Huge saving for UK government, impeachment, happiness and more kindness

26 January 2020

The latest figures show that HS2 will cost well over £106 billion, more than three times the original estimate.  £9bn has already been spent and experts reckon it could cost another £2-3bn if it were cancelled.  In other words, the Government could save at least £90bn by cancelling it.

It’s recently been claimed that the rationale for HS2 was increasing capacity, not cutting 20 minutes off the journey, possibly because somebody suddenly realised that travellers from Europe on HS1 arrive at St Pancras while HS2 would leave from Euston, which is a good 20 minutes’ walk away with anybody’s suitcase.

Imagine how that £90bn could be spent on smaller schemes, including in the Midlands where the Tories are worried about losing seats.  Do you think our Government’s got the bottle to accept it was a cock-up, cut their losses and create a new policy?

While we’re waiting to see how courageous they actually are, can anybody explain what’s happening in the American Senate?  The House of Representatives has charged Donald Trump with misconduct and the case is being heard by members of the Senate, each of whom has sworn a solemn oath “that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws: so help you God?”

The Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, has vowed to overcome the cynicism and bitterness that has infected American political life and gravely compromised the Senate’s longstanding claim to be the “greatest deliberative body in the world” which “exists precisely so that we can … put aside animal reflexes and animosities, and coolly consider how to best serve our country.”

Great stuff but, sadly, utterly hypocritical:  only last month, McConnell said “I’m not impartial about this at all”.  The South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham has said in an interview with CNN “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”  The Texas senator Ted Cruz, when interviewed by Fox News, said “We’re going to reach a verdict and the verdict … is going to be not guilty.”  And they’re not alone:  many other Republican senators have prejudged the case and the Senate refuses to hear witnesses who could provide first-hand corroboration of the evidence given in the impeachment documents.

What’s wrong with these people?  Do they know what an oath is?  Do you think they can even spell it?  What sort of god do they think is going to so help them decide the verdict before they’ve even heard the evidence?

And let’s remember we’ve not yet heard the defence case so we should keep open-minded about the lying, pouty-mouthed, narcissistic sociopath in the White House.

As the House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said at a press conference, “If this was so above board, if this was really about Donald Trump fighting corruption, why did they hide it from Congress? … Why didn’t they tell Congress and the American people what they were doing?”

As the writer Stephen Pile wrote in the Sunday Times in 1986, “Two hundred years ago we sent off a bunch of Puritans to America.  All they have done is come back with tap-dancing, candy floss, Walt Disney, hot dogs, the Lindyhop, the Shimmy, the Charleston and an amazingly large number of bombs.  What happened to these people?  They were supposed to be praying.”  Plus ca change …

So let’s think about happiness.

I recently said (not here) something about there being no point is looking for happiness because it doesn’t exist on its own, it’s a by-product of something else;  then somebody asked how I knew this – an interesting question which deserves better than the flip response “Try it”, so here’s a quick attempt to explain what I meant.

The important thing is that I’m not talking about contentment or serenity which are less dramatic (and longer-lasting) and can be sought and found in meditation, countryside, swimming, music or whatever else works for you.  Happiness is more intense and temporary.  Contentment is a warm smile that stays with you, happiness is crying with laughter for a moment or two.

If we spend time seeking happiness, we lose sight of the world around us as it really is and become blinkered by the search for happiness.  We don’t see things as they are because we’re wondering if they can bring us happiness;  it’s a bit like when we stop listening to somebody who’s talking because we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next.  What we should do is listen to the other person;  we should look around to see what we can see, and who’s there with us, and take them for what they are, not assess them as a possible source of happiness.

I’d settle for contentment every time and, if I could have one super-power, it’d be serenity, but I still enjoy a moment’s happiness when it springs out at me from a well-timed joke, or a smile or a kind word from a stranger.

This week’s kindness involves Julian Richer, who founded the hi-fi and TV retailer ‘Richer Sounds’, made a fortune, then gave control of the company to its staff.  He believes that all employers should provide secure and well-paid jobs for their employees and is now funding a campaign to stamp-out zero-hours contracts in Britain.

And finally, a quotation from the great philosopher Terry Pratchett:  “Kindness is love in disguise”.

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