Monday, January 07, 2008

Remember me? As MOChassid has quite correctly noted, I am on strike and, at least theoretically, I ought to have more time for blogging. Unfortunately, that just didn't happen.

So a few brief comments on stuff I would've blogged if I'd have had time.

1. For those who are wondering, the professors are on strike because they (we) want more money. It really isn't more complicated than that. There have been a variety of high-minded ideas bandied about suggesting that there is some higher ideal involved here -- the future of academia and such -- but that is all baloney. The claim that academics are leaving the country because they get paid more abroad is especially specious. It is true that good academics get paid more abroad but, nevertheless, there are many many more candidates for academic jobs here than there are positions available. Paying academics more won't change that situation for the better.

2. For those who've been following the JNF business, a follow-up. Since JNF has been trying to head off an inevitable court ruling preventing it from reserving land for Jews as is its mandate, they have been negotiating a deal with the Israel Lands Authority. As the deal now shapes up, JNF will trade any land intended for sale to ILA and this land will be made available to all comers. ILA will compensate JNF with other land. However, the land given to JNF will not be -- as had been reported -- land that is not sellable (lakes and the like) but rather land that is simply not likely to be sold. Moreover, JNF will be compensated with cash.

This should not cause anyone any relief. Since the JNF has now abandoned its mandate of holding land for the Jewish people, it has no reason to exist. In fact, it is a bloated bureaucracy that continues to exist merely to pay the salaries of its functionaries and the pensions of its retirees.

3. On the judicial front, Justice Minister Friedmann has proposed adding two professors to the judicial appointments committee (one chosen by the government and one by the university heads) and to replace one of the judges on the committee with a retired judge appointed by the government. The bit about the judge is a fine idea but the professors thing is wacky. The proposed change is too little too late, but the important thing is that its in the right direction.

In the meantime, Law Committee chairman, Ben-Sasson, has finally come out of the closet. He has been holding pointless and endless debates about the constitution, all so that in the end he can produce the IDI's proposed constitution. He has tried (with very limited success) to pretend that he is a neutral facilitator with no dog in the fight. But a few weeks ago he conspired with the IDI to deliver the committee to a five star hotel in Mitzpe Ramon, all expenses paid by the IDI, so that the IDI could pressure the weak links on the committee to drink the KoolAid. The ethics committee of the Knesset caught wind of it and killed the event. Instead it will take place this week in Jerusalem with considerably less fanfare.

4. If you'd try to distill the what-should-we-do-about-Chabad question into one perfectly formed dilemma, you couldn't do better than last week's giyur fiasco. A candidate comes before the beis-din in full Chabad levush, apparently speaking the lingo and sailing through the questions, until one dayan asks if he believes that the Rebbe is mashiach. He says yes. His candidacy was rejected. There it is in a nutshell.

For the record, I have no problem with people who believe too little. Jews are a naturally skeptical lot. But people who believe too much are a threat to whatever it is we do believe, not to mention a potential drag on the gene pool. I think the rabbanut finally got one right.

5. I recently read The Book, a very careful study of baseball strategy based on massive simulations. Overall, it's pretty good. But like everyone else, they miss the boat on where pitchers should be in the batting order. The short version is this. Batting order makes no difference except for the fact that the last time around the order some guys bat and the rest don't. On average, the number x hitter will bat 18 (that is, 162/9) times more per season than the number x+1 hitter. So the better the hitter the earlier in the order you want him to bat. (There are some fine points but they are minor enough that we can ignore them.) Now, in calculating the optimal spot for the pitcher, we need to take into account that the last time through the order, there will almost always be a pinch hitter. The authors of The Book take this partially into account and compute the statistics for the pitcher's slot by averaging pitcher hitting stats with pinch hitter stats. That's a mistake. The first three (or whatever) times through the order (when the pitcher is likely to come to the plate), the sequence doesn't matter. The last time through does matter and that's when there is almost always a pinch hitter. So, depending on the quality of your pinch hitters, the pitcher should probably bat sixth or seventh in the order. Why does everybody miss this?


Blogger treppenwitz said...

Wow, gutsy statement on the Lubo issue. Good thing you blog incognito as I remember ducking chairs at the Brooklyn Jewish Center when my band played 'Yechi...' for the 'non yechi' crowd (and the other way around). BTW, I agree with you, but I wouldn't dare post it on MY blog. :-)

6:04 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Not incognito enough. I'll be sure to avoid the Brooklyn Jewish Center.

(When you haven't blogged in over a month, you need to go that extra mile to try to get a rise out of people.)

6:18 PM  
Anonymous harrykann said...

Interesting observation about The Book. fyi, today's NY Times mentions that Olmert and President Bush have a shared interest in sports. Accordingly, in view of President Bush's past role as a part-owner of the Texas Rangers, do you think that Bush consulted with Olmert re: discussing your recommendations about the pitcher's optimal position in the batting order? And, do you think that the woeful Texas Rangers would have won a World Series by now, if they had batted David Clyde (or Alex Rodriguez, when he was on their team) in the 7th spot of the batting order? And, do you think that Olmert understands even less about baseball strategy than he understands about protecting Israel's security (if that's possible)?

7:38 PM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

The JNF has been swapping land with the ILA for years. They have given the ILA urban land that is already occupied by homesteaders and in return were given land that is not likely to be sold. Many of these apartments have Arab occupants. All that has happened now is that they will apply the same policy to suburban communities so as to avoid the equality issue. The only other solution would have been to privatize the JNF. This is the solution advocated by a former head of the ILA (son of a former HC Justice). The JNF would exist in the same way the Isalmic Wakf exists. But this would have meant undoing some juicy tax benefits the JNF receives.

There is already an academic from the legal faculties who sits on the committee to choose the Attorney General, which is effectively a fifth independent branch of government in Israel. So if it's wacky, it's still no more wacky than what is already being done.
I think the IDC's buying of Herr Oberst Elazar Stern and the high command with similar all-paid-for conferences is even more frightening that trying to buy off already corrupt politicians. The creation of an equivalency in the IDF between the expulsion pogrom at gush katif and saving democracy in Israel was a master stroke on the part of the IDC, as repulsive as it was.

I fail to see why a chabdnik who believes the rebbe is moshiach is not an appropriate candidate for conversion whilst a minor child whose mother is a practicing believer in Jesus Christ - and whose conversion was approved the same week - is. The rabbanut - and specifically the religious zionist rabbis involved - blew it big time. I'm with the charedi dayanim who supported the chabadnik's conversion on this one. I believe their approach in focusing only on practice and not belief is the correct one and should be applied consistently across the board.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

The solution to the JNF is obviously to separate it from the ILA. The reason this isn't raised as a possibility and the reason the JNF didn't sell off its land to Jews years ago when it still could is that it is interested only in sustaining itself. The situation there is even worse than you think.

I'm working on a very interesting solution to the AG problem, which I'll post about as soon as I can.

Yes, the IDI's grip on the army is more dangerous than its grip on the Knesset.

I agree that giyur should focus on action, not belief. But I was careful to draw a distinction between believing too little and believing too much. Too much is far worse. I wouldn't be megayer somebody who believes JC is mashiach either.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous skeptic said...

Could it really be there is a five-star hotel in Mitzpe Ramon?!

1:25 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Pundak Ramon. Nice place. (OK, maybe only four stars but give me some slack.)

1:48 AM  

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