Saturday, November 14, 2009

What's Smarts Got To Do With It?

America's favorite hockey mom, Sarah Palin, re-emerged onto the national political scene this week. She'll be out and about flogging her book "Going Rogue" in which she straightens the world out on what really happened during her run for vice president. Her plans include visiting as many Fox News interviewers as possible while otherwise staying out of big cities that may have actual high school and college graduates lurking about. You can bet she'll also steer clear of Katie Couric this time around.

There's speculation that all this PR may be a prelude to a run for president. This leads me to question just what attributes are important for a successful presidency. It isn't obvious that sheer intelligence ranks very high on the list.

In Palin's case, good looks and a snappy demeanor seem to be her chief positives. She also appeals to the far right wing with her social stances. No one is pushing her to run based upon her demonstrated intelligence. But is high intelligence really needed for the job?

Reflecting on some recent presidents, George W. Bush seemed to flaunt his lack of intellectual curiosity; yet he got re-elected. Ronald Reagan was a nice enough old guy who didn't exhibit much depth intellectually, but he's regarded as one of the most effective presidents.

Bill Clinton was a very smart guy who couldn't control his personal life. His presidency will forever be remembered more for his peccadilloes than his administration's accomplishments. Jimmy Carter was also thought of as a deep thinker, but his is generally regarded as a failed presidency.

It's obvious that Barack Obama has the intelligence and depth to impress, but it's way too early to say how his term in office will be evaluated.

While it's not clear that smarts are the most important facet of being a good president, you must have other talents to get elected. Most important are political skills. This includes: (1) being able to raise lots of money, (2) answer questions with well-rehearsed sound bites which appear to be spontaneous and (3), most importantly, make people on opposite sides of tough issues think you agree with each of them when, in fact, this is an absolute impossibility.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning Can Be Fun

I'm taking a course at Harvard. It's called "Justice: what's the right thing to do?"

Thanks to the wonders of the Net and some generous sponsors, you can take it too by clicking here.

Suddenly, after decades away from formal schooling, I'm rethinking whether cannibalism is kosher. How about the idea that taxation is the same as slavery? These and other weighty topics are part of the course presented by one heck of a fantastic lecturer: Michael Sandel.

But rather than get into the specifics of this particular course, which is worth doing at length, what I wanted to talk about is how important the teacher is in the learning experience. This course reminded me of those occasions in college when I actually learned something that stayed with me longer than the time to the next exam. These experiences happened very, very infrequently, but universally they occurred in courses where I had an inspiring professor. In fact, I remember choosing courses strictly on the basis of who was teaching it (although sometimes the time and day of week entered into the decision as well; clearly, it couldn't be scheduled before 10am or after 3 PM, or on Friday...but I digress).

This reinforces my opinion that if we are serious about improving the U.S. education system, we need to attract the best and brightest to the profession. Right now, we're doing a lousy job of that. People like Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C. are leading the charge to shake up the system. She's offered the teachers' union a reasonable deal: give up tenure and receive a salary and bonus based upon student performance. The teachers can get triple digit salaries if they meet specified goals.

Well, as you might expect, she's meeting a lot of resistance. If she succeeds, things could really change for the better. In those cases where new (typically young and enthusiastic) teachers have this plan, the student achievements are impressive.

The bottom line for me is that incentives work. They work in the private sector and there's no inherent reason they can't succeed in the public sector as well. The tricky part is getting the goals and the measurement of those goals right.

By the way, returning to the subject of re-experiencing college, it would be really neat if there was a way to have Friday night beer parties on-line.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dollars Well Spent

It seems to me that we're not learning much from our failed wars. In Vietnam, we slogged on and on, increasing troop strength time and time again in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the peasants. In the end, aside from dramatically increasing war casualties on both sides, it did little to change the outcome. The war finally ended when we told the propped up local government and military to take over the battle. As soon as we left, the local government and military were quickly overrun.

In Iraq, we've built up our troops and expenditures in concert with the bleaker and bleaker situation. It was only after we changed strategy last year that things are now looking somewhat better. What was the change? It was a decision to pay off the very groups that had been attacking us. They agreed it was more profitable to support us than fight us. The result, called the "Sunni Awakening", should have been called the "Sunni Bribe".

Now the focus has shifted to Afghanistan. We've heard this story before. The military is asking for an increasing number of troops on the ground as the situation worsens. If President Obama agrees to this, he will be repeating errors previously made in Vietnam and Iraq.

Instead, he should change the strategy to overwhelm the population with dollars not troops. There are approximately 30 million people in Afghanistan . The average Afghan makes under $200 per year. If we simply paid each person $1000 in cash, it's likely that they would rapidly decide that they no longer were supporters of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or whomever we think we're fighting in Afghanistan. Instead, I'd bet that they will gladly say that they're Westerners, Capitalists, Yankee Fans or whatever else we want them to be called. This would cost about $30 billion. Yes, this is a huge amount; but it's peanuts compared to the $440 billion we've spent there so far, and even less when compared to the estimates of over $1 trillion most analysts are predicting we'll spend before declaring we're leaving.

If this doesn't work in ending the Afghan war, then we should reinstate the military draft. Within months, the war would be over as the potential draftees and their supporters mimic the demonstrations that led to our departure from Vietnam.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's in a Name?

What's happened to all the left wing Liberals in the U.S.of A? It seems that they've recently morphed into Progressives. Does this mean that we should start calling right wing Conservatives "Regressives"? Does this move suddenly render the "L-word" obsolete?

This shift in nomenclature reminds me of the situation several years ago when it became unclear how white people were to refer to their non-white American brethren. Starting with Negro, the appellation shifted from "Colored People" to "Blacks" to "People of Color" and then settled into the new politically correct name "African-Americans". The NAACP apparently said the heck with this. They have remained the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. If they want to be taken seriously, shouldn't they have to get on the bandwagon and become NAAAAP? Besides, all those"A"s look pretty impressive.

The hyphenation trend has opened up the opportunity for a veritable plethora of newly hyphenated Americans, including "Asian-Americans", "Italian-Americans", "Irish-Americans", "Plump-Americans", "Kinda Skinny-Americans", ad nauseum. By the way, why exactly did "Orientals" become "Asians"? The Orient sounds far more exotic than Asia.

Using hyphens is probably less confusing than the color codes that were becoming the norm. For example, left wingers were called "Commie Pinkos" when I was a kid. This political bloc instead now comes from "Blue" states. The right wingers now emanate from "Red" states. This is really mind boggling since the Communists used to be called "Reds". Blue Dogs are a new group that has emerged from the political womb. They are called "Blue" because they come from Blue states. Why they are called "Dogs" is beyond me.

Right wing and left wing politics seem to be ingrained in our nomenclature. According to "Ask Yahoo",..."these terms come from pre-revolutionary France... Inside the chamber where the National Assembly met, members of the Third Estate sat on the left side and members of the First Estate sat on the right. The Third Estate consisted of revolutionaries, while the First Estate were nobles. Thus, the left wing of the room was more liberal, and the right wing was more conservative."

All this leaves me pretty unsettled. For example, does our goverment expect me to see red if the level of risk of terror attack is orange?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Clunker of a Program

Have you gotten your $4500 Cash for Clunkers rebate from the government yet? I bet you haven't.


Because you probably didn't buy a gas guzzler that qualifies. So how does it make you feel to know that you and the rest of your fellow taxpayers are subsidizing people who made the bad decision to buy one of those Clunkers. If you're like me, you think it's a blatant rip off.

Some of the defenders of this program tout the improved national fleet mileage and resulting reduction in gasoline and green house gas emissions. But even under the most optimistic assumptions, the impact is truly negligible, about the same as what the U.S. burns every 22 seconds. And this is at a cost to the taxpayers that is about seven times what "Cap and Trade" carbon permits trade for in Europe.

Proponents of this giveaway also cite the great public response to the program which is jump-starting the sales of new cars.

Sure. People will gladly accept a $4500 gift.

Auto sales that were postponed while this program was being debated and those which were planned for the future are being consummated now, making it pretty likely that sales will drop once the program expires. Additionally, there are a bunch of negative effects. One, for example, is the impact it's having on the car repair and aftermarket parts industries, which are being badly hurt by the decision to scrap the clunker cars instead of repairing them.

This program is just one more example of the government picking winners and losers. While advocates of more government intervention tout how programs like this and other "stimulants" are enhancing the economy, to me it's just the government distorting the free enterprise system.

Whether it's Cash for Clunkers, subsidies for underwater mortgage holders or any of the other government interventions implemented recently, the negative impacts often outweigh the positives.

Also, let's be real. There's no free lunch. Somebody has to pay for all this massive spending. That somebody is us, our grandchildren, or even better, now that I think about it, China.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Races I Don't Get

Are you all caught up in the excitement of the Tour de France? I've tried to follow the action, but I must be missing something really important.

Half the world seems enthralled with the Tour de France. All I see when I watch snippets of it on the tube is a group of guys riding bikes for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Nothing much seems to happen. Once in a while they have some bikes crash just to keep everyone awake, but beyond that, it's just the boys out for a cycle.

Today, for the third day in a row, the guy in first place was ahead of the second place rider by two seconds and the third place rider by six seconds. How could it be that there was absolutely no change over several hundred miles? I could gain or lose a second just riding down my driveway.

The roads they ride are frequently lined with screaming fans. I assume the spectators have been there for hours just to get a fleeting glimpse of the bikers as they peddle on. At the end of each day's event, the day's leader is chosen to come up on a platform. He gets kisses from two attractive ladies and he is allowed to wear a very special yellow jersey for a day.

I have the same lost feeling when I've watched NASCAR races. I've read it's now the most popular spectator sport in America. All I see is cars racing around and around, with huge, screaming, crowds on hand, just waiting, I assume, for a crash to occur. I think the winner sometimes drinks a cup of milk to celebrate.

America's Cup is another event that the rest of the world takes pretty seriously. All I see is several very expensive boats sailing around for days on end. I've never seen them crash. Maybe they do it at night when it's dark.

I'd probably appreciate these sports more if I were a betting man.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Healthy Debate

Lately, President Obama has been traveling around the country proclaiming that he has the solution to the nation's health care crisis. This may or may not be true. What is certainly true is that we have a health care crisis.

We pay the most per capita of any country on earth for medical services. Yet, our system was ranked 37th best by the World Health Organization . While the results of this survey have been challenged, no matter whether we're number 37 or somewhere higher, it's clear that we're not exactly getting our money's worth when it comes to health care.

The people who have insurance have no idea what health care really costs as they are sheltered from the actual charges. The poor who have no health insurance are protected by laws that demand they be taken care of independent of their ability to pay (as long as they wait long enough before seeking care in a hospital emergency room to get really, really sick). The ones who are really shafted in our system are those who have no health insurance, but do have the ability to pay (or file for bankruptcy). They are charged outlandish fees for every procedure.

I can share one example from my own personal experience. I had an out-patient procedure to break up kidney stones. I was in the hospital for a grand total of four hours. The procedure itself took about 30 minutes. The bill was more than $56,000. Because I had insurance, I paid about $1000 and the insurance company paid about $1000. But if I didn't have insurance, I would have been on the hook for the full amount. This is insane.

I'm sure you've heard similar stories. The bottom line is that things are seriously out of whack.

I have no clue if a government run health system would be better. I suspect it would not. What is clear is that the present system which focuses on pay for services provided has exactly the wrong incentives. Instead of encouraging expensive procedures after we get sick, the system should reward doctors who keep you healthy in the first place. But if your doctor tries to provide preventive care, Medicare, today's model of a government-run health system, will not pay for it.

What a mess!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is Bigger Better?

