Holt Uncensored

Holt Uncensored

 

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  #352
by Pat Holt

Friday, December 6, 2002

 







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A DELIBERATE MISTAKE IN 'LIVE FROM BAGHDAD'?
WHO LOST THE SLUSH PILE?
MICHAEL MOORE: THE CONSEQUENCE OF OPTIMISM
HU'S ON FIRST?
LETTERS

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A DELIBERATE MISTAKE IN 'LIVE FROM BAGHDAD'?

I've missed seeing Michael Keaton during his lengthy absence from films andhoped that tomorrow night's HBO movie, "Live from Baghdad," in which Keaton stars with Helena Bonham-Carter, would live up to the standards of such HBO series as "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under."

Already the HBO "docudrama" (not the term but it fits) is receiving raves from TV critics who apparently haven't heard about a thorny problem in the movie that was caught this week by FAIR, the watchdog journalism group whose name stands for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

HBO says that "Live from Baghdad" is a "behind-the-scenes true story" based on the book of the same name by CNN producer Robert Wiener, who co-wrote the script. It begins before the Gulf War, when Wiener convinced CNN to send his production team to Baghdad during the summer of 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Once there, Wiener did the impossible: He got the Iraqi government to give CNN a "four wire" device, which allowed reporters to talk to CNN in Atlanta without a phone line. He arranged for an interview with Saddam Hussein. And thanks largely to him, after other TV-news networks had left Iraq or been thrown out, CNN kept broadcasting with the voices of Peter Arnett, Bernard Shaw and John Holliman observing the first night of bombing.

So Wiener has a fantastic story, and according to advance reviews of the HBO movie, it's told with accuracy, respect for both sides (all sides) and a rare thoughtfulness about critical standards in journalism.

Except for one thing: Remember that horrible story about Iraqi soldiers storming into Kuwait hospitals and throwing babies out of incubators? This was one of the atrocities described during the testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl at hearings of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October of 1990.

Not only did the media "uncritically repeat" this girl's testimony, FAIR says, but President George Bush (the elder) and "countless others [told the story until] it blossomed into a tale involving over 300 Kuwaiti babies."

Soon, however, this "news item" was revealed to be, in part, the invention of that infamous PR firm, Hill & Knowlton, while the 15-year-old who had testified turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. Was the whole thing bogus? Amnesty International and other investigating forces found "no evidence" to support it, FAIR adds, so it got debunked and died, thank heaven.

But now, says FAIR, look what HBO has done: In the movie, the CNN team headed by Wiener goes to a hospital in Kuwait to interview a doctor and see about this report involving Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators. As the doctor nervously begins to explain that the rumor is untrue, Iraqi soldiers suddenly terminate the interview and lead the terrified doctor away. Wiener's CNN team does not believe the doctor but departs as well.

"Moments later," FAIR reports, "the CNN crew listens to a BBC report on the radio that suggests that CNN had debunked the story of Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti babies, and CNN's reporters are upset that they've been used by the Iraqi officials."

In other words, the impression left by the HBO movie is that the incubator story was true. The odd thing is that Wiener knows it was *not* true, having said as much on November 21 of this year: "That story," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "turned out to be false."

I'm not sure why Wiener turned the story around in his own script, but I do know the effect it's going to have.

As everyone from TV critics to FAIR's analysts has noted, the airing of "Live from Baghdad" could not be more timely. The United States is on the verge of war against Iraq, and the campaign to prove Bush's "axis of evil" has been operating like a house afire.

Clearly it's easier to hate than to love an enemy who's capable of monstrous acts like pulling babies out of incubators and stomping on them and eating them for breakfast. (You may think I made the last part up, but wait until we are given further "reasons" for going to war with Iraq regardless of the findings by the American weapons inspectors.)

Next week: A look at two books that tell us the real story - "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" by New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges (Public Affairs), and "Iraq Under Seige: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War" by Anthony Arnove et al (South End Press).

