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

Worse than bad form

There were so many fun things in Churchill’s underground wartime lair. Some of my favourites were not to be seen among the genuine antiquities. Rather were they mere reproductions, on sale in the gift shop. Of these, I think this one, a wartime poster, spoke to me most eloquently, from that far off time, just a handful of years before I was born:

I have always been very careful to refrain from dressing extravagantly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

BMdotcom quote of the day: Amy Wax describes bourgeois virtues

Professor Amy Wax, quoted in this:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These are the kind of virtues that, in Charles Murray’s words, the upper classes of the USA have been practising, but have been neglecting to preach to those below them in the social pecking order. Result says Professor Wax: disaster.

That phrase about preaching what they practise is a good one and I am glad it is getting around. (I mentioned it in this Samizdata piece.) I don’t always practise these virtues myself, particularly the ones concerning working hard and avoiding idleness. (I would also want to distinguish between serving my country and serving its mere state apparatus.) But I preach these virtues nevertheless. Do what she says, not what I do.

A little hypocrisy is far preferable to a lot of silence in these matters.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A new not very big Thing in Paris

Following on from yesterday’s ruminations, in among lots of stuff that doesn’t fascinate me, including one posting about shit, is a report about Paris’ tallest building in over 40 years.

Presumably “Paris” doesn’t include La Défense, which is out on the edge of Paris. Those Big Things are very big indeed. What they’re talking about here is building Big Things in the centre of Paris.

And the thing is, this Thing not very tall at all:

In London, this sort of thing would hardly be noticed.

But the fact that this new Thing is not that big is deliberate.

“This project is not a high-rise, but embodies a shift in attitude, and this gradual increase marks a willingness to reconsider the potential of height and will change the city landscape little by little,” said the architects.

They know that if they are to get any new truly Big Things anywhere near the centre of Paris, the first step is to make some things that are not Big, but just a tiny bit bigger. First you get the opposition to concede the principle, with something that doesn’t arouse huge opposition. Then you gradually increase the heights, until finally you get your Big Things, and the opposition unites too late. And by then it’s too small, because lots of people actually like the new Big Things. This is how politics is done. And this is politics.

The last, and so far only new and truly Big Thing anywhere near the middle of Paris (other than the Eiffel Tower) is the Montparnasse Tower, which was completed in 1973. Compared to almost everything else in central Paris, before or since, the Montparnasse Tower is very tall indeed. It aroused a lot of opposition by embodying such an abrupt, even contemptuous, change of Paris skyscraper policy, and judging by what happened for the next forty years, that opposition was very successful. This time around, those who want Big Parisian Things are going about it more carefully, as the above quote shows.

Speaking of politics, who is that geezer in the picture, in the picture? A politician, I’ll bet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog