Friday, August 22, 2014

Titan wishes this war would end

Titan is back and wants to comment on the supermoon we experienced this month. On August 10, the moon was full and near mininum perigee, a mere 356,896 kilometers away.  To put this in perspective:
Orbital characteristics
Perigee 362600 km
(356400370400 km)
Apogee 405400 km
(404000406700 km)
384399 km  (0.00257 AU)
Eccentricity 0.0549

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
Surreal Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)
Explanation: Big, bright, and beautiful, a Full Moon near perigee, the closest point in its elliptical orbit around our fair planet, rose on August 10. This remarkable picture records the scene with a dreamlike quality from the east coast of the United States. The picture is actually a composite of 10 digital frames made with exposures from 1/500th second to 1 second long, preserving contrast and detail over a much wider than normal range of brightness. At a perigee distance of a mere 356,896 kilometers, August's Full Moon was the closest, and so the largest and most super, of the three Full Moons nearest perigee in 2014 now popularly known as supermoons. But if you missed August's super supermoon, the next not-quite-so supermoon will be September 8. Then, near the full lunar phase the Moon's perigee will be a slightly more distant 358,387 kilometers. That's only about 0.4 percent less super (farther and smaller) than the super supermoon.
 Titan himself is bigger than Luna, but is too far away to impress anyone except a spacecraft nearby and the Cassini imaging team. A few months ago, Titan showed Venus as seen from Saturn, as seen from orbit around the planet and as imagined by Botticelli in 1452. The New Yorker (please forgive the copyright infringement) shows how a newborn Venus would be greeted today.

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 Titan is referring you to the emergency effort by Oxfam in the Gaza region. The needs are huge, the means are always insufficient and NGO's are the most efficient way to help, provided the Israeli government does not interfere. Please donate through any Oxfam channel.

What happened in Ferguson is quite straightforward. The shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, United States, a suburb of St. Louis, described as one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the country. Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old man, died after being shot by a Ferguson police officer.  According to Ferguson police, Brown was a suspect in a robbery committed minutes before the shooting, although the initial contact between the officer  and Brown was unrelated to the robbery. Brown had no criminal record. Wilson had served four years with the Ferguson Police Department after serving two years with another local police department. He had no disciplinary history.

A woman has her face doused with milk after suffering the effects of tear gas used by police in Ferguson. (photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
A woman has her face doused with milk after suffering the effects of tear gas used by police in Ferguson. (photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

 Since then all hell has broken loose. The community rioted and violence increased apace. We refer you to a summary of the events from the Huffington Post. The family of the victim has had an autopsy performed and found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The officer who shot him,  Darren Wilson is being hidden and it is not clear why he has not been arrested. Of course, it is clear, what no one wants to state out loud, it is all about race. The victim is black, the cop is white. It is all too similar to Israeli cops or soldiers and Palestinians. The tear gas is the same brand and the connection runs even deeper. When we were tear gassed in Bil'in, we used onions.
Yosefa in Bil'in 2006
The basketball great Karim Abdul Jabbar makes the point that what is on the table in Ferguson is not just another act of systemic racism, but class warfare. He deals fiercely with the reasons and means by which class warfare is disguised as a racial issue. As he puts it so well "Rather than uniting to face the real foe—do-nothing politicians, legislators, and others in power—we fall into the trap of turning against each other, expending our energy battling our allies instead of our enemies. This isn’t just inclusive of race and political parties, it’s also about gender. In her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, Laurie Penny suggests that the decreased career opportunities for young men in society makes them feel less valuable to females; as a result they deflect their rage from those who caused the problem to those who also suffer the consequences: females." 

Right on, Mr. Jabbar, and Titan hopes that your message gets through to the people who need to understand it and act upon it. Unfortunately attempts to remedy society such as Occupy or the social demonstrations in Israel in 2011 all seem to fizzle out and the 1% continue to trample on us.

The beheading of an American journalist by Islamists shown on video is an indescribable outrage. Titan is foaming at the mouth over the bestiality of these people.
Screengrab from the ISIS video showing the execution of James Foley
James Foley about to be  executed
 President Obama expressed the shock of the entire world. It is clear that this movement must be stopped in its tracks. Whether the Kurds and Iraqis with US air support can pull this off is still a question. The fact that the US military failed to rescue the hostages is very sad.

Some people took some jet bombers, attacked the city of Tripoli, Libya, killed six people and returned to base, somewhere. No one knows whodunit. It boggles the mind that military aircraft can be picked up and used freely. Titan thinks some governance is badly needed. Blaming the Italians does not wash.

Gao Zhisheng, in Beijing on Apr. 7, 2010.Credit Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press
There is severe concern for the physical and mental health of Gao Zhisheng, who was released from
prison in China last week. He was malnourished and subject to sensory deprivation and now is in a very bad state. We sincerely hope that he recovers and can join his family in the US soon to start his rehabilitation process.

In his last blog Titan thought the war was winding down. It took a short break and is now back with us at full scale. We even had a failed attempt to assassinate Muhammed Deif, the Hamas military commander. The result was success in killing his wife, infant son and young daughter. Titan "salutes" the heroes. The real question is why the war enjoys the support of 9/10 of the population, including many who should know better, who understand well that the war could easily have been avoided and that in truth Natanyahu is incapable of making peace, only war. Aeyal Gross provides a penetrating analysis of this question in Haaretz.

