On the media

A few interesting tidbits today:
Peter Arnett has been fired from National Geographic and NBC’s coverage of the war for a statement he made in an interview with Iraqi television. Evidently, he told the Iraqis that the U.S. war plan had been unsuccessful.

In the Iraqi TV interview, Arnett said his Iraqi friends had told him that there was a growing sense of nationalism and resistance to what the United States and Britain were doing.

He said the United States was reappraising the battlefield and delaying the war, maybe for a week, “and rewriting the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan.”

“Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces,” Arnett said during the interview, which was broadcast by Iraq’s satellite television station and monitored by The AP in Egypt.
Does anyone, pro- or anti-war, think that a) this was a smart thing to say or b) he should have never been on Iraqi TV to begin with? Arnett is an ass.

Next, Geraldo Rivera has been ousted from his “embedded” position, also for not watching his mouth. CNN is giddy about this blow to Fox News Channel.

In the broadcast, Rivera instructed his photographer to tilt the camera down to the sand in front of his feet so that he could draw a map.

The Fox correspondent then outlined a map of Iraq, and showed the relative location of Baghdad and his location with the 101st Airborne unit.

Rivera then continued with his sandy diagram to illustrate where the 101st would be going next.

“He went down in the sand and drew where the forces are going,” said a stunned senior military official. “He gave away the big picture stuff.”
Perhaps he could next report live from the Kuwait City Hooters franchise. Geraldo is an ass.

And finally: U.S. troops today killed 7 women and children when the vehicle they were driving did not stop at a checkpoint as ordered. A horrible incident, and I will not debate whether the action was justified. What I will debate is whether the media should be reporting it. It was briefly touched on tonight on ABC news with no in-depth report, and I can find few mentions on various news sites. It’s certainly not one of the highlighted stories of the day. I can find nothing at all about it on MSNBC. Yet, the BBC has the story and the Pentagon has acknowledged that it happened. The BBC presented a Marine Corps spokesman who spoke about the harsh realities of war. I can find no other outlet who took the time to investigate the issue. [Update: NBC Nightly News tonight had a full report on the incident.] [Update 2: I obviously spoke too soon on this one. Now the reports are starting to appear. Perhaps the BBC was quicker on the uptake than other outlets? A Washington Post story is the most in-depth yet that I’ve found. They are saying 10 killed.]

Did we really think that with embedded journalists and round-the-clock briefings from a state-of-the-art media center, we’d get the truth?

When in doubt, X it out

2074929_200X150.jpgI’m no longer in Chicago, but thank goodness I flew out of O’Hare: in the dark of night last night, Chicago Mayor Daley had bulldozers move in to Meigs Field and destroy the runways, closing the airport. From NBC 5:

Mayor Richard M. Daley said Meigs Field was closed to protect the city. The closure of Meigs “will make Chicago a safer city and make us feel like a safer city,” Daley said at a City Hall news conference.

There were no threats specific to Chicago, he said.

Even though the downtown area and Near North Side have a temporary flight restriction imposed, it was not enough, he said.

“First of all, a temporary flight restriction is just that — temporary. It could be lifted at anytime,” Daley said.

“More important, it does not address the problem that occurs every day as aircraft approach Meigs Field within a few hundred yards and only a few seconds flight time of our tallest buildings,” Daley said.

“Those airplanes appear to be going to Meigs, but with a sudden turn they could cause a terrible tragedy downtown or in our crowded parks. That scares me, and it scares people who live, work and visit downtown and use our parks. They should not have to wonder whether every airplane that appears to be headed for Meigs might have other intentions,” Daley said.
What could be the real story behind this? Closing a general aviation airport because of a threat to high rise buildings? In reality, a small private plane of the type that use these airports is lighter than most SUVs, and would not even scratch a skyscraper. Some windows would be broken, and the pilot would most likely be the only fatality. No, I think that the Mayor pounced because he believed that it would be seen as being “proactive” and politically safe.

A statement issued Monday morning by the Federal Aviation Administration read:

We at the FAA were concerned to hear about the decision to close Meigs Field. We share the concerns given by general aviation. Removing any centrally located airport from the system diminishes capacity and puts added pressure at Midway and O’Hare.

CERT class article

The Washington Post today published an article about the Community Emergency Response Team classes I have been taking. Unfortunately, I was in Chicago during last week’s classes and missed the drills that she writes about in the article. Gotta do a make-up class…
A reporter was in attendance for the last few meetings. I think we are getting press coverage because we are in the area of the Pentagon, which piques interest. We get messages about press coming to the next class every so often.
The class is, I believe, set up to prepare us to be of help to the first responders, and if necessary, become first responders ourselves. However, I’m worried that some people who take the class will step outside their role and go father than their training warrants. I guess the only way to see what will happen is if we are involved in a disaster or attack, which I hope never happens again. I suppose every little bit of training and information helps, even if you don’t have to use it.

The Style Invitational: Week CLXII

Report from Week CLXII, in which entrants were asked to summarize a highly complex issue in words of one syllable:

Fourth Runner-Up
God told us, “Thou shalt not kill.”
We say sure, but it’s fine to kill folks who don’t like our God.
God says, “No, thou shalt not kill.”
We say sure, but it’s cool so long as it’s just those guys who dress in rags and have beards.
God says, “No, write this down. Thou shalt not kill.”
We say, “Sure. Now who is this “thou” guy you mean?
God does not like this.
(Robert Carlisle, Arlington)

First Runner-Up
The debate surrounding somatic cell nuclear transfer technology:
If we clone a man, things might go ronwg.
(Sally Fasman, Washington)

Civil rights vs. national security:
Since the bad day two years back, the feds have this thing where they want to know what sites you surf on the Web, and whom you hang with: In short, they want to be rid of that Bill of Rights stuff that lets you do your own thing. They want to press their boots on your throat and . . .
“Sir, we’d like to ask you a few things . . . ”
Huh, where’d you come from?
“Sir, please step from your desk and keep your hands in plain view.”
Hey, wait, I was just . . .
“You have the right to — nah, skip that.” (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Let’s see what we have here: cheese, ham, three jugs of milk, hot dogs, rolls, two loaves of bread, a bag of chips, jam, cans of corn, green beans, soups, a few jars of strained peas for the kid. All right. Now, what does this sign say? Shall I read it to you? Twelve things or less, this aisle. Is this so hard, to count to twelve? What is the point you fail to grasp here? (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Bush says the guy in the sand may pose a threat, we must act first. I think the guy next door may pose a threat. So I will act first. (Luan Pham, Silver Spring)

Incense, key lime martinis, and a night at the opera box

hob.jpgLast night in Chicago, I had the opportunity to have dinner at House of Blues, in the members-only Foundation Room. Very cool – the place is amazing! The building is rather odd outside – I likened it to an inflatable barn. Inside, however is a combination of styles that boggles the mind. The main floor is pretty much what you’d expect. But things change as you start to make your way to the more exclusive parts of the building.
To reach the Foundation Room, assuming your name is on the guest list, you go up to the top of the building via an elevator with gold-leafed doors. The walls are upholstered with cloth sewn by Indian craftswomen. The Foundation Room is dark and scented with incense, and filled with Indian influences. Statues of Ganesh and Sheba abound. I had a key lime martini, which I don’t necessarily recommend, but it was definitely interesting. Dinner was in the Foundation dining room, which is down a curved staircase in an area only accessible by Foundation members. The dining room is an odd sort of gothic design, with a few private rooms and booths covered by canopies. Fantastic food!
After dinner, we went back up and took our places in private opera boxes overlooking the stage and the proletariat on the main floor. The act that night was Buju Bantu (I think that’s how it’s spelled) but not being a reggae fan, I can’t really comment. I couldn’t understand a word of it…
Above the stage is a call for unity in diversity, with icons of all major religions — amen.

Mon dieu - more French targets from Congress

Yet again, I ask the question – at this turbulent time in our history isn’t there something better that Congress can do?
Now the House Republicans are trying to cancel a contract with Sodexho because it’s parent company is French. From today’s Washington Post:

Fifty-nine House members signed a letter sent yesterday to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urging the cancellation of Sodexho’s dealings with the Pentagon, which include an $881 million contract to feed U.S. Marines at 55 facilities, according to the letter’s author, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). “My colleagues and I abhor the idea of continuing to pour American dollars into a French based firm,” the letter says.

To which Sodexho replied, in effect: Whaddaya mean “French”?

True, Sodexho, which is headquartered in Gaithersburg, is the U.S. subsidiary of Sodexho Alliance SA, an international catering giant based in a Paris suburb. But the company has 110,000 employees in the United States, including more than 4,000 in Kingston’s home state of Georgia, noted Leslie Aun, Sodexho’s U.S. spokeswoman.

“I think members of Congress will reconsider, once they understand that this type of action puts the jobs of their constituents — a large number of their constituents — at risk,” Aun said. “If you want to take aim at a foreign government, you shouldn’t shoot American jobs in the process.”

Therein lies a story about the animosity toward the French government among supporters of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — animosity that runs so deep, according to Kingston, that getting fellow House members to sign his letter has been “easier than giving away money.” (All of the signers were probably Republican, his office said last night, though that was because he worked his GOP colleagues first and sent the letter once word began leaking out.)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who represents the Montgomery County district where Sodexho is headquartered, took the threat seriously enough to circulate a counter-letter intended to discourage support for Kingston’s appeal.

“If the foreign governments that disagree with U.S. policy toward Iraq should respond in a similar fashion by canceling contracts with American companies, many more American jobs and companies would be at risk,” he wrote.

In a phone interview, Kingston contended that fears of job losses at Sodexho’s U.S. operations are “absurd” because the same people working for the company at Marine facilities could simply take jobs with an American contractor. But Aun retorted: “We’ve got managers who have pension plans — they’re just going to go work for some other company? Give me a break.”

One of those managers, Steve Mangan, a chef who works at a Sodexho facility at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said: “I’m a little insulted that people think we’re becoming French. We think of ourselves as an American company.”

Asked if his facility serves snails, he said it doesn’t, but admitted, “We do have some croissants.”
It’s so easy to bash the French and win some quick political points. If House members are so worried about who we send money to and who supports us, perhaps they should dig a little deeper. How much business do we do with Russia, who are accused of selling GPS jammers to Iraq? What about Saudi Arabia, the home of the vast majority of the September 11 terrorists? China? Germany? C’mon. Spend your time more wisely.

Operation Irascible Strike

[Thanks, BoingBoing]
Is “Operation Iraqi Freedom” boring you? Need a little more oomph for your military campaign? Try the American Military Operation Name Generating Device courtesy of Ftrain.com Language Machines! This device randomly generates names for your latest military incursion, such as:
Operation Inflexible Girlfriend
Operation Expect No Mercy From Our Badger
Operation Livid Virgin
Operation Temperamental Turban
Operation Endangered Jury
Other Language Machines include character naming, place name generator, and a brand name generator. The new name for my blog will henceforth be GENOLOG.

Divvying up the spoils of war

It seems that everyone is jostling for position to get a piece of that sweet, sweet Iraqi pie once this war is “over.” Already we’ve learned that Haliburton, that spot where Dick Cheney spent his off time between Republican administrations, was picked to work on the rebuilding of Iraq after a secret process which involved absolutely no proposals or bidding.
Now it seems that the powers that be (or will be) want to install a cellular telephone infrastructure in Iraq with a U.S. import from military contractor Qualcomm to ensure that none of the profits flow outside the U.S. – especially not to France. Read this from Internet News.com:

The current reconstruction plan involves using U.S. funds to install a European-based wireless technology known as GSM (define) for a new Iraqi cell phone system. Issa’s bill (HR 1441) would give preference to American companies, including QUALCOMM.

“If European GSM technology is deployed in Iraq, much of the equipment used to build the cell phone system would be manufactured in France, Germany, and elsewhere in western and northern Europe. Furthermore, royalties paid on the technology would flow to French and European sources, not U.S. patent holders,” Issa said in his letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and USAID Administrator, Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain.

While QUALCOMM’s roots are deeply embedded in U.S. military, the wireless giant is taking a neutral stance to the issue.

Politics aside, a massive CDMA launch may cause problems for the region now, but not in the future. If CDMA were the dominant technology in Iraq today, customers traveling to a nearby country that has only a GSM network wouldn’t be able to use a CDMA phone there.
American companies are poised to swoop in, and the administration is trying to convince people that we are not invaders? I guess that his fuzzy math has returned – instead of huge tax cuts for the rich to stimulate the economy, he’s invading countries to open up new markets for big corporations.

Note: I flew to Chicago this morning on an Airbus A320, assembled in Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany. Oops! I guess some of my ticket price went back to “old Europe.” At least the wings were built in the UK.

This is the city

Holy cow, it’s LOUD here in my Chicago hotel room. Even though I’m 12 stories up, I can hear every car on the street, the deep rumbling of the trains, and the sirens of the fire station on the next block. In addition to that, next to my room is the service elevator, and it’s very loud. Across the hall are some pretty loud guests yakking and laughing and such. I’m definitely not at home in my quiet little townhouse with only the dog barking to disturb me.
I wonder if they sell earplugs in the gift shop.

Now, an update:
Last November I reported on a strange set of sculptures at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, which seemed to portray alien hybrids of human and rabbit (and other animals) engaged in acrobatics.
Well, here in Chicago, I found yet another example of this bizarre genetic experiment outside the John Hancock Tower.


The airport phenomenon

If there is one place that is the hub of impatience, it’s an airport. It’s hard to understand, since that’s one place where you can be assured that you have absolutely no control over anything at all. So why go nuts about it?
Gotta be first in line for tickets. Gotta be first in line for security. Gotta rush down the corridor, swerving around everyone with the two huge carry on bags because I don’t wanna wait for checked bags. Gotta be first in line at the bagel place. Move it, I need a latte. Gotta jump up 30 minutes before it boards and hover by the gate door. Even though I’m in seat 5A and they only ask people in rows 30-20 to board, I gotta get on the plane NOW. I gotta be sitting in my seat on the aisle when everyone else boards, then huff and moan when I have to stand up to let in the two other people in my row.
When are they serving the drinks? I want it now. I want another one. Now.
We’ve landed? 100 cell phones are whipped out and beeping and loud conversation begins, even though you’re supposed to wait until the plane has reached the gate. Jump up and grab your bag, NOW. Stand there for 20 minutes before you can move off the plane, and then rush your way out without letting anyone in front of you.

So, here I am in Chicago. Ta-da!

One little comment about O’Hare Airport: outside the airport, along the road where taxis idle, where huge shuttle buses spew out toxic gases, and where tour buses simmer in their deadly vapor, there are “smoking shelters” – enclosed glass boxes where people can smoke and the rest of us don’t have to be worried about breathing in that second-hand smoke.
That’s irony, folks.

That’s a spicy onion

The Onion’s special war coverage has been published… some of my favorite blurbs:

Vital Info On Iraqi Chemical Weapons Provided By U.S. Company That Made Them
BALTIMORE—The Pentagon has obtained vital information on Iraqi chemical weapons from Alcolac International, the Baltimore-based company that sold them to the Mideast nation in the ’80s. “It’s terrifying what Iraq has,” Pentagon spokesman James Reese said Monday. “Saddam possesses massive stockpiles of everything from ethylene to thiodiglycol, according to sales records provided by Alcolac.” The Pentagon has also been collecting key intelligence on Iraqi nuclear weapons and guidance systems from Honeywell, Unisys, and other former U.S. suppliers to Iraq.

U.S. Forms Own U.N.
WASHINGTON, DC—Frustrated with the United Nations’ “consistent, blatant regard for the will of its 188 member nations,” the U.S. announced Monday the formation of its own international governing body, the U.S.U.N.
“The U.N. has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to act decisively in carrying out actions the U.S. government deems necessary,” U.S.U.N. Secretary General Colin Powell said. “Every time we tried to get something accomplished, it inevitably got bogged down in procedural policies, bureaucratic formalities, and Security Council votes.”
“I predict the U.S.U.N. will be extremely influential in world politics in the coming decades,” Powell continued. “In fact, you can count on it.”

Don’t ask, don’t tell… don’t care

The debate about women in combat seems to be over – there are now women serving in the current war in combat roles.
So, when will the debate about gay people be over? Seems like it’s as irrational as the argument over the service of women. In fact, the military seems to contradict itself in times of crisis. Read this interesting editorial in today’s Washington Post:

No Gays Except . . .
Wednesday, March 26, 2003; Page A16

IN THE YEARS since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay service members went into effect, the U.S. military has discharged a steadily increasing number of men and women because of their sexual orientations, although they wished to continue serving their country. Then the United States went to war. And suddenly, according to a new report from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the witch hunts dropped off sharply. In 2001, 1,273 people were discharged for being gay. Last year, by contrast, 906 were discharged. The sharp decline, the SLDN notes, is consistent with the military’s behavior in past wars. When their services are truly needed, it seems, the threat that gay men and lesbians supposedly pose to unit cohesion doesn’t loom as large.

Not all gays in the military are being protected by having skills critical to the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq. We have previously noted the irrational discharges of military linguists who acknowledged being gay. More of these cases, the SLDN report warns, are coming down the pike. But the larger pattern is that tolerance increases as necessity requires. And that would be all for the good if the military would only learn the obvious lesson from it: that gay men and lesbians fight honorably during wartime without deleterious effects on any military effort. That being the case, they should not be drummed out of their positions once the military again has the luxury of indulging this last socially acceptable bigotry. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” works against our military preparedness, is unfair to patriotic Americans and, as a policy, has failed miserably. It must be repealed.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company