Happy 4th From Washington DC

fourth of july

Go Independence Day!


But what does it mean?


We are independent from British rule since 1776.  


That made us a free nation.


We are free to be…but be what? 


1) Safe and Secure – Have a strong military, intelligence, and homeland security to keep the peace or compromise on national security and make bad deals for political expediency and face the consequences by a host of crazed terrorist threats, a nuclear Iran, a belligerent North Korea, a bellicose Russia, or a rising confrontational China. 


2) Prosperous And Self-Sufficient – Strengthen education, encourage innovation, invest in research and development and advanced manufacturing, cultivate a motivated and capable workforce, and manage a fiscally responsible economy or spend recklessly and indiscriminately driven by pork-barrel politics and special interests and eventually bankrupt our richly-endowed nation.


3) Equal And With Fundamental Human Rights – Ensure equality and opportunity for everyone under the law, where everyone has respect and dignity and the protection of basic human rights or discriminate in large and small ways perpetuating the have and have nots in every fiber of our society, where the rich get sickeningly richer and for everyone else you’re sh*t out of luck. 


4) Socially Just – Provide for a just and fair society ensuring that people are duly protected and crime does not pay or irresponsibly live in managed chaos and let violent criminals back out on the streets in a revolving door of recidivism rather than rehabilitation. 


5) Environmentally Responsible – Safeguard our environment and natural resources, invest in renewable energy resources and sustainability, reduce, reuse, and recycle, and give a hoot and don’t pollute or just pig out now and leave an inhospitable gutted world for later. 


6) Democratically Governed – Rule with righteousness and integrity, give back to the people, be open and honest, listen to all sides and ensure a balanced fair approach or perpetuate lies, deceit, corruption, conspiracy, fraud, waste, and abuse. 


Not everyone in the world is so lucky to be free.


Maybe this Independence Day, we think not just about the new Terminator movie, shopping at the mall, and feasting at the BBQ, but also what we want this treasured freedom to mean, what our “leaders” are leading us to, and are we getting the freedom we all, as human beings under G-d, innately deserve.


We can definitely raise the bar and we should. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Time Runs Out – What Are We To Believe?

Lama

Time runs out, but we are still chasing highly elusive goals (just some examples): 


1) Iran – Time runs out on deadline for a nuke deal even after “the framework” was supposedly set three months ago. And as Iran’s Supreme Leader and the Iranian Parliament chant death to America, can we really believe that Iran will ever truly give up their pusuit of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (and terrorism) to use on you know who?  


2) Greece – Time runs out on an extension of more Greek bailout funds, and they default on payment to the International Monetary Fund potentially leading to their exit from the Euro and the EU. With a Greek debt of $271 billion, can we really believe they will ever be able to repay this? 


3) Social Security and Medicare – Time is running out on the solvency of our own social entitlement system in the U.S.  For example, the Social Security Disability Trust Fund runs dry already next year in 2016, Medicare is exhausted by 2030 and Social Security by 2033. With just 16 and 19 years of funding left for these major programs that tens of millions depend on, can we really believe that magically we will dig our way out of this mega mess of a financial hole? 


4) Global Warming – Time is running out on cutting carbon emissions leading to global warming and catastrophic climate change. With global warming denial still in vogue and reluctance by the industrial nations to significantly cut back on emissions in time, can we really believe that catastrophic enviornment damage will be averted? 


5) War – Time is runing out as potential for eventual war looms on the horizon with China, says respected DoD Futurist, Peter Singer. With disputes in the South China Sea and with Taiwan, China bulking up on advanced weapons, and the U.S. pivoting to Asia, the fears of a serious confrontation are there. Similarly, with Russia and it’s annexation of Crimea and ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine, threats to it’s Balkan neighbors, confrontations on the European borders, and an increasingly nuclear and militant Russia, the Cold War is heating up. The last world war ended 70 years ago, can we really believe that the peace will continue to prevail with powerful adversaries in turbulent and uncertain times? 


Yes, hopes and dreams are important, but real concrete action is too or time will simply run out and then what? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Can’t Find My Dentures

Dentures
This was a funny sign this morning in the elevator.



Someone found a set of dentures on the table in the lobby!



Uh, what was someone doing taking out their dentures and putting them on a public table in the lobby? 



I remember my beloved Opa (grandfather) who had quite a set of dentures (years ago they couldn’t as readily save people’s teeth as they can today). 



When my sister and I would go over to my Opa and Oma for Shabbat lunch after synagogue, and sometime right before Birchas Hamazon (grace after meals), my grandfather would invariably end up taking out his dentures and we would all laugh together at how silly those things looked. 



But thank G-d for those dentures, beause I don’t know how people would eat solid food or smile a non-gummy smile without them. 



Of course, I hope whoever lost their dentures in the lobby isn’t going crazy searching for them, sees the lost and found sign, and claims them soon. 



Anyway, can you imagine going down to the lobby and seeing someone’s false teeth just laying there randomly on the table or when they go to the front desk to claim their lost dentures, and the person behind the desk says, “Well Sir (or Madam), can you put them in your mouth and prove that they are yours?” ;-)



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Beautiful Currency For A Thriving Modern Nation

Money

So why is our dollar bill so darn green, grimmy, germy, and generally ugly-looking?


I took this photo of a painting of a pretty nicely designed (mock) $2 bill. 


Red, white, and blue–that’s cool. 


Distinct, bold, shiny, and clean–now we’re talking. 


We could have other bills in other color combinations, like Canada does–and it would be befitting to have a nice gold/silver combination for the really big bills.


And how about some modern representation of our republic–our technology, space exploration, medical achievements, advanced manufacturing, military prowess, world philanthropy, etc. 


Also, please-please weave in some antimicrobial agents to protect the people from all the sick germs being spread around on these things. 


If we already need physical currency and won’t accept the transition to credit/debit cards, Apple Pay, and bitcoins, then at least make the dollar bill something to be proud of. 


We’re so worried about whose picture (and gender–okay, it really is time for a women to be honored) is on or off the bill that we forget what the rest of it actually looks like. 


Obsviously with physical money, you need to build in security every which way to Sunday, but it’s still a counterfeiting and money laundering nightmare, and we should be focused on cybersecurity where literally our whole financial system (and democracy) is in peril. 


Who really needs the physical greenback anymore unless your a bad person doing black market, under the table, shady deals anyway–for the rest of us, it’s time to get with digital currency.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Eye On Jacket

Eye

I took this photo of a women’s jacket with a big blue eye on on the back. 


Thought this design was truly eye-catching!


Wonder how many women out there would actually wear something like this.


Is this alluring or freakish?


Got to love fashion, especially when it pushes the bounds and makes us take a second look or think about how cool is that.  ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Supreme Court Of People and Of Heaven

White House Rainbow

So yes, I am a firm believer in live and let live. 


That goes for long time friends that have actually converted away from our cherished Jewish traditions to friends or relatives that choose a gay or lesbian lifestyle–it’s their choice!


And everyone has free choice to do what they think is right–that is the nature of free choice–if we weren’t free to choose, then how could we be responsible for our choices?


But what I am confused about sincerely with the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is not the concept of where everyone is equal under the law, but the open contradiction with the Torah (Biblical) texts that I am familiar with since I was a child in Yeshiva:


1) Leviticus 18:22–“Thou shalt not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 


2) Leviticus 20:13–“If a male lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death, their blood is upon them.”


I understand that many advocating for gays and lesbians have explained these texts as no longer applicable today (ref: Huffington Post):


– That the Biblical passages “do not refer to homosexuality as we know it today” (i.e. those that are consensual, not cultic rites, etc. )


– That they “are conditioned by the cultural and historical realities of the authors” and one needs to consider the greater biblical context for G-d’s love and caring of all. 


But looking at the strict text of these passages, they don’t seem to read as conditional (there are no conditions identified), and for those that believe that the Torah is divine (written by G-d) and is timeless, then how do we reconcile it with our wanting to be loving and accepting of ALL people who aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else?


Adding to the confusion, we read just this week about extremists like ISIS killing gays by brutally throwing them off of roofs and routinely about arch enemy Iran hanging them in the public square. 


Also going in my mind is the question of there being separation of church and state in this country, yet does legalizing gay and lesbian marriage affirm that separation or does it cross it by legislating against the strict scripture that many hold inviolate. 


Similar to the debate on abortion rights, these are where modern day-to-day issues and traditional religious teachings and values can be difficult to harmonize. 


I am truly happy for gays and lesbians that they can marry if they choose and find their happiness–everyone deserves this, but religiously, I am left unsure of how to reconcile this with the Torah as written. 


Can we think that we are free to choose the individual commandments we believe in or not or to find explanations where we don’t understand them or they don’t make sense to us–if so, how do we know we are doing what G-d wants of us or whether we are going astray?


In the end here the Supreme Court affirmed the right to choose and to respect all people under the law–this is fundamental to our basic beliefs in freedom, human rights, and love of our fellow man.  


But in so doing, will some see this as encroaching on G-d’s law and if so, what is the impact to those that are deeply religious and/or hold strictly heterosexual marriage as sacrosanct?


Surely each person must follow the dictates of their conscience which G-d has granted us, but pitting the Supreme Court of us earthly beings potentially against that of Heaven–this is a truly tricky and slippery slope to understand and reconcile. ;-)


(Source Photo: Twitter @WhiteHouse)

18 Million–Change The SSNs

SSN

So, maybe one of the most detrimental hysts of information from the Federal government in history. 


Now involving over 18 million current and former federal employees, including military and intelligence personnel. 


No getting around it, but we are major screwed here–this is a treasure trove of personal and privacy information ready to use for identity theft, blackmail, assassination/decapitation attacks at home and work addresses, kidnapping of family members, and literally attacking our national security apparatus from the very inside out–it’s people. 


Imagine, if at the time of its choosing, an adversary attacks our nation, but preempts this with sophisticated and coordinated attacks on our critical government personnel–generals, spy masters, political kingpins, and other key decision makers–thereby distracting them from their duties of safeguarding our nation. 


This is our new Achilles Heel and overall a security disaster bar none!


Well, we can’t go back and put the genie back in the bottle–although wouldn’t it be nice if such critical information (if not encrypted–already unforgivable) would have a self-destruct mechanism on it that we could at least zap it dead.


But for the people whose personal identities are at risk–whose social security numbers (SSNs) and dates of birth (DOBs) have been compromised what can we do? 


While we can’t very well change people DOBs, why not at least issue them new SSNs to help thwart the adversaries peddling in this information in the black markets. 


If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can issue some 18 million new SSNs and mandate government and financial institutions to make the necessary updates to the records. 


This is not rocket science, and certainly we owe this much to our people to help protect them.


Will our government be there for it’s own employees and patriots? ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Donkey Hotey)