Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Politics

Saturday April 20 2019

I like both of these.

This:

Capitalism works better than it sounds. Socialism sounds better than it works.

And this:

Capitalism is the only reason socialism has any money to redistribute.

I like them, as in: I like them as pithily expressed things to think about.  Not sure the first one in particular is actually true.  Socialism, when you actually spell out what socialists want and what they think should be done to dissenters, turns out to be ghastly, long before it actually happens.

And if capitalism sounds worse than it is, maybe you aren’t saying it right.

Yesterday there were four postings here.  Mostly small, but still, four.  The above stuff is Twitter, but this blog is not Twitter.  This blog leaves you time to have a little read and a life.

So, this is your lot for today.

On the other hand, if you have forty minutes to spare on subjects like the above, try listening to this.  It’s the IEA’s Kristian Niemietz talking about socialism.  He too thinks that capitalism is “counter-intuitive”.  His manner is a lot more low-key and considered than you would expect it to be if you only followed him on Twitter.

Wednesday April 17 2019

Yes, telling you about how I’ve been in France.

So. where was I?  In France?  Well, to give you an idea, here are some of the excellent places I visited:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

Whenever I am in foreign parts, I always photo signs, adverts, and the like.  Every place has its own style for doing such things, so signage photos can be very evocative, when you look back at them.  Also, they tell you where you were, and hence what all the other photos taken at the same time were of.

Click on the above photo-fragments to get some context.  If you are curious about any of these places, well, you now have the words you need to go searching.  Words are already links, in the sense that you don’t need me to turn them into links.

I especially like how, when you leave a French town or village, you get a sign with the name crossed through with a red line (2.3).

I also photo war memorials, keeping a particular eye open for repeated surnames.  In Lagrasse (3.1), Baillat, Fontvieille and Jougla are surnames that each get two mentions.

I also like to photo the stuff in tourist shops, especially the postcards (1.1 and 3.2).  That way, you get what tourists generally consider to be the best views, and are alerted to interesting local things which you otherwise might miss even learning about.  Although, in St Cyprien, I got a bit of aggro from a couple shopkeepers who objected to me photoing their produce instead of buying it.

Sunday April 07 2019

Or to put it another way:

London’s new Tulip skyscraper is great, but why aren’t more people embedding sharks in their roof?

Well, I can think of quite a few answers to that question, but I get the point that Joel Dimmock is making and I like it very much.

Is there starting to be a hum, as the late Chris Tame used to call it, in favour of people being free to build whatever crazy buildings they want to build with their own money on their own property?

One of the more interesting facts about the quotes quoted above is that they appear in The Independent.  Okay, in the “Voices” (clickbate?) section, but still, The Independent.  Is The Independent starting to be in favour of … independence?

Tuesday April 02 2019

So tweets City AM’s Christian May.

Everybody is now bitching about this Thing, just like they did with the Eiffel Tower.  Do “we need” it?  Blah blah.  Well guess what: I want it.  And more to point the people paying for it and wanting to build it want it.

Although, I did agree with the Dezeen commenter who said that maybe a Tulip is not the sort of thing you want in the middle of one of the world’s great financial districts.

LATER: Julia H-B:

Like all of London’s new skyscrapers, I’ll hate it.*

*Until I love it.

Precisely.

Monday March 25 2019

Matt Kilkoyne:

The growth of London’s Isle of Dogs is beautiful. More please.

image

What I like about this is the way the Big Things in the background are all blue-grey glass, while the little things in the foreground are all the same reddish brick.  It’s almost as if they knew beforehand what plans would be allowed and what plans wouldn’t!  These Big Things are totally unlike the City towers, in mostly being individually banal and un-"iconic", yet they add up to something that is indeed, to me anyway, rather impressive.  The bigger it all gets the more impressive it will be.  London – this bit of it at least - has learned from New York.

This is all part of the relentless shift of London’s centre gravity down river.

Down river towards London Gateway, about which the internet still has amazingly little to say.  My take on that?  There will be the grandmother of all grand openings, if only to accommodate all the reporters on that project who have been persuaded to say nothing about it for now.  (Or: Do reporters truly not care?  If so, more fool them.)

Friday March 22 2019

Christine Macdonald complains, in an article recently linked to by Arts and Letters Daily that:

Street Art Used To Be the Voice of the People. Now It’s the Voice of Advertisers.

