Commentary Magazine


Topic: airline

From the Dept of Don’t Do Us Any Favors: Foreign Press Association Threatens to Boycott Israeli Officials

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

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The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Read Less

Global-Warming Cognitive Dissonance at the Nation

The evidence-suppressing academics at East Anglia University aren’t the only global-warming true believers who seem to be in a bit of a fog these days. Over at the Nation, two separate pieces both seem to acknowledge that the public is increasingly resistant to the deluge of environmental alarmism they’ve been peddling.

In a feature in their Dec. 21 print issue that is currently available on their website, Christopher Hayes bemoans the fact that global-warming hysteria isn’t selling as well as it used to. Hayes cites a Washington Post/ABC poll that shows a marked decline in support for the basic premise of global warming and an even more precipitate drop in the total of those who accept the theory that a rise in temperatures is the result of human activity.

How does Hayes explain this refusal of so many Americans to accept the dogma that is repeated endlessly in the media and throughout the culture almost without challenge? Of course, he ignores recent scandals such as the East Anglia affair, as well as the fact that, contrary to predictions, the planet hasn’t gotten any warmer in the past decade, something even the New York Times has acknowledged.

Instead, Hayes mostly blames it on the economic crisis and partisan hatred for Barack Obama. But that’s not all. He also blames the global-warming activists themselves for not being sufficiently scary. That’s right. Despite all the apocalyptic threats that have been put forward on behalf of this thesis based on theoretical models, Hayes believes that we haven’t had enough environmental hysteria. He believes the warming alarmists must stop talking about “green jobs” and the economic opportunities they claim will spring from the disastrous cap-and-trade policies they advocate. Instead, he wants them to just scream “the planet is melting.” I guess that’s supposed to reinforce the Left’s self-image as the advocates of reason and science.

But elsewhere on the Nation website, you can get a slightly different take on the same issue. In a video interview with Nation editorial-board member Tony Kushner, the famous playwright has his own riff on the question. Kushner modestly brushes off the praise of the magazine staffer plying the questions by saying that the mention of “the impact of human lives on the environment” in his 1991 play Angels in America in which “character Hannah Pitt fretted about the hole in the ozone layer” didn’t make him a prophet. He was just writing about what was “in the news” then as now, he claims. Though he puts down all skepticism about the theory to “greed” on the part of evil industrialists, he goes on to say that he thinks that the lack of progress toward passing economy-crippling measures aimed to stop global warming is due to the fact that people are aware of the impending catastrophe but are too numbed by its enormity to act. Kushner even thinks that, contrary to the evidence leaking out from East Anglia, the global-warming crowd has understated the danger so as not to create mass panic.

For those who want a small taste of Kushner’s idea of environmental reform, consider the passage where he fondly remembers the halt in commercial-airline flights after the 9/11 attacks, which he claims created a “staggering decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere!”

So what’s the answer here? Are we too scared by the specter of being cooked like a hot dog at Nathan’s in less than a decade, as Kushner thinks, or, as Hayes theorizes, have we not been frightened enough? Either way, it’s clear that the real fear on the Left is that more of the public isn’t buying their scare stories anymore.

The evidence-suppressing academics at East Anglia University aren’t the only global-warming true believers who seem to be in a bit of a fog these days. Over at the Nation, two separate pieces both seem to acknowledge that the public is increasingly resistant to the deluge of environmental alarmism they’ve been peddling.

In a feature in their Dec. 21 print issue that is currently available on their website, Christopher Hayes bemoans the fact that global-warming hysteria isn’t selling as well as it used to. Hayes cites a Washington Post/ABC poll that shows a marked decline in support for the basic premise of global warming and an even more precipitate drop in the total of those who accept the theory that a rise in temperatures is the result of human activity.

How does Hayes explain this refusal of so many Americans to accept the dogma that is repeated endlessly in the media and throughout the culture almost without challenge? Of course, he ignores recent scandals such as the East Anglia affair, as well as the fact that, contrary to predictions, the planet hasn’t gotten any warmer in the past decade, something even the New York Times has acknowledged.

Instead, Hayes mostly blames it on the economic crisis and partisan hatred for Barack Obama. But that’s not all. He also blames the global-warming activists themselves for not being sufficiently scary. That’s right. Despite all the apocalyptic threats that have been put forward on behalf of this thesis based on theoretical models, Hayes believes that we haven’t had enough environmental hysteria. He believes the warming alarmists must stop talking about “green jobs” and the economic opportunities they claim will spring from the disastrous cap-and-trade policies they advocate. Instead, he wants them to just scream “the planet is melting.” I guess that’s supposed to reinforce the Left’s self-image as the advocates of reason and science.

But elsewhere on the Nation website, you can get a slightly different take on the same issue. In a video interview with Nation editorial-board member Tony Kushner, the famous playwright has his own riff on the question. Kushner modestly brushes off the praise of the magazine staffer plying the questions by saying that the mention of “the impact of human lives on the environment” in his 1991 play Angels in America in which “character Hannah Pitt fretted about the hole in the ozone layer” didn’t make him a prophet. He was just writing about what was “in the news” then as now, he claims. Though he puts down all skepticism about the theory to “greed” on the part of evil industrialists, he goes on to say that he thinks that the lack of progress toward passing economy-crippling measures aimed to stop global warming is due to the fact that people are aware of the impending catastrophe but are too numbed by its enormity to act. Kushner even thinks that, contrary to the evidence leaking out from East Anglia, the global-warming crowd has understated the danger so as not to create mass panic.

For those who want a small taste of Kushner’s idea of environmental reform, consider the passage where he fondly remembers the halt in commercial-airline flights after the 9/11 attacks, which he claims created a “staggering decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere!”

So what’s the answer here? Are we too scared by the specter of being cooked like a hot dog at Nathan’s in less than a decade, as Kushner thinks, or, as Hayes theorizes, have we not been frightened enough? Either way, it’s clear that the real fear on the Left is that more of the public isn’t buying their scare stories anymore.

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Romney’s Rageless Bull

Yesterday during a South Carolina press conference, a reporter took Mitt Romney to task for claiming he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign and Romney returned fire with . . . something.

AP reporter Glenn Johnson  interrupted Romney and said, “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman’s a lobbyist. How can you say that you don’t have lobbyists?” It is true that Kaufman is both a lobbyist and involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Romney went on the defense: “I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign and he’s not running my campaign.”

The unconvincing renunciation of lobbyists is neither new nor interesting. So, the media has tried to make something of Mitt Romney’s supposed outrage in response. But, as this clip of the incident demonstrates, Romney doesn’t do outrage very convincingly either. As the video reveals, he scolds the reporter with all the ferocity of a commercial airline pilot reporting on wind condition and ETA. Romney is a good face man, and a talented fixer, but this is no time for a smooth, safe, and comfortable presidency. When Bill Clinton flips he resembles a child having a tantrum and John McCain is capable of white-hot fury. Mitt Romney’s placid mien and financial and organizational know-how might make him, say, an excellent secretary of the treasury. But not a president.

Yesterday during a South Carolina press conference, a reporter took Mitt Romney to task for claiming he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign and Romney returned fire with . . . something.

AP reporter Glenn Johnson  interrupted Romney and said, “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman’s a lobbyist. How can you say that you don’t have lobbyists?” It is true that Kaufman is both a lobbyist and involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Romney went on the defense: “I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign and he’s not running my campaign.”

The unconvincing renunciation of lobbyists is neither new nor interesting. So, the media has tried to make something of Mitt Romney’s supposed outrage in response. But, as this clip of the incident demonstrates, Romney doesn’t do outrage very convincingly either. As the video reveals, he scolds the reporter with all the ferocity of a commercial airline pilot reporting on wind condition and ETA. Romney is a good face man, and a talented fixer, but this is no time for a smooth, safe, and comfortable presidency. When Bill Clinton flips he resembles a child having a tantrum and John McCain is capable of white-hot fury. Mitt Romney’s placid mien and financial and organizational know-how might make him, say, an excellent secretary of the treasury. But not a president.

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Lost in Translation

On last Friday’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN’s John Vause highlighted one more danger of boarding an international flight in the United States: many pilots don’t know enough English to communicate with control towers. This April, for instance, an Air China flight headed to Kennedy Airport repeatedly failed to understand air traffic control commands both in the air and on the ground. “Nobody seems to speak English here today,” a frustrated controller finally said before Flight 981 stopped on the tarmac.

Air China, of course, declared it was the tower’s fault. “He didn’t use the standard RKO language,” explained Xu Xiukai, an English instructor for the airline. “That’s why the pilot didn’t catch the actual meaning.” (Xu apparently garbled his words during the CNN interview—he probably meant ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization.) Even if Air China is correct in this regard, pilots should know enough English, the language of air traffic communications around the world, to understand overworked controllers.

The problem is not limited to Chinese fliers, of course. Miscommunication occurs with pilots of virtually all nationalities. Yet China’s situation is especially acute. Chinese airlines have approximately 8,600 pilots flying international routes. Only 651 of them have passed the ICAO oral English exam.

It will be next March before all pilots on international routes must pass the ICAO’s test before being allowed to fly. Until then, my advice is to take ground transportation.

On last Friday’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN’s John Vause highlighted one more danger of boarding an international flight in the United States: many pilots don’t know enough English to communicate with control towers. This April, for instance, an Air China flight headed to Kennedy Airport repeatedly failed to understand air traffic control commands both in the air and on the ground. “Nobody seems to speak English here today,” a frustrated controller finally said before Flight 981 stopped on the tarmac.

Air China, of course, declared it was the tower’s fault. “He didn’t use the standard RKO language,” explained Xu Xiukai, an English instructor for the airline. “That’s why the pilot didn’t catch the actual meaning.” (Xu apparently garbled his words during the CNN interview—he probably meant ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization.) Even if Air China is correct in this regard, pilots should know enough English, the language of air traffic communications around the world, to understand overworked controllers.

The problem is not limited to Chinese fliers, of course. Miscommunication occurs with pilots of virtually all nationalities. Yet China’s situation is especially acute. Chinese airlines have approximately 8,600 pilots flying international routes. Only 651 of them have passed the ICAO oral English exam.

It will be next March before all pilots on international routes must pass the ICAO’s test before being allowed to fly. Until then, my advice is to take ground transportation.

Read Less

Blue on Valentine’s

The Valentine’s Day snowstorm that caused massive trouble for JetBlue—hundreds of canceled flights, ten-hour delays, finger pointing, and “voice cracking” pleas for forgiveness from JetBlue’s chairman—spurred Senator Barbara Boxer of California to propose a “Passengers’ Bill of Rights” to protect passengers, and especially “infants and the elderly,” because “no one should be held hostage.”

The Washington Post would seem to agree, editorializing that more regulation is “a fair approach.” The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, believes that it is a terrible idea: “the market will fix the problem better than any legislator.”

Read More

The Valentine’s Day snowstorm that caused massive trouble for JetBlue—hundreds of canceled flights, ten-hour delays, finger pointing, and “voice cracking” pleas for forgiveness from JetBlue’s chairman—spurred Senator Barbara Boxer of California to propose a “Passengers’ Bill of Rights” to protect passengers, and especially “infants and the elderly,” because “no one should be held hostage.”

The Washington Post would seem to agree, editorializing that more regulation is “a fair approach.” The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, believes that it is a terrible idea: “the market will fix the problem better than any legislator.”


In fact, one might see Senator Boxer’s initiative as an example of the dangers of a Democratic Congress, and especially of the party’s core belief that government can fix problems better than markets can. “If there’s anything more dangerous than a blizzard at an airport,” warns the Los Angeles Times, “it’s legislators who react to it by proposing new laws.”

A law like Senator Boxer’s already exists elsewhere. The European Union has an “Air Passenger Rights” act that entitles delayed passengers to compensation of $350 to $800, depending on the length of the delay. The problem is that delays are often created by circumstances beyond an airline’s control, like a snowstorm. So instead of delaying flights and putting themselves at risk of violating the law, carriers in Europe are now simply canceling flights. Surely the majority of passengers would rather be delayed six hours than be nowhere at all.

And cancellation still causes havoc, as European airlines are not necessarily obliged to compensate passengers for delays caused by “extraordinary circumstances.” Who defines what those are? Judges, lawyers, and litigation. Boxer’s short statement does not mention financial penalties for airlines, but even if exact dollar figures are not incorporated into her law, litigation against the airline industry by its “hostages” would not be long in coming.

That’s when there’s trouble on the ground. When there’s trouble in the air, passengers would be truly at risk. For instance, two years ago, shortly after the European regulation became law, an engine of a British Airways Boeing 747 caught fire following takeoff from Los Angeles. After contacting BA’s control center, the pilots were told to continue the eleven-hour flight to London instead of landing the plane—which would have caused a delay of at least five hours and cost BA $200,000 in penalties.

The risk BA took was small: flying on three engines is considered safe. But it takes just one miscalculation to cause a tragedy. As compared with that prospect, being “held hostage” in a plane for six, or ten, or even eleven hours—especially in this age of mobile phones and in-seat entertainment—seems like a tolerable fate after all.

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