Saturday, December 03, 2005

Something Stinks, Mr. Smith

Instead of just listening to someone talk to you all the time... you have songs and cartoons and you get to watch movies and read things which makes it seem like I’m not learning but I really am!"
- 8th grade Social Studies student, praising Ignite!Learning's The COW

My theory is that few Texas pols are actual crooks, they just have an overdeveloped sense of the extenuating circumstance.
Molly Ivins

The same might be said of certain Texas businessmen.

Back in 1990, brother Neil and Silverado Savings and Loan were the first whiff of Bush family scandal that reached a wide general public. Since paying his fine and being banned from banking, Neil has been further off the radar than Roger Clinton.

Since then, it appears, Neil has more in common with Billy Carter, who went from managing the family peanut warehouse to engaging in international lobbying.

Of course, the Bush family business has long been a potent fusion of investment, oil dealing, weapons peddling and government access. What else is he supposed to do — get a job on his own?

Happening-Here? tipped me to the latest development:

I wasn't surprised to run across this Jefferson Morley item — apparently Neil is now a running buddy of Boris Berezovsky, post-Soviet Russia's first billionaire who used his access to the Chechen mafia and friendship with the ruler Boris Yeltsin to snap up state assets in the early 1990s. He later fell out with present Russian President Putin and had to decamp to Britain where he enjoys protection from extradition on fraud charges. A reporter for Forbes magazine who wrote that Berezovsky had rivals murdered turned up murdered himself in Moscow in 2004.

This lovely character apparently joined the less flamboyant Neil Bush on a visit to Latvia in September that caused an international incident. The Russian government still wanted Berezovsky turned over for prosecution; the Latvian government certainly wasn't going to yank the traveling chum of a brother of the U.S. President. In November, Latvia finally said they wouldn't let Berezovsky visit again freely, regardless of who he was traveling with.

Bush was supposedly traveling on behalf of his Ignite!Learning venture, which sells a product called The COW (Curriculum On Wheels), "a program designed to let you deliver lessons in the same way professional presenters do." Perhaps he's exhausted all the opportunity presented by No Child Left Behind and is now looking to develop curriculum for the huge Latvian K-12 market. This is only one of his interesting entanglements:

In 1993, Neil went to Kuwait and lobbied for business contracts, and after returning home evolved a set of lucrative relationships with Syrian-American businessman Jamal Daniel. One of their ventures, Ignite!, an educational software company, also included representatives of at least three ruling Persian Gulf families.

Neil Bush has had a $60,000-a-year employment contract with a top adviser to a Washington- based consulting firm set up in 2003 to help companies secure contracts in Iraq. New Bridge describes itself as being created to "take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the US-led war in Iraq".

Some years ago, according toNathaniel Blumberg, Neil applied a smell test to deals that might seek only to exploit his name:

"I would be naive if I were to sit here and deny that the Bush name didn't have something to do with it," he told Time magazine, explaining how at the age of 30 he was invited to join the board at a federally insured institution. (The average age of a thrift director was 57 and about 1 per cent of all S&L directors were under 35.) But earlier he had proclaimed that he always would pretend his name was Smith and he would employ the "Smith Smell Test." That, he explained, "was a test that I used where if someone were to approach me and I felt that there was a motive that was rather sinister in trying to get some kind of political benefit from being involved with me or engaged in a business transaction with me, then I would automatically reject it."

Turns out Neil's global connections don't stop there. He's been stumping for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and has lucrative deals with the offspring of other prominent leaders — one the son of a Taiwanese tycoon and the other, son of the former President of China, who has been a guest at brother George's Crawford ranch.

Hope Neil gets over that cold real soon.

Republican author and Bush family biographer Kevin Phillips has noted: "what you've got with Bush is absolutely the largest number of siblings and children involved in what looks like a never-ending hustle. There's never been anything like this. It strikes me this is likely to gather some significance as an issue."

If not by now, then when, dear Lord?


Blogger janinsanfran said...

Slimy bunch, those Bushes. Strange too.

Interesting blog. I'll be back.

10:27 PM  

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