Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Media and journalism
Lunchtime O’Booze is the name given by Private Eye to a certain vintage of Fleet Street era (i.e. when they really all did work in or near to Fleet Street) journo. One of these (now long retired) characters was staying with me earlier this week, kipping down on my sofa-bed to be precise. Tony now lives in France, but he was over here for a few days, to participate in a lunch, with a dozen or more of his old Fleet Street cronies.
I met up with Tony on Sunday evening, and we dined out, very well. Thanks to my twiddly screen, I was able to take photos of him like this, with the camera resting in the middle of the table, and me just looking down at it:
Tony looks rather like one of those South African type villains in The Saint, which I have been watching lately from time to time, waiting for the IPL to start on ITV4.
Next day, Tony departed for the lunch. Ring me when it’s over, I said, maybe we can do something in the evening. Nine hours later, Tony rings to say he’ll be back soon, and eleven hours later he is. I feared drunken disruption. Which I would have survived. Tony has been very hospitable to me over the years. But the evening ended very pleasantly.
To give you a further idea of what kind of lunch it was, here is a limerick, which Tony brought back from it:
An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Said I’ll tell you something I do know
Girls are just fine
And boys are divine
But a llama is numero uno
And here is a photo, taken by someone else with Tony’s phone:
The big guy - a very big guy indeed - in the middle used to play prop forward for the Harlequins and is now a wine correspondent, the sort of bloke who has a special table in his home for drinking guests under. The ultimate oh-stay-a-bit-longer-and-have-another-one bloke. I think the guy on the right drives new cars for a living, in such places as the south of France, and then writes about them. Certainly, someone of this kind was involved.
Do not ask men like this to drink and drive. They just might do it.
And the first thing I photoed yesterday was newspaper headlines, about Britain’s Envy-of-the-World NHS. Those first three were literally the first three snaps I took yesterday, and the last one was photoed later, at London Bridge Station, more about which later, I hope.
Read, and be amazed:
I honestly cannot remember a day when Britain’s NHS has ever, ever had a worst press than it had yesterday. (The same stories had been all over the telly on Wednesday evening also.)
I hope to write at greater length at Samizdata about these dramas, connecting it to my Alpha Graphs stuff, but promise nothing
The basic idea being that a nationalised industry collapses not when it merely starts deteriorating, but only when it is deteriorating so fast that a switch to the free market, although horrible, would be no worse even in the short run. And of course massively better in the long run. But it’s the short run that matters because it is during that short run that you or your elderly loved one dies, through being left out in a corridor or some such horror.
Libertarians are prone to assume that things like the NHS are untouchable, merely because people continue to swear by them when they are getting only somewhat worse. Brainwashed fools! They will never see sense! But they are seeing sense. And then suddenly, to the amazement of libertarians, they do suddenly see sense. Actually, just a bit more sense, along with the sense they had already been seeing.
See also: collapse of the USSR.
The NHS has a bit of a way to go before it folds, because people are still at the stage, as you can tell from these headlines, of thinking that sacking the Boss and installing a New Boss would turn things around. But, any year now ...
When you want to write a big old piece about Something Important, it’s not a bad idea for a blogger to rip out a little piece about it in the meantime, in a single figure number of minutes. That at least gets the meme out there and gives it a chance to propagate, even if a bigger piece at Samizdata would do that better.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
Now, back to serious stuff, the Australia v South Africa test series starts in just under an hour. If Australia win this series they get the number one spot back - possibly a little prematurely, but I will take it if it happens. And in truth, if they win this series I think they will deserve it as much as anyone else does.
I am now tracking this here.
As I said to Antoine in that election chat we recorded, this is the kind of cricket match I would have liked to follow twenty years ago, but couldn’t. Now, I can.
The new Surrey captain is already off the mark.
This afternoon Antoine Clarke and I, all being well, will be having a recorded chat about the US presidential election.
[LATER: Here is the recording. Not everything went well. If my computer’s response is anything to go by, you will hear this through only one speaker, and in somewhat imperfect sound. But nobody listens to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom sound files to be knocked out by their superb sound quality. What we both say is audible, and the good news is that the file is far smaller than usual. I hope that, if you listen, you enjoy it. It lasts just under 45 minutes.]
