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Ryan’s Journal: Veteran Culture

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Folks, I thought it fitting to have something veteran related as America just celebrated Independence Day. While the holiday itself is about the founding of the country, I think we can all agree that the actions of the men and women who fought helped secure the independence. 

My goal here is to not make this a political blog, but sometimes folks who I respect speak out and I like to highlight them. 

I had the privilege to read “Tribe” recently and found the book to share a perspective on PTSD and culture that I had not heard before.

I may have shared in the past, but when I was a younger man I served in The United States Marine Corps. In that capacity I lost several Marines while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq and it’s still something I keep with me.

With that said, I am fortunate not to suffer any serious effects, physical or mental, but I found the book to be a breath of fresh air.

I say all of this to say that Junger is well respected in the community and a voice of reason.

Below my post Junger is quoted as stating the current divisive political environment is causing moral injury on the troops. Moral injury could be very true. In the current conflicts young men and women are thrust into confusing situations that have no clear objective.

 For us, we had to contend with the so called enemy, but also the locals; all while trying to explain that we were there to provide peace (while holding them to the gun).

It was confusing and as an introspective guy I had a hard time rationalizing what I was doing. My response was to just not consider the socio-political ramifications and focus on the day at hand. 

What Junger says though is true in my opinion. As politics have become more divisive, it is tough for the folks in harm’s way to truly believe in the cause. The homeland is secure and we fight most wars now for no clear reason. 

One takeaway from Junger’s book about PTSD I found can be applied by anyone.

He says we should embrace veterans, but not in such a way that you isolate them. Most veterans do not want adulation and praise, they just want mutual respect and the ability to remember, but not dwell. 

I have included the full text of his interview below

An award-winning journalist says people who claim Trump isn’t their president hurt US troops

Sebastian Junger has a message for lawmakers: the partisan warring of politicians in Washington DC is hurting the American military more than they realize.

“Unity is all soldiers have when they face the enemy, and you must do everything in your power to make sure that it is not taken away from them,” the noted war journalist and author, who has written and directed extensively on war, told members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on post-traumatic stress disorder on June 7.

Junger used the opportunity to rail against the toxic influence of partisan politics among the armed forces.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was not their president, they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he told lawmakers. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause. And that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity.”

The issue isn’t just about the unusual nature of the Trump presidency, or Democrats’ resistance to it. “When Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama [ …] was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” he said.

Junger, whose career as a war reporter began covering the Kosovo genocide in the 1990s, most recently penned a book called         “Tribe” in which he wrote about the fractionalized America that troops face when they return home.

“For the sake of our military personnel, if not for the sake of our democracy, such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party,” Junger said.

“If that is not realistic, at least this committee — which is charged with overseeing the welfare of our servicemen and women — should issue a bipartisan statement rejecting such rhetorical attacks on our national unity.”

The military, which serves the president as its commander-in-chief, has become increasingly politicized in recent years.

The Center for New American Security reported a trend of more politicization of the military’s ranks by observing speeches given by retired generals at both Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016.

What’s more, a study by the National Defense University found that more military personnel are sharing their political views on social media.

After surveying 500 West Point cadets and active duty officers, the report found that 75% of respondent said that they had seen their contemporaries shared political links on their personal social media accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In “Tribe,” Junger writes, “Soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon.”

Read the original article on Task & Purpose.

Image credit: Sebastian Junger

Fight Hate: Take Action NOW

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

http://www.businessinsider.com/womens-march-washington-signs-2017-1/#-42

Today is (or should be) the first day of the rest of your life speaking out and actively working for the world in which you want to live. To do everything you can to quell the rise of hate and change the direction of your world.

If you care it’s time to act — not wait for the other guy to do it.

I’m sure that some of my readers are happy with its direction and will be very unhappy with this post. They may even unsubscribe (it’s happened in the past), but that is their right and I respect that.

But hopefully the rest of you will heed this call to action, take time to read the links and time to think about the world you want — not just for yourself, but for you current/future kids and their kids, etc.

Last December I wrote about a pledge by techs not to build a Muslim registery and I quoted the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor and rabid anti-Nazi, who spent seven years in a concentration camp.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This resonates with me because I am Jewish, granted I’m a sectarian Jew, but bigots don’t make that distinction.

My father’s family had the choice of emigrating from Russia or dying by the had of the Cossacks.

My Romanian grandmother was lucky. Her sister’s husband had only enough money to bring one sister to the US and she drew the short straw. The rest of the family died in the Holocaust.

I doubt it was an accident that the executive order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I’m also a nobody and MAPping Company Success is barely a gnat in the blogsphere, but I’m adding my voice to Fred Wilson’s Make America Hate Again, Mark Suster’s Never Let Anybody Tell You to Shut Up and many others.

The hate being shown to this wave of refugees echoes the hate shown to past waves, but this time it’s far more hysterical and fraught.  

As for the argument that the Muslim ban fights terrorism, what really are the odds that you might die in a terrorist attack in the US, especially compared to all the other ways to die? Take a look at the hard data.

odds of dying

Yes, ISIS is real, but terrorism on our soil is an excellent cover for one of the truly ugly underlying reasons today’s refugees are so violently rejected — they are black.

Anand Sanwal provided an insightful comment in his typically irreverent style.

So I landed in India with my daughter on Saturday and saw the news about immigration changes in the USA.
I don’t think American citizens of Indian descent are banned from re-entering the USA yet, but let me know if anything changes as I got another 5 days here and things appear to be changing quickly.
For the time being, I believe my type of brown person is still considered ok so that’s a relief. But definitely let me know if that changes. Thanks.

From Trump to Tea Party you are seeing the second coming of WASP thinking.

If this isn’t who you are then you need to speak out.

Not only speak out, but get active NOW.

How?

By getting involved in Swing Left, an organized effort to take back the House in 2018 or go directly to the Swing Left website.

The operative word is NOW.

Image credit: Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Golden Oldies: Making Political Hay the Nonpartisan Way

Monday, November 7th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwvc/7337531128/It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Tomorrow is your last chance to vote. Your last chance in what may be the most important election of your life. Or maybe, like me, you already voted. Either way, here are quotes from and links to political post I wrote in the past. Two are serious and two are just for fun. I hope you enjoy them.  

Read other Golden Oldies here

Leaders Who Don’t: Politicians (2008)

We have no leaders, let alone statesmen, just ideologues, elected by like-minded ideologues, who care only about getting reelected, bringing government money back to their constituency and making lucrative connections in the event they aren’t reelected or are caught by term limits.

Looking for a Leader (2010)

Just think what a difference if our national political scene included

  • more playmakers,
  • managers who were sharper identifying and keeping talent,
  • everybody better at cultivating and communicating, instead of scheming, and
  • better locker-room chemistry.

Notice that the most important is listed last.
What a difference it would make in their ability to find viable solutions, instead of ideological posturing.

Political snickers (2008)

Isn’t it funny how the word ‘politics’ is made up of the words ‘poli’ meaning ‘many’ in Latin, and ‘tics’ as in ‘bloodsucking creatures’?

A little girl asked her father, “Daddy? Do all Fairy Tales begin with ‘Once Upon A Time’?”
He replied, “No, there is a whole series of Fairy Tales that begin with ‘If elected I promise’.”

Us and Them (2008)

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The cop is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The professor is very happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen different books, such as ‘How to Improve Your Business’ and ‘Becoming More Successful.

Then, a Congressman comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Congressman is very happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And there lies the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Congress.

Image credit: League of Women Voters

Ignoring Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrazito/8401682695/

It is said, “as you sow so shall you reap.”

If you had any doubts the results of our educational system over the last five decades should end them.

It’s too bad politicians, especially those in the GOP, ignored (and continue to ignore)  the words of one of the truly great Republicans.

Abraham Lincoln.

Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.

“Children” is plural and, since there is no modifier, inclusive.

Something the US educational system isn’t.

Or perhaps that’s what our politicians want.

An ignorant and unthinking population.

Poor Abe.

He must be spinning in his grave like a top.

Image credit: JBrazito

A Bit of Miki Wisdom

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/b_lumenkraft/8347201742/From now through November 8 you will be inundated with political ads, tweets, postings, robo-calls, etc.

It’s worse for me. I live on the Washington/Oregon border, so I have the displeasure of being snowed by two of everything, both states, local (Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR) and, of course, Federal.

Of course, my area’s not alone; I’m sure the same thing happens to others in similar geographical areas.

So, in honor of the season, I thought I’d share something I wrote that is worth keeping uppermost in your mind at least through November 9 — and probably all year long.

“Once there was a talking horse named Mr. Ed on TV. These days there are dozens of talking asses on all kinds of media.”

Flickr image credit: #mr_ed

Watch This and Weep

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Assuming, that is, you care at all about the future.

Sometimes I post about subjects not really business-oriented.

In this case, because 300 years isn’t all that long…

And disruption isn’t always progress.

Video credit: Business Insider

The Destruction of Community

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

My friend Emily lives in Mountain View, CA.

In spite of all the stories about high rents and corporate bussing not much has been said about companies such as Prometheus Real Estate Group and its ilk that are responsible for much of the actual destruction of community in the name of progress and greed.

They do it by buying up properties, telling the tenants to move, and then doubling (or more) the rents.

Like other Peninsula landlords, Prometheus sets a baseline criteria for tenants to prove they earn more than three times the monthly rent. With that requirement, a household would have to earn more than $144,000 annually to be eligible to rent a $4,000-per-month unit, Scarboro pointed out.

Emily recently sent a letter to the City Council, which resulted in the story linked to above and a report on NBC Bay Area.

And here’s the letter that started it all (edited for length and clarity).

I have been a resident of Mountain View since 1999. Since I earn fewer than six figures I am a low – middle income professional by this City’s standards (and the word in the street is that the voice of folks like me carries little weight).

I am writing anyway because today I realized that if I am not for myself – who will be for me? Certainly not my current hometown.

I live on a private street with 24 town homes and most of us are low to middle income (by Silicon Valley standards). We are teachers, social workers, healthcare professionals, doctors (residents), beauticians, and more. We have patients, clients, customers and businesses in town. We are in our 30-70’s. Some of us have young children. Some are single Mom’s or just plain single. Several younger residents have disabilities. We are a diverse group by skin color, religion, culture, age and education representing what’s great about this City (or what used to be). Many of us were born here or have lived in Mountain View over 30 years. Some have lived on this street for 12 years or more. Our rents are not cheap. They range from $2500-3500 per month for our 1970’s style 2-3 bedrooms. We all pay our bills. Most of us love coming home and we have become a closely-knit community—which is increasingly rare in this town.

As you must already know, Prometheus Property Management’s latest takeover team has informed the 100+ residents on Forest Glen Street and at “Granada”, a nearby parcel with 14 townhomes (purchased at the same time) that we all need to pack up and “permanently evacuate” due to the new renovations allowing them to collect “considerable rent increases” “Feel free to apply as a new tenant but your rent must be no more than 30 percent of your monthly income or three times the new rental price.

That’s requires a salary of $12,000 per month or more at their rental prices.

I used to love Mountain View. Not anymore.

What kind of a City sanctions new owners to displace over 100 residents and literally destroy a diverse neighborhood where everyone pulls their weight and contributes to their City in so many ways? You may consider the 3-6 months notice we were given to be a generous offer (they are not starting to renovate until mid summer) but how truly generous is this when it’s a known fact that there is limited decent housing and whatever housing exists has monthly income requirements that non-tech folks cannot meet? (According to the article, even many Googlers don’t earn that. –Miki)

Since the initial shock of forced displacement many of us have spent days looking at comparable sized apartments in Mountain View (and immediate surrounding areas) only to discover that Prometheus is not alone with their outrageous monthly income requirements at 3x the rent. We have found that most property management companies and individual landlords have the same requirements.

Being the great company they are, however, the Prometheus takeover team urged some of us to apply for apartments that are Below Market Rate (BMR). Funny thing is, “there is no BMR housing in Mountain View and the list has been closed since December” according to the office that manages it.

This is the new Mountain View at its best demonstrating how to ineffectively follow its own guidelines. Preserving and enhancing quality of life for Mountain View residents is only for those with very low income or the top 10%.

A BALANCED City would require a new owner to increase rents and renovate for NEW tenants when current tenants move out. People are moving in and out all the time. There is no rent control. No one is going to stick around forever. Some just want their children to finish their HS senior year with the kids they grew up with.

A FAIR City would have policies in place that keep companies like Prometheus from disenfranchising long time residents who at the very least work in this city. Most of us would happily exist with a rent increase even with our old grouty tiles, stained Formica and fake marble counters and sinks just to be able to continue to more easily drive to work, keep our doctors and run our businesses.

Tell me — how can this once great City of Mountain View look the other way and through sanctioning Prometheus’s business practices- force people with disabilities, in their 60’s or with kids in school to abandon their homes and neighborhood suffering, in some cases, irreparable financial loss and emotional distress. This can’t be legal.

[signed] Emily White Mountain View, CA

New York City and surrounding boroughs instituted rent control decades ago and the city is anything but destroyed; municipals governments work closely with housing organizations to make it work.

Of course, in a country where greed is enshrined in our culture, corruption is legalized in the form of lobbyists and the Supreme Court voted to put for sale signs on our elections, Prometheus’ actions are completely legal — and even applauded in certain circles.

A Response to Remember

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mister_Ed

Like most of you, I get a lot of email.

Maybe because I write not only this blog, but also creatively for clients, I tend to care about my responses.

The result is that every now and then I write something worth sharing beyond that email.

That’s what happened today.

A friend sent me an article.

My response was especially apropos considering the upcoming presidential election, which means months of being bombarded by candidates, talking heads, pundits, gurus, etc., on all forms of media.

That said, here is my self-described brilliant take on it.

Years ago there was one talking horse named Mr. Ed on TV. These days there are dozens of talking asses on all kinds of media.

Feel free to use it, although attribution is appreciated.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Legalized Corruption

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5502905667

I rarely write about politics, but it’s that time of year; I live on the border between two states and have to listen to political ads from both. So please, if this post offends you accept my apologies and wield your delete key.

My feelings are driven by the smugness I see across the political spectrum irregardless of parties and beliefs.

Smugness regarding the rarity of corruption in the US vs. its prevalence in other countries.

The way I see it, corruption in the US is rare primarily because it’s been legalized in the form of lobbying and PACs.

Lobbying has long influenced legislation, but as of 2010, when the Supreme Court effectively eliminated restrictions on outside groups, elections themselves went up for sale.

If you doubt me look no farther than the Americans for Prosperity, owned and run by the Koch brothers, which will spend at least $125 million this year, and the growth of super PACs overall.

In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion. (…) In 2014, as of early October, when the campaigns

had yet to do their big final pushes, overall spending was already more than $444 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Roughly $231 million was from the parties and their congressional committees, the rest from outside spending. The biggest chunk of that by far came from super PACs — more than $196 million.

What each of these wealthy individuals have in common is passion, but unbridled passion is the hallmark of the fanatic—and fanaticism paves the road to a closed mind—one that is evidenced by fear, hate and bigotry.

Legal corruption or not, voting is important—if for no other reason than not voting precludes your right to complain.

Or, as my mom used to say when faced with two bad choices, just “hold your nose” and vote against X as opposed to for Y.

And you can avoid the corruption by ignoring ads, whether pro or con, and evaluating candidates and issues in a holistic and pragmatic way that looks at what makes the most long-term sense.

Flickr image credit: DonkeyHotey

If the Shoe Fits: How Much Profit is Too Much?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDecades ago computer manufactures, such as IBM and DEC, created closed systems that wouldn’t/couldn’t talk to each other.

Apple chose to keep a closed system for years.

While closed systems seemed to enhance profitability, in the long-run the strategy failed to protect the companies from competition.

What closed systems did do was cost customers millions when, for business reasons, they had to be made to communicate.

Closed systems are back again only this time forcing compatibility is costing billions.

And it is you and I who will end up footing the cost.

Why?

Because this time the incompatibility is in the proprietary electronic medical records (EMR) systems that are mandated under the Affordable Care Act and, far more importantly, are an imperative for the health of the entire population.

The money in play is substantial; privately held Epic is one of the largest suppliers and its founder, Judith R. Faulkner, is supposed to be worth around $2.3 billion.

When you’re making that kind of money who worries about lives ruined or lost because of EMR incompatibility?

While the companies building incompatible systems are doing just fine, those who have to buy the systems aren’t—although size does make a difference.

The University of California Davis Health System has 22 specialists installing the technology so that doctors can share patient data between its Epic system and other internal systems, like the hemodynamic monitors in its critical care unit, or with some non-Epic systems outside the hospital. “We’re a huge organization, so we can absorb those costs,” said Michael Minear, the chief information officer at the U.C. Davis Health System. “Small clinics and physician offices are going to have a harder time.” (…) “The systems can’t communicate, and that becomes my problem because I cannot send what is required and I’m going to have a 1 percent penalty from Medicare,” Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot said. “They’re asking me to do something I can’t control.”

What about regulators?

Regulators responded that interoperability was a “top priority” and that they recently set out a 10-year vision and agenda to achieve it, in an emailed statement from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The office’s spokesman added that achieving interoperability “requires stakeholders to come together and agree on policy-related issues like who can access information and for what purpose.”

So much for regulators.

Perhaps Congress… No; that’s a really stupid thought.

I guess the only sure things in all this is that the entrepreneurs who created the incompatible systems will increase their net worth, US medical costs will continue to skyrocket and you and I will pay the bills.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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