Category Archives: Signs of the Times

The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

In 1848 Quaker farmer Jonathan Roberts moved his family south from New Jersey to a new farm in northern VA in 1848. He arrived with high hopes and even higher ideals.

The new spread adjoined George Washington’s Mt. Vernon plantation, already a historic site for the still-young nation. Yet with its distinguished lineage, the property brought its characteristic issues: the fields had been exploited to grow tobacco, which brought quick profits but depleted the soil; and the white owners had been corrupted by maintaining themselves and their culture on a system of enslaved labor and chronic indebtedness.

The more scarred the land became and the deeper in debt many planters sank, the more belligerent they had become in their system’s defense, threatening rebellion and war if it were at all disturbed or upset.

By acquiring land among them, Roberts intended to change all that: renew the soil and make it sustainably profitable; do so entirely with free labor; thereby they would show the slaveowners a way out of debt and the thrall of their brutal human commerce. This would undermine and banish the slavery system, not overnight, but by invincible example and thus without falling prey to the scourge of war. Continue reading The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

Quote of The Day: A teacher Who Dreads Carrying A Gun to Class

By 

Ms. Fennelly, the former poet laureate of Mississippi, teaches at the University of Mississippi:

Last year, one of my students turned 21, and her friends tied two giant Mylar balloons, a “2” and a “1,” to her chair to celebrate. Later, deep in our discussion of John Donne, we heard what sounded like a gun shot. Everyone jumped. A few screamed. One student — I can see him still — hit the floor.

When we realized, all of us, that our active shooter was none other than an exploding Mylar “2,” there was a painful pause. Then we laughed a shaky laugh, and I slowly resumed the discussion.

I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d given them the rest of class to share how difficult it is to learn when one is always listening for a bullet.

From “I Love My Students, but I Won’t Use a Gun to Protect Them,” New York Times

Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

Why there is a shortage of Dijon mustard in France

First, find the seeds
The Economist – August 9, 2022

For the past few months, France has been gripped by the mystery of the Dijon mustard shortage.

The sharp pale-yellow condiment, a French household staple, has all but disappeared from the country’s supermarket shelves. When scarce deliveries arrive, some shops resort to rationing purchases to a single pot per person. On social media, amateur cooks swap ideas for an alternative ingredient to Dijon mustard in order to prepare vinaigrette, mayonnaise, or steak tartare, a French dish made of raw meat also seasoned with egg yolk and capers.

The sauce has a long history. In Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and home to the mustard that bears its name, the craft of the moutardier dates back to 1634. Yet even in this town, pots of the stuff are near-impossible to find.

The French consume a kilo of mustard per person each year. Much of it is the Dijon variety, a condiment that comes with a nose-tingling kick, not the milder and sweeter sauce slathered on hot dogs in Britain or America. Continue reading Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

Exclusive: A Leak from the FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid!

My sources are tireless . . . .

Imagine the Feds this past Monday morning, sweating in their suits and ties, but with rubber gloves up to the elbows, hands thrust deep in each of the Mar’s 477 (gold-plated?) toilets, searching fearlessly, searching relentlessly, thanking god no selfies were allowed, and no alligators have been seen nearby for a couple of weeks.

But the G-Mens’ –or G-persons’ — thoroughness paid off. . . .

And the implications of their find, as they unroll, are sure to be historic, once they dry out and if need be are deodorized.

But a source who insisted on anonymity leaked this sample. (The White House declined comment.) Our analysts are still poring over it.

We can’t wait to see more; especially the real stuff.

YES — Swords (or rather, Guns) Into Plowshares. (Only a few million more to go!)

Raleigh NC News & Observer
BY ILANA AROUGHETI UPDATED AUGUST 07, 2022

DURHAM The line of cars stretched three blocks as Durham County’s second gun buyback in four months began Saturday morning. The event’s purpose was to encourage responsible gun ownership and get guns off the street, said Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead.

Durham’s first buyback event was held in April. Then, the department netted just over 100 firearms before running out of money, The N&O has reported.

After the first event, community interest increased, Birkhead told The N&O. “People, even after the first buyback, continued to call us and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got guns that belonged to my grandfather, he’s now passed away,’” Birkhead said. “Or, ‘We don’t want guns in the house. We have small kids now. When are you going to do another one?’”

Like the first time, the event was held at two locations — Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and Durham Memorial Stadium. Between the two locations, 295 guns were turned in before the department ran out of money, communications manager David L. Bowser told The N&O. Continue reading YES — Swords (or rather, Guns) Into Plowshares. (Only a few million more to go!)

AR-15s In All Schools? A Carolina County Says Yes

AR-15s put in all Madison County NC  schools to enhance security in case of active shooter
Johnny Casey — Asheville Citizen Times — August 5, 2022

MARSHALL, North Carolina – In response to the Texas school shooting that left 19 children dead May 24, the (Madison County] school system and Sheriff’s Office are rolling out some beefed up security measures in 2022-23, including putting AR-15 rifles in every school.

Madison County Schools and Madison County Sheriff’s Office are collaborating to enhance security in the schools for the upcoming school year after the Uvalde, Texas, tragedy revealed systemic failures and poor decision-making, with responding police disregarding active-shooter trainings, according to a report from the Texas state house.

“Those officers were in that building for so long, and that suspect was able to infiltrate that building and injure and kill so many kids,” Madison County] Sheriff Buddy Harwood said. “I just want to make sure my deputies are prepared in the event that happens.”
[Wikipedia: “Madison County is located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, and much of the county’s terrain is rugged, heavily forested, and sparsely populated. The county’s northern border is with the State of Tennessee.” The county’s 2021 estimated population was 21000+, 90% white, less than 1% Black, 3-5% Hispanic.]

Continue reading AR-15s In All Schools? A Carolina County Says Yes

Quote of the Weekend: The Senate Saves the Billionaires (Again)

From, Farhad Manjoo, “Private Equity Doesn’t Want You to Read This” — New York Times — Aug. 4, 2022

One of private equity’s main plays is the leveraged buyout, which involves borrowing huge sums of money to gobble up companies in the hopes of restructuring them and one day selling them for a gain.

 

But the acquired companies — which range across just about every economic sector, from retailing to food to health care and housing — are often overloaded with debt to the point of unsustainability. They frequently slash jobs and benefits for employees, cut services and hike prices for consumers, and sometimes even endanger lives and undermine the social fabric.

It is a dismal record: Private equity firms presided over many of the largest retailer bankruptcies in the last decade — among them Toys “R” Us, Sears, RadioShack and Payless ShoeSource — resulting in nearly 600,000 lost jobs, according to a 2019 study by several left-leaning economic policy advocates.

Other investigations have shown that when private equity firms buy houses and apartments, rents and evictions soar. When they buy hospitals and doctors’ practices, the cost of care shoots up. When they buy nursing homes, patient mortality rises. When they buy newspapers, reporting on local governments dries up and participation in local elections declines. Continue reading Quote of the Weekend: The Senate Saves the Billionaires (Again)

Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Taiwan – Nancy Pelosi’s Last Hurrah

Gwynne Dyer — Aug 04 2022

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Pelosi . . . becomes the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island claimed by China, which quickly announced that it would conduct military maneuvers in retaliation for her presence.
CHIANG YING-YING/AP

Gwynne Dyer is a UK-based Canadian journalist and seasoned commentator on international affairs.

OPINION: Nancy Pelosi’s brief visit to Taiwan this week caused
great if somewhat confected anger in Beijing, but the Chinese Communist regime was not her main target. Continue reading Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Getting Beyond, “Beyond Meat”

NOTE: By the accidents of love, family & history, there are four generations of my kinfolk now living near enough to crowd occasionally into our compact living room.

Here are three of the four generations, experiencing cultural transmission.

Such assemblies always prompt reflections, from the cosmic to, well, the comestible. And one recent recurring internal query has been: how many of the younger tier will reach adulthood still eating meat, in particular, beef?

I’m no vegetarian, but hardly ever buy beef. My eldest, not shown above, eats a lot less than formerly. No high principle here; cost and calories loom larger. As the youngest sisters mature, the price of beef seems likely to increase, a lot, especially as water, its main input, becomes scarcer and more precious. Burgers may become the rare gourmet indulgence.

So can technology deliver them acceptable, affordable substitutes? It’s trying, and I’ve given it a chance.

But . . . . There’s a bag of Beyond Meat “burgers” in my freezer, opened but languishing. In our micro-mini home field test, the verdict on them was a resounding: “Meh”: not awful, but not memorable or appealing.

As one analyst in the report below more ponderously put it: “Recruiting your next phase of consumers requires more innovation and better tasting products.” Took the words (except “better tasting”) right out of my keyboard, on a prolix day.

It seems Wall Street is also ready to pass on these patties; back to the lab, all ye in the white coats.


Reuters – Beyond Meat sales under threat as plant-based boom withers

Praveen Paramasivam — Aug 3 2022
(Reuters) – Beyond Meat Inc BYND.O is headed for an unappetizing second quarter as the plant-based food craze withers in the face of several weak product tests at restaurants and mediocre reviews.
Analysts have slashed forecasts for Beyond Meat’s sales on supply-chain concerns and waning demand that pulled down shares of the plant-based meat maker and peer Oatly Group AB OTLY.O from their lofty market debut levels.

“Part of the issue with the adoption of the category for new consumers is that you’re not going to change cultural tastes overnight,” Mizuho analyst John Baumgartner said. “Recruiting your next phase of consumers requires more innovation and better tasting products.”

Estimates for Beyond Meat’s second-quarter revenue have fallen by 10% over the last three months, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

CONTEXT
McDonald’s Corp MCD.N last week became the latest chain to not go through with an immediate broader launch of Beyond Meat products, after concluding its U.S. test of a burger made with the plant-based meat without confirming future plans.

Tests at Panda Express and Yum Brands Inc’s YUM.N KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell have also yet to lead to a permanent or U.S.-wide launch, while Dunkin, Hardee’s and A&W have discontinued products after launching, according to brokerage Piper Sandler.
Reviews for Beyond Meat’s plant-based jerky also indicate skepticism about the taste of the product, stoking concerns about the sustainability of its sales momentum, Piper Sandler analyst Michael Lavery wrote in a note on Friday.

The company has had to discount more to encourage inflation-hit consumers to pick up its products over those of competitors at grocers, leading analysts to say its expectation for average revenue growth of 27% for 2022 now appears steep.

FUNDAMENTALS
* Beyond Meat is expected to post a marginal increase in revenue for the second quarter, when it reports on Thursday, with loss per share widening to $1.18.

* Wall Street expects Beyond Meat to lose $4.48 per share for 2022, much bigger than the $2.88 it expected on April 27, when the company reported results for the first quarter.

Gwynne Dyer on James Lovelock, father of “Gaia”

GWYNNE DYER, August 2, 2022:

Gazing into the future of Gaia — Revolutionary thinker James Lovelock was truly Darwin’s heir.

‘Jim Lovelock’s blunt predictions of global climate disaster were once seen as exaggerated, but he understood what was really happening.’ He died on July 27, on his 103rd birthday. (Images via Reuters)

Scientist and inventor James Lovelock, 94, sits with one of his early inventions, a homemade Gas Chromatography device, used for measuring gas and molecules present in the atmosphere.

 

Jim Lovelock was a late bloomer.

His first book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, was published in 1979, when he was already 60 years old. By the time he died last week, on his 103rd birthday, he had written 10 more books on Gaia, the hypothesis that has evolved into the key academic discipline of Earth System Science.

That gives him a strong claim to be Charles Darwin’s legitimate heir. Just as Darwin’s 19th-century theory of evolution shaped our understanding of how life became so diverse, our understanding of the present is shaped by Lovelock’s idea that the millions of living species function as a self-regulating mechanism that keeps the planet cool enough for abundant life.

The puzzle that started Lovelock down that road was the fact that the sun’s radiation has increased by 30 per cent since life appeared on Earth 3.7 billion years ago, while the planet’s average temperature, despite occasional huge surges up or down, has consistently returned to the narrow range most suitable for life.

What was making that happen?

Gwynne Dyer

Collaborating with American biologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, he worked out a tentative description of the super-organism he named Gaia and wrote his first book. Most scientists treated it with disdain because he was not a biologist, but also because Gaia had New-Age connotations that he was unaware of. (Jim was not a hippy.) Continue reading Gwynne Dyer on James Lovelock, father of “Gaia”