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WHO LOST THE SLUSH PILE

I took the following from the LETTERS section below because it speaks to a problem in mainstream publishing that affects us all - and because my response is so windy I have to make an item out of it.

Dear Holt Uncensored:

Regarding the discussion earlier about why publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts in what used to be known as "slush piles," here are a few reasons:

  1. They don't have the staff to evaluate all the submissions.
  2. Historically, manuscripts that aren't forwarded by an agent have generally not found interest in any case.
  3. Post-9/11, they're afraid of the package containing anthrax or a letter bomb.
  4. It's not that it's illegal for them to accept unsolicited manuscripts; it's that their legal departments won't let them accept unsolicited manuscripts.If they accept such a manuscript, then publish a similar book, the author of the unsolicited manuscript might choose to sue them.

Aside from the 9/11 related issues, this has been the policy at every large publisher of books or software that I ever been involved with, going back over twenty years.

Martin Brooks

Holt responds: It's understandable as a practical concern, of course, but the message sent out is both short-sighted and arrogant. It's the first of many indications that authors must fit themselves into the publishing system before they will be recognized.

I go back 30 years when slush piles were very much in effect, even though editors assumed that publishable manuscripts would rarely be discovered there. At the time, reading unsolicited manuscripts and writing "decline letters" were considered good training for assistant editors.

More important, having a slush pile meant that the house *wanted* to keep a direct channel open to writers, to tell them this publishing company did not depend on institutionalization as a filter for literary worth.When a manuscript with promise was found in the slush pile, the first thing savvy editors did was to help the author find a literary agent - "for your own protection and representation," they would say.

Today the refusal to open unsolicited manuscripts,to hide behind legal departments and to pretend that slush piles are too expensive only serve to make mainstream publishing seem remote and homogenized to the very people it wants to attract - the authors of true originality and invention who may not know about which channels they must follow simply to be considered.

But in the past, the message was the reverse: Send in your manuscript in whatever form you can submit (please type it) and we'll fit our system to whatever talent we hope to spot in you.

In this regard, I'll never forget the admiration I felt every day for my colleague Ellen, who was the editorial assistant at Houghton Mifflin's New York office when I worked there in the early 1970s (I was a publicity assistant).

Ellen and I had both come to work as secretaries at a time when you had to swear on your grandmother's library that clerical responsibilities were your only interest in taking the job. "Don't think working as a secretary is going to give you a leg up in the marketing department," said Frank, head of marketing in the New York office after he offered me the job. "Why, no," I said. "Taking dictation and keeping pencils sharpened are my primary goal in life." He smiled. I smiled, and we both knew I was going to use the job as a "leg up."

Ellen not only assisted the senior editor of the Manhattan office (Houghton is based in Boston), a brilliant and aggressive New Yorker who published Shirley Chisholm's autobiography, "Unbought and Unbossed," which was quite controversial for its time.

Ellen also and worked with subsidiary rights and permissions departments and was Slush Pile Editor par excellence. She became a master of the decline letter and always said she felt a thrill - or wanted to - every time she opened a new submission, even if it (usually) was a thousand-page omnibus the author presented as Part I of a 12-volume work-in-progress.

Nevertheless, every once in a while I would return from lunch to find Ellen slumped forward in her chair, her cheek resting on a large stack of pages on one side of the desk and her fingers wrapped around a good 30-page chunk of the manuscript on the other side. "Ellen," I whispered, waking her out of a sound sleep, "Are you going through this manuscript 30 pages at a time?" Ellen blinked up at me, her cheek imprinted with the last page she had read. "You know I would never do that," she said without hesitation. "Sixty pages is my minimum." Ah, the office humor of young-and-true believers.

Ellen went on to become a perceptive and brave editor in her own right (she was the first editor of a very young Don de Lillo, for example), but I never forgot watching her attack that huge pile of manuscripts box by box, submitting her decline letters to the senior editor and turning with relish to manuscripts the house was really going to publish.

