Saturday, March 24, 2012

Titan greets Spring

Titan says hello and is ready to launch on a new series of rants about the world.  First, however, as promised, we introduce you to
Uranus' Moon Umbriel

A processed view fits color from more distant observations of Umbriel to the highest-resolution photo obtained by Voyager 2. Doughnut-shaped Wunda is on the equator near the left side of the image. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

Stats for Umbriel:
Diameter: 1,169.4 kilometers
Orbital distance: 266,000 kilometers from Uranus
Orbital period: 4.14 days
Discovery: 1851 by William Lassell

In Alexander Pope's satirical poem The Rape of the Lock, a gnome named Umbriel descends to the Underworld on Belinda’s behalf and obtains a bag of sighs and a vial of tears from the Queen of Spleen.

The vernal equinox has come and gone (March 20 0515UT) and now Spring is with us, hooray.  You might enjoy reading a bit about the equinox and debunking a few of  myths.  We also may be assured that the end of the world is not coming in December.  Dan Yeomans of JPL lays fears to rest.  There is a video in the link.

Titan 's first outrage for this blog is the murder of seven innocent people in Toulouse  by an insane fanatic.  The murderer, Mohammed Merah,  has been killed by the security forces, but it is a stain on the reputation of France that such an atrocity could have taken place.  He killed a teacher and three children at a Jewish school as well as three French army soldiers.  These futile and vicious acts of terror achieve nothing and result only in gratuitous bloodshed.  The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad has called for an end to the use of the plight of Palestinian children as justification for acts of extremist violence against innocent people.  "It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine," he said. He added that extremists should "stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children".

The funeral in Jerusalem of the Jewish victims:

The film Kony 2012, available on YouTube, has gone viral, but it also demands thought.  The film is manipulative and propagandistic and basically calls for USA and Great Power intervention in Africa.  It also fails to mention the sins of the government and president of Uganda and in fact we do not know from it how strong the LRA is now and where it is operating.
Kony:Associated Press
Updated: March 9, 2012
 The New York Times fills in some information and  presents a perspective on  Kony that outlines some of the history.  Indeed he is a major criminal high on the wanted list of the International Criminal Court, but it is also true that the people who are now trying to eliminate him supported him in the past and in general the people of Uganda have been subjected to torments over the years going back to British imperialism, the manipulations of international corporations seeking minerals and various dictators.  The present President of Uganda  Museveni is hardly a paragon of democracy, the country itself is homophobic and a bill that imposes a life sentence for homosexuality (a back away from the death penalty) is making its way through the Parliament.    The point has been made by   Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict  that the money spent on looking for Kony would be better spent on the rehabilitation and reintegration to society of the child soldiers.

Days ago, 16 year-old Amina Filali, raped, beaten and forced to wed her rapist, killed herself -- the only way she saw to escape the trap set for her by her rapist and the law.
Amina's sister holds a photo of Amina at a protest

If we act now, we can stop this unspeakable tragedy from happening to anyone else.  Article 475 in Morocco’s penal code allows a rapist to avoid prosecution and a long prison sentence by marrying his victim if she is a minor. Since 2006, the government has promised to strike this down and pass legislation prohibiting violence against women, but it hasn't happened.  
Please  sign this petition to get this terrible misogynist law repealed.

We show here five comic strips by Gary Trudeau, the artist of the strip Doonesbury.  The strips were banned in several newspapers, so much for freedom of expression.  Of course, the censorship simply enhanced interest and increased the circulation.  Our guardians of public morals still do not understand the Web, fortunately.  Pollyanna should have picked up on this last week, but Titan feels that he can rant about matters affecting women as much as she can.  Pollyanna does not mind.

We all buy our clothes from companies that manufacture them in low wage countries, mostly in Asia.  The least we can do is to demand that these countries look out for the workplace safety of their employees.  Fire and building issues have claimed many lives in Bangladesh and other Third World countries.  Show your support for the health and safety of garment workers in Bangladesh by signing this petition, which the International Labor Rights Forum activists plan to deliver to dozens of apparel companies to urge them to do their part to help end the series of tragic deaths in the Bangladesh garment industry.
While on the subject of worker rights, take a look and sign to support a union organizer in the US who was fired for taking a bathroom break.  Nice place this world of ours.
Xiomara Perez was fired for taking a bathroom break.

One of the issues on which right wing parties around the world appear to agree, along with suppression of women, gays and minorities,is the denial of climate change.  Even those who when confronted with the data agree that the climate is changing refuse to admit that the change is anthropogenic.  There is a certain paranoia in the reactions of the right who feel that their world is being stolen from them by liberals, peace and human rights activists, feminists, whatever. The late Richard Hofstadter diagnosed it as early as 1964 in an article on the paranoid style in American politics.  He notes however, that it has been with humanity in  Europe and elsewhere for a much longer time.  While studying the millennial sects of Europe from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, Norman Cohn concluded that  he had found a persistent psychic complex that corresponds broadly with what Hofstadter had been considering—a style made up of certain preoccupations and fantasies: “the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary; the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence, such as transience, dissent, conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral; the obsession with inerrable prophecies…systematized misinterpretations, always gross and often grotesque.”  This sounds like a West Bank settler manifesto or the Likud/Republican platform.
We see these phenomena today in the United States and in Israel.  In both countries the role of fundamentalist religion coupled with runaway capitalism has created a political and cultural climate in which civil and human rights, socioeconomic justice and political moderation are anathema.  In Israel we also have the memory of the Holocaust that is cynically exploited by politicians to inculcate fear in the public mind.  Similarly we see the Arab Spring fading away into a new winter, Russia and China supporting the massacre in Syria and a global atmosphere of greed and callousness that gives rise to over population(we need consumers, right?) and labor exploitation that can only lead to catastrophe.  Hofstadter attributes much of this to the 19th century backlash against the forces turned loose by the French Revolution, although he regarded political paranoia as a recessive gene in America going back to the Mayflower.  He may well be right.  Although he died in 1970, his writings are relevant to the politics of today.
On the question of liberal vs totalitarian democracy, we would like to ask you to look back at our blog of August 26, 2011 in which we analyzed  the political neuroses in Israel and the US in the light of the ideas of Jacob Talmon.

The first time it was reported that our friends were being
butchered, there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were
butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there
was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.
When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no
longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
Bertolt Brecht
“When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain”
Titan would like to call your attention to an article by Yishai Menuchin, a well known human rights activist in Israel, about the accountability of the responsible citizen in a democratic society.  The article was translated from Hebrew by Karen Gold.  It opens with the above quote from Brecht.  A few weeks ago we discussed the death of a Palestinian thrown on the roadside by police, a local version of the "Starlight Tours" as practiced by the police in various cities such as  Saskatoon.  Menuchin writes about the easy way to be an honest citizen.  He makes the point that not only are we responsible for our own actions, but we bear responsibility for actions committed by others that we could have prevented.

In the past we have ranted about the evil practices of the Jewish National Fund that has combined with Christian Evangelical groups and others to plant forests on the sites of Arab villages whose inhabitants are being driven off their land.  It is all part of a tricky scheme to disenfranchise Arabs and deprive them of their basic civil and human rights.  One of their collaborators was El Al, the national airline, that was using "tree planting" as a come on to potential passengers.  The good news is that in the wake of a demand by human rights groups, the airline has discontinued this practice and severed its business connection with the JNF.  We say Bravo!!

Several demonstrations in the West Bank recently have protested Hana Shalabi's administrative detention
© SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images
Hana Shalabi is on Her 37th Day of Hunger Strike: Israeli Prison Service Refusing to Transfer Her to Hospital Despite Immediate Risk of Death   We wish to call your attention to a statement on Hana Shalabi   issued by Amnesty International.  Hana Shalabi began her hunger strike in protest against ill-treatment during her arrest on 16 February, and continued in protest against her detention without charge or trial after receiving an administrative detention order five days later. A doctor from  Physicians for Human Rights-Israel   (PHR) who saw her on Monday (March 21)  reported that she was at risk of death because she could suffer from heart failure at any moment, and called for her immediate hospitalization.  According to PHR, she has lost 14kg (31lbs) since her arrest, and suffers from impaired thyroid functions and severe pain, weakness and dizziness.  More details are available in Richard Falk's blog.  There are signs of growing expressions of global awareness and solidarity, including a vigil in Trafalgar Square on 23 March at 6:30 pm and Day of Action in Glascow, Scotland on the following day.  According to Haggai Matar's 972 blog,   Shalabi was taken to Meir Hospital but not admitted and returned to prison. PHR and Addameer are now pressuring IPS to take her back to the hospital immediately.  While she is allegedly affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, she has never been charged with a criminal offense.   A previous hunger striker Khader Adnan won a commitment for release after 66 days.    Whether Hana Shalabi can last so long is questionable.

In the context of the activities of the Christian Evangelical groups we would like to call your attention to the plight of the Christian communities in Palestine who feel betrayed by their co-coreligionists who believe that extreme Zionism is a means of bringing about and accelerating the Second Coming of Jesus.  They organized a five day conference in Bethlehem under the title "Christ at the Checkpoint: Hope in the Midst of Conflict."

They were bitterly attacked by the Zionist Christians and Israeli propagandists.   The attacks intensified in the days leading up to the conference, culminating in a hysterical treatise in The Jerusalem Post which equated the conference with Haman’s genocide plot against the Jews in the Old Testament (“This Bethlehem Conference is no Purimshpiel,” 29 February 2012).
As well as attacking the conference aims and individual speakers, critics were also unhappy both with the choice of the name, “Christ at the Checkpoint,” and the logo, which depicted a church surrounded by Israel’s wall, an image based on a photo of a church in Bethlehem. Some conference organizers were even targeted by the Israeli authorities.
The Israeli officials and military leaders summoned me and Dr. Bishara [Awad, founder of Bethlehem Bible College] to interview about the conference,” said Munther Isaac, conference director. “They tried to intimidate us and protested the logo and the name of the conference. We said, ‘you don’t like the wall and checkpoint? Remove them, then we’ll change the name of the conference.’”
Many of us in Israel were angered by the recent AIPAC conference at which our PM was applauded again and again for a gung-ho speech about a war against Iran that none of the delegates there would be called upon to fight or send their sons to fight.  Yossi Sarid, a former Cabinet Minister, puts it on the line eloquently.  Our American brethren have also bought a Congress and undercut a President to push the fanatic messianic agenda of the settlers.  We wonder what kind of Americans put an aggressive Israeli conquest agenda ahead of the health needs of 40 million of their countrymen.  Disloyal ones in our opinion.  In a similar context, Akiva Eldar writes about our obsession with our own victimhood.  Both articles are worthy of a read.
We call your attention to an op-ed by Carlo Strenger in which he discusses the issue of tribalism and tribal thinking which religious fundamentalists use to prevent young people from taking a global viewpoint and understanding the interdependence of humanity as a whole.  This is true in particular in our part of the world in which there is little difference between the lunatics in Iran and their colleagues in Israel.  We suggest a look at this Facebook group  and you might see some hope.

The Jewish Voice for Peace has been excluded from the Jewish Federations Tribefest on the grounds that it supports BDS(Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) of Israel.  While we have our reservations about BDS, the issue is one of silencing a voice of dissent, which is not acceptable.  Please  sign the letter of protest.  We agree with Peter Beinart that the appropriate boycott is that of the settlements and we indeed practice it in our personal shopping and purchasing practices.  We do not agree with Beinart in his statement "Most settlers aren’t bad people; many poor Sephardic, Russian and ultra-Orthodox Jews simply moved to settlements because government subsidies made housing there cheap."  No Dr. Beinart, they are ALL war criminals in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and they moved into the settlements in full awareness to the fact that much of the land there was stolen from its rightful private owners.  The case of the illegal outpost Migron is a prime example.
Peter Beinart.
Photo by: Getty images
In Haaretz this week, there is a detailed interview with Peter Beinart in which he outlines his crusade to save the patrimony of liberal Zionism.  He attacks Natanyahu for dragging the Jewish people and the Zionist movement into the right side of the political spectrum.    We strongly recommend reading this full interview because it gives an intelligent nuanced version of the position of Zionist liberals.  Yes there is such a thing and we count ourselves among them
If you have ever stopped at a pedestrian crossing for a pedestrian and had the experience of a honk from the idiot behind you,you will appreciate this:

 Andy Borowitz outlines for us the dilemma of the bigots  as they face a choice between a black man and a Mormon.  Our hearts bleed for them.

Then we have our geek friends. (click on image to enlarge)..

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