Friday, February 27, 2015

Fat fees and alms.

 Will you give or will they take it from you?

Why do I have an obligation to offer my skills for free? Why must the Law Society, which is a cartel I joined to ensure my fees stayed fat and newcomers were discouraged from entering, insist that I must offer several hours of my services for free? I did not come by the appellation "advocate" without working my ass off, spending my father's money with caution, and saving every penny I could to spend on more books, more lessons, more workshops. Through hard work, a bit of luck, and networking-cum-bribing, I am now where I am. We call it "experience" and it does not come free.

I can offer my skills to those whom I believe are in need of them for free, or at subsidised prices, the subsidy being paid by a wealthy benefactor. When I do offer pro bono services, the end might be publicity for my practice, more clients against who the full freight will be levied. That is the market economy we are encouraged to enter by one and all, from parents to teachers, politicians to godmen. So where do we get off calling hungry market-oriented buccaneers selfish and cold when all they did is follow the advice of their parents, teachers, political leaders and preachers?

It is instilled in us that there are no free lunches; someone always pays the tab. This is true whether I am a billionaire private developer or a pauper on his last legs. A service or  good has to be paid for by someone. It is also instilled in us that "the less fortunate" are in need of our charity. The challenge has always been finding the balance, to paraphrase an adage, between feeding someone some fish or teaching them to fish so that they can feed themselves for life. That balance is defined by the rhetoric of market forces and religious faith.

In the Twenty-first Century, when many institutions are in shambles, the individualisation of ambition and moral values seems to be tipping the balance away from charity and more towards egotistical greed. "The less fortunate" are increasingly bombarded with messages of how their less fortunate statuses are their fault for not being ambitious enough or educated enough or willing to sacrifice enough. It does not occur to those who would abjure charity that matters are not as simple as that, not as black-and-white as that. There are situations and circumstances over which individual will, strength of character, ambition or opportunity offer no advantage, when the overwhelming forces of both and nature stand against you. In these cases, and in millions more lesser ones, charity...alms...make for a vital part of the capitalist, market-driven model.

Yes, the Law Society is right to demand a portion of the hours I labour for which it will not compensate me. Even if it insists that I pay my own way while offering pro bono legal advice, I shall not mumble under my breath about the inconvenience of it all. It is the price I pay for being the success that I am in a society in which opportunity is not available in equal measure to all and all too frequently my successes come at the expense of the opportunities for others. It is the reminder that humility is not a handicap, and that hubris is the road to utter ruination. Market-driven models risk Icarus-like disaster when they ignore Daedalus's wise words of caution. If the Great Recession did not do anything to temper our greed, nothing ever will.

Promises, promises.

We don't want honesty in our public officials; that would shatter the illusion under which we labour every day promises are not kept. If they told us the truth, we would never leave our homes. The nominee for Inspector-General of Police promises to fight graft. I wish he hadn't. The institution to which he has been nominated to lead is not swimming in the most honest of public officers. Indeed, never mind that aberrant ranking in 2009 on performance, it's legitimacy in the eyes of the people consistently plumbs the depths of despair. Its corruption is as certain as the celestial qualities of the Sun.

His predecessor promised to fight graft too. He lost that fight. Every police boss promises to fight graft when they come to office. They all lose the fight. It can be argued that the fight is lost when the appointing authorities have no interest in tackling graft; but I think that the fight is already lost when the people themselves have no interest in seeing victory. We deplore graft only because the majority of us are the givers of bribes, not the recipients. Ours is jealousy, not civic-mindedness. Our fantasies are about tenders and short-cuts to great wealth. When it is our turn to eat we eat with gusto and give our promises of probity the go-bye.

I wish the nominee had promised something more prosaic, like better housing for the men and women he would command. There is not much else he can provide them. He cannot promise them better terms and conditions of service; the monies Parliament is willing to appropriate for the police will remain paltry for a long time to come. He cannot promise them non-interference in the performance of their duties; every elected official, every civil servant and every private developer with an in with the powers-that-be will always demand special favours, with the police at the enforcement end of those favours. The only thing he can promise them, if he has the balls, is good housing, and all the graft that goes into big-ticket public infrastructure tenders.

The nominee comes to the National Police Service from the National Intelligence Service. Maybe he has the moxie to get one or two things right. However, if he thinks that the National Police is an extension of the counter-security arm of National Intelligence, then there are a few outcomes that will come as no surprise. For one, violent crime will not abate an graft will flourish. If he, however, sees policing for what it truly is, there may yet be salvation for the suffering peoples of Kenya. If he sees policing as a means for assuring the safety of the people by working in concert with all stakeholders including National Intelligence, county government and civil society, he may yet find that his fight against graft succeeding.

Successive police bosses have been unsuccessful in their duties because they have had the wrong kind of political cover from their appointing authority. So long as they have kept the political opposition in check, their jobs have been secure. That is a bygone era. With violent crime and terrorism rearing their ugly heads more and more, policing cannot be obsessed with politics to the exclusion of all else. If the appointing authority misses his second chance to properly support his Inspector-General, it is almost certain that an ignominious exit awaits his nominee and the cycle will have come full circle.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

History is never kind.

It took a child who didn't know any better to ask, "But why is the emperor buck naked?" He never got an answer. His mother, horrified, mortified and petrified in equal measure, more or less, smacked the snot out that boy. Down the road he knew to keep his mouth shut every time he saw something he thought everyone else should have seen. Needless to say that regardless of the child's innocent question, the emperor, his acolytes, mandarins, factotums and hangers-on all agreed that he was not buck naked and that he never, ever was, and that everything would carry on as before. The people pretended to believe that he was not buck naked, the preachers preached that he was not buck naked, the court criers broadcast for all to hear that he was not buck naked. 

The emperor was never naked. That is the consensus. Nothing is amiss. That is the received wisdom. Things are under control. That is faith. Though, there are peculiar aspects to the emperor's nudity. He did tell some of the tailors in his chambers to shape up or be shipped out. Many shipped out. One refused. He was made to ship out. He did not go quietly. We remained faithful that the tailors were enemies of the emperor and that their removal from his court was but what fate prescribed.

Then again, an empress far, far away proved to the world that she wasn't naked. In proving herself clad in the finest regalia, she informed the emperor that some of his most trusted courtiers were a risk, that they would expose everything about his non-wardrobe. He ignored her. His courtiers ignored her. She let it go. After all she prefers to deal with naked men; it makes it very easy to lead them by their...well, you get my drift.

The emperor's nudity makes us a laughingstock. If only he admitted his nudity things would be much more simpler. For one, innocent children would not have their mouths washed out by soap for pointing out that his pointer was out. Then he could make the decrees he wanted, either decreeing that everyone went about buck naked like him or everyone was under a duty to point out all nudity regardless of the stature of the nudist.

But he won't. He will pretend to, but he won't. In his pretend-decrees will be hidden the seeds of his humiliation in the pages of history. For the squander of so much promise, he will be portrayed by the dispassionate historian in the dimmest light, so dim it is practically dark. All his beautiful achievements will pale in comparison to how many nude pictures of him circulated in secret among the people, all of them laughing in derision every time he came out in public and made his periodic pretend-decrees. History and historians will not be kind. They never are.

Don't let stupidity prevail.

I don't love animals. I don't love watching them. I don't love playing with them. I don't love talking about them. Don't even get me started about "nature", a place where snakes and poisonous fruits abound, designed to kill me in divinely inventively cruelly painful ways. But just because I am not nature's greatest fan doesn't mean I want it paved over and those hideous chicken-coops we call apartments put up.

It is because of nature that I have drinking water, the occasional thunderstorm to cleanse the city's palate and wonderful pictures of sunsets that I can put on my laptop/tablet/smartphone as a screensaver, making Her go, "Awww..."

Therefore, I don't just not not love "private developers paving over portions of Nairobi National Park, I hate them. I hope that the lions and elephants they are displacing in the service to their avarice eventually make their way to their gated communities and either (a) maul them, the lions, that is, or (b) sit on them, the elephants, that is. Everyone and his mother knows that the kind of urban sprawl these construction heathens are engaging in alienates people from each other, makes enemies where none existed and deadens the soul of the nation. Nairobi - nay, Kenya - doesn't need to become a caricature of Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

The synergy between the private developer and the poacher is disturbing. I may revile rhinos and have nothing but contempt for elephants, but their value to the culture of my peoples cannot be gainsaid. My peoples have a history with the wildlife, a rich cultural history that has given us a vocabulary and a literature that the pale faces from the industrialised north or the slant-eyed Johhny-come-latelys from the industrialising east can only salivate over. That culture, that history has value to us as a nation, both monetary and non-monetary and it is time its destruction by the concrete-minded among us ceased.

Culture. We have it in spades.
We need the wildlife. We need it more than we need a golf resort accessible only to the moneyed elite. We need it more than we need a gated community for faith-challenged swindling men of the cloth and their clandestine lovers. We may not realise it today, but the future of our peoples' health lies in the wildlife being decimated at a rate that will boggle the mind. The days of accidental penicillin are almost over but those of bio-engineering are just beginning and in our wildlife are the molecules we will need to engineer our species survival. Destruction of our biomes in order to build apartments has to be one of the stupidest policy decisions in a generation. Stupidity is not in short supply but hopefully it shall not be allowed to prevail.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Democracy for Idiots.

