April 26, 2003
"Ever Seen A Grown Man Naked, Billy?"
Life imitates the comedic film Airplane! -- and in a particularly creepy way.
"Two pilots, both men, at Southwest Airlines were fired for apparently taking off their uniforms in the cockpit and flying a plane virtually naked," the New York Post and wire services report. "According to sources at the company, a flight attendant saw the pilots in their almost completely undressed state when summoned into the cockpit several months ago."
There's no word whether the pilots invited a young boy into the cockpit to discuss gladiator movies and Turkish baths.
April 25, 2003
Great Headlines From The Onion
New Fox Reality Show To Determine Ruler of Iraq
LOS ANGELES—Fox executives Monday unveiled their latest reality-TV venture, Appointed By America, a new series in which contestants vie for the top spot in Iraq's post-war government.
Read the full scoop here.
April 21, 2003
Quote Of The Day
France is like someone who’s been given a glimpse of the future, sees himself committing suicide, and resolves to spend his remaining days making it look like murder. -- James Lileks, in The Bleat, 4/21/03
April 17, 2003
Choosey Dictators Choose CNN
More reactions to revelations that for 12 years, CNN suppressed news of Saddam's atrocities in exchange for access to Saddam's regime:
Eric Fettman, New York Post
In a New York Times op-ed piece, [Eason] Jordan disclosed that over the past dozen years CNN kept a tight lid on "awful things that could not be reported, because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff ..." In return for its silence, CNN was allowed to maintain a permanent Baghdad bureau - long the only one by a U.S. network in the Iraqi capital ... But to what point - if the only way to keep the bureau working was to soft-pedal Saddam's horrors? If you can't report the truth, why have journalists there in the first place?
Former CNN reporter Peter Collins, Washington Times
In each of these meetings, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan made their pitch: Saddam Hussein would have an hour's time on CNN's worldwide network; there would be no interruptions, no commercials. I was astonished. From both the tone and the content of these conversations, it seemed to me that CNN was virtually groveling for the interview ... The day after one such meeting, I was on the roof of the Ministry of Information, preparing for my first "live shot" on CNN. A producer came up and handed me a sheet of paper with handwritten notes. "Tom Johnson wants you to read this on camera," he said. I glanced at the paper. It was an item-by-item summary of points made by Information Minister Latif Jassim in an interview that morning with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan ... The list was so long that there was no time during the live shot to provide context. I read the information minister's points verbatim. Moments later, I was downstairs in the newsroom on the first floor of the Information Ministry. Mr. Johnson approached, having seen my performance on a TV monitor. "You were a bit flat there, Peter," he said. Again, I was astonished. The president of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda.
Rich Noyes, Washington Times
Mr. Castro shouldn't have lost much sleep worrying whether CNN would reveal the awful details of his dictatorship. Last year, Media Research Center Senior News Analyst Geoff Dickens and I reviewed five years of CNN's Cuba news, from March 17, 1997, the date the [CNN] Havana bureau was established, through March 17, 2002. Instead of exposing the regime, CNN had allowed itself to become another component of another dictator's propaganda machine ... Rather than promoting a diversity of opinion, CNN mainly gave the communists a chance to promote their agenda to an international audience. Yes, the network aired a few sound bites from Catholic church leaders (a total of 11 on-air quotes) and peaceful dissidents (12 quotes), but these voices were swamped by quotes from Fidel Castro and smooth English-speaking propagandists like National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, the Tariq Aziz of the Caribbean (76) ... CNN's audience also heard from everyday Cubans, but few were shown saying anything disagreeable to Mr. Castro. CNN showed 61 Cuban citizens praising the communists, compared with only 11 who dared to dissent. To give the misleading impression that Castro's regime is hugely popular among the Cubans is intellectually dishonest, but there it was.
I wonder if CNN is "negotiating" for a Pyongyang bureau.
April 14, 2003
The C-in-C Thanks His Troops
The White House website notes that the president recorded a video message in which he "thanked America's armed services personnel and their families. The video is airing on armed services TV networks around the country and around the world, wherever American servicemen and women are based, including in the area of hostilities." This is the text of that message:
My fellow citizens: When freedom needs defending, America turns to our military. I want to thank those who wear our uniform. Thank you for your sacrifice. And as our men and women in uniform do their job, they count on their families. This time of war has been a time of hardship for many military families. Some of you have been separated from your loved ones by long deployments. You're dealing with added burdens at home, while praying for your husband or wife, or son or daughter, father or mother far from home. All of America is grateful for your sacrifice.
