All work and no play makes Tim a dull blogger

Sorry about the lack of posting as of late.  My outrage at the political inanity contained within the Gulf News and other such publications has withered as a result of my not having opened a newspaper in a week or so.  I’ve been pretty busy, running up and down to Kuwait, where I have been exposed instead to the fuckwittery which accompanies hotel operations seemingly anywhere in the world (with the notable exception of Seoul).

I’ve also been preparing for my holidays at the end of June, when I will be taking my lovely girlfriend to the UK to meet my friends and family for the first time before we both go to St. Petersburg, where she is from.  This has involved booking two sets of flights, train tickets, and leave application forms, plus arranging her UK visa and my Russian one.

This, on top of the fact that I am seriously busy at work, has lead to blogging fatigue which I hope will disappear before too long.


Local Joke

A man brings a lion into Dubai.  For the next month, the man feeds the lion nothing but bananas.  The lion is obviously unimpressed with this, but still the man continues to feed him only bananas.  Eventually, the lion snaps:

“Look, you dickhead, I’m a lion!  A lion, understand?  That means I eat meat, not damned bananas!”

And the man replies:

“Yeah, sorry about that.  But I got you in on a visit visa as a monkey.”


Ban Stuff First, Engage Brain Later

In a case of economic idiocy which serves as a useful explanation as to why socialists never get taken seriously and remain forever frustrated that nobody is being persuaded by their arguments in significant numbers, Brownie from Harry’s Place suggests alleviating the UK housing shortage with this stroke of genius:

Ban the purchase of second (and second, and third, etc..) homes outright

Well, let’s consider this for more than the half-second Comrade Brownie has.  If the purchase of a second property is outlawed, who is supposed to provide the nation’s rental accommodation?  Or does each rented property come with a fully fitted landlord with whom you have to share the place?  Bad news for those in a studio, I guess.


Back to Work

So, I’m back to work having woken up this morning well on the road to recovery.

I’m pretty much off the painkillers now, and there is a bit of discomfort but nothing I can’t handle (see, I’m getting all brave now, after the event).  To be honest, the actual pain wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected, the surprise was the amount my jaw swelled up.  This didn’t really hurt, it was just uncomfortable as I couldn’t open my mouth very far nor close it entirely, meaning all food had to be slurped off a spoon in liquid form.  My tongue became ulcerated in one place too, but thanks to the wonders of Medigel, that little problem was soon dispensed with.

My face is still swollen and a nice yellow bruise is developing.  The jaw is still tender, although oddly not in the area of the teeth, which makes me wonder if there is a nerve centre further along the jawbone where all pain is focussed.  I am not ready to devour a huge burger and I doubt I’ll be able to for a day or so yet, but I’m looking forward to stuffing my face with junk food in order to put back on the weight I’ve lost.  I was not exactly Fatty of the Year before, but now I look like something out of Belsen.

I’ve got a bit of recovery to go yet, but hopefully I’m over the worst.  Fortunately, I was prescribed antibiotics to keep infection at bay, and my lying in bed without moving a muscle, mouth open, for the first 2 days seems to have paid off.


Tooth Update

Well that was a barrel of laughs!

I am now two wisdom teeth and £330 lighter.  My jaw is still under anaesthetic, and when he was removing the lower tooth he bruised my tongue, which then swelled up, and I am now speaking like Jamie Oliver.

Fortunately he didn’t have to remove any bone, so he assures me there should not be too much swelling.  He did an excellent job, and I didn’t feel any pain as such, but I was amazed are the force required to remove a tooth.  At one point, I thought he’d given up on removing the lower one as it was currently situated, and was instead removing my jaw so he could work on it in a vice.  I had never undergone anything like this before, and had foolishly not eaten anything beforehand.  A combination of the empty stomach, the taste of chemicals in my mouth, and me being a wimp led me to feel very sick, become all dizzy, and pass out for a second or two.  I came round to find the rather attractive Scandinavian nurse mopping my brow for me, which was not bad at all.  Then they ripped out the upper one, which I could hear more than feel.  The crunching of tooth and bone, knowing full well it is your own, is not a pleasant sound.

Still, everything’s okay so far, and I have a few hours until the anaesthetic wears off and the pain kicks in properly.  Expect plenty of whining and complaing from me over the next few days. 


“Thou shall have no other gods besides Me…”

declares the second Commandment of ten.  Sorry, old chap, but you’re going to have to shift over and make a bit of room temporarily.  Whoever invented Brufen 600 is making a strong case for God-like worship right now.  Damn, when the anaesthetic was wearing off it started to hurt.  Really hurt.  Okay, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain, but it damned well hurt anyway.  Fortunately, with one horse-tablet of Ibuprofen, I was able to sleep a bit.

But now I’m hungry, and the surgeon said don’t eat anything hot.  So I guess I’ll have to eat those 12 cans of soup bought specially some other time, eh?  Never thought of yoghurt, as Mark suggests in the comments.  I have none in the house, and really don’t want to go to the supermarket, with all those protruding shelves and sharp edges at jaw height.  All I’ve got is a bag if Dorritos, which I bought to watch the football tonight.  I might as well have bought razor blades.


