Saturday, January 14, 2012

Titan rants away

Titan is back and the world has been too generous in providing him with a plethora of rant topics. Before we get into what is so wrong with our world, he would like to show you the view he sees from his bedroom window when he gets up in the morning.

Those who bother to look up at the sky will have noticed these days that Venus is the Evening Star.   What is not obvious is that right near by is Neptune, the farthest planet from the Sun. To find it, simply look for Venus - unmistakable in the southwest after sunset as it shines at magnitude -4.0, the brightest object in the night sky besides the Moon. Then use this handy finder chart from Astronomy magazine to spot Neptune about 1° away.  Neptune should have a distinctly bluish tint. Please let us know if you succeed in seeing it - especially if it's the first time you've spotted it.  This tip comes from the Year in Space, an interesting site and we recommend subscribing to it if such things interest you.

There are so many things in bad shape that it is hard to know where to start.  Let us start with the employees of the five star hotel at Angkor Vat in Cambodia who have been wrongfully fired.  They won their court case and then mirabile dictu the verdict was reversed by the same judge who had originally issued it, with no further evidence presented.  Please let the Minister of Tourism in Cambodia know what you think of this corruption and exploitation of working people.

From there, let us go on to look at the situation of the world with respect to overpopulation and climate change.  Bob Park delivers a better rant than we could although our feelings on this subject are as strong as those of anyone.  What is frightening are the political/religious forces that are militating against doing anything about it.  Around the world you see right wing parties busy protecting short term corporate profits at the expense of doing something about both of these issues.  The corporations need a steady resupply of consumers and they need to be able to pollute to maximize profits.   For example, the Dutch Freedom Party, a fascist group headed by Geert Wilders , which did far too well in the 2010 elections, has in its platform a proposal to eliminate all funding for climate change research and also to require all Dutch citizens to carry ID cards that specify their ethnicity.  (For the record, the Netherlands are among the EU countries that do not require their citizens to carry identification.)  In return, the worldwide  oligarchy  funds the election campaigns of the latent and real neofascists, a beautiful case of symbiosis or mutual back scratching. Wilders goes around the world blathering nonsense  but there are people who will listen. BTW, a lady from our Natanya Reform congregation circulated a speech delivered in New York by Wilders(someone even translated it into Hebrew) in which he called for a modern crusade to protect Europe and the world from the Muslim hordes.  In a previous blog we told you how she sent around the good word that Moses was told on Mt. Sinai about the exact period of the Moon. Never mind that tidal forces have changed the period of the moon and the period of rotation of the Earth since then by a measurable, albeit small, amount. The main point we are making is best phrased by Bertrand Russell:

The sectarian conflict in Nigeria between the Muslim majority and the large Christian minority rages on.  The religious composition is Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%.  The bloodshed is totally out of control with attacks on churches by the Islamist Boko Haram group on Christmas Day followed by more lethal activity by the same group.  In return, Christians attacked a mosque in Benin City.  
Muslim sites in Benin City in the south have come in for revenge attacks
In addition there is a general strike called in reaction to the rise in fuel prices caused by the termination of a subsidy.
Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images Thousands of protesters gather at a park in Lagos on Wednesday to protest the higher prices brought on by the removal of fuel subsidies.
It is not clear why a country which is a major oil producer should be beset by fuel price problems.  When people take to the streets, it is a clear sign that decades of corruption and exploitation have driven them there.  In that context, it is interesting to read a discussion of the future of the Occupy movement in the United States and by extension everywhere.

The attacks on Christians are not confined to Nigeria.   In Egypt, the status of the Copt community has become more precarious since the revolution.  There have been several attacks upon them and they are feeling insecure to the point of trying to emigrate..   Their Christmas took place this week and it was encouraging to see that Muslim and government leaders made a point of attending the central mass and that young Muslims volunteered to provide security for the services.
A Coptic priest wafts incense near General Sami Anan (2nd R), Army chief of Staff and member of the SCAF at the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and other high-ranking military officials during the Coptic Christmas eve mass at the main cathedral in Cairo January 6, 2012. Egypt's Christians are celebrating their first Christmas Mass after the public uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power last February. Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
Coca-Cola maintains a plant in Swaziland, the last absolute monarchy in Africa.  We were there on Joey's Bar Mitzva trip in 2004 and we saw the abject poverty of the subjects of Mswati III who buys himself 2,000 new cars a year, takes the pick of the country's virgins at will and in general lives high.  It is disgusting that such a corrupt despot is supported in his position by a major corporation that should know better.  This is a prime example of how neocolonialism works: buy out the leaders, rip off the resources, in this case water, and make billions.  This is another reason to boycott Coca-Cola as if the nature of the drink were not enough.

On Friday 13 January, 18 Teveth, the 39th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, arguably the greatest Jewish religious and moral leader of the century, was marked.  He was closely associated with Dr. Martin Luther King in  two great struggles, civil rights and the opposition to the war in Vietnam.   We recommend the links as  required reading  for those who still espouse liberal values in this day and age.

In Israel the fan is so clogged with our national excrement that there is not room in this blog for the rants that have to be shouted from the rooftops.  Let us start with taking teenagers into (Lord Help Us) the  Border Police youth movement , arming them and sending them to catch illegal workers, i.e. Palestinians struggling to put some food on the table for their families.  It gives them a big kick, the joy of wielding power over defenseless victims (a need for a future soldier in the occupation army) and indeed meaning to their lives.  In Hell, Hitler can chuckle over his conquest of the soul of the Jewish people.  These kids will grow up to become animals like former Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit who thinks there is no real need to open an investigation whenever a Palestinian child is killed.  What the hell, just a dead sheikitz, read "Torat Hamelech" for inspiration.  He belongs in our Clarence Darrow catalog.*

Last month on World Human Rights Day there was a march sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and included other human rights organizations etc.  All went well, except that one principal of an Arab school had the chutzpa to take his pupils to participate in the march.  Naturally the powers that be in the Ministry of Education were incensed and took a blast at the school and headmaster. .  Indeed, what would this country come to if Arab children got the idea that human rights belong to them or that they are even human?  Human rights in Israel apply only to Jews, who can get a government subsidy to build a house on stolen private Palestinian land.  Things heated up when the matter came up in a Knesset committee and one of the champions of justice from the right threw a glass of water at a colleague.  At least she was sanctioned by the Ethics Committee, but it tells you where we are heading.

THE ANTI-INFILTRATION ACT which is a national disgrace was passed by our fascist Knesset with many of the opposition not even bothering to show up to vote against it.  It enables the government to send people to prison for three years without a trial.  Any detention without trial is an extreme act that should be foreign to a law-abiding state, much more so when the victims are work migrants who harbor no ill intentions against the state.  Instead of just a link, I am quoting here the entire text of the editorial in Haaretz on the subject:
Of all the antidemocratic laws that have descended on us of late, it is perhaps the most shameful. After a long, late-night session on Monday the Knesset plenum approved the second and third reading of an amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law. Only eight Knesset members voted against the amendment, while 37 supported it.
From now on, work seekers from Africa who enter Israel illegally can be imprisoned for three years, without the benefit of a trial and without any distinction between asylum seekers and labor migrants. Anyone who aids migrants who smuggle drugs or weapons, including by providing shelter, could also face a lengthy sentence. Even the courageous objections of Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon were to no avail, and the law was passed.

Foreign workers and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv park - Moti Milrod - July 2011    

Words fail in the face of such a disgraceful act of legislation. Sending desperate human beings, who come to Israel to find gainful employment, to jail for an extended period is completely antidemocratic and inhuman. Any detention without trial is an extreme act that should be foreign to a law-abiding state, much more so when the victims are work migrants who harbor no ill intentions against the state. The fact that the original law from 1954 was aimed at the fedayeen and Palestinian refugees seeking to return to their homes, if only to salvage some of their belongings, after the 1948 War, only underscores its problematic nature. If during the state's early years it was somehow possible to accept such a draconian law, in 2012, when those who cross the border illegally do not pose a genuine security threat, sending them to prison for such a long period is intolerable.The problem of the labor migrants must be solved in other ways, certainly not through long incarceration without trial. Israel has the right to close its borders and set its own immigration policy, like the world's most developed nations. But it does not have the right to imprison people - some of whom have been recognized as refugees, to whom no door should be closed and certainly not that of Israel. On Monday a jingoistic and unnecessary law that is unlikely to solve the problem for which it was intended was added to Israel's legal code.