Over the last few weeks, the world has witnessed what you already know -- that our Armed Forces act with great skill, and great courage, and great humanity. Images of the Iraq people welcoming our troops in cities across that country are a testament to the character of our men and women in uniform.
Our forces have been given a clear mission -- to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction, and to free a people that had suffered far too long. American and coalition forces are treating innocent civilians with kindness, delivering urgently needed food and medicine, and acting in the highest traditions of the United States military. Our whole nation is proud of the honorable conduct of our military, and I am proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.
All who wear this nation's uniform have chosen to serve in America's defense and in freedom's cause. You and your families deserve the gratitude of the nation, and the full support of our government. We will give you the tools and training you need to win our nation's battles. And we will keep our commitment to improving the quality of life for our military families.
This nation has made another pledge: We will never forget the men and women who have fallen in service to America. We owe them our freedom. And we pray that their loved ones will receive God's comfort and God's grace.
All of you know that great military successes come from years of hard work, training, and commitment. You stand tall in times of conflict, and you stand ready in times of peace. For your daily effort, for your professionalism, and for your patriotism, I thank you on behalf of the people of the United States.
May God bless our country and all who defend her.
Clothing The Troops
Not only do wounded soldiers arriving at Walter Reed have nothing to wear but a hospital gown, the Army hospital doesn't have any other clothes to give them while they recuperate. Amazing.
It may sound hard to believe but Walter Reed is making a public plea for donations of new socks, underwear and sweatpants. If you want to help, here's the address to ship such items:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001
"Access Of Evil"
Franklin Foer, an editor at the New Republic, slaps the snot out of Eason Jordan and CNN in today's Wall Street Journal. Foer begins by noting Jordan's admission in the New York Times last week that CNN deliberately suppressed news reports on Saddam-backed atrocities. The excuse Jordan used was that reporting such stories would endanger the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on CNN's payroll.
Mr. Jordan may feel he deserves a pinch of credit for coming clean like this. But this admission shouldn't get him any ethical journalism trophies. For a long time, CNN denied that its coverage skimped on truth. While I researched a story on CNN's Iraq coverage for the New Republic last October, Mr. Jordan told me flatly that his network gave "a full picture of the regime." In our conversation, he challenged me to find instances of CNN neglecting stories about Saddam's horrors. If only I'd had his Times op-ed!
Would that this were an outbreak of honesty, however belated. But it isn't. If it were, Mr. Jordan wouldn't be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry--and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships. For CNN, the highest prize is "access," to score live camera feeds from a story's epicenter. Dictatorships understand this hunger, and also that it provides blackmail opportunities. In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN--and other U.S. media--can do little more than toe the regime's line.
April 11, 2003
A search of CNN's site yields over 1,000 reports on Enron, Global Crossing and WorldCom scandals. While busy exposing these corporate accounting frauds, CNN was knowingly engaged in journalistic fraud. And the consequences were lethal.
In the New York Times, CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, contributes a column which is clearly a cynical cover-your-ass ploy disguised as a tale of journalistic heroism.
A few excerpts from Jordan's column:
Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff ...
We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails). Still, I felt I had a moral obligation to warn Jordan's monarch, and I did so the next day. King Hussein dismissed the threat as a madman's rant. A few months later Uday lured the brothers-in-law back to Baghdad; they were soon killed ...
I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment. At last, these stories can be told freely.
"At last"? Judging from that last paragraph, you'd think that Jordan worked for Saddam's state-controlled news service; in effect, he did. CNN kept mum about Saddam's atrocities not because reporting on them would have endangered lives (hell, people died because CNN refused to report the truth). CNN looked the other way for one very crass reason: to preserve its access to senior leaders in the Iraqi regime. As long as CNN didn't make waves by honestly reporting on Saddam's regime, Saddam and his goons let CNN hang around. This Faustian agreement was to CNN's liking for twelve years.
Now we know why Peter Arnett was such an enthusiastic fan of Saddam's regime. For Arnett and CNN's executives, having access to a genocidal tyrant and his accomplices was more important than reporting the truth.
CNN is, I think, the only American news network with a bureau in Cuba. Did CNN cut a similar deal with Darth Castro? And, if so, how many Cubans are dying because CNN feels a "moral obligation" not to "endanger" their lives?
"An American Mystery"
War is repugnant to the people of the United States; yet it is war that has made their nation and it is through their power to wage war that they dominate the world. Americans are proficient at war in the same way that they are proficient at work. It is a task, sometimes a duty. Americans have worked at war since the seventeenth century, to protect themselves from the Indians, to win their independence from George III, to make themselves one country, to win the whole of the their continent, to extinguish autocracy and dictatorship in the world outside. It is not their favoured form of work. Left to themselves, Americans build, cultivate, bridge, dam, canalise, invent, teach, manufacture, think, write, lock themselves in struggle with the eternal challenges that man has chosen to confront, and with an intensity not known elsewhere on the globe. Bidden to make war their work, Americans shoulder the burden with intimidating purpose. There is, I have said, an American mystery, the nature of which I only begin to perceive. If I were obliged to define it, I would say it is the ethos---masculine, pervasive, unrelenting---of work as an end in itself. War is a form of work, and America makes war, however reluctantly, however unwillingly, in a particularly workmanlike way. I do not love war; but I love America.
-- British military historian Sir John Keegan, excerpted from his book Warpaths: Travels of a Military Historian in North America
April 10, 2003
A Faceful of Stars And Stripes
Yesterday Marine Cpl. Edward Chin of Brooklyn presided over one of those moments that instantly sears itself into history.
It was a fitting gesture. There's something deeply satisfying about a New Yorker in downtown Baghdad draping the American flag over the statue of a major 9-11 culprit.
After a short time Cpl. Chin removed Old Glory and replaced it with an Iraqi flag. Subsequently, there was much handwringing in the press that displaying the American flag in such a manner would be seen by the world as the mark of a conqueror rather than a liberator. Heaven forfend! Evidently it escaped the handwringers' notice, so let's spell it out: the United States did conquer Iraq and, in so doing, liberated Iraq. That's a message the rest of the world would do well to understand.
James Lileks, as usual, puts the matter perfectly:
You hope Saddam’s alive to see this, to see the hailstorm of footwear, the burly men taking sledgehammers to his statue’s polished podium, to see the American flag draped over his cruel empty mug. That last point was one of the more remarkable moments today - the soldier put the flag over Saddam’s iron face, then removed it and replaced it with the old Iraqi flag. It’s a potent message. A show of power, then a show of respect. Our flag first; your flag for ever after. Don’t forget how the latter was made possible by the former.
April 09, 2003
"I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!"
Check this out.
Protest Message Of The Day
"GO HOME, HUMAN SHIELDS, YOU WANKERS!" -- from a banner held by two Iraqi men today in downtown Baghdad as American troops arrived
Quote Of The Day
I see happy! -- a young Iraqi man describing his fellow citizens' reaction to the arrival of American troops in downtown Baghdad, Fox News Channel/Sky News
Rolling Into Baghdad
The pause in the ground assault continues: U.S. soldiers and Marines just rolled into the center of Baghdad to the cheers and waves of Iraqis in the street.
April 08, 2003
There Goes The Neighborhood
Check out this dramatic photograph. It's either the result of a B1-B bunkerbusting a bunch of Ba'ath buffoons or it's a scene from Trading Spaces after something went horribly, horribly wrong.
April 07, 2003
There's a chance that Saddam Hussein was officially notified today that Bill Clinton is no longer president of the United States.
The AP reports: "An American bomber struck a residential complex in Baghdad on Monday after U.S. intelligence received information that Saddam Hussein, his sons and other top Iraqi leaders might be meeting there, U.S. officials said. There was no immediate word on who might have been killed, but U.S. officials said they had evidence the target had been destroyed. 'There is a big hole where that target used to be,' one U.S. official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity. The attack was carried out by a single B-1B bomber which dropped fewer than five 2,000-pound bunker-penetrating bombs on the residential building, the officials said."
In addition, Fox News is reporting that at the time of the attack, senior Ba'ath Party officials were meeting in the building to discuss plans to leave Iraq.
April 06, 2003
And How Would You Like Your Crow Cooked?
Author and New York Post columnist Ralph Peters has a message for the Saddam-sympathizing elements at the New York Times: "Eat a big hunk of dead Iraqi crow, Times twits. And the next time GI Joe goes out to thrash one of your pet dictators, ask a military man what's going down, instead of trusting the croissant commandos on your staff."
The rest of his column is, as always, a good read. Check it out here.
April 05, 2003
Food For Thought
From an anonymous emailer to AndrewSullivan.com:
I'm not tough. I thank God everyday that there are tough men and women out there who are willing and able to protect the way of life I enjoy so much. I'm 26 and kids my age right now are living in the desert with the realities of war all around them, so that I can go home tonight, kiss my wife, throw the tennis ball for my dog, and fall asleep ... free. Free from fear, free from tyranny, free to enjoy my life and pursue my happiness. They are all heroes and patriots in the truest sense of the word and I just wish that I could express my gratitude to each and every one of them. But I can't, so I did the only thing I could think of to really help. I found a blood donation center that is sending blood to the military and I gave what could arguably be the most precious thing I have -- my blood. It was not a fun experience (note the first sentence of this letter), but as I walked to my car, for the first time since this whole debate started, I felt good. Sure, it could have just been the lightheadedness from being a couple pints down; but more likely it’s because on the off-chance that my blood ends up saving the life of someone fighting to protect my country, well, that would just fucking rule.
April 04, 2003
Noonan Remembers Kelly
Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan pays tribute to Michael Kelly:
The death of Michael Kelly is a sin against the order of the world. He was a young man on his way to becoming a great man. He was going to be one of the great editors of his time, and at the age of 46 he was already one of its great journalists. And one's first thought about him, after saying the obvious--that he wrote like a dream, that he was a great reporter with great eyes, that he was a keen judge of what is news and what should be news--is this. He was an independent man. He had an indignant independence that was beauty to behold. He knew what he thought and why, and he announced it in his columns and essays with wit and anger.
"Independent." That word perfectly defines Michael Kelly.
In reporting Kelly's death today, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote that "Kelly was a caustic conservative who was merciless in his criticism of Bill Clinton and Al Gore ..." Such a characterzation betrays an ignorance of Kelly's career and suggests that he had a partisan agenda. Kurtz apparently believes that only a "caustic conservative" would take exception to the Clinton Administration's policies and ethics. The fact is, Kelly had no ideological axe to grind; his only agenda was the truth.
Kelly's coworkers and friends understood him better than Howard Kurtz. Noonan relates a conversation she had with one of his close friends:
She said, "He was brave. And he was a warrior. He would take on anything if he believed it was right."
You mean he was willing to pay a price for where he stood? I asked.
"Yes. He refused to be part of the conventional wisdom. He was never part of the pack." She paused. "That's what drove people crazy, that they couldn't classify him. But he was willing not to be liked."
Later in her column, Noonan puts Kelly's life and career in the proper perspective:
I think that when excellence enters the world--when an individual brings his excellence into the world--it is like a deep love being born between two people for the first time. It goes into the world and adds to the sum total of good in it. It inspires, and is moving in a way that cannot always be explained or understood. It adds to.
That's what Michael Kelly's career did: It added to.
Michael Kelly, 1957-2003
Michael Kelly, The Atlantic Monthly's editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist, was killed in Iraq yesterday. According to the Washington Post, Kelly died in a Humvee accident while embedded with the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Kelly was a favorite of mine. He had an amazing talent for advancing a powerful point in such an eloquent and subtle and, sometimes, humorous fashion that you wanted to read it again just to admire his wordsmithing.
Kelly's recent columns are vivid accounts of war and warriors. On March 19, I linked to his report from Kuwait on the 3rd's final preparations for invasion. Included are observations from privates and generals about their goals, intentions and worries. Ironically, Kelly reports that some are concerned about the risk of vehicle accidents posed by a lightning fast invasion:
There are other issues. Blount mentioned the danger of accidents in a force of about 9,000 vehicles that would try to move faster than any invasion in history. Austin mentions fratricidal casualties in an environment characterized by massive and varied American firepower. But while no commander expects serious organized resistance from most Iraqi forces, Sterling predicts fighting from elite forces and Baath Party apparatchiks "who are less worried about what Americans will do to them than what their fellow Iraqis will do."
