Saturday, March 31, 2007


There's barely enough time to blog about Giuliani's booby-rigged history or El Presidente Bush ante-ing up American in the British sailor situation in Iran. And tonight my head is filled with two completely different fantasies, although if you stick with this post to the end, I think I can explain what ties them together.

One one hand an Associated Press article read on Huffington Post makes me yearn for the rescue of pioneering female aviator, Amelia Earhart. While attempting to earn her place in history by being the first woman pilot to circumnavigate the globe, she ended up even larger-than-that-life when she, her plane and her (male) co-pilot disappeared over the Pacific on their last leg home.

The cause for the piece is a newly discovered diary, written by a young AP stringer at the time (James W. Carey), which contains information supporting the theory that Earhart emergency landed on Gardner Island, and that failure to circulate certain information may have led to a botch rescue operation:

When Pan Am's Pacific stations triangulated the signals to the Phoenix Islands, the Achilles, less than 48 hours away at its top speed of 32 knots, was ignored. Instead, the Colorado was sent south, but by the time it reached the area a week later, the radio calls had ceased.

After a float-plane search of eight atolls, senior pilot Lt. John O. Lambrecht reported that "signs of recent habitation were clearly visible" at Gardner Island, but "repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants, and it was finally taken for granted that none were there."

Had Lambrecht known that the island had been uninhabited for more than 40 years, he might have looked more closely. In an interview years later, he described the signs only as "markers," without elaboration. Inexplicably, the final report by Colorado's captain said no sign of habitation had been found.

There's more to the article, including some evidently old news about American shortwave radio enthusiasts who heard what they believed to be Earhart's post-landing distress transmissions, as well as information about her radio reception antenna having snapped off the plane's exterior on take-off.

It's hard to imagine the pain and desolation she and her co-pilot must have endured on that island if the theory is true. How much nicer to imagine a rescue -- the pilot flying over touching down and making hero, Earhart meeting with President Roosevelt, maybe even a successful round-the-world flight a year later.

The second fantasy has its roots in a disconcertingly hilarious bit that Al Gore did to open Saturday Night Live last May. It was an address from the Oval Office during the sixth year of his fantasy Presidency. Very funny stuff, like:

In the last 6 years we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine, but I assure you: we will not let the glaciers win.

But if you want a more imaginable timeline of how a fantasy Gore Presidency might have played out, Phoenix Woman on firedoglake has it for you. I have a few personal favorite moments I only wish were true:

August 13, 2001: Moussaoui, under FBI questioning, reveals key details of an Al-Qaeda plot scheduled for next month to attack the Pentagon, the White House and the World Trade Center. These details are corroborated by the testimony of the students Williams had interviewed in Phoenix a month earlier.

August - early September, 2001: Dozens of students at flight schools are arrested in a major FBI operation. Thirteen of these students turn out to be directly involved in what will come to be called "the September Plot".

September 11, 2001: At the Houston, LAX and Minneapolis International airports, seven Saudi and Algerian men were forbidden from boarding their flights after airport security personnel found box cutters, wire and other banned items on their persons. These men turn out to be the remnants of the band of Al-Qaeda's September Plotters; all the others had been caught in the FBI's sweep of the flight schools.

Armed with this evidence, Gore demands and gets Congressional authorization to send US troops to Afghanistan. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough ridicules the idea that "idiots with box cutters" could take over an airliner. Rush Limbaugh claims that "Gore is sending our young men and women off on a wild goose chase." Bill O'Reilly, William Kristol, and Ann Coulter demand that Gore invade Iraq, even though none of the would-be hijackers is Iraqi or has any connection to Iraq or to Saddam Hussein.

And maybe best of all:

March 2, 2002: PNAC member and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney is under investigation by a Federal grand jury for using shell companies to have oil dealings with Iran despite former President Clinton's 1996 Executive Order forbidding this. Fellow PNAC member Ahmad Chalabi, who is a convicted embezzler, denounces the action as "a naked attempt to silence a great humanitarian and his calls for a free Iraq." Cheney will eventually be convicted and be sentenced to ten years in prison, while his company Halliburton will pay a $500,000 fine.

So what makes these two things like one another?

The most powerful fantasies, arguably the most popular in fiction, are rescue fantasies. Rescue Amelia. Rescue America. And the natural inclination to wallow in both confirms our need, our bottomless longing, for orderly happy endings.

Both losses left a gaping void in public life (albeit one a bit more critical than the other). In both cases the real-life loss is likely more instructive than had the fantasy come true. If Earhart had been rescued, just a near miss, would she have such a resonant place in the collective psyche? Had Florida not been stolen in 2000, would America ever have come to grips with how vile Conservative GOP rule could really be?

Sure, I'd take the swap any day. But what should matter most to any registered adults is not what could have been, but what is.

Bottom line: chalk me up as an always striving member of the Reality-Based Community; and onto the next battleground in defense of it.

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