Friday, June 3, 2011

Titan with the bad news

Enceladus over the atmosphere of Saturn: Cassini imaging team photo
This is Titan's week and we start with a shot of his friend Enceladus looming up over Saturn.  Note the geyser vents near the South Pole of Enceladus.  (the spell checker wants me to write enchilada, but I resist)

GOOD NEWS There is much to rant about, but let me start with some good news.  An Azerbainjani journalist who ha been imprisoned on trumped up charges was released after a major campaign by Amnesty International in which some of us here took part as well.  Here are the details. Here are the details.

I only wish things like this would happen more often.  Of course, we would all prefer a voiding of his conviction over a mere pardon, but as always we take what justice we can get.  Part of the success can be attributed to a massive Tweet campaign by AIUK aimed at the President of the country.

TRADE UNION MATTERS  Before getting on to our local mess, I would like to bring up two matters involving trade unions anD  their importance.  The chambermaid who blew the whistle on Strauss-Kahan needed courage, but fortunately she also has the support of her union that will protect her from being fired for her pains.   The importance of trade union protection  cannot be overemphasized.  In other parts of the world, being a trade union activist can be very dangerous.   In Guatemala Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy a leader of the banana workers union was recently murdered and to say the least the Guatemalan government is not overexerting itself to find the perpetrators.    Amnesty International  has a press release out and there is a petition site provided by the international union federation.  Please act .

As I observe the Never-Never Land of politics, I wonder what it is in our mental makeup that causes the irrationality that we see around us.  I have argued with Holocaust deniers (they usually have a political agenda and are dangerous), but creationists (note the saddle on the dinosaur), astrology believers, moon-landing hoaxers, UFO seers and  fundamentalists of all creeds are beyond me and usually not worth the time to argue with.  I have declined many invitations to debate these people on various platforms and media.  I refuse to grant them the aura of legitimacy that sharing a platform with a scientist would impart. (Click  the cartoon to enlarge.)

 A large number of the hoaxes we see on the Web (thank the Lord for  Snopes  and  Lo-relevanti ) come about because many people find the modern world too hard to deal with.  Thus we get a fantasy about a student, usually attributed to Einstein, standing up and proving the existence of God to an atheist  physics professor and other things of that ilk.  These things appear harmless, but the delusionary attitude of the public can indeed  be attributed to the marketing of fantasy in place of news and analysis designed to stimulate, forgive the expression, thinking..  I append a well written commentary on this phenomenon.  Some people enjoy conspiracy theories and I must confess that I often attribute particularly idiotic and pernicious behavior of our government in Israel to evil volition because it is hard to conceive of such monumental stupidity, e.g. an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.  I am learning, however, and acquired much useful insight from a book by Norman Dixon on military incompetence.
from which one can extrapolate to other areas of government.

As an example of this sort of thing we have a monster best seller book describing how a four  year old  "died" during an appendectomy, went to Heaven, met Jesus (with wounds on his hands), various Biblical figures and his great-grandfather.  People believe this sort of claptrap and the book is selling  like hotcakes. The New York Times reviewed it.  Titan says that this is your book review for the week.    Gene Weingarten commented on it a few weeks ago and compared it to the poor sales of his book about old dogs.  This is at most harmless albeit cynical exploitation of human gullibility by these authors or even benign naivete.  I might mention that the reported sighting of wounds on Jesus' hands contradicts what is known historically about the mode of crucifixion  practiced by the Romans and indicates that the entire story is pure hokum.  I quote from an article in the South African Medical Journal, 2008 by F P Retief and  L Cilliers on The History and Pathology of Crucifixion
 The crucifixion process
In Jerusalem, according to custom, women offered the victim an analgesic drink consisting of wine and myrrh or incense.1,2 If not already naked he was then stripped and made to lie on his back with his arms extended along the patibulum. The arms were tied to the beam, or fixed by means of iron nails  driven through the wrists, rather than the hands which sometimes could not carry the body weight without tearing loose. There is also evidence that these square nails (13 - 18 cm long, 1 cm thick) were occasionally driven through the upper forearms.

So much for seeing stigmata!

What is not harmless is the use of lies and delusion to attack innocent people, to ruin careers and lives and to give vent to prejudice and venom.  One such example is the brouhaha about a so-called lewd picture of Anthony Weiner's crotch featuring an erection  Wow!!  A political adversary hacked his Twitter account and sent a lewd picture to some innocent woman and the result is a cause celebre.  I am  not a fan of Weiner who is a Natanyahu sycophant and attacked Obama on the 1967 borders speech, but he  does represent in the House a constituency that mostly supports such attitudes.  He would like to run for Mayor of New York and he may have been harmed by a malicious trick. 

WATER AND LAND The spectre of war and starvation looms over Africa.  This New York Times article delineates the dangers awaiting this part of the world unless drastic steps are taken.  One of the most important is limitation of population growth which is a difficult issue, but one that must be met.  Egypt in particular is in real danger of collapse. 

Last Friday I participated in a demonstration called by Solidarity against the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.  I went to Ras el Amoud and it was quite an experience.  I invite you to read a description of the event.
The police initially arrested several people and claimed that rocks were thrown.  When the pictures and the films and the threat of lawsuits hit them, they retracted and released everyone. I also append a link to some video footage of the demonstration and a posting on the role of the camera in keeping the cops honest.

I find it encouraging that the left seems to be coming up with a young and energetic leadership, many of them very committed young women.  I attended a symposium on Wednesday evening marking the phony holdiay of so-called United Jerusalem.  Amira Haas the journalist, Shirin el Adaj a community leader from Wallaje and Maya Rotem from Solidarity described respectively journalism when the public wishes not to know, life under the Wall and the struggle against ethnic cleansing in Silwan.

Tomorrow night we shall attend a mass demonstration called by Peace Now and other organizations in support of the Palestinian declaration of statehood.  Our establishment are all against it and they have apparently succeeded in convincing some of the world, including Obama, to oppose it, but it will pass in the General Assembly, which means nothing.  You could get that august body to decide that the moon is made of green cheese.  What is important is how the Security Council votes.  Obama will have a hard time convincing anyone that he is sincere about peace if the US vetoes it.
OK, this blog is long enough for the week and we can send Titan back to his orbit around Saturn.  For satire I introduce someone new, Rabbi Waskow with his Dissociated Press.

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