14th September: A Lull

The problem is, right, that when I say this list is “the best the Internet has to offer”, it implies it’s a relative thing. And it’s not, really. I basically just finish reading something, shrug, and add it to a list. So this evening, I looked over my list, and it appears everything I’ve read so far has been terrible, because it’s looking like my shortest list yet!

Song of the week is Louis Armstrong’s version of La Vie en Rose, which comes via me falling in love with Cristin Milioti’s (The Mother) on How I Met Your Mother and tracking down all the rest. This is probably my favourite, though I’m a terrible judge as I prefer Milioti’s bloody ukulele version to Edith Piaf’s so.

No NATO Council article this week either, though there are at least two rattling around the system at the moment, so can’t even pad it out that way.

  • Interesting look at the military legacy of the Falklands war
  • I never know what to believe about France, as it seems to the battlefield for about eight different economic ideological civil wars. I’m inclined to believe Krugman when he claims the disaster-reporting on France is politically-motivated – “So disaster is what gets reported, even if it’s not what the numbers say.”
  • While we’re puncturing liberal economic orthodoxy, an excellent look at low-paid labour and unionisation
  • Another good article on the stolen naked photos – the idea of an evolving norm on this stuff is how I see the whole thing
  • I’ve been lucky enough to be upgraded to an Apple phone recently, so I’m now sceptical and sneery at their products from within the beast. This, anyway, is an academicy/tossy look at the ideology of Apple’s marketing
  • Gary Bainbridge’s column this week is quite funny, but packs a punch at the end. Identify a lot with the “not freaking people out when walking near them at night” thing
  • (And we’ve already reached the funny bits)
  • Another brilliant Tom Phillips media parody on the aftermath of Scottish independence*
  • There are a lot of vloggers I don’t mind (or there were, before they turned out to be sexual predators), but this is very funny, and very accurate. It also targets the youths and not my generation so that’s A+
  • Finally, an old one – a scientific look at whether it’d be better to fight a horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses.

And that’s it. 500 words this week, 1,000 a fortnight ago. All about the consistency, me.

Not sure how next couple of weeks will work, by the by. Sky have said they’ll come give me Internet in October, so I’ll probably just do all my internet in the pub and schedule posts or something, but if you don’t hear from me, wish me luck with the move and I’ll see you on the other side! xx

*I think that’s part of the problem – I’ve not shared any Scottish independence stuff. TBH, I have actually read some great stuff by “no” people, but I just. don’t. care. The news has been on in the house three times a day, as well as all the little Newsnights and whatever the fuck else there is on daytime telly, and I am just 100% done with referendum talk. On the bright side, I got away with skipping about five pages of The Economist this week because it was all referendum stuff, which is a relief, because I’m currently drowning in back issues.

7th of September: Human Sadness

We now enter into this blog’s seventh month (I think). So that’s cool.  Seven months in, I still occasionally forget what day it is and leave writing/compiling links to the last minute, which is telling. As ever, I’m about to send out the newsletter version of this, so you can subscribe over here.

Song of the week has to be Julian Casablancas’ mad new single. (called Human Sadness, hence the title)

NATO Council article of the week is on India’s nuclear submarine programme – as you can tell by the “previously”, there should be another one before it but IDK.

I also wrote a quick post on the announcement that the UK will operate its second carrier after all, which was based on faulty assumptions, but still got a lot of traffic. Embarrassing.

  • Stephen Saideman has had a number of good posts on NATO and Russia this week, with a number of little correctives and explanations – I’ve linked one on burden sharing, but it’s worth going back a few days.
  • Normally, “X must lead” is irritating do-somethingism, but I like this from the RUSI.
  • Speaking of irritating do-somethingism, great defense of Obama’s caution and a good critique of current rhetoric around Ukraine
  • Solid proposal for reinvigorating European defence
  • Interesting counter to the narrative of an “isolated” China.
  • Report from a journalist embedded in the Donetsk People’s Republic
  • Jihadism expert J.M Berger examines what their different approaches to hostages may mean about the future of IS and Jabhat al Nusra
  • Rather terrifying account of the Filipino peacekeepers’ escape from the Golan Heights
  • Defence of the lack of an ICC investigation in Gaza by its chief prosecutor
  • Again, Boris is a cretin.
  • Great attack on motorists’ dominance in Britain – published in the Telegraph, too!
  • Interview with Gordon Brown
  • Professor Marlière explains recent events in French politics
  • Meanwhile, France finally suspended the Mistral sale. This examines some implications (Fr.)
  • Quite scary account of an operation under the Brazilian dictatorship in 1970
  • Depressing New Yorker feature on gun culture in the States
  • Fascinating story on Google’s drone delivery programme
  • Number of excellent pieces on the stolen celebrity nudes. One here. These two, read in tandem, because I liked the BuzzFeed one but this is critical of it and I don’t know what to think.
  • Brilliant defence of bad British food, and a great article on Jamie Oliver
  • Rather great short story
  • Moving article on how we fail to deal with terminal illness
  • Lovely piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates about learning French as an adult
  • The Debrief have become one of my favourite sites in recent weeks – then they got an interview with Jon Hamm and now I’m dying of envy
  • Oliver Burkeman reviews some self-help books
  • Rediscovered this great career advice article from George Monbiot this week
  • Lovely feature on hangovers across time and cultures
  • Finally, very cool remix of the Game of Thrones theme

And that’s it. Have a good week x

HMS Prince of Wales: Refloated?

Not the HMS Prince of Wales. Artist’s impression of the HMS Queen Elizabeth via militaryphotos.net


Today, in the closing statement of the NATO Summit in Newport, Wales, British Prime Minister David Cameron, among other things, announced that the Queen-Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, would not be mothballed after all, as had been suggested in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Under severe budgetary pressure, the incoming Conservative-led coalition* sought to scrap the second aircraft carrier entirely, but it was discovered that the contract they had inherited from their predecessors included clauses that made it more expensive to cancel it than to let it be built.

I wrote about the long and winding road to the ocean its sister ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth has travelled, in one of my first pieces for NATO Council of Canada – you can find that here. A lot of the criticisms levelled at that process apply to the Prince of Wales, though I’m gutted I didn’t make any bold predictions as to its future back in July.

Now, the HMS Prince of Wales will enter service with the Royal Navy when it is complete, giving Britain continuous carrier strike capability**.

The statement was limited in details, so several questions remain – I’ll try and update this post when the government release more information.

UPDATE: Update the post I have, but it’s not for government information so much as Twitter information. A very informative conversation over there cleared up some doubts and confusions I had. I’ve flagged updated bits.

  1. Will the HMS Prince of Wales, as planned, be built with catapults and arrestors (CATOBAR***)? This sounds trivial, but it’s probably the most important question. The CATOBAR system, used on US and French aircraft carriers, would allow the Royal Navy to launch a variety of jets from its decks, including the F-35C. There had been plans to adapt the Queen Elizabeth to a CATOBAR system, but as costs mounted, these were cancelled (I explain it in slightly more depth in the above article). This leaves the carrier unable to fly anything other than Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) jets, which, for the foreseeable future, means the Lockheed Martin F-35B. If the Prince of Wales, as expected, goes with a CATOBAR system, not only would the Royal Navy have more strategic options, but the Ministry of Defence would have more procurement choices – there are a lot more options for fighter jets that can be launched by catapult than there are STOVL ones. EDIT: I may have gotten lost in the twists and (u-)turns of the carrier saga here. I had assumed HMS Prince of Wales was being designed from the ground-up with catapults and arrestors – turns out it’s subject to the same costly modifications that did for the Queen Elizabeth. So it looks pretty likely that it’ll be the exact same model as its sister ship.
  2. Following on from the previous question, and largely contingent on it – what will it fly? Will the government need to order more Joint Strike Fighters, or will it just spread the existing purchase across the two carriers (I suspect the latter, but you never know). EDIT: To be clear, there’s also, I think, a question of what to fly – if they have different launching systems, will they fly different planes? As was pointed out to me in that Twitter conversation, since the carriers are meant to be interchangeable (to ensure continuous availability), it would make most sense for them to have the same air wing, etc.
  3. Where will the money come from? The HMS Prince of Wales was to be mothballed to cut costs. While the government has promised that they have finished their defence cuts, and budgets are set to rise in the next few years, this is certainly a turnaround, and may require extra spending or cuts elsewhere in the armed forces.

This was a surprising announcement, but, generally, a positive one. There doesn’t seem to be much clearer a statement of British commitment to its own defence than ensuring the Royal Navy has the means to project power across the globe, all year round.

PS: In the ongoing tale of my descent into weird military fetishism this past year or so, getting excited over the announcement of a really expensive piece of military hardware may mark a nadir.

PPS: I mean technically I don’t even think the HMS Prince of Wales has been put together or even built, let alone ever floated but this was a far more exciting title than just “removed from hypothetical mothballing”

*these days, I keep forgetting the Lib Dems are even a thing

**with only one carrier, the need for maintenance, training, etc. would mean there would be stretches of time where the carrier was unavailable.

***the most conversational military acronym I think I’ve heard