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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

If I Were Prime Minister: the Gov’t of an Anarcho-Capitalist

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Note: This is satire, but does accurately reflect my feelings towards the Israeli government.

While I do not believe in the legitimacy of any government to exist at all, if I were forced to be Israel’s prime minister at gunpoint (it could happen any day now) and I had to name ministers, what would my government look like, and who would be in it?

I started thinking about this for more than a fraction of a second when I saw who got what in the divvying up of ministerial positions. So-and-so is minister of “strategic affairs.” Some other guy is minister of “agriculture.” Another idiot is in charge of “water,” because after all, if some politician who knows nothing about water supplies is not in charge of all of our water, we’ll all thirst to death and the Kinneret will turn into sewage overnight. This has already happened twice back before politicians were in charge of water.

And agriculture. Thank goodness a politician who knows absolutely nothing about how to grow food is in charge of the entire agriculture sector so he can tell us what we can import, export, buy, sell, when and where and how. Otherwise no one would be able to grow any food and we’d all starve.

But, OK, let’s assume I had to build a government and name ministers. Who would they be? First of all, I’d build a coalition of 120 MK’s and include everyone in my government by promising everyone a ministerial position. First, I would name Yair Lapid Minister of Male Grooming. He will be responsible for training all men in the state who can’t groom themselves and look like shlubs, how to look decent, improve their smiles, and generally look kempt. I will pay him $500 a month and give him a budget of $20 all out of my own pocket, and if he goes over that amount, I will fire him and give his job to Ahmed Tibi.

Instead of only one agriculture minister, there will be 5 ministers of one lima bean plant. These 5 people will be Liberman, Silvan Shalom, Tzipi Livni, and two of the smartest apes I can find in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. They will all fight over how to regulate the lima bean plant and can pass whatever ministerial orders they want on how to restrict, tax, and at what age to draft the lima bean plant into the army, but nothing else. If they start fighting, they’re all fired, except for the apes, who can continue regulating at will.

There will be an Interior Minister, but he will only be in charge of regulating the interior of his Knesset office. In fact, everyone in my government can be an Interior Minister. They can all decorate them with lima beans they get from the Lima Bean Plant ministers on the off chance that the 5 lima bean plant ministers haven’t regulated and taxed the lima bean plant to death. I’ll give them each a shekel to buy some gum for their offices from my own pocket.

There will also be a Culture and Sport minister. (Yes, in Israel, there actually is a politician in charge of “culture and sport”. Because without politicians, we’d forget how to play soccer and be cultural.) The culture and sport minister will be Gidon Sa’ar, who word has it likes to go to night clubs. His job will be going to night clubs once a week and writing a report about the number of flies on the ceiling of the night club. If he doesn’t write the report every single week and submit it to my desk (This Week: Eight Flies), he will be fired and his position will not be filled.

The foreign minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in talking to other state leaders.

The education minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling parents how to educate their kids.

The housing minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling people where they can and can’t build and live.

The communications minister will be nobody, as I am not interested in telling people how they can communicate and what cell phones they can buy for how much.

Will the Writer of the Fake Gideon Sa’ar Letter be Caught?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Being a public figure isn’t easy on one’s personal life.  Israel’s Minister of Education Gidon Sa’ar just got a very painful lesson in that subject.

One of his enemies decided to knock him down a few levels and/or boot him out of politics by accusing him of sexual misconduct.  It was pretty easy.  The person just wrote a letter, signing with someone else’s “initials” and then sent it off so the public could hear about it.

After innumerable headlines and articles and television news time spent on the subject of the “evil Gidon Sa’ar,” communicating that the previously squeaky clean Likud politician was just like the others,  it has finally been revealed by the police that the letter is a forgery.

Now, I wonder if the police will devote the same time and energy to investigate, discover and prosecute the forger or forgers? People should know that if they try to destroy a person and that person’s career that they will be destroyed instead.

There’s so much internal fighting and intrigue in high places, whether politics, academia, finance, media and more.  It’s really frightening to think how easy it is for someone to just write one of these “letters” or notes which can totally destroy a person, his/her family, reputation, career and worse.

I really hope that the Israeli Police won’t rest until they discover, try and convict the guilty in this real scandal.

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France in a State of National Depression

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

France is the sick man of Europe — at least, that is how the French themselves apparently see it. Last month, a survey published in the leading newspaper, Le Monde, found that a large majority of the French believe that France’s economic power and cultural influence have declined over the past decade. One in every two Frenchmen seems to have lost hope, evidently convinced that the decline of France — economic as well as cultural — is “inevitable.”

The French also seem to have lost faith in democracy. Le Monde described the survey’s findings as “alarming.” Three-quarters believe that French democracy is not working well. 62% believe that their politicians are corrupt. The survey indicated that authoritarianism is widely supported, by the Left as well as the Right. More than 70% of the French want a strong leader – a “real chef” – to restore order. So do, obviously, not only 97% of the right-wing Front National party voters, but also an astonishing 98% of the voters of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and 70% of the voters of the governing Socialist Party of President François Hollande.

A quarter of the French want to withdraw from the European Union; two-thirds want to limit the E.U.’s power and take a stronger stand in favor of France’s own interests. A majority of the French favor economic protectionism; 70% are convinced there are too many foreigners in the country, and 62% no longer feel as at home in their own country as they used to. Front National party leader Marine Le Pen said the survey shows that “The French agree with us.”

Dominique Reynié, a professor of political science at the renowned Paris Institute of Political Studies [Sciences Po], describes the general sentiment, visible in the survey, as “ethno-Socialism.” This is a Socialism that strives for Keynesian full employment and an elaborate social security system, underpinned by nationalist policies.

The survey also showed that 74% of the French consider Islam incompatible with French society, and 25% say that Judaism is incompatible with French society. Among the latter there might be a significant number of Muslims. Nevertheless, the figure is disconcertingly high. 11% consider Catholicism incompatible with French society.

According to the historian Michel Winock, another professor at Sciences Po, “the French are afraid.” They are afraid of unemployment, economic decline, globalization, the E.U., immigrants, Islam. They are suffering from a “profound despair,” which makes them long for strong leadership. In 2007, they voted for Sarkozy in the hope that he would be this strong leader. Last year, they voted for Hollande who promised a national resurgence. In both cases, they were sorely disappointed.

The national malaise also visible in the survey can be seen elsewhere in French society as well. The French are depressed: they are the world’s largest consumers of anti-depressants — twice as much as their English neighbors and three times as much as their German neighbors.

The feelings of national depression were not eased when two weeks ago Michel Sapin, the French Minister of Labor, said in a radio interview that the French state was “totally bankrupt.” Though technically not officially bankrupt yet, France has five major financial headaches.

First, there is the rising government debt. Between 1974, when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing became President of France, and today, France’s national debt rose from 21% to 90% of GDP. This year, interest payments on government debt amount to €45 billion, the largest item in government expenditure, and higher than the total education budget.

Second, there is the pension problem. France has a pay-as-you-go pension system. In order to keep future pensions payable, the French government either has to raise the working population’s pension contributions by 1.1%, cut actual pensions by 5%, or raise the retirement age, currently at 60, by 9 months. Last June, President Hollande cut the retirement age from 62 to 60, reversing the raise introduced by his predecessor Sarkozy in 2010. Minister Sapin, a pragmatic Socialist, opposed this move, but Hollande felt compelled to fulfill his electoral promises.

Third, there is the labor market. 18% of France’s active population is unemployed. Over half a million people have been out of work for more than three years. Three years ago, fewer than 300.000 people were in this situation. Wage costs are too high, productivity is dropping, and talented people are leaving France to work abroad.

Jewish Home to Likud: Ball in Bibi’s Court

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The criticism leveled by senior Likud officials against Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, accusing him of violating his promises to his own voters, have received this a quick response from Bennet’s people.

“Netanyahu is the one who cheated his constituents,” said a senior official in the party that won 12 seats in the elections, insisting it is inconceivable that Bennett would compromise his principles. “Anyone who thinks that Bennett will fold just doesn’t know him. He has nerves of steel. There is no chance he will blink first.”

Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked on Sunday attacked the conduct of the Likud party in the coalition negotiations, saying that “If Netanyahu wanted to – he could quickly form a government with us in it.”

According to Shaked, “the Likud statements, as if our understandings with Yair Lapid constitutes a deception of voters, shows contempt for the public’s intelligence.”

Shaked added that “despite the mudslinging campaign against us before the elections, we recommended Netanyahu to form the next government. The campaign is over, stop attacking the Jewish home and just form a government.”

Meanwhile, another senior Jewish Home official has told Arutz 7 that the Religious Zionist movement is not Netanyahu’s pet.

“Since the elections, Likud has been pushing us away and excluding us. Initially, there were those devastating attacks against our rabbis, then Netanyahu’s whole conduct was an attempt to humiliate us. He preferred to meet with Tzipi Livni, Yacimovich and Zahava Gal’on before getting to the Jewish Home.”

Bennett’s relationship with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, another spot the Likud has been attacking, was described by Jewish Home officials as a strong alliance. “The person who should take pride in forging the relationship between us and Lapid is none other than Netanyahu. He has pushed us there. His actions will keep closer and his actions will push us away. The way they’ve been pulling the rope, they’re just bringing us even closer to Lapid.”

The same sources have estimated that “Netanyahu wanted a leftist government with Livni, Kadima and the Haredim. But the election results forced on him a different government. We have principles, and as long as they’re not met, we will not accept and not even discuss government portfolios. Their entire attitude is derogatory. Not only to Jewish Home, but to the entire National Religious public which has followed Netanyahu for years.”

Winning the Minority Vote

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

After the 2012 Waterloo, Republican consultants retreated to some party boats and hotels, and began planning their comeback. Bereft of ideas, they took the media’s explanations for why they lost at face values. What they have delivered is a liberal’s eye diagnosis of why they lost and so they debuted a plan to win over Latinos with amnesty and to end their negative image with a new gentler look.

Mostly what they have proven is that they are even more clueless than they were a year ago.

Senator Marco Rubio seems like a nice guy, but if the Republicans are counting on him to deliver the Latino vote, they might want to take a closer look at his Senate win. While Rubio did indeed win the Cuban Latino vote, he only won 39 percent of the non-Cuban Latino vote. That’s the same Latino margin of victory as Rick Perry got. It’s the usual best score that Republicans get among Latinos.

Marco Rubio could be a guy named Mark Richardson for all the impact that he made among Latino voters. But that’s because the “Latino” vote is a ridiculous oversimplification. Latinos consist of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, to name just a few. And they don’t necessarily align.

Mayor Bloomberg ran against a Puerto Rican candidate and won the Mexican vote. Bloomberg may speak Spanish about as well as your Aunt Sally, but that didn’t really matter because he didn’t waste a lot of time telling stories about growing up poor in the slums of San Juan. Instead he worked with Mexican community leaders who were tired of being sidelined by Puerto Ricans, and advertised heavily on their radio stations and in their papers.

Race is certainly a factor, but it’s not the only factor. Most Black voters initially supported Hillary Clinton. If Herman Cain ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Clinton would beat him by a high margin. A Zogby poll shows Rubio beating Clinton among Latino voters, but how well that poll would hold up after Latino leaders have spent enough time getting the word out is another matter. Clinton beat Obama among Latino voters on Super Tuesday. Assuming that she won’t do the same to Rubio only because of his race is a risky bet.

There are two types of minority groups in the United States. Segregated and integrated. The more integrated a group becomes, the less of a bloc vote it is. A bloc vote is not simply a consistent pattern, it is the result of a segregated community that interfaces with the rest of the country through its leaders and local media. And those two interfaces are key.

It doesn’t really matter how many Latinos speak at the Republican National Convention or how many Republican senators sign on to Amnesty. These events will, for the most part, be processed through the filter of those community leaders and their associated newspapers and radio stations. Republicans imagine that they’re addressing Latinos, but aside from Univision appearances they mostly don’t even have access to them.

The percentage of the Latino vote that is accessible to Republicans largely comes from those Latinos who have integrated and are in the Middle Class. That is why the Republicans did so much better with the Latino vote in Ohio than Virginia. Median income and English language skills remain a fairly reliable predictor of the Republican vote.

Winning the minority vote is not simply about policy or diversity. That is an elementary lesson of the urban political machine that the Republican Party has bizarrely forgotten, even though it’s a lesson that goes back a century and a half in American politics. Diversity is not about finding binders of qualified candidates, but about elevating community leaders from minority groups who can deliver a share of the vote from their community.

It’s not pretty, but it is practical politics. Lincoln understood it and applied that methodology right down to the appointment of generals. The Democrats built an entire network of votes in every state by taking their urban political machine national. But the Republicans seem to think that it’s enough to have someone out there speaking Spanish. It’s a nice touch and the urban political machines used it. Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr., the son of General MacClellan, spoke a bewildering number of the languages that his constituents did. Mayor LaGuardia also juggled languages. But those are campaign tricks. They are not how the vote is delivered.

The Road to Serfdom

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“I am Hashem your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2).

Values always come on a ladder. They have no significance if they are not set out in the proper order of preference; what is more important, what comes first, is the foundation for all the rest.

The first commandment of the Ten Commandments is the starting point and the foundation for the entire structure of values that follows. There is a G-d who redeemed us from slavery. We serve Him and Him only. Throughout history, despots who desired to rule the entire world have found themselves in serious conflict with the Nation of Israel. From Pharaoh to Ahashverosh, from Hitler to Stalin – these despots concluded that they must destroy the Jews simply because the Jews cannot be enslaved: They already have a King, “I am Hashem, your G-d.”

Many values are held aloft in our world: Equality, liberty, liberalism and more. They are all fine and good. But usually, they are not founded on the first of the Ten Commandments. “My Nile River is mine and I created myself,” said Pharaoh according to the Midrash, just one example of a king who thought he was a god. The more that a leader puts himself at the focal point, the more he diminishes G-d and attempts to “replace” Him, the more that slavery takes root until the entire state becomes one large concentration camp: a “house of bondage.”

The danger of enslavement has greatly increased in modern times. The state’s ability to control and revoke its citizen’s liberty is very enticing to a regime that has no G-d. The excuse will always – always – be security. “We must revoke your liberty so that we can protect you.”

Do we really need to be biometrically marked like animals just to counter the plague of forged identity cards? Is there no technological solution better than a simple photograph that can easily be removed and replaced? Of course there is. Smart chips are already in place in all sorts of identity cards, and they are extremely difficult to forge. But the prime motivation for the Orwellian biometric law is the abrogation of liberty; to entice us all into a house of bondage – in the name of security, of course.

Wherever G-d has been completely removed from the picture – in atheist or communist regimes – human life and honor have no value at all. In China they raise people in locked farms so that they can sell their organs for transplants or horror shows, like the one that recently featured in Israel.

So when you hear someone talking about lofty values, be sure to check his entire message. Who is his G-d? Who works for whom? Does he work for G-d, or vice versa?

And the Winner is…

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I have no clue how many religious Jews are in the Israeli Knesset now after the election. But I have been told that if they would all combine, they would be the single largest party in Israel. That – in and of itself – is a pretty sad commentary on the state of Achdus. If there is anything that should unite religious Jews it is the fact that they are religious. Nothing should be more important to us that serving God through his Torah. And that is what all of us try to do. What unites us should therefore be far greater than what divides us.

But as can be plainly seen that is hardly the case. Especially in Israel. Just to cite one example of why it isn’t – is the way the observant Kipa wearing Naftali Bennett, head of ‘HaBayit HaYehudi’ was treated by differing rabbinic leaders.

Rav Ovadia Yosef the spiritual head of Sephardic Jewry in Israel condemned him telling people they dare not vote for him. (Actually Israelis do not vote for people but parties. But it is often the party leader that people are really voting for when they vote party.)

But Rav Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and nearby Hevron – a strong supporter of right wing Religious Zionist settlers enthusiastically supported him.

Mr. Bennett’s party was expected to win big in these elections. His newly minted party is said to have taken over where the National Religious Party (Religious Zionists) left off. But Bennett is so right wing that he makes Netanyahu look like a liberal. Bennett’s political views are much closer to those of Rabbi Meir Kahane. He advocates abandoning the peace process and annexing certain portions of the West bank right now. This is a position that has a lot of sympathy among the right wing in Israel. A lot of Israelis see the peace process going nowhere and simply say, “Let’s do what we have to – and let the chips fall where they may”.

The fact is that even though Mr. Bennett’s party won big with 11 seats, it fell short of predictions. The big surprise is Yair Lapid’s centrist, “Yesh Atid” party. He unexpectedly won more seats than Bennett did. With his 19 seats he is second only to Netanyahu’s combined Likud / Yisrael Beitenu coalition with 31 seats.

How did this happen when all the predictions were for a right wing blowout election that – by including Bennett’s party in a governing coalition – would have ended up with the most right wing government in Israel’s history?

And what about the religious parties, like Shas (11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats)?

How is this all going to break down? What will a new government look like?

To me it looks like the new governing coalition will include Lapid’s centrists instead of Bennett’s right wingers. It will probably also still include the religious parties as it always has making the coalition consist of 68 seats. That is a very comfortable majority of the 120 member Knesset. Bennett may very well be out of the coalition.

Yair Lapid is the son of the anti religious (although he claimed he was not) Tommy Lapid who led the Shinui party and who won six Knesset seats in 1999.

But this Lapid is not his father. Although he favors drafting Haredim into the military, I don’t see him doing it as an anti religious move. Because if that is considered anti religious, so am I. I too think Haredim should be drafted. But that is not the issue here.

I believe that his views are pretty much the mainstream views of most Israelis. Which is why his party is referred to as centrist. His list (of members filling those 19 seats) includes Rabbi Dov Lipman, a velvet Kipa wearing Haredi Rav with Semicha from Ner Israel. People may remember him from his activism in the Sheinfield area of Bet Shemesh, where he lives.

He was in the forefront of the opposition to Haredi extremists from neighboring Ramat Bet Shemesh who terrorized 8-year-old Naamah Margolese as she walked to her Religious Zionist elementary school every day. Rabbi Lipman is a man of great integrity and courage. He would never join forces with a man who is anti-religious.

I don’t know how this will all shake down. But I for one am glad that the new government will not be take the right turns everyone expected it to. Much as I would like to reclaim all of the Eretz Yisrael – which is the policy of the right, I realize that this is currently an impossibility. Trying to do so can only lead to disaster. Netanyahu is smart enough to know that. Which is why I support him.

So even though I liked and even admired Bennett, I was not thrilled with the idea of a governing coalition that included him. My feelings about him are similar to those I had about Meir Kahane… a man who spoke the truth but whose ideas about how to deal with that truth were so dangerous that in my view they could have destroyed the State of Israel.

The one thing people like Naftali Bennett do not factor in enough is the importance of the relationship with the United States. The financial, military, and intelligence benefits of this relationship are immeasurable. It is extremely naïve to think that U.S. support for Israel is open ended. Even though there may be members of congress or political candidates that might even go so far as Bennett does (Newt Gingrich comes to mind.) support for Israel may erode if Israel thumbs its nose at a U.S. administration that hardly has the warmest of relations with it right now.

An Israeli Government that would move even further to the right with Bennett’s influence could seriously damage and further alienate an administration that already disapproves of Israel’s current settlements policies.

If building new settlements upsets the current administration now, wait till talk of unilaterally annexing parts of Judea and Samaria enters into the political discourse. Fortunately that doesn’t seem as likely now that the Israeli electorate has spoken.

Of course one never knows what will happen. There is no governing coalition yet. Negotiations haven’t started yet with the political parties who might be considered coalition worthy. It is still possible that Bennett’s party will be in and Lapid’s party out. It is possible that both Bennett and Lapid will join the new government, leaving out one of the religious factions – like United Torah Judaism (the Ashkenazi Haredi party).

One thing seems certain. Even though there will be an unprecedented number of religious Knesset members – Haredim are closer to being drafted than at any time in Israel’s history. Whether that will actually happen, how they will ultimately react if it does, and how this will affect the country as a whole – remains to be seen.

Aren’t Israeli politics fun?

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