Monitoring tweets

”If you thought “the thought police” existed only in Orwellian fiction, then you haven’t been following a case in the U.K High Court.  Douglas Murray Miller, a former constable, had posted a few ribald tweets on the subject of transgender self-identification. (Sample: “I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me”.) …

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The Robert Harris prediction

  We may think we’ll be here forever – but Robert Harris reckons our civilisation is probably doomed. “The Roman Republic, Cicero, those people were just as clever,” says the novelist, 62. “The things that their society produced – its oratory, its philosophy, its painting – were as sophisticated as anything we do. But still …

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Apostrophes and how to use them

John Richards, who is 96 and founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001, is now terminating the Society.  He is quoted as saying, “Fewer organisations and  individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language”.  So I thought a brief run- down on the rules would be a good …

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The Good Husband Guide for 2020

Care of the Husband’s Person On 8 April 2010 the London Review of Books reviewed a 14th Century Parisian book of household management called The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book.   This is a compendium of medieval lore which aimed to instruct young wives how to be good, efficient, and obedient.  The following is …

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How we should treat others – a seasonal exhortation

I suggest that anyone who is reasonably self-aware and seeking to follow in the footsteps of Epicurus should ask whether they have the following personal characteristics which I think are important for humanity.  We might think of them as areas to work on for the New Year where instinct tells them they are a bit …

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Linguistic misunderstandings

When they hear the phrase “With the greatest respect…”, 68% of Britons think it means “I think you are an idiot”, while 49% of Americans interpret it as “I am listening to you”. When told “I’ll bear it in mind”, 55% of Britons assume it means “I’ve forgotten it already”, whereas only 38% of Americans …

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A home is not a wallet: homelessness in the UK

“Most of the ills relating to our housing start with the morally reprehensible idea that it’s OK in a time of shortage to treat dwellings as mere investments. Yet when the Labour Party in Britain reasonably suggests holiday homes should pay double council tax, affluent owners whimper. Any suggestion of stiffer capital gains gets pearls …

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The apostrophe

To The Guardian I love Kingsley Amis’s response to a challenge about the usefulness of apostrophes: “Those things over there are my husbands.” Three different possible meanings. Bryan Morgan, Worksop, Nottinghamshire …and a butcher’s trick To The. Daily Telegraph: I once saw a notice outside our local butcher. It read “Sausage’s”. When I went in …

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People with more empathy might be sharpening divisions

You might think that a little more empathy would help to heal the divisions in US politics, but it could actually worsen the situation by increasing polarisation. A recent survey found that those with a disposition for “empathic concern”, one of several traits that make up general empathy, seem to be more politically polarised. They …

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The threat of debt, Part 2

The Washington Post of November 30 reported that a decade of low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S corporate debt to nearly $10 trillion, or a record 47% of the overall economy.  The Federal Reserve, the IMF and major institutional Investors are concerned that the …

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A literary judgment

to The Guardian: Notice seen recently in the window of the bookshop in Fowey, Cornwall: “The Post-Apocalyptic Fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.” Harry Cavill, Camberley, Surrey    And an ancient complaint from an Epicurean: At the end of the 4th Century A.D Ammianus complained that the Roman Empire had lost its cultural moorings …

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The dodgy people who run people power

There’s much talk these days about the threat to democracy posed by Kremlin-backed troll factories spreading disinformation online.   But maybe we should pay more attention to our own homegrown “astroturfers” – political operators who concoct a following to give the appearance of spontaneous grass roots support. Looking at Facebook, for instance, you’d think frustrated …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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How BA fell from grace

Recently  90% of British Airways’ 4,300 pilots started a long-threatened strike. Almost all of BA’s 1,700 flights had to be cancelled and around 200,000 people had their travel plans disrupted. The first pilots’ strike in BA’s 45-year history has arisen over a dispute about pay: BA had offered its pilots an increase of 11.5% over …

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Time to say farewell to steak?

Soon, most of us will stop eating beef, and it won’t be because we’ll all agree with vegans that meat is murder. It’ll be due to the logic of advanced capitalism. The alternatives to meat now being developed – plant-based substitutes and vat-grown meat produced from cultured animal cells – will taste the same as …

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