Saturday, January 11, 2014

Titan has empathy for people in the cold (he lives at 93K)

A man and his dog contend with blowing snow in Brooklyn following a snow storm that left up to 8 inches of snow in New York, United States. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A man and his dog contend with blowing snow in Brooklyn following a snow storm that left up to 8 inches of snow in New York, United States. (photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Titan is back with you again and would like to express his sympathy for the people affected by the heavy snowstorm and record low temperatures caused by the incursion of arctic air to Canada and parts of the US. Extreme temperatures are being experienced throughout the Midwest. Of course, this has brought out the usual gang of ignoramuses who claim that such a cold snap disproves global warming. In fact, as pointed out by Brian Walsh writing in Time, the opposite is true. The entire system which is hitting Britain and Europe as well was driven by a weakening of the winds around the polar vortex which allowed the ultracold arctic air normally entrapped there to spill southwards. The vortex has been studied in great detail over the past few decades because of the role it plays in the ozone budget of the atmosphere.

Image source: University of Washington
Here is an image of the collapse of the vortex, provided by the Department of Atmospheric Science of the University of Washington. As you can see the flow is from the vortex into North America.   Note the powerful Rossby-Wave zonal flow associated with the 9 month old Pacific Blocking Pattern continuing to flood the Arctic with warmer air and disrupting/collapsing the seasonal polar vortex while shoving Arctic air south over Canada and the US.

Of course, Limbaugh claims that the vortex itself is a liberal hoax which tells you all you need to know about right wingers everywhere. We note that locally we have our share of these idiots, such as a cartoon in Israel Hayom. Titan will spare you the links to this garbage. We also remind all that climate is one thing and weather is something else and you must not confuse them. For the technical minded, vertical transport in the atmosphere is enhanced by Arctic heating/ice loss and the bottom line is the kinking of the jet stream flow that normally traps the arctic air over the poles. A detailed explanation is in the article linked above. Another  good article on the topic by Carl Gibson puts things well into focus with respect to the connection between these weather phenomena and climate change. The picture is for Murphy to show him that other dogs have harder lives.

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.

This week it is Titan's turn to promote a charity. His choice is the Haifa Women’s Crisis Shelter. The organization operates a shelter for women victims of domestic violence and their children. It aspires to provide physical and emotional protection for its residents, and to take care of the needs of the women and children who come to the Shelter. Titan, Pollyanna and YandA recommend it for your support.

IN MEMORIAM Ariel Sharon 1928-2014
Ariel Sharon official portrait - April 2001
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Photo by GPO

The former PM and military hero who had been in a comatose state for eight years since suffering a stroke died on Saturday.  In order to avoid  "De mortuis nihil nisi bonum" several columnists weighed in with true evaluations of the life and career of this evil man while he was still marginally alive. Gideon Levy and Mira Sucharov did it well.  Yossi Sarid adds a personal note on his relationshp with Sharon. A detailed obituary and biography is available in Haaretz.  He was a super hawk throughout most of his life, but near the end engineered the withdrawal of settlements from Gaza and might have eventually negotiated for peace. We shall never know and what if is a game for XKCD.


John and Bonnie Raines, two of the burglars, at home in Philadelphia with their grandchildren. Mark Makela for The New York Times
Titan salutes the people who have now come forward to acknowledge their role in breaking into the offices of the FBI in 1971 to disclose the corrupt and anti-democratic actions of the then head of the agency J.Edgar Hoover. It should remind all of us everywhere, in these days of NSA running unchecked,  that governments in general are not to be trusted and vigilance is the price of freedom. Among the journalists who received the documents from them, Betty Medsger, the former Washington Post writer, was the first to publish the shocking revelations. She has now come out with a new book on the saga called The Burglary: The Discovery of J Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. 


The recent wave of protests and demonstrations by African refugees in Israel has brought a local focus onto the problem of refugees in general.
Wherever in the world you find armed conflict you also find displaced persons, some internally in their own country such as in the Central African Republic and others scattered in other countries such as the displaced victims of the Syrian conflict who are suffering in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and as far away as Bulgaria.  In the Miriam Shlesinger blog above we have an urgent call to help the last mentioned group.  The problem is universal.
Overcrowding at Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan has forced around 200 families of Syrian refugees to live in a ramshackle “irregular area” on its fringes. © Amnesty International

We quote from the mission statement of Refugees International: "Refugee crises left unattended threaten stability around the world. There are 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced people and 12 million stateless people living in limbo without citizenship rights. People forced from their homes by conflict are among the world’s most vulnerable and they all have individual stories of loss, heartache and survival." Titan and his family call upon all good people to support the human rights organizations that are trying to help the refugees and asylum seekers in every country. We are proud of our Yosefa and her volunteer work as a doctor in the framework of Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.

Hermes 450 drone
An Elbit Systems Hermes 450 drone. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Titan would also like to rant about the use of drones in combat in Afghanistan and elsewhere. People,especially politicians and generals, like to boast that this is clean warfare. In fact, it is a deadly and inaccurate weapon that too often claims innocent civilians as victims. Titan would like to share with you an article in the Guardian by Heather Linebaugh who worked in the drone program and exposes its very dark side. We note that Elbit Systems of Israel makes drones. We  have consistently resisted blandishments from our broker  to buy their flourishing shares.

In far too many countries thin-skinned politicians interfere with the work of journalists, bloggers, satirists or anyone who dares to criticize or make fun of them. In Vietnam a blogger was sentenced to seven years in prison for a Facebook posting. China and other dictatorships have similar dismal records. In Egypt, Bassam Youssef serves as the Jon Stewart of the country and has suffered for his candor. Here is an interview with him from the BBC:



Ram Cohen
Ram Cohen. Photo by Gali Eytan
Titan would like to call your attention to an interview with a high school principal Ram Cohen who lost his job at a Tel Aviv high school because he wrote a dissenting (political) article in a newspaper and refused to allow the army to come into his school to brainwash the kids. You should find it interesting.

A recent article in Pacific Standard by Jim Russell notes that the recent Nobel Prizes  awarded to Israelis were given to expats. There is a link to a source article about it in which you can see what the problem is. To be denied tenure at the Weizmann Institute and then win the Nobel Prize tells you something of the malady. We joined Tel Aviv University during a period of expansion in the 1960's but when the right wing took over, down went academia. There are fewer faculty members in Israel today than there were in 1970. Now it appears that the government got a wake up call and hiring at universities has begun again. The boom in the 1990's in startups has not led to a big boost for the economy. Too quickly the bright young people sell their idea to one of the giants (recently Google bought Wayz, the gps road guide system for over a $billion) and make a lucrative exit.You might also  argue that scientists and engineers might prefer to work in a more democratic and secular environment,  but we are not aware that there is a proven correlation between technical ability and enlightened political  philosophy. Correct us if we are wrong. Certainly the absence of a clear political horizon for the state must play a role in inhibiting development.

In Israel women are drafted into the Army and serve two years while men serve three. A woman can get an exemption by declaring that military service is against her religious principles. We know, alas, a few secular women who used this loophole and faked being religious. We name no names. Now  the Chief Rabbis, (yes they come in pairs) apparently frightened by the increase in enlistments of Orthodox women, have ruled that women are forbidden to serve in the Army. Two Cabinet ministers, Livni and Lapid, have blasted them for this. Lapid has even called on the government to sack them. Of course this is on his Facebook page--we wonder what he says at the Cabinet table. It would be an even better idea to eliminate the Chief Rabbinate as a government function.

What If? The question: If a T-rex were released in New York City, how many humans/day would it need to consume to get its needed calorie intake?  Asked by Tony Schmitz.

Interesting concept Apparently you can buy the creature off with 80 McDonald's hamburgers.

As we all know, oxytocin is a a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. We would like to point out to you how the most dysfunctional people who work for the world's most dysfunctional company get their share of it. We have better ways:
Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/09/2014 

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/10/2014

It is nice to see that for once Ms Foxx outdoes Duane in the bad pun department. For the benefit of those who are US history challenged, the likelihood of Pete Rose signing autographs is about the same as our chance of becoming the next Lubavich rebbe.
Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/08/2014

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