The Difference Between Art and Politics

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There is a difference between art and politics. 

Art is just brilliant and beautiful. 

But politics can be insane and ugly.

(Well maybe some art actually can be that way too.)

Read today how Congressional Bills are being held up for something as fundamental as funding to fight the Zika virus that causes severe infant brain defects and life-altering disabilities. Moreover, if Congress did pass it as-is, the President has threatened to veto it!

Another no-brainer bill still not passed before Summer recess is the common sense one that would tighten access on gun sales to suspected terrorists and call for expanded background checks, including for private sales and at gun shows. 

As amazing for the soul as art is, politics gone wrong can be damaging to the very people they are supposed to be protecting for national security and health and well-being.  

This is a system that is either broken or have people leading it that are horribly flawed, but either way the nation’s people are being hurt, when they should be properly taken care of and governed. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

DC Metro Is In Shambles

DC Metro.jpeg

So the latest this week from the crumbling infrastructure of the DC Metro train system, not withstanding the mess of Operation SafeTrack. 

While riding this morning, a large panel inside the train abruptly and widely swings open and smashes against the fabricated white and plastic wall adjacent to the seats. 

It made a loud bang and initially everyone on the train looked up with the deer in the headlights stare apparently thinking it was a gunshot on the train or something. 

Luckily, no one was in the 2 seats where the panel swung open like that, because their would’ve been some physical damage done to somebody there. 

The age and decrepitness of the train obvious from the incident and also looking at what’s behind door #1!

What is amazing is that this is the Capital of the United States, one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on Earth.

We spend lavishly abroad and domestically on wasteful pork barrel politics, broken programs, and even money that goes completely unaccounted for (can anyone say pass a financial audit). 

Yet, we cannot provide a modern, clean, safe, and functional metro transportation system servicing the capital of our country or for that matter educate our young people properly or feed the hungry and shelter the homeless within our own borders. 

There is a lot broken here and Metro is just the tip of the leadership iceberg unbecoming who we are and what our potential for this world is. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Politics Has Us Lost

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So we’ve become a nation that only seems to be moving, but yet is heading nowhere fast.  


Shock and awe and “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


Think about it!


Where are we going?


– Are we growing, innovating, leading. 


– Are we spreading our ideals of freedom, human rights, and democracy.


– Are we a nation the defends those in need and is a refuge for those under duress.


– Are we a country that is safe and secure from threats external and internal. 


– Are we united and heading in a clear direction with a strategy and making incremental steps towards our goals.


– Where are we on critical programs for the future from genuinely protecting our environment with binding agreements to investments in our space program to discover, travel, and build our destiny beyond just here. 


– Do we have the love and respect of our friends and the fear of those that are against our way of life.


– Are the decisions that are being made bringing together those from across the political aisle and are they particularly fruitful in terms of making a real difference in people’s lives or in our future.


– Why is the system so broken and we don’t even hear any real ideas anymore about how to fix it.


– Why do we hear about Obamacare, trade deals, deals with Iran, deals over global warming, deals over Syria, budget deals, yet don’t see or feel any tangible differences in our lives–or feel any passion from those making the decisions.


– Where is the grand vision to really put a man on Mars, solve poverty, or cure cancer.


– Why is Russia grabbing what they want with Crimea, planning a permanent station on the moon, and creating air and naval bases in Syria and we can’t even train some rebels to fight.


– Why are we afraid to call radical Islamic terrorism what it is and to fight them over there before they come over here.


– Why do we bounce back and forth unable to overcome basic problems like with our flailing education system first centralizing federally with “No Child Left Behind” and then decentralizing to the States with “Every Student Succeeds.”


– Why do we reign in the budget one year with Sequestration only to expand the budget with unpaid tax cuts the next.


– Why do we call for a strong military and then cut their budget and undercut their mandate to get their job done. 


– Why do we stress the importance of cybersecurity, but then lose the security clearances and personnel information of the entire federal, intelligence, and military workforce.


– Why do we let in terrorists and criminals to our country and are then surprised when they commit violent acts against our people. 


– Why do we hurt allies and embrace enemies.


– Why do we stymie debate and opposition disrespecting others, calling them horrible names, threatening them, and working to destroy them instead of embracing healthy debate and compromise. 


– Why do we claim transparency, but then hide behind obscurity. 


This could be the list that never ends, which goes on and on my friends, some rationale people started asking common sense questions, not knowing how broken this system was, and they’ll just keep questioning it forever just because…it makes no sense. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Unwillingness To Face Inconvient Facts

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The Wall Street Journal today has a poignant editorial by Daniel Henninger on the fractured nation we have become. 

