Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- The difference between roof clutter and roof clutter
- Another photo for the traffic lights countdown set
- Centre Point through the new station entrance
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- Keeping up appearances next to Centre Point
- A model of London now opening to the public
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Category archive: Middle East and Islam
The rise and (I now fondly hope) fall of Donald Trump continues to fascinate.
This bloke says it very well, I think:
Trump is powerfully illustrating the fraud at the core of his case for the nomination. He claims that because he is a successful businessman he would be much more adept than conventional politicians at mastering the intricacies of problems and processes. He will, he brags, figure out how to deal with challenges in a way that maximizes American interests, assembling the best, most competent people to execute his plans of action. As a result, we are told, American will “win, win, win” with such numbing regularity that we will be bored to tears by all the success.
But look what is happening. The process of choosing a Republican nominee for president, while far from simple, is not as complicated as many of the challenges that cross an American president’s desk. There are, moreover, countless experienced hands who know how the process works and how to build an organization nimble enough to navigate the array of primaries (open and closed), caucuses, party meetings, varying delegate-allocation formulas, etc., exploiting or mitigating the advantages and disadvantages these present for different kinds of candidates. Yet, Trump has been out-organized, out-smarted, and out-worked by the competition – in particular, Ted Cruz, whom I support.
Trump is not being cheated. Everyone is playing by the same rules, which were available to every campaign well in advance. Trump simply is not as good at converting knowledge into success – notwithstanding the centrality of this talent to his candidacy. Perhaps this is because he is singularly good at generating free publicity (and consequently minimizing the publicity available to his rivals). Maybe he underestimated the importance of building a competent, experienced campaign organization. But he can hardly acknowledge this because it is a colossal error of judgment – and his purportedly peerless judgment is the selling point of his campaign.
My first reaction to Trump was guilty pleasure, and the belief that he would win. Now it looks like he won’t win. Now it looks as though he has done America the huge favour of (a) destroying everyone in the Republican race except the man I support, Cruz, and then (b) showing himself to be unfit to run for President, let alone win, which means that Cruz could now be President, if he can beat Hillary Clinton (or whoever). Would Cruz now have such a good chance of becoming President without Trump having flailed about like a wrecking ball, wrecking everyone except Cruz?
It is said that Cruz is a Bible Thumper. (Trump worships only himself.) But for me, frankly, Bible thumping just now is a feature rather than a bug. I reckon the Western World could damn well do with a bit more Bible thumping than it has been doing of late.
Yes, I’m talking about Islam. The rich Christians right now are turning poorer Christian’s cheeks a hell of a lot too much at the moment.
On that subject, I also recommend this posting at Mick Hartley’s, where MH has this to say:
What I’d like to see is more robust criticism of Islam itself. Given the role Islam now plays globally in ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda; its insistence that the Koran is the immutable word of Allah; its general refusal to accommodate to the modern liberal scientific world; its misogyny; its violence, this shouldn’t prove to be that difficult. What stands in the way - apart from lack of courage - is that this comes at a particular post-colonial moment in history when we in the West seem to have lost confidence in our own liberal secular tradition.
There is also, perhaps more importantly, a general confusion about a belief and the people who hold that belief, which is perfectly exemplified in the term “Islamophobia”.
It’s a key part of our secular culture that we distinguish between the person and their opinions and beliefs. I think we inherit this to some extent from our Christian tradition - freedom of conscience, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, and all that - but however it was arrived at, it’s a key enlightenment concept that underpins our sense of justice and our sense of democracy. So we should be quite comfortable criticising Islam while maintaining a proper respect for individual Muslims. ...
Or: Spoughts thoughts? You choose.
Sport (spought) has been good to me of late. Last summer, England won the Ashes. My local cricket team, Surrey, got promoted to division one, and also got to the final of the fifty overs county knock-out tournament. England then defeated South Africa in South Africa. England (a different England but still England) won the Six Nations rugby Grand Slam. And now (back to cricket again) England have got to the last four of the twenty overs slog competition, alongside the Windies, India and New Zealand. Few expect England to win this. But then, few expected England to get to the last four. No South Africa (beaten amazingly by England). No Australia (beaten today by India (aka Virat Kholi)). No Pakistan or Sri Lanka. But: England still involved.
