Friday, December 27, 2013

Titan winds up the bloggy year

The ringlet in the gap and the strip are  associated with Titan

Titan is back with you again and would like to share a picture of the beauties of nature that he sees all around him at Saturn. Again Carolyn Porco and the CICLOPS group have delightful things for us. Here is one of them. We refer you to a description of how Titan manages to dance with the little ringlet seen in the Colombo gap and with the little dark/bright feature just inwards..We also pass on a Christmas card for the literati. Thank you Judy for sending it to us.

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 the project of Reporters without Borders to expose the tricks and brutality of the Russian government with respect to reporting of the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. In general, this organization plays a vital role in defense of human rights around the world. They risk their lives to provide us with information. Many of them have been killed in the line of duty.  If violations are hidden from the eyes of the public, then proper reaction is impossible. Please donate to support the work of RWB at Sochi and around the world.

Didi Menosi, 2008
Didi Menosi, 2008. Photo by Moti Kimche
The Israeli satirist and writer Didi Menosi died this week at age 85. He wrote a satirical column in both Davar and Yediot Aharonot for nearly 40 years. He was born in a kibbutz, fought in the 1948 war in the Palmach elite unit and later studied literature at the Hebrew University. We knew him slightly then and he was famous for his humorous style. He wrote the lyrics for many songs that became part of the Israeli cultural pantheon. In a Maariv interview last summer Menosi expressed his self-deprecating humor when he said: "Two or three years ago I summed up my life, what I'm leaving behind me: a chunk of books and song lyrics, and that sort of stuff. I told myself 'Didi, that isn't worth dying for.'" An obituary is in Haaretz. Rest in Peace, you made many people happy and stung a few politicians who well deserved it.

Titan would like to call your attention to an interview with Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who outed the nefarious activities of the NSA of the US government. He claims that his mission was successful in that he brought out to the light of day the violations of basic human rights by the NSA. "For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,”
he said, “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.” Titan recommends reading the entire interview in the Washington Post. 


Two members of the Pussy Riot band were released from prison two months before the scheduled end of their sentences. They claim that this is all a publicity stunt to soften criticism of the human rights record of Russia in the runup to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Certainly their trial and sentence were a travesty and Titan salutes them for their resolve to go on fighting and to set up a human rights organization.

Photo by KCNA/Reuters
Over the years we keep reading and hearing of this dictator or that who is about to introduce democracy and all kinds of good reforms. It seems to be a general myopia of some journalists. Indeed the generals who failed to run Brazil gave up and restored democracy and the Burmese junta has made some cosmetic changes. In general, however, it is usually so much bovine excrement written by deluded people about Bashir Assad, Castro, Mugabe, whomever. Michael Moynihan writing in the Daily Beast discusses Kim Jon Un and the latest purges in North Korea and while he is at it does a good hatchet job on the reform fantasies of the Western press.

 In Yiddish of course we would say gut yontiff pontiff, but nobody wrote or said that. Titan cheers the Christmas message of the Pope that showed real concern for the wretched of the Earth and compassion for the victims of armed conflict everywhere. Yossi Sarid writing in Haaretz contrasts him to the corrupt rabbis we have who concern themselves with nonsense and petty rules while caring nothing at all for the people.
Pope Francis.
Pope Francis overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo by Reuters

The parliament of Uganda has passed a law against homosexual behavior that prescribes a punishment of up to life in prison for gay acts. As a result gay-rights activists in Uganda warned Monday of mounting violence against homosexuals. The original bill called for the death penalty, but was softened to life imprisonment before the vote. The law was dropped in the past when President Obama threatened to cut off aid to Uganda. Now there is severe criticism from the US and others. The UK tycoon Richard Branson has called for a worldwide boycott of Uganda. Amnesty International has launched a worldwide petition to the president of Uganda calling upon him to veto the bill. You may find a link to the petition in the Miriam Shlesinger blog linked above. In the context of homophobia, we note that the Duck Dynasty brouhaha in the US is put in good perspective by no less than an Orthodox rabbi. Cheers Rabbi Shmuley, you have it  right and thanks to Hadass for pointing out the article.

In the past the main funding for the disinformation used by climate change deniers came from the obvious and traceable sources such as Exxon-Mobil or the Koch brothers. Now these open sources are moving into the background and the funding is coming in the form of "dark money" that cannot be traced. This is documented in an article in Climatic Change summarized by Lauren McCauly in Informed Comment. This phenomenon is worrisome since people have a right to know who is paying for the misinformation.


Titan is outraged at the report of the brutal exploitation of Indian students, who work for well under the minimum wage for outrageous hours. Titan salutes Mike Treen and the Unite Union in New Zealand. They are making major efforts to help these workers organize and stand up for their rights. They are struggling against the docile nature of Indian workers, who tend to bow their heads and submit. It is terrible that the exploiters are often Indian immigrants themselves. Go for it people and fight for basic rights!

The negotiations for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians drag on and on and continue to go from one dead end to another while Mr. Kerry piles up Frequent Flyer miles. A group of business leaders who are desperately trying to break the logjam were told recently by our Defense Minister Ya'alon that there is no partner for a two state solution. This is the same man who,when serving as General of the Central Command, resisted court orders to destroy the monument to the mass killer Baruch Goldstein who gunned down 27 worshipers in a mosque in 1993. You cannot expect much from someone who admires Goldstein, and indeed Ya’alon demands that the army have freedom of movement in all West Bank cities. He also wants full Israeli control in the Jordan Valley and of all border crossings, as well as of the air space. We wonder who lacks a partner.

In Israel military service is supposed to be universal. Orthodox women can claim exemption and perform alternative national service and "rabbinical students" of the male gender can shirk their duty through the political clout of their rabbis. It appears however that a growing number of Orthodox girls are willing to serve and that has brought out the big gun of Rabbi Eliyahu of Safed, of racist infamy, to try to prevent them from serving, as reported by  Allison Kaplan Sommer  in her blog. Indeed, when brought into contact with a more open society, these girls may, heaven forbid, start to think for themselves, thus endangering their faith. They may even want to sit in the front of a bus.

African migrants in Israel
African migrants stand in line to receive food at Levinsky park in south Tel Aviv, June 13, 2012. Photo by Reuters
The government is chafing at court rulings that limit its ability to intern migrants. It is trying to get around the problem by setting up new detention centers that are "not prisons." They have just rounded up some more of these poor people and one can only wonder what is happening to them.
Holot detention center
Holot detention center: South Tel Aviv residents don't want detainees to return to their neighborhoods. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
 These people are refugees from conflicts in Africa and it is out of the question to return them. Those who were sent to presumably peaceful South Sudan are engulfed in a civil war. As Gideon Levy points out the problem is not this relatively small number of migrants, but our racism and the color of their skins. Indeed people in South Tel Aviv are impacted by them, but if the government would allow them to settle wherever and work, this would not happen. The border with Egypt is closed now and there are no more coming, so let us dismantle  the JewKluxKlan and as descendants of refugees do the right thing. For starters we could use their names instead of numbers. They are people and not livestock.


What If?  has nothing no this week, so let us see what Randall can offer as a weird cartoon:

Just Alerting You

 Here is some beautiful trapeze comedy. Thanks to Yosefa for passing it on. We cannot reproduce it here  because of the restrictions on it, but you can go to this link to see it.
Dilbert gets a Christmas present from quantum physics expert Dogbert
Dilbert Cartoon for Dec/25/2013

while Cynthia has scientific toys that scientists crave and  she ignores
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Dec/26/2013

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