Squashed

Jul 20

kohenari said: The school's abandoned. It's not a working school. It's not clear why you're so sure there's no way to secure those weapons such that the best or only possible option is to give them to people who might very well fire them at civilians.

I’m clearly not 100% certain that there wasn’t *some other way* to secure the weapons. Maybe there was a hobbyist munitions disposal expert on staff. But … there probably wasn’t.

Israel has a pretty clearly telegraphed pattern of bombing buildings it believes weapons are being stored in. There is certainly not an exception for abandoned schools. Getting the things out of the school is a priority. I just don’t anticipate that UNRWA has munitions expert on staff. Arranging for the Palestinian Authority to haul them off is probably the least bad option.

Is there a chance that the Palestinian Authority will turn them over to somebody else who would attempt launch them at civilians? Maybe. Let’s assume there is. And is there a chance that these 20 missiles will actually be launched? Maybe—though quantity of missiles doesn’t seem to be the limiting factor.) Is there a chance that one of those 20 missiles will defy the odds and actually hurt somebody? It’s slim. But there’s a chance.

The alternative seems to involve inviting an airstrike from Israel on the school. Those kill people.

Edit: Ari comments, ” It’s not the Palestinian Authority. The rockets were turned over to people in Gaza who they think are under the direction of the unity government. Are they? Who knows. But you’re making it seem that this school is filled with people, mostly children.” I don’t really have a source for any of this except Ari and the press release, so I’m trying to make a few inferences.

I assume “Who knows?” is intended as a rhetorical question—but it strikes me that UNRWA probably does know.

I’m not trying to make it look like the school is being used as a school at the moment. This post began with Ari’s statement, “The school’s abandonned,” which seems pretty unambiguous that there aren’t a ton of children running about it. However, the school is clearly not so abandoned that nobody is ever in it. Somebody found the rockets during a routine inspection. And any effort to secure said rockets beyond a padlock would require somebody to be there securing them. I would not be eager to volunteer for that particular job. I don’t know if I’d be more worried about the people who stowed the rockets or the airstrikes.

“According to longstanding UN practice in UN humanitarian operations worldwide, incidents involving unexploded ordnance that could endanger beneficiaries and staff are referred to the local authorities.” —

That’s UNRWA’s director of advocacy and strategic communications, Christopher Gunness, explaining why UNRWA gave rockets it found in one of its abandoned schools back to “local authorities” in Gaza.

It’s not entirely clear to whom the rockets were given, but there’s the suggestion that it was Palestinians who are apparently under the authority of the unity government in Ramallah rather than Hamas militants.

Either way, I don’t see how this can be seen as anything but an astonishingly foolish thing for a UN agency to do.

(via kohenari)

I’m not quite sure what the alternative is. You’re running a school. Presumably you run it like a school rather than a prison—so maybe something gets smuggled in. Somebody stows something extremely dangerous in the basement. your options seem to be fourfold.

  1. Ignore it and hope for the best. (What could go wrong?)
  2. Try to have some amateurs dispose of some missiles. (What could go wrong?)
  3. Call the occupying authority.
  4. Call the nominal local authority.

Option four isn’t a particularly great option. Options one through three are terrible. (I think that Option 5: Contact another U.N. agency that actually has the technical capability of disposing of unexploded ordinance and hope they can teleport there is not a fake option.)

I won’t say that Israel single-handedly created the situation where the local authorities are plausibly connected with the people storing missiles in a school. But as between UNRWA and Israel, UNRWA isn’t an occupying power destabilizing civil authorities to the point that “just call the police” is somehow a punchline.

(via kohenari)

Jul 19

Accuracy

I just got an email from Lessig’s Rootstriker group quoting an article from The Nation titled, Citigroup Just Bought a $7 Billion Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card. The email and the article demand criminal prosecution instead of these massive “paltry” civil settlements.

Except the settlement at issue doesn’t preclude criminal prosecution. So the headline is dead wrong. It would be more accurate to say, “Citigroup settled a suit for $7 billion and didn’t even get a Get Out of Jail Free card.”

Also … $7 billion is a lot of money by any standard. For comparison, it cost about $3.9 billion to build One World Trade Center. To put that in context, here is JPMorgan recently settled a similar suit for $13 billion, which was the biggest settlement by any single defendant in U.S. history. I’m unable to find a verdict after trial (that was actually collected) that comes anywhere close.

I’m all for criminal prosecutions if the charge will stick—but $7 billion isn’t paltry by any standard.

Jul 18

Watching the respective atrocities and attempted atrocities of Israel and Hamas really drives home how relative and irrelevant discussions of the moral high ground can be. Because it’s really about who has plummeted into the deepest moral depths and whether anybody should care.

(But side note: why are we sending billions in foreign aid to Israel at this point?)

For those who don’t know, this dog’s name is Beckett. He’s inhumanly fast and wicked smart.

Well … wicked smart for a dog. By human terms that’s not terribly smart. Basically he’ll fall for the oldest trick in the book multiple times before catching on. 

The pose he’s in, with the toy bone, is basically a game of steal the bacon. If I get it first, I throw it and we play fetch. If he gets it first, we play tug. Tug is a stupid game.

Obviously, he’s faster than I am. But if I wave my left hand around, he stops paying attention to the right. “Look a squirrel!” also works. The only problem is that he’ll eventually catch on.  And then I’ll have taught one of God’s innocent creatures about lying.

For those who don’t know, this dog’s name is Beckett. He’s inhumanly fast and wicked smart.

Well … wicked smart for a dog. By human terms that’s not terribly smart. Basically he’ll fall for the oldest trick in the book multiple times before catching on.

The pose he’s in, with the toy bone, is basically a game of steal the bacon. If I get it first, I throw it and we play fetch. If he gets it first, we play tug. Tug is a stupid game.

Obviously, he’s faster than I am. But if I wave my left hand around, he stops paying attention to the right. “Look a squirrel!” also works. The only problem is that he’ll eventually catch on. And then I’ll have taught one of God’s innocent creatures about lying.

Jul 17

"I sue banks."

"What do you do?" is one of those questions that calls for different levels of detail depending on the context. If I’m feeling particularly glib, I sometimes answer, "I sue banks."

People rarely ask the obvious follow-ups. Why do you sue banks? What did the banks do to deserve so much suing?

Instead they say things like, “That’s God’s work. Keep it up.”

This is a pretty dramatic shift from a few years back. Previously people wanted details. Are you suing banks because you’re a money-grubbing lawyer or some kind of quixotic bleeding heart who doesn’t understand the financial system?1 That’s all changed.

Some of it was the recession. Some of it was Occupy. Whatever the cause, it’s a pretty widespread assumption that the banks are so thoroughly up to things they should not be up to that the specifics of why they’re being sued isn’t particularly relevant. “I sue banks” is a bit like saying, “I punch Nazis.”


  1. The answer I’m looking for is quixotic bleeding heart with a head for numbers. 

“In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, [Manuel Noriega,] the 80-year-old once known as one of Latin America’s most powerful strongmen accused the Activision Blizzard video game company of harming his reputation with “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” Noriega — convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and killing political opponents — is serving out a prison sentence in Panama, where he was extradited in 2011.” — Manuel Noriega sues over ‘Call of Duty’ video game - CNN.com

Jul 16

“The theory that those who start reasonably equal cannot remain reasonably equal is a fallacy founded entirely on a society in which they start extremely unequal.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity (1927).

Jul 15

“Congress sought to deal with this problem in 1997 by passing the Leahy amendment, a provision named after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that prohibits aid to units and individuals thought to be involved in gross human rights violations…. Such vetting ought to be built into the new partnership program. But the administration is seeking to neuter the Leahy amendment by giving the defense secretary the authority to disregard it by asserting that “it is in the national security interest to do so.” In fact, allowing aid to flow to foreign military units that commit major human rights crimes cannot be in the U.S. interest in any circumstances. Congress should reject the ­exemption.” — U.S. should aid those who fight terror, not abet human rights abuses - The Washington Post

Jul 14

[video]