Assume the Position

Saturday, April 24, 2004
Sunday's New York Times Correction Today

Tomorrow, if the NYT bothers to post a correction to today's editorial, it will be something like this:

An editorial on April 24 about new citizenship tests for immigrants misstated the amendment of the Constitution that guarantees the right to vote. It is the Fifteenth, not the Seventh.

Such a correction, however accurate, would obscure the humor in their error. In discussing the new test, the NYT editors described the current test and wrote:

One typical question asks which amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote. Many natural-born Americans would be stumped on that one (it's the Seventh), but more than 90 percent of the applicants pass the current exam.

(Via David Nieporent, who addresses the "Timesian liberalism" in their opinion in addition to making the obvious crack raised by this mistake, "Can we revoke the citizenship of the Times' editors?")

UPDATE - April 27, 2004: I'm a bit surprised, but pleased, to see that the NYT editors have issued a much better correction than I thought they would (see the brief discussion in comments).

An editorial on Saturday about citizenship testing referred to a question about voting rights that many people get wrong — and gave the wrong answer. The Constitution does not specify a "right to vote." Four Amendments, the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th, forbid denying or abridging the right to vote on account of such things as race and sex. The Seventh Amendment, mentioned in the editorial, deals with the right to have a lawsuit tried by a jury.

From Soup to Nuts

The Man Without Qualities purées the NYT over Sister G. and Chris Regan takes a disturbing look at the Brethren Plus One.

News Media's Corrections Compound Their Original Mistake

This is just another example of why "Americans think journalists are sloppier, less professional, less moral, less caring, more biased, less honest about their mistakes and generally more harmful to democracy than they did in the 1980s."

In their rush to publish photos of flag-draped caskets of war dead from Iraq processed through Dover AFB, the major news media published photos showing honors rendered to the Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts and claimed they were soldiers killed in Iraq.

That's a mistake. It was made (according to Drudge's flash and his first link, by The Washington Post, Reuters, The Associated Press, and CNN.

Let's start with SpaceRef President Keith Cowing's web article.

DOD Misidentifies Photos of Columbia Crew Remains Arriving at Dover AFB as Being Iraq War Dead


According to a notice on (which is very hard to reach) a FOIA request was sent to the Department of Defense asking for "All photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of US military personnel at Dover AFB. This would include, but not be limited to, caskets arriving, caskets departing, and any funerary rites/rituals being performed. The timeframe for these photos is from 01 February 2003 to the present."

The Department of Defense complied with the request but did not differentiate between photos dealing with "the remains of US military personnel" and the remains of NASA (or Israeli) astronauts. As such, a resonable [sic] person might well assume that the photos were all of military activities. They clearly are not.

DOD didn't misidentify anything. Five of the seven Columbia astronauts were "US military personnel."

From NASA's Astronaut Selection FAQ (emphasis added):

  • What is the annual salary for astronauts?

    Salaries for civilian Astronaut Candidates are based upon the Federal Government's General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-11 through GS-13. The grade is determined in accordance with each individual's academic achievements and experience. Currently a GS-11 starts at 51,799 per year and a GS-13 can earn up to 95,977 per year.

    Military Astronaut Candidates are detailed to the Johnson Space Center and remain in an active duty status for pay, benefits, leave, and other similar military matters.

  • There should be no doubt that transportation of remains and burial with full military honors is included in "other similar military matters."

    Here is the NASA Press Release of February 5, 2003, concerning the ceremony at Dover AFB honoring Columbia's crew (emphasis added):

    Deputy Administrator Meets Space Shuttle Columbia Astronauts' Remains at Dover AFB

    Today, Deputy NASA Administrator Frederick Gregory will render honors to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The remains of the orbiter's seven astronauts are scheduled to arrive in flag- draped caskets at Dover about 2 p.m. EST on board a C-141 Starlifter.

    The seven astronauts - Commander Rick Husband (Colonel, USAF), Pilot Willie McCool (Commander, USN) and Mission Specialists Michael Anderson (Lieutenant Colonel, USAF), David Brown (Captain, USN), Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark (Commander, USN), and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon (Colonel, Israel Force) - died Saturday when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over the southern United States.

    The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at the base will prepare the remains for return to the families. Ramon's remains will be flown to his home in Israel for burial. Final funeral arrangements for the crew are still to be announced.

    Video and still images of the private Honor Guard reception will be included in a NASA Television video feed later today and available on the agency's Internet site at

    To be clear, here is what Russ Kick says on that "very hard to reach" page at The Memory Hole:

    Since March 2003, a newly-enforced military regulation has forbidden taking or distributing images of caskets or body tubes containing the remains of soldiers who died overseas. [read more]

    Immediately after hearing about this, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the following:

    All photographs showing caskets (or other devices) containing the remains of US military personnel at Dover AFB. This would include, but not be limited to, caskets arriving, caskets departing, and any funerary rites/rituals being performed. The timeframe for these photos is from 01 February 2003 to the present.

    I specified Dover because they process the remains of most, if not all, US military personnel killed overseas. Not surpisingly [sic], my request was completely rejected. Not taking 'no' for an answer, I appealed on several grounds, and—to my amazement—the ruling was reversed. The Air Force then sent me a CD containing 361 photographs of flag-draped coffins and the services welcoming the deceased soldiers.

    Score one for freedom of information and the public's right to know.

    Kick got exactly what he requested and should have realized that anything that includes "most, if not all, US military personnel killed overseas" would necessarily include non-Iraq war related deaths. So his screw-up was to misrepresent the photos in his military coffin gallery as all being "Casualties From Iraq." But they weren't, and the selection of photos some major news media picked to publish weren't, either.

    Score one for freedom of misrepresentation and the public's right to be misled.

    NASA pumped out a press release:

    NOTE TO EDITORS : n04-059

    Columbia Crew Mistakenly Identified As Iraqi War Casualties

    Many news organizations across the country are mistakenly identifying the flag-draped caskets of the Space Shuttle Columbia's crew as those of war casualties from Iraq.

    Editors are being asked to confirm that the images used in news reports are in fact those of American casualties and not those of the NASA astronauts who were killed Feb.1, 2003, in the Columbia tragedy.

    An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts.

    News organizations across the world have been publishing and distributing images featured on the web site.

    And what did the media do in correcting their mistake?

    The Washington Post correction essentially misrepresents Kirk's FOIA request, implying he had specifically requested "Iraqi pictures," not every photo available of any coffins passing through Dover AFB:

    A photograph of an Air Force color guard carrying a flag-draped casket that previously accompanied this article was not a picture of a fallen soldier from Iraq but of an astronaut killed in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle crash. The photograph had been posted on a Web site called the Memory Hole, which had requested the Iraqi pictures from the U.S. military under the Freedom of Information Act. The image that accompanied this article was among several hundred photographs posted on the Memory Hole Web site after they were released by the Air Force.

    The Reuters correction misrepresents the active duty military status of the majority of the Columbia astronauts:

    ATTENTION EDITORS: CAPTION CLARIFICATION STATING THAT COFFINS ARE NOT OF U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL BUT ARE BELIEVED TO BE OF CREW MEMBERS OF SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA - Coffins believed to be of members of the crew of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia are offloaded by Air Force honor guards at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo. The orbiter burned up on reentry in February, 2003. The image was originally released with a description stating that the coffins were of U.S. military personnel. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/ FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY
    The Associated Press (which put out a screen shot of 16 photos from Kick's gallery, all from the February 5, 2003 Columbia ceremony, with a caption calling them "photographs of American war dead arriving at Dover Air Force") mentioned their error in an article:

    The photos were taken at the Dover base, and most were of flag-draped cases used by the military to transport remains. But [Col. Jon] Anderson [a spokesman for the Dover base] said Friday that the photos also included images of the remains of the shuttle Columbia astronauts arriving at Dover, as well as casualties from Afghanistan. A NASA spokesman said that at least 18 rows of photos on the site were of the Columbia astronauts.

    According to his Web site, Kick, who has not returned phone calls or e-mails from The Associated Press, requested all Dover photos from Feb. 1, 2003, to the present. "He wasn't distinguishing between what he wanted," Anderson said. "He just wanted everything."

    At least one of the Columbia photos, a Feb. 5 shot of a flag-draped coffin, was included in a picture of the Web site distributed by the AP.

    Except, it was all 16 of the photos in that picture (7 showing a coffin), which also accompanies the article (at least on and retains the same incorrect caption.

    One Reason Everything Is 'Another Vietnam'

    William Sjostrom comments on the Guardian's story of two US deserters claiming political asylum in Canada whose lawyer is, not surprisingly, a Vietnam era draft dodger.

    Remember Samuel Johnson's remark about a second marriage being the triumph of hope over experience? Iraq is the frivolous left's second hope. An earlier generation had Vietnam. They want their own chance to feel self-righteous and superior.

    Friday, April 23, 2004
    A Poor Way to Attract Crossover Voters

    "I could go zoop! and Republicans would disappear." — John F. Kerry.

    Child: Dad, what's a 'publican?

    Father: That's what the English call a bartender. They call bars pubs and the owners publicans. Where'd you hear that word?

    Child: A man read us a story today about a magic wand that would go "zoop" and make things disappear. In the story, it makes a giant disappear. Then the man said if he had a wand he'd make 'publicans disappear.

    Father: This wasn't your teacher?

    Child: No. It was a man and a lady. She said he was the Pres'dent.

    Father: You mean it was President Bush?

    Child: Uh uh, the other Pres'dent, Carrie.

    Father: Oh, you mean Kerry. He's not president yet. Are you sure he didn't say he'd disappear Re-publicans instead of publicans.

    Child: Dunno, maybe. What are Re-publicans?

    Father: Your mother and I are Republicans.

    (Via Viking Pundit.)

    Of course, the probability is slim that any parents of the 4- and 5-year-olds in that Manhattan Head Start Class are Republicans. Still, disappearing them, as opposed to converting them into Democrats, sounds rather drastic comming from the standard bearer of the supposed party of inclusion and diversity.

    [See also: Just One Minute, One Fine Jay, and Accidental Verbosity.]

    Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.