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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gilad Shalit - Prisoner Exchange is Bad Policy for Israel

Israel appears to have made an agreement to release prisoners to the Paletinian Authority in exchange for Gilad Shalit.  To recap, Shalit was kinapped at the border by Hamas five years ago.  Prior to this negotiated exchange, Israel has released prisoners just to get proof of life. 

The only beneficiary of such a deal is the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu.  His cabinet is in danger of collapse due to a disgruntled citizenry.  This is a way for him to increase his poll ratings and remain in control of the government.  I liken this to Barack Obama's poll bump for "getting Bin Laden." 

Netenyahu should be aware that this will be a short term gain with long term repurcussions.  These prisoners will not go home as peace loving, rehabilitated people.  They will return with a large chip on their shoulder and a desire to stoke the fires of revenge for what they percieve was a wrongful imprisonment. 

This exchange emboldens the enemies of Israel to take more actions against Israel and its soldiers and places others in mortal danger.  I feel for the family of Gilad Shalit and their desire to have their son returned home but a country cannot be run based on emotion or political campaign decisions.  This the wrong move and will have long term consequences for Israel.  It is bad policy to negotiate with terrorists and the governments that support them.

I previously wrote about this policy several years ago and would like to republish that post here as it is still VERY relevant:

On Wednesday, 16 July 2008, the Israeli government exchanged live criminals in exchange for two dead soldiers’ remains. This was a result of a near unanimous decision in the Israeli parliament. New organizations are billing this as a close to the 2006 war which resulted from the kidnapping of the now returned soldiers’ bodies. The Israeli government has had a long standing policy of bringing their “boys” home, dead or alive at all costs.

The question I ask is: “What is the cost of such an exchange?”

It is mandatory that Israelis citizens of age must serve in the military. There are some exceptions to this but by and large, everyone serves in some capacity. I have not heard of any movement to abolish the mandatory service policy so I will assume that it will stay in place for the long term future.Therefore, there is no need for the military to have a public relations or marketing campaign to attract recruits. Surely, this policy would serve such a need but the need does not exist. 

This leaves only two beneficiaries of the return policy: the deceased’s family and politicians.

I understand the idea of giving closure to the families of kidnapped of missing soldiers. An exchange does not solve this problem without possibly creating more families of deceased citizens as a result of repeat murderous offenses by those released. Israel has placed getting closure for these families above the lives of all other families in Israel.

I am not trying to be crass or insensitive, but a kidnapped soldier or a missing soldier should, given the nature of the enemy, be presumed dead. The only thing a returned body allows for is that single family to benefit. Why does it matter where the dead body is buried? Will those families offer solace to the new families that bury their children, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones in the same cemetery as a result of a repeated offense by one of the freed prisoners or the new and dangerous assaults made by an emboldened enemy?

It was an uneven exchange. The trade was not criminal for criminal or soldier for soldier. A murderous criminal serving a life sentence is not the equivalence of a victim of a crime or a soldier in a professional state army. A soldier is a defender of his government’s orders and policies. A murderer serves no purpose other than his own. It is not sanctioned by the government (although in this case it was recognized by the government as such). It is a private act of rage and destruction against a private citizen.

The international community has been absent in recognizing and distinguishing the types of prisoners that each side has. Israel should not be asked to return criminals in exchange for soldiers. These soldiers were kidnapped by an enemy state or government or group recognized by the government as a legitimate military force. As such, rules of combat should apply.

Imagine if Mexico kidnapped two American soldiers at the border and in exchange for the return of their remains wanted 400 Mexican gang members to be returned to their homeland. To take this one step further, these gang members would be set free upon their return and welcomed home as heroes. Even more, what if one of the gang members had murdered a Los Angeles police officer, a father right in front of his daughter, then the daughter, and caused the mother to smother her child in a failed attempt at saving both their lives from his murderous intentions? Now let us suppose such a deal is made. There is still a real possibility that those gang member prisoners can come back into the country and commit further crimes. Are you outraged? Does it seem uneven, even pointless to exchange the prisoners for the dead?

