Archive for January, 2017


tariffPresident Donald Trump gathered the CEOs of several top US companies at the White House this past Monday and put them on notice: Move your manufacturing operations overseas and you’ll face a “substantial border tax.”

If you go to another country … we are going to be imposing a very major border tax on the product when it comes in, which I think is fair,” Trump said. “All you have to do is stay. Don’t leave. Don’t fire your people.”

Trump’s notice inspired deeper thought. The biggest of which, is that if tariffs apply to manufacturing products like automobiles and air conditioners, does it apply to other imports such as food and clothing?

China — by far America’s biggest source of clothing — accounted for 37 cents of every dollar’s worth of clothes imported, thereby sucking up the top spot with 37% of all clothing imports. Bangladesh was number 2, accounting for 5.8 percent of all U.S. clothing imports.

The food category is a little different. As the U.S. population has grown in both size and ethnic diversity, the volume and variety of food consumed and imported in the United States has increased correspondingly. American consumers prefer an increasingly wider selection of food products, such as tropical fruits and vegetables, premium coffee, and a greater variety of wines, beers, cheese, grain products, and preserved meats. In 2013, U.S. food consumption totaled 635 billion pounds, or more than 2,000 pounds per capita. Of this amount, imports accounted for 19 percent (123 billion pounds), or 390 pounds per capita.

So how would tariffs impact the clothing and food? A 35 percent tax on imported goods certainly would turn up the heat. It may also give pause to companies deciding where to produce their wares. But if tariffs are implemented, would they work? And what about the unintended consequences?

Concerns vary. Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citi, wrote to clients stating new protectionist trade policies might spark a global trade war, “which could easily trigger a global recession.” Deutsche Bank also weighed-in.  The Deutschland opined team that negative risks of a potential trade agenda were “the biggest threat and a possible protectionist turn, which could depress global trade and even trigger trade wars.”

While both Trump and Hillary Clinton zeroed in on worker anxieties over job losses, it’s important to note that at least some American job losses were not due to trade. Losses were due to automation. And crucially, automation not only hits manufacturing, but also affects jobs that require advanced degrees, such as neuroradiology.

Protectionism policies Neglect the concept of “dependent origination,” that nothing exists in isolation, Life cannot be independent of other life. The Japanese term for dependent origination is engi, literally meaning “arising in relation.” In other words, our existence only occurs because of our relationship with other beings. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions. Nothing can exist in absolute independence of other things or arise of its own accord.

We must remember that, if we as a society, choose “protectionism” as the rule of life, we’re most likely to implode. Interdependence is the rule life, whether country or state, business to business, family or friends. You hit one (meaning tariff one) there’s usually an equal and opposite reaction.

The Voter Fraud Clown Show

Trump holds a rally with supporters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S.

Watching the current White House Administration claim three to five million illegal voters participated in and cast ballots for Hillary Clinton is like watching a never-ending comedy marathon. Even White House press secretary Sean Spicer was forced to stand at the podium and reiterate the allegation.

So in case you missed the show, Trump lost the 2016 popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. He did win the Electoral College. The Electoral College put Trump as America’s head honcho. This is like saying, “I won at poker table with an inside flush, but my opponent collected 30 cards of a deck of 52. That fucking pisses me off. I am entitled to all the cards.”

Instead of moving on, Trump gets pissed to the point that his post-election tweet noted, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Instead of “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!,” Trump’s administration is water-downed by such a bullshit story, performed either by incompetence or stupidity – you pick.

The Truth About Voter Fraud, a report written by experts at The Brennan Center for Justice, found voter fraud rates were between 0.00004% and 0.0009%. In other words, of all the voters who cast ballots, one is more likely to get struck by lightning than meet an actual illegal voter.

Unfortunately the White House is home to our chief law enforcement officer and head of the legislative staff. But to give the current administration the benefit of doubt, I reiterate Senator Graham’s comments:

I wasn’t there, but if the President of the United States is claiming that 3.5 million people voted illegally, that shakes confidence in our democracy — he needs to disclose why he believes that,” Graham told CNN.

We do know of one case of voter fraud – she was a Trump supporter. If White House Representatives produces evidence that millions voted illegally, then it holds true some of those illegal votes were probably cast in favor of Republicans. Thus, a recount could prove Trump is not the elected President. By reviewing data more analytically, we can query how does administration gather data, how does the administration know who is a non-citizen and how do they know all voted for Clinton?

Maybe they received the data from Russia or WikiLeaks.

From a Buddhist standpoint, maybe we (this website as well) shouldn’t spend all this time debunking Trump’s lies. Repeating lies and myths—even to debunk them—simply ends up reinforcing them, as countless studies have shown. If you want to debunk a lie, you should focus on stating the truth, not repeating the lie.

For God’s sake, live in truth.

For the rest of us, sometimes it’s better to watch the clown show.

img_0012LinkedIn’s auto notification indicated a friend was having her two-year anniversary in consulting, specifically, as an independent consultant.

So there I sat, reading the notice, glued to the words, “Two-year Anniversary as a Consultant.” Seriously, I have to congratulate someone for two-years as an independent consultant?

Knowing my friend’s wicked sense of humor, here’s what I penned.

Dear Ms. T.:

Congratulations on your work anniversary! Or as LinkedIn refers to it … two-year anniversary as a consultant.

Actually, LinkedIn says I needed to congratulate you on two (2) wonderful years as a consultant. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of waking up and wondering where the next paycheck is coming. Two wonderful years of trying find a way of not ticking of some s*** client who cannot manage their way out of a garbage can. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of selling your soul to any bidder who will take your skill; for any employer who will honor and respect your work skills; for hope of one lone employer who will not demean your age 55 and 33 years of experience. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of traveling on your own time while simultaneously trying to figure a way to clock 40 hours. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of Marriott knowing you by sight; of saying “Hello” by name. Two wonderful years of trying to upsell; of trying to make two days of clothing look like a week; of meeting the client’s expense policies; of missing family, friends, weddings and funerals. Yes! Yes! Two wonderful years of eating crap food because no one pays for a real meal. Two wonderful years of leaving on a Sunday, coming back late Friday and trying to have a life one day each week. Two wonderful years of exhaustion.

So yes Ms. T … Per LinkedIn … I congratulate you. Cheers. Salud!

I am not sure if this is the type of salud LinkedIn wanted. However, for whatever reason, I thought this reply was most appropriate.

img_0011Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer tried to undercut the national view of misleading facts into alternative facts. Ok, let’s get real, “Alternative Facts” are nothing more than lies.

After listening to Conway’a message, I kept thinking of how vast the difference between her statement and Precept 4.

Let’s start with some history. The Trump administration basically started his Presidential term with trying to convince Americans that Sean Spicer’s arguments about inaugural crowd facts. Of course the rift between the media and Trump’s press secretary was quite the show.

In case you missed it, Sean Spicer basically went on national television and new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters this past Saturday from the podium of the press briefing room with a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.

This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.

As CNN noted , aerial photos indicated former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience. To these, Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.

Kellyanne Conway coined a new term Sunday morning when she stated that White House Press secretary Sean Spicer was not lying about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Instead, Conway claimed, Spicer simply told us “Alternative Facts.”

Of course no one understands Trump made almost 200 statements during the campaign that were deemed “Pants on fire” lies or simply false.

I will side-step the politics here, but seriously query, should I meet God, can I use “Alternative Facts” to condone my actions? Can my son use “Alternative Facts” should during a court trial? If the President uses false precepts and lies to the public over crowd numbers, what will he do in times of serious trouble?

As a Buddhist, any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion and lead us away from unity and harmony. Any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in giving, love and wisdom and thus help clear the way to peace. To know what is right and wrong in god-centered religions, all that is needed is to do as you are told.

In a human-centered religion like Buddhism, to know what is right or wrong, you have to develop a deep self-awareness and self-understanding. And ethics based on understanding are always stronger than those that are a response to a command. So to know what is right and wrong, one needs to look at three things – the intention, the effect the act will have upon oneself and the effect it will have upon others. If the intention is good (rooted in giving, love and wisdom), if it helps myself (helps me to be more giving, more loving and wiser) and help others (helps them to be more giving, more loving and wiser), then my deeds and actions are wholesome, good and moral.

Of course, there are many variations of this. Sometimes one may act with the best of intentions but it may not benefit either myself or others. Sometimes intentions are far from good, but that action helps others nonetheless. Sometimes by acting out of good intentions helps me but perhaps cause some distress to others. In such cases, the actions are mixed – a mixture of good and not-so-good. When intentions are bad and the action helps neither myself nor others, such an action is bad. And when my intention is good and my action benefits both myself and others, then the deed is wholly good.

So looking at the Trump organization, when the fake is presented as truth, then to whom does this benefit? And when lying in life, to whom do you benefit?

We all deserve honesty. Unfortunately, most of us get only shit.

There Are No Legacies

img_0010I have not seen any Trump Inaugural events. I did catch CNN radio as Actor Jon Voight spoke during President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration concert, saying “God answered our prayers.” To which there are many who believe God did just the opposite.

Do I believe in the “In Trump We Trust” message? No. And do I believe the ain’t-Trump message that life is doomed? No.

Many years ago, I learned each book has drops of truth and falsehood. Each story has praise, honor, respect, love and hate. Living on our plant earth, our lives ride upon a foundation of creation from millions of years earlier. The heavens watch our rise and fall, our dreams and hopes.

In our time on this planet, we etch the surface. Like footprints laid in sand, we walk, and for a moment of time, we’ve etched our personal statement of truth. Then as with most, our mark disappears, time and nature covers our personal statements and we are gone.

A generation from now, this website will be gone. The essays and thoughts to which readers delve will have been erased. None will remember The Unknown Buddhist. And truth be told, I never intended to be remember in such a way either. I simply wanted to extend my thoughts to those who’ll listen.

Looking at Trump’s inauguration, I am reminded we are but dust particles of time. Our small moments here on mother earth. Just like everyone, Trump and whatever he did will disappear. Just as Trump replaced Obama, Trump will be replaced by another, just as his replacement will be replaced and so on. This is the cycle of our lives.

Nothing is permanent. There are no legacies.

In scheme of millions of years, our accomplishments, fears, anger and hatred are nothing more than brief moments of time. We briefly appear, then we’re gone. Every accomplishment eventually is eventually erased by another and with no subjectivity, life marches onward. Thus, whatever our Presidents choose to do or not do, future generations will not embrace our ignorance. They will embrace their own.

We are reminded that life itself shall not live forever. Trump will be our American President for only a short period. Thus, all we have left is love. All we have is the ability within our soul to overcome the darkness around us. And our love can be the greater good. For the greater good our love must germinate forward. Ensure love is patient. Ensure our love is kind.

At the end of the day, America will be ok.

img_0009Author J. Gresham Machen once wrote “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” In fact, grace is the most important concept in Christianity and the world. It is most clearly expressed by God’s promises, as revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ. Grace is the love shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God. It is this type of grace we are called, by God, to provide others, just as God provides to us.

This form of grace – this form of love – is the first thought crossing my mind after hearing of Chelsea Manning’s commutation. As you may recall, Ms. Manning is in the seventh year of a thirty-five year prison sentence for leaking classified military data to Wikileaks. In this essay I will neither review nor comment on either the nature of the crime nor the prison sentence. Rather, I simply choose to focus upon the President’s act of grace.

In truth, I have no idea why President Obama commuted Ms. Manning. Suffice it to say, there are probably many who are equally deserving. And I respect and honor all the effort and love for those who fight on their behalf.

There are many who claim the disclosure of documents was brutal, that many were impacted by the breach. And therefore, Manning is unworthy of such grace. Others will claim American taxpayers should not pay for Manning’s gender identity and counseling. I sympathize with such thoughts. Then again, as a taxpayer, I did not want to pay for the Iraq war and I certainly did not want to pay for the military effort in Afghanistan as well. As such, every taxpayer in America sucked it up and paid the price. I also did not enjoy reading, seeing and hearing of American soldiers committing horrendous acts of brutality either. Yet many remain at large, free from prosecution.

Strictly speaking, the blessings of everyday grace does not appear to descend from a Supreme Being or deity. Rather, grace comes from the normal interaction of people meeting people, by enlightened travelers who go forth, interact, forgive and love daily.

At the core of our humanity, all of us want to believe and embrace grace. At the same time, at our most human level, none of us will never emit the powers of Christ. Yet Christ and left humanity with two of Christ’s most powerful weapons – love and grace. These weapons transcend every day smugness, anger and hatred and provides real grounds for human hope. Transcendent grace reaches beyond our limitations of human understanding and provides relief to those who suffer.

I believe this is the same form of grace Manning received.

We don’t have to assess evidence for worthiness. We don’t have to condemn the fallen. We don’t have to impose our own limited bias to a woman most have predetermined forever unworthy.

What’s honorable is that somewhere, somehow the President of The United States reached down to a very wounded soul and provided grace. It should be our hope that all of us receive this level of love.

loveOver the weekend, a New York Times opinion piece written by Todd May titled, The Stories We Tell Ourselves struck home.

We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong. We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. The audience for these stories, of course, affect the stories we tell. If we’re trying to impress a date, we might tell a story that makes us seem interesting or witty or caring, whereas if we’re trying to justify a dubious act to someone who is judging us (or perhaps ourselves), we might tell a story that makes us out to be without other recourse in the situation. In the latter case, what we are doing is dissociating ourselves from a value we might be associated with and thus implicitly associated ourselves with a different one.

