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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 11 The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 11
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-26 09:16:25
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lino1

Week 11 - Columns 71-77 (August 26-September 1)
On: The Ways and Means of Looting the US Treasury, Top Law Enforcement Officials have testified on the Russia Probe, Increasing Inequality and the Erosion of Democracy, Mari-a-Lago Ad on Official Government Website as an Impeachable Offense, Carl Bernstein’s Suspicion, A Failure of Leadership, Abysmal Incompetence.

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Column 71

The Ways and Means of Looting the US Treasury

 lino70_400

Many have been wondering lately if President Trump has any kind of political agenda, never mind political principles. What they are sure of, however, is that he and his family have a financial agenda and its ways and means affects the US Treasury and the average taxpayers who pay into it.

Just about each week, Trump uses Air Force One to travel to his properties, promoting his brand, looting the treasury to pay for a lavish lifestyle that far exceeds that of any President that preceded him.  Another government jet and security personnel fetch his wife from their penthouse tower in Manhattan.  Other government planes carru staff and family.

Most of their time is spent at Mar-a-Lago, the family’s Florida resort, for multi-million dollar weekends (about $3.6 million per visit) funded by taxpayers.  Government-funded travel just for weekend visits to his resorts, so far this year (three and a half months), has already doubled former President Barack Obama’s annual travel budget.

One of those weekends brought Chinese president Xi Jinping to Florida and, lo and behold, the People’s Republic of China suddenly provided new trademarks for First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who now uses her White House office to peddle jewelry, handbags and spa services to a nation of 1.4 billion.

Ivanka Trump now holds 173 foreign trademarks in 21 countries. Since Trump became President in an election where his opponent received at least three million more votes from Americans than him, his properties like Mar-a-Lago and the Trump International Hotel in Washington enjoy parties booked by self-dealing CEOs, lobbyists and foreign officials.

Trump, in the meantime, hides his tax returns from public view — the first President in modern times to do so and his administration recently announced it is closing the White House visitor logs to public view — hiding who is cozying up to a White House that is now ground zero for open robbing of the U.S. Treasury and solicitation of money and bribes from those who are more than willing to pay.

The New York Times, in a recent editorial, says Trump’s actions play to two serious problems:

One is an almost total absence of openness in an administration that is already teeming with real and potential conflicts and that has decided it can grant secret waivers to ethics requirements. The other is a culture of self-enrichment and self-dealing in which corporate C.E.O.s, lobbyists and foreign officials seeking the first family’s favor hold parties at Mar-a-Lago and at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a couple of blocks from the White House.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog operation, says Trump openly violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause that prohibits the president from taking payments from foreign nations.  The group is suing to try and stop the rip-offs.

Every time a foreign government stays at a Trump hotel or resort — like the hotel just a couple of blocks from the White House, it is making a payment that reaches the President’s bank account. When the Chinese President stays at Mar-a-Logo, which doubled its rates as soon as Trump won the Presidency, the government of China forks over money to Trump.

In effect Trump is a thief and he controls a family of greedy grifters who run rampant through the American government, taking millions from the Treasury and the nation’s taxpayers.

There is enough evidence of malfeasance to begin impeachment proceedings tomorrow were there a political will to do so; but alas, the Republican party that control Congress, allows it to happen with impunity while saying that Trump “is one of us.” Indeed he is! or is it the other way around?

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Column 72

Top Law Enforcement Officials have Testified on the Russia Probe

 lino71_400

Top intelligence officials have testifyed on Capitol Hill about Russian activities to influence the 2016 US presidential election. FBI Director James Comey and the head of the National Security Agency Adm. Mike Rogers have appeared at a closed door hearing.

As is already publicly well known, the FBI, Congress and Mr. Bob Muller is presently conducting a counterintelligence investigation exploring how Russia covertly attempted to influence the American presidential election on Trump’s behalf.

As is also well known, the committee's hearing schedule was stalled last month after Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., (derisively known as inspector Clouseau) disclosed that U.S. spy agencies had swept up communications of Trump associates. Nunes suggested the material had been mishandled by Obama administration officials. Nunes later acknowledged that details had been shared with him by a secret source on the White House grounds. That raised questions about whether the chairman was too close to the White House to lead an impartial inquiry.

Nunes then announced he would no longer lead the congressional investigation, while continuing to handle other aspects of his role as chairman. He blamed "left-wing activist groups" for filing ethics complaints alleging he mishandled classified information. Two watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, have asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Nunes disclosed classified information from intelligence reports.

The plot continues to thicken. The principals in the case continue their denial that anything illegal or traitorous has occurred.

