Saturday, September 23, 2006

Quotable

These are extreme times. Dems complain about Chavez' far out speech against Bush? Hell yeah. Go Chavez! I love this cabrón. Who else has the cojónes to call a Bush a Bush? Anyone? Anyone? Our own government is turning its back on the Geneva Conventions, all the politicians are drunk on ineptitude and power, and the ones who aren't are impotent. Innocent people are being torturted, raped, and murdered due to a war that we had no business to bring; the Constitution has been completely deprioritized by The Decider Inquisitor; we are planning other "preemptive" wars on the sly and saying we are not; funding for humans in need is being cut to make way for more bombdollars and taxcuts4therich; veterans are being fucked on benefits, important laws regulating logging are being weakened; National Guardsmen are going on shooting sprees by the border because they are bored; words that we all understand perfectly well are being redefined to make it less ego-dystonic for sadists to do their bizness, our secret police (CIA) worships torture, and this big ball of carcass-yarn winds around our mind when we sleep, ties up our hands as we try to move about, dips into our cereal when we're busy waking up—and you want people to make refined speeches that do not offend the Queen's English, that do not offend the complicit Dems, that do not make people uncomfortable? Are you fucking serious?

If so, you are asleep.
Nerdified link.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Hugo Chavez contra el diablo

A couple videos for y'all. First, the UN speech that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Español:

Next, an English translation via FauxNews & CNN:

I noticed Chavez recommending Chomsky's book Hegemony or Survival during his speech, which has apparently boosted its sales considerably.

The reason for putting both videos up is that the Spanish language version captures the audience reactions and Chavez' own spirited delivery much more accurately than what was portrayed via our corporate "news" media. My grasp of Spanish is admittedly minimal at best, and yet I found that spending the time to hear the source in the original language to be quite informative in its own right. One thing that should become clear immediately is that the main message of the speech goes way beyond Bush being "el diablo" (personally I prefer to think of Bush as the Antichrist), and is more of an indictment of the US government's treatment of much of the rest of the planet.

XicanoPwr has an excellent summary of the Chavez speech, and you can read an English translation of the speech via CounterPunch. By all means check it out.

For your listening enjoyment: Archie Shepp performs "Mama Rose"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Man Eegee sez

today is the International Day of Peace. Thanks for the reminder!

I wonder if it's too soon to book a cruise to the North Pole

European scientists voiced shock today as they viewed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole . . .

Perennial sea ice -- thick ice that is normally present year-round and is not affected by the Arctic summer -- had disappeared over an area bigger than the British Isles, ESA said.

Vast patches of ice-free sea stretched north of Svalbard, an archipelago lying midway between Norway and the North Pole, and extended deep into the Russian Arctic all the way to the North Pole, the agency said in a press release.

"This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low-ice seasons," said Mark Drinkwater of ESA's Oceans/Ice Unit.

Nerdified link.

Yoo-Tang Clan

Torture.mp3

Via Daniel.

Colbert - The Word: "Tribalism"

Yes, John Yoo's Eyes Are Brown

...and drawing more flies than a feedlot. A clip from Brendan Calling:

Yoo: The changes of the 1970’s occurred largely because we had no serious national security threats to United States soil, but plenty of paranoia in the wake of Richard Nixon’s use of national security agencies to spy on political opponents.

“No serious threats”?
What the fuck is John Yoo talking about? or were those ICBM’s the Soviets had aimed at us for pretty much my entire childhood and adolescence just imaginary?

A bunch of bloggers, left and right, are commenting on this hideously historically illiterate editorial John “I Heart Tyranny” Yoo published this Sunday in the New York Times, and I would like to add my 2 cents.

I was born in 1970, and went through all the stuff that kids of that age did: pledges to the flag, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, all that happy crappy. Boy Scout, First Class. I remember seeing “The Day After” and having nightmares for weeks, because i was afraid that the Soviet Union was going to, you know, rain nuclear bombs on us.. “No serious threats”? Then why did everyone run for cover when Reagan made that comment about bombing the Soviet Union, instead of laughing at his dumb joke? if there was no “serious threat” why were we spending time and money funding the Contras and death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua?

[snip]

If you want an accurate reflection of the serious threat we faced in the 1980s, and the paranois we all lived under, you really don’t have to look much further than the 1980s hardcore scene.

My first band was the Dead Kennedys, the most political band of the time. hauled in court by Reagan Attroney General Ed Meese, the band made a career of the hysteria that surrounded us, putting out albums like In God We Trust Inc (the first one I owned), Plastic Surgery Disasters, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, and Holiday in Cambodia.

