Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bush's 2008 State Of the Union Speech

The Beginning of the End
By William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist, Tuesday 29 January 2008

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
- Revelations 8:1, King James Bible

George W. Bush's State of the Union (SOTU) speeches have been the basis for a new kind of drinking game for several years now, basically because the things have always needed some kind of actual substance from somewhere, and because it was a good way to dull the pain of it all. The rules: 1. When he says the word "terra" or "terra-ists," take a drink. 2. When he says "tax cuts," take a drink. 3. When he says "Iraq," take a drink. 4. When he says "nook-yuh-lerr," take a drink and a shot and a good swift kick to the head. Et cetera.

But that's just one night out of the year. Reality has proven to be far more alcoholic in nature. For seven years now, the whole phenomenon of this government has been one long drinking game played out each and every day. The rules of this game? 1. Say the words, "George W. Bush is in charge of the country." 2. Turn off the TV. 3. Just drink.

Sounds familiar, right? Just about everyone has played that game a time or two by now. We have endured seven Bush SOTU speeches as of last night. Seven years worth of lies, carnage, greed, disgrace, failure, ignominy, calamity heaped upon calamity heaped upon calamity for more than two thousand five hundred days now, with three hundred and fifty seven more days still to go.

Seven speeches. Seven years.

No more.

The final deal went down in DC last night, wreathed in all the pomp and circumstance of political theater and media spectacle. The first tangible evidence this long national and planetary nightmare is actually beginning to come to an end was served up live on network television, for the viewing pleasure of a thoroughly disgusted and entirely disinterested American public.

If Bush's lips are moving, it means he must be lying; so it has been for all those days, and so it was again on Monday evening. Some 75 percent of the citizenry believe this country to be "on the wrong track," and since the gomer giving the speech last night is seen as being largely responsible for putting us all on this "wrong track" to begin with, a vast American majority pretty much didn't give a fig about what he had to say.

All that most people cared about was the historic significance of the night itself. It was The Last Bush SOTU Speech Ever.

Seven speeches.

Seven years.

No more.

Remember Bush's SOTU speech from January 20 of 2003? That was the one when he told America Iraq was in possession of 6,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent - for those without calculators, 500 tons equals 1,000,000 pounds - plus around 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, mobile biological weapons labs and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nook-yuh-lerr weapons program.

Take your drink. Take your shot. Don't forget your kick to the head: Each and every single one of those comprehensively-debunked claims can still be found on the White House web site.

Five American soldiers died in Iraq during the afternoon preceding Bush's SOTU speech on Monday. They were patrolling the city of Mosul and were struck by a roadside bomb that was followed up with lethal gunfire. There have now been 36 American soldiers killed in Iraq during the month of January, and 3,940 killed in total since Bush gave that January 2003 SOTU address and thus signed the death warrants for our fallen troops.

We don't do body counts, so there's no accurate way to assess how many tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and maimed since that 2003 speech. Last Wednesday, 60 Iraqis were killed and 280 others were wounded when a huge bomb exploded in Mosul. The casualties, according to a New York Times report, were "mostly children, women and the elderly."

"Americans are still dying at the rate of one every day," wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman last week. "And violent civilian Iraqi deaths, according to the independent web site Iraq Body Count (iraqbodycount.org), have averaged about 1,000 a month since September. That's far lower than last January, but it's no better than in 2005, and it's well above the levels of 2004 - when Iraq was already in the grip of bloody chaos. To pronounce that reduction a success is like driving your car into a lake and then bragging when you pull it halfway out."

Bush managed all this with just the one 2003 SOTU speech. He's given seven of the things now, so adjust the body-count mathematics accordingly. Seven speeches. Seven years.

No more.

Monday night's speech was almost breathtaking in its lack of substance. He promised to bring the 9/11 perpetrators to justice, again. He promised to bring democracy to the Middle East, again. He talked up tax cuts for the financially solvent, again. He threatened Iran, again. He massaged the debacle known as "No Child Left Behind," again. He mispronounced "nuclear" at least three times, again. Basically, Bush could have just as easily been replaced by one of those high-school-chemistry-class projection screens showing some random video snippets from his other six SOTU addresses. Nobody would have noticed the difference.

There was no there, there. Again.