Even Winston Churchill, that paragon of tolerance (God, I wish there was a sarcasm font) hated democracy, but couldn't think of anything better to replace it with. A theory that formed the bedrock of the neoconservative takeover of the United States Congress in the wake of 9/11 was that rights and freedoms had to be curtailed in order for the people to be kept safe and the security of the nation to be assured. What became the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) was enacted and US citizens have been paying for it ever since.

Democracy is now the reason why terrorists are free to blow up Kenyans and murder them in their dozens. Our democratic space is a gateway to the radicalisation of the youth, especially in places of worship and institutions of learning. Refugee camps have become breeding grounds for extremists and refugees have only two choices: become suicide bombers or go on living in straitened circumstances. That, at least, is the ridiculous theory.

Kenya is not the United States and the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our constitution may be similar to those guaranteed by the US constitution, but they are not the same. For one we don't have a ridiculous right to bear arms. Anyone who truly believes that Kenyans have ever enjoyed the freedoms and rights that US citizens do has surely not been paying attention. It is, therefore, fallacious to suggest that it is our democratic space that has encouraged extremism, radicalisation and terrorism on our homeland.

We know what promotes radicalisation, extremism and terrorism on our homeland, and democracy or the democratic space are not it. They never have been. First, obviously, is graft, petty and grand. Homeland security, that is, border and customs control, intelligence operations, defense strategy and policing have been hollowed out for decades by a perniciously pervasive corruption that has survived three Presidencies - and seems likely to survive a fourth. Whether it is the acquisition of documents of identity, travel documents, work permits, visas, certificates of company registration, land titles - all documents with security-related implications - graft seems to have smoothened the way for extremists, radicals and terrorists to walk among us with impunity.

Second, poverty, inequity and marginalisation reinforce the ill effects of graft. Among those charged with keeping us safe are to be found Kenyans living in extreme poverty for all the risks they take, but with the officer class living like princes of the city. But among the people, the situation is dire. Fifty one years after independence, there are towns where paved roads are a figment of the imagination, as are piped water, affordable electricity, effective basic healthcare or quality basic education. Poverty, disease and illiteracy stalk their lives, and make them that much easier to seduce with promises of divine glory and material wealth for the price of obeisance to an unknown force for change, which is what the extremists and radicals promise.

Without the graft, tackling poverty, inequity and marginalisation would be easier to do though no walk in the park. But the entire security edifice is built on graft, the whitened bones of honour and duty lying in the scorching desert of public safety and national security. For every ten traffic policemen taking fifty shillings to look the other way as a matatu carries on like a bat out of hell, there is the "boss" playing fast and loose with the tender to supply Third-Generation "digital" identity cards, passports, forensics labs, "research" ships for the navy, Phantom F5 fighter jets, digital communications networks and the like all because the lure of a "cut" of the billions at stake is too strong to resist. Anyone who says that graft flourishes because of the freedoms and rights enshrined in Chapter Four is an idiot and should be treated as such.

We know what we must do to keep the people safe and the nation secure. "Tightening" the legal framework is not it; properly enforcing the law we have is. How an incompetent Inspector-General is fired and then appointed as the chairperson of an agency that plays a frontline role in the safety of our borders borders on the sacrilegious. How alleged recipients of foreign bribes continue to hold high office is rubbing the peoples' noses in it. How someone can suggest that a militarised police state will keep us safe and the nation secure when the forces of law and order are in cahoots with the agents of destruction remains a peculiarly Kenyan insult for which we have no retort.

The road to Schiphol.

Politics can be set aside to provide a world class institution, run on world class business principles and delivering a world class experience. ~ The Nitpicker, Like Schiphol Airport, JKIA too can be key driver of our economic growth (Business Daily, 23 February)
The Kenya Airports Authority, KAA, has a board chaired by the former Inspector-General of Police. Ponder on that a little. The man who oversaw the swiftest decline in public confidence in an institution after a change of guard, who was flatfooted when at least seventy Kenyans were murdered in cold blood at a popular mall, who didn't see a constitutional freedom he didn't want to override, and who, by all accounts, can't run a lemonade stand, is the chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Authority that runs our airports.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure was the Managing Director of the Kenya Railways Corporation when the corporation was concessioned to a South African company that did not have a record of running a railway company and, it eventually emerged, did not have the capital or the management team to run the concessioned railways. He sits on the Board of the KAA.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, JKIA, is not Schiphol Airport and the Kenya Airports Authority is most definitely not the Schiphol Group, the operating company that runs Schiphol. The Board of Directors of the KAA, as with many boards of directors in which the national Executive has an interest, is the soft landing for public servants such as the former Inspector-General of Police. It is not the place you would go looking for sound management, investment strategy or light-bulb-moment ideas about converting JKIA's earnings into Schiphol-like billion-shilling profits.

