Saturday, February 9, 2013

Titan wishes all a Happy New Year of the Snake

Welcome Year of the Snake in Kuala Lumpur (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin) Source: AP
Titan wishes all a Happy Chinese New Year of the Snake  that falls this year on February 10, Rosh Hodesh Adar for us Jews. He also is here again with his usual complement of rants and raves about the world. You had a nice time with sister Pollyanna last week, so now get back to the real world. As you can see, even Titan has a hard life, cut in half by the rings of Saturn in this Cassini image.

Saturn's rings, made dark in part as the planet casts its shadow across them, cut a striking figure before Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute:: note little Mimas

First Titan calls your attention to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action update blog. Please click and write as called upon for people whose basic rights are being denied and violated.

 Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York died this week at the age of 88. As the Daily News put it:" In a city of outsized egos and giant personalities, Koch loomed large, forging a remarkable public career that played out in two unforgettable acts. And like the Sinatra song, Koch often did it, “My Way.”

Across 12 colorful and tumultuous years as mayor, from 1978 to 1989, Koch helped to put a near-broke city back on its feet, leaving a legacy that includes more than 150,000 units of affordable housing, landmark campaign finance and judicial reform — and even a bridge, formerly the Queensboro, that’s now named after him.

And when voters grew weary of the corruption scandals and racial strife of his final term and sent him packing, Koch forged a new life as a lawyer, author, talk-show host, celebrity pitchman and movie reviewer.
Ed Koch picked up a despondent city and put it on the path to recovery. He was eulogized by the great at his funeral and will be remembered as a quintessential New Yorker and mayor of the Big Apple. Rest in Peace Ed.

Andre Cassagnes, the inventor of the classic toy Etch A Sketch died in Paris on 16 January. He saw the potential for the toy when he noticed, while working with metal powders, that marks in a coating of aluminium powder could be seen from the other side of a translucent plate.
Etch A Sketch on sale in New York in March 2012 (Photo Credit: Timothy A Clary/AFP/ Getty Images)
The Ohio Art Company spotted the invention at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1959, and the next year it became the top-selling toy in the United States. We have all enjoyed it with our children and, after they were abed, quietly on our own.  Even today, in the age of smart phones at nursery school, it is still selling. Etch A Sketch has been named by the American Toy Industry Association as one of the most memorable toys of the 20th century. Dilbert and Wally found a good use for it.

Richard III Plantagenet 1452-1485, King of England 1483-1485, was  killed at the battle of Bosworth that ended the Wars of the Roses. Archaeologists announced on Feb.  4 that bones excavated from underneath a parking lot in Leicester, "beyond reasonable doubt," belong to the medieval king.
He was much vilified as a bloody usurper, killer of his nephews, one of whom was the rightful heir of Edward IV, and has had an evil reputation cemented by Shakespeare's play Richard III. One might well argue that Shakespeare was a loyal Tudor propagandist. Today he has supporters in the English public. The New Yorker has an interesting write up, which, in contrast to the poor style of Live Science, is written in good English. For reference we also give you the Plantagenet family tree. Richard III was the last English king to die in battle, in fact the last to lead his troops in combat. The Tudors, Stuarts and the others were much more prudent. Andy Borowitz warns us against what might happen if Richard III and Rupert Murdoch join forces against us.

Titan and Pollyanna will continue to rant and rave about what is happening to women around the world whether or not you get tired of it. If it really bores you, then go out and do something about it in your environment. This week, we call your attention to the violence against women in Egypt.  Almost every girl and woman – regardless of age, social status or choice of attire – who has walked the streets or taken public transport in Cairo, has experienced some form of verbal or physical sexual harassment.  Amnesty International has put out a detailed blog on the topic and we suggest that you read it carefully.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist. This week we marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of this great lady. On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

 Her act of resistance led to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would help spark the civil rights movement. We link you to an interview in Nation of Change with the historian Jeanne Theoharis, author of the new book, "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks."  The link contains both video and a transcript along with audio of Rosa Parks herself.

White phosphorus is a nasty compound that is used in military combat.In general, incendiary weapons, of which napalm is the most famous or infamous, became a major international issue during the Vietnam war.
Children flee napalm dropped by US planes, Vietnam 1972, photo Nick Ut

 The famous picture of 9-year old Kim Phuc fleeing napalm played a role in bringing about the the adoption of  a new international law restricting the use of some incendiary weapons, Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). According to Human Rights Watch, this law has failed to live up to its promise and the use of white phosphorus, which is legal for smokescreens and against armor, has expanded to general battlefield use. It is even more shocking, if possible, to learn that it has been used by police in Myanmar against civilian demonstrators.

Nyein Chan Naing/European Pressphoto Agency

A monk was treated in November after being hurt in the crackdown on a protest outside a mine.

