January 2020
【1/31 (五) 7:30pm 思‧英語討論會】

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Raising Responsible Kids

Let's talk about this quote (p. 3-5) from Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills.

This book is 25 years old, and so lots of its content has already been incorporated into teaching and parenting practice. Nevertheless, the pages quoted below intersect nicely with a question I've been asking myself lately, which is: how do the radical changes society has been through in the last 20-30 years affect how we raise our children? Regardless of in the US or Taiwan, the teachers parents I know struggle with how much freedom to give kids, how much guidance, and where and what kind of limits to impose. This passage gives an interesting insight into the cultural source of some of our challenges.

Why don't today's children develop the same kinds of responsibility and motivation that seemed more prevalent in children many years ago?
There are many possible explanations, such as broken homes, too much television, video games, and working mothers.  These factors are so common in our society today that the situation would seem rather hopeless if they really explained our current challenges with children (And we all know of many single and working parents who are doing a great job raising their children because they use effective parenting skills.) Rudolf Dreikurs had another theory. 

There are many major changes that have taken place in society over the past few years that more directly explain the differences in children today.  The outlook is very encouraging because, with awareness and desire, we can compensate for these changes and in doing so can also eliminate some of the problems that many think are caused by broken homes, too much television and working mothers.

Equality not dominance/submissiveness
The first major change is that adults no longer give children an example or model of submissiveness and obedience.  Adults forget that they no longer act the way they used to in the 'good old days'. Remember when Mom obediently did whatever Dad said, or at least gave the impression she did, because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do?  In the good old days few people questioned the idea that Dad's decisions were final.
Because of the human rights movement, this is no longer true.  Rudolf Dreikurs pointed out. "When Dad lost control of Mom, they both lost control of the children." All this means is that Mom quit giving the children a model of submissiveness.  This is progress. Many things about the 'good old days' were not so good.

Is it possible to live without the Big Five?

The 5 big tech companies have a big impact on our society, but how difficult it is to avoid them? The author of these articles tries to cut each of the tech companies out of her life, one each week, and then the last week, she tries to cut all of them out. She encounters hilarious and also thought-provoking obstacles each time.
The story is worth reading in full, but below I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting facts and conclusions, for us to discuss.

Amazon reportedly controls 50 percent of online commerce, which means half of all purchases made online in America, which is obscene.
Amazon is not just an online store—that’s not even the hardest thing to cut out of my life. Its global empire also includes Amazon Web Services (AWS), the vast server network that provides the backbone for much of the internet, as well as Twitch.tv, the broadcasting behemoth that is the backbone of the online gaming industry, and Whole Foods, the organic backbone of the yuppie diet.
AWS is the internet’s largest cloud provider, generating 0ver $17 billion in revenue last year. Though Amazon makes much more in gross sales—over $100 billion—from its retail business, if you scrutinize its earnings reports, you’ll see that the majority of its profits come from AWS. Tech is where the money is, baby.

CDNs obscure AWSs
Launched in 2006, AWS has taken over vast swaths of the internet. My VPN winds up blocking over 23 million IP addresses controlled by Amazon, resulting in various unexpected casualties, from Motherboard and Fortune to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s website. (Government agencies love AWS, which is likely why Amazon, soon to be a corporate Cerberus with three “headquarters,” chose Arlington, Virginia, in the D.C. suburbs, as one of them.) Many of the smartphone apps I rely on also stop working during the block.
With the VPN up and running, I start to wonder why so many sites still work. Airbnb, for example, is a famed user of AWS, but I can search for a Thanksgiving vacation home there. I email Airbnb to ask if it still uses AWS for hosting, and a spokesperson confirms the company does. (I also could have confirmed it with this cool tool, which tells you about the digital provenance of a website.)
That’s how Dhruv and I discover a major flaw in our blocking technique. It turns out many sites, in addition to using a company like AWS to host their digital content, employ a secondary service called a content delivery network, or CDN, to load web pages faster.
If a website uses AWS in combination with a non-Amazon CDN, my blocker sees the IP address used by the CDN and lets that AWS-hosted content slip through. When I check with Gizmodo Media Group’s tech team, I discover that our own sites are hosted by AWS and use Fastly as a CDN. Just like Airbnb, Gizmodo is sneaking past my blocker.

Bad News

We're going to play a game where we create fake news, and talk about it as we play.

An article from the University of Cambridge about this game: Fake news ‘vaccine’ works: ‘pre-bunk’ game reduces susceptibility to disinformation

“We wanted to see if we could pre-emptively debunk, or ‘pre-bunk’, fake news by exposing people to a weak dose of the methods used to create and spread disinformation, so they have a better understanding of how they might be deceived.

“This is a version of what psychologists call ‘inoculation theory’, with our game working like a psychological vaccination.”

The study, published today in the journal Palgrave Communications, showed the perceived reliability of fake news before playing the game had reduced by an average of 21% after completing it. Yet the game made no difference to how users ranked real news.

“We find that just fifteen minutes of gameplay has a moderate effect, but a practically meaningful one when scaled across thousands of people worldwide, if we think in terms of building societal resistance to fake news,” said van der Linden.


Narcissism has not only become a normalized social condition, it is increasingly being incentivized.

Lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity, superficiality, anger, rage, arrogance, and shallow emotion is a manifestation of pathological insecurity – an insecurity that is experienced at both the individual and societal level.

The paradox is that we value these patterns – and venerate them through social media, mainstream media, and consumerism, they represent a fast-track to financial and professional success. These traits are endemic in political, corporate, academic, and media leaders.

Our culture is immersed in tales of hope, redemption, and forgiveness, and while that's all very healthy, in the wrong hands hope and forgiveness may not represent an opportunity for growth or change or restoration, but rather permission to just keep things going as they are, because with narcissists forgiveness is interpreted as, "Hey let's just keep the status quo."

The Green New Deal

So! The American House of Representatives' Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a Green New Deal for the US. As a document, it's talking about the principles by which we would overhaul the US economic and energy practices, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy.

I feel like the US is way behind Taiwan in terms of initiatives like this. In US politics, large-scale government initiatives are unfashionable. In Taiwan, the government's role in stimulating the economy and leading social change is widely recognized. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to talk about what this proposed bill includes, perhaps there are things Taiwan could also consider, in how to approach our planet's future.

Here is a link to the PDF document: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5729033-Green-New-Deal-FINAL.html

The Democratic Process of Impeachment

John Bonifaz is an attorney and leading activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights.
Sarah Kendzior is a journalist, scholar and author of the essay collection “The View from Flyover Country.”
This is an interview from Gaslit Nation, a podcast covering corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of autocracy around the world.

Arguments for Impeachment
Sarah Kendzior: So I want to start out by asking a general question because there's a lot of confusion these days about what exactly impeachment is and how it works. So can you just tell us that? What is impeachment and how does it work?

John Bonifaz: Yes. Impeachment is a power that we the people have in our constitution to remove an elected official of the government, including the president, when that person has abused the office and abused the public trust. And it's important to note that there is no requirement whatsoever that there be a conviction of a crime under the federal criminal code, or even an indictment issued before an impeachment process can begin. And this is the way we deal with those in power, including a president who would so trample on the Constitution and abuse the power of the office that we don't wait until another election, because the threat is to the republic itself, to the body politic and the view that the framers had is that there must be a power within the Constitution to protect the republic in that kind of moment. And that's the impeachment power.

Sarah Kendzior: Do you see this as a political or a partisan process or more of a constitutional duty?

John Bonifaz: It's absolutely a constitutional duty, it's a nonpartisan process. It's about defending and protecting our Constitution and our republic when we're faced with somebody in the Oval Office, or in another office, who so abuses the power of that office and abuses the public trust.

Sarah Kendzior: Right. And back in 2019, as I mentioned, you wrote that op ed with Rashida Tlaib, and there is a lot of enthusiasm at that time. You know right after the Dems taken the house to go forth with impeachment proceedings. That was tempered somewhat by Nancy Pelosi coming out and calling against it and now has been reinvigorated in light of the Mueller Report. So, taking all of these different developments into consideration, what are to you, what are some of the most compelling reasons to begin impeachment proceedings now?

John Bonifaz: First I want to be clear that the most compelling reason that we began with respect to this impeachment campaign at free speech for people was on the day the president took the oath of office, Donald Trump was refusing to divest from his business interests and placing himself on a collision course with the two anti corruption provisions of the Constitution: the foreign Emoluments Clause and the domestic Emoluments Clause. He's been treating the Oval Office as a profit making enterprise at the public expense. And so that's why we launched this campaign with Roots Action: Impeach Donald Trump Now on the day that he took the oath in January 2017 for his direct violations of the emoluments clauses. That's the first impeachable offense. But sadly, as we know, this president has committed multiple impeachable offenses since that day. And we now see the most recent one becoming even more in the news here with obstruction of justice. Although, it was clear to us when he fired the FBI Director James Comey that he had committed obstruction of justice. But the Mueller report lays out very clearly for the nation and for Congress that this president, but for being president, would be indicted in a criminal court for criminal charges of obstruction of justice. And the only reason why Mueller chose not to indict is because of a Department Justice Policy which claims that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But the fact is, that impeachment is not about again whether there is an indictment. Impeachment is about whether there's been abuse of power and that obstruction of justice and repeated efforts to shut down the Mueller investigation demonstrate that this president has abused his power.

Smart Cities

Let's talk about Smart Cities! As always, the title of each excerpt is a link to the article it came from.

What is a Smart City?
“Smart city” is one concept that has been, to some extent, oversold and under-understood. It is not about sensors and gadgets and software and more routers and more IBM equipment. A smart city [endeavor] is more about building a happy city. We are not saying that existing cities are dumb, but we need to use technology to create an environment where people are better off in terms of pollution, traffic, education, health, jobs, living conditions and cultural spaces. All of these are very important aspects of building a happy city, including security. But the idea is not to bring more cameras and more police and more guns. The idea is to build better communities.

For example, we have built cities where people drive a half an hour to work. That’s not smart. Why can’t we design cities where people walk to work? But because of the car industry, and because of the Western model, everybody said, “Oh, that’s okay, we can drive 30 minutes to work.” And there are traffic jams everywhere. People who live in the north work in the south. People who live in the south work in the north. It doesn’t make sense.

Then we come to organizational issues. How are we organized in the city? What resources do we have in the city? We can do so much without any technology input today. Of course, technology will help a great deal. But let’s go see what we can do with what we’ve got and not jump into technology. By bringing technology to the existing systems, you’re going to create chaos, because the systems are not designed to adapt to new technology. We waste resources on technology if we are not equipped to handle the external input that technology brings.

When people talk about a hundred smart cities in India, they have no clue as to what they are saying. They’re naive. If you cannot empower the mayor of the city, how do you build it? [What about] organizational autonomy, freedom and flexibility? If you don’t allow your cities to raise money of their own for projects, how do you get cities to fund them? You have not really created autonomy for your cities. If you don’t do that, there’s no way you can bring technology to solve your problems.

Strengthening Governance


How do we create a society that works for everybody? One major effective way is through good governance. In this talk, the speaker points to a couple of important factors that need to be present to achieve good governance: Strong checks and balances, enforceable international standards, and informed citizens who can ask for useful change.

“Patient" Capitalism, or Funding the Businesses of the Poor


This video talks about the nature of getting healthy businesses started in a capital-poor economy, and how it needs to work to be successful.