Sunk like Estonia

From the BBC:

A Paris court has rejected a claim for compensation over the 1994 sinking of the Estonia ferry.

More than 1,000 survivors and relatives of victims requested €40.8m (£36.6m;$45.8m) from the French agency that deemed the vessel seaworthy and the German shipbuilder.

But the court said the claimants failed to prove “intentional fault”.

The sinking of the MS Estonia killed 852 people, making it one of history’s deadliest European maritime disasters.

The vessel was sailing from Estonia to Sweden on 28 September 1994 when it sank in the Baltic Sea. Most passengers on board the ship were trapped inside after it capsized, while 97 who managed to leave the vessel died in freezing water. There were 137 survivors.

There was always something about that disaster which intrigued me, and I’m not sure what. It might have been that it was the first time I’d ever heard of Estonia and Tallinn: these were names you didn’t really hear mentioned much, even four years after the dissolution after the Soviet Union. This was before the days of Schengen and stag dos; the Baltic states still retained that air of eastern bloc mystique, which was probably the driver of the conspiracy theory that it was a deliberate sinking due to the presence on board of smuggled ex-Soviet military intelligence personnel/secret military equipment (delete as appropriate). There were then rumours that the wreck had been interfered with, and the Swedish government ordered it encased in concrete to prevent anyone finding the truth. I even once met a ship surveyor who claimed some involvement in the investigation and swore the wreck had been physically moved, which he interpreted as evidence of skulduggery. This was a long time ago, and if I believed him then I don’t now. The simple fact is, ferries have always been surprisingly dangerous compared to other forms of transport, mainly due to poor economics, poor maintenance, and crew/owner complacency. I can’t imagine standards in Estonia in 1994 were very high; poor cargo distribution meant the MS Estonia was listing to starboard as it left the port, before the accident with the bow door even happened.

I think what really struck me about the accident is how quickly it unfolded. The ship listed 15 degrees immediately, and fifteen minutes later was at 60 degrees. Twenty minutes later it was at 90 degrees. You can imagine what that’s like, at one o’clock in the morning in September in the middle of the Baltic Sea as freezing water rushes in and the lights go out. Little wonder that out of 989 people on board, only 138 were rescued alive. When in January 2013 I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn during the day, I went out on deck and peered over the edge. That was bad enough. I thought of the poor souls aboard the MS Estonia and shuddered. I still do.


Friends, Romans, Countrymen

I’m back from Spain after a 10 hour drive yesterday in the middle of that heatwave everyone’s talking about. Fortunately my car has air conditioning.

Tarragona was nice, although strictly speaking I was in a small town called Altafulla a little down the coast towards Barcelona. I spent two days on the beach and two nights drinking until 4am so it wasn’t the most productive of holidays, but I did get to hang out with my friend, his family, and a whole load of his friends who all live in Altafulla and have known each other since they were kids. From what I could tell, Altafulla is a place where Spanish families live or go on holiday: I didn’t see any foreigners or even hear English spoken the whole weekend I was there. Unfortunately I don’t speak Spanish, but that didn’t seem to matter very much. And I was reliably told the conversations would routinely switch to Catalan in any case. The food I ate alternated between Spanish, Venezuelan, and Catalan so I got the full culinary experience. I drank whatever was close to hand, which was often rum. I’d never spent much time in the company of Spaniards before, and I have to say they were very friendly and welcoming, and they like to have fun. The place is also extraordinarily cheap when compared to France. Perhaps I should go back.

As planned, I stopped at the Pont du Gard on the drive down. It’s worth seeing.

I made the mistake of thinking the bridge is all that’s there, so thought I’d just visit for an hour then leave. It turns out there’s a sort of beach there where you can swim, go kayaking, etc. as well as an excellent museum meaning you could easily spend a whole day at the place. I had a good look at the aqueduct from both sides but couldn’t devote more than half an hour to the museum which explained how it was built and why. It’s a shame because I’d like to have spent more time there, but was enough to get an idea of the incredible vision, ambition, and skill of the Romans. It left me wondering if a municipal government could execute a comparable project today, two thousand years later. I bet the Romans didn’t worry about how diverse the engineering team was, at any rate. As I was reading about its construction I learned there was another Roman aqueduct in, funnily enough, Tarragona. If I’d spent less time drinking I might have turned the trip into a Roman aqueduct tour. As it was, I only glimpsed it from the motorway. The Pont du Gard is well worth a visit though, and I can recommend it. While I was there I did see a few British tourists; I mention them just so I could get the post title working.



I’ll not be posting for a few days as I’m going to Tarragona in Spain to meet up with a Venezuelan mate and, probably, drink rum until I fall over. I’ll be driving down, and this afternoon I hope to stop at the Pont du Gard to marvel at Roman engineering and construction. I’ll spend the night in Perpignan and continue on my way tomorrow.

Be good while I’m gone.



Unsurprisingly, people are rather upset about this:

Goaded on by the president, a crowd at a Donald Trump rally on Wednesday night chanted “send her back! send her back!” in reference to Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman who arrived almost 30 years ago as a child refugee in the United States.

But it’s important to remember this didn’t come out of a clear blue sky.

If someone who looks, dresses, sounds, and acts foreign stands up as an elected member of the US Congress and continuously slanders millions of ordinary Americans as white supremacists, what do people think is going to happen? That they’ll just take this abuse on the chin? There is no population on earth which would put up with such a person for very long, and Omar and her ilk seem determined to see just how far the tolerance of the American public can be pushed. She’s playing a very dangerous game, and she’s at least half-responsible for making “Send ’em all back!” a slogan in American politics, something which would have been unheard of even two years ago. As I’ve said before:

America has been fortunate so far that white nationalists have tended to be grossly incompetent. This is because there’s been no future in subscribing to it, it’s a dead-end losers’ game. But if Somalis in headscarves are going to spend their time denouncing white people from congress, while at the same time you have a tens of millions of disenfranchised right wingers who happen to be white, an avenue of opportunity might open up. And then instead of the bunglers some competent people arrive on the scene who’ve carefully observed how the ruling classes behave, know how to evade their counterattacks, and form a movement which suddenly becomes too big to shut down. And then the fun really begins.

This has gone far beyond Republicans versus Democrats. The American ruling classes need to get a handle on this woman, and fast.


Mother To Please Her

One of the paradoxes of modern feminism is that it’s granted certain women freedom but at the expense of their ability to function as adults. Take a look at this article in – where else? – The Guardian:

It feels very personal, the fight you have with your partner about who does the laundry or cleans the bathroom.

But the second-wave feminists were right. The personal is political. The unequal division of labour at home is a systemic issue that needs structural social change to solve it.

Yes, we must restructure society because some entitled princess doesn’t want to clean the bathroom.

Housework, writes Megan K Stack in her book Women’s Work, is “a ubiquitous physical demand that has hamstrung and silenced women for most of human history”.

Until the invention of the washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, and vacuum cleaner. Which, coincidentally, is about the time feminists found the time and energy to complain how terrible their lives were.

Like many heterosexual couples, it was the arrival of children that set my husband and me on divergent paths at home. I’ve been an avowed (and untidy) feminist since I was old enough to say the word.

Western feminists like to boast they’re untidy, hoping it signals a carefree mind occupied by loftier matters than keeping the place clean. What it actually signals is she’s a lazy slob.

We were together for 10 years before the birth of our daughter – he knew his co-parent had zero aspirations to be a homemaker. So how did we end up so easily slipping into the prescribed gender roles that we’d dodged up until then?

Well, what happened when the sink got blocked?

There are a few reasons that come to mind, such as structural issues like the lack of parental leave for fathers and the gender pay gap.

I have another theory, related to the note at the bottom of the article which says “Nicola Heath is a freelance writer”. At a guess, you decided to indulge in a poorly-paid hobby rather than get a proper job, leaving your husband as the main breadwinner. Given he’s at work all day while you knock out boilerplate rubbish for The Guardian, it’s probably only fair that you clean the toilet occasionally.

Becoming a parent is already a huge transition. Your identity is reforged in the crucible of sleep deprivation and newfound responsibility. The pre-kid lifestyle of Friday night drinks, free time and sleeping in becomes a distant memory.

Having a baby changes your life. Who knew?

In this period of chaotic readjustment, it’s easy to fall back on what we know. Even in this era of dual-income households, women take the reins at home and men … carry on pretty much as they always did, with less sleep.

The complaint seems to be that when feminists have babies they adopt behaviours which work rather than stage a political protest.

But the tired and outdated breadwinner model is just as limiting for men as it is for women. The pressure men feel to provide for their families means they work long hours and miss out on time with their children in the name of economic security.

Indeed, driven by crippling mortgages to pay for houses they might not have chosen had they been married to a Filipina called Cherry.

A report by Deloitte put the value of unpaid work in Victoria at $205bn, half the gross state product,

How much of that was performed by men?

while PwC research from 2017 found that women performed 72% of unpaid work in Australia.

I hope that study was better than the one I cited here.

Some women don’t want to work outside the home – and that’s fine. But others do, and for them pursuing a career can be an uphill battle as they try to manage paid and unpaid work.

Because men don’t mow lawns, clear gutters, paint sheds, unblock drains, change car batteries, assemble wardrobes, replace loose slates, bleed radiators, and take care of the home insurance while pursuing a career.

