Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, October 31, 2003

A sad but beautiful story from the Chicago Tribune’s foreign correspondent Paul Salopek offers another perspective on the cultural and artistic rape of Iraq through the eyes of Dame Agatha Christie:

She first visited as a tourist in 1928. She met her future husband, the distinguished archeologist Max Mallowan, while exploring the ancient city of Ur. And over the next three decades, the couple returned again and again…There were Model-T journeys across Iraq's harsh deserts…And there were steam train stops at exotic outposts of the waning British Empire: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul.
"I fell in love with Ur, with its beauty in the evenings," she wrote in her autobiography, "the ziggurat standing up, faintly shadowed, and that wide area of sand with its lovely pale colors of apricot, rose, blue and mauve changing every minute."
She last traveled to the ancient, sun-scorched nation in the 1950s…She died, very old and highly honored as a Dame of the British Empire, in 1976, three years before Saddam Hussein rose to power.
Little of the Iraq she knew is left.

Photo: Harvard Theatre Collection
Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Daily Dish in today’s Daily News has low-rated cable host Chris Matthews sounding less supportive off-camera.
Speaking to students at Brown University, the Dish quotes Matthews describing the administration’s invasion plan as "totally dishonest" and that Vice President Dick Cheney "is behind it all. The whole neo-conservative power vortex, it all goes through his office. He has become the chief executive ...It's scary."

The candid and obviously America-hating ;-) Chris prompts, with apologies to the child's rhyme Patty Cake, a flashback to a July 8th posting:

Yellowcake, yellowcake
Cheney’s plan
Fakes the bake like fast, man
Poll it
And spin it
And fund raise it too
An state it in the Union
As a UK clue.

Photos: MSNBC and Reuters

Imagine my early morning blog horror!
A small A Section story in the Washington Post grabs my attention as a candidate for bloggery.
Then, I notice, this tiny story is read aloud, uncontested on C-SPAN’s Journal by the same host who received Cher’s call-in Monday.
I’ve emailed this fellow before and, this morning, I emailed again:

Sir, I've written before and you were kind enough to reply so I'm thinking perhaps you will give this email some attention while both of us are still basking in the glow of the Cher call in.
Perhaps I can explain the lady who senses your bias toward the Bushies.
In the previous email I was angry at your abrupt attitude toward some callers. I think you have improved a great deal with regard to the callers but are still a tad supercilious when challenged about the Journal's increasingly unsatisfying themed call-ins.
This morning, from my biased liberal perspective ;-), was a perfect example of what frustrates so many viewers left and right.
As I first brought my attention to the toob, you were reading the tiny A Section Washington Post story, Bush Says Religion Mended His Ways, credited to Dana Milbank.
I had selected this little gem for some yet unwritten blog ranting.
The unformed blog rant will hopefully deal with the concept that Bush administration errors of fact are not just gigantic, like Iraq WMD, or medium, like the Lincoln banner flap, but small and insignificant like the implied fact, that Mr. Bush gave up drinking in his youth, contained in Mr. Milbank's item.
The lead graph:

President Bush, speaking Wednesday night at a Christian youth center in Dallas, gave an unusually candid assessment of religion's role in leading him from his wayward youth.

The President's youthful sobering is a running leit motif in the discordant Bush symphony.
But, when does youth end and adulthood begin?
Google'ing the words "Bush" and "drinking" results in 608,000 hits. Some of these are compilations of news stories from just before the 2000 election when the President 1976 drunk driving arrest was made public. Those stories contain this sentence:

Bush has said many times he quit drinking on his 40th birthday in 1986 and has not had a drink since.

Since when is a 40 year-old adult male considered a youth.
You (the C-SPAN Host) read the story straight. The lack of an Open Phone segment prevented a correction of the "youth" characterization much less a remark concerning the President's unseemly blurring of religion and state.
I don't think some of the other hosts would have let these contrary and very public domain aspects of the Milbank story pass like you did.
Then, as your show progressed, one of the editors of the Capitol Hill newspaper appeared.
These men have previously identified themselves as having prior Republican political backgrounds (didn't one of them work for Buchanan for God's sake).
This fellow or the other one (I can't tell them apart quite honestly), in their reports, have mentioned the Kentucky Governor's race, including this morning.
As a Kentucky resident, the coverage is particularly attention-getting.
Both stories that I've watched dealt with former Senator Wendell Ford campaigning for Mr. Chandler.
This is a fair story.
However, the Republicans, according to Josh Marshall of the blog Talking Points Memo, are diverting money and manpower toward voter intimidation in the heavily black western counties around Louisville and Lexington. Also a fair story, but, on C-SPAN, this Republican electioneering is a yet unmentioned one.
One wonders how Marshall's news escaped the attention of these CapHill newshounds?
I could have attempted a phone call this morning but no open phone segment was broadcast.
As a long time viewer of the Journal, I find myself, like the lady who did call in this morning, more often frustrated by your format than informed through it.
And, don't for a minute think that those open phone calls, in an aggregate with loonies and the thoughtful, were not very meaningful to citizens across the country. I found them highly interesting and, perhaps, this is why they are no longer a regular part of the format.
In these times of almost Sci-Fi quality news, I don't think a fair person could blame another for suspicious thoughts.
Of course, my blog, with thousands of kind wonderful readers, meets my vent needs far better than an occasional random shot on your program but many other people are not so lucky.
I do wish you fine people would consider more open formatting ideas.

The C-SPAN Host, Peter Slen, has replied to my emails before.
I'll post portions of his reply if he decides to write back.

November 7th Update: Slen did not reply.

On another topic
The Catholic Church makes a great deal between sins of omission and sins of comission.
Through Atrios, this MUST READ Associated Press story on privately contracted soldiers:

The cavernous white mess tent on the base of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad...There, a $3 million contract with Kellogg, Brown & Root paid for the tent's construction and the Bangladeshi and Indian cooks who feed 4,000 troops daily. One soldier breakfasting inside the tent, a nine-year veteran, said she's been sent to patrol Baghdad since contractors took her job as a cook.

Read it, then let the shocking implications happen naturally in your mind.

Images: Brother Dave's Cave and Associated Press
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

As I promised in a previous post, a delicious and original autumn recipe involving turnips and parsnips for use as a side dish or as a vegetarian main course.

Parsnip, Potato and Turnip Pie
Preheat oven to 325

6 Baked Potatoes, cooled
1 large. Parsnip, peeled and grated
½ medium Turnip, grated
½ medium Onion, chopped fine
½ cup Sour Cream
¼ cup heavy Cream
1 large Egg
½ cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
1 Tsp Sea salt
¼ Tsp Black Pepper
½ Tsp Thyme

Halve potatoes lengthwise and scoop potato from skin. Put potato skins aside. Add grated turnip, parsnip and chopped onion to potatoes. Beat egg, sour cream and heavy cream and add to vegetable mixture with seasonings. Add cheese and blend.
Spray pie pan with non-stick spray. Cut potato skins in half lengthwise and line pie pan. Overlap potato skins.
Pour egg and vegetable mixture over skins. Top can be decorated with remaining skins if any.
Bake for 50 minutes or until edges are golden.


While looking at photographs on State Department and Interpol web sites of still missing priceless Iraqi artifacts, I noted US Customs # 7: the head of Poseidon.
When I posted a photograph of this particular piece of missing loot back on May 6 at 2:32pm Poseidon’s head was still attached to his body. Was it separated at the time of looting? I don’t know.

A documentary called Robbing the Cradle of Civilization airs tonight on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Regarding the looting of the Iraq National Museum the CBC web page says:

There is strong evidence that some of it was a pre-planned professional operation aimed at feeding the huge Western appetite for Iraq's antiquities…gangs have been masterminding the export of millions of dollars worth of priceless treasures out of Iraq for at least a decade. What costs less than a dollar to dig up in the deserts of Iraq can sell for $400,000 at one of the prestigious auction houses of New York and London.

A conservation report by the British Museum is reported today in The Art Newspaper along with a story about Col. Matthew Bogdanos submitting his final report on the looting of the Iraq National Museum to the United States Department of Defense.
Col. Bogdanos reports:

768 items from the museum have now been recovered outside the country—in America, Britain, Italy and Jordan. Additional 911-looted items from the museum were seized in targeted raids inside Iraq. A further 1,731 objects have been voluntarily returned inside Iraq…the current loss is estimated at just over 10,000 items.

The report by the British Museum isn’t good for the ivory Treasures of Nimrud, previously described by US authorities as “the pride of the cultural recovery effort”, and argues that they are the most urgent conservation priority:

The most important ivories, those from Nimrud…were flooded with sewage-contaminated water, saturating the ivories. After the vaults were opened in June the ivories were gently disinfected with methylated spirit, but it now appears that they were slightly wet when they were later repacked. They also had to be left in the damp underground vaults, which still had wet patches on the floor. There are now fears that mould growth could develop.

The Art Newspaper article details the present condition of several other returned treasures including the broken Warka Vase.

I have followed the looting of the Iraq Museum here on this blog.
Relevant post occur on these dates:
April 14, 16, 18, 22 and 28
May 1, 6, 7 and 8
June 9, 14, 16, 19 and 28

Photos: The Art Newspaper and United States Department of State
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Missing Iraqi Art, bust of Eros, US Customs #9

American Council for Cultural Policy

According to an Art Newspaper story with a 2002 copywrite, the impetus for the creation of the American Council for Cultural Policy comes largely from Ashton Hawkins, former executive vice-president and Counsel to the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A March 27, 2003 news item says:

Art collectors and dealers including Ashton Hawkins, former counsel to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, have formed the American Council for Cultural Policy to help defend and preserve Iraq's cultural sites and artifacts. They met with U.S. Defense and State officials in early January…Art lawyer and AIA member Patty Gerstenblith remarks that "one has the strong sense that this group is using this discussion as a pretext for their ultimate goal: to change Iraq's treatment of archaeological objects." Indeed, the Council seeks to revamp the Cultural Property Implementation Act so that the U.S. cannot be as easily blocked from importing foreign antiquities.

Again from the Art Newspaper:

The inaugural meeting of its 45-person Board of Advisers on 9 October [2002], at the Fifth Avenue apartment of Guido Goldman, a collector of Uzbek textiles, drew the antiquities collector Shelby White, the former Getty curator Arthur Houghton (a vice-president), the former Kimbell Art Museum director Edmund Pillsbury, and the legal scholar Professor John Merryman. Lawyers from major museums were also there.

Guido Goldman, son of Nachum Goldman, former president of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Goldman has amassed the world’s largest and finest private collection of Central Asian ikat wall hangings.

Shelby White, Clinton nominated Shelby White to the government's Cultural Property Advisory Committee, she "is known for being too willing to acquire objects with a dubious provenance or ownership history."

Arthur Houghton, International Policy Analyst, US Government (White House) 1989-1995, President Arthur Houghton Associates, 1995-present, specialist in Seleucid coins, author or editor of four books on numismatics, 40+ articles, his 2 volume Part 1 Seleucid Coins, a Comprehensive Catalog Part 1: Seleucus I – Antiochus III sells for 240EU.

Edmund Pillsbury, former director of the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, at age 30, he became the curator of European art at Yale University Art Gallery and later director of the Yale Center for British Art in London. He earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Yale.

John Merryman, Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and Marie B. Sweitzer Professor of Law (Emeritus), affiliated Professor in the Department of Art, Stanford University, leading expert in cultural property and art law.

Photo: US Department of State

Josh Marshall, excerpted in this space within Saturday’s Grover's Radical Roundup, continues to impress with his dogged interest in how the famous yellowcake documents came into being.
I’ve been reading Mr. Marshall for over a year now and I’ve found his site highly interesting.
He does seem to have, from his coffee shop perch in Dupont Circle, some fairly good Washington sources.
This morning he briefly tantalizes with a description of the famous meeting between the Vice President and CIA briefers that resulted in Ambassador’s Wilson’s trip to Niger.
Josh flatly says:

The briefer didn’t bring it up. Cheney did…if Cheney didn’t hear about it from one of his intel briefings, where’d he hear about it? Specifically. Who put Cheney on to the Niger uranium story?

Marshall quotes from a portion Sy Hersh’s current Stovepipe story in The New Yorker that mentions an Italian businessman and security consultant as the person who first mentioned the Niger documents to an Italian journalist in early October of 2002.
Josh quite correctly wonders who this mysterious gentlemen is and how he fits into a puzzle purposely burdened with an over abundance of meaningless detail.
An impatient reader might wish to frustrate themselves with a Google of cheney and niger where one can peruse 28,800 hits or bush and niger for a paltry 254,000 relevant hits.
An excellent timeline of known information related to the yellowcake allegation can be less frustratingly accessed here at the Center for Cooperative Research.
On July 6 of this year, in a New York Times op-ed, Ambassador Wilson suggested that the Vice President’s office asked for the Niger information that prompted his CIA sponsored mission.
The White House denied this on July 11 but Robert Novak in his “plame”ous July 14th column said:

The White House, State Department and Pentagon, and not just Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it [yellowcake from Niger].

Hersh, in the October 20 Stovepipe article, said:

“The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A.

On April 16 I posted some material related to the looting of the Iraq museum from a blog published by Brian Pfaffenberger of the University of Virginia:

A group of art traders, calling itself the American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP), recently met with Defense Department officials…According to German antiquities expert named Sonja Zekri, the ACCP's goal is to " loosen up the Iraqi antiquities laws" under an American-controlled postwar regime.

According to an April 6 report in Scotland’s Sunday Herald, the ACCP has among its main members…collectors and lawyers with chequered histories in collecting valuable artifacts, including alleged exhibitions of Nazi loot.
If I were a betting man I’d bet that the businessmen of the ACCP could have made use of a well-connected Italian businessman and security consultant.
Just who are the members of the American Council for Cultural Policy?
From the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Interpol, photographs of the 30 most valuable items still missing from the Iraq National Museum and, unlike the still missing WMD and various missing or unidentified principals, likely resting on certain well-connected coffee tables.

Images: Getty and Information Clearing House
Monday, October 27, 2003

A terrific article in tomorrow's London Guardian by Blake Morrison with a particularly apt quote from Henry IV, Pt 2:

Rumour is a pipe, blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, and of so easy and so plain a stop that the blunt monster with uncounted heads, the still-discordant wavering multitude, can play upon it.

Image: Folger Shakespeare Library
Miserable Failure

A bit of Flash Mobbery!
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Hello Mulla

In another curious development receiving limited coverage in the United States, the Taliban's former foreign minister, Mulla Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, was, according to a former aide speaking from Pakistan on October 8, released from military custody at the US airbase in Bagram and returned to his home in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
An Associated Press report filed yesterday evening at 7:55pm on the New York Times website said the former Taliban mulla was released 10 days ago but that the circumstances surrounding his release were not clear.
According to the October 8th Gulf News:

The aide rejected reports that US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had met Mutawwakil to seek his support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
When pressed, the aide said Mutawwakil most likely held talks with Karzai and other Afghan government officials after his release.
"I believe Mutawwakil is in contact with Karzai government functionaries," the aide added.
Armitage's visit to Kandahar last week surprised everyone.

Mulla Muttawakil, known as a “moderate” member of the Taliban met, as Josh Marshall reported yesterday, with conservative Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in Doha, Quatar during the pre September 11th spring of 2001.
The very busy Grover Norquist had arraigned the meeting.

Photo: PakTribune


Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, President of Drew University in Madison, NJ and Chairman of the federal commission investigating the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, told the New York Times Friday that the commission will likely subpoena several highly classified documents currently being withheld by the White House:

Any document that has to do with this investigation cannot be beyond our reach…I will not stand for it…We will use every tool at our command to get hold of every document…Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it — anything.

The New York Times identifies “other commission officials” describing the commission’s interest in copies of the President’s Daily Briefing in the weeks leading up to September 11, 2001 and quotes Kean describing the White House as “quite nervous” over a public release of their contents.

Headline hoppers should then hop to Washington where the Post offer’s a second shotgun blast this morning before returning to Manhattan for a rich dose of Frank wondering, Why Are We Back In Vietnam:

You can tell that the administration itself now fears that Iraq is becoming a Vietnam by the way it has started to fear TV news…In America, at least, history always catches up with those who try to falsify it in real time…and in TV news, time moves faster now.

Kean photo: Dith Pran-New York Times

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