16 August 2020
After the light relief in last week’s blog, it’s back to the important stuff this week.
One of this week’s most significant events occurred when Japan recognised the 75th anniversary of its surrender in the second world war and Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” over his country’s actions during World War II. His father Akihito devoted much of his 30-year reign to making amends for the war fought by his own father, Hirohito, and Naruhito has vowed to continue this.
Rather more in keeping with our western beliefs about Japanese reluctance to admit defeat was prime minister Shinzo Abe’s failure to apologise while he offered thanks for the sacrifices of the Japanese war dead.
Our own western culture can be judged from what Arwa Mahdawi has just reported about a right-wing troll called Ben Shapiro who is having a hissy fit over Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s new hit single ‘WAP’ and he has explained in a video that WAP stands for “Wet-ass P-word, P-word is female genitalia.” Good heavens! How could women be so crude? This is men’s work, as proved by some brainless idiot called Donald Trump who was recorded about his ability to grab women’s pussies (a well-known – at least in ‘locker rooms’ – way of endearing a woman to you for life).
Mahdawi also reminded us that legislators in Ohio last year introduced a bill that would have required doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus (which is medically impossible) or face charges of “abortion murder.” And that an Idaho Republican had asked if women could swallow tiny cameras for remote gynaecological examinations and said he was fascinated to learn that things women swallow don’t end up in their vagina. I wonder where he (yes, of course it was a man) thought their food went.
Also in America, the state of Mississippi is selecting a new state flag to replace the one that included a Confederate battle emblem. It invited suggestions from the public with the only limitations being that it must include “In God We Trust” and no Confederate symbols. Almost 3,000 people suggested designs and the state department of archives and history short-listed 147 of them. Rather too late, someone discovered that one of them included a giant mosquito surrounded by a circle of stars so they now only have to reject another 145. I’d have gone for the mosquito because, although I’ve never been to Mississippi, I have been to the Everglades and the mozzies in Florida carry poisoned machetes.
In July, the Washington Post reported that Trump had told more than 20,000 “false or misleading claims” over the course of his presidency and he finally exceeded our wildest expectations at a press conference on Thursday when Shirish V Dáte, a senior HuffPost White House correspondent, asked
“Mr President, after three and a half years, do you regret at all, all the lying you’ve done to the American people?”
Completely fazed, Trump said “All the what?”
Dáte: “All the lying, all the dishonesties.”
Trump: “That who has done?”
“You have done,” said Dáte. “Tens of thousan–”, he began to say, before Trump turned away, cut him off and called on another journalist.
Later, Trump admitted he’d refused the United States Postal Service extra money in order to make it more difficult to deliver postal votes in the presidential election. Former presidents are usually very tactful about their successors’ peccadilloes but Barack Obama accused Trump of “knee-capping” the postal service.
A small ray of hope emerged in America as Joe Biden appointed the California senator Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate. Trump immediately called her a “nasty woman” because she’d been so tough on the not-rapist Brett Kavanaugh during his trial for not attempting to not rape Dr Christine Blasey Ford when they were or weren’t teenagers.
Over here in the UK, the parliament’s buggered off for the summer as the second surge of coronavirus infections starts to take off in Europe and holidaymakers in various countries are now being given an extra fortnight’s holiday quarantining themselves at home after they get back to Blighty. ‘Staycationers’ are travelling to rural areas to spread their urban germs and we yokels are all looking forward to Covid-19 causing more, localised lock-downs and increases in long-lasting infections and deaths.
The Office of National Statistics has reported that GDP fell by 20.4% in the April to June quarter when compared with the previous quarter, a greater fall than any other major nation and the greatest quarterly decline since comparable records began in 1955.
And, as Britain’s economy collapses, the next generation of Einsteins and Stephen Hawkings is being held back because their exam grades are being allocated by geeks with just enough intelligence to write computer programs and algorithms (which require the application of a certain type of logic, only average intelligence and, from the number of bugs that are constantly being fixed, very short-attention spans).
This week also produced an intriguing report that Adam Partington celebrated his 40th birthday with his partner, Gemma Cann, on new paddleboards on the River Cam and “After gliding past Cambridge’s ancient colleges, the couple stopped at Grantchester Meadows at the edge of the city for a picnic”. Anybody who knows Cambridge will realise they must have started somewhere near Magdelene College, paddled up the Backs, porteraged their boards and the picnic hamper up the ramp beside the sluice gates onto the upper river, which here becomes the River Granta, then continued up to Grantchester Meadows.
A side-effect of Britain’s economic collapse is that many large companies that have claimed millions from government pandemic funds are still paying billions in dividends to shareholders. Shouldn’t the government have made the funding conditional on the imposition of a maximum wage and required that no dividends or bonuses could be paid until 100% of government funding had been repaid?
However, at least one organisation was honourable enough to do the right thing: Dr Martens has repaid its furlough cash to the government after its sales had increased nearly 50% in the year to June. Even profit-oriented companies can show kindness and some social responsibility.