Cluster Map

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pollyanna is not extremely glad this week, but she is here anyhow

Pollyanna is with you again and is certainly not glad this week. She is outraged at the despicable attack on worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem and in general at the pointless spilling of blood that goes on all around us. Yes, "how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?" Bob Dylan has an answer that no one seems to want to hear.

The mass execution of people in Syria is part of the same pattern. Pollyanna will spare you the images. The number of deaths from terrorism increased by 61% between 2012 and 2013, a study into international terrorism says, which tells you something about the global war on terror and how successful it has been. There were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, a 44% increase from the previous year, the Global Terrorism Index 2014 report added. The report said militant groups Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban were behind most of the deaths. It is easy to be politically incorrect in the light of this statistic.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over two years have 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.


This week Pollyanna gets to choose a charity. She refers you to the  the Fund for Global Human Rights. It has a high mark from Charity Watch and provides grants to organizations that defend human rights worldwide.
The mission statement:Securing basic dignity and freedom for people worldwide requires that front-line organizations challenge abuse wherever it occurs. The Fund finds and funds local human rights heroes who often work at great personal risk to strengthen and bring global attention to their struggles.
Their Web site provides details of their grantees and the functioning of the Fund. Please take a look and donate.



Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes
Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes celebrates the decision to allow female bishops
Pollyanna is very pleased with the decision of the Church of England to appoint women bishops. We have female rabbis in the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism, but of course the Orthodox would never hear of the idea. We hope the CofE weathers the introduction of women bishops without too much difficulty. We understand that during a transition period there will be a senior male cleric available for parishioners who might be uncomfortable with a female bishop. Cheers for progressive thinking that broke through the stained glass ceiling. We hope it will not be accompanied by the same type of conservative thinking that caused difficulties when the first openly gay bishop was installed.


Ayan Qureshi is the youngest computer specialist in the world
Pollyanna gives a pat on the head to the five year old who passed the Microsoft exam to become a Microsoft Certified Professional. Ayan Quereshi, now six, whose father is an IT consultant, has set up his own computer network at home in Coventry, UK. The family moved from Pakistan to England in 2009. Note, little nerds, Ayan spends no more than two hours per day with his computer network. Cheers!


The government of India has agreed to increase a multi-million dollar compensation claim against Union Carbide over the 1984 gas leak from the company's pesticide plant that poisoned more than half a million people. This is a response to a nil-by-mouth hunger strike by five women, who began their action on 10 November.
Survivors and activists have long criticized the Indian government for massively underestimating the number of dead and injured after the Bhopal gas leak.
Survivors and activists have long criticized the Indian government for massively underestimating the number of dead and injured after the Bhopal gas leak.

“This is a major victory for survivors of the 1984 gas leak, but subsequent generations of Bhopalis continue to suffer as chemicals abandoned by Union Carbide 30 years ago still leak into the groundwater today,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director for Global Issues. Pollyanna agrees most strongly.


Pollyanna is pleased at the news that the alleged terrorist accused of the Rue Copernic synagogue bombing in Paris in 1980 is being extradited to France to stand trial. She is also glad to note that Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy (King Coal in West Virginia), was just indicted for putting profits above the lives of his company's employees resulting in a 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The mills of the gods may grind slowly, but they can grind exceedingly fine.



It has long been known that basic physics is in trouble. Quantum theory is needed to explain how the universe works at the microscopic scale, and is believed to apply to all matter. But it is notoriously difficult to fathom, exhibiting weird phenomena which seem to violate the laws of cause and effect.
As the eminent American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman once noted: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics."
There are several things in quantum mechanics that appear weird and attempts to resolve them have been going on for a long time. One of them is entanglement which insults our intuitions about how the world could possibly work. Albert Einstein sneered that if the equations of quantum theory predicted such nonsense, so much the worse for quantum theory. “Spooky actions at a distance,” he huffed to a colleague in 1948. Nonetheless, it appears to be real.

