Saturday, June 24, 2006

Other psychologists who speak out against torture

Although it's safe to say that American psychology has a rather sorry and sordid history of involvement in enabling torture, there are a few of us out there who are willing to stand and be counted. The following is but a partial list of psychologists who blog against torture:

Dennis Fox

Psychologists Acting With Conscience Together (Psyact)

Stephen Soldz

See also the Psychologists for Social Responsibility letter on the APA's wishy-washy torture policy; and the British Psychological Society's statement condemning psychological torture; and the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence statement concerning torture.

Wanker of the week

Don Goldwater.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Book Review: A Question of Torture

Note: the following is merely a very rough draft of a book review I hope to submit later this summer. Feedback is certainly welcome.

Book Review

A. W. McCoy. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006. ISBN 0-8050-8041-4.

For those of us who have been horrified by American atrocities committed at locations such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, and have wondered how the US became a notorious perpetrator of torture will want to read McCoy’s (2006) latest book, A Question of Torture. What McCoy provides is a scholarly and readable historical account of the CIA’s role as an innovator of modern torture techniques beginning in the late 1940s and continuing on to the present.

McCoy’s book highlights early efforts by the CIA to research mind control drugs in response to allegations that the Soviet Union was pioneering the use of these drugs as part of its own interrogation regimen. A number of years of research on a variety of psychoactive drugs, including LSD, failed to yield an effective mind control drug that could elicit information from suspected spies.

Of more pertinence to psychologists is McCoy’s coverage of the shift in focus by the CIA from developing mind control drugs to researching key behavioral components of psychological torture. The ground-breaking work by psychologist D.O. Hebb on sensory deprivation in particular would inspire many of the torture techniques currently utilized by US-run military prisons. The second key element that was researched and developed by CIA-backed psychological research was self-inflicted pain based upon techniques pioneered by the KGB (such as forced postures for lengthy periods of time). The third key element of interest to the CIA regarded the situational factors needed to produce torturers. As McCoy notes, Stanley Milgram’s (1974) research on destructive obedience – research that turned out to be funded covertly by the CIA – demonstrated that practically anyone could be turned into a torturer. These elements would be refined by the CIA and put into practice beginning in the 1960s.

One thing that McCoy covers in his chapter on psychological research is the persistent lapses in ethics. Many human participants in these various experiments were subjected to sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain techniques served involuntarily and had no means of escaping the experimental environment. Psychiatric patients and prisoners in particular were targeted for such experimentation. Experiments relying on voluntary human participants often failed to provide adequate informed consent to these individuals, as in the case of Milgram’s experiments on obedience. As McCoy notes, the negative psychological consequences (such as amnesia) for human participants as a result of being exposed to extreme sensory deprivation or self-inflicted pain was often long-lasting – even in experiments relying on voluntary participation.

McCoy goes on in subsequent chapters to outline how the CIA put these new torture techniques into practice, as well as efforts to export these techniques to various other US client states, as well as the human toll exacted on the victims. In addition McCoy provides us with a context for understanding the persistence of the use of psychological torture in the years after the end of the Cold War, as the US government shifted ultimately to a new War on Terror. Although some effort was made by the US government in the 1990s to cease the use of torture, the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks provided cover for torture’s advocates including Alberto Gonzales (now Attorney General), John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld, and General Geoffrey Miller.

McCoy closes the book with a summary of the effectiveness of torture. The bottom line is that at least two millennia of experience in practicing torture in its various forms have failed to yield accurate information from its victims. In fact, McCoy suggests that the persistent reliance on torture is more of a reflection of the psychological needs of government leaders in times of crisis than as a means of pursuing truth.

For psychologists desiring a historical context within which to place the US government’s current use of torture and who desire the context within which the current debate within the psychological profession regarding appropriate ethical guidelines for psychologists working in military prisons, McCoy’s book is an excellent resource.

From the mail bag

We get mail. A few highlights worth passing along:

My friend Lilian's blog Historicalfootnotes is back in action. Check it out.

Also, thanks to Lil, I'd like to direct your attention to two of Tarheel Dem's diaries that are quite thought-provoking: Identity Politics and White Privilege, and Shall Not Abridge Privileges and Immunities.

Via an email from Veterans for Peace, if you're going to be in the St. Louis area on June 28th there will be a "Welcoming Reception" for the preznit sponsored by Military Families Speak Out's Missouri chapter.

Via Rachel's Words, here's some news about the upcoming NYC debut of the performance of My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Rethink, refuse, revolt

Nerdified Link.

The Dolchstoßlegende Rides Again

From the mouths of cat-killers:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist declared Tuesday that "surrendering is not a solution" in Iraq as Democrats embraced a proposal to start U.S. troop withdrawals this year and the GOP-controlled Senate opened debate on it.

"We cannot retreat. We cannot surrender. We cannot go wobbly. The price is far too high," said Frist, R-Tenn., suggesting that Democrats want to do just that.

Nerdified Link.

As I've said before and will say again, what Frist is doing is little more than serving up a rhetorical device used by Nazis to suppress dissent. By referring to calls for getting out of a war situation that is doomed to failure (at least to anyone who isn't dead from the neck up) as "cutting and running", or "demoralizing the troops", or falling back on the old Vietnam (and now Iraq) Syndrome, the right-wing's hardliners are doing their level best to sidestep an honest debate. When the facts refuse to cooperate, rather than appeal to facts, the hardliners are appealing to fear, hatred, bitterness. Hey, if it worked for old Uncle Adolf...

And of course it should go without saying that when these jokers go using that rhetorical technique, we should be calling bullshit.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quotable: Lao Tzu

How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?
– Lao Tzu

Found surfing the internets

Mickey Z has five conversation starters guaranteed to make you the life of the party.

Xymphora tackles genocide revisionism, this time aiming at Nakba revisionists.

Is the Bu$hCo marriage on the rocks? If it's in the scandal sheets, it must be true.

The GOP sez: "Killing is our business, and business is good."

The Guardian is bearish on Lieberman and bullish on the netroots.

Meanwhile back in Iraq, it appears the US has turned the corner once again - if by "turned to corner" we mean walked into a dark alley that dead-ended and the only way out is to get past some cats armed with pliers and a blowtorch who plan to get "Medieval on Bu$hCo's ass."

Oh, and Rick "Man on Turtle" Santorum gets debunked.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Our Do-Nothin', Know-Nothin' Republicans Are At It Again

As theboz at MLW notes, Republicans Hate Black People. The latest:

It is more shocking to me than it should be, but it looks like the Republicans are delaying to renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The article I linked to says:

House Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed a vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act after GOP lawmakers complained it unfairly singles out nine Southern states for federal oversight.

Fear of blacks and fear of Latino immigrants seem to be the primary driving forces in the latest GOP stall tactics on legislation that at this point in time shouldn't even need to be questioned, but merely renewed.

"Those were the days"

Shorter Bill O'Reilly regarding Iraq:
"We could use a man like Saddam Hussein again."

Soldiers get tortured to death, Rush Limbaugh is pleased

...a little too pleased. Cassandra at Cutting to the Chase hit it right on the nose:
Rush is having a great day. He just loves that our soldiers were tortured and beheaded. You know why? Because he gets so excited he almost wets himself at the thought of making people hate liberals. That is his entire reason for being. He is at his happiest when he can say that Democrats love such events as today's, because he loves to say that Democrats like anything that makes Bush look bad. And most of all he knows nothing will make Americans hate Democrats more than thinking that Democrats support our troops being tortured and beheaded.
So what exactly did the sick fuck say in the first place? Feast your eyes:
Rush: "I got an email here. "(Uh) Rush, (uh) now that two of our own have been tortured and murdered by the terrorists in Iraq, will the Left say that they deserved it? I'm so sick of our cut-and-run liberals. Keep up your great work." Bob C. from Roanoke, Virginia. "PS, I love the way you do the program on the Little Kim (?)" (laughs) I read...no I added that! He didn't, he didn't put that in there. (laughs) You know, it-it's-I-uh...I gotta tell ya, I-I-I perused the liberal, kook blogs today, and they are happy that these two soldiers got tortured. They're saying, "Good riddance. Hope Rumsfeld and whoever sleep well tonight."
If you're sufficiently masochistic, Crooks & Liars (see link above) have the mp3 file for your listening pleasure.

