March 5, 2015

What's Behind The Iran Deal?

The U.S. is driving forward toward a looming deadline for a deal with Iran, so they don't go nuclear (on us).

But with this deal, Iran does go nuclear!

The question then is who is this non-deal of a deal for?

Usually one makes a deal that is good for you, your team, your allies, your friends, your community--that's why you're making the deal...otherwise why bother?

In this case, no one has more to lose with a (very) bad deal than Iran's neighbors in the Middle East, so they are actually very good judges as to whether this is a good deal or not, right?

If it's a good deal that safeguards them, the region, and us--wouldn't they all be jumping up and down doing the Horah?

But they're not--and far from it!

PM Netanyahu was extremely clear and got 23 standing ovations in just a 40 minute speech explaining how kicking the thermonuclear can down the road ten years does not a non-proliferation agreement make with a homicidal terrorist regime like Iran. 

Similar, today again it is reported that "America's other key allies across the Middle East--such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates--are just as distraught."

And the same reason that they don't like this deal is why we shouldn't like this deal--because it doesn't accomplish the goal of safety and security for this region of the world or for us from dangerous Iran. 

In this case, where a no-nuke Iran was what was committed to, instead we are getting, at best, a temporary deal with Iran that leaves them their nuke infrastructure and capabilities, as well as the legitimacy to ultimately have their nukes and make us eat it too!

So perhaps it is understandable why Netanyahu came here to speak to the U.S. Congress about what this dangerous deal is turning into and means to the very country that has been threatened by Iran with extermination. 

And why a prominent Emirati political commentator said, "A lot of the Gulf countries [our traditional U.S. allies] feel they are being thrown under the bus."

Hmm, perhaps rather than playing right side/left side of the aisle politics, we should be asking some common sense questions:

1) Why would anyone and why would we in particular want a deal that doesn't accomplish the goal of stopping the terrorist Iranian regime from getting nuclear weapons of mass destruction?

2) Why would we desperately seek a deal that doesn't safeguard us, and our allies, and where the common refrain is that no deal is better than this deal?

3) Why would we be pushing to lift sanctions on Iran that has threatened us and our allies with everything from raping the President's daughter to sinking the U.S. Navy to annihilating Israel instead of clamping down on these terrorists?

You know the famous saying that when something smells fishy, it usually is.  

This deal makes no sense--and our allies in the Middle East know it, Congress knows it, and if you don't let partisan politics get in the way, we all know it. 

That means that as Iran is now aggressively spreading it's influence and forces across a contingent land sphere including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, there is some ulterior motive at play here--should I draw you a map? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2015

Sifting Through The Beef Stew

Many of the negative nellies who either didn't attend PM Netanyahu's critical speech to Congress or who were simply circling the wagons came across pretty darn pathetic yesterday.

A smidgon of their very shakey arguments:

1) THIS IS POLITICAL, PERSONAL, MACHO, DISRESPECTFUL, CONDESCENDING, AND MADE ME CRY

FALSE. Actually, with great alarm and dismay, we have been watching for many months, the name-calling and discrediting coming right here from bipartisan Washington...this, rather than supporting the only true democracy, friend, and ally in the middle east. For the Jewish people, this is a mater of survival from genocide, plain and simple--and only 70 years after the Holocaust.

2) THIS IS TO CHANGE THE ELECTION

FALSE. This was at the invitation of Congress to come speak, and at its timetable. The timing does not necessarily help or hurt the PM's election chances; these are matters for individual voters at the polls to decide.

3) THERE'S NO ALTERNATIVES

FALSE. The alternative is plain, simple, and common sense--keep the sanctions in place and the pressure on Iran, and NOT settle for a deal that proflierates dangerous nukes to a threatening Iranian regime. Those advocating otherwise will find themselves on the wrong side of the historical nuclear aftermath...won't that leave them a wonderful legacy!

4) WE CAN SURVEIL AND VERIFY ALL NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES

FALSE. The IAEA has repeatedly declared that they have NOT been able to verify Iran's nuclear activies or the facilities used to build and house them. Moreover, repeated agreements with North Korea turned out to be unverifiable and ended up in their attaining dangerous nuclear weapons that we are still contending with.

5) NO DEAL WILL BE ACCEPTABLE

FALSE. A (very) bad deal is not acceptable. A deal that KEEPS nukes--weapons of mass destruction--out of the hands of the world's premier sponsor of terrorism and human rights abuses--Iran--for an phased-in easing of sanctions is a good deal.

6) YOU CAN'T STOP USE OF NUCLEAR KNOWLEDGE

FALSE. You can deny Iran the infrastructure and legitimacy to use that knowledge, period. Maybe you can't put it back in the can, but you can take away the can, shaped like an ICBM, itself.

7) WRONG ON IRAQ AND WRONG AGAIN

FALSE.  When the world was passive in the face of nuclear proliferation in Iraq, Israel was spot on when it destroyed their nearly completed nuclear reactor in 1981. Unfortunately, we were wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability as reported by the Presidential Commission that investigated this post our 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

8) NOTHING NEW HERE

FALSE. PM Netanyahu made clear that this is NOT partisan, that he has the highest respect for the President(cy), that he is most grateful to America, that our bounds are unbreakable, that the enemy (IRAN) of our enemy (ISIS) is not our friend (both seeking radical dominion over the middle east and globally), and that proliferation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction is not acceptable--now or in ten years. And maybe most inspiringly and underpinning many of our common bonds and values is that there is a picture of Moses over the door of Capital!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 3, 2015

Purim All Over Again

Last night my wife received an email from a very holy woman from our synagogue telling us to pray for G-d to save the Jewish people.

This at a time when Iran is on the verge of nuclear breakout capability and has for more than a decade threatened Israel with genocide

As Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday, the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is a security issue to the U.S. (which has been threatened by Iran, including unbelievably threats to President Obama's family), but is a survival issue to Israel.

The holy lady from the shule reminded us that this is the week we celebrate Purim.

This holiday commerates when the Jewish people were miraculously saved almost 2,500 years ago from an evil plot to destroy all the Jews in ancient Persia (and yes, what is now related to modern day Iran).

The threat: "To destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day."

But for a miracle from G-d through Mordechai and Queen Esther were the Jewish people saved from annihilation. 

It is not lost of any of us that now Iran wants to exterminate the Jews once again, in a single day, in a single nuclear strike on the holy land. 

The Jerusalem Post astutely points out today that Prime Minister Netanyahu is like Mordechai who recognized the threat of the evil Haman who sought the Jews' destruction, as well as Queen Esther who spoke truth to this to King Ahasuerus. 

Both my mother and my wife are named after the beautiful Queen Esther and so this holiday has enormous personal meaning for me, especially since my family are also survivors of the Holocaust. 

Today, we are all praying for another miracle when Netanyahu addresses the U.S. Congress that the Jews should once again be saved from historical enemies old and new. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to pixgood)

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March 2, 2015

Orange Spiral, Going Up

What an absolutely gorgeous staircase.

A modern spiral with vivid orange and white. 

When I look at this, it's almost as if the staircase is in motion, like a spinning drill bit. 

The person sitting to the right of the stairs seems like they will be swept away or crushed in the next spin of the stairs.

Next to the big windows, the incoming light hits the stairs and creates shadows that give it even more life. 

Excellent job by GW University in their new Science and Engineering building. 

You'd expect to see something like this in the Museum of Modern Art...it's awesome! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Metro Wide Open

I took this photo in the Washington, D.C. Metro today. 

What do you think it is?

Lots of electronics, wires, lights--and in front of it and holding the door open is a "caution" pylon. 

This is one of the faregates to get into the metro system for the Capital region. 

Now how "smart" is it to leave the door wide open to this contraption. 

Usually the basics of physical security is gates, guards, and guns--in this case, the gates part is broken. 

The Department of Homeland Security was provided another week of funding to work out the immigration mess pitting Congress against the President...

But even with DHS still up and running, security is looking a little too wide open again. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 1, 2015

Please Don't Shoot Our Ally

So it is incredible how backward our current political situation is.

Get this...

When Israel was ready this past year to take out the Iran Nukes, who stopped them?

No, not the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

No, not any of the other Arab states or terror groups.

No, not Russia.

But rather, our President is reported to have threatened to literally "shoot down Israeli fighter jets" (those of our "Major Strategic Ally") if they attempted to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. 

This at the same time that he is desperately seeking an agreement with Axis of Evil, Iran, who continues to threaten Israel and what Iran calls, "The Great Satan," America. 

While these "negotiations" are going into the home stretch (with one extension after another)...

- Iran destroyed a mock Nimitz class U.S. aircraft carrier in a missile attack, just last week. 

- A senior Iranian cleric threatened our executive branch and vowed to "raise the flag of Islam over the White House."

- In Iran,"Obama is being hung in effigy and the U.S. flag being burnt in Tehran."

Are these the actions of a nation that the U.S. can trust to make an agreement with on nuclear weapons of mass destruction OR is this a deal with the devil?

As one Arab official stated: "We prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal." 

Why is this administration turning on Israel and our Arab allies and desperately pursuing a deal, "making ever more concessions" to the ever dangerous Iranian regime. 