Indeed one might ask how any nation would react if rockets came across the border and there is much hypocrisy in the world. The US reaction to 9/11 was to invade and conquer both Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter despite there being no connection between El Qaida and Saddam Hussein. The degree of success is a matter of record. It is generally accepted that Israel has the right and need to defend itself, but one might wonder about the means. While the right to self-defense is not usually in dispute, a counter-argument based on Buddhist ideas has been put forward by Steven Fulder. We quote "We have no choice generally means We don’t have the wisdom to act differently. Most wars, including this one, depend on fear, insecurity, anger, or revenge. These are individual and national emotions, often stoked up by media and political leaders." Titan takes the liberty to ask how much Buddhist mercy is applied to the Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar.  Indeed, alas, practice seldom, if ever, attains the ideals embodied in the ideology.

Last Saturday night we participated in a demonstration in Tel Aviv along with up to 10,000 other Israelis who think differently A description and summary of the speeches is provided by +972.
Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)
Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

We also have a call from Archbishop Tutu to the people of Israel to save themselves by abandoning the occupation and the repression of the Palestinian people.

We have had a few former soldiers speaking up about their experiences and their understanding of the futility of war. One of them makes the point that while war can be exciting, peace is a boring task that someone has to do.
Protest against the Gaza operation, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014
Protest against the Gaza operation, Tel Aviv, July 26, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
Another calls the bluff on the meretricious  claim that Israel is targeting Hamas assets accurately by means of artillery fire. As an experienced artillery person he points out the innate inaccuracy of artillery fire and the fact that  human rights organizations appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice to cease this lethal practice. In June 2007 the Attorney-General announced that no more artillery fire was to be used in the Gaza Strip. This order has been systematically ignored since the Cast Lead operation of 2012. The results have been tragic. A call for empathy comes from Ruth Reznik, who was only 14 when she joined a Zionist militia and took up arms against the British in Palestine. Now, she says, is the time to understand why Gazans are taking up arms against Israel. (For the record, she is the founder of the first movement against domestic violence in Israel and led the establishment of shelters for battered women.)

Recently a couple, he Muslim and she a convert from Judaism, got married. Mazal tov says Titan.
Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka on their wedding day, August 17, 2014 / Haaretz
There was an outcry from the usual fascists, but President Rivlin, who cannot be suspected of liberal ideas, came out with a call for respect for human rights. Rivlin wrote: “A red line exists between freedom of speech and protest and incitement. Mahmoud and Morel from Yafo decided to marry in freedom in a democratic state. The incitement against them is outrageous and disconcerting, regardless of my own stance or the stance of others. Not everyone needs to celebrate alongside Mahmoud and Morel, but we all must show them respect. We have within and among us difficult and profound disagreements, but incitement, violence and discrimination have no place in Israeli society. Expressions like this erode the foundations of our coexistence here in Israel.”
Allison Kaplan Sommer blogging in Forward asks why no kind words were forthcoming from the PM. A good question indeed says Titan.

When our brave soldiers invade a Palestinian home they usually wreck the furniture, insult the people and behave like the beasts that they are. They also, it appears, like to put their hands on whatever cash they find. Titan wonders when the high command will put a stop to this pillage. The detainees of the Mavi Marmora were relieved of their worldly goods by soldiers. One scapegoat was found and was supposed to be tried for stealing. Kol hakavod l'zahal (we salute our army).

The cynical use of manipulative fear propaganda by the government in Israel has led to the rise of
irrationality to the point that far too many people are willing to forgo democracy for a theocracy that will give them a feeling of security. The rise of the Hardal (an acronym for ultra religious nationalism) movement and its drive to dispense with liberal democracy is described clearly by B. Michael writing in Haaretz. The basic idea is to replace the elected institutions of the state with "Rabbi Kings." It sounds ridiculous and even paranoid to talk about this as a real phenomenon, but as Carlos Strenger points out, also in Haaretz, if we fail to stand up and fight for our values of liberal democracy, we are doomed to lose them.
Members of Israel Hofshit
Members of Israel Hofshit (Be Free Israel), an organization that promotes pluralism and religious freedom. The sign reads, "Waiting for the bus on Shabbat." Photo by Alon Ron

 The closing of a religious school in Jerusalem because it had the temerity to teach secular subjects alongside religious learning is an indication of where we are going.


What If? asks a not very smart question, but Randall fields it well. If I shot an infinitely strong laser beam into the sky at a random point, how much damage would it do?

Garrett D.

What is not smart is the use of infinity which renders the discussion meaningless.

If you are on the beach and your cell phone battery is drained, there is a practical recourse for ladies who are dressed for the beach.
Note the solar cells on the bikini

A man walks into a bar and shouts "all lawyers are a$^$%^oles!" A man at the bar says "I resent that."
"Are you a lawyer?"
"No I am an as%^$^&ole."
Dilbert Cartoon for Aug/19/2014

Dilbert Cartoon for Aug/20/2014
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Aug/18/2014

It is nice to know that as we age we can count on our children to look out for us:
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/14/2014

especially since they really trust us, as they should.

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