Impotency of our Democracy

The U.S. democracy is severely broken. 

We are supposed to be “one out of many,” but instead we are many out of one.

There is a tearing at our nation’s fabric. 


Resistance.  Obstruction.  Polarization.  Gridlock.  Shutdown.  Identity Politics.  Hating on each other.  Can’t get anything done. 


Legislatively we’re at an impasse.


It’s not just the border wall…


– No full year (let alone multi-year) budgets for all Federal agencies.


– No Healthcare Fix


– No Immigration Reform


– No Education (STEM) Improvement


– No USA Infrastructure Bill 


– We are losing our edge to a resurgent Russia and a China taking world stage militarily and economically. 


Executive Branch has its hands tied. 


Special Counsels.  Congressional Inquiries.  Judicial injunctions.  Media Lynchings.


Alone.  Thwarted.  Unable to lead or act. 


Presidential hand tied by mommy Pelosi and Daddy Schumer.


State of the Union cancelled. 


Presidency is compromised in the eyes of every national competitor and demagogue in the world. 


Without a strong leadership reestablished and permitted to act, we are running a very strong risk of losing our superpower status and becoming just another has-been nation.


Don’t think it can’t happen.  


The three branches of the government should be working together and helping each other to strengthen our nation’s survival, prosperity, and success.


If we don’t stop the madness, then we will implode and it won’t be a pretty or a happy day for anyone–Democrats or Republicans. 


Last chance for E. Pluribus Unum.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Does A Government Shutdown Feel Like

So its day 18 of the Federal government shutdown. 


The first couple of weeks wasn’t so bad, because it was the holidays and vacation time (“use or lose”), so I think most people didn’t miss work that much. 


Also, people got paid at the end of December, since the pay cycle is on a two week lag.  


For the first part of the shutdown, there is errands to run and things to catch up on–those things that you always wish you had the time for and well now you do. 


But by now, you’ve already done those errands and cleaned your house and car, shinned up your shoes, and even caught up on some reading. 


Then we also have the missed payroll coming at the end of the week. For those families that are on a single income, this is particularly hard, and even where one partner is working, still your income in cut in half. 


You can’t go out shopping like this!


You also can’t go anywhere–like away–because you need to be available to be back at work on a day’s notice–whether or not it looks like that day is ever coming or not!


Another concern for those that care about their work and getting things accomplished, is that work is like a moving train, and when there is momentum, things can get done–even at the “pace of government.”  But when you come to a full stop like this for an extended period of time, then it will definitely take some time to get everyone back on board the train and for it to get moving at a decent clip again.  Let’s face it, you can’t just turn people on and off like a light switch–you’re dealing with human beings with feelings, plans, and bills. 

Maybe the worst part about the shutdown is feeling like a pawn in the big boys and girls game of Washington Politics–even if you feel the border wall is important, which I certainly do, as federal employee, you still don’t want to feel like the sacrificial lamb. 


Why Congress and the President can’t compromise and give the $5 billion for the wall for something in return like immigration reform or even just give half and call it a day is really beyond my comprehension. 


Out of our $4.4 trillion a year federal budget, how does it make any sense to begrudge a couple of billion for a wall to bring order to the chaos at our southern border–can anyway say “caravan?” 


Let’s face it, drug smuggling, human trafficking, dangerous gangs and terrorists, and illegal crossings have no place in a civilized country, especially the United States of America.  


At some point, our politicians seem to have lost their passion for and dedication to what’s actually good for America and instead replaced it with identity politics and a sick insatiable greed for power, plain and simple. 


All sides need to be patriots and not political kingpins, and they need to give a little to get a little for the betterment of our country overall–maybe then we can move forward. 


And by the way, it would be great at some point to let us go back to work and do our jobs. 😉 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

My First Interfaith Event

So I attended my first interfaith event today at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


The first lady that I spoke to said that she wasn’t any one religion.  


When I asked more about this, she said:

The core to all religions is Rachamim (mercy, compassion) and Ahavah (love).


Pictured above are the table seating cards that directed people to sit next to people of other religions:  Jewish, Muslim, Other. 


The event was led by the One America Movement, and the Director, Andrew Hanauer spoke very well about bridging what divides us. 


Here are some of the take-a-ways:


– We need to address the divisiveness, polarization, and conflict. 

– Remember that we are talking with other human beings and not with labels.


– Polarization is not just issues, but devolves into identity–“I hate your stupid face!”


– But we are all human beings (and children of G-d). 

– Republicans and Democrats each say that the other is 20% less human than they are. 


– We all have our own “facts”:  My facts vs. Your Facts. 


