Friday, July 20, 2007

Quotable: Frantz Fanon

“What I call middle-class society is any society that becomes rigidified in predetermined forms, forbidding all evolution, all gains, all progress, all discovery. I call middle-class a closed society in which life has no taste, in which the air is tainted, in which ideas and men are corrupt. And I think that a man who takes a stand against this death is in a sense a revolutionary.”

- Frantz Fanon; born July 20, 1925

This week, Hunter S. Thompson would have turned 70

Great quote from his classic, Hell's Angels:
"The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
Hat tip to Edgeing for the reminder.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

By any means necessary

Found at Intelligentaindigina Novajoservo.

Quotable: On Torture

It is not possible for me to adequately express wording for what has taken place in American society, from Bush down, with regard to the U.S. government's practices of torture.

Needless to say all who have been involved should not in the future — to human, animal or insect — have any contact.

All in the medical profession, all psychologists and psychiatrists, all military personnel, all government servants involved, should be tried as war criminals of the highest order.

A court based upon the Nuremberg trials must be convened.

These people do need to be removed from society.

As for torture itself, no one has spoken of it better that Orwell:

"The object of torture is torture!"

IOZ on the 2008 Preznit Election Circus

The contest is to determine who will best manage the smooth passage of the ship of state for whomever: the United Fruit Company; Morgan Stanley; Lockheed Martin; the Defense Department; Boeing, etc. If it comes down to--let's be arbitrary--Romney and Clinton, say, who do you think the big guns are gonna get behind: the guy who wants to "double Guantanamo?" or the gal who will quietly shift our torturing back to dark rooms and third parties where it belongs?
Nothing like a bit of dark humor to put the whole thing in perspective!

A good reason to expose your infants and toddlers to multiple languages

They'll probably grow up more tolerant:
Caroline Bowen, the wife of a frequenter of this site, Don Bowen, is a speech pathologist in Australia. I imagine she might have something to say about this:

A STUDY of newborn babies and preschoolers has revealed that language may be the root of prejudice - and the way to avoid it.

US and French researchers have found that the language babies hear spoken in their first six months of life leads to a preference for speakers of that language.

The preference is so entrenched that by age five youngsters prefer playmates who not only speak the same language but do so with the same accent.

A key implication of the findings - reported in the US publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Science - is that children exposed to different languages grow into more tolerant adults than their monolingual mates. [full text]

Let's just say there was a reason I liked Dora the Explorer, as well as Sesame Street, etc. Of course it doesn't hurt for parents to model to their children speech in multiple languages (even modeling the process of learning is beneficial). My Spanish is very rusty, but I've been teaching the young ones whatever words and phrases I happen to remember. If that ends up being one facet of facilitating this new generation to become a bit more tolerant than my own, all the better.

Haven't decided what to make of this one

First Crooks and Liars:

USA Today:

The Bush administration announced a new tool Tuesday to freeze financial assets of those who want to destabilize Iraq.

President Bush unveiled a new executive order that allows the administration to block bank accounts and any other financial assets that might be found in this country belonging to people, companies or groups that the United States deems are working to threaten stability in Iraq.

Bush cited the “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security and foreign policy of the United States “posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.”

No person, company or group was designated under the order on Tuesday.

The order seeks to fill a gap in U.S. authority to use financial sanctions to go after such offenders.

Oh boy, there’s a whole bunch of red flags on this one. Bank accounts IN THIS COUNTRY that are deemed to threaten the peace and stability of Iraq? What peace and stability? How many ways can you see this being abused?

One of my commenters alerted me to the latest Bu$hCo executive order this morning. I'm sure it's starting to make the rounds in blogtopia. Abuse of power seems to be the trademark of the imperial presidency, and since power is like crack to the Lush/Zany gang I'm also seeing some red flags.

Generation Chickenhawk

Untitled from huffpost and Vimeo.

A description may be found here. Hat tip to David Swanson of After Downing Street.