Some lyrical selections from “In God We Trust, Inc”, since they’re actually still pretty relevant 20 years on.

We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now
Have another drink, few more pretzels, little more MSG.
Turn on those Dallas Cowboys on your TV.
Lock your doors
Close your mind.
It’s time for the two-minute warning.

Welcome to 1984
Are you ready for the third world war?!?
You too will meet the secret police
They’ll draft you and they’ll jail your niece

You’ll go quitely to boot camp
They’ll shoot you dead
Make you a man
Don’t you worry, it’s for a cause
Feeding global corporations’ claws

Moral Majority
You don’t want abortions, you want battered children
You want to ban the pill as if that solves the problem
Now you wanna force us to pray in school
God must be dead if you’re such a fool

You’re planning for a war with or without Iran
Building a police state with the Ku Klux Klan
Pissed at your neighbour? Don’t bother to nag
Pick up the phone and turn in a fag

That's just a sampler. I'm not much older than Brendan, but I certainly share many of his observations about the state of things circa 1984. Nukes were viewed as a huge threat back in the day - in a sense that hasn't changed much. But man, the talk about a third world war, of apocalypse, was heavier than a load of bricks. It was going down, man, like tomorrow it seemed. The "Evil Impire" of the day, the USSR, was the big threat - overblown as it turned out, but outside of those circles in which one held the right security clearances one would likely be unaware of just how overblown. There were plenty of fundamentalist preachers who were cashing in on the "end times" fad. Back then it was Hal Lindsey's books - a sort of precursor to the "Left Behind" cash cow. Iranians were also supposed to be scary back then, along with Libyan "terrorists" et al.

For a then teen Gen-X-er, there wasn't exactly a lot of peace and love to be found. The hippies and yippies had cashed in and turned to yuppies. The time had come to tune out, turn out (profits), and sell out. Protest was passe. Why change the world when you could buy it instead? It's morning in Amerikkka in what was the Age of Ray-Gun. American culture circa 1984 seemed a lot like the 1950s on crack.

In that context cats like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, MDC, among others were a breath of fresh air. Hardcore, the American mutation of the punk counterculture, offered that voice of protest that seemed at best stifled elsewhere. And the records back then were something - you'd get lyric sheets, manifestos, tips for creative vandalism, and so on. Since you weren't likely to hear this stuff on commercial radio - I lucked out in that I was near enough to college radio stations during my teens and early adulthood - so word of mouth was often the means of cluing you in. And yeah, you had to seek this stuff out. It didn't just drop in your lap. Maybe you'd happen on a zine. Maximum RocknRoll (which to my amazement is still around) was a good source at the time for anything from scene reports to record reviews to news of the world that wasn't fit for print in the mainstream of yellow journalism - a quick aside: it was through Maximum RocknRoll that I first read anything by Noam Chomsky.

I'm not sure that there's been much life left in the old punk/hardcore corpse since the 1980s, but I have no doubt that the torch of protest music has been passed to the next generation. There was an undercurrent to the hip-hop scene that developed concurrently with the hardcore scene that has thrived through the present time (if you're familiar with underground rap, then you know what I'm saying).

One thing that continues to blow me away is just how goddamned relevant lyrics from a quarter century ago are today. In those blasts from the past, we find the dark visions of the present and a swift kick in the ass to do something about it.

Who's the Terrorist Now?

An oldie but a goodie:
Pardon me President Reagan,
But who are the terrorist now?
This isn't a movie we're making,
Who are the terrorist now?

Contra-contrived, Grumman thrives
Death Skull tanks now mobilized

Why not send them food supplies?
Swords into plowshares

guns, planes, napalm flames,
Stenciled proudly our nation's name
so the dying can read who's to blame

[Chorus]

Exporting our excess of overkill
Whose deadly tools show our goodwill
Other nations acquiesce
At Sidra we bang our chest

All you who voted for Reagan
Who are the terrorist now?
This isn't a movie we're making
Who are the terrorist now?

Why earn a madman's wrath
Until neither side has the last laugh?

And the fuck with the Nuclear Test Ban
Who are the peace keepers now?

And somehow we're blaming the Russians
Asking, who are the terrorist now?
No profits in weapons reductions
So who are the terrorist now?
And those who voted for Reagan
Who are the terrorist now?
Efforts of piece all forsaken cause we are the best
Fuck all the rest
Yes we are the chest pounding
Terrorist now!
Change some names, and you quickly realize we're playing the same old games.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hey Google/Blogger: This Blog Is Not

A real person (me) maintains this blog and posts the bulk of the blog's content. Three other real human beings periodically contribute content. Why this blog got flagged as spam is unclear to me. I would suggest to the folks at Blogger to get it together or I will likely be moving this blog to another host.

We have met the enemy and it is...

us? So it appears to be the case on matters of race and religion. XicanoPwr provides a summary of the former, Women of Color Blog covers the latter. My first thought was, uh-oh, here we go again. The former has certainly come up before, and I've certainly seen enough bile on enough blogs on the latter to last a lifetime. As a leftist who is also a Christian - albeit an admittedly very unconventional one (I've probably mentioned somewhere before that it was an anarchist friend who got me to rethink my attitudes towards the faith, which should tell you about all you need to know) - I tend roll my eyes a good deal when I see religions of varying stripes all tarred as negative influences, and usually turn the other cheek (although I do question the extent to which I should do so). Sometimes I drop some names of people of faith who happen to have made an impact on any of a number of progressive causes: Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Peace Pilgrim, Malcom X, Thich Nhat Hanh, et al. Yes, religions can be used to serve oppressors, and I share the hostility that many leftists who are not religious hold towards those who would use their faith to hurt others. Yet the same could be said for practically any ideology, as I'm willing to wager history is scattered with evidence of latent authoritarianism rearing its ugly head in ideological movements that started out as liberatory.

My bottom line is that the progressive movements that were on-going when I was born four decades ago had a religious foundation - in particular the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement. I find it helpful not to lose sight of that.

As far as racism goes, I find as a white male it is good to say little and listen a lot, and to accept that I have plenty of blind spots (along with the responsibility to work on clearing up those blind spots). So it goes.

Hope this morning finds y'all doing well. Peace.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Peace Now.


PEACE NOW.
We'll resume regular functioning tomorrow

Monday, September 18, 2006

Psychology's Tortured History: "Modern Torture's Scientific Bible"

Check this latest diary by Valtin, who's been doing some enormously important digging into the history of psychology's involvement in the development of modern methods of torture. I'll provide a lengthy teaser, but suggest strongly you read the whole thing:

What if there was a book that dispassionately looked at the history and methodology of torture? What if this book looked at human physiology and psychology and tried to scientifically establish how to best break another human being and bend him or her to your will? What if this book were written by top behavioral scientists and published in the United States? And, finally, what if the studies published in this book were financed by the U.S. government?

Look no farther, there is, or rather was, such a book. Published in 1961 by John Wiley & Sons, The Manipulation of Human Behavior was edited by psychologists Albert D. Biderman and Herbert Zimmer. This book, unfortunately, cannot be found online, nor was a second edition or printing ever made (not surprisingly). But I will provide a review here, and an introduction into the nightmare world of science, torture, and politics that helped shape our modern world and today's news.

This book represents a critical examination of some of the conjectures about the application of scientific knowledge to the manipulation of human behavior. The problem is explored within a particular frame of reference: the interrogation of an unwilling subject....

Much of the work in this book was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force...(p. 1)

Albert Biderman had researched the so-called brainwashing of American POWs during the Korean War. He worked as Principal Investigator of an Air Force Office of Scientific Research contract studying stresses associated with capitivity. Biderman was also Senior Research Associate at the Bureau of Social Science Research.

...the U.S. Air Force provided at least half of the budget of the Bureau of Social Science Research in the 1950s. Military contracts supported studies at this Bureau such as the vulnerabilities of Eastern European peoples for the purposes of psychological warfare and comparisons of the effectiveness of "drugs, electroshock, violence, and other coercive techniques during interrogation of prisoners." (from a review of Chistopher Simpson's Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960)

His associate, Herbert Zimmer, was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, and also worked at times as a consultant for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. When you read their book, The Manipulation of Human Behavior (MHB), the various essays by other authors include statements crediting research to grants from the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology and the Office of Naval Research.

The titles of the book's essays are bone-chilling in their scientific bland exactitude. Here they are, with authors, for the record:

1. The Physiological State of the Interrogation Subject as it Affects Brain Function, by Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr., Assoc. Professor of Clinical Medicine in Psychiatry, New York Hospital

2. The Effects of Reduced Environmental Stimulation on Human Behavior: A Review, by Phillip E. Kubazansky, Chief Psychologist, Boston City Hospital

3. The Use of Drugs in Interrogation, by Louis A. Gottschalk, Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry and Research Coordinator, Cincinnati General Hospital

[snip]

4. Physiological Responses as a Means of Evaluating Information, by R. C. Davis, Professor of Psychology, Indiana University

5. The Potential Uses of Hypnosis in Interrogation, by Martin T. Orne, Teaching Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard University Medical School

[snip]

6. The Experimental Investigation of Interpersonal Influence, by Robert R. Blake and Jane S. Mouton, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, and Social Science Research Associate, University of Texas, respectively

7. Countermanipulation Through Malingering, by Malcolm L. Meltzer, Staff Psychologist, District of Columbia General Hospital

Six of the essay contributors were psychologists; two were psychiatrists.

Cui bono?

I cannot give a full review here of all the research and conclusions derived herein. The significance of the book itself is hard to gauge, because nothing of its like was ever published again. We can assume that the government agencies that financed the research passed along the results to those who could use it. Biderman himself in his introduction to MHB put it this way:

In assuming the attitude of the "hard-headed" scientist toward the problem, there is a danger in falling into an equivalent misuse of science....

The conclusions reached do in fact show that many devlopments can compound tremendously the already almost insuperable difficulties confronting the individual who seeks to resist an interrogator unrestrained by moral or legal [scruples]....

Several scientists have reported on the possible applications of scientific knowledge that might be made by eht most callous interrogator or power. The results of their thinking are availbale here for anyone to use, including the unscrupulous. (pp. 6, 9) (emphasis mine)

Spine feeling the shivers yet? When I first read the above, I thought I had stumbled into a fascist nightmare out of Robert Jay Lifton's The Nazi Doctors. But then, I read on:

The alternative is to confer on the would-be interrogator a monopoly of knowledge by default. His success, as the various chapters of this book illustrate, depends heavily on the ignorance of his victims. [B. F.] Skinner has aruged that those who are most concerned with restricting the vulnerabilty of men to control others have the most to gain from a clear understanding of the techniques employed. (p. 9)

Was Biderman saying that publishing this material publicly was an oblique attempt to expose what was going on? Was there a twinge of guilt in these men and women, working for the military under the guise of medical and university establishments? I don't know. But Biderman had a few other psychological observations about torture worth quoting (and think about President Bush as you read this, as he said the other day that he has spent a significant amount of time studying the issue of interrogations, torture, etc.):

The profound fascination of the topic under consideration may stem from the primitive, unconscious, and extreme responses to these problems, which gain expression in myth, dreams, drama, and literature. On the one hand, there is the dream-wish for omnipotence, on the other, the wish and fear of the loss of self through its capture by another. The current interest in problems of manipulation of behavior involves basic ambivalences over omnipotence and dependency, which, if projected, find a ready target in the "omniscient" scientist....

Conjectures concerning the prospects of "total annihilation of the human will" appear almost as frequently as those regarding the threat of mankind's total destruction by thermonuclear of similar weapons.....

Viewing the problem in magical or diabolical terms is not an altogether irrational analogy, given the existence of those who simultaneously practice and seek perfection of the means for controlling behavior and conceive their efforts as directed toward "possessing the will" of their victims....

Thus, magical thinking and projections, as has been indicated, pervade prevalent judgments regarding the significance of the behavioral alterations that interrogators can effect. (pp. 4-6)

No matter whatever qualms these researchers had, they were sure of two things: "that some potentialities of interrogation have been overestimated", particularly those that relied on old methods (extreme violence); and

There is no question that it is possible for men to alter, impair, or even to destroy the effictive psychological functioning of others over whom they exercise power. (p. 10)

The problem for the torturers, though, was the "elicitation of guarded factual information". For this, something more scientific was needed, something better than the old, unreliable techniques. -- In many ways, the disputes over interrogation now embroiling Washington are about the utility of methods, with Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney representing the old (omnipotence-craving) school, and McCain, Powell, and the military representing those who understand that psychlogical manipulation (often amounting to torture itself) gets them what they want, without the international treaty entanglements. The CIA is itself split within by a similar two wings.

The diarist goes on to describe in more detail the experiments described in the above book chapters. By all means make sure to read the whole thing. Valtin will hopefully continue to flesh this account of one of the dark sides to the behavioral sciences.

Quick update: I learned that one can read The Manipulation of Human Behavior online at a site called Questia.

Today is Constitution Day

In spite of efforts by the current Psychopath-In-Thief along with the various branches of The War Party to light firecrackers in its mouth, somehow The Constitution has some life left in it. Constitution Day falls on or around the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. If you're a student, your high school or college may have some events going on to check out. Regardless, it's as good a time as any to get a refresher on The Bill of Rights as our politicians work feverishly to sell the voters a bill of goods.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Experts Easily Reverse Diebold Results & No One Would Know


Spread the word. Yet another indicator of just how close we are to dictatorship in the good ol' USA.

More here.