Sunday, February 20, 2011

Genre Books, Big Books, and Denial

I've been intrigued lately by the idea of writing a 'big book'. Can't say why, precisely. Back when I was self-published, I thought I wanted to be traditionally published because I thought it might lend me an air of respectability. Now that I'm traditionally published as a 'genre' author (small town police procedurals at the moment), I feel a tug toward writing something of lasting literary value.

Sometimes I think I'm just too future-focused for my own good.

Genre fiction--mostly private eye and thriller works--has been good to me. After three Shamus nominations and two Derringer wins, I feel like I've acquired a certain amount of street cred. I haven't made a lot of money, but since I don't care much about money to begin with this hasn't been a problem.

I am also aware that, as hard as it is to be published in commercial genre fiction, it's practically impossible to get a literary 'big' book into print. Literary fiction contains most of the same characteristics of crime fiction, including tension, conflict, characterization, realistic dialogue, and even the occasional murder. Somehow, though, there is a perceived difference between literary fiction and genre fiction.

I know a lot of authors who have ventured outside of their genre-based comfort zones, with varying degrees of success. I tend to think, for instance, that S.J. Rozan's Absent Friends was a kick-ass title that signalled her transition from a highly successful mystery writer to a first-tier literary author. Her followup title, In This Rain, broke my heart with its portrayal of the impact of big-city backroom politics on the 'little people' who don't have the pull or cash to influence the march of big business juggernauts. There is a sense of pathos, desperation, and even occasional futility in her characters' lives that makes her writing something so special.

What's S.J. writing now? Why, she's back to Bill Smith and Lydia Chin PI novels. Great novels, to be certain, but genre fiction. There's money in genre work, and S.J. makes her living as a writer.

So, why spend a year of my life researching a literary 'big' novel? I tend to think that I already wrote one almost fifteen years ago, a book entitled Bobby J. Remember it? Really? I'm not surprised. It's been in print for over ten years, and I've sold something like a hundred copies during that time. Most people tell me the first chapter is so raw that they have a hard time getting past it. Which is a shame, since the damn thing runs about 140k words, and most of it is heartbreaking. My good friend Alan says that it is one of the "most relentlessly depressing novels" he has ever read. Believe it or not, I find great comfort in that. It means that I achieved my goal when I wrote it. You should read it someday. Just stash the razor blades and take the bullets out of your pistol first.

Bobby J. was a fine book, and I'm still very proud of it. Unlike real 'big' novels, however, it was not painted on a grand canvas. It dealt with the machinations and personal conflicts brought on in a small city by a single senseless and brutal crime committed by a fifteen-year-old boy. The title character isn't even the central character of the book, but rather a catalyst.

I want to write a book that examines the impact of global events on three or four intertwining lives. I think I've found my canvas--the futility and horror of World War I. I also think I've figured out what my story is going to be. I see a book that will run up to 150,000 words, or about six hundred pages. Not quite War And Peace, but maybe its kid brother.

Now for the big question--am I enough of an author to take on this challenge? Time will tell. I have lived most of my life by two mottoes:

1) When a door opens, walk through.

2)Nothing can stop the man who doesn't know he can't.

I've taken on tons of projects in my life that--had I really considered the odds--would have seemed impossible. Because I either didn't know, or denied, that the task was futile, I went ahead and did it, and in many cases succeeded.

I have time. I have two books to write before I can take on my 'big' book project seriously. That will give me time to do adequate research and outline the fabric of this book, which will include complex patterns of woven lives, as should be the case in 'big' books.

I'll keep you posted as the process continues. I see this as a three-year project, though it could take longer. Stay tuned. This should be interesting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's RetCon Time

It's hard to believe that it's been two and a half years since my last blog entry.

I have no excuse. I've been posting on Facebook like crazy, writing books faster than ever before, and keeping up--almost obsessively--with my email.

So, what happened to the blog?

Nothing, really. It was simply neglected long enough that I fell out of the habit of updating it.

So, it's back.

My goal is to post at least five times a week, on almost any subject that strikes my fancy--the vagaries of the new book publishing models, new hot topics in forensic psychology or psychology in general, musings on the creative process, and even what the Tenth Doctor meant when he said, "I don't want to go," just before regenerating.

In short, I'm retconning the Back In The Trees blog.

Settle back. Strap in. It could be a bumpy ride...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

THE BOOKS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST

A recent article on America Online listed the “Ten Books You Must Read Before You Die”. The come-on implied that a life in which one had not digested these might tomes might just have well been unlived.

So, what books were listed?

In order, they were: Gone With The Wind; Tolkein’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy; all seven books in the Harry Potter series; Stephen King’s The Stand; two of Dan Brown’s books – The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (all three books, and presumably that weird Zaphod Beeblebrox short story that’s packaged in with them now).

Huh?

First, and most obvious quibble – this is actually twenty books, not ten.

And, before you start labeling me a pointy-headed Eastern liberal (my head is actually more roundish than pointed), I can ride with Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger, and Ayn Rand.

But, where is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea? Where is Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (in my estimation the one true great American novel)? Whither William Faulkner? What about Frank Norris’s epic tale of greed and western warfare The Octopus? Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage? Nowhere on this list.

We’re missing John Updike, John O’Hara, and Thomas Pynchon.

Have we completely forgotten Thomas Wolfe’s The Web and the Rock, You Can’t Go Home Again, and Look Homeward Angel?

Upton Sinclair was totally ignored, as were Leo Tolstoy, Fyodr Dostoyevsky, and Pushkin. One might imagine from this list that Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, and Owen Wister never even existed.

In the mystery genre, you could easily include duMaurier’s Rebecca; Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon; Chandler’s The Big Sleep; Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and any of a number of works by Agatha Christie, however redundant many of them might be.

How can you include two books by Dan Brown, and not even one by Michael Chabon? For that matter, why would you include any books by Dan Brown?

Then, I took a closer look at the article, and realized that it was actually nothing but a huge advertisement for – you guessed it – Barnes and Noble! This wasn’t a true examination of groundbreaking literature. It was an attempt to sell a bunch of books, and make (at least) Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling even richer (as if they needed it). Sure, they tossed in a few ringers, but very few truly pivotal pieces of fiction.

How sad. It’s possible that Rowling’s work will endure, much the way that Madeline L’Engle’s has, but I have a hard time envisioning a world in which The DaVinci Code will be widely read twenty years from now.

The Stand is a fine book – I’ve read it at least twice, and parts of it more, but is it really better than The Shining? I mean, to the point that you absolutely must read it or face eternity with regrets? Tolkein, Rand, and Salinger have weathered the test of time, but no more perhaps than many of the authors I suggested above.

Want my "Ten Novels You Must Read Before You Die" list? Okay, here goes, in no particular order:

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Look Homeward, Angel, by Thomas Wolfe
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

And (since Barns of Novels got to actually use twenty titles) honorable mention goes to:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
The Virginian, by Owen Wister
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
The Octopus, by Frank Norris
Appointment in Samarra, by John O’Hara
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham
Dune, by Frank Herbert

I probably could have put many more on the list, but I didn’t make the rules.

So, how about you? Which novels would be on your list for Mandatory Life Reading?

Gotta go. Things to do…
R

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

HOW MUCH FOR THAT (MANGY, DYSPEPTIC, FLEA-BITTEN, ONE-EYED, INCONTINENT) DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW?

The whole prexy election thing is a tough call this year.

I know that McCain is a douche and that electing him would leave us with nothing more than four years of geriatric Bush redux.

On the other hand, I fear that letting Obama into the Oval Office would be roughly the equivalent of Willie Wonka handing the keys to the Chocolate Factory over to a Charlie who wears a helmet and rides the short bus to school.

McCain is scary.

Obama is woefully inexperienced and naïve.

That leaves Hillary Clinton. Need I say more? Would someone please give us a reasonable alternative? (No, Barr, I don’t mean you.)

I am, despite my increasing motivation to move to Canada, enjoying the high political drama posed by the never-ending battle between Obama and Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Not that it really matters, since whoever the Donkey Party nominates this year will win in November. They could put a beaver and ’59 Edsel on the ticket, and still win against McCain. That’s just how frightened the country is of the GOP (a leisure service of PNAC and The Carlyle Group).

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to watch the DNC dither over how to handle its own iatrogenic problems of Michigan and Florida. To listen to the delegates, you might come to believe that the disenfranchised voters of Florida and Michigan were to blame for their own lack of representation. In fact, the true culprits were the DNC themselves.

The DNC stated several times during the debate this past weekend that the true intent of their ‘punishment’ of Florida and Michigan – despite their contention that they didn’t want these two states to ‘pre-load’ the primaries – was actually to preserve the traditional role of New Hampshire and Iowa in pre-loading the primaries. This, even AFTER they allowed New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa to move their own primaries almost back into December of ought-seven!

In other words, they don’t give a rat’s ass that the primaries might be pre-loaded, they just want to make damned certain that this pre-loading is done by the states they designate.

How childish.

And, despite the fact that the DNC created its own quagmire over a year ago in stripping delegates from Florida and Michigan, they don’t seem to believe that they’ve done anything wrong.

As recently as March, a Democrat close to Howard Dean stated, "Everyone seems to be asking what the DNC will do. But the question is: what will the state parties do?"

Want to know how the DNC blew it? Three items:

First and most obvious was the disenfranchising of Florida and Michigan. Florida’s Democrats were royally screwed by their own Republican-dominated legislature and governor, and could no more control when their primary was held than could Santa Claus. Yet, the DNC seemed totally content to punish the victims.

In Michigan, the Democratic Party had to decide between complying with the DNC’s obvious bias toward New Hampshire and Iowa, and breaking Michigan state law which set the statewide primary date at January 29. The only option they had would have been to revert to a clumsy, very un-Democratic caucus system to choose delegates.

Second, the DNC established a system of Superdelegates, out of a fear that the ‘voters might get out of hand’. Very, very un-Democratic, guys.

Finally, I would love to get my hands on the throat of the guy who came up with proportional representation for Convention delegates. This system was tailor-made for a close, undecided race and back-room wrangling. If ever there was a recipe for a brokered convention, the DNC came up with a Betty Crocker Cookoff-winning humdinger this cycle.

The DNC is looking around for someone to blame for their mess? All they have to do is check the closest mirror. While they don’t want to admit it, they screwed the pooch, and now all they can do is haggle over who gets to raise the puppies.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

GIVE ME A CHOICE, GUYS!

Despite the fact that I’ve been registered as an Independent since 1975, there was a time when it was a foregone conclusion when I walked into the voting booth that I was going to vote Democratic for most major offices

Seems a long time ago, now.

Not that I’m voting Republican, either. I still hold pretty steadfastly to the notion that the Republican Party stands primarily for evil, greed, gluttony, bigotry, chauvinism, and bad haircuts. Oh, and warmongering. We mustn’t forget warmongering. I wouldn’t push the button for a Republican in the voting booth with your finger.

The Republicans’ antics from Nixon to Reagan to Bushes 41 and 43 made it easy to vote Democratic. It just seemed like the only rational option.

No more.

I have become sick of both parties.

The Democrat victory in the midterm elections over a year and a half ago gave me great hope for this country. I saw an opportunity for a breath of fresh air in Washington, the kind of breeze that cleans the air and washes away the stench of avarice and jingoism. Instead, all I got was a majority of spineless, timid, bickering, directionless drones, afraid to face down and bitch-slap the dumbest president in American history.

The last straw has been the way the Democrats have run their primary. In what must be the most asinine system of jury-rigged rules ever devised in a political process, the Democrats virtually guaranteed a deadlocked race to the convention.

ITEM: Proportional Delegates. Who in Hell’s Half Acre came up with this imbecilic idea? Somewhere, I’m sure, in a meeting over pancakes and Ovaltine, some Democratic muckedy-muck said, “We need to be fair. Winner-take-all seems very unsporting, chaps, wouldn’t you say? Why don’t we split the delegates based on the percentage of votes each candidate gets?”
Idiotic. This is the same blatantly spineless thinking that led to ‘no winner’ schoolyard games in the 1970’s, and equitable distribution divorces. Close races under proportional delegate designations are a perfect design for brokered elections. You want a clearly defined candidate? Go with winner-take-all. Seems to have worked for McCain (though the competition there wasn’t quite as stiff).

ITEM: SuperDelegates. You know. Party fatcats, local ward chairs, attention-seekers, and general hangers-on who owe allegiance to nobody and are accountable to only themselves. Hey, if you aren't a duly-appointed delegate with a binding vote, keep your fat ass off the convention floor. And while we're at it, I think we've reached a point in our technological sophistication where we can divest ourselves of the Electoral College. Graduate their asses already and let's go with the popular vote.

ITEM: Michigan and Florida. Nothing much more to say about that. The Democratic National Committee just shot itself in the foot, and like a petulant, cranky child it refuses to budge for fear that it will look ‘weak’. Too late.

ITEM: Super Duper Tuesday. Hey, kids, here’s a great idea. Let’s hold almost a third of the nation’s primaries on ONE DAY, and let’s make it as early as is humanly possible in the electoral process, so that people are voting based on emotion rather than intellect! What could be more fun? So what if we get voters’ remorse two months later, when we wake up and realize that one of the Democratic candidates is an empty suit with no plans but a lot of personal charisma, and the other could have saved her husband’s presidency from impeachment if she’d just handed out a hummer once in a while, but that otherwise neither one has virtually anything to bring to the table. Meanwhile, the best candidates – you know, the ones who couldn’t raise barrels of money in time—were sent packing after Super Duper Tuesday, before we really got a decent chance to know them (I’m not talking about you Kucinich – everyone knows what you’re about. Give my regards to everyone in The Shire).

ITEM: Caucuses. Huh? WTF? Okay, instead of actually voting, let’s just herd people into school cafeterias, make them stand on one side or the other, and do a head count. Oh, and don’t forget, the winner is the candidate who can pack the most people onto a bus, even if those people haven’t seen the inside of a voting booth since the Eisenhower Administration, and wouldn’t get out of the house to go to a polling place if you whacked them with a cattle prod. Look, if you can’t do politicking inside a polling place, why should you be able to bully people in a caucus? Get rid of them and hold actual elections, pinheads!

ITEM: Early endorsements. Okay, technically this isn’t the Democratic Party’s fault. I signed up for Move On.org some time back for one reason or another – I think it had something to do with stopping Bush43 from pulling off some kind of foolishness or other – and I’ve actually signed a few petitions with them. However, when they endorsed Obama before the primaries even developed a head of steam, I wrote them off. Screw ‘em. When I’m made emperor, nobody will be able to endorse ANY political candidate until after the conventions. Endorsing candidates during the primaries leads to one of only two possible outcomes – crowing or eating crow. I don’t have time for either activity. What these early endorsements do accomplish, however, is to unfairly sway the election one way or the other, because you have to recall that fully half of the voting population can’t muster a triple-digit IQ, and they’ll do whatever they’re told to do.

Thankfully, most of that half of voters are Republicans. The principle still stands.

What it all comes down to is this. Elect Republicans and you get jack-booted thugs in expensive suits marching in lockstep to whatever tune the Carlyle Group and the PNAC conspiracy plays.

Elect Democrats, and it’s four years of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

I would gladly align with a third party – even a losing one – if it made any sense, but the only ones out there look even lamer and dumber than the Democrats and Republicans.

Sometimes I just wish I could talk my wife into moving to Canada.

I think we’ve filled up the latrine in this country. Place don’t smell so good anymore…

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

OPRABAMA: ALL HAT, NO CATTLE

The word began to circulate in Texas in the days preceding the primaries on March 4th, regarding Barack Obama.

All Hat, No Cattle.

In Texas, this is one of the worst accusations you can toss. Basically, it means that the object is an empty suit, a poseur, a person pretending to be something he really isn’t.

My kids, who have reached voting age (22 and 19, respectively), have repeatedly asked me which way I’m going to vote in the North Carolina primary in May. My first hope has been that – by that time – my vote will matter. After the results of the Texas/Ohio/Rhode Island/Vermont primaries, it now appears that we are headed for a brokered convention, in which case votes DO matter, indeed.

My second concern, and one that I’ve expressed freely to anyone who will listen, is that Obama is a lightweight, who can’t handle the job. Sure, he’s eloquent and young and easy to look at, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of running a government, he would be the equivalent of hiring a kid right out of business school to run General Motors.

To make matters worse, the press – which apparently has one major crush on the guy – has let him slide on some very important issues.

Since I’ve decided that - if the choice comes down to Obama, Hillary, or McCain - we’re screwed whatever happens, and because I have been skeptical about Obama in particular since – oh – his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, I’ve decided to turn up the heat a little.

Here are some very important facts that voters should know about this Golden Child.

First of all, he claims that if he had been in the Senate at the time Bush wanted to send troops into Iraq, he would have voted against it. Well, good for him. Hindsight is always so crisp and clear – that is, unless you’re Obama. The fact is that Obama wasn’t in the Senate at that time, but he WAS in the Illinois State Legislature. While serving in that body, he voted ‘Present’ OVER 130 TIMES. In the Illinois Legislature, ‘Aye’ votes carry measures, and ‘Nay’ votes defeat them. ‘Present’ votes don’t count.

And what were the bills that Obama sidestepped? They included measures that would have:

*Prohibited partial dilation and extraction abortions (what the right-wingers like to call ‘partial birth' abortions)

*Lowered the penalty for first offenses for carrying a concealed weapon from a felony to a misdemeanor

*Required mandatory adult prosecution for firing a gun near school grounds

*Protected the privacy of sexual abuse and sexual assault victims

*Prohibited strip clubs and other ‘adult’ businesses within 1000 feet of schools and churches

*Would have required parental notification for abortions (TWICE), and would have protected babies born following failed abortions (TWICE).

I’m not going to debate the worthiness – or lack thereof – of any of these measures. My issue is that Obama refused to man up and take a stand pro or con on them. If he really believed that they were bad bills, then he should have grabbed his balls and voted ‘Nay’. Voting ‘Present’ – OVER 130 TIMES – indicates a significant lack of character, and perhaps even an attempt to mollify politically sensitive groups. In other words, rather than ruffle feathers he chose to fly under the radar (pardon the mixed metaphor).

I really don’t think we need someone this spineless in the Oval Office. At least Hillary – and I do believe this was the WRONG decision – voted Aye on the authorization bill for Iraq. Her explanation is completely plausible – she was lied to, along with the rest of the Senate, by an unscrupulous president and his Neocon handlers, who had planned to invade Iraq come hell or high water since 1998. Many extremely honorable people voted to authorize this abortion of a war, most of them because they believed the constant string of lies coming from the White House and the Department of State.

Obama says he would have voted against the authorization? More likely, he would have voted ‘Present’, as he had on virtually every other controversial measure that came before him on the Illinois Legislature floor.

A message of some nebulous change is guaranteed to resonate with the people after almost eight long years of government by fascist proxy, with Halliburton and The Carlyle Group pulling Bush43’s string every time he opens his mouth. Obama’s problem, however, is that this is ALL he says. He hasn’t actually outlined any proposals regarding how he intends to achieve all this change, except to warrant that it will occur if only you will vote for him. This is Oprah Optimism at its very worst, with the fate of the world in the balance.

To paraphrase Edward Abbey, “change for the sake of change is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Sure, we need a few changes around Washington, but don’t make me guess about what they will be until after the election.

Nothing I’ve said here should indicate that I endorse either Hillary Clinton or John “Die Hard” McCain, however. I think – in presidential terms – they’re all minor leaguers. The difference is that Hillary and McCain, at least, have made it to the AAA division. Obama is still burning the bench in Class A.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

WOLVES IN THE FOLD, PART FOUR

In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower – who, as the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII, should have known – warned the United States about the pending threat from within. He said:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”


It was almost as if he foresaw the rise in power of The Carlyle Group and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

Named for the Carlyle Hotel, where it was organized, The Carlyle Group began in 1987 as a private equity investment corporation. A quick trip in the Wayback Machine reveals that 1987 was a period of rabid corporate takeovers and buyouts. Taft-Hartley had been eviscerated by the Reagan Administration, and whatever shreds of it remained were largely ignored. This was the era portrayed in the movie Wall Street, in which Gordon Gecko declared that “Greed is Good!”

In the beginning, the Carlyle Group, like many equity investment companies of the time, specialized in buying marginally-operating business and gutting them for their parts – selling off better performing divisions and liquidating the remaining assets. It was common practice at the time.

After George H. W. Bush (Bush41) left office in 1993, the direction of the Carlyle Group began to change. Many of the key players in the Reagan and Bush41 Administrations gravitated to the investment company, and its purpose began to transform.

Among the former government officials who defected to Carlyle were:
James Baker III, former Secretary of State
Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense
Richard Darman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense
And, eventually, George H.W. Bush himself.
In fact, the Carlyle Group became something of a magnet for former heads of state after they left office, providing them with an opportunity to trade their political influence for some real bucks.

At one point, the Carlyle Group was considered to be something of an Ex-Presidents’ Club. Besides Bush41, the group included:
Peter Loughreed, former Premier of Alberta
John Major, former Prime Minister of Great Britain
Anand Panyarachund, former Prime Minister of Thailand
Thaksin Shinawatra, yet another former Prime Minister of Thailand
Fidel Ramos, former President of the Phillipines
Along with a smattering of former ambassadors, a former Chairman of the Chinese Securities and Exchange Commission, and at least one future POTUS, a brash lad named George W. Bush (Bush43), who was hired in 1990 to run CaterAir, an airline foodservice corporation owned by Carlyle – a company which, like every other endeavor he’s headed, including the United States, he quickly flew into the ground.

With such a collection of high-powered board members and advisory personnel, the Carlyle Group quickly morphed from your everyday corporate raider into something considerably more threatening. It was the place where public servants with clout went to cash in. And, it seems, the Carlyle Group discovered the opportunity to realize Ike’s worst fears, by becoming the preeminent military-industrial complex of our age.

Remember, campers, this entire string of articles is about the close relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal Family. Here is where we start to pull the threads together.
After most of Bush41’s political cronies joined the Carlyle Group in 1993 – following the inauguration of Bill Clinton – they steered the company toward acquisition of BDM, a huge defense contractor. BDM had contracts worth many millions of dollars to help train the Saudi National Guard, and the Saudi Air Force.

In 1998, at the point where Bush41 became the Senior Advisor on the Carlyle Group Board, Carlyle sold controlling interest in BDM to the TRW Corporation. TRW Board Members included former CIA director Robert M. Gates (recall that Bush41 had himself been the Director of the CIA under President Ford) and Michael H. Armacost, Undersecretary of State during Reagan’s Administration, and Bush41’s Ambassador to Japan.

The Carlyle Group has long been the recipient of heavy investments from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the bin Laden family began investing in the Carlyle Group in 1994. Bush41’s role at Carlyle was as Senior Advisor to the Carlyle Asia Advisory Board, which was more or less a fancy name for his real role as the Saudi bag man. His primary duties consisted of getting the Saudis, with whom he had developed a relationship over his years in the oil business, as Director of the CIA, in the US Senate, and finally as POTUS, to part with large sums of money which would infuse Carlyle with working capital.

And, boy, did the Saudis invest. In 2002, The Washington Post reported that: ‘Saudis close to Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister ... were encouraged to put money into Carlyle as a favor to the elder Bush.’

These investments may have totaled $80 million or more, not including services contracted by the Saudi Royal Family through BDM prior to its sale to TRW.

And what did the Carlyle Group do with this money?

They invested in war.

Among their many defense-related holdings is United Defense Industries, maker of Crusader artillery and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle; LTV Corporation’s missile and aircraft units; Harsco Corporation, primarily for its BMY Combat Systems Division. According to Harsco’s own website: “In 1989 the U.S. Army chose to purchase the M88A1E1 made by BMY-Combat Systems. The vehicle is a 139,000-pound updated version of the company's M88 recovery vehicle that aids disabled tanks on the battlefield. With new tanks weighing 70 tons, a strong recovery vehicle is needed to tow the tanks to safety, when they are rendered inoperable in the midst of battle. In 1990 BMY-Combat Systems was awarded a contract to supply howitzers to South Korea. The Persian Gulf War of 1990 also helped to spur sales for "Big Foot," a five-ton truck whose tires partially deflate for sand travel.”

More recently, the Foster-Miller Company, a division of Carlyle-owned QinetiQ Corporation, announced its intention to develop a robot fighter named SWORDS (Special Weapons Operations Reconnaissance Detection Systems). This little doo-dah, a three-foot high track-driven war machine, can be fitted with standard-issue M249 or M240 rifle, has four cameras, night-vision and zoom lenses, and can travel over rocks and barbed wire. Controlled by radio from a distance using forward-looking cameras and a joystick, the tactical mission for these babies is reported to be “to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.”

You can have your very own SWORDS Robot for a little under a quarter of a million dollars, but you might want to wait, because the company is working to replace the clunky 1990’s technology joystick with “a Gameboy-style controller and virtual-reality goggles.” This, of course, will jack up the price to the U.S. military per unit, perhaps by as much as another hundred grand, but what price can you really put on turning real war into ‘World of Warcraft’.

(“Hey, Toby, that raghead blowed up real good! Let’s lob a grenade over there just to make sure he don’t spread no Radical Islamic terrorism in these parts again! While you’re up, can you get me some Cheetohs?”)

Here’s an idea – why not deploy a few thousand of these robots in Iraq, and sell time on them to the American public? They could control the robots through Internet connections, and get a feel for what Bush43’s illegal war in Iraq is really like! We can let EVERYONE get in on the fun in Fallujah. It could be a bigger blast than Wolfenstein 3D!

But I digress.

As if the connection between the Carlyle Group and the Saudi Royal Family wasn’t suspicious enough, consider the almost incestuous relationship – in the commercial sense only, of course – between the Bushes, pater et fils.

We have already established the relationship between Bush43 – then the owner of the fledgling oil company Arbusto – and the Saudis. It seems that any time a Bush needs money, he places an Iridium call to Riyadh for a top-off and a quick reach-around.

In one case, however, that call wasn’t necessary. In 2000, while Bush43 was Governor of Texas, and also while he was running for president, the Texas Teachers’ Retirement Fund voted to invest over $100 million with – you guessed it – the Carlyle Group, where the governor had been on the Board of Directors only six years earlier.

The connection?

Every member of the Texas Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board of Directors was appointed by George W. Bush. They owed their livelihood to the governor.

Bush’s payoff? Hey, his daddy was still on the Board at that point, and stood to profit generously from all investments – both coming in and going out. Bush41, like all men, has to go to that Great Counting House in the Sky someday, and when he does who do you think will inherit his rapidly accumulating wealth?

Now, consider that, among the very first people appointed to the Bush43 Cabinet, Carlyle Group member Donald Rumsfeld became Bush43’s Secretary of Defense. Who pushed most strongly for the illegal war in Iraq, and later became its most ardent defender? Why, it was Carlyle Group member Donald Rumsfeld.

According to some estimates, The Carlyle Group received approximately $2.1 billion in defense contracts in 2003. It’s difficult to find more recent estimates, but with the circular relationship between the Bush43 White House and the King of the Military-Industrial Complexes, you can bet it’s a pretty penny.

And, considering how much Bush43 will almost certainly earn when he eventually rejoins the Carlyle Group Board in 2009, after leaving the White House, one has to wonder how much of his saber-rattling during the last eight misbegotten years has actually been intended to line his own nest before he moves in.

Next Time: The Bush43 Presidency, a leisure service of PNAC, The Project For A New American Century