Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Its Saturday morning so perhaps it is safe to admit that I chuckle every time I hear the media say “Iraqi Television”. I do not mean to cast any sort of slur upon the Iraqi people. I’m just wondering, as Dan Rather likes to say, about the context of the phrase Iraqi Television.
I keep waiting for them to say, “Saddam Hussein appeared today on Iraqi Entertainment Tonight.” Instead I get this morning’s New York Times’ “Iraqi TV Presents a Relaxed Hussein”…sipping a Zima was he???
I certainly don’t expect the present US media to bother pointing out that maybe Iraqi TV really means Ahmed and his camcorder and I certainly don’t expect them to point out that Ahmed is really kind of clever.
I was amused, when was it, this war blurs everything, the other day to notice the Iraqi Information Minister (already a deliciously convoluted and corrupted twisting of meaning and intent) standing before a mercator world map in identical color tones as the expensive Hollywood-designed map appearing behind the US Generals in Qatar. One was cardboard and one was a digitally airbrushed image displayed through a plasma screen digital monitor. And, there really is, a knack in the matching of tone so perfectly and quickly. There is a moral here.
As a television director for almost 30 years I can respect a guy who is generating a particular impact with what I’m guessing is little or no budget.
Little imagination is required to see Friday’s Saddam footage as a Bonfire of the Vanities moment. Take a relatively few people, high camera angles mixed with close angles only and that zany smile and wave or I shoot you exuberance and, “Voila!” you are guaranteed to hear, as I did, someone on CNN say, “it looks like a relatively large crowd…”
Once it’s a media moment, it’s a media moment forever. Remember the Vincennes and the Iranian Jet episode? Right after that plane went down there appeared on the US media supposed footage purporting to show victim bodies floating in the Persian Gulf waters. Can you discern my slight bias? Bloated, unblemished naked bodies floating in the Gulf. This was July 3, 1988, just how many camcorders do you think there were in Iran? How many camcorders are in the US today? While sometimes it seems as though every tornado that lands is videotaped that certainly is not the case. Yet some lucky camcorder-toting Iranian just happened to videotape these perfect unmarked “floaters” to use an ugly inside media word. It is vitally important to remember that these victims had been blown out of an exploding passenger jet, a state of affairs known to have dramatic affects upon the human body, and so the unmarked state would seem unlikely. Yet, no matter the historic reality of the Vincennes incident, I still see this Iranian home video mindlessly B-rolled in historical media set-ups.
In a concept partially taken from the new William Gibson novel Pattern Recognition, the Saddam footage is remarkable for its very lack of remarkability. Walls draped in white hangings, the odd ever-changing table dimensions and sometimes drapery and the strange heavily slip-covered motel furniture Saddam seems to prefer all combine into a timelessness that cannot be easy to achieve no matter the skimpy budget for set and effects. Is there an Iraqi David Lynch camera ready to make Blue Velvet Baghdad style?
Watching Friday’s Saddam footage, and I swear my partner’s better at spotting the phony Saddams than those CIA computer programs, I could almost hear some sniveling producer sucking up to a bedridden Saddam saying, “Oh my Father it looks like thousands…”
What it really looks like are, I’m sorry to say, balls, big heavy brass ones. A certain high-ranking official is in the boxing match of his life, $250K in plasma screen versus $5 in cardboard and Krylon. Someone on CNN is sure to say, ”…It looks like thousands!”
As I write the networks are reporting that our American troops have entered downtown Baghdad. May God and their skilled bravery protect these fine soldiers and the innocent among the Iraqi people.
I want to also thank the Media Horse for yesterday linking to this humble blog in his list of Unbiased Dailies. I’ve had a large increase in hits. Thank you.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Here is Colonel Dowdy's official Marine biography off the Camp Pendleton web site:
1st Marine Regiment
Col. Joe D. Dowdy
Colonel Dowdy, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, was commissioned in 1979 as a second lieutenant following graduation from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. He also holds a M.A. degree from Webster University in Management and Human Resources Development and a M.S.S. in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry Officer Advanced Course, U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger Schools, Command and Staff College, Armed Forces Staff College and U.S. Army War College.
Colonel Dowdy’s command assignments include: rifle and Dragon platoon commander, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines (1980-83); Company Commander, Company E, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines (Second Battalion, Sixth Marines was redesignated as Second Battalion, Eighth Marines) (1988-1990); Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Service Company, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines (1990); Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Security Force Company, Keflavik, Iceland (1990-1992); Commanding Officer, First Battalion, First Marines (1998-2000).
Colonel Dowdy’s staff assignments include: Marine Corps Recruiting Station LittleRock, Operations Officer and Executive Officer (1983-1986); Assistant Operations Officer (S-3A), Second Battalion, Sixth Marines (1987-1988); Operations Officer (S-3), Second Battalion, Eighth Marines (1990); Crisis-Action Plans Officer, Operations Directorate (J-3), United States Central Command (1993-1996); G-3 Operations Officer, 1st Marine Division (1996-1998); Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, 1st Marine Division (2000); Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, First Marine Expeditionary Force (2001-2002). .
Colonel Dowdy’s personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Army Achievement Medal.
I've not read or heard another word regarding the Sky News report whose copy has been updated with:
Officials at the US Central Command war headquarters in Qatar declined to comment.
"At this time we have no information about anyone being relieved of command," Centcom spokesman Lieutenant Commander Joshua Rushing said.
But another senior officer, who declined to be named, said a replacement for Dowdy had been announced and a helicopter crew had been given orders to ferry the colonel back to Kuwait
Here's a report in Saturday's Washington Post. While this report Loyalty Test in The New York Times may have some bearing. This from Orbat.com would seem to support the NYT loyalty test. The warblog Agonist wonders at a connection between Colonel Dowdy and 24 Marines reported to be MIA. Whatever this and other soldiers fates will be could be conplicated by this interesting post from the always controversial Talking Points Memo's Joshua Marshall on the Rick's Cafe American atmosphere in the emirate of Kuwait.
Colonel Relieved of Command
US Marines outside Baghdad.
OK so it's a new post, but, this story demands a link from a vet who has been very proud of the Army/Marine armored advance on Baghdad. A United States Marine colonel, Commander of the Marines 1st Regimental Combat Team 1, has been, according to a US military spokesman "relieved of his post".
The officer was named as Colonel Joe Dowdy. Dowdy was in command of 5,000 men and women and had led the regiment's advance through southern and central Iraq, including a bloody passage through the Euphrates River town of Nasiriyah.
He was described as a popular commander who kept casualties down in leading his troops to within 80 miles from Baghdad.
Military spokesman Steven Schweitzer said: "He was responsible for the regiment until three hours ago." The spokesman did not give any reasons for the move.
The three hours mentioned are within an hour of this posting.
Photo: James Hill/The New York Times
Rookwood Pottery, 1905 Fred Rothenbusch
I'm unsure if I will be able to post much more today due to yesterday's vicious worm attack. But, hey, I'm kind of back up and I did it myself. The people at Dell were most unhelpful and required a fee to answer questions (even with my unlimited warranty which now, sorry Dell, seems limited). Anyone want to guess who has lost an upcoming full blown laptop sale??? Hmm??? So, the posted picture addresses the recent pottery info shortage and, oddly to the uninitiated, is controversial. Is it a true black iris? I have my reasons and others have other reasons. Without question it is a superb pot with the effulgent whiteness of the daisies in stark contrast to the no chroma black of the background slip painting. The true absence of color tone called black was one of the Holy Grails of the Arts and Crafts pottery movement.
Our heart is with our fine young soldiers, particularly on this day, bravely executing their sworn duty in exceedingly difficult circumstances. But, this self same heart is uplifted knowing that the Media Horse is back from vacation!
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Sorry there is no link to the Reuter's story on the Presidential mood from which I excerpted the quotation in the Lejuene Rally post. A computer worm, I think, made itself manifest after a reboot following my 4:48PM post, and attacked my basic virus security and prevented internet access. It has been a rough and totally unnecessary four or five hours but I'm back on line. Just checking Reuter's, I cannot find and consequently cannot link to the story containing the quote I used. I am sorry.
I am very grateful to the freeware Spybot Search and Destroy.
I found an interesting version of the President Tense Mood Upbeat story on the Reuter’s site. Interesting for a variety of reasons:
1-Is this Mr. Card’s idea of a story that is going to reassure the American people?
2-Staff sensing the need for a more realistic approach than USA Today’s “He’s giving up sweets for the war…”
3-Possible indirect White House confirmation of my post from yesterday regarding the absence of telephone communication with families of killed, wounded, missing or POWs as they list Presidential activities:
“Bush's days are now dominated by the grim reality of war. He begins and ends each day with a war briefing, with updates throughout the day. He watches some television coverage of the war, sometimes at night, fascinated by the real-time reports from reporters embedded into military units. He signs letters to the families of those Americans killed in action. His public events are limited. His trips out of Washington so far have been limited He remains relatively isolated.”
I really think it is past time for the President’s Press Secretary to describe publically, with taste and all due privacy, the President’s efforts to console those families whose members have been killed, wounded, found missing or taken prisoner.
These large theatrical events, like the one staged today at Camp Lejeune cannot be a source of comfort to these families no matter how terrific the President’s advisors still think they appear on the tube. The sacrifice of these families requires the one on one service of the President of the United States and not the cold remove of a albeit signed letter.
As the noose tightens the battle could grow more difficult.
Overnight lead elements of United States Army and Marine forces closed within 20 miles of downtown Baghdad from two directions.
As Baghdad is encircled, local weather predictions and intelligence are making US commanders more wary of an Iraqi chem/bio attack. "There's an old military saying: If your attack is going well, it's an ambush," said Col. Larry Brown, the chief operations officer for Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the top Marine commander in Iraq. “Senior U.S. commanders expressed confidence that their troops have crushed one of the six Republican Guard divisions ringing Baghdad, severely damaged two others and effectively cut off the capital from the southern and eastern sections of the country”, reported the Washington Post Foreign Service.
While American air power has destroyed “large numbers” of Iraqi armor, The New York Times reports Allied aircraft making over 1000 sorties per day, air has failed to stop the “melting” of Republican Guard elements back into central Baghdad as a guerrilla force. "If it becomes an all-out, hand-to-hand urban battle for Baghdad, then we'll have done something wrong," a senior military official said. Indeed, if the dramatic Army and Marine armored ground assault continues its success with nominal air support we are looking at a possible evolutionary moment in military history. Of course it should be noted that nominal is, according to a military official quoted in this morning’s NYT, “…in the two-week campaign, allied forces fired more than 700 cruise missiles and dropped more than 10,000 precision-guided bombs. More than half of those bombs have been dropped in the past five days.”
Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
La estancia c'est moi!
Within the last few days Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has dodged questions asking if the President has telephoned families of the dead, wounded or missing. The faux stentorian Ari declaimed “…these are private matters.”
Yet as the media gingerly meets with these families we learn, in many cases, that no one from the military or federal government has made any contact at all.
In a wide array of published material we learn that the President has recently had time to watch several movies and that he rarely misses his daily workout session in the White House gym.
I think we are now at a time when Mr. Fleischer must provide some detail on whether there have or have not been Presidential phones calls to military family members.
Art: London Guardian
As I write at dusk Eastern Time, forces of the United States are within15- 20 miles of Baghdad. "Our guys are able to see the skyline. That's how close we've gotten," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
From reports in this morning’s New York Times, elements of the United States Army and Marines today entered the Red Zone beginning the Battle for Baghdad.
Southeast of Baghdad, the First Marine Expeditionary Force have engaged and routed the Baghdad Division of the Republican Guard and seized the strategic town of Kut within 100 miles of the Iraqi capitol. Embeds within these troops now report the American force is within 40 miles of Baghdad.
More to the south, combined elements of the Army’s 3rd Infantry and Marine 1st Divisions assisted by Allied warplanes and Apache fighters attacked the Medina Division of the Republican Guard allowing some American elements to cross the Tigris River.
Slow and dangerous will be ever more the watchwords as specialized teams begin the painstaking work of removing explosives from bridges along the Baghdad approach while the main force continues its inexorable push. Tedious, complex and exhausting work. Our boys will need all our prayers on this day as reports indicate they are “racing forward”.
Washington’s antics continue to provoke harrumphs. Reports have it that this particularly unharmonious Presidential cabinet is presently finding the time to count unhatched chickens with more infighting over the composition of the post Saddam Iraqi government. Unlike the infinite juicy slices that come off a Budget pie the slices off this Iraqi pie may not be that generous and thus the Cabinet/lobby “food” fight.
The MIT Technology Review offers six Iraq War II observations:
First GPS War-Last time soldiers brought their own personal devices to orient in the desert while this time men and weapons are GPS’ed.
Facial Recognition-The world waited while computers scanned Saddam’s face…silly waste of time.
Oil Well Fires-Expected the worst and it didn’t happen…credit to Special Ops and Psy Ops.
Sand Blizzard-Equipment survival during and after a severe storm is a technical triumph.
Absence of Chemical Weapons-Tricky and unreliable…Saddam believes chem Fear will keep US from Baghdad.
North Korea-Imagine bunker-prepping Kim Jong Il has been a regular CNN viewer.
Speaking of pie, wasn't I?
Pie with Bybee pitcher and McCoy bowl
Used a recipe in the fantastic April issue of Gourmet yesterday afternoon…Coconut Cream Tart or Pie as well call them here in Kentucky! Oh my God! Prep and assembly was a cinch and the pie itself, bliss. The magic ingrediant Cocoa Lopez forms a cream that rests on a crust of crushed shortbread and coconut. Very rich. Highly recommend.
Also, I took possession of William Gibson’s new book Pattern Recognition and I’m hoping Mr. Gibson will divert my war weary mind.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney,
You have no complaints.
You are what you are
And you ain’t what you ain’t.
So, listen up Dickie and
Listen up good.
Stop knocking down bad news
And puffin up good…
Vast heartfelt apologies to John Pryne and Dear Abby
As sad eyes read the morning paper’s and view unedited video streamed out of Reuter’s, I see a war growing deeper and more complex while our brave young soldiers continue to resiliently cope with bureaucratically exasperated privation among their other torments. Washington, meanwhile, is beset by the usual cast of characters who look for forests but see only trees amidst the bobbing of the large political heads.
The cell phone shutdown and the resulting loss of picture to the voracious newscorps has the functional leadership regrouping while “The Plan” is either success or shambles. One hears doubt in the raspy voices of the right wing smokers calling to C-SPAN.
In a recently concluded Pentagon briefing, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tried to cast doubt on some of the excellent field reporting we are all reading and watching.
I really doubt whether any of us dwell on the “big picture”stuff that the big heads seem so fixated upon when riveted to these reports.
Is everyone always doomed in a crisis to forget that TV is at its soul-stripping best when passively recording reality? I know that for myself, when watching these men actually performing their duty, I watch their eyes. What I see in their brave eyes I feel is more adequately expressed by these more or less unfettered field reports by men and women, at present, unconcerned with Washington’s real and disinformational media priorities.
It is important to remember that Washington started this present Iraqi War on a hubristic “timetable of our own choosing”. General Myers and Secretary Rumsfeld should have, more than most of us, realized that all soldiers talk and gripe and that men in combat bond emotionally together. It is hard for me to fathom how the Army (which is really one huge resupply machine) could screw up the supply of blankets and food. This is material usually, with typical Army zeal, oversupplied by thousands of units….
Meanwhile, in the north, remember the Airborne parachuting into that beautiful green valley and being met by some CNN whatis? Well, according to David Rohde of The New York Times, “the roughly 2,000 paratroopers and several hundred special operations soldiers on the ground here do not appear to be a large enough force to launch an attack.” The soldiers said “the biggest surprise of their parachute jump, during a miserable night of freezing rain, was the sea of mud they landed in. One paratrooper hit the ground like a spear, soldiers said. Hip-deep in mud, he had to be pulled out by other paratroopers. "It's the muddiest drop zone I've ever landed in," said Captain Eric Baus, 30 of Collingswood, NJ…Four sunny days have allowed the soldiers to dry out, to a certain extent. But those who parachuted in can still be easily identified by uniforms that are caked in dried mud. At night, temperatures are dropping well below freezing, and the soldiers have few tents and sleeping bags and are sleeping in the open. Beneath the luminous stars of northern Iraq, they curl up under their poncho liners and shiver. "The poncho liner helps," Specialist Tuttle said. "But it's pretty thin…’I didn't expect it be so green,’ said Captain Baus, who joked that the Americans tan desert camouflage uniforms were out of place. ‘I kind of feel like it's a black tie affair and we showed up wearing red.’”
Photo: White House/Susan Sterner
Monday, March 31, 2003
The Pravada on the Potomac more popularly known as The Washington Post oddly presents two interesting stories regarding Washington’s top concerns:
infighting and media coverage.
I think it’s a safe bet that the “senior government officials” described herein are none other than Donald Rumsfeld shown, doing what he does best, massaging a media who, to use their description of the President, grow more “Delphic and hard to read".
The first would be amusing if it were not so serious. The historically unread Howard Kurtz has a come to Jesus moment with the following revelation, “War, it turns out, is a far more messy enterprise.” The insightful Howie discovers “that journalists who eat and sleep with the people they cover tend to form bonds…feelings are even more intense when unarmed journalists must depend on heavily armed soldiers to protect them from enemy fire.” And, quite a shocker, we learn that Howie understands irony. “Ironically, some military leaders are critical of the embedded journalist program because reports from the field don't always square with official assessments.”
Then The Post presents this frightening Strangelovian portrait of our leadership troika.
…there is a behind-the-scenes effort by former senior Republican government officials and party leaders to convince President Bush that the advice he has received from (the) Vice President , Defense Secretary and Deputy Defense Secretary…has been wrong and even dangerous to long-term U.S. national interests…one former GOP appointee said he and his allies were looking at "whether this president has learned something from this bum advice he has been getting." Moreover, there is fear among some officials, especially in the State Department, that postwar diplomacy, if handled poorly, could result in further U.S. estrangement from allies and international institutions.
Bush, who appears to value tension among his top advisers, "has been very Delphic on this and hard to read" on the emerging internal debate, a Bush adviser said.
Administration officials…officially insist there is unity among Bush's senior national security advisers. But they also acknowledge that within this administration disputes among senior Cabinet officials are never really settled…a senior defense official said. "My concern about this sort of gossip is that it is very important to maintain the unity of this effort. It is not a time to get weak in the knees." The Iraqi government, the official added, will grab at "every little straw," and thus any suggestion of division in the top levels of the administration "plays into the hands of Baghdad's propaganda." A spokeswoman for Cheney declined to comment.
A subtext of the debate…reflects the internationalism of President George H.W. Bush…Indeed, the former president, in an interview published this week in Newsweek, twice defended Powell without prompting. "I hate criticism of Colin Powell from any quarter," he said. Some former and current officials viewed the remarks as a message to Powell's opponents within the administration.
"The only one who can reach the president is his father," one former senior official said. Many top officials suspect, though they don't have evidence, that Powell wields influence through this back channel…The president has, at various times, backed both sides of the debate…Powell dismissed suggestions that his advice has been ignored…Rumsfeld wants to retire the Powell Doctrine…
(Discussing Lt. Gen. William Wallace in) remarks that infuriated White House officials -- Powell said: "I have absolute confidence in the commanders who are running this war. . . . I know it. I trained them."…Powell also made…a jab at Wolfowitz, a frequent nemesis who did not serve in the military.
"When war comes, that's [casualties] the price that has to be paid," Powell said on NPR. "And it's paid not by intellectuals but by wonderful young Americans who serve their country and believe in the cause for which they are serving."
Sunday, March 30, 2003
Presented for your inspection this Sunday morning thanks to ABC News online:
They may be the ones facing danger on the battlefield, but US soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for President George W Bush.
Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called "A Christian's Duty," a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush.
"I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God's peace be your guide," says the pledge, according to a journalist embedded with coalition forces.
The pamphlet, produced by a group called In Touch Ministries, offers a daily prayer to be made for the US president, a born-again Christian who likes to invoke his God in speeches.
Sunday's is "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding".
Monday's reads "Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics".