The predominant post-presidency maxim delivered to the public by George W. Bush has been that 'history will ultimately judge...moreKilling Our Way To Victory
The predominant post-presidency maxim delivered to the public by George W. Bush has been that 'history will ultimately judge' him. This is true enough, and actually, the closemouthed nature of his presidential afterlife has served to mitigate many of the criticisms levied against him. Or maybe it's just time passing. With each new day I tend to view Bush as less evil than weak, and Rumsfeld, Cheney, and all of Daddy Bush's neo-con buddies as more evil than human. But anyway, President Bush, the self-proclaimed freedom lover, made a lot of poor decisions and issued a good many sweeping orders in the post-9/11 climate of fear that the squinty-eyed power freaks in Washington will continue to utilize most probably until the end of our lifetimes. Future U.S. presidents will inherit a streamlined process for assassinating enemies of America, perceived or real, citizens or not. And in the history books, Obama will be the first president that imposed something resembling the full power of these forces upon the world.
Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars is a comprehensive and focused journalistic account of the various world events and U.S. actions that, when taken together, can do nothing but support his dual-pronged thesis that, 1) the administration's current targeted killing strategy creates more terrorists/enemies than it neutralizes, and 2) certain actions taken against persons outside of declared battlefields or of U.S. citizenship have been unconstitutional. Are our drone strikes, assassinations, renditions, and black sites actually aiding the cause of groups like al-Shabab in Somolia, AQAP in Yemen, and the Taliban in Pakistan/Afghanistan? Are we the world's shining beacon on the hill, or aren't we?
While Dick Cheney has been twirling his high-tech umbrella in the sewers of Gotham, mumbling to himself about how the President's weakness and naivete are making us "less safe," Obama has been busy taking advantage of America's temporary (and that is the word that scares me the most) advantage in drone technology to wage a myopic, and practically borderless shadow war. Scores of once innocent civilians in the region of the world most prone to radicalization now view us as Israel views Hezbollah. Missile lobbers. And with each new day that passes I find it harder to believe that the history books will look back kindly on President Obama's foreign policy.
In Light of Recent Events
Scahill rounds out his Acknowledgements thusly: "As of this writing, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye remains locked up in a prison in Sana'a, in part due to the intervention of the White House. He should be set free." And now he has been. (less)
In the intellectual spirit of striving to find a common thread between this novella, the last of Salinger's published stories, and his previous works,...moreIn the intellectual spirit of striving to find a common thread between this novella, the last of Salinger's published stories, and his previous works, namely, The Catcher in the Rye, it could be asserted that Holden Caulfield and Seymour Glass (in addition to, perhaps, the entire Glass clan) are working their way through a similar sphere of personal issues. And no, they are not necessarily and exclusively linked to adolescence, or childhood, in the case of the precocious Glass siblings.
These stories are basically about ego, and the way in which its outsizedness can stymie any chance at real "happiness" or peace. Holden, a lover of truth and earnestness, also had self-severing and extremely critical side, as hilarious as it may have been, in which he projected his own insecurities onto various phonies and blowhards. He ended up in the sanatorium. Seymour, the seven (7) year old of impeccable taste and boundless wisdom who refers to his own mother as "dear" or "sweetheart", uses words like "pauciloquent" and "nemophilous", and (spoiler alertz) ends up killing himself in 1948, has essentially the same ego problems, only he recognizes them. And he's "working on" them:
"...among many, onerous things, it is all too easy for a boy of my dubious age and experience to fall easy prey to fustian, poor taste, and unwanted spurts of showing off. As God is my judge, I am working on it...."
"This opinion is too harsh. My opinions are all too frequently too damn harsh for words. I am working on it, but I have given way to harshness too often this summer to stomach."
"...it is very hard for me, I regret to say, to be less than contemptuous and scathing around Mr. Happy personally. I am working on it, but that man brings to the fore supplies of hidden malice I thought I had worked out of my system years ago."
One could make the case that Hapworth, as well as Seymour: An Introduction for that matter, are echoing the Hemingway sentiment that, "happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." If Holden was ever able to step back and recognize the folly of his thinking, there's a good chance he could've ended up finding peace. Meanwhile, the superhuman intellect of Seymour, along with his egoic attachments to his own image of himself as a man, yes, man, of unassailable etiquette, exquisite taste, English charm, and all that other fancy crap, could very well have doomed him to the fate of dark thinking, deep distress, and untimely death, no matter how many religious texts he read, or wisdom he may have attained.
That's my reading. Three (3) stars. I just like Holden's voice better. Old Holden, old sport.(less)
In Decision Points's Introductory chapter, President Bush makes haste in assuring the reader that this will not be your typical memoir that features e...moreIn Decision Points's Introductory chapter, President Bush makes haste in assuring the reader that this will not be your typical memoir that features exhaustive life accounts. It will be merely a recounting and explanation of various decision points he experienced during his presidency. And so then, naturally, the book's first few chapters are filled with the exact type of expository early/mid -life experiences that we were told we'd be spared: his childhood and schooling, early adulthood aimlessness, courting of Laura Welch, quitting alcohol/religious awakening, Texas politicking days, etc. These early chapters are somewhat illuminating as to the character of Mr. Bush, but they don't provide any real service to what is the actual function of the book: defending his performance during the presidency. And when he stays on this Point and explains/argues in favor of the most controversial decisions he made, he does a mediocre job. In particular, the budget deficit apologia and the arguments presented concerning the supposed successes of the No Child Left Behind program both come of as desperate. While the book does paint a convincing portrait of the complexities surrounding the major decisions of the Bush presidency, the actual arguments as to why those decisions were the correct ones leave much to be desired.
As to the character of President Bush, it's clear to this reader that it is very high. Contrary to the barbs shot at him during the Katrina crisis, he cares about people. All of them. And perhaps unlike President Obama, he likes them too. He connects with people quickly and easily, and his very high interpersonal intelligence probably crowds out his linguistic intelligence, and drowns out the logical. He admits that one of the criterion considers when adding new team members to his administration is a good "sense of humor, a sign of modesty and self-awareness:"
On VP candidate Dick Cheney: "He had a practical mind and a dry sense of humor."
On White House Chief of Staff Andy Card: "He had the sound judgement and steady temperament I needed, along with a caring heart and a good sense of humor."
On Deputy Director of Domestic Policy Jay Lefkowitz: "... a lively lawyer from New York with a serious commitment to his Jewish faith and a dry sense of humor."
On National Security Advisor Steve Hadley: "Behind the formality, Steve is a kind, selfless, humorous man."
On potential Army Chief of Staff David Petraeus: "I appreciated his self-deprecating remark. It was a good complement to his drive."
On Winston Churchill: "I told Tony [Blair] that I admired Churchill's courage, principle, and sense of humor - all of which I though were necessary for leadership."
On Queen Elizabeth II: "... a gracious, charming woman with a keen sense of humor."
It would seem that the way to President Bush's heart, and past his mind, is through his belly (laugh).
In all, even though it's not a great memoir, Decision Points (the later chapters especially) is at its best when it functions as a light lesson of recent history concerning both national and world affairs. Unless you're extremely well-read, the chapters on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bush's Freedom Agenda (nation building) will do well to inspire further reading. At least I know that they've added five or so books to my personal reading list.
Or, you now, maybe you're just one of those super smrt and passionate people that doesnt need to read a single word more to know that Bush is teh BEST/WORST presidunt EVUR!!!1(less)