"Let's Fight a War Game ... Everybody Dies": A Bridge Too Far & Operation

One of my favorite World War II movies is "A Bridge Too Far", focusing on the Allies' ambitious Operation Market Garden. This movie was based upon a bold Allied plan to cut off a large part of the retreating German forces in Belgium and Holland, and position the Allies to launch a push eastwards across the north German plain country before the end of 1944.

The operation, planned by British General Bernard Montgomery, unfolded in September of 1944, with three airborne divisions, the US 82nd and 101st, and British 1st (joined by the Polish Airborne Brigade) assigned to seize several critical bridge chokepoints along a highway corridor that extended halfway across Holland, northwards to the critical Rhine River crossing at Arnhem. The British 30 Corps would push northwards, connecting the "islands", and the US First Army would then push across Belgium to catch a large part of the German forces in the West in a pocket.

If the operation had worked, the war could have been shortened by months as Allied forces would have poured into Germany months before the Western Allies finally managed to cross the Rhine River, maybe even reaching Berlin ahead of the Red Army.

But that's not quite how it worked.

Overconfidence and errors in planning and intelligence led to Allies underestimating the strength, quality, and morale of German forces. Of the many errors, none were more tragic than the dropping of the British and Polish Airborne troops into the Arnhem area, where they faced two crack SS Panzer divisions and were massacred.

While most of the advance planned by Montgomery was completed, the effort to seize Arnhem failed as German resistance to the south of Arnhem put 30 Corps nearly a week behind schedule. This allowed the Panzer divisions to focus on eliminating the airborne forces before reinforcements could arrive. The result was a fifty-mile dead end that did little to effect the strategic situation, or to position the Western Allies to punch into Germany.

Based on a book by Cornelius Ryan, this movie was one of the last "ensemble" movies with large number of well-known actors. Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, and others were in this film. Ryan also wrote the book and then screenplay for "The Longest Day", an other WW II classic movie about the D-Day invasion.

Much of this film centers around the experience of the doomed British 1st Airborne. As opposed to many movies which depict the Allies as overly-competent heroes, and the Germans as bungling villans, the movie fairly showed both sides, complete with bungling by British planners, and Germans who fought back with skill and determination, as well as mercy towards the British who surrendered.

Check out this BBC report on the battle and this memorial website for more information.

The title quote is attributed to Polish Maj. Gen. Stanislaw Sosabowski, the commander of the Polish Airborne Brigade, in a rather blunt assessment of the operation.

Quantity or Quality: Which is the better approach for contemporary media?

Recently, I posted some thoughts on the transformation of the media from a "gatekeeper" role in which a limited number of outlets and time allowed media to screen what was put out for public consumption, into a wide range of outlets, each now competing for who can get the most news out in the least time, to keep from being scooped by all the other outlets.

A prime example is discussed by a mea culpa story that ran in today's online edition of USA Today. The news media outlet published nearly half its papers with reports that the West Virginia miners were found alive. Instead of all but one alive, it turned out that all but one were found DEAD.

A finding of the research of Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams was that the media will often rush stories out to their audiences without vetting them. This is also a criticism which has been made of the now-famous Dan Rather "Memogate" (why do scandals now have to end in "gate" anyway?), in which a big story was rushed to the public, only to have it quickly debunked. In the past, when media was under more control by these "gatekeepers", these stories had time to be vetted before the evening news or morning paper ran, but in the 24-hour news cycle, it seems to be more about getting the story out first before getting it right.

As Dan Rather found out last year, USA Today found out that you can take a major story, rush it to the public, and really blow it in doing so.

While there are benefits from the "democratization" of news coverage, the lack of professional filtering and vetting certainly has its drawbacks, which have the potential to be rather harmful indeed.

2005: What ROCKED in my world

Ok, first of the postings of my 2005 in review, as promised.

In high school, I was a metal-head, and still am. I'm extremely fortunate that these bands that were big in my teenage years are still out there, touring. This year, I got to see some of these bands live and in person. Here's who I got to see:

Judas Priest - saw them in Atlanta in June
Queensryche - saw them open for the Priest in June, and saw their Mindcrime tour in Myrtle Beach in October.
WASP - saw them in Myrtle Beach in August.
LA Guns - saw them last fall, and in August in Myrtle Beach.
Stephen Pearcy (ex-frontman for RATT) - saw him with his Rat Pack band in Myrtle Beach.

All were pretty good, but who REALLY rocked?

WASP - Blackie Lawless and the boys took the audience along with them on a wild ride to "Helldorado" - the primal depths, spitting blood and growling out all those songs that got Al Gore's wife in a tizzy in the 80s.

Queensryche - their two-parter in Myrtle Beach was an amazing performance, with the second part being a performance of their classic Operation Mindcrime show, from start to finish, complete with characters performing the roles of Nikki and Sister Mary. They're promising a similar performance in '06, when they hit the road in support of their Mindcrime II album, with Ronnie James Dio playing the role of Doctor X. I would say this was the one show to see this year, except for ...

JUDAS PRIEST!!! I've been a lifelong fan of the Priest, and when Rob Halford left the band right after I got out of high school, I figured that was that. But Halford rejoined the band and they hit the road, performing a collection reaching from their earliest matertial to stuff from their Angel of Retribution album. Rob STILL hits those amazingly-high notes that are guaranteed to leave your ears ringing. That show was the SHOW OF A LIFETIME.

So that's my year of rock and roll. I'm looking forward to seeing more bands and shows this year!

End of Media as gatekeepers?

There are those of you who remember a time when the news media mix consisted of three national network news broadcasts, preceeded by local news, a local newspaper and several weekly news magazines, such as Time and Newsweek.

As I point out in lectures I present on Media and Political Communication, we've seen tremendous changes in what is news media in the last twenty years. CNN proved its viability in the early 80s, joined by several other news networks. Talk radio rose in the late 80s, then the Internet in the mid 90s, and the rise of bloggers in the early years of the 21 century. Where the average person of a generation ago have four or five news sources, they now have a dozen or more convenient to them, with many more out there.

Unlike the "good old days" where the news was vetted and screened in plenty of time for the daily paper or evening news, we now live in a 24-hour world, with news websites, all-day/all-night cable news channels, and front-line combat journalists with satellite video phones. News outlets that hold a story to make sure its newsworthy or edit it for better clarity, or get time to present both sides of a breaking story, will often get left behind in a "first strike" new reality of news media.

Where media once had the benefit of time and market position to act as "gatekeepers", screening and developing raw news for what they felt was the way the story should appear to audiences, now they have become a jumble of "conduits", in which everyone is seeking to get the news quicker than the other guy.

The media "gatekeepers" are dead, victims of the reality of an instant, always-on, global village.

This is a point of view which is shared by Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams in their 2004 paper entitled "Monica and Bill All the Time and Everywhere", which looked at how the media evolution made it increasingly difficult for the Clinton administration to shut stories up, as well as for the media and politicians to put their spins on what did make it out for public consumption. As media competed to get stories out with growing speed and less message-shaping, it gave audiences more information and less opinion with which to form their opinions.

In their groundbreaking work in the field of Agenda Setting theory, conducted in 1972, Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw found that media was far more effective at telling people what to think about than what to think about that subject. Delli Carpini and William's findings that people make up their own minds when given enough unfiltered information is certainly consistent with McCombs and Shaw's findings.

"I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes though I'm gonna be on for an hour."

The world has lost a champion of the much-needed ability to laugh at ourselves. Richard Pryor will be missed.

Rest in peace, Richard.

Miami Vice ... then, now, and forever

Today, I got the recently-released DVD set of the second season of Miami Vice, which I've been eagerly awaiting since last spring, when I got the first season.

In the early 80's, Michael Mann created a cop show like none other. Built around cool hit music and fashion, an amazing roster of guest stars, and sporty cars, the show brought us weekly looks at high times, easy living, and fast dying in the multi-cultural blender of Miami.

Before Bad Boys and CSI Miami, Miami Vice was the REAL story of high-crime in Miami. Everything that came afterwards was just an imitation.

What most people didn't see behind the show's visual imagery was the complex stories Mann weaved through many of the episodes of the series. Characters who lived not in a world of good/bad or black and white, but rather shades of grey, with people living with (and sometimes trapped by) the fate they often made for themselves. Bad guys living by codes of honor, cops with personal struggles, and so forth. It wasn't just in Miami Vice where Mann told these kinds of stories, as one could see this approach in movies like Band of the Hand, Heat, and Collateral.

Next summer, Mann is releasing an movie version of the Miami Vice series, starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx playing Crockett and Tubbs. Judging from the preview, some of the behind-the-scenes chatter about the movie, and Mann's refinement of his complex storytelling approach, I'm eager to see how he has worked to reframe the story of Crockett and Tubbs, making their characters relevant to today's times.

Miami Vice ... then, now, and for years to come ... go check it out!


Queensryche Mindcrime tour pics

Found these links for pictures from this year's Queensryche tour, courtesy of the Pamela Moore Alliance. Moore performed the role of Sister Mary on the album and on this year's Mindcrime Tour, and will be part of the Mindcrime II album, to be released in March. Go take a look.


Ya'll enjoy!

Congratulations to ... Me

Congrats to me!

Last night, I was elected Vice-Chairman of the Alumni Association for my college's Department of Communication. Less than two years after graduation too ...

Wednesday, I was elected Chairman of the Lowcountry Utilities Coordinating Committee, a work-related association I've been involved with for several years.

Two offices in two days - WOW! Looks like my life is getting better and better, and busier and busier too. Maybe life on my own isn't so bad after all!

Carroll Campbell, South Carolina's Greatest Governor

Carroll Campbell, whose term of governor between 1987 and 1995 changed South Carolina in many ways, passed away today after a long fight with Alzheimer's Disease.

As someone who grew up in a Southern state that was, and still is, fighting to move beyond the shadow of its past as a poorly-educated, segregationist society run by well-heeled insiders running the state to protect their interests, friends, and values, Campbell was a rare reformer who looked beyond the here and now, and worked to move South Carolina forward.

In the early 90's, after high school, I was one of his many street soldiers, testifying at legislative hearings, calling talk shows, letters to the editor, etc. in support of various Campbell reform issues. I was glad to do lend my support in moving those efforts, and this state, forward. Together, we prevailed on restructing, auto insurance reform, new ethics laws, tax reform, and other issues that made this state a little fairer and a little easier for the average person to live in, and for our children to grow up in.

He was a rare breed. Courageous, tough, and determined, Carroll Campbell is a leader and mentor to many, myself included, and will be missed greatly.

.. and a friend who we'll miss dearly. Rest in peace, Carroll.

"As only the second Republican governor in a then-Democratic dominated state, he persuaded the General Assembly to pass almost all of his priorities," said Whit Ayers, a Virginia-based Republican pollster who was a top Campbell aide in the first term. "He did so by appealing to the Democratic leadership to work together for the good of the state," Ayres said. As governor, Campbell:

  • Revamped the state's tax code to make it more business-friendly, resulting in record economic development.
  • Set the precedent of submitting an executive budget to the Legislature, a task previously performed by the Budget and Control Board.
  • Directed new expenditures into education, creating the Governor's
    School for Science and Math and the Governor's Teaching Scholarship.
  • Won partial restructuring of state government, putting formerly board-run agencies, unaccountable to the public, under a cabinet secretary reporting to the governor.

The scion of a blue-blooded family fallen on hard times who never went to college in the traditional sense, Campbell was a risk-taker of immense drive who found early success in business, then politics. "He always had the heart of an underdog," said Bob McAlister, a top aide during Campbell's eight years as governor, close friend and spiritual adviser. "He always saw himself as that young man in Greenville struggling to make a living."

In his 1986 campaign for governor, Campbell would rail at the "good 'ol boys" he said dominated state politics for their own, not the people's, prosperity.

The eight years as governor were marked by strong economic development, topped off by his personal efforts to woo BMW to the Upstate, and a major initiative that restructured part of state government bringing more authority to his successors at the expense of the Legislature.

Fowler found himself on the same side as Campbell — and with current Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's next-step efforts — in the government restructuring fight. "He deserves good marks for that, and his economic development efforts," Fowler said of Campbell. "BMW did come here when he was governor and it's been an economic blessing."

Former Democratic Gov. Robert McNair has credited Campbell with breathing new life into a sagging industry-hunting effort, getting the state "back into the international arena where we had in 1960s and 1970s been a leader, both regionally and nationally. "He did it the way you have to do it, by personal involvement (as) a tremendous spokesman for the state," McNair said a decade ago

Holiday Cheese

Allow me to share with ya'll this picture of my house, all decked out for the holidays.

More to come soon ...

Stay the Course in Iraq ... says Who?!?

Which United States Senator wrote this quote in the Wall Street Journal:

What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
Joe Lieberman, a DEMOCRATIC Senator from Connecticut, 2000 running mate of Al Gore, and probably one of the most decent human beings in the Washington political arena, regardless of party. Here are some more quotes from his Wall Street Journal op-ed:

I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

The leaders of America's military and diplomatic forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey and Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, have a clear and compelling vision of our mission there. It is to create the environment in which Iraqi democracy, security and prosperity can take hold and the Iraqis themselves can defend their political progress against those 10,000 terrorists who would take it from them.

Anyone with half a brain knows that for generations, freedom wasn't defended at home, nor expanded abroad as the outcome of partisan politics, but rather by bipartisan visionaries who knew when party politics was vitally important, and when it was terribly destructive.

Politics stops at the waters' edge, but freedom must carry on. Thanks for seeing that, Senator.

Click on the link in the title to read the full article. Stay tuned as I plan to post more about what is REALLY going on "over there".

What a good morning (... in Outland)

For those of you who don't know, I was a big fan of the Bloom County comic strip series from the 80s, which was extended into the weekend-only Outland, then Opus strips.

Recently, I subscribed to a service where they email me strips from his twenty years of series. I thought I'd share this one with ya'll today ... watch as Opus' great morning is riddled with guilt trips for every happy and selfish indulgence.

You can view the full-size and much-more-readable version of this strip by clicking on the image.

From South Carolina to Canada ... eh? (11/22/05)

Just read an update on the goings-on of the new U.S. ambassador to CanadaAmbassador David Wilkins, the long-time speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives and Greenville, S.C. native is bringing a little bit of South Carolina to the Great White North.

In his recent e-newsletter to the folks back home, he names five major difference between South Carolina and Canada:

1.   In Canada, eating a beavertail is a really good thing!  (It's like eating an elephant ear at the state fair).

2.   In Canada, a barbeque means a grill and if you're going to a barbeque you're usually eating hotdogs and hamburgers.

3.  Boiled peanuts are quite a novelty here!  I mentioned going to a "peanut boil" at my first press conference the day I was sworn-in in Washington.   Before I even arrived in Canada, entire segments of news talk radio were devoted to the issue of boiled peanuts.   I recently hosted a reception for members of the press corps at the residence and gave each of them a can of boiled peanuts "courtesy of the Ambassador."

4.   There is no Canadian equivalent of "y'all."  So I spend an awful lot of time explaining to my Canadian friends that the plural of "y'all" is "all y'all". 

5.  Hockey rules!  It is the national pastime.

David ... ya'll take care up there and try to come back home real soon, eh?

Islam & Tolerance, Civility and Democracy (11/21/05)

Here are some questions from Dennis Prager , a nationally syndicated radio show host:

THE RIOTING IN France by primarily Muslim youths and the hotel bombings in Jordan are the latest events to prompt sincere questions that law-abiding Muslims need to answer for Islam's sake, as well as for the sake of worried non-Muslims.

Here are five of them:

(1) Why are you so quiet?

Since the first Israelis were targeted for death by Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up in the name of your religion and Palestinian nationalism, I have been praying to see Muslim demonstrations against these atrocities. Last week's protests in Jordan against the bombings, while welcome, were a rarity. What I have seen more often is mainstream Muslim spokesmen implicitly defending this terror on the grounds that Israel occupies Palestinian lands. We see torture and murder in the name of Allah, but we see no anti-torture and anti-murder demonstrations in the name of Allah.

There are a billion Muslims in the world. How is it possible that essentially none have demonstrated against evils perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam? This is true even of the millions of Muslims living in free Western societies. What are non-Muslims of goodwill supposed to conclude? When the Israeli government did not stop a Lebanese massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, great crowds of Israeli Jews gathered to protest their country's moral failing. Why has there been no comparable public demonstration by Palestinians or other Muslims to morally condemn Palestinian or other Muslim-committed terror?

(2) Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?

If Israeli occupation is the reason for Muslim terror in Israel, why do no Christian Palestinians engage in terror? They are just as nationalistic and just as occupied as Muslim Palestinians.

(3) Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?

According to Freedom House, a Washington-based group that promotes democracy, of the world's 47 Muslim countries, only Mali is free. Sixty percent are not free, and 38% are partly free. Muslim-majority states account for a majority of the world's "not free" states. And of the 10 "worst of the worst," seven are Islamic states. Why is this?

(4) Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?

