March 31, 2012

Nick Gillespie on the “bully” crisis that isn’t

Filed under: Education, Law, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:35

There’s an ongoing major media story about bullies, but Nick Gillespie says the crisis doesn’t really exist:

“When I was younger,” a remarkably self-assured, soft-spoken 15-year-old kid named Aaron tells the camera, “I suffered from bullying because of my lips—as you can see, they’re kind of unusually large. So I would kind of get [called] ‘Fish Lips’—things like that a lot—and my glasses too, I got those at an early age. That contributed. And the fact that my last name is Cheese didn’t really help with the matter either. I would get [called] ‘Cheeseburger,’ ‘Cheese Guy’—things like that, that weren’t really very flattering. Just kind of making fun of my name—I’m a pretty sensitive kid, so I would have to fight back the tears when I was being called names.”

It’s hard not to be impressed with — and not to like — young Aaron Cheese. He is one of the kids featured in the new Cartoon Network special “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” which premiered last week and is available online. I myself am a former geekish, bespectacled child whose lips were a bit too full, and my first name (as other kids quickly discovered) rhymes with two of the most-popular slang terms for male genitalia, so I also identified with Mr. Cheese. My younger years were filled with precisely the sort of schoolyard taunts that he recounts; they led ultimately to at least one fistfight and a lot of sour moods on my part.

Ah, yes, the joy of classmates discovering that “Nick” is such a useful name for casual abuse. It was part of the reason I’ve insisted on using “Nicholas” ever since I got into the working world. Bullies were certainly part of my early school experience, and that of my own son. Rather like the changing of the seasons, they were just part of the school environment. I got into a few fights, but quickly learned that most other boys had a weight and reach advantage over me that resulted in a fairly quick end to each fight. The bullying tapered off in high school, but I tried to minimize the opportunities for it to happen, too. I have very few remaining friends from school — but that’s partly a reflection of the fact that I had relatively few friends in school.

Part of the perceived problem with bullies is that parents are much more involved in their kids’ lives than earlier generations:

How did we get here? We live in an age of helicopter parents so pushy and overbearing that Colorado Springs banned its annual Easter-egg hunt on account of adults jumping the starter’s gun and scooping up treat-filled plastic eggs on behalf of their winsome kids. The Department of Education in New York City — once known as the town too tough for Al Capone — is seeking to ban such words as “dinosaurs,” “Halloween” and “dancing” from citywide tests on the grounds that they could “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students,” it was reported this week. (Leave aside for the moment that perhaps the whole point of tests is to “evoke unpleasant emotions.”)

Politicians, always eager to be seen to be “doing something”, are lining up to “do something” about bullying:

Last year, in response to the suicide of the 18-year-old gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, the state legislature passed “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The law is widely regarded as the nation’s toughest on these matters. It has been called both a “resounding success” by Steve Goldstein, head of the gay-rights group Garden State Equality, and a “bureaucratic nightmare” by James O’Neill, the interim school superintendent of the township of Roxbury. In Congress, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt have introduced the federal Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called the Lautenberg-Holt proposal a threat to free speech because its “definition of harassment is vague, subjective and at odds with Supreme Court precedent.” Should it become law, it might well empower colleges to stop some instances of bullying, but it would also cause many of them to be sued for repressing speech. In New Jersey, a school anti-bullying coordinator told the Star-Ledger that “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” has “added a layer of paperwork that actually inhibits us” in dealing with problems. In surveying the effects of the law, the Star-Ledger reports that while it is “widely used and has helped some kids,” it has imposed costs of up to $80,000 per school district for training alone and uses about 200 hours per month of staff time in each district, with some educators saying that the additional effort is taking staff “away from things such as substance-abuse prevention and college and career counseling.”

Bullying is a problem, but it’s neither new nor growing:

But is bullying — which the stopbullying.gov website of the Department of Health and Human Services defines as “teasing,” “name-calling,” “taunting,” “leaving someone out on purpose,” “telling other children not to be friends with someone,” “spreading rumors about someone,” “hitting/kicking/pinching,” “spitting” and “making mean or rude hand gestures” — really a growing problem in America?

Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage, the data show that things are, in fact, getting better for kids. When it comes to school violence, the numbers are particularly encouraging. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold.

Ross McKitrick: Earth Hour, a dissent

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Environment, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:26

I don’t observe Earth Hour, and Ross McKitrick explains some of the reasons far more eloquently than I can:

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.

Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity.

Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks.

I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Ross McKitrick
Professor of Economics
University of Guelph

Botched investigation into GCHQ staff member’s mysterious death

Filed under: Britain, Government, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:17

This sounds particularly bad:

Forensic investigators have apologized for the bungling of the inquiry into the mysterious death of a codebreaker employed by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

In August 2010, Gareth Williams, described as a mathematical genius by his peers and employed at GCHQ since leaving university, was found dead in his flat in London. Williams, who had recently qualified for deployment with MI6 — Britain’s version of the CIA — was found naked and partially decomposed in a sports bag that had been locked from the outside and placed in the bath.

In the pre-inquest hearing on Friday, the court heard that the investigation into Williams’ death had been botched from the start. LGS Forensics said that DNA found on Mr Williams’ body was investigated, but later turned out to have been transferred there from one of the forensic scientists investigating the death, and a search of the apartment turned up no clues as to his death.

Warning: Despite a total lack of evidence, we still want video game “violence” warning stickers

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming, Government, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:14

Erik Kain in Forbes on the latest attempt to put scare warnings on pretty much all video games sold in stores:

“WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.”

That’s the label Reps. Joe Baca and Frank Wolf want to place on every video game that hits store shelves.

Well okay, not every video game. Just every game with an E (Everyone) rating or higher. Only EC (Early Childhood) games would avoid the label. Every other game, regardless of content, would have the equivalent of cigarette warnings slapped on them.

This means that games like Tiger Woods PGA Tour would get a violence-warning label.

Can I humbly suggest that we sponsor a bill that would slap warning labels on all our elected officials?

“WARNING: May enact pointless, freedom-quashing laws based on bad data and lies due to sanctimonious pandering to special interest groups.”

The EFF is on the case.

EFF has put together an action alert that lets you to tell your Congressmember that you stand against the unnecessary and burdensome regulation of speech in video games, and that she should too.

Even though it is not required by law, many video game developers have been self-regulating games for age-level and content with Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings since 1994. That system is widely understood in the marketplace, and allows consumers and parents to make informed decisions about their video game purchases.

QotD: Conservatives

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

I do not doubt that conservatives are, in their heart of hearts, jugheaded buffoons who simply want to will away inconvenient truths by plugging their ears and covering their eyes when faced with cognitive dissonance. I’m confident that they argue from authority when it serves their purpose and then are muy skeptical when confronted with authority they don’t like. I’m metaphysically certain that many are repllent and repulsive and altogether awful and that they tend to love dogs and cats in the abstract more than their fellow human beings. In all this, I suspect, they are incredibly similar to liberals and, alas, libertarians and everyone else.

Nick Gillespie, “Why Don’t Conservatives Trust Scientists Like They Used To? Are They Just Anti-Evolutionary, Anti-Global Warming Jag-Offs or Could There Be Other Explanations?”, Hit and Run, 2012-03-30

March 30, 2012

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 14:29

After finally (I hope) resolving the connection issue I was having with the site, my weekly column at GuildMag has been posted. I’d started to work on the big beta aggregation post, but when I lost connection to the site, I couldn’t keep updating that post. Much (but not all) of the overflow now gets wrapped up in the weekly column along with the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, and podcasts.

Best — and most accurate — TV show ever on parliamentary government to return after 24 years

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:20

We’re talking about the return of Yes, Prime Minister:

The great satire of British bureaucracy, Yes, Prime Minister, is to return after 24 years away from our TV screens. The original scriptwriting duo of Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn has already turned in their first plot, says UKTV, which has has commissioned the show to be broadcast on UK Gold. The BBC originals, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister ran from 1980 to 1988.

[. . .]

The original series was spookily prescient about today’s mandarinate. Last year The Spectator‘s political editor estimated that only four out of 22 elected ministers are actually in charge of their departments — the rest are run by the permanent government of the bureaucracy. Four may actually be on the high side.

The Thick of It portrays a world in which spads (special advisors) and spin doctors are in charge of policy-making — a view promoted by Westminster journalists, who are flattered by the depiction. But the news cycle actually has little do do with long-term policy-making.

Now, more than ever, the bureaucracy marches to its own internal rhythm, and quietly determines policy on issues as diverse as Europe, the environment, and criminal justice.

The mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) finally solved

Filed under: Europe, France, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:01

In a twist that will delight conspiracy theorists everywhere, it really was a CIA plot:

In 1951, a quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted.

For decades it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War.

The mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) still haunts the inhabitants of Pont-Saint-Esprit, in the Gard, southeast France.

“Fifty-six days. Two months. In an actual jail. For tweeting”

Brendan O’Neill on Britain joining China and Iran in punishing free speech:

This week, Britain became a fully paid-up member of that clique of illiberal intolerant, tweeter-harassing states.

On Tuesday, at Swansea Magistrates Court in Wales, Liam Stacey, a student, was imprisoned for 56 days for writing offensive tweets.

Fifty-six days. Two months. In an actual jail. For tweeting. It needs to be spelt out like that in order to show how shocking it is that in the 21st century, in a nation that gave us such great warriors for freedom as The Levellers and John Stuart Mill, a young man has now been banged up for expressing his thoughts.

Stacey’s thoughts were far from pleasant ones. In fact they were offensive and repugnant.

What kind of freedom of speech do you have when you can be punished for expressing unpopular and idiotic sentiments? None whatsoever. When you’re only free to mouth the mainstream popular opinions — or what the state tells you is acceptable — you don’t have freedom of speech at all.

When other tweeters complained to Stacey about his off-colour comments, he started to use racist language. He told his detractors to “f**k off”, and hurled pretty much every racial slur under the sun at them.

The Twitterati reported him to the police. And sure enough he got a visit from the cops, was charged with committing a racially aggravated public order offence, and now finds himself in the clink alongside burglars and rapists.

Yes, Stacey’s comments were horrible. But this was speech rather than actions, the use of words rather than the use of fists, and there should never be any state involvement, certainly not arrests and showtrials, in the arena of speech.

In finding himself incarcerated simply because he refused to “Pray for Muamba” and then expressed nasty racist thoughts, Stacey has effectively been punished for committing a thoughtcrime, or perhaps its modern equivalent: a tweetcrime.

Looking ahead to the next federal budget

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:29

In the Globe and Mail Economy Lab, Stephen Gordon thinks he can accurately predict the overall shape and content of the next budget:

The main features of the expenditure side of next year’s 2013-14 federal budget should be fairly easy to predict:

  • Transfers to persons will be about 4 per cent of GDP, and future projections will be consistent with this share.
  • Transfers to other levels of government will be about 3.2 per cent of GDP, and future projections will also be consistent with this share.
  • Direct program spending will be at or just above 6 per cent of GDP, and this share will be projected to decline throughout the forecast horizon.

The reason we can make these predictions with a certain amount of confidence is that these paths were set out by the Conservative government several years ago, and they have shown little sign of wanting to deviate from them.

Even if they wanted to — and it can be fairly imagined that they do — cutting transfer programs would generate a certain amount of political blowback from the people and provinces that are on the receiving end. The Conservatives have doubtlessly concluded that limiting the rate of growth of transfer payments to that of the economy — which is the same as keeping them at a constant share of GDP — is probably the most restraint they can impose without incurring lasting political damage.

Reason.tv: Remy explains health care mandates

Filed under: Economics, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:06

March 29, 2012

Federal budget highlights (and lowlights)

Filed under: Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:26

My local MP also happens to be the federal Minister of Finance, who got his moment in the spotlight today as he unveiled the government’s 2012 budget. The media folks who were in the budget lock-up are just starting to publish their reports on the “wins” and “losses” as they see them in the new budget.

Initial Tweets concentrated on these headline-friendly moves:

  • Old age pension eligibility will rise to 67
  • Civil service will shrink by 19,000 positions
  • Coinage change: we’re abandoning the penny (they cost 50% more to make than they’re worth, and we didn’t make it up in volume)
  • Return the budget to balance by 2015-2016 and begin running a surplus after that
  • Pravda The CBC, our government-owned TV/radio network, will see a 10% cut in funding

I’ll update this post as new information gets published.

Update: John Ivison at the National Post calls it “A grand vision of still-big government”:

For a government that has forsworn the vision thing to this point, Budget 2012 is Obama-esque in the audacity of its hope for the future.

