Friday, August 12, 2011

Titan is back and ranting as usual

Please meet Helene.
Cassini passed within 36,000 kilometers of Helene to take this image on July 20, 2007. Helene is the leading co-orbital companion to Dione and is a small, irregular body measuring approximately 36 by 32 by 30 kilometers in size. This image has been enlarged by a factor of two. Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI Size: Irregular, 36 x 32 x 30 kilometers
Orbital radius: 377,400 kilometers - 6.26 Saturn radii - within the E ring - at Dione’s leading Lagrange point (L4) - co-orbital with Dione and Polydeuces
Orbital period: 2.7369 days - about 1/6 of Titan’s
Discovery: 1980 by P. Laques and J. Lecacheus
Helene is a tiny moon that orbits in Dione's leading Lagrange point (L4). That is, Helene orbits Saturn on the same circular path that Dione does, but ahead of Dione, and the centers of Dione, Saturn, and Helene form an equilateral triangle.

Titan is back with you after a hiatus caused by things known as life and work and such like. His vacation was spent orbiting Saturn and chatting with his fellow orbiter, the spacecraft Cassini as it flew by. While touring the environment of Saturn, Cassini came past one of Titan's really tiny little sisters, La Belle Helene, who coorbits with Dione at a Lagrange point. She is small, but beautiful and we are pleased to introduce her to you before getting on to the serious business of ranting about what is wrong with our world. Her stats are given in the caption.


I mark the passing of a man whom I admired greatly over the years, former US Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon who died Aug. 7 at age 89 in Portland. I did not agree with all his positions, most notably on freedom of choice for women, but by and large he represented a nearly extinct species, the liberal Republican, or if you will, the compassionate conservative. In the era of the Tea Party and Natanyahu, this  is something to be nostalgic about. His liberal Republican politics during five terms in Congress made him an increasingly rare breed in his party, and he used his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee to denounce what he considered the “madness” of excessive defense spending. I wish we had a Mark Hatfield in the Likud, it would make a difference today. I quote a newspaper from his state of Oregon: Look around: Where are the independent, gracious, courageous national leaders who dare to question the wars or the enormous spending on national defense, and demand that more be done to combat hunger, poverty and illness? Yes Senator Hatfield, we miss you. I append an obituary from the New York Times.

There is plenty for us to gripe about together, both at home and in the wide world of human rights and the struggle for democracy. Before that, however, I would like to pontificate (Yosefa says I do this all the time, so why not in the blog?) about what is meant by patriotism. We have in Israel a  faction of politicians who come from a country, Russia, where dissent has long been equated with treason. They are now trying to teach us "patriotism" of the Stephen Decatur kind, "my country right or wrong." This same faction is driving us towards fascism with the help of some home-grown rightists, such as Avi Dichter and to its lasting shame members of the Kadima party, who are proposing a constitutional law that would ensure that in any conflict between Jewish and democratic values, the Jewish side would always trump democracy. This law is a form of  Jewish Sharia as pointed out by Zvi Barel. The National Home of the Jewish People' bill presumes to represent Diaspora Jews; they will have to decide whether they want to continue living abroad in a democratic country that lets them practice their faith as they wish, or in a Jewish state that robs the foundations of democracy from them.

In 1991, over twenty years ago, the magazine, The Nation, published a chatauqua or forum on patriotism and on the question if dissent from the left from government policies is unpatriotic. We are confronted by  this question here in Israel all the time and I refer you to the forum in The Nation for some thought-provoking reading. I will quote part of just one article:
Richard Falk
Professor of international relations, Princeton University

Confusing patriotism with unconditional support for government policy does core damage to the meaning of citizenship, especially during time of war. In 1736 Lord Bolingbroke identified the essence of patriotic fervor as devotion to the public good, whether as official or citizen. To uphold a policy that is believed harmful to the country is then, with such an understanding, highly unpatriotic, exhibiting either weakness of spirit or fear of consequences.

There are many things to talk about, but obviously for us, it is the "uprising" of the middle class in Israel that takes center stage. Last Saturday night 300,000 people marched in Tel Aviv.  
It is to be hoped that the government that over the years has dismantled all vestiges of the welfare state in favor of a swinish neo-liberal capitalism that would make American Republicans proud is being shaken out of its complacency.    Bradley Burston has some cogent comments on the the hopes kindled by the  new Israeli protest movement.

Monday night we went to the tent city of the protesters in Rothschild Blvd.

to hear the traditional reading of the Book of Lamentations (Eicha) at the tent of the Reform movement. We heard also some interesting talks and

discussions led by Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Rabbi Yoram Mazor and Prof. Aviva Halamish about Tisha B'Av in Jewish tradition and and on social justice as envisioned by Herzl and Achad Ha'am. It was an impressive experience and we are glad that we went.

Let us take our usual swing around the world and its usually dismal human rights scene. 

For a change, we can start out with something positive. The legislature of California is working on a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state. If this indeed happens, it will be a major boost for the abolition movement in the United States and around the world. If any of you are California voters, please let your representatives know that you support this initiative.

Another nice item to report (maybe we should have left it for Titan's glad sister Pollyanna) is that
  Daniel Barenboim has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in honor of his work towards peace and
conciliation through music. It is sad that the nomination came from Argentina where he was born and not from Israel where he spent most of his formative years and with which he identifies as a citizen. When he received the Wolf Prize in Israel in 2004 he made a strong statement for peace which aroused the ire of then Education and Culture Minister Limor Livnat, whom we all know to be a fully qualified fascist. Bravo Maestro Barenboim!

Now on to the nitty-gritty. 

One of the things that both Titan and Pollyanna froth at the mouth about is the abuse of women.  Right across the border from us in Jordan there is a factory where female workers are regularly raped with total impunity. Please join the thousands of members who have already spoken out against abuses at what's becoming known as the "rape factory" in Jordan.

“We only went to Jordan to earn money to help our families; we had no idea that factory managers would rape so many of us young girls,” said a young woman who goes by the name Nazma to protect her identity.  

Nazma is one of the dozens of Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi young women who have been sexually assaulted by supervisors at Classic Factory in northern Jordan, which makes clothes for American brands such as  Walmart, Target, and Macy's. Leading up to next week’s trial against a Classic supervisor charged with rape -- the first such trial-- managers are escalating abuses. Supervisors are locking victims and witnesses in the factory, threatening and intimidating them to ensure they will not testify. Although the Jordanian government promised that Anil Santha, the manager accused of rape, would not be allowed to return before the trial, he is back on the factory floor. Despite global outcry over Classic’s abuses and the tactics they’re using to dodge justice, international customers such as Walmart, Target, and Macy's are still buying Classic clothing.  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! 

Mao Hengfeng,

a human rights defender in China, was sent home from Shanghai City Prison Hospital on July 28, 2011 without any advance notice to her family. She was sent home in a wheelchair, showing clear signs of torture. When her family saw her outside their house she was unconscious and in very poor health. The most recent detention of Mao Hengfeng stems from her 2009 protest of the detention of Liu Xiaobo, another prominent human rights defender in China and the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. While she had been released on medical parole in February, she was re-detained a few short days later when more than 30 police officers surrounded her home claiming that she had violated her medical parole.  Please act to obtain accountability for her torture.

Prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialatski was arrested in central Minsk , Belarus, on 4 August . Amnesty International is concerned he is being targeted for his legitimate work on behalf of human rights. This is all too common a pattern around the world and Belarus is a prime example of a country that was liberated from despotic rule and proceeded to continue it. Please act on this matter , every signature and protest helps.

A group of seven Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers are at imminent risk of being forcibly returned to Eritrea by the Kenyan authorities. If returned they would be at grave risk of arbitrary detention and torture. Please open the link and take the action requested. These are matters of life and death.

For this week's humor we shall go afield a bit and bring you something from Dilbert: Please click on the cartoon if it does not show all three boxes.

Of course, Titan would not deprive you of your dose of Gene Weingarten.

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