nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
As bad things go, what Foley did was only fair-to-middling bad. As a result of it, political careers will be ended and elections will probably be affected. There might be criminal charges.

At the same time, the US government has been torturing people, sometimes to death. It's quite plausible that this is still going on, what with all those prisoners being held in secret. A law has been passed making it legal to hold prisoners indefinitely in secret. This has not had nearly as much political effect as the Foley scandal, and the legitimizing of torture doesn't seem to be a big issue in the upcoming election.

I begin to suspect that I am surrounded by crazy people.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
As bad things go, what Foley did was only fair-to-middling bad. As a result of it, political careers will be ended and elections will probably be affected. There might be criminal charges.

At the same time, the US government has been torturing people, sometimes to death. It's quite plausible that this is still going on, what with all those prisoners being held in secret. A law has been passed making it legal to hold prisoners indefinitely in secret. This has not had nearly as much political effect as the Foley scandal, and the legitimizing of torture doesn't seem to be a big issue in the upcoming election.

I begin to suspect that I am surrounded by crazy people.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Help at Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz covers various tough love residential and boot camp programs that teens get put into. They're incredibly destructive in the short and long terms, and sometimes lead to deaths from illness and deprivation. They're also very expensive for the parents and profitable for those who run them.

Here's a link to a podcast/video interview with Szalavitz.

The theory behind tough love programs is that teens are a grave risk from the use of drugs and such and that all that's wrong with those teens is insufficient discipline. Parents don't need to modify their behavior to improve the relationship--the teenager just needs to be hammered on enough to behave better and love their parents. Any complaints the teenager might have about the program is just manipulation to get out of it.

At those programs, insufficient food and sleep are routine, and extended immobility and exercise to collapse are typical punishments. There are high incentives for confession of misdeeds, including invented misdeeds, since ordinary lives aren't dramatic enough. The teenagers are blamed for everything which has happened to them. Arbitrary punishments are portrayed as natural consequences. Since complaints and failure to follow orders are viewed as manipulation and lies, necessary medical care is generally withheld.

This is what led to the death of a boy at a bootcamp. He couldn't keep up, and he couldn't manage to start a fire with a bow. He was deprived of blankets, clothing, food and access to group fires. His death from severe peritonitus took about two weeks at that camp.

Even when there isn't that sort of diaster, the psychological effects, starting with the teens effectively being kidnapped, and then being psychologically and physically abused for years are apt to be very serious.

For those of us with some vestigial patriotism, it's embarrassing to see the Samoan and Phillipine governments taking better care of US teenagers than their own government and parents have.

These programs cost about as much per year as an Ivy League education. It's common for them to pressure parents into putting siblings into the program by threaten to throw the first teen out (which is claimed to be a guarantee of a homeless death) if the siblings aren't enrolled.

I recommend this book--in addition to pointing out a major outrage, it's clearly written and sensible and tracks implications of the tough love philosophy very nicely. For example, if harshness is good for people, then ordinary decency is doing them no favor.

As nearly as I can figure it, cruelty is a primary motivation for a significant proportion of people, and a much larger proportion doesn't want to put a lot of work into cruelty but are pleased enough for it to happen.

What I mean by primary motivation is that like eating and drinking and music, cruelty doesn't need to be motivated by money or power or security or comfort or sex or any of the other things people like. Some people do it with tremendous gusto and inventiveness for its own sake. Social pressure and laws can limit cruelty, but don't begin to make it go away.

This means that being defined as a low-status person is very dangerous, and in my opinion, all teenagers in the US are defined as low-status people, regardless of the status of their parents.
A 1979 Supreme Court decision (Parnham v. J.R.) affirmed the legality of programs like Straight's to have absolute control over teens with their parents' consent. It upheld the rights of parents to send children to whatever private lockdown residential facilities they believe to be best, just as they are allowed to make schooling and medical decisions. The assumption is that parents won't consent to abusive care. And teens can be commmitted without a court hearing if a "neutral fact finder" (who can be a facility employee at an unlicenced program!) believes such restrictive care is needed. Teens have no right to appeal their commitment, nor does a teen's institutionalization need to be justified by a danger to self or others, as is necessary for an adult.


The section at the end of the book on the sorts of questions parents ought to ask leads me to the question of what anti-chump training would look like. Strong encouragement to get your information from more than one source, certainly--and that includes writing off any program which tells you not to listen to anything the teenager says. Mistrust anyone who says that what they're doing can't possibly go wrong, so they don't need emergency fallbacks.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Help at Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz covers various tough love residential and boot camp programs that teens get put into. They're incredibly destructive in the short and long terms, and sometimes lead to deaths from illness and deprivation. They're also very expensive for the parents and profitable for those who run them.

Here's a link to a podcast/video interview with Szalavitz.

The theory behind tough love programs is that teens are a grave risk from the use of drugs and such and that all that's wrong with those teens is insufficient discipline. Parents don't need to modify their behavior to improve the relationship--the teenager just needs to be hammered on enough to behave better and love their parents. Any complaints the teenager might have about the program is just manipulation to get out of it.

At those programs, insufficient food and sleep are routine, and extended immobility and exercise to collapse are typical punishments. There are high incentives for confession of misdeeds, including invented misdeeds, since ordinary lives aren't dramatic enough. The teenagers are blamed for everything which has happened to them. Arbitrary punishments are portrayed as natural consequences. Since complaints and failure to follow orders are viewed as manipulation and lies, necessary medical care is generally withheld.

This is what led to the death of a boy at a bootcamp. He couldn't keep up, and he couldn't manage to start a fire with a bow. He was deprived of blankets, clothing, food and access to group fires. His death from severe peritonitus took about two weeks at that camp.

Even when there isn't that sort of diaster, the psychological effects, starting with the teens effectively being kidnapped, and then being psychologically and physically abused for years are apt to be very serious.

For those of us with some vestigial patriotism, it's embarrassing to see the Samoan and Phillipine governments taking better care of US teenagers than their own government and parents have.

These programs cost about as much per year as an Ivy League education. It's common for them to pressure parents into putting siblings into the program by threaten to throw the first teen out (which is claimed to be a guarantee of a homeless death) if the siblings aren't enrolled.

I recommend this book--in addition to pointing out a major outrage, it's clearly written and sensible and tracks implications of the tough love philosophy very nicely. For example, if harshness is good for people, then ordinary decency is doing them no favor.

As nearly as I can figure it, cruelty is a primary motivation for a significant proportion of people, and a much larger proportion doesn't want to put a lot of work into cruelty but are pleased enough for it to happen.

What I mean by primary motivation is that like eating and drinking and music, cruelty doesn't need to be motivated by money or power or security or comfort or sex or any of the other things people like. Some people do it with tremendous gusto and inventiveness for its own sake. Social pressure and laws can limit cruelty, but don't begin to make it go away.

This means that being defined as a low-status person is very dangerous, and in my opinion, all teenagers in the US are defined as low-status people, regardless of the status of their parents.
A 1979 Supreme Court decision (Parnham v. J.R.) affirmed the legality of programs like Straight's to have absolute control over teens with their parents' consent. It upheld the rights of parents to send children to whatever private lockdown residential facilities they believe to be best, just as they are allowed to make schooling and medical decisions. The assumption is that parents won't consent to abusive care. And teens can be commmitted without a court hearing if a "neutral fact finder" (who can be a facility employee at an unlicenced program!) believes such restrictive care is needed. Teens have no right to appeal their commitment, nor does a teen's institutionalization need to be justified by a danger to self or others, as is necessary for an adult.


The section at the end of the book on the sorts of questions parents ought to ask leads me to the question of what anti-chump training would look like. Strong encouragement to get your information from more than one source, certainly--and that includes writing off any program which tells you not to listen to anything the teenager says. Mistrust anyone who says that what they're doing can't possibly go wrong, so they don't need emergency fallbacks.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
NPR is interviewing an anti-torture guy from the ACLU, which is fine. Someone calls in to say that terrorists treat people really badly, so why should we do anything differently? The anti-torture guy says, "Because we're Americans."

I have this werid belief in universal values. I would like Americans to not torture because they have some respect for people and for truth and for the long run. I want Americans to behave decently because it's worth doing, not because it's a special American thing.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
From Atlas Shrugged:

(A pulverizing sound-beam weapon has just been demonstrated)
Dr. Stadtler looked at the faces in the grandstands. They were sitting quietly now, they were listening, but their eyes had an ebbing look of twilight, a look of fear in the process of being accepted as permanent, the look of raw wounds being accepted as permanent. They knew, as he knew it, that they were the targets of the shapeless funnels protruding from the mushroom building's dome....


Now, in the real world, the proportion of people who are taking the threat of a bad government seriously is a lot higher than it is in the novel, but there are still plenty who seem to think that Bush is our good and trustworthy war leader even though that torture memo is talking about, well, everybody.

Sidetrack: I just realized that the soundbeam weapon is just about useless because its range is fairly limited and it isn't portable.... I won't say it's a typical government project because government are actually pretty good at developing weapons, but it might be a typical Atlas Shrugged sort of item--the proportion of stupid people is very high in that novel.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
From Atlas Shrugged:

(A pulverizing sound-beam weapon has just been demonstrated)
Dr. Stadtler looked at the faces in the grandstands. They were sitting quietly now, they were listening, but their eyes had an ebbing look of twilight, a look of fear in the process of being accepted as permanent, the look of raw wounds being accepted as permanent. They knew, as he knew it, that they were the targets of the shapeless funnels protruding from the mushroom building's dome....


Now, in the real world, the proportion of people who are taking the threat of a bad government seriously is a lot higher than it is in the novel, but there are still plenty who seem to think that Bush is our good and trustworthy war leader even though that torture memo is talking about, well, everybody.

Sidetrack: I just realized that the soundbeam weapon is just about useless because its range is fairly limited and it isn't portable.... I won't say it's a typical government project because government are actually pretty good at developing weapons, but it might be a typical Atlas Shrugged sort of item--the proportion of stupid people is very high in that novel.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Instead of speading democracy or ending war and hunger, how about just showing up for work and not torturing anybody and not stealing the oil-for-food money.

The small virtues of kindness and reliability need to get more respect to make the big plans feasible.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Instead of speading democracy or ending war and hunger, how about just showing up for work and not torturing anybody and not stealing the oil-for-food money.

The small virtues of kindness and reliability need to get more respect to make the big plans feasible.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Bush said

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning. (Applause.)


In addition to that little slither (Saddam's government was responsible for death and torture, Bush's government was responsible for disgraceful conduct), there's plenty more to disagree with.

After Saddam, Iraq should have more than enough prison capacity for a civilized country. It won't need another prison, and I'm not sure that an American-style maximum security prison meets human rights standards anyway.

There's a lot to be said for monetary compensation for the
people who've been tortured and/or killed by Americans. This would recognize them as individuals and do a little to repair the damage. If we care about our honor and want to show some positive values, this would be start.

I also recommend the construction of a torture rehabilitation center with a sufficient fund to maintain it. There are a huge number of people who've been tortured who need to deal with the physical and psychological effects.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
Bush said

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values. America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning. (Applause.)


In addition to that little slither (Saddam's government was responsible for death and torture, Bush's government was responsible for disgraceful conduct), there's plenty more to disagree with.

After Saddam, Iraq should have more than enough prison capacity for a civilized country. It won't need another prison, and I'm not sure that an American-style maximum security prison meets human rights standards anyway.

There's a lot to be said for monetary compensation for the
people who've been tortured and/or killed by Americans. This would recognize them as individuals and do a little to repair the damage. If we care about our honor and want to show some positive values, this would be start.

I also recommend the construction of a torture rehabilitation center with a sufficient fund to maintain it. There are a huge number of people who've been tortured who need to deal with the physical and psychological effects.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I just read _Red Thunder_, and it was remarkably disappointing. Varley's written some sf that I'm very fond of (notably _The Ophiuchi Hotline_ and _The Golden Globe_ and much of the Nine Worlds short fiction), and part of what I've liked has been his inventiveness. I'm very fond of idea-a-minute sf.

_Red Thunder_, on the other hand, has remarkably little going on. There's a force field which supplies handy propulsion for the rocket, and that's about it.

The plot: A small group of Americans build a backyard spaceship and go to Mars. There are a few minor moments of suspence. For a while, i was hoping that even though it was slow-moving, there was a decent novella somewhere in those 411 pages. There isn't.

OK, politics. The book is libertarian (little rants about guns and drug laws) with a strong ambivalence about the US--it's good that Americans get to Mars first, but better that it isn't a government project.

The problem at my end (and not Varley's fault, I suppose) is that Abu Graib has worn the shine off being an American for me. It's just another country, with some people making an effort not to fuck up totally, but with all too many saying that rage and revenge are more important than kindness or good sense. I can't believe that the "real" America is the dream rather than what actual Americans do and believe. I believe that imagination is part of the world, but it's not the whole story.

Let the Europeans or the Chinese or someone else be first on Mars. I don't care.

Some of this is depression--when I think "what sort of a fucking idiot would let part of their happiness be in the hands of something they didn't create or control?", that's depression, but I don't think all of this is. The process that started with hearing about My Lai and thinking "but Americans don't do that--well, one of them did" just got finished. Damn, this does feel like depression, and not just politics.

I expect that the political news is just going to get worse, but can anyone recommend some good recent sf?
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
I just read _Red Thunder_, and it was remarkably disappointing. Varley's written some sf that I'm very fond of (notably _The Ophiuchi Hotline_ and _The Golden Globe_ and much of the Nine Worlds short fiction), and part of what I've liked has been his inventiveness. I'm very fond of idea-a-minute sf.

_Red Thunder_, on the other hand, has remarkably little going on. There's a force field which supplies handy propulsion for the rocket, and that's about it.

The plot: A small group of Americans build a backyard spaceship and go to Mars. There are a few minor moments of suspence. For a while, i was hoping that even though it was slow-moving, there was a decent novella somewhere in those 411 pages. There isn't.

OK, politics. The book is libertarian (little rants about guns and drug laws) with a strong ambivalence about the US--it's good that Americans get to Mars first, but better that it isn't a government project.

The problem at my end (and not Varley's fault, I suppose) is that Abu Graib has worn the shine off being an American for me. It's just another country, with some people making an effort not to fuck up totally, but with all too many saying that rage and revenge are more important than kindness or good sense. I can't believe that the "real" America is the dream rather than what actual Americans do and believe. I believe that imagination is part of the world, but it's not the whole story.

Let the Europeans or the Chinese or someone else be first on Mars. I don't care.

Some of this is depression--when I think "what sort of a fucking idiot would let part of their happiness be in the hands of something they didn't create or control?", that's depression, but I don't think all of this is. The process that started with hearing about My Lai and thinking "but Americans don't do that--well, one of them did" just got finished. Damn, this does feel like depression, and not just politics.

I expect that the political news is just going to get worse, but can anyone recommend some good recent sf?

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