This respect for the writing process, from its rawest form to its most sophisticated, was something I believed Ellen had in her before she started work in publishing. But with her editorship of the slush pile came an odd kind of gratitude, not only for originality in storytelling but for the practical nuts and bolts of literature - a near-perfect sentence, a precise but unexpected word, a deft twist in punctuation.

Ellen also developed an instinct about what authors were capable of writing and what they weren't. When I got into book reviewing, I tried to end the kind of outraged protest you sometimes hear among less knowledgeable reviewers who blame the faults of a book on a lack of good editing. "Where was the editor when this book was submitted?" they cry. As critics, I felt, we have no right to make that kind of accusation because we don't know how much the editor helped the author improve the manuscript, nor how much further the author was unable to go.

It's occurred to me since I started "Manuscript Express" (see #343-5, or www.holtuncensored.com) that working with authors on manuscripts before they are submitted to agents and editors is a form of slush-pile work. Happily, I don't write decline letters - in fact, I've found the reverse is true with me.

Very rarely have I told writers that not much is cooking in their manuscript that's ever going to be publishable. Usually I find the kind of promise inside - maybe only one or two pages, maybe just a sentence, but it's there - that Ellen used to say "makes your hair stand on end." That's what really gave us the "leg up."

So I think it isn't true that slush piles are impractical. I think that deep down in their hardened profit-and-loss statements, publishers everywhere cheer when the reading public turns into a writing public. Just the idea of people all over the country struggling to bring their ideas and experiences alive in printed form - and hoping for bound form - iswonderfully subversive in this age of television and mass marketing. Let's bring it back.

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MICHAEL MOORE: THE CONSEQUENCES OF OPTIMISM

I couldn't help but laugh after reading author and filmmaker Michael Moore's attempt to be upbeat in his Thanksgiving Letter for 2002.

Usually Moore is Mr. Negative Scenario about the current administration, and in the letter he does bemoan "how damned demoralizing and depressing" it is that George W. Bush "is now the first Republican since Eisenhower to control the House, the Senate and the White House."

Despite the fact that Moore's "well of optimism is just about dry," the old iconoclast struggles to find something to be thankful about. He indicates that while Bush believes he has a " 'mandate' for war," nothing could be worse, right? Surely Americans of like minds will "not now throw in the towel," he advises. At least there's that to be thankful for.

But then who should appear on the front page the next day but HENRY KISSINGER,who's been chosen by Bush to investigate government malfeasance leading up to the attacks of 9/11. Man! If ever there were a "poster-child for the worst excesses of secret government and secret warfare," as David Corn comments in The Nation, Kissinger is it. Granted, he's looking so hooded of eye of late that it's hard to tell when he's awake, but maybe that's part of his new strategy.

Then who should appear on the *back* pages of every newspaper but JOHN POINDEXTER, former convicted felon from Iran/Contra days who's been chosen by Bush to collect "massive amounts of individual personal data" on Americans for the Pentagon's new Information Awareness Office. Man! If ever there were a Big Brother to make the likes of Michael Moor explode, Poindexter is it.

And *then* finally came criticism of the sweeping HOMELAND SECURITY ACT, which for people like Michael Moore must be the closest thing to a Police State the United States will ever have. Man! This massive reorganization of government will provide increased secret surveillance and fewer protections of privacy than ever.

All this may send even more readers to MOO4@michaelmoore.com than the 2 million who visit the site every day. For the latter popularity Moore is thankful. For the rest, I hear he's writing a sequel called "Lethal White Men."

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HU'S ON FIRST

It is *not* the policy of this column to run every cockamamie thing that's making the rounds of the Internet, but if you haven't seen this takeoff on the old Abbott & Costello routine, do give it a read. If it doesn't cause you to laugh out loud - unheard of when Yassir Arafat is involved - I'll give you a free subscription.

