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

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