If women want their partners to do more domestic tasks – which would free them up to do more work outside the home – it’s not going to happen without some uncomfortable conversations.

Such as: “Tell me more about this work outside the home, and how much money will it bring in?”

Change is difficult. We’re asking someone to give up their privilege, a sticking point articulated by pioneering New Zealand economist Marilyn Waring in her 1988 book Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth. “Men won’t easily give up a system in which half the world’s population works for next to nothing,” she wrote.

Ah yes, those 20th century miners, farmers, fishermen, labourers, warehousemen, soldiers, sailors, construction workers, all fighting tooth and nail to maintain their privilege.

For many women, this is a hard conversation to initiate. It requires saying, “my needs are important too, and what’s best for the family isn’t necessarily best for me” – something that goes against how we expect women to behave.

It goes against how we expect anyone to behave in a functioning relationship with children involved, to be honest. There’s a reason why it’s a hard conversation to initiate: you run the risk of being exposed as possibly the most selfish individual to ever progenate.

My eldest daughter is now six, and while my husband does a great deal around the house, I have never returned to working full-time. His career has forged ahead (to our collective benefit) while mine has adapted to the demands of childcare.

I can taste the oppression.

If we want women to flourish, we need to make some concessions.

Might I suggest you take this up with your husband rather than the general public?

But the result – men and women better fulfilling their potential inside and outside the home – is worth it.

If your potential outside the home was anything other than minimal, that’s where you’d already be.


Gas Trap

I’ll use this tweet to kick off a post about associated gas:

When you produce crude oil through a well, it’s not just oil that comes up. You also get mud, water, gas, and certain nasty substances. The water is called “produced water” for obvious reasons, and the gas “associated gas”. This means it is associated with oil production, which distinguishes if from a field which is developed purely for its gas reserves (in which case it’s called unassociated gas).

The problem of what to do with associated gas is one that has plagued the oil industry since its founding. Produced water can be treated and put back into the sea or a water course, but you can’t do that with gas. Until a decade or two ago, oil companies would simply burn it off, which is why old pictures of oilfields showed enormous flares lighting up the entire region twenty four hours a day. This pumped some pretty nasty substances into the local environment, but important people only really got concerned when global warming came along and they started looking at how much CO2 was produced by this practice. So what is known as “operational flaring” got severely restricted or banned in most places. The tweet above is referring to the ongoing practice of operational flaring in the Permian basin, the home of the US shale revolution.

One small point before we continue: you still see flares on modern oil and gas facilities because they are part of the process safety system. If you have a problem on your plant, the option of last resort is to dump all your inventory to the flare and let it burn. It’s not good, but better than blowing up the whole plant, taking the neighbouring town with it. So this is why you still see a small, lazy flare burning at the top of a stack in a refinery: it’s burning fuel gas, just to keep it lit for when it’s needed. This is completely different from operational flaring.

So if you can’t flare the associated gas, you have two options. You can reinject it into the reservoir, either to increase reservoir pressure to aid production or just to stop it being emitted to the atmosphere. If that’s not possible either because the reservoir engineers will get upset or, in the case of shale, there is no reservoir, the other option is to monetise it somehow (which might be attractive even if you can reinject it). In many developments, this means running a pipeline to an existing gas plant. If your oilfield is close to other developments, this is often possible. LNG isn’t really an option with associated gas, but you might be able to build a gas plant providing power to local homes and businesses if there is a population centre nearby. Another option is an LPG plant where the gas gets treated and bottled and then trucked to a nearby population centre. I’ve heard of oil companies talking about giving away gas stoves to locals in order to create a market for LPG, but I’m not sure if it was ever done.

The problem comes when none of these options are feasible. I’ve been involved in lots of new development studies at the preliminary stages and the question always arises: what do we do with the gas? One project was in Kurdistan, miles from anywhere. The intention was to produce crude, store it in those huge tanks you see beside refineries, and then pipe it to a refinery or terminal somewhere or offload it into trucks. But we didn’t know what to do with the gas, and there was a lot of it. We couldn’t reinject it, and there was no population centre nearby. We then discovered the gas was full of nasty substances so when we crunched the numbers we’d find we’d be spending X of CAPEX to produce oil and 2X processing the associated gas, and then not knowing what to do with it. So the project got binned: too expensive.

This is why they still allow operational flaring in the Permian basin. It’s not good for the environment, but if it were banned there would be no shale revolution, the oil price would still be above a $100 per barrel, and I might still have a career. One option, and I don’t know how feasible this is without looking at the area in question, would be for the government to provide incentives to all players to build a central gas processing facility which could take all the associated gas and do something with it. But that might face all sorts of regulatory hurdles, let alone the pipelines associated with such a scheme. So they’re stuck between a rock and hard place: force them to dispose of the gas or charge them for emissions, and you’d kill the industry and America’s new-found energy independence. I expect we’ll see several battles played out over this issue in the years to come.


