Court and Rolled

I’ve often written about the parallels between Brexit and Trump’s election, and another has revealed itself over the past few days.

I haven’t followed the story too closely, but it appears the American Establishment is going into meltdown over a phone call Trump made to the Ukrainian president. Their Russian collusion narrative having failed, they’ve effortlessly switched to trying to impeach Trump over this phone call to Ukraine. In many respects, this is hardly news: the insane wing of the Democrats – which is most of them – have been banging on about impeaching Trump for months. They have no idea what for, and nor do they care; they just want to force him from office. The only newsworthy bit about this story is that Nancy Pelosi has finally been browbeaten into getting on board with it.

When it comes to Trump, the American ruling classes threw out the rule book a long time ago. The joint intelligence community and Democrat attempt to prevent him being elected and then unseat him after the event would have resulted in lengthy prison sentences or executions in pretty much every other country at any point in their history. They lied through their teeth about the Russia collusion and activist judges are ensuring every move he makes gets blocked. They don’t care about the law, nor who sees it. All they care about is removing Trump from office and they’re prepared to bring the whole house down on themselves to do it. In many respects, the rule of law no longer applies in Russia.

On our side of the Atlantic, our political classes are doing much the same thing. The other night the supreme court judges upended the British constitution to declare Boris Johnson’s proroguing parliament was illegal because they couldn’t think of a reason why he did it. If we cut through all the bullshit, a handful of judges – who are very much members of the ruling classes and share their interests – decided to kill off another attempt to deliver the Brexit which was decided via referendum in June 2016. So Britain now has a politicised supreme court like in the US, one which considers itself above the monarch. The ruling classes aren’t even pretending any more. They might as well come out and say Brexit isn’t happening because they don’t want it to. It would at least be more honest, and they might avoid adding a string of appalling precedents to the one they’ve already set by refusing to enact the result of a free vote. As with the US, Britain is no longer a country of laws. It is ruling class free-for-all.

With each passing month, the barriers between peace and violence get torn down one by one. There is only one place at the end of this road, and that is the sort of political violence you see in failed states with politicians, judges, policemen, and journalists all fair game. I don’t think it will happen soon, though. Instead, we’ll enter into decades of being ordered around at the whim of the ruling classes, who take ever more brazen liberties while tightening the noose around our own. And then a generation will arrive who won’t stand for it, and the blood will start flowing.

It won’t be Nancy Pelosi or Brenda Hale who pay the price of their contempt for the people and the law, nor even AOC or Gina Miller. It’ll be their grandchildren, assuming they have any, who will inherit their privileges but not their protections. Those clowns hanging onto the words of Greta Thunberg are right to be worried about their children’s futures, but not for the reasons they think.

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Tyranny of Losers

As you know, I’m living in the UK with a French car, a BMW. My plan was to go back to Annecy at some point in the autumn and sell it quickly on one of the auction sites. The trouble is, the service light came on. Apparently it needed an oil change and nobody is going to buy a car with a service light on, or at least they’re not going to pay full market value for it. So I called the BMW dealership closest to me and asked if I could book it in (yes, I know the main dealers are expensive and honest Hank down the road can turn the service light off, etc.) They took down the VIN number and told me there was a safety recall on an engine component, and they might need the vehicle for a few days. I said I’d had the car in the main dealer in France a few months back and they’d not said anything, even though this recall is a couple of years old. So I said skip the faulty component, just change the oil. Ah, but this is Britain:

“We can’t do that, we are not allowed to release the car with a safety malfunction”. 

Not allowed by whom? Is there a law saying a garage cannot change the oil in a car with some alleged problem in part of the engine? No, it’s probably some policy imposed by BMW, or even the dealership, being presented as if they are words handed down by God himself. You see a lot of this in Britain, appeals to mysterious higher powers who have delegated their formidable authority to the person you’re dealing with. There’s nothing a British jobsworth likes more than pompously telling you something mundane is illegal, truth be damned.

I decided to take the car in anyway. I asked at the counter why the French BMW concession hadn’t told me about this recall. “Well, it was just a UK-wide recall,” I was told. “Then why does it affect my French car?” I asked. She had no answer for that. When the work was done I asked the same question to another clerk. He replied that “There were a lot of recalls, maybe they were too busy and so decided not to mention it?” Which seems odd for a problem which, according to these jobsworths, was so severe they simply couldn’t just change the oil and let me be on my merry way.

For some reason, I don’t think my experience with BMW was too far removed from this video, which shows a couple of thugs employed by the local government in Grimsby fining a pensioner for having a dog in a graveyard:

British people, in the main, like to follow the rules and cooperate with authority. The downside of this is that certain people, when given a smidgen of temporary authority, gleefully wield it against ordinary folk, and especially those who have little choice but to cooperate. You can be damned sure the fat fool in the video would stay well clear of a couple of chavs with a pitbull; they’d have slapped him silly and posted the video on Snapchat. You see this authoritarian, bullying attitude everywhere in Britain, especially at airports and anywhere else where jumped-up little wannabe Hitlers can cite a Blair-era law to justify their actions. I remember years ago being on a rubbish dump outside Worcester with the bloke who ran the place lecturing us on how interfering with a washing machine we found lying there was “breaking the law”. You can only imagine what these people would be like if given real power.

None of this happens in France. For a start, the local government wouldn’t hire thugs to harass pensioners for walking their dogs. Secondly, no Frenchman would take the job because they’d find the local bar wouldn’t serve them any more. Thirdly, the public wouldn’t cooperate. There’s no way you’d get a hundred euros out of Frenchwoman the way these two shook down the old lady in Grimsby for £100. They’d risk arrest and imprisonment before they’d cough up on the spot like that. One of the things I like about the French is their disdain for authority, particularly that wielded by the government. I’ve written before about the very different relationship the French police take towards the citizenry in comparison to their British counterparts (the gilets jaunes in big cities notwithstanding).

That’s not to say the French fonctionnaires aren’t the most frustrating people on the planet; a trip to the local prefecture would disabuse you of that notion within minutes. But their contempt for you is one of utter indifference: they don’t hate you, they simply don’t care. But in the UK the bureaucrats and petty officials take delight in lording it over people, as if they’re trying to make up for a lifetime of being a complete loser in every field.

There’s also no room for nuance. I expect the reason the recall never happened in France is because the Frenchmen who owned the dealerships realised they were going to have a load of irate BMW owners on their hands, demanding compensation and free courtesy cars. So they probably negotiated and persuaded BMW that maybe the issue wasn’t that bad after all. Whereas in Britain BMW would have called the UK dealerships who immediately accepted whatever they were told and decided they’d refuse to perform routine services on customers’ vehicles unless they agreed to surrender them for several days during which they’d have to hire a car at their own expense (as I did).

The French approach to things can drive you insane at times, but there are times when I grudgingly admire their intransigence. And few things make me feel more ashamed of my country than the combination of authoritarian bullying by British jobsworths and its craven acceptance by ordinary people.

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Sinking Funds

Remember this story?

A lifeboatman who served with the RNLI for 15 years was sacked alongside his junior colleague for having mugs with naked women on them in the office.

Whitby crewman Ben Laws and his workmate Joe Winspear were allegedly sacked over the phone on Tuesday.

The pair are reported to have swapped the ‘jokey’ tea mugs for Secret Santa presents.

One featured Mr Winspear’s head superimposed on a naked woman’s body.

And I said:

As an organisation grows and gets more wealthy, parasites in the form of professional “managers” come in and use the excess cash to feather their own nests and set about building their own little empires. In effect, the organisation splits in two. You have a ruling class, sitting in plush air conditioned offices pushing progressive agendas and advancing their careers; and you have everyone else, including those tasked with fulfilling the core function of the organisation.

Well, whaddya know?

The chief executive of the RNLI has said that the lifeboat charity is facing the “perfect storm” of a shortfall in funds at a time when its services are more in demand than ever.

Lifeboat crews and lifeguards are being called out more often to save lives but the charity is suffering from a shortfall, largely created by the economic climate and a drop in money left to the charity in supporters’ wills.

Of course, the drop-off in donations has nothing to do with the RNLI demonstrating to the public that it is nowadays more a jobs program for middle-class grifters than an organisation devoted to saving lives at sea.

In 2018 the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6m. Its total expenditure was £192.9m but its net income was £186.6m, leaving an operating loss of £6.3m. A leading factor that contributed was a reduction in legacy income of £8.5m.

And how much of that £192.2m is spent on middle managers whose job is to patrol lifeboat stations in all weathers looking out for offensive coffee mugs?

