« Light | Main | just another open thread »

January 04, 2024

Comments

That last picture is scary.

Years and years ago Glen Canyon was dammed (damned). The prediction was that the resulting reservoir would be a giant sand trap and evaporation tank. I'm not sure how true that turned out to be, but the dam has proven to be a waste for another reason: lack of water. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/report-modify-glen-canyon-dam-soon-or-risk-losing-the-colorado-river-in-the-grand-canyon/ar-AA1m4k93

According to this article the sand trap part is true: https://azpbs.org/horizon/2018/06/glen-canyon-dam-remains-controversial/

I found another article which mentioned that the dam took much longer than expected to fill because of the water that seeped through the sandstone of the canyon.

So...another example of hubris.

wonkie -- I vaguely remember that story, but wouldn't have been able to identify it as Glen Canyon. The sand trap part meant that such and such an amount of water was ... literally ... trapped, and no longer available as part of the cycle.

Hubris indeed.

I'd never heard of Gordon Bok, but was interested so went on Youtube. I liked this a lot, particularly:

If I had a thing to give you
I would tell you one more time
That the world is always
Turning toward the morning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbKkXR0lHVE

Those Boks are certainly a multi-talented bunch. Thanks, Janie.

GftNC -- yes about the Boks. :-)

Here are a couple more that I like, especially for the way Gordon Bok's voice blends with the others (which is true on Turning Toward the Morning as well) --

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJtLPnQ_5mg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6Y4fj1tKGE

Oh thank you for the reminder of that song! I can remember that from years ago!

Lovely, Janie!

I've mentioned that I've started doing my therapeutic drawing on an iPad instead of paper. Granddaughters #1 and #2 (ages 10 and 6) have now been exposed to drawing and coloring on the iPad and don't want to work on paper any more. As I'm not interested in arbitrating fair access, I'm going to have to acquire a second iPad. Anyone had any experience with refurbished units?

I haven't had any experience with Apple products, new or refurbished, in decades. But ----

When I was working, I had a desktop at home for my non-work activities, but my work laptop was my traveling machine for both work and personal purposes. When I retired in mid-2019, I had to hand the work laptop in. I wanted a laptop but wasn't sure how my finances were going to go in retirement, so I bought a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad from Newegg. (Our work laptops were Thinkpads and they were reliable workhorses.)

I paid less than $200 for that machine and it's still going strong. It's very small (physically and in terms of memory and hard drive space), so eventually I did buy another laptop that's beefier in all those ways (if nothing else, I needed space for lots of pictures). But I still use the little one for various side purposes when I'm at home, and it's still working fine.

Newegg has annoyed me more recently, but my one experience with a refurbished computer has been very good, and I'm sure Newegg isn't the only supplier.

Take it for what it's worth................

I've never had an issue with refurbished products bought from Apple. The only thing to verify, generally speaking, is the age of the product and how long it will remain supported:

https://support.apple.com/en-in/guide/ipad/ipad213a25b2/ipados

Only the eight wettest December on record in the U.K.
Thought seemed wetter in Yorkshire, where I live.

In other news, Thomas has not recused after the SC took up the Trump case.

Line which resonated from Biden’s speech today.

“We all know who Donald Trump is. The question is, who are we ?”

For those who don't visit BJ regularly, I had some pics over there today for the first time in almost a year.

https://balloon-juice.com/2024/01/05/on-the-road-janiem-2023/

On #1... Most of the climate models suggest that northern Colorado, at least, will have somewhat wetter winters and springs. For calendar year 2023, which has been sort of a global preview of climate change, where I live in NoCo finished the year about four inches above the historical average. That's significant since that average is just over 16 inches. We know a lot more about how snow forms than we used to. Seeding is not likely to help match up the right moisture content and temperature to get dendrite formation.

Related to #3... About 20 extended families in the Imperial Valley in California are collectively allocated more water from the Colorado River than either Nevada or Arizona. They grow lots of vegetables for human consumption, but the big money-maker is alfalfa shipped overseas.

Thanks, Michael. I figured you'd know something concrete and useful about some of those points.

Absolutely wonderful pics on BJ, Janie!

GftNC -- :-)

Glad you like them.

there was a proposal ... to sell Irish water to the Middle East. Again, I saw no mention of the effect on the ecosystem.

It would have been ecologically nonsensical to do this, but they've been selling Perrier, Evian, San Pellegrino etc. worldwide for ages now, so sadly this is nothing out of the ordinary. I'm looking at you Nestle, Coca Cola et al...

Somewhat but not really related, this middle aged dad could not help but notice that children today apparently are at permanent risk of dehydration and therfore need to be equipped with a (luckily refillable) water bottle at all times.

Approximately 10 percent of these are then reliably forgotten on any occasion and maybe half of them eventually retrieved again after a lot of searching and/or texting...

@Novakant -- Speaking of Nestle... I should have mentioned that in my list.

As for plastic water bottles, there was no such thing when I was young except for serious bikers. (Bicycle riders, I mean.)

I can't remember exactly when the practice took root, but I began to notice that people at the office had plastic bottles on their desks that I had previously seen only in holders on fancy bicycles. I wouldn't swear to it under oath, but I'm pretty sure it started with tech guys...

Ironically, my well water here in the north country is contaminated with arsenic, as is a lot of groundwater in the northern Appalachians. I use it for everything but drinking ... drinking water I get somewhere else. For many years I filled glass gallon jugs at a reverse osmosis machine at the grocery store. I have a different source now, but the glass jugs were fun -- they brought a lot of commentary, with people wondering what they were for. Moonshine, is what they looked like. Once I set my cart out of the way in the produce section (which is convoluted and often crowded) and walked off to get something I had forgotten. When I came back a guy was photographing the bottles. That seemed kind of cheeky.....

