Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, May 10, 2003

According to the Associated Press and Yahoo:

In the past seven days, 298 tornadoes have been reported to the weather service nationwide...The most recent comparable rash was 159, set in 1999.

Remember how the moral Right Wing screamed that the 1999 tornados were God's punishment for President Clinton? Where are those voices of extreme moral reason in this present storm-tossed day? Clinton's number's were for a whole year of tornados while Mr. Bush must suffer under an even more severe Godly punishment of 298 tornados in one miniscule week! What liberal media, indeed!
Photo: Associated Press
Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 09, 2003

This week’s online Newsweek has details of the continued friction between the Bush White House and the congressionally appointed National Commission on Terror Attacks Upon the United States regarding:

“…Internal National Security Council minutes from the spring and summer of 2001 when the CIA and other intelligence agencies were warning that an attack by Al Qaeda could well be imminent…equally dicey…debriefings of key Al Qaeda suspects who have been arrested—such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh—who played critical roles in the 9-11 plot. The intelligence community has treated those debriefs as among the most highly classified material in the government.
The invocation of executive privilege could fuel suspicions that the White House is stonewalling the panel in order to cover up politically embarrassing mistakes. “I think they have got to be worried about this,” says one panel member. “This is a bipartisan commission, and we’ve got the family members.”

Thanks to Atrios this link to The President's Interesting Day.

Where's Joe?

Colonel Joe Dowdy, USMC

A month from the fall of Baghdad and still no information in the world press that would explain the removal of the Marine 1 Combat Commander Colonel Joe Dowdy from the battlefield at the end of the first week of Iraq II.
On Wednesday morning’s C-SPAN Journal a caller asked Democratic House Whip and Maryland 5th District Congressman Steny Hoyer about the Colonel. The Congressman replied that he too was concerned over Colonel Dowdy’s fate and that he would speak to the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee about the matter that very day.
I called the Congressman’s office this afternoon and spoke to a nice young fellow who connected me to the voice mail of a staffer. I appreciated the Congressman’s kind on air reply to the caller and I appreciate any time devoted to this matter. I will post any response.

Thursday, May 08, 2003
The ancient and, for now, broken Golden Harp of Ur has vanished altogether from this morning’s curious Washington Post and New York Times reports on the Iraq Museum.


Oldest known example of a
hand-modeled clay pot

Gone too is Marine Colonel Bogdanos, the P. Diddy prosecuting District Attorney who studied the recently recovered oldest hand-modeled clay pot in graduate school, replaced by “a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, Dean Boyd” in the Post and “Michael J. Garcia, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security” in the Times.
Both stories contradict yesterday’s reporting regarding the “storage vaults” in and around the Iraq Museum by saying that certain vaults have been opened.
The Times:

The investigators located the vaults in Baghdad over the last week, including five within the museum complex, and forced them open, revealing hundreds of artifacts that had apparently been stored away to protect them from being damaged in an American assault. The finds included ancient jewelry, pottery and sarcophaguses, officials said.

The Post:

… These (underground vaults) were breached by agents and U.S. military personnel, the statement said, and many more objects were recovered…

The Post report neglects to mention the vaults holding the Museum’s gold trove under the wreckage of the Iraqi Central Bank. The Times says this in the second to last graph of the story:

Officials said the investigators are following up on reports that many artifacts are stored in several vaults beneath the headquarters of the Iraqi Central Bank in Baghdad.

The news focus is clearly now on the happy aspects of American-assisted undamaged object recovery. The broken Harp of Ur and an earnest Marine no longer fit a story profile that now has Homeland Security involved from the start of looting shortly after Baghdad's fall.
The Post:

A statement from Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said its agents and U.S. forces opened an investigation at the National Museum when they heard news of the looting.

The Times is a tad more forthcoming while peaking further unquenched curiosities:

American officials said the new Homeland Security Department… dispatched several agents to the Middle East in the weeks before the American invasion of Iraq…searching for Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and in tracking down assets of Saddam Hussein…After the first reports of looting at the museum…the customs agents shifted their focus to the hunt for those artifacts.

Interesting, huh, how guys go from hunting WMD to antiquities right after Baghdad fell? And, just who's Homeland is being secured, huh?
Both stories have very little information about the high-value items that disappeared early in the looting saga and whose status would be the focus of any journalism class news report.
Buried in the seemingly too succinct Post:

…Authorities have identified 38 missing items classified as high value…

And, buried in the Times:

The teams of investigators… did not provide a detailed inventory of the items that were found in the underground vaults this week, nor would they say if the artifacts included any of the 38 high-value items that had been confirmed missing by museum administrators.

So, it seems after all the hoo-haw, happy spin and Homeland Security involvement, we have information that advances very little from that contained in yesterday’s Associated Press report. And, we are told nothing about a 4,450 year old eleven string wooden harp and its delicate inlays of shell, precious stone and gold that the closing paragraphs of yesterday's AP report said was found broken amid the debis littering the Museum floor. Curious.
Photo: Agence France Presse

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Sad News
In the spin and spun of pertinent information leading to what was and wasn’t stolen from the Iraq National Museum and what has and hasn’t been recovered comes this Associated Press report posted on the New York Times Website at 1:47am with specific news about the status of the 4,000 year old harp from Ur mentioned in early reports detailing the Museum looting:

Harp, inlaid with shells, precious stones
and gold, 2,450BC

…American investigators and museum officials found that only 17 cases had been broken into. Thirty-eight items have now been confirmed missing and 22 damaged in the main gallery -- far less than originally feared…no one knows the status of tens of thousands of antiquities kept at storage sites across the city, or an untold number of smaller, portable items that museum officials removed for safekeeping months before the war…671 items have been returned to the museum since officials began broadcasting appeals over the coalition's Information Radio…Among the most treasured finds was the clay pot, circa 5000 BC. ``I know that piece,'' said Bogdanos, a Marine reserve officer and Manhattan assistant district attorney who once prosecuted rapper Sean ``P. Diddy'' Combs in a 1999 nightclub shooting. He also has a master's degree in classical studies. ``I studied that pot in graduate school.”… Investigators found 339 tin trunks full of ancient books, scrolls and manuscripts at a bomb shelter in western Baghdad…U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces also recovered some 465 items near the border city of Kut when they stopped a vehicle speeding toward Iran…the museum's gold and silver pieces are believed to be in underground vaults at the bombed-out central bank. Bogdanos' team found those vaults intact Tuesday, though no one seems to know which ones contain the artifacts or how to get into them. Many more items were kept in five reinforced storage areas at the museum. While none were forced open, it was apparent that three of them were entered in the days after officials abandoned the museum. ``It is clear that the person who did this had intimate knowledge of the museum and its storage practices,'' Bogdanos said…a golden harp from the ancient Sumerian city of Ur – [was] found among the museum debris. The harp was in pieces, Bogdanos said, but can be restored.

Buried in this story at the is an advance of the widely reported pre war meeting between “the American Council for Cultural Policy (a privately funded association of collectors and lawyers) and Pentagon and State Department officials” and a statement by ACCP treasurer William Pearlstein.

Under the miniheadline, Is the US planning to change Iraqi law?

The rumor that the US is planning to “liberalize” Iraq’s tough laws on the export of antiquities, widely reported in the international press, derived from a meeting in Washington on 24 January between the American Council for Cultural Policy (a privately funded association of collectors and lawyers) and Pentagon and State Department officials.
The council’s treasurer, William Pearlstein, was later quoted in the US magazine Science as describing Iraq’s laws as “retentionist”, and he wanted to see “some objects certified for export.”
American Council for Cultural Policy president Ashton Hawkins told The Art Newspaper that what Mr. Pearlstein had done was to voice his personal opinion after the meeting, and that this, did not represent council policy. He insisted that “there had been no discussion of Iraqi law” at the Washington meeting.
Changes to the present law of 1936 (amended in 1974-75) would in any case be impossible before the establishment of a new democratically elected government.
Under international law, an occupying power can only alter laws on humanitarian or public order grounds. Nevertheless, the fact that Metropolitan Museum director Mr. de Montebello is now suggesting that international museums should participate in new archaeological excavations and receive export licenses suggest that Mr. Pearlstein’s views would enjoy some support.

Plus get a cup of coffee and click for a September 11, 2001 must read!

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
A Rose!

The first of hundreds...

Call me crazy, but, a secret pleasure over the years has been catching a Bobby Byrd speech on the Senate floor via C-SPAN2. Regarding comments made on the Senate floor today by Senator Byrd, an Associated Press story posted this evening on the New York Times website says:
Byrd contrasted the speech with the ``simple dignity'' of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address during the Civil War.
``I do not begrudge his salute to America's warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely, ... but I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech,'' he said.
He said American blood has been shed defending Bush's policies. ``This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial,'' he said.
``To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the president to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech,'' he said.

At some point in your busy schedule make a note to read the important material posted this week on the Daily Howler regarding past and current press spinning of the Bush military record. Bob Somerby’s site is a must read for anyone appalled by the Bush costume sea drama and the press glorification of it.

God of the Sea

Poseidon, 160AD
Iraq Museum Collection

According to reports from the VOA and the BBC, Attorney General John Ashcroft has contradicted General Tommy Franks (see April 28, 2003 post) by telling an Interpol conference in Lyon, France that; “criminal gangs were likely behind the looting of historical treasures during the war in Iraq…Regardless of how sophisticated these criminals are... the US law enforcement and our colleagues at Interpol will not rest until the stolen Iraqi artifacts are returned to their rightful place: the public museums and libraries of Iraq,"

The New York Times says, “a top British Museum official said yesterday that his Iraqi counterparts told him they had largely emptied display cases at the National Museum in Baghdad months before the start of the Iraq war, storing many of the museum's most precious artifacts in secure "repositories"…The official, John E. Curtis, curator of the Near East Collection at the British Museum, said he believed that American authorities now knew the locations of the artifact repositories but that as a precaution against further looting were not disclosing them.” has several interesting articles related to the Iraq Museum including the initial results of this past weekend’s Middle Eastern Art and Manuscript auction at Sotheby’s of London:

Fears that the market for Islamic art had been fatally weakened by the 11 September terrorist attacks and the Iraqi war were thoroughly trounced here on 29 and 30 April...two vastly rich Middle-Eastern buyers- Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar and Sheikh Nasser of Kuwait- dominate this market...compete fiercely for the best pieces and have forced some to quite astonishing heights.
Sheikh al-Thani was assumed to be the anonymous telephone bidder who paid £1.12 million ($1.79 million) for an exquisite 13th-century Persian pencase, and £901,250 for a Hispano-Mauresque gilt-bronze fountainhead in the form of a cockerel...For many of the lots there were three, four or even more bidders, both on the telephone and in the room, prepared to go to high levels.

Photo: TheArtNewspaper

Monday, May 05, 2003
I have certainly enjoyed watching the Bill Bennett gambling story expand over the weekend.
Mr. Bennett’s righteous moral certitude, his unquestioned vice and the pro/con media yak become the perfect morality play to parallel the intentionally hypnotizing opening salvos of General Rove’s shock and awe psyop version of a presidential election campaign.
Bush 41’s careful pruning of the media, government service and the judiciary, over the years to achieve his ends, goes for naught when a ham-fisted joke of a tar baby like Gambling Bill Bennett crashes through the meticulously set stage.
So, thank you Bill Bennett for indirectly causing a very public display of personal and media hypocrisy at a time when it was sorely needed on the American stage…a grateful opposition salutes you!

A jam-packed Cincinnati spring art scene offered almost overwhelming selection over the past weekend but I was distracted by a good local auction with an interesting selection of quality art and pottery including this portrait of American Impressionist Frank Duveneck by Rookwood artist and world-class engraver Edward Timothy Hurley.
Speaking of Mr. Duveneck, the 35th annual Duveneck Memorial Art Show will be held next Sunday May 11, 2003 in Covington, Kentucky from noon to 5pm at George Rogers Clark Park on the banks of the Ohio River in the historic Riverside area. The show is free and attendees can vote for their favorite artist and, of course, buy some art from a diverse selection of local artists.

I was hoping, yesterday, that I would see roses bloom today but the heavy rains from the early morning beat them into a sort of submission. There is always tomorrow!

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