Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts

June 18, 2020

Freedom But Disparity

America is a great country.

The freedom, rights, and opportunities we have is exceptional and enviable in the world and history.

But the disparity between rich and poor, majorities and minorities is grotesque.

On one side of the street are the mansions, and on the other are the slums.

One on side of the train station are those going off to work, and on the other side are the homeless lying in the gutter.

On one side of the scale are people fat with money and power, and on the other side are people hungry and decaying.

Wealth is overflowing for those that are the fortunate, but also corruption runs systematically deep.

This isn't an issue of political party, but one of the righteousness of men's hearts.

G-d watches and man disappoints, but the the future is still wide open.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 30, 2020

Harris Teeter War Zone

Who would've thought that going to Harris Teeter would be a war zone. 

But this guy in the respirator mask is showing us how bad things can start to get. 

As an avid fan of the show The Walking Dead, I think we are entering TWD territory with the people walking around with their face's half covered and some looking sick with fear and worry or perhaps even with symptoms--who knows!

What is amazing is how things can go from boom to bust, and not just for our economy, but for life and civilization itself at the turn of a dime. 

Yesterday, I read how the CFO of Jefferies Group Investment Bank (NYC) died at age 56 from Coronavirus. 

Even as the Navy's hospital ships Mercy and Comfort enter the ports of Los Angeles and New York City to lend a hand and about 1,000 hospital beds each, it seems like more and more of these deadly cases are hitting the papers and social media every day.

Where does this sickness stop?   

What happens if the virus mutates again and become even more virulent?

How do we ever feel even remotely secure again?

Can we keep taxing our already overwhelmed healthcare system with more and more sick patients?

How long can we keep printing Monopoly bailout money (incredibly, there is talk of yet another multi-trillion Coronavirus stimulus bill even after we just passed this $2.2 trillion one last week)?

Eventually, as we all know circumstances can indeed overwhelm the health and financial systems, and even our governments...thank G-d we aren't there. 

But what we are all beginning to see in the midst of crisis is that "there" isn't really all that far away from "here."

...That life hangs by a truly thin thread. 

And because we can only do so much, this is where we really need to look up to the heavens and ask for G-d's help and mercy.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: my wonderful son-in-law, Itzchak)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 22, 2020

We Just Magically Found $2,000,000,000,000

It's amazing how we can magically find $2 trillion for a Coronavirus "Rescue Plan."

This after we already wasted over $6.4 trillion (and thousands of our dead and wounded) through 2017 in unexplainable and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no known or lasting benefits to this country (while archenemy, Iran continues their pursuit of nukes unabated). 

And for decades, we haven't been able to find money for:

- Decent healthcare for all Americans.

- Ensuring our national security, including adequate planning and disaster preparedness for things like Coronavirus, cybersecurity, WMDs, EMPs, and for critical infrastructure protection. 

- Repairing our aging roads, bridges, and infrastructure

- Fixing our broken public education system.

- Helping our countless of homeless and needy lying the streets of our nation. 

- Restoring our space program to get a man on the moon again or put another shuttle into space. 

When politics are in play, there is plenty of money to go around. 

But when the nation needs proper care and feeding, there are no adults in the room. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 4, 2020

Majestic Architecture of Department of Commerce



Some beautiful architecture at the Department of Commerce. 

The Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB). 

They don't make them like they used to. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

February 25, 2020

Corruptocrats

I heard this new term that I thought was worth sharing:
Corruptocrats

Refers to corrupt politicians. 

Couldn't believe it's actually in the dictionary. 

Not all of them are, obviously. 

Could it be a whole "political party" too? lol

If only everyone was pure of heart and intention. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal, and note that no disrespect intended to anyone)
Share/Save/Bookmark

February 13, 2020

Israel 2020: Day 4

Wow what an amazing day in Jerusalem!

We went to the Israel Museum (the best museum that I have ever been at), the Shrine of the Book with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the best part was a tour of the Israeli Knesset. 

One of the interesting facts that I learned was that the 120 seats in the Knesset is in the shape of the menorah, and I loved seeing Herzl's picture facing the speaker (front left).

Also, got to see the Israel Declaration of Independence with all the amazing signatories as well as the most beautiful Chagall paintings!

Inside the Knesset, all I could say to my wife is what a tremendous zechus (merit) it is to be able to be here today in this great hall where the modern laws of the State of Israel are made just as they were thousands of years ago by the Great Assembly of the Israelites.  

We are living in the most amazing of historical and religious times. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 13, 2020

Roosters or Homelessness?

So I had to drive into downtown Washington D.C. 

Along the way, I saw this colorful artistic rooster. 

I appreciate this quick pick-me-up from this. 

Yet, all around the streets were homeless people. 

One was literally collapsed on a narrow island between the opposing lanes of traffic.

Some horrible-looking food, rags of clothes, and two bottles of liquor lay next to him and one of his arm hang almost into the moving traffic. 

This was just one of many that I saw in abject poverty and desperation. 

So I really feel conflicted looking at this colorful rooster. 

What good is it when the people are homeless, sick, and starving? ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 12, 2019

Spider Man D.C.

This so reminded me of...
Spider Man, Spider Man, Does Whatever A Spider Can.

Veterans Day must be a great day to get your windows washed. 

Or to spin a web of intricate proportions in D.C. politics. 

Either way aside from the windows, what of significance is actually getting resolved in our partisan capital?

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 3, 2019

Key Federal Financial Management Terms

Below are some key Federal Financial Management Terms:
  • Authorization: Act of Congress that permits Federal programs or activities to exist and recommends funding levels.
  • Appropriation: Act of Congress to provide Federal agencies with budget authority to obligate government to future outlay of cash for a specific purposes and period of time. 
  • Commitment: An administrative reservation of funds by the financial controller or resource manager triggered by a procurement or purchase request.
  • Obligation: A legal reservation of funds that binds government to future expenditure and outlay of cash from the Treasury triggered by the signing of a contract, travel order, credit card transaction, etc. 
  • Expenditure: Issuance of a payment disbursement by electronic funds transfer, check, etc. 
  • Outlay: Payment of cash from Treasury to vendor to liquidate a financial obligation.
These should be helpful in understanding the Federal financial management processes. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

May 23, 2019

Alligator Govie

So this was a little surprising. 

In the courtyard (next to the cafeteria) at work, there is a nice seating area open during the Spring/Summer seasons. 

Pretty trees, flowers, and a pond. 

In the pond, next to the water lilies, there was a what?

Alligator.  

Not a full alligator.

But someone put an alligator's head in to make things interesting. 

It's nice at work when people are normal and have a sense of humor. 

An Alligator Govie that's what it is. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

February 10, 2019

The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 

The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one's country. 

Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 

While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 

Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 

But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:

- From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  

- With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 

- Just recently, we've seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 

- We have also seen many years of pay freezes--with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!

- The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 

- Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 

- There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 

- Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of "conduct" issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.

- The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 

While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 

For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 

Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country--from the front lines to the back offices--we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 12, 2019

Border Security - The Facts

So in this longest of U.S. government shutdowns, one thing that is missing from the debate are an articulation of the facts. 

All I hear day-in and -out is that President Trump wants to build a wall or barrier on the Southern border because there is a crisis. And the Democrats in turn say it's not necessary, it's a waste of money, and even that it's immoral, and that they will resist Trump!

But this is not a reasoned debate!

Who cares who wants what and who hates who in politics.

We need to be presented with a solid communication of facts, figures, and why should we support a position or not. 

Yes, an endorsement by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is helpful, but the opposition can just claim partisan politics. 

So here are some simple facts to inform the discussion:

Gun Trafficking:
- Over 253,000 guns annually cross the border from the U.S. to Mexico.

Drug Trafficking:
- Cartels send $64,000,000,000 of drugs annually from Mexico to U.S. 

Human Trafficking:
Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the U.S. 

Gang Members:
Almost 6,000 gang members in 2018 were deported by ICE.

Illegal Immigrants:
- The U.S. and Customer and Border Protection apprehended more than 500,000 illegals trying to enter in 2008, and there are between 12 to 22 million illegals in the U.S, today

Looking at these numbers, I am not sure how anyone can say that the current border situation is secure--it isn't. 

So whatever we are doing with agents, sensors, surveillance, intelligence, inspection, and interdiction --no matter how good it is--it is not enough. 

Certainly a request for Border Wall funding for $5 billion out of a $4.4 trillion dollar budget and placing barriers on hundreds of miles out of a 2,000 mile border, does not seem at all extreme!

While I do not like to be on a government shutdown, I certainly don't see why this can't be resolved with some reasoned border security funding that includes among the other security measures, a wall/barrier. 

A strategically-placed border barrier only stands to reason in a layered defense/system of systems approach to security. 

For some of those that don't want the wall, and only want votes from a broken immigration system, this is a fight for power, rather than a genuine argument on how to help secure the country. 

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 9, 2019

Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called "Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace."
"It is day 19 of this p-r-o-l-o-n-g-e-d Federal Government Shutdown. Having plenty of time on my hands today, I am debating which is actually easier to solve--the government shutdown or peace in the Middle East."

We may have to wait for the Messiah for both of these to be peaceful resolved. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 8, 2019

What Does A Government Shutdown Feel Like

So its day 18 of the Federal government shutdown. 

The first couple of weeks wasn't so bad, because it was the holidays and vacation time ("use or lose"), so I think most people didn't miss work that much. 

Also, people got paid at the end of December, since the pay cycle is on a two week lag.  

For the first part of the shutdown, there is errands to run and things to catch up on--those things that you always wish you had the time for and well now you do. 

But by now, you've already done those errands and cleaned your house and car, shinned up your shoes, and even caught up on some reading. 

Then we also have the missed payroll coming at the end of the week. For those families that are on a single income, this is particularly hard, and even where one partner is working, still your income in cut in half. 

You can't go out shopping like this!

You also can't go anywhere--like away--because you need to be available to be back at work on a day's notice--whether or not it looks like that day is ever coming or not!

Another concern for those that care about their work and getting things accomplished, is that work is like a moving train, and when there is momentum, things can get done--even at the "pace of government."  But when you come to a full stop like this for an extended period of time, then it will definitely take some time to get everyone back on board the train and for it to get moving at a decent clip again.  Let's face it, you can't just turn people on and off like a light switch--you're dealing with human beings with feelings, plans, and bills. 

Maybe the worst part about the shutdown is feeling like a pawn in the big boys and girls game of Washington Politics--even if you feel the border wall is important, which I certainly do, as federal employee, you still don't want to feel like the sacrificial lamb. 

Why Congress and the President can't compromise and give the $5 billion for the wall for something in return like immigration reform or even just give half and call it a day is really beyond my comprehension. 

Out of our $4.4 trillion a year federal budget, how does it make any sense to begrudge a couple of billion for a wall to bring order to the chaos at our southern border--can anyway say "caravan?" 

Let's face it, drug smuggling, human trafficking, dangerous gangs and terrorists, and illegal crossings have no place in a civilized country, especially the United States of America.  

At some point, our politicians seem to have lost their passion for and dedication to what's actually good for America and instead replaced it with identity politics and a sick insatiable greed for power, plain and simple. 

All sides need to be patriots and not political kingpins, and they need to give a little to get a little for the betterment of our country overall--maybe then we can move forward. 

And by the way, it would be great at some point to let us go back to work and do our jobs. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 6, 2018

A Three-Party System

Yeah, these signs say a lot about our two-party system of government. 
"Republican: Because everyone can't be on welfare."

"Democrat: Because everyone can't be greedy."

Sort of the age old story of competing interests. 

Certainly also a good dose of Fear vs. Greed. 

And where the rich get richer and the poor get welfare.

It's good to have the 2 extremes of the political thinking spectrum, because it shows us perhaps where the middle is. 

Neither extreme is good, but rather it's a balancing act. 

We can't have more than 50% of the wealth owned by the top 1% of the people. 

And we can't have everyone on entitlements where no one is working, innovating, and producing. 

Yes of course, some people will have more than others and some people will need help. 

There needs to be motivation to "get ahead" and there must be a social safety net for when bad things happen. 

This is life.

But the to extent that we can have the most people in respectable jobs earning a reasonable (true living) wage and that there is equitable prosperity to go around for everyone--this is ideal.

Really 2-parties is not enough, because extremes tend to get more extreme--this is the momentum of polarization and politicization until the extremes tear us apart. 

Instead we need a strong centrist party (or parties)--that can not only play to, but also execute the middle of the road approach. 

It's not all or nothing, but rather compromise to a logical and reasonable solution on every issue. 

No, we don't want to get rid of ICE, and we don't want open borders. 

No we don't want entitlements that bankrupt the nation, and we don't want people down on their luck going needy. 

No, we don't want women who have been raped or incested or otherwise can't raise their children being forced to have them, and we don't want babies being murdered in the late stages of pregnancy. 

No we don't want to blow up the planet, and we don't want our enemies besting us. 

We don't want pollution in our air, water, and streets, and we don't want to strangle the economy with endless and mindless regulation. 

And on and on. 

It's high time to move to the center where common sense reigns.

