Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
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- UPS drones and drone vans
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- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
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This and that
I’ve spent most of my blogging time this weekend editing an interview I did earlier in the week. But I’m glad I found time to read this, which was, however many minutes or hours ago it was, then linked to by Instapundit and is now being read everywhere that the truth about the evilness of those who tried to excuse the horrors unleashed by Marxism is understood. I.e. not in most parts of most Anglo-Saxon universities. In places where thinking straight about things is the rule.
The internet is changing everything. The rules about what can be said and read have changed. Changed so much, I believe, that it is taking time for everyone, wise and foolish, good and bad, to realise it. New methods of communication are always like this, if my reading about earlier communicational dramas is anything to go by.
The important thing is to go for the morals of the Marxists. They were and are not just wrong as in mistaken. They were and are wrong as in wicked. Not least, they were wicked because of how persistently they bashed on with their mistakenness.
Pejman Yousefzadeh quotes David Pryce-Jones:
A mystery peculiar to the twentieth century is that intellectuals were eager to endorse the terror and mass-murder which characterized Soviet rule, at one and the same time abdicating humane feelings and all sense of responsibility towards others, and of course perverting the pursuit of truth. The man who sets dogs on concentration camp victims or fires his revolver into the back of their necks is evidently a brute; the intellectual who devises justifications for the brutality is harder to deal with, and far more sinister in the long run. Apologizing for the Soviet Union, such intellectuals licensed and ratified unprecedented crime and tyranny, to degrade and confuse all standards of humanity and morality. Hobsbawm is an outstanding example of the type.
Says Yousefzadeh himself, concerning something said by somebody called Paul J. Cella, who promptly thanks Yousefzadeh for the link!
Writing on Eagleton’s mash note to Hobsbawm and Marxism, Paul Cella says that Eagleton’s essay “shines with a palpable warmth.” No, it doesn’t. Rather, it misleads with a palpable malice; a malice shown to facts, to the intelligence of readers, to history, and to all of those who suffered at the hands of the Marxist cause.
This claim that Eagleton’s essay “shines with palpable warmth” is the one bit in Cella’s piece that Yousefzadeh disagrees with, and this bit by Yousefzadeh is the one bit in his piece that I disagree with. Can an article not shine with a palpable warmth and mislead with a palpable malice? Can warmth not be switched on, to mislead? Surely yes.
Lucky I followed the link to the Cella piece, or I would have had him tagged as just another cretinous apologist for Marxism. He is no such thing.
There is no political cause comparable to Communism in at least this respect - it allows respectable men to endorse mass butchery, connive at sedition, falsify scholarship, and still live to be revered by the very sort of men and women who would surely perish, had that “radiant tomorrow actually been created.”
But the point surely is that there was no “radiant tomorrow”. There was only a nightmare of terror and mass murder. And there was no “very sort of men and women” who were particularly singled out by the nightmare for terror and death. Everyone was in the firing line. Seriously, Stalin used to instruct his murderers to murder people literally at random, just to make this very point, that nobody was safe.
Details. What matters is that now we are arguing about the details of how evil Marxism was, and about the details of what exactly are the right words and phrases we should use when denouncing it and its evil apologists. As Samizdata‘s Perry de Havilland would say, the metacontext has changed.
I particularly like this, from Instapundit:
Oh, my mistake. I thought, somehow, that Hobsbawm had died. Oh, well - all the more reason to speak ill of him now, then.
But it’s not a cat.
A while back I did a posting here about a big sign, covered in anal-retentive, litigation-phobic instructions about health and safety.
This posting now is basically a clutch of other signage photos I took that same day, on that same expedition.
Signs are extremely communicative of the kind of times you live in, of the kind of place you were at, of the kind of event you were at, of the kind of assumptions your world is flooded with. Also, more than buildings, they change, and good photography homes in particularly on that which will not always there. Signs also tell you the dumb facts about where you were, and what you were looking at, which are easily forgotten if all you have is pictures with random number names. Signs give you google handles, the way imagery can’t, yet.
So, what I’m saying is, yes I know that most of these snaps that follow in this clutch of squares are pretty mundane, but I like them. I hope that, if you click on squares that particularly intrigue you, you will also like what you see.
First, a sign saying where I was going and roughly where I was when I took these. Like I say, some dumb facts. Apologies for the blurriness of several of the snaps that follow, especially in this first one. At the point I took this, I still thought that all I was doing with this map was taking a note for myself. I still hadn’t realised that this was a whole new category of bloggableness, or I would have taken a bit more trouble. But, it still tells the approximate story.
So now, the clutch of squares:
When will signs start appearing saying that photography in public places is forbidden? I suspect, actually: only a bit, in particular places.
One, cameras will soon be so small as to be undetectable. People can already take photos with their all purpose mobile gizmos without any security goon being any the wiser, even if standing only a few yards away. Soon, we will all be able to snap photos with the top buttons on our shirts, or from our hats.
And two, as soon as any such signs forbidding photo-ing do start to appear, in ways that are at all silly, they will be relentlessly snapped, internetted, and mocked. Hey Big Brother, do you really think that we the people will accept a world in which only you are allowed to take photos in public? In your dreams sunshine.
Comments telling me that this is already happening (preferably with links) would of course be especially welcome.
Insurers’ in the City of London are finalising plans to set up a private fleet of armed patrol boats in the Gulf of Aden, in a new drive to stamp out Somali piracy.
Let’s just hope it really is a truly private venture, and not just the British government contracting out some of its naval activities. Tim Evans is in the habit of muddling up these two rather distinct ideas, in my experience, which makes me a bit cautious about this. He does it for noble reasons, namely to create momentum towards a real market in defence services by putting an excessively free market spin on things which really aren’t, or aren’t yet, and which may never be.
Nevertheless, this sounds like it might be quite close to the real thing.
The naval protection force was conceived by leading figures in the Lloyd’s of London market. They have been working with ship owners, freight operators and governments for months, marshalling support for their plan.
... and governments. Does that merely mean getting governmental permission, or governments being some of the biggest customers?
The goal of the Convoy Escort Programme is to provide protection for tankers trying to navigate the seas off war-torn Somalia while also reducing the soaring costs of insuring vessels, cargo and crews against increasingly vicious attacks by pirates.
Success for the venture, which has tried to shun the “private navy” tag, …
Good luck with that.
… would mark a gear change in international efforts to clamp down on piracy. Despite a successful recent intervention by the Royal Navy, the pirates have escalated their activities sharply in the past fortnight, seizing an oil tanker and its 125 million-pound cargo and killing two of its Filipino crew.
Gives a whole new meaning to Pax Brittanica.
And to the key idea of crowding out, as in governments crowding out the people who really want something paying for it themselves instead of being scared or enticed away from any such thoughts by governmental arrangements. I think this is - as in: may eventually become - a vindication for those who have long argued that Western governments should do less, not just domestically but everywhere. It makes me wonder what might have happened in the world during, say the last two decades, had defence cuts cut in a bit sooner and a bit deeper, like they are cutting in now, or will be very soon.
I’m having a busy first half of the week, so instead of answers to all your problems and questions and entertainment needs, a question: why are Democrat politicians leaving the state of Wisconsin just now? What rule is it that makes such behaviour rational, when they are trying to stop something happening? In regular world, if you want to stop something, you stick around and then try to get in its way, e.g. by voting against it. But not in Wisconsin, now.
This is one of those questions that was all explained about a fortnight ago, to everyone interested except me, and now, everyone assumes that everyone understands what is going on. But, I don’t.
LATER (Wed 23rd): Just to say, many thanks for all these comments. I asked, and was answered. I now understand all this a great deal better.
One of the many reasons for the worldwide popularity of soccer is surely that, because scoring goals is difficult – even when they are easy, they are easily missed – a superior team can easily have an off day and lose to a hugely inferior team. Witness how near Manchester United came to losing to non-league Crawley Town yesterday. Okay, not that near. But Crawley were only 1-0 down at the final whistle, and with a bit of luck in front of goal might have made one of their several difficult-but-definite chances count. Or, Man U might have missed their goal. Given either of those eventualities, who knows what might have happened?
Contrast all that with what has been happening today to a couple of international cricket minnows, Kenya and Canada, in the Cricket World Cup, which got under way yesterday with a big win by India over Bangladesh. All these first three games were pretty much over well before the first innings in each match had even ended. India crashed 370-4, which Bangladesh were never going to threaten. The Kenyans were bowled out for 67, which New Zealand passed with 42 overs to spare, i.e. in 8 overs. Sri Lanka made 332-7, it having earlier looked like being even more. Canada, who lost their first three wickets on 0, 8 and 12, never came near and they are now 111-8.
As a result of games like this, the Cricket World Cup has, in a sense, yet to begin. Once the minnows are all ejected, then the real business of the tournament can start.
In short, soccer minnows can dream. Cricket minnows, not really. They can only dream of, one day, getting good enough to dream plausibly. At least these Cricket World Cup annihilations give them an idea of the standard they must reach, which is something, I suppose. Or then again, maybe not.
Here’s another angle on the difficulty of actually turning a soccer goal chance into a soccer goal. Consider the ongoing argument about the try celebrations that England rugby star Chris Ashton has been indulging in, before he actually plants the ball down over the line. Personally, I regret this habit of Ashton’s, and fear (along with thousands of other England rugby fans) that sooner or later he will screw up a certain try on a day when it really matters. I wrote about this after he did one of these fancy dives against Wales. He did a couple more against Italy, despite having been told not to and having said he wouldn’t.
Even worse, all this arguing about whether Ashton should or should not swallow dive could insert a fatal dose of uncertainty into his try scoring habits. He may screw up a vital try through trying to be sensible about it, but, on account of not having got into the habit of being sensible, screw that up.
It’s a bit like that thing about how the Greenies are right that the end of the world is indeed nigh, but that it will come not of its own accord, but because of some botched scheme promoted by them to stop it happening.
So, anyway, the point I have been trying to make during the last four paragraphs is that soccer players never celebrate goals until they have scored them. They know that a goal is never a certainty until it really is done and dusted. There is just too much to go wrong, no matter how easy the chance may look. Which means that a dominant team can make a dozen chances, take none of them, and lose. And an outclassed team can make a couple of chances, get lucky with one of them, and win.
Canada all out 122. Glad that’s over.
Now my television is telling me about another soccer surprise.
The last time I wrote a big set piece article for a “magazine” (made of actual paper) it was about the state of the economic and ideological debate, and during the months between me writing it and them publishing it, the banking crisis erupted. So, when I read this passage, in a piece by Thomas P. M. Barnett, I immediately copied it, with a view to pasting it here. Here it is:
What most people don’t realize is that, if an article appears in the May issue, it comes out in early April, which means it goes to the printers in early March, which means you edited it in February and probably wrote it in late January or early February, meaning you researched or reported it back in December. Now, when it’s a set piece (e.g., you interview somebody), the timeline’s not so crucial, but when you’re presenting the “State of the World,” you’re trapped somewhat in dealing with current events (duh!), so you’re not only dealing with some hedging language here and there, you risk some great intervening event ruining your whole party.
That was published in April 2007. It remains true. No magical speeding up of magazine editing and magazine printing has occurred, to my knowledge.
I prefer blogging. At least when it says Feb 20th 2011 on your posting, you get the chance, on Feb 20th 2011, to phrase things right, given what kinds of things were happening during the previous few weeks or months.
What happened between the writing of my magazine piece and its publication was, thanks to that banking melt-down, a supposed revival of Keynesianism. This happened in practice, but not in theory, and is already resulting (as it had not then) in what Keynesianism in practice caused last time around (when the world still contained serious academics who seriously believed in Keynesianism), namely that particular combination of economic stagnation and inflation known as stagflation. But by not even mentioning this semi-Keynesian revival, such as it has been, I made myself look, that is to say I was made by the magazine to look, like a prune. Or I would have been, if anyone had read the damn thing, which I doubt many did.
This is one of the many reasons why paper is doomed as a serious medium of publication, other than as a means of printing out long and unwieldy blog postings, so that people who don’t have any sort of iThing can read them on the train or on the toilet.
Another reason that paper is doomed is that it makes it so much more inconvenient to read things that were good when published in April 2007 and are still good now.
Taken last October, during one of my expeditions with Goddaughter One, alonside canals in north east London:
I just like it.
But, I also like this:
Taken moments earlier. Sorry they are slightly out of line with each other.
A good day to bury bad news?
On the other hand, do they really think people aren’t noticing inflation? My personal take on inflation is that food plus my classical CD habit used to cost what only food costs now.
We are having an inflation “moment”, right now, I believe. The last one I recall was in the 1970s, when suddenly, out of frigging nowhere, a cup of coffee went from about fifteen pee to about thirty pee. Just like that.
The point about inflation moments is that while the “official statistics” talk of single figure percentages, the “moment” says: this just doubled!!!
Like this guy says:
“Unless you bought the exact mix that goes into the CPI, you saw a different CPI, your personal CPI. If you are like me, your personal CPI went up a whole lot more than the government’s CPI.”
It’s the difference between a balloon leaking, and a balloon bursting.
More inflation chat (ho ho) from Johnathan Pearce.
Last night, on The Big C, a TV show about Laura Linney dying of cancer, the way that some dogs can smell cancer was gone into. Not only do they smell cancer, they like the smell of cancer, because apparently, they follow cancer sufferers around, and can reveal where the cancer is by exactly where they want to smell. Spooky.
And apparently, something similar happens with some cats:
When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar “charged out” and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat’s judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.
Dr Dosa and other staff are so confident in Oscar’s accuracy that they will alert family members when the cat jumps on to a bed and stretches out beside its occupant.
“It’s not like he dawdles. He’ll slip out for two minutes, grab some kibble and then he’s back at the patient’s side. It’s like he’s literally on a vigil,” Dr Dosa wrote.
Dr Dosa noted that the nursing home keeps five other cats, but none of the others have ever displayed a similar ability.
In his book, “Making rounds with Oscar: the extraordinary gift of an ordinary cat”, Dr Dosa offers no solid scientific explanation for Oscar’s behaviour.
He suggests Oscar is able - like dogs, which can reportedly smell cancer - to detect ketones, the distinctly-odoured biochemicals given off by dying cells.
Far from recoiling from Oscar’s presence, now they know its significance, relatives and friends of patients have been comforted and sometimes praised the cat in newspaper death notices and eulogies, said Dr Dosa.
“People were actually taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass. He was there when they couldn’t be,” he said.
I got to this via OMG facts, who add this to their report:
Editor’s Note: We tried to find a funny, relevant picture to go with this fact, but we couldn’t find any funny pictures of cats on the internet.
Maybe not so many funny pictures about cats who can smell impending death, anyway. Well, no, there are probably plenty of those also. I can smellz deading peoplez, blahz blahz.
I’ve had the link up to this article up on my screen for ages, because I have been meaning, for ages, to ask what the bull’s head held up by scaffolding is, i.e. top middle of those six pictures. Can anybody enlighten me?
Scaffolding. Cranes. BrianMicklethwaitDotCom heaven. But where? And in aid of what? It is being used to illustrate economic frenzy. But what did it originally advertise? Anybody?
From commenter Aynsley Kellow (at 9.29 am), on this at Bishop Hill:
Confession time: I wrote an essay for Raser on how we could dismantle the military-industrial complex. I suggested that we needed a new mission to occupy all those physicists and mathematicians employed on missiles and the space program, and suggested that environmental protection would provide sufficient complexity, challenge and (importantly) employment. Be careful of what you wish for, I guess.
Even if no-one deliberately unleashed such a plan, might this be a part of what is happening? Otherwise about-to-be-unemployed geeks (i.e. the rather less bright variety) suffering from post Cold War downsizing?
Incoming from David Thompson:
Further to your propeller/phone camera illusion …
… this may be of interest.
Indeed. Usually jazzists playing double bass is, for me, the very definition of cool that has long ago crossed over into tedium. That’s very personal. If jazzists strongly dissent, fine with me, I don’t want to interfere with their pleasure, just so long as they don’t inflict it on me. But that video is, for me, well to the good side of the cool-tedium divide.
And the explanation provided by the Samizdata commentariat of the propeller effect surely explains the otherwise baffling behaviour of these bass strings. It’s because a digital movie camera scans, rather than taking a succession of still photos.
Indeed. Me reflected in a DLR train:
That’s only the cropped version. Click for the original, which I greatly prefer. I only spotted the 42 a day later. My camera has better eyesight than I do, and it is also more observant.
Photoed last Friday, I think it was. Recently, anyway. This:
I tend to photo things by genre. For a long time, it was digital photographers. And I’ve long enjoyed snapping London’s Big Things, from a distance. Then, for some reason, I started snapping Evening Standard billboards.
Now I find myself more and more seeing signs and snapping them, noticing notices and making a photo-note of them. Signs and notices that nag, nag, nag, so that if you do do whatever daft thing they want you not to do, you won’t be able to sue them, presumably. The rest of the British economy may be in terminal decline, but the don’t sue sign and nagging notices business is booming like never before.
I promise nothing, but would be very surprised if there were not many more postings in this new category here: signs and notices.
Or so says Daniel Domscheit-Berg:
BERLIN — Daniel Domscheit-Berg accuses WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of many things in his book presented Thursday, but perhaps the oddest allegation is that he abused the former insider’s cat.
“Julian was constantly battling for dominance, even with my tomcat Herr Schmitt,” Domscheit-Berg says in his book “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.”
“Ever since Julian lived with me in Wiesbaden he (the cat) has suffered from psychosis. Julian would constantly attack the animal. He would spread out his fingers like a fork and grab the cat’s throat.”
The “mad Australian” did not always come off best during his stay in 2009, however, with Herr Schmitt sometimes managing to “dispatch Julian with a quick swipe of the paw.”
“It must have been a nightmare for the tomcat,” he said in the German-language version of the book, due to be published in more than a dozen countries from Friday.
Until today I didn’t know what to make of the WikiLeaks affair. Frankly I’ve pretty much been ignoring it. I mean, what has he been trying to do? Destroy Western Civilisation seems to be the basic complaint, although maybe I have that wrong. But if he is trying to do that, so what? If Western Civilisation can’t crush, co-opt, neutralise, smother in book deals, paparazzize, drive to drink, and/or generally see off someone like Julian Assange, it doesn’t deserve to survive.
This, from something that will not be appearing at Samizdata:
Thank you for fantastic blog post. Where else could I get this kind of information written in such an incite full way.
My italics. “Incite full”. There’s been a lot of that in my part of the internet just lately.
Last night I did a Samizdata posting about a BBC Radio 4 programme on the psychology of the global warming debate. Then, since one of his commenters had mentioned in passing that this programme was coming up, and what with him having long specialised in the subject, I thought maybe Bishop Hill might be willing to give my Samizdata posting a mention. So I emailed him with the link, on the off chance. And sure enough, there it is, generously quoted, in the latest (as I write this) Bishop Hill posting. I have just emailed him thank you.
It says a little something about how well Bishop Hill has been doing that now it is a Samizdata contributor hoping that Bishop Hill will give a plug to a Samizdata posting. I can just about remember when we were plugging him, and he was emailing us his thankyous. Those days are now long gone. Another straw in that wind: five comments so far on the Samizdata piece, one by me. On the Bishop Hill posting, already, seemingly in no time: eleven.
When trying to think of an example of significant bloggers to mention in my previous posting, I found myself giving equal billing to Guido Fawkes ... and to Bishop Hill. And I think that’s now about right. I don’t know the numbers, but, in terms of impact and influence in their distinct arenas, I think they are very roughly on a par. And that’s absolutely not to do down Guido. It’s to do up the Bishop.
I know how bored most of my little band of regular readers must be by now with the current travails of the Libertarian Alliance, but I do want to say a few more things on the subject.
I am actually now less pessimistic about the future of the Libertarian Alliance, following this pronouncement by Sean Gabb. I didn’t, in this posting, predict the total collapse of the Libertarian Alliance, as Sean accuses me of doing, but I did fear it as an outside possibility. Here, following this, I expressed more serious pessimism. But in this recent statement, Sean says nothing to suggest that any publications from the era when I did them, or any done since, will disappear, either directly, or by himself going further off the mental rails and therefore hinting at further melt-down for the organisation. This new statement is still rather graceless towards various people, me included, but that won’t matter if the LA continues to do worthwhile libertarian stuff.
