Celebrate the Facts!
Originally intended to be an island outside the law where the United States could detain and torture terrorist suspects, the existence of the prison and military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, also known as Gitmo, are catastrophic failures. Since the George W. Bush administration established the prison camp in 2002, almost 800 men have passed through this metaphoric Hell on earth. The end of the forever war in Afghanistan is the first step toward the end of this stain on humanity, justice, and the rule of law.
Quick Guantanamo facts:
Guantanamo has become a symbol of American hypocrisy, abuse, and disregard for decency and the rule of law. The United States Congress passed an ‘authorization for the use of military force’ in 2001 to go after whoever was responsible for those attacks, like al-Qaida and the Taliban. The law gives the president sweeping powers during wartime, and the executive branch claimed and continues to maintain that includes the ability to detain prisoners without charge or trial.
The Bush administration issued a Military Order authorizing trial by a military tribunal for non-United States citizens who were members of al Qaida, who engaged in terrorism, conspired to do such, or people who have knowingly harbored such individuals. Military commissions are how the United States then prosecutes detained individuals.
The Bush administration established the detention camp to house the most dangerous criminals, especially those who had committed war crimes. The initial US government position concerning Guantanamo was that detainees were ‘unlawful enemy combatants,’ and none of the protections contained in the Geneva conventions applied to them. In other words, torture was on the menu for the madmen who dreamt it up and their agents who implemented it.
The Bush Administration located the facility off domestic soil to allow the United States to detain, interrogate, and sometimes torture suspects, ostensibly to gather information about future terror attacks, without benefit or protection of United States constitutional protections.
Few political figures raised objections to these tactics. The United States Congress has approved funding for the camp annually since its construction. To maintain one American political party is morally clean or the other less so is fiction as there has been bipartisan support for the continued funding and so consent for its existence and operation.
The United States government tortured or otherwise abused most of those imprisoned at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp. The torture included waterboarding, sexual harassment and abuse, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation. The Red Cross, the United Nations, and the Center for Constitutional Rights have all confirmed that the United States government tortured people imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. Yet, unfortunately, the United States has not prosecuted any of the officials who authorized the use of torture or implemented it. This failure serves as a tacit reassurance that the government will treat prosecuting torture and other human rights violations lightly in the future.
It is undetermined when ‘authorization for the use of military force’ expires, the parameters of that war. The United States has defended holding prisoners forever, without charges, adequate legal representation, or other redress due to the now-global ‘war on terror.’ Regardless, the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan raises complicated legal questions, such as whether a war is ongoing once fighters leave the battlefield and when to liberate prisoners following a troop withdrawal.
Legal actions attempting to resolve the opacities of the ‘authorization for the use of military force’ resulted in courts avoiding addressing whether these vast presidential war powers are specific to a particular geography, instead of referencing the war in Afghanistan as justification for holding detainees. Human rights activists and detainees' lawyers argue a war must have definitions to determine its end and the time to release the prisoners of that war.
In a consolidated cases in 2008 the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 opinion that aliens designated as enemy combatants and detained at Guantanamo have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus. However, the Court also found that § 7 of the Military Commissions Act (MCA), which limited judicial review of administrative determinations of the petitioners' enemy combatant status, did not provide an adequate habeas substitute and therefore acted as an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas. Prisoners then were technically able to challenge their situation in United States federal courts to scant outcomes.
There are now 39 prisoners remaining in Guantanamo, as a former detainee, Abdul Latif Nasser saw his family again in Morocco after United States troops turned him over to Moroccan state custody in July 2021. Mr. Nasser was a prisoner for more than 19 years.
In the most recent ‘legal actions’ at Guantanamo, the United States criminally charged two alleged Malaysian terrorists, Mohammed Nazir Lep, 45, and Mohammed Farik Amin, 46, both detained at the detention camp in Cuba since 2006, along with the alleged mastermind of the bombings, Indonesian Encep Nurjaman, also known as Hambali. The three have spent more than 14 years in Guantanamo.
Of the 39 men remaining prisoners:
Federal law bars the United States government from transferring any inmates to prisons on the United States mainland. However, Biden would face a tough challenge securing legislative changes to allow such transfer because some Democrats oppose them.
Military figures and hawkish politicians lead the opposition to the closure, claiming released detainees have committed terrorist acts without credible evidence. However, the utility of such an extra-legal institution substantially benefits intelligence agency types who relish the opportunity to interrogate suspects without legal restraint and due process legal considerations.
The Biden administration has announced it intends to close the facility, although the mechanism of completing that intent is undefined. Biden proposed a commission to examine alternatives, although this commission's specific actions and intended mandate are unclear.
Joe Biden has shown the political will to close the Forever War chapter in American history and take the heat for the consequences of his decisions. Biden is less susceptible to military arguments to continue formal military action in the Middle East hence his withdrawal decision. The overwhelming majority of United States citizens supported the recent withdrawal.
The immediate optics of the collapse of the puppet regime were quite negative, and political pundits had a field day pointing fingers. However, history undoubtedly will find a different judgment as Afghanistan devolves into a medieval nation and the United States becomes one of many occupying powers to have failed nation-building in Afghanistan.
Likely future actions by the Biden administration:
8/22/2021 0 Comments
Focus on achieving herd immunity in the United States is laudable, and it is possible through a combination of infections and vaccinations. Unfortunately, the new Delta variant has driven estimates to as high as 80% of the population, and future variants might be even more virulent. Numbers of infections drive the emergence of mutations and variants, and with modern airline travel, a condition in Uruguay or Myanmar is as problematic as one in Arkansas. Unfortunately, the United States appears to be ignoring the looming horror of not vaccinating the rest of the world.
Infotainment hate jockeys on evening talk shows masquerading as new programs have found COVID vaccination controversies a gold mine. Conservative shows falsely conflate mask use and vaccinations with personal liberty and the American way of life. Liberal shows poke fun at cartoon punching bags such as Congressional clowns Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz and their unholy preaching about COVID. Unfortunately, neither polemic contributes to the greater good of the country.
There is some truth that the eligible unvaccinated in the United States are freeloaders on the herd immunity concept. Unfortunately, those populations are now paying an enormous cost, particularly in deep-red states in the South where only the medical-industrial complex and funeral industries profit. The consequences are compelling people in those areas to vaccinate. The sad benefit of rampant COVID is that the illness creates antibodies that will ultimately help the population achieve herd immunity.
The COVID virus appears to be becoming more potent and more virulent. The first Delta variant case appeared in December 2020, and by the end of July 2021, the Delta variant was the cause of more than 80% of new United States COVID cases. Identified variants appear to transmit more easily, be more deadly, and even cause infection among vaccinated people.
The Biden administration is balancing significant political factors in vaccine management. There is the most recent guidance for booster shots with apparently the same formulation as the original doses, eating into the availability of vaccines and the possibility of providing further allocations to other countries.
About 32% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and about 24% is fully vaccinated. People have obtained about 5 billion doses globally, and about 34 million people get a shot each day.
Not surprisingly, only about 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. High-income countries use those low-income countries as sources of raw materials, cheap labor, and markets for exports, so they are part of the wealth-creating engine for rich nations and particularly for rich people. Unfortunately, that relationship is asymmetric, and this shows in the allocations of vaccines.
The unvaccinated portion of the world serves as a source of new variants of COVID, possibly more deadly and transmittable than the current variants, so vaccinating those populations is as vital as vaccine drives in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. In addition, with modern airline travel allowing the worldwide distribution of these variants in hours, not even days, worldwide herd immunity is imperative, and in the interest of every person in the world and the United States, regardless of political, tribal affiliation.
Since the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has maintained hegemony over the Caribbean and South America, manipulating governments as discussed in previous investigations, using the area as a source of cheap labor, raw materials, and a primary export for the United States goods and services.
So the unvaccinated population of the world is the breeding ground for variants, and the remainder of the unvaccinated in the United States are likely so entrenched in politically-driven opposition to such and will be nearly impossible to convince. However, many countries in the remainder of the world remain in need of doses with populations yearning for vaccines.
Such relationship does not extend to care with the population of Latin America as immense numbers of unvaccinated people remain, suffering, dying, and serving as a source for mutations. The population of Latin America and the Caribbean is about 660 million, about double the United States population of about 333 million. Regardless of history, economic relations, or the right thing to do, it is in the interest of the United States to vaccinate these people and the remaining unvaccinated in the remainder of the world.
Particularly outstanding in the data are the low vaccination rates in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, all countries with tremendous outmigration of people to other countries, contributing to the United States policy-driven and media-manufactured ‘border crisis.’ Venezuela and Nicaragua are countries currently sanctioned by the United States but regardless of the United States' enmity towards these governments, withholding vaccine support from these populations is both inhumane and destructive of the interests of the United States. Lack of vaccine support for Honduras and Guatemala, long client-states of the United States, is harder to understand.
