Archive for February, 2009


Written by dan

February 26th, 2009 at 8:01 am

A not-very-impressive editorial

In response to a not-very-impressive editorial in the Stanford Daily…

This argument is amazing:

“rescinding tenure or failing to welcome Rice back will send a message to all Stanford professors who are now in or considering public service: do so at your own risk.”

Since the “public service” involved in the allegations against Rice is the commission of major war crimes, with this substitution, with this substitution, the argument becomes:

“failing to welcome Rice back will send a message to all Stanford professors who are now committing or are considering committing major war crimes: do so at your own risk.”

And that, I think, is precisely correct.

That the Daily then draws the opposite conclusion, and that “Stanford professors who are now” committing or are “considering” major war crimes should not be given a message of “do so at your own risk”, speaks for itself.


Written by dan

February 24th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Discussion on Afghanistan..

… on Democracy Now today. Quite thorough, and timely, on the eve of Obama’s address to Congress. Also timely, as the US formally admits that yet another missile strike — the most recent one, on Saturday — on a tent encampment, killed mostly civilians. Obama continues to press ahead with plans to escalate.


Written by dan

February 23rd, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Raytheon recruitment day

There was an email sent to all students in the mathematics department, essentially advertising for Raytheon… My response.


Well, if it’s legitimate to advertise for controversial weapons manufacturers on an email list for mathematics students, it’s certainly also legitimate to provide some critical information about them. Hey, they might be “virtually indistinguishable” from the CIA and NSA, according to the Washington Post, they might have their top lobbyist at #2 in the Pentagon, but still, I don’t think they’ve completely taken over the mathematics department yet…

They may produce cruise missiles, bunker buster missiles, anti-missile missiles, and other missiles used to kill lots of people, but hey, that’s legal, right? They may even produce missiles used by military forces in serious and massive violation of international law — but that’s not their responsibility, right? They might produce missiles which deliver cluster bombs — declared illegal by 95 countries — but hey, the US isn’t one of them, right? They produce crazy experimental microwave-ray weapons to disperse peaceful protests, but that keeps the rabble in line… right? They might supply surveillance equipment for the wall in occupied Palestine, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, but that surely gets lost among the yearly $3 billion in US aid to Israel… right? Their subsidiary might have purchased the airline used by the CIA for covert activity in southeast Asia, and then used it in Mexico in a program which Congress called a “shambles”, but that doesn’t mean anything… right? And they might have supplied explosives devices to a repressive Argentinian government in its US-supported dirty war, but that should be well down the memory hole by now… right? And then there is all that overstating of costs, falsifying records, terrible labor practices, and other legal liabilities, but hey, what good corporation doesn’t… right?

Nonetheless, I’m sure none of this matters, because there may be interesting mathematics in designing their products.

Anyway, below are some interesting links for further critical information. BTW, I’m happy to provide sources or discuss any of the claims in the above: most of them are in the articles below. They are all serious claims.


Written by dan

February 19th, 2009 at 8:36 am


Blackwater, the notorious mercenary company, has changed its name to “Xe” in a rebranding effort.

As science students should be aware, Xe is the chemical symbol for Xenon. As they will recall, Xenon is an inert gas: colourless, odourless, invisible.

However, Xenon dissolves in blood and can penetrate into the brain, causing anaesthestic effects.

Will Blackwater’s change of name result in equal invisibility and political anaesthesia from the American population?


Written by dan

February 17th, 2009 at 7:50 am

New report from Gaza

As more reports come out of Gaza, the horrors known to us will compound. Ann Wright is a long-time US army veteran, former diplomat, and recently went to Gaza with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Berry of CodePink. This report contains newly shocking stories.

The Israeli Smashing of Gaza and International Silence
by Ann Wright


Written by dan

February 16th, 2009 at 7:09 am

Recent poll agrees with international law

Poll: Most want inquiry into anti-terror tactics

If we limit ourselves to the specific alleged crime (against Condoleezza Rice and others) of *torture* — and put aside for now the much worse crime of aggressive war as against Iraq — we see that a clear majority is in agreement with the dictates of international law.

In particular, the vast majority of the US public in favour of investigations/prosecutions of Bush administration officials agrees with the UN Convention Against Torture, signed by the USA in 1988, ratified 1994, and hence, according to article VI of the US Constitution, the “supreme law of the land” — also implemented into US domestic law by the War Crimes Act of 1996, the torture statute, and other legislation and regulation. (See Marjorie Cohn’s article at for a useful summary of the legislation.)

UN Convention Against Torture

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 12

Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.

NB: It is an *obligation* to investigate. It is not optional.

The law against torture is “jus cogens”, a peremptory norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted. In this status it ranks with the worst crimes against humanity, alongside genocide and aggressive war.

There is no immunity for the specific international crime of torture — so, at least, the UK House of Lords held against Pinochet, the US-backed dictator of Chile. Whatever Pinochet’s arguments, the case for immunity for Rice and others can be no stronger.

“[T]he torturer has become like the pirate and slave trader before him hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind”.
— US Court of Appeals (2nd circuit), 1980


Written by dan

February 14th, 2009 at 9:11 am

Things to learn about the world

I am interested pretty broadly in radical politics, and especially in alternatives, vision for a better world, and strategy of how to get there. This means alternatives in all realms of society: politics, economics, kinship, environment, gender relations, race relations, etc. But I guess my major radical political interest is in economic alternatives to capitalism (I am a mathematician after all 😛 ). Out of the proposals I’ve seen — and it is to my undying bafflement that I have barely seen any, or any discussion of them — the one I that strikes me most favourably is the participatory economics ideas written down by Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel, and various others, mostly the sort of people that write on /

Nonetheless I’m pretty open-minded about alternatives. Just not authoritarian socialist ones — command planning, leninism/maoism/trotskyism, etc. Various other ideas, often given labels like market socialism, solidarity economics, democratic socialism, etc, are all worth learning and thinking about, I think. As well as historical examples, which I think are very important, e.g. libertarian Spain, the Paris commune, Chile under Allende, Scandinavia under social democracy, participatory budgeting in Brazil and India, the Yugoslav model, etc etc etc… Of all these, I find libertarian Spain (i.e. the economic system established in anarchist-controlled regions during the Spanish civil war) the most inspiring. I see “participatory economics” not as a great theoretical development, but as a continuation / modernization of this anarchist / libertarian socialist tradition, adapted to the present day.

Also, when discussing vision per se, seems to me this is often best conveyed by storytelling/fiction. Plus, fiction is fun to read.

So, these are the sorts of things to learn, although I am definitely open to many other things.

Parecon: Life After Capitalism
Michael Albert

The Dispossessed
Ursula K Le Guin

No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism
Daniel Guerin


Written by dan

February 13th, 2009 at 10:00 am

The New Fallujah Up Close and Still in Ruins

From Dahr Jamail. Dahr is back in Iraq and reporting regularly now…


Written by dan

February 13th, 2009 at 9:28 am

Our new intelligence agency

From the Ultimate File, press clippings over the course of many years.

We are promulgating this knowledge, through the wiki.

Edits welcome, wikis are the way of the future. There is no mistake on a wiki that can’t be reversed, so don’t worry!

Except by a big multinational corporation… or a court order… nope, even a court order can be reversed and a multinational corporation can be defeated, heh heh heh.


Written by dan

February 12th, 2009 at 10:57 am