Tuesday, May 31, 2005

NY Times Shines Spotlight On CIA Transport Operations--Why?

Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams carefully researched public records, interviewed dozens of people and compiled a large and diverse amount of data into an expose of the CIA's covert transportation network, published in today's New York Times under the heading, "C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights."

I do not consider this material newsworthy....unless you are a member of Al Qaeda or a some other group hostile to the United States.

Can you imagine the N.Y. Times publishing an article in 1944 headlined, "Eisenhower Expanding War Effort With Plans To Invade Normandy"?

I wouldn't have needed to know that bit of information, either. In fact, as an American citizen, I would not have wanted to know that information. "Loose lips sink ships," they used to say. I wonder what they say at the Times these days?

Ironically, the story serves no purpose other than to undermine national security. The irony is that the story is so senseless and damaging that the publishing of the story is a far bigger story than the story itself!

Why does the media feel that any secret they can reveal that hurts the Bush administration and its policy initiatives is a good thing, but the revealing of their anonymous sources is a bad thing?

I would hold that protecting the clandestine security activities of those engaged in a life and death struggle against people who want to destroy us is far more honorable than protecting the name of someone who leaks information that compromises our national safety and wastes a vast amount of taxpayer money invested into complex covert operations.

Although the CIA contracting with Aero Contractors is hardly a secret unbeknownst to the governments and militaries of the international community, it would be considered very bad form for even an Iran or North Korea to publish such information for propaganda purposes.

Apparently the Times does not feel the need to show even the same level of restraint shown to the United States by its sworn enemies.

I should think that the US Executive Branch would be justified by revoking all press privileges for the New York Times and cease from releasing any news of any kind to them. If anybody in the media ever deserved to be blackballed and marginalized I would imagine that the NY Times would find itself ranked very high on someone's list today.

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Also listed in an attachment to today's Times article is a chart showing all the business fronts for the air carriers involved as well as the names of those listed as corporate trustees or board members of more than one of them. I wonder if this will put any of them in jeopardy of their lives? Does the NY Times care? No, of course not. They do, however, protect the names of the Iraqi "insurgents" that they embed themselves with. They wouldn't want to put them at risk, would they?

I'm afraid that this continuing trend in the MSM is making me and millions of other Americans consider revisiting the self-anointed absolute rights of a free press to print anything and everything without fear of penalty or consequences. Such thinking, however, scare me to death! The repression of the media by government edict would be disastrous.

By its unrestrained, intentional undermining of our government's efforts to conduct foreign policy and "provide for the common defense," however, the American MSM is sowing the seeds of the destruction of the very freedom that it cherishes.

True freedom carries with it the freedom to responsibly restrict one's own freedom to protect and preserve the freedom of all. What the MSM as a whole, and the New York Times today in particular, is practicing is not freedom, but anarchy.

Deep Throat: Hero or Heel?

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W. Mark Felt aka Deep Throat

Today, at last, the mystery is solved. Deep Throat has publicly identified himself and confessed. Woodward and Bernstein have broken their silence and confirmed the identity of Deep Throat as being a former second in command of the FBI and spurned successor to the infamous Director Edgar J. Hoover.

Who is it? Well, it's 91-year old W. Mark Felt, who now lives with his daughter and grandchildren in Santa Rosa, California.

What was Mr. Felt's motivation in passing on the FBI's criminal investigation information on the Watergate break-ins to reporters for the Washington Post?

It would appear to have been nothing more than sour grapes.

Felt had been groomed as Hoover's successor as FBI Director. When Hoover died in 1972, however, President Richard Nixon passed him over and choose Justice Department official, L. Patrick Gray, instead.

Coincidently, the Watergate break-in occurred only one month after Hoover's death. Gray later admitted that he had turned over FBI files on the Watergate investigation to White House Counsel John Dean, even though there was widespread suspicion that White House staff might have been involved in either the break-in itself or the subsequent cover-up.

In the midst of this mess, Felt contacted Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and began passing confidential information from FBI files to them....probably as a counter to what Gray was doing with the White House.

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Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein

There are those who, after learning today that Felt was Deep Throat, have criticized him for not taking the material to the Federal Prosecutor's office. I suspect that there were two reasons why Felt did not choose to do this:

First, it was probably unclear to him whether the Nixon appointees in the Justice Department (including Patrick Gray...whose nomination as Assistant US Attorney General was withdrawn by Nixon in order to appoint him acting FBI Director), could be trusted....especially with Gray passing this info on to the White House.

Second, he had personal reasons to "get even" with Nixon for being snubbed as Hoover's replacement.

The first reason, it seems to me, makes him out to be a sort of hero, performing an end run to expose the Nixon corruption in a way that Nixon could not control.

The second reason, it seems to me, makes him out to be a sort of heel, using the privilege of his law enforcement position to secretly release confidential federal investigative files to the public; something that appears to me to be most certainly illegal and worthy of criminal prosecution.

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Ben Bradlee

Until today, only four men knew who Deep Throat was: Felt, Woodward, Bernstein and Post Editor Ben Bradlee. The mystery and its ongoing cache had brought both fame and money to Woodward, Bernstein and the Washington Post. Now that the secret is out it will be interesting to see the Post, the reporters and Deep Throat himself, fight over publishing rights and movie rights and all the other "rights" associated with making money off of public scandal.

The moral lesson to be learned from all of this would appear to be that a man can be both a hero and heel at one and the same time for doing one and the same thing. It is not inconceivable that Felt could receive a ticker-tape parade on his way to be booked by the FBI for his criminal offense. After 30 years, however, the statute of limitations has long expired. I say, skip the ticker-tape parade, too, and just leave the poor man alone.

Woodward and Bernstein, however, came out of this whole episode smelling like roses. Their integrity is intact. They have honorably protected the identity of their anonymous source until the end. We have yet to see, however, how honorably they will behave when the BIG BUCKS are at stake.

My guess is that Woodward & Bernstein have already written their book and will release it for publication within days. By the time the frenzy is all over we shall all be glad to go back to watching the latest news on Michael Jackson.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sports Authority Either Deceptive or Illiterate

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI went to Sports Authority in Waikele this afternoon to by a new pair of tennis shoes. They had bins full of what were called "Clearance" items. Along the aisles piled high with all sorts of shoes (some marked down on sale and some at regular price) were big signs that said:

Take 30% Off Lowest Price Marked

So, I pick out a pair of shoes on sale for $39.99 and go to check out to pay for them. I am charged $42.68. "Hold it a moment," I said. "I thought I would be given an extra 30% off."
"No," she replied. "That is only for our clearance items."
"But," I said, "Your signs say that your entire stock of shoes is for clearance."
"I'm sorry," she said. "Only those shoes marked "clearance" are subject to the extra 30% off."
So I asked for the manager and, ten minutes later, I asked him the same question.
He said that the sign was clear about what was eligible for the discount. At the bottom of each sign in small letters was this:

items marked .97 eligible for discount

Of course every shoe not in the bins was marked with a .99 ending price.
"But that doesn't make sense," I said. "How can the entire stock be clearance when only a few items are marked with the .97 price?"
"I'm sorry," he said, "that the way the signs are worded was confusing for you."
I figure that either the signs were so worded with a deliberate intent to mislead.....or else whoever made the signs did not know what "Entire Stock" means in plain English. I'm fairly sure it was the former. What do you think?
There....I feel much better now! Thanks for letting me blow off my frustration!

Memorial Day 2005 Hawaii Style at Punchbowl

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMemorial Day in Hawaii is a special day of remembrance with the central tradition being the decoration of graves at Punchbowl Cemetery (officially known as the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific).

Hundreds of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts descend on the Sunday before Memorial Day Monday armed with thousands of small American flags and flower leis, lovingly made by a literal army of local volunteers.