So far, the Biden Administration has distributed 36 million doses to Latin America, about one-third of total United States donations. Of course, the America First crowd would have an issue with this donation, let alone adequate donations to help Latin America achieve herd immunity, and likely that has informed policy decisions about the matter. Regardless, a good president needs to demonstrate leadership qualities, including doing the moral thing, not just the politically expedient thing.
There is a concept called vaccine diplomacy, where strategic competitors extend their brand into other nations by donating or subsidizing vaccines. China has given about 1.5 million Sinovac doses to El Salvador, 100,000 Sinopharm doses to Bolivia, and 500,000 Sinopharm doses to Venezuela. Russia has made an undisclosed number of Sputnik doses to Nicaragua. In cases of direct purchase, Russia and China have delivered their vaccines at prices significantly cheaper than United States vaccine rates. China is also providing $1 billion in financing to Latin American countries to help them purchase Chinese vaccines.
The vaccination of the remaining unvaccinated, regardless of geographic location, is imperative. The president of the United States has broad authority under the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the president, through executive order, to direct private companies to prioritize orders from the federal government. To bolster domestic production, the president may offer loans or loan guarantees to companies, subject to Congress's appropriation, make purchases or purchase commitments, and install equipment in government or private factories. Such direction is all compensable by equitable adjustment procedures that allow for reasonable profit on such production.
Given the urgency of the matter and ultimate protection of the population of the United States, such direction seems not just recommended but urgent. Moreover, as COVID appears to be an ongoing global health issue, the construction of new facilities and distribution capacity worldwide is not just prudent but necessary.
Conspiracy theory adherents have been associated with prejudice, unfair persecutions, revolutions, and genocide throughout history. Terrorists are keen supporters of conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theorists have rebuked public health measures such as vaccinations, causing nominally eradicated diseases such as measles to get their bands back together. Currently, conspiracy theorists reject the science behind anthropogenic climate change and public health measures to address COVID, elevating two manageable problems to existential threats.
A conspiracy theory is a scheme that explains an event or set of circumstances resulting from a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.
Common conspiracy theories include:
At their heart, conspiracy theories are mistaken beliefs using disparate facts duct-taped together with conjecture and generally are corrosive to society. Suppression of conspiracy theory only adds to the allure and the sense there is an overlying plot to quiet the believers, and it would seem fully airing and discussing them is the only way to reduce their effects.
Interesting facts about conspiracy theories:
Conspiracy theorists have played outsized roles in the United States milieu. Perhaps the most prominent example was the 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. A disaffected Army veteran turned security guard, Timothy McVeigh, and cohorts, including Terry Nichols, blew up the building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, injured several hundred more. McVeigh’s history included child psychological trauma and obsession with military activities mobilized by misinformation from the hate-mongering propaganda of the radical right. Nichols sold out McVeigh in return for life in prison, and the government he abhorred murdered McVeigh six years later.
The United States is in the middle of an existential crisis due to the concentration and hoarding of wealth by the American oligarchy than politics, and the symptoms, polarization, radical philosophies, and exploitation of such for money by Infotainment media outlined in the work Hate, Inc.
Common current conspiracy theories in the political discussion include:
While there’s not much virtue in supporting such erroneous ideologies, the real villains are companies and media and political figures who sew conspiracy disinformation or fan the flames of such movements to their means, whether to make money, gain political power or both. An isolated person who believes in something implausible is forgivable if not understandable. A United States president or a United States Senator using the gullibility of susceptible populations for political purposes is not. A significant industry funding AstroTurf political movements and erroneous ‘research’ to refute climate change legislation, if not illegal, is at least immoral.
The solution to conspiracy theories and the existential threats posed by such require a thorough approach:
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, affecting more than 264 million people worldwide, plus the global prevalence of MDD increased by almost 13% during 2007–2017. In addition, MDD is the most common mood disorder in the United States, with devastating social, economic, and personal consequences. However, there is a new treatment in town that offers promise to help treat this awful scourge.
Although MDD may occur only once, people typically have multiple episodes. Symptoms include:
There’s nothing new about MDD. The first references to depression appeared in ancient Mesopotamian texts about four thousand years ago. Historically orthodox religious authorities used witchcraft to treat afflicted people, and some would argue that science is rebranded witchcraft for the treatment of MDD, with some justification.
