Wrong and Wrong

I thought this was a funny saying that my friend told me. 

I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong!


He said that he actually liked it so much that he got a sign with it and put it in his office. 


As they say, “Two wrongs don’t make right.”


If you think something is wrong, hold your ground–otherwise no one will be right. 😉


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

On Taste And Smell

Just wanted to share this saying (translated from Hebrew) that I like:

On taste and smell, there is no argument.


What tastes or smells good or bad to one person versus another is not up for debate. 


Each person has their own taste buds and odor senses.


Some people may be more or less sensitive to different tastes and smells. 


So there is no arguing there.


You either like or you don’t like. 


That’s your prerogative!


Don’t make a big stink about it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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)

Fake News CNN and Failing NYT

President.jpeg

The Failing New York Times and Fake News CNN…


Have become virtually unwatchable. 


Aside from their relentless bias, they are so endlessly the negative Nellies and depressing!


How about reporting the news instead of trying to direct it?  


On the positive side of things, I heard that FOX news is turning even more mainstream.


And a new conservative network news channel is in the making to balance out the other news lineup already out there. 


Thank G-d, we have choices and they can be more truthful, more fair and balanced, and more spirited and enjoyable to read and watch. 


It doesn’t matter what your political leaning is–we value them all as long as we respect everyone and have a honest debate of ideas–and not 24/7 mind control and a media brainwashing session over the masses. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Walls And Bridges

Walls

I was really surprised this week when the Pope entered the election fray and made a comment about presidential candidate, Donald Trump, not being a Christian if he is wanting to build walls (on the Mexican border) and not bridges


And then the Trump campaign pointing out that the Vatican City is surrounded by what of all things…a very big wall!


We have a history in the U.S. of separation of Church and State and a First Amendment that codifies this as law. 


To me, unless a candidate is truly criminal, discriminatory, or evil in their conduct, it’s not appropriate for a lofty religious figure to publicly question their personal faith like that. 


Further, when it comes to immigration this is not just an issue in America, but all over Europe now with the refugee crisis, and in many other places in the world. 


Of course, we most definitely need to welcome refugees fleeing persecution, conflict, catastrophe, or war. 


But when immigration is principally an economic migration, this is something for each nation to debate and decide for what is best for them.


This is not an endorsement of any candidate or party, but rather an acknowledgement that we shouldn’t:


1) Mix religion and politics (and impose undue influence in a sovereign nation’s elections)


2) Judge our neighbors faith by valid policy debates


3) Throw stones in glass houses (or walled areas as the case may be).


If building bridges is what is promoted and preferred here then the Pope and Trump should kiss (proverbially-speaking that is) and make up. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lobbying Will Get You…Where?

Keystone
In Washington, D.C., lobbying is a way of life. 



Just walking from the State Department to the Metro means you’ll get accosted by somebody wanting action on some issue. 



I took this photo in action today of this guy obviously not in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. 



He equates it with “Climate Chaos!”



He is holding a sign up to me and trying to hand me some literature.



Whether or not piping tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast is net good for the economy and national security or bad for the environment and global warming, is of course a matter of debate. 



But like all issues, there are two sides to everything–so prove your case!



Maybe the point to free speech is that everyone can not only have an opinion, but also express it and advocate for it. 



There can be open and amble discussion, vigorous debate, compromises, and ultimately a vote and decision–that hopefully gets us to the best course of action. 



Unlike countries run by dictators or religious fanatics who attempt to quell all opposition–where bloggers are flogged and jailed and authors and satirists are threatened and murdered–we try to make our best case and not condemn those who simply think different than us. 



In expressing ourselves here, someone may occasionally joke and say, “now don’t chop my head off for saying this,” but in other countries they really mean it! 



Tyrannical dictatorships and Jihadists terrorizing and imposing their will on the masses just won’t cut it anymore. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Talebearing and Other Trivialities

Talebearing and Other Trivialities

What do you really care about?

Your family (and close friends)–health and wellbeing, your finances, your job, your soul…

If you’re a little more social and aware, perhaps you care about the environment, the dangers of WMD, human rights, our national debt, and more.

