Welsh Rabid

An odd thing happened on Twitter this morning. Oliver Kamm posted a link to this article  in The Times:

Anyone can make a mistake but Welsh viewers are entitled to expect media figures to do their homework. It’s not just a matter of pedantry or even manners. There’s a history of incomprehension and outsiders should be sensitive to it.

It is more than half a millennium since Henry Tudor, a Welshman, was crowned King of England. His son, Henry VIII, initiated the Act of Union between England and Wales in 1536. Yet in the centuries since, Wales has not always been perceived as the equal partner it should be.

The media screws up everything it touches, and one of the things that grates me most about what I see of the modern Welsh is how quickly they claim victimhood for the slightest transgression. I was born in Wales and grew up there, and I find it irritating how ultra-defensive the Welsh get if they perceive someone has slighted them in any way. The other thing that irritates me is the narrative that Welsh heritage was ubiquitous, and ignores the fact there were pockets – such as South Pembrokeshire where I grew up – which were as much English as Welsh, and that much of what is associated with Wales is a recent invention: the flag was adopted in 1959, and the national costume dates from the Victorian era. I’m of the opinion if the Welsh want outsiders to take them more seriously – which they do – they need to stop writing their history on the fly. So I made this point:

This caused a riot on my timeline, mainly with people telling me the name Hwlfordd – the town’s Welsh name – is attested to the 14th century. Maybe it is, but it seems to be a corruption of the English name and nobody’s presented any evidence anyone called it that. There are also plenty of other place names in South Pembrokeshire which are English with no historical Welsh translation, but I am told:

I grew up in this place and never heard that; this sounds to me like Welsh history being re-written for an age where everyone must be a victim. What was revealing about my timeline is the viciousness of the responses; the slightest criticism of this increasingly ahistorical narrative about Welsh heritage unleashes a barrage of abuse. Bizarrely, I was then asked to defend the practice of translating Welsh names into English with even a BBC presenter wading in:

One of the things I noticed is the assumption I can’t be really be from Wales because I dare to criticise the dual-naming policy. I can’t find it any more, but I once saw a video of a prominent Welshman in the 1960s expressing his disappointment at the increase of Welsh nationalism. He believed Welshmen should go out and conquer the world, and that the results of government efforts to “restore” Welsh heritage would end up with the country becoming parochial, inward-looking, and ultimately unwelcoming. Was he wrong? I don’t think so.


I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a BBC presenter is being disingenuous in ascribing to me an argument I have not made:




When you work in the oil and gas business, particularly if you’re around live plant or involved in construction, safety is dinned into you with all the subtlety of Trump running commentary on the Mueller investigation. It’s so effective that when you wander outside the oil and gas environment you wonder why people are deliberately trying to lose an eye or commit suicide. The industry takes safety seriously because 1) hydrocarbons are phenomenally dangerous and 2) unlike other industries, they have plenty of money.

One of the things people involved in maintenance understand is the importance of purging vessels. If you need to do some work on a tank, separator, or drum that normally holds hydrocarbons you first empty it, then you purge it with nitrogen. Then when you open it you use an ultra-sensitive gas detector to make sure there’s nothing poisonous, flammable, or explosive left inside. I don’t know where the following video is from other than it’s Chinese and I’m not entirely sure what happened, but my guess is whatever he was doing ignited residual gas in the vessel.

Be like Stalin: purge.

(Via Obo)


Armed and Dangerous

Back when I did my podcast with Mike in Switzerland he mentioned gun laws over there allow you to keep a small arsenal in your house and fire them on ranges. Turns out Mike runs a rather successful YouTube channel called Bloke on the Range featuring all sorts of firearms and he’s armed to the teeth. I’d never fired a handgun before so just after New Year I popped over to Mike’s alpine fortress and did some skiing, drinking, and shooting (not necessarily in that order). Here’s the video of my first attempt at firing pistols:

TL/DW: Nobody died and I hit the target. And it was very cold.


Into-the-box thinking

Something I’ve learned doing my MBA is that it is possible for someone to be very intelligent, well-credentialed, and clearly a subject matter expert yet show a startling lack of intellectual curiosity or talent for critical thinking.

If someone presents themselves as an expert on a subject and I don’t know them, I try to build trust in what that person is telling me. I do this by asking them a difficult question or challenge something they’ve said. The way they respond will tell you an awful lot about what that person can really teach you. I used to do this with technical experts in my previous job, and most of the time they’d fall over themselves to explain their point in considerable detail. Thanks to one electrical engineer, I now know rather more than I used to about variable frequency drives. Opposite the electrical engineer sat a naval architect who I’d often pop in and see just because he’d start talking about some aspect of his work which I’d find interesting. Other times, particularly with managers but rarely with engineers, the response would be an instant dismissal based on the first thing which popped into their head. They most likely do this because they’re incompetent; they get away with it because of their position in the hierarchy.

