Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jews for America

While I've been critical of American Jews who love Israel more than America, there are many who have done great things for America.  First comes to mind the owners of the New York Times, the Sulzbergers, where most of my information comes from.  Then there is the guy, David Rubenstein, who is contributing half of the cost of repairing the Washington Monument.  I thought that I would find that he also gave tons of money to Israel, but if he did, it's not immediately obvious on the Internet.  For some reason, it seems to be the Republican Jews, who you would think are the most patriotic, who actually seem more devoted to Israel. 

For example, The New York Times Magazine highlighted the issue of Israel's invading Iran, which I don't think is entirely favorable to Israel. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Israel Lovers Buy Newt

Yesterday's New York Times article on Sheldon Adelson's campaign contributions to Newt Gingrich illustrated my concerns in the previous post about American Jews whose first love is Israel.  It appears that Adelson's main reason for supporting Gingrich is that Newt is a 100% supporter of Israel.  Earlier articles said that the main bond between Adelson and Gingrich was Newt's anti-union stance, but that hardly seemed worth $10 million or more.  Newt's support for Israel is a better justification for the campaign contributions. 

The article says that Adelson, who was born in America, did not get the Israel bug until middle age, but once he got it, he really got it.  It's not surprising that Adelson supports Israel, per my earlier post, but I don't know why Newt is such a fervent supporter of Israel.  Why should America base its entire foreign policy on a relatively small country?  I doubt that he subscribes to the evangelical Christian ideas about the importance of Israel for the endtime.  Newt is not Jewish, but I'm guessing that he likes all the financial and political support that the gets from Jews for espousing pro-Israel policies.  Jews have wealth and political influence far exceeding their proportional representation in the American population. 

It sounds as if Newt is willing to send thousands of young American gentiles for fight and die in Iran, because Israel feels threatened by Iran.  This from a man who was a draft dodger during the Vietnam War.  Ironically, Newt's father was apparently in the Army infantry, but Newt had no intention of following in his father's footsteps.  Although there were many reasons for the US invasion of Iraq -- 9/11, Bush II's love/hate relationship with his father, massive intelligence failures -- one was certainly the Israeli/Jewish desire to get rid of Saddam Hussein, who in the first Gulf War had fired Scud missiles into Israel.  There was enormous Jewish pressure to attack Iraq, led by prominent Jews such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.  Israelis were not willing to invade.  In fact, few American Jews enlisted to fight Iraq, but rich Jews paid to have poor, gentile rednecks fight there. 

Of course, now that it has come out how unjust the American income tax system is, it looks like rich Jews did not really pay that much to the rednecks.  They just got Congress to support the war, and the gentile middle class fought and financed Israel's war on Iraq.  Thank you Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin and your many Jewish political colleagues.  Of course, ironically for both Israel and the US, the Iraq War may have ended up strengthening Iran, thus further endangering Israel, rather than protecting it.  Iraq never really posed a threat to the US. 

I'm not sure, but Jews may perceive Mormons as less obsessed with Israel than other Christians, perhaps even as somewhat anti-Semitic.  Therefore there could be a Jewish movement for anybody but Romney, with Newt currently the most feasible not-Romney. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jews Support Israel over America

I am concerned that many Jews support Israel over America. I hesitate to say this because Jews are so belligerent and "in-your-face" that they will never admit to it. In addition, it is not true about all Jews. There are no doubt many American Jews whose first love is America, rather than Israel, but because the Israel-lovers are so vocal, it is hard to know whether there is a silent majority of America lovers, and if so, how big it is.

It is understandable that after the Holocaust, the Jews would have special relationship with Israel. Israel is sort of like Jews’ "panic room" if there is ever something else like the Holocaust. However, the world of nation states is not exactly like your own house. It is subject to certain international standards, although you are free to flout those standards if you can withstand the international pressure supporting them, e.g., the United Nations, various international courts, etc. One of the main complaints against Israel, in part because it is intended to be a safe home for Jews, is that it engages in apartheid-like discrimination against non-Jews, particularly Muslim Arabs.

In America, the main support for Israel is funneled through AIPAC, although there are many other pro-Israel organizations and publications in the US. It raises the suspicion in my mind that many Jews see the US primarily as a defender of Israel. They support the US, because the US supports Israel. Hence the huge amount of American government aid to Israel, sponsored by Jewish Congressmen and Senators, as well as by many gentile politicians. In addition to government-to-government aid, American Jews give huge private donations to Israel and Israeli charities.

The difference between Israel and the home countries of other immigrants to the US is that most American Jews did not emigrate from Israel. Many older Jews came from Europe before Israel even existed. Other immigrants, who came from other countries – European, Asian, African, Latin American – left countries that they were unhappy with for some reason, political, economic or social. Some will go back, but most will stay if America will let them. They chose to leave their birthplace. Most Jews, however, did not choose to leave Israel for America. They were born in America, or left some third country for America. Israel and America facilitate this arrangement by allowing all sorts of dual nationality possibilities that would be very unusual for other countries.

And so Jews who have become very economically and politically powerful in the US use their power to benefit Israel. They are happy to see the US embroiled in the Middle East, spending American lives and treasure on wars that mainly benefit Israel. Jews are pushing very strongly to get America to stop Iran’s nuclear program by force if necessary. If the Iraq war had gone as planned, Israel would have been the main beneficiary, but because the US mucked it up so badly, Iran has probably been the main beneficiary, to the chagrin of both Israel and the US.

I think more Jews vote Democratic than Republican, but in general Republicans seem to pride themselves on being stronger defenders of Israel than Democrats. In the Republican primaries, the candidates have delighted in saying that Obama is not a good enough friend to Israel.

I worry that because of the existence of Israel, there is a danger on issues that in any way affect Israel, from wars in the Middle East to banking regulation, there are influential American Jews who will put Israel’s interests ahead of America’s.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Round of Tariffs

I am coming to believe that we need a new round of tariffs to protect American workers.  The article on Apple's manufacturing practices in Sunday's New York Times makes it sound like American workers don't have a chance to compete with Chinese workers.  Meanwhile an article in Technology Review points out how damaging to workers are the labor practices used by Apple's Chinese suppliers.  The only way American workers could compete is probably to subject themselves to the same miserable conditions that the Chinese workers endure.  In essence Apple is using slave labor.  It's arguable that US workers could compete in some highly mechanized robotic factory, but there is no sign that such a factory is under consideration by anybody, because it is easier and cheaper just to do it with people in China.

The Technology Review article calls for some kind of Fair Trade standard, like that used for coffee.  I think it is unlikely that such a standard would be tough enough to make any meaningful change in the electronics industry.  A tariff would have to be carefully constructed to avoid another Harley-Smoot disaster, but it could be based on protecting the health and welfare of the workers in exporting countries.  The worse the working conditions, the higher the tariff.  There could be verifiable standards, death rates of workers, hours worked per day, etc.

Instead of creating pressure to lower US working conditions to Chinese standards, such tariffs would pressure developing countries to provide better working conditions.  It would help level the playing field for developing and developed countries.  The current system unfairly benefits developing countries such as China.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another Letter to Congressmen

The Mitt Romney discussion has made me very unhappy with the US tax code and Congress in general. Why should millionaire Mitt Romney pay a 15% tax rate, while poorer working people pay a significantely higher percentage? Paul O'Neill, former Secretary of Treasury, was just on Bloomberg Surveillance Midday, and said that the tax code is "unworthy" of the US.

Why do rich people hate America so much that they refuse to support it? And why does Congress accede to their wishes? Money! It just shows how corrupt the Congress is. Laws are up for sale to the highest bidder.

It's sad that all those graves in Arlington Cemetery were for nothing. America has become unjust and undemocratic. We are becoming the old Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, or something else equally bad. We have a department called "Homeland" Security, which sounds like it is straight out of Nazi Germany. Since when is "homeland" a good American word? The first thing Wikipedia says about "heimat" is that it is a German concept that has no simple English translation, although it is often expressed as "homeland." Wikipedia says, "Heimat is a German concept." I doubt that George Washington or Thomas Jefferson ever used the word "homeland," although I haven't researched it. (Searching the Washington papers in the Library of Congress, it appears to be used once, in a footnote by the editor about a Dutchman whom Washington knew.)

At the moment, I am inclined to support no candidate from a major party, Democratic or Republican, because I believe both parties are corrupt. One of the few politicians I support at the moment is Elizabeth Warren. Obama and the Democrats lost my vote when he threw her under the bus after she had worked tirelessly for the consumer protection bureau. Jamie Dimon, his fellow bank CEOs, their lawyers, their lobbyists, and their money, blocked her appointment.

This is a sad state of affairs, and you are part of it.

I hope that I won't go to jail under PIPA or SOPA for quoting from Wikipedia. Although maybe today is like the day back in 1846 when Henry Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay his poll tax, leading to his seminal work on "Civil Disobedience." It's better to be in jail than to support a corrupt government.

Note: I am a Vietnam veteran (Army artillery) and a retired Foreign Service officer. My grandfather, a veteran of World War I, is buried in Arlington Cemetery. My father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. 

We need a country that is more concerned about honor than money. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Do We Stop the Iranian Bomb?

The Republican candidates, except for Ron Paul, are all hot and bothered about stopping Iran from getting the atomic bomb.  But they never mention Israel's bomb.  And they pretty much ignore Pakistan's bomb, and India's bomb.  And they never mention America's bombs, Russia's bombs, China's bombs, Britain's bombs, etc.  The responsible way to stop Iran would be to have a genuine, functioning non-proliferation regime, not one full of loopholes for any country determined to stay outside the regime. 

The main impetus behind Iran's drive to build a bomb is Israel's bomb.  It's not clear that the Iranians actually have a dedicated bomb development program, but it is clear that they want a nuclear infrastructure that would allow them to build a bomb in a relatively short time, if they decided that they needed one.  And why would they need one, probably because they felt threatened by Israel.  Of course, Israel feels threatened by Iran.  But the cold war was basically about mutual threats between the US and Russia, and we both survived, so far. 

If we were serious, about getting Iran to back off of its nuclear program, we all have to get serious about nuclear arms.  The US and Russia both have to seriously disarm.  Israel, Pakistan, and the rest have to give up their nuclear programs.  George Bush actually increased cooperation with India's civil nuclear program, despite is military nuclear program, a step undermining non-proliferation globally, although it may have made sense bilaterally. 

If the US were to invade Iran to shut down its nuclear program, by rights it should also invade Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, India, and other problem countries.  Arguably, the older nuclear powers, the US and Russia, are grandfathered under the regime, although they are theoretically obligated to disarm, too. 

Newt Gave Up on America

Newt Gingrich gave up on America when he shut down the government in 1995.  A great country would not give up and quit.  I'm still mad because it affected me directly.  First, while I was assigned to the American Embassy in Warsaw to run the Maria Sklodowska Curie fund, named in honor Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, the Republicans stopped funding it after two or three years, although we had signed a agreement with Poland to fund it for five years.  A great country would honor its promises.  So, don't count on the Republicans, especially Newt, to honor any promises, whether to pay interest on the national debt, make Social Security payments, or pay soldiers' salaries. 

I was in the process of transferring from Poland to Italy at the State Department's request when Newt shut the government down.  The US Embassy in Rome furloughed me, along with most employees, but it left me with no place to live.  All my worldly possessions were in storage or in my car getting ready to leave Warsaw for Rome in one hour when they called and said, "Don't leave."  But my wife and I had no place to stay in Warsaw.  It worked out, but no thanks to Newt.  The government should not send people to foreign countries and then abandon them.  Newt is totally irresponsible.  The idea that he might be President is deeply disturbing. 

Romney and Jobs

Most of the debate about whether Romney created jobs at Bain Capital misses the point.  Of course, businesses succeed and fail.  Some jobs will be created, some eliminated.  The questions is whether Romney cared about jobs, or just about maximizing profits.  For example, if it cost Bain $1,000 to keep a job that paid $25,000 to some long-term employee, would Romney do it?  That question has not been asked, but I think the answer is no.  That is a legitimate position, a purely Darwinian capitalist view.  But do you want the government to approach the jobs issue the same way?  I don't think so.  The government should take a more humanitarian approach to jobs.  And businesses could, too. 

In some cases, businesses fail because the men who started them don't have the heart to fire people who have been with them for years, although the company's hard times require it.  The Mitt Romneys of the world can come in and do it because they are heartless.  And they end up preserving some jobs, just not all of them. 

But what is Romneys view of the importance of jobs versus profits?  We don't know, and probably never will, because Romney seems to have no permanent views on anything. 

I think Romney's income taxes may be revealing, if he releases them.  He probably benefitted from all the tax breaks for rich people, particularly those in investment activities, that the lobbyists have gotten passed over the years, thanks to huge donations from rich people.  They can afford huge payments to lobbyists and campaign contributions to politicians, because the resulting tax breaks save them obscene amounts of money.  I'm guessing Mitt benefited enormously.  It will be even worse if it turns out that he is hiding income by putting assets in the Cayman Islands, or some other tax haven. 

Obama Abandons Democratic Party

Obama's proposal to break up the Commerce Department is just another example of his kowtowing to the Republicans and abandoning Democratic party ideals.  Government needs reorganization, but breaking up a long existing cabinet department is not the way to start.  The Republicans probably want him to eliminate EPA or Education, and he thinks it is smart to hit Commerce instead, but it's still a recipe for disaster.  The Department of Homeland Security has been a disaster.  The country is no safer than when the agencies in Homeland Security were under different cabinet departments, but it has been a great financial boon for private contractors, most of whom have Congress under their thumb through their lobbyists and campaign contributions.  It's government welfare for rich contractors. 

