Never Any Rest In Life

First day in 15 weeks! that we went to a real store yesterday.

Dick’s Sporting Goods was open, but still not much else.

It was refreshing to look around again.

Nearly all the bicycles were cleaned out with people forced to do their own exercise routines these days.

People walking around mostly like they were on Mars.

Had some restaurants with just their patios open and people are sitting outside in the good weather.

Also, some eateries open for takeout.

Best part is still nature, and all the closures have brought us back to it.

This turtle was tanning in the warm sun on the rocks and swatting the snake away with its rear foot.

Sort of funny that even a turtle can never get any rest in life. ūüėČ

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Stock Market Pinocchio Style

Look folks,¬†Pinocchio’s nose is getting longer by the minute.


The market continues on a tear, even while the economy is heading in the other direction. 


I know people have been conditioned to buy on the dips, but I’m not sure that applies while we’re in the middle (or maybe still¬†just in the beginning) of a pandemic that has claimed 286,000 lives in just over 2 months (and that’s with a global shutdown)!


Somehow, there is a notion that when things start to reopen that all the problems will just magically go away, including the $3 trillion we just added to our national debt, all the bankruptcies being declared, and all the job losses that are becoming permanent. 


If you believe this, perhaps you’d like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.


The greater fool theory is alive and well.¬† ūüėČ


(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Lockdown In Coronavirus

This photo is sort of what it feels like to be in lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. 


You’re stuck inside, but still have to keep everything moving anyway!


As we enter the next phase with people itching to go back out and “restart” life and the economy and the second wave where more people unfortunately get sick, we are really as they say:

Stuck between a rock and a hard place. 


That where bad thing can happen (G-d forbid) and it’s¬† never¬†a good place to be. ūüėČ


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Reach Out And Grab Ya

This is a candleholder. 


But in a bizarre way it looks almost like a toilet. 


The place for the candle is the toilet!


Sort of would make a pretty scary toilet in real life if the back of it (ie. tank) has a body with arms that looks like it is reaching out to grab you as you take your royal seat. 

Hey, someone let me out of here!


Ok, I have definitely been shut in too many days due to this Coronavirus thing. 


I am imagining the world’s scariest toilets. ūüėČ


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 


The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one’s country.¬†


Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 


While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 


Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 


But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:


РFrom Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  


РWith each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 


– Just recently, we’ve seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time.¬†


– We have also seen many years of pay freezes–with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!


РThe pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 


РEmployees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 


РThere have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 


– Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of “conduct” issues that may or may not be true, and may¬†at times¬†be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.


РThe system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 


While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 


For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 


Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country–from the front lines to the back offices–we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people.¬†


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Welcome Back – Leadership and Donuts

Really impressed today going back to work after the 5-week Federal government shutdown…

And who is at the front gate, in the dark and freezing cold welcoming every single person back?

The director of the agency!

And not only that, but he is handing out morning donuts to the crew. 

This was a truly spectacular display of leadership. 

I’ve seen this only one other time in my 30-year career and that was at the Secret Service, where the director stood behind the dessert table at the agency holiday party serving out the ice cream.¬†

Humility and giving are what true leadership is all about. 

I am proud to serve under such leaders as these.¬† ūüėČ

(Source Photo–not from today–by Andy Blumenthal)

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


РNo USA Infrastructure Bill 


РWe 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.¬† ūüėČ


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Compromise = Winning

So this shutdown has really been an education in political dysfunction, bickering, and childish behavior. 


But when President Trump yesterday went on the air and provided a compromise solution whereby he gets funding for a 200 mile border wall/barrier and the Democrats get money for humanitarian relief at the border, high-tech sensors, and years of protection for 700,000 children that came to this country illegally (DACA) and another 300,000 for immigrants from designated countries that prevent their sage return (TPS)–it seems like everybody would come out a winner!


That’s negotiation.¬† That’s compromise.¬† That’s diplomacy.¬†¬†


When President Trump did this, I thought he really won the day, especially when the Democrats rejected his proposals and offered nothing in return or as an alternative. 


Even if the other side disagrees with the solution, they can and should offer what their version of a compromise/agreement would be and so on between the parties–this way, they can negotiate until both sides get to the magical compromise that everyone can agree to and live with.¬†


What I learned from this is that regardless of your political leanings, the side that shows flexibility and compromise and the desire to get something done, is the side that wins the argument, period. 


Those that want it all or are simply obstructionist and haters are the big losers in the debate. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Trump Vs. Pelosi — The Citizens Lose

Yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, majorly dissed President Trump by attempting to cancel his State of the Union address for Tuesday, January 29 citing lack of resources to secure the National Special Security Event (NSSE) due to the government shutdown. 


In turn, CNN applauded Pelosi for having:

– Just pulled a major power move on Donald Trump’s State of the Union

Today, President Trump reciprocated by refusing to provide military aircraft for Pelosi’s trip aboard citing the same shutdown.¬†


In this case, The Guardian condemns President Trump stating that he:

– Escalates shutdown row by cancelling Pelosi trip

I am not taking sides (seriously), but just can’t help but notice the incredible bias in the “Fake News” that we are all being fed in the massive media “echo chamber.”¬†


Again, Pelosi cancels Trump and its reported on as she did a great thing, while when Trump responds and cancels Pelosi, then that is reported on as he is escalating the situation. 


Something is very wrong in this country–regardless of which politicians and parties you love or hate and whether you agree with a border wall or not–shouldn’t we get news that is honest and even-handed.¬†


The system is broken and we are the masses that are being controlled in our thinking and our voting.  


This is not democracy–it is social control and b*llsh*t brainwashing!¬†ūüėČ

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:

РOver 253,000 guns annually cross the border from the U.S. to Mexico.


Drug Trafficking:

РCartels 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:

РThe 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)