So, what's the reality? Steven D. has the skinny:
First let's go to My Left Wing which I'm certain would qualify as a "wacko lefty" site in Limbaugh's book. What have the followers of all things Mary Scott O'Connor had to say about these poor soldiers who were tortured to death? Well,there is this recommended diary by texas kos titled Bodies of Kidnapped Soldiers Found - One was a Texan

He was only 23. He had his life in front of him. Now his family only has his memories.

I'm so angry right now.

I'm angry at the Al Qaeda terrorists that killed him, but I'm more angry that Kristian was even in Iraq.

I don't expect shit from terrorists, but I expect competence, security, and the goddamn TRUTH from my government!! [...]

My sympathies go out to the Menchaca & Tucker families. I don't know if we have the same political leaning, but we're all Americans & in this we all have the same goal: To bring justice to the killers of these two young men.

But that justice will not be complete if the people responsible for sending these men in harm's way are not held accountable also for their irresponsibility and blind zeal. [emphasis in original]

Nope, not a word about how happy texas kos is that these poor soldiers died under horrible circumstances. Quite the contrary. But yes, angry at the soldiers' commander in chief and his administration whose mistakes, lies and mendacity put this poor soldier in harm's way in Iraq in the first place.

Well, lets wander over to Eric Alterman's blog, Altercation where Jeralyn of TalkLeft fame is filling in. Here's what she had to say about this tragedy:

There is horrible news today from Iraq. The beheaded and tortured bodies of the two soldiers kidnapped on Friday at a checkpoint in Yusifiyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad were found on a street near the checkpoint. Pending official confirmation by DNA testing, they have been identified as Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, left, 25, of Madras, Ore., and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston. [...]

It’s hard to express the sinking feeling this news brings. What can you say to the families of these young men to help reduce their grief?

Yep. Just shouting for joy is ol' Jeralyn. Can't rein in all her glee for the life of her. NOT.

Well let's see what that bombthrower Kos and his minions have to say. Maybe they're jumping for joy? Uh, not exactly:

The bodies of the two captured U.S. soldiers were found in Iraq - bearing signs of "barbaric torture."

How quaint.

I hope Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo will sleep well tonight, with visions of those boys' bodies and the horrible barbarities inflicted upon them dancing in their heads. Perhaps Gonzales, and Yoo, and Rumsfeld and Bush will be able to envision the same inhumanities being visited upon their family members and loved ones as they drift off to peaceful slumber.

Lot of anger and grief by occams hatchet, but no happy thoughts, that's for sure. As for Markos himself, the only comment he made was this post criticizing John Hinderaker of Powerline (not providing the link - find it on your own if you wish) for swift boating the family members of one of the soldiers because they dared to criticize the Bush administration. He doesn't sound real happy either.

In fact, here's a list of progressive websites and blogs I checked that, for some strange reason, weren't dong the happy dance over the torture and death of our soldiers in Iraq:

Atrios
Huffington Post
AMERICABlog
Hullabaloo
Juan Cole
ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES
Rising Hegemon
Steve Gilliard
The Next Hurrah
skippy the bush kangeroo
The Sideshow
TBogg
Firedoglake
Jesus' General
Glenn Greenwald
James Wolcott
First Draft
Laura Rosen
Shakespeare's Sister
MyDD
ePluribus Media
Buzz Flash
Pandragon
Corrente
Pam's House Blend
Roger Ailes
Josh Marshall

Well you get the picture. Rush Limbaugh is a BIG FAT LIAR. There is no joy in librulville because two US soldiers were tortured and then murdered. Only sadness and righteous fury at our leaders who have led us down this dark and twisted path to war, and to the immoral practice of torture ourselves.

What to do? Keep shining the light of truth whenever Rush and other hatemongers try to pull their usual stunts.

The very fact that anyone is being tortured and killed as a consequence of that God-forsaken war in Iraq is simply beyond the pale. There were plenty of us back in the winter of 2003 as Bu$hCo's war drums beat ever louder who challenged the whole rationale for invading Iraq. The whole reasoning seemed phony, and I among others noted that nothing good comes from actions based on deceit. Well over three years have passed, and in that time we've witnessed as the birds have come home to roost. You cannot start wars based on lies, you cannot torture and kill others with impunity, and not expect retaliation. This war has poisoned everything it has touched. There is no joy in saying that. There is no satisfaction in being correct. There is merely the underlying anger (borne out of love for humanity) resulting from the knowledge that none of this had to happen. May God have mercy on us. I suspect we as a nation will need all the mercy we can get once all's said and done.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A quick welcome message

All of you coming from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo's corner of blogtopia (y!sctp!), thanks for stopping by. Take a look around, and make sure to check out a few of the blogs on my blogroll...there are a number of really cool bloggers who are every bit as obscure as me.

A quick tour of the Eegeehood

Nanette normally handles the Sunday tour, but due to illness had to rest instead. So, I'm volunteering to do a sort of quickie tour - almost two days late, and more than a dollar short. There's always somethin' happening in tha hood. Let's check it out:

Manuel is a busy man, but fortunately drops something new on his blog worth reading - as a writer and activist he has a lightbulb moment in which muses on anger and quotes the late, great Cesar Chavez. In who's the decider? he notes the government's increasingly police-state tactics in the name of "border security."

XicanoPwr has more goods on Blake Gottesman, an aide to Junior Caligula who without a college degree managed to get into the Harvard MBA program via the legacy system. Also notes the various folks Gottesman compares himself to and shows that he comes up terribly short. Ah, the Ivy League: it isn't what you know (as our current prez demonstrates, you don't have to actually know a damned thing), it's who you know.

Also props to XicanoPwr for covering the Donut Hole that is plaguing Medicare D subscribers.

Duke1676 gets at the root of the problem - namely by looking at economic policies that have decimated working and middle-class families.

Catnip has some delicious food for thought on leaderless revolution. Bon apetite!

Dove tours the anti-torture archipelago.

Did you know that Nanette's own Human Beams now has a blogger's row? There are some familiar faces there.

Got the jones for a snack, but don't want to give in to the cravings? Katiebird at Eat4today has 6 things you can do to avoid those snacks.

Olivia always has these stunning flower photos.

Family Man travels down a comfortable road.

Finally, Ductape Fatwa, where are you? Usually there are some cats hanging out on his front porch, dining on exquisite cuisine and conversing for hours on end. Must be vacationing.

As always, mea culpa (Latin for "my bad") if I left something out. Let me know in the comments, and I'll add it.

Nanette, get well soon!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Learn something new every day: Beat poetry edition

Leave it to blogtopia (y!sctp!) to educate and to entertain. Today I learned of a beat-era poet & artist whom I'd never heard of before: Kenneth Patchen. From Le Revue Gauche:
Kenneth Patchen was and is an underrated American poet, a surrealist, an anarchist, a founder of the Beat movement, a painter and illustrator. I came across his works when we ran Erewhon Books, the Anarchist Bookstore in Edmonton in the seventies and eighties.

His stream of conciousness novel The Journal of Albion Moonlight has many memorable mise et scenes. Like Jesus and Hitler arguing about capital punishment, murder and war on a train. Hitler wins the argument.

Or the tale of the little light bulb that hides in the impoverished home of a poor working class family, keeping them in light to live and learn, hiding from the nameless electrical company which wants to kill this lightbulb because unlike its mates, it is eternal. It can provide light forever, but the evil corporation that makes light bulbs has created all the other bulbs to die out, planned obselecence.

He was anti-war, a true anarchist pacifist
. He spoke out against WWII when it was far from popular to do so, even amongst the left. His wife Miriam was his muse and his most ardent advocate.
Read the rest of Eugene Plawiuk's entertaining and enlightening highlight of this obscure writer and artist.

Debunking the "both sides are equally bad" myth

Shakespeare's Sister has the lowdown. Let's face it, after serial plagiarist Ann Coulter goes on a rampage calling for Rep. Murtha to be "fragged" and trashing 9-11 widows, instead of her fellow right-wingers realizing that lo and behold she's gone too far they trot out the well-worn slogan "well, you lefties are just as bad."

If only there were some truth to it. I have looked high and low for an influential leftist (or whatever passes for "leftist" here in the US) that could come close to Ann Coulter. Michael Moore doesn't work - the guy's too tame. I haven't read or heard any remarks from him advocating the murder of anyone, and I'd like to think I'm pretty familiar with his work (and no, killing a myth, such as Horatio Alger's "rags to riches" myth, doesn't count).

When this topic came up on a message board a few years ago, I challenged the person who was claiming we lefties were just as bad to come up with one solid example to back up his point. I got nothing but silence. Wasn't surprised at all. The guy had nothing, except some slogan he'd picked up on Fox News.

I can understand the psychological need to believe that "the other side is just as bad." It's really a variant of the "false consensus effect." The false consensus effect is a cognitive bias to overestimate the extent to which others believe or behave as we do. The effect is most likely to occur in situations where one's sense of self is threatened. When one engages in antisocial behavior or when others one admires engage in antisocial behavior, one ego defense mechanism is to latch on to the notion that large numbers of other people engage in the same behavior. One can go on then secure in their belief that one is still a "good person."

Like any cognitive bias, a false consensus bias does not necessarily lead to error. However, the risk for erroneous thinking is there. In this case, we have folks confronted with a reality that many of their right-wing heroes regularly engage in eliminationist rhetoric (Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, ad nauseum) falsely believe that there are as many prominent political opponents who engage in similar behavior.

To recap: the "both sides are equally bad" myth in this context should be seen as a cognitive bias, one that is motivated by the normal human need to maintain a positive self-image.

Monday Open Thread


This video is a clip of the late multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry (who once performed with Ornette Coleman in the 1950s and early 1960s). Cherry plays a multitude of instruments on an urban street corner. Near as I can figure, the clip was probably filmed at the end of the 1960s or early 1970s.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Leave it to Mad Magazine

A Mad comparison between the Iraq War and previous wars:
Troops in WWI were defended by foxholes...
...troops in Iraq are defended by Fox News.

The Korean War was caused by post-WWII instability...
...the war in Iraq was caused by post-9/11 gullibility.

During the Revolutionary War, a young woman named Molly becuse famous for her pitcher...
...during the Iraq War, a dumb woman named Lynndie because famous for her pictures.

During Vietnam, draft-dodgers abruptly fled the country...
...during Iraq, draft-dodgers corruptly led the country.

In WWII, the liberation of Paris caused songs and revelry...
...in Iraq, the liberation of Baghdad caused bombs and rivalry.

During WWII, the Reich blamed their problems on the Jews...
...during Iraq, the right blames their problems on the news.

A great image of the Revolutionary War is of Washington on a boat, courageously crossing the Delaware...
...a grating image of the Iraq War is of Bush on a boat, outrageously lost and unaware.

During the Gulf War, the Patriot missile was used to repel our enemies...
...during the Iraq War, the Patriot Act is used to repeal our liberties.
Props to Left I on the News

Happy Father's Day!

To my dad (since I know you occasionally meander over to this blog), thanks for everything. I'm sure I gave you plenty of headaches growing up - but I probably listened and learned more from you than you would realize.

I celebrated my first Father's Day in 1996. This makes #11! Time flies.

I should also note that it's somewhat ironic that I just started reading Edwin Black's history of the eugenics movement, War Against the Weak. This Father's Day let's reflect on those who were denied the opportunity to become dads thanks to an elitist utopian vision of breeding a "master race."

What the voice of the tortured sounds like

Via the blog Make Some Noise!:
"Many of our fellow Americans wear a blindfold hiding from the truth of what our government is doing. But each of you has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a voice to oppose this crime against humanity."

Sister Dianna Ortiz.
I've read of her before, and have a bit of familiarity with her story. As zazou of Make Some Noise! notes, she was working with indigenous peoples in Guatamala when she was kidnapped by Guatamalan forces, then raped and tortured by folks trained by good ol' Uncle Sam (in what was once known as The School of the Americas).

You can listen to Sister Ortiz speak here.

Time to face what is being done in all of our names.

Quotable: Torture

There is only one thing that arouses animals more than pleasure, and that is pain. Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him.

-Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980)

Mad props to T-girl Rants.