Oh, these low class lumpens!

Flat chested but truly aristocratic: Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

The first socialite I ever came into contact with was/is a woman called Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Born of an aristocratic stock in England, Tara seemed to do nothing else but attend parties, premieres and get totally sloshed.

Tacky: Uganda’s Zari Hussein waving wads of cash whose origin no one can pinpoint

No, no, no! I never met her physically. However, she used to write a column about her exploits in the Sunday Times and I found it recommended reading whenever I was able to raise my head up from my own exertions on the Sunday morning after the night before. I guess I was fascinated that someone who did absolutely nothing could have had such a glamorous life, flying to Gstaad with the high and mighty one moment,  turning up at the launch of Versace’s latest collection in Milan the next and ending up in London’s Knightbridge doing what she did best: drink expensive champagne and struggle to hang on to her dignity when she got totally drunk which seemed like always.

What Tara lacked in paid work, she more than made up for by being able to write about her ritzy life in a witty, self-deprecating style that made for very entertaining copy.

It was fairly clear that not only had Tara been born with an aristocratic silver spoon in her mouth, she had also taken her English classes seriously. Her most memorable byline for me was when chided a young man who must have had some sexual designs on her to first “put a sock in it.” Then she delivered the coup de grâce with the quip: “Oh you already did, silly me.” It was one of the most amusing put-downs a woman could have conjured about a man’s lack of ‘size’ and Tara delivered it with characteristic panache.

Tara had the pedigree, the flair, the education and ability to write that made her stand out as an IT girl of the 90s.

Alas, not so the so-called socialites one reads about in the press in Uganda today.

It is difficult not to sound as though you are hateful if you use the words gaudy, gauche, garish, in the same sentence. But those are the words that come

Paraded fake dollars in front of a gullible press: Michael (Ezra) Mulyoowa

to mind when one thinks of Uganda’s ‘socialites today.

Like Tara, they, too, seem to have a lot of time and money to spend at all sorts of parties. But that is where the comparison ends.

Uganda has become notorious for producing the most ill-educated, ill-bred, gaudy, gauche, garish (there, those words all in one sentence) socialites you can imagine. If they are not waving around wads of [likely fake] dollars, they are stepping out of helicopters in the middle of a national football tournament or riding around in [always used] luxury cars whose exaggerated costs they have carefully whispered into the ears of a gullible and foolish press corps.

Socialites wouldn’t be who they were if they didn’t have a knack for self-promotion, but what’s puzzling is how Ugandan journalists and the public lap it up without question. It must of course be about the age-old fascination we have for people who seem to have the life we would want to live if we could afford it. Either that or it is the morbid fascination human beings tend to have for car wrecks or dead bodies.

The Ugandan press has happily obliged in propagating the paper-thin images of these barely schooled, over-the-top ‘celebrities. Michael Ezra, a crook of yonder years, managed to hoodwink the press for so long that even when the Kenyan police finally caught up with his scams, the Ugandan press continued to fawn over him. After all, hadn’t he handed out blank checks to journalists and a church? The man was rich and anyone who didn’t believe it was jealous.

Around the time that Michael Ezra’s was coming unstuck, a woman called Bad Black was riding high. Ugly, barely literate and tacky to a fault, she gained notoriety by booking up entire tables in multiple night spots and not showing up to most of them despite having bought booze to go along with the bookings. Apparently, she repeatedly failed to get it into her head that there are only a couple of hours in a night.

Bad Black also became famous for handing out $100 dollar bills to strangers in night clubs, when she was not picking up the entire drinks tab for whoever was interested in drinking free booze.

Ezra was in a Kenyan jail, charged with forgery and fraud the last time I checked. Bad Black is in a Ugandan jail serving four years for embezzling more than $6m from a business account her boyfriend had opened with the intention of buying real estate. Both characters are exactly where they belong.

Uganda’s notorious socialites: Desh Kananura, Michael Ezra, Bad Black

In that mix has now emerged yet another dubious character who has proved rather good at self-promotion. He calls himself Desh Kananura and, until last weekend, was riding high on a wave of popularity (despite rumors of a multitude of crippling debts)  that had sections of the press eating out of the palm of his hand because he put it out there that he was rich, well-connected and owned a ‘happening’ nightclub called Panamera, no doubt named so after the luxury Porsche vehicle of the same name.

That all came crashing down around his ears last weekend when, it would seem, he beat up and killed one of his waiters over 30,000/= ($12.00) and threw the dead man’s body into the trash. Kananura is now on the run, a fugitive from the law, his night club (it is slowly coming to light that he wasn’t the sole owner as he had made out) has been closed and he is going to struggle to make the kind of splashes he has been famous for if he is tried and convicted of the murder of that waiter.

To quote from a friend on another forum, in Uganda that is how ‘we be.’ Crooks, cads, cheats, charlatans, routinely ride high, often with a lot of help from a pliable and, dare one say it, complicit press corps. Then it all inevitably comes crashing down and others take their place before the ink dries on their sentencing documents.

Most Ugandans seem unwilling to accept the old adage: if you have to talk about being classy or rich, you are not! which is how these empty suits continue to hoodwink them with ephemeral riches.

Spending a little time, internalizing it wouldn’t come amiss … but then life wouldn’t be so entertaining, would it?

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When violence a relationship makes

But the heart is not so smart /Can’t always trust it, no /The heart is not so smart Goes where it should not go / Always seems to find / Its way to trouble, no / The heart is not so smart / Oh, no, oh, no (El Debarge)

Here is a fact that feminists and the politically correct (PC) brigade would rather you don’t ever hear or see in print: some women (and men) actually love

Thug: modern day Heathcliff

being roughed up, beaten to a pulp and treated like “bitches” by their love partners!

