Friday, January 25, 2013

Titan wakes up after the election...

Titan haze seen by Cassini--hazy indeed
Titan is recovering from his election hangover and is feeling the haze. He really did not get drunk beyond his usual methane fix, but he is not extremely happy over the result. Of course, Biberman (Natanyahu plus Lieberman) got blasted by 11 seats, but these were picked up by a party that outflanked them from the right. We are supposed to be impressed by Lapid Junior who will probably be as effective as his late father. It is nice that our beloved Zahava Galon and Meretz doubled their strength, but going from 3 to 6 out of 120 is not going to precipitate the decent left into anything like power. We shall wait and see how much substance there is in the promises not to join a right wing coalition that Lapid and the Labor Party leader Yahimovich scattered around before the elections. More on this below when we get to our domestic affairs.

First Titan calls your attention to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action update blog. Please click and write as called upon for people whose basic rights are being denied and violated.

Gussie (Gertrude Agusta) Moran, tennis player, was born 8 September 1923 and died 16 January 2013. You might wonder why a tennis player rates an obituary in a human rights blog. Gussie was a good player and once was ranked fourth in the US. What made her career memorable was  her premature strike at a form of sports feminism. In the 1949 Wimbledon tournament she wore a bit of lace attached to her panties (knickers to the Brits).
Gussie Moran at Wimbledon wearing knickers designed by Ted Tinling, who lost his job at the All England Club as a result of the ensuing controversy. Photograph: AP
 The ensuing uproar made her more famous that many much more talented players. Her story is told in the obituary in the Guardian.

Titan and Pollyanna will continue to rant and rave about what is happening to women around the world whether or not you get tired of it. If it really bores you, then go out and do something about it in your environment.
This week we shall call your attention to the terrible abuse of women that has become socially acceptable in Guatemala. Despite promises made by successive Presidents to fight crime and violence against women and a law passed by Congress in 2008 for the establishment of special tribunals and sentencing guidelines, the figures continue to tell a different story. In 2012 alone, and according to official figures, around 560 women were murdered across the Central American country, many after being sexually assaulted. Most cases are not effectively investigated and less than four per cent of all homicides in Guatemala result in perpetrators being convicted.
María Isabel Franco, killed in 2001 at age 15, was one of the hundreds of women and girls who are violently killed in Guatemala every year.
© Private

 This culture of impunity with respect to crimes against women is not unique.  It is therefore a source of some satisfaction to see that justice can happen. A court in New York sentenced a haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jew of the Satmar sect to no fewer than 103 years in prison for sexual abuse of a girl who was sent to him for "religious counseling."On rare occasions we can see a small victory in the war that is being waged against women all over the world. This is of particular importance since quite often religious fundamentalism and abuse of women go hand in hand. It matters not whether the religion involved is Islam,
Indian activists pray at a memorial to rape victims during a protest Friday (January 18th) against the fatal attack against a woman in New Delhi. The All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board has asked Muslim clerics to highlight the issue of violence against women. [Raveendran/AFP]

Shame, Jewish women are not abused, right? Wrong!

 or Christianity 

Weeping in support of submission as a good evangelical woman should
to name a few.

 Aaron Swarz the famous software developer committed suicide last week at the age of 26.
Aaron Swarz

He was a tenacious fighter for internet freedom and as such ran afoul of established interests including institutions such as Harvard and MIT. He was due to be prosecuted for his efforts to fight JSTOR  the online publishing company that digitizes and distributes scholarly articles written by academics and then sells them, often at a high price, to subscribers. As Maria Bustillos detailed, none of the money goes to the actual writers (usually professors) who wrote the scholarly articles - they are usually not paid for writing them - but instead goes to the publishers. Aaron Swarz thought that this was wrong and used the means at his disposal to thwart what he called the unwarranted exploitation of the Internet and the work of academics for profit. His "victims" were not inclined to prosecute, but the US government went after him with fury. The details of how he was driven to take his own life are given in a Guardian article by Glen Greenwald which we suggest that you read carefully.

We are all aware of criminal activities that underly the great economic expansion of China. We had toys with lead paints exported to the West and now we have people dying in Africa because of counterfeit drugs exported by China and India. While India is trying to do something against this deadly business, China goes on blithely killing to make a buck.   Asian counterfeiters are sending fake drugs to several African countries. Many of the pills have few or no active ingredients at all.
A report from the Pulitzer Center writing about Tanzania reads in part:
The life-saving medicine arrives on cargo trucks and in suitcases, crossing borders to be put on sale in pharmacies, shops and hospitals. There is just one problem: it isn’t life-saving at all. To look at the packaging, you would never know. It is usually a dead ringer for the real thing. Only on closer inspection will you find a watermark missing or notice the crumbling edges of a tablet that to well-trained inspectors can be the telltale signs of fakery. Even health professionals are routinely fooled.
The Guardian  presents a report that estimates that about a third of the drugs imported to Africa are bogus.
A Ugandan woman watches over her child who is suffering from malaria. Photograph: Yannick Tylle/ Corbis
Something must be done about these crimes for profit. No international protest or good will can replace strong and effective policing by the Chinese and Indian governments.

The Turkish government has launched a campaign to arrest and intimidate lawyers who have undertaken to defend accused in terror cases. The arrests and seizures have been carried out in violation of procedures set out in law and it would appear that the government is trying to deprive those whom it accuses of terrorist acts of legal defense.
Police raids in several Turkish cities have resulted in the arrest of 15 human rights lawyers, including from the the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association.
© ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

Indeed no one condones terror, but all accused people are entitled to counsel and defense. We deplore these actions by the Turkish authorities.

School districts in Mississippi  are solving their disciplinary problems with kids by throwing them in jail or handcuffing them for minor violations such as deviations from a dress code. A government report reveals an appalling situation that calls in our opinion for intervention from higher authority. This is extremely egregious child abuse and something must be done about it.
In Mississippi, staff at one school regularly handcuffed students to metal railings in the school gymnasium and left them there for hours if they were caught not wearing a belt, among other minor infractions. (photo: source unknown)
Is this what we expect from the world's greatest democracy? The US State Department publishes an annual evaluation of human rights protection in countries around the world. The Justice Department report on Mississippi is equally damning. 

The main event in Israel this week is of course the election. We are still wondering how things will turn out but we strongly suspect that not much will change, the new kingmaker Yair Lapid will be seduced and bought by power and its trappings and things will go on as usual. Here is the breakdown by seats.

 It should be noted that there is a 60-60 split between the right wing and liberal side,but Lapid says that he will not count the twelve Arab party parliamentarians as part of his bloc. Racism marches on and we cannot expect much from him. We shall wait and hope to be pleasantly surprised. It was nice that the party that we support doubled its representation from three to six, but nonetheless we remain marginalized.

One would like to think that Yair Lapid would form a coalition of the the liberal side and go for broke to make peace. It is clear that throughout the campaign with all the talk of social justice, who goes to the army, the price of housing etc. everyone was ignoring the elephant in the living room, the occupation  and the repression of the Palestinian people. Gideon Levy stated it much better than we could:
''There is no way to act for social justice in Israel while it is being trampled in the dirt beyond the Green Line. There is no way of acting for the interests of the middle class and ignoring the disgrace of the poor here and the refugees there. Democracy can no longer be fortified when it includes occupation. The justice system cannot be preserved when its foundations are rotten, there is a scandalous military justice system, and proven discrimination in the civil system as well. The economy cannot be fixed if we do not stop the waste of funds on the security budget and the no-less-scandalous waste of funds on settlements." Read his full article.

The truth is that the public chose to bury its head in the sand and go on with trivialities. Levy and the rest of us hoped for something better. As Levy writes, Lapid can become the Israeli Frederik Willem de Klerk, if he is brave enough. We doubt  very much that this will prove to be the case. We would be delighted to be wrong.

The functioning of the electorate in Israel and, alas, in other democratic countries brings several things to mind. The public are fools and and all of us will pay the price. One may think of Barbara Tuchman and her March of Folly and in more ancient times, we had the following said by a wise man who was trying to stem the rise of dictatorship in Rome and to save the republic:
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE)
“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and given him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the “new wonderful good society” which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean “more money, more ease, more security, and more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.”
—     Marcus Tullius Cicero
Obviously not much has changed in over two millennia. We note that Cicero, was eventually murdered by his political adversaries.

We are pleased that Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, who served as president of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012, has finally spoken up and demanded the rights of Reform and Conservative Jews (such as us) in Israel. This is particularly pleasing since in the past we conducted a brief email correspondence with him on the knee-jerk automatic support of all Israeli policies by the Reform movement. We agreed to disagree then and now we wish to commend Rabbi Yoffie on the stand that he has taken. Yishar Koach.

Yesterday Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian woman. In the past two weeks, there have been six such killings. We are told that the soldiers, in all cases, were under attack. Maybe.  It is clear that there is a culture of impunity and support from the High Command for this type of behavior.

"Israeli soldiers see all Palestinians as a threat, whether they're throwing stones or protesting peacefully". Photo by Reuters

OK, enough of this. There are important things to worry about such as the lip-synch of the Star Spangled Banner by Beyonce at the Inauguration and why Long Island duck was not on the inaugural luncheon menu. The fact that Obama made a most important policy speech pales compared to these weighty issues.

What If? deals with radioactive swimming. Rather interesting

We are all old enough to remember Ernest Borgnine as Marty, in a film for which he won an Oscar. So is Gene Weingarten apparently.

 You also may have wondered why the whole world is metric except for Liberia, Burma and one other large country:

Have you ever wondered what is meant by RTFM?

No comments:

Post a Comment