Sit for the Star Spangled Banner and Put Trump In His Place!

Demanding that football players stand up for the national anthem or get fired is absolutely creepy. This is the chance for all people in every stadium this NFL Sunday to proudly sit down and keep their hats on and show this (and I don’t use this hackneyed word often) fascist sicko Trump that he does not dictate the lives of NFL players.

How about this idea: Stop singing the banner song at all sporting events! You want to keep politics out of sports, just ban the song! Here’s some historical context before we all get our panties in a bunch about how that is sacrilege.

If I were an NFL player I would definitely sit down, as I sit down for the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel. I implore all NFL players not to stand this week, just to spite that son of a bitch.

If Trump is widely disobeyed here it would be a very healthy thing for the country. America is not some Mussolini dictatorship just yet. It’s getting there but there is still some liberty left in the place. This is the time to prove it. People have the right to express themselves even if, especially if, their opinions are wrong, or right, or in between, or total non sequiturs.

Trump should be impeached for threatening first amendment rights.

Here are the two national anthem renditions I’d cheer and stand for, proudly!

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On My Immunity to Politics, or Why Trust Me?

Click Here to Vote in Zehut International PrimariesThe two most unctuous words a politician can say to a voter are, “Trust me.” Politicians can never be trusted.

But I’m not a politician.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride. The Man in Black challenges the Sicilian Vizzini to a battle of wits to rescue Buttercup. The Man in Black tells Vizzini that one of two wine cups is poisoned with iocane powder. Vizzini switches the cups when he’s not looking, and waits for the Man in Black to drink his own cup first. He does. Vizzini then drinks, certain that his cup was not poisoned.

In the end, Vizzini dies, and the Man in Black lives. How?

“Both cups were poisoned,” the Man in Black says to Buttercup. “I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

This, my Zehut International friends, is politics. The most pure-hearted with the best possible intentions go in idealistically, and invariably come out dirty. If you go into politics and you want to stay clean, you have to know that every cup is poisoned and you must spend years building up an immunity to it.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics, and that’s why I choose to drink the cup.

How am I immune? Let me tell you a personal story. Years ago I was working in Tel Aviv in marketing. My manager and I actually were quite friendly and we got along well. We’d argue a lot, him a secular Tel Avivi, me a dati American Oleh, immigrant. One day we argued about Ma’aser, giving a tenth of our incomes to tzedaka.

I told him that while I do slip up in other areas of religious practice from time to time, I am super machmir, very strict, about giving Ma’aser. This is my mitzvah, and if there’s one mitzvah I am going to do right, it’s this one. I make sure I give a tenth of my income every month to the Tzedaka of my choice.

Why am I so strict about this Mitzvah specifically? It’s not because I’m some pious man of faith or anything. In fact, my faith and religiosity are quite lacking. I am strict about Ma’aser for quite selfish reasons actually. Because this is the only Mitzvah that we are halachically permitted to test G-d on, and I needed to test Him. In other words, we are allowed to give Tzedaka as a test to see if G-d returns the money to us in some way.

In many ways, my faith in G-d is anchored in this practice, and it has been ever since I started earning my own living. But what really cemented it as the basis for my own faith in G-d is the challenge I made to my boss in 2012. He told me he didn’t earn enough to give Ma’aser every month, though he tries. So I said the following to him, perhaps irresponsibly, but I said it. (Sometimes I’m too confrontational.)

“I bet you that before the end of the year, I’m going to get a better job and you’re going to be laid off.” He laughed. that was our type of banter. But I was serious.

In the meantime, I applied to a new job that I wanted, one that would let me stay home and write about economics. On my birthday that year, I got the new job, and went out to a nice breakfast to celebrate with my wife before I went to work. I was going to tell my manager that day that I was quitting, but since I was coming in late, he actually called me first.

He called me at breakfast and told me the company was shutting down. I was absolutely dumbfounded. And I remembered the wager I made him, but didn’t bring it up. I told him, what a coincidence, I was just going to tell you that I’m quitting.

Here’s the point though. I have been a libertarian since 2012, even before that crazy day. But ever since that day, I became religious about it. Blending religious libertarianism with halachic Judaism has not been without its challenges I admit, but my life philosophy – my immunity to politics essentially – is this:

The Gemara in Shabbos 31A says that the first question we will all be asked when we die is נשאת ונתת באמונה? Were you honest in business? Did you steal money? Did you avoid paying debts? Did you swindle people?

I am not the most machmir – halachically strict – of observant Jews, and I have my own religious shortcomings. But I have chosen this aspect of halacha as my forte, my personal mitzva that I have chosen to fulfill as perfectly and as strictly as I possibly can.

It is the bedrock of my personal Judaism and I am a fanatic about it. When I am no longer here and I have to answer that question, I will answer it with absolute confidence. I am honest with money, I am a religious Jew and a religious libertarian and I believe in redemption, geulah. These are the pillars of my life on Earth that G-d has given me and I take them seriously.

I will not be bought, I will not be corrupted, bribed with position or anything else, and I will not be bent.

I will always vote not for what will secure my political career (I don’t even want one truthfully), but for what I know is right. I will be honest with money, so I will never vote to increase taxes or government spending, but always to shrink it, in any way that becomes available to do so in the Knesset, in any realm, in any part of life, for anyone in Israel, period.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics. That immunity is the basis of my identity, both as a Jew and as a human being in general.

That’s why I’m telling you, trust me, and vote for me. Because I’m honest, because I’m immune, becauseI’m not a politician, and because I will do what is right.

If you Find an Ancient Coin, Don’t Tell the Israeli Government

The bastards will steal it from you and you’ll get nothing but a “certificate of appreciation.” Leave the country with the coin, find a Jewish collector you can trust, and sell it at market value privately. Or just keep it in your family if you don’t want the money. Don’t let them take your property for nothing.

From Times of Israel. An 8 year old girl found a machatzis hashekel minted on Har Habayit during Bayit Sheni:

On Wednesday, the coin was handed over to the archaeological unit of the Civil Administration, or COGAT, which overseas Israeli government activities in the West Bank. According to Israeli law, all archaeological finds must be turned over to the government. Hallel received a certificate of appreciation for her find.

Hallel said she was a little sad at first to turn over the coin, but got over it. And as for the feeling of holding something so historic in her hand, she said, “I felt that wow! It was written on it ‘Jerusalem the Holy City.’ That’s really exciting.”

 

Appoint A King Over Yourselves? Not so Fast!

The Role of Government in Israel: Almost Nothing, or Absolutely Nothing?

“You shall surely place a king upon yourselves, one that Hashem your God has chosen…”

~Deuteronomy 17:15

We are told in this week’s Parasha that we are required to place a king upon ourselves. From here it is assumed that the Torah supports the idea of monarchy. It’s not that simple.

There are two main tanaitic positions regarding this Pasuk. The more familiar one originates from the Tanah Rebbi Yehuda Bar Ilai. He holds that having a monarch is a positive mitzva. If so, what are the monarch’s responsibilities?

According to the Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 4:10, the only areas of jurisdiction he has are defense and courts. Nothing else.

Not education, not welfare, not culture, not price controls, not central banking. In libertarian terminology, we would call this the minarchist position, meaning absolute minimum government.

But there is another position, that of the Yerushalmi Rabanan. Says Midrash Rabba Shoftim:

“Say the Rabanan: Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: In this world you requested kings and kings from Israel rose up and killed you by the sword. Saul killed them at Mount Gilboa…Ahab stopped the rain…and Zedekiah destroyed the Temple.

“When Israel saw what happened to them during the reign of their kings, they all started screaming: We do not want a king from Israel! We want our original King! (Isaiah 33) For God is our Judge and our Legislator. God is our King and our Savior!

“Said the Holy one Blessed Be He to them: By your lives! This I will do!

“As it says (Zechariah 14) ‘And God will be King over all the Earth etc.’”

The Rishonim Abarbanel and Ibn Ezra agree with this second position. Says Ibn Ezra:

“A king is only an option. Only a prophet or the Urim and Tumim may choose one. The people may not elect one themselves.”

So much for democracy.

Abarbanel says explicitly that the minarchist position is incorrect and that the pre-Monarchic regime of the Shoftim was preferable. Essentially, appointing a king was therefore an option, but a mistaken one.

Let’s not forget that this pasuk about a king has been abused by evil people like Rav Shlomo Aviner who defended the expulsion of Jews from their homes on the grounds that the government is like a King and must be obeyed.

The most important thing though is that the machlokes in Halacha on government’s role is between absolute minimum government as per the Rambam (courts and defense only) and no government at all, as per the Ibn Ezra and Abarbanel.

Whichever side you fall on, there is no legitimacy to the government doing anything else whatsoever.

Why I Will Bring the Most Votes to Zehut

There are about 300 of you, Zehut International members, last I checked. (If you’re not one, click here now and you can vote in the December 17 primaries.) There are 3 of us campaigning for your vote for slot #10 on the Zehut Knesset list.

I’ve been in contact with Rav Spitz and David Sidman. They are both great candidates. There really isn’t much we disagree on substantively. So why vote for me?

When I went to the meeting at Zehut headquarters in Tel Aviv for all our Knesset candidates, we introduced ourselves, naturally. Most of us spoke briefly about our qualifications, what we want to do in the Knesset, what we want to accomplish and why, our backgrounds and such.

When we were all finished with our schpiels, Shmuel Sackett got up and said the following (paraphrasing). “I don’t care what your background is or what degrees you have or what your qualifications are. The only thing I want to know is this: How many votes can you bring to Zehut?”

That, of course, is the essential question.

Let’s put this starkly. Besides G-d, Zehut is Israel’s last hope. I firmly believe that. Because I have faith in G-d, I also firmly believe Zehut will succeed, because we have to. At the same time, we have to elect people who will bring the most votes possible to our party in order to succeed. It’s that dialectic between reliance on G-d and hishtadlus, making a real effort and doing our part.

I will bring the most votes to Zehut for two reasons, both of which play off the other. First, I have an insatiable need to tell the truth. I cannot stop myself. No matter how ugly the truth sounds or how crazy it makes me look or how much I know people do not want to hear it initially. I can’t even sugarcoat it in the most superficial way to make it sound better. When I try to dress the truth up and blunt the sharpness of my words to make them sound more pleasant to the political ear, it just doesn’t feel right and it sounds awkward coming off my tongue. I feel like it’s someone else talking when I try.

I can’t even use nice words to convince you to vote for me!

Second, I can’t stand politicians. I just cannot play their game. Go through the actual content of what any of them (except Moshe Feiglin) say, Right or Left, very carefully, and you’ll realize there is no substance to any of it. The same generalities over and over, spoken so you’ll feel nice and gooey and apply whatever beliefs you may have to the extremely loose and imprecise language they use. Whichever empty shell of a man is best at saying nothing but making you feel that your values are somehow contained within the absolute vacuum of nothingness he spouts off, is the man that wins and runs the country.

Benjamin Netanyahu is the absolute best at doing this. He’s Prime Minister, but nobody likes him.

I am the absolute antithesis of this. A vote for me means a vote for dropping an antipolitical bomb right into the heart of the Knesset.

Now, I fully understand that a man like me cannot lead Zehut. I’m too one-dimensional for that job. I should not be permitted on the front lines and will never vie for that position, because I understand it’s not for me. That’s Moshe’s job.

But Zehut needs a man like me to make headlines, to get up in the middle of the Knesset and say straight out with an acid tongue how much I disdain the place and the politicians in it. How everything they do, almost without exception, just makes all of our lives worse, desecrates the Name of God and embarrasses the Jewish People globally. I say what all of us think and feel but don’t want to say out loud because for many it causes despair. Not for me. It gives me hope, and it will rub off on voters.

The very first thing I will do in my inaugural speech as a Knesset Member is paint a big fat target on myself and tell the MKs that I am not a “Chaver Knesset“, meaning Knesset Member or literally “Friend of the Knesset.” Rather, I am an Enemy of Knesset and I am here to stop them from abusing the Jewish People.

I won’t even be addressing other MKs whenever I speak (excluding Zehut MKs of course). I will be talking directly to the Jewish People, the ones producing value in the economy, off whose work politicians live, so we can eat and live and survive. The victims of the political class and bureaucracy who get taxed and regulated and tazered at the Temple Mount for praying to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The Jewish People who get bombed and killed by Arabs because the politicians are too cowardly to cut a deal with the Arabs to leave our land and finally end the war because it is the war that gives the politicians the perpetual power they love so much.

The politicians that take our children into Gaza and Lebanon to fight and die with no strategic goals whatsoever, using our kids as cannon fodder for their own political power so they can give sickening stump speeches taking advantage of our nationhood screaming Am Yisrael Chai while they have absolutely no plan to actually win anything. It drives me out…of…my…mind.

The solutions are not complicated. You just need to implement them. For example, say a rocket falls on Ashkelon from Gaza and hits a house. Simply pinpoint the exact area the rocket came from, expel the people living there within an X-mile radius, seize all their assets, and offer the property and assets to the victims of the rocket attack to do whatever they want with it. Simple criminal-victim restitution practiced everywhere.

My point is this. I do not believe there is much of a substantive difference between myself and my co-runners, at least not from what I can tell. Perhaps I’m wrong and of course I’ll let Rav Bentzi and David speak for themselves. The difference between us, I believe, is a matter of style.

I am shock value. Am Yisrael is drowning in a swamp of government. We need to get their votes, and in order to do so we need to get their attention. You don’t get a drowning people’s attention by lightly tapping them on the back as they’re sinking. You grab them, pull them, scream, and wake them up before they sink.

Why will my style get the most votes? Because at bottom, everyone who is not a politician or a bureaucrat in Israel, does disdain the Knesset and the government as a whole, just like me. I just have the ability, or perhaps handicap, of being absolutely unable to hide it.

Whenever Israelis speak of the place they roll their eyes at it. They’re embarrassed by it. I remember this from as far back as when I was a kid in sleep-away summer camp. The camp had Israelis come for the summer to introduce kids to Israel and its culture. One of them, I distinctly remember, and this was back in 2000 and he was a left-winger, was talking about the Knesset.

“You come out of that place embarrassed to be Jewish,” he said.

Yes. Israelis do feel this way. It’s a real thing. I will tap into that reality and give the people some release. I’m the one who is telling them that these feelings, these true negative feelings they have towards this place, are good. They’re OK. They’re correct. They can indulge in them. It means they’re normal.

I won’t be leading Zehut. I will be adding hot sauce to the party. Zehut needs its soft-spoken candidates for sure, but it also needs a flavor of righteous anger so that frustrated Israelis can look at Zehut and say, “There’s a party that has just had enough!” Nobody does that better than me.

What will keep my head straight? What ensures that I won’t become a politician myself? Because they’ll have nothing over me, nothing on me, no leverage. I won’t be taking a salary, I’ll drive my own car that I bought with my own money, and I won’t be seeking any special positions, committees, or anything. I don’t want any of that. I just want to talk to the Jewish People and tell them I’m on your side. I’m not taking any of your money. I am fighting for you. Now get up and fight with me.

My Fairy Godmother, Lehavdil

I have a friend from college. His name is Jon. It’s one of those strange relationships where I don’t really interact with him all that much, but when I do it’s very consequential. He helped me through some very difficult times and whenever he’s in Israel we hang out and talk. We’re both type 5’s on the Enneagram, a system I helped introduce him to 12 years ago. I altered the course of his life and he altered the course of mine. I can sense there is a lot more we will be interacting about in the future.

I feel alone most of the time, notwithstanding my amazing wife and family. But here and there someone pops up who, surprisingly, also gets it, and gets me, mostly.

