Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Air We Breathe

Canadian wildfires caused the air in Newtown, PA to exceed the 400 AQI level that’s considered hazardous to all. Lesser levels pose a risk to subsets like the elderly (me), those with a history of asthma (also me), children, pregnant women, and those with compromised health.

Here is the map showing real-time measurements for Newtown and vicinity. You can focus the map on any area you choose. Click the picture below to view the real-time map.

Photo of PurpleAir map

Marguerite, my wife, wrote the article below explaining why the AQI (air quality index) is of concern to everyone.

Applied Critical Thinking

Doug Muder is, to my mind, one of the best critical thinkers of our time. In this week’s Weekly Sift, Doug deconstructs Marjory Taylor Greene’s call for a national divorce that would return the US to a confederacy of independent states.

Virtually no thinking person is taking her idea seriously. But, informed by history, economics, and practical realities, Doug Muder carefully demonstrates why she is so very wrong. It’s a good exercise in Civics.

TREEMONISHA

an Opera by Scott Joplin

Houston Grand Opera Orchestra

with an all-black cast of singers and dancers

Online Links

For those who would like to share this remarkable experience with off-campus friends and relatives, here are the YouTube links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6ynOUAFIG8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHG6PMUUHOA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Sr5AokEGGg

The libretto is also available both in document form and as a slide show keyed to the sound track:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ecgr5ViF-Xc

http://www.pegopera.org/operas/treemonisha/lib_a4.pdf

http://en.opera-scores.com/D/VocalScore/5310/191737.html

Citizen Journalist

Doug Muder has been my favorite read for rational political analysis since 2016. He spoke to Pennswood Residents via Zoom on January 17th. Anyone concerned about credibility and truth in the media will find this video informative and thought-provoking.

Doug Muder on Citizen Journalism

It’s Rare

Beyond any reasonable doubt, voter fraud is rare. In isolated local cases where it does occur, it doesn’t usually affect outcomes.

You probably already know that. Those who don’t wish or choose to believe it’s vanishingly rare don’t read this sort of post. I’m posting this article by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post because we need to see the facts to avoid the corrosive effect of persistent malicious disinformation that fosters doubts.

The GOP’s big lie strategy is intended to gaslight their base and rationalize a bundle of voter repression initiatives. They manufacture the controversy and use it to justify making it more difficult to vote if you are marginalized by poverty or ethnicity.

If you value facts and analytical thinking, read this:

Delusion and Self-deception

A delusion is a belief that is contrary to objective reality. It’s different from the self-deceptions that most of us indulge in. A growing number of observers are taking a hard look at the extremism in our political parties. It’s not merely a difference of viewpoint, or interpretation of objective fact. We are witnessing solidarity among partisan politicians who choose to believe things that are manifestly not real. Election deniers and climate deniers are the foremost examples.

Robert Draper was an insider to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. In this talk, he explains how his view of the GOP and the seeming willingness of rational people to ignore evidence and assert false perceptions and beliefs. He speaks about Weapons of Mass Delusion, “The disturbing eyewitness account of how a new breed of Republicans—led by Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Madison Cawthorn—far from moving on from Trump, have taken the politics of hysteria to even greater extremes and brought American democracy to the edge.”

When asked how this delusion can be overcome, he suggests it may only end when the supporters fail miserably at governing — which he characterizes as a dangerous experiment.

Dangerous indeed.

What Women Want …

Storyteller Susan Klein tells a wonderful fairytale in which the prince must guess what all women most earnestly desire. It continues for some time, and she keeps you guessing to the very end. (Spoiler alert: to make my point here, I will need to reveal the secret — but not just yet.)

The guesses that male listeners make are usually far off the mark, and some are transparently egotistical when they venture into romantic fantasies. Men have “implicit bias” that blinds them, me included. They can’t see what’s missing that is so much to be desired from a woman’s point of view because they do not experience such a lack as men.

Yet when the reveal in the story comes, it’s a forehead slapper. Listeners say, “Of course!” and “Why couldn’t I see that?” The wonderful art of Susan’s telling of the story leaves a lasting impression, and possibly an awakening.

Lately I have been thinking that something similar is going on with Trumpists and the rest of us. What is it that Trump’s followers most earnestly desire? What can’t we get about them?

I’m not thinking about political opportunists, those who exploit that earnest desire. I’m thinking about the rank-and-file follower. The men and women who buy into conspiracy theories, whose outrage is always just under the surface, who are angry and see Trump as a tarnished knight, a tough guy who speaks their mind.

In Susan’s tale, what women most earnestly desire is “agency.” They want to make their own choices and not be owned or told. Women have long been identified as “the weaker sex” and subordinated to men. They fought for two generations to get the vote and continue to fight for equality and justice in civic, employment, and domestic life.

Could Trumpists be fearful of losing their agency? Do they believe they have already lost some precious agency to the “elite” liberal class, to overreaching government, to rising minorities, immigrants, coastal progressives, the deep state, and Antifa? That’s certainly what the manipulators are plugging. Is Trumpism about the loss of agency?

How do we assure Trumpists that their agency isn’t diminished if others gail agency. How did most men come to recognize that a woman’s newly won agency does not diminish their own? On the contrary, both men and women benefit.

“The GOP is sick” — Milbank

Dana Milbank documents the decline of ethics and morality that characterizes the Republican party and now threatens democracy itself.

The essay echoes a theme in my observations of political leadership on the right. There is a long tradition of political scheming and distortion of the public’s perception of reality. Lee Atwater said “Perception is reality,” and he actively employed that principle to create negative political memes. Manifort, Stone, Gingrich, Rove, and many other GOP political operatives have risen to power and influence manipulating perception without concern for fairness or truth. They seek to win by any means.

Integrity

“I spent 40 years as a litigator and trial lawyer. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the investigation and presentation by the Committee. It is telling a multi-layered, complicated story in an understandable, accessible manner. That is no mean feat. The Committee has achieved that result through discipline and hard work. Kudos to the Committee,” says Robert B. Hubbel in his blog remarks about the January 6th Committee.

“Once again, as it did last Thursday, the committee relied entirely on senior Republican officials and on members of Trump’s own inner circle to tell the story of how Trump tried to overthrow our government. This undercuts accusations that the committee is engaging in a ‘partisan witch hunt.’ Notably, the committee itself is measured, polite, and serious, demonstrating to viewers what hearings used to be before they became ways to produce sound bites for right-wing media,” says Heather Cox Richardson.

Everything about the presentation of the findings speaks of an intention to present their findings with clarity and with fact-based credibility. The assertions about Donald Trump and his enablers are direct and bold, and they are backed by live and recorded testimony by people with direct knowledge of the facts.

It’s telling that Fox is not doing live coverage and that Trump’s social media channel is blocking users who post about the hearings. What is being revealed can’t be dismissed as political theater, or a witch hunt when so much of the sworn testimony is by GOP operatives who are reporting what they saw and did.