning our money: Open Ended Taxpayer Bank Guarantee

Link: Burning our money: Open Ended Taxpayer Bank Guarantee.

The inimitable and invaluable Wat Tyler puts his finger on the issues arising from the Government's unprecedented support for Northern Rock.

They may have forgotten it. The Press may have forgotten it. The legions of Labour-voting clients of the Welfare State may have forgotten it. But the money Darling and Brown have committed is not theirs. They have no right to spend it for such purposes and should be held personally accountable for the inevitable losses.

Northern Rock: Gordon Brown's big gamble - Telegraph

Link: Northern Rock: Gordon Brown's big gamble - Telegraph.

"Brown's big gamble?" Or ours? Once again, even the Telegraph fails to recognise that our "prudent" Prime Minister is a mere trustee of the nation's wealth. It is not his to gamble.

I love the way the Northern Rock affair is described as a "contagion" which may spread. Given the government's handling of the foot and mouth crisis caused by its own negligence, it might do better to avoid such metaphors.

In truth, what is happening in the financial services sector is not a disease. It is not even unhealthy. It is the return of sanity after ten years of madness. But to a Government which has derived its popularity from the delusions brought on by that madness, sanity is a very ominous prospect.

The speech every Tory should be making

Link: Tories' economic legacy has been squandered - Telegraph.

Ruthlea The chickens are coming home to roost. It is time for the Tories to mulch Zac Goldsmith and his vote-rotting greenery and resume their natural role as the party of economic sense. In the linked article, Ruth Lea sets out the hard truths about Gordon Brown's "prudence" and "competence", the great chimeras of New Labour spin.

Every myth has its day to be exposed. Labour has led us into the economic wilderness. The working and lower middle-class people in the lines outside Northern Rock are waiting to hear the voice of sanity. Does David Cameron have it in him to speak for them? Or for the 21% of the British people who now say their finances are "under a lot of pressure?"

Most important of all; does he have the balls to take up the challenge of what Lea calls, wrily, "Britain's skill deficiencies?" Any idiot can spend borrowed money; squandering the wealth of others. But it takes an educated workforce to create wealth.

GreenspanIn an interview with the Telegraph today, Alan Greenspan makes three key points:

• Inflation will pick up dramatically over the coming years, as much as doubling from its recent lows.

• Interest rates may have to hit double figures in the coming years to keep price rises at their current low levels.

• Britain must overhaul its flagging education system or risk being left behind by other vibrant economies around the world.

These points have been made consistently by truly "prudent" voices in the wilderness. The electorate preferred Labour's siren song. Yet surely now, even the most ill-educated livestock on the Labour voter-farms can see the (Northern) rocks?

The ThunderDragon: Just Bloggin' Bout My Generation

Link: The ThunderDragon: Just Bloggin' Bout My Generation.

I am trying not to take this post by young Mr ThunderDragon personally. Particularly as "grok" is from a sci-fi book published  when I was a toddler. According to;


To grok (pronounced GRAHK)
something is to understand something so well that it is fully absorbed
into oneself. In Robert Heinlein's science-fiction novel of 1961, Stranger in a Strange Land,
the word is Martian and literally means "to drink" but metaphorically
means "to take it all in," to understand fully, or to "be at one with."
Today, grok sometimes is used to include acceptance as well as
comprehension - to "dig" or appreciate as well as to know.

Also, "My Generation" was the song of the screwed-up generation before mine. You know; the one which completed the evil work of the war generation; stealing the money of succeeding generations by creating an unfunded Welfare State.

If you want to insult your elders, TD, your generation might like to make up some words (and music) of its own.

'Fear of prejudice' let gay carers abuse boys

Link: 'Fear of prejudice' let gay carers abuse boys - Telegraph.

Those of us who complain about it have misunderstood the significance of political correctness. It is not a fad, but a fundamental change in our society. Social conventions have always been much more important than laws in controlling behaviours. Many a man would break the law with pride, but not willingly do anything that would make his peers laugh at or look down on him. He cares more about his social circle than he does about "society" in the abstract.