Violence, violent sex, affinity for rough sex, being beaten blue-black to the extent where one has to mask the bruises with layers of foundation and sunglasses often are the basis of what many men and women would want their relationship to be about … if it weren’t for public opinion casting a disapproving, pontificating nose into their business.

Indeed, that is what makes the thuggish type of man very attractive to many a woman (and the odd man).

Thus far, nothing new. You only have to pick up Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights  to see the hot, passionate, relationship between the refined Catherine and the rough and ready Heathcliff which is frustrated by class-driven political correctness to understand that these kinds of relationships are as old as time itself.

Though Heathcliff was exactly her type – crude, rude, but simmering with sexual energy – Catherine had no way of making the relationship last because of her upper class upbringing. So she settled for the soft, safe, unexciting Edgar Linton whom she despised but was of her own pedigree.

Fast forward four centuries and you still see that sort of scenario being played out by young people of a different generation.

Heathcliff

Let’s be clear about this: if the press hadn’t picked up on Chris Brown beating Rihanna to a pulp, they would never have pretended to break up. Those two young people had found what they wanted in each other and it was clearly a relationship that survived on bouts of violent, physical, fights.

Indeed, since Rihanna was forced by PC to break up with Chris Brown, she has sung about how she likes to be physically manhandled no less than three times up to and including a sexually explicit song track with the real love of her life, Chris Brown.

And what else can one make of Rihanna’s Rude Boy (excerpts below)?

Come here, rude boy, boy; can you get it up? Come here rude boy, boy; is you big enough? … Give it to me, baby like boom, boom, boom What I want,

Rihanna/Brown

want, want is what you want, want, want Nah nah-ah … Tonight I’ma get a little crazy, get a little crazy, baby … I like the way you pull my hair Babe, if I don’t feel it I ain’t faking, no, no I like when you tell me ‘kiss you there’ I like when you tell me ‘move it there’ So giddy-up; time to get it up … (Rihanna’s Rude Boy)

Or the lyrics to the duet she recently agreed to sing with Chris Brown, the man who is supposed to be bad for her:

“Girl I wanna f*** you right now. Been a long time I been missing your body. Lemme, lemme turn the lights down. When I, when I go down it’s a private party.”

Well, well, well … some break up that was then, huh?
Apparently, Paris Hilton, the ultra rich, spoilt, heiress is trying out her beauty and the beast variation on the same theme with her latest allegedly violent boyfriend, River Viperi. It won’t last because her parents will not let it but, hey, why not dabble in the darker side normally denied to nice, well brought up girls?

Rough & ready: something of the night about him

The modern version of Catherine’s Heathcliff is of course what is referred to with a mixture of secret admiration and mock distaste as a thug. Chris Brown is a clean cut, nice young man who has done all he can to turn himself into a ghetto thug, mostly by visiting the tattoo parlor more times than is really necessary. He already had the roughness Rihanna was looking for so all the work he has done to turn himself into a tastelessly tattooed ogre is overkill. But that is another discussion anyway.

This is not to say that all thug-types are violent. It’s simply to make the point that just because a woman/man regularly screams for mercy on account of being beaten up doesn’t mean that she/he is not in the kind of relationship she desires. It is also to explain why your friend goes from dating an abuser to dating yet another abuser – they already know what they want and would look for it openly if only you let them.

Too nice? Nice can be a turn off for some.

To many a man or woman, being punched, having hair pulled, being slapped around like a rag doll … being treated like a whoring bitch is exactly what the doctor ordered. To such men and women, nice guys must indeed come last.

To which one can only  say … to each his/her own. Rihanna, please get back with your man – pretending that you two are not dating is as tired as it is insulting to those you think you are fooling.
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Facebook Break

Saturday morning, September 22, should have gone down as a momentous point in the history of my life but it didn’t.

Why so?

It was the day I unilaterally decided to suspend my Facebook account.

The ridiculous is par for the course on Facebook

No, I didn’t flick the switch in a fit of piqué after having been snubbed, overshadowed, upstaged by some upstart diva or anything vile like that. The thought had gnawed at me for a while, months, and I kept on putting it off. I was too hooked on Facebook to do it, it would be the equivalent of plunging my life into a social black hole, I would die if I didn’t read about what James Onen and his retinue of free thinkers were talking about … and so on and so forth.

I finally made the decision to take a hiatus following two days when I was down with a cold.  Over those two days I was on Facebook more or less constantly, learning … precious little actually.

People I knew and didn’t know were jet lagged in New York City, others were about to arrive in New York City, were about to go out and drink beer in Bern, were sleepless in Vancouver, were in the line waiting to pay for their groceries, were guffawing at yet another faded picture of yonder years they had dug up, congratulating themselves on being God’s gift to humanity, the usual suspects were dispensing yet more love advice, cut and uncut men (and women!) were haranguing each other about “male genital mutilation,” others were having a heated debated about having sex in a car as opposed to while standing up against a wall … were, were, were ….

To my horror, I was engaged in a number of discussions, in various groups, for hours on end that every sinew in my body was telling me were inane, asinine, pointless. But there I was adding my two pennies’ worth, all the time wondering how I could allow myself to trade opinions with people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t construct proper sentences even if they could spell to save their lives.

Images that invite SMHs, LOLs, LOLESTs, WTFs from across the globe

Me? An English major with two university degrees and countless hours of teaching children how to read and write? How could I stoop to this semi-literate internet banter with strangers I had no chance of bringing around to my point of view and, more pertinently, who didn’t have the education and/or intellect to discuss at the level they were attempting to discuss?

Tss!

So, I pulled the plug Saturday morning.

To my consternation, the earth didn’t move off its axis. In fact, the color of the leaves outside didn’t change to beetroot red so I had to physically pinch myself to make sure that I was really still alive. I was.

I have now gone back to reading my news off Yahoo, the BBC, Washington Post, and the various formal channels I used to frequent before I allowed myself to sink rather lower than I should have. I was today about to sign on again and make a snide remark about Romney’s 14% tax paid on the $20m he made in 2011 but I then realized that only his wife and death-warmed-up Anne Coulter (that woman has spent enough on Botox to pay off  a sizable chunk of California’s public debt) are pretending to buy his argument so there is no point in my adding to the disgusted responses of which there must be millions out there. With or without my two pennies’ worth, that man is going down … and deservedly so. I don’t have to let the world know that I know they know it. Some things are best left unsaid … even on Facebook.

I shall not stay away from Facebook forever if only because it has proved useful for me to communicate with a number of people all over the world quickly. My messages to them pop up on their smartphones instantly, saving me the tedious chore of sending SMS text messages. To shut down completely will thus stymie an obvious avenue of easy, cheap, communication. So, I have given myself until October 1 to reassess.

Call it my Facebook bathroom break, taking a Facebook dump. I shall perhaps also allow myself a thorough colonic irrigation and a lobotomy while I am at it. Now and then one needs such a ‘cleansa.’

When I get back in, my first task must be to sift through my list of “friends” and conduct yet another mass cull. I don’t for the life of me know how I could have 450 friends. 450 friends? That’s outrageous. Anyone I have not ‘talked to’ in the last two or three months, or with the parts below his navel showing, will have to go. So will anyone calling himself James Dean, Fela Kuti or Brenda Fassie . I will not be friends with famous dead people even if I might have admired them at some point.

Fake profile picture? I get what you want to look like but you have to go!

The list of people requesting to be my friends will have to be pruned as well. Before I went off air, I think I had about 100 people waiting to be my friends that I could have sworn I didn’t know. Some of them confusingly shared the same pictures as professional adult film actors I had seen in various pornographic movies. Now, I know I have an irresistible personality, but why would a porn actor who has never met me want to be my Facebook friend?

But that’s Facebook for you. It’s probably not what whoever coined it had in mind  but it certainly does validate the saying that there are no strangers in this world; just friends you haven’t met yet. Or is it ‘strangers who want to be friends with you?

I have at least another seven days to find out.

Bobi Wine’s Escalade woes escalate 1

Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine), right

Check out this [gossipy] article narrating the travails of a Ugandan musician called Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi) and the used Escalade he bought a couple of years ago from the United States.

Musicians everywhere rely on a combination of talent, lucky timing and ability to carry off bombastic (some might say ‘outrageous’) gestures. Unless they have plenty of the first element (talent), the other two usually don’t serve them long enough. That’s why Britain’s Rick Astley hasn’t been heard of in 20 years but George Michael still fills stadiums. Rick Astley was around at the right time but didn’t have solid song writers and thus didn’t develop a good enough body of work to carry him beyond 1990. George Michael, however, writes his own stuff, and has managed to hang around despite so-so offerings some years ago and a scandal-ridden personal life.

In Uganda most musicians make music using drum machines, don’t really have much talent, and rely on a lucky hit to propel them to the limelight. Unfortunately most of them don’t have the acumen and/or charisma to mix their luck with self-promotion and so too many Ugandan musicians have the shelf-life of a packet of milk.

The exceptions have been individuals like Bobi Wine, Bebe Cool (Moses Ssali), Jose Chameleon (Joseph Mayanja), Julianna Kanyomozi and groups such as the incomparable Afrigo Band which has been going strong for more than 30 years. Ssali, Kyagulanyi, Kanyomozi and Mayanja have survived because they have reasonable vocal talent to speak of. One should thus expect them to hang around for a while longer if they continue to regularly refer back to what made them successful in the first place.

 Those two brands {Hummer and Escalade] especially were mistakes because they came with such a high maintenance cost that they had to be aimed at middle to upper middle clientele because of affordability. But today’s middle class has a high education attainment and anyone who has attained a level of education higher than high school understands that a Hummer or Escalade doesn’t show intellectual refinement or ‘class’ even if it was economical to fuel and maintain.

The middle classes thus largely shunned them. They quickly got a terrible image as cars to be driven by drugs barons, ghetto thugs, night madams and those with a tacky disposition. The long term success of the two brands was sealed even as sales went through the roof at first. Bids for Hummers and Escalades now start as low as $1500. (Sebaspace on the Escalade, in 2008)

There are signs, though, that Bobi Wine, 30, is beginning to lose the plot. Buying the Escalade at the time when most of America was running away from the vehicle due to its prohibitively high maintenance costs means that he got it at a bargain basement price - likely paid less than $10,000 for it. Including the purchase price, shipping,handling, vanity registration plates and taxes, he likely forked out anywhere up to $40,000 (100m/=) to put it on Uganda’s roads.

Averaging just 11 miles per gallon in city driving and 16 miles on the highway, one has to wonder how Bobi Wine expected to keep that vehicle running with gas prices in Uganda averaging $7.65 a gallon for the last goodness knows how many years.

