They Ran, They Ran So Far - Holy Crap

 I don't follow ultra-running very closely - there's really only one race that catches my attention, and I usually end up looking at the results only weeks after it finished. That race is Big Dog's Backyard Ultra which is run in October - and holy crap, what the actual fuck?

So this race is different than your normal race. It's not a fixed distance, it's an endurance race. But it's not a fixed time either. It's a fixed speed- a single loop that's a bit more than 4 miles long - and you get an hour to finish it. Sounds pretty easy, and everyone who starts it finishes that lap no problem.

Here's the catch - it's an endurance race. You have to do it again in the next hour. And you keep doing it until you stop. The person who completes the last loop in under an hour (technically - you just got to be in the starting corral for the next loop at the start of the hour) - that person "wins". There's no finish line - it's an open ended endurance race, where you keep running until no one else can run with you anymore. It's about pushing the limits of human endurance in a sick and demented fashion.

About seven years ago, there was this shift in ultrarunning. The previous record was 49 loops - 204-ish miles. Two runners quit after completing the first lap of the third day. Just crazy. Imagine going 49 hours straight where you get woken every hour on the hour - that's hard enough on it's own without having to push out four miles between every wake-up call. For two full days. Crazy.

Then in 2017 someone ran 59 hours. And then 68 hours the year after. And in 2021, Harvey Lewis broke into Day 4 by completing loop number 85. Over 350 miles. Three and a half days of running over four miles in each and every hour. It stopped making sense to me before it got to this point - but the maniacs kept running.

Harvey Lewis' wining distance this year was 108. 108 loops. 450 miles. Four and a half days. Just get up at the top of the hour and run four and a bit miles, and then do it again - 107 more times.

Also too - the winner is the person who is the only one to complete the last loop. Meaning that someone ran 107 loops to come in second (they call it the "assist"). This year, the person who came in third did 103 loops. 429 miles of running and finishing third.

I don't really have a point here. As I mentioned earlier - it stopped making sense to me when they were running a hundred miles less.  I guess I just find it really interesting.


Intelligence Failure

I've seen a new theory of why the Israeli Intelligence community got everything so unbelievably wrong. It's actually pretty convincing, and if it's right then the prospects for Israel's plan to "destroy Hamas" are even worse than they look when you assume that the entire Israeli War Machine is just a pile of stupid fucking morons that couldn't tell their asses from their elbows even with Post-it notes on their arms saying "not here".

Anyways, let's consider the facts (as we know them) that need to be explained.

1. Israel Intelligence got a hold of the Hamas battle plan in 2022. This is described as a 40-page document which describes how Hamas was going to attack Israel and the basic strategy described is exactly what Hamas did on October 7. So Israel had a hold of Hamas' actual playbook.

2. The battle plan apparently contained sensitive Israeli military information. It's sounds like it's information along the lines of the locations and strength of the Israeli defenses along the Gaza fence.

3. The Israeli intelligence community dismissed this as being "aspirational". That there's no way that Hamas could pull of the attack as planned. Note that this is the assessment despite the plan containing Israeli military secrets.

4. Israel absolutely acted like they thought the battle plan was a joke. Even after watching Hamas fighters do a day long dry run training session. During this period they continued to relocate military forceds away from the Gaza fence and to the West Bank to support the terrorist campaign being conducted by Israeli settlers.

Okay, now some other facts (as we know them) 

5. Some fraction of Hamas is known to Israel and those members are under constant and extreme surveillance. And have been surveilled for a long time.

6. The October 7 attack was aa big and complex project - at least a year in planning and engaging hundreds of terrorist gunmen and whatever supports those guys needed to do their mass murder.

7. I mean, Israel had a copy of the actual battle plan. This was a big enough terror project and the surveillance of Hamas was intensive enough that Israel literally had a copy of the plan a year in advance. And also, Hamas could reasonably expected that this would be the case.

Okay - here's the theory. Israel didn't fuck up because they are stupid chuckleheads with the brainpower of a wet fart. The theory is that Israel got played. Hamas, knowing that they were under surveillance, acted in such a way to make the Israeli intelligence community go 100% groupthink on a bunch of carefully cultivated ideas. Hamas used Israeli surveillance to make Israel think that Hamas was both incapable of this type of attack and also that they didn't really want to attack either. And then Hamas used this cover to prepare and train for it, knowing that Israel was going to act like the battle plan was fake regardless of what evidence they saw to the contrary.

There's some things about this that seem sketchy. If Hamas knew that Israel was going to get access to the battle plan, why did they put the sensitive military information in there? This endangers their sources and it should have been a huge red flag for Israel that they were grossly underestimating Hamas' capabilities. This was a risk of blowing up the whole plan and they could have avoided that just by leaving the info out of the plan. Still, that's the biggest flaw I see in it. Otherwise, it explains everything perfectly.

As low an opinion as I have of the IDF, it's not credible to believe that literally everyone in it is a stupid idiot. There stories about the Intelligence Failure centre one Unit 8200 analyst who correctly determined that Hamas was way more capable than they were assessed at. But even that analyst was swayed by the argument that "Hamas doesn't want a war". This is after knowing that they were doing dry runs.

The description of what happened are that they knew the attack was being planned and practiced - but they didn't think Hamas was going to go through with it. And they believed this so hard that despite the consequences of being wrong, they acted like Gaza was never going to cause any trouble ever again. Something must have made them thing this - and it makes sense for Hamas to try to bluff out Israel this way.

But what does that mean going forward? It's super-bad. If this theory is correct, it means that Hamas is capable of fooling the Israeli intelligence community (and the US one for that matter) like virtuoso masters. Of playing them like a fiddle. And the Israeli intelligence community is in full on cover your ass mode - and the Israeli government is deeply vested in not criticizing their spies. So it's hard to see how this changes.


And Nothing but the Truce

Ten minutes. That's how much time was left on the truce before it was extended (into Friday). Ten minutes.

Going into this, the last word from Israel was that they were ready to restart the war machine, but even more aggressively this time. That in response to Biden saying that what happened in northern Gaza could not happen in the south, Netanyahu said that bombing the south was "necessary". It did not look like a second extension was going to happen.

But it did, and I have to believe that Antony Blinken landing in Israel a few short hours before the deadline made the difference. So kudos to the Biden team - for adjusting position and finally putting limits on what is acceptable, and then forcing it by sending the Secretary of State to visit at the critical juncture.

That said - the truce only lasts until Friday. The hostages for prisoners agreement that has been reached is only for women and children, and this batch is the last of Hamas' hostages in that category. And there seem to be irreconcilable differences in where the two sides have staked their positions. With just the one day to finalize things, it's hard to see how this truce gets extended into the weekend. UNLESS - unless, there is enough pressure for Israel to hold off on mass slaughter without hostages being released.

Israel's position on this has already been taken apart. Their argument that the ONLY possible way towards peace is the complete and utter destruction of Hamas has just been proven to be pure bullshit. Hostages were returned via negotiation and a cessation of bombing. Israelis got their loved ones back only after Israel stopped dropping bombs - because Israel sat down at the negotiation table. That was productive - the previous seven weeks of indiscriminate bombing and raiding hospitals? All that produced was global resentment towards Israel and the US. And tens of thousands of Gazan casualties.

It does bring me some hope to see the US moving on this. Even if it is long overdue. They were working on a deal that ended up looking exactly like the truce we got at the end of October! So it is weeks overdue. 10,000 deaths overdue. Being late here as Biden was - morally reprehensible. Disgusting. But even though that is true, it is still better late than never. There are still people trying to survive in horrific conditions and anything that prevents them from being bombed even more is good.

Which brings us to the next critical juncture. These truce extensions have been kicking the can down the road. And now that we've reached the point where there is no longer an agreement on the hostage exchange, we've run out of road. It's now finally clear that Biden wants the war to stop - and it is also equally clear that Israel finds the very notion of this to be unacceptable and deeply antisemitic. Yes, Israel's position on this is that not allowing them to bomb tens of thousands more Palestinians to death is the same as hating Jews. So we are running the test. We are going to see if the US does have influence over Israel. And if they don't - we will see if Joe has the appetite to do anything about it.


From the River to the Sea, Palestine has a Right to Defend Itself

There's a dynamic that is so pervasive that even when we are looking for it, wee still miss it a lot. What I'm talking about is how only certain groups are expected to exhibit empathy and other groups are always expected to be the benefactors. We're usually aware of it on the left-right spectrum, where latte sipping coastal elites are constantly chided for not considering the feelings of "Real Americans" in the flyover country of the Heartland. Really? The primary feeling of those "Real Americans" is sheer and utter contempt for the coastal elites - and yet we never see admonitions to rural voters to think about how the SJWs might see things.

I want to note an article about the phrase "from the river to the sea". Let me point out that the author, a political science professor at a Canadian university, isn't denying reality. This article is way less pure bullshit than the usual tripe we get fed from major media. Here's a quote - using active voice and attributing actions to those responsible. For example:

The trouble is, in Israel-Palestine it’s Israeli Jews who hold the lion’s share of the power. Between the river and the sea, which is to say to varying degrees in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel within the Green Line, it’s Palestinians, not Jews (Jewish Israelis), who are structurally oppressed, mainly by Israel (I say mainly because Hamas’s and the PA’s authoritarian rule limits Palestinian freedoms to some extent).

Yes, there's an unnecessary qualification there - almost as if any criticism of Israel must come with the requisite condemnation of Hamas. But it's an accurate statement - all of the groups mentioned have treated Palestinians very badly - but it is mainly Israel that does the bulk of it. I dare say that the mandatory Hamas condemning actually reinforces the point - which is almost never allowed to be spoken - that even relative to the autocratic rule of a terrorist group, Israel treatment of Palestinians is still worse.

Anyways - here again is the argument. It's framed as "intent versus impact" but what it actually is - it's a lecture to supporters of a Free Palestine to consider the feelings of Jews. 

There's something else I need to get out of the way before getting to my point. The other arguments in support of "From the River to the Sea" are strong ones. Professor Sucharov notes the biggest one in her article - context. The context of the situation in Israel-Palestine really do highlight how bonkers it is. The context is that Palestinians between the river and the sea are in fact not free - and they are being told that asking for basic human dignity is offensive to the people who are denying it to them. This alone should settle the argument handily. It's the "every accusation is a confession" crux of the situation. The people who see "from the River to the Sea" as calling for genocide are projecting - they think it means genocide because Israel is committing genocide from the River to the Sea. It means that to them because they are doing it. And this point is often bolstered by noting that it is not only Hamas that has "from the river to the sea" in its charter, but also Likud, the default ruling party of Israel, does as well (the main difference is that it's of course not calling for Palestinian freedom - but for Israeli sovereignty instead).

Also an important point here is to call out Genocide Joe's pure fucking bullshit "two state solution" talk. Hey Genocide Joe - the government of Israel is adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state. Netanyahu is on record explaining why he funds Hamas - specifically to marginalize the PA and sabotage any attempt to establish a Palestinian state. And he's the moderate in his government - with the other unity government party being an extremist far-right proponent of settler terrorism.

Okay, that out of the way - let me get back to my point. Let's agree that it is worthwhile to consider impacts over intent. I mean, actual real world impacts are important, aren't they? Jewish people are also people and they have feelings that shouldn't be ignored. In the words of a deeply antisemitic play - if you cut them, do they not bleed? Sure, the feelings they have are irrational and in fact actually quite offensive if you consider the context. But that actually is understandable - antisemitism is a very real threat. Jews have good reason to be on constant high alert for threats of genocide. So even though their position now is gross and disgusting, it is also very understandable.

BUT - here we see it again. Empathy is ALWAYS a one way street. Pro-Palestinian activists are being forced to consider the feelings of others, especially the people they are protesting against. The people currently engaged in genocide and their supporters around the world. And it is NEVER the other way around.

Here's a statement that's almost as mandatory as the condemnation of Hamas. "Israel has a right to defend itself." It's a statement that's hard to refute if you ignore context. Self-defense should always be acceptable, shouldn't it? But look at what's going on in Gaza. That is not self-defense. It so clearly isn't that again, we are into the range of offensive statements when people suggest it. A few weeks ago, the IDF bombed a refugee camp, killing a couple hundred people. They knew those people were there. But they suspected that one of those people might have been a Hamas commander. How can anyone call that "self-defense"?

So what is the impact of invoking Israel's right to self-defense? It's being used as an excuse for genocide. It's pretty fucking reasonable for Palestinians and their supporters to see this statement as a call to wipe out all Palestinians. It's way more rational a connection than the spurious claims of "from the River to the Sea" are. So when do we start seeing this? When do people start getting lectured or even fired from their jobs for asserting that Israel has a right to defend itself?

Never. It will never happen. Because having to consider "impact over intent" is something that only one side has to do.


Gotta Give Credit to Genocide Joe

There's a contingent of folks out there who are pissed that Genovide Joe is not being given credit for brokering the humanitarian pause deal. And this is true - the US is absolutely not getting credit for anything except from RAH RAH USA #1 people. But you know what? This is actually better treatment than Biden deserves.

What did the US do here? Other than unconditionally support Israel in all of its depravities? Consider the following story about the negotiations for a hostage deal. There were talks where Hamas would agree to release 50 hostages - the same deal that we got. The one hang up that Israel would not allow? Fuel and humanitarian aid into northern Gaza. An item they gave up on in the actual deal that was made - and then did not honor, resulting in the delay in hostage release on Day 2. Did you note the date on that article? October 24.

Four fucking weeks. Biden's genocide supporting asswipes stalled and delayed a truce for four weels and managed to get sweet fuck all out of it. IOW - all they did was allow Israel more time to slaughter Palestinians. The actual efforts by Genocide Joe's team in securing this truce was in delaying it so that Israel could genocide longer.

It's part of the pattern. UN Security Council Resolution 2712 was passed on November 15. Here is the text of that resolution: http://www.undocs.org/en/S/RES/2712(2023)

On October 25, three weeks earlier, the US vetoed the Brazilian drafted resolution. The text of which is here: https://undocs.org/en/S/2023/773

Did you notice the difference? Well the resolution that the US vetoed had a condemnation of the Hamas attack of October 7.  The resolution they were forced to take did not. And what did they get out of making that concession?  Three weeks of bombing that wasn't in contravention  of the Security Council. All they got was a longer period of bombing that wasn't expressly condemned by the UNSC.

Because that's where we are at. The role of the US is to give Israel cover while Palestinians are mass slaughtered. The "negotiations" were just a stalling tactic to hold off global condemnation of Israel's continued campaign of genocide.

But here is the good news (fingers crossed and knocking on wood) - the pressure which forced the US and Israel to accept the truce are still very strong. Obviously the "truce" was so insufficient that Gaza is still in a state of humanitarian disaster. Did the needle move at all? Maybe - Gazans have now had three nights in a row where they could be moderately sure they weren't going to die in an airstrike. Some Palestinians may have had t heir first few nights of sleep in seven weeks. Word is now that an additional two days is being forced on Israel, although they are resisting this tooth and nail. We'll see how this goes.


Blogging Never Changes Part Ten - Pause Abilities

They managed to negotiate and implement a "pause". And while the cessation of hostilities, even if only temporary, is better than not having that - I want to remind us about what I thought about this when it first starting looking like a possibility.

So that's the future then. We're possibly getting a break in hostilities - long enough for more reporting about the conditions in Gaza to get out. We'll see how dire the situation is. And then we will be told to support a return to bombing. And the brain geniuses running this show will support the return to bombing.

They are going to break our hearts and then let us know that it is time for more. It's like scuttling the landing boats before advancing. There's a remote possibility that the outrage of starting the bombs again might make them think twice. This is my hope - that the public will demand a stop to the war. But sadly, the fucking ghoulish monsters in charge are the stupidest fucking morons. As I have been saying for a month now, while I wish with all my heart that I am wrong - it's going to get worse, and stay worse for a long time.

I still think that the return to violence is going to be the worst part of it all. The psychological damage is going to be immense. That said, let me admit my errors here and try to correct them now that I know better.

I had thought that the pause would allow media to bring us more stories about how bad things are. It did. The images coming out of Al Shifa are terrible. But, this is not changing anyone's mind. The stories we were getting from before the pause were also bad enough that we did have a good idea of how terrible things were. OTOH, the only international reporters in Gaza were embedded with the IDF - maybe the pause opened up these stories to more audiences - exposing more people to the truth of the suffering Israel is inflicting upon 2 million people. Lol. I guess I still am naive and innocent. This clearly did not happen - the lack of honest and fair reporting from the mainstream media of the conditions in Gaza was not due to lack of reporters on the ground. It is a choice made by the people running those media firms. The only movement that I am aware of in how this was getting covered is the NY Times piece comparing the Gaza death rate to other conflicts. So my bad. Mea culpa. I got that wrong.

Speaking of naive and innocent - here's the other part I got wrong. That the bombing would start again. And no, this isn't just me trying to manifest a ceasefire. The pause isn't over yet, and there are some reports of the truce being extended - but that is not what I was referring to. I was talking about the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria. The bombing has not stopped.

Which finally brings me to the point of this post. Israel is still doing their level best to confirm many of the worst beliefs about them. I really cannot make it more clear than this:

My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy

Also, so that we have some context here - sometimes the released Palestinian prisoners are 85% minors. This in addition to the increased aggression at the West Bank and towards the neighbouring states. Also, Israel is already trying to implement checkpoints in Gaza, collecting data and shooting people (because that's what humanitarian pauses are supposed to look like I guess?). It's a testament to how horrific the war campaign was that shooting at civilians trying to return to their homes is considered as being consistent with a "truce".

On the other side, Hamas delayed the release of some prisoners by several hours, claiming that Israel was not abiding by the conditions by refusing passage of aid trucks to the north. Which was the case, but apparently was "technical in nature" - which allowed the exchange to go off as normal. Under the deal, 50 hostages were supposed to be released in the four day span. They released 24 hostages on Day 1. Day 2 was the delayed release and consisted of 17 hostages. The third batch was another group of 17. That's 48 58 (/edit). Reports from Israel are that the hostages are in "good" shape. There have been no tales of torture or mistreatment. OTOH, you can probably guess how Israel treats Palestinian prisoners. And it would be beyond surprising if their treatment improved after October 7.

To be clear - Hamas is still a terrorist organization. They should not be given "credit" for meeting the bare minimum standards or care for hostages - innocent hostages that they kidnapped during a terrorist attack that killed hundreds. Hamas is not the good guys here. BUT - and this is the point that the world seems intent on ignoring - the government of Israel has failed to meet this standard.

So that's where we're headed - one side making best efforts to meet the conditions of the temporary truce, and the other side - not that. And then the truce runs out - and Israel will have no excuse to resume bombing. Hamas will have held up their end of the bargain - even though it is clear that Israel has not. The pressure to extend the truce has got to be enormous now - so great that I'm starting to wonder if it will get pushed into something more permanent. But that's probably just me being naive and innocent again.


Blogging Never Changes Part Nine - Hospitals Are Legitimate Targets

Just a bit of a timeline.

October 7 - Hamas conducts a horrific terrorist attack on Israel. Israel so badly fumbles the response that the extent of the destruction is enormous. ~1,200 Israelis killed - mostly by Hamas, but certainly some by trigger happy IDF goons and Apache helicopter pilots. ~200 Hamas gunmen killed - these will bolster the official Israeli death count for a month, with no questions asked. Some will still cite 1400 as the Israeli death toll from October 7. Also do note - the deaths on October 7 were because Hamas killed people (even though clearly, so did the IDF) - but any deaths in Gaza that happened after that, well they just happened. No attributable cause  - air strikes apparently are an unpreventable Act of Nature.

Early October:
Israel warns hospitals in northern Gaza, including Al Ahli, to evacuate.
Israel hits Al Ahli hospital with shells.

October 17 - a fiery explosion in the courtyard of Al Ahli hospital kills hundreds. The Gaza Health Ministry claims at least 500 dead but later revises this down to 471 identified corpses. The IDF denies that they bombed the site as they claim they were not bombing anything anywhere near Al Ahli - and then blames it on a misfiring Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.

October 18 - in the light of the morning, it is clear that the destruction of the hospital courtyard was not caused by one of the IDF's larger JDAM missiles. The crater is too small and the damage is inconsistent with what should result from a thousand pounds of conventional high explosives going off in the area. That said, the IDF has a very wide range of munitions.

