Jimmy Kimmel’s Crocodile Tears

A day or two after the massacre in Las Vegas, American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel went on stage with a passionate plea to “do something”. Political commentator Ben Shapiro took issue with this, and made a video dissecting Kimmel’s words. Below is Shapiro’s video which includes clips of Kimmel speaking. I’m not going to ask anyone to watch the whole thing unless they’re really interested, but please look at it between 1:10 and 2:30.

Shapiro says he believes Kimmel is sincere, but I think he’s being rather generous: to me it looks like bad acting, hamming it up for the camera.

Since I’ve been living in Paris there have been two gun-massacres: Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan Theatre. Both were shocking and induced a numb, almost surreal atmosphere in the place but neither reduced me to tears. Now Kimmel was raised in Las Vegas since the age of nine, but still, I don’t think news of a shooting in Pembroke would have me blubbering in the office. Now if Kimmel lost close friends and acquaintances in the attacks, I would understand. I’d also understand if he was there at the time: the trauma of being involved in these things can reduce ordinary people to a gibbering wreck. Now perhaps Kimmel listened to or read the accounts of the survivors just before walking on stage: they can be both harrowing and heartbreaking, even decades after an event, but even then I doubt they’d make him cry in the middle of doing his job.

That’s not to say men don’t get emotional. I lost my best friend last year and talking about him still brings me out in tears, that’s just the way it is. And I occasionally find myself choking up at a particularly moving scene from a film or book: the writers of the Toy Story sequels had an exceptional talent for this. A scene where Woody’s horse is told he can’t go with his master is emotional manipulation on a scale that ought to banned outright. My point is not that men don’t get emotional, it’s that men don’t get all teary over the murder of people they don’t know and didn’t witness. Women might, but then women cry over damned near anything. Men, when faced with news of a terrorist attack or mass murder, get angry not upset. They want to go out and exact a terrible revenge, not weep in public. Kimmel has gone on stage without deciding whether he wants to be upset or angry which suggests he’s neither, he just wants to score political points and virtue-signal.

Earlier this year Kimmel’s newborn son received life-saving medical treatment, which he used as the basis of his opposition to the Trump administration’s healthcare reforms:

During his opening monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday, host Jimmy Kimmel cried openly.

His eyes welled up first, as he described the recent birth of his weeks-old son. And then Kimmel struggled to speak, as he recounted how, within hours of Billy’s birth, a nurse noticed that he was purple and whisked him away for observation.

“Now more doctors and nurses and equipment come in, and it’s a terrifying thing,” Kimmel said, the emotion obvious in his voice. “My wife is back in the recovery room, she has no idea what’s going on, and I’m standing in a room full of worried-looking people—kind of like right now.” The team discovered Billy had a congenital heart defect. He was rushed into emergency surgery.

Now it is perfectly normal for a man to get emotional and cry when talking about the near-death of his newborn son. Whether it is appropriate to do so on national television in order to make a political point is less certain. I’d say no, frankly. That sort of stuff should be kept private unless specifically related to the subject at hand, and especially not wielded as a political club.

I reckon after the episode about his son, Kimmel thought it made him look better – more “passionate”, “vulnerable”, and “human” – and so he’s decided to make it his shtick. Now it might be popular among women and the legions of rather wet men that inhabit the modern west, but most men ought to be retching over the back of the sofa at this performance. I wanted to slap his silly face and tell him to pull himself together. Men don’t cry over this sort of thing, and if they do – well, God help us.

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More awful advice from Oliver Kamm

I’ve written before about the terrible advice Times columnist Oliver Kamm dishes out on Twitter. Here’s another example:

To which his interlocutor says:

Now I have no idea whether use of the passive voice is a good idea or not, and couldn’t even define what the passive voice is. What I do know is that writing can be both good and bad, and styles vary depending on the format of the piece and the subject. Contracts, for example, ought to be written in a different style from a romance novel. Does the passive voice suit every format? I don’t know, but one would suppose the people involved in writing and reading scientific articles have some sort of basis for their preference other than pure grammatical snobbery.

Kamm dismisses it of course, and doesn’t actually respond to Mr Ludwick – as is his wont. However, someone else he asked does:

So whose advice does one take on how to write scientific articles? A Times columnist who probably wouldn’t understand three-quarters of the terms therein, or an editor of scientific articles?

That’s what I find so pompous about Kamm. He’s a good writer – but only in one or two particular formats. I’m certain he’s never written a scientific paper, yet here he is dispensing advice which would put anyone following it on the wrong side of their editor.  To my knowledge he’s never written a novel either, and I suspect if he tried it would contain leaden prose that would make Lloyds Law Reports read like a James Bond. Anyone with a modicum of self-awareness might think “Wait a minute, this guy is writing for a very different clientele than I am, and perhaps there are good reasons why they don’t like the passive voice,” but no, it’s an airy “they don’t know what they’re talking about and should be ignored”. Now I’d have thought writing as per your clients’ or readers’ stated preferences was quite important, but apparently not according to Kamm.

I think I know what’s happened here. Back in the mid-00s Kamm wrote some decent political and historical articles on his blog, written to a very high standard. He was quickly drafted into the Times despite having no experience in journalism, but if you consider his family connections it comes as no surprise how he pulled that off. Kamm was a loud proponent of Blair’s foreign policy, particularly the “ethical interventionism” used to justify the Iraq War, even writing a book called The Left-Wing Case for a Neo-Conservative Foreign Policy. One could see back then why a metropolitan paper might want to get him on board, but since then Blairism and the neo-con foreign policy has been utterly discredited. However, Kamm never repented, sticking to his guns in supporting Blair – which he does to this day. This probably gave his employer a bit of a headache: is there really a job for a columnist who drones on about how great Blair’s foreign policies were? Not really. But they couldn’t boot him because that’s not how things work, especially with his family connections. So instead he got shoved in a corner to write about grammar and writing styles. That’s how we get gems like this:

Basically, aspiring writers should ignore all advice except that dispensed by Oliver Kamm. Some humility wouldn’t go amiss, would it?

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May in a Nutshell

From the BBC:

Security at future Conservative events is to be reviewed after a comedian was able to get within yards of the prime minister and hand her a mock P45 redundancy notice.

Prankster Simon Brodkin – also known as his TV persona Lee Nelson – was arrested by Greater Manchester Police after briefly interrupting the PM and giving her a sheaf of paper he claimed was from Boris Johnson.

He was later released, with the police saying he had “legitimate accreditation” to attend the event.

Here’s a pic:

You know what grates most about this? Theresa May is one of those authoritarian busybodies who constantly demands extra powers to snoop on our electronic communications and wants to micromanage every aspect of our lives in the name of security…yet she heads an organisation that can’t even manage the simple task of vetting attendees at her own speech and chucking out a troublemaker.

Why is it that those who profess to know what’s best for us, and want to tell us what to do every five minutes, are so utterly incompetent themselves? The sooner the Conservatives ditch May, the better. What a useless woman.

(The stunt itself was about as lame as it gets. This is British comedy in 2017.)

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The Strange World of Hotels

Several people have asked the question as to how the lunatic who carried out the massacre in Las Vegas was able to stockpile so many guns in his room without staff at the Mandalay Bay hotel noticing. Well, that’s an easy question to answer: hotel staff are conditioned not to see stuff.

Even the finest hotels can be the venues for quite dodgy goings-on. Consumers of amateur porn might have noticed that an awful lot of it takes place in hotel rooms (which must be nice for the next guest), and if Hollywood films are any guide so do most major drug deals. The splendid book Hotel Babylon, an inside view into life in a upscale London hotel, gives several examples of strange things which happen in hotel rooms with alarming regularity. The author explains that people often go to hotels to commit suicide: it saves the family having to find the body and clear up the mess afterwards.

When I worked in a fancy hotel in Manchester (there’s your contradiction in terms for the day) we used to share stories of what we’d seen during our shifts. A receptionist told us she’d checked in the same middle-aged couple regularly for a number of years when one day the man turned up with a new woman in tow. A mistress, perhaps? No, the new woman was his wife. One of the shift managers said he’d brought breakfast to a rather respectable middle-aged woman only to find her in bed with another, equally respectable-looking woman, who’d checked in separately into a different room. Neither batted an eyelid and, more importantly, nor did he. Hotel guests expect discretion from the staff, and they usually get it.

There are some countries that immediately cast suspicion on anyone staying in a hotel. You must show your passport in the UAE for example, and I was rather surprised to find that the Belgian police require hotels to collect a copy of the ID of each guest. Unless things have changed since I stayed in American hotels, there is no such requirement stateside. You can be sure the Mandalay Bay had every inch of the hotel monitored by camera – it is a casino after all – and had anyone banned from the gaming floor been found wandering around they’d have been ejected within minutes. But nobody is going to pay attention to a white bloke in his fifties going in and out with a lot of luggage (I’m going to assume he dismantled his guns and put them in a holdall or suitcase, and didn’t just stroll in through the front door with a heavy machine gun and a thousand rounds of link over his shoulder, even if the cretinous European media would believe you could do this and nobody would notice). That said, if anyone from housekeeping or room service entered his room and found weapons lying everywhere, they’d tell their manager straight away and they’d keep an eye on him. My guess is he hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on his door and left it there, and the staff paid him no attention.

That’s not to say hotel staff aren’t observant, though. Several years back I was on a business trip to Paris and stayed in the Sofitel in La Defense: this was in the days of $100+ oil, nowadays we’d be given a horse-blanket and told to cuddle up to a tramp beneath a railway bridge. Anyway, by coincidence a friend arrived in town from London on the same morning and we met up in the afternoon. In a moment of quite spectacular dimness she’d come to Paris to stay with a friend without actually telling them in advance; when she arrived and tried to call, their phone was switched off. As the afternoon wore on it became increasingly clear her friend was out of town and she had nowhere to stay. Generous chap that I am I let her stay in the Sofitel with me: the beds are the size of tennis courts and the room is set up for two anyway. The next morning we went down for breakfast and the female maître d’hôtel sat us in a corner. She was a tall, dark woman with a long pointed nose, perhaps half-Arabic and extremely efficient and professional. I’d seen her every time on my previous business trips, so she was long-term employed and I dare say she’s still there. Anyway, we had breakfast and my friend got her act together and went back to London.

The next morning, a Monday, I come down for breakfast and the maître d’ leads me to a particular spot. With a slight grin she says:

“Zere you go, sir. Ze same place as wiz madame yesterday.”

If the Las Vegas police want to know about the movements of this headcase in and out of their premises, they probably just need to find the equivalent of this woman. Every hotel has one.

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High-Flyers in Modern Organisations

This is an interesting article:

Senior cop Maggie Blyth is set to take command of all officers in Portsmouth – despite having only put on a uniform a year ago.

As the city’s district commander, she will be leading scores of officers who have climbed their way up the ranks and garnered years of experience on the beat.

Uh-huh.

Yet Supt Blyth only made her first arrest in the last few months after being handpicked for what’s known as the direct-entry scheme.

Ah.

Since putting on the uniform, she has been getting ‘full exposure’ to the streets of Portsmouth, making arrests at alcohol-fuelled violence and tackling anti-social behaviour.

A veritable baptism of fire.

Supt Blyth became a warranted officer in November last year, after a tough six-month process to get on the course between February and September last year.

Tough, eh? We’ll revisit that in a minute.

Transformed from a civilian to warranted officer in about a year, Supt Blyth knew she would be facing questions over her credibility, even though she has decades of experience in the criminal justice system.

‘During that time I had a lot of questions, I think first and foremost was credibility,’ she told The News.

Indeed. So how did she respond to these questions over her credibility?

‘Policing is very much based on working your way up through the ranks. I knew I would be managing a workforce that had never had a senior manager who had not come through the ranks.

Right, but how did you convince them you were the right person for the job?

‘A lot of the six months was taking to the police officers and other professionals about what the concerns would be.

That took six months? Finding out what might concern rank and file police officers when their chief is a complete greenhorn? A few paragraphs before we were told this was a tough course. It sounds more like a talking shop.

‘I came on quite prepared for the good and the bad for what I might find.

And what did you find?

‘I went in with my eyes open – and I must say I was really, really welcomed in Hampshire.’

You found you were very popular. Sorry, but couldn’t we hear about some of the concerns over your credibility? Or was everyone told to shut up and get with the programme?

Putting on her uniform for the first time was ‘life-changing’, she says, transforming her into a warranted officer of the crown.

Alas, we’re drifting further away from the topic of your credibility.

She says: ‘It was a really big significant life change for me, it’s still very much a way of life. It’s wearing uniform but becoming a warranted officer and the responsibility that you get with that is different from being a civilian.

And further still. She seems more interested in talking about her feelings than addressing concerns over her lack of experience.

Now Supt Blyth is looking forward to taking over in January, having completed stints on response and patrol – answering 999 calls – along with placements on neighbourhood patrols – which Supt Blyth calls the ‘bedrock of policing’, and investigations.

Stints. I’ll come back to that later.

She says: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with partner agencies across Portsmouth and working together, and working with the team I have in place within policing in Portsmouth.’

She is hoping to take on board the experience gained from the frontline during the training scheme – and go back out with officers while in post as district commander.

She says: ‘I was working with officers at a frontline level and that was really interesting. I was able to go back to my colleagues and those managers above me.’

Partner agencies…working together…take on board…frontline level. Somebody took home a copy of the Powerpoint presentation and memorised it, didn’t they?

Her first arrest also brought home her new powers as an officer. She says: ‘That was a new duty for me, arresting somebody and realising the impact of taking someone’s liberty.

Felt good, I bet.

Supt Blyth, a mother-of-three who is expecting her fourth grandchild soon, was assessed while on placements.

Who says motherhood is an impediment to a full-blown career! Take that, glass ceiling!

Okay, what we’re seeing above is absolutely typical of how most large, modern organisations are run these days. First you need to decide what your high-flyer looks like, and for many organisations being female is highly desirable if not essential. In the case of Portsmouth police, her being a mother and grandmother was probably a bonus in their eyes, too (as it was, no doubt, for the local criminals: if the bobby making their first arrest is a grandmother of three, then we can probably assume they have the run of the place). Next, you need to fast-track them into a senior position without delay, putting them through the absolute bare minimum of training necessary to deflect the inevitable criticism from the 95% of the organisation who are not deemed high-flyers. This is where “stints” come in.

There was a time when those seeking the higher echelons of an organisation would have to demonstrate both competence and time served. The former requirement was dropped some time ago in favour of blind obedience to one’s superiors, but at least they would be expected to do the necessary time. But the modern organisation has an image to project and diversity quotas to fill, and can’t hang around for years waiting for its golden boys and girls to obtain knowledge through experience. Instead they’re sent on a whirlwind tour of the organisation, spending barely a few weeks in one department before moving onto the next, so that at the end of the period the individual knows just enough about each part to be able to interfere and fuck things up once they’re in charge. Humility is in short supply among a modern high-flyer.

Anyone objecting to what is happening is told in no uncertain terms to shut up and stay on-message. Those who fail to heed the warnings are subject to enormous pressure from the surrounding management along with dark threats over their future career and continued employment, such that everyone falls into a silence, the sort which would make a high-flyer assume they are “really welcomed” by whichever department they’re foisted on that week.

All of this ties into what I said in this post, that pretty soon the smartest people, particularly ambitious young men, will not even bother joining large organisations and instead set up on their own to feed off the bloated carcasses of those who railroad grandmothers with one year’s service into the top job. In fact, I have a friend doing pretty much that. He is a rather large man with a bushy beard and tattoos and has a colourful history of mercenary work in Iraq before joining the security team of a prominent Russian billionaire. He has since set up his own security company and, from what I can tell, does rather well doing jobs the police used to do, plugging the gaps when they withdrew from law enforcement and became a branch of the social services. It’s not hard to see how doing this sort of work is more attractive than joining the police. His idea of diversity is ensuring you have several means of maiming people at your disposal at any given time.

I’d advise any smart young man about to graduate to get a firm understanding of what sort of chap he is and take a good look at the organisations trying to recruit him. Just have a look at their website and graduate brochure, that’ll be enough. Certainly the police Twitter feeds tell me everything I need to know about the state of the various forces in the UK, and this latest story from Portsmouth didn’t surprise me one bit. This is the new normal.

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The Massacre in Las Vegas

In the wake of a gun massacre in the United States one thing is absolutely certain: sensible commentary is almost impossible to find, particularly in the mainstream media.

An exception is this excellent thread doing the rounds on Twitter:

It is worth clicking the link and reading the whole thing. Judging by the noise and the scale of the carnage, the lunatic in the hotel in Las Vegas was using a fully-automatic weapon of the sort that has been banned from being sold new since 1986. Yes, you can buy ones that pre-date the ban, but you’ll have to pay a lot of money and be subject to a rather thorough background check by the FBI. As I understand it, this is a federal law and is not affected by differing gun laws across the states.

It would have been nice if at least some of those now shooting their mouths off understood all this, wouldn’t it? The Independent had this to say:As if a man massacring people with what is almost certain to be an illegal weapon has anything to do with gun laws. I’ve written at length about gun control in the US here, and I haven’t got much more to add on the subject. It is going to be extremely interesting to see what weapons this monster used and where he got them, though.

The hatred of the NRA is also an interesting one. The sort of people who complain about them usually have no problem with the thousands of other lobby groups who conspire against the general public in order to benefit a sometimes very small number of people. And the one thing that can be said about the NRA is that it does represent a lot of people, around 5 million or so. Okay, that’s nothing as a percentage but it’s a lot in terms of raw numbers, and far more representative of a lot of special-interest groups that lobby politicians. Also, the amount it spends isn’t that much either:

In federal elections, the NRA typically ranks among heavyweight outside spending groups. For the second cycle in a row, it has earned a place in the top ten. But 2016 was a unique year for the organization, owing to the fact that many super PACs, like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads GPS, which spent roughly $115 million to elect Mitt Romney in 2012, declined to back Trump. The NRA stepped in to fill the void, putting at least $30.3 million on the line to help elect the real estate mogul, more than any other outside group — including the leading Trump super PAC, which spent $20.3 million.

So let’s call it $30m. Sure, that would pay off my Sakhalin bar bill but when we consider that Trump received $408m in campaign funds and Hillary $795m, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the NRA has America by the balls. I think what liberals really hate about the NRA is that it’s seemingly immune to the SJW infiltration that has seen pretty much every other large organisation descend into ever-more ludicrous levels of virtue-signalling and political correctness. The NRA has stubbornly stuck to its guns – literally – and represented its members interests faithfully as it was set up to do, and refused to bend to the latest emotionally-driven campaign orchestrated by people who would never belong to them anyway. No wonder they’re hated so much.

The other thing that annoys me is foreigners weighing in on how they don’t understand why anyone would want or need to own a gun. Well, I have no idea why anyone would want to go and pray in a mosque but quite a large number of people do. I’ve recently reached the conclusion that people who hail from places which differ from Pembroke politically, culturally, socially, geographically, ethnically, and historically might think differently from me and want different things. And so it is with Americans: they are different, and for whatever reason they like carrying and using guns. If Brits or anyone else can’t understand that, who cares? It’s not their cross to bear, frankly.

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Bloody Barcelona

I checked the news over the weekend and saw Spanish police beating the shit out of people in the streets of Barcelona. Apparently the Catalans decided to hold a referendum on independence, and the central government in Madrid didn’t like it and deemed it illegal (which it probably was, but Crimea showed us that doesn’t matter). They then sent in the police to seize ballot boxes, close down polling stations, and crack some skulls.

From what my friends with knowledge of Catalonia tell me, there has never been majority support for independence. instead, there is a sizeable, well-organised and vocal minority in favour of Catalonian independence, ably supported by a diaspora who seemingly talk about nothing else despite having left the place 55 years ago, and a lot of pressure is put on waverers to participate in noisy, pro-independence activities through schools, etc. Thus far, it doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Scotland. I suspect the best thing the Spanish government could have done was to state unequivocally that the referendum is illegal and that it won’t recognise the result, and then just let it go ahead. Chances are the Catalans wouldn’t have voted to secede, and even if they did the central government could have just ignored the results.

But the people who make up governments are petty, incompetent bullies at the best of times, and they’ve panicked and gone in mob-handed. Perhaps they thought they wouldn’t be able to ignore the referendum result, even if it was carried out illegally, or maybe they were worried the Basques might hold a vote of their own (one which might not be so easy to dismiss). Either way, it’s hard to see how they could have handled this worse than they have. The scenes of people having the shit kicked out of them by police dressed as Robocop will send waverers to the polling stations in droves and bring thousands more into the pro-independence tent.

Although these events came as a surprise, but perhaps they shouldn’t have. Possibly the most unusual thing about police with Spanish words on their body armour beating the shit out of helpless civilians is that in this case they speak with a mainland dialect. Latin governments have form in this area, particularly in South America. Such comparisons are easy, but contrasts are also interesting.

Many people have wondered why the US police haven’t deployed similar tactics against the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter when they engage in violence, intimidation, and rioting on the streets of America. Well, the US is not Spain and they have different governments, but in certain fundamental ways ruling classes don’t differ much from country to country. The reason why American police are not beating the shit out of Antifa is because their paymasters don’t feel threatened by events unfolding on the streets, whereas the government in Madrid clearly felt threatened by the poll in Catalonia. Make no mistake, should American politicians feel similarly threatened you’d see riot police beating the hell out of civilians as well as firing rubber bullets into crowds and, if necessary, live rounds. The same is undoubtedly true for the UK and any other country you care to mention. The scenes we are seeing on the streets of Barcelona is the result of the ruling classes feeling threatened, nothing more.

Brexiteers are condemning what they see as double-standards from the EU: happy to interfere in the internal affairs of the UK, e.g. Northern Ireland and Scotland but silent on what is happening in Spain. But the poll took place on a Sunday and you’re not going to get high-ranking EU employees doing anything resembling work between Friday and Monday lunchtimes, especially Jean-Claude Juncker who was probably sleeping off a hangover and learned about the situation only when the Panadol kicked in. Remainers are firing back at the Brexiteers along the lines of “So you dooooooo want the EU to interfere in the internal matters of member states!” None of this is helpful.

Of course, the EU backs the Spanish government and will do little to condemn their heavy-handed response to the vote. The political integrity of Spain is vitally important to the EU, seeing how Spain is a staunchly pro-EU member and generally willing to go along with whatever the Eurocrats decide. This is wholly different from Britain, which the EU would rather see broken up or watered down and thus unable to object to their grand plans. In other words, the EU is similarly threatened by the prospect of an independent Catalonia and the Spanish police beating up voters is wholly in their interests. Contrary to what some people are saying, the EU is not displaying double-standards it is being characteristically consistent: it will support absolutely anything that is in the interests of the EU project and the cushy positions of its officers, and condemn anything that goes against them. Underneath what is obviously a complex and emotional subject it is all rather simple, really.

