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Category archive: Crime

Thursday September 17 2015

Today I had a nice surprise.  I was out shopping, and saw a taxi with an advert on it that I’d not seen before, which I photoed it.  But when I got home I discovered that my camera didn’t have its SD card in.

However, being a clever little camera it had stored the pictures up in its own built-in memory, and I went looking for this by attaching my camera direct to my computer with a wire.  Success.  I found the picture of the taxi and its advert.

And, I also found this photo inside the camera, which I had totally forgotten about, and which had been there since June 25th:


Now that’s what I call a headline.  Here‘s the story.

This is one of the things I really like about digital photography.  There are hundreds of things you see that are a laugh, and which you would like to be able to remember and have another laugh about later.  But they aren’t worth buying, just for that second laugh.  But, they are worth photoing.

Also, today, I saw a headline about how naughty persons have been using drones to get drugs into prisons.  But I failed to photo this headline.  I was inside Sainsbury’s, and if I had got my camera out, it might have caused a scene.

I think it must have been this story.  I’ve been saying here for ages that drones were going to be trouble, as well as fun.  Here is another example of drones being both fun, and incurring the wrath of our rulers, that being a story about a man taking aerial photos of things that didn’t want to be photoed.

Wednesday July 29 2015

The more I read of Telling Lies About Hitler (from which I have already posted an untypically amusing excerpt), the more engrossing I am finding it.

In it, Richard J. Evans criticised some of the more casual observers of the libel case that his book described, for arguing that David Irving ought to be allowed to write what he wanted, as if the case was all about David Irving’s right to be heard.  But it was not.  It was about whether David Irving could silence one of his more prominent critics, Deborah Lipstadt, who had called him a bad historian and a Holocaust denier.

Yet, there was a reason why this error kept getting made by less than conscientious observers of this case, as Evans himself explained (p. 201):

Yet as the trial got under way, it quickly became apparent that lrving was going to find it difficult to set the agenda.  The bias of the English law of defamation brings its own perils for the unwary Plaintiff.  By placing the entire burden of proof on the defence, it allows them to turn the tables and devote the action to destroying the reputation of their accuser.  Indeed, once the defence has admitted, as Lipstadt’s did without hesitation, that the words complained of mean what they say and are clearly defamatory, justifying them in detail and with chapter and verse is the only option left to them.  A successful libel defence therefore has to concentrate, in effect, on massively defaming the person and character of the Plaintiff, the only restriction being that the defamation undertaken in court has to be along the same lines as the defamation that gave rise to the case in the first place, and that it has, of course, to be true.  The defence had to prove that Lipstadt’s accusations of Holocaust denial and historical falsification were justified in Irving’s case. Thus it was lrving, not Lipstadt, whose reputation was on the line.  By the end of the third week of the trial, as Neal Ascherson observed, the defence had thus succeeded in turning the tables, ‘as if David lrving were the defendant and Deborah Lipstadt the plaintiff’, an observation shared by other commentators too.  ‘In the relentless focus on Irving’s beliefs,’ wrote Jenny Booth in the Scotsman, ‘it was easy to forget that it was actually Lipstadt’s book which was on trial.  Increasingly it seemed that it was Irving himself.’

Having thus put himself on trial, Irving was then found to be guilty as charged.

Friday July 24 2015

I have been reading Richard J. Evans’s account of the libel trial which took place at the High Court in 2000, in which David Irving sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt, and her publisher Penguin Books.  In one of her books, Lipstadt had called Irving a bad and dishonest non-historian, and Irving was trying to suppress this opinion.  Irving lost.

Richard J. Evans was the expert witness who did most to blow Irving’s claims to be an honest and effective historian out of the water.

The Evans book is entitled Telling Lies About Hitler.  At the end of the chapter in it entitled “In The Witness Box” (p. 231), Evans recounts a truly extraordinary moment, right at the end of the court proceedings:

And when it came to rebutting the defence charge of consorting with neo-Nazis in Germany, Irving’s habit of improvising from his prepared text led him into a fatal slip of the tongue, as he inadvertently addressed the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’.  Everyone in court knew that he was referring to the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’ from the tone of voice in which he said it.  The court dissolved into laughter.  ‘No one could believe what just happened,’ wrote one spectator.  ‘Had we imagined it? Could he have addressed the judge as “Mein Fuhrer”?’ Irving himself denied having made the slip.  But amid the laughter in court, he could be seen mumbling an apology to the judge for having addressed him in this way.  Perhaps the slip was a consequence of Irving’s unconscious identification of the judge as a benign authority figure.  Whatever the reason for it, with the laughter still ringing in its ears, the court adjourned on 15 March 2000 as the judge prepared the final version of his judgment on the case.


Saturday July 18 2015

Incoming, this morning, 11.37 am:

Hi brian


How are you?

Oh you know, much the same as ever.

My name is Chrystal. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.

Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.

Best wishes

I was pondering my reply to Chrystal, asking for clarification about this site I am supposed to be visiting, but going on to say that she really is a bit young for me.

But then, incoming, at 12.12pm:

Hi brian

How are you?

My name is Eugenia. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.

Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.

Best wishes

Uncanny.  Truly, truly uncanny.  They even both said “hi brian” is the same giant blue letters.  What are the odds?  Presumably, I should continue with the composition of my reply, and send a copy to each of them.  It’s almost as if one of them isn’t a real person.  Or even – the horror – neither of them is.  Does some terrible middle aged, male, ugly criminal want to know more about me, that he can then use to his advantage and to my disadvantage?  If Eugenia hadn’t copied Chrystal’s email to me, these suspicious thoughts might never have occurred to me.

Seriously though, these sorts of (and all the other sorts of) bullshit emails pollute email, by making you assume that any email from anyone which seems even slightly off key is bollocks, even if it isn’t.  You even think it may be bollocks if the person it’s from is someone that you know.  Because, maybe someone else stole that person’s name, or just guessed it or chose it at random.  I can remember when it actually made sense to trust incoming emails from strangers, unless they were obvious bullshit.  Those days are long gone.  At first, email seemed to create a bright new world of candour and of quick and easy communication.  But emails like the ones above clog up the pipes.  They may be a joke, but they are a joke we could all do without.

Thursday May 28 2015

I was out and about again today, and I have now got into the habit of photoing newspaper front pages, often in the shop where I usually buy my monthly copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine (by “music”, they mean classical music).  Which means that the guy in the shop doesn’t mind me photoing other stuff.

The big story just now is of course FIFA, and the badness of Blatter:


But, this front page story also got my attention:


I don’t mean the FIFA stuff flagged up in the big yellow bit at the top of the page.  I mean the bit below, where it says “Cameron cuts off labour funding”.  Although the Daily Telegraph itself now lives behind a paywall, I managed to find the story here.

This would appear to confirm what my friend Tim Evans says about Cameron.  He is a much more determined and focussed politician than he lets on, and much more “right wing”.  He is systematically destroying the Labour Party.  Trying to, at any rate.

But, and this is what pisses off many libertarians, he is a politician whose focus is on changing institutions (in this case destroying an institution) rather than in spreading ideas.  Also, he does things one at a time, which means he leaves a ton of bad stuff untouched, and often does other bad stuff, to protect the main task in hand.

All of the above flies in the face of the Samizdata orthodoxy, which is perhaps why I am thinking aloud about this stuff here, rather than there.  If I put anything there about this stuff, I will have to think it through better than I have so far.

Thursday April 16 2015

Around ten days ago, I took lots of rest (the medical term for sleeping) during the day, and then couldn’t sleep properly at night. Since then the lurgy has persisted and I haven’t really got back to sane hours.

In the meantime, what did not help - did not help at all - was the latest from Madame Harry Potter, who now, some of the time, goes by the name of Robert Galbraith.  I read the first Cormoran Strike tale when it came out, and a few days back I was awake all night reading number two.  It was daylight when I finished it.

One of the many things I like about Cormoran Strike is that he operates in London.  His lair is a flat on top of one of the shops in Denmark Street, which is London’s pop musical instrument street.

Here is a clutch of Denmark Street photos I took recently:

image image imageimage image image

Lots of amateurish reflections there, in among the occasional deliberate ones, but what the hell?  I am an amateur.  (Spot the selfie.)

That grey-blue front door (on the right of the picture bottom middle) is how I imagine/presume Strike’s front door to look.

Having kept up with all the Rebus books, I found it much more fun actually knowing a lot of the places haunted by The Detective.  And with this in mind, I have now started on this first crime novel by Tony Parsons.  All this searching has just told me that it is the first of three.  This is (these are) also set in London.  This morning I was reading about The Detective visiting something called Westminster Public Mortuary in Horseferry Road, which is a five minute walk away from where I live.  (The Tony Parsons detective is called DC “Max Wolfe”.  Why can’t fictional detectives ever be called something like Colin Snail or Brian Sludge or John Watson?)

“Robert Galbraith“‘s Cormoran Strike is a freelance, but Max Wolfe is regular police, so he often visits New Scotland Yard, which is not much further away from me than that Mortuary, another five minutes walk in the same direction.  Here is a photo I took of New Scotland Yard from the roof of my block, in 2006:


London possesses roof clutter arrays that are denser and more voluminous, but none that I know of is more elegant.

