Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Another Saturday and another Iraq Museum pulse-pounder in a Washington Post that seems manically intent upon personally tying a big floppy happy ending bow to the entire sad story of the looting at the Iraq National Museum and robbing me of much deserved weekend sunshine through excessive desktop proximity.

Iraq National Museum

Unknown Washington Post staff writer Linda Hales pens an upbeat, chirpy and often misleading piece of Postian spin:

Invitations have not yet been sent, but the Coalition Provisional Authority is about to stage the first art exhibition in post-war Iraq. The event, which is being planned for…an audience of international media, will show off the fabled Treasures of Nimrud…discovered earlier this month in a bank vault deep in the Central Bank of Iraq and is the pride of the cultural recovery effort…A Pentagon spokesman was quick to convey the importance of the Nimrud treasures as "among the most feared loss, and the most unique, significant architectural finds they had."

A regular reader of major western newspapers, or even this blog for that matter, should notice two things from the above excerpt:
First, the Treasures of Nimrud were never considered “missing” and it is absolute humbug to suggest otherwise. On April 28th The Associated Press reports General Tommy Franks saying:

In the past three days Iraqis had begun informing coalition forces of the whereabouts of the artifacts…Franks said ordinary Iraqis had told coalition forces that they wanted the items in coalition hands… He said some of the items had been taken out of the museums before the war started…

The May 6th edition of the New York Times:

“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.”

Or the May 7th edition:

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.

Or, even, a lowly sentence from May 8th Washington Post:

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.

Secondly, the bright-eyed Ms. Hales fails to mention that the fabled treasures were trapped for weeks in sewage-flooded vaults under the wreckage of the Coalition bombed Iraq Central Bank.
But bad smells are not exclusive to Nimrud’s treasures as we see the one consistent Coalition objective, public relations:

With people still dying in the streets, an art exhibit could seem frivolous. The timing, at the start of the July 4 holiday news cycle, might also seem overtly propagandistic. But as the White House has learned in the aftermath of war in Iraq, art is a mighty weapon in the battle for hearts and minds. Lose or abuse the treasures of ancient civilizations, or fail to prevent others from doing damage, and incur a blast of international disapproval. Preserve artifacts and share the heritage of humankind, and perhaps, over time, even a foreign invader may gain respect… In an age of televised war, images have also become weapons. Scenes of devastated museum galleries were sent around the world in April, along with considerable misinformation about how many objects had been looted and possibly destroyed… asked whether politics played a part in coalition decision-making, Proietti [Giuseppe Proietti, a senior cultural adviser to the coalition] laughed and assured that none were involved in the choice of Assyrian objects.

I find it amusing that persons in the Bush administration, of all administrations, use a "reporter" to shill their pathetic complaint that they have been victims of misinformation! Hold the phone, boys and girls, but didn't old H. W. his-own-self hone this nasty game to perfection in days of yore?
The story concludes with a brief mention of the looting still occurring across Iraq:

One archaeologist who has trekked into the desert…Joanne Farchakh, a Lebanese archaeologist and writer for the French magazine Archeologia, made her way to several ancient Sumerian sites in the south and to Mosul, Nimrud and Nineveh in the north…[She] described thousands of peasant diggers, some of them armed, encamped on ancient sites. "They dig every day," she said. "Traders come and pick up the antiquities every day. It's a massacre on archaeology, a mass grave of culture. These sites just look like the surface of the moon."

No mention of the Warka Vase, formerly the most prized of Iraq antiquities, in today’s Washington Post story. The Coalition spokesperson last quoted by the Post attesting to Warka’s undamaged condition has been contradicted by other media and photographic proof of significant damage to the vase on the site of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute (Jun 24 post).
It would seem that the Post’s reputation would be better served by gathering supporting quotations from more than a lone progression of unknown Coalition spokespeople.
Unless, of course, if the misleading quotations are intended to do just that.

Photo: Jamal Said-Reuter's

Friday, June 27, 2003
E Primary Results

BRAUN 7021 2.21%
DEAN 139360 43.87%
EDWARDS 10146 3.19%
GRAHAM 7113 2.24%
KERRY 49973 15.73%
KUCINICH 76000 23.93%
GEPHARDT 7755 2.44%
LIEBERMAN 6095 1.92%
SHARPTON 1677 0.53%
OTHER 6121 1.93%
UNDECIDED 6378 2.01%
317647 100.00%

Analysis and further results at

Saint or Moses?

Al Kamin's In the Loop column from this morning's Washington Post quotes Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Mazen relating this statement made by President Bush at the Aqaba Summit:

" God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam [ Hussein], which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

May we allow the blind and a few lepers to touch the hem of your cloak, noble Lord?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Thousands and thousands of gay men and women across America can proudly take quiet credit for today’s Supreme Court decision overturning the Texas anti-Sodomy law in the case Lawrence vs Texas.
Link to Adobe version of Decision
This essentially leaderless movement of outcasts, intent upon stopping old abusive patterns through new institutions of family, has pioneered, by quiet example, a major shift in United States law.
I was, perhaps foolishly, hoping our ridiculous Chief Justice might select to ease his historical burden and pay tribute to friends and neighbors by joining with the majority. But, true to his reputation as a noodler, he joined cabal-mates Thomas and Scalia in an ugly dissent that not only trashes homosexuals but that arch bug-a-boo of the true Right, lawyers:

Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct…It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war…So imbued is the Court with the law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously “mainstream”…

Apparently not catholic in his tastes, Mr. Scalia’s dissent hinges upon the belief that “proscriptions against that conduct have ancient roots”. And, so they do. But, oddly, ancient traditions didn’t seem to matter so awfully much to our troika of anti-iconoclasts after the contested Presidential election of 2000. Some ancient roots, I guess, are better than others.

Bad neighbor

Today’s momentous ruling reminds me of a February 12th Lloyd Grove column in the Washington Post:

We were intrigued by a story in the upcoming issue of the Advocate concerning Rehnquist's friendship with actor Richard Maloy and artist Tucker Bobst, his former neighbors in Arlington. Chris Bull writes: "Bobst and Maloy, who recently celebrated their 55th anniversary as a couple, quickly befriended Rehnquist and his wife, Nan [in 1986]. The couples . . . exchanged batches of holiday cookies and looked out for one another. One day while Rehnquist was in court, Maloy noticed that the chief justice had left his car unlocked and the lights on . . . Maloy described the note he left on Rehnquist's car: 'There've been car thefts in the area. Hope to hell you have the keys 'cause I've locked it and turned off the lights. Best mend your ways! Signed, Your neighbors, Sherlock and Watson.'
"A few months later, Maloy and Bobst put their home up for sale. 'The day I put the . . . sale sign out, [Rehnquist] came over, threw his coat over the sign, and said, 'You can't move. Who's going to tell me my car's unlocked and the lights are on, and to mend my ways?' "
Maloy told the magazine: "We hoped that by getting to know us, he would understand a little better the real-life implications of his opinions. He certainly didn't want the police banging on our door, and neither did we."

Photo: Doug Mills-AP

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The Washington Post’s last word on the condition of the mysteriously returned Warka Vase is within the June 14th story by staff writer Sharon Waxman:

"It had been broken in half in antiquity, and had been repaired in the past . . . It was brought back in exactly the same condition it left the museum. It hadn't suffered any more damage," she said.
--Coalition spokeswoman Naheed Mehta

The Post’s last story on the Museum looting, by staff writer Guy Gugliotta in the June 21st edition, did not refer to the Museum’s most famous looted return but continued to obsess with some sort of definitive number to attach to a looting total.
Last week I posted about a June 17th USA Today report that described the vase:

It appears to have been seriously damaged. It is in pieces -- one large section and a half dozen or more smaller ones…

Body and Soul links to this photo of the vase as it currently exists from the site of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

The Image on the left is the vase before the Iraq II war. On the right is an image of the damaged returned loot.

