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11/17/2003 Archived Entry: "Bush's visit to Britain"

Cartoon fix for the day: Stuart Carlson's "Mission Accomplished"; and Tom Toles' take on the same subject.

The White House provided us with its own caricature a few days ago at a scheduled press conference. The Antic Muse advises, "This exchange between Scott McClelland and Helen Thomas [veteran journalist] really needs to be read in its entirety to grasp the deep, black cynicism that characterizes the Bush administration's view, but as a public service, we here at Muse HQ provide the following truncated version -- edited but not altered: You Can Say One Thing for the Man, He Stays on Message."

In preparing for his imminent visit to Britain, George Bush is confirming the world's worst preconceptions of an American -- clumsy, arrogant, bullying... (And, no, I am *not* bashing Americans; most of my family is American.) It is not merely that the President of the "freest nation in the world" tried (unsuccessfully) to preclude the possibility of protesters in London exercising their civil rights during his visit, he seems to be blundering at *every* turn. For example, he has backed out of a scheduled address to the British Parlaiment, apparently for fear of being heckled by anti-war ministers as happened in the Australian Parliament earlier this year. For example, he has asked the Queen to allow a Black hawk helicopter to hover over the Palace during his official stint there...oh, and while he was asking, could she replace the Palace curtains with something a bit more bulletproof? Declined, on both counts. Satire sites are having a romp, with The Chortler reporting, "In another sign of the increasingly strained relations between the United States and Great Britain the government of Tony Blair is reportedly about to carry through on its threat to serve President George Bush a full-course English meal during his official visit to London this week." Heck, even the mainstream press is hooting it up. The London mirror has just published a how to article entitled "THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO GREAT BRITAIN", subtitled, "That's this itty bitty country due east of the States where folks talk kinda weird, Mr President."

The situation is not laughable, however; it is ugly. In an article entitled 'Shoot-to-kill' demand by US, The Observer comments on the diplomatic immunity Bush requested for his entourage, a measure that would allow US security to injure or kill Brits without legal consequence. The Observer states, "The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit. These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters." No wonder The Sunday Herald is calling London the 51st state.

100,000+ antiwar, anti-bush protesters are expected to crowd London streets along with about 14,000 British police officers and, presumably, at least some of the several hundred American agents who will guarding Bush. The stage is already being set with "a lone anti-Bush protester" beating the protest rush by scaling the "front gate at Buckingham Palace, where Mr. Bush will stay as the official guest of Queen Elizabeth II. The demonstrator hung an American flag upside down on the gold-plated gate." Bush -- that man of the people -- is unlikely to get anywhere near the Brit-on-the-street, preferring to meet with dignitaries...or, at least, the ones who are not likely to heckle him. Indeed, the carriage ride down the Royal Mall with the Queen -- a traditional nicety extended to heads of state -- has been cancelled so that Bush doesn't even have to drive past the little people. And, yet, Bush will try to cement his connection with the British public through a display that broadens and redefines the parameters of both his hypocrisy and my cynicism. Namely, he will be visiting "with families of British war dead." The British press is already jumping all over the "staged concern," with the Independent's coverage being typical, "George Bush was accused yesterday of making political capital out of the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq. The President is due next week to meet between six and eight families who lost relatives during the conflict. ... Reg Keys, 51, whose son, Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, died defending a police station near Basra four days before his 21st birthday, said .... 'I don't know how he has the nerve to show his face in this country after costing the lives of 54 British soldiers for his own glory.' ... But Samantha Roberts, the widow of the first British soldier killed in Iraq, Sergeant Steven Roberts, praised Mr Bush and said it was ironic the US President and not Tony Blair had agreed to see relatives." (Interesting how the British press is willing to compliment Bush as long as it rebounds unfavorably upon Blair.) My cynicism springs from the dearth of visits Bush has paid to the families of dead American soldiers, from the tight censorship imposed on coverage of American funerals, from the criminal neglect with which the returning wounded are shoved to one side and officially ignored. I guess only the British dead count.

So much is happening on the US domestic scene that it is difficult to comment except by focusing in, like a zoom lens, on one particular. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the truckloads (literally) of legislation that have been and are being rammed through on the state and federal levels are not the provisions we hear about but the ones that are hidden and have probably not been read even by those who vote them into law. For example, HR 3077, the "International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003" has rather ominous language and implications. As the Yale Daily News notes, "According to the language of the bill, professors whose ideological principles may not support U.S. practices abroad can have their appointments terminated, any part of a course's curriculum containing criticisms of U.S. foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed entirely anti-American can be barred from ever being taught."

Enough politics. Back to real life... I recently found a wonderful site that offers "copy cat" recipes; that is, the site reproduces (as well as possible) the menus of well-known restaurants, like Applebees. Given that Brad *loves* their Tequila Lime Chicken -- which has been renamed to the more PC Southwestern Chicken :-( -- it was the first one I printed out. The site even offers various Soup Nazi recipes...especially the ones made famous by the hilarious Seinfeld episode that revolved around them. Now we don't have to miss our favorite restaurants in L.A. anymore.

And, because he knows how much I love dogs, this tidbit comes from the inimitable Gordon P. "The following article discusses research by Australian archeologists suggesting that the partnership between humans and wolves may have been an instrumental step in the emergence of "modern" humans. Apparently, another Australian researcher, Colin Groves has published a similar thesis, that "humans domensicated dogs, and dogs domesticated humans," in a symbiotic relationship that was already stable over 100,000 years ago ["The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Domesticated," _Perspectives in Human Biology_ v.4, pp.1--12 (1997)]." If this thesis isn't true, it should be.

Best to all,

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