Showing posts from February, 2017

613 and Human Trafficking

Introduction: Isaiah 61:3 - God Will Replace Joy For Misery“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

As many of you know, I've been seeing the number 613 repeatedly for more than two years now, since approximately December 2014. Today, after many months of soul-searching and much time spent researching the problem of human trafficking, I believe I understand what God is trying to tell me with this number. Essentially, it is a promise and a warning.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. When we bind ourselves to them, and do our best to keep them, God saves us. When we abandon the Torah, and God's teaching, then we see (God forbid) the reverse happening in the world.The number 316, the obverse, is associated with the rebellion against God: When we rebel, G…

A Listening Session With Federal Communicators

On February 15, 2017 the Federal Communicators Network (FCN) Professional Standards Working Group held a discussion of issues related to federal communication standards. These notes are public domain; what follows is an edited version that highlights key issues.
The Importance of Standards
Cost Savings: When asked if agencies had a lot of independent efforts underway without clear standards and lack of coordination, many hands were raised – “money goes one way and efficiency goes another way” Quality: The issue is quality of our work. If you're going to do a communication plan, the ideal one has these components. Budgets not expected to go up. Many have contractors, but no standards. What Standards Are & Are Not
Standards are not just nice things Standards are not “thou shalts” Standards are common starting points to tell you where you are starting from, and then you fill in the blanks What Happens Without Standards (2016 FCN Survey)
Vast majority don't have anything consisten…

The Antithesis Of "Spin Doctors"

The fact that government communications is ripe for abuse has undoubtedly contributed to trust levels in government that are at their lowest ever. While it is true that political corruption is chiefly responsible for public disillusionment (e.g. "Vietnam: The Loss Of American Innocence?") it is also true that outsized spending on federal public relations contracts, as well as propagandistic agency communications play a role. Though the Government Accountability Office has long recognized that appropriately used communication is one of the government's top five internal controls, the way in which federal communications has been abused is not just wrong, but has also turned its dedicated practitioners into a public joke.

At this time, fortunately, there are a number of efforts underway to remedy this situation. In the U.S. military, the nature and scope of the public affairs function has been codified. In the U.K., civil service communicators now have clear guidance as wel…

The War of the End Times Is Here

I received a very strong feeling this morning on awaking, telling me everything is going to be OK.

Why is this important?


As you all know, I believe we are already immersed in the final war, the war of the End Times. This occurred to me based on reading about the times of the Moshiach (Messiah).


Already I thought that the founding of Israel as a modern Jewish state is part of these times. And that due to our lowly spiritual state the struggle for it is painful, awful, drags us down, and at times has involved evil deeds unfortunately.


Something I read the other day (can't find the link) enlightened me that this whole thing about "fake news" is just another chapter in our evolution, and in the war.

The proliferation of vicious, malicious lies and character assassination of innocent people, while monsters are held up as role models, is the material expression of the Devil rising up to deceive us as forcefully as possible.

5 Ways Government Branding Is Harder

Brand architecture: This is the discipline of assembling names and logos into a coherent framework. In the private sector it's easier because your end game is basically profit. (The challenge there is to balance long-term investment in reputation with short-term gains in revenue.) In government it is extraordinarily difficult to pursue any sort of brand architecture strategy without involving many stakeholders with competing interests, and without invoking many levels of law, regulation, policy, and so on. Without a clear identity strategy that puts you in a context of related identities, the communication you provide is far less likely to be impactful. Brand leadership: In the private sector it is generally more or less clear who is responsible for the development and the articulation of the brand. In government, the lines are frequently muddied as most initiatives are cooperative in nature. Brand metrics: The private sector has relatively reliable formulas with which to measure …

Open Letter to a Broken Website

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to inform you that I hate your website.

Maybe you think that nobody actually uses websites nowadays -- what with Facebook and all -- but I use yours, and it totally sucks.

Why do I feel strongly enough to write you a letter?

Well, for the one thing, I had a problem with my bill the other day. And I had to navigate my way through approximately 50,000 pages of content just to submit you an email.

(If you count the multi-factor security page that total would be 50,001.)

Believe me I tried not to bother you. I did. I went to the Community Forum-slash-Knowledgebase to see if there were some answers there.

But nope, nada, nothing.

I tried to use your Chat function but it seems the Chat hours are only 9-4.

It said that you have telephone-based customer service too. But you know how telephone customer service is, right? Usually totally frustrating.

In case you wanted to know what I thought of the "Splash Page" on Page One of your website: Love it!

Really, I do…

A Woman Was Crying To Me In Shul

She said that there was a sisterhood meeting. Did I go?

"No. I hate the sisterhood meetings."

She said that they had read "All Who Go Do Not Return," by Shulem Deen. Had I read it?

"Yes, it's a great book."

She confided in me: "I feel just like him inside," she said. "I want to have faith, but I just can't."

I took her hands in mine. They were so warm.

I looked at her, in her eyes. They were welled up with tears.

The rabbi was about to make kiddush. He makes kiddush for the whole community every week.

Then they wash for Motzi, and then we eat a meal together.

I looked at my friend, in her eyes. And I saw myself there.

In her eyes I felt the wash of pain that only someone who has struggled with faith can feel.

I remembered being forced to be religious.

And I remembered how I threw it all away.

I remembered how I cried to even set foot inside of a shul.

And I how I couldn't so much as open the prayerbook.

I held her hands in …

A Muslim Uber Driver Defends The Jews

It was late and the DC streets were twisty. We sat huddled in the back, scared, because you never quite know if you're safe in the cab.

The driver got lost in the middle of the ride and for a few moments I was more than scared, I was terrified.

We sat there holding our iPhones in our hands, silently tracking where the car was as versus the route, trying not to let the driver see. In between I checked the dashboard GPS. It seemed like we were OK.

"Confusing streets, right?" This is me attempting to make sure we're not getting lost on purpose. "It's so much easier to navigate New York."

My fellow passenger caught on. "Yeah, I hate how confusing DC is."

The driver chimed in. "I hate DC! These streets are just impossible."

In fact it is true, if you try to get around these side street in the city without having walked it on foot, good luck to you. And especially at night.

"Where are you from?" I asked the driver.


"Building Bridges" Between Civil Servants & The Incoming Trump Administration

IntroductionThe following are my notes on "Building Trust with New Leadership," an event cosponsored by the Partnership for Public Service and the Federal Communicators Network that focused on helping civil servants work effectively with the new Administration. The event is availabl free for viewing on Vimeo
As always, in attending such events and sharing information and opinions on social media, I am independent, meaning that I do not represent my agency or the federal government as a whole. These notes are public domain and may be freely reproduced and distributed.  PresenterExecutive Coach Michelle Woodward
Theme 1: TeamworkBased On "The Five Behaviors Of A Cohesive Team" [TM] by Wiley Workplace Solutions & Patrick LencioniResults: "If you can do trust-based conflict, then we can get to commitment to the same goal. Then we can hold each other accountable without people being attacked. Once you have all that, that's when you get to results."Disag…

How I Became An Activist

I had gone to the White House for a meeting and on the way remarked to my boss that my father raised us to stay away from rallies. When I was young I wanted to protest for the Soviet Jews, to free them but he was afraid that the FBI would take my picture and I would be put into a database of enemies of the state.

He told me I had a right to be an activist.

Now you have to understand that my Zayde, a"h, was there when the Sharmash Massacre took place in 1944 in Hungary and the "paramilitary" looted, tortured and executed Jews. He did what he could, including serving on the committee to ensure those massacred received a decent burial.

My Zayde, an unassuming man, had been a military officer. During the war he protected the Jews as best he could, by hiding them in horse-manure-riddled hay to prevent them from freezing to death.

My Bubbie, a"h was in Auschwitz.

So we knew very well that the State could turn very ugly very fast and as a survival tool we learned, first o…

The Problem With Open Borders

On February 3, 2017, Fox News' Tucker Carlson interviewed refugee advocate Michael Breen, who co-founded and now serves on the Board of Directors of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

No question, IRAP sounds good. According to their website, the project "organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons" and is "nonpartisan."

Similarly, Breen's professional background, as a military combat veteran, would seem to establish that his comments are not those of an ivory-tower academic but rather someone with actual experience among the populations he advocates for.

The discussion between Carlson and Breen is somewhat wide-ranging and I think the latter makes some valid points about the nuances of American foreign policy. In particular he makes legitimate points about due process in particular cases, and more broadly that it is off-putting for Muslims to be told, essentially, t…

Digital Engagement As Customer Service

Exciting is what big brands do. But for the government, digital engagement needs to be about one thing and one thing only: providing outstanding customer service.
You aren't trying to grow "brand awareness."You aren't trying to capture market share.You aren't trying to build a brand premium. No, what you ought to be doing is carrying out the mission, and digital engagement (a.k.a. "social media," although this term really covers everything to do with the online experience) is actually part of that -- not separate from it.

Within the government, for a lot of reasons, I sense that digital engagement has significantly shifted and that the focus is now far more on customer service than it is on content-sharing. As follows:
Operational Focus, Not Branding Focus: For a long time, branding was a "hot topic" for agencies, principally because they felt like their "image" was "disjointed." At this point, after having worked for the g…

We Must Be Willing To Ask The "Crazy" Questions

Today I watched a video by researcher David Seaman. He first became widely known during the election, for being fired from the Huffington Post as a contributor when he wrote an article about Hillary Clinton's health. He has been in the forefront of researching the widely controversial scandal known as “Pizzagate.” He is also an advocate for investing in bitcoin and gold currency to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of what he believes may be a forthcoming currency crash. Below are my notes on his video from today, February 1, 2017. It is his most important video to date, because he ties together a variety of threads that have so far mystified me and I presume many other people. I am therefore sharing my notes on it with you – most of which is directly quoted.
Please note the following as you read: Seaman states repeatedly that these are not his personal views, but rather that he is sharing with the viewer what he has learned. He also notes that he has…