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The world’s richest 2,153 people controlled more money than the poorest 4.6 billion combined in 2019, while unpaid or underpaid work by women and girls adds three times more to the global economy each year than the technology industry, Oxfam said on Monday.

And here in the U.S., a Congressional Research Service report, indicated the wealthy benefited from Trump’s tax cuts more than others. “Most of the tax cut went to businesses and higher income individuals who are less likely to spend the increases,” reads the report. The richest 5 percent of taxpayers will receive $145 billion in tax cuts in 2020, which is half of the law’s benefits that go to U.S. taxpayers. The richest 20 percent of taxpayers will receive $205 billion in 2020, which is 72 percent of the law’s benefits that go to U.S. taxpayers.

Still believe Trump Administration is working for the average ‘Joe?’

January 16th, 2020 The impeachment trial of D. J. Trump began. Chef Justice John Roberts presides. It’s anticipated that most, if not all, Republicans will vote not to convict Trump. With 67 votes needed to convict and remove Trump from office, the trial’s outcome is mostly pre-baked. And more than likely, Trump’s acquittal will only embolden the president, and American’s become powerless to prevent him from any future violations of office. 

What Lindsey Graham and other GOP senators will do is applaud and reinforce Trump’s audacity. Trump’s actions of impeding Congressional oversight are “consistent with” his “previous efforts to undermine other investigations. These actions include requesting foreign interference in United States elections. As a result of GOP allies, Trump continues to hold himself beyond the reach of government scrutiny that applies to everyone else.

What Lindsey Graham, Devin Nunes, and Mitchell McConnell will reinforce is that the United States, in effect, operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people, and another for the poor and people of color. Trump’s acquittal will reinforce the mantra that if you’re white and rich, you’re likely to walk away from crime. If you’ve black, you die. The disparity is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. Wealth gains access to a vigorous adversarial system replete with constitutional protections. For poor and minority defendants, you’re screwed.

Black citizens wrongly convicted or killed will receive no justice. A 2018 Sentencing project reboot confirms this racial disparity. African-American are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites. Hispanics are at 3.1 times as likely. One of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.

No black man would ever be able to successfully argue that aides have “absolute immunity” from congressional testimony to protect autonomy and independence in deliberations. No black man could openly stonewall subpoenas flatly refuse to cooperate with congressional requests for information. No black man could publicly exhibit noncooperation and obstruction. Trump can do all. Why? Because he’s white. And he’s rich.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 16th, ninety-nine of the hundred members of the United States Senate raised their hands and swore en masse to do “impartial justice.” Spoiler alert, there is no such thing as impartial justice. Trump knows it; Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell realize it; blacks realize it, and so do the poor.

I’ve given a lot of thought to various things over the past couple of days. I’ve looked at my life realized there’s this innate knowing that I won’t be here that much longer. I came to this realization yesterday. After spending much of the weekend in pain and hardly being able to move, I dislocated the patella on my right knee (meaning the kneecap moved out of place). I performed a battlefield maneuver and popped it back into place. 

Although painful, a dislocated is not what I considered a significant injury for me (the absolute term, ‘for me’). That’s not to suggest that a dislocated kneecap isn’t a major medical issue. It’s just that for all I have been through, I more or less considered the event as just another indignity to accept.  

Patients like me suffer all kinds of indignities. One such indignity is the requirement to bare all in the presence of young athletic-looking clinicians, where gravity has pulled cellulite into waves of hills and valleys that any miniature skateboarder would drool. I am also told to record my weight and contact the clinician should we suffer excessive weight loss.

Have you recorded your weight?” my physician asks.

No,” I paused. “Well, sort of,” I state.

Meaning?” she asks.

I take my weight every morning, but I can’t bend my neck to record it. So, I base my weight loss upon how much flab I can grab.”

Another slight pause filled the room.

Ever see that ‘Special K’ cereal commercial ‘Pinch an inch?’

Yeah,” smirking.

Well, I modified it to ‘Grab a foot.’ If I can grab more than a foot, I let you know.”

Just once, while disrobing and having some perky young face stare, I just want to say, “Welcome to your future bitch.” But I never do.

Another indignity is realizing just how fast my body has aged. Theoretically, I should be years away from such aches and pains. Now I’m comparing over-the-counter body rubs with 80-year-olds. I’ve gotten into some heated arguments over the value of Aspercreme, Icy Hot, Ben Gay, BioFreeze, Myoflex, Capzasin, and the like. We often bet on results.