I just returned from several days in Las Vegas. It was my first visit in a few years. I came away with a new appreciation of just how large "large" can be.
First of all, the new hotels are just gigantic. I stayed at the Wynn, which has 50 floors and 2,716 rooms. This is one of the smaller hotels on The Strip. On the off chance that you care about this, 15 of the 20 largest hotels in the world are located within a two mile radius in Las Vegas.(Click here if you'd like to read the entire list).
The second most impressive thing for me in Las Vegas was the size of the buffets. If you have the stamina, you can stuff yourself silly. This is not new. What seemed new to me was the sheer variety of the dishes in a single buffet. Just taking a sample of each item will fill your calorie budget for the next decade. I felt like a failure after only being able to make about four or five visits to the trough.
The next item that attracted my attention was the height of the heels that some of the women were sporting. Rather than walk, the women seemed to be shuffling forward. I don't think they flexed their knees at all. It was if they were emulating stilt walkers. I wish I had the marketing ability of the purveyors of these instruments of torture. How they convince women to voluntarily wear these shoes is beyond my understanding. From a purely marketing perspective, it seems a close second to the world's best marketers: the religious leaders who convince their followers to happily blow themselves up.
However, the thing that I found most entertaining was the prominent display of boob-jobs on a number of the ladies. Having an education in science and engineering, I made a series of very careful observations. I don't know much about how they price augmentation surgery. However, I can only conclude that it must be comparatively inexpensive to super-size the implants. There is no way anyone would mistake this particular variety of anatomy for the natural form. So this must not be important to the newly endowed. It must be that it is a relative bargain to get the largest size a woman can bear without completely losing her ability to stand upright.
All in all it was a fun trip. Mega-buildings, lots of food, interesting shoes and enormous boobs. What more could a guy ask for?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Psst...Wanna Buy Some Stock?

If I wanted to buy some stock in an auto company, I could have easily done it. However, my government has decided that they should do it on my behalf.
Where in the Constitution does it say that this is the role of government?
The US auto industry is composed of domestic and foreign controlled companies. All of the auto companies, whether foreign or domestic controlled, have public stockholders located all over the world. So what difference does it really make to the average citizen (who is not a member of the United Auto Workers union) whether Chrysler or GM survives in its pre-2009 form? As long as it is profitable, cars will be designed and manufactured in the US, employing US workers. Whether the paycheck comes from Toyota, GM or some new startup really is of little consequence.
This seems to be OK for other industries, but not the auto industry. I just don't get it.
I wrote some time ago (November, 2008 and December, 2008) that the solution for the ailing US car companies was a pre-packaged bankruptcy. This is exactly what is happening with Chrysler. The ironic upshot of the present plan is that the company is actually being kept alive by the government's infusion of billions of our dollars so that it can be taken over by Fiat. Didn't someone notice that the headquarters of Fiat was located in Italy?
By the way, it really irked me when I heard President Obama rail about the private entities that did not go along with the government's plan in which the private entities get pennies on the dollar for their secured Chrysler debt. It seems to me that they have every right under our system to plead their case in court if they think this will result in a better outcome.
The bottom line is that the government is not interested in the bottom line. It is a political institution that responds to political pressures. It should exit itself from this mess as quickly as it can.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Knowing The Future

I haven't posted anything for a while.
But I have a good excuse: I've been pretty busy pondering the future.
It all started with the analysis of my genome. Last month I volunteered to participate in a program in which I gave a sample of my DNA to an organization that's amassing genomes from a broad group of people. They're comparing them to the diseases that the test subjects already have or will get. They then attempt to correlate specific genes with the probabilities of actually getting those diseases.
The web site describes the program. It's pretty interesting, assuming that you're interested in this sort of thing.
The whole process starts by spitting into a tube and mailing it to their lab. After a few weeks of waiting, the results are available on their web site. You can choose to share it with others. If you'd like to see my genome, just email me and I'll tell you how.
One thing my genome says is that I'm unlikely to be a sprinter. They were right on: I'm definitely not a sprinter.
It also said I probably have blue eyes. My eyes are green, or gray, or some color that's not blue. Well, it's not perfect.
On the more serious topics, like what diseases you'll get, it becomes more complicated. First of all, it's all presented as probabilities, not definite proclamations. So, for example, you may find out that you have a much higher chance of getting cancer than the general population. But then you're faced with the question of what do you do about it. In some cases, you may start to think about preventive surgery to remove the potential site of the cancer. This is pretty scary stuff.
This naturally leads to the question of whether you really want to know what the future holds, especially if it's bleak. Isn't science wonderful?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alphabet Soup Spells Blah