Special Victims Unit

This doesn’t come as a surprise:

The American Psychological Association has established a task force on “consensual non-monogamy,”

They’re going to classify polyamorists as mentally ill? From what I’ve seen that sounds perfectly reasonable. Ah, wait:

“Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people’s life experience. However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all. This task force seeks to address the needs of people who practice consensual non-monogamy, including their intersecting marginalized identities,” the website for the task force of the APA’s Division 44 explains.

It was only a matter of time before polyamorists carved out a special victim box for themselves, gaining privileges in an age of rampant identity politics. Nobody can say they haven’t been agitating for it for a long time, duly assisted by the dimmer end of the press corps.

Andre Van Mol, a board-certified family physician in Redding, California who co-chairs the committee on adolescent sexuality for the American College of Pediatricians, said in an email to The Christian Post that this is yet another example of marginal sexual practices being promoted as normal with academic gloss, making destructive things sound helpful and good.

He’s right, of course. I wonder if he’s a reader here?

“Their sexuality divisions have long since been taken over by extremists. Unless parents push back, it won’t be long before this will be taught to our children in school with the usual emotional blackmail that to do otherwise is to stigmatize.”

He added: “Since American mental health experts have largely given up on their job of investigating underlying factors that may be contributing to marginal sexual behavior, this is what we are left with, the cult of affirmation.”

This argument should be at the front and centre of our socio-political discourse, but instead it’s relegated to a couple of paragraphs in an article about polyamory. This goes a long way to explain how we find ourselves here.

(Via two different people who I’ve forgotten. Sorry.)


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.


Sisters Sledge

Staying on the topic of my brilliant foresight, here’s what I had to say in February:

I have a feeling [Nancy Pelosi’s] biggest challenge is going to be putting a leash on the likes of AOC.

And in January:

The current Democrats are a coalition of lunatics headed by the sort of ultra-privileged, wrinkly old white people they claim to despise. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer look as though they’re about raise an objection to a black family moving into their gated community, not cede power to an upstart Latina from Queens.

In short, AOC is going to present a far bigger headache for establishment Democrats than she is Republicans in the coming years.

And here we are:

The public spat between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, got a lot nastier on Wednesday, with the freshman congresswoman suggesting that the speaker is “singling out” her and her colleagues based on their race.

Pelosi has worked to keep the Democratic caucus in line, specifically four newly-elected outspoken progressives: Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass..

However, a feud between Pelosi and the quartet escalated after Congress passed a border funding bill that the four young Democrats opposed. Pelosi discussed the bill, and those in her party who oppose it, in an interview last weekend. She told the New York Times: “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”

Ocasio-Cortez said to The Washington Post on Wednesday that the “persistent singling out” by the Speaker may be more than “outright disrespectful.”

And people say politics is unpredictable these days.


Malice forethought

Back in December I wrote the following in regards to Somalian congresswoman Ilhan Omar:

Any society which allows rank outsiders to enter and immediately set about agitating for radical change probably won’t last very long. Any society which allows foreigners to take part in their national political process such that they attempt to overturn parts of the constitution, suppress free speech, and denounce the population as racist is engaged in a suicide pact.

Here’s Tucker Carlson a few days ago:

No country can survive being ruled by people who hate it.

There are signs that some people who move here from abroad don’t like this country at all. As we told you last night, one of those people now serves in our Congress.

Think about that for a minute. Our country rescued Ilhan Omar from the single poorest place on Earth. We didn’t do it for the money, we did it because we are kind people. How did she respond to the remarkable gift we gave her?

She scolded us, called us names, showered us with contempt. It’s infuriating. More than that, it is also ominous. The United States admits more immigrants more than any other country on Earth, more than a million every year. The Democratic Party demand we increase that by and admit far more. OK, Americans like immigrants, but immigrants have got to like us back.

That’s the key, it’s essential. Otherwise, the country falls apart.

It appears Tucker has been reading my archives. Good for him. Naturally, Omar’s response was to call him racist. But he also made this very good point:

In some ways, the real villain in the Ilhan Omar story isn’t Omar, it is a group of our fellow Americans. Our cultural gatekeepers who stoke the resentment of new arrivals and turn them into grievance mongers like Ilhan Omar. The left did that to her, and to us. Blame them first.

Indeed: the real problem is not immigrants hating America, it is Americans hating America, and this can easily be extrapolated to the UK and other western countries.