But I’ve discovered even knowledgeable people like professors can respond this way too. My theory is it’s possible to become very successful in a given field by applying the prevailing orthodoxy and doing exactly as everyone expects without the slightest deviation. Like this, you can become very competent in your chosen subject – until someone chucks a curveball at you and it becomes clear you’ve had no practice in dealing with dissenting opinions. Some professors clearly like their views to be challenged or a strange idea thrown at them. “Okay, let’s look at this,” one might say and a discussion ensues. Or another will say: “Ah, no. This is why you’re wrong. What you need to consider is…” But others don’t seem to like it at all, and on occasion it’s  obvious they’re hearing common objections to an orthodox position for the first time.

Sadly, I think this is the future of education and expertise. Very bright people will be channeled into narrowly focused areas of expertise and discouraged from ever thinking for themselves outside the boundaries set by those who control the subject. A simple test of this theory is to listen to an expert in one field talk about another. More often than not it’s incoherent, emotionally-driven gibberish reminiscent of a protest organised by high-schoolers. I suspect the root of the problem lies partly in the pervasive culture of credentialism. If the certificate didn’t matter, there’d be no point attending a university or business school to get from a lecturer what you could easily learn by reading a book and doing some exercises. The added value a lecturer brings is the ability to go beyond the orthodoxy, stimulate discussion, push the boundaries a little, explore ideas, and get some real-world experience thrown into the mix. There were one or two classes I’ve had where I’d have happily paid just to hear the professor speak, because he had some fascinating insights into the world of business and management you’d never find in a textbook. But if the certificate is what matters most, lectures will turn into sessions where a professor simply regurgitates whatever you can find online or in a book.

The trouble with me – and there is always trouble with me – I go to school to learn, not to get a certificate. I also have one eye keenly trained on what I paid.


Kitchen Sink

Few things look more obviously fake than millionnaire politicians doing a photoshoot to show they’re really just like us. In 2015, then-Labour leader Ed Miliband did a photoshoot of he and his wife relaxing in their kitchen:

Which raised a few eyebrows given the house was worth about £2m. Turns out it was a second kitchen used for preparing snacks, and the real kitchen would have been rather more grand. Oddly enough, holding a photoshoot in the butler’s pantry to demonstrate his earthly connections didn’t work out too well for Miliband.

A couple of days ago Democrat presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand invited photographers into her large, pristine Washington, D.C. kitchen to watch her prepare the family meal.

Unkind Twitter users were quick to point out the sharp crease in her apron, freshly bought for her that morning. Others wondered what the hell she was trying to do with that fish. Don’t you normally cut it before putting it in the frying pan? The lit gas burner with nothing on it didn’t go unnoticed, nor did the solitary mushroom looking rather lost beside the steaks, wondering where the others might have got to. I think the dog’s face tells us what we already know: this woman has never cooked before in her life.

Is there anything more cringeworthy than fake attempts to appear down with the masses? One of the most endearing things about Jacob Rees-Mogg is he’s uber-posh and wears top hats and is utterly shameless about it. One of the reasons Trump gets away with so much is he behaves exactly like you’d expect from a brash, New York billionaire. At least you know what you’re getting. People might not like posh or rich, but they really hate insincerity and, as Miliband and Gillibrand attest, faking sincerity is hard.


Empire State of Mine

This is a revealing statement by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex regarding her campaign to prevent Amazon setting up a headquarters in New York:

On this issue AOC sounds like a celebrity reading a list of raffle prizes she’s not seen, and it’s obvious she’s being fed responses to those querying her plans to spend the $3bn Amazon tax break on other stuff (yes, really). But look at that first line again:

There was little in the fuzzy proposal that guaranteed jobs for actual NYers

So who would have got the jobs, then? Out-of-towners? Foreigners? My guess is unions objected to the fact that Amazon’s 25,000 workers would not be unionised (and maybe not even American). Fine, but why is it okay for foreigners to take American jobs but New York jobs must only be for New Yorkers? It’s funny how parochial these open-borders advocates become when it’s their own interests under threat, isn’t it?



So the Trump administration decides to launch a global campaign to decriminalise homosexuality:

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin.

Yes, the notoriously homophobic Trump regime which inspires fake attacks on Jussie Smollett and causes the Canadian actress Ellen Page to complain about the US vice president not approving her lifestyle choice has appointed an openly gay man as ambassador to Germany. Trump really is turning out to be the lamest Hitler ever.

Anyway, here’s how those at Out, a magazine catering to gay folks, reacted:

Rather than actually being about helping queer people around the world, the campaign looks more like another instance of the right using queer people as a pawn to amass power and enact its own agenda.

