Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Making of...A Swiftie 

Remember the Swift Boat Vets? I know, the memories… but reading through a fun blog, World O'Crap, I came across a piece on Hollywood winger-producer Harry Kloor, that brought me back to last summer.

Mr. Kloor, who now makes part of his living discussing his political efforts for conservative cruise audiences, ran last spring to the Swifties to offer his ‘B’-series interviewing services. His contribution was to extract bile from former Viet Navy men for their commercials. Courtesy of World O’ Crap, I came across a Knight-Ridder story by Tom Infield and Meg Laughlin that fills out a vet’s actual Swiftie experience vs. the television reality America saw last year on our screens.

Submitted for your approval, the interview experience of one Larry Thurlow, portrayed finally on air as an angry, betrayed Navy Swift Boat veteran. Thurlow later accused Kerry of lying about his battle experience, but appears to have been of a different frame of mind until worked on by the Swifties’ core members and producer:

“In a defining moment, on July 9 and 10, dozens of veterans, the group's top advisers and a film-making crew descended on a Marriott hotel in Rosslyn, Va., to film raw material for later commercials.

Swift boat veteran Larry Thurlow flew in from Bogue, Kan., after the group offered to pay his and his wife's expenses. Thurlow said he was hesitant to become involved but (Adm. Retired) Hoffmann kept asking him to join the group.

"The admiral helped me to see in hindsight what was really going on with Kerry," Thurlow said.

The veterans and a Studio City, Calif., film producer, Harry Kloor, moved to a Washington studio to film interviews for a later commercial that would be put together by LaCivita and another political ad man, Rick Reed, a member of a team that had worked for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his 2000 campaign for president.

Thurlow said the vets were told some of what to say, with the caveat that they weren't expected to say anything they didn't believe.

"I was told to say, `On the river that day, Kerry fled.' But `fled' connotes fear and I understood why Kerry left, then returned, so I didn't use that word," Thurlow said.

Each of the veterans talked from five to 20 minutes - giving the film crew enough footage for 10 commercials.”


I work in the television business and this snippet is enough to tell me that with dozens of veterans being flown, expenses paid, into the DC area, amped-up to imagine Kerry as a traitor after conversations with Admiral Hoffman (and John O'Neill, a professional Kerry-hater) a producer could create ANYTHING.

Extracting statements similar to the one Mr. Thurlow rejected about Kerry ‘fleeing’ battle, there would be enough footage to edit together the vituperative Swiftie commercials, even if most of the vets were guys like Thurlow, in town to enjoy the sights, say a few qualified things, and head home, but meanwhile being led into at least one or two over-the-top statements that would become the thread of the stories portraying Kerry as the monster he became on air.

Remember this the next time we see an attack campaign, perhaps the coming part 2 of the current anti-AARP effort to support the Social Security phaseout effort later this year.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Social Insecurity 

The key detail to remember from last night’s presidential news conference on Social Security is that the plan President Bush advocated would end Social Security as an insurance program.

When President Roosevelt first proposed Social Security, the crucial decision his administration made, a decision that has maintained the program all these years, was not to unveil a welfare program for old people. Roosevelt understood that in order to unify Americans to back a retirement floor for people past their working years, a program had to treat everyone alike and be seen as an insurance program, not a welfare program. A welfare program would be yet another formula that had no permanence in American life. An insurance program would be a social contract made with every American. So he proposed what has become the most popular program in the history of politics and in so doing transformed American life, protecting our aged from poverty in perpetuity.

By untethering the benefits from payments made into the program, President Bush proposed last night that Social Security be transformed into the thing President Roosevelt feared; a welfare program for the aging.

…with private accounts.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pam Hartman's Son 

A great many people who read the blog have acknowledged their sympathy for the family and friends of Pam Hartman and Jeanne Kerechanin, many especially pointing out the difficult road ahead for their son, Eli, who is 20.

I’m happy to report that a fund has been established for Eli, who is still in college and who’s parents died without a will, meaning that there may be a protracted probate period while their estate is settled.

I’m a little skeptical about posting details of the fund online, because of the one-way openness of this technology. If anyone wishes to contribute, please send an e-mail to billkav@mac.com. I’ll pass on the fund info.

Bless you.

Management Regrets Any Inconvenience You Endured While Being Tortured... 

Picking up the Times this morning (figuratively speaking, via the net), a couple of items catch the eye. The first is an article noting that the Army has now prepared its first revision of the official interrogation manual in 13 years. The new edition will apparently “specifically prohibit practices like stripping prisoners, keeping them in stressful positions for a long time, imposing dietary restrictions, employing police dogs to intimidate prisoners and using sleep deprivation as a tool to get them to talk.”

The fact that an Army manual has to specifically prohibit these ‘tools’ speaks pretty loudly of the problems that have become rife in today’s military command. If one wonders why these ‘tools’ need to be specifically prohibited, there’s more in Eric Schmitt’s piece to think about.

"I've been nervous about this whole process," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The existing manual was clear. It was the exceptions that caused problems."

Looking a little further in the paper, Bob Herbert weighs in on the whitewash of the Abu Ghraib torture mess. If one looks past the new manuals and the “we’ll clarify this for the grunts” promises inherent in it’s publication, Herbert’s point is clear: The big guys walk in Bushworld. It’s always going to be left to the grunts to take a beating when the curtain gets pulled on a culture of torture and ‘rendition.’ Don’t look for Donald Rumsfeld to walk the plank for suggesting that the rules of war might not apply in Iraq, then backtracking once rife abuse was uncovered.

No, in Bushworld, the price of management failure is the Medal of Freedom, like the one awarded to George Tenet for toadying the line on WMD. The punishment for grunts is Leavenworth.

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