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