Unclear on the concept

From an article about a vandalized Hummer:
"The neighborhood in general is very concerned with the environment," said Liem, whose Prius gets about 48 miles a gallon compared with the Hummer's 14 miles a gallon. "It's more liberal leaning. It's ridiculous to be driving a Hummer."
Liem added quickly that she does not condone violence.


"They've got everything at their disposal in this city to make a statement in a legal way," Fremaux said of the bat-wielding men who struck out at the Hummer. "I consider this a hate crime."
Hate crime? Ooookay. Once we start referring to vandalized gas-guzzling SUVs as "hate crimes", the term becomes practically meaningless. Of course the vandalism occurred in Yuppieville U$A, so perhaps the mentality is not too surprising. The equation of vandalism and violence is also a bit of a stretch. Here's a little something from an old punk zine (Pressure #4) from back around 1985 that might put things in perspective:

Boycotting products from companies and stores does help, but it conveys little or no message at all. They simply won't go away unless we invite them to. And if they won't go away, we can at least give them a headache for the time being.

Butcher shops, restaraunts [sic], factories, companies, and other establishments tied to the meat industry, apartheid, the arms race, and other neat things of the sort need to be constantly reminded that they're making money from death. We, who are supposedly opposed to such people, should be doing everything in our ability to smash this death machine which controls our lives.

There are many diverse forms of direct action which we may choose in order to get this message across. Of these, graffiti and the destruction of property can be accomplished without too much trouble. Graffiti or the destruction of property cannot be termed violence because violence is directed towards a living creature with intent to harm or kill.
The friend of mine who authored that was an unabashed pacifist, so nonviolent forms of action were essentially the only methods he would consider acceptable. As I've mentioned before, I tend to view violence as behavior that inflicts serious physical and psychological harm on its victims. Often when we think of violence, we think in terms of interpersonal violence - i.e., involving the direct physical involvement of at least one perpetrator and victim. However, I also find it helpful to utilize a definition of violence used by sociologists that views violence not only as interpersonal, but as also having organizational and structural elements. When discussing organizational violence, we refer to the various bureaucratic decisions made by individuals in positions of relative authority, and typically at a distance from the pain and suffering inflicted. As far as structural violence is concerned, here we look at the pain and suffering caused due to systematic deprivation of necessary resources, such as access to legal representation.

Another definition of violence by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan from his book Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression (1985, p. 135) that may be pertinent:
Violence is any relation, process, or condition by which an individual or group violates the physical, social, and/or psychological integrity of another person or group. From this perspective, violence inhibits human growth, negates inherent potential, limits productive living, and causes death.

The proposed definition rests on several assumptions. First, violence is not simply an isolated physical act or a discrete random event. It is a relation, process, and condition undermining, exploiting, and curtailing the well-being of the victim. Second, these violations are not simply moral and ethical, but also physical, social, and/or psychological. They involve demonstrable assault on or injury of and damage to the victim. Third, violence in any of the three domains - physical, social, or psychological - has significant repercussions in the other two domains. Fourth, violence occurs not only between individuals, but also between groups and societies. Fifth, intention is less critical than consequence in most forms of violence. Any relation, process, or condition imposed by someone that injures the health and well-being of others is by definition violent.
Check that last sentence: "Any relation, process, or condition imposed by someone that injures the health and well-being of others is by definition violent." I'd likely quibble with my old friend regarding the usefulness of the concept of "intent" (I've noted before that I tend to look at consequence rather than intent) but aside from that I view these various efforts to define violence as generally overlapping and reasonably consistent. When we talk about injuring the health and well-being of someone else (up to and including death), then we're talking about violence.

Bashing a Hummer isn't going to cut it as far as the label "violence" is concerned. Yeah, a bit of a downer for the owner, and not exactly my preferred choice of action (I'm guessing that neither the yuppies in that guy's 'hood nor the folks who control the mass media would have sufficient insight to use the incident as a means to question the violence their choices of transportation are perpetrating against a variety of human and nonhuman animals), but a nonviolent action nonetheless.


Click the pic for full-sized image. Found over at After Downing Street.

Quotable: Meta-Edition

Madman in the Marketplace over at Marisacat's blog:
Like Robert Neville, we are LEGEND, and while we stalk the virtual land no Donklephant, or their thralls, fanboys and blogmaids, are safe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Arthur Silber update

Just in case anyone was wondering why there hasn't been as much new content at his blog as of late:
My health is very, very bad right now. I'm only able to get out of bed for an hour or two at a time, before I have to lie down again. And when I'm up, I can hardly do anything. Writing is out of the question at the moment.

I have several months' worth of essays already outlined, as I have for quite a while. I wish I could tell you when I'll be able to start actually writing them -- for my own sake more than for yours, frankly. But I can't. I'll probably rebound at some point; I have in the past. I suppose I should begin to acknowledge that the time will arrive when I won't, possibly sooner than I had hoped.

Hence my headline. Grim. Very grim.
He's discussed his health problems a bit before. Hopefully he will bounce back. In the meantime, I hope he can be as comfortable as possible as he recovers. and the Democrats' containment of the anti-war movement is the classic manifestation of a liberal organization that sees the world in postmodernist terms, an organization that seeks to achieve the partisan goal of electing Democrats based upon the assumption that the precession of simulacra is an inescapable, established fact of our contemporary existence. I have previously described the efforts of to substitute the artifice of antiwar activism for the substantive kind (click on the label for below if you are interested), and barely a month goes by without discovering its participation in another initiative launched for the purpose of containing antiwar activism within the boundaries established by moderate Democrats.


My hostility towards has primarily been because of its effort to prevent the emergence of a popular, mass based movement against the war in Iraq and, potentially, even US imperialism. Now, I have concluded that it serves an even more insidious purpose, the mobilization of people to participate in meaningless spectacles, based upon the assumption that radical political change is impossible. In other words, a perspective about US politics and social life that is irretrievably cynical and amoral, and allows the militarists to run free to plot new crimes.
Nerdified link. My emphasis added. For other essays regarding at American Leftist, go here.


As much as I respect my friends who keep saying torture is un-American, I contend that torture is as American as apple pie. I've got just the rudiments of an essay outlined that I'll share here later (under the title, Torture: It's As American As Apple Pie) that ties together threads from at least a century of torture from urban police departments, to CIA-funded psychological and psychiatric research leading to KUBARK, the exportation of torture (e.g., SOA/WHINSEC), to the present. Stay tuned...

Psychology's little ethics problem

If you haven't seen Rorschach and Awe, over at Vanity Fair's website, it's worth reading. Next read the press release from The Psychologists for an Ethical APA. The issue of the role of US psychologists and the profession of psychology in researching and perpetrating torture is something that I've remained keenly aware of and have periodically highlighted here. From my summary of Alfred McCoy's book, A Question of Torture, last summer:
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.
In late September of last year, I pointed out a terrific essay by Valtin that examines more closely the science upon which contemporary torture is based. Valtin, among others, has also been highly critical of the American Psychological Association's failure to take a strong stand against torture, instead opting to leave plenty of wiggle room for psychologists employed in America's notorious gulags, such as the one at Guantánamo Bay.

Going back to the PEA's press release:
Since 2005, multiple press reports and government documents have clearly demonstrated that US military and intelligence service psychologists were involved in developing a regime of psychological torture for use on suspected terrorists. In May, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG) declassified a report revealing that psychologists from the military's SERE program worked with US military psychologists at Guantanamo tasked with "developing the standard operating procedure" for interrogations using tactics that violate the Geneva Conventions. The OIG report also documented that these SERE psychologists played a role in bringing abusive interrogation techniques to Iraq and that the SERE-based techniques also migrated to Afghanistan.
My emphasis added. Further from the PEA website:
A recently declassified August 2006 Department of Defense report confirms that psychologists were directly responsible for the development and use of techniques defined by the International Red Cross as “tantamount to torture.” These techniques continue to be employed against enemy combatants in Guantanamo and other military and CIA run facilities.

The current APA Ethics Code (Ethical Standards Section 1.02) allows psychologists to violate its principles, including that of “do no harm,” in order to “follow orders.” Such a loophole in the ethics code permits unethical behavior, including torture, if orders so require. The APA Council of Representatives has requested that our ethics code be changed to ensure that any exceptions to the standard code are “in accordance with basic human rights.” No changes have been made.

The American Medical Association, The World Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have declared that there is no legitimate role for their members to consult in individual interrogations in unlawful detention sites such as Guantanamo. Yet the American Psychological Association condones the use of its members acting as consultants to coercive interrogations in Guantanamo and other detention centers, despite the fact that these camps hold detainees indefinitely without charges and deny them due process in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. In this way the American Psychological Association gives credibility to unacceptable detention and interrogation practices, and undermines the integrity of American psychologists throughout the world.
Those psychologists who do engage in organizational and structural violence are currently given cover by one of our major umbrella professional organizations, much to the detriment of the rest of us working in psychology.

Marisacat sez

My fervent wish is that the Dems get 68 in the Senate and 310 in the House. No EXCUSES then… ;)
I'll up the ante - 68 Dem Senators, 310 Dem Reps, and a Dem Preznit, to start off 2009. Before too long, I'd be able to ask my most partisan of Democrat friends and acquaintances all sorts of fun, festive questions, such as:

So, what's with all these wars stretching from Afghanistan to Syria? Should we just combine them all into one big war now? And how does that fit with all the anti-war rhetoric from the 2006 and 2008 campaigns.

What's with the crappy economy?

How's that repeal of the Patriot Acts coming along?

Any luck restoring Habeas Corpus yet? Or is that also "off the table"?

Those extraordinary renditions are going to stop any day, right?

Y'all ditched that "unitary executive" theory, right?

Weren't y'all supposed to be against "Free Speech Zones"?

The White House is still doing that "spying on us with any warrants" thing, aren't they? Whatever became of those pledges for Congressional oversight on that?

With veto-proof majorities and a Prez from the same party, we'll just have peace, prosperity, and freedom, right? As Earl Scheib would say, Riiiiight.

Some things just leave you speechless

Marine Describes Haditha Shootings:

“I told (Tatum) there’s just womens and kids in the room,” Mendoza said. “He replied, ‘Well, shoot them.”’

Tatum then went into the room himself, followed by noise that sounded like M-16 gunfire, Mendoza said.

Mendoza said he returned to the house later as part of a body retrieval team and saw that the woman and children were killed. All had multiple wounds that could have been caused by M-16 fire, he said.

According to a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service dated May 17, 2006, Tatum told investigators that he shot women and children because “women and kids can hurt you, too.” He said he felt bad about the incident but added, “I stand fast in my decisions that day, as I reacted to the threats that I perceived at that time.”


Earlier Tuesday, Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz testified that after the deaths Tatum said he disapproved of how the United States was waging war and wished troops had more leeway to shoot.

Tatum poked fun at a squadmate who asked permission before shooting and said he thought war should be fought the way it was in Scripture, “where you just go in the city and kill every living thing,” Dela Cruz said.

Let it soak in.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great comment

I just have to pass this one along:
...looking from the outside in at US modern Anthropological Realities {say for example the recent mania to acquire that strange plastic bauble, the iPhone} I would opine that Statesiders are exotic and different if not downright alarming . Let's not even look too closely at the tattooing and piercing, the communal rituals {MySpace, YouTube}, the religious cults {Catholicism, Scientology, Fundamentalism} and the elite ruling classes who preside over a culture of invasion, conquest and death. Anthropology begins at home!
Make sure to read the post that led up to that comment. Anthropology begins at home, indeed!

Ready for a generation of war?

That's what Sen. Brownback wants:

The summary over at Think Progress:

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-0 to pass a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to censure Iran “for what it said was complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.” The resolution required the Bush administration to regularly report to Congress on Iran’s role in Iraq.

