Friday, November 18, 2011

Titan is ranting, is anyone listening?

Titan and  Pollyanna along with their alter egos YandA  wish all who celebrate Thanksgiving a very happy holiday.  This time Titan wants you to know what his home environment at Saturn sounds like.  This noise or music comes from his little neighbor Enceladus with a bit of human background.  These sounds were recorded by the Cassini spacecraft which has been in orbit around Saturn since December 2004. The clip was called to our attention  by our friend and colleague Abi Rymer from APL.  Thank you Abi.  We hope you like it. At the site there are other videos of sounds from space.

What is done is to record natural electromagnetic fluctuations, in this case, the plasma wave detector on board the spacecraft Cassini in orbit around Saturn and to convert them to the mechanical fluctuations in your loudspeaker.  Enjoy and listen to the great god Kronos.  For some more weirdness from Saturn, Titan refers you to Phil Plait whose  Bad Astronomy blog   link is to the right of each of our postings.

 Having regaled you with that, Titan can get on with his normal business of ranting about what is wrong with the world.  This week there is much to rant about, as is the case almost every week.

We will start with something in the US that makes our blood boil.  As is well known, the great beloved, 84 year old football coach of Penn State University was fired after 50 years for covering up child abuse by one of his assistants, a monster named Sandusky.  We have all fumed at the covering up of child abuse by the Catholic Church and indeed they eventually shaped up albeit late, in many cases far too late, and with insufficient strength.  We so far have not seen Jesuit seminary students rioting in support of a priest defrocked for raping the altar boys.  Here the president of the University not only fired the coach, but resigned himself, since it happened on his watch (Israeli generals please note).  The abuse and cover-up were bad enough, but what exacerbates the crime is the fact that 2,000 Penn State students rioted in support of their coach.

Can you imagine this?  Five percent of the student body of a major and respected academic institution rioted in support of child abuse.  The sports blogger Jon Fucile  lays it on the line well.  We saw idiots rioting in Vancouver over a hockey game loss and historically there have been sports riots going back to the sixth century, but nothing rivals the evil idiocy of the Penn State students.   The blogger Sara Whitman says it better than we could.  Andy Borowitz has a practical suggestion for Penn State.

We start with a student in Azerbaijan who is in jail for a Facebook posting.  Jabbar Savalan
 was jailed after calling for protests against the Azerbaijan government on Facebook. If there was ever a need for a "Dislike" button on Facebook, this is it!  Please read more and act.

We move on to China where the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng  and his family
Cheng Guangcheng with his wife and son
are being subjected to severe restriction on their freedom of movement and contacts.  In Tibet and China , we have seen two monks and nine nuns immolate themselves in the past six months, in protest against the repressive policies of the Chinese government.  Then we have Belarus where a past candidate for the presidency has been  jailed  for his political views and moved around to frustrate access to a lawyer. He is defined as an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience.  

Back to the United States, presumably the world's greatest democracy, where  Idaho is gearing up for an execution and  police in New York are cracking down on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This movement has spread around the world since September 17
Nonetheless the movement continues to spread and appears to be preparing for a long winter.  Indeed it may be ironically true that the police helped the movement to move on from physical occupation of space to political action that can have real long term and significant effects.

Next door to us in Syria the massacres continue and the opposition fights on.  King Abdullah of Jordan has called on President Assad to step down.  Turkey and France are making noises but  hypocrisy  continues to be the order of the day.  We are told that Russia will take steps  to prevent intervention such as took place in Libya.

In Italy the  clown has resigned  after 17 years of misrule and degradation  of a great European nation.  In Britain the scientific journal Nature  is facing a libel suit by an Egyptian scientist who took some criticism of his work as a journal editor in 2008.  We think that there is a real need for current libel laws to be reformed because  the existing system can be used to suppress robust scientific debate and discussion.  Europe, alas, is also not free of things for us to rant about, including ending with a preposition...

As usual, there are labor issues around the world that require attention.   In New Zealand we have the usual flexing of management muscles as unfettered capitalism goes global.  Please click and send your protest.  In Manitoba, Canada, the Faculty Association of Brandon University has been on strike  since October 12 over wages.  As a former Board member of a Faculty Association I have full sympathy for them and I hope their solidarity holds, although the report is ominous.  At the Turkish-owned Mega Textile  plant in Egypt workers have been protesting ill-treatment at the hands of management  and are now on strike to protest arbitrary dismissals.  The company has had a history of bad labor relations since it was founded five years ago.
Workers from Mega Textiles and Shebin El-Kom in a protest mid October. (Photo: Yassin Gaber)

Here at home, it is hard to decide where to begin our rants.  The right wing is chipping away at our democracy, bit by bit, law by law and there is nothing to stop them.  Gideon Levy likens our PM to a man riding on the back of a tiger.   As is well know, if you ride a tiger, you will end up inside, as the famous limerick tells us:
Well drawn by anon.

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger
.--variously attributed to Monkhouse, Nash and  Lear but most likely written by  the famous anon.  It certainly applies to the conservative democrats in Israel today.  This is all consistent with the history of fascism as pointed out by Paxton in his book The Anatomy of Fascism(Knopf, New York, 2004) who shows that fascist parties never achieve power on their own, but are aided by right wing democratic parties who either lose control or try unsuccessfully to exploit and manipulate them.  Paxton debunks the consoling fiction that Mussolini and Hitler seized power. Rather, conservative elites desperate to subdue leftist populist movements ''normalized'' the fascists by inviting them to share power. It was the mob that flocked to fascism, but the elites who elevated it. We are well on our way to becoming a second Iran, because the secular fascist wing has a theocratic ally and between them we are seeing our democracy collapse before our eyes.   The religious movement to isolate women, not to allow them to sing in public, to force them to ride in the back of the bus and to be silenced in the media is part and parcel of the fascist push in Israel.  Indeed politics makes strange bedfellows.    Yes, Mussolini made the trains run on time, but look at what happened to the Italian people.
The danger from a nuclear Iran pales before the real danger of the internal dissolution of our state and its values.  This is of course also connected to the Occupation of the West Bank and our evil actions as rulers of a victim nation.   Ilana Hammerman, who has long been on the front line of the struggle for our values, leaves no doubt about the hopelessness of our situation. and the depth of the moral pit into which we have fallen.  We go to our demonstrations ,
Pro-democracy demonstration in Tel Aviv
write letters to the editor of Haaretz, read  Ari Shavit on the op-ed page and, as pointed out by Yosefa, are reminded of  Cassandra.

For some cogent comments on the occupation and its implications, we would like to refer you to a weekly column by Gideon Spiro   in the Occupation Magazine.  In particular, he relates to the case of Anat Kam, a young Israeli woman soldier who was convicted of leaking classified documents and given a stiff prison term. The fact that the documents revealed crimes committed by the military establishment was not a mitigating factor, alas. 

Our policy on refugees is far from enlightened and they are often thrown back into the Sinai desert where they are in the hands of Bedouin people smugglers.  In addition to taking huge fees from the people who desperately want to get to Israel, the smugglers have come upon an additional source of income, trafficking in their organs.
"Organs are not useful if they're dead. They drug them first and remove their organs, then leave them to die".-- Rights campaigner Hamdy Al-Azazy.
The Egyptian government has largely lost control of the Sinai Peninsula and it has become a no-man's-land of crime and corruption.  In general, refugees are treated badly, be it incarceration on Christmas Island by Australia, rebuffs at the border between Kenya and Somalia, Burmese trying to cross a river to Thailand or Darfurians trying to get to Chad or Israel or wherever they can be safe.  It is sad that so many signatories of the UN conventions on refugees are evading their responsibilities when it comes down to the real thing.

To end on a lighter note, here is a video of an Italian auction of a vase that sold in auction for a million euros.
A Chinese Ming vase is up for auction.   The bidding opens at a half-million Euros.   Bidding is brisk and each bidder is clearly identified as each raises the bid by 100,000 Euros.    Within seconds, the bid stalls at one million Euros, and the gasp from the crowd identifies the excitement that prevails in the room.   The successful bidder is the last one who bid one million, and the auctioneer counts down the bid,

"Going once, going twice, and sold to the gentleman sitting in front of me for one million Euros."

Now, you are going to have to see the video for yourself.   The auctioneer is exuberant.   The pace is fast.   The conclusion? Priceless.

You are driving along the highway listening to your favorite classical music station.   Jim Sjveda or his colleague wherever you are  tells you "now we shall hear symphony number burst of static or enter underpass  by Gustav Mahler."  In order to identify the symphony, a kind soul in Michigan  sent the following flow chart to Yand which she is sharing with Titan and his readers.  For the record, #7 starts with a tenor horn solo and not a baritone horn, but that is a minor detail.

We asked before if anyone was listening to us.  We have decided that we have to take matters into our own hands and XKCD shows us how to go about it.  Titan and I now realize what we are doing wrong in terms of having some impact.  We realize what we need to do to help  save the world as Ender is doing for us in outer space.

Locke and Demosthenes


  1. Nice comic ... have you read Ender's Game? Great book ...

  2. I loved the music of Kronos and his sidekick Michael.
    I couldn't get into Ender's Game -- not my type..