Sunday, July 26, 2009

Straw Man Arguments of the Israeli Left

This article in Haaretz is a very good example of meaningless and hypocritical posturing on the part of the Israeli Left. The editorialist drones on about how the Netanyahu government and the right are needlessly picking a fight with the US, and intentionally painting Obama and the US as an Israeli "enemy". He then issues a dire warning about Israel putting itself among the enemy countries of the US. Only in the end does Barel attempt to make a cogent argument as to the justification of the American position and a proper Israeli response to it.

Nobody in the Israeli government is portraying the US as an "enemy". Furthermore, no previous Israeli government, including the left leaning ones of Barak and Olmert, agreed to a total freeze of building in the territories including East Jerusalem. Now that a right wing government is being asked to do this, the left is screaming hysterically.

So rather than make an argument based on its own merits, Barel and the left prefer to create an imagined but non-existent right wing demon in order to falsely "prove" how correct the left is. This is a transparent straw man argument.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The "Truth" about "Settlements"

My wife and I spent this past Shabbat with our daughter and her family, who live in Noqdim, a small "legal" settlement in the Gush Etzion area. The air is clear and dry , and the view overlooking the Judean desert is beautiful in its starkness. From the porch of my daughter's apartment, we were able to see the mountains on the Jordanian side of the border, which along with the Judean desert mountain range form the borders of the dead sea. Also within our view, about a mile away, was an "illegal" outpost of Rehav'am. There, on a desolate flat between two hills in the desert, are five or six caravans, a water tank, a few tents, and a small dirt path leading up to the settlement.

I thought to myself, sarcastically, "these settlements are really standing in the way of peace." Look, everywhere you see, peace is spreading, taking hold, and these settlers, with their bare hands, are blocking peace.

How ridiculous. Even the Arabs know its ridiculous. Perhaps Barack Obama is the only one who doesn't know.

We are all familiar with the arguments regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Each side has its narrative, along with "proofs" of their factual truth and righteousness of their position. Supporters and opponents adopt one or the other of these narratives, and nobody can change their minds. Israel has very real security concerns and national interests at stake. Israel also has proven that it is willing to dismantle settlements if necessary. In the framework of a peace accord, the settlements will be negotiated, and everybody knows that Israel will make concessions. But these arguments make no difference to Israel's opponents.

The real question is the balance of power and US national interests.

Demanding the Israel freeze all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is unfair, against all previous understanding with the US, and won't bring peace any closer.

But: there are about 300+ million Arabs, and perhaps another 900 million Muslims in the world. There are 6 million Israelis and another 8 million Jews worldwide. It occurs to me periodically, that we would not even be having this discussion, had the population situation been reversed. Or if the Jews sat on oil fields, not the Arabs. Even if we were just 50 or 100 million Jews, we would not be having this discussion. But, to our regret, this is not the case. So arguments of logic, facts, or justness have limited value and relevance.

US national interests take this reality into account. How could they not? Sometimes extremist Israelis on the left and right forget this. The right, because they think that we can do whatever we want, no matter who opposes us. Caroline Glick is a good example of this. On the left, because of their arrogance, they assume that Israel can change the whole middle east all by itself by just "doing the right thing". The editors of Ha'aretz are typical of this view.

In my view, all we Israelis and Jews can do, is argue as forcefully as we can, and use wisely whatever power and strategic assets that we have. This means being careful and choosing our battles, while not crossing red lines that erode our prestige and position. The goal is to manage the situation, even if there is no solution in sight.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Inkjet Printer Ripoff

I know that this is off of my usual line of discussion, but I needed to blow off some steam about this one.

It is well known in the printer industry that low-end printers, especially inkjets, are essentially loss-leaders- the printer is sold at or below production cost, with the intention of making the profits by selling the supplies-- ink cartridges, print heads, etc.

While this is a legitimate strategy, buyers need to be aware of the efforts that the manufacturers make to commit the customer to ridiculously high future costs. One of the ways they do this is by forcing you to replace a color cartridge that empties (even if you don't need it) before allowing you to do ANY printing, even black. The printer, or other functions, simply shut down.

A few years ago, I bought a Brother multifunction printer, seemingly a bargain, to replace my ageing fax and printer. I printed in color rarely. However, the printer had self test cycles periodically, and every time that printer was turned on. When this happens, the printer would use a small amount of color inks. After a few months, the magenta ink ran out, shutting down to printer even to just black printing. I checked the forums and web site and found there was no way around this. You had to replace the magenta ink cartridge, costing $20. Then a month later, the yellow cartridge did the same. Mind you the black cartridge had plenty of ink in it.

I decided to cut my losses and dump the printer. I actually tried to GIVE the printer away, only 6 months old, to a neighbor, who decided that it wasn't worth the headache for him either. So I took a new, perfectly working printer, and put it out at the curb for collection. I have a friend who bought an Epson and has had the same problem.

I decided not to repeat this mistake again. I swore never to buy a Brother printer again. After doing some internet research and talking to salesman at Office Depot, I found a Lexmark printer that met my needs. It has the old fashion "HP style" setup with 2 print cartridges-- one color and one black. When the color one empties it gives you warnings but doesn't stop you from printing black. So far it works for me.

Out of curiosity I stopped by the local Office Depot again recently to see what on the market. This time I saw a fancy HP multifunction color printer at a "too good to be true" price-- 600NIS, including multiplexer (2 sided printing), built-in ethernet, fax, document feeder, etc. I came home and checked on the internet and read the reviews, which were pretty positive. The problem is that the reviewers aren't necessarily aware of this color ink requirement scam if they don't use the printer long enough. So I went onto ZAP, and Israeli internet comparison shopping site, which includes buyers reviews. Sure enough, this printer showed up, with several buyers complaining about their printer shutting down after only a few weeks use when one of the colors ran out. (This is especially frustrating after the purchase, because the manufacturers usually put in "starter" cartridges with low capacity).

I think that buyers should organize a boycott of these printers, and really let the manufacturers know that this arrangement is unacceptable, and deceptive to buyers.