Thursday, March 23, 2006

AboveTopSecret.com - Disinfo Stooges?

A while ago I posted about an interesting encounter between the signs-of-the-times.org and abovetopsecret.com websites, as reported by Laura Knight-Jadczyk in her blog. Now it appears that a lawyer acting on behalf of ATS tried to get the Signs of the Times server shut down by using strong arm intimidation tactics. And this from a so-called "conspiracy site" with the motto of "Deny Ignorance"!

I've been an interested reader of SOTT for some time, but this latest episode really has me wondering if they're on to something here. Why is a site that claims to be the "#1 conspiracy discussion portal on the 'net" getting so upset over a piece of 9-11 analysis done by another website? To the point of getting lawyers to harrass their webhost with stories of "death threats"? Seriously, what is the big deal?

In my opinion, it's starting to look like ATS have something to hide, and it could well be government connections. If that's the case, then what are the implications regarding what SOTT have been saying about 9-11? Could they be one of the few sites on the 'net with a good idea of what really happened on that day - thus requiring they be silenced in as covert a manner as possible? "Plausible Deniability" and all that?

Ironically, the lawyer involved works for a firm that can be found on the 'net at mofo.com. Appropriate, or what?

If you're interested in reading the whole saga, SOTT have just published a synopsis on the ATS attack on their latest daily news page. It's well worth reading all the posts regarding the subject on LJK's blog, too.

It's probably just coincidence, but it's interesting that this seems to have happened just after actor Charlie Sheen spoke out in support of the 9-11 truth movement, too. Are the American people starting to realise that Bush and Co are giving them the proverbial "mushroom treatment"?

Friday, March 17, 2006

US Death Squads in Iraq?

Every so often an article surfaces which peels back the "shiny happy nation" generally promoted by the US and mainstream media, and a glimpse of the hellish reality of Iraq blasts through. For the sake of clarity, I've separated the article into two halves - one which show the US-based comments, and one which shows the Iraqi version. Here's the US version:
The U.S. military said two women and a child died during the bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house.

The U.S. military said in a statement its troops had attacked a house in Ishaqi early on Wednesday to capture a "foreign fighter facilitator for the al Qaeda in Iraq network".

"Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building," U.S. spokesman Major Tim Keefe said. "Coalition Forces returned fire utilising both air and ground assets.

"There was one enemy killed. Two women and one child were also killed in the firefight. The building ... (was) destroyed."

Keefe said the al Qaeda suspect had been captured and was being questioned.
Now here's the Iraqi version:
Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a U.S. raid on Wednesday, police and witnesses said.

Television pictures showed 11 bodies in the Tikrit morgue -- five children, two men and four women. A freelance photographer later saw the bodies being buried in Ishaqi, the town 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad where the raid took place.

Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children.

"After they left the house they blew it up," he said.


Another policeman, Major Farouq Hussein, said all the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head.

Pictures of the house targeted in the raid showed it had been reduced to rubble, while next to it lay the burnt-out wreckage of a truck.

Iraqi police said the U.S. military had asked for a meeting with local tribal leaders.

Photographs of the funeral showed men weeping as five children were wrapped in blankets and then lined up in a row next to freshly dug graves.

Police in Salahaddin province, a heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the home region of Saddam Hussein, have frequently criticised U.S. military tactics in the area.
Who ever thought two versions of events could be so different? In one, we have minimized casualties, plus the successful capture of an "Al Qaeda militant". In the other, we have a US Army "Death Squad" (let's call a spade a spade here) raiding the house and coldly butchering the occupants, including children, execution-style and then bombing the house to cover their tracks.

To add an even more disturbing dimension to this is the comment "the US military asked for a meeting with local tribal leaders". Was this a calculated plot to wipe out local tribal leadership under the guise of raiding for "Al-Qaeda militants"? Why would the US wish to accomplish something like this?

The only obvious answer in my opinion is that, far from trying to "build a free and prosperous Iraq", the US is doing everything in its power to ensure that the country collapses into civil war. What better way to set the whole Muslim middle east up for total destruction and domination than to build the appearance of a democratic government only to have it collapse in sectarian warfare. The finger can then be firmly pointed at the Muslims who are "animals" and "incapable of co-existing in a civilised society".

Then, in parallel, comes the set-up for War with Iran. If a nuclear 9-11 type event were to occur just as the UN Security Council began to consider punitive measures against Iran's supposed "nuclear weapons development", well.... it doesn't take much imagination to consider what the response of the US and the "coalition of the willing" would be.

Could it be that, as some have speculated, we have a group of Christian and Zionist fundamentalists at the helm determined to plunge the world into a religious war against the Muslim faith in order to kick-start the "End Times"?

Scary stuff indeed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Crimes Against Psychology

Occasionally you discover one of those articles which leaves you with that sickening sensation in your stomach. I must admit, the more stuff like this I read, the more I find it difficult to justify bringing any child into the world in this day and age.
Little Manchurian Candidates

By Matt James

"One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them."

--Tolkien


Our six-year-old daughter was so excited to start school. At our first parent-teacher conference, Barb and I expected to hear the usual compliments and heartwarming anecdotes about our bright little angel. From our experiences with activities like T-ball and soccer, or dance and music recitals, we had learned that parents always say nice things about the children of others. If the compliments are sometimes unrealistic or excessive, well, parenting is tough work. We can all use the encouragement.

I guess we had been spoiled. Jenny's teacher got right to the point. She had some negatives to address. For one thing, Jenny was struggling with her reading. The teacher confessed that one of the most difficult parts of her job was deflating parents with the news that their children were simply not exceptional. Jenny was, at best, an average reader. She was not an Eagle; she was a Pony. Our job was to learn to enjoy her as a 40-watt bulb rather than a bright light. Was it my imagination, or did this middle-aged matron's sweet smile contain a trace of malice as she related these tidings?

I was confused by this assessment of Jenny's reading abilities because it simply didn't fit in with her prior history. She had a love affair with books for her entire childhood. We have a photograph of her at 11 months of age staring earnestly at the contents of an open book. I remember reading to her when she was three. I stopped for some reason, but she continued the narration. She knew her stories by heart. Like many other children, Jenny had learned to read at home. She was a bookworm, and she was an experienced and passionate reader before she ever started first grade.

The teacher went on to explain that Jenny cried too much at school and that we needed to correct this problem with the appropriate discipline. Barb and I exchanged glances but didn't argue. We were in shock.

I was curious about the crying. Jenny was such a happy child. I asked her that night what made her sad at school. Expecting to hear about something on the playground, I was surprised by her answer. The listening-hour stories made her sad:

Once upon a time there was a daddy duck with seven ducklings. They ranged in age down to the youngest (who reminded Jenny of a first grader). The daddy was mean. One day he demanded that all his children learn three tasks, such as running, swimming, and diving. If a duckling was unable to master all of the tasks, he would be banished from the family to live with the chickens. The youngsters struggled under the cruel eye of their father. When it came to diving, the first grader floundered and was sent away to live with the chickens.

This was the story Jenny related, in her own words, as an example. I heard it told a second time several years later, by my cousin Nancy, as a sample of objectionable curriculum. We were impressed with the coincidence, since our families resided in different states.

Jenny told me she also cried over stories in her readers. They made her sad and frustrated in some way. What a mess! In one evening we had found out that Jenny was unhappy at school, that her teacher thought she was a poor reader and a dim bulb, and that she heard mean tales during listening-hour that I wouldn't repeat to hardened convicts. What in the name of heaven was going on at this school?

I was determined to get to the bottom of things. Since they didn't send books home with students in the younger grades, I went to the school the following day and spent a couple of hours reviewing the elementary readers. As I read, my eyes opened wider and wider. I had assumed the purpose of the reading curriculum was to stimulate the juvenile imagination and teach reading skills. Instead, I saw material saturated with, to borrow another parent's language, "an unadvertised agenda promoting parental alienation, loss of identity and self-confidence, group-dependence, passivity, and anti-intellectualism."

I once daydreamed through a basic psychology class in medical school which described the work of Pavlov and B.F Skinner in the twentieth century. Their conclusions were that animal (and human) behaviors can be encouraged or discouraged by associating them with pleasure or pain. This is such an obvious fact of nature. It is amazing that anyone would bother to prove it with experimentation, as if the carrot and the stick haven't been used since time began.

In behaviorist experiments various stimuli, such as food or electrical shocks, were used as rewards or deterrents. Over time, due to animal memory, a pattern of behavior could be established without food or shocks coming into play. This educational or training process is called "conditioning." With enough conditioning, the dog will stop chasing cars.

As I read the stories and poems in Jenny's readers, I was astonished to discover that they were alive, in their own way, with the theories and practices of these dead scientists. But the animals to be trained weren't dogs or rats. They were our young students. Pleasure and pain signals were embedded into the reading material in a consistent way. Given the vicarious nature of the reading experience, and by identifying with the protagonists in the stories, it was our first graders who were "learning" certain attitudes and behaviors.

When a child-figure in the stories split away from his group, for example, he would get rained on, his toes would get cold in the snow, or he would experience some other form of discomfort or torment. Similar material was repeated ad infinitum. Through their reading, our students would feel the stinging rain and the pain of freezing toes. They would learn the lesson like one of Pavlov's dogs: avoid the pain, stay with the group.

The stories in the readers consistently associated individual initiative with emotional or physical pain. Consider the example of the little squirrel whose wheel falls off his wagon. When he tries to replace it, the wagon rides with an awkward and embarrassing bump, noticeable to his friends, who then tease him about it. Another attempt to repair the wheel results in an accident, with bruising and bleeding and more humiliation. The cumulative effect of this and similar story lines, given the vicarious nature of the reading experience, would be to discourage initiative and reduce self-confidence in the first grader.

Animal dads, moms, and grandparents were portrayed over and over in various combinations as mean, stupid, unreliable, bungling, impotent or incompetent. Relationships with their children were almost always dysfunctional; communication and reciprocal trust were non-existent. A toxic mom or dad, for instance, might have stepped in to help our youthful squirrel repair his wagon, only to make matters worse and wreak emotional havoc in the process. Jenny's heart would be lacerated by stories which constantly portrayed parent/child relationships as strained, cruel, or distant. I could see her crying with hurt or frustration.

It occurred to me that over the long run, at some level of consciousness, our daughter would have to hold us accountable for permitting her to be tortured in school. Logically, Barb and I had to be stupid, unreliable, uncaring, or impotent, just like the parents in the books. By sending her to school, we were validating the message in her readers, contributing significantly to the parental alienation curriculum. Continuing in her school-based reading series, Jenny's relationship with us would have become tarnished or eroded, and an element of bitterness or cynicism might have crept into her personality.

I borrow the term "anti-intellectualism" to describe another dominant theme in the readers. Many of the compositions were, essentially, word salad. They lacked intrinsic interest, coherence, or continuity, and they often demonstrated a sort of anti-rationality. The stories and the corresponding questions seemed to require the student to suspend the natural operations of his intellect, such as the desire to make sense out of things or the impulse to be curious. Under this yoke, a student could learn to hate reading or even thought itself.

The following "story" and "comprehension" questions are representative of the anti-intellectualism that I found in the readers:

Once upon a time there was a little green mouse who hopped after a tiger onto a yellow airplane. The plane turned into a big red bird in flight, and the mouse turned into a blue pumpkin. The pumpkin fell to the ground and its seeds grew into pots and pans. Blah, blah, blah

1) "What color was the mouse?"

2) "Why do mice turn into pumpkins?"

3) "How do seeds grow?"

I can see children getting frustrated over material like this. It is debatable as to which facet of the exercise is more onerous, the reading or the "comprehension." I almost incline to the latter. Among other concerns, I wonder if it is a good thing to pressure children to respond to stupid or unanswerable questions. Such a process would lead to passivity and a loss of confidence, to a little engine that couldn't.

According to Pavlov and B.F. Skinner, repetition of unpleasant reading experiences would turn a student off to the reading activity. Predictable consequences would be a child who hates reading and loses out on vast intellectual benefits and development. In addition, his reading failure would tax his self-confidence, and he could be branded with one of society's popular labels such as dyslexia.

I considered Jenny's reading struggles in the context of performance expectations as well as grading and comparisons with other children. It seemed as if she faced a nasty dilemma: force herself to read alienating material, or disengage and then disappoint parents, teachers and self. What an impossible predicament for a young child. Once sunny and blue, the skies had turned dark and stormy for our happy little girl whose only offense had been to attend her friendly neighborhood school at the innocent age of six.

It has occurred to me that the cause of America's illiteracy crisis has been discovered. It is the reading curriculum in our schools. Unfortunately, the damage to children appears to extend way beyond reading failure. One wonders if the hidden agenda in the readers has created our victim culture, a generation of withdrawn and resentful children, alienated from themselves, their parents, society, books and ideas.

I was reminded of the plight of our neighbors. The father and mother were loving, dedicated parents. He was an accountant and she was a homemaker and community leader. They were nice people, and so were their children. The two teenagers were bright but got poor grades and hated school. They hung out with the crowd and participated in the kind of self-destructive behaviors that are commonplace today. I asked these young people why they would behave in ways which would cause pain for themselves or their loved ones. They smiled quizzically and professed not to know. Maybe the ideas that moved them truly were subconscious.

We are all familiar with kids like this (Our own kids are kids like this, or they come too close for comfort). They spend a lot of time "doing nothing" with like-minded friends. Passive-aggressive with suppressed individuality, they all seem cut from the same mold. Self mutilation with tattoos and body armor is almost universal. Some of their groups are virtually masochistic cults. Sadism is the other side of the masochism coin.

That so many of these dysfunctional teenagers come from loving homes and neat families is inexplicable and shocking, until you realize that they have all been tortured together in school since the first grade. They are a batch of little Manchurian Candidates with attitude, victims of the obscure behaviorism that I found, and that others have found before and since, in school readers.

Barb and I had seen some perplexing changes in Jenny's reading since she started in first grade. For one thing, she had stopped reading her favorite books and stories at home. Before starting school, she had feasted on Grimm's Fairy Tales. Although she still begged us to read these to her, she now explained that she was not supposed to read them herself, according to her understanding from her teacher, because they contained big words and content in advance of her abilities. Barb and I, holding our tongues, exchanged tortured grimaces and cross-eyed glances.

When reviewing the school readers, I had noticed an impoverished vocabulary, composed mostly of three and four letter words. I brought this up with the teacher. She explained that the readers were integrated into a district policy that no more than five hundred new words be introduced to students during any grade level. The idea was to protect children from the dizzying and confusing effects of an overabundance of words and ideas. I nodded as if I understood, but I didn't really get it.

Barb and I had clearly used the wrong approach with Jenny. We had allowed her to read anything she wanted and had provided her with a flourishing home library. Furthermore, we had encouraged her to run around in the grassy meadows and on the sandy beaches. She must have collided with great numbers of unfamiliar words and ideas, as well as a perilous diversity of flowers and sea shells. It's a wonder she survived at all.

We considered the various elements of Jenny's brief experience in first grade. She had a clueless teacher. She was regressing in her reading skills, vocabulary, and enthusiasm. She was being indoctrinated with character destroying qualities like passivity and group dependence. Her intellectual development was being stunted and she was being bombarded with a curriculum of parental alienation.

Judging by her crying in the classroom, she was part of a captive audience being repeatedly exposed to painful stimuli. To put it plainly, she was the victim of ongoing torture and cruelty. Along with her classmates, she was becoming, as one of her school poems pointed out, "Small, small, small, just a tiny, tiny, tiny piece of it all."

_____

In our state at that time, compulsory education began at the age of eight. Jenny was not obliged by law to attend school. With our various concerns, we pulled her out of school while we tried to figure out what to do.
This reminds me of certain comments made by a professor of psychology named Andrew Lobaczewski:
May the reader please imagine a very large hall in some old Gothic university building. Many of us gathered there early in our studies in order to listen to the lectures of outstanding philosophers. We were herded back there the year before graduation in order to listen to the indoctrination lectures which recently have been introduced. Someone nobody knew appeared behind the lectern and informed us that he would now be the professor. His speech was fluent, but there was nothing scientific about it: he failed to distinguish between scientific and everyday concepts and treated borderline imaginings as though it were wisdom that could not be doubted. For ninety minutes each week, he flooded us with naïve, presumptuous paralogistics and a pathological view of human reality. We were treated with contempt and poorly controlled hatred. Since fun poking could entail dreadful consequences, we had to listen attentively and with the utmost gravity.

The grapevine soon discovered this person’s origins. He had come from a Cracow suburb and attended high school, although no one knew if he graduated. Anyway, this was the first time he had crossed university portals - as a professor, at that! […]

After such mind-torture, it took a long time for someone to break the silence. We studied ourselves, since we felt something strange had taken over our minds and something valuable was leaking away irretrievably. The world of psychological reality and moral values seemed suspended like in a chilly fog. Our human feeling and student solidarity lost their meaning, as did patriotism and our old established criteria. So we asked each other: “Are you going through this too?” Each of us experienced this worry about his own personality and future in his own way. Some of us answered the questions with silence. The depth of these experiences turned out to be different for each individual.

We thus wondered how to protect ourselves from the results of this “indoctrination.” Teresa D. made the first suggestion: Let’s spend a weekend in the mountains. It worked. Pleasant company, a bit of joking, then exhaustion followed by deep sleep in a shelter, and our human personalities returned, albeit with a certain remnant. Time also proved to create a kind of psychological immunity, although not with everyone. Analysing the psychopathic characteristics of the “professor’s” personality proved another excellent way of protecting one’s own psychological hygiene.

You can just imagine our worry, disappointment, and surprise when some colleagues we knew well suddenly began to change their world-view; their thought-patterns furthermore reminded us of the “professor’s” chatter. Their feelings, which had just recently been friendly, became noticeably cooler, although not yet hostile. Benevolent or critical student arguments bounced right off of them. They gave the impression of possessing some secret knowledge; we were only their former colleagues, still believing what those professors of old had taught us. We had to be careful of what we said to them.

Our former colleagues soon joined the [Communist] Party. Who were they? What social groups did they come from? What kind of students and people were they? How and why did they change so much in less than a year? Why did neither I nor a majority of my fellow students succumb to this phenomenon and process? Many such questions fluttered through our heads then. Those times, questions, and attitudes gave rise to the idea that this phenomenon could be objectively understood, an idea whose greater meaning crystallized with time. Many of us participated in the initial observations and reflections, but most crumbled away in the face of material or academic problems. Only a few remained; so the author of this book may be the last of the Mohicans.

It was relatively easy to determine the environments and origin of the people who succumbed to this process, which I then called “transpersonification”. They came from all social groups, including aristocratic and fervently religious families, and caused a break in our student solidarity in the order of some 6 %. The remaining majority suffered varying degrees of personality disintegration which gave rise to individual efforts in searching for the values necessary to find ourselves again; the results were varied and sometimes creative.

Even then, we had no doubts as to the pathological nature of this “transpersonification” process, which ran similar but not identical in all cases. The duration of the results of this phenomenon also varied. Some of these people later became zealots. Others later took advantage of various circumstances to withdraw and reestablish their lost links to the society of normal people. They were replaced. The only constant value of the new social system was the magic number of 6 %.

It seems to me that what Matt James is describing in his article is "transpersonification", only at a much earlier stage of development than the experiences that Professor Lobaczewski describes. Did such a kind of school curriculum arise by chance? Read the rest of the Ponerology article and make up your own mind.