Circle Jerk

To get things started, this:

Jamie Oliver has said he named his new product “punchy jerk rice” to show where he drew his culinary inspiration from.

Oliver’s rice mixes garlic, ginger and jalapenos “to create a jerk marinade with attitude”.

I know a lot of people like Oliver’s cheeky Essex-boy shtick and lord knows it’s made him rich, but boy I find it irritating. I’ve tried using his recipes before and they’re full of silly descriptions and flippant remarks, often in places where you need some clear direction. The informal, who-cares approach may have worked when he burst onto the scene as a young man with The Naked Chef, but now he’s 43 and so laid back he wants the government to tell everyone what they can and can’t feed their children, he sounds like someone who’s never grown up. And the problem with trying to be popular and down wiv the masses (even though his fan base is exclusively middle class) is he attracts the attention of idiots like Dawn Butler:

In a tweet the Shadow Equalities Minister wrote to Oliver: “I’m just wondering, do you know what Jamaican jerk actually is? It’s not just a word you put before stuff to sell products. Levi Roots should do a masterclass. Your jerk rice is not OK. This appropriation from Jamaica needs to stop.”

If Britain was a serious country and adults were in charge the pressing question on everyone’s minds would be how such a complete imbecile has attained elected office. Instead, everyone is running around contesting the absurdity which is “cultural appropriation”, as if logic and reason are answers to a child flinging shit. Butler should have been ignored or mocked into oblivion, but instead she’s generating headlines.

And this amuses me:

The chef and entrepreneur Levi Roots has described Jamie Oliver’s decision to launch a jerk rice dish as a mistake, as a row over cultural appropriation widened.

From what I remember, Levi Roots turned up on Dragon’s Den with a guitar and some of his grandmother’s homemade sauce. Pasty-white Englishman Peter Jones, who is good mates with the bloke in charge of purchasing for Sainsbury’s, agreed to back Roots for a hefty cut of the business. One phone call to his mate later and kerr-ching! Instant success. Now Roots has gone onto open some successful restaurants which is more than Jamie Oliver managed, and I don’t begrudge him his fame and fortune. But I don’t see how Roots getting Peter Jones to flog his grandma’s sauce into Sainsbury’s makes him an authority on Jamaican cooking, much less one who deems it appropriate to tell another chef what to do. Does he even have a chef’s qualification, as French chefs must in order to be taken seriously? No, he doesn’t.

So in summary, we have a politician telling an unqualified chef/guitarist to teach a former pastry chef, who may have made a pig’s ear of a dish, to give a masterclass on how to do it properly. Little wonder British cuisine is subject to global mockery; the problem is, with stories like this making front page news, the mockery is no longer restricted to the food.


Of Street Turds and Culture

There are several arguments which could be made to contest the Economist Intelligent Unit’s ranking of the world’s most liveable cities, especially concerning how they measure “culture” which, rather implausibly, put Adelaide in the top 10 a few years back. Yet despite this open goal, one Chibundu Onuzo writing in The Guardian misses the target completely:

A few months ago, I stepped out one morning and saw a coil of animal poo on the doorstep. My mother and I spent a long time trying to figure out what sort of animal had done the deed. We decided, in the end, that a fox was the culprit. But it could also have been a racist.

Racists can can shit fox poo? Who knew?

The incident has occurred twice but as we’ve got rid of the evidence both times, we’ll never know.

You didn’t think to take a photo? Fox shit looks quite a bit different from human shit, even if it’s been curled out by a racist.

I am not the only one who has had a similar experience in London. Just search “poo on doorstep”. It occurs frequently enough to have generated several threads on the internet.

The author lives in London, where I am sure many British people want open and frank discussions about how and why shit has started appearing on the streets, and who is leaving it there. Is that what the author wants? No:

Yet, when ranking the world’s best cities to live in last week, the mighty statisticians of the Economist Intelligence Unit didn’t take into account “likeliness to find a turd on your front doorstep”.

How do you know?

In the 14 years I lived in Lagos, I never once found faeces in front of my house. Yet Lagos is judged one of the 10 least liveable cities in the world, and London comes much higher in the desirability rankings, at number 48.

Firstly, part of the reason London is ranked 48 and not 8 is because it is becoming increasingly filled with people who shit in the streets. Secondly, whereas I confess I never saw a turd in the street in Lagos I put that down to the fact that those shitting in public did so a little off the beaten path. If this lady had a small canal running behind her house, for example, it would probably have resembled an open sewer. This is what greeted a colleague of mine in Nigeria one day when he chanced to look out of his office window:

There are in fact two toilets in the photo: the portacabin on the right belonging to a building site and a concrete beam across a drainage canal belonging to whoever feels like taking a dump, in public, in broad daylight (the exact location of the above incident is here).

Granted, I have no problems with some of the things the index does track, such as crime rates, the efficiency of transportation networks, and quality of healthcare. All are important, and improve one’s experience of a city. Lagos scored low in all these categories and as a Lagosian, I readily admit that we can do better in all these areas.

Similarly, when appraising their visit to Baghdad in 1258, the Mongols admitted their conduct could have been gentler.

But I’d certainly question how cities were ranked in some of the other areas that make up the index. In the culture and environment category, which includes recreational activities, Vienna scored 96.3 out of 100 and Lagos just 53.5. Now I’ve been to Vienna, and I’ve lived in Lagos, and there is no way Vienna is 43 points ahead of Lagos in culture and environment.

Whereas I’ll not say Lagos is devoid of culture – it isn’t – the culture that there is, outside of bars showing premier league football and six nations rugby, is wholly Nigerian. Which makes it great for a Lagosian, but for a foreigner it’s not very accessible.

Just ask Emmanuel Macron, who recently made a pilgrimage to Fela Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in Lagos.

Can we ask him if he believes Lagos to be culturally superior to Vienna? Or do you reckon, what with him being a Parisian, he’ll think the lack of shit on the streets counts against it?

Lagos is a city of galleries under bridges, where artists paint and display for free.

Yeah, I’m sure Vienna has street artists too.

Every weekend there is a royal wedding that shuts down roads and stops traffic.

Erm, this isn’t a good thing. Roads being closed arbitrarily by paramilitary forces in Ray-Bans bearing AK-47s count against cities hoping to elevate themselves on livability indices.

Lagos is a city of fashion, home to the third biggest film industry in the world, and its Afrobeat music pulses out to reach the ears of a global audience.

Whereas Vienna only has Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Strauss. And who’s heard of them?

It’s obvious the statisticians didn’t know where to look.

In their defence, they were probably advised not to leave the hotel. The author concludes:

So whether you judge Lagos liveable or not, Lagosians will go on living and thriving there.

Yet strangely you left, and moved to London. This is not surprising. I noticed when studying the reaction to my infamous post on Nigeria that its most aggressive defenders seemed to be living abroad and doing quite well.


Sorry Plod, you’re on your own

Plod doesn’t really get it, does he:

Firstly, the reason a lone policewoman is struggling to get the cuffs on a drunk male is because someone decided women could do the job just as well as men and physical standards went out the window. This is what happens when the purpose of an organisation is changed to serve as a vehicle for progressives to enact their deranged fantasies as part of an overall aim of undermining society and the institutions on which it depends.

Secondly, people are reluctant to intervene in such situations because – largely thanks to Plod’s idiocy – the personal risks are too high.

Thirdly, as I said the other day, the public are increasingly seeing the police if not quite aligned against them, then certainly not on their side. Only if you pointed this out to Twitter Plod, they’d close ranks, start issuing threats, cite dubious government surveys which say “the emergency services” are as popular as ever, declare you a problem and “biased against the police” and, finally, block you. I’ve learned not to bother. Proposals like this amuse, though:

Is this going to be reciprocal, do you think? So if an ordinary citizen requests help from the police and they do nothing, Plod gets charged with the same offence? Yeah, sure. But what’s ironic is the police have spend decades creating a monopoly of force by disarming the public and prosecuting anyone who defends themselves, or “takes the law into their hands” as they call it. They are insistent the public should stand well back, or submit to getting their houses burgled or their heads kicked in, until the police show up as only Plod is permitted to deal with such things. Only now we find the police are manifestly incapable of doing half the stuff they’ve claimed a monopoly over and need the public’s help. But it’s not there, and Plod’s on his own. Who’s fault is that, then?


