“It is now well known that …”

I continue to read The Square and the Tower, and very good it is too, just like it says inside the front cover and on the back cover.

In the chapter about the Russian Revolution, appropriately entitled “The Plague”, we read (by which I mean that I read (on pages 214-5)) this:

It is now well known that fewer people were killed in the October Revolution than were killed in the shooting of Sergei Eisenstein’s tenth-anniversary film about it.

Well, this may now be “well-known”, but I did not know it.

Not that this makes the event insignificant. After it, the “plague” spread with astonishing speed.

Only amongst the vast peasantry and the Cossacks did the Bolsheviks lack leaders – which helps explain therapid descent of Russia into an urban-rural civil war in the course of 1918. Essentially, the Bolshevik virus travelled by train and telegraph; and literate soldiers; sailors and workers were the most susceptible to it.

That literacy was at the heart of the Bolshevik story is something that I did know.

Churchill War Rooms gallery

One of the nice things about people coming to stay is that you often find yourself visiting touristy but interesting things that you’d never quite get around to seeing on your own. Later, maybe, but not today. It’ll always be there won’t it?

Touristy things like: the Churchill War Rooms. In February of last year, nearly two years ago now, GodDaughter2’s Dad was in town, and that’s one of the places we went.

And I took the odd photo or two. Well, more like 350, of which here are 84:

A big spread of photos like that would have been an impossibly tedious operation to stick up at Brian Micklethwait’s Previous Blog, and an equally tedious business for you to be scrutinising. But now, here they all are, and you can do the usual, clicking through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Enjoy. Especially if you rarely or never visit London, and have no plans to see this place for real.

There’s a million things I could say about it. One of the more striking of the photos above is photo 33, which shows how thick the concrete was protecting everything, from all but the most direct of direct hits, that passage that you see having been drilled through afterwards, when they were turning these working spaces into a place people could visit and circulate around.

Other talking points? Well, lots of signs and souvenirs, often signs made into souvenirs, for sale in the inevitable gift shop. And also: signs that are not Original but Modern. Signs with lots of words. Which is appropriate, given how important Churchill knew words (see photo 80) to be.

Most of the human figures that you see are not real; they’re sculpted. And “Other creatures” is in the category list because, inevitably, there are bulldogs.

I did all the bard work for this posting before I got ill, and I’m still not fully recovered. So, please continue to wish me well.

Another podcast I just listened to that was good

Here.

It’s Bryan Caplan (the guy who gave this lecture that I recently attended), talking to Darren Grimes of the IEA. Caplan disagrees with most voters, but in an ingratiating way. As he himself says towards the end of the conversation, if you have disagreeable things to say, say them agreeably and people will be more likely to listen.

LATER: Now, I’m listening to another interview. Scott Adams autobiographising. Terrific.

Is Communist China now losing its future?

If even slightly true, this, by David Archibald, is remarkable:

Lawyer Dan Harris writes that Chinese companies are now acting very short-term in their dealings with foreign companies. The situation reminds him of Russia in the 1990s. The Russians then, straight out of communism, would sign a deal but then immediately renege and run off with the cash, foregoing a large future benefit for a much smaller immediate gain. They did so because they did not expect there to be a future.

Harris’s words: “I am writing about this now because China today is feeling a lot like Russia in the 1990s. I am getting the sense that many Chinese companies are pessimistic about their futures and they are acting accordingly.”

And: “On top of the economic issues, many Chinese companies have become both wary of and angry at the West, particularly the United States. This too makes things riskier for foreign companies. We are seeing the results of all this in many ways.

Practically every week, one of our China lawyers will get an email or a phone call from someone who bought product from China and received nothing in return or nothing even approaching what they actually ordered. This sending of ‘junk’ instead of real product has spread to pretty much every industry in China.”

Further from Harris: “Sinosure is China’s state-owned export insurance company that pays Chinese manufacturers that were stiffed by their foreign buyers and then seeks to collect from the foreign buyers that allegedly failed to pay. … We are now seeing Sinosure cases where the Chinese manufacturer has made what we think are fraudulent policy claims to Sinosure because they are desperate for cash and they don’t care about maintaining their relationship with their foreign buyer.”

Yet more: “Lastly, our China lawyers are dealing with an increasing number of situations where the Chinese side of a China joint venture has essentially taken over the joint venture and stops communicating with its foreign joint venture partner.”

So Chinese companies are burning their bridges and attempting to monetize the last scraps of goodwill left in the system. They are effectively eating their seed corn. …

In the 1980s I and some mates based around the then Alternative Bookshop – in Covent Garden, a short walk from the Opera House – ran a little thing called the Anti-Soviet Society. We said that Russia should stop being communist and should become a liberal democracy. One-and-a-bit out of two (Russia is now a democracy of sorts but hardly a liberal democracy) ain’t bad. You can never know about such things, but this little enterprise may have shortened the Cold War by as much as a few fractions of a second. I think I still have some pamphlets that it dished out around then.

Time for something similar to be done to the Chinese Communists, who look like they may now be losing the mandate of heaven. Or to put it another way, time for me to find out about such enterprises that already exist, if they do.

To those who say that the Chinese economy now is far more impressive than the Soviet economy ever was, I say: True, but what matters is the direction in which things are heading, or feel like they’re heading, rather than the absolute level of affluence (or lack of it). These Chinese Communists feel to me like they’re losing the future, just as the old USSR did.

A tyranny collapsing always seems impossible. Until it collapses.

LATER: On the other hand … How China Sees the Hong Kong Crisis. He reckons they’re pretty relaxed about it.

