Sunday, October 19, 2008

What the dead know

Have you ever heard of a photo essay being cited in a presidential race? Well, Colin Powell did it this morning on Meet the Press.

Powell, the former Secretary of State who lost street cred when he stumped for the Bush Doctrine at the UN, said that he was moved by an image in a recent photo essay depicting a mother at the grave of her soldier son. The point, Powell said, is that the son -- who was 20 when he died in service of his country -- was a Muslim, something his party has suggested is unpatriotic.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine," Powell said, referring to the Sept. 29 issue of The New Yorker. "It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave."

The photo essay is by 40-year-old New York photographer Platon (yes, he is professionally known only by his first name). Fifteen years ago, British Vogue named him the best up-and-coming photographer.

"You could see the writing on the headstone," Powell said. "And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way."

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Texan

The Ozark Creative Writers' annual conference was last weekend at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and I had a chance to make a portrait of my friend, Mike Blakely. He's a singer, songwriter, and of course a native Texan.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Extra money is always helpful

Here's a lead from today's New York Times that I had to read three times.

WASHINGTON — The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. Monday. To their astonishment, they were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said they must sign it before they left.

There was no press at this invitation-only meeting, but Mark Landler and Eric Dash did an admirable job of recreating it from interviews. It was, in short, a $250 billion offer the banks couldn't refuse.

Even as they insisted that they did not need the money, bankers recognized that the extra capital could be helpful if the economy became shakier. Besides, many of these banks’ biggest businesses are tied to the stock and credit markets; the quicker they improve, the better their results.

This is just obscene.
Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal. In the hyperbole that markets cars like guns, there is at least this much truth: except in wartime, cars kill more people than guns do. The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff - like a man's fantasy of having a gun, knife, or tool between his legs. -- Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wake me when it's over

National Newspaper Week is here. I almost missed it.

The theme this year is "Public Notice: Good Government on Display" and the Newspaper Association Managers (NAM on second reference) have offered a downloadable press kit. The aim of the editorials and cartoons and crossword is that it's important for government to keep running paid legal notices in newspapers because, well, it's oh so much better than the free Internet.

"Why in the world should governmental entities spend taxpayers’ money on public notices when they can post them on the Internet for next to nothing?" gushes one canned editorial. "Because the taxpayers have a right to know, have a need to know and want to know, that’s why. The argument is as simple as that."

Not sure I can get worked up about a campaign aimed at convincing local governments keep buying ad space for legals. I'd be more enthused if NAM didn't have such a clear profit motive. The key to better government isn't more advertising, it's investing money on watchdog reporting.

Speaking of which, National Sunshine Week is March 15-21. Now, there's a week to get excited about.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Financial felo-de-se

By now you know that Congress has caved to fear mongering and passed the bailout, 263-171. We have nationalized $700 billion in bad debt and helped those who have deserved it the least. The bums in the White House have made their last grab on the way out the door, and we've let them get away with it.

At least the Kansas delegation stuck to their guns, if I'm reading the record correctly. Their vote was 3-4 against, just as it was the first time. I understand why Dennis Moore, a Lenexa Democrat, voted for the bailout, but I still disagree.

Meanwhile, 90-year-old Addie Polk, shot herself twice while deputies were attempting to evict her from her home in Akron, Ohio. A neighbor, who climbed in through a window and found the wounded woman, said, "Oh, no. Miss Polk musta done shot herself."

Fannie Mae, which had assumed Polk's $45,620 mortgage from Countryside after she began missing payments, announced today they had forgiven the loan. CNN reports that Addie Polk is recovering in an Ohio hospital.

I wonder if she had health insurance.

Miss Polk has

By now you know that Congress caved to fear mongering and passed the bailout, 263-171.

Of course I understand it would have been hard not to. But it is still a bad idea. It's a shell game, a con, and things got much worse because the administration and its cronies created a climate in which there was no confidence in the economy -- so, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, we've nationalized at $700 billion in bad debt and helped those who deserved it least.