– We attribute good that happens to us as being because of “us,” but bad that happens to us because of “them.”


– Similarly, we believe that we act out of love, but they act out of hate–and:

– We interpret threats to our viewpoints (political and otherwise), as threats to our groups and to ourselves. 

– Try to remove binary thinking (right and wrong, left and right, etc.), critique your own point of view, and share doubts

– Reconciliation:  If we can cross the divide, have open dialogue, and positive interactions with each others, and develop cross-cutting identities then we will make it easier to counter divisive narratives, solve problems, and reduce violence. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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)

The DIVIDED States of America

Our nation is increasingly polarized with little to no tolerance of others wants, thinking, or actions. 


– First under Obama.


– Then with the election between Hillary and Trump.


– And now over Judge Kavanaugh.


The result has been some of the worst behaviors seen since the Civil War–with not only disrespect, restrictions on freedom of expression, but even threats and actual violence!


This nation is no longer the UNITED States, but much more like the DIVIDED States. 


And that just plays into our enemies hands and could lead us to eventually lose our very democracy to totalitarianism, dictatorship, and tyranny.  


So now may be a good time to review for yourself how many biases are driving your thought processes and behaviors and creating dangerous fundamentalists and extremists all around us instead of thoughtful dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. 


Here are 20 biases that may be affecting you more than you realize:


– Do you overestimate the importance of the information you have or feel good about (Anchoring,  Availability, and Choice-Supportive Biases)?


– Do you seek out and perceive information that simply validates your preconceptions (Information,

Confirmation, and Selective Perception Bias)? 


– Do you overemphasize information that is more recent or recognizable (Recency and Salience Biases)?


– Are you ignoring information that doesn’t “fit your script” (Ostrich Effect/Omission and Conservatism Bias)?


– Are you tied up in the groupthink of your peers (Bandwagon Effect)?


– Do you see patterns in random events or conspiracies that don’t exist (Clustering Illusion)?


– Are you overconfident in your thought process and conclusions (Overconfidence Bias)?


– Do you tend to overvalue the usefulness or success of something, but not recognize its limitations or failures (Pro-Innovation and Survivorship Bias)?


– Do you fail to take risks because you prefer certainty (Zero-Risk Bias)? 


– Does your thinking something will happen actually cause it to happen (Placebo Effect)? 


– Do you use the ends to justify the means (Outcome Bias)?


– Do you judge people by their race, class, gender, religion, sexual preferences, or national origin (Stereotyping)?


– Do you fail to recognize your own biases (Blind-Spot Bias)?


Perhaps if more people would open their minds to information and engage in genuine thinking and critical thinking, rather than a lot of fake news and hype, we would be a far better and stronger nation. 😉


(Source Graphic: Business Insider)

A Three-Party System

Yeah, these signs say a lot about our two-party system of government. 

“Republican: Because everyone can’t be on welfare.”


“Democrat: Because everyone can’t be greedy.”


Sort of the age old story of competing interests. 


Certainly also a good dose of Fear vs. Greed. 


And where the rich get richer and the poor get welfare.


It’s good to have the 2 extremes of the political thinking spectrum, because it shows us perhaps where the middle is. 


Neither extreme is good, but rather it’s a balancing act. 


We can’t have more than 50% of the wealth owned by the top 1% of the people. 


And we can’t have everyone on entitlements where no one is working, innovating, and producing. 


Yes of course, some people will have more than others and some people will need help. 


There needs to be motivation to “get ahead” and there must be a social safety net for when bad things happen. 


This is life.


But the to extent that we can have the most people in respectable jobs earning a reasonable (true living) wage and that there is equitable prosperity to go around for everyone–this is ideal.


Really 2-parties is not enough, because extremes tend to get more extreme–this is the momentum of polarization and politicization until the extremes tear us apart. 


Instead we need a strong centrist party (or parties)–that can not only play to, but also execute the middle of the road approach. 


It’s not all or nothing, but rather compromise to a logical and reasonable solution on every issue. 


No, we don’t want to get rid of ICE, and we don’t want open borders. 


No we don’t want entitlements that bankrupt the nation, and we don’t want people down on their luck going needy. 


No, we don’t want women who have been raped or incested or otherwise can’t raise their children being forced to have them, and we don’t want babies being murdered in the late stages of pregnancy. 


No we don’t want to blow up the planet, and we don’t want our enemies besting us. 


We don’t want pollution in our air, water, and streets, and we don’t want to strangle the economy with endless and mindless regulation. 


And on and on. 


It’s high time to move to the center where common sense reigns.


It overdue to have a legitimate 3+ party system that talks real solutions to the people. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Under The Feet Of Haters

Feet.jpeg

So there is a saying in Washington, D.C….


“You know you’ve made it when you have your haters.”


This is a very political town!


But more than that, a leader has to take a position. 


You have to stand for something. 


There are oodles of constituencies and no matter how hard you try, you will never satisfy everyone. 


Yes ideally, we always want to create a win-win situation. 


However, every give, usually has a take, since the pie isn’t infinite. 


Compromise where possible, but hold your ground where necessary. 


The key is to choose a direction from your conscience and follow your moral compass and do the most good for the most people and what’s right in the eyes of G-d. 


Unfortunately, some people will declare themselves your mortal enemy and try to stamp you out of existence just for being and following who you are. 


Many of us who have experienced racism, discrimination, slavery, and even genocide know this senseless hate all too well. 


Be strong of of good courage and do righteousness. 


G-d is our rock and shield. 

Psalm 27: “The L-rd is my light and salvation–whom shall I fear?  The L-rd is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid.”

So as your enemies advance to step on and try and crush you, remember that G-d will decide where their feet actually land and how they will fall. 🙂


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Sexless Generation

Sexless.jpeg

Oy vey, the statistics are not good. 


Sex in America is on the decline (and no, this is not an April fools’ joke)!


Based on this who can argue with President Trump that we need to “Make America Great Again”–and that should include sexual vitality along with military might, economic competitiveness, and social justice.


In the early 1990 and 2000’s , Americans had sex on average about 60 to 65 times a year.


Moreover, for married couples, who are at the high end of the sexual spectrum, this is down from 67 in 1989 to just 56 times a year now.


This is a reduction of 9 , which doesn’t sound like much–however that actually comes to 14% less nookie!


And geez, that’s less than once a week! 😦


What’s weird is that the statistics show that Americans working longer hours and watching more pornography actually is tied to a “busier sex life.”


To me the obvious answer is that people are living too much in a virtual world of loneliness and nothingness. 


And they have lost touch with each other in the real world and have become more selfish and less giving personally and sexually. 


So while some people are busy infighting and infatuated with reading and generating all the fake news these days, it seems like they are missing the real disheartening and unloving American news of the times. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Top 30 Legacy Of Hope And Change

Hope By Brito.jpeg

Over 7 long years, the promise of “hope and change” has given way instead to the disappointment of chaos and dysfunction.


Just some 30 examples off the top of my head…


1) Nuclear IRAN


2) Civil War SYRIA


3) Fragmented IRAQ


4) Taliban resurgent AFGHANISTAN


5) Militarization of SOUTH CHINA SEA


6) Nuclear missile NORTH KOREA


7) Terrorist State ISIS


8) Resurgent aggressive RUSSIA


9) Weaponization of SPACE


10) Streaming crisis of REFUGEES

11) Broken system for IMMIGRATION

12)
Sharply rising MURDER RATES


13) Growing and largest PRISON POPULATION


14) Rising RACISM


15) Increasing INEQUALITY


16) Worsening polarization in POLITICS


17) Poor TRANSPARENCY


18) Dysfunction in GOVERNMENT


19) Rising NATIONAL DEBT


20) Crisis in HEALTHCARE


21) Failing system of EDUCATION


22) Stalling INNOVATION


23) Growing insecurity of CYBER 


24) Infringement on PERSONAL PRIVACY


25) Falling participation in LABOR FORCE


26) Slowing ECONOMY


27) Worsening CLIMATE CHANGE


28) Shrinking affiliation with RELIGION


29) Epidemic of SUICIDE AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE


30) Declining HAPPINESS


Now, one of our main hopes has to be genuine change for the better. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Upside Down in D.C.

So coming downtown this week in D.C., I see this quite unhelpful posted sign. 



If you can read upside down, while rushing down a busy street with a million and one things on your mind for the day, it says, “Sidewalk Closed. Use Other Side.”



Of course, the people flowing speedily down the streets in the morning, were still walking on this sidewalk, despite the construction and potential dangers. 



But in a way this reminds me of a bigger question here–is this really a sign of the times?



Today, I read in the Wall Street Journal about continued problems with Healthcare.gov–no, not related to the crashing websites, exemptions and delays, parts being overturned (such as with the contraception mandate), low enrollment (particularly after accounting for over 5 million people that lost their coverage with the new law and in effect had to sign up), but now in terms of thousands of people who signed up not getting their benefits due to continued problems with the enrollment system.



This is not just an issue for this party or that, but rather matters of government that we as a unified nation must tackle togther to grow our capabilities and competitiveness econically, militarily, and socially. 



Are the signs pointing us in the right direction and what streets should we be going down as a nation in order to succeed? 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)