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Letter #16 Delivered 28 Nov 21

Hi Craig,

I expect this will be my last letter to you by this means, as you look forward to your release in a few days time. Hopefully we can continue our dialogue by email, though I expect your time and attention for the next few months will be mostly on family and catching up on the things you’ve missed. Out of habit I’ve attached a reply sheet, though I’d be surprised if you have the time to reply. It was nice to get a bonus reply this week to one of my earlier letters :)

This week has been a nice return to normality after the disruption of getting an air sourced heat pump installed last week. The dogs just wouldn’t settle with the installers coming and going, which then made it hard to concentrate on much else. At least the system was in place before the recent cold snap. My wife’s very happy to return to a nice warm home after spending her day in a freezing classroom with doors open to the outside to keep Covid at bay.

Thanksgiving week is also a special time for anybody working with Americans as it means a couple of precious days without the interruption of meetings, which provides a good opportunity to focus on stuff and get things done.

My son asked me this morning what we’re going to watch now that Foundation season 1 has come to an end. I think we’re going to try Wheel of Time, as the reviews seem pretty positive, though I’m totally unfamiliar with the source material.

Apart from writing to you, last Saturday ended up being completely consumed with finishing Anne Currie’s ‘Heliotrope’ (the latest in her ‘Panopticon’ series of a near future post climate disaster world where society gets along with ubiquitous video surveillance). I was only 20% into the advanced review copy when my pre order landed, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel so fast, but in the end it was a fun read, and I was on time for a launch day review. I’ve now started on Stross’s ‘Dead Lies Dreaming’, which so far seems to take the premise of his earlier ‘Laundry Files’ series – what if magic is real, and founded on a branch of maths, then we’d need a covert government agency to keep the lid on things – the Laundry; and then throws it at – what if the people in power got there by wielding paranormal abilities? Or put another way, what if Priti Patel really was an evil witch? It’s been very entertaining so far, and I can feel my engagement with it gathering momentum.

Best of luck for release day on Tuesday. I look forward to what you have to say and write.

Regards,
Chris


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Craig’s reply 29 Nov 2021

Chris,

Well 5 days to go so my last message for you!

I am hoping that, when free, Julian will turn his attention to recovering freedom on the Internet. I share your analysis 100%.

It seems there will always need to be a primarily social or entertainment portal that can lead the way to political thought. Entirely high-minded initiatives just don’t tack enough of the population.

But attempts to use a similar model to Facebook and Twitter, minus the censorship (e.g. “Me We”) can’t get traction.

I don’t have a solution, just musing.

Craig.


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Letter #15 Delivered 21 Nov 21

Hi Craig,

It was great to get two replies from you this week :)

There’s a cartoon by John Jonik that I’m sure you’ve seen many times, with Uncle Sam pushing forward a box labelled ‘Control of Internet Speech’ and a man labelled Corporate Media asking ‘How would you like this wrapped?’ with rolls of paper labelled ‘Anti-Terrorism’ and ‘Protect Kids’ hanging behind him.

We know from Snowden that the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ wrapper was working in full flow eight years ago, and there’s nothing to suggest that the edifice has been torn down.

So we now have a situation where ruling parties have a decade or so of getting their way with the corporate gatekeepers of speech, and they want more of the same. They KNOW that the gatekeepers can do what they want, but the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ wrapper only stretches so far, and is also limited by a pervasive cloak of secrecy. So it’s time to bring out the ‘Protect Kids’ wrapper, which is what lies at the heart of the ‘Online Safety’ Bill.

The suppression you’ve encountered is evidence of over reach at the margins of the existing status quo. An arguable grey area between those with a peaceful ‘purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause’ and those willing to enact violence for such a cause (which we see time after time is hard to pin down until the violence happens). But that suppression is just the amuse bouche for what’s about to come.

There’s no doubt that the corporate gatekeepers have behaved atrociously in their pursuit of profit. ‘Filter failure at the outrage factory‘ has promoted extremism and conspiracy because it looks like ‘engagement’ to the algorithms, and more engagement = more $advertising. The use of algorithms has allowed the gatekeepers to become ethical vacuums, as the decisions aren’t being made by humans. But the answer to that problem isn’t to hand decision making power to ruling parties. That’s not how we’re going to win back democracy.

We caught a glimpse of something better – a world of dialogue without gatekeepers. The open Internet, and its blogs and RSS feeds and comments sections. But those things were encircled then shut down by the gatekeepers. The means are still there, but the attention economy bulldozed the ruins and set up its strip mall on top.

We may have free speech, but we struggle for meaningful reach. I hope you can continue to be a strong voice in that struggle, as it may be the most important struggle of our time.

Keep well as the days count by.

Chris


Things have got a little out of order as Craig works through his backlog of correspondence. Here’s letter #11 that he’s replying to.

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Craig’s reply 14 Nov 2021

Hi Chris,

Continuing to work my way through old mail, I came upon your wondering how many people worldwide really do influence events: you set parameters of 7k or 7m. This is an interesting question, and I think I would set it at around 200k worldwide. All of whom, of course, would be connected in to the international mesh of interests of the wealthy.

Best wishes,

Craig


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Letter #14 Delivered 14 Nov 21

Hi Craig,

I hope you’re well, and that each day brings fresh optimism about your impending release.

I came across a thread on Twitter from my friend Ian Grigg, which very much remined me of your predicament:

“”
A friend introduced me to Samizdat which is “a form of dissident activity across the socialist Eastern Bloc in which individuals reproduced censored and underground makeshift publications, often by hand, and passed the documents from reader to reader.”

What piqued my attn was the very last section in Wikipedia:

After Bell Labs changed its UNIX licence in 1979 to make dissemination of the source code illegal, the 1976 Lions book which contained the source code had to be withdrawn, but illegal copies of it circulated for years.

“The act of copying the Lions book was often referred to as samizdat. In hacker and computer jargon, the term samizdat was used for the dissemination of needed and hard to obtain documents or information.”

What a laugh! I have copies of those books, I did the late Prof Lions course way back when. So when I mentioned this to a mate from those times, he said, DID YOU KNOW…

“It’s now released for sale on Amazon!!!

“looks like you and Swine doing a copy…”

holy smokes batman… it does a bit :) Swine’s the big hairy guy on the left, leaving the bespectacled weed on the right. And yes it was always me that was caught red handed, in this case with book on photocopier.

But actually, probably wasn’t us. Not that time. Not with that photocopier…

But the meme is true – these books were the first DRM’d in my experience, I still recall the little slip of paper to get the special text, pay the special fee at a special window, with signed contract.

The more rebellious of us fought to get copies. I’ve still got mine, with many pencil scrawls, in a box on some continent.

It was fun to play at Samizdat, to bite the thumb at AT&T, but we didn’t really risk more than a slap – not like those in East Europe, who risked death.

These days I’m more interested in how to play high stakes Samizdat. Which is being played for real today in courts in the UK as Julian Assange, as the Samizdatel-in-chief of WikiLeaks is slowly killed in a British prison.

For the same crime as Samizdat – spreading the truth.

Samizdat is coming to the West. If Assange trial goes badly, and they manage to kill him in British or American jail, all of journalism will be too scared to publish the truth.
“”

This system does NOT like emojis in the text :(

Best,
Chris

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Craig’s reply 18 Nov 2021

Hi Chris,

Thanks for that food for thought. The publication of “Spy Catcher” also comes to mind, a happy parallel to the Streisand Effect. It was in fact a very dull book.

It is however interesting how much knowledge of the Salmond Trial truths for which I am imprisoned is spreading following the end of lockdown. Just talking to people continues to be socially important.

But the biggest problem remains the development of Twitter and Facebook as corporate gatekeepers to Internet traffic. I don’t think any of us predicted that danger well enough ten years ago.

Best

Craig


As it had been a while since I’d heard from Craig, I published my 13th letter to him (along with #10, #11 and #12) without waiting for a reply. But I’m pleased that he has now written back:

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Craig’s reply 15 Nov 2021

Hi Chris,

I must apologise for replying to you so seldom. I can assure you that every word you have sent has been read and appreciated.

Alternative honours schemes have been floated before from time to time. That is no reason not to try again, but I am rather in despair of the space to get an audience for any “alternative” views at all. That is due to both the ever more rigid conformity of the mainstream media and the stranglehold on the Internet of the gatekeeper corporations.

So the problem I’d see is not so much funding from the activist community, as outreach beyond the activist community.

Yes, I think quite a lot about what I will say, and then what I will write, on release. I have learnt a huge amount about lives destroyed and those left behind by society. How far this will affect my writing I’m not sure. It is not that I learnt much conceptually, but to know it experientially is very different. I guess it alters priorities a bit.

Best wishes

Craig


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Letter #13 Delivered 8 Nov 21

Hi Craig,

I hope you’re keeping well. It was good to hear that you’ve been able to get a Covid test and that it was negative.

I had an idea the other day that I’d like to get your feedback on…

It seems to me that so much in the UK gets bent out of shape by the establishment’s ability to dangle peerages in front of public servants. “Just toe the line, and your reward will come – something to keep you occupied, a nice sinecure, and a grand title. We just need you to bend your ethics a little bit, but see, it will be worth it.”

I was very impressed with John Bercow’s willingness to sacrifice his peerage on the altar of doing the right thing, but there are few like him.

But, what if there was an ‘alt-peerage’? A crowd sourced fund to provide that sinecure, and over time it would build up a brain trust of public spirited people willing to hold the establishment to account (a bit like Independent SAGE has been doing with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

There would of course be a bunch of bothersome details with respect to fundraising, figuring out how people are selected etc. But I hope things like the Sam Adams Award provide models that can be followed.

Of course it won’t be possible to get an alt peerage by becoming a party treasurer and donating £3m; not that I think the people who make such sizable political donations are likely to care for a moment about the idea, which in many ways is exactly the point.

The other piece of ‘establishment’ news that caught my eye this week was Cambridge computer security expert (and frequent expert witness) Prof Ross Anderson highlighting that a dossier of evidence had been passed to the NCA in 2019 regarding ‘industrial scale’ forgery, tampering with court docs, falsification of evidence etc. by high street banks. Dan Hon commented ‘this reads like Horizon on steroids’, and he’s absolutely right. Even as the postmaster trials were happening everybody in the industry knew that they were the victims of a miscarriage of justice, but that machine kept on chewing away, ruining people’s lives. The surviving postmasters might have eventually seen ‘justice’ in their convictions being overturned, but the execs at the Post Office and Fujitsu haven’t been held to account. Another reminder of “the law protects, but does not bind…”.

As months become weeks become days I’m looking forward to hearing all that you have to say on your release, and you must be busy organising your thoughts.

All the best,

Chris


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Letter #12 Delivered 31 Oct 21

Hi Craig,

I’d been thinking about continuing our dialogue on the topic of social media, and what I refer to as ‘filter failure at the outrage factory’. But the ridiculous (and cynical) rebranding of Facebook to ‘Meta’ means Zuckerberg has already had too much time rent free in my head this week, so instead I’m going to write only about good stuff.

The highlight of my week was an online tasting with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I’ve been doing these every so often since a friend invited me to one last June as a way of celebrating his birthday during lockdown. Along the way my daughter decided she wanted in on the action, and was surprised to find that all of the whiskies tasted different. It turns out she likes much the same ones as I do, so it’s turned into a nice daddy and daughter activity. The selection this time around was outstanding. They opened with a Strathclyde grain christened ‘Co-Co-Nut’, which had been in a ‘high toast, medium char’ hogshead leaving a ‘juicy oak & vanilla’ flavour profile. It was simply divine. An A+ rating from me, and I ordered a bottle straight away (as unusually they only had a few dozen available to buy rather than the usual few hundred). The next three were also great. Solid A rating territory, though a little on the pricy side to justify buying bottles. I thought it was going to be a straight A run to the end, but the Macallan from Spanish oak oloroso didn’t quite ring my bell, so my daughter got to finish that one (which was fair enough as she’d been a little mean to herself when pouring her own). I know you’re partial to a dram, so I’d very much like to send you a society bottle to celebrate your release (if you don’t mind letting me know which flavour profile you prefer?).

After some heavy rain this morning it’s turned into a lovely warm sunny day, so perfect for a longer than usual walk with the dogs. They got VERY muddy, but that didn’t seem to bother them at all as they bounded around the fields. My wife had to change the water in the sink after washing Max, as it looked like the effluent that Tories now let water companies put into rivers. As I type I’ve got a still slightly damp Milo curled up on my lap (his favourite place). When I started writing Max wanted up too, but there really isn’t room for them both, so he’s now snoozing on the chewed up shell of the igloo we got when he came home as a young pup a year ago.

I hope the shortening days aren’t dimming your mood too much.

Warmest regards,

Chris


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Letter #11 Delivered 24 Oct 21

Hi Craig,

It was good to get a reply from you yesterday. I was becoming concerned about your wellbeing given the news of Covid on your corridor.

As freedumb day approached in July I searched for plausible reasoning, and found it in the case chart for India. What we now call Delta had torn through the country and burnt out. The exponential rise gave way to an exponential decline. Our complacent and negligent government high on their own vaccination programme hubris thought that there was nowhere left for the virus to go. But again they’ve tragically miscalculated. As July turned to August the case rate decline did not continue, and instead we’ve saw-toothed our way back to another peak.

I had my face rubbed in the reality of the situation this week as I went up to London for a couple of things I’d agreed to in the expectation (misplaced hope?) of improvement. People aren’t ‘exercising common sense’, they’re going along with the pretence that Covid is over when it’s clearly not.

For the longer term I’m increasingly concerned that this is the anvil the NHS will be broken on. Selling it off for parts over the Atlantic Bridge. The politicians going along with this must be idiots, as they sell themselves too cheaply to cover the healthcare costs for themselves and their own families. I once read that Obama had to bail out Biden when he was VP, as the costs for Beau’s cancer care were bankrupting him. If the VP of the USA can’t afford that system then it works for nobody, and I’ve seen first hand how grotesquely inefficient things are whilst at the same time delivering a truly awful experience for patients. The worst part is that the rich have always had access to the best healthcare, with BUPA and Harley St. etc. floating on top of the NHS.

Your comment on the 0.1% got me thinking – is it really that many people (~7M worldwide)? I suspect the actual problem stems from far fewer ultra wealthy people meddling in the politics that shapes life for the rest of us. Maybe just 7000 (or 0.0001%). That’s a couple of Davoses. Somehow a Davos seems like a good unit of measure for Oligarchs.

Dune is another big deal SciFi book that I’ve never got around to reading. I’m hearing that the recently released film is good, so maybe like with Foundation the time has come when such titles can make it from page to screen without so much disappointment.

Has there been any news of books sent to you for the library making it through?

I’m looking forward to your reply,

Chris


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Letter #10 Delivered 17 Oct 21

Happy Birthday Craig,

The circumstances are far for ideal, but I hope you’re able to celebrate in some way.

Are you able to hear the protests in your name when they take place outside the prison, or are things too distant?

It must has been wonderful to meet Arthur C Clarke. I took a look at Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, and was surprised to find that it was not a Clarke invention (like geostationary satellites), but rather something that had first been conceived in the 19th century. It seems that there are still various efforts to further investigate and commercialise it, but the system efficiency remains atrocious at around 7%. The nutrients that you mentioned for the abelone farm in Hawaii may be a useful by-product, but also seem to be a major obstacle to effective heat transfer between components.

I read this week about a type of solar cell that had been invented by George Cove in 1905 using a zinc-antimony alloy. It seems that Cove ran into all sorts of trouble when it came to commercialising the technology, with some speculation of dirty tricks from Edison. So the ideas he had been working on got lost in the sands of time, but may prove useful once more as we try to cover the planet (or at least our roofs) with panels; as the alloy panels are more robust, and easier (and less polluting) to manufacture, which might be more important than high efficiency in some parts of the world.

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get through Stross’s ‘Invisible Sun’, and it was one of those books that became more urgent for attention as I neared the finish. Without spoiling the storyline, I can say that the author has a lot of fun with the idea of ‘some countries have spy agencies, and some spy agencies have countries’ by throwing it into a multiverse where certain people can travel between parallel timelines. Though as with all great fiction it’s bittersweet to reach the end, knowing that there won’t be another instalment. Still, I can now turn my attention to books 5 & 6 of Anne Currie’s ‘Panopticon’ series so that I’m ready to do a launch day review when 6 hits the presses on 20 Nov.

I’ll close on some dog news. Milo has grown a lot since I first wrote to you, and I struggle sometimes to tell him apart from Max at a glance. Though at 5 months old he’s still got some growing to do, so maybe he’ll end up being the obviously larger one. At least they both sleep through the night on the sofa now – no more escape from playpen shenanigans.

Keep well,

Chris