Friday, January 23, 2015

Titan rants and raves as usual

Mountains and Valleys on Titan with methane snow -180C Cassini image
Titan is back and is marching into the terrestrial northern hemisphere winter with a smile. His surface temperatures in winter or summer are in a totally different league.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have 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 refers you to United against Genocide. In the wake of what is happening around the world, Titan thinks that this charity, which has a high rating from Charity Watch, is most worthy of your support. It started out as Save Darfur, but since has expanded worldwide. We quote its mission statement:
"United to End Genocide is dedicated to preventing and ending genocide and mass atrocities worldwide by building a powerful, lasting movement of community activists, faith leaders, students, artists, investors and genocide survivors, and all those who believe we must fulfill the promise the world made following the Holocaust: “Never Again!”"  Please help out.
Act Now for Peace, Security and Accountability in Sudan
Refugee camp in Darfur

We, of course, always do our charity donations for the right reasons..
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/14/2015


The attack on Charlie Hebdo sent shock waves everywhere, not least to the community of cartoonists around the world. A satirical cartoonist has to take risks and his satire has to bite and indeed offend if it is to convey a message. Even if Charlie Hebdo crossed the line of good taste, it had every right to do so and any individual offended could go to the courts for redress. Certainly a Kalachnikov is not the proper means of response. Titan also takes issue with the Pope. There is no reason to give religion and religious institutions a free pass. Yes, we can regard satire about religion as vulgar and tasteless, but it is worth tolerating it in order to avoid the slippery slope of censorship. which can start with protection of religion and end up with full repression of freedom of speech. As the Jewish Forward puts it in an editorial, even if the content of Charlie Hebdo is "Awful. Offensive. Unfair. Even, perhaps, dangerous. And all we can and should do is swallow hard and accept that this is the steep but worthy price of allowing free speech in an open society." Indeed Fox News falsely maligned the city of Paris and the mayor threatens to sue. She will have little chance of prevailing since municipalities in the US cannot sue even if the allegations are false. The US Supreme Court ruled thus in 1964 in the  case, New York Times v. Sullivan. Justice William Brennan Jr. wrote that the court had to protect “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” public discussion, even if some of what was said was demonstrably wrong. “Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate,” Justice Brennan suggested, and so “must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the breathing space that they need to survive.”
Titan agrees since the slope of censorship is indeed slippery. In Israel there is a draconian law, fortunately seldom enforced, criminalizing the act of "insulting a public servant," which is or course most antidemocratic. Now a social activist is being prosecuted under this law for unloading on a police officer on Facebook. Yes, better to allow tasteless, vulgar and even false discourse than to open the door to censorship by thin-skinned politicians and other functionaries with power.At the moment a satire series is running on state television in Israel in which the events and characters described in the Bible along with other events from Jewish history are parodied and ridiculed mercilessly. So far no one has been lynched. Those who know Hebrew are invited to see some of the episodes on youtube, where they are kept for 30 days after broadcast. The hilarious question and answer session that Moses conducted when he brought down the tablets with the Ten Commandments is as irreverent as can be. We also recall a comedy film The Pope Must Die in which the corruption in the Vatican is portrayed with gusto. It would be nice if Muslims and North Koreans would develop a sense of humor and some humility. Signe Wildenson uses a cartoon to get the point across.

Signe Wilkinson Cartoon for Jan/18/2015


In the final week of the year, three Tibetans burned themselves alive to protest China’s 56-year-long occupation of Tibet. This was the most concentrated burst of self-immolations in almost two years The brutality of the Chinese occupation and the total frustration of the younger generation of Tibetans, who no longer believe that the restraint policy of the Dalai Lama can do anything for them, have led to these acts of desperation.  It is alleged by the Tibetan Government in Exile that as many as 1.2 million Tibetans have died from Chinese actions. While this figure may be disputed, the truth is that Chinese rule has caused great distress to the Tibetan people and the influx of Han Chinese has made them a minority in their own country. To add further insult, Facebook refuses to allow graphic data on immolations to appear on its sites. We show you such an event (warning shocking graphic)

While Facebook claims to "be Charlie" its hypocrisy is apparent in its cozy relationship with the censors of China.

Something is indeed rotten in the state of Argentina and has been so for over two decades. In 1994, a suicide car bomber blew up the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and killed 85 people. The perpetrators, Hezbollah with Iranian backing, have never been brought to justice and the Argentinean government has been colluding with Iran to maintain a coverup. The investigation was starting finally to move under the leadership of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Now he is dead, found shot with a pistol alongside his body. He had filed a criminal complaint that that top Argentine officials, including President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had conspired with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing as part of a deal that would supply Iranian oil to Argentina. He died one day before he was scheduled to testify and it is broadly believed that the government had something to do with his death. The Argentinean Jewish community is up in arms and rightly so.
Titan strongly suspects that powerful interests will prevent the original crime from ever being elucidated.


Two critical United Nations summits will take place this year. The first will be in September, when  the world must agree on new goals to eradicate extreme poverty, tackle inequality and ensure a more sustainable planet. The second is the climate summit in December where we must ensure that the well being of people today does not come at the expense of our children's futures.
Malala Yousafzai. (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA)
Malala Yousafzai. (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA)
A large group of celebrity activists, such as Malala Yousafzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others have written an open letter to the world leadership with copies to all of us. Titan hopes that someone will listen.


This month we are marking the Yahrzeit (death anniversary) of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1973) and the birthday of Martin Luther King (1928-1968). Their lives were linked by their common commitment to human rights and human values. They marched together at Selma AL in 1965.

Heschel, second from right, King, fourth from right
Now a film has been made of the struggle of King for civil rights during that period. The film entitled "Selma" did not, for whatever reasons, get an Academy Award nomination and allegations of racism have been made. We hope to see the film when it is released for us. We link you to a review in Variety.

Mike Luckovich Cartoon for Jan/16/2015


Pope Francis has come out clearly on the side of responsible reproduction, while still supporting the traditional position on contraception. He says that people should be responsible in their family life and that "Catholics do not have to breed like rabbits."  Now we are told that he has clarified the comment on rabbits, presumably to avoid giving offense. 


Warrant for his arrest issued in 2005
Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen is being flown to The Hague to stand trial on war crimes charges.  We are all for it. We hope his boss Kony is found soon. We also note that both Uganda and the US, both of which are not supportive of the ICC, arranged this transfer.


In the Safari Park in Ramat Gan, Israel there is a female porcupine, known to her friends as Dorit, who was orphaned as a young cub and adopted by the park. She has lived quietly with her friends the owls in an enclosure for the last eight years.
Heartthrob Dorit, the Ramat Gan Safari zoo's porcupine, who is still in her enclosure with her friends the owls. Photo by Tibor Jaeger
Now, Ruth Schuster, in Haaretz, tells us that Dorit has a suitor who comes at night and was discovered by his feces left behind (Thanks to Richard for calling this to our attention). The story contains a video of this Pyramus longing outside the fence, while Phisbe/Dorit languishes within. BTW, in Florida there is a law against having sex with a porcupine and a few Russian tourists found out the reason for the law the hard way. Poor souls, although it is hard to be sympathetic to idiots.



A 22 year old Palestinian boarded a bus in Tel Aviv during the morning rush hour, armed with a knife, and began to attack the passengers, starting with the driver. The driver bravely resisted, but despite his efforts 13 people were injured, four of them seriously.

The attacker was apprehended by security people who happened to be nearby, as described in the linked article. This senseless act of terror and cruelty will do nothing to advance the cause of the people of Palestine nor will it do anything in Israel except possibly strengthen the arguments of those who claim that peace is not attainable and that only an iron hand over the Palestinian population can give us any hope of security. The celebration of the attack by Hamas (expected) and Fatah (who should know better) along with the silence of Abbas plays further into the hands of the right. Zahava Gal-on of Meretz, while strongly condemning the act,  says correctly that the way to deal with terror is to address the causes of the desperation that drives the terrorist. This is true both in Tel Aviv and in Paris.


There  was a drone strike on Sunday in Syria that hit a convoy carrying Jihad Mugniyeh and commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in the province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killing six Hezbollah members in all, a Hezbollah statement said. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Mohammed Allahdadi was also killed. UN observers report that the drones came from Israel. It is not really clear to anyone what purpose  was achieved by raising tensions on the northern border. Haaretz strongly suspects that this is related to the poor state of the government parties in the forthcoming elections. There is no way to prove this, but Titan shares the suspicion, since military actions before elections are a time-honored or dishonored ploy of Israeli governments down through the years.


The press has been ringing during the past few weeks with the revelations of the depth of corruption in the government and public institutions. Last month a scandal hit the Israel Beiteinu party of our Foreign Minister Lieberman who certainly has PM ambitions. The focus was on corrupt cronyism that worked via appointing people from the party to positions that entailed control over large sums of money that came from the government but were essentially undocumented. The person at the center of all this is Ms Faina Kirschenbaum, the Deputy Minister of the Interior. Titan discussed this in general terms in his last blog. Now much more has come out.
(Photo: Erez Biton, Aviel Uzi)
Photo: Erez Biton, Aviel Uzi)
The latest blast is the raids on the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization that has been channeling public funds into West Bank settlements and various associations connected with them. The budget of this body has magically grown by 600% in the past year and all efforts by parliamentarians to make the financial picture transparent have come to naught. Ms Stav Shaffir of the Labor Party, the youngest member of the Knesset has made valiant attempts to dig out the details of the shady transactions and has encountered stone walls.
She  gave an interview to Newsweek recently that tells the story in English. Frankly, many of us who approve of her struggle against corruption would be happier if she also gave some attention to the evils of the occupation. She must understand that social justice and proper governance cannot stop at the border and are not attainable as long as the occupation is in place. For the Hebrew speakers, we present a three minute speech by MK Shaffir in which she responds fiercely to the accusations of the religious right who claim that the left are not really Zionists.  Well done, lady.


Lassana Bathily
Lassana Bathily holds his French Passport following a ceremony at which was awarded French nationality in Paris on January 20, 2015. Photo by AFP
During the attack on the Kosher Supermarket in Paris, six people were saved from death by the actions of Lassana Bathily, a young immigrant from Mali, who hid them in a freezer and then turned it off. The French government honored him by granting him French citizenship for which he had applied in the past. We in Israel, on the other hand, have ignored him. Kobi Niv, writing in Haaretz, attributes this to our innate racism. Had he been a white Christian, he would have been feted at the Knesset and given a vacation in Israel. Being Muslim and black, put him on the Israeli list of unworthy and untouchable. People. Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Zionism equals racism. They later retracted it, but the statement, alas, in nonetheless true. Let us hang our collective head in shame.

What If? asks You are in a boat directly over the Mariana Trench. If you drop a 7kg bowling ball over the side, how long would it take to hit the bottom?

Doug Carter The answer is, as usual, interesting.

The Wizard does not understand that the issue is poverty and the poor girl cannot afford a dress with more cloth than the one she is wearing:

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jan/21/2015

How Murphy was really brought up by his previous owners:
Non Sequitur Cartoon for Jan/14/2015

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