Drones are expendable

This, from Tim Newman, concerning Trump’s threatened-but-then-not-done (or not yet done) retaliatory war against the Iranians, in response to them shooting down an American drone, strikes me as very sensible:

… Now one of the advantages of using unmanned drones is that shooting one down does not require the same response as if a pilot has been killed or captured. That’s the whole point of using them: while expensive, they are expendable to a much greater degree. …

My guess is that Trump is playing to the gallery, the gallery being the discontented people of Iran. He is trying to show, by cranking up the brinkmanship and thereby drawing attention to what he’s doing, that he is on their side, but that their own rulers, seemingly ready to provoke a war with the USA, don’t care about them. Will this work? Is that even the plan? What do I know?

Certainly, starting a war over the destruction of a mere piece of equipment seems to me very stupid, indeed wicked, and more to the point will seem stupid and wicked to many others besides me.

On a more peaceful note, here is a piece about robots as aerial transporters. Rapid progress is being made here, apparently.

Although, this piece is about robots carrying passengers.

It would seem to me that there is particular merit in using drones to transport mere stuff, as opposed to transporting people. With stuff, what’s the worst that could happen? It goes prang, and some stuff, and a drone, gets lost? Provided the transporting is not done too dangerously over built-up areas, few humans are likely to get hurt or killed. That book you ordered from Amazon will take a bit longer to materialise. Boo hoo.

With the passing of every year, destroying stuff matters that bit less, and killing people matters that bit more, and long may that trend continue. Which means that peaceful drones, transporting stuff which is as expendable as they are themselves, seems like a particularly good plan. Passengers? There’s a lot more to go wrong with them on board.

However, aerial robots seem a basically better idea, to begin with, than robot cars that drive along anything resembling regular roads. I get more and more sceptical about robot cars as each deadline for their mass deployment seems to come and go. True, if you lose power in the air, that’s a lot worse than losing power on the ground. But, the air, for now, unless you’re in a war, is a fundamentally more predictable environment than the ground, because the ground is already so very occupied, so full of people wandering about doing their own deeply unpredictable things, often using their own vehicles. The air, on the other hand, only contains admittedly rather undisciplined birds, but otherwise, mostly, much more disciplined and tightly controlled aircraft. Okay, a few small aircraft sometimes go where they aren’t wanted and that can complicate things. But there are, for the time being anyway, no gangs of drunken pedestrians in the sky.

But, like I say, what do I know?

The Mississippi Basin

I have never seen this map before:

I sharpened it a bit, so that I could read, with my Getting Old eyesight, the smaller river names with a bit less difficulty.

It is map number 7 of these 45 maps. A Twitter posting last night, now way down in my feed, showed one of these maps.

My favourite piece of geography there is probably Chicago, where it seems that they have a river which flows into the Mississippi. Blog and learn.

Attached blurb:

You may have heard that the Mississippi River is mighty, but if you ever doubted it, just take a look at this map. You’ll see that an extraordinary number of the United States’ rivers and tributaries send water into the Mighty Miss.

Quite so.

I love the names. Milk. Yazoo. Republican. Canadian (nowhere near Canada). Powder. Smoky. In general, I love the names of American places and geographical features. They seem impossibly exotic compared to the names of places in England. (But I’m sure that, for quite a few Americans, it must work the other way around.)

England has no big rivers. The Thames would hardly merit a name on the above map. I recall that one of my better pieces for Samizdata was about how the application of steam power to river transport entirely passed us Brits by. We went straight from stationary steam engines in coal mines to steam engines on locomotives. Unlike America. Yes, here.

On this day

Madsen Pirie:

May 1st could be remembered for many things. It was on this day in 1707 that the Act of Union joining England and Wales with Scotland took effect, creating the United Kingdom. It was also on May 1st that the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued, creating the UK popular mail service that was used so skillfully to disseminate leaflets by the Anti Corn-Law League.

It was also the date in 1851 that Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition, to demonstrate the UK’s achievements to the world, and to sell them. Another great opening on the day was in 1931, when the Empire State Building was dedicated in New York. So iconic was it that it featured two years later in the classic movie, King Kong.

To all of the above can be added that May 1st 2019 was the day that Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog was loosed upon the world. That’s certainly how I’m going to remember May 1st, from now on.

Pirie goes on to discuss how Mayday, in Britain, means celebrating workers, and the amount of revolutionary mischief they can be persuaded to inflict upon the world.

I prefer my version of this date. Although, I also liked what Pirie went on to say about the contrast between when the dates celebrating Labour happen in Britain and in America. It’s the difference, he says, between hope and experience, between failure and success, between socialism and capitalism.

A musical metaphor is developed

In this blog posting, someone called Judge Ellis is quoted saying, somewhere in America, some time recently or not so recently, in connection with something Trump-related, this:

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud – what you really care about is what information Mr Manafort could give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment.

“This vernacular to ‘sing’ is what prosecutors use. What you’ve got to be careful of is that they may not only sing, they may compose.”

Good expression. Never heard it before, although it must have been around for decades.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A very responsible turkey

ABC News reports, with video:

This very responsible turkey halted traffic on a two-lane road in New Hampshire until the entire flock was able to cross.

Via Roz the Crime Fiction Writer, who says:

He has the exact demeanour of our old school lollipop lady.

Pigeons and foxes aren’t the only ones who have adapted to human civilisation.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

New Big Thin Things in New York

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

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.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A new book (which will be available in English) by Emmanuel Todd

Emmanuel Todd has written another book, and it has been translated into English. And, it is a book by Emmanuel Todd that I have been awaiting for a long time. The title alone is the clue. “From the Stone Age …”. What that tells me is that there is at least a good chance that Todd will tell me something of how he thinks those distinct family structures of his, the ones that explain ideology and are among the causes of progress got established in the first place.

£30 is a lot to be paying for a book, and usually I wait for Amazon to do its thing and bring the price of such books down to a tenner. But this time, I don’t think I’ll be wanting to wait like this. I want this one as soon as I can get my hands and eyes on it. On May 3rd, in other words.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

One Park Drive

Recently I paid a visit to Docklands. The Big Things there add up to a quite impressive cluster, but are, on the whole, individually, unlike quite a few of those in The City, rather characterless and bland.

There is, however, an exception. This:

It’s One Park Drive, now nearing completion.

Here are a few more photos of it that I photoed:

Circular in plan. Its surface changes from one effect to another as you move up or down. Next to a stretch of water. I’m guessing they were thinking of these two towers in Chicago.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog