Donald Trump and Press Freedom

Much fun was had at Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday when he shut down a CNN loudmouth who appeared to think Trump owed him a favour.  Cue much gnashing of teeth on Twitter about how Trump is endangering the freedom of the press.

Let’s get something straight here.  Freedom of the press means only that a newspaper or other media organ is allowed to operate free of government interference, and can write or say whatever they like subject to the usual caveats regarding defamation and issues of national security.  And that’s it.

Freedom of the press does not mean that certain journalists are entitled to take part in the press conferences of presidents (or president-elects), and demand that the speaker takes their questions.  This is especially true if the media organ in question – in this case CNN – chose to abandon all pretence to journalistic integrity and openly side with one Presidential candidate over another during the election.

Donald Trump owes the mainstream media absolutely nothing, and is no more obliged to grant them access to his press conferences or answer their questions than he is to me in my role of a blogger.  True, it would be better if a US President or President-elect does hold press conferences such that the people can be better informed, but the media has utterly abused its privileges in this regard for so long that allowing it to continue in its current form would be tantamount to a conspiracy to mislead the public.

I hope Trump kicks out or ignores those news organisations which have proven themselves to be staffed by partisan hacks openly campaigning for the Democrats, and gives preferential treatment to those who at least pretend to be informing the public in an impartial manner.  If no such organisations exist, then perhaps it is time to get rid of the White House press conferences and let Trump stick to using Twitter.

Either way, unless Trump is attempting to shut newspapers down or severely restrict what they can print (as we in the UK seem to be doing with barely a whimper), then complaints of press freedom being under attack are utterly baseless and should be ignored.

More on Madonna

Commentator David Moore has posted this link underneath my previous article on Madonna:

This month, the singer covers the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in which she talks about her out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle, touring the globe and dating much-younger men

I’ve created a very unconventional family. I have lovers who are three decades younger than me. This makes people very uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do makes people feel really uncomfortable,” she said.

No, it doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable.  What it does is attract commentary, some of which might be unflattering, and some of which might consist of speculation as to your overall happiness despite your wealth, fame, and fortune.

Most recently, those ‘lovers’ included 25-year-old model Aboubakar Soumahoro. In 2014, she dated now-29-year-old back-up dancer Timor Steffens, and she famously dated Brazilian model Jesus Luz, who was 29 years her junior, from 2008 to 2010.

While people have always had much to say about her younger lovers, though, there isn’t usually as much buzz about men who date much-younger women. In fact, Madonna said, she faces a lot of criticism and commentary for things that men do without comments from the outside.

Firstly, let’s just dispel a myth.  Everyone is aware that wealthy, famous men can attract women much younger than them, many of whom are very good looking.  However, nobody thinks this is something especially noteworthy other than the fact that young women are often attracted by money and fame in a way that young men are usually not.  Although men might give the occasional grunt of approval towards famous men who serially date much younger women, the practice is hardly universally admired, let alone seen as something to be emulated.  To use a contemporary example, for all of Trump’s womanising he seems to be on good terms with his ex-wife and children and has been married to his current, ex-model wife for 11 years.  Men will always admire a guy who settles with a beautiful woman and starts a family more than they will a perpetual bed-hopper.

Secondly, any older guy who hooks up with a young, beautiful foreign girl always stands accused of being used for a passport, especially if she is from an altogether different culture.  The same applies to women.  Aboubakar Soumahoro is from the Ivory Coast.  Timor Steffens is born in the Netherlands of Moroccan origin.  Jesus Luz is Brazilian, as the article says.  What you don’t see is high-profile American male celebrities dating exotic foreigners who may need money and a passport.  What you do see is wealthy but ageing European women dating exotic young men in places like Egypt and Gambia who turn out to be interested in a residency visa, cash, and not much else.  Madonna is of course free to date whom she likes, but people are also free to draw their own conclusions and those conclusions aren’t all that different when the situation applies to men.

Speaking about why she continues to work into her 50s, Madonna said: “It’s inexplicable; it’s like breathing, and I can’t imagine not doing it.

“That is one of the arguments I would get into with my ex-husband, who used to say to me, ‘But why do you have to do this again? Why do you have to make another record? Why do you have to go on tour? Why do you have to make a movie?’ And I’m like, ‘Why do I have to explain myself?’ I feel like that’s a very sexist thing to say.”

Perhaps he just wanted to spend more time with you, and didn’t like you being away?  Then you called him sexist, went and did whatever the hell you wanted, and now you’re divorced and dating a string of foreign kids.

“Does somebody ask Steven Spielberg why he’s still making movies?”

Yes, ever since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Hasn’t he had enough success? Hasn’t he made enough money? Hasn’t he made a name for himself? Did somebody go to Pablo Picasso and say, ‘Okay, you’re 80 years old. Haven’t you painted enough paintings?’ No. I’m so tired of that question.”

It’s a reasonable question to ask though, isn’t it?  I mean it’s just a question, and nobody is disputing her answer.  And I imagine the wives of Spielberg and Picasso did ask them whether they didn’t fancy taking it easy for a while and spending more time at home, and one would hope they had an adult discussion about it rather than an argument that ends in accusations of sexism, divorce, and lingering bitterness.

“I’m political. I believe in freedom of expression, I don’t believe in censorship,’ she said. ‘I believe in equal rights for all people. And I believe women should own their sexuality and sexual expression. I don’t believe there’s a certain age where you can’t say and feel and be who you want to be.”

Then thank heavens you were born in the modern United States and thus have enjoyed such freedoms your entire life.

She often speaks out about this issue. In 2016, she took to Instagram to decry ageism after she met criticism for a very revealing dress at the Met Gala.

Madonna, dear: being free to do what you want is not the same as being free from criticism of your wardrobe choices for high-profile events.

“When it comes to Women’s rights we are still in the dark ages,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.

She either doesn’t know much about women’s rights or she doesn’t know much about the Dark Ages.  Or both.

“My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement. The fact that people actually believe a woman is not allowed to express her sexuality and be adventurous past a certain age is proof that we still live in an age-ist and sexist society.

Nobody is saying you cannot express your sexuality.  You can do whatever you please, and indeed you do just that.  What you cannot do is make, by your own admission, a political statement and expect to be free from criticism.

