Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Greece, Corbyn: Economic & Political Reality

August 15, 2015

With sympathetic WordPress technology, it may be possible for me to move beyond twitter and become a blogger! This demands much more including a willingness for self-revelation (though for anyone reading behind the tweets, nothing could be more revelatory) and connected thinking!
About what? If it’s not ‘thinking about thinking’ (guided by Heidegger and Arendt), it’s likely to be ontology, reality and Being.
So why the ‘obsession’ with Greece? 
The psychological fear is that I’ve not had enough to do or think about, which may be true!
However, the strength of my intuition about the potential implosion not only in Greece but also within the EU would not leave me. It took me to Greece and led me to Adam Nicholson’s wonderful “The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters”. 
Now it seems as if imminent catastrophe may have been avoided: was it not J.M.Keynes who observed: ‘in the end, we are all dead’? Perhaps political sense will prevail and people will turn out to be seen as more important even than economic ‘realities’.
Which nearly takes me back to ‘reality’. 
In UK presently, we are swept up in a most unexpected question: will Jeremy Corbyn become the entirely unlikely new leader of the Labour Party? He has none of Tsipras’ charisma, not even youth. He’s a ‘backbencher’ – one of those MPs who never sought and was never rewarded with ‘office’, unsurprising given over 500 rebellions against the ‘whips’, the authority of the party or its leadership.
But what of his economics? 95% (a conservative estimate) of the population understands nothing of economics or money, so votes are on ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’. Surely a left-wing agenda is discredited, implausible, unelectable? 
The political tectonic plates are shifting. We are – despite the last election – likely to be entering the era of coalitions. Paul Mason’s ‘Post-Capitalism’ underlines the technological changes that the Information Age brings with it.
‘Reality’? Who knows? Certainly I cannot bear too much of it.

Visiting Greece: from tweets to a blog

August 5, 2015

I’m an inveterate tweeter!
Occasionally, someone follows through and looks at my blog, which is blotchy: bits and pieces, incoherent, poorly edited. I am not proud of it – almost ashamed, in fact, which may be why, for two years or so, nothing has appeared.
I need to work at my editing capacity, for sure. I should like to make my blog look more attractive. 
But equally important is the content. What do I want to say?
I have just been in Greece. or several weeks my tweets were dominated – obsessively (and I am not yet entirely sure why) with the economic and political situation between Greece and Europe and my journey (the first time I had ever been) was to learn more as well as to enjoy a little of what Greece has to offer.
But since I knew so little I wanted a Guide Book. Not exactly the usual travel guide and I certainly could not manage a History of Greece. Where, also, did the legends fit in, the myths of the Gods? I needed something that would help bring it together.
And ‘miracle of miracles’ (as Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ would say) I came across Adam Nicholson’s ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’, just out in paperback, which was exactly what I needed. It is personally based, beginning on a boat trip that Nicholson made from Falmouth to Scotland while reading the Odyssey. Suddenly, gradually, he began to understand and more and more Homer’s two books not only provoked a search into who Homer was and why he mattered but also began to become a life-guide for the journey we all have to make between birth and death.
But why all the bloodshed, the gory detail, the obsession with violence and the hero? What of the role of the gods? When were the books written? Nicholson’s writing transports us into such questions in a poetic prose which, though it may occasionally be over-written, is far from a dry academic research, though drawing upon it. 
Over these next few weeks, I hope to blog more, even much more. The content is there and perhaps I will also learn to edit – and add pictures!

Going on…a personal response to climate change doom

August 5, 2015

Initially, I was both shocked and admiring: you were saying explicitly something that maybe I thought I believed.But I also noticed, as I read, your time-frame: humanity will be wiped out after thirty more generations, that is, 2500 AD and ‘there is no key’ which will enable people to ‘wake up’. I agree with your second point to the extent that there are many, many keys – maybe as many as there are individuals: each of us needs to find our own? After all, there is a paradoxical craziness (I’m sure you’ll agree) in the vigour with which you are pushing your (brilliant) creative #CliFi idea and your conclusion that we are all doomed anyway. In any case, those of us working to break the intransigence of those who pay no heed to our plight need to collaborate. The thing is: we’re not ‘doomed’. On the whole, though I did not much enjoy Daniel Quinn’s Ishamel (the Wikipedia article is quite good https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_(novel)), it was worth reading for the conclusion: the apes need human beings in order to survive! One of the most important influences on me has been Hannah Arendt. I believe she lived through, fully faced and articulated the horrors of WW2 and, in particular, the almost unbelievable deliberate destruction of millions of human beings that we call the holocaust. The destruction of millions upon millions more human beings (some of this is already happening) in the chaos of climate change is, it seems to me, the terrifying repetition that future generations will live through. Some, however, – I think James Lovelock estimates it at one billion – will survive (the story of ‘the remnant’ is basic in the Bible). I think that. What will they have learnt? Will they know and understand more than we do about the meaning and purpose of life? What sort of ‘civilization’ with what sort of animals, birds, fishes, insects, machines? Maybe that is not my/our concern, though I believe it is one that science fiction may deal with (‘Canticle for Leibowitz’?) I also believe that much current learning, e.g. bio-mimicry, is of life-changing importance. Hannah Arendt’s conclusion, messianic according to a superb recent book, https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/mln/v118/118.5bernstein02.html was ‘We must go on’ and the book concludes that W.H.Auden saw things similarly.
IMG_1172

Is that not what the three of us, and Aubrey, are doing, as best we can? But Peter begins with reference to my time in Greece, which was truly life-changing, because to help me there, I happened upon a book, which only came out in 2014, by Adam Nicholson called ‘The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters’. Who was Homer? Did he exist? The book, though well referenced, is alive, based mainly on sailing and on our own individual journey from life to death. It spans many more lifetimes and generations than merely 500 years as it moves from the Bronze Age and across continents. If, I think, we want to have a sense of the future, we need a deep understanding of the past. All that, Dan, was stimulated by your response to Peter. Thank you for provoking it. I’m cc to Aubrey, who knows all this better than I and illustrates it beautifully in music and words at the Eden Project Eden Project.mov which has just won an award for Britain’s 21st Century landmark (http://highlife.ba.com/articles/21-landmarks-for-the-21st-century/ – some strange questions about that, but never mind). The Golden Mean: Pythagoras – watch & listen, spell-bound Earth Venus Tango round the Sun

Barclays responds to criticism on financing ‘mountain top removal’

May 20, 2014

Dear Stakeholder

Thank you for your email to Antony Jenkins raising concerns about Barclays’ reported financing of companies that practise mountain top removal coal mining. We are in the process of establishing the background to these allegations and the details of the transactions involved – which were not made clear in the reports provided.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight that Barclays has a longstanding commitment to understanding the environmental and social risks associated with our lending activities: these are supported by stringent environmental and social impact assessment policies and practices together with risk escalation procedures.

These standards are applied across the business and are an integral component for decisions with potential for material social and environmental impacts. We always aim to take a responsible approach and give careful consideration to such impacts before decisions are approved. When we are asked to finance a specific development project, we apply the Equator Principles – detailed environmental and social criteria applicable to project finance transactions covering issues including local community consultation, the impact on indigenous peoples and cultural heritage sites, relocation of communities and related compensation. This approach to responsible lending applies equally to clients in the coal mining sector as to other industrial sectors.

We will continue to investigate this matter thoroughly and address appropriately should we find that Barclays has not acted in accordance with these standards.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Philippa Birtwell
Group Citizenship

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Contraction and Convergence

January 26, 2014

See Earth Charter Principles 4, 4a; 5, 5a; 6, 6a, 6b, 6c; 7; 8, 8a, 8c; 10a; 13a; 14, 14c; 16a, 16b. These selected Principles and sub-principles are only indicative; those highlighted are clearly especially relevant. Discussion on this selection would be entirely relevant and helpful.

Since 1995, Aubrey Meyer, a musician and mathematician, has promoted a scientifically based policy approach, Contraction and Convergence. A very helpful series of intros can be found on Laurie Barlow’s http://greenswardcivitas.blogspot.co.uk.

It is now (January 2014) clear that, as the short and powerful video, (published by IPCC & UNFCC ‘Climate Change: The State of the Science’ that the State of Climate Science) shows http://bit.ly/1hZIxCD current estimates of the remaining Carbon Budget are far too optimistic if we are to avoid irreversible or runaway climate change.

The purpose of this discussion forum, one amongst many, is to strengthen those of us who believe that this issue is the most urgent facing the planet and that Contraction and Convergence provides the only credible and equitable way forward.

We are not alone. There is overwhelming support for Aubrey’s proposal of a per capita Carbon Budget for every individual based upon the scientific assessment of what is available [currently between 194gT, 250gT and the UK Climate Committee at 395gT – a gigaT=1billion tonnes of Carbon. There are other related gases and issues of feedback but for most of us, this is already becoming too complex!]

It is worth glancing through the (approximately 500 illustrated pages) from Ban Ki Moon, and UN agencies 2000 – 2014, http://bit.ly/1aAh4VX, from the Vatican, Rowan Williams and extensive inter-faith supporting the C&C principle of ‘Climate Justice without Vengeance’ http://bit.ly/M0hfOG (this principle is in opposition to those, mainly NGOs, who unrealistically maintain that the developed world has historically ’caused’ the problems and should be ‘punished’). There are 250 pages of political support from the UK http://bit.ly/KYg41u, and extensive support from Medical Professionals around the world: http://bit.ly/MfDVvc

Aubrey has won numerous awards and been nominated for a Nobel Prize – but still there has been no breakthrough, though many believe C&C is ‘the only game in town’.

To conclude more personally, I became involved when, as a Jew – and a rabbi, that is, a teacher – I realised that 6 million of my people had been deliberately killed in World War Two and we Jews were, rightly, deeply critical of those who stood by, knowing what was happening. They were criticised as bystanders, though acting would have taken great moral courage.

What is our excuse as we see increasing extreme weather conditions condemning millions, or even ‘hundreds of millions’ (Lord Stern) of families to hardship or death?

What can we do? I believe that those who take part in this discussion are doing much but that we can all do more, by knowing of one another’s projects, by supporting one another and by publicising as widely as possible C&C. Our mission is to think, discuss, reflect and ACT.

Recently I wrote an article on Bystanders, which stimulated Aubrey’s imagination, particularly one part, based upon a quote:

Susan Neiman looks at why Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem caused such a furore and shows that without directly invoking God, Arendt’s phrase that ‘in a world that produced the death camps, the impossible came true’, effectively put the world itself on trial. The world could no longer be accepted as it had been, and this effectively indicts Creation itself.

Aubrey sees clearly how evidently we are still ‘on trial’, though we may believe, more or less, ‘that we have never had it so good’ (Harold Macmillan 1957)

John Lewis and its cleaners

July 23, 2012

Dear Mr Moys,

I know you will not want to prolong a communication and I am grateful for your response. However,
‘we recognise that contracted cleaners in London feel strongly about their level of pay’

is hardly adequate.

In the circumstances, it is John Lewis store that needs to feel strongly and urgently to conclude its  discussions with MML both for customers and Partners.

With thanks for your speedy reply,

Jeffrey Newman

On 23 Jul 2012, at 09:14, Andrew_Moys@JohnLewis.co.uk wrote:

Dear Mr Newman

Thank you for your email.

Please be assured that the John Lewis Partnership is very concerned about the cleaners dispute at John Lewis Oxford Street and we recognise that contracted cleaners in London feel strongly about their level of pay.

Although we do not currently have any contractual link with the sub contractor, ICM, which employs the cleaners concerned, we are in discussions with MML, the managing contractor which subcontracts ICM, to help resolve this dispute.

As I’m sure you will appreciate, I cannot go in to the detail of these discussions, but our urgent aim is to ensure that the cleaners dispute at John Lewis Oxford Street is brought to a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible.

Thank you again for your email.

Best regards,
Andrew
Andrew Moys, DL 020 7592 6292
Director of Communications, John Lewis Partnership

From: Jeffrey Newman To: andrew_moys@johnlewis.co.uk> Date: 21/07/2012 07:24
Dear Mr Moys,
I am saddened that John Lewis, a Partnership that I love and where I once worked, is not paying its cleaners a Living Wage.
Undoubtedly you will – the sooner the better. Partners, surely, will forego a small drop in the share of profit to make this happen.
Until then, we shall have to forego JLP.
Yours,
Jeffrey Newman
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Websites: http://www.johnlewis.com
http://www.waitrose.com
http://www.johnlewis.com/insurance
http://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk

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Nuclear Power and Democracy: Questions to be answered

March 14, 2012

From the Report A Corruption of Governance by Unlock Democracy (Charter 88) and the Association for the 

Box 1: Questions that need to be answered1. Why did the previous Government take two decisions – to reverse previous policy and decide that new nuclear power is needed, and then decide that 10 nuclear power stations are needed – without assessing the long term demand for electricity?2. Why did the original EN-1 and EN-6 documents, prepared for the previous Government, claim that Redpoint’s analysis showed the need for medium term capacity to increase, when it did nothing of the sort?3. Why didn’t the previous Government carry out an assessment of the full potential of energy efficiency (even though they declared it was the most cost-effective way of meeting energy policy objectives), before deciding how much electricity we needed to generate?4. Why is the current Government ignoring the evidence in its own Pathways to 2050 work, and insisting that nuclear power is necessary to keep the lights on and reduce CO2, when the analysis shows the opposite?5. Why have numerous Government documents misrepresented evidence from Government analysis by saying that electricity demand may double, when in fact the analysis and the modelling shows something different?6. Why has the EN-1 document, prepared for this Government, ignored the results of their modelling, the National Grid modelling, and the Fourth Carbon Budget Assessment regarding electricity needs up until 2025?7. Why has the EN-1 document misled Parliament by falsifying the results of the modelling regarding the alleged need for extra capacity up to 2025?8. Why has the Government wasted time, effort and money on its deliberative discussion on the various pathways to 2050, when in fact the decision to use nuclear power has already been made?9. Why did the Government repeatedly refused to carry out an assessment of the full potential for the policy that it regards as the most cost-effective (energy efficiency) before making the decision to support new nuclear power stations, despite the fact that the Chief Scientific Adviser described the assessment as crucial?10. Why did the 2011 White Paper on Energy Market Reform not include a full assessment of energy efficiency despite the fact that one of its principle objectives was to minimise costs to the consumer?11. Why did Charles Hendry’s answer to Madeleine Moon’s Parliamentary Question omit information about low-carbon technologies that are cheaper than nuclear power?12. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the expected lifetime of new nuclear power stations?13. Why has the Government relied on unsubstantiated claims regarding the load factor of new nuclear power stations?14. Why do the Government’s official statistics on the price of nuclear power not include the transmission and distribution costs?15. Why does the EN-1 document quote a study that doesn’t include a comparison with all low carbon technologies, as evidence that nuclear is the cheapest source of electricity?

Me and my iPad

March 12, 2012

OK – so it’s a “2” not a “3” and it’s not even working properly (or, at least, the SIM card isn’t  and that makes it no better than a “1”) but I love it and wouldn’t be without it. In fact,  even my ancient analyst who hates much web life because it’s so unaesthetic, has fallen in love with his iPad (I haven’t asked for its specifications; that sounds much too personal.)

And now, better and better,  I’ve found WordPress on it and saved its icon to my Home Page!

However, there’s much more still to learn, though it’s an encouraging start.

Uri Avnery: Why no-one is going to attack Iran

March 12, 2012

Uri Avnery  
 
Published in Hebrew in Haaretz
March 11, 2011
Israel will not attack

Israel will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack Iran. Period.

The United States will not attack. Not this year, nor in years to come. For a reason far more important than electoral considerations or military limitations. The United States will not attack, because an attack would spell a national disaster for itself and a sweeping disaster for the whole world.

“If you want to understand the policy of a country, take a look at the map,” said Napoleon. Minutes after an attack is launched, Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes almost all the oil exported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Iran – 40% of the world’s sea-borne oil passes through the strait. A few minutes after that, oil prices will rise, will double, triple or quadruple – and the U.S. and global economy will collapse.

Such small issues do not cross the minds of generals, military commentators and other wise guys who look at the world between narrow “security” blinkers.

Closing the Strait would be the most easy of military operations. A few missiles, launched from either the sea or the land, would do it. To reopen it, it would not be enough to send the US Navy’s mighty aircraft carriers on show cruises. The United States would have to conquer large parts of Iran, so as to put the Strait out of range of the Iranian missiles. Iran is larger than Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined. It would be a long war, something on the scale of the Vietnam War.

For Iran, there is no difference between an Israeli attack and an American attack. They would be treated as one and the same. In both cases, the consequence will be the blocking of the Strait and a large scale war.

All of which is more than enough for the United States not to attack, and to forbid Israel from attacking.

It’s 56 years since Israel went to war without giving notice to the Americans and getting their consent. When Israel did this in 1956, President Eisenhower took away all the achievements of victory, to the last millimeter. Before the Six Day War and on the eve of the First Lebanon War, the government of Israel sent special envoys to Washington to ensure unequivocal consent. If this time it did attack against the Americans’ will, who would restock the IDF armories? Who would protect the cities of Israel, which would be exposed to many tens of thousands of missiles from Iran and its proxies? Not to mention the wave of anti-Semitism which can be expected to burst out once the American public finds out that it was Israel, and Israel alone, which brought upon them a national disaster.

American diplomatic and economic pressure might be sufficient to stop the ayatollahs’ gallop towards the Bomb. It worked in Gaddafi’s Libya and is now happening in the North Korea of ​​Kim. The Persians are a nation of merchants, and it might be possible to formulate a deal which would be worth their while.

This is questionable, because a few years ago the Neo-Conservatives in Washington engaged in glib talk about how easy it would be to occupy Iran – which surely convinced the Iranians that they must acquire the ultimate weapon of deterrence. What would we have done in their place? Or rather, what did we actually do (according to foreign reports, etc.) when we were in their position?  

So what is going to happen? If no deal is reached, Iran will develop nuclear weapons.  That’s not the end of the world. As has been pointed out by some of our more courageous security chiefs, this is not an existential threat. We’ll live in a situation of a balance of terror. Like America and Russia during the Cold War. Like India and Pakistan now. Not pleasant, but not too terrible, either.

Iran has not attacked any other country in a thousand years. Ahmadinejad talks like a wild demagogue, but the Iranian leadership actually treads very carefully. Israel does not threaten any Iranian interest. Joint national suicide is not an option.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar boasted, and rightly, that Netanyahu had managed to distract the whole world’s attention, away from the Palestinians and to the Iranian problem. A fantastic success, indeed. Obama in effect tells him: OK, go and play with settlements as much as you want, but please leave Iran for the adults.
 

Letter to my MP on the NHS Bill

March 1, 2012

Dear Mike,

 

What do we, the public, really want and need as far as healthcare is concerned?

 

Doctors who are able to treat their patients within financial constraints to the utmost of their professional ability.

 

Will this be helped if the doctors, to be managed in large consortia with differing standards throughout the country, are theoretically ‘in charge of commissioning’ but actually having to choose whether to become wealthy owners of services or remain as the practioners they trained to be?

 

Dr Lawrence Buckman’s letter http://bit.ly/A2QqmN makes very clear the concerns of the GPs themselves. This letter deserves very careful analysis and reading. If you do so, you will find, I am sure, that the concerns he raises are not ‘political’ but flow from an understanding of the Bill, as it stands.

 

The revelations in  the Daily Telegraph  that Andrew Lansley’s office has been supported by private health care providers http://bit.ly/zKSxx2 are also deeply damaging.

 

This wholesale, top-down reorganisation of the NHS –  precisely what we were promised by Mr Lansley before the election he would not do – is not wanted by the public and will lead to inequalities of service, cause huge expense and lead to vast profits being made by private companies.

 

I do hope you and your colleagues are talking seriously about these issues as well as whether it will be more damaging to the Government and the Conservative Party to go forward or to recognise that the present Bill is ill-formed and withdraw it.

 

Please do use your strengths to get this Bill halted.

 

Yours,

 

Jeffrey Newman