Friday, August 23, 2013

Titan is back with you

This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reminds us of how different Mimas and Pandora are when they appear together; although both are moons of Saturn, Pandora's small size means that it lacks sufficient gravity to pull itself into a round shape.
Miman and Pandora, Cassini Imaging Team

Titan is ranting at you again from his orbit around Saturn. Last week sister Pollyanna was super-sweet and let you off without a single rant. Rest assured, Titan will make up for it. First, however, we show you moons that pass in the night, Mimas and Pandora (a nod to H.W. Longfellow). Mimas and Pandora remind us of how different they are when they appeared together as they do in this Cassini image. Although they are both moons of Saturn, Pandora's (50 miles, 81 kilometers across) small size means that it lacks sufficient gravity to pull itself into a round shape like its larger sibling, Mimas (246 miles, 396 kilometers across).

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.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice  is AKIM The National Association for the Habilitation of Children and Adults with Intellectual Disabilities. This organization does excellent work and deserves the support of all of us. You can donate on their English and Hebrew Web sites.


Al Capone, Chicago Mafia Capo

Augusto Pinochet, Dictator of Chile

Gaby Ashkenazi, former Chief of Staff, Israel Army
We were rather disappointed that no one picked up on our riddle. We showed these three pictures, now labeled, and asked what the three men shown had in common. The answer is that they were all prosecuted for relatively minor offenses such as income tax evasion or in the case of Ashkenazi minor corruption and intrigue at a juvenile level. This is amazing when you consider that all three of them were arch-criminals and mass killers. Capone was nailed by the US Treasury since no one in the state of Illinois would have dared to testify against him. Pinochet even in retirement had sufficient support from the Army to keep the civilian government from touching his real crimes so they again tried income tax, but he foiled them by dying in the middle of the investigation. Ashkenazi enjoys the aura of a hero that attaches itself in Israel to generals who kill many Arabs. The fact that many of his victims were unarmed civilians including women and children is not something that gets you indicted in Israel. Planting spies in the office of the Minister of Defence under whom you serve is a different story. Perhaps we shall someday see the likes of him facing a court in The Hague.

 It appears that hundreds of people have been killed in attacks by the Syrian army including many killed by poison gas.
Bodies showing no external injuries

Britain has called for the UN Security Council to meet and has asked that the UN team in Syria proceed to the site to investigate. It is time to end the stalling on this issue. We recall that Egypt used nerve gas in the Yemen War 50 years ago and that Saddam Hussein used it against the Kurds more recently. The big powers are pussyfooting and the Russians as usual are backing Assad. Please sign the AVAAZ petition to the great powers.

Sahar Gul, abuse victim
We are emitting a huge rant over the abuse of women in Afghanistan. Aggressors and abusers get off with light sentences or no punishment. Now a law is going through Parliament that would forbid the families of accused aggressors from testifying against them. Please join the worldwide outcry and protest in the hope of blocking the initiative in the upper house. You are also invited to read a horror story about a girl who was sold and abused. This is a rant and rave from all of us.

We have ranted here before about the lack of honesty and transparency in the handling of the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis. Since the tsunami and earthquake over two years ago, the TEPCO corporation and the Japanese government have lied to the public about contamination and the failure of their incompetent efforts to contain the pollution. Now we are informed of hundreds of tons of radiative water leaking into the ground, i.e. the groundwater, in addition to the huge amounts that have been spilled in the sea. Water in the latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers. We sincerely hope that the government and the company will finally get their act together. The latest batch of radioactive water came from tanks built hastily and apparently shoddily to store the water used to cool the melted reactor at the time of the earthquake. Someone should be asking pointed questions about the mode of storage and the length of time required to do things properly. The people of Japan deserve better from their government and utilities corporations.

The US soldier who leaked information to Wikileaks has been sentenced to a prison term of 35 years. We think he should have been given a medal for exposing the malfeasance of the establishment. The criminals who tortured prisoners at Abh Ghaib received much shorter sentences. We agree totally with the opinion of the ACLU
: "When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."
Whistleblowers are always in danger. In Israel Anat Kamm is serving a jail sentence for exposing her commander as a murdering monster while he moved up in his career. Snowden is in Moscow temporarily but with an uncertain future for exposing the NSA corruption. Now the powers-that-be are going after the journalists. David Miranda, who is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from the Guardian who published Snowden's information was detained and interrogated for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in transit to a flight to Rio. It is chilling to see what can happen in a so-called democracy when the toes of the establishment are trodden on. Of course, the UK security types made fools of themselves, going into the offices of the Guardian and destroying computer hard disks. Do these clods really think these things are not backed up at some safe venue?

The Olympic Winter Games are in danger of being boycotted because of recent homophobic laws passed in Russia. The new law – one of a series of recent bills in Russia designed to crack down on dissent – bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Gay pride demonstrations are illegal, as is the act of handing a pamphlet or any other information about sexual orientation to a minor. Violators face fines and imprisonment; Russian police also have the power to arrest, detain and deport any foreigners who “propagandize.” The law is without question a violation of basic human rights and unworthy of a G8 country.

There are calls for a boycott, but others advise to go there and ignore the law. The Russians are in a lose-lose situation. They can either enforce the law at the Games and risk turning the event into a prime-time debacle or back off and tacitly admit the law is unenforceable and out of step. Athletes should ignore the law. The Russians are churlish clods but even they would hesitate to start arresting athletes during their Olympic moment in the Sun with everything broadcast around the world by the full television coverage that Olympic events receive.

We share an amusing Russian press conference with you.

We mentioned in the past that the Israeli government is planning to use students as disguised propagandists on social media. We hope that we can spot the dolts who will do this prostitution for money and if they are by any chance on our friend list, we shall unfriend them forthwith. It turns out the the man who is designated to head this operation, Daniel Seaman, is a full fledged racist fascist and has come out on Facebook with some real charmers such as what he wrote on his Facebook page on July 9: “Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan mean that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?” He hit rock bottom when he expressed his opinion of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorials:
 “I am sick of the Japanese, ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding their annual self righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims.Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow. Instead, they should be commemorating the estimated 50 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Malay, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Burmese and other victims of Japanese imperial aggression and genocide. Not to mention nearly 120,000 Allied military casualties who fought to defeat the genocidal Japanese. These are who deserve to be and should be remembered this week.”
 Israel has apologized to Japan for this, but we are unfortunately unable to say that Seaman is unique in his attitudes, alas. He is just too stupid to keep them to himself.

Most people who kill suffer some shock, but not all. Golda Meir, who was no humanist, said that she could not forgive the Arabs for forcing our young men to kill. Even Rafael (Raful)  Eitan the mighty warrior suffered from nightmares according to his widow. We now have a cabinet minister Naftali Bennett who boasts "I've killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there's no problem with that." In an article in Haaretz Oudeh Basharat discusses the depth of evil involved in the general attitude towards Arabs embodied in the body politic. We think that he missed one point. In contrast to Raful, Bennett wears a small skullcap declaring that he is an Orthodox Jew. For him the life of a goy is worthless. We have seen Orthodox rabbis approving the use of transplant organs from executed prisoners, against all ethics and morals, if the prisoner was non-Jewish and the beneficiary a Jew.
The issue was raised in 2007 by Noah Feldman writing in the New York Times about the contradictions and immorality in modern orthodoxy. In the article he described a talk by an Orthodox doctor who said that he would save the life of a non-Jew on Shabbat because all human life is equally valuable. There is a long discussion there, but the Orthodox ruling as given by a teacher at an Orthodox school, quoting a distinguished  rabbi was: "If you intended to save the patient’s life so as to facilitate good relations between Jews and non-Jews, your actions were permissible. But if, to the contrary, you intended to save the patient out of universal morality, then you were in fact guilty of violating the Sabbath, because the motive for acting was not the motive on the basis of which the rabbis allowed the Sabbath violation to occur."
We bring this up to show the double standard that guides the thinking of people like Bennett. The Other is not entitled to his life despite the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights because in his thinking only Jews are really human. We are not saying that all Orthodox Jews are immoral, in fact the doctor mentioned above was obviously a humanist. Our point is that he was severely taken to task for this by the representative of the establishment. We recommend reading Feldman's long but important article.

Kerry with Livni and Erekat in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, left, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington. Maybe there's another option. Photo by AP
The negotiating teams are meeting and while the government is sabotaging things by building in the West Bank, we still entertain hope that things might change. We offer an interesting article by someone for whom we have great respect, Avraham Burg. He has some very good ideas and we hope he can get them across to the government.

We rant often and loudly about the shortcomings of the Israeli establishment and the horrors of the occupation. Now we have a few words to say to the Palestinian side. Indeed as Amira Haas claims, they have a right and a duty to throw stones at their oppressors, but on the pragmatic side, it gets them nowhere.
Stone throwers
A Palestinian protester throwing stones during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Hebron after Jaradat's funeral, Feb. 25, 2013. Photo by Reuters

If they just want to throw stones, OK. If they want to achieve an independent state, then nonviolence, as recommended to them countless times, by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu and many others is what is needed.
The man just wanted water, his child weeps as he is dragged away
 Now AVAAZ is raising funds to support a nonviolent resistance movement. It is worthy of the support of all people of good will.

Before we start the silly stuff, we would like to share a review of new film by Pedro Almodovar, "I'm So Excited." We have long been fans of Almodovar. His newest film is a metaphor of sorts for the economic and social catastrophe taking place in Spain today.  An aircraft circles aimlessly in the sky, its landing carriage damaged, awaiting the go-ahead for a crash landing. The crew and first-class passengers drown their sorrows, confess their sins and indulge in mescaline-fuelled sex while the tourist class drifts into ignorant, drug-induced slumber. We link you to the review in the Guardian.

What If? asks if you had a printed version of the whole of (say, the English) Wikipedia, how many printers would you need in order to keep up with the changes made to the live version?

We have discovered this feature on Slate and would like to share it with you. Indeed criminals are dumb and we will start with the super-idiot who went to rob a gun store armed with a baseball bat. Pollyanna and Titan will continue to feature these dolts week by week. Note the icon of the guy who could not figure out how to put on his ski mask.

Letitia has a visit from her therapist and comes up with the pun of the week:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Aug/21/2013

Something to think about when you next visit a doctor:

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