Friday, August 22, 2014

Titan wishes this war would end


Titan is back and wants to comment on the supermoon we experienced this month. On August 10, the moon was full and near mininum perigee, a mere 356,896 kilometers away.  To put this in perspective:
Orbital characteristics
Perigee 362600 km
(356400370400 km)
Apogee 405400 km
(404000406700 km)
384399 km  (0.00257 AU)
Eccentricity 0.0549

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
Surreal Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)
Explanation: Big, bright, and beautiful, a Full Moon near perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit around our fair planet, rose on August 10. This remarkable picture records the scene with a dreamlike quality from the east coast of the United States. The picture is actually a composite of 10 digital frames made with exposures from 1/500th second to 1 second long, preserving contrast and detail over a much wider than normal range of brightness. At a perigee distance of a mere 356,896 kilometers, August's Full Moon was the closest, and so the largest and most super, of the three Full Moons nearest perigee in 2014 now popularly known as supermoons. But if you missed August's super supermoon, the next not-quite-so supermoon will be September 8. Then, near the full lunar phase the Moon's perigee will be a slightly more distant 358,387 kilometers. That's only about 0.4 percent less super (farther and smaller) than the super supermoon.
 Titan himself is bigger than Luna, but is too far away to impress anyone except a spacecraft nearby and the Cassini imaging team. A few months ago, Titan showed Venus as seen from Saturn, as seen from orbit around the planet and as imagined by Botticelli in 1452. The New Yorker (please forgive the copyright infringement) shows how a newborn Venus would be greeted today.


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.


CHARITY CORNER
This week Titan is referring you to the emergency effort by Oxfam in the Gaza region. The needs are huge, the means are always insufficient and NGO's are the most efficient way to help, provided the Israeli government does not interfere. Please donate through any Oxfam channel.

THE RANTS
RACE IN MISSOURI 
What happened in Ferguson is quite straightforward. The shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, United States, a suburb of St. Louis, described as one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the country. Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old man, died after being shot by a Ferguson police officer.  According to Ferguson police, Brown was a suspect in a robbery committed minutes before the shooting, although the initial contact between the officer  and Brown was unrelated to the robbery. Brown had no criminal record. Wilson had served four years with the Ferguson Police Department after serving two years with another local police department. He had no disciplinary history.


A woman has her face doused with milk after suffering the effects of tear gas used by police in Ferguson. (photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
A woman has her face doused with milk after suffering the effects of tear gas used by police in Ferguson. (photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

 Since then all hell has broken loose. The community rioted and violence increased apace. We refer you to a summary of the events from the Huffington Post. The family of the victim has had an autopsy performed and found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The officer who shot him,  Darren Wilson is being hidden and it is not clear why he has not been arrested. Of course, it is clear, what no one wants to state out loud, it is all about race. The victim is black, the cop is white. It is all too similar to Israeli cops or soldiers and Palestinians. The tear gas is the same brand and the connection runs even deeper. When we were tear gassed in Bil'in, we used onions.
Yosefa in Bil'in 2006
The basketball great Karim Abdul Jabbar makes the point that what is on the table in Ferguson is not just another act of systemic racism, but class warfare. He deals fiercely with the reasons and means by which class warfare is disguised as a racial issue. As he puts it so well "Rather than uniting to face the real foe—do-nothing politicians, legislators, and others in power—we fall into the trap of turning against each other, expending our energy battling our allies instead of our enemies. This isn’t just inclusive of race and political parties, it’s also about gender. In her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, Laurie Penny suggests that the decreased career opportunities for young men in society makes them feel less valuable to females; as a result they deflect their rage from those who caused the problem to those who also suffer the consequences: females." 

Right on, Mr. Jabbar, and Titan hopes that your message gets through to the people who need to understand it and act upon it. Unfortunately attempts to remedy society such as Occupy or the social demonstrations in Israel in 2011 all seem to fizzle out and the 1% continue to trample on us.

