Cover Songs Done Live

One of the fun things about going to a rock concert, or watching one on TV or YouTube, is when the act on stage does a cover of a song that they’d never play in the studio. Back in May 2003 I saw Bruce Springsteen play with the E-Street Band on his Rising tour at the Old Trafford cricket ground, and it was brilliant. But I remember it most for his playing Seven Nights to Rock, a classic rockabilly song first recorded by Moon Mullican.

I think I was the only one in the entire crowd who knew this song, thanks to a pal of mine who got me into rockabilly at an early age including some rather obscure stuff.

It turns out Springsteen plays this song a lot. Here he is playing it in Paris in 2012:

So there we have Bruce Springsteen covering Moon Mullican. And today I found this video, which is Warren Zevon singing Poor Poor Pitiful Me live in New Jersey in 1982 before launching into a cover of Springsteen’s Cadillac Ranch. There are some wonderful moustaches and mullets on display.

I first heard Poor Poor Pitiful Me when I was in the Patagonia store in New York last September. I Shazamed it, and wondered how I’d never heard this song before. That’s the beauty of music and YouTube: there is always something new to discover.

For those who might be interested, Linda Ronstadt did a studio cover of Poor Poor Pitiful Me, which is arguably the more famous version.

I prefer Zevon’s, though.

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Normalising Polyamory

In the comments under a previous post on the subject of polyamory, Tui noted:

Once trans issues become passé, poly living will be the hot new fashion. Gotta keep the sexual revolution chugging along, after all. I’ve seen a few more enthusiastic pieces over the last year or so trying to stir up interest.

Tui wasn’t wrong. The New York Times is but the latest mainstream publication to ask:

Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?

Let’s see.

Daniel, then a 27-year-old who worked in information technology…

Now this may not be relevant, but both the former partners of the polyamorous woman I knew worked in IT. And it goes without saying that they, like the people in this article, lived in New York.

But as with any happy marriage, there were frustrations. Daniel liked sex, and not long after they were married, it became clear that Elizabeth’s interest in it had cooled. She thought hers was the normal response: She was raised by strict Catholics, she would tell Daniel, as if that explained it, and she never saw her own parents hold hands, much less kiss. It was not as if she and Daniel never had sex, but when they did, Daniel often felt lonely in his desire for something more — not necessarily exotic sex but sex in which both partners cared about it, and cared about each other, with one of those interests fueling the other.

So a man gets married and soon gets bored of banging his wife and wouldn’t mind sleeping with other women. How very unusual.

Elizabeth, baffled by Daniel’s disappointment, wondered: How great does sex have to be for a person to be happy? Daniel wondered: Don’t I have the right to care this much about sex, about intimacy?

Woman frets over whether she’s making her man happy in the bed. Man belatedly realises that getting married impacts one’s sex life. This is some groundbreaking stuff right here.

Occasionally, when he decided the answer was yes, and he felt some vital part of himself dwindling, Daniel would think about a radical possibility: opening up their marriage to other relationships.

Man fails to understand that being married is a trade-off.

He would poke around on the internet and read about other couples’ arrangements. It was both an outlandish idea and, to him, a totally rational one. He eventually even wrote about it in 2009 for a friend who had a blog about sexuality. “As our culture becomes more accepting of choices outside the norm, nonmonogamy will expand as an acceptable choice, and the world will have to change as a result,” he predicted.

Some of us are incapable of holding down a normal, functioning relationship and attempt to address severe self-esteem issues with meaningless sex. We demand the rest of society approves of our lifestyle.

He was in his late 30s when he decided to broach the subject with Elizabeth gingerly: Do you ever miss that energy you feel when you’re in love with someone for the first time? They had two children, and he pointed out that having the second did not detract from how much they loved the first one. “Love is additive,” he told her. “It is not finite.”

He’s using his wife’s love of their children in attempt to convince her to let him go and shag other women. Lovely.

He was not surprised when Elizabeth rejected the idea; he had mostly raised it as a way of communicating the urgency of his needs.

Man tells wife about his need to shag other women, wife doesn’t take it well.

Elizabeth did not resent him for bringing it up, but felt stuck: She was not even sure what, exactly, he wanted from her, or how she could give it.

Yes, she’s confused: that’s what happens when you’re stuck with a manipulative shit of a husband.

In the fall of 2015, Elizabeth met a man at a Parkinson’s fund-raiser. Joseph … asked her to tea once, and then a second time. They understood something profound about each other but also barely knew each other, which allowed for a lightness between them, pure fun in the face of everything. They met once more, and that afternoon, in the parking lot, he kissed her beside his car, someone else’s mouth on hers for the first time in 24 years. It did not occur to her to resist. Hadn’t Daniel wanted an open marriage?

Woman rejects concept of open marriage but cops off with a bloke offering her tea at a charity bash. Remember, these polyamory types are perfectly normal, just like you and me.

Elizabeth did not announce that the friendship was turning romantic, but she did not deny it either, when Daniel, uneasy with the frequency of her visits with Joseph, confronted her. That she intended to keep seeing Joseph despite Daniel’s obvious distress shamed him: He was suddenly an outsider in his own marriage, scrambling for scraps of information and a sense of control.

Man who wanted an open marriage fails to understand it’s a two-way street.

This was not at all what Daniel had in mind when he proposed opening the marriage.

No, he thought he’d be banging waitresses and cheerleaders. Instead he’s been cuckolded.

They had not agreed on anything ahead of time; they had not, as a couple, talked about their commitment to each other, about how they would manage and tend to each other’s feelings.

That’s because they weren’t in an open marriage: he suggested it, she said no, and then she went and had an affair. Hubby is now playing catch-up and trying to apply labels which don’t fit.

“It wasn’t like we had a conversation about it,” Daniel said the first time I met him, in April 2016, when they were just starting to put that painful period of their relationship behind them. “It was more like: This is what I’m doing — deal with it.”

Wonderful. What a lovely couple. I’m at a loss to decide who is the bigger selfish, narcissistic, shit here.

Elizabeth’s intransigence, and Daniel’s pain, had brought them back into couples therapy. After several months of surveying the situation, which seemed to be deadlocked, the therapist told them in early March 2016 that she thought they were most likely heading for divorce.

I wonder how much they paid their therapist before she reached this conclusion?

For several nights following that therapy session, they talked in their bedroom, with an attention they had not given each other in years, sitting on the strip of rug between the foot of their bed and the wall. The sex, too, was different, more varied, as if reflecting the inventing going on in their marriage. Elizabeth was still someone’s wife, still her children’s mother, but now she was also somebody’s girlfriend, desired and desiring; now her own marriage was also new to her.

Hmmm. I think the journalist ought to have expressed a little skepticism at this point, don’t you?

When I met Elizabeth and Daniel, Elizabeth had already received Daniel’s permission to keep seeing Joseph

She was seeing him anyway, IIRC.

Daniel was contemplating how he might, in turn, meet someone.

I bet he was. Like a lot of middle-aged men who bail on their marriages in the hope of getting hot and sweaty with pretty young things, he found the reality to be somewhat brutal. I only hope he didn’t grow a pony tail and start wearing hoodies.

Their marriage had already strained to accommodate another person, someone whom Elizabeth would meet while Daniel was at work, whom she texted in the car while her husband drove.

This must do wonders for the self-esteem, which likely wasn’t very high to begin with. I wonder how his “love is not finite” analogy is holding up at this point.

But Daniel said he was past the point of fear. “Basically you could say maybe we loved each other before all this — but maybe we were just asleep. And maybe being asleep is more dangerous and worse to you as a person than what’s going on right now. I want to be married, and I don’t want anything to happen to us. But I have no idea what would happen either way. Would you rather be asleep and have things fall apart? Or rather be alive and have things fall apart?”

Yeah, that therapist really helped, didn’t she?

“The new monogamy is, baldly speaking, the recognition that, for an increasing number of couples, marital attachment involves a more fluid idea of connection to the primary partner than is true of the ‘old monogamy,’  … Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.”

In short, the “new monogamy” accepts “But she meant nothing to me!” at face value.

The spectrum of those attachments included one-night stands and ongoing relationships; as she understood it, honesty and transparency, rather than fidelity, were the guiding principles underlying the healthiest of these kinds of marriages.

I wonder just how healthy the healthiest of these marriages are?

The couples did not perceive their desire to see other people as a symptom of dysfunction but rather as a fairly typical human need that they thought they were up to the challenge of navigating.

Well, yes. Everyone would like the freedom to fuck whoever they want if the opportunity arises, but that’s something you give up in order to be in a relationship. You hope that the overall benefits of being with one person are greater than being single and free to do what you like. Nobody says monogamy is easy, but it’s a trade-off. If you could get the benefits of a monogamous relationship without the downsides, everyone would do it.

Terms have long existed for arrangements similar to those she was seeing — they could fall under the category of polyamory, which involves more than one loving relationship, or the more all-encompassing term, consensual nonmonogamy, which also includes more casual sex outside of marriage or a relationship.

Polyfuckery would be a better description for a lot of these arrangements. Or simply shagging around.

Divorce, or not marrying in the first place, might seem like a more logical response to a desire for openness. But even as marriage rates have declined in this country, the institution has retained a seductive status for Americans.

People still believe in marital arrangements that have gone on for millennia. Who would have thought?

And yet the tradition is nonetheless at odds, he argues, with the country’s emphasis on individualism, a tension that leads to high rates of divorce but also to remarriage, with worrisome outcomes for finances and children.

Ah, this old chestnut: traditional marriages often fail so polyamorous ones are worth considering. What nobody ever does is closely examine the rate at which polyamorous relationships fail, the mental state of the people involved in them, and the effect on any children unfortunate enough to be caught up in them.

And yet open marriages — and to a lesser degree open but nonmarital committed relationships — are still considered so taboo that many of the people I interviewed over the last year resisted giving their names, for fear of social disapprobation and of jeopardizing their jobs.

Here’s my own position: I have no objection to consenting adults doing what the hell they like, but don’t try to sell me polyamory as a viable option for those seeking a normal, functioning relationship.

It is no surprise that most conservatives would perceive the concept as a degradation of marriage, of a key foundation of society.

And you know what, perhaps they’re onto something?

But even among progressives I talked to, the subject typically provoked a curled lip or a slack jaw. The thought bubble, or expressed thought: How? How could any married person be comfortable with, or encouraging of, a spouse’s extramarital sex? The subject seemed offensive to many at some primal level, or at least ridiculously self-indulgent, as if those involved — working, married people, people with children — were indecently preoccupied with sexual adventure instead of channeling their energies toward, say, their children, or composting.

An admission, at last, that those who practice polyamory are rather different from the rest of us and are capable of mentally accepting things which most people would find abhorrent.

It was several months after he posted his profile that Daniel went on a date with a woman he met on the site, someone who was also in an open marriage. … Drinks flowed, and around midnight, Daniel found himself in a Ford Explorer, kissing a woman who was not his wife for the first time in 25 years.

Two middle-aged people copping off in an SUV on the first date after meeting online. Anyone who thinks polyamory lacks class better think again.

They were still making awkward conversation at a bar when a woman sitting nearby asked how long they had been together. Daniel and his date exchanged glances; Daniel shrugged, as if to say: “Go ahead.” “He’s married to someone else,” his date said. “I’m married to someone else. We’re on our first date.”

The first rule of polyamory: advertise it to the whole world.

Susan Wenzel, a therapist in Winnipeg, Canada … felt equipped to manage the arrangement, and she and her boyfriend cautiously agreed that they could see other people, so long as those relationships remained casual. Susan did not feel it detracted from the strength of their relationship when she started seeing someone who is, like her, an immigrant from Kenya. But when that faded and her live-in boyfriend started dating someone, she found that jealousy hijacked the relationship.

Meaningless extra-marital sex with African immigrants have detrimental effects on the marriage. Who knew?

She sought therapy with Nelson, working by Skype to identify the source of her own jealousy.

I have no words…

She also had two young children from a previous marriage who lived with them…

Lucky them. And let me tell you how surprised I am to find that a practitioner of polyamory has a feeble track record in holding down a lasting, stable relationship.

She eventually wrote her boyfriend’s female friend a note of apology, adding that she had resolved a lot of her own insecurities.

All perfectly normal, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

The chief adjustment she and her boyfriend made was the one that seemed the least likely: They married, a year and a half after they first opened their relationship. Her boyfriend felt, for the first time, happy to commit to a woman he loved, knowing he had the freedom he wanted; and the symbolism of marriage gave Susan enough security that she could grant him that freedom, and exercise it herself.

Or, more likely, it was a vain attempt to put  a veneer of respectability on a degenerate lifestyle that was causing them to be shut out of ordinary society.

In August, Elizabeth and Daniel made a road trip to a Lower East Side bar in New York to attend Poly Cocktails, a monthly event founded in 2007 for people who are interested in nonmonogamy, or practicing it.

A pickup party, in other words. Not exactly low-key types these polyamorists, are they?

For the most part, the socializing was studiously nonsexual, but a young woman with a retro look — red lipstick, baby-doll dress — was flirting with a tall man in a sleeveless T-shirt, a 45-year-old dad from brownstone Brooklyn, a musician with a corporate day job.

Brooklyn. Where else? And what’s the betting the girl in question has some sort of severe Cluster B personality disorder and enough daddy issues to fill a book? Can we come back and see how she’s doing in ten years time?

Elizabeth and Daniel had ostensibly come to be among people who would not judge them.

Meaning, form opinions as to their chosen lifestyle and characters.

Instead he spent most of the evening talking to a married woman who complained that she felt underappreciated by the crowd at the bar.

Woman who goes to a party for those who practice indiscriminate sex feels underappreciated.

Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives. But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men.

Sorry but…

When I last wrote about polyamory I said:

It is almost a certainty that the men in a polyamorous relationship will be noodle-armed omegas of hipster persuasion. On the odd occasion this rule doesn’t apply, he will be an astonishingly ugly, middle-aged man with a pot belly and wearing bad knitwear.

Look at the pictures in the article then tell me I’m wrong.

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French v British Car Parking

There’s a decent discussion going on over at Tim Worstall’s about the state of car parking in British towns and cities.

One of the things I have noticed over my years in France is the presence of large underground car parks in French towns and cities, even the very old ones with lots of heritage buildings. People complain about not being able to find a parking space in Paris because they are looking for the free ones at street level, not the ones in dedicated car parks. When I was in Bordeaux last weekend I came across the entrance to an underground car park in a small square surrounded by old buildings:

According to the website there are 196 places down there.

You almost never see these municipal underground car parks in British towns and cities. Instead, you get surface or hideous multi-storey car parks. The same is true for residential buildings. In France, most modern apartment blocks come with two or three layers of basement parking (plus an extremely useful set of storage rooms). When I’ve looked at these I imagine construction starts by digging a gigantic hole and pouring a lot of concrete to make the car parks, then putting the building on top. You rarely see this in the UK. Most apartment blocks there have a ridiculously undersized surface car park and residents who don’t have their own space are expected to park on the streets.

I have heard various excuses for this. Apparently parking cars at street level is safer, as criminals have to operate in full view of everyone. Which British criminals appear to do anyway, so this is a stupid idea. Other people mumble about the water table or proximity to a river. I don’t buy this, either. There is an underground car park in Annecy which spirals downwards into the ground for at least a hundred metres, possibly more. It is located right beside a canal that leads to the lake some 100m away. The car park in Bordeaux pictured above is about 200m from the river. Proximity to water and geology doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment to building underground car parks in France.

My guess is that underground car parks (both municipal and residential) require specific civil engineering skills that British construction firms lack, and they cost money. British councils and developers being what they are, they will use every excuse in the book to avoid spending money on a quality job. If there is a corner to be cut they will do so, the consequences down the track be damned. So a developer will seize on any reason not to build an underground car park if they can get away with a strip of tarmac instead. It’s not like they can’t flog the apartments for a king’s ransom anyway. Continue this for a while and soon you’ll not be able to find any contractors who have the skills and experience to do build them anyway. And here we are.

I’ll wrap this up by saying French civil engineering is extremely good, and I could cite many examples in support of this statement. I may return to this topic in future.

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Expatriates and School Fees

Once again the BBC gets stuck in to the trials and tribulations of expat life:

A few years ago, competition for places in Dubai’s best international schools was so intense that British expat Jemma Schilbach felt she had to get her two children on the waiting lists for her preferred schools before they were even out of nappies.

A situation to which the average license-fee payer can no doubt relate.

