The lady who brought the guitar into the synagogue and brought back Judaism into the hearts of alienated people is gone at age 59 and it is a great loss. Debbie Friedman (Picture above) was something special. I never got to hear her live, but I feel that she will be greatly missed. Here is a brief. obituary Baruch Dayan Haemet
Donald M. Hunten:
My field of science lost one of its mainstays in December. Don Hunten and I had many a scientific discussion and even tangled antlers but always remained friends. His colleagues have written an obituary that I feel honored to post. Maybe he is getting some answers now from a Higher Source.
Last week in the Pollyanna blog I mentioned the birthday of Ludwig Boltzman, one of the iconic figures in the history of Physics. His name came up in connection with the discussion of the Holy Grail achievement of a first full solution of the seven-dimensional Boltzmann equation with which all physicists grow up. He and I share the same birthday, February 20, 1844/1931 but shared astrology did not help me become Boltzmann, alas. We also mark the birthdays of two other luminaries of science this month, Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473
and Galileo Galilei on 15 Feb 1564.
Copernicus allowed his heliocentric model of the Solar System to be published only as he lay on his deathbed and Galileo ran afoul of the Church because of his espousal of the Copernicus model. In fact, the Church did not allow mention of motion of the Earth until 1822. I wonder how different things are today when we are told that 64% of the public in Israel favor limitation of freedom of expression. I wonder what they think of academic freedom--maybe I should not ask.
There are sellouts and sellouts. When Tom's of Maine was sold to Colgate, I did not begrudge Tom and Kate the $38 million because they stayed around to make sure that the standards were held up, no animal testing, ecological responsibility, the works. When Arianna Huffington sold her Post to AOL for $315 million, she sold out ideologically as well. Indeed, over the years, liberal-progressive politics have been taking center stage on the Huffington Post less and less during the last decade, but now we can be sure that it will no longer be a voice of the progrsssive community and that is a shame. For a detailed discussion I refer you to Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. The Post itself is centrist and not as progressive as the NYTimes, but it usually has its heart in the right place or nearby.
Events in Egypt are moving at a furious pace. I have more or less written what I have to say on the subject, but will add some cogent comments from Gideon Levy on the subject of stability and why it is so grossly overrated. The latest from the Los Angeles Times indicates that Mubarak has left Cairo and the protesters are not buying what he offered in his speech last night. The protesters seem sophisticated and smarter than their opponents.
Breaking news, Murabak has resigned and the military have taken over. Let us hope this is indeed a new day for Egypt.
HUMAN RIGHTS SUCCESS STORIES
It is nice to hear sometimes of some success in our ongoing and never-ending struggle to protect human rights around the world. Our friends at AIUK have provided a list of success stories.
is being held under house arrest and and he and his wife have been beaten . Human rights organizations around the world have taken up the cudgels in the case of Chen Guangcheng including Amnesty International and others. In general, it is dangerous to be a dissident under a repressive regime such as that of China. I append a link to profiles of three famous dissidents, one of whom, Liu Xiaobo,
received the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Hu Jia, a prominent environmentalist and AIDS activist, was jailed for three-and-a-half years in April 2008 for "inciting subversion" - the same charge as Liu Xiaobo.
a writer and self-taught lawyer, became known in China for defending citizens against the state. All three of these heroes have been the subject of human rights outcries in the West, but the Chinese regime appears impervious to pressure and the governments of the West hesitate to anger the economic giant.
Mexico is having its share of troubles with the economy and other internal difficulties and now is witnessing struggles by labor unions to uphold the basic rights of working people. Please act on this call for help. Just insert your data in place of mine.
THE LOCAL SCENE
Instead of my usual rants about human rights in the area I am going to inflict upon you a long discourse on my thoughts in the wake of the Tucson shootings and how political killing of children comes about in the wake of extremist thinking.
THREE DEAD CHILDREN
The recent ghastly events in Arizona, especially the killing of Christina Greene, gunned down by a political lunatic at age nine, lead one to think of the phenomenon of political killing of children and what it implies for society. In particular, I would like to bring up along with Christina, two other cases of killing of little girls, one in Arizona and the other in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The story of Christina is well known and documented in all its horror by the media. The other two cases are less well known.
- Brisenia Flores, like Christina Greene was 9 years old, and she also lived in Pima County, Arizona, not far from Tucson. Like Christina, she was gunned down in cold blood by killers with strange ideas about society and politics. A quote of some detail from Will Bunch in his blog County Fair on the site Media Matters : 'As her mother tells it, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores had begged the border vigilantes who had just broken into her house, "Please don't shoot me." But they did -- in the face at point-blank range, prosecutors allege, as Brisenia's father sat dead on the couch and her mother lay on the floor, pretending that she too had been killed in the gunfire."
- Abir Aramin was 10 years old and lived in the town of Anata in the Occupied West Bank. In January 2007 she was killed by a rubber bullet to the head fired by an Israeli Border Policeman (the Border Police are really ordinary soldiers who serve in this capacity) as she was going home from school. The Army has consistently denied that she was killed by a soldier despite pathology reports and concocted a cock and bull story that she was hit by a rock during a riot. In fact there was no riot at the time.
It might appear to the cursory glance that these cases are similar. In fact, there are important differences between them, While the seriously warped mind of Christina's Tucson murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, is a muddled mess, the motives of one of Brisenia's alleged killers-- a woman named Shawna Forde -- are pretty clear: She saw herself as the leader of an armed movement against undocumented immigrants, an idea that was energized by her exposure to the then-brand-new Tea Party Movement.
The anonymous killer of Abir was motivated purely by blood lust and while Loughner and Forde are in custody awaiting or facing trial, the murderous soldier is being shielded by his commanders and by the legal and military establishment in Israel.
Arizona is not the loveliest state in the Union. For decades it refused to recognize the birthday of Martin Luther King as a legal holiday and last year enacted racist legislation against immigrants. Nonetheless, it has put Forde on trial for murder despite the fact that the victims are of Mexican origin. Even Arizona, fascist and racist as it may be, has red lines with respect to the rule of law that it refuses to cross.
In Israel, on the other hand, it took Bassem and Salwa Aramin, Abir's parents, three years to fight the Israeli court system with the aid of the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din and a devoted human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard. Eventually they won some semblance of justice for Abir. Initially police investigators closed the file on their daughter's death without attributing blame for it. The child's mother, Salwa, who had always contended that her child had been killed by a police rubber bullet, broke down in tears when she heard that there was to be no prosecution, feeling "that they had killed her again". Then, when they contested the police decision in the High Court, it refused to re-open the case on the grounds that she could have been killed by a stone thrown by Palestinian rioters.
The family's subsequent civil suit succeeded last August when Jerusalem District Judge Orit Efal-Gabai declared unequivocally in open court: "Abir and her friends were walking down a street where there were no rock-throwers; therefore there was no reason to shoot in their direction. It is clear that Abir's death, caused by a rubber bullet shot by border guards, was due to negligence..."
Judge Efrat-Gabai gives the Border Police the benefit of the doubt with respect to why Abir was shot and the Army will certainly continue to drag its feet forever in investigating the case. Let us all pray for the day when Israel progresses to the level of Arizona in terms of respect for the rule of law and the accountability of the holders of power for the lives of those of the "wrong" ethnicity.