07/05/2010 archive

It’s Not Torture

 The Associated Press owes China an apology according to Glen Greenwald this morning, that is if the press continues to follow the Bush regime’s definition of what constitutes “torture”.

China sentenced an American geologist, Xue Feng, to  eight years in prison for spying and collecting state secrets. During his detention, Feng was tortured as the article points out by

stubbing lit cigarettes into his arms in the early days of his detention.

But, but…according to John Yoo of torture memo fame:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture (under U.S. law), it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

(emphasis mine)

So why, as per Glen, does the AP owe China an apology? Heh. Hypocrisy, thy name is the “Press”.  

Iraq War Ended But Nobody Told You

According to a New York Times Special Edition almost two full f’ing years ago, and while you weren’t looking because you were distracted by the dazzling light of the 2008 Presidential election campaign, both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been finally brought to an end shortly after the November 2008 Presidential Election and before Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, and all US troops in both countries returned home immediately.

Across the country and around the world thousands took to the streets to celebrate the culmination of years of progressive pressuring of the Bush administration and Congress, but the rest of the media and most blogs never reported this because they were too busy shining you.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has publicly apologized to the country and the world on behalf of the Bush administration and admitted that the administration simply lied through it’s teeth to justify the initial invasion, that she and Mr. Bush had known well before the invasion that Saddam Hussein lacked weapons of mass destruction, and that the hundreds of thousands of US Troops in the country in fact never did face instant obliteration.

Monday Business Edition

This is the first installment of what I hope is going to be a regular Monday feature.

I always find it instructive to keep track of the money since I think it explains a lot about politics.

There are 2 major interrelated economic stories moving in the background.  One is the question of stimulus and the recovery of the ‘Main Street’ economy and the other is the question of deficit reduction and austerity particularly related to Social Security.

What relates these 2 stories is the abandonment by modern economists of Keynesianism.  If you haven’t already, you should really read Krugman’s How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? from September of 2009 where he describes the irrational theories of the two main trends of academic economics, the salt and freshwater schools.

To me ignoring the proven facts of Keynesian Economics makes about as much sense as a biologist rejecting the ‘Theory’ of Evolution and Genetics.  I suppose it’s possible to do good and rigorously academically grounded work but you’re really rejecting everything that makes your ‘science’ umm… ‘scientific’, which is to say predictive of measurable future results.

Just because your second derivative (in the calculus sense) quant guy can give you a value for the change in the slope of a curve doesn’t make it anything but mathematical masturbation unless your model bears some relation to reality.

Anyway, below you will find some stories I’ve collected from the Business section of Yahoo News.  Just because some of these guys are rich doesn’t mean any of them are smart.

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 India rocked by strike over fuel prices

by Giles Hewitt, AFP

1 hr 14 mins ago

NEW DELHI (AFP) – An opposition-led strike over fuel price rises disrupted life across India on Monday, triggering transport mayhem and sporadic violence in major cities where schools and businesses closed down.

Flights were grounded in commercial airline hubs such as Mumbai and Kolkata, while protesters attacked buses, blocked roads with burning tyres and organised sit-down protests on inter-city railway links.

Police were out in force to prevent any large-scale unrest during the day-long strike called by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist parties in a show of strength against the Congress-led government’s reform programme.

Le Tour: Stage 2

So you remember yesterday’s thrilling finish?  The peloton reeled back in the break away and all the teams set up their sprinters for the dash to the line?

Well there was a crash 50 yards from the finish so under Le Tour’s NASCAR competition rules everyone in the main body gets the same time as the first sprinter to cross.

Today’s stage finishes on a climb, one of 6 in the stage, so we’re unlikely to see that kind of action again.  125 miles from Brussles to Spa.

George Orwell and Howard Zinn on Nationalism

Writing in 1945 in his remarkable essay Notes on Nationalism, author George Orwell noted the following distinction between patriotism and nationalism

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism.  Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.  By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.  Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.  The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

Author and journalist George Orwell


I have stuff. Lots of stuff and not just the tangible kind that you can put your hands on and touch. When I suggested to ek hornbeck that we start this site and began working on diaries that I should write to help fill the pages as we attract readers and participants here, I began by looking at some of the “stuff” in my bookmarks and went WOW, I need to “clean” out all this stuff. Then I said “Wait, I  now have a place to put this “stuff” that I am about to “delete” forever into the infinity of cyberspace”.

Pique the Geek 20100704: The Science of Fireworks

This has been sort of a recurring theme for me the past few years for the installment nearest Independence Day.  You can hit my profile and find the earlier entries in this series.

This time, I intend to focus on the single greatest improvement in technology (other than the development of black powder) that has made modern, highly colored fireworks possible.  Until relatively recently the only colors available were white, yellow, and a dull red, with very faded out, compared to today, other colors.

First some theory, then some facts.  Please follow.