Friday Homestead Dispatch

Eclectic Erstwhile Eggplant

Part of my reason for starting up this blog is to pass on items of social, political, artistic, and cultural interest. I am not a journalist, more of an editorialist. On some subjects I do tend to pontificate (express one's opinions in a way considered annoyingly pompous and dogmatic). Sad.

BUT, if you are interested in your own community of building an alternative newsroom, especially since many community newspapers have gone the way of the Great Auk, check out the Tiny News Collective. They exist to provide the tools, resources and commonwealth of knowledge to help people build sustainable news organizations that reflect and serve their communities. In Tucson, the Sentinel does a superb job of doing just that. And in my home state, the Kansas Reflector is doing the same. Supporting these and other newsrooms benefits us all.

Hanlon’s Razor is an interesting concept that gets short shrift behind Occam’s, who must’ve had a better publicist.

Of course, Occam’s razor states that the simplest explanation is preferable to one that is more complex, simply meaning among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. It is, indeed, a worthy principle.

But I know personally that I’ve used Hanlon’s principle more often than I’d like to admit. Basically it states never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect. Napoleon is attributed to have said never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence, much the same thing.

Our minds can easily jump to hasty conclusions when events or circumstances have had less than desirable outcomes for ourselves. Douglas Hubbard, writing in The Failure of Risk Management: Why It's Broken and How to Fix It, penned a paragraph that cuts to the chase regarding personal interactions: “I would add a clumsier but more accurate corollary to this: ‘Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which can be explained by moderately rational individuals following incentives in a complex system of interactions.’ People behaving with no central coordination and acting in their own best interest can still create results that appear to some to be clear proof of conspiracy or a plague of ignorance.”

For a deeper dig, check out this article.

Unless your head has been buried in too many episodes of American Idol, there’s a $2 trillion infrastructure package in the works proposed by the Biden administration. To partially fund it, the corporate tax rate would be raised from 21% to 28% which is still lower than the 35% rate before the 2017 tax law was put in place, by Republicans of course.

Republicans oppose the plan as they want to take you back to the days of the industrial age when companies owned everything, the rivers ran brackish with pollution, the cities could not be seen due to the smog, and folks had to rely on the company store. Toss in a few slaves and they’ll be happy as can be.

The last 40 years of GOP privatization has weakened democratic public control over public goods, expanded corporate power, and widened economic and political inequality. Privatizing infrastructure, despite claims of greater efficiency, has led to higher fees and costs, reduced services, lower wages, loss of public control, and lower quality of workmanship.

The ASCE’s (The American Society of Civil Engineers) 2021 report card of the state of U.S. infrastructure is rated as a C-. Highlights note that there is a water main break every two minutes, 43% of our public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, a number that has remained stagnant over the past several years, 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old, and 46,154, or 7.5% of the nation’s bridges, are considered structurally deficient, meaning they are in “poor” condition. Other categories include solid waste, transit, wastewater, ports, levees, hazardous waste, energy, drinking water, broadband…you get the idea.

Singapore is the global leader in overall infrastructure with a value of 95.4 on a scale of 0 to 100. The United States is ranked 13th. As well functioning infrastructure is a cornerstone of a modern society, an irony of big business and corporations railing against the the bill is that they will benefit by dramatically improving America’s economic competitiveness.

If our country is to be a desirable place to live, and have a thriving economy, infrastructure is the foundation that needs to be addressed now. Yesterday on NPR, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said, “Today, we are still coasting off infrastructure investments that were made more than a lifetime ago and are beginning to fall apart. The biggest threat to American competitiveness is continuing to believe that we can have a world-leading economy with third-rate infrastructure. And I think that's something most Americans get.”

I’ll leave this subject with John Oliver’s take on it from 2015:

Speaking of corporate taxes, here’s a dry and boring story about how multinational companies, with the help of elite law and accounting firms and with only belated scrutiny from the I.R.S., dodge billions of dollars in taxes.

The New York Times reports, “Like most big pharmaceutical companies, Bristol Myers, which is based in New York, reduces its U.S. taxes by holding patent rights to its most lucrative drugs in subsidiaries in countries with low tax rates. The result is that the company’s profits move from high-tax places like the United States to places like Ireland, which has a low corporate tax rate and makes it easy for companies to attribute profits to locales with no income taxes at all. (The $2 trillion infrastructure plan that the White House unveiled on Wednesday proposed increasing the minimum overseas tax on multinational corporations, which would reduce the appeal of such arrangements.)”

If all the companies that dodged taxes in this manner paid only a portion of their liability, it would go a long way to pay for the infrastructure this country needs. And don’t get me started on the $700 billion plus spent on the military.

To end today’s Dispatch on a note of humor, Connie pointed out this quite hilarious Shouts and Murmurs article from the February 1st issue of the New Yorker; Things That Are Different in Europe.

For example, “In Europe, women don’t shave their armpits. Many actually add hair to their armpits which they have collected from pets and farm animals. On the other hand, all European men, without exception, shave their armpits. They go to a special European barbershop called an armpiterie.”

What triggered her memory of the article is we’re thinking of re-upping our subscription to Acorn which features mostly British and Australian movies and TV shows. Another quote: “In Europe, there are only four actors, who appear in every TV show, movie, and commercial. Three of the actors are men with eccentric teeth. There’s one woman, and they have to replace her every few years, because she often dies of exhaustion.”

Dang, just one more: Major U.S. companies and sports teams are starting to publicly condemn a controversial new voting law recently passed in Georgia, nearly a week after Black clergymen around the state and voting-rights advocates began criticizing corporations for their silence and threatening some of them with boycotts. After careful consideration, Republicans are now thinking of taking back the law…….April Fool!

Have a lovely weekend!

Downtown Kansas City, February, 1984

And your kom-eek filo-sophie…