ATROCITY BY ISIS 
The beheading of an American journalist by Islamists shown on video is an indescribable outrage. Titan is foaming at the mouth over the bestiality of these people.
Screengrab from the ISIS video showing the execution of James Foley
James Foley about to be  executed
 President Obama expressed the shock of the entire world. It is clear that this movement must be stopped in its tracks. Whether the Kurds and Iraqis with US air support can pull this off is still a question. The fact that the US military failed to rescue the hostages is very sad.

MYSTERY AIR STRIKE 
Some people took some jet bombers, attacked the city of Tripoli, Libya, killed six people and returned to base, somewhere. No one knows whodunit. It boggles the mind that military aircraft can be picked up and used freely. Titan thinks some governance is badly needed. Blaming the Italians does not wash.

HEALTH OF RELEASED PRISONER 
Gao Zhisheng, in Beijing on Apr. 7, 2010.Credit Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press
There is severe concern for the physical and mental health of Gao Zhisheng, who was released from
prison in China last week. He was malnourished and subject to sensory deprivation and now is in a very bad state. We sincerely hope that he recovers and can join his family in the US soon to start his rehabilitation process.

HOME SWEET HOME
THE WAR 
In his last blog Titan thought the war was winding down. It took a short break and is now back with us at full scale. We even had a failed attempt to assassinate Muhammed Deif, the Hamas military commander. The result was success in killing his wife, infant son and young daughter. Titan "salutes" the heroes. The real question is why the war enjoys the support of 9/10 of the population, including many who should know better, who understand well that the war could easily have been avoided and that in truth Natanyahu is incapable of making peace, only war. Aeyal Gross provides a penetrating analysis of this question in Haaretz.

Indeed one might ask how any nation would react if rockets came across the border and there is much hypocrisy in the world. The US reaction to 9/11 was to invade and conquer both Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter despite there being no connection between El Qaida and Saddam Hussein. The degree of success is a matter of record. It is generally accepted that Israel has the right and need to defend itself, but one might wonder about the means. While the right to self-defense is not usually in dispute, a counter-argument based on Buddhist ideas has been put forward by Steven Fulder. We quote "We have no choice generally means We don’t have the wisdom to act differently. Most wars, including this one, depend on fear, insecurity, anger, or revenge. These are individual and national emotions, often stoked up by media and political leaders." Titan takes the liberty to ask how much Buddhist mercy is applied to the Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar.  Indeed, alas, practice seldom, if ever, attains the ideals embodied in the ideology.

Last Saturday night we participated in a demonstration in Tel Aviv along with up to 10,000 other Israelis who think differently A description and summary of the speeches is provided by +972.
Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)
Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

We also have a call from Archbishop Tutu to the people of Israel to save themselves by abandoning the occupation and the repression of the Palestinian people.

We have had a few former soldiers speaking up about their experiences and their understanding of the futility of war. One of them makes the point that while war can be exciting, peace is a boring task that someone has to do.
Protest against the Gaza operation, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014
Protest against the Gaza operation, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
Another calls the bluff on the meretricious  claim that Israel is targeting Hamas assets accurately by means of artillery fire. As an experienced artillery person he points out the innate inaccuracy of artillery fire and the fact that  human rights organizations appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice to cease this lethal practice. In June 2007 the Attorney-General announced that no more artillery fire was to be used in the Gaza Strip. This order has been systematically ignored since the Cast Lead operation of 2012. The results have been tragic. A call for empathy comes from Ruth Reznik, who was only 14 when she joined a Zionist militia and took up arms against the British in Palestine. Now, she says, is the time to understand why Gazans are taking up arms against Israel. (For the record, she is the founder of the first movement against domestic violence in Israel and led the establishment of shelters for battered women.)

A FEW OTHER RANTS 
Recently a couple, he Muslim and she a convert from Judaism, got married. Mazal tov says Titan.
Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka on their wedding day, August 17, 2014 / Haaretz
 
There was an outcry from the usual fascists, but President Rivlin, who cannot be suspected of liberal ideas, came out with a call for respect for human rights. Rivlin wrote: “A red line exists between freedom of speech and protest and incitement. Mahmoud and Morel from Yafo decided to marry in freedom in a democratic state. The incitement against them is outrageous and disconcerting, regardless of my own stance or the stance of others. Not everyone needs to celebrate alongside Mahmoud and Morel, but we all must show them respect. We have within and among us difficult and profound disagreements, but incitement, violence and discrimination have no place in Israeli society. Expressions like this erode the foundations of our coexistence here in Israel.”
Allison Kaplan Sommer blogging in Forward asks why no kind words were forthcoming from the PM. A good question indeed says Titan.

THIEVES IN UNIFORM 
When our brave soldiers invade a Palestinian home they usually wreck the furniture, insult the people and behave like the beasts that they are. They also, it appears, like to put their hands on whatever cash they find. Titan wonders when the high command will put a stop to this pillage. The detainees of the Mavi Marmora were relieved of their worldly goods by soldiers. One scapegoat was found and was supposed to be tried for stealing. Kol hakavod l'zahal (we salute our army).

THE DOWNFALL OF DEMOCRACY 
The cynical use of manipulative fear propaganda by the government in Israel has led to the rise of
irrationality to the point that far too many people are willing to forgo democracy for a theocracy that will give them a feeling of security. The rise of the Hardal (an acronym for ultra religious nationalism) movement and its drive to dispense with liberal democracy is described clearly by B. Michael writing in Haaretz. The basic idea is to replace the elected institutions of the state with "Rabbi Kings." It sounds ridiculous and even paranoid to talk about this as a real phenomenon, but as Carlos Strenger points out, also in Haaretz, if we fail to stand up and fight for our values of liberal democracy, we are doomed to lose them.
Members of Israel Hofshit
Members of Israel Hofshit (Be Free Israel), an organization that promotes pluralism and religious freedom. The sign reads, "Waiting for the bus on Shabbat." Photo by Alon Ron

 The closing of a religious school in Jerusalem because it had the temerity to teach secular subjects alongside religious learning is an indication of where we are going.

 SILLY TIME

What If? asks a not very smart question, but Randall fields it well. If I shot an infinitely strong laser beam into the sky at a random point, how much damage would it do?

Garrett D.


What is not smart is the use of infinity which renders the discussion meaningless.

If you are on the beach and your cell phone battery is drained, there is a practical recourse for ladies who are dressed for the beach.
Note the solar cells on the bikini


A man walks into a bar and shouts "all lawyers are a$^$%^oles!" A man at the bar says "I resent that."
"Are you a lawyer?"
"No I am an as%^$^&ole."
Proof:
Dilbert Cartoon for Aug/19/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Aug/20/2014
YOU CAN BELIEVE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD FORTUNE TELLER
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/18/2014


It is nice to know that as we age we can count on our children to look out for us:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/14/2014


especially since they really trust us, as they should.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Titan is sweating through the summer

Titan is back and wants to congratulate the Rosetta team on the first ever orbit around a comet. The spacecraft is now moving around the comet in a triangular orbit but will enter a bound orbit next month.
Comet 67P on 3 August 2014
Comet on 3 August 2014 length about 4 km


It will deposit a lander named Philae on the surface next November. Here is a link to ESA and the mission Web site. There you will find much information on the mission, the trajectory and the instrumentation of the spacecraft. Enjoy!

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.


CHARITY CORNER
This week Titan is sending you to the same charity that Pollyanna referred to last week, the Emergency Fund for Ebola run  by GlobalGiving. The situation in Africa is terrible. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has worsened over the past week. More than 1,600 people are reported to be infected with the virus and 887 have died from the disease, according to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization. Please help.

POSSIBLE GOOD NEWS
While it has always been thought that Ebola has no cure or treatment, an untried treatment, used as a last resort on two American doctors who contracted the disease while treating patients in Africa, seems to be effective. It was approved by the FDA under the "compassionate use" clause which is certainly OK. The point has been made that if Ebola were an epidemic in the UK, a cure would have been found much sooner. Now the question of access, side effects, availability to people in the Third World, is a matter of serious discussion. Titan hopes that the new treatment is safe and effective and can be made available in Africa very quickly. In Israel, Prof. Leslie Lobel of Ben Gurion University (a co-founder of the NALA Foundation) is working on the development of a vaccine for Ebola. It is too late for the present victims, but it offers hope for the fairly near future. Cheers to all the good and brave people who are fighting on this front.
Dr. Leslie Lobel (second from left) oversees the drawing of blood from an Ebola survivor in Uganda for his study. (Courtesy of Leslie Lobel)
Dr. Leslie Lobel (second from left) oversees the drawing of blood from an Ebola survivor in Uganda for his study. (Courtesy of Leslie Lobel)

RIGHT ON, RABBI SAPERSTEIN 
Titan congratulates  Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein who has been nominated for the post of US ambassador at large for international religious freedom at the State Department. The post was created in 1998 and until now has always been held by a Christian. We wish you all success Rabbi.

REFORM JEWS MAY BE COMING IN OUT OF THE COLD 
The new President of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, has long been known for his hostility to the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, Reform and Conservative. Now Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Head of the US Reform Movement, informs us that the President is becoming more friendly. We are pleased. Fair disclosure, Titan, Pollyanna and their amanuensis are members of the Natanya Reform Congregation.



THE RANTS: ON RELIGIOUS CLEANSING IN IRAQ 
Families from the Yazidi religious minority on the outskirts of Sinjar, west of Mosul on 5 August 2014.
Surrounded by Sunni militant fighters, tens of thousands of Yazidis risk dying of thirst
The fanatical Muslim jihadists marching through Iraq are going in for religious cleansing. Tens of thousands of members of one of Iraq's oldest minorities have been stranded on a mountain in the country's north-west, facing slaughter at the hands of jihadists surrounding them below if they flee, or death by dehydration if they stay.

UN groups say at least 40,000 members of the Yazidi sect, many of them women and children, have taken refuge in nine locations on Mount Sinjar, a craggy, mile-high ridge identified in local legend as the final resting place of Noah's ark. They are now threatened by the ISIS jihadists with forced conversion to Islam. The world sits by while this is happening. The Kurds are trying to help, but lack the support resources . We are pleased to note that President Obama has authorized food drops to the besieged and air strikes against ISIS. He described the threats against stranded Yazidi refugees as holding the potential for “genocide”. Titan salutes Mr. President.

A similar fate awaits the Christian community of Iraq who are fleeing in droves.
Iraqi Christians flee violence in Mosul
About 35,000 Iraqi Christians were forced to flee Mosul when Isis swept into the city. Photograph: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

France has offered asylum to those in Mosul, but the UK government is dragging its feet and the Church of England is remonstrating. Indeed, the UK and the USA, whose invasion in 2003 destabilized Iraq, bear a responsibility for the results of their actions. Of course, Iraq was not heaven on Earth under Saddam Hussein, but at least it existed and the people had a minimum degree of personal safety, albeit under a dictator. The US under Bush caused this set of calamities and now is evading the results. For a scathing analysis of the young Bush and the garbage he left us, read Maureen Dowd in the NYTimes.

ANTISEMITIC THUGGERY IN AUSTRALIA
Titan is shocked and angered by the report of antisemitic harassment of Jewish school children in Sydney Australia. Teenagers boarded a school bus full of school children, aged between five and 12, coming from a Jewish school. The group then directed antisemitic abuse and threats at the children. It is not clear to us why the driver allowed them to board,unless he was in collusion with them. We expect the local police to do their job and bring these hoodlums to justice.

 HOME SWEET HOME

THE WAR 
Yesterday (Wednesday) we thought the war was going to transform into hard bargaining negotiations. It turns out that we are back to square one and the rockets are flying again. It is to be expected that this will not go on indefinitely and it is indeed difficult to predict what will ensue. Certainly the choices before Netanyahu are tough ones. As He (Natanyahu) can agree to a shortsighted and surely only temporary truce by partly giving in to Hamas’s demands, as in previous deals. Or he can tackle the two core issues fueling the violence by demanding that Palestinian militants disarm once and for all — in exchange for lifting the economically crippling blockade." We note that "once and for all" is a mantra going back to the days of Ariel Sharon if not earlier. We can be forgiven for being a bit cynical.

As the war winds down, it is both interesting and important to try to understand what happened, why and what the future implications will be.
An Israeli Merkava tank rolls back from the Gaza Strip to an army base at the Israeli-Gaza border
An Israeli Merkava tank rolls back from the Gaza Strip to an army base at the Israeli-Gaza border as the sun sets on August 3, 2014. Photo by AFP


For a good set of analyses Titan refers you to a collection of links in Haaretz in which these questions are addressed. J.J. Goldberg writing in Forward notes how Israel consistently refuses to absorb the lessons of failures past.

One casualty of the war is tolerance of opposing views. We are all supposed to march in lockstep to the cadence of the media drums whose message is dictated by the government. Gideon Levy who has long been one of the leading voices of dissent now needs bodyguards and fears to go out to a cafe. As he told the Guardian in an interview-"What is different this time is the anti-democratic spirit. Zero tolerance of any kind of criticism, opposition to any kind of sympathy with the Palestinians," says Levy. "You shouldn't be surprised that the 95% [are in favour of the war], you should be surprised at the 5%. This is almost a miracle. The media has an enormous role. Given the decades of demonization of the Palestinians, the incitement and hatred, don't be surprised the Israeli people are where they are." Gideon's column on the fake victory that all the media are trumpeting puts matters into clear perspective.
The rubble of destroyed buildings on July 27, 2014, in Gaza City
Palestinians carrying items they found in the rubble of destroyed buildings on July 27, 2014, in Gaza City. Photo by AFP
Another issue is the atrocities of which Israeli troops are accused and how the army and government will deal with the possibility of prosecutions in the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch is investigating an alleged mass execution reported in the Daily Beast. In another case, reported in the Guardian, an Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old. Then we have the use of the "Hannibal protocol", which is a dense fire procedure used in an effort to isolate a particular area to prevent removal of a prisoner. It caused the death of dozens of innocent civilians. Titan thinks it  would certainly be preferable if these allegations were dealt with locally in an honest fashion. It is not clear, in the present climate of public opinion, that this is possible.

SILLY TIME

Randall is traveling this week, so there is no new What If?, but he does have some good advice for graduate students about to defend a thesis.

Thesis Defense

Ph.D. comics tells us what went into writing the thesis



Cynthia continues to submit to the New Yorker
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/03/2014


and shows us how self-focused our children are.

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/05/2014



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Titan is back with you again after a vacation in Malta with Pollyanna and YandA.
The Maltese Cross

We all had a great time and if you have the time and interest, you can read our blog. 
Titan even learned a word in Maltese:
For example,



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.


CHARITY CORNER 
This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is the L.O. - Combat Violence against Women organization.
 
From their mission statement: "At our shelters we constantly organize lectures and day seminars to members of the Knesset, soldiers, police officers, students, medical professionals, women’s organizations, etc. We go out to various locations and instruct at police academy, university, college as well as high school students." Please make a generous donation to this most worthy body.

IN MEMORIAM LORIN MAAZEL 1930-2014
maazel
Renowned conductor Lorin Maazel died from complications of pneumonia at his home in Castleton, Virginia. Photograph: Giambalvo & Napolitano/Redferns

Internationally renowned conductor Lorin Maazel, who led the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and others abroad, died Sunday at his home in Castleton, Va., at age 84. Born in Paris on March 6, 1930, Mr. Maazel was a child prodigy. At seven years old, he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony, according to the Associated Press. By the age of 15, he had taken the podium to lead several of the most important American orchestras. While he had a mighty career, not all critics admired his performances, e.g. Michael White at the Telegraph and Russell Platt at the New Yorker. A full obituary is given in the Guardian.

WHO RUNS THE WORLD? 
This is a simple question, the answer to which is, the goddamn idiots whom we the public elect. The Onion provides a discussion of the way things are run. Churchill said that democracy is the worst way to run a country except for all others that have been tried. Read The Onion. Warning, pungent language is used. We quote "Individuals in every country on earth voiced their frustration that, in spite of generations of mistreatment, neglect, and abuse they have suffered at the hands of those in positions of authority, they continue to allow control over the world’s governments, businesses, and virtually every other type of organization and social group to fall to the most megalomaniacal pricks among them." Food for thought.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN CALIFORNIA UNC0NSTITUTIONAL 
A federal judge ruled last week that California's death penalty is unconstitutional, saying the system is arbitrary and unfair, and that because the process is plagued with lengthy and unpredictable delays it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Titan cheers and sincerely hopes that the people of California and the USA in general will put an end to this barbaric practice of the state killing its own citizens.

SOCIAL STRUGGLES IN BRAZIL 
Communities said to be founded by runaway slaves are known in Portuguese as “quilombos.” According to Brazilian law, residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors -- and that right, though rarely fulfilled, is quietly revolutionizing the country’s race relations. Now, more than 1 million black Brazilians are calling upon the government to honor their constitutional right to land. Among them are Luiz Pinto and his family, who have fended off decades of eviction attempts and managed to remain ensconced in their quilombo, known as Sacopã, in a neighborhood gentrified long ago by wealthier, whiter Brazilians.
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Luiz Pinto, who has been fighting eviction for decades, at home with his dog. (Carolina Ramirez/The Huffington Post)
This is a major effort to compensate now for ancient wrongs and it is interesting to watch how it pans out. Titan refers you to an article in the Huffington Post, the first in a series. Canada for its part is trying to make amends to its much abused First Nations. In the US, no one is talking about reparations to descendants of slaves or Native Americans. When the Israel-Arab struggle is finally resolved there will have to be compensation for the Arab refugees of 1948 and for the Jews who were driven out of Arab countries.


THE RANTS: ON CLIMATE CHANGE 
Titan continues to rant about climate change and what we have to do about it and what we can do about it at relatively little cost, for the moment. Of course, certain economic interests, in particular the fossil fuel industries, would lose some of their ungodly profits, but humanity and its needs should come first. For the benefit of deniers, let us quote the Guardian about the hottest June in history, that followed the hottest May in history: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Monday that last month's average global temperature was 16.2C (61.2F), which is 0.7C higher than the 20th-century average. It beat 2010's record by one-twentieth of a degree. Read more.

The Daily Kos gives us a caveman discussion that puts it in focus.



HOME SWEET HOME
WAR WAR WAR 
We are at war with the Hamas in Gaza again. We are bombing and invading them, they are firing rockets into our population centers and there seems to be no end in sight.
IDF tanks fire toward Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, July 21, 2014.
IDF tank fires at Gaza. Photo by Moti Milrod

Yes, the Hamas are using the people of Gaza as their human shield and we have no choice but to go after them. You can argue with equal logic that the location of Israeli army headquarters in the heart of Tel Aviv, where it is a legitimate target, makes the residents of that part of the city a human shield. Our propaganda says we are using restraint--Amira Hass debunks this totally. A professor at Bar-Ilan University, a religious institution, suggests that we can deter terrorists by raping their sisters-God's chosen people we are.

Of course, much of this is of our own making. Our governments,down the years, with the electoral and moral support of a large section of the population, have consistently refused to take the steps to achieve an accommodation with the Palestinians that they could accept and live with. J.J. Goldberg of the Forward has translated a Facebook posting by Yuval Diskin, former head of Shabak (Israel Security Service) that points out how delusional our leaders and the public have been for all these years. It was written before hostilities escalated, but was only too predictive.

In truth, the deeper illusion that the vision of the Greater Israel can be realized has plagued us for decades. In 1983, Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister,  cut a deal with King Hussein of Jordan which would have freed us of the incubus of the West Bank and its population, but the PM Shamir and the Likud shot it down. This war was not really planned by either side, but we stumbled into it as described by Mr. Goldberg in a different article in Forward. To a great extent, we are seeing that if you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind. We and the Gazans are tasting this bitter harvest, but their lot is much worse. Besides the cynical use of the people of Gaza as a human shield, the decision of the Hamas to get into a war may have been driven by their dire situation, as pointed out by Anne Barnard in the NYTimes. As she points out "Hamas had been struggling. The turmoil in the region meant it lost one of its main sponsors, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom it broke with over his brutal fight against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency, and weakened its alliance with Iran. It lost support in Egypt when the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted and replaced with a military-backed government hostile to Hamas."

If the people of Gaza will derive any benefit from all this, it would behoove them to analyze the cost as well and to rethink their allegiance to Hamas. Any group of leaders who would deliberately subject their people to what is happening to the people of Gaza lowers irresponsibility to new depths. Yes, we had the leaders of the Axis in WWII, who brought catastrophe to their nations, but they at least at the beginning thought they could win, at least Germany and Italy (Japan had a different story). Here Hamas is playing a dirty game of using the Gazan victims for its own political advantage.

We cannot help but be reminded of Vietnam where the US and before them the French thought that they were dealing with terrorists. They were defeated because the Viet Cong were an insurgency supported by the people. The propaganda that we are getting about putting down the Hamas for good is of the same ilk. Juan Cole does a good job of getting this point across so we shall refer you to his blog in which he compares, not Vietnam, but Falluja, Iraq to Gaza.

Finally, fair disclosure. We signed a petition in support of the demands Hamas has laid out for halting its fire, including a lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, the release of dozens of prisoners, who were arbitrarily rearrested after having been traded for Gilad Shalit, and the opening of its Rafah border crossing with Egypt. We think this is quite reasonable and after the shooting stops, more details can be negotiated. We realize that puts us in the position of being out of step with the local consensus, but if Amos Oz can oppose the invasion of Gaza  from his hospital bed, we, who are on our feet and can go to a shelter, can do as much.

ON MILITARY INCOMPETENCE
We have been ranting for years that it makes no sense that geophysical means have not been employed to deal with the tunnels which now underlie Gaza and the border area.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit
IDF troops near an uncovered tunnel inside the Gaza Strip, July 19, 2014. Photo by IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The kidnapping of Gilad Shalit was done via a tunnel. Military incompetence is nothing new and books have been written about it. Here we have something much worse, essentially criminal idiocy.  Long ago people in the establishment, such as Yossi Langotzky, tried to get the brass hats to confront the issue. They blew it completely. We refer you to a compilation of five must-read articles about the tunnel fiasco. Of course, the issue of corruption and lack of objectivity in controlling things comes up as well. We quote from one of the articles--"Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Beinhorn, the defense establishment comptroller, is the brother of Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Keren, who was the head of the Defense R and Directorate during most of the time that this failure took place. An unbiased, professional investigative committee is essential. Maybe it should be staffed, for a change, only with scientists — Nobel Prize laureates Aaron Ciechanover, Ada Yonath, Dan Shechtman and, above all, Daniel Kahneman, who is an expert in irrational decision making. The committee’s adviser must be Col. (res.) Yossi Langotsky, an intelligence and special operations officer, geologist and technologist, an expert in offshore and on-shore drilling — and one who insists on drilling into the minds of military officials and politicians, even though he comes up against layers of rock that make Israel’s Operation Protective Edge look like cotton candy."