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Russia Throws US Election for Republicans by Backing Democrat Causes

This whole Trump-Russia collusion thing continues to fascinate. At this stage I’m approaching the conclusion that those pushing the line are spectacularly thick, rather than merely conniving. I can’t remember the details because this story has had so many twists and turns, but a couple of months ago the MSM was going full steam ahead on the meetings between Trump’s people and Putin’s mob, when all of a sudden the fingers started pointing towards individuals who were well-placed within the Democratic party. The media dropped the story like a hot stone, but it raised the question of who was driving this narrative. Surely the Democrats would have known that any investigation would implicate them, but they went ahead with it anyway.

Then last week we got news that “Russians” had placed adverts on Facebook during the presidential election, paying in the region of $50k-$100k for them. As Streetwise Professor points out, Hillary spent $400 million on adverts. And she still lost. Whatever the causes of her loss, a hundred grand on Facebook adverts wasn’t it.

But common sense is in short supply in the MSM, and they continued to peddle the story anyway. Only no-one stopped to ask “What were the adverts?” before leaping to the conclusion that they must have been pro-Trump, coming from Russia an’ all. But now we discover this:

A social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the U.S. presidential election, two sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Both Blacktivist accounts, each of which used the handle Blacktivists, regularly shared content intended to stoke outrage. “Black people should wake up as soon as possible,” one post on the Twitter account read. “Black families are divided and destroyed by mass incarceration and death of black men,” another read. The accounts also posted videos of police violence against African Americans.

The page also publicized at least seven rallies and demonstrations around the country in 2016. The events ranged from the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party to a march in Baltimore commemorating the death of Freddie Gray. In several cases, it appears that the events were real, and were organized by other groups, but that the Blacktivist account was working to increase turnout.

“We are fed up with police violence, racism, intolerance and injustice that passed down from generation to generation. We are fed up with government ignorance and the system failing black people,” the page’s description of the march for Freddie Gray read.

In short, these paid Russian trolls simply repeated the same stuff Black Lives Matter spreads around, amplifying one of the main causes of the Democrat base. Lest we forget, Barack Obama met with Black Lives Matter representatives at the White House.

Of course, Russians seeking to publicise and exaggerate the issue of racial tensions in the US is as old as the hills, and was a key staple of Soviet propaganda whenever the US questioned their own human rights abuses. But the point the media and their lackeys are missing is that these divisions which Russia is supposedly seeking to exploit were not created by them: they existed already, and if anything were made an order of magnitude larger by the White House’s previous occupant and his wife. The idea that Russia has unduly influenced American politics by spending a hundred grand on Twitter trolls and Facebook adverts and peddling the central message of Obama’s supporters is laughable.

The irony is that the Russian propaganda may have had some effect, but not in the way the Democrats and media think, and acknowledging its real effects would destroy their own narrative. They want us to believe that Russia paid for trolls to back Trump and criticise Hillary, and the electorate fell for it. What actually happened is Russia tried to exploit the existing chaos caused by Obama’s policies and his open support of outfits like Black Lives Matter, and did so by amplifying the divisions those policies encouraged if not created. When ordinary Americans saw what had happened to their country, they turned away from the candidate who sought to govern in the same manner.

As I said, a hundred grand and fake Twitter accounts wouldn’t have had any impact on the US election, but there is a delightful irony in the fact that if they did, it would have been by supporting and amplifying the causes that core Democrat voters hold dear. So did those pushing the narrative not think somebody would eventually find out what the adverts were for, or did they just trip over themselves to publish a story about Russian trolls throwing the election without bothering to find out? Whatever the case, I think we’re simply dealing with people who aren’t very bright. Perhaps that’s been Trump’s game all along, simply feed them enough rope to hang themselves. Where the MSM goes with the Russia collusion story now is anyone’s guess, but I’m wise enough by now to be certain they’ll not drop it. At this stage, what else do they have left?

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Des: Oil & Gas Contractor

I’m at a seminar and away from a keyboard until Thursday evening, so in the meantime I’ll leave you with this tale I wrote in 2010 about a bloke I worked with in the Middle East. Enjoy!

I first met Desmond – let’s call him Des – on the first night I ever spent in Abu Dhabi, 12th June 2003.  I remember the date because it was the day I emigrated from the UK (even if I didn’t know it at the time), and you remember dates like that.  Des was the offspring of an English father and Swedish mother, and thanks to the latter sported a head of perfectly bleach-blonde hair with not a speck of grey, despite being in his late forties.  It was because of this hair that his colleagues nicknamed him Billy Idol.

Des, me, and a South African called Phil had come to the Middle East to join a consultancy carrying out risk and safety analysis work on various projects in the UAE and Oman.  I had transferred from the consultancy’s UK operations, whereas the other two were outside contractors.  As it happened, we all arrived in Abu Dhabi on the same day.  My flight got in late and by the time I’d checked into the hotel it was already dark, although still stiflingly hot.  It was a heat that I would quickly have to get used to.  I met up with another engineeer from the UK who had been to Abu Dhabi before, and we both went to a bar called 49ers where one of the Australian engineers was enjoying his stag do along with the rest of my new colleagues.  The 49ers bar in Abu Dhabi is one not to be forgotten.  It is situated way up in the upper floors of a skyscraper, I forget which floor, but plenty high enough and out of reach of any ladders.  The bar is accessed via a tiny, underpowered lift which can hold a maximum of 6 people.  The bar itself is decked out in a wild west theme complete with wood panelling, and features an open flame grill.  The place was packed with over 200 people when I arrived, jammed in cheek and jowl and barely able to move.  The lift was the only means of egress.  There was no fire escape.  This visit to 49ers was my first and only.

I met up with the others and enjoyed a round of handshaking quickly followed by a round of beers.  It was way too noisy to speak to anybody and, feeling a bit homesick, I was quite glad when after a while somebody decided on behalf of us all that we should go to a nightclub across the roundabout, behind – indeed part of – the Le Meridien hotel.  It took all of us about twenty minutes to get out via the tiny lift and congregate on the pavement outside, leaving me to shudder at the thought of a fire in the place.  I found myself with the others in a smart club filled with people who were anything but.  Dozens of low-class Chinese and Central Asian hookers lined the bars and the dancefloors, perfectly matched by the generally fat, sleazing expatriates and few locals for whom they were the sole reason for being there.  I remember being seriously tired and wanting to leave, but having no local money on me and no idea where the hotel was, or even what it was called.  It was a miserable experience, but I do remember meeting Des in the Foyer, shaking his hand, and him being very pleased to tell me we’d be going to Oman together on the Saturday (today was a Thursday, hence a weekend in the Muslim lands).