Tooth Blogging

Further to similar posts by Tim Worstall and Mark Holland, I’m having a wisdom tooth or two out tomorrow.

In fact, it was Mark’s post and his response to my comments on it that encouraged me to go to the dentist in the first place.  I’d not been for about 8 years, and although I had no problems I knew about, the healthcare in Dubai – if you go to one of the more expensive places – is second to none.  Were I to move to Russia in the next few years and require a wisdom tooth extraction there, I would in all likelihood be wishing I’d taken care of things in Dubai (see Tim’s post, for example).

So, along I trotted and got a checkup and panoramic x-ray (cost=£60) which revealed I had 4 cavities and a wisdom tooth growing into my jawbone.  Marvellous.  On Sunday I had the 4 cavities drilled and filled, plus an hour with the dental hygienist for cleaning, scraping, and polishing.  No anaesthetic or anything, mind.  As a result, I was in agony.  Which was a shame, because up until I was presented with the bill I didn’t feel a thing.  Then I needed sedation.  Three of the fillings were £65 each, plus another for £75, and the cleaning was £60 making a total of £390.  And no, my medical cover does not include dental work.  In fairness the dentist, who was French Lebanese, was superb.

So tomorrow, I have to go back, and I am not sure which is going to cause the greater pain and trauma: having the tooth removed, or paying the bill.  I’ll let you know.


Shenanigans at Russian beauty contest

Via Tim Worstall, himself no stranger to Russia’s rather, er, odd ways of doing things, we get this story:

IT WAS billed as a celebration of female beauty and family values set against the picturesque backdrop of Russia’s second city of St Petersburg.

Instead, the Mrs World 2006 contest has become a showcase for the sort of political intrigue, bureaucratic intransigence and organisational chaos that has plagued post-Soviet Russia.


First of all, several contestants were refused visas for last month’s beauty pageant, in which entrants had to be over 18 and married.

Then, the Mrs World prize jewellery was impounded at St Petersburg’s airport because customs officials said it was not accompanied by the correct paperwork.

Now contestants are accusing the organisers of rigging the competition in favour of Mrs Russia.

When the contest finally went ahead on April 29, the crown was at first awarded to Mrs Costa Rica, Andrea Bermudez-Romero. But no sooner was she crowned than David Marmel, the pageant’s American producer, leapt on to the stage and announced that there had been a mistake.

Without further explanation, the crown was whisked off a weeping Mrs Costa Rica’s head and handed to Mrs Russia — Sofia Arzhakovskaya, 18, a dancer, who is married to Sergei Veremeyenko, a banker ranked as Russia’s 100th richest man.

Not sure what to add to this story, except complete non-surprise and a hearty guffaw.


Amnesty International and Torture

Amnesty International, having been happy to compare the US prison at Guantanamo to the labour camps of Vorkuta, Kolyma, and Noril’sk, is now working hard on making sure that torture is an acceptable practice around the world:

Amnesty International USA Senior Deputy Executive Director Curt Goering said:

“Although the US government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice.

“The US government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish – including by trying to narrow the definition of torture.”

So the Yanks are trying to narrow the definition of torture, presumably to allow them to carry out certain practices without being accused of using torture.  This might well be true, but at some point we’re going to have to come up with a definition of what does and does not constitute torture.  So how do we do this?  Noticeably, outfits like AI shy away from any discussion or study into what is and isn’t torture, preferring to apply their own definition without any consideration for the world at large or any consultation.  Unfortunately, the Amnesty definition of torture is thus rather alien to those who 1) Amnesty are trying to convince to stop torturing, and 2) the public who ultimately are required to hold the torturers to account.

For instance, were I to learn that my government was involved in the use of torture as I see it, I would conjure up images of electric shocks to the bollocks, Guy Fawkes on the rack, red hot pokers, mock executions, beatings, floggings, tying people to anthills, ect. and would be rightfully appalled.  I would be encouraged to take serious action against such a government, be it my own or anyone else’s.  Now each and every person will have their own view of what is torture and what is not.  For instance, some will think standing somebody to attention for 3 hours is torture, others will not.  I’m sure everyone will agree that boiling somebody alive is torture, but there will be disagreements about whether sleep deprivation – to differing extents – is or is not.

In order to make torture unacceptable, it is necessary for the public to be suitably outraged to the point that they demand their governments stop; in order to get the public suitably outraged at torture, you must first define torture to encompass all acts which a significant number consider to be torture.  And here is where Amnesty International has fouled up considerably, and done untold harm in the process.  Take their recent report on torture as practiced by the US, for instance:

The latter include hooding, stripping and shackling of detainees in painful positions as well as using military dogs to intimidate blindfolded detainees; prolonged isolation, deprivation of food and sleep and exposure to extremes of temperature also appear to have been common practice to punish detainees for failing to cooperate or to “soften them up” for interrogation.

