The Ten Commitments

The following is my personal list of qualities needed for anyone, woman or man to be judged a good and civilized human being.  (There is no significance to the order in which they are listed):

Consideration for others

Empathy for the sick and old

Generosity with time and money, according to means

Critical thinking

Ethical behavior at all times

Belief in and support for social justice

Politeness to everyone

Altruism

Humility

Being a good listener

Care for the environment

 

 

Birth control

“Have you noticed that all the people in favor of birth control are already born?” – Benny Hill 

Very clever, but my serious point of views is as follows: we should only bring into the world human beings that are wanted, cherished, loved ….and in due course educated.

A woman should always be allowed to choose whether to have a baby or not.  There is quite enough misery on this planet without forcing any mother to have a child.  You only have to look around you in the United States at the hard and exhausting lives of mothers with young children – the need for an income, the struggle with money for food, the sleepless nights.  You have to really want a child and be prepared for an exhausting period in your life.  If you are not committed to motherhood you may not be doing a favor to yourself or the baby.  We don’t know the extent to which  exhaustion, impatience, resentment and mood conveys silently to a young baby.

About the current crisis: a parallel story

Isn’t it amazing that one man can so easily rile up millions of people, who seem to sincerely believe the national election was stolen from him, no proof needed.

I am reminded of my youth at a boarding school. By “tradition”, young boys lacking confidence and struggling with being away from home, were stuffed into a cramped wooden tea box, legs and feet hanging out over the edge of the box.  Wooden rulers were then used to attack the boys feet and legs , which were covered in glue.  The box was then pushed around, tipped over and pushed under a table.  By this time the child ( usually 12 or thirteen), was hysterical and terrified.

This style of bullying was immortalized in a recent a movie about Alan Turing, the mathematical genius, who was at that same school (The reality was worse than devised by the film- makers).   In any event, the one of the bullied boys subsequently threw himself in front of a train; the other was made mentally ill and was permanently hospitalized.  I am proud that, when I had the opportunity I had this gross, un-Epicurean behavior towards young boys stopped.  Period.

Make no mistake –  what  has happened over recent months in the US is the same thing, on a massive scale, writ large – the bully-in- chief cow-towed to by his followers, and those standing for law and order treated to physical or verbal violence.  These spineless yes-men know the “ leader” is morally wrong, but they do what they are told as self- preservation, glad to have someone to “lead” them, while abrogating any idea of protecting the weak and distraught or the reputation of the nation ( school).  The bully is  only stopped  if confronted by superior force.

In my day, as a senior boy soon to be off to the army,  I asked the headmaster, for the sake of the school,  to back instant expulsion for perpetrators.  These weak people understand a serious threat.  The bullying apparently stopped – dead.

Do not enable self-reverential  bullies!

Ghostly tracks in New Mexico

(Keeping off the current dire threat to the country and what it stands for…..

…………………

Thirteen thousand years ago, a woman made her way across mudflats with a small child whom she sometimes carried in her arms. Nothing of her remains – except her footprints: stretching for almost a mile across the White Sands National Park in New Mexico.  They have been confirmed as the longest set of fossilised human prints ever discovered.

Analysis of the prints reveals that on her outward journey, the woman walked fast with the child; sometimes she slipped on what may have been wet ground. On her return, a few hours later, she walked steadily – and was alone. At various points, a giant sloth, a mammoth and a sabre-toothed cat crossed their path. The first reared up on its hind legs, perhaps to catch their scent, before turning and making off. The mammoth carried on, without deviating. “There’s a boundary in science between pure evidence and poetry and we’re on that boundary,” said Prof Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University; “but everything that we said in the story is evidenced in some shape.”.  (The Week 31 October 2020)

My comment: It must have been terrifying living in close proximity to mammoths and  sabre-tooth cats ( for “cats” read “tigers”!).  And life must have been so uncomfortable.  On the other hand, there were fewer humans around, and those who were there did not have guns.   There was food and clean water for the taking – and in those days you didn’t know any better, anyway.  Might not have been so bad.

Tearing the Catholic Church apart

Pope Francis is taking a big risk by airing progressive views on gay relationships.. In a documentary aired at the Rome film festival last week, he signalled his support for same-sex civil unions (if not marriage), declaring that gay people “have a right to a family [as] they are children of God”.

The Pope’s progressive thinking impresses liberals, but the pace of change has “overwhelmed” many more conservative Catholics. Rejection of homosexuality is “anchored in the Church’s DNA”, and a change of direction could be the last straw. How are cardinals, bishops and priests “supposed to suddenly approve of what they used to condemn”?

The impact of Francis’s words was felt immediately in his home continent of Latin America, the “last great bastion” of the Catholic Church: there they sparked an “ideological earthquake” among conservatives. In Brazil, a huge shift towards more conservative evangelical churches which portray homosexuality as “the work of the devil” is already under way. Francis’s latest remarks will give them another selling point. He may be compassionate, but his taste for liberal interventions could yet end up tearing the Church apart.  (Tobias Kaiser, Die Welt. (Berlin) and The Week 31 October 2020)

My comment:   As a non-Catholic it might be wise to keep quiet and let this play out.  Nonetheless, I have to say that I am dismayed at the old- fashioned views of so many in the Catholic hierarchy, and the hypocrisy of it all when you see the activities of so many in the priesthood.  No man or woman can help being how they are they. They are born that way. It is in the genes, if that is an accurate statement medically speaking.  Well, done , Pope Francis.  You are a true christian.

Meanwhile, this morning we received a charming and happy New Year message from a young  male, married couple who live in London and who we know through the parents.  They are both highly intelligent, fun to be with and successful in their jobs; in fact, model citizens.  It is high time Catholics came to terms with all this and treated them as perfectly normal and valued.  ( By the way, the couple concerned had one of the most touching and happy weddings my wife and I can remember, – including our own, of course!)

Courtesy

Courtesy is a science of the highest importance. It is, like grace and beauty in the body, which charm at first sight, and lead on to further intimacy and friendship, opening a door that we may derive instruction from the example of others, and at the same time enabling us to benefit them by our example, if there be anything in our character worthy of imitation.

Where have we seen this before?

( I will not comment on the coup attempt itself-  it has had excellent coverage.  What interests me is the historical parallels)

The last four years (and yesterday was culmination) has shown the underbelly of the nation, what happens when jobs are scarce and insecure, education is dreadful unless you have a lot of money, and healthcare costs are sky-high; when the gap between rich and  poor has widened year on year, and companies hire immigrants for peanuts, (encouraging resentment and racism), or they send production to Asia.

Along comes the US version of Mussolini, full of bluster and blah.  His lies and promises are believed and his messianic (and bogus) promises blindly welcomed. Once in power Mussolini set about creating an Italian “empire” – incompetently, but it drew attention away from the maladministration and thuggery.  This is what we might just have avoided by the skin of our teeth.

Politicians and commentators:  concentrate on helping the poor feed, clothe and educate their families (an actual education is arguably as urgent as the food and rented shelter that isn’t whisked away from you).  Fortunately, the incoming regime has the right ideas, if they are allowed to implement them.

 

 

 

If they can do it in London………

“Dear Mr Hanrott

You are now eligible for the Pfizer Covid Vaccination. Please contact the surgery to book it urgently. We have only a few appointments left for this week.

Kind regards,    Megan Mann

Reception Team
The Pembridge Villas Surgery

45 Pembridge Villa,    Notting Hill Gate,  London W11 3EP”

The above arrived yesterday afternoon.  I am not even a resident of the UK, albeit I am registered with the National Health Service.  I am tempted to leap on the first plane, get the jab and return. But, coming or going I could catch covid-19 on the plane.  So I will wait patiently while American wheels grind at their own pace.  Long live socialized medicine!

With apologies for this second, similar, posting.  I couldn’t resist it.

How many universes are there?

When cosmologists came up with cosmic inflation, the idea that the early universe ballooned exponentially in a moment, they quickly realised they may have got more than they bargained for. Inflation can happen anywhere in space and time. It happened in our patch of the universe a long time ago, and it made our corner of the universe very large, but there could be different parts of the universe where it’s still going on.

This scenario, known as eternal inflation, produces a pantheon of different “bubble” universes, all crowded together, with more budding off all the time. Welcome to the inflationary multiverse. There is no way to observe or measure it because all the bubble universes it contains lie outside the limits of our observable universe. Instead, many cosmologists are convinced it exists because it is a logical consequence of two theories, inflation and quantum mechanics, that have been demonstrated to be valid to varying degrees.

Not being able to see them hasn’t prevented people from speculating about how many universes there might be, and what they might contain.

With the standard-issue inflationary multiverse, the number of universes is endless. What we find in each one could be something wildly different from the universe we know. This idea of a cosmic pick-and-mix grew out of attempts to explain gravity in the same way as the other three forces of nature, as a quantum force. These string theories replace familiar point-like particles with tiny vibrating strings that exist in multiple dimensions – normally 10 or 11 of them, depending on your preferred version– and predict a vast landscape of at least 10500 different possibilities for how physics might look in the myriad bubbles of the inflationary multiverse. Each would have different physical laws and different values for the constants of nature.

Or maybe there is just one other universe, and we have already seen tangible evidence of its existence. In 2016, the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) detected a high-energy particle that instead of heading in from space, appeared to be blasting out of Earth. Two years later, it made a second such discovery. One explanation is that the particle might have come from a parallel universe created concurrently with our own, but travelling backwards in time. (New Scientist, December 2020).

My comment: makes all our alarums and excursions, attempts at political coups, illnesses and political buffoonery seem rather petty. I wish I could have been one of the clever scientists who spend their lives theorizing about universes. It takes imagination ( with a capital “I”).

A good and harmless way of achieving ataraxia.

Money and elections

The 2020 Election illustrated how organized money has been devouring American Democracy.

It’s not just a problem in Maine – Democrats’ ability to fundraise far exceeded expectations, but that’s not necessarily a good thing if you don’t know how to put all that money to good use. (It didn’t have the hoped- for effect in Maine.  Ed.)

The election cycle cost a stunning $14 billion in total, a figure that has become significantly  higher in the weeks running up to the imminent Georgia runoffs. But while the share of the money that funded Biden’s campaign certainly played a role in his victory, we can’t ignore where it comes from.

As it turns out, most of the contributions to the campaign came from big industry donors. As political spending and corporations’ already outsized influence over policy increase, individuals’ power will decrease. Organized money is nothing if it’s just beholden to special interests, and not invested in building power at the local, state, and federal levels.   (Luke Savage, Patriotic Millionaires 17 Dec 2020, slightly edited for length).

My comment: The Republicans are even more beholden to Big Money.   Money erodes democracy because it is a rare big donor who doesn’t want some quid pro quo.  I would loathe being in the pocket of some guy with deep pockets and only passing regard for the well-being of the country.

We should be ashamed

Yesterday I heard that my oldest son’s mother and my former wife, both of them living in England and, of similar age to myself, are getting vaccinated for covid-19 this week.   Yes, you read that correctly!  The much denigrated and trashed ( in America) National Health Service, accused of “socialized medicine” is already vaccinating elderly people.  Both are in homes for the elderly, but then vaccination in the UK  only started ten days ago.  A university contemporary, exactly my own age, has already been vaccinated.   What has happened here in America? I needn’t elaborate.

The National Health Service, albeit it is being messed around by the current incompetent conservative government, is regarded in England with admiration bordering on veneration.  It is well run, knows how to plan and manage, and exists to care for people, not to make money.  There!  You have it in one!

Reining in the police

Since 2016, the District of Columbia has spent more than $40 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits, according to the records released by the Office of Attorney General .  The records did not include several other settlements for lawsuits which, the police department told the council, cost taxpayers $805,000.

About $33 million detailed in the records from the attorney General’s office covered six claims of wrongful conviction and death, while $2.8 million was to settle the last of several lawsuits over botched arrests during 2002 protests in Pershing Park. The remaining $5 million was to resolve at least 65 other suits — alleging false arrest, excessive force, negligence and violations of constitutional rights — with amounts that often ranged from $25,000 to $200,000.

“Behind these dollars are real people who live here or visited here,” Allen said, adding that the collective tab is costly. “What more could we be doing with tax dollars to end violence and fund victim services?”

Dustin Sternbeck, a police spokesman, said in a statement that officers in the past five years have responded to more than 3 million calls and made nearly 150,000 arrests. He said it would be “misleading and disingenuous to suggest any broad conclusions can be drawn from approximately 70 lawsuits that were settled by the city during a similar time frame where no fault was admitted.”  (Police Chief Peter Newsham declined to speak on the record for this article.)(Washington Post, 25 Dec 2020)

My reaction:  At frequent intervals we get phone calls from the police raising money for the current police force  or retired officers.  I  used to give money, but in view of the cost of police misconduct, a cost that comes out of the pockets of taxpayers, I now have a response to callers, the gist of which is this: “Policemen are public servants, represented by a union. If you are not happy with the money paid you, complain to the union, which will advocate. for you with the Council. We pay our taxes which cover your salaries.  I understand that the legal cases form a small part of the cost of policing, but we should not be asked to pay more for the  mishandling of cases by police officers, sometimes resulting in deaths.”.

The troubling thing is:  are we a marked couple?  Were a criminal to assault us or burgle our house will we get full-hearted protection?  It is not, I’m sure, intentional but I feel an element of  blackmail in these police phone calls.  I want peace of mind.

2021

I would like to wish every reader a happier and calmer 2021!

Meanwhile I am having to note what I think is a dubious start.  I refer to the fact, firstly, that the UK has officially left the EU (groan for the future of the grandchildren! The disaster has finally come to pass!).

Secondly, some lobby or other is calling for President-Elect Biden to appoint more people of Asian ancestry.  Please! What we need is to stop the constant chatter about race and concentrate on brain, know- how, intelligence and experience.  Biden has so far done a good job at assembling a good group of advisors  and executives that seems  to qualify.  Well done!

Personally, I am fed up with these special interest lobbies.  Please offer us a quiet period of good governance!  I want some good news and, as mentioned yesterday,  giant helping of peace of mind!

 

Messing up the vaccinations

Tasked with getting anti-virus needles into arms, our leaders have proved totally unable to organise the proverbial drinking session in a brewery. Twenty million people are supposed to have had covid jabs by now. The actual figure is only 2.6 million.

This is a national emergency, just as a major war would be. The national government should have been working with the states on the details of vaccination, offering money and experienced planners where necessary – in other words, an overall, detailed plan. Instead the Federal government has walked away – “none of our business – we sent you the stuff; it’s now up to you to get the vaccinations done”. But the states are not set up to do this and don’t have people, the experience or the money. The national government, supported by the Senate, has thus shown shocking irresponsibility as the death toll has inexorably risen day by day.

While this isn’t surprising, a suggestion was made last night on CNN that either the World Health Organisation or UNICEF, who are experts on vaccination all over the world, should be invited to come to the US in force and show us how to organize this desperately needed vaccine campaign. UNICEF digging the US out of a hole? Good gracious! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

There will surely be another pandemic in the future, and let us hope the lessons of this one are learned and internalized.