Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yet another weather report

Friday was bright and clear and 20 below with a windchill of 40 below. It began to warm overnight. This morning it was 17 above and snowing. Patrick and I went to the Mall of America to do some mall walking. He is feeling a bit sick, maybe in response to his flu shot, so we walked slowly and did not do the full mile and a half tour.

After we got back home, I loaded some fiction in the little Acer netbook computer which Pat is loaning me; and I am currently at the local coffee house happily tapping away. The Acer is smaller than a college notebook and weighs maybe two pounds. It is a genuinely portable computer.

There's a show at the coffee house, photos people took of the Republican National Convention. They are snapshots blown up to 8 by 10 or whatever, not art, but my first real view of the convention. The demonstrators look pretty normal -- a mix of young punk people, older peace and justice types and the occasional "Get the US out of the UN" person. The cops look terrifying -- armored, helmeted, armed and grim. This is not community policing. It is the naked might of the state.

Well, I promised myself I would lay off politics. Time to get back to the stories in the Acer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

That's It

I am going to switch to other topics. This blog is supposed to be about science fiction and bird watching.


I was going to stop posting about Gaza, but I got a comment on one of my prevous posts saying that Israel was perfectly willing to stop killing Palestinians, if only Palestinians would let Israel live in peace. I found the comment deeply offensive, because it cried many crocodile tears about the Palestinian kids who had to be killed, because of Hamas. It's Israeli bombs that are killing the kids, dropped into a crowded refugee camp with no escape. Since the bombs have hit schools, hospitals and UN buildings -- places where you might expect to find frightened or injured children and theri families, I think we can assume that the bombs were aimed at the kids. If you don't want to kill kids, then don't do it. If you do it, don't tell me you don't want to.

What follows is by Norman Finkelstein, author of five books, including Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Beyond Chutzpah and The Holocaust Industry, which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions. He is a crabby scholar, who will tell you more than you want to know about Israel and Palestine. I have copied five paragraphs. The rest can be found at the Counterpunch website.

...The main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one; to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in layman’s language basically means Israel’s capacity to terrorize the region into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.

And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border. That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international consensus, they had joined most of the international community, overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas...

Every year, the United Nations General Assembly votes on a resolution entitled “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” And every year the vote is the same: it’s the whole world on one side; Israel, the United States and some South Sea atolls and Australia on the other side. The vote this past year was 164-to-7. Every year since 1989—in 1989, the vote was 151-to-3, the whole world on one side, the United States, Israel and the island state of Dominica on the other side.

We have the Arab League, all twenty-two members of the Arab League, favoring a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We have the Palestinian Authority favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We now have Hamas favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. The one and only obstacle is Israel, backed by the United States. That’s the problem...

I think it’s fairly clear what needs to happen... The United States and Israel have to join the rest of the international community, have to abide by international law. I don’t think international law should be trivialized. I think it’s a serious issue. If Israel is in defiance of international law, it should be called into account, just like any other state in the world.
A final remark by me. The comment on my post said Israelis would never put down arms until Jews were safe. I spent six years in Detroit when the murder rate was 800 a year. The city was full of people with guns, defending themselves against their neighbors. It did not make for safety. Law makes us safe. "The land is built on law" as the famous Icelandic saga says. Justice makes us safe. Respect for our neighbors makes us safe. Negotiation and cooperation make us safe.

Is there never an argument for violence? I'm not sure. But I am sure that violence does not make people safe.

Union Miracle

From the weblog Firedoglake:
They're calling it a miracle--the successful landing of a US Airways jet in the Hudson and subsequent rescue of all 155 passengers. They're detailing the heroism of all involved, starting with the pilot and including cabin crew, ferry crews, and first responders. What they're not telling you is that just about every single one of these heros is a union member.

There's the pilot:

What might have been a catastrophe in New York — one that evoked the feel if not the scale of the Sept. 11 attack — was averted by a pilot’s quick thinking and deft maneuvers.

On board, the pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, unable to get back to La Guardia, had made a command decision to avoid densely populated areas and try for the Hudson.

When all were out, the pilot walked up and down the aisle twice to make sure the plane was empty, officials said.

Sullenberger is a former national committee member and the former safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association and now represented by US Airline Pilots Association. He--and his union--have fought to ensure pilots get the kind of safety training to pull off what he did yesterday.

Then there are the flight attendants:

One passenger, Elizabeth McHugh, 64, of Charlotte, seated on the aisle near the rear, said flight attendants shouted more instructions: feet flat on the floor, heads down, cover your heads.

They are members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Yesterday's accident should remind all of us that flight attendants are first and foremost safety professionals--they should not be treated like cocktail waitresses.

There are the air traffic controllers:

The pilot radioed air traffic controllers on Long Island that his plane had sustained a “double bird strike.”

They're represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Someday, they'll rename National Airport for the work these men and women do to keep us safe in the air.

There are the ferry crews:

As the first ferry nudged up alongside, witnesses said, some passengers were able to leap onto the decks. Others were helped aboard by ferry crews.

They're represented by the Seafarers International Union. They provide safety training to their members so they're prepared for events like yesterday's accident.

There are the cops and firemen:

Helicopters brought wet-suited police divers, who dropped into the water to help with the rescues.

They're represented by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Uniformed Fire Officers Association (IAFF locals).They're the men and women who performed so heroically on 9/11--and they've been fighting to make sure first responders get the equipment to do this kind of thing.

Bob Corker and Richard Shelby like to claim that union labor is a failed business model.

But I haven't heard much about Bob Corker and Richard Shelby saving 155 people's lives

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On a More Positive Note...

It snowed last night, and the high today is going to be 21, cold enough to keep the snow on the ground. More snow is predicted tonight, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The high Thursday is predicted to be -1. This is not bad, though I still miss the -20 days with a -50 or -60 windchill. As our former governor Rudy Perpich, who was an Iron Ranger from Up North, said, "It keeps the riffraff off the streets."

Betty McCullom and Keith Ellison, the congresspeople from the Twin Cities, did not vote for the House resolution supporting Israel's actions in Gaza.

The Twin Cities rock! We have pretty good weather and better than average congresspeople! Yay, Minneapolis and St. Paul!

More than 70 leading UK Jewish writers and activists condemn Israel

We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin. When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. When Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, talked of putting Gazans "on a diet" and the deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, talked about the Palestinians experiencing "a bigger shoah" (holocaust), this reminds us of Governor General Hans Frank in Nazi-occupied Poland, who spoke of "death by hunger".

The real reason for the attack on Gaza is that Israel is only willing to deal with Palestinian quislings. The main crime of Hamas is not terrorism but its refusal to accept becoming a pawn in the hands of the Israeli occupation regime in Palestine.

The decision last month by the EU council to upgrade relations with Israel, without any specific conditions on human rights, has encouraged further Israeli aggression. The time for appeasing Israel is long past. As a first step, Britain must withdraw the British ambassador to Israel and, as with apartheid South Africa, embark on a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Ben Birnberg, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Deborah Fink, Bella Freud, Tony Greenstein, Abe Hayeem, Prof Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Dr Les Levidow, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof Moshe Machover, Miriam Margolyes, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead and 65 others

The Israeli government quotes above show that Israeli government officials are now using the language of the Nazis and are aware that what they are doing is a holocaust. The US has done the Israelis no favor by supporting the country unconditionally. If Israel had been forced to face the consequences of its actions, it might not have reached this place.

Of course, the same could be said for the US.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Icelandic Economic Crisis Jokes

Thse are from the IceNews website:

How do you get rid of the stockbroker at your front door?
Just pay him for the pizza!

Do you know how to save a risk investor (probably best translated into English as speculator (?)) from drowning?

A man in a hot air balloon notices that he is losing height. He then notices a woman on the ground so lowers his balloon a little further and calls to her: “Excuse me! Can you help me? I promised to meet my friend and hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The woman answered: “You are in a hot air balloon which is hovering at a height of ten metres, between 40 and 41 degrees north and between 59 and 60 degrees west.”

“You must work with computers,” said the man.

“I do indeed,” answered the woman. “How did you know?”

“Well,” the man replied, “All that you just said is technically right, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with the information, and am therefore still lost. It’s fair to say you’ve not really helped me at all. If anything, all you have done is made me even later.”

The woman replied: “Ah, you must be a politician.”

“Yes,” the man said in surprise. “But how could you know that?”

“Well,” she said, “You knew neither where you were, nor where you were going. Only hot air has got you to where you are right now. You actually admitted you don’t have a clue how to sort out your situation, and you expect people below you to sort out the problem for you. And you are now in the same situation as when we just met, but now all of a sudden it’s my fault.”

There is apparently going to be a ceasefire in Gaza. I am going back to worrying about Iceland for a while. Per IceNews, the Icelandic word for the crisis is "kreppa," which means clench. It's a great sounding word. You can hear the grasping and the vise.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


From the weblog Firedoglake:
Multiple sources are reporting that medics and ambulances have come under repeated attack in Gaza by Israeli forces. Aid workers are also reporting that even when Red Crescent ambulance teams contact the Red Cross and the Red Cross contacts the IDF to coordinate the ambulance mission, they are often prevented from reaching the injured.

Amira Hass in Ha’aretz told of one such case yesterday in “Wounded Gaza family lay bleeding for 20 hours." Oxfam reported the death of one of their medics on Saturday.


From the UN News Service:

More than 30 people have been killed in two separate Israeli strikes on clearly-marked United Nations schools where civilians were seeking refuge from the ongoing violence in Gaza, an official with the world body said today.

John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that 30 people died and 55 others were injured when three Israeli artillery shells landed at the perimeter of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

“Those who were in the school were all families seeking refuge,” Mr. Ging said of the school that was hit in Jabaliya, which usually serves as a girls’ preparatory school.

Another artillery shell struck an empty boys’ school in Jabaliya, he said.

In a separate attack last night, three Palestinians, who had sought refuge in a small co-educational UN school in Gaza City, died when an Israeli missile hit the building’s toilet facilities.

He underscored that all UN schools in Gaza are clearly marked, flying the UN flag, and that the Organization has provided the GPS coordinates of all of its installations in the area to Israel.