Saturday, January 21, 2017

Respect is important....

Respect and being respectful are very important values.
Demanding respect despite very disrespectful acts, words and deeds is not going to happen.
"Just locker room talk" is not a respectable answer to someone boosting that they can grab women with benefit of celebrity status. It is not respectable. I cannot be commanded to respect that person.
Wealth does not command respect. How that person gained their wealth and what they did with the wealth accumulated, could be respectful.
Our sovereignty as a nation is an important value. It is our patriotic duty to protect our nation from intrusion by foreign invasion. I cannot respect Russian interference with our election in ANY way. And I cannot respect anyone who would turn a blind eye or think it is, in any form, acceptable.
For years we have heard the cries of "repeal and replace Obamacare" without a single replacement plan defined. I cannot respect that.
The highest standards of ethics should be the cornerstone of the purity of democracy. We should demand confidence that our elected officials are working for the benefit of their constituencies and not for personal gain. I cannot be commanded to respect anyone who refuses independent scrutiny - Independent Congressional Oversight, A free Press, divestiture of personal business/government relationships. I cannot be demanded to respect that.
Our public education system requires advocates that understand the challenges faced by educators. Education cannot be turned into a profit center or an advocate for religious ideology. I cannot respect anyone who advocates for that.
Respect and being respectful are very important values to me. Respectfully, I challenge the positions listed above. I respectfully challenge our nation to something better. I cannot respect less. I will not respect less. I believe we are better. Let's not lower our standards.

The One President I saw in person...

Sometime in 1986, I had the most amazing opportunity to cover a Christian Broadcaster's Press Conference in the East Room of the White House. Yes, dear friends, I was working for a radio station and budding Television Station that was part of the Christian Broadcasting Network in Greencastle, PA. It was an odd and interesting experience. It's a multi-layer story and which part will unfold is happening as I write this.
Of course, I was oddly placed in that job. I understood them much more than they could ever understand me. But it was a good "foot in the door" job right out of college, working at a radio station and doing marketing for a newly developing television station. And, suddenly, I was on my way with the station owners (husband and wife) to cover a press conference with the President of the United States of America - President Reagan.
Of course, I was oddly placed again. I was not a supporter of President Reagan's de-regulation and "trickle down" policies. I had not voted for him. I was skeptical of the Christian Broadcaster's "agenda" and how he wanted to connect. But wait - there's another layer to this story.
We arrived early. Screening for such things was very different then than it is today. We had our letter of invitation but the actual credentialing was at the door. Mr. and Mrs. Station Owner and I signed in. I was soon ushered through, having been honorably discharged with a Top Secret Security clearance in recent years. Shortly after I was seated, Mrs. Station Manager sat beside me. Mr. Station Manager never came in.
The Press Conference began and I was sitting less than 50 feet from President Ronald Reagan! I was in awe. The aura of the room, the dignity of his presence, resonated in me. At the end of the Press Conference I hadn't the foggiest idea of what the purpose was of the event but I was feeling great respect for the occasion of it. AND I was wondering why Mr. Station Owner was not in the room.
Back at the radio station I learned why. It turns out that Mr. Station Owner had been discharged from service as "Section 8" and was not permitted into the Press Conference. Suddenly a lot of crazy experiences I was having while "trying" to work there made sense. I moved on soon after that revelation.
Two morals to this story. Don't assume you're the crazy one.
Second - yes we can respect a president who holds policy positions we oppose IF they represent some semblance of dignity and decency. Once upon a time, I could and did.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Long ago in Spain

Long ago circling for hours I felt aimlessly lost but certain I was near where I needed to be in order to find my way home. Then, suddenly I took a turn and saw an American Flag. I pulled over and cried. Home. I knew my home from here. I was sitting in front of the American Embassy in Madrid, Spain.
Many things happened in those two short years that loom large over my life perspective. There was that moment and the sight of the flag - my point of reference to "home" that day.
There was a rise in anti-American sentiment in those early years of 1980. Once I was with a Mexican American friend near the Plaza Mayor, and fortunately before I could comprehend, he understood the chants of the marchers coming down the street. He pushed me into an alcove and stood in front of me as we watched protesters march while burning an effigy of President Carter. In those moments I felt fear, but in the months to follow I experienced hope as I had opportunities to talk with students in Madrid and hear their questions and concerns. I learned much from those personal encounters.
In Torrejon where I was stationed, there were sections of town that were not American friendly. I loved some of those places because they were "authentically" Spain. Some nearby places exhibited America to be American friendly which is very nice but I sought Spanish culture.  When family visited, I took them into the pure Spanish area of Torrejon. We were surprised by two flat tires when we left the restaurant. This was a frightening situation and it was not solved with local help. Obviously, I live to tell the story.
A few months after the family visit, protests sprouted outside my apartment complex which was about 45% American and the remainder Spanish. They were shooting guns and shouting in the field just across the street from my apartment. I was afraid but again, I live to tell the story.
Then there was the attempted overthrow of the Spanish government. I was on duty as the first AP and UPI stories came across the wire with news that the Spanish Parliament had been attacked by military who appeared to be old Franco loyalists, military leaders, and they claimed to be in charge of the country. At the time, our radio station was the only station with power enough to broadcast throughout the country. As such, part of our training included plans to take the station off the air if anyone tried to take over our airwaves. We were obligated to use an ax to sever the lines to the transmitter - an obligation - a duty - that would kill the person doing it because of the the power lines. We had often joked about the need to learn to accurately throw an ax but that night, the three of us stood knowing one of us might be the one - our engineer, our television technical director and me with radio.
As news hour was approaching, we needed to know if we should run the story. It was late in the evening. Our Senior Managers were all gone for the night. In an odd Franco arrangement, long before as the base was built, NCO and Officer housing was separated by miles from the base. At that time in Spain, having a telephone was a luxury. We were not able to reach our superiors. But we knew any story about Spain had to be confirmed by our Ambassador before we could air it. I made the call and woke him up. He's call me back. Soon he confirmed the story.
Our base was a Spanish Base with a Spanish Commander. We were there as guests. Soon as we looked out the windows we saw that we were surrounded by Spanish Guards. Were they protecting us or were they soon coming in? The station had a security system to limit access but there were windows. There were ways. Was our Spanish commander part of the coup attempt? We settled in for a long night. By morning we knew that our local commander was not part of the coup attempt but we could not leave. Our leaders could not get to us. The roadways between the NCO and Officer housing were blocked. There was a stand off.
For several days we stayed on duty. A few other low ranking staff living on base were eventually able to come and provide relief and support. Enough of the Spanish military command had remained loyal to the existing government (including our Commander) that the coup did not succeed. I was able to return to my apartment, a few miles off base, in time to watch President Juan Carlos tell the nation the coup was over.
There is much about Spain that I loved and I often say if the Air Force had let me stay there, I would still be in the Air Force. (Perhaps holding the record for the longest serving AFRTS broadcaster.) But I also remember shocking things that I hoped would never be part of America. One was the military presence with M16's in airports and many public places. I was there during a peak of Basque Separatist activity in northern regions. It was also a time of great struggle between the authoritarian Francoist segments and the reform socialist segments.
It shaped me. It resonates with me still. I struggle to explain it other than to tell the story.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stand out, Stand up or Stand down?

Over the course of time we learn who will Stand out, Stand up, or Stand down in our lives and in our community. There is a great mixture. Some who stood up, stand out because they stood down. Some who stand out are those who stood up. Some stand out because they knew when to stand up and when to stand down.
We remember those who stood out for some reason - up or down. We remember the big idea people. When someone is offering a new idea, we often remember the big idea people that stand out but went down. Any time I hear "somebody should," I am full of questions. Why? Who? How? When I hear "nobody is", I ask Why not? How? Who? It stands out because they stood up to raise the issue.
Ideas are the lifeblood. Ideas are so very valuable but only so if they are properly nurtured. That's the vision. It is crucial but no idea takes flight without wings. Why? Who? How? What? Where? When?
The most significant things have happened when someone stood up, stood out and did not stand down. They stood steadfast. They made a path. They drew followers. The path grew. Stand up. Stand out. Then lead the march. Let others stand out and stand up. What always stands out is what lifted us all the most.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sunshine, water and fertilizer

Think about a major project you took on or a major achievement in your life and consider what you didn't know when you started. If you knew all the roadblocks that you would face, if you knew about the setbacks, the challenges, and the "failure" that perhaps came, could you do it again? Would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, would you do it again? If you knew what you didn't know then, could you have done it better or differently?
Always when we start something new, we don't know what we don't know. When we watch others, we are often tempted to point out the flaws in what they are doing but we aren't so quick to accept what others may see as flaws in what we do. We know what we know. We believe what we want to believe.
The people who have achieved the greatest success in the world defied conventional wisdom and created a completely new path. That doesn't mean they ignored everyone around them. They used what they had to chart uncharted waters. They went into a wilderness. They imagined something totally new and different. They somehow overcame the devastating effect that being wrong a lot can create. They did not quit.
But it's more than not quitting. It's about finding the right balance for the garden to grow. The garden needs seeds, warmth and sunshine, water to sustain, and fertilizer for growth and expansion. Your project needs these three ingredients to succeed.
The seed is the idea. An idea is worth absolutely nothing without warmth and sunshine, water and fertilizer. A seed - an idea - dies without those. A seed can do nothing on its own. All the other things - sunshine, water and fertilizer - grow nothing without the seed. A seed is the most magical ingredient. But don't get too egotistical about a seed. A seed is nothing without sunshine, water and fertilizer. It's the tiny part of the garden process. The rest requires real work.
Plant that seed. Then give it warmth and sunshine.
The warmth and sunshine are the passion and inspiration. GROW SEED GROW. This is the hope but hope must continue throughout the life of the nurtured seed. Passion and inspiration have to continue through the life of the project. Warmth and sunshine are always part of the lifeline. No project - no seed - will continue to grow without it.
Water is the day to day discipline. It's the invisible and clear sustainable thing that all projects require. It's the timing and the ebb and flow - just enough and not too much - routine of things. Give enough to grow and not too much to drown. While the sunshine - vision - steers and guides - the water weaves its path gently and drives the course of the current. Too much water will wash a garden away. Discipline - ebb and flow - easy course - is the answer.
The fertilizer is underground "shit". It's the quick jolt of energy needed to provide long term results. This is the PH balance of your project. Get that just right and the seedling is very happy. Overdo it and it can burn out the entire garden and no amount of sunshine or water able to overcome it. Be very careful with fertilizer. That can be start up cash, quick infusions of cash, investment in high cost staff, or any other high energy investment meant to jump start a project. Be careful handling fertilizer. It's very important. If you want your garden to grow, you have to add it. But just like too much sunshine and water, it can kill a garden.
Finally, not every seed in your garden requires the same amount of sunshine, water and fertilizer. They each have their own needs. They each have their own balance. The garden you grew some other place will have different balance in a new place. Seasons will teach you. Time will help you. Listen. Hear. Touch. See. And don't be afraid to learn what you don't know. None of us knows what we don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will you March?

Throughout our lifetimes we see historic moments unfold. . I was an observer. I remember the watching the aftermath of the Kennedy Assassination. I remember watching the news and seeing the footage of the civil rights movement as it was unfolding in the late 60's. I remember. I remember watching the news stories of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, of Robert Kennedy, of Harvey Milks. I remember.
I remember the the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist marches of the 70's seeking women's equality. I remember. I remember why Roe Vs Wade was important. I remember why Planned Parenthood mattered. I remember.
I remember the Stone Wall Riots. I remember the decade sthat followed and the transformative years I experienced with many others. I remember.
In terms of civil rights, women's rights and LGBT rights, - ANY "minority rights" - the supposed majority most wants to silence the voices. We need to UNITE! We need to unite around the central issue of being heard. It's WOMEN who can make that difference because we are not actually a minority or an actually minority voice. We can - we CAN - lead the charge toward a better way. We have a majority. We actually have greater power. We need to use it now more than ever. We remember. We know. We have great potential for influence. This is our time.
I will march with women. It's time to march. It's time to share our collective memory.
I did not march for civil rights. I was a little too young. I did not march for women's rights - again a little too young and timid. I did not march for LGBT rights - again too timid. NOW I want to march for all. I will March. I will March.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Replace ACA with Health Care Savings accounts?

A recent article reported that Paul Ryan has proposed Health Care Savings accounts as an option to the Affordable Care Act. We would all simply put money in the HCS and self pay for medical care. Absent a detailed explanation for how this would work, I can only draw from my own experience and analysis.
At work, we had an option for using an HCS. We could allocate an amount to put in the account each month and it was a yearly commitment. That seemed like a good idea. It could be used for out of pocket medical expenses, such as co-pays, over the counter medicines, prescriptions and such. The benefits were 1) it was deducted before taxes 2) Once I set the amount to be collected for the year, that amount of money was available right away. So, if I needed $300 in January but had only put in $100 so far, it wasn't a problem. I had a special debit card to use so if it was a qualifying expense, I could just use that card.
But then it became very complicated to use. Even if I obviously used the card at a doctor's office or pharmacy where they could see exactly what the card paid for, I had to submit paperwork within 30 days.  If they questioned the paperwork, they froze the card. But, of course, they still kept collecting the money from my paycheck each month. Then, at the end of the year, if I didn't use all the money collected, it wasn't returned to me nor was it rolled over into the next year. Some mysterious entity kept the money.
The first year it worked pretty well and I used every bit that I had put in the account. The second year, things got weird and it didn't work the same as the first year. I lost about $500. I never used the Health Savings Account again.
I cannot imagine putting enough money in a Health Savings Account to be able pay for any major health issue. My experience leaves me with a boat load of questions about how this could possibly work. Those of us who are older with higher risk of catastrophic illness would need to put a LOT of money in an HCS account each month. Those of us who are younger feel indestructible and cannot imagine even needing a Health Care Account. And what about people who already have a serious medical condition that would require much more savings than could possibly be put into an account each year? If, as I experienced, somehow the money wasn't used (perhaps due to odd restrictions) who gets the money?
If anyone has a link to a detailed explanation of this proposal, I'd be very interested in reading it. It sounds like a great plan for wealthy people and for those believing they are indestructible. It could be a GREAT plan for those administering the funds. It makes no sense at all to me in terms of a health care solution. It makes a lot of sense to me as a money making plan for someone.