Kofi Annan

From the BBC:

Kofi Annan, the only black African to become UN secretary-general, has died.

The 80-year-old “passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness”, the foundation named after him said.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for helping to revitalise the international body, during a period that coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.

My abiding memory of Kofi Annan is his repeatedly appearing on my TV screen shaking his head sadly and saying he was “gravely concerned” about something or other, and that something or other continuing as if he didn’t exist. I always thought he was probably a decent guy, but hopelessly weak and easily manipulated. The Iraq War probably did more damage to the UN than any other event: firstly the weapons inspectors dillied, dallied and let themselves get pushed around for a decade; then two permanent members of the security council undermined the very sanctions they voted for by doing illegal business with Saddam Hussein; then two other permanent members decided to gather up a posse and attack Iraq under the auspices of Resolution 1441, telling a pack of lies in the process. Of the five permanent members and the UN itself, the only entity that came out looking good was China. And doesn’t that tell you everything? As the UN was rendered impotent by its senior members, Kofi Annan shook is head and said he was gravely concerned. Nobody cared.

This would not be so bad were this not the first time something awful happened on his watch, but as the BBC says:

However, Annan was not immune from criticism. His critics blamed him for the UN’s failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s when he was head of the organisation’s peacekeeping operations.

Kofi Annan was head of UN peacekeeping between 1992 and 1996. During that period we not only had the Rwandan genocide – which happened right under the UN’s nose – but also the Screbrenica massacre. I find it hard to blame the individual Dutch soldiers in blue helmets who stood by and let a few thousand Bosnians get murdered by Serbs, but the Dutch government was so ashamed they resigned en masse in 2002. Not Annan, however: despite having failed to prevent two of the worst acts of genocide in my lifetime he got promoted a short time afterwards to the top spot. I’d be interested to know what you have to do to miss out on promotion at the UN, let alone get fired.

Unfortunately, Kofi wasn’t the only Annan making headlines during his tenure either. His son Kojo was also in the papers for being neck-deep in Iraq’s oil-for-food scandal, which (again) occurred right under the nose of his father. As Mark Steyn said back in 2005 in an article that’s worth reading in full:

You’ll recall that Kofi Annan’s son Kojo – who had a $30,000-a-year job but managed to find a spare quarter-million dollars sitting around to invest in a Swiss football club – has been under investigation for some time for his alleged ties to the Oil-for-Food programme. But the investigators have now broadened their sights to include Kofi’s brother Kobina Annan, the Ghanaian ambassador to Morocco, who has ties to a businessman behind several of the entities involved in the scandal – one Michael Wilson, the son of the former Ghanaian ambassador to Switzerland and a childhood friend of young Kojo. Mr Wilson is currently being investigated for suspected bribery over a $50 million contract to renovate the Geneva offices of the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The actual head of the Oil-for-Food racket, Kofi sidekick Benon Sevan, has resigned, having hitherto insisted that a mysterious six-figure sum in his bank account was a gift from his elderly aunt, a lady of modest means who lived in a two-room flat back in Cyprus. Paul Volcker’s investigators had planned to confirm with auntie her nephew’s version of events, but unfortunately she fell down an elevator shaft and died.

Most of the Ghanaian diplomatic corps and their progeny seem to have directorships at companies with UN contracts and/or Saddamite oil options. I had no idea being a Ghanaian ambassador’s son opened so many doors, and nor did they till Kofi ascended to his present eminence.

I got the impression the world gave Kofi Annan a pass on almost everything because, as an African, he was held to appallingly low standards. The same bigotry of low expectations which plagues prominent Africans everywhere was applied to Annan time and again, but reading the tributes pouring in it seems he’s been deified in the same manner as Nelson Mandela. For example:

Well, okay. But I remember him for being utterly ineffectual and presiding over a UN which proved itself to be both impotent and corrupt in equal measure, both of which got considerably worse when he was in charge – perhaps because he was in charge. This from the BBC sums up his career for me:

He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a solution to the conflict.

He quit his post as UN envoy to Syria after only six months in the role, citing the failures of world powers to fulfil their commitments.

He did seem like a kind, decent person and I wish him to rest in peace, but he is undeserving of the professional platitudes being heaped on him.


Obvious Solutions

From what I can tell, LinkedIn has turned into a place where dim white-collar workers write essays containing their latest groundbreaking ideas without realising they’ve stumbled onto ground amply covered for the past century by people much cleverer than they. You also get a lot of brown-nosing, especially in the comments. And you also get stuff like this:

So rather than adopting the quick, proven, and obvious solution, from now on she’ll engage in navel gazing to better herself. From this I conclude she must be a middle manager in a modern corporation.

Actually, it turns out she’s a lifestyle coach at around 32 years of age but my error is understandable. I remember back in university I was given an assignment by a weedy academic with a beard to design an automated system to clean the floor of an airport concourse. I basically copied the design of a standard street sweeping machine, made it a bit smaller and had it follow a set path, navigating via radio triangulation. We only had to design the concept so the details were sketchy, but my system would have worked. Only the supervisor came back with the sniffy remark that I was copying an existing solution and “there is room for lateral thinking here”. My thoughts at the time were “Does this idiot want his floor cleaned or not?”

You see this a lot in modern companies. Whereas continuous improvement is good, and “we’ve always done it this way” attitudes can lumber you with inefficiencies, there is much to be said for having a little humility when tackling problems, starting with the recognition that you are probably not the first to have faced them. Alas, humility is a rare commodity in modern organisations whereas hubris lies in abundance, hence managers airily dismiss proven solutions in favour of one which requires lengthy email correspondence, meetings, dedicated teams, and – most importantly – an opportunity to involve the hierarchy. Should an underling point out there are tried and tested methods of, say, setting up a document control system, they’re brushed aside as the workings of inferior beings; we’re much smarter than them.

My advice to anyone confronted with a problem is to see what solutions other people have found, and whether there is a standard industry way of doing it. Chances are, people have done all the hard work and experimentation before you, and you can save yourself a lot of time and effort. Of course, if you are faced with something unique, or the standard solution simply doesn’t work, or you need to do it differently in order to save time and money, then by all means engage in a little creative thinking and try to find a better way of doing it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re goal-driven, you’ll first look at what everyone else does and stick with what works. However, if you’re process driven, and are more interested in your career and self-promotion…well, you know what to do.


Public Feedback

I’ve written several posts expressing my belief that the British police are not on the side of the public, and they are rapidly losing their support. In particular, this:

I think it’s high time British policemen were shunned from polite society, particularly those in the higher ranks, unless they have unequivocally demonstrated whose side they are on. The default approach to a policeman should be that afforded to a bouncer at a Manchester nightclub, someone to be avoided except when absolutely necessary and even then contact kept to an absolute minimum. The day policeman cannot arrest ordinary citizens on trumped-up terror charges and expect to interact with normal society afterwards is the day they will start to change. But while the middle-classes support this stuff and engage with policemen on supposedly equal terms, rather than demand those responsible are fired on the spot, things will only get worse.

I will not ever call for policemen to be lynched by a mob. I would not ever condone policemen being lynched by a mob. But I suspect there will come a point in future where, if I see a mob lynching policemen, I will walk on by having seen nothing. If the police don’t wise up soon and change course, there is even a chance I’ll stop and watch. I doubt I’ll be alone.

Today I found this story:

A police officer has condemned people who cheered a man escaping police after a confrontation which left two officers requiring hospital treatment.

The incident on Romford Road, Newham, east London, was filmed and shared on social media with laughter and shouts of encouragement clearly audible.

Sorry, but if the police make it abundantly clear, day after day, they are not on the public’s side they can hardly complain when the public treats them with contempt.

But Supt Roy Smith described it as a “sad state of affairs”.

This adequately describes British policing in the modern age, particularly their contemptuous attitude towards ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

Supt Smith tweeted it was “disappointing to see members of the public filming this and laughing at the officers”.

I’d say Supt Smith doesn’t know his public very well, then. Too much time on diversity training and not enough walking the beat, perhaps? Now I’m sure policemen of yore would have found themselves in similar situations, i.e. low-lifes cheering on a criminal. The difference is they’d have expected it, and not gone bleating to the public about how “disappointed” they are. Here’s the tweet in full:

So how did this affairs come about, eh? What changed? And as for the police are the public, spare me. Remember this:

A van driver was arrested by a group of police officers after challenging them because they were parked on a double yellow line. Andy Mayfield, 53, was held in custody for 12 hours and strip searched under anti-terror laws after he started filming the cops, who were parked illegally outside their own police station in Ashton-on-Ribble, Lancashire in January. He was detained under the Terrorism Act and submitted to a rigorous questioning at the Newton Heath terrorism centre in Manchester before eventually being released.

This is more like the behaviour of an occupying army than a police force, and now they’re complaining the public is jeering them when they’re in difficulty. Like their political masters, the British police seem to suffer from a severe lack of self-awareness. I expect we’ll be seeing more incidents like this.


Artist celebrated, therefore clueless

Yesterday I got roped into going to a contemporary art exhibition of works by Subodh Gupta, an Indian artist I’d never heard of. Most of it was so-so, although not completely terrible, and this wasn’t bad:

What amused me, though, was the blurb which accompanied it:

I suppose he’s right in one sense: the duality of alluring excess and crippling starvation is a result of capitalism, without which you’d only have the latter. But it amused me that an Indian should complain about capitalist excess in a country which is mired in absolute, grinding poverty because it stupidly embraced socialism and continues to do so. If Gupta wants fewer Indians suffering from crippling starvation it needs more capitalism, not less:

Then again, this was an exhibition held in a gallery on the left bank of the Seine. No doubt the chap who commissioned it spends many an evening harrumphing to the dinner guests gathered on the terrace of his nearby two-million euro apartment about how terrible inequality is. To be honest, I’d have more respect for Gupta if he trotted out a few lines of boilerplate Marxism just to keep his paymasters onside than if he actually believed it. I suspect it’s the latter though; as I said to my companion yesterday, it’s nigh-on impossible to find an artist these days who isn’t some form of demented lefty.


Idris Elba as James Bond

I’m a little late, but this is worth commenting on:

Idris Elba has posted a cryptic tweet suggesting he could be the next James Bond.

Days after reports that a producer of the franchise is tipping him to be 007, he posted: “My name’s Elba, Idris Elba”.

Fans are taking it as a big hint that he could be about to take on the role when Daniel Craig leaves next year.

There’ve been rumours linking Idris to the Bond role since 2014, which he’s neither confirmed nor denied.

Taken in isolation, this isn’t too bad an idea. Idris Elba is a decent actor (although he has turned in some awful performances), and like Daniel Craig he has both physical presence and suavity. Personally I think the James Bond franchise should have been binned once and for all after the godawful Spectre, but if they’re going to insist on flogging this dead horse you might as well cast Elba as anyone else. Sure he’s probably too old and many will wonder how MI6 ended up recruiting a Baltimore drug dealer as their top agent, but neither of these should count against him. Again, taken in isolation, nor should his being black. A black James Bond might seem a little odd and out of whack with the books, but that ship sailed a long time ago. So in itself, and as a comment on Elba’s suitability for the role, I don’t have a problem.

However, any decision to cast a black actor as James Bond cannot be separated from the culture war which is raging around us. It would be nice if people could adopt the same attitude to Elba as rugby league fans did to Ellery Hanley when he became captain of Great Britain in 1988, or damned near everyone did when Daley Thompson cleaned up in 1984. I understand this era was pretty awful for black or mixed-race kids at school or on the street, but nobody in those days was trumpeting the achievements of a talented black person as being a victory over whitey. People cheered for Frank Bruno, Jason Robinson, Martin Offiah, Nigel Benn, and Chris Eubank as well as the numerous black performers and musicians in Britain’s cultural scene without resorting to zero-sum race war score-keeping. But we live in a different era, one where we’re told that a black person taking a nominally white position is hugely important in itself, a redressing of the balance currently tipped in favour of “white privilege”. And unfortunately, after a decade of poisonous identity politics, they are right: Idris Elba playing James Bond would be important in itself, and not in a good way.

Something the ZMan has pointed out is that minority groups are increasingly acting as though they’ve won the decisive battle in a war. Pulling down the symbols and statues of one’s enemy is the act of a conquering army, and that’s precisely what’s happening in the UK, US, and Canada. Meanwhile, within mere weeks of the Supreme Court ruling in his favour over his refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding, the Colorado baker is back in court after a transgender woman filed a discrimination suit against him. When someone decided to remake Ghostbusters in 2016 with an all-female cast, it was presented by culture warriors as a victory for feminism. When it tanked, misogyny was blamed. The forces behind identity politics spare no efforts in seeking opportunities to capture ground, celebrate a victory, and in it rub the noses of those they see as their enemies, i.e. ordinary white men and their families. Indeed, New Labour’s entire immigration strategy seems to have been created purely to spite the native British population by shoving “diversity” in their faces and calling anyone who complains a racist. Within minutes of the rumours of Elba playing Bond hitting social media it was full of SJW’s delighted by how much this would upset “racists”, by which they mean anyone getting a little fed up of identity politics being rammed down their throats twenty-four-seven. For instance:

There is plenty of this sentiment echoed on Twitter, and they might have a point if the only people who have mixed feelings about the idea are racists who don’t like blacks. But what I suspect is bothering many people is that Elba cast as Bond will deepen the wounds of the ongoing culture war. We’ll have endless Guardian articles telling us on the one hand that a black James Bond shows how wonderfully multi-cutural and diverse Britain is, while on the other it’s still steeped in racism and unable to move on from its colonial past. Anyone who objects to such extrapolations from a single casting will be denounced as racist and, probably, banned from Twitter – along with anyone who gives the actual film a less-than glowing review. And if there was not at least one article in a mainstream media outlet demanding a transgender James Bond, I’d be astounded.

As the Zman said, the SJWs and militant minorities believe they’ve won and are enjoying what they think are victory parades. In reality, the war has barely got started and all we’ve seen so far are small, opening battles which is shaping up to be a long and bloody campaign which can only have one winner. Given where we are now, compared to even five years ago, I’d hazard a guess a lot of people uncomfortable about Elba playing Bond are less concerned with the colour of his skin than how it will be used by sections of the left to further and deepen the ongoing culture war. It was not the racist right that created identity politics but the woke left; ordinary people have been fervently wishing this war would end but, with no prospect of that in sight, increasing numbers have decided enough is enough and started to push back. Unfortunately, this means fighting on the ground the left have chosen, and in this case it’s Idris Elba playing James Bond. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but sadly it is. It’s a shame because Elba seems like a good sort and I’m sure he didn’t ask for this, but as Trotsky didn’t quite say, culture war is interested in you.

I don’t think there’s anything to the rumours of Elba playing Bond – they’ve been circulating for years – but if the producers move ahead with it, they should prepare themselves for an shitstorm that may render the film unmarketable. It won’t be a question of right wingers objecting to Elba’s casting per se, but of its inevitable weaponisation by those who want to see them eradicated, or at least cowed into silence. Nobody batted an eyelid back in 2006 when Felix was played by a black man in Casino Royale, and I doubt a black Bond would have done much other than raise a few eyebrows and cause some muttering. Alas, that was a long time ago. We’re now neck-deep in a nasty, vicious culture war which is taking no prisoners, and until recently has been heavily one-sided. But now the other side is turning up, the rules are about to change. Depressingly, this probably means a black James Bond is a near impossibility – at least for a while.


The Bridge Collapse in Italy

In March this year, following the collapse of a footbridge in Miami, I said this:

For a standard, single-span footbridge to suddenly collapse in this manner in the United States in 2018 is incredible. Reinforced concrete footbridges have been built worldwide for decades, and ought to be the sort of thing a highways department can design and build on their own.

There is enough knowledge and experience by now to ensure these sort of accidents no longer occur.

I had the same thoughts yesterday when I read about this:

A motorway bridge has collapsed in the northwest Italian city of Genoa, killing 26 people and badly injuring 15, police told the BBC.

Dramatic video footage captured the moment of the disaster when one of the huge supporting towers crashed down during torrential rain.

Cars and trucks plummeted 45m (148ft) on to rail tracks, buildings and a river along with slabs of concrete.

This simply should not happen anywhere, much less in a modern, developed country with a history of engineering and industrial competence. The BBC has a good page on possible causes of the bridge’s collapse, but I fear it may have overlooked something far more serious: a general decline in overall competence.

My guess would be a lack of timely maintenance is the technical reason the bridge collapsed, but what I’m more interested in is how Italy became a country incapable of carrying out basic maintenance. This is the sort of thing you used to see in the Soviet Union, or basket-case countries whose rulers enjoy the kickbacks and prestige of large capital projects but can’t be bothered with the mundane task of maintaining anything. However shambolic Italy may have appeared over the years, you could be reasonably confident the bridge over which you were driving wasn’t going to disappear from under you halfway across: they might be corrupt and disorganised, but the basics still got done. That’s no longer the case, so what’s changed? Again, I’ll refer back to my earlier post:

There has been a major shift in modern companies from delivering something useful – such as a bridge which doesn’t collapse – to managing processes. A lot of companies have subcontracted out the actual work – designing, building, manufacturing, operating, maintaining – and instead busy themselves with “managing” the whole process. This involves lots of well-educated people in nice clothes sitting in glass-fronted office buildings sharing spreadsheets, reports, and PowerPoint presentations by email and holding lengthy meetings during which they convince one another of how essential they are. I’m sure this is pretty much what Carillion was doing when they went bust: anything useful was done by subcontractors. The distance between those doing the actual work and those supposedly responsible for the outcome has, in far too many companies, grown into a yawning chasm. Survival in a modern company is all about compliance and obedience, and accountability is non-existent because it is no longer required.

In such an environment, it is inevitable that the quality of work suffers, errors go unnoticed, and – occasionally – catastrophes occur.

Italy is flat broke and has been for some time, and this will likely be put forward as a contributing factor to the bridge’s collapse. But in my experience, when modern organisations start feeling the pinch the white-collar middle-managers clogging up the glass-fronted offices start preparing spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations which show if they cut back on certain things they can save money – things like maintenance. I’d hazard a guess the organisation responsible for maintaining this bridge has a budget which would make your eyes water, but almost all of it will be blown on overheads and inefficient, process-driven nonsense. They’ll also have a staff which would match the cast of Ben Hur, all of whom will know lots about the latest managerial missives but little about bridge maintenance. I’d also bet the individuals who actually maintain the bridge are subcontractors, and there’s a fair chance they’ve not been paid in a while.

I’m speculating, and perhaps I’m wrong. But currently there is a bridge lying on the ground when it ought to be sitting pretty in the air, and people are asking questions. This should never, ever have happened and it is almost inconceivable that it has. It might be a one-off but me, ever the skeptic, I’m not so sure. I think we’re going to see more of this sort of thing, vital pieces of infrastructure suddenly collapse or stop working in a manner which we in the west thought we’d never see again. I also expect we’re going to see several major corporations go under in the same period, and this will not be a coincidence. It’s good that engineers are now running around Italy inspecting other bridges for signs of collapse, but it’s high time some of these organisations and their management were subject to similar scrutiny.


Corbyn isn’t the problem, his supporters are

Sometime last year three Turkish people I knew visited Jordan on holiday. Everywhere they went they found the locals, upon learning they were Turkish, would get all excited and say:

“Oh we love Erdogan! We love how he stands up to the Israelis!”