I didn’t know Des then, but by golly I knew his CV.  He was recruited on the basis that his CV was probably one of the finest anyone had ever seen in the oil and gas business, and I’d read it when I was still back in the UK.  I still have a copy of it, and it is in front of me now.  Des was fluent in three languages: English, Swedish, and German.  This much was true.  Des held 5 higher education qualifications (including 2 bachelors and 1 masters) in no less than 4 disciplines.  He was a chartered engineer twice over, a member of an additional 5 professional bodies, and had another 15 professional certificates to his name.  He had been the safety manager for all of Shell’s offshore facilities in the Dutch sector and a senior safety specialist for Sakhalin Energy, which caught my attention even back then.  He’d held senior positions with Fluor Daniel, Kvaerner, Occidental, Statoil, and Mobil.  And his overseas experience covered the UK, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran, and Pakistan.  On the basis of his CV, you’d be stupid not to hire him.  On the basis of his CV, you’d be equally stupid not to do some rudimentary verification of even a fraction of it.

On his first night with his new colleagues, none of whom he knew, Des borrowed the equivalent of $120 from the Australian stag and left the club in the company of a ropey Chinese prostitute.  I hitched a lift back to the hotel with the engineer from the UK, thankful he knew where he was going.

Des and I caught a Gulf Air flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat the following Saturday, arriving mid-morning in heat equally as oppressive as that which we left behind.  We found our way to the apartment which would be our home for the next two months, buying some basic groceries on the way, and after a few more hours of getting ourselves kitted out with safety gear and other admin tasks we drove to the Mina Al-Fahal refinery situated on the coast just outside of Muscat.  Our job, as I remember it, was to carry out a risk and safety assessment of the refinery, most of which needed to be done at the facility itself.  The project schedule allowed two months for this phase of the work, so I was somewhat surprised when Des confidentally told me it would only take a couple of weeks.  However, Des was the lead engineer and I was his junior, so I trusted he knew what he was doing.

Now at the time I was delighted to be on this project with Des.  Here was me at 26 years of age, finally abroad and visiting a proper facility in a hands-on role with a chap whose experience was so impressive that I could not fail to learn from him.  And even though I was a bit homesick in those first few days and weeks, I did enjoy the experience.  It was roasting hot outside, and anyone sensible or not unlucky enough to be incarnated this time around as an Indian labourer stayed well indoors.  But Des and I had a job to do, so we walked down every pipe and vessel and piece of equipment in that refinery, crawling over hot pipes in an already oven-like temperature, me writing down every hazard that Des pointed out.  As a method of getting an up-close look at a refinery it was a good one, and it was even better at making you appreciate the Middle Eastern climate and the wonders of air conditioning.  As a means of doing the job we were contracted to do, it was almost worthless.  But this I didn’t know at the time, and we went on our merry way for the rest of the week.

Now Des liked to talk, and he especially liked to talk about himself, and most of all he liked to talk about how damned good he was.  At first, I quite liked his tales of the various jobs he’d been on and countries he’d visited.  I’m a gullible fool even now and generally believe what I’m told until proven otherwise, and I reckon it’s made me more friends than it’s got me into trouble so I’ll stick with it for now.  Des had been there and done it, and here was I on a job with him.  Yeah, this is all right, I thought.  We even talked about the next project coming up, the big one in Kuwait which would go on for a year, and we’d go together.  But as the week wore on, Des talked less about where he’d worked (tales which were suspiciously devoid of details, I saw in hindsight) and more about how great he was in other walks of life, especially his prowess with women.  Des was on his (if I recall correctly) fourth wife, the second of which had run away with his best friend and business partner, the two of them clearing him out completely and disappearing into the night.  The third wife was an Iranian whom he married for a joke, or convenience, or something.  He had a son by either the first or second wife.  And his fourth wife, who was a coloured South African, was living in his house in Holland with her two children (neither of whom were his own).  Describing his various marriages took up an entire evening, and his conquests with several dozen other women two or three more.  Then came the stories of when he was in the army and he was the best at shooting, driving, camouflage, escape and evasion, and every other aspect of soldiering which I can think of.  Next it was how he was almost shot to death in Pakistan, and how he saw a man executed in front of his eyes for some misdemeanour, and by that point I think even I’d stopped listening.  I used to scurry into my room, which unfortunately I shared with Des (who used to smoke in bed!), leaving a colleague assigned to another project but living with us, a chap called Chris, to make his own escape if and when he could whilst I lied and said I had to make a phone call to the UK.

By the end of the week, this had all got pretty tiresome, and so I was glad when Des told me we’d be going back to Abu Dhabi for the weekend for R&R.  I have no idea how we got the tickets, but when we got back the regional boss, whose villa we were now for some reason all living in, was somewhat surprised to see us.  He thought we were supposed to be down in Oman on the refinery tomorrow.  I looked bewildered and said I was following Des, who was supposed to be in charge.  It was all very confusing so Des, me, and another Brit called Steve who was also living in the villa set off to a bar somewhere in Abu Dhabi.  Within a remarkably short time we all found ourselves in the infamous Al-Ain Palace, or the Ally Pally, a low-down dive of a place known only for its abundance of cheap, third-rate Chinese hookers.  To cut a short story even shorter, the three of us ended up going back to the villa in a taxi with a huge Chinese prostitute with a smashed front tooth whom Des had picked up.  Steve and I weren’t interested in doing likewise, which seemed to annoy Des, which he showed by pretending the girl was actually with one of us even when she stopped at a McDonalds and came out with an armful of burgers which she presented to him as some sort of weird tribute.  I remember the four of us sitting in the villa around the nice, pine breakfast bar table (which, incidentally, I later took ownership of and it saw action in two of my apartments in Sakhalin, before I gave it away to a friend a week before my demobilisation in return for – ironically – a Chinese meal) with Steve, Des, and a huge Chinese girl with a smashed tooth who wouldn’t shut up or stop eating burgers.  Des had the bright idea of them going for a swim (in what was a family compound where hookers, much less nightswimming ones, were frowned upon).  She leaped from the stool, whipped up her dress to show a pair of large, sweaty, polyester granny pants and told us that she didn’t have a swimming costume.  However, she told us loudly in a comical Chinese accent, she could “go down for five minutes, no need come up for air”.  I have never laughed so hard.