I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start. We cannot effect change unless we are willing to take risks By being fearless and By taking the road leas traveled by.

Wearing a certain dress to a celebrity ball is being fearless, is it?  And turning up in risqué outfits is “the road less traveled” in celebrity circles?  Really?

Thats how we change history.

Another one talking up her own legacy.  Leave that to others to decide, eh?

If you have a problem with the way I dress it is simply a reflection of your prejudice. I’m not afraid to pave the way for all the girls behind me.

As the David Moore says in his comment: it all comes across as rather desperate.

A BBC Eulogy for Obama

It comes as absolutely no surprise that the BBC’s correspondent in New York should write a fawning piece about Barack Obama’s “legacy” regarding race relations, but it’s worth taking a look anyway.

Barack Obama sealed his racial legacy the moment he sealed victory in the 2008 election – a black man would occupy a White House built by slaves, a history-defying as well as history-making achievement.

On this point I am in agreement: the election of a black man to the office of the US President was indeed hugely symbolic, and in some ways very important.  On that basis alone, Obama’s Presidency will go down in history.

In 1961, the year of Obama’s birth, there existed in the American South a system of racial apartheid that separated the races from the cradle to the grave.

In some states, his very conception – involving an African father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas – would have been a criminal offence.

Thus demonstrating that governments can and do get things catastrophically wrong when they adopt policies based on race.  Some of us believe governments should therefore refrain from doing so altogether, but alas we appear to be in the minority.

Little more than half a century later, a black man ran the White House – occupying the Oval Office, sitting at the head of the conference table in the Situation Room, relaxing with his beautiful young family in the Executive Mansion – a family that has brought such grace and glamour to America’s sleepy capital that it is possible to speak of a Black Camelot.

America’s sleepy capital that has a murder rate of 60 per 100,000 population, a rate of forcible rape of 53.4, and is the 13th most dangerous city in which to live and work in the US.  I’ll come to the “grace and glamour” bit in a minute.

In legacy terms, his very presence in the White House is one of the great intangibles of his presidency. Just how many black Americans have been encouraged to surmount colour bars of their own? Just how many young African-Americans have altered the trajectory of their lives because of the example set by Obama?

To the nearest approximation?  None.

And behaviourally, what an example it has been. Because of the lingering racism in American society, the Obamas doubtless knew they would have to reach a higher standard, and they have done so, seemingly, without breaking a sweat.

I agree with the author that Obama has barely broken a sweat during his Presidency, save perhaps when he was playing golf instead of addressing crises of national importance.  That’s half the problem: he seemed to think attaining office was the job.  But the idea that “lingering racism” propelled the Obamas to set higher standards raises a few questions.  Such as “What standards?”

In deportment and personal conduct, it is hard to recall a more impressive or well-rounded First Family.

Well, judgements as to a family’s deportment and personal conduct are best made by those closest to them, not sycophantic journalists who receive only carefully arranged photoshoots, pre-written speeches, and filtered information.  Let’s wait until the Obamas are gone from the White House, their contemporaries retire, and the memoirs begin to appear.  Taking part in Carpool Karaoke and making saccharine speeches when the cameras are rolling doesn’t tell us much; how Michelle treated the kitchen staff will.  And insofar as class and grace is concerned, didn’t George W. Bush and his wife exemplify that as a First Family?  Leaving his policies aside – as we are with Obama on this point – Bush was unfailingly polite and dignified and I don’t think anyone had a bad word to say about him as a person, nor his wife.

The “when they go low, we go high” approach to racists who questioned his citizenship has made the Obamas look even more classy.

“When they go low, we go high” was not an approach with which the Obama’s dealt with racists, it was what Michelle Obama used as a rallying cry during her campaigning for Hillary, only for her husband to prove the exact opposite when his policies were roundly rejected by the electorate a short time later.  If I know this, why doesn’t the BBC correspondent in New York?

Also, why is it racist to question Obama’s citizenship?  Look, I don’t subscribe to the whole “birther” thing, but if there are certain criteria which must be met when running for President of the USA, then why is it wrong to ensure a candidate is legible?  One would have thought there would be a US governmental body that ensures a candidate’s eligibility as a matter of course, but apparently there isn’t hence speculation abounds.  This is something that needs fixing a lot more urgently than the Electoral College.

His family’s dignity in the face of such ugliness recalls the poise of black sit-in protesters in the early 60s, who refused to relinquish their seats…

Indeed, Obama does come across as somebody extremely reluctant to relinquish his seat.  Even if we take the reporter’s comments about Obama’s dignity in power at face value, what about during the transition and afterwards?  At the rate he’s going, and if he and his wife don’t learn to stop carping from the sidelines, his family are going to look about as dignified and classy as the Kardashians before too long.

America’s racial problems have not melted away merely because Obama has spent eight years in the White House. Far from it.

Well yes.  We did notice.

Indeed, the insurmountable problem for Obama was that he reached the mountaintop on day one of his presidency.

As I said: attaining power was the job.  Obama knew everything about getting elected and nothing about governance.  He didn’t even seem interested in it.

Achieving anything on the racial front that surpassed becoming the country’s first black president was always going to be daunting.

True.  But not making things worse should have been achievable.

Compounding that problem were the unrealistically high expectations surrounding his presidency.

Expectations based on empty “hope and change” promises made during his campaign.

His election triumph is 2008 was also misinterpreted as an act of national atonement for the original sin of slavery and the stain of segregation.

Ah, so you mean it wasn’t as symbolic as everyone made out?

Yet Obama did not win the election because he was a black man.

Indeed.  And Hillary didn’t lose because she was a woman.

Doubtless there have been substantive reforms. His two black attorneys general, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, have revitalised the work of the justice department’s civil rights division, which was dormant during the Bush years.

Those Bush years which were presumably full of civil rights abuses, race riots, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement?

The Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare, as it was inevitably dubbed, cut the black uninsured rate by a third.

Because healthcare policies are best judged in terms of race.

Partly in a bid to reverse the rate of black incarceration, he has commuted the sentences of hundreds of prisoners – 10 times the number of his five predecessors added together.

He’s helped black people by releasing black criminals back into their communities at unprecedented rates.  This is apparently something America’s first black President should be praised for.

As well as calling for the closure of private prisons, he became the first president to visit a federal penitentiary. “There but for the grace of God,” said a man who had smoked pot and dabbled with cocaine in his youth.

Thus reinforcing the belief that the American justice system is so stacked against black men that only good luck can keep them out of prison.  Again, this is something we are supposed to be praising.

Race relations have arguably become more polarised and tenser since 20 January 2009.

Arguably?

Though smaller in scale and scope, the demonstrations sparked by police shootings of unarmed black men were reminiscent of the turbulence of the 1960s.

Indeed, we need to go back 50 years before we see a country so fraught with racial tensions as today’s America.

The toxic cloud from the tear gas unleashed in Ferguson and elsewhere cast a long and sometimes overwhelming shadow. Not since the LA riots in 1992 – the violent response to the beating of Rodney King and the later acquittal of the police officers filmed assaulting him – has the sense of black grievance and outrage been so raw.

Historians will surely be struck by what looks like an anomaly, that the Obama years gave rise to a movement called Black Lives Matter.

Alternatively, historians might be cruel enough to identify a direct link between Obama’s words and actions and the increase in race-related violence in America during his time in charge.

Public opinion surveys highlight this racial restlessness. Not long after he took office in 2009, a New York Times/CBS News poll suggested two-thirds of Americans regarded race relations as generally good. In the midst of last summer’s racial turbulence, that poll found there had been a complete reversal. Now 69% of Americans assessed race relations to be mostly bad.

The title of this piece is “Barack Obama legacy: Did he improve US race relations?”  He got there in the end, but I think that question has now been answered.

An oft-heard criticism of Obama is that he has failed to bring his great rhetorical skills to bear on the American dilemma, and prioritised the LGBT community’s campaign for equality at the expense of the ongoing black struggle.

Another oft-heard criticism is that pandering to “victim” groups and dabbling in identity politics is pretty much all he ever did.

But while he was happy to cloak himself in the mantle of America’s first black president, he did not set out to pursue a black presidency. He did not want his years in office to be defined by his skin colour.

Strange, considering that’s all he and his supporters ever talked about.

His famed race speech in the 2008 primary campaign, when his friendship with a fiery black preacher threatened to derail his candidacy, was as much about his white heritage as his black.

A white heritage that he wheeled out when it suited him and never mentioned it again.

Besides, there were pressing problems to deal with, not least rescuing the American economy in the midst of the Great Recession and extricating US forces from two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

How did that withdrawal from Iraq go in the end?

Rather in those early years, it was as if he was trying to position himself as a neutral arbiter in racial matters, though one sensed his preference was for not intervening at all.

As his presidency went on, however, it became more emphatically black. He spoke out more passionately and more intimately.

And by sheer coincidence, race relations plummeted to their lowest levels in half a century.

Telling reporters that his son would have looked like Trayvon Martin, the unarmed high school student shot dead in Florida by a neighbourhood watch coordinator, was a departure.

Ah yes, taking sides in the middle of an ongoing investigation and attempting to influence the outcome.  That was a departure, all right.

But that month Donald Trump had also announced his improbable bid for the White House, and the forces of conservatism were starting to rally behind an outspoken new figurehead, who sensed that nativism, xenophobia and fear of the other would be central to his electoral appeal.

He also sensed people were fed up with Obama and his politics.

That America’s first black president will be followed by the untitled leader of the Birther movement, a candidate slow to disavow support from the Ku Klux Klan and happy to receive the backing of white nationalists,

Trump was slow to disavow support from the KKK?  As Wikipedia would say: citation needed.  You might as well claim Obama was slow to disavow support from the Black Panthers.

Donald Trump can easily be portrayed as a personal repudiation and also proof of racial regression.

True, but not as easily as somebody who has seen race relations deteriorate over eight years in charge while he relentlessly pursued race-based policies.

The truth, though, is more complicated.

Yes, it is, isn’t it?

Obama is ending his presidency with some of his highest personal approval ratings, and clearly believes he would have beaten Trump in a head-to-head contest.

And Connor McGregor thinks he could beat Floyd Mayweather.

Moreover, although Trump won decisively in the electoral college, almost three million people more voted for Hillary Clinton nationwide.

“Nationwide” meaning “mostly in California”.

But the black writer Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a persuasive case that Obama has always been overly optimistic on race, in large part because he did not have a conventional black upbringing.

His formative years were spent in Hawaii, America’s most racially integrated state, and the whites he encountered, namely his mother and grandparents, were doting and loving.

Obama was not the victim of discrimination in the same way as a black kid growing up in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, or even New York or Illinois. As a result, he may have underestimated the forces that would seek to paralyse his presidency and to impede racial advance more broadly.

Indeed, that’s why so many people saw his visiting prisons and saying “There but for the grace of God”, and claiming Trayvon Martin could have been his son, as empty political posturing which only inflamed racial tensions.

Indeed, Trump’s victory, messy though it was, can easily be viewed partly as a “whitelash”.

Much of his earliest and strongest support came from so-called white nationalists, who saw in his candidacy the chance to reassert white cultural and racial dominance. Some of the loudest cheers at his rallies came in response his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim invectives.

Why, it’s almost as if eight years of racial politics under Obama has ushered in a new era of…racial politics.  There’s Obama’s legacy right there: getting white people to vote along racial lines.  Well done, Barack!

The BBC spends part of its £3.5bn tax on British owners of televisions to pay for reporters to sit in New York and pen articles like this.  Worth every penny, I’m sure.

The Myth of Russian Prostitutes

Even rabid lefty journalists seem to think that these latest allegations regarding Donald Trump are bollocks of the first water, but I’m going to put in my two cents anyway:

In the document, a source says Mr Trump hired the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, where he knew President Obama and Michelle Obama had stayed on one of their officials trips. The source goes on to say that Mr Trump asked prostitutes to perform lewd sex acts on the bed where the Obamas had slept.

“According to Source D … Trump’s perverted conduct included … defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.”

Ah yes, of course.  One can’t possibly have a story taking place in Moscow without prostitutes being involved, be it a poorly-written Hollywood film or what looks like an internet hoax being passed to the CIA who then took it seriously.  Whenever anything slightly dodgy is happening involving Russians, prostitutes must be shoehorned in there somehow.

It seems to be a reputation Russia cannot shake.  I wasn’t in Russia during the 1990s, but from what I heard from those who were pretty much everything that was there was for sale – women included.  During this period the former Soviet Union saw an exodus of young women who went abroad to be mail-order brides, prostitutes, and strippers and thus the reputation was born.  I don’t know when this peaked, but when I arrived in Dubai in 2003 certain clubs were packed with “Russian” prostitutes.  Only they were almost all from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and to a lesser extent Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Moldova.  About a quarter of them were ethnic Russians, the rest Central Asian or mixed.  By the time I left in 2006 their numbers had dwindled and they’d been replaced by Africans and Chinese.  I never went back so I don’t know if there are any there now.

When I went to Sakhalin in 2006 I found a lot of young women who were keen to form relationships with expatriates, and some of those expatriates were two decades older than the girls and sported large beer bellies.  However, even these women were in the minority: most girls on Sakhalin wanted to marry a Russian guy (or Korean if the girl was part of that community).  But I never saw a prostitute the whole time I was there.  I heard there was a kind of brothel catering to Filipino workers somewhere out on the airport road, and there were certainly banyas where prostitutes worked, sort of like the massage parlours in the UK.  And the local paper and presumably websites had plenty of adverts featuring women who promised to show you a good time, but this is hardly unique to Russia as a brief glance at Craigslist would reveal.

I went to Moscow on a business trip once in 2008 and ended up with a group of guys from Gazprom in some high-class strip bar where girls my height wandered around in spangly bikinis and high-heeled shoes made from clear plastic.  By the time I arrived I’d been sick twice thanks to ferocious drinking which took place earlier that night, after which they’d dragged me to a place where I’d drank a whole pot of tea to get me on my feet again.  I must have stayed all of thirty minutes in that strip bar and whilst the girls were undoubtedly for sale, they were hardly throwing themselves at the customers in the manner one sees in gangster films.

In other words, whatever happened in the 1990s is a long time ago and prostitution in Russia – from what I can tell – is not much different from how it is in any European country.  Contrary to what many people think, a trip to Russia will not see eighteen year old stunners throwing themselves at you; the closest you’ll come to that is when one walks into you while uploading photos onto vkontakte.ru on her mobile.  True, the women there are pretty and there are plenty of single ones with whom a relationship is possible (although perhaps not always advisable) but prostitutes they are not.  Nor are Russians particularly into group sex, lewd acts, and other weird stuff that Hollywood likes to portray.

By contrast, I saw a lot of prostitution in Nigeria and in Thailand.  I saw a lot of strip clubs in Melbourne too, which made Blackpool Pleasure Beach look as classy as the US Masters.  Having lived in Russia and France, I don’t see much difference between the two in terms of prostitution, weird sex, and the propensity for wealthy, successful men to like attractive young women.  Nobody would have written about Trump visiting Paris and getting prostitutes to swamp on a bed, but if it takes place in Russia seemingly this is quite normal.

A decent journalist would have known this is a crude, inaccurate stereotype and declined to print the story.  To their credit, most of them did.  Apparently the CIA has taken it seriously though.  Doesn’t that just fill you with confidence?

Feminism According to Madonna

My underpaid but highly appreciated research assistant has pointed me towards this video of Madonna’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards in which she won Woman of the Year, or something.  It deserves a bit of a fisking, and thankfully somebody has produced a transcript here.

She starts like this:

It’s better this way. I always feel better with something hard between my legs.

[Crowd laughs.]

What is it with modern-day feminists that they believe making crude, unfunny jokes of a sexual nature is somehow useful to the cause of women being afforded more respect?  Let’s remember this opening as the speech goes on.

Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying and relentless abuse.

Madonna is by far and away the most successful female pop star to date.  Her career has been absolutely staggering: her latest tour alone saw her rake in $170m.  Much of her success has come from the shock value of her challenging societal norms regarding women and sexuality, and hundreds of millions of people bought her music because they liked what she did.  This tells us two things: she is far more popular than she is disliked, and her career has depended on the existence of misogyny and sexism to generate the controversy which fueled her fame.

When I first started writing songs I didn’t think in a gender-specific way.

Like a Virgin and Material Girl were not gender specific?  Papa Don’t Preach?  How dense do you think we are?

I just wanted to be an artist. I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin

All of whom were miles better singers than you, but didn’t feel the need to court controversy at every step in their careers: they relied purely on musical ability.

There are no rules  –  if you’re a boy. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is out of line with the status quo, at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat, do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world.

And if you do break those rules?  Why, you become the most successful female pop artist of all time and a multimillionaire!  Don’t do it, girls!

Be what men want you to be. But more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age, is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.

Madonna isn’t played on the radio?  Whut?  And yes, you will be criticised, you will be vilified: every celebrity is.  The important thing is whether the criticism and vilification prevent genuine talent from shining through, and in the case of Madonna that is clearly not the case.  Cristiano Ronaldo is vilified and I remember David Beckham being subject to appalling abuse in his prime.  It’s not nice, but unfortunately it comes with the territory, and it is not limited to women.

When I first became famous, there were nude photos of me in Playboy and Penthouse magazine. Photos that were taken from art schools that I posed for, back in the day to make money.

And there is nothing wrong with that: it’s a woman’s choice, after all.  But let’s not forget all those women who choose not to take their clothes off when they need money, eh?

They weren’t very sexy. In fact, I looked quite bored. I was. But I was expected to feel ashamed when these photos came out, and I was not. And this puzzled people.

Which people?  Not being ashamed of posing for nude photos is absolutely fine, but people can and will make judgements about your character depending on whether you do or not.  Personally I have no problem with your decisions, nor of your lack of shame, but I’m not going to place you in the same category as a woman who either kept her clothes on or is capable of some self-reflection regarding daft things she did when young.  My guess would be that those who were puzzled expected higher standards, or something.

Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass,

Fine qualities in a husband that all feminists can aspire to, I’m sure.

