October 19, 2008 archive

Palling Around with Terrorists

Before they were washed up, I “palled around with some terrorists,” including Weather Underground leader David Gilbert, a close friend and comrade of Bernadine Dorhn and Bill Ayers, whose limited association with Barack Obama has been unsuccessfully used for an election-tipping cudgel for months.

So close a friend was Gilbert, in fact, that Ayers and Dorhn raised his son after he and the boy’s mother, Kathy Boudin, were imprisoned for the robbery of a Brinks armored truck and the killing of a security guard and two policemen in Nanuet and Nyack, New York, on October 20, 1981. Before he chose the general course of action that landed him permanently in the slam, I lived with Gilbert in Denver for more than a year. I’ll get to back that.

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 AP IMPACT: Mortgage firm arranged stealth campaign

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

50 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Freddie Mac secretly paid a Republican consulting firm $2 million to kill legislation that would have regulated and trimmed the mortgage finance giant and its sister company, Fannie Mae, three years before the government took control to prevent their collapse.

In the cross hairs of the campaign carried out by DCI of Washington were Republican senators and a regulatory overhaul bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. DCI’s chief executive is Doug Goodyear, whom John McCain’s campaign later hired to manage the GOP convention in September.

Freddie Mac’s payments to DCI began shortly after the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent Hagel’s bill to the then GOP-run Senate on July 28, 2005. All GOP members of the committee supported it; all Democrats opposed it.

A Midnight Thought on Progressive Solidarity

Excerpted from Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Solidarity,

in the Burning the Midnight Oil blog-within-a-blog, graciously hosted by the good people at Progressive Blue.

Progressive Solidarity … its a core concept for building a progressive change coalition. It is, indeed, a core concept for Progressive Populism itself. It says, “You got such a great idea for fixing things? Don’t just put it out there and then blame people for not ‘getting it’. Go out an earn their attention by finding out what they say they need and working for it.”

Its not exclusionary. If someone is willing to step forward on an important issue … even someone who is not going to be a partner in the change coalition … even a moderate conservative like Colin Powell who was and continues to be wrong on one of the central foreign policy decisions in our nation in our time … accept it.

When Colin Powell says, in his endorsement of Senator Obama for President:

But right now we’re also facing a very daunting period.  And I think the number one issue the president’s going to have to deal with is the economy.  That’s what the American people are worried about.  And, frankly, it’s not just an American problem, it’s an international problem.  We can see how all of these economies are now linked in this globalized system.  And I think that’ll be number one.  The president will also have to make decisions quickly as to how to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan.  And also I think the president has to reach out to the world and show that there is a new president, a new administration that is looking forward to working with our friends and allies.  And in my judgment, also willing to talk to people who we have not been willing to talk to before. Because this is a time for outreach.

… I have no doubt that the economic solutions he would most prefer and those that I would most prefer will not be the same solutions … I have not doubt that the foreign policy stance he would most prefer and the one that I would most prefer will not be the same stance … I have not doubt that the terms on which he would wish to “work with our allies” would not be the same as the terms that I would favor.

Colin Powell is, after all, a “moderate Republican” in a time when being a “moderate Democrat” would be considered a center-right political position in most of the industrial world. We almost certainly have different views on how things should be done.

However …

It’s All Colin Powell’s Fault.


Don’t blame conservatism.

We did everything right, with the exception of ever trusting Colin Powell, who we never REALLY liked because we knew from the beginning that he wasn’t one of us and shouldn’t be listened to.

He was the one who screwed up that whole Katrina fiasco and he suggested the “Mission Accomplished” banner and if you check the video of Dick Cheney saying, “last” throes” you’ll realize that Colin Powell had his hand in the Vice President’s “puppet hole” and was manipulating what he sent.

See, Colin Powell…

Café Discovery: mathematics and science, philosophy and religion

Where were we?

(Part I:  250 years of history)

Oh, yes.  Poisson, purportedly the most prolific mathematicians in terms as the number of publications, was a student of LaGrange and La Place at École Polytechnique in Paris.

LaPlace was a student of d’Alembert, but there we lose track of the lineage, since d’Alembert attended one of the colleges in the University Paris…which was decommissioned and dispersed during the French Revolution, so records are lost.  Or because I am not a historian and I am not planning a trip to Paris to search for said records.

LaGrange, on the other hand, was a self-taught mathematician, mostly, whom Leonhard Euler chose to nurture to be his heir as Director of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin.  Euler even left Berlin for St. Petersburg in 1766, happy to return now that Catherine was on the path to becoming the Great, so that LaGrange could begin his tenure.  For that reason Euler is generally agreed to hold the position of LaGrange’s academic supervisor.

I identify with what LaGrange accomplished by teaching himself mathematics.  While I had some wonderful teachers during my years as a student, the thing that they accomplished the most was to help me learn how to teach myself.    I’ve always tried to remember that in my own teaching.

You’re wondering about the image to the left?  Read on.

Mike Leavitt is Concerned

So Medicaid is now in trouble, according to this Reuter’s article:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Spending on the Medicaid health program for the poor is on a path to grow at a much higher rate than the overall U.S. economy in the next 10 years, officials said on Friday.

Spending on Medicaid benefits will increase 7.3 percent from 2007 to 2008, reaching $339 billion, and will expand at an annual average of 7.9 percent over the next decade, hitting $674 billion by 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report.

Over that same time span, the projected rate of growth for the overall economy is 4.8 percent, the report stated.

The report’s release comes at a time of growing worry over the fact that health spending has become an increasing burden on individual Americans, businesses and governments.

And what does our esteemed Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Bush-appointed Michael Leavitt, have to say about this?

“This report should serve as an urgent reminder that the current path of Medicaid spending is unsustainable for both federal and state governments,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement.

“If nothing is done to rein in these costs, access to health care for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens could be threatened.”

Let’s take a look at Mr. Leavitt, who is so concerned about the health of poor people.

Math Mania: Why teach math? Why sing?

(cross posted from Daily Kos)

Math, to hear most people talk about it, particularly most students, is boring, irrelevant, difficult, pointless and just a great big waste of time.  Maybe they’re right.  When’s the last time you divided fractions? Or solved a quadratic equation?

No, they aren’t right.  And if you want to know why I don’t think they’re right, just read on

   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.

Why teach math?

OK, we need to know some basic arithmetic.  

Even in this day and age, we need to know how to make change, tell time, and so on.  But, let’s face it, very few adults ever need algebra, or trigonometry, let alone calculus or number theory.

Why teach math?

Well, to hear some people, math is supposed to teach you how to think. I duuno.  I think I was thinking before high school….if anything, I did less thinking in high school than before or after.  And, while I like to think that I do a little bit of thinking nowadays, outside of work (and some of my diaries here), I don’t use math much, probably no more than you.  (At work, I use math quite a bit, I am a statistician).

Why teach math?

Why teach music? Why teach painting?  After all, how often in adult life are most people called on to sing or paint?  

We ought to teach math for the same reason we ought to teach painting and music.  Because appreciating math, and doing math, is part of what makes us human; it’s part of what makes life more than a mere struggle to postpone death.  We ought to teach math because math is beautiful, awe-inspiring, and, well, a whole lot of fun!

No, I’m not high on drugs.  I really mean it.  And if you ask any mathematician about why they do what they do, words like ‘beauty’ will come up.

The real question, then, is why we teach math so freakin’ BADLY!  Why do the statements above strike many who do not do math as absurd?  After all, I can’t paint or sing, but I think of them as beautiful and worthwhile.

We teach math not just badly in the way other things are taught badly (or well), but in ways that are almost guaranteed not to give the essence of the subject, and to turn people off the subject.  For example:

What’s the most basic math?  Maybe 1 + 1 = 2.  This is a profound and amazing abstraction of the world.  What does it mean?  Two great mathematicians (Bertrand Russel and Alfred North Whitehead, in Principia Mathematica) spent an entire volume full of very dense math trying to figure out what this meant, and to prove it was true, and then Kurt Godel came along and said they got it wrong! In fact, he proved that they got it wrong.

We teach math as if ‘not getting it’ means you’re stupid.  What’s one of the first things that confuses a lot of kids?   Well, one thing is negative numbers.  But it took the greatest mathematicians thousands of years to really figure out what these were.  

And then, in adult conversation, we talk about math as if it is some sort of badge of honor to be bad at it.  

No wonder (almost) no one likes the subject!

We ought to teach math as a voyage of discovery on some of the most beautiful seas man has ever sailed; then arithmetic becomes the equivalent of learning how to sail a boat, while math becomes the trip.

Since writing the above, I have begun to explore the works of Alfred Posamentier a math educator who seems to think the way I do (it’s nice to find one!  The above was all ‘out of my head’ as, although I have a degree in education, I’ve never taught in a school).  I’ve also run into the best math teachers I’ve ever seen, Bob and Ellen Kaplan, who run the Math Circle, in Boston.  I wrote about them here


In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.

– Brian Andreas

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Laura Nyro

Stoned Soul Picnic

The Case of Little Dutch Big Dutch (My Story – Part III)

Note:  I got a little out of sequence with this series and published Part IV – Love and Death in Colombia before this Part III.  This one gets me back on track sequence-wise and sets the stage for Part V.  

Links to the other parts of this series:

This is my story – I hope that it finds you (Part I)

Wear Your Love Like Heaven (My Story – Part II)

Love and Death in Colombia  (My Story – Part IV)

First, so as to set the mood, I present to you a tender love ballad by John Prine and sung here with Iris DeMent called In Spite of Ourselves.

Docudharma Times Sunday October 19

McCarthy And Cold War Era Fear And Paranoia

Return Thanks To The Irresponsible McCain/Palin


This Is Not How One Shows Leadership    

Sunday’s Headlines:

Prop. 8 battle rages over whether gay marriage would be taught in schools

Convert or we will kill you, Hindu lynch mobs tell fleeing Christians

TV’s Koran Idol keeps Afghan clerics at bay

Black MP in warning to ‘racist’ Italy

Haider goes to his grave, pursued by controversy

Five million people face starvation in troubled Zimbabwe

Mosiuoa ‘Terror’ Lekota threatens to topple the ANC

Hamas strengthens hold on Gaza Strip

‘I Can’t Live Here Anymore’

Oil-Fueled Nation Feels Pinch

Arduous Transition Awaits Next President

 Inherited Problems Bring Crushing Pressure

By Michael D. Shear, Michael Abramowitz, Anne E. Kornblut and Shailagh Murray

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, October 19, 2008; Page A01

If Sen. Barack Obama wakes up as the president-elect on Nov. 5, he will immediately assume responsibility for fixing a shredded economy while the Bush administration is still in office. If Sen. John McCain wins the election, he will face an imminent confrontation over spending with a Democratic Congress called back into special session with the goal of passing a new economic stimulus package.

The man who knows too much

 He exposed the My Lai massacre, revealed Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia and has hounded Bush and Cheney over the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib… No wonder the Republicans describe Seymour Hersh as ‘the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist’.

Rachel Cooke

The Observer, Sunday October 19 2008

Every so often, a famous actor or producer will contact Seymour Hersh, wanting to make a movie about his most famous story: his single-handed uncovering, in 1969, of the My Lai massacre, in which an American platoon stormed a village in South Vietnam and, finding only its elderly, women and children, launched into a frenzy of shooting, stabbing and gang-raping. It won him a Pulitzer prize and hastened the end of the Vietnam war. Mostly, they come to see him in his office in downtown Washington, a two-room suite that he has occupied for the past 17 years. Do they like what they see? You bet they do, even if the movie has yet to be made. ‘Brad Pitt loved this place,’ says Hersh with a wolfish grin. ‘It totally fits the cliché of the grungy reporter’s den!’ When last he renewed the lease, he tells me, he made it a condition of signing that the office would not be redecorated – the idea of moving all his stuff was too much.



Building Flawed American Dreams



Published: October 18, 2008  

SAN ANTONIO – A grandson of Mexican immigrants and a former mayor of this town, Henry G. Cisneros has spent years trying to make the dream of homeownership come true for low-income families.

As the Clinton administration’s top housing official in the mid-1990s, Mr. Cisneros loosened mortgage restrictions so first-time buyers could qualify for loans they could never get before.

Then, capitalizing on a housing expansion he helped unleash, he joined the boards of a major builder, KB Home, and the largest mortgage lender in the nation, Countrywide Financial – two companies that rode the housing boom, drawing criticism along the way for abusive business practices.

Iglesia ………………………..Episode 58

(Iglesia is a serialized novel, published ….rarely these days!…on Tuesdays and Saturdays at midnight ET, you can read all of the episodes by clicking on the tag.)

Previous episode

They had not made love. Coupling on the bed had been instinctive, a response, an act of primate behavior, the fear and dread of death too big for even sex to conquer…..for now. Near death experiences bond humans together in a fundamental way. Having their real, actual death, yet continued real, actual existence demonstrated to them so shockingly had left them nothing to cling to but each other.

In the morning, they felt like children, children who had moved to a new town, a new country, a new world. Not knowing what they would face but knowing that it would be totally new and completely unexpected.  Rogers entered, and shortly after him, so did the breakfast cart.  It came rolling in and stopped behind him, propelled guided and stopped, they realized, by his will.  A reminder of the new rules of their “existence.”  Milk was poured, lemon squeezed, and kippers were silently eaten, before Iglesia raised her eyes and asked in a small voice, “So …..what the hell are we?”

Rogers looked at her kindly, for a change, looked at her as he would look at a daughter.  “You are what you’ve always been.  You just don’t have bodies any more.”  For some reason they both looked at Abe, who still had a wistful and distracted air.  Iglesia could tell from looking at him that he was thinking about last night.  She wondered too, if, as she supposed he was thinking, should have been more aggressive. Then she wondered, if since they were dead, that even matered. A feeling of regret passed through her, until she remembered….how his hair felt under her fingertips, the way he smelled, and the way his breathing had felt when he was wrapped around her, there, in the night.

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