March 26, 2015

Country Landscape

I like this beautiful painting of a countryside landscape. 

The vibrant fall colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.

The tops of the houses and steeple jutting up from the lush foliage. 

The bluish-green mountains in the background, the wavy blue water lined by white sand on the upper left, and the light blue sky with clear white clouds at the very top. 

It's a little bit of Heaven right here on Earth.

Where peace, prosperity, and health are abundant and prevail.

G-d should bless us. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 25, 2015

The Geometric Desk

Thought this desk was really nice. 

Professional, clean, hardwood, and very polished!

Not overly large, but I  liked the geometry of this thing, which made up for it.

The square draws on one side and the inverted cone on the other--very cool.

Great design, and seemingly good quality for home or office. 

Made in America? That would be especially nice (let's bring the manufacturing home!)  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 24, 2015

Hmm...A Nuke Deal With Iran--Just Ask Why?

Here are 10 simple points any reasonable person would ask about a Nuke deal with Iran:

HATRED OF AMERICA--THEIR ENEMY #1:


1) Iran, of the Axis Of Evil, considers "The Great Satan" (as they call America) their "number one enemy", they chant "Death to America," and even hang our President in effigy.


MURDERING AND THREATENING TO RAIN DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ON AMERICANS:


2) Iran threatened brutal attacks on America as well as on the President's family, and Iranian military documents endorse a devastating EMP attack on the United States

3) Iran says it will destroy the U.S. Navy, and destroyed a mock U.S. aircraft carrier in February!
4) Iran held our diplomats hostage for 444 days
5) Iran through it's proxy Hezbolah killed 241 U.S. Marines in the Lebanon suicide attack.

DENYING THE HOLOCAUST AND THREATENING ANNIHILATION OF ISRAEL:


6) Iran threatens to annihilate Israel.

7) Iran is a leading denier of the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews were murdered just 70 years ago. 

THE WORLD'S LEADING SPONSOR OF TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES:


8) Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism worldwide.

9) Iran is the worst human rights offender in the world today.

ONGOING DEFIANCE OF THE WORLD ON NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION ACTIVITIES:


10) Iran continues to hide their dangerous nuclear activites from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), even as they profess cooperation, seek a lifting of sanctions and legitimacy for their nuke program. 


(All opinions my own)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to MEMRI via Fox News)

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Building and Flowers

Thought this painting of this gorgeous Spanish-styled building intermeshed with beautiful flowers was magnificant. 

I saw this hanging in a high-end home decor store around Washington, D.C. 

I like the side-looking angle upward as the building rises and peaks.

Also, all the shapes with squares, spheres, columns, archways and more along with all the brillant colors around it makes this something special to look at.

Hope you enjoy it! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 23, 2015

Respect The Legs

I took this photo of this statue of a lady perched up high on a column.

It's an interesting (yet in my estimation a somewhat demeaning) view of femininity as demonstrated by the relatively small body, but oversized crossed-over legs. 

Perhaps the artist thinks this is sexy or provocative...

Or maybe it's just a relaxing pose with head high and back and arm behind her head.

Either way, you've got to respect those legs, and of course, the woman. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 22, 2015

10 Reasons In Just 1 Week To Fear Government Breakdown

When I saw this in the store, I knew it was a true sign of the times, as they say. 

When the government that is supposed to sustain order and usher in social and economic progress is dysfunctional and broken, instead we have:


"Chaos, Panic, [and] Disorder"


Here's some news highlights from just this last week:


SPREADING BASE OF WORLDWIDE TERRORISM


1) ISIS murdered 137 and wounded over 300 in suicide bombings at mosques in Yemen.


2) Al Qaeda / Islamic State killed 23 mostly European tourists and injured over 50 at attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia.


3) Iraq's battle to take back Tikrit from ISIS slows as ISIS continues to hold territory in Iraq and Syria larger than many countries--this after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. 


AGGRESSIVE POWER AND LAND GRABS:


4) Russia annexes South Ossetia from Georgia, just a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.


5) China starts up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with support from key European Countries as well as Australia and South Korea, challenging American dominance via the International Monetary Fund (IMF)--this shortly after China surpasses America as the world largest economy.


PROLIFERATION OF WMD:


6) Iran says "Nuclear deal within reach," while their neighbors in the Middle East shutter and warn of impending nuclear arms race.


FORESAKING STALWART ALLIES AND MIDDLE EAST PEACE:


7) The Administration threatens to back United Nations against Israel, imposing a 2 state solution rather than a negotiated peace and security for the region. 


ECONOMIC MESS:


8) U.S. economic forecast by the Fed was downgraded to just 2.5%, despite years of near-zero interest rates that were supposed to spark growth, but instead has simply driven stocks into overdrive and set us up for another bursting of the financial bubble


HEALTHCARE SHAMBLES:


9) Upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare could see 8 million people lose subsidies and ultimately their health insurance coverage.


ENVORNMENTAL CRISIS:


10) 2014 as the hottest year on record and 13 of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century so far, this as even Chinese officials acknowledge looming fallout ahead in terms of climate change and disasters


If this is just one (more) week with the current breakdown of government,  those causing it all, as the sign states, can proclaim:


"My Work Here Is [Almost] Done."
 ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 21, 2015

When You're Feeling Blue...

I was intrigued by this "Rescue Gum." 

Whole Foods carries this bright yellow-packaged gum pack (17 pieces), selling it at checkout for just $6.99.


Thinking, they should probably sell this right next to the fruit-flavored "Life Savers."


So this gum is for stress relief, and it's made with 5 flower remedies.

Do you believe in that? 


When I looked this gum up online, it says:


- "Keep out of reach of children.


- If pregnant or breastfeeding, ask a health professional before use.


- Excessive consumption may induce mildly laxative effects.


- Not suitable for animals."


Okay, so if you weren't stressed out before reading the warning on this gum, you are now, right? 


I think I'll pass on the rescue gum, and head over to the hot bar in the back for some seitan and veggies. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 20, 2015

Death To PowerPoint

Ok, we've all heard of "Death by PowerPoint" (well, I'm advocating death to PowerPoint).

It's the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever--get them off that podium)!

Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don't know what or how to present at all. 

Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.

But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.

Hello out there, tell the truth...

Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?

Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.

Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can't remember any of it--natural selection of memory saves you the pain...why thank you.

Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.

- Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life's lesson.

- Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.

- How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.

Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.

Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation--you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?

- I love you--will you marry me?

- We're having a baby, how wonderful. 

- Just got that promotion, yes!

- So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 

PowerPoint just doesn't happen here in real life--thank G-d!

And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint...(ah, nope).

Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 

The greatest orators in history...never used a slide presentation.

Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn't pan out to well either...see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?

PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction...now I don't have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.

The bottom line...we don't listen with our eyes!

Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.

The rest is PowerPoint... ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris Pirillo)
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March 19, 2015

What Type Of IT Error Was That?

So true story...

One of my collegues was giving me a status on an IT problem in the office. 

With a very straight face, he goes, "Yeah, it was an I.D. 10 T error!"

I'm just looking at him with a sort of blank face (I must have been emanating something like, "What are you talking about Willis?")

And he repeats, "An I.D. 10 T error...uh?"

Ok, one more time, I haven't had my coffee yet.

So he goes dotting his head, "What you haven't heard about an I.D. 10 T error?"

"All right, you got me...What is an I.D. 10 T error."

And as I'm saying it out loud and visioning it on paper, his little joke is out of the box.

Hey cut me some slack, I'm a Jewish kid from the Bronx and so I innocently say, "An IDIOT Error?"

Now he's nodding his head up and down in excitement, "An end user--IDIOT--error!"

And he starts laughing his head off. 

Ok boys and girls in IT...rule #16 of office etiquette, please don't call the end-users, idiots.

Back to customer service (and sensitivity) training for some of the jokesters on the team... ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 18, 2015

Seeing Double

I had to do a double take seeing this yesterday in D.C.

No this is not someone leaning up against a mirror.

This is two people, back-to-back on the train.

They have the same jacket, haircut, glasses, as well as pants and shoes (although you can't see these in the picture). 

They are looking in same general direction. 

The only difference is the collar that's up on the guy on the right. 

Imagine if we all looked and dressed and even acted identically...one big homogeneous and ultimately boring and uncreative society.

Please give me some individualism, spontaneity, and make me whole. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 17, 2015

Everyday, A Catch-22

I took this photo of this guys' cool Catch-22 bag on the Metro in Washington, D.C. yesterday. 

Catch-22 was made famous in the book of the said name by Joseph Heller.

Essentially a Catch-22 is an unsolvable problem.

In the book for example, military servicemen in WWII can apply for a discharge if they are verifiably crazy, but the sheer act of applying for a discharge shows you are not crazy. 

Other examples of a Catch-22 are locking your keys in the car and you can't unlock the door to get them or losing your glasses but now you can't look for them.

In life, it seems like we are constantly facing Catch-22's, however not solving them is not an option...we must come up with a workable solution.

At work and in school, we compete to get ahead, yet we must team, cooperate, and collaborate with those very same folks that we are competing with. 

At home with children, we need to teach our children often difficult lessons of right and wrong, patience, discipline, and safety, even while we have overflowing feelings of love for them and just want to hug them and give in to them. 

With spouses, as our love and lives build over the years, we grow together and become ever more interdependent on our partners, yet we need to maintain some healthy independence and self at the same time. 

With career, are we advance ourselves so that we can provide well for our families, we must balance work-life, so that we aren't just bringing home a paycheck, but are actually emotionally there for our loved ones. 

The list of life's conundrums goes on and on, but rather than throw up our hands in defeat, we have to fight on and come up with solutions that are best fit to the challenges we face...there is no discharge just because you feel crazed or need to confront something hard...you need to solve the dilema and then you can go home. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 16, 2015

Lying Around D.C.

I took this picture in downtown Washington, D.C.

Not sure what this guy (is it a guy?) is doing lying around on the street. 

Is he abandoned, homeless, a little tipsy, or just taking a break out of a busy day?

Funny that he looks like he's giving passerbys the thumbs up. 

Also, he seems to have a funny smile on his face--like he knows something, hmm.

What do you think he's doing in the Capital? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 15, 2015

Best Animated Shoes


These are some very cool shoes--different!

My daughter found these on Youtube 

They are made by this unboring shoe company in the U.K. called Irregular Choice.

Walking on the back of a dragon cannot be a bad thing. 

Stepping alternatively on the bride and groom--maybe an interesting perspective on the ins and outs of marriage. 

They also have a neat pair of Panda shoes. 

Check these out, I think you'll look cool and really like it. ;-)
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March 14, 2015

Moving And Emotional

So we are supposed to be moving in a few weeks, G-d willing. 

Not going far, but after 15 years in the same home, it's time. 

We found a place that we like and could agree on...following primarily the rule of thumb on location, location, location.

Lot's of places to shop, eat, workout, play, and pray. 

And close to public transportation...and of course, good 'ol work--his and hers.

As we're preparing for the move, there seems like a million things to do to get ready, but the hardest is figuring out what to take and what to leave. 

My friend told me to throw out half, and then come back and throw out the other half. 

You know what, a little extreme, but not a bad idea. 

So as I am going through things I bought or saved over the years, I am left scratching my head at what was I thinking for many of them, and for many of the memorable items that I can't believe any of this really happened. 

It's emotional looking back, and it's emotional looking forward--just different emotions.

Back--yes, where did the years go and with that regret for mistakes made, but also joy at things accomplished, lives touched, and beautiful memories made with people I really love. 

Forward--Oy, am I getting older (well, still middle age but...), there is excitement for what comes next, also some anxiety there--I hope all goes well, please G-d--and then there is the acknowledgement that it's not forever, and I better make the most of every moment of every day. 

My father used to tell me, when you are with those you love, you can live in a tee-pee and be happy...and I believe he was absolutely right. 

Moving to my next tee-pee with those precious to me...I don't care so much where, but just that we are together and happy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 13, 2015

Obstruction Or Progress At Last

We all hate people who are obstructionist to what we consider progress.

The problem is not everyone defines progress the same way.

Progress to one may be hugely regressive to someone else.

So when 47 senators sent a cautionary letter to Iran's leadership this week about making a deal on nukes, which perhaps comes down to less now for more later...

- Some called it obstructionist to the negotiations and even a potential violation of the Logan Act.

- While others saw it as progress in bringing us back from the brink of a dangerous and (very) bad deal involving legitimizing weapons of mass destruction for a dangerous regime to all.

Two partisan sides to every story...and each side capitalizes on theirs.  

"That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!"

But history inevitably tells the true story (or closer to it) based on the outcomes of action or inaction (aka acts of commission and omission).

With the tornado of spin from the pundits on news, news, and more news, someone reminded me of the adage:

"Liar, liar pants on fire" 

or 

"Don't believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see." ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 10, 2015

Teats or Not

So I heard a new phrase from one of my colleagues recently...

He goes on about somebody (or something) being like "2 teats on a bull!"

I've always wanted to spend some serious time on a farm...but never really have had the opportunity to learn about that whole rural world, and I'm like what????

But I got it, and didn't really like it. 

Sort of a harsh way to call someone out as a useless piece of [you know what]!

I've heard kids joke about "man boobs" and I sure you can guess what those unflattering things are on a male.

Too often, we write people off without giving them a real chance!

While perhaps, there can be useless appendages through genetics or illness, there are no fundamentally useless people (although maybe some can be troubled, dejected, in a bad fit, etc.).

More often, there are unflattering comments from others who don't appreciate differences or see clearly what each person can "bring to the table."

Let's just say, if G-d created someone, there is reason and purpose to their lives, and we need to understand and appreciate them for their value. 

It may take (some) exploration, but everyone has strengths (as well as weaknesses--we're all human) and we can find what each person is good at, cultivate it, and leverage it for the good. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Carol Von Canon)
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March 8, 2015

Celebrating International Women's Day

Just want to recognize all the wonderful women who have touched my life:

My beautiful wife and daughters.

Also my beloved mother and grandmothers A'H.

As well as friends and colleagues. 

I still remember the saying I used to hear growing up that girls are "sugar and spice and everything nice!"

In the bible, women are men's "ezer kenegdo" literally translated as helpmates, and figuratively as companions. 

There is a nice Jewish teaching that the word "kenegdo" has a double meaning that if a man is good then the women stands as his aide, but if he is bad that she stands against him--so men have to merit the love and kindness of their wives, and not just expect it, dutifully. 

An interesting article written by Melvin Konner in the Wall Street Journal says that with women taking over more and more leadership roles in the workplace and in politics, the world will be a better place!

What served men well in a hunter-gather society--the male testosterone-driven biology--prepares men well for physical aggression, reproduction, and dominance, but also leads to overreaction to small threats, exaggerated violence, and recklessness that has brought "war, corruption, and scandal."

However, in the current information technology society that we now live in, men's physical strength and prowess is largely obsolete replaced by machines, robots, and drones. And women's emancipation and rise to positions of power has led to situations where saner heads and compromise prevail, and as Senator Susan Collins (Maine) said:

"While male colleagues cross their arms and sulked, women crossed the aisles with phone calls, emails, and social media."

From my experience, women can actually be the fiercer gender (testosterone or not), and a wise man does not mess with them! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 7, 2015

Even If You Can't Get To The Beach

During the big snow storm this week, what better to do then to cozy up with a nice 500 piece puzzle set of an Island Beach (and dream of being there--somewhere warm and fun). 

The challenge with this puzzle was in differentiating the oodles of pieces making up the blue sky from those of the blue water. 

Similarly, with all the green pieces for the palm trees and all the white ones for the sand. 

It seemed as if all the pieces were just shades of similar colors, and hard to differentiate between them. 

But my daughter is so smart and determined.

First, she strategically separated out the pieces with the edges and put the whole frame together.

Then, she organized the rest of the pieces by their associated colors, so sky blue pieces would be in one pile and distinct from ocean blue pieces in another one and so on. 

As you can see, all that's left is to finish off the sky, and it's done.

I was able to find a few pieces, but I'm better laying at the beach, then putting one together. 

Just two more weeks to Spring...thank you G-d. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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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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