I'm getting lost. There's old programs like the FDIC insurance program to protect bank depositors. There's the new Obama Stimulus Package. And then there's TARP, TALF, EIEIO (no, wait, that's a song from kindergarten), along with seemingly dozens of other new catchy-named programs emanating from the nation's capital. All are intended to reverse the economy from its current downward death spiral.
Yesterday, Warren Buffett was pontificating on CNBC that the economy had "fallen off a cliff" but would eventually recover. Well, duh ... yeah, even Jimmy Buffett could have said that.
There's universal agreement that the stock market is a leading economic indicator. It almost always starts its recovery six months prior to economic upturns. So the question that I would have liked Warren to answer is "When will the recovery take place?". Once we know that magic date, a monkey could throw darts at the stock market listings and pick winners, just as long as he tosses those darts six months earlier.
An old stock market adage is: "They don't ring a bell at the bottom (or top)". This is really too bad; it would make things a whole lot easier. As I write this, the stock market has just rallied for the first time in weeks. Is this the bottom or just a "dead cat bounce"? Who knows? Check back in several years and we'll be able to figure it out.
So what's the average investor to do? Just listen to the experts and when you think that enough of them agree on a common course of action, immediately do the opposite.
Failing that sure-fire piece of advice, it seems to me that the Obama Administration and Congress can help jump-start the economy and the stock market with one simple action above all others. Reduce or eliminate the taxes on dividends and long term capital gains. This single action will pump huge amounts of cash into start-ups and the stock market, revitalizing the economy and creating jobs.  Obama is scaring the bejesus out of potential investors worldwide because he's talking about raising these taxes instead of lowering them.
One other thing. It might be a good idea to hold gold or some other hard assets in your portfolio. While I know that the current concern is deflation, at some point, the massive creation of money is going to set off a jumbo-sized round of inflation.
No! I don't have any idea when that magic date will occur. I sure wish I did.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Men Should Pee

There I was, just minding my own business, looking at the comments posted by loyal readers regarding my last post about fighting in hockey, when kaboom, out of nowhere (actually from SpecRiter located in Canada), comes this bombshell: "Saying that fighting in hockey should be banned is like women saying that men should sit down and pee instead of standing... it is just against our nature."
Wow! I never really thought about whether it's against the nature of man to pee sitting down, let alone what peeing has to do with hockey. 

Reflecting on men's peeing, I guess I must have always figured you'd stand when it was convenient (usually when number one only was involved) and sit when it was appropriate (when number two was involved). These are not rigid rules. They can be waived, for example, when alone in the woods. Then it is perfectly fine to throw caution to the wind and take whatever stance (or not) you feel like at that moment.
Being naturally inquisitive about such important issues, I immediately googled the search words "men pee when sitting". In short order (0.23 Seconds), I was presented with 442,000 results. I never knew so many people were concerned about this topic. Also, all those people and computers at Google must have been sitting around and just waiting for my inquiry judging by how rapidly they delivered so many references on the subject.
The number one search result informed me that 40% of Japanese men pee while sitting. This percentage of men sitting is three times as large as the percentage who did so when the survey was taken in 1999. The increase is apparently due to pressure from wives on their spouses to cut down on the urine splashing. It's also interesting to note that the Japanese actually do surveys on stuff like this.
Second on the list was a link to a short video from Larry David on the subject. You can view his remarks by clicking here (the video takes less than a minute). I recommend it heartily.
As with most activities on the web, you can invest (waste) untold hours researching this topic. For example, I ran across a photo from travel writer Rick Steves that tells us that you won't find a single urinal in Iran. He says it's a "religious thing".
All in all, I learned a whole lot while having tons of fun. And I still think that fighting should be banned in hockey (whether or not peeing has anything to do with hockey).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fighting Is Still The Rage

Why do they fight?

Who, you ask? The Palestinians and the Israelis? The Islamic Extremists and the Western World?
No, combatants much more relevant to everyday American life: hockey goons, of course.
It's once again the time to ask why hockey permits, or even encourages, fighting when all other major sports (with the exception of boxing and its ilk) have effectively outlawed fisticuffs. The latest questioning was precipitated by the recent tragic death of a 21 year old minor league player who lost his helmet and cracked his head on the ice during a fight.
When I played eons ago at the lowest amateur levels, occasionally even players of my class would lose their cool in the midst of a skirmish and start throwing punches. But that was not premeditated. It was just the result of the fast play and hard hitting. At the NHL level, fights were common but usually not premeditated.
Fighting has now become a ritual in which the designated goon for each team squares off against his counterpart. Usually, they have not had any meaningful interaction with each other apart from exchanging words like "let's go". The fight itself often is preceded by each combatant removing his helmet before the fists fly so they don't break their hands on the other guy's hat. Happily for fight advocates, it's still kosher to break your hands on your opponent's skull.
Ostensibly, the fighting is a self-policing action by the players to eliminate the borderline to flagrant stunts that the referees have missed or simply ignored. But that seems hard to believe. If the players see what's happening, it's pretty likely the refs see it too. Also, a fight between the goons is hard to connect logically to actions taken by other players.
The only reason why fighting still is a part of the game is because some fans like it. Without this fan support, the ritual would be gone in a flash of a league-mandated game penalty and fine. And that's just what the league should do. No one complains about the lack of fighting during the playoffs when the stakes are too high to give up a roster spot or take any penalties. Fans who are excited about the fights should go to a boxing bout. The rest of us can enjoy the skill and passion of the athletes.
Hockey is a religion in Canada and the northern part of the U.S (also known as Baja Canada). It has struggled to become relevant in the rest of America (sometimes referred to as Alta Mexico). Catering to the World Wrestling Federation crowd's sensibilities is not the way to success. The best hope for the NHL is to capitalize on the engaging personalities of its stars like Sydney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Joe Thornton, who, by the way, seem like absolute saints when contrasted with the ego-maniacs headlining baseball, football and basketball. This, along with High Definition TV and lower ticket prices, rather than fighting, is what the sport needs.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Logic of War

What's happened to wars? Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun wouldn't recognize today's version at all. It used to be that if you won, you looted the country, enslaved its people and renamed cities. No questions asked. That was the way war was. It was simple and straightforward. War was a logical (although very brutal) method of settling disputes and/or increasing a country's power and wealth. An added bonus was that it also served as a pretty effective method of increasing the pool of potential brides for the victors.
No more. Starting somewhere around World War I, wars became much more complicated endeavors. Instead of the pure simplicity of being a conqueror, the winner suddenly was faced with the prospect of taking care of the losers and rebuilding what they had just destroyed. Wars actually cost the victor power and wealth. What a loony concept!
After World War II, the U.S. celebrated its victory by creating the Marshall Plan, under which it spent a fortune building up Germany and the rest of Western Europe so they could compete with the U.S. Similar support was given to Japan. This activity was a fabulous success, as denoted by the loss of the American car manufacturing industry among its other achievemnents. Some might quibble that rebuilding Western Europe and Japan was necessary to fend off the Russians from taking over, but it still seems crazy that the winner would pay the losers.
As I write this, the U.S. is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Israelis are devastating the Gaza Strip. In none of these three conflicts will the likely victor win anything as simple as land and slaves.
The U.S.eradicated the Saddam dictatorship and now just wants to get the heck out of Iraq after spending 7 years, several thousand American lives and more than $600 billion first destroying and then trying to rebuild the place. The initial assault and its follow-on insurgency, along with a civil war among the entirely insane Islamic Sunni and Shia, has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and generally turned most of the rest of the world against the U.S..
In Afghanistan, the U.S. is trying to erase the nutty Taliban, probably leaving a bunch of warlords to rule in its place. Given Afghanistan's history of swallowing up the British and then the Soviets, the U.S. will be lucky to extract itself from there anytime soon. How much it will cost in lives and treasure is anyone's guess; but no matter what the cost and how badly the Taliban are crushed, the odds are pretty high that Afghanistan will slide back into the 12th century rather than become the 51st U.S. state.
In Gaza, the Israelis are beating the pulp out of the insane Hamas zealots. The Israelis say they just want Hamas to stop firing rockets at them. They haven't yet publicly said that they want to totally eliminate Hamas, but that's what they really desire. The Israelis will probably not fully achieve either objective once they're forced by the rest of the world (but mostly the U.S.) to settle for one more in a seemingly never-ending number of cease fire agreements. Actually, a simple cease fire in Gaza may be the best outcome for the Israelis. If the Iranians, who are funding Hamas, also free Hezbollah to attack from Lebanon, the costs could escalate to really ominous levels.
All in all, war made a whole lot more sense in the old days. Winners won and losers lost. Nothing more, nothing less.