Chicago Tribune: Bush Didn’t Lie

In the words of the December 28, 2005 Chicago Tribune editorial[*1] :

On Nov. 20, the Tribune began an inquest: We set out to assess the Bush administration’s arguments for war in Iraq. We have weighed each of those nine arguments against the findings of subsequent official investigations by the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Intelligence Committee and others. We predicted that this exercise would distress the smug and self-assured–those who have unquestioningly supported, or opposed, this war.
. . .
After reassessing the administration’s nine arguments for war, we do not see the conspiracy to mislead that many critics allege. Example: The accusation that Bush lied about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs overlooks years of global intelligence warnings that, by February 2003, had convinced even French President Jacques Chirac of “the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq.” We also know that, as early as 1997, U.S. intel agencies began repeatedly warning the Clinton White House that Iraq, with fissile material from a foreign source, could have a crude nuclear bomb within a year.

Was the case for war overstated? Yes. Was there sufficient casus belli to go to war? Reasonable people can disagree. I think yes as well. Saddam was as brutal a tyrant as this world has ever seen. His only difference from monsters such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot is that he “only” killed hundreds of thousands instead of millions. Saddam’s removal from power was in and of itself a good thing.

Both kneejerk war hawks and Bush Derangement Syndrome[*2] sufferers would benefit themselves and the entire national political debate by reading and comprehending this outstanding series of editorials by the Chicago Tribune. Sometimes Old Media remembers its true calling and purpose. Are you listening, New York Times?

Via Steve Antler[*3] and Instapundit[*4] .

Legal Authority

No spin. No ignoramuses arguing on a shouting head TV show.

An official communication from the Administration to the appropriate Congressional committees:

Letter from Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella[*1] to the chairmen and vice-chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence committees (a PDF file).

You need to read this document in order to begin to have an informed opinion on this scandal. Oh, it’s a scandal, all right, but it isn’t the scandal that most of Big Media want you to think it is.


A Bad Cruise

To companies: bad service costs big money. In the case of the story told here, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises likely won’t ever see the $100K-plus that my wife and I were prepared to spend on one of our mutual lifetime dreams–a sea cruise around the world.

Our story is in the format of the letter my wife composed and we sent to the CEO of the cruise line in question. We’ll post any response we get from the company. Click on the “read more” link below to read the whole sorry affair.

Update 1/12/06: We just received a call from Debra Richards of RSSC who said that they’ve received our letter and are looking into it. She said we should expect a response in the next couple of weeks. Thanks, Debra.

Update 2/2/06: We received a letter of apology from Radisson. We’ll post the text here when we return home.

Mr.Mark Conroy

CEO,Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
600 Corporate Drive, Suite 410
FortLauderdale, FL 33334

Mr. Conroy:

My husband and I were on the December 5, 2005 RSSC Voyager forits 7 day cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. My 80-year old parentstraveled with us on the cruise since my father uses a wheelchairwhich is difficult for my mother to deal with on her own. This is myfifteenth cruise, but the first on RSSC.

In November, 2005, my husband and I completed a cruise on HollandAmerica’s Amsterdam since we were trying out both shipsin anticipation of booking a 2007 world cruise (100+ days) on eitherRSSC or HAL. Our experiences on the Voyager ranged fromirritating to appalling, as documented in this letter.

Four months prior to sailing, I filled out Guest Information Forms for ourparents and us and faxed them to RSSC as well as using the US mail. I also went online about two months before sailing and filled out theonline forms. I was very explicit in our beverage choices of threedifferent flavors of diet soda in our suite and when I called RSSCtwo weeks before sailing, the agent read exactly what I had written(or typed) so I was satisfied that the sodas would be waiting for us. They weren’t. We got to our suite and there were Diet Coke,sugared root beer and sugared 7-Up. Our room stewardess said thatshe was told to put in these three flavors per our request. We doNOT drink sugared sodas which was why I had gone to the trouble offilling out the forms in advance multiple times. My husband and Ifound diet sodas in the Internet café/DVD room and took thoseto our room and then used room service after that to re-order thediet sodas that we needed since our stewardess was unable to stockour refrigerator with a variety of diet sodas.

Two weeks prior to sailing I realized that my parents didn’t haveany paperwork on the Guest Protection Program yet they paid for it. I called RSSC and was told to print it from the Internet. Whydoesn’t this documentation get included with the otherdocuments that RSSC sent to their home address 3 weeks prior to thecruise? With ALL other cruise lines that I have sailed, I havereceived insurance documents with my cruise documents and have NEVERbeen told to print them from the Internet. What do people withoutInternet access do? How do they get the Guest Protection Programpapers?

On 12/5, my husband decided that he wanted to get USA Todaydelivered to our suite every day. The newspaper order form had twopayment options – $4.95 for each day or a “value”package of around $25 for six days. Unfortunately, on a seven-daycruise, there are NOT six days that you can receive a paper (youcan’t get one on the first day or on the last day so there areonly five available newspaper days). Plus, USA Today does notpublish on weekends which meant there were only four possible days ofUSA Today delivery. When I took the form to the front desk,it took the woman a few minutes to verify that the form was incorrectand she said that we would have to do four days of the $4.95 price. Why offer a “value” package when it’s notapplicable?

My parents were in a penthouse suite and were entitled to havecomplimentary pressing of two garments for the first night’sdinner. On 12/5 my mother got to her suite around 3:00 and asked thebutler to press two garments. She asked him twice more on 12/6 andthey were finally pressed in time for the second night’sdinner. She had to wear something different on the first night sincethe pressing wasn’t done. Don’t offer complimentarypressing for the first night if it’s not going to be done.

On 12/6 the four of us had dinner at Compass Rose Restaurant (our normaldining location for dinner). My mother placed her order and when oneof the appetizers was placed in front of her, she said it wasn’thers and the waiter took it back with some hesitation. My motherlooked at the menu and realized it was hers and told the waiter itwas hers. He placed it in front of her while rolling his eyes in avery exaggerated and noticeable manner. Surely Radisson does nothave a corporate policy of obviously expressing disdain when an80-year-old woman makes a mistake?

On 12/7, the daily Passages newsletter listed that hot chocolateand pastries would be served in the Atrium on 4 from 10 AM untilnoon. My husband and I went there at 11:45 and found nothing. Astaff member was passing by and told us to talk to the Compass Rosemaitre d’. We told the maitre d’ that Passages saidit would be served until noon and he informed us that he filled out aform for 10 AM – 11:30 AM and that he didn’t know it wassupposed to be there until noon since he had specified 11:30 AM. Hefinally asked if we wanted hot chocolate (which was why we werethere!) and brought some to us. But, the fact that his firstresponse was that the form that he filled out was for 10 AM –11:30 AM was really not something that we cared about. We had beentold to look at Passages for all the information we needed for thedaily events.

After the hot chocolate debacle, I decided to go to the Guest Services Deskon Deck 5 to explain what had just happened. The woman at the frontdesk said “Sorry” but didn’t seem to care at all. I then saw the Comment Cards box on the front desk and asked her fora comment card. Her response was that Housekeeping would distributethem to each suite mid-cruise. I then asked her again for one andshe re-iterated that Housekeeping would distribute them mid-cruise. Then I saw the very large Voyager postcards and decided to usethose for my comments. If you have a comment card box, you shouldhave comment cards readily available.

On 12/7, my husband ordered the cheese and port for his dessert. Thiswas the second night in a row that he ordered cheese and port fordessert. The previous evening, he was simply given a plate of cheese(the trolley was not brought to him) and had to ask for port threetimes. On 12/7, the trolley was brought to him and he was allowed tochoose the types of cheese he wanted. We all saw the bottle of porton the bottom shelf and assumed the waiter would serve it with thecheese. Well, after asking a second time for port, my husband gotit. This was just one example of the poor service we received inCompass Rose. Water glasses and coffee cups were often empty forlong periods of time. I think this is a result of the no tippingpolicy as well as not having the same waiter for every dinner.

On 12/8, we had the most serious negative incident of the entire cruise,one which went far beyond bad service to actually posing a threat toour health and safety. I awoke at 1:45 AM to fumes that smelled likepaint or varnish. My eyes were watering and I was getting nauseous. I woke my husband and he smelled them, too. We called the front deskand asked for someone to come to our room, then sat out on the dark,windy, cool balcony. We called again around 2 AM and were told thatthe Fire Patrol walked by our room but did not come in to check it. We asked AGAIN for someone to come to our room since the fumes weremaking me physically ill. After a third call, someone came at 2:30AM and told us we could move to an “emergency cabin,” butonly for that night, after which we would have to return to ourassigned cabin. Having no choice, we put on our robes, packed myhusband’s CPAP breathing machine into a suitcase, and went to theemergency cabin.

We returned to our suite around 9 AM to find that fumes were still as strong as they were the previous evening. We again called the frontdesk and demanded to be moved to another suite. We were then movedto another suite for the remainder of the cruise.

This was the single worst experience I have had in nineteen years of traveling the world, both for pleasure and as a consultant for aglobal consulting company. It should NOT take 45 minutes for acrewmember to come to the aid a guest that is having an emergencysince this is what was happening. It was an emergency – I washaving difficulty breathing and no staff person checked on me (or myhusband) for 45 minutes! The safety of your guests should be yourprimary focus. Since neither safety nor service seemed to be of anyurgent importance to the crew of the Voyager and RSSC, I amforced to wonder what is important to you?

We were later told that due to the high seas, routine varnishing wasbeing done without any windows or vents open, apparently forcing thefumes into the air conditioning ducts. This is also dangerous toyour crew that was doing the varnishing and is probably an OSHAviolation. On 12/10, 36 hours after meeting with Theresa, we did getan apology note from “Steph” with a bottle of champagneand chocolates. This paled in comparison to the way the noxiousfumes incident was handled on 12/8. And on a cruise that offeredcomplimentary alcohol, and supposedly featured chocolate, the apologygift was ironic at best.

On 12/9 all guests had to go to the Constellation Theatre for passportcontrol. My husband and I cleared early as we had an off-shipexcursion scheduled that morning. My mother and father were calledsomewhat later. The Constellation Theatre has a fairly steep inclineat the entry to the theater. My mother struggled to push my fatherin his wheelchair up the walkway to the theatre. When she finallymade it to the top of the ramp, my mother commented to a staff memberthat it would have been nice if one of the many staff membersstanding around would have helped her. The staff member told mymother that if she had telephoned for help, someone would have helpedpush my father into the Constellation Theatre. How was she supposedto know that she would need help pushing my father up the ramp? I amin excellent physical condition, and I had to get a running start topush my father’s wheelchair up the steep ramp at the entranceof the theatre. Surely the ramp was not unknown to the Voyagercrew, nor was it unknown to them that they had guests in wheelchairson board. Why was there not a single a crewmember available to helpin this mandatory exercise?

My mother felt like she and my father in his wheelchair were ignoredmost of the time while she struggled to get him over variousthresholds (especially the ones on Deck 11 leading outside) and upthe steep walkway to the Constellation Theatre. She has been on manycruises with him in his wheelchair and felt that the Voyagercrew was not very helpful to the needs of the disabled and elderly. Their wheelchair accessible suite had a 3-inch tall sill at thejunction of the suite and the balcony that was inaccessible to myfather’s wheelchair. Another general comment dealing withwheelchair use on Voyager is that the housekeeping cartsseemed to be in the halls most of the day. This makes it verydifficult for wheelchairs to squeeze by. On other ships, the cartsare never seen since the stewards store their cleaning items inclosets and storage areas that are hidden from the guests.

My husband and I were invited to meet with Theresa (Guest RelationsManager) on 12/9 to discuss our comment card comments (i.e. the twopost cards I wrote on 12/7). After spending 45 minutes with herletting her know that the level of service on RSSC was unacceptableand was sub-par compared to ANY cruise I had been on, she apologizedand told us to get in touch with her if we ever had another issue onboard. After this meeting our fervent hope was that the remainder ofthe cruise would proceed without any more service disappointments. Sadly, that would not be the case.

When our traveling party checked in on 12/5 for the cruise, I requestedthat my credit card be used for both my parent’s suite as well thesuite my husband and I would be in. I have done this on the othercruises I have taken with my parents so that they don’t have tofumble for their credit card (and potentially lose it) while jugglingcarry–on luggage. This had always worked well for everyoneconcerned—the cruise line, my parents and me. Since I hadsuccessfully done it on seven other cruises and since the card wasswiped two different times (during each suite’s check-inprocess), I didn’t give it another thought.

After our meeting with Theresa on 12/9, I went to the front desk to checkon our balances. Jeffery told me that both suites were on oneaccount and that if I wanted to have them separated I would have tobring the credit card back to the front desk. I explained that thecard had already been swiped two times and that at a minimum, thecard information was correctly associated with our current suite, sothe card data was there and could be copied to our parent’s suite. Jeffery insisted I would have to bring the card back to the frontdesk. I summoned Theresa and she agreed that since the card hadalready been swiped two times, I would not have to return to thefront desk and everything would be fine with the separate accounts. (More on this issue later.)

On 12/9, my husband ordered room service around 4 PM. We then went todinner. When we returned to our suite around 10 PM, we found thatthe suite had been cleaned but the empty plates were still on theroom service tray on the table. I’ve never been on a cruisewhere the room steward didn’t handle the dirty room servicedishes while cleaning the room. (Or at least I assume stewards onthe other cruises dealt with the dirty dishes. I just know that whenI returned to my cabin late at night after the night’sturn-down/cleaning, the dirty dishes were gone.)

On 12/10 when we returned to our suite after dinner, we had TWO items onour bed addressed to a“Mr.&Mrs. Grace” in our newsuite. One of the items was the Guest Questionnaire. We didn’tknow who these people were but we had received correctly addressedliterature to our suite since having been relocated there on 12/8. We figured that if you didn’t know our names, you really didn’tcare about our Guest Questionnaire comments. However, I went to thefront desk and got a correctly printed form for us to fill out andinformed the front desk that we were not Mr. and Mrs. Grace.

On 12/11, there was a knock on the door. My husband was surprised whenhe saw a steward with a cake and two glasses of champagne and thesteward asked “Mr. Grace, is it someone’s birthday?” My husband explained that we weren’t the Graces and thesteward sheepishly departed.

On 12/11, I turned in two forms to the Boutique for liquor and evenspoke to the woman behind the counter and she wrote a note on myliquor order form requesting a cardboard box that would hold fourbottles. One form was for my parents and one was for us. When wereturned to our suite after dinner, I realized that we didn’thave our alcohol so I called the Boutique and was informed that Ineeded to come and sign the form. I requested that the Boutiqueworker come to my suite. A few minutes later, she did. When Ilooked at the original form (the one that I filled out and was toldthat I goofed by not signing), I realized WHY I didn’t sign it. The form clearly required the guest to sign upon receipt ofthe alcohol. Well, since I turned in the forms early that morningand did NOT receive the alcohol at that time, I did NOT sign theforms. I explained this to the woman and she said that she knew thatthe duty free liquor order forms were labeled incorrectly, but that’show it was. I signed and got my alcohol and then called my mother. She had the same situation but she had already gone down to theBoutique to take care of the Boutique’s error.

When we met my parents in their suite on 8:30 AM on disembarkation(12/12), my mother was laughing at the last Radisson screw-up of thiscruise. She had received a phone call at 8 AM asking her to come tothe front desk since there was no credit card on file for their suiteand they owed $1. She knew about the credit card hassle I had on12/9 and she just couldn’t get over the ineptitude of RSSC. However, she interrupted her final packing and went downstairs andgave them $1 in cash. When she told me this, I went to see Theresaabout this and her reply was “Well, Radisson probably didn’twant to charge the card $1.” When I explained that my motherhad been told that Radisson had no credit card on file, Theresa justsaid “Sorry.” That expression,“Sorry”,pretty much sums up Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, the Voyager,and our entire cruise experience.

On a positive note, Anna, the maitre d’ at La Veranda, was always veryfriendly and was especially helpful to my parents. The food atSignatures was outstanding and the library had a great selection. Many of the staff we encountered actually did do their jobs withcompetence and cheer, but as you have read, there were many whom didnot.

Except for the appalling incident with the fumes, any of these items on itsown wouldn’t have made for a sub-par cruise. The Voyagercrew’s performance during the fume incident, especially the failurefor any crewmember to check on us for nearly an hour after we firstreported the problem, is inexcusable. Setting that one episodeaside, the sheer length of the list of sub-standard serviceexperiences we had on what was supposed to be an ultra-luxury cruiseexperience left us very disappointed. Needless to say, wewill not be booking the 2007 World Cruise, or any other cruise forthat matter, with RSSC in the future. We will also be discussingthis cruise experience at length with our friends, colleagues andacquaintances as well as posting on our blog, Needless to say we can not recommend to anyone an RSSC cruise basedon our experience as documented here. We look forward to hearingfrom you regarding these issues and we will post your reply


Iraq, and who’s responsible for national security, anyway?

I’ve been trying hard to avoid politics lately–it’s gotten so bitter and silly that it’s much more fun to simply go on a cruise or two and watch some college basketball.

But, in the interim, a couple of things have happened.

First, Iraq elected a parliament. Now, we don’t know who won yet, but the fact remains that for the first time in history, an Arab nation has elected a fully representative government.

Of course, to the extent that this remarkable achievement has been reported in Old Media, it’s been spun largely as “what will go wrong now and how it will hurt Bush.”


Next, we have the New York Times story on government monitoring of communications between terror suspects in foreign countries and those in the U.S. It is an open question as to what the story really is. Is it “domestic spying” as the Old Media is largely spinning it, or is it the illegal leaking of intelligence information as the Administration asserts?

Or maybe a bit of both?

Certainly we need to be concerned whenever the government monitors U.S. citizens’ communications. But should we also be concerned that an intelligence operation, maybe an ongoing one, was (by admission of the New York Times) illegally leaked to them?

Old Media keeps trying to re-live their successes with the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

But have they, in their zeal to “get” a sitting Administration, gone too far?

We are in the curious position, it seems, of allowing (unelected and therefore fundamentally undemocratic) major media outlets to decide whether national security will be harmed by revealing secret information.

Despite the libertarian/anarchical notion that “information should be free,” I’d suggest that this is, generally, not a good idea.

Hopefully a court will decide who, if anyone, should go to prison for a long, long, long, long time in this affair.

Where we’ve been this time

This latest extended hiatus from posting started with being snowed/iced in by a blizzard/ice storm after Thanksgiving in South Dakota. We lived by candle-light and generator at my sister’s place for a couple of days, then escaped back home to Kansas City, just in time to board an airplane for Ft. Lauderdale and take a Caribbean cruise.

So, there are lots of pictures to post and stories to tell. Snookums and I are entering a (relatively) slow period travel-wise, so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on some of those stories over the next month or so. That doesn’t mean we won’t be on the road–we’ve got a couple of basketball trips planned. And, generally, we’ll also be catching up on some of the UT and SDSU basketball and sports news.

The Conference Map Project has been stagnant for far too long, too. I really need to crank out the 2005-06 Division I and Division II maps, preferably before the Final Four is completed. Sigh.