Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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DECEMBER 26, 2010
EXCITING LITERARY NEWS – AT 10:28 A.M. ET: We bring you the latest in the unending drive to enhance our civilization and lift its cultural level. From Breitbart:
WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said in an interview published Sunday he had signed deals for his autobiography worth more than one million pounds (1.2 million euros, 1.5 million dollars).
Assange told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that the money would help him defend himself against allegations of sexual assault made by two women in Sweden.
"I don't want to write this book, but I have to," he said. "I have already spent 200,000 pounds for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat."
The Australian said he would receive 800,000 dollars (600,000 euros) from Alfred A. Knopf, his American publisher, and a British deal with Canongate is worth 325,000 pounds (380,000 euros, 500,000 dollars).
Money from other markets and serialisation is expected to raise the total to 1.1 million pounds, he said.
The latest project of Assange's whistleblower website is the gradual release of tens of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Since this latest project began Assange, who is on bail in Britain fighting a bid by Sweden to extradite him over the sex assault claims, has faced problems financing WikiLeaks.
COMMENT: I can just hear the justifications from the New York publishing industry. They'll do the "free speech" dance, not caring at all about the people who'll be hurt or killed by this irresponsible, anti-American fool. The publishing party will no doubt be the literary event of the year.
A MOVING STORY, WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION – AT 11:39 A.M. ET: This was forwarded to us by family friend Meryl Resnick:
From an airline captain: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H..R. on this flight." (H.R. stands for human remains.) "Are they military?"I asked.
"Yes," she said. "Is there an escort?" I asked.
"Yes, I already assigned him a seat."
"Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early," I said.
A short while later a young Army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts ofthesefallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us. "My soldier is on his way back to Virginia," he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.
We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. "I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is on board," she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and two-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.
The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in theflight attendant's voicewhen she asked me if there was anything I could do. "I'm on it," I said. I told her that I would get back to her.
I decided to contact my flight dispatcher directly. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.
Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:
"Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control areveterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks." I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, "You have no idea how much this will mean to them."
Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge, with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area, with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.
"There is a team in place to meet the aircraft," we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate I asked the co-pilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, "Take your time." I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, "Ladies and gentleman, this is yourcaptain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make aspecial announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you."
We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, all passengers on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft. When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words like"God Bless You," "I'm sorry," "Thank you," "Be proud," and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.
Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.
PERSONNEL NON-NEWS, AT 11:26 A.M. ET: The White House says there will be no major Cabinet changes come January, despite persistent rumors of a high-level shakeup in the Obama administration. Eyes, of course, are always focused on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her political future. From the Washington Times:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Don't look for any big changes in President Obama's Cabinet as the new year gets under way.
The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told CNN's "State of the Union" that he doesn't expect any major shuffling to take place in the Cabinet.
Mr. Gibbs said that there's much work yet to be done at the Treasury Department to implement financial reform and at the Health and Human Services Department to implement health care reform. He calls the president's team "very talented."
COMMENT: There is a general expectation that Bob Gates will leave his Defense post in 2011, and there is understandable apprehension about his replacement. Will Mr. Obama appoint a capable, solidly pro-defense administrator? Or will he try to appeal to the marshmallow wing of his party? There are some stories circulating that Colin Powell may be appointed, which would be discouraging, and look like a political payoff for Powell's support of Obama in the 2008 election.
Clinton is the star. A report surfaced this last week that outgoing Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is being groomed as her successor. Frankly, I doubt it. Richardson was to be appointed to the Obama administration when it took office, but his appointment stalled over an ethics investigation. Also, Richardson is suspected in many circles of being a secret, card-carrying marshmallow, something this bowl-of-Jell-o president doesn't need.
OH DEAR! WAS "THAT WOMAN" RIGHT? – AT 10:49 A.M. ET: Remember how Sarah Palin was ridiculed when she warned against "death panels" in Obamacare? Well, we're not quite there, but Sarah's warnings may turn out to be prescient. The Obamans are starting to impose "regulations" on health care that they couldn't get through Congress as part of the Obamacare package. From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.
Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009 when Republicans seized on the idea of end-of-life counseling to argue that the Democrats’ bill would allow the government to cut off care for the critically ill.
COMMENT: The liberal New York Times is to be commended for bringing this to our attention. There is nothing in the new regulations that resembles "death panels," but the possibilities are disturbing. Doctors might, in the future, be pressured to give certain kinds of "economically sensible" advice. And reimbursement structures can be set up that favor one outcome over the other.
