American Jews Need to Wake Up

I chatted to a friend of mine this morning over what’s been going on in Gaza. He’s Jewish and was quite critical of Israel in a post on Facebook. Instead of commenting on his post, I messaged him, and we went back and forth regarding Israel. Our discussion made me realize how American Jews simply do not get Israel. They don’t fully comprehend what Israel is about. American Jews have had it easy for the past few generations. It’s been a long time since discrimination against Jews was common, and anti-Semitism has been a low key affair here in the USA when compared to Europe and the Middle East.

There have always been some Jews that were Zionists, that felt a deep seated, often faith-based need for the establishment of the state of Israel. But it wasn’t until the Russian Pogroms at the turn of the century followed by the spike of anti-Semitism in continental Europe that culminated in the Holocaust that a majority of  Jews understood the necessity of Israel. For two millennia Jews had relied upon “blending in”, compromising whenever necessary, and relying upon the humanity of non-Jews for their existence. But the Russian Pogroms followed by the Holocaust proved the bankruptcy of such beliefs. Jews might be safe for awhile, but they could never rely upon non-Jews for their very existence. Hitler proved the fragility of the Jewish people, how easily their situation in the Diaspora could turn from success and prosperity to survival in a handful of years.

Hitler and the Nazis did not arise from nothing. The only difference between them and the various kings and queens who expelled or sanctioned the slaughter of Jews since the fall of the Roman Empire was scale. Queen Isabella would surely have used train cars to expel the Jews from Spain had they existed in the 15th century, and the Czars would have resorted to the gas chambers had they the technical know-how of 20th century Germany. To the survivors of the Holocaust “Never Again” didn’t mean the world should never allow mass murder on the scale of the Holocaust, for the Jewish community it was a warning that never again should the Jews entrust their survival to non-Jews.

The State of Israel promised that no matter how bad things got in the Diaspora, every Jew had a home, a place of safety, a “plan B” for when things got bad and the disease of Jew Hating arose.

American Jews of today don’t understand the need for this. We’ve had generations grow up in a culture where not only are Jews accepted, individuals are celebrated. Instead of seeing Jews as “Christ killers” conservative American Christians see Jews as co-religionists and see Israel as proof of the power of G-d’s word. But through the centuries Jews have enjoyed such prosperity, success and even celebration in places where they were later slaughtered.

The signs are already here. While the fundamentalist Christian sects remain strong Israel supporters, the more liberal Christian sects are falling prey to leftist ideology that embraces anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism and the cause of the Palestinians. Jewish students are increasingly harassed on college campuses. As the BDS movement evolves the distinction between Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and Judaism itself becomes erased. Jew Hatred is so deeply embedded in Western Society that it doesn’t take much for it to arise to the surface. America has a long tradition of Jew Hatred; we just haven’t reverted to type just yet. But we will, and once the disease infects the moderates and eventually the Right, American Jews will learn what “never again” truly meant, but as usual they will only learn it the hard way.

There will always be non-Jews like me who support Judaism for various reasons. Are American Jews ready to rely upon the likes of me for their safety and survival? I would hope not. American Jews need Israel more than I do. It’s their Plan B, there for them when the s**t hits the fan and they need to get out quick. But it will only be there for them if they support it.

 

A Trip to Mt. Hiei, Kyoto Japan

I wrote the following while living in Kyoto Japan in 1993. Noise pollution in Japan remains an issue today.

Kyoto is a city of a million people lying about 35 miles north of Osaka. Although mass transportation and urban sprawl have turned Kyoto into a suburb of Osaka, Kyoto has retained its identity as being the cultural and historical capital of Japan, even managing to retain its distinctive dialect of Japanese. It sits in a broad valley with low mountains to the north, east and west with a thin and shallow concrete banked river running north-south through the eastern half of the city. The city is a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial spaces with the edges predominantly residential and the southern part of the city industrial. Centuries old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dot the city. Although Kyoto escaped the bombings which leveled other cities like Osaka during the war, most of the temples and shrines in Kyoto were destroyed in the various civil wars which raged in the area between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries or by accidental fires which periodically spread and laid waste to the city.

Late one summer the Wife and I  decided to escape the heat and city life by visiting Mount Hiei in Eastern Kyoto. Hiei is a cone-shaped mountain rising about 3,000 feet above sea-level at the northeastern edge of the city. We chose Hiei because we were craving outdoor activity after months spent living and working in the city. Plus Hiei’s history is irresistible to any serious Nipponophile.

In the 12th century monasteries of the Tendai sect of Buddhism were established around the summit of Mt. Hiei. Thousands of warrior monks lived, prayed and trained at the “Enryakuji”, the great monastic headquarters of the sect. As the power of the rulers in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto ebbed with the general collapse of centralized government during the period, the warrior monks caused problems. At various occasions during the next three hundred years the monks would descend on Kyoto to rape, pillage and generally wreak havoc in the city and the surrounding areas, returning to the safety of their heavily fortified monasteries before an organized defense could be mounted. Weakened by corruption and the shift of power to the provincial nobility, the central government could do little to combat the raids and the threat the monks posed to feudal society.

Oda Nobunaga was the first of three great leaders who unified Japan in the 16th century. He was a provincial lord from the east of Kyoto who, using diplomacy and force, began the unification of Japan which his successors Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawa Ieyasu completed in the early 17th century. In 1568 Oda seized Kyoto and for 3 years worked to control the various sects of warrior monks living in the mountains surrounding the city. In 1571 he laid siege to Mt. Hiei in an attempt to subdue the monks of the Enryakuji. With the failure of various diplomatic overtures and military attacks and no sign that the monks were suffering from the siege, Oda installed archers at the siege line circling the mountain and the set fire to the trees. The heavily forested mountain of cypress, fueled by dry summer winds created an inferno which trapped the monks at the mountain’s summit, setting fire to their wooden fortifications. In desperation the monks ran through the flames and were picked off one-by-one by the archers. Thousands of monks were killed and at a single stroke he power of the warrior monks was destroyed. Only in 1992 did the monks of the Tendai sect begin to include Oda Nobunaga in their prayers at their annual memorial of the event.

We took a city bus to the foot of the mountain then a cable car which ratcheted up the side of the mountain on geared tracks. Halfway up we switched to a rope-way which lifted us above the cypress-covered valley and carried us to the summit. As we exited the car and stepped on the broad summit of the mountain, all thoughts of a quiet hike in contemplation of nature and history were blasted out of our skulls by a barrage of Japanese pop music blaring from loudspeakers mounted on telephone poles and trees around the summit. Expecting to find quiet Buddhist temples and hiking trails we found a miniature golf course and game center with a grass-ski lodge where one could strap on roller skis and ski down the mountainside while being serenaded by Japanese pop stars. Searching the woods for an escape from the cacophony we stumbled upon a broad asphalt parking lot flanked by small open air kiosks selling souvenirs and fast food such as fried octopus and squid omelets. We crossed the parking lot and ignored a chain across a trail head and set down the path strewn with soft drink cans. cigarette butts and even rusting refrigerators. Although quieter the noise echoed between the ridges and trees to become an even more annoying din.

The trail zig-zagged down the mountain but try as we might we could not escape the noise. Just when we thought we had found a place where the noise was blocked, the wind would shift and we would be assaulted by the noise again. After half an hour of hiking down the mountain, the litter and omnipresent noise were too much and we decided to leave.

As we turned and began the hike back up the trail we heard the sound of a distant temple gong. Behind a thicket of trees we could make out a Buddhist monastery. The gong sounded again and for an instant I imagined the how the valley must have looked hundreds of years ago during Oda’s siege. The encampment and bamboo barricades at the foot of the mountain. Oda’s banners flapping in the summer breeze. The smoke and advancing wall of flame. But the gong stopped and the din from above muscled out the thoughts. We slowly made our way up the trail and left the mountain.

