1WHO FALLS FOR THIS CRAP? DUH SINGULARITY
“As for the art itself, Ai-Da only works in pen or pencil at the moment, with a human painting over the top when the drawings are printed on canvas.”
In other words, this little chunk of propaganda (linked below), about an “AI Artist” which is a supposedly “life-like” robot that looks “sexy” in (Photoshopped) photos… is bullshit from top to bottom.
The “AI” isn’t “AI”… it’s just the same old brute-force, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out, human-guided programming. The facial (or shape) recognition algorithm is hooked up to a printer. Then an actual human artist paints over (or “interprets”) the rudimentary data-point mapping results: your i-phone-plus-an-Instagram-filter is already that “smart”. What’s new here? The fact that somebody wants us to think that a glorified Real Doll Sex Toy has some kind of creative inner life? As a member of a traditional “minority,” I have to wonder: is this their next neo-“minority”? Equal Rights for Arts ‘n Crafts Sexbots? What’s the Endgame (see below) here?
Are TFIC* bringing to a nasty, mocking head their decades of domesticating/ trivializing/nullifying Art (because Real Art is too inspiring, too Dignity-Enhancing and Life-Affirming to the Serfs whom they do not want valuing their own lives)? Are TFIC trying to get us Serfs to think of (pseudo) AI as somehow friendly, human, helpful? Are TFIC running yet another round of psycho-social tests regarding what, exactly, Duh-Masses will fall for? All of the above… ? How many people out there actually understand that “AI” is still not capable of even the most rudimentary thought, and that these “conversations” these robots are supposedly having are either scripted or worked out as contingency-covering flow-charts, triggered by key words in the input signal?
Read this article, which manages to feature lots of nonsense plus, very importantly, information that will make you want to punch things (“It’s a sold out show with over a million pounds worth of artworks sold”… ) rather hard and more than once.
Or this article, in which A) some idiot “art critic” addresses the glorified mannequin in sexual terms while B) the idiotic article-writer manages to slip a trace of MeToo outrage into commentary about the commentary about a glorified mannequin: so much cack to unpack:
“Her Kardashian-worthy appearance was designed by the robotics company behind the robots** in the HBO show Westworld, and it is meant to be “engaging”—but I can’t help but raise my eyebrows at the choice to create this towering, long-haired, light-skinned beauty. I will leave you to make what you want of this icky response to Ai-Da from The Sunday Times’s art critic: “My eyes drift down to her magnificent lips […] full and puffy, like a beckoning sofa. Oh, how I want to throw myself onto them.”
Oh, let me tell you, I cannot wait for the first guy (or gal?) to be charged with “sexual assault” of a robot. Whenever it happens, it’s going to happen at least a century before machines learn to think. Which may also be approximately a century after the last human is capable of same…?
*The Fuckers in Charge
**There aren’t any actual robots in Westworld (“Compelling story, completely ungrounded tech.”— Michael L. Littman, professor of computer science, Brown University (episode 1, season 1)— “Fun, but a huge disconnect between the hardware/software portrayed and what will actually be possible in the foreseeable future.” — Professor Geoff Goodhill, Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland (all season 1)
2WHO FALLS FOR THIS CRAP? 2: ENDGAME
Yesterday I was on an old Ex’s Facebook. Mistake.
We were together off and on for most of the 1980s. She was funny and smart and beautiful; creative and slightly… immature (as most of the children of the suburbs that I knew were). She’s a college-formed woman with a responsible job; she’s 56 now, has two roughly college-age kids, and reported on Facebook, yesterday, that she chaperoned her 17-year-old to that histrionically moronic merch-trailer “Endgame”…
[sidebar: seriously: look closely at all of these Super Hero films: they never work any harder than is necessary to captivate 14-year-old First Worlders with oxygen-starved personalities; they are quippy orgies of instant-gratification built around faux-heavy conceits, flimsy justification for hours of mindless punching, kicking, wrasslin’, shooting and shit going BOOM ]
[not to mention THIS…]
… and she “balled her eyes out” at the semi-cartoon’s tearjerking end.
