Saturday, June 28, 2014

Titan greets all his readers

Titan marks the beginning of Ramadan and wishes all his Muslim readers a month of easy fasts and a renewal of faith in a benign and tolerant Islam.

Titan is with you again and would like to comment favorably on the release of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim who was freed on Monday after an appeals court in Sudan cancelled the death sentence imposed for having allegedly converted from Islam to marry her Christian husband, after the government came under what it called unprecedented international pressure. On the other hand he was upset by her rearrest at the airport on her way out of that benighted country. She has a South Sudan passport with a US visa, but the government in Khartoum was bureaucratic and  sticky. Titan is pleased  that the international pressure kept  up and that she and her husband and children are now safe  in the United States Embassy in Khartoum. It is to be hoped that they will soon be able to leave Sudan and start a new life.

Meriam Ibrahim with her baby, husband Daniel Wani, their son and a lawyer
Meriam Ibrahim with her baby, husband Daniel Wani with their son, and one of her lawyers, Mohanad Mustafa, in Sudan after her release from jail. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images   
It is not PC to admit this and certainly not nice as Ramadan gets under way, but events around the world are rapidly making Titan and Pollyanna a bit fed up on radical Islam. Titan calls your attention to an article by P.E. Marek that has been circulating on the Web. The article is often incorrectly attributed to a Dr. Emanuel Tanay. It really matters very little who wrote it. The article contains many exaggerations and much hyperbole, along with some questionable grammar,  but it does make a valid point that tails do indeed wag dogs and that a fanatic minority, if well organized, can overcome a passive majority. As an example, Titan points to the Americans who would like to have gun control and an end to mass murders, but are impotent because the NRA people vote and most of the supporters of gun control do not. Nonetheless it is not clear what the author would like democracies to do. Should we round up Muslims and put them in concentration camps? Should we throw human rights out the window as in the so-called "war on terror" ? There is a demagogic hysterical tone about the article that  tends to vitiate its valid point. Lumping Palestinians who are living under a brutal occupation and Algerians who fought French imperialism with Somalis who are waging an internal struggle over the role of Islam is an example of this problem. Titan linked to the article not because he agrees with all of it but to provoke thought and discussion.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

Mary Nyakoak fled her home to escape fighting and now stays in a grass hut in Ganyiel. She's one of tens of thousands of people displaced to this swampy area, where Mercy Corps is helping families cope with food shortages. Photos from Ganyiel: Jacob Zocherman for Mercy Corps
This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. We refer you again to the Mercy Corps and ask you to support their activity in the humanitarian crisis now gripping South Sudan. Millions of people are at terrible risk as the civil war goes on despite the truce that exists only on paper. We quote part of a report from there "All areas are affected by the conflict, one way or another. There may not be active shelling or fighting, but with already chronic malnutrition, routes to markets cut off, young men recruited to join the fighting, and the fact that humanitarian organizations cannot reach some areas, people are suffering everywhere. It is disrupting the socio-economic fabric of the country.” Please help.

Chile steps a tiny step forward in starting to decriminalize abortion. Titan says right on, but there is a long way to go to reach real freedom of choice.
Chile is one of five Latin American countries where there is currently a total ban on abortion.
Chile is one of five Latin American countries where there is currently a total ban on abortion.
© Amnesty International

Titan starts with the World Cup. Leave aside the spending of public money in Brazil where poverty is rampant  and just look at the tournament itself. The teams started out with some good games, but when relegation to the airport became a real threat, fair play was thrown to the winds. Paul Mirengoff, quoted in Powerline, describes four matches that exemplify the phenomenon. In particular, the vile behavior of Luis Suarez of Uruguay who bit an Italian player shows the pit into which sport can descend.
Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suárez

The bitten and the biter: Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Uruguay's Luis Suárez.
Photo by DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

An English player put it correctly albeit a bit cynically-- "You look at teams who have won the tournament over previous years and you can see that nastiness in them. I think we have to get that in us. As a team maybe we are too honest, I feel." Wayne Rooney of Manchester United.

Luke O'Brien writing in Slate puts it in perspective correctly. Titan thinks that the Vince Lombardi philosophy "winning is not the most important thing, it is the only thing" is a moral atrocity. Bountygate in the NFL showed what it can lead to as does match fixing in cricket, which is not cricket.