Years later, divorced and single – sorry Sean –  I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. And everything I read about myself was damning. I was called ‘a whore’ and ‘a witch.’ One headline compared me to Satan. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man. This was the first time I truly understood that women really do not have the same freedom as men.

Except you were free to do so: you made an absolutely fortune in the process, and your career went from strength to strength.  And for all your complaints about the headlines and the damnation, it was this very notoriety that you carefully nurtured because it translated directly into record sales.  True, Prince might not have come in for the same criticism but I notice you didn’t use Michael Jackson as an example: had you done so, your argument that men don’t get vilified for controversial and weird behaviour while selling millions of records would have fallen a bit flat.

I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to put myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life.

You experienced unprecedented, staggering musical success but you needed to “get on with your creative life”?  This is supposed to be a rallying speech for oppressed, downtrodden women everywhere?

I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support.

That you didn’t have one speaks volumes, don’t you think?

Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said that I set women back by objectifying myself sexually.

Imagine.

Oh, I thought, ‘so, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’

If that’s what you thought then you’re an idiot.  It is perfectly possible to be a feminist who is both sexy and comfortable with their sexuality without flaunting it everywhere in the crudest, most classless way possible.  One of the biggest failures of modern feminism is believing that adopting the worst aspects of male behaviour will advance the cause of women.  That “joke” she told at the start of her speech was unfunny and the sort of thing a twelve year old boy would say.  If this is the behaviour modern women want to emulate, God help them.

So I said ‘ **** it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.’

[Crowd applause]

Yes, and your sort seem hell-bent on undoing the work of the good feminists.  Here, have an award!

People say I’m so controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.

No, your ability to stick around is not controversial, it is remarkable.  People say you are controversial for wholly unrelated reasons.  But hey, don’t let me stop you from telling us what you think about yourself.

What I would like to say to all the women here today, is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long, they believe what men have to say about them.

Presumably men do nothing but lie to women.

And they believe they have to back a man to get the job done.

Which women believe this?  The ones in the audience?  Really?

And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men –  because they’re worthy.

In other words exercise good judgement about men, says the twice-divorced single woman.

As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth.

Right, but women have a nasty habit of looking beyond another woman’s net wealth and musical talent and forming an opinion about their character based on their behaviour and appearance.  If women don’t appreciate you as much as you think they should, there are probably reasons why.  What this has to do with men, misogyny, and sexism I don’t know.

Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to collaborate with, to support, to be enlightened by.

Women need Madonna to tell them this?  Only let’s hope that when choosing “strong women” they don’t entangle themselves with a bunch of demented, third-wave feminists sporting neck-tattoos and like Madonna believe sexual promiscuity is something to be celebrated.

Look, I think Madonna is an incredible entertainer and her ability to reinvent herself and sustain a career that long is astonishing, and I am happy that she receives so many awards and has made so much money for herself.  Good on her.  But in the face of such astounding success her complaints of sexism and misogyny ring somewhat hollow, particularly when one considers how she went about building her career by shocking people and continually courting controversy.  The violence she experienced in New York notwithstanding, downtrodden and oppressed she is not: sure she’s faced obstacles and criticism, but haven’t we all?  She’s good at what she does but the brand of feminism she is pushing is poisonous rot, and young women would do well to listen to her music rather than her speeches.

Britain’s “Restaurant” Culture

Every now and again the comments section at Tim Worstall’s blog gets taken over by a discussion of British restaurants and how they compare to their European counterparts.  I think it was Bloke in Spain (again) who said a major difference is that people in Britain go to a restaurant for a special occasion, hence when the food or service turns out to be crap nobody wants to make a fuss because it would “spoil the occasion”.  By contrast, people in France go to restaurants because they are hungry and want to eat, and if the food or service is awful then the very purpose of going there has been defeated, and therefore they will complain.  This goes part of the way to explain the difference in dining experience between the two countries.

This article in The Telegraph, via Mr Worstall, would appear to support this theory:

Britain’s booming restaurant culture is fuelling record levels of childhood obesity, with today’s children spending at least twice as much time spent eating out as previous generations did, experts have warned.

French provincial restaurants are full of kids, and yet they are not all a bunch of porkers.  In fact, trying to find a fat French kid requires considerable effort.

Health officials said families no longer behaved as though dining out was a “treat” and have instead allowed restaurant meals and fast food to become a major part of youngsters’ weekly diet.

Dining out in Britain is often an endurance rather than a treat.

Today’s families are spending at least twice as much time eating out as those who grew up in the 1970s, its report warns.

People eating in restaurants generates a warning?  In most places this is considered a good thing.

She said parents needed help – including calorie labelling on menus – to look after their children’s health.

At which point my French readers wonder why British parents are so thick.

“Every day we are bombarded by cheap, high calorie food and drinks; what we see in the media, in our shops and on the street encourages us to consume too much and gain weight,” she said.

If this has anything to do with eating in restaurants, they’re keeping it secret.

We need action from across society to help the nation to consume less,” the senior official said.

I wish these idiots in charge would make up their mind as to whether girls are anorexic because of unrealistically skinny bodies displayed in adverts, or everyone is too fat because the media is promoting junk food.  And last time I heard, telling women they are too fat and ought to eat less was considered a no-no and big was beautiful.  Some consistency would be nice.

Research involving almost 2,000 people found 75 per cent had eaten out or had a takeaway in the last week, a rise from 68 per cent five years ago.

Only in Britain is eating at a restaurant considered the same as having a takeaway.

Last year, Harvard researchers discovered that people who eat out regularly are more likely to be overweight and to develop Type 2 diabetes compared to those who eat at home.

“We now buy a very large proportion of our food from the out of home sector. It is not a treat, it is an everyday event,” Dr Tedstone said.

Note there is no consideration of the quality of restaurant here.  A family eating at a four star brasserie is lumped in with somebody handing their kids a bucket of KFC.

“Children on average have three meals from the ‘out of home sector’ [restaurants, takeaways and fast-food outlets] every week,” she added. “That’s a lot of calories.”

This is wonderful commentary on how the British view eating out, it really is.  But as an article warning of the dangers posed by frequent restaurant attendance, it’s not so good..

One in five families now has at least two takeaways a week, the official added.

The headline of this article is “Britain’s booming restaurant culture fuels record childhood obesity levels”.  Well, I guess McDonald’s refer to their premises as restaurants…

Dr Tedstone said making improvements to restaurants and fast food would be crucial to tackling Britain’s obesity epidemic.

You want to improve British restaurants?  Good luck.

The nutritionist welcomed efforts by some councils were trying to limit the number of fast food outlets near schools, but said restaurants needed to do far more to help customers make healthier choices.

By hiring a decent chef who can actually cook things?

The nutritionist welcomed efforts by some councils were trying to limit the number of fast food outlets near schools, but said restaurants needed to do far more to help customers make healthier choices.

“Restaurants, cafes and takeaways can contribute by reducing portion sizes, sugar, saturated fat and salt across their menus …” she said.

Are British restaurants really so bad they need external advice on what ingredients to use in their dishes?

Thank God I live in France.

Unsolicited Advice

I remember back when I was in school, probably in the lower sixth form, I was watching a game of cricket being played on the school’s oval.  For those not familiar with cricket, when a batsman gets out he often has a quick word with the incoming batsman to share some advice regarding the pitch and the bowling.  You don’t see it so much at test levels, but at club and school cricket you do.  Anyway, I was watching this particularly inept batsman walk out to take the crease and he was hit plumb LBW first ball.  As he trudged back to the pavilion he passed the incoming batsman and stopped to talk to him.  My friend who was sat beside me said “What possible advice could he give the new batsman after that performance?”

Now to US politics.  We’ve already had the outgoing CIA director giving interviews to the BBC as to how he thinks Trump’s administration should handle Russia, Iran, and ISIS.  Now we have Obama giving Trump advice:

US President Barack Obama says he has advised his successor Donald Trump not to attempt to run the White House “the way you would manage a family business”.

Which is sound advice, but less meaningful coming from somebody who ran it like a banana republic.

In an interview with ABC News, Mr Obama said that Mr Trump must “respect” US institutions.

This from somebody who shat all over pretty much every institution he came into contact with.

He warned that there was a difference between governing and campaigning.

It’s nice to know Obama has finally figured this out: there’s been no sign that he’s done so in his eight years in office.

“There are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he [Mr Trump] says,” Mr Obama said.

As opposed to what Obama says.

Mr Obama also talked about the US intelligence agency’s report into alleged cyber-attacks by Russia and the attempt to influence the 2016 US presidential campaign.

He said that he had “underestimated” the impact of such attacks.

The only thing he underestimated was how useful this bullshit would be in explaining away Hillary’s defeat and the rejection of his policies.

He said that a conversation had taken place with Mr Trump in which he had discussed the importance of having faith in the intelligence community.

“There are going to be times where the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working,” he said.

Indeed, and if that process isn’t working – for example, by giving free passes to criminal behaviour of Presidential candidates and making up shite about Russians hacking elections – then it is time to change things around.

Last week Mr Trump said he was a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, after months of casting doubt on the Russian link to the security breach. But he later raised questions over how the Democratic Party had responded to the cyber-attacks.

“How and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?” Mr Trump asked in a tweet.

Questions journalists should have been asking Obama instead of relaying his “advice” to Donald Trump.

Picking Sides

In an effort to understand what is happening in the Middle East, I recalled the introduction to Part III of this excellent book: Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe.

The Second World War was never merely a conflict over territory. It was also a war of race and ethnicity. Some of the defining events of the war had nothing to do with winning and maintaining physical ground, but with imposing one’s own ethnic stamp on ground already held.

The problem for those pursuing this racial war was that it was not always easy to define a person’s race or ethnicity, particularly in eastern Europe where different communities were often inextricably intermingled. Jews who happened to have blond hair and blue eyes could slip through the net because they did not fit the Nazis’ preconceived racial stereotype. Gypsies could and did disguise themselves as members of other ethnic groups just by changing their clothes and their behaviour –as did Slovaks in Hungary, Bosniaks in Serbia, Romanians in Ukraine, and so on. The most common way of identifying one’s ethnic friends or enemies –the language they spoke –was not always an accurate guide either. Those who had grown up in mixed communities spoke several languages, and could switch between one and the next depending on whom they were speaking to –a skill that would save many lives during the darkest days of the war and its aftermath. In an effort to categorize the population of Europe, the Nazis insisted on issuing everyone with identity cards, coloured according to ethnicity. They created vast bureaucracies to classify entire populations by race.

Those who did not have their ethnicity chosen for them had to make the decision for themselves. This was not always easy. Many people had multiple options, either because they had mixed-race parents or grandparents or because they saw no contradiction in being simultaneously, say, Polish by birth, Lithuanian by nationality and German by ethnicity. When forced to make a choice, their decision was often naively random at best, perhaps inspired by a parent, a spouse, or even a friend. The more calculating chose an identity according to what benefits it might offer. Claiming German ethnicity, for example, could confer exemption from labour round-ups and eligibility for special rations and tax breaks. On the other hand, it could also mean liability for military conscription: the decision sometimes boiled down to whether the Russian front was preferable to a slave-labour camp. The choices that people made regarding their ethnicity would have implications far beyond the end of the war.

The fascist obsession with racial purity, not only in those areas occupied by Germany but elsewhere too, had a huge impact on European attitudes. It made people aware of race in a way they never had been before. It obliged people to take sides, whether they wanted to or not. And, in communities that had lived side by side more or less peacefully for centuries, it made race into a problem –indeed, it elevated it to the problem –that needed solving.

In previous years, Arab nationalism was the big thing.  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan defined themselves firstly by their nationality and only perhaps as a secondary concern did they bring ethnicity or religious affiliation into play (with the exception being they were absolutely opposed to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel).  Nasser’s Egypt didn’t promote itself on the basis of religion or ethnicity, but as a regional power allied to the Soviet Union.  Colonel Gaddafi spent years trying to set up and lead some sort of African Union grounded in nationalism and anti-colonialism, not a common religion or ethnicity.  I am told in Syria people were Syrians first and Muslims and Christians second.  Despite his growing a beard and waving the Koran around once he’d been captured, Saddam Hussein ran a largely secular regime based on nationalism and (in theory) socialism via the Ba’ath party, which they shared with Syria.  These countries were based on political doctrines, not on religious or ethnic ones.

That’s not to say that Christians didn’t face discrimination in Egypt, the majority Shia were not oppressed in Iraq by the minority Sunnis, and the Kurds didn’t get gassed by Saddam Hussein.  And one must also look at Saudi Arabia – a nation whose foundations are religious – and the Lebanese Civil War which saw all the different religions and sects fighting one another.  My point is not that one’s religion or ethnicity didn’t matter at all, but that they were considered of secondary importance to the political entity that was the nation state (or, more accurately, the guy in charge).  Provided you were prepared to pledge your loyalty to the political regime, you stood a good chance of being left alone.  Saddam Hussein didn’t gas the Kurds because he objected to their religious beliefs, he did so because they were not sufficiently loyal and didn’t want to live under his rule.  One must remember that Tariq Aziz, a long-serving minister in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, was Catholic.

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the sectarian fighting that followed, and then the Arab Spring, all of that has gone out of the window.  The Muslim Brotherhood popped up in Egypt and promptly won an election; jihadists ran rampage in Libya once Gaddafil was removed; ISIS tore through Iraq and Syria, ethnically cleansing any territory they captured as they fought a religious war for control of the Levant.  The two regional superpowers – Saudi Arabi and Iran – are fighting a proxy war in Yemen and fuelling the conflicts elsewhere with money and weapons as each backs their own religious brethren.  No longer are Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians, and Libyans allowed to state they are nationalists first and foremost and want only what’s best for the country: they must pick a side and in a lot of cases fight for that side.  Within a relatively short time ethnicity and religion has become the determining factor in one’s identity across swathes of the Middle East, taking over from nationality.

Perhaps more worrying is the degree to which this might be happening in Turkey.  The Kurds always had a rough time of it, and Armenians would probably have a few rather blunt words to say were any to read this (and justifiably so), but under Ataturk’s secular republic people were Turks first and committed to a Turkish identity and Turkish nationalism – be they Muslim or Christian, conservative, moderate, or secular.  Sure, some of the more conservative Turks might have gotten a bit hot under the collar over pretty girls wandering the beaches at Izmir in pink bikinis, just as the educated, Westernised Turks in Istanbul thought the rural folk in the north and east were ignorant, backward, and best ignored.  Whatever one’s affiliation or religious fervor, everyone was a Turk and the country came first.

The election of Recep Erdoğan has changed all that.  By running on an Islamist platform, he has driven a wedge between the more conservative Muslims and the secularists, non-Muslims, and the rest.  Now it is starting to matter whether you are secular or Islamist, moderate or conservative.  Last evening a friend showed me a photo that had been posted on Turkish social media a few days ago, before yesterday’s bomb in Izmir.  It was of a Turkish woman in her 20s in a headscarf suggesting that the city – which has a reputation as a centre of secularism and having a Westernised population – be attacked because it is full of infidels.  The number of people approving her remarks was well over a hundred.  This would have been unheard of a generation ago, Turks wanting other Turks killed and maimed over religious differences and being prepared to say so in public.

We have already seen what happened in Europe when people who had never wanted labels were forced to wear one and fight each other.  We are currently seeing what happens in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere when choosing a side becomes compulsory.  I really hope that Turkey avoids this fate, but it is heading in that direction.

More on the Turkish Nightclub Shooting

I’m not convinced by this:

Turkey has arrested a number of people of Uighur origin over a deadly nightclub attack that killed 39, the state-run news agency reports.

Those detained are believed to have come from China’s Xinjiang region with ties to the attacker, Anadolu says.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak also said the suspect was probably Uighur, and acted alone but may have had help.

Bombings and shootings aren’t normally the modus operandii of the Uighurs, who prefer to appear out of nowhere in a large group, attack people with knives, and then disperse (see here and here, for examples).  If the attack was indeed carried out by ISIS, which is most likely, rounding up Uighurs isn’t going to do very much.  ISIS aren’t generally too fussy as to where their terrorists come from; an insane level of commitment is what they look for in team members, not shared ethnicity or nationalities.  However, what arresting hapless Uighurs might do is deflect attention from the obvious failings of the Turkish security services.

The authorities have reportedly tightened security at Turkey’s land borders and airports to prevent the attacker from fleeing the country.

Turkish media have run images of a suspect, saying the pictures were handed out by the police. But the police have given no official details.

The Turkish foreign minister has said the authorities have identified the attacker, but has not given further details.

In other words, we don’t know if he’s an Uighur or not – something which could be ascertained in ten seconds flat by the name alone – but the Deputy PM is fuelling rumours that he is.  I’d say that if he was an Uighur then the government would have confirmed this by now: what reason could they have for not saying so?

Special forces made the early morning arrests at a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town on the outskirts of Istanbul, after police were reportedly tipped off that individuals linked to the attacker were in the area.

Uighurs were among those arrested – the number was not confirmed – on suspicion of “aiding and abetting” the gunman, the Anadolu news agency reports.

It is usually the case in the wake of a terrorist attack that the local minorities get dragged over the coals as the authorities scrabble around trying to catch the perpetrator.  Us Brits did just that with the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, so it’s not just limited to places where the traffic lights are advisory.  It’s probably not much fun being an Uighur in Turkey right now.

At least 39 people were already in custody over suspected links to the attack, many of whom were picked up in an earlier police operation in Izmir, western Turkey.

Several families had recently travelled there from Konya, a central city where the main suspect was said to have stayed for several weeks before the attack.

No fun at all.

Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told Turkish broadcaster A Hamer that the authorities knew where the suspect, who he described as “specially trained”, was hiding, without giving further details.

Presumably they’re waiting for him to finish his lunch.

Witnesses to the new year attack said more than 100 rounds of bullets were fired which, the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardener says, indicates the gunman had at least some rudimentary military training.

Which narrows it down to 100% of men over the age of 15 in the nations surrounding Turkey.

Previous media reports incorrectly suggested the culprit was a national from Kyrgyzstan, after a passport photo claiming to show the attacker was circulated.

Rumours persist that several of the terrorist attacks in Turkey have been carried out by people who come from the countries of the former Soviet Union.  I have no idea whether this is true, but I suspect the rumours stem from the fact that a lot of the ISIS military commanders and their most experienced and competent fighters are Chechens, Russian converts to Islam, and the Central Asian states.

It later emerged the passport belonged to someone unrelated to the attack.

I bet he was happy about that.

All in all, it seems to be a bit of a clusterfuck, doesn’t it?

UPDATE

Just as I published this post, this news broke:

Two attackers, a policeman and a civilian have been killed in a car bomb and gun assault on a courthouse in the Turkish city of Izmir, state media say.

At least 10 people were reportedly wounded in the explosion.

Images showed two cars ablaze and the body of one man carrying a weapon. Reports say a third attacker is sought.

Word is that this is the PKK who are behind this latest attack, though.

When Food Poisoning Isn’t

Sometime commenter Bloke in Spain makes the following remark at Tim Worstall’s:

I suspect that “food poisoning” is a lot less common than reports of it would suggest. I’ve lost count of the visitors down here who reckons they’ve suffered “food poisoning” eating much stuff as the rest of us.

I concur.  When I was a kid we had things called “stomach upsets” that would make you vomit and give you diarrhea for a day or two and (in our household) would see you confined to bed on a diet of dry Ryvitas and lemon squash until you got better. We’d also be given kaolin and morphine, a brilliant medicine which is now hard to find and has been replaced with Imodium which just bungs you up like concrete and does nothing for the pain.

Anyway, everyone got these upset stomachs from time to time and in my adult life I get one about once every two years.  However, as part of a general trend towards irrationality, ignorance, and increased use of hyperbole among the general population I noticed some time ago that most people now think a regular stomach upset is food poisoning.  The first time I heard this was back in my catered halls of residence in Manchester University around 1997 or 1998 when a female student got sick after eating the grub that was served up in the canteen.  She claimed it was food poisoning, whereas the chef – who wasn’t student and hence had some sense – pointed out that several hundred other residents had eaten the same food and had not fallen sick.

I remembered this when I was in Sakhalin in 2008 and I ate a meal in the canteen at the LNG plant that had me throwing up in the snow on the drive back to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.  I felt ill the minute I’d finished eating and the pain only got worse, and I wondered if the baked beans with bacon strips that I’d covered my mashed potato with (hey, this was on site in Russia) had been bad.  The illness barely lasted 24 hours and when I inquired two days later I found there was no mass outbreak of food poisoning among the staff and contractors so I concluded it was just a stomach bug.

Food poisoning is fucking serious.  I’ve fortunately never had it, but I have spoken to people who have and aside from being easily capable of killing you it is something which lasts for several days and makes you wish it would get on with it and kill you.  Just like a migraine is not a headache (another false equivalence people draw), and a cold is not ‘flu, an upset stomach is not food poisoning.  So whenever I hear people say they were off work for a day with food poisoning, I mark them down as a hysterical idiot or an ignoramus.

A few years ago I was flying back to Lagos from Phuket and felt a surging pain in my stomach on the flight between Phuket and Bangkok.  I tried wishing the pain away and pretending it was indigestion but on the transfer bus from the plane and the terminal I felt so nauseous I almost passed out.  I found the nearest toilet and threw up mightily, making a right racket as I did so.  I then spun around 180 degrees and emptied myself from the other end.  You know how it is.  I had an hour or so to wait until my connecting flight to Dubai, and so took some Imodium and Alka-Seltzer hoping these would settle my stomach.  I kept these down for a few minutes and then threw the lot up again.  In such situations I simply stop eating believing, correctly or not, that if you don’t eat then the bug has nothing to feed on and will starve.  Even if this is bollocks I have found that eating nothing for a day will cure any stomach upsets I typically encounter.

By the time I came to board the flight I was feeling a bit better, and so took my seat.  Only when we started rumbling down the taxiway I began to feel queasy.  I was sat with the window beside me on my right side, an empty seat beside me (thank God) and a middle-aged man was in the third seat beside the aisle.  As the engines roared for takeoff I felt the pain in my stomach flare up and for the first time in my life I reached for the air sickness bag, into which I threw up just as the nose wheel parted company with the tarmac.  I mentioned before I made a racket being sick, and for some reason I do.  Something to do with the air being pushed past the vocal chords, but I sound like I’m roaring like wounded bull.  I made so much noise that I could be heard by everybody on the lower deck of an Airbus A380 over the noise of four General Electric jet engines on takeoff mode.

Unsurprisingly, once we’d achieved the altitude at which the stewardesses can take off their seatbelts and stand up, they all came running through the cabin asking “Who the fuck was that?”, only using slightly more polite language.  I put my paw in the air and ‘fessed up (before handing them a lovely bag full of sick) and then somebody showed up with a clipboard and started bombarding me with questions.  They asked if I was airsick, and I said no, I have an upset stomach.  They asked if I was feeling ill before boarding, and I lied and said I merely felt queasy.  They asked me whether I’d eaten anything before, presumably thinking there was a possibility I’d gotten to my age on a diet of fresh air.  I told them I’d eaten part of a pizza back in Phuket, but those who’d eaten the rest of it were fine (I’d called them and asked).  The stewardess with the clipboard looked at me and said “Okay, we’ll put it down as food poisoning from eating a pizza, then.”  She then told me I ought to have seen a doctor rather than get on a plane sick, which was sound advice if I’d fancied spending 24 hours in the airport hotel at my own expense because any doctor would have yawned and said “nope, don’t fly” because it’s no skin off his nose.  I then got a bollocking for getting on the plane with “food poisoning” because we might have had to make an emergency landing, and there aren’t many places that an A380 can do that.  That was a good point in general, and an A380 being severely restricted in terms of where it can land in an emergency never occurred to me, but it annoyed me because I obviously didn’t have food poisoning.  Apparently there is no such condition as a stomach upset which can be put on the forms the cabin crew have to fill in every time a passenger gets sick.

As it happened, I ate nothing and drank only water for the rest of the flight and by the time I was in Dubai I felt well enough to eat a little soup.  By the time I caught the next flight and arrived in Lagos, I was feeling fine.  That would not have been the case if I’d had food poisoning.