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11/28/2003 Archived Entry: "On Bush and Britain again"

Your cartoon fix: Tom Tomorrow hits one out of the ballpark with "Life in the Bubble"; and Ruben Bolling -- a new cartoonist for me -- offers "Presidential Revisionist Comics".

The Toronto Star got it right in the first paragraph of its coverage on Bush's surprise visit to 600 American troops in Iraq. The news item opened, "Cynics will dismiss George Bush's lightning visit yesterday to Baghdad as a cheap Thanksgiving publicity stunt by an embattled president who lied to America as he dragged the country into a conflict that needn't have been fought." This cynic -- at least, that's becoming my standard response to all-things Bush -- immediately wondered where he would have been eating turkey if his popularity in the polls was ten points higher. Apparently Bush stayed in Baghdad for about 2 1/2 hours: the same chunk of time many people were forced to waste in airports due to delays caused by "security" measures. But he was there long enough to get great PR on all the major channels on Thanksgiving Day -- indeed, he brought several journalists with him just to make sure -- and to knock the "Mission Accomplished" photo out of people's consciousness. Bush is trying to erase the worst of the many PR mistakes that surround the Iraq debacle. To be specific: he is finally acknowledging the families of dead American soldiers -- a courtesy he extended first to the families of dead British soldiers during his lamentable trip to Britain earlier this month, the bloodiest month yet in Iraq. But even his condolence visits with American families are stirring criticism. For example, the mother of Darius T. Jennings, a dead soldier from Greenville, South Carolina criticized Bush because he did not stop to speak with her family when he visited that town. Democratic presidential candidates were more politically shrewd. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy at Jennings' funeral, and Wesley Clark visited the family. Or, given that the bereaved mother calls her son's death "senseless", Bush may well have shown shrewdness through his absence. But nothing can explain why many families are not receiving letters or phone calls of condolence, a gesture that was automtically extended by other Presidents in similar circumstances.

I called Bush's visit to Britain and Buck House "lamentable." Although it has received little play in the American media, the British and independent presses gave wide coverage to just how regrettable the three-day sleep over was. Buzzflash commented, "They [the royals] have had 30,000 visitors, and it took the Bushes one visit [3 days] to destroy the gardens...." Parts of the garden that date back to Victoria's time -- as well as exotic plants and rose bushes that had been planted by the Queen and the Queen Mom -- were destroyed by Marine One and other helicopters as they landed on the large H's the Bush people put in the lawn. The British taxpayers will have to pay for much of the damage, a prospect that prompted the Sacramento Bee to suggest Bush send a check. The Queen's prized flock of flamingoes may be beyond the power of money to "solve", however. Because they could have flown into the rotors, the flock was removed and apparently so traumatized in the process that there is some question as to whether the birds will "consent" to return. Bush's personal boorishness as a house guest made a deep impression on the Queen who was reportedly silent during much of his visit. Silence is Liz's renowned manner of expressing disapproval; the more silent she is, the more trouble you're in. One can imagine the quiet that surrounded her guest's request to replace the window panes at the palace...the ones that made it through the Battle of Britain but not through what the British press calls "the battle of the Bushes." Utter stillness probably greeted the fact that Bush brought 5 chefs of his own into Buck House -- The Telegraph dubbed them the "five Yankee fajita-fillers"; I guess Bush had been warned about British cuisine. (Of course, the personal cooks sort of undercut Bush's cultivated "man of the people" image, complete with a lunch of fish and chips with Blair at Dun Cow Inn in the town of Sedgefield.) And, as a final insult...because of the Secret Service's installation of the mass gadgetry needed for security equipment, the royals couldn't get a decent TV picture and missed their regular shows. The Brit's response to the official vandalizing of Buck House was well captured by an article in The Spoof entitled "Bush's Royal Rumble." [Warning...scatalogical humor.]

This interesting quote and stat from Gordon P., who asks "How long do web pages last?" then answers, "Here is one useful story on the phenomenon of disappearing web pages": "'...40 percent to 50 percent of the URLs referenced in articles in two computing journals were inaccessible within four years...`It's a huge problem,' said Brewster Kahle, digital librarian at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. `The average lifespan of a Web page today is 100 days. This is no way to run a culture.'... the Web's relentless morphing affects a lot more than footnotes. People are increasingly dependent on the Web to get information from companies, organizations and governments. Yet, of the 2,483 British government Web sites, for example, 25 percent change their URL each year, said David Worlock of Electronic Publishing Services Ltd. in London'."

Best to all,

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