Even The Water

Dirty Water

So I was in a meeting yesterday. 


And someone had a bottle of what looked like very dirty water. 


I said to the guy sad-jokingly, “Where’s that from–Flint, Michigan?”


He sadly smiles back and says, “No, I just filled the bottle with iced tea!”


But everyone around the table sighed at the tragic state of affairs with the filthy, contaminated water in Flint. 


The high levels of lead in the water has allegedly resulted in “skin lessons, hair loss, high levels of lead in the blood, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety.”


It’s unbelievable that in an American city with a population around 100,000 that they cannot safely shower or drink their water. 


To make things even worse, now banks are hunkering down and don’t want to give mortgages to people in Flint until they can prove that their water is safe


What’s amazing is that this miserable situation in our cities is not the exception, but the rule. 


As of 2003 already, The American Society for Civil Engineering gives us a hideous grade of D on our infrastructure that is aged and in disrepair.


This includes our:

– Energy

– Transportation

– Ports

– Aviation

– Levees

– Dams

– Schools

– Roads

– Inland Waterways

– Wastewater

– Hazardous Waste

– Parks and Recreation

– Rail

– Bridges

– Solid Waste

– Drinking Water


They estimate we need at least $3.6 trillion of investment for infrastructure renewal just by 2020. 


Interestingly enough, the useless decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan costs us over $4 trillion and the lives of almost 14,000 American military and contractor personnel.


What would you rather have a destabilized Middle East now swarming with ISIS, the Taliban, and a resurgent $100 billion richer and nuclear- and terror-determined Iran or a proper country here for us to live in with an actual strategy-driven national security and good schools and clean drinking water? 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to B1ue5sky)

Powerball Powers Past

Powerball

I suppose the makers of the Powerball lottery never envisioned a $1.3 billion jackpot. 


As you can see the sign only goes up to $999 million. 


Yeah, stupid planning from the people that run the odds (where winning is 1 in 292 million), but they can’t figure the odds of the lottery going this high, ever.


Anyway, win it or lose it, someone stands to walk way with a lump-sum payment of $806 million, and after federal, state, and local taxes you’re looking at maybe half or less of that. 


Either way, not a bad take-away from a $2 lottery ticket. 


Lots of needy people to help and good deeds to do. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Couldn’t Do It

Car.JPEG

No this isn’t my car, but it’s definitely old. 


So we were going to go sell one of our older cars tonight. 


One of the warning lights recently went on and when we took it to the dealer he told us it would be thousands to service it. 


After agonizing about it, we resigned ourselves to just getting rid of it and not investing anymore $$$ in an old car.


We went to the car to empty it and get it ready.


As I watched Dossy cleaning it out, all these memories started racing through my head–seeing Dossy behind the wheel as well the kids. 


Remembering all the good times we had driving here and there together. 


But this was Dossy’s car and it was special to her and I knew it. 


I looked again at her and said, “I can’t do it–let’s just keep it.”


She looked at me–and gave me the biggest smile. 


When we went back inside, she said to me, “You love me!”


And I said, “Of course, I do.”


Now, we get the car fixed–some things you can’t put a price on. 


P.S. Last week, she threatened to move out if I didn’t agree to fix it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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)

Absence, A Big Statement

Paris Rally
We all know from psychology 101 that what we pay attention to and give to is what is really important to us. 

 
Parenting is an example of this where we give our time and efforts to our children as our most important investment of self. 
 
This last week was the historical Paris Unity Rally attended by millions, including 40 world leaders, to denounce blind discrimination and hate and the associated terror and murder that marked the terrorist attacks in Paris.
 
The Paris attacks were a striking blow on free speech and resulted in the murder of many innocent citizens and law enforcement at Charlie Hebdo magazine and numerous Jews in a kosher grocery store–it was more than shocking to see our top leadership missing in action (MIA).
 
In the Wall Street Journal today, there are many words on this from “error” to “lost opportunity.”
 
Yet, despite acknowledging the blatant absence, what we are left with are an unfortunate series of excuses, such as the incredible statement that “No one in the White House brought such a request to the the President’s attention.”
 
As if someone needs to tell the leader of the free world that he needs to be participate in the Paris Unity Rally. Did the millions who attended or the other 40 world leaders need a reminder or a nudge?
 
Or here’s another one about not being able to attend because of “security concerns.”
 
Once again, did the heads of state for France, Germany, England, and Israel not have similar concerns that their protectors were able to adequately address. 
 
What about the  apology that he “regrets his decision not to send a top White House official,”–uh, what about going himself?
 
I remember immediately after the attack of 9/11, President George W. Bush, with bullhorn in hand, standing on the rubble of what was once the World Trade Center…there was no excuses as to a need for reminders from staffers, security or health concerns, or sending surrogates–the leader was there and doing his job to lead, period.  
 
How can we fight a war on terrorism, fanaticism, and blind hatred, when we won’t give it our time and attention–from the top down. 
 
As with a parent who is absent with his children, it speaks a thousand words about what is really important to that parent and the impact on the (symbolic) child.
 
“A cat’s in the cradle with a silver spoon little boy blue and the man in the moon when your coming home dad I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then dad, you know we’ll have a good time then.”
 
In the past, the administration has been incredibly supportive in fighting terror, anti-semitism, and standing up for human rights, and with genuine commitment of time and effort, can do so again. 
 
