Friday, September 28, 2007

House of Corruption

AFTER A FRANTIC WEEK, I'm looking forward to a very slow weekend. I have nothing in particular booked, although in the literal sense of that word, I do have a book at the local library waiting for me, as well as some money, and an overdue book, that I owe them. Should've returned the book earlier once I (a) realized it wasn't suited to my current baseline mood and (b) got sucked into the other book I borrowed at the same time as I got this one, which incidentally has me thiiiiiiis close to punching holes in my drywall.

I don't write about what I'm reading as much as I ought to. It would be good to look back at the end of a year and see exactly what reading material I digested over the course of 12 months. A few weeks ago, I reread Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer's autobiography. I had found a used hardback of this — an epic peek through the eyes of Hitler's chief architect and Minister of Armaments into the banality and bombast of Nazi Germany — years ago at the last used-book shop in this area. I miss that little literary nook. In the last days of its life, I scored a Mafia exacta, grabbing Wiseguy (which found movie fame as Goodfellas) and Donnie Brasco. That shopping expedition inspired the following words in a 100 Words entry from around that time:
There’s always a spot of guilt about shopping at a store going out of business. Especially when it’s the first and last time you will patronize it. You wander among the discount tags, forcing detachment. Lonely creaks from the hardwood floor, must wafting from denuded shelves, books freed from their imprisoning neighbors, You know the shopkeeper is watching you, trying to curve his face into a helpful smile as he did in better times, perhaps wishing you had been a regular. Don’t draw attention to the discounts when you check out. He’s been through enough. Celebrate, instead, in the car.
Now most of my book diet comes from the library, and — taking me back to the perforated drywall — I am now reading House of Bush, House of Saud, by Craig Unger. I've known about this book since it came out, and I even borrowed it shortly after I first heard about it on Dave Emory's conspiracy radio program on WFMU. I never got around to it at the time, but recently it came back to the front of my mind (possibly to enjoy the empty space), so I snagged it.

I may write it up more fully here when I'm done, but the basic point is that the close relationship between the two families has compromised America's objectivity in dealing with the Middle East, in particular in detecting, tracking, and prosecuting terrorists and those who fund them. It also highlights the deceptively plugged-in, Establishment reality behind the bumbling, crotchety one-termer we know as the Elder George (H. W.) Bush. Additionally, the book has detailed the intimate dealings between the Saudi royal family and the construction empire of the bin Laden clan, which was valued highly enough to receive a commission to refurbish the hallowed sites of Mecca and Medina.

There's also a chapter on how the Saudis invested in the Carlyle Group, the massive private-equity firm and access-rental entity for industry to tap former governmental figures on how best to sell to the Federal Government. Bushes 41 and 43 both served on its board, and both the House of Saud and Saudi Binladen Group invested with it.

I'm only halfway through this book, and already I want to move to New Zealand. Is there a thriving American expat community there? Would I even want to hang out with a clutch of my former kin? The last place I need to go is a bar or coffee shop where all I hear is bitching about the place I've left. I can see myself going very native, very quickly. Ah, but there's that whole leaving the Bill of Rights behind, and of course there's the question of what I could possibly offer the fine natives of that remote land by way of talent. It's not like 1920s Paris, when Americans could just swan about from salon to zinc bar, plunging into neurasthenic paroxysms at the thought of the Great War. The Kiwis will expect me to work.

And with the Rings films long done, they ain't hiring orcs.

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