While the resolution explicitly rejected authorization for immediate military action, the gist of the resolution declared Iran is participating in acts of war against the United States, thereby laying the foundation for a confrontation with Iran. Newshoggers wrote that the resolution may provide the “political cover for launching a war.”

Validating the concern many felt, Sen. Sam Brownback appeared on Fox News shortly after the vote and declared he was ready to preemptively strike Iran. Host Sean Hannity asked Brownback, “There’s probably going to come a point for the next president that they’re going to have to determine whether to go out and have that preemptive strike. And you’re ready and would be ready to do that?”

“Yes, I am, and I think we have to be,” Brownback answered. “Sean, if we’re going to be serious about this fight, and we’re in this fight, and probably for a generation. We’re probably in this fight for a generation.”
And to drive home the message of what the unanimous vote in the Senate in favor of the Lieberman resolution means, Think Progress adds further:

When the Congress vote to authorize force against Iraq in 2002, it cited as justification the fact that Congress had passed a law in 1998 sponsored by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and co-sponsored by Lieberman that concluded Iraq posed a serious threat. From the 2002 resolution:

Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ‘material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations’

Get the picture? As Arthur Silber pointed out a few weeks ago, the House of Representatives offered up similar political cover for a war against Iran that was also practically unanimous (the lone "no" votes came from Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX).

Let that sink in for a spell.

Practically every aspiring Democrat and Republican presidential candidate for the 2008 election currently holding a seat in one of the house of the Congress, EXCEPT for Kucinich and Paul are on record as on board to involve the US in yet another war! The current House Speaker Nancy ("Impeachment is Not on the Table") Pelosi (D-CA) is on board to involve the US in yet another war! Never mind that the public may becoming increasingly weary of these wars, and that the Dems likely owe their current majorities due to that rising anti-war sentiment. This Congress simply does not give a damn. I realize this comes as a shock to our nation's liberal and progressive intelligentsia (including those in blogtopia, as IOZ points out), but your "anti-war" Democrats want more war. Although I admire the courage of those very few souls in Congress who really don't want to add to the bloodshed, let's face it: those exceptional Congress critters have as much influence on their respective parties' leaderships as blades of grass on a lawnmower.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Night Softball Blogging

Been catching some of the World Cup of Softball games the last few days. Tonight's the championship game between the US and Japanese teams - both of which are very solid. As I write this Cat Osterman has pitched an excellent game, striking out six or seven players. The only run so far in the game was a Tairia Flowers home run in the second inning. Fortunately the games start just a bit before my daughters' bedtime, so I can get them to watch just a bit of the action - get their interest started early.

Update: Bottom of the fifth, Crystal Bustos hit a 2-out 2-run single to pad the lead for the US team to 3-0.

Last update: The US team held on to their 3-0 lead. Awesome pitching by Osterman (13 strikeouts in seven innings). That last out that was called against the Japanese team was a bit strange, though. And even at the risk of losing my leftist street-cred, I was rooting for the US team.

Stop trying to "save" Africa

Uzodinma Iweala sez:
This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?
Of course we Westerners like to delude ourselves into believing that any problems currently afflicting the peoples of Africa have nothing to do with colonialism or, in recent times, the more virulent mutant strain of neo-colonialism. As far as the "granting independence" thing goes, Iweala is correct in asserting the contrary: independence from the various colonial "masters" of the mid-20th century was seized from them, and only after protracted periods of warfare. Even a cursory reading of, say, writings by Fanon or Memmi from that period would make that abundantly clear. If anything, the prevailing major world powers (in particular the US) have proven difficult to completely extract from the continent and have perhaps become more devious in their methods of exploiting the peoples and resources of Africa. So it goes. If any "White Knight" comes claiming to "save" Africa, the African people are perfectly correct to be suspicious. The West's track record over the centuries has been ugly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cindy Sheehan vs. Yellow Elephant

First, check out the video:

Then, check out Jim's exposé on Chris Vucovich, secretary of the Montgomery County (AL) Republican Club and financial planner.