Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Latest Rave - Proposed Pay Freeze for the Military

              Sadly, as often happens in time of budgetary woes, particularly with Democrat administations, there is a move afoot by the President to freeze military pay and benefits.  This was reported in Star and Stripes and on 
                This comes on the heels of proposals to raise the costs for TRICARE (the military's health care program) for military retirees, and linking TRICARE payments to what Medicare pays.  Medicare payments have been cut to such a low level that many doctors are dropping Medicare because they loose money on every patient.  This means that our military dependents and retirees are further restricted in obtaining medical care.  Medical care for life was a promise made to those of us who wear or wore the uniform, for many generations.
               I realize that in tight times, sacrifices have to be made.  I also realize that this includes the military budget.  That being said, where are the comparable cuts in pay and benefits across the board in the Federal budget?  Why should military personnel and their families, as well as veterans, be the ones to bear this burden.
               Most Federal employees don’t deploy, as does the military; most don’t see the danger nor the arduous hours, days, weeks, months, years away from home and family. Yet they have, in many cases, better pay and better health benefits.
               Further, we are at war right now.  In President Clinton’s tenure, he had the military seeing very high operation tempos during peace time, including many combat missions (e.g. ten years of bombardment of Iraq after Operation Desert Storm), yet he cut the military during this time period.  Now President Obama wants to repeat this.
               If the Federal budget needs to be cut, fine, make cuts across the board.  Start with the White House and Congress.  Go next to all the Federal Executive Service people in their fancy offices in Washington. Then to every person who sits at a desk.  The military should be the last place for personnel budget cuts, especially during wartime.
               Further get rid of the pork, and all the special interests that we so love to throw money at. Stop paying farmers to not grow crops. Stop building bridges to nowhere.
               If you want to cut the military budget, then fine.  Stand up to Europe and NATO. Make the Europeans stand up for their own defense. Likewise Korea, Japan, etc.  The US has been the police force for the world since World War II. The military has been deployed everywhere, because we are the strongest country.  This has allowed for other countries to have minimal military obligations, and the ability to use that money elsewhere, at our expense. 
Keep our military engaged in the defense of our borders, the protection of Israel, and protecting our vital interests at sea and overseas. Stop using our military as the police of the world. Stop getting into wars that accomplish nothing. Once you’ve done that, streamline the military and get rid of ridiculous acquisition programs that the military doesn’t want or need.
And then, and only then, consider cutting military pay and benefits.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rave Number 7 – The Midterm Election

           Well, the politicians have gone and done it, haven’t they.  It began with Gingrich in the 1990’s, when “Rush was right” (he really was wrong).  The Republicans impeached Clinton because the Democrats were pushing to the left.
          Then came Bush 2, and his “War on Terror” which was really a war on the world.  He and his Republicans went further and further to the right.  Along came the 2008 Presidential Election, with the McCain/Palin ticket.  Sarah Palin came out of nowhere to become a star and the role model for the “Tea Partiers”.
          Over the last couple years with Obama in office, he and the Democrat controlled House and Senate have pushed way far to the left, in response to the pushes to the right from the Republicans over the previous generations.
          So what happened yesterday?  The Republicans got control of the House and gained seats in the Senate.  With all the Tea Partiers who got elected, the roadblock to effectiveness that we already had in place is now going to get way worse.  During the past two years, the Republicans have as a whole refused to work with Obama and have opposed most of what Obama tried to do without any negotiation.  They were the minority yet they seemed to be in control
          Now they really are – they have the House and more Senators.  How much do you think we’ll be able to do for our Country in the next two years?  Not much, as I see it.  We’ll be in a huge standoff, with the House trying to push their same old sad song of supporting Big Business and Wall Street, while trying to destroy Main Street and the real people in this Country.  The Democrats, meanwhile, will keep trying to push their radical left wing ideas, and we’ll just have a big mess.
          The Republican mix in the house is not homogeneous however. There are the Tea Partiers, but there are also many mainstream Republicans who don’t see things the same way. It will be interesting to see if they can come close to having a common agenda – I’m doubtful.

          So – what do we do?  It is far time that we had a third, Centrist party in this Country.  All we have are the Republicans who want to polarize to the right and the Democrats who want to polarize to the left.  All of us are stuck in the middle with this tug-of-war.  We’re going to get torn to pieces.
          The only way this will ever get resolved is if America wakes up and gets enough people to realize what I’m saying, and form some kind of Centrist party that will work towards moderation in all of the agendas on both sides.  Every argument has some merit, but with the huge polarization, no-one is interested in compromise.
          I hope and pray that in 2012, there will be some common sense arising. Please, America, THROW THE BUMS OUT!!! Don’t vote for incumbents, and don’t vote for the same old dross.  Get some new people in there who can work the center, compromise, and actually move our country forward.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Sixth Rave - Political Advertisements

            There are a lot of things to love about this time of the year.  The weather is turning, with that chill in the air that lets you get out your sweaters, fire up the fire place, maybe a cup of cocoa. The leaves are beautiful (as long as they are still on the trees). My SF Giants are ahead 3-1 in the World Series (I'm waiting for the first pitch on [hopefully] the final game, as I write this.
            That being said, there is something very loathsome in the air right now.  That, my friends, is the election.  The political advertisements are nauseating.  I would like, in my heart to say that any candidate who slings mud should be banned in my mind.  This creates a huge turmoil for me here in Washington State.
            My candidate for Senator has been slinging mud like we’re building an adobe house.  The opponent is, imho, a vile person and not worth considering. So, it was with a heavy heart that I selected my candidate (we have all mail-in voting in WA).
            The same can be said with the advertisements for the ballot initiatives.  The lies that they tell on these commercials, not to mention the obfuscation, make it absolutely impossible to know what to do about these initiatives.
             Then there are the people behind the ads.  Some people are upfront about who they are, but there are some organizations sponsoring commercials that no-one has ever heard of. If one pulls the string, one finds a shell corporation over a dummy company over another shell, etc. and it takes myriad searching to find out who is really behind the ads themselves.
            I would love, for just one campaign, to have the candidates pledge to only tell me why they are qualified for the job.  What is their background? What will they do to fix the problems in Washington DC and throughout the country and our fractured world?  I don’t want to hear what they think of their opponent. I can guess that! They probably think their opponent is some slime that crawled out of the sewer drain.  Who CARES?!?!
            Tell me why I should vote for you or your initiative, in plain, straight talk. No political speak. No circular logic. Certainly no mud.  Just tell me why you are the best thing since sliced bread.  If you do that, you might not get my vote because I don’t agree with your platform, but at least I can intelligently choose whom to vote for, and I’ll have your respect.
            Remember the Golden Rule (and not the one in DC – “He who has the gold makes the rules”). I’m talking about the one that says don’t do to others what you don’t want them doing to you.  Speak positively.  Then perhaps we can have some real, honest debate, and the voters might actually turn out to vote.
            May the best candidates (not the ones with the biggest war chests) win the election tomorrow, and may our country see only improvement over these next two years.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Fifth Rave – Mandatory Service

I believe, from the bottom of my heart and throughout my soul, that every person in this country who is physically and emotionally able should be obligated to do mandatory national service.  I am not, however, saying that everyone should be a soldier.
In my vision, every 18 year old who is able would go to boot camp in one of the various military boot camps.  If they want to be in the military, then they go to the boot camp for the service they will join.  If not, they go to which ever boot camp they are assigned.
For those who choose alternative service, it could be with the Conservation Corps, the Peace Corps, Americorps, etc.  In any of these settings, they would still be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) – if they do something wrong, they go to “Mast,” “Office hours” or whatever your service calls it.
Most young people these days have no sense of personal responsibility, no sense of honor, and very poor work ethics.  I think that mandatory service with the UCMJ around would allow these young people to learn responsibility, ethics and values, while gaining life skills.
After their minimum tour, if completed with honor, these young adults would then be given a form of the GI Bill, with value dependent on the type of service that they did. This would then aid them in developing their education and skills further to become productive young adults.
Our country currently has the silly requirement for boys to register for the selective service, but not girls – this means that if we had to have a draft under the current system, no women would be called up – only men.  This hardly makes sense in this Post-Modern world of equal rights.  I strongly believe that Equal Rights must come with Equal Responsibility.
Think of the positive effects this would have on the under served in our country – minorities, poor people in ghettos, etc.  This would give them the chance they need to make something out of their lives. 
I would also include children of illegal immigrants here. After their service (only if completed honorably), they could apply for citizenship if they so desire.  If they fail to complete their obligation honorably, then I believe they should be deported.
This plan would cost a lot of money of course, but in the long run, it would save a tremendous amount of money by giving these troubled young people a way to grow up and learn to work honestly.  Their GI Bill benefits would allow them to then choose a career to go to, with proper training or education.  This could possible reduce ghetto problems dramatically as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Fourth Rave – Congress and their Compensation and Benefits

          We hear a lot of talk from Congress, particularly certain members, that we are becoming a Socialistic state. We have far too many entitlement programs.  Of course, many of these “Entitlements” are things that the middle class pay for (e.g. Social Security and Medicare).  With President Obama’s healthcare plan, they are screaming even more.  Yet let’s take a look at what these folks do.
          When the “you know what” hit the fan, they didn’t hesitate to give Billions of dollars to their Wall Street buddies, so they could have more bonuses and fat paychecks.  Did any of that money help the people? No, of course not, just the fat cats.
          When there are budgetary troubles, what do they do? Things such as cutting Medicare payments.  Medicare pays so little now that most doctors lose money seeing a Medicare patient.  And guess what?  The military – which these same “leaders” love to send in harm’s way also get hit by this because TRICARE, the military medical plan, must pay what Medicare pays – this means that many military families and retirees can’t access their healthcare benefits that they’ve paid for with their very lives.
          Further, they love to raid the Social Security fund to help offset the general fund deficit.  This makes our FICA withholdings a de-facto Income Tax, and a regressive one at that, since it stops at a certain earning level. On top of that, Social Security beneficiaries, Military retirees and Disabled Veterans get no Cost of Living Allowance for the second year in a row.  The cost of living is going up, yet the military and retirees have to bear the burden.  For what?
          So Congress can have an outrageous compensation system with a wonderful retirement package after serving for just a few years.  They get a healthcare benefit that no-one else in this country gets.  They are living high on the backs of those who go into battle and come back chewed up.
          So, for every person in Congress and the Senate who complain about the benefits that we “Entitled People” such as totally disabled veterans like myself receive, I have a solution.  Let Congress receive Medicare as their healthcare plan.  No more super-supreme Federal employee plan – after all that’s socialism and entitlement.  Let Congress live on the wages that many of us have to live on, and let them try living in the conditions that those of us in the military live in.
          To our so called leaders – it’s time you put your money where your mouth is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Third Rave: Our Military - its use and service in it

I have several thoughts regarding Military service.  Please keep in mind that this comes from the perspective of a career military officer and disabled veteran. This rave deals with our leadership.

First off, I feel very strongly that all the officials, whether elected or appointed, who serve in the National Command Authority (President, Vice President, those who would succeed him, Service Secretaries, National Security Adviser, etc.) should all have, as a condition of taking that position, served at least one full tour (four years or longer) on active service in one of the branches of our military.  As we have seen with Presidents Clinton, G W Bush and Obama, none of whom served in active military, they’ve all been too quick to go to war.  They have no idea of the consequences because they have never served.  They have no idea what it is like to be a young service person, whose life is on the line, because of a poorly advised, planned and executed operation. 

Further, they use stand off weapons, such as cruise missiles and drones, with very little apparent concern.  They justify it by saying that no US Service members’ lives are jeopardized by this.  That may be true, but it misses a significant point.  In conventional warfare, you see the eyes of the person you are engaging, and you are conscious of the human soul you are fighting.  In use of stand off weapons, there is no such engagement, and so it is too easy to use these weapons.

We have, since World War II, served as the police force for the world.  It is time that we insist that NATO and the EU stand up and protect Europe.  I think the only reason we should have active presence in the Mediterranean, Europe, Northern Africa, or Southwest Asia, is to protect Israel. She is the only democracy in the Middle East, and all her neighbors would push her into the sea if we did not protect her.  This is not the case for Europe, Asia or Africa.

This is not to say we should “bury our heads in the sand” as some people call this type of military positioning.  I am saying that we spend far too much of our countries assets protecting Europe from an enemy who no longer exists.  Let them protect themselves, and we’ll protect ourselves.

We need to take a far less aggressive stance throughout the world, and stop what seem like Imperialistic attacks all the time.  We should have a very strong, trained, capable military, who protect our borders and are available to deploy when our interests are at risk, but we need to stop attacking other countries.  We were attacked on September 11, 2001 because of our own actions, in my opinion.  It is time that the leaders in the United States follow the creed that I learned long ago in one particular type of military unit “If you fire your weapons, you have failed in your mission.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Second Rave - "Illegal" Immigration

         Monday this week, the United States observed the Legal Holiday of Columbus day.  I have very mixed feelings about this day, but I am focusing this rave on my sister-in-law's characterization of this day "Illegal Immigration Day".
         There used to be a time in our country when our borders were open to people seeking a better life for themselves.  For whatever reason, our country seems to think that people who live south of us should not be included in that rich tradition.  Nonetheless, we have uncounted myriads of "Illegal", "Undocumented," or whatever other appellation you would choose, immigrants in our country right now.
         Don't get me wrong. I feel very strongly that we need to have secure borders in our country.  There are too many people out there who mean us harm to have unprotected, wide open borders.  That being said, the question today is what to do about those already here?
         There was a movie a few years ago, called "A Day Without a Mexican" (cf for information about this movie.  If we did what many in this country propose and what happened in this movie - expel all the "illegal" immigrants, our country would come to a screeching halt. 
         Who picks all the produce in the fields? Who washes your car or mows your lawn?  Who looks after your children while you are at work?  Chances are that you have direct or indirect contact with just such people.
         The answer is not to expel them. The answer is to give them all amnesty and citizenship.  This would result in immediate, tremendous savings in terms of law enforcement, border enforcement, etc.  Likewise, by documenting all these hard working people, they ultimately become part of the tax base of the country, and help the governmental budgets at every level.  They also would no longer be forced to use hospital Emergency Departments as their only source of health care - at great savings to Medicaid.
         There is a risk, however. Once everyone is legal, we can no longer pay them the sub-par wages we pay now. (We should not be doing that anyway). I would propose that over a ten year period, wages paid to all these people be gradually raised, in small increments, to bring them to the point of earning a living wage.  By doing this, we would not shock the economy.  A huge step increase in their wages would bring our economy to a complete collapse instead.
         So I call on all of our countries leaders, at every level, to take the huge risk of following through with this.  There are so many legal and human dignity issues that would be fixed by this, not to mention the benefits to the tax basis in our country, that we cannot afford not to.

Legalize all these immigrants now, and start paying them better wages!
All my best, Jaron

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rave Number One - Solar Power and the OPEC Oil Teat

Today’s Rave – Middle East Oil

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of USS COLE in Yemen.  I know the Captain of the ship personally.  I have some idea of the suffering the families and crewmembers have, but can only imagine the hell he is in, since 17 shipmates were lost on his watch.

So, why did the COLE get attacked?  Because of our military actions in the Middle East (e.g. bombing Iraq continually since Desert Storm), and our insatiable thirst for OPEC oil.

I’d like to focus on the oil issue in this rant.  It is vital for our national security, as well as our national economy, to get off the teat of OPEC oil, and the sooner the better.  It is time to push our elected representatives to kick the oil lobbyists out of their offices and divorce themselves from the oil lobby interests.

So you might ask – if we don’t get OPEC oil any more, how do we go on?  I have a multi-point plan that would do just that:
·      With the advent of the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt and the yet to be released plug-in Toyota Prius, the day of the electric car is here.  We need to provide huge incentives to get people to get into electric, rather than internal combustion powered cars.
·      How will we charge these cars?  Simple.  We keep hearing about the insufficient electric generation and transmission capacities that our national electric grid has. So, let’s have the electric utilities buy, in bulk, solar panels, and lease them to home-owners. This would tremendously reduce the cost of attaining solar power.  Having a panel on every house takes a huge burden off of the transmission systems.  The peak electric demand is during the day. With lots of solar panels out there, the utilities would not need more generation capacity – just a way to store the surplus of solar power generated.  This would solve several problems in one act.
·      Enact, immediately, a floating Federal gas tax, to keep gas up to at least $4.50 a gallon.  This would provide further incentive to drivers of gasoline/diesel cars to reduce fuel usage or convert to electric.  The additional tax revenues could then prompt more road and bridge upkeep/upgrade work, generating new jobs.
·      Since electric cars driven off of solar panels would no longer contribute to the gas tax, there needs to be a way to make up for this.  So, charging stations in houses would need to have meters tracking the amount of electricity used to charge the car. There would need to be a fuel tax on this electric usage, irrespective of the source of the electricity.  Cars that are charged at public charging stations would pay that tax as part of the fee for using the charging station.

If we could get enlightened leaders to enact this plan, we could very quickly get off the OPEC teat, not to mention the other benefits of new jobs created, increased electric generation capacity without use of carbon or nuclear fuels, and reduced air pollution.

I welcome feedback on my first Rav’s Rave.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My First Rave Series - the State of Our Country

Ideas for a better United States of America

As many of us are, I am very concerned about the direction our country is taking, and where our so called leaders are pushing it. As many of us do, I have some ideas about our country, that if there were gutsy politicians out there to try them, would make this a better place for all of us.

I’m sure that there will be many, in every part of the political spectrum, who will disagree vehemently with my ideas, and that’s okay.  The purpose of this is to build dialogue, and hopefully enough of a buzz to eventually influence meaningful change in our country.

Even though I’m a rabbi, since I’m not on a pulpit, there are no First Amendment issues here by my raving on politics.  In fact, I feel it is my legitimate duty as a rabbi to say these things, since Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for Fixing the Damage in the World, is such an important value in Judaism.

My blog is just developing, and over the next unspecified period of time, this will be my rave.  I’ll add new ideas from my pot that I’m stirring up periodically, and invite lots of dialogue on them. However, I ask that if you comment, please respond to issues only. Personal attacks by posters fall under the category of L’shon HaRa, Hebrew for improper speech.  Such posts will be removed at my discretion and people who make such posts can, of course, be banned from commenting.

I’m looking forward to this process as it builds, and excited to see where it ends up.

All the best, Jaron