Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I Love Israel

I started to write about Israel and her neighbors... I wrote of statistics in the surrounding countries, including literacy rates, infant mortality rates, etc... all of which point to Israel as a beacon of light in an area that is insufferably dark. Then I realized that it was just too boring to read - and so I start again.

Israel is a tiny country (smaller than the state of New Jersey) surrounded by countries and people who hate her. Israel has normalized relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan. As of January of this year, those normalized relations with Jordan were under some pretty severe fire. 

Syria is a real threat to Israel. They have been spending billions of dollars on weapons - and even while engaging Israel in "peace talks," the "Syrian Defense Minister was in Iran discussing Strengthening military ties." Hassan Turkmani was reported as saying, "Iran and Syria share the same viewpoint regarding regional issues and efforts will be made to strenthen our shared interests and bilateral relations."

Iran's leadership has a hatred for Israel that cannot be overstated. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly made the following statements:

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."

"No doubt the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world."

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets."

"We ask the West to remove what they created sixty years ago and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them."

"Remove Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations."

"Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day be destroyed."

"Israel is a rotten, dried tree that will be annihilated in one storm."

Israel is a true democracy. She is a strong supporter of human rights. She is the kind of country that values her people to the point of making concessions with an enemy in order to retrieve the body of a murdered soldier. She is a country which desires peace. She has been attacked from all sides, both militarily and psychologically... and when struck militarily she has proven that she can kick some serious butt. She stands for freedom in a region where the word barely exists.

Israel is surrounded by Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Sudan, Libya, Chad, Algeria, Niger, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Somalia - as well as a number of smaller countries in Africa. These are all Muslim countries. Grab a copy of the Koran and see what the Muslim religion has to say about Jews. 

And yet - in spite of all this - Israel stands. And that is why I love her.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Israel, Iran, and Biden

There's been some measure of speculation over Joe Biden's performance on "This Week" with Stephanopoulos. A number of people have said that he gave Israel the "green light" to go ahead and attack Iran. I, not being one to regularly watch "This Week," had to go watch him on the internet, but I have to say I disagree with the general speculation as to his intent.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has, I guess, said that he'll give Iran until the end of the year to work with the United States and eliminate their nuclear program. Generous of him, I think, given the fact that Iran is showing no signs of stopping and our president is publicly saying Iran has every right to be a nuclear nation (while making deals with Russia to eliminate vast amounts of our nuclear weapons). Anyway, when Stephanopoulos brought up Netanyahu's position, Biden responded immediately by saying, "Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else." 

People heard this and started flapping their arms and running in circles saying, "Biden gave the green light! Biden gave the green light!" But you have to listen to everything Biden said in order to determine whether he was really doing that or not. And I have determined that he was talking out both sides of his mouth. He went on to say, "Whether we agree or not. They're entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that's going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed." Which, to me, says that Israel has the right to attack Iran just as much as Iran has the right to attack Israel and it doesn't matter whether or not we agree -- but that doesn't mean we're going to back them on it. 

Biden was also very clear that the administration will continue to engage Iran in talks whenever and if ever possible, and that they don't care what Israel thinks about it. 

I'm not an expert on foreign affairs. I'm sure I have no clue as to what all goes on behind the scenes... but from what I can see, the United States has little to no influence in what happens in Iran. Granted, inviting them to come celebrate the birth and independence of The Great Satan might not have been the best way to get them to talk to us, but I don't think there's too much that will convince them we're okay and their ambitions are not. 

Is it possible that Israel will go ahead and attack after the year is out? Sure. Is it possible that Iran could develop their weapons before then? Sure. Does Israel really need our help in order to survive and thrive in their region? I think past history would dictate "no." Frankly, though, I love Israel and it makes me sad to see our country's leadership so at odds with them.

Obama is looking for "progress" with his diplomacy by the end of the year. And he has indicated that he will consider "tougher sanctions" if they continue their quest to go nuclear. But, it seems to me, that sanctions say to them, "You're being bad." Oh, NO! What will tougher sanctions say to them? "You're being really bad." That'll get 'em. 

Anyway, these next twelve months should be interesting on many fronts.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

As If I Needed Another Reason

It's been said, "If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain." Clearly, this statement is referring to modern liberalism, not classic liberalism. And it's referring to conservatism in the United States, not conservatism in... say, Iran. 

I would guess that most people, between their college years and their thirties or forties, have rethought their views to a certain extent. I have met people who were "conservative" in their college years and describe themselves as becoming "enlightened" since then, progressing them to their more liberal view of things today. And I have met people who were "liberals" in their college years and describe themselves as "coming to their senses" and being far more conservative today. I, personally, was raised in a conservative household - complete Reagan fans, my parents were - and in my early twenties I questioned all I had been taught. I went through a phase of wandering, then eventually ended up close to where I started, with a few tweaks here and there.

Today's edition of the NYT has a prominently featured story on Barak Obama (no surprise, that) titled "Obama's Youthful Ideals Shaped the Long Arc of His Nuclear-Free Vision." It's a must-read... As usual, an article which is supposed to be delivering the world news gives us insight both into Barack Obama AND the author of the article.

Back when Obama was a senior in college, he wrote of his vision of a "nuclear free world." His article, titled "Breaking the War Mentality," is indicative of his vision yet today. He writes,

"The more sensitive among us struggle to extrapolate experiences of war from our everyday experience, discussing the latest mortality statistics from Guatemala, sensitizing ourselves to our parents' wartime memories, or incorporating into our framework of reality as depicted by a Mailer or a Coppola... We know that wars have occurred, will occur, are occurring, but bringing such experience down into our hearts, and taking continual, tangible steps to prevent war, becomes a difficult task.

"Two groups on campus, Arms Race Alternatives (ARA) and Students Against Militarism (SAM), work within these mental limits to foster awareness and practical action necessary to counter the growing threat of war."

He goes on to talk about the two groups and how they approach the subject. The ARA leader is quoted as saying "People don't like having their intelligence insulted, so we try to disseminate information and allow the individual to make his or her own decision." A gentleman (Mark Bigelow) who worked closely with the leader of ARA is quoted in the article as saying, "We do focus primarily on catastrophic weapons. Look, we say, here's the worst part, let's work on that. You're not going to get rid of the military in the near future, so let's at least work on this."

One of the students involved in SAM said, "At the heart of our organization is an anti-war focus. From there, a lot of issues shoot forth - nukes, racism, the draft and South Africa." Apparently, the main focus of the group SAM at the time had to do with registration for the draft. There was a new law that required from male students proof of registration in order to receive government aid for schooling. This upset the students who wanted to be educated with public dollars while having no desire to protect and defend the public.

Barack Obama then went on to say,

"Perhaps the essential goodness of humanity is an arguable proposition, but by observing the SAM meeting last Thursday night, with its solid turnout and enthusiasm, one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones."

And this,

"The Reagan administration's stalling at the Geneva talks on nuclear weapons has thus already caused severe tension and could ultimately bring about a dangerous rift between the United States and Western Europe. By being intransigent, Reagan is playing directly into the Russians' hands."

And this, 

"In 1933 the German establishment thought it could use Hitler to restore a modicum of order to the confused and confusing Weimar Republic. In fact, Hitler did strengthen the German establishment, but not exactly in the way the bankers and businessmen had wanted; and now, fifty years later, it is clear who was using whom. 

"Nevertheless, the Western World did not complain in 1933 because Hitler, though a fascist and a totalitarian, was seen, like countless American puppet dictators today, as someone who leaves the established order in place."

"If a group [Green Party] of young, anti-establishment pacifists with unusual ideas and uncomfortable answers to hard questions terrifies us more today than Hitler, Himmler, Goering and Goebbels did back in 1933, our terror says more about us than it does about the Greens or the Germans. It indicates that we have failed to comprehend the meaning of Nazism and blind obedience to authority in their full horror, and that we, unlike the Greens, have yet ourselves to learn the democratic lesson that we have taught the Germans so well....

"... It is at once a warning to us that the old solutions of more weapons and again more weapons will no longer be accepted in a Europe that is already a powderkeg waiting to go off; and it is an invitation to work towards a peace that is genuine, lasting and non-nuclear."

Bravo, really... for a good piece of writing by a college student. Although infused with personal opinions and not exactly a news piece, he wrote rather well. I'll give him some major kudos for that. Unfortunately, hindsight being 20/20, we can't exactly give him kudos for content. Reagan's ideas paid off, the cold war was won without any nuclear fallout, and it can be reasonably stated that Obama was wrong in his statement about Reagan playing into the Russians' hands. It's also fair to say Obama was a wee bit off in saying Reagan was an "American puppet dictator." 