That can only be done in the private sector, where the Nitpicker thrives. Her ideas are sound, bold and have a sense of style about them. They are completely wasted on David Kimaiyo and Nduva Muli, who serve political masters with a penchant for patronage. Esther Koimett, the Investment Secretray at the National Treasury, would be in sync with the Nitpicker - if only politics didn't prevent her from successfully divesting the national Executive out of the JKIA.

It is true that "politics can be set aside to provide a world class institution" but the fact that by any global standards none of our public universities is ranked in the top ten, none of our parastatals is ranked in the top 100, and the only thing we are famous for - our world-beating long distance runners - the national Executive cannot create by tenderpreneurship, politics or tribalism, should be a Very Big Clue that the road to Schiphol-like glory will be long, arduous and littered with the detritus of fifty one years of received political wisdom. Even the Nitpicker will have to admit that not even she can identify the politician who is willing to give up the lucrative political opportunities ownership of the KAA entails - and the tender opportunities control of the JKIA brings.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Terrible burdens.

They say I should care about football. As a man, I should have a favourite team to bury all my hidden emotions in without shame. I should feel free to get mad, excited, happy, sad, whatever, because of the fortunes of this team. And because I am a man, my fidelity to that team should depend entirely on whether it has the capacity to hold my attention for more than three minutes; if not, a small bevy of other teams should command some of my attentions and affections. That should be me, shouldn't it?

If it isn't football, it should be tennis, Formula 1, rugby (the fifteens, not that rubbish that is the sevens), NBA basketball or pro-football as epitomised by the National Football league of the United States. I should find a sport, and I should find a sportsman, who or which will command my attention when I am not busy being busy, making money, seducing girlfriends, taking a shit, sleeping, sleeping around or thinking of being busy. It is, I am told, what all men do. It is what is expected of all men, they say. It is the natural order of things.

What fatuous shit! I am not a child, held in thrall by the anodyne bloodless combat on a field filled with highly athletic, highly trained, highly remunerated men. I can allocate my attention and affection far more efficiently than the mob can, and I have. I have no need to follow the careers of men of sport, for sport holds little interest for the one who played, played well but never well enough to make it a career. I do not need to live vicariously by the victories and losses of proxies; I do that every day I go up against the world, in my world, and either conquer it or live to conquer it tomorrow. My victories and losses are mine to celebrate or mourn in private - Like A Man!

Of course I take an interest in the fortunes of the teams in the various leagues and the successes of the various sportsmen in the sports of their careers. After all, I am not an island, completely impervious to the winds of change. But my interest is arms-length, dispassionate, cold-blooded, calculating. It is an interest that is intertwined in my ambitions, my career. It is a distraction, every now and then, when distractions are needed, and it plays the same role as cigarettes once did or ice-cold Heinekens sometimes do. I wouldn't miss the games and the sports if they were suddenly to follow the dodo into the annals of history.

My grandfather did not have the spectacle of the English Premier League or the FIA Formula 1 Championship to occupy his mind; he was variously a husband, a father, a soldier, a teacher and a farmer and he came out the best man I have ever known. His lexicon was vast, unsullied by words like "hooligan" or "pit-stop." In him I had a true hero to emulate, not a jacked up man-boy with problems keeping a girlfriend and difficulty managing his affairs. If pushed to the wall and a gun held to my temple, it is to my grandfather, repository of wisdom, that I shall retreat, not the ego-driven vacuous narcissism of the elite athlete.

In time all men come to the same conclusion I have; but in that time, some men will weep tears over teams and athletes and live in the fantasy world where they are just as elite as the athletes they adore. They will have wasted the valuable time their families demand in their adoration of, usually, foreigners who would go on to live full lives without ever knowing that these men were weeping buckets over them at every loss or setback. These are the sad men whose empty lives need stimuli to remain livable. What a terrible burden these men must bear.

Unruly-mob reform.

Look, anyone who thought "flagship project" were magic words that would somehow streamline public procurement in Kenya needs a refresher course in cowboy contracting and the tenderpreneur moment. The children may yet get their laptops - all that remains are the right signatures on the right forms and the right political constituencies mollified when the tender goes to one of their own without their participation. That's it. And if you think the situation is any better in the United Kingdom or the United States, look at the way BAE Systems skidded past the law when dealing with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Reforming public procurement in Kenya must be done in the full glare of the hypocrisy that defines public procurement all over the world. No nation has a completely graft-free tender process. Not the vaunted Singapore, the draconian China, the lily-white United Kingdom or the nannying United States. To expect angelic fidelity to the law from Kenyans is raising the bar to a height no nation has ever attained.

This is not to say that we should wring our hands in despair and mumble piteously about how everyone is doing it. far from it. It means taking a pragmatic approach to reducing graft and the wastage that accompanies it. Imprisonment and hefty fines have not reduced it; clearly, pain is not a disincentive in Kenya. We need an alternative means of promoting higher levels of honesty in the system. It could be as simple as a national black list of offending firms and instant dismissal from service for public officers on the take.

A pragmatic approach will acknowledge that regardless of the sanctions that a breach of the procurement law will attract, there must be consequences for such breaches. The consequences must threaten not just the freedom or property of the offending parties, but it must also jeopardise future opportunities to benefit from the system in more substantive ways. Such jeopardy should also include the possibility of foreign opportunities for these parties; it is only when an established way of doing business is jeopardised that the incentive to be cleaner becomes more attractive.

Lists of shame are a cost-effective way of starting the reform process. In Kenya, our habit of doing everything in our power to avoid embarassing the high and mighty should be ditched; it has contributed significantly to the re-emergence of shady cowboy contractors as private developers in scandal after scandal. Publish the list of every tender ever given by the State, publish the list of all those that won the tender, publish the list of all those who won the tender using dubious connections or brown envelopes - publish and let the people know. Knowledge is power and that power is best exercised by an unruly mob when it comes to reforms in the public sector.

Unruly mobs, if one cares to think about it, gave us the French Revolution, the Quit India Movement and the slinking out of Bechtel from Bolivia over its intent to privatise water. We have been too obsequious of the public personalities for our own good. It is time we pitch-forked and burning-torched them in loud and humiliating ways for their graft tendencies. It is the only way that we can get the system we want - and deserve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Change the tune.

The Jubilee alliance is not an alliance of two ethnic communities, not if the strict letter of the law is to be observed. After all, in accordance with the law, again, the constituent members of the alliance are "national" parties, aren't they? Therefore, why is it still being promoted on the national airwaves, across all media platforms, that Jubilee is an alliance between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, and why is an argument being advanced that CORD's machinations are, (a) meant to destroy the alliance between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin and, (b) therefore, bring Kenya to the brink of civil war, or tip it into civil war after all?

There are those promoting the hypothesis that the Kikuyu and Kalenjn have lived in hostility "for decades" and that peace between them must be given a chance, even when it goes against the "natural instincts" of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin. The priniple limb of this hypothesis is that CORD is an obstacle to the "national reconciliation processes", thereby conflating the Kikuyu-Kalenjin comity with national peace and reconciliation. This line of thinking contributed considerably to the post-2007 general election violence and consequent political stalemate. It cannot be permitted to rise again like the noxious political weed it is.

Political violence in the Rift Valley is a recent phenomenon, coming to life during the post-section 2A repeal in 1991. The period between 1991 and 2007 may indeed be longer than a decade, but the hostility that erupted in 1992 was not decades in its festering. The spark was certainly the repeal of section 2A and the KANU fear of loss, KANU being personified in Baba Moi himself. The clashes might be painted as ethnic clashes then but the language of 1992 was "land clashes" with the ethnic identity of the "grabbers" being the convenient backdrop to the massive electoral fraud that took place that year.

While the violence of 2007/2008 may have brought the nation to a halt, it was not violence between Kikuyu and Kalenjin, even if the ones who were eventually charged before the International Criminal Court as being responsible for it were largely Kikuyu and Kalenjin (with apologies to Amb Muthaura and Gen Ali). Therefore, it follows that comity between Kikuyu and Kalenjin, in the wake of violence that touched Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Miji Kenda, Maasai, Samburu, Pokot, is not national peace and reconciliation because of the Kikuyu-Kalenjin rapprochement, but because all other ethnic communities in Kenya agreed to live in relative political peace. Though t is the stalwarts of the Kikuyu and Kalenjn communities who take the lion's share of the praise for the peace that prevails, their two communities in Kenya cannot hold the entire nation at ransom over their comity or lack of it, and if CORD really does manage to bring down the Jubilee house of cards, unless the other ethnic communities pick violent political sides, that will not be the spark for a repeat of 2007/2008.

Jubilee wishes to convert its coalition into a unified political party, a vehicle to solidify its political gains in 2017. It is time it dumped the rhetoric of Kikuyu-Kalenjin comity and the fragility of the peace that comity engenders. That is the myopia of the pygmy. Jubilee is the ruling alliance; it is not the victim of an anti-Kikuyu-Kalenjin conspiracy. Those peddling the incredibly incendiary view that it is weak because of CORD's machinations are the true enemies of national peace, reconciliation and integration.

The Gospel of YouTube.

What do you know of the Illuminati?
I know absolutely nothing about the Illuminati, very little about the Freemasons, and a great deal of rumour and innuendo about the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission. I am not a conspiracy theorist, you see, and so for the most part do not care that much about the nefariousness of the aforementioned Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission. I may be wrong, but I do not believe that the world is in the secret grip of a tiny, organised, well-connected elite that manipulates world events with decades'-long foresight. (I do not believe that Barack Obama's presidency was planned in the year of his birth when his father struck a deal with a secret cabal that would plant newspaper stories about his birth in American newspapers, et cetera, et cetera.)

I do not see silent black helicopters in the nigh sky every time there is a terrorist attack on our fair land. I do not go to bed wondering whether the regulatory cold shoulder given to KTN, NTV, QTV and Citizen TV by the Communications Authority is a plot by the Kenyan chapter of the Bilderberg Group to control the four main media houses in order to sell more telenovelas, and the ads that go with them, to unsuspecting housemaids, stay-at-home wives and the Lotharios who hang around.

I am a student in all that I attempt, even when I have done something for years. I remain a student, because it is in questioning received wisdom that I hope to gain wisdom. It is not in my nature to blindly follow the pack simply because the pack believe in the Gospel according to YouTube. It is my duty as a student to ask tough questions and to question the accuracy or veracity of the answers I get. It is therefore very difficult to believe that a well-connected, highly intelligent, truly wealthy cartel will sit down in a room to co-ordinate the election of a half-black/half-white man from a broken home fifty years before the man goes to school and becomes an accomplished community organiser in a state known for political corruption of a truly frightening scale.

How can I accept that a woman who was completely unknown a decade ago would be groomed for world domination by being steered into a girl band, leave the girl band for a solo career, take up with a ,man whose ego needs no introduction, marry that man, bear a child with him only so that she can become the Queen Bee of a Hive that will obey her every command, even if those commands are subliminally transmitted to her Bee Hive without thinking that the peddler of that particular morsel of conspiracy theorising must ask for his school fees back?

It is known as the scientific method, my friend, a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. If you haven't sussed it out yet, if, in your disquisition on why Beyoncé is Illuminati and why I should be afraid of this development, you fail to demonstrate how this tidbit will help me acquire new knowledge, or correct and integrate my previous knowledge, I don't think you and I should be in the same room together. You are unlikely to take my reaction to your declarations kindly.

Simply because you assert something with a tone of confidence does not mean that I will accept it as true or accurate. I will test your assertion. I will subject it reason and if it falls short of my measurements, based on my knowledge, I will discard it as intellectual dross. Should you wish to challenge my choice, please marshal all the empirical and technical information at your command, and leave out the University of Google or the Gospel of YouTube, please. If you cannot do that, please join the rest of the Luddites in the ash heap of history, where the Sun revolves around the Earth, the Earth is flat and an object cannot displace its own mass in a body of water.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

All the trimmings.

Can you honestly swear that, other than CORD (where ODM is the sun) and Jubilee constellations (where TNA is the sun), you know who the parties in the by-elections in Homa Bay (today), Kajiado Central (do you even remember when it is scheduled for) and Kabete (his body is not even cold in the ground yet) are? I don't know the other parties, but certain faces are familiar, like Philip Nyakundi, though why they are familiar remains a mystery. Before he was nominated by ODM to stand for the Homa Bay Senate seat left vacant by his brother's untimely death, Moses Kajwang' was not known for anything special, or political like his elder siblings, the late Otieno and TJ Kajwang', representing Ruaraka in Nairobi County.

The faces are familiar, but what the men and women behind the faces have achieved for the people they wish to represent in Parliament remains shrouded in mystery. What is certain, what has always been certain, is that promises will be made by the candidates. These promises, in keeping with the changing digital times, will be calibrated and micro-calibrated for every possible demographic, interest and pressure group: youth, women, the aged, the disabled, artisans, boda boda operators, fisherwomen, and so on. 

You will not hear promises being made to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Tenderpreneur, yet these are the true constituencies that will find representation in Parliament. It is why so many faces look so familiar that it doesn't really matter what party they ride to Parliament, so long as they arrive.

Every now and then the people get a sop. Sometimes it is big, frequently it is not. When it starts out big, it is frequently hijacked and the people find themselves on the outside of their thing with the windows closed and the curtain drawn tight, noses pressed to the window, snot smeared everywhere. The Constituency Development Fund Act was a brilliant sop and it would have worked too if...we don't need to tread over the ground again, do we? So the new Senator or Member of the National Assembly will be sworn in before his fellow-parliamentarians and in his maiden Speech he will make promises. Those promises were jotted down last night as he celebrated with his new found constituents at places where the umber of zeroes on the bill of fare grow longer but not intimidating to the new parliamentarian with his new close friends to help him in his noble task.

In six months memories of any promises made will have faded. In a year memories of dedicated service to the people, a duty to the truth, and vigilance in public affairs will all be figments of the misguided media's memories. The no-longer-new parliamentarian will have replaced his cut-rate Prado with an upgrade - maybe an X5. He will take advantage of that nifty 3% mortgage scheme for parliamentarians. He will have schooled himself on how to choose foie gras, escargot and an accompanying Chablis without looking like the ass he definitely is. 

His Maiden Speech is likely his last speech on the floor of the National Assembly; as a member f at least two-dozen sitting-allowances-paying committees, the business of the House, or the Senate, can take a back-seat as he lines his pockets. Tell me you are not so naive as to believe that this time it will be different. Tell me that you remember this movie, you've watched it before and you know how the story ends. Tell me you are simply going through the motions because, deep down, you know that after the singing, the shouting, the pushing and shoving, the stone-throwing, the queueing, the waiting and the jubilating and ululating, he will forget you, he will refuse to answer phone calls and h e will take a mistress for whom he will spend a pretty penny putting her up in a flat with all the trimmings.

Terrified Panic.

I am not the prayerful type, except when my hide is on the line and panic has gripped my innards in its icy cold grip. In those moments of sheer terror, what little brain function that is not dedicated to calculating the odds of either a flight or fight response is usually dedicated to, "O, Please God!" over and over. When the terror passes I usually make light of it all. But there is usually a bad aftertaste that lingers for hours, sometimes days.

We panic over many things. Over some we have control; over many more circumstances are such that control is limited to how we control our reactions, hence fight or flight...and prayer. I get the feeling that the Government of Kenya is like us: panicky and terrified of most things that it has brought on itself and when terror strikes, and panic sets in, the Government of Kenya is likely to be found responding with varying degrees of flight responses or fight responses - and lots of prayer. We even have a National Prayer Breakfast these days, at which the Executive, Judiciary and Parliament pray for the soul of the nation.

George Muchai's killing is an example of the panicky fight-or-flight-and-prayer mode that the national Executive adopted since his remains and those of his bodyguards and driver were retrieved on Saturday morning. The National Police Service doesn't know whether to blame the late Mr Muchai's also-dead bodyguards for dereliction of duty, or to conclude that the people responsible for the killings are professional assassins who were tasked to assassinate Mr Muchai, the other also-deads being collateral damage. The Ministry of Interior is unable to conclusively state that the much-ballyhooed single-sourced security cameras system  works and if it does how it did not record the killing of the four men. Evans Kidero's City Hall can't explain on what the half-a-billion for traffic cameras was spent because the traffic cameras do not seem to record anything.

All of them are in panic fight-or-flight mode and they are praying hard that Kenyans' notoriously pigeon-like memory will kick in perhaps on the back of Dennis Ole Itumbi's love life, or why Bob Collymore's Safaricom suffered an outtage, or whether Mumo Matemu's commission will take a stab at following up on the Ouzman & Smith convictions in the United Kingdom, or whether children in school (who are very, very randy) should be given free - someone will have to pay for them - condoms by the Government of Kenya. (Just so you know, I think they should; abstinence is a hoax going by the number of babies fathered by teachers with their students these days.)

You can see the panic and terror every time Asman Kamama appears on TV demanding answers, by how suddenly invisible Maina Kamanda and Kanini Kega have become since they made their demands on Sunday, by how silent Evans Kidero is over his half-billio shilling traffic camera system. This panic, this terror is built into the system; it is what makes the system function in such a schizophrenic fashion; sometimes generous, others swinging batons wildly striking at everything in its path without thought. That is no way to govern, but when it is lesser men who govern there is little we can expect of them except panicky terror every time something happens, whether good or not.

Something special.

There's something special about a custom job, isn't there? No, I am not talking about a Pamela Anderson or Dolly Parton level of customisation, I'm talking about something like this...

See how the black-white-black-white contrast is done, especially with the wheels? Brilliant, isn't it? Special. When it is done right, as with that Chevy, you start wondering what the owner felt like the first time he bought it? Did he hate it? Or did he want to make it his own by taking what General Motors had done and then taking it to his own personal level of special?

It's difficult to do that with supercars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston-Martins and their ilk are already engineered to their designers' conception of perfection that the only thing one can do is to go the other way as thousands of Emirati sheikhs have done with their snake-skin covered Bugattis or abominations of similar tastelessness have demonstrated over the past decade.

Run-of-the-mill rides are the ones that demand a touch of magic, to elevate them from ordinary to special, to imbue them with a character and a name, and to remove them from the conveyances of convenience that they are to works of art many would consider parts of their families. Tell me that you aren't moved by something like this...

...or these...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I want one.

Yes. I want one. What? you ask. This!

Or this.

Please note the following, though. I can't drive. I can  get a car from point A to B, but beyond that I am a motorist, not a driver. Much to many of my friends' amusement, I don't seem to care one way or the other that I am not the spiritual successor to Juan Manuel Fangio, Richard Burns and Colin McRae all rolled into one. Instead I seem to be channelling Takuma Sato, and his sad stay with the Honda F1 Team.

That being so, I still love me  nice motor. What comes almost as close to being properly nice as the Rangey or the 911? Rollers just arouse the envy of your neighbours and invite Probox assassins to come after your ass. Benzes just have a whiff of Me-Too-ness about them. Beemers? Jeremy Clarkson and the worldwide community of TopGear-heads have a less than charitable image of their owners. Ferraris, Jags, Bugattis, Lambos, Astons...all over-the-top Jesus-Christ-Expensive.

But Rangeys, despite that Hazina Estate asshole, are to be admired, wheels to aspire to once your bid for the uji tender comes through. 911s, on the other hand, are the epitome of German Engineering, aren't they. The Benz-Beemer-Audi triumvirate may have cornered the market on plutocrat's rides, but not even their AMGs, Ms or RSs can conjure up the image of speed-and-handling that the 911 has been conjuring up since 1964.

So I want one. I can't help myself. You wouldn't if you knew what was good - and bad - for you. You really wouldn't.

How would she look in a suit?

Every now and then you must wonder, "How does she look in in a suit?" I don't mean one of those manly suits that certain women who play for a certain team wear; I mean, "How does she look in a suit?"

See? @UberFacts tells us that men wore heels before women cottoned onto them - because heels made men feel, and look, more masculine. Until I saw her in a suit, this fact was just a factoid of no import. And then came Sigourney Weaver.

Now that factoid constantly blows my mind. Men wore heels to feel and look more masculine. It blows out of the water all your comfy ideas about what men and women can and cannot do, doesn't it? If it were men who brought heels to the world, why should they believe that gender-switching when it came to heels can't happen with other things.

Did you know until around fifteen years ago that it was a disciplinary matter if women working for the government wore trousers, never mind pant-suits. But if they wore this number...

...I could see how some Director of Admnistration who'd spent the better part of his career as a District Officer in Kapropita would not be willing to live that vision of beauty in that eye-catching number. So, every now and then, I wonder, "How would she look in a suit?"

We are shameless.

When Samuel Kivuitu announced that Mwai Kibaki had been re-elected as President of Kenya, it set of a chain of events that led to the deaths of at least a thousand Kenyans, the rape and grievous assault of tens of thousands of Kenyans, and the displacement of at least six hundred thousand Kenyans from their homes. For seven years, the International Criminal Court, its Office of the prosecutor and the Government of Kenya have danced around investigating the violence that ensued and the prosecution of those suspected to be most responsible. Those who were murdered, raped, maimed or displaced have largely been forgotten; even their representative at the ICC seems not to pay them much mind these days.

Lone voices have attempted to keep the plight of the survivors of the violence in the public's mind with little success.The Government of Kenya and a large proportion of the post-election violence civil society industry has focussed almost entirely on the displaced. The national Executive and many of its supporters have repeatedly stated that, as proof of its concern for the "victims" of the violence, it has resettled all the displaced. The survivors would beg to differ. So would I.

The national Executive controls the key institutions necessary for action to demonstrate that the plight of all the survivors is being addressed effectively: the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. When the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed "over three hundred" files related to the violence, it concluded that none of them could form the foundation of successful prosecutions because the police had done "a shoddy job" in investigating the crimes that were committed. Seven years after those dark days, murderers, rapists, knee-cappers, arm-breakers, skull-fructurers, child-defilers, arsonists, robbers and thieves walk free while the survivors try as best they can to rebuild their shattered lives.

What must gall them to the core, what must intensify their grief, is the national obsession that places two individuals and the large political constituencies they represent at the centre of the violence, and their subsequent political rapprochement as proof that both the survivors and perpetrators of the violence have moved on. Collectivisation of the crimes has destroyed any national desire to investigate individual crimes even where perpetrators were clearly identified. Conflation of the fate of the two men with the post-2013 peace has erased the survivors from the mind of the people.

The survivors, especially the survivors who were not displaced, are on their own. Those who were sexually assaulted, defiled, maimed or injured have no one to turn to. They have been erased from public discourse. They are witness to callousness on a colossal scale. They are called to survive injustice twice over: the national Executive will not properly investigate the crimes committed against them and, therefore, there will be no prosecution, and the national Executive will not - NOT - compensate them for their losses. Ever. We should be ashamed to even think of ourselves as civilised.