Martin Luther King once pointed to racism, materialism and militarism as the three factors that can do most to destroy a society. There are currently 23 countries in the world that maintain no army, and they seem to get by just fine. Laura Secorun Palet writing in Acumen describes these military-free countries, but agrees that for some nations, such as Taiwan and Israel, abolishing the army is not an option. Nonetheless, militarism is an integral part of life in Israel. A few years ago a nursery school class of 3-4 year olds in a town near Tel Aviv
were taken for a tour of a police armory and shown all the beautiful toys that can be used to kill people. A friend of ours pulled his daughter out of the school when he discovered that the teacher saw nothing wrong with the tour. A science fair held in Tel Aviv some time ago was totally focused on rockets and military applications. Pyongyang is moving to Tel Aviv apace. More on this below.


The government of North Korea is threatening to go to war with the United States over a comedy film that ridicules Kim Jong Un. It is indeed ridiculous, but it also shows how little they understand concepts such as freedom of expression. We in Israel, however, should stop to look at ourselves before making fun of the North Koreans. When a Swedish tabloid published a scurrilous and false story that the Israel army was killing Palestinians and selling their organs, the reaction of our government was nearly as idiotic as that of Pyongyang  and just lacked the threat of dire actions. Our Foreign Ministry protested to the Swedish government with the implication that the Swedes were not doing their job of controlling the press as they should. The Swedish Press Association was indeed on its way to sanctioning the tabloid and the reporter, but naturally backed off when the Israeli government got into the act.

In Israel there is a draconian law that makes it illegal to "insult a public servant." Usually this is not enforced and the State Prosecutor has interpreted the law as meaning something that actively interferes with the performance of the task of the civil servant. Now we are seeing bloggers warned and a parliamentarian threatened with an investigation because of her provocative speech. Haaretz says it in an editorial much better than Titan can: "The gap between pride in freedom of expression – which is presented as one of the foundations of Israeli democracy – and the reality on the ground is growing wider. Arrests because of Facebook updates, being “warned” by the police or Shin Bet security service about one’s political activities, and the ridiculous detentions of demonstrators, have all become far too common, and prove that state authorities, first and foremost the police, have forgotten what their jobs are. In recent days, the police sank to a new low when they arrested a lawyer for a poem he posted on his Facebook page, and recommended that an investigation be launched against MK Haneen Zoabi for her remarks in connection with the three kidnapped teenagers."

The law about public servants should be repealed, but instead we have the boycott law which has been challenged in the High Court of Justice. What is amazing is the brazen defense by the government "we do not have freedom of expression as in the US," a boasting about lack of democracy.

The futile search by our incompetent army for the three boys who were abducted by terrorists a few weeks ago goes on. Titan disagrees with Ms Zoabi and regards the kidnapping as an act of terrorism since the boys are civilians and minors as well. The people under the occupation have a right to resist the army, but civilians are protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention. What is conveniently forgotten is that we kidnapped civilians off streets in Lebanon during the 1980's to use as "bargaining chips" for our prisoners and no one raised a protest. Indeed the abduction of the boys is a crime, but we cannot honestly claim the moral high ground and, as Gideon Levi points out correctly, the world has called our bluff.

Titan would like to call your attention to an article by Sari Nusseibeh, who has just stepped down as President of Al-Quds University. He discusses the need for realization of a two-state solution as a means of avoiding a future hell for all who live between the sea and the Jordan. Unfortunately, the policies of our government are designed to achieve this hell on Earth for the Palestinians and it is working, alas. When Amram Mitzna, a parliamentarian, noted that the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party in the government is, minus the terrorism, a counterpart of the Hamas, he hit the nail right on the head. Cheers Mr. Mitzna and maybe you can pry your party head out of the coalition.

 What If? As a writer, I'm wondering what would be the cumulative energy of the hundreds of thousands of keystrokes required to write a novel?—Nicolas Dickner

It would seem that Titan and Pollyanna are not going to solve the world energy crisis, even with the help of the members of PEN International.

Futility is contagious:
Throwing Rocks

Workers of the world unite, Wally is paving a path for your optimum
working conditions..
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Social work is a rewarding profession
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jun/28/2014

Hansel and Gretel should be more health conscious
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jun/23/2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Titan comes to cool the summer heat, yeah sure...

Titan is back with you again and would like to share something enjoyable. Ten years ago in 2004 NASA's Cassini spacecraft entered the Saturn system. As it did so, it performed its first targeted flyby of one of the planet's moons. On June 11, 2004, Cassini passed Phoebe, the largest of Saturn's outer or "irregular" moons, at an altitude of just 1,285 miles (2,068 kilometers). This was the sole close flyby of one of the outer moons of Saturn in the entire
Cassini mission.

This montage of two views is published by the Cassini team to mark the 10th anniversary of the Phoebe flyby.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. In line with the rant below about rape, the increasing incidence and the tolerance shown towards it by both political leaders and people in the media, Titan is referring you to the Global Fund for Women. There you can donate and also click on actions and petitions for women and girls including for protection of rape victims. In his last blog, Titan described the rape and murder of two girls in India. A state minister from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's ruling party has described rape as a "social crime", saying "sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong". Titan thinks that it is always wrong despite the attitudes of Indian politicians and a columnist writing in the Washington Post, of all venues.

The great Spanish conductor died on Wednesday in Pamplona, Spain. We heard him many times with the Israel Philharmonic. He was scheduled to conduct Carmina Burana in Tel Aviv this year, but failed to appear because of his illness, which was terminal. He will be greatly missed in the concert halls of the world. The NYTimes and the Washington Post
have obituaries.

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, leading the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in 2005. Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

RUBY DEE 1922-2014
Ruby Dee, the film actress, died on Wednesday in New Rochelle, NY. She was also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and activist. Ms Dee is perhaps best known for co-starring in the films A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and American Gangster (2007)
for the latter of which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was the recipient of Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild  and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards as well as the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors. Ruby Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis were well-known civil rights activists. Ms Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1963, Dee emceed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Dee and Davis were  personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League.

For both of these we quote the statement by the 11th century sage Rashi "חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין",  we mourn those whom we have lost, but they are not forgotten.


In his last blog Titan ranted about the rape and hanging of two teenage girls in India about which the politicians and media in India are being very blase. Lest we think this is something associated with Third World countries, Titan calls your attention to a column in the Washington Post by George Will in which he he says in the lead of the piece that “when [colleges and universities] make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” Second, Will suggests that the Obama administration’s initiative on campus sexual assault is an attempt to “excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults,” arguing that young men will be railroaded in order to confirm young women’s sense that they are victims. To say that this is outrageous is to mince words. His own colleague, Alyssa Rosenberg, takes severe issue with him while Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, correctly defines him as a thoroughgoing disgrace to the craft of journalism.
In this Feb. 24, 2014 photo University of Iowa junior Patrick Took gathers with friends during a rape and violence awareness rally on the Big Ten school’s campus in Iowa City, Iowa.  (AP Photo/Iowa City Press-Citizen, David Scrivner)

Carl Gibson,in Reader Supported News, says it better than we can. The incredible gall to demean the suffering of victims leads us to demand that that Washington Post kick Will off their op-ed pages once and for all. Gibson refers us to the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege in which rape victims share their feelings on this subject.


In his last blog Titan discussed the two Palestinian teenagers who were gunned down by soldiers on Nakhba day. The army put out a story that live ammunition had not been used. Autopsy results now show that one of the boys, whose body was exhumed, was killed by a live bullet. The army says it is still investigating. Titan has no doubt that the boys were shot with live ammunition while they constituted no threat to anyone.
Mourners carrying the body of Palestinian teen Nadim Nuwara, who was killed in a clash with Israeli troops on May 15, during his funeral in Ramallah, May 16, 2014. Photo by AP
 The bloodlust of the occupation army is not new nor is it a secret. We send our nice kids to the army to be turned into killers. Martin Luther King defined three evils that can destroy a society, racism, materialism and militarism. Yossi Klein writing in Haaretz makes the issue clear--we will spend $150 million on a plane to chase kids throwing rocks, but the military class will balk at nothing to maintain its privileged status in Israel.

Finally our benighted Ministry of Education has mandated that middle school students be exposed to the theory of evolution. Until now it was optional and most pupils had no exposure to it as befits a backward country. Now it will be taught, but the Lord knows how the religious schools will deal with it.
 Illustration by Amos Biderman
Illustration by Amos Biderman.

We note that a religious educator in the US has confronted the issue and seems to be comfortable with it. In general, our education minister, who is supposed to be from a liberal party, is a true enemy of all progressive thinking.

In an article in Haaretz, Prof. Eva Illouz, the Hebrew University sociologist, makes that point that the failure of Israel to evolve anything that resembles a true liberal democracy lies in the inapplicability of the social techniques that enabled our survival during centuries of diaspora and persecution as a minority to our life as a majority and dominant factor in a modern state. In particular these include self-segregation, ethnic arrogance (we recall that as a child anything stupid engendered the parental reaction "goyishe kop") and a sense of essential difference. As Prof. Illuz puts it: "The profound originality of the Jews consisted in the fact that they devised a set of laws that not only helped them overcome and counter the violence of the surrounding majority, but also to stand apart from it, to resist the temptation of conversion or assimilation, by turning Jewishness into an essence which made non-Jewishness into another essence opposed to the Jewish one. Jewishness then designated a group with fixed, innate properties, above national boundaries, difficult to enter or to leave. " Her article is definitely thought-provoking and worthy of your time.

Prof. Oren Yiftachel of Ben Gurion University takes issue with her in a response that attributes the failure to the occupation and to what he calls the process of the country’s takeover − namely, its ongoing “Judaization.” He accuses Prof. Illouz of falling into what he calls the classic “ethnogratic" trap: attributing inordinate importance to what is occurring within the Jewish “bubble.” Titan also recommends his article for your consideration.

Titan thinks that both of them are right and that both factors contribute to the sorry situation in which we find ourselves. The late Prof. Yaakov Talmon said, in a lecture that we attended long ago, that a totalistic movement such as Zionism is incapable of engendering a liberal democracy. If we may quote Irving Kristol in his review of Prof Talmon's book, Two Varieties of Democracy The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy. (Beacon Press. 366 pp. 1952.) "Talmon is concerned with drawing a distinction between “liberal democracy” and “totalitarian democracy,” both of which he sees as arising in the 18th century and coming into collision in the 20th. 'Liberal democracy' regards politics as a matter of trial and error, and political systems as pragmatic contrivances; it is solicitous of individualism and recognizes that there are legitimate areas of human activity outside the realm of the political. 'Totalitarian democracy' preaches absolute truth and a messianic vision of a 'pre-ordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things, to which men are irresistibly driven, and at which they are bound to arrive'; its politics is but one aspect of an all-embracing philosophy. Both 'liberal' and 'totalitarian' democracy affirm the value of liberty; but for the first, liberty means individual spontaneity, for the second, reconciliation to an absolute, collective purpose—a kind of self-willed slavery, in fact. Both versions of 'democracy' arose in the thinking of the 18th-century philosophes, but  'liberal democracy' retreated before the bloody attempt to establish the City of God on earth and took refuge in the matter-of-factness of Anglo American practice, while 'totalitarian democracy' culminated eventually in Stalinism."

It is clear to Titan that Israel today is a totalitarian democracy with clear Stalinistic or at least Putinistic traits. The wave of antidemocratic legislative initiatives flowing out of the Knesset indicates which way the wind is blowing. Perhaps the unexpected (and unwanted by the right) election of Reuven Rivlin as President will help stem this wave. Indeed, Rivlin is an unreconstructed right winger and settlement supporter,  but he does support liberal democracy and received the endorsement of Haaretz, the only newspaper in Israel that tells the unvarnished truth about what goes on here.

OK, we have pontificated enough and now will let you relax a bit.


 What If? Did WWII last longer than the total length of movies about WWII? For that matter, which war has the highest movie time:war time ratio?


Yosefa sent us some half-baked news from Minnesota about the demise
of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Even crusty old curmudgeons like Titan mourn the poor soul who tried to rise to every occasion.

The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth , Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The gravesite was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded.

Born and bread in  Minnesota , Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes.

Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man
and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John
Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

Wumo has a sad tale to tell.

We have long been fans of dark chocolate, of course the kind that is grown without child labor and marketed with the Fair Trade logo.

Now we have proof that it is good for your brain.

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

When the cow jumped over the moon people complained that the price of beef had reached new levels. Here is a new twist on the nursery rhyme:

Wizard of Id

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Titan wishes all a happy Shavuot/Pentecost as you may chose

Titan is back with you again and wishes all a happy Shavuot or Pentecost holiday, whichever you celebrate. It is traditionally believed that on this day God gave the Torah to Moses. On this festival, the Book of Ruth is read. We can all be grateful that present day asylum seeker and refugee policies were not in place when this lady showed up in Bethlehem with her widowed mother-in-law and with a bit of advice  married into a good family.

 A  descendant  of hers named David became our greatest king. Titan also would like to share another  enjoyable item, lest the readership (all five of you) start to consider him a grouch. You are all familiar with our virtual friend Randall Munroe who gives us the xkcd cartoons and of course the delightful What If? This week Titan wants to show you a video of a TED lecture by no other than Randall himself. Let it fly!

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. In line with the call for action against torture in the Miriam blog, Titan is asking you to donate to the Center for Victims of Torture. This is a body that has highest marks from Charity Watch. We quote the Center's  mission statement:
"At the Center for Victims of Torture, we are forging new ways to advance human rights and build a future free from torture. Through research, training, advocacy and our healing services for survivors, each initiative we undertake plays a role in building a larger vision for the torture rehabilitation movement. We provide a bridge between torture victims, the local community and society as a whole, working to restore the dignity of the human spirit one survivor at a time."
CVT Advocates for the Protection of Torture and War Survivors
Please open the link, open your heart and open your wallet.

Maya Angelou
This great writer died on Wednesday. She came out of a terrible childhood background to become a writer, singer, poet, civil rights movement leader and friend of presidents. Her obituaries are in the Guardian and the Economist among many others. The Guardian has published a lovely compendium of tributes from ordinary people. Her autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" published in 1970 put her in the limelight. She returned to the theme in a 1993 poem: “The caged bird sings/ with a fearful trill/ of things unknown/ but longed for still/ and his tune is heard/ on the distant hill/ for the caged bird/ sings of freedom.”

We have just been informed by the Anti-Defamation League that 25% of the population of the world are antisemites. This came as a relief to those who were brought up by mothers and grandmothers, who fixed the number at 100% minus the Jews, and not all Jews. In Israel, an antisemite is anyone who has the gall to oppose or criticize any policy or action of the Israeli government no matter how odious it might be. We do not deny the existence of anti Jewish prejudice, witness for example the barrage of anti-Jewish tweets in the wake of the victory of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team over Real Madrid in the Euroleague finals. It is stupid, however, to become obsessed with it and the inevitable context, the Holocaust, as pointed out so convincingly by Avram Burg. In a nuanced article in Forward, Jay Michaelson points out the fundamental flaws in the survey. In fact, he came out an antisemite as did Titan.

On June 4, 1989, after several weeks of demonstrations and ferment, the Chinese government and army crushed the students in the square.   The memory of the atrocity lives on despite all attempts by the Chinese government to rewrite the history of those days.
The tank man stands


In Lahore, near the courthouse, a pregnant woman was stoned and beaten to death for the "crime" of choosing her own husband. It is a sad twist that the husband admits to having killed his first wife so that he could marry Farzana the victim. Her family, led by her father carried out the murder while police stood by. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police apparently stood by while the murder was taking place , his spokesman said on Thursday. This is totally unacceptable and gives an indication of the low depths religion, in this case Islam, can take human beings. We sincerely hope that the perpetrators of this atrocity are dealt with firmly by the law. 

Demonstration against rape in India
Ever since the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012, there have been public protests and an outcry against sexual violence
Two teenage girls were gang raped and then hanged in Uttar Pradesh state in India. Three men have been arrested including police personnel.The bodies of the teenagers were found in Katra Shahadatganj village in Badaun district on Wednesday morning. A post-mortem examination confirmed rape and death due to hanging, police said. Hundreds of villagers held a silent demonstration at the scene of the crime in protest at the police's perceived inaction. The video embedded in the above BBC link contains disturbing images.