Obama is a worthless coward.  People make a big deal of his approving the raid on Osama bin Laden and continued drone strikes, but in both cases he was just saying yes to hardliners in the military and intelligence communities.  Closing Guantanamo would take guts, and he won't do it, because he doesn't have the guts.  Elizabeth Warren makes him look like a little crybaby.  It's no wonder he didn't want her anywhere near him; the comparison is devastating. 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Republican Primary as Reality Show

The Republican primaries are basically a reality show.  The candidates are more like the housewives of Orange County than commanders in chief.  That’s why somebody who was just promoting a book, Herman Cain, came to be one of the leading contenders, if only for a few weeks  The debates and campaign speeches have been in general uneducated and banal, except for Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, who have espoused reasonable positions, although I may not agree with them.  I think Ron Paul is wrong in his opposition to the Fed, but he is right that we are in serious economic trouble.  I think Huntsman is right on most important issues -- economic and foreign policy -- but too conservative on social issues like abortion and gun rights.  But Romney is campaigning as if he were a California housewife.  He may be the most intelligent housewife, but just a housewife nevertheless.  The others -- Santorum, Gingrich, Perry -- are good at puffery, but just full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Republican voters are not voting for a commander in chief but just on who is going to be voted off the island.

USAA and the Decline of the American Military

I’m a big fan of USAA insurance, but I think it’s significant that USAA now needs to advertise, when previously it tried to limit policyholders rather than attracting them.  In the old days USAA insurance was only available to military officers.  Because of patriotism and the draft, a lot of excellent people became military officers.  Many of them did not become career officers, but left after their initial period of service to return to civilian life, where they often became successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and other prosperous members of society.

 Vietnam destroyed respect for the American military, but because of the draft during the first part of the war, there were still a lot of good people who became officers.  With the end of the draft and rising disrespect of the military, particularly by “good” families, fewer and fewer people who were destined to become community leaders served as officers.   As a result USAA’s pool of excellent customers has been shrinking.  Now, instead of having a favorable opinion of former officers, Americans tend to have an unfavorable opinion, making it more difficult for former officers to rise to prominence in the civilian community.

As an example, look at recent Presidential elections.  The last military officer to serve as  President was George H. W. Bush.  He was defeated for his second term by Clinton, who avoided service in Vietnam.  Clinton defeated Bob Dole, a World War II hero, to win his second term.  Al Gore, Clinton’s Vice President, served in Vietnam, probably because as the son of a senator, he inherited a now antiquated family tradition of national service.  When he ran for President, however, he was defeated by George W. Bush, who did not inherit his father’s tradition of national service, and who avoided service in Vietnam by joining the Alabama National Guard, where he seldom did anything, even in Alabama.  For his next term Bush ran against Sen. John Kerry, who served in Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart medal.  The Republican Swift Boat veterans ridiculed Kerry’s service, in what to me was the most egregious attack on veterans by a major political party.  In order to win Bush a second term, the Republicans defamed all veterans by attacking Kerry for being a veteran.  In a turnaround, the Republicans nominated a veteran, war hero John McCain, in the next election.  McCain was defeated by Obama, who is not a veteran but is too young to have been influenced by Vietnam and the draft.  Although he did not serve in Vietnam, Bush II was probably eligible for USAA insurance under their old rules, although none of the other Presidents would have been.

The Presidential elections illustrate how Americans have turned against those who serve in their country’s military.  The result has been a significant downgrading of the USAA customer base, from leaders of American communities to those relegated to a lower social and economic status because of their service in the military.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Predictable Iowa

There was nothing interesting about the Iowa caucuses.  Mitt Romney got more or less his expected 25%.  Rick Santorum was the not-Romney candidate of the moment, and got about the same vote.  Ron Paul got the votes he was expected to get, high for a non-mainstream candidate, but not enough to make him mainstream.  If the vote had been held 10 days earlier, the not-Romney vote would have gone to Newt Gingrich.  If it had been 20 days earlier, the non-Romney vote would have gone to Herman Cain. 

Mitt was smart to move the non-Mitt vote to Santorum instead of Gingrich, because Santorum will be a weaker challenger.  But none of the non-Mitts really had much support of their own. 

What a waste of time, energy, and money!  And how discouraging to think that this is how Americans elect a President. 

Iowa Caucuses

Based on the results I have heard, a tie between Romney and Santorum, the Iowa caucuses appear to be an enormous waste of time.  If they contribute anything to the Presidential election, it just shows how broken our electoral system is.  Part of the problem is due to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, basically making it legal for rich people to buy an election.  And part of the problem appears to be that the Republican Party is dysfunctional, offering such lousy candidates, and that Republicans in Iowa are idiots, turning out to vote for such incompetents. Poor America!