The international community, especially the German mediator, touted the exchange as necessary and a positive step in the right direction for the two sides. This statement shows a clear bias against the citizens of Israel. The government has acted in a corrupt and morally bankrupt manner in approving the exchanges. Political expediency and short-sighted thinking lead to a failed policy and a series of actions by the government that places a greater value on the dead than the living. By negotiating this exchange the International community and Israeli government legitimize the actions of the terrorist states and organizations. This creates a legitimate mode of action for the terrorists to free their criminal brethren.

The cost is too high. May the soldiers rest in peace, but perhaps they should not do so in Israel at the cost of future dead Israeli citizens. May the families find comfort in life, but not at the cost of future Israeli families losing a loved one. This policy must end.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Where Have All The Anti-War Protesters Gone?

Where are the anti-war protesters that used to line Wilshire Blvd. by the Federal Building during the Bush presidency? In case they forgot, we are still in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now are bombing Libyans. The place is a ghost town. HONK if you hate Bush!

I guess these people are only anti-war when a republican is in office.  A democrat with the same wars is OK.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In Defense of Tea Parties: Why They are NOT Racist

This long blog post is a result of a post made by someone on Facebook.  It is a result of a back and forth exchange about Tea Parties and how they use Nazi and other usually racist and anti-semetic images as part of their marketing of ideas.  The FB poster suggested that any use of these images is tantamount to anti-semetism and racism against a black president.  I disagree for the following reasons:

Last time I checked the constitution was designed to place limits on government, including the Supreme Court. Many of the issues which are considered to be of federal concern today were not intended to be so. The Supreme Court has taken upon itself a role as the final arbiter of law. In doing so, it has created legal tests and methods ofanalyzing a case that are not within its powers. This has created a situation where the law is unstable. The US was to be a society of laws, not men. Instead, the expansion of the commerce clause has allowed unelected and anonymous men to promulgate laws and regulations which affect every aspect of the economy.

Obama is a socialist because he is using these regulatory agencies such as the EPA and MMS and even the military to advance a progressive agenda.

The Tea Party is a movement of citizens within the states who on occasion meet at a national level. The concern is that the federal government has overstepped its constitutionally set boundaries and is infringing on state rights. Tea Party members and supporters are not against roads, schools, education, etc. They are against the federal government dictating through central planning how the states should enact these measures. These issues are of state concern.

Moreover, the first amendment allows for freedom of association in the private sector. The constitution only applies to the relationship between government and the people, not the people with the people. A business that wishes to discriminate should be free to do so. In a truly free society where businesses are subject to the laws of demand for their services a discriminatory business may or may not survive but if there is a demand for such a business by the discriminated against party then a business will step in to fill it thereby removing some income from the discriminating business and perhaps put that business out or force integration.

There is not enough space here for a full discussion of the constitution and how to properly apply it or economics. The problem many have with understanding it is that they look only to the end which they want to reach and not to the effects it will have on unintended parties. This is the ill which the Tea Party wishes to address.

I also think that some are confusing racism with political statements. Hitler on a poster does not equal anti-semetism any more than burning a LeBron James jersey equals racism. The signs are pointing out a political belief (still protected by 1st Amendment) that Obama's policies as it relates to nationalism and anti-federalism are similar to Hitler's ideas in the 1940s. While I do not agree that the use of Hitler is the best method of getting that point across, it is not being used to scare or make a statement against Jews and blacks and its use is not racist.

As for the alleged racist events that occurred during tea rallies and other tea party events, there has been no actual proof on video or sound bites that any racial remarks were made to any congressman despite the exorbitant amount of video footage and audio recordings being made by both independent media and event attendees at these rallies. To the contrary, those who try to make such remarks, if they are made at all, are removed from the rallies or alienated from the local groups.

The Tea Party is about lowering the tax burden on all Americans and promoting personal liberty and state sovereignty. It comes from an understanding of economics, constitutional history, and American history.


The race of Obama is not a factor in this. President George W. Bush was not a true conservative (I would argue he was a liberal with some socialist ideas). This came to light towards the end of his second term as president when he began the bailouts and stimulus programs which have been continued under the Obama administration. These bailouts and stimulus programs demonstrate an absolute ignorance of basic economic principles as well as constitutional restraints.

Conservatives tend to be less vocal than liberal activist groups. One of the reasons is the approach taken to conservative causes by most media outlets not called Fox News. But also because their sustenance does not tend to depend on a government program, rather it depends on the absence of a government program. It is easy to find a poor person and then advocate on behalf of that person to have a program initiated. It is much more difficult to imagine a problem and advocate against a program to solve it. This is why many believe Republicans and conservatives never offer any solutions to the problems. Indeed, the conservative solution to most problems is to let people work it out without interference from government. This is one reason that people did not protest so vocally against Bush as they now do against Obama.

To place this whole discussion in historical perspective it should be noted that many were upset over the choice of McCain as the Republican candidate because he was viewed by most conservatives as a liberal wearing a Republican's clothing (wolf in sheep's clothes). It was precisely for this reason that Sarah Palin was chosen as his running mate. She was a more conservative person who would counter any arguments that McCain would be too liberal once in office. However, what he failed to realize was that the VP position is the most useless position in all of federal politics so voters looked only to his liberal tendencies and not his VP pick. Why pick a fake liberal when you can get the real deal in Obama and perhaps force the Republican party to be more conservative next time around? This is what I believe led to the choosing of Obama as president.

We have discussed many times the idea that rap stars cannot earn the large income they do without cross-over appeal. When white teens start buying albums made by black rappers rapping about mainly black angst and concerns that is how P-Diddy and Jay-Z are able to afford their bling. Obama could not have won the election without a large amount of white voters choosing him.

His selection as president did not have much to do with his race. It was a result of the history surrounding his election. Democrats had come off of two embarrassing elections. Al Gore lost despite winning the popular vote (we can debate how this happened another time) and John Kerry lost despite an unpopular war and many Bush gaffes. A candidate needed to be selected that would pose little risk to the party and appear to be fresh and new. The goal was to select a younger, more energetic, and charismatic person to combat what would ultimately be an older, lifelong politician in John McCain or even Mitt Romney or Guliani. Despite his thin record as a politician and some questionable associations he was nominated.

Meanwhile, the economy was quickly tanking because of Bush's liberal bailout and stimulus policies which Obama was able to pin on the entire Republican party. It is Obama's own campaign which woke up many conservatives to the fact that the Republican party was in actuality not much different from the Democratic party in terms of solutions to the economy. This led to a growing sentiment that a new movement would be required to combat the growing socialist and liberal threat to the conservative and capitalistic tenets of the constitution. The Republican party would not of its own volition take charge.

As Obama began to initiate more socialist type programs such as a national healthcare insurance law (not nationalized healthcare) and amnesty for those in the country undocumented or illegally (I think there is a distinction) and giving stimulus funds to favored organizations and causes the conservatives decided to step up and protest this.

All of these programs are paid for with federal taxes or unfunded mandates upon the states which would then be forced to raise state taxes as well. This in turn forces local governments to raise taxes and cut services. This is why the Tea Party decided to protest the taxation as the basis for the party formation. All the protests against healthcare and stimulus payments and other benefits being paid out of tax dollars were to illustrate the misuse of tax money and how the federal government has overstepped its constitutionally set boundaries and become a leviathan, swallowing up the states and their sovereignty and affecting the daily lives of all citizens, not just the tax payers.

I believe that if John McCain were elected instead of Obama a tea party or something similar to it would have been formed. One only need to look at the reception McCain's campaign finance reform (McCain-Feingold) and his immigration reform (McCain-Kennedy) ideas received from conservatives. Even Bush was becoming somewhat of a pariah in conservative circles for his unwillingness, despite numerous promises, to secure the border and enforce immigration laws already on the books.

Remember, as a nation of laws and not of men the laws are meant to be enforced no matter the public official's sentiment. They are the law and set the guidelines for conduct in this country. There is a process for changing this law set out in the constitution and that is the way it was meant to be. Otherwise, no one knows what conduct is permitted or prohibited and economies break down. Uncertainty in the laws inherently leads to uncertainty in the markets (we can discuss that at another time if you wish).

Conservatives are tired of the politicians selectively enforcing laws or selectively protecting and preserving the constitution and are now out in full force. It is sad to note that the Libertarian party has been advocating these ideas since its founding in 1971.

The protests are not because of Obama's race, they are because of his policies and those of the past three administrations (George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush) spanning 20 years of liberal policies being imposed on states by a federal government under both Republican and Democratic party leadership.

Obama has been a conservative's worst nightmare. His solution to any problem is to increase spending or add a federal program. These most certainly lead to increased taxes imposed on someone. Any increase in taxes on any one person is now money he cannot use to buy the goods and services of any other person. This in turn lowers the amount of income that person has to purchase goods and services and creates a downward spiral in the economy. The solution is to decrease taxes and government spending to allow everyone to benefit. It is because of this core conservative belief that the Tea Party is very vocal against Obama.

It is unfortunate that people do not take the time to look at the historical and economic reasons for present political events and look only to the immediate events to make a decision. The president happens to be black. I place no significance on this other than to show that racism was obviously not a factor in his election (remember the P-Diddy factor) unless it is racist to vote for your own race (as 96% of black voters selected Obama) despite the recent historical trend of more blacks voting for Republicans (Bush increased his black vote by 2% points over his 2000 election).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Declaration of Independence - Stll Applicable Today?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Solution for the Health Care "Crisis"

The Current System
Doctors become members of insurance groups. Patients subscribe to these groups and are limited to only those doctors within the group. The absurdity of this arrangement is best illustrated by applying this same arrangement to the auto industry. Suppose that AutoInsuranceCo only allowed its customers to purchase AutoManufacturerCo cars and use AutoManufacturerCo mechanics. Furthermore, if an auto needed repairs, the owner would first need to take the car back to the dealer and get prior approval. Once this approval was received the customer could only use AutoRepairShop.
Separate Doctors and Insurance Companies
The key to this solution is to separate the doctors from the insurance companies. Insurance companies would cover treatment options and customers could select which plans they desired based on their own ability to pay a deductible. If a patient values cancer coverage he will pay for this. If a patient values traumatic coverage rather than routine coverage he can pay for this. This is akin to the auto insurance coverage where a person can select varying levels of coverage based on his own evaluation of the risks and likelihood of certain accidents and results from those accidents occurring (i.e. uninsured motorist, personal injury).
This will allow a patient to select any doctor to treat him. The patient can then negotiate the fee and the insurance company will pay its share of the treatment. This gives incentives to the doctors to lower prices and provide better care because they will be competing with each other more directly instead of getting automatic patients from insurance company referrals.

The Uninsured
This may sound like a cruel idea but no service is owed to any person who cannot afford to pay for it. By eliminating “free” care to those who show up at emergency rooms without insurance coverage it will force people to place health care insurance on a higher priority level and thereby increase the amount of people who are covered. Those that do not pay for coverage will have acted upon their own value system without costing everyone else.Children who are not covered would still receive care but the parents would be held responsible for the costs via the court system. If a patient cannot or will not provide identification information, the hospital will be absolved from all liability for non-treatment.
In addition to this, bankruptcy law could be amended to remove healthcare debt obtained while a party is uninsured from the list of dischargeable debts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Change the Primary Process - Destroy the Two Party System

The two party system has failed America.  It has created gridlock in Washington and shut out alternative ideas (those that are not espoused from the Republican or Democratic party).  The election process must be changed to allow more parties to enter the political arena which will give more Americans a voice in how the country's government operates.

Currently, the two main parties receive government funding to assist them in running an election to choose their presidential candidate. This funding is a way for the two parties to maintain their absolute power over the government of the United States.

No government funding should be given to any party to assist them in staging an election. The parties should be considered private organizations and have to seek funding like any other private club, from membership.  Publicly funded primaries would be eliminated. Each party would be free to set up its own primary voting system and have to pay for them.

The process for a party being placed on ballots for House of Representatives, Senate, and President of the federal government would change to allow more parties to be represented.  In order to get on the national ballot a particular party must have a certain number of registered members. If the party is not able to gain enough membership, they may submit a pre-determined number of signatures as a substitute (likewise for candidates not seeking office as a member of a party).

After a party is qualified for the ballot, parties may hold a primary to select a candidate. Since this would be a private process, the parties may do this any way they choose but at their own expense, not on  the taxpayers' dime.  Once a party selects a candidate for the federal election it can be placed on  the ballot.

Friday, June 18, 2010

FIFA World Cup and USA Fans

I have come to the conclusion that the people of the US will NEVER follow "football" like Europeans and South Americans do.  However, when it comes to any USA endeavor on the international stage we all become fanatics for our country.  This is the only explanation I can come up with for the wall-to-wall coverage of FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa on ESPN and USA television networks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Government Sanctioned Marriage - Flawed Public Policy

Many politicos in America see gay marriage as a threat to heterosexual marriage. Every few years we find a movement which is promoting an amendment to the Constitution which will ban gay marriage. I take an entirely different approach to the problem.

Why is marriage an issue that the government is involved in? Marriage is an event where two people decide based on their own personal and/or religious beliefs to join together in a contractual relationship. The government has sanctioned marriages under the guise of supporting the family unit, distributing tax benefits. and assisting private enterprises in the allocation of financial and health benefits. It seems to me that this is a flawed idea. If more people are permitted to marry this will place more money into the insurance and benefit coffers which theoretically should bring the costs down for everyone.

Gay men and women choose to be with their partners. They can, by way of medical science or adoption, have families. They go to work and contribute to the economy just the same as their heterosexual counterparts. These families need legal protection just like any family does. When a gay person chooses to form a family unit, be it with children or just a spouse, this is a commitment which must be recognized and rewarded.

Those who oppose gay marriage use the argument that they are seeking to preserve the sanctity of marriage. Sanctity is a concept derived from religion. While I value the contributions that religions have made to American society, this is a flawed way to create laws in a liberal society (a society of laws). Most major religions have some prohibition on homosexual conduct. I agree that no one should be forced to sanction conduct that is contrary to their religion. However, by no one, I am referring to individuals acting in their individual capacity. A government should not be acting on the basis of a religious bias.

Religion does serve a purpose in American society but only on a personal level and not on Public level. Gay people have an inherent right to choose their own partners and paths in life. Heterosexuals have the same rights. By allowing gay people to marry it is not lowering the ability of the heterosexual couple to do the same. If anything, it opens up the possibility that more people will choose to engage in a stable relationship.

The real issue is that the government is involved in the sanctioning of marriage in the first place. Marriage is a personal event and should not be intruded on by a government of limited powers. Removing the government from the sphere of marriage will strengthen individual liberties. Anyone should be able to form a union with the partner of their choosing and recieve the benefits of such a union.

The recent disputes in Conservative Judaism, Christianity, and other religions regarding the ordination of gay priests and the performance of gay marriage ceremonies is where the discussion should be held. Marriage traditionally was a religious event joining a man and a woman into one unit as husband and wife. Religions are theoretically G-d given doctrines that cannot be changed. They are roadmaps for a way of life as prescribed by G-d and interpreted by the scholars who study the religious materials. A person is free to find a religion or person who will sanctify their marriage.If a person's religion does not accept the union that is alright. When a government begins enacting its own laws (doctrines) based on these religious doctrines it is not acceptable.

Others will argue that gay marriages cheapen the quality and image of heterosexual marriage. This argument is flawed because in an age where a majority of marriages end in divorce the quality and image of heterosexual marriage is already in the trash bin. If gay couples seek to join the rest of society so be it.

What of the tax benefits and legal protections afforded to married couples now that gay couples do not recieve? There is no reason why the government cannot create a program which registers couples. These are called Civil Unions. They are contracts which provide each member of the union with benefits and rights. Tax benefits currently given to heterosexual couples can be shifted to apply to Unions. Life insurance, health insurance, child custody arrangements, property distribution rights, divorce laws, and other laws and benefits can all be shifted to include Unions. No one would be forced to register their marriage as a Union but those that do not would not be entitled to the benefits and protections afforded those that do.

I do not know if being a homosexual is a choice or a "birth defect" or an inborn condition. That is not for a government to decide. Government is set up to protect the people and enact laws to protect personal liberties. Sexual conduct of citizens has largely been ruled out of the reach of the government except in some limited cases to protect children and incestual relationships. Where there are two consenting adults there should not be a government intrusion. As a heterosexual married person, I find it intrusive that I was required to register my marriage. In fact, the Rabbi performing at my ceremony would not marry us without a government marriage license. I certainly would have registered my marriage as a civil union to protect myself and reap the government sponsored benefits of such a union, but that should have been an individual choice, not a legal requirement.