Work ended up taking the family away from Dubai for a couple of years.  When they returned in 2014, they were relieved to discover there were plenty more schools to choose from, but there was another issue: cost.

Both Schilbach and her husband, who’d previously worked in jobs where companies paid for children’s schooling, were now self-employed, and would need to pay for their children’s education themselves.

The horrors!

She was impressed with the small class sizes and Foremarke’s reputation, but with tuition fees there starting at 65,000 AED ($18,000) a year, it meant the family had to be more careful about spending to ensure they had the money to send their children, aged five and seven, to the school.

Parents who spend $18k per year on a nursery school for their five year old find they can’t splash out as much as when somebody else was footing the bill. Who knew? Note that these extortionate school fees only get noticed when the parents have to pay themselves.

“We economise on other costs during the year,” says Schilbach, adding that ordering some household items from the UK and closely watching what the family spends on weekends have helped to save pennies. “In our opinion, the money is better spent on educating our children to a high standard.”

And therein lies the whole scam, which is ably propagated by the schools themselves and parents whose status depends on what school their child attends. There is absolutely no need to be spending that kind of money educating children younger than ten or twelve, especially as these aren’t even boarding schools. But hey, it’s your money.

As expatriate contracts change and people accept more flexible benefits, move onto localised employment packages or decide to find their own jobs overseas, finding the money needed for education is a growing challenge for families living abroad. In Dubai, for example, falling oil prices have led to many employers cutting the salaries and benefits packages they are willing to offer their expat staff. It leaves many expats no option but to pay for their children’s schooling themselves, partially or in full.

Well, yes. I am of the opinion that one of the greatest scandals perpetuated by international companies is to dress up expatriate positions (particularly those in the oil industry) as family-friendly and encourage men and women of child-rearing age to embark on careers where overseas postings are mandatory. They effectively promised that entire families could go abroad without any of the traditional drawbacks, taking advantage of the various international booms that were running full-pelt at the time to pay for it all: schools, villas, regular flights home, etc. A generation or two ago there was none of this: expat positions were either set up for men who would leave the family behind (and/or find a new ‘wife’ in a bar upon arrival), or the family was expected to rough it. Things obviously improved since the time Sir Arthur Grimble wrote A Pattern of Islands, but I know old-school Shell expats who lived in places like Gabon and Bintulu who say things were…primitive.

But then the financial, property, oil and gas, and other industries boomed at the same time a generation of women graduates entered the workforce expecting full careers compatible with raising a family, and the international companies – egged on by powerskirts in HR – simply told them they could have the lot. The companies themselves will claim that they needed to offer these packages in order to attract the right people, but I don’t buy it. Personally, I think a lot of these expat policies in the multinationals were put in place by the managerial classes who wanted a tax-free salary in an exotic place without any downsides. The shareholders’ interests didn’t even get a look in.

But now times have changed and what we have is a generation of people mid-career who have gotten used to these all-inclusive family packages now finding they’re no longer available. Whoops. The money just isn’t there any more, but there is another factor at play which I doubt international companies even admit exists: the locals. Places like Dubai, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, etc. have changed in the last decade or two and now there are plenty of locals (or locally based people) who can fill the middle management and senior technical positions. As local hires these employees will not get school fees paid for their kids, they have to use their own salaries. These staff might not object to one or two very senior managers getting a full expat package which includes school fees, but they will when they find a mid-level engineer or financial analyst is being handed $18k per year so their toddler can go to a posh private school run by a pencil-necked Brit with a prominent Adam’s apple and a cut-glass accent. The subsidiary itself may also be a joint-venture with local ownership, and the stakeholders might ask why they are paying for the children of wealthy expatriates to go to fancy schools when their own kids are going to the local state school.

And right on cue:

The cost of education is among the most popular topics of discussion on BritishMums. “It’s an employer’s market,” says Schilbach, who founded the site in 2012. “The old-time expat contracts are few and far between these days.”

Indeed.

This month, in a survey by HSBC involving nearly 8,000 expat parents, 62% said it was more expensive to raise a family overseas than at home. Some 58% mentioned that the cost of childcare, in particular, was more expensive.

Well, yes. Maintaining a Western standard of family life outside Western countries is expensive. The trick is to lower your expectations a little.

A separate survey by Singapore-based advisory service ExpatFinder.com, which covered 98 countries and 707 international schools, found fees rose 3.43% last year compared with the year before.

Yes, it’s a racket. The schools guilt-trip the parents and tap into their “my child must have the absolute best” mentality by implying they will be failing their offspring if they don’t cough up extortionate fees to enroll them in their institutions.

The most expensive schools for international education were in China – median fees for children aged 11-12 came in at $36,400 a year – followed by Switzerland ($28,300) and Belgium ($27,800), according to the survey.

The reason it is expensive in China (and Moscow) is because the international schools are full of the children of wealthy locals. The reason they are expensive in Switzerland and Belgium is because of the number of international organisations that are based there, meaning the costs can just be dumped back on the taxpayers somewhere. Whereas I can understand the difficulties of putting expat kids into a Chinese state school system, there is nothing wrong with Belgian or Swiss schools. Yes, there are arguments to be made over curricula and language but hey, you’re abroad: what do you expect? If the kids can’t adapt, then stay at home. I don’t see why taxpayers (or shareholders) should be expected to cough up thousands of dollars per year so that toddlers can avoid having to adapt to a different culture and school system. Case in point:

Emma McHugh, a 39-year-old mother of three and Schilbach’s co-founder at BritishMums, is in the process of returning to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. Her children will start at Safa Community School in September, where tuition fees start at 47,000 AED ($12,800).

While her choice wasn’t all about the cost – Emma felt the school had the feel of a typical UK primary with an emphasis on nurturing and care

Nobody is forcing people to take these jobs and bring their families with them. If it is so important that her little darlings attend a school with the “feel” of a typical UK primary then perhaps she should have stayed in the UK?

But international education in Britain, Hong Kong, the US, Singapore and Australia also cost more than $20,000 a year. Schools may also charge extra for uniforms, examinations, extra-curricular activities and even books.

What we’re seeing here is children’s education being used as a status marker. Anyone who pays $20k per year for a kid to go to a private day-school in Australia is either extremely rich or an idiot.

“Schooling has become very expensive over the years,” says Sébastien Deschamps, ExpatFinder’s chief executive and founder. “That’s a challenge not only for the expatriate, but also for HR professionals because they still need to attract foreign talent and find ways to keep them.”

What he means is HR professionals (stop laughing at the back!) find it difficult to apply their ludicrous criteria of only recruiting from the very top universities, meet diversity quotas, and retain only the meekest and most compliant employees who they can bully and cajole into submission by threatening their career prospects at every point and turn. The last thing they want is a competent single bloke with little to lose turning up and trying to get things done.

When the oil price crashed in 2014 I thought the game was up for expatriate families in my industry and it would soon revert to being mostly local hires with the odd senior manager and a gaggle of single blokes living out of Porta-Cabins. I still don’t think I was wrong in that regard. The big players are still hanging on as their army of employees shriek over any changes to their entitlements, but it’s just a matter of time. The locals have gotten better, and there simply isn’t the money any more. The scrapping of the school fees is an early casualty of this new reality.

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Why I’ll Never Vote in France

I’m going to expand on a reply I made to Watcher in the comments underneath this post.

As you all know I live in France. Whereas it was my work which initially brought me here, I have made the decision that France, provided I am able to stay, will be my country of residence for the foreseeable future. Nobody forced me to come here, and certainly nobody is forcing me to stay. I have chosen France because, on balance, I like it more than anywhere else. France has its problems but, as I am fond of saying, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. And France is easily good enough.

I don’t consider myself a guest in the country – I consider that term to be largely bollocks. However, I have chosen to live in a society of French people running things how they see fit. Whatever they have done thus far, it appears to suit me better than the society my own countrymen have constructed around themselves.

It would therefore be somewhat churlish of me to set about trying to change that society, wouldn’t it? Regardless of what I think of their politics and their choice of president, this is what the French have chosen for themselves. I consider myself free to stand on the sidelines and carp, but not to actually interfere in their choices. I came here of my own accord and am free to leave at any time, but this is home to the French.

Even if I became a French citizen I think I’d still not vote, for these reasons. When I look at what is being done in various Western countries, i.e. millions of immigrants invited in by the ruling classes who hope they will boost their chances in future elections regardless of the damage done to the host society, I think a policy of allowing only those citizens born in-country to vote may have some merit. Why should a newcomer be allowed a say in how society is run? If he or she has a particular vision of society they should enact it in the country of their birth, not impose it on others.

But as things stand, most people seem happy to allow foreigners to arrive in their country and within a few years set about changing things around. As with so many issues, I’m ploughing a lonely furrow here.

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Trump is presiding over a complete mess

I confess I haven’t followed the stories closely enough to know what Comey said or didn’t say, why Flynn was fired by Obama and re-hired by Trump, who Sally Yates is and what Steve Bannon’s role really was. But what is abundantly clear is that the White House administration under Trump is an absolute clusterfuck.

With the sacking of Comey the screeching from the media and Democrats (but I repeat myself) is at a pitch which I fear may soon be only audible to dogs. Most of it is in relation to Trump’s supposed Russia connections, a story which won’t die because Trump’s opponents know it’s all they have. Yet nobody has produced any evidence of collusion between Trump’s lot and Putin’s lot, nobody has proof that it was the Russians (or indeed anybody) who hacked the DNC’s servers, and every new outrage on Twitter which renews calls for Trump’s impeachment disappears as quickly as it arrives.

It is somewhat annoying that even smart people like Ben Shapiro lend credence to the Russia thing: it is bollocks, and it always was. Putin, being Russian and therefore denied any hand in the victimhood poker game, is a useful bogeyman on which to blame everything from Trump to Brexit. Even the emergence of papers allegedly showing Macron to be less than squeaky clean was blamed on Trump, and there is no shortage of prominent figures – even those who should know better – who believe it.

But Trump has not helped himself, and if his opponents weren’t so busy shrieking about the End Of Days every time Trump so much as sneezes, they would have plenty to criticise. His “repeal” of Obamacare is a complete fudge which will do nothing to solve America’s healthcare problems. He’s flailing about on the Wall. He flipped on Middle East intervention by firing missiles at Syria, and now he’s arming Kurds. He seems to be dealing rather well with China, less so with Iran. His policies are all over the place, and the fact that he has no experience in politics is now painfully obvious. He isn’t playing 3D chess like some sort of Machiavellian  genius, he’s simply out of his depth.

But the worst part is his organisational skills. For somebody who carries a reputation as being a skilled businessman and negotiator, his administration seems to be lurching all over the place with all manner of intrigues and speculation as to who is really in charge of what. I don’t see any problem with Ivanka taking on the ceremonial role of first lady if Melania doesn’t want it, meeting the wives of other heads of state and chatting about kids, schools, and dresses. But to involve her in policy? Give her an office? What is this, Africa? And what the hell is Ivanka’s husband doing in the mix?

There seems to be no clear hierarchy, no discipline, no organisation. What is most depressing is the influence of James Mattis and Rex Tillerson – both of whom ought to impose precisely those attributes on the administration – is thus far non-existent. This petty infighting, squabbling, poorly executed sackings, and outbursts would never have been tolerated around Mattis or Tillerson in their previous roles.

Trump himself has to carry the blame for this. He should have learned by now to ignore the media and stop going on Twitter. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was actually saying things that were true, but taking to Twitter to praise the mess that is the AHCA just makes him look like the rank amateur that he is. Trump is making the same “overgaming” mistake Milo did, and I wrote about here: he’s used shock tactics to get where he wanted to, but now he’s there he needs to quit with the attention-seeking and knuckle down to the serious stuff. Trump needs to stop campaigning and start governing only, like Obama before him, he seems incapable of doing so. If things keep going like this we’re going to see the likes of Mattis and Tillerson resign in frustration to be replaced by compliant nobodies, and the entire administration turn into something resembling a reality TV show.

It is tempting to blame the media and unreasonable Democrats, and they do have a lot to answer for, but the man in charge is Donald Trump and he is clearly not up to the job. I suspect he will leave office having achieved only one thing of note, which in fairness is the most important of them all: he kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

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The US to arm the Kurds

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump has approved supplying weapons to Kurdish forces fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the Pentagon says.

Well, why not? They seem to be the only bunch out there that don’t completely hate us. If we’re going to insist on giving people weapons, might as well be the Kurds.

The US was “keenly aware” of Turkey’s concerns about such a move, she said.

Turkey views the Kurdish rebels as terrorists and wants to stop them taking more territory in Syria.

Turkey? Presumably they mean the nation whose president recently said:

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets.”

And whose interior minister said:

“If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow the mind of Europe”

And the same Turkey whose pro-government newspapers say things like this:

President Erdoğan is totally right to compare the situation to a struggle between the cross and the crescent. And so is Minister Çavuşoğlu arguing that holy wars will soon begin in Europe. The refusal by the West to accept the equality of Muslims and Muslim nations is the sign of a clash of civilizations.

If you have decided to clench your fists, you are getting ready for a fight; if you hit, you will be hit back.

President Erdoğan and other government officials are raising their voices since Western governments have aggrieved Turks and Muslims.

Turks are warning one last time. They are asking: “Are you aware that you are playing with fire? What on earth is going on? Are you insane?” The rest is up to the Western governments.

Turkey has chosen sides, nailing its colours firmly to the mast. And now the US is arming its enemies.

Pentagon sources told the BBC that the equipment would include ammunition, small arms, machine guns, heavy machine guns, construction equipment such as bulldozers and armoured vehicles.

And if the threats keep up, maybe a MANPAD or two. Over to you, President Erdoğan.

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An Excerpt From The Book

I’ve finished my first rough draft of the book and am now in the process of fine-tuning it, meaning flushing out the repeated words, inconsistencies, and other errors and doing my best to improve it. Once I’ve done that I will put it aside for a month and then go through the whole lot from beginning to end with a red pen trying to get it as good as I possibly can before handing it over to an editor (who I’ve yet to find – I’ll post on that later).

If you’re interested in an excerpt I have posted one below the line of a scene which takes place around the halfway point of the book. The narrator has accompanied his girlfriend Katya, a Russian-American woman, to the birthday party of a Russian artist in London (the rough overall synopsis is here). Continue reading

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Making Politics Look Effortful

This article in National Review putting the boot into Chelsea Clinton has some wonderful lines:

Without establishing herself in any field, she segued gently into the realm of the ceremonial job, as though, having skipped entirely the “rising to the top of one’s profession” part of life, it was time to kick back a little, to accept due recompense in the form of board seats (such as the one on the family foundation) and advisory sinecures and other such vapor-jobs, prestige appointments lightly tethered to the vaguest of duties.

Is it too much to expect of a Stanford grad who has two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. that she write her own book instead of calling in a ghostwriter? How hard can it be to produce a volume of stuporous change-the-world banality in the first place? Especially a bad book written with all the verve of the iTunes Terms of Service agreement?

Hillary won’t, of course, run again, because the donor money won’t be there. The donors know that she was looking at a two-inch putt of a campaign and somehow managed not only to miss but to shank the ball into the long grass while screaming about the Russians and misogyny.

Chelsea Clinton is indeed working hard — on the family brand. But like her mother, she makes politics look effortful.

If you don’t like the way a fawning media is preparing the ground for yet another Clinton run at office and have twenty minutes to spare, go and read the whole thing.

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Surrounded by Sycophants

This article on Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, contains an interesting passage:

In her isolation, surrounded by sycophants, Clinton had no one to tell her she was wrong. A few people hinted at warning against some of these problems, but no one had the clout to make the cautions stick. In Clintonworld, loyalty was valued above all else. Anyone in her orbit who objected too strenuously risked crossing the line and paying the price. They fought among themselves, but none of it reached the throne, and none dared risk his place by insisting on a change.

How many catastrophic failures – political, commercial, military, technical – can be attributed to the above? I could reel off half a dozen right now, off the cuff. The amusing thing is that this sort of situation is inevitable in modern organisations given the incentives placed in front of people. Yet if you point this out you’ll be hounded out so fast your feet won’t touch the floor, with those doing the hounding oblivious to the irony. I guess it’s simple human nature, and there’s not much that can be done about it.

In the few instances where I have been trusted enough to manage a project team or department, I’ve made sure I retained a grumpy old sod on hand to point out where I am going wrong. It might be difficult to hear sometimes, but such feedback is invaluable.

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