No Moral High Ground Whatsoever

Published at 08:23 on 31 July 2014

So, this is now the sixth time that Israel has targeted refugees in Gaza.  Can all such incidents be waved off as either accidents or because Hamas was using the refugees as human shields by putting missile launchers in those same refugee centers? Highly unlikely, particularly when UN officials themselves have typically reported otherwise.

Over 1,200 have now been killed in Gaza. Due to the nature of the Palestinian armed struggle, which is not organized into a formal army with formal military bases, it’s impossible to say how many of those 1,200 are civilians in the true sense of the world (i.e. not combatants). But let’s be very generous to Israel and assume 50% of those dead were in fact fighting for Hamas.

That leaves 600 civilian deaths. Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 had less than half that number aboard when it went down over the Ukraine. The West’s reaction to Russia’s arming of the separatists, accused of firing a missile that downed that plane, has been to order Russia to stop arming the rebels and impose sanctions until Russia complies.

The response to the deaths in Gaza is quite different. While there has been a measure of hand-wringing in public about all the killing, arms shipments are being made to Israel so that it can continue its murderous actions. Actions, as the old saw goes, speak louder than words.

There is no moral high ground to be found in the ruling elite of West when it comes to any objection to the destruction of innocent life. None whatsoever. Any assertions otherwise are an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person.

Debunking Establishment BS about Torre David

Published at 18:32 on 23 July 2014

What’s Torre David, you ask? It’s one of the tallest buildings in Caracas, Venezuela, still incomplete despite construction commencing in 1990. In recent years it’s been occupied by squatters who have at least been putting the structure to some meaningful use for the first time in its life.

The establishment BS is that it somehow represents “the failure of the late Hugo Chávez’s experiment in socialism”. That, despite the boondoggle being the result of completely capitalist action (it was capitalists that decided to start building it, and then failed to complete it). That, despite construction grinding to a halt in 1994 and Chávez not being elected until 1999.

Of course, the putting of the structure to meaningful use wasn’t the result of Chávez’s state socialism, either: it was grassroots action. The Chávez government at least did that effort the favor of doing nothing and letting it happen (as opposed to the more traditional governmental role of repression).

Yes, it was a dangerous place to live. And yes, there should have been better housing alternatives. No arguments there. But trying to blame a boondoggle that came to full fruition five years before Chávez was elected on Chávez is more than a little dishonest.

It’s all ending this month, because the Venezuelan government has cut a deal with Chinese state capitalism to complete the building. And yes, skepticism about the State’s promise to adequately house the displaced is completely justified.

But it should be possible to express skepticism about the Venezuelan government (something I’ve done here many times, by the way) without blaming it for boondoggles which happened well before the Bolivarian movement even came to power.

Please, Cut the Garbage about the Tunnels

Published at 14:14 on 21 July 2014

Really, how can anyone believe the hogwash about destroying the infiltration tunnels being the reason for Israel’s attacks on Gaza? Those tunnels have been being built for years. I’m sure the tunnels are being destroyed by Israel as part of its current military operations, but it wasn’t existence of the tunnels that prompted this latest round of attacks: it was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month.

So, it’s effectively a form of blunt retaliation, whereby over 500 Palestinians — none of whom have been proven guilty of the crime being retaliated for, mind you — have been murdered in return for the murder of the three Israelis. Collective punishment at its worst.

Just Ignore the “Boasting” Reports

Published at 17:18 on 18 July 2014

They’re pure garbage.

Really, all they mean is that some Bozo somewhere registered a Twitter account while claiming to be a pro-Russian rebel in the Ukraine, and then used said account to post something boasting about shooting down a plane. And then later removed the post.

Maybe it was an actual rebel who actually shot down the plane and then realized it was bad PR to boast about it. Maybe. Or maybe it was someone pulling a joke who decided the joke was in bad taste and should be removed. Or maybe it was someone on the pro-Ukraine side who was posting “black propaganda” designed to make the enemy look bad. Or someone connected with the US military-industrial complex who wants a new cold war with Russia. Or one of dozens of other plausible possibilities.

If, that is, such a post was even made in the first place. Curiously, I haven’t seen so much as a purported screen shot (itself an easy thing to fake) of it. Just an assertion that it was there and then later vanished.

Unless some far better evidence comes up, the only prudent response to such reports is to wave them off as the unsubstantiated rumors that they are.

Four Points to Remember Regarding Flight MH17

Published at 16:53 on 17 July 2014

The immediate response to the shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shows that when an adversarial nation shoots down an unarmed passenger jet, the rhetoric is that there is absolutely no excuse for such barbarism and that it proves beyond a doubt the moral depravity of the attacking nation.

The response to the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 shows that when the US itself shoots down an unarmed passenger jet, the rhetoric is that even the finest militaries in the world sometimes make mistakes, therefore such things regrettably sometimes happen, and they cannot be construed to say much about the character of the nation which did the attacking.

The response to the terrorist attack against Cubana Flight 455 shows that attacks by non-state actors against civilian aircraft, too, aren’t a super-big deal if the aircraft is owned by the national airline of an adversarial nation, and certainly aren’t reason enough to deny political asylum to anyone responsible if you agree with their political aims.

Of course, if it’s a hostile terrorist organization, then it just shows what a menace terrorism is and why it must be stamped out.

Keep those in mind in the next few days as the news of the most recent tragedy evolves.


Another Unpleasantness: Air Conditioning

Published at 11:23 on 14 July 2014

I normally work out of my home office, which like the rest of my home, and most homes in Western Washington, does not have A/C.

I didn’t use it when camping, of course. I neither have nor want one of those monster RV’s, nor do I want to confine myself to camping those misnamed RV “parks” that are more like parking lots where RV’s sit cheek-by-jowl.

And, as I wrote before, if I wasn’t engaging in physical activity, the warmth was actually pleasant. It’s great to be completely warm, even in one’s extremities, while being able to wear little or nothing. All that’s needed is to get over any hang-ups one might have about being in some state of undress. So I didn’t use the A/C in my truck on the way back, either. The breeze from the open windows on my bare chest kept me plenty comfortable.

Cut to today, when I have to don a sweatshirt against the assault of overchilled air pouring forth from the registers, and my fingers and feet are still chilly.

Sure, if this were a baking-hot Phoenix day or a steamy, muggy Atlanta one, some A/C would be most welcome. But this is Seattle, the temperature today is forecast to peak only in the mid-80s Fahrehneit, and it’s not even out of the 70s yet.

Natural ventilation would easily suffice, maybe with a dash of artificial cooling later in the afternoon, were this building built for it. And, coupled with a few cultural changes (i.e. loosening “business attire” standards), would be more, not less, comfortable.

Too add insult to injury, as a result of spending the day inside I will now become less acclimated to the heat outside, so the artificially-generated discomfort will not end when I leave the convention center this evening. Not to mention the environmental impact of all this over-cooling.

It’s not just me, either. Others have made similar observations.

Well, I’m Back

Published at 10:30 on 14 July 2014

I survived. Actually, the warmth was quite nice — provided I was sitting in the shade doing nothing and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. The rub is, I was often hiking off-trail wearing enclosed shoes and long pants to protect me from thorny shrubs (of which there are many in that area).

This is the week of a big annual convention put on by my employer. Today’s attendance is being made unpleasant by two facts:

  1. The sandals, which I had thought were not provoking my tendonitis, proving that they actually were this morning. (I hadn’t worn them for the past few days, going barefoot when not wearing enclosed shoes, and my sore toe had gotten better all the while. This morning, on the walk from the ferry to the convention center, it stared getting sore again.)
  2. The pissy and uptight staff at the convention center, who are continually trying to order me to put shoes on. Sorry, not gonna happen. I’ll be damned if I re-injure myself and jeopardize my ability to lead a weekend hike just to comply with some uptight firms’ prejudice against bare feet. They can take their prejudice and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

I Love Summer Weather… Sort Of

Published at 09:32 on 9 July 2014

We’re in the middle of a long run of forecast above-normal temperatures and it’s absolutely delightful to be able to wear shorts and a sleeveless shirt and not feel the least bit cold.

But, there’s a caveat. More precisely, I love the sort of summer weather we have where I live. Which, being on an island surrounded by cool salt water is about five degrees cooler in summer than the nearest official reporting station. Which is Seattle. Which, in turn, has some of the coolest summers of any major US city.

The warm spell I’m savoring involves lows in the 50s and highs in the upper 70s to low 80s. Which in most of the USA would qualify as a cool spell or even a record cold spell for this time of the year.

I’ve never really liked hot weather, and the agreeable summers were one of the things that made this region so attractive to me decades ago when I was getting out of college.

Which makes the pending (or should I say impending) botanical survey near Leavenworth a bit ominous. Highs are forecast to be in the 95 to 100 degree range there in the next few days. Yuck. The survey will be at elevations about 1,000 feet higher, but we’re still talking about highs above 90 most days. Still yuck.

There won’t be much humidity, so it should cool off at night and won’t be as hellishly sweltering as, say, a Chicago heat wave. But nothing can make 95 degrees Fahrenheit comfortable, only somewhat less uncomfortable.