Young girls in Indonesia were recently beheaded by Muslim murderers. Last year, Muslims — in the name of Islam — murdered hundreds of schoolchildren in Russia. While reciting Muslim prayers, Islamic terrorists take foreigners working to make Iraq free and slaughter them. Muslim daughters are murdered by their own families in the thousands in "honor killings." And the Muslim government in Iran has publicly called for the extermination of Israel.

(5) Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

No church or synagogue is allowed in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban destroyed some of the greatest sculptures of the ancient world because they were Buddhist. Sudan's Islamic regime has murdered great numbers of Christians.

Instead of confronting these problems, too many of you deny them. Muslims call my radio show to tell me that even speaking of Muslim or Islamic terrorists is wrong. After all, they argue, Timothy McVeigh is never labeled a "Christian terrorist." As if McVeigh committed his terror as a churchgoing Christian and in the name of Christ, and as if there were Christian-based terror groups around the world.

As a member of the media for nearly 25 years, I have a long record of reaching out to Muslims. Muslim leaders have invited me to speak at major mosques. In addition, I have studied Arabic and Islam, have visited most Arab and many other Muslim countries and conducted interfaith dialogues with Muslims in the United Arab Emirates as well as in the U.S. Politically, I have supported creation of a Palestinian state and supported (mistakenly, I now believe) the Oslo accords.

Hundreds of millions of non-Muslims want honest answers to these questions, even if the only answer you offer is, "Yes, we have real problems in Islam." Such an acknowledgment is infinitely better — for you and for the world — than dismissing us as anti-Muslim.

We await your response.

I'm waiting too ...

Whole Lotta Shakin' going on? (11/20/05)

Sorry I haven't been posting very much lately.  Not only have I had to contend with a recent court hearing, but I've got to keep on top of the end-of-the-semester grind in school, but today, something came up that was worth sharing with ya'll.

I'll bet this story sounds like a story you'd find in the California media:

The quake, which struck about 3 p.m. Saturday, raised eyebrows and worried children, but caused no damage. The U.S. Geological Survey took note of the event but did not report its magnitude as of late Saturday.

... right?  No ... WRONG!  This was a shaker that occured here in the Summerville area, right where I live, according to this  Post and Courier story.

In case you didn't know, Charleston is not only a big hurricane target, with dozens of major hurricanes having made landfall in or near the city since the first settlers landed on Town Creek in 1670.   It is well-known as one of the most seismically active locations in North America outside of California.

That means we get earthquakes.  Not like they get in California - but we get a couple of very minor tremors a year.  Enough to shake and notice, but not enough to do any damage.

The photo is a scene of the devastation from the great earthquake of 1886, which killed over 60 people, sparked fires which devastated large parts of the city, and was considered the worst earthquake in American history until the great San Francisco earthquake of about a century ago.

This report from 1906 in the San Francisco Chronicle  summarizes the devastation that stuck the city:

“Seven-eighths of the houses were rendered unfit for habitation, many persons were killed and property valued at over $8,000,000 was destroyed. The damage, however, was quickly repaired.”

Following the first great shock, the only one which did any damage, lighter and lesser vibrations were felt at intervals for several weeks. These gradually became less frequent and finally ceased, even as the minds of the people ceased to dwell on the disaster as they took up again their ordinary pursuits.

It will be even so in San Francisco. It was not the earthquake but the fire that wrought the destruction in this great city. If anyone thinks there is no resurrection from earthquake effects let him be referred to Charleston for an answer. Thousands fled the city as soon as they could get transportation, but as soon as they recovered their reason they returned as rapidly to join the brave army of workers that were rebuilding. It will be so here.

Thrice in a generation Charleston was nearly obliterated. The civil war left it in ashes, the earthquake left it in ruins, a few years subsequent it was visited by a cyclone which damaged it over $5,000,000. Yet despite all these disasters her brave people have risen superior to every reverse and are daily growing in wealth and power.

David Lee Roth ... alive and well (11/11/05)

Recently, I've been playing a lot of David Lee Roth's "Crazy from the Heat" and "Skyscraper" solo albums.

For those of you who missed the 80s, Diamond Dave was THE original front man for Van Halen, and for a decade and half-dozen albums, Dave was truly loud, proud and in front of the band. Then, for whatever reason, Dave went solo, except to record two songs with Van Halen in 1996.

Anyway, I recently found two videos of a performance he did with the Boston Pops - Jump and California Girls . His hair's shorter, voice ain't as good as it used to be, but he's still clearly as wild as ever. Go take a look.