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Column 73

Increasing Inequality between Rich and Poor is Proportional to the
Continued Erosion of Democratic Institutions

 lino72

The latest polls reveal a progressive increase of inequality among rich and poor in both the US and Russia. So much for their vaunted populism and egalitarianism. Consider the map above. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Meanwhile in Russia things don’t look any better, a Gallup poll released Tuesday shows that 68 percent of Russians said inequality between the rich and poor has increased in the past five years, which coincides with a decrease in their standard of living. The oligarchs have taken over and manipulate both social and political situation with Putin on top of the pyramid making sure that his popularity continues unabated via his authoritarian style and the complete control of the media.

Gallup said in a statement that "the percentage of Russians who say their living standards are getting worse has more than doubled in the past several years: More than one in three, 36 percent, of Russians said their standard of living was getting worse in 2016, compared with about one in six, 17 percent, in 2014."

In March, Russians carried out dozens of anti-corruption protests throughout the country against Putin's government, some over recent allegations that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed property worth more than $1 billion. It seems that the perception among Russians of a growing income inequality is grounded in reality and contradicts Putin’s alleged popularity.

The major casualty of such inequality, in both countries, is democracy. The greater the inequality, the greater the weakening of the democratic process despite the rhetorical statements on behalf of the people known as “populism.”

The silver lining in this largely negative phenomenon of social and distributive injustice is that concerned citizens in both countries will now begin to introduce and pursue the issue of distributive justice in their political and social agenda.

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Column 74

Mar-a-Lago Ad on Official Government Website as an Impeachable Offense

 lino73_400

Under the impeachment clause of the US Constitution corruption is part of high crime and misdemeanors for which a US president can be legally impeached. A prime example of corruption is the webpage about Donald Trump’s private club knowingly using government means to enhance his private wealth.

The Mar-a-Lago post is part of a broader analysis of whether and how the executive office is being used to enhance the president’s existing businesses and brands and thus enrich the president now and in the future. The impeachable act of corruption is the use of the tools of government for private gain.

Kellyanne Conway has used the airwaves and her job title to make an endorsement. The webpage uses the resources of the government itself -- the State Department’s Share America website and the imprimatur of the U.S. embassies’ diplomatic functions -- to promote the club. Memberships prices doubled after Trump was elected. Moreover, he has hosted several foreign leaders there. These acts as bad as they are, are not instances of the use of government resources for private presidential gain.

Imagine that after an investigation, it turned out that the president or someone close to him ordered the post or knew about it and allowed it go forward. The president could credibly claim that the regulation against endorsements doesn’t apply to him, because he’s not an employee under its terms. Trump has made clear that he believes that Congress’s conflict of interest laws don’t apply to him either.

Constitutionally, that wouldn’t be the end of the matter -- far from it. Congress has the authority and the responsibility to consider presidential conflict of interest when crafting articles of impeachment and deciding to bring them against a sitting president.

These are classic “high crimes” -- “high” in the sense that they relate directly to the president’s misuse of his own high office. That’s the historical meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a phrase that the framers of the Constitution took from English constitutional tradition and the impeachments undertaken by Parliament against royal officials.

The rule of law takes centuries to build but it can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. When it comes to a president busy eroding it and the traditions around it, criminal laws are not the constitutional answer. The answer is impeachment and it is Congress’ duty to initiate and  implement it.

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Column 75

Journalist Carl Bernstein Suspects a Cover up on Trump-Russia Investigation

 lino74_400

Journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate cover-up fame, and now a CNN commentator has predicted that the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn  will end up revealing a “cover-up” of connections between President Donald Trump's team and Russia during his presidential campaign.

Bernstein has stated that "Flynn is almost like the ball of yarn that begins to unspool and is key to understanding the cover-up," and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who now leads the Justice Department’s probe into Russia’s role in the election campaign, will eventually get to it.

The comments came just a day after a bipartisan press conference in which the top members of the House Oversight Committee said that Flynn likely violated the law by failing to disclose foreign connections and payments when applying for a security clearance.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee, said that he had seen no indicator that the disgraced national security adviser disclosed a $45,000 payment he had received from Russian state-owned television network RT for giving a speech.  Flynn also appeared to have received more than $500,000 for representing the Turkish government.

Bernstein also stated that “it's obvious that Gen. Flynn is in up to his neck in terms, not just of possible crimes involving his speeches and whether or not he registered as a foreign agent, which he should have and didn’t.”

While all this is going on, Trump continues to create distractions galore from the investigation which in some way are working. But facts are a stubborn thing, even in the era of “alternate facts.”

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Column 76

The Failure to Provide Leadership for his Party May Doom Trump’s Presidency

lino75_400 

Franklin D. Roosevelt led the way in defining the role or the President as leader of his party. By setting forth a clear thematic and legislative agenda, Roosevelt gave congressional Democrats direction as they set forth to combat the Great Depression. Their successes established the “100 days” benchmark that has now become the standard by which new presidents are judged.

Nearly 100 days into his term, President Trump not only has failed to provide Republicans with skilled leadership, but also seems unaware that he’s even supposed to do so. This failure could doom his presidency before it even really begins. Trump has provided neither clear direction nor a firm legislative agenda for his party.

This state of affairs is compounded by the way Trump won the White House. He mobilized millions of non-Republicans, mainly whites without college degrees, and brought them behind him in historically high numbers. These voters tend to be more economically liberal than any faction of GOP conservatives and less interested in historic Republican unifying themes such as traditional morality or activism overseas. Their priorities — jobs and rising wages, immigration restriction and focusing our military on fighting terrorism — are all out of step with at least one powerful GOP faction. Unless they are integrated into a new Republican majority, the votes that elected Trump and gave the GOP control of the Senate, House and many big state governorships will quickly evaporate.

Trump was elected to change Washington and “drain the swamp.” Our modern system won’t allow him to do that without first wading deep into the murky waters himself to corral the alligators. Trump has so far shown little inclinations to do so. He prefers golfing at Mar-a-Lago. He may soon find out not only that the swamp has drained his power and influence, but that in fact he is very much a necessary and integral part of it.

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Column 77

The Observable Abysmal Incompetence of Trump’s First 100 Days

 lino76_400

Donald Trump is very proud of the fact that, as a business man, he knows how to negotiate and make deals. But the crucial logical question is this: how well does he know what he is negotiating? Were we to attempt to answer that question judging by the first 100 days in office, we’d soon discover an abundance of sheer incompetence. Evan business leaders are beginning to acknowledge as much. Trump himself has declared recently that he didn’t think the job would be so hard. That’s a narcissist’s mode of acknowledging ignorance and incompetence, not to speak of corruption.

E.g., the administration has scrambled to come up with the outline of a tax plan that's more or less the same as the one that has been on Trump's website for months now: cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, slashing individual tax rates across the board, and expanding the standard deduction, big-league. This attempt to create the illusion of progress is a longtime Trump tactic.

Trump's "The Art of the Deal" brags about how he supposedly tricked Holiday Inn into going into business with him on a casino by having construction crews dig holes and fill them up, making it look as if he was already building it when he wasn't. But assuming that worked then - maybe they thought it was a good deal except for the fact that Trump's workers seemed so inept? - it can't now.

That's because you can't threaten to go it alone in government, as you can in business. Trump can work on his tax plan as much as he likes, but he still can't pass it without Congress. And, whether or not he has noticed, they have their own ideas, which they're not going to give up just because he made a big to-do about having some of his own. That has been pretty clear when it comes to health care, where Trump knows so little about his own plan that he doesn't realize he has been trying to get Republicans who think it's too stingy to agree with Republicans who think it isn't stingy enough.

This also applies to taxation. The big question there is whether Republicans want to try to permanently reduce tax rates a little or temporarily reduce them a lot. That's due to the rules for what's known as budget reconciliation. Republicans can pass a bill with 51 votes rather than the 60 it takes to break a filibuster - a bar they can't clear - if, and only if, their bill doesn't add to the deficit after a decade. Trump, though, has proposed a corporate tax cut that's too big to pay for and too long-lasting to work with the reconciliation rules. Indeed, the scorekeepers at the Joint Committee on Taxation say that even a three-year corporate tax cut would cost money outside the 10-year budget window. Trump, in other words, has started with a nonstarter. To put that into a twitter sentence: “Bad, bad, bad.”

Also, Trump has so far failed to fill the spots of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, those who do the actual work of making policy. He seems to want to leave them empty. Again, using a twit: “simpler that way, and cheaper.” Even if he had, though, Trump still wouldn't understand those policies well enough himself to be able to horse-trade their way through Congress. Which, of course, assumes that Trump does in fact know how to make deals. The evidence suggests otherwise.

In conclusion, there is a new normal in town and it is incompetence exacerbated by corruption together with the inability to perceive them. Far from having a “republic of virtue” the way the ancient Greek understood it, what we have presently is a “republic of incompetence and corruption” otherwise known as “the big swamp.” Only truth can save us now. If we have done away with it too, then the game called democracy is pretty much over and done with.

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End of Week 11

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The "CALIGULA PRESIDENCY" Columns

Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8 - Week 9 - Week 10 - Week 11 -

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Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!

 life_91_400

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Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!
 
 life_46_400
 

 


      
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