Until, that is, Des thought the better of watching her perform strokes in the communal pool and took her to his bedroom, albeit for much the same purpose.  Within a few minutes Steve and I were stood outside the door listening to a Chinese girl screaming blue murder, an English-Swedish halfbreed grunting like a boar, and bedroom furniture testing the very limits for which it was manufactured.  This went on for about twenty minutes with all the subtely and finesse of a rock through a window, before the villa fell silent, Steve and I stopped laughing, and we went to bed.  The next morning, the Chinese girl safely paid off and sent packing before sunrise, Des denied having sex at all and insisted they were “just talking”.  Believing anything Des said after that was nigh-on impossible.

Once again Des and I took the Gulf Air flight down to Muscat to continue our work in the refinery.  The stories continued in the same manner as before, with each one of his exploits being better and more impressive than the last.  It was getting embarassing.  Before he’d even start recounting how he and a whole group of people had to do some very difficult test, Chris or I used to pipe up “Let me guess: you were the only one that passed?” in the vain hope of saving half an hour by cutting directly to the inevitable conclusion.  By this time his previous wives, girlfriends, and lovers seemed to have caught up with him because the apartment phone started going and he’d sit at all hours of the night talking and smoking.  Then, to my complete surprise, my UK mobile rang with some woman asking for Des.  Assuming it was important, I passed him the phone and he giggled like a schoolboy and launched into a twenty minute chit-chat with some ex-lover of his.  My UK phone was on roaming at a cost of over a pound a minute, and I was seriously unimpressed.  The cheeky sod had given her my number because he was too damned tight fisted to buy his own SIM card, and was now busy running up my UK bill whilst he relived one of his affairs.  Eventually I got the phone back from him, but he couldn’t see the problem.  He’d pay me back, he promised.

And that was another problem with Des.  He was a tight-fisted old sod, refusing to pay for anything and expecting the company – or failing that, his colleagues – to pick up the bill for everything.  He didn’t see why he should have to pay for his food even when on a per diem; when everyone in the villa went to the supermarket and chipped in, he’d be nowhere to be seen until he was spotted guzzling the beers we’d all just bought; and he certainly wasn’t going to pay a few dollars for a SIM card so his tarts could call him in Oman, not whilst he had my number to dish out!  And he was pulling the classic contractor’s trick of claiming destitution on arrival and needing an advance on his salary, which the boss gave him out of his own pocket.  Despite all this, Des would boast that back in Holland he owned a huge house, a yacht, and a Merecedes SUV.  Once I got the phone back from him, it stayed in my pocket and I’d told him the credit had run out.

Then halfway through the week he probably wished he’d not picked up a phone.  He had called his wife back in Holland on her mobile and from the music in the background it had sounded as if she was in a bar or nightclub, but she had told him she was at home.  I think there was a man’s voice in the background as well, I can’t remember, but Des got very agitated.  He called her at home (all of this using the extortionately expensive apartment phone) but there was no answer.  He called her again on her mobile, but she didn’t pick up, and nor did she answer her phone for the rest of the night.  Des was beside himself, confessing to me almost in tears that he thought his wife was having an affair.  By that point I’d lost all respect for the man, and just sloped off to bed leaving him to brood by himself (until he went to bed and smoked his way through five or six cigarettes on the other side of the room).

It wasn’t just the personal stuff that was going wrong with Des, the work itself was fast falling to pieces as well.  After a week on the site, and consulting the programme of work, it became clear that Des had not the faintest idea what he was doing.  He barely consulted the scope of work or project execution plan, and breezily dismissed my concerns that we should be doing certain tasks in a certain way with a wave of a cigarette-filled hand.  As it happened, the regional boss didn’t have much of a clue either (and if you want to extrapolate that across the entire company feel free, I’ll not stop you), so things just carried on the way they were for another week, with me doing what I was told and getting more confused and disillusioned by the day, until we were summoned back to Abu Dhabi.

Upon arrival, for no reason which I can remember, a decision was made that the work on site had been completed, I was to go to Dubai to prepare for the Kuwait project, and Des was to stay in Abu Dhabi to do the desk work associated with the refinery job.  Within minutes of Des having sat down in the office, a huge problem arose like a mushroom cloud.  Des’ bags had gone missing on the flight from Muscat to Abu Dhabi.  One or two of the old hands in the office swung into action, made a few calls, and told him not to sweat.  Happens all the time, they said, they’ll show up in a day or so.  But Des was beside himself.  He demanded to be driven to the airport and a search for his bags begun immediately.  The boss told him not to worry, he could buy some clothes in the M&S over the road, toiletries he had spare in the villa, and it would only be a couple of days.  Des refused to calm down, and would not do any work until something was done.  Smelling something a little fishy, the boss asked what exactly was in his missing bags.  Des flew into a rage during which we learned that in the bags he had checked into the hold of a Middle Eastern airline were the keys to his house, the keys to his car, the keys to his boat, the ownership documents for his house, boat, and car, his birth certificate, his bank documents, and seemingly every essential document a man will possess.

“Why the hell are you carrying all that about with you, Des?”, asked the boss, reasonably.

It turned out that Des did not trust his wife and had to carry all his worldly documents around with him to stop her from selling up and absconding in the same manner as his second wife.

“Why the hell did you put all that into checked baggage, Des?”, asked the boss, again reasonably.

Des didn’t know.  Nor did we.  But we did wonder if Des was half as well travelled as he, and his CV, said he was.

Des’ bags turned up a couple of days later.  But the problems didn’t stop there.  I was the youngest person in the regional office by about 20 years and most of the expat employees were middle aged with a wife and family somewhere, so the degree of compassion offered at that time was probably greater than you’d find in most companies, and certainly greater than that displayed a few months later (but that’s another post).  In short, Des wanted to see his wife and step-children, presumably to make sure the former was still around and not still in a nightclub somewhere with her phone switched off.  It is not easy to get a visa to the UAE for South African nationals (which is what his family was), it is more time consuming and requires more documentation than for, say Brits, who just turn up and walk in.  Rather than being grateful for the efforts the company was going to, Des was raging against the company for taking so long and not having enough power or connections to just get them all in.  Eventually, enough paperwork was collected to submit an application, but the immigration authorities returned a rather surprising decision:  Des’ wife and younger step-daughter were allowed a visa, but the older step-daughter, who was 12, was not.  The reason: the elder girl did not appear to be anything to do with Des, hence she could not be admitted as his family.  The boss asked a few basic questions, which Des, poor chap, did his best to answer.  It transpired that Des and his wife had sensibly decided some years ago for Des to formally adopt her children as his own.  The adoption of the younger girl went well enough, but at the 11th hour the elder girl – who had a mental age of 7 and a whole heap of behavioural problems and learning difficulties – decided she wanted to be with her biological father, who was some sort of bum or criminal or loser down in South Africa, who was long separated from the mother.  The adoption couldn’t proceed without her consent, and so she was never formally adopted by Des, even though she reversed her decision mere days later and came to live with the rest of them in Holland.  The result was that the company couldn’t get a visa for his elder daughter.  Des went bananas, bellowing that the company was useless and had no power or influence.  The boss’ exasperated reply is immortal:

“Des!  It’s not the company’s fault that you didn’t adopt your daughter!”

It was agreed that his wife and younger daughter would come over anyway, and so Des awaited their arrival.  In the meantime, he continued to demonstrate incompetence of impressive proportions as he burned through the remaining manhours allocated to the project.  Nothing that was supposed to have been done was being done, and sitting at my desk in the Dubai office I received several phone calls from the boss asking what the hell had happened down in Oman.  What I told you was happening, I replied.  The guy doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.  Chris, a good mate of the boss, backed me up and I was in the clear.

Things also got a little complicated for Des when he was asked to provide his degree certificate in order to get his work visa.  Des replied that he didn’t have it, even though on his CV it says, as I have pointed out, he has five such qualifications which would suffice.  The story Des told was that the University of Gothenburg had moved and the records never moved with it.  Later the story changed to the records having all been lost in a fire.  Either way, he could not possibly get his hands on a degree certificate.  None of us was convinced, except possibly Des himself who was turning out to be a pathological liar.  Meanwhile, they decided to get Des working on something else until they could figure out what to do, and asked him to help write the method statements for some proposals they were putting together.  Des refused point blank, said it wasn’t his job, and put his feet up on the desk until his wife and daughter arrived.

Which in due course they did, and the company – in a rare display of generosity – put them up in a nice hotel with a beach in Abu Dhabi.  Des seemed to perk up when his family were around him, and although I wasn’t there I heard that they all went out for some nice meals in the evening and enjoyed themselves.  That is, until the Dutch embassy called the office with the news that Des’ neighbours had alerted the authorities because a 12 year old girl had been left home alone whilst her mother had cleared off to Abu Dhabi with her other daughter.  The daughter was now in the care of the authorities, and the mother really should get herself home pronto.  At this point, Des’ colleagues just shook their heads and wondered whether to laugh or cry.

The boss wasn’t sure what to do with Des.  He was lined up for the project manager’s role for the big job in Kuwait, but he had proven himself useless, unreliable, and uncooperative both in work and in every other way we could think of.  But we were short of people, and mobilising expats on short notice is not easy, and the boss was considering keeping him on.  Fortunately, Des made the decision for us.  His colleagues in the villa woke one morning with Des saying he was sick and would stay in bed.  By the time they came home after work, he had disappeared along with all his bags.  He never paid the Australian the $120 from his first night, I never saw the money from my phone bill, he owed the boss a few hundred dollars and the company even more.  He just upped and left.

We heard from Des a few months later.  The boss received an email from him saying he was working in Iran, the job was terrible, and could he have his old job back.  The email went unanswered, but it gave us a laugh.

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An Update on the Book

Yesterday I finished the third draft of my book, which basically involved me going through the whole thing line by line trying to choose the correct word and making sure each sentence read well. I did this partly by reading each line out loud as if I were standing on a stage addressing an audience. The clunky words and bad metaphors tend to jump out at you when you do that.

So it is now 75,400 words across 16 chapters. It’s a little on the light side – I was aiming for 80,000 words – but as a (kind of) romance fiction by a new author this ought not to do me any harm. Better than asking tentative readers to wade through 120k words at any rate. The next step is to read it through from start to finish, looking for obvious improvements, grammatical and spelling errors, inconsistencies, and looking at the overall pace and flow. Then I’ll be writing to one or two editors asking them for quotes.

I have no idea what to expect from the editing process, but I guess I’ll find out. In the meantime, I need to write two synopses (a long and a short), come up with a title (I may even run a poll on here once I’ve narrowed the options), get someone to design a cover, and start the ball rolling on the marketing. I’ve already started playing with the compilation software to turn it into an e-book, but I feel I have more to learn on that yet.

Anyway, completing this third draft feels like a big achievement. Hopefully that’s the hardest part done, but we’ll see.

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