Saturday, December 1, 2012

Titan ends November with more rants

Saturn and tiny Tethys: Cassini imaging team
Now it is Titan's turn to bother you with things that bother us. First, however, we start with a picture of home where Titan lives and orbits. Note kid sister Tethys in the upper left hand corner. Small as she may be, Tethys is more massive than the entire ring system.  For the mythology buffs among you, she was the Titaness or goddess in charge of fresh  water.

We also call your attention to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action blog. Please open and act for people whose basic rights are being violated.

We would love to have a blog without a rant about China, but that will apparently be for our grandbloggers. We want to call your attention again to the self-immolations by Tibetans in China itself as well as in Tibet.
Demonstration in India against Chinese oppression

Somehow the Chinese have managed to keep these terrible events off the world agenda. In November alone, there were two dozen such cases. Tibetans are raising their voices in protest. In recent days over a thousand Tibetan students have clashed with armed police as they protest the publication of a government booklet that called the recent wave of self immolations "acts of stupidity" and condemned the study of Tibetan language as "irrelevant".

The booklet, 10 real views of Tsolho Area, enraged Tibetan medical students in Tsolho (Hainan) prefecture in Qinghai Province when it was distributed in schools around the area. The students called for an investigation into the booklet's creation and for wider equality. Police reportedly beat protesters after taking control of the school where the protest was taking place, resulting in 20 students being taken to hospital. Why are we silent? Please post this on your social media pages and make it go viral.

The Ugandan parliament is debating a bill that would criminalize homosexuality. This bill is very extreme, and calls for the death penalty for being arrested for being gay or committing an "illegal sex act". "Aggravated homosexuality" can also lead to the death penalty. People are charged with this when multiple violations happen, which can include actions such as renting a room to a gay person, donating to a gay cause, fighting for gay rights (even if it's just through the internet) or not reporting a gay person to law enforcement. Straight individuals can be charged with these offenses as well. We have an urgent action call in the Human Rights blog and will add it here as well.  The parliamentarian who is pushing it wants to make it a "Christmas gift" to the people of Uganda. Already the worldwide outcry has reportedly caused the sponsors to drop the death penalty clause. Please act.

The Japanese auto maker Nissan is conducting a campaign to prevent its workers in Mississippi from forming a union. Nissan is denying these workers a fair, democratic election, and management has sent a clear message to the workforce that considering a union could cost them their job.

Supported by workers, students, community leaders and human rights activists around the world, the United Auto Workers (UAW) have launched a campaign on LabourStart calling on Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Toshiyuki Shiga, to intervene to make things right in Mississippi. Please join this campaign to achieve justice in the work place. It is disgraceful that such a campaign is needed in a country that claims to lead the democratic world.  Please act.  The page may come up with my name etc. but you can put in your own.

When the regime in Egypt was deposed, Prof. Shlomo Avineri of the Hebrew University was pessimistic about the establishment of democracy in its place. His reasoning was quite lucid:
 "As always, it is easier to bring down an autocracy than to construct and consolidate a democratic regime. When communism in Eastern Europe collapsed, their old systems, despite some obvious differences, had the same characteristics: they were one-party dictatorships, with state control over the economy, education, and the media. Today, they are very different from each other. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, for example, succeeded in navigating a successful transition to democracy and a functioning market economy. Russia reverted to a neo-authoritarian system. The former Soviet republics in Central Asia have all developed various “sultanistic” forms of government.

The reason for these differences is simple: democratic transition requires not only elections, but also several pre-conditions – a vibrant civil society; previous traditions, whether actual or remembered, of representation, pluralism, tolerance, and individualism; a limited role of religion; and an effective institutional framework for a multi-party system. Where these conditions exist, a transition to democracy can succeed; where they are missing, the chances – as in Russia – for a successful transition to a consolidated democracy are slim."
Read more

Now we are seeing a surprising but encouraging reaction by the Egyptian public to the autocratic decrees of President Morsi. It is certainly too early to predict how things will work out, but the fact that the public that elected Morsi and the Moslem Brotherhood realizes that its revolution is being betrayed gives hope. The Onion, which is a good source of comment along with biting satire, predicts that Egypt has no chance of coming out of this with a functional democracy. Apropos The Onion, they declared the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, the Sexiest Man Alive for 2012
Wow, sexy!

and what is really hilarious is that the Chinese People's Daily took it seriously and fell hook line and sinker for the spoof. This is of the same genus as the  media in Saudi Arabia falling for an Andy Borowitz satire in which Obama was supposed to agree to be a Moslem in return for some Republican votes in the House of Representatives.

