Friday, February 22, 2013

Titan and his friends wish you a Happy Purim

The good guys won

Titan wishes all a Happy Purim, the minor festival during which we Jews celebrate the thwarting of the plot of the bad guy Haman to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire sometime in the 5th century BCE. A smart Jewish girl who happened to be the Queen turned things around with feminine wiles, the Jews got to kill a lot of people and the story ends well for the good guys. We have no idea if this really happened, but it serves as an excuse to dress up in costumes and we are commanded by God to get drunk. In the synagogue we read the Book of Esther and also have special readings of the Torah and Prophets in which genocide of the Amalek people for something they did in their past is given as a divine command. Cool stuff all around.

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.

Titan and Pollyanna sometimes wonder why they bother to blog. Now and then our Clustermaps tell us that someone in Tasmania, Laos or Italy has given us a hit, but it is not clear that we are doing anything except to blow off our own steam.  Murphy, the dog who owns us, was quick to point out the implications of quitting, as shown in The New Yorker, thank you.

This past week marked the birthdays of Copernicus (1473), Galileo (1564) and Boltzmann (1844), three great stars in the firmament of science.  For background, see our blog of two years ago for the first two and the Pollyanna of a week earlier for Boltzmann.

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 Titan takes us to India where three sisters aged five, nine and 11 were raped and murdered and the police did nothing until people blocked a highway and raised a ruckus. This follows the December rape and murder of a student in a bus. In this case, in a village a thousand kilometers from Delhi, the police shrugged the deaths off as an accident. The police inspector has been suspended, but much needs to be done to get the police and establishment to take violence against women in India seriously.
Women arrive near Indian parliament in Dehli to protest against sexual violence. Photograph: Altaf Qadri/AP
A year after the punk band Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, the situation for freedom of expression has only worsened in Russia, Amnesty International said.
Members of Pussy Riot were jailed for two years in August 2012
© AFP/Getty Images

The war against human rights organizations and against criticism of the government has intensified and a process of intimidation has sorely crippled free speech. This is not unique to Russia; we see a similar tendency in Israel, driven in part by the political culture imported from Russia over the past few decades. More on this below in the HOME SWEET HOME section.
We had all hoped that the transition to democracy in Myanmar with the release of Aung San Suu Kye and the opening of the country would lead to a true Burma Spring. Alas, this does not seem to be the case and the struggles, human rights violations and bloodshed continue apace. The country's  position as a client state that fears China has exacerbated tensions since the Chinese are using their clout to exploit natural resources while the people of Myanmar languish in poverty.
This village in northwest Myanmar has the besieged air of a refugee camp. It is clogged with people living in wooden shacks laid out on a grid of trash-strewn lanes. Its children are pot-bellied with malnutrition. (photo: The International News)
This village in northwest Myanmar has the besieged air of a refugee camp. It is clogged with people living in wooden shacks laid out on a grid of trash-strewn lanes. Its children are pot-bellied with malnutrition. (photo: The International News

The  situation is complicated and it is not clear how these tensions will be resolved.
In addition, the complex ethnic makeup of the population has caused internal strife and fighting and no end seems to be in sight. It is very sad, for this rich country could be prosperous and thriving with proper governance. The military dictatorship that ruled for so long left a dire legacy and the regime has not yet evolved into a functional liberal democracy.
The Academy Awards ceremony will make history this year with the first-ever nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. “5 Broken Cameras” was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil’in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi. It is in competition at the Oscars with an Israeli documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” a film that features interviews with the six surviving former directors of Israel’s Shin Bet. This  the country’s secret internal security service, which functions as a sort of hybrid of the U.S. FBI and CIA.  En route to the ceremony and the dinner of nominees, Burnat and his family were held up at LAX airport and almost deported because the idiot inspectors did not believe his reason for coming to the US. It took Michael Moore and lawyers from the Academy to get him and his family out of the airport. Shame!!

We rant and rave in the wake of a posting from Jim Hansen on climate change, how dangerous it is and what can and must be done about it. Politicians have a way of ignoring the elephant in the salon. The US election campaign ignored climate change just as the election campaign in Israel ignored the conflict with the Palestinians and the occupation. It seems incredible that people can develop such an effective means of screening out reality.

Congressman Alan Grayson, whose campaign in Florida enjoyed support from us, has called our attention to the implications of the unconscionable budget antics of the Republicans in the US Congress. We quote his summary--"So here is one argument against The Sequester that you're not hearing elsewhere - it will cause a lot of pain. A lot of hunger, a lot of disease, a lot of death. I understand that this argument is hopelessly unfashionable, and completely contrary to the zeitgeist of fear and hatred that dominates our political discourse. But there it is, nevertheless. I sure see it. Maybe you do, too." We suggest you read the entire post.

Romania recently banned a very common form of transportation which included horse-drawn carts. As a result of the ban, struggling citizens sent their horses to be slaughtered which led to the fraudulent sale of horsemeat that has permeated the European beef market. The scandal has enveloped the continent--vid. a Guardian timeline on it.  It now appears that donkey meat has made its way to Burger King. Oh the joy of fast food. 
Poor Eyore

Of course, the issue is really mislabeling and the historic taboo.

This story is difficult to believe. In the US state of Michigan a nurse was taken off the case of a neonate baby girl in ICU because the father, who had a swastika tattoo, demanded that no African-American nurses be allowed to treat his baby. We shudder to think how that child is going to be educated as she grows up in a neo-Nazi home. Titan thinks the hospital should not have given in since the patient's bill of rights certainly does not condone racism of this type. The nurse is suing the hospital for discrimination.

The killing of elephants to provide ivory for frivolous purposes such as jewelry etc. is on its way to driving this magnificent species to extinction.  The World Wildlife Fund has announced an international campaign against the increasing poaching of elephants in central Africa. In the Central African Republic elephant numbers have plummeted from 80,000 in the early 1980s to just a few thousand.  The  same is true for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While discussing elephants, we call your attention to something unusual, red elephants in Kenya. Of course,
Image Credit Flickr User Fagasam

elephants are not born red, but the soil of a particular habitat in which the animals love to wallow is red. The story is most interesting.

Here in Israel the news is dominated by the fumbling efforts of our politicians to put together a government and the shocking revelation that thr disappearance of a person was engineered by the security services and eventually led to the suicide of the victim. The coverup would have been successful were it not for an Australian journalist who dug up the story. Here is some background from CNN:

What is particularly troubling is that the security forces have the ability to cause anyone to disappear. Of course, they go through some legal charades to create an impression of legitimacy and get some compliant judge to approve their actions and to issue gag orders to keep everything under wraps. The victim Ben  Zygier who committed suicide in December 2010 was a native of Australia who had emigrated to Israel. He changed his name to Ben Allen and with an Australian passport could go to places where no visible Israeli could go and must have been useful. We will stop with this now since Titan does not want to run afoul of the blogger police in Israel. It is too easy here, as in some countries, to disappear into a black hole with all the associated astrophysical implications.

Democracy, as we noted above, is not popular with the powers that be anywhere. In Egypt a new decree is reported by Amnesty International. In a letter to the NGO the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Egypt’s Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs stated that no “local entity” is permitted to engage with “international entities” in any way without the permission of the “security bodies”, referring to instructions issued by the Prime Minister. This is appalling and the implications bode ill for the future of democracy in Egypt. In Israel, the New Israel Fund and other bodies are starting a counterattack against the antidemocratic initiative driven by a political culture that derives from Putin.  A Restart Democracy event was held recently in Tel Aviv and we attended. Here is the video touting the event.

 When the brief speeches (seven minutes each) of the people who spoke there are on YouTube we shall present them (in Hebrew).

One of the most corrupting aspects of the Occupation is the decline in moral accountability of the armed forces. In the Book of Esther which we shall read in synagogue on Saturday night, we are told that the brave Jews who were fighting the Persians in defense of their lives killed huge numbers, 'But on the spoil, laid they not their hand' which is considered praiseworthy. We suggest you read a blog by Yossi Gurevich in which he describes the level of looting and theft and the complacency of the public towards the phenomenon.
IDF raids a home in Nabi Saleh on November 24, 2011 [illustrative photo] (Photo: Tamimi Press)

We recall how the property of the prisoners taken off the Mavi Marmora was stolen by Israeli soldiers. Indeed, there was some prosecution of thieves, but the fact that it could happen says much.

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan was published 50 years ago this week.

(Image: Penguin Books)
 It was a blockbuster that started the first counterattack in the eternal war against women.  It is hard to remember how things were for women then. Many things that we take for granted today were considered revolutionary then. To mention a few, corporations, law firms, the media, universities, advertising, the military, sports and other core institutions can no longer exercise blatant sex discrimination without facing scrutiny and the risk of protest and lawsuits. The Obama administration has just recently  lifted the ban on women in combat. Women are now running corporations, newspapers and TV stations, universities and major labor unions. In 1960, only about six percent of medical students were women. Today women comprise about half of all medical students and have a stronger foothold in other formerly all-male professions and occupations.  Nonetheless, the struggle for equality and women's rights goes on, as we mentioned above. We salute Betty Friedan and the other pioneers of this struggle.

BOOK REVIEW Richard called our attention to a book review by  Adam Kirsch in Tablet Magazine of the new book
Anti-JudaismThe Western Tradition by David Nirenberg.
    February 2013
    ISBN 978-0-393-05824-6
    6.5 × 9.6 in / 624 pages
    Territory Rights: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

The review indicates that this is a most important and interesting study of how anti-Judaism, which he differentiates from anti-Semitism is a phenomenon embedded in Western culture. To quote the review
"What is the difference, then, between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism? The answer, as it unfolds in Nirenberg’s scholarly tour de force, could be summarized this way: Anti-Semitism needs actual Jews to persecute; anti-Judaism can flourish perfectly well without them, since its target is not a group of people but an idea." It seems that the task of living as a Jew in a culture whose foundations are inimical to your existence is by no means easy.

Barney & Clyde

What If explores an amusing question and gives a not surprising answer.

Last week we had a close flyby of an asteroid. People have speculated how we might deal with an asteroid due to hit us. Fortunately Dilbert, his company and his boss have the answers.
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

No comments:

Post a Comment