Fascinating facts about MDD in the United States:
Traditional psychiatry and psychology relied initially upon standard psychotherapeutic models, including a variety of approaches, and these were effective in mild cases. Severe cases of depression, however, proved resistant to talk therapy, and of course, with the advent of technology came experimentation with a variety of additional technological weapons.
Initial thoughts were to ‘reboot’ the brain by introducing convulsions, as psychiatrists were convinced MDD was a mental illness that might succumb to clearing it of errata that caused MDD. The first of the convulsive therapies started in 1934 in Hungary. It involved inducing convulsions with Metrazol, the brand name of a compound first introduced as a cardiac drug. Research psychiatrists reasoned that chemically inducing convulsions might somehow mitigate the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Results were good enough to warrant establishing centers in Europe, the Georgia state asylum at Milledgeville, and the Sheppard-Pratt private clinic in Baltimore.
In the dawn of industrial medicine, it came as a reasonable conclusion that there was an easier way to induce convulsions simultaneously offering a technology upgrade – electricity. Introduced in 1939 in Rome, Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) uses an electric current to cause an epileptic seizure for therapeutic purposes. ECT is probably the most controversial form of treatment in medicine, and certain parts of the world have banned it, although it has enjoyed a recent renaissance as a treatment of MDD. Regardless, ECT has significant side effects, including memory loss, and is a last-resort treatment.
Current best practices in psychiatry call for a four-step treatment plan, where patients proceed to the next treatment step if they do not achieve complete remission under the current treatment step. Taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors antidepressant drugs is the first treatment step, and as the patient progress through the treatment steps, they try new antidepressant medications with a different mechanism of action, combined with traditional psychotherapy. Multiple randomized controlled trials and published literature have supported the safety and efficacy of antidepressant therapy.
Patients that achieve complete remission and tolerate treatment at a specific step then take that drug long-term. However, the four-step program provides a cumulative remission rate of only about 67%. Enter alternative treatments management of treatment-resistant MDD.
Research into brain functioning has stimulated interest in research on manipulation of outcomes and curing ailments by electrical stimulation short of ECT, and these efforts have brought forth ‘modern’ methods of electrical brain stimulation such as:
From the new technologies mentioned above, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is the one that has emerged from the pack and entered the arsenal of psychiatrists to treat the dreaded MDD. TMS uses a magnetic field to stimulate the brain with electrical currents. TMS requires as many as 36 sessions, typically recommended quickly to reduce the total treatment time. TMS applies electromagnetic induction to generate an electric current inside the brain without physical contact.
Side effects are generally mild to moderate and improve shortly after an individual session and decrease over time with additional sessions. They may include:
There are many areas of research for the use of TMS aside from treatment of MDD:
The simultaneous application of TMS and psychotherapy in treatment-resistant MDD resulted in a 66% response and a 56% remission rate at the end of treatment with 60% sustained remission at a 6-month follow-up. Most patients undergoing TMS continue to receive antidepressants but the research into synergistic effects of both is sparse.
TMS is an approved and acknowledged treatment for MDD, and the clinical field is rapidly evolving, aiming to optimize response and remission rates for MDD patients. Most insurance plans cover TMS, provided the patient has treatment-resistant MDD, defined as two or more medications and two years of psychotherapy being ineffective. In addition, new studies are emerging, evaluating fine-tuning individualized treatment protocols.
There remain substantial unanswered questions about TMS:
Aside from the promising results so far, TMS is a rest stop, not a destination. The development of treatments is evolutionary, and this is just one step. More critical questions such as other health problems contributing to MDD remain unconsidered in the industrial medicine milieu. Lowering stress levels and reducing dramatic disparities of income produced by poor governance of uncontrolled capitalism would likely be a better and longer-term fix for the horror of MDD.
Corporate media plays an integral role in radicalization. The recent divide in American political culture is fundamental and has placed democratic processes in jeopardy as the American experiment faces its biggest test since 1860. Infotainment programs in primetime television, accurately named Hate, Inc., pose as news programs but are propaganda for various political tribes, reinforce but do not challenge the viewer, and play an integral role in this process. Corporate media makes money creating conflict, but they also make money covering its results.
Radicalization, the process of making somebody more extreme or radical in their opinions on political or social issues, became a central issue after the January 6 insurrection, as a mob of angry, costumed, and armed citizens stormed the United States Capitol building. Before that, there was little concern about radicalization evidenced by anti-government militia movements, domestic terror events such as the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, American citizens joining ISIS, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Research suggests various environmental factors destabilize individuals causing them to become more susceptible to extremist ideology, and media and members of their community reinforce such erroneous beliefs. Some experts have proposed that radicalization may proceed through a social contagion process, in which extremist ideologies behave like complex contagions that require multiple exposures for adoption.