Haaretz in an editorial takes the government and the military  establishment to task for their colossal failure to deal in time with the tunnel issue. "Netanyahu has been prime minister since just after Operation Cast Lead ended in 2009. During this period, which included 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the defense ministers were Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon, who was IDF chief of staff when the tunnel phenomenon was first uncovered in 2004 and 2005. The three of them, mainly Netanyahu, must give an accounting
for their omissions on this front over the years."


We wonder if anyone of these clods with tons of brass on their shoulders will be brought to account for this military calamity. At the beginning of WWI, the two German Marshals, Ludendorff and Hindenburg, agreed that, while the British soldier is a lion, he is commanded by donkeys. As Talleyrand said, stupidity is worse than criminality. This is what is inflicted on  the brave and motivated Israeli soldier who is sent into combat under the command of incompetents.

We should qualify this by saying that the IQ of the General Staff officers is certainly not below the norm of the population and is above it. The difficulty, as pointed out Norman Dixon, lies in the military mind set and the inability, engendered by their education, to assimilate new ideas. History abounds with instances of armies fully prepared for the previous war, with a rigid rejection of novel technologies such as the tank (they preferred
the horse up to WWII), the airplane (Gen. Billy Mitchell was court-martialed in 1925 for insubordination because he insisted that the airplane was the way of the future) and so on. The Sidewinder air-to-air heat-seeking missile was developed by engineers at home on their own because the generals opposed it and Hyman Rickover had to jam the nuclear submarine down the throats of the US Navy command. This is, of course, small comfort.

In Israel the problem is exacerbated by the fact that Ministers of Defense are usually former Chiefs of Staff. We have had two civilian Ministers of Defense,  one Prof. Moshe Arens, a professor of engineering, who was excellent and the other, Amir Peretz, a party hack who came up through the labor unions,  was a total failure because of his own personal idiocy. Titan firmly believes that the top echelons of the Ministry of Defense, professional and political, should be staffed by talented civilians who are capable of rational decision making. This, of course,  is no guarantee against failure. Robert McNamara, the genius who saved Ford Motors from collapse, was led into the Vietnam war by scheming generals. It would, however, be an improvement over what we have now.

SILLY TIME

What If asks Suppose you were to print, in 12 point text, the numeral 1 using a common cheap ink-jet printer. How many molecules of the ink would be used? At what numerical value would the number printed approximately equal the number of ink molecules used?
Fun answer, Randall at his best.

For those of you who like to play the markets Nibs has some insight.

Cynthia has dreams, but not really like the rest of us
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jul/20/2014
We know some people who really like to have the window seat .
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jul/21/2014


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.


CHARITY CORNER 
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



NOW FOR THE RANTS AND THERE IS MUCH TO RANT ABOUT 
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.

LIFE WITHOUT MILITARISM 
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.

HOME SWEET HOME

ARE WE LIKE NORTH KOREA?
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 ABDUCTED BOYS 
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.

A HOPE FOR A BETTER FUTURE 
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.

SILLY TIME
 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.

CHARITY CORNER 
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.


IN MEMORIAM: RAPHAEL FRUEBECK DE BURGOS 1933-2014 
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.



NOW FOR THE RANTS AND THERE IS MUCH TO RANT ABOUT

THE WAR ON WOMEN
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.

 HOME SWEET HOME


MORE ON NAKHBA AND DEATH 
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.
Nuwara
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.

EVOLUTION IN SCHOOLS 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.

IS IT RELIGION OR THE OCCUPATION THAT IS DRIVING US TO DOOM?
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.


SILLY TIME

 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?

—Becky


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.

DARK CHOCOLATE 
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