Feel free to comment to one another but note that we will not be able to answer questions regarding existing posts.
The author and curator of this site passed away June 2021. In his memory we will keep the site running as long as it brings value.
Feel free to comment to one another but note that we will not be able to answer questions regarding existing posts.
This will be a short post as most people know what happened on January 6. Not since 1814 has the capitol been desecrated and lives taken and threatened during the war of 1812. But, that was done by the English, not Americans. I have lived long enough to have seen many historic events but could never have seen anything like this occurring.
But what is most heartbreaking is the fact that in addition to the perpetrators' there are some Americans around the country that agree with the event. This is unforgivable!
There are too many questions to be answered but I remain hopeful that we will recover and prevail in preserving our democracy.
Anyone who has experienced the last four years in the US knows what bad leadership and no leadership looks like. So, I see no reason to enumerate the multiple failures of an unqualified president. Despite the fact that he is unable to concede his loss of the election he has opted for a "scorched earth" policy in his last 30 days in office. Please keep in mind that I have no problem with the people who chose Trump in 2016. We all make decisions and they are a sacred part of our democracy which I value.
There are at least three areas that are serious concern as we enter 2021. The first is the overturn of the election based on no evidence. He is raising money for his Political Action Committee that essentially puts 200 million dollars in his pocket. Second is the fact that he has made the voting process seem flawed despite the fact that it has been called the most accurate in our history. The third is the refusal to sign the covid relief package just passed by both houses of Congress.
The last four years may be difficult to repair so I look forward to a more stable government in 2021 and hope that it is a turning point for the future. The moving vans are on the way!
There are several ways to minimize the spread of the corona-19 virus. Wear a face mask, be socially distant, hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces. But, by far, the best scientific reason to prevent infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic people is the face mask. Why? Because it protects the wearer and others, some of the high risk individuals around them. But for some reason the concept has been seen as a violation of their first amendment rights. This has nothing to do with the first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Although the supreme court has dealt with many first amendment issues, the choice to not wear a face mask is putting others at risk without regard to eliminating the virus. Yet, every day I see people who just don't seem to care about ending the threat of the virus.
Many people are depending on science to provide a vaccine but mask wearing is a violation of their free choice. Thanks for putting everyone else at risk!
With millions of consumers using TikTok worldwide they are either not aware or don't care that they are freely giving China valuable information. China doesn't have to hack for data when we are just saying "here, take my most important and critical possession, my privacy"! And although not owned directly by China, the company is in that country and controlled by the Chinese government. Here is the Wikipedia section on privacy concerns:
During times of increased risk of illness or death the last thing that should happen is to amplify anxiety and fear. But that is exactly what is occurring as we experience the corona virus. There is a convergence of information and noise that elevates the concern to inappropriate levels. When the general population begins to buy out groceries, toilette paper, and hand sanitizer we are reacting to the incessant presence of the problem of viral infections spreading exponentially which is not happening. The reality is that, yes, we have what the Center for Disease Control has called a pandemic is in fact true, but many of the right steps are being taken to mitigate the spread of the virus. Although we should have acted sooner we are not in a position to panic without necessity.
The mixed messages are part of the problem when local news programs devote more than half of their broadcast to the covid-19. And that includes local doctors who are reporting what is already reported by the CDC and the WHO (World Health Organization). There is also a very comprehensive data site from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Here.
And more mixed messages come from two of the least qualified people in the country, the president and vice president. These two men don't even believe in climate change! Equating the virus to the influenza virus and saying "everything will be fine" is just an empty gesture that doesn't square with the facts.
Please understand that I am not trying to minimize the problem but suggesting that we limit our information to the health professionals. Of course we hope that this will pass soon but fear and anxiety are poor substitutes for true and accurate information. Hand washing and monitoring our own health is much more realistic.
There was a time in the not too distant past that we received the news of the day from newspapers and television that was much different than today. It was actually vetted and the news had clearly defined guidelines between the news and opinion. Opinion was called an editorial and the news had sources that could be checked as opposed to what we have today which is "anonymous sources"! Both newspapers and television had what was called integrity!
