Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy Disaster

All the departments of government (State, Commerce, Defense etc.) review major Presidential speeches beforehand and make comments. When Ronald Reagan prepared to call the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire," every single department objected and said he must delete it. He overruled them and delivered a historic speech which helped win the cold war. Every media outlet, every pundit and most government officials were apoplectic. The nuclear clock was moved forward (indicating a greater chance of nuclear war), relations would never be the same they cried, it was an unprecedented provocation etc. In the real world however, the Soviets had to defend themselves, and since they really were an evil empire, they failed miserably. This hastened the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as is always the case when freedom triumphs, the world moved closer to peace and stability.

If the United States stands for anything, it stands for human rights and freedom. These values have guided us and served us throughout history. Because of this the most talented, brightest people in the world have always wanted to come here. We are a shining city on the hill. Yes, there has been bitterness and anger directed towards us. But with the exception of the Arab countries, the anger primarily comes from the intellectual elite and governments. Even the intellectual elite here at home, huge beneficiaries of the country's goodness, are as hateful towards us as their counterparts in Europe. Still, only a portion of the citizenry in most of the world have been convinced that we are the evil Satan. A large number admire and respect us. Iran is a perfect example. With all the hateful rhetoric coming from their leadership, the population overwhelmingly supports us and our ideals. Why then has President Obama completely abandoned them?

First he gave his speech in Egypt where he made absurd claims about the state of relations between the US and Islam, followed by his deafening silence on the issue of terrorism. His failure to visit Israel sent out a clear message that the new US policy has shifted towards the anti-semitic European position, drawing a moral equivalence between the Israelis and the terrorists. This has been the radical lefts position for years. Our State Department has always lent a sympathetic ear to this crowd, but whereas former Presidents overruled State and maintained a pro Israeli, pro democracy, pro freedom, pro human rights, anti terrorism policy, this President has not just adopted State's position, he has become more extreme.

Not only does Israel hold the moral high ground in their dispute, but their existence is a vital part of our defense, particularly in the war on terror. In the middle east Israeli intelligence is far superior to ours, and they share it with us. Their military would take the first hit if war broke out in the region, allowing our interests to be protected quickly and without the entire military burden falling on us. They are a strong reliable American outpost. So whether we choose to be idealists, or practice realpolitik, Israel is our natural ally.

Obama's response to the Iranian election is frightening. Once again he voted present. He tip toed around condemning the regime or saying that the election was stolen, in stark contrast to most every western nation that clearly went on the record condemning the regime. His apologists argue that he is preserving a semblance of normalcy with the Iranian government. So let's see. After throwing Israel under the bus he throws the Iranian demonstrators (the group that support the United States) under the same bus, and hopes that the Supreme Council (Iran's ruling body which really does believe we are the Great Satan) decides to modify its attitude and moderate its behavior. It is a fantasy to believe they will change their attitude towards us, whom they believe are inherently evil. Of course in spite of the President's gestures, The Supreme Council spewed as much vitriol towards us as they could muster, laying waste to the apologists theory.

What Obama is doing here is possibly the worst foreign policy decision in decades. He is squandering a rare opportunity to take a giant step towards peace and security. The situation in Iran gets more volatile daily. The opposition leader and election winner, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has said he will accept martyrdom. He is all in, and hopefully the demonstrators will soon be. Imagine what would happen if the regime topples. The world would become a far safer place. Iran's funding of terrorism, from Hezbollah to Hamas would decline and possibly stop. Their commitment to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, which is the single most likely spark for a nuclear war and even a world war, would be defused. Obama's middle of the road comments comes down in a de facto way on the side of the government. He is backing the wrong horse. God help us get past whatever is causing this insanity.

I will not speculate on why Obama is doing this, but I will say that radicals like Bill Ayres, Jeremiah Wright, Sol Alinsky and all his other extreme leftist mentors were not incidental acquaintances as his supporters would like you to believe, but rather formative in and consistent with his ideas. This radical left crowd has a history of anti semitism, anti Israel, anti United States, and they support every totalitarian regime that lines up against us. Does this help bring the new US foreign policy into focus? And we knew all of this before the election. We have become the frog in the children's fable. When the snake turns to eat him, he says, "You knew I was a snake when you got onto my back."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Disaster- "Fixing" Health Care

It is amazing. The administration piles lie on top of lie when trying to sell single payer health care and no one challenges them. Where are our spokesmen?

The government says it is not single payer. They say you will not have to give up your insurance if you are happy with it. Yet, Obama and most of the advocates are on the record saying a plan like this is the first step in creating a single payer system. You will not keep your insurance because your insurer will be bankrupt. The government insurance "option," which the advocates argue will "create competition," will undoubtedly put the 1,300 health insurance companies out of business. With that many companies already competing, we don't need the government.

The left says skyrocketing costs make this necessary. Unlike electricity where the product we get is the same every year, the health care product we get each year is different and better than the year before. Another reason for increasing costs is government involvement through Medicare and Medicaid. Included in your health care bill is a non itemized cost of about 20 percent which you pay to make up for the shortage in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and hospitals. These programs pay about 80 percent of what it costs the provider to deliver the services. You are picking up the other 20 percent in your insurance premium. If the "government insurance option" passes, they will shift more and more costs onto the private insurers until the necessary premium increases make them noncompetitive. Their business would be forced (as they are to a lesser degree now) to pay for their "competition's" expenses (the government's), and they will go out of business. The government is the problem, not the solution.

These socialists also say this whole thing is necessary because of the "large" population of uninsured. I have unmasked this fiction in other blogs. The most commonly used number of uninsured is 46 million. 10 million are illegal aliens, and I for one would rather not insure them so as to weaken the magnet drawing them here illegally. 10 million uninsured earn over $75,000 per year. They can afford it but choose not to buy it. Another 10 million already qualify for government provided health care but are too dysfunctional to simply sign up for it. A more realistic number is 16 million.

Recently the Congressional Budget Office put a cost on Obama's proposal of 1.6 trillion dollars over 10 years. They said the proposal would cover 39 million uninsured, but that it would create 23 million new uninsured. This is idiocy on steroids. Divide 16,000,000 net newly insured people into 1.6 trillion dollars. That works out to a smooth 1 million dollars per person over 10 years, or 100,000 dollars per year.

Another reason for cost increases is the Democrats/ socialists support of trial lawyers. The left is now claiming (they are probably correct) that one third of all medical tests and studies conducted are unnecessary. Of course this is almost entirely because trial lawyers have parasitically attacked the doctors and hospitals. Consequently they take many tests they know are unnecessary simply to inoculate themselves against lawsuits. But the Dems point to the waste without noting this reason, and falsely claim that bureaucratic inefficiency is the reason. Their next phony claim is that they can eliminate it. It can be eliminated, but they never will. This unholy Troika of Democrats, the press which is perfectly happy to support their lies, and those stalwarts of American values, the trial lawyers, who are savaging the hospitals and doctors without regard to anything but the money, will continue to lie and dissemble in support of one another's criminal malfeasance.

Chris "friend of Angelo" Dodd was on Fox and regurgitated these lies, but he took it a step farther and said we could save 30 percent of health care costs by correcting the waste in testing. Tests and studies are only a small percentage of overall costs. If the Dems really did eliminate all the waste (nonsense), it wouldn't save nearly a third of total costs. My guess is it would be closer to 1 or 2 percent.

If a fair evaluation of any government run system were done this proposal would be a non starter. Health care rationing is a part of every current government system. Don't get cancer in Canada, because none of the costly newly developed drugs are available (resulting in a significantly shorter life expectancy). And don't get old with kidney problems or cataracts or a lot of other things in Great Britain. You will be refused many services, including life saving dialysis (over a certain age), second cataract procedure (considered elective surgery), and a much more. It takes about 4 months to get a birth control pill prescription in Canada. And don't get sick in Canada in December. The provinces always run out of money by the end of the year, so not surprisingly that is when the doctors choose to vacation. If you need an MRI or a CT scan in the US you can usually get one within 24 hours and with a choice of facilities. In Canada the same thing is usually 3 months or more. The US has 10 times as much major medical equipment per capita as Canada and I'm sure every other government run program. The halls of British hospitals are filthy and smell like urine. Americans would never tolerate the unsanitary conditions, the waits, or the rationing. I could go on, but this idea is so idiotic it dwarfs the imagination it is even being considered.

Think of this. What does the government do better than the private sector? Is the post office more efficient than UPS or Federal Express? The distribution of welfare money costs 3 dollars for every one dollar that gets to a recipient. Is there any private company that could exist with that kind of overhead? Throughout history everything every government in the world has done has cost vastly more than a similar job in the private sector. If this gets passed, health care will suffer the same fate. It will just be more painful.

Don't let the liberals point to the boils and warts in the system and then claim they can do better. Certainly our system can be improved, but it is still by far the best system in the world. If we want to improve it we might start by having the government pay its fair share. We might get rid of the trial lawyers and replace them with a workman's comp like system. And we might stop states from mandating services which prevent the marketplace from designing policies that best serve the customer at the lowest price.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The History of Israel

I often speak with people who express their disappointment with the conservatives and United States foreign policy support for Israel. The objection generally seems to be their belief that the creation of the state of Israel was in itself an immoral act, subsequently compounded by Israel's immoral treatment of the Palestinians.

Having had this discussion many times, I think I know the problem. Most of these people have virtually no idea what the history of the region is. I would suggest that most Palestinian supporters are ignorant of what led up to the present dilemma, and what really is going on now. There is no fair minded person who could possibly condemn Israel, much less draw a moral equivalency between the parties (as most leftists do), if he knew the history of the region and the reality of the current events. Unfortunately most of what anyone hears is what the liberal press elects to convey, which is generally radical left propaganda.

The commonly held belief by these anti Israel Americans is that The United Nations created the State of Israel in what was there to fore Palestinian territory. The fictional narrative is that with the creation of Israel the Jews threw the Arabs off the land, forcing the them into camps outside of its borders. Many even believe that the "occupied territories" came into being because of Israel's aggression. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here is the Cliff Notes version of the history. The Zionist movement began in the early 20th century with Jews from all over the world immigrating to what is now Israel. It was then part of the Ottoman Empire, but with Turkey's defeat in WWI, the Allied Powers forced Turkey to relinquish the territory, giving Great Britain the job of protectorate.

Partly due to the horror of the Holocaust, and partly due to the fact Jews had been settling in the region for decades, the United Nations created the state of Israel. The UN mandate was for two states. It was envisioned that the Palestinian state would be created when the proper political structure was in place. To this day that has not happened.

The Palestinians were basically nomadic, although many had settled throughout the area, and most had lived in the region for centuries (Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Ottoman Empire, or what is now the Palestinian territories). At one point King Hussein threw them out of Jordan (then Transjordan) because they were a destabilizing force on his monarchy. They emigrated to Lebanon, the Paris of the middle east, and effectively destroyed the state politically and its culture. But the important point is that they never had any claim to the territory other than that granted to them by the UN, exactly the same claim Israel has.

The UN created the country of Israel, it did not give them territory that was owned by Palestinians. Public lands were transferred to the new state, but private property remained private. Much of the land comprising Israel was already owned by the Jews, having been purchased from Turks and Arabs alike before and after statehood. There is property that belonged to Arabs who stayed in Israel after independence, and they either own it today or voluntarily sold it. Currently almost 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Arabs.

With independence coming, the surrounding Arab states told the Arabs living in the proposed state of Israel that that after independence they would drive the Jews into the sea. They advised the Arabs living there to leave, saying their property (if they owned any) would be restored after the upcoming victory. When independence was declared in 1948, the Iraqis, Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Egyptians, Lebanese, and some troops from Sudan attacked the newborn state. They were defeated. Bloodied but unbowed the defeated states promised to return, and urged those Arabs that had left to not return until after the Jews had been removed. Refugee camps were established along the border, and have remained there ever since.

There is a legal concept subscribed to by most societies called constructive abandonment. If a property owner abandons his property, after a period of years he loses all rights and title to that property. This is what happened to the land that belonged to those Arabs who left and never returned.

Many Arabs argue that they have a claim to some of the public lands because they owned it and lived there prior to independence. The history of the region contradicts this. In 1858, 90 years before the creation of Israel, the Turks ordered the Arabs living in these areas to register their land, or lose any claim of ownership. Little if any ever got registered, even though the Turks tried many more times before losing it themselves in WWI. The Arabs now claim it was not registered because the Turks would have taxed them, or drafted them into the army if they complied. That may or may not be true, but it is a weak claim at best, and even if has some basis, the Turks were the offending party, not the Israelis.

The other claim is that the Israelis arbitrarily took towns and land they falsely deemed to be necessary for the state's defense. Certainly defense is a reasonable government action and a proper use of eminent domain. I don't know what really happened, but if land was taken under a false pretext, or not fully paid for, there are many venues for redress (unlike any Arab country).

Claims of current Israeli improprieties are as bogus as the historical claims. Israel is far from perfect, and many tragic decisions have been made, but to suggest that they remotely approach the cruelty and indifference their neighbors show to them is delusional. I will deal with this in a future blog.