Election Day Dead 2018

This just seemed so perfect for election day this year. 


With the country torn asunder between left and right. 


We are the grateful dead of the U.S. of A. 


– Our political system is stymied and our representatives are only self-minded. 


The integrity of our founding fathers has vanished and last century’s great national hope has languished. 


Cause the liberals hate the conservatives. 


And the conservatives hate the liberals. 


All of my folks hate all of your folks, and everyone blames the Jews.  


– The Constitution has become malarkey, and the Bill of Rights now makes people snarky. 


Polarization and they’re a lyin’, fake news and no one is even tryin’.


It’s either my way or the highway, and everyone else can go to h*ll. 


– Throw a fit and curse your neighbor, chase the opposition to the wayward. 


Know that threats and violence are better than silence, and resistance means persistence. 


How could this have even happened, and you’re all on the wrong side of history.


– Are we making things great, and they’re only about hate.


Or are they racist deplorables, and we’re the self-righteous ennobles.


From the economy to trade wars, and from immigration to healthcare.


Why is it that we can’t listen, negotiate, compromise, and play fair.


– I don’t know why we’re even having an election.


When we only want to defeat the opposition.


Cause the Democrats hate the Republicans.


And the Republicans hate the Democrats.


All of the Obamanicks hate the Trumpeans, and vice versa is certainly true too.


– It’s up to everyone to put the country first and stop the bickering and the hate.


Practice patriotism and nationalism, tear down the walls so progress does not stall.


No one is all right and no one is all wrong, instead we’ve got to come together and just let everyone belong.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Guns Are American

American Joe Gun.jpeg

So we can argue who exactly should be allowed to have guns in America.


But we can’t argue that the 2nd Amendment generally guarantees people the right “to keep and bear arms.”


Sure background checks are an important safety and security check to ensure we aren’t putting guns in the hands of criminals, terrorists, abusers, or mentally incompetent individuals. 


At the same time, people should be able to responsibly own and use them for hobby or self-defense. 


Some guns are even a work of art and not just a killing machine. 


Pictured here is an American Joe with etchings of USA and wings representing freedom and of course, the painting of the American flag for strength and patriotism. 


Not quite the golden AK-47 that Saddam Hussein sported, but nevertheless a beautiful and deadly .45 caliber one. 


With over 300 million guns in the USA, there is just about one for everyone. 


In America, there is a grand tradition of the Old West, but it’s also important to balance that with responsibility and safety. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Love The Flags

israel-flag

So while we were in Florida, we went into one of the many art galleries. 


And on the wall was this painting of the Israeli Flag with the Star of David and inside was a beautiful red heart. 


Out of curiosity, I inquired how much this was and the lady says, “Oh, that is $55,000!”


While we were impressed with the painting of the Israeli flag and what it represents as one of America’s greatest allies and friends, we must’ve looked really puzzled at the price, because the lady goes, “Well, of course it’s worth it!  It’s by Peter Max, the most famous artist in the world.”


My wife and I nodded and left the store, and immediately were asking each other why every gallery says with a straight face that the artist that they represent is the “most famous in the world.”


Anyway, at the same time this was going on we were following in the news about the controversy with people burning the American flag and the question of whether this is just an expression of free speech or something more that should be prohibited as disrespectful and unpatriotic or even traitorous to the country. 


In that respect, the flag that represents our values, beliefs, and patriotism is valuable beyond pure artistic sense or money, it is who we are and what we love. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Politicized Justice

fullsizerender

DC is in partisanship chaos once again, but this time it’s our very justice system at the heart of it. 


There is widely publicized internal fighting at the FBI and Department of Justice over whether and how far to investigate, let alone ever prosecute, emails and foundation issues from a presidential candidate. 


As the FBI can only investigate, they have no jurisdiction over whether prosecutors are willing to then take the case forward. 


Downtown today, there were signs that said:


“I Need Some Good News.com”


This was referencing the new soundtrack of “Good News” by Ocean Park Standoff, but it could easily summarize the standoff between the FBI and Justice Department and the political parties lining up behind them. 

So there is certainly the need for some good news, as a dour mood settles over the capital and the people around the nation watching this play out so awfully, where politics have gotten in between us and our candidates and doing what’s right. 


From the song:


“I need some good news baby ’cause the world’s gone crazy.”


When even our law enforcement authorities can no longer function without impediment, and when there is no core impunity from political infringement and recriminations, we know even our most basic system of justice has gone awry with political dysfunction. 


Yes, it’s crazy and it’s definitely not good news for the progress and righteousness of this great nation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Please G-d In The Workplace

Lookign To Heaven.jpeg

So here is a true story that happened to me at work.


You know how you put on your “out of office message” in Microsoft Outlook when on leave…


Well, I was responsible and did just that. 


My message was typical informing people that I was out, when I plan to return, and who to contact about urgent matters in my (brief) absence. 


But something astonishing happened then…


I actually got a reply to my out of office message from an executive scolding me about it–imagine this being how government time is spent. 


Yes and dun da da dum…here was my big offense to this senior executive, in my out of office message, I simply used the words “Please G-d,” as in:


“I am out of the office and plan to return, please G-d, on [such and such day and date].”


The message I received back in my inbox:


“I’m not sure what the ‘please G+d’ reference means. It’s a bit confusing. You may want to delete it.”


OMG, I was being admonished in the federal government for using the words “Please G-d” in my out of office message–for simply respecting and recognizing Him/Her. 


– What is confusing about “Please G-d”?


– And how can anyone ask that I delete G-d from my message or in any way from my life???


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states under religious discrimination and harassment that:

 “Harassment, can include, for example offensive remarks about a person’s beliefs or religious practices.”

 

Further, “the law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employees religious beliefs and practices,” barring an undue burden. 


What burden to the government was there in me saying, “please G-d.”


And why did I get back a mocking message spelling it this way, “G+d,” which I read as being a cross in the middle, mocking me as someone of Jewish belief.


Understand that I write the word G-d with a hyphen, because I was taught out of respect not to spell out ( or even say) G-d’s name in vain, which is the 3rd commandment in the biblical Ten Commandments.


The executive’s comments to me were not only extremely rude, offensive, and discriminatory, but also illegal.


It is outrageous that this type of behavior should be allowed to go on in 21st century America, let alone in the federal government itself that writes and enforces the law of the land–the land of the free and the home of the brave–read it, it’s in our national anthem and our constitution. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Attack On Human Rights

Gun Rights

So we’re sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 


He’s reading three things:


– The Holy Bible


– Second Amendment Primer


– The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual’s right to bear arms for self defense in “federal enclaves”). 


So somebody says jokingly, “You think he’s a Republican?”


It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 


Even if we don’t necessary do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgement upon us. 


Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.


Speak you mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 


My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  


I’ve heard people say things like you’re eligible for X, Y, or Z, but your not entitled to it.


They confuse rights as eligibility, rather than entitlement. 


So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way–thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!


Yes, of course we all need to behave responsibility and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn’t mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people’s mood’s, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Denouncing Anti-Semitism


Heroic remarks from NYC Councilman Greenfield after pro-Palestinian activists protested the commemoration of 1.1 million people murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp in the Holocaust. 



Calling a spade-a-spade…anti-semitism is once again alive and well due to acceptance and even promotion of Anti-Semitism/Zionism, and unfortunately, in some cases, it seems like it’s coming from the top-down!



The words and actions are fanning anti-semitic terror attacks around the globe and even setting the stage for a regional war in the Middle East. 



What a shame that we need to remind some of the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, whatever your practices. 



Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller, famously said:



“First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out 

because I was not a Jew.



Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist



Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a trade unionist.



Then they came for me

and there was no one left

to speak out for me.”



I believe, I know, that there are many true decent human beings and real leaders out there that will speak out against the very ugly head of blind hatred and bigotry in this world. 



May G-d show mercy on all his creatures and instill love, tolerance, and genuine respect for all races, colors, and religions. 

I Want It To Mean Something

We The People
So I took this photo in Starbucks–one of the Baristas in Washington, D.C showing his tattoo. 



Not that I am a tattoo guy myself (uh, I’m not!), but I thought this was really an interesting one. 



“We The People Of the United States” — our Constitution establishing our nation, freedom, democracy, and human rights here. 



Along with pictures of the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial (maybe more around the arm…I don’t know). 



When I asked him what made him choose this?



He immediately said, “I wasn’t originally thinking of a tattoo, but when I did, I wanted it to mean something!”



So this one wasn’t just a vanity thing, but has meaning to him and I bet to many others–very cool! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Is That Freedom?

Freedom
This was a funny (-sad) picture I took the other day.



“Freedom Septic”!!!



That’s what they name a port-o-potty?

Certainly a very strange and loose interpretation of what freedom means to some people 



(Uh, I prefer the Constitution/Bill of Rights version.)



Then again, check out this company’s website at the bottom of their signs–I won’t go there. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Privacy Slope

Slippery

I read with interest Ronald Bailey’s book review of Privacy by Garet Keizer in the Wall Street Journal ( 16 August 2012) .

In a nutshell, privacy is founded in the Constitution’s 4th Amendment: “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

I would define privacy as the freedom–to think, to feel, and to act as ourselves (within ethical boundaries) without fear of intrusion, revelation, or reprisal.

In other words, it should only be our business who we love, what we are interested or believe in, who we vote for, what we choose to do with our lives, and more.

I think in grade school, the children generally sum it up well when they playfully chant: “Mind your own BI,” where BI is used for business (or biziness). 🙂

According to Keizer, the danger to privacy come into play from two main sources:- Commerce–who want to sell you something and

– Government–that needs to surveil for security and law enforcement purposes

After 9/11, their was a perceived need for greater surveillance to enhance homeland security, and with advances in technology and communications (smartphones, Internet, social media, etc.), the ability to snoop became far easier.

In 2002, the DoD program for Total Information Awareness (TIA) was an attempt to know everything (i.e. total) about those who would do us harm, but fears about this capability being used against the innocent, quickly required a rethinking or perhaps, just a rebranding.

Some say that the new NSA mega data center in Utah is the fulfillment of the TIA dream–according to the Washington Post, already in 2010 NSA intercepted and stored “1.7 billion emails, phone calls, and other types of communications.” Further, law enforcement demanded records from cellphone carriers on 1.3 million subscribers “including text messages and caller locations” over just the last year’s time.

Keizer cautions that “the ultimate check on government as a whole is its inabilityto know everything about those it governs”–i.e. without the people holding the cards, there is the risk of spiraling into a Big Brother totalitarian society–goodbye democracy!

I think Keizer perhaps oversells the fear of government surveillance and underemphasizes intrusion from business–his thinking is that “If consumers are annoyed with a merchant’s monitoring, they can buy elsewhere.”

But what Keizer misses is that industry as a whole has moved toward the use of technology–from club cards and promotions to use of Internet cookies, RFID, and more–to systematically track consumers and their buying behavior and that information is readily captured, packaged, used, and sold for marketing and sales–as well as to the government!

As a common practice now, where is a consumer to go that will shield them from hungry business looking to capture market share and earn nice profits?

At the same time, while government surveillance can certainly be misused and abused with terrible consequences for individuals society—there are potentially a lot of people looking over the shoulder of those carrying out public programs–and this “sunlight”–where and when it shines–can help to prevent bad things happening. The problem is that the system is not perfect, and there are always those program people who act of out of bounds and those watchers who are ineffective and/or dishonest.

Overall, it’s a zero sum game, where those that hype up security and capitalism, can tramp down on privacy, and vice versa.

In totality, we can never just assume everything will be okay when it comes to privacy and how information is used, but we have to be active citizens helping ensure that right things are done, the right way.

For regular, hardworking, decent citizens, there is a definite need to safeguard privacy–and technology can be helpful here with anonymizers, encryptors, and other shielding tools

For the bad guys, I would imagine, no question, that the government will continue to develop the means to thwart their secrecy and planning to inflict harm on the American people.

For business, it’s okay to capture consumer information and sell, but pour it on to thick and people will think twice about your company’s ethics and brand–and even a lawsuit may be in the making.

Yes, privacy is a slippery slope, and not only can a person’s self be revealed or used inappropriately, but the voyeur can get burned too if they overdo it.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)