Aug 11, 2017

August 10, 2017: Marooned in Baku, Giant Red Flag, Little Due Diligence


 
“It’s a horrible law and it should be changed”
              ----Donald J. tRUMP on the Foreign Corruption Practices Act.
 
“Why would someone put a luxury hotel there?  Nobody who can afford to stay there would want to be in that neighborhood.” Said a former top official in Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Tourism (1).  Originally intended as a high-end apartment building the Trump Organization, after signing multiple contracts with Azerbaijani developers quickly began transforming the “tower into an ‘ultra-luxury’ property…with ‘spectacular views of the city and the Caspian Sea’”.  It was a strange location for such a grandiose undertaking for “the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location; the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is dominated by train tracks and is miles from the main business district…Across the street from the hotel is a discount shopping center; the area is filled with narrow dingy shops and hookah bars.  Other hotels nearby are low-budget options…there are no upscale restaurants or shops. Any guests of the Trump Tower Baku would likely feel marooned.” (2) 
 
Indeed, the building is virtually encircled by highways, on and off ramps the tangle of which presented “New Yorker” magazine’s reporter-at-large Adam Davidson with a “comical exchange with a taxi-driver who had no idea which combination of turns would lead to the building’s entrance”.  Given the difficulty in reaching the building as well as its placement within the matrix of the city, Davidson said that “the more time I spent in the neighborhood, the more I wondered how the hotel could have been imagined as a viable business” (3).  Why and how indeed.
 
Davidson further elaborates that by the time the Trump Organization entered the picture the construction boom in Baku had ended “and the occupancy rate for luxury hotels in the city hovered around thirty-five percent.  Jan deRoos, of Cornell University, who is an expert in hotel finance, told me (Davidson) that the developer of a five-star hotel typically must demonstrate that the project will maintain an average occupancy rate of at least sixty percent for ten years.  There is a long-term master plan to develop the area around Trump Tower Baku, but if it is implemented the hotel will be surrounded for years by noisy construction projects, making it even less appealing to travelers desiring a luxurious experience—especially considering that there are many established hotels on the city’s seaside promenade.” (4)
 
As with launching his home mortgage adventure on the cusp of the real estate collapse of 2007-8, tRUMP, once again demonstrating his flawless business acumen and with consummate timing jumped into the middle of a construction project that made little sense.  The question is: why?
 
“According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index”, writes Davidson, “Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world” and “(t)he Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs…at the time of the hotel deal Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire” (5).  In reports by major news organizations (6) citing “a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009-2010, which were made public by WiKiLeaks” …Ziya Mammadov is described “as notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan”.
 
According to Alan Garten, then legal advisor to the Trump Organization, tRUMP played a ‘passive role’, merely “allowing his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov son Anar (net worth estimated at over a billion dollars)” for which he received, according to limited public filings at least 2.8 million dollars plus an additional 2.5 million in 2012. “The Washington Post published Garten’s description of the deal and reported that Donald Trump had ‘invested virtually no money in the project, while selling the rights to use his name and holding the contract to manage the property”’. (7)
 
But the tRUMPs were, as usual, less than completely forthcoming.  Not only have they failed to fully disclose everything they were paid in the transactions, the deal tRUMP made with Anar also included Ziya’s brother Elton, then an “influential member of the Azerbaijan parliament. Elton signed the contracts, and in an interview…confirmed that he founded Baku XXI Century, the company that owns Trump Tower Baku.”  He would not confirm who owns Baku XXI Century, citing a ‘commercial secret’, but “added that he ‘controlled all its operations’ until 2015, when he cut ties to the company” (8) about a year and a half before Donald J. tRUMP, upon being elected to the presidency, likewise did the same.
 
While there is presently no evidence of bribery, kick-backs, money-laundering or racketeering the Baku project nevertheless raises eyebrows.  Real estate ventures, especially large real estate ventures, and very especially large real estate ventures that make little sense both in terms of location and immediate and mid-term viability, draw special attention of prosecutors and those familiar with the ancient arts of corruption.  Large real estate projects involve thousands of contracts with suppliers, contractors, sub-contractors, and investors.  Projects of this magnitude may have financial dealings that span the globe.  These projects are perfect if one is looking to set up a shell company through which to launder money or bribe officials.  Indeed, in this particular example “Alan Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not deny that there was corruption involved in the project”. In fact, many of the contractors were paid in cash. Davidson was told that bribes were paid and that graft was routine. ‘I’m not going to sit here and defend the Mammadovs’ Garten said.  But from a legal standpoint, he argued, the Trump Organization was blameless.  In his opinion, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act doesn’t apply to the Baku deal, even if corruption occurred. ‘We didn’t own it,’ he said of the hotel. ‘We had no equity, we didn’t control the project…” (9), therefore there could have been no violation of the law.
 
But, according to “Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, who specializes in the F.C.P.A,…” you can’t go into business deals in Azerbaijan assuming that you are immune from the F.C.P.A…nor can you escape liability by looking the other way.  The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”
 
“As the Mammadovs were preparing to build the tower, the family patriarch, Ziya, was cementing his financial relationship with the Darvishis, the Iranian family with ties to the country’s Revolutionary Guard.”  “At least three Darvishis—the brothers Habil, Kamal, and Keyumars—appear to be associates of the Guard.”  “A cable sent on March 6, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Baku described Kamal as having formerly run ‘an alleged Revolutionary Guard-controlled business in Iran.’ The company, called Nasr, developed and acquired instruments, guidance systems, and specialty metals need to build ballistic missiles.  In 2007, Nasr was sanctioned by the U.S. for its role in Iran’s effort to develop nuclear missiles.”  The cable also said that “Kamal had recently established ‘a close business relationship/friendship’ with Ziya Mammadov” leading to “at least eight major road construction and rehabilitation contracts, including contracts for construction of the Baku-Iranian Astara highway” (10).
 
The Revolutionary Guard has been identified by the United States as a “major supporter of Hezbollah and other international terrorist groups.
 
The question presents itself: what were the Darvishis seeking to gain through their dealings with the Mammadov’s?   “Mounting international sanctions made it far more difficult for Iran to sell oil abroad, receive foreign funds, and import products.  International banks became increasingly reluctant to accept funds from businesses owned by the Revolutionary Guard, severely limiting its ability to support allies such as Hezbollah and the Syrian government.  At a moment when Iran was struggling to find ways to send money outside the country Keyumars Darvishi joined Azarpassillo (an Iranian Front Company) and began making one deal after another in Azerbaijan…It might also have caught the attention (of the Darvishis) that the Mammadovs had their own private bank—one that had unfettered access to the global financial system. 
 
 
The trail is long and tortured.  Ziya has been removed from his post, his son has lost his seat in parliament, and tRUMP has since backed out of the deal.  But for several years tRUMP has prospered from deals that involved a business relationship with what the publication “Foreign Policy” called “The Corleones of the Caspian” (11) and, by extension, their associates with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and terrorist groups. 
 
“American companies”, writes Davidson, “must insure that they are not receiving funds that originated with any sanctioned entity.  Ignorance is not a defense, especially if there is ample warning that a foreign partner could have a link to such an entity.  Most firms, upon hearing of even a slight chance of Iranian involvement, conduct due diligence that is much more extensive that what is typical for F.C.P.A compliance.  Erich Ferrari, an attorney who specializes in sanctions-related legal cases, said that before the Trump Organization cashed any checks it should have been certain of the ‘source of the funds’— ‘not only the bank it was remitted from but how the Mammadovs actually earned the money they paid.’  He said of the Baku deal, ‘It takes a lot to shock a lawyer, but I’ve had very few clients do so little due diligence.’”  (12)
 
tRUMP is seen here evidencing the same lack of ‘due diligence’ that he applied to vetting his first National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  He is also demonstrating his contempt for the law as well as his firm belief that the rules simply do not apply to him.  In seeking his fortune snorkeling in the financial cesspools of the world, tRUMP may have, perhaps inadvertently, played an important albeit secondary role in supporting terrorism.  For by lending his name he at a minimum helped legitimize what, by all accounts, was a very corrupt enterprise.
 
It is time for a full investigation.
 
Impeach and Imprison.
 
-----
  1. Davidson, Adam.  “Donald Trump’s Worst Deal” “The New Yorker” March 13, 2017
p. 48
 
  1. Ibid.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid. p. 50
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid. p. 53
  9. Ibid. p. 54
  10. Ibid. p. 52
  11. Ibid. p. 55
 
 
 
 
 
 

August 9, 2017: Poem for the Ages


Poem for the Ages

These words spill
Upon the page
As I go about
re-arranging them
re-configuring them
to take form
And make sense

Every truth is, alas
Discovered alone
Always a reflection
Always at least
Once removed


Consciousness

August 8, 2017: Roads to Hell, Long and Tortuous Path, Reap the Whirlwind


“Politically speaking, all roads to hell lead to Richard Nixon and, I fear, will end with Caesar Disgustus”.
                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”.

It is a mistake to treat Caesar Disgustus as an aberration.  A cry has gone up across the land that we must not treat the national obscenity that is Donald J. tRUMP as the ‘new normal’.  About this the critics are entirely wrong; for the current manifestation of the malignancy that is the conservative movement is neither new nor is it an aberration from the norm.  Donald J. tRUMP, our very own Caesar Disgustus is, in fact, the culmination of political trends more than half century in the making, now in the process of accelerating the decline of the late, great, United States of America. 

It began with Barry Goldwater and his headlong assault on the New Deal.  Goldwater, however, suffered a crushing defeat and his movement would have found its natural place in the dustbin of history had it not been for Richard Nixon.  Nixon not only rescued conservatism but began a series of behaviors that not only disgraced his office but transcended his presidency; establishing precedents and laying down markers that others would follow on the path to power.

First was his willingness to gain power and hold power by any means necessary.  I am referring to the “backchannel” message sent to the South Vietnamese government to not reach any agreement at the Paris Peace Conference and promising a better deal with a future Nixon administration.  This sedition set the precedent for all future Rescumlican seditions from the Reagan campaign negotiating with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after election day 1980, to the tRUMP campaign secretly meeting and coordinating with the Russians to win the last election we have seen a modern major political party not blanche at the prospect of committing sedition and evidencing a willingness to dance on the very front line of treason in order to win.  Then, of course, there were the ‘dirty tricks’ of Donald Segretti and company, called “Rat-Fucking” by the initiate who polished these skills as students at the University of Southern California, establishing a precedent that would produce in turn the likes of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and a host of other swine; an approach to the political process that would not simply damage the reputations of political opponents but, in the process, erode the legitimacy of the political process itself. And, let us not forget the “Southern Strategy”, a political stratagem that embraced the country’s racist traditions precisely at the time that the Democratic Party was working feverishly to marginalize them.  By giving racism a new lease on legitimacy, the Republican Party embraced a form of ‘divide and rule’ based on first racism later adding other so-called “social issues”, wedge issues used to set one group of Americans against another in order to further enable them to climb the “greasy pole.” “By any means necessary” became their modus operandi in order to gain power in service of villains.       

Secondly, beginning with Nixon we as a nation began this long and tortuous path of disparaging the press.  Here was Nixon, recipient of editorial endorsements of ¾ of the nation’s newspapers complaining bitterly about how the press was out to get him.

Third, and on a related point, is this business of whining about which one easily conjures up Nixon’s infamous “last press conference” when he promised that “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”; a promise that, much to the misfortune of his country, he famously failed to keep.  Always playing the victim, a core stratagem of modern conservatism, but here reinforced with the introduction of the Christian Evangelical movement bringing its own paranoia and deep sense of persecution and victimization.

Then there is, fourth, Nixon’s striking incompetence best demonstrated by his administration of wage and price controls, an effort that introduced not only Donald Rumsfeld to national attention but set the precedent that one can win by failing; that through failure one can discredit governance, leading in due course to the pathologies of Bush the Lesser and the complete embrace of failure by the entire conservative movement as they transformed themselves into the modern No-Nothing as well as the Know-Nothing Party of the twenty first century. 

Fifth there began with Nixon a trend favoring politicians that seek office not to accomplish anything but to become someone.  Nixon sought the presidency to validate Richard Nixon; to become, in his mother’s eyes, that son who would make up by reaching such heights the loss of his brother.  The result has been a string of self-serving chief executives who reached for the golden ring to thereby validate themselves.  This was certainly true of Nixon, both Bush’s and the present mud on the throne. 

Sixth, we see in Richard Nixon the precedent that has largely gone ignored until the current occupant assumed the office and that is that if there were any governing principle at all it is to use the office as a means of getting revenge upon enemy’s real and imagined.  Reading the White House Transcripts one immediately encounters between the “expletive deleted” s, the fact that this president spent an inordinate amount of time not thinking about the public’s business but in scheming about how he could “stick it” to his ‘enemy’s’.  This is a precedent now retrieved from the annals of history with a vengeance by Disgustus. 

Then there is this business of entitlement.  Beginning with the Conservative’s ideological dictum that the wealthy are, by divine right, justified in stealing the wealth produced by labor and are entitled to the fruits of the planet; add the Evangelical Christian, and especially those espousing the so-called ‘prosperity’ doctrine, in which it is held that the fruits of the planet belong to the Christian, indeed the capitalist Christian, and one is confronted with a deep psychosis in which  layer upon layer of imagined persecutions fuel a very strong but wholly imagined victimization.  It is into this morass that the politician best voicing resentment emerges.  Victimization born of imagined persecutions identify with those who feel that they have been denied their entitlement; who are seen as persecuted albeit for different reasons.  Justice, always a concept involving more than a little revenge, demands retribution.  Hence the ugliness that is Caesar Disgustus is not of recent mint; he is simply the latest and the most virulent manifestation of it. It has been more than half century in the making, for Nixon, the Bush’s, the Clintons have all evidenced a deep sense of entitlement as they sought public acclaim. Now we reap the whirlwind. 

Lastly, what began with Nixon has come home with a vengeance with our present Caesar Disgustus.  I am here referring to the damage that Nixon did to the office of the presidency by vandalizing the institution in a scandal known as “Watergate”; a precedent that had set the stage for later vandals such as Reagan in his embroilments with Iran and the Contras, Bush the Lesser with his handling of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina, and now with Disgustus who has seized upon these examples and has set about vandalizing virtually everything within reach…the electoral process, the intelligence communities, the congress, the press, the courts, the presidency.  When it comes to vandalism all who came before were rank amateurs. 

Paranoia, suspicion, the overweening need for both acceptance and revenge. A willingness to “suspend the rules”, to see the president as ‘sovereign’.  A willingness to employ any means necessary in order to accomplish one’s ends but whine when the ends go unaccomplished.  All this and more began with Richard Nixon.

But Caesar Disgustus presents us with all this and more.  He is Nixon on Steroids for sure but, in adopting the “scorched earth” economic agenda of literary fiction he manifests an even greater threat to both the country and the planet.  His willful embrace of ignorance has more recent antecedents, for this we must turn to ‘Ol Two-Cows’ Bush and his celebration of the guttural as opposed to the cerebral as a means of addressing the nation’s problems, manifest itself in a veritable celebration of ignorance and nowhere is this more evident and more dangerous than on the issue of climate change or global warming. 

In sum.  Disgustus stands as the quintessential ‘Boomer’, the distillation of these trends and many others that have been coursing through the veins of the body politic for now over half century.  He cannot, therefore, be seen as merely an aberration.  It is abundantly clear that simply removing from office this ignorant, incompetent and corrupt dolt is not going to solve the problem; it is merely the necessary but not the sufficient condition. The problem runs much deeper than Disgustus, for the cancer that is the modern conservative movement has been allowed to run its course for all too long. The body politic will not survive until the entire movement is eradicated root and branch.  Impeachment is only the beginning.

Impeach and Imprison.


August 7, 2017: Mud on the Throne, Ever More Pronounced, The Smell Follows


“They all want to get to the throne: this is their madness—as if happiness were sitting on the throne! Often it is mud that sits on the throne—and often the throne also sits on mud”
                        ----Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”


Often, all too often, mud sits upon the throne.  This has been especially true here in the United States where each incarnation of Rescumlican presidency produces yet a more pungent and vile manifestation as the Scums dredge their cesspools in search of an ever greater threat to governance; for they have, since Barry Goldwater, grown to loathe governance and have, at every opportunity, put upon the throne a caricature of a prince, someone who can be relied upon to bring disrepute to the office and thereby further erode the public confidence.  With the erosion of public confidence—to the point of questioning the very legitimacy of government—support for the state wanes and, the public begins to question the need for taxation.  Ergo.  Enter tax cuts, the universal conservative palliative for virtually all our ills.

Mud often sits upon the throne as Nietzsche once observed.  This republic has seen its share of it.  Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge were, in their day splendid mediocrities; but in all our history only President James Buchanan begins to plumb the depths of mendacity manifest in the string of Rescumlicans that have occupied the oval office beginning with Richard Nixon.  Buchanan, by sending troops off to the frontier as the South was seceding stands as the only historical example that comes close to what we have witnessed under the yoke of the “Generation of Swine.”  Of the litany that have risen only Ford stands out as even passable, as someone who made an honest attempt to govern the realm instead of dancing to the siren song of greed gussied up as political principle. 

So, beginning with Nixon who brought us Watergate and disgraced his office; to Reagan and Bush the Greater who brought us one scandal involving Iran and the hostages and another involving Iran and the Nicaraguan terrorists known as the “Contras” likewise disgracing the office; to Bush the Lesser who with the Iraq War and the drowning of an American City likewise brought disrepute to the office specifically and governance generally, to this national obscenity now occupying the oval office who, with his every word and deed, disgraces the office he holds and the country he so incompetently “leads”. 

We have seen the Scums clamber upon the throne employing every foul means, dancing to the very edges of sedition and treason. Once upon the throne they quickly set about the business of defiling both the office and the institutions about them. 

The cumulative effect of these serial assaults upon governance, both intentional and unintentional through sheer incompetence and ever more pronounced with each Rescumlican manifestation, has been that the ground upon which the throne now sits is becoming increasingly unstable.  As the earth begins to quake, the ground beneath, as in any earthquake, begins to liquify. Now mud sits not only upon the throne but the throne now sits upon the mud. 

As we speak our very own Caesar Disgustus has set on upon a 17-day vacation saying that he needs to get out of the White House.  This, for good reason, for the stench arising from the corruption within is enough to drive even the lowest bottom-feeder from the premises.   But, alas, Disgustus can find no solace for wherever he goes the smell follows. 

“Impeach and Imprison”


Aug 4, 2017

August 4, 2017: Great Untold Story, Comforting the Comfortable, Afflicting the Afflicted



“Comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted is a political posture that requires no courage; indeed, requiring nothing except a willingness to project a false façade in service of villians.”

                                    ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

The great untold story of the election of 2016 is that Donald J. tRUMP defeated the elites of both parties by running not on the right of the political wrong but by adopting a ‘populism’ and running and winning from the left.  This was certainly true in the Rescumlican primaries and, to a lesser degree, is also true of the general election. 

Adopting a posture reminiscent of Louisianan Huey Long, tRUMP—a veritable Rescumlican Bernie Sanders--railed against trade agreements he said savaged the middle class; he spoke of the return of high-wage manufacturing jobs (presumably union jobs for there were in days gone by few others); he promised to hold Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare sacrosanct; and, significantly, he spoke of replacing ObamaCare with a plan that would include everyone, and provide better services at lower costs—indeed, even speaking favorably of the Australian national health insurance, a single-payer system.  This was the agenda that elected Donald J. tRUMP and it is an agenda that is anathema to the Rescumlican Party.

From a purely political standpoint, the tragedy that is Donald J. tRUMP is that of wasted opportunity.  Having crushed the political elites of both parties—defeating first the old main-line Wall Street conservatives in his own party and then turning on the Democrats and vanquishing the Clinton led ‘liberal’ establishment—tRUMP, on the day following the election, stood as the first politician since Andrew Jackson to have defeated the entire political establishment.  A president-elect beholding to no one.  But something happened on the way to the forum or, in this case, the White House.

What happened is that since his days living in a college dormitory and masturbating to lurid images put in his head by the literary fictions of Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, now Speaker of the House, had been consistently pushing bills through the chamber savaging not only health care but the entire social safety net; had been aggressively pushing legislation limiting the power of workers in the workplace; had been consistently passing budgets that not only comforted the comfortable but afflicted the afflicted.  Why tRUMP signed on to an agenda he had so recently shredded is the great mystery of the hour. 

Perhaps it is because the leadership knew that he is, so to speak, on the Russian payroll. (1)  In any case, tRUMP was soon enough seen appointing at least four executives from Goldman-Sachs to important financial posts, staffing a cabinet of billionaires whose fortunes equaled that of half the nation, reversing himself on economic policies as they pertain to Chinese competition, embracing NAFTA and other trade agreements, and adopting the entire Rescumlican establishment’s position on fiscal and budgetary issues, including the savaging of the safety net and the all-out-war on ObamaCare and everything Obama.

This is not why the Teabaggers sent him to Washington.  tRUMP’s populism, they will discover, will prove every bit a fiction as the ejaculations of Paul Ryan’s ideologically inspired budget surpluses; for tRUMP’s brand is to genuine ‘populism’ what Ayn Rand’s literary fiction is to real political philosophy: the former being simple fraud; the latter a more pious strain.  tRUMP, always speaking in hyperbole, is simply another man-on-the make; an uncommon Carnival Barker, a cheap-jack hustler seeking public office to validate and, perhaps, enrich himself in the bargain.  It is classic “Bait-and-Switch”, a common enough business practice wherein the public is drawn by false claims and quickly directed and pressured to buy more costly merchandise not necessarily in the consumer’s best interests; practices that inspired the Latin injunction “caveat emptor”, or “Buyer Beware”.

Nowhere has this fraud been more amply demonstrated than with the Rescumlican fetish with repealing and replacing “ObamaCare”.  For seven years the Speaker and his cohorts have been feverishly masturbating to visions of outright repeal, for it is now clearly apparent that they had no real plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Tin-hat conservatives and racists on the political wrong were likewise pleasuring themselves reading, listening and watching more graphic smut on the internet, talk radio and “Faux and Friends”.  What followed, in the nearly complete collapse and nearly totally absent leadership from their anointed ‘leader, was a “comedy of errors” for the “Boomers” were once again to demonstrate that they know not how to govern.

 They tried to execute this ‘slight-of-hand’, this shell game, by ramming it through Congress.  Without committee hearings and before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office could ‘score’ the bill, House Rescumlicans rammed through a repeal and replacement bill that the CBO would later report would strip over twenty million Americans of their health care protection. 

tRUMP and his White House, publicly demonstrating that they have no understanding of the legislative process quickly organized a ‘signing’ ceremony in the Rose Garden providing a photo opportunity and a chance to declare ‘victory’, even though the bill had passed only the House.  In fact, the measure was then only about a quarter of the way down the road to becoming law.  Yet to come is passage by the Senate, then off to a conference committee (because both houses rarely pass identical bills) for differences in the House and Senate bills to be worked out, then each house must then pass the final version again without amendments.  Here was Caesar Disgustus, declaring a hollow victory; perhaps fitting a man who is likewise hollow to the core. The Bill was then sent to the Senate where, the unsettled were assured, Rescumlican mendacity would become more civilized. 

These assurances proved short lived for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began proceedings in the Senate by declaring that he needed only 51 votes would move forward.  The Rescumlicans have fifty-two, basically telling the opposition that their participation would not be welcome.  Accordingly, he set up a panel of half a dozen Senators, all men, who would write the Senate version.  What emerged was a plan that according to the CBO would strip eighteen million Americans of health care by 2018, twenty-two million by 2026.  After withdrawing the measure for lack of majority McConnel ‘tweaked’ the bill and brought it to the floor last week Tuesday.  It failed 45-55 with seven Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition.  Then in an act of desperate mendacity McConnell dropped the ‘fig leaf’ of replacement with a measure that would simply repeal ObamaCare with no immediate replacement.

Oh yes there was talk of Rescumlican plans developing that would replace the act in two years, but the Scums have been campaigning for seven years on Repeal and Replace and have voted—when they knew Obama would veto any such measure—over sixty times to repeal the ACA, but not a single step has been taken to formulate measures to replace until they were confronted with having to govern.  Nevertheless, there was deep suspicion among several Republican Senators, that should this so-called ‘skinny repeal’ pass, an act that the CBO estimated would have stripped 32 million Americans of health insurance, that Ryan and his ideologically driven and racist cohorts would simply have rammed it through the House without amendment and send it to the White House where tRUMP, caring more about a ‘victory’ than the people’s business, would simply sign it.  The measure went down to defeat and there was a great sigh of relief, indeed celebration about the land, but it is a worrisome victory.

For lost in the celebration is the awful reality that this so-called “skinny repeal”, the most savage and mendacious of all the Rescumlican efforts, lost by a mere one vote.  John McCain, returning from brain surgery to remove a blood clot and a cancerous tumor, cast the deciding vote in what is now being celebrated as a decided “profile in courage”.  That it may be, but it was a vote for sane and solid public policy.  In a statement McCain made clear his hatred for ObamaCare, echoing the Rescumlican disdain for all things Obama and their crusade to do their utmost to expunge the black man from the historical record.  But let us not forget here that McCain had joined the other Scums in voting for the previous bills to Repeal and Replace even though the “replacement” would have stripped millions of coverage, re-established the rights of insurance companies to drop coverage for “pre-existing” conditions and allowed insurance companies to re-establish lifetime caps on coverage.  These features of ObamaCare, incidentally, our now AWOL fearless leader promised that he would protect. 

Mitch McConnell has promised to “Move On”.  Don’t believe it.  The Scums have a fetish about Obama long past the point of pathological.  Moreover, they need the ‘reforms’ to not only save their billionaire paymasters the taxes that the ACA imposes on them, but to realize budgetary savings that can then be translated into tax cuts for the top one percent without creating horrendous deficits. Mind you there will be no balancing the budget for all this ‘sacrifice’—for this pain inflicted upon the afflicted--for the savings, such as they would be, will be immediately handed over to the ones who have bought and sold this Congress. 

The real story of the election of 2016 was that the people, once again, voted for real change.  The tragedy of 2016 was that the people elected an empty shirt, a complete incompetent, a miserable little lord Fauntleroy who quickly turned his back on them and now has no idea where to go or what to do and, in any case, is too corrupt and incompetent to get them there.    

Impeach and Imprison
 ----
(1).  See reference in post: July 24, 2107: Whole World Laughing, Serving the Kremlin,

                        Very Useful Idiot

 

August 3, 2017: Mini-Me, Pure Sycophant, State of Nature


“And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And the loser now
May be later to win
For the times
They are a-changin”

                        -----Bob Dylan “The Times They Are A-Changin”

The carnival barker’s executive skills were on full display last week with the meltdown involving his newly minted White House Communications Director.  Seeking the ever familiar, tRUMP looked no further than his New York neighborhood appointing hedge-fund manager Scaramucci to take over the much-maligned White House communications team; for with this operation, always confusing spin with substance, failure is always a mere communications problem. Enter Scaramucci who, at first exposure effusively expressed his ‘love’ for tRUMP to the point of nauseum and then promptly set about rolling about the decks of the ship spreading chaos in every direction. 

He had been lobbying tRUMP for months to be admitted to the West Wing, seeking a sinecure with an eye to selling his business for an estimated 90 million dollars.  The problem is that there to date has been only one buyer to step forward and that a Chinese firm with close ties to its government.  Seeing the lucrative deals that tRUMP had made with the Russians and the Kushner’s have made with the Chinese in the wake of the election, the “Mooch” as he is called, is reported to have sought a White House appointment with direct access to the president as a way of burnishing his status with those that would do business. Having been given the post, White House Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer resigned.  Days later in the wake of threatening to fire the entire White House staff, and what can only be called an obscene interview with the “New Yorker” magazine the “Mooch” went after Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus calling him a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic” and accusing White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon of performing fellatio upon himself. 

What earned the “Mooch” his position was not judgement, it was not talent, it was his disgusting and unnerving ingratiation with tRUMP, making the nauseating display of the cabinet earlier in the year pale by comparison.  Here on full display, the pure sycophant, right down to the use of language, the imitation of tRUMP’s mannerisms, and the propensity to lash out at those he sees as “enemies”.  tRUMP’s veritable “Mini-Me”.

This crisis began when reports were published in the Washington Post over his finances.  It’s always the finances.  The “Mooch” accused top White House operatives, perhaps Priebus himself, of leaking the information to the Post, when the Post got its story from readily available public records.  So, like his hero, the “Mooch” goes off on an ugly rant without having the facts creating chaos in the ranks.  Then, after news leaked of a dinner meeting involving tRUMP, Sean Hannity of faux news, and the “Mooch” he called the magazine and, in an act of pure amateurish incompetence, failed to make clear that his comments were off the record before he went on a tirade against top White House officials.  Shortly thereafter Priebus, humiliated by a string of legislative failures, his inability to reign in the madness that surrounded him, and now this public excoriation by a newly anointed sycophant resigned establishing a new record as the shortest serving Chief of Staff in history.  

The country was aghast that such a man would be brought into the White House, but Disgustus defended him at once signaling his embrace of both obscenity and chaos.  tRUMP, it was held, loves chaos, loves to witness conflict between subordinates; sees himself as presiding over a form of Hobbesian “State of Nature” where the fittest rise to the top. It is always the ‘fittest’ that rise to the top, the present occupant of the oval office to the contrary notwithstanding. Accordingly, one of his criticisms of his former Chief of Staff was that he didn’t retaliate.  But this was, apparently, a bridge too far.  The ensuing public outcry reached the level of a major crisis and this, then, forced Disgustus to act.  After firing his Chief of Staff, he brought in General Smith from his Homeland Security Department to assume the position. 

Most children when they are shuffled off to Military School hate the experience.  Not Donald tRUMP.  He, by all accounts, loved it and has developed a pronounced fascination with and love for all things military—even though he did his level best to avoid military service himself.  Nevertheless, it can be said that Disgustus respects only two things: money and a uniform—especially a uniform with twenty pounds of brass and ribbons stapled to it. 

Once again, here is evidence of “Management by Exception” or “Management by Crisis” (see previous post) along with a propensity to seek direction from those he sees as superiors—in this case men in uniform dating back to his school days. Accordingly, he has staffed his administration with an inordinate number of generals and former generals.  Perhaps, this time it will work for Disgustus feels obliged to heed the advice of few others. 

But the General must approach Disgustus with gloves on, for anyone who comes within his orbit is diminished and besmirched thereby, rarely, if ever, emerging with reputation intact.  Accordingly, he would be well advised to quickly establish a chain-of-command and strictly enforce it, compelling everyone to go through his office to get access to this president.  Failure to do so will virtually ensure his quick departure.  Accordingly, his first act was to fire the “Mooch” who, having been on the job for ten days, likewise established a new record for the shortest tenure in office.  Next in line, if the general is to succeed, are Bannon and the Kushner’s.  The Wheel’s Still in Spin.

Impeach and Imprison.

August 2, 2017: Hollow to the Core, Ode to Ralph, Only Confusion Now



“A child should be able to look into its mother’s eyes and see its own reflection.  I looked into my mother’s eyes and saw confusion”

                                                                 ----Dr. Ralph Chandler

 
Twenty years ago, I found myself in graduate school studying public administration.  It was here that I mastered and learned to love statistics; it was also here that I met Dr. Ralph Chandler.  Ralph, who is regrettably no longer among us, was an interesting man.  He began his collegiate career in seminary school but soon heard other callings as in mounting an unsuccessful bid to win a seat in the Florida legislature, later turning to political science and, by degrees specializing in management and public administration.   By the time I had met him he was teaching and had recently published a book celebrating the centennial of American Public Administration in which he edited the works of many of the most outstanding authorities in the field, many then still living, adding introductions and commentary. It was an effort that would earn him a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. He was also a consultant for businesses and local units of government, screening candidates for middle and upper level management positions both within government and in the private sector. 

His method of screening involved the administration of several ‘aptitude’ tests; tests for which there were no right or wrong answers; tests that measure personality traits and the influence of one’s personality upon one’s management style and, by extension, how effective a manager one would likely become.  For this purpose, a battery of tests, including personality inventories and what was called a FIRO-B test was administered.  Students were then required to write a ten-page mid-term paper explaining what the scores meant and why; and a final paper with the same objective directed at the manager under whom one presently found oneself laboring.  It was a revealing exercise. 

 
What struck me about what the tests revealed was the lasting impact one’s childhood experiences  on one’s behavior later in life; and what struck me most while writing the second paper was how much the man I then worked for so much resembled my own management style and, given that the job interview, done as it was by committee, involved perhaps less than ten minutes of direct dialogue with my future employer signifying that surely there must have been a great deal of subliminal non-verbal communication. For the principal in question was chairman of the board and the body so assembled readily acquiesced to his will.  I got the job because it was his choice. 

 

I bring this up because I have since applied the criteria to subsequent primary employment relationships as well as observing behavior tangential to my station but within my view; for it helps by way of analyzing power, both the practice and the practitioner thereof, as a means of controlling what is within my purview and understanding and explaining what is not. This, leads us by degrees, to an analysis of the management style of our present Caesar Disgustus.

 

From his behavior, it appears that his Philosophy of Management is, perhaps, a reflection of his own self-image.  He views subordinates as not competent, not liking to work, hesitant to assume responsibility.  People and production concerns are felt to be in conflict; so, rather than choosing one or the other, the manager feels his best option is one of withdrawal from employees and isolation from organizational issues.  His philosophy often manifests a cynicism which is likely borne of frustration traceable to his powerlessness to have any meaningful impact on his organization.  These traits manifest themselves in his almost daily impotent rants on “Twitter”, his abdication not only for the substance of any meaningful legislation, but his complete abdication of a president’s responsibility to not only become knowledgeable but to sell his agenda leaving the heavy lifting to subordinates and members of Congress, and his failure to “own” the results if they are either not to his liking or fail to materialize. 

 

When it comes to planning and goal setting he is found abdicating decision-making and planning responsibilities so that the employee group has total control. This can be seen in his total abdication of the writing of the Rescumlican health bill to Paul Ryan, and his total abdication of the Senate’s effort to Majority Leader McConnell and his band of six senators behind closed doors.   In the extreme, he will withhold his own views, as with the Republican Health Care proposal passed by the House of Representatives that he later called “cruel”.  His involvement, such as it was, consisted in making a few phone calls in the waning hours for the congressional leadership, knowing that this man has so little command of the issues and the facts, cannot be relied upon to knowledgably push the legislation. So strong is his need for acceptance that he feels employees will not “like” him if he imposes decisions that affect them or, in the political context, the greater public that constitute his core political support.  Therefore, this ‘leader’ is seen looking to others to take the lead, and the heat, in advancing the agenda.  

 

Regarding implementation of policies tRUMP’s management style reveals a manager who provides little direction to his staff, instead reportedly spending his days “twitting away” while watching and reacting to news coverage of his White House.  It has been reported that senior White House staff have had to appear on television talk shows to get our ‘leaders’ attention concerning important policy initiatives.  But here we wander off to a more extreme version of the detached manager: after having failed to provide clear and specific instruction (for his attention span is far too short for mastering direction and detail), he avoids any contact or involvement with the work except even when things do not go according to ‘plan’.  Usually this type of manager when finding himself so constrained will seek direction from superiors but, this being the oval office, the “Buck”, as Harry Truman once pointed out, “Stops Here”, a concept this clown has yet to get through his thick head.  The result is that the White House has been, for nearly six months now, in nearly constant chaos even to the point of several supporters contending that Disgustus, reveling in chaos, has created “chaos by design”.  Management, where it exists at all, is “Management by Exception” in which the principal underling must distinguish his or herself by some egregious error in the eyes of the leader for any action to take place, as in his firing of the Director of the FBI, his Press Secretary and now his Chief of Staff as well as his disparagement of his Attorney General because of their presumed failure to keep the feds off the trail of his corrupt financial and business dealings.  Disgustus only “acts” when by doing so he is either furthering or, in his mind, protecting his business and alleged fortune. 

 
When it comes to evaluating subordinates, a critical function of any manager; for management without evaluation, indeed I would postulate continued and ongoing evaluation, is management in name only.  Here we find the classical ‘weak manager’ who, conducts evaluation only if required—here not by policy or precedent for he respects neither—but by crisis.  When he does evaluate we find him seeking methods that limits his personal involvement and responsibility, instead seeking safe and impersonal means—as again in the misuse of Twitter.  Reports pour out of the White House of his rants, his abuses of staff and department heads, and his management—if it can be called that—by crisis. 

 

 
There are many reasons why one finds oneself later in life exhibiting traits that are neither attractive nor productive; most of which involve the lingering influences of childhood.  tRUMP biographer David Cay Johnson has said in several television interviews that Disgustus once told him that he didn’t want to look inward for fear of what he may find.  This comment is telling for it not only reveals fear of demons, real or imagined, or perhaps, real and imagined, but it also reveals a low self-image; the lingering effect of which can be seen in his constant use of superlatives, his constant need for praise and acceptance bordering on adoration (as in his first cabinet meeting), but foremost on his creation of an outsized and outlandish façade behind which he can mask and hide his innermost fears, anxieties and inadequacies.  Why he fears that he is worthless and that he must now compensate by projecting a façade of great wealth; that he is impotent and must now compensate by projecting a façade of great power; ignorant and that he must now present himself as the only one who can ‘solve this mess”; and anxious and that he must now declare in open debate that he has the ‘greatest temperament’ than anyone seeking the presidency, isn’t solely that he is all those thing and that he has every right to fear confronting who he really is but he must also confront a childhood with transactional and detached parents finding himself relegated to a military school—a catch basin for waifs of those who have no idea what to do with them.  In a word, tRUMP looked into his mother’s eyes and saw only confusion.  All else follows.  

 
The truth is that Disgustus has at his core, and by his own account, a large “unknown”, the depths of which he is terrified to plumb.  He has been described by the co-author of “The Making of the Deal” as a man who, at his core, is nothing more than a ‘black hole’, without conviction, without knowledge, without a conscience. Columnist George Will has recently opined that Trump can best be characterized as one who “does not know what it is to know”.  He is, in the parlance of your Texan, “All Hat and No Cows”; which is to say that he is mere shell, mere illusion, form without substance.  How else does one explain the grandiosity of his language, and the outlandishness of his personae, especially when joined with the vacillations on policy and the complete ignorance of and refusals to learn the basics of governance. 

 
To demonstrate what I mean by way of illustration, consult his business model.  tRUMP inherited a small real estate fortune involving management and ownership of a rather significant portfolio.  He promptly ran it into the ground culminating with the bankruptcies of his Atlantic City casinos and other properties, bankruptcies causing New York banks to write off nearly a billion dollars of tRUMP debt.  PBS’s “Frontline” in a profile of both Clinton and tRUMP last summer reported that the banks quickly realized that had they cut up his ‘empire’ into its constituent parts they would lose even more money than if they kept the name and tRUMP as a front-man.  This created a wholly new business model in which tRUMP’s wealth, such as it is, is largely leveraged debt where he owns the buildings, or, more commonly, building that pay him for the rights to use his name but structures in which he has no investment at all.  In short, the tRUMP business model became a “Hollow” one, a mere label—a golden brand—upon the investments of others.  This persona was reinforced by the ‘reality’ television show “The Apprentice” which found tRUMP posturing as a ‘chief executive’ presiding over what were, in effect, very small plans and enterprises.   Reality television is not reality.  It is illusion.  And here we see the circle squared, the suspension of disbelief, fantasy (façade) projected as reality.  Here, on national television, Disgustus could project his carefully scripted image a thousand times, as at a carnival’s “house of mirrors” where a single image is replicated into infinity giving the illusion of great depth where there is no depth at all.  Here he is full pomposity upon display, hollow to the core.

 
A few months ago, I was taken to task on Facebook for remarking that Disgustus was nothing more than a common carnival barker.  His supporter was outraged taking me to account.  I apologized that I had indeed been in error and, therefore, must humbly recant saying that it is unfair to characterize Disgustus as a mere common carnival barker.  It does injustice to his station, for indeed he is an uncommon carnival barker.  

 
This is what happens to a man when, upon looking into his mother’s eyes for the first time, finds only confusion.  “Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah, step right up”, cries the Barker, “and see the ‘greatest show on earth’”.  Perhaps, but keep moving along, don’t linger too long, and don’t look too closely; for concealed therein is a shell game and a fraud.

 
This man is categorically unfit to be president of the United States.  Hillary described Disgustus well when she said he was temperamentally unfit for the job and that he would be, embracing as he does the worst managerial traits, a disaster as president. 

 
mpeach and Imprison.