Saturday, September 12, 2015

Titan is back for a visit

Just in case you forgot what Titan looks like


We wish all our Jewish readers a Shana Tova, a happy New Year. The Hebrew Calendar New Year falls on Monday Sept. 14 and Tuesday Sept. 15.

After a long respite, Titan has decided that the time has come to return to the ranting fields. Too much has gone on and Titan feels that you have been deprived of his wisdom and good judgement, coupled with his characteristic modesty, for far too long. Pollyanna is still busy controlling a golf ball in the gravity of an asteroid, but if things turn pink again, you might even hear from her.

The Charity Corner has found a home on the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action site. Titan hopes that you will visit there, take the actions and make the donations.



Titan is very pleased that the Iran deal has succeeded in the US Senate and that the horrible alternative, a further expansion of war in the Middle East has been avoided. He holds, of course, no brief for Iran and its leaders, but has good reason to believe that the people of Iran have more burning issues than building a bomb to attack Israel or anyone for that matter. One feature of nuclear weapons is that they are essentially unusable against an adversary similarly equipped and with a viable second strike capability. Many Israelis, out of a combination of Islamophobic racism and typical stupidity have tried to claim that the government of Iran would cheerfully sacrifice millions of its citizens in order to destroy Israel, i.e. Muslims are not rational beings such as "us"-Titan leaves you the choice of who is irrational. There have been many reports in the world press about Israel's second strike capability and the Iranians are certainly not fools. What is clear is the the voice of reason has prevailed in the US. The ranting and raving of the likes of Natanyahu and some right wing rabbis have all been for naught. In fact, if Titan were inclined to Schadenfreude, which of course he is not, he might derive some pleasure at seeing some famous noses pushed into the dog excrement. Peter Beinart explains clearly how and why Obama defeated AIPAC. To a great extent, the loss of influence of AIPAC in liberal circles is the result of Netanyahu's love affair with the Republicans. Yossi Verter finds some Nixonian traits in Netanyahu's mode of functioning, but alas there is no Kissenger around to restore some degree of reason.


Europe is being swept with a wave of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.  It is estimated that since January 2015, 350,000 refugees have desperately packed onto overcrowded vessels to Italy after fleeing war-torn countries such as Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Now, migrants are increasingly using road and rail transport to access the EU. The deaths of 71 migrants who suffocated on board a lorry abandoned in Austria is one of the most recent examples of the horror that can come about.

How these migrants are to be distributed in some equitable way across Europe depends on which country you are thinking of. Germany, Austria and France are standing up to their responsibility while other countries such as Denmark and Poland want no part of the newcomers. It is clear that there can be no thought of sending them back to war-torn Syria and now the flow of refugees from Iraq is beginning to increase. The NYTimes reports on a plan  proposed by the president of the European Commission  to share the burden of resettling 160,000 people who are in Greece, Hungary and Italy, the three countries where the most migrants have arrived in Europe. The plan assigns each member state a number of people based on its economic strength, population, unemployment and the number of asylum applications it has approved over the last five years. Note the graphics in this article--11 countries have already exceeded their quotas, while 14 would have to step up their acceptance rate.  The EU has a population of close to 500 million. Accepting even as many as a million refugees would mean one newcomer per 500 citizens, which certainly cannot be considered a major burden. Titan thinks it disgraceful that countries such as Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland (might accept 2,000, big deal) are playing a racist card. Denmark has gone so far as to publish ads in newpapers in Lebanon saying "do not come to us". Nonetheless, the migrants are there and are trying to make their way across Denmark to Sweden which is much more welcoming. Titan is sure that the leaders of the EU will sort this out somehow. The Hungarian police show how they humiliate refugees by throwing out food bags and watching the people scramble for them.

The former US Ambassador to Hungary comments in the NYTimes about the xenophobic attitude of Hungary. Although Hungary was taken into the EU, its government has denounced liberal democracy as a failure and in fact the political scene there is fascist. The Chancellor of Austria has likened the actions of Hungary to the treatment of Jews in WWII.
A man runs with child in arms as he tries to board a bus provided by Hungarian authorities for migrants and refugees at Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Credit AP
In Israel Yitzhak Herzog, the head of the opposition, has proposed that Israel accept some Syrian refugees. The idea was rejected by most of the official leadership. Yair Lapid, a parliamentarian and the son of a Holocaust survivor, attacked it as a European problem that does not impact Israel. He referred to the Darfur refugees as "infiltrators" which is enough to get Titan's blood to boil. For Israel to accept a number commensurate with the European model would give us about 10,000 refugees, which we could certainly absorb. Whether they would want to come here is a different issue, but it is inhumane to refuse to accept people fleeing war and carnage. This cartoon by Signe Wilkinson puts it into perspective:


Over six weeks ago terrorists threw a fire bomb into the home of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus. An 18 month old baby, Ali, was burned to death at once, his father, Saad, died of his burns shortly later and now the mother Reham, has succumbed to her burns and been buried in the village.
The funeral of Reham Dawabsheh in Duma, September 7, 2015. Credit Alex Levac

The Hebrew words "vengeance" and "long live the Messiah" were spray painted on the torched home, and an empty house nearby was set ablaze as well. No one has yet been arrested for the crime although a few known radicals have been placed under administrative detention. It is a national disgrace especially if compared with the efficiency with which the security services solved the case of the three boys murdered by Hamas. We are even told by the Defense Minister that the identity of the perpetrators is known, but there will be no prosecution lest intelligence sources be compromised. Zahava Galon, the head of the Meretz party,  accused Ya'alon of "hiding behind security excuses" to hide the defense establishment's incompetence to deal with Jewish terrorism. She said he wouldn't have dared to act or speak like this "if the murder victims had been Jewish." One might indeed wonder if the government really wants to arrest and try these killers. They are Orthodox Jews and it would look bad to some people to see Jews prosecuted for killing Arabs. The visceral racism of a good part of our population, especially those who profess the Orthodox brand of faith, runs very deep. Yossi Sarid mentions this case in a long litany of why no decent person can continue to love our country. We continue to care and it hurts.


For well beyond living memory league football in Israel has been played on Saturday afternoons, whether the Orthodox like it or not. Suddenly a judge has ruledthat playing football on the Sabbath is a criminal offense unless a permit is granted. The minister who could grant the waiver is Der'i, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who would have a problem with the conflict between his personal beliefs and the wrath of the secular public. The issue has been resolved by a decision by the Attorney General that  that there is no reason to suddenly enforce a law banning soccer matches from taking place on Shabbat. Football will go on as usual. Of course, Iran, immigration, murder by terror, the economy all paled compared to the really important issue.



Pipes excavated in Shakespeare's garden have been analyzed in South Africa by sensitive gas chromatography mass spectrometry. and found to contain traces of cannabis, but not cocaine. Some evidence of smoking "weed" and "compounds strange" can be found in Sonnet 76:

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
   For as the sun is daily new and old,
   So is my love still telling what is told.

Our beloved little Cynthia finds evidence in Othello:


What If?  asks: If you did fall into Jupiter's atmosphere in a submarine, what would it actually look like? What would you see before you melted or burned up? —Ada Munroe.
Interesting answers. Our colleagues at Tel Aviv University, Noa Noy et al. looked into the question of why the Red Spot is red back in 1981 and blamed phosphine, with a particular color variation caused by scattering. These days people are thinking more in terms of dissociation of sulfur products.


1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Titan. It's good to find you Sunward again. Your analytical insights (and groaners) have been missed. Happy New Year. Love, The Portland Shustermans