It overdue to have a legitimate 3+ party system that talks real solutions to the people. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 4, 2018

January 21, 2018

1-2-3-4 Open Up The Government's Doors

1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

     5-6-7-8 Let our nation operate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

     5-6-7-8 Fix our broken directorate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's Doors

    5-6-7-8 Better for us to negotiate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Get things done for Goodness sake


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 We have no more time to cogitate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Get the employees back to progress the state


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Blaming each other only exasperate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors


    5-6-7-8 Democracy means we must work it out


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Polarized politics destroys our clout


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors
   
    5-6-7-8 The people are sick and tired of this useless way


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Terms limits are needed to sway


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Dysfunctional government can't continue unabate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

   5-6-7-8 We're sick and tired of ignoring realpolitik


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

   5-6-7-8 Grow up and show some unifying leadership


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Finally put people's needs first


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Stop playing with our country's fate


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 National security and our economy depend on it


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 It's time to get things done and not wait


1-2-3-4 Open up the government's doors

    5-6-7-8 Serve the people and cut out the hate

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 12, 2018

Washington Democracy

Nice photo of the Capitol, the Reflecting Pool, and the Botanical Gardens.

Even in cold January in Washington, DC, it is a mighty impressive sight. 

Some of the most important lessons for me:

Democracy never ceases as long as the people rule, freedom is protected, and human rights is respected.

Those in power have an even greater responsibility to ensure they do the right thing and maintain the utmost integrity.  

We have a lot to live up to!

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend and MLK holiday.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 29, 2017

Dysfunction Society

So the world is continuing to go nuts--and it's like everyone is behaving like Negan from The Walking Dead!

North Korea has achieved ICBM capability with a missile launch yesterday to 2,800 miles altitude—11 times higher than the International Space Station—giving Axis of Evil, North Korea the ability to now hit Washington, D.C.!

At the same time, a career civil servant tries to pull a fast one on the Trump Administration—challenging the President’s right to appoint an Acting Director over the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which is part of the Executive Branch of government—and hoping that the Senate then won’t confirm Trump’s new appointee for Director, all of which would leave her in charge of CFPB for the next 3 years!  Of course, the courts don’t see it her way, but as the Wall Street Journal noted her coup attempt is definitely something to take note of in democratic, America.

In the background, the Democrats and Republicans continue to beat each other silly and senseless, and not only with stalled legislation on almost every front from Healthcare to Immigration, but now minority leaders Schumer and Pelosi are even refusing to meet with the President over enacting a government budget leading us to another looming government shutdown in December…we can’t seem to keep the government functional or even running for the most powerful nation on Earth.   

Finally, Bitcoin—an artificial computer-generated currency, advanced 1,000-fold this year to hit $10,000! Talking about another financial bubble reminiscent of the manic investment in tulips in the 17th century. What’s the value of Bitcoin or sunflowers? Whatever you want it to be! It’s not about the technology, which may be great, but rather the phony valuing of cryptocurrency, which few understand, and we all know how these bubbles end.  

So overall, we have national security, the administration of our government, and economic stability all in grossly abnormal territory. 

When things get this crazy, eventually you can be sure that something will first start to crack and then potentialy really break, and when it does, will we see more Negan with his brain-bashing baseball bat, Lucille? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

October 21, 2017

The Origin of Government In The Bible


Thought this was a really interesting speech by the Rabbi Haim Ovadia in synagogue today.

The origin of government and the function/dysfunction of society and rule of law is rooted in the in beginnings of mankind as told in the Bible/Torah. 

Starting with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden -- This was pretty much anarchy with only one law at the time not to eat the apple from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. 

Then in Noah's Generation - There was oligarchy with roaming gangs that took the women and committed wickedness. 

Followed by the Tower of Babel -- This was communism with everyone united to build and have a common property, a great city and tower reaching to the heavens.

Subsequently Sodom & Gomorrah - This was capitalism with people looking after their own selves and cities, getting spoiled of their material goods, and committing all manner of vices. 

And only then in the time of Abraham - There arose democracy with G-d electing Abraham and the Israelites based on lovingkindness and charity. 

As we know from the Bible and can see in the chart above, only democracy resulted in blessings for all of mankind.  

Yes, the election in the bible was made by G-d, but the notion is one based on "elected" representatives that do good and are a light for the whole world--so no, dictators need not apply!

The Bible is truly a blueprint for us as to how we can live our lives as well as how we can govern the world effectively . ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark