Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, January 28, 2006

Belafonte, Blitzer, binLaden and Canada Lee before Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads

This past week I mentioned the unfortunate use made of Harry Belafonte on last Sunday’s Meet The Press.
On Monday, Wolfe Blitzer, in the second of what appeared to be a mainstream media one-two punch, tried, via a live shot on his busy studio wall, to further smear Mr. Belafonte as a terrorist-sympathizing extremist and, by extension, any Bush critical Democrat:

BLITZER: Are you saying that President Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden?

BELAFONTE: I'm saying that he's no better. You know, it's hard to make a hyperbole stick. I obviously haven't had a chance to meet all the terrorists in the world, so I have no reason to throw around the words like the greatest or make some qualitative statement. I do believe he is a terrorist.


BLITZER: …Worse than al Qaeda? Is that what you're saying?

BELAFONTE: Well, I don't want to make those kind of comparisons. I'm not too sure all of what al Qaeda has done. Al Qaeda tortures. We torture. Al Qaeda's killed innocent people. We kill innocent people. Where do the lines get blurred here?


BLITZER: …The U.S., when it goes after terrorists, there may be what's called collateral damage…Do you understand the difference?

BELAFONTE: I understand the difference. What I don't want to get stuck with, or be guided by, is what you call collateral damage. That does not cleanse us morally.


BLITZER: …When you get involved in name-calling…isn't that crossing the line?

BELAFONTE: Not at all…You know, one of the big problems that we have in this country is the inability to be honest and to be straightforward…We've never had a dialogue in this country on the real issues of slavery. I don't even want to get stuck there. But what I said about Colin Powell is that he serves his master well…and I stand by it…He stood before the United Nations and lied and knew he was lying. I mean, where do we draw these lines here?

BLITZER: How do you know Colin Powell knew he was lying…there's a difference between misspeaking and lying.

BELAFONTE: Mr. Blitzer, you have access to a lot of information. More than once we've discussed the fact that Colin Powell went before his president, went before others and said, "I can't say this. It is not correct. There are things about it that touch me deeply and disturb me." And all of a sudden there he was in front of the U.N., despite this disclaimer, doing what he did.


BLITZER: I see you're not backing away from one word of what you said.

BELAFONTE: No, I can't. Dr. King is my mentor and I believe in truth, and that's what I'm doing.

Belafonte, talking with Wolfe but also reacting to Russert, was relaxed, beautifully well spoken and artfully blunted the paid-media’s poison-tipped arrows.
Of course, Mr. Belafonte previously toured a similar government-inspired shadow land of unsupported fear in the years following World War II.
The birth of the electronic media that is presently smothering the American public with cottony "truthiness" was as ugly and messy as today's current media-death rattle.
Pinko's and fellow travelers, a government-identified and undefined menace, stalked the fear-hyped land.
A blacklist was developed to enumerate, at first, some of the “radical writers” involved with Hollywood’s movies.
The Blacklist, in short order a hot public catch-phrase, expanded to include television writers and performers under the cruel rubric “pinkos”; a list identified only by the unsubstantiated whispers gathered by agents of J. Edgar Hoover.
Politicians used and exploited the fear and lives of ordinary people were horribly changed forever.

Known leftist”, as cable news might call him, George Clooney explored these issues from CBS’ perspective in 2005’s excellent “Goodnight and Good Luck”.
Another “known leftist” Tim Robbins fleshes out the cultural milieu with 1999’s very entertaining Cradle Will Rock.
The superb documentary Scandalize My Name, now appearing infrequently on the cable channel Ovation, documents the horrors visited upon America’s black entertainers and writers who, after the pinko smoke cleared, seemed more concerned with correcting the slave dialects and stereotypical roles dominating the TV and movies of the day.
My only exposure to a blacklisted actor came in 1974 or ’75 when I was 20 or 21 years old.
At the time I was working at WLWT but still traveling back to my first TV employer WCET to finish up various projects in their fabulous and gigantic new studio.
One summer day, I was sweeping that studio’s vast floor and awaiting the arrival of someone scheduled for a taping, when in walked a friend from the publicity department with an older gentleman who looked extremely familiar.
I put aside the broom and shook the gentleman’s hand as Marilyn, the PR person, introduced me as the director.
I could instantly tell that both the broom and myself had made a large impression on this nigglingly familiar older man.
Marilyn introduced him as Howard da Silva and I instantly both knew of him and greatly liked this kindly man with sparkling eyes who had recently appeared as Benjamin Franklin in the 1972-released movie of the musical 1776.

Da Silva and Willian Daniels as John Adams in 1776

In the course of our excited conversation, I unintentionally impressed Mr. da Silva, yet again, by asking about his experiences as a blacklisted actor...a topic that had facinated my mother and, thanks to her stories, occupied a portion of my childhood thoughts and teenaged reading.
As the taping progressed and as the happy chatter between myself and the steelworker turned actor continued, I suddenly, with that unbridled exuberance that only happens to the young and innocent, blurted out a thought…Wouldn’t it be terrific to have Mr. da Silva record a pledge break as Benjamin Franklin?
Da Silva, with an equal measure of youthful glee said, “I’ve have the full costume at the hotel. Let’s do it!
The very next day, at a time we had predetermined, the lobby receptionist called to say that Ambassador Franklin had arrived.
I walked to the lobby and was in the presence of Ben Franklin.
From ostrich-trimmed tricorn hat to silver-buckled shoes, Mr. da Sliva appeared exactly as in the movie and as shown in the accompanying photograph; he did not break character.
I kid you not when I say this golden day remains one of my most treasured memories.
In a manner keeping with this Founder’s rank, I escorted Ambassador Franklin to an unscheduled meeting with a very surprised President and General Manager before our arrival in the studio.
The taping, we called the spot a Bicentennial Minute with Ben Franklin, was a joy and I only wish I had been blessed with another chance to again experience or work with this wonderful, kind and generous man.
Mr. da Silva passed away on February 16, 1986.
I still think of him, his kindness to me and the effects of the blacklist he personally witnessed.
Harry Belafonte's bravery, this week, again thrust these memories of Mr. da Silva, the blacklist and words intended to harm and mischaracterize back into the forefront of my thoughts.

Images: CNN,, Google,, Melinda Sue Gordon,,uk
Friday, January 27, 2006
Walk Like A Pundit

Luke wears clothes in this unfortunately sharp image

Whispered asides floating around the NBC studios on Nebraska Avenue in northwest Washington tell Lloyd Grove, this morning:

Tempers at NBC flared this week when Huffington skewered Russert's ethics for using his prestigious Sunday morning policy-and-politics program to hype his 19-year-old son Luke's sports-talk radio show.

Oh my, “media-political aristocrat” Tim is miffed while Ms. Huffington keeps plugging away at his questionable ethics, a veritable tempête de merde of punditry.
Meanwhile, young Luke, armed with not much including a buttoned lip regarding his salary, told the Washington Post this week:

"Me[sic] and James are always at…games," said the former ESPN intern…”People who sat around us found it interesting to listen to us…”

He makes it come alive, doesn’t he?
If only I had “sat around" instead of reading this mouth-dropping news alone.
If only Luke and James were here to soothe my fevered brow “debating certain issues”.
But, as Arianna reports, Tim is one busy big media camper with fun events like an Ethics conference:

Inviting Tim Russert to keynote a conference on journalistic ethics is like having Jack Abramoff keynote a conference on lobbying reform, Jim Frey lecture on truth in advertising, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lead High Holy Days services at Temple Beth Israel.

Thankfully, Mater and Pater Russert only reproduced once so we can rest assured no other talentless progeny can be sprung on the unsuspecting American public.

Photo: Luke Russert
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gosh, I’m exhausted.
President Bush, our daily presidential tele-visitor and just seconds ago from my time-shifted perspective, wore me out with an hour-long CNN-covered cornucopia of outright fibs, sneaky side steps, sly shuffles, flimsy excuses, purposeful misstatements and his increasingly nettlesome, note-supported Customer Service bonhomie.
Mr. Bush, with an assortment of barks, clicks and grimaces, continued the far right’s Orwellian attempted rebranding “of the Democrat party” from “the Democratic party”, in one moment, while, in another, perhaps discovering that the Abramoff tar is actually sticking to his once-shiny Teflon persona:

1st QUESTION: What do you fear or your staff fear about releasing the photograph of Jack Abramoff with you, Mr. President? You say you don't fear anything; tell us why you won't release this…

2nd QUESTION: You talked about Jack Abramoff in the context of pictures…He also had some meetings with some of your staff…why are you letting the critics, perhaps, attack you and paint you with, maybe, a guilt by association? Why not just throw open your books and say, "Look, here's a meeting that we had..."

3rd QUESTION: But, sir, do you want to tell the American people, "Look, as I promised, this White House isn't for sale and I'm not for sale"?

4th QUESTION: May I ask you again, why won't you release the photos of yourself and Jack Abramoff?

The President’s non-answers are, of course, irrelevant.
If, as I imagine, this bitter man’s daily motivation is the ego-boosted hope, from raised beseeching hands and the coruscating photo journalism, to erase the past and to appear to dominate at all costs, his stubborn, imbecilic disengagement looms as this maniac’s most assured historic doom.

Image: AP,,
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
"In 1954, under the Eisenhower administration, the federal government decided to circumvent the Constitution of the United States and form a treaty with alien entities…the aliens involved could take a few cows and test their implanting techniques."
--Michael E. Salla, PhD

Despite the rashes, unusual scars and nightmares, both Condi and Dan felt compelled to occasionally return to the same isolated back road in the Virginia countryside.*

*This morning I encountered an innocuous but chilling typographical error, "Repsublican", within an excellent Washington Post editorial column by Harold Myerson on the failures of the Bush administration.
The word evoked the worst sort of lizard, alien nightmares.

Modified Image: El Mundo,
Monday, January 23, 2006

I'd like to highlight a strange vignette in today's speech (PDF) by the man who executed President Bush's illegal order to wiretap within the continental United States:

We all have searing memories of the morning of September 11th...seeing the NSA counterterrorism shop in tears...tacking up blackout curtains around their windows...asking my wife to find our kids, and then hanging up the phone on her.

Sounds like the general was in a blubbering panic...let's hope his wife kept a cool head.


Like many of my fellow viewers, yesterday, I found Tim Russert’s tired routine on NBC’s Meet the Press even more threadbare than usual and it seemed, at times, that Tim appeared to be a cruel parody of himself.
The lamb for Tim’s stacked opening attempt at slaughter was Senate newcomer Barak Omaba.
Armed with every available RNC talking point available at airtime, Tim aped a transparently aggressive posture toward the milquetoasty freshman Senator from Illinois.
Most egregious was, in two separate questions and one soundbite, the uncuddily Tim demanding a response from Obama to 1-day and 23-day old statements by 78 year-old calypso singer and actor Harry Belafonte in support of Hugo Chavez and in very direct opposition to President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security:

RUSSERT: I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?

And, following a videotape showing Belafonte and Chavez:

RUSSERT: Is it appropriate to call the President of the United States the greatest terrorist in the world?

Russert even played the Belafonte tape a second time at the top of the segment following Mr. Obama’s appearance though that tape is not reflected in the program’s online transcript.
Hey Obama,” Tim seemed to be saying, “Look what this guy said. What’s with you Democrats and black people?
Had Obama, early on, been even moderately forceful, Russert could have been prevented from wallowing in an even slimier studio pool of abject RNC sycophancy.
Thanks to Arianna Huffington, we now know that Tim’s second half hour of supposedly public affairs information was an even more embarrassing display of corrupt Washington gamesmanship and nest feathering, a “revenue stream” as former Cheney hack Mary Matalin would call it.
Joining Tim for a glib half hour of clubby banter and celebrating their, according to Arianna, 41st MTP appearance since 1996 were the "tired and depressing vaudeville routine" of James Carvelle and his odious wife Mary Matalin along with Carvelle sidekick Paul Begala to allegedly discuss a new Carville/Begala book along with the threesome’s predictable Kool Kid take on current events.
The moment of hidden, Delay-like nepotistic sleaze that Arianna points out on her valuable site The Huffington Post occurred in the last few light-hearted but vague minutes of the program:

RUSSERT: Before you go I understand that politics may be part of your past, that you're going to go on XM Satellite Radio and do sports?

CARVILLE: I can't talk about that too much, but I think there's going to be…some exciting new developments and maybe a new twist on an old career.

RUSSERT: With anyone I know?

CARVILLE: Maybe you would be familiar with someone I'll be teaming up in this.

RUSSERT: Mary Matalin, think it this way: if this book sells, it’ll help the Democrats. But it also may pay your daughter’s tuition.

MS. MATALIN: It provides a revenue stream. I want to give something to the person that’s going to be joining James in this new endeavor, because prolonged exposure to James requires an antidote. it’s called, “Think.” Give that to your son.

Arianna explains the enigmatic “give that to your son” remark:

A faithful Russert Watch insider sent me an advance copy of the press release about the talk show and Carville's mystery partner. Here is the release's headline: JAMES CARVILLE AND LUKE RUSSERT TO HOST NEW SPORTS TALK SHOW EXCLUSIVELY FOR XM SATELLITE RADIO.

Luke Russert shown at

While this photo makes it clear that the boy and his parents might find an elevated profile troublesome, the NBC celebrity’s 20-year-old son has been handed a paid (would 6 figures be unlikely) co-host position on a national radio program based on creditials established when the Russerts and the Carvilles shared warm box seats and the peak of Washington clubbiness with the owner of the Redskins.
According to James and as quoted in the XM press release nabbed by Arianna:

"This show will be another opportunity for me to engage in the back-and-forth debates on sports that, until now, Luke and I have limited to the stadium".

Yesterday’s Meet the Press, in the farcical Obama segment as well as the Carville/Begala one, more than offered revolting examples of the media and political corruption consuming Washington.
Yesterday’s program, in the vague giggily remarks meant to hype Russert's randy and unqualified son, showcased, better than any leftist oration, Washington’s purposely casual corruption and its blurring of propriety, sense and fairness.
I think it is safe to assume that the pampered Luke Russert will not be performing military service anytime soon.

Images:, NBC
Sunday, January 22, 2006

TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed...they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months.

Modified Image:, New York Times, Reuters

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