Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What We Have Here is an Opportunity

These past few days have been seriously depressing for me. Mr. Trump has stolen the oxygen from the air and things are looking a little dark as a result of his Sleepless in D.C. executive order and memorandum writing marathon binge.

So, for today’s post I offer a tiny bit of humor to fend off the next four years of episodes of the Trump Cavalcade of Lost Souls Show. I hope you’ll enjoy the video*.

Oh, one more thing. Could you help me find the chicken featured in this video? There appears to be an opportunity for a BADA** Chicken in D.C. to repair a few things and help return some luster to our temporarily tarnished American Dream.

We Can Fix It

M.A.M.O.N. (Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide) is a satirical fantasy sci-fi short film that explores with black humor and lots of VFX the outrageous consequences of Donald Trump’s plan of banning immigration and building an enormous wall on the Mexico - US border.

The dark comedy showcases a spectacular fight involving bizarre weapons, and numerous dark jokes about the clichés and stereotypical antics of the Mexican and Latino community, as the Quinceañera, the Quetzalcoatl, the Lucha Libre, the Mariachi, the Chapulín Colorado, etc.

M.A.M.O.N. is part of the Wecanfxit project, powered by Uruguayan production house Aparato.

Our mission is to change the world using our geeky weapons: cinematography, visual effects and CGI.

Our motto: Making the world a better place, one pixel at a time.

*Just to add a bit of realism to the video, I urge the Producers to reduce the proportionate size of the Trump Monster Robot's hands, just like they are in real life.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bad Guys Even the Score

One of Mr. Trump's first official acts as President of the United States was to officially shaft the 99.9% first-time homeowners by reversing the pending 0.60% reduction in FHA mortgage insurance rates. People who borrow $200,000 under the FHA will now be paying an additional $500/mo. on their mortgage insurance. In total, this Trump executive order will cost homeowners millions of dollars.

Here’s what happened:

“The Obama administration had said last week that the Federal Housing Administration would drop the cost of mortgage insurance it sells by almost a third to 0.60 percent. But after Trump took office, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the FHA, told lenders the fee cut was off.”

“The reduction was intended to help partially offset the cost of rising mortgage rates and was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 27. The government sells the insurance in case borrowers default.”

“Julian Castro, Obama’s HUD secretary, said when the fee cut was announced that the FHA’s reserve fund had grown by $44 billion in the last four years and that it was time to share these gains with borrowers. Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to run HUD, said in his confirmation hearing that he supported undoing the fee cut…”*

So, from day one we see Mr. Trump wasted not a second putting the screws to the “little” people, the 99.9%... some of whom actually believed in him.

Humanity's Score on our Humanity Scoreboard now stands at 1 for Humanity and 1 for the Bad Guys.

*One of President Trump’s First Acts Will Cost Homeowners Millions of Dollars,
Ben Walsh, Huffington Post, 20 Jan 2017.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mr. Ryan’s Empathy Epiphany

Jeff Jeans, left, who is a cancer survivor, questions House Speaker Paul Ryan about the Affordable Care Act at a town hall event at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Photo: CNN) See video clip below.
Perhaps our ability to empathize with another human is stunted from birth and remains dormant until shocked into being due to some personal life tragedy. Or, maybe, it’s simply the fact that we are all distracted… living our lives, working, going like crazy people from one place to another.

Truth is, for many of us, something must happen to us or those we love before we can see, feel or empathize with others who are hurting.

Consider cancer survivor Jeff Jeans' self-acknowledged "empathy" epiphany.

"At a CNN town hall Thursday night, Jeff Jeans (49) of Sedona, Ariz., told Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) that he was a lifelong Republican and a small-business owner who had previously worked for President Ronald Reagan and President George Bush. Jeans said he was initially adamantly against Obamacare."

"'When it was passed, I told my wife we would close our business before I complied with this law,' he said at the George Washington University event."

"Jeans recalled how he was diagnosed with a 'very curable type of cancer' at 49, and told he only had six weeks to live. He was denied treatment, he continued, because he didn’t have an insurance card — even though he offered to pay three times the cost."

"'Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today, alive,' he said.
As a small-business owner and a person with preexisting conditions, Jeans said, he relies on the Affordable Care Act to purchase his own health insurance. Then he asked Ryan a pointed question."

"'Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?' he asked."*

Ryan answered that, of course, he was not going to take away healthcare for millions of Americans without a “better” plan in place.

But, sadly, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

We can only hope that like Mr. Jeans, Mr. Ryan will also have his moment of empathy before it is too late for the 18 million Americans who are soon to become “Obamacareless”.

The fact is that we set our priorities, for ourselves, our families and our nation. We either accept what others have set for us or we make a decision to do what we know is best and most important. So, what matters most for you? Is it profit first? Or, does your loved one's wellbeing come first?

Today, our culture rewards those who make corporate profit and growth most important. For many of our elected elite and heads of our corporations, material things like more wealth, multimillion dollar homes, cars, boats, private airplanes... you name it... more of everything and more "power" over others matters most for them.

Is it not obvious that we have missed something critically important... our own wellbeing? We have allowed our leaders to set the wrong priorities for us. It's time to change direction toward what matters most for us: our wellbeing. It is time to focus our intelligence, our resources, our collective wealth and work for a better world based upon wellbeing for our grandkids and ourselves. 

Jeff Jeans (cancer survivor) Full Explosive Interview with Don Lemon CNN (1/13/17)
In this video Jeff Jeans explains why he opposed the Affordable Care Act prior to becoming ill. Also, toward the end of the video, he gives his advice to Pres. Trump:
“Be the President for every American… for every American… even if they have had cancer… if they are a breast cancer survivor… if they have leukemia… if it’s a child born with a deformed heart… treat everybody the same… give everybody the same opportunity… don’t discriminate because people don’t have money or are sick.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

It’s All About Bravery

I recently came across one author’s attempt to explain heroism. In Hard-Wired for Heroism, Matthew Sedacca, tried to come up with a scientific reason why people will risk their lives for others. He arrived at the conclusion that risking your life for others is instinctual – like so many mother rats rescuing orphaned baby rats in a lab experiment.

I have often wondered if I had the courage to stay and fight rather than turn tail and evaporate into obscurity.

For instance, could I stay in my foxhole, feet frozen from the bitter cold, my dead friends surrounding me, and keep firing my machine gun at the onslaught of enemy troops about to overrun my position? Would I try to run or ball-up into the bottom of my hole, hoping to be overlooked and given mercy by the enemy?

My father stayed. He kept firing. That was the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. Somehow he survived.

In my mind, the choice has nothing to do with instinct. Rather, it’s all about bravery.

Thank you, France, for awarding the Legion d'Honneur to these four heroes: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Chris Norman.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Christmas Story

By David L. Dyer
13 Dec 2014

Ed Note: I held David's story to post after Christmas. During the Holidays we often lose the meaning of giving in favor of buying. In his story, David brings us home... to love... where, I pray, we all are. -RB

I wrote this story a year ago and would love to share it. It begins with a story I received on the internet.  There were a couple of versions of it so this will not be verbatim. I’ll use my own words in telling the same story.

An eight year old boy named Spencer was in this shopping mall with his aunt Becky.  Soon they came upon a huge line of young kids and adults. The line seemed to get longer as the minutes passed. Spencer asked his aunt “why are so many people in that long line?” Becky told him they were all lined up to see Santa Claus. She went on to say: “the first sight of Santa Claus means that Christmas will soon be here.”

Spencer had been going to Sunday School as long as he could remember. He had a rather puzzled look on his face as he asked Aunt Becky “Didn’t Jesus give his life for us and isn’t Christmas Day his birthday?” When Becky answered in the affirmative, Spencer asked, “If that is the line to see Santa Claus, where is the line to see Jesus?” That created an immediate welling that quickly turned to real tears as Becky wondered if that question had ever been asked before.

When they returned home, Becky, a very lovely and aspiring vocalist told her father what Spencer had asked. They put words together and soon a beautiful new Christmas song was born. It featured Becky singing the words to “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?”  You can hear it by going to this site:  wheresthelinetoseejesus.com

A few days later our entire country was introduced to a small town in Connecticut called Newtown. We all know of the tragedy that struck that town.  Believe me I have as much empathy as everyone else. When I was asked of my thoughts I said it has all been written. There was nothing more I could offer as to who and what was to blame or how to prevent it from happening again.

Since I began writing some four years ago I have come to believe that no matter how bleak the situation, something positive will come from it.  You may have to look very deeply for it, but eventually it will appear.  This time I didn’t have to look for it. It stared me in the face as I attempted to enter an elementary classroom four days before Christmas.

My wife, Janet had asked me to be Santa Claus to her preschool class of four year olds.  She also asked me to do the same for another teacher’s three and four year olds. There would be a total of about forty kids. Even though I had now preferred Jesus over Santa Claus I responded by saying “What an honor it is to be asked and of course I will do so.” The other teacher, Jessica had a Santa suit for me which fit perfectly. The plan was for me to enter the classroom with a large bag filled with gifts and I would call the name of each child and present them with their gift.

When that Friday arrived I gazed at the calendar. Not only was it December 21st, it was the first day of winter. I didn’t need a calendar to be reminded of that as I opened the front door and saw that we had been treated to not only four inches of snow but bitter cold temperatures and a 20 MPH biting wind. It was our first so called snowfall of the season. We managed to get Janet out of the driveway early enough to drive those fifteen miles to school and arrive by 8:30.  I didn’t have to be there until 10 AM. My son, David-Scott, home for Christmas from Chicago drove me to the school. It took all of forty five minutes to cover those fifteen miles.

When we arrived we got out of the car and into that cold biting wind and walked to the door to enter the school. It was then and there I realized the positive from that Newtown tragedy. That would be the heightened security of all the schools across the country. We pressed the buzzer several times to no avail. If you didn’t have an appointment to arrive at a certain time, you would not enter that school while it was in session. It took about ten minutes to make contact with Janet by cell phone.

I went directly to the supply room and changed into the Santa suit. My pack was full of gifts.  I entered the classroom with bells ringing and shouting HO-HO-HO and was seated in front of the room facing the children. I reached into my pack and pulled out a gift. I called the name of the child who came running up and sat on my knee. I assisted them as they open their present. That scenario was repeated forty times during three sessions.
Three, four, five and six year olds are the same all over the world.  I have seen them in Europe, The Far East, Canada and across the States and they are the same completely innocent little children. I quickly thought of those Newtown  children that would not be able to sit on Santa’s knee or even the younger ones in Vietnam that were blown to bits as villages were destroyed. Then I would look at the cheerful faces of these children and I got such a jubilant feeling of contentment that I’d never before experienced.

If it hadn’t been for the hair, the whiskers, the beard and the glasses that completely concealed my face, those kids may have had another perception of Santa Claus. They would have seen tears of sadness and happiness streaming down.

This year, though Janet is now retired, Jessica has asked me for an encore. I told her I’d be delighted and will do so December 19th and 20th.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You Can Take Love With You

From my perspective, the concept I am exploring is tied to my never ending desire to help people make their lives better, if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren’s sake. One way I think we can begin to walk that path is through free, open and mutually respectful conversation between people about issues which we all must confront.

Frankly, I know that, in general, history shows that people who hold differing views seldom talk about them while together. In my mind, the past election clearly shows that supporters of Mr. Trump and Sec. Clinton are reluctant to be seen with each other let alone talk about the issues we must solve in order to move our nation forward… or backward, depending upon your perspective.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, my hope, therefore, is to make an itty-bitty first step toward fostering mutually respectful conversations about the challenges we confront as neighbors in our local communities. That can, no doubt, be accomplished online*. But clearly impersonal conversation is not enough. We require face-to-face, trust-building, challenge resolving, in person discussions. The reason is that we are all partners in this life and first we must agree to help each other so that we all have a modicum of a chance to succeed. If not, we will surely all fail individually. If that happens, what of the innocents who will live in a future disaster of our making?

I hope you’ll agree. If you do, please make a first step and begin to organize your “Treaty Tree Forum” discussion group in your hometown. Before long we will have thousands of discussion groups collaborating and I’ll bet that we will discover some solutions to help make our world a better place for our grandkids.

Collaboration - Affect/Possibility: Ken Blanchard at TEDxSanDiego

*We must offer the discussions online, too. Perhaps, even live via Periscope or Facebook Live, etc.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tweets Alter Course of History

Score one for humanity.*
Mr. Trump's tweets to U.S. House Republicans inspired them to back away from gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics this morning.

The R-people held a secret meeting the other day to perform their ethics lobotomy. Then they made known their decision to go “ethics-less” yesterday. That caused mucho criticism from D-people, a bazillion watchdog groups and even a couple of negative sounding mainline media reports, too.

But what really caused the 180 roundabout? Trump tweets!
The tweets gave the R people the shakes. So, they dumped their dream-come-true,GET-OUT-OF-JAIL-FREE law right before the opening buzzer of the spanking new session of the R-dominated House of Representatives.

Like I said, score one for humanity for whatever the reason.

* "Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who’s been under criminal and ethical investigation for years, was irate that leadership wanted the conference to back off. Young, as well as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), tried to get leadership to commit to reforming the office by a specific future date, though Labrador agreed with leadership's plan to postpone. Incoming Ethics Chair Susan Brooks, one source in the room said, suggested they'd do it by August." 
Inside the House GOP ethics debacle, Rachael Bade, John Bresnahan and Kyle CheneyPolitico, 3 Jan 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Knowing: I Don’t Know What I Think I Know

Each time I watch Dr. Hans Rosling* deliver one of his famous TED Talks, I am reminded that I really don’t know what I think I know.

That’s a good thing because as the headline of this recent Nature article suggests, Three minutes with Hans Rosling will change your mind about the world, sometimes I need a world-refreshing view of the world.

*Dr. Hans Rosling is Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system. He is also a medical doctor, academic, statistician, and world-renowned public speaker.

How not to be ignorant about the world | Hans and Ola Rosling