Meanwhile, here is another attempt to embed a video here. This time it’s John McCain, talking about just how badly Obama screwed up this Benghazi business.
That got shown on CBS. How many people have watched it, or will watch it before the election, I have no idea. The importance of this and all the other Obama scandals is not that they are scandalous, but whether or not large numbers of Americans are hearing about them.
I have been speculating that the “mainstream” media would maybe desert Obama. Well, a few people in it are expressing doubts, but on the whole media bias has never been more blatant and brazen. This is because Obama is, far more than any previous Democrat, their perfect candidate. Hard left, and determined to inflict (in a thoroughly bad way) fundamental change on America. I really want these media people to get the kicking of their lives.
Obama’s enemies are still trying to sort out whether they think Obama is merely crass by nature, or evil on purpose. We may never know. Successful people (and Obama has been very successful by most measurements) do what they are best at.
I cannot for the the life of me see how re-electing Obama could possibly be anything but a giant act of folly and self-destruction on the part of America.
The BBC, by the way, are still saying that this election is a dead heat. Or this is what they said on the 9am news bulletin on Radio 3, just before CD Review last Saturday. Others say Obama is going to get landslided. I think landslide, but ... we shall see.
If the video isn’t working properly, please let me know. Not that I will then know what to do, but it will influence my enthusiasm for further such attempts.
Well, well. I just added, to the posting below, this:
Actually, I think I got the first two sentences of the paragraph above wrong. It should read: “What polls tell you is not what voters are thinking. They tell you what the pollsters think the voters are thinking”. What I actually put is indeed “not entirely true”. This explains, I think, and as my original version does not, why pollsters don’t get the result right, but do get right the direction in which opinion is heading at any particular moment, which, as I introspect, I have been letting them tell me about. Because they do get that right. The misleading samples of people that the pollsters each talk to include a few who change their minds, and the pollsters do pick up on this. So, now, the pollsters are getting right that opinion is flowing steadily away from Obama and towards Romney. But at no stage in this process did, or do, or will they register how bad things were, and are, and will be, for Obama.
And mere hours later, I read this:
One way of avoiding this error is to look at the same poll over a long period of time. The numbers themselves might be off, but as long as the same flawed methodology doesn’t change, you should still be able to pick up trends.
But he’s not even sure that Obama will lose, although he definitely inclines that way. I incline that way more and more definitely with every day that passes.
And now, it seems I’m only one of a stampede.
Already, I am turning my mind to a piece about Romney, entitled something like: Okay, he’s going to win, but then what?
In particular, the pollsters do not have to know. I think the polls have, all along, been wrong about this election, wronger than ever before. The polls are not being told what people have been, are, and will be thinking. The polls were wrong when they said Obama was walking it. They are wrong now that they are saying it’s close. They will be wrong when they say Romney will just about win, as they soon will. But on the day, in the real poll, Obama is going to be slaughtered. Romney will win all the “battleground” states and several which are not now even thought to be in contention.
What polls tell you is not what the result will be. They tell you what the pollsters think the result will be. How do they know what they know? Same way I do. They guess. (In this respect, poll results remind me of economic models.) Okay that isn’t entirely true. I myself factor in what the polls say when I make my guesses. But the polls are sufficiently wrong to be very wrong indeed, for an event that can be bent into a completely different shape by single figure percentage point errors.
[LATER: Actually, I think I got the first two sentences of the paragraph above wrong. It should read: “What polls tell you is not what voters are thinking. They tell you what the pollsters think the voters are thinking”. What I actually put is indeed “not entirely true”. This explains, I think, and as my original version does not, why pollsters don’t get the result right, but do get right the direction in which opinion is heading at any particular moment, which, as I introspect, I have been letting them tell me about. Because they do get that right. The misleading samples of people that the pollsters each talk to include a few who change their minds, and the pollsters do pick up on this. So, now, the pollsters are getting right that opinion is flowing steadily away from Obama and towards Romney. But at no stage in this process did, or do, or will they register how bad things were, and are, and will be, for Obama. End of LATER.]
We shall see, etc.
Romney’s final burst of adverts will have further impact. Obama’s adverts have accomplished little. They said Romney isn’t likable, is a right wing nutjob, etc. Debate One negated this message. They said something about “Big Bird”. Ridiculous. But that doesn’t prove that adverts accomplish nothing, by their nature. Just as in the debates, and unlike Obama, Romney (and Ryan) have plenty of persuasive things that they want to say.
In a comment on this, I noted that the TV Umpire lady in the Vice President debate did Biden no favours by allowing him to behave so very badly. Had she told him early on to stop his giggling and interrupting, Biden might well have won that debate. But give TV Umpire lady her due, she did at least interrupt Ryan, whenever his speeches were starting to sound too eloquent.
But Romney’s adverts can correct that, by saying everything Team Romney now wants to say, and which the mainstream media have until now stopped them saying by less expensive means. And, they can use the exact words which will work best.
Plus, Team Romney will have, I believe, another two debates worth of Obama waffle to use, like they have already used Biden’s laughing.
Like Jim Bennett said:
John, let me suggest that the criteria for victory are changing. The debate no longer ends when the debaters walk off stage. And now it no longer ends when the TV spinners have, like cuckoos, laid their eggs and flown away. There is now the long, long reverberation in social media, where the basic debate footage serves as raw material for mash-ups and parodies and treatments for the rest of the election cycle and beyond. And Biden’s performance, which won him some tactical advantage in the debate, has set him up as the target for rich satire and a way that Ryan’s conventional performance didn’t and cannot do. His performance is comic gold, and although within hard-core Dem/left circles he will be celebrated as the warrior, everywhere else, and especially for basically apolitical young YouTube viewers, he will be the jackass supreme. I suspect that by Election Day, the various parodic videos will have had a larger viewership than the debate itself. By this criterion, the tactic was a massive miscalculation.
If the same thing happens to Obama, between now and the election (I believe it will), he really will be slaughtered.
But … we shall see.
LATER: Mitt Romney in a landslide.
I love it when this happens:
That was yesterday morning, and the Insta-link was to this. (I went looking for the posting in the picture, but already it has disappeared off the bottom of Instapundit, into the archives of history. I could find it, but if you really want to, so can you.)
The great thing about being linked to these days is that you, by the nature of things, get to tell your side of the story, in exactly the words you choose. In the days of “Hey, I’m in the newspaper!” you had to just hope that what they said was approximately accurate. Often it was almost absurdly inaccurate, to the point where you wish they hadn’t mentioned whatever it was.
By the way, I am finding myself taking more trouble over the titles of blog postings, more than in the glory days before Proper People got hold of blogging and started Doing It Properly, often for money. Then, you could call what you put anything and there would still be a million readers.
I wonder, for instance, if Instapundit would have done that latest link, to “Azhar Ahmed - and I - and every British citizen - should all have the right to say offensive things” if I hadn’t written that micro-essay at the top of it. Maybe yes. But such a title saved him the bother of having to find out and then say what the piece was about, and it already said something he wants people to be told. So, he just copied, pasted and linked.
I wanted to put the words “and informative” in between “long” and “titles” in the title of this posting, but Expression Engine wouldn’t allow a title that long and hence informative.
I told you (in the Romney’s Going To Win Big posting below) that they’d break ranks:
In my opinion Pat Caddell suggests a golden age of mainstream media non-bias that never really existed. But nevertheless, interesting.
I hope this goes viral.
On the other hand, there’s this:
“Obama’s fighting for his life, his party is fighting for their life, and they’re winning. This is, I’ve said all along, this is Romney’s election to lose and by God he’s losing,” Caddell said.
Well, I think Romney is already winning, but I can’t believe he won’t come out of his corner and land a few big blows, come debates time, but maybe he won’t. Like I say, we’ll see.
If I were a betting man, which I am not (or only in the form of blog postings like this one), I would bet that Obama is not just going to lose his forthcoming election, but lose it big. I am not that confident about what follows, which is why it goes here rather than here). It may be wishful thinking, but it is what I have been thinking, and I wanted to get it written down, so that later I can’t strengthen it in my mind if I am right, or blur it if I am wrong.
This guy also thinks this, as do others I have read saying it but have now forgotten the names of.
Of my immediate circle, Michael J has already commented, here, to the effect that he now sees no evidence of a landslide, and that Romney will probably win, but small. What do others of the sort inclined ever to comment at this tiny little ticking-over personal blog think about this?
My reasons are, in no particular order (this is only a tiny little ticking-over personal blog):
The polls are bent towards Obama, by Democrat intimidation. The Dems calculate that if they can persuade Repubs that Romney will lose, some Repubs will say what’s the use? - and stay home. Voters love a winner and are less likely to vote for a loser, or so I keep being told. No doubt this will diminish the Repub vote a bit, but not enough to make the polls an entirely self-fulfilling prophesy. They are still several percentage points out.
The polls are also out by personal inclination. Most of the people who work for these operations are Dems, because Dems are obsessed with politics, Repubs less so. Repub kids get proper jobs like lawn mowing or pool cleaning, or if grown-up, they get actual proper jobs doing regular round-the year stuff for serious money, and if not that is what they are trying to do. These Dem pollsters hear, even if they genuinely try not to, what they want to hear, not least because people tell them what people think they want to hear.
Polls have, in general, been getting ever more inaccurate, as people learn that they can say whatever they hell they like to pollsters, most definitely including nothing. Even the ones sincerely determined to resist pro-Dem bias are still biased thus, somewhat.
In particular, this time around, people still don’t know how to answer the accusation that being anti-Obama is racist. Which is why the Dems keep on using this accusation. People know it isn’t so, but are unpractised at making the necessary subtle distinctions. So, to avoid some presumably pro-Obama person even thinking they are racist, they either lie, or fluff, rather than speak their minds.
All of these polling distortion effects are quite slight, but each is enough to ruin a process where one or two per cent can make all the difference. But, crucially, almost all these effects now point in the same direction. That’s a big effect. I think the polls will be more wrong this time around than ever before.
The economy is not good, and Obama has no story about how to improve it.
In particular, the economy is horrible for young educated people, the ones who voted for Obama in their millions last time around. These people are pissed off, big time. Quite a lot will blame Obama, and will stay at home. Some, under the influence of cool libbo Ron Paul memes, may even switch to Romney. Many are ashamed of how they voted for Obama with such enthusiasm last time, and are not telling the pollsters about this. (See above: the polls are very wrong.)
Obama is pissing all over the Jews. This never works.
The bias of the mainstream media is becoming more obvious now, to a lot of American people. Last time, media bias went with the grain of American opinion, and the media have thus had eight uninterrupted years to degenerate into blatant propaganda operations, and the internet has had eight years to tell everyone that this is so. More than ever before, media bias is now believed in . Again, a matter of degree. But like I say, these degrees all add up. In particular, more now distrust those predictions of Obama victory, and will accordingly refuse to be influenced by them into not bothering to vote.
Romney is not nearly as big a jerk as a lot of disappointed Libbos and Conservatives seem to think, or as Dems hope. He keeps on winning. I think he will do much better in the debates than most others seem to, because he has a story to tell, to and about an opponent who does not. Romney is indeed not a genius debater, but he knows it, and knowing also that he is winning, he will prepare hard and go in with exactly the right amount of and kind of confidence, like a winning sportsman. He will surprise many by how well he does.
Meanwhile Obama, surrounded by yes men, and fatally arrogant, and tired, a fed-up and probably knowing he is going to lose, and having nothing to say, will not prepare well enough for the debates. He faces a near-impossible task, and will not be up to it.
The Dinesh D’Souza movie is hurting Obama, as will stuff like this (Arab money and support to pay for Obama’s career). Americans are now ready to be told what sort of man Obama really is, this time around. First time around, they just voted for the cool black guy, on the grounds that it was damn well time America had itself a cool black guy as President. This time, policies and opinions will count, along with the (very bad) record of the last four years. Obama’s policies and opinions are hurting and will continue to hurt him.
Romney is a cunning bastard politician. His campaign will not only consist of the damaging things about Obama that he himself says. He probably will stay fairly positive. But the negative stuff will get out there, like that Arab money thing.
Romney now has a ton more money than Obama has. Obama has spent most of his trying, and failing, to stay in the race. Romney is about to spend similar quantities drawing ahead.
At some point between now and the election, some who now want Obama to win and are still propagandising for him will realise that he will not win, and will say why, if only to keep their own credibility in place, a bit. They will want, as the saying goes, to keep (some of) their powder dry, in order to (e.g.) trash President Romney and all his works. Obama will respond to these betrayals not with a spirited public rebuttal, but with a resigned shrug, which also will not look good. (A public meltdown is probably too much to hope for, but I hope for it nevertheless.) How pronounced this effect will be is very debatable. Maybe very obvious, maybe almost undetectable, but it will, to some degree happen. Already, to a tiny degree, it is happening.
Well, that’s enough to be going on with. I just wanted to place my little bet, so that if it turns out right I can say: I told you so. But much of the above is guesswork, so, Americans (especially Americans but also all others), please feel free to tell me I am wrong.
And then, we’ll see.
None of the above says that I think that this is the most important political battle in the world right now. Its only major importance would be if Obama were to win. But when (I think) Romney wins, the big questions will remain. How bad are things going to get? How unbadly can President Romney be persuaded to handle them?
For me, the big hero of all this is absolutely not Romney, or even Paul Ryan. It is the collective hero that is the Tea Party.
Well, I think it’s time I resumed more regular postings here, by sticking up more quota photos, so here’s one:
“Photocoy”. Heh. It’s isn’t a word, but it should be.
That could easily have been taken by me. It’s London, after all. Actually it was taken by Kristine Lowe, who writes of it:
Modern newsagents are diversifying as quickly as they can it seems. I just came across this fascinating photo I snapped last year because I was stunned by how many different services and goods this London newsagent sold. Is there a parallel here to the media industry? Should there be more of a parallel than there is? In either case, I find it a fascinating photo to contemplate.
I don’t know if it is right to call this shop a “newsagent”. England has always had what you might call “everything shops” run by persons who are shopaholics not in the sense of loving shopping but of loving to be in their shop all around the clock, and to have every little thing imaginable on sale in their shop.
But the thing that interests me about what Kristine says is about how she only realised how much she liked this photo when browsing through her photos, much later. Snap. I know exactly the feeling.
And like I always say, my camera regularly sees more than I do.
I can feel it starting to get harder to wander around London, physically. But I will be able to wander through my photo archives for many more years yet. As with wine collections, time will only add to the value.
However, I don’t believe the Moists actually care that their precious prophet has had his picture flashed about. I think they’re just looking for a fight, and I am giving them the oxygen of publicity. Oh well. But you can’t just ignore this crap. Here’s hoping the Gendarmes get them.
Don’t agree with the French politician (second link) who wants everyone to “respect” all opinions. Just tolerate, even as you despise and/or detest, is quite sufficient.
What’s Mo saying, by the way? Anyone? Ah, answer here.
Some of it:
If commentators have financial interests that may influence their opinions, shouldn’t we be told of those allegiances to players, or boards, when they are discussing them?
It’s not easy to do. Alec Stewart does it as well as any person in cricket I’ve seen. Stewart is Matt Prior’s agent. At a press day back in 2009 he was asked whether Prior was the right man for England, and he said that as his agent it was hard to answer. He then took off his Matt Prior hat (his words, not mine) and went on to discuss why he believed, as a neutral observer and former England wicketkeeper, that Prior was the best option. Stewart clearly wasn’t wrong - Prior is now as good as any keeper-batsman in Test cricket. And Stewart, when discussing Prior, especially his limited-overs omission, is still at pains to state that he is Prior’s agent. He can’t, however, do it in every sentence. When he is working for the BBC he will have to mention Craig Kieswetter during ODIs, but it would be obscene if every time he mentioned Prior or any other keeper, he has to shoehorn into the conversation that he is Prior’s agent.
Mark Taylor is another who regularly mentions his role on Cricket Australia’s board of directors whilst speaking on Channel Nine, although mostly it is mentioned as a punchline by the other commentators.
Others don’t seem to try anywhere near as much. Throughout the whole summer of listening to Ian Botham talk about Kevin Pietersen, I can’t remember a single time when he mentioned he’s the chairman of the agency that represents Pietersen. ...
I recommend all of it.
The comments (31 so far) seem to be mostly as admiring of this piece as I am.
My bias is that being a Surrey supporter, I am pleased to learn that Alec Stewart behaves honourably in this matter, and choose the bit where it says that to put here.
I wonder what bias Jarrod Kimber has as a result of being a Chuck.
I nearly included this photo of Kevin Dowd in my Samizdata posting last night about his performance for the Adam Smith Club, but I wanted to get that posting posted more quickly and more briefly than including it would have allowed, so here it is here:
I took that right after Dowd’s speech (it is misleading to call it a mere talk), which was a tour de force of detailed pessimism.
Dowd and Detlev Schlichter are now approximately equal in my estimation, both about as high as it is possible to be, Schlichter for his doggedly Germanic theoretical rigour, Dowd for his command of the details of the disaster as it is actually playing out. A year or so ago, I began to fear that Dowd was missing the forest through concentrating too closely on one of his preferred clutch of trees, namely his scheme to sort the banks out by supervising their bankruptcy instead of just squirting ever more money at them. This scheme sounds good to me, but Dowd sometimes gave off the vibe that he thought this was the heart of the problem and solving it would sort everything. I was, in short, starting to have doubts about having called Dowd one of the most important intellectuals in the world. Last night, such doubts melted away. Which, I now realise, is another reason why Dowd’s talk gave me such profound satisfaction. (See my Samizdata piece for the other reason why Dowd made me cheerful last night.)
The heart of the problem, as Schlichter is now painstakingly explaining to anyone who will listen, and as Dowd made absolutely clear last night that he also understands, is the inevitable forthcoming collapse of all the paper currencies and the need to get the world’s currencies back to gold. Last night was different. Last night Dowd painted the big picture in all its horror, and also found time to allude to What Is To Be Done, as and when the world ever becomes ready to think intelligently about such things.
Schlichter also supplies media brilliance. Dowd is at his best when he is doing his own big, set piece performance, untinterrupted, as he was last night. That way he can deploy detail, yet remain on top of it. Stick him in a TV studio and whichever mere detail the interviewer chooses to ask about is liable to swallow the big picture. Schlichter’s grasp of the big picture is undeviating, and, unlike Dowd, he looks and sounds the part. Schlichter has rationality and fluency and authority and cleverness and been-there-done-thatness and Good Germanness oozing out of every pour. His accent is definitely Germanic but his English impeccable, which is the perfect combination for sounding really clever. Dowd (to quote some words I cut out of my Samizdata posting) looks and sounds more like a man who ought to be wearing a brown coat and working for the Gas Board, rather than like any kind of economic policy Moses. He only looks and sounds impressive if you agree with every word he is saying, as I did last night. But even then there is a mismatch between the extreme excellence of his performance and his helpful and friendly service industry demeanour.
Indeed. Incoming from Alex:
Thought you might like to know about my new blog.
And I thought my readers might also like to know about it.
I wonder what they’re paying him.
David Hepworth, one of my favourite bloggers, recently had something to say about the New Headquarters syndrome, in connection with the travails of the old school media and their attempts to navigate the new digitalised oceans:
All the thinking about these momentous issues is being done inside massive new architect-designed corporate HQs which have been built in the last ten or so years. The media boom of the 90s provided them with the cash to build their own temples and imbued them with the belief that the expansion would go on forever. But they never dreamed that they would be thinking such frightened thoughts inside them. Ever since these companies - and many other media and publishing firms - moved into their airy new offices they’ve been shedding the staff they were intended to house and looking nothing like the masters of the universe the temples were intended to exalt.
See also the comments on Hepworth’s piece.
Here is a snap I took in March 2008, while they were building it, of the shiny new palace that now houses the Observer and the Guardian:
And here is what I both hope (because I despise what I now believe is the catastrophic nature of the EU project) and fear (because I fear that I will be one of the victims of the catastrophe unless I die first) will prove to be another example of the syndrome:
Via here. It looks like permanent scaffolding.