Henninger describes the feeling of a country ranging from fury to depression when an underlying vibrant free nation is overcome by a political fantasy of global disengagement and a doctrine of leadership from behind.

And it’s not just the continued downtrodden state domestically–see photo above from this morning’s homeless and hungry on Washington, D.C.’s streets. 

But blinded by a fearful political undertone that can’t even utter the words radical Islamists, we have taken it yet another wayward step further unable to utter the words terrorism.

With respect to the mass murder of at least 14 in California yesterday by–multiple Islamist attackers blasting off AR-15 assault rifles–the FBI in Los Angeles says this, terrorism “is a possibility, but we don’t know that yet, and we’re not willing to go down the road yet.”

There is not even anymore a facade of objectivity where we say perhaps something like: it certainly look’s like terrorism, but we need to investigate and verify–instead what we get is an unwillingness to face down our enemies and the terror of our times or even to openly consider the possibility. 

Ha, it COULD BE that these are 2 completely non-radicalized folks, who happen to have terrorist ties and communications, just found the guns and pipe bombs on the side of the road, got abducted by aliens who brainwashed them to commit mass murder, and just coincidentally after ISIS threatened attacks in the U.S.–anything is possible.

But terrorism–that’s RIDICULOUS!

From the disgraceful suffering of the downtrodden and needy individuals on our streets across America to the global disorder that we are seeing daily, we are continuing to lose ground, respect, and time. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Broken Arm, Broken Metro

Broken Arm

So I spoke to a lady on the D.C. Metro yesterday.


Not old, not young–she was sitting in a handicapped seat. 


What happened to her?


She told me how this last year as she was riding the train, it had suddenly and ferociously jerked forward, and then backwards.


The fierceness of jerking motion breaking the top of her arm–the humerus–vertically right down the middle in a horrible break. 


As she was talking her eyes glazed over remembering what happened.


She found herself on the floor of the train lying in excruciating pain.


One kind lady stayed with her as the paramedics were on their way.


She overheard others on the train actually complaining in earshot that they were being delayed “because of her!”


She was taken to the ER, and ended up spending 2 1/2 months in the hospital and rehabilitation center. 


As explained, they couldn’t cast this type of break, and she wasn’t allowed to sleep laying down–she had to sleep in a chair–again she said how the pain was so bad and unlike anything she ever experienced, incuding childbirth and bypass heart surgery. 


Professionally, she was a lawyer for the government, but ended up not suing Metro, shaking her head that it just wasn’t worth it. 


In her wallet, she showed me her Metro disability card that they gave her so she could sit in the special seats now and get a reduced rate riding the train.


Shaking her head, she exclaimed that even though she is mostly healed now, she never stands on a moving train anymore, always making sure she is sitting and nestled next to something.


I could see the emotional pain on her face as she told me her story, and she seemed generally afraid of ever going through anything like that again. 


At the same time that she was talking to me, in eyesight was a younger man hanging out by the center doors on the metro, overfident and not holding on–actually leaning way back on his backback against the doors, almost daydreaming. 


Not everyone heard this lady’s story…maybe they should. 


Overall, Metro seems chronically underfunded or mismanaged and in desperate need of major repairs and replacements–train, tracks, escalators, elevators, everything. 


The system is a mess and it needs urgent attention. 


Why does it always take a tragedy to finally get action? 


Coincidentally, I saw today that Metro (WMATA) is advertising in the Wall Street Journal for a new General Manager and Chief Executive Officer–yep, good luck to that person, they will definitely need it and a lot more!  😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Christian).

Metro Wide Open

Metro Gate
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)

rED pEPPERS Anyone

Red Peppers
No, this is not a Washington, D.C. crime scene.



Just someone dropping their jar of roasted red peppers smack in the middle of the street in Foggy Bottom, and just in time for the morning commute.



Well, watch your step folks (there’s broken glass there) and don’t step in the slimmy red pepper sauce (ala Whole Foods “everyday value”).



Just another hump day in the nation’s Capital. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Go Quick And Far

Africa
I love this African proverb that I heard recently:

 

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”

 

When we’re alone, we are traveling “light”–we don’t have to worry about or help another person…we can go quickly.

 

However, when we go together with another, we have a companion and support, and can endure more and go much farther.

 

In life, going it alone…is more of a “flight” response. When you have to run, you get away as quickly as you can.

 

In the movie Last of the Mohicans the fleeing male character yells to the woman, “Stay Alive! No matter how long it takes, I will find you.”  They disperse, each one moving as speedily as possible to survive.

 

Similarly, when we have to “fight,” there is power in numbers. We are always stronger and more capable as a team.

 

Already from The Three Musketeers, we acknowledge the familiar refrain of, “All for one, and one for all.”

 

Similarly, when a military force advances it does so in strength with coordination and in unison, but when it is under severe attack and is retreating, often it does so chaotically, running with “every man for himself” trying to save as many as possible.

 

Overall, while we need the strength of unity and the speed of an agile runner, in the end we have to have faith, hope, and perseverance to survive.

 

Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are strong at the broken places.” 😉

 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lessons From Breaking A Leg

Lessons From Breaking A Leg

Some things I learned from breaking an ankle this week:

1) Beware of the Crazies: There are a lot of crazy people out there. This guy on the street in Washington, D.C. was yelling and screaming and when I turned to see what all the commotion was about, my foot pivoted sideways off the pavement and crack! I was cussing under my breath at the nut on the street and the pain shooting out of my foot. Thank G-d for the parking meter, which I lunged toward and grabbed to keep myself vertical!

2) Be great: The lady in the hospital that did my cast was amazing. She was so nice to me and talented as a medical professional. She was able to take even a sort of routine task like making a cast (she probably does thousands of them) and do it with an artistic flair and near perfection–I’m telling you this lady was able to make great out of the mundane. All the time explaining to me what she was doing, asking me how it felt, and then helping me test it out. She was like an angel.

3) Easy is hard: The crutches are large and clumsy–they help to redistribute the weight off the foot, but they are uncomfortable to use and look ridiculous. But getting around on crutches, I am realizing that all the things every day that I take for granted as easy are pretty hard with a broken bone. On the first day, I went courageously out to the Metro and was going to head down to work, but when it started raining I realized this was not going to work–how to you carry yourself on crutches and hold an umbrella at the same time and not get your cast wet and ruin it. The next day, I found myself hopping on and off the escalator trying to keep balanced, keep the weight off the foot, and grab the crutches along with me–this was almost comical. Then trying to stay on the crutches, while using the metro card to activate the turnstile, and go through this narrow passage quickly, I found myself wedged between the turnstile gates. Then the morning coffee was a no-no; how do you carry a coffee while navigating on crutches, which then left me with a caffeine withdrawal headache. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Being sick and injured is lousy, but I appreciate my health anew. And I thank G-d for teaching me some valuable lessons–many refreshers–and keeping me from an even worse outcome. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Happened To My Shoes?

So yesterday, I was on one of the hikes of my life.

After a certain period of time, I said that we had had better head back, leaving ourselves enough energy to make the return trek.

But after a number of times at this mountain, my daughter was determined to make it to the major overlook and do “the full circuit.”

I was so impressed with her determination and enthusiasm that I too caught “the bug” to just do it!

So we went and went–marker after marker–laughing, sort of, about how far we were really going–and would have to return.

But the weather was good–it had cooled off–and we felt that we could get there, and back, with some pushing.

At one point, we hit the summit, and put our rock on the tall pile with the others left by those before us, and we went on to make it to the overlook.

We took some pictures and sat down on the rocks to take it all in–it was magnificent.

Then I casually look down at my hiking shoes, and notice something–the rubber soles had actually come loose from the rest of the shoe–on both feet.

My first thought–great products, not! from this company–darn it. 😦

My second thought–%^(*#$ how am I going to get back in broken shoes?

Making a long story short, the shoes were wobbling over the rocks, tree trunks, and terrain–and I prayed that I did fall or end up getting stuck barefoot in the hills.

G-d was good to me and we made it back and I headed straight to the hiking store to get my money back for the shoes–I literally took them off at the counter and handed them in tatters to the customer service rep.

Now without shoes in the store, I walked around in socks to the shoe section and picked out a new pair–yay!

Some lessons:

– Enthusiasm is catchy and can spark you to do things you wouldn’t normally think you could achieve.

– Never say never–who would think your hiking shoes would literally fall apart in the middle of a hike, but they can and did!

– Always be prepared–mentally and physically–for all sorts of eventualities; life doesn’t just go the way we expect or want.

– Thank G-d for a happy ending–because it could easily go the other way.

– And finally don’t buy brand X for your hiking shoes–they really stink! 😉

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)