Hey, Mr. Rufus?” smiling.

What are you pawning today?” he responds in a crusty voice.

I got some Nurofen Gel. Straight from Europe.

Been there and done that kid,” he grovelingly responds. “You lose. So, fetch me another cup of coffee.”

Damn,” I muttered.

I cringe at the person I was yesterday. I know the wisdom that comes with age is hard-won, but I could do without the flash of wince-worthy moments from my past—like worrying I was old at 23 or 25. 

My life is littered with perceived indignities: first date, first real sexual experience, first presentation to a crowd, first proctology exam, first colonoscopy, and so on. Looking back, these seem so inconsequential. Real indignities are harder.

The fantasy of living until a ripe old age and dying in your sleep, while making love, scuba diving, or sailing is fiction. The real indignity is that many of us will die precisely like me–through an extended period of mental or physical decline. Nearly half of those my age will succumb to Alzheimer’s, not to mention diabetes or cancer.

The latest indignity occurred during the January 14, 2020, Democratic debate. For all the concern over healthcare, and the attempts by the current GOP led administration to repeal healthcare, the real indignity is that no candidate has neither proposed a plan nor discussed long term care for an aging population. The indignity of indignities is that no presidential candidate (Trump included) realistically discusses how to care or budget for generations to come. Thus, all candidates align on this common theme: They seductively offer hope without providing any hope.

And the infuriating indignity . . . is that we’re on our own.

Welcome to your future, B****.

Three days after my 60th birthday, some whiz-bang young doctor will put a surgical knife to hand and slice open my neck. If everything proceeds as planned, a large portion of this tumor will pop out, and I will get up and march on in life.

I circled the date on the magnetic calendar, gripping my refrigerator. I don’t use calendars. The last time I used a calendar was when Franklin Covey and Planner was still jointly operated. Franklin Planner was sold to a private equity firm versus FranklinCovey (consulting, speaking, books, and whatever).

There are other planners. I saw one series of planners that will assist you in I quote, “crushing your goals and fulfilling your dreams via high intense focus.” Part of me wants to ask if this ‘crushing‘ includes getting off the operating table? And, should I crush that, would any other goal compare?

Above my calendar was my wheelchair receipt, purchased 18 months ago. I bought the wheelchair prediagnosis when my body hurt, felt exhausted, and long walks created hours of lingering pain. It was an unrecognized omen of life in 2019.

There’s a resigning revelation that I might not die, at least not in two years. That statement is not a positive affirmation of life. Instead, I realize that as this disease permeates my body, I may become dependent upon that wheelchair. Hell, I can barely move without pain by week’s end — as fatigue, aching bones, roiling bowels, and screaming joints collide each Friday. Therefore, the surgery may be a success, but I remain imprisoned by a failing body, left to navigate the world via a Forcemech Voyager R2 wheelchair. And finally, unable to navigate at all.

I remember the joy of waking on a weekend morning, having the promise of the day before me. Now, hopefulness is somewhat subdued. Even ‘rest’ eludes me, for ‘rest ‘is for the living, not for me.

I realize I must leave my current job. Unquestionably, it’s time. It’s dull, annoying as hell, and full of hourly-to-hourly political battles. My case manager keeps asking if I have a clear vision of a life that was more easeful, more balanced, and more light-hearted than the one currently being lived. At the moment, I am unsure.

From the depths of my being, I believe my back and body damage was caused by ignoring my inner soul and silencing the call of my heart. I now realize I must find that call. We all should.

During the Spring of 1996, a female coworker publicly humiliated me. It was a brutal, embarrassing, and hurtful work experience. What came next was only natural: I felt justified in my anger, I was entitled to it.

In the succeeding weeks, I remained steadfast in revenge. I meditated, for hours, on the demise of this coworker. Nothing else mattered. I breathed it, bathed in, swam in it, and accepted it. I stood standing upon the cliffs of hatred and dove into its thirsty chasm and swam lovingly. Inhaling the hatred’s aroma, I cleared my focus of any impending light. I drank the nectar, and damn, it was good. There was no compassion for struggle. Didn’t matter that she was a single mother of three, earning minimum wage, and stigmatized from years of being overweight.

Within weeks, my coworker became sick. In another two, she lay in a coma. Near to death, a manager I befriended years before looked me directly in the eye, and said, “Stop this?” How that manager knew, I don’t know. However, when I relented to peace, the woman returned to life. I vowed never to return to the ocean of hatred again.

Two decades later, I reflect, and ask, “Was I legally responsible for my coworker’s weeks spent near death weeks?” In our world of evidentiary procedure, there’s no empirical evidence that I wielded such control. So, technically, no. Was I morally responsible? One-hundred percent.

Jesus reportedly said, “You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” It’s a weird command, but Jesus is asking us to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us and to love and pray for them instead of pursuing hostility. In summary, Jesus is saying we need to be pure and as accommodating as possible for the sake of a better world.

Twenty years past visiting the pool hatred, I never revisited. However, many have willingly replaced me.

In the wake of Trump’s assassination of Soleimani, Iran vowed vengeance. As I eventually came to realize, Trump’s, Iran, and my thirst for revenge (of my coworker) are not far from those who enter a business, compete in sports or participate in life. We’re all somewhat similar. In our way, each of us demands revenge, killing for most slights. As such, ‘vengeance wars’ propagate. And unless a political solutions settles it, the ongoing war will enter a slower, more complex, and costly second phase that includes alliance-building, negotiation, and constant plotting. In the ensuing fight, if two people die, there will be others vowing to avenge the previous two. In the end, both sides seek vengeance for accumulated unavenged deaths and maimings and woundings from earlier conflicts.

Here’s my confession. The same revenge used on my coworker killed the passengers of Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Flight PS752. I am ashamed of myself. I wonder if Trump, Iran or anyone else is ashamed as well. Wouldn’t have been better to have thrown President Trump and Hassan Rouhani (President of Iran) into a Mixed Martial Arts cage to ‘duke’ it out?

Trump telegraphed his beliefs early. We didn’t listen. In 2016, WHAM 1180 AM radio host Bob Lonsberry asked Trump if he had a favorite Bible verse or story that’s impacted his thinking or character. Trump’s responded with an “eye for an eye.” However, the eye for an eye scripture was never meant to condone repeated cycles of violence.

Note Jesus’ expression, “you heard that it was said.” He was referring to some Jewish religious leaders who taught retaliation. For Trump and other like-minded, they’ve either never read or intentionally neglect that the Mosaic Law also states: “You must not take vengeance nor hold a grudge against the sons of your people.” (Leviticus 19:18) Rather than promoting personal vengeance, the Law encouraged people to trust in God and in the legal system that he had authorized to right any wrongs. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Twenty years ago, I walked away from hatred. I let go of that seeking to pull me into hatred’s riptide. I take a step forward, and inhaled fresh air reached for a healthier level of self-love. All of us must do the same.

Like millions of other married couples across the globe, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, split. Hit the road. Off to wherever. Canada. Los Angeles, CA. or maybe someplace else.

There was so much gnashing and wailing that I ran to the window to confirm the sun hadn’t ceased to exist. Truth be told, it hadn’t.

Many Royal family watchers claim to know the reason. The ladies I overheard while sipping coffee weren’t unlike many naysayers.

“Who the hell would leave royalty?” queried the first.

“All that money,” replied the second.

“God,” sighed the third. “All that free child care.”

Raucous laughter.

“I hear she’s moody,” interjected the first.

“Yeah. Has to be her (Markle),” said another.

Sure. Of course, we know. It HAS to be Markle, has to. Yeah. Yeah. It’s her. Everything was fine until she showed up.

What idiotic thinking! I wanted to applaud the royal couple’s move. If I was under such pressure, every step analyzed, compared, commented upon, I would leave as well. And truthfully, that’s what I did in 1978. 

I graduated from high school and went a week later to the military. Like Markle, I, too, was never considered good enough. In my world, my brother received first billing. He was the best at everything. His grades were better; his friends were better, his girlfriend was better, his car was better, his physique was better, even his d*** was probably better. 

Of course, had I fell in line, then all the world, i.e., my world, would be well, peachy. 

For much of my life, I was considered an accessory. Like a piece of furniture, I was expected to fit a specific role, blend into a corner, respond when asked, but not offer any objective view different than that which had been espoused by seniors. Like Markle, my needs melted into a burning resentment, and sometimes, anger. 