A tax infographic about and a meeting at my home about Hong Kong

Dominic Frisby:

Frisby says that Dan Neidle will like this. I don’t know anything about Dan Neidle, other than this. But I like it. As much for the colours and its hand-done nature as for its content.

Concerning Hong Kong, last night I semi- (as in: still to be solidified and date still to be settled) signed up a Hong Kong lady to speak at one of my Last-Friday-of-the-Month meetings, about how Hong Honk is demonstrating back, so to speak, against the Chinese Government’s plans to subjugate it.

I warned her that my meetings are not large, and not as a rule attended by The World’s Movers and Shakers (although such personages do sometimes show up). But that didn’t bother her, or didn’t seem to. She seems to understand instinctively that big things can come out of small gatherings, if only in the form of one suggested contact or one item of information.

Alas, Hong Kong’s era of low and simple taxes is now under severe threat, along with many other more important things.

A strange political graphic

Yesterday I voted, in the EUro-elections. You probably know which way I voted, but that isn’t my point here.

My point here is this extraordinary graphic, which the Labour Party and its supporters were plugging on social media, in the days before the vote:

The above graphic distorts the reality that although Tommy Robinson, Nigel Farage and Gerard Batten all favour Brexit, only one of them (Farage) is a member of the Brexit Party. They’re trying to lump them all together. Otherwise, why that distinctly Brexit Party turquoise colour? Why no reference to UKIP purple?

There was another one, featuring Brexit Party candidate Claire Fox, along with some rather distorting words about her belief in freedom of expression.

But the verbal trickery is not the biggest oddity of this and related graphics. It’s the pictures. A confident political party doesn’t fill the world with pictures of the people it opposes and fears. It proclaims the faces of its own leaders and heroes. I mean, I only discovered Batten’s actual christian name (I thought it was “Gerald”) while I was concocting this posting. It’s like they’re really trying to big up the very people they’re fearful of.

And a confident political party especially doesn’t proclaim the faces of the people it fears, while saying that it is against fear and wants fear to lose. This graphic is the politics of fear. I genuinely don’t get how they could have okayed this thing. Were they actually seduced by the triviality of “fear” rhyming with “here”? Was it that dopey?

Not that there is anything wrong with the politics of fear. I voted the way I did yesterday as much out of the fear of what I didn’t and don’t want, as I did because I am especially hopeful about what I did vote for.

Talking about Brexit

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:

They all left, I guess.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A nearly invisible new bridge from Battersea to Pimlico

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:

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.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The performing horses of Warwick Castle: Nice legs – shame about the faces

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses. And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them. It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions. It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say. The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars. Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side. As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right. And I guess he’d say the same of horses. Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces. (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever. I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Dominic Frisby sings a right wing song

I just watched Dominic Frisby, accompanying himself on the ukulele, singing a right wing comic song, recorded live at something called Comedy Unleashed.

I watched it on Facebook. Here is a link. Does that work? Does it work only if you are on Facebook? Does it work only if you are on Facebook and a “friend” of Dominic Frisby?

I have just suggested that this video be stuck up at Samizdata. If that happens, I’ll add a link to that here.

Anyway, whether you get to see this video or not, it did make me think about that mythical beast that keeps on being talked about as something that exists or could exist, but which is now so seldom actually sighted. I’m talking about right wing comedy. In Britain.

What distinguishes Dominic Frisby from what you’d think a right wing comedian would be like is that he is so nice. When he does comedy, at the usual comedy places, and as he has been doing it for years, he clearly fits in. He is part of it all. He likes – or does a damn good job of pretending that he likes – doing it, and the people he is doing it for. He is mates with the other comedians, or comes across as that. He has been following the time-tested rule for all challengers of the status quo, which is to start by thoroughly acquainting himself with that status quo, and showing that he is perfectly capable of winning by its existing rules. That way, he learns his craft, he learns his audience, and he proves that he is not dissenting from orthodoxy merely because that orthodoxy is something he cannot do. The new product he is offering is not sour grapes, but a new sweetness.

In this particular song, Frisby does not clobber his audience with confrontational opposition to assumed lefty wisdom, which he assumes his audience all shares and which he hates them all for all sharing. No, he starts, in the manner recommended by noted philosopher Karl Popper, by summarising the case of those he disagrees with in the most respectful possible manner. Only then does he suggest, in the most modest possible way, that there just might be another way of looking at the matter (maybe Tommy Robinson has a point, maybe Trump’s not all bad), and in a way that suggests he isn’t the only one who has been having these heretical thoughts. He is leading his audience in a direction he really thinks they might follow him along. It’s all done in the manner of George Formby, with grins and hints and merriment, with enjoyment simply assumed.

I never thought I’d hear a comedian get a laugh with one note played on a ukulele. But that is exactly what happens, in the intro to verse three (which says that maybe Theresa May should get the sack).

More about right wing comedy in this, if you can decipher it. It’s a photo of a big Sunday Times spread.

Let me try to make it easier to read:

On the right of all this, not included in the above, this:

I saw a woman in a T-shirt that said “Smashing patriarchy!” on it. Nice to see that some of them appreciate the hard work we put in.

That’s not Frisby. That’s another right wing comic. As you can read above, there’s a whole bunch of them.

But this is Frisby. It’s another song called Secretly In Love With Nigel Farrage. Sadly, the sound balance is all wrong and I couldn’t hear the words properly. I hope Frisby has another go at recording that, on some future comedy occasion.

I’ve been a Frisby fan ever since I first heard of him, and I’ve not been wrong. He even did a couple of my Last Friday meetings, doing very early try-outs of future Edinburgh shows.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog