Friday, September 19, 2014

Titan winds down 5774

Titan is back and would like to wish a Happy New Year to his Jewish friends and readers. Pollyanna will try to get her blog out on Wednesday next week because we are all in synagogue either on a Titan lake or in Natanya during the holiday. Titan is also scratching his head about the mystery of the missing lithium in the universe. The abundance of element 7 is about one-third of what it should be according to calculations based on Big Bang abundances of elements. Recent results from the European Southern Observatory show that other galaxies share the deficit found in our Milky Way.
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO
An image of globular cluster M54 taken by the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. Credit: ESO

Titan had thought that the problem had been solved years ago by Andreas Korn of Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues in Denmark, France and Russia who concluded that the lithium diffuses over time into the stars' hot interiors, where it is then burnt up (Nature 442 657). Now it appears that the problem is more complicated. Either modifications of BBN (Big Bang nucleosynthesis) calculations, or a combination of atomic diffusion plus a suitably tuned additional mixing during the main sequence, need to be invoked to solve the discrepancy (MNRAS 2014Volume 444, Issue 2 Pp. 1812-1820).The diffusion is understood, but no plausible mixing mechanism has been proposed or found yet, which leaves the mystery in place.
In other science news, a landing place for  the Philae probe has been chosen on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Good luck friends!
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Context image showing the location of the primary landing site for Rosetta’s lander Philae. Site J is located on the head of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. An inset showing a close up of the landing site is also shown. The inset image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 20 August 2014 from a distance of about 67 km. The image scale is 1.2 metres/pixel. The background image was taken on 16 August from a distance of about 100 km. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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

CHARITY CORNER
IMC team in Sierra Leone
This week Titan is referring you to the International Medical Corps. They are top rated by Charity Watch and are active in fighting Ebola, disease in refugee camps around the world and many other areas. International Medical Corps was founded by Dr. Robert Simon, who, as a young emergency-room physician at UCLA Medical Center, was moved to take action after reading of the tragic plight of the Afghan people as a result of the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation. All but 200 of the country’s 1,500 doctors had been executed, imprisoned, or exiled, and all relief agencies had been ordered out of the country, leaving ill and injured civilians, pregnant women and developing children with essentially nowhere to turn for basic health care. He found that no one was acting, so he founded a new group. Titan quotes from the mission statement:"Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical Corps is a private, voluntary, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization. Its mission is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in underserved communities worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, International Medical Corps rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance." Please click on the donation tab and help out.


RANTS AND RAVES (with the aid of some cartoonists)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND HYPOCRISY Our planet is going to hell in a basket with our aid and abetting and we all are trying to look the other way. Naomi Klein writing in the Guardian points out what our collective denial and the hypocrisy of the capitalist moguls who walked the road to Damascus and then suddenly had second thoughts has brought about. She gives the phenomenon an appropriate name, "greenwashing" and lists for us Branson ($3bn promised in 2006, $230m spent), Gates and others.
Months After BP Oil Spill
Oil is deposited along dead marsh land near Bay Jimmy in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, in January 2011, 10 months after the spill. The clean-up is ongoing. Photograph: Getty Images
Titan gives you a quote from her long article (you must read it all):"The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it's a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender." Something to think about. For some perspective, August was the hottest August on record.  
Paul Krugman in the NYTimes points out that fighting climate change can be both cheap and free.

THE NEW CRUSADE? 
While the West and its Arab vassals try to figure out how to deal with the Islamic State, some voices are being heard to the effect that a major ground action led by the US and NATO is probably just what the jihadis are trying to provoke. Steve Weissman, in Reader Supported News, makes the point that the blood-thirsty “fools of God” need to be seen defending their people against a Western invasion, which is precisely what Obama gives them. He argues that the US should learn the lessons of the past  folly of covertly using Islamic groups, whether to protect Big Oil, drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, or fight the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia, where the CIA flew in al-Qaeda militants from Azerbaijan. In all these cases, the US created a monster it could not control. Cutting off your nose to get what you think is a good result is not always optimum as Mike Luckovich tells us so graphically.
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/14/2014

Indeed it is hard to understand the Obama strategy for dealing with the IS and maybe, as he told us a few weeks ago, he has none.Michael Ramirez Cartoon for Sep/04/2014
This tactic certainly will not work:Signe Wilkinson Cartoon for Sep/14/2014
Chelsea Manning writing in the Guardian from her prison in the US suggests on the basis of her experience as an analyst that the best thing the West could do would be to apply containment and then wait for the IS to fall on its own sword.In her opinion, without the impetus of fighting the West, the IS will disintegrate and be torn apart by internal tensions. Maybe. In the meantime, let us hope that the US does not tear itself apart, as noted by Luckovich...

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Aug/28/2014              
It appears that  the Scots have decided not to tear the UK apart.  The good news is that single malt scotch will still be available. This is not a joke.  Whisky is Scotland's second-largest export behind oil and gas and is worth £4.3bn a year to the local economy. Stephen Colbert was for independence for Scotland:



                                   


No means No! Rush Limbaugh made the following outrageous statement this week:: “[According to Ohio State policy,] consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn anytime, and the absence of "no" does not mean "yes." How many guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that no means yes if you know how to spot it?... Are these [policies] not lawsuits waiting to happen? ” -- Rush Limbaugh. This is advocacy of a culture of rape. Over 40 years ago an Israeli song writer Dan Almagor innocently wrote a song about flirting that by implication pushed the same idea, that no can mean yes. He has since retracted and apologized and we believe that he was not consciously advocating rape, although the song is certainly not acceptable by today's standards and should not have been written then. (BTW, he wrote a song about Venezuela that claimed that the Orinoco flowed into the Amazon,which is pure rot. A whole class screwed up a high school geography final exam because of him. Imagine a young Israeli backpacker, lost on the Orinoco looking for the Amazon...) If you live in the US, click and call for sponsors to drop Limbaugh.

SORRY ABOUT THAT! 
The man who invented the pop-up ad,
 
the most hated thing on the Web, is apologizing. You might find the story interesting. There is also a link to his essay and some ideas about how the Web could be different and our privacy better protected.

HOME SWEET HOME
CONVERSION THERAPY FOR GAYS 
There is a misguided belief that homosexuality is a medical or psychological condition that can be
removed by various means. We all know of the scandalous "rape therapy" used in South Africa and other places to "cure" lesbian women. Now that the last gay therapy place in the US, Exodus International has closed its doors, with its leaders offering apologies for their actions, it is worthy to recall what atrocities were committed in the name of such "therapy" such as electroshock to genitals etc. Orthodox Jewish organizations in the US are protesting the laws outlawing such "therapy" but they will get nowhere. In Israel, over the past few years the religious population in Israel also started  publicly to cope with the existence of gays and lesbians in their midst and with the appropriate ways to deal with it. Two organizations are famously known for dealing with conversion therapy in Israel: “HOD” (stands for ‘Homoim Datiyim”- religious gays), is an organization founded five years ago by Rabbi Ron Yosef, 38 and gay himself, in order to fight “Atzat Nefesh” (‘Soul Advice’), an organization established in 2001, which presents itself online as the "center for assistance and training for sexuality, identity and addiction. ” Ex-gay women are totally absent from the Israeli debate on the subject, and according to “Bat Kol”, a religious lesbians organization, only a few have experienced such treatment. - Read more . Those who have tried this therapy have had generally negative results and the Israel Psychological Society has taken a firm stand against it.

CIVIL RIGHTS BEFORE TWO STATES 
Noam Sheizaf has come out with a provocative and important post on +972 in which he proposes that
the progressive community in Israel stop beating its head against the wall for the two-state solution that is for the moment unattainable and refocus its energies on civil rights for the Palestinians. His proposed solution is to replace the diplomatic process with a civil rights struggle, to break the occupation into pieces, and deal with each one of them:
  • The fact that Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. 
  • The fact that they have been tried in military courts for almost half a century. 
  • The limits on their freedom of speech and their right to freely assemble.
  • The lack of proper detainee rights (including minors). 
  • The disrespect for their property rights, and, of course, their lack of political rights.
It is an innovative idea and worthy of consideration. Certainly there is no political will in the power structure of Israel to move towards peace and a diplomatic settlement nor is there any real interest in peace on the part of the public.

FORTY THREE RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE IN SODOM
IDF Unit 8200
Graduates of Unit 8200, the IDF's technological spearhead. Photo by Moti Milrod
In the Israeli army there is a unit called 8200 which is the main intelligence gathering entity of the system. It is an elite unit and its soldiers and officers are chosen for their ability and intelligence, to say nothing of their loyalty. It was, therefore, a severe shock to the system when forty three reservists including officers sent an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top military officials, saying they would refuse to do reserve service because of Israel's `political persecution' of the Palestinians.

"We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories." the soldiers said in the letter, which was also addressed to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate.

The 43 unit members who signed the letter, some of whom serve in the reserves, say that the information that is gathered and stored in the army’s systems “...harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.” The unit spies on the personal lives, sexual activities and relationships of Palestinians in order to blackmail them into becoming collaborators with the Occupation. It should also be a matter of concern to people in the US that the NSA passed on raw surveillance data on US citizens to 8200.

Titan salutes these people who are very brave and will pay a price. The difference between them and Anat Kamm who served prison time in Israel for exposing war crimes and people like Assange, Snowden and Manning (who is serving a 35 year sentence) is that the actions against the US actually resonated and caused changes. In Israel, which in some ways is very similar to North Korea, the Army is a sacred cow wallowing in corruption and evil and no one has the courage to slaughter it. The docile press that eats out of the hand of the  army was quick to condemn the mutiny, with the exception of Haaretz and a surprising article on YNET.  Gideon Levy compares 8200 to the Stasi with full justification. Avraham Burg writing in Haaretz also praises the rebels and shames those of us in the progressive camp who throw up their hands as the bad guys keep winning.
"We must never, but never, give up. One may not surrender even when the forces of evil seem like they are gathering strength and power, and the forces of good are in shamed retreat. Enormous, herculean strength is not always required to defeat the well-oiled, powerful machine. Sometimes all it takes is the courage of a few individuals – like the alumni of Unit 8200. Discussion about their letter ought to go far beyond the act itself. It touches two very sensitive places in Israel: the place of the army, and that of conscience, in our lives. The bottom line, as of now, is that the army takes up a place in our lives that is too large, even total, while almost no room is left here for conscience. That is why the disobedience of the intelligence and surveillance troops contributes something toward a different balance in the equation of Israelis’ lives: less militarism and more conscience." 
Titan could not agree with you more, Dr. Burg. As Martin Luther King said, the three evils that destroy a society are racism, militarism and materialism. We are well supplied with all three.

HURRAY! RACISM IS LEGAL 
The High Court of Israel has just rejected a petition against a law that allows communities to filter the people who come to live in them by criteria set up by the community itself. The law was passed, as we all know, to perpetuate housing segregation against Arabs. The petitioners argued that the law would allow these communities to reject homosexuals, people with disabilities, Arabs or anyone else who differed from the community’s social norm. Since both Israeli and international law prohibit discriminating against someone just because he differs from the dominant social group, they said, that makes the law unconstitutional. Since the Chief Justice himself lives in a West Bank settlement and is, therefore, a de facto war criminal, one should not be surprised by such racism at the highest judicial levels. We can recall times when certain neighborhoods in cities in North America were off-limits for Jews, Orientals, blacks, Hispanics etc. Civil rights legislation eliminated all that, but in Israel Jim Crow is alive and well. The Onion has published a practical guide to racism that our justices might have read or written.
Click here to view larger image

JOAN RIVERS Z"L 
We had an obituary for Joan Rivers when she died. We would like to share the lovely way the New Yorker said farewell to her along with a memorial post by Mike Luckovich:
Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Sep/05/2014  




 SILLY TIME

What If? asks My 12-year-old daughter is proposing an interesting project. She is planning to attach a number of helium balloons to a chair, which in turn would be tethered by means of a rope to a Ferrari. Her 13-year-old friend would then drive the Ferrari around, while she sits in the chair enjoying uninterrupted views of the countryside. Leaving aside the legal and insurance difficulties, my daughter is keen to know the maximum speed that she could expect to attain, and how many helium balloons would be required.

Phil Rodgers, Cambridge, UK

Randall starts with: "Note to police: If you've recently taken into custody two unidentified underage drivers, a stolen Ferrari, and a bunch of helium balloons, the person you're looking for is Phil Rodgers in Cambridge, UK."  The answer is not encouraging to the young lady, but Randall offers an alternative.

We once had a colleague who could not find the any key nor turn off
his MAC. They are among us.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/18/2014

Any of you who have memories of being bullied in school or elsewhere will appreciate this bit from SMBC:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Titan is ranting again




See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
Airglow, Gegenschein, and Milky Way
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution)
Explanation: As far as the eye could see, it was a dark night at Las Campanas Observatory in the southern Atacama desert of Chile. But near local midnight on April 11, this mosaic of 3 minute long exposures revealed a green, unusually intense, atmospheric airglow stretching over thin clouds. Unlike aurorae powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, the airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction, and found around the globe. The chemical energy is provided by the Sun's extreme ultraviolet radiation. Like aurorae, the greenish hue of this airglow originates at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so dominated by emission from excited oxygen atoms. The gegenschein, sunlight reflected by dust along the solar system's ecliptic plane was still visible on that night, a faint bluish cloud just right of picture center. At the far right, the Milky Way seems to rise from the mountain top perch of the Magellan telescopes. Left are the OGLE project and du Pont telescope domes.
Titan is back and wants to share a view of air glow, gegenschein and the Milky Way.   Usually air glow is subvisible, so it is nice to have a chance to see it.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year and a half 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.

CHARITY CORNER 
This week Titan is referring you to Oxfam Unwrapped. It is a way of giving gifts to your friends and family who have everything. How it works: You choose one of the exciting gifts from the Oxfam Unwrapped catalog. A personalized card goes to you or your friend or loved one – it shows how your gift is making a real difference. Your donation turns into a gift for those who need it most. From water jugs to school books to goats, all Oxfam Unwrapped gifts benefit those living in poverty.
 
Selina, the benificiary of a goat from Oxfam Unwrapped
When we bought Maya a goat in Botswana for her 18th birthday, her father, who is not an animal fan, heard her telling her friend on the phone "...Grandpa bought me a goat." He was not amused by the idea until explanations were made.

IN MEMORIAM  Joan Rivers, 1933-2014.
Comedian Joan Rivers poses next to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,July 26, 1989.
Comedienne Joan Rivers poses next to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,July 26, 1989. Photo by AP
The great comedy star has just died in New York. She broke into comedy when women were still very much marginalized  and paved the way for the generation that followed her. Her mastery of the acid one-liner never wavered in a career that spanned five decades. We always enjoyed her style and quick wit. Full obituaries are in the NYTimes and the Guardian.


THE RANTS
ANOTHER ATROCITY BY ISIS
We are enraged by the report of the beheading of another American journalist



 and by the reported beheading of a Kurdish man.

In the meantime, the world's leaders dither in Wales. HARRY TRUMAN, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN WE NEED YOU? The lessons of the Rhineland and of Munich seem to have been forgotten. A dictator like Putin or the self-styled Caliph of Iraq and Syria Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.(Reuters / Social Media Website)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.(Reuters / Social Media Website)
 or the leader of the the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau
The leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has praised militants in Iraq

 --any one of them can apparently test the resolve of the West and win. The silly media are busy with the suit that Obama wore to his press conference or the hacking of a few nude photos of some movie stars. A few sounds of potential action are starting to be heard, but do not hold your breath.

FUKUSHIMA REDUX 
Since the Fukushima meltdown over three years ago, the situation there has been getting worse. Now we are told that a similar danger exists in California. A large reactor is sitting on a recently discovered major fault at Diablo Canyon, near Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California.
Diablo Canyon

The government is doing very little and the public is not being made aware of the danger. Read more and shudder. Fukushima itself is not being managed properly in the aftermath of the disaster and another significant earthquake in Japan could devastate North America and eliminate Japan as a habitable place.


HOME SWEET HOME
The guns have fallen silent, but nothing is happening to indicate that anything is being done to prevent a replay of this story in two years or so. The most recent blow to the prospects of peace is  the land grab that was called a "proper Zionist reaction" to the killing of the three boys. Never mind that this is a collective punishment of the Palestinians which is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. It is designed to put to rest forever any hope of a territorial compromise or reasonable borders for a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. We are also cutting ourselves off from the world and even from Jewish communities that are getting fed up. Of course, we do have our knee-jerk supporters who think that the word of God comes from Natanyahu's press office, such as Rabbi Block who dropped the NYTimes because it was not pro-Israel enough.

In truth, as said long ago by Cicero, one should not blame the political leaders, but the stupid masses who elect them. Yossi Sarid has it right, the masses are asses. Of course, while democracy is indeed a bad way to run things, all others that have been tried are worse. In the meantime, we slide down our moral slope to hell, as well put by Bradley Burston, Mordechai Kremnitzer and Asher Schechter.   The human rights organization B'tselem tried to broadcast a list of names of Gazan children killed and was denied. The Supreme Court held up the denial. It seems that universal humanity is not an Israeli value  and cannot be tolerated. The future is bleak.
Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014.
FILE PHOTO: Palestinians inspect the rubble of a destroyed building after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014. Photo by AP

There will be no intervention from outside because the Europeans have their own problems and the US Congress has been properly bribed. We march on to the  apartheid state that our right wing and religious leaders wish to impose on us. Have a nice week.

THE POLICE WILL PROTECT YOU 
A woman, Avital Rokach, complained to the police that her ex-husband was threatening her. He was arrested and released by court order with restrictions. A few days later, Rokah's son called police to warned them of fears that the ex-husband might attack his mother. Officers were deployed to the house and advised her to go to a shelter for battered women, Israel Police said. She declined and her body was found last Thursday with stab wounds in all parts of her body in an entrance to a residential building in Jerusalem. We quote her son Laor: "We went to the police station; we asked how it is possible that he is being released. Last Thursday I tried to talk to the police. I called several call centers. I kept on being transferred. No one was answering, no one was talking. I was treated with indifference and we could not understand whether the discussion would take place or not".

"On Saturday evening, after we arrived at the police station and were told that he had been released, the police station chief said that it was the judge's decision and that his hands were tied"
, the son added, wondering: "How could it be that a judge releases a man like that who bought an ax and knives and who threatened to murder? He has a criminal record and he had a restraining warrant against him before, which he violated".

Titan thinks that both the judge and the police have blood on their hands.

SILLY TIME

What If? asks: People sometimes say "If I had all the money in the world ..." in order to discuss what they would do if they had no financial constraints. I'm curious, though, what would happen if one person had all of the world's money?

Daniel Pino

Rather discouraging reply--Titan would settle for 1 billionth of it and in large notes please.

We feel empathy for Grandpa
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Sep/04/2014


The search for intelligent life in the universe goes on. It would be nice if we could find it on Earth.
The Search

Friday, August 22, 2014

Titan wishes this war would end


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 SILLY TIME

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

Garrett D.


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

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


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

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


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


especially since they really trust us, as they should.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Titan is sweating through the summer

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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

 HOME SWEET HOME

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

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


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

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

SILLY TIME

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

Thesis Defense

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



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


and shows us how self-focused our children are.

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/05/2014



Thursday, July 24, 2014

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

SILLY TIME

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

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

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