Concerning the Grand Slam, the best thing about it was England winning all its games, but otherwise it was … a bit crap. The recently concluded World Cup, in which England did rather less well loomed too large over it. The World Cup featured no Six Nations sides in its last four, and when watching our local lads stressing and straining against each other you couldn’t help (a) thinking that the Southern Hemispherians would murder them, and (b) that a lot of the best Six Nations players seemed to be Southern Hemispherians themselves. I mean, what kind of rugby world are we living in when the most threatening French back is called Scott Spedding and was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa?
The Six Nations was worth it just to hear Jonathan Davies, a man whose commentating I have had reason to criticise in the past, say that a certain game is “crucial”, and that Wales have “matured”:
As for the twenty-twenty slogfest now in full slog, well, I have been rooting for England (England’s best batsman being a bloke called Root), but also for Afghanistan. You might think that as a devout anti-Islamist, which I definitely am, I would be rooting for the Muslim teams to lose. But actually, I think sport is one of the leading antidotes to Islamo-nuttery, and it is my understanding that the Islamo-nutters regard sport and sports-nuttery not as an expression of Islamo-nuttery, but rather, as a threat to it. Sports nuttery ultimately causes fellowship with the infidels rather than hatred of them, underneath all the youthful antagonisms which it does indeed inflame. It’s hard not to get pally with people when you play or follow games with them and against them, especially as you get older, and remember previous hostilities with fondness rather than anger.
So, in short: go Afghanistan! The Afghanistan twenty-twenty cricket team, I mean. Afghanistan gave England a hell of a fright and nearly beat them. And yesterday, they actually did beat the West Indies, even though it didn’t count for so much because the Windies had already got through to the semis and the Afghans would be going home now no matter what. But, even so, beating the Windies was a big deal, and the cricket world will have noticed, big time.
Here is Cricinfo, at the moment of Afghan triumph:
I love it when a T20 game really boils up, and they put “dot ball” in bold letters, the way they usually only write “OUT” and “FOUR” and “SIX” and “dropped”, or, as in this case, “an amazing, brave, brilliant running catch!”
And soon after that climax to the game, came this:
Chris Gayle is quite a character. Having scored a brilliant century against England that won the Windies that match and put England in the position of having to win everything from then on, his commitment to the West Indian cause is not in doubt, as it might have been had he celebrated like this with the Afghans without having done any other notable things in this tournament. He has quarrelled with West Indian cricket bureaucrats over the years, and has definitely seemed to have like playing for the Bangalore Royal Challengers more than for the West Indies.
His demeanour after today’s Afghan game is in sharp contrast to his lordly impassivity after taking the wicket of David Miller of South Africa, which reduced South Africa to 47-5, a predicament from which they failed to recover
One of the delights of virtually following this tournament is that it has been possible to watch little videos of dramatic moments, like the one of Gayle taking this wicket and then not celebrating very much. The graphic additions to this posting are merely screen captures. Clicking on them accomplishes nothing. But if you go to the original commentary from which I took my graphics, you can click on the little black video prompts, and get a little video of the drama just described.
Also: Happy Easter.
For me the interesting stuff is about why they may not be falling quite so often in the future:
We’ve already reached the next step in safety. Crane manufacturers are now trying to build in new automatic features to keep disaster from striking their equipment. Modern-day mobile cranes have load moment indicators that, when they are properly programmed, act as limit switches. These switches limit operators from moving loads deemed too heavy for the crane. The high-flying tower cranes have controls to limit loads in various places on the hoist line, depending on the function of the crane at any given point.
Tower and mobile cranes now can come equipped with video cameras to show views of the loads and work zones in the operator cab - the newest cranes include this technology in “head-up displays” that require no looking down to see the images - to manage blind lifts. Additionally, crane operators can expect to use anti-collision systems to stop a crane from moving outside its engineered zone.
The most recent crane malfunction I can find having happened in London was this one, in Ealing. Nobody hurt.
Different story altogether when a crane recently fell over in Mecca. Death toll: 107.
This prang, on the other hand, was not a crane collapsing, rather was it driven into by a helicopter. Ever since that happened, in January 2013, London’s construction cranes have all had bright red lights on the top of them. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “red light district”:
Those cranes are across the river from me, photoed by me last November. Not the best photo you’ve ever seen, but it does the job of showing you what I’m talking about.
I did a posting at Samizdata in 2012, about a trip I made to One New Change, but I don’t believe I ever displayed this photo, which I took soon after visiting the top of that excellent venue:
It is quite clear that this is a drycleaners. Its name, alas, is not, in my photo, quite so clear.
Photo of this enterprise taken without my deliberate and rather malicious mistake here.
I have just got back from a party at Mchael J’s, having failed to do anything here before departing to it, and this was all I could manage.
But, I can add this. During that party Michael said, while travel-talking about the Middle East:
The thing you have to remember about that part of the world is that Hezbollah are the good guys.
I think he was talking about Syria, but I could be wrong. It was a good party.
Perry de Havilland also said something else very funny, but I have forgotten what it was. It was a good party.
Good night. Sleep well. I will.
I see that of Counting Cats, in the person of Julie near Chicago, recently linked to a piece by the late Antony Flew entitled The Terrors of Islam, a piece which I had totally forgotten about. But I am sure that this piece influenced me very strongly when I read it. And I definitely did read it because I published it, for the Libertarian Alliance (Chris Tame Tendency).
It always pleases me hugely when someone links to an old LA effort of mine like this. Not exclusively mine, you understand. Somebody else had to write it. But … mine. And this particular piece of Flew’s is downright prophetic.
Counting Cats had a strange outbreak of junk postings about fake university essays a week or two back but seems to be over it now.
How much you learn from something that you just read depends not only on what it says, but on what you knew before you read it. And for me, this short paragraph cleared up several big blurs in my knowledge of Olden Times:
The new technique of fighting which had won the battle of Hastings for the Normans was also adopted in England; instead of standing or riding and hurling the lance overarm, these new warriors, the knights, charged on horseback with the lance tucked beneath the arm, so that the weight of both horse and rider was behind the blow and the weapon was reusable. Though it required discipline and training, giving rise to the birth of tournaments and the cult of chivalry, a charge by massed ranks of knights with their lances couched in this way was irresistible. Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess who witnessed its devastating effect during the First Crusade, claimed that it could ‘make a hole in the wall of Babylon’.
That’s from the second page (page 8) of the first chapter of Agincourt, by Juliet Barket.
That bit in school history where they explained what a knight was and what knights did and how the knights did it … well, I missed it. And ever since, everyone talking about such things has assumed that I knew it very clearly, when I didn’t. It’s so obvious. How would someone like me not know it?
Oh, I sort of knew it, from having seen a hundred films where film actors did this, in film battles and in film tournaments. But I had not realised that it was a military innovation like the phalanx or gunpowder or the tank or the airplane or the atom bomb. I had not properly realised that the essence of Knighthood was collective action rather than mere individual virtue, the point being that it was the former which required the latter. And I had not realised that it was what won the Battle of Hastings. Or, even more interestingly, I had not realised that it was what won the First Crusade. (After which, I’m guessing that the Muslims then copied it.
Medieval society did not give rise to Knights. The Knights technique of fighting gave rise to Medieval society.
I remember reading Tom Holland’s Millennium, and being presented right at the end with the result of the First Crusade, without there having been any mention (that I recall) of how a European military innovation was what won it. (That doesn’t mean Holland does not mention this, merely that I don’t remember him mentioning it.)
So, at the heart of the European years between Hastings (1066) and Agincourt (1415 (when I now suppose the Knights to have met their nemesis in the form of the next big military innovation, the Archers (hence the picture on the front of Agincourt))) was a technique of fighting. Like I say, I sort of knew this, but have never before isolated this fact in my head, as a Big Fact. Instead, I have spent my whole life being rather confused about this Big Fact, reading a thousand things where the Big Fact was assumed, but never actually explained.
Why did I not correct this confusion decades ago? Because, not knowing it properly, I had not realised what a huge confusion it was.
More and more, I find myself interested in not only architecture but vehicles. Time was when I would always wait for vehicles to move out of the way, while I took photos of more properly photographic things, like buildings. But vehicles are also interesting. It is interesting, for instance, that most of the photographers I like to observe still regard vehicles only as an aesthetic interruption, rather than as being worthy of aesthetic reflection in their own right.
A particular category of vehicle I have recently been hoovering up with my Lumix FZ200 is “black cabs that aren’t actually black”. I chose this particular specimen because this is Friday and there is a big cat involved:
For Londoners, it’s an obvious fact, a fact not worth discussing, that whereas many black cabs are indeed black, many are not. But how many of those unfortunates who do not live in London, or who do not even visit London regularly, or who may never have visited London, know that black cabs aren’t necessarily black? Such persons may be interested by this, to them, unobvious fact.
Okay, not so very interesting, especially if you are a Londoner. But what do you make of this car?:
I photoed that soon after photoing the bald selfie stick guy in this earlier posting.
As it sped away I took another photo of this car, which was very blurry but which did just about tell me what its very distinct number plate was. And I can definitely tell you that the car is this car. It’s an example of something called “car wrapping”, whatever that may be. Comments anyone?
Even weirder is this car, which I photoed yesterday afternoon, in Victoria Street, soon after photoing the taxi in picture number one above:
What on earth is that? The www told me nothing.
I note that this weirdmobile has a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour to it, including what looked (in other blurrier pictures) like quite a lot of Middle Eastern writing on it, in among the English verbiage. But what it all means, or what kind of service is being sold or publicised, I have no idea. Again: can anyone tell me more?
Last Friday was another of those first days of Spring, which are coming thick and fast now. Spring has very nearly sprung, in other words. So, I was out on Westminster Bridge photoing the tourists and their cameras like it was 2006. Here are my favourites:
I’ve always been fond of the baglady look, and we see two more examples of the genre there.
For some reason, I feel that a photo of someone holding up a Cool Britannia bag is a lot cooler than a Cool Britannia bag. And the other baglady, dressed as David Hockney, looks really good in front of all that appetising verbiage, on the food kiosk next to Westminster Bridge at the Parliament end, right near where this photo was also taken. A favourite spot.
As for the lady in black, I’m not sure whether was actually photoing. Maybe she was just checking text messages. I hope she is having a good life. Here is a recent reminder that burqas can be bad news for those who wear them.
As for the group self-photoing themselves with a selfie stick, it really is time that I gathered up all the selfie-stick photos I’ve taken lately, and posted a group of them here. (But, I promise nothing.)
The selfie-stick is the latest photoing device to incur the wrath of all of those people who divert themselves by getting wrathful about the newly acquired habits of others, especially when those habits involve photography, and especially when they involve self-photography. The last such fuss involved using tablets to take photos.
Although, it seems that selfie sticks have been around for a bit longer than you might think.
Today I decided that I would like to do one of those “A Year In …” postings, at the end of this year, featuring newspaper front pages, one for each month. Everything hinged on whether I’d happened already to have taken any pictures of front pages during January.
And, I had. These front pages:
And I expanded the picture, and scrolled across. Tax demands. Some NHS politics ruckus. Snow warning. Something to do with racing, which anyway is not properly visible. Yawn yawn yawn yawn. And then there’s that “Big D”. I still don’t know what “Big D” stands for. It’s incomprehensible. But look at this subheading:
That’ll do. The rest will have to be rather better, helping readers to remember big stories of the year, but this little story will do for starters. The project survives.
A rather more serious newspaper page which I also photoed in January, not a front page but it got my attention, was this, from the Evening Standard of January 21st:
Latest news about that:
Badawi is serving 10 years in prison, and has also been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for blog posts criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics.
The first 50 lashes were delivered on Jan. 9 and Amnesty said he’s had none since then.
His detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation.
Amnesty being one of the chief stirrers. Good for Amnesty.
“Insulting Islam” is what Badawi has been convicted of. Carry on handing out punishments like that for “crimes” like that, and the “insults” hurled at the evil monstrosity that is Islam can only grow in volume.
Islam. The bad stuff in it is bad. And the supposedly good stuff in it only helps the bad stuff to go on doing bad, which means that the “good” stuff is bad also.
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 gap between my eyesight and the eyesight of my camera grows and grows with the passing of the years, as my eyes inexorably dim and as my cameras inexorably improve. Even I can regularly manage quite decent shots with my latest camera. As a result, I become ever more immobilised by having to choose good ones from the enormous piles of decent shots I often come back with, after a day out.
Yesterday was a bit different. I went to the home of Michael Jennings for a Christmas Day lunch, picture 1.1 being the most striking thing I saw from out of his front window. The day was lovely, but the light, though wonderful, was fast fading, so Michael and our mutual lady friend and I went out for a short (by my photographic standards) walk to take advantage of it. Which meant that I took, by my standards, only a few pictures. Which made it easier to choose and stick up a few half decent ones.
Picture 1.2 is my favourite of these. Thank God for London’s religious diversity. Much as I loath what Islam says in its holy scriptures, and much as I am critical of people who go through the motions of worshipping these writings, either because they truly believe what those writings say (very wicked), or because they don’t but think that they it doesn’t matter or that they must (also wicked – yes, I mean you, Moderate Muslims – stop saying that you believe stuff that you also say that you don’t believe), I do like that having Muslims in London keeps shops open and taxis running on days like Christmas Day. Michael fixed a couple of Uber taxi rides for me, and both the drivers had Muslim sounding names.
I don’t know what the church is in 2.1 but it looks pretty behind that leafless tree. And Tower Bridge always looks pretty to me.
Re those two Tower Bridge shots, I’ve always liked how digital cameras do the opposite of the human eye, and turn urban skies bluer and brighter as they actually get darker. It’s all those orange-coloured artificial lights, burning relatively brighter as the sun sinks, together with the actual darkness on the ground, impinging upon the Automatic setting.
I have had a Samizdata postings slump recently. I haven’t done many such postings lately, and very lately none at all. This is something that I have kept meaning to correct, for something like the last fortnight, but each day I think, well, another day won’t hurt, not that much. Each passing day adds the same small amount of silence to the silence total, but a diminishing percentage of silence to the silence total. Thus, each day of silence feels that tiny bit less culpable than the one before.
But today I snapped out of it, with a posting about photography. Not fun photography, of the sort I mostly do. Photography in and around Israel, photography that tells important lies about Israel.
Here is the picture at the top of the article I linked to:
And see also: this Samizdata posting of mine from way back, which includes a recollection about an anti-Enoch-Powell demo organised by a Daily Telegraph photographer.
Indeed. You don’t see this kind of thing every day:
But I did. Today.
As a general rule, I don’t advise combining ice cream with photography. Do one or the other. That is the rule I recommend. But these guys were doing an excellent job of merging these two things, and they weren’t just eating their ice creams and doing photography. They were photoing their ice creams.
I congratulated them for the excellence of their photographic imagination, and they were really pleased to hear this. I asked if I could photo them. Yes, they replied. And when I said “photo”, I meant, as they surely understood, photo them and put pictures of them up at my blog:
I also took lots photos of a demo outside Parliament by Kurds, demanding help from Britain in their battles against ISIS. Maybe (I promise nothing) I’ll put some of those snaps either here or on Samizdata, perhaps tomorrow.