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Commentary Last Updated: Feb 15th, 2007 - 01:05:19

Social promotion to president
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Feb 15, 2007, 01:02

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If social promotion is a perverse gift to poor and disenfranchised youth, that is, to push them while failing through America�s school systems to get them out the door, just imagine what social promotion could do for a poor little rich kid whose father, connected to power and politics like rockets to Apollo�s rear, could promote George W. through Andover, Yale and Harvard upwards to the presidency.

In 1989, the young oilman, George W. Bush, was reported in Fortunate Son by J. H. Hatfield to have said �You know I could run for governor but I�m basically a media creation. I�ve never done anything. I�ve worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business. But that�s not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office.� It�s true, especially when you tack on finking out of Texas Air National Guard duty and being remembered as a boozer and a cokehead. But then with a name like George Bush, things could be, well, overlooked, socially promoted.

And how strange that Hatfield�s book, packed with young Bush�s frauds, failures, and effronteries, was burned by its original publisher St. Martin�s Press, before release, and subsequently revived by Soft Skull Press. This would seem like a triumph for the free press if not for Hatfield�s tragic suicide that followed. This was the result of Bush harassment and false accusations of faulty reporting. Well, maybe social promotion needs some socialization as well -- for the whole Bush family.

Help for Harken

As the late Hatfield pointed out, 1989 was the year that brought us George W�s Harken Energy Corporation. It �suffered losses of more than $12 million against revenues of $1 billion. That same year, Bush received $120,000 for consulting services to the company and stock options worth $131,250. He also was on the company payroll as a director and served on the exploration advisory board.� He�d started socially promoting himself.

Yet �although Harken was a small oil company it paid big dividends to its top brass. In 1989, other executives in the firm drew six-figure salaries and five-figure bonuses. The following year, Harken�s board of directors lavishly awarded three more executives with six figure �incentives and performance� compensation packages, even though the company lost $40 million and shareholder equity plunged to $3 million, down from more than $70 million in 1988 . . .�

In fact, �Harken�s largest creditors were threatening to foreclose on the struggling Texas company when suddenly, in January 1990, it acquired the exclusive and potentially lucrative rights to drill for oil and gas in Bahrain, a small Arab island emirate off the east coast of Saudi Arabia, about 200 miles southeast of Kuwait. Energy analysts marveled at how Harken, a small unknown company with operations primarily in Texas and Louisiana and Oklahoma, was able to beat out the more experienced conglomerate, Amoco, especially since Harken had never drilled a single well overseas or offshore.

��This is an incredible deal, unbelievable for this small company,� Charles Strain, a Houston-based energy analyst, told Forbes magazine. Under the terms of the agreement, Harken was award the exclusive right to explore for, develop, product, transport and market oil and gas through most of Bahrain�s offshore territories.�

Could this have been a little more social promotion by Papa, seeing how he was a former oil biz honcho and now US president? His purported 98 IQ seems largely irrelevant given his real-world fangs.

More help for Harken

With a little more social promotion, W. and Harken, according to Hatfield, visited Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1987, to see Jackson Stephens of Stephens, Inc., the biggest investment banking/brokerage firm beyond New York. Stephens was a major contributor to Reagan/Bush�s 1980 and �84 elections. In 1988, he donated at least $100,000 to the Bush presidential campaign. He created the �Team 100� GOP donations group. When W. came looking for a brokered $25 million stock offering, Stephens, Inc., brought in the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS)�s London office, along with Sheik Abdullah Bakhsh, Saudi financier and real estate tycoon, and the redoubtable Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), known to the Justice Department as the �Bank of Crooks and Criminals.�

BCCI numbered among its clients the Bin Laden family, who kept their own representative in Texas. That would be the Houston businessman James R. Bath, whose friendship with W. coincidentally went back to the Texas Air National Guard days. He was also an investor in an earlier oil-exploratory company called Arbusto that his old friend Papa Bush had founded and went bust-o.

UBS had also helped BCCI bypass money-laundering laws in Panama, flying cash out in private jets. BCCI was also into Ferdinand Marcos� non-legal transport of 325 tons of gold from the Philippines. Nevertheless, none of these shady associations or dealings gave W. a second thought. And, after Bahrain terminated exploration negotiations with Amoco, the emirate�s energy minister, Yousuf Shirawi, asked an old friend and Houston oil consultant, Michael Ameen, an American born son of Arab immigrants, to recommend a small independent oil exploration company.

It�s no surprise that Ameen, who�d also spent 22 years with Aramco, 13 as Mobil�s Middle East operations head, recommended Harken. Ameen also had close dealings for years with the royal family of Saudi Arabia and its advisors, one of them Kamal Adliam, a BCCI principal, and, coincidentally, a former head of Saudi intelligence. Ameen was also known to be a close friend of Sheik Bakhsh. Of course, the fact that the son of the United States� vice president was on the board of Harken may have had tiny bit of influence in their decision. Also, Ameen, who introduced Harken to Bahrain, happened to get a $100,000 finder�s fee from Harken.

What�s more, W. put together a partnership with Fort Worth�s Bass Enterprises Production Company, owned by the billionaire Bass family that had given more than $200,000 to the GOP in the late 1980s. They provided $25 million for seismic data and drilling of the first three wells in Bahrain in exchange for 50 percent of Harken�s profits. The former owner of Harken Energy commented that W. �gave them (Harken) credibility. He�s worth $120,000 a year to them just for that.� Ah, what a little social promotion can do.

The Saudi tycoon, Abdullah Bakhsh, was given a 10 percent stake in Harken for his help with the stock offering in �87. He also placed his representative, Palestinian-born Chicago businessman Talat Othman, on Harken�s board. What�s more, on the signing of the Harken-Bahrain contract, Othman was put on a list of 15 Arabs who met with President George Bush, White House Staff Chief John Sununu and National Security Adviser Brent Snowcroft on three occasions in 1990 to discuss Middle East policy. One was two days after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Othman�s invitations to the White House meetings were based on his �longstanding involvement in Arab-American affairs,� certainly not his representing the interests of Sheik Bahksh, Harken investor.

Insider trading

Despite this auspicious beginning, four months later, Harken owed more than $150 million to banks and creditors. Just about all of its value was in Bahrain assets. And the first well wasn�t up for drilling until 1991. Perhaps that�s why on June 22, 1990, W. suddenly dumped 60 percent of his 212,140 Harken shares, making a profit of $848,560. That�s more than two-and-half-times their original value. He did this a week before a quarter ending in a $23.3 million loss to the company, reported only a few days after Iraq�s invasion of Kuwait.

The stock that Bush dumped at $4.12 a share dropped to $2.37 a share. Yet W., good old boy that he was, board member, on the audit committee and so on, claimed he had no insider knowledge. But in fact it was an insider stock sale, whose disclosure form he didn�t file until eight months later. He claimed, if not that the dog ate his homework, that the SEC lost the paperwork. He told the press, �I�m very comfortable looking you in the eyes on this,� calling his stock sale entirely legal and proper. Social promotion can lead to a certain loss of touch with reality.

However, in what smacks of a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) whitewash, the investigation of the son of the president netted no penalty, except a finger wag that there could be one in the future. Bush admitted he�d sold the Harken shares to pay off $500,000 in loans from the United Bank in Midland, which leads us to another peccadillo.

Here come the Texas Rangers

Finding new social promoters, Bush used the United Bank loans to fund his stake in the Texas Rangers baseball team, another 1989 event, which netted among other things a new stadium, whose overall cost was $190 million, mostly at taxpayers� expense. The Rangers� share would only be $30 million, coming from a $1 surcharge on every ticket sold for the following 12 years.

Also, the Rangers� organization would run the stadium and keep the incoming revenue. Bush and partners would pay $5 million in annual rent and maintenance to the city of Arlington, Texas, up to $60 million. Then the Rangers could take title to the ballpark complex. This deal sparked intense denunciations that the Rangers� owners would be getting the stadium for a song, which was true.

In addition, in 1990 Arlington Mayor Richard Greene offered to increase the local sales tax by a half-cent to provide $135 million for a baseball-only stadium. Added to that was a scam to devalue the property of the ballpark site owned by TV manufacturing tycoon Curtis Mathes, whose negotiated asking price of $2,835,000 ($5.31 per square foot) was countered with just $817,220. Even though the Matheses refused to sell, the Arlington Sports Facility Development Authority (ASFDA) invoked the power of eminent domain to seize the land, and turn the condemned property over to the Rangers for development. The Bush team played hardball and then some. Ultimately, a jury found ASFDA�s offer woefully wanting and awarded the Matheses $7.2 million, including interest accrued.

Harken�s harvest

The bottom line is that when Texas billionaire Tom Hicks, owner of the Dallas Stars, purchased the Texas Rangers and their stadium for $250 million in 1999, Bush, who was then Texas governor, received a $15 million social promotion, a profit nearly 25 times his initial 1989 investment of $606,000. Nor did he place the $15 mill in a blind trust with the rest of his assets, as the law required the governor to do. He claimed, as Hatfield reports, it would �have required a vote of the baseball owners;� and further on, �We just didn�t think it was necessary to get that vote,� actually because it would have forced him to loose control of the team.

What�s more, the Hicks� purchase can easily be seen as another form of major influence peddling with the Bushman. A direct contribution of that size to Bush�s campaign account would have raised a lot of eyes.

Even though both Harken and the Bush Stadium/Rangers deal established W. as a law-breaker and wheeler-dealer in international and local venues, somehow they set the stage for his social promotion to governor, not jailbird. Patting himself on the back, as Hatfield reports, Bush told the press, �Here is visible evidence that I can think big thoughts, dream big dreams and get something done. Politically it means I was able to dream a dream . . . and build something that will last. And when all those people in Austin say, �He ain�t never done anything,� well, this is it.� And that was it. Got away clean.

The elevation of W.

Flash forward to 1995 and George W. Bush is socially promoted to Governor of Texas. He came up with a bill to reduce local school property taxes by $1 billion in two years. But in 1997 both parties of the legislature did a major rewrite on this lofty sounding bill, so it would not make real estate billionaires (like Bush puppeteer Richard Rainwater) richer and take down poor and middle class families with hidden sales and other taxes.

By 1998, when Bush ran for reelection in Texas, he�d come up with his concept of Compassionate Conservatism, which supposedly embraced minorities and nontraditional constituencies. Rather it gave the illusion of inclusion. It was really a diverse tokenism to sell a new brand of reactionary Republicanism. This hoax worked so well it became the foundation for the national Republican Party agenda.

Bush�s branded Compassionate Conservatism in Texas left the poor poorer, degraded educational services, and provided minority children with considerably less healthcare than the well heeled. It jailed more people, executed more convicts on death row, raised prison populations, kicked still more single welfare mothers off the rolls into hopelessness, walked away from tough gun control laws, and saved millions of dollars in property taxes for chemical and power plants. In fact, it helped get Texas ranked 49th in spending on the environment.

After all, Compassionate Conservatism was really dispassionate self-enrichment for the big corporate check writers to the Republican coffers, and naturally, to Bush himself. For all of Bush�s folksy soul-searching, his everyman patois, the blue jeans and boots, the God-referenced reassurances to fellow Conservative Christians, old folks, minorities and the poor of a better tomorrow, his Compassionate Conservatism was race and class-ism in a dry-cleaned white sheet.

It was backed up by a retrogressive South rising again, fueled by the dogma of the religious right. It was a �say anything you need to,� �to anyone you want a vote from� political pitch, crass and deeply cynical. It was a lesson he learned as he watched his father lose a primary once to Pat Robertson, who had gathered all the conservative Christian votes unto himself and beat the Big Guy.

This conservative (if not reactionary) religious force formed a frightening m�nage a trois with corporate culture and government, lending a missionary zeal to cast the world to the far �right� of seeing and being. It was decided our Republic had turned into the dominant superpower, a new empire wanting to bring a Pax Americana to the world, in what had become an age of unparalleled neocon corruption. Oh, and I did I mention W. had become a reformed alcoholic to underscore his piety as God�s Caesar?

From 9/11 to Iraq

Providing, as many know, the inciting incident of 9/11, Bush and Company declared their War on Terror. Both events were called for in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) march to world hegemony. It was only a hop, skip and a jump to invading Afghanistan then, even though no thorough investigation of Ground Zero or the stated terrorists had been made. Rather the evidence were swept away by fellow conspirator Rudy Giuliani within eight months, and the faces of the new enemy plastered like circus posters on every newspaper and TV screen in the world.

After driving back the Taliban in 2002, but failing to find Osama bin Laden (the purported mad leader of the purported Islamic �terrorists,� and our stated CIA patsy), George and Company grew restless. By 2002, as you remember, they accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nuclear, chemical and biological. And, with the disapproval of the world powers at the UN, went right ahead and shock and awed the Iraqis into war, illegally, immorally, unilaterally, preemptively. Subsequently no WMD were found. They were lies, all lies.

Since then, drowning in what could be a few trillion bucks in war debt, having given several trillion more away in institutionalized tax cuts to the rich, we find ourselves out 3,000-plus soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, our dollar sagging, our industry faltering, the stock market ballooning over 12,700 towards bust, and George Bush, social promotion sina qua non, asking for 21,500 more troops, billions of dollars more to support them and billions more to sweep up Iraq for Big Oil.

In six years, Bush was elected twice, both times fraudulently, and in the last midterm election lost the Republican Congress, which he had browbeat so effectively to start his wars, give him the Treasury, wipe away constitutional rights, create Guantanamo, erase the rules of the Geneva Convention, cancel the Writ of Habeas Corpus, open secret CIA prisons, outsource torture, and spy on Americans in every which way possible (in case they were complaining).

What can I say? Social promotion in this case yields an arrogant criminal mentality, a dictator, a decider, an emperor with no clothes. It yields a counterfeit person wandering in the desert of his learning, looking for new nations to attack. This week it�s Iran. Next week it could be Syria, North Korea, the Willy Wonka chocolate factory.

As he stood before us in the State of the Union address last month, he shamelessly asked to give war a chance again in Baghdad. He said al Qaeda was �still� active in Iraq, although the real terrorism began with the US occupation. He brazenly said throw more troop meat in the grinder: that amounts to supporting Iraqis. He said this while most Iraqis want US the hell out. He had the audacity to claim the war is making Americans safer, while his own intelligence services say the opposite. He claims his escalation, excuse me, his augmentation would work because interference won�t be tolerated. At the same time he admits that IED attacks and suicide bombings would keep coming. Had enough, Congress, America?

Wouldn�t it better if Bush resigned or was impeached and went back to that fateful school in Florida and reread the goat story, and stayed for the course and got a degree in civility? Wouldn�t it be better if we had a competent, educated, leader in the White House, someone say like FDR, JFK, or even the man who warned us against the military-industrial complex, Dwight Eisenhower, someone, anyone, with a heart, a brain, and a soul? I�d even take Jim Webb in a heartbeat. Fortunately, he hasn�t been damaged by social promotion. He got to be senator the hard way. He worked for it. And he can actually write, not the party script which he ripped up, but his own words, thoughts and feelings, from the gut.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at

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