Category: Right Speech


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.

img_0007Throughout the day I listened to our Congressional leaders question and answer sessions of Trump’s cabinet candidates. Of all the potential candidates, almost none offered anything indicating how their time in the office would make life better for the average working American. Jeff Sessions and John Kelly offered little, if any, positive proof that the incoming administration has anything more than dreams.

Then again, Trump himself has offered almost zero credibility toward offering anything of value to an unemployed coal miner. And of course, the only thing an unemployed steel worker will get is a “wet dream.”

The direct ability of legislators to offer anything but “stupid” is not uncommon. Michelle Bachmann commented that “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” Sharon Angle suggested rape victims make rape lemonade. Rick Santorum claimed rape victims should make the best of a bad situation. Of course one could compare Romney’s America against Trump version when Romney spewed “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

And while watching today’s low-lights, the New York Times reported another Trump nougat.

President-elect Donald J. Trump demanded on Tuesday that Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass another health law quickly thereafter, issuing a nearly impossible request: replace a health law that took nearly two years to pass with one Republicans would have only weeks to shape.

“We have to get to business,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”

Today’s statement is counter to thoughts Trump expounded in a 60 Minutes interview,.

Stahl: And there’s going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it, when millions of people could lose – no?

Trump: No, we’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. We’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it’ll be great healthcare for much less money. So it’ll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.

Basically, Trump has no healthcare plan. All of his comments were campaign devices.

Many of the above congressional leaders ever offered real relief to the working man, Trump included. And correct me if I’m wrong, but prior to running for election, I never saw Trump having a beer with a laid off steel worker in upstate New York. Nor has one seen Ivanka Trump in a blighted Ohio coal community helping families make ends meet. Better still, has Kushner ever presented a multibillion dollar rehab project in a decimated downtown coal community?

A blogger on “The Loins Roar” captured my thoughts perfectly.

At the end of the day Trump supporters want someone willing to break the rules. I agree that if humanity will survive, we need to think outside the box regarding our current system. But if you think Trump symbolizes something outside the box, you are confusing intentions. He is the box itself. We need someone humble and compassionate enough to think about all of us. That’s the outside-the-box thinking we need. A severe narcissist is incapable of breaking rules for anyone but himself. And that’s my question for Trump supporters: of the thousands of well-documented times that Trump has broken rules or acted like a phony, when did it ever benefit anyone but himself.

Trump’s policies will provide little for those in the greatest of need.

Campaign Device

img_0005According to Newt Gringrich, Trump’s wall was probably just a “campaign device.”

“He may not spend much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it,” Gingrich said of a hypothetical border structure. “But it was a great campaign device.”

In September 2016, Trump vowed to “… lift restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities, including right here in the state of Pennsylvania, which we love.” Yet there is no way he’ll be able to tax or spend his way to a prosperous manufacturing community. Trump also promised a resurrection of American steel.

Unbeknown to the average worker, Trump has a problem. Returning key blue-collar jobs from China was probably just another campaign device. To be successful, Trump would have to return approximately 5 million jobs. To many outsourced workers, factory jobs represent the decline of America. But that decline has been occurring for twenty years. One person cannot bring back twenty years of downsizing.

The problem is that the vast majority of the crap you buy is already made in America. We make more stuff than what was ever produced 20 – 30 years ago. The problem is that American factories no longer need all those factory workers to make the products we buy. It doesn’t take it doesn’t take nearly as many workers to make steel, or a can of vegetables or computer chips. Even if we manufactured everything here in America, America itself would not require 19 million jobs.

There are other problems specific to the steel industry. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the problem isn’t just that China’s economy is cooling off. It’s also that its state-owned steel mills, which produce as much steel as the rest of the world combined, haven’t slowed down to match demand. Rather, China’s mills have stayed in high gear, which means the rest of the world has been flooded with cheap Chinese steel. Accordingly, U.S. Steel has been on a pink slip spree, including idling plants and cutting staff as part of an “ongoing adjustment” to accommodate for lower demand.

To offset lower demand, no new blast furnace steel mills have been built in decades and U.S. steel companies have recently begun to rebuild individual old furnaces at existing mills. Remaining factories are converting to electric arc furnaces that make the company more “flexible” and “efficient.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is code for lower costs and fewer man-hours – meaning less people are required to perform the work.

The problem is not ours alone. As global manufacturing output increased, the number of factory workers declined almost everywhere, even in manufacturing powerhouses like Japan, Germany and, yes, China.

Trump claimed that only he could save America. However, the answer lies not in a self-proclaimed Savior and Lord. Rather, the real answer is to train and relocate people, giving them the chance to shift occupations while still being able to feed their families. Anyone saying anything different is using a “campaign device.”

hqdefaultAfter reading of the events surrounding Donald Trump’s Chicago Rally, I thought of an old story of a guy who wanted to be a locomotive engineer. Accordingly, the lead instructor present the applicant a problem.

If you had one train coming from one direction at 55 mph, and another train coming from another direction at 45 mph, what would you do?”

Thinking for a minute the applicant responded, “I think I’d call my brother.”

That’s a really strange answer. Why would you do that?

Because my brother has never seen a train wreck before.

What’s disturbing about Trump’s combative Chicago Rally was all of us saw it coming. Instead of decorum, understanding and forgiveness, it appears many went and got their brother.

Over the past year or so Black Lives Matter, Ammon Bundy, Mizzou Football team, Melissa Click, Mizzou’s Concerned Student 1950, Racial Protesters on many college campuses (Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca College, UCLA, etc), Muslim Protesters, Mexican Immigration Protesters, Syrian Immigration Protesters, Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooter, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and a host others have practiced “in your face” degradation and hatred.

One cannot be certain if there is an actual increase in racial incidents or just an ability to record and post such events in moments. In our age misbehavior can be documented with a cellphone and spread simultaneously via social media. Videotape of protesters using “in your face” tactics only guarantees violence at political rallies will increase.

Both Sanders and Trump have raised the specter of violence. Trump’s campaign began depicting entire categories of overwhelmingly peaceful people as threats. Sanders’ political revolution hints at overthrowing a government of bureaucratic privilege, replacing it with government based on workers’ democracy while maintaining state owned property relations. Political revolutions occur throughout history and many times end in a worse situation than before.

Oh yeah, one fact most revolutionaries neglect – in revolutions, people die. One only needs to look at Ammon Bundy as history’s most recent example. Bundy’s revolutionary plan ended January 26, 2016 on Oregon’s Highway 395, with eight arrested and the death of LaVoy Finicum.

From a Buddhist perspective, our political leaders could use a heavy does of “Right Speech.” Right Speech is the third of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path. And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech and from idle chatter.

If this country is going to move forward, eventually, we’re going to have to sit in a room with each other—both sides—and find common ground.  Our country has problems, which most of us agree upon. Our problems are similar to those of the world around us. But we have to find a way to work them out, together. Civility means learning how to make political change to address the frustrations of the American community.

All of us should be aware of what we say and how we say it. However, it seems we’d rather just get our brother.

trumpsandersAt the end of the Democratic primary debate on Univision, Sanders received standing ovation. If Hillary Clinton loses her bid in the Democratic Primary, March 9th at 10:56 PM will have been a defining moment.

Over the past several months, Sanders and Trump have lured the disenfranchised who’ve claimed to have been ignored for years. If Starbucks were a political coffee shop, the aroma of café de’ wizz would be so strong many would cringe. Yet, voters are hooked by the fragrance.

Each candidate targets different groups, but uses the same methodology. Trump’s message rests solely on culprits:  corrupt Washington politicians, outsiders, drug dealers and rapists from Mexico, terrorists from Syria, Islamists who hate America, the Chinese and Japanese. Bernie Sanders has decided to assign all the ills of this world to the financial services sector. To Sanders, Wall Street’s business model is fraud: greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance. Wall Street and Washington are filled with “oligarchs” where campaigns are “rigged” and “corrupt.”

In many ways, both Trump and Sanders want to rewrite the rules via political revolution.  One wants to soak the rich with higher taxes to finance a cornucopia of proposals, including free state college tuition for all, expanded Social Security benefits and a major surge in highway and bridge construction to create new jobs. And the other? Well, the other pretty much wants to kill someone, anyone … especially anyone un-American.

We are left with these two nitwits from two reasons: one, each coddles our inner most fears; and secondly, we don’t know the difference. In the movie, The American President, fictional President Andrew Sheppard stated the problem eloquently:

Lewis Rothschild: They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.

I don’t discount America’s problems. We have quite the laundry list. Yet the average voter has little understanding that neither Trump nor Sanders will really help. Borrowing from Sheppard again, I guarantee that whatever your particular problem is, neither Trump nor Sanders is the least bit interested in solving it. They are interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

Giving a Pledge To Trump

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Gumby has spoken!

