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A Week Is A Long Time In The Trump Administration

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

It is becoming increasingly obvious that if you want job security, whatever you do, don’t  accept a post in the Trump administration. 

Still only in office for a short time, the settling-in period has been  a series of comings and goings, reminiscent of an old-fashioned wooden weather clock which featured a man and a woman dressed in farming clothes, one of whom appeared from out of a little door to forecast sun and the other who appeared when rain was on its way.  Those little figurines, though they might have led an idle life here in Botswana, would make their entrances and exits with mind-boggling alacrity in changeable European weather conditions, rather like the constantly changing guard at Trumpington Palace.  

So true to form, as soon as the White House announced the  appointment of a new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation, citing differences of opinion over the new appointment.  The world’s press corps breathed a sigh of relief at the imminent departure of the gaffe-prone Spicer.  In one press briefing he told journalists that Iran had attacked an American warship; it hadn’t and he had to be corrected by one of the journos in the audience. That was in February this year.  2 months later he excelled himself still further by stating that chemical weapons were not used in WWII and that Syrian leader Bashar-al-Assad was worse than Hitler.

 "We didn't use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't descend to using chemical weapons….So the question is if you're Russia ask yourself is this a country, is this a regime you want to align yourself with. You have signed on to international agreements. At what point do they realise they are getting on the wrong side of history in a really bad way? This is not a team you want to be on."

As anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about World War Two well knows,  Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, but he used gas chambers while murdering six million Jews and the Spicer’s rewriting of history could not have been made at a worse time, coming, as it did, in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

But as the saying goes, better the devil you know, for no sooner had Scaramucci’s name been announced, than he launched into what the press called a ‘foul-mouthed rant’ aimed at Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's chief strategist, as his feud with senior White House figures escalated.  He also accused Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff of damaging information leaks. In a phone conversation with a reporter for New Yorker magazine, Mr Scaramucci accused Mr Bannon, the controversial alt-right former media executive, of serving his own interests.

"I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own —-," he said…..I'm not trying to build my own brand off the ——- strength of the president. I'm here to serve the country." Priebus was the man credited with having hired Sean Spicer earlier in the year, an appointment that Donald Trump was said to have opposed. Well, after such a x-rated temper tantrum and tirade, no amount of backtracking and apologising was going to work and Scaramucci was fired before he had even officially taken up his new position, due to become effective in mid-August.

Of course the press had a field day.  If you look up the word ‘Scaramucchi’ or ‘Scaramouch(e) in the dictionary, you will learn that he was a stock character in the classical Italian Commedia dell’arte, a theatre form that also gave us Pierrot and Pierrette, Harlequin and Pantelone, all figures of fun; Scaramouche is described as ‘a boastful coward’ and a clown – well, if the cap fits……..

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up and it’s hardly surprising that there have been several press and social media references to the phrase that Trump made famous in his reality television show The Apprentice.  Only time and history will tell whether Trump stays the presidential course and uses his prodigious power and influence to achieve something positive but it is certainly true that he was a huge success in his own right as host and head of the television show. 

Originally dismissive of reality TV, describing it as being for the ‘bottom-feeders of society’, he was immediately attracted to the idea of The Apprentice, realising at once the boost it would give the Trump brand.  And as soon as production began, he took it and ran with it, much to the delight of the show’s producers and later, the audiences who tuned in in their millions for a total of 14 seasons.  According to Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher in their book ‘Trump Revealed’ the original format had envisaged a different mogul as the star for each season – Richard Branson was pencilled in for one of them – but that all changed.

“That notion fell by the wayside during the taping of the first episode. The script for The Apprentice called for the host to play a relatively modest role. The show was about the contestants and Trump was to introduce the challenge that contestants faced at the start of each episode, then appear in a brief boardroom scene at the end, when he would decide which contestant had performed poorly and would not return the next week.  Trump took to his TV role as if he’d spent his life preparing for it.

The taping went on for nearly three hours, well longer than planned. A couple of days later, when NBC executives screened rough cuts of the boardroom scenes, they were unanimous: the show’s script needed to be revised. Trump’s scenes were gold. “After the first episode,” Gaspin recalled, “we said we want more Trump.”  So did the viewers, 20 million of whom tuned in to the first episode—an audience that would build to 27 million by the end of that first season. The show was built as a virtually nonstop advertisement for the Trump empire and lifestyle “I’m the largest real estate developer in New York,” Trump’s voice-over boasted. “I own buildings all over the place.

Model agencies, the Miss Universe pageant, jetliners, golf courses, casinos, and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago. . . . I’ve mastered the art of the deal and have turned the name Trump into the highest-quality brand. And as the master, I want to pass along some of my knowledge to somebody else.  What would become the show’s catchphrase, “You’re fired,” was not scripted. Although TV reality shows generally follow a detailed outline, Trump made clear from the start that he intended to just wing it.

He didn’t like the idea of memorizing lines. He would read the outline for the episode ahead of time, but once the camera was rolling, he would improvise his part, just as he always had at speaking engagements. In the first boardroom scene, when it came time for Trump to decide which finalist would not return the next week, he blurted, “You’re fired.” Backstage, the production crew immediately cheered the line, cementing its place in future episodes.”

Given his enthusiasm and total commitment to the show, it’s hardly surprising that he was disappointed at its eventual demise, not long before he decided to run for a top job himself.  Is it just me or is he running the White House like an extension of The Apprentice, offering a bunch of hopefuls a chance to shine or screw up and when they do,  treating them to his famous catch phrase ‘You’re Fired!’.  That would certainly explain a lot!

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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