But in today's 24 hour news cycle and social media all of the news is suspect and much of what is generated lacks veracity and trust. But we are apparently too busy to question the content and just re-tweet and move on. But, like the old west, people are being harmed by bias, lies, and most troubling is the fact that much of the misinformation is coming from the top leadership in our government. And the social media giants are complicit citing the first amendment rights. Yelling "fire" in a theater when there is none is not consistent with the first amendment and neither is this blatant content. To be fair there are some sources that try to provide an accurate news profile but they are drowned out by robots and sometimes hateful people.
With over 60 % of the population getting their news on social media we are in a real danger to our democracy. What can be done to change this dynamic? Unfortunately very little other than regulation by Congress but that would be a thorny proposition. They are afraid to go against the executive branch and could never decide to throttle the constant mistrust coming from the top. My short answer is to stop relying on the vitriol being generated and think seriously about what we read. But that is somewhat unrealistic as we are in a tribal and divided country. As long as we are not willing to test the news currently on social media and the newspapers, we will have to accept the consequences. Even when the news source leans left or right we don't have to lean toward either extreme. It's up to us to monitor what we read.
The purpose of education in K-12 is to ostensibly prepare the student for either a post-secondary education or to join the adult population in becoming a well informed member of our ever shrinking world. But, public education is failing in its assigned objective. Why is this important and what are the potential outcomes?
First, we began teaching to standardized testing to keep funding and certification. Testing periodically through these grades has been in place for years but it was a random test and actually reflected what real levels of achievement were. Now results are more indicative of how well students learned what was going to be on the tests. Simultaneously the budgets were cut to eliminate art, music, and other "non essential" parts of the curriculum. Instead, much more money went into STEM education which is essential for both male and female students. But, there are two areas that have gone mostly unnoticed for a long time.
Those two subjects which are critical to adult preparedness are civics and finance. There was a time when schools taught civics for at least one full year in high school. Now, although all 50 states are supposed to teach some form of how the government works, the results are poor to virtually absent. So you say "the parents can educate those children who have no real civics course". Well, have you talked to any of these parents who don't even know how many branches of the government we have? No less how a bill is born and travels from the House to the Senate and then to the President in the executive branch. And this is a perfect time for teachers to make civics interactive in a time of chaos and tribalism.
And what about handling personal finances? Credit and how credit card companies encourage us to spend more than we have and use most of our resources paying interest. What is interest and when does it become almost criminal? In this age of technology when we just swipe our cards and buy, buy, buy is burying many people and school age students should know about money and how to handle resources. In this mix of finances students should also be aware about post-secondary education and choices and the reduced cost of community colleges and borrowing money to finance their education or trade school.
I know that there are schools that do teach the essential civics and finance subjects but they are in a small minority. We need to be involved in our local PTA and school board and become advocates and hope our children learn about voting and staying out of bankruptcy court.
Not too far back in time if you wanted streaming video there was Netflix and Hulu. Simple and easy to manage and financially viable. But now, you need a spreadsheet to manage the vast number of video sources. With Disney, Sling, Apple, Amazon, Britbox and maybe another 100 or more. There is more service than content. And, who has time to watch even 2 unless it is your full-time job!
And there is also a sinister side of these subscription services. Data mining! You can bet that each service is compiling what we watch, how long we watch, and using that information to continue to entice you to want more and probably selling the results. And, when all is said and done, is the time using video streams really productive? Is the complete use of all of your information and privacy worth giving away? (Actually we are paying to lose our privacy).
This is all connected to the applications on our phones. We download and seldom if ever use even a few of the sites that seemed useful at the time we added them. Time to purge and clean the trash that has little or no value.
Several years ago I posted two observations about wants and needs. Well, I no longer need or want useless video streams that are expensive and time consuming. I guess I'll watch TV and cable and let it go at that. I can always hear about the latest video stream from somebody with deep pockets!
The United States government continually collects data about virtually every aspect of our lives. From the census to longevity and everything in between. It comes from multiple agencies and is published online but unfortunately the data is not on one site and it takes time and effort to find real and factual information.
But that has changed and it is due to the philanthropic efforts of Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft and his wife Connie. With a bank account of 41 Billion dollars they wanted to present a fact-based site that is not tilted in any direction. It presents the data in easy to read form and is totally without outside support or commercial interest. From the site:
"USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future. We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions".
I rarely make recommendations about websites due to either bias or poor execution of the material. But this one is worth a visit. And, as always, comments are welcome. Here is the link. I would suggest that you start with the "about us" section to get a feel about how the site began and its goals. Ken.