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Saturday March 26 2011

Being busy is good.  What is annoying is trying and failing to accomplish something, while not feeling able to abandon it.  Busy, that is to say, without anything to show for it.  That’s what’s been happening to me this week.

Also, the previous thing I did, I sent in, but have had no reply about it from the person I would have hoped for a reply from, because he is next to me down the publishing chain.  Was it okay?  Was it crap, and is he fretting about how to say that?  Has he died in a car crash?  Did he even get it in the first place?  (My email arrangements have been very wayward of late.)

Further proof, if you want it, that blogs are absolutely not diaries.  Diaries tell you what is really going on, giving detail about what you’ve done, who (named) does or does not like it, but several years later when it either doesn’t matter or will at least be forgiven.  I have been very vague about all that in the above moans, and of course deliberately so.  I don’t want to tell you, now.  Which means that, what with this being a blog, I never will.  Blogs either tell you something of some kind of public significance, without betraying any confidences, or they tell you very little beyond such things as: I am in a bad mood.  I’ll spare you all the quota snaps or quota quotes.  Well, actually, I will spare myself the bother of supplying any such things.

My mood is not helped by the fact that as of now Sri Lanka are not just beating England in the cricket but slaughtering them.  South Africa choked yesterday, against NZ.  Sri Lanka won’t.  They are now chasing down England’s laboured total of 229, and are 132-0 with only half their overs gone.  England won’t extricate themselves from that.  I’d love to be wrong about that, in fact I would be ecstatic to be wrong about that.  But, I’m not.  The only question is if England will, like the wretched Windies, be beaten by ten wickets?

Also, Western Civilisation itself have been having, to my eyes and ears, a particularly bad last few days, what with what now looks like a botched intervention in Libya, the ongoing financial crisis (which I experience as rampant inflation), and what not. Worse, there seems to be no sufficiently widespread desire on anyone’s part actually to correct things, by (e.g.) clarifying what the West’s various foreign policies are, or by correctly diagnosing what is wrong with the world’s banking system.  A war has just been started with no coherent end in mind.  (Effective “World Powers” don’t call for things.  They do them.) The problems of paper money are being answered with more paper money, which is the problem, not the answer.

This is, I am well aware, an example of one of those something-however-pointless postings that I threatened when introducing my current once every other day policy, whenever that was.

Do bloggers also choke?

Sri Lanka now 161-0.

LATER:  Ten wickets.  Who saw that coming?  Apart from everyone, when Sri Lanka got to about a hundred, I mean.  England spent the preliminary round of the tournament doing good against good teams, and bad against bad teams.  Today they were up against a good team, and were, it would seem, hopeless.  Unpredictable as ever, I guess.

The intervention in Libya was a week later than would have toppled Gaddafi quickly. But it has still got some positive results.

Obama has funked out of his responsibility to communicate to Americans what’s going on (now there’s a shock).

Sarkozy, on the other hand, was extremely clear about what the aims were (but I guess the British media can’t follow a speech about principles).

The media narrative wants failure: Sarkozy isn’t leftist enough.

Here’s Sarkozy’s announcement in French . All I can say is that the simultaneous translations we’ve seen are pathetic.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 26 March 2011

Antoine.  Thanks.

Can you perhaps, if you feel inclined, summarise for us Sarkozy’s rationale for the intervention?  Or, do so in a Norlonto Review posting?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 26 March 2011

I think it is reasonable for effective world powers to “call” for things.  For instance, I am rather glad that Ronald Reagan called for the dismantling of the Berlin Wall rather than doing it himself.

And can you really impose freedomandemocracy on people?  Doesn’t it have to be at least to some extent organic?

I am reasonably optimistic about this intervention.  So long as boot leather doesn’t hit sand and the rebels keep/start saying liberalish things.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 26 March 2011

Brian (and other Londoners) - what’s going on with your so called “public employees”? I read about pogrom at Fortnum&Mason;store in LJ today. Are you all right?

Libya: nothing good will come out if it, however you slice it. Same with Egypt, Syria, Yemen and the rest of the bastards.

Posted by Tatyana on 27 March 2011

The banking system is still a total mess and the inflation genie is out of the bottle. And what is so terrifying is that there is remarkably little sense that HMG or the central bank regards this is a cause for concern.

As for Libya, the least-worst outcome is the demise of Gadaffi and some not-totally-appalling regime in Tripoli. But like a lot of Westerners I am suffering from NorthAfrica-Mideast fatigue. These countries, with their varying levels of shitness, are a drag on world civilisation. We need to develop alternative energy sources and sources of oil, and force these regimes to develop by entrepreneurship and respect for individual freedom, like resource-poor places such as Hong Kong have had to do.

Posted by Johnathan Pearce on 27 March 2011


Everyone in London is perfectly fine.  The violence was a tiny thing, hardly more than a single crime.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 27 March 2011

Yes, according to the TV news this evening (Sunday) the rebels are advancing on GDaffy very rapidly, and could be about to roll him up.  So maybe all the prayers of the West’s leaders will be answered.

I keep thinking of those Shakespeare plays, where a tyrant king is finally overthrown, like Macbeth or Richard II.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 27 March 2011

Doesn’t look like a single crime, judging by these pictures. Also here: Piccadilly.
Someone was riding from the suburbs and said the whole center was closed, and the traffic was horrible - because of that

I’m glad you’re OK

Posted by Tatyana on 27 March 2011

Well, riding a couple of buses through central London yesterday, I saw lots of people holding banners and wearing T-shirts saying absurd things, but none of them looked remotely violent or dangerous. I felt a slight urge to get off the bus and tell some of them exactly what I thought of them, but beyond that they caused little trouble.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 28 March 2011

apparently, you missed whole ”revolution”!

Posted by Tatyana on 28 March 2011

Tatyana’s initial misunderstanding of the state of play in London on Saturday afternoon is fascinating.  Are we “all right”?  WTF, as they say.  Of course we’re all right.

Two facts got muddled.

One: There was a large, pre-organised demo in central London.  This was peaceful.  It was about as much of a threat to me or Michael or any other Londoners as a burst water main that caused a clutch of road closures.  Annoying, but nothing more.  Royal weddings, state visits with motorcades, big road works for other reasons, big road accidents, are just as annoying, and just as little a physical threat to anyone not directly involved, i.e. zero.  This was the “widespread disruption”.

Two: there was, I repeat, a small crime.  Some politico-hooligans, piggy-backing the big peaceful demo, damaged a famous shop, having been kept out of more appropriate and obvious targets, like banks.  People are blaming the police for being hoodwinked, but I say: they can’t be everywhere.

Combine this with some inflammatory and ignorant reporting, and some jumping to wrong conclusions from afar, and you get (if you were not there and don’t understand what “disruption” means) that central London was ablaze with Marxist style revolution!

That is not what happened.  But, I wonder how many other non-Brits still think that it was.  It certainly explains many of the amazingly wrong observations now being made in the right wing Instapunditosphere about “the state of Britain”.

Britain contains a small number of politico-hooligans, and a larger number of law-abiding but frightened public sector drones who want to keep their jobs, damn the country, with their heads full of silly socialistic nonsense about how economics works.  This does not mean that Britain has turned into Greece.

Although, now I think about it, Greece probably hasn’t “turned into Greece” either.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 March 2011

Greece was Greece already.

By that I mean it is a dysfunctional, barely (if that) democratic, ethnically prickly and economically unsophisticated country that was allowed into the EU and NATO during the Cold War for geopolitical reasons, whereas everyone else was actually required to pass some tests before they did. As for the Euro, German reunification required the Germans to lie before they could satisfy the tests that countries were supposed to pass before joining it. As the Germans had been allowed to lie, the Italians, Spanish and Portuguese (who the tests were designed were allowed to keep out, at least initially) were allowed to lie too. Once that had happened, the Greeks were allowed to lie also, even though their lies were several times bigger, possibly because they would have made too much noise about the extent to which other countries had lied, possibly because the others were just shrugging their shoulders and saying “Whatever”.

However, Greece has always been a major outlier, even within the EU’s southern European members.

People are blaming the police for being hoodwinked, but I say: they can’t be everywhere.

Indeed, which is why the culprits need to be tracked down, arrested, charged, and punished quite harshly, giving the message that this will happen to anyone else who tries the same thing.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 28 March 2011

"initial misunderstanding”? “WTF”? talking about me in the 3rd person? “jumping to wrong conclusion from afar”?
are you mad, Brian?

I was only worried about you, seeing all those photos and reading those accounts of rioting public employees - just like we had recently in Madison.
I see that sentiment was a mistake; never again.

Posted by Tatyana on 28 March 2011

Tatyana: Well exactly.  But I wasn’t blaming you.  I was noting how easily innacurate reporting can cause misunderstanding from afar.  The point is, the demo was large, but the violence trivial in scope by comparison.  It’s all those “accounts of rioting public employees” that I am complaining about, not you.  And your initial concern did truly amaze me.

Sorry about the third person thing.  I wasn’t just talking to you, but to everyone reading this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 March 2011

It is normal to be concerned about well-being of an acquaintance when he might be in a harms way. I would be (and was) equally concerned about people I know online who happened to be in Madison, WI during the riot at the Capitol, or in Haiti during an earthquake, or in Moscow when there were terror acts, &&&.
What is not normal, is your tone in response to that concern.

Besides, you are wrong in downplaying the events. I only hope the authorities will have balls to not dismiss them as unimportant. Greece and Portugal, and whole world history of recruiting plebs for rioting and violent coups (even if this particular plebs in question has university diplomas) should be a warning. There is absolutely nothing to indicate Britain is exempt from natural tendencies.

But you prefer to snap at friends rather than see the danger .

Posted by Tatyana on 28 March 2011

Tatyana, since we actually live in central London - as I do - I think we have the ability to judge whether this town is on the verge of Greek-style mayhem. Short answer: no it isn’t. Obviously we cannot rule it out, but unlikely.

I remember how a lot of Americans covered the mayhem in Paris a few years ago, as if the whole of Europe was about to go up in smoke. That is not to minimise the trouble, but still. (Mark Steyn can be wrong, you know).

Another thing to bear in mind - as I said over at Samizdata - is that a lot of Londoners, including quite low paid folk, are getting just a bit tired of people coming to the capital, causing a ruckus, and saddling us with the bill.

I think Michael nailed it about Greece.

Posted by Johnathan P on 29 March 2011
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