26 April 2002

Courtesy of Slate e-magazine:
How Bob Woodward made Norman Mineta a false hero.
by Joshua Green
Posted Monday, April 1, 2002, at 4:02 PM PT

Among the public officials who gained folk-hero status on Sept. 11, only Rudolph Giuliani outshines Norman Mineta, who is credited with making the snap decision to ground all airborne planes shortly after the Pentagon attack. The transportation secretary was canonized in the opening paragraphs of Bob Woodward and Dan Balz's six-part Washington Post epic, "10 Days in September":

Mineta shouted into the phone to Monte Belger at the FAA: "Monte, bring all the planes down." It was an unprecedented order—there were 4,546 airplanes in the air at the time. Belger, the FAA's acting deputy administrator, amended Mineta's directive to take into account the authority vested in airline pilots. "We're bringing them down per pilot discretion," Belger told the secretary. "[Expletive] pilot discretion," Mineta yelled back. "Get those goddamn planes down."

Mineta's courageous performance has been widely praised, not least by Mineta himself in a Sept. 20 appearance before Congress, and again on 60 Minutes II a month later. Here's his congressional testimony:

I immediately called the FAA, told them to bring all the airplanes down right now. All that we have learned since that fateful morning leaves me convinced that this unusual command or order was the right thing to do.

For Mineta, the genuflection this tale has engendered has been a welcome distraction from less mythic performances, such as his department's problems getting the new airport security agency off the ground. Long considered a competent if unremarkable backbencher, Mineta has refashioned himself as a quick-thinking decision-maker with flawless instincts in an emergency.

He may be that, but he isn't the hero Woodward and Balz make him out to be. According to insiders, that honor belongs to Monte Belger, at the time the No. 2 official at the FAA. A precise, diligent career bureaucrat known among colleagues as "the Forrest Gump of the FAA," Belger was on a phone bridge with controllers at the David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., and ordered flights grounded 15 minutes before Mineta was even notified of the attacks. So, when the secretary issued his blunt order—"Monte, bring all the planes down!"—Monte had already done so.

FAA officials and beat reporters have known this for months. "Any clued-in transportation reporter knows what went on that day," says one. But Mineta apparently does not. After he gave his congressional testimony, FAA officials, including Belger, who is a consummate team player, kept quiet in deference to their boss. Though beat reporters knew the truth as long ago as November, none came forward for fear of being frozen out.

Until last Tuesday, when, at the end of a speech before the Aero Club of Washington, D.C., the Washington Post's veteran transportation reporter Don Phillips let the cat out of the bag. Phillips told his audience he felt it necessary to make a "historical correction," although FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction. Phillips proposed, charitably, that Mineta's order was a simple misunderstanding; that the secretary was unaware that "[f]or at least 15 minutes before Mineta's conversation with the FAA, controllers were bringing the planes down ... at the nearest airport." Phillips continued:

I'm told by very high sources that it happened this way: First, the decision was made on a regional basis by some gutsy local FAA officials, and the FAA command center and headquarters officials agreed that it should be spread to the whole country. First, [the FAA] acted. Then they sought permission. A top FAA official ... then called Mineta, finding him in a bunker with the vice president and other officials. He explained the plan, and Mineta agreed. ...

Then there was a pause in the conversation. You know what many of us do when there is a pause in the conversation. We try to fill the dead time. The FAA official, unfortunately said something like, "Of course we could have let them go on to their destinations, or ..." Big mistake. Norm heard that throwaway line as saying the FAA was still considering letting them go on to destination. He then fired off his now-famous order.

All this raises the question of why, if every reporter on the transportation beat knew the truth about Mineta's command, Woodward and Balz got it wrong. It's plausible that Mineta really didn't know the truth about Sept. 11—that due to his deputies' protectiveness, the secretary has been unwittingly repeating an erroneous version of events.

But that doesn't excuse Woodward and Balz. Unlike so many other juicy Woodward anecdotes, this one was easily verifiable, particularly since their Post colleague, Phillips, had ferreted out the truth. "I have no reason to doubt that the more complicated version that [Phillips] explains is probably the accurate one," Balz says.

Woodward isn't nearly as ready to concede. "This is the first I've heard of it," he told me, adding that he checked his version of the story with Mineta's staff. "If I'd known of that information—and it was correct—I probably would have included [the anecdote]. But no correction is necessary. What we wrote is not inaccurate." Not inaccurate, perhaps—but not exactly accurate either.

24 April 2002

The "Environmentalists" are at least as dumb now as they were in 1970:

Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia)
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Disputing claims of impending doom

By Anthony Dick
Cavalier Daily Associate Editor

THIRTY-TWO years and two days ago, the first Earth Day kicked off amid gloomy outlooks on the future of the planet. In the April 1970 issue of "Mademoiselle," prominent Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich fueled environmental angst with the prophecy that "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100 to 200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." The same year, Ehrlich made the even bolder claim that, between 1980 and 1989, 4 billion people - including 65 million Americans - would die worldwide due to rampant overpopulation, environmental pollution and starvation. That same year, "Life" magazine reported, "in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution" (http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml).

With other environmental scientists agreeing with Ehrlich, public passions ran high and people braced for the cataclysm that the experts told them inevitably was coming. But it never did.

Today, many fervent environmentalists predict the year 2030 to be as bleak for humanity as Ehrlich thought 2000 would be. While there still are numerous legitimate environmental concerns and challenges that the world must meet resolutely, the Earth's future isn't the foregone conclusion of silent springs, barren landscapes and famine that green-clad prophets of doom would like us to think.

The staggeringly false predictions of Ehrlich and other environmentalists of the 1970s teach us two important deterministic assumptions that we must avoid if we are to think clearly about our planet's future. The first assumption was based on Thomas Malthus' postulate that as population sizes rise exponentially, food production and supply only will increase arithmetically. The second assumption is built on the unpleasant imagery of billowing smokestacks and smog-spewing automobiles that many shared in the 1970s. It stated that as technology and industrialization increased, pollution of both air and water also would inevitably rise to critical levels.

Yet the world population has almost doubled since 1970, from 3.5 billion to just over 6 billion, and the world has become undeniably more saturated by both technology and industry. Contrary to Ehrlich's prophecy of doom, though, the amount of food that exists per person today is more than 25 percent larger than it was in 1970. Between 1960 and 1987, food production increased nearly 60 percent, without any significant increase in land area devoted to this production (http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's National Air Trends Report of 2000, located on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/oar/aqtrnd00, U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased 158 percent, energy consumption increased 45 percent and vehicle miles traveled have increased 143 percent since 1970.

At the same time, emissions of the six principal pollutants have been reduced 29 percent in the United States. Reason Magazine Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey points out that in 2000, levels of carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide in the air had been reduced by over 75 percent, while airborne dust and smoke had been similarly reduced by over half of what they were halfway through 20th century (http://reason.com/0005/fe.rb.earth.shtml).

So the prophets of doom were wrong - and they still are. The inherent nature of human civilization does not make it incompatible with the planet that sustains it. The human race is not the parasitic entity that it thought itself to be when it forged Earth Day out of its own self-disgust. As our technology and affluence grow, so does the positive prognosis for our planet.

Advances in human civilization account for the failure of both population explosion and pollutant technology to spark the popular environmentalists' much-anticipated post-1970s cataclysm. The genetic engineering of grains and improved agricultural methods enabled by a world of growing wealth have allowed the world's food supply to far exceed expectations and outpace population growth. As the nations of the world have become more industrialized, they have become more educated and aware of their natural environment. This increase in knowledge, coupled with awareness, has allowed for the development of cleaner, more efficient technologies that have led to the substantial reduction in both air and water pollution that we see today relative to the 1970s.

The environmental problems that face the Earth today are serious, but they are not the terminal cancer that many hype them to be. We still must work to use the intelligence and environmental awareness that our civilization allows us. Achieving even cleaner energy technologies, greater resource conservation and more efficient waste management are formidable challenges that face us in the next century. But they are challenges that we can meet, and that we will meet. Overzealous environmentalists do not give human ingenuity its due - armed with the fruits of a growing civilization, our future never has looked brighter.

(Anthony Dick is a Cavalier Daily associate editor. He can be reached at adick@cavalierdaily.com.)

22 April 2002

The Transportation Command's latest over the shore exercise --
[from TRANSCOM Newsletter]

MARAD key participant in JLOTS exercise

Transportation Command, along with
numerous agencies, participated in a Joint Logistics
Over the Shore (JLOTS)
exercise as part of exercise Native Atlas here this

More than 2500 military and civilian personnel,
representing all U.S. forces
and the U.S. Maritime Administration, were part of the
exercise that
highlighted the ability of the U.S. to project power
from the sea and
sustain forces on the ground. U.S. Central Command
sponsored the exercise.

Executing a JLOTS operation is necessary when port
facilities are
non-existent, denied or inadequate for military

In a JLOTS operation, equipment is moved from cargo
ships anchored offshore
to the shore using a variety of U.S. Navy and Army
lighterage. Some
equipment is taken to a 1261-foot, semi-permanent pier
(known as an elevated
causeway) that is constructed by Navy units. Rolling
stock was moved
directly to the beach.

During the JLOTS, 1258 pieces of equipment were moved
from the Military
Sealift Command ship USNS Seay.

USNS Seay, a large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off (or
LMSR) ship is a
noncombatant ship operated by a private company under
contract to MSC. It
has 387,600 square feet of cargo carrying capacity.

MSC is the Navy component to USTRANSCOM and is
headquartered in Washington,

Also as part of the exercise, joint forces exercised
strategic offloads of
container systems and pumping of simulated fuel (fresh
water) from ship to
shore using the Navy's offshore petroleum discharge
system. The simulated
fuel was then moved to storage and distribution
systems using the Army's
inland petroleum distribution system.

Other MSC ships in the exercise included the tanker SS
Mount Washington;
crane ship SS Keystone State; and sea barge heavy lift
ship SS Cape Mohican
(all of which were activated from the U.S. Maritime's
Ready Reserve Force)
and MV Maersk Arizona a contracted container ship.

USTRANSCOM's air component, Air Mobility Command,
headquartered at Scott Air
Force Base, Ill., also participated in the exercise by
commercial airlift for more than 1500 military

The exercise was directed under the operational
command of the 143d
TRANSCOM, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based in Orlando,
Fla. commanded by Brig.
Gen. William S. Crupe.