October 12, 2008 archive

Major New Torture Archive Gives 1st Peek at SERE SOP

The National Security Archive and Washington Media Associates have introduced a major new research resource, as part of their new website, TorturingDemocracy.org. The Torture Archive, which appears at the site along with timelines related to torture, a discussion guide, various interviews, and the documentary, “Torturing Democracy” itself, is described as “the online institutional memory for essential evidence on torture.”

Drawing upon work already done by the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and various journalists, the Archive intends to “bring together all these materials in digital formats, organize and catalog them for maximum utility and access, and publish them online in multiple packages including a comprehensive searchable database.” NSA/WMA describe their intentions thusly:

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

41 stories.  No Business or Science yet.

57 stories.  Science to come.

65 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Paulson: Protectionist policies won’t solve crisis

By HARRY DUNPHY, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 12 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Appealing for global unity in a time of crisis, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Sunday that isolationism and protectionism do not offer a way to contain the spreading damage. He expressed concern about the fallout on poor countries.

“Although we in the United States are taking many extraordinary measures to ease the crisis, we are not pursuing policies that would limit the flow of goods, services or capital, as such measures would only intensify the risks of a prolonged crisis,” he said at a meeting of the World Bank’s policy-setting committee.

U.S. lawmakers, meanwhile, called for fast action – by the administration on a plan for the government to take direct stakes in certain big troubled banks and by Congress on a new economic aid plan.

Cafe Discovery: 250 years of history

Being rather bored Thursday, while proctoring a midterm exam in Computer Literacy, a couple of my former professors came up in conversation, including my adviser, Frank Anderson.  Frank studied the lattice characterization of C-Spaces, which won’t mean much to many, but the thing is that he studied in a field of mathematics called analysis.  By the time I met him, he was an algebraist.

So I’m an algebraist as well, having studied the homology of torsion theories.  My degree was awarded in 1981 at Oregon.  Frank got his in 1954 at Iowa.

And there was time to keep going.  Frank studied under Malcolm Smiley, who received his degree from Chicago in 1937, having studied Discontinuous Solutions for the Problem of Bolza in Parametric Form.  Smiley studied under William Reid, who received his degree in 1929 from Texas, having studied the properties of solutions to infinite systems of ordinary differential equations with boundary conditions.  His adviser at Texas was Hyman Ettlinger, who received his degree from Harvard in 1920, where he studied self-adjoint, second order linear systems of differential equations under George Birkhoff.

I perked up a bit, remembering that when I took my Russian exam in grad school, I had been given the task of translating a Russian version of Witt’s Theorem and having more than a cursory interest in the Birkhoff-Witt Theorem.  So I plowed onward.

Boulder Dam Pictures

Here are some pictures I took recently at and around the Boulder Dam area a few weeks ago.







Where To From Here?

Jeffrey Lieber asks this morning: “What Will Become Of My Beautiful America?“. I started to write a comment to Jeffrey’s essay, but it rapidly grew beyond reasonable limits for a comment and became this essay and the quote for discussion below.

I don’t think America’s really going anywhere, or even collapsing as many people fear.

I think that the “empire” of the imperialists may collapse, the political power structures may collapse, and maybe even the “system” that all us old hippies tried so hard in the sixties and seventies to undermine many even collapse, but America?

America is an idea. It’s not the banks or the investment houses or the insurance companies or the weapons manufacturers or the political parties, or any of that stuff. America is an idea. An idea and a set of ideals held by hundreds of millions of people. Can that idea and those ideals collapse?

There is an article this morning in the International Herald Tribune by David Leonhardt that may in fact “herald” the future  of America on the “international” stage, an article that talks of a potential “silver lining” in the dark clouds of despair and pessimism that make up the psychic weather in the dark sky so many are afraid is falling lately.

One of the things that happens though when thunderstorms peter out is that the sun begins to shine again in clear skies, and Leonhardt’s article this morning offers a glimpse of some rays of sunshine shining through some as yet unnoticed breaks in the clouds…

Here are a few quotes from his article to hopefully spark some discussion of what the uphill run of this roller coaster could look like after we barrel through the bottom of the hill…

A power that may not stay so super

AT the turn of the 20th century, toward the end of a brutal and surprisingly difficult victory in the Second Boer War, the people of Britain began to contemplate the possibility that theirs was a nation in decline. They worried that London’s big financial sector was draining resources from the industrial economy and wondered whether Britain’s schools were inadequate. In 1905, a new book – a fictional history, set in the year 2005 – appeared under the title, “The Decline and Fall of the British Empire.”

The crisis of confidence led to a sharp political reaction. In the 1906 election, the Liberals ousted the Conservatives in a landslide and ushered in an era of reform. But it did not stave off a slide from economic or political prominence. Within four decades, a much larger country, across an ocean to the west, would clearly supplant Britain as the world’s dominant power.

The United States of today and Britain of 1905 are certainly more different than they are similar. Yet the financial shocks of the past several weeks – coming on top of an already weak economy and an unpopular war – have created their own crisis of national confidence.


Plastic Soup: Not a Food Diary.

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. But you knew that. It has been reported for some time. The question is: is there anyone out there doing anything about it? The answer is no. Eighty percent of the plastic comes not from ships but from land, where tossed consumer goods eventually travel from beaches and rivers into the ocean, according to Algalita.


It is already been reported by Chilean scientists that a similar mass exists in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.

Cross-posted on the Big Orange and La Vida Locavore.

What’s Coming Next, or Is Collapse Over, Nope!

I’m not an economist and the only real numbers I crunch are my personal expenses and when bidding construction jobs putting together those costs and percentages which in these latter years of my life, preferring more to do the work, I have done very little of, except while doing the work to bring a better quality for hopefully a bit cheaper cost in material and professional skill.

Watching what is now taking place in banking and the dream new capitalist economy that’s been sold for a number of years isn’t really a big surprise to this common man, many were forecasting exactly what would happen if we followed the sales pitch.

I cried my last tears yesterday

I must admit that this has been a hard week for me. As if the collapse of the global economy weren’t enough, we’ve witnessed a presidential campaign successfully stir up the hatefulness that lies underneath the veneer of our so-called “color-blind” society.

I decided that it was time to take a tour of the diversosphere to see what they were saying about all of this. The condemnation of the McCain/Palin strategy was not that different from what I read in the rest of the progressive blogoshere. But I did find something that was amazing and just what I needed…a reservoir of strength and determination.

For most people of color, this election is about a struggle they’ve been fighting for generations. The fact that it engenders hatefulness is nothing new to them. They’ve been dealing with it their whole lives. And now, just when we are about to cross one of the most significant milestones in our nation’s history, they are not about to be intimidated. To get an idea of what’s at stake, just look at the picture that was at the top of the page on Jack and Jill Politics yesterday.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Elton John

Your Song

What Will Become Of My Beautiful America?

I love my country desperately, which is why I nightly, cornily, off-keyily, sing “God Bless America” to my children before they go to sleep.

America is the country that saved my grandmother, uncle and father from the last days of the concentration camps in World War II and allowed my mother’s family the chance to rise from lives as dirt-poor Russian immigrant peasants to free, educated people.

It is on the this piece of earth that I, myself, have been allowed me to find a life-partner, birth two healthy children and make a decent living thinking up and writing down stories, which, in my eyes, is beyond a luxury.

But THAT is all in the past.

Math mania: Drug testing and disease testing

Note: This is the latest in a series I’ve posted over at daily Kos.  If people want, I can post the earlier diaries here, too.

I used to work for a company that worked with drug abusers; drug testing was of obvious interest.  They also did work with people with AIDS, so disease testing was of interest.  For the purposes of this diary, the two are roughly equivalent.  There are also profound civil liberties questions involved in these, but they aren’t covered here, I’m just the stats, man.

More below the fold, but first

   This series is for anyone.  There will be no advanced math used.  Nothing beyond high school, usually not beyond grade school.  But it’ll go places you didn’t go in elementary school or high school.

   If you “hate math” please read on.

   If you love math, please read on.

   I welcome thoughts, ideas, or what-have-you.  If anyone would like to write a diary in this series, that’s cool too.  Just ask me.  Or if you want to co-write with me, that’s fine.

   The rules:  Any math that is required beyond arithmetic and very elementary algebra will be explained.  Anything much beyond that will be VERY CAREFULLY EXPLAINED.

   Anyone can feel free to help me explain, but NO TALKING DOWN TO PEOPLE.  I’ll hide rate anything insulting, but I promise to be generous with the mojo otherwise.

Docudharma Times Sunday October 12

John McCain And His Campaign Can No Longer

Act Like Nothing Is Happening At

Their Campaign Events. It Was Their Decision To

Associate Senator Obama With William Ayers

They Must Take Responsibility For The Actions

Of These Supporters.      

Sunday’s Headlines:

Barack Obama rides a wave of bad economic news

Thousands of Christians flee killings in Mosul

Daniella Weiss: ‘The Arabs are a filter through which we find our way to land’

Power deal crisis as top jobs seized by Mugabe

Fear Amid Hostility in South Africa

Welcome to Iceland: Despite the crunch, it’s still worth a visit

Leader of Austria’s resurgent far right dies in car crash

North Korea Is Off Terror List After a Deal With the U.S.

Taliban leader killed by SAS was Pakistan officer

U.S. influence wanes in Latin America

White House Overhauling Rescue Plan



Published: October 11, 2008

WASHINGTON – As international leaders gathered here on Saturday to grapple with the global financial crisis, the Bush administration embarked on an overhaul of its own strategy for rescuing the foundering financial system.

Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks – in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.

The biggest bet in the world

 By the time G7 finance ministers met on Friday afternoon, they were staring into the abyss. In a desperate effort to restore calm to the markets, they took decisive action and came up with a five-point plan, which includes spending billions of taxpayers’ money to rebuild the global banking system and reopen the flow of credit. This is how the drama unfolded …

Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott in New York, Ruth Sutherland and Lisa Bachelor in London

The Observer, Sunday October 12 2008

It was 19 minutes to noon on Wednesday when Gordon Brown took the call from Mervyn King. With the seconds ticking away to the Prime Minister’s first Question Time in the Commons since the summer break, the governor of the Bank of England had dramatic news: secret consultations between the world’s most powerful central bankers had resulted in the decision to make the biggest co-ordinated cut in interest rates there had ever been.

With the world’s financial system perilously close to complete meltdown, bankers were determined to show they meant business. The move was to be announced at midday in London and 7am New York time, and King was nervous that Brown might be embarrassed by a backbencher picking up the news via BlackBerry as he stood up to speak



Issue of Race Creeps Into Campaign

 By Anne E. Kornblut

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, October 12, 2008; Page A01  

In the first presidential campaign involving an African American nominee of a major party, both candidates have agreed on this much: They would rather not dwell on the subject of race.

But their allies have other ideas.

Yesterday, civil rights leader John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, became the latest advocate to excite the racial debate, condemning Sen. John McCain for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” and accusing the Republican nominee of potentially inciting violence.

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