“We see Canada for what it is and what it can be… Today we step forward boldly, to realize it fully — hope for our children and grandchildren; opportunity for all Canadians; a prosperous future for our beloved country,” said Jim Flaherty in his speech to the House of Commons, boldly going where no Conservative Finance Minister has gone before — save perhaps Sir George Foster, who served Sir John A. Macdonald.

Mr Flaherty summoned up Sir George in his speech, quoting the need “for long vision, the fine courage of statesmanship and the warm fires of national imagination….Let us climb the heights and take a look forward.”

If the rest of the contents fail to live up to that level of rhetoric, they do at least amount to a serious attempt to move beyond the naked bribery of budgets past.

Paul “Inkless” Wells calls it “Harper’s very political budget”:

Revolution, ladies and gents! Light the torches! In his December year-end interviews, Stephen Harper used the term “major transformations” a half-dozen times. He made fun of earlier majority prime ministers. They let the bureaucrats put them to sleep! For years! No chance of that happening to Harper. Major transformations, coming right up.

Fast forward to this afternoon. “We will eliminate the penny,” Jim Flaherty told the Commons. It was literally the first new policy measure he announced. “Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home.”

Now you know why Trudeau and Mulroney and Chrétien were such snoozers. It was the pennies. Weighing them down all day. Cluttering their dressers at night. Pennies wear a guy down. Harper, the Interac Prime Minister, will be fleet of foot, full of vim, and ready for —

— major transformations? No. I don’t have a searchable electronic text of Flaherty’s speech, but I do not see the word “transformation” anywhere in it. The rhetoric is altogether more reassuring. “The reforms we present today are substantial, responsible, and necessary,” he said, and “We will stay on course,” and “We will maintain our consistent, pragmatic, and responsible approach to the economy,” and “We will implement moderate restraint in government spending.”

From the Budget overview itself, a welcome change to Canadians who shop in the United States:

Every year, Canadians take some 30 million overnight trips outside of Canada, often returning with goods purchased abroad. Modernization of the rules applied to these purchases is long overdue. Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes the most significant increase in the duty- and tax-free travellers’ exemptions in decades. The travellers’ exemption allows Canadians to bring back goods up to a specified dollar limit without having to pay duties or taxes, including customs duty, Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax, federal excise levies and provincial sales and product taxes.

The Government proposes to increase the value of goods that may be imported duty- and tax-free by Canadian residents returning from abroad after a 24-hour and 48-hour absence to $200 and $800, harmonizing them with U.S. levels. This measure will facilitate cross-border travel by streamlining the processing of returning Canadian travellers who have made purchases while outside Canada. This change will be effective beginning on June 1, 2012. It is estimated that this measure will reduce federal revenues by $13 million in 2012–13 and by $17 million in 2013–14.

Campbell Clark at the Globe and Mail says the budget marks a strong change in the government’s formerly pro-military stance:

The Harper government is slashing spending on Canada’s international presence, with deep cuts to the military, aid and diplomacy.

It marks a reversal to the Conservatives long-ballyhooed policy of beefing up the military: It’s no longer just slowing the growth of Defence spending, but cutting it back, and delaying billions of dollars in capital spending on military hardware for seven years.

[. . .]

In fact, neither the budget nor the host of government officials attending a lockup to explain it provided a figure for the Defence budget for the coming year, and in the years affected by the cuts. Officials said that information was not being presented on budget day.

Still, it was clear that the impact will be deep. Since 2006, the Harper government has touted year-over-year increases for military spending, even when it announced two years ago the growth would be slowed. Now it’s cutting.

By 2014-15, more than $1.1-billion a year will be lopped off the regular Defence budget. But that’s not all. In addition, $3.5-billion in capital spending — the sums the military uses to buy equipment like planes, ships, trucks, tanks and weapons — will be put off until seven years from now, so that the government can save an average of $500-million a year.

Hmmmm. Slowdowns in major equipment purchases? I wonder if we’re about to get a Defence White Paper. We’re probably overdue for one of those…

F-35 and the “bubbling skin” problem

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:25

Michael Byers and Stewart Webb report on the latest technical glitch to be reported in the F-35 development:

The ability of F-35s to avoid radar detection depends on a “fibre mat,” which is cured into the composite surfaces of the aircraft.

