25 November 2006


This showed up on Daily Kos:

"MADRID (Reuters) - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday."

This was hinted at back in '05 on Democracy Now, and the ACLU has known for some time that torture at Abu Ghraib/ Guantanamo Bay was approved at the highest levels and that there was a documented timeline of approvals. Of course, the Daily Kos crowd mostly debated the political situation with Rumsfeld's resignation.

But what this really does is, it reveals the fallacy behind the standard Armed Forces explanation for American torturers: "There are always a few rotten apples" in the Armed Forces. Anyone who has researched Stanley Milgram's experiments would know better. Of his experiments, in which experimental subjects were asked to torture their fellow human beings with electric shocks, Milgram says:
Before the experiments, I sought predictions about the outcome from various kinds of people -- psychiatrists, college sophomores, middle-class adults, graduate students and faculty in the behavioral sciences. With remarkable similarity, they predicted that virtually all the subjects would refuse to obey the experimenter. The psychiatrist, specifically, predicted that most subjects would not go beyond 150 volts, when the victim makes his first explicit demand to be freed. They expected that only 4 percent would reach 300 volts, and that only a pathological fringe of about one in a thousand would administer the highest shock on the board.

These predictions were unequivocally wrong. Of the forty subjects in the first experiment, twenty-five obeyed the orders of the experimenter to the end, punishing the victim until they reached the most potent shock available on the.generator. After 450 volts were administered three times, the experimenter called a halt to the session. Many obedient subjects then heaved sighs of relief, mopped their brows, rubbed their fingers over their eyes, or nervously fumbled cigarettes. Others displayed only minimal signs of tension from beginning to end.

When the very first experiments were carried out, Yale undergraduates were used as subjects, and about 60 percent of them were fully obedient. A colleague of mine immediately dismissed these findings as having no relevance to "ordinary" people, asserting that Yale undergraduates are a highly aggressive, competitive bunch who step on each other's necks on the slightest provocation. He assured me that when "ordinary" people were tested, the results would be quite different. As we moved from the pilot studies to the regular experimental series, people drawn from every stratum of New Haven life came to be employed in the experiment professionals, white collar workers, unemployed persons, and industrial workers. The experimental outcome was the same as we had observed among the students.

Moreover, when the experiments were repeated in Princeton, Munich, Rome, South Africa, and Australia, the level of obedience was invariably somewhat higher than found in the investigation reported in this article. Thus one scientist in Munich found 85 percent of his subjects obedient.
The "rotten apples" excuse, then, tries to take advantage of our culture's endemic denial of our collective potential for malicious obedience. Stanley Milgram ripped the cover off of this denial -- and so, when we read of the head of Abu Ghraib claiming to have orders from Rumsfeld, we should think of Milgram and his experiments once again. "We couldn't be torturers," we tell ourselves. Bullcrap -- we could be torturers.

It should be clear to teachers reading this blogpost that what will be needed to deal with the culture of "obedience to authority," as evidenced by Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, is a pedagogy of civil disobedience, in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.

From Max Fraad Wolff

"It is clear that legions of folks are desperately continuing to pursue survival strategies that built them mountains of debt and no longer make any sense at all."

What's really pathetic is that this economic forecast is being made of a social milieu that confronts the future alone. Our ideology is rugged individualism; our schools are test factories. We (Americans) are about to be shown up like we've never been shown up before.

Derek Wall informs me that "The Green Party of England and Wales has two principal speakers both of whom are ecosocialist," so at least we have a voice... bringing the ecosocialist future into being is another thing, however, and Gabriel Kolko is pessimistic...

24 November 2006


It's nice to see that Hector Tobar is still working with the Times... Tobar is an old UCSC alum and student in Jim O'Connor's classes ... enjoyed his novel The Tattooed Soldier...

23 November 2006


Here Peter Montague puts the pieces together, and still comes up with zero. This piece has been making the blog rounds of recent. Here's where his attempts at abstraction fail:
The U. S. Bureau of the Census estimates that global population will reach 9.4 billion by 2050, a 44% increase in 45 years. It might even grow faster than that, doubling in 35 years to 12 billion, but even 9 billion would surely stress the planet's already-stressed ecosystems mightily.

Where will we put 44% more farms (with their fertilizers and pesticides and demand for fresh water), 44% more mines, more roads, highways, parking lots, airports, cars, trucks, buses, ships, trains, planes), more cities, hospitals, prisons, ports? And of course more wastes at every step.
But the world doesn't consume more with increases in population! Only an increase in that total population that subscribes to a high resource-consumptive lifestyle will increase the ecological impact upon Planet Earth to any significant degree... the only way to reverse humanity's "course" is to identify that specific course which humanity is following, aka NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM, and that Montague fails to do.

Let's be specific, too, about the solution. Joel Kovel suggests in The Enemy of Nature that the production of commodities has to be replaced by "ecological production." This will require a whole new form of discipline, put in Foucauldian terms: capitalist discipline will have to be replaced by ecological discipline, the discipline of those who prioritize ecological stability before production is imposed upon the environment.

The imbalances created by neoliberal capitalism will not be corrected by substituting some other form of capitalist discipline for the market discipline imposed upon both labor and nature by neoliberal development. The capitalist system wormed its way out of the crises of the 1930s by instituting the managed growth of Keynesian macroeconomics. The current crises, economic and political and ecological, will not be resolved by more growth. Nor are the world's publics going to buy into the Ponzi scheme of a "capitalism without growth." In short, as capitalism was born, and as it aged through four leaps in capitalist discipline (from agricultural capitalism to factory capitalism to consumer capitalism to neoliberalism), so also it must die. Montague's statistics only reinforce my point.

Yep. it's that dollar thang again...

22 November 2006


From Democracy Now:
Pentagon Spying Targeted Church Meetings, Veterans Group

Here in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union has released new documents from a Pentagon database used to spy on groups opposed to military recruitment and the war in Iraq. In one case, defense department officials notified two California recruiting stations after learning activists were planning anti-recruitment protests. A database report also included information on anti-war meetings and non-violence training sessions planned for churches around New York City. Another report warned the group Veterans for Peace: “should be viewed as a possible threat to Army and DoD personnel.” In a statement, Veterans for Peace Executive Director Michael McPhearson said: “It is appalling that the Pentagon would label peace activists – including those of us who put our lives at risk defending this country -- as potential threats. The federal government should not be wasting valuable resources gathering files on peaceful protesters who disagree with the Bush administration’s policies.”

But nobody in government really cares about the enormous resources wasted, for instance, upon the wars the US wages around the world just to keep smaller regimes in line, or about the enormous waste upon nuclear weapons and the "Star Wars" program, or about that portion of the world wasted by depleted uranium weapons, or about the fact that a whole country, Lebanon, was just wasted by US weapons fast-tracked to the Israeli government with the approval of both major political parties.

This is what I mean when I say that the US government is the world's welfare bum. The US government has been given a free ride to appropriate whatever labor it wants , through the exercise of dollar hegemony. As Henry C. K. Liu pointed out: "World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy." The socialist utopia already exists today -- for those branches of the US government which are allowed this free ride, and for the defense corporations which feed off this free ride. For everyone else, it's capitalism as usual.

21 November 2006


They just showed this on Nova -- and I guess I already had read it -- but it bears repeating: the most recent theory on the biggest extinction in natural history is that vulcanism combined with global warming caused it... today, of course, we've got the global warming part covered...

"Urthwalker" from MySpace pointed out in his blog that the UCLA police's taser policy allows them to torture nonviolent resisters. This is, of course, important in light of the recent, and repeated, tasering of a UCLA student in one of UCLA's libraries. As Lenin's Tomb put it:
The most grotesque part of the video is where the cops are telling him to get up and walk. Having sent 50,000 volts through his body, they know he's been temporarily paralysed and can't walk for shit. Yet, they continue to tell him that if he doesn't get up and stop struggling, he will be tased again. They electrocute him five times, and threaten students who attempt to intervene that they too will get shot with the taser if they get too close.
What this brings to mind is the experiments done by Stanley Milgram, which had as their aim to determine whether ordinary Americans could be made to torture each other by nothing so much as authoritative-looking figures in white labcoats. It is also reminiscent of Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, in which experimental subjects were made to behave as prisoners and prison guards.

Now, perhaps, I understand the meaning of the "human subjects" forms I was asked to fill out when applying to The Ohio State University to write an ethnographic dissertation. Presumably, the University asked me to fill out these forms because (according to the original bureaucratic rationale) they did not want me to do experiments of the Milgram or Zimbardo sort. It appears that the University (or at least UCLA) wants its police force to have a monopoly on that type of research.

Here's the future in that line of "research": what happens to a people when you take away their reasons for living sanely, while at the same time making it impossible for them to "resist nonviolently"...

The employees at US Airways know damn well what it's for... so who's "playing the race card" now? It should give the readers of this blog some pause, to note that the elite attempt to maintain global US hegemony (by keeping America "at war") now exploits the most primitive of xenophobias...

19 November 2006


I do hope the APPO gets it together soon...

Shane O' Sullivan thinks so.