It seems to us that the absence of the prerequisites for liberal democracy such as civil society can cause regimes to fail to recognize satire or to react to it ferociously. A few blogs back we reported on the Teddy Bear attack on Belarus that got some poor chap in prison for photographing Teddy Bears dropped by parachute by Swedish journalists with signs calling for democracy.

In late 18th century Vienna the play The Marriage of Figaro, by Beaumarchais, was banned, and the Mozart opera of the same name was only allowed to premier in Prague and could be performed only in Italian, lest the masses see the aristocracy ridiculed. The underground Samidzat in the USSR was taken seriously by the regime that regarded it as a threat and blogging goes on in Putinland. The Hungarian-born satirists Georg Mikos in the UK and Ephraim Kishon in Israel both complained that in a democracy satire becomes a lost art because one can criticize the regime directly. They claimed that the trick in Hungary was to write on a fine line so that your audience would understand, but the blockhead censors would not. Today the blogosphere provides a platform for everyone, even Titan. Unfortunately, the blogosphere  is not uncensored as we saw recently in Vietnam and China, inter alia.  Despite the "complaint" of Mikos and Kishon, satire flourishes in the free world. For example, we see how Jon Stewart puts the media in their place over their idiotic handling of the recent Gaza conflict.

We have long considered smokers to be idiots, as we were before we quit in 1964. Now it appears that there is a chicken and egg question, since data indicate that smoking rots the brain.
Does smoking affect the health of the mind as well as the body?

It looks like a feedback chain, young  fool starts smoking, tobacco enhances stupidity and smoking is reinforced in the old fool. At least today we have some protection in the public sphere as more and more anti-smoking laws go into effect across the civilized world.

If you work for Homeland Security in Kentucky and do not profess a belief in God, you can go to jail for a year. This is obviously a breach of the US Constitution, but the local courts have failed to rule against it. We expect that it will fall when it reaches the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, avoid Kentucky. We note with some amusement that the author of this piece in Alternet is named Laura Gottesdiener.


First, we would like to congratulate the people of Palestine on their victory in the UN General Assembly where they won recognition de facto as a sovereign state in the 1967 borders. The vote was overwhelming, and while it does not confer statehood, it gives status.

Celebration in Gaza

The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for the West Bank government. U.N. envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

If the Palestinians were to join the ICC, they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes. We would love to see some Israeli politicians and generals standing before a court to account for their crimes.

The stupidity of both the United States and Israel in opposing this decision is apparent. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate and counterproductive," while the Vatican praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

We sincerely hope that the Natanyahu government will be shrewd enough to avoid taking punitive steps against the Palestinians. The fact that Abbas was able to obtain an achievement by political means can offset the case of the Hamas who obtained concessions from Israel by force of arms.

We would like to invite all to the Fourth Annual Human Rights March sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Friday December 7.  Many organizations are participating.  Spread the word by Facebook and Twitter.

We are pleased to note that indictments have been filed against two Border Police officers for brutal abuse of a Palestinian. The sadism of their actions is typical of this organization which is really military, but disguised as police. We have encountered them and have been abused by them as well. Of course, probably nothing will come of the indictment that has been filed with the police investigative body and has yet to reach the courts. The police mafia looks after its own.

The Onion reports that God has again failed to commit suicide and has been saved by medical intervention.

What If? takes a silly question and gives you a complicated and equally silly answer, but it is amusing. You have to calculate the value of your time against the value of your smile in this case.

Some married ladies might understand the logic behind this Weingarten cartoon:

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