One Girl, Two Kilts

Barely a week seems to go by without another polyamory puff-piece turning up in our media. Reader Robert Harries alerts me to this one from the BBC:

Noni is polyamorous – she has two boyfriends and is committed to them both equally.
The 23-year-old, who lives in North Berwick, says she felt trapped and claustrophobic in monogamous relationships, no matter how much in love she was.

Readers will be astonished to learn one of Noni’s boyfriends has a tangled beard and ponytail.

She tells the BBC Scotland documentary Love Unlimited: “There is nothing wrong with one partner.
“I just don’t see why I should artificially limit the amount of love that I put out into the world.
“I’m greedy. I like people liking me.”

Polyamorists have the annoying habit of assuming normal people have never considered the possibility of having sex with multiple people at the same time. So wrapped up in their own sense of uniqueness it’s never occurred to them that almost everyone considers this, but prefers the benefits an exclusive, monogamous sexual relationship brings.

Although she is only 23, Noni insists that polyamory is a lifestyle choice she intends to continue and does not think it is incompatible with raising a family.

Oh yeah? In all my writings on polyamory I’ve never once heard a quote from a sane, functioning adult who was raised in a polyamorous relationship. The only ones we hear from are those whose own wishes appear to come before anything else.

She says: “I know people who are polyamorous and have children.

I knew hookers who had children, too.

“There is an assumption that polyamory is an overtly sexual thing which it does not have to be. You don’t have to have an orgy house.”

It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is because it’s the sleeping arrangements which define a polyamorous relationship. However she goes about it, her kid is going to have to process its mother disappearing frequently to be with her other partner, or the father disappearing frequently to make space for the other man. How is either good for the kid?

“It is really outdated to think a child needs one mother and one father.”

This is true, provided nobody really cares what sort of adult the child becomes and there is a healthy welfare system in place.

Noni says polyamory is not actually new but it is still taboo, though that could be changing.

That’s certainly what those who commission these articles are hoping, at any rate.

“People have been practising polyamory for as long as people have existed,” she says.

Yes, it was called “shagging around”, or even “dating”.

“I would not say we are blazing a trail but we are definitely creating an environment that allows for a healthy community.”

As Wikipedia would say: citation needed.

These articles are seemingly endless. There’s an agenda here, isn’t there?


Equal Pay for Unequal Work

I can’t see this being successful:

Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim and a possible bill running to £4bn.
Thousands of women who work in Tesco stores could receive back pay totalling £20,000 if the legal challenge demanding parity with men who work in the company’s warehouses is successful.
Lawyers say hourly-paid female store staff earn less than men even though the value of the work is comparable.

That lawyers think warehouse work is comparable with that in the shop floor doesn’t surprise me: I doubt they have the slightest idea what either is like.  But doesn’t the law say the work must be the same, not merely “comparable” in a way defined by a lawyer?

Paula Lee, of Leigh Day solicitors, the firm acting for up to 1,000 women who are likely to take test cases, told the BBC it was time for Tesco to tackle the problem of equal pay for work of equal worth.
The most common rate for women is £8 an hour whereas for men the hourly rate can be as high as £11 an hour, she added.

I would imagine all Tesco need to is demonstrate there is equal pay between men and women working in the store, something which ought to be rather straightforward. What people – men or women – are paid in the warehouse, under different conditions which are easy to list, is irrelevant.

I suspect the lawyers know this, but have decided to leap on the equal pay bandwagon to give themselves publicity, further the narrative, and maybe shake down Tesco in the process, who might not want the adverse publicity.

That said, if the court ruling goes against Tesco, it may open the door for men working in warehouses to demand equal pay with the powerskirts loafing around in air-conditioned offices. But I think this will be thrown out long before then.


The Undoing of Rose McGowan

It was the New York Times interview with the actress Rose McGowan that first brought Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour to the attention of the general public last October (it was common knowledge in Hollywood circles). This is why I had a vague idea who she was when I saw the video below, filmed during a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in New York:

The person who yelled at her is a transsexual woman who appears to have a rather dubious history of her own. Naturally, this being 2018, the organisers of the women’s march, the event where deranged women turn up in DC wearing pussy hats to scream en masse at Trump, have denounced McGowan and she is now becoming persona non grata:

So last week McGowan was a feminist heroine, a survivor of sexual assault and leading the fight against the Patriarchy. But having not taken any shit from a bloke in women’s clothes who stood up and abused her at her book signing, she’s now an outcast.

Here’s my view: these people are fucking insane. I have some sympathy with McGowan – the lunatic who accosted her should have been turfed out on her ear – but look at her reaction and overall demeanor, best seen in this video shot shortly after the incident:

She’s turned up to a book signing wearing what looks like gym kit, or an outfit she loafs around her flat in. She’s slouched in her chair able only to express anger littered with profanity, coming across as a moody adolescent who’s decided to copy TV portrayals of ghetto thugs when telling her parents she doesn’t want to clean her room. And people actually turned up to listen to this?

People are tempted to point to Harvey Weinstein and say this is what is wrong with Hollywood. Alas, I think the problems go way deeper, and have spilled over into whole swathes of the media and even politics. It is quite something to watch whole swathes of an advanced country go collectively insane.


And the real problem is…

Staying on the subject of the British police, this juxtaposition of tweets doesn’t need any additional commentary from me:

In a way this is a good thing. The more they keep this up, the quicker the British public will get the measure of them.


A brave WPC and two unknown colleagues

I’ve found that whenever you criticise the British police on Twitter, people – mostly serving or ex-policemen – leap to their defence. I think that’s what this chap is trying to do in this tweet:

Obviously he’s implying that the story on the right renders my skepticism (on the left) unwarranted. But something smells funny:

PC Laura Curnow was with two colleagues when they managed to disarm a highly volatile armed man…

So who were her two colleagues? If the intention of posting this story is to demonstrate that all-female police patrols can handle dangerous thugs, this detail is important, no?

Laura’s two colleagues received their award for the same incident last year.

A search on the Devon and Cornwall police website doesn’t mention anyone else receiving an award in relation to the incident. A cynic would say that PC Curnow’s two colleagues were male, and her award only reported because she is female. An even bigger cynic might say the decision to award Curnow came late, a political decision to puff-up the role of female PCs, while her male colleagues got the initial recommendation because they were the ones who actually did the heavy-lifting.

But I’ll not be cynical in this instance. For all I know PC Curnow kicked the shit out this chap while her colleagues stood idly by, and I’ll assume she is fully deserving of her award. What I will say, however, is that the story as presented doesn’t do the job this Twitterer thinks it does.


Popular Theft

This tweet caught my eye:

On the one hand, this should appall most decent people. What “help and encourage” means in the context of a government policy is “force people to do it whether they like it or not”.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what people expect. I have argued several times on here that my generation and the one or two that preceded it have utterly shafted future generations by inflating property prices for their own benefit, permanently pricing out anyone who was born too late to take part. The government was happy that cheap credit was giving the middle classes the impression they were rich, the banks were happy to keep lending ever-increasing amounts giving the illusion of a booming economy, and the property-owning classes made damned sure any government seeking to implement policies which would burst the bubble – such as raising interest rates, or relaxing planning laws – would be out on their ear in short order. The property market in the UK was a giant stitch-up of between the property-owning classes and successive governments for their own mutual benefit at the expense of pretty much everyone else, including everyone younger than they are.

Anyone who thinks the Corbyn-inspired millennials are going to just accept this is stupid: they won’t, and they don’t have to. Because another notable achievement of the Blair and Brown years aside from rocketing house prices was the replacement of outdated principles such as freedom and property rights with the notion that anything is justified provided you can get enough people to vote for it. I remember when the fox hunting ban was being rammed through parliament, a common refrain was “this is what the majority want” leaving aside the fact that what rural folk get up to ought not to be subject to the approval of urban lefties. A decade or so later we had the smoking ban, justified on the grounds that “most people approve of it”. For my part, I think it should have been left to individual landlords.

