Thursday, April 21, 2016

T_P greet you for the Pesach holiday

Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. They have, in their joint persona of T_P decided that it is not fair to their countless fans and readers to deprive them of the wisdom they can dispense. Yes, Virginia, we have a sense of the absurd.So relax in our teepee dear friends and have some matzah and wine.

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Titan, Pollyanna and YandA wish all their MOT readers a happy Pesach holiday. Y will be with her brood in Kiryat Ono, A with his family in Atlit and T_P will celebrate as usual on the shore of a methane sea.  Then YandA fly to Winnipeg to see our Canadian branch.


We all rejoice in the deliverance of our people from slavery in Egypt


and of course must relish the appreciation given to it by John Kasich who told the Hasidic Jews of Brooklyn about the blood on the doorposts. We would like to share with you the story of a Seder held by Jewish soldiers in the American Civil War. Joseph A. Joel, a Jewish private in the Ohio 23rd Regiment, told the story first – and best.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.


 JOHAN CRUYFF 1947-2016 

Johan Cruyff playing against Argentina in the 1974 World Cup. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The great Dutch footballer died this month of cancer in Barcelona. He helped develop a style that
revolutionized the way the game is played, becoming the Netherlands’ greatest player and later a scolding conscience of the sport. He was 68.  Widely acclaimed as one of the best players in history, Cruyff (pronounced CROYF) teamed with the famed coach Rinus Michels in the 1970s to perfect a style called Total Football, a shape-shifting system in which players switch positions effortlessly.

A wiry and deceptively quick forward, Cruyff was the personification of the style, bursting forward to attack or drifting back to defend, but always ready to deliver an incisive pass or to appear in the perfect position when an opportunity to score arose. The Guardian devotes a page to Cruyffiana and the NYTimes provides a detailed obituary


The great playwright died on April 23, just 400 years ago.
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Stephen Greenblatt writing in the New York Review of Books discussed how Shakespeare, at a distance of four centuries is still relevant and resonant in our time. His contemporary Ben Jonson for the first time evoked a larger landscape in which to understand the significance of Shakespeare’s career, one that would make it appropriate for a nobleman to acknowledge a connection to a middle-class writer of popular plays. Jonson wrote,
“And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,”
“I would not seek/For names; but call forth thund’ring
Aeschylus,/Euripides, and Sophocles to us.”

These immortals could worthily bear witness to the greatness of Shakespeare as a tragic playwright; as for his comedies, Jonson added, these surpass everything
“that insolent Greece or haughty Rome/sent forth.”
Jonson made Shakespeare into a global artist. Not in the sense that he imagined his work was or would ever become famous outside of England, but that he insisted it could bear comparison with the best that the world of letters had ever brought forth. Even if nothing in Shakespeare’s personal circumstances—his birthplace, parentage, education, affiliations, and the like—bore recording, he was nonetheless a national treasure.
“Triumph, my Britain,” Jonson proclaimed, “thou hast one to show,/To whom all scenes of Europe
homage owe.”
To this proud boast he added the famous line: “He was not of an age, but for all time!”
The Folger Shakespeare Library provides a biography.


Many think that they died on the same day, April 23, but in fact they used different calendars. We mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Cervantes is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and the world's pre-eminent novelist.
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His major work, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded among the best works of fiction ever written. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes"). He has also been dubbed El Príncipe de los Ingenios ("The Prince of Wits"). His biography includes military action, slavery as a POW and a struggle to survive as a government bureaucrat. He died just 400 years ago and was buried in an unmarked grave. Since his passing,  his work has inspired countless other authors, including Gustave Flaubert, Henry Fielding and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story of Don Quixote has been retold in many ways,including in the popular musical The Man of La Mancha and in an artwork by Pablo Picasso.



Chibok, Nigeria, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago. Credit Sunday Alamba, via Associated Press
Two years ago over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Most of them are still prisoners. A worldwide outcry had no effect. A recent visit to Chibok by a NYTimes writer (called to our attention by Yosefa) tells the sad tale of this pathetically neglected region of Nigeria. It is most shocking to read and consider.


Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has won part of a human rights case against the
Norwegian state. He convinced the court that his solitary confinement was beyond the scope of his punishment and that actions taken against him were in violation of the European Convention of
Human Rights. We have long maintained that you must protect the rights of bad people in order to protect those of the good.


The issue of the flow of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East has become central to European reality. We firmly believe that turning away asylum seekers is criminal, but of course political reality has a morality of its own. We refer you to a detailed set of discussions provided by CritCom entitled FramingMigration: Rhetoric and Reality in Europe. Much food for thought.

In  the meantime 500 asylum seekers drowned when a ship sank in the Mediterranean en route from Libya to Italy. More blood on  the hands of the politicians of Europe.


The lower house of the Brazilian parliament has voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. The case now moves on to the Senate. Ms Rousseff has vowed to fight the impeachment tooth and nail. The details of the unraveling of what was one of the great success stories of the developing world are discussed in analysis in the Washington Post. It may come to pass that while the Olympic games are taking place in Rio next summer, the public will be regaled by the trial of a President. 
Sic transit gloria mundi.


The world is still reeling from the huge leak of criminal banking activities by Mossack Fonseca.It seems that hiding money offshore is one of the major activities of the rich, famous and infamous.Cheers to those who exposed the scandal. Mike Lukovich gives it straight...



The main suspect in the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was convicted of murder Tuesday, after a Jerusalem court rejected the defendant’s insanity plea. It certainly took the court a very long time to convict Yosef Chaim Ben-David on charges of murder, kidnapping for the purpose of murder and battery causing bodily harm. Let us hope that he is given a stiff sentence. What is really tragic is that the murder could have been prevented. The day before the same gang tried to kidnap an Arab child who was saved by his mother and neighbors. The police were called but did not respond. We have to understand that Arab lives matter.


An Israeli soldier who shot a wounded Palestinian assailant to death in Hebron on March 24 was charged with manslaughter on Monday.  During the hearing, the military court in Jaffa cleared the soldier's identity for publication. He was named as Elor Azaria, 19, a resident of Ramle.

According to the indictment, Azaria opened fire in 
"violation of he rules of engagement, and without operational justification, while [Abdel Fattah] al-Sharif lay wounded on the ground ... and did not pose immediate and real threat to the defendant, civilians or soldiers in the area." 

This is most important since many of the public especially the right have rushed to the defense of the soldier. There was even a small rally in his support in Tel Aviv and our great PM phoned the parents in sympathy. After all, if you have raised a killer, you should be appreciated...

In fact, as Gideon Levy points out in Haaretz, the trial is a farce and the soldier will certainly get off with at most a slap on the wrist.  It is no surprise since the Army has a long history of covering up killings of Arabs and extra-judicial executions are part of its daily repertoire.


Many of us try to avoid purchasing products made in the illegal settlements beyond the Green Line. It is illegal to call for a boycott on such products and one can be sued with no proof of damage. We make it clear here that we are by no means advocating a boycott and in fact the list that we are linking to may serve as a guide to supporters of settlements who wish to buy their products. In any case, we link you to a detailed article by Gush Shalom. There is also an old blog in Hebrew that "warns" against boycotting the settlements and gives a list of products that good patriots should buy.


The story has finally come out about the killing of the chief German rocket scientist who worked in the 1960's to develop a missile capability for Egypt. It makes for fascinating reading, we will not spoil if for you.


Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts (SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture (Hardcover)) Hardcover – November, 2015 by Sarah Allan (Author)

 A trove of bamboo-slip manuscripts dating from about 300 BCE has been translated and published. They are from the time of the Warring States an era of turmoil that ran from the fifth to the third centuries BCE. before the unification of China in 221 BCE. The first dynast Qim did everything to stamp out intellectual freedom. These documents challenge our understanding of early Chinese history.
An eighteenth-century painting showing Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BCE. ‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ Illustration from Henri Bertin’s album The History of the Lives of the Chinese Emperors.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France/RMN-Grand Palais/Art ResourceAn eighteenth-century painting showing Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BCE. ‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ Illustration from Henri Bertin’s album The History of the Lives of the Chinese Emperors.
The book is reviewed in detail by Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books and by   in Asia Times.  


What If? This is serious now- My boyfriend recently took a flight on a plane with wifi, and while he was up there, wistfully asked if I could send him a pizza. I jokingly sent him a photo of a parrot holding a pizza slice in its beak. Obviously, my boyfriend had to go without pizza until he landed at JFK. But this raised the question: could a bird deliver a standard 20" New York-style cheese pizza in a box? And if so, what kind of bird would it take?
—Tina Nguyen Maybe the hostess will serve a pizza...

 Indeed, the singularity will do great things for us...


The creative process is explained by SMBC:

Note the importance of self-doubt. It is something totally lacking to people on the right and to stupid people in general. The need for self-doubt and the spirit of enquiry was  expressed beautifully by the late Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai. We present his poem both in original and English translation.

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

SMBC does to Jesus what it would never dare to do to Mohammed. Blasphemy in a free society comes under the heading of protected free speech. Alas, people often forget this fundamental truth:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Titan and Pollyanna aka T_P are back with you

Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves  as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. They have, in their joint persona of T_P,
Crow teepee

decided that it is not fair to their countless fans and readers to deprive them of the wisdom they can dispense. Yes, Virginia, we have a sense of the absurd.

Happy 260th  birthday this week to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austria.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.


Pierre Boulez 1925-2016

Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor who helped blaze a radical new path for classical music in the 20th century, becoming one of its dominant figures in the decades after World War II, died on January 6 at his home in Baden-Baden, Germany, at the age  90. He was one of the most recognized figures in 20th century classical music. His outspoken advocacy for the music of his time earned him fans — and detractors.  French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “Audacity, innovation, creativity —that is what Pierre Boulez was for French music, which he helped shine everywhere in the world.”

Pierre Boulez conducting in 2008. Credit Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

Mr. Boulez belonged to an extraordinary generation of European composers who emerged in the postwar years while still in their 20s. They started a revolution in music, and Mr. Boulez was in the front ranks. Detailed biographies and obituaries can be found in the Guardian and the NY Times.

David Bowie 1947-2016

David Bowie (ne David Robert Jones), an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, painter and actor, died on January 10 in New York. His  persistent innovations and personal reinventions transformed him into a larger-than-life rock star.
 david bowie
 Rolling Stone has a detailed obituary and Mike Lukovich expressed very well the feeling of his bereft fans.

A memorial concert will be held at Carnegie Hall on March 31.

Alan Rickman 1946-2016 

Alan Rickman an  English actor and director, known for playing a variety of roles on stage and screen, often as a complex antagonist, died on January 14 in London.
Alan Rickman in New York last year.
Alan Rickman in New York last year. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

His role of Severus Snape was classic, the nemesis turned tragic hero of the Harry Potter series, only hinting at the character's nobility in his final moments. His five-time costar and friend Emma Thompson echoed the sentiment of many of his colleagues. "I have just kissed him goodbye," she wrote the day he died. "What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humor, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. . . . He was the ultimate ally."
A detailed obituary can be found in the Guardian.



A new UN Report tells us that nearly 19,000 have been killed by terror and violence in a period of less than two years.
Civilians are loaded in a truck to be taken to safe places Thursday as Iraqi security forces clear the Soufiya neighborhood of Islamic State fighters in central Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq.
Civilians are loaded in a truck to be taken to safe places Thursday as Iraqi security forces clear the Soufiya neighborhood of Islamic State fighters in central Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq.
Khalid Mohammed/AP

Here are some numbers for the epoch 1.1.14 to 31.10.15:

At least 18,802: Number of civilians killed between Jan. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015

36,245: Number of civilians wounded during that same time period.

3,855: Number of civilians killed between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2015. Baghdad governorate had the highest number, at 1,875.

1,717: Number of civilians killed by improvised explosive devices between May 1 and Oct 31, 2015.

3.2 million: Number of people inside Iraq who have been forced to flee their homes from January 2014 through September of last year.

More than 1 million: Number of school-age children forced from their homes during that same time period.

Between 800 and 900: Number of children abducted from the Iraqi city of Mosul by the so-called Islamic State for "religious education and military training."

Approximately 3,500: People from the Yezidi religious minority and other ethnic and religious minorities enslaved by ISIS. "Those being held are predominantly women and children," the report says.

This is totally unacceptable and constitutes a terrible blot on the conscience of what likes to call itself the international community or family of nations. T_P demand that something be done about it by the nations that bear the responsibility. Of course, Western intervention would be labeled a neo-crusade and unite the Arab world against it, but means must be found  to enable the Muslim world to free itself from this madness.


Climate records kept by two US government agencies show that 2015 has superseded 2014 as the hottest year on record. According to the NOAA analysis on Wednesday, every month in 2015 broke previous temperature records except for two: January and April. NOAA also announced Wednesday that for December, the “temperature departure from average was also the highest departure among all months in the historical record and the first time a monthly departure has reached 2°F (1.1C).” Please read this report carefully.
As expected, the Democratic politicians showed responsibility:
The release of the 2015 temperature data prompted statements from leading Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Clinton, in a Twitter posting, said, “Climate change is real. It’s hurting our planet and our people. We can’t afford a president who ignores the science.”
The Sanders campaign also tweeted a response, saying. “Climate change is real and caused by human activity. This planet and its people are in trouble.”
There were no immediate comments from the major GOP contenders, several of whom have been openly skeptical of the mainstream scientific view that human activity is causing the planet to warm. Front-runner Donald Trump has dismissed climate change as a hoax. We wonder where the Republicans got their degrees in atmospheric science.


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board announced today that the minute hand of its closely watched Doomsday Clock will remain at three minutes to midnight, since recent progress in the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord “constitute only small bright spots in a darker world situation full of potential for catastrophe.” Their bulletin states:“Three minutes (to midnight) is too close. Far too close. We, the members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,want to be clear about our decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock in 2016: That decision is not good news, but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world's attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.” Food for thought for all of us and cause for dismay when we consider our leaders.


NHS sugar tax
Simon Stevens says NHS sugar tax will help fight ‘national sugar high’. Composite: The Guardian
We are all too fat and lazy and consume too much sugar. We salute Simon Stevens the head of the UK National Health Service for taking steps to reduce this by imposing a tax on it. Hospitals across England will start charging more for high-sugar drinks and snacks sold in their cafes and vending machines in an effort to discourage staff, patients and visitors from buying them, the NHS England chief executive said. Cheers say T-P.


Boy's spelling mistake in class led to a visit from the police
Spot the difference
A ten year old boy in England wrote that he lived in a terrorist house. He meant terraced, but since there are rules the teacher had to report it. You can guess what happened. Idiots are everywhere.  As John Richardson, our friend at MIT, said to us, "nothing is fool-proof because fools are so resourceful."


This issue comes up often in rape trials and other difficult situations. The Thames Valley Police have come up with a brilliant video that uses the analogy of offering tea. It provides clear instructions as to what constitutes consensual sex. Open the site and watch the video.

This new 'sexual consent and tea' video from the police is brilliant



One of the elements enshrined in the US Bill of Rights is the First Amendment guarantee of the right to assembly peaceably to petition for redress of grievances. In Israel only Jews seem to have that right. Since the government simply stalls on giving building permits to Arabs and there is a need for housing, homes are built without permits. Now that the government is trying to crack down on the Arab community to evade providing the funds appropriated for its needs, bulldozers are knocking down "illegal" houses in a wholesale manner.
Israeli Arab home in Taibeh being demolished. January 24, 2016.
Israeli Arab home in Taibeh being demolished. January 24, 2016.

When one, Ayman Hajj Yahya, posted a call on Facebook to gather to protest the demolitions, he and a friend were thrown into prison. It would be ludicrous if it were not so evil. The police even manufactured a charge of obstruction of justice, but withdrew it saying it was "in error."


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commented Tuesday on the recent wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, saying it was part of "human nature" to react to an occupation.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York, January 26, 2016.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East at UN headquarters in New York, January 26, 2016. Reuters
Of course the government and its pet media reacted with screams but it makes good sense. Some day the world will get tired of us and put an end to the nonsense. Michael Sfard, the human rights lawyer, predicts that the occupation will end suddenly  as other despotic regimes have fallen in the past.
Israeli border police check a Palestinian woman's ID next to newly placed concrete blocks in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, Oct. 15, 2015.
Israeli border police check a Palestinian woman's ID next to newly placed concrete blocks in an East Jerusalem neighborhood, Oct. 15, 2015.AP
Gideon Levy disagrees with him totally and questions his analogs. Indeed when Jewish money plays an important role in US elections and Europe lacks the backbone to stand up to Israel, Levy may well be right. The Swedish Foreign Minister seems to be the only courageous politician on the continent when she calls out Israel on extrajudicial executions.


The situation for supporters of liberal democracy in Israel is rapidly becoming untenable. One pundit, Carlo Strenger,  calls for creation of a liberal autonomous region as exists de facto for ultra-orthodox and Arabs.
He writes in Haaretz: "Israeli liberals are the most disadvantaged group in the country. We carry all burdens, and get none of the extra perks. Hence, we should demand to get similar autonomy to the ultra-Orthodox, the national-religious and Israeli Arabs in the areas where secular liberals are concentrated like Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Herzliya and Haifa."  It is an interesting idea, since for liberals what is being done in our name is totally unacceptable. Avraham Burg sounds a call of defiance from the Left. Is anyone listening?

In this context, T_P welcome the rise of a liberal Zionist voice in Canada. JSpace appears to be gaining momentum and we hope it soon becomes an effective lobbying organization able to offset the right wing orientation of much of the Canadian Jewish community.


Alas, too much silliness is from the real world.  We can start with Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump. It would be funny if it were not so frightening.  Mike Lukovich puts it in perspective:


A vulture captured in Lebanon and suspected of spying for Israel because of a Tel Aviv University homing device on its leg was repatriated with the aid of the UN.

A warm welcome by UN and Israel Nature and Parks Authority personnel for a 'spy' vulture captured in Lebanon Jan. 28, 2016.
A warm welcome by UN and Israel Nature and Parks Authority personnel for a 'spy' vulture captured in Lebanon Jan. 28, 2016.Moti Dolev/Israel Nature and Parks Authority

This is not the first incident in which birds have been suspected of spying in the crazy Middle East..

WHAT IF? is back and is really funny this time.
What if you built a siphon from the oceans on Europa to Earth? Would it flow once it's set up? (We have an idea for selling bottled Europa water.)

—A group of Google Search SREs
We also share a Randalism for the physics freaks among us:

Empathy for frustrated grandparents:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Titan and Pollyanna are back, this time together

Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves  as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. This week, however, too much has gone on and Titan and Pollyanna feel that they have to have their say as well. They have decided to  call this joint effort the T-P blog (or wigwam if you wish) although they are putting it out on the Titan site. If you have forgotten what we look like, here we are:

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Image result for pollyanna

For starters, they wish all their US friends and readers a very happy Thanksgiving holiday.

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The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan and Pollyanna hope that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.


This week's terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut by ISIS

The site of Thursday's twin suicide bombings in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon. Credit Bilal Hussein/Associated Press

and in Yola, Nigeria by Boko Haram, have shocked the world. Not to be undone, a branch of El Qaeda carried out a terrorist attack on a hotel in Mali. Whether all these atrocities will shock the world into any sort of real and effective action against ISIS, El Qaeda and their affiliates remains to be seen. Every pundit on the planet seems to have published his/her take on this and we can probably add very little. The Dalai Lama puts it very well:
"I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said. "It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place."
Titan and Pollyanna agree and feel very strongly that we must not allow ourselves to succumb to fear and hatred. Let us quote from the well thought out article by Paul Krugman in the NYTimes:

"The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong." 

It is possible to err on both the side of application of force and appeasement, neither of which will get us any positive results. Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, admonishes the Israeli right wing to stop rejoicing in its heart over the carnage. He makes a very valid point

" The correct lesson from what happened in Paris is that there are no longer any local wars. The world cannot continue to shut its eyes in the face of what is happening in Syria, and also not in the face of the Israeli occupation. When the world pulls itself together from the shock, maybe it will also free itself from the paralysis and understand that it must harness itself to find a solution to these conflicts, both in war-­torn Syria as well as in the occupied Palestinian territories. Then let's see the Israeli right." 

It should be clear, that there is no connection between the legitimate struggle of the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation and the terrorism of ISIS and its branches in Europe, Africa and anywhere. Of course that legitimate struggle does not include random stabbings of civilians. Amnesty International has strongly condemned these attacks on Israeli civilians, which have engendered major loss of life and done nothing to advance the Palestinian cause.What is obvious is that greater cooperation and coordination in the struggle against radical Islamism must involve the sane part of the Muslim world along with the West. It is also clear that much must be done to improve intelligence functioning if these attacks are to be foiled. It is indeed very difficult to stay on top of terrorist organizations. The IRA put it thus after a failed attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher in 1984:“Today we were unlucky,” the IRA said, “but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”

Titan and Pollyanna are also shocked and outraged over the attitude of some American and European leaders to the multitudes of refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq. They are fleeing war and death and it is totally unconscionable to refuse them just because a Syrian passport was found on the body of a terrorist in Paris. The passport may well have been planted to generate the backlash.  Cheers Mr. Kristof.
Mike Lukovich puts it well:



Pollyanna and Titan would like to share with you the reaction of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo to the attacks in Paris. It puts things into perspective very well.


Burundi has been shaken by months of violence, which began when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided in April to run for an unconstitutional  third term. He won a disputed and widely boycotted election in July. Last week, the UN Security Council asked Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, to report within 15 days on options for boosting the UN presence in Burundi amid growing concern that the violence could spiral into an ethnic conflict. There have been warnings of an impending genocide.
A Burundian protester running through smoke during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura
At least 240 people have been killed in Burundi since protests against Mr Nkurunziza began in April  Photo: Dai Kurokawa/EPA
Others have discounted this idea and point out that the fuel to ignite an ethnic genocide is no longer in place. Let us all hope for the best and for a political resolution to the conflict.


The Israeli government has decided in its great wisdom to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. This has made many right wingers happy but has also generated much criticism, both internal and abroad. The human rights organization Amnesty International said the decision to outlaw the Islamic Movement raises concerns over freedom of speech and association in Israel, noting in particular the raids, preventive arrests and property confiscations as causes for concern.

 "Especially worrying is the fact the decision was made by the Israeli cabinet, without a fair process which gives the movement the chance to defend itself in legal proceedings," said a statement released by Amnesty. Tamar Zandberg MK of the Meretz party posted an excellent critique of the decision in Facebook (Hebrew).

Titan and Pollyanna regard the outlawing of the Islamic organization as the sort of gesture that governments do when they really have no idea how to cope with a given situation, but wish to create the delusion that they are doing something of substance,  Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund provides a good description of the response of the Israeli government:

"And from too many in positions of leadership and power, there is evasion, incitement, and distraction. Instead of an attempt to address the roots of the current violence, we hear cynical claims that almost fifty years of occupation and settlement enterprise are irrelevant to the current nightmare, that the Palestinians hate us and have always hated us, that they were responsible for the Holocaust, that there’s no difference between Palestinian activists and ISIS murderers.... And instead of looking for a way out of the terrible, seemingly endless conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, high ranking ministers have introduced new anti-democratic bills that would hamstring human rights organizations and ban entry to Israel of people who believe that supporting the settlement enterprise is bad for Israel and Zionism."

Nonetheless, we stand with the thousands of Israeli Jews and Arabs who refuse to be enemies.

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The EU has issued guidelines for the labeling of products made in West Bank or Golan settlements. The Israeli government is screaming foul, but Titan and Pollyanna think that the consumer in Europe is entitled to know what s/he is buying and if s/he disapproves of the patently illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories then certainly the right to boycott exists. We who live here in Israel make every effort to avoid buying such products and regard the EU action as overdue.



Judy (newly minted Ph.D. in Physics) informs us that quantum entanglement, although it may seem spooky, has been verified experimentally. Thank you Judy, this is exciting, at least to some of us. As described in a paper posted online and submitted to Physical Review Letters (PRL),* researchers from the US National Institute of Standards (NIST) in Boulder, CO and several other institutions created pairs of identical light particles, or photons, and sent them to two different locations to be measured. Researchers showed the measured results not only were correlated, but also—by eliminating all other known options—that these correlations cannot be caused by the locally controlled, “realistic” universe Einstein thought we lived in. This implies a different explanation such as entanglement. Titan and Pollyanna say cheers!
How NIST Detected Spooky Actions at a Distance Infographic


Millions are addicted to video games and the question of how they affect people and their lives is the subject of two recent books. One is:
 Gamelife A Memoir by Michael W. Clune, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
and the other
God in the Machine: Video Games as Spiritual Pursuit (Acculturated) Paperback – May 26, 2015 by Liel Leibovitz.
A screenshot from Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World (1988), one of the computer games Michael Clune writes about in Gamelife: A Memoir

They are reviewed in depth by Gabriel Winslow-Yost in the New York Review of Books and there is much food for thought. The Clune book is also reviewed in the NYTimes, which might be more accessible. Many of us  tend to dismiss video games as trivial, but in fact, they are becoming a defining medium of our times. We spend more time and money on video games than on books, television, or film, and any serious thinker of our age should be concerned with these games, what they are saying about us, and what we are learning from them. We might wonder what negative effects this addiction might have. Adam Lanza the Newtown killer, was totally hung up on games, especially a game called Dance Dance Revolution.

teve McCurry/Magnum Photos A man playing a Dance Dance Revolution game, similar to the one Adam Lanza played, Tokyo, 2008

There is certainly no consensus in the scientific community about the psychological influence of gaming. In 2005, and again this August, the American Psychological Association declared that “violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players,” though not yet “to criminal violence or delinquency.” Some two hundred scientists and  professors signed an open letter objecting to the APA’s report as “misleading and alarmist” (Leibovitz, for his part, calls the connection between real and video game violence a “thoroughly refuted canard”). We wonder about this as we see our grandchildren playing incessantly, but are certainly not qualified to judge. We often are uncomfortable when confronted with the back of a hand held device instead of the countenance of a person,


The National Institutes of Health is shuttering its chimpanzee research program after decades of experimentation and research that has put animal rights activists and scientists at odds. It is welcome news to all who care about animals.
chimpanzee at Chimp Haven
A chimpanzee explores the outdoors at the Louisiana haven. (Photo: HSUS/YouTube)


The Korean film The Tenor-Lirico Spinto ( directed by Kim Sang-man) is a 2014 biopic chronicling the life of world-famous South Korean tenor Bae Jae-chul who performed in numerous European operas, but lost his voice at the peak of his career due to thyroid cancer. The film is reviewed by William Schwartz.


What If? seems to have discontinued in mid-September, so we shall just call on Randall for a lesson in chemistry.

This is reminiscent of an oral literature exam of someone in our family:

SMBC has some news for young people dreaming of going to medical school:


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Titan is back for a visit

Just in case you forgot what Titan looks like


We wish all our Jewish readers a Shana Tova, a happy New Year. The Hebrew Calendar New Year falls on Monday Sept. 14 and Tuesday Sept. 15.

After a long respite, Titan has decided that the time has come to return to the ranting fields. Too much has gone on and Titan feels that you have been deprived of his wisdom and good judgement, coupled with his characteristic modesty, for far too long. Pollyanna is still busy controlling a golf ball in the gravity of an asteroid, but if things turn pink again, you might even hear from her.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan hopes that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.



Titan is very pleased that the Iran deal has succeeded in the US Senate and that the horrible alternative, a further expansion of war in the Middle East has been avoided. He holds, of course, no brief for Iran and its leaders, but has good reason to believe that the people of Iran have more burning issues than building a bomb to attack Israel or anyone for that matter. One feature of nuclear weapons is that they are essentially unusable against an adversary similarly equipped and with a viable second strike capability. Many Israelis, out of a combination of Islamophobic racism and typical stupidity have tried to claim that the government of Iran would cheerfully sacrifice millions of its citizens in order to destroy Israel, i.e. Muslims are not rational beings such as "us"-Titan leaves you the choice of who is irrational. There have been many reports in the world press about Israel's second strike capability and the Iranians are certainly not fools. What is clear is the the voice of reason has prevailed in the US. The ranting and raving of the likes of Natanyahu and some right wing rabbis have all been for naught. In fact, if Titan were inclined to Schadenfreude, which of course he is not, he might derive some pleasure at seeing some famous noses pushed into the dog excrement. Peter Beinart explains clearly how and why Obama defeated AIPAC. To a great extent, the loss of influence of AIPAC in liberal circles is the result of Netanyahu's love affair with the Republicans. Yossi Verter finds some Nixonian traits in Netanyahu's mode of functioning, but alas there is no Kissenger around to restore some degree of reason.


Europe is being swept with a wave of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.  It is estimated that since January 2015, 350,000 refugees have desperately packed onto overcrowded vessels to Italy after fleeing war-torn countries such as Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Now, migrants are increasingly using road and rail transport to access the EU. The deaths of 71 migrants who suffocated on board a lorry abandoned in Austria is one of the most recent examples of the horror that can come about.

How these migrants are to be distributed in some equitable way across Europe depends on which country you are thinking of. Germany, Austria and France are standing up to their responsibility while other countries such as Denmark and Poland want no part of the newcomers. It is clear that there can be no thought of sending them back to war-torn Syria and now the flow of refugees from Iraq is beginning to increase. The NYTimes reports on a plan  proposed by the president of the European Commission  to share the burden of resettling 160,000 people who are in Greece, Hungary and Italy, the three countries where the most migrants have arrived in Europe. The plan assigns each member state a number of people based on its economic strength, population, unemployment and the number of asylum applications it has approved over the last five years. Note the graphics in this article--11 countries have already exceeded their quotas, while 14 would have to step up their acceptance rate.  The EU has a population of close to 500 million. Accepting even as many as a million refugees would mean one newcomer per 500 citizens, which certainly cannot be considered a major burden. Titan thinks it disgraceful that countries such as Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland (might accept 2,000, big deal) are playing a racist card. Denmark has gone so far as to publish ads in newpapers in Lebanon saying "do not come to us". Nonetheless, the migrants are there and are trying to make their way across Denmark to Sweden which is much more welcoming. Titan is sure that the leaders of the EU will sort this out somehow. The Hungarian police show how they humiliate refugees by throwing out food bags and watching the people scramble for them.

The former US Ambassador to Hungary comments in the NYTimes about the xenophobic attitude of Hungary. Although Hungary was taken into the EU, its government has denounced liberal democracy as a failure and in fact the political scene there is fascist. The Chancellor of Austria has likened the actions of Hungary to the treatment of Jews in WWII.
A man runs with child in arms as he tries to board a bus provided by Hungarian authorities for migrants and refugees at Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Credit AP
In Israel Yitzhak Herzog, the head of the opposition, has proposed that Israel accept some Syrian refugees. The idea was rejected by most of the official leadership. Yair Lapid, a parliamentarian and the son of a Holocaust survivor, attacked it as a European problem that does not impact Israel. He referred to the Darfur refugees as "infiltrators" which is enough to get Titan's blood to boil. For Israel to accept a number commensurate with the European model would give us about 10,000 refugees, which we could certainly absorb. Whether they would want to come here is a different issue, but it is inhumane to refuse to accept people fleeing war and carnage. This cartoon by Signe Wilkinson puts it into perspective:


Over six weeks ago terrorists threw a fire bomb into the home of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus. An 18 month old baby, Ali, was burned to death at once, his father, Saad, died of his burns shortly later and now the mother Reham, has succumbed to her burns and been buried in the village.
The funeral of Reham Dawabsheh in Duma, September 7, 2015. Credit Alex Levac

The Hebrew words "vengeance" and "long live the Messiah" were spray painted on the torched home, and an empty house nearby was set ablaze as well. No one has yet been arrested for the crime although a few known radicals have been placed under administrative detention. It is a national disgrace especially if compared with the efficiency with which the security services solved the case of the three boys murdered by Hamas. We are even told by the Defense Minister that the identity of the perpetrators is known, but there will be no prosecution lest intelligence sources be compromised. Zahava Galon, the head of the Meretz party,  accused Ya'alon of "hiding behind security excuses" to hide the defense establishment's incompetence to deal with Jewish terrorism. She said he wouldn't have dared to act or speak like this "if the murder victims had been Jewish." One might indeed wonder if the government really wants to arrest and try these killers. They are Orthodox Jews and it would look bad to some people to see Jews prosecuted for killing Arabs. The visceral racism of a good part of our population, especially those who profess the Orthodox brand of faith, runs very deep. Yossi Sarid mentions this case in a long litany of why no decent person can continue to love our country. We continue to care and it hurts.


For well beyond living memory league football in Israel has been played on Saturday afternoons, whether the Orthodox like it or not. Suddenly a judge has ruledthat playing football on the Sabbath is a criminal offense unless a permit is granted. The minister who could grant the waiver is Der'i, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who would have a problem with the conflict between his personal beliefs and the wrath of the secular public. The issue has been resolved by a decision by the Attorney General that  that there is no reason to suddenly enforce a law banning soccer matches from taking place on Shabbat. Football will go on as usual. Of course, Iran, immigration, murder by terror, the economy all paled compared to the really important issue.



Pipes excavated in Shakespeare's garden have been analyzed in South Africa by sensitive gas chromatography mass spectrometry. and found to contain traces of cannabis, but not cocaine. Some evidence of smoking "weed" and "compounds strange" can be found in Sonnet 76:

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
   For as the sun is daily new and old,
   So is my love still telling what is told.

Our beloved little Cynthia finds evidence in Othello:


What If?  asks: If you did fall into Jupiter's atmosphere in a submarine, what would it actually look like? What would you see before you melted or burned up? —Ada Munroe.
Interesting answers. Our colleagues at Tel Aviv University, Noa Noy et al. looked into the question of why the Red Spot is red back in 1981 and blamed phosphine, with a particular color variation caused by scattering. These days people are thinking more in terms of dissociation of sulfur products.