Monday April 13 2015

So, I googled aircraft coming in to land over closed civilian roads, and to my surprise I came across another use for a drone:


This one looks like it might be spraying stuff on the crop below.  Obvious, I know, but I am collecting these things.  The drone is yet another gadget that the banning classes would love to ban, but it’s just too useful.

But you can see how this will mean a whole new sort of newsworthy accident.  Or, even better, of newsworthy malevolence.

Thursday March 12 2015

I have been reading Peter Thiel‘s book Zero to One.  It abounds with pithily and strongly expressed wisdoms.

Here (pp. 143-5) is how Thiel explains the difference between humans and computers, and how they complement one another in doing business together:

To understand the scale of this variance, consider another of Google’s computer-for-human substitution projects.  In 2012, one of their supercomputers made headlines when, after scanning 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos, it learned to identify a cat with 75% accuracy.  That seems impressive-until you remember that an average four-year-old can do it flawlessly.  When a cheap laptop beats the smartest mathematicians at some tasks but even a supercomputer with 16,000 CPUs can’t beat a child at others, you can tell that humans and computers are not just more or less powerful than each other - they’re categorically different.

The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps.  And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.

Thiel then writes about how he learned about the above truths when he and his pals at Paypal solved one of their biggest problems:

In mid-2000 we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month.  Since we were processing hundreds or even thousands of transactions per minute, we couldn’t possibly review each one - no human quality control team could work that fast.

So we did what any group of engineers would do: we tried to automate a solution.  First, Max Levchin assembled an elite team of mathematicians to study the fraudulent transfers in detail.  Then we took what we learned and wrote software to automatically identify and cancel bogus transactions in real time. But it quickly became clear that this approach wouldn’t work either: after an hour or two, the thieves would catch on and change their tactics. We were dealing with an adaptive enemy, and our software couldn’t adapt in response.

The fraudsters’ adaptive evasions fooled our automatic detection algorithms, but we found that they didn’t fool our human analysts as easily.  So Max and his engineers rewrote the software to take a hybrid approach: the computer would flag the most suspicious transactions on a well-designed user interface, and human operators would make the final judgment as to their legitimacy.  Thanks to this hybrid system - we named it “Igor,” after the Russian fraudster who bragged that we’d never be able to stop him - we turned our first quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2002 (as opposed to a quarterly loss of $29.3 million one year before).

There then follow these sentences.

The FBI asked us if we’d let them use Igor to help detect financial crime. And Max was able to boast, grandiosely but truthfully, that he was “the Sherlock Holmes of the Internet Underground.”

The answer was yes.

Thus did the self-declared libertarian Peter Thiel, who had founded Paypal in order to replace the dollar with a free market currency, switch to another career, as a servant of the state, using government-collected data to chase criminals.  But that’s another story.

Peter Thiel on how humans and computers complement each other
January newspaper pages
Drugs drones
A cat book and a feline front page
Cat photo and cat news
Brian Micklethwait dot com quote of the day
The Mayor and the towers
Quota quote
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Monty Panesar: “I piss on your short pitched fast deliveries aimed at my body!”
Samir Chopra on how match fixing turns cricket into not cricket
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Dream and reality in Mumbai
Like a crisp packet being popped
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Natalie Solent at Biased BBC
Lion steals camera
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Multilingual signage
Nil scrap value
Let us now trash infamous men
More signage
Mozart might have become a criminal
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
Guerrilla webfare
Zaltzman on Clarke
Ten thoughts about the Pakistan cricket corruption story
Why not just sell them?
Is Timberland guilty of spam commenting me?
A response to the cyclist menace
Big box computers versus laptops
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
This is not Mohammed
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
“Is this a case of us operant-conditioning them or them operant-conditioning us?”
You know where you are with a book - usually
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Under a hundred copies
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Why I object to Madam Scotland and why I don’t
What a difference a g makes
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
Mrs Billion Monkey doesn’t want to catch swine fever!
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
Not cricket
Jennings did it
Monster buildings and monster people
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Armed is less dangerous
“If only it were true …”
Underestimating crime
Tower Bridge in the blue grey afternoon (and Jenny Agutter obviously did it)
Billion Monkey murderers!?!
Better safe than sorry
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Alisher Usmanov is now better known for being nasty
Links and guns
Lots of links
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Heh indeed
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Stupid Billion Monkeys!
Whatever it is and no matter how illegal it already is … there ought to be a law against it!
iPods as the new CDs
“Publish it in your Blog!”
Car attack – the plot thickens