2014 Update: Beat poet Gary Snyder once said of Japanese Buddhism, “They got the message but didn’t open the envelope.” While living there I was never able to bridge the dichotomy between what the Japanese present and what they really are. Pollution was everywhere, and noise pollution in particular made it impossible for one to ever be alone with his or her thoughts. There were even speakers at the famous rock garden temple of Ryoanji that never shut up. The idea of tranquility never became reality, and the Japanese couldn’t understand it because they had grown up with the noise pollution and so couldn’t understand why foreigners complained. They just didn’t get it.

 

Michelle Obama Welcomes Illegal Immigrants

Courtesy of our comrades at The People’s Cube:

The Council Has Spoken: July 11, 2014

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Bubble? What Bubble? This Bubble – CYNK

You may not know it but there’s a greater than zero chance that your 401k is invested in the following company: CYNK

CYNK “was founded as a web based social network that allows individuals to post a profile and link their profile to other friends and organizations.”

According to official filings it has 1 employee, no revenue, and no assets. Until June it was a stretch to call it a penny-stock. Today though it’s trading between $12-15 a share. It is at the time of this writing worth over $5 billion.

In case you are curious to what this looks like, here’s a quick chart of the stock.

What scares me is that someone is buying this stock, and while that person/algorithm may not lose his job, someone is going to get hurt once reality reasserts itself. When you have some commentators at ZeroHedge suggesting it would be immoral to short the stock, you know the situation is bizarre.

Update 7/11/2014: Trading has been suspended by the SEC. It is unlikely to resume. There are firms now holding around $5 billion of worthless stock in their portfolios. Those portfolios represent the sweat and hard work, money earned by real people that cannot be recovered. Let’s just hope that most of that $5 billion was instead owned by the idiots blowing up the current stock market bubble.

Update 7/15/2014: This trader lost his job by shorting the stock too early and getting burned on it the next day during a short squeeze. Of course he doesn’t blame himself; he blames the SEC even though, to quote the now unemployed trader, “My 10-year-old knew it was a scam. It was a complete joke.” Yet neither he – nor the investors who paid for his stupidity – are laughing.

Council Submissions: July 9, 2014

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Illegal Immigrants Are Not Dogs…

So why do we treat them worse?

I am actively involved in animal rescue. Over the course of my life I have rescued scores of animals, finding them forever homes when I could or keeping them as pets. The shelters are full of animals, most of which are facing death. Their crime? Having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I do what I can. I spay and neuter everything I get my hands on, provide them health care and a loving home until I find the right place for them, and treat them with the love and respect that Chance has denied them. I have more pets than most people would consider reasonable and my limit has been reached. What is that limit? My ability to provide love and attention to each one.  I know I’m at that limit because I have a young beagle who needs more love and attention than I can provide. I do my best, but the truth is she needs a home where she can be someone’s special girl.

I can’t rescue them all. I don’t rush down to the county “kill” shelter, throw open the cages, open the doors and let all the animals run free even though they are facing certain death staying where they are.

I also don’t force people to take care of pets they don’t want. I believe that one solution to the pet overpopulation problem is for more animal lovers to responsibly take on more animals, but I don’t demand they do so nor do I expect the government to intervene and force them to.

See where I’m going with this?

I have lived abroad and seen true poverty, so I am very sympathetic to those who are coming illegally into our country. I recognize that most of them are innocent men, women and children stuck in a cage facing death back home. Their crime? Having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are others who aren’t so innocent, as wild and untamed as the feral cats who plague our city parks.

Unlike pets the solution is not to spay and neuter them of course, and we can’t save them all – a fact that immigrant advocates seem to forget. What do we do?

Instead of dumping them on people who don’t want them, how about having them live with those who do. Everyone fighting for the immigrants to stay should open their homes to them just as I have the strays that cross my path. Help them take care of themselves here, learn English and find jobs to eventually become citizens instead of forcing them into shelters run by the government in neighborhoods where they are not wanted.

But the fact must be faced. We can’t save them all. America is not big enough; we have our own black, Hispanic, and white underclasses needing jobs and health care. What do we do?

Ultimately we will need to do some “Yankee Imperialism” to build countries in Central America that aren’t failed states run by goons on the payrolls of narcotics traffickers. That will require a lot of work on our part as a people who must learn that not all cultures are equal – that some are indeed better than others – but in the meantime those demanding the illegal immigrants stay should be opening up their homes and their own wallets, just as people who rescue animals do.

These are people. They deserve to be treated better than dogs. The sooner the immigration advocates realize this the better.

 

 

 

It’s politics, not science, driving climate mania

It’s hysteria, not mania, and it sure as hell isn’t science.

The Council Has Spoken: July 4, 2014

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Council Submissions: July 2, 2014

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SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Proves Flaw of Employer Based Health Insurance

Although I support the Hobby Lobby decision rendered by the US Supreme Court, the decision merely points to a bigger problem: employer based health insurance. As an IT professional I have frequently switched jobs or worked for myself, and the health insurance coverage available to me is expensive and often non-existent. I have bought health insurance on the individual market exactly as I do with my car insurance, and the fact that the individual market is regulated to death, provides little competition unlike the auto insurance market and is outrageously more expensive is puzzling. I can spend 15 minutes to save 15% on car insurance yet it would take me twice as long to find a provider in my area and determine which insurance products were available to me then cost me twice as much just doesn’t make sense.

Paul Waldman writing for the Washington Post points out that employer based health insurance is rare in the industrialized world and is the result of an accident of history.

 

The system has its real roots in World War II, when the government imposed wage and price controls. Although there had been some health insurance plans sold through employers before, when companies couldn’t offer increased wages during the war, they began offering health benefits instead. When the IRS ruled that those benefits didn’t count as income and so were tax-free, the momentum toward employer-sponsored insurance was all but unstoppable (the deduction for employer-provided coverage is now the largest tax expenditure in the federal budget, dwarfing even the mortgage interest deduction).

 

Waldman points out that through employer based health insurance I use pre-tax dollars to pay for the insurance whereas when I buy on the individual market I have to use post-tax dollars. This makes any health insurance I purchase on the individual market more expensive depending on my tax bracket.

Now we have the IRS involved in our health insurance system. What next? The EPA to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide we exhale? The NSA to handle our medical records? How about the VA to handle appointment scheduling?  It seems to me you couldn’t design a worse health insurance system than the one we have today.

So conservatives shouldn’t cheer the Supreme Court’s decision to loudly and liberals should stop freaking out. Instead they should work together to end this crazy legacy of World War 2 so that companies can focus on making money and employees can take care of themselves as they see fit.

Update: Laurie Rice, writing for the Atlas Society, adds this:

(G)overnment involvement in the market is the reason why so many women have to get insurance through their employer in the first place. That government involvement in women’s health means today’s contraception victory is tomorrow’s political bargaining chip, to be traded by people like Kathleen Sebelius. That state power is more inescapable, more inflexible, and more insidious to women’s freedoms than any Hobby Lobby conservative craft store could ever be. Feminists need to embrace free-market capitalism.

 

Feminists need to embrace free-market capitalism? Given the alliance with Big Government and Leftism I’m not holding my breath.

The Council Has Spoken: June 27, 2014

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Council Submissions: June 25, 2014

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Immigration For Idiots

Because Evidently Smart People Have Gotten Really Stupid About the Subject

Imagine you arrive at work one morning to find a group of people standing around your desk or workstation. You notice similar groups standing around the desks of your colleagues. Everyone is perplexed. Finally your boss arrives and explains, “These are your potential replacements.” She points to one, “See Miguel here? He’s actually a harder worker than you are and is willing to work for half of what I pay you. Sure his English isn’t the best, but Rosetta Stone Spanish is half-price on Amazon right now, Eso es mucho, ¿eh Miguel?” Miguel nods vigorously.

“The only thing holding me back from hiring him is immigration reform,” she says, “But since both parties are committed, I guess it’s only a matter of time…” She walks away, then says over her shoulder, “Oh, and until it’s passed you might want to remember Miguel and his amigos when you come to my office for your next evaluation.”

We like to believe we are indispensable in our jobs, that the company cannot run without us. The truth is that unless you work for yourself your company CAN run without you, and in many cases may do so better. The only reason you have a job is that the company you work for gains more from your labor than the cost of employing you. So if it pays you $20 an hour, it expects to make at least that back through your labor. If it doesn’t you won’t have a job for long because the company will go out of business. Say it makes a 25% return on your employment, netting the firm $5 an hour after paying you your wage. Would it pass up an opportunity to pay less for your position, say turning that 25% return into a 100% return by paying $12.50 an hour?

This is an oversimplification of course. Many employees don’t make their firms any money at all. If you are in infrastructure, whether a middle manager or an IT developer, you are only employed until your company figures out how to get rid of your position. Somewhere within your company someone is trying to figure out how to do away with your job in the name of “streamlining” or “efficiency.” It’s no different to what you do at home when you look at your bills and try to figure out how to make your money go farther. Your position is an expense, and right now it’s necessary, but it won’t be forever of course. And in the meantime your firm will do whatever it can to maximize profits while minimizing costs, and your salary or wage is a cost that it will work very hard to minimize.

The Labor Market is no different than any market. The price of anything on the market is determined by its supply and demand. If the supply is plentiful, it’s price will be relatively cheap. As it becomes rarer, the price rises. For those of us who have grown up in free(ish) market economies we take this fact for granted for everything from gasoline to gold. But for some reason when it comes to jobs we get stupid about it.

In a free market whenever there’s a shortage of something, whether it’s pork bellies or Playstations, the price skyrockets. For the past 15 years high tech firms have been complaining about labor shortages in the STEM fields, and call for increased numbers of H-1B and J visas to fill the supposed shortage. If this were true we would expect that the salaries for such jobs would be sky-high.

The Chronicle for Higher Education investigated the STEM field labor shortage claims and concluded the STEM labor shortage is a myth. Salaries in these fields have been stagnant and in many cases, in decline. So why do so many people believe the myth? “The claims about STEM shortages come from employers, along with their lobbyists and trade associations, claims Michael Teitelbaum, who a fellow in science policy at Harvard University and a senior advisor at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.”

There is no labor shortage, just a shortage of labor willing to work for the wages set by companies. Companies want to pay their employees less, and the only way to do that in a free(ish) market economy is to boost the potential supply of its workforce. Why wouldn’t it support immigration reform if it meant more aspirants for your job? This potential pool of applicants allows it to find a cheaper replacement for you or at the very least keeps you from asking for a raise.

Why Unions Support Immigration Reform

Today’s unions aren’t your father’s grandfather’s unions. Back in the day unions raised wages and working conditions for their members because they controlled the supply of labor either directly, by determining whether their members worked, or indirectly by making crossing a picket line dangerous to one’s health. They also fiercely resisted immigration, viewing immigrants as increasing the labor supply and driving down wages for their members.

Today’s unions are pale shadows of their former selves, representing only a sliver of the non-government workforce. Because they can no longer control the supply of labor in most industries, it only makes sense for them to focus on the low paying service industries where they can still exercise some control. These industries happen to employ the most illegal immigrants, so starting a decade or so ago, the unions gave up their resistance to immigration and embraced it.  Now unions like the SEIU see each illegal immigrant from Honduras or Mexico as a dues paying member. Since the minimum wage provides a floor to wages, the unions no longer have to worry about decreasing labor supply to boost wages; they’ll just push for a higher minimum wage, and that’s exactly what the unions have done. The primary weapon of unions is no longer a picket line, but the cash desperately needed by politicians to win elections.

By expanding their rank and file with immigrants, the unions then have the cash to provide to politicians who can then raise the minimum wage to boost the salaries of its members. From the perspective of the rank and file, the union leadership and the politicians who receive their cash, everybody wins. The only losers are the middle class consumers who pay more for goods and services provided by unionized companies as well as pay the higher taxes required to support the large cheap labor pool, and the constituents of the politicians who are in the pockets of the unions.

 Why Liberals Support Immigration Reform

Let’s face it, these immigrants aren’t coming from places where Ayn Rand and Adam Smith are cultural icons. They are coming from collectivist societies where Che Guevara is more than an image on a t-shirt, used to living under strong states, albeit ones with failed policies bad enough to drive them to risk everything to cross our border. The teeming masses awaken the natural impulse within liberals to help, and that help in the liberal’s mind can only come through a strong, all-encompassing State. Liberals also don’t like borders, viewing nationalism as a scourge that will eventually disappear along with such barbarities as the Plague and GMO food. Modern liberals are by nature trans-nationalists, and nothing is more trans-national than a bunch of brown people who have suffered under the neo-colonial policies of the Western Powers flooding into the USA. Each Mexican or Honduran represents a chicken of past colonial aggression coming home to the United States to roost.

Additionally, hard core Leftists believe the Marxist interpretation of Capitalism that inequality deepens as wealth follows its natural tendency to accumulate with the upper class, and that it’s the job of the State to confiscate that wealth and redistribute it to the lower classes. Marx himself viewed this as an untenable state of affairs that would eventually lead to communism and the concept of wealth would disappear and vegan unicorns would frolic in a low-carbon world.  Until that time the State would tax the bejeezus out of the wealthy and hand it over to the poor in welfare payments. More poor immigrants require more taxes from the wealthy, helping make that Communist Paradise one-step closer to reality.

Of course all liberals aren’t steeped in liberation ideology and the politics of identity. To Democrats each immigrant is a potential Democratic voter. Immigrants traditionally vote Democrat at least for a generation or two until they assimilate. Pew Research finds 31% of illegal immigrants self-identify with the Democratic Party vs. 4% for the Republican Party. Converting those illegal immigrants into voters has the potential to make the Democratic Party the majority party in the US and consign the Republican Party to History’s wastebasket. Given the potential payoff Democrats would be stupid not to support immigration reform, and for all its faults the Democratic Party has never been known for its stupidity.

The Stupid Party of American Politics

And why is the GOP establishment keen on immigration reform? Because the Republican Party is the Stupid Party in American politics. The GOP’s Big Business/Big Government wing is determined to push through reform in order to provide its corporate base with the cheap labor it demands even if it means the party’s suicide. While the libertarian/populist/small government wing of the party fights back in primaries, showing its power in Eric Cantor’s primary loss, the GOP establishment believes that it must pass immigration reform to continue receiving support from its corporate patrons and to counter the Democrats charge of racism. It pins its hopes on the social conservatism of the Hispanic community, that the community will see what swell, non-racist guys the party is and will switch party affiliation. This has about as much chance of happening as Joe Biden winning the presidency in 2016.

So there you have it. Hopefully this article adds some clarity to the issue. Where your opinion falls should reflect whether you compete with immigrants for your job or not. If you don’t, then you should favor their arrival. But if you do, you should think twice about supporting immigration reform you racist.
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In 2003 after being forced to train his own replacement on an H-1B visa, Scott Kirwin made the cover of Wired Magazine and founded the IT Professionals Association of America and worked for 3 years to counter the myth of the high-tech labor shortage. In 2006 he threw up his hands and quit, having received little support from IT professionals and lots of badly written though amusing threats from Indian workers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Cooling Since 1930s

More proof the science on the man-made cause of global warming isn’t as settled as some would like us to believe.