We have to put up with this man and his people for less than a year, or so most people believe. A story on today's Washington Post front page by Michael Abramowitz, however, reeled off a laundry list of pre-speech challenges for Bush that was capped by this line: "That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight."

"Probably final"?

"Probably final"?!


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.
The 2008 SOTU was his last address.

Now he's a man with no address.

The GOP doesn't want him in their house. The Democrats don't want him in their house. The whole damn country doesn't want him in their house.

But give the man some respect. He has his biggest challenge still ahead of him.

Or he can always go back to life in a bottle. Were he from a middle class family, he'd probably be staggering through an alley somewhere with nothing but a bottle of cheap wine to keep him warm and help him forget his string of failures, or in prison... where he belongs.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

First There Were 935 Lies... But What About The Scandals? Hugh Makes A List... 300 and Counting!

News of "The 935"

Tipped by discourse.net

Hugh Makes a List

"...because there are just too many scandals to remember"

INTRODUCTION: George Bush, the Connecticut cowboy, the good old boy from Yale is a man of mediocre intelligence, little imagination, and great stubbornness and vindictiveness. He may be the Decider but his handlers have long known how to manipulate him. The key is to hook him with short, simple sells. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice know that once he has consulted his gut and perhaps his higher father his decision is forever. So whoever gets to him first is likely to carry the day because he doesn't like to be challenged and is, quite simply, too lazy to change his mind. The Bubble is a natural consequence of this decision making process where logic, reason, and facts have little or no role.

...Bush's Presidency began in the shadow of a contested and likely stolen election and promised to be unsuccessful in a largely forgettable and unremarkable way. 911 changed all that and transformed a plodding, and essentially AWOL one termer into an accidental hero. Enormous power flowed to his office but Bush had no idea how to use it. He liked to campaign, not govern. In those around him, he prized loyalty over competence and honesty. A believer in the notion of "to the victor go the spoils," he was the perfect mark for every conniver, bumbler, bungler, hack, hanger on, and would be crony that Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and their friends could find. In the normal course of things, this would have spelled failure. Post-911, it was catastrophic.

....At this critical juncture in our history we needed an adult but got an adolescent. Instead of responsibility, we got a truant. In place of flexibility we got obduracy. In the face of great and complex challenges, we got strawmen, a black and white universe, my way or the highway, regurgitated stump speeches, and a steadfast refusal to compromise not just with opponents but with reality.

....What all this comes down to is that George Bush should never have become our President. He is not just a bad President but the worst one we could have had, the worst our country has ever seen. This is a judgment that many Americans have come to but which our political establishment and media, even after 6 years, have yet to acknowledge, accept, and act on. This is the tragedy and crime of our times.

1. Walter Reed [Details]
2. Firing of US attorneys. [Details]
30. Cooked intelligence and the Office of Strategic Plans/ Doug Feith
43. Porter Goss and the gutting of the CIA

[He goes on in GREAT detail about all 300 (and counting... feel free to contact him if he's missed one)]

Continued @ Hugh Makes a List

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fallout from the Torture Issue: Why I'm Leaving APA

I’m sending a letter off to the American Psychological Association (APA) explaining my decision to resign membership from that organization. The text of the letter follows below (with hypertext links added here to assist the reader with context).

January 27, 2008

Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D.
President, American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4232

Dear Dr. Kazdin,

I hereby resign my membership in the American Psychological Association (APA). I have up until now been working with Psychologists for an Ethical APA for an overturn in APA policy on psychologist involvement in national security interrogations, and I greatly respect those who are fighting via a dues boycott to influence APA policy on this matter. I hope to still work with these principled and dedicated professionals, but I cannot do it anymore from a position within APA.

Unlike some others who have left APA, my resignation is not based solely on the stance APA has taken regarding the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations. Rather, I view APA’s shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden. The revelations over the constitution and behavior of the 2005 Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) panel are a case in point. While charged with investigating the dilemmas for psychologists involved in military interrogations in the light of the scandals surrounding Guanatamo’s Camp Delta and Abu Ghraib prison, it was stacked with military and governmental personnel, and closely monitored and pressured by APA staff.

I strongly disagree with APA’s current position on interrogations, and am unimpressed with recent clarifications to that position that allows for voluntary non-participation in specifically defined cases where torture and abuse of prisoners is proved to exist. I have discussed my reasoning for this elsewhere, both blogging on the Internet and in public. In 2007, I was a panelist in the “mini-convention,” which examined the dispute over interrogations held at the APA Convention in San Francisco, presenting my findings on secret and non-secret psychologist research into isolation, sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

I will briefly review my objections to APA policy and practices, then place them in the context of current APA institutional objectives and goals. I find the latter to be antithetical to the ideals of an ethical and beneficent organization promoting psychological knowledge and practice.

*** APA’s position on non-involvement in torture allows psychologists to work in settings that do not allow the basic right of habeas corpus, in addition to practices of humane confinement as delineated in the Conventions of the Geneva Protocols and various international documents and treaties.

*** APA maintains in private communications that relegating various modes of psychological torture (sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, isolation) and the use of drugs in interrogations to something less than outright prohibition in recent APA position papers does not mean APA had any intention of providing a “loophole” for interrogators in the practice of coercive interrogations. APA also promises to clarify its position on these matters in an “ethics casebook.” When it has found it exigent, as on the PENS resolution, to step outside normal procedure to clarify its position, it has done so. I find it noteworthy that recent APA clarifications of its position are treated as something requiring less than direct organizational expression.

*** APA continues to propagate a position that it knows is not true, specifically that psychologists operate in interrogation settings to prevent abusive interrogations. While sometimes citing the compelling conclusions about context and behavior outlined by Zimbardo, and stemming from his famous Prisoner Experiment, it twists the representation of this research by making psychologists into a quasi-police force monitoring abusive interrogations. On the contrary, the Zimbardo research leads to a more unsettling conclusion, i.e., that human beings in general are susceptible to participation in abusive behavior based upon contextual factors. In fact, the Zimbardo research argues, as Dr. Zimbardo himself has done, against participation in these kinds of interrogations.

*** APA has shown precious little interest in the many revelations regarding psychologist participation in torture, or in psychologist research into abusive or coercive interrogations. Excepting only a brief period in the late 1970s, when widespread and public exposure of CIA mind control programs raised considerable scandal, APA has shown little inclination to confront the history of psychologist participation in such research, nor of its own institutional role in this research.

*** Finally, recent APA activities, such as the joint CIA/Rand Corporation/APA July 2003 workshop in the “Science of Deception,” point to questionable current participation in unethical practices and illegal governmental activities. I queried relevant actors and APA leaders as to what actually occurred at this workshop, which the APA Science Directorate described as discussing how to use “pharmacological agents to affect apparent truth-telling behavior?” Also considered was the study of “sensory overloads on the maintenance of deceptive behaviors,” with workshop participants asked, “How might we overload the system or overwhelm the senses and see how it affects deceptive behaviors?” I never received any answer from relevant APA personnel, including the current director of ethics, about what was going on at this workshop.

The latter episode captures the terrible trap into which APA has fallen. When making agreements with state intelligence and military agencies, it is usual that secrecy agreements are signed. This makes it impossible to reasonably assess and monitor the activities of psychologists in national security settings. Furthermore, the subordination of military psychologists to the chain of command of the armed forces also allows for ineffective if not impossible oversight of psychologist activities. But the problem with secrecy does not end there. Major researchers, including even a former APA president, who contracted with the government, or had their work utilized by the military, as for the latter’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape or SERE program, have told me they are unable to discuss matters beyond a certain point, or tried to restrict discussion of these matters, no doubt due in part to secrecy restrictions. Summing up this point, governmental secrecy and scientific enterprise are in direct opposition to each other, and secrecy negates the promise of effective oversight, not to mention the distortions it renders upon the scientific process itself.

In the recently APA published book, Psychology in the Service of National Security (APA Press, 2006), the book’s editor, A. David Mangelsdorff, wrote, “As the military adjusts to its changing roles in the new national security environment, psychologists have much to offer” (p. 237). He notes the recent forward military deployment of psychologists, their use in so-called anti-terrorism research, and assistance in influencing public opinion about “national security problems facing the nation.” L. Morgan Banks, himself Chief of the Psychological Applications Directorate of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and a member of the controversial PENS panel, wrote elsewhere in the same book about the “bright future” (p. 95) for psychologists working with Special Operations Forces. Never mind that SOPs have been implicated in torture in Afghanistan, including receiving instructions in such coercive procedures from psychologists from some of the same psychologists, by the way, that attended the APA/CIA workshop noted above.) Nowhere could I find in the entire book a discussion of ethical problems surrounding these issues, nor certainly of political and social questions implicit in such outright support of governmental initiatives and military policy. Additionally, and curiously, there is no discussion of psychologist participation in military interrogations anywhere in the book.

In my opinion, and despite the otherwise notable and positive stances and activities of APA on other aspects of social note, such as work against prejudice against gays and lesbians, or against race prejudice, it is an unfortunate but urgent fact that APA as an institution has become subordinated to the state when it comes to military matters. In other words, when it comes to interrogations and psychologist military activities in general, APA acts as an arm of the Pentagon and a support agency for the CIA. The differences around interrogation policy APA has with the Bush Administration is itself a mirror of differences with the administration itself, and within different governmental departments. In such instances, APA acts as the instrument of one or another faction within government, but not as an independent actor and representative of the profession and its ideals and goals.

I would suggest the following remedies, if any are still possible, in turning around the degeneration of APA into a willing instrument for U.S. military and intelligence interests:

1) A full opening of all APA archives related to research and participation in activities with the military, including its intelligence arms; and a call for the government to declassify all documents related to the same;

2) The disestablishment of Division 19, the Society for Military Psychology, from the APA;

3) The immediate recission of APA’s Ethics Code 1.02, which was changed from earlier formulations in 2002 to permit adherence “to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” when there is otherwise a conflict between the law and psychologists’ ethical practice. Opponents of 1.02 have rightly compared it to the Nazi defense of “following orders” at Nuremberg;

4) A call for the formation of a civilian, cross-disciplinary investigatory panel to examine the past history and current collaboration of scientific and medical professionals with the government, especially its military and intelligence agencies, to encompass fields as diverse as psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, with a goal of producing recommendations on interactions between government and the scientific and medical communities;

5) A moratorium on research into interrogations;

6) Sever the link that ties APA’s definition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment” in its various resolutions from the Reagan-era Reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture, which seeks to weaken that definition by relying on suspect interpretations of U.S. law rather than international definitions;

7) The immediate cessation of all support for involvement of psychological personnel in participation in any activity that supports national security interrogations.

The sordid history of American psychology when it comes to collaboration with governmental agencies in the research and implementation of techniques of psychological torture is one that our field will have to confront sooner or later. In a larger sense, the problems I have presented here are inherent in a larger societal dilemma regarding the uses of knowledge. This problem was recognized by the first critics of untrammeled scientific advance, and represented powerfully by Goethe’s Faust, and Mary Shelley’s Doctor Frankenstein. Human knowledge is capable of producing both good and evil. The scientist, the scholar, and the doctor hold tremendous responsibility in their hands. That they have not shown themselves, in a tragic number of instances, to ethically wield or control this responsibility has meant that the 21st century opens under the awful prospect of worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, while a sinister, behaviorally-designed torture apparatus operates as the servant of nation-states wielding these awful weapons of mass destruction.

It’s appropriate that I close with a statement about the problem of serving powerful national interests from a former president of the APA, a leading and important pioneer in our field, and also, for awhile, a member with top secret clearance in the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control program, Carl Rogers. One wonders, along with the authors of a recent study on Dr. Rogers’ CIA collaboration (see Demanchick & Kirschenbaum (2008), Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, pp. 6-30), if Rogers’ exposure to the world of secret government military projects didn’t inform his feelings about psychologists and government, as expressed in his famous debate with another seminal psychologist, B. F. Skinner:

To hope that the power which is being made available by the behavioral sciences will be exercised by the scientists, or by a benevolent group, seems to me a hope little supported by either recent or distant history. It seems far more likely that behavioral scientists, holding their present attitudes, will be in the position of the German rocket scientists specializing in guided missiles. First they worked devotedly for Hitler to destroy the U.S.S.R. and the United States. Now, depending on who captured them, they work devotedly for the U.S.S.R. in the interest of destroying the United States, or devotedly for the United States in the interest of destroying the U.S.S.R. If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power. (Rogers & Skinner (1956), “Some issues concerning the control of human behavior. A symposium.” Science, 124, p. 1061.)

Sincerely yours,

J------ K------, Ph.D.
San Francisco, CA

(Also posted at Invictus)

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