Monday, February 27, 2017

Freedom Is A Journey

Greetings all, as we await March.

Well, again, you never know when or how inspiration will strike.  If you haven't seen or heard of that nefarious Paul Ryan's tweet about freedom and Obamacare, Jon Schwarz had a fantastic take down.   During participation in the comments, inspiration struck (but shhhhh - someone might figure out my TI commenter handle 😃 )

After mulling over the nugget of inspiration, I thought, for at least now, a poem might be the best outlet for my thoughts.  However... maybe a more prose-y take on the topic might be good later (?).

So here goes:

Freedom Is A Journey

Freedom is a journey
One concentric circle blending into another
Old confines erased
As each one expands the breadth,
Each one expands the horizons
Every new incremental change
Gives more room to stretch
Gives an invitation to grow
This journey of broadening scope
Begun by some ancient yearning pebble
Still continues its pilgrimage today
The journey still incomplete

Hope that offering gives you readers something to think about. Your thoughts?

Remember as always, if you find this post or any post here of value, do comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Related Post:

 My Freedom/Liberty Concept Map

Friday, February 24, 2017

What About Keeping Our Cool?

Greetings all as Feb. winds down.  You readers should know by now that I am a fan of Mysteries at the Museum.  I enjoy history and really love it when they present inspiring stories, say of Elizabeth Jennings Graham, as I mentioned in this post (Persistence/Long Time Gone).  Again, the show has helped prompt me to write a blog post.  

It's hard to try to escape, even for a bit, some of the mess that's going down in our country and the world.  I very frequently read articles at The Intercept, and saw a certain headline, but didn't bother to read it at the time since I just wasn't in the mood for more bad news. Then I got to finally watch one of last week's MATM episodes and -  ok, this needs to be written.

It seems as though our popular vote loser and head twitterer is signaling willingness to restart a nuclear arms race.  All I can say is: that would be just sheer lunacy.  The racism, bigotry and misogyny are bad enough.  The lack of regard for the environment is bad enough.  The lack of regard for civil liberties is bad enough. The total disregard for actual facts is bad enough.  But nuclear arms are too serious to be left to anyone who doesn't want to keep a cool head (more later) and clearly think through implications of any change in policy or something else.

So what does that have to do with MATM? The episode was "Mutually Assured Missteps, First Train Robbery, and Declaration Discovered" (very good episode overall, actually!) The first story was of an incident in 1962 when it was thought that a Russian saboteur had breached the fence at Duluth air field in MN.  Fighter jets from nearby Volk Field in WI were readying for takeoff when word came that it was a false alarm.  The alleged "saboteur" was a bear!  Scott Sagan, author of the book, The Limits of Safety, echoes my concerns about such incidents. Sagan uncovered this incident with a FOIA request, so don't let anyone say FOIA doesn't matter!  This incident should also remind us once again that nukes are very, very serious business.  Even accidental misunderstandings could lead to the unthinkable.

We should remember the example of Vasili Arkhipov, featured in the most excellent PBS episode, "Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World."  One thing which stood out for me was that one of those who served with him said that he stood out for being 'cool headed.'  When the fate of the entire Planet is at stake, I think that's a very good quality to have.

And if you find this post or any post here of value, please do comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Monday, February 20, 2017

World Day of Social Justice

Greetings on this World Day of Social Justice, 2017.  The U. N. has been observing this since 2007.  The theme for 2017 is "Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work."  I finally was able to track down their page and you can read more here.

I'm not sure I have much to say about the current theme, although it makes perfect sense to me.  I would certainly believe that doing meaningful or even decent work would make it less likely folks would get into conflicts, since a priority for most people is family.  Being able to provide well for them would ease some pressure, so I can imagine work which would support  families should help lead to fewer conflicts.

 That said, I think it might make sense for me to write about:

What Social Justice Means to Me


One definition of social justice, from Wikipedia is:  "Social justice is the fair and just relation between the individual and society."  Nice and succinct.  Another is: "Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society."  That's from Oxford dictionaries (see: entry ).  That seems pretty close to what many folks talk of when advocating for social justice.

But what does that mean, really?  To me, first of all it means no one should be left behind. Society should be inclusive. Everyone should have access to good schools, decent jobs and a living wage (guess that does tie in with the U. N. theme somewhat), decent housing, health care, equal rights to have one's voice heard in society and fair treatment by the justice system.  In general, everyone should be treated fairly and have equal access to opportunities and justice.

These are very real concerns. One reflection of these issues is found in social mobility.  Data has shown that the U.S. has become less socially mobile.  Data analysis also shows that the U.S. is way down the list of social mobility among developed countries.  Although this article , by Lee Elliot Major and John Jerrim of IOE (UCL Institute of Education, Univ. College, London),  focuses on the UK, it's worth checking out Graph 1 speaks to how various countries rate in social mobility.  One implication the authors believe is that; "we are wasting talent."  So not only are these concerns real, but they have a practical consideration. With all the challenges we face today, it seems to me that wasting talent is not prudent for any country to do.  We need everyone on board to help us solve problems and enable us to rise together.

Social justice also means to me that although individual responsibility is not discounted, wider society still should be active in supporting its people.  Being a retired educator, I know this and let's think of education as an example. Educators know that we expect students to do their part: attend class, do assigned readings and homework, hand in assignments, prepare well for tests and whatever else they need to do to succeed in their studies.  BUT shouldn't WE make sure they have access to what they need to support them in this endeavor? They need such things as well-equipped and maintained schools, access to affordable texts and materials such as calculators, online research access, etc. , including not having to leave college under a ton of debt.  An example of the U. S. heading in the wrong direction in supporting social justice (that will likely impact students, for sure) is the very recent FCC decision to limit broadband Internet subsidies for low-income citizens (Lifeline program). Our thinking and policymaking needs to become more progressive.

Social justice also means to me that we should make better decisions that will positively impact our citizens - and our Planet. According to figures cited in this op-ed, military spending was the largest item in the U.S. Budget for FY 2015 - approximately 54 percent, while spending on education, by contrast, was at approximately 6 percent (and current admin. is thinking of increasing military spending).  I know I may be biased, but wouldn't investing in students and education be a better investment than more military hardware?  Instead of increasing military spending, shouldn't we spend more on things such as education, infrastructure, the environment?  We are not making good choices for our Planet either, if we continue to support projects harmful to the environment such as the DAPL, and ignore climate change. Shouldn't part of social justice be living together in health and peace on Planet Earth which we all share?

Finally, social justice means to me that all should be treated 'the same'; those who are like us and those who are different. Regardless of social class, race or ethnicity, religion, gender, gender preference or identity, disability or WHATEVER. Each person should be accorded equality (especially equality under the law), respect, and dignity.  We should heed the words of Chief Joseph from 1879:  "Treat all men alike. Give them the same laws. Give them all an even chance to live and grow."  It's as simple - and sometimes as messy - as that.

Please remember - if you find this post or any post here of value, do comment and/or share. Thanks.

Related Post:

Equality, Equality...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I'm In the Mood For...Troublemaking Visuals

Greetings again.  Hope someone IS out there...

This time, to lighten up the mood just a bit, yet still make a point or two, I thought I'd post some visuals of thoughts about what I've been observing.

Excuse my relative lack of graphical skills, but the idea is just to see what I can do, make a point, and maybe even have a bit of fun.

First visual:  I'm sure you've all probably seen that Liberty Mutual Ins. commercial that I just can't stand; the one with the oh-so-perfect Mom and kids.  But can you imagine them doing that with the "perfect" family being African-American?

Next visual: what if there were to be a more open, welcoming approach to immigration?

One more: what about the women (I know it's "words" but I thought this might make a nice presentation)?

Would love to read your thoughts.

And be sure if you find this post or any post here of value, that you comment and/or share. Thanks!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yemen (Updated!)

Greetings... There's so much going on domestically, it's often hard to keep track of what's going on around the world.  Not long ago I read the article at The Intercept concerning the situation in Yemen.

It's not at all pretty.  Please do read the article.  From the report: "As a result, the United Nations this week declared that Yemen is on the brink of famine."

Also this:  'And signs are that Yemen is in for more suffering at Trump’s hands. Trump’s Defense Department is reportedly considering a proposal to designate Yemen a formal battlefield in the war on terror, which would allow for an “intensified pace of operations, rather than one-off raids or drone strikes.” '

On the heels of that report, there was an air strike on a funeral which has killed at least five.

There's related material in an old post here (link to full post is below):  "Back to Yemen.  The Guardian has a great overview of the MSF bombings and the situation in YemenFrom the article, Ayora again : “Once more, it is civilians that bear the brunt of this war,” she said.  Sadly, that has been increasingly the case with 20th Century Wars.  I didn't notice a date on that UNICEF article, but I'm sure updates would show the trend is continuing."

You might consider donating to an organization which does relief efforts in Yemen, such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or Oxfam.  I believe MSF does allow you to earmark your donation to a region or program... I have been meaning to give to them for a while, and will check into this and update.

Let's look at the corner of the world where one can find Yemen.  Maybe we could send them some good vibes and prayers.  First, the location of area on globe, then the area of interest in detail.

I found an unlabeled map, cropped a bit, worked with colors and put in labels. Apologies, but it turned out to be difficult to put in labels for Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan (it's VERY difficult to change stuff in Paint once you put it in...).  Lebanon is country in dark blue, bottom left of Syria.  Israel is just below that.  And Jordan is just below Syria, bordering Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


Truth is stranger than fiction for sure.  Well, it turns out Ofam doesn't do earmarked donations, and when I called MSF, the first words I heard were "May I have your area code please?"  They were pretty adamant about needing my phone number if I were to donate.  So I searched a bit more and hit on Mercy Corps.  They have a good rating and I remember also that a gal who was also on a mailing list with me spoke well of them.  When I called, the representative said they a) could earmark my donation and b) were also not hard and fast needing a phone number, so I did donate there!  If you're thinking of donating, I would definitely consider them.  Their website:  Mercy Corps
If anyone would like the phone number it is:  1-888-747-7440.

Related Post:

More Hospital Bombings... 

Remember, if you find this post or any post here of value, please do comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Moral Resistance

Greetings once again on this day before Valentine's Day.  How about some reading and musings to consider.

My homepage is (there's a link in my "side" navbar) and when I saw the headline of their story concerning the huge protest in NC, the phrase "Moral Resistance" really resonated.  Especially after having read some days before, a wonderfully written and extremely thoughtful piece in their 'Views' section.

The article is:  A Malignant Attack on American Values and was written by Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker.  They encapsulate so much of what I (and it seems like many, many others) have been feeling about the "present administration."  Please take the time to read it and digest it.

A short snippet from this article: "The president is a role model for our entire country. When lies are routine and ethical standards are violated in every arena we would be deceiving ourselves to imagine that such malevolence will not invade every corner of American life." 

Beyond dealing with the horrors of this administration, it's clear that there is so much to do in trying to reach out, educate, cajole, whatever, - folks into more positive attitudes. The fact that there is as much support as there is for the travel ban on Muslims (although poll numbers can vary quite a bit) is certainly cause for concern. I've also seen reports that there is some support for torture out there.  Really?  How in the world can anyone justify doing that to other human beings?  And evidence shows that it doesn't work!  Further, try visiting some recent current event comment threads at either The Intercept or The Guardian and you will have to note some very racist and uncivil comments; I can only imagine how bad those "alt-right" (read 'white supremacist') sites are.  How can we break through all this?  I know we're never going to get everyone on board, but we have to reach more folks, really we do.

Well, I suppose it's time to give my Moral Resistance offering:

Please don't hesitate to share thoughts in comments!

And as always, if this post or any post here you find to be of value, please comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Related Post:

The Path of Love (With a New Note)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Our Use of Language

Well, greetings all!  I finally thought I would write about something that has been bothering me off and on for sometime, and has recently been rekindled.

That is our use of language.  I remember being upset when the 'right' so demonized Liberals and really attacked even the term.  Now, I'm from the Liberal school, probably the more traditional Liberal school of folks such as Humphrey and the LaFollettes.  I suppost the more "in vogue" term today is "Progressive."  Now that's not so bad, the Progressive Era here in the U. S. gave us many social advances.  But I have to wonder how and why we let the term "Liberal" be so maligned.

There has been lots written about the misuse of the words "terrorism" and terrorist."  If those terms are to be used, they should be used consistently.  However, that is not the case.

Another case in point right now for me comes in watching the way "protest" and "protester" are sometimes treated.  I think one reason the DAPL protesters wish to be called "water protectors" is because they sense sometimes spinners give "protest" and "protester" negative connotations.  Of this we should be very aware, and not let folks get away with attaching negative spin to what are our First Amendment Rights to Free Speech and Free Assembly.  

Then, there's the language which I have tried to protest by writing to The Guardian and also the editors of Commondreams (link to their site is in navbar...).  That is language such as "*****'s America" or "*****Land" or some such.  I have tried to get across that we should NOT give him the "brand", and also assert that this is OUR AMERICA, too.  And kudos to actress Viola Davis for not using such language.

When we have so many fronts to cover, you may wonder if language matters.  I believe that it does.  In this article, you can read of studies showing how language can affect our perceptions and even approaches to solving problems.  This piece talks about words and their use by media and possible effects on our thinking.  Finally, this op-ed from The Guardian talks about how we need to look at our use of language in our resistance efforts.

Thoughts? Would love to read them in comments!

So please remember, if this post or any here you find of value, do comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Related Post:

Whose America Is It? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Three More Alerts!

Greetings once again.  I just HAD to post about these three items which, if you haven't seen, should be checking out.

News goes so fast, it can be hard to keep up. But some things we really shouldn't miss.  There are so many fronts now needing our attention, it can be hard to know how to focus.  Still many things are interconnected if one really looks behind the scenes.  Issues of bigotry, privacy, economic injustice, climate activism have many points of intersection.

So, here are three items you might want to check out.

  • This one was too good not to make note of.  GOP Senators silenced Sen. Warren from reading Coretta Scott King's letter concerning Sen. Sessions.  Although she didn't read it on the Senate floor, she did an interview about it and also read it on facebook live (if I have that correct) to so many more people.  Later, Sen . Merkley did read it on the Senate floor.  You can read about this and read the text of the letter in this article.
  • A legal defense fund set up for Barrett Brown is suing the Dep't of Justice, claiming they were suveilling anonymous donors.  This is a very important issue, as this relates to people exercising Free Speech by anonymous donations to a cause.  First Amendment, anyone?
I hope these alerts are of service to you readers.  If you have any to share, do comment!

Also remember, if you find this post or any post here to be of value, please comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Monday, February 6, 2017

What We Need To Be (Poem) + Some Must Reads

Greetings again... anyone there?  Please let me know; comments are gold, you see!

You know, you never know where inspiration might come from.  I was reading an article at The Guardian about some Super Bowl (nope, didn't watch, don't care for either of those two teams) commercials which were - ah -slightly political.  One, from 84 Lumber actually had to be toned down for broadcast.  Just in case you missed it or haven't seen the ending, you can do so here .

And then it (inspiration, that is) hit me.  So here is a poem:

What We Need To Be

We need to be Joshuas
Who march, sound our trumpets and ram's horns, then shout
Until intangible walls dividing us fall
Until physical border walls no longer seem an option

We need to be Caregivers for our Mother Earth
As Native Americans continue to teach
For She has been entrusted to all of us,
Including future generations

We need to be Parkers and Kings
And bend arcs toward justice
For it must be available for all
If we are to live in true liberty

We need to be Champions of Democracy
Guarding gains achieved by generations of struggle
Then extending circles of inclusion
For more fully open participation

We need to be Diogeneses
Searching for those who are honest
And we must also follow the example of Aristides
Who was himself legendarily honest

We need to be Scanners Beneath Surfaces
To recognize we have common humanity,
To learn that we need each others' gifts,
And to see our differences as glorious
As we move toward acceptance with love

 Wondering about "Parkers and Kings?"  Check this out!

 Now for the two must reads:

Der Spiegel in Germany had a controversial cover.  I think this is exactly the type of thing the media should be doing!

At The Intercept , there's a very troubling story of the FBI's "Rap Black" program which gives employers real time access to employee data that law enforcement gathers.  Why is this troubling?  Some of this data may be related to exercising First Amendment rights  (say, arrest at a protest).  Further, updates are not always given; charges may be dismissed and it may not be noted.  There may be other inaccuracies as well.  There are also very little limits on how the data may be used (and with Rap Black may be kept indefinitely) and what populations should be subject to this.  From the article:  Such a broad mandate could “provide employers with an unprecedented window into employees’ lives,” according to Jennifer Lynch, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It is well worth reading and being alert to this troubling database.

Please do comment and/or share if you find this or any post here to be of value!  Thanks. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Touchstones of Truths, Part III

Third in a special three-part series.

Greetings once again.  If you've been reading along (and I really hope you have been!), we have looked at the idea of only apprehending glimpses of Truth. I have been proposing some touchstones of truths which I've observed. Our first touchstone was "Hey, We're All Human"; our second, "Things Are Not Always Mutually Exclusive."  So we will now consider our third touchstone and bring the series to a conclusion.

Useful Triad: Critical Thinking, Common Sense, Creativity

Isn’t it true that thinking, how we think, and indeed our thoughts, are important?  Remember that Rene Descartes said: “I think, therefore I am.”  If we follow that idea, then it seems clear that thinking is essential to our existence.  You can’t get much more important than that.

When I look at many issues today, I see the need for critical thinking.  In recent years, it has not been emphasized in educational curricula.  We need to turn this around and do all we can to encourage critical thinking in students and in the greater public.  And yes, this is related to acquiring knowledge says William Poundstone in an article supporting his recent book.  He mentions that those who are better informed with general knowledge tend to be more skeptical of “simple solutions” and better able to think for themselves.  Aren’t those the type of critical thinking skills we should be promoting?  And aren’t those the kinds of thinking skills necessary for good citizenship?  James Baldwin was a great thinker, and much of his work is so relevant to us today.  I recently ran across this quote: “Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”  I got shivers when I read that.

Searches about critical thinking in schools reveal there may be several reasons why critical thinking has not been emphasized: concentration on assessment, time factors, even lack of consensus on what critical thinking is or how it should be taught.  Still there are resources available, and communities should be aware and advocate for activities to get students to think critically.

Common sense is also something that we humans really need to exercise more often.  At you can read that common sense is “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like…”  We need to foster the awareness and reflective skills which will enable this.  After all, we don’t want Thomas Paine to be the last practitioner of this, do we?  This essay may be a bit generic, but it makes some good points about developing common sense. Please note that some of these suggestions  dovetail nicely with fostering critical thinking.

Creativity is also something we need to encourage.  Creative thinking is often a means to innovation, and even some math proofs have elements of creative leaps.  We often though think first of the arts and they are important to us as well.  I’ve always felt the arts were central to education and to humanity. The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities found in looking over foundational studies that arts integration programs often provided social and academic benefits for students.  This page has links to that and other studies which show how vital and useful the arts are in education.  I also found a page which has some wonderful snippets about the value of arts education.  I especially appreciated the first two points.

Creativity and the arts can also be dangerous!  As explained in this essay, art “makes it possible to imagine that the reality it portrays or projects might be imagined otherwise.”  That could be threatening to the status quo, now couldn’t it?  So we have another reason for supporting the arts. 

Think also about what the arts mean to you personally.  Imagine a world without your favorite song, aria, or other musical work.  Imagine not seeing paintings or sculptures. Imagine not having your favorite novel, story or poem to read; no plays, musicals, ballets, or modern dances to enjoy.  Or try imagining a world where you would be prohibited from expressing yourself artistically.  I don’t care imagine such a world, do you?  I hope everyone realizes how enriching the arts are to all of our lives.


William Wordsworth (oh no, not another poet!) asked “Where lies the truth?”  Even today, as individuals and as a society, we still need to seek after this facet of the human endeavor, and to appreciate the purity of genuineness represented by Truth and Keats’s Beauty.

Any further thoughts or touchstones you'd propose? Please share in comments.

Remember, also, that if you find this post or any post of value, do comment and/or share.  Thanks!