So if the Corbynistas vote in enough numbers to confiscate granny’s house, on what principle can anyone object? We’ve already accepted the idea that anything and everything can be changed on the whim of a majority vote, rights be damned. The irony is those property-owners who will suffer the most from any draconian, illberal, and downright immoral scheme to seize houses from under them will have voted New Labour, and thoroughly approved of each and every piece of authoritarian legislation for which the “will of the people” was wheeled out to justify. And let’s not pretend the Conservatives were any better, or their members voting for leaders who put principles over populism: they’ve given us Cameron and May in quick succession, neither of whom would recognise an individual right which the state may not infringe if it came from behind and kicked them square in the arse.

So I think we can expect to see more proposals like the one in the tweet above, and it’s going to be interesting watching people who were happy to abandon long-held principles for their own short-term political and economic gain suddenly rediscover them, and complain bitterly that the thugs at the door aren’t interested. They can’t say they weren’t warned.


Walking the Line

It’s Friday and I’m off on holiday for a week’s skiing in the Alps. Blogging will be light to non-existent, as time permits. So for now I’ll leave you with this tale of an experience I had in my mid-twenties, back in the days when I still believed a career lay in front of me.

“How the hell am I supposed to do that?” I asked Larry, my fellow engineer.

“Just go and have a look, write down what you see, and submit a report,” he replied. “What’s the worst that can happen?”

“The client doesn’t like it?”

“Yes, but they’ll tell you why they don’t like it, and tell you what they want to see instead. So you go back and do exactly that, re-submit it, and they’ll think it’s great.”

Larry had been around the consulting world a long time. I once asked him how many US states he’d been to, and he said he’d worked in 48 of them. He’d been in Iran when the Revolution happened, Libya when the Americans bombed it, and Syria when sanctions were imposed leaving foreign workers without much to eat. If I were a government official checking Larry through immigration on a work visa, I’d start preparing for either war or regime change. But now he was telling me how I should inspect a pipeline.

Truth is, none of us had a clue. None of us had a clue about any of what we were supposed to do, which put us about the same level as our client, who had no clue either. Several months before, we’d all been mobilised to the Middle East ostensibly to carry out a risk assessment on various facilities scattered around the desert, some of which had been there since the 1960s. The idea was to identify what work would need to be done to make the national oil company work like BP. In hindsight, the answer was obvious: privatise it, fire all the staff, and replace them with competent people. I suspect our client knew this but turkeys don’t vote for Christmas and reverse anti-colonialism is rarely popular even in places where telegraph poles fall over onto people’s heads, so they tasked us to come up with a more technological answer.

To be fair we started enthusiastically enough, but after a few days we realised nobody was turning up to our meetings and workshops any more: the novelty of having a few foreigners around had worn off, and there was idling to be done. Motivation disappeared altogether when I opened a drawer of a long-disused desk in the corner of the office we were shoved in, and discovered a bulky report some five years old with exactly the same title as the study we were currently doing. I thumbed through it and found the authors’ scope was identical to ours, and their conclusions much the same. Whatever the reason was behind us being hired, it wasn’t to tell our client anything they didn’t already know.

But right now I had a pipeline to inspect and I didn’t know how until I asked Larry. The pipeline was a six-inch gas flowline chosen as representative of all the company flowlines, and the idea was I’d ascertain its condition. I first went to the inspection department who showed me an impressive document detailing the inspection regime, but alas they couldn’t tell me when in the line’s thirty year life it had actually been inspected, let alone provide me with results. So they helpfully suggested I make a visual inspection, adding that “it’s only buried in places”.

From what I could tell from the drawings the line ran from a gathering centre a couple of miles away to another facility near where our offices were. I reckoned I could go out one morning before it got too hot and simply walk along the pipeline route and see whatever I could see. Everyone agreed this was a splendid idea, although I doubt anyone truly believed I could determine the pipeline’s condition using this method. They were just glad someone was taking ownership of the task, and that included the client.

The next morning around 7am Larry drove me out to the gathering centre and left me there. I reckoned I could be back by lunchtime, which was around 11am. It was already quite warm and I was wearing a polo-shirt, light jeans, and a pair of trainers. I also had the obligatory cap and sunglasses, and I brought with me a bottle of water. I had no trouble finding the start of the line and following it to where it went underground and beneath the perimeter fence. I also had no trouble picking it up on the other side, and I happily walked alongside it for about a mile thinking this was one of the easier jobs I’d done in my life. Then it went underground and it took me a while to find where it re-emerged. Eventually I did, and I followed it some more. Insofar as its condition was concerned, it looked to be made of metal and cylindrical. I didn’t see any rust which was unsurprising given the place experiences scorching heat and no rain whatsoever for all but a few days per year. This probably explained why they’d not painted it. Sometimes it would go underground to pass under a road or culvert, and they’d protect it from the highly corrosive soil by wrapping it in what looked like bandages soaked in coal tar. This was a common way of protecting buried pipes until they reckoned coal tar was carcinogenic and they quit using it. Half of these wrappings were torn off and lying in shreds, barely connected to the pipe, and so I earnestly noted this important detail on the scrap of paper that would become my integrity report.

Then I lost the pipe again. It simply disappeared underground and never came up, even though the drawing said it should be around there somewhere. It took me about twenty minutes of searching the dusty, gravelly terrain to find it hundreds of metres away, after which I continued my walk alongside it. At some point I came across an odd-looking valve, which had no handle. Instead there was a square spigot onto which you’d fix one, or a wrench of some kind. I thought it was a peculiar design for a gas line, and in a rather strange location. The pipeline route was taking me towards the main road we took across the oilfield each day, which surprised me a bit because the drawing didn’t indicate that. Still, I followed it. Soon I was walking parallel to the road, right alongside. I was still in the middle of nowhere.

A small structure appeared up ahead and as I approached the pipeline suddenly turned skywards, then turned horizontal, then vertically downwards, and came to an abrupt stop. A long canvas sock was hanging from its end, swaying in the hot wind that blew non-stop across the desert. This was no gas line. It was a water line. Somehow I’d lost one and picked up the other. Feeling rather foolish, I looked to the horizon at the gathering centre and briefly considered retracing my steps. Then I decided nobody would know, and wouldn’t care if they did.

I flagged down a car, caught a lift back to our offices, and wrote up the report. I said the line appeared to be in reasonable condition but could use another inspection just to make sure and this should be done within a year. The client commented that my report was “too generic” and lacked specifics, but they were otherwise satisfied with what I’d done.

I was wrong on one thing. I said nobody would know, but I told everyone because I thought it was funny. So did they. The bit I got right was that they didn’t care.


Opinion Presented as Fact

Here’s the BBC’s main headline at the time of writing:

Here’s the actual story:

The US House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat has accused Republicans of amending a memo about claims of FBI surveillance at the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff said Republicans had changed the text after it was voted on.

So it’s an unsubstantiated claim by a political opponent. You wouldn’t have guessed that from the headline, would you? This wouldn’t be quite so bad were the BBC not in the habit of presenting Trump’s claims in deeply skeptical terms, even running whole articles attempting to debunk anything he says. These people are obsessed.


When Towers and Trust Collapse

The BBC is running a story about 9/11 conspiracy theories:

On 11 September 2001, four passenger planes were hijacked by radical Islamist terrorists – almost 3,000 people were killed as the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Just hours after the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers, a conspiracy theory surfaced online which persists more than 16 years later.

“Is it just me?” an internet user named David Rostcheck wrote, “or did anyone else recognise that it wasn’t the airplane impacts that blew up the World Trade Centre?

“I hope other people are actually catching this, but I haven’t seen anyone say it yet, so I guess I will. There’s no doubt that the planes hit the building and did a lot of damage. But look at the footage – those buildings were demolished,” he continued. “To demolish a building, you don’t need all that much explosive but it needs to be placed in the correct places… Someone had to have a lot of access to all of both towers and a lot of time to do this. This is pretty grim. The really dire part is – what were the planes for?”

Subsequent investigations made it clear that the tower structures were weakened by the inferno from the planes and felled by the weight of collapsing floors. However even now some people refuse to believe this version of events.

I watched the towers collapse on a television in the conference room of an engineering consultancy, surrounded by civil and structural engineers. None of us could believe what we saw, and many of us thought an airplane crashing into the towers couldn’t cause the towers to collapse as they did. A few months later some American TV station aired a program explaining exactly how they collapsed, someone recorded it, and we all packed into the same conference room to watch it. Everyone came away fully satisfied by the explanations given.

The video explained that the two towers fell in quite different ways. Their construction consisted of an inner steel core and an outer shell, held together by cross-braces made of light steel. Neither the inner core or outer shell could stand independently, so the cross bracing was essential. When the aircraft struck the impact knocked off a lot of the fire protection, and the subsequent fire weakened the cross bracing to the point the outer shell fell away, causing the entire tower to collapse. In one video clip you can actually see the core standing on its own for a fraction of a second before it too collapsed to the ground. The other tower fell differently. When the aircraft struck, the resulting fire weakened the supporting steel above the impact point so the entire (intact) tower section above slammed into the floor below, which gave way, and the process repeated through several floors bringing the entire structure crashing down. Although burning jet fuel is insufficient to melt steel, any increase in temperature beyond a certain point severely reduces its structural strength, and temperatures far exceeded that point.

There are many inexplicable elements to 9/11, but most have to do with the fact that this event was entirely without precedent. Nobody could possibly have predicted what would happen should two colossal skyscrapers come crashing down in sequence in the middle of a city, and the mechanisms it triggered in the immediate surroundings will never be properly understood. People say WTC 7 (or whatever) should not have collapsed in the way it did; well, nobody knows how a building is going to behave subject to forces of that nature, all we can do is look at the wreckage and try to figure it out. If the same thing was repeated half a dozen times we might get a better idea, but until then there will always be a lot of odd phenomena about 9/11 we can’t explain. This is what conspiracy theorists rely on when peddling their nonsense.

However, the point of my post is to highlight how much times have changed. When 9/11 occurred there was still some semblance of trust in the US government, and only demented conspiracy theorists believed it would be an inside job. Most people were even on board with the official explanation, which seemed to make sense to me. I certainly can’t see any reason not to believe the official version of events, at least those concerning the WTC and the Pentagon (the story of Flight 93 lends itself to some manipulation, not least because we don’t know for sure what the target was and how it was brought down). But public trust took a huge knock a year later when George W. Bush and co. started banging on about Iraq’s nuclear weapons and resorting to complete bullshit to make the case for war. Since then things have gone rapidly downhill: the Obama years saw the utter corruption of government agencies, flat-out lies concerning Benghazi and Fast and Furious, and since Trump’s election it’s been non-stop disinformation regarding Russia’s alleged interference in US politics. To cap it all, we had a gunman firing hundreds of rounds into a crowd in Las Vegas and after a brief period of feeding the public contemptible bullshit, law enforcement officials and politicians have decided they’re not going to tell anyone what happened, and the media aren’t in the slightest bit interested in finding out. The government’s reaction to this event was so remarkable that even normal, balanced people were convinced something was rotten about the whole thing. And we’re still waiting for answers, by the way.

So my point is that the 9/11 conspiracy theories are nonsense, but if 9/11 happened today the public would have every reason to think they were being told a pack of lies from the outset and they’d almost certainly be right. This collapse in public trust may prove almost as catastrophic as the collapse of the towers themselves.