Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A day in the life ..

by an Israeli woman

Last night my children lost their air-raid siren virginity - sounds crass, I know, but there is nothing warm and fuzzy and innocent about your children hearing their first air-raid siren. They hurried to the mamad (a reinforced room, equivalent of a bomb shelter in newer homes and apartments, ours doubles as our guest room) - they walked, they did not run, they have been drilled. Mia (7) played with her cousins, Gili (5) immediately recited two chapters of Psalms (he's just that kind of kid) and Elli (2.5) played obliviously on the iPad. There were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. The ten mandatory minutes of residing in the mamad from the commencement of the siren passed, everyone returned to the usual bed-time routine. Shortly after - a second round - same routine, once again, there were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. Bedtime.

Since this all started nearly a week ago, Mia & Gilli have been sleeping in the mamad - two less children to collect in the middle of the night if a siren goes off, the naïve hope that we'll spare them trauma - that if there's a siren, maybe they won't even wake up if we don't have to move them.

I lay in bed, floating between sleep and wake-fullness, terrified that I might sleep through a siren. Exhausted body, restless mind. I toss and turn, my restlessness disturbing Moshi, he heads off to one of the kids empty beds to try and sleep what remains of the night.

5:30am. Awake. Hopes of any sleep long-gone, the night is over. I hear the pitter patter of Gili's feet climbing the stairs - he finds Moshi in his bed and lays down next to him.

5:59am I hear an unfamiliar sound in the distance, almost like a hiss, the sound is foreign, unidentified. A split second later, wailing sirens - I dash to Elli's room, I hear Moshi call my name, I sense his movements, a deafening whistling sound overhead. Sirens wailing. I feel around for Elli's blanky. I can't find her favourite bunny. No time. I hug her close, trying not to wake her. I have no recollection of how I got from her room upstairs to the entry of the mamad. I only remember thinking that I'm watching a woman in a movie running with her sleeping toddler, sirens, the deafening whistle overhead of a missile - this is not me, not my life. Bang. Moshi slams the mamad door behind me. I hold Elli close, her sweet breath on my neck, she cuddles me and continues to sleep. Mia turns in her sleep. Gilli lays there, eyes wide-open, no Psalm recitals this time. Boom. Boom. Boom. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. Silence. We wait. Five more minutes pass. Moshi thinks we can open the room. They say to wait ten minutes. I motion him to sit. Boom. Boom.

I'm not sending my kids to school and kinder today. I'm not. I don't care if the Home-front says I can. I'll stay with them until my babysitter arrives. I picture Mia's school - I cannot picture them gathering the children in 90 seconds to the bomb shelter. And that's if there is 90 seconds. We only had 30 seconds in the morning. The kids are happy to stay home with me, maybe not as happy as they would normally be to have a fun day with Mummy.

Moshi recites to me what Gili said to him just before the siren hit - they lay in bed, and Gili turns and says to him: "Daddy, I can hear a missile coming". Moshi retells that he looked at him in wonder and then the siren hit. He had heard the same distant hiss, the foreign sound that I could not identify, and he named it. My children have not watched even one TV or news report since this crisis started, they know what we have told them and what they have heard from their friends in the playground. Why at 5 years of age could my son identify the sound of something that I could not identify at 38 years of age?

I speak to my neighbor, he was watering his garden when the siren hit. Of course the whistle of the missile was deafening. He saw the iron dome missile pass above us, overhead, between our homes.

I call the hospital, delay my clinic to the afternoon, cancel some meetings.

I wanted to have a normal, fun day. No, they cannot go to the pool. No, they cannot go to the trampoline. We will have a normal, fun day - indoors. Playtime, pancakes, drawing, movies, popcorn, more movies. I'm not counting their screen-time today.

2:00pm. The babysitter arrives, Mia and Elli play, I cuddle and kiss them. Gili has fallen asleep in the mamad. Exhausted. I gaze at him, I don't want to disturb his sleep.

I leave for the hospital - if I drive at a legal speed it'll take me 35 minutes, if I drive faster I can do it in less. I drive faster. I should have kissed Gili. I feel my body tense. Please no air-raid sirens while I'm on the highway. I know what I have to do if it happens. I don't want to do it. Please no sirens. I don't want to stop my car, lay down on the hot asphalt and cover my head with my hands. My hands were not made to protect my head. I pass a truck carrying domestic size gas canisters. Please no siren. Not now. Really bad time for a siren. No siren.

I arrive at the clinic, I apologize to the new patient for delaying the appointment from the morning. We had a siren, my children are young, I didn't want to send them to school/kinder. The patient and her husband smile knowingly, their eyes full of compassion and understanding. I look down at the patient file, she is from Kibbutz Nitsanim. I cringe. Kibbutz Nitsanim borders on Gaza - what I experienced this morning has been their daily reality for the past many years, and since the crisis started last week they have had up to 70 rocket missiles a day shot to their area. I apologize. I shift in my chair. We had one siren today. They reassure me.

I start her intake. She has come to us in order to participate in a clinical trial. She has three children. She wants to live. She will be randomized to a standard treatment or a new biological agent that may further improve her chances for cure. I explain to her what randomization means. It's like the role of a dice. She could explain to me what randomization means, their day-to-day reality is like the role of a dice. Yes, yes, it's true for all of us - but it's not.

The clinic ends. A siren. It's twice as long as usual. It doesn't seem to end. Boom - distant. BOOM - closer. BOOOOM - too close. I should have kissed Gili.

I call home - no sirens there.

I keep working. I work on my laptop. Occasionally my eyes dart to the PC screen on my desk, to the news page - sirens over my home. I call home - everyone is fine, no booms.

11pm. I arrive home. I kiss sleeping Gili.

Bed. Exhausted. Heavy heart. Heavy mind. Please sleep - arrive! I will wake up if there's a siren.

I think of our children. I think of theirs.

I want to sleep.

I want to awake in the morning to the pitter-patter of feet, to long cuddles. To quiet skies.

I want to wake up to mundane routine.  Sleep. Goodnight.



Spending and Morality

Walter E. Williams

During last year's budget negotiation meetings, President Barack Obama told House Speaker John Boehner, "We don't have a spending problem." When Boehner responded with "But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem," Obama replied, "I'm getting tired of hearing you say that." In one sense, the president is right. What's being called a spending problem is really a symptom of an unappreciated deep-seated national moral rot. Let's examine it with a few questions.

Is it moral for Congress to forcibly use one person to serve the purposes of another? I believe that most Americans would pretend that to do so is offensive. Think about it this way. Suppose I saw a homeless, hungry elderly woman huddled on a heating grate in the dead of winter. To help the woman, I ask somebody for a $200 donation to help her out. If the person refuses, I then use intimidation, threats and coercion to take the person's money. I then purchase food and shelter for the needy woman. My question to you: Have I committed a crime? I hope that most people would answer yes. It's theft to take the property of one person to give to another.

Now comes the hard part. Would it be theft if I managed to get three people to agree that I should take the person's money to help the woman? What if I got 100, 1 million or 300 million people to agree to take the person's $200? Would it be theft then? What if instead of personally taking the person's $200, I got together with other Americans and asked Congress to use Internal Revenue Service agents to take the person's $200? The bottom-line question is: Does an act that's clearly immoral when done privately become moral when it is done collectively and under the color of law? Put another way, does legality establish morality?

For most of our history, Congress did a far better job of limiting its activities to what was both moral and constitutional. As a result, federal spending was only 3 to 5 percent of the gross domestic product from our founding until the 1920s, in contrast with today's 25 percent. Close to three-quarters of today's federal spending can be described as Congress taking the earnings of one American to give to another through thousands of handout programs, such as farm subsidies, business bailouts and welfare.

During earlier times, such spending was deemed unconstitutional and immoral. James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees, Madison stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." Today's Americans would crucify a politician expressing similar statements.

There may be nitwits out there who'd assert, "That James Madison guy forgot about the Constitution's general welfare clause." Madison had that covered, explaining in a letter, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one." Thomas Jefferson agreed, writing: Members of Congress "are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare. ... It would reduce the (Constitution) to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please."

The bottom line is that spending is not our basic problem. We've become an immoral people demanding that Congress forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another. Deficits and runaway national debt are merely symptoms of that larger problem.



The State’s “MyPlate” War Is a War on Consumer Choice

Think You Have the Freedom to Eat Whatever You Want? Think Again

The state doesn’t stop short of your kitchen. Its members are determined to decide what, how, and where you can eat; on top of that, they try to assign food portions according to each “type of person.” Armchair bureaucrats, with no insight into the specific needs or desires of individuals, limit what you can buy in restaurants and supermarkets.+

Many of us already know that regulations substantially reduce economic freedom and create artificial monopolies that inflate prices. Fewer people appear to be aware, however, the degree to which state intrusions reduce our food choices. Like the father who does not allow a child sweets before dinner, the state takes on that role and dictates what you can and cannot eat.+

Starting with the production of food, there is government intervention at every stage. In the United States, expansive government agencies are in charge of deciding which grains are suitable for planting, and what their ideal condition during harvest should be.+

Even before production, massive farm subsidies distort the food industry. According to a study published by the Cato Institute, the federal agency in charge of subsidizing agriculture costs US taxpayers between US$10 and US$30 billion every year. The amounts vary depending on crop market prices, natural disasters, and previous payments, among other factors.+

Subsidies lead to an increase in rural land prices, block agricultural innovation, and create incentives for rent-seeking and excess production. They also discourage both cost reduction and diversity of land use, and go hand in hand with artificial prices and food waste.+

Mandated safety procedures, not tailored to consumer wishes, also add to prices. They make producers spend more on various additives to achieve centrally planned quality standards. Moreover, these create a barrier to entry for new producers who do not yet have the experience or are not financially capable of reaching these standards. Someone seeking to make a go of it in the industry, without obeying the food police, will soon find himself in legal hot water — as so many food-truck cases have shown.+

Self-Regulation? Not So Fast

In most US states, small producers of raw milk, even those that have been extremely careful with their methods, must break the law to satisfy consumer demands. This is a particular case that illustrates how the private sector can, in fact, create its own guidelines for safe consumption. The Raw Milk Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve people’s health and immune systems, and they teach production methods to agriculturists, offer education to the wider public, and set guidelines that providers can adhere to for the safety of consumers.+

Of course, the state does not have, nor should it have, an extraordinary capacity to monitor all production processes. Imposing top-down regulations is a fool’s errand, since food can be produced in so many ways, and new methods continue to arrive on the scene.+

There are always players who favor regulations, though — for the people, and with no crony interests at all. The food-truck battle is also illuminating here, since “safety” is merely a codeword for protectionism, keeping potential entrepreneurs out of the market.+

Mobile restaurants offer a desirable option for city workers with a hectic schedule: a win-win situation for everyone, or so it would seem. Municipalities are seeking to legislate operations essentially out of existence. California legislator Bill Monning, for example, has introduced a bill to prohibit food trucks from operating within 1,500 feet from a public school. Children might — perish the thought! — buy from the food trucks instead of from their school cafeterias.+

However, such justifications are wafer thin, since most children are not allowed to leave the school property during lunch. Further, the restrictions do not apply for fast-food restaurants, such as Burger King, and we all know how healthy they are.+

Dare one ask, if not the children, who are they trying to “protect” with this legislation?+

Unintended Consequences, Undermining Personal Responsibility

As the United States has given subsidies to farmers for decades, those in power have made some items cheaper. That sounds great, right?+

However, every law has its unintended consequences, since not all items are treated equally as far as the handouts go. Consider what you would prefer: a Big Mac with french fries and a soft drink, or a smaller salad portion? As you can see from the diagram, subsidies have, unfortunately, worked twisted our incentives contrary to a balanced diet.+

Given that every individual is responsible for his eating habits, lawsuits against firms such as McDonald’s for causing obesity are absurd. They also ignore the elephant in the room: the multi-million-dollar subsidies given for the production of a Big Mac’s ingredients.+

Still, those in office want to appear like they are doing something to avert a purported obesity crisis. Their proposed solution is to create more regulations and a USDA program in charge of nutrition: MyPlate.+

To be clear, I support initiatives, similar to MyPlate, that seek to educate consumers on adequate food portions — of which there are already many working on a private basis. I take exception, however, with subsidies that benefit certain groups of producers and interfering in such ways that work exactly opposite to their rhetoric. The food industry is already extremely innovative; let it breathe free for these innovations to hasten.+



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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