This is the kind of trend that must be watched carefully, almost day by day. And the burden for oversight must fall on Republicans in Congress, as well as outside groups and religious organizations.
America differs dramatically from Europe in that, as a society, we take seriously the religious admonition to "choose life." It is one of the elements of "American exceptionalism" that we should revere, and embrace, and defend. And this is certainly the week to reflect on it.
It is perfectly obvious that the Obama administration will try to do through executive fiat what it could not do by seeking approval from the people's representatives in Congress. It is the old totalitarian temptation, and we're seeing it in reports from the Environmental Protection Administration.
All right, Republicans. Put your brains where your mouths are. Get going on this.
DAMN THIS GLOBAL WARMING – AT 10:18 A.M. ET: I am informed that we're about to have a blizzard here in New York. I guess the global-warming priests are re-running the numbers.
But I must admit to skepticism. It may be just chance, but the New York City region has a history of false snowstorm alarms. Last year was particularly bad for the forecasters. We would be told we were doomed, and then TV news crews would fight to get an interview with the one snowflake that descended. The snowflake generally had no comment.
This forecast, however, does look pretty serious. We are awaiting Mayor Mike Bloomberg's statement. He will undoubtedly caution us against blaming the Muslims.
Be not in despair. In case you hear that we're snowed in, with electricity out, Urgent Agenda will still be functioning. We have battery-powered backup equipment, and, as long as cell phone service is intact, can connect to the Verizon network wirelessly. I learned well from the Boy Scouts.
So rest assured that you will not miss any important statements by Nancy Pelosi.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO DON'T LIKE CHRISTMAS, AND THEY HAVE NUKES – AT 11:18 A.M. ET: From Britain's Telegraph:
South Korea has lit a massive steel Christmas tree that overlooks the world's most heavily armed border and is within sight of North Korea, prompting threats of attack from the communist state.
The lighting of the tree after a seven-year hiatus marked a pointed return to a tradition that is condemned in Pyongyang as propaganda. The provocative ceremony - which needed government permission to take place - was also a sign that President Lee Myung-bak's administration is serious about countering the North's aggression with measures of its own in the wake of an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans last month.
North Korea, officially atheist and with only a handful of sanctioned churches in Pyongyang with services for foreigners, warned that lighting the tree would constitute a "dangerous, rash act" with the potential to trigger a war.
COMMENT: There are people who think like this. We ignore them, or minimize the danger they pose, at our peril.
TRACKING SANTA – AT 10:33 A.M. ET: A fine Christmas story. Did you know that NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, tracks Santa's progress? Oh yes, oh yes. They sure do.
Michelle Obama joined the folks at NORAD yesterday to help answer calls from kids who wanted to know where Santa was. We commend her for that gesture. There's a wonderful story in how the practice got started, as reported in The New York Times:
The program began in 1955 after a youngster in Colorado Springs, Col., dialed a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper looking for Santa – and wound up getting a commander at NORAD’s predecessor agency. The commander gave the child Santa’s whereabouts, and a tradition was born.
Today, NORAD runs a Web site, http://www.noradsanta.org and a live operations center with more than 1,200 volunteers who receive hundreds of calls and e-mails from around the world looking for Mr. Claus.
COMMENT: Now watch – "experts" will try to shut this down, claiming that we're misleading youth and warping their minds. No chance, guys. This will continue.
A TRUE SWEETHEART – AT 10:15 A.M. ET: Katherine Jenkins is the "sweetheart" of the British armed forces. That's an informal title, held in World War II by the legendary Vera Lynn, whose renditions of songs like "We'll Meet Again" became revered symbols of the war effort.
One role of the "sweetheart" is to travel around and entertain British troops. Katherine Jenkins, who is an outstanding, classically trained vocalist, was on a plane a few days ago, ready for a long trip to Afghanistan. But the plane was grounded by weather. So, what did she do? She got up and performed "Silent Night," a cappella. It was taped. I think you'll enjoy this. It's here.
ON GUARD – AT 10:06 A.M. ET: As America celebrates today, let us not forget those who are on guard for us all over the world.
And that must include the antiterrorism forces in the United States, who are unquestionably on special alert today. Please recall that it was one year ago, on Christmas, that a jihadist tried to bring down an airliner over Detroit. If the bomb had gone off, the day would have ended in tragedy. Fortunately, he did not succeed.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
- Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late last night.
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