All real worries, but in the terms of war, worries are luxuries. The overall view is expressed by Austin: "We can see them. And what we can see, we can hit, and what we can hit, we can kill, and the kill will be catastrophic." And by Sterling: "A thousand things can happen to make life absolutely miserable for us. There is not one thing that can happen to stop us."
Just before he was killed, Kelly filed his last report; he described the 3rd's battle to capture a vital bridge spanning the Euphrates. The Americans won and the 3rd Infantry pressed on. Kelly concluded:
There were no American fatalities. By full dusk, the sporadic mortar fire had ceased, and everything was quiet except for an occasional bit of light arms fire in the farm fields beyond the bridgehead.
Rest in peace, Mike.
April 03, 2003
Food For Thought
From James Lileks:
When the US leaves Iraq, it will have freed the Shiites, left the mosques intact, and built not one Christian church. We will import no missionaries, distribute no Bibles. The most important accomplishment of the Latter-Day Crusaders will be the destruction of a reign based on secular idolatry.
Sometimes I think the reason America is so despised in some quarters is that we fail to live up to other peoples’ worst expectations.
Quote of the Day
The ultimate technology in this war hasn't been a smart bomb, but the American soldier. Again. -- New York Post columnist Ralph Peters
"The Midnight Ballet"
PFC Jessica Lynch is one tough and brave soldier. The New York Post details her courageous, down-to-the-last-bullet fight against the enemy, her ordeal after capture, and what one special forces soldier described as "the midnight ballet" -- her dramatic rescue.
PFC Lynch is a supply clerk; firing on the enemy isn't her primary duty. But she didn't hesitate to do so when confronted. She exemplifies what's good about the American military as do those who rescued her. For her courage under fire and during capture, PFC Lynch deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.
April 02, 2003
Baghdad Pete's Benny
Saddam's favorite reporter, Peter Arnett, is indeed a naturalized American citizen. So . . .
How does one out-traitor the Columbia University employee who wished on our American soliders "a million Mogadishus"? Arnett provides the answer. While American forces are fighting and dying to liberate Iraq, one makes an appearance on the regime's television station to decry American war efforts and to cheer on resistance by Saddam's murderous minions. In doing so, Arnett becomes the first Benny winner to unarguably meet the constitutionally defined standards of treason: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." (Article III, Section 3).
Though it will never happen, the latest Benny Award winner should be charged with treason. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky agrees.
James Taranto notes an Associated Press report regarding an astonishing court-created loophole in federal campaign finance regulations.
Let's say you donate $100 to the Republican National Committee; federal law requires the RNC to publicly disclose your name and donation amount to the Federal Election Commission. And let's say your sadly misguided neighbor sends a donation to the Democratic National Committee; the same law applies. Ditto for the Libertarians, the Greens, and -- with one exception -- every other American political party.
The exception? The Socialist Workers Party.
As the AP explains, in 1979 a federal court ruled that the Socialist Workers Party is allowed to keep the identity of its commie donors secret because they may be subjected to harassment. The exemption lasts for six years and is renewable by the FEC. The exemption is up for renewal now and the FEC's lawyers are recommending its continuation.
This dirty little FEC secret is appalling for two reasons. First, as the AP reports:
The Socialist Workers Party advocates a Marxist revolution to overthrow the U.S. government. Taking the Russian and Cuban revolutions of the 20th century as models, it wants to replace the country's capitalist system with a government of workers and farmers.
There you have it. While Republicans and Democrats are forced by law to make public the names of loyal Americans who financially support their parties, the financial supporters of a political party seeking to "overthrow" the United States are guaranteed anonymity by the very government they seek to destroy.
Secondly, this exemption blatantly violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection. In other words, federal campaign finance disclosure requirements must apply to the donors of every party or to none at all. Constitutionally, there can be no middle ground in this regard.
The Justice Department can and should intervene in this matter.
Where's Arnett's Benny?
I've received email asking how the ugliest concubine in Saddam's harem, Peter Arnett, managed to evade a Benedict Arnold Award. The Benny is reserved for "those Americans whose opposition to the war on terrorist nations goes beyond legitimate opposition to actually aiding--inadvertently or intentionally--the cause of those seeking to destroy the United States." The awards committee assumed that Arnett, a native of New Zealand, was not an American citizen.
The committee will research the matter. Should Arnett be a naturalized American citizen, his Benny will be awarded and, hopefully, decoratively wrapped in a grand jury indictment for treason.
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