The number of terrorist attacks per year in the United States in the post 9/11 era has increased from 33 in 2002 to 65 in 2017. In the United States, terrorists belong to one of the six ideologies:
The far-right movement, which includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis, is the oldest and most lethal domestic extremism in the United States. Despite slightly different ideologies, members of the far-right often advocate for violence to bring about a United States dominated by white people. In the last ten years, the far-right movement was responsible for about 73% of all extremist murders in the United States, and the trend has been accelerating, as by 2018, this statistic rose to 98%. Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, while attacks ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths.
Radicalization factors include:
Exposure to derogatory language about other groups leads to political radicalization and deteriorates intergroup relations. Infotainment, television programs that present news events in an entertaining propagandistic format, have now displaced common dramas and sitcoms in evening television programming. Three networks dominate Infotainment: Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, but corporate media also includes social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as other biased media outlets owned by corporate interests. Hate-speech proliferation is common in contemporary Infotainment and social media. Frequent exposure to hate speech has corrosive effects on emotional, behavioral, and normative levels and results in contempt, replacing empathy for other groups.
The stated mission of this series of investigations is to remain unbiased and to present facts. There is little to discriminate in journalistic integrity among Infotainment outlets. They take a set of facts and weave them together with conjecture, speculation, and emotionalism to arrive at differing outcomes.
However, a more erudite view is to view MSNBC and CNN as speaking to the same tribal audience. In this compilation, the conservative Fox got 2.12 million viewers, and the liberal combination of CNN and MSNBC achieved 2.16 million viewers, not far off the left/right split of Americans. So essentially, each political tribe has a choice of evening Infotainment to incite, not inform.
A key point is the reinforcing element in radicalization. While there is limited data, what there is confirms there is little crossover in viewership between Infotainment programs, proving viewers consume this media absent alternate and challenging viewpoints. For instance, 3% of the right-wing Fox News ringmaster Sean Hannity fans watched ten or more minutes of the liberal Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, while only about 7% watched the slightly less caustic Anderson Cooper on CNN. Instead, viewers tend to graze and consume their tribal offerings and exclude alternative viewpoints, thereby reinforcing and not challenging already ingrained beliefs.
The CNN parent company is AT&T, the 11th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. Fox Corporation, 39% owned by the Rupert Murdoch family, owns Fox News. Rupert Murdoch, the family's patriarch, owns News Corp with the same 39% share, and News Corp owns the New York Post, HarperCollins, and The Wall Street Journal. The owner of NBC and MSNBC is Comcast. Comcast is the 49th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. The parent company of YouTube is Alphabet, the 9th largest corporation on the Fortune 500. Facebook is the 144th largest corporation on the Fortune 500 rankings, and Twitter trails at number 647.
While corporations, through decades of corporate legal maneuvering, have all the rights of individuals in the United States essentially, corporations feel no empathy, guilt, or remorse. Generating a profit is the stated goal of almost all corporations, and they serve the interests of their owners to make money. Thus, many of the altruistic acts committed by corporations intend to cultivate a positive image with their customers.
An interesting case in point about Infotainment propaganda is the variation of presentation of information about vaccines against COVID, the only effective resolution to the public health issues posed by the virus. Americans have long been compliant with public health measures, including:
Regardless, the media giants have continued to present COVID vaccine disinformation. The social media platforms use Section 230, the two-decade-old law that protects Internet companies from lawsuits about the content posted on their websites, as their protection from legal liability, while they continue to harvest the profits from clicks and views of this propaganda. Fox News has had various takes on the COVID vaccines, while Tucker Carlson has likened the shot to an authoritarian ‘social control’ project. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has demonized anti-vaxxers with her own condemnations.
In this, as in many other tribal debates, Americans are set against one another, and the outcome is messy. The antivaccination movement endangers all Americans’ public health as the propagation of the virus over time increases the likelihood of a mutation that is not only more contagious but might also be resistant to vaccines, ensuring the lengthening of a public health catastrophe. Yet that catastrophe is fungible to corporate media, so they profit because of the controversy and the consequence. Unfortunately for the American population, the cost is in lives. Corporate media, regardless of representation, profits from the conflict it creates.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.