Yet as Rebecca Greenfield points out in The Atlantic (5 Sept 2013) “the dumbest topics [on the Internet] get the most attention.” She uses the example of all the chatter about Yahoo’s new logo, which mind you, looks awfully a lot like their old logo.

The reason she says people focus on so much b.s. on the web–or derivatively at work or in social gatherings–is that it’s sort of the lowest common denominator that people can get their minds around that get talked about.

Like in the “old country,” when gossipers and talebearers where scorned, but also widely listened to, there has always been an issue with people making noise about silly, mindless, and mind-your-own-business topics.

Remember the Jerry Springer show–and so many other daytime TV talk shows–and now the reality shows like the Kardashians, where who is sleeping with whom, how often, and what their latest emotional and mental problems are with themselves and each other make for great interest, fanfare, and discussion.

Greenfield points out Parkinsons’s Law of Triviality (I actually take offense at the name given that Parkinson’s is also a very serious and horrible disease and it makes it sounds as if the disease is trivial), but this principle is that “the amount of discussion is inversely proportional to the complexity of a topic.” (Source: Producing Open Source Software, p. 91)

Hence, even in technical fields like software development, “soft topics” where everyone has an opinion, can invoke almost endless discussion and debate, while more technical topics can be more readily resolved by the limited number of subject matter experts.

This principle of triviality is also called a bikeshed event, which I had heard of before, but honestly didn’t really know what it was. Apparently, it’s another way of saying that people get wrapped around the pole with trivialities like what color to paint a bikeshed, but often can’t hold more meaningful debates about how to solve the national debt or get rid of Al Qaeda.

We may care about ourselves and significant others first, but most of us do also care about the bigger picture problems.

Not everyone may feel they can solve them, but usually I find they at least have an opinion.

The question is how we focus attention and progress people’s discussion from the selfish and lame to the greater good and potentially earth-shattering.

I recently had a conversation with my wife about some social media sites where the discussion posts seem to have hit new rock bottom, but people still seem to go on there to either have their say or get some attention.

I say elevate the discussion or change sites, we can’t afford to worry about Yahoo’s logo and the Kardashians’ every coming and going–except as a social diversion, to get a good laugh, or for some needed downtime dealing with all the heavy stuff. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Head Spinning From All The Spin

Head Spinning From All The Spin

The Nazi Minister of Propaganda, the evil Joseph Goebbels said, “He who controls the message, controls the masses.”

All dictatorships function very much from this premise as we see even now a days in totalitarian governments that limit Internet access, block websites, and filter news and messages from the people, so as to keep them docile and servile.

However, even in a democracy as fine as ours, the ability to control the message is a very powerful tool in directing how events are understood by the public and what action is taken, or not.

Some recent examples:

1) Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons:
Numerous allies including England, France, and Israel say they have intelligence about Syria’s use of sarin gas against their own people…So did Syria cross the red line and use chemical weapons requiring us to take action or is this a matter for investigation and evidence?

2) Iran’s Violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty:
Iran is one of the world’s richest in energy resources and reserves…So is Iran violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty necessitating that we stop them or are they just building nuclear facilities for peaceful civilian energy needs?

3) Egyptian Military Coup and Roadmap For Reconciliation:
Egypt’s military overthrew the Egyptian Prime Minister from the Muslim Brotherhood who oversaw the rewriting of the constitution in 2011 to be based on Islamic law and not inclusive of other more secular elements of society…So is the restoration of true democracy and civil rights for the Egyptian people or a brutal coup?

4) Sudan Committing Genocide in Darfur:
With over 400,000 killed, 2,500,000 displaced, and 400 villages completely destroyed in Darfur…So did Sudan commit genocide requiring prevention, intervention, and punishment or was this just Sudanese internal conflict?

5) People Employed in U.S. at 30-Year Lows:
The proportion of the U.S. population that is working is at low rates not seen since the recession of the 1980’s…So is the unemployment rate still a critical national issue or is the unemployment rate really better and the economy strong again?

6) Edward Snowden Leaking Classified Information:
Snowden sought out the job with Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence on classified NSA surveillance and when he did he leaked this information to the news and harmed national security…So is Snowden a traitor or a whistleblower?

7) An $82 Billion Federal IT Budget:
The Federal IT budget is anticipated to rise to $82 billion in 2014…So are we still spending on large troubled IT projects or realizing billions in IT savings from new technology trends in cloud, mobile, social computing and more?

As Bill Clinton in 1998 said when questioned about the Monica Lewinsky affair…”It depends what the meaning of the word is, is?”

We see clearly that definitions are important, interpretations are important, and spin can make right seem wrong and wrong seem like right.

How we communicate and present something is very important and has critical ramifications on what is done about it whether in terms of action, attribution, and retribution.

Moreover, we should keep in mind that “He who knows doesn’t tell, and he who tells doesn’t know,” so there are limits to what even gets communicated from the get-go.

What is communicated, when, and in how much clarity or distortion is a function one on hand of people’s agendas, biases, career building (including the desire to get and keep power), as well as the genuine need for secrecy and security.

On the other hand, the desire for openness, transparency, truth, and healthy debate (facilitated by the media, checks and balances in government, and the judicial system) provides a counterbalance.

We the people must press to determine–is the person telling it like it is or are some things being contrived, manipulated, edited, and Photoshopped.

In the end, critical thinking and looking beyond the surface can make the difference between what we know we know and what we think we know. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jah~)

The Future In Good Hands

Ethics_bowl

I had the distinct honor to attend the first Washington D.C. High School Ethics Bowl at American University.

There were eight teams competing from local schools in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas.

My daughter’s team won 2nd place!

(Note: the trophys were identical except for the engraving of first, second, and third places.)

I was so proud to see that the schools are educating our students in ethics–both the theory and the practice.

The student teams prepared and competed using 10 case study scenarios that covered everything from oil drilling in Alaska to the death penalty. 

In lieu of the education of yesteryear that relied all too heavily on rote memorization, it was awesome instead to see the students analyzing real life scenarios, using critical thinking, debating ethical and philosophical considerations, and making policy recommendations. 

The students were sensitive to and discussed the impact of things like income inequality on college admission testing, the environmental effects of offshore drilling versus the importance of energy independence, the influence of race of criminal sentencing, and the moral implications of the Red Cross teaching first aid to named terrorist groups like the Taliban. 

I was truly impressed at how these high school students worked together as a team, developed their positions, and presented them to the moderator, judges and audience–and they did it in a way that could inspire how we all discuss, vet, and decide on issues in our organizations today.

– They didn’t yell (except a few that were truly passionate about their positions and raised their voices in the moment), instead they maturely and professionally discussed the issues.

– They didn’t get personal with each other–no insults, put-downs, digs, or other swipes (with the exception of when one team member called his opponents in a good natured gest, “the rivals”), instead they leveraged the diversity of their members to strengthen their evaluation of the issues.

– They didn’t push an agenda in a winner takes all approach–instead they evaluated the positions of the competing teams, acknowledged good points, and refined their own positions accordingly to come up with even better proposals. 

– They didn’t walk away from the debate bitter–but instead not only shook hands with their opponents, but I actually heard them exchange appreciation of how good each other did and what they respected about each other.

I’ll tell you, these kids–young adults–taught me something about ethics, teamwork, critical thinking, presentation, and debate, and I truly valued it and actually am enthusiastic about this next generation coming up behind us to take the reins. 

With the many challenges facing us, we need these smart and committed kids to carry the flag forward–from what I saw today, there is indeed hope with our children. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Ominous Sky

Ominous_skyline

This was the skyline in Washington D.C. this past week.

I have never seen anything quite like it.

You can clearly see the grey clouds forming overhead.

And the contrast with the clear sky off in the back.

The trees along the train tracks provide almost an end of days feel–just a few standing.

There is a guy on the train on the right with his head bowed back against the train doors–is he feeling sick, tired or just down with the weather.

This picture was taken one day before the second Presidential Debate, only weeks before the election, months before we come up on the “fiscal cliff,” and perhaps only a few seasons before as they say, Iran gets “the bomb.”

Where is this train taking us, what are we going to do to solve the sizable problems ahead, and will these dark cloud lift or settle in on us?

Hope and pray that G-d gives us the good fortune to succeed in these trying times and that the sun shines bright again for all of us soon.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)