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Broken Windows Theory?

When kids play in the street and break windows in the neighborhood, it probably means their parents are to blame. The kids themselves are definitely to blame. If you are the person who lives in the house with the broken windows, however, you are not to blame.

But if you reward delinquents for their crimes, the implication is that the kids have not done anything seriously wrong–and you have. The criminals, then, will probably continue their path to adulthood as social parasites.

Apparently, Citibank thinks that is a good thing.* Or worse yet, it thinks that potential customers will think so. How else would you explain their endorsement of vandalism?

Paying criminals is the equivalent of giving in to blackmail. Unlike a certain Mediterranean country, at least the guy in the commercial is not giving the kids big chunks of his front yard.

Still, modern society seems to have forgotten that the carrot and stick method requires using the stick, as well. One day we will run out of carrots.

*Embedding is disabled on this video for some reason, hence the link instead of an embedded video.

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Yet More Price Controls

Ynet is now advocating rent control (here, Hebrew). Citing similar practices in Europe and New York, it derides the idea that this is Bolshevism, and support a bill before the Knesset that would increase governmental pricing control. The relationship between communist ideology and government control over private property aside, the writer set forth what appears to be a long and detailed argument. Appearances, however, are deceiving. One particularly ridiculous argument caught my eye; the writer found it funny to associate rent control with communism, because in the Soviet Union, the state owned all property and property rentals did not exist. Basic finances allude the writer, because if your wages are set by your landlord–clearly you’re paying rent, as determined by the state-landlord.

As for the substance of the piece, the writer confuses two concepts: pricing-control and regulation of discrimination. “In the United States and Europe it is forbidden to refuse to rent because the tenants are homosexuals, immigrants, or even a family with children.” I do not know much about European law, but this statement of the law in the United States is misleading, at best. For one, there is no such thing as a single body of “American law,” especially when it comes to real property. Property law is largely regulated at the municipal level (not to mention distinctions between federal and state laws). Yet, addressing only federal law: (1) in most states, homosexuals are not a protected class; (2) in fact, the Fair Housing Act does allow one to discriminate in many ways, when it comes to choosing tenants (see ‘exemptions’).

Nevertheless, the result of such government intervention has been predicted, analyzed, and ignored long ago. As Richard Posner, has described, among others, rent control leads to a contraction in the housing market, because more people will decide that selling their property is a better financial move  (“if price is artificially depressed, or the costs of landlords artificially increased, supply falls and many tenants, usually the poorer and the newer tenants, are hurt”). The smaller number of rented apartments will be substandard, as it will not be in landlords’ financial interest to spend more than the minimum to maintain their apartments.

Ultimately, those who will be hurt will be the poor–not the evil wealthy. As described, there will be fewer low-cost apartments on the market, and those will be maintained even more poorly than they are now.  Rent control will “reduce the resources that landlords devote to improving the quality of housing, by making the provision of rental housing more costly.” (Posner)  The contraction in the rental market will lead to an increase in the supply of units for sale. The resulting decrease in purchase price will benefit the middle class, and the poor will be worse off than they are now. Another potential result is that wealthier tenants, who do not wish to buy, will opt out of governmental price-control, thus allowing them to benefit from a higher level of services–paid for accordingly.

The bottom line is that the ynet writer does not know the first thing about price control. Then again, the negative impact of such a move are unlikely to have a negative effect on her directly.

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Fisking a Letter

Stupidity is a common feature of letters to the editor. Indeed, without obliviously stupid letter-writers, sifting through these letters would be a significantly less tedious task.  Parsing this one (the second letter on the page) is almost like taking candy from a baby, but let’s do it anyway. (Besides, you shouldn’t give candy to babies).

After more than 60 years of unwavering support militarily, diplomatically and financially . . .

As for military support, Israel’s strongest ally for much of its initial two decades was probably France. In 1956, Israel partnered with France and the UK, to launch the Sinai Campaign–in the face of American opposition.

Diplomatic support? The yea vote to recognize a Jewish State in 1947 was the very definition of wavering. While Truman may have been supportive, the State Department was opposed, and the American vote was not a given.

The United States simply does not provide Israel with real financial support.  Bribery ≠ support.  What the U.S. is trying to do, is to support the American defense industry. If the true goal is the betterment of Israel’s finances, the U.S. would keep its money, and allow the development, nay the creation, of a genuine Israeli market.

. . . beg the state of Israel for a mere 60-day extension of the settlement freeze . . .

No one is begging. The portrayal of states as people, as opposed to entities with cold, calculated interests, is simply wrong. Even accepting as true the claim of “unwavering” American support, for the sake of argument, that does not give the U.S. any relevant rights. The issue is not a mere extension–it is the infringement on the sovereign rights of another state. Pure and simple.

” . . . to facilitate an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority . . . “

Wow. Just wow. If this guy really believes that anything Israel does, short of deporting all the Jews to Poland, will “facilitate an agreement,” I’ve got a bridge to sell him…

Second, notice who the parties are in this hypothetical, snowballs-in-hell agreement: Israel and “the Palestinian Authority.” Let’s make a deal with a fictional entity! Not with “the Palestinians,” with “the Arabs,” or with any people. We need peace with the entity that Arafat and Rabin created in 1994.

. . . which is so important in promoting peace and security for the region and the world.

  • Superficial reading: ‘We need peace to promote peace.’ This is the guy that sets up meetings to promote meetings.
  • Secondary reading: An agreement will not be a peace agreement. We first need an agreement, and only then can we really start moving toward peace.
  • Deeper reading: He thinks that Israel’s capitulation to its enemies will lead to peace in the entire region–and the whole world.
    1. If peace were to somehow materialize, regional instability would quickly follow. After all, what would the Arab regimes use to distract their subjects from their miserable lives?
    2. The whole world? I know, the situations in Korea, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, the Congo, and Venezuela (to name just a few) are wholly dependent on whether 10 million people in the eastern Mediterranean get along. Utopia is just around the corner. If only those pesky Jews would get with the program.

As an American citizen of Israeli origin, I am angry and offended. It is time for the White House to explain to the nation . . .

His “Israeli origin” is irrelevant. Either he’s Israeli, and the NY Times and White House are the wrong address, or he’s American, and who cares. Who is the target of his anger, the source of his offense, and why?  It’s much easier to toss around empty slogans, than actually provide reasoned arguments.

And which nation deserves an explanation?  The one on the other side of the world, whose citizens don’t care–or the nation whose citizens are forced to put their lives on the line because every few years another rich American thinks he can fix the world?

. . . how American interests are still being protected within such an uneven relationship and what it plans to do about it.

Uneven relationship? Oh, please. I can’t even say that with a straight face. Which American interests are endangered? And why does this idiot pin the blame on Israel? These are American interests that are at stake–but blaming Netanyahu must be the solution.

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Apparently, Israeli musicians do not like being charged extra for carrying large musical instruments on buses.  Fair enough.  The analogy drawn between the instruments and large duffel bags–for which there is no charge on top of the standard ticket fare–is valid. The fare disparity between carrying musical instruments and other luggage seems like a fair cause for complaint.  What is Egged’s response?  The policy is in compliance with the regulations issued by the Ministry of Transportation.

The fact that the government has direct oversight over these issues is part a problem, but that is another story. My real qualm here is with another analogy drawn by a cellist interviewed for the Ynet article (Hebrew).  After a laughable attempt at analogizing a cello to a laptop, the cellist proffered an infuriating justification:  “[B]ut it’s absurd that we’re paying double for [the cello] . . . we put it in the aisle anyway, and it doesn’t bother anyone.” (emphasis added)

Doesn’t bother anyone?  Excuse me?  A loud minority of Israelis who use mass transit, ruin the already-unpleasant experience–and bother everyone.  Placing large items in the middle of aisles on buses is just one example of this behavior.  (I wonder what the Ministry regulations are on blocking exit routes on buses.)

The rush to board the bus (or train), as if it were a matter of life and death, is yet another example of this unpleasant behavior.  Never mind the elderly, and other who are unable to compete with 20-year olds (or with 40-year olds, for that matter).  The vigor displayed only moments earlier, in the fight to board–is nowhere to be found when an 80-year old lady is left with nowhere to sit.  Suddenly everyone is too tired, and the octogenarian may not find a seat at all.  Maybe they’re just worn out from overcoming the competition, striving for their entitled place on the bus…

Similarly, idiots playing loud “music” on cell phones, asserting a “right” to do so when to turn off the offensive noises (although annoyingly playing with your ringtones can be an effective counter).

So, no, cellists should not be placed at a disadvantage.  They should be treated the same as the musically-challenged (and those who prefer the clarinet or the flute). But the cellist quoted above will gain no sympathy by saying it’s just like another dismal act. And adding insult to injury, he then presumes to speak on behalf of the injured, by claiming that it bothers no one. It bothers many, which he might have noticed if he weren’t too busy asserting his “rights.”

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Unlikely Mythbuster

Remember the myth that Arafat was unable prevent terrorism because he did not have control over Hamas?

Straight from the (other) horse’s mouth, Mahmoud al-Zahar:

“Arafat instructed Hamas to carry out a number of military operations in the heart of the Jewish state after he felt that his negotiations with the Israeli government then had failed.”

Failure, of course, is a relative term.  In this case, Arafat likely considered failure to be anything less than could be squeezed out of Barak at the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, he did not miscalculate too badly.

This post is dedicated to NG.

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Reading, Misc. Hiatus Edition

I’m on a trip home, and so Occidental Israeli will be updated rather sparsely over the next month. In the mean time, some reading:

  1. Cell phone idealism.
  2. Misguided.
  3. Trendy ingrates.
  4. Rise in home births.
  5. The future of Yiddish.. in Europe.
  6. Breaking up is hard to do.
  7. Positive signs. Finally.
  8. Halacha in shuls.
  9. Zion.
  10. Home.

The latest Haveil Havalim is up at Jewschool.

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Corrupt Land Privatization

A recent bill proposal is being promoted by Netanyahu, and would drastically alter the status of lands in Israel. The legal status of land in Israel is not simple matter. In a nutshell, 93% of the land in Israel is not privately owned (owned either by the state or JNF), but is leased by the state for 49-year leases. Administered by the Israel Land Administration (ILA), these leases are renewed nearly automatically.

Proponents of the bill say the ILA is a monopolistic, ineffective bureaucracy and hampers economic growth. Privatization, they claim, will make housing more affordable and promote overall transparency with regards to land use.

by zeevveez

by zeevveez

Critics, on the other hand, say that housing costs will actually rise. The most convincing argument against the proposed bill is a Zionist-ideological one. If land is simply sold to the highest bidder, Israeli law would allow enemies of Israel to purchase large swaths of Israel, essentially buying out Israel from under her.

As anyone who has had the misfortune of applying for an Israeli passport knows, Israeli bureaucracy is not customer friendly, to put it lightly. Reform is necessary, and in that respect Netanyahu’s plan is not all bad. However, the current bill, if approved, would cause a great deal of long-term harm to Israel.

That is not the only problem. Netanyahu has announced that any minister who votes against the bill will be fired. Bibi has experience in this matter, and his declaration should not be viewed as an idle threat.

Firing ministers in order to secure artificial majorities has , in the past, preceded horrendous decisions. Israel has already paid a high price for Sharon’s error, and cannot afford any additional mistakes.

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Reading, Misc. XV

  1. I say continually to my Jewish brothers and sisters: don’t believe the hype about your full scale assimilation and integration into a mainstream.”
  2. Danger to the greatest fruit.
  3. Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
  4. It is not hummus.
  5. Long distance witnessing. Very long distance.
  6. Good dahl.
  7. Aid. (H/T CiJ)
  8. Wait until the Palestinians stop killing each other.”
  9. Impressive, yet rejected.
  10. Guilt.

This week’s Haveil Havalim at Jack’s, and KCC at Leora’s.

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Things I Want to Do in Israel

  • Speak Hebrew.
  • Go hiking.
  • Sit outside a bar and drink Goldstar.
  • Walk down the street from the bar, drinking my beer on the street.
  • Hitchhike.
  • Eat at Falafel Gabbai in Tel Aviv.
  • Return to my favorite parts of the shuk in Jerusalem, and explore more of that labyrinth on a crazy Friday afternoon.
  • Walk in the middle of a big city at 4am, and not worry about muggers.
  • Sit at a cafe for hours on a sunny Friday morning, drinking an Americano despite the scorching heat.
  • Feel comfortable offering my two cents to a stranger, because I know we are brothers.
  • Wait in line at Abu Hassan, knowing I will be eating the best hummus in the world at the same table as four perfect strangers.
  • See soldiers everywhere and feel a bit nostalgic – but not too much.
  • Make extensive plans for the weekend on Friday morning.
  • Sit outside and look at the much bluer sky.
  • Get lost in the Old City.
  • Go to the Galil and see where I come from.
  • Eat a breakfast of eggs, cheeses, bread, salad – what’s cereal?
  • Go the Kotel on the night of Tisha B’Av.
  • Watch the sunset on the beach.
  • Go to Jerusalem and walk on the same stones my ancestors did thousands of years ago.
  • Be extremely dry and sarcastic, and fit right in.
  • Hear Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, right before the 2am news on Galgalatz.
  • Be home.
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Terrorism Pays

The arrest of an allegedly abusive mother. That is the excuse for the continued Haredi summer riots in Jerusalem, following the ones over a parking lot.

The mother, a member of the anti-Israel Neturei Karta faction, was released from custody today, and placed under house arrest. This decision was made by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, despite the prosecution’s request for remand.

These riots show a complete disregard for Jewish commandments that are not ritual in nature, but they are fairly successful. This is not the first group to have learned that it is not very difficult to bend the will of the Israeli government.

There is a world of difference between these rioters and wholesale murderers of Jews. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, capitulation is capitulation, and the message is clear: Terrorism is a rewarding venture in Israel.

Clarification: I am well aware that the rioters represent a minority within the diverse Haredi community. Nevertheless, the silence coming from the Haredi leadership is deafeaning.

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