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Fire! (not a full pail)

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

Education should have as it’s ultimate goal making a person an autonomous learner – someone who wonders, who has curiosity, and who is equipped to learn.

Being equipped to learn doesn’t just mean the three R’s. I means learning to harness intuition, do research, and come up with new ideas. It means to think critically and question what one assumes to be true.

It doesn’t mean being an isolated scholar. Learning is a social activity that draws on contemporary thought, and the vast body of knowledge amassed by thousands of years of humanity.

Humans dominate the planet because they collaborate and learn from one another.

Will we be smart enough to keep our Earth habitable?

R B Shreve, EARTH DAY 2019

The MAGA Bomber

Thirteen small but potentially deadly bombs were mailed to left-leaning celebrities critical of President Trump. The reaction of media commentators and social media echo chambers will provide much for social scientists and journalism professors to study and write about in the future. The sequence of events as new facts emerged reveals how irrational people become when confronted by information that is not in harmony with their tribal beliefs.

View from the Left

Most of those not aligned with the right immediately blamed President Trump for publicly encouraging hate and violence and for conspicuously being slow and tepid about condemning it. They also noted that the characterization of leftist demonstrations as “violent mobs” deepens the fear and animosity felt by both sides.

One theme in several articles was “Stochastic Terrorism” – a theory that suggests that there are always a certain number of unstable people among any political group that may be moved to act by hearing rhetoric that suggests hate and violence. Thus, although no specific call to action was made, the law of averages kicks in, and a susceptible person commits an act of terror.

View from the Right

It was clear from the start that there was a partisan motive behind the targeting of the bombs. The right-wing commentators (Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, among others) promptly seized the opportunity to speculate that it was a liberal plot, a “false-flag” ploy, invented on the eve of the midterm elections, to drive voters away from GOP candidates. “Republicans just don’t do these things,” Limbaugh opined.

The Accused’s View

As I write this, I don’t have a quote from the accused bomber himself.  His lawyer says that he saw Donald Trump as a father figure. His van is plastered with partisan pictures that extol GOP leaders and Trump, and show prominent Dems with cross-hairs superimposed. As it turns out, he is something of a celebrity at Trump’s rallies, having been frequently photographed enthusiastically waving placards.

It’s clear the accused is what he appears to be – an over-the-top right-wing zealot whose passions drive him. Fortunately, the bombs didn’t explode, and the bomber left fingerprints and DNA that authorities were able to trace. Although police sought to cover the van’s incriminating artwork, it was so over-the-top that several individuals came forward with photos made long before the bombing.

The Silence

Those who were pushing the idea of a left-wing conspiracy have fallen silent and turned their attention to other matters. The late night comics made jokes about everyone knowing that the Dems are not well enough organized to pull off such a conspiracy. But even the conservative Weekly Standard couldn’t resist calling out the lords of loud on their implausible false-flag spin of the bomb threats.

What’s to be learned?

I offer a video sent to me by a North Carolina GOP partisan. She evidently found it very persuasive and forwarded it to show me how she feels and what she finds credible. This video is viral in her network with over one million (1,000,000) views logged. What about it makes you skeptical?

 

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.
Here are the links for the videos in the Slide Show

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?


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.