Each grave is lovingly decorated and a brief service is held in preparation for the more public and official ceremonies on the holiday itself.

In recent years, as Punchbowl became filled to capacity, the state opened its own Veteran's Cemetary in Kaneohe. Here, it is primarily the Girl Scouts who continue the tradition of grave decoration. I can think of no better way to teach our children to honor and remember the sacrifices of those who have served...and died....in our US armed forces.

Amidst this year's ceremonies one stood out for me.

During the Korean War, Army Master Sgt. Clarence Young fell behind his platoon t to provide cover for their withdrawl from a heavy assault by the North Korean army. After using up all the ammunition for a 50-caliber machine gun mounted on a half-track, his companion ran to get more. After running some distance away he looked back to see the vehicle explode. Assuming that Young and the others had most certainly died in the explosion, he returned to the unit and reported Young's death.

Unknown to him and everyone else, Young survived and spent 30 months as a prisoner of war. Years later, when the full story became known, those who had served with Young recommended him to recieve the Medal of Honor for his heroic, selfless efforts that day. After military review it was decided that he would recieve the Silver Star for valor. So, over 50 years later, Sgt. Young's bravory and ordeal was at last acknowledged in a special presentation ceremony let by US Senator Daniel Akaka (Dem. Hawaii).

Both the Honolulu Adverstiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin published some good pictures of the Memorial Day decorations and presentation to Sgt. Young. I am reprinting them here although you can link back to their original context if you would prefer.

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God Bless America, land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Thru the night, with a light from above.....

Giant Teapot Terrorizes Malaysian Muslims

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA giant teapot, vase, umbrella, "palace" and concrete boat, each symbolizing the common humanity of adherents to the world religions, are about to be torn down in Malaysia.

The structures stand on private land belonging to the "Sky Kingdom" *deviationist religious sect. Sect leader, 65 year old Ariffin Mohamad, says he will not contest the ordered destruction. "But," he added, "the action will seriously tarnish the image of the Government internationally."

The government alleges that the demolition is because it is illegal to build non-agricultural structures on agricultural land.

It is more commonly believed that the demolition has been ordered because the sect and its members have been outspokenly apostate from Islam and because the very existance of the sect and its highly visible structures are "humiliating" to Islamic teachings.

You can read more about this strange story here and at LGF (which receives a tip of the hat).

*The phrase, "deviationist religious sect" is used in the news story linked above. Although I have studied and taught on religious cults and sects for many years I do not believe I had ever heard this phrase until today. By googling I found that, with two exceptions, it was used exclusively for deviant Islamic sects. A definition of the term at the website for Apologetics research resources on religious cults and sects supported this view with this definition: "Deviationist: Alternative term for heresy (e.g. often used for those said to deviate from the teachings of Islam)."

It now appears that Islamic vocabulary is now entering our mainstream and academic English language vocabulary. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But we should think twice before using these terms since they may carry both specific and hidden meanings within Muslim communities of which we may not be aware.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Military Appreciation Sunday at Church

This morning's worship service was ordered on the theme of Military Appreciation. This was actually suggested and scheduled nearly a year ago when we realized that most of our deployed church members would have returned from their 12-month tours of Iran and Afghanistan by this Memorial Day weekend.

All active military were invited to wear their uniforms (which they rarely if ever wear to church events). Army, Air Force and Navy personnel were present as well as a mix of officers and enlisted.

During the service Worship Team Elder Wagnus invited all in active military service to stand and introduce themselves by name, by rank and by unit. Then the same was done with those who were no longer in active service.

Special cards with star stickers on them were available for folks to write down the names of family members or friends who had died while in in active service or following retirement. These were placed in the offering and later solemnly read by two uniformed church members. I included my late uncle, Jonathan "Jack" Tweedie, who passed away four or five years ago. Jack had served 3 tours of duty as a bomber pilot based in England during WWII. His survival, never having been shot down, is nothing short of miraculous. Towards the end of his service he flew General Eisenhower into France following the Normandy invasion and was subsequently asked by the General to serve as his personal pilot. My uncle, by that time, had seen enough. He turned down the offer and returned home.

Many of those whose names were read this morning undoubtedly had their own amazing stories to tell. Veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom were all present today. But no stories were told. Not even that of my Uncle Jack. Soldiers introduced themselves and the names of those who have died were read.

From my experience with these men and women, this is how they like it. I have never met a soldier, either officer or enlisted, who wanted the spotlight to be on them, personally. Their stories are always inseperable from the stories of the rest of the men and women in their unit. In private conversation, perhaps especially with me as a friend and pastor, they will share personal and intimate stories.....some of which they have not even told their spouses or families.

Military service promotes an ironic mixture of personal confidence and personal humility that I wish could be easily transferred into the civilian population where far too many people exhibit arrogance and pride in order to hide their inherent lack of confidence in themselves or with the substance of their lives.

Sgt. Ron Wyatt, an Elder on our church Session, member of our Worship Ministry Team and recently returned from 12 months in Mosul, Iraq, gave a personal faith testimony. For Ron, his deployment was dreary, frightening and less than inspiring. He shared how he dealt with strong emotions of anger and hate towards both those murdering and killing and, at times, towards the Iraqi people themselves as a whole. Prayer, the reading of Christian books and the love and support of his church family here in Mililani helped him keep his Christian faith intact. His faith challenged his strong negative emotions and he became, over time, more at peace with turning things like his wife and children to the care of the Lord. Ron is the only member of my congregation to return from deployment with the opinion that things there are worse than that depicted in our American news coverage! He knows he is in a minority but he also feels comfortable speaking for himself and what he experienced. It says a lot for this church that people like Ron are able to be genuine and open without worrying what others will think or how they might respond.

This is part of what the Body of Christ is all about. Accepting, forgiving and loving one another for what we are.....with the common goal of following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior together as family and friends.

Elder Laura also spoke, sharing her experience of coordinating our "care package" ministry during the past 1 1/2 years. She shared scripture from Proverbs and Psalms that she had included in each mailing; words of encouragement and trust in God.

The service was so full and complete with good things that the time was up before the scripture lessons were read and the sermon message preached. So I simply wrapped things up and said that I would deliver my sermon next Sunday and gave the Benediction.

Nobody complained!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

"Prophet Yahweh" Prays Up a UFO for ABC Network Affiliate In Las Vegas

Image hosted by Photobucket.comProphet Yahweh, also known as Ramon Watkins, has been dealing with UFO's for years. He can even make them appear at will, at least that is what he claims. To back up his boasting, the Prophet contacted ABC affiliate KTLV in Las Vegas and told them that he would be glad to meet them at a time and place of their choosing.

So this morning, off went the camera and reporter, feeling a little bit foolish. But Mr. Yahweh read the Old Testament and prayed to God for the UFO to appear and.....apparently it did! Or something appeared.....and was captured on film. View the news coverage of the event here where it is linked by World Net Daily. And enjoy the obviously flustered news reporter when he realizes that his light-hearted outing has suddenly become exceedingly mysterious and confusing.

What does this all mean? I have no idea. But Prophet Yahweh predicts that there will be many more sightings in Las Vegas in the coming week, including one UFO that will descend low enough for everyone in Vegas to see it.

Only one thing is certain, of course....and that would be that the casinos are already taking odds on the prediction!

Hiawatha Bray Calls Linda Foley's Bluff

Hiawatha Bray at Choose Honor has become the first member of the Newspaper Guild to publically challenge the Guild union President, Linda Foley, concerning recent comments accusing the US deliberately killing journalists.

Foley's comments, during a speech in St. Louis on May 13, were recorded on video (find video here at Jackson's Junction). The key paragraph in her speech has been transcribed as follows:
Journalists, by the way, are not just being targeted verbally or … ah, or … ah, politically. They are also being targeted for real, um … in places like Iraq. What outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there's not more outrage about the number, and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq.
Her comments echo those of former CNN News Chief Eason Jordan who resigned last February after his accusations against the US military were challenged. Although Eason refused to allow a video of his comments to be released he did not offer any retraction, either.

