Friday, September 05, 2003

PRINCES (continued)

“Wow, right on the nail!” Raven spits a beakful of granola across the breakfast table.

What’s up, guy? Tools in the newspaper?

“Yesterday we were talking about “reconstructive” contracts in Iraq being the sop to the Petrocriminals, aka “nobles”, in Maquiavellian terms. Now there’s an article in LA JORNADA that’s right on the nail.”

You mean that hits the nail right on the head, I think. Is my bird buddy piddling in the puddles of Bushisms?

“God, I hope not. Anyway, this guy goes so far as to call Halliburton a “parallel army” in the Iraqui context.”

Raven wipes up the spat granola with his napkin.

Sounds great. Let’s hear it.

Raven takes a deep breath.

“’ “The war on terrorism, highest phase of capitalism, has signified for the company Halliburton and its subsidiaries one of the most fabulous businesses in corporate history. In full view of everybody, its open association with the US government represents a paradigmatic case of influence trafficking, as well as the supreme example of just how profitable the war is for hawks and buzzards. Above all, if to that are added comfortable tax exemptions.’”

Hmmm. You’re right that we were right. Does the article total up the windfall for the buzzards?

“Yeah. “Operation Iraqui Freedom” gives them 1.9 billion dollars, plus more related to the Army Corps of Engineers. Then one third of the budget for maintaining US troops in Iraq (3.9 billion dollars) goes directly to Halliburton, and to a lesser degree to Bechtel and DynaCorp.”

This is a bit beyond the bones thrown to camp followers, I think.

“The JORNADA article quotes the WASHINGTON POST’s revelation that they are even wearing military uniforms—but with their company insignias on their shoulders.”

Halliburton maybe should just be called Dick Cheney, Inc.?

“Or Ubiquitous Dick Cheney, Inc. The article goes on to say that Michael Scherer, correspondent in Washington for the magazine Mother Jones, just announced their scope of operation, complete with an interactive map of “The World According to Halliburton”. ‘The reporter notes that the past two years have been excellent for Halliburton—After 9/11, the Bush government has awarded the second largest petroleum services company in the world with at least 2 billion 200 million dollars in defense-related contracts—the majority to support military operations overseas. The map illustrates the location of the bellicose investments of Halliburton: Guantanamo, Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, The Philippines, Russia, Georgia, Uzbekistan y Djibuti and Somalia. Not to mention domestic investments from coast to coast, plus Alaska, Hawaii, Guam y Puerto Rico. No less impressive is the geographic diversity of the “fiscal paradises” where they launder and keep their money: The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Barbados, Nevis, Santa Lucia, Panama, Liechtenstein, Jersey, Mauricio. And they advanced 58 percent on the Forbes 500 list in 2002.’”

Just a mom and pop operation, Rave.

“Right. And just to put icing on the cake—by the way, we haven’t had cake around here in awhile—maybe chocolate would hit the nail on the head—Halliburton just received a contract for 391 million dollars to maintain the National Lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico—our old stomping ground—and another 200 million to “update” the security of the strategic biological research in the national Institute of Health, in Maryland. Not small change, either.”

I wonder what they mean by “maintain” the Lab at Los Alamos?

“Probably looking for Chinese Americans to blame security leaks on.”

Is that Wu Lee guy still in the New Mexico Penitentiary?

“No, they let him out when in the clean-up after that fire we watched so anxiously from the friendly confines of Espanola in 2000 they found top security hard drives collecting ashes and dust in broom closets. Sort of blew their case.”

I would think so.

“Now, can we talk about taking a walk for chocolate cake?”

Just what I need: A cakewalk with the Bird for All Seasons.


And speaking of cakewalks--this, from yesterday's TORONTO STAR piece, "Bailing Bush Out of His Iraq Fiasco" (reprinted today on COMMON DREAMS:

'Bush is now spending $1 billion a week to keep 150,000 troops in Iraq, along with 11,000 British troops and 10,000 others. Yet he has precious little to show for it. Saddam Hussein is still on the loose, and Iraq is being infiltrated by fighters bent on driving the Americans out.

This explodes the neo-conservative fiction that rebuilding Iraq as a stable democracy would be a cakewalk, once Saddam was deposed.

(As Bush might say--Great minds think by the same set of rules....)

Thursday, September 04, 2003


Raven has spent most of the morning deeply immersed in Maquiavelli’s THE PRINCE, from time to time shrieking out “Aha!”, and cackling uproariously at apparently crucial moments in the text.

Fun, is he, Rave?

Raven comes up for air from a particularly prolonged cackle, wiping a tear from one of his beady eyes.

“Reading the gems in this book is more fun than picking raisins out of the raisin bread from Supermaxi.”

Really? Would you mind sharing a few of those jewels of Renaissance wisdom?

“I’m more than happy to oblige. What if I read some of the classic examples of uncommon common sense, and we decide who among our contemporary “princes” we can apply those comments to?”

Fire away, guy.

“Okay. ‘When a prince finds himself effectively bathed in popularity’—I’m translating pretty freely from Spanish here—‘he should not be too afraid of being conspired against. But if instead of affection, he inspires hatred, the attitudes of the people can be terrible. Sensible governments and prudent princes will attend to pleasing the nobles, but they must exhaust all means to keep the people satisfied. This is one of the points that must never be forgotten.’”

Hmmm. If we apply that to the current imperial model—there are no “nobles”, but there are folks who wield an undue influence—the Petrocriminals, for example—a category which includes 90% of the Bush Gang, including “His Highness George W.” To those folks he has handed over the Keys to the Kingdom—ionospherically lucrative “reconstructive” contracts in Iraq, for example.

“Nice phrase—Keys to the Kingdom”. And what about the part of Maquiavelli’s comment that he said never should be forgotten?”

You mean keeping the people satisfied?

“Precisely. What is the Bush government doing to keep the people satisfied?”

Giving huge tax cuts?

“I don’t think you’re getting this. Those enormous tax cuts didn’t go to the people, but to the “nobles”.

Oh yeah. I knew that. How about slashing social, health and educational programs?

“Now there you ARE talking about actions directed towards the people. But I seriously doubt that those actions have resulted in a widespread feeling of satisfaction.”

Maybe not. How about making big bankrupt companies find the money that disappeared from people’s pension funds?

Raven narrows his eyes, sighs deeply.

“I don’t remember that anybody did that. I think George W just patted Kenny Boy on the back for that one. I’m afraid the satisfaction level is low among those people, too.”

I know. What about all those Middle America moms and dads who have been receiving surprise packages from Iraq?

“If you are referring to their sons coming home in body bags, I think their satisfaction level is particularly low. You’re not even catching the basic concept here. You could be one of Maquiavelli’s examples of how NOT to be an effective Prince, I think.”

I thought we were talking about Bush, Rave.

“I guess we were. If Maquiavelli were alive today, he’s be spinning in his grave.”

Raven lets out a buzzard-sized shriek. Tears fill his eyes again.

That was a Bushism, right?

“Right up there with knowing how hard it was to put food on his family. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery.”

Maquiavelli again?

Raven gives me a baleful stare from a Kleenex-cleansed eye.

“Uh—I don’t think so….”