Archive for November, 2018


Last year, astronomers fixed their eyes to a lump of rock from another planetary system that whizzed through ours. under most circumstances, this may have been noteworthy, but I quickly digested the article and moved on. In the months following, a pair of Harvard scientists claimed the massive, fast-moving ‘Oumuamua‘ may have been a probe sent by an advance alien civilization. Named ‘Oumuamua‘ (Hawaiian for “messenger” or “scout”) might be a probe sent by an advance alien civilization.

Researcher comments were posted alongside Oumuamua’s picture. So, I have to say, if Oumuamua’s picture is accurate, the probe’s craft looks liked my first car from high school – meaning that probe was beat to hell and back. I keep wondering if the probe passed Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and its dummy driver, Starman. Cruising by, the probe pouts, “He got a convertible. I got a rock.”

So what does Oumuamua have to do with anything?

Well, I linked Oumuamua to current events by coining the term the Oumuamua Factor. And, in all transparency, the Oumuamua Factor was inspired by American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson when Tyson, in effect, said:

“When something moves at speeds never seen before,has a shape never seen before and if it’s something you cannot explain, the most extraordinary account is used to explain it. The account is probably not correct, yet people buy it.”

Global citizens having been buying into Oumuamua like conspiracies for ages. Take Rick Scott. Scott held a news conference calling for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate elections officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and announced he had filed a lawsuit against top election officials in each of them.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said. “Their goal is to keep mysteriously finding votes until the election turns out the way they want … left-wing activists have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere.”

Scott raised suspicion that vote counting delays were due to misconduct, but failed to present any evidence that it actually occurred. Within hours of Scott’s news conference, President Trump tweeted that he categorically characterized vote count process as “another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud,” and asserted that “Florida voted for Rick Scott!

Trump pulled an additional Oumuamua yesterday when he claimed citizens committed voter fraud by casting a ballot, returning to their cars, changing clothes, and reentering the polling facility in disguise to cast additional ballots.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump told the Daily Caller. “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

So what’s real? Well, there are two issues: The allegation of voter fraud and the Florida recount process.

Voter Fraud

Trump’s claim about illegal voting might be right. On Twitter, David Rich noted:

“Sometimes, I don’t know, they come dressed as Batman or Spider-Man. Then they leave, come back and vote again as Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne! I don’t know, people are saying…” https://t.co/67hy5tB3HN

However, I know for a fact that Superman is a Democrat and voted in 27,000 times last week. He flew as Superman, changed his clothes to Clark Kent, used his mind power jump the line to first and flew onto the next polling place. In southern Arizona, he flew across the border to Mexico, picked up a bus load of illegals, brought them back. The illegals voted and he returned everyone back to Mexico. And it worked. ‘Blue Wave.’ Thanks Superman.

Simply put, if I sound crazy, then you should find neither Scott’s nor Trump’s allegations fundamentally sound.

Florida’s Recount Process

Why does Palm Beach County, Florida have so many issues? Susan Bucher, the elections chief who ‘doesn’t suffer fools’, has repeatedly asked for additional funding to update antiquated voting machines and blasted state officials for not extending the deadline so the county can count every vote. There are only eight machines in Florida’s third-largest county to scan nearly 600,000 ballots cast.

In fact, voting technology deployed by most states around the country is now so antiquated and unreliable that it is in danger of breaking down at any time, experts say. Some states are having to go on eBay to buy spare parts for machines that are no longer manufactured. Despite the nationwide scope of the problem, little was being invested in finding a solution. “No one is expressing any interest in paying for new machines. Congress has shown absolutely no interest in doing so.”

In Closing

A customer at Simon’s Stingray Fishmongers marveled at the owner’s quick wit and intelligence.

“Tell me, Simon, what makes you so smart?”

“I wouldn’t share my secret with just anyone,” Simon replied. Lowering his voice, “But since you’re a good and faithful customer, I’ll let you in on it. Fish heads. You eat enough of them, you’ll be positively brilliant.”

“You sell them here?”

“Only $4 apiece,” says Simon.

The customer buys three. A week later, the customer returns and complains that the fish heads were disgusting and he isn’t any smarter.

“You didn’t eat enough,” says Simon. The customer goes home with 20 more fish heads.

Two weeks later, he’s back and really angry. “Hey, Simon,” he complains. “You’re selling fish heads for $4 a piece while I can buy the whole fish for $2.00. You’re just ripping me off!”

“See?” says Simon. “You’re smarter already.”

Scott and Trump continues to offer the Oumuamua Factor. It’s simply an appearance of a more viable story. However, what people continue to purchase are only fish heads.

‘Hear’ the Unheard.

ThreeWhen Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired, the world took little notice, except to ponder how long Rod Rosenstein and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller would remain employed. Yet most have failed to learn some key leadership lessons from the “Trumptonian” era of management.

First, we have to distinguish between obtaining a leadership position, and actually being successful in a leadership position. The political steps Trump took to become leader of the free world will not make him successful. Reality T.V. tactics may retain audience participation, but the real lesson is that all television shows eventually get cancelled. Second, if one’s claim to fame is leadership, having to fire 55 of your hand-picked staff in less than two years is not a confidence booster. No fortune 500 company would clear such an individual to ascend toward a Presidential position, but here are.

Research on “ideal” styles of leadership suggest the ideal leader should possess intelligence, is hard-working, honest, and compassionate. Trump overwhelmingly fails in all of these qualities.

So what does Trump have? Trump is a master of media and messaging. He knows his target audience and speaks to them effectively. Trump was able to identify gaps in America, empathize and provide unexpected solutions. If you were unhappy or afraid about something, a solution was presented for your pain. Need an enemy of the ‘state?’ Media. Need a broader ‘evil?‘ Democrats. Black people lack intelligence, women are ugly, lie and bleed … well from everywhere. In the world of presidential politics, marketing separates winners from the losers.

In Trump’s world, the shoes of responsibility for the Russian Investigation lay at another door. In this case, Sessions. Therefore, the King summarily executed (figuratively) his advisor and picked an “unqualified” partisan to protect himself. Unfortunately, both Trump and Sessions willfully ignored leadership’s greatest responsibility – the ‘unheard’ moaning from the wilderness.

The Sound of the Forest

Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.

When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.

When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings communicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”

Prince T’ai’s lesson remains the same. All should learn it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a baker, clinician, banker, factory worker, school teacher, pilot or homemaker. You are the leader of yourself. If you want to lead, you have to ‘hear‘ the unheard.

Just as 12 people were shot and killed in a California nightclub, the National Rifle Association declared war against the medical profession via social media. Apparently, the war was triggered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having the gall to release new figures showing gun deaths on the rise, indicating latest data for large metro areas are reaching levels not seen since 2006-2007.

Among the 50 largest metro areas, 43 (86%) reported rate increases when compared to 2012-2013 total. The report states a likely factor in both homicide and suicide rates is access to a firearm. According to previous studies, the decision to harm yourself or another person take as little as 10 minutes or less. Persons who make such decisions tend not to substitute use of a firearm when one is unavailable or difficult to access.

“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves. https://t.co/oCR3uiLtS7

— NRA (@NRA) November 7, 2018

The NRA is right. We need a consult.

In July 2017, the Emergency Management website ran a story indicating initial hospitalizations involving firearm injuries cost $734.6 million a year nationally. The story, written by reporters Jennifer Smith Richards, Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune followed two gunshot victims – Annette Johnson and Leo Leyva.

The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000.

Can anyone guess the average cost of branded and top grade shotguns? $500 to $800 dollars. Likewise, can anyone guess the average cost of a decent 9MM weapon? $250 to $400 dollars.

The Emergency Management article continued. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune revealed that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars annually.

Also in June 2017, NBC News published “Journey of a Bullet” followed six people endured the physical force, paid the emotional toll and found a path to recovery. the most interesting quote,

“… the gunshot wound may heal, but the bullet remains embedded in every facet of the survivor’s life.” For a fleeting moment, the thrust of the bullet bonds these survivors before their stories pull apart, diverging in directions where their futures are thrown into turmoil: Some are left paralyzed or must undergo years of reconstructive surgeries or are so shaken up, they can’t walk down a street without glancing over their shoulders.

What the NRA’s social media war fails to comprehend is that for clubgoers, rescue staff, police, heath care clinicians, and victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting are forever bonded. That will never change. In the meantime, Trump ordered flags to half-staff, Democrats demand action, and relentless prayers. All those damned prayers. “Prayers and condolences” for all.

Having made a living in the medical profession, both as a former rescue man and paramedic, police officer and now consultant, I can attest that the physicians are right. However, maybe the NRA’s concern, that “… the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves” is valid. As such, I sarcastically propose the following scenario during the next major trauma. It’s not very Buddhist, but it feels right.

Doctor: “Gunshot wound. Oh my God. I need a consult.” Picks up phone. Dials.

Voice: “National Rifle Association. How can I assist you?”

Doctor: “This is Anytown ER. Need a consult. We have a well-developed, well nourished, white male, 70 inches tall, weighing 138 lbs, and appearing the stated age of 39 years. Present in the right upper chest, 13 1/2 inches below the top pf the head, level with the jugular notch, just below the clavicle and 2 3/4 inches to the right of the midline, there is a gunshot wound of entrance. Initial examination of the wound reveals it to consist of an oval-shaped, seared and blackened wound, measuring 5/16 inch vertically x 1/4 inch horizontally. Partially burned grains of powder are present in this wound. Lying slightly above this wound and enclosing three-quarters of it, there is a circular contusion ring, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. This ring measures slightly less than 1/16-inch-wide and has a reddish color. The bullet, after passing in between the clavicle and 1st rib, struck and perforated the right brachio-cophalic vein and the right internal thoracic artery. The bullet then went through the apex of the upper lobe of the right lung and struck the antero-lateral aspect of the 3rd thoracic vertebra. The bullet went through the body of this vertebra in a posterior path, creating a tangential wound of entrance into the spinal canal.”

So, ah, NRA? It’s your gun and your bullet. How should we proceed?”

How’s that for a consult?

Star Wars themes rolled through my head upon waking this morning. Would today be The Empire Strikes Back or The Force Awakens? I am not sure why these themes wandered through my mind, but even so many hours later, these themes seem appropriate.

The good news is that the U.S. House of Representatives will be controlled by the Democrats. The Trump administration will face a level of scrutiny from Congress that it has not yet faced. Obamacare will likely survive. And the voice from women has roared, with 100 or so women serving.

The Empire Strikes Back is a movie where the good guys just keep losing, outsmarted and outgunned. Likewise, Democrats cannot completely seem to get it together. Like the Old English epic Beowulf, the Democrats found that in slaying the monster Grendel meant wrestling Grendel’s mother. The epic is really about tackling something beyond one’s circle of experience. It’s the same lesson everyone learns.

Therein lay the hard lesson – the Republican Party is officially dead, but in its wake cometh Grendel’s mother – Trump. It’s mean. It’s ugly. It’s vicious. There’s a subtleness as well. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton noted how “appalling so many willingly voted for ‘vicious.'”

Like the Grendel, for nearly a decade, a similar political monster has been picking off the best Democrats, munching them like morning biscuits. They couldn’t muster much of a defense and were hopeless at exacting revenge. However, the midterm elections offer a couple Buddhist lessons.

Republican Lesson

  • All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become. If you think greatness, you’ll become greatness. Embrace fear and hatred, you will be hated.

Democrat Lesson

  • Fret not about finding one single leader, for there is no secret ingredient to being a good leader. In time, a leader cometh.
  • Superheroes are not required. Great acts are comprised of small deeds. Look no further than the victorious from last night. The leader may not be a singular ‘him’ or ‘her.’ Maybe our leader is ‘we.’

As the character Poe Dameron (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) hinted, you’ve lit the spark that’ll light the fire.

 

 

Voted … Voted … Voted.

I voted.

My vote was neither a repudiation of Donald Trump nor referendum. My vote was to embrace.

  • My vote was for my niece, nephew and those who will live in 2040 and 2050;
  • My vote was for children who want to go to school without being shot;
  • My vote was a vote for those #MeToo victims screaming to be heard;
  • My vote was a small voice for health care – to all who are and will be impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s in 2040. It doesn’t matter how we’ll have gotten there. Simply put, we’ll be there. It’s up to us to figure it out. If we don’t, we’re not going to like life in 2040 and 2050;
  • My vote was a voice for the oceans. If we care not for the environment, we’re likely to kill all;
  • My vote was for the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Jew, and the outcast. You are not forgotten and welcome in my world;
  • My vote is birthed from a thirst for “Truth.” Whatever happened to that?;
  • Lastly, for Eric who commented, borrowing from Gregory Porter’s ‘Take Me to the Alley,’ my vote was for those in the alley:
    • For the afflicted ones;
    • For the lonely ones; and
    • For those who’ve lost their way.

Most importantly, I voted for you. I voted for us.

What did you vote for? Leave a comment if you care.

A contrast of Presidents smothered television today. Trump held a rally in Mississippi while Obama rallied in Florida. Both attempted to unify their respective base – one via hatred, the other via inspiration. And America watched its gunslingers duel it out. One proposing true opportunity for greatness. Of the other, brute strength.

Reality set in shortly after the speeches – we are an America that lives by the rule of brute strength. Its president vows all must be vanquished prior to becoming great. However, the warning comes in the form of a question (one which I’ve asked before). When was the last time America rebuilt something wonderful?

Writer Ed Pilkington accurately reflect America at the ‘crossroads.’

They [supporters] are the crucible of the Trump revolution, the laboratory where he turns his alternative reality into a potion to be sold to his followers. It is at his rallies that his radical reimagining of the US constitution takes shape: not “We the people”, but “We my people”.

A supporter wears a T-shirt that articulates what many people will say to me in the coming days. It bears the words: “Trump: he says what I think.”

Further in his writing, Pilkington wrote:

A retired building foreman and Harley guy, comes up to me in the press pen saying he wants to come face to face with “fake news”. He sounds intimidating, until he throws me a big just-kidding smile.

“What would happen to America were Trump not on the case?”

“People are going to get killed,” he says. “Gang wars. We are going to get gang wars between white and black, whites and Mexicans. We could have our own little Vietnam, right here.”

With Trump, we run from our problems. We have no education to solve anything. But it’s what we have always done. There’s no sugarcoating America’s current level of hate. When I watch some Trump supporters, I think of a scene from the film Stepmom (transposing ‘Trump’ and ‘Trump Supporter’ for context).

Ben Harrison (Trump Supporter): Mommy…

Jackie Harrison (Trump): What, sweetie?

Ben Harrison (Trump Supporter): If you want me to hate her, I will.

Unfortunately, Trump has accomplished little but vindicate our own truth. What we’ve failed to learn is that ‘strength overused becomes a liability.’ Such liabilities have never built anything good or anything wonderful. The following parable reflects American life.

“You listen,” said the Master, “not to discover, but to find something that confirms your own thoughts. You argue, not to find the truth, but to vindicate your thinking.”

——-

The Master told of a king who, passing through a small town, saw indications of amazing marksmanship everywhere. Trees and barns and fences had circles painted on them with a bullet hole in the exact center. He asked to see this unusual marksman. It turned out to be a ten-year-old child.

“This is incredible,” said the king in wonder. “How in the world do you do it?”

“Easy as pie,” was the answer. “I shoot first and draw the circles later.”

“So, you get your conclusions first and build your premises around them later?” asked the king.

“Isn’t that the way you manage to hold on to your religion and to your ideology?”

In preparation for the upcoming midterms, my employer requested I send employees a link to the county website holding links to a complete list of voting information, including polling hours, locations, sample ballots for each district and early voting.

Later that afternoon, a young coworker emailed. “Why is voting so important? Much of it is predetermined and your vote doesn’t count.

After work, a group met for drinks. Annoyed, the young coworker interrupted and complained I hadn’t responded to the email.

I don’t answer political questions at work. Management provides the county website only as a frame of reference, and should you choose to vote, willingly provides several hours.”

Scoffing, the young employee snorted, “I suppose you’re voting?

I nodded.

Why?

Because I’m not a wild pig.”

Huh?

Truthfully, I could have stated that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve, and this means we get even those governments we never voted for, meaning by our failure to participate. Instead, we get governments by the few, for the few. As such, these outcomes are often abysmal.

I did not say any of the above. Instead, I told my young coworker the parable of ‘wild pigs.’

“One day, a Political Science student from a foreign country asked the professor a strange question. “Know how to catch wild pigs?”

Thinking the question to be a joke, the professor replied, “What’s the punch line?”

“You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put fence down one side of the place where they’re used to eating. When they get used to the fence, they continue to eat the corn again. You put up another side of fence. They get used to that and continue to eat.

You continue the routine until all four sides of the fence are up with only a gate in the last side. The pigs, being used to free corn, come through the gate and eat. You slam the gate and catch the whole herd. Suddenly, the wild pigs scream in panic as they try to escape. It’s only then they realize they’re caught.

In essence, they’ve forgotten how to think for themselves. That’s how I see American voters.”

So, under the current administration, who’s the farmer and who are the pigs? Do I have to hit you over the head?

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