Charles Marohn, a municipal engineer, has compared suburban development to a giant Ponzi scheme  Here’s what he means:

     The way suburban development usually works is that a town lays the pipes, plumbing, and infrastructure for housing development—often getting big loans from the government to do so—and soon after a developer appears and offers to build homes on it. Developers usually fund most of the cost of the infrastructure because they make their money back from the sale of the homes. The short-term cost to the city or town, therefore, is very low: it gets a cash infusion from whichever entity fronted the costs, and the city gets to keep all the revenue from property taxes. The thinking is that either taxes will cover the maintenance costs, or the city will keep growing and generate enough future cash flow to cover the obligations. But the tax revenue at low suburban densities isn’t nearly enough to pay the bills; in Marohn’s estimation, property taxes at suburban densities bring in anywhere from 4 cents to 65 cents for every dollar of liability. Most suburban municipalities, he says, are therefore unable to pay the maintenance costs of their infrastructure, let alone replace things when they inevitably wear out after twenty to twenty-five years. The only way to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt, or both. “It is a ridiculously unproductive system,” he says.

via Time — the article is an excerpt from Leigh Gallagher’s book, The End of the Suburbs, out now in paperback.

Charles Marohn, a municipal engineer, has compared suburban development to a giant Ponzi scheme  Here’s what he means:

     The way suburban development usually works is that a town lays the pipes, plumbing, and infrastructure for housing development—often getting big loans from the government to do so—and soon after a developer appears and offers to build homes on it. Developers usually fund most of the cost of the infrastructure because they make their money back from the sale of the homes. The short-term cost to the city or town, therefore, is very low: it gets a cash infusion from whichever entity fronted the costs, and the city gets to keep all the revenue from property taxes. The thinking is that either taxes will cover the maintenance costs, or the city will keep growing and generate enough future cash flow to cover the obligations. But the tax revenue at low suburban densities isn’t nearly enough to pay the bills; in Marohn’s estimation, property taxes at suburban densities bring in anywhere from 4 cents to 65 cents for every dollar of liability. Most suburban municipalities, he says, are therefore unable to pay the maintenance costs of their infrastructure, let alone replace things when they inevitably wear out after twenty to twenty-five years. The only way to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt, or both. “It is a ridiculously unproductive system,” he says.

via Time — the article is an excerpt from Leigh Gallagher’s book, The End of the Suburbs, out now in paperback.

The Young Turks on Israel’s irresponsible use of force.

     Another article from The Economist about how Israel would be better off standing down.  
     While The Economist, a conservative American publication which is invested in Israel (ideologically if not financially), would never agree with the mounting calls to isolate Israel, it’s noteworthy that it has published a piece which urges Israel to listen to its critics.  
Winning the battle, losing the war:  For all its military might, Israel faces a grim future unless it can secure peace (The Economist, 2014-08-02)

Some 1,400 Palestinians have died in the past few weeks, compared with 56 Israeli soldiers and four civilians. Even allowing for Hamas’s brutality, no democracy should be happy with a military strategy that results in the death of so many children (let alone the crass claim from Israel’s ambassador to Washington that its soldiers deserve a Nobel peace prize). The destruction is driving support towards Hamas and away from the moderate Palestinians who are Israel’s best chance for peace.

     Another article from The Economist about how Israel would be better off standing down. 

     While The Economist, a conservative American publication which is invested in Israel (ideologically if not financially), would never agree with the mounting calls to isolate Israel, it’s noteworthy that it has published a piece which urges Israel to listen to its critics. 

Winning the battle, losing the war:  For all its military might, Israel faces a grim future unless it can secure peace (The Economist, 2014-08-02)

Some 1,400 Palestinians have died in the past few weeks, compared with 56 Israeli soldiers and four civilians. Even allowing for Hamas’s brutality, no democracy should be happy with a military strategy that results in the death of so many children (let alone the crass claim from Israel’s ambassador to Washington that its soldiers deserve a Nobel peace prize). The destruction is driving support towards Hamas and away from the moderate Palestinians who are Israel’s best chance for peace.

     Omar Baddar separates truth from spin regarding the assault against Gaza:

… When Israeli troops were caught on tape killing unarmed Palestinian teens just a few weeks before the kidnapping of the Israeli teens, imagine if Hamas responded by invading Israeli homes, shooting Israeli demonstrators and kidnapping hundreds of Israeli troops — would media outlets cover such actions with the same sympathy and understanding afforded to Israel’s actions? …  … Hamas had been strictly observing a cease-fire agreement since it was brokered in 2012, and was even arresting Palestinian militants from rival factions who fired rockets at Israel as recently as last month … … Israeli officials now acknowledge, in direct contradiction to statements by Israel’s prime minister, that Hamas was actually not responsible for the kidnappings of the three Israeli teens after all …  … Israel is always looking for a way to deflect responsibility for the failure of the peace process onto the Palestinians. One of the talking points used to that end is the claim that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side because the leadership was divided. … When, to Netanyahu’s bitter disappointment, the U.S. insisted on dealing with the new Palestinian government anyway, Israel seems to have opted for a direct confrontation with Hamas to break up the unity government.  … Under those circumstances, Israel’s very posture is offensive, and it cannot claim to be engaging in “self-defence” against the very people whose land it has illegally usurped  …   … Norman Finkelstein put it best: “The refrain that Israel has the right to self-defence is a red herring: the real question is, does Israel have the right to use force to maintain an illegal occupation? The answer is no.”

     From “Debunking the myths about Gaza: The truth behind Israeli and Palestinian talking points" by Omar Baddar
Photo:  A Palestinian man carries the lifeless body of a child to an emergency room at Shifa hospital in Gaza City last week. (Credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

     Omar Baddar separates truth from spin regarding the assault against Gaza:

… When Israeli troops were caught on tape killing unarmed Palestinian teens just a few weeks before the kidnapping of the Israeli teens, imagine if Hamas responded by invading Israeli homes, shooting Israeli demonstrators and kidnapping hundreds of Israeli troops — would media outlets cover such actions with the same sympathy and understanding afforded to Israel’s actions? …

 … Hamas had been strictly observing a cease-fire agreement since it was brokered in 2012, and was even arresting Palestinian militants from rival factions who fired rockets at Israel as recently as last month …

 … Israeli officials now acknowledge, in direct contradiction to statements by Israel’s prime minister, that Hamas was actually not responsible for the kidnappings of the three Israeli teens after all …

 … Israel is always looking for a way to deflect responsibility for the failure of the peace process onto the Palestinians. One of the talking points used to that end is the claim that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side because the leadership was divided. … When, to Netanyahu’s bitter disappointment, the U.S. insisted on dealing with the new Palestinian government anyway, Israel seems to have opted for a direct confrontation with Hamas to break up the unity government.

 … Under those circumstances, Israel’s very posture is offensive, and it cannot claim to be engaging in “self-defence” against the very people whose land it has illegally usurped  …

  … Norman Finkelstein put it best: “The refrain that Israel has the right to self-defence is a red herring: the real question is, does Israel have the right to use force to maintain an illegal occupation? The answer is no.”

     From “Debunking the myths about Gaza: The truth behind Israeli and Palestinian talking points" by Omar Baddar

Photo:  A Palestinian man carries the lifeless body of a child to an emergency room at Shifa hospital in Gaza City last week. (Credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

A scathing rebuke of the new front in Israel’s assault against Gaza:

 Hamas is using tunnels to try to kill Israelis on Israeli territory, so the IDF has to go into Hamas’ territory and wipe out those tunnels…   it might be reasonable – if there were no other way Israel could avoid being attacked through those tunnels.  It might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t choking Gaza and the West Bank, for 47 years.  It might be reasonable if Israel hadn’t provoked the war that led to these underground attacks (after a year-and-a-half in which Hamas not only didn’t lift a finger at Israel, but also reined in, to varying degrees, rocket attacks by other Gazan armed groups).  Going after the “terror tunnels,” even at the cost of Gazan and Israeli lives, might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t rejecting any cease-fire terms that would allow the 1.8 million people of Gaza to breathe for once.

Source:  Terror Tunnels – Another Israeli Self-Fulfilling Prophecy by Larry Derfner

A scathing rebuke of the new front in Israel’s assault against Gaza:

Hamas is using tunnels to try to kill Israelis on Israeli territory, so the IDF has to go into Hamas’ territory and wipe out those tunnels…   it might be reasonable – if there were no other way Israel could avoid being attacked through those tunnels.  It might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t choking Gaza and the West Bank, for 47 years.  It might be reasonable if Israel hadn’t provoked the war that led to these underground attacks (after a year-and-a-half in which Hamas not only didn’t lift a finger at Israel, but also reined in, to varying degrees, rocket attacks by other Gazan armed groups).  Going after the “terror tunnels,” even at the cost of Gazan and Israeli lives, might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t rejecting any cease-fire terms that would allow the 1.8 million people of Gaza to breathe for once.

Source:  Terror Tunnels – Another Israeli Self-Fulfilling Prophecy by Larry Derfner

How appropriate that it looks like a down-turned machete!  Also, this image makes it very clear why the Palestinians are willing to work with Hamas:  when people are backed into a corner, they will do very ugly things to survive. 

How appropriate that it looks like a down-turned machete!  Also, this image makes it very clear why the Palestinians are willing to work with Hamas:  when people are backed into a corner, they will do very ugly things to survive. 

     Suffering from growing nationalism, being subjected to boycotts and divestment, having an easier time relating to non-democratic regimes, making increasing use of propaganda, and employing its military power to brutalise a starving people whose territory it has occupied, Israel is no longer in the West’s good graces. 
     This article in the 2014-08-02 issue of The Economist breaks down Israel’s descent into a pariah state.
     Us and them:  The pummelling of Gaza has cost Israel sympathy not just in Europe, but also among Americans.

     Suffering from growing nationalism, being subjected to boycotts and divestment, having an easier time relating to non-democratic regimes, making increasing use of propaganda, and employing its military power to brutalise a starving people whose territory it has occupied, Israel is no longer in the West’s good graces. 

     This article in the 2014-08-02 issue of The Economist breaks down Israel’s descent into a pariah state.

     Us and them:  The pummelling of Gaza has cost Israel sympathy not just in Europe, but also among Americans.

Larry Derfner on why this assault against the Palestinians was entirely Netanyahu’s choice —

Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.

Source:  “How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza — His antagonism to all Palestinians, to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than to Hamas,  started and steadily fueled the chain reaction that led to the current misery"  By Larry Derfner

Larry Derfner on why this assault against the Palestinians was entirely Netanyahu’s choice —

Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.

Source:  “How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza — His antagonism to all Palestinians, to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than to Hamas,  started and steadily fueled the chain reaction that led to the current misery"  By Larry Derfner

The Young Turks outline exactly why instructing Gazans to evacuate is a cruel charade on Israel’s part

While no proof exists that Hamas uses human shields, Israel has admitted it does — 

Israel’s Use of Human Shields
     While human rights organizations haven’t yet addressed “human shields” allegations in the ongoing round of Israel-Gaza violence, they did after the 2009 round when Israel killed at least 773 Palestinian civilians, compared to three Israeli civilian casualties (a ratio of 257:1), and used the same “human shields” argument to deflect responsibility for those deaths. When the dust settled, Amnesty International investigated the matter and concluded that there was “no evidence that [Palestinian] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings.” More attention-worthy was the report’s note that,

… in the cases of [Israeli] precision missiles or tank shells which killed [Palestinian] civilians in their homes, no fighters were present in the houses that were struck and Amnesty International delegates found no indication that there had been any armed confrontations or other military activity in the immediate vicinity at the time of the attack.

     By contrast, the same report found that “in several cases Israeli soldiers also used [Palestinian] civilians, including children, as ‘human shields’.” Going back in time just a little further to put this into context is important: when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Israeli military had to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, the Israeli “defence” establishment objected to the ruling. The appeal against the ruling failed, and the practice remains technically illegal, but Israel implicitly encourages it to continue by offering an “inadequate … slap on the wrist,” as Human Rights Watch put it, to Israeli soldiers caught using this reprehensible tactic.
     This reveals two important things: the first is the moral hypocrisy and chutzpah on display when Israel ignores its own use of human shields as it accuses its enemies of using them. The second is Israel’s self-contradicting logic: If Palestinian militants had such disregard for Palestinian civilian lives, why was the Israeli military so invested in maintaining the ability to use Palestinians as shields? The fact that the Israeli army wants to use Palestinian human shields actually proves that they believe Palestinian militants prefer not to endanger their own civilians.
When Intentions Are Clearer
     There may be more discipline among Israeli leaders in how they talk about the war on Gaza this time, but that wasn’t the case in previous conflagrations. In the 2012 assault, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said “we need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” And if you think that’s just rhetoric, consider that Amnesty International previously documented Israel had “flattened … busy neighbourhoods” into “moonscapes.”
And it wasn’t just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward. And in the 2006 assault on Lebanon, one Israeli commander referred to the dropping of more than a million cluster bomblets over Lebanon like this: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”


 — from  “Collective punishment or human shields?" by Omar Baddar.
Photo:  Palestinians flee their homes in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, after Israel had airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (Credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

While no proof exists that Hamas uses human shields, Israel has admitted it does —

Israel’s Use of Human Shields

     While human rights organizations haven’t yet addressed “human shields” allegations in the ongoing round of Israel-Gaza violence, they did after the 2009 round when Israel killed at least 773 Palestinian civilians, compared to three Israeli civilian casualties (a ratio of 257:1), and used the same “human shields” argument to deflect responsibility for those deaths. When the dust settled, Amnesty International investigated the matter and concluded that there was “no evidence that [Palestinian] rockets were launched from residential houses or buildings while civilians were in these buildings.” More attention-worthy was the report’s note that,

… in the cases of [Israeli] precision missiles or tank shells which killed [Palestinian] civilians in their homes, no fighters were present in the houses that were struck and Amnesty International delegates found no indication that there had been any armed confrontations or other military activity in the immediate vicinity at the time of the attack.

     By contrast, the same report found that “in several cases Israeli soldiers also used [Palestinian] civilians, including children, as ‘human shields’.” Going back in time just a little further to put this into context is important: when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Israeli military had to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, the Israeli “defence” establishment objected to the ruling. The appeal against the ruling failed, and the practice remains technically illegal, but Israel implicitly encourages it to continue by offering an “inadequate … slap on the wrist,” as Human Rights Watch put it, to Israeli soldiers caught using this reprehensible tactic.

     This reveals two important things: the first is the moral hypocrisy and chutzpah on display when Israel ignores its own use of human shields as it accuses its enemies of using them. The second is Israel’s self-contradicting logic: If Palestinian militants had such disregard for Palestinian civilian lives, why was the Israeli military so invested in maintaining the ability to use Palestinians as shields? The fact that the Israeli army wants to use Palestinian human shields actually proves that they believe Palestinian militants prefer not to endanger their own civilians.

When Intentions Are Clearer

     There may be more discipline among Israeli leaders in how they talk about the war on Gaza this time, but that wasn’t the case in previous conflagrations. In the 2012 assault, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said “we need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” And if you think that’s just rhetoric, consider that Amnesty International previously documented Israel had “flattened … busy neighbourhoods” into “moonscapes.”

And it wasn’t just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward. And in the 2006 assault on Lebanon, one Israeli commander referred to the dropping of more than a million cluster bomblets over Lebanon like this: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”

— from  “Collective punishment or human shields?" by Omar Baddar.

Photo:  Palestinians flee their homes in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, after Israel had airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (Credit: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)