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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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

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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Titan greets all his readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Futility is contagious:
Throwing Rocks

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

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

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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wumo has a sad tale to tell.

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

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

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

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

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

Wizard of Id

Saturday, May 31, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the video:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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