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If you’re going to make a policy then you need to provide the documentation and the framework by which people can be compliant to that policy.

I’m an Israeli citizen…and I’m proud of that.  I’m proud that my son is serving in the IDF in an elite unit and that my daughters have expressed their desire to do likewise.  This story starts when my younger daughter and I went to the consular section of the Israeli embassy in Washington D.C. to register her as an Israeli citizen.  By law, you’re supposed to register a child born to an Israeli parent (I’m Israeli…my wife isn’t – though we’re both Jewish) within 30 days of the birth.  Well…suffice it to say I didn’t know about that until recently and it’s been 14 some-odd years since my younger daughter’s birth.

Anyway – back to the story…we went to the consular section of the embassy to register her as an Israeli citizen and to apply for her Israeli passport.  There was an earlier visit the same week where we were told that the birth certificate which we brought needs an apostille (it’s a document that should accompany official documentation like birth certificates based on a treaty that a whole bunch of countries signed on to – if you’re really interested in the nitty-gritty details, see here).  I got the apostille for the birth certificate and, confident that I had everything we needed to get the paperwork done, we went back to the embassy.  We get to the embassy early (first in line) and go inside.

While reviewing the paperwork the consulate staff member asks me “Do you have the confirmation from the hospital?”

I look at her a bit dumbfounded and ask “What?”

She then repeats the question: “Do you have the confirmation from the hospital that your daughter was born there and that she is indeed your child?”

I still not quite sure I understand her.  I replied “Isn’t that what the birth certificate is for?”

To which she replies “Yes, but we also require confirmation from the hospital or the doctor that your wife actually gave birth and that this is the child of that birth.”

Ok – I’m still not quite grokking what she’s saying…I mean, why doesn’t the birth certificate suffice in that regard?  She continues by saying that people might come with the appropriate documentation (birth certificate, passports, forms, etc.) and the child is not actually their child but is actually the child of someone else.

I’m still not sure why the birth certificate isn’t sufficient.  It has my daughter’s name, my name, my wife’s name – isn’t that sufficient?  No…apparently not to the Israeli government.  Now, in their infinite bureaucratic wisdom, they also want confirmation from the hospital or my wife’s doctor (in this case the OB/GYN) to provide additional documentation attesting to the fact that my wife actually did give birth and that the child is actually our offspring.  As the embassy’s website states, they now require (emphasis added):

The original birth certificate, verified with an apostille stamp in countries that are signatories to the 1961 Hague Convention, or presentation of a certificate verified by the relevant authority in that country, as well as documentation from the hospital or maternity ward that the mother in fact gave birth and that the said child is in fact her offspring.

Given that this occurred 14 years ago – I’m guessing that the hospital may not be so helpful in getting this documentation to me and I can only hope that the doctor is still alive and actually remembers this specific birth.  Also, what format should said documentation take?  A letter?  A form to be filled out? If it’s a form, what relevant information is necessary?

What we have here is a failure to create a working policy (see how I slid in my Cool-Hand Luke reference 🙂 ).  Given that I work as an Information Security Manager for a large organization (a very large organization) I am well familiar with the idea of creating a policy and all of the supporting materials that need to go along with it: a framework for compliance (that’s called governance), exceptions, documentation…small things like that.

What has happened here, though, is that the someone, somewhere in the Israeli government, has created a policy but failed to provide the governance framework or the documentation that should go along with that policy.  In other words, this was probably a knee-jerk reaction to a specific issue and the policy formulated but nothing more than that.  This is a case of a policy that has no details regarding compliance.  If you’re going to do that then you should expect this kind of failure.

Now, admittedly, I could easily be a corner case.  I mean, yes, I waited 14 years before trying to register her with the Interior Ministry.  But, to be fair, I did this very thing two years ago for my older daughter – back when this policy was not in place – with nary a problem.  Sometime in the past two years the Israeli government decided that Israeli citizens registering children for citizenship without actually having given birth to those children was a serious enough problem that they needed to enact this policy.  And that they enacted this globally.  I could understand if they had chosen to enact this policy in Russia, Eastern European countries, and third-world countries, but they chose to do so even here in the United States where I would suspect this problem doesn’t really occur that often.

So, now, to meet the requirements of a policy that I think is a) pretty stupid and b) so badly implemented because there are no governance controls around it, I am calling the hospital records office and trying to get them to understand what I need.  My wife is calling her OB/GYN and trying to get them to understand what we need.  Hopefully one of us will succeed and our daughter will be able to claim her Israeli citizenship.

“This cylinder is provided under license and remains the property of Soda Club Atlantic, LLC.”  I swear to you that’s what it says on the label of the CO2 cylinder of the Soda Stream soda maker in my house.  All I could think was “WTF?!”  Here’s a physical object (with a bunch of compressed CO2 in it) and the “license” says that I don’t own the cylinder but rather I am granted a license to use it.  I was just stunned until my wife told me that the Calvert curriculum we’re using to home-school our two daughters is also under a similar license.  In fact the license there says the curriculum and books that we are using home-school our older daughter who is going into 5th grade cannot be used in two years to home-school our younger daughter who is going into 3rd grade?  Again…WTF?!?!

Let me get this straight – I paid for these physical objects and the agreement (whether it stands up in court or not apparently has not been determined yet) says that they don’t belong to me but in fact belong to the companies that made them and that I – as a private individual – am being given right to have them in my house.  What next?  Perhaps Dell will change their license to say that I have the right to use the computer I bought from them but that it really doesn’t belong to me and that I cannot put it up on eBay when I decide to get rid of it?  Perhaps Sony will want to charge me every time I turn on my TV to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray? At what point does ownership of a product ultimately transfer to the end user and becomes their property without some inane, asinine, and ridiculous attempt by the manufacturer to limit how their product is being used or control how the end consumer can dispose of it.  What next?  Perhaps publishing houses will tell you that the physical books you buy through Amazon or through a bookstore are not really your property but rather you’re being given a license to read the material and that they may revoke that license at any time – whereupon you must return the book (apparently Amazon already does something similar with their ebooks on the Kindle – remember the 1984 fiasco?).   It’s getting to the point that it feels like nothing really belongs to you – it’s all just provided under license – and it can all be taken away at any time…in some ways I guess you can think of life like that (assuming you believe in God or some other deity of your choice) – your life is not really your own – you’re only provided a “right to use” license and that may be revoked by the manufacturer at any time for any cause.  Sucks to be you.

The New York Times published this article today about how the global economic slowdown may adversely affect the effort to build and transition to a green energy grid. As the prices for coal, oil and other fossil fuels have plummeted in the past two months the incentive to build solar power plants, wind farms, and even nuclear plants has dissipated. Interestingly the side-effect of this drop in commodity prices may also save Detroit’s big three automakers as it may make their vehicles (which aren’t so fuel efficient) more affordable to operate than they were six months ago.

I think President-elect Obama, though, is right. The time to move is now. We need to keep our eye on the longer goal of reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions and preventing long term global warming that may result and be subequently irreversible. It is going to be painful, no doubt, but we have been living recklessly and irresponsibly for far too long. Mankind may be facing its own extinction level event if we do nothing to right the environmental damage we have wrought on this world. I don’t mean to sound so gloomy and alarmist but we cannot continue to pursue this wreckless behavior and expect that we won’t have to pay the piper in the end. The economic slowdown can be seen as both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand many people will lose their jobs, their homes, their dignity…and it may not be of their own doing. On the other hand we can use this opportunity, with the concurrent slowdown in emissions and pollution, to rebuild our economy for the 21st century — focusing our efforts on developing and deploying cleaner energy technologies and putting in place the necessary policies and treaties to protect the environment. Because, if the environment goes to hell…so do we as a race and probably as a planet.

July 2017
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