The webmaster at Hyehudi is one of those guys. See his post on Women at the Wall here. Not what you’d expect from a Haredi guy. I don’t know who he is and he wishes to remain anonymous, understandably so. He’s some sort of Haredi libertarian guy. I can’t make it out completely. There’s a lot I disagree with him about but the disagreements are all inconsequential and academic, since they are restricted entirely to the private sphere of our own thought and not public policy which affects the lives of others.

It’s people like him and Jon who help me realize I’m not alone. As I said in a previous post I am mostly a dark side guy. I still need a little bit of light to keep going though, and these people supply that.

There is no ye’ush (despair) in this world at all, because there cannot be if God created it.

Look at his website and subscribe to his newsletter. It’s well worth it, if only to hear thoughts from someone like me who has stayed closer to mesorah and Torah Shebe’al Peh than I have.

 

 

The Beautiful Thing About the Bitcoin Split

Bitcoin split into two different currencies today. I don’t really understand why except vaguely something about the software being too overloaded and needing to be either upgraded or split to lighten the transaction burden on the network. Or something like that.

There was something amazing about the bitcoin split that isn’t being reported by anyone. That is, no government was involved in the decision to split the currency into two. There were no squabbles, no politicking, no building coalitions, nobody forcing anything on anybody. The guys who hold up the bitcoin network, they simply came to an amicable decision to split up, and social justice warriors were not even involved.

And what happened to the bitcoin price? Nothing much at all. It was fine. The people who use it are fine. The people who buy it and sell it are fine. Everything is fine.

Whenever I suggest privatizing something – roads, courts, airport security, garbage disposal, the water supply, etc. – I am invariably asked how the private sector could possibly handle X. Well, this is how the private sector would handle a money dispute. Amicably, cleanly, efficiently, and quietly. So we can all live our own lives.

Beyond all the thing things I want to privatize, first and foremost and my utmost priority, is to privatize money creation. Let the government have the shekel if they want. Manage it however they want. Print it, don’t print it, I don’t care. Just let the private sector produce its own money and allow people to use whatever money to pay their taxes at market value.

Why is this my top priority? Because the Israeli government is the source of 99% of all problems in Israel. From the Temple Mount and the government-funded police who beat and tazer defenseless Jews on Tisha B’Av to skyrocketing real estate prices to the war with the Arabs and Oslo, it’s all their fault. All of it.

Government power needs to hacked away and the single greatest power – the source of all the other powers the Israeli government has is the ability to print money that we are all forced to use. The monetary monopoly is the seat of all of its power. Break the State’s monopoly on money, and you have hit the weak spot at the center of the Death Star. You break the State’s biggest power monopoly by far. Once money is privatized, the State can no longer inflate with impunity because the shekel would deteriorate fast. The government in an environment with monetary competitors, must either shrink fast or go bankrupt even faster.

How do you privatize money? Just allow taxes to be paid in any currency at market value, and allow business to create money. Gold, silver, copper, stocks, bonds, dollars, euros, bitcoin, ethereum, whatever. It’s all up to the market whether to accept a currency or not.

How would the private sector handle money creation and money squabbles? The answer: very simply, as we just saw with bitcoin.

Imagine if there was a political effort to split the dollar or shekel into two currencies. Could you imagine the fighting that would be involved? All the worthless news we’d have to read, all the voodoo econometricians babbling about GDP and XYZ and 123 and using words that make us all feel dumb and unqualified to have an opinion?

But bitcoin split into two in a mutually agreed upon divorce by the developers. No violence, no public bickering, no social justice warriors, nobody blabbing on about how the poor or the rich or the middle class would be hurt by the split or the non split or anything. That’s how the private sector would handle money creation and monetary disputes. With peace and quiet.

With private competition against the shekel, inflation would end. People’s savings would increase in value. Real estate prices would plummet. The war with the Arabs would have to be ended for lack of money to keep it going. If you believe that’s a bad thing, you probably have a PhD in macroeconomics, Rachmana Litzlan. (Yes, many PhD economists actually believe war – AKA the mass destruction of goods and services and people – is actually good for the economy. It isn’t.)