The most important bits, I think, in Sean Gabb’s account are his defences against fears that have been expressed that Sean is an English nationalist before he is a libertarian, and an anti-propertarian in the Kevin Carson mould before he is a libertarian. (I have not studied Carson’s ideas, by the way.) Had Sean defended himself by saying that he is an English nationalist and a libertarian, a Carsonite and a libertarian, that would have been very troubling, but happily he did not do this. No English nationalist who really is an English nationalist first and foremost and anything else way behind, were he to read Sean’s statement, could mistake Sean for someone joining him in his nationalist struggle without wanting to influence the intellectual content of that struggle in any way. In general, Sean contests the suspicions expressed about his opinions, rather than agreeing and then redefining libertarianism to mean this other stuff. Good.
One thing in particular that Sean says about Tim Evans is, however, very wrong. Sean accuses Tim of financial misbehaviour. I don’t believe a word of it. I think Tim’s handling of the finances of the LA has been excellent, thoroughly honest, and a great improvement, in terms of money raised and then either stored up or well-spent, over the Tame/Micklethwait regime, and then the Tame/Gabb regime. If Gabb now leads the LA successfully, he will have reason to thank Tim Evans. With luck, this accusation will not be repeated and will soon be forgotten. The danger for Sean, and by extension the LA, is that if this accusation gets more mileage, Tim will be put in the position of having to defend himself by proving Gabb wrong, which I am sure he will be able to do but which could get even messier. Sean would be wise to say no more along these lines. Unless of course he sees sense about Tim’s handling of the LA’s finances and changes his mind, in which case a public but brief apology would be in order.
As for what Sean says directly about me and about the here-today-gone-tomorrow, electronic fish-and-chip-wrapping nature of blogging, well, there is some truth in this. Most blogging, certainly most blogging here, is very forgettable. But that doesn’t mean that it has no impact at all, and certainly not when you add it all up. Blogging, as practised by those who have done it most effectively (Guido Fawkes and Bishop Hill spring to mind – in the USA, Instapundit), is not only here today but is having lasting impact upon tomorrow. I think that Sean’s appeal to those who think blogging is mere fish-and-chip-wrapping sets up a false choice, between on the one hand, most blogging and, on the other hand, the more lasting sorts of intellectual endeavour, such as books that last, academic scholarship that lasts, and the best and most lasting blogs and blog posts. The truth is that blogging of the more chatty sort has its bigger impact by drawing attention towards the more long-lasting stuff. Look no further than Bishop Hill. First a mere libertarian blogger, among many others. Then a specialist blogger about the climate change debate. Then a writer of a best selling book about the climate change debate. Would that book have sold so well, and have had the impact it has already had (let alone all the impact that it will go on having in the future), without all of us fish-and-chip-wrappers telling people about it? Without blogging of any kind, this book would not even have been written.
Anyway, I promised Tim Evans that, if Sean went public with what he had been saying more privately about Tim earlier in the week, I would defend Tim in public. I now rather wish I hadn’t promised this, because such is the internet that even contesting such an accusation risks drawing attention to it. I have now defended Tim. But while doing this, I didn’t want to suggest that nothing else in Sean’s statement mattered, hence the length of this posting.
And I have the honour of being his number one fan.
Tomorrow I face what may prove to be a rather debilitating bout of dentistry. Basically, the other day, one of my pretend teeth (that was attached to the remains of a real tooth) fell off, leaving only a small stump. Since the pretend tooth was there to enable me to chew with the left side of my mouth, I need another pretend tooth where the previous one was, fast. So, I can’t wait for the Envy of the World to do it. That could take months.
Actually, it already has taken months. Around last October, I became aware that the pretend tooth was probably about to fall off, any month now, and I told my dentist this. My dentist said he could do it quickly, at a price (and at a price which did not strike me as unreasonable). But at my request, my dentist instead told the Tooth Surgery Department of the Envy of the World, and the Envy of the World was asked to tell me when it could make me another pretend tooth, at no cost. Then, I felt able to wait.
But apparently the Envy of the World has delayed sending out a whole clutch of letters to people in my kind of predicament (telling us all when it might be able to do things like make us new pretend teeth), a fact I was told about at my dentist yesterday, when I went there to tell them that things had become more urgent, but that no, I had indeed heard nothing yet from the Envy of the World. Could it be that The Envy of the World wants to keep me waiting to get onto the waiting list, so that I will only stay on the waiting list for a very short time (having waited to be on it for a long time) thereby enabling the Envy of the World to crow that I was treated by the Envy of the World with great speed (when actually the Envy of the World kept me waiting for months)? Obamacare enthusiasts - and I just know that you read this blog in your thousands, let this be a lesson to you. With nationalised industries of all kinds you get what you pay for, and by and by not even that.
So anyway, what with this dentistry, probably happening tomorrow afternoon, I may not be in a very blogging mood tomorrow, or even the next day, or even the next or the next. So, a longer gap than is usual here, between this posting and the next, may transpire. I promise nothing. I don’t now promise not to put anything up here for the next several days. I merely speculate in advance that this is how it might be.
It’s buried in the middle of the latest Samizdata piece by Natalie Solent:
State protection is better than state persecution as cancer is better than a knife in the ribs.
Crikey. Given how silly this has already become, so quickly, I have become filled with extreme pessimism about the survival of the Libertarian Alliance, in anything resembling the state it has been in for the last few decades. I shall continue downloading Libertarian Alliance .pdf files.
As for Paul Marks, now might be a good moment for me to say a bit in his favour. Sean Gabb is right that Paul Marks has a somewhat suicide-note-ish manner of writing. But Paul Marks is neither mad nor stupid. He is, however, because of his writing style, easily underestimated.
I underestimated him when I did an interview with him some months ago, very badly, as in I did it very badly. Paul was fine, or would have been had I done my bit. Basically, I assumed from his written style that he would also be a somewhat unsatisfactory talker, of the sort who would need jollying along. Sound editing on the fly, so to speak. Alas, what I thought was jollying along was experienced by most of those those listening as me relentlessly interrupting. What I should have done was shut up and let Paul talk, as several Samizdata commenters pointed out. Despite having known Paul for years, I simply had not realised how well and how persuasively he would talk. With intelligent editing, Paul Marks is also a pretty good writer, if a somewhat eccentric one. His judgements are respected by a lot of people.
This was the word invented by rugby commentator Jonathan Davies of the BBC to describe the performance of a clumsy or cumbersome member of the Welsh rugby team, after they had lost at home to England earlier this evening. For me, that neologism was the most amusing thing that happened all night. It summed up the entire game, which consisted of two hideously well drilled teams bashing away at each other with the imaginative flair of two sacks of potatoes, waiting for the other sack of potatoes to make mistakes. Wales, who played like a bad England side, made rather more mistakes than England, so they lost.
These guys really didn’t miss much.
Look at the player ratings here. England won, yet, out of 10, they scored: 7, 8, 6, 7, 7, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7. How drearily adequate is that? Short of every one of them getting 7 out of 10, they could not have been more tediously good enough, considering.
The commentators said it was a great game, with a “great atmosphere”. Maybe if you were actually there, the atmosphere was indeed quite good, but on telly the atmosphere was not nearly enough to compensate for the game.
The worst thing of all was that at the end, nobody got properly tired. I blame the fact that they are now allowed to bring on half of another whole team, and take off anyone who is getting tired. In the old days before mass substitutions, people got truly knackered and unpredictable things happening, like great tries and horribly missed tries. All that happened at the end of this game was that England were four points up. Then Wales made a mistake and England (aka Jonny Wilkinson) kicked a penalty. Then Wales tried to level it by scoring a converted try, but England stopped them.
Ashton of England scored two tries. But his more interesting one was spoilt by his childish celebration, which he did before he scored it. When Ashton scores a try which he knows he will score, i.e. which is his to throw away, he does his very best to do exactly that. He sticks an arm up vertically, to tell the crowd that he is about to score a try, like they need to be told about it before it happens. And he hooks his other hand around the ball like he’s a leg spin bowler, down near his bottom. Then he thrusts the ball into the sky, still holding it with just the one hand, and then slams the ball down over the try line with wildly excessive force. At any stage during this horrible performance, he looks like he’s going to lose control of the ball. It’s a cock-up waiting to happen. I hope Ashton does perpetrate just such a cock-up very soon (in fact during the split second he was doing all this this evening I hoped that now might be the moment, so annoying was it to watch), so that he can be given a good bollocking and so that from now on he cuts this out. A good time to do this with would be in the next England match against Italy when it won’t matter. But, Sod’s Law being the force in the world that it is, Ashton will probably save up this disaster for when England have ground their way to the next World Cup Final, which is not long now. Then, he will cock up a try under the posts, and England will lose by six points.
