News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: March 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Totrture: The Ugly Face In the Mirror

My daughter is becoming more politicized by the day. After recently proclaiming that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is globalization and neoliberal manifesto, she has expressed some surprise at the facts as I related them to her about the torture of so-called enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay.

While I have yet to express my concerns about her interpretation of Smith, I will set down some links to the torture machine set up by the Bush admin for her further research.

Most recently, Psyche, Science, and Society has provided some reading material on the famous Stanford Prison Experiment studies, which seemed to conclude that many people--from all walks of life--can turn from baby-faced boy/girl next door to concentration camp guard days.

From the Associated Press (via Psyche):

Past president of the American Psychology Association, Zimbardo is best known as the author of 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which 24 male college students assumed the roles of prison guards and prisoners for $15 per day.

Participants — who had no criminal records and seemed psychologically “normal” when selected — flipped coins to determine who would be a guard and who’d be a prisoner. By day two, guards were going far beyond keeping prisoners behind bars: They stripped prisoners naked, cloaked their heads with paper bags, shaved prisoners’ hair and dressed them in frilly smocks.

The two-week experiment had to be canceled after six days because the guards became dangerously sadistic. At least five prisoners had nervous breakdowns — crying, screaming, begging for release from the makeshift dungeon on campus.
Even more germane to our discussion, the following report shows how clinical psychiatrists tortured inmates at Guantanamo. Many of the men at this facility were turned in for a ransom far from the battlefield and they are suspected of having no links to organized terror groups.

For a taste of what this torture entails, consider the following from an article by Steven Mile published in The American Journal of Bioethics:
According to the Army investigation, the log covers a period in the middle of al-Qahtani’s interrogation that began in the summer of 2002 and continued into 2003. For eleven days, beginning November 23, al-Qahtani was interrogated for twenty hours each day by interrogators working in shifts. He was kept awake with music, yelling, loud white noise or brief opportunities to stand. He then was subjected to eighty hours of nearly continuous interrogation until what was intended to be a 24-hour “recuperation.” This recuperation was entirely occupied by a hospitalization for hypothermia that had resulted from deliberately abusive use of an air conditioner. Army investigators reported that al-Qahtani’s body temperature had been cooled to 95 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 36.1 degrees Celsius) and that his heart rate had slowed to thirty-five beats per minute. While hospitalized, his electrolytes were corrected and an ultrasound did not find venous thrombosis as a cause for the swelling of his leg. The prisoner slept through most of the 42-hour hospitalization after which he was hooded, shackled, put on a litter and taken by ambulance to an interrogation roomfor twelve more days of interrogation, punctuated by a few brief naps. He was then allowed to sleep for four hours before being interrogated for ten more days, except for naps of up to an hour. He was allowed 12 hours of sleep on January 1, but for the next eleven days, the exhausted and increasingly non-communicative prisoner was only allowed naps of one to four hours as he was interrogated. The log ends with a discharge for another “sleep period.”
The effects of this form of psychological torture are devastating. Reports that I have linked to before show that many of those released after this torture suffer from permanent personality disorders. Click on the label for torture to see several of these articles.

Related Links Read more!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Return? Sooner Rather Than Later

I hope to return to posting more regularly soon. But then--as a co-worker once explained--soon is a relative term. For a day-fly it's different than for a white dwarf star. Let me just say that it'll be sooner than a day fly might expect and less long than the white dwarf.

The explanation for my absence is another story--told later rather than sooner. My emotional infrastructure seems geologically geared to assimilating and processing information. Read more!

Is It Jesus in That Crypt?

I don't spend much time thinking about the possibilities of these things, though I was once fascinated by the TV movie with David Janssen--the original Fugitive--titled The Word. The movie was based on a novel that my aunt had read.

A few years back, I also saw a movie (THE BODY (2001))with Antonio Banderas as a priest called to Jerusalem archaeological site that is suspected of holding Jesus' body. Needless to say, it turns out not to hold the body, but we do get to see some good Israeli propaganda shots and story about the evil Vatican and terrorists.

What type of irony is it then that James "Titanic" Cameron has documented a story that Hollywood's been itching to tell for several years now?

Irony aside, this is the best analysis of the story that Jesus' bones have been found in Jersualemn, along with Mary his wife, his brothers, and a son (or two). Via Hypotyposeis:

If you want a probability estimate, here is mine. I would say that the odds are FAR LESS than 1 in a 1000 that Jesus of Nazareth had a son. That works out to .1%. So you should multiply that factor by the naive probability that Jesus is one of the 11 candidates, which we computed as 9%. The result is going to be less than .01%.

Based on that estimate, the odds are MORE THAN 10,000 to 1 against Jesus of Nazareth being the Jesus of the tomb.
Check out the full explanation, along with statistical reasoning and rationale that goes into this conclusion.

As to why it's important for people to want to find a body--well, that's obvious, isn't it? I think Kierkegaard somewhere says it wouldn't really matter, though my memory on that is somewhat fuzzy this early in the morning.

It is the Apostle Paul, after all, who stakes the entire edifice of Christianity on the fact (event) of Jesus' resurrection. And the way Paul thinks about resurrection, he doesn't include any such nonsense as immortal soul, which is a Platonic accretion first admitted into doctrine by the Catholic Church by the Fifth Lateran Council.

For a decent bibliography of related stories on news item and the documentary, see Codex.

Update: More number-crunching and links to other news related to this story at Crossings Read more!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

America's Untold Story 1

You know about ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia; you saw it in Rwanda; you see it taking shape in Iraq. Now read about how some states cleansed entire areas of African Americans.

From the History News Network blog:

I punched the Enter key and in a matter of seconds the program had completed its work. I opened the new file I had created and began to scroll the list of counties where there had been a black population collapse. It was a moment of shock. Page after page of counties scrolled by. I had expected four or five counties but I now had dozens. This could not be. I had made a mistake. I went back and checked the numbers. They were accurate. I downloaded data for more states from the University of Virginia and reran the program. The list grew. I started adding states outside the South and the list grew even longer. What had happened?

I made a list of four or five counties that seemed to be the most suspicious and went to the Library of Congress. By cross checking my list with the New York Times Index for the decade when each collapse occurred, I found the dates when there had been stories written about some of the counties. I mounted a microfilm reel and turned the crank. As I fiddled with the focus in the dark of the library’s microfilm room, a headline appeared: “ALL NEGROES DRIVEN FROM INDIANA TOWN.”

The seven-paragraph story was to the point. “Negroes began leaving this mining town early this afternoon, following the warning issued by white residents to be out of town by 7 o’clock to night...”
Read more!