Prince Harry and Markle will learn what I learned: It’s challenging to sever ‘ties that bind.’ 

When I first started dating my first wife, my mother called and pleaded that my girlfriend would ‘steal me away from the family,’ that I was required to attend holidays, birthdays, and other festivities. And when schisms occurred, I was responsible, regardless. I represented independence, an independence many didn’t adore.

Exhibit self-sovereignty wasn’t allowed. The effort required years to sever. Like Markle, shortly after college graduation, I ditched all of my friends, split from my family, and became the driving force in my own life narrative. 

Of course, I suffered. Mistakes were made. I noted many regrets in this blog, many to which I will have to account upon meeting God. However, they were my mistakes. 

In the early years of my departure, I was ridiculed. I presume Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will experience the same. The royal couple will undoubtedly be pilloried for their decision. Some will claim hypocrisy — others’ greed. A plethora of website commentators will willingly dish out criticism; others may protest, and some will expound vile commentary, both racist and hurtful. 

For all the naysayers I’ve read, I ask one question? Has anyone criticized Jesus for doing something radical, like giving up royalty and coming to earth? How about Siddhartha Gautama? Jesus, of course, is the same Son of God who gave up his royal identity to walk amongst us common folk. Siddhartha Gautama abdicated his privileged life to live in poverty and self-denial. Had either of these holy men walked among today’s masses and Internet trolls, what criticism would we offer? What reinforcement would we provide? Heck, what if Jesus had daycare?

I’m ashamed of the racism Markle received. I cannot relate, but many black citizens can. I’m sure many privileged willingly offered sneers and jeers. Yet, as we embrace the diatribe, many remain unwilling to reach into the pain of a couple, merely trying to establish a family, while simultaneously attempting to provide their son a better life.

For the Shylock’s among us, you’ve had your pound of flesh. Few can relate to the life of a mixed-race woman living life while trying to understand her own identity. And many cannot understand losing a mother who died trying to outrun paparazzi. Prince William claimed walking behind his mother’s coffin ‘one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.’ Imagine doing it knowing tens of millions watching.

If you want to understand the royal couple’s decision, maybe one needs to re-watch The Truman Show, where everything in Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life was part of a massive TV set. The ‘real’ appeared real but wasn’t. He questioned, doubted, and yearned for freedom. He faced betrayal and even faced death. Awakening from a shipwreck, Truman became free to live the way he wanted.

When I think about it, it seems simple. Maybe we need to offer the royal couple something most of us had: It’s the chance to live the life they want.

I’ll even bet God is rooting for them. I am.

According to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, U.S. Intelligence officials indicate that Iran may have accidentally shot down Ukraine Flight PS752 while firing missiles during a retaliatory strike.

In total, 176 people were killed, including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians. Victims also included crew members from Ukraine, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans.

Trump may be right that, directly, the U.S. was not responsible for crash of flight PS752. However, indirectly, these deaths may have never occurred if the U.S. did not strike down Suleimani.

In the end, it’s always innocent citizens that pay the price for ‘stupid.’

“Hey,” My father yelled.

“What?” I responded.

“You seeing this?” while pointing to Trump on television.

“Hmm,” I nodded.

“You took away my car keys and no longer drive. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you don’t allow me to pay the bills anymore. Right”

“Yeah.”

“Then how come we take Trump’s car keys?”

“Ah . . . sigh.”

For the first time since mid-2019, I sat down and watched the news. While US intelligence officials gather in an attempt to decipher the ongoing ‘conflict’ with Iran (we don’t call missile launches and death ‘war’ anymore), we learn Iran may have intentionally targeted locations that didn’t harm US military personnel.

In wake of Iran-U.S. missile strikes, I have listened to several US congressional representatives. Lindsey Graham declared Iran initiated an act of war. Joseph Manchin stated we (the US) is the only ‘Super Power’ in the world. As such, the US has a ‘super’ economic systems, ‘super’ financial systems, ‘super’ military and ‘super super.’ We are just ‘super.’ And should Iran do what we (US) dictate, we’ll all be even more ‘super’ than our previous level of ‘super.

Trump also reassured the nation, albeit via Twitter: ‘All is well.’ Meaning, “Damn, folks. We are good.” Super.

On the other end, Iranian leaders claim they sent a message. Despite this theatrically produced S*** Show, the Iraqi prime minister claims to have been forewarned of the attacks and passed the alert to US troops. However, ‘… mess with us again, you’ll suffer significant pain.

And in the middle is Iraq. Iraqi citizens must be saying, “What the F***?” For Iraqi citizens, it’s like being in a lousy marriage; missiles from everyone. Iranian and US missiles landing in our country. “How the heck do I get out of this marriage?

Good God, Almighty. As Manchin stated, Ain’t everything just ‘super?

In early December (2109), Secretary of Energy Rick Perry incited controversy recently by saying he believes God sent Donald Trump as “the chosen one” — selected “to rule and judge over us on this planet and our government.” Seriously?

Jamelle Bouie’s Op-Ed piece highlights the state of current events. Trump’s actions are reckless but not shocking. He’s not steady, never been. And after three years in office, some claim Trump remains ignorant and incurious. He’ll sacrifice anything to achieve his goal: power and self-preservation.

For Trump, it’s not about us, it’s about Trump. Most know it. But the implications are terrifying. We now understand that how a single action taken by one person could catastrophic consequences. As noted by Senator Rubio during the primary, such a person should never have been given access to the ‘nuclear codes.’

While missiles fire, Puerto Rico residents spent the night outside as aftershocks rocked the island following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake. Post-hurricane aid has been slowed to the island. Trump has said squat. And more than 1 billion animals are now thought to have been killed by the record-breaking wildfires in Australia, according to a prominent scientist whose new estimate is more than double what he predicted mere weeks ago. America has said squat.

Our nation’s leadership is askew. But like Manchin stated . . . Ain’t we ‘super?

Please someone! Get the car keys.

Stupidity Has Begun

Iran has fired missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. Iraq is now inbetween two sets of stupid.

The only winner? Death.

God, the Almighty, has promised to get his revenge,” said the man who will take over for Iran’s Qassim Suleimani. Thus, the increasing cycle of fear and escalating cycle of retaliation is reborn.

Twenty years ago, I visited Northern Ireland. Walking along the haunting image of the wall brought me back to a 60 Minutes report during the early 1970s. In 1974, Morley Safer reported on just how much destruction and devastation Northern Ireland was facing. The conflict was named “The Troubles.”

The Troubles was a violent Ireland sectarian conflict lasting from 1968 to 1998 between Protestant unionists (loyalists), who desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland

Safer was able to gather a group of young Catholics and Protestants. One of the most compelling lines I remember today came from a young attendee. The exchange (not verbatim) went something like:

“Why do you want to kill (him/her)?” Shafer asked.

“Because that’s what my father did.”

In 1995, Shafer returned and met the town doctor, Charles Sullivan. Sullivan told Safer that many children suffered a series of psychological side effects as a result of the war — from nightmares to stuttering. The worst of it, he said, was that children were starting to associate all deaths with violence.

Fast forward to Iran.

The killing of Qassem Suleimani, is probably one the most consequential act taken against the regime in Tehran in thirty years—even if we don’t know what those consequences will be. One thing is clear: conflicts between countries could easily spin out of control.

World War I started after heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated. A 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, killed 2,000 people. It started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well. A 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog and Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, shot him. At least 50 people died.

Mathematician Peter Turchin’s research suggests America’s cycle of violence repeats every 50 years. The surge of violence begins in the same way as a forest fire: explosively. Only after a period of escalation, followed by sustained violence, citizens start to “yearn for the return of stability and an end to the fighting.” And what is that ‘explosive?’ Stupidity.

The commonality between the Northern Ireland conflict, World War 1, the 1325 Bologna and Modena war, and the Greek Bulgarian war is ‘stupidity.’ When it comes to predicting the future, history reminds us of crucial warning signals – heightened rhetoric or the inability to understand the other side. War’s participants fail to grasp how the other side was thinking and feeling.

In spirituality, our morality is founded upon principles, not rules. In Buddhism, these beliefs are expressed in Precepts and include loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. In general, most spiritual principles include kindness, gentleness, mercy, and tolerance. The same is true of most religions. Even the most extreme circumstances do not erase those principles or make it “righteous” or “good” to violate them. Yet, we do.

History shows us how wars start. But history also teaches us how rarely they turn out as planned. History also shows us how difficult conflicts are to stop. Much has changed about war, but certain things remain constant: Stupidity and death.

The only thing that wins is death.

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