A disturbed gunman shot six people and then himself in the Isla Vista district of Santa Barbara near the local branch of the University of California. This is another tragic consequence of the refusal of the American public to impose any real control over the possession of firearms. Here are some relevant statistics comparing the UK and the US:

Number of Murders,
United States, 2010: 12,996
Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2010: 8,775

Number of Murders, Britain, 2011*: 638 (Since Britain’s population
is 1/5 that of US, this is equivalent to 3,095 US murders)
Number of Murders by firearms, Britain, 2011*: 58 (equivalent to
290 US murders)

Number of Murders by crossbow in Britain, 2011*: 2 (equivalent to
10 US murders).

Note the kill rate and firearm ownership as function of country. We are told that most people in the US are against free ownership of weapons, but obviously they are not willing to do anything about the situation, even to vote for an anti-gun congressman/woman or senator.

For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.

The first modern school shooter did her murderous thing in 1979 at the age of 16. She is still in prison and it is depressing to read the transcript of her parole hearing. She worries that she may have ignited the chain reaction of school shootings.
Brenda Ann Spencer-she hated Mondays
Pharell Williams' song Happy was supposed to spread happiness. In Iran, six young people were arrested for dancing to the song and were abused by the police. 
"It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” said Pharrell Williams on his Facebook page. He also posted a photograph of the group on the site.

The video was part of a global campaign initiated by Pharrell Williams earlier this year, when he called for people around the world to upload photos and videos of themselves having fun. The Iranian “Happy” film was viewed by over 100,000 people.

Enjoy the video:


The Pope has come and gone and Titan heaves a sigh of relief that no nut with a yarmukle and tzitzis had a chance to take a shot at him. We append the action blog of his last day.
Pope Francis observes a moment of silence after laying a wreath during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. (Reuters)
Last week Palestinians marked the Nakhba Day, their interpretation of the rise of Israel which indeed was a calamity for them. Israel responded with its usual sensitivity and compassion and among other things two teenage boys were shot by Border Police.
A Palestinian man shouts for help moments after Palestinian teen, Mohammad Abu Daher was shot
A Palestinian man shouts for help moments after Palestinian teen, Mohammad Abu Daher, on the ground, was shot to death by Israeli troops near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, May 15, 2014 Photo by AP
 Unfortunately  for the  vicious killers the entire event was recorded on a local security camera and there is controversy about what was seen. The Israeli Army is of course contending that the film was forged. On the other hand, photographers from international news agencies who witnessed the controversial deaths of the two Palestinian teens last week in the West Bank told Haaretz Thursday that Israeli troops shot the teens with live bullets eventhough they did not pose a threat. Titan knows that the IDF lies by reflex. It is even more shocking that a noncombat solder who was there for a different task borrowed a rifle to shoot at the Palestinians because he was bored. The army allowed this which, as pointed out by Haaretz in an editorial, shows the cesspool of corruption into which the occupation has plunged what was once a real army. As Dahlia Scheindlin writes in +972 we are reduced to a battle of narratives with the strongest side usually winning. Some facts are clear, The Palestinians are a stateless people living under military occupation or as refugees. This situation began in 1948, which is why there were demonstrations that day – to protest the ongoing impossibility of their lives. Two Palestinian teens were shot and killed on 15 May, 2014 – that is a fact. The Nakba takes lives, physically and spiritually, to this day – that is its meaning.

We had dinner with Greg and Cindy Corrie who are in the country for the appeal of their case to the Supreme Court. For anyone who does not remember or who was too young in 2003 we remind you that Rachel was crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer while trying to prevent house demolitions in Rafa in the Gaza Strip. Stella Roberts writing in CounterPunch gives a cogent discussion of Rachel's sacrifice and why she is neither a saint a la Joan of Arc nor an idiot about whom the Israeli army and right wing make pancake jokes. May she rest in peace and may we be worthy of her struggle.

Gaby Ashkenazi who was involved in nasty politics towards the end of his term as Chief of Staff has moved on to bigger things in terms of corruption in the business world. An investigation is now under way about the bribing of the head of the Ashdod port union to prevent any labor action while the Shemen Company was drilling for gas. The magnitude of the sleaze is impressive and while Ashkenazi himself, who was once Chairman of Shemen, has been questioned but not yet arrested,the main stockholders and the union boss, along with the head of the company that "arranges" leases of port space were taken into custody earlier this week on suspicions of bribery, fraud, extortion and money laundering. Ashkenazi has also been indicted in Turkey for the Mavi Marmora debacle and may soon find his way to The Hague for trial on heavier charges. We are following attentively.

 Cheers for J&M for giving the Templeton prize its due:

Yosefa sent us some chemistry jokes one of which we show here:

We would like to remind her of med school and what it was like

Titan agrees totally with Barney the bad guy this time. We find these guys hanging around in toilets offering to unzip our fly a pain in the butt:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for May/29/2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Titan greets you with the usual rants

Illustris Simulation of the Universe
Video Credit: Illustris Collaboration, NASA, PRACE, XSEDE, MIT, Harvard CfA;
Music: The Poisoned Princess (Media Right Productions)
Explanation: How did we get here? Click play, sit back, and watch. A new computer simulation of the evolution of the universe -- the largest and most sophisticated yet produced -- provides new insight into how galaxies formed and new perspectives into humanity's place in the universe. The Illustris project -- the largest of its type yet -- exhausted 20 million CPU hours following 12 billion resolution elements spanning a cube 35 million light years on a side as it evolved over 13 billion years. The simulation is the first to track matter into the formation of a wide variety of galaxy types. As the virtual universe evolves, some of the matter expanding with the universe soon gravitationally condenses to form filaments, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The above video takes the perspective of a virtual camera circling part of this changing universe, first showing the evolution of dark matter, then hydrogen gas coded by temperature (0:45), then heavy elements such as helium and carbon (1:30), and then back to dark matter (2:07). On the lower left the time since the Big Bang is listed, while on the lower right the type of matter being shown is listed. Explosions (0:50) depict galaxy-center supermassive black holes expelling bubbles of hot gas. Interesting discrepancies between Illustris and the real universe do exist and are being studied, including why the simulation produces an overabundance of old stars.

Titan is back with you again and would like to share a video of a simulation of the history of the universe, courtesy of NASA. We hope you find it interesting.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is the initiative of a group of Israeli women to take Palestinian children to the sea. Although they live not far from the Mediterranean, most Palestinian children have never seen it, since travel to Israel by Palestinians is severely restricted.

This project has taken wing and expanded. Please help take a kid to the beach. 

The great Canadian writer and environment defender died this week at the age of 92. We are great admirers of his writings and of the campaigns he waged through the years over environment issues. His delightful book "Never Cry Wolf" in which he describes living in the Arctic near a wolf den is a joyous read. We refer you to detailed obituaries in the NYTimes and in the Globe and Mail. The latter gives a more Canadian perspective on this wonderful man.
Mr. Mowat in 2010. Credit Paul Lapid/Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Titan would like to call your attention to his  April 4 blog, in which he  commented on the fact that the Israeli police had hired a spy general to snoop on the Israeli public, a la NSA. We are now told that the NSA works very hard  for Israel and supplies Israel with raw data on US citizens. You may easily guess the ethnicity of these citizens many of whom are denied entry to Israel. That is something to consider when evaluating the request by Israel for visa waiver status. Titan would like to pass on a quote from a comment on NSA activities that gives food for thought.

"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most
honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."
17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.
Not the nicest guy in history
A Christian woman in Sudan who is married to a Christian man has been sentenced to death by a court for the "crime" of practicing the religion in which she was brought up by her Christian mother while her Muslim father was absent from the home. She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery since her marriage to a Christian man is not recognized. This is totally outrageous and we all sincerely hope that a higher court will overturn this draconian sentence. The woman is pregnant and the hanging will be postponed for a few years after the birth. The lashes will be applied when she recovers from the birth.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag pictured on her wedding day with her husband
Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy"
Sudan is the country that carried out genocide in Darfur and evaded sanctions because of Chinese investment in its oil resources. For shame all around!

The recent kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria has raised the question of the right of girls to equal education. Boko Haram has launched a war against education of girls and claims, as in its name, that Western education is sinful. It is no accident that a school for girls was targeted. Nicholas Kristof writing in the NYTimes asks why education of girls is anathema to Muslim fanatics.
A classroom in Mali. Credit Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos (2007)

Indeed, education of girls is key to the liberation of any country from backwardness and in terms of its own distorted logic Boko Haram was consistent with its aims. We can only hope that a concentrated world effort, as initiated by European countries and the US will lead to the rescue of these poor girls.
French President Francois Hollande, center, welcomed Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, right, upon his arrival to an African security summit at the Elysee palace in Paris to discuss the Boko Haram threat to regional stability. Getty Images
While not violent, the objection of Israeli orthodox rabbis to the introduction of a curriculum leading to a high school diploma (Hebrew bagrut) in the Bais-Yaakov school system under their control was consistent with the goal of keeping women subordinate to men and on the fringes of society. To quote the rabbis  "There is no place for studies in Bais Yaakov that lead to the exams of the bagrut,as there is an inherent contradiction in the education of Bais Yaakov that aspires to yiras shamayaim (fear of heaven) and the educational system that leads to the bagrut exams." The methods might be vastly different, but the ideology of the Rabbis and Boko Haram is the same, keep the girls uneducated and they will continue to be the slaves of men.

One might think that in our enlightened secular Western world, all these considerations have gone by the board. It is, therefore, a rude shock to see the female executive editor of the NYTimes fired for having the impudence to demand that her salary be at least as great as that of her male predecessor. The publisher considered her "pushy" which tells you where our culture is stalled.


Olmert, prior to hearing his sentence, in the Tel Aviv court. May 13, 2014.
Olmert, prior to hearing his sentence, in the Tel Aviv court. May 13, 2014. Photo by Yotam Ronen
The big news in Israel this week is the tough sentences handed out to former PM Ehud Olmert and his partners in crime. The case involved major bribery and corruption around the building of a monstrous housing project in Jerusalem when Olmert was the mayor. He was given six years and a hefty fine. Titan thinks that he was punished for the wrong offense. His conduct of the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when he was PM, that cost so many lives in unnecessary and bungled operations, went unpunished. It always strikes us how arrogant people in power can be and how they think that they can get away with anything. Hubris indeed eventually angers the gods.

Suspected 'price tag' attack in Abu Gosh.
Anti-Arab graffiti, reading 'Arabs out,' sprayed in Abu Ghosh on June 19, 2013. Photo by Emil Salman
There is a wave of anti-Arab hate crimes in Israel, most of them committed by a group of 100 or more right wing, religious activists. The so-called price tag policy involves an attack against Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and left-wing organizations. The police and army have turned a blind eye towards the burning of mosques, defacing of churches and monasteries and violence against liberals. Now that the violence has turned against the Army itself, the establishment has woken up. These crimes are terror pure and simple, but the government has refused so far to apply that definition. The hypocrisy involved is huge but typical. We entertain the hope that the government will get tough about settler violence, but we are not holding our breath.

Pope Francis is coming to visit Israel, the Palestine Authority and Jordan this month and it is a real security headache for both Israel and the Vatican. There are complaints that the stringent security measures will block the Pope's access to Christians who want to interact with him. Nonetheless the fear that some crazy Orthodox Jew will try to assassinate him is very real and in Titan's opinion the security measures are justified. Even if the Pope himself is protected, the possibility of a massive hate crime against a Christian institution is certainly on the agenda and the security forces of the state must do whatever is necessary to prevent it. We are dealing here with settlers, religious fanatics and lunatic messianic nuts who are capable of anything. Churches are a very easy target.


What If raises the question of a lawsuit for $2x10**36 or $2 undecillion against the Au Bon Pain restaurant chain and others. This is the new record in civil and punitive damages although there have been quite a few dillies in the past.

Those of us who commute by train have something to learn from Randall about our favorite mode of transportation.

How real are we?

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Cynthia has something on human intelligence
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for May/16/2014

When did you last fantasize about civil rights and lawyers

Wizard of Id Cartoon for May/08/2014