These writings - of a college student - and the views they represent could easily be overlooked and forgiven were the writer to grow up and renounce them, saying that history has proven him wrong. However, the college student grew up to be elected president of the United States and has not renounced his views. Twenty six years later, the college student is "pushing for new global rules, treaties and alliances that he insists can establish a nuclear-free world." In Prague, Obama said "I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly - perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence." Note to self: if someone feels they need to tell you they're not naive, they just might be naive. 

Obama has laid out a step by step plan to reduce the arsenals of the world's nuclear superpowers to 1,500 warheads each, as a beginning. He is reducing arsenals in order to "remake the nuclear world" with a goal of "halting weapons programs in North Korea and Iran." But he's not naive - don't worry. Perhaps his next step will be to halt criminal activity within the borders of the United States by disarming the police officers and the FBI. 

What's to learn from all this? What I've learned about our current sitting president:

1. He's a man who appears to have not changed his views between college and today.
2. He despises the military, perhaps even more than Bill Clinton did.
3. He's a man who seems to be incapable of learning even from the history which transpired during his own lifetime.
4. He is determined to weaken the United States through both our economy and our military.
5. His views and actions make no sense to me whatsoever.

As if I needed more reasons not to like him.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Moochers, Looters, and Producers

"So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor - your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?" -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

I am more an unapologetic capitalist today than I was a week ago... and a week ago, I would have told you I was as staunch a capitalist as they come. What is the difference in me today? I suppose I shall just be louder. Goodness knows, somebody needs to be out there in favor of capitalism... the capitalist crowd appears to be dwindling at a rapid rate. Honestly, I blame this sad fact on a pathetically poor education system. 

What is capitalism but the best among imperfect systems? I will admit that capitalism is not without its faults... free markets are not perfect, nor will they ever be. Human nature dictates that life on earth can never be utopian. This is one essential fact of which everyone needs to be constantly aware. This fact needs to inform us first - before we begin thinking of systems and what needs to be done about them. This is my bias and will inform everything I write from here on.

There are states "in crisis" financially - if you were not already aware of this, you've probably been living under a rock somewhere. But as of Thursday, even the rock dwellers will have an inkling that all is not well in the state of California. There, the state's controller started printing "i.o.u.'s" instead of checks to pay those they owe. To quote a line from my favorite movie, "Humiliations galore!" But I have to hand it to Arnold... the pressure has been on for quite some time and he just won't cave. He is calling for "changes in policy as part of any budget deal." What changes is he looking for?

1. He refuses to sign on to anything that is a temporary fix. 
2. He refuses to sign on to tax increases for the people of California.
3. He insists on the fingerprinting of recipients for certain state services.
4. He insists on checks on the job status of welfare recipients.
5. He insists on changes to the state pension program.

My personal opinion is that the state should probably stop spending money to save the seals right now, too... but maybe that's just me. 

Charges leveled against the governor?

1. "The governor is playing brinksmanship in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the '30s with possible consequences for the nation's recovery as a whole." I had to look up "brinksmanship." It means, "pursuing dangerous policy to the brink of calamity before stopping." Call me crazy, but I don't see anything in 1-5 above that would qualify as "dangerous policy" except insofar as he doesn't go far enough.

2. "We did everything in our power to avert the i.o.u.'s. This was a strategic move by the governor and the Senate Republicans." This juicy bite was from Darrell Steinberg of the State Senate. He also accused the governor of "stale rhetoric." 

Huh. It's interesting, isn't it? The state of California is in a glorious mess -- and states are required to run on a balanced budget. I really wish the federal government had the same requirement! Think of what might change if that were the case... but I digress.

The national mood is somber, at best. The June report of jobs lost was more dismal than that of May. Of course, the fact that the press was out rejoicing in the streets at May's numbers simply because the number of jobs lost was lower than the previous month was a bit pathetic, and one had to expect that the party was going to be over soon. 

In June, almost half a million jobs were lost again. It's not looking good for the economic recovery cheerleaders right now... not to mention the fact that it's not looking good for quite a few Americans. But that's okay, because the New York Times has advice for President Obama in their editorial section... wanna hear it? "President Obama and his advisers must start preparing now for what is sure to be a tough legislative fight over more stimulus." No, I'm not kidding. 

They also go on to say that the unemployed will need more help. Want to know why? "The jobless rate ticked up to 9.5 percent in June... and it appears headed inexorably higher. For adult men, the rate is already 10 percent. The numbers are even worse for teenagers (24 percent), African-Americans (14.7 percent) and Hispanics (12.2 percent). The most alarming subset, however, is made up of the long-term unemployed. Of the 14.7 million jobless workers, 4.4 million - nearly 30 percent - have been out of work for 27 weeks or more." Naturally, the NYT is calling for another extension of unemployment benefits. But puhleeze tell me that we're not extending unemployment benefits to teenagers?? Please?!? How in the heck and why are we tracking the employment statistics of teenagers?

Not to appear too one-sided, the NYT advised Obama to address a deeper anxiety... and this is where I have to just laugh at these people because they make no sense whatsoever. After telling him to start pushing yet another stimulus, they tell him to address the deeper anxiety of "how will the economy be rebuilt so that growth is not dependent on excessive borrowing, by the government or by households?" They want him to have "a vision - and an agenda - for creating good jobs with good pay." 

And for that, I have to circle back to the beginning of this particular piece of writing -- the answer is CAPITALISM. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Government Healthcare = Healthy Economy?

Joseph Goebbels was born in 1897 and was "Reich Minister of Propaganda" in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was an immoral, abhorrent creature who did his job well. He understood how people think. "It is not propaganda's task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success," he said. Like I said, immoral - abhorrent -- but good at his job.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." -Joseph Goebbels

Hmmm... propaganda, lies... kind of makes me think of the "national debate on healthcare." Fascinating, really, in a sick and twisted sort of way. 

Barack Obama took his message to Virginia yesterday, in a "town hall" meeting. He again repeated the obvious lie that a government health care program will save money rather than cost money. But he's now taking things a step further and saying that the national economy isn't going to come back unless we reverse "the crushing cost of health care." Talk about taking a cue from good old German Joe! 

But what to do with those pesky little mosquito-like people who keep buzzing the truth in the public's ear?? What do we do with them? EASY! Barack Obama simply says, "So when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They're not telling the truth." OH!!! So they're not telling the truth -- you are. I suppose the easiest way to deflect attention away from your lie is to accuse your accuser of lying himself. This puts people into a complete fuddle, not knowing which direction is up anymore... and accomplishes one thing: they no longer care to pay attention. And the propagandist can do whatever he pleases.

Obama's "town hall" meeting was hardly a town hall meeting... it was a propaganda moment set up to appear as a town hall meeting. Do you think that I'm being hard on him? Am I going over the top with this one? In your mind, do I now belong with the black helicopter crowd? I suppose it's possible... but it doesn't take a mental giant to spot out a bit of propaganda, and there's nothing wrong with seeing black helicopters in the sky if they're really there.

Obama, in this meeting, took seven questions, all of which were fairly friendly to his cause and only one from a Republican (who asked about medical malpractice).

Then we have Debbie - who was "spontaneously" allowed to ask a question. According to the New York Times, this was when "the policy and politics was interrupted." 

"Good afternoon, Mr. President... I'll try not to cry. I'm trying to figure out what I can do currently - um - my situation is - um - I had renal cell carcinoma in '98 that was radiated because my dad was dying of colon cancer at the time and I was his (unintelligible). So I could not be tied up having my kidney removed. So they did radiation procedures to kill the tumor then. And I had insurance and everything was paid for that. But basically, because of the damage that the radiation did and things, I'm no longer able to work, and I have no health insurance. Now I have a new tumor. I have no way to pay for it. Doctors will not see you without paying $100 or $150 to come to their office. I can, um, get checked into a hospital and with their (unintelligible) program they will run tests and release me, but that costs a lot of money. So currently, I basically... social security will not give me disability because renal failure is no longer a qualifying (unintelligible) for social security, currently. Um, I cannot get medicaid from the state of Virginia because you have to be considered disabled through Social Security to qualify for Medicaid in the state of Virginia because I have no dependent children at home - it's just me. I get food stamps, but that's it. And I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to make it nine years until I'm qualified to get my regular Social Security. Now that I have a new tumor, I have nowhere to turn."

