Friday, May 3, 2013

You thought you were rid of Titan?

As was announced by sister Pollyanna last week, we have returned to blogging after a bit of a vacation in Canada and France with our amanuensis and our imaginary playmates YandA. Details of the ceremony in France in which we participated can be found on last week's Pollyanna blog.

For starters, let us refer you to the 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 act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations. We also note sadly the death of Moshe, Miriam's husband. May they both Rest in Peace.

The quality of the beings inhabiting the third planet from the Sun took a quantum jump for the better with the death of Margaret Thatcher, the former PM of Britain and one of humanity's major apostles of evil. She was not a true sociopath in the usual sense because she did not really acknowledge the existence of society, much less something similar to a social compact. She lacked a single positive trait--she hated everything that was good for people, for the planet, for anyone except the coterie of plutocrats that she served. As the singer Morrissey writes in the Daily Beast, "Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity". She belongs according to Dante on the seventh level of hell, reserved for tyrants and the like.

Durer: Thatcher is third from left

It is no accident that champagne corks popped all over Britain (to say nothing of Argentina)when her death was announced. Frankly, Titan thinks she was worth no more than weak beer. We append the anti-eulogy by Glenda Jackson in Parliament.

The Queen of the Netherlands is stepping down and passing the crown on to her son Willem-Alexander who has now become the country's first king since 1890. She has served her people well and we wish her long life and a happy retirement.
Queen Beatrix signs the deed of abdication
Right on Princess Beatrix

Writing about her helps us get the foul Thatcher taste out and encourages us in our faith in humanity. Yes, there is such a thing, even in orbit about Saturn.

As government collapses in the Central African Republic, poachers are entering parks and preserves to prey on elephants. These magnificent animals are being hunted with impunity,their meat sold in markets and their tusks marketed in Thailand and China. We note, incidentally, that the only European leader who opposed the ban on the ivory trade was the Thatcher monster described above. The poaching is costing the lives of 20,000 to 30,000 animals per year.
An elephant in Kenya. (photo: Reuters)
 The rhinoceros was hunted to extinction because of the demand for its horn, superstitiously believed in China to have medicinal value. The Asian ivory market that drives the poaching needs to be stopped. Many people in China believe that elephants grow replacement tusks and do not understand the butchery that is going on. We hope that the governments of Africa and Asia will confront these issues honestly and with courage. The poachers are not just single hunters, but armed soldiers from the various wild militias of Africa that hunt the herds down with helicopters and will be a formidable force for law enforcement to confront.

The impact of Chinese medical superstition on wildlife continues to expand. Tiger bones are thought to be of value for various medical conditions such as rheumatism and as a result tigers have been hunted nearly to extinction. With tiger bones in short supply, lion bones have been invoked by the quacks and now South African lions are being poached and their skeletons exported. This is still legal, but it must be stopped. Please sign the petition.

Phil Plait in Bad Astronomy (alongside this blog) calls our attention to the measles epidemic in Wales that has already claimed a victim. Wales has a low rate of vaccination and the blame for that can be apportioned between Andrew Wakefield the bogus scientist who published a connection, as it were, between vaccination and autism in children, the Lancet journal that betrayed its standards by publishing this garbage which it eventually withdrew, politicians who pussy-footed, media that let the rating urge overcome ethics, just to name a few. Last week Pollyanna described an Italian quack who claims vaccination causes homosexuality. There appears to be no bottom to the pit of pseudoscience, with all its pernicious consequences..

A 24 year old South African lesbian Noxolo Nogwaza was raped and murdered in 1911. No real efforts have been made to find, apprehend and punish the perpetrators. Her attacker(s) raped, repeatedly beat and stabbed her, apparently because of her sexual orientation, before dumping her body in a drainage ditch. Taunts and insults against LGBTI individuals in South Africa are common, as are hate crimes like sexual assault and other physical attacks – particularly in rural areas. The authorities’ inaction leads to a greater sense of fear and insecurity for the LGBTI community. Please join the demand for justice.

The death toll from the collapse of an eight story building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, could reach as high as 1300. The owner of the building is in custody and certainly will be held to account for the disaster.

Rescue workers attempt to rescue garment workers from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, outside Dhaka Photo: REUTERS
Titan  calls your attention to a call from Eric Lee and the IUF to demand better labor laws, work conditions and the possibility of worker organization. We also ask about the accountability of the corporations in the world garment industry that exploit the cheap labor and the savings from lack of investment in workplace safety for profit. British and Canadian companies in the supply chain are now talking about compensation. We hope this is not a feeble attempt at damage control. The problem of exploitation of Third World workers is not unique to Bangladesh. Anyone who has seen the film China Blue by M.X. Peled knows how pervasive this practice is and to what extent we, the consuming public in the West, as well as the importers and the Chinese and other Asian systems are responsible for these abuses. A fashion designer speaking on BBC-TV estimated that the labor cost of a pair of jeans in Bangladesh is about six cents. Titan hopes that this cataclysmic event might precipitate some change in the system.

The recent failure of the US Senate to pass gun control legislation caused by the fear of certain Senators that the gun lobby would bring about their defeat in the next election raises the issue of moral courage of political leaders. In 1848 Abraham Lincoln lost his seat in Congress because of his opposition to the jingoist, imperialist war against Mexico. Times have indeed changed. We tend to become cynical about our leaders, possibly with good cause. We no longer see statesmen in the spirit of Ghandi or Mandela or many academics in the image of the Gottingen Seven. We see principles being sold out, e.g. when a cabinet member will oppose something and then vote for it to please the PM and then be suitably rewarded. During the Second Lebanon War, Shimon Peres opposed a stupid ground operation and then voted for it. He received PM Olmert's support in his bid to be President and 33 soldiers paid for it with their lives. There are countless such cases to be found. Salman Rushdie in an essay on moral courage urges us in the end to continue the struggle, to demonstrate, to sign the petition, not to give up. Titan will continue to rant and support ranters such as Yossi Gurevich and the +972 group.

We have long noted that politicians of an authoritarian stripe are very thin-skinned and do not take kindly to satire and ridicule. In the US, Borowitz, Stewart and Colbert can fire their arrows with no fear of retribution, under First Amendment protection. Elsewhere, things are very different. The Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabanah was sentenced to five months in prison for "contact with hostile elements" which is a ridiculous excuse for persecution for his cartoons. The hostile elements were not specified. His colleagues have rallied to his defense. Perhaps something will penetrate the rhinoceros skin of the Israeli establishment.
It is equally dangerous to be a satirist or cartoonist in post-Chavez Venezuela. A year ago, Rayma Suprani found herself facing up to 30 years imprisonment for threatening to undermine the Venezuelan government, and labelled one of a group of terrorists whose subversive activity was harmful to the future of the nation. Yet Suprani had not detonated a single bomb, nor was she a member of any militant group. Rather, Suprani’s alleged terrorism sprang from her work as a satirical cartoonist.

"Crime doesn't exist! I've been wounded by a caricaturist. . . . " Cartoon by Rayma Suprani
 People have been arrested for tweeting about politicos. Reporters without Borders has spoken up and we all need to be aware of the dangers. Pussy Riot can happen here or anywhere.

We present you with Labor Start for May Day 2013. Hit the links and think a bit about the rights of working people around the world.


Here in Israel so much has happened during Titan's holiday that he hardly knows where to start. He is as pleased as a tick on a fat dog about the judicial victory of Women of the Wall.
Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs is detained by police for wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall on April 11 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs is detained by police for wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall on April 11 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
 They should now stick to their guns and reject the Sharansky compromise since the verdict has rendered it irrelevant. Titan is also pleased that the Supreme Court has ruled that Ben Gurion University has no right to limit political freedom of expression of students on its campus. Cheers to Judge Sobel for the former case  and Chief Justice Grunis in the latter,  who caused the University to concede its case five minutes into the hearing.

Samer Issawi has been released from prison after being at the gates of death because  of his hunger strike against his return to prison. Eventually the public outcry had its effect. Please read the long but important blog by Adam Keller on the saga of Samer Issawi. It gives you an insight into the occupation and how it works. It helps you understand how our border police can use a handcuffed child as a human shield.

Yes we know, police in the US handcuff small children as a matter of routine, but we would like to think that we have different standards.
Wilson Reyes' mom snapped this photo of him handcuffed in a Bronx precinct.


If you hold opinions that might be considered subversive, such as a belief in human rights, opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and other seditious ideas and plan to visit Israel, you would do well to leave your laptop computer at home. The Attorney General has just confirmed that the security gorillas at the airport or border crossing have the right to read your emails. One might imagine that your extra-marital affair or the address of your pot supplier could be of great interest to the establishment and make you an undesirable tourist. Israel is supposed to be a Jewish and democratic state. As MK Ahmed Tibi puts it so well, it is democratic to Jews and Jewish to Arabs. For Arabs read all others. In the eyes of our leaders, there is no such thing as humanity. There are Jews and there are others. Period

OK, Titan is feeling long-winded and would now like to relax with you a bit. Start off with a nutty WhatIf? and then we will go on from there. This week we went out with Murphy to the local dune where he picked up a turtle and then vanished. We went home without him nursing the hope the the dog catcher would get him. He showed up for breakfast eventually with the turtle, which once released made tracks for home. It led us to the thought of why people need dogs, as we are assured constantly.We present a few models for this.

Then the dog is good for our health:

We are also aware of how we as good citizens contribute to the building up of canine egos.

We have long enjoyed the resourcefulness of our beloved little Cynthia. Today she invokes no other than the great 19th century mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss. Right on Cynthia. Once, when visiting Gottingen we devoted our morning run to a pilgrimage to his grave.

We often wonder about social media and how much harm they bring us. We have been endorsed on Linkedin for every skill one might imagine and the energy expended on clicking on delete is beginning to add up. We note that Doonesbury has addressed this issue quite cogently.

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