Regarding the press and blog hubbub over Howard Dean’s appearance on Meet the Press I’m not surprised by the pundit reaction but I am surprised that more blogs haven’t focused on Russert’s highly animated and often surreal attack. Russert’s rat-like fixation on knowledge of exact numbers of troops as a Commander in Chief criterion was laughable. His highly dramatic faux shock and disdain, to me as a regular Meet viewer, seemed theatrically planned. Any sensible viewer was chewing over Dean’s lingering contention that the Bushies really intend a return to the Social Security-less McKinley era. If there is a lesson for the Dean campaign from the Meet appearance it is that the candidate has to directly attack the misdirection and abject silliness of the mainstream media when necessary. Had Dean given Tim a bit of huffy how-dare-you ‘tude similar to that displayed at Saturday’s debate he may have faired better with a chattering class that always prefers the scent of blood with their wine spritzers.
I guess it must have been early Saturday morning when I snapped. There through the steam off my coffee I snorted a laugh as I surfed upon the Washington Post’s umpteenth rewrite of the looting at the Iraq Museum though now by a fresh staff writer.
I had read and posted the essence of this version from a Wednesday USA Today story on Thursday. So, it did not take much of a promise of blue skies, sunshine and balmy temps to lure this hunched typist out of the digital gloom. Between sessions with debating Democratic candidates, Howard Dean’s masterful Meet the Press appearance and thinking great thoughts we lunched with mothers and explored museums under beautiful weekend skies.

Eve Disconsolate, Hiram Powers, 1873-4

This was my second visit to the newly opened Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum and my first to the superb second floor exhibit of sketches, drawings and engravings by Cincinnati artists. This is a world class exhibit that more than makes its case for Cincinnati’s pivotal place in American art history. If you find yourself visiting the Queen City of the West I would highly recommend attending. Admission is free. While not free, on the other end of the local art scene, the Contemporary Art Center lives up to its expectations as does the critical praise for Zaha Hadid’s amazing building. Some exhibits were silly and some were quite arresting. Have some fun and take an unsuspecting winger for the eye-popping exhibit walk!

This weekend I noticed that a chunk of my blog archives, critical of a certain cable “news” personality who had attacked the newly opened Contemporary Art Center, had vanished. Blogger was helpful. While my postings had been deleted the folks at Blogger could see where the graphic file uploads to those posts had occurred. The posts have since been restored from a week (June 1-7 in Archives) where I was as pleased with the images I had presented as with the words. So, if you have a moment and want a laugh, visit the week of June 1-7.

Some type of fix must be in on the Move On vote.
I registered several days ago. This morning no email with a voting link. The site says that some filters may read the email as “junk” and offers to resend the voting link. When I do this it says that I have received a ballot. Funny, huh? A screwed up vote and I don’t think Bush is on the ticket.
I’ve written my candidates' campaign about this matter.

Had the terrific good fortune to watch Senator Bobby Byrd speechify just a few moments ago on C-SPAN2:

We have heard a lot about revisionist history from the White House of late in answer to those who question whether there was a real threat from Iraq. But, it is the President who appears to me to be intent on revising history. There is an abundance of clear and unmistakable evidence that the Administration sought to portray Iraq as a direct and deadly threat to the American people. But there is a great difference between the handpicked intelligence that was presented by the Administration to Congress and the American people when compared against what we have actually discovered in Iraq. This Congress and the people who sent us here are entitled to an explanation from the Administration.

Click the link for the full speech.
Sorry if postings have been slim of late but the sunshine is a strong lure. I should also make some apologies for the shortage of art pottery and food postings. There is always tomorrow…

Photos: Sean, US Senate

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