We hope that the investigating committee headed by Aung San Suu Kyi will find out who is responsible for this atrocity and will bring them to account.
When we think of forced labor, what amounts to slavery, we usually get an image of a Third World country or a coffee plantation in Brazil or Colombia. We do not usually think of Sweden in such a context. It is, therefore, a major shock to learn that it is happening there. A TV program last week revealed that 47 workers from Cameroon have been forced to work under slave like conditions in the Swedish forest, lured by an attractive job offer. This is one of many cases that in recent years have highlighted the loopholes in the country's labor immigration policy. Whereas the companies are required to offer job conditions compatible with Swedish norms while recruiting, the offers are not legally binding and when the workers arrive in Sweden, they are forced to sign contracts to work under greatly inferior conditions. Since the workers from Cameroon are unlikely to have the resources to return home, the system amounts to entrapment into slavery. Shame on the Swedish parliament that has consistently refused the demands of organized labor to amend the law.

Iran Claims it’s Rolled out a Stealth Fighter Jet, But Is it Real?
Probably mostly cardboard and paint
We are told that Iran has come up with a stealth military aircraft. It is indeed quite an achievement if real, but the consensus of experts is that this is just a mockup designed to impress someone, possibly the population of Iran itself.

We stayed up all night to watch the Super Bowl. Baltimore won over San Francisco 34-31. We saw a great but failed comeback, a record kickoff return, an intentional safety at the end and a 34 minute power outage in the third period. Slate Magazine as well as many others came down heavily on CBS for a major professional failure as a network that is supposed to be good at news.  The handling of the power failure was at the level of a high school paper. To think that Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather once worked there is a sad indication of how far news television has sunk in this era of news as entertainment. We recall with disgust the background music as CNN covered the Mumbai massacre. In the movie Bananas, Woody Allen has Howard Cosell the sports commentator come in to cover the assassination of a Central American dictator. Woody was prescient.

We went to the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv to see a movie.
The Gatekeepers
Written and directed by Dror Moreh; director of photography, Avner Shahaf; edited by Oron Adar; music by Ab Ovo and Jérôme Chassagnard – Régis Baillet; production design by Doron Koren; produced by Mr. Moreh, Estelle Fialon and Philippa Kowarsky; released by Sony Pictures Classics

We think everyone should see it. It consists of interviews with all six living retired directors of the Shin Bet, the security service of Israel. We quote from the review in the New York Times: "It is guaranteed to trouble any one, left, right, center or head in the sand, with confidence or certainly in his or her own opinions. If you need reassurance or grounds for optimism about the Middle East, you will not find it here. What you will find is rare, welcome and almost unbearable clarity."
We also refer you to an excellent review by Roger Cohen in the Washington Post.

On February 10, 1983, a peace activist, Emil Grunzweig, was murdered by means of a a grenade thrown by a right wing killer named Avrushmi during a Peace Now demonstration.
Emil at demonstration against Lebanon War whitewash

Avrushmi was convicted and served 27 years in prison before being released by a misguided parole board that bought his fake expressions of remorse. Upon his release, he boasted that he had killed the Israeli left. Richard Silverstein brings an English translation of the Maariv  interview with Avrushmi that is chilling. He claims that people are kissing the hand that threw the grenade. Indeed, the willingness of the right in Israel to kill to attain its aims shows up in the film described above. In our country, where people who call themselves religious admire Goldstein and Avrushmi and the government supports them  as in the amnesty granted to the Jewish terrorists who attacked the mayors of Arab cities and were convicted, there is little reason to hope for peace, democracy and the rule of law. The writer Amos Oz gave an interview to Roger Cohen that was published in the NYTimes. Oz is realistic, but yet has not given up on hopes for the future and none of us should. He delivered a comment at the end of the interview:
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a clash of right and right. Tragedies are resolved in one of two ways: The Shakespearian way or the Anton Chekhov way. In a tragedy by Shakespeare, the stage at the end is littered with dead bodies. In a tragedy by Chekhov everyone is unhappy, bitter, disillusioned and melancholy but they are alive. My colleagues in the peace movement and I are working for a Chekhovian not a Shakespearian conclusion.” 

We are now at the stage of horse trading between the political parties to set up a coalition government. The power broker (besides the real one, Sara Natanyahu who runs the country from bed) is Yair Lapid who got enough votes to force the hand of Natanyahu (male), but is like Groucho Marx ("these are my principles, but if you do not like them I have others").   Asaf Romirowsky writing in Forbes gives us a nickel's worth of psychological analysis of the two jousters, but falls into the Likud propaganda trap.
Yair Lapid
Illustration Photo by Amos Biderman

Uri Avnery, on the other hand,  gives us an insightful analysis of the new Knesset, the political scene, the dramatis personae and what we should expect from the looming Obama visit. We think Uri has it right.

What If asks the interesting question about the comparative bandwidths of the Internet and FedEx, i.e. just FedEx the disk and it is faster than file transfer. The prediction is that by 2040 the Internet will catch up. The calculation is interesting.

Have you ever tried to argue with a guardhouse lawyer teenager?

or a smartass one:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Feb/07/2013

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