Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rocco on Milo Yiannopoulos
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Patrick Crozier on Peter Foster on Robert Owen
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Most recent entries
- Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
- Coloured lights in bottles outside the RFH
- Avian Friday
- New chairs
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Four towers joined together by two bridges
- Peter Foster on Robert Owen
- Quota Bald Blokes and Big Ben
- Less heat and more light
- Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
- Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
- Bell end?
- Couple photoing their own shadows
- Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
- What is this iceStone device?
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
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Category archive: Current events
It seems that I am not the only one reminiscing about photos taken nearly a decade ago. The Atlantic is now doing this, with the help of NASA and its Cassini orbiter, and the Cassini orbiter’s oresumably now rather obsolete camera:
Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus (504 kilometers or 313 miles across), is the subject of much scrutiny, in large part due to its spectacular active geysers and the likelihood of a subsurface ocean of liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter has studied Enceladus, along with the rest of the Saturnian system, since entering orbit in 2004. Studying the composition of the ocean within is made easier by the constant eruptions of plumes from the surface, and on October 28, Cassini will be making its deepest-ever dive through the ocean spray from Enceladus - passing within a mere 30 miles of the icy surface. Collected here are some of the most powerful and revealing images of Enceladus made by Cassini over the past decade, with more to follow from this final close flyby as they arrive.
Here is a picture of Enceladus taken on June 10th 2006:
That is picture number 25, or rather, a horizontal slice of it.
Beyond Enceladus and Saturn’s rings, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is ringed by sunlight passing through its atmosphere. Enceladus passes between Titan and Cassini ...
That’s right. Those two horizontal, ever so slightly converging white lines and the edge of the Rings of Saturn.
Picture number 10 is even more horizontalisable:
A pair of Saturn’s moons appear insignificant compared to the immensity of the planet in this Cassini spacecraft view. Enceladus, the larger moon is visible as a small sphere, while tiny Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers across) appears as a tiny black speck on the far left of the image, just below the thin line of the rings.
That one was taken on November 4th 2011.
Today I did a Samizdata posting about Corbyn and his atrocious supporters, and I celebrate that fact with this photo, taken on the last day of last month, of Labour Leader Corbyn, made to look like he has reached his level of incompetence:
Moments later I took another photo, of a bus. I am now officially photoing any London double decker bus of the new Boris variety, provided that it is entirely covered with an advert:
The point being that just as Black Cabs are not by any means always black, so too, London’s famed double decker buses are by no means always red.
This particular advert certainly worked, because I am drinking cider right now. But, not of the variety advertised on this bus.
The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me. When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all. Very peculiar. I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.
My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors. My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons. So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.
How good were Japan? Yes, very good. But. But. How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad. There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss. It’s all: the mighty Boks. Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them. “Political football” etc. Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase). Of not really trying, in other words. Other than that, nothing. Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10. Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest. But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good. Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.
I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium. Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is. Now I can see this. I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley. The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside. That’s terrific. One of London’s great new landmarks. But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary. But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.
England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win. But then again, most other teams seem only okay also. Except the All Blacks of course. How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder? They usually seem to find a way. Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.
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.
Excellent piece in the Daily Mash about photography and its impact, entitled Everyone sad because of photo of thing that’s been happening for months. I only just noticed this piece, probably because it didn’t include a photograph:
It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.
The thing about a photo is that a vivid photo can tell a story very quickly, this being why this particular one is getting around so much and being talked about so much. Not necessarily a true story, not straight away, but a story. And that’s what you want, if you are The Media. The Media sell stories. Truth, factual and/or moral, is nice too, but not the essence of the product. That photos do their job well is not a “conscience” thing. It is a speed of communication thing. Photos communicate a lot very quickly.
The speed with which a picture tells a story is why I have so many photos here. This is a kitten blog. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t expect you to take it seriously, unless you want to. My photos don’t consume your time, unless you want them to. Often, I only tell my stories here at all if I have a photo. It would take too long to explain with mere words, and anyway, what would be the point?
Headlines aren’t necessarily true either. In fact, I would say that the biggest media lies are to be found in photos and in headlines. Photos typically lie, when they do lie, by omission. Headlines just lie, and you can often tell they’re lies simply be reading the story under them.
Why do headlines lie? Because that often makes for a more appealing story. The truth is usually more mundane. But mundane doesn’t get you eyeballs.
What follows is one of the better commentaries on British politics that I have recently read. It is pertinent to the current dramas involving Jeremy Corbyn and what appears now to be his likely victory in the Labour Party leadership election, because it focusses on something which I think has been somewhat neglected by other commentators, namely the weakness of Corbyn’s opponents. It is by former Conservative Party Leader William Hague.
But since the Telegraph only allows me to see thirty (I think it is) articles each month before it blocks me (for about half the month), and since I never blog about things that my readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, which means that I am actually not interested in things that readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, here is the piece, here, in full. Now I am able to be interested in what follows, because here it is.
The original article contains links to other Telegraph pieces. These I have reproduced. But I have not checked if they work, because I don’t want to exhaust half my allotted Telegraph links with the month hardly having started.
If the Telegraph asks me to remove it from here, I will immediately remove it, and will instead replace what follows with smaller quotes and further commentary. And then I will lose all interest in it, except perhaps as an interesting little event concerning the rights and wrongs of intellectual property.
In late 1997, having rather rashly taken on the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I discussed with the new prime minister, Tony Blair, which of us had the most difficult job. “You have,” he said, without a moment’s doubt.
Blair was right. And that job was doubly more difficult because it was one pitched every day against him, the most formidable electoral opponent the Conservative Party has faced in its entire history. Before him, Labour had only twice since its foundation won a decisive majority; with him it did so three times in a row.
Although he is despised in Labour’s current leadership election, Blair was a Tory leader’s worst nightmare: appealing to the swing voter and reassuring to the Right-leaning, it was hard to find a square on the political chessboard on which he did not already sit. When people told me I did well at Prime Minister’s Questions, I knew I had to, since I had very little else going for me at all – I had to raise the morale of Conservatives each Wednesday to get them through the frustration and impotence of every other day of the week.
Blair courted business leaders and Right-wing newspapers, often to great effect. He was a Labour leader who loved being thought to be a secret Tory, a pro-European who was fanatical in support for the United States, a big spender who kept income taxes down, an Anglican who let it be known he wanted to be a Catholic and regularly read the Koran. He could be tough or soft or determined or flexible as necessary and shed tears if needed, seemingly at will. To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.
This was the human election-winning machine against which some of us dashed ourselves, making the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a promising manoeuvre by comparison. Yet now, only eight years after he left the scene he dominated, his party’s election is conducted with scorn for the most successful leader they ever had.
The first reason for this is the truly extraordinary rule allowing huge numbers of people to join up for the specific purpose of selecting the new leader. If there was an NVQ Level 1 in How To Run a Party, the crucial nature of the qualifying period to vote in a leadership election would be on the syllabus, possibly on the first page. Every student plotting to take over a university society knows that the shorter that period, the easier it is to mount an insurgency from outside. But this basic fact seems to have escaped Ed Miliband, along with every other possible consideration of what might happen after his own unnecessarily rapid departure.
The result of this is that Labour’s leader is being chosen by a largely new electorate, with correspondingly little sense of ownership of the party’s history, in which the desire to align the party with their own views outweighs any sense of duty to provide the country with an alternative government.
The second reason is the weakness of the mainstream candidates to an extent unprecedented in any election in a major party in British parliamentary history. Even in 1935, an even darker time for the Labour Party when it had far fewer MPs than today, the leadership election was between Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison: great names that are etched into our history. This is the first election of a Labour leader in which none of the candidates look like they could be prime minister five years later.
This weakness partly explains the third and most significant factor in what appears to be, in the form of Corbynmania, a sharp move to the pre-Blair, old-fashioned, Michael Foot-was-a-moderate, Seventies Left, which is that none of them has been able to articulate what a social democratic, centre-Left party should stand for in the first half of the 21st century.
Blair’s ability to win elections was not accompanied by a coherent philosophy. The seminars he held with Schroeder’s German SPD and Clinton Democrats on the “Third Way”, the ultimate attempt at government by triangulation, collapsed in ridicule. And the question neither Labour’s candidates nor their socialist colleagues abroad can now answer is – in a century in which markets dominate, more power passes to consumers, technology gives more choice by the day to individuals, working lives are more flexible than ever, and class-based voting is dying out, what is the role and purpose of the moderate Left?
You can scan in vain the speeches of Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham for a clear answer to this question, although I do not necessarily recommend it unless you find it hard to sleep. You might think there is a modern social democratic case to be made that some people – the less educated, unskilled, and immobile – could miss out on the benefits of the information revolution and that changing that is a new purpose of the centre-Left. Instead, in Britain and across Europe, it is left to fringe parties to prey on those dissatisfied with the vast and rapid changes in modern society.
And most revealing of all, those same speeches (yes, I really have read them), point to no model abroad of the Left in power, no hero to be admired or policy to be emulated. The main parties of the Left have turned into partners of conservatives in Germany, reformist liberals in Italy, back-pedalling socialists in France, catastrophes in Latin America, and been annihilated by extremists in Greece. There is still a Socialist International, but there is no longer a common ideology to underpin it.
Seen in this context, the agony of Labour’s leadership election is easier to understand. This is a tribe lost in a desert with no star to follow, and no inspirational leader to point to a new one. Across the world, parties that thrived on the socialist ideals of an industrialising society are losing their relevance, and what we are witnessing is a symptom and dramatic demonstration of that fact.
Faced with that awful reality, Labour is turning to something, anything, that seems authentic, passionate, and consistent. The failure, in Britain and abroad, to find the social democratic version of that is a failure of historic proportions.
This one (number 9) is among the most vivid:
What (I think) makes this such a remarkable image is that, by showing how totally the cars have all been wrecked, the nature of what hit them is, as it were, permanently recorded, the way it might not have been registered by mere empty ground. And because they are cars rather than buildings, each one a regular and very small distance from the ground, every ruined car is clearly visible, the way wrecked buildings might not have been. It’s as if each car is a fire-sensitive cell, like digital cameras have inside them for nailing down light.
Fireball. Nothing else could have done that.
However much the government of China and its various offshoots and local manifestations might have wanted to keep this amazing event under wraps, modern media, including digital photography, still and video, meant that they had no chance.
Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:
The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern. Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling. Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me? Would I return home to find my home ablaze? Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been? Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?
I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it. Eventually the www revealed what had happened. The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London. And this was one very big conflagration.
To quote the Evening Standard:
An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.
Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.
About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.
That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.
According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it. Not that photoing smoke is my forte. Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.
No matter. Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke. It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around. You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things. For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.
A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building. So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke. It could just be clouds, in my photo. Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.
As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there. I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.
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.
Photoed by me yesterday. Definitely one for the front page collection. Can’t find a link to the story though. Anyone?
Today, starting in the small hours of the morning, I’ve been rambling away at Samizdata about this election. Which was, I found, intensely dramatic and interesting, not least because all the polls were wrong. I was apathetic about voting, in a soporifically safe Conservative constituency. But I stopped being apathetic as soon as the drama of it all started to play out on the telly.
But, how could I have missed the news of this manifesto for cats, until today? Answer, today was the first time I tried googling “cats general election”.
Police in India have a new weapon for controlling unruly protesters in the world’s largest democracy: pepper-spraying drones.
Yashasvi Yadav, police chief of the northern city of Lucknow, said on Tuesday that his officers have successfully test-flown the newly purchased drones with a view to better crowd control.
So, when will BrianMicklethwaitDotCom be linking to a story about how the protesters have their own drones, to attack the police drones with? Drones are not just the automation of aerial warfare. They are the potential degovernmentalisation of aerial warfare. I mean, how the hell will they stop this? Drones are ridiculously cheap compared to regular airplanes. It’s only a matter of time before no major political demonstratiion will be complete without a struggle for command of the air.
I wonder if people like Police Chief Yadav realise what they may be starting.
A man believed to be a recreational drone operator accidentally crashed a small device onto the White House grounds early Monday, investigators said, briefly triggering a lockdown and reinforcing concerns about security at the executive mansion.
Here, as promised, is a big clutch of photos of signs that I took at the Trafalgar Square demo yesterday. If you want to, click on a square to get the original photo. The squares have, in quite a few cases been fiddled out with to make them a bit clearer, but the originals you’ll get to with clicking are exactly as taken.
There were, of course, lots of signs (including many mobile phones and at least one tablet) saying “I AM CHARLIE”, in fact you can see quite a few such if you do some clicking. But, here are all the signs I photographed that said something else as well, or instead:
Of all of these, my two favourites are “Team Civilization”, and “Down With The Tyranny of The Offended” (in French). But demos are at least as much about quantity as quality, and I trust the sheer number of signs shown here (there were plenty more that I didn’t get to photo) makes the bigger point. There were a lot of people turning out to denounce these horrible attacks.
Even the rather or almost completely illegible signs are an encouragement, I think, because what these signs tell us is that quite a few people were present, and feeling strongly enough about it to want to wave a sign, who had never been anywhere near such a demo ever before.
Feel free to reproduce any of these images at will, with or without attribution. If you’d like bigger versions of any of the pictures, my email can be found here, top left, where it says “Contact”.
Spent the middle of the day at the demo, taking my usual excessive number of pictures, and then the evening trying to divide them up into clumps to show here, or somewhere.
My main impression was that this was a real demo, rather than some faked up exercise in pretending to be angry about some bit of bad economic or political news that some bunch of people have just been hit by, but not very hard, with lots of identical signs all printed out by the same dubious Marxist agitprop organisation, and then afterwards lots of moaning about how the evil Mass Media paid no attention. There were a lot of people there:
Not surprisingly, there were a lot of French people present, what with London now containing so many French people. Also not surprisingly, the average age of those present was young, what with there being so many young French people in London.
My thanks to Goddaughter 2, now back in London, who told me that she and a friend were going to attend. Had she not done this, I would only have twigged that it was happening when it started happening and I saw it on the telly.
I have in mind, Real Soon Now, to be posting a clump of pictures of the signs and pictures that people were holding up, along the lines of these photos, that I took of a much smaller demo in London a while back, including the one above, and also including this one, which I especially like:
My immediate reaction to the Paris brouhaha was not: “I am Charlie Hebdo!” It was to take another crack at reading the Quran, to check if it really is as obnoxious as I remember it being the first time around. So far, it is, even more than I remember.
The biggest cat news right now is that a tiger is causing an international incident, between Russia and China:
Chinese media claims the feline in question is Ustin, one of five electronically-tagged Siberian tigers released by Russian authorities in May and June 2014.
The big cat has since wandered into northeastern China where, national news agency Xinhua reports, he entered a farm, killing fifteen goats over two nights and leaving another three missing.
Xinhua claims Ustin was among the first group of tigers released in May by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia denies this claim, suggesting that he was released in June, by Russian conservationists.
Apart from that, the only decent cat story is about a place in America that smells of cat piss. They don’t yet know why. They may never know.