The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: brothers

The absence of nepotism

by fpman

Not so long ago the sibling gap was discussed here. One obviously interesting factor that went undiscussed in the process is how siblings can of course help each other using the various resources they have. That is a very real possibility in politics and one of the central subjects of this blog in fact. Nepotism, that is.

Thus it is always interesting to find examples of the opposite, when nepotism is completely absent.

The link goes to an article in The Mirror about Darren Offord, the homeless brother of Tory MP Matthew Offord.

The sibling gap really couldn’t have grown much greater than here.

Darren used to be an HGV (heavy goods vehicle) driver, had an accident, alleges that he became infected with HIV and Hepatitis through a blood transfusion upon that accident (although he was also a user of heroin for a while), and as a result of his joblessness and a bad break-up is now homeless. He receives some support from his sister. He also has two grown-up children, from different relationships. It is unclear how much help he may receive from his children or his former partners.

Brother Matthew meanwhile earned a PhD at King’s and is now in the House of Commons. Among other things, he is reportedly the owner of a £785,000 cottage, even as he spends much of his time in his constituency home.

Via the media, Darren is now telling Matthew:

“Matthew get your ­flipping a*** here and put your arm out and lift me up… lift me up. Give me a hand up and help me get off the streets.”

Brother Matthew does not appear eager to respond to the call. Apparently they don’t share the same political views with Darren and they had some bad quarrels over this in the distant past. It seems like they won’t start sharing that £785,000 cottage any time soon, and both may take a share of the blame for that.


The Stuart-Houstons, from Long Island

by fpman

This is a fascinating story and does not require much commentary.

The Stuart-Houstons of Long Island were Bridget Dowling Hitler and Patrick William Hitler, originally. Patrick was Bridget’s son, from Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois Hitler, Jr. Bridget was Irish and met Alois in Dublin. They went on to live together for some time in London, before they separated. In 1939, Bridget took Patrick over to the US, to escape unwanted attention given the Hitler connection. And she changed her name.

Patrick himself outlined the reasons for the decision in these terms:

“The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.”

Eloquently put. Patrick didn’t make a secret out of his origins and went on a lecture tour around the country telling people of how wicked his uncle really was (he did meet Adolf Hitler on a visit to Germany once). In the wake of his lobby efforts against Germany he even joined the U.S. Navy’s Medical Corps.

Bridget_and_Patrick“To hell with Hitler,” a message to brother-in-law/uncle, from Bridget and Patrick (source)

Like I said, some story…

The sibling gap and the pecking order

by fpman

This article offers a discussion of anecdotal evidence (from psychotherapists) related to a (supposedly) growing income gap (even) between siblings in the United States. Its main thread is the story of a brother and a sister – brother an entrepreneur who worked hard to go to college and then succeed, and sister who didn’t.

The choice of this kind of story may be seen as cherry-picking, a little bit. The dominant understanding in the article seems to be, as a result, that it is primarily a function of individual merit how much one succeeds. It does bring in some alternative perspectives, and to some degree it was intended to be neutral in its assessment, but in the end the article comes across as inclining in that direction.

The way it quotes Dalton Conley, a sociologist, reflects this:

“A decade ago, sociologist Dalton Conley produced research suggesting that income inequality in America occurs as much within families as among them. Yet the similarities tend to end there.

In comparing yourself with rich strangers, Conley notes, you can always convince yourself that they inherited wealth or attended elite schools or had parents with connections to lucrative jobs.

That doesn’t work if your brother or sister becomes wealthy. A disparity in siblings’ fortunes can feel, Conley says, like a judgment on intelligence or drive.

“You had pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages growing up,” says Conley, author of The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why.”

Conley, however, is actually recognized for his work in comprehensively reviewing the many different factors simultaneously at play in the background of the sibling gap.

Biology may play a distinguishing role in the first place but parents often themselves create or reinforce differences by criticizing and praising siblings regarded as inferior or superior, respectively — unintentionally or at times intentionally allowing the emergence of a “pecking order” within the family. Gender plays a role, too, of course: parents may favour boys to become high-achievers, and in fact society does much the same, too, not to mention the old discourse over whether women can have it all. Random things make a big difference as well: different life situations may put a very different burden on a brother or a sister.

I dare add: these variables may also interact. For example, the more a society is competitive the more it reinforces any gap that may have emerged during the siblings’ upbringing.

Thus, however Conley ended up saying what he said in the above brief statement, he would most likely readily point out himself that you may believe that “you had pretty much the same advantages and disadvantages growing up” even when it is not really the case. Let’s add that it may also be a problem if you know or feel that you didn’t have the same chances and you are frustrated by this: by the unfavorable pecking order, and that others may see your protestations about it as, simply, the cognitive dissonance reduction of a loser.

By the way, Conley’s first example in his 2004 book (“The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why”) is that of the Clinton (half-)brothers (Bill and Roger). There the argument is apparently that Roger got “a false sense of invincibility” out of Bill’s experience.

Bill_and_Roger_ClintonThe Clinton (half-)brothers

This is (not?) Russia today

by fpman

Alexei Navalny is a strong and stubborn critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also been working to expose corruption in state-owned enterprises such as Transneft. To no significant effect. Not much happened in follow-up to his revealing of documents concerning possible corruption related to Transneft except he eventually came under accusations of embezzling money from two companies himself. He was accused of having done so together with his brother, Oleg Navalny, who was sentenced by a Russian court related to this on December 30, just a couple of days ago (Alexei was handed a suspended sentence). Oleg will now be sent for three and a half years to a penal labor camp. There was a protest against this in freezing conditions by some people in Moscow yesterday. Never the most frightening thing from any regime’s prespective, given the unfriendly weather. Yet Russian police intervened to arrest about a hundred of the protesters.

Not a nice story.

The amount of coverage it received under the “Russian politics” section on “RT”, i.e. formerly “Russia Today,” the international news television channel sponsored by the Russian state? You can check that yourself. Don’t try too hard. I’ll include here a selection of RT’s headlines I found there myself:

1) Attempts to isolate Russia have been thwarted – senator. The head of Russia’s Upper House Foreign Relations Committee has said that coordinated efforts of all branches of power prevented attempts to isolate the country and exercise “political and economic blackmail” over Moscow.

2) ‘US military hardware will cause more bloodshed in Ukraine’ – Russian official. The possible relocation of US hardware from Afghanistan to Ukraine suggested by President Obama will only lead to more casualties, a senior Russian lawmaker has stated.

3) State Duma chief suggests trying US for WWII nuke attacks. The Russian Lower House speaker wants to instigate an international investigation into the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military – a possible crime against humanity with no statute of limitation.

4) ‘Stop blaming everything on Russia’: Heirs to 1917 revolutionary-era emigrants appeal to EU. Over 100 descendants of the Russian nobility residing outside the country have addressed European nations with a call to stop irrationally alienating Russia and give an unbiased appraisal to the current Ukrainian crisis.

5) France shows its weakness by scrapping Mistral deal – Rogozin. France’s refusal to deliver the Mistral amphibious ships to Russia, can’t be considered force-majeure, but confirms its geopolitical weakness, says he Russian Deputy PM in charge of the defense industry.

The above are 5 out of 12 of the regular news stories RT was running today in its Russian Politics section. Representatives of the Russian state are the chief source for four of those stories (with the exception of the pro-Russia lobby group) and for all seven of the rest. For 11 out of 12 in total. The chief messages transmitted from those chief (state) sources behind the 4 selected reports highlighted are: “don’t give weapons to Ukraine” (message to the US), “give weapons to Russia” (message to France), “the US killed people” (in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), “stop blaming/start liking Russia” (message to everyone). These are not really reports about domestic Russian politics – this is Russian foreign policy rather, including public diplomacy.

Besides this, RT also has a sub-section under “Russian politics” called “Official word.” Apparently this focuses even more on what Russian state leaders say, with headlines such as “Putin: ‘Supporting Russophobia in Ukraine will result in catastrophe’”; “Russia overestimated EU’s independence from US – Lavrov to French media”; and “‘Landmark in Russian history’: President Vladimir Putin’s New Year address.”

No news story on the Navalny case. No mention of it even as, say, a triumph of the Russian state over corruption.

From the site that uses the following two words as its main slogan: “QUESTION MORE.”

RTcover(They decided to question less on this occasion.)

The Bush siblings: Jeb, George, and the presidency

by fpman

An inside joke from the world of sibling researchers…

Q: What did George W. Bush invade in 2001?

A: Jeb Bush’s life path.*

I’m taking this from Avidan Milevsky’s assessment of how Jeb Bush (prospectively) running for the presidency could be seeking compensation in this way for an invaded life path as instead of George W. he used to be the one among the six siblings in their family who was meant or expected to conquer the world of politics. Yet eventually George got to the very top and in Jeb’s microcosmic universe this may constitute an unnatural order of things. Or at least so goes Milevsky’s interpretation which is laid out with the following very important caveat:

“Although I would be thrilled for George and Jeb to take their place on my couch as we explore their early sibling dynamics, all I can do at this point is juxtapose what we know about the science of siblings and what is known about the Bush family.”

It is important therefore to emphasize that the above narrative of Jeb looking to overcome the rivalry-inducing “re-identification” with his brother through competition in politics is merely speculative at this point.

With that in mind, you can listen to a discussion of some of the actual science on sibling relationships from Dr. Milevsky here:


* The joke may work in this way as, technically speaking, the right answer cannot be Afghanistan. There the military operations that started in 2001 (against the Taliban and al-Qaida, in response to the 9/11 attacks) involved special operations forces teaming up with local Afghan forces, with U.S. air support, and hence there was no proper “invasion” to speak of, unlike, say, in Iraq in 2003 where conventional troops poured in and set up lasting presence rightaway.

I beg your pardon

by fpman

So I beg your pardon because this is just a modest post, without additional research, mostly drawing attention to a link to an article about Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (D).

The Governor is soon finishing his second term in office and before leaving he is interested in pardoning a few people. What makes this an issue, some would say a controversial issue, is that his son, Kyle Beebe, is among those he put on the list of prospective beneficiaries. Son Kyle was sentenced for the possession of two ounces of marijuana back in 2003 and admits in his pardon request to have been involved in “selling” marijuana. But with marijuana’s legalization becoming more popular these days, this is not likely to be seen as a mortal sin by most – controversy comes mostly from the general dilemmas of pardoning family members.

These dilemmas are certainly acute in the case of another prospective beneficiary. Governor Beebe is also apparently interested in pardoning a certain Michael E. Jackson, a convicted sex offender, who is also a known longtime friend of the Beebe family. By now new documents have emerged related to Jackson’s case, however, which even the Governor’s office now wants to examine before there is a final decision.

The article ends with a good summary of prominent examples of others who made similar decisions in the past in U.S. politics, including Mike Beebe’s fellow Arkansas native Bill Clinton:

“In the final hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, Roger, for a 1980s drug conviction.

In 2011, on his final night in office, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the prison sentence of the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Esteban Nunez, who had pleaded guilty to participating in the killing of a college student. Over the objections of prosecutors, Schwarzenegger cut Nunez’s prison term from 16 years to seven years.”

A Prime Minister’s brother, a football game, and the evolution of warfare

by fpman

This is special. Serbia hosted Albania yesterday for a Euro 2016 Group I qualifier. No away fans were permitted, to avoid some rather inevitable trouble. Trouble that thus had to find alternative expression and made its way onto the pitch in the shape of a drone… carrying an Albanian flag (this one). See the brawl that resulted from this.

The distraction was frustrating to the players of both teams, at the same time as the political message of the flag itself evoked strong emotions in many, among both the spectators and the players, given historical memories of conflict between the two countries, and even the recent memory of the Kosovo war between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. The brawl began as one of the Serb players (playing in white) managed to capture the flag. As you can see in the video eventually some fans ran onto the pitch to join the melee, too. It is small consolation that most of the players actually behaved rather gently towards each other, and at one point, when there was a threat that a tsunami of fans may charge the Albanian team, the Serb players, including those from the bench, escorted the Albanian players to the locker room tunnel’s entrance.

A drone, and its operator, started all this. This is pretty interesting in and of itself. Here we saw the unlawful application of a drone with political motives targeted at specific civilian groups in audience, distracting a public event. If the unlawful application of the drone would have included violence, this would have been an instance of terrorism. So in a sense we have seen history made yesterday. Take a closer look with this in mind:

And with this in mind it is an especially amazing turn of events that the police arrested one person in connection with the incident. As mentioned already, no away fans were permitted to come to the game, and so the police took the person in question from the VIP box. It was Olsi Rama, the brother of the current Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Wow. Just wow. We’ll update this post once it becomes clear(er) if Olsi Rama was really the person responsible for the incident. Not to say that that is the only aspect of this story that may make it interesting, as we indicated above…

Update (October 15, still): In a twist to the story, it turns out the police have not really “arrested” Olsi Rama. Rama also denies having flown the drone himself. Reports have nevertheless appeared in the Serb press visualizing the remote control in his hand at the time when he was supposedly detained, and there is also an allegation circulating that “European diplomats” helped Olsi Rama get through the security check. Bearing in mind that Olsi’s brother, Prime Minister Edi Rama, is set to go to Belgrade on October 22 (at least for the moment he still is), this is beginning to look like a consciously timed provocation by someone, well-suited to bring out some of the typical, silly nationalist phantasies attached to the coverage of what happened – such as the story of a Euro-Albanian conspiracy against Serbia by means of flag-flying at a football match.

Update (October 16): This is what happened to the drone. A fan wearing a mask took it somewhere. (Photo: AFP/Getty)


Update (October 17): besides describing the general mood in the stadium throughout most of the match before the drone’s arrival, this article also notes that: “Ivan Bogdanović, the Serb hooligan who led the 2010 Italy match riot, was seen invading the pitch. He served jail time in Serbia after the Italy incident, in which he burned an Albanian flag. That game had to be abandoned as well. Yesterday he led a group of masked supporters into the pitch before being kicked out by police.”

Given Bogdanović‘s past involvement in disrupting football matches, tolerated since years by Serbian police, one has even more of a reason now to believe that the flying of the drone was a strategically planned provocation. By the way, the guy who took the drone from the pitch happened to go onto the pitch together with Bogdanović. They were flying in close formation… See Bogdanović on the left and the guy who captured the drone in the middle, below (photo: Marko Drobnjaković, AP):

Serbia Albania Euro Soccer

In the meantime, President of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, has also voiced the view that the drone incident was an American-European-Albanian conspiracy to create a distraction just before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit. Because… because… because Putin’s visit was so totally distracted it went ahead with a proper military parade

Contrary to what Dodik is suggesting, the drone incident was most likely the perfect way to energize nationalists who traditionally favor a Russian rather than a European orientation for Serbia.

Borderline cases, from Libya to the Philippines

by fpman

From a research perspective, a great thing about studying the role of family ties in politics is how there are so many borderline cases related to the fuzzy concepts that are thrown around in the discourse – concepts such as “nepotism” or “corruption.” Say, if a President appoints his own son to be head of the country’s anti-corruption bureau, that would be a relatively unambiguous case of nepotism. And if a foreign company were to decide to give a job to a President’s son, that would be a relatively unambiguous case of illicit influence-seeking, or corruption, to use another word.

But the two cases I can reference from the day’s newsload I’ve just read through are not like that.

In the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III has recently appointed a 2nd-degree cousin, Emigdio “Dino” Tanjuatco Jr. to run Clark International Airport Corporation (serving the airport of Angeles City, northwest of Manila). “Dino” is the son of a first cousin of the President’s mother, the late President Corazón Aquino. During Corazón’s time he was close to the corazón of power, too, entrusted with managing government-owned residences. He does not have prior experience in the field of aviation, and some experts, including from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), are questioning if he thus has the qualifications to be CEO of the company.  The reaction by CAAP’s Director-General to the news was a none too polite “I have no idea who he is.” An anonymous source at Clark International Airport Corporation voiced acceptance of the deicision, however, saying:

“All of us serve at the pleasure of the President. He is the ultimate appointing authority.”

Emigdio Dino Tanjuatco Jr’s appointment may not be a clear-cut case of nepotism, but this quote above could clearly be an example of adulation. And it’s also telltale sign of something wrong that apparently so many people were made angry by this story.

RapplerEmoFeedbackWe like the idea of this form of feedback over at Rappler’s.

In other news, US regulators are continuing investigation of Goldman Sachs’ record related to Libya under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime (which fell in 2011). They remain interested in why Goldman gave a paid internship to Haitem Zarti, a younger brother of the deputy chief of the Libyan Investment Authority, Mustafa Zarti who was once declared by the government of Austria, related to the freezing of his assets there as “a close confidant of the (Gaddafi) regime” (an allegation he contested).

Haitem Zarti was about 26 years old at the time, paid internships at banks are normal, and even though his internship period eventually lasted for up to a year (beyond the standard 3-month period), others have before him seen their internship extended, too. But who would say such a connection is not interesting? Haitem was working at the company’s investment-banking division, though never on matters related to Libya according to the company itself.

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Checkpoint Tunisia: A shooting and a diplomatic gaffe

by fpman

September 11, 2014

News of a major diplomatic gaffe, via Tunisie Numerique

When Mongi Hamdi, who happens to be Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia’s current caretaker government under acting Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, showed up in Frankfurt on September 11, there was no one to give him an official reception on the part of Germany, statedly because Tunisia’s Consul General in Bonn, a certain Hichem Marzouki, failed to notify his German counterparts of the minister’s arrival… Hence no airport facilitation for the MFA that is typically available for foreign dignitaries in most countries, even for those only transiting (see, for a faraway example, Australia’s current policy here). Concluding he had to do things all by himself, Minister Hamdi therefore presented himself to German border police who then promptly took the necessary measures and made sure he was comfortable.

Or so the story goes.

Hichem Marzouki is a convenient target of ridicule: his appointment as Consul General was widely criticized back in 2012 as a form of patronage on the part of Tunisia’s current (interim) President, Moncef Marzouki, given that Hichem  his brother  had no prior diplomatic experience.

Having said that, it seems highly unlikely that Tunisia would leave it to a Consul General to notify his host country of a transit by his minister of foreign affairs. So why would a theory like this emerge?

Two weeks earlier – A shooting…

A checkpoint shooting by Tunisian interior ministry troops in the city of Kasserine resulted in the death of two students, named as Ahlem D. (21) and her cousin Ons (18), on August 24. Their car, driven by Sondes D., Ahlem’s sister, on the way back from a wedding, was shot at at a road block after it allegedly failed to stop at warning signals.

This is where dots suddenly seem to connect. Ahlem D. was a German-Tunisian double citizen. And her father is a car mechanic in… Bonn, Germany.

So President Marzouki eventually found time, on September 2, to receive Ahlem’s father and a group of relatives. He listened to the family make the case that the troops made a grave mistake when they opened fire on that tragic day and that the car was not in fact accelerating so much that this would have warranted shooting at it. Reportedly, President Marzouki burst into tears over what he had heard.

How could the family have found access to, and so much understanding from, the president? Was this facilitated by the president’s brother perhaps? The link through Bonn seems to suggest there may be a connection like this…

And is what happened to Minister Mongi Hamdi in Frankfurt possibly related to this? Could the above story about Hichem Marzouki’s gaffe be a tendentiously spun piece of partisan news reporting, in the context of the struggles of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections? Now that the registration of presidential candidates has begun, on September 8? Did the president’s reaction to the shooting incident, embarrassing as it was for some in the caretaker government, work as the trigger for this? Am I going to pose more intriguing questions like these? Or is it time to move towards a synthesis? Yes?

A synthesis!

Judging by the reactions in the comments over here, President Marzouki is strongly hated by some who now refer to him and his brother Hichem as “a dynasty of dogs” and almost rejoice upon being confronted with news of the above kind about a Marzouki’s inexcusable gaffe or what is presumed to be that.

Still… Even a much more moderate commenter (going by the name of Mizaa Noun), who otherwise takes issue with the theory that the Consul General himself failed to notify German authorities and was exclusively responsible for the lack of reception for Minister Hamdi in Frankfurt, concludes that in Tunisia:

“Il semble que les clans familiaux ont été toujours partie organique du pouvoir. Autrement dit la corruption est le pilier principal du pouvoir quel qu’il soit. Il n’y a pas un seul ministre, député, ambassadeur ou autres qui n’a pas en priorité en tête de placer ses frères et sœurs aux postes de « confiance » et aussi les plus lucratifs.

In a nutshell: this commenter says that corruption is a part of the system in Tunisia, whatever is the system of the day. And it’s not an isolated case when people in power are found to have put relatives into positions of “confidence” that also happen to pay well.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and “le piston de la famille”

by fpman

No worries (I know you were terribly worried, weren’t you) – posting with titles in French has not become a completely entrenched habit here at the Patrimony, but after our previous post it is once again fitting…

This Tunisian news site has broken news in the Francophone netiverse two days ago of a tweet by someone (I know, that is a very specific reference) of a photo of Medhat al-Sisi, current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s brother. I could not find the photo in question but reportedly Medhat al-Sisi can be seen there in the attire of a garçon d’hôtel, and apparently he really is working in a hotel, accordingly.

His brother, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, now elected President of the country, does not gift his family members a luxurious life upon the good fortune of landing in the top position – that seems to be the message.

A commenter happily concludes:

“Ce n’est pas tout le monde qui veut beneficier du ”piston” de la famille.”

Meaning: not everyone looks to benefit from the string-pulling of the family. A cynical reaction to this claim is not entirely warranted. Yes, the above piece of news may be strategically used to further legitimization of the current Egyptian political system that is in place in the wake of the bloody events of last summer. Yet President al-Sisi is where he is partly because he himself and his family are credited (note that indeed this is a kind of capital in the context we are speaking about) with being deeply, some would say devoutly, religious and coming from the ordinary background of Cairo’s Gamaleya neighborhood. Whilst the Army was involved in “cohabitation” with the Muslim Brotherhood government (which it eventually removed from power), al-Sisi was named Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defence by then-President Mohammed Morsi with reference to this – because he seemed like a choice particularly compatible with the Brotherhood’s spirit and rule. Or at least he could be presented as such.

As a Newsweek profile of him describes his relation to his family:

“Unlike the country’s erstwhile strongman Hosni Mubarak, whose wife and family were well known to the Egyptians, al-Sisi has been protective of the privacy of his kin. According to his older brother, Ahmed al-Sisi, who only reluctantly agreed to talk, the general has four children: three sons and one daughter. His wife is said to wear a traditional head covering, the hijab, but, unlike the women of the previous generation, these days most Egyptian women do. Like his wife, the general’s five sisters don’t have jobs outside the home. “Our girls don’t work, they stay home and raise the kids,” says Ahmed.”

Reportedly, even while he spent time in the US studying at the US Army War College, his wife was wearing the hijab.

All this modesty and social conformity of course doesn’t stop the current Egyptian regime from creating for him the by now usual cult of personality (framing him as a saint), with a larger-than-life image of his implanted in Egyptians’ minds. It doesn’t mean that he is a poor person, either. And Medhat is not really the only brother to look out for: “(Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi was born … the second of eight siblings … his father later had another six children with a second wife,” as this report tells us.

SisiCultThat “S” in between portraits of the President stands not for (hotel) “Servant”  (photo source: AFP)