Saturday, February 6, 2016

Skeptical exploration

The internet offers great access to information. It also provides great access to misinformation.
We need to be our own gatekeepers but there are resources to help us.
www.snoops.com and www.politifact.com/ can help us on  big stories. They get it mostly right. I encourage you to visit those sites. If you are seeking information about an individual, there are valuable sites. https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets.aspx is a site that lists Pennsylvania court information that can gain perspective about individuals involved in stories. 
But there are some strategies to use on your own.
1) If there are spelling or grammatical errors in the headline. Be skeptical that they checked their facts.
2) If they reference history - historical facts are available on reliable websites.
3) If they say someone said something - check YouTube. Often there will be a video - hopefully unedited - where you can see what they really said.
4) If the headline seeks emotional response - be suspicious. Propaganda is designed to get you to hooked without much though. They are "selling" an idea. Be sure it's really the idea that you value.
5) Above all else - Are the facts right? If you are truly on the right side of an issue, the information you use to support that position will be based in truth.
The bottom line is truth will ultimately prevail and truth will ALWAYS set us free. Be on the side of truth and you cannot go wrong. We just need to know where to find it and how to share it.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Remembering a Neighbor...

For about a dozen years I lived on a 200+ acre farm that was about 6 miles in any direction to the nearest town. I'm not a farmer - just rented the old farmhouse. Some of the fields were leased to local farmers who planted corn or soy beans or cut hay. Someone would plow an area for me to garden. And I enjoyed roaming the many acres with my furry friends.
Most of all I loved cutting wood with our neighbor. It was our primary heat for the long winter. He had been a logger and could weave a tractor with a trailer through trees and obstacles with ease. I learned a lot from those logging times. We always went in autumn so when I smell the sweetness of falling leaves, these times come to mind.
What sticks with me the most is the power of collaboration and great generosity. The deal was that we cut two loads for him and one load for me. I had no way of hauling much wood without him and without the knowledge he shared about running and caring for a chainsaw, I could have achieved little.
Usually there were 4 of us; he and I running the chain saws and the other two loading. That collaboration - the teamwork - I'm sure amounted to a great deal more than the 4 could accomplish in a day if working alone. There's something greater than the sum of the individual parts.
As I look back, I hope I gave him a very fair 1 for his 2 because his kindness, generosity and belief in my abilities still mean a lot to me.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Discussion is...Argument is...

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.”
Robert Quillen


There are so many important things to learn and share. There should be no issue that is so sacred that it cannot be discussed. The purpose needs to be to exchange knowledge. In the US we seem to have developed a strategy of shutting down the discussion if we cannot answer the question or if we don't like the question. We cut straight to sound bite argument.
That's sad because we are not exchanging actual knowledge. There are some favorite people with whom I have philosophical differences that I love to talk with about any subject. Even if our discussion gets passionate, there will be an exchange of knowledge. And sometimes, once I've heard them out, it influences me.
Sadly, there are others that leap to shutting down discussion and never provide any substance. As certain as I am that they likely know something that I should learn, it never comes out. I try to pull together threads of things they have stated over time, ask questions, but nothing comprehensible comes out.
No matter what the topic, if we can exchange our knowledge and experience, we will be much better off. Many times over my life, a good dose of knowledge, well explained logic - has changed my opinion drastically. Even when I don't come to the same conclusion as the person has, I very much respect a well thought out, persuasive discussion.
So if you disagree with me, I will be happy for a good discussion and will respect you for taking the time for it. We should all try to do a little more of that - both discussion and the respect part.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sharing Purpose

Why am I here? What is my purpose?
Most of us have asked that question at one point in our lives.
Look back. Look forward. Look inside.
We did not come into this world alone. We have not come to this present moment in isolation. Many people and many circumstances led us to this moment in time.
What did those people- past- see for us? What did they hope for us to carry forward? How did those past circumstances mold us, shape us, project us to this day? Our potential started there. Our promise started there.
What did they see that we may be missing? What did they hope that we have not yet understood? Our promise started there. Our vision for tomorrow starts there - now. If we want to fulfill our promise, we should routinely look back. Sometimes our trajectory was caused by what they said we could not be but we, ourselves, saw more. Acknowledge that. It can remind us that what others do not see now does not limit our potential.
You determine your purpose! You drive your potential.
But you also determine with whom you share a vision for tomorrow - for yourself and for those around you. Seek people who drive toward and focus you toward a better future. Become the person who sees something more for those around you.
You are here to create something more for yourself and for others. The greater your ability to create shared vision, the greater your sense of purpose for yourself. It's about connection. Your needs are not so different from your neighbor. Shared vision and shared purpose will transcend all obstacles. Seek these things and we find our purpose - together - a very nice place to be - together in harmony and understanding.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The People's Voice

Recently we became aware of an interesting dynamic in British government where the people can petition for something to be debated in Parliament. The process is described on this link - https://petition.parliament.uk/help
This is a great way for common citizens to have a direct influence on what is discussed by elected representatives. The United States and our individual state legislatures should have this option.
With the influence of lobbyists and big money donors controlling our legislative, this could be a path to give a greater voice to real voters.
There are many issues that Americans feel strongly about that simply never make it the floor of our legislative bodies as they avoid publicly stating their positions. For example, Congress has not debated or voted concerning our strategy in Syria. Our representatives should be taking a stand and voting about this sort of issue.
The Congress should be debating about a proposed replacement (if there really is one) to the Affordable Care Act. We should petition for that debate. If there is a better plan, let's hear it. Let's hear a debate about it.
It would be very good if we, the people, began having some say - some control, over what is happening or not happening in our legislative bodies. Our votes only matter if the people we vote for actually work for our interests. This election theme - on both sides of the isle - seems to be one of great dis-satisfaction with the current system. No president can change that alone. We need some major systemic changes to take place.
Our government needs to be OUR government. That means a government that is working toward a better society for ALL. That's a tall order. It calls for all voices to be heard. It calls for vision toward a greater good. It calls for compromise and a collective effort in the same direction. We are all connected. We are only as strong as our weakest links. No amount of money, no walls, no attempts at divisions can protect us from the repercussions that come from ignoring those parts of society that are broken. We will all feel the pain of those suffering one way or another.
Government should be our greatest agent for collective solution of social pain and suffering. A purely capitalist social system has little interest in pain and suffering that does not create wealth. In fact, it seeks only to gain wealth from pain and suffering. This is why we are experiencing so much anger in this country. We have become so enamored by creation of and protection of wealth that we are becoming an impoverished nation. We're crumbling and fumbling to survive while powerful interests are raking in more and more the national wealth and continuing to gain power to protect their interests.
We don't need to worry about terrorists. We're torn apart from those within our own borders. If we don't regain a democracy that represents US and works to a collective improvement for ALL, this experiment will fail sooner than later.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Get on with it!!!!

From an early age I was fiercely competitive and independent minded. Before double digits there was no telling me I could not do something because I was a girl. I would simply set out to prove I could indeed do it and do it better than any boy. The neighbor boy across the road was my nemesis and our most important competitions revolved around our bike riding. It was a confidence builder. I could ride further without hands. I rode faster. I did longer wheelies. I jumped my bike further over obstacles. (and broke my bike more)
I entered broadcasting in an age when few women were on the air. When I reported in at my first Armed Forces Radio and Television station, the Station manager said, "You need to know the 'broad' in broadcaster does not stand for women and I feel there is no place for you here."
In my early years in the mining industry as I carried cameras underground, I was often the first woman to ever enter the mine. "There's a superstition about women being bad luck underground", I heard at the first few mines.
Always I was driven by a deep desire to make my own way and refused to be defined by others. I proved that I would carry my own load and do better than any man. Convention and conventional wisdom are boring to me if there is a more obvious truth. Status quo, in my mind, is a foolish squander of potential. We should always be driving toward something better and something more than was yesterday.
I see a lot of chatter about conservatism versus liberalism. Blah, blah, blah. What is anyone working toward that is better or more than yesterday? I don't care if it is a conservative approach or a literal approach. What is going to make things better tomorrow than they are today?
Sitting still is not enough. Ignoring talent and potential is not enough. Telling me we cannot do anything because....because....because...is like telling me I can't do something because I'm a girl.
Let's get on with it. If we are going to preserve something today, tell me how it's going to benefit tomorrow. I can tell you when it has. I can tell you when it has not.
Don't tell me we cannot solve real problems because....because...because....
I believe in progress. I'd rather jump over you and ride faster than sit and listen to what cannot be done. All the can't stuff of history did not stop me from doing all the things girls couldn't do when I was starting. I know what can be done if a person decides they can. An entire nation - especially the United States - can actually do a few things, if they decide they can.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Medicare for All!

Obamacare has not been successful in helping all working people obtain lower health care. I'm happy that it has helped millions of uninsured people and I do know hard working people who were able to obtain health care BECAUSE of Obamacare. Because it hasn't helped everyone is NOT a good reason to eliminate a program that has helped millions. The focus of our efforts should be what to do next for those who still need help. If we are going to repeal it, we need a REPLACEMENT that actually takes care of ALL.
Looking at Bernie Sanders plan, I ran some numbers to see if it really would make a difference for me. I have a company health care plan for which I have to pay in. I have co-pays for use of health care and a hefty deductible.
By my rough estimates, the "Medicare for All" program would save me - paying 2.2% taxes instead of what I pay into my company plan - about $1000 a year and it would provide about the same or more savings to my company. That's not near the $5000 personal savings claimed by the campaign but that's only in my premiums savings. I avoid using my health care because co-pays add up. If I cannot avoid using the system, it can quickly become overwhelming as I discovered when I had shoulder surgery a few years back. I'm lucky. That was short term and within months the bills stopped adding up. For anyone with on-going health issues and health care needs, it's a huge problem.
Under Senator Sander's plan, I would not have deductibles and co-pays. I'm still not one to run to the doctor at a sniffle but I'm getting older and know that things happen. One accident - one serious illness - can turn to financial devastation. I am pained by the struggles family and friends express over the financial burdens and fears about health care. I want to see us fix that.
Our Medicare program is widely popular and viewed as well managed. Conservatives and liberals alike are very protective of the current system. (Though I'm humored that some conservatives are insulted at the thought of it being a government program perhaps because it's difficult to acknowledge that government can actually work.)
Yes, Senator Sanders is calling for everyone to pay taxes to support it. Those of us who are working, our employers and the very rich who do not pay into the Medicare system now. But it promises by example of Medicare now to actually do what we need. And yes, some non-working people will benefit from the program without paying in. But that is true with Medicare and Social Security now. I have no need to deny anyone health care, food and a basic safe place to live. I will pay in what I can to cover myself and someone else who may need it. I will! I can think of no one - NO ONE - that I disdain so much that I wish them to be sick, hungry or homeless.
I believe in health care for all. Obamacare has not taken us far enough on this path. We need a revolutionary change in how we do this. We need it now! America should not be the last civilized nation to have this solved. Right now, we are.