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Daily Archives: June 25, 2009

Sarah Palin: A letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News . . .


On Saturday, June 20, 2009, the San Antonio Express-News in San Antonio, Texas printed the above letter from a reader. Apparently as an adjunct to the letter the above photo of Alaska’s governor was also printed. The photo prompted a letter from me to the editor—my letter and the series of e-mails that followed are the subjects of this posting.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 (my initial letter to the editor)

letters@xpress-news.net, YOUR TURN, June 20, 2009:

Re: Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, and her photo published in YOUR TURN today:

Please convey my congratulations to the staffer who painstakingly researched your voluminous files and unerringly selected the most unflattering photo available to be printed, and also to the upper echelon person who approved its use.

Sarah Palin’s mouth is grotesquely twisted into what can only be described as a snarl or sneer, and her left eye is squinted closed. The governor is apparently right-handed, and she appears to be taking aim at a target. It’s pure conjecture as to what, or whom, she sees through her sights.

I have zero expectations of this letter being printed. I have in the past submitted letters to the editor—some were printed and some were ignored. My experience has been that when the letter strikes a nerve, it is not published.

A prime example of comments striking a nerve and not being published is my recent submission, a letter in which I noted, and in no small measure criticized, recent changes to your publication.

I appreciate it when a letter is published because all writers enjoy seeing their work in print, but I usually feel much better when it strikes a nerve and is not published—its rejection indicates its effectiveness.

I am reasonably certain that you will not disappoint me this time.

This is the editor’s response to my letter:

From: BRichter@express-news.net (the public editor of the paper)
Mon, Jun 22, 2009 1:34 PM

H.M. – Thanks for your letter. May we publish it? I think I’ll cut all the whining about your letters not getting published when they strike a nerve. We’ll just go with the criticism of the photo in question (which I didn’t really think was so bad). Bob Richter

And this is my answer to his request to publish my letter:

To: BRichter@express-news.net
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 11:11 AM

No, do not publish the letter. I’m pleased with your response, but I now have no desire to see any part of the letter in print. Besides, I seriously doubt that the first two paragraphs would be published as written.

The word whining is a term of derision and a poor choice for the Express-News’ Public Editor, or any other staff member, to use in response to a letter from a long-time subscriber. Your use of the word was petty—you could have conveyed your thoughts just as effectively by using comments instead of whining.

I did not expect the letter to be published in its entirety—my interest was only in the first two paragraphs. My so-called whining was meant to increase the odds that those paragraphs would be published—evidently it served its purpose.

Considering your statement that you didn’t really think it (the photo) was so bad, I’m surprised at your offer to publish any part of the letter. The photo was derogatory, extremely disrespectful to a person who has earned respect, and I think you know that.

In closing, please be aware that I will strive mightily to resist any temptation to submit other letters to the editor, regardless of the subject—I will retreat into silence and make every effort to stay there.

This is the last e-mail I received from the Public Editor of the Express-News:

From: BRichter@express-news.net
Tue, Jun 23, 2009 2:32 PM

You’re right; I was wrong to use that word. I would use that with a friend, in kind of a joshing way. But I don’t know you, and it was improper. I’m sorry.

Re: The editor’s statement, “I’m sorry.”

Is his “I’m sorry” offered as an apology? If intended to be an apology, it rings hollow—it could mean he’s sorry I wrote the original letter, or he’s sorry he made a petulant reply to a serious subscriber’s letter or, more likely, he’s sorry that he offered to print my letter, albeit only partially, and it could mean that he’s sorry I refused his offer to publish it, and of course, that he’s sorry about all the above.

A bona fide apology should include the word apology, as in “I apologize,” or as in “Please accept my apology.”

The editor seems reluctant to use the word.

What say you?

 
 

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1969 C-47 flight, Vietnam to Hong Kong, emergency landing at Kai Tai . . .

The information in italics below was extracted from an Internet site. For an interesting read of Hong Kong and its airport, click here.

“The government of Hong Kong said Tuesday that a second cruise terminal would be built at the southern tip of the old Kai Tak Airport runway. Closed in 1998 when a new airport was built on an outlying island, the Kai Tak runway was famous among pilots because it required them to navigate planes through mountains and high-rise buildings before landing on the needle-like strip, which led right into the eastern center of Victoria Harbor.”

hkfly4-thumb

Way back in 1969, early on a Saturday morning with the Vietnam conflict in full sway, a twin-engine cargo aircraft, a prop-driven C-47, produced by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, was enroute to the city of Hong Kong, just off the coast c-47 douglas skytrainof mainland China. On board the aircraft were its crew and six US Air Force military personnel, all looking forward to an early arrival and an overnight stay in the city, with adequate time for shopping, dining and sightseeing before returning to Da Nang late on Sunday.

The flight was routine until the pilot put the aircraft into a gentle bank, made a 180-degree turn and headed back toward Da Nang. The loadmaster told the passengers that Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport and the city were enveloped in dense fog with a low cloud overcast, and visibility was severely limited. Instrument landings were the only landings permitted, and those landings were permitted only for aircraft with a declared emergency—inbound aircraft with enough fuel remaining would be rerouted to other locations, and those without sufficient fuel would be allowed to make an instrument landing

More photos of Hong Kong and Kai Tak airport may be viewed at http://simonworld.mu.nu/archives/158834.php

Everyone on the flight was disappointed by the news, but all understood the difficulties of landing under such conditions—pilots would have to depend on instruments only until the runway became visible. Everyone accepted the fact that their weekend in Hong Kong was out—no shopping or dining or sightseeing—nothing to break the monotony of 12-hour work days in a six-day work week at Da Nang, and no chance to have one night of sleep without being disturbed by incoming rockets donated to the air base almost nightly by the enemy—the Viet Kong and North Vietnamese regulars.

The rockets had no particular targets—they were usually aimed by felling a tree across a pathway in the jungle, angling a rocket on the opposite side of the tree in the general direction of the air base, then touching it off. Sometimes the rocket fell short, sometimes it overshot, sometimes it exploded harmlessly in an open area, and sometimes it fell on a building, sometimes when it was occupied and sometimes when it was not occupied. The erratic nature of these rockets made them fairly effective in preventing and disturbing sleep, which perhaps may have been the enemy’s objective.

But I digress—back to the flight from Da Nang:

Sometime after the first 180-degree turn, the pilot executed a second 180-degree turn, and the loadmaster explained that the fog had lifted, at least enough to allow landings other than those under emergency conditions. This was good news for passengers and crew—the hoped-for weekend was again in sight.

The aircraft began its descent to line up with its approach to Hong Kong’s runway in a cloudless sky, but as altitude was lost visibility decreased rapidly to near zero—only the wingtips were visible in the dense fog until the plane broke out of the fog with the runway in sight. Also in sight were cargo ships and pleasure craft and Chinese junks, with the C-47 no more than one hundred feet or so above the junk’s tall masts.

Landings at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak international airport were always tricky, even under perfect weather conditions. A significant portion of the runway extends into Victoria harbor on man-made land, created and brought to a level above high tide with rocks, then covered with dirt and concrete.

The reason for the double 180-degree turn? The pilot had computed the “point of no return’ for the flight, reversed direction away from Hong Kong and later again reversed direction, this time towards Hong Kong. He then requested landing instructions from the Hong Kong tower, and was told that only emergency landings were allowed.

The pilot declared an emergency, stating truthfully that he was past the point of no return—he did not have enough fuel for the return to Da Nang. And in truth it was a real emergency—the aircraft’s flight, from takeoff in South Vietnam to landing at Hong Kong, ran parallel to, and outside of, the international boundaries of North Vietnam and mainland China—any landing other than Hong Kong would have to be in North Vietnam or communist China—the only alternative would be to ditch the aircraft in the South China Sea.

Bummer.

Permission to land at Kai Tai airport was granted. The C-47 broke out of the overcast just above the masts of junks moored in Hong Kong’s harbor, and the fog had thinned enough for the landing to be accomplished without incident. The aircraft, its crew and its passengers with a load of goodies purchased in Hong Kong (bolts of fine silk, various electronics, jewelry, wooden carvings, etc.) returned to Da Nang on Sunday—the return flight was routine in every respect.

I feel qualified to report the details of that flight because I was on that aircraft—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I made the weekend flight once more on the same aircraft, before my return to the states. The second flight was also harrowing, and is the subject of a future posting—for now I will only say that the second flight imbued me with a firm resolve to not make a third flight, fearing that the “third time’s charm” bromide would become “third time’s fatal.”

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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