As a seasoned traveler, now expanding over 30 countries, I relate. For a person with little family and social friends common to others, my stories have migrated from benign to adventurous, from “eh” to bold, from snoozer to engaging. I didn’t change facts, but I changed the narrative. I embolden keywords, added rain when there was mist, added lush green forests when droughts had strangled most vegetation.  I wanted a value greater than the reality.

I am not unlike most. I presume most of the bar stories heard over the years are extracted from mundane life moments interspersed with misplaced dreams. Where upon returning to the actual mountain, the real city, that one country, we’re exasperated, It’s ’s so different from when I was here.”

Let’s face it, we all want love. We all want to be normal. We want to experience the life created in our dreams, but are deathly afraid of facing the very dream dreamed. As my father would say while star gazing in late autumn, “be careful of what you ask.”

My experiences are real. I have visited over 30 countries. Yet retelling tales of travel have alienated many who could have been a friend. I damaged so many lovers, so many women and so many family members. Everything I thought they wanted to hear wasn’t actually what they wanted to hear. What each of those wanted was to be acknowledged and simply told they were loved – that I thought of them as I careened the globe. I never did. There was nary a thought.

The one insight learned would be this – live your life but never forget those who’ve loved from afar. I am sure my grandmother loved me deeply, but it would have been terrific if I once sat and wrote her. I’m positive my relatives still love me, but finding the time to attend a family reunion would be priceless. Stories of walking the old ruins in Columbia are beautiful, but watching my niece grow older meant more than seeing the Great Wall of China.

In the end, my stories meant little. I missed all the life that really counted. My love involved clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self expressions that are nothing than bondage and limitation.

Time is short and memories fade. Travels mean little. Truth is the cascade of moments missed. I loved only myself. In doing so, I neglected all of you.

Don’t be like me.

img_0008In his first news conference after winning the US presidential election in November, US President-elect Donald Trump said he will be the greatest job producer that God ever created. The policies, besides tariffs, that support the claim are few.

Negating the fact Trump considers CNN a “fake news” organization, CNN Money reported America gained 10.9 million new jobs under President Obama’s tenure. Trump’s campaign calls America’s jobs picture “disastrous” and a “total failure.” However, almost all of the job gains under President Obama were in service jobs, such as those in Silicon Valley and consulting while others were low-end, toiling in stores and restaurants.

So can Trump be the greatest job producer God ever created? Putting aside the problem of being able to actually query God for verification, can Trump be successful? Blogger Anthony De Rosa humorously posted:

“And on the 5th day, God created Trump, who became the greatest job creator.”

Jeanne McKenna of the Washington Post wrote Trump promised to make the auto industry in Michigan “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.” Mind you that sounded eerily like the opening sequence of the Six Million Dollar Man television show. Maybe Trump wants to make America like the 1970’s again? In May, Trump promised better. He promised to be God.

I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.

Maybe historians can add the above into the New Revised Trump Testament. Trump 1: 1. “In the beginning Trump promised to give you everything. For he was the only one.” At this point, Trump is only promising jobs which has little to do with getting paid.

Trump often portrayed himself as a savior of the working class who will “protect your job.” But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis (June 2016 article) found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades with a large number of those involving ordinary Americans claiming Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

To place the greatest living job creator thingy in perspective, one only needs to remember the current U.S. unemployment rate, hovering under 5%. Including the under-employed, there aren’t many employable people left for God’s Greatest Job Creator to tap. For Trump to achieve his target, the economy would have to grow by 3 to 4 percent annually — a prospect that is far-fetched, according to most economists.

Wait! Maybe Trump will combine Russia’s unemployed with that of the United States? Russia’s unemployment rate is estimated to be 5.8% or so. By combining U.S.’s and Russia unemployed, he creates a larger labor pool. Hm! Then again, does God want Trump to help Russia with jobs? Eh? Hard to say.

On a serious note, if Trump needs a mentor, he should look no further than Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). In a Slate article, Charles Peters and Timothy Noah noted:

FDR’s New Deal employed 4 million people within one month. FDR’s staff was approving over 100 projects a day. Over the course that followed, the government laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or made substantial improvements to 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports.

Many of the jobs involved manual labor, to which most of the population, having been raised on the farm, was far more accustomed than it would be today. But FDR’s administration also provided considerable white-collar work, employing, among others, statisticians, bookbinders, architects, 50,000 teachers, and 3,000 writers and artists. This was achieved with a remarkable minimum of overhead. Of the nearly $1 billion—the equivalent today of nearly $16 billion—spent during the first five months, 80 percent went directly into workers’ pockets and stimulated the economy by going into the cash registers of grocers and shop owners. Most of the rest went to equipment costs. Less than 2 percent paid for administration.

Seriously, few, if any, believe Trump will be God’s Job Creator. Few believe he is the Chosen One.

trump-mlkAn interesting thought piqued via a national commenter this week – the Obama administration had no scandals. If you include Clinton’s email server thingy … one.  And maybe that’s not entirely fair that the email server should be laid upon President Obama’s shoulders, but at the end of the day, he’s in charge. Choosing Clinton as Secretary of State made Clinton his mess.

Even then, I think Clinton is a very strong woman as well as a very capable leader. As have all, she made a mistake. She paid the price. Having said that, it is hard not realizing something seemingly so benign in the moment would lead to so much pain for so many people.

Still a quick Google search indicates conservative claims that there are more scandals – IRS Targeting, VA Waiting List, GSA Spending, Benghazi, Gun program by the ATF and Solar Panels. Still, wow. Even the most hardcore conservative have to be impressed.

By comparison, Trump has had a rough start. First, GOP leaders gutted ethic office capabilities only to reverse their decision. Then came word several cabinet members opposing Trump campaign positions. Trump’s week ended horribly when Congressional members announced a Russia investigation. However, that was far from bottom, via Twitter, penned that John Lewis was “… all talk, no action.”

An Op-Ed in The Guardian eloquently noted,  “The (Trump’s) criticism of US congressman John Lewis came on the day of a civil rights march in Washington aimed at Trump’s incoming presidency, two days before America observes the annual Martin Luther King Jr Day and six days before the country’s first black president leaves office.

Maybe America understands Lewis’ contribution to life more than Trump.

According to Amazon, sales of John Lewis’s graphic novel spiked 106,700% after Trump attacked him. Sales of his memoir spiked 56,750%.

Howard Wolfson, a former deputy mayor of New York, commented: “John Lewis did more to make America great in one day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge than Donald Trump ever will.”

On Martin Luther King day, reject the bigotry of hatred by celebrating the lives and personal contributions of King and Lewis.

fake-newsWhen looking at the “fake news” allegations rolling off Trump’s lips, one can only thank themselves. Yup! That’s right. You are responsible. I am responsible. We’re all responsible. We’ve legitimized verbal crap by our words, our lips and our hearts.

Allow me to back up. Trump’s news conference earlier this week was quite the spectacle, just as predicted. Like a boxer weaving and ducking, Trump controlled the event, the texture and meaning of right and wrong. I was in awe listening to the man as he verbally weaved around the imaginary ring, deflecting jabs, dismantling barbs and seemingly laughing at enemies great and small. He dismissed CNN, criticized news organizations and belittled the U.S. Intelligence community. He admonished Russia for hacking only to seemingly reinforce his bromance some ninety-minutes later.

An aficionado of “fake news” as a presidential candidate, I was amazed at his use of “fake news” as a defense, controlling the meaning of truth. Should one think otherwise, we should remember Trump’s 9/11 comments:

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” the Republican presidential candidate said at a November 21st rally in Birmingham, Alabama. “And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Other Trump fake news included Obama being born in Africa, Justice Scalia was murdered, voting machine tampering, Clinton won the popular vote because of all the illegal votes. And of course there’s infamous pizzeria fake new used by a Trump surrogate. Trump fired the son of a transition team’s staff member, Michael G. Flynn. Flynn’s son was fired for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that led to an armed confrontation in a pizzeria.

As a person, I have no love for Donald Trump. Nor do I have any interest in protecting him from scrutiny. But to declare the fake news used against him was wrong and disingenuous is like saying “Woe unto me. For my shit don’t stink. Yours does, but mine doesn’t.

So let’s regroup. How does all this apply to the you and I? Seriously, everyone delves into fake news. Just as it may have been wrong when FBI Director James B. Comey made an eleventh-hour content-free rumblings about Hillary Clinton’s emails, it’s also wrong each time Trump demurs “there’s something going on” about an insane premise or rumor he should otherwise disavow.

Just like Trump, society is just as morally bankrupt when backbiting a coworker, allowing students to cyberbullying, falsifying stories at the watercooler, supporting known innuendo, lying to your spouse and so on. Doing so makes each of us equally and morally repugnant. What’s worse is America’s willingness to accept this verbal diarrhea as acceptable.

All people, Buddhists and Christians alike, must take a higher road. And sometimes that road completely sucks. But it is the road we must not waver should we wish to expect anything less than complete transparency.

Unfortunately, the crux of our sin is … our acceptance.

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

The Seeds 4 Life

Seeds of Inspiration, Wisdom, and Positivity

Oscar Relentos

Welcome to my catharsis

%d bloggers like this: