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The Superferry vs. Surfers

February 28th, 2009

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/mander_paik

 

Surfers vs. the Superferry

By Jerry Mander & Koohan Paik

 

This article appeared in the March 16, 2009 edition of The Nation.

February 25, 2009

 

 

      Jerry Mander & Koohan Paik: How grassroots activists in Hawaii threw a wrench into plans for an environmentally hazardous superferry.

It all started in 2001 as a purportedly modest “local” effort to offer inter-island ferry service to “help local people more easily visit their relatives on other islands, and carry their farm produce to market.” Most locals liked the idea but soon found that this ferry, the gigantic Hawaii Superferry, was an environmental nightmare. It uses far more fuel (in total and per person) than big planes. It races at high speed (40-45 miles per hour) through zones teeming with endangered humpback whales, dolphins and rare sea turtles. It could transport dangerous invasive species to pristine islands. And it carries hundreds of cars to tiny places already choking on traffic.

 

Environmentalists demanded an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its Hawaii equivalent (HEPA). But the Hawaii Superferry Company, with strong support from Governor Linda Lingle, the ambitious right-wing Republican lately famous for introducing Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, refused.

 

By 2004 the lead investor (nearly $90 million) and new chair of the board for this “local” ferry project was New York City military financier John Lehman, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy, a leading neocon with a famously aggressive military vision. (The Washington Post quoted him in 1984 as advocating first-strike nuclear strategies.) Lehman is a member of the Project for the New American Century and a 9/11 commissioner, but his great passion has been pushing for a vastly expanded, 600-ship Navy and a stronger US military presence in the Pacific to assuage mounting concerns about China as a future military superpower. After his company, J.F. Lehman, took over the Superferry project, Lehman appointed a new board with a majority of former top military brass. He later hired Adm. Thomas Fargo as CEO. Only four years ago Fargo was the commander of US military operations in the Pacific, answering directly to George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. So the question is this: why on earth would anyone need a board that qualifies as a mini-Pentagon to run a friendly transport for families and papayas between islands?

 

A key moment in this saga came in August 2007, on the small island of Kauai, called the Garden Island by tourist agencies for its folded green cliffs, cascading waterfalls and aloha spirit. But on this occasion about 1,500 locals–including a high percentage of Native Hawaiians, joined by people of Japanese and Filipino descent and a contingent of New Age haoles (recent white settlers seeking Shangri-La)–showed up at Nawiliwili Harbor to protest the Superferry’s maiden voyage from Honolulu to Kauai. Several dozen surfers also played a catalytic role.

 

When the protesters saw the oncoming speeding colossus on the horizon–bigger than a football field, four stories high and capable of carrying as many as 866 people and 282 cars–the outrage grew. The anger had been magnified a few days earlier when Governor Lingle and Lehman’s Superferry company indicated they would disregard a 5-0 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the boat suspend operations until it completed an EIS. As it approached, dozens of surfers and swimmers leaped into the water. Ignoring strident Coast Guard threats, they headed out under the Superferry’s terrifying catamaran blades, stopping the ship dead in the water. It created a sort of Tiananmen Square standoff in the waters of Kauai.

 

It was a dangerous business, but next day when the Superferry returned, the crowd of protesters had grown, and the surfers and beach brigades had too. In the ensuing eighteen months, the boat has never returned to Kauai and now has only one daily run, from Honolulu to Maui. The “spirit of Nawiliwili” has become the stuff of legend in Hawaii.

 

On the island of Maui, similar outrage led to a series of large if less spectacular protests. But the Maui resistance settled on legal actions from groups like the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition. It was these groups that had won the unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the EIS. Everyone thought that decision would settle matters. Instead, it stimulated Lingle to demonstrate her Machiavellian chops by coercing the State Legislature (many of whose members had received Superferry largesse, as had Lingle) to pass a law theoretically circumventing the court ruling and permitting the boat to operate. It was an in-your-face move worthy of Bush/Cheney at their peak. Lingle’s new law, Act Two, invented an EIS process with few features from NEPA or HEPA. The new law, for example, has no power to stop the Superferry from operating, no matter what the environmental findings. It’s a fake EIS.

 

The Maui groups have gone back to court to charge that Act Two is unconstitutional–violating separation of powers and directly favoring a single company, among other problems. The final decision is expected any day.

 

Three weeks after Nawiliwili, another huge throng filled the 1,500 seats of Kauai’s War Memorial Convention Hall, with many more outside, for a “public meeting” called by Governor Lingle. Imperiously she warned that she would not discuss whether there would be a Superferry–that had been decided. Her purpose was to instruct people that if they repeated their protests, they would be charged under new anti-terrorism laws that carry prison terms up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine.

 

Her statements were met with hoots and laughter and then a series of eloquent testimonies about protection of sacred lands (aina in Hawaiian) and sea creatures and the rights of local communities to protect themselves from invasive species and invasive corporations with militaristic intentions. Many indicated they were not opposed to a ferry if it would operate within community and environmental standards rather than those of an absentee owner with profit motives and military intentions. Others denounced Lingle’s embrace of the project and its owner, suggesting she’d abandoned Hawaii for personal ambition.

 

Lingle’s goals surely go beyond providing a useful local ferry. They certainly seemed to have far more to do with getting closer to powerful Republican Party figures–notably Lehman, slated, as the New York Times reported, to have been John McCain’s chief of staff, had he won.

 

Throughout all this, the governor and the Superferry company denied the ferry’s long-range military implications, despite earlier statements by Lehman and other executives about transporting Stryker tanks and other military services along with similar statements from the US Maritime Administration, which had issued a loan guarantee. Pacific Business News reported in March 2005 that Timothy Dick, Hawaii Superferry’s original chair, confirmed that “Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract.” The article also noted that “with Lehman’s expertise, the Superferry plans to…carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis” and quoted Lehman saying that “the Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles.”

 

Then in November the Superferry’s manufacturer, Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama, was awarded a $1.6 billion Pentagon contract to build ten high-speed catamarans under the Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) program in preparation for possible future conflicts with China. The model that Austal submitted for that contract competition was almost identical to the Hawaii Superferry’s large-scale, aluminum-hulled high-speed catamaran design, except for military fittings and accommodations. The fact that the Superferry was already in the water, proving its seaworthiness while the JHSV contract was being considered, suggests that it may have always been intended as a prototype or demo model for the larger deal. It also explains the consistent refusals to do an EIS, which might have delayed getting the boat operational and visible.

 

Two years earlier, Lehman had also purchased a shipyard, Atlantic Marine, adjacent to Austal in Mobile. It’s not yet clear if Lehman’s company, or Superferry, stands to gain from the Austal award, possibly by subcontracting aspects of that huge construction project, but speculation in Hawaii runs wild.

 

All parties await the next ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court on the Maui appeal. A new diverse grassroots community of activists on Kauai is warily assessing whether it will again need to respond. Will the company try to send the boat back to Kauai? Or will the Superferry quit Hawaii altogether as too much trouble, selling the boat for military uses, or to someplace with no activist surfers? As for Lingle’s future, it’s not bright. While touring with Palin during the presidential campaign, Lingle was quoted saying that Barack Obama’s “claim” to be from Hawaii is “disingenuous.” That enraged the Hawaiian public more than the Superferry. She may no longer be politically viable.

  

 

 

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Pacific Military Take Over

February 25th, 2009

 

 

An alert friend spotted this on a local blog… glad someone is talking.

 

 

 

    Long time member Bob Duerr, not seen by us in a while, attended the Annual(Press Club) Dinner with his wife Adriana. Editor Rod asked him what he’s been up to recently, and Bob submitted this brief version of a longer article he wrote for Hawaii Fishing News, going way beyond fish.

 

    The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas have nearly four million square miles of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This may seem eco-friendly but diving deeper reveals murky waters.

 

     Last year, former Australian defense minister Kim Beazley said U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had set a “subtle new direction” in security policy.  

 

     Gates claims “there is sovereign American territory in the western Pacific from the Aleutian Islands all the way down to Guam.” Over the complaining of Marianas, the Marianas National Monument further cements U.S. “sovereign territory.” 

 

     Why the need for ocean territory? Honolulu journalist Richard Halloran says senior Chinese naval officers have told Honolulu’s Admiral Timothy Keating they plan immediately to build aircraft carriers. The Chinese want the U.S. to stop to patrolling the western Pacific.  

 

The military’s latest Hawaii Range Complex environmental impact statement shows the testing zone for the complex completely enveloping the northwest islands. U.S. military action is provided in MPA legal clauses, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling exempting the Navy’s high-powered sonar from harming marine mammals sets the precedent for an environmental open door policy. 

 news junkie Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 11:22 am 

 

Big Mahalo to Bob Duerr for explaining the whole “Pacific Sanctuary” trick. Its a bait and switch… most think these “sanctuaries” are to protect, nuh-uh, Bush set ‘em up for the military to use to pollute beyond prying eyes, to freak-out China, and to further sales of the defense industry. The Marianas are the only ones who tried to fight back.

Since we are getting kicked out of Okinawa for being bad neighbors in addition to contaminating their land -Hawai’i Island and Guam are IT; the tip of the spear pointed at China. Lucky us. Thank your congressmen.

 

 

 

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Rummy responsible for torture

December 12th, 2008

My dear brother, Jim, who passed over last year, was particularly outraged by US use of torture. He turned me on to the biggest source of truthful news possible: Truth Out

Bipartisan Report: Rumsfeld Responsible for Detainee Abuse

»

by: Joby Warrick, The Washington Post

photo
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Senate Committee finds officials made decisions that led to offenses against prisoners.

A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration’s contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the panel concludes. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority,” it said.

The panel’s investigation focused on the Defense Department’s use of controversial interrogation practices, including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and use of dogs. The practices, some of which had already been adopted by the CIA at its secret prisons, were adapted for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and later migrated to U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

“The Committee’s report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody,” McCain, himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement. “These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.”

White House officials have maintained the measures were approved in response to demands from field officers who complained that traditional interrogation methods weren’t working on some of the more hardened captives. But Senate investigators, relying on documents and hours of hearing testimony, arrived at a different conclusion.

The true genesis of the decision to use coercive techniques, the report said, was a memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Convention’s standards for humane treatment did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. As early as that spring, the panel said, top administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings in which the use of coercive measures was discussed. The panel drew on a written statement by Rice, released earlier this year, to support that conclusion.

In July 2002, Rumseld’s senior staff began compiling information about techniques used in military survival schools to simulate conditions that U.S. airmen might face if captured by an enemy that did not follow the Geneva conditions. Those techniques – borrowed from a training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE – included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and were loosely based on methods adopted by Chinese communists to coerce propaganda confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean war.

The SERE program became the template for interrogation methods that were ultimately approved by Rumsfeld himself, the report says. In the field, U.S. military interrogators used the techniques with little oversight and frequently abusive results, the panel found.

“It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel,” the report said.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that “SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”

Defenders of the techniques have argued that such measures were justified because of al-Qaeda’s demonstrated disregard for human life. But the panel members cited the views of Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, who in a May 2007 letter to his troops said humane treatment of prisoners allows Americans to occupy the moral high ground.

“Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right,” wrote Petraeus, who at the time was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. “Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy.”

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TomDispatch: The legacy of the “War President”

November 5th, 2008

The legacy of the “War President”………….

 

Tom Engelhardt: The End of a Subprime Administration

 

Source: TomDispatch.com (11-2-08)

 

[Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site and an alternative history of the mad Bush years, has recently been published. To listen to a podcast in which he discusses Bush's record abroad, click here. ] 

 

They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein‘s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance. 

 

When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” 

 

Indeed. 

 

From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.” 

 

And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs. 

 

Because events made it look so foolish, the phrase “shock and awe” that went with the initial attack on Iraq in March 2003 has now passed out of official language and (together with “mission accomplished”) into the annals of irony. Back then, though, as bombs and missiles blew up parts of Baghdad — to fabulous visual effect in that other “theater” of war, television — the phrase was constantly on official lips and in media reports everywhere. It went hand-in-glove with another curious political phrase: regime change. 

 

Given the supposed unique technological proficiency of the U.S. military and its array of “precision” weapons, the warriors of Bushworld convinced themselves that a new era in military affairs had truly dawned. An enemy “regime” could now be taken out — quite literally and with surgical precision, in its bedrooms, conference rooms, and offices, thanks to those precision weapons delivered long-distance from ship or plane — without taking out a country. Poof! You only had to say the word and an oppressive regime would be, as it was termed, “decapitated.” Its people would then welcome with open arms relatively small numbers of American troops as liberators. 

 

It all sounded so good, and high tech, and relatively simple, and casualty averse, and clean as a whistle. Even better, once there had been such a demonstration, a guaranteed “cakewalk” — as, say, in Iraq — who would ever dare stand up to American power again? Not only would one hated enemy dictator be dispatched to the dustbin of history, but evildoers everywhere, fearing the Bush equivalent of the wrath of Khan, would be shock-and-awed into submission or quickly dispatched in their own right. 

 

In reality (ah, “reality” — what a nasty word!), the shock-and-awe attacks used on Iraq got not a single leader of the Saddamist regime, not one of that pack of 52 cards (including of course the ace of spades, Saddam Hussein, found in his “spiderhole” so many months later). Iraqi civilians were the ones killed in that precise and shocking moment, while Iraqi society was set on the road to destruction, and the world was not awed. 

 

Strangely enough, though, the phrase, once reversed, proved applicable to the Bush administration’s seven-year post-9/11 history. They were, in a sense, the awe-and-shock administration. Initially, they were awed by the supposedly singular power of the American military to dominate and transform the planet; then, they were continually shocked and disbelieving when that same military, despite its massive destructive power, turned out to be incapable of doing so, or even of handling two ragtag insurgencies in two weakened countries, one of which, Afghanistan, was among the poorest and least technologically advanced on the planet. 

 

The Theater of War 

 

In remarkably short order, historically speaking, the administration’s soaring imperial fantasies turned into planetary nightmares. After 9/11, of course, George W. and crew promised Americans the global equivalent — and Republicans the domestic equivalent — of a 36,000 stock market and we know just where the stock market is today: only about 27,000 points short of that irreality. 

 

Once upon a time, they really did think that, via the U.S. Armed Forces, or, as George W. Bush once so breathlessly put it, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” they could dominate the planet without significant help from allies or international institutions of any sort. Who else had a shot at it? In the post-Soviet world, who but a leadership backed by the full force of the U.S. military could possibly be a contender for the leading role in this epic movie? Who else could even turn out for a casting call? Impoverished Russia? China, still rebuilding its military and back then considered to have a host of potential problems? A bunch of terrorists? I mean come on! 

 

As they saw it, the situation was pretty basic. In fact, it gave the phrase “power politics” real meaning. After all, they had in their hands the reins attached to the sole superpower on this small orb. And wasn’t everyone — at least, everyone they cared to listen to, at least Charles Krauthammer and the editorial page of the Washington Post — saying no less? 

 

I mean, what else would you do, if you suddenly, almost miraculously (after an election improbably settled by the Supreme Court), found yourself in sole command of the globe’s only “hyperpower,” the only sheriff on planet Earth, the New Rome. To make matters more delicious, in terms of getting just what you wanted, those hands were on those reins right after “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” when Americans were shocked and awed and terrified enough that anything-goes seemed a reasonable response? 

 

It might have gone to anyone’s head in imperial Washington at that moment, but it went to their heads in such a striking way. After all, theirs was a plan — labeled in 2002 the Bush Doctrine — of global domination conceptually so un-American that, in my childhood, the only place you would have heard it was in the mouths of the most evil, snickering imperial Japanese, Nazi, or Soviet on-screen villains. And yet, in their moment of moments, it just rolled right out of their heads and off their tongues — and they were proud of it. 

 

Here’s a question for 2009 you don’t have to answer: What should the former “new Rome” be called now? That will, of course, be someone else’s problem. 

 

The Cast of Characters 

 

And what a debacle the Bush Doctrine proved to be. What a legacy the legacy President and his pals are leaving behind. A wrecked economy, deflated global stock markets, collapsing banks and financial institutions, soaring unemployment, a smashed Republican Party, a bloated Pentagon overseeing a strained, overstretched military, enmired in an incoherent set of still-expanding wars gone sour, a network of secret prisons, as well as Guantanamo, that “jewel in the crown” of Bush’s Bermuda Triangle of injustice, and all the grim practices that went with those offshore prisons, including widespread torture and abuse, kidnapping, assassination, and the disappearing of prisoners (once associated only with South America dictatorships and military juntas). 

 

They headed a government that couldn’t shoot straight or plan ahead or do anything halfway effectively, an administration that emphasized “defense” — or “homeland security” as it came to be called in their years — above all else; yet they were always readying themselves for the last battle, and so were caught utterly, embarrassingly unready for 19 terrorists with box cutters, a hurricane named Katrina, and an arcane set of Wall Street derivatives heading south. 

 

As the supposed party of small government, they succeeded mainly in strangling civilian services, privatizing government operations into the hands of crony corporations, and bulking up state power in a massive way — making an already vast intelligence apparatus yet larger and more labyrinthine, expanding spying and surveillance of every kind, raising secrecy to a first principle, establishing a new U.S. military command for North America, endorsing a massive Pentagon build-up, establishing a second Defense Department labeled the Department of Homeland Security with its own mini-homeland-security-industrial complex, evading checks and powers in the Constitution whenever possible, and claiming new powers for a “unitary executive” commander-in-chief presidency. 

 

No summary can quite do justice to what the administration “accomplished” in these years. If there was, however, a single quote from the world of George W. Bush that caught the deepest nature of the president and his core followers, it was offered by an “unnamed administration official” — often assumed to be Karl Rove — to journalist Ron Suskind back in October 2004: 

 

 

 

“He] said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

 

“We create our own reality We’re history’s actors.” 

 

It must for years have seemed that way and everything about the lives they lived only reinforced that impression. After all, the President himself, as so many wrote, lived in a literal bubble world. Those who met him were carefully vetted; audiences were screened so that no one who didn’t fawn over him got near him; and when he traveled through foreign cities, they were cleared of life, turned into the equivalent of Potemkin villages, while he and his many armored cars and Blackhawk helicopters, his huge contingent of Secret Service agents and White House aides, his sniffer dogs and military sharpshooters, his chefs and who knows what else passed through. 

 

Of course, the President had been in a close race with the reality principle (which, in his case, was the principle of failure) all his life — and whenever reality nipped at his heels, his father’s boys stepped in and whisked him off stage. He got by at his prep school, Andover, and then at Yale, a c-level legacy student and, appropriately enough when it came to sports, a cheerleader and, at Yale, a party animal as well as the president of the hardest drinking fraternity on campus. He was there in the first place only because of who he wasn’t (or rather who his relations were). 

 

Faced with the crises of the Vietnam era, he joined the Texas Air National Guard and more or less went missing in action. Faced with life, he became a drunk. Faced with business, he failed repeatedly and yet, thanks to his dad’s friends, became a multi-millionaire in the process. He was supported, cosseted, encouraged, and finally — to use an omnipresent word of our moment — bailed out. The first MBA president was a business bust. A certain well-honed, homey congeniality got him to the governorship and then to the presidency of the United States without real accomplishments. If there ever was a case for not voting for the guy you’d most like to “have a beer with,” this was it. 

 

On that pile of rubble at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001, with a bullhorn in his hands and various rescuers shouting, “USA! USA!” he genuinely found his “calling” as the country’s cheerleader-in-chief (as he had evidently found his religious calling earlier in life). He not only took the job seriously, he visibly loved it. He took a childlike pleasure in being in the “theater” of war. He was thrilled when some of the soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein in that “spiderhole” later presented him with the dictator’s pistol. (“‘He really liked showing it off,’ says a… visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. ‘He was really proud of it.’”) He was similarly thrilled, on a trip to Baghdad in 2007, to meet the American pilot “whose plane’s missiles killed Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” and “returned to Washington in a buoyant mood.” 

 

While transforming himself into the national cheerleader-in-chief, he even kept “his own personal scorecard for the war” in a desk drawer in the Oval Office — photos with brief biographies and personality sketches of leading al-Qaeda figures, whose faces could be satisfyingly crossed out when killed or captured. He clearly adored it when he got to dress up, whether in a flight suit landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in May 2003, or in front of hoo-aahing crowds of soldiers wearing a specially tailored military-style jacket with “George W. Bush, Commander In Chief” hand-stitched across the heart. As earlier in life, he was supported (Karl Rove), enabled (Condoleezza Rice), cosseted (various officials), and so became “the decider,” a willing figurehead (as he had been, for instance, when he was an “owner” of the Texas Rangers), manipulated by his co-president Dick Cheney. In these surroundings, he was able to take war play to an imperial level. In the end, however, this act of his life, too, could lead nowhere but to failure. 

 

As it happened, reality possessed its own set of shock-and-awe weaponry. Above all, reality was unimpressed with history’s self-proclaimed “actors,” working so hard on the global stage to create their own reality. When it came to who really owned what, it turned out that reality owned the works and that possession was indeed nine-tenths of one law that even George Bush’s handlers and his fervent neocon followers couldn’t suspend. 

 

Exit Stage Right 

 

The results were sadly predictable. The bubble world of George W. Bush was bound to be burst. Based on fantasies, false promises, lies, and bait-and-switch tactics, it was destined for foreclosure. At home and abroad, after all, it had been created using the equivalent of subprime mortgages and the result, unsurprisingly, was a dismally subprime administration. 

 

Now, of course, the bill collector is at the door and the property — the USA — is worth a good deal less than on November 4, 2000. George W. Bush is a discredited president; his job approval ratings could hardly be lower; his bubble world gone bust. 

 

Nonetheless, let’s remember one other theme of his previous life. Whatever his failures, Bush always walked away from disastrous dealings enriched, while others were left holding the bag. Don’t imagine for a second that the equivalent isn’t about to repeat itself. He will leave a country functionally under the gun of foreclosure, a world far more aflame and dangerous than the one he faced on entering the Oval Office. But he won’t suffer. 

 

He will have his new house in Dallas (not to speak of the “ranch” in Crawford) and his more than $200 million presidential “library” and “freedom institute” at Southern Methodist University; and then there’s always that 20% of America — they know who they are — who think his presidency was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Believe me, 20% of America is more than enough to pony up spectacular sums, once Bush takes to the talk circuit. As the president himself put it enthusiastically,”‘I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.’ With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, ‘I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75′ thousand dollars a speech, and ‘Clinton’s making a lot of money.’” 

 

This is how a legacy-student-turned-president fails upward. Every disaster leaves him better off. 

 

The same can’t be said for the country or the world, saddled with his “legacy.” 

 

Still, his administration has been foreclosed. Perhaps there’s ignominy in that. Now, the rest of us need to get out the brooms and start sweeping the stables. 

 

 

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Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

 

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