Late October:
Video evidence is cited showing a rocket barrage being launched towards Israel and one rocket spiraling out of control a few seconds before the hospital explosion goes off. There is only the primary hospital explosion - no secondary explosions as would be expected if the damage was caused by munitions stored at the hospital. The IDF releases an obviously fake tape of intercepted communications where Hamas agents say that Israel is great and they are evil and also that they were responsible for the hospital explosion. The US and Biden explicitly endorses this "anything bad could not have been done by Israel" theory. Multiple media outlets like CNN also endorse it. None of the parties supporting this view provide any evidence other than what has been described. No analysis is shown either. Neither the IDF nor the US agree to any independent investigation of the incident, saying that it would not be appropriate.

The NYTimes Visual Investigations Team analyzes the out-of-control rocket video and four other related videos. They conclude that the out-of-control rocket was launched from inside Israel and provide the details of their analysis. They also conclude that this rocket could not have caused the hospital explosion unless it was travelling at ludicrously high speeds even for a rocket. They also note that you can see two other explosions near the hospital in the lead up to the deadly explosion including before the rocket barrage is launched - almost as if the active airstrike campaign was in fact servicing targets near the hospital.

The IDF releases an animation showing underground rooms and a network of tunnels they claim is beneath Al Shifa hospital. Al Shifa has been an obsession of the IDF for years - they are positive beyond all reason that Hamas is using a vast underground network as a command and control centre and that this is where the hostages are being kept.

More evacuation notices are delivered to hospitals again.

November thus far: 
Al Rantisi hospital is raided by the IDF. This is a children's hospital which has multiple premature babies on incubators. They find zero hostages and zero Hamas fighters - but they do find an improvised hastily built underground shelter. Since Israeli bombs cannot hurt anyone but Hamas, obviously this shelter could only have been used to hold hostages. There could be no other explanation why a territory undergoing the most aggressive bombing campaign in decades could possibly build shelters underground other than to hold hostages.

They also find a calendar. A Hamas calendar with the names of the Hamas terrorist guards that were watching over the hostages, These guards are named things like "Monday" and "Saturday".

The IDF posts and then deletes a tweet where they explicitly state that hospitals and ambulances are legitimate targets. Note that the reasoning used in this tweet "they are used by Hamas, we don't have to show you any evidence of it because it is so obviously true" is one that IDF spokesmen have been repeating for weeks.

The IDF begins operations to raid Al Shifa. The Israeli government's official Twitter posts a video from "an Al Shifa nurse" claiming that the hospital is overrun with Hamas that are constantly stealing all the hospital supplies. People actually in Al Shifa hospital all say they do not recognize this nurse - and no wonder, she is later revealed to be an Israeli actress originally from Mexico. The Israeli government deletes their post with the video.

The IDF raids Al Shifa. There is zero armed resistance from within the hospital - the Hamas command and control centre has zero armed guards. No underground command and control structures are found. No hostages are found. No Hamas fighters are found. The IDF delivers "medical supplies" to Al Shifa shortly before they release a video showing that there was "a lot" of military hardware at Al Shifa. Multiple grab bags with live grenades and assault rifles are stashed behind MRI machines. Yes, this is insane - MRI machines have immensely powerful electromagnets inside them - so stashing the grab bag here renders the MRI machine unusable. Alternately, someone lazily planting evidence might have just picked that spot because it was convenient.  In one of the shots of these grab bags, a box almost identical to the "medical supplies" boxes can be seen in the background. A few hours later when the embedded BBC reporters are toured around the facility, the grab bag behind the MRI machine mysteriously has different gear in it. This IDF video introduces a new meme to the world - Hamas dates. Apparently among the evil terrorist contraband at Al Shifa is a box of dates.

After holding Al Shifa for over a week, the IDF find a tunnel.  55 metres long - but apparently not actually going anywhere. With zero Hamas fighters or hostages inside. Also, no one is allowed to go inside of it.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Omert says that the actual command and control centre for Hamas is in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, where Israel has been telling Gazan internally displaced people to move to.

Israel tells people in Khan Younis, especially those at hospitals, to evacuate.

Indonesian Hospital (which is in northern Gaza and where Emily Callahan was volunteering for MSF) is surrounded by tanks. Airstrikes in southern Gaza intensify. The IDF raids Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank.