Sunday, October 2, 2016

Titan has returned


and Pollyanna

like to think of themselves as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. They have, in their joint persona of T_P decided that it is not fair to their countless fans and readers to deprive them of the wisdom they can dispense. Yes, Virginia, we have a sense of the absurd. We also think that age is not a big deal; Pollyanna at over 100 and Titan at 4.5 billion hold out hope for all of us to say nothing of Biblical figures.

They will try to alleviate the effects of climate change through which we are all laboring. If you can find a denier, try to keep him/her away from air conditioning--they are not worthy of it.

T_P have noted that things have not become better since they retired from active ranting. They have decided, therefore, to  come back to a schedule, with Pollyanna at mid month and Titan at the end of the month. Their recent move with their amanuenses YandA

to a place full of retired people has renewed their energy and desire to bug people. As usual, Titan will rant mightily while Pollyanna will try to be glad, but will allow herself rants about women and girls or blatant human rights violations.

Titan, Pollyanna and YandA wish all their Jewish readers a Shana Tova, a blessed and happy New Year. Rosh Hashana, the new year holiday will be on October 3 and 4 this year.

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


Former president and prime minister Shimon Peres. credit Sebastian Scheiner, AP
Israel's  former president Shimon Peres passed away Wednesday morning at the age of
93. Peres twice served as prime minister of Israel and later as the country’s ninth president. He had been seriously ill and on a respirator in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv and died after his condition deteriorated sharply.

Many regard his defining achievement as being  one of the key architects of the Oslo peace accords, for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize with the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

To some he was a hero of the peace movement, to others a war monger. His, arguably, most important security task, to which he was entrusted by Ben Gurion, was developing in secret - and over US opposition - Israel's nuclear weapons programme through the 1950s and '60s. To that end, he recruited the assistance of France, Britain and Norway. He was also involved in a failed attempt to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

He was never popular as an active politician and lost five elections as head of the Labor Party. In later life, as President, he was indeed loved by the people, his Holy Grail. His death marks the passing of the first and founding generation of Israel. Obituaries can be found in Haaretz and the Guardian. 

For those who read Hebrew, there is a castigating summary of the dirty parts of his career in the Yossi Gurevitch blog. Haggai Mattar writing in +972 discusses in English the darker side of Peres' legacy. One of his greatest calamities was a devastating military campaign in Lebanon, “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” which killed 113 Lebanese civilians (along with three Israeli soldiers, and 21 combatants from Hezbollah and the Syrian army). Most of the dead were killed in the “Qana massacre,” when Israel shelled a UN compound where hundreds of civilians had taken cover. Certainly responsibility for the Qana massacre rests on Peres’s shoulders.

In summary, Titan regards the career of Shimon Peres as a mixed bag with more minus signs than plus signs. When he asked a convention of his party if he was a "loser," the overwhelming response was a resounding "yes." It has been said that he was involved in every bad decision made by Israel during his career. On the other hand, he must be given credit for saving the economy from the devastating inflation created by Likud incompetence in the 1980's. In general, Titan thinks that the truth lies somewhere between Gurevich and Mattar on one hand and the mass of accolades now filling the public sphere. Titan quotes Ecclesiastes:
                                      כי אדם אין צדיק בארץ אשר יעשה
                                            טוב, ולא יחטא קהלת ז' כ
For there is not a righteous man upon
earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. E
cclesiastes, VII, 20

Gideon Levy who knew Peres well does not regard him as a true man of peace. Titan thinks that the struggle for peace by Israel is best described by a Dosh cartoon.


Titan, Pollyanna and YandA are delighted to learn that the  conflict in Colombia is coming to an end. In their 52-year fight against the Colombian state, FARC rebels used assault rifles, shrapnel-filled gas canisters, homemade landmines and mortar shells. Colombia's half-century of conflict has finally led to a historic peace deal.

Those weapons are now set to be silenced forever as part of a peace deal with the government, to be signed on Monday. Once the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is complete, their arsenal will be melted down into three monuments that will mark the end of Latin America’s longest-running conflict – and decades of armed uprisings in the region.

This effectively marks the end of the wave of uprisings sparked by the success of the Cuban revolution. Many revolutionary leaders went on to win high elective office, including Dilma Rousseff, a member of a clandestine Marxist group who was arrested and tortured after a gun was found in her handbag who eventually became president of Brazil

Dilma Rousseff in her urban guerrilla days is seen in a 1970 police photo and while running for president of Brazil in 2010. Composite: AP & Reuters
and José ‘Pepe’ Mujica, a Tupamaro who was shot and imprisoned in the 1970s, who became president of Uruguay. Dozens of other former guerrillas became senators and congressmen. We say cheers for the end of bloodshed.


Titan is outraged over the terrible cost in human life and suffering in Aleppo. The siege of the Syrian city has intensified after the end of the week-long cease-fire, and now nearly 2 million are without water. The lack of access to clean water is certain to bring on an epidemic of water-borne disease, especially among children. Titan is disgusted at the impotence and apathy of the so-called great powers and their lack of will or ability to put a stop to this bloodbath. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said he had made “a little progress” on halting the violence in talks with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. But the Russians said there was little to suggest any forward movement, so Aleppo’s misery looks set to continue. Last spring the NYTimes compiled a detailed description and accounting of the toll of lives taken by terrorist activity around the world. Between individual terror and state terror such as we see in Syria, it is clear that the world is in a very sorry state.


Titan is pleased that the NYTimes has endorsed Hilary Clinton for the Presidency. It would have been a major shock if they had done anything else. "Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a realist who believes America cannot simply withdraw behind oceans and walls, but must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values," the newspaper said. It is a disgraceful that the Republicans are running a clown like Trump. It will be a calamity if he is elected because of fools voting third party. There are precedents, such as Nader in 2000 putting Bush in the White House. Mike Lukovich has an ever worse precedent in mind.


Thanks to Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo Fined for Fraud-$185,000,000, the largest fine ever levied. 

An internal review by Wells Fargo revealed that there were more than 1.5 million deposit accounts “that may not have been authorized,” possibly funded “transferring funds from consumers’ existing accounts without their knowledge or consent.” The bank earned some $2 million in fees from 85,000 of those accounts since 2011.

If that isn’t shocking enough, according to the CFPB, “employees submitted applications for 565,443 credit-card accounts that may not have been authorized by using consumers’ information without their knowledge or consent.” Some 14,000 of those accounts brought in $400,000 in fees. It is amazing that over 5,000 low-level employees were fired while the top brass walked free.

Wells Fargo's (WFC) CEO  apologized Tuesday for the bank's opening of more than 2 million accounts without customers' permission but insisted that it was not part of an "orchestrated" scheme and turned away calls for a clawback of executive compensation, including his own.

CEO John Stumpf told the Senate Banking Committee that Wells Fargo has implemented measures to overhaul its sales culture, but he didn't budge when it came to lawmakers' calls for senior executives to relinquish pay for their role in the scandal.

"I am deeply sorry that we failed to fulfill our responsibility to our customers, to our team members, and to the American public," Stumpf said. "I have been with Wells Fargo through many challenges — none that pains me more than the one we will discuss this morning."

This is a major scandal and we can be sure that the Republicans would love to get rid of the CFPB to prevent the exposure of such skullduggery in future.


Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, appears to have compared himself to Hitler, saying he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts in his bloody war on crime.

During a press conference in his home city of Davao, the former prosecutor told reporters that he had been compared to a “cousin of Hitler” by his critics. Duterte has spent his first three months in office running a campaign to kill all involved in the rampant drugs trade, including alleged addicts, causing outrage from rights groups and foreign governments.

More than 3,500 alleged drug dealers and addicts have been killed, about a third of them in police operations but the majority by armed vigilante militias. Duterte has publicly encouraged civilians to kill addicts and said he will not prosecute police for extrajudicial executions. Titan hopes to see him in the International Criminal Court soon.


The ancient community of Kaifeng a  now faded imperial city near the banks of the Yellow River where Jews first settled more than 1,000 years ago, is becoming the scene of a new wave of government persecution. In recent decades interest in this relic of Jewish traders along the silk road has increased. A few hundred residents had staged a lively, sometimes contentious rebirth of Kaifeng’s Jewish heritage in recent decades, with classes, services and proposals to rebuild the lost synagogue as a museum. Some residents even migrated to Israel. For years, the city government tolerated their activities, seeing the Jewish link as a magnet for tourism and investment.

But since last year, the authorities have come down hard on the revival, in an example of how even the smallest spiritual groups can fall under the pall of the Communist Party’s suspicion. The government has shut down organizations that helped foster Jewish rediscovery, prohibited residents from gathering to worship for Passover and other holidays, and removed signs and relics of the city’s Jewish past from public places. Titan hopes that this wave of persecution will pass and that the Israeli government will raise the issue with the Chinese government.

A visitor to Kaifeng describes a Shabbat meal: "One Friday evening, two couples invited me to join their Shabbat service, for which they had been studying a Torah reading."

“You don’t recognize me as a Jew,” the host said, “but I recognize myself as a Jew, and that’s what is most important.”

He broke bread with his brawny hands, and after ceremoniously drinking homemade wine, his guests shared shots of baijiu, a potent Chinese liquor.

“Judaism,” the host said, “is all about endurance.”



It depends who is the attacker and who is the victim. 

Usually the home of a Palestinian terrorist is destroyed as a form of deterrence/punishment. In the case of Yosef Haim Ben David, who was the ringleader of a group that beat and burned alive a Palestinian teenager in a grisly 2014 revenge killing, things are different. Ben Haim was sentenced to life plus 20 years, but the family of the victim demanded the death sentence, which does not exist in Israel. The family then petitioned the High Court to order the demolition of the home of the perpetrator. The response of the State was racist, stupid and embarrassing for rational people. It is clear that some lives matter more than others.
Yosef Chaim Ben David in court
Yosef Chaim Ben David in courtצילום: יונתן סינדל, פלאש

It is worthy of note that a few years ago Rabbi Daniel Landes called for applying stringent
punishments, including home demolition against Jewish terrorists and the young thugs who run around claiming to collect the "price tag"   (Hebrew: מדיניות תג מחיר), also known as
"Mutual Responsibility" (Arvut Hadadit).This is the name originally given to acts of vandalism by Jewish fundamentalist settler youths,aimed at the Palestinian population, Christians, left-wing Israeli
Jews, Arab–Israelis, and the Israeli security forces.) with full impunity.


The commercial side of the Israeli  Military Industry (IMI) is the marketing of weapons and ammunition abroad. There appears to be no control over these sales although gun possession in Israel is controlled.. We are now told that sales of ammunition on the private market in the US have increased by a factor of ten in the past year. The company says they have been expanding their activity in the market designed for civilian gun owners in the United States. The new deals include sales of 5.56mm bullets which are suitable for weapons like the M-16; 7.62mm bullets used with certain machine guns, sniper files and various types of handguns; and 9mm bullets, primarily for handguns. The IMI-made ammunition can be found on the open market in America, including at some of the big chain stores. It would be nice if some element of shame would creep into the thinking of the military  industry. read more:


In a wide-ranging interview, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy paints a worrying picture of the leadership abilities of PM Netanyahu and his suspicious relationship with Putin, as well as of the future of the Jewish state – but refuses to be pessimistic. Halevy tells Dalia Karpel about the vicissitudes of his long career  and does not spare the government the lash of his tongue-“We are experiencing the greatest crisis since the state came into being. I don’t recall a period in which we were so bereft of meaningful leadership backbone. When I look at the political landscape in Israel, let’s say at 15 [senior] people, some in government and some in the opposition – I don’t see a reservoir of individuals who are sustaining the state."
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy. Yanai Yechiel
 In quite blunt terms he expresses his hope that the people of Israel whose fate is in the hands of incompetents. His basis for optimism-"Actually, I'm optimistic. I hope that the public will revolt. There are already signs of this. "

Titan recommends reading the full article and devoting some thought to its implications. He recalls however the initial shock over The Gatekeepers film in which six former heads of Shabak (security service) spoke in similar terms and the shock dissipated quickly.


Israel is taking diplomatic steps to avoid having to exclude six soccer teams from league competition and to avoid the risk of being expelled from FIFA. The participation of teams from occupied territory is forbidden by FIFA rules and the Palestinian federation is complaining to FIFA leadership. Titan thinks that a disqualification from FIFA would resonate more strongly than any other form of international pressure.
A player from the Aroni Ariel football club prepares in the locker room for training session at their stadium in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel.
A player from the Aroni Ariel football club prepares in the locker room for training session at their stadium in the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images


In a recent op-ed piece in Haaretz, Rogel Alpher takes a crack at AIPAC, the cabal of American Jewish tycoons who dictate, by means of good old cash, the policy of the US in Israel and in effect make  decisions for Israeli politics. No one elected them and the war that their actions will bring about will not be fought and bled by them and their grandsons, but by Israelis. Titan agrees with him totally. American Jews who support liberal policies at home have betrayed democracy and liberal values in Israel.


Right-wing extremists interrupting the performance by the Armenian Church Choir in Jerusalem, September 22, 2016.Amnon Ramon
Right-wing extremists rioted during a performance by a Christian choir at a contemporary arts event in Jerusalem on Thursday. The police arrested two members of theanti-assimilationist Lehava organization, including its leader, Bentzi Gopstein. It is indeed time that this band of thugs be dealt with firmly by the law. Titan wonders how the public in Israel would react if the KKK interfered with a Jewish group participating in a cultural event in the USA.


Rosetta's last image
The Rosetta mission has come to an end with the controlled impact onto the comet it had been investigating for more than two years. Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 by an Ariane-5 G+ from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. To place it on the required orbit to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko it received four gravity assist  maneuvers: 3 from Earth (4 March 2005, 13 November 2007 and 13 November 2009) and 1 from Mars (25 February 2007). Rosetta also passed by and imaged two asteroids: 2867 Steins on 5 September 2008 and 21 Lutetia on 10 July 2010.

