Friday :: Jul 21, 2006

All The World Is Watching George

by pessimist

And they don't much like what they see.

I went to Watching America's home page today to see just what the world has to say lately. If I were an American President worrying about how I was to be seen by history, I'd be doing things very differently.

For instance, if I wanted to be seen as just a 'reg'lar guy', why would I force a local population in a foreign land to remain out of sight in their homes while I partied with the local politicians?

Bush-Merkel Friendship: 'Sealed with a Kiss and a Barrel of Fish'
By Björn Hengst and Carsten Volkery, Der Spiegel, Germany

It's been a long time since German-American relations were this heartfelt. During his visit to Stralsund, Germany, President Bush kisses the chancellor on both cheeks, says "good morning" and expresses his thanks for the gift of a barrel of herring.

Calling him "Dear George," Merkel ... thanks the president for the help Washington gave when West and East Germany sought to reunite. "Thank you for the contribution, for the support that we have enjoyed throughout from the people of the USA, from the American government, to help us along the way towards German reunification."

The whole event is a carefully staged photo opportunity with the masses.
But appearances are also deceptive. The last time the president was in Germany -- in the city of Mainz a year and a half ago -- he couldn't have been any further removed from the locals. His motorcade traveled through streets that had been sealed off and were completely empty.

This time around, he didn't want to come across as being completely unapproachable. There are markedly fewer police on the ground here. Around 12,500 security forces have been dispatched, but their presence doesn't feel as massive.

The crowd has been handpicked, with only about 1,000 guests, including 300 sailors of the German Navy -- allegedly because there wasn't enough room on the square for more. Of course, when the square was open for public viewing during the World Cup, which only ended on Sunday, as many as 10,000 people regularly gathered in the square to watch matches.

[I]n the side streets of Stralsund's historic center,
many residents have been under a virtual state of house arrest,
unable to leave their homes during Bush's visit,
with windows, doors and mailboxes in the neighborhood sealed.

Bringing freedom and liberty to the world? HA!

So why would Bu$hco be taking such great pains to perform this act of international kabuki diplomacy?

George needs - ahem, NEEDS - friends right now:

Germany Welcomes Bush with 'World's Most Expensive Bblockquote'
By Carsten Volkery and Björn Hengst, Der Spiegel, Germany
July 12, 2006

There's certainly more on the agenda than just a barbecue, government officials emphasized on Tuesday -- Bush and Merkel will be working "very intensely" on their joint international agenda.

Bush's new interest in Germany isn't just due to Angela Merkel, with whom he has a more trusting relationship than he did with her predecessor Gerhard Schröder. It's also his lack of political support at home that's motivating him to look for allies abroad.

Unfortunately for George, he's losing the hearts and minds of the local population:

None of the town's inhabitants are jumping for joy over the important visitor. "We don't need Bush," says one female pensioner. Even the innkeeper, Olaf Micheel, who will be in charge of the barbecue tomorrow, speaks about the visit in a conspicuously reserved manner. Of course the visit is a "unique opportunity" for the town, which can now present itself to the entire world, he says. But he adds: "I'm receiving the chancellor and her visitor." He speaks about Merkel highly respectfully, calling her "Dr. Merkel." All he says about Bush is that you don't have to agree with all his views in order to receive him as a guest.

'Dr.' Merkel is showing that she isn't as astute as she's been given credit for. She's irritating the political opposition:

Merkel could hardly have chosen an area where reservations about Bush are stronger than in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. A coalition between the SPD and the socialist Left Party has governed the state since 1998. Both parties have explicitly criticized Bush's foreign policy in the past. The socialists have been ranting against the visit for weeks. They're supporting a protest campaign whose motto is: "Not welcome, Mr. President." This has now led to a bizarre situation: When [Harald Ringstorff, the premier of the eastern state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania] welcomes the US president at the airport, his deputy, Environment Minister Harald Methling from the Left Party, will be speaking at an anti-Bush rally.

In addition, the German taxpayers can't be pleased with how much this intimate little soiree is going to cost them, and the opposition is taking advantage of the situation to score points with the voters:

The cost issue has been the focus of public attention so far. State premier Ringstorff has personally addressed the question of money.

Normally the region of Germany that hosts a visitor covers the costs. But in this case, officials in the state capital Schwerin point out that Merkel invited Bush to her electoral district on her own initiative. The costs were kept "as low as possible," government officials say. What that means in figures is €12 million ($15 million) or more. Government officials say the expense is justified because such visits add "an important accent to our foreign policy."

The issue becomes more controversial as regional elections will be held in two months. The SPD and Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats are accusing each other of abusing the visit for electoral purposes.

The bookies should be betting on Ringstorff:

The poorest of Germany's regions
won't be able to cover the costs of this visit by itself,
Ringstorff argues.

It gets better:

Ringstorff will probably have to wait a while to see any money. The city of Mainz is still waiting for the financial support it was promised by Germany's federal government.

Bush's visit to Mainz cost €145,000 ($185,000); the federal government wanted to cover a third of the costs. The governor of Mainz has just sent the latest reminder to Berlin -- but up till now its only seen €6,000.

I've written before [see: here and here] about how Bu$hCo takes an expensive something for a parsimonious nothing on a regular basis. That's not good form for a guest, George! You might never get invited back again!

Will this ploy achieve the perceived goal of making foreign friends? In an editorial published by the Financial Times Deutschland of Germany, the editors of that publication say "Wait and see":

Merkel 'Conquered' By Bush's 'Texas Charm Offensive'
Original Article (German)
Translated by Bob Skinner
July 14, 2006

U.S. President George W. Bush conquered the German Chancellor with a straightforward Texas charm offensive. A kiss on the cheek here, a gushing bit of praise there. Bush's visit to Meckleburg-Vorpommern left no doubt that he sees Angela Merkel as his most important ally in Europe. The Chancellor succumbed to the temptation and let herself be taken in. The question of whether the new transatlantic partnership will survive real political differences is still open. Watch and see if the Chancellor will then dare to talk straight.

My money is on Merkel holding her tongue. Mohammed A. R. Galadari of the Khaleej Times of the United Arab Emirates explains in an article dated 11 July 2006 Why America and its Dollar Rule the World

"If other countries are progressing economically,
they only do so by following in the footsteps of the global leader."

Does that also mean that the rich can escape the consequences of their crimes because of their suspicious economic accumulations? The Times of the U.K. makes the connection between huge sums of cash and ignoring the law in other categories:

Saint 'Kenny Boy' Leads Bush's New Christianity
by Andrew Sullivan
July 16, 2006

And so it was that at last week’s funeral for Kenneth Lay, a man who presided over one of the greatest con jobs in the history of American capitalism, the congregation was treated to a eulogy.

When someone dies, you might expect some deference to the deceased. You certainly don’t expect a piling on. And, out of respect, the thousands whose pensions were destroyed by Lay’s malfeasance did not protest.

But what few expected was that Lay would be described not just as a flawed but loved family man, but as the emblem of Christian sacrifice — an icon of fundamentalist victimology, almost a saint.

In fact, the minister who gave the sermon
compared Lay to Martin Luther King
and, yes, Jesus Christ.
In the pews were a former president, George Bush, former first lady, Barbara Bush, and the Bush famiglia dignitaries, James Baker and Robert Mosbacher. And then the coup de grace: the white-collar convicted criminal was compared to an innocent black man, James Byrd, brutally lynched in Texas not so long ago, tied to the back of a truck and dragged through dirt roads until his body split in two.
“Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was,
but I’m angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching,”

the minister said to huge and hearty applause.

Welcome to the strange new world of conservative evangelical Christianity, where government torture is no big deal, Lay is a martyr, and the death penalty is God’s will. In this version of Christianity what matters is not so much what you do — but what’s in your heart. And if you have committed to Jesus Christ and attend the right church, a little corporate larceny is no big whoop.

And so a president who has abandoned the Geneva conventions and signed more death warrants than any other American alive is regarded by many as sincere in his desire to do good, to help others, and to bring healing to the world. In this, George W Bush is like Lay — a man who, while bilking share owners and employees out of their livelihoods, was, by all accounts, personally generous, charitable and devout. A true Christian. A giver. Of other people’s money.

Bush’s domestic charity is integral to his redefinition of American conservatism into Christian socialism. He wants to spread freedom abroad while bestowing endless charity at home. It’s a grand and stirring Fabian vision — more ambitious than any Democrat has dared argue for.

It’s just a pity that the younger generation
will be forced to pay for all of it — with interest.

While Norte Americanos seem to be blind to the crimes of this class, those who live in other regions of the Americas are very aware George's class feels charity only for itself:

Is Climate Change Real? Look to New Orleans
By Clara Zawadsky, El Pais, Colombia
Translated By Harry Kenneth Echevarria
June 15, 2006

This furious attack of hurricanes for which we wait, may be related to the activities of humans, who have deforested huge sections of the planet and seem to have no compunction about factories and vehicles that emit harmful gases.

[T]here is an opposite group which argues the drastic changes that have occurred over recent decades are due to untimely events that have nothing to do with the human race, but are rather caused by natural cycles that have always occurred.

In the most serious tragedy to have occurred in the United States, the city of New Orleans nearly disappeared. Yet the levees are still not repaired and the debris remains from the partially destroyed homes in thousands of communities, all of which have been turned onto ghost towns.

The people that have visited such neighborhoods, stated that it is impressive the silence of homes with broken windows, hallways full of mud, and the echo of the painful moaning of the ones that had to move to other parts of the country.

Those who have returned to these neighborhoods, which remain uninhabited today, are moved by the silence of empty homes with broken windows overrun with mud, and the haunting echoes of those who had to move to other parts of the country. Frankly, save in a few cases, all lived in conditions of poverty. The very few that have returned live in "trailers" on what is considered dry land and under less of a threat A minority are trying to rebuild. Nevertheless, one must wonder what will happen with next hurricanes.

Nothing upsets people more than to lose a dwelling
that signifies security for him and his family.
It is a sensation of abandonment.

Thus, those that fail to adapt lose their roots and their futures, even when they manage to preserve their lives.

Or Even If They Don't

It may be that the mendacity and dishonesty of the 'class' of King George and those 'Havemores' who are his support base is beginning to get into the younger generation, as people like Rupert Murdoch appear to be losing their popularity - and their influence:

Jobs Overtakes Murdoch on Media Influence List
Owen Gibson, media correspondent, Guardian Unlimited, U.K.
July 17, 2006

Apple founder and chief executive Steve Jobs is shaking up the established order in the media industry, with the annual MediaGuardian 100 power list today showing him leapfrogging News Corp mogul Rupert Murdoch into second place. Microsoft founder Bill Gates made it to number 9 despite stepping down from day to day management of the company...

In addition to placing high on popularity lists of those who influence the media, some very wealthy people are actually working against the crass accumulation of wealth that appreas to be driving the Havemores:

Warren Buffet: Champion of the Dispossessed?
Original Article (Portuguese)
By Martim Avillez Figueiredo, Diario Economico, Portugal
Translated By Brandi Miller
July 9, 2006

When it comes to the incredible donation that the second richest man in the world (Warren Buffet) made to a foundation administered by the richest man in the world (Bill Gates), two incentives have been overlooked:

* One involves the idea that the profits of a very small number of people depend on the existence of many others.
* The other explores the right to endow such benefits upon others - one’s position on inheritances.

The facts: Buffet, a stock market investment wizard, has offered 80% of all the money he has generated during his life - which is the equivalent of Portugal giving away over 40% of all the wealth generated in the country this year. To justify his gesture, Buffet highlighted that he would bequeath a sufficient sum to his children so that they could do as they wished, and leave the rest to compensate the world for his luck in the complex genetic lottery.

With this one brief phrase,
Buffet did more to further the debate on social equality
than all of the doctoral theses that have ever been written on the subject.
In other words, he supported the theory of [income] redistribution (the idea that wealth itself is a tool of the community) and that the right to endow one's heirs is the enemy of meritocracy (the notion that inheritances serve only to permit certain people, without effort, to obtain what is initially forbidden to others).

Even so, and in brief, the argument over what motivated Buffet to make this historic donation centers on the idea that there are benefits derived from all [that] are not equally lucrative for all.

And it is exactly this fact, that only a few will ever be capable of such an achievement, that so well illustrates the contributions of others. That is, we value this general incapacity - because if everyone were like Warren Buffet, he wouldn't be capable of such a gift. In the same way, we understand inheritance as a benefit that perverts this logic - if everyone had whatever they wanted, no one would care about profits or investing these resources.

The result? Buffet, with his multi-billion dollar donation, obliges the world to think.

Despite the pain this must be causing the Havemores and their Chri$tian Red State stooges, there are no credible reports that thought has ever caused anyone to die.

The lack of thought, however, does have detrimental effects:

Geopolitically Clueless, Bush Secures Castro in Power
"It seems that the U.S. President doesn't know the words to the Mexican song, I Always Make the Same Old Mistakes."
EDITORIAL, El Tiempo, Colombia
Translated By Emma Peitx Clúa
July 13, 2006

In the first paragraph of [the] statement released to news agencies on July 10 said: "U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday approved a sharp increase of funds destined to aid Cuban dissidents and impose greater control over the decades-long embargo against the island."
It seems that the U.S. President doesn't know the words to the Mexican song,
I Always Make the Same Old Mistakes.
The announcement, more or less in the same words, are those we have been reading for over half a century. Bush's name could be substituted for John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. or Bill Clinton, and they will have the same outcome. All of them opted for a policy of isolating and blockading Cuba, and none got what they were looking for: the restoration of democracy on the island. They have made life harder for the Cubans, have helped make them poorer, and in some cases - The Bay of Pigs, the Mariel [boat lift] - have made serious mistakes.
But they haven't moved Fidel Castro a single centimeter.
On the contrary, one should wonder what he would have done without the pretext of an archaic blockade, and we should ask whether the clumsy and deeply rooted attitude of Washington has instead contributed to keeping him in his chair.

Even Latin American and European governments that are not pleased with Castro's regime question this thoughtless and useless blockade. The $115 million that Bush will ask the Congress to annoy the life of Castro surely will strengthen even further the dictator's power.

It's hard to ask the author of the lamentable war in Iraq to take a wider view of the Cuban problem. Though America's Castro policy has failed for over 47 years, now Bush proposes more of the same.

It's what we would expect right before an election,
when American politicians chase all the votes,
even from Cuban exiles.

El Tiempo's editors see Cuba as being a bigger problem for George than it's clear he does - one that will have far-reaching consequences:

The conflict with Havana is not the only headache that the land of [Jose] Marti has in store for George W. Bush. There is also Guantanamo, the anachronistic American enclave on a corner of the island, where the supposed Islamic terrorists' prison is located. The U.S. Chief Executive insists that he made the correct decision with respect to the treatment given to these "combatants."
This would ignore universal rejection and, furthermore, the decision of their own top court, to confirm a policy that flouts international justice under the pretext of protecting the United States [from] the terrorist threat.

Such disapproval of George's methods has resonated in Germany, where today's international exploration began:

A 'Victory for Freedom' at U.S. Supreme Court
Original Article (German)
By Thomas Klau, Financial Times Deutschland, Germany
Translated by Bob Skinner
July 6, 2006

With its decision on Guantanamo, the Supreme Court has shown that American democracy still functions. Thus, the White House has been shown its limits.

The facts of history are that the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense pursued a broadening of their powers with an enthusiasm which belies a conviction cultivated long before 9/11. Cheney and Rumsfeld surrounded themselves with lawyers who promoted a new reading of the Constitution which would broaden the authority of the President.

In the case of Osama bin Laden's driver, Guantanamo prisoner Salim Hamdan, the Supreme court denied the President the right to bypass Congress and establish special tribunals without first showing a plight in Congress preventing it from creating such courts. These tribunals would have allowed terror suspects to be convicted in a streamlined proceeding, without the accused having to be being fully informed of the evidence and charges against them.

The Justices ruled that the U.S. is obliged to concede to all prisoners in their custody, both inside and outside the country, some of the rights established under the Geneva Conventions, including the right not to be tortured, abused or humiliated.

This judgment has scrapped the great injustice of the Bush Administration's notion of "illegal enemy combatants."
At the same time, the Court rejected the constitutionality of the administration's thesis: that the Congressional war resolution authorizing the president to lead the war against terror allowed him to act without Congressional consent, and to act in partial neglect of international agreements.

The power struggle of the three branches of government will continue to mark America's history. It is all too clear how narrow the escape was in this particular case, when we consider that only five of the nine Justices of the court reject Bush's radical interpretation of the law. Had Justice Roberts not recused himself, the result would have been the smallest possible majority, 5 to 4.

It's depressing that in matters of international law and humanitarian tradition, the majority was so small, and rests primarily on the shoulders of the eldest Justices. But be that as it may, the American democracy has proven that even after September 11, the system can set limits on an administration whose understanding of government power is not worthy of a civilized country.

The Supreme Court has reminded the White House that American Presidents do not rule alone and that in a democracy, human dignity must remain inviolate, even in regard to the dignity of a barbaric enemy.

Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer
have rendered an invaluable service for democracy in America
and to America's reputation in the world.

The only solution to this dilemma facing America - at least before it can get any worse - is to impeach King George and all of the Radical Republican Religious rubes he brought to power with him. The idea is growing, and it's become so noticeable that even the hostile foreign economics media can see it:

[The original format of this article was so convoluted that it was impossible to read without noting only the snide comments {which I left in highlighted}. I put it into what I consider a more readable format with nothing original left out. All links and other highlights are mine.]

More Americans Talk of Bush Impeachment
From The Economist print edition of Jul 13th 2006

AS THE mid-term elections creep nearer, few congressmen want to talk about impeaching George Bush. A few Democrats in Congress are talking of censure and investigations, and popular momentum, if it gets going, could make them bolder.
But a growing number of cities and citizens' groups are demanding it.
On November 7th the People's Republic” of Berkeley, California — 71,000 voters, roughly 5% of whom are registered Republicans — will decide by ballot whether they want the president out, and presumably [will] say yes. Berkeley's move has caused much ridicule on conservative TV channels, yet a grassroots movement of sorts is developing.

Last year the Centre for Constitutional Rights laid out its legal case against the president: spying on American citizens, lying to them about the Iraq war, seizing undue executive power and sending people to be tortured overseas. Now the Centre and a dozen other organisations have teamed up for a “National Teach-In”, starting on July 19th. Meetings will feature a short film called “How to Impeach a President”.

Several reliably pinko city councils across the country, including Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Marlboro, Vermont, and San Francisco have passed resolutions urging impeachment, and state legislatures in Vermont, California and Illinois have resolutions pending.

Moreover, state resolutions may have bite. The House Rules and Manual states that one method of setting an impeachment in motion is by charges “transmitted from the legislature of a state or territory”.

In addition, the people theselves can initiate impeachment proceedings - as was done in 1826 against James H. Peck, United States judge for the district of Missouri.

Sure - the times have certainly changed, but no one has ever passed a law against the people taking action on their own .

In any case, it has become become time for - to paraphrase the words of Thomas Klau of the Financial Times Deutschland - proving that the American people can set limits on an administration whose understanding of government power is not worthy of a civilized country.

All The World Is Watching!
All The World Is Watching!
All The World Is Watching!
All The World Is Watching!....

Can you look inside yourself
And tell us what you see
As you feel the rumblings
As your head comes crumbling down
And you know what I mean

Someday you will see how long
We've been waiting for the time
To show you how we've died
To get together with you all...
- Someday (August 29, 1968)
by Chicago

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