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Three Updates and an Addendum


One: Who Delivers the News? July 11, 2009

Today, it was The New York Times. Richard Oppel's piece reports that "at least 30 Americans have died in the first three weeks of July" in Afghanistan. He adds that, "the most significant factor is the increase in power of roadside bombs employed by guerillas in eastern and southern Afghanistan, including Hellmand [province]."

I'm sure that most of you have heard that by now, but Oppel's third from last paragraph reemphasizes the point made in Who Delivers the News--"Afghanistan has few paved roads, making it easier for insurgents to bury bombs with no trace. Moreover, the new mine-resistant vehicles effective at protecting troops from I.E.D.s in Iraq have struggled on Afghanistan's uneven and craggy landscape. The Pentagon is developing a lighter and less cumbersome version."

That's what we wrote about before. It will be the end of October at the earliest that the new vehicles arrive, and even then it will be only the first few. If American and British soldiers continue to die at the rate of more than twenty a month because we can't give them the "lighter and less cumbersome version", seventy men with die because our military procurement system is still fighting the last war.

Two: Who's Losing Somalia? May 19, 2009

The Associated Press reported today that "Shabab rebels looted two United Nations compounds in southern Somalia on Monday, and said that they would been three United Nations agencies from operating in areas the militants controlled." I started writing about Somalia back in January to suggest that President Obama get out in front of the story and make sure that Americans knew that George Bush had left him with one hell of a mess there. That hope's long gone--as of now, Somalia is Obama's problem.

The UN is already closing down some of its operations there, and Shabab, which the State Department says has links to al Qaeda, continues to gain ground in that country. It issued a statement Monday "saying it was banning three United Nations agencies--the Political office for Somalia, the Development Program and the Department for Safety and Security--accusing them of working against the establishment of an Islamic state. Most of the world finds it very difficult to defy the UN--Shabab does not seem to have a problem.

Three: The Undoing of Gen. T. Michael Moseley July 17, 2009

I think T. Michael Moseley was totally unfit to be Deputy Chief of Staff, or Chief of Staff, of the United States Air Force in a time of war. I think his appointment reflects the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld belief that the federal government is incompetent, and that a man with the limited competence of Gen. Moseley was capable of running the Air Force. He disgraced the Air Force when he forced its Judge Advocate General to apologize to a financial company that was taking advantage of Air Force personnel--a company that later paid $12 million to the SEC and another $12 million to veterans who'd been damages by its bad practices. Despite Diana Henriques' revelations in The New York Times about his involvement in the scandal, Secretary Rumsfeld and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, promoted him to Chief of Staff.

While awaiting promotion, he encouraged and spent a lot of time on a $50 million media promotion contract to "re-brand" the Air Force. It was a fiasco. The contract was canceled, and the government was settled with the contractor for a "seven-figure" sum, after Moseley had moved up. Moseley would've been better off spending his time safe-guarding our nuclear weapons. He got fired after it was discovered that on his watch, six nuclear-armed weapons had been flown over the United States, without the crew's knowledge and in violation of all safety rules. Also, somehow four nuclear cones had been mistakenly sent to Taiwan, and that's what cost him his job. It's this sort of disfunction that forces me to ask the question: Can the America I grew up in be salvaged?

The more I learned about Moseley, the more I felt that it was necessary to raise the level of indignation about the state of our country and its government. That the Moseley story failed to get one comment disturbs me greatly. Either I didn't do my job, or nobody out there cares very much--Is there anbody as angry about the incompetence of our government over the last nine years as I am?

The Addendum: Five Things You Didn't Hear About Walter Cronkite July 20, 2009

I should've written six things: Every time Dan Rather was on camera, there was an elephant in the room, and everybody avoided it--there is no question that it was Dan Rather, through his agent, Richard Liebner, who pushed Walter out, at least a year before he wanted to go.

Dan was competing with Roger Mudd for the anchor's seat when his contract with CBS expired. Liebner had received an offer from ABC for Rather to take over the anchor job there. Like any good agent, he used that card to force CBS to make a decision immediately about whether or not Dan would get the job. CBS was faced with the choice--Dan now, or maybe Mudd later. CBS had no doubt that Dan would help ABC's ratings, and although many of the newsmen thought that Roger was the better anchor, CBS bowed to Liebner's demands, gave Dan the job immediately, Walter retired, and Roger left the network.

The irony of all of this--a few years later, after a couple of a try with a triad anchor team--Max Robinson, Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings, ABC named Peter Jennings sole anchor. Jennings led ABC into first place in the news rating wars, and continued to battle with NBC and ABC, alternating for the top spot in the ratings. CBS and Rather slipped into third after Larry Tisch took over the network. I think Jennings came closest to succeeding Cronkite, and was certainly the most interesting anchorman of his generation.

It was not easy for me to watch Rather praising and condescending to Walter Cronkite last Sunday. He mentioned that Walter had expected to have a role at CBS, perhaps anchoring conventions and other special events, after he retired as anchorman. Dan Rather was one of those who made sure he didn't.