Friday, July 27, 2012

You Thought You Could Escape from Titan?

Titan had a nice trip to North America with sister Pollyanna and our friends YandA.  They have put up a special YandA blog to describe the trip and Pollyanna herself  was mostly sweetness and light last week.  Alas, Titan has a bellyfull of gripes worldwide and local and has no inhibitions about sharing them with you.
First, however,
NASA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Sally Ride communicating with ground controllers during the six-day space mission of the Challenger in 1983
Titan would like to pay respects to a great lady who died this week, Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut and later a professor of space science at UCSD. It has now come out that she was gay, which is neither here nor there in terms of her life achievements. One of her main aims was to inspire girls to reach out to achieve their ambitions.We append an obituary from the New York Times.  We would like to quote something that she said about girls and science:
The world and our perceptions have changed a lot, even since the '70s, but there are lingering stereotypes. If you ask an 11-year-old to draw a scientist, she's likely to draw a geeky guy with a pocket protector. That's just not an image an 11-year-old girl aspires to. As she looks on the Web, she sees men as scientists. That's not particularly appealing to tween girls. And if an 11-year-old girl says she wants to be an engineer, she'll likely get a different reaction from peers than she would if a boy her age said the same thing, and maybe even different reactions from teachers and parents.  [5 Myths About Girls, Math and Science]


While we are on the topic of great ladies, let us praise one who is very much alive and active and doing much to be worthy of our admiration.  Aung San Suu Kyi on last month urged the world to help Myanmar complete its journey towards democracy as she became the first foreign woman to address both houses of Britain's parliament.  Now she has addressed her own parliament, as leader of the opposition,  with a call for protection of minority rights in a country torn by ethnic strife and conflict.  This lady was freed from nearly two decades of house arrest in November 2010 and became a lawmaker earlier this year as part of a gradual transition towards democracy in Myanmar.
Below, when we discuss our home front, we shall speak of another great lady who is grossly underrated by the media and the public, possibly because she is female and liberal in her views.

While in some places women are advancing towards equality, in Juarez, Mexico, they are being killed wholesale with no investigations to say nothing of prosecutions.  Since the beginning of the year, 60 women have been killed/disappeared and nothing is being done about it.
Posters, last month, showed women who have disappeared in Juarez. About 60 women and girls have been killed in the city so far this year. (photo: Shaul Schwarz/NYT)
These killings are certainly connected to the drug culture and the general lawlessness of Mexico, but the phenomenon has a sinister sexist aspect as well.

Warren Hill, a mentally retarded man, is scheduled to be executed soon in the state of Georgia, USA. His execution has been delayed so the state of Georgia can sort out whether the sudden switch to a one-drug lethal injection protocol last week violated state laws guaranteeing public input on important administrative procedures (like killing people). Agreed, Warren Hill is a double murderer who should not be allowed to be free, but killing him violates basic principles of decency and even a Supreme Court decision on execution of mentally retarded people.

Titan is please to note that The International Court of Justice on Friday ordered Senegal to prosecute the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré, who has lived comfortably for two decades in Senegal despite indictments in connection with political killings, torture and a host of other brutalities.  Too many dictators escape and then live in comfort on the money they stole in host countries that chose to look the other way.  Kudos to the court.

The boom has finally been lowered on Penn State and its football program.  While Jerry Sandusky awaits sentencing that will effectively be a life sentence for his crimes of child abuse and the statue of Joe Paterno has been removed from the stadium, the university itself has been hit by a $60 million dollar fine, all its wins from 1998 have been nullified (big deal) and the team will be barred from post season games for four years. Titan hopes that the message gets across to the university community, especially the 2,500 idiots who demonstrated in support of sexual abuse of children last fall. In truth, we think that the football program should be scrapped because it is a source of corruption. The myth that these athletes are students is by and large just that--a myth. We could go on and on about this, but prefer to refer you to the full coverage provided by The Daily Beast if you have any further interest in the sordid details of this travesty.

This is a subject that has an adverse effect on Titan's blood pressure.  We are seeing the ice melt off Greenland, the atmosphere in turmoil and the planet in danger but yet Big Oil couples into Big Ignorance, even on the part of people who should know better.  As pointed out by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone, the power of the oil companies is such that all attempts to reduce emissions, political, economic, whatever have failed and are continuing to fail.  We are headed towards a major catastrophe.   As Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times, we are playing with nature with loaded dice.  Unfortunately, people refuse to understand and this summer's drought in the American Midwest is dismissed as just another fluctuation.  Krugman puts it well-
Will the current drought finally lead to serious climate action? History isn’t encouraging. The deniers will surely keep on denying, especially because conceding at this point that the science they’ve trashed was right all along would be to admit their own culpability for the looming disaster. And the public is all too likely to lose interest again the next time the die comes up white or blue.

But let’s hope that this time is different. For large-scale damage from climate change is no longer a disaster waiting to happen. It’s happening now.

In four days this month, most of Greenland's ice sheet melted.

Shades of pink represent melted ice in satellite pictures of Greenland taken July 8 (left) and 12.
Illustration courtesy Nicolo E. DiGirolamo and Jesse Allen, NASA
Indeed, things like that happened before the industrial era, i.e. 150 years ago, so it is not conclusive to link it to global warming, but it is shocking

Titan could continue to rant about the big bad wide world, but the time has come to get down to brass tacks at home where we all live and try to survive.  The big social protest has more or less fizzled, not least because it refuses to face up to the fact that social justice and the occupation of the territory of 3,000,000 people and suppression of their human rights simply do not go together.  There has been a spate of articles to that effect, but for reasons best known to Aluf Benn the editor, Haaretz has either not translated them or has pulled the translation of some.  Before we go any further, we want to give you a taste of what we mean, an article by Amira Haas that was published and then pulled.  Thanks to Diana Kimmerling for getting the text:

    Amira Hass: The anti-Semitism that goes unreported
    18 July 2012
    By Amira Hass, Haaretz - 18 July 2012

    Tens of thousands of people live in the shadow of terror
    Here’s a statistic that you won’t see in research on anti-Semitism, no matter how meticulous the study is. In the first six months of the year, 154 anti-Semitic assaults have been recorded, 45 of them around one village alone. Some fear that last year’s record high of 411 attacks - significantly more than the 312 attacks in 2010 and 168 in 2009 - could be broken this year.
    Fifty-eight incidents were recorded in June alone, including stone-throwing targeting farmers and shepherds, shattered windows, arson, damaged water pipes and water-storage facilities, uprooted fruit trees and one damaged house of worship. The assailants are sometimes masked, sometimes not; sometimes they attack surreptitiously, sometimes in the light of day.
For the full article go to my Google trove.

In the meantime, an Israeli citizen Moshe Silman, a 57-year-old Haifa resident, who was in deep financial trouble, set himself on fire on Saturday July 14 during a Tel Aviv demonstration marking the anniversary of last summer's social protests.  He died of his injuries a week later.  His death did not have the effect of Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in Tunisia that triggered a  revolution brought down regimes.  Silman's suicide letter accused the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister of causing his situation and called them scoundrels.  It is worthy of note that these words were removed in the report in Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) the propaganda sheet of Sheldon Adelson that is handed out free in Israel.
Indeed, the regime in Israel will not be brought down by suicide as the regime in China will survive any number of self immolations by Tibetan monks and the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia was not ended until twenty years after the self immolations of Jan Palach, Jan Zajíc and Evzen Plocek.  In Israel, we have a means of changing the regime, as pointed out by Yoel Marcus.   We can go to the polling booth and vote them out.  It is just up to us to make that choice.  The present social protest is indeed not making progress both because of its attempt to be "apolitical" and its failure to confront the reality of the occupation.  Nonetheless, Amira Hass calls for the left to join in the protest and to try to guide the process.  As she writes,
The role of the left - for whom the value of equality is its Ten Commandments - is not to look on from the sidelines and make do with handing out grades. The left must try to influence this new, dynamic process. Its role is to learn from other people's struggles and to teach, without lowering itself, while abandoning the arrogance of the past and bearing in mind the terrible wrongs committed in its name.

Leftist activists are educated to make use of their excess privileges insofar as possible to fight the whole system of privileges. Now, when, there is a collective awakening from long years of apathy, the left can and must use the experience, knowledge and human and cultural capital it has accumulated. For there is now a great chance of proving to at least parts of this awakening public that the benefits of occupation today are the strategic danger of tomorrow.

Zahava Galon, the head of the Meretz Party, agrees and calls for the members to take up the cause of the protest movement and to pull it in the desired and needed direction.
Zahava Galon

She is a much underrated political leader and it is unfortunate that she and her party are treated in a dismissive manner by the media and by members of the left, to some extent because of sexism and also because of the arrogance and egomania of the archetypal Israeli male.


Usually Titan and Pollyanna shun what Click and Clack of Car Talk call shameless commerce. We are making an exception today to plug a hotel in Yucatan, Mexico run by the daughter of dear friends and her partner. Please check out the Mayan Beach Garden Inn-Hotel if you plan a vacation in Mexico.


We in Israel are to be honored by a visit of Mitt Romney, Natanyahu's best buddy in the USA and Sheldon Adelson's faithful office boy.  He is coming on Tisha B'Av, the national day of mourning for multiple disasters in Jewish history.  This visit might be one of them.
 If any of you are interested in quantum mechanics, you might find this analysis of Romney in quantum terms to be of interest.  Romney has long been known for being a political chameleon or Etch a Sketch, so the future is totally unpredictable.

This is a Feynman diagram of the interaction of a Romney with an anti-Romney which produces an electron and a $20 bill.  Naturally all quantum uncertainty principles find expression in Mr. Romney's political repertoire.

We close with two bits of lighter political comment.  Doron Rosenblum has turned up two new "Shakespearean" plays, King Benjamin II and III.  They would be funnier if they were not so apt. 
Illustration by Amos Biderman

John Cleese gives us a good British perspective on the situation in Europe and compares it to 430 BCE. Can we forgive The Economist for referring to the recent EU summit as a "Comedy of Euros.?"

Finally we deal with some real cosmology.  Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin fixed the date of creation as October 23, 4004 BC.  Our friend at XKCD has successfully connected this up to the film Groundhog Day (if you have not seen it, go and rent it). 

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