This despite Jordan’s rather sketchy record when it comes to Palestinian refugees, the PLO, and occupying land. Now there is every chance these locals were Palestinians, but my acquaintances said it is now common to hear similar sentiments in Turkey. In particular, they like this performance:

The fact is, regardless of where you go in the Middle East and certain other regions, bashing Israel is hugely popular. More often than not, this equates to simple Jew-bashing. Yes, there are many legitimate complaints which can be leveled at Israel and criticising Israel does not in itself make one anti-semitic. However, if the only country in the world whose existence you dispute happens to be the Jewish one, and you sound as though you’re reading from a Hamas pamphlet when the subject comes up, people will draw their own conclusions. And for Turks to complain about the occupation and oppression of Palestinians is a little ironic, especially given how much their dear leader admires the Ottomans. As usual, the problem is not that Palestinians are oppressed, but that it is Jews doing the oppressing.

Which brings me onto this:

Jeremy Corbyn said he was present but not involved at a wreath-laying for individuals behind the group that carried out the Munich Olympic massacre, a partial admission that led to a row between him and Israel’s prime minister.

The Labour leader had been asked if Palestinian leaders linked to the Black September terror group were also honoured at a memorial event he attended in Tunisia in 2014, at which victims of the 1985 Israeli airstrike in Tunis were remembered.

Corbyn said “a wreath was indeed laid” for “some of those who were killed in Paris in 1992” and added, in response to a question: “I was present at that wreath-laying, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”

The hard-left in Europe and elsewhere has always been anti-Israel, partly because they took their lead from the Soviets who had an interest in undermining America’s ally in the Middle East. Coupled with that, you have the left-wing suspicion of Jewish bankers, businessmen, and media moguls who supposedly run the world and conspire to thwart the success of glorious socialist revolutions. The latter is where they share common ground with the hard-right: go on any alt-right or MAGA blog and within three comments someone is writing a thousand-word paragraph on the Rothschilds.

Jeremy Corbyn is famous for being a hard-left outsider, and being anti-Israeli is near enough compulsory in those circles and if this stems from anti-semitism, then so be it. Certainly, nobody’s going to complain. Only now Corbyn has found himself leader of the Labour party people are appalled at his behaviour, but I fear they have missed the point. What they should be asking is why someone who lays wreaths at the graves of dead terrorists is enjoying so much support, and the answer – as our Turks traveling in Jordan discovered – is that this sort of thing is popular among determined and vocal minorities everywhere. There’s no point blaming the preacher when so many people are tripping over themselves to hear the sermon.

Corbyn has never been interested in building a broad coalition, and he wouldn’t know how to even if he was. Like George Galloway, his shtick is to pander to a select audience and thrive on the notoriety it generates. He knew exactly what he was doing when he laid that wreath, just as he did when he defended the IRA and invited Sinn Fein to Parliament. The reason why his denials are so nonsensical is because he needs to say just enough to get rid of the reporter and move onto the next question without disappointing his core supporters who fully approve of his actions. The fact is, Corbyn’s just doing what he’s always done, only now it’s a lot more popular.

So rather than demanding Corbyn resign – why should he? – those concerned should ask how laying a wreath at the grave of Islamic terrorists became a sensible political act for the leader of Britain’s opposition. In other words, who is supporting this stuff, and in what numbers? It’s not difficult to find some pasty white septuagenarian at a protest or online ranting about the Jews, and some younger lefties may have swelled their ranks recently, but these people have always been at the fringes of British political life. So what’s different now? How come blatant anti-semitism in a major British political party is nowadays no longer something over which the leader should resign, but a source of much of their popularity? This is the elephant in the room that, for all their outrage, the media and political classes don’t want to address.

It used to be one had to travel to the Middle East to find people supporting a mainstream political leader solely because they sided against Israel and the Jews. Now we can find it in Britain, and those squawking the loudest about this state of affairs are usually those who did so much to bring it about.