Please, please. . .

 . . do go here and read this post on Hugh Hewitt’s site about this soldier and the tiny girl whose entire family was executed.


Especially since you won’t be reading about it in the mainstream media or in Private Beauchamp’s war diaries.

"The Gratingest Generation"

That’s the term James Lileks coined this morning to describe all the early Baby Boomer scolds and blowhards like Garrison Keillor and Frank Rich. (I would definitely add Bill Moyers to that list.)

Though he promises not to use the term anymore, it will henceforth and forever be a part of my vocabular arsenal. Check it out.

An excerpt:

Here’s the odd thing: most of my compatriots and contemporaries – guys who came along in the shadow of the ur-boomers – look fore and aft with more pleasure than the founding boomers. Maybe they expected less, and got more; maybe we were sold so much gloom we checked the aftermarket for optimism. Maybe we watched too much Star Trek. I don’t know. I do know that there’s a certain swath of American culture – well-educated, well-off, well-situated, well-read, well-spoken – who seem to think we live in mud up to our nostrils. They can’t look back except to praise the Brave Few who made the unimaginable artistic and intellectual bounty of the late 60s possible (coff); they can’t look at the present without cursing the Perfidious Cabal that makes the foolish electorate go to Wal-Mart on Monday and War on Tuesday, and can’t look forward without bewailing the ineradicable damage wrought by whatever the New York Times is fretting about today. They’re the champions of Man, but give them a minute and they’ll quote Mencken and grin about the booboisie. Well, the booboisie of the 20s had lots of kids, and they were the ones who volunteered to kick Hitler. Someone did something right.

Frank Buckles, Alone

More than two million American men went to war in France during World War I.  Would you like to know how many of them are alive today?

Meet Frank Buckles–The lone surviving American veteran of World War I. (free registration required)

It’s an excellent essay. Here’s the final paragraph:

It’s hard for anyone, I imagine, to say for certain what it is that we will lose when Frank Buckles dies. It’s not that World War I will then become history; it’s been history for a long time now. But it will become a different kind of history, the kind we can’t quite touch anymore, the kind that will, from that point on, always be just beyond our grasp somehow. We can’t stop that from happening. But we should, at least, take notice of it.

Yes we should. Read the article.

And now for something completely different…

As a father of three teenage girls, I got a kick out of this blast from the past:


This “16” magazine from the early sixties is a hoot. (See more here.)

This issue featured the inside scoop on the big Bonanza news: the departure of Pernell Roberts due, no doubt, to “creative differences” with Michael Landon—which would date this issue to roughly 1965.

That, then, would be the year The King was in danger of being dethroned by some guy named “Petersen.” I’m not sure who this would be. There was a drummer for a short-lived group called the Beau Brummells named Jon Petersen. But he doesn’t strike me as being a big Elvis threat.

Maybe it’s this guy. He seems to be all heart-throb-y. Alas, Elvis survived the Petersen juggernaut and went on to make cheesy movies, launch an early 70s comeback, and reinvent himself in Vegas where he would achieve permanent iconal status. (Update: Yep. That’s him. He’s become a activist on child labor issues, particular child actors and performers.)

The headline about the Stones getting away with “murder” is interesting. I doubt the author was prophetically anticipating the Altamont concert four years hence in which one person would be killed when the Hell’s Angels were acquired to handle security on the promise of—get this—free beer.

Makes sense to me. Hell’s Angels + unlimited brewskis + 300,000 stoners = no worries on the security front. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be an issue of a teen mag without a offer to ameliorate that scourge of adolescence—complexion issues.

Final Word (for now) On the KCM Thing

Over the last 24 hours I’ve had an entertaining and cordial, if profoundly unfruitful, email dialogue with Brett Shipp, the reporter that generated that WFAA piece on the Copelands. It was gracious of him to reply to my message and responses.

Those exchanges were private and I will keep them so. But his responses did put me in remembrance of a fundamental truth about human nature: One of the most gratifying experiences is having our deeply held biases validated. At the end of the day, Brett wasn’t interested in credible information that didn’t fit his pre-set narrative. I understand. Few of us are. But don’t “investigative reporters” have a little more responsibility to be curious?

To be fair, being assigned to a KCM story presents some challenges to any reporter who actually wants to be fair and present both sides of the story. Like most major media ministries, they are massively media-phobic. They simply will not talk to the press. And like most of them, they come by that allergy honestly. They rarely get a fair shake. They assume that a reporter is interested only in putting the worst possible spin on things.

I can assure you, Brett Shipp will have validated those biases with a vengeance.

Look, here’s the thing. KCM may have done 1,000 things wrong. Or not. I don’t know. What I do know is that the issue Shipp/WFAA were making a ginormous freaking deal about isn’t one of them. Sorry, it just isn’t. (Those readers who know my background and field of expertise are aware that I know whereof I speak.)

What was evident in the report and my dialogue with the reporter was a huge lack of understanding of (or interest in) how a large non-profit must communicate with its constituents. But then a reporter who had already categorized the Copelands as “bad guys” because of the house, plane, trips, whatever…might not care so much about the accuracy of a given negative report because, in his mind, they deserve the perception it creates.

Such a reporter might even try to spin the purchase of a high volume printer and the commonplace, commonsense personalization of letters as somehow sinister.

I can tell you this with metaphysical certitude, if you inherited a giant media ministry and were committed to running it with crystalline purity and integrity—your internal processes regarding correspondence and prayer requests would look very much like the ones at KCM.

That’s the truth, no matter what a few disillusioned ex-employees may say.

More on WFAA Overreach


That WFAA piece of non-news posing as a shocking expose’ I mentioned in the previous post proved to be such a rich source of mock fodder that my pointer finger got tired before I could give every worthy item a proper taunting.

Speaking as a former journalist, would you like to know when a reporter has ceased objectively reporting the facts of a story and begun ax-grinding and agenda flogging? It is the moment you hear a phrase like “envelopes stuffed with cash” to describe business reply letters containing checks for product purchases and donations. Reporter Brett Shipp says:

Among those who have come forward is Jeff Spradlin, who said he grew up admiring the Copelands and was excited to get a job working for them.

“Within 90 days, I started realizing this was a huge mistake,” he said.

For nearly two years, Spradlin said he worked in the mail processing center where prayer request envelopes stuffed with cash would arrive every morning.

That phrase “come forward” is an especially nice touch to describe the three cranky ex-employees of the ministry. It makes them sound so courageous. After all, the last guy that crossed those Copelands never got work in a mail room in this town again.

I have been in several dozen ministry “mail processing centers” and I can attest that an envelope containing any cash is very rare. And I have never seen one “stuffed with cash.” Nevertheless, using that phrase makes it sound like some sort of shady money-laundering, white-slavery operation. Which was precisely the objective.

One striking thing about the three brave ex-employees is that their primary complaint seems to be a disappointing quantity of hang time with Ken and Glo.

The former employees News 8 spoke to also said their spirits sank after learning the Copelands have little if any contact with their Prayer Partners and their staff.

“The one time I saw the man was at the Christmas party,” Boutwell said.

This sort of disappointment is not uncommon. People who connect with a minister through television and conferences come to work for a ministry such as KCM with wildly unrealistic expectations about what it is going to be like and the levels of access they are going to enjoy.

Finally, the report is amusingly bewildered and scandalized by the concept of “personalizing” letters through automation. 

I was nervious at first but I feel better now that I have “come forward” to “speak out” about the abuses of investigative reporting.

Piling On the Copelands—WFAA Overreaches

As you must certainly have heard by now, Sen. Charles Grassley has launched a investigation into the grave danger to the nation posed by preachers with absurdly large houses.

My friend Phil Cooke over at Cooke Pictures posted some excellent thoughts on the whole thing yesterday. (Phil has consulted for a couple of the ministries under investigation and knows whereof he speaks.)

Last night local ABC affiliate WFAA teased, hyped and then breathlessly delivered a piece by reporter Brett Shipp on Tarrant County’s own Kenneth Copeland Ministries. (text version here) By the looks of a list of related, past stories on WFAA’s web site, the station’s News Director assigned Shipp to cover the Copelands sometime last year. (Seemingly, WFAA has one reporter covering the state capitol, one covering city hall, one covering the police department, and one all over Kenneth and Gloria.)

WFAA devoted a full seven minutes of its 22 non-commercial newscast minutes to repeat the following faux bombshell over and over:

The Copelands don’t see the thousands of individual prayer requests that come into the ministry.

Now that revelation might actually approach micro-scandal status if the ministry actually encouraged people to believe otherwise. But that’s the thing. They don’t. On the contrary, I have personally observed that the ministry goes out of its way to avoid giving the impression that Kenneth and Gloria are going personally read and pray over any requests that come into the ministry.

The reason Shipp and WFAA are hyperventilating is they have misremembered the details of the Bob Tilton scandal from way back—a reporting “gotcha” coup that every wannabe 20/20 correspondent dreams of duplicating—and they think they have another one on their hands.

Tilton, you may recall, had his mail sent directly to an offsite processing facility where checks were deposited and correspondence, including prayer requests, was dumpstered (or that was the appearance anyway).

By contrast, the Copelands tell people their prayer requests will be prayed over by a member of of the ministry’s prayer team. And they are. In other words, the ministry does precisely what they say they’re going to do. And this is a bombshell?

Of course, nothing in Shipp’s reporting even bothered to ask the question as to what KCM had promised its donors in terms of prayer requests. He just gets the vapors and declares:

One day after the announcement of a congressional investigation into their ministry finances, televangelists Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Fort Worth may have a new set of problems.

Revelations have arisen from former ministry insiders that say Copeland’s faithful followers are being misled and that it’s time for the truth to come out.

Now last night’s video package did show Kenneth Copeland being ambushed by Shipp and a video crew behind the platform at another ministry’s motorccycle rally. In it Shipp directly asks a clearly startled and off-balance Copeland if he “sees the prayer request that come in to the ministry.” Copeland says “yes.”

I’m betting Copeland wishes he had a do-over on that one. With a little time to compose himself, he might have said, “Well, of course not. We get thousands and thousands of letters each week. That’s why we’re very clear in our correspondence that it is a member of the staff that will read and pray over them. Now why don’t you run along and ask that Pottery Barn guy if he personally fills every catalog order.” 

Is the Copeland’s house so big that it’s visible from space? Yes. Is that a bad idea for people in their position. Almost certainly. Though I’m not an expert on such things as Senators from Iowa are.

But last night’s report was indeed an embarassment. For WFAA.

Seek Piscine Prey or Subdivide Food-Related Enticements

Translation: Fish or Cut Bait

That’s the spot-on message Ramesh Ponnuru has for Congressional Democrats:

Dennis Kucinich called his party’s bluff. If Democrats believe half of the things they say about the Bush administration, then they ought to impeach both Bush and Cheney.

I don’t believe that Bush and Cheney “lied us into war.” If the Democrats who say they did really believe it, though, then they ought to do something about it. Surely taking the country into war on pretenses they knew were false counts as a high crime and misdemeanor.

If they don’t believe it, on the other hand, they are spreading some poisonous lies for partisan advantage. Good for Kucinich for having the courage of his sincere, though loopy, convictions.