A sad Epicurean event

There really are two Epicurean gardens in Greece, one in Athens and the other in Thessalonica.   I quote: The “Garden of Thessaloniki” was launched in November 2007 as a voluntary, participatory, informal  company of friends and fans of the teachings of Epicurus. Since then there have been countless meetings and open events, participations in national meetings and Panhellenic Symposia of Epicurean philosophy.

“The objectives of the “Garden of Thessaloniki” include

“a) the dissemination and the cultivation of the teachings of Epicurus.

“b) the highlighting of the importance of Greek Culture as a timeless, global, civilizing an enlightening factor for all mankind

”c) the study of the presence of Epicurean philosophy and Greek Culture in the continuous course of Hellenism in different historical phases.

“The activities of the “Garden of Thessaloniki” include:

“a) organized discussions among friends on a regular basis, with a predetermined subject and always in respect to the Epicurean philosophy,

”b) public events among friends, in which invited speakers develop relevant issues,

“c) social gatherings among friends and invited people in order to develop mutual ties, and to preserve and revitalize  The language, customs, mythology, history, and culture, etc.) of the whole (ancient and later) Greek Culture.”

An inspiring undertaking.  Unfortunately, the Garden was joined by a vocal group of people who were not in the least interested in Epicurus or philosophy.  They appear to have deliberately set out to disrupt the conversations, espousing what one Epicurean who attended described as Marxist political ideology. They asserted that there *should* be political Epicureans, invoking Marx and twisting the words of Epicurus to match that of the Platonists & Stoics.  They talked over the others in a rude and intolerant manner, demanding that the group should be “trying to save the World” and, when it was pointed out the Epicureanism is a study of nature, human and natural, not party politics, they were accused of “being against little children”.

The upshot of this invasion is that the Epicurean group has been bullied into disbanding.

One could argue that there should have been clear rules and a chairperson able , politely, to get rid of the intruders and persuade them to start their own group, if they wished.  However, this seems to me to be a sign of the times everywhere, not just Greece.  Bullies, right-wing thugs , extreme nationalists, and race-baiters are emerging all over the place, their politics crude and their ideas just about as distant from Epicureanism as you can get.  This is a wake- up call for good, thoughtful people to be wary and ready to defend themselves and their ideas.  

Epicureanism

Epicureanism: the chief beliefs, not necessarily in order of importance:

  • equality of treatment and opportunity suggested by the actions of early Epicureans
  • courtesy to all, rich and poor, child and mother
  • politeness and consideration
  • tolerance
  • rejection of superstition, organised religion, man-made gods and “eternal suffering”.
  • compassion for immigrants, the oppressed and the sick
  • refusal to be fearful of death.
  • the power of friendship for the sake of friendship.
  • the importance of education that broadens the mind.
  • the ability to enter discussions with those who disagree with you, and put your points quietly. with a smile and without the current anger and foul language.
  • impatience and non- involvement with party politics maybe, but a belief that government should be for all the people, regardless of income and status and that oligarchy – or rule by rich cliques – should never prevail.
  • an interest in sciences and the physical universe (Epicurus was an atomist, and, along with Democritus, one of the ancient fathers of modern physics

Yes, you might have noticed that some of the above simply describe a “lady” or a “gentleman”.  Some say that these are outdated concepts.  If so, so much the worse for them and our modern world

(References include “The Epicurean Option”, by Professor Dane R. Gordon, professor of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY)

A brilliant Epicurean put-down

Multimillionaire Donny Deutsch on Medicare For All:

“[My parents] worked really hard to put me in a position where
I can buy the kind of insurance I want… If I can’t buy it for
my children, we are going backwards. We’re fucking Denmark.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

To: Donny Deutsch
From: Djaffar Shalchi, Danish millionaire and founder, Human Act

Re: “F***ing Denmark”

Dear Mr. Deutsch,

I noticed with interest your comments regarding healthcare and wealth on Bill Maher’s show last week. It’s not often that my home country of “f***ing Denmark” gets compared to the United States, let alone so colorfully.   You said: “My grandfather was a cop, ok. My mother was a school teacher and they worked really hard to put me in a position where I can buy the kind of insurance I want . . . If I can’t buy it for my children, we are going backwards. We’re f***ing Denmark.”

Let’s set aside your choice to highlight the modest careers of your grandfather and your mother, while neglecting to mention your father’s success as the founder of a large advertising agency. I’m sure it was not your intention to misrepresent the privilege into which you were born. And good for you for appreciating how your takeover of your father’s business at age 32 (20 years after he founded it) did indeed put you in a position to buy the best insurance available. It is important, isn’t it, to give credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately, not everyone is born into such privilege. Forgive me if I misunderstood, but I interpreted your comments to suggest that you believe the unfortunate souls who were not “put,’ as you were, “in a position” are not entitled to quality health care coverage. I disagree with that notion, but luckily for you, the way that the United States has chosen to structure its health care system guarantees they will not receive it. Problem solved!

Now, back to “f***ing Denmark.” Given your comments, I can only believe that you have never set foot in my wonderful country, and are perhaps misinformed about our healthcare system. Please allow me to enlighten you.

In f***ing Denmark, we spend almost half as much per capita on healthcare as the United States. Despite our lower levels of spending, our life expectancy is higher, our infant mortality is lower, and our overall health is much better than the United States. In f***ing Denmark, we deliver high-quality, universal healthcare to each and every citizen, unlike the United States, which offers a for profit “consumer choice” system that leaves millions of your people “choosing” to be uninsured and hundreds of thousands of others “choosing” to be both insured and bankrupt.

You say that your family worked hard to put you in your position — so did mine. I was born in Iran in 1961. My family moved to f***ing Denmark when I was a child, after a series of rejected immigration applications, forced separations, and the turmoil in my birth country pushed my family to our limits. I finished my education here, married a beautiful Danish girl and had two amazing children, and built my fortune as a self-employed entrepreneur. I am now a multi-millionaire like you!

While your good fortune began with your father’s success, I credit my good fortune to f***ing Denmark and its robust, inclusive social system that values equality and opportunity for everyone. Unlike the United States, my country has embraced an advanced social tax system that requires people like me to pay substantial and increasingly “progressive” levels of tax. The people of f***ing Denmark use these funds to invest in the people of f***ing Denmark. Our tax revenues give everyone health care, education and a strong social support system, among other things.

And by the way, I never worry about buying the kind of care I want for my children, because f***ing Denmark gives it to them. Perhaps that is why, when one compares our two great nations, we find that Danes are much happier than Americans, and that our social mobility is markedly better than it is in the land of the “American dream.”

But don’t take my word for it (or rely on pesky facts that prove it), instead, come to f***ing Denmark and see for yourself a happy and healthy society, funded in part by hefty taxes on millionaires like you and me.

Consider this your official invitation to visit me in f***ing Denmark.
If you are available to travel to Copenhagen from December 8–10, you will also have the chance to meet a group of American millionaires who have a very different view of things than you do. The Patriotic Millionaires will be joining me to discuss setting up a global network of millionaires who want to include everyone in the bright future ahead. Like me, they are pleased to invest in programs that help everyone — our children, our children’s children, even someone else’s children.

Mr. Deutsch, please join us. I believe you could learn a lot from our discussion. Perhaps you will even find a way to use your immense privilege and national platform to help your country become just a bit more like f***ing Denmark.

Warm regards,     Djaffar Shalchi

My comment:  moderation, treating human being decently and equally, consideration for others – all part of the Epicurean way of life.  We need more Shalchis.

A drilling rig in the South China Sea

Industry has always had a nasty habit of plundering the natural world “before science has understood its importance”, says Chris Packham. And that’s what’s happening right now on the ocean floor. We know more about the surface of Mars than about the deep seabed. On almost every mission “scientists discover new species”. Yet with almost no debate, a secretive new industry is drawing up plans to send gigantic bulldozers into the deepest parts of the ocean to mine for metals anminerals. It’s a terrible idea. Industrial fishing and pollution have already exacted a toll on this hidden world, but this will massively increase it. Not only will it be likely to cause irreversible damage to a unique ecosystem, it will also accelerate climate change by disturbing the processes that store carbon in deep-sea sediments. Over the next year, governments will be negotiating a UN treaty that could establish safeguards for the management of international waters. Let’s hope they reach a deal to stop the deep-sea mining industry. (Chris Packham, The Guardian 22 July 2019).

Moderation is the key word in the ideas of Epicurus.  After all these centuries        the greedy, insensitive and short-sighted still pursue money, power and exploitation ( of the planet and of their fellow human beings) without pause.  Moderate  democracy, however imperfect, has been the form of government most likely to restrain the obsessive money men. But deliberate decisions are being made to ignore the greater good and pander to the money men.  Every one of us should resist this – the greatest days of the societies, in the West at least, have been when moderate democracy has been alive and well.  Alas, it is fading.  We must not give up on it.

The Sunday roast

  “It may be a long-lived and much-cherished tradition, but cooking a Sunday roast can produce air pollution worse than that found in the world’s most toxic cities.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that roasting meat and vegetables can result in dangerous airborne particles being released into your kitchen at levels more than 20 times higher than the World Health Organisation limit: 13 times higher than in central London on a congested day, and notably higher than the New Delhi average.

Conducted in a specially adapted house, the experiment was the first to use sensors able to detect the finest, and most dangerous, particulate matter, including PM2.5 particles (smaller than 2.5 micrometres across). Small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs, PM2.5s are implicated in 29,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. Simulating a busy cooking day, such as Christmas Day, Professor Marina Vance’s team found that particles stayed at levels above the WHO maximum for more than eight hours. The solution? Open windows, turn on extractor fans and avoid using a very hot oven, because of the charring. The team also found that frying food raises pollution to dangerous levels.  (Daily Telegraph and The Week, 2 Mar 2019).

My mother used to make spectacular and tasty Yorkshire pudding, but then she was a Yorkshirewoman.  Since then, worried particularly about particulates in the air,  I have stopped eating beef and pork along with Yorkshire pudding,  and breathe only three times a minute to prevent air pollution.  (For the serious philosophers among the readers: this is a joke. Just thought I would point it out).

I am passionately concerned about the environment and the world my grandchildren will inherit.  All the same, you can’t read a news item that isn’t pointing out how bad for us everything we do is for our health and the planet.  Gets a bit depressing.  Anyway, eat more fruit.

 

What is this life about?

What is all this about, this life?   Is it just a big income, a fancy house, and expensive vacations?  Is it even about a good-looking girlfriend or spouse who makes other men envious?  This seems to be a pervasive attitude, as the gap between rich and poor inexorably widens.

Well, of course I would expect the reader to deny approaching life like that.  Rightly.  Having sufficient money so that you don’t have to live hand to mouth and worry constantly about keeping a roof over your head – that is very natural and human.

But when you grow old will you be able to tell yourself, honestly, that you have led a good life, a life which has involved caring for others, with mutual love and respect; a life that hasn’t just focused on a successful career, but one in which you have won the admiration for your skill at dealing with others; a life of generosity, good humor, moderation and giving? 

If you can conduct an honest survey of your life and ask yourself whether it has been worthwhile, and the honest answer is just “good in parts, but could have done better” ( like most of us!)  then you can still put it right.  It is never too late.

 

Graves destroyed

Xinjiang, China

China has destroyed and built over scores of traditional burial grounds belonging to the Uighur people in the northwestern Xinjiang province, as part of what critics claim is a ruthless campaign to wipe out the history and cultural identity of the region’s indigenous Muslim population. Satellite images published last week showed flattened earth and new car parks (or other facilities) on the sites of Uighur cemeteries. More than a million Uighurs are believed to have been detained in “re-education centres” in the province since 2017.

A deep, human disgrace!

All over the world we see reactionary, right-wing politicians taking control.  I fear this is not just a passing spasm, paralleling the emergence of the Hitlers of the 1930s world.  It took years of slaughter and effort to dislodge the tyrants, and in 1945 commentators were congratulating free societies for being strong and resilient enough to crush them.   Now we are going through a similar reactionary spasm.  But we must hold firm to Epicurean beliefs in moderation and resolutely speak out in favor of democracy and human rights for all human beings.  I hope no one considers these comments to be platitudes.   I am old enough to remember the bombs, the destruction, the homelessness and dislocation.  I wish it repeated on no one.

Slow walkers have slower brains

A slow walking pace in middle age could be a sign of accelerated ageing, scientists have found.

Researchers analysed the walking speeds of more than 900 men and women from New Zealand, all of whom were 45 years old, and also gave them tests to determine their biological ages. Walking speeds – their maximum speed, and their average speed – proved to be remarkably accurate predictors of mental and physical health. In IQ tests, the slowest walkers averaged 16 points lower than the fastest; they typically had lower total brain volumes and cortical thickness; and their lungs, teeth and immune systems were less healthy.

Furthermore, strangers who were shown pictures of their eyes, and asked to estimate their ages, assumed them to be older than their fleet-of-foot peers. “The thing that is really striking is that this is in 45-year-old people, not the geriatric patients who are usually assessed with such measures,” said lead researcher Line J.H. Rasmussen, from Duke University in North Carolina. (The Week 16 Oct 2019).

My comment:  What will they think of next?  And what are the slow walkers supposed to do about the results of this weird piece of research?  There is , presumably, nothing you can do about your true, biological age, except just accept the facts.  You were born with the constitution you have; enjoy your life and accept that your brain volume is what it is.  You can’t go back into the womb and swap it for a brain the size of Einstein’s.

On the other hand, these researchers must understand that all they are achieving is to create more anxiety and unhappiness among the tens of thousands of people whose age is around 45, for no particularly good reason.  This type of research is not just a waste of time and resources – these researchers should be helping to create a generation of good, kind, thoughtful and moderate citizens, which is  what students are hoping to become (we hope).

There are too many university staff members who appear to be under-employed.

 

Problem parents

British parents are becoming increasingly “abusive” towards teachers, a report by Ofsted has found. The schools watchdog said that teachers are coming under growing pressure from parents who expect instant responses to emails, complain when their children do not get top grades (regardless of effort), and defend their offspring’s poor behaviour instead of siding with the school. Based on the responses of 4,300 teaching staff, the report says the behaviour of children and parents is a key factor in low morale among teachers, who are leaving the profession in record numbers. (The Week, July 29 2019).

It is truly hard to believe this ridiculous behavior.  The job of a parent is to prepare the child for the real world.  In the real world there is no parent protecting you from criticism about the job you are doing, or about your Interactions with others.  You are by yourself, and, if you are spoiled and under-prepared for adulthood, it’s opportunities and challenges, it is the fault of the parents.  Teachers can guide, suggest and open minds, but they are not, and never have been, responsible for upbringing, good behavior, politeness, and conscientiousness.   Schools should tell parents that if they cannot support the school then choose another school, if they can find one.  Taxpayers should support teachers, those over-worked, underpaid people, doing their best.

 

Child protection

Back in September the US government announced new detention rules that would radically scale back the protections for child migrants in America. Under the existing Flores agreement, undocumented children must be held in the “least restrictive settings” and released as soon as possible, ideally within 20 days. The agreement also entitles lawyers to monitor their detention. But the new rules scrap these provisions. Trump described it as a “humanitarian” move to counter the “illegal flow” of children to the US, but critics say it will effectively mean that migrant children can be held in detention centres indefinitely.  (The Week 2 Sept 2019).

As far as I am concerned this is a humanitarian issue, not a political one (although it is also that).  Those who fear immigration and feel the country is being swamped and  increasingly Spanish-speaking should recall the huge numbers, the waves, of Irish, German and Italian people who migrated to the US in the 19th Century.  There was a brief moment when, so huge were the numbers that it was suggested in Congress that German be the official language of the country; but it came to nothing.  Most migrants want to settle and work in the US, to become citizens. They  are no long-term threat.  Their children will be speaking English.  This is nothing new.  Release them.  Let them have secure and happy childhoods that will help them become good Americans.  This is the Epicurean way of dealing with the matter.

Abortion

Abortion rates in the developed world have been declining for 25 years and are at an historic low. There were 27 abortions per 1000 women between 2010 and 2014, down from 40 per 1000 between 1990 and 1994. The total number of abortions fell from 12 million to 7 million in 2014. Because of the lack of effective contraception methods the total figure in the less developed world, where Islam and the Catholic Church are hold sway, the figure was 50 million. The figures seem to bear out the point of view that where there is availability of the Pill, abortions are gradually being reduced. Where contraception is discouraged, as in Latin America, the abortion rate is high and unmoved over the years, and strict laws don’t limit them.

Nobody wants an abortion. Period. It is forced upon women owing to extreme poverty, the joblessness of the parents, already-too-large-a-family that is unsupportable, rape, incest and other social ills. I believe Epicurus would have supported the right of every woman to choose, although he never addressed the subject as far as I know. His other ideas on equality of the sexes and respect for others, however, suggest I am right.

Some statistics:

In Britain more than half of the women who have abortions are already mothers, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health. In 2016. 55% of the women who had terminations in England and Wales had already given birth, up from 47% in 2006. The overall number of abortions fell slightly last year, to 190,406; 98% of them were funded by the NHS, and 1,564 were given to girls under 16. More than 90% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks’ gestation, and 81% at under ten weeks’

Tip of the week… how to win an argument

  • Many arguments are made with minimal understanding, or based on false premises. Simply asking for more detail and forcing someone to take you through their thinking step by step can expose this.
  • It’s not enough just to give evidence that something is false. To convince the other party, provide an alternative explanation to fill the gap (lawyers do this when they point to an alternative suspect in a trial).
  • If you attack someone’s entire ideology in one discussion, their defences go up. Try to disentangle their various beliefs, or show how changing one might support others.
  • In general, people are much more rational and willing to own up to the limits of their knowledge if they are treated with respect and kindness in an argument.
  • Encourage your opponent to view the argument from another’s perspective – a stranger, or a person from another country if the argument is political. This can make them more receptive to the facts.

Thought for the day: the British National Health Service

“I love the NHS because we pay for it with our taxes, and because the care we receive is the same whether we’ve paid a million pounds or nothing. If we want to save the NHS, we need to celebrate tax. We need to think of it not as money the Government steals from us, but as our contribution to a safe and just and healthy society. It’s thanks to the NHS that my wife and our youngest son are still alive. But the true worth of the NHS is not that it saved my family. It is that it would make the same effort for every family, even if that family were destitute. The true worth of the NHS is that those of us who are lucky enough to pay tax can go to sleep at night, knowing that we have helped make that radical kindness possible.”
(A letter from Mark Haddon to The Guardian)

An Epicurean letter indeed.  Unfortunately, Mr. Haddon’s sentiments are not shared by hard men for whom money and power are the drivers in life.  As a follower of Epicurus I believe in tax based on the size of your income, and I never strive, as some do, to minimize it at all costs and in a manner that affects integrity, honesty or compliance with the rule of law.  Some of those running the country ( almost any country these days) must think this is just liberal phooey.  I think it is it is common sense, and communitarian.

Management bullshit

As factories in the West have been dismantled, and their work outsourced or replaced with automation, large parts of Western economies have been left with little to do. To be a good citizen in our culture, you need to be a productive citizen. Yet there is less than ever that actually needs to be produced. The answer has come in the form of“bullshit jobs”. These are jobs in which people experience their work as “utterly meaningless”. In a YouGov poll conducted in 2015, 37% of respondents in the UK said their job made no meaningful contribution to the world.

Yet people working in bullshit jobs need to do something. So bureaucracy has gone rampant: there are more forms to be filled in and procedures to be followed than ever. According to a 2014 survey, the average US employee now spends 45% of their working day doing their real job. The other 55% is spent doing things such as wading through endless emails or attending pointless meetings. Many employees stay late at the office to do their “real work”.

43% of all teachers in England are considering quitting in the next five years, the most frequently cited reasons being increasingly heavy workload caused by excessive administration, and a lack of time devoted to educating students. In the healthcare sector: in the UK, 81% of senior doctors say they are considering retiring from their job early; 66% of nurses say they would quit if they could; 57% of GPs are considering leaving the profession. In each case, the most frequently cited reason is stress caused by increasing managerial demands.

Management-speak has seeped into every aspect of life. The NHS is crawling with “quality sensei”, “lean ninjas” and “blue-sky thinkers”. Even schools are flooded with the latest business buzzwords like “grit”, “flipped learning” and “mastery”. Naturally, the kids are learning fast. One teacher recalled how a seven-year-old described her day at school: “Well, when we get to class, we get out our books and start on our non-negotiables.”

Business bullshit allows us to blather on without saying anything. It empties out language and makes us less able to think clearly and soberly about the real issues. But this does not need to be the case. Each of us can simply refuse to use empty management-speak. (Adapted from “Business Bullshit” by André Spicer, published by Taylor & Francis)

I blame business schools for much of this nonsense. They try to wrap up common sense in pseudo-technical or scientific verbiage,designed to make the listener think they are in the presence of an expert. People who spout this garbage arguably lack self-confidence – a knowledgeable and confident person uses the English language (quite full enough of fine words to make most concepts easy to understand). Perhaps bullshit is a way of signalling “I have a first degree in business studies or have been to business school”? Well, if so I am personally unimpressed!  Epicurus would be, too.  Just look at the dense verbiage of modern philosophy!

The American meritocracy

In his book, “The Meritocracy Trap” Prof Daniel Markovits argues in the book that the American economy has become grossly inequitable and misery- inducing precisely because of the success of the meritocracy, which has divided the economy into the haves and have- nots in an unprecedented, legacy students, manner.  The meritocracy really do “earn” their privilege by accruing exorbitantly valuable skills and exercising them at relentless pace.    The new 1% is far from the rich, leisured class of the 19th Century.  Its members work with “ crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive educations in order to extract a return”.  They then invest that return into their own children’s expensive educations, thereby reproducing an exceptionally anxious, entitled and high-skilled pseudo- aristocracy, which is killing upward mobility and eroding human welfare for poor and rich alike.

When Harvard released profiles of its applicants it turned out that 43% of the white students admitted to Harvard were either athletes ( a proxy for familial wealth or good connections)children of faculty members, or the children of major donors. The athletes accepted came from households earning more than. $500, 000 a year. This amounts to a sort of affirmative action for white kids.  In total about 30% of all places at Harvard are effectively reserved for for the children of the rich, and this is what makes the profit for the university; the poorer folk are loss leaders. (based on an article by Eric Levitz in NY Magazine, 09/ 30/2019).

There is a debate about types of wealth: that earned by capital and that earned by labour ( actually running a company).  It turns out that the real top 1% derive half their incomes from capital.  But this is a minor point when it comes to the effect on society and its gross inequality.

I am sure that Epicurus would have counseled us  to put all this straight, and quickly, before it destroys us.

The Federal deficit

The federal deficit for fiscal 2019 reached close to $1 trillion ($984 billion) for the first time since 2012, according to final Treasury Department figures released Friday.  This is more than $200 billion, or 20 percent, higher than last year.

The deficit has only surpassed $1 trillion four times in the nation’s history, recently  during the four-year stretch following the 2008 global financial crisis. Treasury forecasts that the 2020 deficit wIll amount to $1.045 trillion. 

While the main drivers of the deficit are mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the  GOP tax law added substantially to the deficit by scaling back revenues, to the benefit of the rich.

The  nation’s total debt now stands above $22 trillion, rising as far into the future as anyone can see.  As a result, interest costs are the fastest growing program in the federal budget, reaching  $376 billion, larger than the combined cost of veterans benefits and services and education, and more than half as much as the cost of defense.

My comment:  During a period with a booming economy one expects the deficit to decline and to leave room for the government to take expansionary measures in a future recession.  This frantic spending is irresponsible, reckless and unsustainable . What  has this to do with Epicureanism?  When the resulting crash comes, probably during the next Administration, it will cause havoc and hardship, maybe worse that the recession of 2008.  We deserve better financial management and the peace of mind of knowing that we can go about our lawful business without mass bankruptcies, upset trade, homelessness and other hallmarks of financial catastrophe.

How can you spend £217 million on lobbying?

The five biggest oil and gas companies – BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total – and their industry groups have spent at least €251m (£217m) lobbying the EU over climate policies since 2010. Researchers say the figure represents the tip of the iceberg, as in some years companies made no declarations of spending in the voluntary EU transparency register. Pascoe Sabido, researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, said the oil and gas lobby had “delayed, weakened and sabotaged EU action on the climate emergency, thanks to their hefty lobby spending. A cool quarter of a billion over the last decade buys a lot of access and influence in Brussels.” ( Guardian 24Oct 2019)

Meanwhile BP, for instance, has the gall to spend a fortune on advertising the power it produces from wind farms,  as if whole countries are being powered by wind.  We are sadly manipulated and misled.  Wind represents a minor fraction of the power produced by the use of oil.  We cannot ban lobbying; that would be undemocratic.  But there should be a ceiling on what is spent on lobbying and careful oversight on what actually constitutes the lobbying process.  What does it constitute?

Well, for starters:  I have lobbied Congress, or a bit of it.  It cost me two dollars, one dollar for a bus trip to the Hill, and one dollar for the bus trip back. The lobbying was thus cheap, and not a dollar changed hands in the process (and you guess it – it was also ineffective!).  So how did these corporations manage to spend £217 million?  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Sexual threats to children

Two years ago the National Crime Agency revealed there are up to 80,000 people in the UK who present some kind of sexual threat to children online – a figure some experts say is conservative. (Guardian 3 Sep 2018)

Really? How can normal, decent people comprehend such a figure? The word “disgusting” doesn’t do it justice. If this proportion of the British population is applied to the total population of the US it means that there could, in theory at least, be as many as 480,000 people in the United States who could present some kind of sexual threat to children online”. Whoa! We are in dead trouble!

The web has brought numerous advantages, but this type of thing, along with fake news is the threatening downside.

Measles has made a shocking return to the US. Can it be stopped?

Two doses of the measles vaccine are required for it to be fully effective

An estimated 169 million children worldwide have missed out on getting the first dose of a measles vaccine, according to an analysis by the children’s charity Unicef. This includes nearly 2.6 million children in the US, 608,000 children in France, and more than half a million children in the UK.

The study analysed global data from 2010 to 2017, and found that an average of 21.2 million children are missing their first dose of vaccine every year.

Children need two doses of the MMR vaccine for protection. An estimated 110,000 people – most of them children – are thought to have died from measles in 2017, a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide, up almost 300 per cent on the same period the year before.

“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children,” says Henrietta Fore, of Unicef. “If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”

The World Health Organisation recommends that 95 per cent of people need to be vaccinated against measles to achieve herd immunity, which stops the infection spreading through populations.). Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Vaccination is a great societal good, preventing unnecessary childhood deaths and promoting peace of mind for families worldwide.  To oppose it is un epicurean, to say the least.

Nannies

To The Times

“The naming of grandmothers as “nanny” has little to do with goats, but is a hypocoristic form found throughout the Indo-European language family, in use thousands of years ago before the language groups split. It was found, for example, in the Indian word ‘nani’ (grandmother) and the ancient Greek word ‘nanna’ (aunt). The Indo-European hypocoristic principle (one syllable plus doubled consonant plus open vowel) is still alive and well today (in “doggy”, “Tommy” and so on). “Nanny” from Ann as a pet-name for a female goat, is first recorded in 1788 (OED) and Billy, for a male, in 1861”.   (Letter written by Patrick Martin, Winchester, Hampshire, UK)

My wife is called “Nana” by the grandchildren. They have no idea that Nana goes back thousands of years.  Whoops!  The word, I mean.