Creative activism changed the topic to what was really at stake:
June 20th, 2012
Creative activism changed the topic to what was really at stake:
June 20th, 2012
May 30th, 2012
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Catch 2012|
January 9th, 2012
An important forthcoming book The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program described by the author:
The “war on terror,” brought to light by Freedom of Information Act litigation. As the lead author of the ACLU’s report on these documents, Larry Siems is in a unique position to chronicle who did what, to whom and when. This book, written with the pace and intensity of a thriller, serves as a tragic reminder of what happens when commitments to law, common sense, and human dignity are cast aside, when it becomes difficult to discern the difference between two groups intent on perpetrating extreme violence on their fellow human beings.
Divided into three sections, The Torture Report presents a stunning array of eyewitness and first-person reports—by victims, perpetrators, dissenters, and investigators—of the CIA’s White House-orchestrated interrogations in illegal, secret prisons around the world; the Pentagon’s “special projects,” in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; plots real and imagined, and much more.
January 9th, 2012
This is the video for the song ‘Occupy Wall Street’ written and performed by Spencer Livingston. Produced and engineered by Peter Malick.
‘Occupy Wall Street’ is available on itunes, amazon, and rhapsody.
All Proceeds from the sale of this song will be used to support the current ‘Occupy’ movement.
January 5th, 2012
Word comes that the NYPD has arrested those in the GlobalRevolution headquarters responsible for providing live feeds of Occupy events. Thyis action is not that surprising. After the encampments were crushed in most major cities around the country, the powers that be will likely move to destroy the infrastructure that supported the movement to prevent future protests. As the reaction to the Occupy protests demonstrated, free speech by dissidents is only tolerated when it is ineffective.
1 comment January 4th, 2012
John L. Samuels Jr.-Esco (firstname.lastname@example.org)
December 23rd, 2011
December 18th, 2011
A new psychological study explores the psychological/neural mechanisms that may facilitate human rights atrocities. The authors claim that we fail to think about the internal life of those who evoke disgust in us. Here is a press release:
A brain’s failure to appreciate others may permit human atrocities
A father in Louisiana bludgeoned and beheaded his disabled 7-year-old son last August because he no longer wanted to care for the boy.
For most people, such a heinous act is unconscionable.
But it may be that a person can become callous enough to commit human atrocities because of a failure in the part of the brain that’s critical for social interaction. A new study by researchers at Duke University and Princeton University suggests this function may disengage when people encounter others they consider disgusting, thus “dehumanizing” their victims by failing to acknowledge they have thoughts and feelings.
This shortcoming also may help explain how propaganda depicting Tutsi in Rwanda as cockroaches and Hitler’s classification of Jews in Nazi Germany as vermin contributed to torture and genocide, the study said.
“When we encounter a person, we usually infer something about their minds. Sometimes, we fail to do this, opening up the possibility that we do not perceive the person as fully human,” said lead author Lasana Harris, an assistant professor in Duke University’s Department of Psychology & Neuroscience and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Harris co-authored the study with Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University.
Social neuroscience has shown through MRI studies that people normally activate a network in the brain related to social cognition — thoughts, feelings, empathy, for example — when viewing pictures of others or thinking about their thoughts. But when participants in this study were asked to consider images of people they considered drug addicts, homeless people, and others they deemed low on the social ladder, parts of this network failed to engage.
What’s especially striking, the researchers said, is that people will easily ascribe social cognition — a belief in an internal life such as emotions — to animals and cars, but will avoid making eye contact with the homeless panhandler in the subway.
“We need to think about other people’s experience,” Fiske said. “It’s what makes them fully human to us.”
The duo’s previous research suggested that a lack of social cognition can be linked to not acknowledging the mind of other people when imagining a day in their life, and rating them differently on traits that we think differentiate humans from everything else.
This latest study expands on that earlier work to show that these traits correlate with activation in brain regions beyond the social cognition network. These areas include those brain areas involved in disgust, attention and cognitive control.
The result is what the researchers call “dehumanized perception,” or failing to consider someone else’s mind. Such a lack of empathy toward others can also help explain why some members of society are sometimes dehumanized, they said.
For this latest study, 119 undergraduates from Princeton completed judgment and decision-making surveys as they viewed images of people. The researchers sought to examine the students’ responses to common emotions triggered by images such as:
- a female college student and male American firefighter (pride)
- a business woman and rich man (envy)
- an elderly man and disabled woman (pity)
- a female homeless person and male drug addict (disgust)
After imagining a day in the life of the people in the images, participants next rated the same person on various dimensions. They rated characteristics including the warmth, competence, similarity, familiarity, responsibility of the person for his/her situation, control of the person over their situation, intelligence, complex emotionality, self-awareness, ups-and-downs in life, and typical humanity. Participants then went into the MRI scanner and simply looked at pictures of people.The study found that the neural network involved in social interaction failed to respond to images of drug addicts, the homeless, immigrants and poor people, replicating earlier results.
“These results suggest multiple roots to dehumanization,” Harris said. “This suggests that dehumanization is a complex phenomenon, and future research is necessary to more accurately specify this complexity.”
The sample’s mean age was 20, with 62 female participants. The ethnic composition of the Princeton students who participated in the study was 68 white, 19 Asian, 12 of mixed descent, and 6 black, with the remainder not reporting.
More information: The study, “Dehumanized Perception: A Psychological Means to Facilitate Atrocities, Torture, and Genocide?” appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Psychology: DOI:10.1027/2151-2604/a000065
December 15th, 2011
Gen. Stephen Xenakis (Ret.), psychiatrist, has written a new article on health providers and torture. He succinctly reminds us of the history of the dangers of blurred boundaries and the the reasons to keep health providers far away from participation in interrogations:
Healers, Torture and National Security
by Stephen N. Xenakis
In 2004, the news that Americans had committed abuse and mistreatment in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo was shocking. Even more alarming, were the revelations that physicians, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals had assisted with interrogations that bordered on torture.
In the span of just two generations, the United States had drifted from condemning Nazi physicians at the Nuremberg Trials for their collusion with torture, inhuman experimentation and cruel mistreatment to justifying waterboarding in the pursuit of better intelligence.
As a retired brigadier general and Army psychiatrist, committed to a strong military and national defense, I find these scandals to be most disturbing. The complicity of psychiatrists and other physicians clearly deviated from the fundamental ethical principles of the medical profession and military medicine. My generation of soldiers, who had served during the Vietnam War, vowed not to repeat the misdeeds of the My Lai massacres and rampant indiscipline we witnessed.
However, after the attack on the World Trade Towers, fear and anger dominated the country’s emotional climate and the principles of our profession were hijacked. The incessant drumbeat of political rhetoric that “the war on terror is a war like no other” and that “we must take all measures possible to stop the enemy” made it somehow easier for psychiatrists to apply their skills and training to exploit the vulnerabilities of prisoners. To this day, former government officials justify cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees at Bagram and Guantanamo with unsubstantiated assertions that their confessions led to the trail of Osama bin Laden. The public supported such conduct and the television show “24″ gained wide popularity as viewers were captivated by threats of violence and new gimmicks for bringing the bad guys down. Even the presidential candidates in 2008 were ambushed by questions that judged their fitness to be commander in chief by their willingness to torture a suspect who planted a “ticking bomb.”
But, there is no evidence to confirm the assertions that torture of prisoners has helped the war effort at all.
The plain fact is that nothing that has been claimed in the name of defending our country can justify cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of another man or woman. Torture, in any form – light or heavy – is not a tool of interrogation or useful for gathering good intelligence. It is a propaganda tool and degrades the perpetrator as well as the victim. This is not just the rhetoric of bleeding heart progressives. It is the opinion of over fifty retired admirals, generals(1) and senior government officials convened by Human Rights First to discuss this issue, and our conclusions can be stated simply:
- Torture Is Un-American. Gen. George Washington laid down the directive that American soldiers will treat the enemy humanely and conform to high moral & ethical principles on the battlefield.
- Torture Is Ineffective. Experienced interrogators acknowledge that information extracted by the use of torture is unreliable.
- Torture Is Unnecessary. Veteran FBI agents and military interrogators have spoken out publicly against the use of physical pressure in interrogation.
- Torture Is Damaging. “… a person who is tortured is damaged, but so are the torturer, the nation and the military. “
Torture has long been associated with political repression and with regimes without any semblance of an independent judiciary or media. The Soviet Union’s imprisonment of dissenters and forced use of psychotropic medication on them, the Khmer Rouge’s torture of thousands of people in Cambodia and the Augusto Pinochet regime’s brutality against prisoners in Chile all bear witness to the association between totalitarian or authoritarian regimes and their use of torture.
As the human rights lawyer Leonard Rubenstein and I wrote  in March 2010, “the medical staff at the C.I.A. and the Pentagon played a critical role in developing and carrying out torture procedures. Psychologists and at least one doctor designed or recommended coercive interrogation methods including sleep deprivation, stress positions, isolation and waterboarding. The military’s Behavioral Science Consultation Teams evaluated detainees, consulted their medical records to ascertain vulnerabilities and advised interrogators when to push harder for intelligence information. Psychologists designed a program for new arrivals at Guantánamo that kept them in isolation to ‘enhance and exploit’ their ‘disorientation and disorganization.’ Medical officials monitored interrogations and ordered medical interventions so they could continue even when the detainee was in obvious distress. In one case, an interrogation log obtained by Time magazine shows  a medical corpsman ordered intravenous fluids to be administered to a dehydrated detainee even as loud music was played to deprive him of sleep.”
We cannot dismiss the psychiatrists and psychologists, who participated in interrogations in Guantanamo and helped devise the abusive practices, as mere rogues or outliers. They were actors on a much larger stage. They were swept up by a pervasive and persuasive attitude that subsumed the country and energized a military plan to “hunt down the criminals wherever they may be hiding.” The Department of Defense (DoD) issued policy accordingly and the Office of Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs contended that the legitimate objective of fighting terrorism trumps the ethical responsibility of the healing practitioner. In their eyes, “the ends justify the means” and a few brutalized prisoners were a small price to pay for protecting the citizens of the United States.
But, in truth, the use of torture and practices of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment detracted from the military mission and compromised the international stature of our country, while also undermining the effectiveness, credibility and ethical foundations of the medical professionals. To a certain extent, the administration realizes this. Now, ten years into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House has changed the national strategy and President Obama has insisted, “human rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world.” In his words, it “does not merely represent our better angels …” Standing up for human rights has come front and center both as a matter of national strategy and measure of human decency. Historically, the human rights stance against torture has been unequivocal, one of the few absolutes in human rights law: It is never permitted, never excused, never to be balanced against national needs or interests – even in cases of national emergency. Torture is also forbidden under the laws of war. It is considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions .
This is important and good, but it is not enough. The political leadership of our nation does not have an appetite for investigating the misdeeds that were committed in the past ten years. A change for the better that is not informed by an honest assessment of the sins of the past is not likely to be either permanent or fully integrated into the power structure. Several human rights groups have called for a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation to spur corrective action. By this, they are referring to comprehensive programs that were undertaken in South Africa and in the former Soviet Union to bring to justice the perpetrators of misdeeds and examine the range of responsibility that society as a whole had for the injustices of the past. Mental health professionals understand the power of confession and repentance, for individuals, communities and institutions. Something is needed that goes beyond apology, regret or even a vow to do better. A Commission of Truth and Reconciliation is a step toward corrective action.
By reflecting on the ethical principles and traditions of the healing professions, a stronger case can be put forward against torture and mistreatment:
- First, do no harm. The victims of torture and mistreatment breed political instability and discontent, weakening governments and societies.
- Beneficence. Torture and mistreatment violate the intents and purposes of medical healers and participation in any way corrupts the ethical foundations of the practitioners and professions.
- Professional role. Physicians are not interrogators, any more than they are fighter pilots or infantrymen. The military and other governmental agencies have other professionals to do those tasks and calling on physicians to fill such roles is irresponsible and ineffective.
- Trust. Physicians enjoy special trust and confidence across almost all societies. That trust is undermined with participation in harmful, coercive and abusive conduct that is neither doctor-like nor appropriate.
In 1947, our nation and its allies tried and sentenced the Nazi physicians who violated basic principles of medical ethics. In 2003, the political dynamics and national sentiment induced physicians and psychiatrists and other health care professionals to commit actions that violated core ethics. The healing professions can lead corrective action, help the country recover the “high ground” and prevent future lapses in professional conduct and policies that violated human rights. Human rights are vital to national security in the 21st century.
Much has improved since the dark days of 9/11, but our nation has been damaged. Where once the symbol of our great democracy was the Statue of Liberty – it has now become the image of that poor hooded man in detention with wires strung from his hands and feet. Our men and women on the front lines are endangered because of the increased risk of retaliatory measures. We are not safer because of these misguided policies and how we have acted as a country.
1. I have recent experience that confirms my opinions on the ineffectiveness of harsh interrogation techniques, their unethical nature and harmful consequences. In the past five years, I have been asked to assess several detainees and review the medical records of many more on behalf of defense attorneys. Many detainees subjected to harsh interrogation, as designed and approved by clinicians working for the CIA and DoD, still suffer with the prolonged injuries and adverse psychological effects of their treatment. The evidence of negative effects of the harsh interrogations has been compelling. Moreover, the information gleaned in interrogations that involved harsh treatment has not been allowed in court proceedings.
December 15th, 2011