Saturday, June 28, 2014

Titan greets all his readers

Titan marks the beginning of Ramadan and wishes all his Muslim readers a month of easy fasts and a renewal of faith in a benign and tolerant Islam.

Titan is with you again and would like to comment favorably on the release of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim who was freed on Monday after an appeals court in Sudan cancelled the death sentence imposed for having allegedly converted from Islam to marry her Christian husband, after the government came under what it called unprecedented international pressure. On the other hand he was upset by her rearrest at the airport on her way out of that benighted country. She has a South Sudan passport with a US visa, but the government in Khartoum was bureaucratic and  sticky. Titan is pleased  that the international pressure kept  up and that she and her husband and children are now safe  in the United States Embassy in Khartoum. It is to be hoped that they will soon be able to leave Sudan and start a new life.

Meriam Ibrahim with her baby, husband Daniel Wani, their son and a lawyer
Meriam Ibrahim with her baby, husband Daniel Wani with their son, and one of her lawyers, Mohanad Mustafa, in Sudan after her release from jail. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images   
It is not PC to admit this and certainly not nice as Ramadan gets under way, but events around the world are rapidly making Titan and Pollyanna a bit fed up on radical Islam. Titan calls your attention to an article by P.E. Marek that has been circulating on the Web. The article is often incorrectly attributed to a Dr. Emanuel Tanay. It really matters very little who wrote it. The article contains many exaggerations and much hyperbole, along with some questionable grammar,  but it does make a valid point that tails do indeed wag dogs and that a fanatic minority, if well organized, can overcome a passive majority. As an example, Titan points to the Americans who would like to have gun control and an end to mass murders, but are impotent because the NRA people vote and most of the supporters of gun control do not. Nonetheless it is not clear what the author would like democracies to do. Should we round up Muslims and put them in concentration camps? Should we throw human rights out the window as in the so-called "war on terror" ? There is a demagogic hysterical tone about the article that  tends to vitiate its valid point. Lumping Palestinians who are living under a brutal occupation and Algerians who fought French imperialism with Somalis who are waging an internal struggle over the role of Islam is an example of this problem. Titan linked to the article not because he agrees with all of it but to provoke thought and discussion.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone by without Miriam and 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.

Mary Nyakoak fled her home to escape fighting and now stays in a grass hut in Ganyiel. She's one of tens of thousands of people displaced to this swampy area, where Mercy Corps is helping families cope with food shortages. Photos from Ganyiel: Jacob Zocherman for Mercy Corps
This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. We refer you again to the Mercy Corps and ask you to support their activity in the humanitarian crisis now gripping South Sudan. Millions of people are at terrible risk as the civil war goes on despite the truce that exists only on paper. We quote part of a report from there "All areas are affected by the conflict, one way or another. There may not be active shelling or fighting, but with already chronic malnutrition, routes to markets cut off, young men recruited to join the fighting, and the fact that humanitarian organizations cannot reach some areas, people are suffering everywhere. It is disrupting the socio-economic fabric of the country.” Please help.

Chile steps a tiny step forward in starting to decriminalize abortion. Titan says right on, but there is a long way to go to reach real freedom of choice.
Chile is one of five Latin American countries where there is currently a total ban on abortion.
Chile is one of five Latin American countries where there is currently a total ban on abortion.
© Amnesty International

Titan starts with the World Cup. Leave aside the spending of public money in Brazil where poverty is rampant  and just look at the tournament itself. The teams started out with some good games, but when relegation to the airport became a real threat, fair play was thrown to the winds. Paul Mirengoff, quoted in Powerline, describes four matches that exemplify the phenomenon. In particular, the vile behavior of Luis Suarez of Uruguay who bit an Italian player shows the pit into which sport can descend.
Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suárez

The bitten and the biter: Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Uruguay's Luis Suárez.
Photo by DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

An English player put it correctly albeit a bit cynically-- "You look at teams who have won the tournament over previous years and you can see that nastiness in them. I think we have to get that in us. As a team maybe we are too honest, I feel." Wayne Rooney of Manchester United.

Luke O'Brien writing in Slate puts it in perspective correctly. Titan thinks that the Vince Lombardi philosophy "winning is not the most important thing, it is the only thing" is a moral atrocity. Bountygate in the NFL showed what it can lead to as does match fixing in cricket, which is not cricket.

Martin Luther King once pointed to racism, materialism and militarism as the three factors that can do most to destroy a society. There are currently 23 countries in the world that maintain no army, and they seem to get by just fine. Laura Secorun Palet writing in Acumen describes these military-free countries, but agrees that for some nations, such as Taiwan and Israel, abolishing the army is not an option. Nonetheless, militarism is an integral part of life in Israel. A few years ago a nursery school class of 3-4 year olds in a town near Tel Aviv
were taken for a tour of a police armory and shown all the beautiful toys that can be used to kill people. A friend of ours pulled his daughter out of the school when he discovered that the teacher saw nothing wrong with the tour. A science fair held in Tel Aviv some time ago was totally focused on rockets and military applications. Pyongyang is moving to Tel Aviv apace. More on this below.


The government of North Korea is threatening to go to war with the United States over a comedy film that ridicules Kim Jong Un. It is indeed ridiculous, but it also shows how little they understand concepts such as freedom of expression. We in Israel, however, should stop to look at ourselves before making fun of the North Koreans. When a Swedish tabloid published a scurrilous and false story that the Israel army was killing Palestinians and selling their organs, the reaction of our government was nearly as idiotic as that of Pyongyang  and just lacked the threat of dire actions. Our Foreign Ministry protested to the Swedish government with the implication that the Swedes were not doing their job of controlling the press as they should. The Swedish Press Association was indeed on its way to sanctioning the tabloid and the reporter, but naturally backed off when the Israeli government got into the act.

In Israel there is a draconian law that makes it illegal to "insult a public servant." Usually this is not enforced and the State Prosecutor has interpreted the law as meaning something that actively interferes with the performance of the task of the civil servant. Now we are seeing bloggers warned and a parliamentarian threatened with an investigation because of her provocative speech. Haaretz says it in an editorial much better than Titan can: "The gap between pride in freedom of expression – which is presented as one of the foundations of Israeli democracy – and the reality on the ground is growing wider. Arrests because of Facebook updates, being “warned” by the police or Shin Bet security service about one’s political activities, and the ridiculous detentions of demonstrators, have all become far too common, and prove that state authorities, first and foremost the police, have forgotten what their jobs are. In recent days, the police sank to a new low when they arrested a lawyer for a poem he posted on his Facebook page, and recommended that an investigation be launched against MK Haneen Zoabi for her remarks in connection with the three kidnapped teenagers."

The law about public servants should be repealed, but instead we have the boycott law which has been challenged in the High Court of Justice. What is amazing is the brazen defense by the government "we do not have freedom of expression as in the US," a boasting about lack of democracy.

The futile search by our incompetent army for the three boys who were abducted by terrorists a few weeks ago goes on. Titan disagrees with Ms Zoabi and regards the kidnapping as an act of terrorism since the boys are civilians and minors as well. The people under the occupation have a right to resist the army, but civilians are protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention. What is conveniently forgotten is that we kidnapped civilians off streets in Lebanon during the 1980's to use as "bargaining chips" for our prisoners and no one raised a protest. Indeed the abduction of the boys is a crime, but we cannot honestly claim the moral high ground and, as Gideon Levi points out correctly, the world has called our bluff.

Titan would like to call your attention to an article by Sari Nusseibeh, who has just stepped down as President of Al-Quds University. He discusses the need for realization of a two-state solution as a means of avoiding a future hell for all who live between the sea and the Jordan. Unfortunately, the policies of our government are designed to achieve this hell on Earth for the Palestinians and it is working, alas. When Amram Mitzna, a parliamentarian, noted that the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party in the government is, minus the terrorism, a counterpart of the Hamas, he hit the nail right on the head. Cheers Mr. Mitzna and maybe you can pry your party head out of the coalition.

 What If? As a writer, I'm wondering what would be the cumulative energy of the hundreds of thousands of keystrokes required to write a novel?—Nicolas Dickner

It would seem that Titan and Pollyanna are not going to solve the world energy crisis, even with the help of the members of PEN International.

Futility is contagious:
Throwing Rocks

Workers of the world unite, Wally is paving a path for your optimum
working conditions..
The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Social work is a rewarding profession
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jun/28/2014

Hansel and Gretel should be more health conscious
Wizard of Id Cartoon for Jun/23/2014

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