Attempts to explain this and other weird phenomena have made use of the many-worlds idea as far back as 1957, but have not been very successful. Now there are two new ideas about other universes that interact with ours and the claim is that weirdness goes away. One theory is from workers at Griffith University in Australia with a collaborator from California and the other from Texas Tech in the USA. The idea is that other worlds exist, interact with ours in a particular way and thus remove the exotic features of quantum physics.
Artist's abstraction (stock illustration). According to Poirier's theory, quantum reality is not wave-like at all, but is composed of multiple, classical-like worlds. In each of these worlds, every object has very definite physical attributes, such as position and momentum. Within a given world, objects interact with each other classically. All quantum effects, on the other hand, manifest as interactions between "nearby" parallel worlds.

Stay tuned says Pollyanna.


 Collage illustration of a human head, computer chip, digits and various abstract elements.
As technology and in particular cybernetic technology advances, it can be argued that eventually the symbiosis between homo sapiens and the intelligent machines that he creates will give rise to a new version of human beings. The issue is discussed in detail in two postings on the NPR Cosmos and Culture blog. The first, by Marcelo Gleiser deals with the concept of transhumanism. We are attached to our technological add-ons and, as Gleiser predicts, we will have technological devices implanted in our heads, etc. We are reminded of a novel by Marge Piercy, He, She and It, that takes place in such a future. In her world, men and women take radically different approaches to the creating of human-robot hybrids. The second post, by Adam Frank , addresses the question of the post-human species that will evolve from us.

Frank puts the issue very bluntly "From physical form (there will be many possibilities) to culture and behavior, it's hard to even imagine how alien our post-human progeny might seem to us or us to them. Given the likely completeness of the post-human transformation, how ready are we to be so completely replaced? It's a question that has to be on the table because we are, as a culture, rapidly pushing the enabling technologies forward right now."
It is something worthy of thought by all of us.


 Seneca, from double herm of Socrates and Seneca.  Antikensammlung Berlin.
The Roman philosopher Seneca (4BC-65AD) has recently experienced a revival of interest. James Romm in his new book,  Dying Every Day – Seneca at the Court of Nero, New York, Knopf, 2014, deals with what has become known as the "Seneca problem". This can be summed up as follows:the conflict of his wealth, partly gained through usury and imperial favor, and his embrace of political power as the tutor and “friend” of the Emperor Nero, and the severe moralism of the Stoic philosophy he propounded in his voluminous writings. Did Seneca, as a philosopher-statesman, successfully divide his public and intellectual lives or was he the worst sort of hypocrite?
Seneca, who had at one time been a tutor of the Emperor Nero, was ordered by the Emperor to commit suicide after being (possibly) involved in a plot to depose him . Romm's book is reviewed inNew York Arts by the critic Michael Miller.  Another life of Seneca has come out in Oxford Press by Emily Wilson, (The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca, by Emily Wilson, Oxford University Press, 288 pp, $29.95, ISBN: 9780199926640) and is reviewed by Frank Freeman in the Dublin Review of Books. Mary Beard discusses both books, Seneca and the Stoic philosophy in an article in the New York Review of Books, which may not be accessible to all.
Seneca wrote about many aspects of philosophy and took moral positions in writing, whereas in real life he betrayed his benefactress Agrippina to the point of participating in her murder. He lived each day as if it stood alone, or as he puts it: "We die every day. You see, every day a little bit of our life is taken away from us, and even at the moment we are growing, our life is decaying. We lose our infancy, then childhood, then adolescence. Even up to yesterday, all past time is gone; even this day that we are spending now, we share with death. It’s not the last drop that empties the waterclock, but whatever has flowed out before. "
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen/bpk/Art Resource Peter Paul Rubens: The Death of Seneca, 1612–1613
It appears that Stoic philosophy never stood up to the real world, or as Cicero sarcastically describes it "A wise person never allows himself to be influenced... Philosophers are people who, however ugly, remain handsome; even if they are very poor, they are rich; even if they are slaves, they are kings. All sins are equal, so that every misdemeanor is a serious crime... The philosopher has no need to offer conjectures, never regrets what he has done, is never mistaken, never changes his mind." Cicero regarded Stoicism as nonsense and the life of Seneca shows indeed that it is not a viable philosophy.


There is no new What If? this week, but we will let Randall give us a bit more philosophy.


WUMO indeed give us cause for humility...
and Clyde is dangerous to the establishment, such as it is:

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Nov/17/2014
The  Wizard strip which we quote so often has been out in the world for a full half century.

Wizard of Id Cartoon for Nov/17/2014

He even is appreciated by his colleagues:
BC Cartoon for Nov/17/2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Say Hi to Pollyanna

 Pollyanna has survived Halloween and is delighted to visit you. We are digesting the aftermath of the US elections and also have a few matters of interest for you. The Republicans now control Congress and Obama will have the same hard time during his last two years as had the previous three two-term presidents, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush. When Harry Truman had an opposition Congress, 1946-48, he complained that they would have repealed the law of gravity if they could have. Certainly voters make their decisions wisely after being informed by political ads, as Mike Luckovich tells us so graphically.

Pollyanna hopes that some sanity and responsibility will creep in somehow. She also notes the transition to standard time as the season changes. This has deep historical roots.
Non Sequitur Cartoon for Nov/02/2014

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Nearly two years have 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.


CVT has helped more than 27,000 men, women and children rebuild their lives and become healthy, contributing members of their communities.

This week Pollyanna gets to choose a charity. She refers you to the Center for Victims of Torture. This is a Minnesota(old home country)-based  charity that functions with victims from all over the world. It has a high rating from Charity Navigator. You might want to donate to them on their Day of Give to the Max, sponsored by GiveMN, coming up next week.

IN MEMORIAM Tom Magliozzi 1937-2014 

tom ray magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi, right, with his brother Ray, who together co-hosted NPR’s Car Talk show until 2012. Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

One of the two brothers of the Car Talk show died this week. Their radio show on NPR was a constant source of amusement along with good advice about cars and their problems. We listened to them faithfully while living in the  US and we continued to follow them on line from Israel. We append an obituary for Tom from the NYTimes. The Car Talk link will take you to their Web page and you can also listen to podcasts. To quote the New Yorker "As Tom might say, he is now in the good hands of “Car Talk”’s staff morticians, Barry L. Plotz and Sven Didigo, as well as the show’s Boston funeral director, Hadley Newham."


That is indeed a question raised by Hollaback, a society devoted to safety on city streets. As a promotion, the actress Shoshana B. Roberts spent 10 hours walking on the streets of New York. Her YouTube shown here gives you an idea of what it is like for a woman to walk on the street. Lilit Marcus gives it a Jewish twist in the Forward--how to deal with catcalls and the like from these oh so pious men walking around with God in their pocket. Over two thousand years ago a Phoenician king boasted that a woman could carry a sack of gold safely across his kingdom.


An Argentinian judge has ordered the extradition of 20 former Spanish officials accused of torturing dissidents during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, from 1939 to 1975, renewing efforts to pursue cases of human rights abuses beyond the country’s borders. The principle of universal jurisdiction applies to these cases. We hope the Spanish government agrees to turn these despicable men over for trial. Pollyanna thinks that the rule of impunity, by which atrocities can be committed with no fear of retribution or punishment must come to an end. It would be nice if it would happen much closer to home.


The Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras, Mesoamerican Initiative for Women Human Rights Defenders) will receive the Letelier-Moffitt award in Washington on Tuesday, October 14, 2014. This award, established in 1978 by the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), will be delivered to IM-Defensoras for its work over the last four years in defense of human rights.

  •    IM-Defensoras pioneered the use of a gendered approach in the documentation and reporting of attacks against women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica.
  •     Between 2010 and 2014 it helped improve the safety and welfare of over 100 advocates and their families and facilitated the development of 360 defenders in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, to promote the adoption of appropriate  practices in safety and self care.
 Since 1978 the Letelier-Moffitt award has served as a yearly acknowledgement of the struggle for rights in the United States and the Americas.
    "We will continue working for the full protection of women human rights defenders, for the continuation and advancement of peace, equality and justice in Mexico and Central America": IM-Defensoras Steering Committee


Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai said the money would help children in Gaza get a good-quality education. Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters
 Pollyanna thanks the Nobel Peace Laureate Malala  Yousafzai for donating  $50,000 to reconstruction of Gaza schools. This courageous young lady who was shot in Pakistan for advocating education for girls should be a role model for all in the struggle to provide education for girls everywhere. The wanton destruction of schools in Gaza by Israel was no accident. It is part and parcel of the callous indifference to human suffering described in a recent report by Amnesty International. It is encouraging that there still are people like Malala around who care and are willing to take risks and do something about terrible things. Pollyanna, Titan and YandA salute you Malala!