Goodbye to Boleyn

I bought a black eye-patch (I’ve just had an eye operation) to frighten off any Man United hooligans at West Ham’s ‘farewell’ match at the Boleyn Ground last night. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about them. It was ours who spoiled the day – attacking the Man U bus with bottles as it drove into the ground. West Ham’s co-chairman – the ex-pornographer David Sullivan, brought up as it happens in the same East London suburb as I was – blamed the visitors for being late. (He’s since retracted.) My son and I didn’t see any of the violence, and only learned of it as we were leaving, through a cordon of riot police. The game had had been a wonderful occasion, and – almost incidentally – a terrific match: 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, then 3-2 to the Irons. Joy was unconfined. Until we got out. As so often, it is the hooliganism that has made the headlines. More »

Canada Burning

factories cover

Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Canada, was notorious for one thing: oil sands. That fact is impossible to get away from – the more so now that it’s notorious for something else: burning to the ground. Over the last few days, the images have been apocalyptic: an enormous wildfire approaching houses, hotels and a hospital; lines of cars driving through smoke, sometimes appearing to drive straight through the flames. The blaze jumped over firebreaks, a highway and a river. It was so large it started to create its own weather system: lightning, but no rain. Last Tuesday, the entire city of almost 90,000 people was evacuated. No one has yet been killed by the fire, though two people died in road accidents during the evacuation. More »

Sadiq Khan’s Symbolic Victory

I wasn’t expecting to be so pleased about Sadiq Khan being elected mayor of London. I was underwhelmed when he won the Labour nomination, and even more underwhelmed when the Conservatives chose Zac Goldsmith. Neither candidate seemed as if they’d rather run London than hold any other political office, and despite the mayor’s limited powers, the Londoner in me feels, unrealistically, that they should. (Perhaps unfortunately for both the city and himself, the only candidate who has ever fitted that description is Ken Livingstone, who made an uncharacteristically graceful concession speech in 2012; if only the rest had been silence.) More »

Get On Up

Trees blog

The common nightingale shows up in the south-east of England in April and is gone by early June. The BBC’s first live outside broadcast, in May 1924, saw Elgar’s favourite cellist, Beatrice Harrison, duet with a nightingale in her back garden. More »

The Council Housing Sell-Off Disaster

Council house blog

Forty years ago, there were five million council houses in England, lived in by three out of ten families. Since then the number has declined by two-thirds. The Housing and Planning Bill, which returns to the Commons this week, will make it even more difficult for anyone either to get a council home or to keep it once they do. More »

Labour and Anti-Semitism

You can’t discount an argument on the grounds that you suspect some of its proponents of ignoble motives for making it. It is almost certainly the case that some critics of the state of Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism, but that doesn’t invalidate all criticism of Israeli policy or actions. The occupation of the West Bank is illegal whether you’re anti-Semitic or not.

Defenders of Israel sometimes ask – the international relations equivalent of a drunk driver telling the police to go after real criminals – why the left is so focused on Israel’s wrongdoings, rather than the often far worse crimes of other states. But the answer probably has less to do with anti-Semitism than the fact that, of the $5.7 billion the United States spends each year on foreign military financing, $3 billion goes to Israel.

You can’t police the way people think, only what they do, which may sometimes include what they say. More »

‘Satoshi, Baby!’

Is this Satoshi Nakamoto?

Is this Satoshi Nakamoto?

The conference hall of the New York Marriott Marquis was in a fever. Today was the first day of Consensus 2016, the second annual blockchain technology summit. Blockchain is the underlying mechanism for bitcoin, and the conference has been shaken by the possible unmasking of the electronic currency’s mysterious inventor.

The BBC and the Economist published Craig Wright’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto early this morning. Wright had been rumoured to be the father of bitcoin since December 2015, but he’d always denied it, until today. More »

Investors v. States

Barack Obama has been in Europe. British observers – always suckers for American blandishments that the UK is The Special One – saw in the president’s visit a mission to rescue the EU referendum for Remain. But Obama’s overriding aim, as became clear when he progressed to Germany, was to speed the EU-US talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) before he leaves office in January. A salient goal of TTIP is to shadow the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS), an instrument of public international law granting firms the right to raise an action in a tribunal on the basis that a state’s policies have harmed their commercial interests. More »

Get in Formation

It was 9 o’clock on Sunday morning when my best friend called: ‘Girl, wake up. It’s happened.’ In the days since, Beyoncé’s 12-track visual album Lemonade – ostensibly about her husband Jay Z’s adultery – has smashed records (she’s the only female artist to have all six of her studio albums debut at number one), put freelance journalists in clover and generated a hunt across six continents for ‘Becky with the good hair’. ‘This is Beyoncé’s world,’ Anderson Cooper said in 2013, ‘and we are just living in it.’ More »

Jenny Diski

Jenny Diski died early this morning. ‘Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer,’ she wrote in the LRB in September 2014. ‘Or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing.’ Her first piece for the LRB, a Diary, appeared in May 1992. In all she wrote 150 pieces for the paper (and 65 blog posts), the last of them in February this year:

For several days now I’ve been feeling as if I’m on a holiday, a short one coming to its end. Not an especially good one. Not sorry to be leaving, not sorry to have been here. No particular feeling one way or another. Not living in my place. Not familiar enough. As one might sit on the edge of a chair that is waiting for another occupant to take it over. It’s the strangest of strange feelings. Best travelling clothes, a ticking of a clock that will go on ticking after you leave and after the next occupant too.

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