Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Separation of Merch and State

The Return Of The Looters

People with extremely short and carefully curated memories -- like most "journalists" and all Beltway pundits -- seem terribly shocked that when given the opportunity to repair a country which Republican policies have crippled, instead of appointing hard-headed experts to do the difficult and fussy work of rebuilding, Republicans have instead turned a mob of marauding wingnut ideologues, looters,

-- and clueless loyalists (from The New York Times) --
No Experience, No Problem

NOV. 24, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition has been a circus, to say the least, with a colorful and eclectic crowd of job seekers of varying ideological hues and levels of experience ascending to the 26th floor of Trump Tower to audition for some of the most consequential jobs in the country. The man who spent years saying “you’re fired” is now saying “you’re hired” to all sorts of people, though it’s not at all clear whether his choices result from a carefully thought-out strategy or are being made on the fly.

The latest winners in the Trump job fair are Gov. Nikki Haley, Betsy DeVos and, by all accounts, Ben Carson, who is likely to be named soon. Anyone seeking a clear policy or ideological pattern here will be disappointed.

Ms. Haley, Mr. Trump’s choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, is a popular South Carolina governor with a winning manner and zero foreign policy experience. Mr. Carson, who is expected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a famed neurosurgeon who was demolished by Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries and whose only experience with housing appears to be that he is a homeowner. Ms. DeVos, the prospective education secretary, is a wealthy Republican donor who leads the advocacy group American Federation for Children, but who spent a considerable amount of time on Wednesday insisting that she does not support Common Core, which Mr. Trump bashed on the campaign trail...
-- loose to unleash their dangerous crackpottery on an entire country while glutting themselves on the public treasury.

/brief aside/ 

The part about there being no "ideological pattern here" is claptrap, although I am not surprised that an outfit as institutionally myopic as the NYT would miss it.  Trump is clearly focused on surrounding himself with hard-core, Curtis Lemay-types when it comes to making war, blood-loyal members of his extended crime family when it comes to plundering the joint, and then assigning destroyers to the federal departments he wishes to kill off.   I'm quite sure Ms. DeVos will have a merry old time trying to strip the American public education system for parts, while Dr. Ben Carson diverts as much HUD money as ha can away from public housing and into the important work of building mighty pyramids in which we can store our nation's precious grain.

/end brief aside/

People with extremely short and carefully curated memories -- like most "journalists" and all Beltway pundits -- apparently have no recollection whatsoever of an infamous Cheney Administration bustout scheme called the "Coalition Provisional Authority", which was led by America's most forgotten Abject Failure, Presidential Medal of Honor Winner and only living Former Pasha, Mr. L. Paul Bremmer.

But those of us with long and accurate  memories, remember the CPA and the reign of L. Paul Bremmer in extensive and extremely inconvenient detail.  (If you'd like more information, here is a link to something I wrote way back in 2006, when improbable half-man/half-idiot hybrids named "Grover" and  "Newt"and  "Stephanopoulis" and "George Will" and "Tom Friedman" were permitted to roam untended across America's teevee landscape during what was called "The Sunday Shows".  Crazy times!  I guess you had to be there.)

Hell, things got so shitty so fast the last time the GOP Looters ran the table that even the Washington Post was eventually forced to sit up and take notice:
Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Adapted from "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, copyright Knopf 2006

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

The CPA had the power to enact laws, print currency, collect taxes, deploy police and spend Iraq's oil revenue. It had more than 1,500 employees in Baghdad at its height, working under America's viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, but never released a public roster of its entire staff.

Interviews with scores of former CPA personnel over the past two years depict an organization that was dominated -- and ultimately hobbled -- by administration ideologues...

Endowed with $18 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds and a comparatively quiescent environment in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the CPA was the U.S. government's first and best hope to resuscitate Iraq -- to establish order, promote rebuilding and assemble a viable government, all of which, experts believe, would have constricted the insurgency and mitigated the chances of civil war. Many of the basic tasks Americans struggle to accomplish today in Iraq -- training the army, vetting the police, increasing electricity generation -- could have been performed far more effectively in 2003 by the CPA.

But many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States. Many of them spent their days cloistered in the Green Zone, a walled-off enclave in central Baghdad with towering palms, posh villas, well-stocked bars and resort-size swimming pools.

To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

Smith said O'Beirne once pointed to a young man's résumé and pronounced him "an ideal candidate." His chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.

O'Beirne, a former Army officer who is married to prominent conservative commentator Kate O'Beirne, did not respond to requests for comment.

One former CPA employee who had an office near O'Beirne's wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: "I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for Iraq' (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was 'uncertain.' I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy . . . and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC (Republican National Committee) contributors."

As more and more of O'Beirne's hires arrived in the Green Zone, the CPA's headquarters in Hussein's marble-walled former Republican Palace felt like a campaign war room. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations. In addition to military uniforms and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" garb, "Bush-Cheney 2004" T-shirts were among the most common pieces of clothing.

"I'm not here for the Iraqis," one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. "I'm here for George Bush."

Finance Background Not Required

Twenty-four-year-old Jay Hallen was restless. He had graduated from Yale two years earlier, and he didn't much like his job at a commercial real-estate firm. His passion was the Middle East, and although he had never been there, he was intrigued enough to take Arabic classes and read histories of the region in his spare time.

He had mixed feelings about the war in Iraq, but he viewed the American occupation as a ripe opportunity. In the summer of 2003, he sent an e-mail to Reuben Jeffrey III, whom he had met when applying for a White House job a year earlier. Hallen had a simple query for Jeffrey, who was working as an adviser to Bremer: Might there be any job openings in Baghdad?

"Be careful what you wish for," Jeffrey wrote in response. Then he forwarded Hallen's resume to O'Beirne's office.

Three weeks later, Hallen got a call from the Pentagon. The CPA wanted him in Baghdad. Pronto. Could he be ready in three to four weeks?

The day he arrived in Baghdad, he met with Thomas C. Foley, the CPA official in charge of privatizing state-owned enterprises. (Foley, a major Republican Party donor, went to Harvard Business School with President Bush.) Hallen was shocked to learn that Foley wanted him to take charge of reopening the stock exchange.

"Are you sure?" Hallen said to Foley. "I don't have a finance background."

It's fine, Foley replied...

'Loyalist' Replaces Public Health Expert

The hiring of Bremer's most senior advisers was settled upon at the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. Some, like Foley, were personally recruited by Bush. Others got their jobs because an influential Republican made a call on behalf of a friend or trusted colleague.

That's what happened with James K. Haveman Jr., who was selected to oversee the rehabilitation of Iraq's health care system.

Haveman, a 60-year-old social worker, was largely unknown among international health experts, but he had connections. He had been the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, who recommended him to Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense.

Haveman was well-traveled, but most of his overseas trips were in his capacity as a director of International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that provided health care while promoting Christianity in the developing world. Before his stint in government, Haveman ran a large Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions.

Haveman replaced Frederick M. Burkle Jr., a physician with a master's degree in public health and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley. Burkle taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he specialized in disaster-response issues, and he was a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which sent him to Baghdad immediately after the war.

He had worked in Kosovo and Somalia and in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. A USAID colleague called him the "single most talented and experienced post-conflict health specialist working for the United States government."

But a week after Baghdad's liberation, Burkle was informed he was being replaced. A senior official at USAID sent Burkle an e-mail saying the White House wanted a "loyalist" in the job. Burkle had a wall of degrees, but he didn't have a picture with the president...

A 9/11 Hero's Public Relations Blitz

In May 2003, a team of law enforcement experts from the Justice Department concluded that more than 6,600 foreign advisers were needed to help rehabilitate Iraq's police forces.

The White House dispatched just one: Bernie Kerik...

Three months after he arrived, Kerik attended a meeting of local police chiefs in Baghdad's Convention Center. When it was his turn to address the group, he stood and bid everyone farewell. Although he had informed Bremer of his decision a few days earlier, Kerik hadn't told most of the people who worked for him. He flew out of Iraq a few hours later.

"I was in my own world," he said later. "I did my own thing."
This time the pillaging will be led openly and brazenly by the man in the spotlight instead of orchestrated from the shadowy depths of the Cheneybunker, but beyond that nothing has fundamentally has changed about the basic depravity of the GOP since the Age of Bush.  Democrats still by-and-large believe that government should be an instrument to help it citizens form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.  And Republicans still believe that government is a forest to be clear-cut or a mountain to be strip-mined for their personal profit.  

In 2004, 62 million meatheads told us Liberals to go pound sand when they gleefully chose to keep the country in the hands of criminals and lunatics who were pissing away American blood and treasure on a war they had lied us into,  bulldozing American traditions and institutions, and sacking the place to line the pockets of their friends and cronies.

And after eight years of trying to clean up the catastrophic mess they left behind (while being obstructed every fucking inch of the way by the unremitting sedition, slander and sabotage from the elected representatives of those same meatheads) 61 millions bigots and imbeciles have decided that the best way to "take their country back" is to hand it over to an even more blatantly bigoted and corrupt band of miscreants and malefactors.

I can say with all my heart that I am terribly disappointed.

But I cannot say I am surprised.


bluicebank said...

Yeah, what you said, Drift.

I used to be a humanitarian, as in the denotative meaning of the word, as in I believed in humanity. Warts and all. But decades of evidence to the contrary of my hypothesis that we're all good underneath ... well I'm forced to quote from the late Jim Morrison who, during a concert when he was engaging the audience with his usual lack of sympathy:

"I don't know how many you people believe in astrology. Yeah, that's right, that's right, baby, I'm a Sagittarius, the most philosophical of all the signs. But anyway, I don't believe in it. I think it's a bunch of bullshit.

"But I tell you this, man, I tell you this: I don't know what's gonna happen, man, but I wanna get my kicks in before the whole shithouse goes up in flames."

And then the Lizard King up and joined the 27 Club.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good night, Mr. Glass.

"The Legion of Dumb." You're gonna use that phrase at some point. I'm just giving you a heads-up. :)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Be seeing you.

Pablo in the Gazebo said...

"I can say with all my heart that I am terribly disappointed."

I do also, most of us do, some more than others. I have found myself more sharply defined, unfortunately the bigots and morons that account for this have found license to shed their shame and a purpose to be proud of their ignorance. I couldn't reason with them before, I can't even talk to them now.

It's going to be a cold and lonely winter, followed, hopefully, by a hot and violent summer.

RUKidding said...

I read somewhere that Betsy DeVos is Erik Prinz's (sp?) sister. Ya know, Erik Prinz of Blackwater fame. Unsubstantiated but quite likely. Makes sense - eh? If so, Ms DeVos is has exactly the required experience that Trump desires. All Trump is doing is getting rid of the middlemen & directly handing over the gubmint to his fellow looting Billionaires. Wheeee!!

keith gargus said...

Reminds me of the excellent book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City". My favorite anecdote was some newbie who had as much experience as a random intern, but was ideologically correct, was tasked with upgrading the Iraqi stock exchange. When he arrived it consisted of a room with a large chalkboard and three phones. After two years and a few million dollars, he cycled back to the States leaving the chalkboard and phones.

jim said...

Internocracy 2.0 : This Time It's Domestic!

After all, look how great that worked out for Iraq.

( in B4 missing C-130s packed with pallets of spondulix )