Tag Archive: Current Events


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?

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?

America’s lust for hate and weaponization intersected three time this week. First, on Wednesday, a white man with a history of violence shot and killed two African-Americans, seemingly at random, at a Kentucky grocery store. Second, after mail bombs were sent to Democratic criticized by the President. And third, on Saturday, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services.

In today’s world, ‘prayers and thoughts’ are likened to ‘checking a box.” All us recognize  something has to change. We even recognize our participation in injustice, and yet we intend to do nothing. So, just as in other acts of terror, American political leaders are quick to offer prayers, condolences and thoughts but deny any culpability. In essence, our political leaders are saying, “Screw’em. They’re dead.” When tragedy occurs, ‘thoughts and prayers. Check.

Op-ed writer AJ Willingham capture my thoughts.

“Semantic satiation is the phenomenon in which a word or phrase is repeated so often it loses its meaning. But it also becomes something ridiculous, a jumble of letters that feels alien on the tongue and reads like gibberish on paper.

“Thoughts and prayers” has reached that full semantic satiation.

In today’s world, politicians take line up as guests on MSNBC, CNN, FOX News and others and deny any responsibility for their actions. In their minds, ‘thoughts and prayers’ absolves them of guilt. In today’s world of Trump, the National Rifle Association and second amendment fear mongering, dissent is a deadly business. In fact, white supremacist Andrew Anglin told the HuffPost what he thought of Trump’s refusal to denounce them. “We interpret that as an endorsement.”

A friend asked, “Do you believe Trump is either, in whole or partly, responsible?

Yes.” I replied.

Forbes writer Todd Essig summarizes my thoughts.

President Trump has, intentionally or not, hit a trifecta of hate that foments terrorism, in this case domestic terrorism. At rallies and speeches his incendiary eloquence identifies opponents as enemies then motivates hatred and sanctions violence against them. Facts no longer matter. Nor do values shared with those he sees as horrible, terrible people. What matters is that it’s us versus them. And we can’t let them win. Never apologize, never back down.

However, my friend missed the larger question.

Are we, like Trump, either partly or in whole, responsible?

Yes,” I would have replied. “America is just as liable.”

America’s inaction gives permission of hatred. One percent of Americans, was responsible for about a fifth of hate crimes. Other assaults included an elderly man at a Jewish retirement home, a 12-year-old boy on his way home from Friday prayers, a woman in a taxi, a person on a subway train and a man who was attacked and maced while waiting at a red light and a man pulling down a statue and calling members of a Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Center “Devil Worshippers.

Buddha taught hatred is a form of suffering. He said holding hatred in the mind and heart is like tightly clutching a hot coal. Guess who suffers? As such, those responsible for controlling a white-nationalist President (that being ‘we‘) have done nothing. America’s done nothing. No one does anything except offering thoughts and prayers.

I envision many getting to heaven and Christ asking, “Hey. What’s that in your hand?”

I am one of many who never told my parents what happened to me. From age 8 through 10, I was sexually assaulted four times – once by my brother and cousin, once by my brother and his friend, once by my cousin and once by my brother’s friend. I wrote of one event in December 2012, Theodicy – No Easy Answer for Children.

After Dr. Ford’s testimony this past Thursday, I was chilled re-reading my 2012 blog post.

“Never shall I ever forget the laughter …”

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, my helplessness was magnified by the possibility Kavanaugh would be elevated to a position of enormous authority, and seeing the sympathy and the sympathy he cries for just irritates me. Trump called Kavanaugh “a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever.” Similarly, my attacker is considered a Catholic man of honor, has a family and grandchildren.

Another point. Is ‘living hell’ really hell? In the Judicial Committee Hearing, Lindsay Graham yelled, “This is not a job interview, this is hell.” Likewise, Kavanaugh stated his life was ruined, that these past several weeks was a circus.

Really? Two weeks is hell?

I wonder if Graham or Kavanaugh understand what Dr. Ford’s life is like. How about mine? I can’t speak for Dr. Ford, but in 2012, I posted, “… my soul was murdered and fell into a silent abyss … [I am] both insignificant and invisible, nothing more.”

Commentator Andrew Prokop captured my thoughts perfectly.

Graham indisputably made a splash in Trumpworld, providing exactly what they needed politically and telling them exactly what they wanted to hear — that Democrats were the villains and Kavanaugh was a good man.

In essence, Kavanaugh’s defense suggests a prestigious education is evidence of moral righteousness. The accused is an honorable man who attended a privileged Jesuit, all-boys, preparatory high school and onto Yale law School. Dr. Ford completed degrees from the University of North Carolina, Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California.  If we take Kavanaugh’s claim verbatim, would Dr. Ford be more honorable if she had attended Yale? And what of me? I completed college at a state university. Therefore, do I remain nothing? In the sight of God, am I still insignificant and invisible?

I offer three thoughts.

First. Do no harm. As a Buddhist, I know all of us have a short life span. Therefore, we cannot know the long-term results of our actions. But recognizing that what we say and do can have repercussions for months, years, or eons.  We cannot know the “final” outcome of something we think, do or say.

Second. Great gifts of spiritual/social insight can coexist with psychological and psychiatric illness. It’s important to understand that it is possible to be simultaneously gifted and disturbed. No matter what school, wisdom or privilege a teacher or pastor or imam claims, no one is exempt from psychological suffering. Even leaders. If all if us were more understanding of ourselves and others, it would be less shameful for such exalted mentors, Kavanaugh and all, to receive treatment when required.

And third. Perhaps in the years to come, the #MeToo allegations will steep like tea throughout Kavanaugh and help usher in a growing awareness that sexism and sexual assault invariably sets the stage for suffering in all faiths and all levels of privilege.

DreadlocksOver the past year or so, the country’s racial battles have been cast in black-and-white terms — with black folks on one side, white folks on the other. Other avenues often expressed are the entitled versus the poor.

Recently, a video showing a black San Francisco State University campus student accosting a white student over his dreadlocks has reached both news and blog infamy. Bonnie “Bonita” Tindle lectured Cory Goldstein about how being white means he shouldn’t have dreadlocks, calling it “cultural appropriation.”

Since America seems to be under some detailed microscope, old ideas about its racial dynamics have been extensively challenged. Writer Wedaeli Chibelushi noted that part of the oppressive culture (I presume white), the white student emulates minority tradition (I presume Black) while ignoring the discrimination that came with it.

Really?

I simply cannot recall a single instance where dreadlocks have been patented to a specific race. Corey Goldstein was correct when explaining dreadlocks are not the sole preserve of black culture. The style has been traced back to Ancient India, Egypt and Greece. Critics claim Goldstein isn’t immune to the accusation that now surrounds him: that he’s guilty of “cultural appropriation.

Really?

Critics require a reality-check, everyone one is guilty of cultural appropriation.

On May 14, 2015, Rihanna arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating “China: Through the Looking Glass.” Rihanna swooped in, wearing a fur-trimmed yellow cape with floral swirls of gold and a train so long it required three assistants. The ensemble came with a little pink mini-dress underneath, and a sparkling tiara. In keeping with the evening’s theme — China, and its artistic influence on the West — the outfit came from Beijing-based designer Guo Pei, whose sumptuous designs also are on display in the current Metropolitan Museum exhibit, “China: Through the Looking Glass.” At the same event, Lady Gaga, wore a huge kimono-like garment studded with feathers by Balenciaga. Gaga drew cheers when she waved to the crowd packed behind bleachers across Fifth Avenue from the museum.

No one was busted neither Lady Gaga nor Rihanna. Then again, I heard no one talk about China’s labor camps, exiled dissidents, or widespread poverty and corruption in rural areas either.

It’s much harder to patrol the ramparts of our cultures, to distinguish between the appreciators and appropriators. Just who gets to play in which cultural playground?

Today, we question ourselves constantly. Does eating an Israeli-grown avocado mean I effectively fund the war on Hamas? Does drinking Russian vodka mean I approve Putin bombing Syrian hospitals? If I eat high-end chocolate harvested in Africa, do I condone slave labor by Africa cocoa farms, where an estimated 100,000 children are working, with more than 10,000 trafficked? I wear a Buddhist pendant and a silver cross made by a Navajo Indian Artist. Does that make me a cultural appropriator?

And speaking of American Indians, people have been injured, and some have died, in fraudulent sweat lodge ceremonies performed by non-Natives. Utterly horrific. Yet many other forms of cultural appropriation are honored, including New York pizza, Japanese denim, not to mention democratic discourse, mathematics, and the calendar.

Personally, in light of everything going on in today’s world, the only sin Corey Goldstein guilty of is a bad hair style. Whoever did that style for him should never be allowed in a beauty parlor again.

From a Buddhist perspective, the message is tolerance and the beauty that comes out of cross-cultural expression.

Lighten up.

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