Monday, September 05, 2005

Insulting Potemkin

Billmon admits he does it:

[. . .]

Of course, calling Bush the Potemkin president is actually a gross insult to the genuine article -- Prince Grigory Potemkin, the man who allegedly had fake villages constructed on the shores of the Dnieper River in order to impress the Czarina Catherine during an official inspection tour.

[. . .]

But history also tells us the real Prince Potemkin was a hard-working, conscientious public servant who carried out his duties with considerable skill. At this point, it's looking less and less likely that history will ever say the same about Shrub.

[. . .]

He goes on to draw parallels between Bush and the last days of the Nazi regime:

[. . .]

For many Germans -- fanatical Nazis as well as the naive and the weak-minded -- believing Hitler's absurd promises of ultimate victory was the only alterrnative to accepting a world in which evil (Bolshevism, world Jewry) had triumphed and good (National Socialism, the Aryan superman) had failed. Such a world was either unimaginable, or unendurable.

Likewise, for the conservative ultras to accept Bush's failures now would be to admit the patriotic demi-God constructed after 9/11 by the White House propaganda machine (and, ironically, by the mainstream media ) doesn't exist. All that would be left would be the real Bush: the incompetent, arrogant rich kid who's failed at every significant job he's ever held -- from CEO of Arbusto Energy to commander in chief of the planet's most powerful military machine. For many Bushistas, this is equally unbearable.

[. . .]

An excellent post, though I don't completely agree with his final conclusions (I still have faith in my fellow Americans they will correct their political mistakes), I do believe we have some serious work to do on our system of government. Don't groan, but yes, it's time for another excerpt:

[. . .]

Sedona, Arizona

Dinner had been spectacular, both Mariana and Soledad combining their talents to produce a Mexican feast. Most of NoahCorp's senior staff was on hand, as well as the President's people. They'd all retired to the library, breaking into small knots of those from both groups who shared common interests. Clarke spotted Kim near the door and sidled up to her.

"I like the shirt," Clarke said, modeling the polo shirt that had been placed in his quarters. It was blue, with the ubiquitous Ark and Animals embroidered on the left breast and the words 'The Man' on the right.

She smiled at him. "I figured you would, Mr. President. Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Indeed," he agreed. "Jen and I got a chance to go riding before dinner. We haven't done that since the boys were young."

"The view of the valley is awesome from Dead Man's Rock; isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. You've done so much here, yet preserved the natural beauty."

"You can thank Kate Beu for that. In five years, all of our facilities worldwide will be environmentally friendly."

"I can thank Kate Beu for that dull ache at the base of my skull," Clarke said. "How do you put up with her on a daily basis?"

"Kate and I have known each other half our lives," she said. "She's been that way since she was young. I guess I'm used to her."

"The flautas were wonderful,"Amy Stokes said as she made her way over to them.

"Yes, I'm debating declaring eminent domain over Mariana and Soledad and bring them to cook at the White House," Clarke announced with a smile.

"They're not going anywhere," Kim countered. "Neither Kate nor I can cook worth a damn." She took three snifters from the sideboard and poured them each cognac. "Why don't we take a walk?" They followed her down the front hall, out the front door, and across the drive onto the sand. It was a warm eighty degrees for this time of year and this time of night and Stokes stepped out of her shoes, walking barefoot by the shore.

"We have things to discuss, Mr. Clarke," Kim said, taking a deep sniff at the top of the glass.

"Yes, we do," he agreed. "I believe we must work out our differences in order for both of us to fulfill our responsibilities." He was being magnanimous, giving her an opening, but she wasn't ready to take it just yet.

"I am able to fulfill my responsibilities with or without your help. You are the one having the problem separating business from personal."

"Then why did you have us here? Why didn't you just tell me to go to Hell when I asked to meet with you?"

"Because I want to work with you," she said, turning to face him. "I believe we both know the choices that will have to be made over the next few years, and I believe that you and I share the same vision."

"So Steve and Amy keep telling me," he said, taking a sip of cognac. Clarke looked to Stokes, who'd moved farther down the shore, aimlessly strolling through the shallows. "Yet I have no idea of what you envision for this country. I can't help thinking you got me into the White House so I can be your rubber stamp."

"Have I asked you for anything since you've been elected?"

"Aside from Kate Beu ranting at me weekly, no," Clarke admitted.

"But you're still sitting there, ineffective for a year, waiting for the other shoe to drop; am I right?" She stopped, sipping her drink.

He looked at her for a moment, wondering about the depth of this young woman. "Partly; but I'd also like to know what you envision for the future, where you see the country going over the next five years. You have the resources to do so much and I believe we can cooperate in certain areas," he tried the offer again.

"That is a given," she nodded, "look at what we're doing in space. Within the year, the work on MarsPort will begin. It would have taken the government fifty years to get this far if NASA was still in sole control of space."

"Exactly," Clarke agreed. "And the power plant replacement is another area where we agree." Another example of the revolutionary nature of the Force Engine was the ability to produce them to fit many applications, from powering lawnmowers to providing electricity for whole cities. NoahCorp and the federal government had begun a program to replace all of the oil, coal and natural gas fired power-generating plants with the pollution-free Force units.

"I'm glad you brought that up, Mr. President," Kim said as they resumed the walk, the house now only small glowing points of light. "We've been planning, for some time now, to begin the same type of program in more depressed parts of the world."

"Such as?"

"We have an initiative package prepared for the African continent and we'd like your support with it."

"What kind of incentives?"

"A socio-economic package, sir; consisting of a plan to improve the infrastructure and the standard of living. We plan to start with an electrification project in Kenya."

"Africa is a quagmire, Kim," Clarke warned. "The political situation is unstable, even in countries we consider democratic. Until they become organized, I doubt you'll have much company over there. I'm sure you know that you stand to lose a lot if the political situation goes to Hell."

"We intend to help them with that, as well as set an example to American business that it is safe to invest in Africa."

"What kind of help?" Clarke could just imagine, and Kim didn't answer. "I will not be part of a coup," he said.

"Who said anything about a coup?" Kim shook her head. "General Okwu is the best thing for Kenya. He just needs to get his priorities straight. We intend to show him the path to salvation," she let a giggle sneak out.

"So what do you want of me?"

"We'd like you to support him, and his position."

"The United States already does, as we do with all the African democracies."

"But you'll drop him like a bad habit if things become unstable over there. I'd like you to solidify your support for him, maybe work out an agreement for the U.S. to train their army the right way. It would do much for world opinion if you helped change them from uniformed thugs into real soldiers."

"Okwu's grip on the military is tenuous. The military power is in the hands of local governors, not the man in Nairobi," Clarke suggested.

"That will change," she told him. "We would like you to support him when those changes take place. He will need a strong ally."

"He's a crook, Kim. Why do you think we only send humanitarian aid to them? We have to step lightly with regard to getting involved with him militarily."

"We'd like you to get involved environmentally as well," Kim said, ignoring his response. "We'd like the U.S. military to help them with the poaching problem, as well as the administration of Kenya's national parks."

"I can't just call up and say we're sending the Army in to round up their criminals for them."

"No, that would be pretty obnoxious;" Kim agreed, nodding her head. "I'd wait until they asked you for help."

"What makes you think Okwu will ask?"

"We're sending a delegation to Nairobi on Monday to point out the error of Okwu's ways. Kate Beu and Billie Jean Westover will be overseeing things."

"Kate isn't really the diplomat, my dear," Clarke said with a laugh.

"Billie Jean will make sure she doesn't start a war. Would the First Lady be willing to join the delegation?" Kim asked before taking another sip of the cognac.

Clarke stopped again. "That would imply the tacit support of the U.S. government, at least from the administration. I don't know if I want to put us in that position, and it also links the administration too closely with your interests. The Republicans are still grumbling about your involvement with the Democratic Party."

"Let them grumble. There will be delegates from Ford, GM, Bright Star Internet, and DataLink International, to name a few, it wouldn't be just NoahCorp."

"NoahCorp owns ten percent of Ford and fifteen percent of General Motors and Bright Star and DataLink are NoahCorp spin-offs. It's thin cover, Kim." Clarke had to smile.

"But I can get away with it and so can Jen. Public opinion is on my side and the country loves her. They will not care about the relationship between NoahCorp and the others."

"George Felder won't like this. We only have a consulate in Nairobi since the bombings there in the nineties, and the lack of an ambassador would require him to make the overtures to General Okwu. He'd have to leave for Africa tomorrow morning."

"From what I hear, there isn't much past routine and mundane going on over at Foggy Bottom," Kim replied. "I'm sure George would welcome the opportunity."

"What will this get me?" Clarke asked finally.

"A greater influence in Africa. If we are successful in Kenya, others will want to partake in that success. If we're successful, Nairobi and Mombassa will be compared to Johannesburg and Pretoria in a few years. For us to move into the future, the standard of living in Africa has to be brought up to that of the rest of the world. This is the first step."

"So you envision a prosperous, democratic Africa?"

"Yes, eventually. They have to be brought from the Dark Ages into the Twenty First Century and it has to happen relatively quickly. The wider the educational, economic and technological gaps become, the more difficult, read costly, it will be to help them. And we will have to help them, whether it is now, or years down the road. I'd rather it be now."

"What kind of political structure do you envision for them?"

"Well, eventually leaders like Okwu will have to go, but we need influence with the major tribes. Okwu, regardless of his shortcomings, has managed to unite the different tribes that comprise the population of Kenya. If we consolidate his power and strengthen him, he will bring others into line. By the time the next Presidential election in Kenya rolls around, we will have organized a large part of the government and the chances of a moderate being elected are good. If the government remains stable during the transfer of power, it will be an incentive for more business to invest there."

"What are your plans to keep them stable?" It was another question Kim chose to ignore. "You can't keep me in the dark, not if you want my help."

"Our plans are fluid, Mr. President, but suffice it to say that we intend to take an active part in their political process."

"I'd like assurances that you will not do anything to embarrass this administration. I will not stand for what your mother did to President DeVore during the congressional hearings," he wagged a finger at her.

"You have my word. We would not want our part in that publicized either."

"What is your ultimate goal for Africa, Kim," Clarke asked. "Why are you risking all this?"

"I'd like to see Africa take after the model of Europe, with one economy, ruled by one government and a legislature. It would be easier for them to modernize that way. We'd also like to see their economy change from an agrarian one to an industrialized one. Environmentally, it would be better if their population were concentrated in urban areas."

"And what about Europe, and Japan for that matter? They will not appreciate the U.S. building a trading relationship with the Africans. They have been undergoing a recession since the Osan Accords were signed," Clarke observed.

"They need to realize their place in the food chain, Mr. President," Kim declared. "They are still under the illusion they are imperial powers and they will suffer as long as they cling to that. We, meaning NoahCorp and other concerns, will not let the European economy founder, but they will have to come down off their pedestal to share in the prosperity. That goes for the Japanese too."

"What do you want from them?" Clarke pressed her.

"I want them to accept a deal resembling the one the Chinese and Russians did, Mr. President. I want them to lower trade barriers and abandon the Euro, accepting the dollar as a standard currency. When they are prepared to do that, I will make my best effort to expand operations and encourage others to do the same."

"Some of the individual countries are sending representatives next month," Clarke advised her. "They have expressed the desire to work out agreements independent of the EC. How do you feel about that?"

"I'd only ask you take my opinions into consideration when you negotiate."

"In your perfect world, then, the U.S. dollar would be a global currency," he asked.

"It would simplify things; don't you think?"

"It follows that someday, you envision a global government." Kim smiled at him, not answering again. "That is your goal, isn't it?"

"Let's just say, Mr. Clarke, that I envision you being the last President of the United States."

[. . .]

"That hints of treason and conspiracy," Clarke said when he caught his breath. Even Amy Stokes turned her attention to the two people fifteen feet away.

"Not at all, sir," Kim said. "It goes back to our choices and our ultimate goals. We both know the world is too small to be governed by close to two hundred different political entities. There will come a time when the redundancy of government will be too cumbersome. Hell, it already has."

"Are you suggesting the United States begin a campaign of imperialism?"

"Of course not," Kim looked at him as if he were oblivious. "Forcing others to one's will only breeds resentment."

"Voluntary unification under one government won't work, it can't work. Too many are only concerned with personal power."

"It will work, Mr. Clarke; it has to. The planet Earth does not have the resources to support the population and allow for all to share in the prosperity we enjoy here. The 'have-nots' will eventually be desperate enough to try to take what they need from the 'haves'. All must be allowed to share the wealth and that means we have to begin to exploit the worlds that are close to us. The Moon and the Asteroid Belt are the first steps, and a city on Mars will be a reality in my lifetime. We have to slow the growth of population on Earth and begin to sow the seeds of colonization soon. A world government is the only way to achieve real change on a reasonably fast timeline."

"While I am still President?" Clarke chuckled.

"You are the best hope. Chances are a conservative administration will follow yours and the climate for world government will chill. We must act now, before the end of your second term, in order for the movement to have enough inertia to continue through a slowing of the economy, and a conservative move toward isolationism. Your opponent preached that during the last election and it would have been close if not for his troubles. I'd rather not have to wait for two decades in order to make this a reality."

"And you expect this to be accomplished in under seven years?"

"Yes, you can do it," Kim said confidently. "With our help, of course."


"You and I will work on that together, but we have to begin to bring Africa up to speed."

"I do not think you are dealing with reality, Kim."

"Forget about what I said about globalization if that helps you," she said, a bit irritated, but she had to let him do this his way. "Help me with this initiative in Africa and see what happens. That's all I ask of you."

"And if I say no?"

"Then you say no and I do it by myself. Contrary to what you believe, Bob, I do not want to manipulate you. I want you to act out of your own free will. If I wanted a yes man in office, I wouldn't have supported you. You're too much trouble." She gave him a warm smile.

"What about the next election? Will you support me then if I don't go along with this now?"

"Yes, I pledge my support to you for as long as you want it, Mr. President. You are the best thing for this country whether you work with me or not. I want you to be successful and I am prepared to give you as much, or as little, help as you want."

"As long as I leave you free to do what you want to," Clarke said smugly.

"NoahCorp obeys all the laws of the land, sir. We pay more than our fair share of taxes and we are extremely philanthropic."

"Except when someone gets in your way," the President countered.

"We protect ourselves, Mr. President. We do not conduct offensive operations without provocation."

"As you did in Germany?"

"I should let them kill me?"

"You could have canceled your appearance; taken yourself out of the equation and no one would have gotten killed."

"And they would have been free to make the attempt on my life again. I don't think so, sir. I took them out of the equation and those four will not be able to reenter it."

"Who were they?"

"I don't know."

"Who sent them?"

"I'm not sure."

"You're lying to me, Kim."

"If I am it's for your own good. As President, there are some things you don't need to know."

"You sound like the CIA Director."

"You know the reasons you have to be kept out of the loop on certain things. There are things about NoahCorp that I don't know, and that is for my, and the company's, own good."

"Is that why you warned me to stay out of Europe?"

"I didn't make that call, Mr. President," Kim insisted. "And I don't know who did. That is the truth."

"Who else could? Technologically, it should be impossible. That is what the Signal Corps tells me anyway."

"I have some ideas, nothing certain. I don't play games like that," Kim shook her head. "If I wanted you to leave Europe alone, I would have told you personally. It would be foolish of me because I know you wouldn't listen. Make your best deal with the ministers and let the chips fall where they may. The Europeans will come into the fold soon enough."

"Does Mike Markham know?"

"My Intel Chief and the CIA Director are in contact daily. I'm certain Mr. Markham is aware of NoahCorp's position in Europe."

"Can you answer one question for me?"

"I'll try."

"Will I regret giving you my support?"

"Indirectly; that is, if the First Lady is going along with Kate," Kim joked. "I'm sure she will get under Jen's skin right off."

"If that's the worst that can happen, I can live with it," Clarke said with a smile.

Kim raised her glass. "To Africa," she said.

"To Africa," he agreed and touched his glass to hers.

[. . .]

-From Technocracy © 2005 RH Wood and Blue Dog Ltd.

Maybe it's time for progressives to start thinking this way. Long term. There's been precious little of that in the last few years. Yes, everybody knows I'm a globalist, as evident in my writing, but, as Billmon says:

[. . .]

The ultimate Potemkin Village, in other words, may be the archaic structure[s] of the American republic. And while it will certainly take a much stronger hurricane than Katrina to blow it down, history suggest that such storms do come along, eventually.

[. . .]

I'd rather we started planning for the future than have it thrust upon us.