In December 2011, a test version of the F-35 for the first time achieved the design speed of Mach 1.6. According to Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week, the flight caused “peeling and bubbling” of the stealth coating on the horizontal tails and damage to the engine’s thermal panels, and the entire test fleet was subsequently limited to Mach 1.0.

Repairing and replacing stealth materials is a time- and technology-intensive process that reduces the “mission capable rate” of aircraft. Indeed, it has been reported by the U.S. Congressional Research Service that after five years of service the F-35’s sister plane, the F-22, has a mission capable rate of just 60%.

And then they touch on the issue that has been lurking below the surface for a while, regarding the small number of aircraft the RCAF will be able to afford (assuming the government goes through with the F-35 purchase):

If the F-35 has a similar mission capable rate, Canada will, at any given time, only be able to deploy approximately 44 of its planned 65 planes. When attrition through accidents is factored in — and Canada has lost 18 of its CF-18s since 1982 — we could soon have an available fleet of just 30-35 planes, or roughly half of what the Department of National Defence says we need.

That might be the crucial point on which the F-35 acquisition fails: no matter how good the aircraft are (and I believe they will eventually work through and fix all the major issues), we can’t afford enough of them. Even without taking on new missions, we need a certain minimum number of aircraft, and I thought 65 was low-balling that number. The alternatives are to buy some F-35’s and a larger number of less expensive planes like the Super Hornet, or skip the F-35 altogether and just buy a different aircraft. The problem with splitting the order is that what we’d save on reduced F-35 acquisition costs, we’d more than lose because the RCAF would have to maintain duplicate maintenance and training programs. Unlike the RAF or the USAF, the RCAF isn’t big enough to fly multiple models on an ongoing basis (and you know that the government can’t and won’t fund a larger air force budget).

Violin cover of the “Norn Theme” from Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:08

Here you go .. Epic Guild Wars 2 Theme Cover before the game released! Ringtone will be uploaded soon. (i will post the link).
Alright alright , i know i am guilty. I should have uploaded video last month.Really I just study so hard.. Sorry about it.

Edinburgh may be killing the cultural golden goose

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:46

Tiffany Jenkins talks about the origins of the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the powers-that-be who seem to be determined to strangle it with red tape:

In 1947, eight theatre groups turned up to perform at the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival, an annual event established to celebrate and enrich postwar European cultural life. The theatre groups had not been invited, and were not part of the official programme. So instead they created a spontaneous festival on the side. Growing year on year, with the theatre groups encouraging others to participate, this alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival eventually established itself, in 1959, as the Festival Fringe Society.

Today, Scotland is home to some of the top cultural events in the world. Many take place in Edinburgh during the August months, attracting high-profile authors, artists, comics and theatre companies from all over the globe. At the heart of this cultural firmament is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, an event now funded and supported by government and local councils. Yet, in a nasty twist, those very same central and local authorities, currently enjoying the prestige of being associated with a world-renowned festival of culture, are seemingly intent on stifling the spontaneous, do-it-yourself impulse that originally gave birth to the Fringe.

[. . .]

From 1 April 2012, it will become necessary to have a ‘Public Entertainment License’ to undertake any kind of public art in Scotland. Previously a licence was only required for events charging admission. Starting next month, even the smallest local events being run for free — say in a café or a bookshop — will require one, which must be applied for six weeks beforehand. This will include exhibitions in temporary places, gigs in record shops, free film screenings, music in pubs. You know, even really dodgy stuff — like poetry readings to 10 men and a dog.

Apart from the form-filling and curtailment of spontaneity — you cannot just ring around a few friends and suggest a performance at the weekend — this will cost money too. In the past, fees for a ‘public entertainment licence’ have ranged from £120 to £7,500, requiring several months’ notice to be given to the council and three weeks public notice. Nothing will happen without long-term planning. Small venues, like cafes, which support artists and performers by hosting free events, won’t be able to cover the costs. And they shouldn’t have to. Art doesn’t need a licence, and nor do we to enjoy it.

What we are seeing is the hyper-regulation of everyday life where anything we choose to do spontaneously and between ourselves is seen as dangerous or threatening. The authorities want to monitor, codify and regulate the most normal, everyday interactions and behaviour.

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