Of course, Obama calls her over and she gets a hug. He will take her information and find out how they can help her, yada, yada... Then he launches into his spiel: "Debbie is a perfect example of somebody who we should, in a country this wealthy, be able to provide coverage for her health care problems. And what we don't want is a situation where Debbie gets worse and worse because she's not getting treatment, and then ends up having to go to the emergency room - as I said before - all of you will pay for it anyway, it's just you'll pay for it in terms of a hidden subsidy, and she's not getting the best care and we're actually paying more than we would have if Debbie right now was getting treated, uh, on a regular basis, by, uh, a physician who knew her history. Debbie, you are Exhibit A and we appreciate you sharing your story."

Spontaneous? I don't think so... after Obama is done making his speech, Debbie puts in a plug for some program for free medical care July 24th, 25th, and 26th... then talks about the good its doing, says that it would be a great place for Obama to "showcase why there's a need," then points to the governor and says how he can tell Obama the actual statistics, etc... this woman is politically active and is pushing for a government health care plan herself in an active way. Not only is this evident in her speaking, but reporters found out that she is active in "Organizing for America," which is a Democrat group that "grew out of the Obama campaign." When asked, the White House responded that Obama calling on Debbie was "coincidence." Yeah...

So... the big lies here? 

1. Obama is not for government-run health care. 
2. The townhall meeting "audience questions" were spontaneous.
3. Government health care will actually save the taxpayers money.
4. If we don't pass this - and quickly - the economy will never bounce back. 

4 pieces of propaganda being thrown to the public by the White House and aided by the press in order to take over yet another sector of the economy and our freedoms. 

I guess we'll have to see how effective the current administration is at Joseph Goebbel's job. Because, you know, your propaganda doesn't have to be intelligent. It just has to succeed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What A Great Story!

Hollywood should do so well... the coup in Honduras has all the elements of a great story. Filled with intrigue, irreverent humor, and drama, the story has made headlines all over the world. For little Honduras!!

So picture this:

We have a leader who is looking at his Latin American neighbors and seeing that some of them have extended their stay in power (notably Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador). Power is good, power is fun -- it's always great to stay as long as you can, right? Add to that the fact that in the middle east, a certain country has made serious headlines by fixing the vote. This Honduran leader had wheels turning in his head, apparently, and decided that it's high time to put out a referendum to the people to extend his stay... no need for term limits here, no matter what the good constitution of Honduras might say! 

I guess the headlines everywhere and the current trend in Latin America spooked some folks, though... and an organized coup ensued. And what wicked scheme did these rebellious souls devise? Did they kill the leader in his sleep? Did they poison his coffee? NO. They took him out of bed in the middle of the night and, in his jammies, flew him to Costa Rica. This left the President of Honduras complaining to the press the next day in his nightclothes -- saying that he's the president, for goodness sake, and to return him to his office! (The only thing that could make this more hilarious would be if he had somehow been infused with helium right before his speech.)

Of course, our president has sided with the Honduran president (along with the dictators from Latin America). And the press goes wild... Obama is so smart! He's so wonderful! Chavez is trying to accuse the United States of being involved in this coup -- and Obama has completely diffused him! Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna... And diffused Chavez may be. I'm not discounting that... According to the NYT, "The Venezuelan president will not forget that the C.I.A. had knowledge of the coup that ousted him in 2002 yet did nothing to prevent it, and that Washington has a recent history of providing aid to groups that are critical of his government, opening the United States to charges of destabilization." They go on to say, "But for now, at least, Mr. Obama's non-confrontational diplomacy seems to have caught Mr. Chavez off balance. 'Chavez is beginning to understand that he's dealing with someone with a very different approach than his predecessor,' said Michael Shifter, vice president of the Inter-American dialogue, a Washington policy research group."

Clearly, Obama has a different approach... to everything. But here's the bigger question: Why? It's fine to have someone come in with a better approach and a higher class of diplomacy. Frankly, I will freely admit that the Bush administration lacked diplomatic ease... to state it nicely. And, to put it bluntly, George W. Bush simply lacked communication skills. (He didn't even communicate effectively with his own people, much less people abroad.) However, Obama doesn't simply come in with a new skill - he comes in with a new set of beliefs. And, given the fact that he doesn't come down on the side of America even within America itself, it doesn't surprise me at all that he's lining himself up with dictators like Chavez in support of a president in Honduras who is trying to make himself into a dictator.