I notice that the CEO who presided over the debacle last year has moved on to another cushy posting, replaced by one Mark Dowie who is:

a former naval officer who went on to work in the banking industry

Which sounds a lot like the previous chancer, but at least this one does seem to have some relevant experience:

Dowie gave the example of Salcombe lifeboat station in south Devon, where he volunteered before taking on the role of chief executive, as an example of how the pressure on the service was growing.

Right, but:

Dowie, who has been in post for four months, said: “As a people we use the sea in ways that change all the time. We have many more people working on the sea, things that we weren’t doing when we were founded, for example wind farms. But there is also a vast amount more pleasure activity in, on and around the sea.”

Are there really many more people working on the sea than in 1824? I doubt it. The man is talking rot. Four months into the job and the only thing on his mind is how to get more money in, his predecessor having demolished the institute’s reputation in a matter of days.

Dowie said he hoped the decrease in bequests was just about “ebbs and flows”. He said: “We don’t have an easy way of getting statistics on why the amount of money from legacies was reduced.”

Translation: we know damned well why the money is drying up but we don’t want to say anything which will detract attention from our core business of policing the morals of those who volunteer to risk their lives for those at sea.

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Thick’s Turn, Parliament Facked

One of the characteristics of Tony Blair and New Labour was a delusional belief in their own intelligence and abilities. He and his cronies really did think they could open up the bonnet of the United Kingdom and rearrange the engine and gearbox so that it worked better. However, it soon became apparent they had no idea what they were doing. For example:

In 2003, Tony Blair chose his close friend and former flatmate Lord Falconer to be Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. At the same time, he announced his intention to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and to make many other constitutional reforms. After much surprise and confusion, it became clear that the ancient office of Lord Chancellor could not be abolished without an Act of Parliament. Thus Lord Falconer duly appeared the following day in the House of Lords to carry out his duties from the Woolsack.

What is lacking in modern politicians is any sense of humility, the notion that perhaps things are that way for a reason and don’t need “improvement” from some grifter of average intelligence.

From 1911 to 2011, a British Prime Minister was allowed to call a general election at any time prior to the 5-year term limit. This meant that a government could, if they wished, go back to the public to confirm their mandate without having to wait in limbo until the 5 years were up. This seemed to work pretty well: early elections weren’t a feature of British political life, and we were mercifully free of constitutional crises.

Then in 2011 those two towering statesmen David Cameron and Nick Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act, for reasons which could hardly be described as pressing. This removed the ability of a Prime Minister to call a general election, instead requiring a vote of no confidence or a two-third Commons vote. Fast forward to September 2019, and we have a Prime Minister who controls neither his own party nor parliament unable to move forward with his legislative agenda. The public have made their preferences clear, but parliament is defying both them and the government. Before the Fixed Term Parliament Act Boris Johnson could simply have called a general election, to secure a mandate for delivering Brexit (or not). But now he’s stuck: he can’t secure a two-thirds majority because the last thing these MPs want is to go before an angry public, and nobody is putting forward a vote of no confidence. So unless the antics of Jacob Rees-Mogg goads them into doing so, or Johnson somehow organises a no confidence vote against himself, we’re just stuck in deadlock.

This is the problem with modern politicians. They arrive in a bubble of hubris and set about meddling with things they know nothing about, consequences be damned. Regardless of your views on Brexit, it is revealing how utterly bereft of brains or talent our political classes have been for years.

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The End of the Oilfield Expat

Okay, I’m back. Sorry for leaving you all in the dark over the last few days, but I’ve been busy.

Last week I was back in the UK, mainly for a job interview. I never intended to come back to Britain, but always said I would for the right job, and now the right one seems to have presented itself. I will be leaving the oil and gas industry, moving into energy technologies, which I’m glad about because it looks like a far more dynamic environment. The oil industry moves at the pace of a snail.

Now maybe some of you are asking why I didn’t pursue my intention of being a freelance consultant or interim manager as I explained back in June. Well, I tried. What I quickly learned was:

1) Nobody will hire you as a consultant unless you have lots of consultancy experience or a big name consultancy on your CV. Simply knowing a lot about a particular industry and having general competence is not enough.

2) Industry experience is everything. Unless you have all the keywords related to a particular industry on your CV, forget it. A construction consultancy would rather hire a janitor who worked on a building site than an engineer who worked in oil and gas.

Now I didn’t put 100% effort in – and I thank everyone who helped me or made themselves available – because my oil and gas CV started working for me on its own. When I started getting calls about jobs which aligned with my CV out of the blue, I started to wonder if it was worth killing myself for 2-3 years building a reputation and network from scratch. And in the end I found a job which looks to be very interesting and pays well, so it became a no-brainer. It is very much an engineering-related position, and although I’ll not be using my HR knowledge directly, there will be ample scope to use it indirectly. So apologies to everyone who put themselves out to help me with my freelance plans; it was not my intention to mess you about. If you feel that aggrieved, I’ll buy you a beer.

I was initially sad I’ll no longer be able to blog about my experiences in dangerous foreign lands filled with strange-looking people with odd customs and a scant grasp of the English language, but the feeling vanished when I realised I’m probably going to be living in London. The other option is Cambridge, but I think London suits me better. I’ve been away for over 16 years and the UK has changed in that time, and so have I. I’m actually looking forward to it.

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Failure Spots

In April last year I wrote this:

The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.

And:

I  may have said this before, but the reason nobody minds draconian laws and policing in Singapore is because it works: the city is clean, safe, and orderly. What Britain (and a lot of other places) has managed is to have all the drawbacks of an overbearing state but none of the advantages. What appalls people so much about the latest case of people who’ve lived peacefully in the UK for decades being deported is not simply the injustice, which is bad enough. It’s that at the same time we cannot deport lunatic hate preachers from the Middle East with a hook in place of a right hand because it’s against their human rights. Oh, and we need to pay for his four wives and eighteen children, too. I exaggerate, but not by much. If the state is not going to do any good, they at least ought not to do harm.

When you live in the developing world you learn not to expect much from the state institutions. After all, they are often hopelessly corrupt and the people working in them unmotivated, untrained, and poorly paid. But a feature of the decline of western civilisation is government institutions (and companies: see my posts on Boeing, for example) losing their core competence while remaining ruthlessly effective when it comes to irrelevant nonsense. Here’s a great example:

As the name suggests, Public Health England is the government body charged with overseeing public health in England and Wales. As Chris Snowdon has documented, they have been instrumental in lobbying for legislation as to how much sugar, salt, and fat should be in every item of food, how large restaurant portions should be, and how supermarkets should arrange their shelves. Yet they’ve presided over a situation where people’s distrust of vaccines and government authorities has led to an increase in measles outbreaks. As Snowdon says, you had one job.

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Cambridge

Can anyone tell me what it’s like living there? Is it expensive? What sort of salary would I need to make it half-decent?

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Posted in UK

Workin’ on a building

This is a good article on the real world consequences of the ludicrous 2015 Modern Slavery Act which requires British companies to ensure there is no “exploitation” in its supply chains.

I’ve witnessed how British companies outsource this responsibility to local factory managers in Sri Lanka.

These local managers feel tremendous pressure to monitor their workforce, even beyond the shop floor, for fear of losing their contracts. And this leads to an excessive amount of surveillance, with devastating consequences for factory workers, most of whom are female.

[B]y recommending universal policies, the Modern Slavery Act fails to take into account how local suppliers around the world respond to it, even though the law effectively transfers to them the responsibility to keep the workforce free from modern slavery. It has led to a climate of suspicion and fear that exacerbates the already difficult lives of their workforce.

Like so much contemporary legislation, the Modern Slavery Act mainly exists to signal the virtues of the western professional middle-classes. 

I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.

It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”

This was never about the victims. As this paragraph makes clear:

More disturbingly, intentionally or not, Article 54 makes global factory managers responsible for the leisure activities of their workers and, by extension, their moral conduct.

Which is a feature, not a bug. Be it environmental legislation or the Modern Slavery Act, the goal is to force ordinary people to behave in ways which meet the approval of city-dwelling noodle-armed men and women who buy wine by the box. As I’m fond of saying, these people would be better off going to church.

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Class Struggle

This tweet provides an interesting insight into the mindset of Britain’s ruling classes and those who support them:


To Britain’s Metropolitan professional classes, this shows how beyond the pale Trump is. To me, it shows how catastrophically authoritarian Britain has become. I don’t know what Americans think about it, but I suspect they’re rather glad they’re an independent nation with a constitution which prevents citizens being prosecuted for unapproved speech. In fact, reading this tweet is probably the only thing which would make Americans glad they have the lawyers they do. That’s some achievement.

This story is not unrelated:

Scotland Yard performed a climbdown on Saturday following accusations it had attempted to use the furore over the leaking of comments by the British ambassador about President Trump to silence the British media.

As criticism mounted steadily over the Met’s warning to editors that they faced prosecution if they published leaked government documents, assistant commissioner Neil Basu issued a statement clarifying that the force did not want to stop the press from publishing stories.

His reassurance appeared to represent a U-turn from a statement Basu had issued less than 24 hours earlier in which he warned the “media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s government”.

The reason the Met performed a U-turn is because it generated howls of outrage from the press, for example:


But you’ll notice that when ordinary people were being prosecuted for off-colour jokes, posting rap lyrics, and mean tweets the press was utterly silent. There’s a reason for this. The ruling classes, for which the mainstream media is simply a propaganda machine, believe they are harbingers of truth whose duty is to inform the plebs on what they must say, do, and think and as such their freedom of speech must not be curtailed. But the plebs are plebs, and who knows what harm they may cause if they’re allowed to go around saying what they like? Therefore, we need rules on allowable speech to keep them in line.

The truth is, free speech is dead in Britain, assuming it was ever alive. What we have here is a fight between different sets of the ruling classes and those who hope to join them over who gets to control the language, while both agreeing that the oiks should be chucked in jail for saying the wrong things.

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Those in peril on Form C

Remember the story of the RNLI volunteers being sacked for upsetting some bureaucrat? Well now the Coastguard have got in on the act:

The coastguard sacked two volunteers after they rescued a car from a cliff edge — because, despite not being used, the agency’s Land Rover was still on the scene.

Richard Clarkson and Ian Pedrick had more than 60 years’ of life saving experience behind them when they were fired from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after the incident in Bolberry Down near Salcombe, Devon.

Richard and Ian, who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by becoming a member of the coastguard 42 years ago, were part of a team sent to the scene of a runaway car.

But when they got there the crew stood down because the vehicle had stopped further down the slope and no lives were in danger.

The pair decided to change out of their coastguard uniform and used Richard’s personal Land Rover and equipment to tow it back from the cliff edge.

But because the coastguard vehicle had not been brought back to the station they were both still on duty and moving the car was not in their remit.

They were deemed to have committed a technical breach even though they has not used the coastguard’s Land Rover or any supplied equipment.

Ian said: ‘We have been dismissed with immediate effect.

Here’s the problem. The sort of people who volunteer for the Coastguard and RNLI are goal-driven, meaning they are inspired to donate their time and efforts because they want to help others. By contrast, the sort of people who infest the middle management of modern organisations are process-driven, and are concerned only that the right steps in the procedure have been followed and their next promotion is locked in. Whether some poor sod being swept out to sea lives or dies is immaterial: they didn’t join the Coastguard because they wanted to save people from drowning. Note also that the person who made the decision remains anonymous, which is consistent with this weasel statement:

The MCA said it would be ‘inappropriate to comment at this time’.

Then a few days later we had this:

Two veteran volunteer coastguards have resigned after they say they were reprimanded for taking a teenager to hospital in a van instead of an ambulance.

The officer in charge (OIC) of Croyde Coastguard Rescue Team, in Devon, said he quit after being told he would have to start his training again.

He said a female colleague with 18 years’ experience also resigned.

The former coastguard said on Sunday 23 June at 01:00 BST his team was called to help an 18-year-old man who had drunk too much and was unconscious, cold and wet in the sand dunes.

They found him and together with a paramedic put him on a stretcher to wait for an ambulance.

“We had a couple of ambulances on route but they were diverted,” he said, adding that the paramedic said it could be two hours before an ambulance was available.

He said they put the young man in the back of his van with the paramedic and drove to hospital.

He was reprimanded the next day and told he would have to go back through the training process, he said.

The former coastguard said he accepted he did not follow the guidelines, but had acted in the best interests of the casualty.

There is no room for judgement or nuance in the modern organisation. It is follow the rules to the letter or face the consequences. This approach might work if you’re running an airline or an oil company, but not when you’re dealing with volunteer organisations. Volunteers by definition are driven by intrinsic motivators – a sense of purpose, responsibility, task ownership, task identification, self-esteem, etc. – rather than extrinsic motivators such as a salary. If you kill off those motivators then people simply won’t volunteer any more. I give it a generation before the likes of the RNLI and Coastguard are bereft of volunteers and begging the government for funds.

As a wise man once said, while processes and procedures are necessary for the efficient and effective running of an organisation, they must remain subservient to the organisation’s primary goals.

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Posted in UK