In a posting sarcastically entitled Great questions of our time, the usually excellent Mick Hartley pours scorn on a book with the question in my title above as its subtitle, without (I’m guessing) him (Mick Hartley) having read any of this book.
I tried to attach the following comment to Hartley’s posting but could not make it work, so here it is, here:
I think this actually is a great question. Given what a totally vile doctrine Islam is, and given how many people say that they follow it, why indeed do so few Muslims, percentage wise, actually do the kinds of murderous things demanded of them in Islam’s holy scriptures?
The more vile you consider the things that Islam demands of its devotees, and they seem to me to be very vile indeed, the better the question is.
I am a regular and grateful reader of your blog. …
… by which I mean Mick Hartley‘s blog.
… I rarely disagree with you (and I greatly enjoy your photos (taken by you and by others)), but I think I do disagree with you on this.
Whether the above-linked-to book actually does supply good answers to this question, I do not know. But it surely is a question well worth asking.
Similarly good questions are: Why are there now so few wars raging these days, compared to how many wars that might now be raging? (Part of the answer to that would help to explain, in particular, all those verbally manic yet strangely well-behaved Muslims.) Why so few car crashes, train crashes, air crashes? And yes, I am well aware that there are a also a great many car crashes, but why not far more, given how many cars there are wizzing about hither and thither? Which are more numerous, I wonder, cars or Muslims? Muslims, I should guess, but it is not a confident guess. (Recent answer for the number of cars in the world.)
See also: Why is gun control not necessary, to prevent armed civilians killing each other in large numbers when mere arguments get heated? Because it seems not to be. Armed civilians actually almost never kill each other for bad, domestic or bar-room type disagreement reasons. They mostly (overwhelmingly so) defend themselves with guns against criminals, for very good reasons. The benefits of civilian gun ownership, in those states of the USA where civilian gun ownership is allowed seem to outweigh the harm that you might think that legalising gun ownership might unleash. Why? Was that predictable? To many, not. Minds are changed with questions and answers of this sort. (I can remember, a long time ago now, my own mind being thus changed.) Gun legalisation is now spreading in the USA.
That latter question, about gun control, has become very pertinent to the matter of how to see off the relatively few Muslims who do decide to become terrorists. Armed police in the numbers we have now can’t be everywhere, and shouldn’t be. Also, it is devilishly difficult to predict exactly which verbally fanatical Muslims are actually going to do something appropriately murderous about it. Muslim nutters make up a dauntingly large group to keep tabs on all the time, and in any case do we want to live in a world where the authorities have all the powers they would like to keep such tabs?
In Europe, the gun control argument doesn’t look like happening for real any time soon. But it is now happening for real in connection with the capital city of the USA, which terrorists are apparently saying is now high on their hit list. Are we soon due a Rand Paul “I told you so” moment?
When Corbyn is challenged on his beliefs and his record, he tends to respond by characterising a political challenge as a personal attack. He treats it as intrusive, rude and vulgar. In so doing, he accomplishes three things. He paints himself as the innocent victim of unjust aggression; he avoids responding to the detail of the challenge; and he bolsters the distinction between the good people inside his tent and the bad people outside of it. Howard Jacobson writes:
There was something ‘How very dare you’, about Jeremy Corbyn’s recent temper tantrum in rebuttal of the charge that the company he kept reflected badly on him. ‘The idea that I’m some kind of racist or anti-Semitic person is beyond appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive,’ he said (Jacobson 2015).
‘Alarm bells ring when a politician stands haughty upon his honour,’ observes Jacobson. When Jeremy says he doesn’t do personal what he means is that he will not deal with criticism in the normal way. He will not respond to it by means of reason or argument; he refuses to enter into serious engagement over worldviews, over ideas or over his record. He is less interested in trying to persuade than in making criticism appear as personal insult. ‘Jeremy doesn’t do personal’ does not mean that he refrains from insulting others; it means that he refrains from responding to that which he is able to construct as insulting.
– David Hirsh
My thanks to the invaluable Mick Hartley for flagging up Hirsh’s paper, entitled “The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason”.
Dan Hannan, in a piece about how Indians would like Britain out of the EU so that Indians can more easily do business with Britain, ruminates upon the irrelevance of mere geography in the modern world:
Two generations ago, when most business was localised and freight costs were high, regional customs unions had a certain appeal. But in the Internet age, geographical proximity has never mattered less. Culture and kinship trump distance.
Likewise, in many eyes, lack of cultural affinity and lack of kinship trump geographical proximity, or they should. The biggest reason why Brexit seems now to be winning in Britain is that we are now watching EUrope make a hopeless mess of mass immigration from its geographically near but culturally very distinct eastern neighbours.
Near the end of the same piece Hannan says:
Next year, Britain will have to decide whether we are defined chiefly by our geography. Must we merge with states which happen to be in the vicinity, or do we recognise that some values transcend continents, linking us to kindred peoples in more distant lands?
I was having similar thoughts here, a while back, when the internet was just getting into its stride as a mass experience.
I see that I also had some rather prophetic things to say in that piece (posted in 2002) about the recently concluded Rugby World Cup (2015). The point being that rugby is an activity that was then and still remains at the mercy of geographical proximity. Rugby tournaments that happen every year, all the time, need to be based in the same approximate locality. Northern Hemisphere rugby teams were in 2002, and remain in 2015, physically separated from their superior Southern Hemisphere rivals. England had a little moment of superiority in the noughts, just winning the 2003 World Cup and coming second in 2007. So when England recently got knocked out at the group stage of the latest Rugby World Cup in 2015, in England, it felt like a uniquely terrible failure. But come the semi-finals this time around, no Northern Hemisphere teams remained in the tournament, despite the event itself having been held in the Northern Hemisphere. In the quarter finals, New Zealand slaughtered France, and Argentina decisively defeated Ireland, France and Ireland having been regarded by many as the best Northern Hemisphere bets. Many had realised that Argentina, who now regularly play against the Southern Hemisphere big three (NZ, Australia, South Africa) have recently got a lot better, but many others, me included, were amazed, not just by the fact of Argentina’s victory over Ireland but by the manner of it. Wales and Scotland did better but still lost, to South Africa and Australia.
However, the fact that regular rugby tournaments are obliged to cluster geographically is no reason for political entities to attempt to do the same. Geographical proximity to weaker teams and separation from the strongest teams is seen by Northern Hemisphere rugby people as a problem, not as any sort of answer to their problems.
With Dan Hannan, I say: Brexit. And it has to be a good sign that this anti-Brexit guy, in an article with very high google visibility, is making excuses about why his team may be about to lose rather than even attempting to make persuasive arguments about why it should win.
I and my libertarian friends all love Uber. By that I don’t just mean that we love using Uber, the service, although I am sure that just like many others, we do. I mean that we love talking about Uber, as a libertarian issue, as an issue that nicely illustrates what libertarianism is all about and the sorts of things that libertarians believe in. In particular, we believe in: technological innovation and the freedom to do it, for the benefit of all, except those in the immediate vicinity of it and overtaken by it, because they make a living from the technology that is being overtaken.
Example. A couple of weeks ago I attended a talk about Art, which suggested that Art is not abundant enough and not benefiting enough people. A big part of the response from the floor during the Q&A afterwards was: It depends what you mean by Art. By most reasonable definitions, there has never been more Art. Prominent London libertarian Professor Tim Evans compared the attitude of the speaker to that of a London Black Cab driver fretting about how to keep London Black Cabs going, what with so many Londoners now preferring Uber Cabs. My point is not that this was a fair comparison, although I thought it was. My point is that we libertarians love Uber so much that we insert Uber into conversations about quite other things. Uber is something that we just love to talk about. And it’s not just Tim Evans, and me, and Johnathan Pearce, and Rob Fisher and Perry de Havilland who love to write and talk about Uber. Based on the conversations I’ve been having with fellow libertarians, it’s pretty much all of us. This is an issue which unites all of us, and which divides our opponents. After all, even anti-libertarians need a taxi ride from time to time, and they prefer it to be cheap and obtainable rather than expensive and unpurchasable.
At the very moment I first typed in the above paragraph, an email arrived from the IEA, telling me about how the IEA’s boss, Mark Littlewood, has been mixing it with Black Cabbies on the radio.
As for me, I found my interest renewed in the Uber battle when I encountered this Black Cab, last August, in Victoria Street, just up the road from the Houses of Parliament:
Why was this cab of interest to me? Well, let’s take a close look at the rather intriguing politics lesson on the side of this Black Cab:
As you can see from this posting at my personal blog, way back in August when I took those photos, I had in mind to put something here way back, provoked by them. But the delay didn’t matter. This issue is not going away any time soon.
The taxi driver whose taxi sported this advert clearly thought that this was an advert about how wicked Uber is. Uber lobbies. Uber puts Prime Ministerial friends on its payroll. Bad Uber. But to me, this read more like an advert in favour of David Cameron. Cameron wants Uber to flourish in London. Does he now? I did not know this. Good for Cameron. And bad for Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who does not.
This is also an advert for Uber itself. Uber is cheaper … because it pays no tax! Come again … Uber is cheaper, you say? Hm, interesting. I must give it a go.
The LTDA, who, as you can see from the top picture, is responsible for the above advert, thinks that Uber is systematically breaking the law. What that tells me is not that Uber is bad, but that the law, insofar as it now impinges upon Uber, is an ass.
→ Continue reading: Why we libertarians love Uber not just as a service but as an issue
For just over a year now, the younger of my two Goddaughters has been a student at the Royal College of Music, learning to be a mezzo-soprano. The two of us just shared supper in Chelsea, and while we consumed it she told me something very bizarre and rather sinister, about the chaos that was apparently inflicted, earlier this evening, upon her and her colleagues at the RCM by the latest James Bond film London premiere. This jamboree took place just across the road from the RCM, at the Royal Albert Hall, and it seems that the RCM was commanded to evacuate all its practice rooms that overlooked this premiere activity (quite a lot of which was outside the Royal Albert Hall on those big steps at the back), to stop anyone seeing it, and in particular, presumably, to stop them filming it or photographing it. These RCM practice rooms are in constant use, and alternatives are very hard to come by. Neither the students nor the teachers of the RCM were at all amused by this intrusion into their already stressful and hardworking lives.
How the hell can a mere bunch of movie people insist on barging into other people’s buildings and ordering them around like this? I thought James Bond was all about defending the liberties of British citizens, not violating them. According to GD2, the Royal College of Music did not agree to this arrangement. It was merely informed of it, by Westminster City Council. If the College did consent voluntarily to this arrangement, in exchange for a cash payment, for instance, rather than simply being forced to submit to it, they didn’t tell any of their inmates about that fact.
You can see what the people who inflicted all this upon the RCM were thinking. It was their event. They owned it. Nobody whom they did not invite or control should be allowed to film it. But, I say that if you want total control of the filming or photographing of an event, don’t hold your event in a public place, out in the open air, and then impose your control on places that merely overlook this public place. If you do bizarre things in public, you are fair photographic game, to anyone in the vicinity who chooses to snap you or video you.
GD2 is my only source for this story, and maybe she, or I in reporting what she said to me, have it wrong. I’d welcome comments about this or similar events, corrective if necessary. (I could find nothing about this event, other than about it simply happening, on the www.) But if what GD2 told me is right, and if my recollection of what she told me about it is also right, well, I am not impressed.
This circumstance reminded me of the crap inflicted on London when the Olympic Games came to town.
Party politics in Britain now is conferring retrospective significance upon a generation of – and this is putting it very mildly – bad mannered behaviour by lefties.
Here is an example:
This picture was used by London Mayor Boris Johnson to illustrate an article about what is now happening to the Labour Party. It is a cleaned-up snap of what some lefty moral projectionist did to a war memorial in May of this year, during an anti-austerity demo.
The Boris Johnson article was posted last weekend at the Daily Telegraph website, to which links from here are not encouraged. Its title is: “Labour directs its impotent fury at all but those responsible – itself”. It is about how, because they dare not now discuss their own self-inflicted failures and perplexities accurately and clearly, Labourites instead now prefer to blame others for these things.
At the time it happened, the above-illustrated piece of moral decrepitude was not hugely significant. Some people now behave like this. Why? Insert preferred causal theory. Mine might have involved the expansion of the universities and of the welfare system, and perhaps also a reflection on what spraycans have done to our world. Religious people might have murmured something about the decline of religion as a moral force in our society. Those who think that history is now taught badly in Britain’s schools might have talked about that. Most feminists, torn between denouncing what is on several levels a horrible anti-woman insult or, on the other hand, denouncing a fellow lefty moral projectionist for perpetrating it, presumably remained mute.
But that picture now interests me more than it did in May, or would have had I seen it then, just as it recently interested Boris Johnson. Maybe I did see it back in May, but now, I am doing something else. I am noticing it. I even did some googling and found an uncensored version of what had been done. You pretty much knew already what the Boris version of this piece of rudeness was concealing, but I want now to spell it out:
I found this here. This did not take me long.
→ Continue reading: Expletive undeleted
Every so often I encounter a comment that seems to me to deserve to be dragged out of the credits at the end of the show, and given top billing in its own right.
Here is one such, by David Gillies, at David Thompson’s blog, on this posting. Someone had introduced the subject of Jeremy Corbyn into the comment thread. This was what Gillies had to say about the man:
Jeremy Corbyn was born in 1949. Stalin was still in power then. Since then we have been through the Korean War, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the Prague Spring and its subsequent repression, the Communist takeover of Viet Nam and Laos, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, the fall of Eastern European Communism, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tiananmen Square and the recent upswing in Russian revanchism. We have also seen free markets and the rule of Law lift billions out of utter destitution, leaving mainly untouched those areas where the Left still has sway. Despite all this, Corbyn still cleaves to the most disgusting, barbarous ideology that has been seen on Earth since the Conquistadors put the kibosh on Aztec thoracic surgery. That’s not misguided. That’s evil. Just because he looks like a geography teacher shouldn’t let him off the hook. He is a wicked man busily surrounding himself with wicked (mainly) men and a few wicked women. We should not be afraid to state, plainly and repeatedly, what he is and what he stands for. To do any less is to acquiesce in his vileness.
On the other hand, the commenter directly above Gillies pours scorn on Corbyn’s fondness for photographing manholes. I see nothing wrong with that. And if Corbyn could be chased out of politics and persuaded to stick to doing only that, I would then see a lot less wrong with Corbyn.
If only there was some way for the Labour Party to be trashed, which is what Corbyn seems to be doing, without the trashing of my country also being risked.
One of the dominant themes of architectural development of the last few decades, and never more so than right now, is the architectural use of glass. Architectural glass used to be a means by which Architectural Modernists could fry, freeze and embarrass the lower orders, in the name of Architectural Modernism. Transparency, “structural honesty”, blah blah. But in the last few decades architectural glass has got hugely better and more varied, and architectural modernity has gone from ugly and clunky to really quite stylish, at least when they are trying.
And now, here is favourite-website-of-mine Dezeen, reporting on what the fact of and the possibilities of 3D printed glass are and might be:
Designer and researcher Neri Oxman and her Mediated Matter group at MIT Media Lab have developed a technique for 3D-printing molten glass, meaning that transparent glass objects can be printed for the first time …
Cool. Metaphorically speaking.
Oxman’s team have used the technique to produce a range of vases and bowls, but Oxman said that the new glass-printing technology could be used at an architectural scale.
Which is what gets Dezeen’s juices flowing, because they are very big on architecture, as am I.
The process, for which a patent application has been submitted, can create an infinite variety of glass forms, just like a traditional 3D printer.
“The additive manufacturing of glass enables us to generate structures that are geometrically customisable and optically tunable with high spatial resolution in manufacturing,” Oxman told Dezeen. …
“Because we can design and print outer and inner surface textures independently (unlike glass blowing) we can control solar transmittance.”
By the look of it, the early uses of this kit will not be for building. They’ll be for making weird bowls and drinking glasses and lighting kit and jewellery and the like, and to begin with only for people with money to burn. But, that’s all part of how start-up and R&D costs are paid. Capitalism soaks the rich, and thereby eventually brings wonder-products to the mass market, in the form of cheap stuff that the most rapacious monarchs of the past could only dream of possessing.
Another use for this sort of technology might be for such things as solar panels, including quite small ones. The phrase “solar transmittance” certainly suggests that this thoughts like that have not escaped Neri Oxman and her collaborators. My techy friends are telling me that solar power is nearing economic viability. 3D-printed glass can surely only help with that.
Yet another reason why I would really like to live to the end of the next century, instead of only half way through
it this one if I’m very lucky.
Between 1945 and about 1965, atom bombs and then hydrogen bombs were devised and demonstrated by the two biggest Great Powers, and then manufactured and attached to rockets in sufficient numbers to cause any all-out war between these two superpowers very probably to be a catastrophic defeat for both, to say nothing of being a similar catastrophe for all other humans, within a few hours. This new kind of destructive power also spread to a small club of lesser Great Powers.
This did not happen overnight. It didn’t all come about in 1945. But it happened pretty quickly, historically in the blink of an eye. It changed the world from a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be prepared for, at all costs, to a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be avoided, again, at all costs. That is a very big change.
I do not assert that all wars have ended. Clearly they have not, as one glance through a newspaper or news website will tell you. Small powers still have small wars, and Great Powers regularly join in, in small ways. Sometimes, Great Powers start small wars, like the one in the Ukraine now. But even these small wars have been getting less numerous and smaller in recent decades. Small wars can get big, so even small wars are now discouraged by Great Powers.
Nor do I assert that all preparations for war by Great Powers have ceased, or that they should. But more than ever, the purpose of such preparations is to enable mere confrontations to be emerged from victoriously or failing that satisfactorily, rather than for such preparations – such weapons – constantly to be “used”, in the sense of being fired, fought with, and so on. The purpose of weapons is to scare, as well as to win fights, and they are being “used” whenever anyone is scared by them. Great Powers will still spend lots of money on weaponry.
But what has not happened, for many decades now, and what still shows no sign of happening despite all kinds of diplomatic, ideological and financial turbulence, is an all-out fire-every-weapon-we-have war involving two or more Great – by which I of course mean nuclear – Powers. In this sense, countries like mine, and almost certainly yours too given that you are reading this, have become peaceful in a way that they have never experienced before in all of human history before 1945.
In case anyone mentions Iran, I don’t believe that Iran’s leaders want to use nuclear weapons, as in: detonate them. I think they want to scare their enemies while trying to win other, non-nuclear victories, just like any other nuclear power. I didn’t believe Chairman Mao when he played the nuclear madman either. He was just trying to scare people, and he succeeded also.
And if you want to say that like all historical trends, this one could end, because of this or that imaginable or unimaginable circumstance, then I of course agree with you. History keeps on happening. But for the time being, the trend is as I have described it. We now, still, live in an age of peace more profound than any of our ancestors have ever experienced.
There have already been many, many consequences of this historic turnaround, this Great Change, and there will surely be many more. Indeed, I would say that just about everything of importance, not just politically but in the wider culture, that has happened to the world, anywhere and everywhere, between 1945 and now, can only be understood properly if you factor in the invention of and the deployment of nuclear weapons.
Do I really mean that? Yes, I really do mean that. Indeed, I offer the world, and in particular the Samizdata commentariat, a challenge. Tell me about a change that has happened in the world in recent times, any change, to absolutely anything, and I will be able to show you, at about one or at the most two or three removes, how your particular change has been affected by this great thermonuclear transformation, this Great Change, that I have just described. Indeed, there is nothing in the entire world, I assert, that has not been affected, often very profoundly, by this Great Change. (I don’t promise actually to answer all such comment-challenges on the spot. I merely announce that if I had nothing else to do for the next week, I could. So, let’s make it a team effort. Let those of us who already understand the truth of what I am saying respond as a tag-team to those who are still unconvinced.)
Talking of team efforts, let me offer the example of sport, and in particular the inexorable rise in the importance and in the social and economic impact of professional sport, during the last clutch of decades.
→ Continue reading: From the Great Peace … to the ordeal of Adam Lyth at the Oval cricket ground
Republican politicians stink. This is because real Republicans don’t go into politics. We have a life…
Democrats, on the other hand, are brilliant politicians. And I mean that as a vicious slur.
– P. J. O’Rourke
I recently had a clean-out of my home, and one of the things I chucked out was a small stack of recent and not-so-recent newspapers.
Before binning them I took photos of their front pages, because front page photos, I find, can often make very evocative souvenirs. Plus, unlike the actual newspapers, they don’t clutter up my home. (Just my hard disc.) I also often take photos of front pages when I am out and about in London. Maybe (although I promise nothing) I’ll do one of those “a year in newspaper headlines” postings, come the end of the year.
I haven’t gone through this latest clutch of front page photos properly yet. My camera always sees more than I do, until I really look at what I’ve got. But, I have already been smiling at this front page headline:
Someone’s having a laugh, right? I don’t think it’s just me.
And the date above the newspaper headline …:
… tells me that one of the someones having a laugh is the Evening Standard. Nice one, gentlemen.
Here, for those who care, is the story.
I have been reading Derek Wilson’s book about The Plantagenets, which is a succinct, blow-by-blow history of England’s monarchs from the beginning of the reign of Henry II in 1154 to the death of Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 at the hands of Henry Tudor. It’s good. All the various blows are briskly and engagingly described. If that’s the sort of book you are looking for, look no further.
In 1471, it seemed at the time as if the fighting had ended. The chapter covering 1471-1485 begins thus (on page 259 of my paperback edition):
After half a century of governmental breakdown, baronial strife and dynastic uncertainty the country needed internal and external peace and a firm hand on the tiller, and Edward IV certainly settled things down for a dozen years. …
But as anyone familiar with Medieval English history knows, and as Wilson then of course immediately relates, the fighting wasn’t quite done. This same paragraph then continues:
… However, following his death at the age of 41 his family managed to tear itself apart, provoke fresh conflicts and pave the way for a challenge from a minor branch of the Lancastrian dynasty, something which had up to that moment seemed inconceivable.
But then, Wilson switches in his immediately following paragraph to a different story:
Beyond central politics profound changes were taking place in these years. Commerce – especially the trade in woollen cloth – flourished, and a wealthy capitalist, mercantile class emerged. Renaissance influences from the continent began to affect cultural life and provoke new patterns of thought. But most revolutionary of all was the appearance of cheap books from the new print shops, which brought the world of ideas within the reach of many more people.
Now I want to make it clear that I have no major complaint to make about Derek Wilson, or his book. His aim with it was to tell the story of the Plantagenet kings, and he succeeds very satisfactorily. What I am here regretting is the absence of a point which he might have made here, maybe in a mere couple of phrases. I am not accusing Wilson of failing to understand the point I am about to make. I am merely noting that, for whatever reason, this is a point that he does not, at this highly relevant moment in his story, make himself.
Wilson could have connected the two paragraphs above, with half a sentence which added something along the lines of: “Perhaps partly because the aristocracy were consuming their energies fighting each other rather by meddling with commerce …”, and then noted that commerce at this time flourished.
For my point is that this royal “hand on the tiller” that Wilson says the country so much needed can sometimes be rather too firm.
→ Continue reading: An infirm hand on the tiller has its advantages