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Doug)
 
(All opinions my own).

Freedom Pays

Freedom
Another great article by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal today.



The usual saying is that freedom is not free (i.e. that we must fight for it). 



But Stephens shows us that Freedom actually pays. 



It is our freedom that helps us to be creative and innovative like no others on this Earth.



Stephens comments on his growing up as an American abroad:



“I find it amazing that, in the U.S., I can drink water straight from a tap, that a policeman has never asked me for a ‘contribution,’ that my luggage has never been stolen, that notbody gets kidnapped for ransom, that Mao-esque political purges are conducted only inthe editorial of the New York Times.”



Instead of having to focus on fear in everyday life–we can use our energies to plow creatively into the next great thing for mankind. 



In sync with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when we are not scavaging for food and huttling in some abandoned building or cave to protect ourselves from marauding bandits or corrupt dictators, we can self-actualize ourselves by leaps and bound contributions through science, technology, engineering, mathematics, humanities and arts. 



Our society looks for opportunities, rather than having to look over our shoulder at daily threats.



We run to invest in great ideas, rather than have to use our money to escape the corruption and tyranny that surround us.



With the holidays are upon us, it’s a perfect time to reflect on our good fortune at being part of a democracy where freedom and human rights power our success.



Thank G-d for where we live and what we are able to achieve. 😉



(Source photo: here with attribution to Eric Magnuson)

U.S. and Israel: BFF

Friends
Yes, since the founding of Israel, the United States has been “Best Friends Forever” (BFF) with Israel. 



The U.S. helped found Israel in 1948 and it has graciously invested in Israel financially and military for almost 70 years.



And Israel has been a tried and true friend to America from intelligence, security, and innovation to shared values on human rights, freedom, democracy, and our Judeo-Christian shared roots and beliefs. 



The U.S. and Israel stand together, always.



Yes, administration after administration…the support, friendship, and alliance between the two nations have flourished and been unshakeable.



And while Congress passes unanimously this past week to make Israel a “Major Strategic Partner,” something unthinkable and what others have called “unprecedented hostility” is going on elsewhere in our government:



While the U.S. is pulling back sanctions on one of our greatest enemies, Iran (part of the famous Axis Of Evil), it is said to be mulling the imposition of sanctions on one of it’s best friends, Israel (Washington Beacon).



How is it that in extremist, terrorist world post 9/11–up to the recent grotesque torture and beheadings of multiple U.S. citizens–that we forget who our friends are and embrace our enemies? 



A world gone mad…and we are trapped in the audience watching the insanity unfold. 



Say it isn’t so–not even in Disney World is such a fantastical breach possible. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We Didn’t Make History

Space
A sincere congratulations to the European Union for the epic landing of a probe from the Rosetta spacecraft–the first such landing on a comet.


They did this with a landing area of just 550 yards in diameter and away from deep crevices, large boulders, and sharp peaks–it is amazing!



Their European space scientists are exclaiming and rightfully so, “We made history today.”



The problem for us is that we–the U.S.of A.–didn’t!



Yes, we landed the first man on the moon in 1969 and we haven’t done it again since 1972.



I remember in grade school, with great pride and wonder, watching the first space shuttle taking flight–that was in 1981.



Since then, we had the horrific Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003), followed by the retirement of the shuttles altogether (2011).



Now, we rely on Russian rockets to bring supplies to the International Space Station and for our military and national security satellites.



Then, just a few weeks ago, we had the explosion of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo (2014) that is said to have been plagued with problems from inadequate rocket thrust, flight control system issues, and deficiencies in basic structural integrity. 



In the meantime, the Indians have made it to Mars on a dime. 



Where are we as a nation looking to advance into space–where resources and our very survival may someday soon depend?



Just think where those multi trillions of dollars spent (some would say squandered) in Iraq and Afghanistan (now being overrun by ISIS or threatened by the Taliban) as well as for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (uh, what did we really accomplish for all that money spent?).


Where we once led, and as children we stood in awe, now we stand in bewilderment and leave our children marveling at the victories and accomplishments of others. 



We can not/must not become complacent or stop investing strategically in our future–we need to act with urgency and commitment again for our nation to succeed.



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Survivable Water Pipes

Survivable Water Pipes

When an earthquake strikes, it is not just the immediate loss of life that is a concern, but the longer-term damage to critical infrastructure and the effect on human survival.

As we know, water is critical to every living creature, and in an earthquake, when there is damage to the water infrastructure, such as the underground piping, people can be left without this basic life-sustaining commodity.

When traditional solid cast-iron piping is used, an earthquake can cause these to deform and buckle. However, with a new ductile pipe design by Japanese company, Kubota–the pipes are built in a chain-like fashion and expand and contract, flex and bend, but do not easily break.

According to the Wall Street Journal (14 April 2011), Kubota earthquake-resistant pipes even withstood the 9.0 quake in Japan in 2011, and it can withstand “shaking, landslides, and extreme temperatures.

Now Los Angeles is piloting this pipe along 2 miles of its 7,000 miles of piping–they are focusing on “the most vulnerable, fault-line-adjacent areas,” since the piping is 2 1/2 times the price of regular piping.

In the absence of having a device like the Star Trek Replicator to synthesize food and water on the fly, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade our water systems and other critical infrastructure to protect us from the disasters that come.

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” needs to be available not just in good times, but also in bad. 😉

(Source Photo: Kubota)