a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Live by the photo op, die by the photo op, II

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd September 2005

Bush figuratively, but Gulf coast residents probably less so. David Pace of Associated Press reported reported on Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon’s futile efforts to see or get in touch with the president. The congressman was unable to get a security clearance to see Bush in person, and had no luck contacting him by phone either:

After waiting 90 minutes Friday while a U.S. marshal using a satellite phone repeatedly tried, and failed, to contact Bush’s plane – located just 300 yards away at New Orleans’ Armstrong airport – a disgusted Melancon left.

‘After an hour and a half of that, and two hours to get down there, I am now back on my way, without seeing the president, not accomplishing anything in my mind today. I’ve wasted time while people are dying in South Louisiana,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘It’s not personal to the president. It’s just that this whole thing has been handled terribly.’
Melancon said the communications problems that kept him from meeting with Bush are symptomatic of the problems that have plagued the slow-moving federal response to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

In St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, just south of New Orleans, victims of the hurricane are still waiting for food and water and for buses to escape the floodwaters, Melancon said. And for the entire time Bush was in the state, the congressman said, a ban on helicopter flights further stalled the delivery of food and supplies.

Via Arthur Silber, via digby. I found no confirmation of a routine statewide ban in the Wikipedia entry for “Marine One,” but found numerous anecdotes about restricted air space in the vicinity of the president — bad enough when he was in any of the afflicted areas. Bush should of course have waived any such rules, or found a different venue for his televised expressions of concern.

UPDATE, 9/3: An August 5, 2005 FAA fact sheet explains “TFR”s — temporary flight restrictions: When the president or the vice president flies, their planes receive priority handling by air traffic control. However, Air Force One and Two receive standard en-route separation from other aircraft. At the request of the U.S. Secret Service, the FAA can restrict airspace around locations where the president is visiting for TFRs of up to 30 nautical miles in radius and heights of 18,000 feet. Generally, all flights that have not received special security vetting by the Transportation Security Agency are prohibited within these TFRs.” 30 nautical miles is about 34 miles. Assuming there was such a request, here is a map of the rough area subject to a TFR while the president was at the New Orleans airport.
UPDATE, 9/4:The New Orleans Times Picayune adds details: “Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.” Via Gary Farber.

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The Washington Post March

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th August 2005

Rejoice, Comrades! The September 11 State Sponsored March To Support Our Troops As They Struggle For Freedom and Permanent Military Bases in Oil Rich Territories has the Support Of Our Glorious State’s Free Press, A Vanguard Sandwich Maker, and the Selflessly Patriotic Military Equipment Industry:

We are proud to have the following supporters for the inaugural America Supports You Freedom Walk:

Stars and Stripes
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
Lockheed Martin
ABC WJLA-TV Channel 7 and News Channel 8
WTOP News Radio Network
Washington Post
Washington Convention & Tourism Corporation

Comrades! Together, We Can Join With Our Nation’s Military in the Inaugural Appropriation of the Anniversary of Our Nation’s Great Tragedy for the Political Purposes of Our Leader and His Trusted Advisors! They Have Made Our Grief Their Own by Eminent Domain!

Comrades! Join With Me! Send Patriotic Messages to All September 11 March Supporters, but Especially to Our Glorious Free Press, Sharing Your Appreciation for its Support for This March and for its Patriotic Role in The War Struggle War That Has Made This March So Necessary To the Continued Good Fortunes of Our Leader!

Comrades! Join With Me! Register for the Inaugural State Sponsored September 11 March To Support Our Troops As They Struggle For Freedom and Permanent Military Bases in Oil Rich Territories!

And remember to dress appropriately! America Supports You Freedom Walk!

UPDATE, 8/13: The Editor & Publisher’s Joe Strupp reports: “The Washington Post has no plans to withdraw its co-sponsorship of a controversial Sept. 11 memorial walk being organized by the Department of Defense, according to Publisher Bo Jones. But, he said the paper would pull out if the event turns out to be some kind of pro-war or political march.” (Via The Left Coaster) The walk concludes with a concert by Clint Black; Strupp concludes his article with the lyrics of Black’s country hit, “Iraq and I roll.” The Washington Post: stupid? Servile? Both? Our lines are open — you make the call!
UPDATE, 8/17: Post Drops Plan to Promote Pentagon Event
UPDATE, 8/22: Sunday New York Times lead editorial: “The event is an ill-considered attempt to link the Iraq war to the terrorist attacks of 2001, and misguided in almost every conceivable way.”

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Catapult the propaganda — they love it

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th May 2005

Apparently Bush actually said this, at a Greece, New York “Bamboozlepalooza” event trying to sell Bush’s destruction of Social Security:

See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

I come to this via several posts by eRobin (“fact-esque”) over the past few days — I’m late to the party as usual. There’s a video cut of the statement at the “Crooks and Liars” site (via agitprop).

It’s hard to decide which is more of a jaw-dropper — Bush’s statement, or the applause he got for it. Even allowing for the hand-picked crowds he treats himself to, this is pitifully servile stupidity.

It’s happened before, too. Back in February, Bush got himself tied up in knots trying to explain his thinking on Social Security, to the point where you suspected he’d not been taking some important medication or other. He asked “Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled,” gave it another muddled shot, and concluded, “Okay, better? I’ll keep working on it.”

The audience response? According to the White House transcript, it was


Judging by these episodes, there seems to be a kind of sick, ironic thing going on in these little shows Bush puts on where nearly everybody knows the whole thing is a deceptive crock. You might expect this in a crowd of lobbyists at a keynote address by one of their CEOs, but it’s disconcerting to see it in “heartland America” too.

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Survival training in the White House pool

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th September 2004

Paul Krugman, writing on September 7:

If I were running the Kerry campaign, I’d remind people frequently about Mr. Bush’s flight-suit photo-op, when he declared the end of major combat. In fact, the war goes on unabated. News coverage of Iraq dropped off sharply after the supposed transfer of sovereignty on June 28, but as many American soldiers have died since the transfer as in the original invasion.

And I’d point out that while Mr. Bush spared no effort preparing for his carrier landing – he even received underwater survival training in the White House pool – he didn’t prepare for things that actually mattered, like securing and rebuilding Iraq after Baghdad fell.

(link, emphasis added)

His Heroicness! Oh master, you survived! Via Fafblog. Seriously, I did not know that. Did you know that?

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The Federal Center for Political Education

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 8th February 2002

No, it’s not where the secret U.S. government keeps its black helicopters and the Roswell alien; it’s Germany’s Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (BpB).* From the “about us” part of the site:

The Federal Center for Political Education was founded in 1952 as subsidiary [nachgeordnet] office of the Federal Department of the Interior, to “solidify and disseminate democratic and European ideals among the German people (founding legislation).”

On the home page, the current BpB tagline is a (quite decent) quote by Max Frisch, the Swiss writer:

The man who doesn’t concern himself with politics has already taken the political position he was trying to avoid.

Under the sidebar option “Zielgruppen” (target groups), one learns that

The most important target groups are multiplierettes and multipliers [Multiplikatorinnen und Multiplikatoren] of political education, people who are active with their social engagement in clubs, groups, but also in educational and media fields…

I point this site out just because this seems to me a very weird sort of thing for a government to be up to. I’m curious what German readers think of it. Doubtless many hadn’t heard of it either, it seems like the earnest, slightly out-of-touch kind of outfit most people ignore no matter where they’re from. But does the mission statement above get heads to nodding, “Well, nice idea,” or does it seem like a mildly offensive waste of your taxes? Which is how it would seem to me. (And now I bet I’ll learn about some obscure federal office I’d never heard of before that survived despite Reagan, Gingrich, Lott, and Bush, and does the same thing.)

The site ties in to the main ongoing theme of this blog with its 11th of September and its consequences page. You can subscribe to a daily digest of online media articles, compiled by one Thorsten Schilling. I’ve subscribed, and find that Mr. Schilling’s selections and tone are often more than a bit snarky. Today, for example:– “Mon père etait un terroriste” by Gilles Lestrade describes the life of a fighter in the resistance against the German invasion in WW II. The retreat to the mountains and the carpet bombing by the Germans remind one of very current events. (Link of October 26). […] – US soldiers abroad don’t necessarily attract attention for their cultural sensitivity. Whether it’s about the proper clothing in Saudi Arabia (see the link of January 16, or rapes by Marines in Japan, Pat Hold believes that it’s urgent that something be done to teach the troops how one behaves towards foreigners.. (The Christian Science Monitor 4.2.)

Maybe I’m being a bit thin-skinned here. But this is an official German site, disseminating a 9/11-news mailing list to key members of German society (judging by the target group claim). I have no idea how widely the e-mail is distributed, or what its ultimate impact is. At any rate, my German readers, it’s your tax Euros at work, I assume you feel it’s worth it. It just seems a little odd to me that you would pay your government for help with developing your own political opinions.

*“Bildung” might also be translated as “development,” in the sense of formation or growth. “Education” is a good enough translation here, I think.

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How to lie really effectively

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th November 2001

Just take out a four page spread in the Washington Post (yesterday, 11/13/2001), called “Twenty Years of Change – and Continuity”, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the reign of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. More pictures follow inside (one with George Bush, Sr., and one with Margaret Thatcher).

The thing is, King Fahd is technically king, and may have been a great guy (although I doubt it), but it doesn’t matter now: he had a serious stroke in 1995 and turned over day-to-day affairs to Crown Prince Abdullah, who is now 75 himself. His Royal Highness Abdullah is a tougher sell for even the best PR agency, as quotes like this indicate:

“The ferocious campaign by the western media against the kingdom is only an expression of its hatred toward the Islamic system” (Washington Post, 11/5/2001)

“… relations between the [United States and Saudi Arabia are] at a crossroads… Saudi Arabia [will] be forced to review its ties with the United States if the US [is] not ready to move ahead with finding a successful solution to the Middle East conflict” (letter to President Bush,as related by Prince Turki Al-Faisal to the Middle East Broadcasting Company on November 8; reported in Al-Ahram Weekly, 15-21 November, “Nosedive in Saudi-US ties“)

You can see that making a four page spread with that kind of material was unappealing, so they went with old King Fahd instead. Most readers probably just skimmed the article titles (“thrust for learning,””quiet diplomat”), looked at the photos, and came away thinking that that Saudi Arabia king is an OK pal of ours, and will surely keep things to rights over there, what with everything going on and all. Hats off to PR agency Qorvis, Burson-Marsteller, or whoever it was, and the Saudis! You might even call it chutzpah.


Note: thanks very much to Ray E. for the Al Ahram URL!

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