Bobi Wine and his Escalade in less embarrassing times

To put it in perspective, it takes 30 gallons (113 liters) to fill up an Escalade. In Uganda, that would cost Bobi Wine a whopping 400,000/= ($163); far more than a teacher’s monthly salary. But the Escalade guzzles 1 gallon per 11 miles, meaning that it would run empty after doing just 330 miles (568 km). If he were to drive that thing from Kampala to Mbarara, 290km away, he would have no fuel left by the time he got back.

But this assumes that Bobi Wine bought a new Escalade which he likely didn’t despite his claims to the contrary. Older cars (given when he bought it, his must be a 2000-2006 model) consume even more fuel so it is reasonable to assume that Wine’s Escalade now guzzles an astonishing 8 miles to the gallon. He thus cannot drive it to Mbarara and back without refueling. No wonder the article above mentioned Bobi Wine’s lament that he can’t drive the thing over long distances.

Wine’s One Love Beach resort: some of the structures were built on land that didn’t belong to him and have already been demolished

Why does any of this matter? It matters because a cursory examination of Wine’s income should show anyone interested that he can’t afford to run that sort of vehicle.

Ugandan musicians are lucky to be paid $1500 a show. Unlike in America and Europe, they get no recurring royalties from their music, instead getting a lump sum when they produce a hit and, perhaps, when they put on a successful song or album “launch.’ Piracy sees to what could be of the rest of their income. They mostly perform ‘live’ in local bars and nightclubs around Uganda for between $800 and $1000 (often less than that), which rises to $2,000 if the show in question is a really big one. But those big gigs aren’t that many in Uganda. That means that they mostly work for a pittance which explains why so many of them produce one hit, and then disappear never to be heard from again.

The drum machine; without it, most Ugandan singers wouldn’t produce any music whatsoever

After Bobi Wine has paid off his agents, minders, hangers-on, you are talking about $300-800 left even for the biggest gigs in Uganda. It is for that reason that Ugandan musicians ply their trade endlessly in small, seedy, nondescript nightclubs, sometime spending just a few minutes lip-synching to a CD in one bar, then driving helter-skelter 100-300km in the middle of the night to honor gigs in conflicting parts of the country. Unless they do that, they can’t sustain their usually outrageous, hedonistic and expensive lifestyles.

So, we know that Bobi Wine has only to drive out of his home in his Escalade to start frittering away $163 ($400,000/=). Remember, too, that we haven’t yet talked about servicing it, buying replacement parts (there is no Cadillac dealership in Uganda) or keeping it comprehensively insured which is the only sensible option if you drive that type of vehicle in Uganda.

Yet, obviously, Bobi Wine doesn’t make as much money as the public thinks he does. He has even been involved in, and lost, costly land wrangles in Busabala where he built a resort he called “One Love Beach” whose economic viability is not yet proven. That little project of his has probably not yet turned a profit, three years on - and it is doubtful that it is properly or professionally managed given the dubious process of its erection. Musicians like Bobi Wine don’t have a track record of hiring professionals to manage such businesses, choosing instead to install their wives, relatives of girlfriends as managers.

The question in the minds of Bobi Wine’s fans should be … is he going broke?

The answer at this point is that … I don’t know. What is fairly apparent is that he bought a car that he should have figured out he couldn’t afford. That should tell you a thing or two about Kyagulanyi’s ability keep perspective as well as to do simple house-keeping arithmetic. His bombastic gesture of yonder years has backfired on him spectacularly as the regular embarrassments he suffers when his Escalade breaks down on Kampala’s streets illustrate. You have to wonder why he didn’t keep the thing for just twelve months and then sell it off when its mystic was still intact. Now, reports suggest that he wants to sell it, but only an idiot of epic proportions would buy that ramshackle off him, surely.

Robert Kyagulanyi had better have enough talent to keep the hits coming since he is clearly not astute enough where choosing the appropriate ride for his financial status is concerned. If he has run out of hit-making ideas … with his kind of lifestyle and spending habits …

That prospect is too wretched to bear. Best to remain optimistic … for his sake and the sake of those who admire him. Yours truly inclusive.

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Chicago’s teachers want it all

In case you haven’t heard already, Chicago’s 350,000 public school students didn’t attend school last week because their teachers are out on strike. The teachers have also decided to take two more days off this week to think about whether to accept the deal hammered out by their union and Chicago’s board of education. Led by a fiery woman called Karen Lewis, the teachers have made the following demands:

1. They will not agree to 40% of their evaluation being based on their students’ test scores. They ‘might’ agree to 25% but no more than that

2. Once they complete probation, they must be guaranteed a job for life (tenure)

3. Already averaging $76,000 a year, they want an inflation bursting 30% pay increase despite their city being on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, and the average wage in their city being $47,000 a year

4. They don’t want to spend longer than they do now teaching children, and if the school day must be extended, more teachers should be hired

Karen Lewis: the teachers will not be rushed into getting back to their classrooms … ““THEY WANT TO know if there is anything more they can get.”

I was a teacher in my past life; a life I look back at with fond memories but with no inclination to ever return to at all. So, I am sympathetic when I hear teachers demanding fairness. A teacher’s lot is a tough one especially in public (state) schools where parents drop off children at the beginning of the term and don’t bother showing up again. Teachers then have to teach, babysit, break up schoolyard fights, act as social workers and nurses for all sorts of recalcitrant wastrels, even as they bear the brunt of the persistent public perception that most inner city state schools are terrible places that you send your child to as a last resort.

A public school teacher’s lot is indeed a difficult one.

The question in my mind is whether the union’s demands make sense. I can’t, for instance, understand why anyone in 2012 should expect job protection for life. It’s already almost impossible to fire any American teacher in a unionized environment which commensurately means that keeping a bad teacher on the job is fairly simple if they have union backing. Given that bad teachers are rather easy to keep on the job, why is automatic tenure good for students? I am not quite sure I can answer that one.

I am also puzzled about why teachers don’t want to be evaluated based on test scores. The 40% suggested seems quite modest but you get the sense that the Chicago teachers are negotiating on this in bad faith. They want 25-30% as the threshold but it is not clear to me why they feel there is a lot of difference between what they want and the 40%. Why is an extra 10% detrimental to them? This sounds as though the teachers don’t want to be evaluated at all based on their students’ results and the quibbling over percentages is just a smokescreen.

Finally, if poverty, deadbeat dads, unwed mothers and gun violence are all going to be factored into why teachers in state schools can’t teach, what burden of responsibility should these teachers (who are guaranteed a job because of their automatic tenure) whether or not their charges have learned anything, bear? Just showing up to the chalk face? Half of Chicago’s public school pupils don’t learn anything worthwhile but their teachers should continue to just show up, teach nothing and still collect their hefty paychecks anyway?

Seriously?

Why does all this sound as though only the teachers matter here?

Let’s talk politics 5

Maggie Thatcher: Britain’s best prime minister of the last 60 years

The other day a friend from another forum made the following sardonic riposte to an opinion I put forward that he didn’t quite agree with: “Oh, I have remembered your political affiliation.”

Which got me to thinking about my “politics” a little more critically than I have perhaps ever tried to.

What is my political affiliation?

I loved Margaret Thatcher (Maggie) and still think she was the best political event that could have happened to the United Kingdom given how she took that country by the scruff of its neck and wrested it away from the ruinous grip of the trade unions. And who can today question the home ownership revolution Maggie presided over in Britain? That was probably her single most significant success for the average person in Britain.

I then gave a nod to her successor, John Major, thinking that he was going to be a Maggie replica only to be sorely disappointed by his writhing and spineless leadership. That dull-as-dishwater man set the Tory Party back 20 years, to the bad old days of Ted Heath.

While Maggie ruled Britain, I had mixed feelings about her close friend from across the pond, Ronald Reagan, mostly because I felt (and still do today) that Reagan’s record was a triumph of style over substance. Bill Clinton was a more effective and productive president and I feel he doesn’t get enough credit for his presidency which left America with a budget surplus for the first time in generations. Unfortunately,while president, he failed to maintain control over his zippers.

I look back with disdain at the reign of George W. Bush but don’t particularly care for the namby-pamby ‘tree hugging’ politics of Al Gore who would have become president hadn’t the US Supreme Court intervened in the hotly contested Florida vote-counting debacle of 2000. George Bush was a terrible  president but it’s not lost on me that had Al Gore gotten in, we would all have been required to wear banana skirts, adopt a monkey and sing Kumbaya.

God’s gift to America: Bill Clinton

In a general thrust, while I believe that we should not think only about ourselves, I have no patience whatsoever for leftist thinking that seems to assume that everyone who is ‘poor’ deserves our tears and attention. We should help those less fortunate than ourselves but there is nothing to be ashamed of if you cut them adrift to face the vagaries of the world when the help you have provided is not used productively.

I don’t believe that there is anything such as God’s intent. So, we get the cards we are allotted by where we are born and how we are raised, and it is our responsibility to play those cards, not God’s. If you fail your exams, it is because you didn’t prepare well enough or you don’t have the aptitude to pass them. God has nothing to do with it and the sooner people stopped putting fatalistic faith in God’s power to make them do things the more we would all understand the importance of personal responsibility.

I am totally sympathetic with the fight for human rights for black people in America, women, children, the handicapped, gay men and women all over the world. But I don’t think that African-Americans, gays or women deserve special consideration till the end of time simply because of their race, gender or sexuality. So, once the basic help has been provided in the form of education, food stamps, and other state support for a specified period, there should be no shame about washing one’s hands of those who don’t grasp the nettle to lift themselves up by their boot straps. Cradle to grave state support should never ever be countenanced by any responsible government anywhere in the world.

As a gay man, I see the merit in marriage equality (or civil partnerships) but I also believe that respective states (in the case of the USA) should decide to grant gays the privilege to marry or not. Marriage is not a right in my view – it is just a social construct that one can opt in, out of or avoid totally. As long as gay men and women can love each other, cohabit, bequeath property to each other and do all the things that straight people take for granted (such as hospital visitations and joint taxation filing), churches and local governments can refuse to marry them if the majority so wish it.

I am sympathetic with the gay struggles in Africa and understand why activists continuously push governments on the issue of gay/LGBTI rights. LGBTI rights have never been won by lying down supinely and waiting for a hostile public to come round, at least in the beginning. But I am also too well aware of the conflict of interest when the activists have nothing else to do but be activists. That engenders a climate that encourages crying wolf at the expense of the larger good, the truth and the really pressing grassroots priorities.

Overrated (Reagan) and a disgrace (Bush)

While I cannot help but admire the bravery of gay activists who engage in running battles with police authorities in Africa and elsewhere, I also hang on to my feeling that there is ultimately nothing wrong with the African way of treating love and relationships as a … secret. That’s why  I am not in favor of flag-waving gay parades or lurid discussions of gay sex on radio and television even in the most repressive African communities – unless that sort of battle is brought to our doorstep by our enemies such as Martin Ssempa has done on several occasions. Parades and sexual talk shows are cut and paste ideas that mistakenly try to buck the [rather successful] low-key African way of handling marriage and relationships.

Tarzan is an Expatriate by Paul Theroux

I have tried to see what good NGOs (of almost all hues) do in Third World countries and I struggle to find more than a handful that I think are of any value to the people they purport to support. NGOs, to me, are vessels for bleeding heart expatriates, often with mediocre qualifications, who traipse into countries such as Uganda, load it over the locals who ultimately do the real dirty work, and then enjoy hefty salaries and hardship allowances despite enjoying a better standard of living in the Third World than they do back in their own home countries.NGOs, too, have a glaring conflict of interest in the sense that if poverty, world hunger, malnutrition, malaria, wife battery, child abuse, LGBTI-bashing were all eradicated they would have to shut down. So, it is really in the interest of NGOs for all these problems to continue and, now and then, escalate as happens in Somalia, Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. That’s how they stay in business.

Stuck with tradition: King Ronnie and his very modern wife, Queen Sylvia

I dislike coalition politics as I think it encourages vague, wishy-washy governance. But I can see that it has worked well in Germany for more than 50 years and it brought Zimbabwe back from the brink, messy though that coalition has proved to be. That is why I loved Maggie Thatcher; whether you liked her or not, you knew exactly what she stood for. Maggie would never have entered into the kind of ideologically confused Con-Lib coalition you now see in Britain.

I don’t see a lot of practical merit in communism but can’t help being in awe when I see how Cuba has managed to stand up to the USA for generations; spiting its face in the process, yes, but standing tall nonetheless. I also have no respect for China’s small-minded murderous red communists but look at how they have transformed that country’s fortunes in less than 25 years.

I detest dictatorships, but I also see that the benevolent dictatorships in Singapore and Malaysia haven’t done badly for those two countries. I also support hereditary monarchs and all the pomp and circumstance that come with them and so would like to see Buganda’s King Ronnie have more powers over his people than he does at the moment despite some of the anachronistic cultural traditions he still takes advantage of and the glaring weaknesses I see in his administration.

Contradictory? You bet.

I happen to think that Barack Obama is the most important event to have happened to America since Bill Clinton and will be totally bereft if America doesn’t give him a second term given the threadbare and dishonest alternative. It’s nice to know your man’s back is covered in your backyard but what a difference it would make if all the guaranteed 98% of the Washington, DC Obama votes could be transferred to Virginia! Or North Carolina.

I think Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has no credibility or new ideas left whatsoever but what could come might infinitely be worse so I can see why Ugandans may best be advised re-elect him in 2016. Given that he is the only reason the Bahati anti-gay bill has not been passed already, I have to admit that it makes good political sense for the gay movement  if Museveni stays in power for another 30 years.

What does that make my political affiliation out to be? I don’t think it matters, but I also recognize that I hold views that a lot of friends will never agree with.

In my mind, that’s okay, too.

The joys of flying Business Class 2

This is going to be an unapologetic and saccharine paean to high-end airline travel.

You see, I had despaired about ever traveling again to any place that requires my getting on a plane with the hope that I would get to the other side looking remotely like myself.

That was until the latest trip I have just taken to the United States of America. Let me try to start at the beginning.

When you travel business class, the first bit of great news that greets you is when you are directed to the Karibuni (literally translated this is ‘welcome’) Lounge. Karibuni is not exactly your state of the art lounge compared to others I have graced my company with but on the night I visited, it wasn’t busy, the lighting was apt and the furniture comfortable. What more did one need apart from a Uganda Waragi (or four) and tonic?

Across the lounge I spotted Andrew Mwenda, he of the Independent Magazine fame, if you wish to forget that he is easily the most garrulous and opinionated journalist in Uganda, East Africa and probably beyond. The short of it is that Mwenda lives to talk and talk he does with relish. He has made a whole career out of talking, thank you very much.

The $3,600 Picotin Lock Birkin

The next pleasure of flying “Business” came when we were called to board our flight to Amsterdam. Not only were we summoned from Karibuni after the riff raff had been checked through security, we were also asked to board before them, yes even before the ones with sniveling children in strollers.

I must admit that I have always had limited patience with other people’s kids, especially the ones who run around uncontrollably as if the waiting lounge is their home, with their utterly clueless mothers of course making mock attempts to control them when, all the while, their covetous interest is focused on the expensive Birkin the business class traveler across from them is carrying.

So, it was wonderful to go through the security screening last and then saunter past that sort of hoi polloi. Kids, geriatric or not, as long as you weren’t holding a business class boarding pass, you weren’t getting on board before I did. I thought about practicing my swagger as I walked past the sea of resigned economy faces but then thought better of it.  If you are high-class, even if only for a couple of hours, you don’t want to shove it into the faces of those less fortunate than yourself, do you”?

And so I headed to my seat … 1B.  I found Andrew Mwenda settling into seat 1A next to mine. Mwenda is so high-class these days he hobnobs at will with the likes of  Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. He couldn’t remember me from Adam (we’d met at a lunch in Kampala some years back), but nonetheless talked to me as though I was a half-brother he had last seen two weeks earlier. That is Mwenda for you … he will charm a smile out of a hungry crocodile as he pulls its teeth.

Anyhow, for you uninitiated types, there is three feet of my size-14 feet between one business class seat and the one in front. There is a similar divide between the number 1 seat and the bulkhead.  To put it in perspective, there was exactly one foot between my seat and the back of the seat in front of me when I traveled coach on the same plane. It was so tight I could hardly move once I forced my 6’3” frame into the space allocated to me.

Life-sized TV screen and the seat controls

In World Business, you can choose to recline, spread your legs out, or go so sleep without worrying about whether you have the space to do all that in. And so I used the time to experiment with the most comfortable position to adopt for the next 8 hours.

I have of course flown business and first class before. But that was on those terrible American flights which make KLM’s economy cabin from Amsterdam to Entebbe look like a bed of roses.  American airlines long stopped pretending to  try offering any acceptable service on their flights.

I recall flying first class one time on a trip from Hawaii to Los Angeles. I think I was treated like the important person I am on the trip but the memory that endures mostly is one of  the cabin crew  who were so old and ugly that no amount of make-up could salvage their washed-up mien.

But I digress.

Business class meals aboard the Flying Blue

Welcome aboard with a glass of French champagne? Check. Water  to wash down the champagne?  Check. Vanity goody bag with all sorts of goodies I had last seen years ago? Check. Menu from which to choose what to eat (I chose tilapia)? Check.  Real china and cutlery? Check. My choice of dessert? Check.

Phew. Just listing the perks is exhausting in of itself. Suffice it to say that I ate, drank and then drank some more like the high-end customer I was. Come to think of it, I have always been a high-class customer. It is only the undiscerning that tend to forget this.

Chicken or pasta? As soon as I boarded, that grating ‘economy’ question sounded like the nightmare I have always found it to be. Mercifully, I didn’t hear it once all the way from Entebbe to Dulles.

I must admit I am already so used to flying ‘business” that I will gladly sell out Jesus Christ again for high-end travel. The alternative seems infinitely more horrible.

Oh, did I mention that Andrew Mwenda was asleep for seven of the eight-hour flight? Now, not many people will say they have been in the company of Andrew Mwenda for that long and he didn’t say anything.

Priceless, utterly priceless.

And now, I must prepare to do it all again in less than two weeks. I think I could get used to this.

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Stay away from the Blackberry Storm!!!

Piece of crap: Blackberry Storm

If it is the last thing you do, do NOT buy a Blackberry Storm.

Correction! If the Blackberry Storm is offered to you free of charge, walk away!

My Storm switches itself off at will. You lock it, then pick it up after a while and find that the radio has switched off.  On a number of occasions, the only way I have been able to turn it back on is by removing and putting back the battery. You can imagine the number of missed calls this has led to.

Far superior, sleeker, user-friendly and intuitive: The HTC EVO

The touchscreen to this phone has a mind of its own. It’s supposed to respond to your finger’s feather touch but the reality is that it doesn’t respond even if you go on your knees to beg. You also have to click it several times to pick up calls. I long gave up on the touch feature working as it’s supposed to. If ever there was a stubborn touch screen, it was installed on this handset.  The 6 on the phone doesn’t work. You want to hit S and instead you see the Z or X (below) popping up. The E, D and C keys don’t work either. And so on and so forth.

When I had just arrived in Uganda, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t load airtime. So, I took this equipment to Airtel’s main office and asked them why. They told me that the Storm doesn’t recognize the * and # keys!! Really? Yes, they assured me; there was something about the Storm technology that isn’t compatible with the Airtel airtime loading system. So, I have since had to make do with walking into an Airtel outlet to have my airtime loaded by one of their employees.

Now, try tracing which calls you missed. That is another chore best left for when one is in one’s most charitable frame of mind.

All in all, I wouldn’t wish this phone on my worst enemy – maybe I would but I don’t want to go there.

I have used the Blackberry Bold 8520 and a number of other Blackberry devices. This is by far the least user-friendly. Comparisons are unfair but if you are really into smart phones, you might want to look at the HTC 4G EVO. It costs more than the Storm but does everything you want it to and even seems to go into your head to figure our what you want so that it provides it before you ask.

An intuitive phone? Now, that is my kind of phone. And the HTC isn’t as clunky as the Storm either.

Enough said on this terrible piece of equipment.

Kiprotich’s win opens Uganda’s purse strings 3

Gold medal winner, Kiprotich, being feted upon return to Uganda

The suit he wore off the plane looked as though it was a hand-me-down from the 6’5″ (205lbs) Usain Bolt. Such had been the dire state of affairs in the Team Uganda camp before and during the 2012 Olympic games that eventual marathon winner, Stephen Kiprotich, (5’6″, 123lbs) couldn’t afford a suit that fit. Nonetheless, there were flowers, ministers, a bouquet of flowers, and a throng of ululating supporters to welcome Uganda’s newly minted hero.

Thus far so wonderful.

What isn’t so wonderful is that the gaga crowds, including the Minister of Sports, Charles Bakkabulindi, who turned out at the airport to greet Kiprotich this morning, hadn’t taken any trouble to help him or any other athlete materially or otherwise before the London 2012 Olympic games. If it hadn’t been for British Airways which offered up free tickets, the entire team would likely not have made it out of their decrepit training facilities.

In fact, the major story to come out of Uganda’s preparations for London 2012 was how neglected the athletes had been and how sports officials allocated themselves obscene per diems for their stay in London while the athletes themselves had to do with a pittance. Ganzi Mugula, the 32-year-old who captained Team Uganda had no chance of getting out of the qualifying rounds (and he knew it before he got on the plane) because he, too, had never had any support from his government. Yes, Mugula was already too old to be considered to swim for Uganda, and it was a disservice that he was made captain at a time when he was clearly over the hill, but none of that was his fault.

Such was the disgraceful disregard for Uganda’s runners and boxers – we had no representation at anything else other than swimming – that until he was 7km from the finishing line, hardly any Ugandan had ever heard of Kiprotich. Then he broke free and put daylight between himself and the chasing pack. Suddenly, the Ugandans watching sat up and paid attention.

Wilson who? Kipro-what? Oh, no, you mean Kipsiro and that one went out yesterday. No, this is really a Ugandan called Kiprotich. Ah, that one is Kenyan. … Until Wilson (correction, Stephen) Kiprotich picked up the Ugandan flag, 150 meters from the finishing line, you can bet money that not even the Minister of Sports could have picked him out of a line-up.

It is of course to be celebrated that Uganda has finally won a gold medal at the Olympics – 40 years after the last one was won. It is also exciting that corporate entities in Uganda have already gotten together and raised $100,000 as a thank you largesse for Kiprotich, with a promise to make it $500,000.

But it also paints a painful picture that Kiprotich won despite the lack of support from Uganda at large. The president of Uganda posed with the athletes before they jetted out and then he went back to the stuff that interests him most; meeting with the Lake Basin leaders to sort out the area’s poisonous politics. That’s as far as his support for sports tend to be: posing for pictures with athletes.

Celebrity: Kiprotich inspecting a prisons guard-of-honor

Kiprotich is 23. If he gets the type of support – and the $500,000 promised would be a good start if it is not, like most such money in Uganda, stolen before he gets it – he truly needs, one can hope that he will win again in future international races. But the real point is that Uganda’s sportsmen and women need concerted support from their government as well as corporations on a scale we are now seeing being showered on Kiprotich.

The president has offered $80,000, and others are falling over themselves to hand over wads of cash. Money seems to no longer be a problem for Ugandans celebrating Kiprotich, now that he has won gold. Rather perplexingly, word has it that he will also be promoted to some juicy rank in the prisons service where he is employed.

One must thus end this on a hopeful note – that the help, support and mentoring will come for Kiprotich and other professional sportsmen and women well into 2016 and beyond. The omens have not looked good for Ugandan professional sports in at least 20 years, but Kiprotich might finally have burst the bubble of indifference, neglect and lip service.

We watch, we pray.

*** Correction to article made and name changed to Stephen. The winner’s name is Stephen Kiprotich, not Wilson Kiprotich.  ***

Aw, Shut up about Usain Bolt already! 7

I am going to state a view a lot of people who are not Jamaican are secretly harboring but don’t have the guts to air:

I wasn’t wishing him well, didn’t like it one bit when Usain Bolt won the 200m sprint yesterday.I was inwardly hoping that Yohan Blake or, better still, the American in the final line-up of that race upset the odds and saved us from the inevitable crass and unclassy preening and prancing that would ensue if Bolt won.

“Every time a friend succeeds, I did a little” Gore Vidal

So, you can imagine my dismay when not only did Bolt win but Jamaica made it a 1-2-3! How bloody galling.

It was bad enough in 2008 when we had to put up with the showy lad from Jamaica who broke records even though he was running as though it was a walk in the park to him. That bolt thing especially irritated me, tipping me firmly into the haters’ camp. I mean, who did this boy think he was, coming on to our screens, all 6’5″ of him, and acting as though he owned the track plus everyone who was watching?

Whatever happened to the days of  the great Carl Lewis, who won and won, and didn’t make silly lightning bolt signs about it? Or of Michael Johnson, he who ran as though he had a ramrod metal bar stuck in his behind but still broke the 400m record in 1999, a record that still stands 13 years later? And both those great athletes kept a clean drugs sheet, mind.

Not that a clean sheet means anything in this day and age when athletes are clearly more savvy than the fuddy daddies at the IOC (remember Marion Jones, who never failed a drugs test in competition?) with their snotty but clearly plodding drugs testing methods which are quite obviously steps behind the athletes’ conniving and scheming.

Oh, go away! Jamaica’s 200m 1-2-3 winners

So, I am (again secretly) hoping that Usain Bolt is eventually tripped up by his own hubris just as happened with Marion Jones who eventually came a-cropper and lived to see her results on the track crumble into a heap of ignominy. And I know I have good reason to hope; I have just read somewhere that the man who came second to Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, failed a drugs test in 2009.

So, I am going to hope that whatever these men are taking will eventually come to light, perhaps when their trainer turns whistleblower, and they will be disgraced. The sooner the better, so that Bolt and his posse crawl back into their homophobic Jamaican backwater where they belong.

And did you hear that Bolt had the temerity to speak about Carl Lewis in disparaging terms? What a bloody cheek! The reason you are feted around the world, you …  boy … is Carl Lewis who won nine gold medals in various disciplines and got the world firmly hooked on athletics. If it hadn’t been for Carl Lewis showing that track and field could be exciting, you would be broke despite the records you are breaking. Performance-wise, too, you have some records to your name but you can’t touch Carl Lewis. For that you will have to start learning how to do the long jump and then carry yourself with class and dignity off and on the field after you win.

So, how come all these people are groveling at the seemingly astonishing feats of this Bolt character?

Simple. They are blind,  fawning, sycophants who are trying to get a life vicariously through what seems to be Bolt’s genius. They are desperate to believe that a human being can run that fast so easily, but deep down they know it is not possible for anyone to outrun everyone so effortlessly without being aided by some sort of elixir. So, what do they do? They exaggerate their praise of Bolt in the hope that if they scream it loud enough to their fellow boot-lickers, the suspicion that he can’t be clean will pale into non-existence.

Now, let me get up and switch off my television. This incessant gushing about Usain Bolt by the BBC is about to drive me nuts.

Tss!

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