Given what Ms MacDonald means by “the People” (the people who ruin all the places they get control of), this development is to be welcomed.  Compared to ruination by a diverse array of people, all with the same ruinous opinions, advertisers trying only to sell you stuff are a breath of fresh air.

Here is an example of this process at work, spotted by me in Stoke Newington, the day before yesterday:

imageimageimageimageimage

And here is another van from the same stable, which I spotted and photoed on the same day that I spotted and photoed these other exercises in profit seeking and actual people helping, nearer to the middle of London, while out and about a while back:

imageimageimageimageimage

Vans like this are different, and thus attract attention.  They certainly got mine.  Many beer drinkers will surely have been persuaded to wonder what this particular beer tastes like.  If it tastes like crap, advertising won’t save your product.  But if the product is good but is being ignored, advertising is just what you want.

But, all you graffitists who have sold out or who would like to, be warned.  Soon, this style will look rather ordinary, once lots of others have started doing it.  At which point people like me won’t photo it any more, and commerce that is trying to attract attention will be on to the next aesthetic fad.

Tuesday March 19 2019

A friend has put this photo that he photoed on Facebook:

image

If he objects to me using it, I’ll take it down, but I doubt he will.

It illustrates two things.

(1) The arrival of a new kind of skyscraper, the Very Thin Big Thing.

(2) How much less of a nuisance trees are, photographically speaking, when not smothered in stupid leaves.  As it is, that photo is a fine addition to the Winter Tree With Big Thing Behind It photo-genre, which is a photo-genre I like a lot.  With leaves, it would be significantly duller.

Here is a Guardian piece which explains why these Big Thin Things are now happening in New York.  I now intend, although I promise nothing, to do a Samizdata piece in which I expand upon this circumstance.  Clue: the provisional title of this piece is “Law and liberty in New York”.  The point being that clear law says exactly what you may not do, but by so doing, it also says exactly - exactly - what you may do.  Unlike in Britain with its insane “planning permission” system, where you just have to hope that some random assemblage of local tyrants doesn’t take against the plan you’ve been working on for months, and where there’s now no way beforehand of guessing what these tyrants will decide.  In New York, if you follow the rules, you know you are allowed to build it.  Result: well, New York.

Friday March 15 2019

Some video that says a lot about a lot, here.

Monday March 11 2019

When I saw and photoed this sign, in London, yesterday afternoon …:

image

…, I thought it was some kind of electronic malfunction.  ULEZ?  Is that real?  Only one way to find out.  The Internet.

And the Internet was in no doubt.  ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone.  Question answered.

I just wanted to know if ULEZ was real.  It is.  The details, for now anyway, interest me less.  If you want to know more about ULEZ, you now have the acronym and the knowledge that it stands for something real, and you can learn all you want.

Wednesday February 27 2019

Patrick Crozier and I have just fixed our next podcast, which we will record early next week.  Read about and listen to earlier ones here, and in due course this next one will go there too.  And for this next one, we will talk about … Brexit.  I knew you’d be excited.

Many claim that they are bored by Brexit, and maybe many are.  Although I suspect some are really just pissed off with not getting exactly what they want.  (And who is getting exactly what they want?) Either that, or actually only bored with other people’s opinions, but not with their own.  Me, I find the whole process rather fascinating, now that I have got over having been so wrong about it.  I thought that Brexit would lose the Referendum, but it won.  And I thought that once it had won, it would happen without too much fuss, because the Conservative Party leavers would mostly bow to the inevitable.  As of now, that hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

Brexit is a subject that Patrick has strong opinions about, which is good because although this will not stop me interrupting (I’m afraid I always interrupt), it may at least mean that some of the times when I do interrupt, he’ll interrupt back and shut me up until he’s finished the point he was making before I interrupted.

Here is a Brexit photo I recently photoed, of a bus driving around and around Parliament Square, saying Believe in Britain and LEAVE MEANS LEAVE, but with nobody in the bus apart from the driver:

image

They all left, I guess.

Thursday February 07 2019

There’s a bridge right near where I live that is wending its way through politics to the point where geography and physics and civil engineering will take over, and they will actually start building it.