The plan has reportedly been spearheaded by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who is also the administration’s top-ranked gay official, in response to news that a young gay man was hanged in Iran recently. Grenell has had his eyes on Iran for some time and just a week ago, he was trying to get several European nations to pass sanctions on Iran, unrelated to the country’s stance on homosexuality, to no avail.

Thank goodness for those enlightened European nations who defied Trump trying to impose sanctions on a regime which hangs men for being gay!

Homosexuality has been illegal in Iran since the theocratic 1979 Islamic Revolution. By at least one Guardian account, since the exit of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013, enforcement of anti-gay laws has softened somewhat. Homosexuality, according to the writer, is an “open secret” and most queer people fear homophobic reaction from fellow citizens more than the authorities.

Didn’t you just say a young gay man was hanged in Iran recently?

The truth is, this is part of an old colonialist handbook.

The conquest of Africa couldn’t have taken place without frantic reports from remote jungle outposts regarding native turd-burglary.

According to the report, the decriminalization campaign is set to begin in Berlin where LGBTQ+ activists from across Europe will meet to hatch a plan that is “mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean.”

The American plan for achieving hegemony over Iran features an auxiliary army of European LGBTQ+ activists part of which will head to the Caribbean from an HQ in Berlin?

There are two things happening here: one is a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality and the other is America’s belligerence towards Iran. The author has lumped one in with the other in order to play politics and virtue-signal, which is stupid because he does eventually make a valid point:

That sentence alone should set off several alarm bells. First of all, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean are huge geopolitical entities. Attitudes toward gay people differ greatly among countries and regions within those entities and attempting to gather a room of European activists on how to deal with queer issues in those regions is the definition of paternalism.

Now while I would like to see homosexuality decriminalised everywhere, I think this campaign is stupid and counterproductive: a bunch of ultra-woke activists turning up in foreign to lecture the locals is going to harden attitudes, not soften them. Such changes need to occur organically and domestically, but there is a large and lucrative industry in which European and American NGOs and supranational agencies based in Geneva go to places like Africa and demand society be turned on its head in order to accommodate trendy western ideas on issues such as female empowerment, environmentalism, and homosexuality. The author is quite right to call this paternalistic and liken it to colonialism. The trouble is, I can’t tell if he’s genuinely against this campaign or he’s pretending to be because the Trump administration is now involved.

The other problem is he’s downplaying the situation gay men face in Iran in order to bash Trump. There were many valid reasons to oppose the Iraq War, but a lot of lefties instead chose to whitewash the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Since Trump took office, people have been doing the same with Iran. Criticising Trump’s sanctions on Iran ought not to entail defending a regime for publicly hanging men for the crime of being gay. That a gay magazine should do so speaks volumes about where the priorities of contemporary activists lie. Quite rightly, the article and its author are being monstered on Twitter this morning.


Gross Domestic Product

One of the main objections to leaving Shamima Begum in the hands of the Syrian security forces is that she is a British citizen and deserves the full protections of the UK government. What few people are asking is how we’ve ended up with teenage jihadis being British citizens in the first place.

The simple answer is that she was born in London to presumably British passport holders. We don’t know much about Begum’s parents, but we do know this about Hussen Abase, the father of another teenager who ran away with Begum to join ISIS:

Mr Abase, who came to Britain as a refugee from Ethiopia in 1999, and now lives in Stepney, east London, where he works as a security guard, added: “I’m very happy the British government gave me refuge here. I hope they will let my daughter back in if she is still alive. It’s been very hard these past few years without her.”

But questions remain over Mr Abase’s own role in his daughter’s radicalisation.

After Amira disappeared it emerged he had attended a protest outside the Saudi embassy in London, in 2013, said to have been organised by the Islamic extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, founded by the extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed.

Mr Abase also admitted having taken her to a demonstration outside the US Embassy, at the age of 12, at which an American flag was burnt.

Also at the rally were the jailed extremist preacher Anjem Choudary and Michael Adebowale, one of the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

The truth is, the Home Office has for decades been allowing foreigners to settle in the UK who are either radical Islamists when they arrive or become radical Islamists later. This has been going on so long we now have a generation of straight-up, homegrown British citizens who are violent jihadists and we don’t know what to do with them. This isn’t surprising: the foundations of modern, liberal societies were built by people who could never have imagined future generations would run an experiment by which violent foreigners are gifted passports and encouraged to raise families who hate the society which hosts them. The reason western countries are now facing this uniquely difficult moral question is because they were uniquely stupid in allowing it to arise.

It’s tempting to blame Begum, her family, and those who encouraged her on this path to jihad, but what did the British government do to discourage her? The authorities bend over backwards to accommodate every whim of militant Islam, they brand anyone who asks simple questions a racist and threaten them with criminal charges, they encourage unfettered immigration while advertising there is no need to integrate while half the country is working overtime to destroy whatever is left of our society because they clearly detest it. As I’ve asked before:

If our leadership – and I use that term loosely – lacks the conviction to uphold the principles which supposedly define the West, why the hell should we expect Muslims to come out in support of them?  I suspect for many, faced with a choice between leaning towards Islamic principles and Western principles, many moderate Muslims are choosing the former because they are unconvinced that the latter even exist.  Hell, I’m not convinced they exist in any meaningful sense any more, so why should somebody who comes from a culture where they have been historically absent?

If you were a young Muslim living in Britain over the last few years, which way would you lean?  Which way is the wind blowing?  When you have elected officials condemning the publication of blasphemous cartoons, and newspaper columnists suggesting Charlie Hebdo was probably at fault, would you stick your head above the parapet and argue that insulting the Prophet is a fundamental right?  When any atrocity is immediately followed by politicians mumbling vague approximations of supposed bedrock principles which they contradict in the very same sentence through use of the word “but”, and fall over themselves to assure you – a Muslim – that this is nothing to do with your own principles and faith, and then an utter headcase is invited for an interview on the state-owned TV channel where he defends the bloodshed and nobody says a peep: which way are you going to jump?

And let’s be honest: the British people voted overwhelmingly for this. The hand-wringing self-hatred may not have been invented by New Labour but it accelerated tenfold under Blair and was happily continued by Cameron. Both prime ministers delighted the middle classes, and if it weren’t for the Iraq War people would be weeping tears of sadness as they stood before twin statues of Blair and Mandela. Had a political candidate stepped forward and proposed taking a much tougher line with immigrants from certain countries and making it a lot harder for them to gain citizenship, the wails of anguish on the streets of British cities would have drowned out the calls to prayer in Whitechapel.

And it’s not like the lesson has been learned, has it? Even now, nobody dare propose any form of robust immigration control for fear of being branded racist. Even today, when we know the consequences, those who the country elects to high office go on TV and broadcast that unverified, undocumented refugees are welcome. Sorry aggregate British voters, but the likes of Shamima Begum are the direct result of your politics and your cowardice in the face of tough choices. If and when you finally decide to get serious, you’ll find the solutions were there all along.


Plane Wrecked

I’m surprised there aren’t more of these stories:

A Chinese woman reportedly downed a full bottle of £120 cognac at security control after she was told she was not allowed to take liquids on board her flight – which she was then prevented from boarding.

She is believed to have purchased the cognac at a US airport and was in transit through Beijing, where she was due to take a domestic flight to Wenzhou.

Staff told her she was not allowed to carry the bottle in her hand luggage because it exceeded the 100ml limit, and apparently not wanting to waste the purchase, she drank the entire contents.

One local paper described how she had started shouting at the departure gate before collapsing. “She was rolling on the ground, shouting,” a police officer told the Beijing Times

In early 2008 a friend and I had to make a business trip from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Angarsk in Siberia, which involved flying first to Khabarovsk and then Irkutsk. At the security check in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport the officers pulled three bottles of cognac from the hand luggage of a man in front of us (and it wasn’t £120 per bottle stuff, more like £1.20). He was told he couldn’t take it on board and would have to leave it behind. By the time we passed through the checkpoint he was debating whether to drink them there and then.

We had a few hours to wait at Khabarovsk, so we headed to the bar. As we were ordering the chap with the cognac walked in, utterly wrecked. He went up to the counter and spoke to the woman serving.

“Can I have a drink?”

“If I give you a drink,” the woman said. “They’ll not let you on the plane.”

The man thought about that for a few seconds and said, “Good point. Give me a beer, then.”

I don’t know if the more wild parts of Russia have changed in the past eleven years, but part of me hopes they haven’t.

(You can read more about that trip to Siberia here.)


Gangsta Rat

Even back when I was a student I didn’t know who half the contemporary music stars were; nowadays I barely know any of them. For instance:

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine appears on the verge of receiving a prison sentence that is significantly less than the minimum term he would have received after pleading guilty to a litany of crimes, though he may need witness protection.

The singer signed a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Manhattan whereby he admitted to various crimes, including racketeering, conspiracy, weapons possession, drug trafficking, and others.

He sounds a little more full-on than S Club 7.

In 2015, he was sentenced to probation for appearing in a video in which a 13-year-old girl performed a sex act on another man.

Appearing in child porn videos doesn’t seem to harm your career if you’re a rapper.

Federal prosecutors say that the information Tekashi has given them may require that he be placed under witness protection since he is believed to have implicated individuals involved in extremely violent crimes.

Witness protection? So they’re gonna send this guy to Buttfuxville, Nebraska (Pop. 1,357) and expect him to blend in.Maybe he can get a job in a nursing home?