Monday, December 27, 2010

Decision Points: Review

Lengthy, well written and scathing.

‘Damn right,’ I said

Eliot Weinberger

In the late 1960s, George Bush Jr was at Yale, branding the asses of pledges to the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with a hot coathanger. Michel Foucault was at the Societé française de philosophie, considering the question, ‘What is an author?’

The two, needless to say, never met. Foucault may have visited Texas on one of his lecture tours, but Junior, as far as it is known, never took his S&M revelry beyond the Ivy League – novelists will have to invent a chance encounter in a basement club in Austin. Moreover, Junior’s general ignorance of all things, except for professional sports, naturally extended to the nation known as France. On his first trip to Paris in 2002, Junior, now president of the United States, stood beside Jacques Chirac at a press conference and said: ‘He’s always saying that the food here is fantastic and I’m going to give him a chance to show me tonight.’

Foucault found his theories embodied, sometimes unconvincingly, in writers such as Proust or Flaubert. He died in 1984, while Junior was still an ageing frat boy, and didn’t live to see this far more applicable text. For the questions that he, even then, declared hopelessly obsolete are the very ones that should not be asked about Decision Points ‘by’ George W. Bush (or by ‘George W. Bush’): ‘Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse?’
Decision Points holds the same relation to George W. Bush as a line of fashion accessories or a perfume does to the movie star that bears its name...... More London Review


Friday, December 24, 2010

Bradley Manning: Yes it is Torture But...

But his treatment is no different to that of tens of thousands of Americans incarcerated by the Department of Corrections Retribution each and every day. Bradley Manning's only difference is, he hasn't been convicted yet.

Check out Prison Nation in the sidebar if you want to read the manner in which, the Greatest Country on earth, treats the horrific number of its citizens that it incarcerates each year.

As UN Probes Whether His Confinement is Torture, Bradley Manning Speaks
Friday 24 December 2010

He allegedly leaked a video of U.S. soldiers killing civilians overseas.

Now he's kept in a miserable solitary confinement due to an alleged "suicide watch"--despite passing psychological examinations.

As the U.N. "special rapporteur on torture" begins to probe whether the brutal solitary confinement of Bradley Manning constitutes torture, the imprisoned "leaker" spoke to David House, one of the few people allowed to visit him.

House, who has been very concerned about Manning's "deteriorating physical and mental well-being" wrote on Firedoglake about the conditions under which Manning has been placed, offering strong first-person evidence against the Pentagon's positive spin.

It's a long and detailed post that deserves to be read in full, but some of the key findings include Manning laughing at the idea that he gets ample time to watch the news and exercise, and revealing the drudgery and discomfort of his daily life. Here are House's words.

On the availability of news:

Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he is not allowed to view international news during his television period. He mentioned that he might theoretically be able to view local news, but his television period is typically from 7pm – 8pm such that no local news is playing in the Quantico, VA area.

Manning told me explicitly on December 18 2010 that he is not, nor has he ever been, allowed newspapers while in confinement. When I said “The Pentagon has stated that you are allowed newspapers”, his immediate reaction was surprised laughter.

On having time for exercise and recreation:

Manning stated to me on December 18 2010 that he has not been outside or into the brig yard for either recreation nor exercise in four full weeks. He related that visits to the outdoors have been infrequent and sporadic for the past several months.


Manning related to me on December 18 2010 that he does not receive any substantive exercise and cannot perform even basic exercises in his cell. When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise.

On the conditions of his bedding.

Manning related to me on December 19 2010 that his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories, and similar in texture to coarse and stiff carpet. He stated explicitly that the blankets are not soft in the least and expressed concern that he had to lie very still at night to avoid receiving carpet burns. The problem of carpet burns was exacerbated, he related, by the stipulation that he must sleep only in his boxer shorts as part of the longstanding POI order. Manning also stated on December 19 2010 that hallway-mounted lights shine through his window at night. This constant illumination is consistent with reports from attorney David Coombs’ blog that marines must visually inspect Manning as he sleeps.

The momentum to get better conditions for Manning is growing, thanks to the efforts of Glenn Greenwald and other media outlets.

Firedoglake has an action page for concerned citizens. Source and links.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

USAF Cadets for Christ Ministry

Family Escalates Fight Against Air Force Academy for Allowing On-Campus Proselytizing

Wednesday 22 December 2010

New evidence has surfaced that the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) may have endorsed on-campus proselytizing by fundamentalist and evangelical organizations, particularly the Cadets for Christ ministry.

The Baas family, whose daughter Lauren was converted after entering the school to become a pilot, has been fighting with watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) for the USAFA to address the accusations against the academy and Cadets for Christ. The Baas family has alleged that the ministry, which was given free rein by the USAFA to operate on campus, convinced Lauren to abandon her career aspirations and focus solely on an arranged, subservient marriage.

Last week, Lauren's mother Jean Baas said USAFA head chaplain Col. Robert Bruno asked her to provide evidence of unconstitutional proselytizing. Bruno then told the family that the USAFA had received 35 letters in support of Cadets for Christ, addressed to chaplain Lt. Col. J. Daniel Brantingham and written by academy students and graduates. The letters were sent in response to an email from Cadets for Christ founder Don Warrick entitled, "Want To Do A Favor For Cadets For Christ?"

Those letters, Baas said, are the evidence of unconstitutional proselytizing for which the USAFA is asking.

"At this point, somebody's in hot water," Baas said. "Either Warrick is using the academy as a tool and saying it's okay and the academy doesn't know ... or the academy is in cahoots with them."

Warrick sent out multiple emails soliciting letters from Cadets for Christ members prior to the USAFA's Religious Respect Conference in November.

"The Wing Chaplain at the Air Force Academy and our Board thought it would be helpful if we had on file at the Chaplain's office letters from present and past cadets, parents, board members, and other friends of Cadets for Christ," Warrick wrote in the emails. "We are trying to build a stronger relationship with the Chaplain's office so we would be immensely grateful if you took a few minutes to write to the Wing Chaplain and share what Cadets for Christ has meant to you. Would you be willing to help?"

While the request itself is innocuous, Baas said, "I don't think they were just used for the sake of putting them on file. They needed to build artillery in case this came to a head."

"The timing [was] wonderful for the religious conference."

When the Baas family attended Lauren's graduation in 2010, Jean said she witnessed incidents of proselytizing by older cadets who attended the ceremony. "They went around asking the seniors who they were responsible for bringing to the fold," Baas said. At the time, the USAFA dismissed the account as hearsay - but the letters in support of Cadets for Christ show that "it's not hearsay anymore," Baas said. "It's been a hard struggle. They cannot continue it."

Chaplain Bruno also reportedly told the family that the USAFA had received nine negative responses about Cadets for Christ.

"Thirty-five to nine, like it's a score," Baas said.

MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein called the USAFA's move "a new level of deception and malfeasance."

"They're using tabulated numbers to convince our clients that there is no problem," Weinstein said, invoking Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's words that Americans "do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment."

The emails demonstrate unconstitutional proselytizing, Weinstein said, because Warrick and the Cadets for Christ are shown to be working with the USAFA in an attempt to justify their position. "This act is collusion," Weinstein said. "It's being used to mollify someone who's fighting a constitutional cause ... they're not asking for letters for other organizations." Warrick's solicitation of current cadets is compounded by the fact that the USAFA is federally funded, labeling his actions an attempt to "engage the power of the state."

If Warrick and the USAFA are found to have allowed unconstitutional proselytizing, Weinstein said, the academy will need "a complete change in leadership."

"This won't be solved by the same minds who got us into this disaster," Weinstein said. The USAFA should "replace senior leadership immediately."

The USAFA did not respond to requests for comment. Truthout

God Bless America

USAF: A Most Ungodly Organisation

Monday, December 20, 2010

Only in America Folks, Only in America

More Creationist nonsense from the One Nation Under God

I should write a little more on Noah and his boat, it is after all my pet subject, but I guess I don't feel very creative today.

Just a couple of indisputable facts though about this mythological boat, leaving all the other nonsense aside.

1 It wouldn't float, it would fall apart, it's too big to be constructed out wood, there ain't enough strength in timber to support a vessel anywhere near this size.

The first ripple, let alone hundred foot waves for forty days and forty nights, would have seen the thing in bits. And if if could have floated; leaks, what about all the leaks? ask any man who has ever owned a wooden boat about leaks and see what his answer would be.

And how many were crewing this here boat? eight I believe. They say no one bails faster than a drowning man with a bucket, but let's be sensible about things.

2 By the Creationist timeline, it was the stone age when Noah knocked this thing together. By a rationalist timeline, it was the bronze age.

In either case, what did Noah use for a saw? Add to that a saturated atmosphere that would drown you as you stood, if you hadn't already been crushed to death by the increase in atmospheric pressure. I won't go into the fact that water is a finite resource, I shall save that for the other blog.

The seaworthiness of the ark has been recently checked using sophisticated computer programmes. It was found to be as good as, if not better than, modern ships, and was able to withstand waves up to 100 feet high".

See below main text for more startling revelations of this nature.

In Kentucky, Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is Planned

Facing a rising tide of joblessness, the governor of Kentucky has found one solution: build an ark.

The state has promised generous tax incentives to a group of entrepreneurs who plan to construct a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, load it with animals and actors, and make it the centerpiece of a Bible-based tourist attraction called Ark Encounter.

A rendering of a park centered on Noah’s ark, seen below in a 19th-century woodcut, planned for Grant County, Ky. Besides the ark, it would include a Tower of Babel, a first-century village and a journey through the Old Testament.

Since Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced the plan on Wednesday, some constitutional experts have raised alarms over whether government backing for an enterprise that promotes religion violates the First Amendment’s requirement of separation of church and state. But Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, said the arrangement posed no constitutional problem, and brushed off questions about his stand on creationism.

“The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion,” he said at a news conference. “They elected me governor to create jobs.”

The theme park was conceived by the same Christian ministry that built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., where dioramas designed to debunk evolution show humans and dinosaurs coexisting peacefully on an earth created by God in six days. The ministry, Answers in Genesis, believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old — a controversial assertion even among many Bible-believing Christians.

Although the Creation Museum has been a target of ridicule by some, it has drawn 1.2 million visitors in its first three years — proving that there is a sizable paying audience for entertainment rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

On Friday, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky’s second-largest newspaper, criticized Mr. Beshear in an editorial for a plan that it said would result in low-wage jobs and a poor image for the state.

“Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible has that right,” the editorial said. “However, the way the Beshear administration handled this makes it appear Kentucky either embraces such thinking or is desperate to take advantage of those who do.”

The developers of Ark Encounter, who have incorporated as a profit-making company, say they expect to spend $150 million, employ 900 people and attract 1.6 million visitors from around the world in the first year. With the Creation Museum only 45 miles away, they envision a Christian tourism corridor that would draw busloads from churches and Christian schools for two- and three-day visits.

“It’s our opportunity to present accurate, factual biblical information to people about a subject that they’re really interested in,” said Mike Zovath, a senior vice president of Answers in Genesis.

In the interest of verisimilitude, the ark is to be built with wooden pegs and timber framing by Amish builders, Mr. Zovath said. Animals including giraffes — but only small, young giraffes — will be kept in pens on board.

“We think that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals that weren’t fully grown yet, so there would be plenty of room,” said Mr. Zovath, a retired Army lieutenant colonel heading the ark project. “We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management, taken care of water needs and food needs.”

Ark Encounter is designed to be a model of environmentally sensitive development, Mr. Zovath said, to minimize its carbon footprint. “I don’t believe in global warming,” he said, “but I do believe we’ve got to be good stewards of everything God’s given us.”

The park will include a 100-foot Tower of Babel, a first-century Middle Eastern village and a journey through the Old Testament, with special effects depicting Moses, the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. For children, there will be a petting zoo, live bird and animal shows and a play area with ziplines and climbing nets — all Bible-themed. Even the trainer, Dan Breeding, will present animal acts with a Gospel message about creation.

Under Kentucky’s Tourism Development Act, tourist attractions can get back up to 25 percent of their development costs over 10 years from sales tax generated at the facility. Ark Encounter stands to receive $37.5 million — a quarter of its investment.

The entry fee for adults would be somewhere in the middle- to upper-$30 range, said Cary Summers, the lead consultant, who has run large entertainment attractions in Branson, Mo., and helped expand the Bass Pro Shops into shopping and entertainment complexes.

Mr. Summers said the developers had options on 800 acres of land in Grant County, Ky. If all the approvals are granted, they expect to break ground next year and finish by 2014.

He said they had been offering the proposal quietly for two years, and also showed it to officials in Ohio and Indiana. But Kentucky was by far the most receptive and offered the most generous financial incentives, he said, because it sees tourism as a promising means of economic development.

Officials in Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a telephone interview that they examined the constitutional issues carefully before proceeding. They said that Ark Encounter is unlike the Creation Museum, which is run by the Answers in Genesis ministry and received no tax incentives.

Ark Encounter is owned by a profit-making company, of which Answers in Genesis is a part owner. The ministry will manage the park’s day-to-day operations.

William Dexter, general counsel for the tourism cabinet, said the most applicable precedent was American Atheists Inc. v. the City of Detroit Downtown Development Authority. A federal Court of Appeals found that Detroit could give grants to churches as well as businesses to encourage urban renewal.

“Our facts are quite similar, except that in our case it’s a tourism development by a for-profit corporation,” Mr. Dexter said.

But some advocates of separation of church and state say that by providing tax incentives to an explicitly Christian enterprise, Kentucky is violating the constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and founding dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, said: “If this is about bringing the Bible to life, and it’s the Bible’s account of history that they’re presenting, then the government is paying for the advancement of religion. And the Supreme Court has said that the government can’t advance religion.”

He added, “The fact that it’s an economic development plan doesn’t excuse it.” NY TIMES

Noah's Ark
September 4 2002

The fact that all the animals on earth could have entered the ark and lived on it or a year is well demonstrated in John Woodmorappe's "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study", Institute for Creation Research, 1995. The animals went in by twos or sevens (Genesis 7 v 2), and did not include sea creatures.

The following sentence appears in "True Science Agrees with the Bible", by Malcolm Bowden, Sovereign Publications, 1998 (p. 26):

"The ratio of length to breadth in the ark is 6:1 and it is only after years of trial and error and many experiments that ship designers have found this to be the most suitable ratio. The seaworthiness of the ark has been recently checked using sophisticated computer programmes. It was found to be as good as, if not better than, modern ships, and was able to withstand waves up to 100 feet high".

The folly of trying to convert the dimensions of the ark into metres is shown by the fact that in doing so, one of the Bible translations has thereby lost the exact 6:1 proportion referred to above.

Christ regarded the building of the ark as an historical event (as indeed He did the creation of Adam and Eve): "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered the ark" (Matthew 24 vv 37-38).

The after-effects of the flood can be seen in the layers of sedimentary rock which cover the globe, most of them laid down in precise horizontal layers, stretching up to dozens of miles in length in places (the Grand Canyon being a prime example). The flood entombed billions upon billions of animals as it progressed - leaving what are now known as fossils.

P.S. I am the joint author of "Evolution and Creation - Your Questions Answered". It answers 75 common questions on evolution and is written from a Biblical and 'recent creation' viewpoint. It's priced at £1.50 but I'm happy to send it free to anyone who asks.

Tony Bennett


Saturday, December 18, 2010

It Still Smells of Sulphur Polly

Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela

By Eva Golinger

December 16, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- A substantial portion of the more than 1600 State Department documents Wikileaks has published during the past two weeks refer to the ongoing efforts of US diplomacy to isolate and counter the Venezuelan government.

Since Hugo Chavez won the presidency for the first time in 1998, Washington has engaged in numerous efforts to overthrow him, including a failed coup d'etat in April 2002, an oil industry strike that same year, worldwide media campaigns and varios electoral interventions. The State Department has also used its funding agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to channel millions of dollars annually to anti-Chavez NGOs, political parties, journalists and media organizations in Venezuela, who have been working to undermine the Chavez administration and force him from power.

When these interventionist policies have been denounced by the Chavez government and others, Washington has repeatedly denied any efforts to isolate or act against the Venezuelan head of state.

Nonetheless, the State Department cables published by Wikileaks clearly evidence that not only has Washington been actively funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, but it also has engaged in serious efforts during the past few years to convince governments worldwide to assume an adversarial position against President Hugo Chavez.


In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed "six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez's influence" and "reassert US leadership in the region".

Kelly, who played a primary role as "mediator" during last year's coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an "enemy" in his report. "Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends...To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries". Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a "formidable foe", but, he adds, "he certainly can be taken".

In 2006, Washington activated a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mission Manager for Venezuela and Cuba. The mission, headed by clandestine CIA veteran Timothy Langford, is one of only four such intelligence entities of its type. The others were created to handle intelligence matters relating to Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan/Pakistan, evidencing the clear priority that Washington has placed on Venezuela as a target of increased espionage and covert operations.

Another suggestion made by Kelly in the secret cable, is a recommendation to increase US presence in the region and improve relations with Latin American military forces. "We should continue to strengthen ties to those military leaders in the region who share our concern over Chavez".

Kelly also proposed a "psychological operations" program against the Venezuelan government to exploit its vulnerabilities. "We also need to make sure that the truth about Chavez - his hollow vision, his empty promises, his dangerous international relationships, starting with Iran - gets out, always exercising careful judgment about where and how we take on Chavez directly/publicly".

Kelly recommended US officials make more visits to the region to "show the flag and explain directly to populations our view of democracy and progress". Kelly also offered details on how Washington could better exploit the differences amongst South American governments to isolate Venezuela:

"Brazil...can be a powerful counterpoint to Chavez's project...Chile offers another excellent alternative to Chavez...We should look to find other ways to give Chile the lead on important initiatives, but without making them look like they are our puppets or surrogates. Argentina is more complex, but still presents distinct characteristics that should inform our approach to countering Chavez's influence there".


Kelly also revealed the pressure Washington has been applying to Mercosur (Market of the South) to not accept Venezuela as a full member in the regional trade bloc. "With regard to Mercosur, we should not be timid in stating that Venezuela's membership will torpedo US interest in even considering direct negotiations with the trading bloc".


The cables published by Wikileaks not only reveal US hostility towards Venezuela, but also the requests made by regional leaders and politicians to work against President Chavez.

One secret document from October 2009 referring to a meeting between Mexican President Felipe Calderon and US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair tells of how Calderon confessed he was "trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group". The Mexican head of state also appealed to the US intelligence chief, "The region needs a visible US presence...the United States must be ready to engage the next Brazilian president. Brazil, he said, is key to restraining Chavez...The US needs to engage Brazil more and influence its outlook".


In several secret documents authored by the US Embassy in Colombia, efforts by ex President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, to convince Washington to take action against Venezuela are evidenced.

In one cable from December 2007, the US Ambassador in Colombia recounts a meeting between Uribe and a delegation of US congress members, including Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. According to the text, Uribe "likened the threat Chavez poses to Latin America to that posed by Hitler in Europe".

And in yet another report summarizing a January 2008 meeting between Uribe and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, Uribe is quoted as recommending military action against Venezuela.

"The best counter to Chavez, in Uribe's view, remains action - including use of the military".

Later in that same secret cable, Uribe urged Washington to "lead a public campaign against counter Chavez..."


In addition to regional politicians and US diplomats urging plans against President Chavez, one cable reveals how during a meeting between a Venezuelan Archbishop and the US Ambassador, the religious leader asked for Washington to act against his own government. At the meeting, which took place in January 2005 according to the document, Archbishop Baltazar Porras told Ambassador William Brownfield that the "US government should be more clear and public in its criticism of the Chavez administration" and that the "international community also needs to work and speak out more to contain Chavez..."

The plans and strategies revealed through these official documents confirm what other evidence has already corroborated regarding Washington's increase in aggression towards Venezuela. The US continues to fund opposition groups that act to undermine Venezuelan democracy while escalating its hostile discourse and policies against the Chavez government.

This week's Senate affirmation of Larry Palmer as Ambassador to Venezuela will only make matters worse. Palmer was rejected by the Venezuelan government after he made negative statements about the Chavez administration in August. Washington's insistence of sending Palmer appears to be an effort to provoke a rupture in diplomatic relations. Information Clearing House


2002 Hugo Chavez UN six minute version, Hugo smells sulphur. Full speech below.

Previous: South America tag in side bar.