Friday, November 28, 2014

Titan gives thanks...

Titan is back and would like congratulate the Rosetta spacecraft team for the exciting data returned by the probe Philae from the surface of Comet  67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Indeed the probe did not land as it should have and is now dormant because of lack of solar charging of its battery, but already things are starting to look interesting. He also wishes his US readers a happy Thanksgiving holiday. Be grateful for the good things in your life.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have 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 Titan refers you to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Israel. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, genetic, multi-system disease for which there is no cure. In Israel, there are some 350,000 CF carriers and 650 patients, half of whom are children. The CFFI is a nonprofit organization and is a registered charity in good standing with recognition from the Income Tax Authorities that provide Israeli donors with a tax credit. We are also beneficiaries of PEF Israel Endowment Funds Inc., a United States 501c3 organization, and receive tax deductible donations in the U.S. through PEF. Titan says please help out.
A dedicated team of caregivers at one of our CF clinics
REX USA/Moviestore Collection/Rex

Mike Nichols, celebrated as a director on both stage and screen, died last week at the age of 83. One of the few people to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards, Nichols’s career spanned 50 years and included some of the best and most beloved plays and films of the 20th century. He was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, the son of Jewish parents, in 1931 in Berlin. His father, a physician, was born in Vienna to Russian Jewish immigrants who had been a prominent Siberian family until the Russian Revolution compelled them to emigrate. His mother’s parents were German Jews. Nichols was seven years old when he fled Germany and immigrated to the United States where they settled in  New York City in 1939. His father, whose original Russian name was Pavel Nikolaevich Peschkowsky, changed his name to Paul Nichols, Nichols derived from his Russian patronymic, and set up a successful medical practice in Manhattan, enabling the family to live near Central Park.
Mike's career started almost by accident when, while studying in pre-med at the University of Chicago in the 1950's,  he met the comedienne Elaine May, with whom he developed a popular sketch comedy act, “Nichols and May,” that made both of them famous.  In 1964, he directed his first Broadway show, “Barefoot in the Park” winning him his first Tony. He followed that with “Woolf,” commanding legendary performances from  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and winning five Academy Awards. Next came, “The Graduate” which catapulted him into the stratosphere of Hollywood legend. Over the years, we have enjoyed many of his great films.
A detailed obituary is available in the New York Times. May he rest in peace, his life work enriched all of us. Here is an example of his comedy with Elaine May. Thanks Yosefa.



The Israeli cabinet has just approved a law, that, if passed by the Knesset (a virtual certainty), will, as stated by Zahava Gal-On of the Meretz left wing party that Titan supports, constitute "a crime against Israeli democracy, and will be responsible for one of the blackest stains on Israeli law." The Attorney-General Weinstein also opposes it, saying that some aspects of the bill “would make a real change to the basic principles of constitutional law as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws of the Knesset, and lead to deterioration of the democratic characteristic of the state.” The bill is an obscenity, designed to attack the court system whose rulings in favor of human rights and dignity are anathema to the fascists who serve in the government. There seems to be no room in the country anymore for liberal or progressive minded people. We are not wanted here--the people want their King Natanyahu and to hell with human rights, the rights of minorities and the independence of the judiciary. Yossi Sarid calls for the removal of the fig leaf. The idea that the left should boycott the vote makes sense to Titan. It is worthy of note that both Reform and ultraֹ-Orthodox Jews oppose the bill, each for their own valid reasons. Gideon Levy regards the law as a step in the direction of the single state option with apartheid entrenched in the constitutional structure. He may well be right. The New York Times in an editorial described Israel's move away from democracy as heartbreaking.

Titan is also dismayed by the decision of a grand jury in Ferguson  MO USA to refrain from indicting the white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager last August. The message is that it is OK to kill blacks, something like it is OK to kill Arabs in Israel or anyone you do not like in the IS. Welcome to the world of the 21st century.


Much noise is made about the threat of an Islamic takeover of Europe by immigration and intimidation. In fact, Europe's Muslims are mostly an impoverished minority and while they can cause riots and disturbances, they are not liable to bring down governments and the mainstream are mostly law-abiding people trying to make it in a strange environment. On the other hand, Europe seems to be complacent about the threat from Russia under Putin. Mikhail Gorbachev, speaking at the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, accused the West of "triumphalism" and degrading of Russia in 1989 and warns that a new Cold War could be in the offing.
Russians attend a rally in Moscow to support Vladimir Putin with the invasion of Crimea
Russians attend a rally in support of Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Crimea. Photograph: Getty

George Soros, writing in the NYRB and in the Guardian, warns that Russia’s expansionism poses an existential threat to the EU and calls for greater material support for Ukraine.
Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin; drawing by James Ferguson

Ukraine may just be the first step in a reconquest of the components of the old USSR.  First Dog on the Moon in the Guardian has a perspective of sorts:

First Dog on the Moon 11.11.14
The Royal Society in the UK has come up with a report on the dangers of climate change and it is indeed frightening.

Controversial: One of Theater J’s disputed productions was 2011’s ‘Return to Haifa,’ which critics claimed took an anti-Israel approach.
Controversial: One of Theater J’s disputed productions was 2011’s ‘Return to Haifa,’ which critics claimed took an anti-Israel approach.


Censorship and muzzling of criticism of Israel and its policies have moved into the area of the arts. Theater J, a highly regarded Jewish theater based in Washington and affiliated with the District of Columbia Jewish Community Council has been forced to cancel a festival of different voices from the Middle East because of pressure from donors. This is not the first such incident. Apparently Jewish moneybags think that they can control all expression of ideas contrary to their rosy picture of Israel, perfect and immune to criticism. They have bought and paid for the US Congress lock, stock and barrel and now are using the force of their checkbooks to censor the arts. They also like to toss their money around in Israel and have corrupted politics here, since they can play with power with no accountability. A former PM has been sentenced to prison for, among other things, getting involved with them. Titan says Yankee go home and stay home!


Our Culture Minister Limor Livnat who is one of the greatest enemies of democracy and freedom of expression has come up with the idea of cutting funding for the Tel Aviv Cinematheque because it is hosting a film festival dealing with the "Nakhba" which means calamity and is the term used by Arabs to describe the establishment of Israel. While we can celebrate Independence Day, for the Arab community this is indeed a day of mourning, for their world collapsed when Israel was established. We should have enough self confidence to allow our Arab citizens to mourn. We can live with Arab mourning  and freedom of expression is more important than the feelings of chauvinists. Native people in the Western Hemisphere mark October 12, the day of landing of Columbus, as a day of mourning for what the arrival of Europeans has meant for them. No one objects. One might suspect that Ms Livnat, in her heart of hearts, has doubts about the justice of the means used to establish and maintain Israel. It could and should have been done differently, but that is water under the bridge. At least now we could be decent, but that is beyond her capabilities. Haaretz puts this lady in her place. The Cinematheque will go on without her funding, it has enough supporters.


Off we go junior bird man...thanks Tom Lehrer

We have never been admirers of Nachman Shai, now a Labor MK and in the past an indefatigable propagandist for the military establishment. Nonetheless, we think he has it right when he essentially ridicules the silly talk that if the US et al make a deal with Iran that Israel does not like, Israel will attack Iran. It is sheer nonsense put out to please the idiots in the street who vote for the right and are rewarded with poverty. The way to Iran is through air space controlled by the US and it is not clear that passage would be allowed. In addition, it is not clear what such an attack would achieve. Right on Mr. Shai.


Lest you think that Titan is totally grumpy (as accused by an anonymous reader in New Hampshire), he has a few things to be glad about, as is, of course, his sweet sister Pollyanna. YandA also are pleased.


A fascist singer named Amir Benayoun has been kicked off the program at an event to be held at the Presidential Residence  to commemorate the expulsion and exile of Jews from Arab Lands and Iran this coming Sunday, November 30. He published a nasty racist anti-Arab song and President Rivlin wisely decided that Benayoun is not fit to appear at the event. Of course, Facebook is exploding with support for Benayoun from all the "patriotic" riffraff who make life so difficult in our country. He has something like 100,000 likes from people like himself. Cheers Mr. President.


The Ministry of Education has announced the first ever establishment of funding for a college in an Arab town. The college will be established in Nazareth under the academic wing of the University of Haifa, and will be based on an existing college that has been fighting for recognition for years. The official language of the college will be Hebrew, but courses in which the language of instruction is Arab and English are also planned. Titan approves and sees it as a step towards the cultural and economic integration of the Arab community. The use of  Hebrew will aid this integration process.


The Polish sewer worker who saved a Jewish family by hiding them in a sewer in Lvov for 14 months during WWII will be honored posthumously by Yad Veshem as one of the Righteous of the Nations. The medal will be given to his daughter since he died in an accident in 2006. A plaque will also be put up in Lvov near the sewer entrance in memory of Leopold Socha. We participated in such a ceremony in France in honor of the people who hid Yosefa's late husband as a child. It is encouraging to think that during the blackest times of the Nazi rule of Europe, there were people whose conscience told them to do the right thing.


What If? takes us to an excerpt of what if? items written in an alternative universe. You will recall that last week Pollyanna discussed the hypothesis of multiple universes as a means of ironing out the difficulties in quantum theory. Randall must have visited one of these.

There are quite a few sites around the Web that report on human idiocy. The Darwin Awards focus on people who find stupid ways to die and thus, usually we hope, eliminate themselves from the Homo Sapiens gene pool. There are other, less lethal, forms of idiocy, such as this report:

"I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital. She calmed down and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her that she better bring her daughter into the emergency room right away."
You can find more here or here.

Non Sequitur Cartoon for Nov/26/2014

For those who know Hebrew, Titan recommends a satire on Jewish history now being broadcast on Israel TV. We show you what happened when Moses took questions:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Titan is ranting again

Philae lander lander seen from Rosetta
The Philae lander on its way to the comet, photographed by the Rosetta spacecraft. Photograph: AP

Titan is back and would like congratulate the Rosetta spacecraft team for the successful soft landing of the probe Philae on the surface of Comet  67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is the first such landing ever and our colleagues have every right to be proud of themselves despite the difficulties caused by the bounce and positioning of the probe. Nonetheless most of the data have been obtained despite the loss of power caused by the shading of the solar panels. Randall of xkcd has given us an animation of the landing. He even added a few whales since Philae was supposed to harpoon the comet.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog.  Two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle.  This week we visited her grave and felt how much she is missed.
Miriam, human rights defender, 1947-2012
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 Titan is referring you to the Africare charity which has an A+ rating from Charity Watch. This means that at least 75% of your donation goes to the operational side. In the case of Africare, it is 92%. Titan advises all in general to check out the performance of a charity before giving money and to reject telephone solicitations. Africare has a strong record in Africa in the area of health and sustainable agriculture. Their mission statement:

Our Mission

Africare works to improve the quality of life of the people in
Africa. Our Vision

Africare is a leading non-governmental organization (NGO) committed
to addressing African development and policy issues by working in
partnership with African people to build sustainable, healthy and
productive communities.

The History:: Founded by Africans and Americans amidst the Sahelian drought of the early 1970s, Africare has grown to become a leader in aid to Africa, pioneering various types of self-help development programs and noted for our close partnerships with the people and leaders of Africa.

Africare's philosophy has always been,  "There are no Africare  programs, only African programs." You can even get a free tee shirt!



Titan is furious  over the terrible massacre of 43 students in Mexico and is further enraged by the manner in which the government of Mexico is dealing with the case. It has long been known that the police and the government of Guererro state are in bed with the drug-dealing Mafia, but the government has  chosen to look
the other way. Now the Attorney General has come out with a statement in which, as stated so well by Amnesty International:
"In the most comprehensive account to-date of the disappearance of the students, the Attorney General failed to recognize that this is a state crime and not an isolated incident. He also failed to mention the negligence and complicity of the state in investigating a series of allegations against the mayor of Iguala and the failure to hold to account the federal and local police involved in the killing and torture of other Ayotzinapa students in 2011. "


Titan is also foaming at the mouth over the medical crimes committed in India where several women have died after having been treated with tainted medications at a so-called sterilization camp in  in the central state of Chhattisgarh. Such "camps" are a part of attempts by the government of India to control the growth of its population. Obviously, in this event, something went horribly wrong. It was reported that the women were "herded like cattle" and given no post-surgery care.
Victims lie on hospital beds. More than 80 women underwent surgery at the camp.

Victims lie on hospital beds. Photograph: EPA
India would do much better if it controlled its birth rate by education rather than drastic medical means.


Lest you think that Titan is totally grumpy (as accused by an anonymous reader in New Hampshire), he has a few things to be glad about, as has, of course, his sweet sister Pollyanna. YandA are also pleased.


L'Aquila, 2009
The quake devastated the medieval town of L'Aquila five years ago


A court in Italy has voided the verdicts and sentences of geophysicists who had been convicted of failing to predict an earthquake. No one, alas, can predict an earthquake and it will be wonderful when the science of seismology, a branch of geophysics, is finally able to do so. It is not the same as meteorology, which is also difficult because of the complexity of the atmosphere, but still possible. In 17th century England, predicting the weather was punishable by death. We are pleased to report that meteorology is legal in Saudi Arabia. In the meantime, the setting aside of the ridiculous verdict of the lower court implies that Italy is in some ways ready for self-government.


Titan and his entourage are also happy that the US and China, the two greatest polluters in the world, have struck an agreement to take serious steps to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. Naturally there are skeptics and since this is a good thing, the Republicans in the US are against it.


President Obama met with Burmese youth Friday at Yangon University. Myanmar’s leader, Thein Sein, has been pursuing political and economic reforms. Credit Rungroj Yongrit/European Pressphoto Agency
While in the Far East, President Obama visited Myanmar, met with Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi and made a pitch for democracy.

Cheers to the Italian courts and the leaders of the US and China.

This famous jazz pianist turns 80 on Friday November 14. Naturally his son Wynton is hosting a celebration for his Dad at Lincoln Center.   His music is  highly recommended for listeners of all experience  levels, from those who have never set foot in a jazz club, to those who have been listening to Ellis for the last 60 years.
Give it a try!


View image on Twitter
*First image*of claiming house off Apa‘a St (Photo: Bruce Omori Extreme Exposure/ Paradise Helicopters)
Titan shares the distress of the people in Hawaii.  who are under attack by a volcano. Lava began flowing from a vent in Hawaii's active Kilauea volcano in June a  towards the town of Pahoa. It has
already destroyed one home and is continuing to flow. People will be evacuated as needed. Nature can be very cruel.


We all know of the "stand your ground" laws that can justify killing, as in Florida. In South Carolina, prosecutors are trying to argue that a woman's right to stand her ground in a domestic dispute is less than a man's right to stand his ground with some stranger he's gotten into a fight with. It is something to be concerned about. Abused women live in fear all the time. Titan thinks this is totally wrong.



A few months ago there was a demonstration in the West Bank town of Betunia in which an Arab teenager was killed. The police and army denied the use of live ammunition, but investigation has found that they lied, not only at the grunt level, but also at the command level. Titan is pleasantly surprised that indictments have been put in place and people will stand trial.


The super billionaire Adelson publishes a newspaper in Israel known as Yisrael Hayom or Israel Today that is distributed free all over the country. A law has started going through the Knesset that would require that it be sold for no less than half the price of its cheapest competitor. It is a matter of an unfair business practice and it should be understood that this is not an attempt to shut down the paper. Natanyahu compares it to North Korea which is nonsense. Haaretz has published an analysis of the issue which should make matters clear. In the meantime, Adelson and his buddy Haim Saban held a meeting in Washington that reads like a chapter of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Rabbi Shafran tries to justify the Orthodox stance and indeed opposes the nuttiest religious fanaticism, but Titan does not buy it. Judge for yourself.


An Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman gesture at one another during a protest against Jewish visitors to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. Photo by AP

In recent weeks the Holy City has been the site of most unholy violence, much of it connected with the
place that Jews call the Temple Mount and the Arabs call HarAm el Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary. Since 1967 the religious authority on the hill has been the Moslem Waqf and Jews have been forbidden to pray there. Now it has become a major source of conflict and the flames are being fanned by irresponsible right wing politicians. Titan thinks it is a pity that human blood should be spilled over symbolic places, but history is full of such events. Of course, if truth be told, the places themselves are simply metaphors for struggles for power and territory.
The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City.
The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, November 5, 2014. Photo by Reuters
In the meantime, we are heading straight for a third intifada with the associated bloodletting and our leaders and the Palestinian leaders seem to have a suicide pact between them, with the international community as cheerleaders.  Jerusalem  itself, with or without conflict and terror, is a dysfunctional mess and offers little or no hope for the future of the young generation growing up there. What is needed is the political will on all sides, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious to get together to do something about the state of the city. Do not hold your breath says Titan.
Anti-racism rally in Jerusalem, July 2, 2014.
Anti-racism rally in Jerusalem, July 2, 2014. Photo by Yossi Zamir, Tag Meir


What If? gets quite silly this week, not Randall but the question-Stopping rain from falling on something with an umbrella or a tent is boring. What if you tried to stop rain with a laser that targeted and vaporized each incoming droplet before it could come within ten feet of the ground?

Zach Wheeler

WUMO are right on.

For the experienced parents among us:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Nov/10/2014

We all at some time in our lives have met a language nerd:

Language Nerd

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Titan is back to bug you

Titan is back and would like to wish a fun-filled Halloween to those who celebrate it. Beware of dangerous trick or treaters...
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Oct/29/2014

Titan congratulates the San Francisco Giants on their victory in the World Series. It took the full seven games, but they overcame the Kansas City Royals in a dramatic final 3-2 with the pitcher Madison Bumgarner as the hero. Cheers.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Nearly two years have 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 Titan is referring you to the International Rescue Committee which offers you a broad selection of projects to support. They are active around the world including the Ebola epidemic. We quote from their mission statement: "The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. At work today in over 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities, the IRC restores safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure. The IRC leads the way from harm to home." Please donate.

Tunisia Elections
Preliminary results from the Tunisian elections indicate that the secular party Tunis Call has won the largest number of seats. They will not have a majority, but they will call the shots in setting up a coalition government. Tunisia has been a rare bright spot across the Middle East and North Africa where the hopes brought by the pro-democracy uprisings of 2011 were dashed with Libya under control of battling militias, Egypt's elected government ousted by a military coup and Syria dissolving into civil war. Only Tunisia, despite many ups and downs, looks like it might produce a functioning democracy. Titan is all for it.


Hassina Sarwari, who runs a Kunduz shelter, with a photo of the girl who was raped by a mullah. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
We reported in the past about the ten year old girl in Afghanistan who was raped and then threatened with an honor killing for having been a victim. The NYTimes reports that the rapist, a mullah, has been given a 20 year prison sentence. The girl was present in the courtroom and spoke up: “You shamed me, liar, you destroyed my life, you brought shame to my father,” she called out. Addressing the judge, she said, “Please, director, hang him.” She has been restored to her family who have promised not to harm her. Titan hopes that she can go back to school. The family had withdrawn her out of shame.

Titan is furious that the Nigerian government is showing such impotence in dealing with the Boka Haram and the tragedy of the abducted girls. For six months the world has waited for news of the fate of more than 200 girls abducted by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. As the Nigerian government insists a deal to release the "Chibok girls" is being negotiated, three girls who escaped their captors have told their story to BBC Hausa. It is harrowing and we can only hope that something can be worked out since there appear to be no means of dealing with these fanatics by means of force. The Boko Haram deny any such deal and say they have married the girls off after conversion to Islam.

Pope Francis has scored another hit for rationality and thought with his speech at a science conclave in which he says there is no contradiction between God and the Big Bang and that evolution makes sense. “The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it,” Francis said. “The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of Creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.” He warns against imagining God as a magician, with a magic wand able to make everything. Wow! Of course, he will have to be careful not to excite the right wingers in the Church too much lest he generate a mutiny and possibly a schism.


Edward J. Snowden in the documentary “Citizenfour.” Credit Radius-TWC
Laura Poitras has made a documentary film about Edward Snowden and how he came to be the world's greatest whistleblower. The process of making the film is described graphically in a recent New Yorker, which might not be accessible to you. From the press release of the New Yorker we quote: "In the October 20, 2014, issue of The New Yorker , in “The Holder of Secrets” (p. 50), George Packer joins the Oscar-nominated film-maker Laura Poitras in her Berlin studio as she and her team make the final edits to the new film “Citizenfour”—a documentary about Edward Snowden and surveillance in America—a project that she has never spoken about at any length, which appears in wide release this month. Packer speaks extensively to Poitras, and reports on new details about Edward Snowden that the film reveals. Poitras—who, last year, helped Snowden leak documents exposing the fact that the National Security Agency collects huge amounts of data on United States citizens—was the first person to learn of Snowden’s trove of files, in early 2013. At the time that Snowden made contact, Poitras was in the midst of making a nonlinear documentary about domestic surveillance and the people who stood up to it. Poitras told Snowden that she wanted to meet him and film him. “He said, ‘It’s too dangerous, and it’s not about me—I don’t want to be the story,’ ” she tells Packer. “I said, ‘Like it or not, you’re going to be the story, so you might as well get your voice in.’ After that point, I became a filmmaker.” The film is reviewed in the NYTimes and Titan suggests that all see it.


Reuven Rivlin the President of Israel, long known as a right-winger, has again astonished us all. He went to a memorial for the victims of the Kfar Kassem massacre of 29 October 1956. On that day the Israeli army ordered a curfew on all Israeli-Arab villages near the Jordanian border from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning. Violators were to be shot.

When the Israeli army commander in the area, Colonel Yissachar Shadmi, relayed the harsh orders to Major Shmuel Malinki, who commanded Israeli troops in eight villages, it was already mid-afternoon and all able-bodied villagers were working in their fields and orchards. Malinki later told a military court that he asked Shadmi: "What shall I do with a person who returns home after the curfew is imposed and does not know about it?"

"I don't want any soft-heartedness and I don't want any arrests made," Malinki said Colonel Shadmi replied.

"Bearing this in mind, what shall I do?" Malinki persisted.

"May Allah have mercy on their souls," he said Shadmi told him.

When the shooting stopped, 33 men and boys and 14 women and girls were dead. Israeli censors suppressed any mention of the massacre for six weeks. The officers and men were tried, convicted and given ludicrous sentences and then pardoned.

After 58 years, a President of Israel came to the memorial and made the following speech, which you are invited to read in full in translation.


An unnamed American official, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic gave the following description of the man we call our PM: “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname. Later in the interview the definition is expanded:“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

Natanyahu is busy with self justification and Kerry is doing the best damage control that he can, but Titan thinks that the description is insulting to chickens and their shit. It is clear to Titan and everyone else looking on that our country has disconnected from reality.
Construction in a Jewish neighborhood in a disputed section of Jerusalem (Reuters )
Israeli riot police officers detain a Palestinian youth during clashes in East Jerusalem
Israeli riot police officers detain a Palestinian youth during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, October 26, 2014. Photo by AFP
Although collective punishment of an occupied population is a violation of the Geneva Convention, the barbaric mayor of Jerusalem, Barkat, has launched such a campaign against the non-Jewish residents of East Jerusalem.  Yehuda Glick, a right wing activist and member of a group who want to take over the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple after destroying the mosques, was shot in Jerusalem and his attackers were killed by the Shabak. The city is engulfed in violence and Titan does not think that force will be the answer. As Haaretz writes in an editorial:"But the violence in Jerusalem didn’t arise in a vacuum and won’t dissipate in the face of the prime minister’s “firmness.” The roots of the violence lie in the despair and fear felt by Palestinian residents of the city. The collapse of the diplomatic process, the growing calls for changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, the ongoing neglect of Palestinian neighborhoods on one hand and the government’s encouragement of the spread of Jewish settlements in the heart of those same neighborhoods on the other – all these form the swamp from which violence and terror grow." Our government does not understand this nor much else.


What If? asks: What if people's incomes appeared around them as cash in real time? How much would you need to make to be in real trouble?  Julia Anderson, Albuquerque, NM
Obviously it depends on your income, but the answer gives you a good look at income inequality.

WUMO gives a nice picture of marriage.

Our role model Wally again gives us a lesson in work ethic:
Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/28/2014

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/31/2014
Cynthia's teacher has a point, but the Talmud thinks slightly differently. Normally a thief must return the theft and then pay the value of the theft, i.e. pay double as a form of punitive damages. If he slaughtered a stolen animal, he pays fourfold and if he sold the stolen object, he must pay fivefold. In Baba Kama 7, however, we have: "The one who steals a stolen article from a thief does not pay double, neither does he pay four or five fold if he afterward slaughtered or sold it." This, unfortunately, is usually shortened to "someone who steals from a thief, is absolved," which is not the meaning of the Talmud. The idea is that a thief does not have the rights of the rightful owner. A detailed discussion can be found in Hebrew Wikipedia.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Titan has seen the holiday season out

Hi says Titan
Titan is back with you again after a holiday season, during which we did our best to get the blogs out. Now that some semblance of normalcy has returned, you will be inflicted as usual.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Nearly two years have gone by without Miriam and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got usinto 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.

Ebola information poster in Monrovia, Liberia - 16 October
Liberia has the greatest number of deaths
This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is dictated by the Ebola epidemic. A heavy rant on the incompetence of those who are supposed to be looking after our health and well being will appear below. The international NGO staffed by volunteers, Doctors without Borders, is bearing the main burden now since the governments and the UN have fouled up completely. Titan recommends MSF or Mercy Corps as the most effective way of helping in this huge crisis.

MSF is spread too thin and cannot deal with this on its own. Now, with the virus spreading beyond its control, the group is starting to buckle, according to Dr. Joanne Liu, a Canadian pediatrician and the international president of MSF. “It’s not possible for us to deploy more. This should not lie in the hands of a private NGO,” she says. “We used the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘out of control’ in the spring. Nobody budged. If people had have been deployed right away, we would have prevented what is going on.”
Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

What is going on is her idea of a worst-case scenario. Ebola is out of control in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; official estimates say it has killed 4,447 and sickened 8,914 people. But the actual number of those infected is thought to be 2½ times higher, and it’s doubling every three to five weeks. Recent research puts the mortality rate at 70% To get it under control, about 70% of the sick need to be protected from contact with others. As of late last month, as few as 20% were being isolated in some areas. If the epidemic were to continue at the current rate, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there will be up to 10,000 new cases per week by December. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control predicts 1.4 million cases by early next year. Many others are dying of common ailments because hospitals are overwhelmed.. Please open a link, open your heart and open your wallet,

Titan is foaming at the mouth over the failure of the world to respond properly to the Ebola crisis. Now
evidence has emerged suggesting there are concerns inside the World Health Organization that it failed to respond adequately to the outbreak earlier this year.

The Associated Press news agency says it has obtained an internal draft document in which WHO officials acknowledge failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation as the number of cases grew.

"Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall," the document says, according to AP.

The memo blames a lack of information, and INCOMPETENT STAFF.

MSF warned last April that the spread of Ebola in West Africa was unprecedented and becoming uncontrollable - a position rejected at the time by the WHO.

The level of incompetence is in part a result of WHO’s appointment system in Africa. Heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr Margaret Chan, it said. As Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the Guardian last week: “What should be [the] WHO’s strongest regional office because of the enormity of the health challenges, is actually the weakest technically, and full of political appointees.”

The leaked document reveals that a teleconference in late April that included WHO, MSF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention heard that some WHO experts were not bothering to send reports of Ebola cases to head office in Geneva.

WHO said it was “particularly alarming” that the head of its Guinea office refused to help get visas for an expert Ebola team to come in and $500,000 in aid was blocked by administrative hurdles.
In addition governments have severely cut WHO funding and the system is in real collapse. In the US, President Obama has appointed a Czar for the epidemic, possibly because of the failure of the Center for Disease Control to prepare properly and the incompetence shown in dealing with the case that surfaced in Texas.
 Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Oct/17/2014

On 8 August, the WHO director, Margaret Chan, finally declared Ebola an international public health emergency. There had been 1,711 cases and 932 deaths. “Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” she said. She urged the international community to provide support.

Everybody now agrees this should have happened much earlier. As economic recession has impacted on wealthy countries, global spending rather than national has usually been cut – and public health has lost out to hospital treatment. The Ebola outbreak will eventually end but there will be another virus – whether flu, SARS or something we have not yet seen. Experts say that public health, and the WHO, need to be built up if we are to face down these regular threats to the entire planet.

It has come out that IS has enslaved members if the Yazidi sect whom it has captured. They even justify it
in their English language publication quoted in the Atlantic:

   " In the article, "The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,"
    the magazine stated that "the enslaved Yazidi families are
    now sold by the Islamic State soldiers," adding that, "the
    Yazidi women and children were then divided according to
    the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who
    participated in the Sinjar operations."

    Referring to the Yazidis as "pagans" and "infidels," the
    article said, "Their creed is so deviant from the truth
    that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered
    them devil worshippers and Satanists, as is recorded in
    accounts of Westerners and Orientalists who encountered
    them or studied them."

A Yazidi refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq.
Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
A detailed report on the actions of IS has been published by Human Rights Watch and makes hair-raising reading. The world must confront this movement quickly and decisively.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. It is noteworthy that she is Pakistani and he Indian, both heroes of the struggle for education and the rights of children. We quote the Nobel committee:

Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has  also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.

Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education. 

The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the
goal of eliminating child labour.

The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realization of the “fraternity between nations” that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize."

The Nigerian government has announced what it says is a truce with Boko Haram militants and a deal to free
more than 200 abducted schoolgirls. If this turns out to be true it will be some of the best news Nigerians have heard for decades and we shall all be glad for the Chibok girls and their families.

Titan is sad and dismayed at the news of the death of 39 people (and counting) on the the Annapurna
Circuit in Nepal, a key Nepali hiking route, after it was hit by major snowstorms and avalanches earlier this week.
Helicopters are helping rescuers high in the Himalayas as they search on for missing trekkers, with fears that more bodies lie beneath the snow. Nepal earns huge revenues from the tens of thousands of trekkers and climbers who flock to the Himalayas every year. It remains, however, a very poor country and the authorities
there have struggled to cope with the scale of this disaster.

Titan raises a toast to the Pope for his statement on homosexuality. Rabbis are trying to "cure" gay people. They could learn a lesson in humanity from Pope Francis.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Oct/16/2014

HOME SWEET HOME            
A detailed article in Haaretz tells us the sad story of the military and governmental incompetence, or rather idiocy, that lead to the debacle of the tunnels in the recent war in Gaza.
Hamas operatives inside an underground tunnel in Gaza on August 18, 2014. (Reuters)
The fact that no one has really investigated nor have any  heads  wearing brass hats rolled tells you all you need to know about our vaunted IDF. The poor grunts on the ground were sent in to destroy tunnels by their commanders without adequate training, equipment or intelligence briefings. We have a security cabinet that cannot find its way to the men's room without a GPS, a defense minister who lacks even half a brain and an officer class that represents decades of filtering in which any young person showing talent was effectively deterred from a military career by those to whom mediocrity is an ideal. We are cutting our education budget to buy new and expensive toys for these dolts, e.g. a $35 million aircraft for chasing stone throwers, while anything more complicated than arresting a nine year old or pillaging a Palestinian home is beyond their abilities.   The public who elect these people and adore the army are far more concerned with the price of a chocolate
pudding. Yes, people have the leaders that they deserve and want.

A Facebook post by an Israeli comparing the price of a chocolate pudding in Tel Aviv to its price in
Berlin went viral and generated a demo that more or less fizzled.
Milky (left), the pudding snack that has triggered a consumer protest.
Milky (left), the pudding snack that has triggered a consumer protest. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
Nonetheless, the cost of living in Israel is higher than it should be, mainly because of profiteering. In 2011 people took to the streets to protest social injustice, the government appointed a commission, a few young noisemakers became  members of the Knesset (parliament) and nothing changed. As far as blame for the prices in Israel is concerned, industry and marketers snipe at each other. It is not only in food. Titan needed a charger cable for his smartphone. Cellcom Israel charges NIS200 or $50. He bought it on Ebay from Hongkong for $6.95 including shipping. A car that sells for $20,000 abroad sells for more than double that in Israel and do not blame duty. When custom duties were dropped on US cars, the importers pocketed the difference and there was no advantage to the purchaser. Nonetheless, people are emigrating for more substantial reasons than the price of food. It has to do with the inequality of distribution of wealth and with the lies that the government feeds the people. Titan thinks that the people who insist on electing our leaders apparently want to be poor and to be ripped off by tycoons. To quote Nadav Eyal in Haaretz "Our leaders don’t understand that their empty slogans no longer work; that for Israel to remain the choice of Israelis, it needs to provide a return. But our leaders have no idea what that compensation should be." We might mention the costs of the Occupation, the settlements and as noted above the bloated military establishment. A country that has no political horizon can have no economic and social horizon. The hi-tech industry is innovative and lucrative, but every development is quickly sold off in a profitable exit and no mainstream employment is generated. Have another Milky.

Titan would like to call your attention to three shady episodes from the past. They include the illegal incarceration and enslavement of Arabs after the War of Independence (under the supervision of Holocaust survivors who knew the techniques), the theft of babies from families of immigrants from Yemen in the early days of the state and the odious role of British intelligence officers in fomenting the 1948 war. The first two are described by Amira Haas in Haaretz. The role of the British in 1947-48 was exposed by French intelligence and relayed to the Israelis as part of the French struggle against Britain in the postwar Middle East. The article by Meir Zamir in  Haaretz makes fascinating reading and shows how poorly the British government controlled its agents in the MidEast and how a rogue agent could have a huge effect. The bottom line "Like Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who blamed Britain for conspiring to evict France from the Levant, Ben-Gurion accused it of trying to sabotage the establishment of a Jewish state and secretly provoking an armed invasion by Arab states. Syrian and Britisdocuments uncovered in French archives confirm de Gaulle’s accusations and reinforce Ben-Gurion’s charges. These documents and French intelligence reports reveal that the British-Arabist secret agents, who engineered France’s eviction from the Levant in 1945, took similar steps to prevent the formation of a Jewish state in 1947-48."

Dr. Eyal Reinich in Africa Photo by Pupane Kamara
Titan says cheers for the doctors from Israel who are helping to fight Ebola. There is no official or
military team going out, but there are individuals who are volunteering We can be proud of our humanitarian doctors. The fight is not only against the virus, but against the superstitions and customs of the local people.


What If asks If you stripped away all the rules of car racing and had a contest which was simply to get a human being around a track 200 times as fast as possible, what strategy would win? Let's say the racer has to survive.
Hunter Freyer
The answer is creative and amusing.


Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Oct/12/2014


Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/16/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/17/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Oct/18/2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Titan for Yom Kippur and Eid ul Adha

Titan is back and would like to wish all his Jewish readers a Chatima Tova, a positive inscription in the Book of Life and his Muslim friends Eid ul Adha Mubarak. May we someday celebrate our holidays in peace.

Titan had a chance to think a bit in synagogue and decided there must be more to life than revolving around Saturn. He liked a blog post by Rabbi Fink of the little synagogue on Venice beach, in which he raises the question of why we fast on Yom Kippur and gives a cogent answer in terms of everyone's internal tug-of-war between our material and spiritual selves.
 billing rate tug of war
Rabbi Mira at our Reform synagogue in Natanya called it the conflict between the nefesh/material and the neshama/spiritual. Titan also came across a bit of Talmud (Sanhedrin, 4) that impinges in his opinion on the reason for the importance of human rights in society. A translation to English follows for the Hebrew-challenged.

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי בעולם, ללמד שכל המאבד נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו איבד עולם מלא; וכל המקיים נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו קיים עולם מלאומפני שלום הברייות, שלא יאמר אדם לחברו, אבא גדול מאביך.  ושלא יאמרו המינים, רשייות הרבה בשמיים.  להגיד גדולתו של מלך מלכי המלכים, הקדוש ברוך הוא, שאדם טובע מאה מטבעות בחותם אחד, וכולן דומין זה לזה, מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא טובע את כל האדם בחותמו של אדם הראשון, ואין אחד מהם דומה לחברו.  לפיכך לכל אחד ואחד לומר, בשבילי נברא העולם
Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Scripture considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul, the Scripture considers him as if he should save a whole world. And also because of peace among creatures, so that one should not say: My grandfather was greater than yours; and also that the heretic shall not say: There are many creators in heaven; and also to proclaim the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He. For a human being stamps many coins with one stamp, and all of them are alike; but the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, has stamped every man with the stamp of Adam the First, and nevertheless not one of them is like the other. Therefore every man may say: The world was created for my sake.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year and a half 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 Titan is referring you to the Mercy Corps who are active for people all over the world who are in tough situations.
It starts with you
South Sudan as a case in poit

Click on the link, read about them and choose a project to support.either monthly or a one-time donation. Titan is pleased to note that Charity Navigator awards them four stars for their responsible stewardship of donor funds and that 88% of their resources are used for programs

mount ontake

Japanese soldiers search on Mount Ontake on Saturday. Photograph: Reuters
Titan, Pollyanna and YandA express their sadness and dismay in the wake of the eruption of Mount Ontake in Japan. They applaud the courage and resolution of the rescue crews, both civilian and military who are braving the toxic fumes to search for bodies and survivors.

Titan and his crew salute the brave protesters in Hong Kong who are standing up to repression and have the courage to demonstrate for their rights in the face of a regime to which democracy in anathema.

We are all aware of the nature of the regime in China and the use it makes of torture as a routine way of repressing the populace. Titan is further outraged at the fact that they have turned their torture "industry" into a profitable business.
A report by two human rights groups says that more than 130 Chinese companies are involved in producing and selling equipment like electric shock wands and spiked batons. Robin Ballantyne/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 Over 130 Chinese companies are involved in the production and trade of potentially dangerous law enforcement equipment – compared to only 28 a decade ago.
  •     28 Chinese companies involved in the export trade were advertising inherently cruel electric stun batons.
  •     7 Chinese companies openly advertise inhumane spiked batons for export.
  •     28 Chinese companies export  abusive restraint devices including heavy weighted leg cuffs and rigid restraint chairs.

There are detailed descriptions of the trade in the NYTimes and a joint press release by Amnesty International and Omega. The press release contains a link to the full 43 page document. The
conclusions-"Amnesty International and Omega are urging the Chinese authorities and those of all other countries to:
  •  impose an immediate ban on the production and trade of inherently abusive equipment
  •  immediately suspend or deny trade licenses for the supply of other equipment to law enforcement agencies and forces where there is a substantial risk the equipment will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations
  • establish export control regulations and practices for the control of security and police equipment that can have a legitimate use but is easy to abuse
  • end all torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, as well as the use of arbitrary force, and investigate all allegations of such acts to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Titan is revolted.

Titan is also outraged over the life sentence given to the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti. The action drew a torrent of international outrage this week. President Obama called for his release, the European Union condemned the sentence as “totally unjustified,” and rights advocates said they could not recall a similarly harsh penalty for a prominent intellectual whose main offense, it appeared, was criticizing government policies. It appears that the government is coming down heavily on ethnic minorities.

Titan is shocked at the latest self-immolation of a Tibetan. A student, Lhamo Tashi, 22, set himself on fire in front of a police station in the western province of Gansu on Wednesday. This is the first such event in five months and the Chinese government is trying to prevent it from being well known. The repressive rule in Tibet is of course unmoved by such incidents--they really care not at all for world opinion. No matter what happens, we will continue to buy the junk the Chinese make to sell us.


Amira Hass
Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
The Israeli journalist Amira Haas who has long been known as a fervent critic of the occupation and a supporter of human rights and the rights of the Palestinian people, was expelled from a conference at Bir Zeit University. This is stupid and ridiculous and does nothing for the cause of an independent Palestine or anything else besides the egos of a few idiots. Matthew Kalman puts it well in perspective. The universities in the West Bank are not producing graduates who can compete and perform in the modern world. The Palestinians do not need Israel to put them down, they do a very good job on themselves.

On a recent El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, takeoff was delayed because ultra orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to women who were not their wives, mothers or sisters. Most of them stood in the aisle for the duration of the flight which caused major discomfort for the other passengers. They offered money to people to swap seats, but couples traveling together would have none of it. One female passenger described her trip as: “an 11-hour-long nightmare”. The plane did arrive in time for the Rosh Hashana holiday. Titan thinks it was most improper of the airline to allow female passengers to be bullied by these thugs sent, presumably by God, to preserve morals. There is a petition to El Al calling on the airline to protect its female passengers. El Al is refusing to establish a policy in these matters. Titan advises people  simply to find another airline, that does not kowtow to male chauvinism, in any guise, nor hires war criminals from the Air Force to fly its aircraft.

This question has been bouncing around the punditsphere for quiet a while, especially since the
Gaza war. Jonathan Freedman writing in the NYRB and Anthony Lerman in the NYTimes believe that the day is approaching when liberal Zionists will have to choose between these two values. Others disagree, such as Carlos Strenger in Haaretz and Bernard Avishai in The New Yorker, while Uri Misgav asks how we can continue to live here and maintain a moral sense.
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel imposed a tight closure of the town. Photo by AFP
The option of emigrating does not exist for most Israeli Jews and can be regarded as a moral copout. In truth, if you look around the world, you can see that there is no country where democracy is not severely flawed. It is clear that the left has a heavy struggle before it.

The High Court of Israel ruled recently that the detention facility in Holot was unconstitutional and must be closed within 90 days. The government tried to ignore the decision, but was caught in the act by investigative reports of Haaretz and stopped sending people there. The issue of the treatment of asylum seekers, mostly refugees from war zones in Africa is a blot on our conscience. Aeyal Gross in Haaretz points to a ray of hope.

Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Medical team in Sierra Leone (Photo: AP)
Israel was asked to send a medical team to West Africa to help with the Ebola crisis. The request, made in light of the success of such teams in Haiti, the Philippines and Japan, came from the US and the UN. The Foreign Ministry was in favor since it would help Israel's international image, but the Defense Minister Yaalon vetoed it on grounds of the danger of infection. We are a light unto the nations indeed.


What If? asks: What if everything was antimatter, EXCEPT Earth?

Sean Gallagher

The answer is not good news, but fortunately the universe is made up of matter.

Wumo show how it is possible to be vague on the concept. Link only as usual because they scare us with their warnings.

Titan feels empathy for our Cynthia. There are times when even Titan does not feel grumpy, especially when Cassini comes around to chat. His first real visitor Huygens appears to be in a coma of some kind, alas.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/29/2014