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Month: October 2007

The moral atrocity of Israel's "moderation"

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

U.N. diplomats are upset that Israel has begun to briefly cut off power to the Gaza strip in response to continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks. They do not believe in “collective punishment” they say. Israel has defended the policy by pointing out that the power cuts are moderate and do not affect critical services.

The morality of Israel’s policy can be judged under one of two scenarios. If Gaza under Hamas rule is an enemy state which is waging war on Israel, then Israel has no obligation to provide any services to the Gaza strip, and may in fact take whatever moves are necessary to destroy or discourage the enemy, including the destruction of military and civilian infrastructure. If, on the other hand, Gaza is under Israel’s sovereignty, and not subject to martial law (that is, it is not a war zone), then the standards of civilian rule apply, and cutting off badly-needed services could indeed be considered a moral atrocity. So which scenario applies to the current situation?

According to Israel’s policy, it is both.  Hamas does operate a de-facto independent state inside the Gaza strip, and is actively engaged in a war with Israel. (It is not merely “terrorism” because the Hamas combatants are not fugitives within Palestinian territory, but members of the ruling regime, and enjoy the support of the population.) On the other hand, Israel has not recognized Hamas as a foreign regime, much less an enemy state, and acts diplomatically as if the Palestinian territories are part of its territory, and therefore the welfare of Palestinian civilians is its responsibility. (Hence the current “moderation” of the power cuts and the military response.)

Israel’s attempt to make a “practical” compromise by treating the Palestinian territories as a quasi-state puts it in the worst possible situation. It can neither take the proper military action to win the war, nor establish civilian rule under Israeli law in the territories and bring the criminals to justice. If Israel wants to find a moral way to end the bloody war of attrition that afflicts both Israelis and Palestinians, it must do one of two things:

One: Israel can recognize Hamas/Fatah as an enemy regime and wage a proper war against them. This means immediately cutting off all ties and trade with the enemy, the destruction of the current regime and its war-making infrastructure and breaking the will of the population to continue waging aggression. Victory may constitute occupation and the installation of a friendly regime, or simply isolation and a military blockade until the will of the population to fight is broken.

Two: Israel can recognize the Palestinian territories as a part of its territory, and establish martial law with the goal of making civilian rule possible. This means complete occupation of the territories and the destruction of all organizations which practice or advocate violence against Israel, or Israeli authority. This option requires a commitment to eventually giving Palestinians full rights as citizens of Israel, which makes it unlikely.

Every delay to the enactment of one of the two policies means more needless Israeli and Palestinian deaths and suffering.

Let polar bears go extinct

by David Veksler David Veksler 7 Comments

I have nothing against polar bears, of course. But the polar bear is just a brown bear which has evolved to live in an arctic environment. If global warming does eliminate the polar bear’s habitat, it will be to make room for more brown bears. Is there a reason why we should prefer polar bears over brown bears? Perhaps its because polar bears are one of the few large animals which can survive in the arctic. But this only demonstrates that the arctic environment is relatively unfriendly towards life.

The Drug Czar is required by law to lie

by David Veksler David Veksler No Comments

Does anyone else find it disturbing that certain public officials are required by law to (a) advocate against certain legislation and (b) do so regardless of the facts?

By law, the drug czar must oppose any attempt to legalize the use [of drugs] (in any form). Therefore, despite the fact that there is extensive evidence of medical marijuana’s safety and effectiveness (including the fact that even the federal government supplies it to patients, and that many are trying to find out How Washington Dispensaries Can Prepare for the Traceability Migration so it doesn’t affect the state), and clearly the drug czar would know about all this information, he is required by law to lie about it.

The job description also means that since he must oppose any attempt to legalize, he has no choice but declare that the drug war is working, that legalization would fail, etc., regardless of any… facts.

Job insecurity saved my career

by David Veksler David Veksler 1 Comment

A chart at the Economist compares the average job tenure of developed countries.  At four years, the United State has the shortest average tenure by far, with the British working more than double that duration, and the Greeks working over 12 years at the same job.  No doubt that many will use these numbers to condemn the U.S. for not protecting “the rights of workers.” In most Western European countries, employers can only fire workers under certain legally-defined conditions, and only after a lengthy disciplinary process subject to independent appeal.  Putting the morality of coercing employers into lifetime contracts aside, do such “protections” really help workers? 

The official French unemployment rate is roughly double America’s, with unemployment among young Frenchmen at about 20%, and lasting much longer on average.   The correlation of high levels and prolonged periods of unemployment with laws meant to protect against unemployment might seem surprising to someone who advocates fixing social problems with legislation.

The glaring problem with the socialistic attitude that society can be improved by replacing voluntary economic activity with a coercive regulatory state is that human beings are not cogs in a machine.  They do not passively follow new regulations, but proactively respond to incentives.  Faced with the practical impossibility of firing unproductive workers, employers would rather not hire them in the first place.   They can hardly be blamed for this, for their alternative is to play a game of Russian roulette and risk being bankrupted with unproductive or even counter-productive employees.  They must try to find people who are passionate about their jobs because once hired, they will earn a salary whether or not they work for it.

I am personally grateful to live in Texas, an “at will employment” state, where either party can terminate employment with no liability.  My career success would not have been possible if I weren’t so easy to fire. 

As I was nearing the end of my master’s degree, I managed to obtain an exclusive internship that promised to jumpstart my career.  Due to a combination of a lack of social skills and planning, I had failed to network with employers, peers, or professors, and managed to swing the internship on the basis of my technical skills and/or academic record.  However less than two weeks before my internship was to start, the company suddenly reneged on the internship offer.  With just a few months until graduation and no personal connections or offers on the table, I started to wonder whether I was any better off than my friends and classmates who went back to their parents with useless liberal arts degrees.   In a similar situation, most young Europeans continue living with their parents for decades and accumulating more useless degrees.

I was not in Europe, and so I was able to do contract work during college, and offered to do a six-week long unpaid “internship” for a think tank I had done some work for.  I’m not familiar with European labor laws, but somehow I doubt that it would be as easy to simply offer one’s services in exchange for room and board with no paperwork or commitment whatsoever.  During that summer, I brushed up on my skills, and was offered a low-paying, but very promising opportunity for a small startup near Austin, Texas.  I had nothing but a degree and a recommendation behind my name, but there was little risk from the perspective of my employer, and so I had my first opportunity to prove my worth.  A year later, I used that experience to get a better position in Dallas.  Exactly a year after that, I changed jobs once more, and then once again seven months after that.  I now work as a month-to-month contractor with no job security whatsoever, but a solid resume and 360% more income than that first job.  Had my employers been bound by French labor laws, I doubt I could have gotten that first chance to prove my worth. 

I am currently employed by a French-owned company, and my coworkers who visit the French headquarters like to joke that their associates there all have good looks but don’t seem to shower or change their clothes.  I don’t know whether it’s true, but it makes sense – without job mobility, superficial characteristics like appearance become much more important when getting that first and only job, and after getting it, there is little incentive to keep up appearances.