Don’t believe all you read

Quote of the day
“That’s what the people of our countries now want us to focus on. Building back greener, building back fairer, building back more equal, in a more gender-neutral and a more feminine way.”
Boris Johnson addresses his fellow G7 leaders while chairing the first working session of the summit.
My take:  Did he dream this up himself?  Sounds like a soundbite devised by a staffer desperate for his boss to sound selfless and interested in people.

Vacationing in Britain

“I think we can all agree that the two worst things in the world are camping and picnics,” writes Giles Coren.  So, when you read “that there is a shortage of tents and picnic baskets which ‘could hit staycation plans’, you know that you are truly dwelling in the end times”.

A staycation in the UK can be wonderful, says Coren. “The only problem? Getting there. M40, M4, M5 all solid, in every direction, so that, with stops to charge my electric car, getting as far as Cardiff took as long as it would have done to get to our only other feasible legal holiday option, Australia.” But the bigger problem for Coren, he says, “is not that I am going to have to holiday in Britain – which is perfectly nice in its way – it is that everyone else is too. ( Giles Coren in The Times).

My comment:   Much as I love the countryside, when it is viewed from a vehicle moving three feet a minute in solid traffic, jammed as far as the eye can see, there is little to commend the idea of driving to the South West of England , along roads not widened since Roman times. Staying at home is more relaxing.

 Critical race theory

Critical  race theorists often  comment upon ithe underlying structures and biases of legal systems and arguments. In one famous paper, for instance, then-Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell argued that the famous Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education may not have been so much about high-minded legal principle but rather the perceived self-interest of white elites. Jim Crow had simply become too disruptive, and too much of an international embarrassment, to be countenanced any longer. “Racial justice — or its appearance — may, from time to time, be counted among the interests deemed important by the courts and by society’s policymakers,” he wrote.

One can quibble with several of these types of argument, and indeed, like any academic school of thought, theorists are routinely squabbling with one another about various points. There is no unanimous set of views, and at bottom, critical race theory is just another intellectual movement in the classic Enlightenment tradition — a bunch of professional scholars making arguments using reason and evidence, mainly in books and academic journals. Until recently it was quite obscure.

The conservative picture of “critical race theory” bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality. Much like “cancel culture,” which is now just a mindless catchphrase conservatives use to deflect blame for anything from trying to overthrow the government to stuffing a racehorse full of steroids, their version of “critical race theory” is a made-up bogeyman being used to whip up a screeching panic among the conservative base so as to suppress honest discussion about American history and racism.

The immediate context here is that the George Floyd protests have inspired many schools to reexamine their curricula, which are very often out of date or an outright whitewash of history. The study of Reconstruction in particular is still influenced by the baldly racist Dunning School, which libeled the brief post-Civil War multiracial democracy in the South as corrupt and tyrannical, hence justifying Jim Crow apartheid. In response, many school districts and universities have incorporated new scholarship, to take better account of the manifestly ongoing problem of racist injustice.

Importantly, little of this is about critical race theory per se, which is fairly arcane and more for graduate and law students (though there is a lot of overlap in topics, and some broader influence). We’re not talking about interrogating the legal theories and argumentative structure of Supreme Court decisions here, it’s mainly bog-standard history and elementary social science — stuff like Black Americans’ hugely disproportionate rate of incarceration and economic deprivation, the legacy of racist housing policy, how slavery and Jim Crow worked, and so on.

In response, Republican legislators have proposed sweeping attacks on free scholarship and inquiry.  (The Week 14 May 2021)

My comment: As a young man I stayed for a while in Washington DC.  Taking a bus one morning,  I sat at the back.  An African American lady in front of me turned round and told me , “Them seats are not for you.  They are for us black folk”.  To which I replied, “Thank you for the information, but I will sit exactly where I like.” ( to some applause from other passengers).  My introduction to the ridiculous apartheid of the time. Still, aspects of that mindset persist.

Supporters of Epicurus believe in equal rights for all human beings, whatever their color, language, education, income, place of origin and political opinions.

Phone calls

Phone conversations

It seems that 75% of people with mobile phones value an actual phone conversation, but that 92% mainly use their phones for internet access.  Long rambling phone calls are on the out, declining yearly.  Extroverts prefer face- to- face conversations, which they find energising.  Introverts, of which I am one, use the phone mainly for utilitarian purposes and generally don’t chat.  It is the teenager who does, screening out the nagging Mum and grumpy Dad and the annoying brothers and sisters and gossiping about the kids they have been with all day at school.

Now we are told that even teenagers are using text and the internet more, and long, rambling voice calls less.

My comment:   We still have a landline, which probably identifies our approximate age.  I don’t have a mobile at all ( my wife does), mainly because I have better things to do than check the phone every 8 minutes, which is apparently a bang-up-to- date, genuine statistic.   My stance is often greeted with disbelief.  How do you receive a text message?  Good question.

A fine mess you have got us into ( No.1)

Some things are almost beyond parody.

Lord Frost says the (British) government will hire an external adviser to identify post-Brexit opportunities.  “We have high hopes of outside input into this process,” he says.

The government of the United Kingdom, almost five years after the Brexit referendum, wants help on identifying post-Brexit opportunities!  (Truly! Ed)

The natural response to this is, of course, to laugh like a drain – and to then despair.

But it also worth reflecting upon.

One of the strengths (if that is the correct word) of the Leave campaign was that it was primal in its message – and what is primal is usually inexact, if not vague.

And with such primal force, Leave won and the Remainers lost.  Even if you are an enthusiastic Leaver, this news ought to alarm you.

More from Patriotic Millionaires

 In 2020, CEOs made 320 times as much as an average worker. Yet employees who work day in and day out to help these businesses flourish, are awarded either the deeply-flawed subminimum tipped wage, the minimum wage of $7.25, or other wages that are less than $15 an hour despite the climbing cost of basic necessities. When businesses were questioned about skyrocketing CEO pay during the global pandemic, many said that it was simply “unfair” for them to make less just because of the pandemic. (Newsflash, the entire pandemic was unfair for the average workers. Workers didn’t cause the pandemic yet so many Americans lost their jobs, homes, savings, and quality of life).

The ultra-rich and big corporations became $1.3 trillion richer during the global pandemic while working families, women, and communities of color felt enormous financial fallout. There is no reason that CEOs should be paying a lower tax rate than nurses, utility workers, and teachers and allow the rest of America to subsidize the cost of their workforce. 

When the ‘stay at home’ mandate was issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, food industry workers and other essential workers held our economy together when it felt like we were at a global standstill. They continued to work despite unsafe conditions due to the lack of workers’ protections, low wages, overtime, fear of being laid off, evictions, and many more drawbacks. If businesses need workers, they should raise their wages and they’ll find people who are willing to work. If they cannot afford to operate without paying their employees starvation wages then maybe they shouldn’t operate at all. Stop blaming workers and reevaluate your strategy.  (The Patriotic Millionaires)

My comment : The world is never going to be “fair”, and no one will ever agree what “ fair” is anyway.  But the current situation is obscene and, long- term, a threat to the United States and historically unsustainable.  Epicurus believed in moderation, which is the strategy for long- term social peace. “Laisser faire” is unfair.  It is also very shortsighted.

Finding workers

.Many CEOs and politicians like North Carolina State Rep. David Rouzer have been adamant in their beliefs that extended unemployment benefits and $1,400 direct stimulus checks have led to the lack of workers in the fast-food industry. This assertion is patently false and anyone who repeats it should be ashamed of themselves.

 Did it ever occur to some that maybe— just maybe— if they stop paying their workers starvation wages they’ll have more employees willing to work for them? Not only would they have employees, but they would have employees who don’t have to work three or four jobs to put food on the table. Most employees wouldn’t have a problem working if they were being paid a living wage for their hard work. Instead of dull-witted statements that opponents of living wages resort to like “Stimulus checks make people lazy”; how about businesses start paying their workers a wage that they can actually live on.”. (Friends of the Patriotic Millionaires)

My comment:  I agree with the above, but can also understand the situation of many companies.   You know your wage rates are arguably too low for staff to make a decent living.  But you also know that in a low margin business a hike in wages could endanger the company’s cash flow, profitability and viability.  Everyone could easily be unemployed.

When much younger I ran a company where where margins were thin and the market viciously competitive.  Day three of my tenure and the bank manager summoned me and threatened to withdraw credit ( e.g bankruptcy) if I didn’t get the overdraft down.  Result?  All of us would be jobless   if you haven’t had this experience let me tell you it keeps you awake at night, regardless of your level of care and commitment to human decency.  And this was a hundred year old company.  It was not originally set up as a low margin outfit.  Events had put it in a vise, and you had to do your best.

My heart goes out to all the companies, large and small, who have suffered during the pandemic for no fault of their own.( P.S We survived 15 years until the advent of the Apple Mac.  Technology, not wage rates did for us.  Won’t bore you with detail!).

A Walk in the Woods – a calming poem

I walk in wonder through the wood

Like some great temple, moist and still,

Bid fair to meet some forest god,

Or spirit of the Spring’s new growth,

Maybe perched upon a bough

Or peeping round some mossy root.

“Do you, good stranger, come I peace

Or will you jar our ageless calm?”

 

The May shower ended, and humid air

Hangs lank and languorous in the awakened wood.

Odours of peat, decaying leaves,

Are soft and wasted under foot.   (TURN)

 

In churches bells hang high on towers,

But in this holy, pagan place

A million bells in violet blue

Have carpeted the wildwood floor.

They burst upon the woodscape, and then

Glory done, can rest a year

No temple architect can match

This bluebell sea in stone or tile.

 

The May shower ended, and humid air

Hangs lank and languorous

In the awakened wood.

Odours of peat, decaying leaves,

Are soft and wasted underfoot.

 

Like ancient pillars of a nave

The grey-green beeches, smooth and clean

Hold up on high a canopy

A  trembling green and yellow shade.

But of a sudden sun breaks through

And dissipates the lingering cloud.

Shaftlets of light dapple the bark,

And raindrops shimmer on the leaves.

 

The May shower ended, and humid air

Hangs lank and languorous

In the awakened  wood.

Silent I tread where many more have trod

But never meet my forest god.

(Robert Hanrott, 2011)

Democracy in peril

Epicurus may not have approved of politicians, and there is a good reason for that.  The current furore over voting rights should be alarming to everyone who
cherishes the American system, imperfect as are most of the works of humanity.
The ruthless pursuit of power and refusal to compromise is un- Epicurean.  The
The following ( with my apology for the layout, which I couldn’t easily change) puts the situation into interesting perspective:
From the Friends of the Patriotic Millionaires:

“Our democracy is under attack again, with partisan voter suppression efforts by GOP officials sweeping across the country. Today, 100 leading scholars on democracy released a formal statement urging members of Congress to do whatever necessary, including suspending the filibuster to enact national voting laws that strengthen American democracy. We share their concern.

When the health of a democracy deteriorates, it’s often extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, to fully recover. With much of the Republican party fully dedicated to amassing political power at any cost, the wellbeing and future of our democracy depends on whether Democratic lawmakers in the Senate act in the next several months.

They don’t have a choice here –  if our democracy is going to survive, Congress must pass sweeping voting rights protections, likely through eliminating the filibuster.

Since the beginning of the year, GOP lawmakers around the country have passed anti-democratic laws in an effort to swing the next election (and each one thereafter) in their favor. Just this weekend, Texas lawmakers sparred over a bill that, if passed, would’ve created some of the strictest limitations in the country on voting access. Democrats killed that measure by walking off the floor, ultimately denying the GOP majority a quorum, but that’s likely only a temporary victory. And across the country, things are getting even worse.

Between January 1st and May 14th, 2021, 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict voter access. At least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are making their way through 18 state legislatures, and 31 have already passed at least 1 chamber. Many of these bills would reverse the expansion of vote by mail, which made voting significantly more accessible for millions of Americans during the 2020 elections, and impose even further restrictions. These bills are truly alarming, but there’s still time for Congress to act!

The ‘For the People Act,’ currently under consideration in the Senate, would drastically improve voter access by establishing same-day and online voter registration, and eliminating cumbersome voter registration systems, paperwork, and waiting periods. It would also promote overall voter integrity, and ensure voter security by making sure that American elections are decided solely by American voters without any interference from “dark money,” or untraceable political spending meant to influence elections by swaying the decisions of voters.

The For the People Act is the boldest attempt at democracy reform this country has seen in decades, coming at a time when our democracy is in great danger. We need the For the People Act to undo the wave of anti-democratic legislation being passed across the nation, but it wouldn’t just maintain the status quo of 2020. It would offer better voter access, better voter representation, better voter integrity, and better election security. It will protect our democracy and give a voice to all citizens in this country.

While the For the People Act is a great bill,  it won’t make much of a difference if Democrats don’t pass it quickly. This is a time-sensitive issue. If this legislation isn’t passed into law soon, there won’t be time to enact these extremely necessary changes before the next election.

A Senate vote is scheduled for the week of June 21st.,without any Republican support, the For the People Act is dead in the water unless Democrats take on the filibuster. We hope they will, and we will keep pressuring them to do whatever it takes to pass this critical piece of legislation. The filibuster is a ridiculous relic of a different era, and we cannot allow it to hold up reforms that will save our democracy.

Senate Democrats need to care more about protecting the foundation of our democracy than they do about maintaining norms. They must pass the For the People Act, and if it takes eliminating the filibuster to do so, then that’s a price they should all be willing to pay.”

(The Patriotic Millionaires, June 1st, 2021, slightly edited for length)

What really matters?

Welcome back to all kind readers!

 

The British “Daily Star” ( which offers a take on the news that really “matters”)  calls on readers to “do your bit for Britain”, as it reports that economists estimate every member of the public needs to buy 124 pints of beer to save our “beleaguered pub industry”.  (The Week,14 May 2021).

My comment:  One shouldn’t be judgmental, but, well, I am.  Apologies!  Born a Brit I think it is important that the pub, the social centre of countless villages, survives.  There is nothing wrong with occasional social visits, a pint of beer and a good moan about the world.  It makes you realize you are not alone in the struggle against the stupidity and incompetence all around us.  But a single pint should loosen the tongues of the sensible.

This cry of alarm about pubs is nothing new.  Many have changed their business approaches to offer food ( some of it good) or to be more inclusive of women and children, in a bid to be the true social centres of the neighborhood..  Good for them – adaptable.  But 124 pints?   Enter Epicurus,  best known, perhaps, for advocating moderation and thoughtful, intelligent socializing.  He might moderate the 124 pints to , say, one a week.  It encourages intelligent conversation  without unseemly scenes and incoherent rowdiness.

 

I’ve been banned by the supermarket

“Yesterday I was at my local store buying a large bag of My Dog dog food for my loyal pet and was in the checkout queue when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

“What did she think I had an elephant? So, since I’m retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn’t have a dog, I was starting the Dog Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn’t, because I ended up in hospital last time, but I’d lost 10 kilograms before I woke up in intensive care with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

“I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pockets with My Dog nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in queue was now enthralled with my story.)

“Horrified, she asked me if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no, I stepped off the kerb to sniff an Irish Setter’s backside and a car hit me.

“I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard. I’m now banned from the supermarket

“Better watch what you ask retired people. They have all the time in the world to think of daft things to say.”

(A totally fabricated story, reproduced to make you smile)

An answer to a reader who thinks Brexit is the fault of the EU

The message from the reader:

“Sorry, but it was the President and Chief negotiator of the European Commission who caused the crisis.
“ If, immediately following the results of the vote on the 23rd June 2016, the President of the EU had acknowledged the dissatisfaction of a proportion of the British (mainly English) electorate and had suggested to ‘get around the table’ and find a compromise then I truly believe that Parliament would never have ratified the result.
“Instead, what I observed was childish petulant ‘If that is what Britain wants, then they can have it’ style response.
“If the toys had not been thrown out of the cot then I believe that it could all have been smoothed over and another vote (as per Irish EU monetary mechanism re-vote).
“Don’t blame the British electorate who stood up to these over-entitled bullies.”(dave@ravemail.com  45.86.203.200)My comment:  The above is a comment made by a reader on a posting I published on May 15 about the effects of Brexit.

My comment:   Strange, isn’t it!  The Little England, “hate the frogs” lot have no idea how they come (came) across to outsiders:  Throwbacks to a different age, when England ruled the waves and one could happily patronize backward French and other Continentals.  For years the Brexit crowd nagged on about the horrors of the EU, really irritating the Continentals.

Well, the former have their way now – and talk about an ill-thought-out dog’s dinner! The challenges facing Britain now are too many (and too boring ) to enumerate to a  sophisticated international audience.  Let’s just comment that from elderly Brits in France unable to renew their driving licenses to small companies who have to start a subsidiary on the Continent at great expense in order to keep their EU sales, a “dark age” looks more likely than triumphant independence, especially given a clown as Prime Minister.  I weep.