That will be truly clumbersome.
When, this morning, I heard that Tim Evans was resigning as the President of the Libertarian Alliance, I thought: things might, just might, get silly. Accordingly, in a mood of pessimism, I straight away downloaded .pdf files of all my LA published pieces. Just in case. Just in case the LA website got caught in any crossfire that might materialise, and just in case my own stash of these files proves inaccessible, for instance as a result of it being on antiquated format disks which prove to be hard or expensive or even impossible to get at.
Soon, I will probably download all the other publications, by everyone else also. Again, just in case. It helps that I now have a computer with a hard disk the size of one of the smaller English counties.
I think it highly unlikely that this will prove to have been of any value. But it will make me feel a tiny bit happier.
But, while doing the beginnings of this, I did discover one very nice thing, which is that the version of Adobe Acrobat that I now have running on my new supercomputer enables me, and presumably everyone else, to copy and past text from within LA publications. I don’t just mean the boring html ones, I mean the pretty ones, the ones I designed. I did not know I could do this. I am very happy about it.
This means that my long held but long postponed ambition to convert every LA publication, or at any rate quite a lot of LA publications, into alternative not so pretty HTML versions, can now be forgotten about. Hurrah. How to solve a problem. Wait. Keep on waiting. Eventually, it may go away.
The bad news is that I still have to remove carriage returns from the end of each line of text, if copying stuff into something like this blog. But that is a small price to pay for such a great leep forward.
I will celebrate by copying and pasting a bit from something I wrote in 1997, about Charles Murray:
A key insight into Murray’s thought processes is to be found in his second and least publicly discussed book, In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1988). He tells of how he worked for two years in the Peace Corps in the villages of Thailand, and how, to his consternation, he encountered hostility from the citizenry of the villages. How come? He was giving them money, bestowing bounty upon them. Well, yes, but his projects never seemed to get anywhere, and he was also screwing around with the local power structure, turning a local community, with an elaborate system of personal status based on how much you contributed to local welfare, into a mere aggregation of welfare supplicants. The village elders didn’t like it, and Murray came around to agreeing with them.
If you put the government in charge of doing all the things formerly done by the local community, then say goodbye to the local community. Community becomes a mere word, for a bunch of people who exist and sleep near to each other, in the same dormitory so to speak, but who no longer have any meaningful social relationships with each. And it is in these kinds of relationships, says Murray, that most people find their deepest pleasures in life. Most people don’t become supermodels or vice-presidents of major corporations, and make a stack of money so huge that they can just buy their way out of their demoralised and degenerating localities. Most people find their places in the world by being good sons and daughters, good parents, good neighbours and good local citizens. Even corporate vice-presidents often wish when they get older that they’d paid more attention to family and friends and neighbours, and less to getting ahead at work. Murray’s libertarianism is the claim that citizenship should stop being a nationalised industry.
All my life I have been hideously ignorant of Spanish geography. Most of the cities and big towns of Spain have just been locationless names to me. Where were they? Somewhere in Spain. That was about all I knew. I knew that Cadiz was somewhere on the coast of Spain, because Drake firebombed or fireshipped it or whatever, thereby singeing (sp? - can’t be singing now can it?) the King of Spain’s beard. Madrid is bang in the middle. Barcelona, I recently learned by visiting it, is on the coast, top right, just down from France. Even more recently, by visiting them also, I learned where Alicante and Benidorm are to be found (the latter having first been spied from the airplane just before it arrived at the former) Portugal is a vertical rectangle on the left, a bit downwards. Lisbon is on the coast of Portugal, somewhere. Apart from that, nothing.
So, this map, that Michael Jennings linked to in a comment on this recent posting about Spanish bridges (one of them a high speed rail bridge) proved, for me, to be most educational. It is something to do with the way that the cities are joined up by real or imagined high speed trains that made it all that little bit easier to remember.
Since I am the most important reader of this blog, and by far the most devoted rootler around in its archives, this map gets its own posting.
By the way, like Michael says, high speed trains are stupid, in Spain as elsewhere.