30 September 2013

Worthwhile Reading to Start the Day

Charles Krauthammer has a great piece about the current attempt at diplomacy with Iran - spot on.
The real Rouhani

And I've noticed lately that articles critiquing ObamaCare are finally showing up in the mainstream media. It's about time, but why has it taken this long to see them? Why didn't the media do their job and take a moment to read the bill before it was passed instead of beating the drums for its passage?
Lower Health Insurance Premiums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices - NY Times
Insurers limiting doctors, hospitals in health insurance market - LA Times
On October 1, Obamacare's Price Tag Will Surprise Americans - Forbes
First Obamacare casualty: My health plan is dead - NY Post
Ten states where Obamacare wipes out existing health care plans - Daily Caller
Experts fear ObamaCare rate ‘spiral’ - NY  Post

Happy New Year!

Jews around the world have just celebrated the New Year. I want to take this moment to wish everyone a year full of good health, success in what you do, peace in your homes and around the world.

23 September 2013

The British Are Coming... Okay, Just Their Articles

Two of my favorite Brits have written 'must-read' articles.

Michael Coren has a great piece about guns and the DC shooting.
Misplaced blame: Washington tragedy showed again why law-abiding people are safer when armed

And Melanie Phillips responds to Prime Minister Cameron when he announced that the massacre in Nairobi, Kenya does not represent Islam.
Mass murder and moral blindness

Standing With Kenya

Islamic terrorists have murdered at least 68 people. We pray for the victims and their families. We pray for Kenyan society, a country at war with these terrorists.

Kenyan Police Move to End Siege on Nairobi Mall
Israeli advisers helping Kenya in mall siege: security source

18 September 2013

The DC Shooting

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of the Navy Yard shooting. I'm going to include here part of Jim Geraghty's "Morning Jolt" from the National Review Online. I think he makes a lot of sense. Here it is:

Why the Modern Gun-Control Debate Is So Insufferable

Believe it or not, there are some nice people at NPR. One, after reading yesterday's Jolt, asked for my thoughts on what kind of debates the country should have after a mass-shooting tragedy. I replied:

I am rather skeptical of most gun-control proposals. The ones that are pitched in the aftermath of mass shootings are particularly cynical, as they often attempt to regulate circumstances unrelated to the shooting. I still grind my teeth at Mayors Against Illegal Guns running ads in my state citing the Virginia Tech shooting, and talking about the need to shut the "gun show loophole" -- even though the shooter didn't obtain his weapons at a gun show. These sorts of arguments strike me as one part craven opportunism, one part feel-good placebo. (I wanted to say "panacea," but panacea actually means a genuine cure-all.)

If someone wants to propose a new restriction on gun ownership after a tragedy, and cites that tragedy as a reason to pass it, it's necessary to show how that new restriction would have prevented, mitigated, or impacted that tragedy. For example, almost none of the gun laws proposed after Newtown would have changed much of anything in that awful shooting, as that disturbed young man stole his mother's legally-purchased guns.

I suppose there are two potential changes to the law that would have significantly altered events in Newtown. First, a total ban on private ownership of firearms, which our friends in the gun-control movement keep insisting isn't their goal.

Second, a restriction on gun ownership by people who live under the same roof as a person who's deemed mentally incompetent or a threat to himself or others. Of course, then you get into the questions of what constitutes, "mentally incompetent or a threat to himself or others," what constitutes "under the same roof," etc.

Then there are the proposals to limit how many rounds each gun can fire before reloading. Almost every spree shooter -- we need a better term for this -- has had more than one firearm when they've launched their attacks. Instituting ten-round limits would mean that future shooters would get off 20 shots before pausing to reload, presuming they only brought two guns. It's reasonable to conclude future mass killers will just bring three or four guns when they begin their rampage. This strikes me as a quite modest mitigation to the danger of these shooters; too modest to seriously consider.

The gun-control debate occurs in the context of some very familiar culture-war territory -- "blue America" largely supports gun control, "red America" largely opposes it. The "Acela class," largely living in low-crime areas and working in buildings with private security, because they don't see a need for a gun in their own lives, can't imagine why anyone else could need a gun. (If Mike Bloomberg or Piers Morgan worked the midnight shift at a 7-11, they might be more sympathetic to those who wish to defend themselves with a gun, since they might be more uncertain that police could respond to a life-threatening situation in time.) I find the arrogant, dismissive, "bitterly clinging to guns and religion" tone is rarely far from the surface in these debates.

After each shooting, we hear pundits and columnists declare, "it's time for a national conversation on guns." But we actually have had national conversations on guns after each one of these awful events; the conversation usually ends with lawmakers rejecting new restrictions on gun ownership. The pundits and columnists pretend the national conversation hasn't occurred because they keep losing the argument.

There isn't much of a culture-war component of discussing mental illness, other than a few folks on the Right who blame the Left for deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill in the 1960s. I suspect that there is no real constituency in favor of the Second Amendment rights of the mentally ill -- provided, of course, the definition of "mentally ill" is clear, explicit, and taken seriously. (If you think there's a stigma to admitting you're seeing a therapist, a psychologist, or getting mental-health treatment now, just wait until some of your legal rights can be restricted because of it.)

Thankfully, I've never known anyone who has had violent episodes or a threatening mental illness. My sense of the issue is that people rarely "snap" and become dangerous killers overnight. As you've probably found in your research, there are certain common threads: withdrawal from others and lack of a support network; hostile behavior and lack of temper control, outbursts, etc. It is maddeningly infuriating to hear friends and acquaintances of past shooters describe behavior that seems, in retrospect, to be a warning sign or red flag.

(Correct me if I'm wrong, but my sense was that after Columbine, many school administrators tried to institute a new 'if you see something, say something' approach to individuals behaving in a threatening manner. Then we saw in Virginia Tech, that many, many students reported the gunman for strange and threatening behavior, including stalking. School administrators ultimately couldn't do enough to stop him -- I don't know if this stems from fear of lawsuits or overall bureaucratic inertia.)

I see Fairfax County has tried a "Mental Health First Aid" program; a friend of mine participated in this program.

I'll admit that I don't know how effective a program like this would be; one would hope that people would already know to report strange, troubling, or threatening behavior to authorities. In past writings, I've emphasized that the only authority that can put someone on the federal firearms restriction list is a judge, and so that these sorts of concerns are best sent directly to the cops, not to a school administrator or company HR department.

However, a country where more Americans are trained to spot signs of serious, untreated and potentially dangerous mental illness strikes me as a better path than yet another effort to restrict the rights of 40 million gun owners because of the actions of a handful.

That's where I'm coming from.

17 September 2013

Happy Constitution Day!

On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was adopted. It is actually a simple document - quite short indeed. It includes ideas that what we all take for granted: government has limited power over the individual, the separation of powers and the concept that "liberty" is something that is worth preserving. Deep ideas, but the Constitution was the first time to see these ideas in practice -- this is why we have been called the "great American experiment".

Read the Constitution for yourself.

Happy Constitution Day!

16 September 2013

Funny, But Not

Just a few thoughts on the Syrian conflict...

To begin with, our Commander-in-Chief was willing to go it alone in Syria with the French covering our back. Really? That's almost a joke. Comical in so many ways.

Then our esteemed leader did a 180 when he realized that he really didn't want to go to war, didn't mean to draw any red lines and went to ask Congress' permission to shoot off a few rockets. Mind you, I am not at all for going anywhere near Syria. But it's 'funny' to watch him draw lines and back off those lines as soon as he realizes that they are going to be crossed. Did he not think that Syria wouldn't gas their own people? Was he thinking at all when he opened his mouth? You've got to wonder.

Let us not forget that the might of the United States must be feared... President Obama warned Iran that just because he backed off of Syria doesn't mean that he isn't serious about the Iranian nuke program. That's right, he means it. And he might wag his finger at you - and "make it clear" that nuclear bombs are unacceptable... he means it... really.

And the icing on the cake. In response to Russia's Vladimir Putin's op-ed in the New York Times, Obama suggested that “I don’t think that Mr. Putin has the same values that we do..."

All I can say is: You think?!

No, maybe you don't.

15 September 2013

Prayers for Colorado

Our hearts and prayers go out to the residents of Colorado - they are dealing with an incredible amount of rain in a short amount of time.

Colorado floods: Over 500 unaccounted for as 'devastating' rain looms

09 September 2013

Honoring Our Hallowed Dead

This is an amazing article. I read it in its entirety in one shot - which is unbelievable in itself. A must read. This is about Tom Day and his volunteers who play 'Taps' at military funerals across the country.

The Last 24 Notes

03 September 2013

My Mom - A Real Patriot

My world was rocked (in a bad way) on August 9th when my mother unexpectedly passed away. It's been hard to resume my writing, even though while watching the news there is so much to say.

I will try to give you a small sense of who my mother was; I'm sure you'll start to understand why we have all lost someone special.

On August 9th my mother passed away unexpectedly. She and my father raised five children all to be successful and independent thinking people. She was a mother, a wife, a teacher, an artist, and a writer.

She was a proud Jew as well as a proud American.

The Jewish People mattered deeply to her. She was even arrested for protesting the plight of Soviet Jewry during the height of the Cold War. My mom felt that it was a badge of honor to be arrested - she had stood up to do what was right. She told us that it was okay to get arrested - but it had to be for something important.

Being the mother of 5 children close in age was a serious challenge (one that I'm finally understanding with just two kids). She did her best under very difficult circumstances.

From a young age we were all taught to love the Land of Israel as well as the United States and her Constitution.

We were raised wearing t-shirts proclaiming the unity of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital, placing fliers under windshield wipers and talking to complete strangers about why supporting the Land of Israel was so important - and why every inch of the Land is absolutely holy. And even pragmatically speaking, what kind of "partners" in peace did Israel really have?

She regularly handed out copies of the US Constitution to random people she would meet. She even knew the beginning of the Declaration of Independence by heart.

My mother believed in the importance of a Jewish education, knowing where you are coming from - your history, and even started a Jewish educational company with my dad.

She was proud of all of us, what we have become, who we are.

When we were younger, she had us memorize the poem It Couldn't Be Done by Edgar Guest - I think this best summarizes the attitude she wanted to inculcate in us.

I will miss her dearly.

It Couldn't Be Done 

Somebody said it couldn't be done,
       But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
       Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
       On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
       That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
       At least no one has ever done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
       And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
       Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
       That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
       There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
       The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
       Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
       That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.