I refer to the biking-and-walking-only bridge that will eventually join Battersea to Pimlico:

image

The bridge is at the stage where they are trying to pacify objectors to it.  Hence this Canaletto-like pseudo-photo, in which the actual bridge itself is hardly to be seen at all!  How could anyone possibly object to this wraith-like presence, scarcely visible through the mist rising from the river and bathing everything in obscurity?  The steel struts that will eventually to be seen holding up the actual bridge are invisible in this pseudo-photo, so it’s just as well that the bridge itself, as (just about) seen here, is made by laser-beams projecting into the mist and weighs nothing at all!  If you want to protest, protest about those big lumpy old boats clogging up the river and making such a rumpus, not the ghost bridge.

That’s the trouble with infrastructure.  Those who will be disrupted by it know exactly who they are, or they think they do.  But the far greater number of people who will have their lives somewhat improved by by this or that item of infrastructure only find out about this after it comes on stream.  On in this case, on river.

My guess is: I will like this bridge, and will quite often walk across it, if only to avoid a there-and-back-the-same-way walk to and from Battersea.  (Now, to avoid this, I often take the train from Battersea to Victoria, and then walk home from there, past my local supermarkets.) But that’s only a guess.  Meanwhile, those who now live in the peace and quiet of Georgian Pimlico just know that their sleep will from now on be ruined by noisy bike gangs at 4am, making their way from Notting Hill (after a spot of carnival rioting) to Brixton, and if not by that then by something else equally unwelcome, perhaps originating in Battersea and walking across the river, while probably being drunk.  Why take the chance?  So, if they can stop the bridge, they’ll stop it, just to make sure.

Saturday January 26 2019

This looks promising.  I’ve been waiting all my life for a really good orchestral concert hall, to replace the abominable Royal Festival Hall, and it looks more and more like the City of London is going to oblige.

Here’s how they are now saying it will look:

image

Well, maybe it really will look like that.

Here’s what the outside will look like:

image

Combines being boring with being ungainly and awkward.  But then, that was what I thought when I first saw the fake-photos for the Walkie-Talkie, and now I love that Thing.  Maybe this Thing will play out the same.  Hope so.

This is how the top of it will look:

image

This is apparently where the horror that is Jazz will be perpetrated.  Sorry, if you like Jazz. If you like it, like away.  But I hate it, ever since it stopped being pop music.

But, that view looks great.  So, the question is: Do I like great views out over London, more than I hate Jazz?

A good way to learn more about this building, what it consists of and where it is, is to watch the video in this Classic FM report.

As for their report, I particularly like when they quote Simon Rattle, whose musical castle this will surely be:

At the press briefing for the new concept designs, Simon Rattle batted away concerns surrounding Brexit, saying: “It’s important for us to remember there are other things going on in this country other than Brexit.

“It won’t make anything easier, but we are trying to deal with something else at the moment. I think we also have to place our confidence in the extraordinary cultural life of this country, and support it.”

Life goes on.  I sense that Brexit Acceptance may now be setting in.

They say it’s going to cost a mere £288 million.  You can double that.  But The City will surely find the money, and I am very glad that The City is having to find the money.  I love classical music, more than life, but nobody who is indifferent to it should be forced to pay for the likes of me to listen to it being performed.  (Any more than I should have to pay for Jazz.)

Monday January 21 2019

This:

Baffling insanity to read more attacks from People’s Vote types on Norway this morning. What in the bowels of fuck are you doing? In what possible world is that an appropriate target right now?

I have very little idea of what this Twitter-storm is about, other than Bexit in a general sort of way, and frankly I don’t care.  But I love that “bowels of fuck” bit.

He’s mixing “What the fuck” with this famous Cromwellian utterance.  Just the one word, “bowels”, makes this unmistakable, because there is surely no other famous quote with this word in it.

I love the fun you can have with the English language, mixing it and matching it like this.  Do other languages work just as well for this kind of thing, or is English a bit special in this regard?  Sadly for me, English is the only language I know at all well, for purposes like this.

Sunday January 20 2019

... but it ended up there.

This posting included the fact that I am out and about this evening, so here, today, that’s your lot.

Tuesday January 15 2019

Yes, I do believe it has finally happened.  Stokes, Woakes and Foakes are all in the same England cricket team.  Truly, an historic day.  Too bad Stokes is not Stoakes, and that Chris Woakes is not Ben Woakes.  As it is, we have to make do with Bens Stokes and Foakes, and Chris Woakes.

In other news: this.  My opinion?  What Steve says.