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There are no prostitutes in Israel

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Early this morning, I turned my radio on and heard the very end of an interview on talk radio. I picked it up in mid-paragraph and here is what I heard, an imperfect transcript from a half-awake brain:

In World War II, the Democrats controlled the Presidency and the Congress, but they were careful to make sure the money was well-spent. The Truman Commission made sure there was no war profiteering. But because of the war in Iraq, Halliburton stock has tripled.

My mind must have wandered because the next remark I remember, while related to the war in Iraq, seemed to be a bit of a non-sequitor, but it was part of the general theme that Iraq was disaster:

The Philippines doesn’t want any of its people there–they’re worried about workers being kidnapped or held hostage or harmed so passports from the Philippines say "Not good for Iraq" but the American forces ignore this, they just wave them through, so you have 7000 workers from the Philippines working in Iraq so this has global repercussions.

Hmmm. Global repercussions? Workers without passports doesn’t really strike me as the most important global repercussion of the American adventure in Iraq. Who was this guy?

It was Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in economics.

He’s so worried about America’s relationship with the Phillippines that he wants to stop people from working who are evidently pretty desperate? That’s a little weird to me. But the real weirdness is the claim the Republicans are venal while Democrats are noble and idealistic who would never allow profiteering (love that word) during a war. 

I’m sure Halliburton has made a great deal of money in Iraq. I’m sure the whole process stinks. But maybe Stiglitz doesn’t know enough about Halliburton. One of their subsidiaries is Kellogg, Brown and Root, (KBR) formerly Brown and Root, the firm that helped LBJ and that LBJ helped in turn [2] during war and peace. Halliburton acquired Brown and Root in 1962.

Maybe "helped" is too modest a term. Both LBJ and the Root brothers became immensely rich from their mutual efforts.

If you have not read it, please read at least the first volume of Caro’s biography of LBJ [3]. It is very long. But it is perhaps the finest portrait of the thirst for power in a human being that you will ever read. It will remind you that yes, even Democrats like to give money to their friends in return for favors later.

When I was a 16 years old, my family lived in Israel–my father’s company sent him there on a project. While we were there, my aunt came for a visit and after a day of touring the country with some group, she serenely informed us that there were no prostitutes in Israel. How did she know? Her tour guide had told her so. It was a nice thought. It’s nice to think that only holiness pervades the Holy Land and that the holy people who live there would neither staff nor demand the services of the world’s oldest profession. But even I suspected otherwise.

Joseph Stiglitz knows better as well. But he is a partisan, evidently. I am glad not to be one.

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