Before their political and economic projects failed, by means of their iron grip on our educational institutions, the Left in Britain managed to socialise two or three generations to defer to certain allegedly oppressed groups. Just as our ancestors would have instinctively have tugged their forelocks at the aristocrats of old, so now do we at these new ones.

I do not give a damn what people do to each other sexually, provided that it is consensual. I am libertarian enough to defend the right of weird Germans to eat each other (and consent to be eaten) for sexual gratification. I simply don't care and I don't think I have ever cared. I even feel sorry for paedophiles, who have no more control over their sexual preferences than other sexual minorities, but who cannot be tolerated because their desires - by definition- can never be acted on consensually. I think that VR and computer graphics may help them find a way to act out without harming children and condemn the attempts of others to deny them that outlet.

But in accepting others, I demand acceptance in return. I ask no favours; none must be asked of me.

Today's linked story in the Telegraph highlights the same issue that I blogged about here. My story dates back 25 years.  This has not happened overnight and it will not be solved in a hurry. Terrible social damage has been done and resentments engengered even where none existed before. The members of the new aristocracies are - in effect- above criticism. Even the most hopeless cretins have been indoctrinated. It is dangerous to cross the new aristos. One word from one of them and you are a social outcast.

I suspect many decent citizens now avoid members of minority groups for fear of being falsely denounced if they fall out with them. The rest of us, if we are honest, choose our words more carefully around them. Such is the power this gives the new aristocrats that there is a stampede to acquire such status. This is encouraged by politicians who - having alienated their former mass memberships by political triangulation- must now build political support minority by minority, sectional interest by sectional interest. Every man and his dog now wants to be part  of an "oppressed" minority, even if only for part of their lives.

Perhaps that is the way forward? If we can all become members of a favoured minority, our privileges will cancel each other out. Political and social equality will finally have been achieved. Sadly, it is not that easy. Based on experience to date, we are more likely to end up with a game of trumps in which one "oppressed minority" outranks another; rather - to continue my analogy- as a Duke outranked a mere Earl. In any event, what are the prospects of success for a society in which being an officially-recognised victim is the best way to win?

You do not right the wrongs of ages with countervailing wrongs. If you object to a wrong; do right. It is time that these communities rejected their privileges and insisted on no more than equal treatment. And it is time that we showed the courage to stand up to would-be "aristocrats" who refuse to do so.

Gordon Brown 'admires' Margaret Thatcher

Link: Gordon Brown 'admires' Margaret Thatcher - Telegraph.

Hasn't this triangulation crap gone far enough now? I never heard a worse thing about the Blessed Margaret than this. Margaret was a great leader who went into public life out of a sense of civic duty. She was motivated by firm political convictions and strong belief in her country.

Gordon Brown has never done an honest day's work in his life, having "progressed" from the shenanigans of student politics, via a pretence at political journalism, to what looks like being lifelong parasitism on the taxpayers. He is a shameless careerist, prepared to say any damn thing as long as he gets to lord it over those of his fellow men (pretty much all of them) that he sees as his inferiors. He is petulant, arrogant and (when it comes to other peoples' money) a mad spendthrift who has fruitlessly burned the work of millions to promote his own ambitions.

He is not fit to be mentioned in the same blog post as Margaret Thatcher, let alone to compare himself to her. How galling for Labour voters to be led by a man who admires their most hated adversary. How galling for Conservatives to be led by a man who admires theirs. No wonder party membership is declining on all sides; even more rapidly than voter turnouts. The time is out of joint and the cursed spite is that no-one seems to have been born to set it right.

God damn Dick Morris and the Clintons for their evil political innovation. God damn our benighted voters for falling for it for so long.

Apropos of nothing in particular

A new friend in Second Life introduced me to this video today. Country music can be embarrassing, I know. My daughters mock me relentlessly for my "redneck" tastes. I can handle it. Sometimes a good country song is just so real, that you have to love it (however much you think you shouldn't). This song is a case in point. The emotion in the singer's face is more authentic, I suspect, than all the faux sentimentality in a year of British TV news.

Look down on country music if you will, but I think this is an honest song, well sung. Hang your prejudices on a chair back and give it a listen.