Curiously, Foley's comments have received very little publicity in the MSM (the one exception being Thomas Lipscomb at the Chicago Sun-Times including a follow-up article here) although conservative bloggers, including Captain Ed, have been trying to get some traction on the matter. World Net Daily has covered the story as well but, until Hiawatha Bray gave his challenge today, Newspaper Guild members have been eerily silent.

First-Hand Update from Iraq

This past week I had another long personal visit with a soldier-friend recently returned from a 14-month deployment to Iraq. I value these conversations since they put me “on-site” (so to speak) and serve to validate or correct my perceptions and inform my understanding.

In this case, the soldier (an officer) was involved with intel gathering in the north-east corner of Iraq; essentially from Kirkuk and points east.

The area is primarily controlled by Kurds and my friend found that the Kurds were very supportive and grateful for the American presence in their country. They were also helpful in providing information about “suspicious” activities, details about conflicts and disputes between neighboring clan groups (and their often centuries-old origins), Iranian border traffic, etc.

The region under this command was also, apparently, a prime area for filling cars with explosives. Many such cars were captured or intercepted during the past year.

Kirkuk is populated by approximately 1/3 Kurds, 1/3 Sunni and 1/3 Shi’ite. Sadaam had initiated a severe Kurdish relocation program decades ago, forcing Kurds out of north-central Iraq towards Mosul and beyond. After the American Coalition invasion of Iraq many displaced Kurds have returned to cities like Kirkuk waving their property deeds and demanding their homes and land back. The Sunnis who replaced them have now lived and been settled there for a long time; some over 20 years. They are in no mood to be kicked off of what they consider to be their own property! After all, they have legal deeds, too!

Slowly but surely these disputes are being remanded to Iraqi judges to sort out. Because of the confusion of new laws and because of personal (often clan-related) bias among judges, many Iraqis would prefer to have the Americans adjudicate their disputes. It is clear that, although the United States is viewed as a foreign occupier, only the most radical of Iraqis really want the Americans to leave anytime soon.

Another interesting insight was offered concerning targeting suspected houses for armed searches. When the American troops did it the result was that often, an otherwise politically neutral family would be angered enough by the intrusion to begin leaning towards an anti-American view. House searching has now been turned over to the Iraqi security forces which has made life and community relations a lot better for our troops

Apparently the different branches of the military bring their own particular approaches to similar responsibilities. My friend said that there were four deaths among the forces that were within the area command structure (one of the more “safe” regions to be assigned to) during the 14 months of deployment. The Army’s approach was to avoid conflict and build relationships, turning opinion positively towards both the United States and the new Iraqi government. The theory of this approach was that the cultivation of willing informants and the promotion of a general tide of positive opinion would, in the long run, eventually weed out those who were doing nasty things to other people.

When the Marines replaced an Army unit that had seen zero deaths over the previous 12 months, however, the new group suffered four deaths in their first two months. My friend didn’t speculate on what the different approach might have been or why the Marines had experienced more armed confrontation than the Army troops had seen, but it was still a curious fact that was simply left dangling, unexplained.

My friend matter-of-factly stated that the Kurds did not seem to have any problem working with American female intel officers. Gender did not seem to be an issue with them. The Arabs were more cautious and hesitant but, after meeting and speaking with the women, became quite comfortable and trusting in their leadership during the months my friend was there. This odd bit of information was one of the more interesting and unexpected facts to emerge from our conversation.

Towards the end of our time together I asked my friend, based on a scale of one to ten (with ten being optimistic about the future of Iraq and one being pessimistic), what they would score, based on their personal experience.

I expected to hear something in the range of 7-8 but I was caught completely by surprise when my friend replied with an emphatic, “10!”

How this opinion squares with all of the doom and gloom media coverage I cannot figure out. Either my friend or the media is wrong….or else the truth lies somewhere in between.

I think I shall place my bets on my friend and become even more optimistic than I already am!

Given the size, diversity, history, and general political track record of Iraq in the past 30 years, the amount of violence and the number of Iraqis (& foreigners) perpetuating the current violence is remarkably small. Even the 1600 American troops killed in Iraq adds up to a relatively small number when compared to the number of folks who, for example, attend a single major league baseball game or a college football game. At Aloha Stadium, down the road a bit towards Honolulu, 1600 people would be considered a big disappointment for anything but a high school soccer game! While I do not wish to appear to diminish the sacrifice of these fine, brave soldiers (or the effect their deaths have had on their 3000 children), I simply want to assert the point that the “war in Iraq,” while diverse, complex and difficult to fight against an enemy that wears civilian clothes, drives civilian cars, stores their arms in mosques and schools and initiates attacks from medical facilities and from radio-controlled remote explosive devices and employs suicide bombers, has already been won.

The rest of this “war,” which will undoubtedly continue to involve (a declining number of) US troops for another 5-10 years, will be an ongoing game of “search and destroy,” the tightening up of the national borders and the ironing out of potentially explosive relations with Syria (which continues to support the funding, training, harboring and deployment of Baathist-related terrorists/insurgents….don’t forget that Syria’s ruling political party, led by Assad, is also the same secular Baathist party that Sadaam Hussein espoused) and Iran (which continues to fund, support and advise al-Sadr and his Shi’ite gang of hoods and ruffians as well as trying to assist in creating and expanding rifts between Shi’ites and Sunnis in an attempt to destabilize the new Iraqi government).

Next week I will spend an hour or so each with two Army officer-friends and one Army enlisted-friend who have just returned from their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan. I will post summaries of those conversations, too.


LA Times' Tom Rutten's Boilerplate Baloney

I know the difference between sitting down and writing off the top of my head (as I am doing now) and taking time to carefully outline, research and document my thoughts. Tom Rutten's LA Times piece today entitled, "Newsweek erred. So has U.S.," strikes me as a prime example of the former.

The first several paragraphs set up the idea of the "fog of war" and how human beings are differentiated from other animals in being able to make "rational distinctions" between....well, he never really says what we are able to make rational distinctions between!

In any case, "sane societies are prudent about the demands they place on their young men and women under arms and set them bright lines of conduct to follow when such demands are made."

He proceeds to opine that the critical reaction to Newsweek's mis-reporting of the Koran-in-the-toilet urban legend as fact, was "mostly nonsensical ." As evidence he states:
According to a U.S. military inquiry undertaken in response to the Newsweek item, five of 13 alleged incidents in which the Koran was somehow abused by guards or interrogators at Guantanamo turned out to be true. "No credible evidence" was found that an Islamic holy book was flushed down a toilet, which one supposes should be some sort of comfort. The military's investigation, however, is incomplete, and who knows what yet may emerge from this Cuban cesspool.
What a mess of obfuscation. First, he credits Newsweek for forcing the military to initiate an investigation. Nonesense. The docmentation was presexisting and massive; over 10,000 pages of it. Nothing in all of that data had ever raised a red flag for anyone responsible for oversight at Guantanamo. Why? Because there wasn't any! What the military did in response to the Newsweek article was to "re-re-review" what had already been reviewed many times up the chain of command.

Second, by implying that finding "five" incidents of Koran abuse somehow exhonerates Newsweek, Rutten fails to mention that the five incidents include such horrific acts as twice placing (a) Koran(s) on top of a TV set (what are the Guantanamo prisoners doing with TV sets, anyway?), and the accidental, incidental touching of a Koran by a female guard. Wow! (Rutten's biography mentions that he is the father of two children. I wonder if the equivilent of such flagrant, insensitive and intolerant behavior by his children would be subject to public outrage and international review?)

Third, his objective credibility is flushed down the toilet when he refers to Guantanamo as a "Cuban cesspool." I'm sure that he could explain what this means, but why bother when everyone already knows, right? (wink wink).

His next paragraph rightly places the blame for the international Muslim response to the Newsweek story on the Imams and radical Islamists who "do not require provocation to violence or hatred of the United States."

Unfortunately he then blames the resulting deaths on American-supported "government troops" although not one such death has ever been documented, not one name of those supposedly killed has been uncovered and not one description of how, when, where or by whom those deaths occured has been published. Until such specific evidence arises, Rutten has once again fearlessly dipped into the pool of urban legend (which, by the way, I did also at first.....but at least I keep up with the news and have learned better by now. Why hasn't Rutten?).

Now comes the zinger: "The problem here is not desecration of the Koran, but of our own fundamental values." According to Ruttn, the desecration of our American values are exemplified by the following:
Ever since the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration has been running a secret prison system in which people are tortured — some to death — and fundamental legal and human rights are ignored with impunity. That is true in Guantanamo, as it was true in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan. It may be true in other places, as well, but we don't know that. We may never know that.
As with most propaganda-style journalism he begins with a true statement but then follows it up with a lie. The truth is that we do have a semi-secret prison system (although international observers have been permitted to visit, observe conditions and comment, and that the existance, location, purpose and command structure of these facilities are public record, as well as tens of thousands of records released as a result of legal action by the media and human rights groups).

It is also true that there have been beatings and one or more deaths (as a result of either beatings or of natural causes) at both Bagram and Abu Ghraib. Rutten's implication that there have been beating deaths at Guantanamo is a blatent misrepresentation of reality, of course....otherwise known as a lie.

The BIG lie is, of course, where he states so blithely that detainees' "fundamental legal and human rights are ignored with impunity." There is not one shred of evidence to support this accusation.

In every case, it has been members of the military that reported the abuses, it has been the military that has brought charges against those who acted improperly and it has been the military that has discharged, demoted, court-martialed and imprisoned those who have been found guilty. In not one single case has anyone associated with the media uncovered any incident of abuse that had not already been identified and was under investigation by the military. Even the Abu Ghraib abuse photos were released to the press by the military, which had possessed them for months (with public acknowledgement, by the way....secrecy? The press didn't care until they had photos!) while agressively investigating and prosecuting the case.

After rightfully chastising Amnesty International for inappropriately referring to these prisons as a "gulag," he shows, at least, that Americans are looking into these charges. But, with another lie, he blasts the investigations as being "tentative" and "hesitant" and the prosecutions as being "circumscribed."

Every piece of evidence suggests exactly the opposite of this. The military has pursued these investigations "aggressively" and "assertively." As for prosecutions, they have indeed been "circumspect" (as well they should be, since one definition of the word is to be "Heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; prudent."). But they have also been blunt and honest, even to the point of disciplining high ranking officers who were, by any stretch of the imagination, neither aware of the abuse nor consenting to it (see what happened to Brig. General Janis Karpinski for an example of this).

He then proceeds to present "two appalling failures," the first of which is....

....this administration's decision to subject our troops to a temptation no military force ever should be asked to withstand. Holding prisoners in secret — beyond law, without representation, without oversight — then demanding that they extract information from them, no matter the method, is something no American in arms should be asked to do. Making that demand is a betrayal of the young men and women who have embraced the duty of national service.

First of all, as suspected terrorists, fighting out of uniform and representing no legitimate government, those detainees who are not in possession of US citizenship are not subject to the rule of American or international law nor do they fall under the intentionally limited perameters of the Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war. Aside from their "right to life" they have no other rights. US courts have upheld this interpretation of the law for over a hundred years and US troops have been responsible for overseeing such detainees since the Revolutionary War.

Then comes the next lie: Accusing the Bush Administration of ordering that the US military "extract information from them, no matter the method..." While it is true that the life-or-death need for intel has resulted in extremely agressive interrogation techniques there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone at any level of military or civilian authority (including the CIA) has ever commanded US troops to "extract information from (detainees), no matter the method."

Virtually all incidences of prisoner abuse have been shown to be the result of individual misconduct in defiance of explicit orders and training to the contrary; over-zealousness as a result of intense emotion and anger generated by the stress of combat; or simply the lack of proper supervision and oversight by those in command.

To then aver that the Bush Administration has "(betrayed) the young men and women who have embraced the duty of national service" is to render judgement based on the premise of what is either a deliberately conceived lie or a lie that has proceeded out of ignorance or a predisposed bias.

According to Rutten, the second of the "appalling failures" "...is that of the mainstream press, which has failed to keep this moral abyss directly and constantly under the public eye."

From where I stand, this is a curious "failure" indeed, seeing how the press has published, republished, editorialized and sensationalized every hint of detainee abuse whether real or imagined since the US invaded Afghanistan back in 2001. Recently, information made public over two years ago, was printed on the front page of the New York Times as though it was "new" news!

The failure of the press has not been their lack of coverage of the detention of suspected terrorists by the United States, but the lack of balance in their coverage.

We do not need to look any further than Tom Rutten and the LA Times for evidence in support of that conclusion.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Saudi King Fahd Is "Well"...Unless, Of Course, He's "Dead." So's Zarqawi...and Elvis, too!

CNN tells me that King Fahd is "well" (thank you very much).

The Washington Times tells me that King Fahd is "dead" (thank you very much).

I suppose they could both be correct but I'm not exactly sure how....

CNN tells me that Zarqawi is "well" (thank you very much).

An Italian news site tells me that Zarqawi is "possibly dead" (thank you very much).

I suppose that he could possibly be one or the other but possibly not both.....

I suppose that Elvis Presley could be "possibly dead," too. But then again, he could possibly be "well."

Might it be possible that Elvis Presley, King Fahd and Zarqawi are all the same person? Hmmmm........it's possible........there is a bit of a resemblance.......

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Tom Delay Writes a Nice Letter to NBC

After being told that last night's episode of NBC "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" contained a less than flattering reference to his name, House Speaker Tom Delay sat down and wrote a restrained but substantive and biting letter to the broadcast network.

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What Delay objected to was this line of dialogue, in the context of searching for a murderer of a Federal judge:

"Put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay t-shirt."

You can read Delay's letter here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Senate Democrats Thumb Their Noses at John Bolton and Taunt Their Republican Colleagues

Back when I was in elementary school I remember the mean kids sneering at the smaller kids and mocking them with the infamous thumbs-in-the-ear, the finger wiggle and a "nya-na-na-na-na--na!"

I was reminded of that behavior today when the the Senate Democrats filibustered the Republican's attempt to present UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton for an Up or Down confirmation vote.

"Ha, ha, ha!" they seemed to be saying. "We dare you to use the "nuclear option" for an Ambassadorial nomination!"

Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, who proved earlier in the week that he has lost control of his party membership proved once again that he does not have "the right stuff" to do the job.

It was Frist who insisted on presenting Bolton for confirmation before presenting Circuit Court nominees Janice Brown and William Pryor, who were already guaranteed a final vote by the infamous compromise by the "fallen fourteen."

Now he may have to wait out the Bolton filibuster until the upcoming Senate recess, thereby missing the chance to get the Circuit Court nominees off of the "on-deck circle" where they have been squatting for the past several years.

I keep on telling myself that "he must have plan....he's got to have a plan....he can't be this incompetent....can he?" Well....it's looking more and more each day like he is disintegrating into "Bozo-hood" before our very eyes.

How long can the Republican majority allow the punk kid Democrats to kick sand in their faces? A bully will remain a bully until someone bigger and stronger smacks him down and puts him in his place. I'm not suggesting violence, of course, but if the Republicans do not feel that they are strong enough to call the opposition's bluff, then they do not deserve to be the majority at all.

It now appears that the Democrats set out the compromise over Circuit Court nominees (allowing three to get through but making no further promises for the next two nor regarding any upcoming Supreme Court nominations) with the full intention of flaunting and abusing the filibuster rule on all other non-judicial appointments.

And Frist and the Republicans stand around as if they are "Shocked! Shocked!" by all of this! Those who should be in command of the situation look like a bunch of amateurs.

When are they going to publically declare the Senate Democrats to be "obstructionist?" When are they going to begin to leverage negative publicity against the Democrats for their outrageous and unprecidented behavior?

I've been waiting for five months to see what plan the Republicans have concocted. After the events of the past week I am becoming convinced that there is no plan....only indecision and confusion.

When I take our dog for a walk she likes to stop at nearly every tree to either sniff or to pee. Senate Republicans are looking a lot like trees lately.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Denmark Tries to Tax Sperm Donors

According to BBC News, the Danish government, always seeking new sources of revenue, wants to begin taxing sperm donors. The nation's main sperm bank has countered by saying that being required to release the names of donors so they can be taxed would force them to close their doors.
In a letter to Taxation Minister Kristian Jensen, the compan defended the donors' right not to pay tax, saying: "It is a special kind of work and the fees paid cannot be compared to normal working income."
I can see the job resumes... Previous employment: "Sperm donor." I wonder what that work experience qualifies someone for? If the sperm bank shut down would that make the donors eligible for unemployment benefits?

Best of all is the BBC News' teaser line for this article: "Sperm bank fears donors may dry up under new Danish tax." You've gotta love those Brits!

UN Troops Leave a Legacy of Bastards In Liberia

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI use the word "bastard" hesitantly. It is not a politically correct term these days. But the shocking legacy of sexual misbehavior by UN troops (particularly in Africa) requires a shocking vocabulary to describe it. Ironically this (mis)behavior gives a new meaning to the UNICEF symbol (seen above).

Recent revelations of UN misbehavior in Congo forced UN Secretary General Kofi Anan to declare a "zero tolerance" policy on such matters (as if this was a new and surprising bit of news). The reality is damning to the UN. Consider this excerpt from a recent story in the Economist concerning a unique school in Liberia:
THE UNECO children's centre looks like any other Liberian school. Its pupils wear smartish uniforms and are eager, after 14 years of civil war and not much schooling, to learn. What is unusual is that every child at UNECO has been fathered by a foreign peacekeeper and then abandoned. The centre was founded by Dr Abraham Cole, a local teacher, "to show our gratitude to peacekeepers by taking care of their children."

Despite its name, the school receives no UN support besides food from the World Food Programme. Most of the 136 children at UNECO and a similar centre further north were conceived during the 1990s, when both the UN and Liberia's West African neighbours sent troops to Liberia. The number of abandoned babies is now set to surge, however. For the past 18 months, Liberia has hosted one of the largest and most successful UN peacekeeping missions, whose 15,000 blue helmets have now been around long enough to make more babies. A UN staffer said he expected 1,500 UN babies by the end of next year.
Two phrases from these two paragraphs stand out for me:

First: That this school was built "to show our gratitude to peacekeepers by taking care of their children." Huh? Thank you for preserving the peace while you raped, seduced and impregnated our young women and then abandoned them and your own children when you returned home to your "real" families?"

How come UN troops are honored for such behavior? If American troops commited such things they would be reviled by the world....and rightly so. And for Mr. Anan to act as though this was a "new thing?" Shameful! What does this say about the moral standards of the nations providing troops for the UN peacekeeping missions? Why in the world would we want American troops serving under the UN to be placed under the command of military leaders from such nations? Bah, humbug! Call me a Scrooge!

Second: "Despite its name, the school receives no UN support besides food from the World Food Programme." When I was in Jr High I first heard the phrase, "Slam. Bam. Thank you ma'am" and a related phrase, "Hit and run." I had no idea at the time that these phrases were describing the behavior of UN troops around the world!

I'm reminded of the man who came to rid a house of mice. After totally destroying the home he stood in the middle of the rubble holding two mice by their tails. To the homeowner he said, "There, I'm done. That will be $200 please."

Can't you just feel the love?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What's the Big Deal About Embryonic Stem Cells?

With the House of Representatives passing legislation authorizing Federal money for embryonic stem cell research the Senate and then the President will have some tough decisions to make. If the final bill gets to the President in its present form he will veto it. If there are enough votes to overrule the veto it will become law.

Why is this such a big deal? Two issues are at work.

First: A moral issue. Many Americans find the idea of creating human embryonic life and then destroying it for medical research to be ethically untenable. The idea of killing innocent life to possibly save another's life is simply not acceptable. President Bush argues that he does not believe that it is appropriate for the Federal government to take people's money to fund research programs that a large number of citizens believe to be immoral.

It is worth noting that Bush does not believe in enforcing any ban on private industry to either fund or participate in such research. At least not with existing embryonic cell lines.

Since the vast majority of Americans who have such moral objections are also political supporters of President Bush, his decision is not only based on a reasonable respect for moral diversity but on political reality as well. It would be, however, both cynical and unfair to claim that the political issues form Bush's primary motivation on this matter. It appears that he personally considers himself to be one of those who has moral and ethical reservations on such research and development.

His opponents, however, neither believe such research to be morally or ethically wrong nor support Bush politically. It is to their political advantage to defeat him on this issue. Morally, however, I believe that their argument comes up short.

While Bush does not believe that people should be forced to pay taxes in support of unnecessary programs that they believe to be morally objectionable, those on the other side believe that they should. Which side is more tolerant of diversity? Which side imposes its will on those who disagree and makes them pay for it with their own money?

I believe that President Bush's position represents a more defensible moral position than those who argue against him. I also believe that Bush's position represents a greater toleration and respect for diversity of opinion. Point #1 goes to Bush.

Second: Economics. If there is so much potential for amazing medical breakthroughs in human embryonic stem cell research then one would think that private investors would be standing in line to funnel capital funds to support such research. If it's such a sure thing then there ought to be real incentive for folks to try and make a lot of money out of it.

Why, then, is there such a need for the Federal government to subsidize this research? Can't researchers "sell their product" to the capital market on the basis of its own merits? Why aren't people like John Kerry or Teddy Kennedy shoving wheelbarrows of investment capital into the research if they think it is so promising and important?

My guess is because they, and many, many other investors, do not believe that it is going to ever make them any richer than they already are. In short, they want the research to be paid for out of the taxpayer's pockets. That way, if it turns out well, then they will take the credit for its success and the research companies will not have to repay any of their profits to those who provided the capital...ie. you and me.

If people are unwilling or unable to be motivated by either altruism or greed to support something, it makes no sense for the Federal government to step in and force them to support it. This should be left up to the private sector to sort out.

California passed an initiative to spend many millions of its tax dollars for this sort of research. I think that this decision was certainly foolish from an economic standpoint and, also, probably far inside the gray areas of being unconstitutional. But at least the people spoke their mind and their will....imposing the majority's desires onto the dissenting minority.

I think that Bush wins the economic argument on this matter also. If people smell success in research there will be no end of people willing to invest their money into it. The demand for the Federal government to foot the bill strikes me as evidence that the research smells like a loser and that the battle in the Congress is far more about political power than it is about medical research.

At least that's how I see it!

In Zimbabwe Successful Black Farmer Feels Threatened

Apparently in Zimbabwe these days, being white farmer means you have to turn over your land, even if your family has owned the home and property since 1921.

But being a black farmer doesn't make you immune from suspicion and threats, either. Especially when you are good at it.

Just ask "Lewis," the focus of a BBC News article today.

Although he loans his tractor to his neighbors, sometimes plows their fields and spends time trying to teach them the practical and economic principles of farming, Lewis thinks some of his neighbours want to bring him down.

"It's just pure jealousy," he sighs. "They see what I have on the farm and wonder why I have it and they don't."

Grant Ferriett, who wrote the article, comments,
When I first interviewed him more than five years ago, (we sat on the veranda of his large farmhouse as) he explained how he hoped to set an example for other would-be farmers.

This time he preferred to meet in the anonymity of a parked car in the suburbs of Harare.

A few displaced white farmers remain in Zimbabwe hoping to recoup their losses in other entrepenural business activities. Many more have opted to immigrate elsewhere.

One family, a former neighbor of Lewis now living in Australia, had this to say about their decision to leave Zimbabwe,
"When you see what we've got here and the friends we've made, there's no way I'd go back to that nonsense in Zimbabwe," says Rob.

His wife, Anna, agrees.

"It was just the uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen next. Here the biggest worry is whether the washing will be dry."

And that, my friends, is how to destroy a nation and its economy in one easy lesson.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Senate Filibuster Deal Will Be a Test of Integrity

Today's Senate deal, hatched by enough Republicans and Democrats to preclude a Republican majority to reject it, has put the pressure on both parties to deliver on what the deal commits them to do.

The Dems will have to allow an up or down vote on Federal Circuit Court nominees Owens, Brown and Pryor. Nominess considered after their vote can be filibustered for "good cause."

Republicans, on the other hand, agree that they will not vote to rescind the filibuster rule for judicial nominees unless the Democrats act in "bad faith."

The Plus Side: The Democrats save face and the Republicans don't have to vote in a rules change that could come back to haunt them should they ever lose the Senate majority.

Also, should both parties toe the line on the deal, virtually every nominee will eventually be voted on by the whole Senate. Apparently the filibuster will be considered "in order" when objecting to moral or ethical concerns about a nominee's character but not for objections over their idiology or judicial philosophy.

The Negative Side: Seven Republican Senators, acting independently from their party leadership, cut a deal that effectively sold out their party's majority to the Democrats on this issue. This action, in my opinion, ends Bill Frist's role as the Senate majority leader. He should be asked to step down and be replaced by one of the 48 Republican Senators who did not sign on to today's agreement.

The seven Republicans who compromised are: Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John McCain (Arizona), John Warner (Virginia) & Olympia Snowe (Maine).

The MSM is already heralding these Republican dissidents as if they had somehow saved democracy and the Constitution from the power-crazed idiologues in their own party. This alone should make most conservatives worry.

Republican John McCain and Democrat Robert Byrd lead the cheerleading when the deal was announced. It seemed as if these two men could not stop saying enough nice things about each other.

Byrd: "We have lifted ourselves above politics, and we have signed this document in the interests of the United States Senate, in the interest of freedom of speech, freedom of debate and freedom to dissent in the United States Senate....Thank God for this moment and for these colleagues of mine."

McCain applauded Warner and Byrd for bringing both sides together to forge an agreement based on Senate principles: "trust, respect and a mutual desire to see the institution of the Senate function in ways that protect the rights of the minority."

Those Republican Party volunteers who worked so hard to acheive a Senate majority will most certainly be disappointed, if not appalled, at this turn of events.

Personally, the hug-fest between McCain, Byrd and Warner gives me the creeps. I do not trust Senator Byrd to say anything honest ever and I wonder what sort of mutual backscratching has been going on behind the scenes. We can expect to see some very significant pork coming home to roost in Arizona and South Carolina in the coming months. I also doubt very much whether there will be any military base closings in the states represented by these seven Senators from each party (think Snowe....think Maine). I suspect we have had more than one deal cut today.

The unity and effective control of the US Senate by the Republican party has been sold out for a "mess of pottage." Having tasted blood in the water I do not believe for minute that Dem Senators like Kennedy, Reid and Kerry are going to feel any reason to play by rules set up by others.

When the time comes for them to come in for the kill they will do so. And they will face a splintered and leaderless Republican party when they do.

Just wait for the first US Supreme Court nominee!

(As always, I hope I am wrong).

Update: Having written my comments first I am in the ego-inflating position to say that Captain Ed (see his final two paragraphs and compare) agrees with me!

Bear In Heat Cools Off In Swimming Pool

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhen a 140 pound black bear wandered into her sububan San Fernando Valley back yard, Maryam Salahael grabbed her children from the swimming pool and raced into the house to call for help.

The bear eventually took a short dip in the pool (see story here) before California Fish & Game officers arrived. After tranquilizing the bear they took her into the Santa Susanna Mountains where she was released.

Officer Cindy Wood is quoted as saying, "It looks like it's possibly in heat. She probably just made a wrong turn and ended up in a neighborhood."

Gee, you'd think it would be the male bear who wouldn't think to stop to ask for directions!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Newsweek Magazine Dumps America In the Trash

Newsweek, already in hot water for publishing, retracting and the apologizing for an unconfirmed report that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet by an American soldier at Guantanamo Bay, is in more hot water than previously thought.
A sharp-eyed expatriate American blogger overseas (Riding Sun)has passed on this copy of the Japan edition Newsweek for February 2nd:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com The headine reads, "The day America died." As you can see, the American flag in soiled and tossed into a trash can with the staff broken. What a shameful thing for an American-owned magazine to do! Disgusting, in fact. If the American edition published a cover picture with the Japanese flag depicted in the same manner do you think that the Japanese press would take notice and object....just a little?

Little Green Footballs, Instapundit, Captain's Quarters and Lileks (who is having trouble actually believing such a thing is true) have all caught on to this new development.

I do believe that Newsweek's Editor, Fareed Zakaria, is going to be taking a lot of flack from the blogosphere in the coming days. What a shame that the MSM will hide their eyes from the entire fiasco.

It is one thing to see Palestinian militants and Al Qaeda-type terrorist groups burning the American flag or having people walk on it (as al-Sadr had his followers do last week), but to see "mainstream" American publishers doing the exact same equivalent thing on the cover of their magazines is outrageous.

I'm almost tempted to suggest that Mr. Zakaria be required to have an American flag tatooed onto his forehead as a punishment. If America is in the garbage can then I am too. And Mr. Zakaria should be given priority accommodations somewhere down in the bottom of the can along with his magazine.

Atheists Planning Evangelism Strategy

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe following article appeared on the Honolulu Advertiser Saturday Religious Page on May 21st. I can't identify its origin but......well, I'll just let it speak for itself:

Atheists to study plan of action

Atheists are gathering in San Francisco this weekend to discuss ways to organize and make godlessness more palatable to others. It's the first "All Atheist Weekend," a gathering of five San FranciscoBay Area chapters of nonbelievers.

We feel very threatened by what's goiong on in this country, but we realize that we can't just sit here in a corner by oursleves," san Jim Heldberg of San Francisco Atheists. "If we do, the religious right is just going to run us over."

Several studies have shown that a growing number of people don't
consider themselves affiliated with any religion. But the number joining atheist groups hasn't increased much over the years.
Yep. They've finally caught on to the the religious right's sinister secret strategy: "To run over the atheists."

Actually, the Bible already has something to say about all of this in Psalm 14:1.

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no god.'"

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Archimedes, the Crusades, Palimpsests & the Bible

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe oldest known manuscript of Archimedes (287-212 BC) was discovered in 1906. The 10th century Greek text of a previously missing treatise had been scraped off of the vellum and over-written by a Latin devotional text 200 years afterwards. This type of over-written text is called a palimpsest and is not unusual in ancient manuscripts where quality writing materials were often scarce.
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The manuscript as it appears to the eye

A CNN News story today explained how particle accelerator technology is being used to decipher the final 20% of the document.

A web page dedicated to this manuscript presents a historical context that is every bit as good as an Indiana Jones movie.
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The original (hidden) text viewed digitally enhanced

It is believed that the manuscript was copied in Constantinople, which was then called Byzantium, the capital of the shrinking remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire.

In 1240, the Fourth Crusade, not strong or foolish enough to engage the vastly superior Muslim military firmly entrenched in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, turned its eyes on the Christian Orthodox bastion of Constantinople instead.

The upshot of the story is that, in defense of the city, defenders set fires that destroyed much of the city and many of the treasures it contained, including its vast library of manuscripts. After the city's fall, the crusaders pillaged the city resulting in a fire that consumed even more of the city than had the first.

Somehow, this manuscript of Archimedes survived all of that. Singe marks still mar the document but whether or not they came from that siege of Constantinople is difficult to tell.
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Hagia Sophia

(Later, after being restored to the Byzantine leaders, Constantinople remained a Christian city until the Ottomans captured it in 1453 and converted it into the Muslim capital of the Ottoman Empire. It was at this time, by the way, that the great Christian Cathedral, Hagia Sophia, was converted into a mosque.)

Meanwhile, it is believed that the manuscript found its way to the Mar Saba Monastery, located between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea, and then, eventually, to the Greek Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

Next it showed up back in Constantinople where, in 1846, its existence was first noted but its identity and value were not recognized. In 1906, it was finally identified as a copy of Archimedes' "Method of Mechanical Theorems."

It then disappeared once again only to reappear in a private collection in Paris. In 1989 it was sold to its present owner for $2 million.
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Text from Gospel of John 16 dated 130 AD

Closing Note: As with so many other ancient writers, this oldest and unique Archimedes document dates nearly 1200 years after it was first written. This is also true of Plato, Aristotle and everyone else you could possibly think of. The exception to this rule is the Bible. The earliest New Testament manuscript is a papyrus fragment from the Gospel of John dated less than 100 years after the Gospel was written. Thousands of other fragments and complete New and Old Testaments are also extant from the years that immediately followed. Scholars assume that the Greek texts of Archimedes and Aristotle are essentially correct even with only one manuscript copy with over a thousand years separating it from its origin. Why, then, do so many people question the authenticity of the New Testament?

Cocaine Prevents Diaper Rash--Aussie Research Breakthrough!

Here's an "Ooops" for you. After five months of training in Melbourne, Australia, the team of drug sniffer dogs was supposed to have been trained to identify cocaine.

Unfortunately, when the final test was given, it was discovered that the training bag, that was supposed to have contained cocaine, was filled with talcum powder, instead.

Anyone now passing through the Melbourne Airport carrying an infant with diaper rash will not only be caught and arrested, but prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Police are not sure whether the dogs can be retrained. They are also trying to figure out whether the bag had been mislabeled or whether someone took the cocaine and replaced it with the talcum poweder.

Ah, yes. The Whizz-ard of OZ!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Dissent Among the Conservative Elite is Considered to Be SPAM

I just submitted this comment on Huffington's Toast which then brought up the following immediate response. Does it sound like "spam" to you?

Shame on everyone bashing Indra Nooyi. As a conservative Republican blogger (one of Hugh Hewitt's "progeny") I am embarassed by the undeserved bile being dumped on this woman. Enough is enough or, in this case, too much already! Even Hugh has "lost it" on this one. I have laid down my thoughts on this matter on a post entitled "Memo to Conservative Bloggers and Pundits: Give Indra Nooyi a Break." Please read it and prove me wrong. Sincerely, Bird of Paradise

"Sorry, but your comment has been flagged as spam by the beta version of the spam filter running on this blog: this might be an error, in which case all apologies. Your comment will be presented to the blog admin who will be able to restore it immediately."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Media Continues to Distort Army Detainee Abuse

Let's see how creative the news media is these days.

After a lawsuit by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, the US Army was required to turn over 2,500 pages of documents. CNN News read through it all and came up with this headline today:

Army: Soldiers did mock executions
Newly released documents show Iraqi detainee abuse
Then comes the news story itself:
More than 2,500 pages of documents just released by the Army reveal instances of detainee abuse, including mock executions, by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The Army released the documents this week as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. The same request resulted in the release of several thousand pages of similar documents earlier this year.
Wow! 2,500 pages of detainee abuse! What a scandal! Really? Naw, just kidding!

Buried down in the fourth paragraph we find this previously hidden fact:
At least three soldiers were investigated and reprimanded for handling detainees outside of authorized military parameters, according to the documents.
Golly gee! Three, count 'em, three soldiers reprimanded in over 2,500 pages of documents?

Oh, excuse me, Mike Mount of the CNN Washington Bureau (whose byline heads the article) wants to make sure we do not underestimate the extent of this abuse by our servicemen in Iraq. So of course he says, "At least three soldiers..." Perhaps there were four? or 200? What's your guess? My guess is.....three! Why? Because that's what the documents tell us.

Apparently disappointed at the absence of a juicy story of any significance whatsoever, it became necessary to conjure one out of thin air.

First: The dramatic, eye-catching and damning headline.

Second: The subtitle, spelling out the story's source and expanding on the nature of the atrocities committed by the US Army.

Then comes the lead paragraph, leading the reader to imagine that the US Army has committed hundreds or even thousands of acts of "detainee abuse."

Finally comes the truth. There is virtually no story at all. Three incidents. No one died. No one was even injured. At least one incident took place after a tense and traumatic attack on a US Army vehicle when emotions were high. All incidents were reported by other soldiers. Those found guilty of violating military code of conduct were punished. End of story.

Since "three incidents" are not enough to justify a story at all, the writer's imagination ponders the fact that, although his material only mentions three incidents, there must be other incidents not recorded in these documents. Therefore, why not use that unsupported assumption to pump up the story a little by writing, "at least three incidents."

Hey, most people don't read beyond the headlines and the first two or three paragraphs of a story anyway. In any case, if they come away with a distorted impression of what actually was contained in those documents, well.......that's their problem, isn't it?

My guess is that journalism schools have added a new prerequisite to their curriculum lately: Obfuscation 101.

Mike Mount must have gotten an A+.

Memo to Conservative Bloggers and Internet Pundits: Give Indra Nooyi a Break!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMuch anger has been spewing forth from the blogosphere against PepsiCo President Indra Nooyi's speech at the Columbia Business School MBA recognition ceremony last Sunday (see Powerline here & here, Hugh Hewitt & others).

I say, give Ms. Indra a break.

First of all, she did not lie about anything.

Second, she did not lie about anything that maligned our soldiers or our military as did CNN's Eason Jordan, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff or, more recently, Linda Foley, president of the 35,000-member Newspaper Guild, who recently asserted (a la Eason) that U.S. troops deliberately are killing journalists in Iraq.

Third, she did not say anything that put anyone else in danger of their lives.

Fourth, she did not speak in a nation-wide venue. She spoke locally to a specific group of people at Columbia.

Fifth, she is not someone who carries a great deal of influence in American public foriegn policy (although PepsiCo's international marketing, etc., makes them a significant player in international economics and trade).

I have read the text of her speech and have come to these conclusions:

1. Her illustrative use of the five fingers on the hand was a result of a major brain malfunction. There is absolutely no way "in the world" (pun intended) that her meaning could be misconstrued.

2. On the other hand, it is my opinion that she was not so much expressing her personal opinion about the United States being the extended "middle finger" of the world as she was attempting to illustrate the way much of the world perceives the United States to be.

It is not a bad idea to tell graduating business students that the rest of the world does not necessarily look at us in the same way that we look at ourselves. No doubt Ms. Indra has learned this bit of realpolitik from first hand experience in the trenches of international trade competition.

3. She did not leave that "extended middle finger" as the closing image of her metaphor. She specifically used that it as an image to be avoided as these new graduating students begin to enter the international business community as representatives of this country. "When you extend your hand in a gesture of greeting to a foreign trader," she seemed to be saying, " be sure that you present yourself as being a member of the world community instead of as a big bully projecting your national identity with a "do it my way or the 'highway'" attitude."

Is there anyone out there in the 'sphere who would contest Ms. Indra's thesis that much of the world (rightly or wrongly) views American political and economic policies as arrogant? Is there anyone out there who would not agree with her desire for business graduate students to be sensitive to the feelings, needs and viewpoints of other nations? Is there anyone out there who does not believe that there is much needed to be done to improve our country's image around the world? Is there anyone out there who would not consider this advice to be excellent "Adam-Smith-Free-Market-based" advice that is good for both the producer and the consumer?

4. Within the tex of her speech, Ms. Indra clearly and unequivocably affirms her love of America, her apprciation of its essential goodness and the priviledge she feels in being able to live and work here.

Are all of you calling her a liar? On what grounds? Does she have a long track record of other "America-bashing" comments?

Is there not one of you who will extend to her the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, her intentions were honest and sincere? That she might have simply gotten so caught up in what she thought was a clever metaphor that she lost sight of how it could be easily perceived to mean something far different that she had meant it to mean?

5. There is no reasonable way to justify granting this incident the status of being national news. It is worthy of neither the attention nor the amount of jump-on-the-bandwagon criticism being leveled on her by the conservative new media.

The incident is local, folks. It is between Ms. Indra, those who were present when she spoke, PepsiCo and Columbia University. Not every "molehill" needs to be granted the status of "mountain." Let the parties directly involved sort the matter out themselves, with dignity and some measure of privacy. Ms. Indra has absolutely no reason to apologize to you or me, to the American puplic or, for that matter, to the world.

As I surf through the web I sense the same sort of "blood-in-the-water" mob mentality that we normally associate with such things as the Salem Witch Trials.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that we would treat this woman in this way. It is neither fair to her, to PepsiCo or to the world of international opinion who will think even less of our country as a result of this irresponsible response to her words at Columbia.

We have rightly and correctly been complaining for months and years about the "other side's" vicious, exaggerated and substance-less attacks on President Bush's judicial nominees.

Today, in light of the attacks on Indra Nooyi, I am wondering if there is really any difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sadaam & Bush--Old Fake Photos Still Phunny

In the months before the US invasion of Iraq there were lots of parodies on Sadaam Hussein. Some of ones in picture form are still floating around the internet. I ran across these today and thought they were still funny:
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I like the first and last ones best....but Dick Cheney in shorts (#2) is worth a double-take! Also, in photo #5, is it just me or does Bush look way too much like Mel Brooks?

Note: I found the first photo at Sugar and the other five at Cody Renshaw.

NBA? Who Cares?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI like sports. I like watching good competition on TV. Most of what pretends to be good competition on TV isn't. So...when the NHL struck out last season I didn't even miss the assorted playoff games I might have watched.

Today, on the FoxNews web page, I copied off the following stories being promoted:

Somehow, the "NBA Labor Talks Collapse" story looked really out of place among the other stories. That and the "Study: Champions Usually Wear Red." Does anybody really care? People killing each other, spreading hatred, carrying guns to school, criminal convictions, attempted assassination of the president....and the NBA? You've got to be kidding!

The NBA is all about big, athletic men and rich owners making lots of money.

The other stories tell of life and death.

It's good that most newspapers still keep the sports on a separate section or else they would look out of place there, too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Countdown to Senate Filibuster Showdown

Tomorrow, Senate debate on Presidential Circuit Court Judge nominee Owens and Brown will begin. Early next week, a motion will be made to end the debate and call for a vote, yea or nay on the appointment.

If the Democrats respond with a filibuster then it will become High Noon in Tombstone. The Republicans will then have to decide whether to stand their ground and draw their guns for a final shoot-out at the Capitol Corral.

Blood, as well as guns, will be drawn and it is likely that both parties will suffer non-fatal wounds in the exchange.

My bet is on the Republicans to draw quickly and shoot straight, leaving the Democrats reeling about and shooting wildly in all directions. The ensuing melee will end quickly with the filubuster rules for Judicial nominees lying dead in the street. Both nominees will be voted into office and both parties will limp around blaming each other for the pseudo-carnage.

Once again, the Democrats will be shown to be losers. Their anger and hatred for President Bush and the Republican Congress will grow to even greater self-destructive levels than those recently reached by Senator Reid (calling Bush a "loser") and John Dean (too many quotes to choose from).

Right-wing Republicans will cheer and rejoice at the defeat of the "bad guys." More moderate Republicans, like myself, will find it hard to smile as we contemplate how painfully divided and disfunctional our Senate has become.

Such bitter and irrational division is never the best plot-line for a story with a happy ending. This is not "good guys" vs. "bad guys." This is Americans vs. Americans; Americans who have come to a point where their differences are virtually irreconcilable with each other.

Ultimately, it will be the American voters who will sort this whole thing out. As time passes, one vision for American will ascend and the other will descend in popularity. The historically beneficial balance between our two-party system will begin to break down. Power and influence will grow disproportionately large for one party or the other. In the end, we may all be the losers.

I pray that the Democratic party will come to its senses as soon as possible. There is nothing to be gained by this High Noon showdown. Surrender graciously to the inevitiblity of the majority rule of law. Let the judicial nominees be voted on for their merits or lack of merits. If the choices are bad, the American people will notice and will be more than willing to pour out their dissatisfaction on the Republicans.

I think that what frightens the Democrats more than anything else, however, is the thought that the American people will, when all is said and done, be happy with these judges. Once again the Democrats will have reached for the gold ring and missed it. As their party continues to grow smaller and smaller, that gold ring will move further and further away.

Once in a while, nightmares do come true.

Accused Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles Arrested In Miami

Cuban ex-patriot Luis Posada Carriles, arrested by Federal agents near Miami today, has spent his life fighting. With the CIA he helped plan the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He supposedly left the CIA in 1968 and went on to become a major suspect in the blowing up of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people and blowing up a hotel in Havana in 1998 that killed an Italian tourist.

He spent nine years in a Venezuelan jail before escaping in 1985 without ever having been convicted. Soon after, he reportedly helped the United States run arms to the anti-Sandanista rebels in Guatamala.

In 2000, during a visit to Panama, was convicted of plotting with three Cuban exiles to kill Castro and sent to jail. Later he received a presidential pardon.

More recently, Posada claims he was smuggled over the Mexican border into Texas and came by bus to South Florida where he had been seeking asylum. Both Cuba and Venezeula have demanded his extradition in connection with the 1976 airplane bombing, a charge the Posada continues to claim as untrue.

The question is, what to do with him? I say, send him back to Venezuela. If he starts talking about his US spook contacts, too bad. It is not a good thing to harbor suspected terrorists wanted in other countries, even if those countries are not our friends. Sure, some Cuban-Americans will be angry at the Bush Administration. But that could not be any worse than demonstrating our national hypocracy to the world in regards to terrorists and terrorism.

As a frightening side note, if Posada is indeed a terrorist as claimed, then shouldn't we be a little concered about how easily he crossed the Mexican border into Texas?

PETA Says Researchers "Punched" Monkeys

This story on CNN claims that PETA has forwarded documentation of animal abuse at "Covance", a Princeton, New Jersey-based research company. A video bearing visual proof was also enclosed.

I don't approve of punching out monkeys. If the charges are true, Covance needs to clean up its act, pronto!

On the other hand, I have a problem about the video. Who took it? Covance employees? Why would they take a video of themselves mistreating monkeys? Are they as stupid as the Abu Ghraib reservists?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe photo in the article, supposedly taken off of the video, shows the camera right in the face of a monkey, held or tied down on a table. I don't get it. Why take a video of that? With the camera that close it is obvious that the picture was not taken serruptitiously. Everybody in the room would have known the video was there.

And, by the way, how did PETA get ahold of this damning video?

Is it possible that PETA somehow set the whole thing up? Including arranging for the monkeys to be punched out for their video?

Something doesn't seem to add up very well here. Maybe there will be a follow-up story. On the plus side, PETA has not yet burned Covance to the ground.