Cluster Map

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pollyanna is glad to chat with you

Pollyanna is glad to be back and to chat with you. As usual, for starters we call your attention to our Human Rights Action blog and ask you to click and extend a hand to those who are in such great need of help.

All of us, Pollyanna, Titan and YandA, join in wishing our Muslim friends, Eid Mubarak, for the Eid el Adha holiday coming up at the end of this week.

George McGovern, 1922-2012

George McGovern was an American liberal-Democrat politician who ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency against Richard Nixon in 1972. He ran on a liberal, peace proponent platform at the height of the Vietnam War and was roundly defeated. He served in the Senate and was instrumental in carrying through important legislation of the liberal agenda. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Mr. McGovern ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. He moved to Rome, and he worked on plans for delivering food to malnourished people around the world. In 2000, Mr. Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
He was of the breed of Midwestern Progressives who stood for human values, social justice and peace. He opposed the war in Iraq and called for a phased withdrawal to end in 1977. In his final book, “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” released last November, he despairs of an “insidious” political atmosphere in Washington while trying to rally Democrats against “extremism” in the Republican ranks.

“We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak,” Mr. McGovern wrote. “Our party believes that poor children should be as well educated as those from wealthy families. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and that everyone should have access to health care.”
Rest in Peace Senator McGovern. Let us hope to be worthy of your legacy. We append an obituary from the  New York Times.

Arlen Specter 1930-2012.
Former Senator Arlen Specter, a  Jewish Republican, the last of the moderates in that party, died this week of cancer. Though he began and ended his Senate years as a Democrat, Specter represented the state of
Pennsylvania in Congress as a Republican for most of his 5 terms in the highest legislative chamber.
Speaking at the AFL-CIO convention
His political platform was always moderate centrist, but his party affiliation was born of expediency and rooted in ideological pragmatism. A Jewish pro-choice Republican, Specter was first and foremost a political survivor whose wit and sharp tongue cut whichever way was most electorally prudent. Near the end he switched to the Democrats, but lost in their primary. Liberals never forgave his treatment of Anita Hill that paved the way for the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, although he did block Bork. He tried to broker piece between Israel and Syria, but despite many friendly meetings with Hafez Assad, his efforts came to naught. We append an obituary from both the Washington Post and JTA.

While Pollyanna usually leaves the rants and the raves to her brother Titan who is a highly skilled ranter, she is totally outraged over the arrest of Anat Hoffman for wearing a talit (prayer shawl) and singing the Shema out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, while marking the centenary of Hadassah with visitors from abroad on Rosh Hodesh Heshvan. We have placed the protest petition on the Human Rights Blog. We also append the a Web site with updates on the Anat Hoffman issue. This is not going to go away.

The offense of Anat Hoffman consisted of singing in public, in fact she sang a prayer. Orthodox Jews believe, as stated in the Talmud, that the voice of a woman is part of her genital equipment, or in Hebrew, "Kol b'isha erva." In the Army, orthodox soldiers have walked out of ceremonies when female voices were raised in song. The youth movements in the country at their annual convention cut out solo singing by girls. Everyone surrenders to orthodox terror. This is of course a curtailment of free speech levied specifically at women, which is why Pollyanna is ranting about it. We refer you to a recent blogpost by the Heresiarch (on the side here) in which he deals with jail for wearing what was admittedly a very offensive tee shirt.

Freedom of speech allows one to be offensive and if someone's feelings are hurt, too bad. Consensus in society about what is acceptable should work and the law should not be invoked. The slope towards repression is too steep and too slippery. The ruling in 2003 that women cannot pray in public out loud or hold a Torah scroll or wear a talit, all by the High Court in Israel, is a prime example of the lack of courage, integrity and commitment to democracy of this body. As Adam Wagner writes 
"The problem is that once the state starts policing speech and thought, this tends to be the thin end of the wedge. People become frightened to say what they feel and instead say what they think they ought to say. Such a climate would undoubtedly place a chill on the wonderful, bizarre, entertaining, sometimes concerning but always interesting world of social media. And that would be bad for everyone." 
Here in Israel we have a combination of  repression of both freedom of religion and of freedom of
expression. .

As we all know 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai a Pakistani schoolgirl attended school until Oct. 9, when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head for her outspoken public advocacy of women’s education. Madonna who is supposed to be astute as a business person and smart as an artist performed a striptease in Los Angeles that culminated with Malala's name on her back, between the bra and the thong.
Idiocy of the highest order
One can well imagine the reaction in Pakistan or in any Muslim country. This is hardly support or help for Malala.

This fact is apparently not understood by the judiciary of Italy. Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila. The court ruled that the seismologists had been "too reassuring" by telling the press that they did not expect the small tremors observed to be precursors of a major earthquake. The seismologists were wrong and the Richter 6.3 quake killed over 300 people. Nonetheless, there is no way that anyone other than God can predict an earthquake. The precedent is chilling and we can be sure that people will be wary of predicting. In fact, there will be many false warnings and unnecessary evacuations because no one wants to go to jail for being wrong. We quote David Rothery, of the UK's Open University, who said earthquakes were "inherently unpredictable". The best estimate at the time was that the low-level seismicity was not likely to herald a bigger quake, but there are no certainties in this game."
Italy has apparently reverted to the Middle Ages and its judges hand down voodoo verdicts. Nature magazine has delivered a scathing judgement on the trial and sentence. Let us hope this ridiculous verdict is reversed on appeal. The head of Italy's disaster body, Luciano Maiani, has resigned in protest at the prison sentences passed on seven colleagues.

Unlike earthquakes, weather can be predicted fairly accurately these days since the advent of the supercomputer. We did weather forecasting eons ago in the army and it was clear that the forecaster could never be brought to trial for failure to predict, as long as negligence was not involved. We would like to call your attention to five day rain intensity and distribution forecasts for Israel now available on line. The color coding is self-explanatory. Pollyanna is bookmarking this link and recommends it to you.
We are pleased to welcome to our neighborhood (actually it has been there for billions of years) a newly discovered planet at Alpha Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. It is only a paltry 4.4 light-years (about 42 trillion(British billion) kilometers) away. Hold it with the packing, the planet is not habitable, but still the discovery by the European Southern Telescope is a notable achievement. We cannot but mention that the congratulatory press release from NASA had a few lines about the discovery and then a bloated description of what NASA will do in the future in this area.  Poor taste to say the least.

Archaeologist Björn Wallebom clears the northern brim of the dolmen, or several upright stones with a horizontal boulder on top in which a body would be placed.
CREDIT: Annika Knarrström, Swedish National Heritage Board.

A 5,500-year-old tomb possibly belonging to a Stone Age chieftain has been unearthed at a megalithic monument in the shape of a ship called the Ale's Stenar (Ale's Stones). The tomb, in Sweden, was likely robbed of stones to build the Viking-era ship monument. The tomb was investigated by ground penetrating radar followed by the digging of a trench and found to be round and to have a rectangular structure inside the circle. It may well be older than Stonehenge. Read more.

Our beloved Voyager 1 spacecraft may or may not be about to leave the solar system and cross the heliopause into interstellar space.

It is not, of course, a farewell to Voyager. Indeed as our project scientist Ed Stone said at the party at the end of the planetary phase of the mission:
"So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna 
On the field of battle. Not fare well, 
But fare forward, voyagers".-T.S. Eliot.
Now 18 billion kilometers away, Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft flung from Earth. Voyager 2, launched two weeks earlier but on a longer path, is trailing its twin by about 3.4 billion kilometers.
Voyager 1 was launched in 1977. Four of its original instruments (labelled in yellow) are still returning data on conditions at the edge of the Solar System.
 The instruments on board that are still operating (launch was in 1977 and we joined the Plasma Science Team in 1979) show two of the three required criteria for passage through the heliopause, as stated by our friend Ed Roelof, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, (where we spent a sabbatical in 1996-97).  Ed, who works with Voyager 1 data, said that, in any model of the heliopause, an object exiting through it should experience three changes: a sharp rise in the number of collisions with cosmic rays (high-energy particles from space), a dramatic drop in the number of collisions with charged particles from the sun, and a change in the direction of the surrounding magnetic field. We seem to have experienced the first two, but the magnetic field change is lacking. In fact, as stated  in a Nature paper, by Bob Decker, also a space scientist at APL and his colleagues, at the current location of Voyager 1, the average velocity of solar particles has dropped to nearly zero. Nobody seems to understand this and as Tom Krimigis (we are quoting many friends his week) says “There no longer exists any guidance on what constitutes getting out of the Solar System and into the Galaxy." There are of course dissenting voices and we advice you to read the link to Ron Cowan's excellent popular review and think about it yourself.

EDWARD HUBBLE, 1889-1953, as we all know or should know, was the discoverer of the red shift that proved that the universe was and is expanding.

He laid the foundations of modern observational cosmology. Obviously his car had the mirror shown here (cartoon xkcd).

What If deals with a question of nutrition of cows. We could not help but be reminded of a few Ogden
Nash gems on the subject of cows:
The cow is of the bovine ilk, 
one end is moo, the other milk,
to say nothing of the deep thought in
Brown cow softly mooing, 
No bull, nothing doing.

Normally we stay out of politics, but the statement of an American politician that pregnancy resulting from rape is the will of God led us to decide to share with you the take of The Onion on this issue.
Did God rape Mary?

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