All of which Amnesty defines as torture.  Well, sorry – and here I realise in the eyes of some I am admitting to being Tamerlane’s less understanding brother – but when I define torture, I do not include any of those practices above per se.  For sure, prolonged isolation for lengthy periods, or exposure to “extreme” temperatures which are genuinely extreme would be considered torture in anyone’s book.  But I don’t believe I am alone in thinking that threatening somebody with a dog or making them damned uncomfortable constitutes torture.  They are unpleasant practices, without a doubt, and whether or not they are effective or necessary is open to debate; but this debate does not belong in a discussion about torture.

In broadening the definition of torture to encompass practices which are in the eyes of most people merely unpleasant and not torturous, Amensty International is diluting the very force of the word “torture” and the emotions which it stirs in people: the very emotions which they are hoping, and indeed are necessary, to ensure the public forces its government to outlaw the practice.  I am sure I am not alone in this, and I will stick my neck out and claim to speak for many, but in the years since the Iraq war the use of the word “torture” has become so overused that now when I read it, I do not express outrage as before, but instead stifle a yawn.

This has come about by seeing umpteen newspaper articles and press releases charging the US and its allies with torture, and when I churn through the text looking for appalling tales of prisoners having their fingernails ripped out or other such practices, I find that the inmate in question has suffered no more than having some bird stick her tits in his face.  I’m sorry, but I’ve read way too many of these stories to even bother with them any more.  Splashing water on a Koran, depriving them of food or sleep (within reason), or making them feel utterly miserable, humiliated, and uncomfortable does not constitute torture in my book.  If people want my help in condemning torture, you are going to have to leave out stuff like this and narrow your definition to those practices which I consider to be torturous (and the list will be long, believe me).

And Amnesty is doing the exact opposite.  In accusing the USA of trying to narrow the definition, and themselves trying to broaden it, they have alientated thousands of people who would normally support them on this issue.  And what is worse, using such a broad definition fails to distinguish between a government routinely lopping off limbs and a single soldier leading somebody around on a leash.  According to Amnesty, the two acts under their definition of torture are morally inseparable, which to most people is ludicrous.  In hoping to promote humiliating prisoners to be worthy of equal moral outrage as barbaric acts of medieval torture, Amnesty achieves only in excusing the latter to a large degree.  How many governments, now reading daily that the US tortures people on its own soil, are now comfortable in flogging people to death, not knowing or caring that the US “torture” involved nothing more than a man being hooded for a few hours? 

Furthermore, this broadening of the definition allows the US to deflect much of the deserved criticism for genuine acts of torture being carried out by its troops in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.  They can simply point to a handful of ludicrous allegations of torture, and ask the public to decide come the next election.  How can the public be expected to hold the government to account for genuinely torturing prisoners when the details are buried under a mountain of other accusations of torture which the average man on the street thinks is no such thing?

If Amnesty and its members want to make progress on the elimination of torture, they need to start by working with other human rights organisations and the UN (yeah, I know) in drawing up a comprehensive list of those practices which are considered by civilised societies to constitute torture, and gather public support in ensuring that these practices are outlawed without exception worldwide.  Because all they are ensuring on their present course is that the public are so apathetic to accusations of torture that governments the world over can continue to practice it with impunity.


British Politics

I used to be a keen follower of British politics, between the years of 2000 and 2003.  Then when I emigrated and removed myself from the tax system, obviously the state of British politics didn’t have much of an effect on my personal circumstances so over the last few years my interest flagged, although I always had a rough idea what was going on.  To be honest, in the years since the Iraq war with New Labour being as boring as ever and the opposition in utter disarray, there has not been much to arouse my interest.

Until now, that is.  Although the Conservatives have yet to prove themselves to be a formidable opposition, I think the moment has come which everyone knew would have to arrive some day: the moment at which the government starts to self-destruct in the same way the Tories did in the early ’90s.  In British politics, a messy and shambolic fall from grace with the electorate is the standard way in which a government falls, and surprisingly little of their defeat is dependent on the opposition parties.  As the old saying goes: opposition parties don’t win elections, governments lose them.  All the opposition needs to do is hold a steady course on a handful of key policies, resist the temptation to do anything stupid, and not panic in the home straight, and they’ll romp home.

And Labour are now, in my opinion, past the point of no return.  The electorate are fed up with Tony Blair and his Labour government, and with Cherie Blair charging the taxpayer $7,000 for her hair, Tessa Jowell not noticing $350k of dodgy money passing through her household, the NHS imploding while Patricia Hewitt tells people it has never been better, Charles Clarke forcing ID cards on a reluctant population at the same time as releasing a few thousand foreign criminals onto the streets by mistake, and John Prescott unable to keep his dick in his trousers, it will take a miracle for the New Labour spin doctors to convince the voting public that they deserve to be in charge any longer.

I have been longing for the time when I could watch the New Labour project fall apart with its architects being humiliated at every point and turn, desperately trying to cling to power as the timber and masonry falls around their ears.  It has been a long wait, and now I think it is here.  British politics has, for me, become interesting again, and I am now looking forward to the next year or so sat in a comfy chair, bag of popcorn in one hand and beer in the other, watching the whole clusterfuck slowly unravel.

I am looking forward to it immensely.