As Putin is alleged to have had Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov killed last week, one has to wonder what is going on in our own backyard here in America, with worse yet, purported threats to shoot at our ally Israel. 

G-d should give our leaders the wisdom to discern our allies from our foes, to treat them accordingly, and to secure a genuine peace with security. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Mike Licht)
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February 28, 2015

Who Will Help?


This is an awesome video that has gone viral.

A social experiment with hidden camera filming of a homeless child freezing on the streets of Manhattan...

See the people just walking on by--completely ignoring or plain unaffected by the suffering taking place literally right next to them. 

Where is the compassion of the people?

Many are just rushing by, chatting away, and/or carrying fancy filled bags from nearby shopping excursions.

The bystanders walk past and practically over this boy's shivering body lying in ragged shirt, without a coat, and lying half inside a big black garbage bag on the street. 

I imagined G-d looking down on this extreme callousness of his creations ignoring the suffering of this boy and being quite upset. 

Perhaps, there are unfortunately so many people now homeless , hungry, and begging in the streets that our minds and hearts have simply learned to "tune it out."

The ending is really amazing...when the one person who comes over to care for the poor boy is a black homeless man--who ends up taking off his own coat and gives it to the child. 

May G-d open our eyes to the pain of our brethren and grant us compassionate hearts to sincerely care one for each other. ;-)
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February 27, 2015

Title To The Holy Land

We came across a horrible piece of anti-Israel propaganda in the Washington, D.C. Metro this afternoon, right before Shabbat, and ahead of the AIPAC conference next week.

See on the left/middle, the picture of the pro-Palestinian advertisement that falsely claims that Israel stole the Palestinian's land.

When in fact, it was Israel who was promised the Holy Land in the Bible, and it was Israel (see map of the Twelve Tribes of Israel on the right) who settled the land already more than 2,000 years ago!

Interesting that the ad questions, "Does Israel want peace or land?" when it is precisely terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad (to name just a few) that:

-  Shoot thousands of missiles indiscriminately into Israeli population centers.

- Build terror tunnels to abduct Israeli citizens and conduct murderous rampages in it's cities.

- Send suicide bombers onto Israeli commuter buses and into pizzerias, cafes, and discotheques. 

There can be real peace--hopefully in our time--with a two-state solution once the Palestinians finally accept one and stop wanting to murder and drive the Jews into the sea! 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Reform The Movement

So was very glad to read this week about a top Sunni cleric who called for educational reform to combat "extremist violence."

Sheik Ahmend al-Tayeb, a grand imam in Cairo said "corrupt interpretations" of the Koran and of Muhammad was leading to a rise of Middle East-based terrorism. 


This to hopefully stem the flow of what is now being reported as 20,000 foreign fighters flocking to join ISIS


What is amazing here is that good Muslim people are recognizing the problem with radicalization, extremism, and violence and are speaking out. 


Yet, many of our own leaders in the Western world still refuse to say the dirty words "Islamic terrorism."


The President saying instead: "No religion is responsible for terrorism--people are responsible for violence and terrorism."


So perhaps, according to this "logic," no movement is responsible for what their people do--only the individuals are?


And therefore, accordingly, the Nazis would not be responsible for the Holocaust, nor America for Slavery, nor Communism for political purges, oppression, and violation of human rights, etc. etc. 


...in which case, there would be no apologies, no regrets, no reparations, no museums, no memorials, nothing--because this was just some individuals doing some bad things and those individuals are may no longer even be here with us. 


Doesn't this ignore the very basic and fundamental fact that when the masses follow a movement's (genuine or distorted) ideological teachings of hatred, racism, and discrimination, and the people act act nefariously on this, then does not the movement itself hold some responsibility for the murderous and evil actions committed based on their doctrine?


The Sheik who denounced terror and called for changes to the education in the Muslim community is recognizing what apparently many of our own leaders refuse to, which is that they--and we--are responsible for what is taught and tolerated in our communities. 


As Peggy Noonan recently wrote, "The reality is that the Islamic State is...very Islamic.


Currently, we are fighting a war on radical Islamic terrorism...whether that terror is committed on Charlie Hebdo, a Jewish grocery store, or the World Trade Centers. 


That does not mean that tomorrow, we are not fighting against some other movement's treachery.


This is why good people everywhere must stand up and speak out when they see religions, governments, institutions, or other movements preach and teach lies, hatred, and terror. 


Bad (or hijacked good) movements drive bad actors...so we must not only go after the bad guys, but also hold the movements themselves to account.


We must demand that the lies and distortions be called out for what they are and that truth and virtue be held up in its place. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Front Page Magazine)

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February 26, 2015

Discuss and Work Together, Respectfully

Everyone and their brother seems to be jumping on board to hit on Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of our "Major Strategic Ally" and friend, Israel. 

This after Netanyahu accepted an invitation from the United States Congress to speak about Iranian nukes threatening the State of Israel, the region, and the Western world. 


1) Iran, Israel and Arab Allies:


Truly, can anyone blame Israel and our Arab allies of being distressed that we are disavowing our 2011 commitment to them, as President Obama stated:


"You also see our commitment to our shared security in our...there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon...My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons."


Now we have as reported gone from preventing Iran on obtaining nuclear weapons to instead a possible agreement that still leaves thousands of Iran's nuclear centerfuges spinning and "sunsets" as early as 2025!


This is a lopsided turning of the tables on Israel and of our Arab allies for reapproachment with Axis of Evil, Iran


2) Russia and Ukraine:


But not alone are our Middle East allies in feeling abandoned by us, as we made security guarantees also to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that specifically committed the U.S., U.K. and Russia to:


"Respect the independence and sovereignty and existing border of Ukraine [and to] refrain from the threat or use of force."


Well so much for that as Crimea has now been annexed by Russia and battling rages across eastern Ukraine by Russian-supported separatists, despite a blantant violation of a truce recently brokered by France and Germany.


3) Poland and Czech Republic


Yet once again, with Poland and the Czech republic (members of NATA), we commited ourselves to building a missle shield only then to back away and seemingly abandon them


"In one of the biggest national security reversals of his young presidency, Mr. Obama cancelled...plans to station a radar facility [and]...ground-based interceptors."


Questions:


Why are we continually turning on longtime friends and allies and embracing enemies sworn to our destruction?


What do our commitments mean to anyone anymore and why shouldn't our shunted allies speak out, especially when it is their countries that are being placed in jeopardy?


Disrespect and Freedom of Speech:


What is also amazing is how low we have gone in our interactions such that we no longer discuss and disagree respectfully, but instead resort now to withholding security information, disgraceful name-calling (e.g. "Chickenshit"), discrediting, and even seeking to silence opposing views!


What has happened to our dearly held and constitutional rights and values for democracy, free speech, including openly debating issues and respecting differences of opinion?


Institutional Anti-Semitism:


Interesting also is how big and tough we are being on little Israel (population 8 million and about the size of the 5th smallest U.S. state of New Jersey)...


While simultaneously many seem to be proverbially (excuse the language) peeing their pants in front of the newly aggressive "Big Bear," Russia


What is more important when it comes to the dangers of a Iran with nuclear WMD--a longtime friend and ally Israel that is facing a potentially existential threat just 70 years after the Holocaust or getting an historical "award" for making an agreement (and a potentially bad one at that) with Iran?


Conclusion:


Behavior unbecoming, includes serially breaking commitments, silencing the opposition (uh, against our Constituion), name-calling and bullying, and endangering longtime allies and friends--this is not leadership and does not leave anyone a desired legacy. 


Let's openly and freely discuss and work together respectfully in true friendship and partnership, and get a good deal that safeguards the democracies of the United States and Israel. ;-)


(All Opinions my own.)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to blueforce4116)

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February 25, 2015

Is This A Genuine Partner For WMD Peace?


Everyone was speculating why Iran was building a 202 meter long life-size replica of a Nimitz Class U.S. Aircraft Carrier in the Persian Gulf.

Well today (as we are hear of "progress" with Iranian nuclear talks), we got our answer, as the Iranian military took the opportunity and blew the mock U.S. aircraft carrier to smithereens!


The commander of Iran's Navy stated: "The Americans, and the entire world, knows that the American Navy is one of our targets and it will take us 50 seconds to destroy every US warship."


At the same time, Iran is mulling over the purchase of a powerful anti-aircraft missile system from Russia.


So now Iran is going toward an agreement for a possible lifting of western financial sanctions and a 10-year nuke capability, and we are trusting them that it is for peaceful purposes?


Many of our major Middle East allies are concerned including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and more, and so much so that an Iranian nuke capability may "spark a nuclear arms race."


Hmm...why the desperation for a deal with "Axis of Evil," Iran amidst ongoing hostility and threats from Iran towards "The Great Satan," America, and all the express concerns of our longtime friends and allies? 


Now we won't just have deadly terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS to contend with across the region, but also a nuclear armed Iran--amidst regular threats to sink the U.S. Navy and annihilate Israel (and just 70 years after the Holocaust killed 6 million Jewish men, women, and children!).  


What have we learned about appeasement of dangerous foes and the unimaginable risks to millions of innocent lives around the world? ;-)

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February 23, 2015

Flying Garbage

Thought this was an interesting way to get the garbage to the curbside truck.

This guy is standing in the yard of this brownstone building in the leftover snow.

Almost like an Olympian, he is picking up bag after bag of garbage and tossing them at least a dozen feet (or more).

The garbage in these big hefty bags are sailing through the air to his partner standing by the truck in the street. 

This guy must be getting quite some exercise not only lifting, but also throwing these bags all day long.

And he actually seemed to be having some fun doing it too.

Like my wife said, "What if you get hit by the garbage...ew."

Fly garbage, fly! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Keep 'Em Clean

My friend's mother used to say to always make sure to wear clean underpants in case you end up at at the doctor or in the hospital. 

I guess that's some good advice.

In that context, I thought this was a funny post on facebook about how passwords are like underpants:

"Change them often, keep them private, and never share them with anyone."

Maybe you could add to this list as follows:

- Make them difficult to guess at. 

- Don't use the same one for every occassion.

- Never put them out there in a conspicuous way. 

- And require that you change them at least every 90 day. ;-)

(Source Photo: Facbook)

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February 22, 2015

Strange Leggings

Took this photo in the mall of this very strange looking pair of leggings. 

Sort of an ancient Egyptian style complete with princess, gold, and a cast of phony "G-ds"--sun, falcon, tiger, and more.  

Not sure who would actually wear these, but all the power to them. 

They are made so you "Walk like An Egyptian"--Go Bangles!

Can you hear me sing it?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 21, 2015

The Monster Under The Bed

For those familiar with Yiddish...

A shiksa is a non-Jewish girl and is sometimes used to refer to Jewish women that don't follow the commandments. 

A shegetz is a similar term used for a male. 

Is it a bad word? 

Well, let's just say it's not a term of endearment. :-)

I guess it's funny that everyone has terms for those who are not just like them.

Of course we all don't have to be and aren't the same, cut from the same mold.

But we all have to have respect for each other and get along. 

I think the worst part of people being different is not even the overt jokes or off-handed remarks which can certainly be hurtful, but much more the backdoor insinuations and aggressive behaviors. 

Lately, to be frank, it seems that ethnic and religious war is brewing big time in the world--anyone else notice?

Not regional, focused on oil and resources, long held dictatorships, human rights, or even "the Palestinian issue."

But rather what no one wants to talk about or confront, a battle of civilizations.

It is so scary, because this is there are big and powerful actors at play whether Russia or China playing for the world's leadership role (one overtly and the other covertly), Iran and North Korea freely wielding nukes and threateningly strutting "their stuff," and ISIS and Al Qaeda looking for the next budding caliphate and  imposition of Sharia law as far and as wide as they can take it.

East meets West, democracy vs. dictatorship, religion against religion, this thing is building up steam, pressure is rising, and the question is whether and how big this is about to blow.

Shhh, if we don't say the words or we pretend to "make nice" and give out jobs, dole out handouts, and use our drones, oh so discretely, maybe no one will notice. 

Are we being phobic about communism, radical Islam, budding economic and military might, and other differences, or are we pointing out what we are all perceiving, but greatly fear to face. 

When I saw recently that some wonderful Muslim people were surrounding synagogues in Europe, not to attack it, but rather to encircle it to defend it, I was not only in complete awe, but also realized how many good and righteous people there are out there.

These people are actually doing something about the injustices and power grabs they are witnessing, and not trying to obfuscate or opiate the masses. 

It's not just about being tolerant of others and stripping hatred from our hearts and lives, but about being truthful when others may choose not to be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Facebook)
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February 20, 2015

Learning To Compromise

My wife and I decided after living in the same condo for the last 15 years that maybe it was time for a change. 

There is a great area that we hang out in with workout, grocery, pharmacy, public transportation, and--most importantly to my wife--Starbucks--all right there.

So my wife made an appointment for us to look at this rental right above all the action....

The apartment was nice, modern, and best of all in this vibrant neighborhood--but on the smallish side (we would definitely be cramped) and with a substantial monthly. 

My wife, the perennial city dweller, loved it, and I didn't.

Next, my turn up, we went with a real estate broker to see a charm of a house--this was the one we'd "been waiting for," all these years. 

Solid, roomy, castle-like...but it would have some ongoing house maintenance things and was a little distance from public transportation (i.e. we'd mostly have to drive). 

This time, my wife hated it, and I loved it.

Back and forth--argue and debate--getting no where (this is a very egalitarian relationship--my wife tells me what to do!) :-)

Thinking about this, I say "Okay, let's compromise"--let's look for a more upscale and roomy condo that we can make our own but in the neighborhood she really likes (and yeah, I like it too). 

1-2-3, with a little searching, we find something online we like, and back to the real estate broker to make an appointment. 

This story is not over in terms of where (or if) we are going to move to, but along the way we continue to learn as a couple to get along, love each other, and of course, compromise. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 19, 2015

Ever Feel This Way?

I took this photo of an advertisement for the "I'm With Stupid" Minions movie released on February 2. 

Sadly, I think this sums up how I am feeling about current world affairs rapidly devolving into chaos, with little to nothing happening to bring it back from the brink:

- Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine forcibly take over the besieged city of Debaltseve in Ukraine, after the ceasefire that was agreed to last week.

- China builds four new fortress artificial islands in the South China Sea projecting it's military might in disputed waters.

- Iran threatens gas embargo on U.S.suicide missions on U.S. Navy, missile attack on Israel, and nuclear enrichment expansion while negotiating for a lifting of sanctions.

- Syrian fighting leaves over 250,000 dead and includes their "systematically" using chemical weapons

- ISIS burns another 45 people alive in Iraq, beheads 21 Coptic Christians abducted from Egypt, and commits mass "brutal and abnormal sex" on female captives.

- Boko Haram attack leaves another 2,000 dead in Nigeria (the world's 4th largest democracy) with "bodies scattered everywhere."

- Radical Islamists conduct terrors attacks in Europe in both France (Charlie Hebdo Magazine and a Jewish grocery store) and Copenhagen (a free speech event and a Synagogue).

- Dangerous terrorists apprehended and put away in the Guantanamo detention facility are then released with about 28% (or more) returning to their chosen terror professions. 

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal points to this sorry state of affairs and our retrenchment in world affairs, as a serious misalignment between the age-old guns and butter debate.

Maybe time for some smart people to get in on things. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 18, 2015

Stop Harassment Now

I took this photo on the Washington, D.C. Metro. 

"If It's Unwanted, It's Harassment."

Only a day or two later, some ladies came to me complaining that they had been harassed on the Metro.

Apparently, they had been on the platform waiting for a train and a young man was first staring at them, then coming around them menancingly, and then following them. 

Thank G-d, they got away, but it was a frightening situation that left them wanting to actually move away. 

Residents in the metro D.C area and customers of Metro should not have to ride in fear. 

We need more police and surveillance cameras on the Metro system now!

Signs are a great reminder, but law enforcement action is what is really needed and called for. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 17, 2015

From Stability Comes Instability

I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), "everything and the opposite."

I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 

Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites--males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 

Everything has a point and it's counterpoint.

It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.

But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.

So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it's very opposite, instability.

This happens because stability "leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability" (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).

Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.

It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 

The article in the Journal is called "Don't Fear The Bear Market," I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 

But the title sort of minimizes the corollary--Don't (overly) rejoice in the bull--because you know what comes next.

Go cautiously and humbly through life's swings.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 16, 2015

How To Give Employee Feedback

Finally some realism about how to conduct employee evaluations...

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past employees could expect that "we would bring them in and beat them down a bit."

But now, managers are expected to "scrap the negative feedback" and "extol staffers strengths" (accentuate the positives).

Companies are realizing that negative feedback does "more harm than good."

- You tick off the employee and ruin any positive relationship and trust. 
- The employee feels unappreciated, hurt, and in jeopardy. 
- Employees project their hurt feelings and accuse you of being the problem. 
- The deteriorating state makes them fear that you are working against them and they become unmotivated to try to do better.
- Instead, they spend their time working against you (and the company), and looking for another job. 

There is an old saying that you don't sh*t where you eat, and so it is with employee performance evaluations.

In over 25 years, I have never seen negative employees reviews produce positive results!

However, I have seen that sincerely praising everyones' best efforts, leveraging their strengths, and being thankful for what each person contributes makes a high performing team where people are loyal, want to work, and contribute their best. 

Everyone has weaknesses and problems, and frankly most people when they are being honest with themselves, know what their issues are. Pointing their face in it, doesn't help. (Have you ever told a fat person that they need to lose a few pounds?)

One idea that I did like from the Journal is called "feedforward," where you ask "employees to suggest ideas for their own improvement for the future."

This way each person can be introspective and growth as they mature and are ready, but not under threat, rather with support and encouragement. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 15, 2015

A Story Of Modesty

There was an very interesting article in the New York Times last month called "The Orthodox Sex Guru" that examined the life of Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish Sex Counselor.

Yes, you can be a religious person, but also be sexual!


In Judaism, sex is not only a physical act of procreation, but also of love and intimacy between two people within the larger framework of personal spirituality and G-dliness in the home.


Judaism teaches that sexual relations is a holy act and a "blessing, a union full of Shekinah, of G-d's light." In this holiness, husband and wife, as true soulmates and beloveds, live each one for the other, and always together with Hashem.


