Wiltshire Police Dig In

Yesterday I said the British police had hit rock bottom and started to drill. Last night they shipped in some dynamite:

The Wiltshire Police sound like the NKVD without the charm and humour. And at least the Chekists had a few poets languishing in their cells who could have helped them write a decent tweet: the above reads like it was written by someone whose entire literary consumption consists of warning signs.

Wiltshire police wrote the tweet in response to the kicking they were getting on social media from their earlier stupidity, which by last night was circulating stateside. Rather than give someone a bollocking for tweeting shite and engaging in self-reflection, the police did what they always do: lash out in petulant fashion with threats. Having gotten quite used to bossing the population around on the street, tasering and arresting anyone who doesn’t immediately show deference to their authoritah, they thought they could do the same thing online. As they’re going to find out when America wakes up, they can’t.

Several people have pointed out that the Wiltshire police are making threats outwith their powers: they have no authority to ban people from posting offensive material, unless they’re referring to blocking them from their Twitter feed. The only thing that surprises me is that this surprises anyone. The police have become so used to making up the law as they go along, often deliberately misinforming citizens as to what the law is in order to get their way (particularly with regard to photographing things, and especially when the police are called in support of some jobsworth in a hi-viz vest), that they probably no longer know what the law is. The police don’t care either: their modus operandi is to make an arrest and subject the person to a lengthy, expensive, and damaging process in order to clear their name. If and when he does, he will be out of pocket but the policemen involved will get off without so much as a reprimand. The process is the punishment, the police know it, and they abuse it.

Personally, I think if it is proved that a policeman deliberately misled a member of the public into thinking he has broken the law when he hasn’t, the PC concerned should be given a written and final warning. If it happens again, he’s booted out and banned from policing for life. Otherwise we might as well replace our current lot with cheaper police from Nigeria.

If you talk to policemen on Twitter, their first line of defence is to say you don’t understand how things work, and ten of them pile in to say that the police don’t make the laws, they only enforce them. Their assumption is that you don’t know this. The point they miss is that much of the public don’t blame the police for enforcing shitty laws, but they detest the way they go about it with such obvious glee and pomposity. If the police adopted an attitude of “Sorry mate, but we have to do this…new laws, y’see” the public might think better of them. But they don’t, they fall over themselves to enforce these appalling laws – and boast about their powers online.

The second line of defence for policemen is to make you out as some sort of crank, way out of tune with the general public. They’ll all reiterate how much the public values them as per the latest polls, and most will talk about what a great job their colleagues are doing. Policemen seem to think their poor public image can be rectified by having policemen praise each other online. Others will say things like “the emergency services do a great job”, hoping the genuine appreciation people have for firemen and paramedics will rub off on hapless Plod. Eventually they’ll dismiss you as being a paranoid outlier and block you. One even said he was glad he was able to protect the public from “people like me”, as if this engineer with a blogging hobby was a danger to anyone. Seemingly not appreciating the police and showing signs of defiance makes you a threat in the eyes of Plod.

Personally I’m all for this sort of idiocy on Twitter. As I’ve said before, the sooner the public understand the nature of the British police and abandon the romantic Dixon of Dock Green image, the better. In the comments under my last piece,¬†Schrodingers’s Dog says:

Clearly a major role of the British police seems to be the enforcement of a left wing political and social agenda. As such, the rest of us should be thinking in terms of non-cooperation with the them.

I can only agree with that, and I think that’s where we’re headed. Criminals and their families have famously refused to cooperate with the police, but so have the people who swim in the same waters. They figured out that the police are not on their side, never have been, and never will be: any mutual interests are coincidental and temporary, and in the long run cooperation simply isn’t worth it. It’s only a matter of time before ordinary people reach the same conclusion.

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France as a balance between order and chaos

One of the biggest attractions of France for me is that it sits on a nice balance-point between the ordered Anglo-Saxon/Germanic northern Europe and the chaotic Latin south. I have often said I find the UK sterile and over-regulated, and recently complained about the Germans micro-managing people’s lives. On the other hand, I don’t miss the utter chaos of Africa much, nor the lesser-chaos of Russia and Asia. I’ve never lived in Italy, Portugal, or Spain but from what I’ve heard and seen on visits the laid-back Latin culture can be infuriating at times, especially to those from northern Europe. I still remember the remarks of my German mate when he attempted to hire a car in Italy on his honeymoon: he wasn’t impressed.

Of course, the balance point between order and chaos depends very much on where you’re from originally. I have a Venezuelan mate who thinks the Barcelona-Taragona region of Spain is about as ordered as he wants it, whereas a Norwegian might find it bordering on anarchy. For this Brit, France is right in the middle, and indeed the European transition from order to chaos appears to happen across France. Lille is more Belgian than French, and people from there think Marseilles might as well be in Africa. In France you can keep heading south until you find the mix of order and chaos that is perfect for you.

Paris is Paris and hardly representative of France, but it still holds a nice balance. That said, when you need to deal with the local prefecture you dearly wish the Germans or Dutch were in charge because it feels like you’re in southern Italy. Even the French complain bitterly about the levels of service they receive in a prefecture. I’ve not spent much time in the south of France, but I’d probably find the Mediterranean way of life annoying after a while, despite the weather. Annecy seems to hold a very attractive mix of Swiss efficiency with a large dollop of French creativity thrown in, making it highly liveable but not as dull as Geneva (is anywhere?). A Swiss standard of living with French restaurants is pretty good on most measures, but people from southern Europe might find it too boring.

France’s diverse geography is probably its biggest asset, but the cultural change as you go from north to south is another. It’s often overlooked amid talk of weather, wine, and food but it probably explains why France is so highly regarded as a place to live and visit: village by village you can fine tune your preferences until you find somewhere you like.

Note that I said live and visit, not work. Working in France is another matter entirely, one which falls quite some way from any balance-point that a Brit would find desirable. On this I shall make no remarks.

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More on the British Police

The British police have hit rock bottom and started to drill. This time it’s the clowns in Wiltshire:

Take a look at that last one:

They can’t even spell properly.

Yesterday on Twitter I came across this from the Metropolitan Police, which I thought was fake until somebody provided a link:

Look at No. 6. Apparently if you don’t give due consideration to deranged conspiracy theories about the Jews running the West, you’re engaging in a “component” of Islamaphobia, which is a hate crime.

Of course, stifling free speech on the internet and thought-policing is about all they’re good for when they look like this:

I’ve seen women dressed as coppers on hen nights look more presentable than that lot. Forearm tattoos on a WPC, FFS!

Tell me again, whose side are these people on? It’s not ours, is it?

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Polygamy or Polyamory?

I find this interesting:

A long-awaited verdict in the trial of two Canadian religious leaders accused of polygamy is expected on Monday.

Winston Blackmore, 61, is accused of having 24 wives and his former brother-in-law James Oler, 53, is alleged to have married four women.

They are both former bishops of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

The landmark polygamy trial is expected to test the boundaries of religious freedom in Canada.

Polygamy is illegal under Section 293 of Canada’s Criminal Code.

On the one hand you have old, fat white men being prosecuted for having multiple wives. On the other you have puff-pieces in the NYT and Vice promoting polyamory and agitating for legal and societal recognition of the sleeping arrangements. If polygamy is illegal then the marriages are not valid, so how does this differ from polyamory?

Personally I find both situations rather unsavoury, but if Blackmore wants to avoid a 5-year jail sentence he ought to grow a goatee beard, stop eating until his arms take on a noodle-like girth, move to Brooklyn and start whining to journalists that people continually judge his lifestyle. I’m sure at least one of his 24 wives has a personality disorder of some sort, she could be shoved to the front along with her kids to get the liberals on board. Just get her to dye her hair green and wear an “I’m With Her” badge, she’ll be featured in a column within a week.

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No Fun in Germany

When I opened my letterbox on Saturday I was rather surprised to find a speeding notice sent all the way from Germany. Apparently when I was in Baden-Baden I was travelling at 41kph (38kph after tolerance adjustments) in a 30kph zone. Or in English, I was doing 23.6mph in an 18.6mph zone.

Until recently I wasn’t even aware that speed limits below 30mph existed, but I see some 20mph zones have appeared in London down residential streets full of chicanes and speed bumps. In France, the general limit in built-up areas is 50kph and occasionally 40kph. So what did this road in Baden-Baden look like? Well, street view is banned in Germany (along with most everything else) so we only have the aerial view of Geroldsauer Stra√üe:

Geroldsauer Straße is a 2-lane road forming part of the B-500, which puts it in the Bundesstraße category:

In the German highway system they rank below autobahns, but above the Landesstraßen and Kreisstraßen

In other words, if you drive at more than 19mph along sections of Germany’s second-tier highways you’re liable to be photographed and fined. The photo is quite funny, it shows my Russian pal and me on our way somewhere, but the road is wide and clear. The fine is only 15 Euros which I have no problem paying, either in practical terms or in principle; that’s not my point here.

My point is that Germany looks about the least fun place to live or visit, especially when compared to France. I suppose mind-numbing sterility is what happens when a largely secular nation’s middle-classes get wealthy and comfortable enough that they find it necessary to meddle and proscribe to an ever-increasing degree. But hey, if this is what the Germans want, then who am I to complain? I’ll just keep to my side of the border and laugh at things like this:

It’s also going to be interesting seeing how the Germans will enforce their millions of petty laws in a few years’ time when the effects of their immigration policies begin to take hold. Historians might find some bemusement in a country that fined people for driving at 38kph down what would be a major highway in most of the world, but couldn’t stop mass sexual assaults in its city centres.

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Dutch Oddness

In the comments at Mr Worstall’s we’re making fun of the Dutch, particularly their reputation for stinginess which makes the Scottish look positively profligate by comparison. My input is as follows.

When I briefly lived in Thailand in 2010 I met a Dutch lady with a son of around five or six. She’d been widowed, her husband having a sudden heart attack in his mid-thirties while she was pregnant with their son. Her late husband was also Dutch and worked for a bank in a senior position, but I don’t know if stress played any role in his demise. It was a tragic story, with the only bright point being he’d been wealthy (or well-insured) enough to provide for his wife and son. She found it very hard to stay in the Netherlands afterwards, surrounded by memories, and decided to spend some time in Thailand, renting an apartment in my condo block where I met her. She was a nice woman, and doing remarkably well under the circumstances. I don’t know what became of her but if anyone deserved a spell of good fortune, it was her. Her kid was nice, too. I hope they’re doing okay, wherever they are.

Anyway, she told me her husband’s parents arranged the funeral in his home town, and she stayed with them a few days for the occasion. She said she got on with them okay, and was rather surprised a few weeks later to receive an invoice in the post: they’d charged her for parking in their driveway.

There’s nowt so queer as folk, as the saying goes, but the Dutch run them close.

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Another attempt at normalising polyamory

Via TJ in the comments, the mainstream media has another go at normalising polyamorous relationships. This time it’s the BBC:

Prof Aviram said she found little appetite for marriage among polyamorous groups when she first started her research in 2004 but she began to see a change around 2012.

Prof Aviram believes changing attitudes may be due to wider acceptance of same-sex marriage around the world, making way for new taboos to be broken.

“Perhaps in the 1970s, same-sex marriage was as unimaginable as group marriage is today,” she says.

When same-sex marriages were legalised, some folks warned that it would put the institute of marriage on a slippery slope to mockery and obsolescence. Reading this, they may have been onto something. Of course, for many people this was the whole point.

[28-year-old DeAnna Rivas] suggested to her husband, Manny, that they start experimenting with another woman in 2014.

After the birth of their second child, DeAnna was struggling with depression and felt she could not get enough emotional support from her husband alone.

“I was so unhappy I couldn’t express my feelings to him. I had another part of me that was missing.

“When we met Melissa it just felt right.”

DeAnna, an art teacher, now lives with both Manny and 20-year-old Melissa James; they share incomes, childcare and household duties, and a bed.

So at twenty years old this Melissa is apparently mature enough to decide getting into a polyamorous relationship with a married couple with kids is the right thing to do. Here’s my prediction. Within a few years Melissa will be out of the relationship and will either:

1. Angrily defend her past choices, screaming abuse at anyone who questions them backed by a veritable phalanx of middle-aged feminists with green hair and neck tattoos. She’ll double down on the stupidity and learn nothing.

2. Write this off as youthful naivety, deal with it, bury it, and move on. With luck, she’ll go on to lead a normal life.

Manny, 30, says some people are upset by the relationship – a previous employer even threatened to sack him as a result – but others are intrigued.

Can we hear from Melissa’s father, please? Or did he walk out when she was 12, which would explain everything.

If things are going to change, there need to be more role models to show people that polyamorous relationships can last long term, she adds.

Manny Rivas says he “would love for us to be able to get legally married and show people there’s nothing wrong with it, show people you can make it work.

Getting married would show us only that the legal system in the US can be manipulated in the interests of social engineering. What would show people polyamorous relationships can work is an interview with three partners who’ve made it work over three decades and whose grown-up children are normal and speak of a happy, stable childhood.

Oddly, these media puff-pieces praising polyamory are remarkably short on such examples.

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A warning from Air France-KLM

Sometimes blog posts just write themselves:

A clash of national cultures and an inability to understand each other’s languages threatens to make the merged Air France-KLM group of airlines unmanageable, according to a leaked internal company report.

Surely not!

‚ÄúThe French have the impression that the Dutch think only of money and are always ready to fight for profit. They are not afraid of anything,‚ÄĚ the researchers reported.

‚ÄúThe Dutch think that the French are attached to a hierarchy and political interests which are not necessarily the same as the interests of the company ‚Ķ The extent to which employees are disillusioned is shocking. People are pessimistic, frustrated and burnt out because they feel that this is not listened to.‚ÄĚ

But this is consistent with crude national stereotypes! How can it be true?

Okay, a little more serious now:

Air France managers are also said to feel that they look more at what is best for the whole company, while KLM managers only worry about what is good for KLM.

Hmmm.

KLM managers, on the other hand, think that their French colleagues only worry about keeping jobs at Air France.

So each party thinks the other is looking out for themselves? It being a near-certainty that this is the case, my only questions are how many top managers are surprised by this and when are they being fired?

Among the petty grievances, there is irritation that a KLM employee working in Paris is charged ‚ā¨10 for lunch in the canteen, while an Air¬†France¬†colleague pays only ‚ā¨4.

The reason for this is French companies are obliged to provide their employees with a subsidised canteen (or lunch vouchers), but secondees and visitors don’t get the subsidy and have to pay full price. We have the same issue in my office when people are seconded from outside, and it’s actually more serious than it sounds.

Some years ago I had an Australian boss who was a very smart chap, particularly so considering he was a Queenslander (I think he might read this blog occasionally). He was also a very good boss, partly because having come up through the ranks himself, he knew that small niggles can have a detrimental effect on an employee’s happiness way out of proportion to the actual problem. If left unchecked, seemingly minor issues cause all sorts of discontent in a department which results in a bad atmosphere and reduced productivity. If your staff are spending half the day bitching about free coffee being stopped, you’re better off just reinstating it.

A decent manager like this Aussie would have spotted immediately that the unequal canteen charges would create a rift in the organisation which would cost the company a lot more than ‚ā¨30 per person per week. He would have been on the phone sharpish to get approval to reimburse the Dutch, and if that were refused he’d run a little wheeze to do so anyway. Managers like this are like hen’s teeth in a modern corporation, and seemingly absent altogether from Air France-KLM.

The Dutch managers don‚Äôt trust the French economy, and see Air France as a ‚Äútime bomb‚ÄĚ.

‚ÄúOne questions whether the alliance can survive given the long-standing mutual incomprehension between the Dutch and French camps within the group,‚ÄĚ one researcher was quoted as writing.

If two airlines cannot merge without divisions opening up along national lines amid a clash of cultures and widespread mistrust, one wonders how much truth there is in the EU’s claim that all 27 members unanimously agreed on the Brexit negotiation strategy in under 15 minutes. I think the whole Brexit negotiation process will put the unity between the member states under considerable strain, and I’m expecting to see plenty of leaked memos full of similar sentiments to those in the Air France-KLM report.

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Rebel Girls and Rapunzel

My research assistant has directed me towards this video, created by an outfit called Rebel Girls:


Where to begin?

Firstly, if a couple of Italians want to replace fairy stories like Rapunzel with books containing sanitised biographies of famous women and they’re crowdfunding to do it, good luck to them. Nothing wrong with that. Nor do I see much wrong with exposing young girls to stories about real-life, successful women.

What I don’t get is why this is considered rebellious: the books are called Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, which makes me think this is more about the parents than the kids. I had an older sister and a childhood containing lengthy periods of extreme boredom, so I am familiar with girls’ annuals such as Bunty and Judy. They were full of stories of brave, strong girls and women, some of them featuring real-life heroines. I believe Bunty’s longest running strip was The Four Marys, and although old-fashioned it hardly portrayed girls negatively, or weak and in need of a man’s help. Indeed, friendship, cooperation, and resourcefulness in the absence of men seemed to be the main theme. Were girls who read Bunty back in the 1960s and 1970s considered rebellious? Probably not.

But it’s clever marketting. What modern, third-wave feminist wouldn’t want to boast at an Anti-Trump protest march that her five year old daughter is a rebel and taking on the Patriarchy? Sadly, we only really hear feedback from the parents who insist their kids love it. Would they tell us any different if it weren’t the case? It reminds me of posh yummy mummies who went to uni together insisting their kids are “besties” even though they fucking hate each other.

That said, there’s no reason why kids shouldn’t love the books and if their parents say they do, who am I to argue? But why the knocking of Rapunzel? According to Wikipedia:

Rapunzel is a German¬†fairy tale¬†in the collection assembled by the¬†Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of¬†Children’s and Household Tales. The Grimm Brothers’ story is an adaptation of the fairy tale¬†Rapunzel¬†by¬†Friedrich Schulz¬†published in 1790.The Schulz version is based on¬†Persinette¬†by¬†Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force¬†originally published in 1698 which in turn was influenced by an even earlier tale,¬†Petrosinella¬†by¬†Giambattista Basile, published in 1634.

Rapunzel’s story has striking similarities to the 11th-century¬†Persian tale¬†of¬†RudńĀba, included in the epic poem¬†Shahnameh¬†by¬†Ferdowsi.

If a story has maintained its popularity across an entire continent for around 350 years, there might be something to be said for its universal and timeless appeal. The two women in the video seem to think the idea of a woman being locked away somewhere and dreaming of rescue is ludicrous, which is indicative of what they know about history and the world at large.

It also shows a staggering lack of understanding of literary allegories: young girls are prisoners to some extent, of their parents. Girls can relate to having their freedoms restricted, and whereas some may wish to bust out on their own by murdering their parents (now that would make for a rebel), most simply dream of an easy escape in the arms of a handsome prince where nobody gets hurt and everyone lives happily ever after. Far from a woman languishing in a tower being ridiculous, the story’s very success is proof that it resonates with a lot of girls, particularly those reaching sexual maturity but whose family or culture doesn’t yet allow them to explore it.

If I can work out the allegory of Rapunzel in twenty minutes of a Thursday morning, what excuse do these two women have? They not only appear to be a bit dim, but some humility wouldn’t go amiss, would it? Declaring timeless and universally liked stories to be ridiculous might appeal to loudmouth feminists in dungarees, but it’s indicative of a certain lack of class. Perhaps they’re right that men wouldn’t be portrayed in the same way, but why didn’t they run that to its logical conclusion by writing a story where a princess wanders the lands seeking random men to rescue from a life of back-breaking servitude in the master’s fields? I know why, and so do they.

Whether they like it or not, most young girls are interested in princesses, castles, and brief misery followed by rescue at the hands of a handsome prince. Not so many will be interested in a book about Malala Yousafzai, Frida Kahlo, and Simone Biles. To be fair, they might like the page on Beyonc√©, but I’m unsure how she helps young women reject gender stereotypes:

Some of the reviews are interesting, too:

I wasn’t really expecting to have to explain gender reassignment surgery at this point in her life, so I am glad I read ahead and can skip that particular story.

and:

Keep in mind, a 6 year old doesn’t exactly understand the concept of gender identity. So since there are multiple stories in here regarding gender identity pioneers, it’s awfully strange to have to explain to my little girl that it’s perfectly ok to just be herself, she doesn’t have to change because the person in the story did.

and:

There are much better books written for girls. This book was more about politics …

and:

Not sure if the story of a transgender kid should be included in a children’s book

My advice to parents is stick with Rapunzel; your kids will thank you one day.

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Another Update on the Book

Yesterday I finished the second draft of my book, tightening up the prose, making my use of words more efficient, and improving the structure in certain places. The word count has dropped from 98k to 74k with almost no changes to the story; that gives you an idea of how overwritten it was. The second draft took me just over 2 months on the calendar, 40 days of which I worked on it.

I now need to start on the third draft which will be twofold:

1. A further tightening up of the prose, cutting more unnecessary words, and generally improving individual sentences as much as I can.

2. A look at the intensity of both the overall storyline and that of individual scenes. Readers need a break occasionally, and a scene which is too intense for too long will get tiresome. As Alex K pointed out in the comments, terse conversations should include sentences which are longer and more laid-back, and the same is true for the story as a whole. I think I will probably need to include some filler in places, just to give the reader a chance to relax a while; fortunately with my much-reduced word count I’ll have room to do that.

I’m not sure when this will be done, but hopefully by the end of summer. I’ll also need to get the synopses written, and then find an editor. I know of one who I will approach, but does anyone know any others who specialise in (sort of) romantic, realistic fiction that would appeal to middle-aged men and women? Also, does anyone have any idea what an editor would charge?

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