Because it's been the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, things have been a little slow around here. But fear not - I have been poised to pounce on any news in need of further dissemination. For instance, I spent hours deciding whether or not to post on this critical story from Sky News regarding a teenager who had a ten pound hairball surgically from her stomach. Yes, the hairball was composed of her own hair, and yes, she does have a psychological condition for which she is receiving treatment.
Elsewhere, the Politico has discovered that Fred Thompson is not the most energetic of presidential candidates. "Even his own aides and advisers acknowledge privately that there are days when he seems disinterested in running for president at all," Jonathan Martin reports. "At times, Thompson seems almost invisible and irrelevant to the hour-by-hour combat that candidates like Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney have waged for months." Diehard Fred Heads can take some solace in the fact that John Kerry wasn't exactly setting the world on fire six weeks before Iowa in '04. Fred also sounds really good when he talks on the issues. Other than that, the Fred-related optimism cupboard is pretty bare.
In Iraq, it has been a rough two days. This morning, a bomb in a Baghdad pet market killed thirteen people and wounded dozens more. Yesterday, a brazen Al Qaeda attack killed two Iraqi soldiers; the attackers then used the slain soldiers' Humvees to kill eighteen more Sunnis. The only solace we can take from all this carnage is that not long ago, over 100 innocent Iraqis were meeting such gruesome fates each day. Moreover, incidents like this should serve as a sobering and perhaps necessary reminder that there remains much work to be done in Iraq, and that our soldiers serving there are most definitely in harm's way.
There was a piece of good news from Iraq. 600 Shiite sheiks signed a petition blasting Iranian meddling in Iraq. 300,000 regular Shiites also signed the petition. For those concerned that Iraq would inevitably become an Iranian client state, this is welcome news. Of course, the American media treated this as an enormous development. The Washington Post reported it on Page A-25.
Here's one piece of good news consistent with the "giving thanks" theme of the weekend. A group of musical artists led by all around good guy John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting have put together a CD that thanks the troops. The CD, titled simply "For the Troops," features prominent contributors such as Billy Joel, the Fray and Montgomery Gentry. The artists, their publishers and their labels have all licensed the songs on the CD gratis, and the songs include the artists' biggest hits like Joel's "Scenes from and Italian Restaurant," Ondrasik's "100 Years," and The Fray's "How to Save a Life."
Making the gesture especially noteworthy, the CD is literally "for the troops." Military members can download it at no cost at www.aafes.com with a valid military ID, and 200,000 copies have shipped to military outlets around the world. The album is exclusively for members of the military, their families and veterans, all of whom will receive it for free. If you don't fall into any of these categories and want to get your hands on the CD, my best advice is to befriend a soldier. There are worse things that you could do.
US Airways apparently has little interest in befriending any US soldiers. In the past, many airlines offered special military fares so active duty soldiers could afford to make their way home for the holidays. Just like sexy stewardesses and courteous service, that airline practice has also gone the way of the dodo. 9/11 and the generous government bailout of the faltering industry that quickly followed was a long time ago, and the airlines apparently have short memories.
19 year-old Marine Reservist Adam Hinckley wanted to make his way home to Boston from Camp Lejeune, NC, but the best fare he could find was an unaffordable $650 on US Airways. Big-hearted Bostonians read of Hinckley's predicament in the Boston Herald, and without any solicitations flooded his grandparents with donations to cover the airfare.
I spoke with Valerie Wunder, spokesperson for US Airways, regarding her airline's new found parsimony. She told me that since U.S. Airways merged with American West, mush-minded things like helping members of our military and bereavement fares are no longer on its agenda. (To be fair, those weren't her exact words.)
Having such a policy is certainly US Airways' prerogative. Strictly speaking, the airline industry is part of the private sector, except of course for the regular occasions when the industry mismanages itself into a spot where it needs government intervention to stay afloat.
Nevertheless, there would seem to be an opening for an airline wishing to score a public relations coup in this area. What's more, I bet a lot of people like most of the readers of this magazine would be inclined to favor an airline that was willing to devote some of its profits to helping the members of our military in such a concrete and valuable way. I''ll come out and say it - the airline that's Johnny-On-the-Spot in terms of getting the members of our military home for the Christmas Holidays in an affordable fashion will get the bulk of my business in 2008.
And I can't imagine I'm the only person who feels that way. If you feel the same, email me at Soxblog@aol.com, and I'll bring your message to the airlines' attention.