Monday, June 30, 2008
US Navy Commander Vows US Will Not Allow Iran to Close Strait of Hormuz
The commander of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet says the United States will not allow Iran to shut down a key oil supply route in the Persian Gulf.
Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff Monday told reporters in Bahrain that Iran will not shut the Strait of Hormuz. The strait is a strategic outlet for oil tankers leaving the Persian Gulf.
Cosgriff leads U.S. naval forces in the Middle East and Horn of Africa.
Last week, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Tehran will respond to an attack against it by striking Israel with missiles and closing the strait.
He said in an article in the conservative Iranian newspaper Jam-e-Jam Saturday there may also be retaliation by Iran's allies, which include the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Earlier this month, The New York Times quoted U.S. officials as saying Israel conducted a simulated attack on Iran's atomic facilities.
According to the report, Israel conducted the exercise with more than 100 planes over the Mediterranean and Greece. Israeli officials declined comment on the report.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of working to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Much more screwing the people and the planet
Cardboard Bicycle Brings Costs WAY Down
We already know how wonderful, efficient, fun, safe and green cycling is. The only problem, however, is that for people interested in getting into cycling--but who aren't sure if they'll like it or stick with it--it's hard to justify making an investment in a bicycle, even if it is of the cheap (some might say schlock) Wal-Mart variety. Well, Phil Bridge, a 21 year old design student at Sheffield Hallam University, has come up with a solution (maybe): build the bicycle out of cardboard! Why? Because it makes it extremely inexpensive. In fact, Mr. Bridge claims he can sell the complete bike for around $30 USD. At that price the up-front cost of the bicycle becomes a non-issue.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
MQ-9 Reaper Armed with GPS-Guided Weapon
The first live release of a Global Positioning System guided bomb unit-49 weapon from an MQ-9 Reaper took place May 13 at the Naval Air Warfare Center's Weapons Division at China Lake, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo)
H/T Fortress Australia
Quantum leap to evil
By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
How — and why — the grounded, successful become (self-) destructive
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When one reads the account of Korach's rebellion (Numbers 16:1-35), one is astounded by the incident. Not only was Moses the one who led the Jews from Egypt, but all the Israelites were eyewitnesses to the many miracles that were wrought through him. They saw him wave his staff over the Reed Sea, causing the waters to divide. There could be no doubt that he was commissioned by G-d to be the leader. How could anyone question the authenticity of Moses' leadership? It simply defies all logic.
The foremost commentator, Rashi, quotes the Midrash which raises this question: How could Korach, a wise and learned person, act so foolishly? The Midrash answers that Moses had appointed another Levite to be leader of the tribe of Levi, and Korach was envious of this.
Yet, this does not fully answer the question. Can envy so deprive a person of logical thinking that one would deny the evidence of one's own eyes?
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichos Mussar 5731:21) helps us understand this. He cites the Talmudic statement, ''Envy, lust and pursuit of acclaim remove a person from the world'' (Ethics of the Fathers 4:28). The expression ''remove a person from the world'' is rather strange. Rabbi Shmulevitz explains that the usual deviation from proper behavior is a very gradual one. The Talmud says that the tactic of the Evil Inclination is to seduce a person to commit a very minor infraction, then lead him on to progressively more serious transgressions (Shabbos 108b). That is the nature and order of the world. The Evil Inclination will not entice a person into doing something patently absurd.
However, if a person is overtaken by envy, one escapes the natural order of the world. One is no longer bound by logic. The passion of envy can be so great that it can overwhelm all rational thought, and leave one vulnerable to the Evil Inclination's seduction to behave in the most irrational manner. Envy indeed removes a person from the natural order of the world.
That is what happened with Korach. Moses understood this, and delayed the trial until the next day (see Rashi to Numbers 16:5).
The Korach episode conveys a most important teaching. We are all vulnerable to envy, and envy is not a difficult emotion to identify. If you feel yourself being envious, do nothing for a while. Envy can suspend all logical thinking and make one do things that one will regret.
If you feel envious, ventilate your feelings to a friend or write them down. Read one of the ethical works about envy. This will help you realize that envy is a futile and destructive feeling. Before doing anything foolish that may be a reaction to your envy, seek the counsel of a friend or mentor. You may avoid making serious mistakes.
A variety of maladaptive behaviors that may result from unwarranted feelings of inferiority. One reaction is to think of oneself as superior to others and seek honor and recognition. I was thrilled to find a confirmation of this in the writings of Rabbeinu Yonah, who says, ''A vain person seeks to compensate for his feelings of lack by thinking himself superior to people whom he can consider to be beneath him'' (Rabbeinu Yonah al HaTorah, p. 156).
Korach was misled by both feelings of envy and pursuit of acclaim, hoping to depose Moses and replace him as leader. His championing of equality was merely a ploy, which was recognized by the wife of Ohn ben Peleth, who went on to prevent her husband from being involved.
Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein (Kovetz Inyanim) states that logical thinking will enable a person to identify those traits that are destructive. Physiological drives are essential for survival and preservation of the species, but traits such as pursuit of acclaim contribute nothing to one's survival. These are actually counterproductive, resulting in frustration and wasteful expenditure of energy. One should, therefore, recognize them as challenges to be overcome in quest of spirituality.
Ramchal(Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto) says that if it were not for pursuit of acclaim, a person could get along with the bare necessities of life. One is often motivated to acquire luxuries in order not to appear inferior to others (Path of the Just, Ch. 11). Exhausting oneself in attempt to acquire more than the necessities of life may indeed ''remove a person from the world.''
Korach was physically removed from the world. While we may remain in the world physically, we must be very cautious about traits that do not contribute to survival, some of which can figuratively ''remove a person from the world.''
Friday, June 27, 2008
In days gone by, politicians could issue mutually-contradictory messages with near impunity as the mainstream media rarely would double-check the historical record. Now, with video on line and millions of fact-checkers scrutinizing every statement, any obviously false statement will get exposed in short order. Yesterday’s assertion by Barack Obama that he never said the DC gun ban overturned by the Supreme Court was constitutional or that he supported it became the latest in his flip-flops to be exposed by a simple review of the videotape record.
Obama is right to the extent that his statement didn’t come in November 2007 but more recently in February 2008, as he tried to sweep the primaries by running to Hillary Clinton’s left. He nods when asked about the constitutionality of the DC gun ban, and expresses his support for it by saying “Right” when the interviewer asks about it. Obama then goes into an extended explanation of how he sees the DC ban as part of a Constitutional effort at gun control.
Now the Constitutional law scholar wants us to believe that he always thought the DC ban was unconstitutional, and that his earlier comments were “inartful”. This video shows very clearly that the only artifice involved is in his new position. Obama has done a complete 180 on gun bans, attempting to paint himself as a moderate when the paltry record of Obama’s political stands shows just the opposite.
America the Beautiful
By Greg Crosby
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Well, we just got back from our excellent cross country adventure and I'm here to report that all went rather nicely. Even though we drove through the country's mid-section during all those horrendous thunderstorms, floods, and tornados, providence was with us and we escaped any and all mishaps. Sure, we had a few days of thunder and lightening, and there were times of pounding rain, but we got through it and it really didn't impact or alter our travel plans at all.
This time we took US route 50 most of the way across and what a pleasure it was! We drove through small towns and villages and encountered very few big trucks, no traffic to speak of, and enjoyed the beautiful countryside. Quite a different experience than taking the big nerve-racking, super-duper interstate highways like 70 or 40. It was actually relaxing!
US 50 is known as "the Loneliest Road in America," and for much of it, it certainly is. 50 is one of the longest highways in the country, stretching from Ocean City, Maryland, to Sacramento, California, and passing through Washington D.C., Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, and Central Colorado. A sign at Ocean City declares this coast-to-coast highway is 3,073 miles long.
Once upon a time Route 50 extended all the way across to San Francisco, but California legislation in 1972 shortened it - stopping the route at Sacramento. Even so, Highway 50 is still regarded as one of the last coast-to-coast highways that remain intact -- since the road to San Francisco was merely replaced with Interstate names. Time Magazine called Route 50 "the backbone of America" and after driving it I can understand why. It is a great way to see Middle America first hand.
Driving across on the Interstates, you begin to think that America is made up of nothing but Holiday Inn Expresses, Marriott's, Burger King's and Denny's. By contrast, talking Highway 50, you definitely get a sense of small town America with its beautiful rolling hills, green pastures, quaint small towns, and family farms. It's a trip every American should take at least once in his life.
And what a wonderful drive for animal lovers! We saw deer, elk, opossums, rabbits, sheep, llama, goats, lamb, even a mamma duck with her ducklings following behind, and more dairy cows than you can imagine, and a load of bulls. Horses, horses, horses everywhere - some of them magnificent looking as they grazed and pranced in lush corrals.
As we drove through the Rockies and into the Painted Desert our hearts swelled with wonderment at God's beautiful handiwork. The incredible red rocks which make up much of Moab, Utah can take your breath away. The forests of West Virginia have another kind of beauty all their own. And Kansas has a quiet pastoral landscape that is unlike any other place. Even the corn fields and wheat fields seem to have a different appearance from state to state. I know it sounds corny, but really, each state has its own unique charm.
I don't know how any American could make the drive we did, and not feel engulfed by patriotism. How could you not feel pride? Pride in the country with its glorious mountains, deserts, plains and forestland. Pride in the people who work their farms, ranches, and small businesses. Pride in the whole American ethic that has made our country what it is - the greatest country on earth.
As we traveled along, we couldn't help but recall the words of America the Beautiful, each line of the song proving to be absolutely true as we witnessed the beauty with our own eyes.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
G-d shed His grace on thee
And crown Thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
How lucky we are! How blessed! America the Beautiful. Indeed she is. May we always do right by her and may God keep her and guard her always.
Happy Independence Day to you all!
How do you ensure the dominance of one practice over another? You make one illegal.
This is assuming that we’re at war with radical Islam, which I do.
Not that this is a fight the West necessarily sought, but the Jihadists have made it abundantly plain they intent to make the whole world over in their radical Islamic image if they can, and I believe they mean it.
Most if not all of the Muslim world is behaving, despite what some of our so-called moderate Arab friends say in sound bites, with a clear understanding of what side of the conflict they’re on.
We, on the other hand, aren’t.
The recent Associated Press story notes that the two Algerian men, who were convicted in absentia last year for illegal practice of a non-Muslim religion, asked for a new trial as Algerian law allows. They are charged with praying in a building that had not been granted a religious permit by authorities and also of trying to spread the Christian faith among Muslims, the story said.
So, here’s the conundrum as I see it.
No one would dream in the United States or the West generally, of prosecuting someone for proselytizing their religion or for practicing a particular religion or for failing to practice one. The separation of church and state is one of the Constitutional elements keeping us free. It also may become the suicide pact that allows radical Islam to destroy the whole noble experiment.
It puts the West at a distinct and dangerous disadvantage, in a similar way that import tariffs imposed by other countries on our goods, but not vice-versa, put us at an economic disadvantage.
Of the 34 million people in Algeria, 99 percent are Muslim, according to the story. The country’s constitution allows freedom of worship — under strict regulation, the story says. But it seems to me that once there’s strict regulation on “how religions other than Islam are practiced,” then there really isn’t freedom of worship, but that’s just me.
But no one is permitted to return the favor in most if not all Muslim countries.
I’m not sure how to rectify this inequity without damaging the best parts of being American, but a way really must be found, and sooner rather than later. Because it’s not just the conversion imbalance, but also a birth rate among Muslims that alone could overtake much of the world in a few of generations.
The story describes Algeria as a “moderate” Muslim country with “a tradition of tolerance for other religions.” But one can be arrested there just for having a Bible. That’s how the two men in the story were first arrested.
But, as we all know, if a copy of the Quran is perceived to be disrespected in any way, anywhere, the entire Muslim world erupts in violence and/or threats of violence.
We need to find a way to even out the playing field, so the radical Islamists aren’t able to continue finding new ways to use our own freedoms against us, as they did on 9/11.
Obama's 2007 pledge to use public campaign financing if he became the Democratic nominee can now be filed away as yet another "that-was-then-this-is-now" promise in the situational world of politics.
What situation, you ask? Well, his money machine has proven itself eminently capable at truffling up huge sums of campaign cash --- the kind of moolah that will allow him to advertise and compete in states that otherwise are apparent locks for McCain. Meanwhile, Mister Campaign-Finance-Reform himself is stuck with his promise to stay on the public-funding dole, which limits him to "only" $84 million in general-election cash.
Obama claims the current laws governing campaign financing are "broken" (sorta like promises, hey?) and that he's simply engaging in a flanking maneuver that won't give the upper hand to special interest 527s operating outside the finanacing laws. One such outfit -- Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth -- did considerable damage to John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid.
On the other hand, though, Obama's decision might simply increase the volume and intensity of such 527 attacks
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Kristof: Never Mind the Terrorists
By Steven Emerson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In his June 19th piece titled, "Strengthening Extremists," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof lambastes the American and Israeli policy of isolating the terror group Hamas, alleging that Hamas' international isolation and resulting pressure have only managed to empower the so-called Islamic Resistance Movement.
And to "prove" his point, Kristof interviews two Gazans who, unsurprisingly, hate Israel. In Kristof's world, the siege of Gaza has only made Hamas more popular. Never mind that Hamas won the Palestinian elections before the siege began and after the Israelis had unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza. A withdrawal, by the way, which Hamas seized upon as a "victory" which, in turn, made Hamas more popular - enough to defeat rival Fatah in the elections.
So the Israelis give the Palestinians land for nothing in return, and Hamas gains popularity. According to Kristof, the Israelis isolate and attack Hamas in Gaza, and Hamas gains popularity. So when does Hamas lose popularity? Kristof claims that the recently minted "truce" between Hamas and Israel will somehow do the trick. Again, never mind Hamas' history of breaking such truces. Even the deferential Reuters news service said of the arrangement, "Israel-Hamas truce begins but duration in doubt."
(*Updated: Sure enough, rocket fire into Southern Israel Tuesday morning violated the cease fire less than a week after it started.)
Kristof, of course, doesn't explain how even temporarily ending the siege on Gaza and allowing Hamas to take credit for better conditions in the territory will somehow lessen the group's credibility. But again, never mind that.
People should remember that Kristof has already rather famously embarrassed himself when it comes to his knowledge of Palestinian terrorists. In March 2002, Kristof wrote a column titled, "Putting Us to the Test," in which he vigorously defended Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami Al-Arian. Infamously portraying the terrorist leader as a "rumpled academic," Kristof described Al-Arian as someone who "denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang 'G-d Bless America.'" Never mind that Al-Arian has said that Allah has turned the Jews into monkeys and pigs, or that he wrote a letter in February 1995 soliciting funds for terrorist attacks. He wrote:
... I would like to discuss with you a very important matter concerning the future of work in Palestine and the ability of the Islamic movement to confront the great challenges before it. In short, you are well aware that this movement, represented by its branches, Hamas and the Jihad, is being threatened by the enemy, the neighboring regimes, and even worldwide. Preserving the spirit and flame of jihad against the enemy is a general Islamic responsibility and cannot be left to rest upon the shoulders of the few among our nation. Nevertheless, these few shoulder the responsibility of the nation's honor, even putting their souls in their hands to prove that Islam is capable of responding to oppression, aggression, and desecration of the sacred places and Muslims' dignity.
The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of G-d, is the best guide and witness to what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy and in keeping the flame of faith, steadfastness, and defiance glowing.
The movement's financial situation is very difficult, and it cannot fulfill its responsibilities towards the martyrs and prisoners.
I call upon you to try to extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue, so that people do not lose faith in Islam and its representatives, and so that we can prove to the people and to history that Islam properly responded to the circumstances despite a difficult stage in time, and a terrible era.
In an interview on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, also in March 2002, Kristof vociferously denied that the letter was an attempt to raise funds for terrorist attacks and described it benignly as nothing more than a "private communication with a Kuwaiti, that it was not … it did not violate any federal law or any state law." So again, never mind that he was asking for money for terrorist attacks, or "operations," could continue. It was just a "private communication," says Kristof, so never mind.
Kristof went on to describe the scholarly nature of organizations run by Al-Arian. Never mind that one of those organizations, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), was headed by Ramadan Abdullah Shallah - currently the Secretary General of the PIJ - and described as a "most wanted terrorist" by the U.S. government. When Shallah left WISE to become the commander of PIJ, Al-Arian lied - to both the media and his employers - about knowing who Shallah was, and his organization issued a press release stating that Shallah:
"…left WISE for a research tour of the Middle East in order to write a book on Islamic banking, as well as to tend to his sick father who later passed away."
The statement went on to say that WISE "denies any knowledge" of Shallah's "association or affiliation with any political group or agency in the Middle East." During closing arguments in Al-Arian's trial, his own defense attorney admitted he lied repeatedly, and, in fact, was a PIJ member, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times:
Yes, said [Al-Arian's defense attorney] Moffitt, Al-Arian was affiliated with the cultural, charitable arm of the PIJ, and he lied to the media about it because he was afraid WISE would be shut down.
And never mind that Al-Arian's other organization, the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) was described - on video - by its top fundraiser as "the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine" and only called ICP for "security reasons." And never mind that the ICP held conferences to raise money for the PIJ and praise the killing of Jews. At one such event in Cleveland:
Fawaz Damra:…person can come forward and donate. We are offering the opportunity. Anyone who has the wish can come forward and donate. We put then on the floor, G-d willing. Would anyone like to donate for the Intifada? For Islamic Jihad, I say it frankly: for Islamic Jihad.
This Jihad, which is still blazing in Palestine, from village to village. I am telling you: not for the organizations or anything else, with due respect for everyone. But only for Jihad.
One of them goes out of his house with a knife to stab the Jews. Twelve Jews, after the Gulf events. O brothers, the Intifada is calling upon you. $500.00. Who is going to top the $500.00? Who is going to top the $500.00 for this medal?
And whoever wants to write a check, he can write it in the name if the Islamic Committee for Palestine, "ICP" for short. ICP, whoever likes to write a check. Is anyone going to top the $500.00 Haj Ahmad?
But since that conference happened in 1991, and, as Kristof helpfully tells us, Al-Arian's own vile comments on video "were about a dozen years old, after all" - you know, never mind. Nothing more than a "rumpled academic," indeed. Al-Arian eventually pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the PIJ. But according to Kristof's flawed logic, pointing out Al-Arian's ties to terrorism, arresting and prosecuting him, would likely only strengthen the extremists. Better to have him still at the University, running a think tank which sheltered leaders of a violent, religiously motivated eliminationist terrorist group.
Never mind that during Al-Arian's sentencing, the judge stated of Al-Arian:
You are a master manipulator. You looked your neighbors in the eyes and said you had nothing to do with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This trial exposed that as a lie.
The judge continued:
And yet, still in the face of your own words, you continue to lie to your friends and supporters, claiming to abhor violence and to seek only aid for widows and orphans. Your only connection to widows and orphans is that you create them, even among the Palestinians; and you create them, not by sending your children to blow themselves out of existence. No. You exhort others to send their children.
On that, Kristof was strangely silent.
But back to Hamas and Gaza. Kristof claims that the American and Israeli policy of targeting the terrorist group in Gaza is "morally bankrupt - a case of collective punishment." Better to deal and negotiate with Hamas - an organization everyone should remember is sworn to Israel's destruction. The Hamas charter states, amongst other things:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
But Kristof wants Israel to be nice to Hamas anyway. However, Kristof is hardly consistent when it comes to being against "collective punishment." In fact, to his credit, he has been one of the leading proponents calling for sanctions against the Khartoum regime (even though he admits that "Sudanese authorities may not have the money to feed their people") because of the atrocities committed in Darfur. But I guess it wouldn't be considered "collective punishment," in Kristof's mind, if any Sudanese civilians suffer from such sanctions and isolation of Islamist Sudanese government, as they most certainly would. It is tough to know where Kristof's selectivity (a less charitable description would be hypocrisy) on the matter originates, but his deferential treatment towards Sami Al-Arian might be one indicator. Indeed, Kristof has a documented history of blaming Israel and letting Islamic terrorists off the hook.
Writing on another issue which has received media attention, Kristof laments:
Israel's decision to block Gazans from studying abroad was particularly shortsighted. Educating Gazans might help build a contingent of moderates, but Israel has continued to block three Fulbright scholars from leaving for the U.S.
Kristof fails to mention that Israel has allowed four Gazans to leave and that the reason the three other Gazans have not been cleared to leave the Strip is that they have ties to Hamas, notably Hamas' main educational institution, the Islamic University of Gaza. From the June 20th edition of the New York Sun:
The Islamic University of Gaza is intertwined with Hamas. In his letter, (Illinois Congressman Mark) Kirk quotes Jameela El Shanty, a professor at the school who told the Baltimore Sun in 2006: "Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university."
Naturally, Kristof thinks that having ties to Hamas should yield no negative consequences whatsoever. Kristof ends his article stating, "Let's stop bolstering Hamas." This from a man who wants to give Hamas-linked individuals free educations at prestigious American universities, because to not do so would be "counterproductive" and "collective punishment." Kristof was wrong about Al-Arian, and he's wrong about Hamas. Sadly, he fits right in at the New York Times.
Problem of ignorance
By Walter Williams
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I have no idea of the number of traffic signals in our country, but whatever the number, how many of my fellow Americans would like the U.S. Congress to be in charge of their operation? Congress, or a committee they authorize, would determine the length of time red stays red and green stays green and what hours of the day they can be flashing red. Or, how many Americans would like Congress to be in charge deciding what items, in what quantities, your local supermarket has on its shelves? Right now the average well-stocked supermarket carries somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 different items. Do we really need such a choice in light of the fact that several decades ago Americans made do with just 10,000 different items? Would you also want the government agency that delivers our mail to also manage delivery of items to supermarkets?
You say, "Williams, where are you headed with this?" Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek, one of the greatest economists of the 20th century, called it a fatal conceit for anyone to think that a single mind or a single committee can somehow do things better than the spontaneous, unstructured, complex and creative forces of the market. The big problem in any system, whether it's an economic, biological or ecological system, is information, communication and control. For congressmen, or a committee they select, to take over control of the nation's traffic signals requires a massive amount of information that they cannot possibly possess such as traffic flows at intersections, accident experiences and changes in peak and low peak traffic patterns.
The same information problem exists at the supermarket. Consider the challenge we give supermarket managers. We don't tell them in advance when we're going to shop, what we're going to buy and how much, but if they don't live up to this challenge, we're going to fire them by taking our business elsewhere. The supermarket manager does a fairly good job doing what's necessary to meet that challenge. You can bet the rent money that Congress couldn't begin to produce such a satisfactory outcome.
You say, "C'mon, Williams, nobody's proposing that Congress take over the nation's traffic signals and supermarkets!" You're right, at least for now, but the information problem exists in all areas of our lives. Right now Congress tells each American how much should be set aside out of his weekly paycheck for retirement. How can they have the information to know what's the best use for the $70, or so, taken from you and put into Social Security? Might you benefit more by saving that money to start a business, purchase tutoring lessons for your children, or putting it in a private retirement plan? Unlike congressional control of traffic signals and supermarkets, the effects of Social Security aren't apparent because we don't have the information about what people would have been able to accomplish if they were able to keep more of their earnings.
You might argue that saving for retirement is important, but so is saving for a home or your children's education. Would you want Congress to force us to put money aside for a home or our children's education? Oblivious to the huge information problem in the allocation of resources, the people in Washington have confidence that they can run our lives better than we can. Charles Darwin wisely noted over a century and a half ago that "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." Suggesting that Congress is ignorant of the fact that knowledge is highly dispersed, and decisions made locally produce the best outcomes, might be overly generous. They might know that and just don't give a hoot because it's in their political interest to centralize decision-making.
Thomas Jefferson might have had the information problem in mind when he said, "Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread."