Friday, December 2, 2011

Titan is taking a vacation--you can relax

Titan is getting in a last blog before joining his sister Pollyanna and their alter ego YandA for a two week trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles. You will therefore be spared our blogs for a few weeks. He would like to show a bit of his interior. He may be tough on the outside, but inside he is all soft and even liquid.  The blue layer in this illustration indicates a very probable subsurface ocean.
This blog begins with a rant at the Canadian government. We are told that they are pulling out of the Kyoto treaty on preventing climate change. This is totally unacceptable and most irresponsible. If there are any Canadians amongst you, please call your MP and let him/her know that you are an unhappy constituent on this issue.

One of the worst human rights abuses that occurs in countless places around the world is forced eviction. It can happen whenever a rich and powerful entity can exercise influence on government to evict vulnerable and defenseless people who happen to be in the way when there is money to be made. Usually it is a matter of land developers who want to use the land for building, plantations or mineral exploitation. We have seen this phenomenon even in democratic countries such as Canada where indigenous people were pushed aside by oil companies, as well as in Mexico and Brazil where again indigenous people are the victims of land developers. This week we will  call your attention to women in Cambodia whose basic human rights are being violated by forced evictions for the benefit of tycoons who want to use the land for a huge sugar plantation. Amnesty International has called on the government of Cambodia to intervene. Let us hope they will respond.
Vanny, 31, helps lead community resistance to the Boeung Kak Lake eviction
© Amnesty International
Titan would like to call your attention to and request your action on a few egregious human rights violations from around the world. Amnesty International  has a Web site where you can register and protest just with a click.

In Russia, legislative initiatives are under way that would adversely affect the freedom of expression and assembly of individuals who are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), and advocates of the rights of LGBTI people, thereby violating their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and the rights to non-discrimination and equality before the law. Similar initiatives are being advanced in Nigeria as well.

In Japan victims are still waiting after 60 years for justice for survivors of Japan's military sexual slavery system that involved hundreds of thousands of Korean women during WWII.  Please help these women to overcome the systematic denial of the Japanese government.

We have an Urgent Action request via AI Belgium(Francophone)  relating to a land dispute and forced eviction in Argentina   Children, the son and grandson of Félix Díaz, the leader of the Toba Qom indigenous community of La Primavera, Argentina, were attacked by men with guns on 8 November.  They  were fired upon by security guards who work for a landowner who disputes the community’s claims over land.  The police were singularly inactive in the matter.  Please act.  You should have no difficulty in locating the Argentine Embassy in your country.

US Secretary of State Clinton is visiting Myanmar/Burma this week.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on an official visit to Myanmar
© AFP/Getty Image

We hope that she will insist that Myanmar’s leaders release all political prisoners and stop targeting ethnic minority civilians. Myanmar has released a few hundred political prisoners, but many more still languish in prisons. Amnesty International has issued a call for her to use the leverage that the US has to promote the cause of democracy in Myanmar.

We are referring you to an  action call from Labour Start (it is a British site, hence the spelling) that Eric Lee sent around. One of the most pernicious aspects of the global spread of neoliberal capitalism is the systematic abuse of workers and the infringement of their fundamental human right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers.  We urge you not only to act, but to check the little window to subscribe to the action calls of the site.

NEW PHYSICS From the wonderful What's New blog of Bob Park: "SPEED OF LIGHT: IT'S STILL THE SPEED LIMIT. The only thing faster is the speed at which the media goes to print with unverified accounts that seem to violate natural law."

Normally we try to stay out of American domestic politics here, but the withdrawal of Herman Cain from the GOP race caused us to identify with the comment of the liberal former congressman, Alan Grayson “I hope he gets the nomination because clearly, if both parties nominate African-Americans, every racist in this country will have to commit suicide. . . . What is his business genius? That he paid people $8 an hour to deliver $15 pizzas.”  He also apparently had a few other problems as described  by   Andy Borowitz who shows us that Newt is really the paragon of marital fidelity and  the pro-adultery vote will shift to him.  Seriously, Der Spiegel online drives home the point that the party of Lincoln is now offering the American people and the world a choice among a group of  liars, demagogues and ignoramuses.  Meet them:
Meet the 2012 crop of Republican Presidential candidates.
It is incredible to what lengths our Orthodox brethren will go to impose their will and control our lives. In particular, their treatment of women and their attitude toward them is indicative of a medieval mind set and a complete rejection of the humanistic values that we hold dear, even out in the cold methane atmosphere of Titan. Let me quote our Culture and Sports Minister, Limor Livnat, who usually toes the Fascist line in politics, but does sometimes recall that she is a woman too:

"Lately, there has been a worrisome deterioration in the status of women in the public arena. The exclusion of women is also violence against women – women need to get on buses from the back door, posters depicting them are banned or otherwise burnt, they cannot sing before men nor mourn for their loved ones at funerals," Livnat added, calling these happenings attempts to deprive women of the most basic rights in a democracy – freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and the right to dignity."

"Where there's an exclusion of women, violence against women eventually grows", the Culture and Sports minister added.

In general what is happening is a war against democracy. It is impossible for the religious right or the expansionist right in Israel to tolerate criticism of its illegal and immoral actions. This is expressed very well in an article by the publisher of Haaretz,  Amos Schoken. It is required reading for anyone who believes in the value of liberal democracy. It is indeed questionable whether Israel has a future that is worth defending. What will happen is that the best and the brightest among the liberals will be forced to emigrate and we will have a country of Torah studies and military war-mongering. It is sad that our people in America support these goals although they would scream and are screaming when similar things happen to them in their homes. The Republican Party is the Christian Likud and support for the most inane and immoral policies of the Israeli government has become a party mantra. The Democrats, alas, are not much better and so we roll off to Hell with the applause of the world.

We are constantly being told that at any moment our heroic Junior Bird Men(thank you Tom Lehrer) will be loading up with the bunkerbuster bombs that Obama sent us as toys and flying off to teach the Iranis that one must not mess with God's chosen people. The fact that the real risk of a nuclear attack from Iran is negligible and that the response to any attack of ours will cost the lives of thousands of innocent civilians (one might argue that people who elect such a government are hardly innocent and should be held accountable) is not considered  important. Besides scaring us with blather, it has become fashionable to invoke the Holocaust, which is a true obscenity, as is pointed out by MJ Rosenberg.. We would like to believe that all this is bluster intended among other things to keep the Defence budget up and to defuse the social protest successfully. Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius--so very true.  Uri Avneri makes a convincing comparison to the Weimar Republic.

Our BOOK REVIEW for this week falls into the category of the decay of our country. The book is The Unmaking of Israel, by Gershom Gorenberg (325 pp. ­HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99) reviewed in the New York Times by Jeffrey Goldberg. The thesis is that Israel indeed lost the Six-Day War and in the wake of the conquest and occupation is turning into a most illiberal chauvinistic state. The settler tail wags the national dog and the agenda of the settlers is what sets the tone. The future indeed is bleak. Gorenberg is a left-liberal Israeli of US extraction and writes with a sense of true sorrow over what is happening to our country.

Gene Weingarten brings up an issue that has often been a bone of contention between the Y and the A of YandA. People who go to social functions may notice that many women are indeed impoverished and never seem to have enough money to buy an entire dress. Y claims that this has an effect on A that also shows up when we walk on the beach and somewhat incomplete sports attire intrudes upon our attention. Titan,as noted above, seems to have his own beaches and his own nymphs to observe around Saturn. In any case, Gene  has researched the issue of the claim that the mental acuity of males of our species is reduced when in the presence of sexy attractive females. I am pleased to commend Gene on his scientific confrontation of the issue and the data.

I might also note that the geek of XKCD is familiar with the problem from the aspect of apparent parapsychology.


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