An update… of sorts…

Words don’t come easy — Paula Broadwell is sorry… sort of

This morning I watched with interest Ms. Paula Broadwell’s interview with WSOC in Charlotte (you can find the interview here, courtesy of ABC News.)

I wrote about Ms. Broadwell (here) in connection with a posting about the rampant corporate governance problems that appear to exists at the highest level of the United States military, with obscene privileges and perks being bestowed upon generals and with generals seemingly unable to avoid abusing their position for personal gain.

Ms. Broadwell, of course, was the biographer for General David Howell Petraeus — although it probably is more suitable to think of her as his hagiographer and although it may, in fact, show that Ms. Broadwell actually didn’t write the biography, leaving this menial task to Mr. Vernon Loeb while she was jetting around the world in corporate jets and staying in first class accommodations on the tax payers’ dime (or, as it may be hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

The corporate governance issue is the real story here, not the sleazy affair between General Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell, and really all that Ms. Broadwell had to do at this stage was to keep out of the lime-light, find a new job, and go on with her life, which, until today, is exactly what it appeared to the world that she was doing. But this is America, a country where any kind of limelight is better than living in obscurity with the masses, so Ms. Broadwell is at it again.

The interview is mostly unremarkable, consisting of the usual get-in-front-of-the-story apologetic confessional with religious, family-centric, and patriotic undertones. Except for one thing: Ms. Broadwell appears to not be sorry for the act itself, expressing, rather, regret about the fallout of being caught.

Simply put, she is not sorry for what she did. Instead she is sorry that she was caught and is now, mechanically, dealing with the consequences of being caught. This even comes through when she refers to the process that she is going through as “rehabilitation,” a term, which, as Ms. Broadwell, as a quasi-writer probably knows full well, implies that she somehow was the victim of an accident and that the primary goal is not healing, but, rather, to restore her to her former glory.

This trick, the embracing of the consequences without accepting the wrongness of the actions, is, I am sure, the key to Ms. Broadwell’s psychic make-up and is not consistent with someone who is going to spend the rest of her life volunteering and enjoying the privilege of having a forgiving husband. I don’t know Ms. Broadwell’s husband and the constraint that he is under, of course, but if I was him, I would brace myself for the next evolution of Ms. Broadwell.

I am sure we will hear more from Ms. Broadwell quite soon.

Update
In related news, Ms. Jill Kelley, the infamous so-so socialite who started the ball running on the Petraeus affair when she asked for protection from a potential stalker, generating a fire-storm that, until today, finally seemed to be dying out, appears to also be unable to let sleeping dogs lie.

However, whereas Ms. Broadwell was has taken the path of media exposure to find her way back — a good old fashioned approach in the United States, Ms. Kelley has chosen the more direct, but still time-honored, route, suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Defense, and — to top it of — the United States.

Her complaint, 1:13-cv-00825, filed on June 3rd, 2013, with her husband as a co-plaintiff, is generally available, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal (here) and tells a very long and perhaps interesting story (it involves what reads like a kidnapping story with Ms. Kelley being abducted in an FBI Sport Utility Vehicle) with an almost endless list of allegations.

At the core of the lawsuit, surrounded by demands for accounting and apologies, lies, of course, the to-be-expected demand for money:

B. award damages equal to actual and statutory damages sustained by the Kelleys under the Privacy Act pursuant to § 552a(g)(4)(a);
C. award Plaintiffs compensatory and consequential damages as proven at trial;
D. award Plaintiffs punitive and exemplary damages as the Court may deem just and proper to deter such future egregious conduct;

Reading the complaint, it would appear that the Petraeus matter has caused Mr. Kelley (evidently a “… successful real estate investor, community leader, liaison to the military
community in Tampa, and appointed consular official accredited by the U.S. Department of State …” with “… interests in medical research… ” and “… working on a book regarding the diagnosis of and treatment for cancer …” and an inventor of “… methods and apparatus for surgical anastomosis…”) and her husband considerable financial harm, including harm from derailing their successful real estate careers.

This would, I guess, be the same real-estate business and community leadership that Arian Campo-Flores, Julian E. Barnes, and Evan Perez wrote about on November 13th, 2012, in the Wall Street Journal:

The Kelleys, meanwhile, have battled creditors. Banks filed liens against a downtown Tampa office building they own, as well as their waterfront mansion, in May 2010, according to Hillsborough County court records. Both properties were under threat of foreclosure, according to the records. The current status of these actions couldn’t be determined.

A 2007 federal tax form filed with the Internal Revenue Service shows the Kelleys created a not-for-profit, the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation Inc., based at their home address. The document describes the group’s aim as to conduct research on “ways to improve the quality of life of terminally ill adult cancer patients.” The nonprofit’s tax filing says it raised just more than $157,000 that year, and expenses like travel, meals and entertainment, and legal fees accounted for about two-thirds of its spending.

We probably won’t know the details of this alleged economic harm since, as the complaint says: “Due to concerns regarding the property and privacy interests involved, and the potential for prejudice to the Kelleys from disclosure, those damages will be addressed in more detail under seal or pursuant to an appropriate protective order.”

Blending civil and military courts — General Sinclair grinds on

Meanwhile the court-case against General Jeffrey Sinclair grinds on with Mr. Paul Woolverton of fayobserver.com reporting that General Sinclair, who is facing a a variety of charges, including having an affair, forcible sodomy, using his rank to coerce, disobeying an order, engaging in an inappropriate relationship, possession of sexually explicit photos and movies in Afghanistan in violation of military orders, and using his government travel charge card for personal purposes, is attempting to delay or stave of his pending trial.

This matter, which I wrote about here and here and here, is another example of the kind of corporate governance issues that appear to be haunting the military. With the U.S. military being richer than ever before and combat increasingly being a traveling desk job, with availability of G-fives and luxury accommodations, it is not surprising that male senior officers increasingly find themselves in trouble related to females.

I don’t fully understand General Sinclair’s court strategy, but, for sure, it does not appear to consist of throwing himself on the sword and moving on. Perhaps the stakes are higher than they were for General Petraeus, for General John R. Allen, and for General William E. Ward, who all in some way or another were involved in inappropriate relationships and/or had expense issues that would make a commercial auditor’s head spin — and yet were able to somehow walk away from their exposed failings with their pensions intact and without facing prison charges.

I lament, unconditionally, General Sinclair’s refusal to commit seppuku, and, frankly, outside the issue of corporate governance, I don’t think he is worthy of press-presence, if you will, except to the extent that his prosecution can serve as an example for military personnel. However, I do find the way by which he is going about prosecuting his defense very interesting, blending classic civilian and criminal defense tactics with spin and public relations management in a military court setting, including the hiring of civilian representation. Certainly, the process as it has played out to date has somewhat altered my belief in the military court system as being infinitely more efficient then the civilian and criminal court systems.

We shall, I think, learn much from how this matter finally plays out.

Update
Although the expense is probably astronomical, General Sinclair may from a strictly economic standpoint very well be right in defending himself using civilian lawyers (I assume that he will be liable for civilian lawyers fees and expenses) simply because the economics involved are overwhelmingly positive.

As I had written in an earlier post (here,) for instance, General William E. Ward, who was found to — among many other things — having used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa and having used a five-vehicle motorcades when he traveled to Washington and who was required to pay up to $80,000 in restitution, at 63 years of age, can expect to collect millions from the United States tax payers over the next decade.

General Ward’s pension, and I remind the reader that this is the pension of a disgraced officer who was found to have grossly abused his position for monetary and non-monetary gains, is an astonishing $208,802 per year. This post-retirement income is totally out of whack, but it pales compared to that of General Petraeus who retired from the military with a pension of more than $200,000 per year, which he promptly supplemented with a significant salary from the CIA.

The real benchmark, however, is probably about to be set with Reuters reporting on May 30th, 2013, that KKR, the private-equity firm run by Henry Kravis and George Roberts has appointed former General Petraeus as chairman of the newly created KKR Global Institute.

This institute will, and I quote “… study the investment implications of global macroeconomic, social and geopolitical issues,” supporting “KKR’s investment teams in the diligence process, particularly in considering investments in new geographies.”

I am pretty sure that the General’s job will not be that of conducting analysis, but, rather, extending and managing KKR’s substantial client reach in private equity through the contacts that he has made in the Middle East region through his (taxpayer funded) career. Regardless of the what the real job is, however, I am pretty sure that the paycheck will approach or exceed $1 million per year and will carry with it substantial equity opportunity, virtually guaranteed to make him a double digit millionaire over a few years.

Certainly, this gives General Sinclair something to shoot for.

Another act of seppuku in the Committee on Finance — Max Baucus retires

In a strange twist it would appear that it is impossible to compel military officers, supposedly the individuals with the highest sense of integrity and honor, to commit seppuku, but perfectly possible to compel politicians, arguable the individuals with the lowest sense of integrity and honor, to do so.

In two recent postings (here and here), I expressed my complete surprise over the fact that pork — and lots of it — had entered into the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 — probably the last place where pork should have appeared if elected senators and representatives had any decency or respect for the United States voters and tax payers.

In my view, the loading of this key legislation with pork by the members of the United States Senate Committee on Finance is perhaps one of the darkest blotches on the American political system, but from the way that the political establishment ignored the public’s uproar when the pork was revealed, it is clearly business as usual for politicians.

In my postings I had suggested that if the 19 members of the committee that voted for the putting forward of the Act (only 5 members voting against,) had any shame, they would have committed political seppuku (for the record — and lest we forget who thought it was acceptable to increase the tax burden on working families while granting tax credits to multi-billion dollar companies and interest groups — the committee members that voted for the veritable pork-barrel were Rockefeller, Conrad, Bingaman, Kerry, Wyden, Schumer, Stabenow, Cantwell, Nelson (by proxy), Menendez, Carper, Cardin, Hatch, Grassley, Snowe, Crapo, Roberts (by proxy), Thune, and Chairman Max Baucus.)

Of course, I was not expecting — at all — that these professional politicians would indulge me in this matter, and, as I wrote about in a previous posting (here) I was flabbergasted when Mr. Jay Rockefeller did exactly this, announcing his retirement from what is arguably the best paid and most perquisite loaded job in America. Well, actually, it was not really an act of sepukku, because it did not involve admission of guilt or statement of regret and had no immediacy (in a move typical for politicians, the resignation is structured as the act of not running for re-election,) but it is probably as close as you can get when dealing with a profession where balancing a lie is daily practice.

Coincidence? I would say so, but then lightening struck again when Mr. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times reported that Mr. Baucus would not seek re-election.

I wrote about Mr. Baucus in a previous posting (here,) and it wasn’t pretty, so I will just let it go with wishing Mr. Baucus good riddance.

Needless to say, both United States Senators will keep their cushy pensions and retirement perks, but, still: Two down and 17 to go! Perhaps there is still some vestiges of honor in the United States Senate.

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Generals — Assisted Seppuku and Suicide

Seppuku – Suicide by Jill Kelley’s hand

SeppukuWashington Post reported today that General John R. Allen would be retiring.

As you may recall, the Pentagon’s Inspector General quite recently determined an investigation had concluded that General Allen had not violated military prohibitions against conduct unbecoming an officer in his communications with the apparently scheming (for what purpose, exactly, we will probably never know,) ingratiating quasi-seductress and so-so-socialite Ms. Jill Kelley in spite of these communications having been described as racy and flirtatious.

Generals and Generals
This posting refers to no less than four real-life generals and one fictive general (spoiler: General Jessep in A Few Good Men). Only two of the real-life generals, however, are military generals, although that does not make the other two real-life generals less important.

The general that we refer to here, the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, heads up the Department of Defense Inspector General function, the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in matters of Department of Defense fraud, waste, and abuse. She (it is currently a woman) has sweeping powers of investigation and is nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate.

Later, we will refer to the the United States Postmaster General, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Postal Service, whose office, as the Post Office Department, is older than both the United States Constitution and the United States Declaration of Independence and whose office until 1971 was a cabinet post. In 1971, the Post Office Department was re-organized into the United States Postal Service, a special agency independent of the executive branch, and was stripped of its cabinet role and its all-important part of the succession chain for the office of the President of the United States.

In a previous posting I have written about the Allen affair, which followed the Petraeus affair, the scandal of General David Petraeus, the former boss, or Shogun, if you like, of General Allen, and involved, again, Ms. Kelley. In my musings I complained that the military failed to take the opportunity to discipline General Allen, for, what was without a doubt, inappropriate behavior by a four-star general.

Mr. Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post has reported that General Allen’s supporters:

… have described the investigation as overblown, arguing that Kelley had sought to ingratiate herself with several generals who have served at the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa and that Allen’s responses to her, which involved words such as “sweetheart,” reflected nothing more than friendship.

Nothing? I hardly think that a four-star general referring to a flirtatious military groupie as sweetheart amounts to nothing more than a platonic friendship. Moreover, regardless of terms, for a four-star general to allocate any amount of time to a groupie is simply unacceptable.

Ironically, I had expressed my hope that General Allen would would follow General Petraeus’ example and commit seppuku, and he did — sort of… Well, no he didn’t. It’s complicated, really.

Evidently General Allen quit his job, securing, of course, his considerable pension and — I guess — enough of his honor to ensure that he get a cushy consulting gig with one of the lobby firms or the many, many companies that does business with the military, citing his wife’s health problems (an auto-immune disorder, I think.)

In my view, General Allen should have committed public seppuku immediately upon learning about the Petraeus affair, since he should immediately have realized that he was bound to be caught up in the slipstream of his boss’ strange three-way with Ms. Kelly and Ms. Paula Broadwell. That would have been the honorable thing to do, would have saved the military the expenses related to the investigation and his subsequent pension, and, most importantly, would have sent a signal that this kind of behavior is inappropriate for a career military man.

Actually, had General Allen been a traditionalist, he would have committed oibara, the traditional act of committing suicide at the death of one’s master, immediately upon learning about General Petraeus’ act of seppuku, but even I think that this might have been to ask too much.

We will probably never know what went down between Ms. Kelley and General Allen, but if it is anything close to what it looks like, turning around and attempting to resign without taking blame for the disgrace that he has brought on himself, the military, and his family is a strange act, bordering on cowardice — something that should be inconsistent with an old-school warrior such as General Allen. Using the wife as a shield is downright disgraceful and, to me, severely disappointing, since I had hoped that General Allen would raise about it all, much the same way that the fictive General Jessep did when he furiously declared “You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men.

We will never know, I think, whether the Pentagon and General Allen entered into a great bargain, whereby the Pentagon exonerated General Allen in return for his subsequent — after an appropriate interval — resignation, but one could certainly be excused for thinking that would be the case. If it was, then this is completely unacceptable behavior by the Department of Defense and the military, wasting tax-payer money and failing to set an example that appears to be needed.

To me, the bottom line is that the fact that General Allen allowed himself to end up in a situation where he could be disgraced is enough that he ought to have been dishonorably discharged, and if I had any doubt about this point, then this doubt was removed when he served up his wife’s illness as a get-out-of-jail card. Shame on him. At least General Jessep, who committed an act that — in my view — was less dishonorable — had the grace to go down in flames, rather than hide behind his family circumstances.

By the way, I think it is about time that Congress or the Federal Bureau of Investigations investigate Ms. Kelley. Whereas, as far as I know, no United States four-star general of the United States armed forces have ever been killed by enemy fire, Ms. Kelley has managed to kill off two in a very short time-span. As a minimum, we ought to find out what other officers she has been ingratiating herself with and offer these officers an opportunity to commit seppuku.

Suicide by FedEx’s and United States Congress’ hands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe United States Postal Service, handily aided by the United States Congress after extensive lobbying by FedEx and UPS, has now entered into the next stage of its slow, systematic suicide.

As I wrote about in a recent posting, the United States Postal Service, an essential service and a corner-stone of democracy in much the same way that voting stations, public schools, public services, and libraries are, have slowly, but surely been maneuvered into a position where it now finds itself on the brink of extinction.

In my posting I wrote:

The emphasis of the lobbying [by FedEx in particular] has been on (1) ensuring that the postal service appear unprofitable through legislative change, (2) shifting the highly profitable business from the postal service to FedEx, (3) collecting as much money as possible from the postal service:

  • A decade of legislative changes have laid the foundation for piecemeal privatization of the postal service — most notably the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requiring the postal service to prefund the health care benefits of future retirees — a burden not shared by government agencies or private enterprises, causing the postal service to swing to significant loss, including a $8.5 billion loss in 2010, and a $5.1 billion loss in 2011.
  • The postal service is required to use outsourced services for transportation, technology, and support, in spite of the fact that audits released by the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General has revealed that it would be more cost-effective for the postal service to perform these services itself. FedEx is the leading provider of such service to the postal service, collecting, for instance, $1.3 billion in year 2010.

CNN, which may be slow, but eventual will get there (unlike the early 90’ies where they could be relied on to get there first,) finally found it worthwhile to point this fact out, with Jennifer Liberto reporting that:

The key culprit for the Postal Service’s woes has been a 2006 congressional mandate requiring it to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees. The USPS has been borrowing billions of dollars from taxpayers to make up for the shortfalls.

Unfortunately, the United States Postmaster General, Mr. Patrick Donahoe, has now fallen into the trap of responding to the lobby-driven congressional frenzy through cost savings — initially by stopping Saturday deliveries.

Although this approach may seem reasonable in much the same way that reducing social, firefighting, and police services would to an anarchist or sociopath, it will, of course, only accelerate the bleeding out as it will surrender the very important Saturday delivery market to FedEx and UPS, driving customers away, and further divert funds away from the United States Postal Service.

The real answer, of course, is to get rid of the pre-funding mandate — a measure that is uniquely imposed on the United States Postal Service; to start charging junk-mailers reasonable rates; and to stop working with FedEx and UPS, its direct competitors. The most meaningful measure, immediately swinging the United States Postal Service from red to black, would be the immediate reversal of the pre-funding mandate, but that, unfortunately, would require politicians to stand up to the avalanche of lobby money — something that just ain’t going to happen.

So, the United States Postal Service does what it has to do, slowly draining its top line in order to reduce its bottom line. And, so, the postal creed, inscribed on the wall of the James Farley Post Office in New York City, will soon need to change to:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds — but lobbyists and United States Congress will

Of course, this annoyingly truthful inscription will only be temporary. Soon the illustrious James Farley Post Office, two full city blocks of eight acres of prime real estate in western Midtown Manhattan, will be named the Trump Pavilion, when Donald Trump and his daughter “saves” the historic building the same way they are saving the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., also prime real estate, by turning it into a hotel.

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