If you ever need bottles, big or small, plastic or glass, fancy or plain, try here. :-)

this middle aged dad could not help but notice that children today apparently are at permanent risk of dehydration and therfore need to be equipped with a (luckily refillable) water bottle at all times.

My immediate thought was that, if the parents are really in to bottled (vs tap) water, they wouldn't want their kids using the drinking fountains we all used as kids. If you have the misfortune to live in Flint, Michigan or somewhere with similar infrastructure/contamination issues, that might even make sense. But for most of the country, if you've got a municipal water system it's nonsense.

Approximately 10 percent of these are then reliably forgotten on any occasion and maybe half of them eventually retrieved again after a lot of searching and/or texting...

If you buy kid-themed water bottles from Amazon, do they offer to let you auto-purchase on a recurring schedule? They do that for some of the oddest things. For example, they offered me a "subscription" for underwear...

Why would anyone want to sell you standalone underwear, any more than they want to sell you standalone Windows or Office or Photoshop? Get that predictable income stream going....

JanieM's musings on water's role in climate change and political decisions add a thoughtful layer, prompting contemplation on our responsibility to safeguard these precious, interwoven elements of our environment.

The only Bok I've ever heard of is Bok
Globules
, and it's unclear if the sound is pleasing.

Derek Bok. Best known to me as the president of Harvard for twenty years.

Hilary Bok. Best known to me, and to everyone else here, I would guess, as hilzoy.

People do get around.

I vaguely remember hilzoy visiting Maine as a child or teenager, and being around for the haying. I must have been very new to the blog at the time.

hilzoy MENTIONING visiting Maine....

Sorry for the haste.

I know many of you have some, to put it mildly, disdain for the large language models. It's early days yet. But they're already having an impact on people's lives. For example, people have been laid off from Stack Overflow while others are making a career as YouTubers explaining and providing the latest news and gossip on LLMs and other AI subjects.

Staying on topic...

American Water: A Century of Challenges and Innovations

But they're already having an impact on people's lives.

This is undeniably so. They certainly had an impact on Michael Cohen's application to change his parole conditions, when his lawyers' submission (based on something formulated by a LLM) was found to contain several made-up cases being cited as precedent.

I don't know that anyone has said they won't have an impact on people's lives. They are likely, in fact, to have a huge impact on people's lives in many areas, many of the impacts disastrous.

My own skepticism is not about the size of the impact but the direction. And also about the hype. I've seen decades of techie hype for one technology or another that's going to solve ... practically everything. Still waiting.

(Although in the tech innovation department, even I have trouble remembering life before cell phones. And I would give up a lot before I would give up the internet.)

They certainly had an impact on Michael Cohen's application to change his parole conditions, when his lawyers' submission (based on something formulated by a LLM) was found to contain several made-up cases being cited as precedent.

That was beautifully illustrative of two things. First, that LLMs are still way far short of ready for prime time. I mean, how hard would it be to write code which would refrain from making up references, citations, etc.? (That's a serious question, by the way. How hard would it be?) Pretty clearly that needs to be done before anyone tries to use them for non-fiction, rather than fiction.

Second, the quality of lawyers available to a lot of folks who are, or were, around Trump is pretty pathetic. How could any half way competent lawyer overlook actually verifying the citations in a brief he was filing -- especially when it was written by unproven software???

We tend to overestimate the short-term impacts and underestimate the long-term impacts of new technologies.

Many of the current so-called AI technologies will become embedded in our products and services and go largely unnoticed.

The mistake Trump's lawyers made was not using an LLM, but taking it at its word. There's a value for speed over accuracy. Searching whole law libraries in seconds and taking time to verify the results have a value over paying paralegals to take days to do the search.

I had drinks on NYE with a friend of mine that works on one of the LLMs. Their position on things was that LMMs are powerful tools that are being rushed out without proper design work, interface, or implementation guidelines. They are only reliable when used by people who are both experts in the subject matter being queried and have a deep understanding of how to construct a query. I can't think of many people I know who would qualify as both.*

We could get there with time, but that would require more patience and less greed - the exact opposite of the profile of most of the people pushing the LMM envelope.

They are only reliable when used by people who are both experts in the subject matter being queried and have a deep understanding of how to construct a query.

Some of whom are being paid six-figure incomes to do just that. But that's normal with new technologies. Many of the first automobile owners paid experts to drive their cars for them.

"Some of whom are being paid six-figure incomes to do just that. But that's normal with new technologies. Many of the first automobile owners paid experts to drive their cars for them."

Limited to 5mph, with flags on the front of the car, and with someone walking ahead of the car, ringing a bell?

Maybe should try that with LLMs.

Not disdain for the LLM. LLMs are just another example of the what big data can do, fitting particular billion-coefficient nonlinear models to massive data sets. There are things I might trust such models to do, and some I might not. Myself, I carry around a much better pattern-matching engine in my head, and can make judgement decisions on its training. I have at least one retirement project where trained models could be useful. It requires recognizing cats in images. I keep this one around to remind me there are limits when dealing with limited hardware. Granddaughter #3, now 22 months old, successfully identifies the two cats in the picture.

CharlesWT - Some of whom are being paid six-figure incomes to do just that. But that's normal with new technologies. Many of the first automobile owners paid experts to drive their cars for them.

No, this is not the early adopter period for cars, bought by rich people and maintained by servants for their own personal use. This is a few rich people building public use cars, leaving them out for people to use with no instruction, and charging people by the mile if they choose to drive them.

...and trying to get it all rolled out early before the government has a chance to interrupt the gravy train with licensing and insurance requirements.

Limited to 5mph, with flags on the front of the car, and with someone walking ahead of the car, ringing a bell?

Some of which were required to accommodate the horses that were prevalent on the roads of the time. When I'm on my bicycle and encounter horses on the multi-use trails in the area, I (a) stop, (b) keep my hands wrapped around the handlebars, and (c) speak in a calm friendly tone. All of which are intended to reassure the horses that I am a human, not some random predator.

Google Bard currently does a pretty good job of analyzing images.

Two Cats in a Garden

...and trying to get it all rolled out early before the government has a chance to interrupt the gravy train with licensing and insurance requirements.

Which, with technological advancements in our lifetimes, has been a feature as much as a bug.

Which, with technological advancements in our lifetimes, has been a feature as much as a bug.

Even if one disagrees about it being a feature, vs a bug, no question that it has been what we usually see.

Charles, I don't think the disdain here is for LLM, it's disdain for people using them in ways that negate thought and reflection.

people using them in ways that negate distain thought and reflection.

Fixed that for you.

I have a boss who is enamoured of ChatGPT. But what she uses it for is first drafts. Nothing goes out without extensive review, rewriting, editing, etc. And for that purpose it can actually be useful. The horror stories we see seem always to involve using a LLM, and stopping there.

This looks like a case of people overestimating the short-term impact of AI technologies. There's some pushback by others in the article.

"Executives in the survey estimate that within the next five years, their organizations will eliminate over half (56%) of entry-level knowledge worker roles because of AI. What’s more, 79% of executives predict that entry-level knowledge worker jobs will no longer exist as AI creates an entirely new suite of roles for employees entering the workforce. On top of that, 56% say their own roles will be “completely” or “partially” replaced by AI."
Half Of All Skills Will Be Outdated Within Two Years, Study Suggests

Charles, I don't think the disdain here is for LLM, it's disdain for people using them in ways that negate thought and reflection.

Completely agree.

I meant to say earlier, lj, I'm glad you and yours are safe.

LLMs will likely replace all Tier 1 customer service and tech support jobs, and reduce the number of Tier 2 positions. This should surprise no one who worked in operations during the 90s boom. The exec teams always treated customer service and support as cost sinks and filled their entry level positions with temps from employment agencies.

And if all those support jobs get taken over by apps, then there are no workers being trained to take over the SME and resolution specialist jobs that take over from the apps as the problems move up the tiers.

Of course most of those jobs have already been outsourced to places with cheaper labor, so it may not look like the US employment market is being hit as hard as those predictions would have us expect. Those jobs haven't been going to people here for a while.

LLMs will likely replace all Tier 1 customer service and tech support jobs, and reduce the number of Tier 2 positions. This should surprise no one who worked in operations during the 90s boom. The exec teams always treated customer service and support as cost sinks

I could easily see LLMs replacing vast swathes of the major cost sink that is most exec teams. Probably with noticable productivity improvements across the enterprise.

Not that there aren't executives who are invaluable; I've worked for a couple. But the majority...?

I could easily see LLMs replacing vast swathes of the major cost sink that is most exec teams. Probably with noticable productivity improvements across the enterprise.

I'd support that. That's the sort of utopia that Bruce Sterling would have written in the 1990s.

But we are living in Finance Bro dystopia, where the only things that exist are Manager Kings and the daemons that bring their ideas to fruition.

But we are living in Finance Bro dystopia

It occurs to me that the low hanging fruit here could very well be: replace all MBAs with LLMs. Which can then have their programs tweeked to be socially responsible. Certainly the output from MBAs seems devoid of discretion or recognition of the value of people or a variety of desibable characteristics.

Replace Finance bros with LLMs!!! Might need a little tweeking. But has the makings of a great slogan.

wj - I used to have a bumper sticker (which came in the box for the Hackers game from Steve Jackson Games) on my old guitar case that said "Artificial Intelligence beats Real Stupidity." That seems to be in line with what you are suggesting.

LLMs will likely replace all Tier 1 customer service and tech support jobs, and reduce the number of Tier 2 positions. This should surprise no one who worked in operations during the 90s boom. The exec teams always treated customer service and support as cost sinks and filled their entry level positions with temps from employment agencies.
My experience in customer support, on both sides of the call, suggests that this may be an improvement although in my view better still would be to treat "customer service" as a goal rather than an expense. Alas, people who only calculate value based on immediate returns will not agree.

My experience in customer support, on both sides of the call, suggests that this may be an improvement...

An LLM that's been frontloaded with all the information a business has on its products and services has the potential to be much better than someone with limited knowledge trying to follow a response tree on their screen. A current problem is how to secure proprietary business information when given to LLMs.

And corporate profits rise, and unemployment rises as well, and income inequality grows. Desperation rises, and with it drug use and crime.

Need some sort of UBI or other economic relief to counterbalance the hollowing out all those jobs, else things are going to get more tense and messy.

Limited to 5mph, with flags on the front of the car, and with someone walking ahead of the car, ringing a bell?

Iirc that was later modified to only apply to female drivers. No bell, and the flag in the hand of the person walking ahead.
Female bicyclists were also seen as suspicious* initially but there were no regulations similar to the one above.
Medical experts in Imperial Germany recommended a mixture of donkey excrements and blueberry syrup to cure women from the desire to use bicycles (then also known as velocipeds).

*for several reasons:
1) Riding a bike could diminish their fertility (that's the same bogus reason for banning women from Olympic ski jumping).
2) Females on a bike would be a danger to others.
3) Riding a bike as a woman requires immodest clothing, so it poses a danger to public morals.
4) (usually not stated openly) Bicycles give a degree of independence women should not be given
(cf. Saudi Arabia with cars until recently).

And corporate profits rise, and unemployment rises as well, and income inequality grows. Desperation rises, and with it drug use and crime.

