Beyond the Cusp

August 11, 2011

Time to Stop the Madness

We have just witnessed the greatest scam wrapped in a scare tied together with threats delivered by an ultimatum. We were told the government had run out of money which would lead the country to default on loans while being unable to pay Social Security checks and this would probably cause our credit rating to be downgraded but all this could be avoided only if we increased the credit ceiling allowing us to have greater amounts of debt supplying the necessary funds. Apparently simply printing money and covering it with Federal Reserve promises was insufficient this time around. We simply had to have so much additional funds that a more drastic measure was needed. This begs the question, what will we need to do next time, sell off Hawaii?

My question is why do you have to spend so much more money than you take in? Why not make Washington have to live within its means and tie spending to the previous year’s total intake of funds with a small percentage, say ten percent, taken out for emergencies and as an allowance for fluctuations of income from year to year. One thing should be definitively clear to Americans, we cannot go on spending at these levels and expect our country, way of life, standard of living or our place in the world to remain as is. The sustainability of all these measures of our prestige and comfort is directly related to our stewardship of the country’s finances. So far, we have been doing a deplorable job. Mostly, we have been trusting those we elected to see to this management and they have now performed a karaoke song and dance routine which portrayed exactly how inept and irresponsible they have been and intend to continue to be in handling our country’s finances. The result from this confession should lead us to realize that either we need to find real and honest adult representatives to send to Washington to carry on the business in government responsibly and respectfully, and respect may be the most important quality.

We should check and vote out of office anybody who favored raising the debt ceiling with only the most compelling of reasons for exceptions. Perhaps we need every candidate to sign a no debt increase promise but then we have heard such promises before so even this may not be sufficient. Maybe it is time to research the steps for recalling and replacing our representatives in Washington and using these methods immediately upon any such increase in the future. My bet is such measures would not have to be used more than twice before the politicians realized we were serious and began honest and forthright stewardship of our country and her finances. Whatever we find is necessary to end this profligate spending, we need to do it and refuse to back down as this is a threat to everything we have done to live our own lives responsibly. We cannot allow Washington to live like a proverbial drunken sailor while we scrimp and save to no avail due to their complete negligence and irresponsibility. We may be past the point of no return but no matter if we are or not, we honestly cannot continue until we make it obvious to the least observant observers that we have gone to the point of ruin, we need to act with this latest fiasco in mind and use this as a permanent motivation, returning to our trusting slumbers is no longer an option. Somebody has to keep watch and the politicians have proven once and for all that that job is above their pay-grade, way above.

Beyond the Cusp

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August 2, 2011

Israeli Housing Protesters Missing During First Housing Protests

Currently Israel is undergoing a boisterous and healthy sized group of people protesting the housing shortage and high prices. The problem is multifaceted with one of the problems directly caused by government roadblocks to all forms of building and land appropriations. It takes anywhere from five to seven or more years from inception of the planning to the actualization of available apartments or housing neighborhoods. Another government related problem is the fact that almost all of the lands of Israel are State owned lands. It is going to take the goring of some sacred cows, not necessarily perfect red heifers, but still sacred cows, in order to produce a more permanent solution rather than simply taking a one time action and a quick fix. This will require a good amount of something Prime Minister Netanyahu is capable of, the raw nerve and determination to change some long held ideas of State ownership and the determined force to punch through much of the bureaucracies and eliminate numerous steps and red tape which currently clogs and delays building projects. Netanyahu will also have to face down those who now hold the preferred status and developed friendships securing a semi-monopoly on the vast majority of residential housing. The fix is going to have to be a complete regimen of prescriptions which heal an ill systemic situation with a multitude of layers and numerous hurdles that combine to cause the shortage which in turn inflates prices. The Prime Minister has done similar work very effectively as Finance Minister when he was placed in the position by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in an attempt to render Bibi impotent to pose any challenge to Sharon’s leadership. That move backfired as Bibi gained fame by enacting changes that served the Israeli economy well, opened up competition in what had been government run agencies that were transferred into private hands, and deserves much of the credit for Israel surviving the world economic collapse with minimal hardship. Let’s hope he is up to the challenge once again.

Back to the current demonstrators who have gained monumental coverage by the liberal Israeli press who are working with the demonstration leaders in an attempt to force new elections. But where were these people way back in 2005 during the housing crisis that occurred under Prime Minister Sharon and his newly formed Kadima Party? The press was there supporting the housing crisis by calling for forcing people from their homes by the government using the force of the IDF. I do remember that some of those who are now supporting the call for Netanyahu’s head were fully supportive in 2005 of making thousands of Jews homeless with the destruction of their homes and neighborhoods. These were the Jews living and conducting their lives and businesses as part of the Gush Katif and northern Samarian neighborhoods that were surrendered to Arab control in the name of peace. Oh, that’s right, many of those supporting these new demonstrations back then had actually called for more force to be used to make these Jews leave their lives in shambles should they resist, which they did to a limited extent. But once these unfortunate Gazan and Samarian Jews were relocated into temporary trailers or other alternate residences none of the people backing the left centered current housing demonstration came out to protest for assistance for these homeless Jews. Strange, don’t you think? So, if back then Jews not having affordable housing did not cause the slightest ripple from the left, then why are they in such an uproar now?

Perhaps if we looked deeper and peeled back the onion and seek what is at the core of these demonstrations we might find something of interest that is also telling. Interestingly, when a large group of demonstrators came to join these housing rallies, they were turned away despite the fact that there have been no additional houses approved in their area in years. Oh wait. How silly of me, these Jews were the wrong kind of Jews as these were Jews from Judea and Samaria who are victims of the original ten month housing freeze to mollify the Palestinians and then subjected to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s one man moratorium on building in Judea and Samaria. These were not real Jews, they were religious and Zionist Jews and those kinds of Jews are not welcome in these demonstrations by polite society people. So, what is really behind this movement? Histadrut national labor union chairman Ofer Eini punctured the housing protest balloon Monday morning and said he will not be part of an effort to topple the Netanyahu government. “If the objective is to bring down Netanyahu, I will not participate,” he said in an interview on Army Radio. “We are a democratic government, and we are not Egypt or Syria.” And then there is staunchly secular writer and political activist Yair Lapid stated bluntly on Monday that the target of the protests is not only the Netanyahu government but the entire establishment that promotes Judaism in public life. This does place the housing movement in another light now, doesn’t it?

But what does the public at large think? Well, a new poll carried out Sunday noted that secular Israelis think that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the most qualified politician to lead the country. Interestingly, where 32 percent of secular Israelis between the ages of 18 and 30 chose Prime Minister Netanyahu while coming in at second with by 24 percent was Lieberman and with a mere 23 percent we find supported Livni, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s permanent opposite who votes against any and everything supported by the Prime Minister, the world be damned. This puts to lie Yair Lapid’s, left-wing politician and media personality, claim Sunday that the protest movement is comprised of secularists who represent the largest minority in the country. What else could go wrong for the belief in any validity of these demonstrations even though the problem is real and Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking steps to ameliorate the situation, hopefully with a permanent, long term solution. Well, the self-proclaimed leaders, Daphne Leef, Yigal Rambam, Regev Kontes and Stav Shafir, could make ridiculous demands such as having the Prime Minister actually at the negotiating table with them and to have the press present in the room while televising the entire negotiations. All one can do is wonder what their motivation for such ridiculous demands was, personal aggrandizement or an attempt to catch the Prime Minister in a series of gotchas embarrassing him in front of the entire nation and Israel’s enemies as well. Add to that their insistence that Netanyahu cancel the National Housing Committees Law as a precondition to the proposed televised negotiations and I think you have a complete picture of their impossible and totally preposterous demands. Perhaps the rumor that these four ‘leaders’ really were designated in advance by the New Israel Fund has a shred or two of validity.

Beyond the Cusp

June 28, 2011

Maybe the Best and Truest Reason for Privatizing Public Schools

The main arguments used to take aim at the major problems in our current Washington directed public schools are the poor testing scores, teachers’ unions are more a political machine for insuring job retention over quality performance or students’ needs, ever increasing education spending for consistently lower performance, and finally, too many schools simply teach for the qualitative testing at the end of certain grades during each year. But, are there any better arguments that actually hold the high ground purporting excellence, flexibility, and a diversity of schools tailored closer to students’ abilities and specialized interests. The simple answer is there is and so much more, if only parents, students, and others who recognize the importance of education that is impossible in our current broken system that has simply thrown more money at the problem instead of acting responsibly and overhauling the entire system. The first obvious item is the same as the current main argument that education must be taken back from the Federal Government and return it to, in a more perfect world, the most local system feasible, be that the State, County, Cities, or best, totally turned over to private enterprise.

I want to discuss the advantages of eliminating all government controlling school systems beyond setting minimal requirements of core studies. Should we turn our schools over to private control, we would quickly find the actual cost per student for an education initially would probably be halved in most major markets and have significant lowered costs virtually everywhere else. And surprisingly enough, as more competition entered into the market, the prices would drop even further as these private enterprises would be competing for parents’ education dollars while also striving for the highest standards and reputations to attract more students. Somehow, once free of government efficiency, schools would be run with far fewer supervisory positions which now many are required simply to meet Federal Government near endless mandates and regulations. It becomes obvious there is a strangling problem of over-imposition of government resulting in so much of education budgets being used to simply cover Federal imperatives when there are Assistant Principals, Administrators, and their related staff who are solely dedicated to assurance of standards and compliance. All these people accomplish is to generate reports, complete required forms, assure proper licensing, and add numerous more employee members of the Teachers’ Unions.

If, instead the Federal government completely shut the doors at the Department of Education and every other agency, department, or other education related bureaucracy had their budget slashed or the entire place closed, then the education budgets of the States, Counties and other current schooling oversight could instead be used as vouchers or taxes previously utilized for education could be reduced or eliminated. These savings could provide three forms of stimulus on the economy by injecting more spending money through lower taxes, open an entire new market solely to provide quality educations, and reduce or eliminate deficit spending or at least assist in balancing governments at all levels. The sole reasons this is being prevented is because it removes the oversight and control over this entire sector of our economy from politicians and unions who believe they are the people with the ultimate ability to determine what is best for our children’s educations. I believe that parents, overall, are the best and most highly motivated people to judge, guide and choose the education of their children. What a concept that the people whose children are actually in the current school system might be more motivated to improve the educational opportunities for the largest majority of kids than unrepentant politicians who place their children in private academies knowing they have destroyed our public educational systems.

The last advantage that would be produced by turning to the private sector to provide our children’s educations would be the offering of specialized curriculums and programs to meet the differences of students’ aptitudes, preferences, special needs, and educational paths towards whatever profession or interest some may choose to pursue. This is by far the most important issue in the education debate. Currently, should a student be gifted in math, languages, artistic expressions, sports or whatever, they are still placed in the same mass educate to the lowest denominator public school system where their particular gifts could be squelched rather than pursued and encouraged to flourish under a school that is designed for these students’ unique abilities and gifts. We would be better served by a school system which has diversity in the available choices and options. We sure are not getting an adaptive and tailored education worth half the money we are forced to spend blindly, via governmental insistence outside of the individual student or parent to influence, choose, or be asked for approval or disapproval. My experience with public schools would clearly receive disapproval from this writer, but who would have guessed that?

Beyond the Cusp

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