Yossi Gurevich writes a blog in which he chronicles the decline and fall of the State of Israel, a sort of modern day Gibbon.  He names his blog, appropriately, "Friends of George" (Orwell).  He blogs in Hebrew and for those who can read it,  we keep a link to it next to this blog.  He recently was called in by the police for investigation at the instigation of a West Bank settlers' organization for, get this, "incitement."  What was his sin?  In the past, he had held that the right of an occupied population to resist the occupation applies not only to a struggle against the uniformed soldiers enforcing the occupation, but to the settlers as well, since their presence there certainly violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Personally, we disagree and hold the view of Amnesty International that the settlers, independent of the legality of their presence, constitute a protected civilian population.  In the wake of the terrible atrocity committed by Palestinian terrorists at Ittamar in which an entire family, including an infant, were murdered, he posted a change of heart in which he declared that only armed settlers, functioning as soldiers, albeit not in uniform, are legitimate targets of resistance.  Note that he thus narrowed the category of targets of resistance.  For this, the settler organization filed a criminal complaint and he was called in by the police and ordered to refrain from revealing any details of the interrogation.  He was advised by his lawyer to comply and we all must certainly respect his wishes.  A few months ago something similar happened to the journalist Gideon Spiro who was not only interrogated but actually incarcerated for a few hours by our lovely police.  The case against him was thrown out by the judge as soon as it came to court as will certainly be any case against Yossi Gurevich.

The point is that such vexatious and trivial complaints are taken up with glee by our neofascists in blue uniforms and the result is an effective harassment of anyone who dares to speak out against the anointed of the Lord who live on stolen Palestinian land.  For the record, one of them  has just taken a seat on the Supreme Court, which saw no reason for refusing to accept a war criminal onto its lofty bench.  This same court has also just ruled that the law forbidding  married couples, one of whom is a Palestinian, from living together in Israel is constitutional.  Falastin Hajaj, whose husband lives in the West Bank and sees her and the children rarely, when he can get permission to visit, is an example
Falastin Hajaj with her children at her home in the Galilee village of Kaukab.
Photo by: Abdullah Shama
We slide cheerfully into our role as a worthy heir of apartheid South Africa.   Life is Good?

The scene has been dominated recently by the long-awaited mutiny of the secular-liberal component of the population against the excesses of the religious extremists, so-called haredi groups.  They have run wild, are doing everything to put women "in their place" and finally have struck a nerve.  Peter Beinart points out, however, that this issue cannot be separated from the question of the status of the Arab minority in Israel.  The Israeli left, at best somnolent and at worst effectively dead, seems to be incapable of confronting the major issues confronting our society.  The summer tent protest fizzled since it did not address much beyond the price of food and housing and access to education (for Jews).  Carlo Strenger with at least part of his tongue in cheek, proposes a four-state solution., one for the Palestinians and three for Jews, haredi, settler and liberal.  Bradley Burston takes a more serious approach and tries to look through the political and cultural smog and to see a future when all the impedimenta of two millennia of persecution and victim mentality will be stripped away and a new Judaism will evolve that will save Israel.  As our grandmother used to say, albeit paraphrased from the Yiddish, "from your keyboard to God's monitor."  Of course, if you really want to fly modestly El Al has an option for you.

Let us wind down this overlong rant in a lighter vein:
Good news for our atheist friends

The creationism-evolution debate gets hot

Fresh from his New Hampshire victory, Mitt Romney tells us how he will undo the actions of the Obama administration, down to down to the last one...

Gene Weingarten took the Washington Post buyout and is doing other things including coauthoring a comic entitled Barney and Clyde. His  collaborator, cartoonist David Clark, is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and has worked as a freelance illustrator for various newspapers and magazines for more than 20 years. In 1996, Clark received the National Cartoonists Society's Newspaper Illustration Award.

As Lysander said to Hermia about the course of true love,
*This weeks book review is of two biographies of Clarence Darrow  a great trial lawyer who took on many famous cases, worthy of reading about.  His relevance to Mendelblit lies in his famous statement, "I have never killed anyone, but I have read many obituaries with delight."

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