Part of this special relationship entails women maintaining a spiritual modesty by physically covering up their femininity and behaving with propriety, especially in mixed company. 


Of course, men need to behave with sexual rectitude as well (although just not as often--just kidding).


The article describes however that with extreme chastity perhaps, some people may become constrained in their sexuality and develop almost a type of "sexual aversion," rather than healthfully being able to experience the natural joy of love that G-d provided for us. 


In terms of proper modesty, there is a beautiful story recounted, as follows: 


One time, when the Jews were being persecuted by the Cossacks, there was a Jewish girl that was to be "roped to a horse and dragged through the streets" to death.  


But before the verdict was to be executed, "she manages to pin or sew her skirt to her lower legs, stitching fabric to flesh," so that she could maintain her modesty even under these unbelievably tortuous conditions. 


It is an amazing story to think how someone about to face such a cruel and horrible edict could still think about maintaining their modesty and dignity in the face of such horror.


Whether you cover yourself with a tichel (headscarf), a sheitel (wig) or everyday hat, dress modestly, and act with decency, the point is to remember that we are G-d's children and are to behave in a manner befitting soulful beings, and not mere animals. 


We can experience the love and joy between people, and do it with devotion for each other and in spiritual connection to the Almighty. ;-)


(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

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February 14, 2015

Extra Special Delivery

I took this photo in Washington D.C. of a bicycle messenger delivery with Valentine's Day treats.

He was carrying an assortment of balloons and gifts (those are hiding in the basket under the balloons)!

What do you think chocolate, flowers, or something even more romantic?

There is enough hate and hostility in the world. 

It's wonderful when love is in the air and people show each other that they really care. 

Going home from a day at work, and what can be nicer than someone waiting for you when you get there. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 13, 2015

tURNING yOUR dEVICE aGAINST yOU!

So interesting article in BBC about the Samsung's "Listening TV."

This TV has voice activated controls and they don't just take commands, but...


"If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."


So aside from hackers (and spies) being able to turn your phone and computer mics, cameras, and GPS location data on and off to surveil and eavesdrop on you, now the dumb television set can listen in as well. 


You can be heard, seen, and found...whether you know it or not. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal with eyes and ears from here and here with attribution to Firas and Simon James)

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February 12, 2015

Dancing Around Anti-Semitism+



The Washington Post yesterday stated that the President "suggested that the January attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris was in fact [just] jihadists 'randomly [shooting] a bunch of folks in a deli.'"

Hmm...are we having a difficult time being totally honest about important issues these days?

Maybe just a few examples would include, not calling:

- An anti-Semitic attack, anti-Semitism.

- A terrorist, a terrorist--such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, which are now merely an "armed insurgency."

- The fight against terrorism committed by Islamists, a fight with "radical Islam."

- ISIS for them to be destroyed anymore, only that we will "defeat them."

- Syria on the use of chemical weapons initially, saying only that if they did, "they would be held accountable" (remember that vanishing "red line").

- Iran a serious threat to nuclear non-proliferation and global peace saying, "It is not a nuclear power."

- Russia annexing Crimea, a threat to Europe and NATO, branding it just a "regional power" play. 

What can we expect in terms of blind hatred, racism, discrimination, anti-semitism and future terrorist attacks and war around the globe, when we can't even call a spade, a spade, anymore.  ;-)
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February 11, 2015

Tree Transplant

Getting a little tree transplant in cold, grey Washington, D.C. today. 

Sadly, the new trees, without any leaves, look more dead than alive. 

Sort of funny (-sad) how we pour infinite amounts of concrete and build up our cities, until there is little to no natural green spaces anymore (unless you get yourself to the neighborhood park or run on weekends to the burbs). 

We call in the tree transplant folks to line that narrow stip around our sidewalks with a few trees and we call it a day.

Urban sprawl is leaving us with stoic concrete and steel, but very little natural warmth and beauty. 

A few sad looking sapplings can't make up for the lush forests and living landscape that we're destroying. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 10, 2015

Live With The Eternal In Mind

I really like this saying.

I heard it this weekend on a popular television show at the burial of one of the characters. 


"What you see is temporal; what you don't see is eternal."


Everyday, we think we are living in the "real world," but this is just our mortal experience, one constrained by our senses and the dictates of time and space.


However, beyond this mere earthly experience and existence is the eternal G-d. 


Perhaps, we can take comfort and live a life of meaning, if our existence in the temporal world is always with the eternal in mind. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Terry Dennis)

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February 9, 2015

Homeless in DC

The plight of the homeless in DC, the nation's capital, continues unabetted. 

People homeless and hungry stumble down the steets with their carts of worldy possessions or sit on the corners begging for someone to help them. 

As these destitute and desperate souls look for some shelter, warmth, a place to rest, some clean clothes, medical care, or simply something to eat, they pass almost like ghosts throughtout the city. 

Most people running (late) to the office, seem to barely extend a glance as they sidestep and shuffle past these people, who I remember one unsavory colleague calling them, "human waste."

But these are G-d creatures, down on their luck, and they could be any one of us!

Does the city and the people, the powerful of the nation, have the heart to help those in need? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 8, 2015

Whiskey Pie

So I picked up a Powerball ticket this week...hard to resist with a jackpot of $360 million!

The store that sells the lottery tickets sells liquor.

I see these 3 bottles side-by-side.

And it's for whiskey.

The whiskey has cherry, pecan, or apple pie flavored liquor.

The ladies pictured on the bottles are sitting on the different pies. 

And this "Pie-oneering" whiskey is called Piehole!

70% proof, and makes for quite some table talk. 

Not surprisingly, they never has this at the kiddush in shule on Shabbat! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 7, 2015

A NATO In Shambles

For months and months now, we've seen Russia aggressing against the West and NATO cowering in fear of an escalation.

Russia is the largest country on Earth covering 9 time zones and they are truly a formidable bear. 

Recently, with the Russian blitzkrieg into Crimea, the West was taken by the surprise and the speed of the attack, as Russian helicopters, tanks, and soldiers violated the borders that were once Ukraine. 

At the same time, Russia attack planes and subs have been probing the skies and waters of Europe, and NATO has been feebly attempting to intercept them over and over again--always on the defense. 

Russia continues to upgrade their nukes and conducts nuclear games and brinksmanship, while the U.S. dismantles it's Cold War arsenals according to previous START treaty.

Last week, with the U.S considering light arms for the Ukrainians, the Russians warned that would cause "colossal damage" to ties. 

When the U.S. threatened to throw Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, we were warned, "Russian response -- economically and otherwise -- will know no limits."

But as Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, stated, "You can't provoke them. They're already on a path to do what they want to do."

While Russian Spetsnaz are pulling their country identifying insignia off their uniforms to make the world hesitate, question, and cower at those behind the masks, NATO is still grappling with plans on how to put together a simple rapid reactionary force of just 5,000 soldiers to get themselves together within 48 hours and then 25,000 troops within weeks. 

Uh, the battle or even the war may be over by the time our sleepy NATO gets it's boots on and muskets loaded. 

In the age of fiber optics and ICBMs steaming across the networks and skies, taking days and weeks to mobilize is b*llsh*t!

NATO cannot even get but 4 of it's 28 member nations to maintain the minimum 2% contribution to defense, because once defense is treated as belonging to the commons, the attitude is just let the others worry about it or the U.S. will provide the fallback for all anyway. 

While Russia only worries about Russia and moves in forward thrusts, NATO dances around trying not to get speared, because they theorize now it's only Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and so we don't want to antagonize the bear and end up being it's next dinner. 

But the Great Bear is hungry for power and respect, and as NATO runs and pees it's pants, the bear smells it's prey and is in fearless chase. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with Attribution to Crown, UK Defense Ministry)
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February 6, 2015

Stop Picking On ISIS!

ISIS is one of the most brutal and uncivilized enemies that we are now facing. 

Their tactics against their victims have included:

Beheading, burningtorturing, raping, crucifying, burying people alive, and abducting and selling children as sex slaves

Similar to Iran who threatens nuclear Armageddon on the West, and we seek to pacify them, make agreements, and unravel sanctions against them, with ISIS, our response again in the face of evil, has been tepid and now we are making excuses for their completely sick and immoral behavior.

At a National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, the President stated:

"Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."

Yes, that is why those times in history are referred to as "The Dark Ages," while in 2015, we are supposed to be a shining light of democracy, freedom and human rights.

The President also went on to cite Slavery and the Jim Crow [laws] as other examples. 

Hmm...interesting though, if you are going to cite examples already, why completely omit to mention the evils of the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jewish people in the most inhumane genocide of our times--just 70 years ago! 

Then again, what was the purpose of giving the examples that he did of other great historical misdeeds (and also leaving out other prominent ones) in the face of another great evil in our times. 

From the specific words, perhaps:

- It is to excuse it? (Get off your high horses)

- To give them some sort of pass?  (Other people have committed terrible deeds)

But should we be making excuses or giving a pass to ISIS and for that matter Iran (which has one of the world's worst records of human right abuses and has threatened to annihilate Israel and attack America) for their ongoing brutality, immorality, threats and terror?

Maybe what is correct here is that we should "get off our high horses," and INSTEAD finally consider putting some darn boots on the ground and some serious firepower with it to end this march of terror quickly, rather than excuse it, ever. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Tv9)
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