Ever since the Arab Spring sprang its bright new dawn, the old regimes of the Middle East — along with their economies — have fallen like dominoes. But one authoritarian regime, at least, stands taller than ever: Saudi Arabia. Its shimmery skyline, its modern minarets, all testify to the infallibility of petroleum-rich power. Yet there’s one enormous sign that Saudi may be headed for the skids.
This year, the Saudis started construction of the Kingdom Tower, a 200-floor skyscraper which is due to be completed in 2017.
Turn right along the American political spectrum and you find all kinds of curious species. First there are country club Republicans bemoaning the loss of their party to extremists. Then come Evangelical Christians, trying to reconcile themselves to voting for a Mormon. Further along, you find the Tea Party, crowing over their improbable rise and Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate.
There is no better way of discrediting an opinion than by attributing it to a psychological quirk or peculiarity. The task is then not to refute it, but to explain it away by reference to its murky psychic origins. For a number of years, doubt about the wisdom of a European project (whose end can only be seen as through a glass, darkly) was attributed by its enthusiasts to precisely such a quirk: one that combined some of the features of mental debility, arachnophobia and borderline personality disorder.
When I went into teaching, 15 years ago, I came at it from various angles. One was the love of my subject. Genuinely. I definitely believed that I could make people love reading and writing, and make the world a better place. I was old enough not to be so naïve, but still…
The other was a sartorial issue. I did an ill-advised massive spend on tweed. Mostly pink. Should have known better there, too.
It’s a fair bet that most wives, asked to list the things they feel are jointly owned with their husbands, would tick them off in a trice: the house, the car, the furniture, the wedding gifts, Fido and Puss and that ghastly etching they both hate but it’s worth a few bob. There’s a woman in Surrey, however, who wishes to add a little extra to her list of what she calls her ‘marital assets’: her husband’s sperm.
Which is the best, most eco-friendly form of renewable energy? Most of us would probably guess hydroelectric. Unlike wind it doesn’t blight views, chop up birds or drive neighbours mad with humming; unlike solar, hydro installations do not appear so dependent on massive public subsidy. Plus, of course, we live in a land of rivers and rain so it makes sense to harness all that free, carbon-neutral energy.