EscobarI was in Michigan over the weekend. But I did not see the now infamous Michigan-Michigan State game, where Blake O’Neill bobbled a low snap on a punt attempt with 10 seconds left on the clock, then fumbled the ball as he attempted to salvage a kick. Michigan State sophomore Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up the loose ball and carried it 38 yards for a touchdown as the clock expired.

As always, some Michigan fans (should we call them that) brought down the hammer via Twitter and other social media outlets and sent shocking, hurtful, spiteful and vicious comments to one of its students.

  • Tyler Gross tweeted, “I’m 80 yard punter Blake O’Neill and I have Direct TV and I’m no hands O’Neill and I have cable.”
  • A man named Chris Vomish tweeted that O’Neill “…should go to the equipment room and “start chugging that bleach my friend.
  • Another tweeter told O’Neill to “jump off of a cliff into a pool of spikes and cyanide” and that “you might as well cut your hands off.”

Sports builds character, but sports also reveals character — and not just the athletes. While few Michigan-Michigan State fans know Andres Escobar, his ghost must have been pacing the Michigan field.

Why is Escobar important? And how are Escobar and Michigan University related?

Well, Defender Andres Escobar, known as “The Gentleman of the Field,” accidentally put the ball in his own net in a game against the U.S., contributing to Colombia’s rapid exit from the Cup and a massive national disappointment. Colombia entered the 1994 World Cup among the favorites to win it all, led by star goalie Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama and forward Faustino Asprilla. But then the unthinkable happened. The squad lost 3-1 to Romania, midfielder Gabriel Gomez received a faxed death threat and the coach contemplated resigning. Ten days later, 27-year-old Escobar was shot dead in a Medellin parking lot in a killing that sparked national outrage.

Escobar’s murder remains unsolved.

And to the Michigan keyboard warriors, what do we say? Nothing, for they live behind their own hatred and shame. Today, we read of parents berating coaches, punching referees, and lately coaches telling players to take out referees. Brazilian referee Gabriel Murta, produced a handgun after he was slapped and kicked by a player when he (the ref) decided not to give a red card over a foul.

It’s insane. Stupid people do stupid things, keyboard warriors are no exception.

Sports in America was never intended to achieve this level of inhumanity. Nevertheless, we should be repugnant at the level of protests “we fans” create in the wake of player mishaps and referee decisions. Such inhumanity displays scant regard for the men and women, players and referees alike, and turns a “blind-eye” to our own hidden vile.

What followed the Michigan-Michigan State game was nothing short of thuggery. All of us need to need to reevaluate our support and our morals. We should support O’Neill. I’m not a Michigan fan and I support O’Neill.

Colombian Defender Andres Escobar asks us too.

imageNBC Nightly News host Brian Williams apologized and recanted his story about being in a U.S. military helicopter as it was forced to land under fire in Iraq 12 years ago, Stars & Stripes reported.

You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy,” Williams wrote on his Facebook page.

Many of my father’s father’s fish stories are folk lore in rural Wisconsin. My grandfather was a huge fisherman. He loved fishing. He also loved ‘fish’ stories. He was good at them. We’ve all heard them before. “Hey, there was really super duper extra large Bluegill. He had to be at least 17 feet long.” Of course through the years, there was the shark that got away, “God, he was huge. Must have been ninety feet long.” We laughed, he laughed, drank our beer and listened by the camp fire for another regaling battle of man versus nature.

We’ve all had our fish stories. For six days in June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown. Magically, the Governor reappeared and reported having been on a lengthy leisurely stroll hiking mountains, when in fact, he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Senator Rand Paul continually provides misleading statements about vaccine safety, claiming “many” children have developed “profound mental disorders” after vaccinations. There is no evidence any recommended vaccine causes brain damage or other mental disorders. Other notables include Clinton did not having sex with that woman … but did; Al Gore inventing the Internet and Missouri State Senator Todd Akin believing women cannot get pregnant when truly raped. So his loyal voters must feel that those who did conceive, well they must have secretly wanted as such.

The National Review wrote, “Fox News is a personalities-driven opinion network with occasional news reports; it is inevitable that its broadcast hours will be more rapidly punctuated by controversial statements than those of others.. Unsurprisingly, the opinion-heavy Fox News and MSNBC both have relatively high falsehood scores on the PolitiFact report card, while CNN doesn’t. It’s not as though Michaela Pereira never says anything that might be disputed — she simply never says anything that is interesting, true or false, so nobody cares. Or, as PolitiFact puts it: “We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything. And we don’t fact-check the five network groups evenly.””

Sigh … To be fair, I wasn’t in Brian Williams helicopter either. Wish I did – would’ve been a hell of a ride.

Still, let’s face it, fish stories are everywhere. All of us project our own home movies onto everyone else’s screen. If you haven’t, you’d be an oddball rarity. Christ not included, name one person who hasn’t lied, stretched the truth or told something not factual? When conversing with friends or colleagues, we’ve filtered our stories. If you feel otherwise, go look at your resume. In a 140 character text and one-minute sound bite world, it’s hard to be completely honest. Memories fade and our minds adapt to the moment before us.

Unlike the Ten Commandments, the Buddhist Precepts are not rules everyone must be compelled to follow. Instead, they are personal commitments people make when they choose to follow. Practice of the Precepts is a kind of training to enable enlightenment. Right Speech goes beyond simply trying to not tell lies. It means speaking truthfully and honestly, yes. But it also means using speech to promote good will and reduce anger. Right Speech is using speech to benefit, not to harm.

celebrities-charlie-hebdo-violence_833D60E342464269AC0AE417BF4A4246Four cartoonists, journalists and bystanders were murdered by Islamist radicals in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. In the aftermath, much of the world rallied in solidarity with cartoonists and their right to free speech. Count me as another voice in solidarity.

It should be noted that Charlie Hebdo didn’t pull punches. Critics claimed the newspaper pushed the boundaries of decency by portraying nuns masturbating, popes wearing condoms and Muhammad in pornographic poses.

Still, as a whole, free speech has been under a conservative eye for some time.

For instance, whether Sony’s computer hack and extortion was the result of a ‘pissed-off’ employee or North Korea, the ability to distribute an uncensored film was targeted. When a treasure trove of highly personal information led Sony to censor themselves, free speech became the larger victim – simply because of widespread fears of violence. And for a while, caving emboldened those who hate free speech.

Sony’s isn’t alone. Russian President Putin fines bloggers, citizen journalists, and activists failing to register as members of the media, and further fines if bloggers failing to uphold strict media rules. Online media expert and high-profile Russian blogger Anton Nosik told the agency that China is “much more liberal” than Russia.

On Friday Saudi Arabia began publicly flogging a blogger sentenced to 1,000 blows, 10 years in prison and a large fine for starting a website critical of the country’s religious establishment. Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, stated Mr. Badawi would face “the inhumane punishment of a thousand lashes in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion.”

In 2010, Jetsun Pema, the younger sister of the Dalai Lama, was scheduled to present a lecture at the Festival of Tibetan Spirituality, Arts, and Culture in Bangkok, Thailand. She was denied a visa because her presence might be seen as a Tibetan political statement by the Thai government.

Then there’s the Chinese. The Chinese government imprisoned three brothers of a Washington-based reporter for Radio Free Asia, apparently intensifying its suppression of free speech coverage of the troubled province of Xinjiang. The harassment of Hoshur’s family started after reporting on an Uighur torture victim. Additionally, in September, China sentenced moderate Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment for “advocating separatism” and voicing support for terrorism, a move that the White House condemned as persecution of someone who merely expressed peaceful dissent.

When the Sony hack occurred, Columnist Deon Price argued that in the wake of The Interview, there should have been no rally in support of freedom of speech. Instead, there should have been a rally protesting Sony Pictures and their irresponsibility.

I couldn’t disagree more.

The problem free speech oppressors fail to comprehend is that free thinkers cannot be silenced. The reason we live in a free society is that offensive speech is allowed. Humor exposes the vices and follies of the powerful and is a wonderful means of resistance for ordinary citizens. One may not like someone’s particular thought process or viewpoint, but I like knowing one has the right to like or not to like it.

Laughter is the most terrifying sound to any and all terrorists, especially when such laughter is born from a satirical caricature, drawn from a cartoonist’s hand. For this reason, the pen is mightier than the sword. Ironically, the terrorists failed, as they emboldened surviving Charlie Hebdo staff to print 1 million copies of their next edition.

From a strict Buddhist perspective, speech is a very powerful tool. If we verbally attack someone, those words linger for years. On the other hand, well thought out words can stop conflict, make friends and heal rifts. This is the power of speech and this is why Buddha included Right Speech in the Eightfold Path.

While I concur with Buddha’s right speech perspective, I’m not about to censor anyone whose views conflict. Their words and perspective may establish credible dialogue. Thus, while I haven’t read any of its publications, I’m buying Charlie Hebdo’s next edition. And I’m buying Sony’s “The Interview.”

With that, my personal message to French citizens is I stand in support.

And my message to all upcoming terrorists? Simple … fuck you!

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