I take it that the Tony Stark character pulls a Bambi’s Mother and “dies” (don’t worry, kids, because since They figured out the valuable concept of the Prequel and/or Alternate Timeline, no popular movie character ever “really” dies; some hot new hunk in designer glasses and a goatee will start filming a Young Tony Stark movie any day now). She cried over a character’s death and not even in the moderately-acceptable form of a tacky melodrama about Cancer or Alzheimer’s or suicide or whatever… she cried because a guy playing the guy playing the comic book character called “Iron Man” croaked like a goateed Garbo playing Camille on a deathbed surrounded by violinists and recorded by a Vaselined lens. Which should be hilarious.
But I am nauseated instead.
When did her higher intellectual functions die? She’s technically a kind of Soccer Mom Zombie now; flesh intact, brain rotting, fully able to make pancakes. Toddlers in Iraq get blown to bits to protect our stolen-oil interests? Don’t think about it. A character in a comic book expires? Wail like Banshees, motherfuckers!
What the fuck has decades of Television done to everybody’s brain-gunk?
3I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS; FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS: SEX, CHOCOLATE, SUNSETS, LONG BATHS…
In 2002 or so an old college friend came to visit me in Berlin. I’d hung out with him in So Cal in the late 1990s before returning to Berlin (for good) in 2000. I can’t remember the pseudonym I use for him in The Velveteen Gulag (memoir) so let’s call him Woof, because, when I first met him, in 1977, Woof bore a striking resemblance to the character of the same name in Milos Forman’s Hair, with long blond hair and bangs and a slightly goofy, easygoing demeanor.
Woof and I bonded in college over a love of the Absurd and a love of Art and a thing for psychedelia (esp. Pink Floyd and the only drug I’ve ever taken, LSD). It amazes me to think that I met Woof only ten years after the release of Sgt. Pepper’s. We felt slightly self-conscious about being 2nd hand pseudo-Hippies in 1977 (the zenith of Disco) but we were a helluva lot closer to the source than the 3rd hand pseudo-Hippies I met in London around Covent Garden in 1990, or the 4th hand pseudo-Hippies in the neo-retro psychedelic bands I saw flaring up on YouTube c. 2005-2015. The point being that Woof and I were both pseudo-Hippies but we were two different kinds of pseudo-Hippie: Woof was the “Oh Wow/ Karma/ Free Improv Dance” pseudo-Hippie and I was a “Fuck the Government/ Fuck Businessmen/ Get Those Silly Fucking Crystals Out of My Face” pseudo-Hippie. I could never allow myself to buy into any mass movement or lifestyle and I would never allow allegiance to any concept or theory of existence to overwhelm my own common sense.
I think it may have been 1979 or so that Woof and I were walking along Lake Street when a guy at a little stand called out to us and began what must have been a fairly early Scientologist spiel on us. Woof was intrigued and asked for more material; I hung back and ridiculed the notion that I needed a shadowy group of strangers to help improve my life. Switching gears to adapt to my personality type, the guy said (verbatim), “Then perhaps you’d like to join us as a leader?” I laughed in his face. Woof ended up blowing god-knows-how-much-money, over the next few years, on his Scientology “classes”. Which, frankly, I never ceased to find astonishing. And that wasn’t the only cultic, New Agey, Serf-bilking machine that Woof plugged himself into over the years.
Woof wasn’t stupid; in fact he was quite bright. But there’s an old word for an otherwise-intelligent person who can be made to do something stupid, a word that should be enjoying a resurgence right now but isn’t (too accurate?): Fool. A capital-F Fool is someone who is easily and/or often fooled, but everybody can and will be fooled, or do something foolish (something stupid despite their intelligence) more than once in their years. But…
When Woof came to visit me in Berlin in 2002, the first afternoon of his visit we were on the overground tracks of the U-Bahn running into Kreuzberg, rounding the curve near Gleisdreieck where can be seen a C-47 plane suspended from the top of a building, where Woof said, in the middle of a conversation I can’t recall, save for this one foolish sentence: “Well, it’s commonly known that Bill Clinton’s IQ is genius-level.”
“If Bill Clinton is a fucking genius, what is Stephen Hawking?” I shot back, slightly shocked and grossed out, thinking Who is this guy who looks like my old college friend parroting idiotically partisan propaganda of the type I expect out of the mouth of some necktie-wearing yokel going door to door with pamphlets and a shit-munching grin?
I forgot about all that until more than a decade later, when I happened to see yet another in a series of jaw-droppingly cynical and cheesy and contempt-oozing skits of political theater put on by the BHO team.
In this episode, BHO was trying to push through his Unaffordable Survival-Care Corporate Cash Cow Bonanza flim flam and therefore staged (with his team) an event that needed a lot more rehearsal time than they budgeted, apparently.
We all, I’m sure, remember the pretty lady with the funny (deliberately attention-gettingly meme-worthy) hair style who supposedly “fainted” (well she teetered) as BHO “caught her” (well, he touched her arm)? But did we all really watch the video?
Watch it below, with the sound off.
Study the chubby intern lady, screen-left, taking cues from the off-screen team: I suppose they need to synchronize the “fainting” with a particular passage in the speech for maximum effectiveness. The “fainter” keeps rushing her bit, and the chubby handler keeps signalling the “fainter” (with a discreet tug or two) to wait… until the chubby handler gets the go-ahead signal from the team member off-screen and alerts the “fainter” with the bizarre facial expression (usually, a person gets that look on her/his face, they hit the floor immediately thereafter, like, in two seconds, or vomit copiously, no?) to go for it. Ah, but then BHO rushes his bit, too, and turns around (with his special clairvoyance, we are meant to feel) just a leeeetle too early and does a poor job of improvising his “surprise/ concern”.
It’s rather awkward, this skit, but people with Television-crushed IQs, on anti-depressants, Twinkie Diets and sleep deprivation schedules didn’t notice: the cynical bastards who staged this nonsense counted on that, as they often do. Do watch this carefully. Sound off. Focus on the chubby handler, screen-left, and, next pass, focus on the theatrically on-message facial expressions of the supposed fainter…
And then watch this:
And then understand that I group-emailed a link, to the first video, to a bunch of friends as a joke (I was a bit less exasperated with this nonsense way back in 2013)… and, wouldn’t you know it, my old Lefty Liberal Former Scientology Reiki Healing Bill-Clinton worshiping pal Woof, from college, responded with sincere and baffled protests to the effect that he could not see a single phony/ suspicious/ stagy/ preposterous/ cheesy/ cynical/ contempt-oozing thing in the clip.
[sidebar: And that places Woof on a plane with the YouTube commenter who enthused: “president obama love people no matter they race! it could had been a alien falling anything or anybody hes there! wow michelle so bless to have a wonderful faithful husband like him!”]
So Woof, now, six years later, suddenly sees right through that genuinely preposterous fucksucker Trump, and forwards me this and that article from this or that faux-Lefty-Liberal source (it’s been 30-some years and I still can’t believe people bought Arianna Huffington’s Hillaryesque supposed Damascus-conversion away from the bosom of the Right Wing she serves so ably by leading Lefty-Liberal dupe-opinion)… and Woof is getting all het up… I shit you not… over Trump’s (no, really) drone program.
“IT’S ILLEGAL!” writes ultra-perspicacious, newly caps-locked Woof. He is on it.
4 A wee, though meaty, tutorial, focused on a narrowed target, regarding the form and function of what we innocuously refer to as “news” … versus actual INFORMATION (last section of text)
Bush: My Sweet Dad, a Wonderful Father to Bill Clinton and Me
No longer in office, a relaxed George W Bush shares quips with Toby Harnden about a surprising friendship and assesses the chances of a third Bush reaching the Oval Office
George W. Bush’s face creases into a broad grin and his eyes twinkle at mention of Bill Clinton, the man he calls his “brother from another mother”.
He is leaning back in his leather chair, his feet planted on the desk in his office in a Bank of Texas high-rise building overlooking the Dallas skyline. Amid the family photographs behind him rest two Bibles.
Bush has just finished a childhood anecdote about how his mother once “washed my mouth out with soap” after she caught him urinating in their garden hedge.
That tale came hot on the heels of one about his family once sharing a bathroom with “women of the night” in an early home. “I like to try to get people to laugh,”he chuckles.
It is hard to imagine him sharing a bawdy joke with Barack Obama; indeed, the pair barely exchange more than a pleasantry from one year to the next. But Clinton, he intimates, is a kindred soul.
“He’s got a good spirit about him,” says Bush, who at 68 is just six weeks older than Clinton. “We’re the only baby-boomer presidents. We were both Southern governors and we both like each other. He’s fun to be around. I hope he would say I’m fun to be around. And we’re both grandfathers.”
While Clinton campaigned across the country for Democrats in the recent mid-term elections, Bush stays largely out of public view. He took up painting nearly three years ago and spends up to five hours a day at the easel. He has had surgery for “two new knees” but still goes on long bike rides along Texas trails and spends a week a month at his ranch.
He also works quietly with military veterans who have lost limbs or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. He is an avid reader, though he peppers his conversation with self-deprecating quips about his infamous linguistic travails.
I first interviewed Bush on his campaign plane in 2000. He was more tightly wound then but with the same roguish sense of humour. In his eight years in the White House he often seemed weighed down by the burdens of office. Now, there is a lightness about him.
He is currently reading Andrew Roberts’s biography of Napoleon and is intrigued by the political prospects of Boris Johnson. “The mayor of London has just written a book about Churchill. He sounds kind of like Churchill, doesn’t he?
Very strong use of words.
“In my first book, I told about going to Phillips Academy in Andover [Massachusetts], which is akin to a really good British school. It was hard for me, really hard, because my biggest problem was I was a little deficient in the old vocabulary. It was never drilled into me, coming from west Texas.”
But Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, has just managed to pen a highly readable and, at points, very moving book about his father George HW Bush, the 41st president, who is now 90, wheelchair-bound and in failing health.
At a gathering of the Bush clan at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a family wedding in September, 41 and 43 broke off from the celebrations to ring 42 — Clinton, who occupied the Oval Office during the Democratic interregnum between the Republican administrations of the two Bushes.
“We called him to congratulate him on becoming a grandfather,” said Bush. Clinton’s only child Chelsea, 34, had just given birth to her first baby, Charlotte. “I said, ‘Let me tell you something. Get ready, you’re going to be the lowest man on the totem pole in your family,’” said Bush. “And he laughed. We get along great.”
The friendship is remarkable on a number of levels. Clinton defeated Bush Sr in 1992 after portraying him as feeble and out of touch. Bush Jr still describes that loss as one of the most painful moments of his and his father’s lives.
Eight years later, he beat Clinton’s vice-president, Al Gore, in large part by promising to restore “honour and integrity” to the presidency — an allusion to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He even joked on a comedy show about needing to give “one heck of a scrubbing” to the Oval Office, the scene of sexual encounters between Clinton and the intern.
During a debate with his primary foe Senator John McCain, Bush thundered: “Whatever you do, don’t equate my integrity and trustworthiness to Bill Clinton.”
The rivalry between the two political dynasties is far from over. In the next few weeks, Bush’s younger brother, Jeb, will decide whether to run for the White House. Both 41 and 43 hope fervently he will become “45”.
If Jeb survives a tough Republican primary battle, he will almost certainly face Bill’s wife, Hillary, in the general election in two years’ time.
Far from being an obstacle to their unlikely friendship, the dynastic rivalry is a source of banter between George W Bush and Bill Clinton. “He obviously keeps his counsel on Hillary but I like to needle him about how he’d be an interesting first spouse,” says Bush.
It is almost six years since he left office with an approval rating of 22%, the lowest of an outgoing president since polling began more than 70 years earlier.
His book, 41: A Portrait of My Father, is intended to add weight to a recent reassessment of Bush Sr’s one-term presidency that has seen his foreign policy realism and courtly moderation praised by historians and even by Obama.
During his presidency, Bush Jr discreetly sought Clinton’s advice, just as Clinton had done with Bush Sr. He grimaces when I ask whether Obama has ever sought his counsel. “No, no,” he says, adding after a pause: “He did inform me that Osama bin Laden had been killed, which I appreciated.”
This is how you read this type of “article”: A) the “journalist” either wrote the whole thing (including the quotes attributed to W), or some other party wrote the whole thing and it was given to the “journalist” to present under his byline. B) W has never written or read a book (or done anything else) in his life (and never will); W can barely speak passable English without a teleprompter, which he can barely read. C) Bill Clinton did not “defeat” Poppy Bush, he (a protege of Bush, just as Hillary was a Goldwater Girl pretending to be a “progressive”) extended Bushite control of the Whitehouse under pseudo-progressive cover.
Why did Poppy Bush even want to be Pres? He was already running quite a lot of the show. What motivated him to run? Sheer ego (though also, perhaps, it was easier to erase any vestiges of damning info re: “the whole Bay of Pigs thing,” as Nixon put it, as POTUS with keys to literal safes in the building).
But Poppy Bush was not terribly good at charming Duh Masses; as egocentric as he was, even he realized (with his sinisterly lipless, Aristocratic aura) that he’d never get away with NAFTA and the accelerated dismantling of The New Deal and all that racist Clintonian dog-whistling that turned soccer moms and guitar-strumming lawyers a little more subliminally Law ‘n Order racist: so they got in the charmingly sociopathic ringer, Gov of Ark, the guy who belonged to a restricted country club, rewarding him for his valuable service, to the Iran Contra cause (Bill looked the other way as the drug-laden planes came through Mena), with the Presidency. The supposedly bitchy campaign rivalry between Clinton and Poppy Bush was theater, it was KAYFABE: Clinton was their man and the placeholder until the next Bush Pres (W).
D) This “interview” was aimed at “Republicans” so there’s a dig at BHO (and a little nonsense regarding the preposterously sloppy faking of the “Bin Laden kill”… more KAYFABE)… but of course BHO was their man as well. What more effective way to achieve Right Wing objectives than under a “progressive” (crypto-Right Wing) figurehead of Color? Clinton accelerated the dismantling of The New Deal and BHO fucking revoked the Magna Carta and nobody batted an eyelash… imagine Nixon trying to get away with floating the notion that anybody, anywhere, at any time, on the planet Earth, should be openly available for immediate execution, without a trial, at some Yankee sovereign’s random discretion! Which is precisely the New Normal that “Black Bush” BHO achieved… and much, much more.
E) Needless to say, Hillary is part of the family and gets her warm-fluffy mention in this (2014) interview with her supposed dynastic rival.
So that’s how you read the flagrantly post-Barnum nonsense we call “news”.
Now look at this “interview”. W’s daughter “interviewing” W and Poppy Bush, both of whom are using teleprompters (and re-takes) to interact with their own daughter/ granddaughter plausibly. Look at that grimacing gargoyle in that wheelchair! The evil twat signed off (along with Billary and Madeline Albright) on the starvation deaths of half a million Iraqi kids, in the 1990s, to “send a message” to former business partner/ puppet Saddam. At the very least! Isn’t that adorable? Watch the clip; vomit in your mouth a little:
Then read this excerpt from “American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush”…. (a book which merely aggregates the milder litany of Bush crimes in the public record; this doesn’t go into any depth on the engineering of the Reagan near-assassination by the son of Poppy Bush’s neighbor/ business associate, John Hinckley Sr., or GHW Bush’s business in Dallas on the day JFK bit it, but it’s a beginning…)…
(please forgive quirks of bad formatting; I’ll address them as time allows)…
APPEND I X B
Deception, Dissimulation, and Disinformation
In the third year of George W. Bush’s term, the approaching 2004 national elections unleashed an unprecedented array of U.S. political writing: a flow of books alleging (and by some yardsticks establishing) that the president of the United States was a serial prevaricator. Commentators hurled the ultimate L-word—“liar”—with abandon.
The purpose of this appendix is to tie that debate to the book’s related but broader thesis: that George W. Bush’s behavior, far from being entirely his own product, is rooted in the dynasty’s four-generation evolution and concomitant pattern of deception, dissimulation, and disinformation. This is the new dimension. Of the last eight U.S. presidents, three besides the two Bushes—Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton—had personal reputations as at least intermittent liars or deceivers.U.S. voters, having become somewhat inured to such manipulation, may see only more of the same.What makes the Bush pattern different, deeper, and more worrisome is that it has been almost a century in the making.
Consider first the motivational incubators of these attitudes. Five stand out.
Family and Business Connections: Far from being middle class or selfmade, as the two Bush presidents have sometimes implied, three generations of Bushes and Walkers were wealthy enough to have significant Rockefeller ties—Samuel Bush in Ohio was closely involved with Frank Rockefeller (John D. Sr.’s brother) and Standard Oil; George H.Walker was associated with Percy Rockefeller (son of John D. Sr.’s brother William); and George H.Walker Jr. got some of the financing for George H.W. Bush’s oil ventures from Godfrey S. Rockefeller, a John D. grandson. Sam Bush’s Ohio firm, Buckeye Steel Castings, made money out of World War I armaments, even while Sam was in Washington regulating ordnance and forgings (on pp. 94–95 of A History of Small Business in America, Professor Mansel Blackford notes that Buckeye “earned rich profits turning out gun casings and other products” ). George H.Walker was a business buccaneer who had a considerable need to hide the details of what he was up to. The Harriman-Walker business relationships with the Soviets during the 1920s were frowned on by Washington authorities, and the 1920 Harriman-Walker deal with the Hamburg-Amerika line was deemed so pro-German that Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s son, resigned as secretary of the Harriman-Walker American Ship and Commerce Corporation rather than participate.1 Prescott Bush also had to keep a lid on his 1930s involvement with German-connected corporations. The last two Bush generations have also blurred and glossed over controversial business connections and practices. Military Intelligence and National Security: The Walker and Bush ties to a community notorious for dissimulation and disinformation also go back to World War I. As chapter 6 noted, former Justice Department official John Loftus has contended that Prescott Bush, ostensibly a newly commissioned artillery officer, was brought into military intelligence through British auspices, those of Stewart Menzies, who by World War II was the head of MI-6. By the period 1917–18, some of Bush’s friends from Yale and Skull and Bones were already working closely with the British. As for George H.W. Bush, the alternatives entertained in chapter 6 were that he might have been taken into the OSS before naval flight school, that a CIA connection might have been made at Yale, or that his company Zapata Offshore could have become at least partially a CIA front sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s. The CIA’s attempt in the 1980s to say that it was a different George Bush who had worked for it in the early 1960s was distinctly unconvincing. Such covert relationships on the part of both Bushes would have nurtured the practices that are textbook stuff at the CIA.
Skull and Bones as a Fount of Elitism, Hubris, and Secrecy: In its half-century heyday, Yale’s number one secret society stood for all three attitudes, well documented in several books and studies. In George H.W. Bush’s case, prior to Yale he belonged to another secret society,AUV, at Andover. These societies had a considerable overlap with the OSS and the CIA, for which they were good preparation. Bonesmen, in particular, were conditioned to level with each other and to keep secrets from (or deceive) outsiders.Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, in their book The Wise Men, described how seriously W. Averell Harriman took the society: “So complete was his trust in Bones’s code of secrecy that in conversations at annual dinners he spoke openly about national security affairs. He refused, however, to tell his family anything about Bones. Soon after she became Harriman’s third wife in 1971, Pamela Churchill Harriman received an odd letter addressing her by a name spelled in hieroglyphics. ‘Oh, that’s Bones,’ Harriman said. ‘I must tell you about that sometime. Uh, I mean I can’t tell you about that.’ When Harriman carried secret dispatches between London and Moscow during World War Two, he chose as the combination on his diplomatic case the numerals 322, the society’s secret number.”
Posturing as Candidates: Hiding controversial business practices was one
thing, but when Prescott Bush ran for the Senate from Connecticut in 1950
and 1952, he faced a different challenge: reassuring a public caught up in
mid-twentieth-century democratic values. Because of Averell Harriman’s
high positions in the Truman administration, the Democrats were not free
to attack Bush on earlier controversies that involved W. A. Harriman and
Company or the subsequent Brown Brothers Harriman, but George W.
Bush’s grandfather did cover up and distort his family background, which
voters would not have found appealing. In 2001, the Boston Globe quoted
Prescott Bush as having told the compiler of an oral history during his
elective years that “my father wasn’t able to support me. He had a modest
income, but he couldn’t support his adult children, and I didn’t want him
to anyway. So that’s why I abandoned the law.”3 This is transparent flim
flam, hinting at the hypocrisies of subsequent generations and the evolution
of “kinder and gentler”policies and “compassionate conservatism”
discussed in chapter 4.
Tactical Machiavellianism: There is no evidence that Prescott Bush was a
reader of the famous Florentine. George H.W. Bush might have been, because of his apparent CIA connections, even before he became Director of Central Intelligence under Gerald Ford. At any rate, Lee Atwater, political adviser to the forty-first president, was a man who reread Machiavelli yearly. Karl Rove, the even more influential adviser to number forty-three, is widely known as a Machiavelli aficionado. For that matter, Machiavelli himself has become more relevant in the upheaval years of the early twenty-first century than he was in the transitional America of the George H.W. Bush presidency. Here it is useful to repeat advice quoted earlier in this book:
“A prince must take great care that nothing goes out of his mouth that is not full of the above-named five qualities, and, to see and hear him, he should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion.”
Machiavelli’s underlying advice, however, is to practice deceit,
because the most successful princes—he names Cesare Borgia and Pope
Alexander VI—have been relentless deceivers. “However, it is necessary to
be able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner and dissembler;
and men are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities
that one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be
deceived.”5 In short, “the experience of our times shows those princes to
have done good things who have had little regard for good faith, and have
been able by astuteness to confuse men’s brains.”6 Still another chronicler
has pointed out Machiavelli’s tribute to fraud in The Discourses, book 2,
chapter 13: “Machiavelli’s writings contain numerous discussions of the
indispensable role of fraud in political affairs, ranging from analyses of deceptions and strategems in war to the breaking of treaties to the varied
types of fraud met with daily in civil life. . . . He generalizes that ‘from
mean to great fortune, people rise rather by fraud than by force.’”7
As we move closer to the present day, some of these themes and connections have been scrutinized. However, this has not been done in any comprehensive manner.
Two second-echelon dissimulations—hiding substantial early Rockefeller
and Standard Oil connections and minimizing attention to Samuel
Bush, George H. Walker, and their armaments tie-ins—have been duly
noted. Some further focus on George H.Walker’s and Prescott Bush’s ties
to pre–World War II Germany remains in order. Chroniclers of Averell
Harriman have tended to skip over his firm’s involvement with the Hamburg-Amerika line, Thyssen steel, and the Union Banking Corporation. George H.Walker left even fewer tracks, and during his life he was of little or no interest to the national press.
Prescott Bush’s role at Brown Brothers Harriman in the 1930s and early
1940s has been virtually ignored, except by writers like John Loftus and
Mark Aarons. However, as noted earlier, Burton Hersh in The Old Boys:
The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA makes reference to Henry
Mann and his European lieutenant, E. V. D.Wright. Mann is described as
“until 1940 the deal-maker around the Third Reich for Brown Brothers
Harriman and National City Bank.”8 In Antony Sutton’s Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, the Union Banking Corporation, of which Bush was a director through 1942, is described on pp. 103–7 as sharing German Nazi directors with Thyssen’s Vereingte Stalwerke. E. R. Harriman, also a Brown Brothers Harriman partner, recalled UBC as just an “unpaid courtesy for a client” believed to be a friend of Charles Lindbergh, according to a short p. 73 discussion in Duty, Honor, Country, the 2003 biography of Prescott Bush. However, Sutton, in his book, notes a relevant U.S. Senate report:
Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Military Affairs: Elimination of German Resources for War.9 One Sutton footnote suggests,
“For yet other connections between the Union Banking Corporation and German enterprises, see Ibid. (U.S. Senate Report), pp. 728–730.” Unfortunately, very few records remain to describe what went on in the 1930s.
Jumping ahead to the 1970s and 1980s, the Bushes have also been at
pain to minimize their relations to two much more substantial latter-day
rogue banks, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and the
Banco Nazionale di Lavoro, which have been connected to global weapons
transactions and to U.S. scandals like Iran-Contra and the Iraqgate arms
buildup of Saddam Hussein. In False Profits by Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin
and The Outlaw Bank by Jonathan Beaty and S. C. Gwynne, the authors
approach the possibility that George Bush, as CIA director,may have
been involved in the 1970s emergence and success of BCCI. As noted in
chapter 9, Truell and Gurwin suggest that after Bush left the CIA and became chairman of the executive committee of the First International Bank
of Houston in 1977, “he sometimes marketed to international banks in
London, including several Middle Eastern institutions. Some speculate
that he met with BCCI officers at this time.”11 Beaty and Gwynne dwell on
how Bush, while running the CIA in 1976, enlisted as a CIA asset James
Bath, the U.S. representative of major BCCI investor Khalid bin Mahfouz,
as well as the BCCI-linked bin Laden family.12 Both sets of authors underscore that one of Bush’s major 1976 priorities at the CIA was expanding its cooperation with Saudi intelligence, at the time run by Sheikh Kamal Adham, who also had close financial ties to BCCI.
The possibility that George H.W. Bush was an architect, not a victim or
dupe, of BCCI’s emerging and corrupting international role would help to
explain why Bush could have been so centrally involved in the three major
political scandals of the 1980s—October Surprise (1980–81), Iran-Contra
(1984–86), and Iraqgate (1981–90)—that partly involved covert financing
of clandestine arms deals and relationships with Iraq and Iran. When George H. W. Bush left office after the 1992 election, Washington policymakers
and observers for the most part put aside the three controversies
despite the fact that, as chapter 9 shows, evidence was continuing to
mount. But although his 1992 defeat in a sense rescued Bush from the
scandals, his son’s restoration in 2000 renewed their political and legal relevance.
Under the new dynastic circumstances, potential vulnerability
mandated a major new federal emphasis on secrecy in government.
These changes have been widely cataloged. The Bush family has had a
longstanding interest in ensuring loyalist control of the SEC and the Justice
Department to squelch special prosecutors and investigations—back in
the late 1980s, journalist Jonathan Kwitny wryly remarked on how the
1960–66 SEC filings for Bush’s Zapata Offshore corporation had been inadvertently destroyed in 1981.13 Then, in 2001, George W. Bush’s inauguration ushered in a new preoccupation with suppressing public access to the papers of former presidents and information on White House and departmental decision making. In November 2001, George W. Bush signed an executive order restricting public access to the papers of former presidents, following up his earlier decision to ship his own Texas gubernatorial papers off to his father’s presidential library at Texas A&M University, where they became inaccessible. Texas A&M is a second-string Texas University with close Bush ties. Its president is former CIA director Robert Gates, a Bush loyalist whom critics have sought to tie to the October Surprise, Iran-Contra, and Iraqgate alike.