Abortion laws in America

Here are some details on the newest American abortion bans, by state.

* Important note: Supporters of reproductive rights have filed multiple lawsuits against this type of law. None of these early abortion bans are currently in effect or are being enforced.

Alabama – No abortion after 0 weeks. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is threatened. No exceptions for rape or incest.

Arkansas — No abortion after 18 weeks. Allows exceptions for rape, incest or medical emergencies.

Georgia – No abortion after 6 weeks. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered, if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile” and in cases of rape or incest if the woman files a police report.

Kentucky – No abortion after 6 weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered.

Louisiana – No abortion after 6 weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered or if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile.”

Mississippi – No abortion after 6 weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered.

Missouri – No abortion after 8 weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered.

Ohio – No abortion after 6 weeks. No exceptions for rape or incest. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered.

Utah – No abortion after 18 weeks. Allows exceptions for rape or incest if the doctor performing the abortion verifies that the incident was reported to law enforcement. Allows exceptions if the woman’s life is endangered.  ( compiled by Carrie Feibel, Sarah McCammon and Carmel Wroth, NPR).

The Republican strategy is to get the issue before the Supreme Court and have Roe vs. Wade overturned.

Meanwhile, the extreme right wing is making hay while the sun shines, introducing a variety of legislation that is anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-women, indeed anti-everything except rich, “deserving” men.  Whether all or even some, of the laws passed survive their visits to the Courts (themselves often dominated by Republican lawyers) is another matter. But the threat to human rights and a civilised society is clear.

As for abortion, I believe forcing women to have children they can’t, or won’t, cherish and bring up as decent citizens is a sin against (especially poor) women,  the family and the rest of us.  I suspect, but can’t prove, that there could be a correlation between the unwanted child and later anti-social behaviour: drink, drugs, domestic violence, gang membership and use of guns against other members of society. We need a balanced, happy well-adjusted population, not scores of aggrieved and unhappy, unwanted kids.

 

 

Re-cycling, Part 2: Endlessly recyclable plastic

Dr.  Brett Helms. who heads up a team of scientists, has announced that he has discovered a way of making scrap plastic indefinitely re- recyclable able.   

Plastic material can be recycled, but because its quality degrades during the recycling process, even the stuff that makes it as far as a recycling plant (which is a small fraction of the total) can only be reused once or twice, producing a progressively inferior product before ending up in a landfill or incinerators.

Now, though, scientists say that polydiketoenaminet can be recycled over and over again, with no loss of quality. Like all plastics, PDKD is composed of polymers: stringy molecules made up of repeating, carbon-containing compounds called monomers.

For a plastic to be recycled, it must be broken down into its component monomers.   But there are usually problems: the bonds are too strong to separate the monomers; and chemicals added to the plastic to make it transparent, or tough, cling to them and contaminate the process. The new material can be broken down to a molecular level and separated from chemical additives by simply immersing it in an acid bath for 12 hours. Like Lego blocks, the monomers can then be reassembled to make good-as-new plastic in any colour, shape or form.  (The Week 25 May 2019).

Another reason, among many, to praise science, not to trash it as so many conservatives do these days.   By the way, if commercially successful, it would be a big blow to the petro-chemical industry.iu

Big company mismanagement: don’t fly British Airways!

We were on our way home from Catania airport, Sicily, on a British Airways flight.  It turned out that BA had transported 18 disabled people from Gatwick airport – in wheelchairs –  to Sicily, and that these same people were on our return flight.  ( I hope they enjoyed themselves)

Now you would think that BA would, when booking them in the first place, check whether Catania, a regional airport, had the requisite disabled-handling equipment, similar to that in London. But, no, they had trouble loading the disabled people. Our flight was  delayed and delayed. We were given no information (of course) while we waited in an area with seating for about half the passengers.

At last we were told to board. Whoops! No! Everyone was held on a loading ramp, standing without seats for an hour and a half, while airline staff members  told us it wasn’t their fault.  There was nowhere to sit (I have a painful back and right hip), and the children naturally became fractious.  Suffice to say that the flight did leave – three hours late, and we eventually reached home from Gatwick at 5 a.m, four hours later than expected.  You can rely on BA to spoil a great holiday.

But let me come to the point – we were each handed a slip of paper, purporting to be an apology.  The sense of it was as follows:

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.  Total amount of this free voucher GBP 5.00 (about $7.00!) to be used for light refreshments at the issued location (Catania, where we had just come from!) for up to 3 months.  Can be used in participating airport outlets  (e.g food outlets) and not on board.’

In short, an insult to the intelligence. It would have been better to have said nothing.  The offer chits littered the gangway as disgruntled passengers disembarked. The motivation was obvious : BA , in its annual report could claim that x thousands of passengers thad been “compensated” for late arrival.

BA is “managed” by people whose incompetence and lack of any idea of customer care and satisfaction is well known, but never seems to change.   This treatment was not an Epicurean experience!  My personal ataraxia after a nice holiday was – zero.  I would rather stay at home in future rather than fly British Airways.

 

Some light relief: a little unknown bit of history

My father took the surrender of the Third Reich.  Yes, truly.

It happened like this.  My father was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force, duty officer on the day in question on a North German airfield occupied by the British in 1945.  Hitler had committed suicide and Admiral Doenitz had taken over as Reichs President at the instruction of Hitler, and the war was as good as over, although this was not yet clear to my father and his fellow officers.

A Nazi aircraft was spotted,  approaching the airfield. My father said he was in a quandary.  Should he order it shot down?  He let it land.

The plane taxied to the spot where my father and his squad were standing, arms at the ready, guns loaded.  Out of the plane walked Reichs President Doenitz in full Naval uniform and decorations. My father was dumbfounded.  Doenitx gave a Nazi bow and clicked his heels. ( I asked my father if he had saluted a senior officer, but he avoided responding)

”I am here to tender the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich,” said Doenitz, in English and proffering the handle of his sword

This development “posed a bit of a problem”, my father told me later, one of the understatements of the Century.  Should the man be handed over to Montgomery, the British commander, or to Eisenhower? What was the proper way to deal with this unexpected event.  Being British he said the first thing that came into his head:

”Sir, said Dad, “could I offer you a gin and tonic in the Mess?”

So Doenitz got his drink, but nobody thought it appropriate to discuss the flight, the weather or, indeed, the war.  Doenitz was sent on the Eisenhower’s headquarters that day and he and other senior Nazis were arrested and later tried.  It appears that he flew to the British sector to avoid the Russians and because he thought he would be treated by the British in a gentlemanly manner.  He got that right.

This story is absolutely true but is not mentioned in the historical accounts, to the best of my knowledge. I don’t want it to be lost. The gin illustrates my father’s Epicurean persuasion.

 

Reform the current capitalist system!

American capitalism transformed the lives of millions and thereby did a good job for the majority.  Arguably, happiness seems to have peaked in the 1950s.  But now the system has clearly  become self-serving, exploitative and unfit for purpose, creating massive wealth disparities and harming young people in particular with its employment policies.  It has been allowed to become a grabbitocracy.  I speak here as someone who was born a conservative, but who now finds the way the country is an embarrassment, and about as far away from Epicurean thought as possible.

The system is not set up to tackle the twin challenges of climate crisis and the threatening rise of China.  The big corporations, with their overpaid CEOs call the political shots and  pay little or no tax to maintain a decent society, which needs to be built anew to serve everyone, not just the 1%.  The following  suggestions are just for starters:

First to go has to be Citizens United, arguably the biggest mistake made by any Supreme Court in its history.

Secondly, all  constituency  boundaries should by law be determined by non-political, disinterested lawyers, sworn to serve the whole country faithfully, regardless of political leanings ( yes, a tall order!)

Thirdly, retiring politicians should be banned from lobbying their former colleagues for ten years.

Fourthly, the anti-trust system has atrophied and should be revived.

Fifthly, compensation to management, and especially CEOs, has grown exponentially, relative to that of employees, and the ratio should be reduced, substantially.

Sixthly, the minimum wage should provide a living wage.  If you can’t pay your staff a living wage you shouldn’t be in business.

Seventhly, universities and colleges are behaving like corporations and have forgotten their purpose. The student loan system is a corrupt scam. No one should  start their working lives with huge debt.

Lastly, the tax dodges and the 15% tax on “carried interest” used by the super-rich should be made illegal.

This is not socialism; it is patriotism. It stands for Epicurean moderation, indeed, common sense.

 

Plastic waste (no, don’t move on to something else – this important! ) Part 1

Annual global sales of plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans and cartons are expected to reach 1.9 trillion in 2019.

Volunteers who took part in 229 clean-up events on beaches and river banks in the UK found 49,000 pieces of packaging litter. Of this, 15.5% were Coca Cola bottles, and 10.3% were produced by Pepsi.  Other major polluting material came from chocolate wrapping (Cadbury and Nestle) and McDonalds.  Manufacturers of all this gunk pay a mere 10% of the disposal costs; the remainder is paid for by local councils, taxpayers and the environment itself.  You and me!  (reported by The Guardian/Campaign to Protect Rural England).

Leaving aside the issue as to whether anybody at all should be drinking overly large amounts of Coke and Pepsi, fast food or chocolate bars ( the British taxpayer pays for the health results for the over-consumers, but we all support freedom, don’t we?), the companies concerned are clearly not doing enough to encourage recycling, and it isn’t even clear whether re-cyclers worldwide really recycle a lot of the waste, or whether they quietly bury it in landfills.

Opinions differ on these issues.  Epicureans , for instance, advocate moderation.  What the more  laisser-faire advocates cannot deny is that we are collectively despoiling the environment, and that it is unjust to ask people who have not had  a Coke, a Pepsi or. a McDonalds meal for twenty five years, to pay out of their pockets for the selfish and careless behavior of the people who do consume these things.  I say, “Don’t ban them. Put the prices up and use the extra money to recycle.  Just stop freeloading!”.    (Part 2, more positive,  be posted tomorrow)

The war against antibiotic resistance: Part 2, the good news

The threat posed by antibiotic resistance has finally got through to governments.  98 new formulations are being tested in animals, and nearly two-thirds attack bacteria differently from older drugs, increasing their chance of success.

In May this year, the UK government will  pay two companies to bring new anti-microbial drugs to market. The price of the drug will be “delinked” from what the company needs to recoup its investment, so there is no pressure to market the new drugs aggressively, and they can be saved for the cases that resist all other treatments.

The US Congress also plans to discuss such “market entry reward” schemes for new antibiotics, including an idea called “play or pay”, in which drug firms that aren’t working on antibiotics have to pay into a fund to reward companies that do. Existing legislation allowing government agencies to reward firms that develop biodefence drugs for which there is no market, such as anthrax vaccines, may also be pressed into service.

If that sounds like it will cost taxpayers a pretty penny, compare it with the cost of treating resistance – $2.2 billion a year in the US, according to a study last March. In a patented antibiotics market worth $700 million in the US, another $700 million might get things started, says Outterson.

We might not even need to pay directly. In November, a drug called zoliflodacin passed tests showing it was safe and effective in humans against gonorrhoea, which has become so antibiotic-resistant that some infections are now almost incurable.

Many promising new drugs get this far and no further, but this one is already set to enter the big, expensive tests needed before it can be licensed. The trials will be financed by Entasis, the US company developing the drug, and also by governments and other donors organised by GARDP, a global organisation promoting antibiotic development.

If it passes, Entasis will market the drug in 34 rich countries, while GARDP gets marketing rights in 166 poor ones. Entasis makes the profit it needs, while the gonorrhoea epidemic in poor countries gets an effective drug – under tight control.

Ultimately, if these schemes don’t work fast enough, governments will have to take over the business of providing antibiotics. It wouldn’t be the first time they have done this kind of thing. Until the 1980s, government agencies produced the public-health vaccines that defeated diseases such as polio, measles and smallpox, as a public good, like roads and schools.

Ideology has frowned on governments messing with markets. But it may take only a few more untreatable cases of gonorrhoea or urinary tract infection to make the critics change their minds.  (An abridged version of an article in the New Scientist,  Jan19-25, 2019).

This is something governments  should be involved in, something for the general good of the whole population that private enterprise simply cannot tackle and stay in business.

The war against antibiotic resistance. No.1: the problem

You have probably heard about the problem of anti- biotic resistance.  This resistance is at last crumbling, but there is another problem – of economics.

The issue is that pharma firms must recoup their investment in developing drugs, but antibiotics are the antithesis of a bestseller. They are taken for days or a few weeks, whereas diabetes or heart drugs are highly profitable because patients can use them for life. Plus, new antibiotics can’t compete with older, cheaper drugs that still work and are no longer patented.

By the time resistance to the old antibiotics builds up and doctors must prescribe new, expensive ones, their patented life may be almost over, leaving little time for their owner to turn a profit. Novel drugs must also be kept in reserve or used sparingly, to stop bacteria building a resistance to them, too.  As a result,  US sales of all antibiotics still under patent totalled just $700 million in 2017 – less than what a single new cancer drug makes in a year. This is having a dire effect on the field. Big companies have  reduced their programmes and are not launching new studies. Now, most drug discovery is done by small, struggling biotech firms. Bad profit prospects meant those working on antibiotics lost some 50 to 75 per cent of their stock value in 2018.  There are only about 800 experienced researchers left working on antibiotics.

A recent study showed that only 56 experimental antibiotics worldwide have passed animal tests and human trials. Typically, only 14 will prove viable and about 5  work in novel ways. That is a concern, because drugs that operate in the same way as existing ones may not be able to defeat resistance.

It is estimated that the loss of antibiotics would cost society trillions of dollars. Tomorrow I will continue by reporting what is being done.  (Based on article in the New Scientist but heavily edited for length,  Jan 19-25, 2019)

 

Beware the creeping coup!

It is now clear that Dr, Thomas Hofeller—who has been called “the Michelangelo of gerrymandering”— was the author of the idea of adding the citizenship question to the 2020 US census in order to create redistricting rules that would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”?  He conducted research showing  that the citizenship question would significantly harm the political power of Latino communities. This is part of an explicit strategy to exclude millions of Americans from consideration in redistricting, overturning centuries of precedent. 

The revelations emerged from files provided to Common Cause by Hofeller’s daughter, who chose to entrust Common Cause with his papers. They provide a detailed view into Hofeller’s behind-the-scenes work to craft district maps for partisan advantage. (Common Cause).

Epicurus, who, unlike most ancient Greeks of his time, welcomed both women and slaves into his garden, discussing, debating, asking their opinions. Today , we have in progress what amounts to a creeping political coup that seeks to solidify the power of a single party by gerrymandering, by exclusion of  whole blocks of people who might vote democrat or require government assistance; by the packing of the Supreme Court, and by using Citizens United and giveaway tax bills to firmly secure both votes and the money of the super-rich to exclude the Democrats for good.

Epicurus warned his followers against politics, and what is happening in the US illustrates why. If we want democracy (remember that?) restored and a fair, happy and fulfilling life for all the people, not just for the ruthless and privileged, we have to forget the indifference of Epicurus – and vote.  And make sure everyone we know votes.  If not, the natural autocrats are about to get their dearest wish.

 

 

Talking past one another

Prime Minister Teresa May has called the visit  of President Trump to London “a significant week for the special relationship and an opportunity to further strengthen our already close partnership”. She stressed the need to build closer trading ties (she is a out to depart, unmourned).

Trump’s US ambassador in the UK, Woody Johnson, has meanwhile suggested that the National Health Service  should be ”on the table” in future trade negotiations with the US. Trump’s man in London also indicated the UK would need to allow US agricultural products, including chlorinated chicken, onto the UK market as part of any post-Brexit trade deal.

Firstly, there is no “special relationship” between the US and the USA.  This is a fantasy on the extreme Right. The special relationship (very special) is with Israel.  Secondly, if there is any move to allow American companies to take over the NHS there will be riots on the street.  American health corporations, ( by the way, in the midst of consolidation, with a huge number of takeovers  and mergers), already have a presence in the UK market, pushing up costs, and their undermining of the NHS is unpopular.  Lastly, chlorinated chicken is shorthand for what is perceived abroad as mass produced, chemically treated, tasteless and unhealthy food.  Further riots would ensue.

How can one achieve ataraxia with such idiots talking past one another?

 

The olive oil bird “massacre”

My wife and I have been in Sicily.  During our visit we stayed at an olive farm, set in beautiful countryside.  The farm produces five varieties of olive oil, plus a blend, all of which we tried while enjoying the wonderful food for which Sicily is famous.  What we didn’t know while we stayed there was the following bit of information, which I have just found in the magazine “Nature”:

“The global demand for olive oil is having a catastrophic effect on wildlife. On some farms, olives are still harvested by hand, but in these days of mass production, machines are taking over. Between October and March, many farmers use powerful tractors to strip the trees of their fruit and, in the process, vacuum up hundreds of thousands of birds that have migrated south for the winter. The tractors operate after sundown (to take advantage of the cooler temperatures that help preserve the olives’ flavour), starting just as the birds have roosted in the trees. Dazzled and disorientated by the machine’s lights, the birds are sucked up on a “catastrophic scale”. Researchers found as many as 100 dead birds in each trailer, including large numbers of British species such as robins, greenfinches, warblers and wagtails. It is estimated that 96,000 birds die this way each winter in Portugal alone.” “Nature” calls on governments, in its article, to ban night-time harvesting.

The olive oil makers have kept that quiet.  Wish we had known and could have quizzed the obviously very energetic and successful owner, who has a thriving business.  No mention was made by her of mechanical picking at night, as opposed to mechanical processing, and I still don’t know how her picking is done.  But had a great time testing the different offerings.    Maybe Epicurus, faced with this bit of news about olive picking might say, “One doesn’t know what one doesn’t know.  You can’t put everything right in this world”.

 

What a mess we are making of our planet!

Microplastics have been found dropping from the sky in a remote stretch of the high Pyrenees – a stark illustration of the way that the pollutants, carried on the winds, have the potential to accumulate “anywhere and everywhere”.  Humans and other animals are consuming microplastics via food and water (including tap water), and there is evidence that we may also be breathing them in from the air.

The long-term effect of ingesting this material is not yet clear, but its sheer ubiquity means that the issue must be taken seriously, said Steve Allen, of the EcoLab institute near Toulouse, France. “If it is going to be a problem, it is going to be a very big problem,” he warned. “I don’t think there is an organism on Earth that is immune to this.” The researchers calculate that microplastics can travel 60 miles in the air. But as Saharan winds can carry particles of sand for hundreds of miles, this is likely to be a low estimate. The plastic was found in a part of the Pyrenees that is four miles from the nearest village and 15 miles from the nearest town.  (The Guardian and The Week, 27 April 2019)

What can we do about those who despise science and scientists, shrug their shoulders and call the growing threat to the planet fake news?  We can try to vote them out, but they have the support of rich corporations and individuals who are corrupt and who will protect their fortunes at any cost – to others, of course.  Money is more important than other people and the planet itself.  When the crunch comes they will blame someone else – they always do.  We are slipping into deep crisis, and it may need another wrenching and violent world upheaval to eventually help the human race to survive.  What we want is ataraxia and happy lives.  Collectively we cannot see beyond our noses.

 

138 surgeries close their doors

GPs have blamed under-resourcing and recruitment difficulties as surgery closures across the UK reach an all- time high, affecting an estimated half a million patients last year. According to research by the medical website Pulse, 138 surgeries shut their doors in 2018, compared with just 18 in 2013.

Data released under freedom of information by 186 out of 217 clinical commissioning groups and health boards revealed that smaller surgeries – those serving 5,000 or fewer patients – were the worst affected in 2018, accounting for 86% of closures.

One doctor told how after 26 years he gave up his GP surgery in Brighton, where he and his partner were run off their feet looking after 6,500 patients. “The money was just falling away,” he said. “We gave the staff six months’ notice and we walked away.” NHS England said its figures showed fewer practice closures and patient dispersals in 2017/18 compared with 2016/17. But those figures are only for England, and cover the financial year, whereas Pulse’s figures cover the whole UK and calendar years.  ( The Guardian, 31 May 2018)

What the British government is doing is accepted conservative practice – starve the beast and replace it  with contracts offered to private companies.  Much of the current health privatisation benefits large American corporations, who may reward politicians financially at an appropriate  moment (no, I am not inferring corruption.  Corruption is in the eye of the beholder.  Use your own judgment).  Whatever health experts in the US claim, the British NHS has done a fantastic job on ( in comparison with the US, with limited resources.  As service declines so the public is expected to support private intervention.  It’s  a form of malicious robbery, if that isn’r a tautology.

The Pentagon could learn from Agincourt

During the Battle of Agincourt,  the “humble and effective English longbow made short work of the expensive and vulnerable French cavalry”. Is America at risk of suffering the same sort of military humiliation?

Christian Brose, the former staff director of the Senate armed services committee, believes so. The traditional model of US power – based on large, expensive and heavily manned systems – has, he says, become a dangerous anachronism. It no longer makes military or economic sense to invest in $13bn aircraft carriers and $89m fighter jets when the US is fighting technologically primitive enemies in the Middle East, and when its “relatively small number of ultra-sophisticated platforms are increasingly vulnerable to detection and destruction” by rivals such as China and Russia. The US should instead create many more, cheaper military platforms, “and – within ethical limits – enhance their autonomy”. That would put fewer soldiers in harm’s way and reduce the risk from swarm attacks. But alas, this change is unlikely to happen any time soon: the “military-industrial-congressional complex” will resist any disruption to its business model. “In the meantime, the risk of being on the losing side of our own Agincourt” grows greater by the day.   (Bret Stephens, New York Times, The Week 4 May 2019).

There is nothing moderate (or Epicurean) about the money and resources thrown at the American military.  They get everything they want, crowding out the needs of all sorts of other aspects of American life.  Under Trump the money devoted to military effort rises by the day.  And yet we cannot win a war, Afghanistan being the prime, and most scandalous example.  Meanwhile the deficit careers upwards as if there could be no possible economic consequences.  All hail Mr. Christian Brose for pointing out what should be obvious, but which , I am sure, is an unwelcome point of view to the score of special interests wanting an ever more bloated and clumsy military.

A nice, harmless report that isn’t about wrecking civilisation!

The use of birdfeeders in gardens has dramatically increased the diversity of the birds living in Britain’s urban areas, a new study has found. The British Trust for Ornithology said that at least half of home-owners feed garden birds – a trend that started to take off in the 1970s – and this now supports an estimated 196 million birds a year, and more than half of the country’s species. While many common birds such as blackbirds and robins have maintained a steady presence at feeders, sightings of others, including great spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and wood pigeons, have dramatically increased. Goldfinches were spotted at just 8% of feeders in 1972, but at 87% of them by 2012.

Relevance?  Well, it is a little thing, but caring for other living creatures is surely Epicurean, rewarding for the giver , who has the joy of seeing a greater variety of visitors visiting his or her garden, and good for the planet , which is losing its natural diversity.  I wish we did a better job at feeding and protecting the elephant and the pangolin, to name but two species at risk from humans.

Don’t do it! (anyway, not yet)

Epicurus counseled us to avoid politics and politicians, and watching the antics of politicians in the US, the UK (and, come to think of it the majority of other nations ) he was right. But we are experiencing another attack of world-wide irrational rage and lust for careless and cruel destruction last seen in the age of Hitler.  We have to be wise and strategic to avoid a burst of violence.  It has happened before.  Epicurus wanted us to seek and find ataraxia, and would have advised us to restore an atmosphere of moderation at all costs.

 Mueller clearly thinks he cannot, under the rules he operated under, indict the President , but hints that he would done so had the rules allowed.  Notwithstanding this,  I think we should support  US Senate Democrats who want the House to cool it on impeachment.  They see an impeachment drive as hurting more than helping their efforts to win back the Senate majority and generally back Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to keep a lid on the issue.

Even Senate Democrats running for president who back impeachment aren’t pressing Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer to take a more aggressive approach to the issue. Democratic senators say the subject of impeachment rarely even comes up in caucus-wide meetings and that it distracts from issues like health care they see as more important to voters.   

Impeachment is just what President (poor me, look at the wonders I am single-handedly achieving for the nation) Trump would like.  It would redouble the efforts of Republicans  to re- elect him and sharpen the already dire divisions, created, yes, single-handedly by him.

There is a moral issue here.  If a crime or crimes were committed (and Trump behaves as if he is guilty of something),  then he should be out of office.  But, pragmatically. it  is better to elect  a new President in 2020 who is honest, has some integrity and believes in the. Constitution (someone who has read it would be reassuring).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brexiteer living in a bogus, imaginary past

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a very rich Conservative Brexiteer politician (who has parked his fortune in an offshore tax haven to demonstrate his patriotism.  (Irony intended).  He has quaint ideas about “making Britain great again”.  The following is a review of his book on British 19th Century history.  The views of the reviewer seem to be shared by everyone who knows any history:

“The accolades distributed to Rees-Mogg’s subjects are framed in clichés that no half-way intelligent or discerning writer would dream of handing out. Prime ministers are “great statesmen” and therefore to be treated with due deference. Albert and Victoria and their children, including the repulsive Bertie (later Edward VII), were a “happy family”. General Gordon (a mercenary soldier) was “a paragon of Victorian manhood”. General Napier was “heroic” and “daring” and won a “famous victory” at the Battle of Miani. Pugin is “remembered today with respect and admiration” because “he emphasised the notion of truthful and honest living, with buildings to match”.

Patriotic, enthusiastic and celebratory, it recalls nothing so much as Henrietta Marshall’s 1905 children’s history of Britain, Our Island Story (though Marshall was a much better writer than Rees-Mogg). This is the kind of history that Michael Gove, as education secretary, wanted to be promoted in the national history curriculum for schools, until he was forced to withdraw his proposals after a deluge of criticism and ridicule from the Press and those who know any facts.  Rees- Mogg’s celebration of the Victorian age is plodding, laborious, humourless and barely readable. (adapted from an article by Richard J. Evans,  New Statesman, 22 May 2019) 

I have mentioned this man Mogg before. The book is unimportant, very unimportant, but I do so because you can’t devise a successful future for a country if you know nothing about its history.  It’s like trying to work out on a map where you are going when you don’t know where you’ve come from or where you are.  Whatever happened to knowledgeable, canny politicians?

Painkillers and corruption

The billionaire founder of a leading US drug manufacturer has been found guilty of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive painkiller to patients, many of whom did not need it.

John Kapoor, of Insys Therapeutics, was convicted of fraud and racketeering, charges stemming from the tactics his firm used to sell Subsys, a spray manufactured from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far stronger than heroin. Insys’s marketing strategy revolved around inducing doctors to prescribe the drug in ever higher doses by offering them lucrative fees for giving speeches about Subsys at phoney events.

Although Subsys was designed for cancer patients suffering unbearable pain, many of the people to whom it was prescribed were not cancer sufferers. The firm’s staff also posed as healthcare providers to mislead patients’ insurers about their need for the drug. Four other executives were convicted alongside Kapoor.  (The Week 11 May 2019)

As a former worker for a pharmaceutical company I am somewhat cynical to start with about the ethics of some of the drug marketing and the huge profits made by manufacturers.  They tell us that the cost of research and development are huge, and failures are frequent.  They fail to mention that very often at least part of the research is done by governments and universities, and it is they who profit.  But the above behaviour is simply disgusting and immoral..  It seems the big profits earned have attracted straightforward crooks.  At least I never had to work for crooks.

The NRA is now an extreme political party

Earlier this year, the National Rifle Association opposed a bill that would prevent convicted stalkers and abusive boyfriends from possessing guns. “Why? Because any gun purchase increases profits for gun manufacturers, and any regulation – even common-sense measures – is to be opposed.”

Having brought the group to this indecent and immoral policy the NRA leadership deserves everything it gets, and it is starting to get it.  It is losing money to the tune of $40m a year, and at its recent annual meeting an ugly power struggle broke out among its leadership. Long-time CEO Wayne LaPierre accused the NRA’s now-ousted president, Oliver North, of trying to blackmail him into resigning, with a dossier of alleged financial improprieties. This followed a devastating New Yorker exposé revealing a culture of “secrecy, self-dealing and greed” in the organisation, with NRA executives awarding themselves high six-figure salaries and lavish benefits. To add to the NRA’s woes, it’s also facing an investigation into whether Russian agents used it to funnel money from a Kremlin-linked banker to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

It gets worse.  The attorney general for New York state (where the NRA is chartered), has announced an investigation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status, stating that the group, which holds itself up as a charitable body, is more akin to a “terrorist organisation”. It was originally designed to help marksmen with firearms training and safety. Lobbying for gun rights only became central to its mission in the 1970s: even then the group pursued that end in a “notably bipartisan” way. Today though, it cleaves to the Republicans and goes “all in for the culture war”. Where once NRA leaders concerned themselves with safe, responsible gun ownership, they now inveigh against “socialists” and hold forth about issues such as immigration, race and healthcare, a virtual surrogate for the current White House. It has no hint of empathy for the the scores of people killed by gunfire, or their families – the guns count more than the people.  (Adapted from a variety of articles in the press, including The Week, 11 May 2019)

To the best of my knowledge the NRA has never expressed concern or sympathy with the thousands of people, especially children, who have been murdered with guns, designed for foreign wars, and acquired by madmen without due care as to their record or mental condition.   That lack of care and empathy renders them beyond contempt.

As we await the results of the EU Parliamentary elections…..

Support for remaining in the EU is above 80% in most EU countries. Asked how they would vote in an in-out referendum, 94% of people in Luxembourg said “in”, as did 92% of people in Portugal, and 91% in Ireland and the Netherlands. In the UK, the poll found that 55% want to remain, making it the most Eurosceptic country; followed by the Czech Republic on 66%, and Italy (72%).  ( reported by Kantar/The Independent, the Observer and The Week, 24 May 2019)

I was  reading an article in The Spectator (right-wing) about Brexit, written by a former Australian Prime Minister.  He couldn’t understand what the fuss was about a “no agreement “ exit from the EU  -Australia trades with the EU successfully, he wrote,  without being a member.  What’s the problem?

Well, the fuss isn’t just about trade, business and money, money, money (which obsess conservatives) It’s also about European security and peace ( justification in itself) at a time when Russia is trying to dissolve it and America is unreliable, to say the least.  It’s about trying to ensure such civilised things as safety at work, fair employment, the development of poor regions of the EU, fair business competition, and the many things that constitute a decent, modern set of rules of behaviour.  Big money hates constraints and discipline.