Saturday, May 18, 2013

Here is Titan again

Titan is a bit late this week, mainly because of the Shavuot holiday that disrupted normal schedules. He would like to show you a bit of his internal structure. You may ignore the artist's conception of Huygens on its way down to the surface..

For starters, as usual, we refer you to our Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights Action blog. As the weeks and months go by without Miriam, we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle.Please open it and help the people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This time around, we do not have a real coherent thread, but instead are going to rant about a number of unrelated matters. What they have in common is that most of them are bad.

We start with a salute to President Hollande and France in general for the new law, just signed, that legalizes gay marriage.

The first gay wedding can be held on 28 May - 10 days after Mr Hollande signed the bill
It makes France the ninth country in Europe to pass such a law, not, of course, without opposition from the self-appointed guardians of our morals, such as the Church and the right wing political class. This comes in contrast to a recent survey that shows the high prevalence of homophobia is some EU countries. It implies that the struggle for human rights never ends and that there will always be enemies of liberty who try to impose their mores on all of us. We see it everywhere. Thousands of people, led by priests,  attacked a gay pride event in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Thousands of counter-demonstrators attacked LGBTI activists at a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Thousands of counter-demonstrators attacked LGBTI activists at a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia.

There are many indigenous tribes around the world who have no desire to join our industrialized society and wish for nothing more than to be left alone to pursue their traditional way of life. This usually fails when it turns out that their ancestral lands contain resources to which the corporations who feed on the planet  want access. The First Nations of Alberta are such a case. We ask you to take action on behalf of the Awa tribe, the most threatened at the moment. The pillaging of the rain forests and the resources of Brazil constitutes a scandal unto itself, but the tribes of the jungle add a human aspect to the atrocity. Please call upon the government of Brazil to do the right thing.

This African country has been independent for 20 years, but it has not evolved into anything resembling a democracy. The dictatorial government has thrown thousands of people into prison without charge or trial in order to suppress all dissent. Titan asks all to join the protest by Amnesty International and to call upon the government to put a stop to this brutal repression.
Eritrea prisoners composite image.© Private

In Indonesia, there is a place where orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants roam free together. It is the last such place. Now big corporations are set to wipe this place off the planet for the sake of short-term profits. Please sign this petition to the President of Indonesia asking him to scupper this nefarious plan.
5102_Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 12.59.10_1_460x230

The Koch brothers are not content with using money to control journalists. They are now intent on buying the Tribune Company that runs newspapers across the United States. The thought that they could be the owners of the LA Times, for example, makes Titan shudder in his orbit. Greenpeace asks all to sign a petition to the CEO of the company calling upon him to reject their offer. The environmental implications alone are shattering. This call is aimed not only at our US readers, but to everyone in the Solar System. Do you hear us Mercury?

Phil Blait of Bad Astronomy fame has come up with a blatant case of creationism taught in schools. It is, as he says, not only wrong, but it is the worst type of wrong. It plants anti-science in young minds and the pupils grow up to be ignorant and misguided citizens. Here is an example of an exam given in the fourth grade at a so-called Christian school.
 A creationist "science" test

Unfortunately, this type of obscurantism is not confined to Christians. In ultra-orthodox Jewish schools and in Muslim madressas, similar garbage is promulgated. A Saudi Arabian imam Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Bin Baaz, one of Saudi Arabia's most respected scholars of Islam, once declared the earth to be flat and said it was blasphemy to claim otherwise. This is presumably based on the Quran.

"The earth is flat. Whoever claims it is round is an atheist deserving
of punishment. That is a well-known religious edict, or fatwa, issued
two years ago by Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, the supreme religious
authority of Saudi Arabia."
[Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Muslim Edicts Take on New Force," The New York
Times, February 12, 1995, Sunday, p. 14]

It is up to all enlightened people as well as parents of school children to be aware of the creeping danger of creationism in our schools.

OK, enough ranting around the world, let us take a look at HOME SWEET HOME

The libel laws in Israel are designed to protect individuals from slander. Criticism of any anonymous group that does not constitute an incorporated entity is immune from litigation. Instead, a criminal indictment can be filed, but only by the attorney general or with his consent. If we wish to declare that the bureaucrats at Social Security are a bunch of lazy insensitive jerks or that we hold all Orthodox rabbis accountable for the assassination of Rabin, no single bureaucrat nor rabbi can sue us. This is about to be changed and the most sacred of sacred cows, the all-powerful Army, is going to be given special protection. It all started with Mohammed Bakri’s film, Jenin Jenin  (that has now had a law named after it, no small matter?) and the vociferous criticism of a handful of reservists. This is another link in the chain of repression of civil rights by the right wing. Not the first and not the last, it outlines the new Israel: one that will try to spread an atmosphere of fear, to discourage journalists, to strangle non-profit organizations and weaken the courts. It is hard to imagine anything worse, but the Knesset session is just starting, so stay tuned for more attacks on our freedoms.

The Bedouin population of Southern Israel is being subjected by the government to a racist campaign to destroy their home villages and to steal their land. The Jewish National Fund is a major co-culprit and is using the stolen land to plant forests. It is naked racism of the worst kind. Titan asks you to respond to  the call of Rabbis for Human Rights to send letters of protest.
 The Ruins of Al-Arakib
If any of you think of donating money to the JNF, we recommend that you think again. 

For a long time Salem Fayed, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority did his best to help his people and move the peace process along.
He cleaned up corruption, stopped terrorism and set a new standard in Palestinian leadership. He has now given up and resigned, to some extent because it has become patently clear that Israel has no interest in peace. The Arab League initiative, as modified recently in Washington, has been gathering dust for a decade with no substantive Israeli response. Roger Cohen recently  interviewed Fayed for the New York Times. Titan strongly recommends reading the interview.

The art of rewriting history is common to all political leaders. We recall the old Encyclopedia Sovietica that was in the form of a loose-leaf notebook so that pages could be replaced as needed by the regime. What has come out recently is the rewriting of the history of the 1948 war to make it appear that the Arab population fled and became refugees of their own free will or by command of their leaders.
Arab refugees from villages near Tulkarm
Arab refugees from villages near Tulkarm. Most historians say Ben-Gurion knew in real time about the expulsion of Palestinians. Photo by Bettmann/CORBIS
This myth has long been apart of the Israeli narrative. Information indicating otherwise is strictly hidden. Shai Hazkani, writing in Haaretz this week, had a stroke of luck. We quote: 
 "The Israeli censor’s observant eye had missed file number GL-18/17028 in the State Archives. Most files relating to the 1948 Palestinian exodus remain sealed in the Israeli archives, despite the fact that their period as classified files - according to Israeli law - expired long ago. Even files that were previously declassified are no longer available to researchers. In the past two decades, following the powerful reverberations triggered by the publication of books written by those dubbed the “New Historians,” the Israeli archives revoked access to much of the explosive material. Archived Israeli documents that reported the expulsion of Palestinians, massacres or rapes perpetrated by Israeli soldiers, along with other events considered embarrassing by the establishment, were reclassified as “top secret.” Researchers who sought to track down the files cited in books by Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim or Tom Segev often hit a dead end. Hence the surprise that file GL-18/17028, titled “The Flight in 1948” is still available today."
What comes out of the file is that the official version that is taught to our children was fabricated by establishment "historians" under the orders of Ben-Gurion, then Prime Minister, during the early 1960's. Most historians of any integrity believe that the Arabs were expelled and that Ben Gurion knew about it in real time.

Natan Blanc is a 19 year old Israeli who refuse to serve in the Army because of his belief that the actions of the Army are unconscionable. He has been jailed by an Israeli military court for the tenth time in six months for refusing to enlist for compulsory military service. Ten consecutive prison sentences for being a conscientious objector is thought to be a record in Israel. As he told the Guardian, he is willing to undertake national service in lieu of a stint in the army, but his refusal is a matter of principle.

"I have no idea how long this will go on for," he said. "The bad scenario is that I will be put in front of a military court and sentenced to something like a year in prison. The better scenario is that they'll get tired of this, and will let me do national service instead."

What we are witnessing here is a struggle over the soul of the nation. Natan Blanc, whose grandfather, the late Prof. Haim Blanc (1926-1984) lost his sight by being wounded in Israel's War of Independence, refuses to take the easy route that the Army offers to conscientious objectors, namely the status of "psychologically unfit for service." This establishes an Israeli norm that anyone who objects to war crimes etc. must be insane, since it is a matter of common knowledge that the Israeli Army is as pure as the driven snow and never commits criminal actions. For example, during the infamous Cast Lead operation, a soldier gunned down three Gazan women who were carrying a white flag. He was tried by a court-martial for "improper use of weapons" and sentenced to 45 days in prison. A battalion commander who ordered a soldier to shoot a prisoner who was handcuffed and blindfolded was given a mild reprimand. An anonymous soldier shot and killed a ten year old girl, but the Army refused to even investigate the case. If the Army were to admit that Natan Blanc is correct in his refusal, it would be an admission of guilt for actions that are beyond the pale of any kind of decency.
Cheers to Natan Blanc and let him be followed by thousands of other young people who might embarrass the criminals who lead the Israeli military hierarchy.

Andy Borowitz has some great news--President Obama announces that he has no role in government and will deal harshly with any members of his administration who deal in governing. Hooray!! We are all so relieved. When we voted for him, we were really afraid that he would try to govern.

What If is too silly even for us this week. If you want to read it, do it on your own nickel. We would like to share some insights about philosophy from Clyde and his friend.

You may have noticed that Titan was a bit acerbic above about our glorious military establishment, the kind of people who think it is fun to abuse ten year old kids etc. Note that Dilbert has come up with something in the corporate world that is certainly relevant to the military.
Dilbert Cartoon for May/15/2013

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