The spacecraft entered deep space hibernation in June 2011 and was woken up in January 2014, before rendezvousing with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in May 2014. It followed the comet around the Sun and as it began its  motion out towards the orbit of Jupiter, it was decided to crash it into the comet.

The lander, Philae, was delivered to the comet’s surface in November 2014. It landed in a bad spot unfortunately, but some data were obtained. When it went down Philae’s two harpoons, which were
supposed to anchor the lander, did not fire and Philae bounced across the surface of the comet. The lander finally came to rest near a cliff, but the shady location meant that, except for a brief interlude in mid-2015, its solar panels were unable to catch the sun’s rays.

Despite the bumpy ride, the lander was able to send back valuable data before its batteries ran out, offering insights into the comet’s make-up and properties of its surface. Finally Rosetta located Philae on its own fall to the comet.

Of course, xkcd shows a different perspective


The Sorcerer of Jazz

Adam Shatz    New York Review of Books September 29, 2016 Issue

Miles Ahead a film directed by Don Cheadle

Bitches Brew    by George Grella Jr. Bloomsbury, 144 pp., $14.95

The New York Review of Books presents us in the Sept. 29, issue a review by Adam Shatz of a film and a book about the life and career of Miles Davis. The review creates three desires, to see the film, to read the book and to hear the album Bitches Brew. The album was released in 1970, sold a half million copies and sent the jazz world into a state of confusion: Was this the end of jazz, or a new
beginning? to quote Shatz:"Bitches Brew was a more ungainly work than its predecessor, the shimmering tone poem In a Silent Way, but its sprawl was a measure of Davis’s audacity, his hunger for new forms. It featured an unusual ensemble of thirteen musicians, including three electric keyboardists, two drummers, and two bass players. Perhaps the most distinctive ingredient is Bennie Maupin’s bass clarinet. For much of the album, Maupin plays almost entirely in the lower register of his horn, making guttural noises, short, agitated phrases that add an incantatory undercurrent to the “brew.” Every musician, even Davis himself, contributes at one point or another to that roiling brew, to which the soloists respond and over which they occasionally collide."

A What If from the archive-How many fireflies would it take to match the brightness of the Sun?
Luke Doty
The answer is of proper Randall quality and Titan and Pollyanna both love it. 

For romantic moongazers 

We meet such drivers on the road all the time and Mabel, the lady in the Mobile Eye and the GPS, squeals, poor soul.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Titan and Pollyanna in the heat of summer

Image result for french flag
We grieve with you

Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. They have, in their joint persona of T_P decided that it is not fair to their countless fans and readers to deprive them of the wisdom they can dispense. Yes, Virginia, we have a sense of the absurd. We also think that age is not a big deal; Pollyanna at over 100 and Titan at 4.5 billion hold out hope for all of us to say nothing of Biblical figures.

They will try to alleviate the effects of climate change through which we are all laboring. If you can find a denier, try to
keep him/her away from air conditioning--they are not worthy of it.

This is the last T_P blog to be written in Hofit. Next month the aging amanuenses YandA are moving into a retirement village. You will hear from them from there. Titan is griping about Solar System working conditions that do not relieve him of orbiting Saturn after 4.5 billion years.

Pollyanna on her part never complains and is always glad to be with you.

July is a month marked by three national days which are probablyobserved by many of our readers. It starts with Canada Day on July 1

followed closely by the 4th of July just over the border.
We have an amusing tale of two isolated towns

on the Canada-US border who combine the two festivals into a long alcohol-soaked binge. Then on the 14th
 How to Change Your Facebook Photo to French Flag in Wake of Nice, France, Attack
our Gallic friends celebrate Bastille Day marking their great revolution.  As we wrote this, we learned of the Bastille Day attack in Nice-a known criminal drove a truck into a crowd and killed 84 people.

The terrorist was a 31-year-old Franco-Tunisian born in Tunisia, a police source close to the investigation has told Reuters news agency.

The man was not on the watchlist of French intelligence services but was known to police in connection with common law crimes such as theft and violence, the source said. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls announced  three days of national mourning starting on Saturday. Speaking in Paris before heading to Nice, Valls said: "Terrorism is a threat that is weighing heavily on France.”

According to a BBC translation, he said: “We are facing a war that terrorism has started against us. The objective of the terrorists is to instill fear and panic. France will not allow itself to be destabilized.”

He added: “Times have changed and we should learn to live with terrorism. We have to show solidarity and collective calm. France has been hit in its soul on 14 July, our national day. They wanted to attack the unity of the French nation. The only dignified response is that France will remain loyal to the spirit of 14 July and its values.”

 . All join the grief and outrage.

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


Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, prolific author and outspoken activist Elie Wiesel died this month at the age of 87. Wiesel was perhaps best known for his major role in promoting Holocaust education,

Elie Wiesel outside the White House, Washington, in 2010 after a private lunch with President Barack Obama.
Elie Wiesel outside the White House, Washington, in 2010 after a private lunch with President Barack Obama. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

and for perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust in the post-World War II era with his memoir “Night,” based on his experience as a teenager in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He devoted his life to preventing the Holocaust from being forgotten for which he received well-deserved honors and praise. He also, as pointed out by Peter Beinart, was totally blind to crimes committed by Israel and served as an unabashed apologist for many evil actions. Detailed obituaries can be found in Forward and the NYTimes.


There are many to choose from, ranging from the misguided Brexit to which we shall return, to the idiocy of American politics. T_P think, however, that the wave of terror sweeping the globe must be the prime issue before the nations of the world. The NYTimes has prepared a compilation:In total, more than 1,200 people outside of Iraq and Syria have been killed in attacks inspired or coordinated by the Islamic State, according to this analysis which shows the distribution of attacks and we can see that no one is safe or immune.

Even if ISIS is defeated on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, it will continue to fester underground throughout the world. It is not obvious how the enlightened nations of the world can fight this monster successfully without severely impinging on the civil rights of the population. The reaction of the US to 9/11, the so-called Patriot Act, has been subject to severe criticism and it is not clear that it has been effective. We refer you to a detailed analysis of the issue. We would welcome your opinion of this necessary trade-off.

Titan and Pollyanna (and YandA) are extremely upset about the sniper killing of police in Dallas. This does not decrease by an iota their anger and dismay at the indiscriminate killing of black persons by trigger-happy police. `In Israel we are aware of this issue and the worse phenomenon that the army, police and most of the public do not think that there is a problem in shooting to kill at a fleeing suspect. The question of shooting at a suspect or prisoner who is running away was resolved historically by the so-called common law, which held that police could use any amount of force, including deadly force, to "seize"a fleeing felon. This dates back to the time when almost all crimes were felonies to be punished by execution. The practice was laid to rest in the USA in the Supreme Court's 1985 opinion in Tennessee v. Garner. 

A detailed analysis of the verdict and it implications is given in an article by Chad Flanders and Joseph C. Welling in the Saint Louis University Law Journal. The fact that police impunity for killing still exists shows that the decision is not honored as it should be. The article is long, but Titan and Pollyanna think it worth your time and effort. Of course police misconduct and racial harassment occur often without lethal results and are often hidden from the public eye, as in the sorry case of the police of Chicago.
Alfonso and Patricia Cavada at their home in Archer Heights with their sons Alfonso Jr., 14, and Michael, 5. In April 2011, the Cavadas were injured when a dozen Chicago police officers stormed their home in the middle of the night.


California red-legged frog
California red-legged frog

It's Time to Ban Atrazine Now 

A new analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency paints a grim picture for wildlife in the United States. The country's second-most commonly used pesticide, atrazine, is likely harming most species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, especially in the Midwest where its use is highest.
Sadly the findings aren't all that shocking -- we've known about this for decades. The European Union banned atrazine a dozen years ago for exactly this reason.
Around 70 million pounds of atrazine are used every year in the United States on crops, lawns, schools, playgrounds and athletic fields. And it's not just harming wildlife -- atrazine exposure has been linked to birth defects and cancer in humans.


We along with countless others think that the exit of Britain from the EU is a most misguided step that will come back to haunt them in years to come. On the other John Harris, writing in the Guardian, sees it as a sign of class warfare and a result of the economic bargain that made the rich richer and the poor poorer. In the words of a woman in a rundown suburb of Manchester, “If you’ve got money, you vote in,” she said, with a bracing certainty. “If you haven’t got money, you vote out.” It also showed how much the political class is Britain is divorced from the reality of the lives of ordinary people. The furies have been building up for a long time, but the people on top never noticed them.

Harris: "What defines these furies   is often clear enough: a terrible shortage of homes, an impossibly precarious job market, a too-often overlooked sense that men (and men are particularly relevant here) who would once have been certain in their identity as miners, or
steelworkers, now feel demeaned and ignored. The attempts of mainstream politics to still the anger have probably only made it worse: oily tributes to “hardworking families”, or the   fingers-down-a-blackboard trope of “social mobility”, with its suggestion that the only thing Westminster can offer working-class people is a specious chance of not being working class anymore."

What will probably happen is a turn to the right, a super-Thatcherism that will make things even worse for the working class, an evaporation of jobs and economic opportunity.  It is
similar to what happened to the workers who voted Reagan into office in 1980 and then the Bushes with their Wall Street cronies."It's the same the whole world over, it's the poor what gets the blame..."
Children near derelict houses on a housing estate in Collyhurst, Manchester.
Children near derelict houses on an estate in Collyhurst, Manchester. Photograph: Photofusion/Rex Shutterstock

The rich will continue to live in clover..



As members of a Reform congregation, we have a major stake in the struggle going on in Israel. Most recently the government reneged on a compromise that would have allowed us and our Conservative brethren to worship unsegregated by gender at the Wall in Jerusalem. Most recently, our leadership wrote to the PM that unless the incitement and violence cease, there will be bloodshed. Indeed it is the time for the alternative movements in Judaism to take off the gloves in dealing with Orthodox violence and arrogance.
Ultra-Orthodox protesters seek to disrupt egalitarian prayers held by Reform and Conservative worshipers at the Western Wall on June 16, 2016.Emil Salman

A new chapter in that sorry tale of arrogance is the appointment of a new Chief Chaplain of the Army. Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim was nominated for the top religious position in the army by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot on Monday. His appointment now requires the approval of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In the past he has gone on record saying that rape of enemy women is allowed, that women should not serve in combat roles nor be allowed to testify in court cases. He has also said that it is permitted to kill wounded suicide bombers and that gay people should be treated as people “sick or disabled.”

The Chief of Staff is standing behind the appointment and Karim has backtracked away from his most radical statements. Nonetheless, MK Ofer Shelah best pinpointed what is wrong with this appointment, beyond chauvinism...According to Shelah, the problems are Karim’s objection to women’s military service and his ruling that an order that contravenes Jewish law should be ignored. Indeed, the latter is a major threat to operational discipline in the army and is most dangerous.


The Knesset has passed a law that mandates special reporting requirements for nongovernmental organizations that get most of their funding from foreign governments, and, according to critics, disproportionately targets human rights organizations. Of the 27 NGO's impacted, 25 are human rights organizations. The law has drawn fierce criticism from the US government and from the European Union. Some of the worst features were removed such as requiring representatives of human rights organizations to wear badges inside the Knesset building. The organizations planned to wear yellow tags as well, which may have deterred some of the right-wingers In any case, human rights activities will go on.

"Human rights organizations are completely transparent,” argued MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), one of the bill’s most vocal opponents. “All their contributions are reported, and therefore, there’s no real reason for the government’s NGO bill except to divert the discussion and incite the public.”

“Where is transparency really needed? In extreme right-wing organizations,” he added, noting that these organizations receive millions of shekels from private overseas donors, “but there, the government has chosen to impose secrecy and obscure the money trail.”


We have long admired Orson Welles, character flaws and all. He is a figure larger than life and looms, together with Hitchcock and a very few others above the rank and file of film artists.

Orson Welles on the set of Chimes at Midnight, 1964 Nicolas Tikhomiroff/Magnum Photos

A few months ago Michael Wood gave us a review of new writing about Welles in the New York Review of Books and we strongly recommend the read. He deals with:

Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen
Kane    by Patrick McGilligan Harper, 820 pp., $40.00

Orson Welles: One-Man Band    by Simon Callow Viking, 624 pp., $40.00
(to be published in April)

Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of
Fake News    by A. Brad Schwartz Hill and Wang, 337 pp., $35.00

Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind   
by Josh Karp St. Martin’s, 336 pp., $26.99
Chimes at Midnight a film directed by Orson Welles

Callow has reached the third volume of his projected four volume biography of Welles. As Wood remarks "There is a special risk in writing about Orson Welles. The dimensions may get a little out of hand, as if they had to mime the physical size and imaginative
reach of the subject. Patrick McGilligan’s excellent biography of Alfred Hitchcock takes 750 pages to cover the director’s life and his fifty films. By page 706 of Young Orson, Welles is about to start shooting Citizen Kane, his first full-length movie: he is twenty-five years old, and he lived till he was seventy. There is a thirty-nine-page postlude about the day and night of Welles’s death."

The Road to Xanadu, part one of Simon Callow’s two-volume biography of Welles, appeared in 1996; Hello Americans, part two of the now three-volume biography, appeared in 2006; and One-Man Band, part three of the (maybe) four-volume work, appeared last fall in the UK and appeared in the US in April. Perhaps the most touching expression of this condition is the wistful remark that McGilligan makes about Welles in 1944 on page 726 of his work: “An entire book could be written about that single year, with much left out."


The question of the existence of a ninth planet in the Solar System has us fascinated. We are referring you to a blog on the subject by Michael E. Brown and Konstantin Batygin from CalTech who are actively engaged in this search. Evidence for the existence of Planet Nine is scant, based on apparent alignments among the orbits of the six most distant denizens of the Kuiper belt Their oval orbits all point in roughly the same direction and lie in about the same plane, suggesting that a hidden planet, about five to 20 times as massive as Earth, has herded them onto similar trajectories. The topic is well worth your time.
The whole point of Planet Nine was to explain the orbital alignment of these six objects. The number of other phenomena that Planet Nine also explains -- essentially by accident -- is astonishing.

It can be touted in various ways:



This is a very old question:
Image result for glass half full

Then we have the Wizard's take on the question:

 DNA testing has become the rage:

Image Murphy thinks this is hilarious and he has a point.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

T_P greet you for the Pesach holiday

Titan and Pollyanna like to think of themselves as retirees who are relaxing after years of hard labor and ranting. They have, in their joint persona of T_P decided that it is not fair to their countless fans and readers to deprive them of the wisdom they can dispense. Yes, Virginia, we have a sense of the absurd.So relax in our teepee dear friends and have some matzah and wine.

Image result for pesach images


Titan, Pollyanna and YandA wish all their MOT readers a happy Pesach holiday. Y will be with her brood in Kiryat Ono, A with his family in Atlit and T_P will celebrate as usual on the shore of a methane sea.  Then YandA fly to Winnipeg to see our Canadian branch.


We all rejoice in the deliverance of our people from slavery in Egypt


and of course must relish the appreciation given to it by John Kasich who told the Hasidic Jews of Brooklyn about the blood on the doorposts. We would like to share with you the story of a Seder held by Jewish soldiers in the American Civil War. Joseph A. Joel, a Jewish private in the Ohio 23rd Regiment, told the story first – and best.

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


 JOHAN CRUYFF 1947-2016 

Johan Cruyff playing against Argentina in the 1974 World Cup. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The great Dutch footballer died this month of cancer in Barcelona. He helped develop a style that
revolutionized the way the game is played, becoming the Netherlands’ greatest player and later a scolding conscience of the sport. He was 68.  Widely acclaimed as one of the best players in history, Cruyff (pronounced CROYF) teamed with the famed coach Rinus Michels in the 1970s to perfect a style called Total Football, a shape-shifting system in which players switch positions effortlessly.

A wiry and deceptively quick forward, Cruyff was the personification of the style, bursting forward to attack or drifting back to defend, but always ready to deliver an incisive pass or to appear in the perfect position when an opportunity to score arose. The Guardian devotes a page to Cruyffiana and the NYTimes provides a detailed obituary


The great playwright died on April 23, just 400 years ago.
 Image result for shakespeare birth

Stephen Greenblatt writing in the New York Review of Books discussed how Shakespeare, at a distance of four centuries is still relevant and resonant in our time. His contemporary Ben Jonson for the first time evoked a larger landscape in which to understand the significance of Shakespeare’s career, one that would make it appropriate for a nobleman to acknowledge a connection to a middle-class writer of popular plays. Jonson wrote,
“And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,”
“I would not seek/For names; but call forth thund’ring
Aeschylus,/Euripides, and Sophocles to us.”

These immortals could worthily bear witness to the greatness of Shakespeare as a tragic playwright; as for his comedies, Jonson added, these surpass everything
“that insolent Greece or haughty Rome/sent forth.”
Jonson made Shakespeare into a global artist. Not in the sense that he imagined his work was or would ever become famous outside of England, but that he insisted it could bear comparison with the best that the world of letters had ever brought forth. Even if nothing in Shakespeare’s personal circumstances—his birthplace, parentage, education, affiliations, and the like—bore recording, he was nonetheless a national treasure.
“Triumph, my Britain,” Jonson proclaimed, “thou hast one to show,/To whom all scenes of Europe
homage owe.”
To this proud boast he added the famous line: “He was not of an age, but for all time!”
The Folger Shakespeare Library provides a biography.


Many think that they died on the same day, April 23, but in fact they used different calendars. We mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Cervantes is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and the world's pre-eminent novelist.
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His major work, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded among the best works of fiction ever written. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes"). He has also been dubbed El Príncipe de los Ingenios ("The Prince of Wits"). His biography includes military action, slavery as a POW and a struggle to survive as a government bureaucrat. He died just 400 years ago and was buried in an unmarked grave. Since his passing,  his work has inspired countless other authors, including Gustave Flaubert, Henry Fielding and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story of Don Quixote has been retold in many ways,including in the popular musical The Man of La Mancha and in an artwork by Pablo Picasso.



Chibok, Nigeria, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago. Credit Sunday Alamba, via Associated Press
Two years ago over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Most of them are still prisoners. A worldwide outcry had no effect. A recent visit to Chibok by a NYTimes writer (called to our attention by Yosefa) tells the sad tale of this pathetically neglected region of Nigeria. It is most shocking to read and consider.


Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has won part of a human rights case against the
Norwegian state. He convinced the court that his solitary confinement was beyond the scope of his punishment and that actions taken against him were in violation of the European Convention of
Human Rights. We have long maintained that you must protect the rights of bad people in order to protect those of the good.


The issue of the flow of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East has become central to European reality. We firmly believe that turning away asylum seekers is criminal, but of course political reality has a morality of its own. We refer you to a detailed set of discussions provided by CritCom entitled FramingMigration: Rhetoric and Reality in Europe. Much food for thought.

In  the meantime 500 asylum seekers drowned when a ship sank in the Mediterranean en route from Libya to Italy. More blood on  the hands of the politicians of Europe.


The lower house of the Brazilian parliament has voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. The case now moves on to the Senate. Ms Rousseff has vowed to fight the impeachment tooth and nail. The details of the unraveling of what was one of the great success stories of the developing world are discussed in analysis in the Washington Post. It may come to pass that while the Olympic games are taking place in Rio next summer, the public will be regaled by the trial of a President. 
Sic transit gloria mundi.


The world is still reeling from the huge leak of criminal banking activities by Mossack Fonseca.It seems that hiding money offshore is one of the major activities of the rich, famous and infamous.Cheers to those who exposed the scandal. Mike Lukovich gives it straight...



The main suspect in the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was convicted of murder Tuesday, after a Jerusalem court rejected the defendant’s insanity plea. It certainly took the court a very long time to convict Yosef Chaim Ben-David on charges of murder, kidnapping for the purpose of murder and battery causing bodily harm. Let us hope that he is given a stiff sentence. What is really tragic is that the murder could have been prevented. The day before the same gang tried to kidnap an Arab child who was saved by his mother and neighbors. The police were called but did not respond. We have to understand that Arab lives matter.


An Israeli soldier who shot a wounded Palestinian assailant to death in Hebron on March 24 was charged with manslaughter on Monday.  During the hearing, the military court in Jaffa cleared the soldier's identity for publication. He was named as Elor Azaria, 19, a resident of Ramle.

According to the indictment, Azaria opened fire in 
"violation of he rules of engagement, and without operational justification, while [Abdel Fattah] al-Sharif lay wounded on the ground ... and did not pose immediate and real threat to the defendant, civilians or soldiers in the area." 

This is most important since many of the public especially the right have rushed to the defense of the soldier. There was even a small rally in his support in Tel Aviv and our great PM phoned the parents in sympathy. After all, if you have raised a killer, you should be appreciated...

In fact, as Gideon Levy points out in Haaretz, the trial is a farce and the soldier will certainly get off with at most a slap on the wrist.  It is no surprise since the Army has a long history of covering up killings of Arabs and extra-judicial executions are part of its daily repertoire.


Many of us try to avoid purchasing products made in the illegal settlements beyond the Green Line. It is illegal to call for a boycott on such products and one can be sued with no proof of damage. We make it clear here that we are by no means advocating a boycott and in fact the list that we are linking to may serve as a guide to supporters of settlements who wish to buy their products. In any case, we link you to a detailed article by Gush Shalom. There is also an old blog in Hebrew that "warns" against boycotting the settlements and gives a list of products that good patriots should buy.


The story has finally come out about the killing of the chief German rocket scientist who worked in the 1960's to develop a missile capability for Egypt. It makes for fascinating reading, we will not spoil if for you.


Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts (SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture (Hardcover)) Hardcover – November, 2015 by Sarah Allan (Author)

 A trove of bamboo-slip manuscripts dating from about 300 BCE has been translated and published. They are from the time of the Warring States an era of turmoil that ran from the fifth to the third centuries BCE. before the unification of China in 221 BCE. The first dynast Qim did everything to stamp out intellectual freedom. These documents challenge our understanding of early Chinese history.
An eighteenth-century painting showing Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BCE. ‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ Illustration from Henri Bertin’s album The History of the Lives of the Chinese Emperors.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France/RMN-Grand Palais/Art ResourceAn eighteenth-century painting showing Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BCE. ‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ Illustration from Henri Bertin’s album The History of the Lives of the Chinese Emperors.
The book is reviewed in detail by Ian Johnson in the New York Review of Books and by   in Asia Times.  


What If? This is serious now- My boyfriend recently took a flight on a plane with wifi, and while he was up there, wistfully asked if I could send him a pizza. I jokingly sent him a photo of a parrot holding a pizza slice in its beak. Obviously, my boyfriend had to go without pizza until he landed at JFK. But this raised the question: could a bird deliver a standard 20" New York-style cheese pizza in a box? And if so, what kind of bird would it take?
—Tina Nguyen Maybe the hostess will serve a pizza...

 Indeed, the singularity will do great things for us...


The creative process is explained by SMBC:

Note the importance of self-doubt. It is something totally lacking to people on the right and to stupid people in general. The need for self-doubt and the spirit of enquiry was  expressed beautifully by the late Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai. We present his poem both in original and English translation.

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

SMBC does to Jesus what it would never dare to do to Mohammed. Blasphemy in a free society comes under the heading of protected free speech. Alas, people often forget this fundamental truth: