No Bugs?

(Be Careful What You Ask For)

Our species (humanity) has reached the degree of control over our environment that we can alter the balance of nature globally. Yet we have no effective means of governing ourselves globally. That’s a problem.

We keep getting warning signals of the danger. A recent news item reported:

45 PERCENT DECREASE
Bugs are disappearing. Biologists estimate that the population of invertebrates such as beetles and bees has decreased 45 percent over the past 35 years. The number of flying insects in German nature preserves dropped 76 percent in a similar amount of time. And a new study found the same thing in a “pristine” Puerto Rican national forest. The animals that eat the insects are disappearing, too: The population of the Puerto Rican tody, a bird that eats bugs, dropped by 90 percent. “Holy crap,” an expert in invertebrate conservation said to the Post. [The Washington Post] via NumLock.

Some of our politicians seem to be waiting for a sign from God. I suggest that, at least in Biblical terms, we have had many: fires, floods, epic storms, lethal heat waves. It’s time to step up and take stewardship of the planet seriously.

Credibility

(My Presentation on 10/9/2018)

I made 100 copies of the handout expecting to have about half of them left over – we ran out!  At 7 o’clock when we started most of the seats in Penn Hall were filled. I talked for about 50 minutes and was gratified to see people’s attention riveted. Comments afterward revealed that they too are very interested in finding ways to judge the authenticity of information that comes their way.

Cult or Just Cult-like

The glorification of Donald Trump as a savior who will make America great again justifies calling his supporters cultish. The zeal they show and their stubborn refusal to acknowledge his many gaffes and character faults strongly remind me of cults I have known.  This set me to looking for an objective checklist to test “is he a cult leader?”

Here is what I came up with.

Cult Checklist

 

What do you think?


Doubling Down?

The Washington Post reports that President Trump has uttered a total of 4229 false or misleading statements. They observe that in the last six months he has succeeded in doubling the record-setting first year. (The Toronto Star pegs it at 2,083 as of 7/28, but Toronto is a long way from the source.)

This mendacity may be a common human frailty writ large, as is so much that The Donald does. He has long been known for a curious relationship with the truth. He gets an idea, he envisions it to be true, he declares it to be true, and he then believes that it is true even when confronted with objective facts that contradict what he “knows.”

Entrepreneurs can be very single-minded, and difficult to dissuade once they lock on to an opinion or a course of action. They usually have consummate confidence in their “feel” or intuition in the absence of complete facts. That is, I suggest, why entrepreneurs arrive first at new opportunities — it’s also why three out of four new ventures fail.

Trump isn’t likely to be accused of overthinking anything. He’s used to making big plays where the stakes are high. His dad taught him that in life and in negotiation he must never voluntarily yield or admit error. That only diminishes his leverage.

Not overthinking and not admitting mistakes is an exceedingly poor learning model.  The natural process of learning is to form a vision of the needed actions, take action, observe results, update the vision, and keep on.  Leave out the observation bit, and it’s easy to go way afield of reality. We are seeing that pattern in Washington.

Presidents preside over stuff. That should be obvious. The President of the US presides over vastly more than he or she can possibly personally track. The nature of the job is to choose good subordinates, delegate, be an astute observer, and manage people well — not strong talents of The Donald. The rapid turn over, the flood of critical books by ex-White House insiders, and the large-scale blunders speak for themselves. The Whitehouse under Trump is far from the agile learning organization that the country needs.

Reality is undeterred by being ignored and has a nasty way of whacking us up the side of the head if we try.

 

Political Gamesmanship

My friends know that I’m moved to political activism not as a partisan but out of concern for our nation and our democracy. My personal efforts are focused on environmental issues and fair elections. Two pervasive problems threaten democracy today: money in politics and gerrymandering.

The effort to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by amending the constitution has probably stalled for this decade. The existing politicized system where legislative leaders draw the maps has is so unjust that our PA Supreme Court responded to a League of Women Voters lawsuit by assigning a special master to redraw the Congressional map. Regrettably, that map will be redrawn again after the upcoming census using the same partisan process that produced the partisan map the Court rejected. Reform was frustrated by political gamesmanship that scuttled it at the last minute.

Here’s my letter to the editor, published today 7-29-18.

Turzai LTE

 

A cynical person might say the defeat of reform was inevitable. It’s not. At the root of all our problems with American Democracy is the indifference of the voters.  Less than half of those who could cast a vote actually make the time to do so. Commitment is so fragile that outcomes are dramatically changed by inclement weather. Most of us lack that fire in our bellies that makes not voting unthinkable. It takes long-term engagement and some serious work to know the candidates and discern authentic information about the issues.

Money, mostly for attack ads and other propaganda campaigns, would be politically ineffective if most voters were engaged. Gerrymandering gives one party an edge, but not a lock, on elections. The party at disadvantage needs to get only about eight percent (8%) extra votes to overcome the bias: fifty-nine percent, instead of fifty-one.

So, in the end, it is not the politicians — it is we the poeple who are at fault.

Independence Day 2018

The infamous Alex Jones of InfoWars proclaimed that the Democrats were secretly planning a second Civil War for today, July 4, 2018.  By the time you read this, the shock and outrage will have dissipated, such as it was, and Jones will have achieved the digital notoriety he wanted.

Having dismissed the fake news of the hour, I thought you might enjoy reading some more inspiring and insightful material from the real world.  So here are the links to what I plan to read as my July 4th celebration of freedom:

Minority Rule Snowballs

 

God Save America! Enjoy your independence, if you can keep it.

What’s Energizing Immigration Drama?

The Wall and now the administration’s treatment of undocumented people are far more energizing symbols to the Trumpist than any realistic evaluation of the underlying social problems immigrants bring.  The rhetoric suggests people who don’t look like “us” (descendants of white northern European immigrants) and don’t speak our language (English) bring crime and are a social burden. But the facts say otherwise: they work, pay taxes, and abide by the law. Indeed they contribute more than they take.

So what’s the hidden problem here?

This meme taken from a Facebook post on a conservative’s newsfeed is core to the bedrock fear of Trumpists: their vision of the good life in America is being eroded. They see immigration as a threat.

When I saw this the words “… impose their culture and beliefs upon this country while at the same time destroying or removing the traditions and beliefs we call dear …” I remembered a viral email I wrote about two years ago.  I think that email captures something that progressives can’t or won’t see: a cultural identity issue.

 

 

Here is the link to that 2016 pre-election essay. I think it is just as relevant now as then, and I’d only change one paragraph. I’ll let you see if you can identify what I would revise…

The “Silent” Minority

Vision of Peace

This week (6/10/18) two terribly flawed and egotistical men met to wage peace, to strike a deal.  One of them created a “trailer” video to flatter himself and the other man depicting them both at a historic decision point.  If their talks succeed, the film suggests, economic prosperity will bless their peoples and both will bask in the adoraton,  love and respect of those they govern.  Continue reading Vision of Peace

Americans Are Being Played

GOP political strategists are good at what they do and they have been at it for at least four decades culminating with our forty-fifth president.

Lee Atwater is credited with coining the phrase “Perception is reality” back when Michael Dukakis fell to the Willie Horton weak on crime meme.  Atwater worked with Karl Rove, Paul Manifort, and Roger Stone who devised a set of strategies that have given the GOP a lock on winning elections across America. This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s crafty application of combative propaganda techniques in a political culture where winning is the only option and nobody who counts cares how it’s accomplished.

Here’s how perception is manipulated to play the media and the American people, to game our democratic systems, and to get a lock on the levers of power.

Lies to Truth in Ten Steps

Here is Robert Reich breaking down the steps:

It is a progression that muddles people’s ability to distinguish truth by creating an illusion that many people accept and believe what started as an easily disproven lie.  Lie … disputed fact … partisan divide … alternative fact.  When people rely on what they think others find credible perception shifts. Truth becomes a perception and not a rational assessment made by weighing the evidence.

Gaming The Media

Manipulating the media has become a profession in our age of ratings and for-profit news coverage. Keeping the numbers up is a survival issue for print, radio, and TV.  Fox News has demonstrated that news as entertainment captures and holds audiences. Outrage and drama fuel good ratings. Authenticity, fact, and nuance – not so much. Here is Reich again to illustrate how deception can prevail even with the best efforts of our free and independent press.

By creating the perception that the media is unfair and biased, all criticism becomes suspect allowing bold lies to persist.

It is no accident that public funds for non-commercial radio and television have been cut by GOP legislation. It’s also intentional that Sinclair Broadcasting has been allowed to acquire rural radio stations across the nation. Control of the media is control of perception.

Fostering Corrosive Doubts and Fears

Doubt and fear fog the intellect and cause humans to fall back on more primitive coping mechanisms.  This opportunity is exploited by human predators to get over on others.  Sociopaths and domestic abusers commonly “Gaslight” victims using the tactics Robert Reich attributes to Authoritarianism in this clip:

The Impact on Individual Perception

The effect of all of these tactics is very personal. By messing with our perceptions, by playing us, our mood and our general outlook is altered.  In this last clip Reich characterizes four syndromes…

Robert Reich is a gifted teacher and an experienced political insider who is very self-aware and who now has a large following of youthful progressives. He is doing great work to show what’s behind the curtain in the political theater we are bombarded with daily. He’s worth following on social media.

An online collection of shared resources, information, and essays.