Need some sort of UBI or other economic relief to counterbalance the hollowing out all those jobs, else things are going to get more tense and messy.

Hey, it's things going back to the natural order of the glorious 50ies (choose century <20th ad libitum). Wall Street recently discovered that low unemployment is actually a bad thing (at least, if there is a Democratic POTUS) since it makes even white employees uppity. They only oppose indentured servitude because dentures are expensive and the common scum can do without teeth (and the natural gruel and swill diet does not require them in the first place).

This story reminded me of when nous says words to the effect of "do what you can". The "woodsman" is doing what he can.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/jan/10/new-york-winter-helping-neighbors-stay-warm-wood-burning

Has His Orangeness hired a Dalek as a lawyer or why does the guy sound like that? Throat cancer survivor maybe?

Israel’s genocide trial— arguments start today

https://jacobin.com/2024/01/south-africa-icj-isarel-gaza

On my own personal atrocity scale I would call this attempted etnic cleansing and a crime against humanity, but the legal definition of genocide is much broader and includes atrocities less severe than Rwanda, the Holocaust, etc…

So I hope Israel loses in the preliminary portion. I think it will be devastating for Gazans if the court just rejects the accusation in the preliminary stage. I am worried about political pressure on the court to do this. There is of course pressure on both sides.

Israel will reject a decision that goes against it, but it will make it more difficult for the US to blather on about a rules based order if it ignores a court order for a ceasefire.

So far I have not changed my view on whether the offense of genocide fits, but I certainly think there are several war crimes involved, and maybe also crimes against humanity (I don't know what the definition of those is). I'm not yet calling it ethnic cleansing unless there is an attempt to force the Gazans into Egypt, never to return, which certainly looked possible but perhaps less so now. I posted a depressing Guardian piece about the media landscape in Israel on the Imagining thread; I had no idea (but should have done because of rightwing American orthodox involvement) about the Foxification of Israeli media. I am working up to asking my lefty Israeli cousins how possible it still is to get reasonably unbiased news (I know, as well as the foregoing, there is quite a lot of actual censorship), but they are still pretty traumatised, albeit filled with rage and contempt for Netanyahu.

I tried to share a link with CNN but couldn't get it to work. The link was to an interview with an Israeli journalist who said he had sources within the IDF who were "shocked" as the methods they were ordered to use inside Gaza. The journalist listed specific orders which went far beyond what the IDF had previously been allowed to use. One was bombing civilian targets for the purpose of destroying moral.

That's the smoking gun, as if it wasn't obvious already. The Netanyahu regime is killing civilians and targeting civilian targets such as hospitals deliberately. Claims that they are trying to avoid killing civilians are lies.

"Morale" not "moral" though "moral" is clearly bombed out of existence too.

And in the West Bank there are stories like this:
Israeli troops did NOT intervene when two Palestinian children were shot and killed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

"The threats were sent via Facebook on Oct. 9 to residents of Qusra, a Palestinian community in the Israeli-occupied West Bank: “To all the rats in the sewers of Qusra village we are waiting for you and we will have no mercy. The day of revenge is coming.”

Two days later, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, a group of masked and armed Israeli settlers struck the village in what would be the deadliest attack by settlers in the West Bank since the Israel-Gaza war began three months ago, according to data collected by Yesh Din, an Israeli rights organization that closely monitors the settlements."

Update: At the funeral of the kids settlers again showed up and shot at least one further family member. Again Israeli authorities don't act on the matter.

This article details the extent to which Biden had to go to somewhat curb Netanyahu and the IDF in their complicity with ethnic cleansing by illegal settlers.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pressuring-israel-works/ar-AA1mOCCn

Yes, I must say I think so far there is better evidence for incremental ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, committed by and for the benefit of settlers.

I think demolishing much of northern Gaza making it uninhabitable, plus a large number of statements by Israeli officials including Bibi shows that the intent was to drive out the Palestinians. There is zero doubt about this being the intent of many Israeli officials. Netanyahu backtracked yesterday, probabky because of the trial. But they have already established facts on the ground— who is going to pay to bulldoze the rubble and then rebuild?

I think it almost doesn’t matter now what they say. There is going to be a humanitarian argument that Palestinians can’t go back to the leveled areas— they need immediate shelter now. Not tents. They need adequate sanitation, some way to feed themselves, clean water, functioning hospitals. Are they going to get this in Gaza? I think forcible expulsion— that is, actually forcing them out at gunpoint— is too hard to justify, but if you have horrific living conditions you can plead for “ voluntary” emigration to save lives and here is the beauty of it— you might not be wrong.

Alternatively, Gazans can stay where they are, live in misery, and suffer greatly increased mortality rates.

Biden, of course, can keep making these gentle suggestions to bomb less and let in more aid and stop saying that Palestinians need to leave while continuing to give Israel all the weapons they want. We have been telling them for decades that expanded settlements are not helpful. It’s theater. They do what they want , we make complaining noises and give them weapons.


A lot of the thinking seems to be that various Atab states will pay to rebuild Gaza, but only on the condition of a two state solution. Which means, of course, Netanyahu out (apparently 70% of the Israeli population want this latter). I don't know how practicable any of this is.

Arab not Atab

A lot of the thinking seems to be that various Atab states will pay to rebuild Gaza...

Last I knew the IDF was still pumping sea water into the Hamas tunnels at a high rate. If that goes on long enough, we know where it leads: low-lying inland areas turn into salt marshes; all the fresh-water aquifers contaminated with salt, and probably some other nasties; soil destabilized to the point that it won't support construction.

Even the Arab states aren't going to foot the bill to make it habitable again.

I think the Biden plan is bith arrogant and dekusional.

Arrogant, because they think they can kill tens of thousands of Gazans and make it all right after the war, but first they have to achieve their alleged goals no matter what the cost.

Delusional because the Israelis think they can outlast him and they are probably right. He has shown no willingness to put real pressure on Israel. Trump might win. They can now say they don’t intend to expel everyone. So what? They have driven most of them out of their homes and destroyed their homes. Just wait things out and if they win the court case the biggest source of pressure is off. Say one thing, do another, keep building settlements, let the Gazans suffer and with any luck the attention of the press moves on. And maybe Gazans will give up and move.

The start of Silverman's nightly Ukraine post at BJ:

I want to make a quick point about something that has nothing to do with Ukraine. I know by now everyone has seen the video of Bibi’s statement from last night in English regarding Israeli objectives in Gaza. The statement isn’t worth the breath he used to make it. Bibi has for decades said one thing in English when pressured by the US or attempting to get ahead of a US response. He does it very publicly and everyone in the US pats themselves on their backs. Then the next day or a few days later he gives a statement in Hebrew. It isn’t widely promoted by Bibi, his trusted aides, surrogates, supporters, and friendly to him Israeli media. It always contradicts the English statement and the reason for that is the statement in Hebrew is the real statement. The statement in English is bullshit. It can and should always be ignored. Bibi does this because he thinks American journalists, politicians, and Americans in general are stupid. And every time he does this his belief in American stupidity is almost always rewarded. Here’s the real statement in Hebrew:

[from a tweet:]Noga Tarnopolsky נגה טרנופולסקי نوغا ترنوبولسكي💙
@NTarnopolsky
💥Netanyahu has a Hebrew-lang vid today. He didn't say "Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its population." He said "We are fighting terrorists & fighting lies… an upside down world, in which Israel is accused of genocide while fighting genocide"

The historic irony here is this was Yasser Arafat’s communications strategy for decades. He’d say whatever he though the US wanted to hear in English and then make the real statement in Arabic knowing that no one in the US news media would cover the latter, largely because they had no idea what he was saying in Arabic.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Oh great, now we have a war (not a proxy war) with the Houthis in Yemen

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/us/politics/us-houthi-missile-strikes.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2024/jan/12/middle-east-crisis-live-updates-yemen-houthi-rebels-joe-biden-us-uk-airtstrikes-red-sea-crisis-israel-gaza-war

You can invade other countries and kill as many people as you want - but don't mess with shipping lanes...

Hmm. I saw Netanyahu giving a speech in English, in which he said the exact words Tamopolsky quotes he said in Hebrew. That doesn't confirm, of course, whether or not he omitted in Hebrew the bit about not occupying Gaza, but it is interesting.

GftNC -- it would be interesting to see if Adam S. is misled, or misleading, or neither. But I don't have time to chase it down and I don't comment at BJ anyhow. And even if I did, I wouldn't comment on his threads.

I wouldn’t take the Hebrew- English thing literally— the point is Netanyahu is famous as an ideologue and a liar. Here is a piece from 10 years ago.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/netanyahu-playing-us-for_b_5423717

He wants an ethnic cleansing for Gaza and there have been news stories about his government searching for countries willing to take Gazans. It would be marketed as humanitarian and voluntary. Voluntary in the sense that facing the choice between watching their children die and leaving Gaza, people might voluntarily choose to leave Gaza. The fact that he now denies it will happen is because all the officials who have been making statements that urged emigration ( along with others more explicitly genocidal) were used as central to the South African case charging genocide. Intent is a crucial part of the case. So now Netanyahu has to backtrack.

But if he can get a large number of Gazans to leave without having to face genocide charges, he’d do it.

The South African case

https://www.icj-cij.org/sites/default/files/case-related/192/192-20231228-app-01-00-en.pdf

The genocidal statements start on page 59. I think you could argue that most of Netanyahu’s refer to Hamas— I think he really means everyone, but can’t prove it. But the Amalek references are genocidal. He is appealing to his genocidal base without explicitly saying the words himself.

I haven’t read the whole document. News stories about wanting to.move Gazans have appeared in the Washington Post and other places.

The other statements by various Israeli officials are more explicitly genocidal and some also urge ethnic cleansing.

I think the only defense would be to say “ well, they didn’t really mean it.” But the destruction seems deliberate and not just about tunnels. I have seen some of the videos on Twitter— Israeli soldiers placing explosives, joking, having a great time, and then flicking a switch and there is a huge explosion and they are all laughing. ( To be clear, these are presumably empty buildings. ) There was an entire neighborhood blown up this way that I saw several days ago. The IDF seems to have no discipline in some respects— you would think they would clamp a lid on soldiers putting up these videos. I know they don’t do anything beyond a west slap if a Palestinian civilian is filmed being killed but you would think they would care about bad PR.

One thing about the internet— it has gotten much harder for the mainstream press to play gatekeeper these days. They can still downplay or ignore some stores but if you are interested in any particular story you don’t have to depend on them. Of course you can’t do this with everything.

Nothing much would surprise me about Netanyahu's wishes, or intentions. And he is and has been a duplicitous bastard mainly interested for some years in beating a corruption rap and staying out of jail (very like Trump).

What the wishes and intentions of the Israeli public are is almost impossible to gauge at this point. I take heart that 70% want him gone, but apart from that the fractured Israeli political and ideological situation, let alone their electoral system, makes it very hard to know. What I can say is that, as well as not accepting (yet) that the Israelis are committing genocide, I also think that Netanyahu's comment that the Israelis are fighting genocide is beyond absurd (despite what I understand to be the statements about the commitment to obliterate Israel in the Hamas foundation document), and just goes to show how a word like genocide ("the crime of crimes") should not be tossed around until it loses all meaning.

@Donald in general -- you are much better informed than I am, but IIRC, very early on the Israelis told Gazans to leave the north and go south because they (the Israelis) were going to bomb the north. Then, more recently, they were bombing the south as well. So WTF?

And even if someone is willing to pay to rebuild what has been destroyed, and (per Michael) that's actually possible, where are 2 million people going to live in the meantime? It will be years.

Standard disclaimer: this is not to justify Hamas. And I will stop there, because all I have is grief and a bunch of generalizations about the likes of Putin, Clickbait, Netanyahu, Orban, and their followers....

GftNC: just goes to show how a word like genocide ("the crime of crimes") should not be tossed around until it loses all meaning.

You can't stop the process of words having fuzzy and evolving meanings. And if other people even here in this relatively amicable discussion forum understand a word differently from you, they, or we collectively, are only exemplifying the reality of the wider world.

If the meaning of the word were as crystal clear as you assert that it is, then we wouldn't need courts and judges to decide cases revolving around it. But you can't walk into the courtroom and say "Hey judge, it's clearly not genocide according to the clear meaning of the word, so you might as well send everyone home." There would be very smart lawyers on both sides, debating how its meaning in the legal definition fits or doesn’t fit with the actions of the party being accused, and in that very process, debating and examining what exactly the definition means.

I asked a lawyer friend of mine to read the legal definition, and he said "It's mind-bogglingly ambiguous." Now, he's got a tendency to hyperbole, but he pointed out the same thing Donald did a couple of months ago, the "in whole or in part" language.

I think it’s important to separate the two things: you can have your opinion on what “genocide” means and on how it relates to actions someone has taken, and I think everyone here at ObWi respects your opinion and your right to express it. But you don’t have a monopoly on the one clear meaning of the word, and I think that would have been true right from the start in the late 1940s. Again, that’s why the word is at the center of a process that requires judges and lawyers and a whole legal construct to deal with it. It’s never going to be “here’s the clear meaning, did country XYZ commit genocide?” The argument is always going to have a component of “what do those words in the ‘definition’ actually mean in the big wide messy world?”

Looking for dates, I came upon this summary of definitions. Fascinating.

(There's a difference between actually believing you know the one clear meaning of a word, and asserting that you do as an argumentation tactic. And maybe I'm missing some nuance in that regard. Anyhow, I've been thinking a lot about both definitions and argumentation tactics lately, but that's a thread for another time. Strawman? Red herring? Begging the question? Strawman in particular is interesting in terms of the difference between its strict meaning and its casual meaning. And most of the instances of "beg the question" I hear/see are intended to mean something entirely different from what the phrase means in logic.)

Yup, it's an ongoing discussion all right, and that's fine with me. Netanyahu's saying the Israelis are fighting a genocide (even despite the Hamas avowed aim) seems almost as ridiculous to me as, say, calling what Dylann Roof did in Charleston genocide. After all, he did kill ten African Americans specifically because they were black, so that could qualify under the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part. To me, that would be an insane dilution of an important and necessary term, needed not only as the definition of a crime, but also to express what might be the ultimate moral horror (I can't think of a worse one off the top of my head).

Whether it becomes a case of "how many dead counts as a genocide", or "how the victim group is defined by the perpetrator", I still believe in fighting to preserve the usefulness (and moral force) of the term, while totally accepting and arguing that there are other, appalling crimes of mass killing which nonetheless do not meet its definition.

The UN has never, to date, come through with a finding of genocide in any case before the ICC. Closest they have ever come was in the cases over Srebrenica, and there they could only declare that Serbia had "failed to prevent" genocide. The UN did not go full-g-word even for Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya.

So it seems as if the general squeamishness to use the word in anything but extremis is mostly serving the purpose of making sure that the UN has no power to intervene on behalf of marginalized communities who are being targeted by the state in control of the territory in which those communities are located.

Something about this needs to change.

Sorry, ICJ, not ICC.

On your last para, Janie, I don't think I know the one clear meaning of the word. It is true that I believe, in general and in principle, that it is worthwhile (to say the least) to preserve the integrity of language, for reasons I have explained and which would not exclude its long-term natural evolution over time. I think for me the ongoing discussion, maybe in your definition argumentation, is valuable with the aim of a) explanation and clarification of viewpoint, b) in hopes to effect understanding and possibly then consensus or at least tolerance - from both directions. To me, and I bet some others, this is a rare forum where one can hash this question out and not get ostracised for it. I have no idea how rare that is on the internet, but pretty rare I imagine.

(I haven't heard anybody arguing that Netanyahu's reference to genocide was because the October 7th massacre was done specifically to target "the Jews", which expression is used interchangeably with "Israelis" by Hamas and probably many Palestinians. For the record, I still think this is an absurd use of the term.)

So it seems as if the general squeamishness to use the word in anything but extremis is mostly serving the purpose of making sure that the UN has no power to intervene on behalf of marginalized communities who are being targeted by the state in control of the territory in which those communities are located

I would want that purpose to be evaded by ensuring that the offence of genocide was not the only way to prosecute the state in such a case.
But then, I have long wished that the UN was more like the United Federation of Planets.

I understand the importance of using words correctly. I understand the reluctance to apply a very loaded word to a situation which, while bad, is not as bad as what the loaded word means.

On the other hand, resistance to using the very loaded word can lead to failure to respond to the bad situation until it gets worse.

The Republican party, for example, went fascist a long time ago. NO exact date is identifiable, but Tom DeLay made his statement that the goal of the Republicans was to create a one-party state way back in the Bush admin. Since that time the Republican party has gone on a national effort to gerrymander, suppress votes, and pack courts with extremists while substituting hate language for legitimate political discourse--and we are only just now calling the party fascist? Maybe if we had gotten over any illusions about the Republican party way back then, we wouldn't be on the cusp of losing our representative government now.

The Israeli government is at this point in time engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass murder. What's to stop genocide from coming next?

If it were up to me, there would be several levels of war crime. My definitions —

Just plain vanilla war crimes— you probably have these in every war on both sides, or close to it.

Crimes against humanity— a pattern of systematic atrocities, probably including mass murder, rape, torture, destruction of infrastructure

Genocide— the layperson definition which is what I think Gftnc is using and would refer to murder of a group on a scale that anmounts to a very large fraction of the group— the Holocaust, Rwanda, the Roma, Armenian genocide, Hereo, some Native American tribes are all examples

Also

Ethnic cleansing— same definition as usual

So with my definition, both Hamas and Israel are in Crime Against Humanity territory. I think Israel also planned ethnic cleansing.


But the world doesn’t go by my definitions and one sees the term genocide used a lot. It matters here because if the court rules the way I want, it puts real pressure on the West to rein in Israel. So it has a very practical consequence and so even if I might personally prefer Gftnc’s definition, I think Israel’s conduct might fit the loose legal one and I very much hope the Court rules that way.

I think the ruling will be decided by politics, however.

Even if the ruling goes the wrong way, I think the process has already done some good. Israel is walking back the ethnic cleansing language. I don’t trust them, but they are under pressure.

And it is the first example of something I wasn’t expecting to see— a Western government forced to defend itself in court. Give this time and maybe western officials will lose their sense that they never can be held accountable. I think the mere fact of this trial is a tremendous shock. I hope.

Now as for holding Russia and China accountable, I have no good ideas. But it would help in the rest of the world if the West really was seen as living up to its professed values.

Jamie’s—. Yes, Israel told them to flee south and then started using those 2000 lb bombs in the south.

I agree to a large extent with Donald's definitions, with these amendments:

War crimes (vanilla): to include purposeful destruction of infrastructure, including collateral incidental killing of civilians.

Crimes against humanity: systematic atrocities, including mass murder, rape, torture. Kidnapping of hostages, and their use as human shields. This covers, of course, a lot of what Hamas did on October 7th. Also, cutting off supplies of water, food, fuel and medicine to civilian populations. Attacks on medical facilities, schools etc. This, as well as War Crimes above, covers a lot of what Israel has done.

Ethnic Cleansing: Donald does not define, but I'm hoping we use the same definition. I am not sure I agree that Israel was actually intending ethnic cleansing of Gaza, and to tell the truth I am currently too sickened by the whole thing to drill down into the various links, but if they were, and they are now walking it back, that's something at least.

Genocide: I don't know about a layperson definition, but I am prepared to accept the UN Convention on Genocide definition, which (despite what I have always thought was too much ambiguity) insists on intentionality: intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

So, as I have said ad nauseam, on this definition I believe Israel's actions do not constitute genocide, and I therefore hope that the court finds so, for reasons of accuracy and also to preserve the use of the charge for undoubted cases of genocide. However, since in my opinion and according to these definitions there is no doubt that Israel is committing not only war crimes, but also crimes against humanity, I hope that the court finds that they must at least immediately stop much of what they are doing, which seems according to the commentators I have seen, a likely outcome in the near future. I really do hope this is so. And since I am talking about my hopes, I also hope that Netanyahu is gone soon, and that an Israeli government gets truly serious about a two state solution.

As for Donald's satisfaction at a Western government losing its assumptions of impunity, I share it. I also, unfortunately, share his lack of good ideas about Russia and China.

I very much hope everybody here realises that despite the fact that I argue my case (sic), i.e. my opinion, very passionately, I have absolutely no wish to shut down ongoing discussion, of this subject or anything else!

A US District Court judge in Alabama has denied the appeal from a death row prisoner who doesn't want to be the first person executed by nitrogen hypoxia. Airgas, a subsidiary of Air Liquide, has notified the state that they can't use Airgas products to design or apply a hypoxia execution system for humans. Alabama undoubtedly buys a lot of dry nitrogen of various grades for assorted purposes.

I had a summer job at a state university ag field lab (not in Alabama) when I was an undergraduate. We went through several cylinders of dry nitrogen every growing season. It was used as a purge gas in parts of the air sampling system. The building down the road from us was the machine shop for the lab complex, and used a lot more nitrogen than we did.

Gftnc—

No problem. I get depressed talking about this, obviously, in part because beyond wanting the war to stop, I don’t see a solution.

Also I see this as part of a larger problem where Western leaders just can’t seem to think straight on foreign policy issues. The Biden administration seems to think they can somehow produce a 2ss and everyone will live happily ever after, as though Palestinians will just get over what happened or as if the Israeli right will suddenly give up their own dreams of a 1ss, which is more or less what they have had. In the meantime though, they are with Israel all the way, which I think is madness.

And then there is Trump. Our presidential election season couldn’t come at a worst time.

I want the genocide trial to put presssure on Israel and its Western supporters but I am not expecting much.

Despite how much Israel does to erode it, it still has the moral high ground in the Middle East. It's a multiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious democratic country with no second-class citizens. That's a lot more than can be said about other Middle Eastern countries.

"with no second-class citizens."

I think that Israeli Palestinians would argue with you about that.

Not only is the "no second-class citizens" description pretty ridiculous, but the "multiireligious" bit is pretty questionable too. It is impossible for a Jew to marry a non-Jew (or even a Reform convert) legally in Israel (unless one of them is foreign, and they get married in that country's Embassy - i.e. not on Israeli soil). It is one of the ways that the ultra-orthodox have managed to control family law. Israel is not a theocracy, but to describe it as Charles does is extremely misleading.

"with no second-class citizens."

It might be more accurate to say that, while Israel does have second class citizens, they are at least citizens. With voting rights and stuff. And where else in the Middle East do people (even people belonging to the same ethnic group as the rulers) get even that much?

It is, admittedly, a low bar. But still, Israel does manage to sit above it, for the moment at least, and I'm not thinking of another country in the Middle East that does.

I *think* that the Coptic christians in Egypt are considered 'citizens', but could be second class.

But they're a weird bunch, so whatever.

My objection would be that I don't think that we can categorically identify representative government with moral high ground. I'd argue that the US had higher moral ground during Lincoln's dictatorship and the Reconstruction period than it did just before or just after those periods.

How should we assess the moral standing of Prussia under Frederick the Great?

Demicracies can vote to practice slavery or Jim Crow or apartheid, or to practice torture or commit war crimes. ( The non- voting people are occupied or enslaved or tortured, etc..,,)

I’m not sure moral high ground is the appropriate terminology to use in such cases.

One type of comment Israelis and others make is that Gazans in general are guilty because they voted for Hamas. ( nearly 20 years ago). So people use “ democracy” to claim moral superiority or to show that the other side deserves to be bombed, depending on the rhetorical need.

Israel is an apartheid state.
The current regime allows illegal settlers to kill Palestinians to steal their property.
Harassment of Palestinians is institutionalized to get them to move "voluntarily" so that their property can be given to settlers.
Palestinians are incarcerated--including children--by the thousands for the "crime" of defending themselves with rocks or words against the theft of their property. No charges, no trial.
The IDF has such a big problem with abusive behavior toward Palestinians that a former member described them as a terrorist organization. https://youtu.be/Bch_qZFYHk0
SInce the 1980's about 80% of the deaths in the conflict have been Palestinians.
In the on-going ethnic cleansing campaign in Gaza, tens of thousands of people have been killed, thousands have been injured, thousands of children are not orphans, and the Israel government is doing it's best to make Gaza uninhabitable.
Israel has the moral high ground over who? Not the people being killed, incarcerated, robbed, or forced into refugee camps.

How should we assess the moral standing of Prussia under Frederick the Great?

By comparision. In foreign policy Prussia under him was a bit of a rogue state. He took Silesia without pretense (one was fabricated later but he mocked it mercilessly) because "If there is an opportunity, why not take it?" and because he saw it as his "rendezvous with glory".

Domestically he went farther down the path of his father as a reformer towards more rule of law than rule of man making the judicial system more equal and less brutal (working on a binding civil code for the whole country, prosecuting corrupt judicial officials, abolishing torture, fewer acts punished by death and by less cruel methods etc.) but he remained an "enlightened despot". As one historian put it: "all for the people, nothing by the people". The officer corps of the army was also reserved for the born* nobility. During the 7 Years War he had to commission some commoners as officers but those got decommissioned without exception when the war ended.
On the other hand Prussia (since Friedrich's father) considered nobility as carrying duties to the state, in particular military service as officers, i.e. nobles had to constantly earn the privileges they got via birth, thus preventing them from becoming a purely parasitic class as in other European countries.
Like his father he subordinated the person of the king to the office of kingship which in turn was subordinated to the state. His father called himself the prime minister and minister of war of the King of Prussia and Friedrich called himself the first servant of the state.
Prussia under him was the first European state to recognize the US as an independent state by a treaty in 1785.
While the idea was introduced by his father, it was him who actually enforced compulsory education for everyone (which also served as a retirement program for ex-soldiers).
So, by the standards of the age there were lots of progressive elements. Unfortunately, his successors kept mainly the reactionary and got rid of many progressive ones.
Friedrich was religiously indifferent and thus tolerant, his successors less so. Although Friedrich personally disliked Jews, there was no persecution and he kept his father's policy** of welcoming Muslims (mainly in the military) since after the devastations of the 30 Years War the country had an urgent need for repopulation and was willing to give everyone willing to and capable of work a chance.
Btw, despite the militaristic image, Prussia spent less time at war than almost all other European powers and was less inclined to actually start one by itself (as opposed to treaty obligations or national defense). A major part of that was the lack of colonial ambitions*** probably caused by the fiasco Friedrich's great-grandfather suffered when trying to establish an African colony (for the purpose of trading in slaves).

In general liberal/progessive ideas were favored because/where they were seen as useful for the state and not because of philosophical or ideological considerations, so it was mainly utilitarian in nature.

*the later common practice of ennobling commoners of merit did not find favor with him.
** "If Muslims and pagans come here to settle, we will build them mosques and temples" (the church hierachies were quite unhappy when he followed up on that promise and first repurposed a church in Postdam for use of the Muslims in his royal guard and later had a regular mosque built).
***Bismarck was later forced against his better judgement to acquire colonies due to public pressure but his greatest achievement there was exchanging Sansibar for (then British) Hel(i)goland, which was VERY unpopular at the time. Well, we still have it while the Brits lost theirs ;-)

And where else in the Middle East do people...get even that much?

Oh, gee, I dunno'. Lebanon? Jordan? Iraq? Why, they even hold elections in Iran, from what I have heard. But sure, the fact that Israeli Arabs can vote and sit in the legislature with absolutely no effective power....well, the "moral high ground" is indeed a low bar.

The current regime allows illegal settlers to kill Palestinians to steal their property.

Thank you, wonkie. This is absolutely true.

Israel is on a policy path to realize the goal of extending their state from sea to shining sea. In the face of this bald assed fact, we cannot be angrily admonished enough about some words in a Hamas propaganda piece and a tragic history of utterly ineffectual Palestinian political action.

It's all the losers' fault, don'tcha' know. Murc's Law seems to apply in other countries as well as here.

The comments to this entry are closed.