HU'S ON FIRST

By James Sherman (thanks to Jules Older for sending)

(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi!Nice to see you.What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great.Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you.Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you.Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?Yassir Arafat is in China?I thought he was in the Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi.I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No.But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir!The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk!Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East!Just getme the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right!With cream and two sugars.Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

George: Rice?Good idea.And a couple of egg rolls, too.Maybe we should send some to the guy in China.And the Middle East.Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?

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LETTERS

Dear Holt Uncensored:

I inadvertently missed your original item about Rohinton Mistry cancelling the last half of his U.S. book tour [because he and his wife were treated badly by airport security personnel], but have seen some of the comments, such as that of Betsy Burton of The King's English bookstore in Salt Lake, that have come along since...

Like The King's English, we at The Elliott Bay Book Co. were slated to present Mr. Mistry. A large offsite venue was secured, as interest in his previous works and the attention "Family Matters" was receiving (a Booker finalist, among other things) merited.

We received word of the cancellation on or around Halloween - about 10 days before Mr. Mistry was due in Seattle. Cancellations do occur, and there is machinery involved in getting word out. Again, like Betsy Burton did, we attached some language to our notice of cancellation, deploring the circumstances that brought this about.

As we were going about this, with calls and emails and postings in the store itself, Judy Lightfoot, a freelance journalist who had interviewed Mr. Mistry for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, called with a suggestion. She had set up some community-related group readings in the past, such as a read-a-round of Ralph Ellison's recent posthumously published novel. Her idea was simple - to make support for Rohinton Mistry and "Family Matters" more tangible - to do our own reading of the book.

The notion took wing. Town Hall Seattle, which had graciously taken the cancellation of the reading in stride (including forgiving the anticipated rental income), even more graciously offered to make the space available free of charge. What eventually became a group of eight - South Asians all, including three writers, two college professors and three Microsoft people - agreed on incredibly short notice to read from the novel. Judy Lightfoot helped coordinate and shape what was read and by whom.

We were so busy and dizzy with it we neglected to offer copies of the book (or solicit Knopf, which no doubt would have come through with complimentary copies). These individuals, if they didn't have the book, went and got one. In getting word out, we had to go through the tangled web of saying that one reading that was going to happen no longer was going to happen, but that another reading of and for the same book was going to happen.

On Monday, November 11, the day Rohinton Mistry was due to be in Seattle, an audience of about one hundred was on hand for an evening of "Reading Matters: Seattle Voices for Rohinton Mistry." A basic introduction explained the evening, why Rohinton Mistry was not here (including the information that most traveling authors are subjected to the more rigorous inspections - those one-way tickets - but that his treatment had exceeded that by a goodly amount). There was also mention, followed up in subsequent emails, on who in the government should be contacted about this kind of treatment.

Then a statement from Mr. Mistry, faxed that day, was read. For the record (I'm guessing it hasn't made the rounds elsewhere), his statement was as follows:

"To everyone at Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle Town Hall, and to all who will partake in the reading of 'Family Matters':

"I am deeply touched by your gathering together in this gesture of support. Thank you.

"I'd like to think, though - and I hope you will join me in this - that the evening is above all a show of support for all the faceless, nameless people who endure harassment and discrimination during these troubled times, simply because of their appearance or place of birth. Let us hope that these bad policies are the result of muddled heatedness and not callousness, of confusion rather than racism, and that wisdom and clear thinking will reassert itself before long.

"Thank you again, and happy reading.

"Rohinton Mistry"

Then Judy Lightfoot, who had reviewed "Family Matters," in addition to interviewing Mr. Mistry, gave an overview of the novel, its overall range and scope.

Following her, this hardy group of eight -- who included writers Indu Sundaresan, Pramila Jayapal and Sonia Gomez and the anthropologist K. Sivaramakrishnan -- took turns reading selections. Anyone who's looked at this book knows it is wonderfully rich in dialogue. It is also rich in Indian (or, in this book, "Bombayan") turns of phrase which these readers all knew how to handle. Two main passages were read. There was much bemusement and laughter, even as this sad story of how a family figures out how to look after its aged, ailing patriarch is so adroitly spun out. In individual voices and as an ensemble, the reading had great power. So much so that not much of a discussion was stirred up after. People were IN the book.

One last thing as people, after mingling and talking and making some book purchases, started to file out into the night: Most, reader and audience member alike, signed a single copy of "Family Matters" to Mr. Mistry. Some only signed their names, others with inscriptions. Rohinton Mistry may not have been with us, but his marvelous book was and is. And he, in a way unique to how it goes with authors who tour (or not), now has some idea of who was here on this night for him.

Rick Simonson
Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle


Dear Holt Uncensored:

About print-on-demand publishers, Neil Mar wrote in part: "We are in direct competition with the high street store, with the publishing establishment with its closed-door policy to new authors and cross-genres - not to line the pockets of shopkeepers or to encourage the big boys' policy of cashing in on their deadwood by hedging their bets through POD."

"Line the pockets of shopkeepers"?

One does not know where to begin . . .

Michael Walsh
Used to work retail
Had lint in pockets


Dear Holt Uncensored:

I know this is a mere quibble in the undeclared global war of semantics, but I gotta respond to you and Mary Tyler and these varying definitions of "born writer", "made writer," etc.

Pat wrote:"Ann Patchett fits the profile of the born writer in that she has been writing successfully all her life, beginning at the age of 5..."

Tyler: "A born writer is not someone who starts writing at five ...and eventually writes a masterpiece at 40. Sorry, that's a MADE writer. . . The born writer is the one who picks up her pen at 28, or 40, or 65. . .without the arts course, without the practice, with only the grammar learned in 8th grade ...Arts majors who have been writing since they were five are a dime a dozen. . ."

Pardon my French, but who the f*** cares?I love reading books by literary folks like T. Greenwood and Jane Smiley, but I also love books by people who really never intended to be writers, like David Brashears ("High Exposure") and Jon Krakauer ("Into Thin Air"; I have an Everest thing.)Your average reader doesn't give a rat's patootie about a writer's background. The only thing he/she cares about is whether the story (fiction or otherwise) is gripping enough to be bothered with.

I started writing when I was nine, not five, published stuff here and there, went to college, majored in English lit (not creative writing), worked for a newspaper for a while, am now a legal secretary, got seriously (mentally) ill about two years ago, ceased writing entirely, and only just started up again.So, guys, am I born or made?And more importantly, is anybody reading my stuff gonna care about that?Or are they more interested in whether the good guys (in my novel) will able to outwit the bad guys and save the world from imminent demise?I hope it's the latter, or I sure haven't done my job.

Taking my Zoloft and shutting up.

Jennifer Jonsson

Holt responds: You're right, readers don't have to care about these things, often don't care, and it's usually just those of us who write about books and authors who make a big deal (maybe too big a deal) about such matters. The reason I got into it at all was that Ann Patchett was so dismissive about all the research I thought she must do to write with such authority about the subjects in her novel. I couldn't figure it out, but then other writers like Jane Smiley, Reynolds Price, Barbara Kingsolver, Russell Banks, Margaret Atwood and others have had the same patient and kindly response to questions that began, "How did you come to know so much about ...."

They all answered something like the following: It wasn't that they knew all that much about any one thing. Rather it was that they *started* with a sense of authority, a certainty of knowledge, as though it had been bred into them from birth (thus the born writer theory). Then, when it came to knowledge about particular subjects, they just learned what they had to and filled in the blanks. To paraphrase Patchett, "You find a doctor, a lawyer and a crack researcher. They tell you what you want to know, and that's it." That's it? Could it be as simple as that? Apparently so. In any case, while I find this fascinating, I would never want it to interfere with the joy of reading for those who don't care about it. So I'm glad you wrote *before* you took that Zoloft! When you feel strongly about a subject like this, let 'er rip! Heaven knows the born writers do all the time.


Dear Holt Uncensored:

Thanks for writing about Mr. Thierry Meyssan's books. It's especially timely since, as you pointed out, November 22 was the 39th anniversary of JFK's assasination. One more unanswered question about JFK's death: How come his brain was "lost" in transit from Dallas to DC?

Viva conspiracy theorists!

Pat Murphy
Eugene, Oregon

Holt responds: Right. That's one of hundreds of questions yet to be explained because (you just know) some government official, bureaucrat or *doctor* didn't go by the book. It's astonishing to me that hundreds of similar questions are raised in Meyssan's book that may now be addressed since Meyssan has announced plans to visit the United States (more about this next time).


Dear Holt Uncensored:

Thank you for explaining Thierry Meysann's questions regarding 9/11; by doing so, you might have made it acceptable for independent bookstores to stock his book. If we accept every single government pronouncement as absolute truth, and refuse to even consider what is seen on film or by witnesses, or researched by skeptics, then we're no better than cultists, where any challenge to belief, even the stunningly apparent, becomes "the enemy."

We've all seen the horrible moments of the Zapruder film in which a citizen with a hand-held camera captured the effect of bullets on John F. Kennedy's head. But we're supposed to disbelieve our eyes and the testimony of witnesses at Dealey Plaza and the doctors who commented on the the huge, gaping wounds in the back of the President Kennedy's head. Truth has now become enshrined in the story of a magic bullet and a new photograph of the president's head, where a huge wound suddenly becomes a tiny entry point for a rear-shot bullet.

Dozens of witnesses in July 1996 see missiles hit and explode TWA Flight 800 near New York City. A government-produced animation explains the official story, where missiles going skyward are shown to be pieces of jet going earthbound, and the eyesight of witnesses and photographs reproduced in a French magazine suddenly become "conspiracy theory," or the pathological obsessions of lunatics.

Though most Americans find it difficult to buy into the magic bullet / lone assassin fable of the Kennedy assassination, you won't find careerist political commentators, left or right, questioning the Warren Commission in major newspapers or magazines, even 39 years later. If you know of any employed journalists who do, please let me know.

Feral House was nearly put out of business when Oliver "Buck" Revell, a Deputy Chief of the FBI, retired and immediately launched a two-million-dollar suit against us for David Hoffman's "The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror," which Gore Vidal praised in Vanity Fair as the best book about the OKC bomb. Revell claims the book defamed him by saying that he yanked his son off of Flight 103, the flight that exploded over Scotland. Revell lets on that his son did indeed change his reservation from Flight 103, but claims it as a coincidental happenstance, and not foreknowledge, as implied by author Hoffman.

At the time of the suit, Feral House neglectfully did not carry legal insurance, and the ACLU chose not to take on the case. Any competent attorney quoted us a retainer fee much higher than our bank account, so we were compelled to settle Revell's suit. The price was high. All remaining copies in the distributor's warehouse were destroyed. Energized by the settlement, Revell sued author Hoffman, who meanwhile found a contributor to finance legal help. Revell's lawsuit was defeated, and an appeal suit was likewise defeated. An explanation of the lawsuits can be found at .

"The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcolm X," edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, now at the printer, is primarily based upon the documents released after an end credit in Oliver Stone's "JFK" movie remarked that our government has lock-boxed material relating to the killing of John Kennedy. Crucial documents remain classified, but the new Feral House book shows that the gun is still smoking.

My own book, "Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism," reveals that much of the world believes vicious conspiracy theory, as long as it explains the hand of the United States and Jews behind events like 9/11. It makes one wonder how Osama bin Laden could be portrayed as a hero if the same people believe the United States fictionally created the 9/11 disaster.

Though Thierry Meysann's ideas disturb me, it would disturb me far more if booksellers refused to sell his book, and if free thought was considered treason.

Adam Parfrey


Dear Holt Uncensored:

Regarding the refutations of "9/11: The Big Lie" and "Pentagate" that you cite in #351: Snopes.com is a good site, but you missed an extremely thorough and scientific refutation by my colleague Paul Boutin and another fellow at http://paulboutin.weblogger.com/2002/03/14.

This refutation relies on witness accounts and photographic evidence, coupled with an analysis using physics to explain certain of the effects. "The Big Lie's" contentions rely mostly on speculation that aren't backed up by an actual technical understanding. In many cases, the author asks leading questions, uses photographs that aren't dated, or simply misstates the case.

It's very easy to ask a lot of unanswerable questions when you simply arrange the results to look dubious.

Glenn Fleishmann

Holt responds: I think the idea is to look at the "evidence" with a critical eye and see what holds up. Meyssan's 2nd book, "Pentagate," offers an answer to criticisms of his first book, "9/11: The Big Lie," and the discussion leads, as it should, to more questions that need to be answered by official authorities. More about this next week.


Dear Holt Uncensored:

You wrote: "All anybody wants ... is am government that's accountable to its citizens."

CLINTONwroteWAG THE DOG.Bush is rewriting it asWHAT DOG?Even his energy meetings with Enron prior to screwingCalifornia are being kept sealed as national security.

Our only hope is that the Democratic National partycleans out the Clintonites and findsan AMERICAN STATESMAN.

You wrote: "Is it true that neither civilian nor military radar picked up the Boeing as it approached the Pentagon's heavily guarded air space?"

That's easy!It was flyingBELOW RADAR at that point.Radar is kept high enough to avoid building and other GROUND CLUTTER.

You wrote: "How could a Boeing 757 going at least 250 mph (probably 350) penetrate only the outside of the Pentagon?"

In another test, a 45,000-pound F-4 Phantom jet was propelled at 450 miles per hour into a concrete wall simulating a containment vessel. The aircraft was destroyed; the concrete wall was "uncompromised."

I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY THEY RAMMED MY FAVORITE METAL BIRD INTO CONCRETE. Supposedly it was to test NUCLEAR bombs.Now we know that it was to create concrete strong enough to protect government buildings.

You wrote: "What is the reason this huge jumbo jet created a hole in the Pentagon that was 50% *smaller* than its size?"

In the PHANTOM video,the plane is made of aluminum and disintegrates upon impact.World Trade Center showed this if you watch slowly...Wings are mostlyair filled with fuel...

You wrote: "Why did authorities say every single piece of the plane melted in the explosion when we can see parts of the plane in photos?"

For the simple mindedjournalists who don't understand DISINTEGRATION UPON IMPACT WITH A SOLID SURFACE!!!

You wrote: "If the explosion was so hot that it melted the entire plane, why can we see unburned green grass right in front of it?"

SEE SATELLITE PICTURE. It's burned!But, the heat and explosion was forced inward, not backwards.

Check on this: http://www.imagingnotes.com/marapr02/default.htm

Alex van Luik

Holt responds: A number of questions come from these "answers." Here's one: If radar didn't work because the plane was flying too low, what happened when the plane was high above, before it dove sharply to the ground?

Alex van Luik replies: Check out this site at different times of day or nightand see how much air traffic is out there that is SHOWING UP on the federal system: http://www.flightview.com/fvAirT/FlightViewCGI.exe

Odds are that they turned their TRANSPONDERSoff, which send replies back to the FAA radar with information as to who they areand where - altitude/speed/ID. Unless the blip is ENHANCED it was probably consideredVFR(private pilots) air traffic.

If you ever have the chance at a non-major airport,ask if you can get a tour of the tower or radar facilityfor research reasons.In general, despite the paranoia,they are friendlywhen its not busy.


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