28 February 2007

Pain's Evils

I just found out that my paper Pain's Evils will be published in Utilitas. Since this is my first major publication in a top tier journal, I'm quite a happy Adam. Once I figure out the copyright issues, I'll post a copy of the paper on my website. If you're interested in the interim, let me know and I'll send you a copy.

12 February 2007

Meditation resources

As we've seen here before, meditation can be an effective component to treating many types of chronic pain. From a new friend, here are some nice resources:

Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA; Podcast resources

www.mbsr.mass.edu: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction; CD and book resources

www.contemplativeprayer: Christian Based Contemplative Prayer Information

www.contemplativemind.org: Introduction to a range of contemplative practices

Dershowitz on institutionalizing torture

Want to torture? Get a warrant Alan M. Dershowitz, Tuesday, January 22, 2002

AMERICAN law enforcement officers were ever to confront the law school hypothetical case of the captured terrorist who knew about an imminent attack but refused to provide the information necessary to prevent it, I have absolutely no doubt that they would try to torture the terrorists into providing the information.

Moreover, the vast majority of Americans would expect the officers to engage in that time-tested technique for loosening tongues, notwithstanding our unequivocal treaty obligation never to employ torture, no matter how exigent the circumstances. The real question is not whether torture would be used -- it would -- but whether it would be used outside of the law or within the law.

Every democracy, including our own, has employed torture outside of the law.

Throughout the years, police officers have tortured murder and rape suspects into confessing -- sometimes truthfully, sometimes not truthfully.

The "third degree" is all too common, not only on TV shows such as "NYPD Blue," but in the back rooms of real police station houses. No democracy, other than Israel, has ever employed torture within the law. Until quite recently, Israel recognized the power of its security agencies to employ what it euphemistically called "moderate physical pressure" to elicit information from terrorists about continuing threats.

This "pressure" entailed putting the suspect in a dingy cell with a smelly sack over his head and shaking him violently until he disclosed planned terrorist attacks. Israel never allowed the information elicited by these methods to be used in courts of law as confessions. But it did use the information to prevent terrorist acts.

Several attacks were prevented by this unpleasant tactic. In a courageous and controversial decision, the president of the Israeli Supreme Court wrote a majority opinion banning the use of this tactic against suspected terrorists.

The Israeli Supreme Court left open the possibility, however, that in an actual "ticking bomb" case -- a situation in which a terrorist refused to divulge information necessary to defuse a bomb that was about to kill hundreds of innocent civilians -- an agent who employed physical pressure could defend himself against criminal charges by invoking "the law of necessity."

No such case has arisen since this court decision, despite numerous instances of terrorism in that troubled part of the world. Nor has there ever been a ticking bomb case in this country.

But inevitably one will arise, and we should be prepared to confront it. It is important that a decision be made in advance of an actual ticking bomb case about how we should deal with this inevitable situation.

In my new book, "Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age," I offer a controversial proposal designed to stimulate debate about this difficult issue. Under my proposal, no torture would be permitted without a "torture warrant" being issued by a judge.

An application for a torture warrant would have to be based on the absolute need to obtain immediate information in order to save lives coupled with probable cause that the suspect had such information and is unwilling to reveal it.

The suspect would be given immunity from prosecution based on information elicited by the torture. The warrant would limit the torture to nonlethal means, such as sterile needles, being inserted beneath the nails to cause excruciating pain without endangering life.

It may sound absurd for a distinguished judge to be issuing a warrant to do something so awful.

But consider the alternatives: Either police would torture below the radar screen of accountability, or the judge who issued the warrant would be accountable. Which would be more consistent with democratic values?

Those opposed to the idea of a torture warrant argue -- quite reasonably -- that establishing such a precedent would legitimize torture and make it easier to extend its permissible use beyond the ticking bomb case.

Those who favor the torture warrant argue that the opposite would be true: By expressly limiting the use of torture only to the ticking bomb case and by requiring a highly visible judge to approve, limit and monitor the torture, it will be far more difficult to justify its extension to other institutions.

The goal of the warrant would be to reduce and limit the amount of torture that would, in fact, be used in an emergency. This is an issue that should be discussed now, before we confront the emergency.

So, let the debate begin. . Alan M. Dershowitz is a Harvard law professor and a former member of the O.J. Simpson ""Dream Team.'' Last Sunday, he appeared on ""60 Minutes'' to make a case for legal torture. His latest book is ""Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age'' (Little Brown, 2002).


Tortured torturer

From the Washington Post, a confession by a former torturer:

An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare

By Eric Fair
Friday, February 9, 2007; A19

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah. I was one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division. The man, whose name I've long since forgotten, was a suspected associate of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the Baath Party leader in Anbar province who had been captured two months earlier.

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms. Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics were terribly wrong.

While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I'm ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I'm becoming more ashamed of my silence.

Some may suggest there is no reason to revive the story of abuse in Iraq. Rehashing such mistakes will only harm our country, they will say. But history suggests we should examine such missteps carefully. Oppressive prison environments have created some of the most determined opponents. The British learned that lesson from Napoleon, the French from Ho Chi Minh, Europe from Hitler. The world is learning that lesson again from Ayman al-Zawahiri. What will be the legacy of abusive prisons in Iraq?

We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.

I am desperate to get on with my life and erase my memories of my experiences in Iraq. But those memories and experiences do not belong to me. They belong to history. If we're doomed to repeat the history we forget, what will be the consequences of the history we never knew? The citizens and the leadership of this country have an obligation to revisit what took place in the interrogation booths of Iraq, unpleasant as it may be. The story of Abu Ghraib isn't over. In many ways, we have yet to open the book.

The writer served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early 2004.


H/T Digby

08 February 2007

Period pain


Ibuprofen beats acetaminophen for period pain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although both ibuprofen and acetaminophen reduce menstrual pain, ibuprofen appears to have more potent effects, according to investigators from the West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown.

Although ibuprofen is accepted as an effective treatment for painful periods, or dysmenorrhea, Drs. M. Yusoff Dawood and Firyal S. Khan-Dawood note in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, there is still controversy about the usefulness of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is known as paracetamol in several countries.

To investigate further, the duo conducted a small trial involving 12 women with dysmenorrhea who were given three different treatments in random order for three different periods: 1000 milligrams of acetaminophen, 400 milligrams of ibuprofen, or an inactive placebo, four times daily for three days.

The women rated the active medications as being more effective than placebo. "However," Dr. Dawood told Reuters Health, "it appears that ibuprofen has a greater effect and patients also preferred it."

SOURCE: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, January 2007


07 February 2007

Trigeminal Neuralgia Links

Some links on Trigeminal Neuralgia (tic douloureux)
Your Complete Guide to TN
TN Support Association
Medline summary
I'm looking for information on deep brain stimulator treatments of TN. Please email me if you have any links/articles/journals that might help.

01 February 2007

KT's Bruises

On his nerve.com photo blog, the photographer Siege published a three-week series of pictures chronicling the healing of his fiancee KT's severely bruised back after a particularly severe SM session. After being flooded with angry and concerned email, KT guest-posted the following:

My girl writes:

"The colors change like the leaves of autumn, my favorite season. It's the end and the beginning, and it's melancholy and exciting at the same time. It made me excited to see the fiery purples and reds, but this deep greenish yellow soothes me. Calms me. It's as if I've survived a wicked storm at sea and ahead is the golden sunrise on the horizon, calmly glistening on the water. When I twist my body and look into the mirror, I remember, and I smile at what I see.

I've never gotten a tattoo, but I feel this may be similar, though not permanent. Most people I know say they got theirs to mark a time in their life that they have moved on from, a reminder of what they've been through. Does it hurt while that needle was grinding away at their flesh for hours? I hear it does. But the pain is necessary, the act of enduring the pain is monumental in itself, even enjoyable at times, and the result is worth it. Though my bruises are temporary, they're far more intimate and meaningful than any markings some random tattoo artist could put on my flesh.

Some of you don't like what you saw, and that's okay by me.

I could describe to you how this act feels to me, the nurturing I felt as my man gently blindfolded me and whispered into my ear; the care I felt in the way he strapped my wrists up and hooked them to the beam above my head; how wet my pussy became during this preparation time; the release of endorphins which exploded upon the first stinging smack, and the way it faded and buzzed beneath my skin; the rush of emotions that flooded my head; how there were moments when I felt I couldn't take any more, yet still didn't want him to stop; how I went to a quiet place in my mind and allowed my body to feel physical pain, and the exercise in control and power which that requires; how scared yet safe I felt and how I allowed myself to be taken to great depths with the one I love, knowing I would come out feeling elated; how alone I felt when I sensed he had left the room, only to feel overwhelming love when he returned with a hot towel to soothe my flesh; how he looked to me, through my sensitive eyes, once the blindfold was removed; the way I collapsed into his arms afterward, feeling free and new; and why all of this is something I need every once in awhile when I get off-kilter, to steady myself, to gain perspective, to feel, to reset. But like someone commented, either you're into it or you're not. I'm not here to convince those who don't understand why it's good for me. It just is. And it's okay if you don't get it.

All you need to know is that it's more about me than about Siege. There was no rage involved. No violence. This wasn't for him. It was me needing something, bad, and he knowing just what it was, and being able to give it to me. It's something I've needed from time to time throughout my life, though past partners were not always able to scratch my itch. I would hint, and they would try, but they just didn't have the frame of mind necessary to deliver. The trust wasn't there on my part, or theirs. Instead it would become silly and giggly. We may as well have had pink fur-lined handcuffs and whipped cream.

No. I need it to be serious. This was. Now I feel peace."

Link (subscription required)