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Mar 10, 2010

White House Optics: Ronnie's Got My Back

Obama Reagan Cross Hall.jpg

In the midst of Obama's insurance company-bashing road show, this shot from the most recent batch of White House Flickr stream photos offers Obama a.) further inoculating himself from the "liberal" tag and b.) demonstrating how he doesn't re-ally hate corporations ...given the heavy-handed Reagan cameo and Barack chumming it up with a couple of CEOs.

(photo: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama talks with Michael G. Morris, right, of American Electric Power Company, and David Cote, of Honeywell International Inc., in the Cross Hall of the White House, before a dinner with CEOs, Feb. 24, 2010.)

Mar 09, 2010

Surge Update: Major U.S. Victory in ... What Was That City, Again?

Marjah 2a.jpg

If the Dari translation for "Operation Moshtarak" is "together," the new translation this week is: "Where's my Map Quest?"

First described by the Marines as a city of 80,000, news reports eventually ballooned that number to 125,000 during the supposedly milestone battle of Marjah.

Looking at the pictures over the multi-week offensive, it did seem the backgrounds -- characteristic of the shot above, and as we see here and here -- looked a little sparse. What now comes to light by way of independent reporter Gareth Porter, however , is that -- except for some scattered buildings -- Marjah is a mirage.

(posted and linked photo: Brennan Linsley/AP. caption: Green smoke marks the landing zone as seen through the plexiglass window of a quickly-descending U.S. Army Task Force Pegasus helicopter on a mission to evacuate a wounded U.S. Marine, in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Tuesday March 2, 2010. The "chase" or security helicopter circles in the background. Pegasus crews provide the fast medical evacuation of seriously wounded combatants and civilians.)

Mar 08, 2010

Health Care Update: The Death Panel

White House health care initiative coming on point as Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives icy stare to health care CEO.

When you combine last week's clever photo op with Obama's well fashioned speech in Glenside, PA on Monday, it seems the White House might finally be getting the messaging.

(As recently discovered, shame is a powerful weapon.)

(photo: Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Images. caption: Aetna Chairman, CEO & President Ronald Williams (L) speaks as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario (2nd-R), Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (3rd-R) and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane Cline (R) look on as they meet with other insurance company executives at the White House on March 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. The meeting was to discuss the problematic health insurance premium increases and the Obama administration's desire for the country to have affordable health coverage.)

Embolism in California


Berkeley protest 880 2.jpg

I was stunned by the photos from Oakland last week.

The reaction to devastating fee increases and severe program cuts at the University of California produced such a visceral frustration and anger in these Berkeley students, it drove them to do something not just terrifically frightening but near-suicidal, which was to try and block the freeway.

The fact that students would respond to economic abuse this way produces extremely powerful symbolism. Excuse the metaphor, but as the State throws these students under the bus, the ensuing reaction is like a severe form of physical pathology -- the student body, an extension of California's educational arm, attempting to cut off a major artery.

Continue reading "Embolism in California" »

(Revisiting) Chris Hondros on "The Hurt Locker"

The following review first appeared here on July 10, 2009. Because the film received the Academy Award for Best Picture last night, we thought it was worthwhile to take another look at Chris's review. (The original discussion thread can be found here. Here, also, is a review on the NYT Lens Blog -- expressing similar sentiments-- by esteemed photojournalist Michael Kamber.)
***** ***** *******
Given the rave reviews this film is receiving, the fact that a film can be largely responsible for the picture of a conflict people walk away with in their mind's eye, and because Chris Hondros, having made twelve trips to Iraq in covering the war, is one of America's most respected and highly praised photojournalists, BNN is pleased to offer this review.

I’ve been waiting for a truly great movie about the Iraq War. I know it’s still going on, but I don’t think it’s impossible to ask: Casablanca came out right in the middle of World War II in 1942, and M*A*S*H, with its Korea-as-Vietnam theme, was released in 1970. I’ve thought a lot about this, since like many journalists who have frequented Iraq I’ve often been frustrated by the public’s misunderstandings about the place, and have thought for some time that a thoughtful, tone-perfect movie could help explain to a general audience what the experience of being in Iraq was (and is) like.

Continue reading "(Revisiting) Chris Hondros on "The Hurt Locker"" »

Mar 06, 2010

Not Exactly Your Married Middle-Class Woman from the Burbs with School Age Children and a Mini-Van

Michelle Obama Soccer.jpg

After listening to a great panel this evening at the Obama Phenomenon conference entitled "Michelle Obama, the First Family, and Postfeminist, Postracial Familialism" with Professors Bonnie Dow, Kirt Wilson and Susan Zaeske, this wire photo caught my eye.

A good part of Bonnie's talk had to do with how Michelle Obama has been idealized in the traditional, white-owned media in terms and roles esteemed by white culture.

I don't know how much or whether the White House had this in mind -- Michelle attending this workout to raise awareness about childhood obesity and to promote exercise -- but I can't look at the picture (perhaps, as a result of the panel) without instantly thinking: "soccer mom."

(photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mar 05, 2010

Victory at Last?


Wouldn't the measure of "victory" -- given the context of the photo -- be a U.S. withdrawal?

Isn't Newsweek simply repeating the original sin of declaring "Mission Accomplished" based on the latest supposed milestone -- in this case, a highly controversial election that hasn't even taken place yet!) in a country still deeply divided and loosely stitched together?

What does the cropping say about Dubya? Is Newsweek saying he's off the hook? That he gets to put it behind him now?

(photo: still looking)

Don't Ask

dont ask dont tell.jpg

Give credit for a clever visual statement about the inherent hypocrisy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (embellished by the tightly-closed lips and the hands over the privates). I'm mean, just because I'm wearing a pink uniform ...

(photo: Harry Hamburg/AP. caption: Tighe Barry, in pink, lines up with others for a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" on gays in the military on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.)

Mar 03, 2010

Heath Care: The End End End Game

Obama health care doctors East Room.jpg

Like that leftover crust of bread, this photo was shot following yesterday's White House speech in which Obama signaled the end of deliberations over health care reform.

In terms of pictures, there were better shots of the doctors filling the room or backing up the President on stage. None, though, captured the storyline of the last few weeks as well as this one. With Obama having performed his due diligence with defiant Republicans to craft and cast the bill as bipartisan, and having otherwise given fresh meaning to the term "exhausting the process," the subtext of the photo -- the mutual admiration and the flash not withstanding -- is: "enough already!"

(photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images. caption: US President Barack Obama waves to healthcare professionals after speaking about his final strategy for moving forward with health insurance reform in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 3, 2010.)

Take That, Jim Bunning!

Obama Unemployment Extension.jpg

An otherwise routine looking photo? Eager to take advantage of Jim Bunning and his GOP stonewall on extension of unemployment benefits, the White House had this picture up on their Flickr site yesterday within hours of the legislation being passed. Perhaps looking to create a more compassionate feel, it shows Obama signing the bill in the intimate setting of his private office in the White House residence. (Adding to the "at home" feel, also notice the stuff on the edge, the table top not too cluttered, not too clear -- in contrast to most photos of Bush at a completely clean surface.)

As a program note, I'm going to be in Texas through the weekend attending the Obama Phenomena conference at Texas A&M. Responding to a paper by BagNewsSalon moderator Cara Finnegan on how Team Obama uses White House art in its visual communications, I'll be speaking on how the White House makes strategic political use of its Flickr stream.

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