Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, May 30, 2003
After a slow news interlude, the web, this morning, is chock-a-block with interesting stories both big and small but the most interesting story by far is likely on the smaller site. The site is nuvo.net, the on line version of a 12 year old Indianapolis weekly newspaper and the May 28th story was linked through Buzzflash.com.
Headlined, Bush event misrepresented audience, the story reexamines the President’s May 13th visit to Indianapolis wherein presidential image polishers asked attendees visible behind Mr. Bush to remove their neckties:
That was the first thing,” said an Indianapolis resident who attended the speech and wishes to remain anonymous. “They told us to take off our ties. That was OK by me, mine was half-choking me anyways. I hate ties. But then, right before they started broadcasting, they stopped us again.” The anonymous source said that White House handlers approached dozens of people in the crowd, distributing white, button-down shirts…I called you guys,” said the source. “When I tuned in to the TV news that night, and saw what they’d done, I just could not believe it.” The source said he spotted himself in the audience, but that the woman beside him was black, not white. “I should know,” the source quipped. “She’s my wife and last time I looked she was white.”
NUVO was able to locate a smuggled amateur video of the Bush event, and by matching that document with the subsequently broadcast visuals, it’s clear that the Bush handlers manipulated the images of the audience to reflect more diversity of age and race than truly existed. In the fabricated broadcasts, blacks, Latinos and whites are evenly distributed in number, with the occasional Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander. Also evident are numerous hip-looking young people, ogling the president with absolute attentiveness. Our raw footage reveals an audience of predominantly white, middle-aged people…
This story, if true, makes Wag the Dog look like a civics lesson. While this unbylined story may be a joke it raises an interesting concept as the broadcast networks, in these days of unprecedented distrust and dwindling ownership, must be obligated to assure the public that images presented as “news events” are free of computer enhancement. Those of us in the viewing public should also realize that while computer “enhancement” usually is understood to mean eliminating imperfections those same computer programs can also add or magnify imperfections.
President arrives Booker Elementary, September 11, 2001
Paul Krugman, that beacon of light amidst the current chaos at the New York Times, thinks the 1997 film Wag the Dog bears a closer resemblance to the recent past than Clinton’s Balkan behavior:
An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public's consciousness. The 1997 movie "Wag the Dog" had quite a plot. Although the movie's title has entered the language, I don't know how many people have watched it lately. Read the screenplay. If you don't think it bears a resemblance to recent events, you're in denial…the administration has just derived considerable political advantage from a war waged on false premises. At best, that sets a very bad precedent. At worst. . . . "You want to win this election, you better change the subject. You wanna change this subject, you better have a war," explains Robert DeNiro's political operative in "Wag the Dog." "It's show business."
A final note: Showtime is filming a docudrama about Sept. 11. The producer is a White House insider, working in close consultation with Karl Rove. The script shows Mr. Bush as decisive and eloquent. "In this movie," The Globe and Mail reports, "Mr. Bush delivers long, stirring speeches that immediately become policy." And we can be sure that the script doesn't mention the bogus story about a threat to Air Force One that the White House floated to explain Mr. Bush's movements on the day of the attack. Hey, it's show business.
Lloyd Grove’s Washington Post column furthers the “it’s show business” theme with a Dick Cheney/Cindy Adams dust-up:
Vice President Cheney's office mobilized to DefCom 1 yesterday after New York Post gossip Cindy Adams claimed the veep had told subordinates: "The way to lick this recession is to get all those deadbeats out of the soup kitchens." A Cheney press staffer spent the day fielding breathless calls from a swarm of print and broadcast journalists as she frantically attempted to reach Adams…Adams answered her phone and breezily explained to the Cheney aide that the quote--sandwiched between items on Phyllis Diller and Keifer Sutherland--was a joke…"I don't see anything funny in this at all," said the staffer, who asked us not to name her…Adams told us: "Did you ever hear of anything so damned dumb in your entire life? It was a joke…Do people in Washington have no sense of humor at all? I've gotten quite a few annoying calls from the Cheney office today. All I can say is that young lady must have a poker up her pantyhose."
Finally, an indication in the Washington Post that Secretary Rumsfeld might want to consider attending a church service or making a good Act of Contrition after this surprising penetration of Pentagon security:
A dove, of all things, somehow flew in and made its way completely unhindered up to the fourth floor E-Ring, perching itself in the Air Force corridor.
This placed the offending harbinger of peace one floor up and directly above the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. (Actually it was a beige-y pink mourning dove, or Zenaida macroura…the frightened little critter, surrounded by hawks, flew back and forth in the corridor, landing on pictures of former Air Force secretaries, as perhaps 20 or so colonels and assorted staff ran about trying to capture it. Several distinguished visitors, including generals from foreign countries, walked by, somewhat alarmed at the commotion. The pursuers tried to corner the dove but no one had a net, though a box was tried. Catching it by hand, even when it alighted on the floor, proved impossible. And when they tried to corner it, the dove simply would fly over to another place in the high-ceilinged corridor. One concern was to keep the bird away from some glass doors which it might have tried to fly through. Finally, after about 40 minutes, Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, who was last seen a year ago chasing and catching terrorists as a reservist with the Special Forces in Afghanistan, got up on a chair and threw his jacket over the dove as it sat on a lamp.
Photos: Matt Detrich, The Indianapolis Star and Jim Zingo
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Leaving Booker Elementary, September 11, 2001
A very busy day of errands, dental appointments and a visit to the auto body shop precluded an in depth reading of today’s over ripe harvest of media except to say that I seem to be alone in expecting President Bush’s spring trip to Europe, Russia and the Middle East to be met with chilly winds.
According to Mike Allen in yesterday’s Washington Post:
President Bush will use an eight-day trip to try to mend his rift with Europe, but only on his terms and with no concessions to the traditional allies that opposed the war in Iraq, White House officials said yesterday…The plans outlined yesterday fell well short of European officials' hopes that a victorious Bush would be in a magnanimous mood. Aides said Bush plans no conciliatory gesture…
I guess American media is locked into the “happy trip” script so we will have to pay extra special attention to all those video moments when leader meets leader. And regardless of his “no concessions” policy can the President now be personally gracious to other world leaders? Watch closely as Mr. Bush pays a courtesy call on French President Jacques Chirac in Evian, France. The visit is said to be “too brief” for any kind of substance. Yeah, that’s it, too brief with the "fizz" not just coming from the water. I don’t know about you but I’d enjoy being a fly on the wall for this tête-à-tête. I can just imagine the deafening ticks of a clock in an icy silence relieved only by the nervous shuffling of the translators' feet. And, before all this, there could have been a tiff with pooty-Poot in St. Petersburg and God knows how many irritating European reporter questions to ruffle our brittle presidential feathers. Maybe old “41” could lend Junior a few Halcion. Then, again, have you heard of this White House inspired Showtime dramatic reenactment of Bush on 911? We could all use a few Halcion.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Michael Isakoff, in the June 2 issue of Newsweek, has discovered the specific parts of the 800 page congressional report on 911 that concern the Bush White House:
…The administration refuses to declassify, sources say…the details of daily intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 and evidence pointing to Saudi government ties to al Qaeda. Bush officials have taken such a hard line, sources say, that they’re refusing to permit the release of matters already in the public domain—including the existence of intelligence documents referred to on the CIA Web site.
Logo, Canada's Marijuana Party
On August 8, 2002 I sent this email to Paul Begala of CNN’s Crossfire regarding their August 7th program:
Mr. Begala, You were spectacular against old-time Bush minion Charlie Black. Both Black and Nofacts sputtered helplessly as you hammered home key facts about Cheney's time at Halliburton and his errors while occupying the Vice Presidency.
However, in the marijuana segment you seemed to mirror Novak's poorly informed knee jerking. Nevada, I'm sure, will enjoy considerable tax revenue from marijuana's legalization. I don't believe the UK has legalized cannabis but rather police in the City of London do not prosecute possession in small amounts. Additionally, our northern border faces a 'threat' as Canada considers legalization of personal use marijuana. If this happens it is simply a matter of time before the old tobacco states begin to seriously re-examine marijuana and hemp as a crop.
Various reports, this morning, in Canada’s Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, the International Herald-Tribune and the Washington Post illustrate the growing and needless rift between Washington and Ottawa.
From the Washington Post:
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who introduced the bill in Parliament, said at a news conference in Ottawa…"Cannabis consumption is first and foremost a health matter," he continued. "It should not result in criminal penalties. We have to ask ourselves as a society: Does it make sense that a person who makes a bad choice can receive the lasting burden of a criminal record? . . . The legislation I introduced today will make sure the punishment fits the crime."
The same article quotes Bush administration director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy John P. Walters saying:
…Some of the strongest and most dangerous marijuana on the U.S. market is coming from Canada…that production has been rapidly expanding and is largely unchecked.
A trusty old meme from the Reagan era used formerly against the Neatherlands resurfaces in the Post article to smear the beautiful Canadian city of Vancouver:
In some Canadian cities, notably Vancouver, heroin users shoot up in broad daylight on street corners littered with needles, and some people openly smoke marijuana in pot cafes. Some provincial officials have proposed setting up supervised injection sites where heroin and cocaine users could receive clean needles and inject themselves.
This exact same paragraph, substituting Dutch and Amsterdam for Canadian and Vancouver, was used by US officials and in media stories during the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” era which began in 1980, oddly the same year George W. Bush went sober. I have not traveled to Vancouver but I know many people who have. No one described “street corners littered with needles” which, I would think with no pun intended, would stick in one’s memory. I clearly recall, during several trips to Europe during the late 80’s and early 90’s, how clean and beautiful Amsterdam and the Neatherland were and how different from the “needle littered street corners” described in the American press.
It is important to remember that until marijuana was outlawed by the United States in the early part of the 20th century, Hemp was Kentucky’s largest cash crop having a wide range of benificial industrial and manufacturing uses.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
According to an Associated Press report on the Washington Post site:
Gunmen opened fire on American troops at a checkpoint early Tuesday, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding nine others in the troubled town of Fallujah - a hotbed of support for Saddam Hussein's fallen Baath Party, the U.S. military said. U.S. troops returned fire, killing two attackers and capturing six Iraqis for questioning. Hours later, two American military police officers were injured, at least one seriously, after two attacks with rocket-propelled grenades on a northwest Baghdad police station, said Lt. Clint Mundinger of the U.S. Army's 709th Military Police Battalion. In the past three days, seven American soldiers have died in attacks or accidents in Iraq.
US Troops in Falluja after attack
The story about this firefight, available on the troubled New York Times’ website, rapidly shifts from battle and dead soldiers to the telegenically upbeat Paul Bremmer:
Against the background of continuing violence, the head of the occupation authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, said on Monday that the Central Bank of Iraq and a group of private banks would begin providing "substantial" trade credits for exports to Iraq within weeks. Now that the United Nations has lifted sanctions on Iraq, and as the country resumes selling its crude oil in coming weeks, Mr. Bremer said the trade credit system would "lubricate international trade with Iraq" and would also serve to demonstrate symbolically "to the world that Iraq is open for business again."
The report goes on to matter-of-factly state that the “vault” under the Iraq National Bank has been opened:
One good economic omen for Iraq, Mr. Bremer announced, was the discovery of $250 million in salvageable American currency in the flooded basement vault of the Iraqi Central Bank. In the last few days, American crews drained river water from the damaged building and opened the vault to find the currency.
Reports following the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and statements by various US officials have indicated that the Museum’s gold trove was stored in vaults under the Iraq National Bank but there was no mention of missing antiquities in Mr. Bremmer's all business focus.
Photos: The Associated Press
Monday, May 26, 2003
Several stories, this Memorial Day morning, concerning faulty or exaggerated intelligence reports on Iraqi WMD prior to the Iraq II War of alQaeda Distraction have drawn my attention.
The first is a rather straightforward Reuters summation of comments made on the Sunday talking head programs that ends with the new and improved Administration spin as voiced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican:
…No doubts whatsoever that the administration worked on the basis of the intelligence that was given to them. "What I don't know is how good that intelligence was, and it is our job to find out."
A check of the insightful Josh Marshall’s TPM blog makes it quite clear that Congressman and former CIA officer Porter Goss is being a tad disingenuous:
…If there was a failure it was not an intelligence failure, but a political one -- one among administration political appointees and those at the very highest level of the intelligence apparatus…the word from folks at the Pentagon or from hawks close to the Office of the Vice President has been that the career people at CIA and the other intelligence agencies were either too cautious in their estimates or were intentionally low-balling their figures in order to undermine the arguments for a war they did not themselves support…the politicals would not believe what the career intelligence types were telling them.
Howie Kurtz, in another of his post-Jayson efforts to chip away at the Gray Lady’s façade, reveals another tantalizing aspect of Cheney/Rumfeld pre-Iraq II web spinning in this morning's Washington Post:
…Intriguing questions about the paper's coverage of the search for dangerous weapons thought to be hidden by Saddam Hussein. An internal e-mail by Judith Miller, the paper's top reporter on bioterrorism, acknowledges that her main source for such articles has been Ahmad Chalabi, a controversial exile leader who is close to top Pentagon officials…According to the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was a key source of information about weapons for the Pentagon's own intelligence unit -- information sometimes disputed by the CIA. Chalabi may have been feeding the Times, and other news organizations, the same disputed information.
Hummmm, as they say, very interesting to say the least on a day when we remember our war dead.
Lets end this post with a little cosmic majesty courtesy of the National Geographic Society and NASA's Mars Global Surveyor with the first picture taken of Earth and its lunar companion from another planet.
Photos: USMemorialDay.org, Reuters and NASA
Sunday, May 25, 2003
While it is growing more and more difficult to separate corn from shuck in the national press, Adam Clymer, who was described as a “major league asshole” by George W. Bush in the 2000 Presidential campaign, has an article in this morning’s New York Times that surprisingly contains some facts:
Almost as many Americans (30 percent) call themselves Republicans as call themselves Democrats (32 percent), the narrowest gap since pollsters began measuring party identification in the 1940's…the Republican Party, nationally and at the state level, is making big investments in building new grass roots operations that its leaders contend will pay huge dividends in the next election…Matthew Dowd, the president's pollster, said computers would identify nonvoters in Republican neighborhoods. That and other registration efforts, including having party workers at naturalization ceremonies, could "expand the pool of voters" by as many as three million, Mr. Dowd said.
While Republican party hacks troll naturalization ceremonies for the unsophisticated new citizens who perform so well for corporate America at salary levels approaching 10-15% of a regular worker’s base salary, the real issues of the economy, health care, border and port security and a free, diverse and accurate media will remain.
The Washington Post wins this morning’s “well, duh!” prize with the story headlined, Military Record May Gain Role in 2004 Presidential Race:
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) -- the only one of the nine Democratic presidential candidates with battlefield experience -- has made his military record a centerpiece of his campaign …Bush's on-deck address to the troops that day [of staged arrival on the USS Abraham Lincoln] made it abundantly clear that the president -- who spent the Vietnam War stateside in the Texas Air National Guard -- will flaunt his military leadership in his bid for reelection…According to a Washington Post survey, 29 percent of Americans say that when considering a candidate for president, it is "extremely" or "very" important that the person has served in the military. Among Democrats, that rises to 31 percent…Kerry was blunt about his strategy. "If the president is going to wear a flight suit on deck, I have one to match, so to speak," he said. "If we want to make those comparisons, I think it can become dangerous territory for them. If he can talk to the troops, I can talk to veterans. And my experience is a little more real."
All I can say is, “Go, John!” I’m thinking that by the end of summer Dubya might be parading around wearing enough gold braid and egg salad to resemble Rufus T. Firefly the glorious President of Freedonia:
These are the laws of my administration
No one's allowed to smoke
Or tell a dirty joke
And whistling is forbidden...
If chewing gum is chewed
The chewer is pursued.
And in the hoosegow hidden...
If any form of pleasure is exhibited
Report to me and it will be prohibited.
I'll put my foot down, so shall it be.
This is the land of the free.
The last man nearly ruined this place
He didn't know what to do with it
If you think this country's bad off now
Just wait 'til I get through with it
The country's taxes must be fixed
And I know what to do with it
If you think you're paying too much now
Just wait 'til I get through with it...
I will not stand for anything that's crooked or unfair
I'm strictly on the up and up
So everyone beware
If anyone's caught taking graft
And I don't get my share
We stand 'em up against the wall
And pop goes the weasel.
Movie Poster: marx-brothers.org